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10 October 2010 @ 12:10 am
Austerity Cooking  
I recently pulled an old cook book off the shelf, to have a flick through and giggle. It's called Fine English Cookery, and was printed in 1973, so is filled with the meals of my childhood.

Until I read it, and indulged on my massive Agatha Christie binge of the last six weeks (twenty novels and counting!), I had managed to completely remove the memory of tongue from my conscious mind. Happily, due to a few massive thwacks to the noggin over the years, I can still only recall that I have eaten it, and the vaguest distaste when it comes to trying to recall either actual taste or texture. I feel this is for the best.

However, thanks to the aforementioned reading (and I was then obliged to pull out my WI and CWA (Australian WI near-analogue) cookbooks), I have been cooking retro food for the last few weeks. With the credit crunch still biting bums in most of the world, and a lot of students out there, I want to share my two fave recipes, both of which are considerably adapted from their source material, due to the source being a bit mingy in the flavour department. The first is vegan, the second thoroughly not, but still vegetarian! Both cheap to make! (Admittedly a little less so if you use everything organic.)

Italianesque beans
Serves 2 really really hungry people as a meal, 3 normally hungry people as a meal, or 4-6 people as a side

A bucketload of garlic: half a head of Russian or Italian garlic, more if it's older, a little less than half a head of normal garlic, or else at least a teaspoon of bottled garlic. You can adjust this if you are fussy about garlic or going out on the pull later in the night.
A splash of olive oil
2 tins cannellini beans (white Italian kidney beans)
2 tins tomatoes (whole or crushed) or a similar amount of sugo or passata
(All tins should be roughly 400-450g, the standard size, but weights vary according to brand)
Salt and pepper
A small amount of caster sugar if the tomatoes are bitter
Basil or other Italian herbs (optional)

1. In a large non-stick frypan, heat the oil over a medium-hot hob.
2. Chop garlic roughly. When oil is just beginning to spatter, but well before it starts to smoke, toss garlic in and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to soften and turn translucent/golden.
3. While garlic is cooking, open the tins of beans and tip into a large sieve. Rinse under a cold running tap until the water runs clear without foaming. Drain and tip beans in with soft garlic.
4. Cook, stirring, until beans heat through.
5. Add tomato (drain some of the liquid off first if using whole tomatoes that have been packed with a lot of water). Break up large tomato pieces as necessary -- it's easiest to do this with your spoon after they have heated through. Cook over a medium-hot heat until the sauce has thickened and reduced. Season as desired (it often does not need salt as many tinned products have a little salt added), taste, and if the tomatoes are bitter, add a quarter-teaspoon at a time of caster sugar and stir in well before tasting again. Add herbs just after tomatoes if using rosemary, oregano or marjoram.
6. Turn off heat and stir in torn basil, if using. Serve with crusty bread, if desired, or just eat from a big bowl. You can also cook the beans to this point and then pour them into ramekins, cracking a raw egg into the middle and putting the ramekin in a moderate oven until the egg is cooked (about 8 minutes in my oven) for a delicious non-vegan breakfast. And I have added a sliced onion to the garlic in step 2 for a more allium-centric version of this dish.

Baked custard
Serves six as a dish, or four hungry people as dish, or eight as an accompaniment to steamed pudding, stewed fruit or similar)

450mL milk (preferably organic)
300mL single cream (preferably organic)
Vanilla bean, or a good splash of vanilla extract
6 medium-large free-range eggs
100-110g caster sugar (the organic golden is delicious! Use the upper level if you like it sweeter.)
Nutmeg, if desired.

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C conventional, 180 fan-forced. Prepare a 1.5L ovenproof dish or ring mould: the original recipe suggests buttering it, but I never bother. Instead, stand it inside a larger ovenproof dish, on an oven tray. Fill the outer dish with water to halfway up the sides of the inner dish. Old Pyrex dishes are perfect.
2. In a 2L pan, heat the milk and cream together. Split the vanilla bean (if using) with a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds: drop seeds and bean into milk. Stir occasionally to prevent milk sticking to pan.
3. Crack all the eggs, whole, into a medium bowl. Add sugar. Beat together with fork, whisk or hand-held beaters until the sugar is dissolved and egg mix well incoporated.
4. When the milk is starting to simmer, use a ladle or cup to scoop about 100mL into the egg mixture. Beat in well. Repeat twice more, until the egg mixture is starting to warm. Stirring as you do, pour the egg mixture into the milk still on the hob. Turn off the heat, but continue to stir until thoroughly incorporated. The custard will start to thicken a little as you stir.
5. Pour the custard mixture into the inner dish.Grate nutmeg over the top if using. Lift the tray carefully, so the water does not slosh, and place in middle of oven. Bake for about 50 mins. Test by giving the tray a jiggle: the custard should just be set: it will wobble in the middle, but not be liquid. Remove from oven and remove from water bath soon after: if left in it will continue to cook and the outside can become over tough. Can be served straight away hot, or left to cool to near room temperature and then refrigerated, covered, for a minimum of an hour to serve cool.

silent hallucinationalex_s9 on October 10th, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC)
I just this conversation at the party two days ago, about tongues (bleh), tails (yummy!) and kidneys (double bleh). I remember my mum preparing the tongue, it's quite popular here in Poland, but I yet have to taste it (I refused to eat different kind of meat since I was a child and tongue looks mushy when you cook it).