Monday, June 17, 2013

'Fishing for Compliments'...

Was intrigued by your version of 'sushi' Cheesepare using raw fish.  Have never dared to do this, preferring to use smoked fish (which I suppose is 'sort of' raw).  As you say, there are good substitutes for the pickled ginger and wasabi, and using the Little Gem lettuce leaves is a good idea if there is no Nori.
However, today am giving easy instructions for making sushi that does not need exactly the correct ingredients (using risotto rice instead of sushi rice for instance), in case some readers might like to have a go at making sushi.  For one thing, the sushi use really small amounts of fish (for each one), making these very economical, and as trayful of mixed sushi can look very impressive, bringing compliments from those who are eagerly waiting to eat them, worth 'knowing how to' when we wish to serve food that looks worth a great deal more than it costs as sushi is very expensive to buy ready-made, and don't guests know that!! (because they'll be thinking that you bought the ones you are serving).

We still have the Berlingo CP, but the thought of removing the seats to turn it into a small 'campervan' would not please my Beloved.  It is hard enough at the moment to get him to clear enough space on the back seat for a passenger to sit.  He just throws everything in, things on top of things, and never clears up,  when visitors come and a trip out is suggested, he's even asked them to use their car to take them where we are all going, rather than clear room in his, so that means we go in two cars as B doesn't like being driven by someone else - it scares him!  What a waste of fuel, using two cars when one would do, but as B is not paying for the visitor's fuel, he doesn't care!

Do hope the weather stays fair next weekend buttercup for that 'open garden' day.  The forecast this week is 'changeable', not too hot with some sunshine and some showers.  In a way this is perfect weather for growing things, so as long as it is dry on 'the day', then the gardens should be at their best.

A welcome to 'young at heart pensioner', who mentioned that parents today do not have time to play with their children.  Sadly this does seem so, but considering all the time-saving 'gadgets and appliances', everyone should have far more time today than in years back, although certainly in the middle of last century it was pretty normal for wives to stay at home and rear the children, but even then their days were full with all the washing, shopping, cooking etc.  But with no television, free time was able to be spent with the children.

When our children were growing up (in the '50s and '60s) Taaleedee, they too played the games you remember, also draughts (later chess).  They also enjoyed playing alone with their Spirograph, Lego, Etch a Sketch, and very popular were the Ladybird books, and the Observer books.

Hope Pam is reading today's blog, for I'm giving a mention of the Farmer's Market in Dallas, Texas that I'm sure she will have visited.  Maybe I'm a bit pathetic, but it thrills me to see - even on TV - a place where one of my 'virtual (reader) friends might have also been.  Gives me a feeling of  being closer, even if only in spirit.

It wasn't so much the market (seen on Food Network of course) that I found interesting, although the huge range and variety of fresh produce puts ours in the UK to shame, it was the internal 'diner' called 'Pecan Lodge' (run by Diane Poulsen?) that the episode was really about (have you eaten there Pam?).  The diner was well known for its 'West Texas Brisket' served with 'East Texas Sauce', and - as ever - I was very impressed with the amount of time and care used when cooking the meat and preparing their (various) sauces.   The above brisket was first smoked, then slow-cooked in an oven for eighteen hours!!!  Can you believe it, EIGHTEEN hours.  Other diners in other states also seem to slow-cook their 'pulled' meats for almost as many hours, and also it seems 'dry-cooking', rather than braising that we normally would do.   It's only the fuel costs for that length of cooking time that is preventing me from cooking brisket the American way.
Am pretty sure that no restaurant, cafe or 'eating house' in the UK cooks meat for that length of time.  But am sure the flavour of the meat cooked that way is wonderful.  

Often 'Angus steaks' are mentioned as being served in the diners, normally made into burgers of course.  Am presuming that this means beef that comes from Aberdeen Angus cattle, the meat from these beasts being one of the most expensive compared to other breeds in the UK.

We're nearly out of bread again.  B loves homemade bread and seems to eat more of it than supermarket bread (what a surprise?), so this morning need to bake another loaf ready to slice later today.  I use the bread machine to make the dough, but this is then put into the loaf tin to rise for about an hour, then baked, so it all takes time, most of which is 'free time' for me, but as the oven will be on anyway, am planning to bake cakes and scones this morning as well.  Maybe biscuits too.

Here are a few suggestions for those who wish to have a go at making sushi without buying 'the necessary'.  Firstly the whys and wherefores...
Sushi rice is sticky when cooked, this 'stickiness' needed to hold the grains together, which makes sense because it is almost impossible to eat free-flowing rice with chopsticks.  The rice needs to 'clump' together.  
A reasonable substitute for sushi rice is risotto rice, a similar short-grain rice that has a high percentage of starch, and with either rice, avoid soaking it after the initial rinse to prevent it absorbing too much water, otherwise it will break down once cooked.
When cooking risotto rice (for risotto), we want the grains to become tender and end up creamy.  For sushi the grains need to keep their shape, and not be overcooked.

After the rice is cooked it is flavoured, usually with rice vinegar (Morrison's stock this).  But for 'trials', you could use a white wine vinegar, but halve the quantity required.
Wasabi is normally served with sushi to give it a bit of a 'bite'.  Pale green in colour and very similar to horseradish - like 'hot'! So if you have a jar of horseradish sauce/cream then use that (tint it pale green if you want to cheat).

There is no real need to get a bamboo rolling mat to form the sushi, just use an ordinary place mat covered by baking parchment and use the paper to roll or shape the sushi (with or without its covering of Nori).  Myself would ignore the Nori (wafer-thin sheets of pressed seaweed) and make the trial batch of sushi as filled rolls or squares stuffed with the chosen fish, cucumber, avocado etc.

cooking sushi rice: makes 12
4 oz (100g) sushi or risotto rice
7 fl oz (200ml) water
1 tblsp caster sugar
good pinch of salt
1 fl oz (25ml) rice vinegar
good pinch of salt
Rinse the rice until the water runs clear, then drain well. Put rice into a saucepan with the water, bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat to low and leave to simmer for 20 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed.  Remove from heat and set aside, still covered, for a further 15 minutes, then put into a bowl.
Meanwhile, dissolve the sugar and salt in the vinegar, then pour this over the rice and mix well together.  Cover with a damp cloth and set aside at room temperature until ready to use.

There are many different fillings that can go into a sushi, but they all are dealt with in much the same way.  If not using a sheet of Nori, then make an 8" (20cm) square of rice - about the thickness of your little finger) on a sheet of baking parchment.  Lay a strip of smoked fish (salmon or mackerel), or canned tuna/salmon,  along the middle/length of the rice with strips of cucumber (or whatever else you choose to use).  Run a pea-sized blob of wasabi along the edge of the filling, spreading it with your finger.  Then - using the paper to help - roll up the rice tightly, squeezing it together when you reach the end.  Keeping it tightly wrapped, place in the fridge to chill for half an hour or so (they will keep int for a day in the fridge), then unwrap and slice across in 6 or 8 pieces.  Serve with extra wasabi, soy sauce (to drizzle over) and pickled ginger (if you have some).

Here are some suggested fillings:
vegetarian: avocado strips, cooked asparagus spears, tofu strips, omelette strips, steamed bell pepper slices...  Cucumber strips are best used with fish, not on their own as too bland.
seafood: cooked (canned ) crabmeat; prawns; canned (or raw) tuna; smoked mackerel; smoked eel; smoked trout...
beef/chicken: thinly sliced rare roast beef, teriyaki chicken.

Not every reader will be tempted by sushi, even though it is a superbly economical dish to make. So here is a Thai-type curry that makes good use of minced lamb (not the most favourite mince meat of mine I have to say - it really does need to be well flavoured to get past my lips).
Thai curry paste is far more fragrant and not as hot as most Indian curries, but as some like it  hot, then by all means use any flavour of (Indian) curry paste that you may have and prefer.

Lamb and Coconut Pilaf: serves 4
1 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb (450g) lean minced lamb
12 oz (350g) long-grain rice, pref. basmati
2 tblsp Thai green curry paste
half pint (300ml) hot chicken stock
1 x 400g can coconut milk
4 oz (100g) frozen peas
juice of 1 lemon
fresh coriander (for garnish), opt.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the lamb and stir-fry for 6 - 8 minutes until browned, then stir in the rice, curry paste, stock and the coconut milk.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer very gently for approx 12 minutes or until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Add the peas and cook for a couple more minutes, then drizzle over the lemon juice.  Give one final stir and serve, preferably garnished with fresh coriander leaves. 

One of the problems with ingredients that are not often used, is some have a short shelf-life once opened, and although some do keep fairly well in the fridge (pesto and curry sauces keep longer if the contents are scraped down into the jar and then covered with a thin layer of oil to protect from the air), it's helpful to find different recipes to use these.

As we may have opened a new jar of Thai green curry paste to make the above recipe, then some fo the remaining past in the jar can be used for this dish.  If not intending to use the curry paste again for several days (weeks?), a good idea would be to spoon the remainder in the jar into ice-cube trays, freeze and then thaw out a cube (or two) when needed.  This way we never have any waste.

Thai Green Chicken Soup: serves 4
2 tsp sunflower oil
2 tblsp Thai green curry paste
1 red chilli, finely chopped
4 chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 chicken breast, thinly sliced
1.5 pints (800ml) chicken stock
2 tsp sugar
handful basil leaves, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
2 tsp soy sauce
Put a large saucepan on to heat, add the oil and fry the curry paste for about 30 seconds, then add the chilli and mushrooms.  Fry for 2 minutes, then stir in the chicken and stir-fry until browned. Pour in the stock and sugar, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 8 or so minutes until the chicken is cooked through. 
When ready to serve, stir in the basil, zest and juice of the lime, and the soy sauce.  Spoon into individual bowls and serve immediately.

Yesterday, being Father's Day, my Beloved had a piece a fillet steak with chestnut mushrooms, new potatoes and peas.  For 'afters' I cheated a bit, using odds and ends.  Started by making a Strawberry 'Whip' (Tesco's 10p mix), then slicing up a few fresh strawberries.  Fetched a couple of meringues from a tin in the larder (made these weeks ago and they are still as crisp as when taken from the oven), and also got some EasiYo 'strawberries and cream' yogurt from the fridge. 
Began piling up layers of strawberries, strawberry whip and crushed meringue into B's Knickerbocker Glory glass (we have only one glass and it's his). Then when nearly full, topped it with three scoops of the yogurt and finished it with a whole strawberry on top and a whole meringue stuck into the yog.   B just loved it.

When making a flavoured (and for that matter even a Greek yogurt) in the EasiYo containers, I always use a little less water than recommended.  This means, when set it is very firm and can be scooped out rather than poured.  If I do wish it to be slightly slacker (when making Raita or using it as a salad dressing (Lemon EasiYo is as good as salad cream), then the thick yogurt can have a little milk whisked in to dilute it.
Although I assembled the above 'dessert' mid-afternoon, the meringues stayed crispy, possibly because the strawberry 'whip' and yogurt were both 'set', therefore not too 'wet', meaning the meringue had very little moisture to absorb.

Whenever I can I save egg whites (they can be frozen) as even one white will make a considerable number of small meringues, and as they keep so well (in an air-tight container), always ready for eating.  It's unbelievable how expensive meringues and meringue 'nests' are when you consider with 'free' (in other words deliberately saved) egg whites, and the small amount of sugar needed (2 oz per egg white), how cheap meringues are when made at home.  Even the oven doesn't need to be on as they can often dry out perfectly when placed in a just-turned-out hot oven that has been cooking something else, but then don't open the door for at least 8 hours (I used to leave my meringues in overnight in the heat used for cooking the evening meal).

Unfortunately, the oven we have here has a cooling fan that cools down the oven when it has been switched off.  This is such a nuisance as it prevents me drying off lots of things (such as bread crusts, meringues....) in the residual heat, so I normally have to 'dry' these off at a very low heat.  In our previous kitchen (in Leeds) the oven stayed warm (but not hot) for hours after it had been switched off.  

It's now past 10.00am, so this is where I have to take my leave as the bread dough needs making and unless I'm in the kitchen, I'll not hear the 'bleep' to say it is done.  The other day managed to put the dough into the tin to rise, but then nodded off in the living room and the dough had almost trebled in bulk and had overflowed the tin so had to knock it back and leave it to rise again.  This did it no harm, but meant it took me a lot longer to get from A to Z of the baking alphabet.  From now on I stay close to the kitchen and listen to the radio in there to keep me awake.

As ever, hope you all enjoy your day and look forward to meeting up with you all again tomorrow.  See you then.   
p.s. blogger spell-check isn't working AGAIN, so apologies for any errors, I haven't the time to read it all through and make the repairs myself.