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Friday 27 April 2012

Fromage sur Du Pain Grille avec Des Restes

Oh, the perils of becoming addicted to a TV show about French cookery. Yes, that title is just a poncy way of saying "Cheese on Toast with Leftovers" but, admit it, you were impressed, right?

Let's just say that I figured it was time I dealt with a snack meal that literally anyone should be able to handle, and which doesn't need a recipe.

Cheese on Toast is another great British staple food. As quick and simple lunchtime snacks go, sliced or grated cheese on a couple of slices of toasted bread, slammed under the grill for a few short minutes just can't be beaten. It can be eaten 'just so' or embellished with Worcestershire sauce, Branston, even that strange home-made onion chutney you got from your neighbours that's been sitting in your cupboard for months because you couldn't think what to use it for. One of the key strength of cheese on toast is this very adaptability, which makes it the ideal recipient of any leftovers - be they meat or veg - to reduce food wastage, and alter the nutritional properties of the dish.

If you think about it, the humble Cheddar gets added to sauces used with many meals, and is often applied by itself as a topping. The thought of embellishing your cheese on toast becomes even less weird when you consider what gets paired with cheese with things like baked potatoes and omelettes. And, of course, there's that strange for'n food called 'pizza'. Granted, some of these things call for milder cheeses but, hey, Cheddar tends to be the go-to cheese for we Brits. 'The Big Cheese', even.


So, if you find yourself with a couple of slices of bread, a hunk of cheese, and a fridge full of leftovers, chuck it all together, and let me know what you come up with.

Fromage sur Du Pain Grille avec Poivron Verts et Oignons. De rien, gentil lecteur.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Devilled Mushrooms

OK, so I've been in a bit of a rut lately, relying on frozen food perhaps a bit too much. I'm keen to try out a few recipes from a certain TV show (the merest mention of which has already bumped my monthly pageviews up considerably, but I'm not one to cash in by gratuitously mentioning it again) but even the quickest and simplest of those recipes seem like a bit too much effort when it's just for me.

Except the Caramel Chocolate Lava Cake.

Hey, they don't call me 'Two-Puds' for nothing.

But this isn't about French-style foods, more yer classic English snack. Typically, there are many different interpretations of this recipe. Some feature tomato purée, some don't. Some use lemon juice, some don't. Some even feature my bête noire, cream (double, sour and fraîche varieties, depending where you look), so there are no shortage of options to fit your palette. There's even a variety of opinions on what type of mushrooms to use - some recommend the larger, flatter kind, some say that the more usual smaller, rounded kind are fine. Not only do I not have a preference, I don't consider myself 'foodie' enough to make a recommendation. Hell, I picked up a bag of ready-sliced mushrooms, just to save myself some time.

  • 250g Sliced Mushrooms
  • 1 Tablespoon Wholegrain Mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon Tomato Purée
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Garlic (1 crushed clove)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Paprika
Preparation Time: about 15-20 minutes

Tools Required:
  • Tablespoon (both for measuring and mixing!)
  • Medium Bowl
  • Baking Tray
  • Foil
The Process:
Preheat your oven to 180C (200C if not fan-assisted). Mix together the mustard, tomato purée, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic in the bowl, then add salt and pepper to taste. Add the mushrooms in small portions to ensure good coverage with the mixture. For a stronger flavour, leave to marinade for about an hour, otherwise cover your baking tray with foil and decant the contents of the bowl onto the tray. Sprinkle over some paprika, then put the mushrooms into the oven for about ten minutes and serve on toast, or with a leafy salad... or both.

Y'know, whatever tickles your fancy.

The Results:
As quick snack lunches go, this is a nice, light, piquant dish. I probably went a bit heavy on the tomato purée, but I used all that was left in a tube - too much for this, but not enough to be worth keeping what was left if I didn't use all of it. As far as the possibility of adding cream goes, I cannot understand why one would want to use any kind... But I guess some folks really like their cream.

Effort in presentation? Moi?

Thursday 19 April 2012

A Cautionary Tale...

...About Molding Your Truffles

Over the recent Easter Bank Holiday, I decided to make some more truffles, intending to take a stock to my parents' home to share them out. There were a couple of things I did differently this time, though. Some by choice, and some out of necessity and/or pig-headedness.

To take the latter points first, my original recipe calls for runny honey to sweeten the chocolate. Sometime since then, however, I've used my runny honey for other things, didn't restock my cupboards, and so I no longer had sufficient for the mixture as specified, and in any case wanted to increase the honey content to better counter the extreme bitterness of the 100% Javan Cacao chocolate I'd picked up for this batch. I didn't want to resort to sugar, because that would introduce the risk of graininess, should the crystals not dissolve thoroughly. Sure, there's plenty of icing sugar, but I wasn't sure how that would affect the consistency, and I didn't want to be too experimental with this batch. My eyes alighted next on a tin of Lyle's Golden Syrup. Problem solved. On this occasion, I added something more than 100ml.

Other than the different origin of the cacao, the only deliberate change was the use of ice-cube molds to create a batch of neatly shaped and consistent truffles, to go along with my gloriously cock-eyed, hand-molded blobs... and therein, the problems began...

Initially, I was looking for either soft plastic or rubber confectionary molds, and preferably as shallow as possible. Sadly, my local shops had nothing suitable, and I didn't fancy traipsing off to one of the bigger shopping centres because I'd left everything to the last minute (which, facing facts, is the only way to do truffles of this recipe, since it involves raw egg yolk), so I grabbed a set of three ice-cube molds from a local pound shop.

The increased liquid content of the mixture led to a rather runnier final product, which made it all the easier to pour it into the molds, but it had struck me that getting them out again might well be a problem. With a more viscous mixture, oil or cocoa power could have been applied to the mold. As it stood, either would just have been absorbed and become useless.

And, as it turned out, I was right to worry. When I pulled the trays out of the fridge later on, the truffles were very much stuck inside the molds, and the rigidity of the plastic meant that they weren't easily displaced. The obvious next step was to stick them in the freezer, and use the old 'warm water' trick to get them out once they were rather more solid.

Only they didn't become more solid. Something about the truffle mixture resists proper freezing and just stops at the 'properly set' state. Thus, even after leaving the three trays in the freezer for a few days and then running warm water over the backs, the truffles still didn't want to come out.

In the end, I figured I might as well give in and just use a spoon to extract them...
Very much a work in progress. Two trays to go...
Oh my, the hardship...

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Iceland Ultimate Snacks Beef Burrito

Considering that I've tried a Findus Chicken Fajita Wrap and was not exactly impressed, and that I've tried Iceland's Ultimate Snacks Beef Yorkshire Pudding Wrap to similar effect, the odds of this being any good were on the slim side. Frankly, I'm surprised I bothered to try it.

But I did. And I'm glad I did.

Here's the thing: My biggest beef (har har) with the U.S. Yorkshire Pud wrap was the singular lack of beef. Based on my experience of this beef burrito, that would be because it's all in here. There must be a great store of shredded beef, and the Yorkshire Pud wrap ended up pulling the short straw and got what little was left over at the end.

Here, on the other hand, you have a wrap which is almost literally bursting with shredded beef. It's actually rather strange when you consider the other ingredients: green peppers, red peppers, spicy beans and rice could all - and, in many cases, would all - be used as fillers to reduce the amount of beef involved. In fact, since the packaging actually lists the percentages of each of these ingredients, it's surprising to see that the beans and rice are the primary component. Each mouthful I took really wanted to tell me a very different story.

That's not to say it's all good. In spite of the funky plastic wrapper that expands as its contents are cooked (clearly some super-scientific material that aids the cooking process by ensuring an even distribution of the microwave radiation), the wrap itself tends to dry out where it's bunched up and go soggy and tear at its thinnest points. Furthermore, the beef, while plentiful, is exceptionally plain. It clearly has not been marinaded in any way (despite the ingredients listing it as 'Cooked Mexican Style Shredded Beef' which would tend to imply different), and Iceland are expecting their 'Chipotle Chilli Salsa (8%)' to provide flavour where the spicy beans and rice are not sufficient. Sadly - though, let's face it, predictably - this tactic fails.

It's almost as if the salsa - which isn't really a salsa anyway, since it has the consistency of HP Sauce - is just squeezed on top of the fillings, from a tube or bottle, once the burrito is assembled and before it's folded into a wrap. Had it been mixed up, just a little, the flavour of the salsa would have been more prevalent. As it is, you're only going to get a very slight salsa hit on the beef alone, and the rice and beans are often overwhelmed by the plainness of the beef otherwise.

Still, for a mere £1.50, this has to rank as one of the better products in the Ultimate Snacks line, if not right alongside their Sausage and Egg Muffin, then certainly not too far behind.

(Addendum 19/4: Also in this line is a chicken burrito which is just as good in terms of the meat-to-filler ratio, but the chicken seems properly seasoned, and tastes far better than the rather weak beef in this version.)

Sunday 1 April 2012

S&M Rodeo #7: Waitrose Succulent and Tasty Pork Sausages with Fresh Leeks & Chives

One thing I've been doing almost invariably in my exploration of S&M is adding some herbs to the mash. Generally just a little Basil, or whatever else is close at hand. Partly, this has been because I've been using cheap-and-cheerful (or not-so-cheerful) instant mash rather than mashing fresh potatoes. Another part of it is that many of the sausages - embellished as they may be with their interesting herb/fruit/veg additives - are still predominantly pork and, as such, end up on the bland side unless you're really, really into the taste of pork.

Furthermore, when presented with sausages which contain added leeks and chives, I was expecting something quite boring.

And, considering some of the other Waitrose sausage 6-pack have been, while not disappointing, rather lighter on flavour than I might have expected, one could easily be forgiven for predicting much the same from these.

However, I'm pleased (and surprised) to report that the additional flavour of the leeks - if not the chives, which I'm not sure I'd recognise anyway - is quite a powerful note in these bangers. Rather than being a slight hint of leek in each mouthful of sausage, it's almost as if it's a helping of sausage and a helping of leek... just without the crunchiness of the latter. Considering the ingredients list the leek content at a mere 10%, that's quite an achievement. Even some of the most heavily seasoned sausages I've tried recently pale beside the well-balanced meaty/leeky flavour of these, so my personal recommendation would be to serve them with plain, buttery mash and, if gravy is a requirement in your own S&M journey, make it as light as possible.

As an aside, I'm also continuing to improve my sausage-grilling technique/timing, so I can almost always get a nice, crisp, browned skin (that hasn't split) while leaving the innards as succulent and juicy as the name of this particular product suggests it should be.