What to do with ?

What to do with sour milk or over ripe bananas? Throw it/ them away I hear you say! Well, I was a child of post war England, where my mother through necessity never threw anything away, well almost nothing, even she was shocked when a fairly affluent friend darned her dishcloth! But food, no, even before she had a refrigerator, food was not wasted. Milk delivered to the front door, left sitting in the early morning sun, tea with bits of cream floating on top, or bits of milk floating on top, where it was begin to go sour.

Living in central London, nowadays we never have the problem of ” Oh the milk is off”! 100 yards down the road, Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s are open from 7-11, 7 days a week, so there is no need to “Stock Up” on milk.

A different story when we lived in Belgium, although we did have a village shop, but I don’t remember it selling fresh milk and I gave up buying it from the supermarket, as it seemed to go Off faster than I could use it, even with 6 of us in the house. So there, I resorted to Long Life. One friend told me that her children would never drink Long Life, mine didn’t know any difference, so they drank it, as did #1 daughters children whilst living in India or Mexico, Long Life milk was used as a necessity.

Here in the Alps, fresh milk is good on the whole, but being at least 7 hairpins and then some away from a supply of milk! I tend to buy it perhaps in larger quantities than I should but up until now, have never had a problem. BUT yesterday, with Himself making our morning Cafe Latte fix, it was declared that the milk was off! Quell Horreur! 2 litres of it!

Deciding to be frugal ( and it was raining anyway) I put my thinking cap on to decide what on earth we could use the sour milk for!

The answer was Scones and Cottage Cheese.

Himself had been badgering me to show him how to make pastry and now scones. They are exceedingly easy to make especially using a food processor.

Most of English women would have learnt how to make scones whilst in school, it nowadays, cooking classes are defunct as are the kitchens, after all when one can buy all things ready made, why bother?

I started to teach the ‘All in one Method’ more years ago than I care to remember and am actually surprised that it has yet to become mainstream. This is what Himself learnt on a rainy morning in the Alps.

  1. 300 grams (3 cups) plain flour plus extra for rolling out
  2. 2tsp baking powder
  3. Pinch salt
  4. 125 grams cold unsalted butter cut into chunks
  5. 50 gram fine sugar (1/4 cup)
  6. 1 beaten egg
  7. 120 mls milk can be fresh, sour or buttermilk
  • Preheat the oven to 200 C/gas 6.
  • Put the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar into a food processor and process until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs or ground almonds. It only takes seconds and is usually recognised by the machine stopping thumping! Switch off. Mix together the egg and the milk, and with the machine running, pour it in and continue to process for the mixture to begin to from a ball. STOP processing and tip the mixture out onto a floured surface. Knead very briefly to make a smooth ball and rollout to about a thickness of 4 cm.
  • Using a 6 or 7 cm cutter cut out about 8 scones, cutting straight down and not twisting. Put them onto a lightly greased baking sheet and and bake for about 15 mins. They should be golden brown, test by holding one upside down and tapping, it should sound hollow. Cool on a rack and serve with preferably raspberry jam and clotted cream ( ooh memories of many years flying Continental Airlines to Houston, they always served Scones and cream , it was Chicken or beef flying into London though !)
  • And so we move onto homemade cottage cheese. This was a first for me and I have to say not at all disappointed and so easy.
    1. 2 litres of milk ( whole works best)
      3 tablespoons vinegar ( I used cider vinegar as that was all I had, but would suspect that Malt is too strong and red wine would also give your cheese a funny colour, so maybe white is best)
      1 tsp salt
      Small amount of whole milk or cream.
  • Heat the milk on a medium heat so as not to scorch the pan, nor the milk. Using a thermometer, heat to 185 F. Add the vinegar and stir gently to separate the curds and whey. Strain through a sieve, rinse with cold water and then squeeze out the water, it is best done through a cloth ( old men’s hankies would work….. if the are clean !) Pour the curds into a bowl and crumble until they are the size you like, add a little milk or cream and refrigerate.
  • I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised, by my cottage cheese, I liked the flavour and the consistency. Will I make it again? maybe, when I am in the Alps and have sour milk to use!

    Bananas? They look pretty disgusting, but watch this space for Bananas Foster!

    Steak Tartare or Filet Americain?

    Many many years ago, Himself ( way before we, were We) took himself off to Berlin to University. It was the days, of the Berlin Wall, where the S Bahn rumbled through the western sector of Berlin ( without stopping) but when it reentered the Eastern sector, Guards lined up with huge mirrors to inspect the underneath of the train, just in case there were escapees hiding underneath!

    Himself travelled via slow train through East Germany and arrived at midnight and was starving, well it is all relative. Help was at hand as in the Central station, the restaurant was still open. At the time he only knew scientific German, not much help in day to day situations, but undeterred, ventured forth. Umm, didn’t understand a word on the menu , except, Steak ! Duly ordered, it came as raw steak, chopped, served with raw egg and Chips !

    These days, things are very different, is fluent in German and would know better and one of his favourite dinners is Steak Tartare or some places it is called Filet Americain.

    Nowadays, not so common to find on a menu, though I have to say that the Côte middle of the road chain in the UK does feature it and it can be served as a starter or as a main. Otherwise not so common, more the pity.

    There are ways of preparing the steak,it has to be the best ( filet) and fresh. In France it is possible to go into any butchers and have it ground for you, even in our local, uninspiring supermarché. However if making it at home it is far better to sharpen your favourite knife and chop. The result should be finely chopped, with no sinews and no fat.

    We went the other evening to a newsish restaurant in Les Gets. It is in an apartment hotel called Vina-Annapurna. It had great promise, it was a Jazz evening, and the group were very good, albeit way too loud to allow dinner conversation.

    The menu is small both for starters and mains ( we didn’t look at the desserts). I chose, along with 2 others, the Tuna, which was delicious, even though a tad on the small side. Peculiarly, himself chose the Cheese, a slightly odd choice, but then he can be slightly odd. It was enormous, even as a cheese course, but for a starter. He ended up passing it around the table !

    For the mains, David chose the Lamb, having been warned that he might remain hungry, , Lee and Carolyn the duck with Satay sauce, Katia, the trout with a sauce and Himself and I the steak tartare. This we looked forward to with relish, only to be disappointed. The steak was in chunks with both fat and sinew, only two capers, no chopped onion, no parsley, ( even though it said with fresh herbs) ( having looked again at the photograph, there seem to be a few herbs! So minuscule, as easily missed! No sign of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco or mustard,the last three are optional but my preference . The chips were very mediocre and as for the salad, a few scrappy leaves, a bit brown and wilted at the edges. After a few bites I handed over the rest to Himself who seems to have no such qualms about the quality of the beef.

    The other dishes, were I believe good, the duck with Satay, very tasty and the lamb, cooked for 7 hours, which may explain why it had almost disappeared! ( ( apparently it was tasty though rather on the small side, and yes he was still hungry ). The trout in a sauce seems equally nice and the sauce interesting, made with Savoury as the herb. It is an old fashioned herb, which I actually have never come across, I am now on the lookout for it, might just have to grow my own !

    So to quote Escoffier

    Beefsteak à la Américaine.

    Take a piece of fillet of beef ( or any other very good steak) remove any fat and sinews and finely chop the meat. Season with salt and pepper, here I add a small amount of Dijon mustard but this may also be added later.

    Mould to the shape of a beef burger, make a small indentation in the middle and into it place an egg yolk. Serve with capers, chopped ( spring ) onion and chopped parsley. The following maybe served on the side, French mustard (Dijon), Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. And of course Gherkins, but they must be small!

    Serve with very crisp French Fries.

    Umm wonderful ! ( only if it is made correctly).