Cold Cuts and Raisins

Lamb pittas with raisins

Wednesday afternoon. Time to kick back, a moment of time to myself amidst a busy week, to catch my breath. I stare out of the kitchen window into clear skies and my thoughts turn to dinner. What happy morsel can I plate up and fit into a busy evening, without succumbing to an on-the-go fast food alternative or wasting what is still left to use in the refrigerator?

With just two of us living together there is usually a substantial amount of cold roasted meat in my fridge left over from a large chicken or an oversized leg of lamb. Couple this with some kitchen staples, and I can breathe life back into those busily overlooked midweek supper slots.

A handful of dried raisins that I always store in a Kilner jar for baking scones or fruitcake, pep up a salad of watercress and Chinese leafs.  A dollop mint sauce (for lamb, or cranberry jelly for cold chicken, or honey for ham) stirred into some cold natural yoghurt makes a lovely dip or dressing.

Then it’s just a matter of pulling it all together on a slice of bread, deposited into a  warm pitta or even with a helping of couscous or pasta.

Keeping food simple and fresh, I feel is really important during a busy week. Stay inspired and there will never be any need to sacrifice taste for time.

~

Fresh Guacamole and Flat Breads

Ingredients:

2 medium sized avocados
1 large tomato
1 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground pepper
a pinch of salt
juice of half a lime
2 – 3 small garlic cloves
Coriander (optional)
Peel the avocados and mash with a fork, adding the salt, pepper, oil, lime juice. Chop the tomato and mince the garlic cloves. Mix everything together well. If you chose to, mix in the coriander. That’s it! It’s ready to serve!

Coconut Macaroons

I first tasted coconut macaroons in the Christmas Markets in Manchester a few years ago. Although originally macaroons are made with crushed almonds, these coconut versions are actually quite easy to make and are pretty snacks to decorate the table for any sort of party. Or just a comforting sweet bite to bake all for yourself…

Ingredients:
200g shredded coconut
150g caster sugar
2 larges egg whites
8 squares of dark chocolate (or milk if you prefer)

Method:
Simply mix all three ingredients well in a bowl and chill for fifteen minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°. Using an ice-cream scoop, make moulds of coconut half-spheres and space them out on a baking tray lined with grease-proof paper.

Bake for fifteen minutes, until the coconut catches a golden colour. Remove from the oven and whilst cooling, melt a small amount of dark chocolate in a ban-marie. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cooled macaroons – or alternatively, dip half of each macaroon in the chocolate and allow the chocolate to set on the baking paper before eating. ~

Pineapple Custard Tart

Ingredients  Pineapple chunks 1 cup double cream 2 large egg yolks Vanilla essence Butter 50g (cubed) Flour 125g 1 tsp caster sugar 2 tbsp milk 2 eggs Make up the sweet short crust pastry by rubbing the butter and flour and sugar together between your fingers. When the mixture is crumbly add the eggs and […]

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Chocolate Biscuit Bars

I believe this is my Grandmother’s take on tiffin:

Ingredients
225g (or about half a packet) broken digestive biscuits
100g sultanas or any dried fruit
50g butter
2 tbsp Golden Syrup
130g dark chocolate
Pieces of half an orange

This is all there is to making these sweet snack bars:

Melt the butter, syrup and chocolate over a bain-marie. Dark chocolate is best to counter the overall sweetness of the bars. If you want to make it interesting, splash a dash of rum! Add broken up biscuits and fruit. I added dates, raisins, apricots, cranberries and goji berries. Stir together and coat with the chocolate.

Pack into a lined tin (tin foil) and if you fancy, add the half orange pieces – pressing them into the top. Allow to chill and harden then turn out the slab and cut with a heavy knife into bars.

What Can You Put in a Spring Roll?

I’m on a roll this week, forgive the pun.

What do you like a a spring roll? This is just one example with minced pork but you could try chicken, char sui pork, egg, duck, pure veg – what ever you fancy, the possibilities are endless. If you’re looking for more ideas scroll down.

Ingredients
Spring Roll Wrappers
Oil (to fry in)
500g minced pork
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup of cornflour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 head of Chinese leaf cabbage
1 carrot
A cup of fresh bean sprouts
1 inch fresh ginger, grounded
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
Ground pepper
Preparing the filling
Fry off the pork mince and ginger in a large wok and once cooked, stir in the carrots and cabbage. Add the Chinese rice wine (I used Michiu), soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar,  a good grind of pepper, as well as just a teaspoon of the cornflour. When everything is nicely combined, take off the heat and allow to cool completely. The mixture needs to be drained of as much of the juices that will come out, especially after resting.  The more you drain now, the less likely the spring rolls will be soggy later (especially if you are planning on freezing them to cook at a later date).

When the mixture is cooled, add the fresh bean-sprouts. These, being so delicate, will get enough cooking in the frying phase alone.

Get rolling

The mixture, now drained and cooled, can now be rolled in to the wrappers. Prepare a dry work surface, and mix together the rest of the cornflour with a 1/4 cup of water. You will use this mixture as glue to close each wrapper.

Keep the rolls small – a spoonful at a time is best. It depends on the size of the pastry sheets you have, but consider that the wrapping needs to be tight which is easier with smaller rolls. Lose folds will make for greasier spring rolls, letting the oil collect in the pockets of air.

Place a row of the mixture in one corner of the sheet. Fold over the corner and begin to roll the wrapper towards the centre. At half way, fold in the sides tightly tugging down slightly in the direction of the already folded corner, so that the sides are as parallel as possible. This will ensure neater roll ends. Brush the flour water over the last corner to act as adhesive as you roll to the corner tightly.

To Fry
Heat about one and a half inches of oil in a pan carefully. Test the heat of the oil with a wooden chopstick (or the end of a wooden spoon) – if the oil bubbles steadily around the wood, the oil is at optimum temperature (but not bubbling furiously as this means it is too hot).

Slip each roll in gently and allow to fry for a minute or two on each side or until golden brown. Then remove and drain on a rack or some kitchen towel before serving. If you want to serve many in one go, have a baking tray on standby so that you can place batches of spring rolls onto and place them in a preheated oven to keep warm.

Other Filling Ideas

  • Char Sui Pork, bean sprouts, peas and carrots with a ginger, soy sauce and shaoxing wine seasoning.
  • Chicken and Chinese leaf cabbage with spring onions, shitake mushrooms, carrot, bean sprouts, garlic, ginger, light soy sauce, five spice & oyster sauce.
  • Finely sliced bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, shitake mushrooms, carrot and pepper, with soy sauce and oyster sauce.
  • Duck, Hoisin sauce, brown sugar, dark soy sauce, ginger and spring onion.
  • How about spicy king prawns, vermicelli noodles and coriander?

Jiǎozi, Gyōza, Pot Stickers or Dumplings…

If you make these, you have to make them in large batches. You will want more, I’m warning you.  Then probably more after that. The great thing is that they are freezable and you can cook them straight from the freezer. I love them in noodle soups but they are best when fried with a sour soy dipping sauce accompaniment. I could eat them every day.

Ingredients for the filling:
500g minced pork

1/2 inch finely grated fresh ginger (and any juice)
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp miso paste
1 teaspoon demerara sugar
2 cups of Chinese leaf cabbage
1 teaspoon salt
Ground pepper
Sesame oil
About 50 flour gyoza wrappers

Dipping Sauce:
Just mix together 2 parts soy sauce to 1 part rice vinegar

To Prepare:
Firstly, salt the sliced Chinese leaf cabbage and leave in a bowl lined with a clean dry tea towel. Resting the cabbage like this for ten minutes wilts the leaves and allows you to squeeze out the liquid in the tea towel until you are left with a leafy pulp. Drop the cabbage into a large mixing bowl along with the ginger, garlic, miso paste, sugar, a twist of pepper and a teaspoon of sesame oil. Mince thoroughly with your hands for a few minutes, to ensure an even and well combined mixture.

Take a dumpling wrapper in a clean dry hand and spoon a teaspoon of the mixture into the very middle, allowing enough space around the outside to close the dumpling. Close the dumpling by brushing the top half of the lip with a wet finger and pushing it over to meet the dry half. Then press firmly from the centre down to along each side. It is not necessary to crimp the edges, but if you fancy it make sure the seal is firmly shut, or the dumpling will fall apart on cooking (especially if you are using them in soups). Crimp only the top lip, with three folds on each edge from your centre point.

To Cook:
In a pan, heat a tablespoon of sesame oil. Make sure it is hot but do not leave it to smoke. Sesame oil has a lower burning temperature to usual cooking oils like vegetable or sunflower.

 

When ready, add the dumplings one by one into the oil. Fill the pan with dumplings as best you can without them touching each other.

After a few minutes check the base of the dumplings are browning and carefully add half a cup of water and cover with a lid quickly to steam cook the top half of each gyoza.

After another minute, remove the lid and let what is left of the water evaporate off. Once dry, the dumplings should be ready, remove and serve warm with a sauce, rice, a salad (try coriander and cucumber) or what ever you like. You could just eat them as a snack on their own. ~