Monday 30 September 2013

Meal Planning 2013 - Week 40

Breakfast cereal
Lunch jacket potato
Dinner choir/ macaroni cheese on toast or similar when I get home

Breakfast yogurt
Lunch sandwich
Dinner chicken fajitas/enchiladas

Breakfast yogurt
Lunch  sandwich
Dinner canneloni

Breakfast cereal
Lunch jacket potato or pasta
Dinner out

Breakfast yogurt
Lunch sandwich
Dinner Southern fried chicken and chips for the other half, salmon and veg for me

Breakfast yogurt
Lunch soup and homemade bread - tomato soup for the OH, butternut squash for me
Dinner roast chicken

Breakfast cereal
Lunch  Out with my parents for my dad's birthday
Dinner giant sausage roll with mash for the OH (I struggled to think of something he definitely wouldn't order for lunch!) and maybe a pasta bake for me; or macaroni cheese and beans on toast if we're not very hungry

Sunday 29 September 2013

Nigel Slater's Toast and Lemon Meringue Pie

I know nothing about Nigel Slater, have never read any of his books or knowingly seen him on television and I have never cooked any of his recipes. I don't quite know how he passed me by, as to say he is well known is an understatement. So when I saw that the film chosen for this month's Food 'n' Flix was the adaptation of his memoir Toast, I thought this was a good opportunity to get to know Nigel Slater.

In the film, Nigel is a young boy; the story tells the tale of his relationship with his parents and step-mother and also his relationship with food. As the film begins, Nigel is in a shop with his mother; he asks if they can buy a pork pie and she refuses, saying it is common - then asks for a packet of Dairylea slices instead. Nigel introduces himself to the viewer: "I'm Nigel, I'm nine years old and I've never had a vegetable that didn't come in a tin'.

Indeed, we see his mum boiling vegetables still in their tins - I didn't even know you could do that - and we learn that she is really a hopeless cook. The title of the memoir comes from the fact that when Nigel's mother burned the dinner, they had toast instead.

Nigel loves food from an early age - when his father catches him reading under the blankets with a torch, it is a cookery book he is reading rather than anything more racy. Nigel is particularly taken with a recipe for spaghetti Bolognese, which he proceeds to cook for his parents; his mother won't even try it and makes herself some toast.

The film, which is set in the 60s, is filled with foods I remember from my childhood even two decades on. I shared Nigel's loathing of the jelly that comes around the sides of tinned ham, and I remember school milk and many of the brands that you see on the shelves in Nigel's house. It really is a trip down memory lane.

After Nigel's mum dies, he and his father live on cheese on toast for months; Mr. Slater then remarries, having first employed Helena Bonham Carter's character as a housekeeper. She wins his heart through cooking; there is a lovely montage where she puts dish after dish on the table and at the end of it Nigel has transformed from a child into a teenager. He rapidly enters a competitive relationship with Joan, as they each want the love and approval of Mr Slater senior. Nigel is the only boy to sign up for home economics at school, for which he is initially teased until his classmates realise his talents. The first time Nigel comes home from school with something he has made - scones - Joan is very put out, and from then on every Wednesday when Nigel has home economics and brings home a cottage pie or a dessert, Joan has really pushed the boat out and made something special which is already on the table. In some ways it's hard to dislike her - she comes across as a woman desperate to keep the affections of her husband, who is anxious and jealous of her step son, rather than intentionally malicious. Though she does have her moments!

Nigel's father's favourite dessert is lemon meringue pie and Joan's is an impressive tower of meringue. She refuses to tell Nigel how to make it, so he spies on her, gradually picking up elements of the recipe, and experiments at every opportunity when she is out of the house. It becomes a real bone of contention between Nigel and Joan, and when he finally presents a perfect lemon meringue pie to his father, Joan - when they are alone - throws a slice onto the floor, hissing "I do the lemon meringues around here." Eventually she snaps, and feeling that her position is under threat, turns on Nigel and rants almost without pause for breath: "Do you think I'm stupid? Do you think I was born yesterday? I know what you're up to. Well two can play at that game sunshine. I'll cook boeuf bourgignon. Tomorrow we'll have duck a l'orange or should it be coq au vin? And then we'll have moules marinere. Oh yeah, I can do foreign muck as well, and that's just for starters. Quiches, tortes, omelettes, seafood soufflés, the bleeding lot. In fact, I think I'll just rustle up a tarte tatin, that's a caramelised apple pie in case you're wondering!". One of the things I love about this scene isn't just that every dessert mentioned is decidedly of its era (and wonderfully retro now) but that Joan misprounces everything!

When Nigel's father dies - of a heart attack, possibly as a result of Joan's overzealous catering - Nigel rejects her efforts at reconciliation, says he never wants to see her again and runs away to London where he gets a junior job in the kitchens at the Savoy - and this is where the film ends, with the real Nigel Slater playing the employer and telling the young Nigel that "you'll be fine - you're really going to be fine."

I loved this film - the era that it evoked, the storyline, the characters and the plot. When it came to entering Food 'n' Flix, there was only one thing I could really make - the lemon meringue pie that is the cause of such competition between Nigel and Joan. I couldn't seem to find a Nigel Slater recipe for lemon meringue pie on the internet, though I didn't spend all that long looking; I ended up using one from BBC Good Food and adapting it slightly. When I was a child and my great-aunt made lemon meringue pie, I didn't like it with "bits in", that is the lemon peel, so I left it out of this recipe. I also found that I didn't have any orange juice or oranges so I left that out and don't think it made any difference.

I used a ready made pastry case as I had bought it for something else I didn't make and it was on the cusp of the use by date. I know Nigel Slater wouldn't approve, but needs must!

For the filling and meringue, you need:

2 level tbsp. cornflour
100g caster sugar
juice of 2 lemons
85g butter, cut into cubes
3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg

for the meringue:
4 egg whites
200g caster sugar
2 level tsp cornflour
Place the cornflour, sugar and lemon juice in a pan and heat until the sugar has melted.

Then remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted.  Finally mix in the egg yolks and egg and return to a gentle heat until thickened.

Pour into the pastry case - as I said I bought rather than made this.

Whisk the egg whites for the meringue until stiff and gradually whisk in the sugar and cornflour. Heap onto the top of the pie - I wonder if it would have looked neater if I'd piped it but I was only making this pie for me and my boyfriend and didn't have the time or energy for anything more elaborate, having just returned from a university reunion weekend!

Bake in a preheated oven at 160C for 30 minutes then turn off the heat and leave in the oven for another 15 mins.

The meringue does break up when you cut a slice and it looks a bit messy when you serve it but it tasted amazing - the meringue was soft inside and slightly chewy on the outside and the lemon filling was delicious. Not quite up to Nigel Slater's standard, but I'm happy for a first attempt!

I'm sending this to Food 'n' Flix, hosted this month by This Mama Cooks.

Saturday 28 September 2013

Alphabakes Roundup - Q

It looks like the letter Q really had some of you stumped! Or perhaps like both me and my co-host Ros you were away on holiday in September and didn't have time to bake. It means there were fewer eligible entries for the great prize we had on offer as well, so scroll to the end to see who won the Hotel Chocolat giveaway!

Jacqueline kicked off the entries this month with a Queen of Puddings: a traditional British dessert with a milk and breadcrumb base, spread with jam then topped with meringue which is then cooked in the oven.

Elizabeth from Law Students Cookbook has taken the ingredients of s’mores – an American campfire snack consisting of graham crackers (digestive biscuits) and marshmallows, added banana – and turned it into bread! Her Banana S’More Quick Bread looks delicious and Elizabeth says it wasn’t too sweet.

Eira from Cook Books Galore says she enjoyed the chance to make something savoury, and sent us these Herb, Shallot and Cheese Quichettes. They are individual mini quiches baked in a puff pastry case and use herbs from Eira’s own garden.

I also made a Queen of Puddings, but as I don’t like jam I decided to substitute curd – and found a jar of lime curd in the supermarket which I’d never eaten before. It was delicious and not hard to make at all.

 I also don’t like quiche normally as there is too much egg, so I was intrigued when I found a recipe in a weight loss magazine for a smoked salmon and dill quiche that combined egg and soft cheese in the filling. It gave the quiche a lovely flavor and meant it wasn’t too ‘eggy’.

A lovely fruity entry here from Elizabeth of Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary  and an ingredient I hadn’t thought of – she made this Apple Cardamom Cake with Quince Frosting. Elizabeth says she hadn’t tried quince before so didn’t know what flavor to expect – see for yourself what she thinks. This is a great autumn bake.

Here’s another smoked salmon quiche, but this time with fennel and spinach, from Jean of Baking in Franglais. She says quiche is a great way to use up leftovers and she managed to avoid the infamous soggy bottom!

The Q ingredient in these Mini Bakewell Cheesecakes, from Laura of I’d Much Rather Bake Than
, is something I love- Quark. It’s a sort of curd cheese, that I first ate when I lived in Germany – it is popular there as a simple dessert sweetened with sugar and lemon juice. Quark is a very versatile ingredient though and I use it a lot these days as it’s free on Slimming World, in both sweet and savoury dishes. These cheesecakes look delicious and thanks to Laura for hopefully introducing some of you to a new ingredient!

My co-host Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker is off on holiday so only made one thing for this month’s challenge rather than her usual two or three! She has treated us to this Leek, Mushroom and Gruyere Quiche – the first time she has made quiche and she says pastry isn’t really her thing. I think this has turned out really well!

Clare thought of something that hadn’t occurred to me beginning with the letter Q, and made flapjacks using Quaker Oats – great idea! I love flapjacks but sometimes find they start to crumble when I slice them – these look like they held together really well.

Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe made these Quince and Walnut Garibaldi Biscuits, which were inspired by the TV show “Call the Midwife”; these biscuits were considered post-war treats, but I think they still taste good today!

A second entry from Jean at Baking in Franglais – and another outing for quince. She’s made these Quick Quince and Coconut Tartlets and funnily enough – given the previous entry- uses a 1940s cookbook for the recipe. Jean even used her mum’s bun tin to bake them in, which she says must be about 60 years old!

Silverbeet is an ingredient I didn’t think I was familiar with  - Mel atSharky Oven Gloves, who lives in New Zealand, has used it to make this Silverbeet and Feta Quiche. But according to Google, those of us in the UK would know it by the name of Swiss chard. Whatever it’s called, her quiche looks very tasty.

I was hoping someone would come up with a bake using quinoa and Sue from MainlyBaking did not let me down! She sent in this Quinoa and Hazelnut Cake; she says there were several stages and the cake took quite a long time to make but it wasn’t difficult. She added a chocolate fudge frosting – can I have a slice please?

A delicious savoury option from Fiona at Sweet Thing You Make My Heart Sing: she made these Quince and Camembert Flatbreads. I love cheese and something sharp to accompany it – in fact I’m sure I’ve seen quince jelly on a cheeseboard before – so these flatbreads are a great way to combine the two flavours.

Finally this month another Q idea from Vohn at Vohn’s Vittles – who I think might be a first time Alphabaker as well, so welcome! Here are some delicious Quesadillas – a toasted tortilla with melted cheese inside, though you  can add pretty much whatever filling you like. Vohn has used chilli, spring onions, tomato, coriander and prawns, which sounds fantastic. 

And the winner of these delicious salted caramel chocolate canapes from Hotel Chocolat is...

Chocolate Canapés -  Milk Chocolate with Caramel & Sea Salt 
Jean of Baking in Franglais. Jean, please give us your (UK) address and the prize will be on its way! 

I can't wait to find out which letter we are baking with in October.... there aren't many left in the alphabet to choose from! Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker will have the announcement on October 1st.