Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Having a Ball...

Very busy over the next few days, so will make this brief - then returning on Friday for a short time.  Hopefully a fairly easy weekend, then it will be all go!

Before today's recipes will reply to comments - and, as always, many thanks to those who have found the time to write in.
Granny G. is enquiring about uses for celery leaves.  Myself always save the pale green ones in the centre and add these to salads, either whole or chopped.  They can also be chopped and used to flavour casseroles, in the same way as we use herbs.  A reminder to put (any) dried herbs in the pot at the start of making, and fresh herbs at the end when adding them to a cooked dish to gain the most flavour.

Thanks to Alison for also commenting on the above.  I'm very pleased when a reader does reply to a comment sent in.  This is what this blog I all about, not just me and thee as individuals -  it is a platform for sharing our thoughts and cookery expertise.  Often we cook a dish differently (and probably better) than a suggestion I've given, because I still am 'just a housewife' and open to learning all things new.

What I found interesting was when Alison mentioned how her children used to enjoy their food when they were poor - and also when poorer.  The same thing happened to me - "why are we eating better' one child asked me. "Because I've given it more thought" was my reply..  Am sure - as Alison said - her reason was because of the need to be more inventive.  The less money we have to spend, the fewer ingredients left to work with, the more we need to think about how to make them work best for us. 
When we have enough of everything, we usually rely on tried and tested recipes that are easy to make but may be a wee bit less interesting than they could be.  Even a well-used recipe can be adapted to make it end up cheaper, so let's include that challenge once Christmas is over.

Envy you Sarina having a German background.  All those lovely dishes that we probably haven't yet tried (although am not fond of sauerkraut).  Your suggestion of 'fusion foods' (mixing together recipes from different nations) is a good one.  They don't have to be from a different nation as I suppose 'Surf and Turf' (meat AND fish in the same dish) is a type of 'fusion'. 

German bread is supposed to be the best in the world, they bake so many different types.  I'd love to sample some of each.  When we had German students staying with us they turned their noses up at our supermarket white sliced.  I had to go out and find some granary and other brown breads for them to eat - which they did - but after watching a programme about German food (may have been Hairy Bikers), can see how dreadful our bread must have appeared to them (at that time I didn't bake it myself).

A welcome to Lorna.  Am sorry that this will be your first Christmas without the whole family round the table, but do hope that you still manage to have a very pleasant day.  If you have any foodie (or other) queries then I'll hope to come up with answers and give a reply in the next blog.

Your mention of enjoying the crunch of raw (shredded) cabbage Margie is something worth giving thought to.  It's been proved that our brains actually gain some pleasure when we crunch on food, this I believe has something to do with the noise as well a the 'mouth feel', and one reason why we eat a lot of crisps, sometimes craving for them.  Obviously a lot healthier to crunch on veggies (but if wearing dentures take care).  Probably the reason why I prefer to eat iceberg (very crunchy) lettuce, rather than those with softer leaves.

Thought we had a Joy on our books, but am sure the most recent comment with that name has come from a new reader, if so welcome, otherwise 'welcome back'.

Two recipes today, both made with meatballs, and a third just because it can be easily adapted to suit what we have.
As we all know meatballs are normally made with minced meat (beef, lamb, pork, or poultry), but just because a recipe specifies a certain meat doesn't mean we can't substitute one of the others if that's all we have.  Read the recipe through and then alter any seasonings (herbs, spices) etc so they are the right ones to go with the meat used (mint with lamb, sage and/or apple with pork etc).  Adding breadcrumbs and/or grated onion will help to extend the meat so that we end up with more balls for our money.

Another way to economise is to make the meatballs using cooked minced meat, NOT raw mince. Generally the meatballs end up the same anyway but require far less cooking time.  All that needs to be done is fry the meatballs to 'set' the outside, then continue cooking (frying or in a sauce), until heated through thoroughly.
Another thing to remember that if you flatten meat balls you will then end up with a 'meat cake'. So adapt the following recipes accordingly to change the dish to 'baby burgers' by just giving the balls a bash with a rolling pin.

First dish is a lamb and pea with curry overtones, and eats well whether made with the lamb, or use beef, chicken, or turkey.  Remember we can use pre-cooked meat (then minced or blitzed up in a processor), and if we have less than the amount given, just add more of the other 'main' ingredients, but keep to the same amount of spices/seasonings.  Alter ingredients and timings as you see fit.

Lamb and Meatball Pilaf: serves 4
12 oz (350g) lean minced lamb
1 - 2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
10 oz (300g) basmati or long-grain rice
lamb or vegetable stock (to cover rice)
10 os (300g) frozen peas
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
Mix the lamb with half the garlic and half the cumin, add seasoning then mix together with clean hands, forming the mixture into 16 balls (more if you make them smaller - and if using raw meat the smaller the ball the less time they take to cook through).
Heat a large non-stick frying pan and fry the meatballs for about 8 minutes until cooked through (less time if the meat is already cooked) and golden on the outside.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Add the rice to the pan, adding remaining cumin and garlic, then cover with chosen stock.  Cover pan and simmer for 10 minutes or until almost all the liquid has evaporated, then stir in the peas, pop the meatballs on top, and cook until the meatballs are heated and the peas are tender. Stir in the lemon juice and sprinkle the zest on top. Serve with a dollop of cucumber and/or mint Raita.

Pork is normally cheaper than beef, and these meatballs have ingredients that will enhance the flavour of this meat.  If choosing another meat, best to use different flavourings (cranberry sauce instead of apple if using chicken/turkey, or horseradish sauce if using beef...).

Fruity Pork Balls: serves 4
10 oz (300g) pork mince
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp mixed herbs
3 tblsp onion marmalade or chutney
half pint (300ml) hot veg. stock
2 red apples, cored and thickly sliced
mashed or jacket potatoes for serving
Mix together the mince, onion and herbs, then form into 16 balls.  Heat a large non-stick frying pan over high heat, and brown the meatballs for a couple or so minutes.  Stir in the onion marmalade, the stock and the apples.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the apples and meatballs are cooked and the sauce has begun to thicken.  To serve: spoon over the top of mashed (or jacket) potatoes. 

Final recipe is another pilaf, but this time made with Quorn.  But it doesn't have to be a meat substitute, we can instead use chunks of cooked chicken or turkey, beef, pork or lamb.  What I like about this dish is the way we can make use of vegetables that we have (I'd use cauliflower florets instead of aubergine, and butternut squash or ordinary spuds instead of the sweet potato), also this dish has oodles of flavour.  A recipe worth playing around with.

Vegetarian Pilaf: serves 4
3 tblsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large aubergine (or parsnip) cubed
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tblsp Balti curry paste (or your choice)
1 large sweet potato, cubed (see above)
9 oz (250g) carrots, grated
8 oz (225g) frozen beans  (or peas)
12 oz (350g) basmati rice
1 pint (600ml) water
half pint (300ml) coconut milk
1 x 200g bag spinach leaves
2 x 140g packs Quorn 'fajita' strips OR..
...chunks of cooked meat of your choice
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes until softened.  Stir in the aubergine (or parsnip) and fry for a few minutes until softened, then stir in the garlic and curry paste. Add the aubergine (or veg of your choice) and continue cooking for five minutes.
Stir in the sweet potato (or substitute of your choice), carrots, beans and the rice.  Add the water and coconut milk, bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Check and if needing a little more liquid add a ladleful of hot water.  When the rice is cooked, add the spinach (it will immediately begin to wilt) and the Quorn strips (or cooked meat of your choice).  Cover and turn off the heat, leaving it to stand for 5 minutes (if using cooked meat make sure this is thoroughly heated through).  Fork through to fluff up the rice and mix everything together.   Serve hot.

That's it for today.  Not a good day, cold and very windy.  We are expecting severe gales over the country over the next few days, a day off, then another surge of low pressure and more gales.  Let us hope it calms down by the weekend. 
Reminder that I won't be blogging tomorrow, and maybe not on Friday (but might be). Hopefully will be meeting up with you by the weekend and hope to see you then .