Thursday, 29 October 2015

Ready Steady Cook!

Do you remember this TV programme? It was hugely popular in the Nineties and Noughties and launched the career of many a TV chef.
People used to hold 'Ready Steady Cook' dinner parties too- where the guests brought bags of random ingredients for the host to rustle up into something fab.

I caught an episode of this programme again recently- as it is still going strong - and it got me thinking about a revival. After all, it is pretty much what this blog is about- using up ingredients from your cupboard and fridge in a tasty way.
So, for this month's post I want to take a selection of ingredients- and make two suggestions as to how they could be used. Firstly, the obvious choice and secondly something a little more unexpected.

Let's take these ingredients by way of an example and an introduction:

Tuna, eggs, anchovies, olives, potatoes and bread.

First lot of ingredients

To me, that immediately cries out 'Salade Nicoise'.

Salade Nicoise
But no.... I'm going to make fish cakes instead.


200g cold mashed potato
1 tin tuna*
2 slices stale bread, soaked in water and then squeezed dry
1 egg
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
3-4 anchovies, snipped up small
8 green olives, chopped roughly
salt and pepper
50g toasted breadcrumbs

Mix all the ingredients well (keeping back the breadcrumbs for coating) together in a bowl.

Mix it all up
 Shape with wet hands into patties and coat with the remaining breadcrumbs,
Shape into patties and coat with breadcrumbs
 Place on a lightly oiled baking tray and bake at 160 degrees for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Bake until golden

Mediterranean Fish Cakes
*NB: This recipe works just as well with any tinned fish- sardines, crab or salmon for example.

But does tuna, anchovies, olives, garlic and onions make you begin to think of pasta?

next bag of ingredients

Just add  some rich tomato sauce for a delicious pasta dish.

Add tomato sauce and hey presto....

Spaghetti Marinara

But for me however it says - Pissaladiere- a famous onion tart from Nice.

Gently slow cook the onions and garlic in a little olive oil until golden and meltingly soft. Spread these over either a  prepared pizza base or a puff pastry rectangle.
Criss cross with anchovies and dot with olives (you can add or leave the tuna as you wish)
Bake until the edges are golden and the pastry or dough is cooked underneath.

Pissaladiere ready for the oven

Pissaladiere ready to eat!
Now, how about celery, apple,walnuts and grapes?

Bag 3
Are you thinking Waldorf Salad?

Waldorf Salad
A classic dish of chopped celery and walnuts with crisp green apple, grapes and mayonnaise- made immortal of course by Fawlty Towers.

Image result for waldorf salad fawlty towers images

Well, how about making a Waldorf Soup instead. (Thanks to Hugh F-W for the idea).

Gently cook some onions, 1/2 tsp minced garlic, 4-5 sticks of celery ( chopped), 1 potato (diced) and 1 apple ( peeled and chopped) in some light vegetable oil. Add 500 ml chicken or vegetable stock and simmer until tender.
Blitz to a puree and adjust seasoning to taste.
Garnish with some finely chopped walnuts, grapes and apple dressed with some cream.

Waldorf Soup

Hugh serves his chilled- but in homage to another great comedy hero I am serving mine piping hot Arnold -Rimmer-Gazpacho style.
This recipe works well with celeriac too- just substitute it for the celery and potato.

Now a packet of peanuts might not be very inspirational. It might make you think of making a satay sauce or a Pad Thai.
Pad Thai

However, I took my lead from Ina Garten (who else?) and made Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars and I can't tell you how successful they were!

125g unsalted butter
175g sugar
1 egg
250 g peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
375g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
200ml jam (fig or raspberry are good choices)
150g roasted peanuts, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees
2. Cream together the butter and sugar, then mix in the vanilla essence , egg and peanut butter and beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes

Cream the butter, sugar, eggs etc with an electric mixer
 3.Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until combined
4.Grease and line a baking tray or gratin dish and spread 2/3 of the dough along the bottom

Spread two thirds of the dough over the base of the lined dish
5. Spread the jam evenly over the dough
6. Drop blobs of the remaining dough randomly over the top

Spread with jam and the remaining dough in blobs
7. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts and bake for 45 minutes until golden on top and cooked underneath.
Golden from the oven

Peanut butter and jelly Bars

And finally, taking a pot of creme fraiche and some bacon

- are you thinking of a Pasta Carbonara?:

Gennaro's classic spaghetti carbonara
Pasta Carbonara
(This is Jamie Oliver's pic- not mine)
Pasta is cooked in lots of boiling salted water, drained and then creme fraiche, an egg yolk and crispy bacon are stirred through with a little of the cooking liquor to make it silky.

Well instead, I thought of a Flammekueche- an open tart from Alsace made with onions, creme fraiche and bacon and baked in the oven.

Spread a thin pastry base with creme fraiche and onions (cooked as for the Pissaladiere above or you can use tinned for a shortcut as in the bag of ingredients). Dot with thin matchsticks of bacon and bake at 200 degrees until the pastry is golden round the edges and cooked underneath. The lardons and cream should be beginning to 'catch'.

(I sometimes make a really speedy version of this using sandwich thins as flatbreads too).

Flammekueche Flatbreads

Whether you're a red tomato or a yellow pepper- I hope you've enjoyed the choice of recipes in this month's blog.

Now it's your turn - get.....
Image result for ready steady cook images

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Rhubarb! Rhubarb!

Roobarb and Custard- remember them?

I'm carrying on this month's 'garden produce' theme with a rhubarb special this week- as my allotment friend was kind enough to give me a big bagful.

In addition to the usual crumble- not to be sniffed at of course as it's always a favourite- I'm making a rhubarb relish to go with savoury dishes, a rhubarb clafoutis and a rhubarb and plum tatin, along with any other ideas which occur to me along the way.

So - I need two pans of stewed rhubarb- one sweet, one not so sweet.

First- stew your rhubarb!

The first is sweetened with a little golden syrup, flavoured with some mixed spice- and not a lot else. This will make the crumble.

(Crumble mix- 3 parts flour to 1 part each sugar and butter, add some flavours with cinnamon or ginger or change the texture with some rolled oats or crushed biscuits- blitz and off you go!)

Good old rhubarb crumble

I don't add any water, as the rhubarb produces lots of lovely syrup itself. If you have too much liquid, save it in a jug in the fridge and add it to different fresh fruit ( here grapes and plums) for a crumble variation later in the week.

Give some fresh fruit a rhubarb kick

The rhubarb relish goes as follows:

250g rhubarb
handful of sultanas and/or chopped dates
1 chopped onion
125 ml  white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp each salt and ground ginger

Boil in a saucepan until thick and chutney-like. Taste and adjust salt/vinegar levels.

This is just meant to be kept for a week or thereabouts so I haven't poured it into sterilised jars etc etc. Instead it sits happily in a container in the fridge- until I used it :

Firstly- to accompany grilled mackerel

Grilled mackerel with rhubarb relish

Secondly- to go with a sausage baguette and salad

Sausage sandwich with relish

And finally, a spoonful stirred into an onion and red wine sauce to go with sausage and mash.

Rhubarb and Onion Gravy

(Brown one chopped onion, pour in a cupful of red wine and boil to reduce. Add some gravy granules to thicken ( or stock, followed by a little more reducing), season, add the rhubarb to sweeten the sauce and hey presto!)

Now for the Tatin.

Take an ovenproof frying pan and melt 2 tbsp sugar in a tablespoon of water to make a caramel.

Melt sugar in water

Lay your fruit, cut side down into the caramel- I used plums and filled in the spaces with rhubarb.

Carefully start laying in your fruit
Tuck a circle of puff pastry over the top.

Cover with puff pastry
Bake in a hot oven until the pastry is risen and golden and the fruit juices are starting to bubble around the edges ( about 20 minutes).

Ready to come out of the oven
Carefully remove from the oven (don't burn your hands on the frying pan handle). Allow to cool a little before turning out onto a serving plate.

Rhubarb and Plum Tatin

Finally-the clafoutis. (A sort of sweet fruity Yorkshire pudding).

Mix together 60 g of flour, 1 tsp of ground ginger and 100g of icing sugar.
Beat 3 eggs with 100ml of milk and 100ml of cream.Add it to the dry ingredients and beat to a smooth batter.
Creamy batter

Part-cook the rhubarb with a squeeze of golden syrup- until it is just al dente.(A matter of minutes).

Lightly oil a pudding dish and spread the rhubarb over the base.

Pour on the batter mix and bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees) until risen and golden.

Clafoutis straight out of the oven- it does sink a bit later on..

Dust with icing sugar before serving- and have with ice cream.

Rhubarb Clafoutis