Saturday, April 20, 2013

Faking it Easy

It isn't necessary to pay a lot of money to serve dishes that have both the taste and appearance of 'luxury'.  We can often fake it.  The easy way.

It was one of the editors of that glossy mag "Good Housekeeping" that told me how she used to cheat when it came to making a dessert.  She would use chocolate flavoured  'instant mix'' (can't now remember whether it was an Angel Delight or Instant Whip) where she would substitute a tablespoon of milk for a tablespoon of brandy (or whisky, rum...) or Tia Maria if you want 'mocha flavour), and end up with a really expensive-tasting dessert.   I've now done this many times - and it works!

Another 'cheat' of mine is to make a faux Panna Cotta by dissolving an orange jelly with a quarter of a pint of water (and a dash of Cointreau if you have any), leaving it to cool, then making it up to the pint with chilled double cream.  Pour into individual moulds and leave to set.  Turn out and serve. 

On one of his programmes, Heston B. showed how he made 'champagne', indistinguishable from a very expensive one, with a bottle of Blue Nun white wine, and adding the 'fizz' by using a 'Sodastream' (as though making lemonade in that 'appliance').  

Although not really cheating as we end up with what it should be in the first place, we can still save some pennies by making our own 'Chocolate Digestives'.  Plain digestive biccies are free of tax but we pay VAT when they have chocolate on them.  So buy plain digestives (own-brand are usually the cheapest), then spread the base of each with melted chocolate (just a couple of squares of choc. will cover a surprising amount of biscuits).

One small chicken breast can be 'treated' so that it turns into two large portions, where one on a plate - with salad or cooked vegetables - will look as just as appetising as something that would cost a lot more money.  Even the name of this: an 'escalope of chicken'' seems to add more to its value.
Cut the chicken breast in half through the length, from side to side, then open out flat as though a book, then separate, placing each half between a sheet of cling film.  Bash with a meat hammer (or fist) until the meat has spread to double its size (or even more) and is very thin.  Dredge in seasoned flour, then dip into egg and then crumbs, and then egg and crumb again (double-dipping will make the chicken breast appear a lot thicker when cooked).  Fry in shallow oil until golden on both sides (about  3 - 5 minutes on each side as the chicken is so thin it will cook quickly), drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately.

Once upon a time I used to buy the 'herby' cheese that I think is called 'Boursin' (?). It has the appearance of a cheese 'roulade' (soft cheese rolled around a herb filling).  My faux version tastes very similar and for this I just use a carton of Philadelphia (type) soft cream cheese,  spread into a not-too-thin oblong on a sheet of clingfilm or baking parchment, then cover this with some finely chopped fresh herbs, with a crushed garlic and salt and pepper to taste.  Then roll up the cheese like a Swiss roll (with the help of the film/paper), then wrap tightly and chill for several hours.  Bought cheeses of this type often have a coating of coarsely ground black pepper, so we could unwrap and roll 'our' herb cheese in ground black pepper if we wish. 
Alternatively, forget the rolling and just mix the cheese, garlic, herbs and seasoning together, then pack it all into a small container (could be the original plastic tub the cheese came in) and chill for a few hours to allow the flavours to develop.

But enough of cheating. Comment time has arrived, and so here are my replies:
The 'Clandestine Cake Club' began as a small gathering, but has now spread almost - but not quite - nationwide, so there may be a club near you Dottiebird.  Check on their website.  The venue each month changes and kept 'secret' until closer to the date (hence the name), and each time the cakes have a 'theme', so members take their own representation of this.  It is not competitive, but all cakes are there to be eaten and any remainder sliced and shared/taken home, so everyone gets a taste of each.

Thanks for giving details of the 'cross bread' Sairy.  As I thought, it was the mixture of protein/flour blended together then rolled into pancakes.  It seems to work well, and a good way to make a small amount of expensive protein go a very long way.  Because the pancakes are so thin, the protein (sausage meat etc) cooks quickly, and suppose the end result is almost like a deconstructed 'tortilla warp' where a flour tortilla is wrapped around a meat and salad filling, only with my 'cross bread' the flour and meat 'tortilla' is wrapped around only the salad.  Still ending up with the same ingredients but served in a different way.

 Think the 'Pound Cake' got its name Noor, as originally 1lb of each ingredient (fat, flour, sugar, eggs) were used.  Made a very large cake, but then in Victorian times that was not unusual.  My mother had a very old cookbook where there was a cake recipe that used 24 eggs!
The 'Victoria Sandwich Cake' using the same weight of the same ingredients is now normally 4 oz of each, which together also weigh 1 lb, but this doesn't make a dense cake, it should be very 'spongey'.
To make a really light cake, the butter and sugar should first be creamed together until light and fluffy, and has almost turned white in colour.  Most cooks (including myself) tend not to beat it long enough, then - when the eggs are beaten in - it looks 'curdled'.  So when we think you have beaten it enough, we should carry on a bit longer.  Have now found by doing this, the eggs beat in without 'curdling'.  Flour - and this should be sifted TWICE - can then be folded (not beaten) in, and if good fortune favours us, after baking, the cake should be well risen and very light in texture.

Thanks simplesuffolksmallholder for putting photos up on your blog.  Wish I could do the same with mine, but my comp. has stopped accepting photos from my camera, and blogger has changed its format and I cannot work out how to blog-publish any pics of mine already on file.  It's amazing how many still bother to read this blog as most people prefer to see photos of what is being discussed.  Once my grandson can find time to visit us, am hoping he will be able to sort out the many problems that are now occurring with our comp.  As long as it keeps working well enough for me to publish my daily blog, then I'll settle with that for the time being.

Good of you to let me know about Georgetown being in DC Eileen.  Thought it must have been, but as yesterday heard there was a Georgetown also in Texas (and maybe in other states as well), was not sure.  Can't believe its only five years since those two sisters set up their cupcake business. Just goes to show how hard work can pay off.  Something similar has happened in this country with the Wahaca 'eateries'.  Readers may remember Thomasina Miers winning Masterchef a few years ago, her favourite dishes being Mexican.  Since then she opened her first Wahaca Mexican restaurant, and within a very few years has since opened at least four more, with more in the offing, as well as having her own Mexican cookery series (seen both here and on the Food Network).

Seems as though if you want to start a business these days, it is the catering industry that is the best shot.  Doubt that 'cup-cake shops' would have the same appeal in the UK as they have in the US, but am sure some American-style 'diners' and 'drive-in's would go down well, especially if they served large portions as in the US. Also of the same quality and flavour (the US 'shredded meats, 'Mac 'n Cheese', and incredible 'rubs' and sauces look/sound far more tasty than any burger sold on our shores).   What would I give to be able to spend 6 months travelling around the US just eating my way through diners in every state.

We expect good weather this weekend.  Cool at the start of the day, but temperatures rising by the hour.  Today has begun with mainly clear skies and  of course lots of sunshine.  Yesterday B found his car had a flat battery, he thought he must have left the lights on overnight.  He had lent his battery charger to our daughter so had to cycle to the sailing club to borrow theirs.   Later in the day he was then able to take the rubbish to the tip (as was his earlier intention that day), but this morning I found half of it - very visibly - still in the kitchen.  So what's new?  The day that B remembers to take/do everything that he was going to (or asked to) will be the first time he ever has.
However, B now has a red warning light on the dashboard of his car, signifying something is wrong and needs sorting, so he said he will take the car to the garage first thing (today) to get it sorted.  The garage opens at 9.00am on a Saturday, but I have just seen it is 9.30 as I write, so had to go in and remind him.  He had forgotten!

B has always had a bad memory, but recently it is getting worse.  Very recently has has left a gas hob lit,  one day with a pan still over it, so it got burnt, another I discovered after he had gone to bed, no pan on, but still visibly on (he had been reheating his pudding). More than once he forgets to switch his car lights off (and although this is parked at the side of our glazed kitchen door, he seems not to notice the lights are still on when he locks up for the night, and sometimes even forgets to lock the front and back doors).  And nearly always he forgets to take all the rubbish with him when he goes to the tip.  He seems to walk around in a daze half the time, and give him more than one thing to remember at any one time, and he gets very confused.  But that is nothing new.

Much of this is probably normal, and due to age is bound to get a bit worse, but although I don't myself (yet) have difficulty with my memory (other than names), am finding it hard work having to remembering to remind B what he is supposed to be doing, remembering to check what he has been doing and then double check at night that all the doors are locked, switches and hobs turned out, and now - also car lights.

One recipe today that for us in the UK will probably be eaten when/if the weather gets warmer, but with readers in other parts of the globe now experiencing hot weather we can only dream about, this will hopefully help to cool them down. 
As it is the mixture of liquid and sugar that - as syrup - makes this 'water ice', we can use other fruit (in puree form) to give different flavours.  However, lemon is the most refreshing, and this dessert is often called 'sherbet' or 'sorbet'.
Frozen Lemon Water Ice: serves 4
1 pint (600ml) water
8 oz (225g) sugar
3 oz (75g) lemon juice
1 dessp. grated lemon zest
1 egg white
Put the water and sugar into a pan and bring to the boil.  Simmer until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest.  Leave to cool, then strain and pour into a freezing tray, and freeze until the mixture is half frozen .
Beat the egg white until stiff, stir the 'mushy' lemon ice with a wooden spoon to mix sides to middle, then fold in the beaten egg white.  Return to the freezer.  When firmly frozen (it won't be completely solid), spoon into individual serving glasses and serve immediately.  Good eaten with crisp biscuits (see following recipe).

These biscuits are cinnamon-flavoured, but if you prefer, omit the cinnamon and leave them plain. Alternatively use ground ginger instead of cinnamon as ginger would go well with the lemon ice above.
Cinnamon Biscuits:
3 oz (75g) butter
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
6 oz (175g) plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon (see above)
1 egg, beaten
Cream the butter and sugar together.  Sift the flour and cinnamon together, then beat this into the creamed mixture, finally add the egg and mix together to make a firm paste.  Turn out onto a floured board and roll out fairly thinly, cutting it into round with a scone cutter (or use top of a drinking glass).  If you prefer, cut into fingers.  Lay the biscuits onto a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about half an hour, or until crisp (the thinner the biscuits the less time they will take to cook, so check after 15 minutes).  Cool on a cake airer, and when cold, store in an airtight tin.

Never did get to do yesterday what I'd planned (story of my life), so really must make an effort today to sort out my larder, fridge/freezer and tidy my kitchen table AGAIN!  If only I had more storage space to put things.  Or just places where I can fit hooks to hang things from.   Perhaps I've just got too much 'stuff' (B certainly thinks so), but I use it ALL.  Constantly, and why much of it never gets put away even if it has a place somewhere where it should be.  I like my 'equipment' always to be at hand, not having to waste time to get up and fetch each and every bit when I need them (although the exercise would do me good).

Think my 'indoor garden' (aka conservatory windowsills) will be getting most of my attention this afternoon as it will be pleasantly warm in there.  My lemon tree (grown from a pip) is now at least two foot high, and has big thorns protruding from the base of each leaf.  Not sure whether I should pinch out the growing tip as the lemon trees on sale are very bushy.  There is only one shoot that has grown from the main stem, lower down, and no signs of any other.
The avocado is not as tall as the lemon tree, but is very pot-bound with thick roots protruding from the bottom of the plant pot.  Think I'm going to have to cut the pot away from the soil to remove the plant.  Once in a larger pot it should then grow taller. 

Enough rambling, really must get on and do what I can, perhaps even find time to do some work in the garden.  Whether working or having a relaxing weekend, please enjoy yourself.  We'll all meet up again tomorrow when hopefully I can get up early enough to write and publish before Gill phones, otherwise it will be nearer noon (and that's another morning used up before I've even started my 'chores'). TTFN.