Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Eyjafjallajökull pie

The sporadic blogging continues, with my apologies. There's also less soup than you might imagine for a soup month.

Saturday was a rare, and expensive, Chinese takeaway with a marathon of TV shows I loved as a child remade to modern standards (Doctor Who: this episode okay; V: meh; The Prisoner: brain damage).

Sunday was fish for CJBS. This being sporadically available in wartime, we've made it sporadically available by requiring it being bought from the fishmongers, who have the most remarkably variable and unpredictable opening hours of any shop you could think of.

I made cod in breadcrumbs: blitz 6 slices of brown bread, add a chopped up slice of smoked bacon, a chopped tomato and a chopped onion, place the cod skin-side down on a glass baking tray, cover with the breadcrumb mix (pack it down a little) and bake in a medium low oven for 45 minutes. I served it with mashed potato and some steamed broccoli. I had fake fishfingers. No fat was used!

For Monday, I had leftover mashed potato. That suggested something pie, with a mashed potato topping. At the supermarket, I was able to get a large slice of braising steak for half the week's ration of red meat. So that's a steak and ale pie, I reckon. This type of steak is like leather, but it can be made tender with some work. First, make sure it's at room temperature. Sprinkle with some salt and a little garlic powder, then, with a rolling pin or one of those scary pointy mallets, bash the hell out of it. Turn it over and do the same. Then dice it.

I melted a tiny amount of CJBS's remaining margarine in a frying pan, getting it very hot, then added the beef cubes. When it has browned all over, add a chopped onion and let the two cook through together.

When the onion is cooked, add some gravy browning or gravy granules to soak up the fat and add a small glass of Guinness. Then add a chopped carrot and some chopped mushrooms. Stir it in and add more Guinness. A dash of Maggi or half a teaspoon of yeast extract, a stir, and some more Guinness. Eventually, just under a pint of Guinness has gone in, thickening and reducing all the time. Take it off the heat and cover.

If you've got enough fat for pastry, a shortcrust base is nice. I had pastry I'd previously frozen and I cheated by microwaving it back to being malleable. I lined a pie dish with it, poured in the steak and ale mix and then spooned the leftover mash on top. I forked the top of the mash, then brushed it with milk, then forked it again: this stops the mash being dried out, but also creates a crispy top.

Into the bottom of a low oven for an hour and a half (the meat really needs pampering) and bake.

In the meantime, I made my equivalent: a vegetable pie. I fried off an onion in a tiny knob of margarine, then made up a roux into a white sauce. To that I added a chopped leek, a chopped carrot, some chopped mushrooms and some of the leftover uncooked broccoli from Sunday. Let that simmer slowly (beware, it can catch very easily, so stirring is very much on the agenda) for 10 minutes, then put it in a pie dish and cover with mashed potato as before. Into the top of the low oven for 45 minutes and you're ready to serve both together. Which I did.

We're having this again today - there was plenty - so Wednesday will be my next soup. With the volcanic ash disrupting flights, Morrisons is starting to run short of the stuff I'm forbidden by the rules of the project from buying anyway. I'm hoping this means they'll source a bit more locally (no celery so far this year because it's all Spanish, Israeli and Egyptian) to increase my choices. Certainly I'd expect my greengrocer to go back to offering more local produce - they got sloppy over the winter with too much exotica, including stuff they could've got from just down the road.

If the ash makes for an increase in local food, I'm going to really enjoy the two weeks of soup-making. It'll be very nice to be spoiled for choice for once. Although they're talking about lifting the flight ban for freight, alas and alack, but there still might be a couple of days with fresh soup made from domestic ingredients.

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