Monday, August 2, 2010

Food and photos

I'd invited Nana over to my place to look at photos from our trip to Canada.  As an added bonus, I also offered to cook her dinner. It's not often that I have the opportunity to cook for anyone other than just myself, so I saw it as a chance to get a few more recipes under my belt.

It was not difficult to choose a main course to make: I selected steak and kidney pie (p130) as a dish likely to appeal to Nana. I'd never tried kidney myself, and was slightly dubious as to whether I would like it or not. It seemed like a good idea to make it for someone who would probably enjoy it, instead of trying to get through a whole pie myself. As a vegetable dish to go with the pie, I chose honey-glazed carrots and parsnips (p160).

I was undecided about a dessert until I made the apple bread on Saturday. At that point it occurred to me that a good way to use up the rest of the loaf would be as a bread and butter pudding (p207). I'd attempted bread and butter pudding more than once in the past, without spectacular results, but I had to make it sometime, and judged it a recipe that Nana, at least, would enjoy.

I wasn't sure what to serve with the bread and butter pudding. Custard seemed appropriate for a hot pudding, but bread and butter pudding is already quite eggy. I eventually settled for Edmonds pouring custard (p209), a custard recipe that does not include egg.

Nana was coming over on Sunday afternoon, but I began by making pastry for the pie on Saturday night. I'd already made flaky pastry some months ago, but I wanted to give it another try. I particularly wanted to try grating the butter, a tip from blog readers on my last attempt.

As it happens, I made a hash of the pastry. I have a fairly strong suspicion that I accidentally put in an extra cup of flour, (doesn't sound like something I would do, does it?) as I found that 6 tablespoons of water was not nearly enough to mix the dry ingredients into a dough. This suspicion was borne out by the fact that I ended up with about 600g of pastry, instead of the 400g it should have made. When I'd finally wrangled a decent-looking pastry out of my mixture, I chopped off about a third and set both lumps of pastry in the fridge to chill overnight.

The next day, I prepared what I could before I went to pick up Nana. The plan was to have both the filling and the pastry for the pie ready, so I only needed to roll out the pastry and top the pie while Nana was there. I started by browning off the meat in batches. This was then set aside while I cooked up the onion and celery, and created a gravy by adding flour, beef stock and tomato puree.

When this was ready, I added the meat back in and set the pan to simmer for an hour. Typically, I hadn't noticed the 1-hour simmering time when I first looked at the recipe: I now found myself quite rushed. In order to be at Nana's on time, I had to cut short the cooking time by about 10 minutes. This was not ideal - the meat needed to be cooked slowly and didn't really cook long enough to get properly tender.

But it couldn't be helped: I scooped the meat and vegetables into a pie dish with a slotted spoon, leaving behind the gravy. 1/4 cup of the gravy was drizzled over the meat, and the rest was reserved for serving with the pie.

While the meat was cooking, I'd been preparing a couple of other things: my custard was made and sitting in a jug in the fridge, and I'd sliced up the rest of my apple bread and arranged it (with a certain amount of difficulty) in a casserole dish. I'd also sprinkled it with a mixture of sugar, lemon zest and currants, so the only thing I had to do was pour over the egg mixture and bake it.

With the pie filling, custard and pudding base safely in the fridge, I went around to pick up Nana. We spent a pleasant afternoon looking at photos and talking on Skype to Mum, Dad, Daz and Esther in Canada. When it came time to make dinner, I took out my 200g lump of pastry and rolled it out. I had a bit of difficulty rolling it out big enough to fit the pie plate - I should have used a bigger chunk of pastry (it's not like I didn't have enough to spare!).

While the pie was baking, I mixed up the egg/milk mixture for the bread and butter pudding, reducing the quantity by a third to fit the small casserole dish I was using. This was poured over the bread base and left to soak.

I'd also peeled and chopped the carrots and parsnips, and put them on to boil. When they were done, I added butter, honey and lemon juice, shaking the pot to coat the vegetables with the mixture once it had melted. These were then sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

When the pie came out of the oven, the pudding went in, and I served us each a piece of pie with the honey-glazed vege, and some peas. It was a good-sized meal, especially for Nana, who is not a big eater, but we both managed to clean our plates.

I wasn't too fussed on the kidney, really: it has an odd musty flavour that did not particularly appeal to me. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat it again - except I still have to make a steak and kidney pudding at some stage!

Unsurprisingly, the pastry was not terribly successful: it had shrunk and pulled away from the sides as it cooked. Never mind, it still tasted ok!

I was quite taken with the honey-glazed carrots and parsnips - the lemon cuts through the sweetness of the honey, so they actually have quite a nice tangy flavour. Still, it'd hardly be a wonderful idea to add fat and sugar to your veges on a regular basis!

The pudding was ready shortly after we'd finished eating our mains. It looked quite impressive when I took it out, but I still wasn't too optimistic that it would taste good. I warmed up the custard and scooped out a bowl of pudding for each of us.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised. The pudding was not soggy, or overly eggy, which are problems I'd had when making bread and butter pudding in the past. It had a mild lemony flavour, and a combination of crunchy and soft textures. I really enjoyed it.  Having thick slices of dense, homemade bread definitely works well with this recipe, and I think using the full quantity of the sugar, lemon zest and currants, but only 2/3 of the egg mixture, made the lemon more noticeable.

I'd wondered how well the custard would go with the pudding - it seemed a bit of overkill - but it was actually a pleasant addition, and stopped the crunchy parts from being too dry.

Nana and I were both quite full after this repast. We cleaned up the kitchen and I took Nana home - having of course made sure she had some leftover pie and pudding to take home.

Now I just have to think of a way to use up that leftover pastry!

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