Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Something Different

Here is a small collection of recipes - not necessarily for parties - some can be just 'healthy' nibbles.

The first recipe is an alternative to the potato crisps that we normally buy. As these are oven baked, they take in less fat that the normal deep-fried crisps, and also have a more interesting flavour. For any dish such as this it is worth spraying the tin and food with a 'mist' of oil. Although oil can be bought from the supermarkets in 'spray cans', it is far less expensive to purchase a 'pump and spray' bottle. Lakeland sell a really good one at only £4.99p (filled with extra virgin olive oil) and once empty it can be refilled it with oil of our choice.

As the crisps are baked in the oven, it is worth making a goodly number then store the surplus in an airtight tin, alternatively just make a few each time you have the oven on for something else. Remember that the thinner the slices, the faster they will crisp up. Use a mandolin or food processor to slice them evenly, but if slicing by hand the thickness may vary, so the thinnest crisps will need removing from the oven before the slightly thicker ones. In a non-fan oven, keep turning the trays around so the crisps brown evenly.

Vegetable Crisps:
1 sweet potato (orange flesh)
2 carrots
2 tsp sea salt
cooking oil spray
Peel the parsnips and slice as thinly as possible. Spray three baking sheets with oil, place the parsnips on the trays on a single layer on the baking sheets, spray the parsnips lightly with oil, then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 40 minutes or until browned both sides and crisp. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Repeat with each vegetable in turn. When all have been cooked, sprinkle with the sea salt. Store in an airtight tin.

Plan to make the following when needing mashed potato for another dish. The skins can be prepared several hours in advance, but best cooked just before serving.
Crisp Potato Skins:
2 baking potatoes, skins left on
approx 2 tblsp olive oil (or use spray oil)
Scrub potatoes well, brush/spray with oil and place on a baking tray. Bake - uncovered - at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about an hour or until tender. Cool, then slice each potato into six wedges, and carefully remove the flesh, leaving the skins intact (mash the potato flesh and use for another dish). Place the potato skins, flesh side down on a wire rack over a baking sheet and brush/spray with oil. Roast in the hot oven for 20 minutes or until crisp. Serve with a sour cream dip.

This next recipe is one for those who grow their own courgettes. This recipe uses not just the flowers but also the baby courgettes growing behind them. Also this dish is not deep-fried.
As courgettes can be very prolific, this is a good dish to make use of the many small ones before they develop.
Zucchini is another name for the courgette.

Stuffed Zuccini Flowers: makes 12
2 tsps olive oil (or knob of butter)
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 oz (50g) arborio (risotto) rice
2 fl oz (50ml) white wine
4 fl oz (100ml) hot vegetable stock
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 oz (50g) button mushrooms, finely diced
2 tblsp chopped fresh herbs (parsley, mint, marjoram etc)
1 oz (25g) parmesan cheese, finely grated
12 tiny courgettes with flowers still attached
Put the oil in a frying pan and stir in the shallot and fry for a couple of minutes, then add the rice. Cook a further 2 minutes, then stir in the wine. When this has been absorbed, add some of the stock. Keep stirring and adding more stock as it gets absorbed. After approx 25 minutes the rice should be tender. Stir in the mushrooms, and when these are tender, stir in the cheese. Leave until just cool (can be kept in the fridge if wishing to use later in the day).
Remove the stamens from inside the flowers, and fill the flowers with the risotto. Twist petal tops to enclose the filling.
Lightly oil a griddle pan (these can also be grilled/barbecued) and when hot, place on the prepared courgettes and cook until tender and the filling heated through.

So often we serve the same foods at each buffet we make. Maybe this is because we know and love them - and also feel confident when preparing them. But often it is worth serving something different - so try this baked savoury cheesecake next time you have a party. Then make it again (for another party) and use different herbs and/or include chopped olives, chopped peppadew, and even chopped pancetta...
Those who prefer to be as self-sufficient as possible will no doubt be making their own 'ricotta' cheese using strained yogurt.

Baked Savoury Cheesecake: serves 8
2 lbs (approx 1 kg) ricotta cheese.
2 tblsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 eggs, beaten
1 tblsp finely chopped fresh chives
grated rind of 1 lemon
Put everything into a bowl and mix together thoroughly. Spoon into an 8" (20cm) round cake tin that has been greased and base-lined, then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about one hour or until lightly browned and firm to the touch. Leave in the tin to get cold. Then turn out on to a serving plate.