Sunday, December 30, 2012

Making the Most Of....

Early to bed yesterday to catch up on my sleep.  Worked a treat as I had a very restful night (give or take the geriatric trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night!) and woke early enough for me to eat a bowl of porridge before sitting down to write.   Aiming to finish before Gill phones in 90 minutes.

Heard it raining heavily last night, at one time must have been sleeting as it was rattling on the windows.  Forecast said the temperature would be dropping, with snow on some hills, so have to wait until it gets light to see what state the garden is in.  There was a full moon shining on me through the window when I sat down to write, almost immediately disappearing behind clouds, but the appeared again before sinking below the roof of the house opposite.   In a couple of days we will get high tides, and if we have on-shore gale force winds at the same time, the sea-spray will bounce up over the prom walls right onto the main road.  A sight worth seeing.

Cooked the beef yesterday at slow temp of 80C (after initially searing the joint in a pan).  It appears to have shrunk a bit, but still have to weigh it to find out the 'before and after' difference.   Used my electric thermometer stuck into the joint (the door trapping the wire so the temp could be read on the 'equipment' outside) this to keep an eye on the internal temperature of the meat (it needed to be around 65C (medium) but I let it reach 68C as B likes his meat medium to well done.  Took nearly 3 hours (or maybe longer) to reach this, but worth it.

As I had a pack of clarified beef dripping in the fridge, melted some of that to sear the meat, then added it to the roasting tin with a bit more so the meat juices would flavour it and (hopefully) turn it into something similar to the beef dripping I make when there is a good layer of fat already on the joint (the rump I'd bought not having any fat with it).  This seemed to work as the 'dripping' is now a light coffee colour, so hopefully has gained enough flavour for B to enjoy it spread on his toast (with a sprinkle of salt).

Today will slice the beef for B's supper (reheating it in gravy), slice extra to serve cold, and then (probably) cut the remainder of the joint into strips, chunks (maybe some minced) to use for other meals to serve this coming week (some will be frozen).
Having the meals already planned for the week ahead certainly will make life a bit easier for me, not that I'm sure this is a good idea (I like to be 'interested' in cooking, not just cook by habit),  but as I'm aiming to use 21st century recipes to use my 'leftovers' rather than make the meals my mother did (don't think she had a cookery book - meals in those days were very simple to prepare) then perhaps this will be a challenge in itself.  I look forward to it.

It is unlikely that many people will even consider buying a joint to roast at this moment in time - mainly because it could be expensive (although I'm hoping to prove it may not be), and almost certainly because our bodies are still groaning over the amount of food we seem to have consumed over the last week.   Even I am finding it is time to reduce my intake considerably as the scales showed I'd gained a whole stone during this festive season, and as I normally eat small meals anyway, this has to be all the mince-pies, slices of fruit cake, sweets, cheese and biscuits that I've been 'nibbling'.   But easy-come, easy-go when it comes to weight gained (if not allowed to linger on the hips too long), and a few days of careful eating should get rid of those excess pounds, then all I have to do is keep losing a few more before I have my next weigh-in (end of April).

With this thought am today giving a selection of recipes for light meals that could use up 'left-overs', or ingredients that many of us would normally keep in our larder/fridge/freezers.  As with most of my recipes, we can usually substitute a different ingredient if we haven't the ones recommended.  Will give suggestions where appropriate.

First dish is a stir-fry.  Use smooth peanut butter if you haven't the crunchy.  Cook dried noodles, then add them to the pan if you haven't the 'straight to wok' variety.  Goes without saying the 'pack' of stir-fry veg (on sale in supermarkets) is much more expensive than using oddments of veggies we have already.  So use small amounts of carrot, onion, cauliflower/broccoli, sweet corn (kernels), mange tout or sugar snap peas (or just loose peas), string beans, mushrooms, bell peppers.....
If you wish the dish to serve more, then include strips of cooked turkey meat (or chicken/beef/ham), or throw in a few cooked (thawed) prawns towards the end of the cooking time.
Thai Satay Stir-Fry: serves 4
3 tblsp crunchy peanut butter
3 tblsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tblsp soy sauce
4 fl oz (100ml) water
1 x 300g pack straight-to-wok noodles
1 tblsp grated fresh root ginger
1 x 300g pack stir-fry vegetables
1 oz (25g) roasted (or salted) peanuts, chopped
Mix together the peanut butter, the chilli sauce, soy sauce, and water together to make a smooth sauce, and set aside.
Put the noodles into a bowl and cover with boiling water, stirring gently to separate, then drain thoroughly and set aside.
Heat the oil in a wok or deep frying pan, then add the ginger and the firmer vegetables and stir-fry over high heat for 2 minutes, until the veggies are just tender, then add the remaining veg and fry for a further couple or so minutes until the veggies are cooked, then add the noodles and satay sauce, gently folding it into the pan contents.  Bring to the boil, sprinkle the peanuts on top and serve immediately.

Here is another vegetable recipe -  this time using a pack of frozen mixed vegetables, but again we can make up our own selection from the frozen veggies we already have (or use some cooked 'fresh' veggies that we have).  Quinoa (pronounced 'keen-wah' if you don't already know that) is a 'wonder grain' as it has the best nutritional value of all grains.  As it cooks fairly quickly, could be used as a healthy substitute for rice, pearl barley etc. for instance when making risottos.
This dish is a type of curry, so perfect for the cold winter days, but - like most curries - also good eaten in summer.
Spicy Vegetable Laksa: serves 4
1 large onion, sliced
4 tblsp Korma or Madras curry paste
1 tblsp water
1.75 pints (1 litre) hot milk
1 x 750g (1lb 10oz) pack frozen mixed vegetables
6 oz (175g) quinoa, rinsed
salt and pepper
Put the onion, curry paste and water into a large saucepan, stir together and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the vegetables and quinoa, then stir in the hot milk, bring to the boil then simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the quinoa is cooked.  Add seasoning to taste, then serve with chapatis or naan bread.

Next recipe is a risotto and a perfect dish to make if you have some cream cheese in the fridge. Preferably a herb-flavoured cheese, but you could always add finely chopped fresh herbs if you have some.  As mentioned above, quinoa could be substituted for the barley, in which case it will take far less time to cook - on the other hand, pearly barley is far less expensive than quinoa.
Or - if you have some - you could instead use risotto (arborio) rice.   As with most of my recipes - we use what we have (as long as it serves the purpose).   Same applies to the stock.  Use chicken stock instead of the vegetable.  If you wish, add less oil and include some butter (for flavour!).
Pea and Herb Risotto: serves 2
2 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
7 oz (200g) pearl barley (see above)
2 pints (1.2 ltrs) hot vegetable stock
5 oz (150g) peas
4 oz (100g) soft cheese with chives (see above)
chopped fresh chives (opt)
Heat oil in a pan and add the onion.  Fry gently for 3 minutes, then stir in the barley and fry for a further couple of minutes before adding a third of the stock.  Continue simmering, adding a ladle more of stock from time to time as the liquid is absorbed.   After about 15 minutes the barley should begin to become slightly tender, so time then to add the peas and more stock if necessary.  Continue cooking until the barley is cooked (there should be some liquid left in the pan - if all stock has been used add a little hot water). 
Remove the  pan from the heat and leave to stand for a minute before adding dollops of the cream cheese, stirring this in until it melts.  Add seasoning to taste, and finally the fresh herbs, if using. Serve immediately.

Final recipe today makes use of mainly store-cupboard ingredients, plus a bit of lettuce (or 'greens') if you have some.   Again we have a choice - if you haven't canned tuna, then use canned salmon, sardines, mackerel, or pilchards.  You could - of course - use cooked fish (maybe some smoked haddock left over from yesterday?). 
Although the Italians would never combine fish and cheese in one dish, have to say it works well, so don't do as they do, do as I suggest!
Tuna and Sweetcorn 'burgers': serves 4
3 oz (75g) fresh breadcrumbs
1 x 198g can sweetcorn, drained
2 x 185g cans tuna, drained and flaked
1 oz (25g) grated Cheddar cheese
1 shallot, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 tblsp sunflower oil
buns/baps, lettuce and tomato relish
Put the breadcrumbs into a bowl.  Put he sweetcorn into a blender and whizz to chop the kernels finely (but not too find), and add to the crumbs with the tuna, cheese, and shallot. Add seasoning to taste.  Add enough of the egg to bind the mixture together (you may not need all the egg), then divide the mixture into four, forming each into a 'burger' shape.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, then cook the burgers for 5 minutes on each side until golden and heated right through. 
Split the baps and spread the cut side of the base with relish, and stuff in the tuna burger with shredded lettuce and (maybe) another dollop of relish on top before clapping on the lid.

And that's it for today.  With 10 minutes left before Gill phones - just time for me to do a spellcheck and any editing needed.
Thanks for comments sent in and suggestions for holidays.  Feel better today, B is back to normal (in other words less grumpy), so am happy staying here for a while although could do visiting a country where the sun always shines. 
Hope you will be able to 'meet' up with me again tomorrow. Look forward to 'seeing' you then.