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COOKING NEWSLETTER - MARCH 2012

Welcome to the Hub-UK Newsletter. If you have ideas that you think might work we would love to hear from you and by the same token if you think something is rubbish let us know . . . but do it nicely! newsletter@hub-uk.com

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AROUND THE SUPERMARKET  

There is always something happening in supermarkets - new products, product demonstrations, shelves reorganised so you can't find anything. Not always interesting, quite often boring and sometimes a chore but just occasionally something catches your eye, something is interesting . . .

Colman's of NorwichI am very partial to a drop of gravy. I think gravy is a very British thing (correct me if I am wrong) and one of the things that goes to make great comfort food. Good tasty gravy transforms a meal by adding flavour and moisture to what otherwise might be a tasteless piece of meat or some rather dry potatoes.

Gravy was just made to compliment Yorkshire Puddings and if you ever wanted something to cheer you up, on a dark and cold winter evening, then you need to try a plate sized Yorkshire Pudding filled with some beef sausages, a veg of your choice and mashed potatoes . . . and then fill the Yorkshire Pudding with a beef or onion gravy. Makes me want to drool just writing about it.

Of course, you can have gravy all the year round, and it works well with all sorts of roast dishes and also with something like faggots. Gravy is fairly easy to make too but in this busy day and age most of us either do not have the time or just simply cannot be bothered. It is only a matter of making a roux by using fat from the roast, or just some dripping, and bringing it to the boil whilst stirring. It takes time though, and it makes a mess of another saucepan!

If it is a special occasion then making the gravy is probably worthwhile but in a hectic life taking a shortcut by using instant gravy is certainly permitted, especially if it means a healthy tasty meal instead of something fried or done in the chip pan.

Instant gravy mixes have been around for a long time now but have been a poor substitute for the real thing. (You can always tell a good gravy by whether people sneakily use their knives to scrape up the last of it from their plate.) In recent years however food manufacturing has got better and better, with the result that some very good products are now appearing on the supermarket shelves.

Colman's Instant Gravy

My own kitchen cupboard always contains the range of Bisto instant gravies, not the ordinary stuff but the Bisto Best gravy range, which is granules.

Now another range of quality instant gravies is available, Colman's Instant Gravy. Both Bisto and Colman's state on the packaging “with real meat juices”. Presumably that is supposed to reassure us as to how good the product is? I have tried the Colman range at a supermarket demonstartion, not at home yet, but was sufficiently impressed to buy two of them to try out. I think there are only three in the range - chicken, onion and beef - whereas Bisto has those three flavours as well as pork and vegetable (never tried the vegetable one as not sure what I would eat it with – presumably for vegetarians).

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to make bread - www.cookingholidays.co.uk

The Colman's instant gravies are in a paste form which does suggest a concentrate and seems more natural than granules. But granules are probably easier to handle and less messy. It is also easier to measure a spoonful of granules than it is a spoonful of paste but that is just nit-picking.

A handy product to keep in the kitchen cupboard and I am sure it could work well as a stock for adding to other dishes you are cooking . Will have to give it a go.

This is the chicken gravy instructions from the Colman's web site:

INSTANT CHICKEN GRAVY PASTE

Just add boiling water, stir and pour! Our new and easy way to make proper homemade gravy in an instant. It's made using real meat juices for a delicious, authentic taste. Perfect served with roast chicken and grilled meats.

Serves: 5 (of 250ml)

How to cook:

  1. Squeeze 2 heaped teaspoons of paste (26g) into jug.
  2. Add 250ml boiling water, stir continuously and thoroughly with a hand whisk for at least 30 seconds allowing to thicken.
  3. Add more paste for a thicker gravy!

Why not try:

Alternatively use the method above and add to the meat juices from your roast, blend and bring back to the boil.

I think the Bisto jars make slightly more gravy but I have not compared prices.

Editorial note: This site is not paid to promote any of the products or places featured in this newsletter.

LIVING THE GOOD LIFE IN SPAIN  

What to drink with Spanish ham

Serrano ham and beer
Serrano ham and beer

The Spanish are crazy about their ham, indeed walk into any reputable tapas bar in Spain and you are likely to be served a plate of cured ham which is usually accompanied by fresh bread and the all important extra virgin olive oil...

Accompaniments to Spanish vary from fresh vine tomatoes, salted almonds, the famous Manchego cheese from La Mancha and fruit to name but a few but what about a tipple? What goes best with Spanish ham? Here is a rough guide to enhancing the flavour of those wafer thin ham slices.

  • Beer/Lager:
    Imagine that hot summers day or Spanish holiday when a cold draught beer is just the thing! Spanish ham slices accompany the beer (and vice versa) very well indeed. In, fact Serrano ham tapas are some of the most frequently served and with beer being the most popular drink during the summer it’s a perfect match and can be seen being enjoyed at all times of day both inside and outside Spanish tapas bars.

  • Red Wine:
    A good red wine without doubt is a perfect partner for Spanish ham. Red wine compliments thinly sliced Serrano ham very well indeed. As with cheese a good red helps conjure a treat for the senses. Rioja or Ribera is popular but for this pairing any good red wine will do, no matter which region it is from or age. This combination also opens the door to invite olives and cheese into the equation, even a little olive oil. For those who enjoy stronger flavours try a deep bossy red with well cured Serrano ham, for Iberian acorn ham try and keep the wine fairly light to let the ham do the work.

  • White wine:
    White wine is a less obvious drink to be enjoyed with Serrano ham. In summer though a cool glass of white wine goes down well with slices of ham. Serrano ham salads for example are popular in the summer with white wine for a light lunch. The pair together do compliment each other; with the addition of some olives a real summer flavour can be produced. Young white Riojas work best.

  • Fino/Manzanilla:
    We found these two Spanish specialities to be by far the most popular choice. Ice cold “fino” or manzanilla sherry wine goes with sliced Serrano ham like nothing else. The combination of flavours work so well that even after a good red wine it should be an easy decision for the future! Fino and manzanilla work well with the majority of Spanish cured meats, why not indulge and serve up some cured lomo tenderloin along side your Serrano ham with a drizzle of olive oil . . . perfection.

There are of course no hard and fast rules with what to drink with your Spanish ham, in Spain cured ham is so popular it would not really matter what your preferred tipple is, when the tapas arrive, well, they arrive! For the ham connoisseur and where flavour balance is important there are a host of red wines out there (not necessarily Spanish) which will add plenty of depth and for the purists . . . it simply has to be a good Fino sherry.

Spanish Hams DIRECT from Spain >>>

EASY TO MAKE RECIPES . . . CUTTING CORNERS  

This recipe from Natoora for Spring Salad with Marinated Lamb Cutlets is a really tasty way to serve lamb, especially on one of those warmer Spring days.

Spring Salad with Marinated Lamb CutletsSPRING SALAD WITH MARINATED LAMB CUTLETS

Ingredients:

800g fresh broad beans (you’ll need approx 1.5kg in the pod)
200g fresh peas (you’ll need approx. 350g in the pod)
100g feta cheese
1 bunch mint, sliced thinly
1 bunch rosemary
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil
12 lamb cutlets
pinch of salt and pepper

How to make:

  • Whisk together 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, a pinch of sea salt and some pepper and one of the chopped garlic cloves.

  • Rub over the lamb cutlets and leave to marinate whilst you prepare the salad.

  • Remove the beans and peas from their pods and simmer in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and shell the beans.

  • Mix lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil to make the dressing.

  • Mix with the beans, peas, the remaining garlic and mint. Stir and check the seasoning.

  • Now heat a griddle pan over a high heat and grill the lamb for about 3 minutes each side.

  • Serve with the bean and pea mixture and crumble feta on top.

Serves 4

www.natoora.co.uk

SOUP OF THE MONTH  

CREAMY MUSSEL SOUP WITH SAFFRON AND WHITE WINE

MusselsThis is the perfect first-course soup to get the taste buds going. The saffron adds not only its subtle flavour but also gives the dish a beautiful colour.

Ingredients

3 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons butter
1 large leek (white and tender green), well rinsed and finely chopped
1 medium celery rib, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups fidh stock or clam juice
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
12 black peppercoms
12 parsley stems
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Method

  • In a large pot, combine mussels and wine. Bring to theboil over medium-high heat, cover, and cook until mussels have opened, about 5 to 7 minutes.

  • Remove mussels from shells, reserving 6 large mussels and 6 half-shells for garnish. Discard any mussels that do not open.

  • Strain cooking liquid through a fine sieve into a large bowl.

  • In same soup pot, melt butter over a medium heat. Add the leek and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

  • Add fish stock, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, parsley, saffron, remaining cooked mussels, and reserved mussel liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.

  • Remove and discard the bay leaf.

  • In a food processor or blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth and return to the soup pot. Bring back to the boil.

  • In a small bowl, blend cornstarch with cream and then stir into the soup to thicken it. Add salt and pepper and simmer, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes.

  • Strain the soup through a sieve into a large saucepan and simmer over medium heat until heated through, about 3 to 5 minutes.

  • Divide soup among 6 soup plates and garnish each serving with a mussel on the half-shell.

Serves 6

WHEN SCHOOLS TAUGHT DOMESTIC SCIENCE  

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

Ingredients 

10 oz plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 oz sugar
3 oz lard and margarine mixed
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
3/4 gill milk (about 105ml)
3 - 4 ounces cream butter
1 lb strawberries
1/4 pint of mock cream (these days we would use whipped cream)

Method

  • Sift together the dry ingredients and rub in the fat.

  • Mix with egg and milk to form a soft dough.

  • Smooth out half the dough on a greased 8 inch sandwich tin, and spread with creamed butter.

  • Spread remaining dough on top.

  • Bake at 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 5 for half an hour.

  • Split cake while hot.

  • Sandwich with crushed strawberries and cover with mock cream (these days we would use whipped cream) or whole berries and dust with icing sugar.

  • Serve at once.
THE MIXING BOWL . . . RANDOM BITS AND PIECES  

 

Make your own cream?

Imitation creams or mock creams as they were called seem to have become something you no longer see on the shelves of the supermarkets. They were rather sickly so it is no surprise that they have gone out of fashion.

However, you can make your own very simply by beating 6 ounces of unsalted butter with half a pint of milk, and then leaving for several hours in a cold place to thicken.

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