Thursday, June 02, 2011

Slow but Sure

Computer still working on slow speed, from the moment it is switched on, so doubt this has anything to do with blogger. Have got the measure of it, and as long as I remain patient, can - at least - reach my blog site, write my daily diary, and get it published. Steve thinks it is probably due to the age of the comp as it is well past its 'best-before' date. But - as with anything - if it still works, why chuck it? The though has occured to me - could it be the mouse that is causing the problem?

Mentioning 'old stuff', although out daughter now brings her own vacuum cleaner to give our carpets the once over every week or so, the Hoover Junior my mother bought us when we moved into our first home (mid-50's) still works! The giant chest freezer we bought when we moved to Leeds was still working perfectly when we moved here 40 years later, the fridge also (and that was nearly 50 years old). But the freezer was too large for here, and so B decided to replace both with one American style fridge-freezer (that we call 'Boris'), which is great, but the freezer side is not really big enough, and it really hurt (me) to have to get rid of two appliances that still worked (but not in a good enough state to sell or even give away - the delivery men removed them when they brought the new one).
Even our washing machine is over 20 years old, and still works perfectly. Of course, having said this - it will now break down, but we have had it insured during that time, and because of this we will now get a free replacement, so now a win-win situation I suppose.

Agree that pesto is cheap enough to buy Sue15cat. In all honesty don't normally make my own, but the bottled pesto is normally made the traditional way - with basil, and as it does seem that many chefs now make this using other herbs, and if we have plenty of these in the garden, this could be worth a go. As with any product we normally buy, always like to know how to make it myself should the need every arise.

The weather here is slowly improving. Today feels that little bit warmer, although yesterday was still very windy and chilly. Thankfully the wind has now dropped and the forecast is for much warmer weather, so fingers crossed. Hope you too have an improvement Ciao. Think the east coast has been dryer, but still not warm.

Understand that potatoes are ready to harvest once they have flowered Wen, although they can be lifted earlier, but of course the spuds will be much smaller. If deprived of water, they don't grow as large as they should. Although they are supposed to grow in a sunny spot, didn't realise this when I planted last year's crop - these were all in sacks under the north-facing outside of the conservatory window, where the plants grew and grew they almost covered half the windows, but they still produced a good crop of reasonable sized potatoes. Rooster being the very best 'cropper' (these were bought for culinary use and the few small sprouted ones then being planted).

A welcome and hugs to Frugal Fanny, who is asking for ideas to use up home-made yogurt. At least - if it is EasyYo this will keep for at least three weeks in the fridge (maybe even longer). A suggestion when finding a litre is too much, to make only half a batch each time. Either weigh the packet or measure out in spoonfuls, then use half the mix, keeping the rest in its pack, removing air, folding over to seal. If not wishing to use it within a week or so, also store the pack in a sealed jar (or even in the freezer). The freezer helps to prolong the 'shelf-life of many 'dry goods'.
Faced with a litre of yogurt, and supposing this is the natural (or even better) Greek yogurt - this having more uses than the flavoured, this can be used instead of creme fraiche, or even whipped cream. It can also be folded into whipped cream to make it less rich. Equal amounts of yogurt folded into mayonnaise helps this also taste less 'rich'.
Mixed with a little cream cheese, yogurt makes excellent dips (add different flavourings to suit), and can be used (slightly diluted with water) to take the place of buttermilk when baking (great for scones).

Dried fruits stirred into yogurt then left to stand overnight in the fridge will absorb a lot of the liquid, the end result being a 'cheesecake' like texture, and when this is spooned onto a layer of buttery biscuit crumbs can be served as this dessert.
'Soft cheese' is another product of yogurt. Just spoon yogurt into a sieve lined with muslin (or a new J cloth works just as well), then tie up the bundle, let it drip over a bowl for several hours (the whey can be used in baking), and we end up with a creamy cheese. The longer we let it drip the firmer the cheese.

Yogurt 'Ice-cream' is also another way to use yogurt, and one of the easiest to make is to fold equal quantities of plain (Greek) yogurt into lemon curd, then freeze.

Skinned chicken joints (flesh slashed in several places) can be marinaded in yogurt and spices before being cooked to make a curry. Curry is also usually accompanied by 'Raita', a dish of yogurt into which has been folded some very finely chopped or grated cucumber and chopped mint. A pinch of icing sugar is something I also like to add.
'Lassi' is an Indian drink/dessert that is great when served with (or after) an Indian meal, as yogurt will ease the mouth after eating a mega-hot curry. Drinking cold water makes it worse. When making a curry that has turned out to be too highly spiced, stirring yogurt into the dish immediately before serving helps to 'ease it'. Or we can just add a dollop to the top of individual curries, and we can eat a bit with each spoonful of curry.

Frugal Fanny's query has now sent me off finding recipes that use yogurt, so here are today's selection - some have already appeared on this site, but worth repeating:

The first two recipes are similar - but different. We all like to vary a dish, and two recipes - being better than one - give us the chance to combine some of the ingredients of each in each to make a third. Use either home-cook raw beetroot, peeled, or (as I usually do) buy the vacuum packed beetroot (the ones that keep for months - unopened - in the fridge), but NOT the ones in vinegar.
Beetroot Dip: makes just under a pint
1 lb (500g) cooked and peeled beetroot
1 clove garlic, crushed
7 oz (200g) yogurt
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp lemon juice
Roughly chop the beetroot then blend/process or mash with the remaining ingredients until smooth. Chill for at least an hour to allow flavours to develop, then serve with water biscuits, bread sticks, crudites, tortilla chips etc.

Beetroot Tzatziki: serves 6
2 large cooked beetroot (approx 14oz/400g)
11 oz (280g) yogurt
4 oz (100g) ricotta cheese
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tblsp lemon juice
2 tblsp finely chopped fresh chives
2 tblsp finely chopped fresh mint
Roughly chop the beetroot, then place in a blender with the yogurt, cheese, garlic and lemon juice and blitz until combined (as rough or as smooth as you wish), then spoon into a bowl and fold in the herbs.

As 'raita' is served with curry to cut the heat, we can also boost the yogurt to something spicier to serve with a milder 'kofta', so am including a recipe for both as this particular 'kofta' is made using bulgar/burghul wheat, that recently a reader was seeking recipes for use.
Lamb Koftas with Spiced Yogurt: makes 40 Koftas
2 oz (50g) burgul wheat
1 lb (450g) minced lamb
1 egg
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tblsp chopped fresh mint
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
2 oz (50g) pine nuts (or flaked almonds) finely chopped
spiced yogurt:
1 small chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tblsp chopped fresh mint
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tblsp chopped fresh coriander
1 clove garlic, crushed
half tsp ground cumin
7 oz (200g) Greek (thick) yogurt
Put the burgul wheat into a bowl and cover with cold water, leave it to stand for 10 minutes, then drain well - squeezing out excess water - and pat dry with kitchen paper. The idea is to remove as much liquid as possible.
Put the now prepared burgul into a bowl with the minced lamb and the remaining kofta ingredients, mix well (using clean hands as these are the best 'tools' for the job), then take rounded teaspoons of the mixture and form into small balls. Place these on a tray, cover and chill in the fridge for a good half hour. In the meantime make the spiced yogurt by combining all the ingredients for this in a bowl. Also place in the fridge to chill.
To cook the koftas, shallow-fry in batches until browned all over and cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with the spiced yogurt.

There are many different versions of Raita, mine being mentioned earlier today. The Greeks have something similar called Tsatziki, and am giving this recipe (a beetroot version is above) because it just that little bit different to the Indian Raita. In a dish such as this I prefer to use icings sugar as it dissolves instantly. Othewise use caster or granulated.
Tzatsiki: serves 4 as part of a 'meze'
9 oz (250g) Greek yogurt
half cucumber, peeled, deseeded and grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
16 black olives (pref Kalamata), stoned and halved
3 tblsp chopped dill
2 tsp white wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. It can be served immediately, at room temperature, but best covered and chilled for about an hour before serving.

This next dish should be an all-round 'pleaser', for it is a meatless version (therefore cheaper) of a 'strogonoff', and yogurt can be used instead of sour cream/creme fraiche. For those who love the flavour of meat, suggest stirring in a little concentrated beef stock to the mushrooms before finishing the cooking and stirring in the creamy sauce. Normally strogonoff is served with rice or noodles. The 'carbos' in this version come from toast. Chestnut mushrooms (and also the large open flat 'field' mushrooms)', have a much more 'meatier' flavour than the normal 'white buttons'. But these can also be used.
Instead of using chives, snip the green parts of spring onions, or - even better - snip the green tops from the onions that might have sprouted in the veggie rack. Waste not, want not!
Mushroom Strogonoff: serves 2
1 oz (25g) butter, softened
1 clove garlic (crushed)
8 oz (225g) chestnut mushrooms, sliced thickly
2 thick (toasting) slices of bread (pref granary)
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper
3 tblsp creme fraiche
2 tblsp Greek yogurt
few snipped chives
Melt the butter in the pan and stir in the garlic and mushrooms. Fry over high heat until the mushrooms are tender, then stir in the mustard, seasoning to taste, adding the creme fraiche and yogurt just before serving. When the mushrooms are ready - up to adding the mustard stage - toast the bread, butter the top side, place on plates, finish off the mushrooms then spoon these onto the top of the toasts, scattering over the chives.

Yogurt always goes well with curry, and this next dish is a favourite of mine as it makes use of those chicken 'fillets' that I remove from the breasts and freeze separately (mentioned a few days ago). This is a good curry to make for those who prefer it 'mild'. Reduce quantities if wishing to make smaller portions, although most curries freeze well, and perhaps best to stir in the yogurt after thawing and when reheating.
Chicken Pasanda: serves 4
2 tsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lb (450g) chicken fillets (or breast) cut into chunks
1 tblsp mild curry powder or paste (suggest Korma)
1 tsp ground coriander (opt)
14 fl oz (400ml) hot chicken stock
1 oz (25g) desiccated coconut
1 oz (25g) ground almonds
1 oz (25g) sultanas
1 small banana, sliced
5 os (150g) Greek yogurt
1 - 2 tblsp flaked almonds
Put the oil in a large saucepan or frying pan (one with a lid), then add the onion and cook until softened, stirring in the garlic towards the end. Add the chunks of chicken and cook for a few minutes, turning occasionally, until sealed, then stir in the curry powder/paste, the ground coriander (if using) and cook for a further minutes. Stir in the stock, then the coconut, ground almonds, sultanas and the banana. Heat until almost boiling, then reduce heat, partially cover the pan, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the yogurt, heat through and serve, sprinkling the almonds on top.

That's the recipes for today. Tomorrow hope to come up with the sweeter side of using yogurt, so recipes for trifles, cheesecakes, ice-creams, scones and muffins might appear on this page. Or might not, according to what delights I feel like sharing with you. Yes, I can be mean at times. You will have to log on to find out.

Yesterday took the day off from cooking and asked B to bring in a Chinese take-away. My choice was Sweet and Sour Chicken which led to a return of my dyspepsia due to the vinegar (all acid foods now seem to affect me), and although could have happily eaten the meal had I had a 'Rennie' to suck, unfortunately discovered I'd run out so had to have a short lie down - thus missing half of 'The Apprentice'. Can watch the first half repeated on BBC 3 tonight. How B and I cheered when (unusually) a second 'apprentices' was also voted off yesterday, he being the one we disliked the most.

A dry morning, the wind seems to have dropped almost to nil, and although cloudy am going to now nip off with Norris to go to the local pharmacy to buy more Rennies, and also see if they stock malt (chemists always used to), as am wishing to make malt loaf again.
We have run out of bread, so will either make a white or granary loaf on my return as well as the above. Also tend my greenhouse plants, pot up some nasturtiums that are taking over the conservatory and already in flower, and 'potter' around generally. Not yet sure what to cook for supper. Personally feel last night's supper was enough to last me a couple of days without the need to eat more. Beloved of course is already getting pangs of hunger.

Enjoy your day, as I intend to enjoy mine. If you can find the time, we will get together again tomorrow. See you then.