Sunday, April 01, 2012

Using Up...

Am aiming to write today's blog and publish before Gill phones in 90 minutes, so today's may be a bit shorter than usual (do I hear sighs of relief?)

First must reply to comments. Not sure what went wrong with your 'send' Urbanfarmgirl but the same comment appeared 3 times in my email tray. Doesn't matter at all of course. Just wonder why this sometimes happens (at other times too, from other readers).
Your mention of using chocolate spread reminded me that I forgot to mention that those 'Jammy Dodger' biscuit recipe given the other day would work just as well if the biscuits were sandwiched together with Nutella (or similar) instead of jam. 'Custard Cream' biscuits could also use chocolate spread instead of the more usual filling.

Although Les pointed out that the huge meals eaten in the Man v Food challenge were oversized as part of the challenge, we did see the 'normal' sized meals, and these too were very large by our standards. As you mentioned Lynda, in the US people are allowed to take home what they can't eat, and in some establishments we are allowed to ask for a 'doggy bag' to take home similar (supposedly for our pets), but as minimiser deb says, this is not something we care to do as it makes us appear either very greedy or downright poor. If truly 'for the dog' then possibly, but not for our own consumption. Mind you, with the rising price of food, perhaps more people will be taking home 'leftovers' to eat later themselves, although the portions served in this country are rarely large enough for anyone to leave much on their plate.

Our 'Carveries' are probably the best place for those with large appetites as although the meat is carved at the counter (used to be three slices of either roast beef, turkey or gammon - could be a mixture), in some carveries this has been reduced to two slices. When this is on the plate the chef asks "would you like Yorkshire Pudding, would you like 'seasoning'? Most people have both (as it is paid for anyway), but it took me some time to wonder why the chef called the ball of sage and onion stuffing, 'seasoning' (until B enlightened me why. You don't ask ladies if they want....well, you know what I mean).

When the meat and 'trimmings' are on the plate, we are then free to help ourselves with any or all the varieties of hot veg displayed. Usually up to 8 different kinds: roast and new potatoes, carrots, peas, green beans, cabbage, parsnips, cauliflower in a cheese sauce, broccoli (some vary according to season). Then we move on to a table with great bowls of hot gravy, plus cranberry sauce, mint sauce (why mint sauce when they never serve lamb?), mustard sauce, horseradish sauce...
Then - after we've finished our veggies we can make a return trip and reload with more veggies for free (but as yet have never seen anyone do this as again this shows greed). Certainly we get our money's worth when we eat at a carvery, the only down side is that the menu never changes, but even at £5 a meal (in some carveries it is less 'for two'), it is certainly very good value.

Les, think you've proved to me what I've believed all along - men enjoy the 'technology' of cooking, women prefer the scents, the smells, the pleasure of taking time to cook rather than find an appliance that does the work for them. Although it has to be said that many of today's inventions we do like because they save us time.
Very few 'good cooks' find pleasure using a microwave. Not even male chefs are said to like using them. Microwave cooking is not 'real' cooking (although of course it is). Myself don't like using a pressure cooker for the same reason. Maybe I'm a bit set in my ways, but the gorgeous smells that waft through the kitchen when roast meats, cakes etc are cooking (not to mention bacon frying in the pan) make all the extra work worth while. Even the slow-cooker lets enough steam out of its tiny vent to make the kitchen smell lovely when I wander in the morning after the meat has been put in to cook.

How many of the above 'appliances' (microwave, pressure cooker, sous-vide etc...) have been invented by men? All of them I would suspect. Do women invent new 'kitchen gear'? Well, do know several of the smaller 'gadgets' certainly have been, and these are what we really need to make cooking easier.
We probably have men to thank for 'inventing' the fridge and freezers (and even the vacuum cleaner and probably the sewing machine), so the male sex can keep inventing and it is up to us to let them keep on playing. Who knows, their next (kitchen) invention might even get me saving up for one.

Do sow those free seeds Alison (given with a mag), sweet peas are my favourite flower, and although they need a lot of attention if we wish to grow those with very long stems, just letting them scramble at will over a trellis or wigwam of sticks makes a good garden feature, and they do have a wonderful scent.

It's now - like those chocs - 'after eight', so time now for me to write up the recipes chosen for today. These are a couple of desserts (although one could be served for breakfast in the US way), and an unusual one for 'jacket spuds' that can be prepared the day before to just heat up for lunch or supper.

We begin with a type of 'Drop Scone' (aka Scotch pancakes, and similar to the US pancakes). This is a good way to use up those few berries we might have in our freezer. At this time of year we can also 'spring-clean' our stores as well as our houses, to make room for fresh produce (berries etc) as the seasons progress. We don't always have enough to make jam, so this is a good way to use them. Choose any berries you wish (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries etc).
Blueberry Pancakes: serves 4
10 oz (300g) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 tblsp caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 oz (50g) butter, melted and cooled slightly
half pint (10 fl oz) milk
pinch salt
7 oz (200g) blueberries (or others, see above)
Mix together all the dry ingredients together (but not the berries), then whisk in the eggs, melted butter and milk to make a thick batter. Finally fold in the berries.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan (you can rub the hot surface with a little 'butter paper' if you wish) and spoon good tablespoons of the mix onto the pan to form circles. Leave these to cook until bubbles appear on the surface and when the first bubbles break and leave a 'hole' then time to flip over and cook the other side until golden. Can be served for breakfast with a drizzle of maple syrup, or serve hot for pudding with a scoop of ice-cream.

Next recipe is a way to use up some puff pastry (if you have it), also a couple of bananas that won't keep forever. This dessert ends up looking a bit like a chocolate eclair, but without the chocolate (although a spoonful of melted chocolate drizzled on top could be the icing on the cake?)
Banana and Cream Puffs: serves 4
2 bananas
2 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
demerara sugar
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
2 tsp rum (opt)
2 tblsp icing sugar, sifted
Slice the bananas in half both horizontally and across to make 8 'quarters'. Lay these on the pastry, cut sides of the banana facing up. Cut around each piece of fruit leaving a three-quarter inch (2cm) border.
Place on a baking sheet, brush the pastry borders with egg, then sprinkle the tops (pastry and banana) with sugar. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 15 - 20 minutes until the pastry has puffed up and golden and the bananas are caramelised.
Meanwhile, whip the cream, rum (if using) and icing sugar together, then when the Banana Puffs are ready, serve two per person with a dollop of cream on top.

Final recipe is for a 'supper dish' (or for lunch if you wish), as it can be prepared ahead, a good one to make for teenagers to heat up when they come in ravenous for yet another 'snack'.
The baking potatoes (aka 'jackets') can be pre-cooked either in the oven and filled with the meat and mash ready to reheat.
Shepherd's Jackets: serves 2
3 oz (75g) butter
1 small onion, chopped
8 oz (225g) minced lamb
5 fl oz (150ml) hot lamb stock
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tblsp tomato puree
salt and pepper
2 large baking potatoes, cooked
1 oz (25g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Fry the onion in half the butter for 2 - 3 minutes, then add the minced lamb and fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the stock, the W. sauce and tomato puree with seasoning to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened.
This can be cooled and put into a dish, covered and chilled until ready to fill the potatoes if you wish, or if you have already just cooked the potatoes, these spuds can be halved lengthways, the flesh scooped out and mashed with the remaining butter - adding seasoning to taste.
Fill the potato shells with the minced lamb mixture and cover with the mash. Cover and chill if not wishing to heat immediately.
To serve: place the filled potato shells on a baking tray, sprinkle with the cheese and bake for 20 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6. Eat hot as a 'snack', or with veggies of your choice for a main meal.

Now time for me to take my leave. The sun is shining brightly, so it could be another good day, despite it still feeling chilly. Hope you enjoy your day as much as I hope to mine. Please join me again tomorrow. TTFN.