Saturday, January 29, 2011

Made to match

A few weeks ago, I bought a pair of glass jars to pickle some gherkins in. As it happened, I only needed one of them, so this week I thought it would be fun to fill up the remaining jar with pickled onions (p231).

I'd got some pickling onions, but before I could do anything with them, they had to be peeled. Since I had a whole bagful to get through, I was fairly watery-eyed by the time I had them all done. Then they went into a bowl with some salt and enough water to cover.

24 hours later, it was time to finish the job. I rinsed off the salt and packed the onions into the sterilised jar, with a couple of dried chillis and peppercorns. Unfortunately, I'd made a pretty poor estimate of how many I'd need, and the jar wasn't completely full.

Deciding it didn't matter, I poured in enough white vinegar to cover the onions. I could also have used malt vinegar, but since I've been using that a lot lately - and particularly since I'd used it for the gherkins - I decided white vinegar would make a nice change.

And that's all there is to it. Homemade pickled onions: very very easy. Again, I've got to keep them for at least a month before I try them, so I can't tell you how they taste, but at least now, instead of an empty jar in the cupboard, I've got a matching jar of onions next to my gherkins!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Comfort food

Today I made the painful discovery that, when you're buying a house, having the place checked over by a professional isn't just a formality: it may well be your cue to run for the hills. On receiving said professional advice, I took the only sensible option, and decided not to continue with my purchase.

The disappointment resulting from this situation made me very keen to reach for the junk food. I did manage to resist the very strong urge to get a pizza for dinner, instead picking up some salad and a rotisserie chicken from Pak N Save on my way home, but I still felt that I deserved a treat: preferably something rich, chocolaty and sinful.

I knew there was a recipe for chocolate mousse that might fit the bill, and when I remembered the chocolate liqueur mousse variation (p201), I knew I was onto a winner.

The first step is to melt some chocolate, then add your chosen liqueur. The suggestions were brandy, chocolate liqueur or coffee liqueur. I didn't fancy brandy and had neither of the others in the cupboard, so I dug out some Cointreau instead. When I added it to the melted chocolate, it had the unexpected effect of making it clump up into a partially-set lump again. I had to put it back on the heat and add more Cointreau to make it liquid again.

When the chocolate/liqueur combination was ready, I stirred in some egg yolks, beat the mixture till thick, then folded it through some whipped cream. Already it was looking delicious, but I wasn't quite finished. I beat the egg whites, adding a little sugar until they went glossy. Then I added half the egg white mixture to the mousse and began folding it in.

This procedure was interrupted twice: firstly by my clumsy dropping of the egg white bowl directly into the mousse, and secondly by a heavily accented telemarketer who thankfully hung up after I (holding the phone in one hand and a gooey bowl in the other) insisted I wasn't "Mrs Vaarnez".

Once the moussey mess was wiped up, I folded in the first half of the egg whites into the mousse, then the second half. Finally I had a bowl of light, fluffy chocolate mousse. But of course it still had to set - I poured it into three dessert glasses (though I halved the recipe, it still made plenty) and put them in the fridge to set.

After an hour or so chilling in the fridge, I checked the mousses and found they were ready, so I took one out to taste. It was incredibly light, and beautifully smooth. Interestingly, it wasn't all that chocolaty - the liqueur was the main flavour, against a subtly chocolate background. As such, it was very tasty, but when I make the plain (non-liqueur) version, will it really have enough flavour? I think I'll up the chocolate for that one.

I came home this evening feeling that I deserved a decadent treat, and chocolate liqueur mousse has served that purpose admirably. As an added bonus, I still have two more servings to last me through the weekend!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Utilising available resources

One benefit of my current flat is the plum trees in the driveway. There are two standard plum trees, and one that produces the most beautiful greengages. The other tenants completely ignore this perfectly good fruit, merely allowing it to fall and make a mess of the drive. I, on the other hand, make use of as much as I can.

I'd been impatiently waiting for the greengages to ripen, hoping to make some jam with them, but unfortunately the tree has not done well this year: of the comparatively small number of greengages that appeared, every single one either fell before it ripened, or rotted on the branch.

On the other hand, the better of the two plum trees had a bumper crop. With only a kitchen stepstool to help me, I couldn't reach a lot of the fruit, but I easily gathered enough to make a half-recipe of plum sauce (p232).

Initially I thought to stone all the plums before putting them in the pan, but I was losing so much of the flesh doing this (since in small plums, there's almost more stone than flesh) that I just put the plums in whole and trusted I'd be able to pick the stones out later.

In with the plums went some malt vinegar, brown sugar, pepper, ginger, ground cloves and cayenne pepper. I was supposed to add mace as well, but had been unable to get any (Bin Inn usually has it but had run out). A little Googling enlightened me to the fact that nutmeg can be substituted for mace, so I put some of that in instead.

After that, it was just a matter of bringing the mixture to the boil, and letting it bubble away until the plums went pulpy. The skins split quite quickly, and after a fairly short time, the fruit was pulpy enough that it was easily squashed with a wooden spoon.

The instructions were to push the mixture through a colander or sieve, but having experienced this tiresome procedure recently with the peach sauce, I grabbed my food processor instead. I did make use of a colander to fish through the fleshy bits and take out the stones.

I found that there was far too much liquid for the amount of pulp I had. It was probably because, as already mentioned, those small plums don't have much flesh on them. Not wanting to have a watery sauce, I omitted a large amount of the vinegary liquid when I transferred the mixture to the food processor.

A short buzz in the processor soon produced the sort of texture I wanted. I tipped the sauce back into the pot to reheat while I got my bottles ready. After a couple of minutes on the boil, the sauce was ready for bottling. Surprisingly, there was almost exactly the correct amount to fill the four bottles I had prepared, with only about a tablespoon left over.

The sauce has to mature for a few weeks before it can be used, but from what I've tasted, it's very tart - the sort of thing you would use quite sparingly, perhaps to flavour a stirfry or casserole. Well, I'll see how it turns out in a month or two.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Forgivable neglect?

I've been neglecting my blog for the past week or so; the reason being that I am currently taking those first shaky steps down the road to home ownership, so I have one or two other claims upon my time and sanity at present. I will do my best, but my blogging may well be a bit sporadic over the coming weeks.

That said, a girl still has to eat. And, considering I'll be needing every dollar I've got for lawyer's fees and the like, It seems only sensible to eat as cheaply as possible. Luckily, there are plenty of budget-friendly meals in the Edmonds book. From among these, I yesterday chose to make savoury brown rice casserole (p106).

It's one of those dishes that isn't clearly categorised as either a side or main dish. I guess it's whatever you want it to be. Since it suited my budgetary purposes to consider it a main, I chose to treat it as such.

It's a really easy recipe - a bit of a 'one-pot wonder' - as long as you have a little time up your sleeve. Brown rice, of course, is good for you but takes longer to cook than white. Anyway, into a casserole dish you put some brown rice, bacon, chopped onion and garlic, blanched and chopped tomatoes, half a green pepper and half a red pepper (also chopped), seasoning and some liquid chicken stock.

The casserole dish then goes into the oven for an hour and a half, during which the contents are stirred once only. At the end of the cooking time you stir in the rest of the chopped red and green pepper, along with a few chunks of butter. 

Ok, so it's a fairly basic dish, pretty much as the name describes: a savoury casserole which is made with brown rice. The rice and other ingredients go quite soft during the cooking time, so putting those raw chunks of pepper in at the end give it some much-needed crunch - otherwise the whole thing would be a bit on the mushy side. As it is, it's an unremarkable, but inoffensive rice dish, well suited to those of us with an eye on the budget.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tasting platter

Sometimes it seems like I'm constantly choosing my recipes based on the leftovers I have in the fridge. For instance, after making tostadas the other day, I had sour cream, avocado, salsa and refried beans left over. Aside from one vital ingredient, that's practically a recipe for nachos (p152).

There are three variations of nachos: the basic recipe has just cheese and sour cream; the refried bean nachos (obviously) have refried beans as well, and avocado nachos have salsa and guacamole (p196) on top. I'd long ago decided that when it came to doing the nachos, I'd make a kind of tasting platter and try all three versions at once. If I did each version separately, I'd be writing three very similar blog entries, and this way I can directly compare the the three versions.

The first thing I had to do was make the guacamole to put on the avocado nachos. I didn't do a very good job of it actually: not realising that I was supposed to mash the avocado first, I just put all the ingredients in a bowl at once and then tried to mash it all together. It didn't work very well - the avocado, though ripe, was not actually mushy, so I ended up with a slightly greenish lumpy mixture with chunks of avocado in it. One of these days I'll learn to read a recipe...

Next I moved on to the nachos - all three versions had cheese on them so I put all the corn chips in a dish, sprinkled over the cheese and put it in the oven for eight minutes. Well, I set the timer for eight minutes as per the recipe, but at about five minutes the chips were starting to scorch, so I took them out and made three separate piles on a wooden board.

The first one was easy - just dollop a bit of sour cream on top and sprinkle a little more cheese for good measure. Next, the refried bean nachos - I'd heated up the beans while the chips were in the oven, so I spooned some on top of the second pile and topped it with extra cheese and sour cream. Finally, the avocado nachos - the leftover tomato salsa, and a generous dollop of my weird guacamole.

When my nachos were ready - the culmination of about ten minutes work - it was time to taste. It was messy, as nachos always are, but I enjoyed going from one version to the next, comparing the different tastes. Going from dense, salty refried beans to fresh, tangy salsa and creamy guacamole was particularly nice.

As with pizzas, there's a tendency to keep piling things on top of nachos. And, as is also true with pizzas, sometimes simple is best. Each of the three Edmonds versions is simple and tasty - it's up to you to decide which one (or combination) appeals to you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's all in the dressing

I had a couple of chicken thighs left over from the pack I'd bought to make the kebabs, so I decided to use them up making tostadas (p153). The recipe actually calls for cooked chicken breasts, but as I was making smaller quantities, I figured it wouldn't matter if I used thighs.

You're supposed to serve the tostadas with tomato salsa (p153), which requires an hour's chilling time, so I got that made first. It's pretty simple: you just mix together chopped tomato, parsley, salt and lemon juice.

When the salsa was in the fridge I turned to the tostadas. I hadn't heard of these before, but they seem to be, in essence, tortillas with stuff piled on top. The first thing I did was heat up some refried beans to spread on the tortillas. I've never really used refried beans, mostly just because they look a bit unappealing: sort of congealed brown mush in a can.

Still, when you've warmed them up they don't look quite as grotty. I spread some over a tortilla and topped it with shredded lettuce, avocado, cooked chicken and sour cream. Then there's a dressing to drizzle over the top: a mixture of lemon juice, oil, salt and cumin.

Finally, I topped my tostada with a few spoonfuls of salsa. It looked delicious, but I had no idea how to go about eating it. I ended up picking at the toppings with a fork until the point where I was able to fold the remaining filling in the tortilla and eat it with my fingers.

I wasn't mistaken when I thought it looked delicious. Most of the flavours were quite familiar, being the kind of fillings I'd normally put in a tortilla wrap, but the tangy cumin dressing made all the difference, oozing around the lettuce, mixing with the sour cream, and cutting through the furriness of the beans. It was so tasty I went and made a second one, even though I was quite full from the one I had already eaten.

Carefully separating the soggy ingredients in individual containers, I packed the leftovers into my lunchbox. At lunchtime today, I turned these leftovers into a wrap and sat at my desk going "num num num" and raving on about the cumin dressing. The salad ingredients had gone a bit limp and the beans dried out a bit overnight, but the dressing was still just as good.

You should try this one. Seriously: give it a go. It's really easy and (in case I haven't made this clear) really, really yummy.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Carrotless coleslaw (with kebabs)

On a 34-degree Sunday afternoon in mid-January, what else could I decide to do for dinner but barbecue? Chicken kebabs (p137) naturally sprang to mind, and since the Edmonds recipe includes veges that are currently in season, it seemed like the ideal choice.

I set some kebab skewers to soak in the afternoon, and as the heat of the day began to recede and I started feeling like eating again (I never feel hungry when it's hot), I made a start on the kebabs. I chopped up a couple of chicken thighs and set them to marinate in a simple mixture of sweet chilli and soy sauces.

I was also going to need a salad. Coleslaw (p176) is a traditional barbecue favourite, but when I looked at the recipe, I found it quite different from the sort of coleslaw I'm familiar with. All coleslaws are based on raw cabbage, but I'd usually add carrot, perhaps cheese and maybe some apple.

The basic Edmonds recipe includes the usual cabbage, along with sliced green pepper, diced celery and a little finely chopped onion. Carrot is included in the list of possible variations, but it's not part of the standard recipe. Intrigued by the thought of a coleslaw with no carrot, I decided to stick pretty much to the basic recipe.

There are also four possible dressings given for the coleslaw - French dressing, yoghurt dressing, mayonnaise or blue cheese dressing. I'd usually use a mayonnaise, so the possibility of a vinaigrette was a new concept. But in the end, I chose to make blue cheese dressing (p183) merely because I hadn't ticked that one off yet.

Blue cheese dressing is a mixture of blue cheese, sour cream, crushed garlic, and enough milk to thin it down a bit. The recipe indicates 50-100g of blue cheese; I chose to keep the quantity fairly low so the flavour wouldn't be too overpowering. It's not that I dislike blue cheese, but it very soon becomes too much of a good thing, so I prefer to use it sparingly.

With the dressing made, I chopped up my coleslaw ingredients and got them in a bowl. While I ignored most of the long list of possible additions, I did add some chopped walnuts, thinking they would go quite well with the blue cheese.

Having stirred the dressing through the coleslaw, I put the bowl in the fridge and took out the veges I needed for the kebabs: courgette, red pepper and onion. I chopped these into bite-sized pieces and threaded them onto skewers interspersed with pieces of marinated chicken.

When I chopped the veges, I'd forgotten that I'd decided on a half-recipe when I prepared the chicken. This meant that my kebabs were a bit heavy on the onion and capsicum, but never mind. I wound up with four good-sized kebabs and one made up of leftover bits.

As soon as I got the kebabs on the barbie I realised I should have paid more attention to making my pieces regular in size. The pieces of pepper and courgette were large enough in places to keep the chicken from touching the surface of the barbecue, and I had a difficult time getting them all to cook evenly. In hindsight, the chicken thighs I used probably weren't the best option. On the whole, I prefer thigh meat, but it tends to make for uneven, scraggly pieces. Cubes of breast would have worked better.

I was tempted at times to take the kebabs off the barbecue and put them under the grill, but in the end I persisted, constantly turning and basting the kebabs, until they were cooked.

My kebabs and coleslaw made a pretty good meal. I'd succeeded in getting all the chicken cooked through without drying it out, the marinade was tasty, and you can't beat that slightly charry barbecue flavour. The onion was a bit overpowering, but that was probably because there was a disproportionally large amount of it - there should have been more chicken and courgette to even it out.

I was quite taken with the coleslaw. It was beautifully crunchy - probably my favourite thing about any coleslaw is the texture. The blue cheese dressing and walnuts (and lack of carrot) turned it into something quite different from what I'd usually expect from a coleslaw.

I'll be making both of these dishes again - simple, tasty food, ideal for a Summer evening.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Got some gherkins!

Having thoroughly and repeatedly perused my Edmonds book in the past ten months, I have a fair idea of what lies ahead. There are a handful of recipes that worry me in terms of finding the necessary ingredients, but one by one, I'm tracking down the elusive items and crossing each of these recipes off with a sigh of relief.

Until about a week ago, one of my biggest concerns was the recipe for sweet pickled gherkins (p233). After all, where do you buy gherkins that aren't already pickled? Have you ever seen any on sale? I hadn't. Still, I did the rounds of various supermarkets, fruit and vege stores and Asian grocers. No luck. Last Friday I finally decided to give up and look at the possibility of maybe growing my own next season (yes, I am that dedicated; I am not, however, very green-fingered, so I'm glad it didn't come to that).

They say that if you want to find something, you should stop looking. In accordance with this theory, I have been diligently not looking for a boyfriend for years. It's an apparently ineffective technique when it comes to men, but it seems to work on gherkins: on the very day I decided to give up looking, I was driving home and spotted a sign on the side of the road advertising "Gherkin Orders".

The next time I drove past, I made note of the phone number, repeating it over and over under my breath until I got to work and could write it down. One brief phone call and I'd put in my order for a kilo of fresh-picked gherkins from my friendly local gherkin-grower. The next day, I was able to pick up my order on the way home.

The Edmonds recipe is for 4kg of gherkins - far too much for me, so I worked with a quarter-recipe. First, I
rubbed the gherkins with a cloth to remove any roughness from the skin. I didn't have anything resembling the "coarse cloth or sugar sack" specified in the recipe, so I tried to do a thorough job with a piece of old towel. The gherkins then went into a non-metallic bowl (my biggest plastic one - who would ever have a big enough bowl for 4kg?) to soak in salt and water for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, I was concerning myself with finding suitable containers. I needed jars with non-metallic lids, and wound up buying a couple of large lever-top jars from The Warehouse. When the gherkins had finished their 24-hour soaking, I rinsed the jars and put them into the oven to sterilise while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.

Into a pot went some malt vinegar, brown sugar, pickling spice and cloves. (I have just this moment, looking at the recipe, realised I forgot to put in the cinnamon stick. Oh well: too late now) While this mixture was boiling away, I drained the gherkins, retrieved the jars from the oven, and poured fresh boiling water over the gherkins.

After a short interlude to allow the gherkins to heat up in the water and the jars to cool down slightly, I drained off the water and started packing the gherkins into the jars. It was soon apparent that I had nowhere near enough gherkins to fill two jars; instead I carefully packed as many as I could into just one. In the end, there were only three I couldn't fit in.

Having packed the gherkins into the jar, I poured over the hot vinegar mixture. I found it didn't quite reach the top of the jar, and the recipe specifies that the gherkins should be covered. I quickly heated up a bit more vinegar and sugar to top it up.

Meanwhile, I had an idea about the remaining gherkins. I dug an old mustard jar out of my spice drawer, and set about sterilising it. I'd made sure I had plenty of my extra vinegar mixture, so there was some left over after I topped up the large jar and sealed it. The gherkins wouldn't fit into the tiny jar whole, so I sliced them up, packed them in and poured over the leftover vinegar mixture, screwing the lid on tight. I don't know how well it'll come out, but it was better to try it than throw away my leftover gherkins.

So now I have one very large jar of whole gherkins, and one very small jar of sliced ones. I have no idea what they'll taste like - certainly different to the usual dill-pickled ones I buy at the supermarket - but I'll have to leave them for a few weeks before I have a taste. But at least I've got the gherkins out of the way: one less recipe to worry about!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Serve with rice

There's something enticing about a recipe with a name like 'easy chicken' (p140). I've had my eye on this one for a while, but was unable to try it until I'd located one particular ingredient - redcurrant jelly. After doing the rounds of my usual supermarkets, I finally found some at Fresh Choice Merivale. Being in an upmarket part of town, Fresh Choice Merivale has a larger range of specialty goods, so you can often find things there that are unavailable elsewhere.

Anyway, I got the jelly, and yesterday I finally got a chance to make easy chicken. You start by browning chicken pieces in oil. I had a little trouble getting my chicken pieces go go nice and golden - there seemed to be too much oil. It was also spitting everywhere which was a nuisance. In the end I put a lid on it and left it spitting away while I prepared the sauce.

To make the sauce, you mix mustard, soy sauce, grated ginger, Worcestershire sauce and orange juice with the red currant jelly. The jelly didn't want to mix in, staying in little red lumps even when I got the whisk into it. Still, I was going to heat it, so I decided the lumps would melt down in the pan.

When the chicken resembled something approximating the "golden on both sides" described in the recipe, I drained off the oil, added the sauce mixture and put the pan back on the heat. Once it had come to the boil, I put the lid on and left it to simmer for 20 minutes before stirring through some vinegar and serving it up with some potatoes and salad.

My easy chicken didn't taste too bad. The sauce had a nice tangy flavour - almost like a sweet and sour sauce. It was quite runny though - more the sort of thing you'd have with rice, so salad and spuds weren't the best accompaniment.

With this in mind, I decided to have some rice with the leftovers this evening. And since I felt cooked veges would go better than a salad, I made courgettes provençal (p159) as well.  Consisting of courgettes and onion cooked with chopped blanched tomato, courgettes provençal probably wasn't the best match for the flavours in my easy chicken, but I happened to have courgettes on hand. I didn't do a particularly good job of it either, so the courgettes came out a bit overcooked and soggy.

I was far more pleased with my plate of chicken tonight. All that runny sauce got sucked up by the rice and made it so yummy. And, while the courgettes provençal didn't really work with the chicken, it's still quite a nice side dish.

By all means have a go at this dish (if you can find some redcurrant jelly). It's definitely easy, but the recipe is missing one instruction - "serve with rice"!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The tail end of Christmas

After more than two weeks of eating ham, I was finally down to the bone. I'd been looking forward to this moment, partly because two and a half weeks of ham is enough for anyone, but mostly because I knew I could make a tasty pea and ham soup (p89) out of the bone.

I've used this recipe before - making soup out of last Christmas's ham bone, for example. It's very easy and very cheap to make - especially if you have a ham bone that would otherwise be thrown out. Bacon bones are inexpensive and can be substituted if you don't have a ham bone.

I'd left quite a lot of meat on the bone, because I wanted my soup to be nice and hammy. I also threw in the last few small chunks of meat I'd cut off, which wasn't strictly necessary, but I couldn't be bothered coming up with another use for them.

In with the bone went some split peas, chopped onion and water. Apart from a little seasoning, that's it. You bring it to the boil, then simmer the soup for three hours. Since I was lazing around the house doing nothing much in any case, waiting three hours was no hardship.

When the simmering time was up, I took the soup off the heat, removed the bone and any chunks of ham. The soup I poured into the food processor and blended it smooth before returning it to the pot. The ham I cut up into small pieces, carefuly removing any traces of gristle. By the time I was done, quite a lot of meat had gone back into the soup.

And so my pea and ham soup was finished. It wasn't quite the right texture yet, though: still very watery whereas it should be nice and thick. From experience I knew that the soup would thicken and improve in flavour after some time in the fridge, so I chilled it for a few hours before having my first bowl.

Pea and ham is a good old-fashioned soup. I admit it isn't very appealing to look at, but it's got a lovely flavour from the ham, and the peas give it texture. Having been blended so thoroughly, it has only a hint of the furriness you get in some soups - it's up to you whether or not to consider that a good thing.

I'm sure most of you cleaned up your Christmas hams long before I did, so you won't be following suit with this recipe. But keep it in mind if you ever find yourself with an otherwise useless ham bone, or even if you just feel like a good thick soup sometime. It's dead easy, dirt cheap and very tasty - why wouldn't you give it a try?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A pot full of peaches

When buying some fruit and vege at Raeward on Wednesday, I noticed they had bags of bruised peaches going cheap. Recalling a couple of peach-based recipes in the 'pickles, chutneys and sauces' chapter, I bought some.

On inspection of the recipe possibilities, I chose peach sauce (p229) over peach chutney, since I had bottles available but no jars. I didn't have the ingredients I needed for the sauce though, so I'd have to wait until I got the rest of the ingredients on Thursday. The peaches had been cheap because they were bruised and beginning to spoil. I didn't want the spoiling to spread before I got the chance to do anything with them, so I separated the peaches out on trays and left them covered until I had the rest of the ingredients.

I arrived home on Thursday with all the ingredients I needed - or so I thought. The recipe is for 3kg of peaches; I had 2kg of damaged ones. I figured that after I'd cut out all the bruised bits, I'd have about the same amount of flesh that I'd get out of 1.5kg of good peaches, thus making for a half-recipe.

I'd bought all my ingredients based on this total, except that I'd assumed I had a litre of malt vinegar in the cupboard, recollecting a nearly full bottle. When I checked, I found it was actually half-full, and that the bottle was only 750ml anyway, not the 1L I'd expected. Vinegar's a very important ingredient, and I couldn't skimp on it. I considered going out to get some, but the evening was wearing on, and the recipe required 2 1/2 hours of cooking time. In the end I had to leave it for a further night.

On Friday night, I came home armed with a 2L bottle of vinegar, and immediately set to work. The peaches had stood the two extra days remarkably well, not deteriorating noticeably further from the standard they were in originally. I spent over an hour at the tedious task of chopping up the peaches, apples, tomatoes, onions and garlic. Not wanting another boiling-over episode like that with the strawberry jam, I dug out my big stockpot - and I was glad of it once I'd got all the ingredients in. You'd need a very big pot to make the full recipe I reckon!

With all the fruit in the pot, I added the vinegar, some salt and some sugar before turning to the spice drawer. To my dismay, I found that I had no ground cloves. Since it's something I'd usually have in the drawer, I hadn't even considered whether I'd need any or not. (Irritatingly, I'd made a special trip to buy some cayenne pepper, thinking I wouldn't have any, and the first thing I saw when I opened the drawer was an open packet of the stuff.)

Deciding my pot full of vingegared fruit would come to no harm spending half an hour on the kitchen bench, I put some shoes on, grabbed my bag and walked down to Supervalue for some ground cloves. On my return, I added the cloves, pepper, ground ginger and cayenne pepper, and (finally) got the pot on to boil.

It took quite a while coming to the boil, and once it did, I still had 2 1/2 hours to wait. The sauce boiled merrily away, wafting smells of vinegar and cloves through the house, as the fruit slowly broke down and went pulpy.

It was just before the 2 1/2 hour mark that I decided it'd boiled long enough. It was only a half-recipe after all, and I'd cooked it for nearly the full time. I took the pot off the heat and began on the next step: pressing the mixture through a colander. Since the only colander I have is fairly small, this took quite a long time. I got it done eventually, though, and put it back on the stove to heat through and thicken.

At this point the recipe leaves things up to you - you're supposed to "boil until preferred thickness". Well, I felt it was fairly thick already, so I only left it on for as long as it took to assemble my sterilised bottles and lids.

I ladled the sauce into the funnel very carefully, filling each bottle nearly to the brim. Soon I had 5 bottles of peach sauce, and still a bit left over. I decided to put this in a 6th bottle I'd prepared but didn't have a lid for. I could seal it off in some way and put the sauce in the fridge for immediate use. To my surprise, the leftover sauce filled the bottle right to the top.

Thinking I might have a lid somewhere that would fit my 6th bottle, I set it aside while I did a little cleanup. I was reflecting smugly on how little mess I'd made - very unusual for me - when, lifting the stock pot into the sink, I knocked over the one unsealed bottle and spilt it all over my beloved Edmonds book.

This is why I usually hang the book on a clip above the bench. I know my clumsy ways all too well.

I wiped the sauce off the page as best I could, but had to rinse the spiral binding under the tap, dampening the edges of a couple of dozen pages. Luckily, the oven was still warm from sterilising the bottles, and I put the Edmonds book inside, the dampest pages carefully separated from each other with kitchen towels.

While my book was drying out, I did a bit of cleanup. The lid I thought might fit my open bottle didn't, so I had to find another way of sealing it. I could have used a jam seal, except I'd run out, and I didn't even have any plastic wrap in the house! These two were in fact the sole items on my shopping list. In the end, I wrapped the bottle tightly in a plastic bag and put it in the fridge.

It was close to 11pm by the time I'd finished wiping down the bench and drying off the cookbook. I'd only been at it since before 5pm! The drying process worked quite well, by the way - a few stains over the peach sauce recipe are really the only lasting result of my mishap.

But I better not forget to mention what the stuff tastes like: spicy, fruity and a bit vinegary. I've had some with a bit of ham, and it tasted ok. I can see that it'll be useful for marinating or basting, or just as an accompaniment to cooked meats - chicken or perhaps pork is what comes to my mind. It'll work in sandwiches and toasties as well, come to think of it. 

The flavour will be even better after a few weeks' keeping, though I'll probably be looking at using the open one immediately. I'm glad that the effort I put into this one (which admittedly would have been less if I'd been more organised and got all the ingredients in one go) I've got some decent results.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Spuddy salad

We were given a ham each for Christmas from work - which, while I appreciate the gesture, is quite a lot for one person to eat. I didn't cut into it until we got back from Blenheim, at which time I gave Mum and Dad a sizeable chunk to take back to Timaru. Another chunk went into the freezer, and I've spent the past week trying to find ways to use up the rest.

I've had ham sandwiches, ham and eggs, and added ham to just about everything I've eaten - including the mushroom salad left over from the other day (a tasty addition, by the way). It wasn't until today that I got around to making a potato salad (p178) from the potatoes I hadn't used for my Christmas meal.

Ham is not a listed ingredient in the Edmonds potato salad recipe; it's not even among the suggested variations. Still, I usually add meat of one kind or another to a potato salad, so I didn't see any reason why it shouldn't work in the Edmonds version.

I started by getting the potatoes cleaned and cooked, then hard-boiled an egg. Both potato and egg then went into the fridge to chill. Meanwhile, I mixed up my dressing. The recipe offered three possibilities for the dressing: mayonnaise, French dressing or yoghurt dressing, each of which would have given the salad a completely different flavour.

I opted for the yoghurt dressing (p184), seeing as I'd already made the other two. It's a simple mixture of plain, unsweetened yoghurt, lemon juice, mustard powder and seasoning. I stirred these ingredients together and put the dressing in to chill as well.

Some time later, I put all my chilled ingredients together to make the salad. I chopped the potato a bit smaller, added the chopped egg with some sliced spring onions, mint, the chopped ham and the dressing. All this needs to be combined reasonably gently, so the potatoes don't fall to pieces.

It was a pretty good potato salad. I think I'd prefer it without the mint, but I'm not sure what I'd put in instead. Parsley, maybe? The yoghurt dressing tasted better than I'd expected - and it's certainly lower in fat than a standard mayonnaise. I liked the added ham - in fact I think the salad would have been a bit boring without it. But then, that's the beauty of a potato salad (in fact, pretty much any salad) - you can mix and match the ingredients to suit yourself.

Popular posts this week