Granola

Granola is an increasingly popular breakfast cereal made from baked oats with honey and sugar.  Manufactured Granola can be quite expensive and yet very easy to make at home. It is delicious mixed with dried fruits and nuts such as flaked almonds, apricots, raisins and sultanas or eaten with creamy, natural yoghurt, sliced banana and sprinkled with Blueberries.

Homemade Crunchy Granola
Homemade Crunchy Granola

Granola was invented and trademarked in America by a contemporary of John Harvey Kellogg as a baked breakfast cereal at a similar time to muesli, which is also made from oats although neither sweetened or cooked. With the addition of nuts and dried fruits Granola is often marketed as a ‘healthy option’ however it does contain a lot of sugar. Granola or pressed Granola bars ( similar to Flapjack ) are a good source of energy and is often carried by long-distance hikers. Granola can also be used in making and garnishing desserts.

Breakfast Granola
Granola with Yoghurt, Bananas, and Blueberries

Homemade Crunchy Granola

300 gr Rolled Oats

120 gr Honey

60 ml Vegetable Oil

3 tablespoons packed light Brown Sugar

1 teaspoon Natural Vanilla extract

½ teaspoon ground Cinnamon

¼ teaspoon Salt

Extras

100 gr dried fruit; Raisins, Sultanas, small diced dried Apricots, freeze dried Strawberries

50 gr toasted flaked Almond Nuts or flaked Coconut

Heat the oven to 300°F / 150 C / Gas mark 2. Place the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine and set aside. Place the honey, oil, and vanilla into a jug and mix thoroughly. Pour over the oat mixture and mix until the oats are thoroughly coated. Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer on a rimmed baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for fifteen minutes, then stir, breaking up any large clusters and continue baking until the granola is a very light golden brown, for between five and ten more minutes.

 

Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool the granola to room temperature, stirring occasionally. It will harden as it cools. You can add the dried fruit and nuts or seeds to the Granola when it is thoroughly cooled down and toss to combine together. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Advertisements

Master Sauces

There is a long history of sauce in French cooking, dating back to the Middle Ages. In classic French cuisine or ‘cuisine classique’ through to ‘nouvelle cuisine’ in the nineteen seventies and eighties sauces were a major component of most savoury dishes and many of these sauces are derived from what we call the five Master Sauces. In a traditional kitchen brigade, a ‘saucier’ or sauce cook is the most senior chef after the Head Chef and Sous or second chef. The saucier prepares all of the sauces, and casseroles as well cooking dishes to order.

Demi-glace reduction
A Demi-glace reduction

In the early nineteenth century, the chef Marie-Antoine Carême created a list of sauces, many which were his own recipes. Carême made many of these recipes using four base Master SaucesEspagnoleVelouté, Allemande, and Béchamel. The chef Auguste Escoffier developed the list of sauces in his book ‘Le Guide Culinaire’ or A Guide to Modern Cookery, he removed Allemande because of its similarity to Velouté and added Hollandaise, the emulsion of eggs and butter and Tomato Sauce. This list became the five Master Sauces with the substitution of Demi-glace for the heavier Espangole.

Thickening Sauces

Thickening sauces have developed from using starchy vegetables, the ground nuts, and breadcrumbs from medieval cookery to using gums and gelling agents in today’s advanced gastronomy. The most common and popular methods are;

Roux

Flour and butter for a roux
Preparing a Roux

roux is a mixture of flour and fat used to thicken sauces, soups, and stews. It is traditionally used to thicken the classical French Béchamel, Velouté, and Espagnole sauces and in Cajun and Creole cooking. The roux is made from equal parts wheat flour and either butter, vegetable oil, bacon drippings or lard which are cooked together with or without colouring. The warm liquid such as stock or scalded milk is then slowly whisked in to the cooked roux, which is then cooked out over a low heat.

Beurre monté

This is a French term meaning to finish a sauce with butter forming an emulsion. Immediately before serving you can whisk in chunks of cold unsalted butter, one at a time, into a hot sauce. The sauce must not boil or the butter emulsion will split. The finished sauce has a velvety texture and rich flavour.

Beurre manié

Is a paste made by kneading butter and flour together which can be crumbled over and quickly whisked into a simmering sauce. It can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator. A ratio of fifty grammes of butter to seventy-five grammes of plain flour will thicken one litre of sauce.

Liaison

This is a mixture of cream and egg yolks, used to thicken soups and sauces. Never add directly to hot liquids or the eggs will cook out and scramble. Temper the liaison by adding a small amount of the hot sauce to it which gradually raises the temperature, then whisk this mixture back into the remaining sauce. DO NOT BOIL and serve straight away. This is a very rich method of finishing classic sauces.

Reduction

Demi-glace reduction
A Demi-glace reduction

This is the same as the American term “cooking down” … as the stock or sauce simmers water vapour evaporates. This thickens the sauce and intensifies the flavour. Use a large heavy pot and bring the liquid or sauce to a gentle simmer, a vigorous boiling may burn the sauce and evaporate volatile flavourings. Many of the sauces found in modern cuisine are based on reductions see Demi-glace.

Slurry

A slurry is a mixture of a starch and cold water. You can use cornstarch for thickening milk or dairy sauces, arrowroot used to thicken fruits juices because of the clear, glossy finished result on fruit tarts, potato starch, rice flour, wheat flour or dried powdered yam. The ration is one-part starch with two parts cold water. Always remove the sauce from the heat before adding the slurry to stop the starch cooking in thin streams or ribbons and not mixing. Then return to the heat stirring continuously.

Tomato concassé

Tomato concassé is the flesh from fresh tomatoes that have been peeled, de-seeded and chopped into a dice. It is a staple of many professional kitchens used in sauces, omelettes, with olive oil, garlic, and basil as a topping for bruschetta and when added to Béarnaise sauce to make Choron sauce, served with fish and seafood. We remove tomato seeds and skin from Tomato concassé as in large quantities they can be tough, do not soften during cooking and leave a bitter flavour. If you can get hold of a moderate amount of ice it is very useful when cooling off the blanched tomatoes. Use fully ripe but firm tomatoes for the best results. The process may seem to be quite an effort but the end results for Tomato concassé are very pleasing and worthwhile.

To make tomato concassé

Bring a large pot of water, deep enough to generously cover your tomatoes, to a rolling boil.Take each tomato and using the tip of a small sharp knife or paring knife ( see picture ) remove the pith or tough part of the tomato where the stem used to be cutting out a circular hole.

Turn the tomato over and on the other end mark a small cross in the skin with the knife.

When all your tomatoes are prepared, place a four or five at a time into the pan the boiling water. As soon as the water returns to a boil cook for one-minute longer and then remove them using a slotted spoon or spider.

Immediately plunge the blanched tomatoes into a large bowl of very cold water to arrest the cooking process. If you have ice, use iced water. The cooking process depends on the size of tomatoes you are using, small tomatoes may only require thirty seconds simmering. A good rule of thumb is if you see the tomato skin beginning to peel off then take out and cool.

The next step will take a little practice. Drain the blanched tomatoes then using the sharp knife again gentle tease and peel off the skin. Start by slowly sliding the tip of the knife under the cross you made in the skin earlier and work down. When peeled quarter the tomatoes and remove the seed with a small spoon or the back of the knife. Chop the quartered tomatoes into large or small dice as required.

Garlic

Fresh Garlic Cloves
Garlic Cloves

Garlic is one of the most popular aromatics used almost worldwide because of the flavour adds to dishes. Raw garlic has a very pungent, hot taste that mellows and becomes sweeter when cooked. Roasting garlic gives it a lovely delicate, nutty flavour. Propagation is by placing a single clove in the ground, for this plant to reach maturity will take around five months depending on the growing conditions. It is best to grow garlic in a sunny location that is well drained. Garlic is a major ingredient in Asian influenced dishes such as stir-fries and curries, as a classic flavouring in Mediterranean cooking for soups, sauces and casseroles and pairs perfectly with onions, tomatoes, chilli, ginger, basil, chicken, pork, and seafood.

Strings of Garlic Bulbs
Fresh Garlic Bulbs

Slaves building the pyramids were given garlic to give them strength. The first workers strike then occurred when, to save money, the garlic was removed from their diet. During World War I soldiers depended on garlic for its antiseptic properties and it has been used for a long time to fight colds and coughs.  There is an old Spanish proverb that says, “where you find garlic, you find good health.” The same chemical that gives garlic its pungent aroma reacts with bacteria in your mouth that cause bad breath. A good way to counteract this smell is to eat parsley or to drink milk while you are eating the garlic.

 

Coriander

Fresh Coriander Leaves
Fresh Coriander Leaves

In cooking, we can use all of the coriander plant, its leaves and stems, the seeds and the roots and each has its own distinct flavour. Coriander is native to the Mediterranean but is used in cuisines throughout the world and is an essential ingredient in Thai, Mexican, Moroccan and Indian cuisine and is found as the fresh leaves, roots or the spice from the ground down seeds in classic curries, salsas, stir-fries, tagines, and fajitas. Coriander pairs well with chicken, beef, chilli, lemongrass, garlic, mint, fish sauce and soy sauce.

Dried Coriander Seeds
Coriander Seeds

Coriander is an annual plant grown from its seeds. There are references to coriander in the Old Testament of the bible and they were found in the tomb of the legendary Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. In the past coriander has been used to treat migraines and indigestion to help purify the blood and to relieve nausea, pain in joints and rheumatism. The dried seeds have a sweet and spicy flavour while the leaves of coriander are zesty, with a strong citrus and peppery flavours. Coriander leaves are best added at the end of cooking or as a garnish on dish as high heat can quickly discolour them and kills the fresh flavours.

Chives

chives 3

Chives are a member of the same plant family as onions, leeks, garlic, and spring onions and grow wild all over Europe and North America. The flowers are edible, but it is the stems that are popular in a variety of national cuisines most especially in French cooking. Chives taste and smell mildly of onion and are delicious in potato, cheese, and egg dishes. Chives are a hardy plant that can survive cold winters and will cope with drought and wet weather. They are a perennial that will regrow after cuttings. Chives will grow in early spring, sprouting a slightly mauve coloured flower.

Vibrant Green Chive Oil
A great garnish for soups

Chives can be used to make a wonderfully vibrant, flavoured oil with which you can decorate soup and fish dishes and make delicious herby salad dressings. You may think the amount of chives in the recipe seems to be quite a lot but it makes for a really impressive colour.

Chive Oil

120 g Chives

300 ml Vegetable Oil 

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Bring a large pan of very lightly salted water to the boil. Blanch chives in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove with a spider and plunge into a large bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. When the chives have chilled, drain and remove any excess moisture by patting gently with kitchen paper. Place the blanched chives, seasoning, and oil into a high-speed food processor and blitz to a fine purée. Careful—over-blending can turn the chives brown, then pass through a fine-mesh strainer or muslin cloth. Reserve in the fridge and shake well before serving.