Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thanks, Steve!

Some weeks ago, Steve kindly gave me a couple of old Edmonds books he'd found while cleaning out his Mum's garage. I was stoked to get these for my collection, and decided to make him something Edmonds as a thank-you.

I decided to look for a recipe that had stayed the same through the various editions, from the older versions right through to present-day Edmonds. I've accumulated enough Edmonds books by now that I was able to find the melting moments (p41) recipe in five different editions.

For whatever reason, it was a few weeks before I actually got around to making them. This past Sunday (amidst the bran muffins and fish cakes etc I was also doing) I finally rolled up my sleeves and got on to these melting moments.

The recipe is similar to a shortbread - lots of butter, creamed with icing sugar, and then cornflour, baking powder and plain flour mixed in. Once you've mixed that to a nice soft dough, the next step is to roll it into balls. The recipe says these should be 'the size of a large marble'. Possibly my memory was a bit awry as to the actual size of a large marble, since I got far more 'marbles' out of the mixture than I should have, and the final biscuits were quite tiny too. Never mind, I always like things that are bite-sized.

I laid the balls on baking trays, flattened each slightly with a floured fork, and plonked them in the oven. I think it's fair to say that my oven must be particularly hot: the cooking time is supposed to be 20 minutes, but when I checked the biscuits at 12 minutes, they were already browner than a melting moment should be. Oops - oh well, Steve wouldn't care.. or notice, probably.

Once the biscuits had cooled, I mixed up a batch of butter icing and sandwiched them together in pairs. The other option here is raspberry jam, but I've found that this can get oozy and sticky - the icing would set quickly and not make a mess.

As you'd expect, Steve was quite surprised to suddenly be presented with a container of little biscuits to thank him for something he'd done weeks ago. Of course, I didn't give them all to Steve. For a start, they didn't all fit in the container. And anyway, I had to taste some so I could write about them!

Well, they're darn good little biscuits. Since they were that little bit overdone, they were slightly drier than they should be, but still had that lovely buttery shortbready flavour. The butter icing in the centre adds a touch of sweetness, and they're small enough to be a pleasant mouthful that's not a struggle to get through. There's a reason why this recipe has held on through numerous Edmonds editions - it's clearly worth hanging on to!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Basic Bran

Since Mum and Dad were arriving on Sunday, I decided it might be a good idea to have something freshly baked and waiting to be served with a coffee on their arrival. It wouldn't be right if Dad arrived and I didn't have any baking to feed him!

Bran muffins (p26) are fairly underrated, as far as baked goods go. Maybe they're not flashy and enticing, or sweetly decadent, but they're better for you than many more obviously tempting items, and warm from the oven, with a bit of butter and/or jam, they're more appetising than you might expect.

That's the key, incidentally. These are old-school muffins of the kind that are meant to be buttered. A little jam never goes astray, either. If you try to eat them plain, you'll find them pretty bland.

It never takes long to whip up a batch of muffins, bran or otherwise. For this recipe, you start by sifting together flour, baking powder and salt, then stir in sugar and bran. Once all the dry ingredients are mixed together, you add the liquids: melted butter and golden syrup, baking soda dissolved in milk, and a beaten egg. Carefully mix until just combined, then spoon into muffin  trays.

These took about 10 minutes to cook, and were soon out and on a cooling rack, waiting for Dad to walk in and peer under the net cover to see what's available for scoffing. Of course, I tested a couple myself, with a bit of butter and apricot jam. They were remarkably soft and light-textured for bran muffins; quite tasty in fact. If you've got a hankering for bran muffins, you could definitely do worse than use this recipe.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Waste not

Sometimes it's hard to make sure food gets eaten before it goes to waste, but I have a particular dislike of throwing away meat or fish - if an animal has died so that you can eat it, the least you can do is make sure it actually all gets eaten. The saying 'waste not, want not' is generally disregarded in our throwaway culture, (as a child, I thought this meant 'if you don't want it, don't waste it', which doesn't make much sense. It was only years later that I realised it actually means 'if you don't waste anything, you won't want for anything') but it's worth realising that with a little thought, you can make leftover food go a long way - certainly a lot further than the nearest rubbish bin!

After eating one serving of my barbecued Warehou, I still had at least three-quarters of the fish left over. I stripped the flesh off the fish and set it aside. The bones, skin and head went into a pot to make fish stock (p85). Since there were also slices of onion and lemon, along with a few herbs, still in the carcass of the fish from the barbecuing,  I bunged all that in as well - these aren't in the recipe, but why waste them? After all, the more flavour you can get in a stock, the better.

Along with the fish scraps, I added water, a couple of fresh slices of lemon, some herbs and a handful of peppercorns. I brought all this to the boil, simmered for 20 minutes, then strained through a colander lined with muslin. That's all it takes to make fish stock - easy, eh? What's more, I'd assumed that making fish stock would stink out the whole house - in fact, there was no smell at all. Even when I went outside and came back in from the fresh air, there was no discernable odour.

On Sunday, I set about using the stock and remaining fish. Handily, Mum and Dad would be dropping in on their way down from Blenheim, just around tea time. I texted them to let them know that oyster soup (p88) and fish cakes (p113) were on the menu.

I'd got a pottle of oysters at the fish counter when I got my Warehou. I've been meaning to make this soup for ages, but needed to wait until I'd had a chance to make that fish stock. When Mum and Dad arrived, I got the soup on, beginning by cooking out a flour and water paste, then slowly adding fish stock and milk. After boiling for five minutes or so, I seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then added lemon juice and the chopped oysters. 

I hadn't been all that pleased with the flavour while I was adding the seasoning. In the end I'd given up and put salt and pepper on the table so we could adjust as necessary. As it happens, not much additional seasoning was needed - I'd followed the recipe and seasoned before adding the oysters and lemon, but with these additions came considerable extra flavour. I'm no huge oyster fan, but actually this soup was very nice. 

I'd meant the soup as an entree, but it made more than I expected, and after a decent-sized bowl and a couple of pieces of bread, I would have been happy to call that a meal. I couldn't do that though - I had the fish cakes in the fridge, waiting to be cooked.

I'd made the fish cakes in advance, flaking my leftover fish and mixing it with mashed potato, finely chopped onion, herbs and seasoning, then shaping into cakes, and coating them in egg and breadcrumbs. Having finished my soup, I headed back into the kitchen, heated some oil and started shallow-frying the fish cakes.

These could possibly be oven-baked instead of frying, but decided to stick to the recipe. They went nice and golden-brown, but I wasn't sure they were cooked through, so I zapped the plateful in the microwave for a minute to make sure.

It's easy to forget how tasty simple little dishes like these can be. A bit of salad, and a couple of these on your plate, and you've got a meal. They're satisfyingly crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. The flavour is not particularly fishy, (though that might depend on what kind of fish you use) but savoury and moreish. A very useful, adaptable dish to keep in mind.

So that's the story of one little fish used to its full potential: nothing wasted, and some very tasty meals enjoyed as a result.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Let's pick up the pace

I've been at this challenge since March 2010. When I started, I deliberately didn't set myself a time limit - just getting through all the recipes was going to be enough of a challenge, without adding the extra stress of a looming deadline.

While my determination to complete the whole book has never wavered, my momentum has been a bit erratic. Sometimes I feel very motivated and can knock off a number of recipes in a few short days. Other times I have to drag myself into the kitchen, or, having cooked something, have to force myself to sit down and start typing, in the hope that a mildly interesting account of the recipe will magically spring from my fingertips. Often enough, I just feel like cooking something that isn't Edmonds!

So for the past year or more, I've been averaging less than 10 recipes per month. This plodding along has got me to the point where, with 476 recipes behind me, I have only 100 still to go. That's light at the end of the tunnel.

I've also decided that I don't want this challenge to stretch beyond the three-year mark. That means I have until 12 March, 2013, to complete the remaining recipes. One hundred recipes, and just over four months to get them done. That might not sound too difficult, but it does mean I'll have to triple my current pace.

Think I can't do it?

Think I won't do it?

Watch me.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Temporary barbecue weather

It's been a lovely day today - pleasantly warm but not scorching hot. This weather isn't expected to last (anyone surprised?) so I decided to make the most of it by breaking out the barbecue. The obvious dish to cook on it? Barbecued fish (p112).

This recipe calls for a whole fish, something I've never cooked with before. I'd hoped to get a reasonably small fish, suitable for a single serving - I'd seen smaller ones at Pak N Save before, but I guess availability varies and today, the smallest fish I could get was a Warehou big enough to feed several people. Oh well. It was still considerably smaller than the 2 kg fish indicated in the recipe.

I first had to clean up my elderly and seldom-used barbecue, which had managed to get a bit rusty, probably during the weeks between the old barbecue cover being torn to bits by the wind, and my remembering to buy a new one - supposedly the correct size for a three-burner flat barbecue, which may be true if your three-burner barbecue is the size of a small convertible. But I digress..

Once the barbecue plate was reasonably rust-free,  I turned it on and left it to heat up while I prepared the fish. It wasn't actually as daunting as I'd expected - you trim the fins off, then cut a few slashes in each side of the fish, then cram onion, lemon and herbs into the slashes and the cavity of the fish. A bit of butter, some salt and pepper, and the fish is ready to go.

I wrapped the fish a bit awkwardly in tinfoil - I could perhaps have been a bit more careful with this, knowing that the package would need to be cooked on both sides. It didn't present any problem at first, as I plonked the fish on the hot plate of the bbq and left it to cook while I prepared some vege.

It was a bit trickier when I turned the fish over. I'd bunched the tinfoil up so it wouldn't sit flat. It still cooked ok, but if you're going to try this, be a bit more careful about how you wrap your fish. By the time I'd given the fish 10 minutes on each side (the recipe says 15, but that's for a considerably larger fish. I figured 10 would be plenty) I'd barbecued some vege, made a salad, cleaned off my outdoor table, and opened a beer.

I thoroughly enjoyed having a meal outdoors, and much of that enjoyment came from the flavour of the moist, tender fish. I hadn't formed any particular expectations from this recipe, so it was a pleasant surprise just how delicious it was. Of course, I couldn't eat more than a fraction of the fish, but no matter - I've got plans for the leftovers.

My meal finished, I've cleared the table, brought the washing in, cleaned off the barbecue, got it cooled down and tucked once again under its voluminous protective cover. Just in time, too - the wind has turned and I think there's rain on the way. But at least I made the most of the warmth while it lasted.

Friday, October 26, 2012

One vital ingredient

I'm not sure what caused me to suddenly veer off into the mall on my way home from work today, and head into Pak N Save for sago to make sago pudding (p213). It's not like I was in need of any other groceries - though since it happened to be 'Frugal Friday', I found myself heading home with several unplanned and frankly unnecessary items as well as the sago.

What is sago? I've actually got no idea, but it looks pretty much like 'hundreds and thousands' would if they were all white instead of different colours.

Since the sago pudding - a variation achieved by substituting sago for rice in the standard rice pudding recipe - needed two hours to cook, I got it into the oven shortly after I got home. It was simple, really: put sago in the bottom of an oven dish, add milk and vanilla, a knob of butter and a sprinkle of sprinkle of nutmeg, then into the oven.

I took the pudding out and stirred it three times within the first hour. It looked to be thickening up well - the little beads of sago were expanding and softening as they absorbed the milk. For the second hour I left the pudding to cook undisturbed.

When the timer went off, I found the pudding had acquired a crisp golden skin over the top. I recall a similar thing happening when I attempted the rice pudding - at the time I thought something had gone wrong, but maybe not.

I broke through the skin and spooned out a serving of the creamy pudding, full of translucent pearly beads of the now cooked sago. I'd expected it to taste quite good, so I was definitely disappointed when I got my first taste of the bland, gluey mush.

I forced down several mouthfuls, dwelling on the blandness and unpleasant consistency, mentally preparing my opinions for this blog entry, and feeling confused at a flavour that was neither sweet nor savoury, and needed either salt or sugar to swing it one way or the other.

Then it hit me: sugar. I was certain that there was sugar in that recipe, and equally sure that I had not put any in the pudding. I raced to the kitchen, where one glance at the recipe confirmed my suspicions. I then added a small lump of brown sugar (which would melt more easily than white) to the pudding that remained in my bowl, and tasted again.

What a difference! The pudding was now pleasant to eat - even the odd jellyish texture was not unpleasant now that there was some actual flavour to take my attention away from it. Of course, stirring brown sugar in after the fact does not approximate the flavour it would have had if I'd put white sugar in with the sago at the very beginning - but I can assure you that sugar in this recipe makes the difference between a fairly pleasant dish and a totally inedible one.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A surprising success

When I set about making cinnamon cream oysters (p67) on Monday, I did not have high expectations. Why? Because it's a sponge recipe, of course.

Like all sponges, it seemed fairly straightforward. I beat eggs and sugar until thick, added golden syrup, then sifted in a small amount of flour, along with baking powder, baking soda, and a fairly heavy dose of cinnamon and ginger. When this was carefully folded through, the mixture looked fairly good - still light and airy - and I set about spooning it into the tins.

This recipe calls for either sponge oyster or sponge finger tins. I definitely didn't have any sponge finger tins, though I did have one similar to a patty tin, but rounded instead of flat on the bottoms. This, I suspect, is a sponge oyster tin. Unfortunately it is only a 6-hole tin, so I just used ordinary patty tins for the rest. I figured the mixture was quite likely to stick, so instead of my usual rough spray with cooking oil, I carefully greased the tins with butter, old-school style.

I spooned my nice airy mixture into the tins and put them in the oven. The cooking time was 10-12 minutes, but after about 6 minutes, I started to worry. my 'oysters' were very dark on top, and I didn't want to burn them. A quick prod with a finger settled the 'spring back when touched' test - they were definitely cooked.

Once I had the oysters out of the oven, I realised that the dark colour was really just the result of the spices in the mixture. They weren't burnt at all. The oysters shrunk and shrivelled as they cooled, and I was convinced I'd produced another failure. They looked unappealingly flat as I eased them out of the tins.

Luckily, I was planning to feed them to the workmates, who do not have a history of being fussy about free food. I let the oysters cool and sealed them in an airtight container overnight.

In the morning, I quickly sliced each flat little oyster and filled it with cream. The filling definitely helped remedy the flat look of the things, and once they were laid out on a plate with a dusting of icing sugar, they actually looked pretty good.

It seems I was the only one who  thought there was anything wrong with the sponge oysters - and even I had to admit that whatever they looked like, they tasted great. The texture was unexpectedly light and airy, and they had a lovely spicy flavour, very similar to shop-bought ginger kisses, but lighter and with a less sickly filling.

Overall, the sponge oysters were so popular that I felt quite pleased with myself. Perhaps a little more confidence in my sponge abilities would be justified. Maybe. We'll see how I go with my next attempt!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The orange white sauce

I'd decided to have a couple of frankfurters for lunch, but in the interest of adding something Edmonds into the mix, I thought I'd make a tomato sauce (p188) to go with it. It's not really the standard tomato sauce that you'd put on a frankfurter - it's actually another variation of the white sauce recipe - but since I couldn't think of any other use for it, I figured this would work as well as anything else.

This sauce is made in exactly the same way as you'd make a white sauce, except you use a mixture of tomato puree and water instead of milk. Since I was using some of my homemade tomato puree, which is considerably more watery than a bought tomato puree, I just used the stuff without any added water.

The sauce thickened up easily as I added the puree, and soon I had a thick orange sauce, and with a decent amount of seasoning, it tasted pretty good. Perhaps it wasn't exactly a perfect match for the frankfurters, but in itself, not a bad sauce. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A mediocre morning's work

I decided this weekend I would make some dried apricot jam (p226), a somewhat unusual recipe presumably intended for those of us who a) have a desperate need to make apricot jam when apricots aren't in season, or b) have an excess of dried apricots for some reason. Can't say either of these things happen to me a lot, but you never know.

The apricots need to be soaked in water for 12 hours, so I chopped them up and sat them to soak overnight. In the morning, I decided that before I did anything with the jam, I'd use the leftover apricots, along with various other dried fruit, in a fruit loaf (p28).

It didn't take long to get the fruit loaf in the oven - you just rub butter into the sifted dry ingredients, add sugar and dried fruit, (I used apricots, prunes, dates, sultanas and currants) then mix to a soft dough with egg and milk. Well, it says 'soft dough': mine was much too runny to be called a dough, but I'd used all the right quantities, so I just shrugged and spooned it into the lined loaf pan.

I hadn't actually got around to replacing that ghastly Homebrand baking paper, and would have been better off taking my chances with an unlined tin, (after all, it was supposedly a non-stick loaf tin) but I'd convinced myself that in previous trials I must have been using the wrong side of the paper. So I went ahead and lined the tin, making sure the paper went in shiny side up. Did this make a difference? Nope.

When the cooking time was up, I stuck a skewer into the loaf and found it was still runny in the centre. After a further 10 minutes, it was looking dark on top, but at least it was cooked through. I left it in the tin for ten minutes before taking it out and attempting (with minimal success) to remove the baking paper that was stuck fast to the entire base of the loaf.

Once the loaf was out of the oven, I turned my attention back to the jam, boiling the apricots for 20 minutes before adding crushed pineapple, sugar and lemon juice. The recipe requires half a cup of lemon juice, which is about 4 lemons. I was typically disorganised on this point and was hurriedly juicing lemons (intermittently yelping each time fresh lemon juice found its way into a papercut on my finger) long past the point when everything should have been added to the pot.

I got everything in there finally, and once the sugar had dissolved, I stood stirring and waiting for 'setting point'. It had been bubbling away for some time before I decided it would do, though in hindsight this decision owed more to impatience than any evidence that setting point had actually been reached. I ladelled the jam into jars, sealed them up and left them to set.

Well, it hasn't set, really. It's a bit firmer than before, but still very runny. Besides, it has an odd flavour for a jam. It's very sweet, and pretty much tastes of pineapple until you come across a chunk of apricot. Not really sure what I'm going to do with three jars of runny pineappley stuff with chunks of apricot in it!

As for the loaf, it was a lot like most of the loaves I've made: misshapen, dark and crusty on the outside but reasonably soft inside, and on the whole, fairly underwhelming. There's a lot to be said for a nicely-made loaf, but somehow, I don't seem to have the knack of it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

More for me, then

On Saturday evening, I was due to go to a Nutrimetics party at Leahs. I'd got my steak and kidney(less) pudding on to steam, and I still had a few hours before I had to go out, so I decided to make some chocolate brownies (p61) to take to Leah's.

This is another very straightforward recipe - you just melt together butter and cooking chocolate (I did this in the microwave, to avoid having to work around the steaming stockpot on the stove) then add flour, sugar, vanilla and beaten eggs. Combine this all to a smooth batter, pour into a sponge roll tin, and bake. See: easy.

As usual, I checked the brownie shortly before the official half-hour of cooking time was up, but it was nowhere near cooked, so I put it back in for the remaining five minutes. When I took it out, there was a thin crust on top, but underneath was still runny, so I added another five minutes, then another five. All in all, the brownie was in the oven for around 40 minutes, then sat in the tray for another 10 before I turned it out onto a tray.

The instructions state that the cooled brownie should be iced, but I refrained from doing so, firstly because I feel it's almost sacrilegious to taint a beautiful brownie with icing, but also because I happen to know the suggested icing is sweet to the point of sickliness, and the brownies had enough sugar in them already.

After Mum, Dad and I had performed some quality control on the brownies and pronounced them worthy, I piled some on a plate, dusted over a little icing sugar for effect, and wrapped the plate up ready to go. It was only a short while afterwards that I received a text from Leah saying the Nutrimetics lady couldn't make it and the evening had to be postponed.

Ah well. I packed up the brownies, not feeling terribly upset that I'd be forced to eat nearly all of them myself. There's a huge variety of brownies out there, but these ones have what I'd consider close to perfect brownie texture: soft, and almost slightly chewy. The flavour, on the other hand, needs a bit of tweaking: it's tasty, but very sweet, and despite all that melted chocolate, it's not actually all that chocolatey. A bit of added cocoa would definitely improve that - with little experimentation, you might find yourself with a near perfect brownie on your hands (or - more likely - in your belly).

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kate without Sidney

While sheltering from the incessant downpour out at the swapmeet yesterday, it occurred to me that I might finally have an opportunity to make steak and kidney (or, as Mum calls it, 'Kate and Sidney') pudding (p130). Since I'm not a big fan of kidney, I'd been waiting for an opportunity to cook this when Mum and Dad were around to help me eat it.

It takes a full four hours to steam, so I had to get it cooking by early afternoon. We headed away from the swapmeet early - noone was hanging around in that weather - and stopped off at New World on the way for ingredients.

I was able to get suet for the pastry, but New World didn't seem to have any of those handy pre-chopped steak and kidney packs, or in fact any kidney at all. I'd seen some at the local Countdown, though, so when we got back, I headed back out into the rain on a quick mission to Countdown.

Unfortunately, they no longer had the steak and kidney packs I'd seen there just a day or two ago. After wandering up and down the meat section in the hope that I'd somehow overlooked it, I decided I'd have to settle for a plain steak pudding.

By the time I got home, I was starting to run short on time. I quickly mixed up the suet pastry - a simple combination of flour, baking powder, salt, suet and water. I rolled out the pastry and used it to line a pudding basin.

Next, the filling. I cut up my chuck steak and coated it in seasoned flour. I placed the chunks of meat inside my lined pudding basin along with chopped onion. The final addition to the filling is a mixture of tomato paste, mixed herbs and water. I poured this over the meat, the rolled out the remaining pastry and placed it on top, carefully pressing the edges together.

Interestingly, baking powder is listed amongst the filling ingredients, but it doesn't get a mention in the actual instructions. Pretty sure that's a misprint.

In exactly the same way as I'd cook a sweet pudding, I covered the bowl with pleated foil, tied it with string, and lowered it onto a trivet in simmering water. So I guess when I said my prune pudding was my second-to-last steamed pudding, I was wrong - I'd forgotten about this one!

The pudding steamed for four hours, during which it only required occasional checking and topping up of the water. It's impossible to tell if the pudding is cooked or not, so you just have to go by cooking time.

When the four hours were up, I took out the pudding and lifted the tinfoil. The pastry looked sort of anaemic and soggy on the top, but after consultation with Mum and Dad, we decided it was cooked, but that maybe some of the water had got in under the foil. I threw it under the fan grill for a couple of minutes to brown up a bit while I got the rest of the meal on the table.

The recipe says you can either unmould the pudding our serve it out of the basin. I should have taken the safe option here, but I wanted to see if it would unmould properly. And if it did, that would make a much better photo.

I turned the basin over onto a plate, and I could feel the weight shifting from basin to plate. A small amount of meat juices dribbled out, but nothing to cause concern - until I tried lifting the basin. The filling of the pudding had certainly transferred to the plate: it was in fact threatening to overflow all over the bench. The pastry, on the other hand, had stayed in the basin. I guess the join between the lining and lid wasn't strong enough.

We transferred the filling into a slightly more accommodating dish, and I scraped out the pastry from the bowl so we could use it to mop up the gravy. It actually came away from the basin surprisingly easily.

Well, my pudding was in bits, looking more like a stew than anything else, but it tasted really good! I'd worried that the meat wouldn't cook enough merely by steaming in pastry, and that the onions would still be raw. Both were cooked through beautifully in a rich meaty gravy. Yum.

So maybe it fell to bits. Maybe it didn't have the kidney in it (no loss, to my mind) but it made a good meal in the end, and that's what matters. My advice: if you decide to make this one, just serve it out of the basin. It'll be a whole lot tidier.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Season your stroganoff

Mum and Dad are up this weekend for the swapmeet - a good opportunity to make beef stroganoff (p144) for dinner.

For once I was organised enough to get all my ingredients ready in advance, slicing up my rump steak, onion, and mushrooms (recently gleaned from the mushroom bucket in my garage) sliced up before I started cooking.

You start by browning the meat in butter and oil - the amount of butter and oil in the pan seemed to be way more than necessary, and actually seemed to make it more difficult to brown the meat. Mum reckoned it was fairly typical for an older recipe, though. Apparently my Oma used to say that you have to wait until the butter is past frothy and nicely brown before you start cooking red meat in it. So there's a bit of old-school cooking wisdom for you.

Once my meat was roughly browned, I removed it from the pan and put in the mushrooms and onion. While these were cooking, I got a pot of rice on. When the onions were cooked through, I returned the meat to the pan, then added a small amount of white wine and some sour cream.

I thought it was weird to put the wine in at this stage: generally I'd expect wine to be used early in the cooking process as a tenderising method, meaning the alcohol gets cooked out. In this case the wine was added at the end, when there was already a fair bit of liquid from the mushrooms and meat juices. I assume in this case it's done for flavour.

The stroganoff was pretty much ready at this stage, but the rice was nowhere near cooked, and I still had to arrange some sort of vege to add to the plate. As a result, the stroganoff sat and simmered for another ten minutes or so, while I cooked peas and negotiated the problems of cooking rice on an element with a dodgy thermostat.

Eventually the meal was ready, and we sat down to eat. I have to say the greyish appearance of the stroganoff was not terribly appealing, but it tasted better than it looked. Unfortunately, the meat was a bit tough from overcooking, and I hadn't seasoned it enough. We found ourselves frequently reaching towards the salt and pepper. In fact, we were halfway through the meal before I suddenly realised I hadn't added lemon juice, which would have been a great improvement.

On the whole, this recipe has every potential to be quite tasty, as long as you remember to put in all ingredients, season it properly, and don't overcook it. I'd recommend putting your rice on before you start cooking the stroganoff, because it really doesn't take too long to cook.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Penultimate pud

It feels like I have made dozens of steamed puddings during this challenge. While this is of course an exaggeration, there really have been quite a few. Last night, I crossed off fig or prune pudding (p213), the final variation of the standard steamed sponge pudding, and the second-to-last steamed pudding overall: only Christmas pudding to go.

Since the recipe is for fig or prune pudding, I decided to go with prunes. I like prunes better than figs, and I also had an open bag of them in the cupboard, left over from last week's pork olives.

You start with creamed butter and sugar, beat in an egg, then stir through apricot jam, fold through the sifted dry ingredients, then add baking soda dissolved in milk, then stir through the prunes. That's the order you're supposed to do it in; I think all this adding and stirring is a bit unnecessary, and makes for overmixed batter. After the egg, I just added all the remaining ingredients at once and folded them through, which worked fine.

I spooned my mixture into a bowl, and covered with pleated tinfoil. The other option is baking paper, but since I still haven't replaced that crappy stuff I bought the other week, I went for tinfoil, which has the added bonus of staying in place while you tie it on. I lowered the bowl into simmering water, placed a lid on the pot and set the timer for 40 minutes.

You'll find the recipe gives a cooking time of 30 minutes; not one of my steamed puds have been even remotely cooked in that time. When I got this one out after 40 minutes, it looked cooked on the surface, but a quick finger-poke revealed a gooey centre. In the end I had to steam it for a full 60 minutes before it was cooked.

Prune pudding (with a bit of ice cream) is the ideal warm, filling dish for a cold, wet evening like yesterday. It has a nice spongy texture, with big chunks of prune and a few flecks of apricot from the jam. I could only manage a small helping, being full of the lasagne I made out of those leftover cream soups. But that just means there's more left over for tonight!

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