Tuesday, November 12, 2013

More Uses For...

How lovely Alison, to have a husband who will help preparing meals (and even oven-cook some). Not sure if this would work for me as our kitchen, although not small, is L shaped, the long (working bit) very narrow, and we would get in each others way.   B prefers me to be out of the kitchen when he is cooking his stir-fry (that is once I've got all the bits and bobs ready laid out in order of what should be fried first, so that he can begin cooking.

Lucky you to have assorted cheeses in your fridge Granny G, esp the Gouda.  When mature, this is perfect for grating and it melts easily (often used in fondues with Emmenthal cheese for this reason), and one of the best to use for 'cheese on toast'.    If you have a variety of hard cheeses, just grate them up (together if you use a food processor), and store them in bags or tubs in the freezer.  
My favourite 'grate together' are Cheddar, Red Leicester, and Double Gloucester, and - if I have some - add the firmer Cheshire and Lancashire cheeses.   Although I love Wensleydale, this is best eaten as-is or crumbled and added to a quiche, with salads, and lovely eaten with apple pie.

Parmesan is probably best kept (grated) separately as good served with pasta dishes, but I usually add some to other grated hard cheese when making a 'four cheese quiche' etc.  As Parmesan is expensive I often wait until hard cheese (left unwrapped for the purpose) has gone very hard, then grate this on the finest grater where it looks (and tastes) remarkably like Parmesan.  Esp the most strongly flavoured Cheddar (which I never seem to be able to find these days - the pack may say 'mature', 'seriously strong', but it never is.

You have a query re persimmons.  My book tells me that these should be eaten when fully ripe (otherwise they are really sour) and ready to eat when they look as though they are about to burst - then should be eaten immediately, the normal way is to take a slice off the top then remove the flesh with a spoon and serve with cream or yogurt.  I suppose ripe flesh could also be included in a fresh fruit salad.
Useful to know that this fruit is rich in Vit. A, and a source of potassium, calcium and iron.

If you wish to try drying persimmons, then these instructions were also in the book...
drying persimmons:
Peel the fruit, leaving the calyxes and stems intact.  Arrange on a rack over a baking sheet and dry in a very low oven.  The sugar that is naturally present in persimmons will crystallize on the outside.
Dried persimmons taste like a mixture of dried figs, prunes and dates.  They can be used in place of these fruits and added to cakes and puddings.

Thanks go to Barbara for sending details of how to turn condensed milk into Dulce de Leche using the slow-cooker.
I've not seen the website mentioned, but then hardly ever do look at other cookery writers blog/sites. Mainly because I can't spare the time (preferring to experiment in my own kitchen), and also finding I read enough recipes in cookbooks and mags (and seen on TV) for the need to learn about any more (as said before - there really is nothing new, just adaptations - which I prefer to 'invent' myself so that I have something to write about).

As you say Joy, oats are an extremely versatile ingredient, and I like your idea of adding grated cheese to the oat flour when making oatcakes.  I've often added porridge oats to the mince and veg when making spag blog (and chilli con carne) as it 'stretches' the meat, and also helps to soak up and take on the flavour of any excess liquid, and by doing this often provides an extra portion without anyone knowing there are oats in the meal anyway.

Like you Taaleedee, I try to always cook in bulk.  After thawing out three packs of D.R. minced steak overnight, today I'm going to turn some into spag bol, some into chilli con carne, the rest into meatballs (all will be cooked and then frozen away in portions.  I might even make a couple of beefburgers and if so these will be cooked and eaten today by B (between home-made baps) as I cannot re-freeze raw meat.

When making fish cakes I normally use made-up instant mash as this freezes so much better than 'ordinary' mash (also use it as a topping for Cottage and Shepherd's Pie made to be frozen, for the same reason).
But as potatoes are not as cheap as they were, and the 'flavour of this week' seems to be using up what we might normally throw away (not you of course, but others do...) here is a recipe first published in 'The Goode Kitchen', where the fishcakes are made with breadcrumbs, not spuds.  I'm including my 'introduction' to the recipe in the hope it might amuse you (or not). 
At the time I used brown bread, but it would also work with white, and stale bread is better than fresh as it soaks up more of the liquid.  Usually I crumb up the end crusts as these have a more 'toasted' flavour and add a bit more colour to the crumbs.
Note: this recipe works equally as well using flaked smoked haddock.

'I like to believe that this recipe originated when Fatima saw the sharing of the loaves and fishes.  It struck her that you can feed a lot on far less than you think.  She decided to go one step further and find a use for the leftovers in the bottom of the baskets.'
Fatima's Fishcakes: serves 4
8 slices wholewheat bread. crumbed 
half a pint (300ml) milk
12 oz (350g) skinned fresh white fish, minced
half an onion, grated
3 tblsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon
ground black pepper
flour for coating
oil for frying
Put the breadcrumbs in a bowl and add the milk.  Soak until all the liquid has been absorbed.  Place in a sieve and press gently with a wooden spoon to squeeze out the excess milk.  Place the soaked crumbs in a bowl with the minced fish, onion, parsley, lemon zest and plenty of pepper (to taste).  Flouring your hands thoroughly, shape the mixture evenly into 12 portions.
Shape into flat round cakes about half an inch (1cm) thick, then place on a floured plate until all are done.   They can be frozen at this stage.
To cook: heat the oil in a large frying pan, then when hot put in the fish cakes.  Reduce heat to medium and fry a few moments on each side until crispy and golden.  Drain on kitchen paper.

A couple more recipes before I sign off for today.  These chosen as they make use of the bits and bobs we often wish to use up.
First recipe uses many ingredients that we would put in a stir-fry but this time serving as a cold salad. Serve immediately after making, or can be kept in the fridge overnight to eat the following day.  Very inexpensive to make when we have all the necessary, and I always use those mega cheap (11p?) packs of dried noodles.  The weight shown is for the packs of already cooked noodles (the 'straight to wok sort), so use less if you cook from dried.
When you splurge out and roast a joint of beef, always freeze away a few slices as these are perfect to add to stir-fries, to make sarnies, serve as cold meat with salads, and used in a dish such as this.

As B likes radishes, I sometimes buy a pack and - after opening but still leaving in the pack - the radishes do keep well in the fridge.  These I slice and add to salads, stir-fries or nibble whole with cheese etc.   Of course if we have only two radishes, then just use these.
If we haven't the ingredients for the dressing, then we could substitute Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce (from a bottle),  or mix up our own concoction using soy sauce (we usually do have that), vinegar, a little honey, and finely chopped crystallised ginger (if poss). Plus a drizzle of olive oil.
Beef and Noodle Salad: serves 4
300g pack of cooked noodles (see above)
4 oz (100g) sugar snap or mangetout peas, sliced
6 - 8 radishes, thinly sliced (see above)
1 small red chilli, seeds removed, finely sliced
6 oz (175g) sliced roast beef (or leftover scraps)
4 oz (100g) dry-roasted peanuts
1 ball stem ginger
2 tblsp ginger syrup
2 tblsp soy sauce
2 tblsp rice wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
2 tsp sesame oil
First make the dressing by putting the dressing ingredients together in a large bowl, giving them a good stir to combine. Then tip the remaining (beef salad) ingredients on top.  Mix it all together and either serve immediately, or chill in the fridge to eat the following day.

Final recipe today hopefully ticks many boxes.  Firstly it contains no added fat or sugar (that's a saving for a start, but because of this, once baked, it needs storing in the fridge, not in an airtight tin as we would do normally), it makes use of ripe bananas, and the larger dried fruit could be what we have. For instance instead of dried prunes we could use dates or apricots, (or a mixture - and what about those dried persimmons?).  The tea-bag could be the usual, or we could use a fruit-flavoured one (I had several different 'herbal and fruit' tea bags given to me which I dislike as a drink, but they are perfect for flavouring cakes etc, just make sure you don't use a flavour - such as mint or rosemary - that might not taste so good in cakes).

Always best to use moist 'mixed dried fruit' (sultanas, raisins, currants etc), as these make for a moister cake, and if you have old stock that has begun to dry out, worth weighing out the day before, then add a tablespoon or two of wine, rum, or just soak in a little warm water to plump them up before using, but as they will soak up liquid as they simmer, this serves much the same purpose, but with very dry fruit you might find you need to add a little more water.
Don't slice the banana until ready to use, or the slices will turn an unpleasant colour.
Fruited Tray-Bake: cuts into 20 squares
1 teabag
400ml boiling water
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
9 oz (250g) ready to eat prunes, quartered
1 lb (450g) dried mixed fruit
3 tsp ground mixed spice
1 ripe banana, sliced (see above)
4 large eggs
4 tbsp. milk (pref skimmed)
11 oz (300g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
Put the teabag into a heat-proof jug and add the just-boiled water.  Stir and leave to soak for 5 minutes, then remove the teabag, first squeezing out into the jug.  Pour the (liquid) tea into a saucepan and add the lemon zest, lemon juice , prunes, mixed dried fruit, and spice.  Stirring gently, place the saucepan over a low heat and bring to a simmer.  Cook gently for 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed, giving a stir now and again.   Remove from the heat, tip the mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for about an hour.
Put the sliced banana into a food processor/blender with the eggs and milk and whizz until pureed. Add the flour and baking powder, and whizz again until smooth.  Pour this over the soaked fruit, stirring it all together until thoroughly mixed.   Pour/spoon into a greased and fully-lined 20 x 30cm shallow (tray-bake) tin (or you could use a 10" (25cm) lined cake tin.
Level the surface and then place in the oven to bake at 170C, gas 3 for 30 minutes, or until the cake is pale golden and a skewer (or cocktail stick) inserted in the centre comes out clean.  
When baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for half an hour before turning out, then peel off the baking parchment and leave on a wire rack to get completely cold.
Cut into 20 squares, wrap well and store in the fridge and eat within a week.

Think I've answered most queries, and suggestions for 'using up' have been useful.  Myself have not to find ways to use up what I didn't want in the first place as yesterday B went (again) to Morrisons (perhaps he's taken a fancy to one of the check-out girls) and I asked him to bring me a couple of sachets of Morrison's own Cheese Sauce Mix. Don't bother if they'd run out.  I'd even saved him an empty (green coloured) packet to show him exactly what I wanted - this sauce mix being inexpensive, needs only boiling water to make up, and has plenty of cheese flavour.
So what happened?  B asked an assistant where it was, and he couldn't find it, so instead brought me a sachet of pasta in cheese sauce to be heated up in a mug (50p) and a similar size sachet of (microwave) tomato sauce with cheese (£1.50) to be served with pasta.  In no way were either of these anything like a dry cheese sauce mix.  Well, I'm going to have to make B a supper tonight using one or both of the sauce, and then see if he finds them worth the money.  
Is it just B who can't seem to understand what is requested, even when a written and very detailed list is given?  Each time I ask that 'if it isn't there, then don't bring an alternative', and every time he 'forgets'. 

In a couple of weeks I'll be making apple and blackberry crumble, and Sticky Toffee Pudding, for a 'musical evening' to be held at the sailing club.  The organiser has sent me a HUGE bag of apples freshly picked from his tree, but they are small, a bit pitted, and think I'll need to bring out my Victorian-style apple peeler to be able to get them all peeled and cored.  Numbers expected are hoped to be as many as 70, but possibly only 50.  Am hoping it will be less as it is a lot of puddings to make.  But I can cope.  Won't know until nearer the date, but the puds will be made fresh on the day so no urgency.  Might cook the fruit slightly in advance to make sure it is cooked through before the crumble gets too brown.   Some chefs cook the crumble separately and then place it on top of the cooked fruit, just allowing it to heat through together.  A good idea.  Might just do that.

Have a lot of work to do in the kitchen today - put some of the thawed meat into the slow cooker, and make meat-balls/burgers from the rest.  Sort out the bag of apples in case there are some bruised ones.  Need to clean the conservatory windows and move the geraniums to the sunny end.  Speaking of which - these geraniums, brought in when the leaves began to change colour, the flowers over, and they looked 'tatty', because of the warmer temperature new and very green foliage has appeared and all the plants have bloomed again.  From past experience, with careful trimming, these should continue flowering throughout the winter, and next spring they will be cut back to be later replanted in the containers (once the spring bulbs have finished flowering).

There are half a dozen small chrysanthemum plants still outdoors that may well survive the winter, but will also re-pot these and bring them indoors to make sure they will be here next year.  With any luck I won't need to buy any plants next year other than the trailing lobelia.
Am hoping my slug-eaten Hosta will re-grow, so that's another that I'm bringing indoors. Just hoping I've enough windowsill space in the conservatory to hold them all.   For some reason this house lacks wide windowsills in the main rooms although the newer windows in the bedroom have sills roomy enough to display things (at the moment - coloured glass).

A really lovely day today with clear blue skies. Makes it hard to believe that Christmas is peeping over the horizon.  Was listening to a radio programme yesterday where they were discussing the cost of Christmas, especially gifts.   Many people now are cutting down on the amount they spend, and my friend Gill and family allow themselves no more than £5 per present, in some instances they choose to spend only £1.  A great idea because it's a lot of fun trying to find presents at the chosen price, and the more thought we give to anything, the better it is. 
The 'Secret Santa' idea also works well.  Everyone writes their name on a piece of paper, these put into a hat, and then each person draws one out and has then to buy a gift for the one whose name is on the paper.  When time given for 'gift-giving' the presents are put in a pile (or in a sack) and given to the person whose name is on the tag, but no-one knows who bought it.

Christmas can be made even more enjoyable when small children are allowed to help making decorations.  Even now I can remember happily sitting threading strips of paper to make paper chains and watching my dad hang them across the room, draping them over the alabaster lamp shade hanging from the ceiling.  We don't even have to buy special packs of paper to make these, just cut into strips the coloured junk mail that comes through our letterboxes, and use flour/water paste, or egg white as glue.
Just the very smell of cooking gingerbread, fruit cakes etc can fill a home with the very essence of Christmas, and children can help to make gingerbread cookies to hang from the tree.  Who needs to spend money to enjoy this celebration?  Ignore the ads that are tempting us to buy everything from bread-sauce to stuffing balls, mince pies and sausage rolls, not to mention the latest mobiles and tablets.  Let's start making Christmas a real old-fashioned family experience, roll up our sleeves and make this one worth remembering for all the right reasons. 

With that thought I'll love you and leave you, and hopefully will be blogging again tomorrow.  Not yet sure about Thursday.  As ever, my request to keep those comment coming will give me something to reply to, even if my mind has gone blank re anything else.  Please join me.  See you then.