Monday, February 18, 2013

Whichever Way We Choose

Going to be a busy week, starting today as have several things to do (work related) before lunch, this blog taking first priority, but will have to keep it fairly short.
Looks like we will be having another good day weatherwise, sun shining, blue sky, no clouds, although the temperature - that had risen - is now set to drop again to near freezing (maybe below) at night.  Even so, it is good to see the sun, and certainly the absence of rain.

Your runny marmalade Pam might have been due to you not boiling it long enough for the preserve to reach setting point.  Do you use a sugar thermometer or just judge by sight (think this is called 'eyeballing' in the US, not the prettiest of words to use, or am I just being 'British'?)
Although I do have a sugar thermometer, tend to use the 'dropping from a wooden spoon' technique, where the spoon is dipped into the boiling jam or marmalade, then lifted up and when most has flowed off, and the last drops reluctant to leave the spoon, just sort of 'hang there', then it is as 'setting point'.

It would be possible to make lime marmalade, but an even nicer one is 'Lemon and Lime', and the use of the lemons will certainly help to give a good set.  Perhaps there is a recipe for this on the Internet?
We too are very fond of Branston Pickle, and I've yet to find a recipe to match it.  In fact hardly ever make pickles because of this - so still buy the Branston.  There are a couple of pickles that I do make, and that are very good, one is Piccalilli, the other a Beetroot chutney (this similar in texture to Branston but slightly sweeter).  Can give you the recipe for the latter if you wish. 

Yes, did fall by the wayside many years ago when I bought a sandwich toaster jane. At the time it was used often, due to having four teenagers at home, but after they left it ended up at the back of a cupboard, and later given away to someone who wanted it, so probably not a waste of money if someone else got the use of it. 
I've got a couple of those toaster bags that I occasionally use, but don't find them very satisfactory, they do toast of course, but the bread seems to end up, after toasting, a bit 'soggy' internally than it would when toasted under the grill, but having said that, occasionally I do toast a sarnie in the bags using the toaster, and a good tip is if you want a really melting cheese filling, is to first 'cook' the sarnies in the microwave for a minute before finishing them off in the toaster.

The film mentioned yesterday will be first shown in the cinemas, so not sure whether it will ever arrive on our TV screens, but we can hope.  Will let you know when it has been released, so that cinema goers might wish to see it.

Watched a programme last night with Mary Berry and Michel Roux Jnr, and have to say the more I see of M.Roux, the more I like him. Just love his enthusiasm.  How I wish I could meet him, and not just for a few minutes, I'd love to spend a whole day chatting about the pleasures of cooking and eating. 
Think now that Saint Delia has hung up her apron, we will be seeing more of Mary B.  Do hope so.  She too shows her love of cooking, and this enthusiasm is something Delia seemed to lack.  In days long past TV cooks were there to teach us how to make something, and the enjoyment of  cookery didn't seem to come into it.  Even so, it was watching Fanny Cradock that first got me interested in cooking, and at that time I used to buy her 'partwork' and make as many of her recipes as I could (afford to do). Most of these, by today's standards, were very OTT, but at least they helped me improve my cooking skills, and - after years of wartime rationing - gave a luxury touch (more by presentation) to the meals served, something we all needed at that time.
Let us hope today's cooks/chefs, with their sheer joy of what they are making AND eating, inspire everyone to follow their example. 

Two recipes today, both using similar main ingredients (spinach and cheese, although not the same cheese) one to serve as 'family fare', the other 'posh nosh' when entertaining.  But then, as I always say, why keep the best just for guests?  Let the family have a treat now and then.  In any case, as we should never try out a recipe for the first time when entertaining - always having a trial run (or three) to reach perfection, then who better to practice on than the family?

First recipe could be called a 'deconstructed' souffle, as it starts off as though about to make one. However it ends up more as a layered sponge, spinach at the bottom, a light spongy middle, and a crusty top.
All ingredients we probably have in our larder/freezers, so a recipe worth making.  If you haven't any frozen spinach, then cook/wilt the fresh in the normal way, squeezing out as much liquid as you can before following the recipe.   If you have only English mustard, then use half a teaspoon.
This dish can be frozen when made up (but not baked), then cooled completely before covering and, seal/freeze in the normal way. Use within three months.  Cook from frozen at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 50 minutes until golden.

Cheese and Spinach Surprise: serves 4
2 oz (50g) butter
2 oz (50g) plain flour
3/4 pt milk (425ml)
salt and pepper
1 tsp ready-made Dijon mustard (see above)
4 oz (100g) fine white fresh breadcrumbs
6 oz (175g) mature Cheddar cheese, grated
3 eggs, separated
12 oz (350g) frozen spinach, thawed (see above)
Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour.  Cook for 1 minute, then slowly stir/whisk in the milk until the sauce is smooth and has thickened.  Remove from heat, cool slightly then stir in seasoning to taste, the mustard, breadcrumbs, and egg yolks, mixing all together until well combined. Stiffly whisk the egg whites, then fold these carefully into the cheese mixture.
Put the spinach into the base of a greased 1.5pt (825ml) ovenproof dish, then spoon the cheese mixture over evenly.  Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 35 - 40 minutes until risen and golden.  Serve immediately.

Second recipe is the 'gourmet' one, and here we can use the 'greens' as shown, or substitute something similar.  Often we can buy a mixed bag of 'salad' leaves that contain baby spinach, rocket and watercress.  This would be ideal, but not worth paying for is we can 'grow our own' or maybe have watercress and other salad leaves anyway (B loves w.cress, so he is always bringing in a bag that needs using up).  
Those who count calories can use the low-fat soft cheese, but almost any soft cheese could be used. 'Green' Cheese Roulade: serves 6
5 oz (150g) spinach leaves, well washed
5 oz (159g) watercress
4 eggs, separated
salt and pepper
14 oz (400g) soft cheese (see above)
3 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
quarter of a cucumber, finely chopped
2 tblsp chopped fresh chives, basil, or parsley
Put the spinach and watercress in a pan with a very little water, then cover and cook for 5 minutes until both are wilted.  Drain thoroughly, then tip onto kitchen paper to mop up as much moisture from the leaves as possible, then chop finely.   
Put the chopped leaves into a bowl with the egg yolks and mix together, adding seasoning to taste.  Using another bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold these into the 'greens and eggs' mix. Pour into a Swiss roll tin that has been lined with greased (on both sides) baking parchment, spreading the mixture right into the corners, giving the tin a shake to settle the mixture evenly.
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 12 - 15 minutes until set and a light golden brown, then turn out onto a sheet of greaseproof paper, peel away the parchment lining paper, then leave to cool.
Meanwhile, mix together the soft cheese, tomatoes, cucumber and herbs.  Spread this over the cooled roulade and roll up from the short end.  Use the greaseproof paper to help with the rolling, and then wrap the roulade in the paper to help keep its shape before serving.

Before I leave you today, time for one more recipe that is included for several reasons - firstly is also has spinach as an ingredient, and is an almost instant way to make 'meatballs'.  Due to my interest in compiling recipes for the Foodbank, feel that canned sausages, and a can of green vegetables (peas, beans etc) could be substituted for the 'real thing'.  Wouldn't be nearly as good, but still have enough flavour and good appearance to be both appetising and edible.

This is a speedy dish to make when time is short, and perhaps a recipe that novice cooks would like to attempt.  Certainly teenagers could throw this together for a 'communal snack'.  Why not let someone else do the cooking for a change?
The best pasta to use for this dish is penne or macaroni, but other pasta shapes could also be used if that's all you have.  If using canned sausages (but let us hope not), then these will have been precooked so only need a bit of 'browning' before continuing.
Instant Meatballs with Pasta: serves 2
8 oz (225g) pasta penne (see above)
3 fat sausages
1 tblsp olive oil
9 oz bag (250g) spinach (or choose another 'green' veg)
salt and pepper
3 tblsp toasted pine nuts, or flaked almonds, peanuts...
2 oz (50g) Parmesan (or other very hard cheese) grated
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then while it is cooking, remove the skins from the sausages, then break the sausagement into 12 pieces and roll into balls.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the 'meatballs', then cook until golden, rolling them round the pan so they cook on all sides.  This takes about 5 minutes.  Pile the spinach on top and cook, stirring often, for 2 - 3 minutes until completely wilted.  Add seasoning to taste, then throw in the chosen nuts.
Add the drained pasta to the sausages/greens, plus half the grated cheese, then toss well together. Serve in individual bowls with the rest of the cheese sprinkled on top.

An early finish today, but better some blog than none at all.  Depending upon how things go, the rest of the week may be a bit hit and miss when it comes to writing, but am hoping that I'll be able (or free) to write something each day as usual.  Keep those comments coming, and enjoy our good weather whilst we still have it.  Who knows, this could be the one week we have glorious sunshine, as this seems to come earlier each year.  Once upon a time we could guarantee good weather in June or July, then it moved down to May, more recently the end of April, and last year the end of March.  So as we are 10 days away from the end of February, who knows if what we have now is all the glorious sunshine we will be getting this year?  Let us hope this will not be the case.  As ever, we will have to wait and see.  Who knows, this could be the year of a drought, and with all the rain we've had, think for once we could cope with that.

But whatever, time for me to get on with urgent matters, and let you get on with your life. Hope you find time to join me tomorrow, where my aim is to find time to do the same.  See you then.