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Archive for October, 2011

October ‘Meanderings’ …

Some very generous friends this year have given me lovely Bramley cooking apples from their trees so I decided to base two of my October recipes on these.  Added to this was a lovely American style Cucumber Bread & Butter pickle from Pam Corbin at River Cottage and a family favourite quickie recipe, Jamie Oliver’s Cauliflower Macaroni Cheese.

Recipes this month

Spiced Apple & Cider Cake     ‘Cauli-mac’ – Cauliflower Macaroni Cheese
 
Spiced Apple Chutney                    American Style ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle
 

All images ©’Meanderings through my Cookbook’
http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com/

——

‘For what we are about to receive…’ November 2011

Coming in November some North African Style recipes.  Chorba, a spicy tomato soup with noodles, Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks and Orange Couscous a fruity accompaniment plus Fragrant Flash Grilled Figs & Peaches a simple recipe with both spicy and floral notes.  (Also a post showing the 2012 Olympic Site & Westfield Stratford City shopping centre both of which are just down the road from us.)

Happy Cooking & Eating!

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Some time ago I added a recipe to this site for Cucumber Bread and Butter Pickle.  Put simply, this is a pickle to eat with bread and butter, perhaps alongside some cold meat or cheese.  (I actually enjoy it on its own in a sandwich.)  The original recipe was a fairly traditional one and shortly afterwards I added a second version with coriander seeds which gave a citrus flavour to the pickle. (Well at least I think coriander seed tastes a bit lemony!)  Here is a third version: different again, this time with a spicy bite from the chilli and mustard seeds and called American style, though I am not quite sure why.  I love this one, but next time will make sure I have washed off the salt a little more thoroughly.  The first batch was fine but the second needed either an extra wash or perhaps I should have used a little less salt – it was rather too salty for my taste. The salting is essential as without this step, which draws out the excess water in the cucumber, the pickle would go mouldy.  All of the cucumber based bread and butter pickles are worth making in the summer months when cucumbers are plentiful, but a smaller quantity can be made at any time of the year, especially if you can find a good offer on the market.  Adjust the chilli according to taste: I added a very small one the first time but find I am increasing the quantity with each batch I make.  Just a word about the vinegar: this version uses cider vinegar but another type such as wine or malt can be substituted, however it should be at least 5% proof in order for the recipe to be successful.  If you substitute malt vinegar the distilled clear type will better preserve the bright colours of the ingredients.

The recipe comes from Pam Corbin and the spin off series from River Cottage, River Cottage bites.  I scribbled down the ingredients from the television and am pretty sure they are right.  I expect the full recipe is in one of the two River Cottage volumes that Pam has written but I am not sure.  Now I just have to decide which recipe to make each time!

A note on how to dry the salted cucumber and onion: Tip rinsed items into the centre of a clean tea towel, gather the corners together and making sure there are no gaps for the cucumber and onion to fly out, take outdoors and shake by flicking your arm downwards, towards the ground.  This is Pam’s method demonstrated in the series but has been our family trick for drying lettuce years before the invention of salad spinners.  (Be sure to keep away from anything you could hit and try to avoid spraying the windows or the cat!)

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

American Style ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle
(Makes 2-3 x 1lb jars)

1kg cucumber
1 medium sized onion
3-4tbsp salt (sea salt recommended if available)
300ml cider vinegar (must be 5%proof – see note above)
200g granulated sugar
1tsp ground turmeric
1tsp celery seeds
2tbsp white mustard seeds
1 chopped red chilli (size to taste – removing the seeds & membranes will make it milder)

1.  Peel the cucumbers, cut off the ends, quarter lengthways and slice into 3-4mm thick slices.  Peel and chop the onion fairly small pieces (no larger than the pieces of cucumber).  Mix the cucumber and onion pieces together in a non metallic bowl.

2.  Sprinkle over the salt, gently toss through the cucumber and onion and leave for 2 hours.

3.  Rinse the cucumber and onion well in icy water. Taste check the cucumber and rinse again if it is too salty.  To dry see note above.

4.  Wash the jars well and sterilise them.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

5.  Place the vinegar into a saucepan that will be large enough to eventually take all the ingredients. Add the sugar, turmeric, celery seeds, white mustard seeds and chopped chilli.

6.   Heat gently so that the sugar has dissolved, stir to combine and bring to the boil.

7.   Add the cucumber and onion, stir and bring back to the boil.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.  It needs this long to destroy any bacteria which could cause the pickle to deteriorate. Any longer and the pickle will be less crisp.

8.  Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled.  This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.

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I made my own version of what we called ‘Cauli-mac’ some years ago but it wasn’t particularly exciting so we had it just once, twice at the most.  Cauliflower cheese and macaroni cheese are both popular here but I was attracted to this version as it was just a bit different.  Finding a good recipe to make both at the same time was always going to be a hit and this is proving to be our favourite recipe from the Jamie Oliver 30 minute meals series and book.  It is simple comfort food at its best and I have lost count of the number of times I have made this or a variation.  Although it is a fairly standard mixture of cauliflower, macaroni and cheese I have changed the ingredient proportions in the original recipe to give a less stodgy version: more cauli and slightly less mac.  There are two brilliant ideas that lift this Cauli-mac out of the ordinary.  The first is the addition of crème fraîche along with the cheese, saving the need to make a time consuming flour based white sauce: simple but brilliant.  (Of course part of the 30 minute meals brief is the need for speed.)  The second idea was to add a breadcrumb topping which included bacon and rosemary, both delicious flavourings.  There is very little bacon – just enough to add a slight flavour – but if you are vegetarian never fear as I have included some information below, giving my still tasty but meat free version.  Adding chopped parsley to the cauli-mac mixture gives a pretty green flecked sauce and I saved some to scatter one top as well.  Recently I have been making a new variation of my own, which includes tomatoes.  This is still being ‘tested’ by my guinea pig team (aka family) and needs photographing, however it will make an appearance in due course.

As I have already said, this recipe comes from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals (by Jamie Oliver).  This is just one dish, part of a menu he suggests can be cooked within the half hour time limit and which also includes a mixed salad and a dessert.  I am afraid I have not cooked the complete menu and probably will not, but I have often served some salad on the side.

Vegetarian Variation: The bacon can, of course, simply be omitted but a similar smoked flavour can be obtained by using grated Applewood Smoked Cheese (or a similar variation – though possibly not the Bavarian Smoked log type cheese).  I replaced about half of the mature cheddar.  For a stronger flavour replace all the cheddar with smoked cheese.  A dusting of smoked paprika before cooking will also add to the smoky flavour and give a little heat as well.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

‘Cauli-mac’ – Cauliflower Macaroni Cheese
(Serves 4)

4-6 rashers of smoked bacon, or a similar quantity of bacon offcuts or leftover smoked ham
1 large head of cauliflower
250g dried macaroni
Olive oil as required
150g mature Cheddar cheese
2/3 thick slices of bread
large sprig of fresh rosemary
1 large clove of garlic
150g crème fraîche (about half a tub)
Parmesan cheese, to serve
2tbsp chopped parsley, to divide between mixture & to garnish
Salt & pepper

1.  Fill the kettle with water and bring to the boil. Preheat the oven on to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas 7.

2.  Lay the bacon in the dish you will eventually be using for the cauli-mac mixture and put on the top shelf of the oven to pre-cook.

3.  Trim off any very coarse or spoiled outer leaves from the cauliflower and remove the tough end of the stalk.  Quarter the head or break it up into large pieces. Place in a large saucepan, stalks downwards and add the pasta. Chop or crush the garlic well and add to the pan.

4.  Pour over the boiling water to cover the ingredients, season, add a little olive oil and place on a high heat. Stir well, and cook with the lid just askew.  I found it was worth stirring the mixture once or twice to help avoid the pasta sticking to the pan.

5.  Grate the cheddar cheese in the food processor and tip into a bowl.

6.  Remove the bacon from the oven.  Using a mini chopper or food processer, chop or process well with the bread and rosemary leaves.  Add a good drizzle of olive oil to bind the ingredients into a coarse breadcrumb consistency.

7.  When the cauliflower and the macaroni is just cooked (a knife inserted into the cauliflower stalk should slip in easily), reserving the cooking water, drain the cauli-mac through a colander into a large bowl.  Tip the cauli-mac into the dish the bacon was cooked in.

8.  Add about 300ml (about three quarters of a pint) of the reserved cooking water.  Stir in the crème fraîche, grated cheddar and most of the chopped parsley, breaking the cauliflower up with a fork or potato masher until you have bite size, but still recognisable, chunks.

9.  Taste the mixture and if required add more salt, plus a little ground pepper. The sauce should be loose and if necessary, add another splash of the reserved cooking water.

10. Spread the mixture out evenly in the dish and scatter over the breadcrumb topping. Cook on the top shelf of the oven for around 8-10 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the mixture bubbling.

11.  To serve grate over some Parmesan and scatter the top of the dish with the remaining parsley.  Serve with a simple side salad.  Crusty bread or garlic bread can be served alongside if required.

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Regular readers of this site will know by now that we love a good chutney!  My previous posts for Beetroot Chutney and Tomato Relish are two of the most visited and commented on recipes that I have posted – Spiced Damson Chutney has also proved popular (see comment below – thanks Sharon!).  Here, I suspect is another favourite.  Certainly, the half quantity I made  was eagerly received and left me wondering why I had not risked making the full amount.  However, I still have lots of apples to use up – what a bumper harvest (and generous friends) – we have had this year.

I was first alerted to the recipe for Spiced Apple Chutney by Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen.  That was way back last year at the end of November when I did not have enough time (and had also just made a shipping order of different chutneys).  I made a note to have a go at making the original recipe for Spiced Apple Chutney which came from BBC Food  as it looked so good.  The amounts spice used looked rather a lot, especially the paprika, so I used scant quantities, but I think I need not have bothered.  Shaheen used Allspice rather than Mixed Spice but I am not sure why as they are not the same: it may of course be a personal tweak adding a flavour she really liked – not uncommon!  Allspice are berries from the Pimiento.  Mixed Spice is a blend of ground spices especially used in the UK which usually includes Cinnamon (or Cassia), Nutmeg, Cloves and Ginger (occasionally Allspice, Cayenne and/or Coriander as well).  It is similar to the French Quatre épices (literally four spices): pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger (sometimes substituting allspice for pepper and cinnamon for ginger), commonly used in meat dishes such as paté and terrines.   Additionally in the Netherlands (Belgium and Germany too) the Speculaas/Speculoos biscuits contain a spice mixture called (in the Netherlands) Speculaaskruiden, which is a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamon and white pepper.  (I keep promising myself I will make some of these biscuits…)  Although this is rather going off on a tangent, there is an interesting post listing Spice mixtures worldwide on Wikipedia.  However, back to the chutney…  I’m thinking of putting in ginger another time in addition to what is already in the mixed spice to enhance that flavour.  The original recipe gave a choice between adding sultanas or raisins (which are similar) and as an alternative, dates.  There was never any contest for me as I would find dates just too much in what is already rather a sweet (though delicious) chutney: sultanas it was!  The only other tweak I made was to use my usual method of adding the sugar later once the other ingredients have reduced a little.  The sugar can be inclined to make the mixture burn before it has fully reduced and I find this helps to prevent this.  Overall I would recomment Spiced Apple Chutney as having a lovely mixture of sweet and spicy.  It is delicious eaten with pungent cheese, ham or pork (but I am sure it would be a good accompaniment for all meats.

Warning: Do not try to make a double batch in one pan.  Reducing the extra liquid will be difficult and leaving it to cook down for a long time could lead to the sugars burning.  I speak from experience!  I apply this rule to all home made jams and chutneys: nothing worse than a bitter burnt flavour lurking in the background.  I find using the widest saucepan I have gives the biggest surface area for the quick evaporation of liquid.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Spiced Apple Chutney
(Makes 4-6 jars)

225g/8oz onions, chopped
900g/2lb apples, cored & chopped
110g/4oz sultanas, raisins or stoned chopped dates
15g/½oz ground coriander
15g/½oz paprika
15g/½oz mixed spice
15g/½oz salt
340g/12oz granulated sugar
425ml/15fl ozs/¾ pint malt vinegar

1.  Put all the ingredients apart from the sugar into a saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil and simmer for 1 -1½ hours, stirring from time to time to stop the chutney sticking to the pan.

2.  Reduce the mixture until it has thickened.  You should be able to draw a channel across the bottom of the pan through the mixture that doesn’t close over too quickly.

3.  Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Continue to cook on a medium/high heat, stirring regularly to avoid burning.

4.  Continue to cook until the chutney is very thick and you can once more draw a channel across the base of the pan that does not immediately fill with liquid.

5.  Meanwhile wash the jars well and sterilise them.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

6.  Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled.  This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.

7.  Store in a cool, dark cupboard for two to three months before eating.  (Actually I opened one jar immediately to test it and it was fine: it will be interesting to try a more mature version around Christmas.)

8.  This is particularly good eaten with cheese, ham or pork.

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I have had mixed experiences with making cakes containing fresh fruit.  The first time I made an apple cake it was definitely delicious but the texture and look felt more like a pudding than a cake.  It seemed rather claggy and was great with custard but I did not feel it was particularly presentable for a tea-time treat.  It deteriorated quickly in the cake tin as it was so moist and was just about edible on the second day but definitely past it after that.  I was a little unsure about wanting to repeat the experience, but we have been snowed under with gifts of apples this year.  By all accounts it has been a bumper harvest.  I decided to take a risk using a different recipe and this time the results and especially the texture were very much better.  Actually, this recipe was so popular that I did not have to worry about it lasting as long as day three, however if it had I am sure it would have been edible.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

You will not be surprised to know that this is yet another recipe from my original paperback copy of Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes, which is well thumbed and in places loose leaf.  (I was looking for the recipe for Caraway Seed Cake, one of my favourites, which will follow another time … but I digress …!)  This page popped open and it sounded lovely – and conveniently there was a small lonely bottle of French cider sitting in the cupboard.  My only argument with the recipe is the instruction for placing slices of apple on the top.  I spent quite some time making an attractive decorative pattern in concentric rings only to find this was completely unnecessary as it was completely obliterated by the topping mixture.  Next time I will either scatter the slices evenly over the top before adding the topping or even try dicing the remaining apple (but into fairly small pieces), before mixing with most of the topping and evenly scattering it over.  It can then be finished off with the remainder of the topping mix and the split almonds certainly add a lovely nutty crunch, although they could be omitted.  As for the cider, we could really taste it in the cake.  I am sure that apple juice would make a good substitute but obviously would not be quite the same.  I served this as a warm dessert accompanied by vanilla ice cream with some cake left over to cut and eat cold later.  If it is going to be served as a pudding you could go the whole hog and serve it with Brandy Sauce, the type some people serve with Christmas pudding!

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Spiced Apple & Cider Cake

For the cake:
50zs/150g margerine or butter
5ozs/150g caster sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
8ozs/225g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp grated nutmeg
¼pt/150ml dry cider
3 smallish cooking apples (I used 1lb 40zs/600g)
For the topping:
1oz/25g butter
1oz/25g plain flour
2ozs/50g dark soft brown sugar
2tsp cinnamon
1oz/25g blanched & chopped or split almonds

1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.  Line and grease a 8inch/20cm loose bottomed cake tin.

First make the cake:
2.  Cream the butter and sugar together until light, pale and fluffy.

3.  Beat the eggs and add a little at a time, beating well each time a some egg is added.

4.  Sieve the flour, nutmeg and baking powder together.

5.  Fold half of this flour mix into the mixture using a metal spoon.  Add half of the cider.

6.  Fold in the remaining flour mix.  Add the remaining cider.

7.  Peel, core and chop one apple and fold into the cake mixture.

8.  Spoon the cake mixture evenly into the prepared tin, smoothing with the back of a spoon.

Prepare the topping:
9.  Measure the flour, butter, sugar and cinnamon into a bowl and rub together with fingertips until it has a coarse and crumbly texture similar to breadcrumbs.  Add the chopped or split almonds.

10. The remaining apples should be peeled, cored and sliced thinly before arranging the slices, overlapping slightly, on the top of the cake.  This can be done fairly roughly – these will be completely underneath the layer of topping mixture so it is not worth spending a lot of time making a highly decorative pattern with the apple!

11. Scatter the topping mixture evenly on top.

12. Bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 1¼-1½hrs or until the cake starts to shrink away from the sides of the tin.

13.  Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.

14.  Remove carefully and transfer to a wire rack.

15.  Serve warm as a dessert with cream or ice cream. Alternatively cut when cool and serve at tea time.

16.  The liquid in the fruit will make this a moist cake and the moistness will make it start to go mouldy quickly so be aware that it needs to be eaten within a day or so.

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