Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Posh Nosh for Pennies

A busy day for me today (sorting larder and kitchen cupboards et al), so will begin with replies to comments then a little bit of 'chat', followed by more cost-cutting (but really tasty) recipes.

Thanks to Ciao and Alison for their tip about growing avocado stones. When I grew them before (also propped up by cocktails sticks) used to start them off standing on top our our old central heating boiler (this stayed warm most of the day), don't think the heat from our radiators here was regular enough to bring forth the shoots. Do remember they take several weeks to shoot, but the one recently planted looks as though it might do better. Once our weather improves.

Would you believe it! We had some rain last night and it has again started to beat against the windows, but slightly 'tapping' which makes me think it is more like sleet. Despite our recent 'summer' weather (23C last week) we are now forecast snow!!!
At least everything will begin growing in leaps and bounds now we have had rain. It doesn't matter how much we water plants with a can or hose-pipe, there is something 'special' about rain (and it doesn't have to rain that much) that gets plants seeming to almost double in size overnight.

You too have had (and are still having by the sound of it) really warm weather Lisa. Let us hope you don't get the drop in temperatures that we will now be having. Must look at a world map some time for I believe you must be much further south (by latitude) than the UK, so it should be warmer.
Loved to hear about your weekend trip. Sound you found a good place to stay and also bought so great bargains. How wonderful to find that toy you used to have as a child. It must have brought back some very happy memories.

You are right Jane, jellies these days do not seem to have the flavour they used to. This might be because the 'old' jellies used synthetic flavours that are now an 'additive' that is not so often used. Myself often make up the cheaper packet jellies with the same flavour of fruit juice, either orange juice (from a carton), or a good dash of blackcurrant concentrate ('squash'). Juice of a lemon also goes into a lemon jelly.
If I don't add fruit juice (as when making a trifle) then a spoon of sherry ( Limoncello, or Cointreau) is poured over the sponge cakes, then half made jelly poured over that (so the jelly then takes on the flavour of the chosen booze). When set this topped with fruit and more jelly (without the booze), finished off with a layer of custard (or fruit yogurt), and the final topping of cream (B insists this being studded with glace cherries, angelica, and flaked almonds AS WELL because this is how his mother used to make them. Told you he never grows up!).

Sometimes, when using canned fruit to make the trifle, I make the jelly up using the liquid from the can, this also adds flavour, and in the past have made a strawberry jelly up with a flavoured lemonade, and a pineapple jelly up with ginger ale (or ginger beer). If these sparkling drinks are added when the jelly is cold but not set, the bubbles remain in the jelly, and this makes it fun to eat.

Yesterday mentioned how we can still eat very well on a low budget, and as this is more a way of searching out recipes 'that make the most of...' (and there are many), and much of my time is spend doing this, am today giving another selection.

The best thing to do with any recipe that catches our eye is to keep a copy (or cut it out from the paper or mag) and file it away for later use when we know that we WILL have the ingredients, and it isn't long before we have enough to make great meals from those chicken scraps and ham 'offcuts' that we seem to collect once we start making our own stock, slicing home-cooked roasts etc.

Recipes for potted ham/beef/chicken have been given before, but the following recipe is slightly different in that it has a lot more flavour than the basic one. Again use flavourings that you have (leave out what you don't have - NEVER go and buy one because you haven't got it, but it could go on your shopping list later if you feel you will use it again - and again, and again...!). Yellow mustard seeds I do have but a good pinch of dried mustard powder would add a similar flavour (or even a small spoon of made mustard). The crunchy sea salt adds a little 'something' to the flavour and texture of this 'pate', but if using salted butter the sea salt could be omitted.
This is proof positive that a dish made mainly from 'scraps' can still be worthy enough to serve to guests. Useful also that - once made - this 'meat spread' can be frozen for up to three months.
Final tip: if you don't have small pots (useful if you want to freeze this 'pate'), this can be made in a clingfilm lined loaf tin, and - instead of 'sealing' with butter, use it all when making up the 'pate', and fold the overlapping clingfilm over the top as a 'seal'. Plate up, unwrapped as a block, and serve cut into slices.
Potted Ham: serves 8
9 oz (250g) butter (pref unsalted).
1 lb (500g) scraps cooked ham
handful curly parsley, leaves finely chopped
pinch ground cloves
pinch yellow mustard seeds (see above)
1 tblsp cider vinegar
pinch sea salt (see above)
Melt the butter in a small pan, then set aside to cool slightly. Clear fat will rise to the top with white 'milky bits' settling on the bottom. Carefully pour the clear butter into another pot and discard the white residue (or add these to a cake or something - they are still 'butter').
Shred the ham as finely as possible (or you could blitz to 'crumbs' in a food processor), then mix this with the parsley, spices, vinegar, sea salt, and two-thirds of the clarified butter.
Divide between 8 small ramekins or pots and press down well with the back of a teaspoon (or use very clean fingers) - the surface needs to be flat. Pour the remaining butter over the top of each pot, then place in the fridge and chill until the butter is solid. This will keep in the fridge for several days if the butter 'seal' is not broken.
Can be served in the pots with a basket of toast close by for spreading, or dip each pot for a few seconds in hot water to turn the potted ham out onto a plate with a spoon of chutney or a couple of gherkins at the side - and toast or crispbreads for spreading.
If you wish to freeze, wrap each pot in cling-film then place in a freezer bag. Defrost in the fridge overnight before serving.

Next recipe could be a family main-meal or made in small servings for 'starters' when entertaining. Suggested because it can 'use up' the oddments in the fridge that many of us have (well I do) such as cranberry sauce, any blue cheese (we tend to eat Stilton), puff pastry, lettuce, a pear if you have one in the fruit bowl (or you could use apple).
We don't HAVE to have ready-rolled puff in the fridge/freezer, we can easily roll out one of the thicker blocks of this pastry (many chefs buy it ready-made), or we could make our own 'rough-puff' of 'flaky pastry' from scratch and use this instead.
Use a quarter of an iceberg lettuce if you haven't Little Gem. Alternatively make the salad using any mixed salad leaves.
Blue Cheese and Cranberry Tart: serves 4
3 onions, thinly sliced
2 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 x 375g pack ready-rolled puff pastry (see above)
2 - 3 tblsp cranberry sauce
3 oz (75g) blue cheese, crumbled or grated
2 Little Gem lettuce (see above)
1 pear, cored and thinly sliced
2 tblsp salad dressing of your choice
Put the oil in a non-stick frying pan and gently saute the onions for a good 12 minutes until golden and soft. Add seasoning to taste.
Lay the pastry out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (or roll block pastry out thinly to fit chosen sheet). Leave a small border all round, and spread the cranberry sauce over the rest, then top this with the onions.
Bake for 15 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6, then (as quickly as possible) pull out the tray and scatter the cheese over the onions, push back into the oven, close the door, and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes. When ready serve with the salad.
While the tart is cooking, separate the Little Gem (or iceberg leaves and place in a bowl with the slices of pear. Add dressing immediately prior to serving alongside slices of the cheese tart.

Yesterday decided to cook some DR meat balls (free with one of my previous orders) for B's supper. Although made with quality meat find they lack flavour, so after browning them off in a frying pan and a little oil, transferred them to a small roasting dish, poured over half a jar of Levi Root's Jerk sauce, plus a tablespoon of water, covered tightly with foil then put them in the oven at 140C to carry on cooking for (more or less) about an hour. Served this on a bed of cooked pasta penne. Had some myself and although the sauce is so hot it just about blows your head off, the peppers used have that 'feel-good' factor that once my mouth had cooled down (which was almost instantly) really did give me a lift. Who needs drugs when 'proper' food can make you feel so good?

With the tendency these days to serve more spicy and peppery sauces (perhaps for that very reason), am giving a recipe to make our own 'piri-piri' sauce, often used when cooking chicken.
It is sold by the bottle, and probably as a dry 'rub', but why buy when we can make our own?
The amount made in the recipe below makes enough to use for 4 large chicken thighs (or 4 small quarters).
Piri-Piri Sauce:
1 small red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 - 2 bird's eye chillies (stalks removed)
1 tblsp sweet smoked paprika
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
1 tblsp white wine vinegar
1 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste,
handful fresh basil leaves
1 tblsp water
Put all the ingredients into a food processor or liquidiser and blitz together until smooth. Use as a paste/sauce to rub over slashed raw chicken before oven-baking.

Final recipe today is for an alternative to potato crisps. You could try this with wide shavings of carrot and other root veggies if you want to experiment. The number of parsnips is just a guide to the amount of oil used etc. make as much or as little as you wish. If you use oil that comes from a 'spray-can' this is an easy way to coat the crisps.
Good to make when the oven is on for something else.
Parsnip Crisps:
2 parsnips, peeled and shaved into strips
1 tsp sunflower oil
Toss the parsnips with the oil, then bake in a roasting tin for 10 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6 until crisp. Good eaten as a 'snack' or served on top of a dish of dahl or parsnip soup etc.

Now have to take my leave as have much to do today (well that's my intention). Am pleased to see the rain, this makes me feel more like 'kitchen work' for some reason. Tomorrow is Norma the Hair day, so depending on what time I rise, this blog may be published earlier or later than normal. But whatever - I will be back. See you then.