Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pride Before a Fall?

Am very pleased how things are turning out.  After chilling the cooked topside yesterday, sliced it using my electric slicer and was so pleased, for the slow cooking had really worked well.  The beef slightly pink, moist and I was able to cut the thinnest 'wafer' slices, perfect for ruffling up to top canapes.  The remainder of the topside was cut more thickly, some to be cooked on in Teriyaki sauce as a more 'Oriental' topping for canapes, the rest B will be eating (later).

The one thing that has been bothering me (quite a lot) is how soon before serving can I prepare the canapes?  It's not the preparation of toppings, but more how long the bases will stay - once topped with something moist  - without going soggy.  This is normally why canapes are assembled and served less than half an hour before serving.  

Certainly having to 'top' 500 canapes and then pack and deliver them to the venue, allowing them time to lay the platters out on the table would take a lot longer than half an hour. 
So yesterday I decided to do some testing and took a few very crispy small bruschettas (is that the correct spelling?) from a pack (bought from Morrison's from the 'reduced' counter).  Laid these out and spread one thinly with  butter, another with some mayo, and left the third as-is.  topped each with a heaped teaspoon of some coleslaw I'd made (a bit wet) then left them until 9 pm before they were eaten.
As hoped, the base spread with butter had stayed crisp (almost too crisp if you have 'old' teeth), the one spread with mayo was perfect, slightly softer in the centre but the crusty edges still crisp.  The 'as-is' one had gone soggy.  So now I know what to do.  Spread something on the bases to protect them from a topping if it is on the 'damp' side.   A  pretty obvious thing anyway - we all spread butter or marg (or cream cheese, or mayo) on our bread to prevent it getting soggy from a damp filling.  So the same approach works just as well with canape-toast bases.

My mind then went to the mini-pastry cases that I'll be making and later filling.  As I always blind-bake a pastry case before filling with fruit or when making a quiche, before the case is filled I brush it with beaten egg (or just yolk or white), and pop it back in the oven for a few seconds to dry out - this then keeps the base crisp once the more liquid filling has been added. So the same idea should work with the pastry mini-bases - brush the insides of the cases with beaten egg when baked, then pop them back into a cooling oven to dry off - this will then give a protective cover to the pastry that should prevent a moist topping soaking through.  Let us hope so anyway. 

Bread-based canapes (pumpernickel, rye bread etc) are moist anyway and can stand having something a little 'damp' put on top.  Even so will still give them a thin spread of something like tartare sauce, horseradish sauce, mayo etc (depending upon the topping).  
With any luck this means I will be able to start topping canapes early in Saturday afternoon, then covering and chilling them until delivery, leaving the more delicate ones until the last minute.

Have now to 'pace myself', and get as much done each day without overdoing it.  Yesterday sliced (and froze) the meat.  Today have already made a start with the chicken stock (simmering away as I write), as well as doing a load of laundry in the washing machine.  Some of the chicken stock will be needed for the Game Pie, the rest I need for my own use over the next weeks (having just about run out).

Later this morning I'll be making chicken pate (this will also be frozen), and my intention is to make the cheese choux buns to freeze, and also bake about 50 (or so) mini pastry cases in assorted shapes.
May even make the cheese straws and Palmiers as the oven will be at the right heat for all the above.

Am also going to have a go at making some venison sausages as I have a sausage making kit (from Lakeland, and some venison (thawing in the fridge).  These can also be frozen to be thawed and cooked 'on the day'.

It's not good to feel so pleased with myself and the way things are going, for - as they say - 'pride goes before a fall'.  So let's hope that nothing unfortunate happens between now and late Saturday afternoon next week.   The more I can prepare in advance the better just in case someone else has to finish the job.   If I think all will be fine then fate will throw a spanner in the works.  If I live in fear and trembling that gremlins will spoil my efforts, then probably things will go swimmingly. 

Yesterday made myself a 'salad coleslaw' for my supper (some of this used to top the canape bases - mentioned above).  Decided to grate the last of an iceberg lettuce (instead of white cabbage) in the food processor with the last of a fennel bulb, plus a red onion and a carrot.  Bound this with some mayo diluted slightly with the spicy liquid from a jar of Peppadew. 
When ready to eat my supper, added a sliced banana to this 'salad/coleslaw', and have to say it was very tasty.  The fennel just adding that 'extra something' but not overpowering.

Saturday today.  I like Saturdays as I spend a happy hour after writing my blog reading the TV supplement delivered with the newspaper (marking programmes I wish to watch),  followed by a bit of kitchen work, then back to watch the repeat of Nigelissima (think it is on this morning), then back to the kitchen until supper time to do what needs to be done (today's culinary work has been mentioned above).  My idea of a good day.  Think in the past Saturday always used to be 'baking day' so probably now baking feels an almost instinctive thing to do.  Today things have changed to Saturday being 'supermarket shopping day'.  Know which I prefer to do.

Yesterday B had trotted off to Morrison's for his lemonade, and bought back a fresh rainbow trout that had been reduced (use-by date being tomorrow), so he cooked that for his supper last night.  Quite a treat (the price low enough to be worth him buying it), so tonight he might be satisfied with something 'light' like bacon sarnies.

Was a bit annoyed (well not really but...) to find the smaller pot of beef dripping made on Thursday (enough to last several days) had been all used up.  B must have been eating nothing but dripping on toast (with a sprinkle of salt) for all his snacks since I made it.  Think I'll have to hide the remaining larger pot of dripping, or that will be finished before the end of this month. 
Mind you, I'm a bit like that....give me a box of chocolates and I can't eat just one.  I keep eating until the box is empty (although more recently do try to make it last two days).  Why do I do this? Other people seem to just eat one, then close the box and probably don't eat another until the next day (or the next week.   I'm a fool to myself, and if B loves beef dripping THAT much, then he too is a fool to himself as he knows there won't be any more for at least 12 months (unless I ration the remaining supply).

The one thing I like about Nigella is - in her series and am sure in her real life - is how she goes to her fridge late at night (or even gets up in the middle of the night) to get herself a 'snack' (BIG snack) of whatever gorgeous 'eats' she has made and had left over.  Not surprising she was slightly 'plump'.  She said recently that she had been able to lose weight more easily because after an operation on her bunions, she couldn't keep walking to the kitchen to help herself and after asking someone to fetch her a piece of cake (which they did) after eating it she didn't like to ask them to then go and bring her another slice (and then another).

Plump cooks I like (probably because I can relate to them as I'm one of that bunch), for one thing it (to me) gives a sign they love food (and if you love food you  are more inclined to take more trouble when cooking). Myself can never understand how so many female cooks today manage to stay so slender.  Fortunately most of the cooks on the Food Network seem to be on the more ample side, so that makes me feel a bit better. 
The apron I'm wearing at the moment has the words "Never Trust a Thin Cook" printed across the top of the pocket.  Food for thought there?

No comments today (did I mislead readers to believe it was today I'd be taking the day off?),  but being the weekend normally the comments are less than normal.  Readers have more important things to do than bother with reading blogs.  

Yesterday heard someone on TV talking about 'Twitter', and moaning how now everyone seems to want to keep 'tweeting' about what they are doing during the day.  As if anyone cares!  Then, realised in a way this is just what I am doing,  pouring out details of my life (as if anyone cares!!), and perhaps I should spend more time writing about food and less about me.

One large cauliflower keeps for several weeks in the fridge, and as there are only two of us, I find it can be used for several dishes over that time, the obvious one being Cauliflower Cheese.  Here is a lovely spicy curry dish that is easy to make.  If you don't have spring onions, use a chopped shallot. We don't like the flavour of fresh coriander so I'd omit this. If you haven't the right sugar, then use demerara.  Myself would use 'ordinary' frozen peas and frozen sweetcorn kernels rather than what is suggested in the recipe, or I might include some chopped string beans.  An easy recipe to substitute different ingredients, but do use the cauliflower.
Thai Cauliflower Curry: serves 4
handful of coriander, roughly chopped
2 bunches spring onions, chopped
1 tsp turmeric
2 oz (50g) piece fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped
2 tblsp light muscovado sugar
1 x 400g can coconut milk
4 fl oz (100ml) water
1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
6 oz (175g) pack Baby Corn and Mangetout, cut into thirds
juice of 1 lime (or lemon)
salt and pepper
Put the coriander, spring onions, turmeric, ginger, and sugar into a food processor and blitz together to make a curry paste.
Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan and add the water and cauliflower.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, then add the curry paste with the corn and mangetout and continue simmering for a further 10 minutes (or until all the veggies are tender. Don't overcook the cauliflower or it goes mushy).
Stir in the lime juice and seasoning to taste, then serve with steamed or boiled rice (jasmine rice is suggested).

Need to take my leave of you now if I can manage to make everything on my list.  Tomorrow I'll probably be making the Truffles, and Macaroons.  Getting there slowly but surely, and still plenty of time before starting to panic.

Hope you all enjoy your weekend, the weather forecast is good (for a change), so make the most of it while you can.  I'll be back tomorrow (either before or after Gill's phone call), so it would be good if you could 'drop in' for our virtual coffee break together. TTFN.