Monday, November 19, 2012

Melts in the Mouth...

As ever, my good intentions yesterday didn't quite work out as planned.  Did at least manage to sort out some of my larder, but still plenty to do, and didn't even touch the fridge/freezers other than getting a small piece of frozen beef fillet out to thaw for B's supper (strogonoff).

Have to confess that while I was in the living room, automatically (!) switched on the TV and discovered AWT on the Food Network, then reading the TV supplement, noticed that there were five of Jamie Oliver's 15 minutes meals back to back on More 4 (these I had missed when first shown), so watched those as Jamie is always good, although the main problem with his speedy meals is that these are often too expensive for my style of cooking.  But then most foods that cook quickly (by this I mean the best cuts of meat, and of course fish) are not cheap.

Immediately following Jamie's progs were five more of Hugh F.W's, these being a week of competitive cooking between Hugh and two other chefs - but each only allowed to use three ingredients.  This was far more up my street, although again cost came into it.  At least Hugh made the more 'domestic/rustic' meal, whilst the chefs rustled up food that was much more 'restaurant style'.

After Hugh had finished, then managed to catch most of the repeat (I had not seen the original) of Nigel Slater's cookery programme.  But at least not an afternoon wasted, I loved every minute of all the programmes, and learned quite a lot, and as B didn't return until late afternoon, was not distracted.   It was good to know that B's supper (strogonoff) fitted into both Jamie's and Hugh's format - the meal cooked in under 10 minutes, and only three ingredients (beef, mushrooms, and rice).  Like H.F.W' prog that allowed 'extras' to add flavour, I did allow myself onion, a dash of red wine, and sour cream to complete the dish. 

Only one comment came in overnight.
Your 'box' type freezer Marjorie is probably what we call a 'chest freezer',  these have an opening lid at the top, and usually a couple or more basket hanging inside with loads of space beneath. These freeezers can be various sizes, and usually the larger the better.
However they can be a bit of a nuisance if you are small, as often they are too deep to reach down to the bottom (the danger is that leaning over to reach something, we could fall in!).

We used to have a large chest freezer, but shortly before we moved, B got rid of that as it would be far too large when we 'downsized' and he also got rid of our fridge (a real 'retro' one that we'd had since the late 50's, and it still worked).  In place of these he bought a large American style fridge/freezer (we have given it the name 'Boris'), this about the size of a wardrobe, one side being the fridge (plenty of room in that) - it has several glass shelves and two drawers.  The other side is the freezer, but because the 'motor' for the appliance is that side, there is not so much room.  However it still has three shelves and two drawers.

Finding this freezer space was not enough for me (it would be ample for any other retired couple, but as you know I am not 'normal' when it comes to cooking), we decided to buy a smaller chest freezer.  To explain to Marjorie, this is like a set of drawers, one above the other, that would fit under a unit top,  ours has four drawers, three of good capacity, the third (bottom) drawer being much narrower in depth as the motor is behind it.  These are covered by a full sized door at the front that fits tightly. 
Even with this extra freezer, still feel I should have chosen a larger (chest) freezer, as both freezers are packed full (as they should be to keep the running costs lower), but am always finding that when I want to make something like ice-cream, or freeze home-made desserts/cakes etc, can never find freezer space to put them.

How lovely it would be to be able to butcher a whole cow.  I've frozen half a cow once when we had the chest freezer, but the butcher jointed it up for me.   Same with half a lamb/pig.  Being able to do it myself would have meant that just about every bit could be used, and B could be enjoying home-made beef dripping for a whole year instead of just a week.

How long do you hang your beef after butcherng Marjorie?  The cheaper meat sold over here is often quite 'fresh', and we have to pay a lot more for 'well-hung' beef (hung for at least three weeks after butchering), and these certainly have a great deal more flavour, that it is worth paying the extra as I can get away with using less meat in (say) a casserole, as there is no loss of taste, and this reduces the price down to almost what I would pay for using a cheaper quality (where I would need to use more of it).

Today's recipes are inspired by H.F.W's 'take 3 ingredients', with a leaning towards my usual 'cost-cutting' (whenever possible).  Simple ingredients don't always have to end up simply prepared. With a little more thought we can turn them into something a bit more spectacular.

This first recipe is a really tasty variation on the Scottish 'Tatties 'n Neeps' (potato and swede mash - and instead of swede we could use turnips or parsnips). The way this is served makes it special, and it could make a good 'side dish' to serve with cold turkey on Boxing Day (instead of the more usual English 'Bubble and Squeak'), or with any other hot roast.
Crispy 'Tats 'n Neeps Cake:  serves 6
1 large swede, peeled and cut into chunks
4 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 oz (50g) butter
salt and pepper
8 rashers smoked streaky bacon
Put the swede and potato into lightly salted boiling water, and cook for about 20 minutes or until completely tender, then drain well.  Return to the pan and place over a very low heat for a few minutes to dry out (making sure they don't catch on the base of the pan and burn). Remove from heat, add half  the butter and seasoning to taste, then mash together.
Take a greased omelette pan (with oven-proof handle, or use a 9" (23cm) fairly shallow cake tin) and line the pan/tin with the bacon so the ends meet in the middle (there will be gaps in between)with the other ends overlapping the sides, then spoon the mash on top of the rashers, pressing it down firmly.  Dot the top with the remaining butter, folding over the ends of the bacon to lie flat on the surface, then bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about 40 minutes or until golden and crisp.
Remove from oven and turn out onto a serving plate or board, and serve cut into wedges.

Next recipe makes a good 'brunch' or supper dish.  Still using three main ingredients (cheddar, apple, and bread), the addition of a little celery/shallot, plus chutney, I'm allowing myself to use.  And why not, for Lisa won her round in Hugh's competition using her 'three' ingredients (bacon, egg, and celeriac - or was it fennel?) but noticed she thinly sliced an onion and added that to her coleslaw with mayo.  If she can 'cheat', then so can I.  
If using a hard cheese such as Cheddar (a bit of Red Leicester always goes down well in the Goode kitchen) preferably use this grated.  A softer cheese, such as Stilton, can be crumbled.  Ideally use what you have, and if you have several 'ends of different cheeses', grate them together and use this instead.
Ploughman's Melts: serves 2
half rib celery, thinly sliced
1 small eating apple, peel left on, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
juice of half a lemon
3 tblsp of favourite chutney
3 flat 'baps' or English muffins
4 oz (100g) Cheddar or Stilton cheese (ee above)
Put the celery, apple and shallot into a bowl with the lemon juice and toss together.
Split the bread and using the grill, lightly toast the cut side, just enough to make it crisp, it shouldn't go brown.
Spread the toasted sides with a little chutney, then top with a couple of spoonfuls of the celery/apple mixture, then crumble or sprinkle the cheese on top, then pop back under the grill for a few minutes until the cheese is bubbling and the edges of the bread has turned golden.
Serve hot as-is or with a side salad.

Here is another 'melt' recipe, in some ways similar to a mini-pizza.  Three main ingredients (cheese, tomatoes, and English muffins) plus the allowable 'extras' to add more flavour, and hope you will forgive the olives (you can of course omit these).
Cheese and Tomato 'Melts': serves 4
4 oz (100g) Cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 tblsp Tomato ketchup
1 tsp English mustard
4 tblsp milk
2 tblsp chopped fresh chives
4 English muffins, halved
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered or sliced
6 pitted green or black olives, quartered
ground black pepper
Put the cheese, ketchup, mustard, milk and chives into a bowl, and blend together to make a paste. Pop the muffins under the grill, bottom side up, to toast for just 30 seconds, then turn them over and top with the tomatoes and olive, spooning the cheese 'paste' on top.  Replace under the grill and cook until the top is lightly browned.  Season with a light sprinkling of black pepper, then serve whilst still hot.

Final recipe today still uses only three main ingredients (beef, bacon, parmesan) and these together with some 'aromatics' (and a few breadcrumbs) can turn into a very good meat loaf that eats well hot or cold.
Instead of all beef you could use half minced beef and half minced pork, and ideally used minced steak instead of the cheaper mince as this has less fat and is more tender.  
Italian Meatloaf: serves 4
2 oz (50g) fresh white breadcrumbs
4 tblsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb (500g) lean minced beef
1 onion, finely chopped
4 oz (100g) bacon, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon tomato puree/paste
Line the base and long sides of a 2 lb loaf tin with a double thickness of baking parchment, then mix 2 tblsp each of the breadcrumbs and Parmesan and set aside.
Put the remainder of the crumbs and cheese into a bowl with the res of the ingredients and mix well together (using clean hands is the best way to mix).
Press the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.  Sprinkle over the reserved crumbs/cheese then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 45 - 50 minutes until the top is golden and crunchy. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then - using the parchment paper to help lift - remove the meatloaf from tin and place on a board or serving plate ready to slice.
Good eaten hot (or cold) with jacket potatoes, green beans (or other green veg) and a rich beef gravy or tomato ketchup.

Last night felt a very cool wind on my face when lying in bed, so think the temperature must have dropped, but once tucked up under my duvet, really do like to feel the fresh breeze on my skin. It even 'smells' nice.
As I got up before first light, was able to see the dawn breaking with the sky covered with very pinkish clouds, not a good sign.  At the moment there is half a gale blowing, and certainly a day to stay indoors.  What a change from yesterday when the sun was shining brightly in a deep blue sky.

An early start means an early finish to my blog today, this gives me a chance to carry on with more 'stocktaking', and hopefully fit in a few other chores as well.  So will take my leave and - as always - hope you will join me again tomorrow.   Keep those comments coming!  TTFN.