Tuesday, March 16, 2010

No 'iding Place

Still working on 'using up', my suggestion today is using up the dried fruits etc, left over from making Christmas cakes and puddings, and making some pots of mincemeat ready for next Yule Tide.
Mincemeat improves in flavour the longer it is kept, so it is a good idea to make this as early in the year as possible. The also make good gifts, so make enough to be able to add to a food hamper etc.

Spiced Apple Mincemeat: makes about 4 lbs
1.25 lbs (500g) tart cooking apples, peeled and cored
4 oz (100g) no-soak apricots, coarsely chopped
2 lb (900g) luxury mixed dried fruit
4 oz (100g) flaked almonds, crushed
6 oz (175g) beef or vegetarian suet (granules)
8 oz (225g) dark muscovado sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
4 fl oz (120ml) brandy
Coarsely grate the apples (or slice and chop finely) and put into a large bowl with the remaining ingredients, and mix together thoroughly, then cover with a clean cloth and leave to stand in a cool place for two days, stirring occasionally.
Spoon the mincemeat into cool sterilized jars, pressing down firmly and taking care not to trap any air bubbles. If you wish spoon over a little more brandy. Cover and seal.
Store in a cool dark place for at least a month before using. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 4 weeks. Unopened jars will keep for a year.
Tips: if the mincemeat seems a little dry once opened, decant into a bowl and stir in a spoon of brandy or orange juice. Cover and leave for a couple of hours, then use.
To make this (or bought mincemeat) go further, add extra grated apple just before using.

One salad vegetable I like to keep in the fridge is cucumber. Trouble is I cannot always find enough uses for a whole one during the colder months, so tend to buy half a cucumber, serving it with salads, fish, or in a tabbouleh and tsatziki.

This next recipe uses not just cucumber, but also another store-cupboard standby - canned salmon. These together with breadcrumbs, celery, lemon (other ingredients we often need to find a use for), make up a really lovely fish loaf which makes a light lunch or supper dish, and perfect for picnics. The cucumber sauce could be made independently and served with poached salmon or other hot or cold fish.

Instead of celery, grated celeriac or grated fennel could be used. These should be tossed with lemon juice to prevent them discolouring.
Salmon Loaf with Cucumber Sauce: served 4 - 6
4 oz (100g) fresh breadcrumbs
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
2 eggs, beaten
3 oz (75g) celery, finely chopped
1 x 400g (14oz) salmon
grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
salt and pepper
half a large cucumber
1 oz (25g) butter
1 egg yolk
1 tblsp plain flour
Put the breadcrumbs, milk and beaten eggs into a bowl, mix well then leave to stand for 10 minutes.
Drain the salmon, put the fish onto a saucer and flake up with a fork, then add this to the breadcrumb mixture with the celery, two-thirds of each lemon zest and juice, and add seasoning to taste.
Stir until well blended, then spoon into a greased (buttered) 1lb (450g) loaf tin and bake for one hour at 180C, 350F, gas 4. Leave in the tin to cool completely if wishing to eat the loaf cold, or leave in the tin to cool down slightly if wishing to eat it warm.
Make the cucumber sauce by first peeling the cucumber, slicing it in half lengthways and removing seeds by scooping these out with a teaspoon. Then slice the cucumber - not too thinly, putting the pieces into a small pan, just covering with water, then simmering until the cucumber is tender. Remove cucumber using a slotted spoon, and set to one side. Pour the cooking liquid into a measuring jug and make up to half a pint (300ml) with water.
Put the butter into the small pan, and heat gently until melted, then stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute before whisking in the reserved cooking liquid. Keep stirring until it boils and thickens, then add the saved third lemon zest and juice, followed by the cooked cucumber.
Beat the egg yolk in a cup, the mix in a little of the hot sauce before pouring this into the pan and heat gently (but do not boil) until the sauce has thickened a little bit more. Remove from heat and add seasoning to taste.
To serve: loosen the salmon loaf around the sides of the tin and invert onto a plate. Serve sliced, warm or cold, with the warm cucumber sauce spooned at the side.

While not quite a storecupboard soup, this does use some dried ingredients, and caught my eye because it makes the most of seasonal (and other) ingredients that are inexpensive, yet the dish itself is striking and unusual enough to serve at a dinner party.
Vegetable Soup with Omelette Shreds: serves 4
1 egg, beaten
1 tblsp sunflower oil
2 large carrots, finely diced
4 outer leaves Savoy cabbage, shredded
1.25 fl oz (900ml) vegetable stock
2 tblsp soy sauce
half tsp sugar
half tsp ground black pepper
fresh coriander or flat-leaf parsley leaves
Firstly, make an omelette by heating the oil in an omelette pan until hot (but not smoking) then pour in the egg and tilt the pan so the base is covered evenly. Cook until the top is set and the underneath golden, then slide the omelette onto a plate and roll up fairly tightly. Then slice thinly (to give the appearance of thin noodles) and set aside for garnish.
To make the soup, put the stock into a pan with the prepared cabbage and carrots. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes (or until the carrots are tender - some take longer than others), then add the soy sauce, sugar and pepper. Mix well, then ladle into soup bowls, scattering the omelette shreds on the top. Finish with a few fresh herb leaves.

The above 'omelette shreds' also work well when served with a vegetable stir-fry, giving animal protein without the expense of meat. Depending upon the size of the egg, and/or frying pan, two omelettes may be able to be made from one egg. Lay one on top of the other before rolling up and slicing, and scatter these over the stir-fry when serving.

Normally we think soy sauce is used only in Oriental dishes and marinades, but it has a way of improving the flavour of beef casseroles, spag bol meat sauce, Cottage Pie etc, so worth adding a couple of teaspoons when making the dish, as it gives a depth of flavour that we appreciate is there, but cannot think what caused it. A cube of chocolate works in exactly the same way.

Last recipe for today is more a method than giving exact ingredients as much depends upon the amount that we have to use up. You could call this a version of Tiramasu, and fairly adaptable, as the base 'cake' could be trifle sponges, coffee cake, chocolate brownies or whatever flavour goes with coffee. Traditionally marscapone cheese is used, but am suggesting using cream cheese that we should always keep in the fridge. I tend to buy several packs at one time as cream cheese is extremely versatile- both in sweet and savoury dishes - and often have a part-used pack that needs using up.

Cheat's Tiramasu:
Beat together two parts of cream cheese with one part of double cream until 'spoonable'. Stir in icing sugar to the sweetness you require. Cut chosen cake into cubes. Divide the cake between serving dishes (glass dishes are best to show the layers). Spoon over some strong black coffee (instant coffee is fine) blended with a little rum or brandy, and top this with some of the 'cream'. Cover with another layer of cake, moisten with more coffee, finish with the cream and dust with cocoa. Eat and enjoy.
Note: this dish can be made earlier in the day and kept chilled in the fridge, Add the cocoa when ready to serve.