A while ago I tested a historical recipe for shortbread. It wasn’t exactly a success. Time to fix that. This is a fairly traditional English recipe that works well with American ingredients.
Take 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter and 4 tablespoons of sugar. You could use margarine, but butter really is best for this.
Cream them, and then add 1 cup of flour. (Plain flour, not self-rising, about 1/4 pound or 115g) Mix until it is all combined. It should resemble:
Press into a pan, about 1/2 inch or 1cm thick. You can prick this with a fork, but it isn’t necessary. Bake it for 1 hour in a cool oven (300F or 150C). The edges should just be turning brown.
Cut into shapes while hot (it will be very soft). Let cool and remove from the pan.
This is another easy recipe and one that crosses several cultural divides.
Marinate about 1.5 pounds of country ribs (pork) in:
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce.
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon corn starch (corn flour in the UK)
- 1 teaspoon hot madras curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ginger
Country ribs are thin bits of pork that are cut from the bone. It should look like this:
Meanwhile start your coals. I use a chimney starter and chunk charcoal. Briquettes have a binder that adds a distinctly unpleasant taste to food grilled over them. The coals are ready when the flames start to poke out of the upper layer of coals.
When the coals are ready start to grill the meat.
This goes well with sauteed parsnips. After peeling and cutting, saute in oil and a touch of margarine or butter.
When it’s done retrieve it from the grill and enjoy.
This is a quick, relatively easy, recipe for a European-style quiche.
First, set the oven to 400F (205C).
Then brown about 1 pound (1/3 Kg) bacon. I used a relatively meaty American bacon. In the UK it would be called streaky bacon. It’s sort of important to cook the bacon slowly so that it browns rather than burns. This gives you plenty of time for the next step.
While the bacon is cooking, make the crust.
I use a simple flour crust, similar to what I use for pies, but without any added sugar.
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1 stick (1/4 lb, 100g) margarine or butter. Sweet butter is probably not a good idea for this recipe
- 1/2 teaspoon (large pinch) salt.
Cut the margarine into the flour and salt. It should look like coarse corn meal, or actually, Masa Harina tortilla flour. I usually add a small amount of water, not enough to let the mix ball up, and then remove about 1/3 of the mixture. Then I’ll add enough water to the rest to form a plastic dough. (about 2 tablespoons the first addition and another 3 the second time.) Roll out the dough, put some of the dry mixture on it, fold over and roll out again. Do this several times until all the dry mixture is used up. (You can just add enough water and roll it out once, but this procedure makes it fluffier. It’s up to you.)
Shred about 1 cup of a strongly flavored cheese. In the US I use “Swiss Cheese” (which isn’t Swiss). In the UK I’d use a gruyere or something similar that wasn’t cheddar or leicester. I haven’t tried it, but I bet stilton or brie would be really good.
Put the bacon and cheese in the crust. Note that I have the torte shell on a thin baking pan. It will often spill a little bit in the oven, and it’s much easier to clean up a baking sheet than an oven.
Whip together six eggs, salt and pepper and pour it over the bacon and cheese. Bake for 30 Minutes in the 400F (205C) oven
a simple way to make Satay chicken
Cut a chicken breast (or two) in thin strips. Dry rub with:
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter powder
- 1 teaspoon hot Madras curry powder
Meanwhile heat up the griddle. THIS IS IMPORTANT – even with a well-seasoned griddle, if it’s too cold the meat will stick. I will typically oil the griddle with some corn oil on a paper towel.
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
Place on the griddle:
Four or five minutes latter, the meat is half done, so flip it. This is where pre-heating the griddle will repay you.
After another few minutes it’s done. Enjoy.
Two New Year’s recipes.
Traditional food that’s good tasting.
- Hopin’ John.
Hoppin’ John is a traditional Southern dish using blackeyed peas and smoked ham hocks. It’s an example of “poor food” that is both good and fills a cultural niche. Eat this on January first and the rest of the year you’ll eat better. Well maybe, I think it’s pretty darn good no matter when you eat it.
- 1/2 pound dried blackeyed peas. Ideally soak these the night before in cold water.
- At least one smoked ham hock.
- One onion coarsely chopped and sauteed at least to the wilt stage
- 1 tablespoon prepared mustard.
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
Put the ingredients in a pot, typically the one you saute’ed the onions in, and add enough water to cover the peas with about one inch to spare.
Bring to a boil and simmer until done. It takes several hours for the meat and beans to be completely done with the meat falling off the bone. Periodically stir, and add more water if needed. I adjust the amounts of mustard and hot sauce to taste. This example is a bit rich in ham hocks because they came in a pack of three.
- Stella’s Polish Cabbage.
Stella’s Polish Cabbage is a family recipe from my Irish mother-in-law. She figured out how to cook cabbage the way her husband, a Polish pilot in the RAF during world war 2, liked. My English wife has always called it “Polish Cabbage.” It’s not particularly New Year’s food, but goes exceedingly well with Hoppin’ John.
- 1 Head Cabbage. Cored and coarsely chopped. Sprinkle with salt and set to wilt overnight in the refrigerator. In the old days in England, when the house had a single coal fire, she’d just leave it out on the counter.
- 1 Onion, Coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter and a teaspoon of oil. Melt the butter in the oil (avoids burning).
Thoroughly rinse the cabbage, to remove the excess salt. Saute the onion in the butter and oil mixture. When it is past the wilt stage add the cabbage and cover.
The cabbage will give off water as it wilts. The mixture will rapidly lose about half its volume. Stir to prevent scorching and periodically add a few tablespoons of water. The amount isn’t critical, you need enough to keep it from burning, and it will evaporate over time.
For the next hour, until thoroughly done, simmer over a low heat. Periodically stir and refresh water.
I make a wicked pumpkin pie, and the basic recipe works well with sweet potato or any similar filling.
Pumpkin pie is basically a vegetable and spice flavoured custard in a pie crust. You bake it in a moderate oven (375 F, 205 C) until it sets. Then you eat it (at least if you can get there before your family’s pie monster finishes it).
I’m going to give my recipe in the order that is easiest to do, which means start with the crust, make the custard, roll out the crust, put the custard in the pie and bake it.
- Pie crust step 1
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1 stick margarine (1/4 pound or so)
- 1 tablespoon sugar (for a sweet pie, omit for meat pies)
- 1 teaspoon salt
Work the margarine into the flour, sugar and salt. I use a mixer, but forks and pastry knives are almost as easy. It should be coarse – sort of like corn meal- possibly with a few small chunks of the margarine left.
Put it in a bowl in the freezer to chill and rest.
This is basically the same as most cans of pumpkin have on the back, but with a minor twist.
- 1 can pumpkin (1 lb per pie, don’t bother with the “pie filling”) The equivalent is about 1 1/2 cups mashed cooked pumpkin or sweet potato.
- 3 eggs
- 1 can condensed milk (about 1 cup)
- 1 tablespoon corn starch – this helps the custard to set. You won’t find this on the standard recipe.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Mix the eggs, sugar, salt, corn starch and spices. It should be a creamy yellowish mixture. Add the condensed milk and mix thoroughly. Finally add the pumpkin and mix. Set aside.
This is a trick we used to do in Cub Scouts:
Baking in a box. Take moderate-sized box, we usually used one the size used to deliver copier paper came in (24cm x 24cm x 48cm or so). Line the inside of the box and the lid with aluminium foil (staples are a good way to attach it to the lid.) Put some stones or a tile on the bottom, both to hold down the box and to protect it from the coals. Run a few coat-hanger wires through about 2/3 of the way up to form a rack.
Light charcoal (this needs adult help or supervision), putting about 10 briquettes in an pan. The pan goes in the bottom of the box. When the lid is on the box, the air inside it will get to about 300-350 F (150-200C) which is well below the ignition temperature of paper, but more than hot enough to bake with. A small tray with cookies or biscuits can go on the rack and after a few minutes will be baked. Since the temperature depends on how well the lid seals (there has to be some leakage to keep the coals burning, but this isn’t usually a problem), the exact baking time and temperature will vary.
Still it’s good fun, requires little advance preparation, and can be put together by 8-11 year old children without much assistance from mom or dad. Beats an “easy-bake” any day.