Cooking in Advance

One of the ways we can get our children to housesit for us when we go off for a trip on our boat, is to provide them with vast quantities of food which is ready prepared , needing only minimal cooking or preparation. Faced with rather a surplus of ingredients in the fridge, left over from too enthusiastic a shop this weekend, this is what I cooked today. Some of it will also be taken on the boat this weekend to provide a little easy sustenance whilst sailing.

First on the list was the making of an authentic Bolognese sauce. This should really take at least 3  hours if using Marcella Hazan’s excellent recipe, which I always follow. 1LB of beef mince will make enough sauce for 6 helpings of lasagne, or for 3 very greedy people. I made up two dishes here, one medium and one small which would easily provide for 6. Rather smugly, I used my own sieved tomatoes , made from my outdoor grown San Marzano tomatoes from last Summer. I simply put them in large Glass jars, leaving a good space at the top, and then freeze them, and defrost them in a microwave as and when required. The Dishes of Lasagne were assembled, but not cooked. They will sit happily like this for 3 days, and can then be cooked just before eating

Next were the Quiches. I had a couple of very large leeks sitting idle in the Fridge, and some smoked streaky bacon which needed using, some opened Cream, and some opened Traditional Farmhouse Cheshire Cheese which was not improving with age. I always use a Pate Brise for pastry as it is so lovely and crumbly, although an annoying beast to work with. In case you don’t know what that is, it is a pastry made with plain Flour, lots of soft unsalted Butter and a whole egg. No water, hence it is not at all tough! The bacon was cooked in the oven, but not so that it was crispy. The leeks were softened in butter with a drop of water until tender. Then 4 eggs were beaten with about 1/2 a cup of double Cream, and about 3 oz of finely grated cheese added. The Pastry was rested for 1 hour, then rolled out thinly and fitted into one large and two small Quiche tins. You will have to work the pastry round gently and keep patching up any gaps. The pastry cases were blind baked until starting to brown, and then filled with the leeks and bacon, and then the egg and cheese and cream mixture was carefully poured in to fill them up to the top. Then they were baked at 180C for about 45 minutes until set, and starting to colour. They will reheat very nicely in a warm oven.

The Organic Chicken Livers which we had failed to eat yesterday, I made into Chicken Liver Pate. Very easy to do. Simply take equal quantities of Chicken Livers and Unsalted Butter, a couple of tablespoons of Brandy, a clove or two of Garlic and some finely chopped Thyme. Cook the chicken Livers very gently, but thoroughly, in some of the butter, put them in a food processor and whilst blitzing to a puree, add the Brandy to the pan along with the garlic and reduce to a tablespoon or so , add this to the still running food processor and then add about two thirds of the remaining butter and the thyme. Season well with salt and pepper, and transfer to 5 or 6 ramekins. Melt the remaining butter and give each ramekin a thin but even coating. this will stop the Pate from oxidising. Cover with clingfilm when cold, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.Arabellas Ambrosia 17th May 008The piece de Resistance, is the Pork Pie. I did this large one in a Loaf tin. I am still trying to perfect the Original Melton Mowbray flavour, and am coming really close. Hot Water Crust Pastry–but don’t use as much water as most recipes say- a combination of equal quantities of Minced Pork and finely chopped Pork Shoulder, spices,(see below) and plenty of salt and pepper. Cook at 200C until centre is done, for at least an hour if as big as mine. Remove from tin and peel back the Greaseproof and glaze with eggwash, then cook for another 20 minutes or so, whilst reducing the temperature to 180C. It is the spicing that is so elusive. I think I am close with equal Quantities of freshly ground  Mace, Freshly grated Nutmeg, Cayenne Pepper and ground Allspice. For a normal sized round pie use 1/4 teaspoon of each of these spices. For this large pie, I used 1/2 teaspoon of each. All that is left, is to fill it up full with cooled Jellied stock tomorrow morning, after it has spent the night in the fridge. I use my own stock which is boiled down a lot, and sometimes add a leaf of Gelatine if I am not confident of the set. Let’s face it, the Jelly is the best bit!Arabellas Ambrosia 17th May 003

Glut of Radishes after the rain!

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