Monday, October 08, 2012

Busy Time of Year

Looks like I'll be busy until at least the end of this month what with the sailing club 'do', followed by Hallow'een.   Have already got 'tunnel vision' when it comes to the 'gourmet food', but once the final decision as to what they wish me to make has been sorted, then all I need to do is write the  numerous lists (what needs to be bought - and when; what can be made in advance;  what can be made nearer the day and kept chilled;  what has to be made ON the day;  and final preparations (making up canapes, garnishes etc) a.s.a.p before delivery.  Then all I have to do is work through the lists ticking off what has been done.

As you said Jane, it is somewhat easier to provide large bowls of food for people to help themselves, but this time the catering committee are requesting 'finger food', so that means LOADS of canapes (or similar).  Not that I mind, it is just the time needed to top the bases as many really need finishing off at the last minute, but then I'm used to working at speed once I've prepared and laid out all the necessary.  Good job I'd bought myself another box of vinyl/plastic disposable gloves (for these events I never touch food with my fingers - however well scrubbed they are - if I can possibly avoid it),

Your 'frugal dinner' nevertheless sounded appetising Jane, just goes to show that we don't need to spend much to make a meal, especially if we can make use of any 'left-overs'.  You sound as though you've now stocked up enough to keep you going a good twelvemonth, so now is the time to start padlocking your purse and then come Christmas you should have plenty saved to buy yourself (and family) a few little treats.

Good idea Lisa to roast Brussels sprouts, roasting veggies I think adds to their flavour, but have not yet tried this with sprouts.   Am including a slightly different 'Bubble and Squeak' recipe that uses sprouts that readers might like to try, and for you (and other readers on a gluten-free diet) am giving a couple of cake recipes.

Loved hearing about 'Dolly at the dressage' Kathryn.  She sounds quite a character.  Do hope you manage to get that temporary (maternity leave) work you are hoping for.   Also seems as though you might be able to get some extra income by making those riding jackets you mentioned.  Seems that today, anyone clever enough with a needle (be it sewing, knitting, crochet etc) can always make some 'pin money'. 
In a recent mag saw a small knitted tea cosy in a mag (knitted in thick wool and very basic knit one purl one..., so would only take about an hour to make), this selling for just under £30!!!  An acquaintance of mine (some years back now) used to make up small hand-crafted items (and they weren't THAT well made either) and she sold them at Harrods!  Nowadays home-crafts seem to sell well.

Yesterday spent most of my time planting the large number of spring bulbs that B had brough me when he was at the recent County Fair.  Have now got about 2 dozen pots (assorted sizes) of hyacinths that are supposed to flower indoors this winter.  Unfortunately, although many were packed in paper bags, presumably each containing the one colour, there was nothing written on the bags to say what to expect, so will just have to wait and see.  They've now all been put in a cold and dark place until the beginning of December when by then I hope they will be just coming into bud and so can bring them out to grow on in warm and well lit rooms.

Made myself a curry last night using up the last few florets from a cauliflower (bought some weeks ago - there is a new 'fresh' organic cauliflower in the fridge that will be eaten later), and to this added some onion and potato, plus curry paste and cream..  It wasn't bad, but wasn't that good either as I didn't take the trouble I would have done had I made it for B.  But I enjoyed it.

Did watch a new programme (new to me) on Food Network called (I think) 'Sweet Dreams'.  Another competition where - this time - there were four cooks trying to make the best desserts using ingredients given, then half-way through they were given an extra 'surprise' ingredient to include.  Trouble is (the same thing happens in Cup Cake Wars) the ingredients are not what anyone would wish to use when cooking cakes/desserts.   The first dessert was ice-cream that had to include salt and vinegar crisps (in the US 'chips'), and that before the 'surprise ingredient' (these being things like 'Brie', 'wheat grass' etc.), not my idea of cooking or even entertainment.

Did watch an afternoon programme on ITV about making cakes.  D'you know, I can't even remember what the lady cooked, she is one of those presenters that hasn't the 'charisma' that keeps us wanting to watch. 
Nigel Slater begins a new series at the end of this week, one just up our street as I believe this is to be all about 'using what we have'.

Anyway, must give the recipes before my allotted time is up (my new resolution is to get the daily blog published before 10.30 (unless a 'hair' day).  Starting with a very seasonal one as the wind is knocking apples off trees, and so a good way to use up these 'falling's if you are lucky enough to have a tree (or know someone who has).  This would also make a good addition to the Christmas 'Hamper' that we home-cooks like to give as gifts.
Spiced Apple Chutney: makes approx 3 lb (1.5kg)
1 x 500ml bottle cider vinegar
2 lb (1kg) green-skinned crisp apples
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2" (5cm) piece root ginger, peeled and grated
1 lb (500g) light muscovado sugar
8 oz (225g) raisins
8 cloves
1 cinnamon stick (broken into two)
1 level tblsp white mustard seed
1 tblsp salt
Put the vinegar into a large saucepan/preserving pan.  Peel, core and chop the apples, then add these to the pan with the remaining ingredients.  Place over low heat and stir until the sugar has melted, then raise the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 45 - 50 minutes until the mixture is thick enough to leave a path behind when the spoon has been dragged across the base of the pan.
Remove the pan from heat and leave the chutney to cool slightly before potting up into warm, sterilized jars, stirring with a skewer to remove any air bubbles that might be trapped.  Leave to cool completely, then cover with vinegar proof lids.
Store in a cool dark place for at least 3 weeks before eating, and if stored the same way it will keep for up to six months. 

Here is the recipe for a tastier than normal 'Bubble and Squeak'.  These patties make a good breakfast, lunch or supper dish when served with grilled tomatoes and/or a poached or fried egg (and/or crispy bacon).  Ideally, start by boiling the potatoes, then place the sprouts in a steamer over the top so they end up ready at the same time.
Bubble and Stilton Squeaks: serves 4
2 lb (900g) peeled potatoes, freshly boiled
12 oz (335g) Brussels sprouts, shredded and steamed
1 oz (25g) butter
salt and pepper
4 spring onions (or two shallots) finely sliced
1 large egg, beaten
4 oz (100g) Stilton cheese, cut into 8 cubes
2 tblsp sunflower oil
Drain the cooked potatoes well, then return to the pan with the butter with seasoning to taste and mash together until smooth and creamy, then stir in the sprouts, onions and egg.
Divide mixture into 8 and shape each into a ball, then press a cube of Stilton into the centre of each one, then flatten into patties, making sure the cheese is completely covered.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the patties for 2 minute on each side until golden.  The cheese will melt inside during the frying.  Drain in kitchen paper then serve immediately with what you will (see suggestions above).

Next two recipes are gluten-free.  The first is a version of a traditional German cake/loaf served at Yule-tide.  The second is a citrus flavoured 'sponge' type cake.

Spiced Stollen: makes 1 large loaf
9 oz (250g) gluten-free self-raising flour
3 tsp gluten-free baking powder
3 large eggs, beaten
3 oz (75g) butter, melted
11 fl oz (300ml) soured cream
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz (50g) pistachio nuts, chopped
2 oz (50g) pecans, chopped
zest of 1 large orange
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
7 oz (200g) marzipan, cut into small pieces
3 oz (75g) sultanas
3 oz (75g) raisins
icing sugar for dusting
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, then add the eggs with four tblsp of the (cooled) melted butter, the soured cream, and the sugar.  Then stir in the vanilla, and the remaining ingredients (not icing sugar).  Mix together to make a dough then turn this out onto a floured board, shaping it into an oval (approx 35 x 20cm).  Keep dusting your hands with flour as the mixture will be sticky.
Place onto a large baking tray that has been lined with baking parchment and bake for 40 - 50 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until the top of the loaf is golden and cooked.  Brush the top of the loaf with the remaining melted butter, then dust with icing sugar (the butter will absorb the sugar to form a sugary coating to the Stollen).
This will keep for up to a week when stored in an airtight container.

St. Clement's Cake: cuts into 10 slices
9 oz (250g) butter, softened
9 oz (250g) caster sugar
4 eggs
9 oz (250g) gluten free self-raising flour
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
9 oz (250g) mashed potato
zest and juice of 2 lemons
zest and juice of 1 orange
6 oz (175g) icing sugar, sifted
lemon juice
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Sift together the flour and baking powder then fold this into the creamed mixture, followed by the potato (fork the spuds through or pref. use a potato ricer to prevent adding it in one lump), and finally the citrus zests and juices (keep back two teaspoons of lemon juice to make the icing).
When combined, put the mixture into a greased and lined 9" (20cm) round cake tin, and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 45 minutes until golden and a skewer poked in comes out clean.
Leave cake to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out onto a cake airer.
Put the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in enough of the lemon juice to make a stiff but runny icing (if too thick add a few drops of water).  Spread icing over the cake to cover the top, allowing it to dribble down the sides.  Leave until the icing has set before slicing and serving.   Good eaten with a dollop of creme fraiche or Greek yogurt.

Just time for me to give one more recipe for those who enjoy Marmite.  So simple to make yet wonderfully crisp and tasty.
Cheese and Marmite 'crunchies': makes 64 'sticks'
8 sliced white bread, crusts removed
4 tsp Marmite
 grated Parmesan cheese
Using a rolling pin, roll the slices of bread as thinly as possible, then spread each slice with half a tsp of Marmite.  Cut each slice into 8 long sticks and transfer to a baking sheet. Sprinkle a little Parmesan on top then bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 15 minutes.  Give the tray a shake then return to the oven and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the stick are dark and crunchy. 
Cool completely before eating.

That has to be it for today as must now get on and do what needs to be done.  All of a sudden I've got myself organised (not before time), so want to keep working whilst the mood stays with me.
Hope you can join me again tomorrow - if so, see you then.