Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Using Up...

To cook puff pastry with an even and flat top - as when wishing to slice and fill with cream (then ice the surface), chefs often place the pastry on a pre-heated baking sheet, then cover this with another baking sheet so as the pastry rises, it can only rise as far as the sheet above - keeping the surface flat. The best way to do this is use something to keep the sheets apart (hot air needs to flow between) so the top one doesn't rest on the pastry - for then it would never get a chance to rise.

However (although not yet tried this) it might work if a couple or so sheets of foil were folded (to give a little weight) and placed shiny side down over the surface (but not sides) of the pastry. Light enough to let the pastry rise, but giving enough support to keep the pastry flat. Must try it sometime.

If using canned pineapple rings, often we can save a couple or three to use in another dish. These, once drained, will freeze very well, and one can be taken out and easily cut into pieces to add to a Chinese stir-fry, or maybe to a fruit salad. The pineapple juice from the can can also be used to make up a pineapple jelly, or added to fruit salad, or frozen away to use in a sweet and sour sauce.
Rather than open a can of crushed pineapple to make the following, just finely chop some (frozen?) pineapple rings and use with desiccated coconut (another ingredient that often waits in the larder wings). The recipe uses a pancake mix (this is often no more expensive than making pancakes from scratch) because less liquid is needed than when making normal pancakes, and these end up more like Scotch pancakes (aka drop scones). Ideally use full-cream milk, or semi or skimmed milk fortified with some dried milk powder. Alternatively use diluted evaporated milk.

Pineapple and Coconut Pancakes: makes 16
1 x 250g pack pancake mix
4 oz (100g) desiccated coconut
1 egg, beaten
12 fl oz (350ml) milk (pref full cream)
8 oz (200g can) crushed pineapple
(2 tblsp Golden Syrup for serving)
Put the first five ingredients into a bowl and mix together to make the batter.
Heat a little oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, then pour rounded tbslp of the batter into the pan, flattening tops slightly.
Fry for 2 minutes until bubbles form on the surface, then turn over and fry for a further 1 - 2 minutes, both sides should be golden. As these are cooked, lay on a cake airer, cover with a tea cloth and cook the remaining batter in batches, in the same way.
Serve warm, two or three per person, with Golden Syrup drizzled over, and top with a spoon of creme fraiche or Greek yogurt.

Many of us keep a pack of stuffing mix in our larder. Often it is only half a pack, left over from Christmas. Also we may have a sausage in the freezer we wish will feed more than one. Same goes with a couple of rashers of bacon. So here is a suggestion to make a small amount of meat also go that little bit further. We can use the idea with chicken breast or pork fillet, both beaten thinly to be able to wrap it round the filling.
The amount it will serve depends more on the amount of meat used. As - after cooking - the meat 'roll' is then sliced, depending on whether a lunch or more a main-course, this could feed two to four people.
Savoury Slices:
2 oz (50g) sage and onion stuffing mix
1 - 2 skinned sausage
1 small apple, grated
1 chicken breast OR...
1 small pork fillet
2 - 3 rashers of bacon
Make up the stuffing mix with water as directed on packet, then mix this with the sausage meat and grated apple. If using chicken breast, split this nearly through and open up. Cover with cling-film and bash with clenched fist or rolling pin to flatten. If using pork fillet, slit through and bash thinly in the same way.
Spread the stuffing mixture down the middle of the meat, and roll the sides over to make a parcel, tucking the ends in underneath.
Take the bacon and lay the rashers flat, stretching each with a knife, then wrap around the chicken (or pork). Place in a roasting tin and cook at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 25 minutes. Leave to rest for five minutes, then slice and serve with roasted vegetables (or roasted parsnips and potatoes, green peas etc).

Make use of foods that - in the past - might have been thrown away. Blitz stale bread (even the end crusts) into crumbs and store in the freezer. This saves so much time when a recipe calls for fresh breadcrumbs, as one less job to do on the day.
Those last inches of cheese left in the fridge. Too hard to even nibble. But when left to become hard as Parmesan, they can be grated and used with or instead of Parmesan. Personally feel that a mixture of grated hard cheeses has a lot more flavour and obviously far cheaper than the famous Parmigiano Reggiano. In my opinion Pecorino cheese although very similar to, has much more flavour than Parmesan.
Grated cheese keeps well in the freezer and ready to use for cheese sauces, risottos, pizzas, mixing with mashed potato, and sprinkled over pasta bakes.

This next dish is a version of the vegetarian Glamorgan Sausages, and uses both grated cheese and breadcrumbs (hopefully by now these will be already in your freezer). It doesn't really matter whether leeks, white onions, red onions or shallots are used, just as long as one of them is. Practically all the ingredients fit into what we might wish to use up - the breadcrumbs can be brown or white, the herbs can also be varied according to our taste. Use any hard cheese, or a mixture. Mustard can be the Hot English, the mellow Dijon, or (pref) wholegrain. Chilli powder is optional, but as with many meat based sausages, different flavours could be added, so the following sausages could be curry flavoured, chilli flavoured, horseradish flavoured or whatever flavour you choose (but be sensible - doubt that chocolate flavoured sausages would go down well). Every time we make these sausages, we can change the flavour.

Vegetarian Sausages: makes 8 (V)
3 tblsp sunflower oil
2 leeks (see above) finely chopped
1 tsp chilli powder (or chilli sauce)
7 oz (200g) fresh breadcrumbs
5 oz (150g) grated Cheddar (see above)
2 tsp made mustard (see above)
handful fresh chives (or other herbs) finely chopped
3 eggs
salt and pepper
Heat 1 tblsp oil in a pan and lightly fry the leeks until softened. Then add the chilli (or chosen flavouring) and mix well. Remove from heat and spoon into a bowl. Add three-quarters of the breadcrumbs, the cheese, mustard and two of the eggs. Mix well, adding seasoning to taste.
Place the bowl in the freezer (not fridge - unless leaving longer) for five minutes to really chill down, meanwhile putting the remaining crumbs into a shallow dish, the remaining egg (beaten with a little salt and pepper) into another dish.
Shaped the chilled mixture into 8 sausages, and dip each first into egg, then into breadcrumbs - rolling around to cover. Heat remaining oil in a pan and fry over medium-high heat for 10 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
Good served with salad and chutney.