Sunday, April 13, 2014

Another Week Begins

Thanks for all your comments.  Am pleased to say I seem to be getting myself out of my 'slough of despond'.  Still feel tired, but this more towards the end of the day rather than all day.  It could be because that went somewhere interesting, unexpected as it was because my neighbour wished to go somewhere and wanted my company.   This was to a local spiritualist church.  In fact we went twice - once to a discussion group and yesterday to a meeting where there was a medium.  I'll leave you to guess what happened then!

Before I begin giving my usual ramble with give my replies with first a welcome to Elaine who remembers how her mother used to fry eggs in the cut-out middle of slices of bread.  Just goes to show how nothing is really new when it comes to cooking.

Reviewing cook books is something that would take a lot of time Margie.  Thankfully the hundreds I used to own have now dwindled down to about 20 - and I've kept the most interesting ones, usually the informative type, not always recipes.
One book used constantly in my early-learning days of cookery was the Marguerite Patten 'Cookery in Colour' (mentioned some days ago),  and also an early publication of Delia Smith's Book of Cakes. Other books that are certainly worth reading are the Time Life cookery series, each one specialising in a particular subject (soups; salads; pulses; beef; pork; poultry; game; biscuits; cakes; desserts..... there are many).  I used to own all of them but have kept only a few.

Adding that cappuccino powder to the other ingredients when making biscuits is a lovely idea Grub-lover.  We are all familiar with adding flavourings such as orange or lemon zest, cocoa, vanilla, ginger.... but it got me thinking for there are so many other things in our cupboards we could use.  Next time I make fork biscuits I'll flavour some with coconut, others with Camp Coffee (I have a jar still unused - and no, not left over from wartime, it can still be bought).

How true that however much our families trough their way through all we cook - as though there was no tomorrow - when we think of cooking as a creative art,  it's nice to get our 'making's out of the way as soon as possible so that we can get on with making something new, so as long as we look at it as more of a skill than a chore we can carry on cooking with pleasure.  Obviously it helps if some foods we make CAN be stored out of sight so that on the days we don't feel like cooking we can bring them back to be demolished, but generally a cook really does like to carry on cooking.  At least I do.

That's a good idea Sairy to fry egg in wavy-edged scone cutters.  Children would love these.  The plain-edged cutters are also good to use as 'rings' to cook pikelets.  Anyone who recently saw Mary Berry's first programme (repeated the other day), would have seen her tin of her scone cutters in ever-decreasing sizes.  I have one just like that, also had it for years, and all complete.  I use it all the time.  I do have a similar set in plastic, useful in that each of the rings has the size printed on the side, one edge being plain, turned over it is wavy.  Not able to be used in hot pans as these would probably melt.  Still prefer using the metal ones as they are quite sharp and give a neater cut.

Cheesepare, I do have what I think might be a Lakeland microwave  rice cooker.  It is a dark green deep bowl (with a flat base) that has a white inner liner with holes in the bottom and tiny feet under.  The idea is to put water in the base and then what needs to be cooked inside, a lid on, and then put in the microwave to steam.  It takes as long to cook rice in the microwave as it does to cook on the hob, so I don't use it for rice, just for steaming veggies (and these I tend to steam on the hob anyway).  Am not a great lover of microwave cooking although do find it very useful for melting jelly in a small amount of water, to make custard, lemon curd, heating peas from frozen, and speedy cooking of 'jacket' potatoes.  Also for reheating home-cooked meals (chillis and curries take exactly 8 minutes on HIGH from frozen).

Morrison's in Morecambe sell Beanfeast (and not all the assistants seem to know where it is or even heard of it but it is normally on the bottom shelf near the pasta ranges).  This is a MUST in my larder, and although normally use it with minced beef (to extend the mince), have to say I enjoy it as-is.
Not sure whether Nella Last would have liked it, but during war-time I think everyone would have thought it really good.  It took me a time to become accustomed to textured vegetable protein (TVP) and can't say I would use it other than as in the 'Beanfeast' range. 

Thanks to Christopher, who drops in from time to time.  We don't know much about you Chris, but pleased you enjoy reading this blog.

After all that palaver I see today that Tesco HAVE finally put the half-dozen free-range medium sized eggs (for £1) on their on-line grocery site.  So that's good to know that someone listens (although the missing item would probably have been discovered anyway).

Next weekend is Easter, and I may (or may not) take Good Friday and also the Saturday and Sunday off writing my blog - it all depends on what we'll be doing.  Will give fair warning as we get nearer the time. 

Now for some recipes....
The mention of frying eggs in a hole-in-one (slice of bread),  reminded me of a more elaborate (but still easy dish to make.   I've made it in teacups, in muffin tins, in metal scone cutters, and a very good way to use some of that very thin - what I call 'frilly' - ham that is often sold.  These eggs are baked in the oven, not on the hob. 
You could call these a 'not very full' English breakfast, but nothing stopping us serving 'sides' of sausages, mushrooms and baked beans when we want the full Monty.

If you prefer this dish even simpler, omit the frying of garlic, use four canned PLUM tomatoes, using the tomatoes only (drain off the juice and use this for another dish - or freeze remaining juice and tomatoes), chop the tomatoes before placing in the dishes.
If you wish to move up the ladder instead of stepping down a rung, then improve the dish even more by topping the eggs with a layer of grated cheese before baking.

Baked Ham 'n Eggs with Tomatoes: serves 4
sunflower or olive oil for frying  (see above)
1 clove garlic, crushed (see above)
1 x 400g can chopped (or plum) tomatoes
few fresh basil leaves, shredded/torn
8 thin slices ham, roughly torn
4 eggs
salt and pepper
grated cheese (opt - see above)
crusty bread for dipping
Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the garlic for a few seconds then add the tomatoes. Simmer for about 10 minutes until thickened, then stir in the basil.
Grease the chosen moulds/tins with a little oil and line with overlapping pieces of ham.  Spoon the tomato 'sauce' into the base of each and break an egg on top.  Add seasoning to taste.  Place on a baking tray and bake at 180C, gas 4, for 12 - 15 minutes until just set.  Serve with crusty bread.

With Easter coming up this next recipe has all the flavours of Simnel Cake without the expense and hassle of making one. 

Simnel Tart: serves 4 - 6
7 oz (200g) mixed dried fruit
zest and juice of 1 small orange
1 x 375g sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
3 tblsp apricot jam
7 oz (200g) marzipan, grated or crumbled
 Mix the dried fruit, orange zest and juice together until well combined then set aside.  Unroll the pastry onto a baking sheet and mark a 2cm border around the edges with a knife (but not cutting right through).  Spread the jam over the inside section then chill for 10 minutes.
Drain the fruit and add the marzipan, then place this over the top of the jam, keeping it inside the border. Bake at 200C, gas 6 for 20 minutes or until the pastry has risen and is golden.  Cut into squares/oblongs for serving.   Good eaten with ice-cream or crème fraiche.

Next dish  - made with chicken breast - is said to be quicker to make than a ready-meal. It would probably take even less time if made with minced chicken/turkey or a vegetarian substitute.  Omit the chicken and use mushrooms or chunks of sweet potato.  Or maybe canned tuna instead of chicken? Well, it's just one of those dishes that cries out for experimenting with.  That part I'll leave up to you.

Spiced Chicken with Chickpeas: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 - 3 chicken breasts, cut into small chunks
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 tsp each ground cumin and coriander
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
7 fl oz (200ml) chicken stock
salt and pepper
1 x 250g bag spinach
Put the oil in a frying pan and over medium-low heat gently fry the onion for 5 minutes.  Raise the heat and add the chicken, frying this for about 3 - 4 minutes until golden.  Stir in the spices and lemon zest and fry for a further minute before adding the chickpeas and stock.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.   Add seasoning to taste then tip in the spinach and replace the cover, leaving the spinach to wilt (takes about 2 minutes), then stir it into the chicken/chickpeas.  When ready to serve, sprinkle over the lemon juice.

Final recipe today is another speedy one, those of us lucky enough to have a freezer will probably have the makings (cooked prawns, green beans, sweetcorn), but we can make do with fresh.  Never thought I'd ever say 'having to make do by using fresh' but then frozen anything is as good as fresh, isn't it?  I'd even go so far as to say use canned sweetcorn kernels.   We use what we have, or something else when we haven't

Pasta with Prawns, Corn and Beans: serves 4
14 oz (400g) pasta penne (or similar)
7 oz (200g) frozen string beans, chopped
14 oz (400g) frozen sweetcorn kernels
5 tblsp crème fraiche or fromage frais
5 tblsp green pesto
7 oz (200g) frozen cooked prawns (thawed)
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, and 4 minutes before the end of the cooking time add the beans and sweetcorn.  Drain and leave in sieve colander.
Blend the crème fraiche and pesto together and pour this into the saucepan the pasta had been cooking in, adding the prawns. Replace over low heat, just long enough to warm through , then tip in the pasta and veggies.  Toss well together then remove from heat and serve.

And that's it for the Monday blog.  Like the proverbial bad penny will be back again this time tomorrow night.  Hope to see you then. TTFN.