Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Banana Oat Bars

'The end justifies the means' (17thC Proverb).

This idea was given to me by Juliet, while we were stretching at the gym.  I tried it today and it produced a soft, sweet, spongy cake/ flapjack bar that is great snack or breakfast bar.

The quantities are approximate - I love this kind of 'guesstimate', you are trying to achieve a gooey consistency to bake.

Take two servings of oats (I used a tea mug), double it up with store cupboard bits such as linseed, bashed up  nuts, seeds, chopped dried fruit.  Mash up three bananas and combine the whole lot in a large mixing bowl.  I worked mine through with a fork to blend in the banana.  Juliet said to add some coconut milk, but I put a couple of tablespoons of natural yogurt into the mix.  You are aiming for a blended, thick, sticky mass.  Pour it into a greaseproof paper lined baking tray.  Bake in the oven until firm and slightly browned.  Chop into slices and leave to cool on a wire baking tray. The mixture puffs out and becomes spongy in texture and not at all like hard flapjack can be.  The bananas provide the sweetness and moisture and it smells divine coming out the oven. Totally works for a sweet but indulgent treat and energy boost bar, just go easy on the linseed! Thanks Juliet! x

Banana Oat bars

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Baked omelette with feta, spring onions and cherry tomatos

Baked Omelette with feta cheese, cherry tomatos and spring onions

“An egg today is better than a hen tomorrow”. Benjamin Franklin

There are two kinds of omelettes; the pan fried, slightly runny, half moon, individual kind and the oven baked, communal type.  Both should be enjoyed with a green salad and a glass of wine. 

My omelette career started as a teenager in the kitchen of a rural Dorset English pub (the Horns Inn, Furzehill).  One of my tasks was cooking up individual pan fried omelettes to order, usually four on the go at once. 

These days, however, I tend to oven bake, communal, frittata style omelettes.   If you’re feeding a lot of people or want something substantial you can add sliced cooked potato (Spanish style).  Just lightly fry/ heat through the cooked potatoes before adding the eggs (a great use for left over potato).  I have also added cooked chick peas to omelettes before and they give a slight nutty taste and work well with red pepper.

For oven baked omelettes, I use roughly use two eggs per person and then add one or two extra for luck depending on numbers.   Add to the eggs, a dash of milk and a pinch of sea salt and whisk it up.  Some cooks think you should not use any milk in omelettes, but I think a little is fine, although too much milk would be a poor omelette.  Try to use butter as your oil, in the frying, as it adds to the taste, particularly if you are using onions, mushrooms or such like.   

Some of my favourite baked omelettes fillings are;

-       Feta cheese (cubed), chopped spring onions and sliced cherry tomatoes (salty cheese and crunch of the spring onions is a lovely combination).

-       Courgette, onion and fresh mint leaf (fantastic flavours).

-       Cheddar cheese and onion (Mr K’s favourite).

-       'Garden' omelette (vintage Horns Inn favourite - onion, cheese and chuck in some frozen peas).

-       Chick pea, red pepper and mushroom (watch the mushrooms don’t turn it grey and soggy – drain if necessary and don’t use much butter).

-       Sliced potato, chopped green beans and parmesan cheese.

The fillings are important for oven baked omelettes and you can go overboard and be thrifty adding left overs for a family supper or be creative with fresh herbs.  The pan-fried variety is a more purist version with complete focus on the egg.  I’ll write about runny pan-fried omelettes separately as they are all about technique and simplicity.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Pear Tart Tatin from memory

“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it”, Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Mother’s day dessert last Sunday was a dish I’ve been foolish in not baking for about eight years.  I learnt this in Islington from a lovely French chap called Pierre who collected Polaroid photos of his visitor’s shoes and decorated his dining room wall with them.  I offer the recipe from memory.

Firstly, make up a very rough pastry of butter (4oz), plain flour (6oz) and ground rice (2oz).  Work the butter and flour with your fingertips so that it becomes crumb like and then stir in the ground rice and some sugar (about 2oz) and a beaten egg, the latter for binding.  Press the pastry into a ball and place it in the fridge while you prepare the topping. 

Then peel and thickly slice about 3lbs of pears (or apples) and lay them in a large frying pan.  The frying pan must be able to go in the oven (i.e have a metal handle).  If you don’t have one of these frying pans, you can transfer the fruit, once cooked, to a pastry dish.  Place the fruit on top of some melting butter and caster sugar (about 4oz of each).   After about 25 minutes on a moderate heat, the pears will start to caramelise.  Wait until the sugar/ butter thickens and the pear starts to turn brown.  You can get away with using fairly unripe fruit for this recipe.  If you wish, sprinkle on some cinnamon or grated lemon zest.

Remove the fruit from the heat and the pastry from the fridge and roll out the pastry roughly to fit over the frying pan.  The pastry might collapse or crumble, but it doesn’t matter.  Patch it together and press it down gently over the fruit, taking care not to burn your hands on the caramelised fruit.  Then put the frying pan in a moderate heated oven for about 25 minutes until the pastry is bubbly and slightly brown.  Remove from the oven and let it stand for about 10 mins.  Tip the tart out of the frying plan onto a serving plate.  It should smell divine.  I drizzled the top with melted chocolate, but this didn’t particularly add anything other than get the kids excited.  Serve warm with cream – sour cream works as it offsets the sweetness of the tart. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

When is your pie not your pie?

Call for help from a friend asking me to come by and help her bake a beef and mushroom pie.  I’m passing shops on way so ask if she needs anything – “some beef?”   Hmmm.  

I’m in my work suit and this is a long detour but also an excuse for a natter on the way to an afternoon meeting.  I love cooking with friends so can’t resist.  When I arrive, we start to make a beef casserole sauce from scratch;  sweat some onions, brown the beef, add some flour and cook for one minute, stir in some red wine, balsamic vinegar and beef stock. Bung in some mushrooms at some point and la-di-da, we have a sauce on the go. 

Curious thing is during all this, I’m instructed not to touch anything, which is weird as we usually cook together and I’d thought this was a joint venture. She gives some excuse about my work suit smelling of onions, but I’m not convinced.    So, I’m dictating, with my hands behind my back, not allowed to touch and making a bit of a joke about it.  Friend keeps drifting off to text while I hop around the frying pan calling, “quick, it needs stirring, it needs stirring!”. 

It turns out the pie will not be eaten for hours and over two supper sittings; the first for her kids and the second sitting for her new gentleman friend.  He is coming over for supper for the first time (and confirming his appearance by text).  We split the pie filling into two dishes and discuss vegetables and chips or no chips (no to chips – carb overload!).   I advise serving the pie to gentleman in its dish on a wooden chopping board with a side dish of vegetables.  “Imagine you are in a gastro pub” I suggest, (like that would be a good thing) “– that’s how they’d do it and he can serve himself, otherwise you are dictating his portions and I just hate that for adults”   

We also discuss pastry and decide that just a puff pastry topping the pies will work. She’s only used short crust before and we agree that it can be topped now, but not cooked until just before ready to eat.  Job done, I head off to my meeting smelling of onions.  Hours later I receive panic phone call – the pastry has shrunk!  After some probing, it turns out she rolled out the puff pastry quite thinly (as we’d done previously with short crust).  Thankfully she had some more and is able to redo it and bung it back in the oven.  (Pies are quite forgiving).  She is fretting a lot over this pie and I realise now, why I was not allowed to touch; it’s so she can tell gentleman friend that it was all her work.  It dawns on me that this is how celebrity ghost writers must feel at publication time.   I asked what she would do if it turned out a disaster and she replied “oh, I’d just tell him that you’d come round and made it”.   

Twenty-one Times is back!

ok, after a break of a couple of years, my food-crash-literary blog is back. I'm going to work on some pictures, tweets and shorter ancedots. Heck - we all eat, we all need some Latin proverbs and twentieth century poetry in our lives. God bless ya all xx