Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Noises Off!

Every few minutes I'm  hearing a small bleep coming from the comp. screen.   Have no idea why it has begun to do this, and am wondering what it means.  Is it a countdown to blowing up?  Or reminding me that it's going to stop working and I need to buy a new one?  Whatever the cause, it is worrying me.
So don't be surprised if suddenly you find my blog has disappeared from your screens, as not sure if I can afford to buy another computer.  Well, not at the moment as the warning is that fuel prices will rise (again) this coming winter, so financial cuts have to be made somewhere. 
Anyway will plod on while I can...

The making of canapes seems to be of interest to readers, and Alison is requesting tips.  Not sure there are any other than first decide on the bases (bread, toast, pastry cases, etc) and then choose your 'toppings'.  From then on all you need do is write out shopping lists for food that needs to be bought.  Make sure you have any piping bags and nozzles if you wish to pipe on toppings, and also decide on garnishes (as these are the icing on the cake so to speak).  Most of the toppings could be made or prepared in advance (pate etc), and also the 'bases' could be done a day or two in advance.  On the 'day', prepare all the garnishes (slices of gherkin, radish, olives, herbs.....) and have these ready and waiting in the fridge, then decide what will 'keep' fresh longest and assemble these first, and work  your way through, probably adding the garnishes just before serving.

A welcome to MamaDragon.  Agree that it is worth growing different veg from those more usually grown in the garden/allotment, for myself have found I've got a bit stuck in a rut, always eating much the same, and since the veggie boxes are now giving me a wider selection, am finding great pleasure in tasting those I haven't tried before - such as fennel, and corn cooked still on the cob.  Am hoping that Romanesco will be in the box one week, and am sure there will be other more unusual ones.

With Margie mentioning Marmite, this has reminded me that I ate a Marmite and Banana on toast the other day and loved it.  Also saw a recipe for a beef stew that had slice of French Bread (or baguette) spread with Marmite placed on top for the final 20 minutes of cooking time, left uncovered this crisped the bread slightly and made a change from dumplings.

Lovely to hear from you again Marjorie.  Am hoping to find the gluten-free fruit cake recipe, but think I might have thrown it out when I saw Les had given his version.  But I'll be sorting through the recipes I've saved, and if I find it will let you know (so keep watching this space).
Have you given up butchering altogether, or can you scale it down from beef to (say) pork or lamb? Am assuming that the method of carving up is much the same for most animals, although the cuts would have different names. 
In 'Larousse Gastronomique' there are diagrams showing the difference between the cuts (of beef, lamb, pork etc) according to country.  English, French and American can vary considerably.  I believe there are also differences in the way the Canadian and Irish also butcher their meat, although could be wrong.  Maybe they just call some cuts by different names.

Instead of recipes, today am giving a few culinary hints and tips that may help to improve what we make and also remove some of the load from our shoulders.

When cooking pasta, remove a mug of the cooking liquid before draining, then - after adding the sauce of your choice - stir in a little of this reserved water as this contains gluten from the pasta which helps the sauce to hold to the pasta and gives an extra 'creaminess'.

To keep pans from boiling over, smear a thin layer of butter around the inside rim of the pan. Works especially well when boiling pasta, rice, potatoes....

Cheese grates more easily if placed in a freezer for an hour before grating.
Freeze a block of butter and grate this into flour when making pastry, then fold together with a knife before adding chilled water.

Ingredients for pastry making need always to be cold.  Ingredients for cake-making need always to be at room temperature (in winter a bit warmer than that).

When baking/boiling use eggs at room temperature. Meat/fish etc should be at room temperature before being cooked.

When wishing to slice meat/fish very thinly, freeze for an hour before cutting as this will help firm it up.  Do the same with frozen meat - just allow it to thaw slightly before slicing.

If a bag of sugar has gone hard, then place in a wedge of apple.  This will then soften the sugar overnight. 
Apple wedges put into the potato bag are said to help prevent potatoes sprouting.

To help bring out more flavour, sprinkle the cut sides of tomatoes with a little sugar.  Add a little salt as well if you wish.

Chill the bowl, beaters and cream before whipping.  The cold helps the cream to thicken more quickly.
If cream is over-whipped, just add a little more unwhipped cream (or milk) and slowly beat this in, then this will slacken the cream to the consistency it was meant to be.

Make your own Creme Fraiche by folding together lightly whipped double cream with the same amount of Greek yogurt (but if cooking with this, don't let it boil).

If you want to speed up the ripening process of fruits, then put them in a bag with either an avocado, banana, peach, pear, or even a tomato as these give off a natural gas that helps other fruits to ripen.

To keep packaged herbs fresh, remove from bag, then wrap herbs in damp kitchen paper.  Roll up and wrap in cling film, then keep chilled.

To measure golden syrup easily, first stand the spoon in a jug of very hot water.  Stand the can of syrup on the scales, then use the hot spoon to scoop out the syrup, reading the scales to see that they end up weighing less (by the amount needed). Using a hot spoon means practically all the syrup will slide immediately off the spoon into where you wish to put it.  Oiling a spoon also prevents the syrup sticking to it.

If you wish to remove excess fat from the top of a casserole, either drop in a few ice-cubes (the fat will stick to the cubes), or lay kitchen paper over the surface and allow this to soak up the fat.

Liquid expands when frozen, so always allow a 10% extra space at the top when packaging to prevent the frozen liquid pushing off lids (or splitting plastic containers).

Don't ditch unused egg whites, put them in a sealed container and store in the fridge for up to 48 hours, or freeze (I use ice-cube trays) for up to 6 months.
Thaw and use as fresh egg whites (2 tblsp thawed = 1 egg white).

Make lighter omelettes, quiches and frittatas by adding extra egg white to the eggs used in the recipe.
Use egg white to glaze scones, biscuits and bread before baking.
Make a sweetened fruit puree, then fold in beaten egg whites and freeze to make a sorbet.

Watched the 'Bake off' last night and am still puzzled why choux pastry is said to be 'difficult' to make properly.  I've found it dead easy.  
Loved the idea of the 'petit fours' and think I'll copy some of the ideas/presentation for the forthcoming 'gourmet do'.

The comp is still bleeping, do wish I knew why it is doing this.  If you are reading this Les, maybe you will be the one to tell me. 

Moving on to a late brunch/early lunch for me, with plenty for me to do this afternoon, and am also very busy tomorrow - this may mean a short blog - but will grab at least some time to have our usual 'chat'.  See you then.