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BEGINNER'S BASICS
Quick Bites TO SUCCESSFUL COOKING

How to make:
BATTER: Use for both fruits such as bananas and apples as well as vegetables; courgettes, mushrooms, peppers and aubergines. Sift 1/2 cup cake flour and 1/4 tsp salt into a bowl. Whisk 1 large egg, add 125 ml flat beer and 1 tbsp melted butter. Stir into flour mixture with a wooden spoon, then whisk lightly until batter is smooth. Cover bowl with a dish towel and leave batter at room temperature for about 1 hour, or until slightly foamy. Just before using batter, whisk 1 large egg white until it holds its shape. Fold into batter, using a metal spoon or spatula.

WHOLE WHEAT BREAD: Place 1 kg wholewheat flour in a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups digestive bran, stir together. Sprinkle 3 tsp active dried yeast into 1 cup warm water (1 part boiling: 3 parts cold) add 1 tsp sugar and allow to stand until the yeast begins to form a frothy head. Add 30 ml vegetable oil, 30 ml honey, 1 tsp salt and slowly add yeast mixture and +-750 ml warm water. Stir, using a wooden spoon, to mix thoroughly. Stop adding water when the mixture is of a dropping consistency. When thoroughly mixed, spoon into three 450 ml bread pans. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp sunflower seeds and 2 tbsp sesame seeds before baking. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for approximately 1 hour. When the mixture has puffed and risen (never the same as white bread dough) immediately place in a 180 C oven and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes. When golden brown remove loaves, gently prise away from the sides of the pans and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

CRUSTY WHITE BREAD: Mix 10 g active dried yeast with 1 tsp sugar and 100 ml warm water. Leave until frothy. Mix 750 g cake flour with 2 tsp salt. Stir in the yeast mixture and 400 ml water to make a very soft dough. Turn out onto a thoroughly floured board (use the remaining flour). Knead until satiny smooth, dimpled and soft. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean cloth, set aside to double (rising time varies). Punch down (knead again) until smooth. Shape into loaves and place in well-oiled bread or non-stick pans. Cover with a cloth and set aside to rise for 30-40 minutes. Slash across tops of loaves. Mix 30 ml warm water with 1 tsp salt and brush loaves. Place on a rack in centre of oven and bake at 180 C for 1 hour, until risen and golden brown. Remove from oven. Cool for a few minutes, carefully ease loaves out of pans and cool completely on a wire rack. To test a loaf it should sound hollow when tapped.

BUTTER: Watercress - Blend 4 tbsp butter with a small bunch watercress (blanched in boiling water and refreshed in cold water, drained thoroughly and squeezed until dry, then finely chopped), 1 tsp mustard powder, 5 ml lemon juice, salt and milled pepper to taste. Pack into little pots or shape into a roll, roll up in foil and chill until firm. Just before serving, slice and place pats of watercress butter on steaks, lamb cutlets or large grilled black mushrooms. Garlic & Lemon - 125 g butter (room temperature), 4-6 plump cloves garlic crushed, 2 tsp powdered mustard, zest of 1 lemon, 1 tsp sea salt and freshly milled pepper to taste. Process all the ingredients together until creamy and taste. You may wish to add more garlic and try a hint of dried chilli flakes to add a little bite.   

CHICKEN STOCK: Place 500 g well-washed and trimmed chicken necks and gizzards, 2 peeled carrots, 4 bay leaves, 3-4 whole cloves, 2 celery stalks, 1 onion and 1,5 litres water in a slow cooker and cook overnight on low. The next morning, strain and skim off any fat that has formed on the surface. Refrigerate or freeze the stock until needed. If you don't have a slow cooker, simmer (liquid barely bubbling) these ingredients in a large, heavy- based saucepan on top of the stove, over low heat, for 2-3 hours.

CHOCOLATE COFFEE SAUCE: Break 250 g dark table chocolate, add 80 ml strong black coffee, 1/4 tsp powdered cinnamon and 2 tbsp butter cut into small pieces, gently melt stirring constantly. Finally add 2-3 tbsp cream. Serve piping hot.

CRÈME FRAICHE: Heat 500 ml heavy cream over low heat to exactly 37 C. Add 2 tbsp butter or sour cream and mix well. Place in a covered jar and stand at room temperature for 6-8 hours. Refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving. The crème fraiche will become thick like sour cream. It can be kept refrigerated in a tightly covered jar for 2-3 weeks.

CUSTARD SAUCE: Heat 500 ml milk to lukewarm in top of double boiler over simmering water. Whisk 4 extra-large eggs and 4 tbsp sugar in a bowl until thick. Add milk and 5 ml vanilla essence. Return to double boiler and stir with a wooden spoon over low heat until thick enough to coat back of spoon. To prevent a skin forming on top while the custard is standing, sprinkle the surface with a little sugar. Gentle reheating will dissolve the sugar. Serve hot or cold.

SCRAMBLED EGGS: Whisk 6 eggs together with 3-4 tbsp full-cream milk. You can add 1 tbsp cream (optional). Using a small non-stick saucepan (never a large pan), melt 2 tbsp butter, add eggs, stir constantly using a wooden spoon, sprinkle with sea salt and freshly milled pepper. Continue stirring for a second or two and serve on heated plates. Tip: The eggs should still be creamy when removed from the saucepan do not allow to dry. 

PARSLEY STUFFING: For chicken. Crumble 3 slices soft white bread and place in a bowl. Heat 60 ml vegetable oil in a pan and sauté 1 diced onion until translucent. Add 1 washed and diced gizzard (optional) and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add 4 trimmed chicken livers (membranes and any black or green spots removed) and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the grated peel of 1 lemon, 1 tsp mustard powder, 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, 1 tsp dried or 4 sprigs fresh sage, chopped, salt and milled black pepper and stir-fry for 1 minute. Spoon over crumbs. Mix lightly with a fork. Whisk 1 small egg with 10 ml milk and add just enough to moisten the mixture. Spoon loosely into the chicken body cavity (the stuffing swells during roasting) and truss chicken.

BACON AND SAUSAGE STUFFING: For turkey. Fry 250 g rindless streaky bacon, chopped until crisp and crumble into a bowl. Sauté 2 onions, finely chopped in the same pan and stir in 2 cups soft breadcrumbs. Add bacon. Mix with 3 granny smith apples, cooked and pureed, grated peel of 2 oranges, 500 g pork sausage meat, 5 ml (1 tsp) sage, thyme or marjoram leaves, 5 ml (1 tsp) powdered mustard, salt and milled pepper. Stuff the neck and stomach cavities loosely, to allow for expansion during cooking.

GARLIC TOASTS: Separate and peel 3 whole garlic bulbs. Boil in 500 ml salted water for 15 minutes, then simmer (water barely bubbling) until soft. Drain garlic and either puree in a blender or food processor or press through a sieve. Mix garlic puree with 60 ml olive oil and season with salt. Slice 1 small French loaf (baguette) and toast on one side. Spread garlic puree on untoasted side. Toast under grill until golden brown. Float on soups or serve on top of a casserole.

GRAVY: Simply add 125 ml white wine and 30-45 ml hot water to the pan juices. Heat through, stir thoroughly remove, strain and cool. Skim off any fat. Spoon gravy over sliced lamb.

GREEN BEANS: Place trimmed green beans uncovered in boiling water for 5-8 minutes (depending on thickness), then drain and rinse them in ice-cold eater. Season and set aside. Reheat beans when ready to serve, add olive oil and season. Toss to coat well.

RICH VANILLA ICE CREAM: In a saucepan, combine 185 g sugar, 90 ml water and 1/4 tsp cream of tartar. Bring to the boil and cook until syrup spins a little golden thread. Whisk 6 extra large egg yolks until fluffy and gradually add syrup, beating constantly until mixture thickens and turns a pale cream colour. Scrape pulp from a 5 cm vanilla bean and add to eggs with 1 litre thick cream. Stir until mixture is thoroughly blended. Chill and freeze in either a bowl or a refrigerator tray.

MARINADE: 2 small onions, finely chopped, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 8 cloves garlic, crushed, 2 tsp grated lemon peel, 250 ml natural yoghurt, 1 tsp milled black pepper, 125 ml olive oil, 2 tsp paprika, 60 ml olive oil for brushing. Mix ingredients in a bowl. Marinate lamb or beef for 2 hours, turning occasionally.

MAYONNAISE: a rich, delicious sauce served plain with fish, eggs, meat or salad, and can be varied with flavourings of lemon, garlic, mustard, fresh herbs or spinach. Hand-made mayonnaise takes time and a little patience, but a blender, mixer or food processor will make it in seconds. Blend 2 extra large egg yolks, 4 tsp pure wine vinegar, pinch salt, milled black pepper to taste, 1 clove garlic, crushed and 1 tsp mustard powder until thick and frothy. Slowly add 250 ml vegetable oil or half vegetable and half good olive oil, drop by drop at the very beginning, but as mayonnaise begins to thicken, add a steady trickle. When mayonnaise is thick, smooth and creamy, you can add a little more vinegar or lemon juice to sharpen the flavour. Use immediately or refrigerate sealed.

MINT SAUCE: For roast lamb. Pick mint fresh from your garden, or buy the freshest you can find, and pick out any dry or wilted bits- the mint must be really fresh. Wash the leaves thoroughly and chop them very finely with a sharp knife. Blend with 125 ml good wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar and 2 tsp sugar, or to taste, as well as a little salt and milled pepper.

MEASURING: There are three basic measuring aids; the one is an accurate, medium sized scale, the second is a set of metricated measuring cups and the third is a standard set of metricated measuring spoons. However, failing this you could use a breakfast cup, tablespoons and teaspoons, but do use the same measures throughout the recipe. For baking though, it is essential to use accurate measures.

MERINGUES: Whisk 4 egg whites with a pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp cream of tartar until stiff. Gradually beat in 250 g castor sugar a tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Grease and lightly flour baking sheets or line with foil. Drop teaspoons of the meringue onto the baking sheets. Bake in a very cool oven 130 C for about 2 hours, then turn off the heat and allow to remain in the oven for 4-5 hours, until thoroughly dry. Remove and peel of the foil (if used).   

CREAMED MUSHROOMS: Stir-fry 500 g thickly sliced black mushrooms in 4 tbsp heated butter with 1 tsp chopped garlic for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle a scant 1 tsp cornflour, 1 tsp mustard powder, a little salt and pepper and 1 tsp dried tarragon over. Gently stir in 60 ml cream, and stir until thickened, 2-3 minutes.

MUSTARD SAUCE: Melt 2 tbsp butter in a small saucepan and remove from stove. Stir in 1 tbsp flour using a wooden spoon. Gradually pour in 250 ml milk, stirring constantly. Return to stove and stir over moderate heat until thickens and boils. Reduce temperature to low and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add 1 tsp prepared hot mustard, 1 tbsp mustard powder, salt and milled black pepper to taste 60 ml cream. Prepare in advance and reheat before serving.

OMELET: Break 2-3 extra-large eggs into a mixing bowl and beat with a fork to break them up. Add 30 ml water, salt and pepper and continue beating for 20-30 seconds, or until lightly blended. Add 1 tbsp butter to hot pan; it should be foaming immediately. Swirl around to coat the base. Pour in eggs and quickly swirl the mixture around - this blends some of the butter into the eggs. While eggs are still creamy add filling. As eggs cook, pull away to allow uncooked mixture to run into its place, where it will start cooking immediately. Tilt the pan away from you, start folding the edge of the omelet towards the centre, then flip the omelets. By now the omelet should be ready for you to slide it gently onto a heated plate.

PESTO: This superb sauce hails from Genoa in Italy. Freshly made at the height of summer, it will be at its fragrant best. Wash 100 g fresh basil leaves and process together with 125 ml olive oil, 25 g pine nuts for the best flavour, sea salt, 2 plump cloves garlic until smooth. Stir in 2 tbsp grated Pecorino, 2 tbsp grated Parmesan. Pulse once to just incorporate the cheeses. Serve on freshly made pasta or piping hot potatoes. It is also divine with grilled line fish or spooned over freshly sliced tomatoes.

PANCAKES: Sift 150 g cake flour and pinch salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre, add an extra large egg and egg yolk, gradually stir in 375 ml milk drawing the flour from the sides as you do so. Using a whisk, electric mixer or wooden spoon, beat the mixture until smooth. Fold in 30 ml melted butter or vegetable oil, set aside for up to 1 hour before making the pancakes. Just cover the base of the pan with vegetable oil for frying, pouring off the surplus into a jug to keep for further greasing.

HOT POTATO SALAD: Boil 4-6 large potatoes in their jackets until tender but still firm enough to cut. Cool and peel. Slice potatoes thickly and layer into a shallow dish. Whisk 125 ml olive oil, 1 tsp creamed mustard and 60 ml lemon juice, add salt and milled pepper to taste to make a dressing. Pour a little dressing over the first layer of potatoes, sprinkle with fresh marjoram leaves, chopped chives or spring onions tops. Continue layering potatoes and herbs, end with chopped chives or spring onions. Add more dressing, if necessary - the potatoes will absorb it very quickly, the salad should be quite moist.

MASHED GARLIC POTATOES: Peel and cube 4 large potatoes and place in a saucepan with 250 ml boiling water, (1 tsp) salt and 8-10 peeled whole garlic cloves. Cover tightly and bring to the boil again. Turn heat down to very low and cook until potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes. Mash well, adding 30 ml olive oil gradually until potatoes are of a creamy consistency.

OVEN ROASTED POTATOES: Peel and quarter potatoes. Parboil for 10-15 minutes, drain and remove from saucepan. Sprinkle with salt, milled black pepper, olive oil, crushed garlic, and oregano sprigs. Place in a roasting pan directly under meat and roast with meat, turning once for crisp roast potatoes. Continue browning for a little longer, after removing the meat, if necessary.

TAPENADE: A quick simple tapenade perfect to serve with toasted crusty slices of bread. Process 500 g stoned ripe black olives, 3 anchovy fillets, 2-3 tbsp tuna in oil, drained, 1 tbsp capers and 1 tsp mustard powder together until you have a fairly smooth mixture, slowly add 2-3 tbsp olive oil (as you would when making a mayonnaise) taste you may need a little dash of sea salt.   

GRILLED TOMATOES: Wonderful with roast lamb, beef dishes or eggs. Slice tops and bases off tomatoes. Place tomatoes in a roasting pan with 125 ml water and sprinkle them generously with salt, milled black pepper, sugar, olive oil and crushed garlic. Scatter grated lemon peel and bay leaves over with fresh or dried lemon thyme, oregano or basil. Bake at 180 C for 8-10 minutes or until just softened. Spoon pan juices over tomatoes and grill until lightly charred on top.

TOMATO SAUCE: (1) Sauté 1 large chopped onion,  3 cloves garlic, crushed and celery stalks, thinly sliced in 30 ml olive oil until soft but not brown. Add 750 g ripe skinned and chopped tomatoes, 1 tsp dried or 6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped, 1 bay leaf, 1/2 sprig rosemary, pinch chilli paste, 2 tsp sugar, salt and milled pepper, 60 ml white wine, 125 ml water. Simmer, covered, over moderate heat for 45 minutes or until vegetables are soft and liquid has almost evaporated. Pour half into a food processor, puree and return to saucepan.

CHILLED FRESH TOMATO SAUCE: (2) Excellent with grilled fish. Mix 3 tomatoes, diced, 30 ml olive oil, 1/2 tsp prepared mustard, 1 tsp sugar, 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley, 2 tbsp freshly chopped basil, freshly milled coriander seeds to taste, milled pepper and salt. Chill until ready to serve.

DELICATE WHITE SAUCE: Perfect for pasta dishes. Add 1 tsp mustard powder, 3 bay leaves, 2 sprigs thyme or oregano or 1 tsp dried, 1 sprig parsley, 2 slices onion and 1 strip lemon peel to 1 litre milk. Heat milk until it is almost boiling. Remove the saucepan from the stove, strain the milk through a fine sieve and set aside. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a small heavy based saucepan until foaming. Remove from the stove and stir in a generous 2 tbsp cornflour briskly, using a wooden spoon, until incorporated. Return the saucepan to the stove and stir constantly over low heat until the butter and flour thicken to form a paste (roux). Remove from the stove. Pour in the hot strained milk in a steady stream, beat vigorously using a balloon whisk to blend thoroughly. Simmer (barely bubbling) over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce starts to boil. Allow to boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula or spoon. Remove from the stove.

CHEESE SAUCE: Make a white sauce and add 1 tsp butter, salt and milled black pepper and whisk briskly for a second or two, until thick and shiny. Add 1 cup grated mature cheddar cheese, stirring constantly until the cheese has melted.

SALAD DRESSING: Chop 2 fat cloves garlic coarsely, using a sharp, flat bladed knife. Continue chopping the garlic until it is fine, gradually incorporating 1/2 tsp sea salt. Alternatively you could crush the garlic in a garlic press (omit the salt). Add 1 tsp mustard powder, salt and milled black pepper and 30 ml pure wine vinegar to the garlic and mix well. Add 125 ml cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly to incorporate it well. Taste the dressing and add extra salt and pepper if necessary.

SCONES: Sift 500 g flour, 4 tbsp castor sugar, 4 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Rub 125 g butter with fingertips until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Beat 250 ml milk and 2 large eggs and add slowly  to the dry mixture, folding in with a wooden spoon. (Reserve a little liquid to brush scones with.) When the dough has a soft, moist consistency, turn out onto a well floured board and shape and pat gently into squares or cut out rounds with a scone cutter. Brush the tops with the reserved liquid. Place on baking sheets or on oiled foil. Bake in a moderately hot oven 200 C for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Remove and sprinkle with sugar if liked. (Makes about 24 scones)  

TARTAR SAUCE: Dice 1-2 pickled gherkins and mix with 2 tsp capers, 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley, 1 tsp dried or 1 sprig fresh tarragon, 1-2 tbsp diced onion and a few finely chopped green or black olives. Fold into mayonnaise.

ROAST TURKEY: Preheat oven to 160°C. Remove giblets, clean and wash turkey inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. Smooth 2 tbsp butter under the breast skin. Melt 3 tbsp butter and brush over entire turkey. Mix 1 1/2 tsp mustard powder, 1 1/2 tsp flour, salt and pepper and pat all over turkey. Place turkey breast side up in a shallow ridge pan. Cut a piece of foil larger than the turkey and fold a crease lengthways down the centre. Cover turkey with foil to form a tent. Roast turkey for the calculated time (weigh turkey and allow 25 minutes for every 500 g and an extra 20 minutes at the end), removing the foil for the last 30 minutes of roasting to brown the skin. Remove the turkey from the oven, transfer it to a serving dish and keep it warm while making the gravy.