Sunday, May 08, 2011

Taking a Different Approach

Ended up very tired yesterday afternoon (after all the cooking and gardening) and thought was a boon it was to be able to bring out pre-weighed bags of flour and sugar if I intended making a cake (not that I was about to make one, but this does cut the preparation time down buy 90%). Thought no reason why I shouldn't also pre-weigh out the 'fats' (butter or marg) also ready to use.
THEN thought no reason why I couldn't make an almost complete 'cake mix' by blitzing to gether the flour, butter and sugar and bagging this up in 12 oz lots. All I would need to then is tip it into a bowl, add 2 eggs, and beat the lot together. It wouldn't be as light as a true Victoria Sponge, but no different to making an 'all in one' cake.

What with boxes of pre-made pastry mix, scone mix, crumble mix, bread mixes, and now (possibly) cake mix, seems 'convenience' mixes are not such a bad thing after all - as long as home-made.
Chilled 'pastry mix' works well, as does crumble mix. Bread mix (if making dough by hand), scone and cake mixes need to be brought to room temperature before being used.

What other mixes or part-mixes could be made? Have to think about that one, but as the 'ready-prepared' save SO much time (on the day of use) it is worth spending a little time to make up quite a lot.

Perhaps one of the simplest is to grate up cheese instead of buying it ready grated. Cheaper for one thing, and a good way to use up oddments of various hard cheeses that might 'normally' be thrown out. Is anything in the Goode kitchen 'normal'? I doubt it.
Find it also saves time to grate a block of Parmesan ready to use. This is then stored in small boxes in the freezer, to bring out 'to room temperature' to sprinkle over a pasta dish etc.
Many chefs now seem fond of making Parmesan 'tuiles'. Made by spooning circles or strips of grated Parmesan onto a baking sheet, then popping under the grill for one minute. It instantly 'melts' and spreads slightly. Carefully removing with a palette knife and placing on a cake airer they crisp up as they cool. Extremely fragile, but exceptionally good when served with soup.

Myself very finely grate cheese that has gone rock hard (Cheddar, Red Leicester etc). This makes a good substitute for Parmesan in all dishes that call for this Italian cheese, myself finding British cheese has a strong flavour anyway. Never can understand how Parmesan is enjoyed so much. Even the very best and expensive Parmagiano Reggiano (or some such name - the 'true' Parmesan) doesn't seem to have THAT much flavour.

The recent batch of brown bread made was absolutely gorgeous, and can be cut into really thin slices. Tip is to first butter the bread BEFORE slicing, this then holds the crumb together. Both B and I keep eating the bread, so yesterday made another loaf. Have found it bakes better if the oven is first set to 220C, and after the bread is put into the oven, the temp is then reduced to 180C, and then baked for 45 minutes. The initial high heat stops the yeast continuing to rise - and previously this has made a bigger loaf, but also one with a much looser crumb, not so easy to slice thinly. The 'new method' seems to work perfectly.

Just flicking through my first cook-book, opened a page at random and found the recipe for Parsley Honey. At the time of writing, had been making this mainly as a way to use up the huge crop of curly parsley that grew in our garden and was just about to run to seed. Although traditionally this is made without adding 'real' honey, myself found this really improve the flavour, making the whole batch taste like 'the real thing'.
This is well worth making, as not only is it far cheaper than honey, the parsley is also nutritionally good for us.
Parsley Honey: makes 1 1/2lbs (700g)
4 oz (100g) parsley (incl stalks)
1 1/2 pints (845ml) water
1 lb (450g) sugar
1 heaped tablespoon thick honey
Wash the parsley, drain and put into a pan with the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes, then strain through a sieve, pressing out as much juice as possible. Return the liquid to the pan. It should now measure 1 pint (600ml)- add more water if necessary or reduce down to that amount by boiling. Then add the sugar, bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then leave at a rolling boil to cook for 20 minutes. By then it will have become thicker and 'syrupy'. Add the honey, stirring in until dissolved, then remove from the heat and pot up into clean sterilised jars. Seal and store in a cool, dark place. Use as you would honey.

During Hugh F.W's prog yesterday he showed how to make marshmallows. In the above book came across my recipe (slightly different than Hugh's) plus a way to use the marshmallow once made. So am giving both recipes in the hope you might like to give them a try.
1 sachet gelatine
2 tblsp warm water
2 egg whites
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
red food colouring (opt)
icing sugar and cornflour
Put the warm water into a cup and sprinkle the gelatine on top. Leave to stand for a few minutes, then stir to dissolve the gelatine.
Meanwhile put the egg whites and into a bowl and stand this over a pan of hot water and begin whisking until the whites are thick, then slowly beat in the dissolved gelatine, adding a little red food colouring if you wish.
Sift a little icing sugar and cornflour over the base of a shallow baking tray and pour the beaten mixture into this, allowing it to flow into all the corners.
Leave to set, then turn out onto a board also sifted with the icing sugar/cornflour. Cut the marshmallow into squares and toss in icing sugar. Leave on a wire rack until the surface has become dry, then store in a container or bags.

Make the recipe as above but don't spread it on a baking tray. Instead, leave it in the bowl and chill until set. Then scoop out soup spoons of the mixture - one at a time impaling each on a fork, then coat with melted chocolate and toss in desiccated coconut. These freeze well, and can also be stored for several days in the fridge.