Saturday, May 07, 2011

Thinking Aloud

Today's recipes are a mixed bunch, but nearly all relate to requests sent in recently for ways to use up a particular food (mushrooms, pulses etc), so here are a few more suggestions:

This first covers both mushroom and 'pulses' (in this instance chickpeas, but canned beans (haricot etc) could be used instead. As together these make a 'burger', another one to add to the collection.
These make a good snack or light lunch when served with the suggestion at the end of the recipe, or they can also be served with salad (and/or chips).
Mushroom and Chickpea Burgers: makes 4
1 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
8 oz (225g) chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 shallot, chopped
1 tblsp mild curry powder (or to taste)
zest and juice of half a lemon
1 x 400g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 oz (75g) fresh breadcrumbs (pref brown)
Put one teaspoon of the oil in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms and shallot for five minutes, then stir in the garlic, curry powder and lemon zest. Fry for a couple or so minutes until the mixture seems dry, then spoon out onto a plate and set aside.
Put the chickpeas in a bowl and mash with a fork to break them down. The mixture needs to be fairly coarse but soft enough to blend easily with the other ingredients.
Stir the cooled mushroom mixture into the chickpea 'mash, together with the bread crumbs, then shape into four 'patties'.
Put the remaining oil in the frying pan and fry the 'burgers' for 3 - 4 minutes on each side until browned and crisp.
Split two burger buns (pref multi-grain)m and place a mushroom 'burger' on each. Top with a 'dressing' made with a little Greek yogurt mixed with ground cumin or chopped fresh mint, plus a slice of two of tomato.

This next is a recipe that fits in well at this time of the year when we need to find a use for the spuds that are beginning to sprout. Alternatively (as the spuds first need to be cooked) why not used drained canned new potatoes?
Mexican Potatoes: serves 4
1.75lb (800g) cooked potatoes
1 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
half teaspoon chilli powder
half teaspoon paprika
half teaspoon cumin
half teaspoon cayenne pepper
creme fraiche or yogurt to serve
Cut the cooked and well-drained potatoes into cubes. Heat the oil in a frying pan over low to medium heat and gently fry the onion for about 8 minutes until softened, the stir in the garlic and spices and fry for a further couple of minutes.
Add the prepared spuds and shake the pan so the cubes keep turning into the mixture and become coated on all sides. Cook until heated through, the tip onto a shallow dish for everyone to help themselves. Serve with the creme fraiche (sprinkling a little more cayenne or paprika over the top of this as a garnish).

Some of us buy our pulses ready-cooked and in cans, others prefer to buy the dried pulses (much cheaper) and - after soaking where necessary - cook them in bulk and then drain and store in the freezer to use when required. 100g of dried beans - after soaking and cooking - is then the same as 1 x 400g can of beans.

The next recipe is a great one for us store-cupboard (and bean)fanatics. The combination of beans and rice means all the protein in the beans will be absorbed by the body. Beans need 'a grain' to enable this to happen (beans on toast work in the same way). Based on a 'kedgeree/kitcheri' this contains no fish, so purely vegetarian, although it could be served with quartered hard-boiled eggs in the traditional way.
A cheat's way to avoid using all the spices is to use garam masala (curry powder) or stir in curry paste.
Vegetarian 'Kitcheri': serves 4
8 oz (225g) long-grain rice (pref basmati)
1 tblsp oil
1 tblsp butter
1 onion, chopped
tblsp grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 green chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 tsp each cumin and mustard seeds
1 pint (600ml) water
1 x 400g can chosen beans (haricot, pinto etc)
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp turmeric
2 tblsp pumpkin or sunflower seeds
Rinse the rice several times, then drain well. Put the butter and oil into a frying pan, add the onion and ginger, and fry for 5 minutes until the onion is just turning golden, then stir in the garlic, chilli, cumin and mustard seeds, and continue frying for a further couple of minutes.
Tip the rice into the pan, give it a stir to coat, then add the water, beans,bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover pan and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender (basmati usually takes less time than ordinary long-grain). Serve sprinkled with the seeds.

Now for a cauliflower dish. This time a 'cold salad' that is perfect for serving with cold meats.
If at all possible use both ordinary cauli and a 'Romanesco' (these are smaller than cauliflower). Apparently some of the major supermarkets sell the latter, but not (apparently) Tesco. Still have to wait to try one - as they are said to taste superb, and being such a lovely colour with their 'florets' quite beautiful to look at, really make an attractive looking dish. If you can't find Romanesco, use more cauli or tiny broccoli heads.
Cauliflower Vinaigrette: serves 4
1 small (or half large) cauliflower
1 Romanesco
1 small red onion, very finely chopped
1 tblsp capers, rinsed
handful fresh parsley, chopped (pref flatleaf)
3 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Cut florets from both cauli and Romanesco, and put into a pan of boiling, salted water and cook for 5 - 7 minutes until just tender, then drain well.
While the cauli is cooking, make the dressing by whisking together the oil, vinegar and mustard. Return the drained caulis to the pan, pour over the dressing and toss to coat, then leave to cool. When ready to serve, add the prepared onion, capers and parsley.

As you know, I try to make the most of what others might throw away, and a cauliflower soup is often made from just the pale green leaves taken from a bought cauli, plus the stalks and core once the florets have been removed. Once grated and cooked in milk these 'bits' (which are full of cauliflower flavour) do make an excellent soup, especially if the last bit of dried Stilton has also been included. But this is not the soup I wish to mention at the moment, it is the 'sprinkles' that can be served with this (or any other soup depending upon flavour) that can turn this really really thrifty soup into something worth serving to guests.
So next time you make a soup from 'odds and ends', serve with more than one bowlful of 'things' that can be sprinkled over. Suggestions being croutons (made with stale bread - these can be made in advance and stored), crispy bacon bits (ditto), crumbled blue cheese or grated cheese, chopped hard-boiled eggs, chopped fresh herbs, bowls of yogurt or cream to drizzle over. Make a meal of it, why don't you?

Ideas keep popping into my head as I write, and seeing a recipe to make 'Indian-style' gravy (to served with a spicy roast chicken) makes me think this could also make a very tasty soup (perhaps served with a bowl of tiny poppadoms?). Normally the pan juices are used to start off this gravy, but reserved chicken fat (skimmed off after making stock from a carcase is almost as good).
As gravy this is enough to serve up to six. As soup probably three.
If you wish to try this here are the instructions:
Curried Gravy:
1 tblsp chicken fat
2 onions, finely sliced
2 tblsp plain flour
1 pint (600ml) chicken stock
1 tblsp Balti paste (pref Patak's)
salt and pepper
Melt the chicken fat in a saucepan, then fry the onion. Sift in the flour, stir and cook for 2 minutes, then slowly whisk in the stock. When smooth, add the Balti paste and cook until thickened. Season to taste, and serve.

Another thing that came to mind (late last night as it happened) was 'inventing' a new casing for 'Scotch Eggs'. Instead of sausagemeat, why not blitz up some smoked haddock with breadcrumbs or cooked rice and use this instead? Sort of kedgeree round the h.b.egg, instead of vice versa. Believe in today's culinary lingo this is what is cal called 'deconstructing a dish'.

Final recipe today is for a dessert. All of a sudden there seems to be a new kid on the block when it comes to 'fruit tarts'. No longer do we have to faff around lining pie tins, all we have to do is buy ready-rolled pastry and just place the fruit on top, and then bake.
Although this recipe uses both sliced pears and apples, each could be used on their own (or choose other fruits). Likewise the cheese could be as given, or another type crumbled or grated(Wensleydale goes very well with apple pie), or omitted altogether.
I've seen much the same thing made using short-crust pastry where it has been marked into portions before being cooked, each 'portion' having its own border with fruit inside. Puff pastry does 'puff' up more, making it more satisfactory to eat, and is best left complete (not previously marked into portions) to divide up when serving.
Fruit 'Crostata':serves 4 -6
1 x 375g pack ready-rolled puff pastry
2 cooking apples
2 pears
juice of 1 lime or half a lemon
9 oz (225g) goat's cheese (log-shaped)
1 egg with teaspoon of milk
1 tblsp honey, golden syrup, or apricot jam
Roll out the pastry to slightly larger than a sheet of A4 typing paper. Place on a baking sheet and chill in the fridge.
Peel, core and thinly slice the apples and pears, sprinkling over the citrus juice to prevent them browning.
Using a hot wet knife, slice the goat's cheese in half lengthways, and then each strip into thin slices to make semi-circles.
Whisk together the egg and milk, then brush this round the edges of the pastry, roughly half an inch width. Prick the unbrushed pastry with a fork to keep it from rising too much, then place strips of overlapping and alternating apple and pear slices over the pastry, within the egg washed borders.
Place the cheese slices on top of the fruit, then put into a hot oven: 200C, 400F, gas 6, and bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until risen and crispy round the edges, and the cheese has begun to melt.
Meanwhile heat the honey, syrup or jam in a pan, and when the tart is cooked, drizzle this over the top, then serve.