Thursday, April 15, 2010

Be Your Own Chef

- am giving today a couple of recipes where an appliance makes the preparation so much easier, but this does not mean to say they cannot be made by hand. These are recipes that will 'lift' a meal, and particularly good to use when entertaining, but there again why keep the best only for guests? They always say never serve to guests something we haven't made before, so a good excuse for a practice run, and treat the family at the same time.

The first recipe makes home-made bread rolls, and when guests are served home-made soup, a basket of assorted shaped rolls (both brown and white) to choose from really do add that extra 'something'. The dough is easily made using a bread machine, but there are many readers who enjoy making bread by hand, and this recipe works either way.
Use one basic bread dough mixture to make a variety of shapes, or make two batches using different flours, then decorate with a choice of seeds, oats, and cracked wheat.
Dinner Rolls: makes 22 (F)
1 1/2 lb (680g) strong white bread flour OR...
...wholewheat flour or combination of both
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 sachet easy-blend yeast
3/4 pint (15fl oz/450ml) warm water
2 tblsp olive oil
to finish:
beaten egg, melted butter, assorted seeds, oats etc.
Sieve the flour and salt into a warmed mixing bowl, stir in the yeast. Mix the oil and water together and add this to the flour mixture, then stir together to make a soft, pliable, but not sticky dough. Add more flour or water if necessary.
Turn onto a floured surface and knead well for 10 minutes (a bread machine does this work for us), then shape the dough into a bowl, place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling-film. Leave in a warm place until doubled in size (can take from 3/4 hour to twice that long) depending upon room temperature.
Knock back dough and divide into 22 pieces. Shape each into balls, mini-plaits, French loaves, Coburgs, or cobs. Arrange well apart on greased baking sheets, cover lightly with oiled cling film, then leave to rise again in a warm spot to double in size for between 15 and 30 minutes.
Glaze the rolls with egg wash then sprinkle each with chosen seeds, oats etc.
Bake for 15 - 20 minutes at 230C, 480F, gas 8 until lightly browned and sound hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a cake airer.
Eat the rolls the same day, or freeze up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for 2 - 3 hours then serve slightly warmed.

This next recipe is for 'duxelles' and one that has been given before but probably missing at the moment. Although chefs often make this using mushroom skins and stalks alone (mainly because this an excellent way to use up what would not normally be served), and it then domestic kitchen is the best way to use mushrooms that are 'past their best'. The mixture can also be frozen in small quantities (ice-cube trays if you only need a little at a time). This is the 'pate' that is spread on top of the beef before being wrapped in pastry (aka Boef Wellington).
This Duxelle is a kind of mushroom 'hash', with a very strong mushroom flavour and can be used as a 'toast-topper', stirred into casseroles and soups, and great stuffed into jacket potatoes.

This recipe requires that the mushrooms are chopped very, very finely. This can be done by hand, but much more easily done in a food processor. Put the mushrooms into the processor bowl and pulse on and off until very finely chopped. Do not blitz continually or they end up as a puree, which is not what is wanted. Depending upon the amount of mushrooms used, these may need to be done in batches.
For the most intense flavour use a combination of various mushrooms: cultivated mushrooms, chestnut mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, field mushrooms, and shittake (if using the latter, trim away their tough stems).
Duxelles: makes half a pint (280ml)
1 small shallot, very finely chopped (opt)
12 oz (340g) mushrooms, chopped (see above)
4 fl oz (115ml) vegetable stock
2 fl oz (50ml) sherry
dash soy sauce
1 tsp dried tarragon crumbled (opt)
salt and pepper to taste
Put the chopped mushrooms into a deep frying pan with the shallot (if using). Add the stock, sherry, soy sauce, and tarragon, and stir well. The mushrooms will be barely moistened.
Cook over moderate heat, stirring from time to time. The mushrooms will release much of their liquid, so when the mixture appears much wetter, raise the heat to a brisk simmer, and still stir occasionally, until the mushrooms are dark, very thick and quite dry. Season to taste, cool, cover and store in the fridge for up to 24 hours, or freeze when chilled.

We have only to watch The Best of British to see how chefs make the most of the kitchen appliances they have. Yesterday was intrigued to see how one chef ran crustless sliced bread through the rollers of a pasta-making machine to make it really thin. This was then wrapped round a fish filling, and either fried or toasted to give a crusty finish.

Have also seen chefs using the same pasta machine to 'roll' out strips of pastry. One way to get it as evenly rolled as possible, and also thinner that we might manage by hand.
Many years ago - when I bought my pasta machine - they were not THAT expensive even then. Now they are far cheaper. So if you like making pasta - then another worthwhile buy.