Saturday, 26 October 2013

Cornish Pasties

When I mentioned these the other day I had a lot of people ask about them.

The recipe is very easy.

Cut up into small cubes (1/2") some stewing steak,  onions, carrots, potatoes and rutabaga. You need about the same quantity of vegetables as meat, or heavy on the vegetables is fine for economy. Toss together in a bowl and add salt and LOTS of pepper.

Roll out pastry into elongated rounds, place a handful of the filling on one half, avoiding the edges. Paint the edges with beaten egg to seal, fold in half, then crimp around the edge to make a strong seal. Brush tops with egg and bake at 175C for about 40 minutes.

It's simple because this is peasant food. This was what tin miners took for their lunches. That's the reason you find them in South-West England and Chicago, because when the tin mines in Cornwall were depleted the miners emigrated. A little bit of social history there.

There are plenty of variations, including seafood and dessert versions. You can even do savoury at one end and sweet at the other to make a two course meal. And modern pasties include chicken tikka masalas, surprise surprise. So you can be very creative here.

There are a few things to remember when making them.

1. The ingredients go in raw (for the traditional recipe) so it's very important that the pastry is airtight. Everything steams in its own juices inside, like a mini crockpot. So always check there are no holes, and be generous with the egg glaze.

2. For the same reason the pastry needs to be slightly thicker than you'd normally roll it out, so use a pastry that's not too dense. It can be flaky or shortcrust, but we like the halfway-between-the-two recipe on the back of the Tenderflake tub. However, the steam effect does make the inside "fluffy" so this is a really good project for those still nervous about making pastry. (Note: The authentic Cornish Pasty pastry is either suet-based or butter-based depending on who you ask, and I'm not getting into that argument.)

3. They are good hot or cold, but don't try to transport them hot, they fall apart easily. Left to cool they freeze well so it's a good idea to make a lot.

What to have with them is totally up to you, as it's really a meal in itself. I usually serve baked beans simply because that's what my family like. As you already have both pastry and potato included, you don't really need another carb, but nobody said this was diet food anyway, so you can also serve mashed potato or fries. I like ketchup on mine, BTW.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


Thanksgiving is always followed by the question of what to do with the leftover turkey. Having discovered this year that I really don't like it reheated, I thought I might put together a rather fuller dissertation on the whole theme.

I have an issue with poultry. It's a minority thing, but I'm not the only one. By having the courage to talk about it, I have learned that quite a few people share my issue. It's complicated and cannot be explained to those who don't share it, but if you are interested, it goes like this.

Farmed poultry, by which we are generally referring to chicken and turkey, have two flavours each, not one. One is released by fast cooking and one by slow cooking. This is not my imagination, it is a known culinary fact, and is used by chefs to make it the flexible meat it is.

Most people enjoy both of these flavours. In fact they've probably never really thought about it, or even been aware of it. They are just as happy with fried chicken as with chicken stew.

Some of us are sensitive to the difference. Some are so sensitive, in fact, that it tastes like two completely different foods. So sensitive that even the smell, and not just the taste, is totally different.

And of those who are aware of the difference, some of them like one more than the other. However, some actively dislike one to a much greater extent.

A final subset is those of us who find the smell and taste of slow-cooked poultry extremely unpleasant indeed. Not just "not to my tastes", but can cause nausea. Yes, really.

When you consider the widespread popularity of foods such as chicken soup and chicken stew, this always causes a surprised reaction. Which is fair enough.

But if you find a taste/smell offensive, then you do, and that's that. And, like I said, it's not just me, and we're not being difficult.

If you wish to make fun of people who find slow cooked poultry offensive, have at it, but try to remember it. Thanks awfully.

I am used to the offhand remarks. I don't expect sympathy. Just know that if you are cooking chicken stew I may have to leave the premises. OK?


Having roast a turkey for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or whatever leads to a few weird conversations. Roast turkey (fast cooked, yes, actually) is something I enjoy, but I prefer it cold. And I have to explain that repeatedly too. But I love nothing better than a cold roast turkey sandwich. No fuss. Just bread and butter, slices of turkey, and a bit of salt. Yep. That simple. It's good. I never tire of it.

Of course you can fancy it up. You can add anything. If I seek variety my usual additions are Branston Pickle (British food, Google it if not familiar, it's widely available in Canada), Heinz Salad Cream (ditto), or some nice crisp lettuce. Or both of the last two.

And I'm sure you can think of many other things you can put in a turkey sandwich.

So. After the roast has cooled we separate the meat, fat, and bones, etc. The meat is divided between light and dark. The fat goes to the dogs. The bones go to make stock. The breast meat is my prize. My sandwiches. You may prefer dark meat for yours, and you are welcome to it.

So, we can cut up the meat and freeze it for later use. This does away with the issue of "Bored with turkey". Of course not everyone has a freezer, so they have to use it right away. So how many things can you make from leftover turkey?

It cannot be counted. The only limit is your imagination.

The obvious one is our first go-to meal, "Day After Soup".

This is where you use up not only meat, but the vegetables, the gravy, the stuffing, and even the cranberry sauce if you like.

Day After Thanksgiving/Christmas Soup

Sauté some onions, carrots, and celery, very finely diced. Cut up and add meat, potatoes, and any vegetables, then add stock. You can throw in the strangest things to this. I've tossed in sausage rolls before now. It all cooks down and nobody notices. You probably won't need any herbs or seasoning if you include the stuffing and gravy, but otherwise the usual: salt, pepper, and some herbs to taste.

Bring it all to the boil then simmer until it looks like soup (at least an hour). Serve with bread and butter.

Turkey Pie

This can be done two ways.

1. Follow the soup instructions, but make it much thicker. Add less liquid and/or include a thickener. If there is enough potato included that may be sufficient, otherwise thicken with flour or whatever you normally use.

2. Cut up your turkey meat, and dice up a couple of onions. Sauté this until the onion is soft (or the meat is slightly browned if you like). You can add other vegetables (leftover or new), and mushrooms are good. You can put all of this into the pie as is, or you can add a sauce. I usually make a béchamel but with half milk and half stock.

Turkey Stew

Thicker version of soup, using leftover and/or new vegetables.

Turkey Curry

Start with stew, add curry spices.

If you were expecting recipes for the last two you are missing the point. This is food from LEFTOVERS. I have explained soup/stew/curry in other blogs, so you can refer to those, but the idea is to make it up as you go along.

Turkey Quesadillas

Again, refer to how my quesadillas are not really quesadillas, but if you:

Take two large flour tortillas.
Cover one with chopped up turkey, grated cheese, maybe some sautéed veggies, and some Tex-Mex spices (see my Taco blend blog),
Top with the other tortilla.
Bake it until cheese is melted, everything else is hot through, and the tortilla has slightly changed colour.

Then serve with sour cream, salsa, guacamole and whatever else you want.

It will be a very good quesadilla even if it's not authentic.

Likewise Turkey Tacos

Just throw the chopped up turkey meat and spices in with grated cheese, chopped lettuce, tomato, and green onions, and add salsa.

Turkey Generic Italian

Make a meaty tomato sauce by adding chopped up turkey to sautéed onion, peppers, and garlic, add tomato sauce, and then herbs and spices as required. Other vegetables can be added such as mushroom, zucchini, and so on. Use this over pasta, in lasagne, with orzo, etc etc.

Turkey Primavera

Instead of tomato sauce add béchamel sauce, with plenty of black pepper and use fast cook veggies. Peas and corn are good.

Turkey Carbonara

As above. Add bacon. Don't shush me.

Turkey Risotto

Bit more complicated, so take any risotto recipe, as you'll need it for the rice/liquid proportions, follow that and invent the rest with turkey and whatever vegetables you feel like.

Turkey Stir Fry

Speaks for itself. Serve with rice or ramen noodles.

Turkey Generic Middle Eastern.

Same as stir fry but add chick peas and harissa. Serve with rice. Oh yes it is. REMEMBER: THIS IS LEFTOVERS, not haute cusine.

Turkey Goulasch

Like curry but with different spices. Serve with sour cream.

Don't tell me I'm wrong: Goulasch just means "stew".

Turkey Salad

Chunk of cold turkey. Add lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, and green onions. Choose your dressing. I never said it was an imaginative salad, but it's a salad.

This should keep you going until you run out. You can also make meatballs, and a ton of other things, but I never want to hear you say you're bored with it. Thank you.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

And the kitchen sink

When I talk about Tom's cooking, people who understand the autism spectrum are often surprised, because it is typical for ASD people to be fussy eaters.

However, if you actually look into it further, ASD can affect tastes two ways. It either results in very particular food requirements, in not just taste, but in texture and presentation. Or it results in a person who will eat virtually anything that isn't running away. Tom is the latter type.

I think part of it comes from being the 5th of six. In a large family you either grab what's going and eat it, or miss out. It probably also helped that I never had any truck with fussy eaters, not even right at the start of my mothering career. This is dinner and you have two choices. One is hunger. I could go into great detail about that whole attitude (which was coloured partly by low income) but let's just say, I never actually considered the possibility that a child might refuse something. When you approach it that way, your expectations tend to be met.

Not that Tom never had strange eating habits. He was a food thrower. He was also a messy eater. Nobody ever needed to ask what he had had for dinner because it was all down his shirt.

Anyway, fast forward to a 20-year-old Tom and he has learned not to wear his meals. But more importantly he has become an extremely competent cook. This is not at all unusual among Aspies, especially if they DO have strong food preferences. They become adept at making things exactly so. Tom eats anything so his culinary skills are pretty broad. He is famous for his pastry, but he's also very good with seafood.

However what he likes best is Indian food. He will eat curry three times a day, AND snack on it in between. I assume that when (if) he moves out, he'll make a big pot once a week or so and live on it. He could do a lot worse. It's very economical, and perfectly healthy if served with some fresh veggies.

The point here is that curry when cooked by a person of English heritage is not REALLY Indian food. The way I cook curry - the way he learned, the way he likes it - has been filtered through English culture for around 200 years. Today in England recipes by top chefs are re-introducing many of the spices and vegetables we hadn't bothered with (too difficult to obtain, or too expensive) for so long, and it's all become very authentic again, with such a massive import trade from South Asia. These are now trendy not just in Britain but all over the world. Which is great.

But out here in the Canadian countryside, we cook a vaguely Victorian style of curry. You can too. It won't win any awards in posh circles, and cooks in Mumbai would mumble. But it's good, it's easy, and it's economical.

Think of stew. Any stew. A stew you know well, perhaps or one you just made up. You can put anything in it really, but bear in mind this is going to cook quite a long time, so don't use vegetables that are ruined by long cooking. Of course "ruined" is a matter of personal taste. I would not use broccoli or green beans, but your mileage may vary.

Stew is easy, it can be made from leftovers. It doesn't even need meat if you have none or want to avoid it - this is a very good way to make a vegetarian dish.

Not only that, this doesn't need to be hot. You can give it to the youngest child, and add only the merest hint of hot spices (no more than in ketchup) and they will enjoy it. My youngest grandson is a huge curry addict.

So, start your stew, that is, brown the meat and base vegetables, add your long-cook vegetables, and add any combination of:

Tomato juice
Coconut milk

It can be 1/3 of each, or half and half of any two, or whatever ratio you like, but it's best with more than one. Add salt and pepper as required, and a generous amount of garlic. It should already taste good.

Now your spices.

You can buy "curry powder" ready blended, and some of them are perfectly adequate.

BUT. The hot spices (cayenne) are already included. To get more flavour, you have to add more blend, which means you get more heat. You can, if you wish, use curry powder as a "base" and add more individual spices, but if you are doing that, why not just create your own blend?

It is fun, is FUN. Huge fun. A bit of this, a bit of that.

But it can also be intimidating if you haven't done it before.

So here's my "starter" or "beginner" spice blend, which you cannot go wrong with.

You need

3 parts coriander
3 parts cumin
1 part ginger
1 part turmeric

The parts can be teaspoons, tablespoons, or cups. If you use cups you'll make enough to store in a jar for  several meals. Having made up this blend from that ratio, add as much to your stew to give it a lovely rich flavour. Of course, you can add other spices that you like/are familiar with. There are many possibilities. But if you do just these 4 it will taste like curry.

Having done that, NOW add the hot spices, either fresh chilies or cayenne powder, as you wish, and as little or as much as you want. You are complete control of the heat of this dish.

Now simmer it until everything is tender. Add any short-cook vegetable you want at the end (I like to throw peas in) and serve with rice and/or naan bread, or for variety, over a baked potato. \

Mrs Beeton would be proud.