Friday, 31 January 2014

Week 50- German Bite!

Actually, it's more of an Austrian/Bavarian bite- but that wouldn't have made such a good pun. And in fact it's not even that good a pun - unless you follow the shipping know, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger, Humber, Fisher, German Bight...

Moving on..(as Ronald Reagan once said: 'If you're explaining, you're losing'- wise words if you're telling a joke, although less so perhaps if you're heading up a world democracy.)

Anyway, the whole blog is a bit of a cheat this week.

Firstly, although it's three courses - two of them are puddings. And secondly, those puddings
are cheat's versions of the German classics.

It is Week 50 after all, so I hope you'll cut me some slack here.

This week's menu is Wiener Schnitzel, followed by a choice of Cheat's Strudel or Black Forest Express.

Let's start with the puddings.

The Black Forest Express (BFE) uses leftover chocolate cake or muffins (good if they are going a bit dry and need using up), a pot of chocolate mousse, some 'fruits of the forest' (either tinned or frozen), a bit of booze and a chocolate flake bar.

Slice your cakes into three discs- I used choc chip muffins. Spread each disc with chocolate mousse.
Slather on the chocolate mousse
Bring your fruit up to a simmer in a pan with 1/2 cup of water and a dash of kirsch or creme de cassis or even port. Strain the juice into a jug.
Now layer up your BFE in a glass or sundae dish- one chocolate cake disc topped with a spoonful of fruit, then the next and so on. When the tower is complete, pour over the syrupy juice and allow to soak in.
When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and the crumbled flake bar.
Black Forest Express

Et voila- a walk in the Black Forest- or at least a quick jog.

The Strudel is equally quick- although does require a bit of cooking.

I had leftover mincemeat and apple compote to use up- but you can put whatever fruit you like in a Strudel eg. leftover fruits of the forest from your Black Forest Express above, or peach and mandarin...up to you.

The mincemeat was a Christmas present from a friend so I give it star billing. The recipe will feature on the blog soon (when I can prise it out of her)- but she hinted that it contains crystallized fruit rather than candied fruit and nuts as well as all the usuals. Delicious!

Debbie's Special Mincemeat
For the strudel pastry, I use spring roll wrappers. Lay out the wrapper, spoon on your filling, then close it up any way you want- like an envelope, or a spring roll, or a samosa or a cigar. Then double wrap it in another square of  spring roll pastry. Seal the edges by brushing with water to make them sticky. then place on a well greased baking sheet and brush with melted butter or Flora.

Bake at 200 degrees until golden and serve sliced with icing sugar sprinkled over and cream or ice cream.
Easy Apple and Mincemeat Strudel

Finally, onto the main course. This I have tried to cook authentically. I've used rose veal which is humanely reared and slaughtered and although it can be expensive - a little piece goes a long way.

I bought mine from the butchers and it had already been tenderised and flattened into a large fillet (which I cut in two).
The schnitzel trinity- flour, egg, breadcrumbs

I laid out three dishes of flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs (the latter I always keep in the freezer and top up whenever I have leftover crusts or slices of bread).

First dip the meat in flour, then egg, then press into the breadcrumbs until well coated.

Heat a teaspoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the schnitzels for a few minutes on each side until the breadcrumbs are evenly golden.
Wiener Schnitzel

Serve with a good squeeze of lemon and a green salad.

So, I hope you enjoyed my brief foray into German classics.
Next week, as I need something to fire my depleted imagination and keep me going to the end of the 52 weeks, I'm going back to cookery class for some inspiration.

Expect some interesting stuff- although possibly not cooked by me, as I think it may be mostly cooking demonstrations.

Anyway, better stop explaining...

Friday, 24 January 2014

Week 49- Burns Supper Leftovers

The great chieftain o' the puddin' race- dressed for battle!
The 25th January has come round again and Burns Night is upon us. We will be raising a glass to toast the Baird, and piping in the haggis this Saturday night.

This is as much in remembrance of my teenage years, growing up in the village of Alloway in Ayrshire, as it is a celebration of his poetry.

Smoked salmon starter

As last year ( see blog entry 'Here's tae us' ), we will be dining in Caledonian style with a Scottish seafood starter, (mussels or Orkney crab or smoked salmon with rye or soda bread), the main attraction- haggis, neeps and tatties, then a pudding of whisky cake with cream. All of these recipes are on the blog or in the cloud above.

Whisky cake

Soda bread
Scottish mussels
Rye bread
However, for this year's Burns blog, as you already have the recipes for the event itself,  I thought I would look at creative ways to use up the leftovers from the feast- so I'm making spiced clapshot soup with haggis samosas, followed by a haggis hash with crispy ham and eggs, and whisky cake pieces with cranachan topping.

The clapshot soup uses up the leftover root veg from your meal. I roast mine prior to 'bashing' for the 'neeps'- but if your leftovers are already bashed, that's even simpler.

Veg ready for the soup

I fry the root veg in a tablespoon of curry paste or powder and add 1 litre of strong stock (chicken is best but vegetable is OK if you're cooking veggie). Simmer for a short while (the veg is already cooked after all, you just want the flavours to mingle.) Blitz and serve with the samosas.

Spiced clapshot soup with haggis samosas

For the samosas, I use spring roll wrappers from the Chinese supermarket, but filo pastry is fine too.

Fold the square of pastry in half lengthways, put a  large teaspoon of haggis in the bottom right hand corner, fold over, then back on itself, and again, until you have a neatly wrapped triangle.
Brush the triangles with a little melted butter or Flora and a sprinkling of black onion seeds if you have them.
Place on a greased baking tray and bake at 200 degrees for 10 minutes or so until golden.

You could make spring rolls if you prefer using the technique below.

Fold over top corner
Fold in sides and roll

Any remaining haggis is delicious combined with leftover mashed potato and fried in a little vegetable oil to make patties. The flavour is like a hash.
Top with some crispy grilled Prosciuttio and a poached or fried egg.

Haggis hash with poached egg and ham

For dessert, I took some of my leftover whisky marmalade cake, cut out rounds and topped with ice cream (I used creme brulee flavour and it went well) and some toasted oats, with extra whipped cream and whisky/honey syrup.

To toast the oats, melt 100 g of butter in a frying pan, add some rolled oats and stir through until the oats begin to turn golden, add a drizzle of honey or golden syrup and as soon as it bubbles, pour over the ice cream.
Cranachan topping toasting in the pan

Whisky cake pieces with cranachan topping

Anyway, enjoy your haggis on the 25th- boiled, steamed or lightly grilled!

Lightly grilled haggis!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Week 48- A Flash in the Pan

Not everyone wants to have the oven on- it's expensive and it takes time to bake things.

A lot of my recipes call for oven baking- so this week I have changed tack and deliberately sought out a menu which can be made on the stove top.

I'm starting with halloumi and chutney fritters, followed by cod wrapped in bacon with mushy peas on black pudding mash with a tomato butter sauce, and finishing up with chocolate brioche pain perdu.

Whilst I think all of the above components are pretty tasty, I'm particularly pleased with the halloumi fritters, the genius tomato sauce and the black pud mash- but take a look for yourselves.

Halloumi cheese is a lovely ingredient- salty and dense with a delicious crispy crust when fried. For this recipe, the chutney adds a salty-sweet contrast and the breadcrumbs add to the crunchiness.

First, beat 2 eggs in a bowl. Take out a large tablespoonful and put in another dish. Keep the majority of beaten egg for the pain perdu later.
Slice the hallomi into tranches about 1 cm thick. Dip them in flour. Mix the tablespoon of beaten egg with a tablespoon of chutney (fig, plum or even mango). Dip the slices into the egg mixture, then onto a plate of breadcrumbs. Coat well.

Flour, egg/chutney mix, breadcrumbs

Fry until golden
Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a non stick frying pan and fry the slices quickly until golden brown on both sides. Serve with a spinach salad.
Halloumi and chutney fritters 

For the fish dish, first make your tomato sauce. This is so simple- but it makes the best tomato sauce for pasta or fish. Gently fry 1 small finely chopped onion with a little minced garlic. Put it in a slow cooker or heavy saucepan along with 2 cans of chopped tomatoes, seasoning and 100g of unsalted butter. Cover and leave to simmer for as long as you like.

The result is an unctuous, creamy tomato sauce - which you can sieve if you like it smooth, or leave chunky.
Tomato butter sauce- three (or four) ingredients!

Now make your mash- fry some slices of black pudding (leftover from a breakfast fry perhaps) and crumble into a bowl. Add 300g of mashed potato (or the equivalent of 1 baking potato per person ) and combine the two. Adjust the seasoning to your taste and either keep warm over a pan of simmering water or microwave for 1 minute per portion when you are ready to eat.

Right- mushy peas. OK- I bought mine tinned. They are excellent as they are.

You can make your own by blitzing some cooked peas to a puree (this has a fresher taste and a more vibrant colour).
Fresh blitzed peas and tomato sauce

To make authentic mushy peas from scratch, you need  225g dried marrowfat peas.
Place the peas in a large bowl or stock pot, the peas will swell and so need plenty of room to expand.
 Add 2tbsp bicarbonate of soda and cover with 300ml / ½ pint boiling water and stir to make sure the bicarbonate has dissolved. Add the peas and leave to soak overnight, or for a minimum of 12 hours.
Drain the peas in a colander, then place in a large saucepan, cover again with cold water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for approx 30 mins or until the peas have softened and turned mushy. You could use your slow cooker for this if you prefer. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

You can see why I prefer to use tinned!

Mushy peas- the easy way!

Finally, cook your fish. 
Wrap the fillet in bacon or pancetta and fry on all sides until the bacon is crispy all over. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid to allow the fish to cook through in the residual heat and assemble your dish.

Place a round of mash, topped with mushy peas in a dish. Place your fish on top and drizzle tomato sauce all round.

Bacon wrapped cod on black pudding mash with mushy peas and tomato butter sauce

Lastly, the pud.

Take 2 slices of chocolate brioche per person and spread one half of the 'sandwich' with Nutella, jam or fresh fruit puree. Sandwich together.

Beat the reserved egg with a splash of milk and some vanilla essence and then soak the sandwiches until all the egg has been absorbed.

Soak the sandwiches in the egg mixture

Melt a small knob of butter in a frying pan. Fry the sandwich quickly on both sides, cut in half and serve with cream, or ice cream and a dusting of icing sugar.

Chocolate brioche pain perdu

Any leftovers from this meal can be put to good use-  tomato sauce has a plethora of uses from pasta dishes to chilli to salsa to baked potato fillings and 

you can't beat fish and chips with mushy peas...

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Week 47- Healthy New Year Recipes

Have you made New Year Resolutions this year? To be healthy? Happy? Lose weight? Save money?

Most of us think along those lines- and why not? None of them are mutually exclusive.

It's easy in January- palates are jaded and everyone craves healthier, lighter food after the excesses of Christmas and New Year holidays.

A good time to post up 3 healthier courses after all the patisserie and puddings that I've been showing of late.

So, I'm starting with home made pitta breads ( to have with hummus and salads), following up with a chicken tray bake (with peppers and olives) and finishing with an Eton brulee (like an Eton Mess but with a yogurty crunchy top.)

I made my own pitta breads because I needed some , and yet again it was torrential rain outside so I couldn't face nipping up to the shops to buy them. I was surprised how easy and tasty they were to make yourself.

I did cheat and use a pizza dough mix for the bread- but it was not much simpler than doing the flour and yeast thing yourself. So, either make up some pizza dough according to the package instruction, knead well, coat with a little olive oil and leave to rise in a warm place unitl doubled in size. Or, dissolve a sachet of easy blend yeast in lukewarm water (according to the instructions) and mix in to 1 cup of plain bread flour, mixed with a little salt. Then knead and leave to rise as before.
Knead for 10 minutes or so

Cut the dough into four equal pieces and roll each out into an oval shape on a floured board.

Lightly oil a baking sheet and bake the breads at 200 degrees until puffed and golden. (You can fry these in a frying pan too, they work just as well)
Puffed and golden
Watch them closely, as they will become hard if allowed to get too crispy.

Let them cool slightly and split them if you want to serve them with falafel or kebabs (recipes for hummus and falafel in the cloud at the top of the page), or slice them into 'soldiers' if you want to serve them with hummus.
Home made pitta with hummus and lamb patties

For the tray bake- you will need:
2 red onions quartered, 2 cloves of garlic, 250 g potatoes scrubbed and sliced to the same size as the onions, 1 red pepper and 1 green pepper cut into strips, a handful of olives, 4 chicken thighs, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp herbes de provence, a few slices of peperoni or chorizo (whichever you prefer), 4 ripe tomatoes quartered, salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the onions, garlic, potatoes and tomatoes in some olive oil, salt and pepper and paprika and lay out in a roasting dish. Roast at 180 degrees for 20-30 minutes until soft. Chop up the peperoni or chorizo and mix in. Add the olives and mix. Lay the chicken thighs on top (with some herbs sprinkled on) and continue roasting for a further 20 minutes before adding the peppers and roasting until they are soft and the chicken is cooked ( browned and juices running clear).

This is a lovely one-pot dish that needs no more accompaniment.

Mediterranean tray bake

For the pudding- begin by placing some berries in the bottom of a glass ramekin (let them defrost - as they are bound to be frozen ones at this time of year). Meanwhile mix up a pot of greek natural yoghurt with a crushed meringue nest (Christmas leftovers!)
Layer over the fruit. Sprinkle on a spoonful of brown sugar and either brown with a blowtorch or grill until bubbling and caramelized.

Eton brulee

I served mine with croquants - little almondy biscuits left over from Christmas. (See My Big Fat French Christmas for the recipe.)

Now this below is one New Year's resolution that I think I can keep:

See next week's blog for details of how it's going.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Week 46- Galette des Rois (and other pastries)

The 6th of January is Epiphany, the Feast of Kings. (When the magi came to give gifts to the infant Jesus). It's also the end of the Roman feasts of Saturnalia, and Twelth Night in the UK.

In France, it's the day when they eat a sweet confection of puff pastry and almond filling known as a Galette des Rois. Never ones to miss out on a good pudding when the opportunity arises, the French.

Hidden inside this pastry dessert is a feve (originally a broad bean, but now a little statuette or charm). Whoever finds the charm in their slice becomes king or queen for the day and wears a paper crown. Others in the household must do their bidding.

If they like, they can place the charm in the wine glass of another who can become their royal consort also for the day.

This year, I thought I would bake a galette for myself. (And I know where the little body is buried!)

So this week's blog is less adoration of the magi, and more adoration of the pastry.

I've made three courses, but with three different sorts of pastry or dough- so I wouldn't necessarily eat them as a menu, as that might be a carb too far.

First course is Peking duck with pancakes, main is Turkey and Leek Pie and dessert- well, it's the Galette des Rois of course. (See what I mean?) Heavy stuff.

The Galette uses puff pastry, the pie uses shortcrust pastry and the little duck pancakes use a simple flour, salt and hot water dough.

For the galette- I have cheated and used shop bought puff pastry. Most people do apparently, even chefs nowadays.

Cut out two circles from the pastry, using a dinner plate as your guide. Spread one with apricot jam., and place it on a well greased baking sheet or one lined with baking paper.
Spread with jam and frangipane filling

Next make the filling from 100g softened butter beaten with 100g of caster sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla essence, a teaspoon of almond essence,100g of ground almonds and 2 eggs (lightly beaten - save a tablespoon of egg for your egg wash) until light and creamy in colour. Spread the butter mixture over the jam (hide a charm inside if you want to) and place on the pastry lid.
Use a knife to 'knock' the edges of the pie and crimp the pie together according to your artistic skills. The important part is the decoration of the lid. Use a sharp knife to score patterns into the pastry- swirls, crescents, leaves, shells- whatever you can. The more ornate the better.

Brush with beaten egg for a good glaze - and bake at  190 degrees for 15-20 minutes until risen and deep golden in colour.
Galette des rois

Serve decorated with a crown.

More humble (but equally delicious in its own way) is my Turkey and Leek Pie. (This used up the last of the Christmas turkey and the bread sauce.) If you are baking it later in the year, use chicken if you prefer. I recommend the use of bread sauce in the filling though.

Here's how I make my sauce: 1 small onion finely chopped and softened in some oil, 2 cups of soft breadcrumbs, a good grating of nutmeg, 3 cloves, 1 teaspoon of mixed spice, 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper each, 1 tbsp of fresh parsley chopped fine and enough milk to mix.

Soften the onion in the pan, add the breadcrumbs, spices and seasonings and pour in milk until the mixture resembles thick porridge. Bring to the boil and add more milk as the bread swells and absorbs it. After a minute or two, turn off the heat and leave to infuse.

Now make your pastry shell. I like to make shortcrust pastry with half fat to flour- so 200g of plain flour, 100g of butter or marge, 1/2 tsp salt and cold water to mix.
Put the flour, salt and fat into the goblet of a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Gradually trickle in some cold water until the mixture comes together and makes a ball. Turn out onto some cling film and put in the fridge to chill for half an hour minimum.

Meanwhile, soften a leek in some butter or oil.

Now take your chilled pastry, and line a flan dish with it. Cover with baking paper and baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes at 190 degrees, until just starting to colour.
Line a dish with pastry

Bake it blind

Mix the meat with the bread sauce and leeks
Mix the leeks with your leftover turkey or chicken, and coat with the bread sauce. Fill the pie shell with the filling and place on a pastry lid (rolled from the offcuts). Decorate as you wish and brush with milk or beaten egg.
Fill the pie shell

Bake at 180 degrees until crisp and golden.

Turkey and Leek Pie

Also leftover from Christmas I had half a duck. I had intended to serve it at Christmas dinner, but we had so much else it seemed excessive- so I chilled it, and the next day shredded the meat and froze it ready for pancakes.
Shredding involves separating the meat into shreds using two forks- you can do the same with turkey or pork. (If you want to use these with pancakes, just sprinkle with a little Chinese 5 spice powder and toss..every bit as good as duck.)

So, I've defrosted the duck shreds, shredded some spring onions and sliced some cucumber into thin batons- as well as pouring out individual dishes of hoi sin sauce. Now for the pancakes.

I used to trek over to the Chinese supermarket in search of these until I realized how easy they are to make yourself.

Put 100g of plain flour and 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl. Pour on a splash of hot water and mix in, add more until you have a soft dough.
Roll into a sausage
Rol out discs thinly
Turn out onto a floured board and roll into a sausage.
Cut 1 cm discs from the sausage then roll each one out as thinly as you possibly can.
You can fry these in a tiny bit of sesame oil if you want, or steam them.

Give each of your guests 4 pancakes, some duck, some sauce and some shredded veg.
Assemble as you wish.
Peking Duck with pancakes

I hope you enjoy my tale of three pastries- Happy New Year and take care in 2014!