Friday, May 27, 2011

If Only....!

Can give a few tips about roasting beef. Firstly meat on the bone usually ends up with a much better flavour, although more difficult to carve (for this reason tend to buy boneless joints myself). How the beef is cooked depends on the cut. The more expensive (sirloin, rib-eye, fillet, top rump) you need to get the timings right or it could end up over-cooked. At one time always bought top-side, but although it roasts well enough, it is less tender so sometimes braised. Silverside and brisket should always be slow-cooked.

When meat has to be roasted, it MUST be at room temperature before it is put into the oven. So allow 30 minutes for any meat that might have been kept in the fridge. Frozen meat should be thawed slowly in the fridge overnight - then once fully thawed brought to room temperature. When using the quality roast, put this into your roasting pan into a very hot oven 220C, gas 7 for 15 minutes to sear the outside. This helps to keep the juices in the meat which will also keep it moist. Then turn the temperature down to 180C, gas 4 and continue cooking, for the rest of the recommended time (see below), basting occasionally.

When the time is up, remove the cooked joint to a platter, then tent loosely with foil and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes, half an hour is better. Despite what people think, meat is best served warm rather than hot, and as a roast will continue cooking (from the outside in) after being taken from the oven, even if 'red juices' collect on the plate under the joint, this doesn't mean the centre will end up rare. These juices are often absorbed back into the meat, and if not - I add them to the gravy.
Try not to lift the meat using forks spiked into the surface as the meats juices then flow from the holes, Myself tend to make pads of kitchen paper and lift the meat from the pan holding it from each end.
At one time I used to panic seeing these juices, and so would pop the meat back into the oven to cook for a further 15 - 30 minutes more - ending up with well-overcooked and dry meat.

Ideally, follow this timing guide and if you like your meat a bit pink, then settle for the 'medium' cooking time. When serving to a number of people, some who might prefer their meat well-done, others medium etc, then choose a boneless joint that is slightly tapered in shape, the narrow end will then be cooked through, the wider end be 'medium' (more pink).

These are the recommended cooking temperature for the prime cuts of beef (incl. topside) as given in my chefs's 'tome', all to be cooked at the start at 220C for 15 minutes, then temp reduced to the 180C (as mentioned above):
Rare: 15 mins per lb (450g) plus 15 minutes over
Medium: 20 mins per lb, plus 20 minutes over
Well done: 25 mins per lb, plus 25 minutes over

If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temp of the meat should be 60C/140F for rare; 70C/160F for medium; and 80C/175C for well-done. Remember the temperature will rise a few degrees in the centre as the meat 'rests'. Also roasted joints will always shrink, so if you wish to have enough to carve to eat cold, then buy a joint large enough.
Also, worth asking the butcher to give you an extra (and large) piece of fat to put on the top of the beef when roasting (even if it comes with fat) , as this helps to 'self-baste' the joint, and - after cooking - this fat can be poured into a dish and used either to spread on toast (with a pinch of salt) - B just LOVES to eat this - or used for roasting potatoes etc.

For further information go to where you can see their step by step demonstrations of how to cook named cuts of meat.

As to using up cooked meat. Myself always buy a larger joint so that we do have plenty left over. Left-over cooked meats, wrapped in foil then chilled are easier to slice thinly. Myself cut several thin slices and freeze in packs of four to use later for sarnies. Thicker slices are frozen in its own gravy ready to re-heat to serve with all the trimmings to make another 'roast dinner'. Large scraps can be minced (or whizzed in a processor) to use to make a cottage pie. Cooked 'chunks' can go with veggies to make 'Cornish Pasties', small scraps can be shredded and mashed with butter and nutmeg to make 'beef spread'. Cooked meat can also be marinaded in a spicy sauce (to allow the flavour to soak in) and then heated to make a curry.

Anyone who grows their own courgettes will just love this first recipe as it uses their flowers. Often it can be just the male flowers used, but this recipe uses the female blossom PLUS their babies just beginning to grow behind. Maybe seems odd to use these, as when left to grow on they will make a more substantial dish, but courgettes can be very prolific, and often grow so many so fast that they have to be given away (or frozen, and never feel they freeze that successfully due to their water content).
The 'risotto' part of this dish can be prepared a day ahead, spread on a tray, covered and refrigerated until ready to use. Zucchini is the other name for courgettes.
Risotto stuffed Zucchini flowers: makes 24
5 fl oz (150ml) white wine
half pint (300ml) vegetable stock
1 tblsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 oz (100g) arborio (risotto) ric
3 oz (75g) button mushrooms, thinly sliced
few baby spinach leaves, finely shredded
1 oz (25g) grated Parmesan cheese
24 baby courgettes, with flowers attached
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion until softened, stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute, then stir in the rice so it is coated with the oil. Meanwhile heat the wine and stock until just as the simmer. Pour half a pint of the hot stock into the pan and cook over low heat, stirring most of the time, until the liquid is absorbed, then add a ladle of stock and continue cook/stir, adding more stock as each is absorbed. Total cooking time should be about 30 minutes or until the rice is tender.
Stir in the mushrooms and spinach, and when the mushrooms are just tender, fold in the grated cheese.
Remove and discard stamens from the centre of the flowers, then fill each with the risotto, twisting petal tops to enclose the filling.
Cook in batches on a heated grill (or barbecue) until the courgettes are just tender and the filling is heated through.

Another courgette recipe, this time a worthy addition to a buffet when time is short as they can be made a day ahead and stored, covered, in the fridge to then bring out and eat at room temperature.
As courgettes don't grow to exact weights, the amount shown below is for a small to medium courgette.
If you don't have a mini-muffin tin, then make tiny tins by pushing shaping a double or triple layer of foil into an egg cup, then removing and carefully folding down the top of the foil to make one small 'mini-tin'. Repeat until you have made enough.
Mini Courgette Fritters: makes 24
4 eggs
4 fl oz (100ml) creme fraiche or sour cream
1 tlblsp finely chopped fresh chives plus extra for garnish
3 oz (75g) green courgette, coarsely grated
3 oz (75g) yellow courgette, coarsely grated
1 oz (25g) grated Parmesan
Whisk the eggs with two-thirds of the creme fraiche until smooth, then fold in the chives, grated courgettes and the cheese.
Spoon the mixture into lightly oiled mini-muffin tins and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 15 minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack.
When ready to serve (at room temperature remember) top with remaining cream and extra chives.

Not apologising for giving yet another recipe that uses courgettes as those that 'grow their own' are usually knee deep in them and seek interesting recipes. Because this next is a pizza, to serve to, it can be made as one larger one to serve four, or several mini ones to serve at a buffet. Also - as normal with pizzas - we can alter the topping so we can use up ingredients we wish to see the back of.
Ideally, slice the courgette with a 'Y' shaped veggie peeler to make thin 'ribbons', or use a potato peeler.
'Good Health' Pizza: serves 2
pizza base:
4 oz (100g) each strong white and strong brown flour
pinch salt
1 x 7g sachet easy-blend yeast
4 fl oz (125ml) warm water
1 x 200g can chopped tomatoes, drained
few cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large courgette, thinly sliced with a peeler
1 oz (25g) mozzarella cheese, torn into pieces
1 tsp capers in brine, drained
8 green (or black) stoned olives, roughly chopped
1 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Ideally, make the pizza dough using a food processor/electric mixer with a dough hook (but of course it can be made by hand in the old-fashioned way). First make the pizza dough by blending together the flours, salt and yeast, then pour in the water then mix to a soft dough. Work for one minute in the machine, then remove and place the dough on a lightly floured board and roll out to a circle about 12" dia (30cm). Then place on an oiled baking sheet.
Spread the well drained canned tomatoes over the dough to within half an inch of the edge, then arrange the halved tomatoes and courgette ribbons over this, finally scattering over the mozzarella, the capers, and olives. Drizzle over the oil, brushing the uncovered sides also with oil, then bake in a very hot oven: 240C, gas 9 for 10 - 12 minutes until crisp and golden at the edges. Sprinkle top with the parsley and serve.

Here is a dip that makes a good complement to those less colourful dips. Beetroot is also a very good veggie to eat as it has many 'healthy' attributes. Helps to lower blood pressure for one thing (but needs to be eaten regularly for this).
Rose-Red Dip: makes about 1 pint (600ml)
1 lb (500g) cooked and peeled beetroot
1 clove garlic, crushed
7 oz (200g) plain yogurt
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp lemon juice
Roughly chop the beetroot, then blend or process with the remaining ingredients until smooth. Otherwise grate the beetroot by hand and then mix together - but this will be less smooth.
Serve with tortilla chips, breadsticks, or raw vegetables (aka crudites).

Tzatziki is a Greek dish that is similar to the Indian 'raita', and usually served as part of a 'meze' - this being a selection of help-yourself dishes, also perfect for buffets. With any luck we might already have the ingredients sitting in our larder/fridge, so why not try making it this weekend? The very best olives to use are the Kalamata (these can be bought in cans/bottles, or from a deli) but 'ordinary' black or green olives could be used instead. If you don't have dill, you could use a little fennel (both slightly aniseed in flavour), if neither suppose mint would be OK.
When making a dish such as this, myself prefer to using icing sugar instead of ordinary granulated, as this dissolves almost instantly. Otherwise use caster sugar, or allow the dish to stand for a while so the coarser sugar can 'melt down'.
Tzatziki: serves for as part of a 'meze'
9 oz (250g) Greek yogurt
half cucumber, peeled, seeded then coarsely grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
16 Kalamata olives
3 tblsp chopped dill
2 tsp white wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
pinch of salt
Mix all the ingrediients together in a bowl. If possible allow to chill in the fridge before serving to allow flavours to develop.

Final recipe today is for an 'omelette cake'. Basically layers of three different 'omelettes' stacked together, then chilled to be served cut into wedges. Certainly something different and extremely tasty to serve up for both family and buffet meals. To turn it into bite-sized helpings, the 'stack' could be trimmed to have square sides (I would eat the trimmings a cook's perks) and then cut across in both directions to make small squares.
Yes, this does use a lot of eggs (but then some readers keep chickens and this time of the year find they have so many eggs they need a recipe such as this to use them up), and it is bit 'fiddling' to make, but read the recipe through and am sure you will feel inspired to make it (or even a smaller version - using one egg per person).
Either an 8" or 9" )20 - 23 cm) frying pan can be used, but make sure to use a cake tin the same size as the frying pan to make sure the omelettes fit the tin snugly.
Savoury Provencal Cake: serves 10
10 eggs
1 tblsp olive oil, plus extra for frying omelettes
2 courgettes, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely sliced
salt and pepper
4 roasted red peppers, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
10 oz (300g) cream cheese (Philly type)
5 - 6 tblsp milk
3 tbslp finely snipped chives
2 tblsp chopped basil
Take two bowls and break 5 eggs into each. Whisk slightly.
Heat the tblsp oil in a frying pan and stir in the courgettes and shallots, frying gently for about 10 minutes or until softened. Remove from heat and leave to cool, then stir into one of the bowls of eggs, adding seasoning to taste.
Add the roasted peppers, garlic and chilli, plus seasoning to taste, to the other bowl of eggs and set this aside.
Heat a little more oil in an 8" (20cm) omelette pan, and pour in about one-third of the courgette mixture, swirling to cover the base. Cook until set on top and lightly browned beneath, then cover pan with a plate and invert the omelette onto it, sliding it back into the pan to brown the underside, then slide onto a plate, repeating with the rest of the mix ( adding a little oil to the pan each time), stacking them - as made -together on a plate. You now end up three 'courgette' omelettes.
Repeat the above, this time making three omelettes with the red pepper mixture, stacking these - as made - on another plate.
To make the filling: Mash the cheese with a fork to slacken it, then beat in the milk to that it then becomes a spreadable consistency. Stir in the herbs and seasoning to taste. Take an 8" (20cm) deep cake tin and line with cling film - enough to overlap the rim. Take the best looking pepper omelette and place this (pretty side down as it will end up at the top) into the tin. Spread with a thin layer of the filling, top this with a courgette omelette, spread with more filling, and repeat with alternate layers of courgette/pepper/filling until all used up, finishing with an omelette.
Fold the overlapping clingfilm to cover the top, then place in the fridge to chill for 24 hours.
To serve, unfold the clingfilm from the surface, invert the 'cake' onto a serving platter and remove the clingfilm from around it. Sprinkle grated Parmesan on top with a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of freshly ground black pepper. Serve cut into wedges.