My mother once remarked, that she never knew what she would get to eat in my house, and I think that it was a true observation. I open the refrigerator and get inspiration, and likewise, when I go to the grocery store, or to the market stall. I got carried away the other week, the stall holder had boxes of Oyster Mushrooms on Sale for next to nothing!So I bought one and proceeded to make mushroom soup. Big mistake, Oyster Mushroom soup, has as much flavour as a piece of wet sponge, but Hey Ho, you live and learn!
So what have we been eating this week? Well, we went to a Summer Ball, where the normally high standard of food, was sadly very disappointing. A smidgin of smoked salmon something or other to start, followed by a mouth cleansing sorbet, but as we had not eaten much that was superfluous. This was followed by Steak, which probably started out life as a decent enough steak, but cooking steak for over 200, is always a challenge and this time it did not work, especially as by the time it reached the table was only luke warm and was like a piece of wet soft leather. Dessert? Umm? Yes? Cannot even remember what it was, Oh Dear!
However, the Black Horse, a small pub in the village of Fulmer in Buckinghamshire was a revelation. A small dining room decorated with taste and style. The menu was interesting as was the set lunch menu at about £14 for two courses. On the set lunch menu was fried whitebait for starters. The portion was large and they were indeed delicious and crispy. The mains from the a la carte included Fillet of Sea Trout with a Greek Salad, Peppered Tuna Steak with a Salad Nicoise, Cajun Spiced Spatchcock Chicken, Beer Battered Fish and Risotto Verde with asparagus, broad beans, peas and goats cheese.
They state on their web site that their menu might just read ham, egg and chips, but forget to mention that it has been cooked for six hours, or that the chef has basted it every 20 minutes with homemade mustard and local honey, or that the chips are triple cooked and need a science lesson to explain and those eggs were collected from a farm five miles away. So good ambiance, good decor AND good food.
So what have I been cooking? Well, Risotto, Fish Pie, Healthy Eating Salad, Spaghetti Sauce, Curried Salmon fillets, Egg Fried Rice and Pancakes!!
My grandchildren have recently arrived to stay; they are 3 and 5 and so far have lived in three countries, Australia, India and now Mexico so their tastes are eclectic and conservative at the same time. So when deciding what to make for them I opted for the fried rice, the fish pie and the spaghetti sauce. Actually, for the spaghetti sauce I decided to experiment, this came about as I was juicing an assortment of vegetables. When my own children were small I incorporated finely chopped or grated Vegetables into the spaghetti sauce. It occurred to me that if I used my juicer to grate the vegetables then they would be really finely grated and then I could use the juice as the stock component of the sauce. So, this is what I did.
Healthy Spaghetti Sauce
• a small assortment of vegetables. I used, a large carrot, an onion, a courgette, a few sticks of celery, a small raw beetroot.
• 8 oz good quality low fat minced beef
• 1 clove of garlic
• 1 400grm size can of chopped tomatoes
• 1 small can tomato puree (paste) or a good squirt from a tube
• +/-1/2 litre stock – Vegetable preferably if not doing the Juicing!
Either put the vegetables through the juicer and collect both the juice and the grated vegetables or just grate the vegetables finely. Sauté the vegetables in a little olive oil until soft. Put to one side, then sauté the meat in a little olive oil, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Add the vegetables to the meat, along with the can of chopped tomatoes and the tomato puree (paste). Stir well to mix. Add some of the stock or juice, mix well, cover and simmer. Check from time to time that it is not sticking and add more stock/juice as required, until it is all absorbed and looks like a real sauce. Season to taste. Remember this is for kids!! I serve it on fresh fusilli, as it is easier for little ones to manage, rather than long slippery spaghetti!
My little grandchildren just love Cheerios for breakfast! in fact for the past few years they have eaten nothing else! We even trekked in the Himalayas, climbing 27,500 steps up the mountainside with a supply of Cherrios in the rucksacks! I hasten to add that we had Sherpas! However, this summer has been a revelation, they have come to stay and after 9 days not one Cherrio has been eaten. The breakfast of choice is currently pancakes (crepes), a la mode des enfants! So it is a crepe spread with either a Petite Filou type yoghurt or a fruit yoghurt, topped with sliced strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. Wonderful! Below is the basic crepe recipe, I do not add any salt nor sugar to the mixture, that way, it can be used for sweet or savoury. I make the basic quantity or even double, you can make them all and refrigerate or even freeze them and then a quick reheat in the crepe pan ( I have it on good authority that a reheat in the microwave just does not do, though the grandchildren seem less concerned about that!)
Basic Crepe (pancake ) recipe
• 4oz (1 cup) (110grms) plain sifted flour
• 1 egg
• pinch salt
• 8Floz (225Mls)(1Cup)milk
For savoury crepe, choose from any or all of the following:
• chopped cooked mushrooms
• fried eggs
• cheese etc
I believe in easy and, as such, I put the flour and salt in the food processor, switch on and add the egg and the milk all at once and process until smooth. The mixture should be the consistency of pouring cream. Heat a pan (a crepe pan does make life easy, as it is very shallow and small sides making turning or flipping the crepe very easy indeed.)
Heat the pan over a medium heat and using kitchen paper, just wipe a small amount of butter over the pan. You can use olive oil but do not use any of the low fat spreads; they do not work very well. When you can stand back and feel the heat coming from the pan, then pour about 1/6th of the mixture into the pan and swirl around until the whole surface is covered with crepe mixture. Leave well alone until the top surface is dry and ease a spatula around the edge and turn the crepe over, if you are feeling adventurous toss it! . This can be served with just lemon juice and sugar or as in the photo, with yoghurt and berries, or let you imagination run wild. If you are making a savoury crepe (Crepe sale), do not flip it over but add your filling and fold the crepe over.
So what did the big people eat? Well, as I decided to have a freezer clear out, the answer was fish pie. It is very easy and you can be very creative making fish pie. I use either what I have in the freezer or what ever takes my fancy – it is usually the former. Quantities are rather elusive I am afraid!
Sue’s Mid WeekFish Pie
• an assortment of fish. ,I used about 1/2 lb frozen skinless Shrimp*, 2 skinless Salmon Filets, a large cod filet,
• 1 Pangasius. This is a type of Catfish and is native to Asia. It is farmed in fresh water ponds along the Mekong River Delta. It is now available in Marks & Spencers, frozen in Asian supermarkets and is the 6th on the list of most eaten fish in the USA. It resembles Sole both in appearance and texture, with a mild flavour.
• 3 hard boiled eggs
• 3 – 4 medium size potatoes, cooked and peeled
• Cheese sauce made from 2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch), 1 pint milk, 2oz soft butter, 4oz grated cheese (I use grated dried mozzarella as I prefer the flavour to the stronger English cheddar and it melts well).
Poach the assortment of fish and the salmon in some vegetable stock until it is just cooked through. Remove from stock with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander and repeat with all the fish. Remove any skin and bones along with the dark flesh, which could be at the back of the salmon, flake and put to one side. Roughly mash the potatoes and the egg.
For the sauce, I always use the “all in one method” that was developed about 40 years ago, and yes it is as the name infers, throw it all in and stir. Mix together the butter, the cornflour and the milk, put in the microwave on high for one minute, stir well and repeat the process until the sauce is thick and creamy. Add the cheese and repeat again for the cheese to melt. Season to taste. If by any chance you are distracted and do not stir sufficiently and the sauce goes lumpy, do not despair, a quick whizz with a whisk or hand held blender will quickly put it to rights. Put all the mixture into a gratin dish sprinkle cheese over the top, decorate with some tomatoes and bake on a medium heat (175C) for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. It freezes well so if there is any left overs, save it for another night.
Have fun and enjoy!