Thursday, July 12, 2012

It's all in a Name

Slight change of plan to yesterday when we heard our daughter was coming over, so of course invited her to supper. She was bringing the dessert, so I ended up thawing out a container of cooked and cubed venison, then re-heated this in its own gravy, plus a glass of red wine and a dollop of red-currant jelly. When slow-cooking the venison, added some beetroot juice to the water and together (wine, beetroot juice and r.jelly) gave a good approximation of port flavour which enhanced the venison.
Served with roasted baby potatoes, buttered carrots, broccoli and individual Yorkshire puddings.

Our daughter had also brought a bottle of chilled Mojitos Fizz (sold at M & S), this being a cocktail of white wine, carbonated water, a bit of white rum and some lime juice, plus a lovely hint of mint. At 5% alcohol (is that low?) it was so refreshing on what turned out to be quite a warm and sunny afternoon. Can really recommend it although don't know the price.
Had this 'cocktail' before the meal then B opened a bottle of red to go with the meal.
A lovely day yesterday as regards weather, and the warmth and sun is expected to continue today after a much cooler night. Am planning to sit (and work) in the garden between spells of cooking.

Yesterday made another batch of popcorn as it only takes a couple of minutes to put the corn in the big pot (with a little oil) then cover the pan, turn up the heat and leave it to pop. This time made a crunchy chocolate coating (butter, sugar, golden syrup and cocoa melted together the poured over the corn and tossed together). Finished this off by crisping up in the oven for 10 minutes. It filled two big bags. One was given to B and he manfully munched his way through the lot saying "there is enough in this bag to fill three smaller bags" - meaning I'd given him too much (again!). To which I replied "nothing stopping you eating a third then closing the bag and leaving the rest, then later eat half of that". But once he starts anything (bag of biscuits, bar of chocolate, bowl of fruit salad, pack of cooked ham....), he seems always to have to eat the lot in one go, not just take a portion. At least I am learning to pack in smaller amounts, just not the popcorn. Mind you, I'm as bad, give me a tub of Pringles and I can't eat only a few, have to eat most of them during one evening - well ALL of them if truth be told.

Yesterday made another 'extended' loaf of white bread. Used two thirds of the dough to make a 2 lb loaf, then divided the last third into six 'baps'. These I placed in a deep and wide cake tin, five round the sides, one in the centre, covered and left to rise, they were then cooked and ended up beautifully soft on top, not the usual crust I normally get. Possibly this was because they were in a deep tin that gave the tops protection from the heat, anyway I ate one later that evening (with sliced cheese and tomato filling, and it was GORGEOUS!! So soft yet perfectly cooked.
Our daughter took a couple home with her, B asked for some ham to make a filling for the other, so I took a couple of packs if sliced ham (last ones) from the freezer and when thawed he made himself two ham baps. This means only one bap left, but as I'd put it in a small poly bag, it has remained soft and B can eat it today with the ham that was left.
Today I'll be slicing the loaf using the electric slicer to make thick 'toasting' bread, and some thinner for sarnies.

Was thinking yesterday about my current 'challenge'. Should I call this 'using up what I've got' or 'making the most of' what I have'? The two are not necessarily the same thing. We can all use up what we have, but not always in the best way. 'Making the most of...' is a much better approach and the end result lies with the cook and not with the ingredients (which can be the same but used in a different way).

Even a basic recipe, given a different name can sound more appetising. As said before, there are very few new recipes, just adaptations, and am not even sure which one started the ball rolling but 'Croque Monsieur', Croque Mesdames', 'Eggs Benedict', 'Eggs Florentine', 'Eggs Arnold Bennett' all are adaptations of the basic 'poached egg on toast' that we Brits tend to favour.

Thanks for the couple of comments sent in. One was from an 'unknown', who seems to be a regular reader but commenting for the first time. Please give us a 'contact' name (need not necessary be your real name) then a personal reply will be given, but welcome anyway.

You are fortunate Lisa in that you are able to gather crops from your garden, due to the very wet weather here and cooler temperatures, many crops (if survived at all) are late.
As you say, once you've had a baking session, the food is eaten up very rapidly. The only thing to do is bake when the family are out of the house, then when cool, hide some away in tins. On the other hand it really is nice to know that our baking is so much appreciated. I am always grumbling about my Beloved wolfing his way through what has just been made, but still I carry on making things for him to do just that. Perhaps, secretly, I just love cooking and baking and need someone to eat it all up as rapidly as possible so I can make some more.

A few easy recipes today, useful for when time is short and especially when the oven is on (at the right temperature) so you can use a spare shelf (saves fuel). The first is for Flapjack, another 'treat' that tends to hang around only for a few minutes before being eaten! If no light brown sugar, use demerara (or even white granulated). Use porridge oats for a chewy texture and jumbo oats if you want it more crunchy.

Flapjack: makes 12
6 oz (175g) butter
5 oz (150g) golden syrup
2 oz (50g) light muscavado sugar
9 oz (250g) porridge oats (see above)
Put the butter, syrup and sugar into a pan and heat gently until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the oats.
Spoon the oat mixture into a lined 9" (23cm) square tin and press down to fill the tin and flatten the surface. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for approx 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown on top. Leave in the tin to cool for 5 minutes, then - while it is still warm - using the (blunt) back of a knife, mark into bars or squares. Cool in the tin completely before removing and cutting through otherwise the flapjack will tend to break up.

Whenever I fry more than one egg, I save a white as there is more than enough from one egg (esp a large egg) when in the pan to hold two yolks. When making lemon curd also save an egg white or two and add an extra yolk.
The whites I use to make Italian meringue to make soft-scoop ice-cream, or I might just whisk egg whites and sugar in the normal way to make a batch of small meringues that - once dried out in the oven - can be stored in air-tight containers for MONTHS.

Here is a recipe that can use home-made meringues. The rum is optional, but being alcohol this helps to prevent the 'ice-cream' freezing too solid, making it difficult to scoop out.
Ginger Meringue 'Ice-cream': serves 6
6 individual meringues, broken into chunks
1 x 425ml tub double cream
zest of 1 lemon
2 - 3 tblsp rum
2 tblsp caster sugar
4 pieces stem ginger in syrup, roughly chopped
Whisk the cream until just stiff, then fold in the lemon zest, rum, sugar, ginger and meringue.
Spoon into a cling film lined 7" (18cm) cake tin, level the surface and place in the freezer for at least 4 hours.
Turn out 10 minutes before serving but keep chilled in the fridge. Cut into wedges and drizzle with ginger syrup from the jar.

Tip: Buy a jar of preserved ginger in syrup then remove the ginger and slice. Divide the slices between two or three small jars (using the original jar as one of them), also dividing the syrup between them. Top up the jars with home-made stock sugar syrup, then cover with lids and leave for a week or so. The ginger will flavour the added syrup and this can then be used to flavour sweet and savoury dishes, or spooned over ice-cream as a sauce.

Many cooks keep a supply of icing sugar, many cooks also make their own ice-cream. Put the two together with some double cream and you have the makings for one of the easiest-to-make brulees.
Lemon Curd Brulee: serves 6
1 x 568ml tub double cream
8 oz (225g) lemon curd
4 teaspoons icing sugar
Whisk the cream until it holds its shape, then fold in the lemon curd. Spoon this into six small (9 cm) ramekins and level the surface. Chill for one hour (or can be left overnight if you wish).
Preheat the grill then sift a thin layer of icing sugar over the top of each ramekin, then pop under the grill and cook for 2 - 3 minutes until the sugar has caramelised. Cooks who possess a blow torch could use this instead. Serve immediately.

Final recipe is for a savoury dish and like this one as the rice is cooked to have a 'crispy' surface. In Spain I believe paella should be cooked long enough for the rice to crust up on the base of the pan, but few of us do this. If you don't have a leek, use three or four finely sliced shallots.
Savoury Rice Cake: serves 4
1 oz (25g) butter
1 leek, finely chopped (see above)
12 oz (350g) risotto rice
1.75 pints (1 ltr) hot vegetable stock
4 oz (100g) pesto
2 eggs, beaten
freshly ground black pepper
5 oz (150g) mozzarella, thinly sliced
Well flavoured tomato sauce/passata (for serving)
Melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the leek for 5 or so minutes until soft. Stir in the rice then add a ladleful of stock and simmer until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid. Add another ladleful of stock and when this has been absorbed add another, and continue in the same way, stirring continuously for 20 minutes, by which time the rice should have taken up most (or all) of the stock and end up tender and creamy.
Stir in the pesto, eggs and pepper to taste, then take a 9" (23cm) non-stick frying pan and spoon half the rice mixture into this. Top with the slices of mozzarella and spoon the rest of the rice on top, levelling the surface. Fry over medium heat for 5 minutes, then put a plate over the frying pan and carefully invert so the rice cake is now showing a crispy, golden surface. Slide the rice cake back into the pan and - if necessary - press back into shape, then continue cooking for a further 5 minutes until the base is golden. Serve in wedges with a well-flavoured tomato sauce.

That's it for today. Blue sky is appearing so am hoping we will get quite a bit of sunshine today (as promised), but there is quite a breeze and it is cooler today, but expected to warm up. Must make the most of the good weather while we have it. The forecast is not too bad until the end of this month, but we should expect further bad weather this August. Let us hope that this comes after the Olympics rather than during.

Am hoping this will publish. On the late news last night it said that O2 (Orange - this covers my mobile phone and broadband connection) had crashed but some of it is still operating. Possibly all back in action by now. Have to wait and see. The connection seems to have 'connected', so probably all is well. Hope to meet up with you all again tomorrow. TTFN.