Monday, February 18, 2008

Sunday Dinner - # 30 and 31

After a Friday night out on the razz and a hangover all Saturday, me and Greg thought we'd do a nice Sunday lunch and get Joff round. We decided to make pretty normal one - pies, gravy, peas, veg , Yorkshire puddings. But we thought the Grigson must have something we could do. Of course, she always delivers; (#30) Carrot and Potato Cake seemed straight-forward and unfussy. Simply fry an onion in butter and stir in 2 or 3 grated carrots along with plenty of salt. Spread half in a cake tin, followed by a pound of thinly-sliced potatoes and then the remaining carrot mixture. Bake in the oven until all has become soft - about 25 minutes. We had a slice of it with our meal and it was a much welcomed addition. The juice from the carrots and the butter made a lovely orange-coloured sweet sauce.

The pudding was an Eighteenth Century-style (#31) Baked Custard Tart. Usually the kind I have is made from eggs, milk, sugar and nutmeg, but this was made from 3/4 pint of single cream boiled with a cinnamon stick and 2 blades of mace. The cream was sieved and added to 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks along with 2 tablespoons of sugar. This was whisked thoroughly and quickly so that it didn't scramble. Then 2 teaspoons of orange flower water was added, and it was all poured into a blind-baked sweet shortcrust pastry base, a flourish of grated nutmeg added to the surface, and baked on a low/medium heat for about 30 minutes until just set. Can't wait to get my new kitchen in - hopefully will be starting it at the weekend. Watch this space!

#30 Carrot and Potato Cake - 7/10. An interesting and fuss-free way of making your typical Sunday veg a bit more interesting (and fattening, natch).

#31 Baked Custard Tart - 8/10. Lovely! Very creamy and fragrant. The orange flower water was a perfumed delight! However, I think I do prefer the recipe I know of - there is several recipes similar to this in English Food, so I won't worry that I'm missing out!
Greg says:
"#31 Baked Custard Tart: 8/10. Woop! Bona to vada your dolly old tart. Me and Joffrey were dry humping over this one. I even gave Pugling a little bit and he made his scratty schnarfing gulp-sound which means ‘I like’. Despite Neil’s misremembering I’m sure this is the only pie of this kind he’s made me and thus is my fave of the breed so far."

Valentine's Day - # 28 & 29

I've been a bit poor recently with the upkeep of this blog, so I'll start with Valentine's Day - least Thursday. If there's Grigsons for special occasions one simply has to make them. So it was a choice between Sweetheart Cake or Valentine's Day Syllabub; I went with the latter. The Grigson suggested making Elegant Sugar Thins to go with. The process for both required some prep the day before. For the syllabub add a splash of white wine, a good squeeze of lemon juice plus the grated zest, a dash of brandy and a big tablespoon of honey to a bowl and leave to infuse. For the bikkies, I simply made the mixture and let it firm up in the fridge shaped into a sausage. There were three - yes count them, three - options for the flavoring; lemon, vanilla or cinnamon. I went with vanilla, as I am loving it the moment after the rice pudding I did last week. The mixture was a basic biscuit one really - I really should find out how much of the Grigson's recipes I can put in the blog without getting done... I only needed about a third of the mixture for the next day, so I've frozen the rest.

On the day, it was pretty straight forward: pour in a small tub of double cream into the lemony mixture and whip up. Place in two wine glasses and a sprinkle of toasted almonds. The Sugar Thins needed slicing very thinly and then sprinkled with sugar. They took only 7 minutes to cook in a hot oven.

For the main course I made chilli baked eggs - a recipe from another excellent book - Leiths Vegetarian Bible. This book is excellent - the recipes are all of such high quality. Most of the hundreds of recipes are traditional and not hippy cuisine at all.

All-in-all Greg and I had a lovely romantic evening, filling our faces and drinking wine as you can see by the photo - I do apologise for the depressing background of drying washing and part-built kitchen cabinets...

FYI: noone really knows who St Valentine was,and it may be a day that celebrates several saints all called Valentine. Also, the association with love and romance seems to have been completely made up as part of a story by Chaucer. I am officially a font of all knowledge...

#28 Valentine's Day Syllabub: 5/10. When I first started eating it I thought it was lovely, but then the wine and brandy made it too rich and bitter for me. I'd have preferred it with just honey and lemon methinks!

#29 Elegant Sugar Thins: 8/10. Lovely delicate, sweet, crumbly and melt-in-the-mouth. I'm so glad I've made a big stash of the mixture in the freezer!
Greg says:
#28 Valentine's Day Syllabub: 6.5/10. I think I liked this more than Neil did, he doesn’t really like boozy foods though. As usual however we tried to eat too much of it, but I think if you got a little egg cup’s worth in a fancy-pants restaurant you’d appreciate it much more. WHEN NEIL GETS A BLOODY DINING TABLE HINT HINT then we can share the wealth a little more. Are you listening?? Any road, the bitterness is nicely offset by these: #29 Elegant Sugar Thins: 8/10. Ooh I like a good thin, me: butter, lemon, cheese or sugar, you names it, I likes it. You could just sit and eat these all night with a brew in fact, they’re like a really classic sweet little biscuit from your Gran’s ‘parlour’. Muchos yum.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

#27 Baked Rice Pudding

So many people turn their nose up at milk puddings. I don't know why; Jane Grigson blames it on schools' attempts at it. I must admit the rice/semolina puddings at my school were a bit of an insipid affair. However, if you think you don't like them try the Grigson version, or indeed any recipe that makes it up from scratch. You must use pudding rice with its little fat, almost spherical, grains otherwise it'll be a disaster - it stays quite grainy, whereas normal cooking rice would just become a gluey mess. Also full fat milk MUST be used. The Grigson goes all the way by using Channel Island milk.
Put 2 1/2 ounces of pudding rice in a baking dish with a pint of Channel Island milk, two tablespoons of sugar, an ounce of butter and either a cinnamon stick or a split vanilla pod. I went vanilla. (I've used extract but not a real pod before and nothing compares! Well worth investing in a couple - they can be rinsed, dried and reused several times, so don't be put off by their price). Bake in a low oven - 140 degrees Celsius - for 3 hours, stirring it every hour and topping up with more milk if it becomes too thick. When cooked, you can add more sugar to taste. Although I enjoyed it (you can't go wrong, really) I've used other recipes, and although they are all very similar in ingredients, they seem better. I shall root one out and compare later (I'm at work at the moment...).

I've rabbited on enough...

#27 Baked Rice Pudding: 7/10. On the grand scale all milk puddings are close to perfect, but I've scaled down as I'm sure I've used better recipes...Roll on semolina pud, though!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Cheat's onion gravy

This is one that I do if I want nice gravy but I'm not making a roast dinner, or more often, if there's a (*sharp intake of breath!*) vegetarian. It's very easy and probably doesn't count as a recipe, but fuck it; it's my blog so I can put whatever I like in it... Sorry about that outburst there. I often do this with mushrooms aswell as or instead of onions...

You will need:
Gravy granules
Vegetable stock from any boiled veg you're having, else use boiling water
1 small onion, sliced into half rings
1 tbs sunflower, or any other flavorless, oil
spring of thyme, rosemary or other suitable herb

What to do:
  1. Fry the onion on a medium heat in the oil along with the thyme until the onion goes dark brown - almost black - around the edges. Season with pepper - don't add salt because gravy granules are salty enough.
  2. Make the gravy with the stock, according to the instructions on the packet, or to your own liking
  3. Add the gravy to the pan and allow to simmer for around five minutes. Add more water if it's looking a bit on the thick side.
  4. Pour into a jug or gravy boat, if posh; or just pour straight onto roast dinner, if not posh.

#26 Roast Parsnips

A quick one cos it's a bit crappo really! Made a nice tea last night with Yorkshire Puddings (see recipe in blog). I bought some parsnips. Followed the Grigson's guidelines which turned out to be what I do anyway! Par-boil your parsnips in salted water for about 3 minutes. Add to a hot roasting tin, season, and roast in a hot oven until they're squidgy in the centre and crispy (but not too crispy) in the outside. If you're cooking them with roast meat, stick them in the tin alongside it. Curiously enough, the Grigson doesn't give a recipe for roast or mashed potatoes - maybe she assumes everyone knows how to do it; but then again, if you can do those, you can do parsnips... I've also noticed some other omissions from the book and will compile a list, methinks and add my own versions.

Anyway, sorry for the rather uninspiring post today, but it's all I could muster this week - still have no money. Boo! However, it is Valentine's Day very soon, so I'll do something from the book then. I intend to go to Bury Market also and get some offal and weird things.

Here's the score for the roasts:
#26 Roast Parsnips: 8/10. You've gotta love em. The Grigson didn't give any new info on them though. Anyone know a better way to do them, or is this the best?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Rice Krispie Cake

Everyone has a favorite recipe for Rice Krispie cake and it's usually their Mum's. But when people try my Mum's they soon see the error of their ways. My Mum used to own her own bakery many years ago before I was even thought of and this the RKC she sold. It has to be the best one. I dare anyone to better it: the secret ingredient is... Mars bars! Although I did try it with Snickers and it worked quite well. Either way, it must be eaten with a cup of tea.

I will try and give amounts because I do it all by eye; use your judgement.

You will need:
2 Mars bars, chopped up
2 tbs golden syrup
1 1/2 to 2 ounces (45-60g) butter (though my Mum always uses margarine)
Rice Krispies
milk chocolate

What to do:
  1. Melt the Mars bars, golden syrup and butter slowly in a saucepan, stirring often. Don't let it burn!
  2. Pour the melted mixture into a large bowl containing the Rice Krispies. Add more cereal if you need to; the mixture is very rich so a thin covering is all that is required, but you should do it to your own taste.
  3. Spread the mixture out into a Swiss roll tin that has been lined in greaseproof paper or foil. Flatten it our neatly with a spatula or palette knife.
  4. Melt the milk chocolate over simmering water or on a medium heat in the microwave and spread thinly over the top of the RKC mixture.
  5. Allow to cool (if possible) and cut into squares.


From my old matey, James...

"Here is you're Christian take on the pagans 40 days of fasting:"

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

#25 Harvest Pancakes for the Poor

I did Pancakes for the Rich a while ago, and so as it was Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday yesterday. I thought I'd do the Grigson's recipe for (#25) Harvest Pancakes for the Poor. [I don't know why the pancakes were meant to be for harvest time, seeing as that's in September...] Jane Grigson's recipe is pretty much the same as everyone else, except she puts in ground ginger into hers; which was quite pointless since as you couldn't taste it! Hey-ho. Anyways, many different fillings were made by me and Greg - some English, some not so English. No matter what fillings I try, nothing beats my two favorites: lemon and sugar, or butter and sugar. Yum!
For the pancakes, make a batter by whisking together 5 ounces of flour with half a pint of either milk or mild ale (!) and an egg plus half a teaspoon of ground ginger. Fry over a high-ish heat using lard or cooking oil to lightly grease the pan (pour off any excess and re-grease for each pancake).

FYI: Shrove Tuesday is the last day of Shrovetide which was a long festival that built up to the forty days of fasting in the lead up until Easter. I wonder if the 40 day fast thing is also a Pagan thing taken over by the early Roman Christians like Easter was? Anyone know??

Also I tried to make ice-cream to go with it, but my ice-cream maker is broken - what a crock of shit. I have had soooo much bad luck lately I'm beginning to think I'm cursed...

#25 Harvest Pancakes for the Poor - 8/10. A very good recipe, though I prefer using some water as well as milk, but that's what I'm used to. Why-oh-why is there ginger in it?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Neil's Kitchen Nightmares

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have bought a new kitchen. I foolishly bought it using my current account and have no money until April. Boo! Anyway, I will not go on a massive rant about the never-ending stream of bad luck and terrible customer service I have received from MFI other than to say do not buy a kitchen from there! It is delivered now and I need to start tearing out the old one in stages and replacing it with nice shiny new kitchen bits. I cannot wait to have an oven that actually works properly. I will be posting up pictures as I go. So here's the first two: the God-awful kitchen as it is now and a small sample of the the giant set of flat-packing I have to do.* Hurrah!

Also, on another note, I will be back in the fray again - it's Pancake Day tomorrow so I'll do Grigson's pancakes and see if they're better than my Mum's recipe!

*For some stupid reason Blogger won't let me put photos on - yet another example of the MFI curse. Damn those bastards!**

**it seems to be working now...