Thursday, September 29, 2011

Odds and ends

A few weeks back, I used half a packet of Edmonds buttercake mix to make a fruit sponge. The half-empty packet has been sitting in the cupboard ever since, so I turned again to the 'desserts with Edmonds' section to find a way to use it up.

A steamed pudding (p217) would do the trick nicely, made in a half-recipe as I did with the sponge. It would give me a chance to use the end of a bag of raisins I'd bought for my cashmere chutney (you're supposed to use currants, but I figured I could get away with the substitution). To go with the pudding, I decided to make some vanilla custard (p189), which would conveniently get rid of some milk that was just past its best-before date. Plus, I'd bought a much larger carton of eggs than usual (for what reason, I have no idea), and I'd be able to use a couple of those as well.

In short, this particular exercise was less about making myself a pudding and more about tidying up various items in my cupboard and fridge that needed using. Good excuse, though, right?

I began by scattering a handful of raisins in the bottom of a pudding basin. For my half-recipe, I should have used only a tablespoon, but the idea here was to get rid of the raisins. Then all I did was put the cake mix in a bowl with an egg, some butter, and a little water, and beat it for a few minutes with an electric beater. The resulting mixture went into the pudding basin on top of the raisins.

I wrestled for some time with the pleated baking paper, trying to tie it securely over the bowl. Usually I use tinfoil, which is more easily tied on, but I think the baking paper is better because it's almost transparent:  useful later on, when you're trying to see if the pudding is cooked or not.

When I first started the Edmonds challenge, I didn't have a clue how to steam a pudding. From the descriptions given in the various pudding recipes, I managed to get a general idea of how it works, and have been steaming my puddings in a bowl that sits neatly in one of my saucepans without touching the bottom, thus removing the need for a trivet.

My way works, but I've now got a better idea of the traditional method, thanks to a recent 'Masterclass' episode of Masterchef. It's similar to what I do, except you place the bowl on a trivet in a large, deep pot e.g. stockpot. I suspect this way (i.e. the proper way) cooks the pudding more efficiently, as my puddings often take longer to cook than stated in the recipe.

One of these days, I'll find something suitable for using as a trivet, and give the 'proper way' a go. Meanwhile, I stuck to my personal saucepan steaming method. When the sponge looked like it was nearly done, I spent a few minutes making the custard, putting custard powder, milk, a beaten egg, some sugar and vanilla essence into a pot on a low medium heat, and stirring until the runny mixture thickened into custard.

I'd forgotten to grease the sides of the pudding basin, so the pudding wouldn't come out when I tipped it upside down. Instead, I scooped a portion straight out of the basin, and topped it with a generous serving of custard.

The buttercake mix made a very light pudding, and it was nice to encounter juicy raisins in the occasional mouthful. I didn't regret adding extra raisins, in fact I wish I'd put more in! The custard, true to its name, was pleasantly vanilla-flavoured and the ideal match for the pudding. I've found that custard (or ice cream) is a necessity with steamed puds, to prevent them from seeming too dry.

Anyway, both pudding and custard were a success, in the sense that they both tasted good, and got rid of some odds and ends that were cluttering up my kitchen. Now, what else have I got that needs using?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On my 'to do' list

I have this fear of getting near the end of my Edmonds challenge and having to face a long list of chutneys I haven't got around to making. Since I seldom use chutney, I don't find myself in need of it, and have to consciously plan when I'm going to make it.

Still, if I don't want to get stuck with a heap at the end, I've got to make chutneys more often than I have been, beginning with the cashmere chutney (p230) I made last night.

It's a fruit-based chutney, made from apple, dates and sultanas. The first step is to cook the chopped, unpeeled apples in malt vinegar. I was doing a half-recipe, in which about one cup of vinegar ought to have been enough to 'almost cover' the apples. Actually, it took far more than that, and I worried that the extra vinegar would affect the flavour of the finished chutney.

While my apples were cooking, I chopped up the dates and stuck them in a bowl with raisins, crushed garlic, and a heap of grated fresh ginger. These went into the pot with some brown sugar and cayenne pepper, and back on the heat for another half-hour or so.

It didn't take long for the chutney to start thickening up. I was already pressed for time in which to sterilise some jars, and half-expected the chutney to be ready long before the jars were. In the end, it came together ok, though the jars were still hot enough to make the chutney bubble and fizz as I ladled it in.

The quantity I'd made was exactly enough to fill the four assorted jars I'd prepared, so there wasn't much leftover for tasting. The small amount I tried from the edge of the pot had quite a potent flavour: I'd expected it to be tangy and fruity, but was surprised to find it was spicy as well. I guess that small amount of cayenne had a bigger impact than I expected.

At this stage, I found the flavour too sharp for simply using on bread etc, and may need to use it up by adding it to casseroles and things. But who knows what the flavour will be like in a few weeks' time? I'll let it sit for a while before I judge.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Breakfast grill

Amongst the 576 items in the Edmonds book that are included in my list of recipes to complete, there are a handful that are so basic as to hardly merit the title of 'recipe' at all. One of these is grilled grapefruit (p156).

All you need to do is cut the grapefruit in half, then use a sharp knife to separate the flesh from the skin and membrane, leaving (theoretically) neat little segments of flesh within the shell of the grapefruit. Mine were not terribly neat, but still served the same purpose!

That part takes the longest. When it's done, all you need to do is sprinkle brown sugar on top and place the grapefruit halves under the grill. The instructions indicate that you should do this 'until sugar melts'. Seeing as the sugar had dissolved into brownish mush as soon as it came into contact with the grapefruit juice, I couldn't really use this as a guide. Instead, I just let it grill for a few minutes and then took it out and placed a glacé cherry in the centre of each.

I was quite surprised at how good my grilled grapefruit was. It was deliciously juicy, and I'd added enough sugar to compensate for the natural bitterness of the grapefruit. Ok, yes, it's got a lot of added sugar. I should know, since I was the one who added it! And that's the key: at least you can control how much sugar has been added to your breakfast - not the case with sugary cereals and similar. There's a whole heap of worse things you could be eating for breakfast. With that in mind, I might very well treat myself to a grilled grapefruit every now and then!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Budget winner

With food prices getting higher and higher, it's always good to have a few budget meals in your repertoire. Canned salmon is among the cheapest proteins you can use, and there are plenty of things you can do with it. One simple option is salmon rissoles (p116), a recipe that bulks out the base protein with potato and a few other basic ingredients.

You start with mashed potato (so keep this one in mind if you have any leftover potato to use), and add the fish and liquid from a can of salmon, along with some chopped onion. To this mixture, sift in some flour and baking powder, then add seasoning and parsley (I used dried).

This results in a slightly sticky dough, firm enough to shape into patties. Then all you need to do is heat some oil in a pan and shallow fry until golden. I cooked mine in two batches, using quite a bit of oil for the first batch and much less for the second. Both batches came out well, so I would opt for minimum oil next time. It may even be possible to cook them on a sandwich press as we did with the corn fritters.

I threw together a salad while the rissoles were draining on paper towels, then sat down to eat. I'd expected the rissoles to be bland and boring, but actually, they were really tasty: crunchy on the outside with a soft, savoury centre. They weren't even particularly fishy, which was a surprise. I had a little mayonnaise with mine, though I think many Kiwis would reach for the tomato sauce instead.

One thing to bear in mind is that the main ingredients in the rissoles - salmon and mashed potatoes - don't need cooking, so the shallow frying really only heats them through and creates the crust on the outside. This works fine, but don't forget you have raw onion in there. So chop it finely, and if you're really anti raw onion, give it a zap in the microwave before adding it to the rissole mix.

So basically, this is a super-cheap, very easy meal that you can make with ingredients usually on hand in the cupboard. And, while it tastes pretty good the way it is, there's no reason why you couldn't add more seasoning or herbs, perhaps even some different vegetables, to adapt it more to your own tastes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

But what's tennis got to do with it?

It's been a while since I ticked off a fruit cake recipe, so yesterday I decided it was time to have a go at making tennis cake (p59). I'd got all the ingredients with my groceries - or so I thought. It would be quite uncharacteristic of me not to have forgotten any ingredients at all, and sure enough, I didn't bring home a lemon.

This required a quick trip to the supermarket. The Palms shopping mall has now reopened, and it's amazing how much I appreciate being able to just pop up there for a few things when I need to, something I once took for granted. There's nothing special about The Palms - it's just like any other shopping mall - but restoring a major retail area on the Eastern side of town is another big step towards normality.

Anyway, I returned from my brief trip to The Palms bearing the required lemon, and set to work. I began by creaming butter and sugar, then added vanilla and almond essences. Setting that bowl aside, I sifted the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and beat four eggs together in another, then mixed the dry ingredients and eggs alternately into the creamed mixture.

So I had my base mixture ready, but a fruit cake's got to have fruit in it too! The final ingredients added were raisins, glacé cherries, mixed peel (this was supposed to be angelica, but since I couldn't find any I decided to substitute the peel) along with juice and rind from the lemon.

A more organised person would have lined the cake tin before starting work on the cake. But of course, I'm not, so I hadn't. Struggling to find space amongst the mess on my kitchen bench, I managed to line my tin with a layer of brown paper and then one of baking paper, before spooning the mix in and plonking it in the oven for an hour and a half.

I used a 23cm round tin, as I don't have the 22cm one specified in the recipe. When I first began this challenge, I made a point of trying to find the correct size cake tin for each recipe, but since I now have quite a collection, I'm not really interested in buying any more. I generally just use whatever I have that's closest to the specified size. I'm not sure why there are so many different sized/shaped tins for the various Edmonds recipes; it would certainly be more practical if they stuck to one or two standard tin sizes. Are Edmonds getting a commission from cake tin manufacturers?

The cake came out looking pretty good, if not as high as it might have been in the proper 22cm tin. After allowing it to cool slightly, I cut myself a slice. It was pretty good: a light almondy fruit cake with a slight crunch around the edges. If you don't like glacé cherries, well, you won't like this cake. But if that's not an issue for you, it's an easy little cake with none of the heavy texture that's sometimes a problem with fruit cakes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Something fishy

I've never been much in the habit of cooking with fish, so it's probably not surprising that I've cooked far more chicken and meat recipes than fish ones. In the interests of covering the recipes as evenly as possible, however, I'm needing to catch up a little.

I'd shyed away from cooking recipes involving live mussels, as it's something I've never really done before. Still, they have to be done sometime, so I decided to take on mussels in tomato sauce (p116) for dinner this evening.

The recipe is for 36 mussels: far more than I can eat by myself, so I bought only one dozen. Or I intended to buy a dozen, but I must have miscounted, as I found I only had 10 when I got them home. It's probably for the best, though - 10 ended up being more than enough.

I'm not sure why I'd put off doing this recipe for so long, because it was very easy. The most difficult part was cleaning and debearding the mussels, and after that it was plain sailing. You start by putting onion in a frypan with some water, and bringing it to the boil. When the water's boiling, add the mussels, cover and cook for 8 minutes.

That's the mussels cooked - just the sauce to do. Removing the mussels from the pan, I arranged them on a plate in the half-shell. Reserving some of the cooking liquid, I cleaned out the pan and started fresh with butter, more onion (though actually I was substituting shallots, as the onions at Pak N Save today were seriously dodgy-looking) and some garlic.

When the garlic and onion were cooked, I added some flour and stirred it through it "until frothy" before gradually pouring in the reserved cooking liquid and the tomato puree. In a very short time, I was spooning sauce over my mussels and garnishing them with parsley.

I'm not a huge fan of mussels in general, but I have to admit that freshly-cooked ones are a lot more tender and pleasanter to eat than the rubbery marinated ones I've had before. The tomato sauce is quite strongly-flavoured, so if you prefer to savour the taste of the mussel itself, you might find it a bit overpowering. For those like myself who are shellfish tolerators rather than shellfish lovers, it's actually ideal.

Just be careful how you eat them. It can be a bit tricky to get them on the fork, and if they slip out of your grasp they'll make a mess of your carpet. Trust me on this!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Good call, Mum!

On being invited around to Leah's for dinner on Saturday night, my immediate reaction was to offer a dessert. It wasn't difficult to decide what to make, as Mum had recently made yoghurt flummery (p201) and recommended it to me.

Yoghurt flummery is a variation on the main flummery recipe, (if you don't know what flummery is, it's jelly beaten up with evaporated milk - apparently some people call it "fluff") but yoghurt is substituted for the evaporated milk. Mum makes the jelly using fruit juice and gelatine, since she doesn't like the artificial jelly flavours, but I decided I'd best stick to the recipe.

I dissolved a packet of tropical flavoured jelly crystals in water, and put the bowl in the fridge. Some time later, the jelly mixture had cooled and partially set to the consistency described as "raw egg white". I took it out and beat it until the mixture was thick and well-aerated. 

At this point I added the yoghurt, and stirred it through. The resulting thick, yellow mixture had a slightly lumpy look to it, but I hoped it would be ok. I transferred it to a smaller bowl and put it back into the fridge to set.

Leah hadn't mentioned how many people would be there for dinner, but to be sure I had enough for everyone, I whipped up a batch of meringues to have with the flummery. When I arrived at Leah's, armed with flummery, meringues and a small jug of passionfruit pulp, I discovered there were only three of us for dinner. It didn't matter though: even after filling up on Leah's lovely lamb chops, we actually managed to finish all the flummery and most of the meringues between us.

I'd never had the yoghurt variation of flummery before, and I really liked it. As with classic flummery, it's light enough to eat even when you've already had a good meal. I didn't mind the flavour of the jelly crystals, but if you're not keen on that artificial flavouring, take a leaf out of my Mum's book and make your own jelly with fruit juice. Either way, it's not difficult, and, while it may not look all that exciting in the picture, it tastes pretty good!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pity the theme wasn't "things that are soggy"

This past Friday, as we all know, was the much-anticipated opening of the Rugby World Cup. In celebration of this event, Lauren and Tom had asked a few people around to watch the opening ceremony, followed by the All Blacks vs Tonga opening match.

Since our opponent was Tonga, the evening had an island theme, and we were all supposed to dress and bring food to match the theme. Finding something 'island' from the Edmonds book was a bit of a stretch, until I started thinking outside the box. After all, you really can't fault apricot islands (p215) as not being in keeping with an island theme.

Lauren had also asked me to bring a salad, so I had a look at the remaining salad recipes and chose rice salad (p178). Probably not authentically islandy, but at least it had pineapple in it!

I got home on Friday afternoon and headed immediately into the kitchen, putting rice on for the salad and making a start on the apricot islands. Apricot islands are one of the 'desserts with Edmonds' recipes, and basically consist of canned apricot halves with cake mixture spooned into the cavity, and a few sliced almonds sprinkled on top.

The recipe uses madeira cake mix, but that doesn't seem to be available anymore. Using the actual madeira cake recipe as a guide, I figured a plain buttercake mix with a bit of lemon zest would be a suitable substitute. I made up the cake mix from the box, added my lemon zest, and set about spooning it into the apricots.

I have a suspicion that canned apricot halves used to be bigger. The ones I got were tiny, but the recipe stated I should be able to put a tablespoon of mixture into the cavity. I barely got a teaspoon's worth in them, and even then, they were overflowing. I sprinkled on the almonds and got them into the oven.

There was quite a lot of cake mix left over. The recipe anticipates this, stating "use remaining mixture to make cupcakes". I hadn't expected to have so much left, since I'd filled a whole can's worth of apricots, and the recipe is for only eight. Still, I had this mixture, so I went ahead and filled up some cupcake cases.

Meanwhile, I'd checked my rice and found it horribly gluggy: I'd forgotten to rinse the rice before cooking, something I don't bother with for my usual basmati, but is apparently necessary for the ordinary long grain I'd cooked for the salad. Since I had to cool it down anyway, I had a go at rinsing the glugginess off post-cooking. It seemed to work, and I left the rice draining in a sieve while I finished off the apricot islands and got the cupcakes in.

The apricot islands came out looking shrivelled, soggy and completely unappealing. I left them on a rack to cool down and made a start on the salad, adding to the rice pineapple, sultanas and chopped red pepper. A quick vinaigrette and it was done, but it wasn't looking too great. The rice was still softer than it should be and I hadn't drained it enough. It was an unusually wet rice salad.

At least the cupcakes were looking beautiful, so I quickly whipped up some icing for them, choosing to make it subtly lemon-flavoured and colouring it yellow to match. Of course, I didn't check that I had enough icing sugar before undertaking the icing, and I had to use every bit of what I had to get the icing to almost-ok consistency. About this time I found I had dyed my fingers and fingernails bright yellow (which still hasn't come off) and I was getting more than a little frustrated at my inability to produce even one decent dish to take to Lauren and Tom's.

What I did end up taking was my soggy apricot islands, my soggier rice salad, and a tray of eye-wateringly yellow cupcakes that had no connection to the theme. Well, the cupcakes all got eaten, and most people claimed to like the tangy flavour of the apricot islands, if not the unappealing texture. The rice salad was barely touched, and considering the range of more appetising food there was to choose from, I'm not at all surprised. I'm not a huge fan of rice salads at the best of times, but add wet, gluggy rice into the mix and it's quite disastrous.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

So that's what tarragon tastes like!

The trouble with buying cream for a sponge cake is that even if you get the smallest bottle available, you're only going to use half of it. Because of this, I found myself flicking through my Edmonds book, scanning ingredient lists for cream. Eventually, I found an uncompleted recipe that would help me use up my cream: tarragon chicken (p143).

I don't think I had ever consciously eaten tarragon before, so I was quite keen to find out what it tasted like. But first I had to assemble the other main ingredients: chicken breast, onion, white wine and chicken stock.

You begin by cooking onion and garlic in a pan. When the onion is cooked through, you stir through a small amount of flour, then add the wine and stock. When this mixture has been brought to the boil, add tarragon (fresh or dried - I used dried) and the chicken breasts. Then, just stick a lid on it and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

I was surprised to find that the chicken had cooked through in a mere 15 minutes. I'd been expecting to increase the cooking time by another 10 minutes at least. I didn't need to, however - I just set the chicken aside while I finished off the sauce, adding cream and egg yolk (since I was making a half-recipe, I had to try to scoop half a yolk into the pan) along with some seasoning. Chicken on the plate; sauce on the chicken; add veges: dinner's ready!

It turns out that tarragon is not a completely unfamiliar flavour - I've definitely had it before, just not in anything I've cooked. But it tastes good: tarragon chicken is savoury, creamy and really quite a nice meal. I personally would prefer to cook the chicken in smaller, more manageable pieces: a whole breast is quite a lot for one person to get through, and with such a large piece, you're more conscious of the slightly dry texture of the chicken breast.

When you see a recipe with ingredients like cream and wine, you might be tempted to think "nah, that's a bit flash for me". But it's really quite easy to make, and it's a tasty meal. If you've got a little cream and/or wine that needs using, why not give it a try?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I suck at sponges

It's a bit of a worry that my first reaction, on receiving a text asking me to a friend's housewarming drinks, was to think "what can I make out of the Edmonds book to take to that?" After some reflection, I decided it was about time I tried my hand at another sponge recipe.

I didn't have a particular recipe in mind; I just picked up the vital ingredients - eggs and cream - and went home to pick one at random. Light-as-air sponge (p68) sounded like a plan.

In order to get the sponge "light as air", the eggs are separated, and you beat the whites until thick, then beat in caster sugar - much like a meringue mixture, except that the next step is to beat in the yolks as well. When you have nice thick, airy mixture, you sift in cornflour, flour, and baking powder, then dissolve a little golden syrup in boiling water and add that too.

This is where I ran into trouble. I wanted to fold the added ingredients through the egg mixture without losing too much volume. There's a fine line between undermixed and overmixed, and this time it seems I landed on the 'undermixed' side of it.

I wasn't aware of that though, thinking I'd done a pretty good job as I divided the mixture into two sponge sandwich tins and got them in the oven a mere 15 minutes after walking in the door. I was feeling quite smug as I sat down to watch Masterchef, dishes done and sponge in the oven.

The sponge was to bake for 20 minutes. After about 15, I went to have a look. The sponges were looking worryingly brown on the top, so I whipped out a piece of baking paper and laid it over the top. The downside to this is that I had to open the oven, letting quite a bit of heat out.

A short time later, I took the sponges out and was faced with an extremely unimpressive result. I already knew they'd be overdone on top, but they'd also shrunk away from the sides and hadn't risen much at all - hardly a result that could be considered "light as air"!

When I turned the sponges out of the tins, it got even worse: there were lumps of unmixed cornflour that had just sunk to the bottom. I could pluck the gooey lumps out of the base of the sponges. But even without this, the sponges were totally unusable. My tendency to make bad sponges had caught up with me again..

What to do? I hadn't promised to bring anything to the housewarming, but I was now determined to come bearing a sponge cake. Turning to the three-minute sponge recipe that I have had more success with, I decided to whip up one of those instead.

It's a simpler recipe, in which you merely bung everything in a mixer and beat it for 3 minutes. The result was, while not perfect, much more successful. When it had cooled, I spread it with the last of my lime butter, and a combination of cream and lemon yoghurt. A dusting of icing sugar on top, and my housewarming offering was complete.

The sponge cake went down pretty well at the housewarming, several people indicating surprise when they found it wasn't a bought one. So that's some further praise for the three-minute sponge, but it doesn't tell you much about my original light-as-air sponge recipe. Suffice it to say that my dreadful result should not be blamed on the recipe, but rather my poor mixing and (probably) opening of the oven during cooking. If I have time, I might have another go at this one.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Five jars for the bin

I needed some fresh ginger for my fried rice the other day, so before I started cooking, I headed down to the shops at Edgeware - or what's left of them. Having been forced out of an earthquake-damaged building some months ago, our intrepid vege man doggedly continues his business from a tent-like structure set up in the carpark. With the competing supermarket across the road now demolished, and customers going out of their way to support such a determined individual, I suspect his business is doing better than ever.

Feeling that I ought to buy more than just a tiny chunk of ginger, I looked around to see if there was any fruit I might want. That's when I saw that he had tamarillos. I'd been looking at tamarillos for a while, knowing that I should make tamarillo jam (p228) while they are in season. They'd mostly been quite expensive though, so Edgeware Fruit and Vege's bags of second-grade tamarillos were exactly what I needed.

The following night, I brought home the cooking apples which were the only remaining ingredient. I set about blanching, skinning and chopping the tamarillos, and putting them in a large pot with the the peeled, chopped apples and some water.

It took quite a while to reduce the fruit to a pulp, during which time I decided I would need to transfer the jam to a larger pot when I added the sugar. So I dug out my stock pot, and when the fruit was nicely pulped, I transferred it cup by cup, as I needed to know how much pulp I had.

The next step was to add an equal amount of sugar to the pulp, along with a little lemon juice, and then bring the whole lot to the boil. It's supposed to take about half an hour to reach setting point, so I set a timer and went about doing other things, returning to the stove for the occasional stir.

I'd had the lid on the pot, hoping that would help keep the jam at a brisk boil as described in the recipe. It certainly did that - at one point, the jam overflowed, oozing down the side of the pot and under the element. I acted quickly, turning off the gooey element and moving my pot to a clean one, then ran to the lounge and took down the smoke alarm before it started making a racket.

From that point, I left the lid off. Towards the end of the 30-minute cooking time, I tested it for setting point, and it seemed to be ok. I took the pot off the heat and transferred the jam to the jars I'd prepared. As I poured out the last of the jam, I saw that there was a large scorched patch in the bottom of the pot. Gingerly, I tasted a little jam from the side of my jam funnel: I could taste a slight burnt flavour, but couldn't decide if the jam itself tasted burnt, or if my tastebuds were just reacting to the smoke still lingering in my nostrils from the earlier jam-under-element incident. I set the jam aside for further tasting.

This evening, I opened one of the jars. The jam is deliciously dark and fruity-looking in appearance, and has set to a nice consistency. It's just a pity that it tastes like charcoal. I couldn't even swallow the mouthful I took - it tasted even worse than the vegetable soup I burnt. So unfortunately, my beautiful-looking jars of tamarillo jam are for the bin. Oh well - maybe this'll teach me to be more careful!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Topping stir-fried with deep-fried

For months now, I've been thinking to myself, "I really must batter something one of these days". The reason behind this slightly unusual aspiration is that there are three different batter recipes in the fish chapter, and I hadn't yet tried any of them.

So, last night I decided to have a go at crispy Chinese batter (p113). Of course, I had to find something to coat with it: luckily, I happened to have some prawns in the freezer. But what to have with the prawns? How about fried rice (p105)? Battered, deep-fried prawns on fried rice - sounds like a decent dinner to me!

I was uncharacteristically organised and set about cooking the rice and thawing the prawns and bacon while I watched Masterchef. Fried rice is the sort of dish you're supposed to make with leftover rice, but I had to cook mine specially.

So when I'd finished watching TV, my rice was ready and I was able to start cooking straight away. I spread the rice out on a tray to dry, and started preparing the other ingredients. Firstly, I beat egg with a little soy sauce and cooked it omelet-style in my frypan. Stupidly, I didn't think to use my 'wok', and the egg spread very thinly across the wide flat base of my ordinary frypan.

It didn't matter though: I still got the desired result. The omelet took only a minute or two to cook, so I removed it from the pan and started cooking the bacon. While the bacon was cooking, I sliced the omelet into thin strips.

With both bacon and egg cooked and ready, I added chopped spring onion to the pan with crushed garlic and grated ginger. After a brief stir-fry, I added the rice.

Meanwhile, my oil had been heating for the prawns. Crispy Chinese batter consists of only two ingredients: cornflour and egg white. Coating the prawns in cornflour, dipping them in lightly beaten egg white, then deep-frying them didn't sound too difficult, but since I was trying to deal with the fried rice at the same time, (and take photos of everything) I soon found myself wishing I had an extra hand or two.

It was quite astonishing how much the batter bubbled up in the oil. The first ones I did were more successful than the later ones; I suspect I ought to have beaten the egg white up again when I was half-way through. Very quickly the prawns were cooked and draining on paper towels, and I was able to turn my attention back to the fried rice.

The rice had been stir-frying for around five minutes, so it was time to add the final touches - returning the bacon and egg strips to the pan, and allowing them to heat through, before stirring through a little soy sauce to finish it all off.

The crispy Chinese batter was delicious: light, crunchy and slightly eggy-tasting. It's hard to believe something so simple could taste so good. The fried rice was also very yummy, but I think there's potential to make it a bit healthier by reducing the bacon (seriously: it seemed like about half the dish was made up of bacon) and adding a few more veges. Either way, it's pretty much a meal in itself, so while adding prawns to the top may have been tasty, it wasn't really necessary.

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