Monday, October 04, 2010

Eat Our Way Round Britain

Before I begin today's blog proper, just a few photos and chat about those beans I soaked and cooked. To recap - the sauce was drained from two cans of baked beans, any surplus sauce rinsed off with a measured amount of hot water, this diluted sauce then used for soaking part of a packet of mixed dried beans overnight. Yesterday found the beans had soaked up all the liquid (probably needed more), put beans put in a pan with more water to cover - giving them a fast boil for 8 minutes, then turned the heat down and left them to simmer. After an hour they looked like the picture below.

The black-eyed beans were tender, the darker brown beans and the haricot still needed longer cooking, and I wasn't pleased with the over-all colour. Or rather non-colour. They didn't look like baked beans at all. So added more water and stirred in three 'cubes' of tomato puree from the freezer. After another half hour or so the beans looked much more like the real thing (see below), and also tasted good.

Although the black-eyed beans didn't break up after the extra cooking time, next time would cook only one type of bean (haricot or cannellini whichever is the cheapest), to ensure they cooked evenly.

What was interesting (and the reason for the experiment in the first place) was the comparative costing. Less than half a pack of mixed dried beans had been cooked, this working out to about 30p worth (possibly less). The 'sauce' was free, the tomato puree only a few pence, to all intents and purposes the added water was 'free', and (as usual) will ignore the cost of cooking (after the initial fast boil, they would cook beautifully in a slow cooker or even haybox), and - having absorbed all of the sauce/liquid - my cooked beans were then able to be compared to the drained weight of a can of beans, this being approx 340g per can. My beans ended up weighing 1.2 kg - this being the same as three cans of bought (drained) beans. Not bad for under 50p.

The next course is a really useful way to use 'leftovers' (in the Goode kitchen there are never any leftovers other than 'deliberate' or 'planned' ones). The very name of this dish refers to leftover fish and potatoes being served again.

"Twice Laid" (Kent fish cakes):
8 oz (225g) left over cooked fish (smoked or unsmoked)
8 oz (225g) cold mashed potato
half ounce (12g) butter
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
1 medium egg, beaten
white breadcrumbs
oil for frying
Mash the butter into the potato. Flake the fish and add to the potatoes with the parsley. Add seasoning to taste and mix well together (if you use your hands to mix, this is less likely to break up the fish flakes). Divide into six and form each into a ball. Leave as is or - if you prefer - press each gently for form a flatter 'cake'.
Put the beaten egg in one shallow dish, and breadcrumbs in another. Brush the fish balls with the egg (or dip the cakes into the egg) and then coat evenly with the crumbs.
Fry three at time in hot shallow oil, until golden brown all over. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with a crisp green salad.

top is firm and golden. Halfway through cooking, sprinkle the top with the flaked almonds.
When baked sift a little icing sugar over the top and serve hot or cold with cream.

Finally a 'cake' that we can eat as a snack. In a way was surprised to find these 'rock cakes' attributed to Brighton, as traditionally it is Leicestershire where they are supposed to have originated, where they are sometimes called Rock Buns. The name comes from the craggy appearance once they are cooked. Myself remember this is one of the few things my mother showed me how to cook when I was very young (we lived in Coventry then, but my mother came from Leicester). Easy enough to make, worth letting the children make and bake, and with half-term not that far away, worth thinking about.

If you remember that the three ingredients: sugar, butter, and dried fruit are in equal in weight, and together they add up the weight of flour to be used, probably no need even to write down the recipe. Just remember to add the egg and salt, and the latter is not that important.
Brighton Rock Cakes: makes 12
9 oz (250g) self-raising flour
3 oz (75g) butter
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
3 oz (75g) dried mixed fruit
1 egg
pinch of salt
Rub the butter into the flour, then stir in the sugar, fruit, egg and salt. Mix together with a fork to make a stiff dough, then take spoonfuls of the mixture and dump them on a buttered baking sheet, leaving a little room to spread. No need to flatten or smooth the surface, the idea is they should stay 'lumpy'. If you wish a little extra caster sugar can be sprinkled on top.
Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for approx 15 minutes or until a light golden colour. Cool on a cake airier and when quite cold can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.