28 June 2015

Lunch Responsibly ~ Use a Condiment!

I have started doing a lovely thing – one day a week I sort out literally hundreds of books that have been donated to Cornwall Hospice Care, dividing them into ones that can be sold on Amazon and therefore get a good price, those that are in good condition but readily available so can be sent out to the 30 or so Cornwall Hospice shops in the Duchy and those, sadly, that are in one helluva state so go to be pulped.

If you are a reader you can imagine my excitement each time I open a new box or bag of books and through the day I set aside several of the Amazon rejects to buy myself. The other day, among the books, was a little sign ...



Good advice, in fact I have been known to carry a few readily portable condiments about with me in case I chance upon a bland meal.

A condiment is defined as a seasoning or other edible substance used to improve the taste of food. Salt and pepper qualify, of course, and flavoured salts can be wonderful (make your own such as bacon salt and others) and freshly ground black pepper gives a boost to most things.



Here is a list of other condiments together with some ideas of how to use them, do bear in mind that several of these are very powerful tasting and act accordingly.


Apple Sauce – famously good with pork dishes but here are lots of other ideas – I have also made apple ice cream with it using my genius recipe (see end of post for info about this).


Balsamic Glaze – this is a wonderful tasting and attractive looking drizzle to add to all sorts of meals. I used to make my own balsamic glaze by boiling down balsamic vinegar and then adding a little honey but it makes the place stink and it’s so much easier to buy a bottle these days. It goes particularly well with mushrooms, roasted root veg, caramelised onion dishes, certain pizzas, beef (and kangaroo, apparently), cheese and I always drizzle some on hummus. Oh, and strawberries, of course!

Black Garlic – if you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that this is my favourite “new” ingredient ever and I have written about it here and all over the blog!  I’ve even made surprisingly delicious ice cream with it (same genius recipe, see blow!)  

Black garlic goes well with lots of things and exceptionally well with blue cheese, mushrooms, beef and other umami-ish tastes.

Capers (which are horrid, aren’t they?) – if you like them then sprinkle over smoked salmon, stir into mayonnaise (another condiment) together with some lemon zest and juice to serve with fish dishes in general and oily or smoked fish in particular. Coarsely chop and add to potato salad. Add a few chopped capers to breadcrumbs for coating fried fish, add to fish pâtés and salads or sprinkle a few on pizza (particularly if it include anchovies, they get on very well together).

Chutney and Pickles in general – add to toasted cheese sandwiches, mix into cream cheese, enhance a salad dressing or mayonnaise, perk up a sauce with a spoonful of chutney (eg. apple chutney in apple sauce or in pork gravy), brush onto grilled meats as a glaze, and Two in Particular ...

1.   Patak’s Chilli Pickle – I know this is a bit specific but it's so deliciously useful and I find the “sludge”; the oil and spices including mustard seeds, more useful than the whole pieces of chilli so when I open a new jar I purée the lot! 

It goes into a good deal of my cooking and I have sometimes been unfairly complimented (compliments which I gracefully accepted) on the complexity of a dish, which complexity I owe entirely to Pataks. 

Add to cheese on toast, mayonnaise, seafood salads, chicken dishes, mashed potatoes and potato cakes, etc., but always abstemiously! Stir into plain yogurt as a sauce or dip. A little of the thick coconut milk from the top of a can together with a soupçon of chilli pickle sludge and a squeeze of lemon or lime makes a super sauce for scallops and other shellfish. Or simply stir though cooked rice.

2.   Mango Chutney – stir into chicken curry a few minutes before serving to upgrade the flavour. Purée with roasted red pepper to make an excellent sauce, brush on grilled chicken to glaze just before serving, drizzle the runnier bit of chutney onto appropriate soups (eg curried lentil), stir into yogurt as a dip or accoutrement.

Cranberry Sauce – this is a good side to turkey and chicken, obviously, and duck, goose and sometimes pork, less obviously. It is also a natural accompaniment to Brie and is good with goat cheese too. Add to brie and bacon sandwiches, serve with fried or baked Brie etc. Use to glaze chicken, sausages, pork chops etc. Stir a little into braised red cabbage. Warm a little to drizzle onto pumpkin or butternut squash soup.

Horseradish – season up mashed potato, add to fish cakes, add a tad to Yorkshire pudding batter to serve with roast beef and/or a little is good in beef gravy. It’s a great addition to smoked mackerel pate and other smoked or oily fish dishes, Add to dumplings to go with beef dishes, stir into a cream sauce to serve with steak or Bloody Mary, of course. You will notice I have used such words as “a little” or “a tad”; be cautious, you can always add more. Stir together with sour cream as an accompaniment to fish.

Hot Sauce – this is, of course, a biggie in the Caribbean where it is so popular that it is placed on restaurant table alongside the salt and pepper and OFF (which can be confusing to those unfamiliar with the last product – it is mosquito repellent!).  

Add a drip or two of hot sauce judiciously anywhere you fancy to spice up mayonnaise, cream cheese, cheese on toast, pasta sauce, soups, chillies and stews, tomato ketchup and lots more.

Mayonnaise – mayo makes a good alternative to butter or other spread in sandwiches, use instead of milk or cream when mashing potatoes, mix with vinaigrette to make a creamy dressing, use in fishcakes,

Mustard  stir ready made mustard (maybe Dijon for this) into a cream sauce for steak, add a little mustard to beef gravy, use to season dumplings to go with beef dishes.  Beef loves mustard but so does pork and rabbit and cheese and ham. 

Mix together about equal parts of (wholegrain, if possible) mustard and mayonnaise and then add a little honey to taste for a fabulous accompaniment to ham or spread for ham sandwiches. Stir into the cream before pouring over potatoes when making a gratin, adding little hot English mustard makes for a very good cheese sauce,Add a little mustard powder to flour or breadcrumbs when coating appropriate things to fry.
Oils – interesting ones such as extra virgin olive, sesame, avocado, walnut, truffle, etc. or those flavoured with lemon, chilli or basil, for instance.
Drizzle a tasty oil on top of an appropriate soup eg. basil oil on tomato soup or pumpkin seed oil on pumpkin soup (what a surprise), or salad such as, pizza edges are nice brushed with a little roasted garlic oil before baking, truffle oil is great on mushroom or mashed into potatoes and so on and so forth. Good extra virgin olive oil is good all over the place!
(See here for some excellent flavoured oils which can be used to liven up all sorts of dishes. 
Red Onion Marmalade –this is something else that is easy to make at home but easier still to buy. Not only is it a delicious cheese enhancing chutney-like thing it is also great in quite a variety of dishes, stir a little into the pan juices together with a knob of butter to sauce steak or pork, serve with meat pâtés, sausages, cheese, charcuterie and so on.
Sweet Chilli Sauce – I use this a lot to add a certain je ne sais quoi to my meals. It goes very well indeed with Asian dishes ad shellfish but with lots of other things too. Often a tomato dish will require a little sweetness and sweet chilli sauce adds this and a little spice perfectly. If your chilli con carne is lacking add this. Stir into mayonnaise or salad dressings. Add to fishcakes, fish salads and fish dishes in general. (A delicious meal can be made by cooking a piece of fish in butter, setting aside the fish, adding another knob of butter, a dash of sweet chilli sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime to make a sauce).
Tomato Ketchup – you probably already know a lot of ways to use this, some people like to put it on everything! Sauce Marie Rose for Prawn Cocktail can be made simply by mixing 1 tbsp ketchup into 100ml mayonnaise and seasoning with a little cayenne or hot sauce and/or Worcestershire sauce (and, not normally considered a condiment, but a splash of brandy is good in this too!). Tomato ketchup can also be used to add a little sweetness to tomato soup, pasta sauces, chill or Bolognese type sauces. I actually make a very cheaty sauce for pizza using 50:50 ish tomato ketchup and tomato paste and no-on has complained so far!
Vinegars – of all descriptions; balsamic (for cheese, salad greens, mushrooms, beef etc.), cider (pork, chicken, apples), fruit (add a little to fruit salads), sherry (delicious drizzled onto asparagus and other green veggies), red wine (beef, pork, cheese), white wine (chicken, seafood, rabbit), rice (Asian dishes, cucumber), malt (for fish and chips) but not distilled, I don’t think. Match your vinegar to your meal to drizzle, add to pan juices, dress salads, make marinades, highlight dishes and so on, a drip here and a drop there can do wonders.

 Worcestershire Sauce – remember, my American friends, in the UK we pronounce this Wooster Sauce which saves a lot of bother (or you could say Lea and Perrins as that is the traditional make). See here for an Italian guy’s attempt to pronounce it.  
This is great with beef (eg. in burgers or on steaks) and is famous in a Bloody Mary so naturally goes well added to tomato dishes such as soup.  Other good ideas include adding it to Welsh Rarebit  and Cheese on ToastCaesar salad dressing often includes Wooster Sauce, add a little sautéed kidneys and if you make a prawn cocktail (you old fashioned thing, you!) try a splash of the Wooster sauce in that. It is also very good in beef stews and mushroom dishes

In Other News ...

~   Apropos of my opening paragraph please don’t be shy about donating to charity – on my first day someone dropped off a complete set of “gentleman’s’ apparel” comprising a pair of size 12 thigh high lace up patent leather stiletto boots, a rubbery coat, a strange bra-like thingy and studded leather collar and cuffs. This fetched £250 on eBay so thank you, Sir!

~   I am very aware that I am being a bit of a slacker in the blogging department recently and now it is not because I have fallen over or am wandering about Britain, now it is because have been trying and trying and trying to upload my ice cream book to Createspace so that it will be available in hard copy. It was quite a learning curve but, fingers crossed, I’ve done it so have a look here.

This is the front cover ...



And this the back ....



I have changed the cover because I think the red of the original would have been too much on an 8" x 10” book cover, but I’m quite pleased with the new one.  How say you?   See more about the kindle version and the paperback here. 

Now I have to go through Everything All Over the Place changing the image!


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11 June 2015

Fruit Infused Alcohol ~ Now is the Time to Start!



In my last post I mentioned an alcohol tasting session that spontaneously broke out at my sister’s house when someone brought along a bottle of blackberry gin which, of course we all politely tasted.

Naturally this prompted the opening of some delicious Damson Vodka my nieces had made a year or two back, followed by 12 year old Sloe Gin made by my late father, which was beautiful.

Next came some Limoncello and then, in keeping with the fruity scheme, Calvados. As this was less sweet than the others we all felt the Calvados should have been first so probably need to have another go soon and do the thing properly.  It’s OK, by the way, we used tiny little glasses!

Anyhoo this pleasant evening got me thinking that I really should give fruit (and flower) infused beverages a mention as it’s time to get started on some of these.

Firstly then, as the time really is Now to start on this ...

Elderflower Cordial or Champagne

Elderflowers are flowering even as I type so on a lovely sunny day (you want the flowers to be dry and fragrant) go and pick some and make cordial or champagne. 

For the cordial ...

20-25 large dry elderflower heads
(some open flowers, some still in bud, not much stalk, shaken to remove insects)
1 ltr water
900g white sugar – granulated or caster
4 lemons (or 3 lemons and a lime or 2 lemons and an orange)

~   Bring the water to the boil.
~   Put the sugar into a large bowl and pour over the boiling water, stir to dissolve.
~   Grate the zest (brightly coloured outer skin only) from the citrus fruits and add to the syrup.
~   Slice the fruits and add those too.
~   Leave to cool.
~   Add the thoroughly examined and picked over elderflower heads.
~   Cover and set aside for 48 hours.
~   Strain carefully and gently through a nylon sieve lined with clean muslin down through a funnel  into clean, sterilised bottles.
~   Keep in a cool dark place for 6 weeks or freeze in ice cubes for several months.

Elderflower Champagne is a little more complicated so I think I will direct you to an expert in this field  where you will also read about a usual technique known as “forking off”! Alternatively just dilute your homemade cordial with sparkling wine.

Moving on, the next item that needs your consideration as soon as possible is ...

Rumpot/Rumtopf 


This is made from a variety of summer fruits as they come into season which some are doing right now.

Cherry Bounce (same link) is a delicious variation on Rumpot using cherries – did you guess?


In September you can get on with all sorts of delicious drinks based on the following simple recipe ...

Blackberry/Damson/Sloe  Gin/Vodka

500g fruit (sloes, blackberries or damsons)
250g sugar
1 ltr gin or vodka – but 2 empty bottles!

~   Sloes and damsons will benefit from either being pricked with a darning needle (if such things still exist!) or frozen and thawed so that they split – either way helps release their juices into the booze.
~   Divide the fruits and sugar between the two bottles and top up with the gin or vodka.
~   Seal tightly.
~   Put the bottles in a cool, dark place and give it a good shake every day or so until you are sure that the sugar has completely dissolved.
~   After about 3 months carefully strain the liquid from the fruit (through a scaled muslin) and decant into clean and sterile bottles.
~   Leave it alone for as long as you can – a few months at least but, as our experience with Daddy’s 12 year old sloe gin proves, several years is a good idea.

Discard the sloes – you might like to eat the damsons with some ice cream (or make alcoholic damson ice cream using my genius recipe) but taste one first because they may well be bitter.
  

Limoncello you can make any time you like, the recipe is here. 



Calvados is probably better bought in but here's recipe for Blackberry and Apple Vodka.

An Easy Way to Sterilise Bottles

An hour or so before making or decanting your drink wash and rinse the bottles and put them on their sides in the oven.  Turn the oven on to 160ºC/325°F/140ºC fan/gas 3 for 10 minutes then turn it off and leave the bottles in there till cool. Metal lids can be boiled.

In Other News ...

~   I apologise again for my slackness in blogging – this is partly because I’ve been away but also because I am trying hard to convert my Genius Recipe books so that they can be published in hard copy as well as ebooks. Hopefully "Luscious Ice Creams without a Machine" will be up and ready soon.

~   We went for a glorious walk along the coastal path from Caerhays the other day – it’s a part of the coast I’ve never explored and was very, very lovely.




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2 June 2015

A Tour of Britain!

I apologise to anyone who may have noticed I haven’t posted for a while – two sudden things happened, neither of them lunch, which caused this hiatus.  

The first was that I fell and hurt my hand so couldn’t type for a couple of weeks and the second was a spur of the moment decision to tour the country visiting friends and family. By the time my hand was better I was unable to use the internet because ... yes, you guessed, I was in Norfolk! Very little connectivity there.

Firstly we visited friends in Wiltshire – pretty good weather here and as green and lush as we could wish for.


Secondly my sister and her family on Mersea Island off the coast of Essex, she of the excellent Art Café fame  – more about this visit in my next post or so as we had a most wonderful spontaneous alcohol tasting session!


Then to my brother and his family in poor old virtually internet-less Norfolk as mentioned above. Here we just played and relaxed and caught up with him and his, including the dogs!


Next we passed through Northumbria to eat the Very Best Fish and Chips in the Whole Wide World and Universe Ever. The place to go is Harbour View at Seaton Sluice, it was a 30 mile detour off our route but well worth it. They have limited online presence but I did find a Google+ page with some info

We always have haddock and it is always superb, skinless and coated in a wonderful crisp, crunchy salty batter. We have mushy peas with it and I drink a cider although my real man does the thing properly with a pot of tea. Would you believe he ate the whole of his haddock and chips (pictured here alongside his big manly arm to give an idea of size) and then kindly finished off my smaller portion which was still too much for me.


We are now on the Isle of Mull visiting one of my oldest friends and her family where, of course, the internet is much better, so here I am!

The weather has been Not Very Good At All up here – 4ºC the other day in Glencoe and now cool, rainy with 45 mph winds but it’s still a lovely place. The bluebells, primroses and violets are still in flower and everywhere is bursting forth with spring.


Last night we ate at little restaurant which is set up in the front room of someone’s house– Ballygown, I recommend it wholeheartedly.


The food was very good (I had delicious Salmon and Potato Dauphinoise followed by a warm Fudgy Brownie with Raspberries and Cream), everything including the pasta, superb bread etc. was homemade and the service was impeccable which is particularly impressive as the waiter is 4½ years old!

I think he was just helping his Mum but he brought out cutlery and wine glasses (it’s a bring-your-own sort of place so far as drinks are concerned), cleared dishes, took orders for coffee (although felt unsure he could write such a big word on his pad) and when asked if we could pay usefully said “We take cards too, you know”.  I think he is set for an excellent career.

We have managed to explore the island and go for some walks and I picked lots of wild garlic which, not having my usual well stocked store cupboard, has been a godsend.  I have made ...

~   Tomato & Wild Garlic Soup
~   Pasta in Wild Garlic Alfredo
~   Cheese & Wild Garlic Mayonnaise on Toast


... and so on and so forth. Read more about lovely Wild Garlic here, but you might be a bit late for it Down South!  

Speaking of which off home to Cornwall very soon where I hope to properly resume my blogging.


Later!
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