I've been spending a bit of time in the kitchen of late. I've got a bit more time on my hands than usual and keeping them busy is the way to go. So I've been concentrating on two things: pastry, and broths/soups.
Broth is something that my family makes really well, and it's really only a matter of supervision, not precision. It's just a matter of having the time. So I made a Beef and Vegetable Broth week before last. The great thing about a broth is you can use a cheap cut of meat that you usually wouldn't feed to the dogs, and because of the amount of time you spend cooking it, by the time you come to serve it, it's falling apart on the spoon. Plus, if you let it cool once or twice before serving, you can cut the fat content by skimming the skin off the top. Cheap and relatively healthy. Plus, most of the vegies used in it are fairly inexpensive. I used Parsnip, Potato, Carrot, Onion and Turnip. It worked well, cost about thirteen dollars to make and there was enough for at least half-a-dozen meals easy meals there.
Last week, for Jeremy's birthday I made Apple Pie. I'd never made it before - previously I'd stuck to Crumble and Strudel - so I stuck to the recipe. The top layer of pastry was perfect, but the bottom was fairly non-existant due to the consistency of the apple. It tasted good though. I wish I'd taken a photo, because it looked awesome before it was cut.
Yesterday, I made Neenish Tarts, because it's one of Jeremy's favourites. He's fairly fussy when it comes to desserts, and I thought it would be good to make one I hadn't done before.
My God. The fiddlines. First, I know I made things hard for myself by making the pastry myself, but I want to get the shortcrust/sweet pastry down before I start taking shortcuts and use pre-made cases. But the pastry was the easy part. Combine ingredients, put in case-tin, rest for fifteen. Cook for ten. Melt the jam, put in cases. Apart from the fact that I should have pricked the bases more than twice, easy:
The Mock Cream was not so easy. For a start, there were three different mixtures to it - a sugar/milk mixture, a gelatine/water mixture and a butter/vanilla mixture. Combining them, I realised that something was wrong with the recipe. I'd never made it before, so I stuck to the measurements more than I usually would, but all of the measurements that said Tablespoon seemed too large when I added them. Considering most of the Tablespoon measurements in the Mock Cream were liquid and it was being added to a butter mixture, that was an issue. It would not come together, no matter what I did. So I improvised a little and worked out what the sugar/butter to liquid ingredient ratio would need to be if the recipe WAS incorrect and added some more. It came together almost straight away. All in all, that part of the recipe took about fourty-five minutes. Rested for fifteen to allow the gelatine time to do it's thing:
Then came the icing. This is where things got very, very fiddly. It's an icing sugar/milk combo, with cocoa for the chocolate side. One problem I think the reicpe-makers didn't forsee - They're asking you to put melted, runny (and therefore HOT) icing on top of cream.
It took me about twenty minutes of cock-ups before I got something approaching a knack happening. I'd wait until the icing was almost too thick and cold to use, then do two or three really quickly. That was still too hot to prevent the icing sliding off the cream before it set, but by holding each one sideways as the icing looked like it was going to slide, I managed to get them to set properly:
How long did the entire process take? Well, I started at two thirty, and had just finished by ten-to-six. It's a fiddly, fiddly, process. The results were fairly good, but there are things the recipe just doesn't tell you:
* Change all liquid measurements in the Mock Cream to Teaspoons.
* Be prepared to spend an entire afternoon making twelve tarts.
* Use Pastry Cases, if for no other reason than home-made pastry cases are hard to get uniform.
* Put the cream under the jam, regardless of what the recipe says.
* Five minutes is nowhere near enough time for the jam to set. Try forty-five.
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