macaroni pudding

Macaroni Pudding

macaroni pudding

I had such fun last week doing the Rennie Challenge and reading about 1950s food that I ended up doing another recipe to go with it. I was sure I remembered seeing tins of Ambrosia macaroni pudding when I was a kid, along with sago and rice pudding.

However I haven’t seen it for years so was starting to think I must have imagined it when I saw a recipe for macaroni pudding in one of the post war cookbooks I looked at recently.

It might sound strange to us now, but it’s basically a sweet pasta dish. Instead of bechamel sauce as in a macaroni cheese, you cook macaroni with eggs and milk and sugar like an old fashioned milk pudding.

My instinctive love of milk puddings such as good old tapioca swayed me over the fear that if they don’t sell it anymore it might not be that nice and I decided to make one. After all, I’m pretty bloody sure they don’t sell tinned macaroni cheese anymore either.

I found several recipes for making the pudding and decided to bring them up to date for the modern era in both flavour and cooking time. Mrs Beeton suggested boiling the macaroni for 45 minutes and then baking it for another 30. I’m not sure if anyone told her macaroni wasn’t actually alive.

I’d been discussing butterscotch pudding on Twitter recently which put me in the mind to make my own butterscotch sauce for this and drizzle it over it at the end, but the recipe I followed went hideously wrong so I went with the dulce de leche I had in the fridge instead.

Don’t be tempted not to cook the macaroni at all before cooking assuming it’ll work like a pasta bake and save the tiny hassle of a saucepan of water. The world will repay your laziness with a burned dish of carbohydrate you have to chisel clean. Trust me here. I learned the hard way.

Dulce de Leche Macaroni Pudding (serves 4 to 6)

  • 250g dried macaroni
  • 1 x 410g tin evaporated milk
  • 100ml milk
  • 75 g dulce de leche
  • 15 g butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons golden caster sugar

Boil the macaroni in a pan of water for about 7 minutes. Drain and run some cold water over it to stop it sticking.

Put the evaporated and fresh milk in the pan you just used to cook the pasta and gently bring to the boil, adding the dulce de leche and butter so they both melt. Add the salt and the vanilla extract and take off the heat.

Add the cooked macaroni and mix well, allowing it to cool for 5 minutes and then beat in the two eggs and pour the whole mixture in an ovenproof dish. Bake in the oven at 150℃ for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes sprinkle the two tablespoons of sugar over the top and turn the oven up to 200℃ for 15 minutes to give the top a lovely golden caramelly finish.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then serve warm. I was convinced I’d find sweet pasta strange when I went to eat it and I didn’t at all. I loved the texture of the macaroni with the chewy sugary edges and the sweet custard.

It was perfect on a cold evening after dinner

 

devilled sardines

1950s Devilled Sardines and Tomato Charlotte

devilled sardinesAs the entire world is now aware, I’ve got some food issues that make me feel very unwell at times. At home this is usually treated by undoing my top button and drinking cup after cup of peppermint tea.

But that doesn’t work in public so well and I rely on a variety of indigestion remedies so when Rennie got in touch with me about doing a blogger promotion I thought they knew about my habit of keeping boxes of them in each handbag and were going to give me a year’s supply!

Turns out they wanted to celebrate 70 years of soothing upset stomaches by cooking food from each of those decades and would I care to do something 50s based? Luckily the 50s pre-date garlic coming to the UK so I was in on this one.

Rummaging in my cookbook collection I found two pamphlets from the Ministry of Food from the post war rationing era and since rationing of butter and meat didn’t end until between 1952 and 1954 decided they might inspire.

I wanted to make a main meal so was delighted when two dishes caught my eye: devilled sardines and a tomato charlotte. I’ve only really heard of devilled things in relation to kidneys and they’ve never really appealed so this was my moment to branch out.

Fresh (or tinned) sardines were basted in a mix of sugar, mustard and vinegar and poached lightly while the tomato charlotte used stale bread and fresh tomatoes to make an easy economical side dish. The theory was great but would the food be as awful as people always say about the 50s?

Tomato Charlotte (serves 2)

  • 4 large tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram or thyme
  • 2 slices stale bread, cubed
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 15g cold butter, cubed

I’ve given this recipe first as it can do its thing while you get the sardines ready. Slice the tomatoes about the thickness of a pound coin and drizzle with the olive oil (which isn’t at all 50s as you could only buy it in the chemists then) and season well with salt, pepper and the dried herbs. Allow to sit for 20 minutes.

Grease an ovenproof dish and layer with some sliced tomatoes. Put a layer of cubed stale bread on top. Add another layer of tomatoes. Repeat until the dish is full. Pour any liquid from the tomatoes over it all.

Mix the breadcrumbs (mine were panko but I suspect a 50s housewife made her own) with the cold butter and pile on top of the dish til the top layer of tomatoes are hidden. Bake for 25-30 minutes in a 180℃ oven.

Devilled Sardines (serves 2)

  • 8 fresh sardines, filleted or 2 tins in spring water
  • 2 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 75ml water

I am lucky enough to have a fishmonger so I asked for my sardines to be filleted, but if you can only get whole cleaned ones, make sure to scrape the scales off, brush inside and out with the devilled mix and simply cook for 5 minutes longer.

Don’t panic at the amount of mustard specified here. It isn’t a typo honestly. Mix the dry ingredients with the vinegar to make a paste and brush it over the flesh side of the sardine fillets and roll them starting at the tail end.

Place each fillet in a saute pan which has a lid and brush the skin with any remaining mixture. Add the water to the pan and put the lid on and cook for 5-6 minutes on a medium heat.

If using tinned sardines, brush each side with the devilling mixture and grill for 2-3 minutes until the fish is hot and slightly crisping round the edges.

Serve the sardines with the tomato charlotte and some boiled potatoes. Mine were tossed with crushed capers, butter and a bit of lemon juice which is a bit edgier than the average 50s dinner table probably but nothing they hadn’t heard of at least.

Then I got stuck in and hoped for the best. And needn’t have worried because both dishes were absolutely delicious. The sardines had much more going on than just mustard and the charlotte turned some fairly meh tomatoes into something so good I ate enough for two people.

Ironically despite pigging out, I didn’t need any of my packets of Rennie at all…

vintage fish cookbook*This post has been supported by Rennie, but all thoughts are my own.

chicken fried pork

Chicken Fried Pork

chicken fried porkBelfast folk of my vintage may well remember the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory (where the Stiff Kitten was down the side of the cinema on Dublin Road.) Then again, they might not as it was primarily famed for its cheap Monday night cocktails and extremely lax ID rules.

It did also serve food. The Chicago deep dish pizza the name suggests and other bastardised ‘Murrican dishes were all on the menu along with the implausible sounding chicken fried steak. Pre-internet we thought this must be made up. How does steak ever resemble chicken?

Unsurprisingly, finding out wasn’t one of the pressing ambitions of my adulthood and I’d forgotten about the whole thing until I had a drink with a friend recently. She’d just come back from Texas and showed me a mouthwatering selection of food on her phone.

Maple bacon doughnuts, moon pies and right there, a chicken fried steak. Turns out it’s a good old Texan tradition and takes those thin cuts of steak Americans love and coats them in the same breading used for fried chicken and serves it up with white gravy. And that’s how steak resembles chicken it seems.

On my current low fodmap diet, I eat a lot of meat. And more specifically, a lot of pork shoulder steaks. Admittedly very tasty, they are also about the cheapest cut of meat around that doesn’t need a tonne of flavouring added to it since practically every marinade, sauce or seasoning going has something in it I can’t eat these days.

I decided to jazz up my third pork shoulder steak of the week by turning it into chicken fried pork. I turned to my bible of anything remotely American and food related and read up on chicken fried steak on Serious Eats and got to work tweaking the recipe.

Most US recipes serve 6 so it’s always a mathematical challenge for me to scale them down while converting from their tedious obsession with volumetric measuring. I basically eyeballed this one so if the measurements are slightly out it’s probably that and the fact flour and liquid always varies a bit.

Chicken Fried Pork (serves 2)

  • 2 pork shoulder steaks (approx 150g each)
  • 50g cornflour
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml buttermilk, yoghurt or soured milk
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch monosodium glutamate powder (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 450ml vegetable oil for frying

Start by bashing your pork shoulder steak out thinner. I folded mine in greaseproof paper and whacked it with the palm of my hand until it was about  1/2 inch thick. I don’t have a meat mallet and find a rolling pin gets meat thin and bruised. Plus I’d had a frustrating day and beating something senseless helped.

Set the steaks on some kitchen roll to absorb moisture and lay out your breading station so you can work easily. Put the cornflour on a large plate. Crack the egg into a shallow dish and add about 25ml of the buttermilk to make it looser in texture.

Put the plain flour in another shallow dish or bowl and add the seasonings and baking powder. Be generous with the salt and pepper. I also used a bit of Old Bay Seasoning since it’s all fancy pants American.

I’m a big fan of the MSG powder as it adds an extra umaminess to things and I’m so limited in my choice of seasonings now. If you have issues with it or can’t get it (mine is labelled Chinese Salt) just add a wee bit more salt.

Start adding the remaining buttermilk a couple of teaspoons at a time to the seasoned flour and rub it in with your fingertips so you end up with a sandy breadcrumb-like mixture that’s wet but not sticky. You may not use all the buttermilk so add any remaining to the egg.

Set out a baking rack and start prepping the pork. Press it into the cornflour, coating well but shaking off any excess. Dip into the egg mixture, again removing any excess. Press into the seasoning flour breading and lay on the baking rack to rest for 10 minutes. Repeat with the other steak.

I’ve always had trouble with my coating on fried chicken falling off and it turns out that resting the breading before frying does wonders to stop it. I also find deep frying easier for coated things so that’s what we’re doing here.

Fill a deep pan or wok with the oil and using a thermometer, heat the oil to exactly 190℃ and carefully using tongs add one of the breaded steaks to the pan. I fried mine for 4 minutes in total, turning 4 times so each side got 2 minutes but evenly spaced.

Lift out and place on the clean end of the baking rack and fry the next steak. The baking powder causes the breading to puff up slightly and if you put the fried steaks on kitchen roll to rest, the crisp puffed up coating goes soggy and limp, so the rack is a better bet. Just keep your raw and cooked meat separate.

Rest the steaks for at least 5 minutes but up to 10 is fine. The coating insulates the meat and keeps it pretty hot. I served mine with a baked potato and a quick slaw of grated red cabbage, carrot and daikon in a dressing of buttermilk, cream cheese and a dash of vinegar. But quite frankly, you’ve just deep fried pork for dinner, you could serve it with anything and it’ll be awesome.

And awesome it was. The coating was light and oh so crunchy and the pork was perfectly cooked and lovely and tender. I chose not to serve the white gravy beloved of Americans because it seems weird to me to get the coating so crisp and then make it soggy. And because I forgot…

It was still one of the best dinners I’ve had in ages though. I sense a lot more fried breaded things in my future. I’ll try a spelt version next for the fodmappers out there who can’t do wheat. I’m generous like that.

 

 

rosti

Champ Rosti

rosti

*Warning: this recipe may contain surprise cheese…

It was Pancake Day this week and with my usual organisational skills when I went to make pancakes for dinner on Tuesday, I had run out of eggs. And I don’t want to know how to make pancake batter without eggs thank you very much.

I thought what other flat foodstuff I could make for dinner and my mind went to rosti. Basically a pancake made almost entirely of potato, it’s quite the favourite of mine for that and its relative ease to make. Its Irish cousin boxty defeats me every time. Which might explain why I’m single on Valentine’s Day as apparently its your boxty making skills men are after. Who knew?

No such challenges with rosti (unlike me bothering to find the umlaut on my keyboard it would seem.) I decided to make one large rosti and to fodmap it, replace the onion with the greens of spring onion which gives it a champ flavour.

I also stealthily slipped some sliced mozzarella on top of the first layer of potato before adding a second layer and baking it all in the oven so I ended up with a gooey cheesy filling for a fantastic easy one pot brunch or dinner.

When I say serves 2, you of course know I ate the lot myself but in two sittings which totally counts.

Champ Rosti (serves 2)

  • 700g potatoes, grated
  • 3 spring onions (greens only if fodmap friendly)
  • 25g butter
  • 1 ball mozzarella, sliced
  • salt and pepper

The knack to a good rosti is potato starch to stick the strands of spud together and the best way I’ve found is to peel your potatoes (I used these Elfe ones I’ve been getting in Lidl which are fantastic) and boil them whole for exactly eight minutes.

Drain and allow to cool enough to be able to handle the potato and then grate on the coarsest side of the grater. You will have the correct amount of potato starch needed with the minimum of fuss. It should be sticky rather than gluey.

Put the grated potato in a bowl. Thinly slice the spring onions and add to the potatoes. Season it all well and mix the spring onions through well. I have in the past also added thinly shredded cabbage here too.

Melt half the butter in the base of an ovenproof pan or skillet until it starts to foam. I actually used some brown butter I had left from another batch of these cookies which is why my rosti is so toasty brown.

Press half the potato mix into the pan without packing it down too tightly. Put the sliced mozzarella on top of it all and then press the other half of the potato on top of that. Press it all down quite firmly with a fish slice or spatula. Dot the remaining butter on top it all and put the pan in a preheated 200℃ oven for 20 minutes.

I went to clean the bathroom while mine was cooking but you may prefer to kill time other ways. Either way you’ll have a gorgeous golden rosti with crisp edges and a delicious cheesy centre and the only other effort being whether to top it with an egg or not. Any spare lemon and sugar from thwarted pancake making is not recommended though…

 

 

potato chip cookies

Potato Crisp Cookies

potato chip cookiesYup. This week’s recipe is cookies made with ready salted crisps because a) I’m stuck in the house due to ill health and bored and b) why the hell not? January is a time of indecision for most people and I like to provide the answers to questions like ‘do I want crisps or a biscuit?’ with a literal ‘have both’.

I had randomly stumbled across this idea on an American blog ages ago and clipped it to an Evernote folder. I love Evernote. It’s like the organised version of my tendencies toward large piles of paper and lists and forgetting about stuff and my entire life is plotted out in there.

So when an old friend emailed to say he would be in London this week and would love to pop round for a long catch up and some home baking and I needed some inspiration, I just put the word ‘cookies’ into Evernote and this was the first hit in how my mind stores things.

It may sound odd, but really it’s just a novel way of reworking the good old salt and sweet combo and achieving my ambition to potato-ize every dish in the world. I do like lofty aspirations in my home baking, but I like deliciousness more. Would they manage that?

Spoiler alert: they are basically butter, sugar and crisps combined. They take deliciousness into a whole new sphere. These are so good I even stopped cursing the original recipe for using a cup and two thirds of flour. I want to be eating them right now, not using my hands to type this blogpost…

Potato Crisp Cookies:  makes about 20 (adapted from here)

  • 220g room temperature butter
  • 125g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 250g plain flour
  • 50g plain or ready salted crisps, crushed up

Preheat your oven to 160℃ and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. You can cut out the whole tiresome weighing cups adaptation of the recipe because I’ve done it for you.

I mistook the 1/3 cup measure I have and the 1/2 cup one and for the first ever my life added more sugar to an American recipe than it stated, but skipped the whole adding icing sugar step at the end so it worked out fine.

Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk until light, fluffy and pale and then add the vanilla extract. Add in the flour and when it is about two thirds combined, mix in the crushed crisps too.

It will all come together into a soft pliable cookie dough that comes away from the bowl cleanly. I pinched a sort of walnut sized ball of dough off it and rolled and placed on the trays without flattening. The original recipe shows thin flat delicate cookies. I preferred some heft myself.

Bake the biscuits for about 20 minutes until just colouring round the edges. They didn’t flatten much upon cooking so I could have put them closer together and done them all once. You live and learn.

Cool for 5 minutes on the tray and then transfer to a wire rack. They are light and buttery like shortbread but with the salty crunch of crisps and my friend and I inhaled several in close succession. I put some in a tin overnight and they softened slightly to be chewy and buttery with the salty crunch of crisps. This is a biscuit that likes to keep on giving frankly.

Make them. That’s an order. Celebrate butter. Celebrate crisps. Make January nicer with both. I might sub some rice flour in next time to give even more shortness, but if you excuse me, I have a biscuit tin to raid instead of chat to you lot…