Friday, May 09, 2008

1001 kitchen tips #24 - The avocado felt a right ‘nana

They say there are 3 things guaranteed in life - death, taxes, and that which ever queue you get into at the supermarket it will be the wrong one.
I say there are 4 things you can guarantee. The fourth is that whenever you need a ripe avocado for a special occasion you can always guarantee wherever you go, however many places you try they will be all as hard a bullets. Sure enough it came to obtaining a couple of avocadoes for sushi, and I could have sworn the hunting brigade had been in everywhere and swapped lovely ripe avocadoes for avocado shaped and coloured bullets.

Luckily, it also coincided with a trip to banoffee city.
Banoffee pies were on the schedule so we had a box of a hundred sitting waiting.
Bananas are my saviour. Many a time they got me out of similar bullet like moments in the Claridges larder. When you need ripe avocadoes for 400 people in 2 days time and all the vegetable suppliers in London have avocado shaped bullets you have a serious crisis. But this is an old wives tale that works. The gas that bananas give off ripens anything very quickly. Put them together in a brown paper bag in the airing cupboard and the next day it will have ripened considerably. In my case, as I had so many, I used to put them in a tray on rice. The rice both cushions them (preventing them from bruising), and when you put it in a warm place (in desperation on the racks above the ovens as they cooled down overnight) the rice retains the heat, which helps the ripening process. I would place a few bananas on and cling film the top, so the banana-gas would get to work. It would work every time.
This time, as it was just 2 and they were sat on 100 bananas, and it was relatively warm anyway, I had a hunch they would be OK as they were. It worked. Luckily. And I made some great last minute sushi.

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1001 kitchen tips #23 - Flour pie/ parcel force

“What is that?” said my nana in the chocolate-and-rock-salt tone of voice. It wasn’t poisoned I can promise you. And it wasn’t flour pie either.
In the domestic kitchen you use baking beans (not to be confused with baked beans). But how many times have you picked them up from underneath the kitchen counters, and almost fallen over them on the way to the cat’s bowl?
Go to the pastry section of any restaurant or hotel kitchen and you will find these cling film (clingus filmus in latin, Gladwrap in Oz) parcels of rice, or as I prefer to use, flour. They are the pastry chef's friend that is always there.
Fold your clingus filmus over on itself so you have a double layer. It should overlap the tart case generously. Fill the cling filmed tart with flour - tucking it into the corners. If it doesn’t reach the corners they are not pressed during cooking so you end with inverted edges, less space for the filling, and that‘s where the flavour is. And besides that, I don’t like cutting corners.
Draw all the corners of the cling film together into the middle and bake tarts in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes till the pastry is golden. Remove with asbestos fingers (or gloves) and use the hole in none egg-wash trick for that no-leak tart case. Place back in oven to finish.
Keep the flour parcels and use them again…..and again….. and again…. and….

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