Friday, May 28, 2010

Say Cheese!

Today am giving a few more 'snack' recipes (other than bruscetta toppings) that can be used as buffet fare, light lunches, or snacks. These are all based on cheese - as this is something we often find we have left in the fridge and wish to find a use for (other than grating and storing in the freezer).

The first recipe is for a Spanish omelette (aka 'tortilla'). This version is made with canned new potatoes (both for economy and fuel saving). Three different cheeses are used - but these can be varied according to what we have. The good thing about this 'omelette' is that although it can be eaten hot, it also eats very well cold, so perfect for buffets, picnics and snacks.
Spanish Tortilla: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 Spanish onion, sliced thinly
750g canned new potatoes, drained and thickly sliced
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 oz (100g) feta cheese, coarsely chopped
1 oz (25g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 oz (25g) grated Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
Put the onion in an omelette pan and fry over medium heat until softened, then remove to a bowl and mix with the potatoes, cheeses and eggs. Add seasoning to taste.
Pour mixture into a heated non-stick greased frying pan, cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until the egg has set on top. Either finish off under the grill, or slide the tortilla onto a plate and invert it back into the pan to cook for a further five minutes. Leave to cool in the pan, then plate up and serve in wedges.

This next dish makes an interesting and different buffed 'nibble' and as they are chilled before being cooked, and also eaten cool, can be prepared earlier in the day. A good tip is to freeze the butter, then grate this when adding to the flour. If you haven't Parmesan cheese, leave a small chunk of well flavoured hard cheese at room temperature o dry out - then this will grate as finely as the Parmesan. Oregano and marjoram are almost the same herb when it comes to flavour, so use either. Or another herb if you prefer.
Cheese and Olive Balls: makes 25
3 oz (75g) plain flour
2 oz (50g) butter, chopped.
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried oregano (or half tsp chopped fresh oregano)
1 tblsp water
25 small stuffed green olives
Put the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter (if chopped) or stir in (if grated). Mix in the cheese and oregano, then add just enough water to make a pastry dough. Cover and chill for at least half an hour (this could be made early in the day and kept chilled).
Drain olives on kitchen paper and set aside. Place pastry between sheets of cling-film or baking parchment and roll to 3mm thick. Cut into 25 rounds (4cm dia). Place an olive on each round, then fold up and wrap the pastry round the olive to enclose it completely.
Place slightly apart on a greased baking sheet, cover and chill for 30 minutes. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 20 minutes until golden. Cool before serving.

Next recipe is a cheese and vegetable version of a Cornish Pasty. These can be made larger as normal 'pasty' size, or (as in this recipe) smaller 'bite-sized'. The recipe suggests cutting rounds out of the pastry to fold over to form traditional pasty semi-circles, but to make use of all the pastry (in other words leaving no scraps) my suggestion is to cut squares and - after filling - fold over to form triangles. In some ways, triangle shapes (like samosas) are easier to eat in the hand than any other shape (other than an oblong).
If you wish to add more flavour, add some grated chopped onion that has been lightly fried in a little butter, or some finely chopped bacon. Also fry the mushrooms with the onions/bacon if you wish. Cool before adding to rest of ingredients.
Served warm with a tomato salsa if you want to be posh, or add tomato ketchup or brown sauce to the filling to give an 'all in one' flavour.
Cheese, Tomato and Mushroom Pasties: make 12 'minis'
approx 1 lb (500g) shortcrust pastry
5 oz (150g) ricotta or drained cottage cheese
1 oz (25g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tomato, finely chopped
2 oz (50g) button mushrooms, thinly sliced or chopped
1 tsp finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tblsp finely chopped fresh parsley
Roll the shortcrust pastry on a floured surface in to a rectangle (suggest 40cm x 40cm) and cut into 12 x 10cm rounds (or use all the pastry cut into squares - see above).
Mix the rest of the ingredients together, and place a tablespoon full in the centre of each round (or square). Brush edges with water and fold over to seal.
Place pasties on a greased baking sheet, prick top of pasties with a fork, and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about 24 - 25 minutes or until golden brown. Best served warm.

Final recipe makes a tasty 'family nibble', and good enough to serve as canapes/buffet fare. Useful to make if you have some puff pastry in the fridge/freezer, especially as the pastry 'bases' can be baked the day before (or even two days before- see tip below). The garlic and leek topping can be prepared earlier in the day, then assembled and reheated just before serving.
Tip: to keep baked puff pastry crisp (such as un-filled vol-au-vent cases etc) , cover the base of an air-tight tin with salt, lay a sheet of kitchen paper over the salt, then place the pastry on top of the paper (if several layers, place a sheet of kitchen paper between each later. Cover with a tightly fitting lid. The salt will absorb any moisture in the tin.
Caramelised Leek and Blue Cheese Bites: makes 24
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tblsp light olive oil
8 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly slice
1 large leek (approx 1 lb/450g), thinly sliced
2 tsp soft brown sugar
1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
2 oz (50g) Stilton cheese, crumbled
Put the butter and oil into a small frying pan and fry the garlic over low heat until soft and beginning to turn golden (approx 10 minutes). Using a slotted spoon remove garlic and set aside. Add the prepared leek to the oils in the frying pan and cook until beginning to soften, then add the sugar, stirring it in carefully, and simmer - stirring occasionally - for about 15 minutes or until mixture caramelises.
Cut 24 x 4.5cm rounds from the pastry, place on a baking sheet. Place a similar sized baking sheet on top of the pastry to hold it down (this helps to cook the pastry, but prevents it rising). Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 10 - 15 minutes or until golden. Remove top (covering) tray.
Place crumbled cheese on top of each pastry round, top with caramelised leeks and place a slice of garlic. Return to oven to heat through for a couple of minutes to allow cheese to soften. Serve immediately.