Saturday, February 28, 2009

Moving On...

There are occasions when, after eating a slice of cake or a couple (or more) home-made biscuits, life suddenly seems more bearable, and perhaps this comes under 'comfort eating', so today am giving recipes that are very yummy, and make use of ingredients we have in store. Anything made from 'foods in store' can hardly be counted as expensive, especially when this is a good way to 'use them up' and gain a bit of pleasure even in these trying times.

Double Chocolate and Apricot Cookies: makes 20 plus
4 oz (100g) plain flour
1 oz (25g) cocoa
half tsp baking powder
4 oz (100g) butter (pref unsalted), softened
4 oz (100g) soft brown sugar
1 egg
4 oz (100g) white chocolate, chopped into small chunks
4 oz (100g) no-soak apricots (or dried peaches), chopped
Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder together into a bowl. In another bowl, put the butter, sugar and egg and whisk together until well blended, then mix in the flour and stir in the chocolate and apricots, mixing everything together well.
Place teaspoons of the mixture on greased baking trays, leaving plenty of room between each to allow to spread. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 5. Cool for a few minutes on the tray before transferring to a cake airer.

Coffee and Almond Shortbread Biscuits: makes about 20
4 oz (100g) plain flour
2 tsp instant coffee powder
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
2 oz (50g) ground almonds
1 egg, lightly beaten
flaked almonds
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and pale gold in colour, then sift in the flour and coffee. Add the ground almonds, stir together until well mixed and knead into a dough. Place in a bag and chill for 45 minutes.
Using a lightly floured board and rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4" (5mm) thick, and cut into rounds. Roll the trimmings to make further biscuits, placing them all on ungreased baking trays, allowing a little extra room to spread, brush each with egg and press a few flaked almonds on top, then bake for 20 - 25 minutes at 150C, 300F, gas 2 until pale brown. Cool on the baking trays for 5 minutes then transfer onto a cake airer. Store in an airtight container.

Several cakes/desserts have been posted on this site that use a vegetable as one ingredient, eg carrot cake, carrot flan, courgette cake, beetroot cake, and even tomato soup cake. So this next cake fits into the same category.
We should always remember that the veggies such as above are all sweet in flavour, as are parsnips and sweetcorn, so incorporating vegetables into a cake or dessert can get the that most anti-veg child eating them happily (just as long as they don't know they are there). If you have no creamed sweetcorn, just blitz cooked corn kernels in a blender or food processor.
Almond and Sweetcorn Cake:
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 oz (100g) ground almonds
6 oz (175g) unsalted butter, softened
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 x 298g can (10.5 oz) creamed sweetcorn
half tsp almond essence
1 oz (25g) flaked almonds
Sieve the flour and baking powder together into a bowl, then stir in the ground almonds. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, then add the almond essence, a teaspoon of the flour and gradually beat in the eggs (the flour prevents the butter/egg curdling). Alternately fold in the flour and sweetcorn in three stages, then spoon the mixture into a greased and bottom-lined 8" (20cm) cake tin, levelling the top and sprinkling over the flaked almonds.
Bake at 170C, 325F, gas 3 for 65 minutes until the centre of the cake is firm when pressed. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out to finishing cooling on a cake airer.

The next two recipes were originally intended for a children's party, but certainly the savoury 'pasties', made larger, would make a good nibble for an adult buffet. When using Cheddar in cooking, it is never worth using the milder, cheaper cheese for the flavour would hardly be noticed. Far better to buy a much stronger-tasting mature Cheddar and use far less of it, this way there would be very little difference in the cost of cheese used.
If it makes it easier, cut the pastry into squares and fold over corner to diagonal corner to form triangles.
Cheese, Apple and Sweetcorn Pasties: makes 15 - 20
8 oz (225g) plain flour
pinch salt
4 oz (100g) butter
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
6 oz (175g) mild Cheddar cheese, grated OR...
...4 oz (100g) strong mature Cheddar, grated
2 tblsp cold water
3 oz (75g) red eating apple
2 oz (50g) sweetcorn kernels
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and rub in the butter. Add the parsley and half the cheese, and bind together with the water (use less water to start, you can always add more if necessary). Put into a bag and chill for half an hour.
Leaving the peel on the apple, remove the core and chop the flesh finely. Place into a bowl with the sweetcorn and the remaining cheese. Mix well together.
Roll out the pastry to 1/8" (3mm) thick and cut into rounds using a 3" (8cm) cutter, gathering up the trimmings and re-rolling/cutting. Place a teaspoon of the apple filling in the centre, brush the edges with water and fold over to form a semi-circle. Press a fork around the edges to seal, and pierce a hole for the steam.
Brush with egg yolk and bake for 20 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 5 until pale brown. These pasties can be eaten hot or cold.

This next recipe is a variation of the Scotch Pancake, or Drop Scone and apart from the glace cherries, the ingredients are pretty healthy. Instead of the cherries, used sultanas or chopped no-soak apricots and it would then become even healthier. As the recipe is intended for children, the drop scones are mini-size, so bear this in mind when you see how many the batter makes, as it would probably make only about 15 - 20 normal sized ones. Once cooked and cooled the scones can be bagged up and frozen.
Honey and Cherry Drop Scones: makes about 60 (F)
5 oz (150g) plain flour
half tsp baking powder
4 oz (100g) glace cherries, chopped small
1 egg
3 tblsp runny honey
5 fl oz (150m) milk
1 tblsp sunflower oil or butter for frying
Sieve the flour and baking powder together. Rinse the chopped cherries in tepid water to remove all the syrup, and dry thoroughly in a clean kitchen towel before adding to the flour. Mix in the egg, honey and milk and stir together until well blended.
Lightly grease a large pre-heated frying pan and cook teaspoons of the mixture for about 2 minutes, until the top begins to set, then - using a fish slice or spatula - flip the scones over and cook the other side for 1 - 2 minutes until brown. Cool on a wire rack, covering with a dry kitchen towel if you wish to keep the scones soft, warm and moist.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Looking to the Future

One recipe today that is from a 20 year old advert for Tupperware. Am pretty sure that Nigella demonstrated a dish of the same name in one of her progs, but obviously Tupperware had it first, and believe the recipe is a traditional American one in the first place. As an uncooked dessert, easy enough for children to put together, and the type of dish where ingredients could be altered. For once I give the calories - just to remind yourself to share and not keep it all to yourself.
Rocky Road Gateau: 4450 calories
6 oz (175g) quality dark chocolate
3 tblsp strong black coffee
12 oz (350g) Hob-nob biscuits (or similar), coarsely crushed
4 oz (100g) marshmallows, cut into small pieces
4 oz (100g) roasted hazelnuts, chopped
4 oz (100g) glace cherries, quartered
1 oz (25g) desiccated coconut
4 tblsp single cream
5 fl oz (150ml) whipping cream (opt)
Put the chocolate and coffee into a bowl standing over simmering water. When melted, stir until smooth then add the single cream, blending it well in.
Into a large bowl put the crushed biscuits (they should not be fully crushed, need to have some lumpy bits still there), the marshmallows, hazelnuts, cherries and coconut, then pour in the chocolate mixture and stir together until thoroughly mixed.
Pour this into a chosen container (ring mould, cake tin or loaf tin) and press down lightly. Chill for at least 4 hours until set. To remove, dip the mould into a very hot water for a count of 5 seconds, then upturn over a serving plate and the gateau should slide out. If not, dip again.
If you wish, decorate with rosettes of whipped cream and flakes of chocolate.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Start the Week

There are not as many 'main' ingredients in this recipe as first appears, as the last five have to do with the decoration and glazing.
Hot Cross Scones: makes 8
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
half a tsp mixed spice
3 oz (75g) butter, softened
2 oz (50g) light brown sugar
3 oz (75g) sultanas
2 oz (50g) chopped stem ginger or candied peel
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 tblsp milk (or 3 of buttermilk)
pinch of salt
2 oz (50g) plain flour
1 - 2 tsp cold water
milk to brush surfaces
2 tbslp caster sugar
2 tblsp boiling water
Sift the flour and spice into a bowl and rub in the butter until like crumbs. Stir in the sugar, sultanas, and ginger or peel.
In a jug beat the egg, milk and salt together and add this to the dry mixture, stirring it together with a knife to make a soft dough.
Turn out onto a floured surface and gently roll out the dough to just about one inch thick, certainly no thinner than 2 cm. Using a 1 1/2" (4cm) cutter, first dipping it in flour, stamp out the scones taking care not to twist the cutter while doing so (twisting makes the scones rise unevenly). Gather the trimmings and re-roll to stamp out more. Any last 'clump' of dough can be baked as a 'tester' (cooks perks).
Make the crosses by mixing together the plain flour with just enough of the water to make a smooth dough.
Roll out and cut into thin strips and lay one strip north to south, crossing with another strip east to west. Brush with milk then bake for 15 minutes at 22oC, 425F, gas 7 until well risen.
Meanwhile, dissolve the sugar in the boiling water and use this to brush over the tops of the scones immediately they come out of the oven. Cool on a cake airer. Best eaten warm the day of making, or next day can be split, toasted and spread with butter.

Even in these belt-tightening times, there are still opportunities to serve something really special. All that has to be done is hunt for the right recipe. This I try to do all the time, and have come across this recipe for a 'terrine', which is the sort of posh nosh we would love to serve to guests, but what the heck - can we make one just using belly pork and chicken livers? You bet we can, especially if we follow the following tip: always ask for a bottles of wine of booze (assorted) for birthday/Christmas gifts and then you can make a dish such as this without having to break the bank.
Stretch streaky bacon rashers using the flat of a knife until really, really thin - this way they go further. The recipe suggests using 12 rashers and because of the above tip I have allowed just 6 - 8. Because these rashers line the mould, they could be omitted altogether, and the terrine made in a terrine dish Iusually ceramic) to be served directly from it - as with a pate. But as it looks so much more impressive when turned out and sliced, so why spoil the ship for a h'pth of tar?
Pork, Liver and Bacon Terrine: serves 8 - 1o
1 lb 12 oz (800g) minced pork (belly or shoulder meat)
6 oz (175g) smoked streaky bacon, finely diced
9 oz (250g) chicken livers, trimmed and roughly chopped
3 - 5 sprigs rosemary (leaves only - and chopped)
few sage leaves, finely chopped
half tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp of the spice mix (see below)*
salt and pepper
4 tblp brandy
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tblsp goose fat or lard
7 fl oz (200ml) red wine
2 oz (50g) shelled pistachio nuts or walnuts (chopped)
6 - 8 rashers streaky bacon, stretched very thinly
6 prunes, pitted
In a bowl, mix the minced pork, diced bacon, chopped chicken livers, and the herbs and nutmeg. Add seasoning to taste then stir in the brandy. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight to marinate, or at least leave for half a day).
Fry the onion in the goose fat/lard until just softened, then add the wine and continue cooking over a low heat until the liquid has reduced and the onions are sticky and 'jammy'. Leave to cool, then stir this and the nuts into the meat mixture.
Using butter, grease and line an 8" (20cm) terrine or loaf tin with slightly overlapping thin rashers of bacon, allowing plenty to fall down the outside. Half fill the mould with the pork mixture pressing it into the corners, then open up the prunes and lay these along the centre of the terrine. Put the rest of the pork mixture on top, almost overfilling the mould, and doming the top (to look a bit like a loaf of bread), folding the streaky bacon that lines the tin, over the top.
Stand the container in a small roasting tin two thirds full of water, and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 45 minutes. When cooked it should feel very firm when pressed in the centre (if you have a meat thermometer this should read 65C when pushed into the centre).
Cool, then cover with foil and place on a heavy weight (a board with a couple of cans of baked beans would suffice). Chill in the fridge for several hours then turn out onto a serving plate. If not eating immediately, wrap the plate/terrine in foil and keep chilled.
Slice with a very sharp knife for serving.

*The above uses a special spice mix called "quatre-espices" (four spices) that are not usually sold in a supermarket, although can be ordered from a specialist supplier. However, easy enough to make ourselves, so make up a batch and use to season terrines, pates and other pork and beef dishes.
four -spice mix:
2 good tblsps white pepper
2 good tsps freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp ground ginger
half tsp ground cloves
Mix all the ingredients together and store in a small airtight container. Keep in a dark place.

Fond as I am of biscuits, have had to cut down on sugar consumption, so it is rare a 'cookie' passes my lips. However, the following traditional Dorchester Biscuits makes I could eat. As the mixture just needs rolling into balls, rather than being rolled out on a board and cut to shape, this is one the children might like to make, and apart from the seasoning, the weights of the ingredients are the same throughput.
Mixed nuts can be bought in packs, already chopped, so this keeps little hands away from knives.
DorchesterCheese Biscuits: makes about 15 (F)
2 ox (50g) strong Cheddar cheese, grated
2 oz (50g) plain flour
tiny pinch of salt
2 oz (50g) butter, softened
pinch cayenne pepper
2 oz (50g) chopped nuts
Remove a third of the nut to use for sprinkling, then put the remainder into a bowl with the rest of the ingredients, stir with a fork, then mix together with your hands to form a dough.
Remove pieces about the size of a walnut and roll into balls. Place onto a lightly greased baking sheet, sprinkle over the reserved nuts, then flatten the balls slightly.
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 15 - 20 minutes or until golden. Cool on a cake airer. Can be eaten warm or cold. To freeze: store in lidded containers and freeze for up to 2 months.

Another biscuit recipe is worth giving as it has a dual purpose - eats very well with cheese, or just as a biscuit in its own right. These biscuits also freeze, but as most biscuits keep fairly well in air-tight tins, never really see the point of freezing them, although once rolled and cut, they could then be frozen uncooked so that they can be lifted out and popped into an oven to cook WHEN THE OVEN IS ON COOKING SOMETHING ELSE.
Oat Biscuits: makes 16 (F)
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
4 oz (100g) soft margarine
4 oz (100g) porridge or rolled oats
2 oz (50g) plain flour
Put the sugar and marg into a bowl and cream together using a wooden spoon. When well creamed, add the oats and flour and mix well together. Using hands, lightly knead to a smooth dough, then using a lightly floured board, roll to a quarter inch (5mm) thick. Using a 2 1/2" (6cm) cutter, cut into rounds and place on two lightly greased baking trays (or cook in two batches). Bake at 160C, 325F, gas 3 for around 20 minutes or until just beginning to colour. Cool on a cake airer.

Because of the need now to save as much fuel as possible, the following recipe makes a biscuit dough that will keep chilled for some time in the fridge uncooked to be sliced and baked whenever the oven is on for something else. The uncooked dough could also be frozen. Apart from the sense behind this, there is really nothing like eating freshly baked biscuits still warm from the oven.
Frozen Cookie Dough: enough to make 32 biscuits
5 oz (150g) butter, softened
5 oz (15og) caster sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon or orange
1 egg, beaten
8 oz (225g) plain flour
Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well together to form a smooth dough. Knead gently, then wrap in greaseproof paper and chill for about half an hour, then roll into a sausage shape about 2" (5cm) in diameter, and 8 (20cm) long. Wrap again in greaseproof paper and chill until firm enough to slice or freeze.
To cook, unwrap the dough then slice into quarter inch (5mm) thick rounds. Place on lightly greased baking sheets and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 7 for about 12 - 15 minutes or until golden.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Try This for Size

This next recipe is for spicy nibbles, and a good way to wean teenagers from continually tucking into giant packets of crisps, as although crisps are one of the ingredients, cornflakes are the main one, and worth buying the own-brand cheapest to make this.
Cornflake Crunch:
20 oz (600g) cornflakes
6 tblsp pine nuts
4 tblsp finely chopped dates
2 x 25g packs of salted potato crisps, crushed
6 tblsp cashew nuts
2 tblsp sunflower oil
pinch asafoetida (opt)
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
10 curry leaves
2 tsp sugar
Mix together the cornflakes, pine nuts, dates, crisps and cashew nuts together. Heat the oil and fry the asafoetida, turmeric, chilli powder and curry leaves, then pour this over the cornflakes mixture. Add the sugar and salt to taste and put the lot into a large plastic bag and shake gently to blend all the ingredients and flavours together. This can be stored in an airtight jar for up to three months. Nibble as required.

this tip should have been mentioned before:
Whenever possible steam vegetables instead of boiling them, for vitamin C is water soluble (as is vit.B). An example is that steamed broccoli retains 84% of the vit.C content against 30% when boiled.
When cooking cauliflower it steams itself when placed in a covered container (bowl or bag) in the microwave, and although taking as long as if boiled. If wishing to boil cauliflower, then I cook it in milk and reserve this (as many vitamins have dissolved into it) and use this - with extra chopped cauli leaves and stalk - to make cauliflower soup.

This next dish would be seasonal around June, but a few container-grown seeds, kept in a sheltered place, even on a windowsill could bring it forward a month. Even earlier if frozen vegetables were used. Halloumi cheese has a very long shelf-life (at least a year - and actually keeps longer), so useful to keep in the fridge.
Broad Bean and Pea Shoot Salad: serves 4
12 oz (450g) peas (either fresh or frozen)
1 lb (450g) podded broad beans
large handful pea shoots
large handful baby spinach
1 lb (450g) Halloumi, sliced
handful fresh parsley, chopped
4 fl oz (100ml) olive oil
3 tblsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp caster sugar
salt and pepper
If using fresh peas, cook until tender (thaw frozen peas) and place in a bowl. Cook the broad beans for about 6 minutes (or directions on the bag of frozen beans), then remove the skins and add to the peas. Stir in the pea shoots and spinach leaves.
Heat a griddle or frying pan until very hot and cook the Halloumi for 1 - 2 minutes on each side until golden.
Make the dressing by putting the oil, vinegar,mustard and sugar into a screw-top jar and shake well. Pour into a small saucepan and warm it briefly, add seasoning if you feel it needs it.
Pour the warm dressing over the salad in the bowl, toss well and divide between four plates, placing slices of grilled Halloumi on top. Scatter over the parsley and add a grind of black pepper. Serve immediately.

Penultimate recipe today also uses broad beans (as to whether you choose to remove the inner skin is up to you), but perhaps the best part of this recipe is that the main ingredients is quinoa (pronounced keen-wah as if it really matters), and this is actually a seed rather than a grain, although treated as such when used in cooking. Called a 'wonder food', quinoa is one of those rare 'veggie' foods that is a complete protein food, containing all the essential amino acids and well as fibre and numerous vitamins. It can be used as an alternative to rice, pearl barley, and other similar grains, or even mixed in with them.
Quinoa, Prawn and Broad Bean Risotto: serves 2
1 tblsp olive oil
8 - 10 frozen Tiger Prawns, thawed
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
7 oz (200g) quinoa
hot vegetable stock
3 oz (75g) broad beans, cooked
freshly chopped parsley
salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a large frying pan then fry the onion for 5 minutes until softened but not browned. Stir in the garlic, fry for a further minutes then stir in the quinoa. Add enough hot stock to cover, stir then simmer for approx 15 minutes until the quinoa is cooked through and the stock almost absorbed. Stir in the cooked beans and the prawns, cover with a clean towel to absorb the steam, then turn out the heat and leave for a few minutes for the prawns to heat through. Season to taste and serve sprinkled with the parsley.

Because of the great food value of quinoa, this final recipe show how it can be used to make muffins so would be particularly good for the children's packed lunch.
Banana and Quinoa Muffins: makes 12
3 oz (75g) butter, melted
2 large eggs
5 fl oz (150ml) plain yogurt
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3 oz (75g) quinoa
7 fl oz (200ml) water
pinch of salt
6 oz (175g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 oz (100g) caster sugar (pref light brown)
Whisk the melted butter with the eggs, yogurt and bananas. Put the quinoa and the water in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer until cooked (follow packet directions for timings). When cooked, drain and fluff up grains with a fork to separate.
Sift the flour with the baking powder into a bowl, add the quinoa and sugar and mix together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just mixed (when making muffins the mixture should still be a bit lumpy just as long as no flour is visible).
Spoon mixture into 12 paper-lined muffin tins and cook at 2ooc, 375F, gas 5 for approx 15 minutes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Spoonful of Sugar...

When baking, usually we need to be pretty exact about measuring the ingredients, but sometimes a little more or less does not make that much difference, and certainly with savoury dishes there is even less of a concern. So as it can be a right pain to drag out the kitchen scales. especially when wishing to measure small amounts, today am giving the alternative - and old fashioned - way of measuring by the spoonful. With a bit of practice we can soon remember and go back to cooking the easy way as our grandmothers did. Just one thing, make sure the tablespoon is the correct size, some are much larger than others. An easy way to check is that three level teaspoons equal one tablespoon.

solid measures: all are level tablespoons
1 oz flour = 2 tblsp
1 oz sugar (gran/caster) = 1 1/2 tblsp
1 oz icing sugar = 2 tblsp
1 oz fat (marg, lard, butter) = 2 tblsp
1 oz honey -=1 tblsp
1 oz gelatine = 2 tblsp
1 oz cocoa = 3 tblsp
1 oz cornflour = 2 1/2 tblsp
1 oz custard powder = 2 1/2 tblsp
1 oz uncooked rice = 1 1/2 tblsp
1 oz gran. yeast = 1 tblsp

1 oz ground almonds = 4 tblsp
1 oz fresh breadcrumbs = 7 tblsp
1 oz grated cheese = 3 1/2 tblsp
1 oz desiccated coconut = 4 1/2 tblsp
1 oz curry powder or spices = 5 tblsp

For those who may wish to use an American recipe that uses the 8 fl oz cup measure, here is another conversion. If you can find a mug that holds just 8 fl oz, keep this to use as a measure.
cup to ounce conversion:
1 cup flour = 4 oz
1 cup sugar (gran or caster) 8 oz
1 cup sifted icing sugar = 5 oz
1 cup fat (marg, butter etc)= 8 oz (same weight solid or liquid)
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed = 4 oz
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs = 2 oz
1 cup dry breadcrumbs = 3 oz
1 cup uncooked rice = 6 oz
1 cup cooked rice = 5 oz
1 cup mixed dried fruit = 4 oz
1 cup grated cheese = 4 oz
1 cup chopped nuts = 4 oz
1 cup coconut = 2 1/2 oz

liquid measures:
1 pint = 20fl oz /600ml = 32 tblsp
half pint = 10fl oz/300ml = 16 tblsp
quarter pint = 5 fl oz /150ml = 8 tblsp
1 fl oz liquid = 2 tblsp

For what its worth one egg (for cooking purposes) should weigh 2 oz, although slightly more should not make that much difference. If the recipe needs (say) four eggs, we could get away with using three larger ones (or any amount of any size as long as the total weight is 8 oz).

With the above, it is fairly easy to pencil in the tablespoon equivalents against many recipes, and the recipe below is mainly by the spoonful and a very interesting way to make pork fillet go a long way. Thin slices of plump chicken breast could be used as an alternative to the pork.
Roman Money-Bags: serves 4
12 oz (350g) pork fillet
half tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 tblsp canned or cooked sweetcorn
1 x 250g pack broccoli
2 tsp olive oil
1 red bell pepper, trimmed, seeded and diced
2 tblsp ricotta or curd cheese
2 tblsp torn basil leaves
1 tblsp chopped fresh oregano
20 tiny cubes of mozzarella cheese (approx 1 oz)
Slice the fillet into 20 rounds and beat each out between clingfilm until three times their original size and almost transparent. Season lightly with half the salt and a little pepper to taste.
Separate the broccoli into 20 tiny florets, and peel and finely dice the stems. Blanch both briefly in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain and set aside.
Mix all the vegetables with the ricotta and remaining salt, then stir in the herbs and divide this mixture equally between the 20 pieces of pork fillet. Gather up the sides to nearly enclose the filling, leaving just a gap in the centre so some of the veggies are visible, and push one cube of mozzarella into the centre of each.
Sprinkle over a little more black pepper then place each 'money-bag' in a large, shallow ovenproof dish that has the base and sides greased with half of the oil. Brush remaining oil over the exposed surface of the meat.
Bake in the centre of a 190C, 375F, gas 5 oven for 15 - 20 minutes until the meat has cooked through and the edges are just beginning to colour. If you wish the mozzarella to melt further, remove from the oven after 12 - 15 minutes and finish off under a hot grill, but do not over-cook for the pork will stiffen up too much. Serve hot with what you will (rice, noodles, couscous, salads etc).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Moving the Goalposts

One recipe today - basically a relish made from storecupboard/fridge ingredients, and one that eats well with 'burgers. Make as you wish to use as it will not store for any length of time - at most a couple of days in the fridge.
Beetroot Relish:
7 oz (200g) cooked beetroot, cut into small cubes
2 large or 3 small pickled onions, finely chopped
2 tblsp green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 tblsp chopped fresh mint
salt and pepper
Mix everything together with seasoning to taste, and serve in a small bowl.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Potential Possibilities

Using 2 oz (50g) home-ground caster sugar (5p worth) and a 'free' egg white that we so often find left over (or even deliberately saved when frying several eggs in one pan), we can make meringues that over the counter that could have cost us at least £1. After drying out then stored in air-tight containers they can keep for months.
Spend half the money saved on a small pot of double cream and this with some 'free' fruit (blackberries etc) and the meringue made into a 'pavlova' this could then turn into a stunning dessert which works out at 10p per serving (based on serving 6 - and it could serve 8).

Porridge oats ground down to a coarse flour in the blender/processor, together with a pinch of salt and bound with 'free' bacon dripping, can be rolled out into those thin oat biscuits that eat so well with cheese, to be 'cooked/dried off' in a cooling oven. A pack of similar could sell as much as 8 times the cost of home-made.

Once upon a time I was a packet-mix addict, and can still be if I lose control. It was after making up a pack of white sauce mix and reading the ingredients on the back that I realised it was basically nothing much more than cornflour, and as a packet of this already stood in my cupboard, why in earth was I not making it scratch? So I did, and it took only seconds longer. What we need to remember that in most cases we have to make up the mix with milk anyway, so the cost of the milk has to be added onto the cost of the pack.

A cheat's way to make a passable bechamel sauce (flavoured white sauce) is to make it using home-made vegetable stock and dried milk powder with a little cornflour to thickened. A cheese sauce mix is mainly cornflour and dried (yuk!) cheese. Although no cheaper than a packet mix (as no milk need be used probably works out much the same) a small tub of creme fraiche heated with plenty of grated cheese from the fridge is even quicker to prepare, and a great deal more luxurious.

Yesterday, bringing out a pack of minced lamb bought from the supermarket (hanging my head in shame as we normally buy meat from the butcher) - to thaw for tonight's Shepherd's Pie, noticed on the label "a mixture of lamb and mutton" - and a red warning light switched on in my head. Cut for cut, mutton is tougher than lamb, so the mince might need longer cooking. Have just about got to the stage where I do not trust any minced meat (other than bought at the butcher), for it often seems to come from the cheapest cuts, and even though minced, still requires long cooking to become tender.
Not at all sure what frozen minced beef is made of, as when it is in the pan and thawed, it just turns into a mush which seems very dubious. The very best minced beef is minced steak and this is best of all when bought from a butcher as it cooks to tender within minutes (great fuel saving). If the price is right, we could do well to buy one of the topside or similar joints when on half-price offer at the supermarkets, and then mince this ourselves and freeze away in small packs until needed. Table-top mincing machines are coming back into fashion, and well worth getting. Myself have two, one that belonged to my mother, and the other to my mother-in-law, both slightly different, but being metal (iron?) they have lasted. The newer models are often made of plastic.

Once we begin to mince our own meats, we can progress to making our own 'burgers, be they beef, lamb, chicken or pork. There are even little gadgets on sale to help us make these, and they are very good, coming complete with layering film to place between each, but have to say not essential as a large scone cutter could be used as a mould - the meat pressed inside to the depth needed.
Recently on TV chefs have said that when using quality minced meat (other than pork) it is not essential to cook a burger right the way through as this can make it tough. If we prefer it well cooked, then sear the burgers on both sides in hot oil (or under the grill), then turn the heat down and let them gently cook through - this tends to keep them moister.

Only one recipe today and so-called 'no-bake', although it has a certain amount of cooking on the hob. Apart from the bonus of not needing an oven, the one recipe can be turned into two quite distinctly textured and flavoured biscuits - one an oatmeal cookie, the other a peanut slice.
Basic 'no-bake' cookie mix: makes about 2 dozen
12 oz (350g) granulated sugar
3 oz (85ml) milk
2 oz (50g) butter
1 tblsp cocoa
2 drops vanilla extract
9 oz (250g) quick-cook porridge oats
(3 oz (75g) peanut butter for slices only)
Put the first five ingredients into a pan and heat gently until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Boil for 2 minutes, then stir in the oats and boil for a further minute.

oatmeal cookies:
Spread a sheet of waxed or baking parchment on a baking sheet. Using half the above mixture, drop heaped teaspoons onto the paper and flatten slightly to make biscuits. Leave for several hours to harden.

peanut slices:
Line a baking sheet as above. Blend the peanut butter into the remaining half of the cookie mixture, and spread in a thin layer. Leave to firm up, then mark into squares or oblongs with a knife. Leave overnight in a cool place to harden, then snap into even pieces.

tip for the day:
If a block of marzipan has gone hard, grate some of it and add to a crumble mix.
Grate frozen pastry scraps to add with a little bit of sugar and a few oats to make another crumble mix. Or use to thickly top a pie without having to roll out the pastry.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pies of Past and Present

Surprisingly, in a book dealing with nothing but recipes using pastry, there is one exception: a crustless quiche! This alone makes me wonder if all quiche fillings could not be treated in the same way, for the end result is almost like an easy souffle. Read through and see what you think' You may even wish to have a go yourself. The sweetcorn used is given as 'on the cob' to be then grated, but canned (and drained) or frozen corn could be used and blitzed for a few seconds in a blender to give a similar result - and as the amount of corn flesh and its juice needs to be approx 12 fl oz (350ml) we should be able to arrive at this amount any which way we choose.
No-crust Corn and Bacon 'quiches': makes 4
4 corn cobs, husks removed and grated
2 tsp olive oil
2 rashers bacon, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tblsp chopped chives
2 tblsp chopped parsley
2 oz (50g) fresh white breadcrumbs
3 fl oz (80ml) cream
salt and pepper
Lightly grease four 6fl oz/185ml) ramekin dishes. Remove husks from the corn and, using a coarse grater, grate the kernels into a deep bowl to give approx 12 fl oz (350ml) flesh and juice combined.
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the bacon and onion for 4 minutes or until the onion has softened. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl, then stir in the corn/juice, eggs, herbs, breadcrumbs and cream, adding seasoning to taste. Divide between the ramekins and place in a large baking dish or roasting tin. Add enough hot water to come half-way up the sides of the dishes. Lay a sheet of foil loosely over the top and bake for 25 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 or until just set.

To make flour go that little bit further, mix it with other ingredients to make a different type of pastry. Two suggestions are given below, one using polenta for a savoury quiche, the other using custard powder for a sweet tart. Although both can be made by hand (God's own tools remember), they are more easily made using a food processor.
When freezing away uncooked pastry, especially when making more than one type, always label as for sweet or savoury use.
Polenta Pastry: for a quiche to serve 6
4 oz (100g) plain flour
3 oz (75g) polenta or cornmeal
3 oz (75g) butter, cubed
3 oz (73g) cream cheese, cubed
First chill the butter and cream cheese before cubing.
Put the flour and polenta into the bowl of a food processor and give a quick blitz. Then add the cold butter and cheese and process for about 15 seconds or until the mixture just comes together. Turn out onto a floured surface and form into a ball. Wrap in cling-film, then chill for 30 minutes.
When ready to use, roll out between two sheets of baking parchment to the size needed to line the chosen tin (makes enough to line a tin approx 9" x 11"/21 x 28cm - use less if a smaller tin is used). Trim away excess pastry and chill again for 20 minutes, then bake blind for 15 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 5, then remove paper and beans and bake on for a further 15 minutes or until pastry is dry and golden. Add the chosen quiche filling and bake at the lower temperature of 180C etc for about 25 - 30 minutes or until set.

Final recipe today is for the other version of short pastry, and one made by our grandparents, for surprisingly, custard powder (one of the very first convenience foods) has been around for a very long time. As this pastry tends to hold its shape well, worth using when presentation is of some importance.
Granny's Pastry: enough to make 24 little tarts
8 oz (250g) plain flour
2 tblsp custard powder
4 oz (100g) butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg yolk
2 - 3 tblsp iced water
Put the flour, custard powder and butter in a food processor and blitz for 30 seconds until like fine crumbs. Add the egg yolk and most of the water and blitz for a further 20 seconds or until the pastry has come together, adding remaining water only if necessary. Turn out onto a floured surface, gather into a ball, and wrap in cling-film. Chill for 20 minutes.
To use, divide in half, keeping the spare portion wrapped and chilled, and roll out between baking parchment to 1/8" (3mm) thick. Using a fluted cutter, cut into rounds to line 12 tartlet tins, then repeat with remaining pastry. Chill again before spooning chosen filling into pastry cases and bake for15 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4, or until filling is cooked.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

An Apple a Day...

here is a recipe for a mayo...
Apple Mayonnaise:
3 tblsp double cream
4 oz (100g) standard mayonnaise
1 tblsp white wine
3 tblsp apple puree
1 tsp grated fresh horseradish or bottled horseradish cream
good pinch of each: sugar and salt
Whip the cream until thick but not too firm. Fold into the mayo then carefully fold in the wine, apple puree, and horseradish. Season to taste with the sugar and salt.
tip: using icing sugar sifted over the mixture makes it blend in more easily than using caster or granulated.

tip: when using mayo to bind salad ingredients (potato salad etc) always dilute with a little water so that it flows more easily as the food needs only a light coating, not glued together by a thick gunge.

Depending upon the time of day this is read, there could still be time to make this rather special dessert for Valentine's Day. As the predominant flavour for the syllabub is ginger, this would go with both orange or lemon, so the choice of which jelly you use is up to you. The jelly will set faster if first dissolved in a very little water, then made up with really chilled wine. Much depends upon the size of the serving dishes/glasses. If larger, then more jelly may need to be made, in which case use an extra half pack of jelly and the required amount of wine to go with this.
Oranges with Wine Jelly with Ginger Cream: serves 4 -6
2 oranges, segmented - peel, pith and membrane removed
1 pack of orange or lemon jelly
chilled white wine
1 x 284ml pot double cream
2 tblsp orange juice
2 tblsp lemon juice
3 tblsp Cointreau or similar
1 piece stem ginger, shredded finely
2 tblsp ginger syrup from the jar
3 oz (caster sugar)
finely grated zest of 1 orange
First prepare the orange segments, then break up the jelly into cubes, place each pack in a pint jug and just cover with hot water (or cold if using a microwave) then stir (or microwave on Full for a couple of minutes) until the jelly has completely dissolved, then stand the jug in cold water to cool down the jelly before adding wine to bring it nearly but not quite up to the pint in each jug.
Divide the orange segments and place at the bottom of individual serving (wine) glasses and pour over the wine jelly (leaving space at the top for the syllabub) and then place in the fridge to set.
Make the syllabub by putting into a bowl the cream, orange zest and juice, lemon juice, liqueur, ginger syrup and the sugar, whisking them all together until soft peaks. Spoon onto the top of the set jellies and leave in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours before sprinkling with the stem ginger.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

There is far less shrinkage of meat when it is slow roasted, which means it will serves more and/or last longer. The slow-roasting temperatures for meats are:
for pork: 180C, 350F, gas 4
for beef/lamb: 170C, 325F, gas 3

slow roasting times: per lb/450g for 3 - 6lb joints.
beef on the bone:
sirloin - rare...26 minutes
wing rib - medium...30 minutes
rib roast - well done... 35 mins per pound

leg ... 45 - 50 minutes
neck, best end and loin ...45 minutes
shoulder ...35 minutes
shoulder ...b0ned and rolled, 55 minutes

leg ...45 - 50 minutes
loin ...35 - 40 minutes
shoulder joint ...45 - 50
shoulder, boned and rolled...55

Meat (especially beef and lamb) has always a better flavour when cooked on the bone, but as this is not always so easy to carve, this led to the easier method boning and stuffing a joint of meat for - an old book says - this made carving simple enough for a child to do (although 'elf and safety may have something to say about letting a child loose with a sharp carving knife these days).

Another way to cook meat is not to roast but to simmer in a pot full of liquid. Below are two traditional recipes served during the cold winter months. Like a roast, any remaining meat left to get cold, then sliced.
This first recipe is for pork and split peas and although salt pork can be used, it works particularly well using one of those gammon joints we cook for ham. Depending upon the size of the joint, it might be necessary to start the peas before cooking the meat, and well in advance if it is more convenient. Always read through a recipe such as this from start to finish before you begin, to allow for adjustment of timings.
Pork with Pease Pudding:
4 - 6 lb (2 - 3 kg) salt pork or gammon
2 onions, quartered
2 carrots, cut into large chunks
2 ribs celery, cut into chunks
4 peppercorns
1 lb (500g) split peas, soaked overnight
1 oz (25g) butter
1 egg
salt and pepper
Place the pork/gammon into a pan and cover with cold water and bring slowly to the boil, skimming off any fat and scum. Add the vegetables and peppercorns, cover and simmer until the meat is partly cooked -allowing 25 minutes per lb (450g) but leaving enough time to cook the peas with it.
Meanwhile, drain the peas and put them into a pan and cover with plenty of water. Simmer until tender (this takes about 90 minutes), adding more boiling water if it reduces too much. Drain and either mash well or blitz in a blender or food processor (this can be done in advance of cooking the meat), then beat in the egg and butter, adding seasoning to taste.
Turn this mixture onto a piece of muslin, tie up, then place the bag in the pan with the meat for the last 35 -45 minutes of cooking time, and remove pudding from the cloth when serving. Serve the meat with the cooked vegetables, or alternatively (or as well) with steamed cabbage.
tip: pre-soaking the pork/gammon before it is cooked will remove some of the salt, drain and place back in the pan with fresh water, then after cooking this liquid can be used to make split-pea soup.

Well remember a song all about this next dish, and believe it is traditional to East London. Could be wrong but think it might have been sung in the musical "My Fair Lady". Silverside is an economical cut (usually salted in Britain, but in France bought and used fresh - both cooked in the same way as below) and eats well when cold.
Boiled Beef and Carrots - with dumplings:
4 lb (2kg) piece of silverside of beef
8 small onions,
4 carrots, quartered
1 small white cabbage, quartered
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
5 oz (150g) chopped suet
half tsp salt
cold water
Place the beef in a large pan and cover completely with water. Bring slowly to the boil and keep skimming away any fat (a dash of cold water helps to bring this scum to the surface). Keep the heat down to a gentle simmer for the aim is to keep the liquid as clear as possible. The beef should be cooked for 30 minutes per lb (450g) so plan the timing.
Cover the pan and simmer for an hour, then add the carrots and onions, then simmer for a further 15 minutes before adding the cabbage. Then continue cooking for the required amount of time, allowing half an hour to cook the dumplings.
To make dumplings, mix together the flour, suet and salt together with enough cold water to make a soft dough. Divide into walnut-sized pieces, roll lightly in a little flour and pop into the pan, spacing well apart, cover and cook for the final half hour.
To serve, place the meat in the centre of a warm serving dish, surround with vegetables and the dumplings. Serve a little of the stock from the pot in a sauce boat.

The last of the savoury recipes for today is 'A Speedy Storecupboard Soup' and certainly could be a useful one for students or anyone wishing to make a quick lunch. Canned shrimps or prawns and canned sweetcorn are used in this particular version, although both frozen cooked prawns and frozen (cooked) sweetcorn could be used instead.
Nova Scotia Chowder: serves 2
1 small can shrimps (or 8 oz/225g frozen)
15 fl oz (450ml) milk
1 onion
1 tblsp dried instant potato powder
half a can of sweetcorn kernels
salt and pepper
2 tblp single cream
chopped chives
Put the peeled but whole onion ina pan with th milk and gently heat to simmering. Removed from heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes (or longer. Remove the onion, stir in the instant potato until smooth. Add the sweetcorn and shrimps (if using prawns chop roughly), and reheat gently. Add seasoning to taste, stir in the cream, reheat but do not boil, and serve immediately.

Another 'retro' dish is upside-down pudding where fruit is first placed in a baking dish then covered with a sponge cake batter to be cooked then turned out upside-down so that the fruit ends up on the top. The following recipe is a good winter version as gingerbread is the cake part and the fruit comes from the storecupboard. If you haven't all the spices, at least use ginger, and hopefully cinnamon.
Upside-down Gingerbread:
4 oz (100g) plain flour
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch grated nutmeg or mace
pinch ground cloves
1 egg, beaten
4 oz (100g) soft brown sugar
3 oz (75g) black treacle
4 fl oz (100ml) creme fraiche (see below)
2 oz (50g) butter or margarine, melted
2 oz (50g) butter
3 oz (75g) soft brown sugar
1 can pear halves (drained)
creme fraiche or whipped cream
First make the topping by melting the butter in a pan, adding the sugar and stirring over a low heat for a couple of minutes to dissolve, then pour into an 8" (20cm) shallowish square baking tin.
Arrange the pears on top with the cut side facing down, and place walnuts in between.
Make the gingerbread by sifting the flour with the bicarb, salt and spices. In a jug, mix together the egg, sugar, black treacle, creme fraiche and cooled fat. Stir this into the flour and beat vigorously for one minute until smooth, then carefully pour on top of the fruit. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 50 minutes.
Turn out onto a serving plate and serve warm with creme fraiche or whipped cream.

home-made creme fraiche:
whip one small carton of double cream until just holding its shape, then fold in one same size carton of plain yogurt.

Plain steamed puddings are very economical to make, and recipes have been posted for these before, but the following sauces made to pour over puds are quick and easy enough to make. They are also good poured over ice-cream.
chocolate sauce:
1 tblsp cocoa
2 tblsp sugar
half a pint (300ml) water
2 drops vanilla extract
Put the cocoa and sugar into a small pan, and slowly mix in the water. Bring gently to the boil, stirring all the time and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the vanilla, then the sauce is ready to serve.

butterscotch sauce:
1 tblsp golden syrup
half ounce (12g) butter
2 tblsp demerara sugar
half pint (300ml) warm water
juice of half a small lemon
1 dessertspoon custard powder
1 tblsp cold water
Put the syrup, butter and sugar into a pan and cook to a rich caramel colour. Remove from heat and carefully add the water and lemon juice (take care as it may spit). Bring back to the boil , then add the custard powder that has been slaked (mixed) with the cold water. Simmer until thickened then cook for one minute longer. Good served with ice-cream.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Keeping it Simple

A good idea Jennifer about keeping part-baked bread in store, and hadn't realised it need not be frozen and also has a good shelf life. Thanks for telling us about this.

A slow-cooker might be very useful to you Kathryn for there is nothing like having a hot meal ready when you get in from work. With a little organisation you can save time in the morning by putting the meat (frozen or raw) in the pot with maybe some onions and also cold water, prior to going to bed, then the next day all you need do is switch it on as you leave for work. If cooking beef a can of oxtail soup could be used as the 'gravy although myself might stir in an oxtail cuppa soup to the liquid in the pot.
Chicken joints cooke particularly well in the crock-pot (alternative name for a slow-cooker), and these would cook well in the contents of a can of chicken soup. If needing plenty of 'gravy', use condensed soups that have been diluted with water.
If wishing to cook veggies in the pot at the same time, these need to be diced or sliced thinly, as they need a higher heat to become tender, or they could be prepared the evening before, blanched for 4 minutes in boiling water, then drained, chilled under cold running water, and then placed in the pot nearest the source of the heat, with the meat laid on top. Pre-blanched 'crock-pot casserole' vegetables could be prepared weeks in advance, then packed in the amounts needed and frozen. Defrost overnight so they don't chill down the pot in the morning.

Other things can be cooked in slow-cookers, such as over-night cooking of porridge or pre-soaked pulses, although it is necessary to fast boil the red beans for 8 minutes to get rid of toxins before lowing the heat and letting them cook on. I do this with most dried beans now anyway.
After the initial boiling, the still-hard beans could be added to a casserole as they will cook on with the rest of the ingredients, so it should be possible to make a sort of cassoulet.
There are books written giving recipes just for using crock-pots/slow-cookers, and there should be plenty more details about 'how to use and what to cook' given on the Internet. Because these cookers (allegedly) use only the fuel used by a light bulb, not only are they useful to make a ready-and-waiting meal after a day out, they are also one of the cheapest ways to cook. Another advantage is that the food is cooked at so low a temperature and for so long that it will rarely spoil by over-long cooking, A delay on returning home is never then a worry.

Just loved the way you counted out your king prawns Stewpam. A girl after my own heart, for I do exactly the same thing - even with Brussels sprouts (but not with peas - these I measure by the tablespoonful). Even doing something like this we control the amount we use and so often gain an extra meal. A simple but tasty meal you made yourself by adjusting a rice recipe and adding those prawns - making a saving of £4! Think I shall have to begin handing out gold stars.

The sharing of shopping and meal ideas is bringing us all closer together and am so pleased that Moira and Eileen are holding virtual hands. As to running out of flour Moira, across the pond they do use an 'all purpose' flour which is slightly stronger than ours - and a mix of about one third strong flour to two thirds of our 'weak' flour (the one we normally use for baking). When sifted together this makes excellent pastry and profiteroles, and can also be used for some cakes where extreme lightness is not needed. So when running short of the normal flour, extend it with some of the strong. Some pastry and also pasta is also better when made with a stronger flour.
Cannot remember whether you are fond of spiced foods Moira, but as you mentioned lamb am enclosing a couple of recipes for an easy curry dishes which, although made with raw lamb, should work nearly as well using cooked lamb as this absorb the flavours. Just reduce the cooking times.

Eileen, your mention of defrosting freezers reminded me of the way we kept our frozen food when defrosting our huge chest freeze. We used to pile the food in the freezer baskets and then tuck these inside sleeping bags, or wrap the lot up in a duvet. This insulated them and they would stay frozen for ages.
After cleaning and drying out the freezer, hope you remembered my tip: wipe glycerine (available from a chemist) round the insides of the freezer, from the very top (and also along the rim where the lid sits, to about halfway down where the ice tends to disappear anyway. The glycerine works as a barrier between the ice and sides, so next time you need to defrost, just slip a plastic spatula or the blade of a butter knife between the ice and the freezer sides and the whole lot should come off in one sheet, saving all that time spent scraping down.

Agree with you Eileen about the flavour of beer when used in cakes (and also good when used in a beef casserole - like Carbonnade). There are two recipes on this site that have cakes made with beer, one is Brewery Cake on 15th Dec. '06 (and how long ago that seems now), and Cake 'n Ale on 26th Sept. '07. Your suggestion of adding it to gingerbread also sounds good. Am even now contemplating whether a dash of beer would not go amiss added to beef when making my next Cottage Pie.

However much we do like to cook, there are times when we HAVE no time, and serving a quick meal seems far more important than serving a tasty meal. But who says quick meals cannot be tasty?
Often we make the mistake of thinking a quick meal has to be one that is started from scratch and finished within minutes, and believe me there are plenty of these already on this site, but to me a quick meal can also be more to do with the speed of preparaton - then allowing it to cook on all by itself. Quick to prepare, quick to make - almost the same thing.
Simple dishes are slightly different, and - as before - can be quick to prepare, but the main difference between fast food and simple food is that the latter is generally a simplified version of a dish that can be much more complicated if prepared and cooked in the classic way.

We begin with three easy-to-make curry dishes. The first being a rice dish. The spices used are the ones we cooks should strive to keep in our stores, but if we are missing one or two, then use as many ingredients that are given as possible. Flaked almonds are a possible alternative to cashew nuts.
Pilau Rice: serves 4
9 oz (250g) long-grain rice (pref basmati)
2 bay leaves
3 tblsp sunflower oil
3 shallots, thinly sliced
2 oz (50g) cashew nuts
6 cardamoms, crushed to extract seeds
3 whole cloves
12 black peppercorns
zest of half a small lemon
17 fl oz (470ml) water or chicken stock
good pinch rock or sea salt
Put the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water. Add the bay leaves. Leave to soak for at least half an hour (the longer it soaks the faster it will cook. If soaking for several hours, you may need extra water.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat, and add the shallots, nuts, cardamoms, cloves, peppercorns and lemon zest, and stir/fry for about 3 minutes or until the onions are lightly coloured.
Drain the rice well, then add to the pan, stirring well to mix everything together, then add the water and salt. Simmer for 9 minutes (less if the rice has been soaked for longer), then cover and turn off the heat and leave for a further 10 - 15 minutes. Fluff up with a fork before serving.

A lamb curry that uses a small amount of meat as it also contains butternut squash or pumpkin, and split peas, When using any peas or beans that require soaking, do not add salt until the end of the cooking time as it prevents them softening.
Mutton (or lamb) Dhansak: serves 4
2 large onions, finely chopped
5 oz (150g) chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
8 oz (225g) butternut squash, peeled and finely chopped
6 tblsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
6 tblsp chopped fresh mint leaves
5 oz (150g) split peas
10 oz (300g) lean lamb, cubed
1 tsp each turmeric, chilli powder, sugar
16 fl oz (450ml) water
4 tblsp distilled vinegar
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
pinch of salt
Put all but last three ingredients in a saucepan and cook until the lamb and split peas are soft. Carefully remove the pieces of meat and mash the vegetable and split peas down using a wooden spoon or potato masher. Return the meat to the pan, add the vinegar and salt and stir.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan, and fry the cumin seeds, then pour this over the curry in the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes until heated through. Serve hot.

Was it yesterday the recipe was given for making flaky pastry? Wish I''d discovered this extra-quick method of making puff pastry at the time, for it would have been included. It comes from an American 'food-processor' cookbook, so the measurement are given in 'cups' - 1 cup = 8 fl oz measure (by volume not weight). Find the right size mug or teacup and we can be well on our way to making puff pastry the simple way. Once made, the pastry will keep for up to a week in the fridge, and can also be frozen. For all-purpose flour, see above in my replies to your comments.
Quick Puff Pastry: (F)
12 oz (350g) butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
half tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sour cream or creme fraiche
Cut the butter into 15 - 18 slices. Using the steel blade in a food processor, put the butter, flour and salt into the bowl and blitz for a few seconds until the butter has been chopped coarsely into the flour. Remove cover and add the sour cream. Replace cover and pulse until the mixture has formed a ball. Do not overwork.
Remove the ball of dough and divide in half. Flatten each and wrap in clingfilm, the chill for about an hour, but not leaving it too long to become too firm.
Roll pastry out into an oblong about 6" x 16" (15cm x 40.5cm) and approx half inch (1 cm) thick. Fold into thirds - top to middle , then bottom up over that - making a smaller rectangle. Turn so the open end is facing, then roll and repeat the folding process. This can be repeated as many as 6 times, but always chill for half an hour between each two 'turns'. Then wrap and chill/freeze until ready to use.

tips when using puff pastry:
Usually rolled slightly thicker than eighth of an inch.
Edges should be trimmed to help the pastry rise.
Sprinkle baking sheets with water before baking and lay pastry up- side down.
Improve surface by glazing with two layers of egg, but do not allow glaze to run over the edges or this glues the layers together and prevents the pastry puffing up.
Always chill pastry after rolling and before baking, and pastry should go directly from fridge or freezer to oven.
The pastry puffs better when put in the upper third of a hot oven, and when puffed and browned, can be put on a lower shelf and the heat reduced (or turned off) to finish drying it.
Puff pastry never spreads but shrinks slightly as it puffs upwards, so if covering a pie, make it oversize.
Puff pastry should feel crisp on the edges when it is done, and always best eaten the day it is baked.
Although the pastry may not be perfect at first, it is always good.

Chocolate (fondant) Puddings: makes 4 (F)
butter, softened
cocoa powder or caster sugar
4 oz (100g) dark chocolate, chopped
4 oz (100g) butter, diced
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
4 oz (100g) plain flour
First take four individual moulds (see above) and grease well with the melted butter, then add a spoon of the sugar or cocoa powder and turn t mould around until the sides are completely coated. Remove an excess.
Place in the fridge to chill and set the butter.
Melt the chocolate and diced butter together in a bowl standing over simmering water. When melted, remove from the heat, stir well to combine then leave to cool slightly for about 10 minutes.
In another bowl beat together the whole eggs, the egg yolks and the sugar until thick and a trail is left when the whisk is lifted. Sift in the flour then beat together. Add the chocolate mixture a little at a time, beating well after each addition, then pour this mixture into the moulds (more easily done if the mix has been transferred to a jug), chill for at least half an hour (or longer). At this point the puddings can be frozen. To bake from frozen, add 5 minutes on to the cooking time.
To cook the puddings, place on a baking tray and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 10 - 12 minutes. The top should appear crusty and the pudding beginning to pull away from the sides. When ready, remove from heat but allow them to stand for 1 - 2 minutes before turning out.
To help removal from mould, carefully slide the tip of a knife between the pud and the container and tip out onto a serving plate. If still stuck on the base, stand the bottom of the container in a saucer of cold water for a minute and this usually works.
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or ice-cream.

Final recipe today if for those who might have some whole cranberries left over from Christmas. They keep for ages in the fridge, so worth using up in this rather special chutney that will keep for 6 months stored in a cool dark place. Best bottled in small jars as once opened the chutney should be kept in the fridge and used up within a couple of weeks. Good eaten with turkey, chicken, other cold meats and also cheeses.
Cranberry and Apple Chutney: makes 2 lb (1 kg )
1 lb 2 oz (500g) cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
9 oz (250g) eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped
9 oz (250g) onions thinly sliced
1 oz (25g) root ginger, grated
86black peppercorns
9 oz (250g) granulated sugar
5 fl oz (150ml) cider vinegar
9 oz (250g) cranberries
Put all ingredients except the cranberries nto a large saucepan, and heat gently, sirring often, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the simmer, then cook, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the apples and onions are very tender. When ready, the mixture should be thick and very little liquid runs out when a wooden spoon has dragged a path across the base of the pan.
Stir in the cranberries, then cook for several more minutes until these have just begun to soften. Do not cook too long or the berries will burst.
Spoon immediately into small hot sterilised jars, and seal with vinegar-proof lids. Store in a cool dry place for up to six months. Once opened keep in the fridge.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Bringing Home the Bacon

When puff pastry is called for in a recipe, this is where the ready-made chilled or frozen blocks are very useful, for it is time-consuming to make good puff pastry that rises even when baked - even chefs resort to using it.
However, for general use, flaky pastry makes a good substitute and this is easily made from home, and far less expensive as it is made with half butter, half lard.
The two fats in this recipe (butter and lard) are each divided into two portions, and during the process are used alternately - four times in all, and it doesn't matter which you begin with, just use the other next, and then repeat. The ice-cold water could be melted snow I suppose. Or stand the jug of water outside to chill.
Flaky Pastry:
8 oz (225g) plain flour
pinch of salt
3 oz (75g) butter
3 oz (75g) lard
8 - 10 tblsp ice-cold water
Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl. Divide each of the fats into two portions, and rub one (your choice) into the flour and mix to a firm dough with the water. The amount of water needed can vary, as the finer the flour the more water it will absorb.
Knead the dough gently until smooth, then roll out to an oblong. Cut a second portion of the alternative fat into small pieces and dot these over onto the end two-thirds of the pastry. Fold the top third of the pastry back over, then fold the bottom half up over that, making a neat package with layers of fat between the pastry folds. Give the pastry a half turn so the open end is facing you, then roll out again to the same size oblong as before. Repeat with the next (alternative) fat, and roll out as before. After dotting the pastry with fat and folding for the third time, do not roll, but place the pastry in a poly bog and leave to stand in a cool place for 15 minutes, then roll out as before, dot with the last remaining fat, fold and roll out again. If the pastry appears streaky give one final fold (without fat), turn and roll again.

As a guide, 8 oz of pastry will cover an 8" diameter plate. Any surplus pastry can always be chilled or frozen to be used another time.

Spare egg whites keep for up to two weeks in a covered jar the fridge, so never throw them away, and as this next recipe for Eccles cakes uses 1 egg white , this could be the one left over after making the ravioli filling. Left-over egg yolks can only be stored for a couple of days in a covered container in the fridge (mixing with a pinch of salt), and can be used in custards, lemon curd, rich pastry, mayonnaise, scrambled eggs, and using to bind burgers or patties. Those who plan their cooking in advance should then be able to made the most of the left-over separated eggs.
Eccles cakes are very similar to other regional variations. Coventry Godcakes are made with much the same ingredients, but triangular shaped. Banbury cakes are rolled into oblongs with pointed ends.
Eccles Cakes:
8 oz (225g) flaky pastry, well chilled
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
1 rounded tblsp soft brown sugar
4 os (100g) currants or raisins
pinch mixed spice
1 rounded tblsp chopped candied peel
1 egg white, lightly beaten
caster sugar
To make the filling, stir the brown sugar and butter together, wash the dried fruit, drain - but while still wet - and add, with the spice and peel to the butter/sugar.
Roll out the pastry very thinly and cut in 6" (15cm) rounds (place a saucer on the pastry and cut round this). Put a rounded tablespoon of the filling mixture in the centre of each round, brush the edges of the pastry with water, then draw up to the centre and pinch together to seal. Turn the pastry over, and roll gently so that the fruit is just becoming visible, but keep the cakes round.
Traditionally three small cuts are made on the top, the visible surface brushed with egg white and dusted with caster sugar. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 220C, 425F, gas 7 for 10 -15 minutes or until golden.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Week on a Plate

Brawn is a meat that has been seasoned and simmered for hours, then strained and placed in a mould. The cooking liquid can be boiled down to reduce it, and when concentrated enough is poured over the meat to set as a jelly, which protects the meat from bacteria. Tongue, and cheaper cuts of beef such as brisket, are often made into pressed meats, cooked in a similar way, but the meat is pressed when in the mould and before the liquid is poured over. True brawn is made from chopped meat placed in a bowl, then covered with the liquid.
When cold and set it can be cut into slices.
Cow, sheep and pig heads/trotters make excellent brawn because their cooking liquid becomes very gelatinous. If you prefer to make brawn using using a selection of meat scraps, cook some bones with the meat or you have to resort to using ready-made gelatine.
Pressed meat and brawn will keep for a week in the fridge, but not advisable to freeze as the texture of the jelly will be spoiled.
Pig's heads and trotters should be soaked in brine 24 hours before using. If you order in advance the butcher should do this for you, and also chop up the head.

The method shown is the traditional way to make brawn, which can be adjusted to using what we have as long as we keep to the rough idea. Just think 'cooked meat in savoury jelly' and we won't go far wrong.
Brawn: to feed 6
half a pig's head, soaked in brine. strained and rinsed
2 pigs trotters', ditto
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 rib celery, sliced
half pint (300ml) dry cider
bunch fresh thyme, parsley, celery and bay leaves OR...
...1 tsp dried mixed herbs
6 peppercorns
salt and pepper
good pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Chop the head into manageable pieces and put into a large pan with the trotters, onion, carrot and celery. Add the cider, herbs, and peppercorns. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Remove any scum as it rises to the surface. Reduce heat to really low and simmer, covered, for 2 - 3 hours or until the meat is very tender. Then remove all the pieces of pig, leave to cool then strip the flesh from the bones.
Drain the stock and over medium heat, boil until reduced by half. Place the meaty pieces back into the stock, season well to taste and add the nutmeg, bring to the simmer and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Rinse a bowl with cold water, the pour in the meat and enough stock to cover. Cover bowl with foil and leave overnight in the fridge to set before turning out. If not wishing to eat it he same day, leave in the tin or clean and dry the bowl and replace it over the turned-out brawn.