Sunday, March 10, 2013

Different Approaches

Got up early this morning so I could watch The Food Network on TV (they have a lot of good ideas on making cakes at the early hour of 6.00am).  Expected it to be Chef Duff and his gang, but a new programme appeared called 'Unique Sweets'.  This I found quite inspiring as it showed many ideas for sweets (sold in the US speciality shops) that were a step up from ours.  Am planning to try making some myself.

Further to Pam's comment yesterday, thought more about the biscuit v cookies.  Realised that many American 'bakes' seem to be larger than ours.  We have always made 'fairy cakes', but the US version (now popular over here) are the 'cupcakes', usually topped with massive amounts of butter cream.  I see adverts for 'the makings' for Whoopee Bars (or is 'Whoopee Cakes'?) these seem to be two thick 'cookies' sandwiched together (or may be sponge cakes not cookies).  We are also now making something called 'pop' cakes, these are just balls of cakes stuck on a plastic stick, usually the cakes is covered with hundreds and thousands or some trimming.  What will be invented next in the cake world?

Must give a welcome to Ivy, as this is the first time her name has appeared on this site, and even though she wrote only to say she also had problems with her 'robot', do hope she will be able to overcome this and send in further comments.
Thanks to Les who has offered one solution to the 'robot' issue, and as it seems I do get comments from several 'Anonymous', at least these seem to be allowed through.  A mention of the senders name in the actual comment would perhaps be the easiest way to keep in touch without having to go through the 'robot' entry.

Have heard of garage sales in this country Pam, but don't think they happen very often, certainly not in group form.  Sometimes, when people move house, they put all their unwanted items in their garage, then have a 'open-day' when people can come to see if there is anything they want. Nothing is ever taken into the street to sell.  In the UK people tend to take 'unwanteds' to a car-boot sale, and these are regularly held during the year, usually in a field.  In colder weather these are usually under cover, people bring the stuff in their cars and then move it to a trestle table in a huge barn or aircraft hanger.  Some really great bargains can be found at car-boots, and many people make a living by both buying and then selling on.

What a fun job you have being a 'mystery shopper' Pam.  Do you visit only establishments that sell or manufacture food, or do you cover all types of retail outlets?
Despite your grey days, your weather is certainly warmer than here at the moment as it is now below freezing (-2C) at night, and not much more during the day.  Yet, for some reason, it doesn't feel THAT cold.  Perhaps because there has been little rain (or maybe because I've put the heating back on again a couple of hours before it is due to go on).

I've found a recipe for making salad cream, and with this one the eggs will have been 'cooked' because they have been thoroughly heated through to allow them to thicken.  Unlike mayo where the eggs are not cooked at all.  The original recipe uses mustard powder, so if you wish to make this using made mustard, mix together the dry ingredients first, then beat the made mustard into the eggs before adding. 
The recipe says 'this salad cream will keep for 12 months' but I really wouldn't risk that, just make the amount you would use in a month, then keep it in the fridge.  You can always make more.
Salad Cream:
1 tblsp mustard
1 tblsp sugar
1 tsp plain flour
half tsp salt
2 eggs
5 fl oz (150ml) vinegar
Put into a bowl the mustard (powder), sugar, flour and salt and mix together.. Add the eggs and vinegar. Stand the bowl in a pan of boiling water (or use a double saucepan) and stir until the mixture thickens. Allow to get quite cold then add a little cream (or milk) till the mixture is the required thickness. 

The Tesco 'Value' sponge mix (25p) - as you say Granny G - is good value and makes a reasonably good cake for low cost, especially when using a 10p egg.  It would cost at least twice that to make a sponge cake from scratch, although having done this 'test' already, the home-made cake turns out larger than the 'value' one.  But certainly worth using the cheaper mix when wishing to make a speedy pudding etc.
The Foodbank were considering putting these sponge mixes in their 'boxes', but as no eggs would be included, unless the recipient could buy some themselves, not worth doing so.

Those of us who make our own chicken stock will know that generally from one (maybe two) carcases there will be over 8oz (225g) chicken flesh left on the bones that can be picked off after the stock has been made.  You would laugh at me carefully removing every last edible scrap of cooked chicken, but these all have a use and can be frozen away to collect with another lot for later use.
In the same way I gather up all the little scraps of ham that fall from the edges as I slice a (home-cooked) gammon on my slicing machine.  Even with no slicer we can still get 'scraps' of ham, and sometimes supermarkets will sell ham bones where there still is a little cooked ham left that their knives cannot reach.
So this next recipe is for those who have these 'scraps', just to show that they can turn into a very tasty little 'starter' or 'snack'.  Because the ARE scraps, you may find you won't have the correct weight, and if not use either one or more of the other meats, or more of the other ingredients, or just make less.
Chicken and Ham Patties: serves 4
12 oz (350g) cooked chicken scraps
12 oz (350g) ham scraps
2 tblsp finely chopped coriander
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 oz (75g) stale breadcrumbs
2 fl oz (50ml) olive or sunflower oil
dipping sauce:
1 tblsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tblsp soy sauce
Put the chicken, ham, coriander, garlic, breadcrumbs and oil into a food processor and pulse until crumbly.  Or just chop everything as finely as possible and mix together.
Shape the mixture into flat patties, the heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the patties - in batches - until browned on both sides and cooked through.
Make the dipping sauce by mixing the sweet chilli and soy sauce together in a small serving bowl, then place this in the centre of a large platter and arrange the patties round the sides.  Garnish with rocket leaves or watercress (opt).

Returning to my attempts to prove that 'gourmet' doesn't mean splashing our cash, think that most of us understand that much more has to do with presentation of a dish, rather than the cost of ingredients, so when we wish to impress without spending more (as long as we already have the necessary) and without needing to make those 'so yesterday radish roses', try these. 
Incidentally, have found that a small bag of sugar snap peas (bought from the supermarket) keeps for WEEKS (still in the pack) in the fridge.  They go a long way - some used in stir-fries, some lightly boiled and added to a dish of peas makes them look extra attractive - even better follow the second suggestion below to add that real 'gourmet' touch.

Add a splash of colour to fish fillets by using the green parts of spring onions. Cut these into very thin strips about 2" (5 cm) long and leave in a bowl of iced water for about an hour, when you will see they have curled up.  Dry with kitchen paper, then sprinkle along the centre of the cooked fish.

Take a few sugar snap peas and pod them.  Fill with softened butter (either plain or flavoured with finely chopped mint) OR (as I do) make tiny balls of butter and place these in the pods to resemble peas.  Keep chilled in the fridge until ready to serve, then arrange over the steaming hot peas at the last minute before bringing to table.

Make 'chilli flowers' this way:  using a sharp pair of scissors, make long snips into the pointed ends of green or red chilli pods.  Gently ease the points away from the centre and remove the seeds. Place the pods in iced water for a couple or more ours to encourage the petals to curl, then drain on kitchen paper before arranging them on the chosen dish.

One of the desserts on the 'Unique Sweets' programme this morning was a sort of lemon drizzle cake made in a ring mould, liberally soaked in lemon syrup.  Luckily I was able to find a recipe that made a similar cake, and as this one uses no flour, believe it would be suitable for anyone on a gluten-free diet.
As well as being light and moist, this cake also has a subtle 'crunchiness' due to the grains used, and - as the recipe suggests - makes a perfect Easter dessert 'when transformed into a nest with chocolate flake, eggs and chicks in the centre'. Whether we choose to follow this suggestion depends on whether we have children to please, but Easter or not, this is a very good cake to make.
Easter Ring: serves 6 - 8
4 eggs. separated
6 oz (175g) icing sugar, sifted
3 oz (75g) ground almonds
1 oz (25g) ground rice
3 tblsp warm water
lemon syrup:
8 oz (225g) granulated sugar
5 fl oz (150ml) water
juice of 2 lemons
Put the egg yolks into a bowl and stir in the icing sugar.  Whisk together until very light and fluffy, then fold in the ground almonds, the ground rice, and the water. 
Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then - using a metal spoon -  carefully the yolk mixture into the beaten whites, half at a time.  Pour the mixture into a greased and floured  9" (23cm) ring mould and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 30 - 40 minutes until firm to the touch.  Leave to cool in the tin, then ease the cake out carefully using a palette knife, and turn out onto a serving plate (it should turn out perfectly if you give the tin several sharp taps).
Make the lemon syrup by putting the sugar, water and lemon juice into a saucepan.  Stir together than place over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then raise the heat to a fast boil, and leave - without stirring - to boil for 2 minutes.  Spoon the hot syrup slowly over the cold cake, leaving time for the cake to absorb the syrup as you do so (it helps if you stab the cake with a cocktail stick or skewer prior to pouring as this gives the syrup somewhere to go).
Leave until quite cold.  Serve as-is, or fill the centre with whipped cream.  For the Easter dessert, decorate as mentioned above.

Watching the US cookery progs am envying the way they use 'cup' measurements instead of our more laborious (now) metric where we have to weigh everything.  At one time I really disliked 'the metrics' being used to the imperial weights (lbs and oz), but now that everything is packed in metric weights, and recipes now only use the same, it is somewhat easier to give up the old ways.  Yet, by doing so we always use that little bit more than we would have done if using old recipes.  Every couple of ounces more adds to the cost.  This may give a slightly larger portion, but do we really need to eat that little bit more? 
The ease of measuring using the 'cup' is so simple I'm surprised it hasn't taken off here.  It is used in Australia and Canada, so why can't we use it also?  We can buy the cup measures, but very few recipes give the 'cup' alternative to the metric (or imps). 
There are printed lists of what a cup of flour (or sugar et al), would weigh in oz or g, but to have to work this out each time for ever ingredient is something I just can't be bothered to do.

Time now for me to finish or Gill will be phoning before this gets published, and having to wait an hour means I could lose the lot of today's blog the way the comp is at the mo.  So better not risk it.
Hope you can join me again tomorrow - keep warm, and keep happy.  TTFN.