Sunday, May 30, 2010

Don't Jump to Conclusions!

Nice-Bite Tortillas: makes 16
2 tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 bell peppers, deseeded and thinly sliced
6 large eggs, beaten
half tsp dried chilli flakes
handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, and gently fry the onion and potatoes for 20 minutes until tender, turning frequently, and adding the garlic and peppers after 15 minutes. When ready, remove from heat and tip into a bowl. Leave to cool,
Put the oven on to heat at 200C, 375F, gas 6 and place in an empty 8" (20cm) square tin to heat up. Then stir the eggs, chilli flakes and parsley into the cooled onion/potato mixture, adding seasoning to taste.
Remove the hot tin from the oven, brush with olive oil and pour in the egg mixture. Replace tin in oven and leave to cook for 15 - 20 minutes. Press the top lightly, and if it still seems runny, return to the oven for a couple or so more minutes (you could turn off the heat and let it finish cooking in the residual heat).
When ready, remove from oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out. Cut into small squares and serve warm..
Note: This tortilla can be cooked in the morning then covered and kept in a cool place. Prior to serving, place in the oven pre-heated to 180C, 350F, gas 4, cut the tortilla into squares, place on a baking sheet and cover with foil. Warm through for 10 - 15 minutes, then serve.

As the above can be prepared early in the day - these make a good buffet food.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Low Carb, No Carb, Snacks

No-carb food for a picnic. Not too difficult if we think along the lines of think cold meats (ham, beef, sausages, corned beef, chicken, turkey, cold cooked salmon...) to be eaten with boxed salads of various kinds (coleslaw, mixed salad leaves, etc, but not potato salad) Mayonnaise and salad dressings are all able to be used. Crispy bacon also eats well with salad. Or is this too boring?

Alternatively make up a Coronation Chicken to be eaten with salad, or bind diced cooked chicken in a (canned) tuna cream sauce (made with may0, flaked tuna and a little cream).
The packs of thinly sliced chorizo are good as a snack/picnic food when the chorizo is rolled round a tube of crisp iceberg lettuce (or vice versa). These could be prepared in advance or the pack opened at the picnic and the 'rolls' made up on site. Thinly siced ham 'cornets' can also be filled with salads to make it look that little bit different.
Those small curved leaves of Little Gem lettuce make good 'holders' for fillings and are easy to eat when held in the hand. These could be filled 'on site' with hot chilli con carne (leave out the red beans if you wish) or curry(taken in a flask to keep hot), or fill with the Coronation chicken et al.

Eggs always make good snacks/picnic food. Either eaten hard-boiled as -is, or slice the h.b. eggs in half and coat them with a mixture of mayo/cream or mayo/yogurt with a good pinch of paprika as garnish. Many dishes that use pancakes as a 'wrapper' will work just as well omitting the flour and milk, and just frying a thin layer of beaten egg on one side only to use in the same way as a true 'pancake'. Slide each as made (one egg should make 3), onto a plate and use each to roll around a filling.

A version of yesterday's recipe for Spanish omelette would make good picnic fare. Omit the potatoes and include peas, diced red bell peppers, onions, mushrooms etc (bacon as well if you wish) and lightly fry before covering with beaten eggs and leave to cook until set. Serve hot or cold in wedges.

Alternatively try this recipe for an elaborate savoury omelette/tortilla. Basically, it is an omelette 'stack' of alternating red and green layers, with a cheese filling between. Easy enough to adapt by using other green and red vegetables. If you wish to incorporate grated cheese into the omelettes and omit some or all of the veggies, then a tomato (pizza type) sauce could be spread between the layers.
To make a good looking 'cake' choose a frying pan that will make omelettes the same size as the width of a cake tin you are using. Do not make less layers if wishing to cook for less people, just use less ingredients and use in a smaller frying pan, and cake tin. This 'cake' looks (and cuts) better when it has several layers, than just a few large ones.
Omelette Cake: serves 10
10 eggs
salt and pepper
1 tsp olive oil
2 courgettes, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
4 roasted red peppers (from a jar) drained and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
10 oz (300g) low-fat soft cheese (Philly type)
5 tblsp milk
3 tblsp chopped fresh chives
2 tblsp chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper
Break the eggs into 2 bowls (5 in each). Lightly beat adding seasoning to taste. Put the oil in a pan and lightly fry the shallots and courgettes until softened. Remove from heat and leave to cool, then when cold stir into one of the bowls of eggs.
Into the second bowl stir in the prepared roasted peppers, the garlic and the chilli.
Pour each mixture into measuring jugs and - adding a little oil or butter to a frying pan and when hot- add one third of one of the jug to the pan, swirling it round to cover the base. Cook until the top is set, then turn and cook the other side (if the omelette is large, slide the pancake onto a plate and invert it back into the pan to cook the other side). Stack the made omelettes on top of each other.
Repeat with the rest of the mixtures - making three omelettes with the green courgettes, and three with the red peppers, but stack each type separately.
Make the filling by beating the cheese with enough of the milk to make a spreading consistency, then fold in the herbs, adding seasoning to taste.
Take a cake tin (same width as the pancakes) and line with clingfilm. Find the most attractive red omelette, and place this best side down on a pastry board, and spread with a thin layer of the filling. Place this in the cake tin (best side still down), and then spread a green pancake with filling and place this on top. Repeat by alternating red and green pancakes spread with filling, but finishing with a plain omelette.
Fold overlapping clingfilm over the pancakes and chill for up to 24 hours.
To serve, fold open the cling film, invert the 'cake' onto a serving plate, and peel off the cling film. Serve cut into wedges.

The problem with a lot of picnic food is that bread/pastry/ flour etc is normally used to make containers or as a 'coating'. And this means adding carbohydrates. Rice paper rolls do not contain THAT many carbohydrates and at least are not wheat-based (which is often a carbo/allergy problem), so for those who are almost-but-not-quite cutting out carbos here is a recipe using rice paper.

A reminder that potatoes do contain carbohydrate, so avoid potato crisps, although it might be possible to find other 'crisps' that are lower in carbs - look for parsnip crisps, carrot crisps and similar crisps and read the back of the pack to see their carbo content.

Here are a few recipes that I hope will avoid too many carbs, and still be enjoyable as a snack or picnic food.
The first made with cooked prawns, need no cooking, and can be assembled up to four hours ahead of eating, but make sure the rolls stay fresh by covering with a clean damp cloth/damp kitchen paper. Either make the dipping sauce and take it to the picnic in a lidded box, or take a jar of sweet chilli sauce and decant that into a bowl on site (adding a little fresh lime juice). If you haven't got Chinese leaves, use crisp iceberg lettuce.

If the prawns are bought cooked in shell, this will need removing and also the little black 'vein' that runs along the top/back of each prawn. Save all the shells/heads (but not the veins) and bag up and freeze - these will later make a good fish stock.
There is no reason why prepared frozen prawns cannot be used as soon as they are defrosted and drained, and they don't even need to be the larger ones as the small almost-shrimp-sized (and cheaper) frozen prawns could be used instead. Personally, to make it easier to assemble the rolls, would myself mix the tiny prawns in with the vegetable mixture.
A vegetarian version could be made by omitting the prawns and substituting bean sprouts and sliced red radishes.
Prawn Rolls with Dipping Sauce: makes 12
1 lb (500g) cooked medium prawns
half pint measure finely shredded Chinese leaves
4 oz (100g) coarsely grated carrot
1 tblsp each coarsely chopped fresh mint and fresh coriander
12 x 16cm round rice paper wrappers
Mix the Chinese leaves, carrot and herbs together.
Cover a pastry board (or work surface) with a damp tea towel, placing a bowl of warm water at the side.
Place one sheet of rice paper in the warm water until softened, then place on the tea towel. Spoon a tablespoon of the mixture in the centre of the paper, topping with 2 medium prawns. Fold side over to encase the ends, then roll up to enclose the filling completely. Repeat with remaining rice paper and fillings.
Cover rolls with damp kitchen paper to prevent them drying out. These can be made up to four hours ahead (keep chilled if a warm day). Make the dipping sauce, and then serve the rolls with this sauce.
dipping sauce:
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
2 fl oz (60ml) white vinegar
2 fl oz (60ml) water
2 tsp fish sauce
2 fresh small red thai chillies, sliced thinly
1 tblsp chopped fresh coriander
Put the sugar, water and vinegar into a small pan and stir-heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil then remove from heat. Stir in fish sauce and chillies and leave to cool. Stir in coriander prior to serving.

This next recipe is for spicy chicken drumsticks that initially need marinating for at least three hours - and preferably overnight. Although the recipe as given suggests griddling, grilling or barbecuing the drumsticks, they can be first in the oven then char-grilled for a short-time to give a more barbie effect if that is what you are after. If you do not wish to use food colouring, add a little condensed tomato puree to give the traditional red colour.
Tandoori Chicken: 12 drumsticks to serve 4
12 chicken drumsticks
5 fl oz (150ml) plain yogurt
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet paprika pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
few drops of red food colouring
(lime and mango pickles for serving)
Slash the chicken across the thickest part in three places.
Mix together the yogurt, spices, garlic and food colouring (or tomato paste) in a large bowl, then place in the chicken, spooning over the marinade to coat all sides, rubbing it into the slashes. Cover and chill for 3 hours or overnight.
Remove chicken from bowl (without draining) and cook in oven (or on griddle or barbecue) until browned all over and cooked through.
Eat hot or cold with Indian pickles.

Final suggestion is a few recipes that make good sturdy dips that can be eaten with prepared 'crudites' (crisp raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, stick of celery and cucumber, strips of red and yellow bell peppers, cauliflower florets, and halved closed cap mushrooms. Those not concerned with omitting carbos can also use breadsticks or the crispy tortilla chips as 'dippers'.

One of the easiest dips to make is folding in one teaspoon of mild curry paste and 1 tsp mango chutney into a small tub of creme fraiche (or thick yogurt).

Below are a few recipes forl 'thick' dips (the type that won't drip down as you pass the food from bowl to mouth (but just be careful with the beetroot one).
Aubergine Dip:
1 large aubergine (approx 1 lb/500g)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tblsp Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tblsp red wine vinegar
2 tblsp olive oil
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Stab the aubergine all over with a fork, then wrap lightly in foil. Either barbecue or oven bake until soft (this can take about an hour). Cool, then scoop flesh out from the skin (the skin can then be discarded). Put the aubergine flesh into a blender/food processor with the onion, yogurt, vinegar and oil, and pulse/blitz until just combined, but not smooth like a puree.
Fold in the parsley, cover and chill before eating.

Not quite Guacamole:
1 large avocado
2 fl oz (60g) creme fraiche (or soft cream cheese)
2 fl oz (75g) mayonnaise
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
handful coriander leaves
tablespoon of lime or lemon juice
Put everything into a blender or food processor and pulse until just smooth. Cover and chill. Best eaten shortly after making.

Beetroot Dip:
8 oz (225g) cooked beetroot
2 fl oz (60g) Greek yogurt
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
As above dips - blend or process all ingredients together until just combined.

Sweet Chill Dip:
9 oz (250g) cream cheese (philly type)
2 fl oz (60g) sweet chilli sauce
1 tblsp freshly chopped coriander
Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix well together using a fork.

If wishing for picnic desserts, then probably fresh fruit eaten with cream or yogurt would be the easiest (and healthiest) suggestion, but depending upon chosen picnic foods the following might be a more luxurious alternative. If you haven't marsala wine, a little diluted port could be used, or just a well flavoured red wine.
Alternatively use some other sort of flavouring, such as grated orange zest and grated chocolate. On a really hot day use a spoon instead of the chocolate flake. Those not worried about carbs may prefer to use sponge fingers instead of the 'flakes'.
Creamy Almond dessert: serves 4
9 oz (250g) mascarpone cheese
2 tblsp marsala (or other - see above)
2 oz (50g) sugared almonds, finely chopped
4 fl oz (125ml) whipped cream
1 tbslp honey
2 - 4 chocolate flakes
Mix everything together in a bowl (if not eaten immediately, cover and chill). Serve in individual dishes. Insert in each each half or a whole chocolate flake to use as a 'spoon'.

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.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nice and Nasty Nibbles

These two recipes are olive-based and both make an excellent 'vegetable pate' to spread on bruschetta. The first can be made the day before being used and kept chilled in the fridge. The second recipe is for the classic tapenade that can be stored for longer.

Olive and Herb Paste:
9 oz (250g) pitted green olives
1 shallot, finely chopped
freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 - 3 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tblsp chopped fresh flat-leafed parsley
1 tblsp chopped fresh oregano (or marjoram)
1 tsp lime (or lemon) juice
Put the olives, shallot and garlic in a food processor or blender, adding pepper to taste, then blitz down to a coarse paste (NOT to a puree). Gradually add the oil as the motor is running. Finally stir in the herbs and the citrus juice. Spread onto toasted sliced ciabatta that has been brushed with oil, and serve. Or put the olive paste into a bowl, cover and keep chilled overnight to use the following day.

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 pint measure pitted black olives
6 anchovy fillets (drained)
1 tblsp capers, rinsed
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
approx half pint olive oil
Put everything but the oil into a food processor or blender and blitz until finely chopped. Using a low speed, slowly add enough of the oil until the mixture is smooth, but still has body (not blitzed to a puree).
Spoon into hot sterilised jars. Cover with a layer of extra oil, then seal and store in the fridge for up to three weeks.

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.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Keeping it Simple

The recipe today is for a citrus drizzle cake, and instead of wine you could use orange juice (extra to that needed for the 'drizzle'. Made in a loaf tin, this cake will be a good shape to store in the freezer - where it will keep quite happily for at least 3 months. Eaten like Madeira cake (spread with a little butter) or sliced and served with cream and soft summer fruits, an altogether delightful cake.

Spiced Citrus Drizzle Cake: serves 10 (F)
6 oz (175g) butter, softened
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
3 oz (75g) runny honey
2 large eggs, beaten
1 lemon
1 orange
6 oz (175g) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tblsp white wine
1 good tblsp runny honey (for the drizzle)
Cream together the butter, sugar and the 3 oz runny honey until until pale and fluffy. Add a teaspoon of the flour and continue beating, adding the eggs a little at a time until well mixed. Sieve the flour, baking powder and spices together, grate the zest from the orange and lemon, and lightly beat all these into the creamed mixture with the wine to make a smooth cake batter.
Spoon this into a greased and lined 2 lb (900g) loaf tin, and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 40 - 45 minutes. Leave in the tin to cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile make the 'drizzle' by squeezing the juice from the orange and lemon into a pan and adding the tblsp of honey. Heat until simmering, then cook over low heat for 3 - 4 minutes to reduce slightly to make to a thickened syrup.
Using a fork or cocktail stick, stab the top of the still-warm cake to make small holes, then carefully pour the syrup over the top. Leave in the tin until the cake has absorbed the syrup, then remove from tin, wrap in clean paper and store in an airtight tin for several days. Serve sliced and eat as per above suggestions.
To freeze: wrap cake and freeze for up to three months. Thaw at room temperature.

If there is any of the above cake left, use to make the following dessert:
Lemon Curd Trifle: serves 4
4 thick slices of drizzle cake (above) or Madeira cake
8 oz (225g) lemon curd, pref home-made
1 lemon jelly
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
2 tsp icing (or caster) sugar
250ml tub double cream
Make up the jelly to a pint in the normal way. Leave to cool but not set.
Divide the cake between 4 individual glass bowls and pour the jelly over, pushing down the cake if it floats. When the cake has absorbed the jelly, place in the fridge to set. Then spoon a layer of lemon curd on top.
Whip the cream with the lemon zest, juice and sugar, then spoon this on top of the trifle. Chill before serving.

With so many of us now 'growing our own' this next recipe makes good use of a glut of lettuce. Or just use the outer leaves and save the sweeter core to eat with other salad leaves. This dish need not be made with only lettuce leaves, other 'mixed salad leaves' could be included.
The good thing about this soup is that it can be made in advance and frozen, and is good served hot or cold.

Summer Soup: serves 4 (F)
1 oz (25g) butter
1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced (see above)
14 fl oz (400ml) light vegetable stock, hot
3 lettuces (any kind) finely shredded
4 oz (100g) peas, pea pods or broad beans (or a mixture)
salt and pepper
1 tblsp olive oil
2 oz (50g) smoked streaky bacon or chorizo, finely diced
Melt the butter in a pan and gently fry the onions until softened. Add the lettuce and saute for a couple of minutes, then pour in the stock and simmer for 5 minutes.
Either use a stick blender and blitz to a puree in the pan, or decant into a blender and blitz to a puree in this. If too thick, dilute with a little water. Add seasoning to taste.
(The soup can be frozen at this point. Freeze in a plastic container for up to 3 months, thaw in the fridge, then continue as below).
Heat a frying pan, add the oil, then scatter in the diced bacon or chorizo. Fry until crisp.
To serve: either serve the soup chilled, or re-heated. Garnish by scattering the freshly fried bacon/chorizo over the top.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Weight For It!

In one of the mags is a recipe that might be tempting enough for all to include in their lunch box (or even as as a snack between meals). Slightly adapted (I never copy a recipe as published), the ingredients can differ according to what we have (as long as the overall weight remains the same and the ingredients are of similar type). If you find the bars tend to crumble a bit - then coat them with good dark chocolate on all sides, and leave to set.
Munch Crunch Energy Bars: makes 9
4 oz (100g) butter, pref unsalted
3 level tblsp golden syrup
2 ripe bananas (total weight approx 9 oz)
5 oz porridge oats
3 oz (100g) no-soak apricots, chopped
1 oz (25g) raisins or sultanas
3 oz (75g) mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame...)
1 oz (25g) dessicated coconut
Melt the butter in a pan with the syrup, and remove from heat. Chop the banana flesh into small cubes and stir into the butter/syrup with the remaining ingredients. Mix together thoroughly and tip into a greased and base-lined 8" square (20 x 20cm) baking tin.
Level the surface and bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until golden, and it will still be soft in the centre. Do not attempt to remove it from the tin at this point or it will break.
Leave in the tin to cool completely, then use a sharp knife to cut into square or fingers and store in an airtight container.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Little Things Count

One recipe today. A non-meat 'burger' made with cheese and herbs. This has been adapted from a published recipe because it is easy enough to suit what cheese we have in the fridge, and herbs that we grow. Use grated hard cheese, through to the softer Feta, and would probably work using a softer cheese - adding a few breadcrumbs to help bind and give that extra 'bulk'. The mixture makes 12 small 'fritters', or 4 - 6 larger 'burgers'.
Ideally, use fresh mint leaves, and both coriander leaves and stems for this dish, all finely chopped, as these go well with the other ingredients, but use other herbs if you wish. Toast the cumin seeds by putting them into a hot and dry frying pan, and cooking for 1 minute, stirring or shaking the pan so they don't stick or burn.
Spicy Herb Veggie Burgers: (V)
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
8 oz (225g) grated cheese (see above)
good handful mixed herbs, chopped (see above)
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 eggs, beaten
2 tblsp plain flour
salt and pepper to taste
Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well together. Then shape into small walnut sized balls (for patties) or larger ones (for burgers), then press each down to flatten. These can be chilled to cook later in the day, or cooked immediately.
Add enough oil to cover the base of a large frying pan, and when hot, place the fritters/cakes into the pan (this may have to be done in batches) and fry until golden beneath, then turn and fry until golden on both sides.
Eat as fritters with a sweet chilli dipping sauce, or in baps or with salad when eaten as burgers.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Law of Averages

Cookery progs do come up with good hints and tips. A recent one was blitzing dried mushrooms (porcini etc) in a food processor/blender, to make a mushroom powder - this then being able to be added to stocks, casseroles etc to give a good flavour. This I would find more use than having to bother to soak the dried mushrooms, and don't really care for them anyway. The powdered mushroom would be MUCH more useful.

A dish that came to my attention when watching a cookery prog was the way a herby crumble topping had been used over a meat based dish (similar to the way we make the topping for apple crumble). There was also a beetroot mousse as dessert, and a cheese mousse in a cornet as a savoury side dish. Perhaps time to turn the tables and cook/present some savoury dishes as we might a dessert, and vice versa. Any suggestions?

Friday, May 07, 2010

Not as Difficult as You Think

One comment to reply to - this from Kathryn. Great that you are teaching someone how to knit, and I liken this to the butterfly flapping its wings leading to great tornados the other side of the world. By this I mean, if we teach one craft to someone else, this can spread - until hundreds are doing it. Would like to feel that hundreds are now cost-cutting since they started reading this blog, but doubt I have that much impact.

Yesterday morning I started my 'two hour challenge', beginning at exactly 10.00am (after having sorted the freezer, put the laundry on to wash and watered my plants). Had already decided what I would be making: spag bol sauce for supper, trifles for B, chicken stock, and orange and ginger marmalade. In the end these turned out to take only just over one hour to do the lot and by then I gave up for the only things I would then have tackled would have been cakes, biscuits and maybe a cheesecake, but as B already had the remains of a Bakewell tray-bake plus a complete apple pie to eat (and I am not touching carbos) decided it would be a waste to cook what was not necessary.
At least this proves that given some thought, quite a lot can be done in a short time.

But for those who would like to know what was accomplished' - here are the timings:

10.00 am. Began by collecting most of the ingredients needed, and put them on the kitchen table. Put a pen and paper close by so that I could keep writing down what was done, and the time it took.

Using the microwave and a pint jug, melted a raspberry jelly in a little water, opened a can of fruit cocktail and drained this.
Finely diced a large carrot, a rib of celery, and one onion, put them in a saucepan with a little oil and butter and began to saute them.
Put minced beef into another pan to start browning.

10.12am. Broke up two trifle sponges and shared this between two individual dishes. Added the canned syrup to the jelly and made up to nearly a pint with water. Poured some of this over the sponge and put the dishes in the fridge to set. Left remaining jelly in jug at room temperate to stay liquid.
Went to hob to turn mince in pan, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon.

10.20am. Snapped 2 carrots into chunks, broke celery into chunks, cut an onion in half and put in a pan with trimmings from spag blog veg. Added a couple of bay leaves and placed chicken carcase on top. Covered with water.
Removed mince from pan and added to sauteed vegetables. Placed chicken stock-pot on back burner and lowered heat to a simmer.

10.25. Chopped crystallised ginger for marmalade. Put sugar, water, and orange MaMade in the jam pan and start to heat it up.

10.30. Take mince-veg pan from hob, bring to table, break up any remaining lumps of meat, add a good dollop of HP sauce and several dashes Worcestershire sauce and a can of chopped tomatoes. Return to heat giving it a good stir. Put on lid and bring to simmer.
Gave marmalade a stir to help dissolve sugar.

Tidied up the table a bit. Put sauce bottles back in larder and bring out a Bovril stock cube, broke this up into the empty chopped tomato can, added boiling water, stirred to dissolve and added to spag bol meat sauce (this gets to use all the tomato residue in the pan and and cleans the tin at the same time. Put empty tins into the recycling box. Sugar bag into paper box..
Switch on oven, and place jars in to heat/sterilise.

10.42. Make myself a cup of coffee, and sat at table to have a think. Kept getting up to stir marmalade and spag.bol sauce. Wondered what else I could be doing. Decided to grate some Parmesan cheese to later sprinkle over the spag bol.

10.51. Marmalade now fast boiling.
Checked chilled jellies - now set. Spooned fruit cocktail over top of jelly/sponge, and covered with more jelly. Filled a large ramekin with remaining fruit and jelly (this for my own supper). Returned to fridge to set.

Did the washing up (some dishes left over from previous day). Turned out heat under spag. bol meat sauce as the meat was tender.

11.00. Had to hunt for jam funnel, eventually found it. Put board on kitchen table to stand hot jars on, checked marmalade.
Stock not yet reached the simmer (good - it needs to cook slowly).
Turned out oven and left jars in.

11.06. Marmalade ready. Turned off heat, put jars on the board, kept ladling marmalade into 1 pint Pyrex jug and filled jars using the funnel. Filled 10 jars of varying sizes. (Ignoring the amounts given on the tin, I use 1 pint of water and 2kg sugar - this makes an extra jar which sets perfectly).

11. 12. And that was it! Nothing else to do except let the stock simmer for some time (and this I forgot to turn off when we went out, so perfectly cooked and reduced by half on our return). The trifles B would top with fruit yogurt and/or custard yogurt, with a final topping of cream when he was ready to eat them.

Allowing for the time it took me to write all the above down after each application - plus the coffee break it was barely more than an hour's work (if that), and - as I said - could have made and baked several cakes in the remaining 48 minutes.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Enjoy the Season

Today am giving a recipe for a 'seasonal' dish - which in my case would be made using frozen broccoli. More a 'side' than a main course - but certainly does make the broccoli more interesting. As this veg comes from the same stable as cauliflower, no doubt this could be substituted. Walnuts, cashew nuts, or flaked almonds would also eat well with this dish, and cheaper than pine kernels.
Broccoli with 'green dressing': serves 4
12 oz (350g) broccoli (tough stems removed)
handful of mint leaves, chopped
2 tblsp green pesto
1 tsp olive oil
2 tblsp toasted pine kernels or other nuts (see above)
grated Parmesan cheese (opt)
Mix the mint and pesto together with the olive oil to make a 'green dressing' and set aside. Steam the broccoli (6 - 8 mins) until tender, then put onto a warmed serving dish, spoon over the green dressing and sprinkle over chosen nuts or pine kernels. Serve immediately with or without a sprinkling of grated Parmesan.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Picture This...!

Not lot done yesterday other than making another batch of EasyYo. Yesterday made a batch of 'custard' yogurt, sweetened slightly with Canderel. This sugar sweetener (as most others no doubt) gives 2 calories per teaspoonful against 20 cals of 'real' sugar. Great for diabetics (and dieters).
My intention is to make a trifle for Beloved with sponge cake drizzled with sherry, then topped with canned fruit, this covered by fruit yogurt, and then EasyYo custard. Final topping of squirty cream. Will make my own version without the sponge.
On the other hand could make a jelly, then layer most of the above in a tall glass to make a version of Knickerbocker Glory.
The EasyYo custard can also be used instead of yogurt when I make my soft-scoop ice-cream. So more experimenting to come.

At the moment have one cherry and one custard EasyYo in the fridge, and today will be making another batch of Greek yogurt. Am so pleased with this product that I ordered extra jars as well as more packs of assorted yogs from Lakeland (with the extra jars you also get three free booklets - one dealing with diets, the other a standard recipe book - all dishes of course using yogurt),
EasyYo is - as the name suggests - SO easy to make and virtually foolproof, and as you know, recommended as this is a product I am happy using. In truth I am in love with EasyYo, especially now that my Beloved prefers it to the more expensive yogurt he used to buy for himself (EasyYo works out at only 22p per 100ml). As a pack makes a litre at a time, and as this keeps at least two weeks in the fridge, with two or three different flavours to use, there is more than enough to keep both of us happy and also leave plenty for me to use for cooking purposes.
I myself am feeling a lot better because the 'bio' in these yogs has given me back what the antibiotic pills killed off.

As well as being a healthy food we should all be eating, natural 'plain' yogurt is an essential 'ingredient' for the self-sufficient cook, who can turn it into an alternative to mayonnaise, sour cream, and cream cheese. It can also be used to make creme fraiche, dips, sauces, frozen desserts, and used in many dishes where cream would normally be used. Not forgetting the raita that should always accompany a curry.

To make the three 'alternatives' above, get a sieve, line it with damp muslin, a damp (and unused) J cloth, or even damp kitchen paper, and plonk in your yogurt.
For mayo and sour cream, drain for two hours.
For a dip consistency, drain 4 - 5 hours
For a soft cheese, drain for 8 -10 hours.
These will keep for a week covered in the fridge.

To make a version of creme fraiche take equal quantities of whipped cream and yogurt, and fold the two together. This eats well spooned over fresh fruit, fruit pies and crumbles, and this - with or without a little sugar or sugar substitute added - when strained to the thickness required, makes a good cake filling/topping.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Frugal Feasting

Moving on to foodie things - have been watching The Best British Menu (or some similar name) and it does seem that cooking meat in water baths at around 65 deg. is becoming the new way to cook. Also dehydrating some foods (fruit, carrots, beetroot etc) so they can be ground up when dry and used as a flavouring powder. Is this the way we will be cooking in the domestic kitchen in the near future I wonder?
At least the 'micro-shoots' that now adorn many gourmet styled dishes are not beyond those of us who now have Mixed Leaf Salads growing on our windowsill. 'Micro-chives' was mentioned yesterday "only need a few for they are very strongly flavoured". Now the peas are coming through, hope soon to include a few 'pea-shoots' to our own 'Michelin meals'.

Of course a lot depends upon what we choose to keep in our store cupboards, but the ingredients for the following dish are in the Goode larder and fridge including the new kids on the block - the produce growing in our conservatory. Whether this recipe has been given on this site before am not sure - but worth giving again as it is very inexpensive to make, yet good enough to serve at a dinner party. A dish that I might even make as a treat for myself. Because B was responsible for the missing bangers, in other words 'taking the food out of my mouth', will take the Marie Antoinette approach and "let him eat cake" - that I might bake for him today.

Smaller servings of this dish - with or without the rice - could serve 6 to 8 as a starter.
Creamy Chicken Livers with Mushrooms: serves 4
1 oz (25g) dried porcini mushrooms
5 fl oz (150ml) hot water
1 x 400g pack chicken livers
2 rashers streaky bacon
1 tblsp olive oil
1 oz (25g) butter
5 medium open (flat) mushrooms
4 tblsp creme fraiche
salt and pepper
few young (micro?) salad leaves for garnish
Put the porcini mushrooms in a bowl, pour over the boiling water and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
Chop the chicken livers into even sized pieces and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Cut each rasher of bacon into three, and fry for a few minutes until crispy, then drain on kitchen paper.
Remove stalks from the flat mushrooms, and taking one of the mushrooms, chop this finely along with the stalks. Set aside.
Put half the oil and half the butter into the bacon fat in the pan, and fry the four large flat mushrooms five minutes on either side (starting with the flat/stalk side down). Remove from pan and keep warm (flat side up) on a serving dish in the oven.
Put the remaining oil and butter into the pan and fry the chicken livers for a couple of minutes before turning and cooking a further 2 minutes. Spoon the cooked livers onto the mushrooms. Then add the chopped mushrooms to the juices in the pan together with the rehydrated porcini mushrooms AND their liquid, and raise the heat so that the liquid bubbles down to about 3 tblsp. Stir in the creme fraiche and season well.
Pour the sauce over the livers and mushrooms, top with the pieces of crispy bacon, and garnish with micro-leaves - serve with rice, and enjoy.

A good starter for a dinner party is home-made soup - for this is something that can be prepared ahead of time and reheated. The flavour of the soup depends a great deal on what is being served for the next course. We would not wish to serve oxtail soup when beef is 'the mains'.
But even though onions are used in many main course dishes - we could still serve onion soup as a first course.
French Onion soup is the one that comes first to mind - this is the one that has slices of 'cheese on toast' floating on the top. Good enough for entertaining, and filling enough if you wish to be thrifty with the ingredients for the main course, but the following soup is slightly more 'upmarket', especially when served with the Cheese Crisps. Otherwise serve a good rustic bread (is this called 'artisan' these days?).

Posh Onion Soup: serves 4 (F)
3 tblsp olive oil
4 large onion, finely chopped
pinch of salt
5 fl oz (150ml) white wine
15 fl oz (450ml) boiling water
salt and pepper
chives for garnish
Heat 2 tblsp of the oil in a pan and stir in the onions and salt. Fry gently, stirring from time to time, for about 15 minutes or until the onions are very soft but not browned.
Add the wine and simmer for 8 - 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half, then add the boiling water. Add seasoning to taste, then simmer for five more minutes before removing from heat. Cool slightly, then stir in the remaining oil and blitz down in a blender/food processor or use a stick blender. Sieve to make a smooth soup. Add more water if you wish it to be thinner. Check seasoning and serve with crusty bread or Cheese Crisps.
This soup can be frozen in containers for up to a month. Defrost thoroughly before reheating. The Cheese Crisps will not freeze.

Normally, Parmesan 'thins' are made by spooning mounds on grated Parmesan onto a baking sheet and baking them for a very few minutes in the oven. This is a somewhat easier way to make them.
Cheese Crisps: Take 2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese and spread half over the base of a dry non-stick frying pan. Cook over medium heat for 1 - 2 minutes until the cheese has melted and turned a light golden colour. Remove from pan with a fish slice and drape over a bowl or rolling pin until set. Repeat with remaining cheese.
Best made fresh on the day, but will probably keep in an airtight tin (haven't tried this), and snap into large pieces to serve with soup. Can also be crumbled and sprinkled over salads.

When entertaining, we often feel we should pull out all the stops and served a memorable pudding - mainly because if the first courses have not turned out as well as hoped for - it is always the pudding that remains in people's memories. If the pud is good - then the whole meal has been a success.

On the other hand - if fairly confident that the starters and mains are almost foolproof - then why make work for yourself. This simple and traditional apple crumble - when served in individual ramekins - cannot fail to please. Use Bramley apples as these soften quite rapidly during the cooking process. If using a firmer apple, it might be worth cooking them off a little first before continuing with the recipe.
Baked Apple Crumble: serves 4
1 lb (500g) apples, peeled, cored and sliced
6 oz (160g) soft brown sugar
juice half a small lemon
2 tblsp water
4 tblsp melted butter
2 oz (50g) flour (plain or S.R)
3 oz (75g) porridge oats
1 - 2 tsp demerara sugar (opt)
Put the prepared apples in a bowl with the lemon juice, water and brown sugar. Toss together to coat all the apple slices, then place in a greased ovenproof baking dish (or four individual ramekins).
Mix together the melted butter, flour and oats until well combined. If you wish you could add a little demerara sugar to sweeten. Spoon this over the apples, and bake for 30 - 35 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 or until the crumble topping is golden and bubbling.
Serve warm with creme fraiche, Greek yogurt or a scoop of ice-cream.