Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Morning After...

The more I read about war-time, the more memories of foods my mother cooked for us come flooding back. Perhaps it was the monotony, but at the time never remember enjoying the meals very much. However, one is worth reviving because vegetable marrows are cheap enough to buy, will store for ages on a high shelf during the winter months, and today's recipes for preparing this dish are far and away superior to those my mother used (think she just made up the stuffing with onions, breadcrumbs and herbs). Many readers may have found a very large courgette (or three) in their garden that got missed the first time around, and these - being teenage marrows - could be cooked in a similar way.

An alternative way of cooking the marrow would be to top and tail, then cut the marrow into four deep rings, scoop out the seeds and membrane from the centre, and then blanch the rings in boiling water for 4 minutes before draining and filling with the stuffing. Put into a dish (this time without the water), cover lightly with foil and bake at the same temperature for 35 minutes. An alternative stuffing recipe is also given, and - as this is similar in many ways to the first - we can use either or both as a guide to adapt our own choice of filling.
Normally the marrow peel is left on with both methods of cooking, but if you prefer. the rings can have their peel removed before blanching.

Stuffed Marrow:
1 large marrow (approx 12"/30cm long)
8 oz (225g) onions, finely chopped
3 tblsp sunflower oil
3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
8 oz (225g) ripe tomatoes, diced (or use a can of chopped)
4 oz (100g) shelled hazelnuts, walnuts or almonds, chopped
8 oz (225g) fresh breadcrumbs
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
4 tblsp creme fraiche, fromage frais or Greek yogurt
10 fl oz (300ml) water
Slice the marrow in half lengthways, and scoop out the seeds and membranes.
Fry the onion in the oil for 3 minutes, then add the celery and continue frying for 5 minutes, then removed from heat.
Put the tomatoes, nuts, breadcrumbs, herbs into a bowl with seasoning to taste, and stir in the onions and celery. When combined, mix in the creme fraiche. Use this mixture to stuff both halves of the marrow, placing these side by side in a greased baking dish of a size where they will fit without too much moving around. Pour the water into the dish (to surround the marrow, not pour over it), and bake for 40 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until the marrow flesh is soft and the filling baked through. If the filling/flesh is crisping up too much, cover with greased baking parchment or a tent of greased foil after 30 or so minutes.
To serve, cut in half across the middle of each to give four portions.

alternative stuffing for marrow:
6 oz (175g) green lentils, soaked then cooked
2 tblsp sunflower or olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1 x 335g can sweetcorn kernels, drained
2 oz (50g) cooked rice, pref. brown rice
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
5 fl oz natural yogurt
2 oz (50g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Fry the onion in the oil for a five minutes, then stir in the garlic, celery and sweetcorn and cook for a further 5 minutes, before stirring in the cooked (and well drained) lentils, the rice, coriander, parsley, yogurt and cheese. Mix well together then use to stuff the prepared marrow and cook in either of the two ways suggested.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Name of the Game

We should never be ashamed or even sorry about having little money to spend, and having to cope, (seemingly) worse off than our neighbours. For we are the lucky ones, you'd better believe it. How much fun we can have 'making do', and proving we can put better meals on the table than those who can afford 'better'. What is better than home-cooked? You tell me.

Another thing that comes with being self-sufficient. That is generosity. We make things, grow things, cook things, and -when we can - give some of it away. By doing this, we tend to be given other things in return, and slowly build up a 'bartering' system that helps to give more variety to our meals (and other parts of our life).

Before I start my 'chat', am putting up a recipe for Bonfire Toffee - this is easy to make and could be handed out to those Trick and Treaters this weekend, as well as on Guy Fawkes Night. As the caramel is very hot, and the mixture fizzes up rapidly once the bicarb has been added, keep children at a distance when making, and work at speed.

Bonfire Toffee:

3 oz (75g) caster sugar

2 tblsp golden syrup

1 oz (25g) bicarbonate of soda, sifted

Oil a shallow baking sheet (Swiss roll tin etc) and set aside.

Put the sugar and syrup into a heavy pan over low heat, and stir until all the sugar has dissolved (no grains can be felt when the spoon touches the base). Then raise the heat and boil for 2 - 3 minutes until a golden caramel colour.

Remove from heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda, immediately pouring it into the prepared tin as it rises up the pan (it will continue to rise as it spreads out). Leave it to set and get cold, then break it up into large lumps.

Yesterday decided to make Jamie's Macaroni and Cauliflower Cheese for B's supper. Although more my version than Jamie's.

As there was only one small cauliflower in the fridge, decided to cut this in half and with the pasta thought this would be enough for Beloved, so put a pan of salted water on to boil, poured in some pasta penne (having no macaroni), the type of penne that takes 12 minutes to cook (not my normal quick cook) - this being the same time needed to cook the chunks of cauliflower that were also put into the same pan.

While the above were cooking, fried three small rashers of streaky bacon, then blitzed up the crust from the end of a loaf (saved), this I had buttered before blitzing, adding the crispy bacon. When blitzed added a handful of grated Red Leicester cheese.

Whereas Jamie had stirred creme fraiche into his cooked and drained pasta/cauliflower, myself - after mashing the cauli into the pasta - folded in half a pint of thick cheese sauce, made from a packet of Cheese Sauce Mix - just because I had a couple of these packs in the larder. However - made this sauce with half milk and half liquid from the pasta pan (this now flavoured with cauli and so 5 fl oz of milk saved), and also threw in a good handful of grated Gruyere cheese (that also needed using up).

Poured this medley into a greased ceramic dish (approx 8"/20cm long, about 5" wide and quite deep) which it filled.

Tipped the crumb/bacon/cheese mix over the top, and popped it into the oven at 180C to crisp up the 'crumble'.

The picture above shows what it was like before it was baked. The dark bits are the bacon, the reddish bits the cheese, the rest are the crumbs. You can see it made a lot more than I expected, and enough for both of us.

Have to say it lacked a certain something. Did Jamie put in something I missed? Mustard perhaps. Or was it that he served a salad with it (I didn't). Think some chopped Peppadew would have improved the filling, or maybe some tartare sauce folded in instead of the cheese sauce. As it was, it was still good, but room for improvement.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Past and Present

This chutney has few ingredients (all from the storecupboard), easy to make and eats well with cheese, cold meats, even a curry. One worth adding to the Christmas Hamper to give as a gift.
Apricot Chutney:
8 oz no-soak apricots
half pint water
6 oz raisins
10 oz soft brown sugar
1 tsp ready-made mustard
6 whole cloves
8 fl oz white vinegar
Put the apricots in a pan with the water and raisins and leave to soak for at least half an hour. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour or until the chutney has thickened (when a wooden spoon drawn over the base leaves a clear path).
Pot up in the usual way and store in a cool dark place.

Although not a pickle, if we have apples, it is always worth making up some 'pectin' that can be added to low-pectin fruits when making jam. Once made this should be stored in the freezer. Label clearly or you might think it is apple jelly/stock/egg whites.... as so many things look the same when frozen.
All that is needed to make pectin is apples and water. Five pounds of apples will need approx 2 pints of water. The important thing to remember is that ALL parts of the apples are cooked, the peel, the cores, the flesh as it is the bits so often discarded that contain the most pectin, and in the old days it was these 'discards' that were used to make the pectin, the flesh being used for other things.
to make the pectin:
Removed any bruised bits, then roughly chop the apples and put in a pan with the water (this should barely cover the apples). Cover and simmer over the lowest heat for about half an hour or until the apples are very soft and pulpy.
Pour into a jelly bag that is hanging over a large bowl and let the apples drip for a good 24 hours, then put the juice into a pan and boil until reduced by half - by which time it should be thick and syrupy. Ladle into 5 fl oz containers (yogurt pot size), cover and freeze when cold.
Note: one 5 fl oz of this pectin should be sufficient to set 2 lbs of low pectin fruit.

This next is not so much a pickle, more a relish (although never quite sure of the difference). However, another favourite of mine and - like the beetroot chutney - can eat a whole jar in one go. As I always have sweetcorn kernels in the freezer (if canned, drain well before using), and white cabbage, onions, bell peppers, not to mention vinegar and sugar, you could say this store cupboard relish starts off as store cupboard ingredients. If you prefer, use half white vinegar and half cider instead of all cider vinegar.
Corn Relish:
1 lb (500g) sweetcorn kernels (frozen, fresh or canned)
half pint (300ml) cider vinegar
6 oz (175g) red and green peppers, diced
8 oz (225g) white cabbage, very finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tblsp brown sugar
2 tblsp plain flour
2 tsp dry mustard
1 rounded tsp salt
1 rounded tsp turmeric
Put the sweetcorn, vinegar, peppers, cabbage, onion, and sugar into a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Meanwhile, mix together the flour, mustard powder, salt and turmeric then after the veggies have been cooked the 15 minutes,, stir this into the pan, and continue stirring and cooking for five minutes, by which time the mixture should have thickened. Remove from heat and put into a large bowl and cover. Place in the fridge for 24 hours to allow the flavours to develop, then pot into sterilized jars. This relish will keep up to a month in the fridge. The relish can be store in plastic containers up to six months in the freezer.
This relish eats well with cold meats, and particularly good with chicken.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mainly About Supper!

At frugal times we need treats perhaps even more than normal, but need to be selective about what we make so that we can use up what we have on 'proper meals' rather than 'waste' them on treats. There are other things we can 'waste' without worring about needing them for other dishes, so yesterday decided that B would have a small Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding for supper, but without the butter. A chocolately treat, and the precious butter kept to use another day.

Recently B had brought home a small loaf. This is always a mistake for they work out (by weight) dearer than a large one. So from today I am back to baking my own. Decided to spread three small slices with Nutella, first cutting off the crusts (these were bagged up and put in the freezer to later make fresh or dried breadcrumbs).

In the picture above you see my 'prep'. The three small slices of bread, the dish ((smaller than it looks), Nutella at the back, milk and egg for the custard, and a bowl of demerara sugar. The fork for beating the egg into the milk, the knife to remove the crusts, and the knife for spreading the nutella. The spoon in the sugar.

This next picture shows the crusts removed (these placed above the slices.seen at the top) and the bread spread with the Nutella.

Just to be different, rolled each slice up and placed them into the little dish (picture above). The dish looks wider than it is, it is about 6" long by 3" wide, a little 'one-person' lasagne dish.

The egg was beaten into just under a quarter pint of the milk, then poured over the bread, even this was too much, so a little left in the jug to cook in a very small dish to make an egg custard. The pudding eft to soak for half an hour (all day would have been better), then sugar sprinkled over the top and it was put in the oven (about 150C, 300F, gas 2) as I wanted it to be soft, more a souffle than crusty. For crusty it would have been baked at 180C, 350F, gas 4.

Three sausages were put into the oven to cook at the same time.

The picture above shows the dish before it was put into the oven. During cooking, the bread rose up beautifully and 'souffled', but dropped when taken out as I wanted to raise the heat to cook oven chips, this annoyed me as it collapsed before it could be photographed (the camera needed new batteries at that point)and did not look attractive enough to photograph. Anyway it needed more browning. So put it back when the chips were done (these cooked at 220C, turned the oven out and left the pud there for B to eat after supper.

Decided to give Beloved his favourite Cold Meat Platter for his evening meal. Not the full Monty as had no roast beef and did not wish to open a can of corned beef. Even so he had two slices of (bought) tongue, two slices of home-cooked ham, and several small slices of home-cooked turkey breast. Two cooked sausages, one sliced cooked (vacuum pack) beetroot, a small amount of lettuce and a few slices of red bell pepper. Served the oven chips in a heated metal bowl to keep them hot as long as possible. With his supper he had pickle, and mustard close by if he wanted it, also half a bottle of red wine.

Just thought you might to take a look at his supper. Was hoping to include some watercress and a tomato, but B had eaten all the watercress, and only one tomato left that I have plans for. We have only a little lettuce left in the fridge, but B doesn't really care for lettuce, so the 'salad' he was given was more a token offering.

Even after the above meal - this including the Bread Pudding (with cream poured over - and B said was enough for two), he still had a snack shortly after. Think this was a large bowl of ice-cream. As part of the time was spent at the computer, almost certainly he brought a snack in here as well. He usually does.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Always Make the Most Of,,,!

The good(e) news is that the cake seemed to turn out alright after all. At least it seems solid enough in the centre, and probably didn't need such long cooking after all. Turned upside down, the base gives a little under pressure (as a normal cake would) so at least it isn't dry. With several 'feeds' of rum or brandy over the next couple of months, it could be perfect for Christmas.

In any case, being a large cake, am intending to reduce the size down to a 6" square (cutting a strip off one side and one end), this being a large enough size for the two of us, and Beloved will be the one eating most of it - for he loves fruit cake with cheese. "Will need some blue cheese to eat with it" he said yesterday, after I mentioned he could eat the bits I was cutting off, so that means an expense I hadn't allowed for at the moment. Maybe will not cut it yet, and he can wait until the December order is delivered (or pay for the cheese himself).

Took a photo of the cake (because I KNOW you are all dying to see it). It doesn''t look THAT interesting, so took a long shot so you could see the kitchen table and some of the other things on it, being less boring than just 'cake'. On the wall at the back is my spice rack, with four of my five extra large mugs hanging underneath. These mugs are used mainly for cuppa soups (the largest one that is my favourite is missing, it was waiting to be washed).

Above the fruit cake are the empty citrus shells, above those a basket of citrus fruits (oranges, lemons and limes), close to this is one of my hyacinth glasses waiting for a hyacinth bulb, and at the back of the table my double batch of marmalade still waiting for a shelf to be cleared for them. The clutter on the right (almost out of sight) is to be ignored.

Now we come to the interesting bit. The citrus shells left after the juice and some zest had been removed are shown below in more detail. There is still enough zest left on the oranges to make them worth using, and the lemons will be put in bowl of water and heated in the microwave - this gives off a steam that makes the m.oven easy to wipe clean.
Or - could take a thin slice off the base of each lemon shell (so that they will stand up securely on a saucer), and when the membrane and bits of flesh left after juice has been squeezed out, these will make good 'holders' for something like sardine pate. So might freeze them away until needed for this purpose.

The orange shells really are worth using, not once, but twice and maybe even thrice. First they can have the membranes removed and then perched on top of a glass to prevent them tipping over to be filled with a firm jelly (I use half a pint of water to a full pack of jelly).

Any fruit jelly could be used, but lemon, lime and orange work best (being citrus flavour and colour). Below you see the empty shells after membrane removed, and the remaining shells filled with jelly. These should have been filled with jelly almost to overflowing, but as they would be put in the fridge, and knowing B tends to slam the door, felt they might spill, so slightly underfilled them. In front are the two remaining shells with the membrane scooped out.

After a few hours in the fridge the jelly was set firmly, so brought back out and one sliced in half, then in half again to make four segments. Normally would slice the two filled halves into segments, but wished to show one full and one sliced on the same place. The photo of this can be seen below.

Imagine a plate with a half orange shell in the centre, perhaps filled with a large scoop of ice-cream, sorbet, jelly, or even whipped cream, and segments of jelly-in-shell placed around it, maybe with other segments placed between these to make an outer layer. It could look like a massive flower, and extremely pretty if each circle of wedges was a different coloured jelly, maybe orange in the centre, and lemon further out. Or make one ring, alternating colours, orange, lemon, lime etc.

Children particularly like these wedges as they can be eaten in the hand, rather than with a spoon. Adults too like them, especially if some of the liquid is replaced by gin or vodka.

Normally, these jelly-wedges would be made with orange shells that have not had the zest removed, if so, once the jelly had been eaten, most of the membrane could be scraped away and the strips of peel then dried to add to 'winter' pot-pourri, or even added to a casserole to give added flavour. Peel with most of the membrane left on can be used to make Candied Peel (recipe for this found on 23rd Oct. 2006), or Orange Peel Marmalade.

Any orange peel can be used in this way (lemon peel can also be candied), they don't have to start off as half shells, just the bits normally discarded after the fruit has been peeled to be eaten. Or use lemons shells that have been squeezed for their juice.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Planning Ahead

Yesterday finally decided to get my Christmas Cake baked this weekend, and made sure of it by laying out the ingredients on a tray ready to throw together today. As you can see from the photograph below, the fruit is in a bowl, soaking in cold tea and citrus juice (you can see the citrus shells in a box - these will not be discarded, more about those tomorrow - if I can remember).
The recipe was adjusted to 'cut costs', so used 2 lbs (900kg) fruit rather than 1 kg, and one lemon instead of two (making up the shortfall of by adding a further two ounces of water to the tea). Every little bit saved means more for another day! Even the sugar is demerara instead of the more expensive soft brown (will grind it down in a blender).

The other ingredients are plain flour, eggs (cheapest at 10p each), vanilla extract and mixed spice. All I have to do is find the cake tin!!! Am SURE cake tins were brought with us when we moved, but cannot find them anywhere - probably still in a box in the garage. If I can't find the one I want, then will have to improvise by using a shallower tin lined with stiff card covered in kitchen foil, then lined with baking parchment.

It really has given me a good feeling knowing that this morning all is ready and waiting for me, and I haven't the chore of measuring out as well as the making and baking.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tightening Belts and Purses

After yesterday watching Jamie speed-cook, the voluptuous Nigella drool-cook, and Hugh double-barrel rural-cook, have decided that by now we all should be inspired enough to 'home-cook' at least one thing every day. I think it has to be Jamie who is the outright winner, for his 30 minute meals are BRILLIANT.

For supper yesterday decided to cook B one of his favourite meals: liver, bacon, white cabbage (shredded and steamed), and small potatoes. Instead of boiling the potatoes then tossing them in the bacon fat as done normally when serving liver, decided to 'do a Jamie' and crush them slightly once cooked then fry them. Also - finding a bag of unopened watercress in the fridge that Beloved had brought to go with his Cold Meat Platter (and then never used it) - plonked a good handful of that on his plate, tastefully crisscrossing it with slices of crisp bacon rashers and drizzling the bacon fat over as a 'dressing', before adding liver 'gougons', the steamed cabbage (also tossed in bacon fat), and his fried potatoes. It was a large meal - served on a small meat platter, and Beloved was most impressed "it looks very Jamie" he said, and when he came back into the living room said it had been "an absolutely wonderful meal". So a little of what I see Jamie doing is rubbing off on me -and also B who now wants me to make the giant beef sandwich that Jame demonstrated. At least I have watercress, horseradish, some fillet steak in the freezer that would do, and the other bits and bobs, so all I would need to do is make and bake a baguette. Perhaps for Sunday supper.

For dessert B had his Knickerbockerglory. Perhaps not as authentic as it should have been (forgotten how they are made it's been so long since...) but began by filling the tall glass with bits of trifle sponge, spooned over some juice from a can of Fruit Cocktail, then put some of the fruit over the sponge, followed by chopped (blackcurrant) jelly, then poured double cream over, then repeated this, until the glass was nearly full, then topped with three scoops of ice-cream - this being topped with a mound of squirty cream sprinkled with grated chocolate and flaked almonds. The topping was inches high. Surprised that he managed to find room in his stomach to eat it. But he did.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Catching Up!

With the glut of apples at the moment, am giving a recipe for a vegetarian mincemeat that uses no suet. This may have been given before, but make no apologies as it can be made up to six months in advance, so worth making now ready for Christmas. Although no mention of adding brandy was in the recipe, don't see why a spoonful wouldn't give added flavour. Perhaps a spoonful poured over the top of the mincemeat when in the jar might help it 'keep' and eventually soak through the rest. Any excuse to add booze.
Vegetarian Mincemeat: makes approx 4 lbs
2 lb (1kg) cooking apples
2 oz (50g) flaked almonds
4 oz (100g) glace cherries
grated zest and juice of one lemon (or orange)
8 oz (225g) Muscavado (or Barbados) sugar
half pint (300ml) apple juice
1 lb (450g) mixed dried fruit
half teaspoon each ground allspice and gr. cloves
Peel and core the apples, and roughly chop. Chop the almonds and cherries together. Put the sugar into a pan with the apple juice and heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved, then add the apples and simmer until they have broken down into a puree. Mix in the remaining ingredients, then when fully combined, bring to the boil, stirring continuously, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for half an hour until everything is soft and there is no visible apple. Pot up into hot sterilised jars, seal while still very warm and store in a cool dark place for up to 6 months.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


In a 'Chef's Tips' book, it says "if you run out of self-raising flour, the general rule to make your own is to add two and a half teaspoons of baking powder to 8 oz (225g) plain flour."

As a guide, here is a list showing the proportion of level teaspoons of baking powder to plain flour when making:
Scones: 8 oz plain flour, 4 tsp baking powder
Plain mix: 8 oz plain flour, 3 tsp baking powder
Rich mix: 8 oz plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder
Very rich mix: 8 oz plain flour, NO raising agent
Victoria Sandwich: 4 oz plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder.

Not sure why Tovey's recipe for S.T.Pudding had two lots of raising agents in, am using the one he gave me, but then maybe he improved on it. Not sure what the bicarb does to the dates, but obviously needed.
Even when cooked in a 9" (23cm) tin, this pudding is so rich only small portions need be served. Even my Beloved is satisfied with one-ninth.
Sticky Toffee Pudding: serves 9
8 oz (225g) stoned dates, chopped
1 tbsp instant coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
half pint (300ml) boiling water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Put all the above together in a bowl, adding the bicarb at the end. Leave to stand to cool down slightly, meanwhile prepare the rest of the pudding:
4 0z (100g) butter, softened
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
8 oz (225g) S.R. flour, sieved
Cream together the butter and sugar, and slowly beat in the eggs. Fold in the flour, then stir in the dates including the liquid, and carefully fold together. The mixture will be very runny. Pour into a 9" square tin that has been greased and lined with baking parchment , making sure enough paper rises above the sides of the tin to hold in the sauce once it has been poured over.
The recipe says 'bake for one and a half hours at 180C, 350F, gas 4 - but I find it is normally cooked in less time, so check after one hour).

Normally the topping (recipe below) is then poured over the top and the pudding returned to the oven until the sauce bubbles, alternatively it can be grilled until bubbling, then served immediately - often with cream. Myself like to add the topping once the pudding is out of the oven, let it flow over the top, settle at the sides (the paper holding it in place) then when cold, the whole pudding can be scored through into nine equal portions (two cuts down, two across) and then frozen as-is in the tin, a portion removed when needed, or each wrapped separately (freeing the tin for use). These puds reheat extremely well in the microwave, allow about one minute for each portion. Extra sauce can be made when ready to serve to pour over. Alternatively freeze without the sauce and make this fresh when ready to reheat.

sauce for Sticky Toffee Pudding:
3 oz (75g) soft brown sugar
2 oz (50g) butter
3 tblsp double cream
Heat together until the sugar has dissolved, then pour over pudding and follow directions above. Probably worth making extra as this is mega-good.

Even rushing through today's blog, reaching the finishing line took longer than intended, so must say my farewells for today and looking forward (as ever) to meeting up with you all again tomorrow.

Basically - yesterday afternoon was spent

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Colour me Purple...

The 'Liverpudlians' (natives of Liverpool), have their own name for this 'Lord Nelson' tart, and one I prefer, so why don't we all call it this.
'wet Nellie': makes 6 tarts
1 lb (500g) shortcrust pastry
9 oz (250g) Madeira cake crumbs
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 oz (100g) raisins
4 oz (100g) golden syrup, warmed
5 tblsp milk
1 tsp caster sugar
First put a baking sheet in the oven to pre-heat at 190C, 375F, gas 5.
Remove one third of the pastry, then roll out the larger piece as thinly as possible (this then cooks more crisply) and line 6 x 4" (10cm) loose-based flan tins. Leave a little pastry overlapping the rims.
Mix together the cake crumbs, lemon zest and juice, the dried fruit and the syrup with 4 tblsp of the milk, then when well blended, spoon into the tart cases, levelling the tops.
Roll out the reserved pastry to make six rounds to use as lids, dampen edges of pastry already in the tins, and lay the lids on top, pressing down to seal, then trim away surplus pastry. Brush the tops with the remaining milk and sprinkle with the sugar.
Place the tins on the hot baking sheet and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden. Then remove from oven but keep in the tins for 10 minutes to cool slightly before removing. Eat them whilst still warm. They also are good eaten cold.

It was many years ago that we once visited the Lake District and in my hunt to find a 'traditional' food discovered this next treat, much enjoyed by Beloved who loves sticky, fruity desserts. It is very much a dish of the region, sold in the Cumbrian area for tourists to take home. There is no such county as Cumberland any more, the area is now called 'Cumbria'.
Cumberland Rum Nicky: serves 6
8 oz (225g) chopped stones dates
4 oz (100g) no-soak apricots, chopped
2 oz (50g) crystallised or stem ginger, chopped
3 tblsp rum
juice of one orange
1 tblsp light brown sugar
12 oz ( ) rich shortcrust pastry
half ounce (12g) butter
demerara sugar
Mix together the prepared dates, apricots, ginger, orange juice, and rum together and set aside to soak.
Roll out half the pastry to line a 9" (23cm) pie plate, then spread the fruit mixture over the top, leaving a narrow edge uncovered. Scatter the top of the filling with little bits of butter.
Roll out remaining pastry to the same size, wetting the edges of the plated pastry and then covering with teh second pastry to make a lid, crimping the edges to seal. Make a hole in the top for steam to escape, then brush with milk and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for half an hour or until golden. Serve hot sprinkled with demerara sugar and some pouring (or lightly whipped) cream.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

'Tis the season(ing)

One good tip worth passing on (not sure why I haven't mentioned this before) is about seasoning. Yesterday made myself a tuna and salad cream sarnie for 'brunch' and like to season this (and other sarnies) with freshly ground black pepper, but as ever - can never see exactly how much pepper comes from the pot, especially when adding to darker dishes such as casseroles, perhaps because our grinder is a bit hit and miss - probably due to the grinding part being a bit damp due to the moisture in the kitchen. We have tried different (and some expensive) grinders, but the result is always the same. Using pre-ground pepper is easier as we can use it by the pinch or spoon, but freshly ground pepper always tastes the best.

What I now do when making sarnies is to grind the pepper directly onto the prepared bread (after buttering) and this way it is extremely easy to see how much pepper falls on the slice and also how evenly. Sometimes I 'pepper' both slices before making up the sarnie. If adding to a dish, sometimes grind the pepper onto a white plate until I have enough, then shake it off the plate (from a height) onto the food. B and I love pepper, so adding too much is not usually a problem, but better to start with the right amount, taste and then add more if necessary.

Jamie O. 'seasons the board' by spreading chopped herbs over the wood and then adding a sprinkle of both pepper and sea salt before rolling a fillet of beef across the board to pick it all up.
The other day I mentioned that salting meat before cooking is said to toughen the meat because it also draws out the juices, so myself only add salt (if at all) after cooking. When cooking dried (soaked) beans, salt should not be used as it toughens the skins.
The only two things that really do need salt added is the water that pasta is cooked in - this really does make a HUGE difference to the taste, as does a wee sprinkle of salt over boiled, scrambled or poached eggs.

Adding salt to the water prior to cooking vegetables is more to do with increasing the temperature of the water (impurities in water increase the temperature B tells me) as vegetables cook better at a higher heat than just plain boiling. This is why steaming veggies is so good - this also helping to retain soluble vitamins).
Just an additional tip: protein will cook at under boiling point (why tougher cuts of meat tenderis when cooked at a low temperature, and eggs will boil in barely simmering water) and veggies cook faster and taste better in superheated water, so better the twain never meat. Meat cooked in slow cooker usually needs the veggies part cooked before being added. Onions excepted, they cook happily with the meat.

Anyone who has made a soup from scratch will also realise that a pinch of salt helps to bring out the flavour of the ingredients used, so we should not dismiss salt too lightly, although we should never sprinkle it liberally over our meals as so many still do. We have been told so many times that salt is bad for us, although a small pinch of salt can make a great difference to the flavour of a dish, and in baking is necessary to make other ingredients work together correctly. What we have to do is look at the wider picture - when making a loaf of bread and adding the recommended amount of salt - after cutting, each slice will probably contain no more than two grains of salt(if that), and that is almost negligible. The same with soup - a pinch of salt in a big potful shared between many, is not really something we need to be concerned about.
It is WE - the cooks - who are in control of how much salt goes in what we make. We have no control over how much salt goes into canned and processed foods, ready-meals etc, that we may choose to buy. A product may say 'contains less salt (or sugar)' than (presumably) before, but how much did it contain then, and does less still mean more than it should?

If too much salt has been added to a soup or casserole, then add a peeled potato, and this will eventually absorb much of the salt and can then be taken out and discarded.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Name of the Game?

Grantham Gingerbread is not at all like the gingerbread made in the North West (which is more like cake), and the story goes that in the mid sixteenth century a baker in Grantham was making the hard flat biscuits (called Grantham 'whetstones', these made to give to travellers to eat on their long carriage journeys), and he got the recipe wrong (know the feeling)! This is not the only traditional dish that first saw the light of day because of an error when making. But whatever, this mistake improved the biscuit so much that these are still made the same way today. So never worry if what you bake hasn't turned out as it should. Chances are it has ended up even better. Always think positive.

Grantham Gingerbread: makes 30
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
9 oz (250g) caster sugar
1 egg
9 oz (250g) plain flour
1 rounded teaspoon ground ginger
Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the egg. Sift the flour and ginger together, add to the creamed mixture and beat or fold together until smooth.
Take two heaped teaspoons of mixture and form into a ball and place well apart on greased baking sheets to allow room for spreading (you may need two or three baking sheets).
Bake for approx half an hour at 150C, 300F, gas 2 until very lightly browned. Leave on the baking sheet for five minutes before removing (this helps them crisp up), then remove and cool on a cake airer. When cold store in an airtight tin for up to a week.

For those (like me) who clutch their purse as though it should never be opened, here is another dish from East Anglia that uses a cheaper cut of pork, and good eating especially for the colder days.
Extremely easy to make, a one-pot dish ready to take straight to the table. And goody, goody, no need to get out the scales and weigh things.
As an alternative to red wine vinegar you could use balsamic vinegar or even raspberry vinegar. If you don't like prunes, use sultanas.

Pot Roast with Red Cabbage: serves 4
half a small red cabbage, finely shredded
1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and sliced
1 red (or white) onion, sliced
3 tblsp red wine vinegar
2 tblsp demerara sugar
handful of pitted prunes, chopped
salt and pepper
2 lb (1kg) boned pork shoulder, trimmed
Put the cabbage, apple, onion, vinegar, sugar and prunes in a large ovenproof casserole, add seasoning to taste and mix well.
If necessary, wash the pork and pat dry, then grind a little pepper over (some cooks add salt, but this tends to toughen the meat so I don't). Place the meat on top of the cabbage, pushing it firmly in to bed down, then cover and bake for 2 hours at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until the meat/cabbage is tender.
To serve, slice the pork and serve on a warm platter surrounded by the cabbage. Good eaten with mashed potatoes.

The cost of the meals I make always balances out over a week (not really balance as the 'money scales' tip down to the cheaper end) , for instance this week the Monday lamb meal was a bit more expensive than usual, the fish risotto next day just average, being made partly with salmon trimmings, and the 'almost gourmet' supper B had yesterday was 'a real cheapie', the fillet steak taken from a large pack that came free of charge with a recent Donald Russell order (as did some packs of beef rib trim mentioned the other day that came with another order. Just love 'freebies'). The 'Value' mushrooms were chestnut mushrooms but the same price (and weight) as the normal white not-quite-closed cap mushrooms, so a saving there. The sherry was from a bottle that B had bought, and the rice - think he also bought that in case he fancied making his own supper 'one day'. The Peppercorn sauce mix was a BOGOF.
So meals don't ALWAYS have to be frugal. Just make sure they balance out at regards cost and the 'good the bad and the ugly' should then always fit into your budget (it's usually me that ends up eating the 'uglies').

It has got to the point where I cannot now be bothered about how much food costs (unless specifically working to a 'challenge'). As you know I like to buy quality meat and fish (but only when on offer), and make savings along the way to pay for this. It really boils down to just keeping within my food budget each month and altering what I buy to achieve this. If I find I have spent too much when shopping for groceries on line, then I remove items until the total is the same as previous orders (this seems to have remained the same over several years). Normally end up with a lower total anyway because of all the reductions taken off at the end.

Looking at back statements, realise that I rarely buy the same things each time I order probably for the above reason, some ARE the same, milk, eggs etc, but when it comes to tinned and packaged foods, or bacon, cheese, butter... (foods that have a good shelf life), even with some fruit and veg, all are bought when 'on offer' or reduced for some reason. So I might buy several large jars of coffee 'at the best price' which will see us through until the next offer come round, or even the offerafter that. Same with most things as generally they are 'on offer' at least twice a year.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting the Timing Right

Traditionally served on Palm Sunday, this next recipe can of course, be made anytime of the year, and being a 'suet pud', one filling enough for winter days.

Sussex Pond Pudding: serves 6
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
4 oz (110g) shredded suet
pinch salt
5 fl oz (150ml) water
4 oz (100g) butter, diced
4 oz (100g) soft brown sugar
1 large lemon
Make the suet pastry by putting the flour, suet and salt into a bowl and mixing in water to make a soft dough. Knead lightly and turn onto a lightly floured board and press out to make a large circle. Cut away a quarter of the dough and set this to one side, use the remaining dough to line a pudding basin.
Put half the butter and half the sugar in the dough-lined basin, then prick the lemon all over with a fork, and place this on top. Cover with the remaining butter and sugar.
Roll out the reserved pastry to make a lid, brushing the pastry edges in the basin with water so that when the lid and edges are pressed together they make a good seal. Cover with a double and pleated sheet of greaseproof paper (the pleat allowing for expansion). Tie the paper round to keep in place.
Stand the basin on a trivet (or upturned saucer) in a large saucepan, and pour round boiling water to come halfway up the basin. Cover and boil for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, checking the water occasionally to see if it needs topping up.
To serve, remove paper, slide a knife round between pastry and bowl, and upturn carefully into a serving dish. Cut the pudding in wedges making sure everyone has a piece of the softened lemon and spoonfuls of the sweet buttery sauce that the lemon is now floating in.

The final recipe today is for the famous little tarts made in the time of Henry VIII (and probably even earlier) and given the name by the King after he was offered one by his Queen's attendants (known as 'maids of honour') while he was sitting in the gardens at Hampton Court Palace. His Queen at that time was Catherine of Aragon and as one of her attendants was Anne Boleyn (she may have been the one who gave him the tart) - well we know what happened next!
These cakes are still sold in the Hampton Court area, and the Yorkshire Curd Tart is very similar. Not sure when sugar started to be used in this country, perhaps honey was used instead in the original cakes, but follow the recipe below to get as true a flavour of the originals as possible. Best made on the day of making (to keep the pastry crisp), they will store in an airtight tin for up to 3 days (but the pastry may then soften).
Maids of Honour: makes 24
1 lb (or 500g pack) shortcrust pastry
8 oz (225g) curd cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 oz (100g) light brown sugar
4 tblsp single cream
2 tbslp orange flower water, rose water, or brandy
5 oz (150g) ground almonds
2 oz (50g) raisins, finely chopped
icing sugar (for sifting)
Roll the pastry out as thinly as possible, and cut out 24 circles to fit 2 x 12 deepish tart tins, line the tins with the pastry then chill.
Beat the curd cheese, eggs, sugar, cream, ground almonds, raisins and chosen flavouring together, then - when well combined - spoon into the pastry cases and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 minutes or so until well risen and golden. When cooked they should feel firm to the touch. Cool for several minutes in their tins before carefully removing and placing on a cake airer to get cold. Sift with icing sugar to serve.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Time and Tide Wait No Man.."

One recipe today, traditionally made in Shropshire - were made to give as gifts. The story goes that these were first made these in 1760, and they have been famous ever since.
Sstill using the basic ingredients (butter, sugar, flour, egg...) these biscuits can easily be adapted by including different dried fruits (chopped no-soak apricots etc), or orange zest instead of lemon, or even adding spices such as ginger or cinnamon. Feel free to have a play.
Shrewsbury Biscuits: makes 24
4 oz (100g) butter
5 oz (150g) caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2 egg yolks
8 oz (225g) plain flour
zest of 1 lemon
2 oz (50g) raisins
Cream together the butter and sugar and then beat in the egg yolks. Work in the rest of the ingredients to make a firm dough. Knead lightly on a floured surface, then roll out to a quarter inch (5mm) thick, then cut into rounds (trad. using a fluted cutter), and place on greased baking sheets. Sprinkle a little c. sugar over each, then bake at 180C, 325F, gas 4 until light golden and firm to the touch. Cool on a cake airer then stir in an airtight container.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Size Matters?

A person who comes from there is called a 'Brummy', and this first recipe is for a warm 'snack' sold at country fairs during Victorian times in Staffordshire. They can be eaten on their own, split and buttered for 'a Brummy brunch' to eat in the hand, or served on a plate with a topping such as scrambled egg. Served with a side salad these also make a good light lunch or supper dish. The recipe given serves 4 as a main course, or 8 as a 'munch'.
Brummy Bacon Cakes:
5 or 6 rashers streak bacon, crisply fried then crumbled
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
1 oz (25g) butter
3 oz (75g) Cheddar cheese, grated
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
1 tblsp tomato ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
Put the flour into a bowl, rub in the butter, then stir in the fried and crumbled bacon. Stir in half the cheese and add seasoning to taste.
Pour the milk into a jug and whisk in the ketchup and W.sauce, then add to the dry ingredients to make a soft dough, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently to form a round, then roll lightly to make an 8" (20cm) round. Place on a greased baking sheet and score across to form 8 triangles/wedges.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 - 25 minutes. Remove to a cake airer to cool. Cut or break into 8 portions and eat warm or cool. After cooling, wrapped in foil, this Bacon cake can be kept to eat the following day, and also eats well served with creamy vegetable soups.

Beef olives are traditional to many of the Midland counties, and in the old days, the 'stuffing' was made from scratch using suet, herbs, onions, lemon zest and juice, breadcrumbs, egg etc, and to prevent the ingredient list going on an on, see absolutely no reason why a packet stuffing could not be used (pref thyme and parsley) now we are in the 21st century,just adding the lightly fried dice bacon to it. A stock cube could be used to make the gravy. So have adapted the recipe accordingly to suit the speed we prefer to work these days.
Beef Olives - Hereford style:
3 oz (75g) diced bacon rashers (or use pancetta)
8 bacon rashers
1 packet stuffing mix
8 slices beef (cut from an topside joint)
2 - 4 tsp English mustard
3 tblsp flour
salt and pepper
1 oz (25g) butter
2 tblsp sunflower oil
a good pint (600ml plus) beef stock (made with a cube?)
2 onions, sliced
Fry the chopped bacon until cooked but not crisp, then add to the dry stuffing mix, making up as per packet directions.
Beat each slice of beef with a 'meat basher' (or use a rolling pin) until thin, then spread each with mustard. Divide the stuffing into 8, then spread this over the meat and roll up, wrapping each with a bacon rasher, securing it with a cocktail stick, or tie round with string.
Put the flour in a shallow dish, grinding over some pepper and salt, and then roll the beef in this to coat. Reserve remaining flour.
Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, add the meat 'parcels', turning to brown over, then remove and place in a warm and shallow ovenproof dish. To the pan juices, stir in the reserved flour and when browned, slowly add the stock, stirring all the time until it comes to the boil and thickens. Add a little more stock or boiling water if too thick. Pour this over the beef olives, and scatter sliced onions on top. Cover with a lid or foil and bake at 170C, 325F, gas 3 for an hour and a half or until the meat is tender. Eats well served with mashed potato and a green vegetable.

Bakewell Pudding is the correct name, and the Bakewell Tart is slightly different in that this is made with short pastry and often given an iced top (with a glace cherry stuck in the middle). Don't get them mixed up.
The traditional recipe has always been kept a secret, handed down century by century to the lucky few, and still made and sold to this day. It is said to have a 'secret ingredient', and whether true or not have read in an old cookbook this ingredient is 'lemon brandy' - this I make myself in the same way as I make 'orange brandy' (citrus peel, sugar and citrus juice steeped in brandy). So here is my version of the old recipe and as close to it as possible to get. Many chefs use ready-made puff pastry so suggest we do the same.
Bakewell Pudding: serves 6
9 oz (250g) puff pastry
3 oz (75g) raspberry jam
4 oz (100g) ground almonds
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
2 oz (50g) softened butter
3 eggs, beaten
few drops almond essence
2 tsp lemon brandy (opt)
Using a lightly floured board, roll out the pastry to line a buttered 1 1/2 pint (900ml) shallow pie dish, trimming away surplus pastry from around the edges. Using a knife, 'knock up' the pastry edge to that it rises well when baking. Cover the base of the pastry with jam, then place in the fridge to chill while you make the filling, firstly preheating the oven to 200C, 4ooF, gas 6, heating a baking tray at the same time.
Put the ground almonds into a bowl with the sugar, butter, eggs, essence and lemon brandy (if using) then beat well together. Spoon on top of the jam in the chilled pastry case, levelling the top.
Place the pie dish on the pre-heated baking tray already in the oven, and bake for 30 - 36 minutes or until set. Serve hot - traditionally with custard, or eat cold with cream.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Four in Hand

Decided to clear some space in the freezer, and after removing a box of mixed fruits to make jam, also brought out a couple of small packs of short pastry scraps, the bits of thawed pastry were gathered together and rolled out thinly, using the top of a plastic container as a cutter (a saucer being too large) to make circle to fit the 'compartments' in a four-compartment Yorkshire Pudding tin. As shown below. Sorry about the colour - took the photo without the main room lights being on, but it was the effect I wished you to see.

Find these tins very useful to cook several different things at the same time, especially if you live on your own, as they make enough to give us assorted edibles over several days. Not only that the small quiches made in these tins are just perfect as individual 'starters' for a dinner party. Decided to make one apple pie, one Bakewell (type) tart, and one quiche. Would normally have made a meat pie in the fourth compartment, but as did not want to bother to cook meat to fill the pie, and as this was just mainly for photographic demonstration, decided to make two apple pies.

As each pastry 'case' needed filling without too much delay before baking, began with a small amount of preparation. Having made loads of these small pies before, knew that one egg would be far too much for an individual quiche, so started by breaking an egg into a cup and beating it well with a fork to break the yolk and white together. Then measured it out in spoonfuls - using a soup spoon. As the egg was sold as 'large' (meaning slightly bigger than medium but NOT jumbo size) this worked out at four and a half spoons (a medium egg would probably be just four spoonsful). So two spoons and a bit went into a small bowl, the rest left in the cup. To the portion in the cup was added one soup spoon of whipping cream and blended together before being set aside.

The next thing done was to peel and core a small apple (falling) and then sliced it fairly thinly, most of the slices being piled up in one of the pastry 'cases', a little sugar sprinkled over (some apple still left over), and left over pastry then rolled out to make a lid.
Two tiny pieces of cheese had been found in the fridge (why B leaves such small amounts I will never understand, he is the same with jam in a jar). Clapped together these slivers came to no more than a half-inch cube, and after grating, this was more than enough to fill another pastry case.

With the remaining half and a bit egg, was planning to use this to make the Bakewell tart, so a bare level teaspoon of jam was spread over the base of the third pastry case, and as the weight of the whole egg would have been a good 2 oz, worked on the usual Victoria sponge ratio (same weight of flour, butter and sugar to egg used). The half egg weighed about 1 oz (25g), and as the amounts were too small to use an electric mixer,, decided to use the 'all in one' method and beat together with a fork the 1 oz butter, 1 oz caster sugar, 1 oz self-raising flour, and the half egg. Not very successfully as the job was rushed (due to the jam reaching setting point so ended up trying to do two things at once). As I made a bit of a mess of the creaming/beating, needed to add another teaspoon of flour as I deemed the batter too runny.

Spooned the cake mix into the pastry case over the jam, then found I had mixture left over, so rapidly sliced more apple (same apple used for the pie, as there was some left over), put these in an empty pastry case and poured the remaining cake batter over to make a sort of Applecake pie.
The beaten egg and cream was poured over the grated cheese in the fourth 'case', and a tiny cherry tomato sliced and placed on top - then into the over the whole lot went.

After about 10 minutes took a peek and the quiche had begun to rise, the Bakewell and Applecake Pie had risen a lot. They were not yet cooked through but turning brown so placed a sheet of foil (shiny side up) over to prevent them scorching, and shut the door.
Opening the door had been a mistake, as this caused the cake mixture to sink. My mistake was putting the oven on too high (heating to 200C then turning down to 180C when the pies went in), so when all were cooked (after about 15 minutes from start to finish) the appearance could have been better. The apple pie needed another five minutes in the oven to become more golden, but first decided to take a photo of how the 'bake-off' had turned out.

Back left you see the quiche, and - after cooling - shared it with Beloved (as part of the cold meats and salad meal we had that evening). Have to say it both looked and tasted extremely good, definitely one to bear in mind for parties.
Top right is the apple pie, this - as you can see - needed longer to 'brown up', and after removing the other bakes from the tin put it back into the oven for five minutes. It was then perfect, just the right size for Beloved who ate it hot with cream poured over.

Bottom left is the Bakewell (type) tart. Apart from the slight dip in the middle it turned out well and tasted good. Maybe even better if I had used ground almonds as well as flour. But a bit difficult to measure such minute amounts. This I ate myself (B sulking because he wanted some as well - I told him the apple pie was his, this one was MINE). But it tasted fine, the pastry crisp and short. Bottom right can be seen the Applecake Pie with bits of apple peeping through the sponge. Beloved ate that as well and also enjoyed it.

Quite a number of different 'dishes' can be made using the above tin. With so many different types of quiche, not a problem to make a different one each time (or four different ones at the same time). Fruit pies can be made with different fruits, meat pies (use cooked meats as the cooking time is shorter than usual) can also be varied. A crumble topping could be put over stewed fruits, and a breadcrumb/syrup filling to make a treacle tart. Even a pizza dough base could be used in one tin and pizza toppings laid on top.
It might even be possible to bake a Yorkshire Pudding in one section while baking filled pastries in the others.

Going back to ingredients used. An small apple-sized lump of left-over pastry scraps, one egg, very small amounts of butter, sugar and flour, one soup spoonful of whipping cream, one small apple, tiny scraps of cheese, and one small cherry tomato made all the above. And there was still a bit of pastry left over that I ought to have turned into cheese straws if I hadn't been flustered due to the jam and baking all needing attention at the same time.

As a 'pie' cooked in a Yorkie tin is a good size, almost enough to be shared between two, it is amazing how small an amount of filling needs to be used. Of course - a bit like Cornish Pasties - a good part of the pie (in this instance) is pastry therefore economical because of it - but when rolled as thinly as possibly this cooks more crisply and quickly, and with the filling is just about the right balance to make a satisfying 'snack', or with salads or cooked vegetables, a meal in its own right.

These oatcakes are a cheap and extremely good biscuit that eats so well with cheese. Have myself made these using bacon fat saved after frying fatty bacon, and porridge oats blitzed down to make oat flour. Traditionally made with medium oatmeal, worth using this if you with your biscuits to be as authentic as possible.
Scottish Oatcakes: makes 12
4 oz (100g) medium oatmeal
good pinch salt
good pinch bicarbonate of soda
1 oz (25g) lard, melted
2 -3 tblsp boiling water
Put the oatmeal in a bowl with the salt and bicarb. Mix well together then add the melted lard with enough boiling water to make a smooth dough. Sprinkle a little more oatmeal on a board and turn out the dough onto this, then roll out thinly to about an eighth of an inch (3mm) thick and cut into rounds, rerolling the dough scraps to use it all up.
Place on a greaed baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 180F, 350F, gas 4 or until crisp. Don't let them get too brown - if necessary turn off the heat and leave the door slightly ajar to finish crisping up. Cool on a cake airer and store in an airtight container. Great served with cheese, but also good to eat with heather honey

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Counting the Cost

Here is a 'starter' from the North East, nowadays called Pan Haggerty, although this was originally just the one name - as given below. In the past the fats used might have been beef dripping or lard, although the recipe now uses butter and oil. Traditionally eaten as just onions and potatoes - to make a filling start to a meal, today more likely to be eaten with a crisp salad and hot sausages as a main course.
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 lb (450g) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 onion, sliced
4 oz (100g) local hard cheese, grated
salt and pepper
Melt the butter with the oil in the pan, then place in a layer of potato, followed by a layer of onions, then a layer of cheese, adding seasoning to each layer, then repeat, finishing with a layer of cheese.
Cover the pan with a lid, plate or foil, and over low heat cook for 20 - 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with knife.
Remove cover and finish off under the grill to brown the cheese. Then serve immediately with whatever you choose.

'Pease pudding' is said to have originated during the reign of King James 1st when stalls selling hot foods were common in market places, with peas and bacon a favourite 'take-away' at that time.
Although they may first appear to be a costly dish (due to the gammon), this - when cooked and after removing the amount you wish for this dish - can, when cold, be sliced thinly as 'ham' and frozen away in small pack for later use as cold meat, for sarnies etc. Perhaps worth making this dish when cooking a gammon to make ham.

Pease Pudding with Ham:
1 lb (450g) yellow split peas, soaked overnight
1 large onion, chopped
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
salt and pepper
1 x 1.10oz (700g) gammon joint (approx weight)
2 bay leaves
3 cloves
2 tblsp cornflour
half pint (300ml) milk
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1 oz (25g) butter
Drain the soaked peas and put in a pan with the onion, bacon, a tsp salt and enough water to come an inch (2.5cm) above the peas. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, then reduce heat and simmer for approx 50 minutes or until the peas are tender and most of the liquid absorbed.
Meanwhile, put the gammon in another pan and cover with water, adding the bay leaves and cloves. Cover and simmer for an hour and a quarter until cooked through. Leave to stand in the pan for 15 minutes, then drain, reserving the cooking liquid, but discarding the bay and cloves.
Blend the cornflour with a little of the milk, then put the rest of the milk into a pan with half a pint (300ml) of the ham stock, and heat gently, stirring in the slaked cornflour. Keep stirring until the mixture boils and, then reduce heat and cook for a couple of minutes until thickened. Remove from heat, add seasoning to taste, and stir in the chopped parsley.
To serve, stir in the W. sauce and butter to the cooked peas, pile onto hot plates, with a couple of slices of the gammon (aka ham), and drizzle parsley sauce over the lot.

As with any traditional recipe, no two cooks make these cakes exactly the same. Some may originally have used lard instead of butter, currants or raisins instead of sultanas, others may have added a little sugar. Don't turn the cakes too soon - a lot depends upon their thicknes - otherwise they may end up a bit 'doughy' inside.

"Singin' Hinnies":
8 oz (225g) plain flour
good pinch bicarbonate of soda
quarter tsp cream of tartar
good pinch salt
3 oz (75g) butter
3 oz (75g) pref sultanas
milk to mix
Start by putting a dry griddle pan (one with no ridges) or heavy frying pan over medium heat to get hot while making the cakes.
Sift together the flour with salt, the bicarb and C of T. Rub in the butter, then stir in the dried fruit and enough milk to make a soft (but not sticky) dough. Turn this onto a lightly floured board and roll out to just over a quarter inch (5mm) thick, Cut into rounds approx 2 3/4" (7cm). Gather trimmings and re-roll to make more cakes.
Rub buttered paper over the hot pan and lay on as many rounds as it will hold. Cook for four minutes (or until speckled brown underneath) then turn and cook for a further 4 mins on the other side. Serve hot, and eat like scones - buttered then spread with jam and topped with clotted cream.

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.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Count Our Blessings

There are so many hints and tips when it come to cooking, that today am repeating some of my favourites, adding a few more discovered along the way.

At this time of the year, freeze tomatoes whole, and although no good for sarnies these make excellent soups and sauces. Just hold pop the frozen tomato into a bowl of very hot water and the skins will just slide off.

By standing a tomato stem end down own a plate before slicing - find I can always gain one extra slice than if slicing 'sideways on'. Never can understand why this is - but it always seems the work with me.

To stop mincemeat bubbling out of mince pies when baking, first chill the mincemeat in the fridge before filling the pastry-lined cases. Chilling jam also helps to prevent bubbling over when making jam tarts.
If using 'room temperature' mincemeat, cut a small hole or star in the centre of the pastry lid before placing over the filling, this gives extra space for the hot air to flow out and a bit more room for the mincemeat to expand.

Keep an apple in a bag of potatoes and this is said to prevent them from sprouting.

Cling film is easier to handle when it is kept stored in a fridge or freezer.

Stand a metal spoon in hot water to heat up, quickly wipe dry and use to remove syrup (or treacle) out of the tins. The syrup will then slide off the spoon into what you are preparing instead of sticking to the metal.

To whip cream easily and speedily, always first chill the cream, bowl and beaters. Adding a little milk to over-whipped cream and very gently beating this in will bring it back to 'floppiness'.

If cutting an oblong or square cake, slice it through the middle, then the cut sides can be pushed together to stop them drying out.

To slice a tender sponge cake through to make two layers, wrap a length of sewing cotton halfway up its height, wrap over the ends of cotton, taking an end in each hand and then pull the hands apart. The cotton cuts through the sponge giving a perfectly even surface.

Useful tip for anyone, but especially those on a gluten free diet. To thicken soups, use instant potato instead of cornflour.

Reconstituted instant potato, made up with milk and a little butter (even better with grated cheese) will freeze perfectly, unlike mashed potatoes made the normal way.

If space is limited in the freezer, put about 4oz (100g) minced meat in a smallish poly bag, and - with the open end of the bag away from you - roll flat with a rolling pin. These I call 'tiles', and when frozen flat can either be stacked or slid along the sides of the freezer. These 'tiles' thaw rapidly, and are the size to fit directly into a frying pan, so no lumps of mince to break up with a wooden spoon. Small amounts of minced beef (to add to a minestrone soup for example) can be snapped off the frozen tile, with the remainder replaced back in the freezer.

The easy way to fasten an opened bag of frozen vegetables without using a plastic clip, is first cut the top of the unopened bag about half an inch down and across to about an inch of the side, then slit this strip in half along its length. Remove the veggies you want, then fold the uncut end back down and bring the strips round and tie together into a bow.

To make the most of freezer space, avoid gaps and whenever possible pack (or decant) into square stacking containers. Use a marker pen to write down what the contents are if not obvious. So many things look exactly the same once frozen. Even strips of chicken fillets look like chicken breasts once bagged and frozen.