Saturday, March 26, 2011

Slow cook, No cook...

The first recipe is made with both apples and plums, but also pears (these can be omitted if you have none, just replace these with more apples/plums. The flavour can vary according to the variety of fruit chosen, my personal favourites (for most things) being Bramley apples, Conference pears and Victoria plums.

Apple, Pear and Plum Jam:
equal quantities of apples, pears and plums
grated lemon rind
fresh root ginger
Peel and core the apples and pears, then slice the flesh finely. Stone and chop the plums, the put all the fruit into a preserving pan with a little water (just enough to stop them sticking to the pan before they release their own juice) and simmer over low heat until soft and tender, and the mixture is pulpy.
Measure this pulp, and to each pint (600ml) add 1 lb (450g) sugar and the grated zest of 1 small lemon, plus 2 tsp grated fresh root ginger. Place back into cleaned preserving pan and and stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved, then raise heat and boil for about 10 minutes until setting point is reached. Pot into warm sterilised jars, seal and store.

This next suggestion is a way to make a supply of 'fresh' apples to last through the winter. Use firm, ripe apples (not Bramleys), and when preparing them, immediately place the cut slices into salted water to prevent them turning brown. Of course, if the rings break, smaller pieces of apple can still be dried. In the old days the 'rings' were more useful as they could then be hung on thin strips of wood to dry out over a warm range. Nowadays we use the oven or airing cupboard.

Because meringues are best 'dried out' in the oven, rather than cooked, have successfully dried meringues by piping them onto parchment paper strips and laying these on top of our central heating radiators, no doubt apples could also be dried the same way.

Dried Apple Rings:
First prepare a bowl of cold water, stirring in 2 tsp salt to each pint of water, then place this at the side of where you are preparing the apples.
Peel and core the apples, then slice them across (not too thinly) in rings and immediately place these in the salted water. When enough apples have been prepared, remove the rings from the water, pat dry with kitchen paper, and lay out to dry on a wire rack that has been covered with butter muslin/cheesecloth. Then place to dry in an even temperature (48 - 65C/120-150F) either in the oven (with the door slightly ajar, or in a warm airing cupboard.
The time taken will vary according to the thickness of the rings, but the rings will be dried when they have become leathery and slightly crisp at the edges. Cool thoroughly before being packed in paper bags (NOT plastic as this makes them sweat and go mouldy).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Grumpy Old Git!

With the recipe below, if you haven't mustard powder, use 1 tsp ready-made Dijon mustard, or half tsp English mustard (more if you can stand the heat). The best milk to use is 'full cream', but if you use only semi or skimmed milk - and although not essential - this can be 'strengthened' by stirring in a good tablespoon of dried milk.
Macaroni and Tomato Cheese: serves 4
9 oz (250g) macaroni
2 oz (50g) butter
2 oz (50g) plain flour
good pinch cayenne pepper
half tsp dry mustard powder
1 tsp tomato paste
1 pint (600ml) milk
8 oz (225g) grated Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
4 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 slice bread, crumbed
Cook the macaroni as per packet instructions, then drain and rinse well under cold running water before setting aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour, cayenne and mustard powder (or made mustard), cook over low heat for 1 minute, then stir in the tomato paste and gradually whisk in the milk, continuing to beat until the sauce begins to boil, then simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and fold in the macaroni and two-thirds of the cheese, adding seasoning to taste. Spoon half into a lightly greased or buttered ovenproof dish and arrange half the sliced tomatoes on top, then repeat with the rest of the macaroni and tomatoes. Mix together the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle this on the top, then pop into the oven and bake for 20 or so minutes at 180C, 325F, gas 4 or until heated through and the topping is crisp and golden.

Perhaps because I am British, tend to believe that potatoes and pasta just don't go together in one dish. Both are 'carbohydrates' so why 'over-egg the pudding'? However, an esteemed Italian chef proves that the two can be make good 'bedmates', so here's his recipe (translated into Italian: Pasta e patate con ragu di salsiccia).
Macaroni and Potato with Sausage Sauce: serves 4
sausage sauce:
1 lb (500g) potatoes, finely diced
5 oz (150g) sausage, finely sliced
1 onion, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
goat's cheese (or your choice of crumbly cheese)
7 oz (200g) '00' Italian wheat flour
4 oz (100g) semolina flour
3 eggs
tsp salt
First make the macaroni by first mixing together the two flours. Make a well in the centre and break in the eggs and salt. Using the fingers, mix together to make a smooth and even dough. Roll out, not too thinly, then cut into thin short strips with a pastry cutter to make the macaroni. Have ready a pan of salted boiling water.
To make the sauce: put a little of the oil into a frying pan over medium heat and saute the onions, then stir in the diced potatoes. Leave to cook for five minutes while frying the sausage in a separate pan.
While the above are cooking, put the pasta into the pan of fast boiling water and cook until al dente (3 - 4 minutes should be about right when making your own, or cook as per packet instructions), and when ready drain well, fold into the potato mixture, add the hot sausage, tip onto a warmed serving dish and sprinkle the top with crumbled goat's cheese.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mincing Matters

Because we all have now to consider the cost of everything we buy, am giving today a few 'minced meat' recipes that use less that we would expect to feed four, and particularly useful when we wish to buy the more expensive 'quality' minced steak, as then the dish will cost no more than following a similar recipe that uses the full amount of cheapest mince.

The first recipe is almost a 'chilli wrap', and we can choose between filling pitta pockets with the cooked mixture, or tucking it inside cripsy taco shells (or even wrapping the 'meat, salad and salsa' in a warmed flour tortilla). Although more a light lunch or supper dish, this is still a 'balanced meal', and remember we don't have to stuff ourselves sick to keep ourselves alive - especially when we use quality ingredients. Only 1 oz (25g) mince is needed per person in this recipe as the red beans also contain protein.

Beans 'n Beef Pockets: serves 4
4 oz (100g) minced steak
1 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
half tsp chilli powder
half tsp ground cumin
1 x 300g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tblsp tomato paste
4 fl oz (100ml) water
1 pint measure, finely shredded iceberg lettuce
1 small onion, finely chopped
quarter cucumber, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 tomato, seeds removed, flesh finely chopped
half tsp chilli sauce OR half tsp each oil and lemon juice
8 pitta bread or taco shells
Put the minced steak in a bowl with the garlic and olive oil and work together with your hands so the 'grains' of meat are separated and coated with the oil, then heat a dry frying pan and sprinkle in the beef, stirring until thoroughly browned all over. When nearly cooked, stir in the chilli powder and the cumin, fry for 1 minute then stir in the tomato paste, the water and the red beans. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes to thicken the mixture (remove lid if you wish to thicken it further).
Meanwhile make the 'salsa'. Mix together the prepared onion, cucumber, tomato and chilli sauce (or oil and lemon).
When the meat is cooked, remove from heat but keep warm. Place the pitta bread or taco shells in the oven (180C, 350F, gas 4) for five minutes to heat through (with care this could also be done under a grill - and I have heated pitta successfully in a toaster, giving them just a few seconds, no longer or they would dry up).
To serve, line each pitta 'pocket' (or taco) with shredded lettuce and a little of the salsa, top with the meat filling, and finish with a further topping of the remaining salsa.

This next 'mini-mince' recipe admittedly uses more meat than above, but still only 2 oz (50g) per person. That's my type of cooking. The pies can be made in deep muffin tins, or the shallower and wider Yorkshire Pudding tins, or use any small tin of the size you wish. You could also make one big pie.
Puff pastry is used, but no reason why short-crust couldn't be substituted. Use what you have. If you wish to make larger pies (but still use the same amount of meat), allow for extra pastry and to the filling add diced cooked (or grated) carrot, increase the size of the onion, add more peas. By now you know exactly the way my mind works when it comes to making the meat go further..
If using a cube to make the beef stock, only use a quarter or it might end up too salty.

Beef and Vegetable Pies: makes 6
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
11 oz (300g) minced beef (pref steak)
1 x 400g chopped tomatoes
1 - 2 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tblsp tomato paste
4 fl oz (110ml) beef stock
2 oz (50g) frozen peas
salt and pepper
3 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Put the oil in a large saucepan, and fry the onion over medium heat for a few minutes until softened, then stir in the mince and cook until it has changed colour. Fold in the tomato paste, the chopped tomatoes, and the W. sauce, finally adding the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. The mixture needs to be fairly thick. Remove from heat, stir in peas and leave to cool.
Use whichever sized tin you choose (see above) and cut the pastry to line the base and sides, pricking the bases (if using puff pastry), then line with parchment, fill with baking beans (if using puff pastry chill for half an hour) then bake blind at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 10 minutes, then remove paper and baking beans. Leave to cool before filling with the mince mixture. Brush edges of pastry with egg, and top with pastry lids, pressing edges down to seal. Brush tops with remaining egg, and bake at the same temperature for 15 - 20 minutes until golden brown. Leave in baking tins for 5 minutes before removing and serving with chosen vegetables or a crisp salad.

A way to 'extend' the more expensive minced steak is to mix it with minced pork (a traditional blend in parts of Italy when making spag.bol meat sauce). The recipe below uses even cheaper chicken livers with the beef, based on the original recipe from Bologna..
Serve this sauce with spaghetti, layered between sheets of lasagne, or as Cannelloni (filled tubes of pasta), or in any way you choose.

Bolognese Meat Sauce: serves 4
3 rashers bacon, finely diced
2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot (approx 2 oz/50g), finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
12 oz (350g) beef mince
6 oz (175g) chicken livers, trimmed, finely chopped
8 fl oz (225ml) milk
1 oz (25g) butter
8 fl oz (225g) beef stock
2 tblsp red wine
half a 400g can chopped tomatoes
2 tblsp tomato paste
Fry the bacon with the oil in a heavy frying pan, and keep stirring until just turning crispy. Add the onion, carrot, celery and continue frying gently until the vegetables have softened, then stir in the beef mince and chicken livers. Continue stirring and turning the contents until the beef has changed colour, then add the milk and butter, then leave to simmer (but still stir occasionally) until the liquid has nearly disappeared.
Add the beef stock, red wine, chopped tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir to combine, then simmer (uncovered) for about an hour (add half an hour longer if using cheap mince). Then it is ready to use/serve as you wish.

Final recipe today is a 'one-pot' dish based around an Italian soup that gets the best from veggies we have in our kitchen, and with the addition of canned beans AND meatballs turns it a proper 'feast in a dish'. 'Minestra' is 'minestrone soup' made without meat. Some recipes also include shredded white cabbage when making this soup. Today's recipes starts off as 'minestra', with the meat (balls) added towards the end.
Traditionally, this dish would be made with 'risoni' - a rice-shaped pasta, but orzo could be used instead. Some cooks use long-grain rice, and some prefer to use small pasta (tiny pieces of broken spaghetti are as good as). If you wish, minced chicken could be used instead of pork. If the balls are made with minced beef, then allow a longer frying and cooking time.
When making a large amount of meat balls, fry in batches otherwise they cool the fat down too quickly and then the meat tends to steam/braise rather than fry.

Minestra with Meat Balls: serves 4
9 oz (250g) minced lean pork
1 tsp paprika
1 egg
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tblsp tomato paste
2 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 carrots, finely diced
1 rib celery, sliced then diced
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
15 fl oz (425ml) chicken stock
15 fl oz (425ml) water
2 courgettes, finely diced
1 x 400g borlotti, haricot, or pinto beans, drained
4 oz (100g) risoni (see above) or rice/pasta
salt and pepper
Put the pork, paprika, egg, half the onion, and half the tomato paste into a bowl and mix well together, then roll heaped teaspoons of the mixture into balls. Put the oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat and fry the meatballs until browned all over. Then - using a slotted spoon - remove meat balls and set aside. Stir the onion into the oil in the pan and cook until softened, then stir in the garlic, carrot and celery. Cook/stir until the vegetables are just tender, then stir in the remaining tblsp of tomato paste, the chopped tomatoes, stock and water, and bring to the boil, then stir in the remaining ingredients, adding seasoning to taste. Return the meatballs to the pan, spooning over the sauce, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve in individual dishes, sharing the meatballs between each.

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.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Have a Good(e) Think!!

Today I start with 'one-pot' meals. Perhaps my favourites, as these can mostly be left to cook slowly in their own time at low heat, either in the oven or on the hob.let's start with that one. No, not cheating because it is made in 'one-pot' (well 'deep dish') and when served with salad, no other cooking needs to be done. If other vegetables were included in the pie (peas, carrots...) not even a salad need be prepared.
Cheese, Onion and Potato Pie: serves 6
1 lb (500g) shortcrust pastry
4 oz (100g) grated Cheddar (or other hard) cheese
4 oz (100g) same cheese, but thinly sliced
1 x 200g tub creme fraiche
2 lb (900g) jloury potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
freshly ground black pepper
a good pinch paprika pepper
small grating nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
Roll out 2/3rds of the pastry to line a 9" deep pie tin. Bake blind for 10 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6, then remove from oven. Mix the grated cheese with the creme fraiche, then start layering the pastry case with sliced potato, onion, and the sliced cheese, dotting a teaspoon or so of the creme fraiche mix between each layer, and also a little of the seasonings as you go. Keep layering until all the fillings have been used up - which will rise well above the sides of the dish.
Roll out the remaining pastry so that it is large enough to fit over the filling, brush the sides of the dish with egg, place the filling over the pie and press the pastry to seal to the pie rim, trimming away any surplus (you can roll this out to make leaves to decorated the top if you wish). Crimp pastry edges with a fork, then brush the surface with egg and return to oven to bake for half an hour at the above temperature, reducing to 180C, 350F, gas 4 for a further hour. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

Although we think of stews and casseroles as more a winter dish, this next is definitely one for the spring as it uses seasonal vegetables (although similar or frozen ones could be used in place of fresh), and cooked on the hob instead of having to use the more expensive oven heat. As ever, the weight of the chicken is more to do with the portions you wish to serve rather than their weight. Myself prefer to work by price rather than weight.
Chicken in a Pot: serves 4
1 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
1 lb (500g) chicken thighs, skinned and boned
10 oz (300g) small 'new' potatoes
15 fl oz (425ml) vegetable (or chicken) stock
freshly ground black pepper
8 oz (225g) broccoli, broken into small florets
12 oz (350g) spring greens, shredded
5 oz (150g) peas or broad beans (or mixture of both)
green leaves of sprouting onions, sliced (see above)
2 tblsp pesto
Heat the oil in a large, heat-proof and fairly deep pan. Add the onions and gently fry for 5 minutes, the lay in the chicken thighs, top side down, and fry until lightly coloured, then turn and cook the underside (this way the appearance is better when served from the dish at the table).
Add the stock, potatoes, and a generous amount of black pepper (to taste of course, you can add more later) then bring to the boil, cover and simmer for half an hour until the potatoes are tender. By then the chicken should also be cooked through - but check if your thighs are larger than normal (well you know what I mean).
Time then to stir in the broccoli, spring greens, (frozen) peas/broad beans, and the onion tops. Bring back to the boil, cover and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the pesto, take the pan to the table and serve.

The final recipe today is another 'one-pot', again cooked on the hob although this time you need to be in hovering distance to give it a stir when necessary. Not quite a curry, more a lightly spiced 'pilaf', but as it uses mainly store-cupboard ingredients (this includes frozen veg), a good cheap dish to serve when 'the fresh' has just about run out.
Green Bean Pilaff: serves 4
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 oz (25g) butter
12 oz (350g) long-grain rice (pref basmati)
handful fresh herbs: dill, parsley or mint, chopped
1 3/4 pints (1 ltr) vegetable stock
good pinch saffron (opt)
1 - 2 tsp ground turmeric
1 lb (500g) mixed frozen broad beans, peas, green beans
6 oz (175g) Greek yogurt
1 - 2 tbsp milk
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a large deep frying pan and fry the onions for about 5 minutes until just beginning to brown. Stir in the turmeric followed by the rice to coat the grains with the now coloured and flavoured butter. Pour in 1 1/2 pints of the stock, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the beans and half the herbs, and continue cooking for five minutes more, by which time the rice should have absorbed the liquid and become tender. If necessary add some (or all) of the remaining stock (which should be very hot). The pilaf should be 'dry' rather than 'moist' as when making a risotto.
Remove the pan from the heat, replacing lid to keep the food warm, then mix the yogurt with the garlic and enough milk and seasoning to taste, then spoon this on the top of the pilaf, and garnish by scattering over the remaining herbs. Take the pan to the table and left everyone help themselves.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Thoughts

At this time of the year still too cool to concentrate on salads, but not cold enough to keep stuffing ourselves with endless casseroles, so today am giving a recipe to make a speedy biriyani that suits almost all weather conditions. The joy of this curry is that it can be started from scratch (once ingredients are assembled together) and be on your plate in under half an hour, with no need to turn on the oven.
If you wish this could be made with chicken instead of lamb, in which case use chicken stock.
Lamb Biriyani: serves 4
approx 11 oz (300g) lean lamb, cut into 1" cubes
1 tblsp mild curry paste (Korma) or medium if you prefer
2 tblsp sunflower oil
cayenne pepper
1 oz (25g) butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 lamb stock cube
10 fl oz (300ml) hot water
7 oz (200g) long-grain rice
salt and pepper
Place the lamb in a bowl with the curry paste and 1 tblsp sunflower oil and using your fingers, rub this round the meat so that it is thoroughly coated.
Put the remaining tblsp of oil into a large frying pan with the butter, add the lamb and fry gently for 5 minutes. Add the onion to the pan with the red pepper, and crumble in the stock cube. Stir to coat the vegetables with the flavours, and then pour in the hot water followed by the rice and pinch of cayenne, adding salt and pepper to taste. Cover and leave to simmer gently for 15 minutes, by which time the liquid should have been absorbed and the rice become tender. If necessary, add more hot water.
Serve in a warmed dish with mango chutney, raita, poppadums or what you will.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

If Only....

If you have certain foods you like to eat, here are the best herbs to grow to suit each type, - there are others, but these are those most commonly used and grown:

for fish dishes:
Grow fennel, dill, sorrel, thyme, parsley, sorrel. Some of these herbs don't like being in the hot sun, so keep them moist and grow in partial shade.

for poultry dishes:
Grow bay, parsley, thyme, tarragon, sage, lemon balm, lemon thyme. Again best grown in partial shade.

herbs that go with vegetables:
Rosemary, basil, mint, chives, celery leaf, chervil, lemon thyme, garlic. Rosemary likes full sun, bay full sun, but protection in the winter, the rest partial shade.

meat dishes:
Rosemary, mint, thyme, sage, marjoram/oregano, coriander, garlic. Rosemary and sage can stand sun, the others partial shade.

If having to make a limited choice would grow only: mint, chives, parsley, basil, rosemary and thyme, with the perennials preferably grown outdoors (containers or in the ground - we discovered a big bush or rosemary when me moved here, so one less to buy), the annuals more usually grown in pots standing on a south-facing windowsill. ALWAYS have a bay tree (planted in a sheltered spot will grow into an enormous bush - in Leeds our butcher would take whole branches of this herb in exchange for a bag of sausages! Here we have only a small bush in a pot - and this was a very welcome house-warming gift).

Join me tomorrow for yet another read about our Goode Life. See you then.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Familiar Foods

We begin with 'quinoa' (pronounced 'keen-wah', not that it matters) as it is high in 'nutrition', especially protein. This meaning it is the most useful grain to have in store when it comes to what I like to call 'times of crisis' when food supplies might be short and we have to find other ways of keeping the family healthy than just serve 'meat and two veg'. Being gluten free, also useful for those with this food intolerance. It can be used as an alternative to rice when making certain dishes.
As another of those grains that needs a 'bit of a lift', spices and lemons are added to the quinoa to give flavour.
The recipe serves six, but if you work on 1 oz (25g) quinoa per person, you can make only as much as you need, adjusting the other ingredients - more or less - to suit your taste.

Quinoa Salad: serves 6
6 oz (175g) quinoa, rinsed then drained
6 tblsp olive oil
juice of 2 limes (or 1 lemon)
juice of 1 orange
2 fresh green chillies, seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt, to taste
half a cucumber
1 large tomato, cubed
4 spring onions, sliced
2 tblsp each fresh chopped mint and parsley
Put the rinsed quinoa into a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 - 12 minutes until tender. Drain and leave to get cool.
Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking the oil, citrus juices and garlic together, then stir in the chillies and salt to taste.
Cut the cucumber in half (you can remove the peel if you wish but I like to keep it on), and scoop the seeds from the centre using a teaspoon. Dice the cucumber, then add to the quinoa with the prepared tomato, spring onions and herbs. Toss well to mix together, then pour the dressing over and toss again.
Can be eaten immediately, or left to chill in the fridge for an hour to allow flavours to be absorbed.

Cracked wheat (aka bulgar wheat) makes this delicious salad, together with ingredients that most of us have in store. If we have no oranges, we could use canned mandarin oranges. The three recipes given today all have similar ingredients, and one grain could be substituted for another in all dishes. We could even play around and use some ingredients from one and some from another (and another) to make a salad that's entirely our own. The recipes uses a green bell pepper, but no reason why a red, orange or yellow one couldn't be used. The reason it suggests green is more the appearance of the dish than the flavour it gives.

Orange and Bulgar Salad: serves 6
5 oz (150g) bulgar wheat
1 pint (600ml) water
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cubed
a quarter of a cucumber, diced
2 tblsp fresh chopped mint
1 - 2 oz (25 - 50g) flaked almonds, toasted
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 large orange, peeled and segmented
salt and pepper
Put the bulgar wheat into a pan with the water, bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, until tender OR - to save fuel - put the bulgar into a bowl, pour over boiling water, cover and leave to soak for half an hour. By then most of the water should have been absorbed. Drain off any surplus.
Put the green pepper, cucumber, mint, and almonds into a bowl, stir in the bulgar and add the lemon zest and juice. Add the orange segments to the mixture (together with any juice that may have come from the orange whilst peeling and segmenting), add seasoning to taste, and toss gently to combine. Serve as a side salod with cooked meats or what you will.

A similar dish to the above, but with fewer ingredients is made using couscous - the recipe below being a variation of the Tabbouleh. Because couscous has no flavour of its own, it is much improved by soaking in a vegetable or chicken stock, but as long as there are plenty of herbs added, together with the dressing, plain water could be used instead. If the salad is intended to be kept overnight before being eaten, the best made with water or vegetable stock and not a meat-based one.
'Tabbouleh' and similar grain based dishes are often served in lettuce 'cups' (Little Gem lettuce is the one to use for this), so that when filled with the grain salad, it can be picked up in the hand and eaten at the wander.

Couscous Salad: serves 4
10 oz (275g) couscous
8 fl oz (225ml) boiling water, vegetable or chicken stock
handful black olives - stoned and halved or sliced (opt)
1 oz (25g) flaked almonds, pref. toasted
4 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp orange juice
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley (more if you wish)
1 tblsp chopped fresh coriander or mint (more if you wish)
pinch ground cumin (opt)
good pinch cayenne pepper
Put the couscous into a bowl, then pour over the boiling stock. Give it a stir with a fork, then cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes to allow the stock to be absorbed. Fluff up with a fork, then add the rest of the ingredients, stirring the lot together. Chill for a few hours to allow flavours to develop, then serve. This type of dish (as the one above) eats well with kebabs.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Buy Today, Grow Tomorrow, Free Forever!

When we grow our own produce, most of the time we start off by buying a packet of seeds (although a lot are given away free these days - my free tomato seeds came with a Lakeland catalogue, and last year they gave away packs of Mixed Salad Leaves, one pack keeping us in 'free' salads throughout the summer). Some magazines come with more than one packet of free seeds...). With certain produce there are far too many seeds needed to grow what we want in just one year, and normally (kept correctly - dry and cool) these seeds can continue to be sown over several years. Or we could share them with others, who - in return- share other seeds with us.

Even if there are only a few seeds in a pack, once the plant has grown to maturity, it is possible to save its seeds and grow these the following year, so you could say "once bought, always have....'" Now that's my type of cost-cutting (some call it 'self-sufficiency'), but of course, we have to put some effort into having 'food for free'.

Even now tend to take the cheat's route and instead of buying from a seeds merchant, save/use the seeds from a veggie bought from the supermarket (bell peppers, butternut squash grow well...). We can also save seeds from bought tomatoes (although these need rather special treatment before they grow again), and certainly we ought to let one box of Mixed Salad Leaves grow to maturity (first flower, then set seed) so we can save the hundreds of seeds they will produce. Being a 'mixed bunch' to be sown 'mixed' again, no need to keep the varieties separate.

Just think about it. We sow one seed, and this will end up growing into one plant that itself could produce
hundreds of seeds. Nature's way of making sure that a few at least survive (in the wild birds would eat most, and many seeds get blown onto infertile ground). It's like any living thing, when there are enough preditors around, quite a lot of 'offpring' have to be produced to make sure at least a couple manage to live to adulthood (think of frog-spawn, baby fish, baby turtles...). When WE are in control of their survival, and care for our plants in the correct weay, we can make sure most of their seeds stay viable, giving more than enough for our needs, as least as long as we have the need to keep sowing and growing, or even wish to.
As well as just seeds saved to grow again, many can be dried and then used late for our food (such as dried beans, peas etc, and we can also eat pumpkin and sunflower seeds), so a double bonus.

Even such things as potatoes... We plant one that has sprouted (possibly from the supermarket) and this could provide us later in the year with a bucketful. The most frugal of us might keep at least one back to plant again the following year. Occasionally - when growing spuds in our small garden in Leeds - would see a potato plant growing through the soil, and realised that when the spuds were lifted the previous year, a small on must have been left in the ground, and - as nature intended - this began sprouting and growing again. Even had a potato plat growing in our compost heap - this had to be from potato peelings (with a shoot on) that had been thrown on (and later covered up) months earlier.
Given enough land, and once we have done the initial buying, sowing and planting, with no really adverse weather to wipe out the crops, we should be able to keep ourselves in free and fresh produce - forever!

Cheese and Herb Cornbread:
11 oz (300g) cornmeal (inst. polenta)
half tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
4 oz (100g) Cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 - 2 tblsp finely chopped chives
8 fl oz (225ml) milk
5 tblsp sunflower oil
3 eggs
Put the cornmeal into a bowl with the salt and baking powder and stir with a fork until well mixed together. Then stir in the cheese and the chives. Put the milk, oil and eggs into a jug and gently beat together, then pour over the dry mix and - using the fork - quickly mix together. The mixture will be runny.
Pour into a well greased 7" (18cm) square cake tin and bake at 200C, 180F, gas 6 for 25 minutes or until light golden and springy when touched in the centre. Remove from tin.
Best served warm with butter, although can be eaten cold - also spread with butter. Wrapped in foil, this bread will keep 'fresh' for up to 3 days.

This next recipe is for an Italian meat 'stew', where this uses 'polenta' as the carbohydrate part of the dish instead of potatoes (that we Brits would be more inclined to use). It's getting to the point where we have to consider the cost of every ingredient used, and if we find that cornmeal/semolina works out cheaper than potatoes, then it makes sense to use a them.
As this is a 'classic' recipe, have left the weights and measures as given, but see no reason why we can't use less meat and more vegetables to keep the cost down. Veal is the given meat, but because of the length of cooking time we could also use pork, lamb or a fairly tender cut of beef.
For the 'pulped' tomatoes, suggest using canned 'plum' tomatoes that have been blitzed in a blender or food processor.
The recipe uses the old way of making polenta - which takes time, and if we have bought the 'instant' polenta grains, this usually cuts the time by at least half as it is already 'part cooked'. When using semolina and cornmeal, we shouldn't try to reduce the cooking time by using less water, for the grain needs time to swell and cook fully. Best to just 'test by tasting'.
The amount of butter used is far more than I would wish to, so probably less of this could be used. Otherwise just make less polenta in the first place.

Spezzatino con polenta: serves 4 - 6
2 lbs (1kg) veal (see above), cubed
7 oz (200g) pulped tomatoes (see above)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery finely chopped
1 sprig rosemary, leaves only, chopped
white wine (amount not specified)
light olive or sunflower oil
salt and pepper
lemon peel
1.75 pints (1 ltr) water
1 tsp salt
9 oz (250g) polenta, cornmeal (or semolina)
9 oz (250g) butter
2 0z (50g) Parmesan, grated
Begin by making the polenta. Put the water in a pan with the salt and bring to the boil. Pour in the polenta and stir with a wooden spoon. Continue stirring over a medium to high heat, until it forms a thick mass, then reduce heat to a very low simmer, and allow to keep cooking (while still stirring from time to time) for 45 minutes, by which time it should be thick enough for the spoon to stand upright in it all by itself. Then stir in the butter and Parmesan.
Pour into a greased shallow baking tin, levelling the surface and allow to get cold.
To make the 'stew', heat a large saucepan, adding a little oil and fry the onions, celery and carrots until they are turning golden brown, then stir in the chosen cubed meat together with a little lemon peel. Add seasoning to taste, then the chopped rosemary leaves. Next add wine (or water - and possibly to barely cover the meat) and the pulped tomatoes, then leave to cook for approx 2 hours or until the meat is tender.
When ready to serve, cut the polenta into slices and brush the surface with oil. Place on a hot griddle (or under a grill) and 'toast' until heated through, turning once. Serve with the meat stew.

Friday, March 11, 2011

'Fast' Food

Walnut and Chocolate Oatie Cookies: makes 16
5 oz (125g) butter, softened
5 oz (125g) caster sugar
1 egg
1 - 2 tsp vanilla extract
5 oz (125) porridge oats
3 oz (75g) plain flour
half tsp baking powder
4 oz (100g) walnut pieces, roughly chopped
5 oz (125g) dark chocolate, chopped or grated
Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat together until well mixed and fairly light in texture (but no need to beat as light as when making cakes). Beat in the egg, vanilla extract, flour and baking powder until well mixed, then beat in the oats. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate.
Spoon out onto lightly greased baking sheets (you need two, otherwise bake in two batches), aiming for 8 spoonfuls per sheet, keeping them well apart for they will spread when baking. Flatten the tops slightly by pressing with a fork, then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 (or 160C .. if your oven tends to bake 'hot') for 15 - 20 minutes, until golden. They will probably still be slightly soft (indeed should be) as they will firm up if left to stand on the hot tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a cake airer, then left to get cold. Store in an airtight tin.

Final tip for the day. When baking, all ingredients should be at least room temperature (unless otherwise stated), for when we use eggs or butter straight from the fridge, they are too cold and cakes (certainly) are best when made with ingredients that have been allowed to 'warm up' a bit. Often we can help bread to rise faster by slightly warming the flour (and certainly the bowl) before mixing in the rest of the ingredients.
Pastry is different, everything needs to be as cold as possible (especially the hands!). In the old days marble slabs and marble rolling pins were used, but today's wooden pastry boards and pins are not really cold enough. If you have a large enough freezer, store your board and pin in there, or alternatively fill an empty wine bottle up to the neck (but without a cap) and keep this in the freezer, then put the cap on once the water is frozen). Remove from the freezer and use this as a rolling pin.

Most 'proteins' - such as meat, fish, cheese, eggs, milk.... are best used at room temperature (but again depending upon the recipe). When a chilled piece of meat has to be cooked, especially a joint, we have to allow extra time (from 15 minutes upwards) to allow the 'innards' to be cooked to the degree a recipe intended, and as fuel is ezpensive, the less we use the better. Cream whips faster when the beaters, bowl and the cream itself is well chilled before starting.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Read the Label

One thing that I've discovered whilst 'testing' the various brands of baked beans is the amount of sauce in the cans relative to the beans. So far the Oak Lane Beans in Tomato Sauce (29p) are my favourite of the cheaper brands, with Tesco's Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce (35p) a close second (mainly because when the can was opened beans were seen right up to the top, and it also seemed to have little sauce.
Yesterday opened a can of Tesco's Value Baked Beans (28p) and was shocked at the amount of sauce in the can. Admittedly the flavour of the sauce is good, but well over a third of the can was sauce, and on the label it stated the bean content was 445, so not surprising the tin looked half bean-empty.

When needing to be thrifty, and therefore dropping a 'brand' lower in price, (supermarkets 'own brands' have several levels/ prices) it is best to read the label to find out exactly what is in there. Suppose we end up getting what we pay for, but some are still better flavoured than others, and some have more beans than others.

There are times I can be very devious when trying to wean a family away from an expensive brand to one virtually the same but they say they 'hate'. With the above beans, I'd buy the brand they liked, remove them from the tin, mix the with the cheapest (less some of its sauce), then fill the can back up with the beans then put it to one side, asking a member of the family to empty it into a saucepan to 'heat up for supper'. Believe me, they will think it is what it says on the can, and not a word is spoken against them. Next time use all cheap beans put into the 'expensive' can, and the same thing will happen.
This 'cheating' works wonderfully with thing like cornflakes (mix cheap with value), and some instant coffees, and probably a lot of other things as well.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Favourite Foods

Made in Minutes Lemon Curd:
2 oz (50g) butter
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
zest and juice 2 (pref large) lemons
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten together
If the lemons are waxed, give them a good wash before using. If waxed, still give them a rinse, then pat dry.
Put the butter, sugar, lemon zest and juice into a microwave bowl and cook on High for 1 - 3 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Then stir in the eggs. Return the bowl to the microwave and cook on High for 1 minute, then remove and stir. Return to oven and repeat for a total of 3 - 4 minutes, until the curd has thickened, always giving it a good stir after each minute of cooking time. Then pot up into small, hot and sterilised jars, seal, cool and store in the fridge where it should be kept and eaten within 6 weeks of making.

For ease of making, the recipe has been divided into three. The first part being the preparation of the date mixture, the second the making of the pudding batter, the third is the caramel sauce. This name is what B calles this dish, of course it really it Sticky Toffee Pudding.
Ticket Office Pudding: serves 6 - 9
8 oz (225g) stoned dates, chopped
1 tblsp instant coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
half pint boiling water
Put the dates, coffee, vanilla and water into a bowl, give a good stir then add the bicarb. last. Set aside to cool slightly whilst making the cake batter.
4 oz (110g) butter, softened
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the eggs, fold in the flour, and when combined carefully fold in the date mixture - this will cause the batter to be very runny which is how it should be.
Pour this into a greased and lined 8" (20cm) square cake tin, making sure the paper comes well above the sides of the tin if it is fairly shallow. Then bake for approx one and a half hours at 180C, 350F, gas 4 - it will be cooked when firm but still springy in the centre. Remove from oven and pour over the topping (recipe below)
caramel topping:
3 oz (75g) soft brown sugar
2 oz (25g) butter
3 tblsp double cream
Put the above ingredients into a small pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Pour over the hot pudding and (if wishing to eat now) return to oven or pop under the grill until the topping is bubbling, then slice and serve.
Alternatively, pour over the pudding and leave to get cold, when the topping will set to an almost fudge texture. This can then be cut into six or nine portions to reheat later in the microwave . This pudding freezes extremely well, with or without the topping, so wrap each portion separately. Reheat one portion at a time from frozen for one minute on High, or half a minute if thawed (slight adjustment of timings may be needed according to the size of portion and type of microwave oven used, err on the low side, and then heat for a little longer if necessary).
An optional extra is to make more fresh and hot caramel sauce to serve at the table. Believe me - it's worth it!

Friday, March 04, 2011

The End is in Sight!

Movng on to a touch of the luxurious (but still able to be made cheaply enough from 'basics' with the addition of a few 'extras'), here are three of easy recipes, the first and third based on a Victoria Sandwich 'mx'.

Chocolate Sponge Cake: serves 6
3 large eggs
7 oz ( 200g) butter, softened
7 oz (200g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tblsp cocoa powder
4 oz (100g) grated chocolate
Put the eggs, butter and sugar into a large bowl, then sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa over. Beat together until light, then fold in the grated chocolate.
Spoon into 2 greased and lined 18 cm (is that 6") sponge tins and level the top, then bake for 20 - 25 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 or until risen and firm when pressed gently in the centre. Leave to cool in the tin for five minutes before turning out onto a cake airer, peeling off the base paper.
When cold, sandwich together with either chocolte butter cream or whipped cream, and dust the top with icing sugar.
chocolate butter cream:
Beat together 9 oz (250g) softened butter with 4 oz (100g) icing sugar, then fold in 10 oz (350g) melted chocolate. Spread over one layer of the above cake, and place the other layer on top. If you wish, spread half the icing in the middle of the cake, the remainder on the top.

This next recipe is a simpler version of the more 'cheffy' Chocolate Fondant. These are best baked in 6 individual 5 fl oz (150ml) pudding moulds, but 6 sections of a muffin tin could be an alternative way to bake the puddings.
Chocolate Pud with a Melting Middle:
3 oz (75g) self-raising flour
half tsp baking powder
2 oz (50g) cocoa powder
2 oz (50g) ground almonds
5 oz (125g) butter, softened
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tblsp water (opt)
6 small chunks chocolate (about the size of a grape)
Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa into a bowl, then fold in the ground almonds. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, and when light and fluffy, beat in the eggs followed by the sieved flour mixture. The mixture should be soft enough to drop off spoon, and if it won't then beat in the water.
Grease the chosen pudding moulds (see above) with oil, then spoon in the mixture, levelling the surface. Take a lump of chocolate and gently push one into the middle of each pud, but only just below the surface, it needs to stay well above the bottom of the mixture.
If using individual moulds, stand them on a baking sheet (muffin tins can go in as-is), and oven-bake for 20 - 25 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4. Leave to cool in the tin for five minutes, and then turn out onto individual plates. Good served with a hot chocolate sauce, cream or ice-cream.

'Rretro' foods are now coming back into fashion. . Here is one such - again based on the Victoria Sandwich proportions. It helps to have the correct tins to make these called 'dariole moulds' - luckily I kept my old ones, but they are still on sale, but 'at a pinch' a muffin tin could be used instead. As dariole moulds are usually sold in sixes, no point in buying a dozen if you don't intend using them often, instead just reduce the ingredients below by half to make just half the number. Muffin tins usually have 12 sections, in which case use the recipe as it stands.
Orange flower water is not on everyone's shelves, so instead either use orange juice or a few drops of vanilla extract with a little water.
After baking, if some contents stubbornly refuse to turn out of the baking tins easily, one way to help them on their way is to stand the still-hot tin on a cold, wet teatowel and leave it for a few minutes. Not sure why this works (perhaps it helps to shrink the contents) but it does.

Coconut Madelines: makes 12
8 oz (225g) butter, softened
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten together
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
2 tsp orange flower water (see above)
3 - 4 tblsp raspberry jam, warmed
4 oz (100g) desiccated coconut
6 glace cherries, halved
Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs - a quarter (one egg) at a time. Fold in the flour and orange flower water. To prevent the creamed mixture 'curdling' when beating in the eggs (it doesn't much matter if it does, but looks better if it doesn't), a teaspoon of the flour beaten in with the first of the egg helps to prevent this.
Two-thirds fill 12 greased, floured and base-lined dariole moulds, place them on a baking sheet, then bake at 170C, 325F, gas 3 for 15 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and either tap the tins on the work surface to help release the cakes, or carefully run a knife around the inner rim (or use the top above),, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
When cold, brush the sides, base and top of the cake with the warmed jam and roll in desiccated coconut. Stand upright with the narrow (flat) end at the top, and place half a glace cherry in the centre of each.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Still Sorting...

Based on the Victoria Sponge recipe, but as more cake batter is made by adding extra flour (also milk and yogurt), and as most ingredients are beaten together, this is a very easy cake to make that has those extra servings.
The cheese 'icing' is similar (but this time including chocolate) that we would normally spread on the top of Carrot Cake, but if we prefer we can make a cheaper version by drizzling a thick water icing (icing sugar mixed with a very little water) over the cake.
Instead of the chocolate (this can be plain, milk or white), we can change the flavour of the cake by adding the zest of an orange or a lemon, and use the fruit juice in place of the milk. Or used chopped crystallised (or stem) ginger (maybe with a bit of ground ginger added to the dry ingredients). No reason why a fruit flavoured yogurt couldn't be used instead of the 'natural' according to the flavour you wish the cake to be.
This is the sort of recipe that cake-makers might like to experiment with.

Chocolate Sponge Tray-bake: makes 15 squares
9 oz (250g) butter, softened
11 oz (300g) self-raising flour
half tsp baking powder
9 oz (250g) caster sugar
4 eggs
5fl oz (150ml) natural yogurt
3 tblsp milk
few drops vanilla extract (or other chosen flavouring)
3 oz oz (75g) chocolate, finely chopped or grated
3 oz (75g) chocolate, chopped
11 oz (300g) soft (Philly type) cheese, room temperature
4 oz (100g) sifted icing sugar
Put the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract into a bowl and beat together until free of lumps. Fold in the prepared chocolate, then pour into a greased and lined oblong baking tin (approx 8" x 9"/20 x 23cm) and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about half an hour or until risen and golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin.
Make the icing by melting the chocolate. Blend the sugar into the cream cheese, then add the melted chocolate. Mix until smooth then leave to get cool before spreading over the top of the cake. Cut into squares and serve.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Balancing Act

The first recipe today - particularly useful (to me) as one of the ingredients is canned tuna (having just bought some), also a means of making use of those pancakes stored in the freezer.
Again, this is the type of recipe we can adapt, perhaps using cooked chicken instead of tuna, or canned salmon. An alternative way to bake is make twice the quantity of cheese sauce, and spread half over the rolled pancakes before sprinkling the cheese on top (this helps to keep the pancakes from drying out).
If the pancakes were filled with left-over spag.bol sauce, and then covered with a rich tomato sauce or cheese sauce before topping with grated cheese, this dish will then end up similar to a pasta 'cannelloni'.

Tuna and Sweetcorn Pancakes: serves 4
6 oz (175g) frozen peas, lightly cooked
half a pint (300ml) ready-made cheese sauce
2 x 185 cans tuna, drained and flaked
6 oz (175g) canned (or frozen and cooked) sweetcorn, drained
8 ready-made pancakes
3 oz (75g) Cheddar cheese (pref mature) grated
Heat the cheese sauce (or use it freshly made) and fold in the tuna, peas and sweetcorn. Divide this between 8 pancakes, spooning the mixture along the centre, then roll up and place - side by side - in a lightly greased shallow ovenproof dish. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about half an hour or until piping hot. Suggest serving with a crisp salad of your choice.

This next recipe is a Scandinavian 'Hash'. Made with left-over cooked meat (ham, bacon and sausages are traditional but use what you have - corned beef at a pinch) and potatoes (alternatively other root vegetables can be used instead such as sweet potatoes, turnip, swede, celeriac...). Topped with an egg, this makes a simple but tasty meal cooked in 20 minutes.
Swedish Hash: serves 3 -4
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb (450gg) cold boiled potatoes, cubed
1 lb (500g) cooked meat (see above), cubed
salt and pepper
2 oz (40g) breadcrumbs, lightly toasted in frying pan
3 -4 eggs, fried when ready to serve
Melt the butter in a frying pan with the oil (the oil helps to prevent the butter burning), add the onions and potatoes and fry until golden. Stir in the meat, and when heated through (thoroughly!!), add seasoning to taste, and scatter the breadcrumbs over the top. Remove from heat but keep warm whilst frying the eggs (or do these in separate pan while the Hash is being completed). Then serve in individual bowl with the fried egg on top.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Keep Up The Good(e) Work!

Despite being simple to make, this is a perfect example of how just a few 'good' ingredients can make a wonderful and traditional soup.

Avgolemono: serves 4
1 1/2 pints (900ml) chicken stock
2 oz (50g) long-grain rice (more if you wish)
salt and pepper
3 egg yolks
2 - 3 tblsp lemon juice
2 tblsp freshly chopped parsley
Put the stock into a large saucepan, and bring to the simmer. Stir in the rice, half cover the pan with a lid and cook for about 12 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Beat the egg yolks, then whisk in 2 tblsp of the lemon juice, and when smooth and bubbly, whisk in a ladleful of the chicken stock.
Remove the pan of stock/rice from the heat, then slowly whisk in the egg mixture, the soup will then begin to thicken and change to an attractive lemony shade. Taste, and add an extra tablespoon of lemon juice if you feel it needs it. Adjust seasoning, stir in the parsley, and serve immediately.
Do not reheat or the eggs will curdle.

So you have three egg whites to use up? Why not make these lacy pancakes (aka 'white crepes') that are served as a 'wrap-over' fresh (or canned) fruit salad. As far as the fruit goes, you can make your own mind as to which you prefer to serve. It is the pancake recipe that is important.
Lacy White Crepes: serves 4
3 egg whites
4 tblsp cornflour
3 tblsp cold water
1 tsp sunflower oil
Mix the egg whites, cornflour and water together to make a smooth batter. Brush a frying pan with oil, and when hot, drizzle a quarter of the batter over the pan (to form a lacy pattern). This will take only a few seconds to set, and then the 'crepe' can be removed and placed on kitchen paper to drain. Keep warm whilst repeating with the remaining batter.
To serve, place one on each of four plates, spoon chosen fruit filling over one half, then fold the other half over. Indulge yourself by pouring cream over if you wish.

If, like me, you have rice flour that you wish to use up, the why not make these gluten-free 'pancakes' - not a million miles away from the English 'drop scone', sometimes called 'Scotch Pancakes', also similar to the American (breakfast) pancake. Good eaten freshly cooked for breakfast, brunch, lunch or tea-time.
If wishing to re-heat, cover and heat in the microwave, about 10 seconds only per pancake.
Breakfast or Anytime Pancakes: makes 8 -10
5 oz (150g) rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 egg
4 tblsp sunflower oil
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
half pint buttermilk, skimmed milk or diluted yogurt
Put the rice flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and mix together. In a jug put the egg, 1 tblsp of sunflower oil, the melted butter and the buttermilk (or alternative) and whisk together.
Slowly pour the liquid in the jug into the dry mix, a bit at a time, stirring as you go, then keep adding more of the liquid until the batter ends up loose, but still thickish.
Heat a dry 9" (23cm) frying pan over medium heat for a few minutes, then when hot pour in the remaining oil. When this is hot, spoon in tablespoons of the batter to make four pancakes - leaving them room to spread. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes, and when bubbles appear on the surface, and one or two break open, then turn the pancakes with a fish slice and cook the other side until golden. Remove and place on a clean tea towel (this resting on a cake airer) and cover with a fold of the towel to keep them warm and moist, whilst repeating the cooking until all the batter has been used up.