Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Laugh in the Face of Adverstity.

When cooked this dish will have the appearance of a souffle, but without the hassle of having to separate the eggs. The further we look into the recipe we see it is made more like a quiche filling. Whichever way we choose to view it - it is simple enough to make as a family dish, but also 'fancy' enough to serve when entertaining. See what you think.

Puffy Cheese and Onion: serves 4
5 oz (150g) plain flour
4 eggs
7 fl oz (200ml) milk
2 tblsp grated Parmesan
3 slices cooked ham, chopped
1 shallot, grated
5 oz (150g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Make a batter by putting the flour into a bowl and beat in the eggs. When the mixture is fairly smooth, gradually beat in the milk until the batter is lump free (run it through a sieve if you need to). Stir the ham, shallot, and Cheddar into the batter, making sure it is well combined, then pour into a well greased round ceramic (souffle) dish - approx 9"/22cm wide - that has been dusted inside with the grated Parmesan. The batter should nearly fill the dish. Bake at a higher temperature than normally used - this time 230C, 450F, gas 8, for 30 - 35 minutes until well risen (aka 'puffy') and golden. Take to the table and serve immediately.

This next dish should be able to be made 'from what we've already got' (that is if you keep blue cheese in your fridge), but - as ever - we can use a different cheese, or use cauliflower instead of broccoli (although with the latter it is the green colour that makes the dish look attractive) . To gain the most (financial) benefit, the more we can adapt a recipe to use up bits and bobs, the cheaper a dish can become.
When measuring pasta, and you find you've a little left in the packet that's hardly worth keeping, don't just 'cook the lot' (as so many of us are inclined to do), store it in a jar with the ends of other pasta shapes (all kinds) and then these can be used together (by weight) in any pasta dish. In many instances pasta is pasta is pasta, and it doesn't really matter what shape it is, as the more shapely, the better chance for a sauce to cling to it. So when it comes to a dish such as the one below, mix and match your pasta if you feel so inclined.

Pasta with Walnuts and Blue Cheese: serves 4
12 oz (350g) pasta penne or whatever (see above)
1 lb (450g) broccoli, broken into small florets
2 tblsp olive oil
4 - 6 tblsp walnut pieces, roughly chopped
8 oz (225g) creamy blue cheese, diced
salt and pepper
juice of half a lemon
Cook the pasta according to packet instruction, add the broccoli florets for the final four minutes, then drain - but reserve the cooking water - and set aside, but keep warm.
Heat the oil in a pan then add the walnuts, give them a stir then gently fry them for one minute. Add 6 tblsp of the reserved cooking liquid to the pan, then stir in the cheese and keep stirring until it melts down to a creamy sauce (add more liquid if necessary). Season to taste, then stir in the lemon juice. Add the drained pasta and broccoli to the pan, toss well to coat with the sauce, then take the pan to the table and serve.

Another 'serve at the table' dish that is unusual is the following 'Fish Stew'. Many of the 'casserole' ingredients we would expect to go with meat, fish tending to cooked more 'delicately', but if you've managed to buy some of the cheaper 'white' fish fillets, and unsure how to cook them, this might be a good way to start. Because both B and I love prawns, these are included in the dish, but if you are anti-shellfish, just leave them out.

Iberian Fish Stew: serves 4
2 - 3 tblsp chopped parsley (pref flat-leafed)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
3 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
1 lb (450g) potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 tsp paprika
half tsp cayenne
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
fish stock cube
1 x 410 can chickpeas, drained
1 lb (450g) skinless fish fillets
8 large (frozen) large cooked prawns OR...
.... quarter pint tiny prawns
Start by making the dressing. Put the parsley, lemon zest and half the garlic into a bowl with 2 tsp of the olive oil. Mix together then set aside.
Put the remaining oil into a large deep frying pan, add the onions and potatoes, cover and cook for 5 minutes to allow the onion to soften, then stir in the rest of the garlic, the paprika and cayenne and lightly fry for minutes more.
Stir in the lemon juice, bring to the bubble, then add the chopped tomatoes. Half-fill the tomato can with water, give it a shake to gather any tomato left in the can, add this to the pan with the crumbled stock cube. Add seasoning to taste, then cover and simmer until the potatoes are just tender (but only just).
Add the chickpeas to the stew, then cut the fish into even but large pieces (say three chunks to a fillet), and place these on top of the stew, pushing them down slightly. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 8 minutes to allow the fish to steam/cook, then remove lid, tuck in the thawed prawns, re-cover and continue cooking for a further 2 minutes, then remove lid, scatter the surface of the stew with the parsley dressing, take to table and serve with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the juices.