Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Living a Dream

Not everyone makes their own bread (although always worth doing), maybe because it can be a lengthy process what with the kneading, rising, knocking back, rising again and so forth. However - the following recipe is a 'quickie'. A savoury form of Irish Soda Bread that is best eaten fresh and still warm from the oven (so perfect with soup). As a time-saver, why not bag up the amount of flour needed, so when in the mood to bake, that all that has to be added are the remaining ingredients.

This 'bagging up of a measured amount of flour' could work for other recipes, for with many dishes it is often the weighing out of this, that and the other, that can sometimes become a little tedious.

Cheese and Herb Soda Bread: serves 4

8 oz (225g) plain white or wholemeal flour (or blend of both)

1 tsp mustard powder

half tsp salt

quarter tsp bicarbonate of soda

quarter tsp cream of tartar

half tsp dried sage (or dried mixed herbs)

4 oz (100g) Cheddar cheese, grated

6 fl oz (175ml) buttermilk or thin natural yogurt

Mix the dry ingredients together, then stir in 3 oz (75g) of the cheese. Add the buttermilk/yogurt and mix to a firm dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly, then shape into a round flattish loaf.

Place on a baking tray, and - using a sharp knife - mark into 8 sections. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 30 minutes or until golden and firm to the touch. Best eaten while still warm.

Keeping a supply of grated cheese in the fridge/freezer is always a good idea for there are so many dishes that use this ingredient, and again it can be a tedious job grating the cheese by hand or getting out the processor (and then washing it up afterwards) just for one dish. Gather together all the oddments of cheese and grate the whole lot in one go - then job done.

This next recipe uses few ingredients (compared to some), and although two cheeses are named, no reason why a mixture of grated cheese could not be used instead. Almost certainly the amount of rice might just fit into a standard mug, as will the milk, and the cheeses each into a teacup, so worth checking as it would save getting out the scales in future. Our grandmothers used to cook by this method "a cup of this, a spoonful of that, and a handful of t'other" so no reason why we can't also make the same short cuts.

Cheese Loaf:

6 oz (175g) long-grain rice, cooked

3 oz (75g) Mozzarella cheese, grated

3 oz (75g) Lancashire cheese, grated

1 egg, beaten

8 fl oz (225ml) milk

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

Mix the cooked rice with the rest of the ingredients until well combined. Spoon into a greased 1 lb (450g) loaf tin andbake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 15 - 20 minutes or until firm to the touch. Turn out onto a serving plate and serve hot or cold with salad.

An optional garnish (but looks good) is - when ready to serve - decorating the top with overlapping slices of red and green rings of bell peppers.

As grated cheese seems to be the 'ingredient of the day', might as well include yet another dish that makes use of this 'freezer standby'. As this is a soup with dumplings, no real need to serve bread as well. This recipe originated in Scotland and almost a meal in its own right. Another good soup for chilly days.

Cheese Soup with Dumplings:

2 oz (50g) butter

1 onion, finely chopped

1 oz (25g) flour

half tsp dry mustard

1 1/2 pints chicken stock

half pint milk

salt and pepper

grating fresh nutmeg

3 oz (75g) Cheddar cheese, grated


2 oz (50g) porridge oats (quick cook type)

1 oz (25g) shredded beef suet

1 tblsp grated onion

1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

1 egg, beaten until fluffy

To make the soup, melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the onion and fry until softened, but do not brown. Stir in the flour and mustard and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add the stock and milk and keep stirring while bringing to the boil, then stir in nutmeg and seasoning to taste, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make the dumplings by putting the oats, onion, and parsley into a bowl, adding seasoning to taste. Add the beaten egg to bind together the ingredients, then divide into 16 pieces and roll each into a ball. Drop the balls into salted boiling water and simmer gently for 10 - 15 minutes. Removed with a slotted spoon and keep warm.

Liquidize the soup in a blender/food processor or with a stick blender (or pass through a sieve) and return to the rinsed out saucepan. Stir in the cheese and reheat (but do not boil). Taste, adjusting seasoning if necessary and serve topped with the dumplings.