Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Busy Time of Year...

With all my recently planted seeds now almost overflowing their pots, my next task will be to repot them (or plant out). Also must begin making loads of pots of jams/marmalade etc ready for some charity 'sales' etc. Still about 5 or 6 weeks before the first of these, but the more I can get done in advance the better, this leaves me time nearer the day/s to make the gingerbread, biscuits, macaroons etc.

All the 'curryfest' utensils and containers have now been cleaned and put away (well most of them). Still missing a few spoons, but then have also gained a few that weren't mine (along with bowls, pens, etc), so B will have to take them to the club this coming Friday and do a swap.

Interesting to read about your roses 'growing' in the vase Lisa. Have you even grown roses from cut flowers before? Always believed they had to be grafted onto a different root stock to bring forth flowers, but could be wrong. Do remember once our next door neighbour had a gardener and he offered to prune my roses one year. We had a truly lovely tea-rose, a bright, almost shocking pink, that had a wonderful and very strong scent (like Turkish Delight tastes if you know what I mean). He pruned that down far too low, removing all the growth above the root stock, and this then grew only yellow roses with no scent at all. I was really REALLY cross about this as I've never been able to find the pink rose again.
I took keep most of the plastic containers that come with 'things' (mainly food), and have at least two cupboards full. Don't need all of course, but they do come in handy at times (like the recent 'curryfest' when small tubs were filled with Bombay Mix to place on each table as 'nibbles'. Ditto larger plastic boxes filled with sweets). I just can't seem to throw anything away these days.

The committee did thank me Catrion, and do know they were grateful not to have to do any of the cooking this time round. Just one helped my B to serve the meal, another did the raffle, another the (several) quizzes, and of course one (or two) served drinks at the bar.

It is true - as Les says - that meat should always be sliced across the grain as this makes it far more tender to eat, but didn't realised that minced meat (which are usually small chunks of meat thrown into the mincer with the 'grain' lying any which way), would also become even more tender if the 'strings' of mince are then lined up before using. Not quite sure why this should be, but am trusting Les's expertise re this.
To 'tenderise' meat even further when making meatballs (and occasionally beefburgers) I sometimes blitz the already minced meat in a food processor for a few seconds to break it down even further. Blitzed together with onions, breadcrumbs and whatever, it can become so 'fine' a mixture that is almost (but not quite) a raw 'pate', that when formed into meatballs, tossed in flour and fried, just melts in the mouth when fully cooked. Useful when the cheaper mince has been bought as this can be a bit 'gristly' and therefore needs more chewing.

Yesterday gave B some liver, bacon and new potatoes for his supper, but this time instead of serving the usual steamed shredded cabbage, instead served sliced and fried mushrooms with some peas. It made a change (needed to use up the mushrooms). He had yogurt and cream as a dessert, and chomped his way throughout the rest of the evening finishing up the box of mixed chocs won at the social (well us four at our table won it as a quiz prize, but gave it to B as already a bottle of wine and another big box of chocs had been won by us 'girls' in the raffle).

All of a sudden I seem to have a lot more time on my hands, and not really putting it to much use at the moment as am still a wee bit tired. Did go to bed early last night (for once) so managed to catch up with most of my sleep and feel all the better for it, although not ready yet to take on a lot of culinary activity. Maybe will start again at the weekend with making the preserves.

Despite my not feeling inclined to cook a curry at the moment, at least feel I can now manage to give a recipe for a dish that is not quite a curry, but has the 'leanings'. Other spices could be used instead of the garam Masala (maybe a harissa, or Cajun seasoning). See what you think of this version:
'Indian' Shepherd's Pie: serves 4
3 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
1 lb (500g) minced lamb
2 - 3 tblsp garam Masala mix (or other spice)
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 lb 10 oz (750g) cooked potatoes
Heat ONE tblsp of the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion until softened. Add the garlic and half the garam Masala and fry for one minute, then add the lamb. Cook over high heat for 8 minutes, continually stirring the mince to make sure it is browned all over, then add the tomatoes, seasoning to taste, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 or so minutes until thickened.
Meanwhile, crush the cooked potatoes with the remaining oil and the rest of the garam Masala.
When the lamb is cooked, tip the hot lamb 'sauce' into a shallow heat-proof casserole and scatter the crushed potatoes on top. At this point it can be cooled and frozen for up to a month (thaw before cooking). If not freezing, continue cooking by placing under a pre-heated hot grill and cook for 8 minutes (longer if starting cold) until the potatoes are crisp and golden.

We often need to use two pots for cooking curry, one for the meat (or veg), the second being for rice. This recipe combines the lot in one pot which can be taken to the table for serving, and as it looks very colourful, definitely worth making. Instead of prawns you could use cooked chicken (scraps from carcase?) or use both. Instead of the fresh chilli, chop up a pepperdew or use part of a red bell pepper (but if using the latter add this with the onion).
Prawn Pilau: serves 4
2 tblsp Korma curry paste
1 small onion, finely chopped
10 oz (300g) basmati rice, rinsed
1.25 pints (700ml) chicken stock
5 oz (150g) cooked peeled prawns
cupful frozen peas
1 red chilli cut into rings (see above)
salt and pepper
few coriander leaves for garnish
Heat a large frying pan and dry-fry the curry paste with the onion for about 5 minutes or until the onion is beginning to soften. Stir in the rice, and when coated in the curry sauce, add the stock. Bring to the boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for approx 12 or so minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed (by which time the rice should be cooked). Remove from heat and stir in the prawns, peas and chilli. Cover pan and leave to stand for 4 minutes then uncover, fluff up the rice grains with a fork - this also mixes in the other ingredients - and add seasoning to taste. Scatter the coriander on top and then take the pot to the table to serve.

Final recipe today is a pasta dish that makes the most of a few expensive ingredients, and a way to prove that we don't have to spend much to give that luxury flavour to a meal. Almost any pasta 'shapes' could be used, but ideally go for the long strands of spaghetti or strips of pasta 'noodles' (aka tagliatelle?). Instead of the blue cheese, use a garlic and herb flavoured cream cheese (Philly type).
Creamy Mushroom Pasta: serves 4
14 oz (400g) spaghetti (see above)
6 rashers streaky bacon, cut into strips
8 oz (225g) chestnut or button mushrooms, sliced
1 x 200g bag baby spinach leaves
4 oz (100g) any creamy blue cheese, crumbled
Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water as per packet instructions.
Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a large pan for 5 minutes until beginning to crisp up, then tip in the mushrooms and fry for 3 minutes or until just tender.
Drain the pasta and add to the frying pan with the cheese, then toss everything together over a low heat until the spinach has begun to wilt and the cheese has begun to melt. Serve hot in individual bowls.

Time for me to get myself a cup of coffee, and decide what I'm going to make for B's supper tonight. Probably a fish dish (as B hasn't had fish for several days). Could make a fish curry I suppose. Somehow don't think so. Well not just yet.

Hope you can join me again tomorrow, if so - see you then.