Sunday, April 26, 2020

Simple Soufflé and Impossible Pie

I didn't post last weekend because the most notable things I made were two very indulgent desserts. I'll post about those later, but I thought a couple of simple, tasty dinner dishes would be more useful right now.

You can make either of these from what you've got on hand - you don't have to have exactly what's listed. No goat's cheese or parmesan? Any good tasty cheese will do. No courgettes? Use a little sauteed onion and finely cut up broccoli, or a lightly cooked mix of small frozen veges. No tinned fish? Try a can of creamed sweetcorn (but use less milk) and gently fried bits of bacon or salami.

Goat's Cheese and Courgette Soufflé

This recipe from my blog in 2012 is a variation on the classic cheese soufflé. My friend Frances taught me to make it when I was a totally ignorant, about to be married 19 year old. Now I use Julia Child's recipe. If you'd like to see how it's done, try this handy tutorial:

Soufflés have an undeserved reputation for being difficult, when in fact they're quite simple (and inexpensive): a good buttery white sauce with egg yolks stirred in, mixed carefully with well beaten egg whites and any other ingredients you are using. Just don't open the oven door for the first 20 minutes. As long as it's reasonably well risen, it doesn't matter if it isn't soaring above the rim of the dish (as this one wasn't). And make sure the people eating it are ready and waiting so you can serve it as soon as it's ready.

Impossible Pie
This is called Impossible Pie because it forms its own "crust". It's a sort of down home version of a souffle, very useful for making a main course out of tinned fish. I've always cherished the recipe because my mother in Auckland carefully cut it out of one of her magazines and posted it to me in Wellington with a chatty letter. She chose well - I copied it into my hand-written notebook of recipes acquired from friends and family, and I used to make it a lot. 

I rediscovered it thanks to the lockdown. The old notebook was disintegrating, but I had a new one lying around that I'd been meaning for ages to transfer everything into. So this week I set to work. Sorry I forgot to take a photo! It should look a bit like a wide, gently risen, shallow soufflé, with a similar though less fluffy texture inside, and a lightly browned bottom and sides, so you can easily cut it into wedges. By all means use a bit more cheese on top if you want to. It's quite filling - and the leftover part made a very nice lunch next day.

List 1:
4 eggs
2 cups milk
¾ cup plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
Good pinch of salt
3 Tbsp soft butter (about 45 grams)

List 2:
185g tin well drained tuna or salmon
1 medium onion, finely chopped
¾ cup grated tasty cheese
¼ cup finely chopped parsley and/or chives
Freshly ground black pepper

(In List 2, you can try substituting: a can of creamed sweetcorn instead of fish (but leave out 1 cup of milk) and fried bits of bacon or salami; cooked or tinned asparagus pieces; other firm cooked veges, cut into small pieces, plus some extra seasoning; thinly sliced button mushrooms.)

Grease a 20cm shallow pie dish, preferably with a flat rim to catch any escaping liquid.
Preheat oven to 190C or 180C fanbake.
In a large bowl, beat together the ingredients in List 1.
Stir in the ingredients in List 2, saving a little grated cheese.
Pour into pie dish and scatter remaining grated cheese over the top.
Bake until custard is set (test with a thin knife) and top is browned – about 35 to 45 minutes.
Serve hot or warm with bread and butter and salad or your choice of cooked vegetables (if you didn't use them in the pie - a frozen mix is fine). You might also enjoy a little relish on the side.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Rhubarb chutney!

The exclamation mark in the heading is because this is the first time I've made any kind of preserve since around 2005, when we were still in Farm Road. But both Jonathan and I are very keen on home made chutney. Usually I pick up jars of it at various fairs. One day I asked the nice lady who sold jams and chutneys at the little Karori Sunday market if she ever made kasundi, a delicious Indian chutney I'd found at the big annual Save the Children fair at Homewood. A couple of weeks later she turned up with two different kinds, tomato and eggplant. But with no fairs and no markets, we were running very low.

On the phone to Lesley, I talked about wanting to try making some chutney, but not having any handy surplus produce to make it with. She pointed out that I did: I had my magnificent set of four rhubarb crowns in a big pot. The originals were given to me by Ali some years ago. They somehow managed to survive my inconsistent, cack-handed care, and this year all four are flourishing better than ever.

I hunted around on line and found various recipes, but I wanted something I knew would work. My Auckland friend Rosemary, who regularly embarks on chutney and pickle making, passed on her recipe, so I used that. It's different from the others because you don't put the sugar in until near the end of the cooking, but I could see why: doing it this way makes the mixture less likely to catch and burn.

Rosemary’s rhubarb and ginger chutney
Slightly adapted, and with two quantities, depending on how much fruit you have. I think it would also work well using some firm pears or nashi. For the smaller quantity, I used about 10 sticks of rhubarb weighing around 700g, four small apples, and one and a half large onions. 

1 ½  (3) apples
1 ½  (3) onions
15 (30) g root ginger
1 (2) cloves garlic
750 (1.5) kg rhubarb
½ (1) tsp paprika
1 (2) tsps whole pickling spice
1½ (3) tsps salt
¾ (1½) cups white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1/4  (½) cup balsamic vinegar (I used a bit more than this – it needed a little more at the end)
juice of ½ (1) orange
1½ (3) cups sugar (I used half white and half brown)
  1. Assemble jars and lids and get them ready to use for short-term keeping. The easiest way is to put jars through a hot machine wash, and boil metal lids gently in large pan of water for 5 minutes. (Check methods here.
  2. Peel, core and chop the apples. Peel and chop the onions. Dice the ginger and garlic (easy to chop these together in the food processor).
  3. Slice the rhubarb thinly (I used the processor slicing blade).
  4. Put all the ingredients except the sugar in a large pan and simmer until thick and pulpy. 
  5. Add the sugar, turn up the heat, and cook until thick and darker in colour, stirring frequently to stop it catching (especially if it's a small quantity). Also check flavour and adjust if necessary. (This is quite a jammy chutney, but should still have a bit of texture.)
  6. Fill the jars almost to the top with no gaps, and put the lids on firmly. With any luck, the lids will go down in the middle to seal them. But to be on the safe side, keep the jars in the fridge - they will keep perfectly well for at least a few weeks. 
 Mine all cooked right down to make just 3 jars (not very large ones) plus a small bowl of chutney to have with sausages for our dinner - and it really was good.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Two satisfying soups

So here's the second of my rāhui posts: two healthy, easy, filling soups, just right for the end of daylight saving and the cooling weather (yes, I know this is affecting only those of us south of Hamilton). They're also well suited to a random range of supplies. Click on the headings to find the blog recipes.

Minestrone alla Karori 

This is a meal in itself, and very adaptable. I wrote in my original post:
As Antonio Carlucci explains, in fact there's no such thing as "the real minestrone". Instead there are many versions, each one authentic for those who make it.
In these unusual times, innovation is essential. Cabbage is the mainstay vegetable, but you can use up random bits of most other veges you may have lying around. Instead of borlotti beans, use what's available - even baked beans will do at a pinch, but don't add them until the veges and pasta are cooked. And if you don't happen to have pancetta, any kind of bacon, ham, or bits of tasty cooked sausage will work. You can use any small pasta too, or broken up bits of noodles if that's all you've got.

Pretty Fast Pumpkin Soup

The name of this soup (which I invented) describes it very well - it's both pretty, and pretty fast to make. The ingredients are a bit less flexible: you do need pumpkin, carrots, and some kind of red curry flavouring. For example, I haven't got actual red curry paste right now, but I do have Tom Yam paste, which is also red, so that would do fine. (And in any case, it seems easier right now to find more exotic ingredients such as red curry paste than it does to get some basics, such as flour!)

This soup belongs to a variety of dishes I often make, called "vaguely Asian" (David Burton, look away now). No one from any Asian country would recognise any of them, but they do rely on Westernised versions of flavours relating to a range of Asian countries, from India to Thailand.

If you like, you could add noodles to this soup too, and/or cook bits of boneless chicken in it, turning it into a meal rather than just a soup.