Thursday, February 21, 2008
I had noticed tinned cooked onions at the supermarket a couple of weeks before the latest Delia bandwagon - obviously the supermarkets get tipped off early. Whatever next I thought.
Most meals you cook at home are bound to have an onion in, so of course you end up chopping up an onion every day. That's OK if you have unlimited time to cook, but the reality is that for many it's more like half an hour than half a day. So that's where your frozen onions come in.
No - not brought from the shop, but every once in a while (chopping is good for venting anger) you can go in to producton mode and chop up a whole pile of onions.
Then cook them all in one pot
Fine chopped red onions for mixing into french beans
Sliced red onions for red onion and St. Agnes cheese tarts
Then portioned out, chilled and either kept in the fridge for 3 days, or frozen. Frozen they can be defrosted in the microwave on defrost for 3 - 5 minutes, or stirred in directly to a cassrole after browning the meat.
Maybe it's time to use up those onions stored at the back of your garden shed.....
Here they sit in water having just been peeled, as they can dry out otherwise.
Cooked in a glaze of butter, sugar and water till the liquid evaporates and you are left with a syruppy glaze, then turned out on to a tray and chilled.
They are then finished in the oven and mixed with french beans. Here the combination awaits a slice of saddle of lamb on top.
Jerusalem artichokes also make the most amazing soup, or can be roasted like parsnips.
Seared scallops with jerusalem artichoke puree and champagne sauce
It was Valentine's Day, and I was there to save said husbands and boyfriends from kitchen disasters.
Shortbread to accompany raspberry creme brulee sits next to chocolate tarts for a trio of chocolate desserts.
Sole roulades for a fish course
And with broad beans,the fish course is ready to go.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Pancakes like bread and butter pudding, shepherds pie and bubble and squeak were old recipes that originally were a good way of using up left overs. Traditionally we abstained from eggs and milk during lent. Shrove Tuesday was therefore the last day to eat such glutinous foods before Easter Day - hence the French name Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday).
Shrove comes from the word shriving in which you confess your shins and receive absolution. On the Tuesday night you would go to church for penance. Which, apparently, is where our pancake race comes from. In 1445 one woman, running out of time was cooking her pancakes when the church bells tolled for the evening absolution, and she dashed out of the house frying pan in hand, as you do.
Pancakes - traditional
100g plain flour
250 ml milk
10 g melted butter
Put all these ingredients in a blender and blitz. The secret for cooking the ideal pancake is the heat of the pan - too high and it burns before it cooks - to cold and the pancake sticks to the pan. I start the pan off on ¾ heat add a little oil and it should sizzle as you add the pancake mix, then turn it down to half so it cooks through before you flip it.
I use Nigella’s recipe. These are pancakes which really have substance, soak up the maple syrup, and are much easier to cook! I often serve these for brunch on Sundays.
(Makes c. 9 pancakes)
225 g plain flour
2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
Put all these ingredients in a blender and blitz. You can cook these in rings for perfect pancakes, or just ladle the mix into the pan. I start the pan off on ¾ heat, so it sizzles as you add the pancake mix, then turn it down to half so it cooks through. As the edges on the top start to solidify and there are bubbles emerging on top flip it over to cook the other side. If you are using a ring it’s much easier - slide a palette knife under bottom.
Traditionally served with lemon juice and sugar. But of course there’s always alternatives:
* Maple syrup and clotted cream for the american pancakes especially
* Chocolate sauce - plain chocolate and cream heated in a bain marie till they melt - try a duo of chocolate sauces - plain and white chocolate drizzled in opposite directions.
* Nutella - the quick chocolate fix
* Strawberries and cream - poach strawberries in sugar syrup with crème de fraise, add a little vanilla sugar to the whipped cream
* Sauteed apple slices in butter with a little apple brandy added at the end
* Peach melba pancakes
Sweet or savoury?
If you leave out the sugar, you have savoury pancakes. Here’s some ideas for savoury pancakes:
Herb pancakes with ratatouille
Mix in fresh chopped herbs to make herb pancakes. Spoon ratatouille in the middle, roll up as you would a spring roll. Spoon some cheese sauce on top and gratin ate under the grill.
Mushroom stroganoff made with wild mushrooms rolled in a pancake is an alternative to rice which is now a vegetarian cliché. To make a sauce to go with it - boil some milk with dried ceps (available in the specialist shelves in the supermarket), till the musrooms are softened. Blitz in the blender or use a hand blender to produce a cappuccino mushroom sauce.
Chicken and sweet corn pancakes
Cooked chicken, sweet corn and supreme sauce (or tinned chicken soup for a very fast meal).
The all day breakfast pancake
Instead of having pancakes with your breakfast, put your breakfast (bacon, sausage - cut into slices - mushrooms and tomato) into the pancake.
When I first started cooking I had a big problem with flipping the traditional pancakes - they would fold over while I was trying to turn them and I was left with a lump of batter. So I put two pans on the stove - one with the pancake and one empty. When the pancake was cooked on the bottom, I would turn it out into the empty pan to cook the other side.
How far in advance?
I have exchanged normal flour for gluten free flour before for coeliacs and there is no difference in taste.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Friday, February 01, 2008
I can phone up the trout farm and they go and catch the trout, and by the time I get there it has been filleted - you can't get fresher than that. But that can also be a problem. Last year I picked up the trout as usual and took it back to the kitchen to prepare it. When it came to removing the pin bones, I found they were stuck fast. Fish tweezers wouldn't do it - they kept slipping, scissors would only do it if you cut round the bones, but this would spoil the fish, so obviously I wasn't going to do that. It was as if they had been super glued in. Reluctantly I had to put the trout in the fridge overnight and continue the next morning.
The next morning the pin bones came out easily like normal - the lesson being your fish can be too fresh, and the flesh has to relax before you can remove the bones.