Sunday, April 27, 2014

More Kitchen Chat...

Not sure whether I'm coming or going this weekend as all of a sudden I've got a real urge to spring-clean, sort out all my books and mags and give a lot of things to charity.  Have decided not to keep hoarding things (ornaments, books, etc), and if I haven't looked at them for over a year, then I really don't need them any more.  Let someone else get pleasure from them.

Also the 'foodbank' baking is taking a bit of time.  My first gingerbread didn't turn out at all well, not sure why, perhaps because I added the melted butter/syrup to the dry ingredients while it was still too warm and it began cooking the flour before I'd mixed in the milk/egg. Or maybe my baking powder has lost the power to rise.   Still time to have another go tomorrow, but think I'll play safe and bake something that just needs beating together. 

I'd cooked some (thawed) chicken thighs a couple of days ago, just in plain water, as I wanted the flesh to make a curry.  With no celery, decided to wait until B had brought me some  M's (when he went to get his lottery ticket), and added this with carrot and onion to the chicken bones (that I'd returned to the stock) with a couple of bay leaves and simmered them for an hour or so to give the stock a better flavour.

B was having the curry for his supper tonight (made that yesterday by adding the cooked chicken to some fried onions and pouring over a mild Tikka sauce.  Then chilled in the fridge overnight).  It was too mild for B, so fried a shallot with some more curry powder/s, then picked out the cooked veggies from the stock, mashed those up with a fork, added them to the pan, fried those for a bit, then added the made curry.  It turned out well.  Will do that again with the veggies when making chicken stock - mash them and add them to something.  Would make a good covering for minced beef when making a Cottage Pie - with mashed spuds on top (or mix the spuds with the veggies).

Granny G has mentioned how James Martin adds lots of sugar to rhubarb.  He is very fond of using all the 'naughties':  butter, cream, sugar.... in his cooking, and generously.   The herb, Sweet Cicely also helps to sweeten rhubarb, probably used this way for sweetening dishes for centuries.  Not sure if the herb was eaten, but myself have used it, placed in the bottom of a dish - the chunks of rhubarb placed on top, then covered and cooked until the stalks were tender.  Probably left the leaves and just poured off the now-sweetened juice to serve with rhubarb and - of course - custard.

This leads me to Jane's comment on using geraniums as a possible flavouring.  Not the large flowered kind we know so well, but those that have scented leaves.  We used to have a geranium with a lemon-scented leaf, and this I used to flavour caster sugar.  There are quite a few different plants that have leaves that can be used for flavouring.

We welcome Mandy (Kentucky, USA), and my list of US readers (who send in comments) is now expanding.  Also a welcome to Miriam who I believe originated from the US and is now resident in the UK (although I might have got that the wrong way round).  When we visited America (about 20 years ago), I bought several mags sold at the supermarket checkout  (Family Circle being one of them) and they all seemed to have more interesting content than any of ours. 
When I used to write for the UK Good Housekeeping mag, the editor used to forward to me the American Good Housekeeping mags (sent regularly to their London office) once they had finished with them, and they made wonderful reading.  Was especially taken with the crafts, Christmas decorations, and - best of all - their wonderful recipes.

CTMOM (Carol - from Connecticut) is asking about recipes using lamb mince (aka ground mince in the US).  Shepherd's Pie is a good option, made exactly the same way as Cottage Pie - and although often the two names are used for the same dish, C.Pie is made with beef, and Shepherd's Pie (obviously) made with lamb.   Use lamb or chicken stock to make the gravy when using lamb and add a teaspoon or so of mint sauce to add extra flavour.

Here in the UK we'd almost certainly use minced lamb to make Koftas (like oblong meatballs threaded on skewers), or an Indian curry called a 'biriyani', and it's my understanding that Indian food is not that common in the US (much as Mexican restaurants in the UK has been until recently, but now becoming more widespread).

Am giving a couple of recipes in the hope that all the ingredients are available in the US, and that Carol might be able to make them (if so, let us know if they please the American palate). Even if not the lamb could me made into meatballs (as suggested) but will need quite a bit of flavouring (I'd use mint sauce and redcurrant jelly) as lamb has quite a mild flavour.

First recipe is not the correct way to make a biriyani, as normally the meat is cooked separately from the rice, and when both are cooked, layered in a dish with some crispy fried onions between each layer, but this version works well enough and is speedy - which is what we want when experimenting.  Although not included in the recipe, a sprinkling of fried onions over the top when serving makes it a bit more authentic.
We don't have to use a balti curry paste, Rogan Josh curry sauce/paste is the one I always use with lamb, but any fairly mild curry paste/sauce could be used.
Basmati rice is the best to use for most curries, but if we have none, then I'd always suggest using just ordinary long-grain rice.
Instead of spinach we could use another green vegetable, and as peas go well with lamb, then why not use these instead.

Quick Lamb Biriyani: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tblsp balti curry paste (see above)
1 lb (450g) minced lamb
7 oz (200g) basmati rice (see above)
14 fl oz (400ml) lamb or chicken stock
7 oz (200g) fresh spinach
Heat a large pan and add the oil and onion, fry for a few minutes over medium heat until the onion has softened, then sir in the curry paste.  Sizzle for a minute then add the minced lamb and stir-fry until browned all over.  Add the stock and rice and stir well.  Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice is tender.  Stir in the spinach, re-cover the pan, and leave to cook for 5 more minutes.  Give a final stir then take the pan to the table and let everyone help themselves.

The spiritualist church say there is no such thing as a coincidence (presumably everything happens for a purpose), so as a new cookery mag delivered yesterday (and read today) have a perfect recipe for using lamb mince, decided it wasn't a coincidence that I needed this very one - it was meant to be. So here it is.   There is no copyright with recipes, but there is with written method, but I've written both using my own words so no fear of reprisal.

The recipes is for burgers that can be frozen once made/assembled, to thaw and cook later.  So why not make a big batch if they take your fancy.   If you have no cumin seeds (or ground cumin), but still like a slightly spicier flavoured burger, then use Moroccan flavour hummus.  If no fresh mint, then use a teaspoon of mint sauce.
No reason to make burgers, instead we could roll the mixture into small meatballs to first fry, and then finish off cooking in a suitable sauce to serve with pasta.

What is important to realise is that there are two parts to this recipe.  First we use some of the ingredients to make a type of chickpea/red pepper salsa, the remainder makes the burgers.  So if intending to make just the burgers, make sure you read through the recipe first as you will need to reduce the amount of chickpeas, although I have to say using the lot with just the mince and mint will make the meat go further and we end up with more burgers. 

Lamb and Chickpea Burgers: makes 4
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
1 x 200g tub hummus
2 roasted red peppers (from a jar)
14 oz (400g) lean minced lamb
small bunch mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tblsp cumin seeds (see above)
salt and pepper
olive oil
four large pitta breads
1 x 100g tube pomegranate seeds (opt)
Put the chickpeas into a large bowl and crush gently with a potato masher.  Put half into another bowl and add the hummus and finely chopped roasted peppers.   Set this aside.
To the remaining crushed chickpeas add the minced lamb, chopped mint, cumin seeds and seasoning to taste.  Using clean hands, mix until well combined, then shape into 8 small burgers.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the burgers until golden and cooked through (or brush the burgers with oil and cook for 5 minutes on each side on a BBQ).
Meanwhile, toast the pitta breads, the split each in half and fill with some of the red pepper hummus, a couple of the burgers and some pomegranate seeds (if using).

That's it for today.  Have to say that I'm now feeling a bit unsettled.  When the medium spoke to me recently he said I'd been having experiences with electricity, TV's switching off for no reason etc.  Have to say this is very true, and a lot more since he mentioned it.  
Every night I switch this computer off when finishing my blog, yet when I come in to check my emails the next morning (sometimes before B is up) the computer hard-drive is whirring and the screen lights up as I cross the room.  If B comes in to use the comp before me it has remained switched off.

A few minutes ago as I was about to sign off for tonight, one of the five bulbs in the light fitting began to flicker, and I turned and pointed a finger at it and told it to stop.  And it stopped.   It started again just as I'm writing this and I did the same thing, and it stopped. 

Also earlier today told B about what the medium said, and I walked out of the room and the TV switched itself off!!  Oh dear, have I opened a can of worms?  Or the door to something more pleasant?  Still feels a bit creepy though.   Will be back this time tomorrow. TTFN.