Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cook's Block

This page is not worth the writing if I don't offer a useful recipe. First a mention of meat in general, the type that does not take a long time to cook. Meat can be variable, for even though we think of a Strogonoff being made only with beef (as traditionally it is), this dish could be made with other meats that cook quickly such as lamb, chicken, pork, liver. As mushrooms are part of a Strogonoff, we could use a lot less beef, and a lot more mushrooms - especially the large field (portobello) variety, as these, when sliced into 'strips' resemble steak when cooked, and also absorb the juices from the steak - this making a little steak go much further, and even look as though there is more than there is.

Today's recipe uses a 'quick cook' stir-fryied, but instead of lamb, other meat can be used. If using pork, use sage instead of mint. Always choose ingredients that go best with the chosen meat.
The 'carbohydrate' part of this meal can either be rice, noodles, couscous, depending on your preference.

Lamb Stir-fry: serves 4
1 lb (450g) lean lamb, cut into thin strips
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
4 spring onions, sliced thinly
1 - 2 courgettes, halved lengthwise then sliced thinly
4 oz (100g) frozen string beans or peas (thawed)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 good tblsp chopped fresh mint
2 tblsp light soy sauce
Break or chop the string beans into approx one inch lengths. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or wok and add the lamb, garlic and onions and stir-fry for 2 minutes, then stir in the courgettes, beans (or peas) and the mint. Keep stir-frying for a further 2 - 3 minutes until the vegetables are cooked but still have some 'bite'. Stir in the soy sauce.
If serving with noodles, these should be cooked, drained tossed in a little oil and then added to the stir-fry at the end. Otherwise serve the stir-fry over rice or couscous.

Using many of the ingredients in the above recipe, we can make something entirely different that will suit most palates and proves that we don't need meat to make a good meal. The cheese is variable, the original recipe used ricotta, but any cheese that crumbles easily could be used such as Feta Lancashire, or Wensleydale. You could even use a grated hard cheese, or drained cottage cheese.
What size IS a large egg? Many sold in stores are very little larger than medium. If you have really large eggs (sometimes called Jumbo), then use 5, otherwise use 6. Or if you use large eggs, use even less and more of the other ingredients. The egg (apart from the nutritional side) is there mainly to hold the other ingredients together.

Vegetable and Ricotta Frittata: serves 4 (V)
5 - 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tblsp chopped fresh mint leaves
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tblsp light olive oil
3 (about 1lb/450g) courgettes
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
5 oz (150g) frozen peas, thawed
4 oz (100g) chosen cheese (see above)
Stir the mint leaves into the beaten egg, adding pepper to taste. Chop the courgettes.
Place a large frying pan over low heat and add the oil. When hot fry the courgettes for 5 - 10 minutes stirring often, until just turning golden, then stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute before adding the thawed peas.
Spread the mixture evenly over the base of the pan then pour in the eggs. Add the crumbled cheese evenly over the surface, then cook over medium heat for up to 10 minutes or until the surface is nearly set, then remove the pan to a pre-heated grill and cook for a couple of minutes until the top is set, golden in colour and the cheese melted.
Cool slightly, then cut into wedges and serve with salad.

Final recipe today is for mushroom 'burgers' (well a sort of burger). Great for both vegetarians and those who have need to keep the meat for another day. Can anyone tell me whether 'portobello' mushrooms are the same as the large field mushrooms we are used to? They look exactly the same. Not that it matters, for either could be used. Nay, I go further, if these are two different types of mushroom, then use the cheapest.

As the 'burgers' are served tucked into pitta breads, choose the size of the pitta according to the size of the mushroom (or vice versa). Some smaller mushrooms - when 'open' - could be used instead, and these would probably be better served two at a time in the larger pitta breads, or one in the mini-pittas - in which case you will need more (smaller) mushrooms..

'Portobello' Pockets: makes 4 - 6
8 large field mushrooms
3 - 4 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
half tsp each ground cumin, coriander and chilli powder
6 oz (175g) baby spinach
grated zest of 1 lemon
4 oz (1oog) Feta cheese, crumbled
8 pitta breads
Greek yogurt - for serving
Brush the mushrooms all over with 2 tblsp of the olive oil, adding seasoning to taste. Put the remaining oil into a frying pan over low heat, and fry the onions until tender, then stir in the garlic and spices and fry for a further 2 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile blanch the spinach by putting into a colander and pouring over boiling water, then squeeze out as much water as possible and chop the spinach finely.
In another frying pan, fry the mushrooms gill side down for 3 minutes, then turn and cook for a further five minutes or until cooked through.
Return the pan of onions to the heat and stir in the lemon zest, and spinach, adding seasoning to taste, then when hot, divide between the mushrooms, spooning it into their centres, pressing slightly down to form a flat 'burger'. Smooth a spoonful of Greek yogurt over the top of each and tuck each inside a warmed pitta breads. Eat with salads or a 'snack-in-hand'.

Yesterday mailed Tesco customer services to mention the problem re their new on-line ordering site. At very least hope they replace the words "from the frozen food shelf" under suitable products, otherwise no-one is able to work out what is frozen and what is not, as they seem to show fresh products even when frozen have been asked for. Just because something is sold bagged, doesn't mean it is frozen. Does it? My Rooster potatoes came in a bag that makes them look as though they are frozen spuds (which they aren't).
Have to wait and see what reply they give. Not sure that the 'powers that be' take much notice of a single voice.