Sunday, June 16, 2013

Eats without Meats..

Recipes today are for more meatless meals, but these need not necessarily be purely 'vegetarian'.  By all means stick to avoidance of anything made from animal products (use vegetarian cheese, soya milk etc), but if - like me - we choose to serve a meatless meal purely because we now can't afford to eat meat each day, we can still add meat flavour to a dish by using a beef stock cube or meat-flavoured granules, or even use our own home-made chicken or beef stock.  As ever, I leave it up to the cook to do what she wishes re this.

As long as no animal is killed for consumption, then many people who refuse to eat meat, will still eat cheese, eggs, and milk, and some eat fish, so some of these are included in the recipes below but am sure there are vegetarian substitutes.  My main interest is just omitting meat 'flesh' from these dishes although aware that (sadly) some of the substitutes now are beginning to be almost as expensive as the meat they replace..

Admittedly this first recipe does use canned fish, but at least is an alternative to the the pork filled sausage rolls.  Fresh fish can be used (it will cook inside the pastry) but my version uses canned salmon or tuna.   Fresh dill always goes well with fish, but many of us may not grow this, so myself would use all fresh parsley (which also is a good partner to fish).
Salmon and Herb Rolls: makes 8
1 tblsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tblsp fresh parsley, finely choped
sest from 1 lemon, remained cut into wedges
salt and pepper
1 can salmon (see above)
1 x 375g pack ready-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
poppy and/or sesame seeds
Mix together the herbs and lemon zest, adding plenty of seasoning (to taste).  Drain the canned fish and coarsely flake, then fold in the herby mixture..
Unwrap the pastry and cut in half down the middle to give 2 long rectangles, then lay the flaked fish nix down the centre. Moisten the long edges of the pastry with a little of the egg, then wrap/roll up as we would do when making (uncut) sausage rolls.  Chill for 15 minutes (or longer) to allow the pastry to firm up.
When ready to bake, place on a lightly greased and floured baking sheet, fold side under, and glaze each roll with the remaining egg (you may not need all of it).  Cut each 'log' into 4 (more if you want smaller ones).  Sprinkle poppy or sesame seeds on top and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 minutes until golden.  Good served hot with the wedges of lemon.

When cooked/fried in a little beef stock, large field mushrooms taste remarkably like beef steak, so I often use these when making 'beef' strogonoff.  Soy sauce is also said to give a more 'meaty' flavour to anything it is added to.  The Portobello mushrooms (the large, open chestnut mushrooms) are even better as they are much firmer than the 'whites' and also have a meatier flavour.
With this in mind am offering an alternative to 'Beef Wellington'.  Certainly good enough to serve at a dinner party.  Non veggies can use traditional Stilton cheese, otherwise use the vegetarian Stilton.
'Meaty' Mushroom Wellington: serves 4
4 large field mushrooms (see above)
4 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
14 oz (400g) approx, spinach leaves
salt and pepper
1 x 500g pack puff-pastry
5 oz (150g) Stilton cheese, sliced
1 egg, beaten
Remove the stalks from the mushrooms and discard (myself would chop the stalks and cook these with the garlic and spinach).
Heat half the oil in a large frying pan and fry the mushrooms for 3 - 4 minutes on each side until golden and cooked through.  Add more oil if necessary.   Drain the mushrooms on kitchen paper, then add the chopped stalks to the pan and cook these for a few minutes.  Draining well.
Into the pan add remaining oil and the garlic, fry for one minute then add the spinach and cook for a couple of minutes over high heat until completely wilted. Add seasoning to taste, then tip into a sieve to allow to drain thoroughly.
Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin, then cut into 4 circles, each about 2" (5cm) wider than the mushrooms.  These will form the bottom of each 'Wellington'.  Cut 4 more circles, these being 4" (10cm) wider (these for the tops).
Place the pastry 'bottoms' on a baking tray and top each with a quarter of the spinach (making the pile no wider than the mushroom). Top the spinach with a slice of cheese, then the mushroom, gill-side up, topping that with another slice of cheese.
Brush the edges of each circle with beaten egg, then ease/stretch the large circles of pastry over the mushrooms, pressing down gently to force out any trapped air, then press the edges together to seal, crimping with a fork.  If necessary trim the edges.
Brush the visible pastry with the remaining egg, and bake at 220C, 425F, gas 7 until golden, then leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Next recipe again uses mushrooms and unlike most lasagnes, this is what I call 'an overnight job', in that it is prepared the day before being cooked - not in the normal way, but in slices.  Perhaps another good and unusual 'starter' for a dinner party?  We have the choice as to whether we use vegetarian Gruyere, Cheddar, and Parmesan, or the non-veggie kind.
Ideally, we will get the best flavour if we use a mixture of wild or mixed cultivated mushrooms (most supermarkets now sell punnets of mixed mushrooms), otherwise use chestnut (these having more flavour and 'body' than the normal 'whites' - they also have a longer shelf-life).
As ever, we can choose whether to make the sauce from the recipe given, or use a packet mix (or Bisto Cheese Granules). Depends on whether this is a 'family' meal, or to be served at a dinner party (where we tend to spend that little bit more).
Mushroom Lasagne: serves 6
1 tblsp olive oil
1 lb 5oz (600g) mixed mushrooms (see above)
3 oz (750g) butter
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) plain flour
18fl oz (500ml) milk
2 egg yolks
1 oz (25g) Gruyere cheese, grated
1 oz (25g) Cheddar cheese, grated
3 large sheets pasta (12 z 20cm), cooked
7 fl oz (200ml) double cream
4 oz (100g) butter
2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated
Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms for a few minutes until lightly browned.  Drain, return to pan with a third (1 oz) of the butter, and when this has melted, toss together, add seasoning to taste, and set aside.
Put the remaining (2oz) butter into a small saucepan, and heat until foaming, then add the flour and stir/cook for 1 minute until it leaves the sides of the pan, then slowly whisk in the milk until the mixture is smooth and has thickened (takes about 4 minutes.  Beat in the egg yolks and heat until bubbling, then remove from heat, stir in the cheeses, add seasoning to taste, and finally fold in the mushrooms.
Assemble the dish by lining a 1lb loaf tin (12 x 20cm) with cling film.  Place a sheet of the cooked pasta on the base, then spread half of the mushroom mix over this.  Add another sheet of pasta, pressing it down firmly before spreading the remaining mushrooms on this.  Finally cover with the last sheet of pasta.  Cover this pasta with cling film, then sit a matching size piece of firm card on the clingfilm and - if you have a same-sized loaf tin or similar - place this on the card and fill with 'weights' (could be old coins, dried beans, anything 'heavy') to weight it down. Place in the fridge and leave to chill for at least 2 hours (pref. overnight).
Meanwhile make the cheese sauce by putting the cream and butter into a pan, bring to the boil, remove from the heat and whisk in the Parmesan.  Cover surface with clingfilm (prevents a skin forming) and chill.  If it is then too thick, dilute with a little milk.
To cook the lasagne, turn out onto a board and remove the clingfilm.  Cut across into 6 even slices. Place these on a baking tray, spaced apart, then drizzle each with 1 tblsp of the Parmesan cheese sauce and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 12 - 20 minutes until hot.  Serve with more cheese sauce drizzled over the top.  Eats well with a salad or roasted vegetables.

Final recipe today is for a vegetarian curry.  Even a meat-loving OH would settle for this dish as it is packed with flavour.  The orginal recipe uses a vindaloo curry paste, but as this is one of the hotter curries, suggest that we choose a cooler one (Madras is one step down) that suits our palate, but better hotter than too tame. 
Although most curry-eaters are aware that water, beer etc will never cool down our mouths when a curry is too hot to bear, anything milky - especially yogurt - instantly cools us down, as does something sugary, and one of the reasons why Raita (a blend of thick yogurt and diced cucumber and/or mint slightly sweetened with icing sugar) is recommended to be served with almost any curry.

Like many vegetable dishes, the veggies can be altered, and if not having 'the necessary' to make this, choose butternut squash, carrots, potatoes (or include some or all and use less of the others). 
Sweetly Sour Hot Veggie Curry: serves 6
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, halved and sliced
1 - 3 tblsp vindaloo paste (see above)
1 tblsp soft brown sugar
juice of 1 small lemon
2 courgettes, thickly sliced
11 oz (300g) cauliflower florets
14 fl oz (400ml) passata
4 fl oz (100ml) water
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained/rinsed
1 x 250g bag spinach leaves
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for a few minutes until softened, then stir in the curry paste and fry for a further minute.  Stir in the sugar and lemon juice, continuing to cook for a further minute before adding the courgettes and cauliflower.  Stir-fry for a further 2 minutes then add the passata, water, and chickpeas. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
(When made up to this stage, it can be kept chilled in the fridge for up to 2 days, or frozen.  Defrost before warming through, then continue with the recipe....)
Just before serving, stir in the spinach and remove from heat once the leaves have wilted.  Serve with boiled rice and/or naan bread.

I've not yet had a go at making sushi, my trip out to the local Kitchen Shop took my mind off it.  It was good to see Morecambe prom thronged with people (there being a children's fun fair set up on one of the 'greens').  Fortunately the weather stayed fair, despite there being quite a wind.  Again a good clear visible view of Grange-over-Sands across the bay.  A fairly rare occurance as often that side of the water is covered in mist or haze.

From the mixed sushi (trays) I've purchased jane, have found that not all are wrapped in Nori (sheets of dried seaweed). Some are just blocks of flavoured sushi rice topped with a split cooked prawn or a few slivers of smoked salmon or smoked mackerel.  Or squares of rice stuffed with omelette (or seasticks/other fish).
With the trays comes a very wee 'fish-shaped' plastic bottle of soy sauce, a tiny sachet each of pickled ginger and one of wasabi sauce.  Am making my own pickled ginger and do have dried wasabi powder to make the sauce.  Anyone who remembers Colman's mustard powder (still on sale) will know this keeps almost indefinitely, so as I don't normally make sushi, the wasabi powder seems a better buy than the made wasabi.   However, as wasabi is not a million miles away from the flavour of our hot English mustard, any made wasabi could be used as 'English' mustard.

It was only a couple of days ago that I saw the Barefoot Contessa using those sheets of Nori as 'wrapper's (as we would use flour tortillas), these stuffed with salad and meats/fish.  She didn't say, but possibly the moistness in the salad leaves would soften the Nori.  Myself prefer to use them for sushi.

Have never heard of that 'Penny Pinching Paper' Taaleedee.  Not that I listened much to radio in my youth.  In adult year's think it was more 'Woman's Hour' and 'Mrs Dale's Diary', then 'The Archers'. Somewhere in between remember 'Dick Barton, Special Agent', and something with Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon.  It's all coming back to me.   Do remember, during war-time, in Coventry, desperate the bombing wouldn't start while 'Children's Hour' was on.  Couldn't bear to miss 'Toytown and 'Larry the Lamb'. 

Other names from childhood are coming back to me.  My parents always used to buy me an annual (or two) each Christmas, and I remember 'The Japhet and HappyAnnual' (somehow feel I haven't got that name right), or the 'Pip, Squeak and Wilfred', and ALWAYS the latest Rupert Bear Annual.

How simple our toys were in those days.  We used to play with 'whips and tops', or rolling a hoop along with a stick. We had skipping ropes and jump up and down chanting special rhymes, or would totter around on stilts.  Also spend hours playing with marbles with friends, or solitary games with 'jacks'.  War removed much of the 'out-door' fun and games as we were always frightened to stay very far away from our air-raid shelters.

I've just begun reading a book about the UK 'Blitz', this being a collection of memories by those who lived through them.  Those about Coventry (where we lived at that time) was as I remember it, but even more besides.  Didn't realise that on one night in Coventry the raids lasted thirteen and a half hours, the longest recorded in this country.  Although the 'Blitz' was mainly about the worst raids on the main cities, and though these (worst) were not every day (sometimes a few days inbetween) this did not mean the cities were 'raid-free' between times.  Remember (in Coventry) the raids seemed to be every night for weeks (at least 6) without a break. 

I was surprised to read how Leicester had a night of severe bombing, for we had moved there in 1943 to get away from them, but - reading the book - the bombs were dropped on Leicester as they had mistaken this city for Coventry due to the pilots seeing a 'fire down below' (perhaps an accidental fire), and thought that the advance planes had already dropped bombs on what they thought was Coventry (only about 20 miles away I think).  As no lights were allowed at night, and the radar or other forms of navigation rather primitive, it's a wonder any planes knew where they were. 
Almost as bad in daylight for all signposts had been taken down, and railway station names removed, so we had to use our own maps and hope we ended up at the correct destination when we travelled, for we expected enemy occupation to happen at any time, and the more difficult it was for them to find out where they were or how to get to somewhere, the safer we would be.

Even those who lived by the coast couldn't take advantage of a day out on the beach as many were mined (in case of invasion by the sea), and I remember being denied the real pleasure of scuffling my feet through mounds of dried leaves swept along the streets during autumn as there was 'probility that these had hidden explosives - looking like fountain pens - hidden in them (by the enemy) so we would blow ourselves up when we kicked them.  Doubt very much that any pile of leaves had a hidden explosive, but we had to be aware of the dangers.  
Luckily we weren't invaded, although several people and children were gunned down by low-flying aircraft as they flew low over cities to drop their bombs.    Reading the book it is incredible how bad things were at that time, but we just seemed to get on with life and hope for the best.   My heart goes out to all those innocent people (as in Syria today) who have lost their lives or loved ones due to war.  An 'internal' war seems far worse than one from an opposing country as there is less chance of everyone bonding together to fight 'the enemy' (one of whom might be your next door neighbour).

You have to live through a war to realise what it is like for those doing so now, but even then I was more fortunate as it was the adults, the parents, with their 'stiff upper lip' that kept the worse from their children, who - if the parent said 'you'll be safe in the shelter' - actually believed them when they said you'd be kept from harm. 

Maybe I shouldn't be reading books such as the above if it makes me want to write about gloom and doom, but still feel books such as these should be recommended reading for all scholars today, if only to make them glad of what they have rather than sorry for what they feel they are lacking (like the latest mobile phone or computer game).

If you count both my parent's and now my life-time, the advancement in technology has been more and greater than ever before, so I count myself fortunate to be allowed to be born during this period.  I have my parents memories of 'the first cars and planes' - the cars having to be driven so slowly that a man with a red flag used to be able to walk in front to warn pedestrians of the danger. My mobility scooter can go faster than walking pace and I think that is far too slow, even on the pavement, it seems to take me AGES to get to where I want. 

Thing such as telephones, radio, TV, not to mention the advancement from wind-up gramophones to Hi-Fi's and onto CD/ and now IPods (or whatever they are called), typerwriters to word processors to computers and onwards.... (dare I even mention hand grenades and other explosives leading to atom and hydrogen bombs.  Do we really need to waste so much money sending men to the moon, or rockets beyond our solar system?  Use the money to improve our global life first).
By the time I've got used to one or t'other gadget or appliance being available and 'fashionable' - and it takes me a year or two before I decide I want to follow this 'fashion' - then this is superceded by something even better, and the preceding version is not then on the market, so I've never really been able to catch up - or in some cases never even made a start. 

So much has been invented, improved, bettered, and in many instances had made life worse, during the last 100 or so years, I dread to think of what will happen next.  Can safely say there are times when I'm very glad I'm now too old to care (at least about my own future). 

It's Father's Day today, so will be making B a nice meal tonight as will be playing the part of surrogate offspring.  At least they have sent cards (well two of them have), and daughter has provided cakes and some fillet steak for me to cook for her Dad. 

Our 'upstairs' neighbour has just told us they are expecting a baby this autumn and will probably be moving.  Am hoping the new owners will be as quiet as those that will be leaving.  Or it will be us that will be moving shortly after.  Not that I'd mind moving if it was to an apartment on the seafront closer to the town shops.  At least then I'd have a bit more to see (from the window), and even scoot to. 

Think in about a week's time it will be Mid-Summer's Day.  Not of course that we have yet had any summer other than several days of sun a week or so ago.  Does this mean the longest day will have arrived and after that the night's start drawing in again? 
Looking through the window last night, although it was getting dark at 10.30pm, it was still possible to walk around and see where we were going at 11.00pm, and first light seems to be at 3.00am, so does this mean - during the summer - we have only around 4 hours of 'real' night?  If so you would think we would then have only 4 hours of 'real day' during the winter, but we still seem to have most of our day well lit, so perhaps we are well placed on the globe to get the best winter light, and to some extent (due to the Gulf Stream) warmer winter weather than most of mainland Europe.   Time to think positive about things, be glad of what we have and stop thinking of the worst (as I tend to do these days).  Bear with me re this - it's all due to old age (they say, and I'm beginning to believe it). 

Tomorrow is Monday, my favourite day of the week, so will be back again blogging and hope to see you then.  Enjoy today, and the rest of the coming week.  I intend to.