Monday, April 09, 2012

Currying Favour!

Before I begin to tell you about a bit of exciting news (exciting for me but probably no-one else) thought I'd show you two photos I took yesterday.

As I'd changed my mind and decided to cook the DR Beef mini-roast instead of lamb for Easter Sunday lunch, thought that B would like Yorkshire Puddings to eat with the meat. Made the easy way (one egg, plus its measure - this being 2 fl oz - in milk and also plain flour) beaten together then poured into a little very hot fat in my four individual Yorkshire Pudding tins.
This time (for trial purposes - well it works with choux pastry so why not Yorkies?) I used strong plain (bread) flour. Of course it worked - you can see the result below. Beautifully risen and very crisp with a slightly soft centre to hold the gravy.Decided to experiment with dessert and emptied a small tub of low-fat cream cheese into a bowl and beat in about the same measure of double cream until thick, then beat in a heaped tablespoon of Nutella (saved me melted down some chocolate). To this added some finely chopped crystallised ginger, then spooned this nto a 9"/23cm clingfilm lined quiche tin and popped it into the freezer for half an hour to set.
Meanwhile melted about a tablespoon of butter and into this mixed a little caster sugar, some ground ginger and some crushed digestive biscuits until it was like 'sand'. Spread this over the top of the 'cheesecake', kept it chilled and when ready to serve upturned it onto a plate so the crumbs then became the base, removed the clingfilm, sprinkled grated chocolate over, and it was ready to serve.
It was fairly firm, but B didn't want to eat his 'wedge' immediately, and as it was by then at warm room temperature, it had begun to soften more than I wished. Even so a very yummy dessert and without the crumb base the 'filling' alone would have made a lovely creamy dessert to serve in small glasses.
You can see the cheesecake below with B's portion removed. As you can see, he likes large helpings!Have cut the remainder into five, and these are now in the freezer where one can be removed and part-thawed when B fancies a helping. "Part-thawed" in the Goode kitchen means 'semi-freddo' (a cross between ice-cream and a creamy dessert) which is far the best way to serve this particular dessert.

And now to my news!

Strange how - in a couple or so minutes yesterday - my very dull life suddenly took a U turn. As I may have mentioned, B's 'sailing social' are having a 'Curry Dinner' later this month. I'd offered to make something (if needed) and B's suggestion of samosas and onion bajhis they gratefully accepted - asking me to make 20 of each please. I had hoped to be asked to make at least one of the curries (as I make a good curry - am I allowed to say that?) but apparently others were making these.

Then yesterday, B came back from sailing and told me that no-one at the club seemed to the want to make any curries, so the committee had decided to 'buy out' from a caterers and have the curries delivered. As they were having the meal to boost club funds I said to B they wouldn't make much profit if they did that.

Suggested to B that I could phone the lady who was arranging all this and offer to make the lot for her, he thought this was a good idea and gave me her phone number. To cut a long story short, my offering to make a choice of two curries -possibly three if they wanted a veggie one, plus the rice, samosas, bajhis, naan bread (or chapatis/poppadums), plus raita, mango chutney and lime pickle etc. all for 'relatively' very low cost as I knew (from past experience) it could cost as little as £1.50 a head to make (they were expecting to charge £5 a head), and probably less. She was - I have to say - THRILLED!

The club would pay for all the ingredients of course - and it was mentioned that as this dinner would be on the Saturday of their Open Weekend (when sailors from other parts of the country come and race each other) so was asked to cater for 'at least' 50 (. Not that this is a problem. I've catered for many more in the past years. It's just a matter of organisation (mainly making 'lists' - the cooking is easy enough).

Cooking for twenty can be done at £1.50 a head (for a good meal), but cooking for PLENTY (such as 50) means the cost per head would probably work out less (or they are have more to eat). Fifty people at £1.50 per portion would give me a budget of £75!! - and for me that is a LOT of money. Even counting the cost of the main ingredients,(lamb or beef, chicken, plus veggies) these would take less than half the budget, the rice plus other ingredients and 'accompaniments' certainly less than half the remainder. I might even have enough money to include a starter OR a dessert (and maybe even both!!!).

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be cooking for more than one again. My whole body is surging with adrenalin, had to force myself to go to bed last night. Did stop up until watching cooking progs on one of the Freeview channels (Hugh F.W., Heston B; the Fabulous Baker Boys; plus a couple of Father Ted's that were slotted in the middle).

Earlier had switched over to watch another 'Man v Food', as I wanted B to watch purely for the shock of seeing how much food the American diners serve (and by this I mean normal portions). The episodes yesterday were 'carnivore eating', so all based around meat.

All I can say is meat must be cheap in Texas (and other regions visited) when we saw the enormous joints, ribs - not to mention burgers - served. Although have to say the way many were cooked, with the various rubs and sauces, the meat certainly looked very tasty. We don't seem to cook like that over here, even in small amounts.

What does surprise me is that although many of the diners seen suffered greatly from obesity (the way they ate great platefuls, stuffing the contents at speed into their mouths probably led to their size), the presenter - despite (seemingly) working his way round the US eating his way through the largest portions ever, was not really that huge. Just looked 'well-built and without a paunch. Lucky him!!

One thing that was apparent, having not yet had my supper, after watching the above prog, this put me off eating anything at all (so perhaps a good idea to watch it every day as a way to help me lose weight) and ended up (an hour or so later) nibbling my way through three 'rice cakes' as my 'main meal of the day'. These rice-cakes I discovered recently and was glad I did, for these were salt and vinegar flavoured (my favourite), lovely and crunchy (which I like) and ONLY 30 calories per 'cake'! As each was pretty big (Wagon Wheel size if you remember those), one taking me as long to nibble as one packet of crisps, these made a very satisfying meal (well, OK 'snack' if you prefer. One man's snack being a whole meal to me.

Must buy some more of these flavoured 'rice cakes' and leave crisps alone from now on.

Incidentally, the other week did have one more try of the Walker's crisp "guess the flavour". Even though I then knew what the flavour was, it was only the sour cream and chive that I recognised. The other two (Lincolnshire sausage and brown sauce; the other being Chicken Balti) - although not quite the same flavour - I still couldn't work out which was which. Certainly won't be buying any of these again. The only Walker's crisps I enjoy are the salt and vinegar and the prawn cocktail (although think the latter have an ingredient that I'm allergic to as often my face begins to swell up after eating them - although an anti-histamine pill usually shrinks it back within an hour if I catch it in time).

Back to my latest 'challenge' (catering for 50 plus). As I don't have enough large pans to hold all the curries/ rice, was trying to work out the best way to cope. Lucky for me, a Lidl brochure came through the letterbox yesterday with giant pans on sale, the larger of two being exactly the right size. And not expensive. Two of these, together with what I already had, would be perfect to hold the curries/rice. B said he would pay for two large pans for which I was very grateful (feeling pleased that this would be his 'contribution' to meal ), until he burst the bubble by adding "You can have the pans for your birthday present".

Well, I never look a gift horse in the mouth so gratefully accepted, for a least WILL have a pressie (am still waiting for my Christmas one, this supposed to be B cooking a meal for ME one day a week. Of course he never has).

Who knows, I may be cooking in bulk for the 'social' again and the big pans will come in handy. But in any case, large pans ARE useful to make a large batch of (say) chicken stock in one go, and always intended to buy myself one just for this purpose, so in a way B's offer has saved me money.

The mention of 'stock' reminds me that yesterday I simmered the coca-cola (in which the gammon had been cooked) down to about a quarter of it's original amount. This made it fairly thick and I was able to fill just one container with it to freeze (so it can be thawed and diluted back with water to cook the next gammon).

Was pleased with the cola-cooked gammon. Although the outside was a sticky, dark-red colour due to the cola, once cut it was its normal 'ham' colour inside, but had a much better flavour then when cooked the normal way, now being slightly sweeter. B loved it, I loved it, so looks like this will be the way to go in future, and by re-using the cola, this will not mean it will end up costing that much more per 100g.

Despite roast lamb being traditionally served on Easter Sunday, decided against cooking D.R's lamb 'mini-roast' - this mainly because I had so much more beef in the freezer than lamb, and with the loss of many lambs due to the sudden snow, the price of lamb will almost certainly rise, so thought I'd better keep the lamb 'mini-roast' for a later date.

However, there is roast meat left from yesterday (despite B eating two good helpings), so today will cut this into strips and re-heat along with some sliced mushrooms cooked in the bit of left-over gravy (made from the beef juices), and turn it into a 'strogonoff'. Easy-peasy. That will give me plenty of time to start planning the 'curry meals'. Can feel the adrenalin flowing through my body, and feel like an athlete with feet in the starting blocks waiting for the starting gun to be fired. Who knows - this 'urgency' within me may help me to burn up a few more calories before the 17th (my next 'weigh-in' at the surgery).

As I can think of nothing but curries at this moment in time, and have to work out the full menu (with costings) for B to take to the club on Wednesday, will today spend most of my time sorting out all that, then can 'forget' it for several days until nearer the time. Hopefully then can get back on track with recipes (other than curries) that I can offer to you via this site.

Before I leave, must reply to recent comments...

Don't know why, but thought you were a 'home-body' Urbanfarmgirl (in other words didn't go 'out' to work). With a poly-tunnel, greenhouse, and your mention of crafts (let alone home-cooking), wonder how you find the time to do everything. Your mention of having 'a week off', will - I hope - allow you to have some relaxation and possibly time in the garden to get some seeds sown and others planted out (weather permitting).

Despite the continuing rise in meat prices, it is good (as Chrissie commented) that most supermarkets have half-price offers on their meats. Even so - this lower price is still horrendously expensive compared to what it was a few years back (when 'full price' was less than the 'half-price' it is today0. Doubt anyone can afford to pay the full whack for any meat and fish any more, so they always have to (appear) to be 'reduced' in price.

How fortunate you are to have that 2 kg of Morecambe Bay shrimps Woozy. Other than making some up into the traditional 'potted shrimps', any recipe that uses those small cooked prawns would be suitable for using the Morecambe shrimps. 'Prawn toasts', 'prawn cocktail', and Thai or Chinese dishes (stir-fries etc) come to mind. Chopped prawns mixed with a little Marie-Rose sauce (a blend of tomato ketchup and mayo with a dash of Tabasco) makes a lovely sandwich filling.

Well Campfire - wish I'd known you'd be 'local' then I could have scooted down to the prom to wave at you as you drove past. Maybe another time.

Must have been around lunch-time you were at the Hest Bank level crossing, for always when we drive down to the sea-front there (more a grassy parking place with a road leading to no-where) this is the time the barriers are down for seemingly ages until three trains hurtle through. Other times we hardly see any.

Don't know if you ate at that little cafe facing the sea-front, they make wonderful potato chips. We used to drive down to park opposite, and B would go in and order a meal (including chips) and they would bring it out to us on trays and hand it to us as we sat in the car. Proper cutlery and plates, mugs and even ketchup/sauce in a bottle, none of those sachets. Quite a treat.

Must take my leave of you for today and get this 'curry meal' sorted to my satisfaction, then can set it aside to concentrate on other things, other meals... Make the most of this last day of the Easter holiday (unless a teacher when you probably have another week of 'free time') and then we begin planning for the next breaks: one early May (is this Whit Sunday?) the other late May (this being our Spring Bank holiday). Then in June we have the Jubilee celebrations.... not to mention any Olympic 'treats' that might come our way. Looks like being a busy year for us cooks who enjoy having a reason to 'feast'.

Hope you will all find time to join me tomorrow - if so, see you then.