11th August 2011
Cooking With Mouth Sores
Flora playing with her pork.
Poor old Flora - here she comes for dinner with a mouth full of ulcers. Stress apparently. Definitely nothing to do with trouble, you know, down there. Definitely not.

So I concocted a soft and gentle meal, nothing too spiky, nothing too spicy, nothing too acid, all creams and purée: A nice (if unauthentic) pork stroganoff, puréed potatoes, mixed veg and to follow; a soothing homemade vanilla ice cream.

Mostly wasted effort, though, as the ungrateful guest started her visit by helping herself to some distinctly ulcer-unfriendly pickled gherkin slices, and then spent the evening complaining that what she really fancied was take-away food like what they're always eating in The Big Bang Theory.

Not a bad meal on the whole, though I think it could have done with some kind of crispy, crunchy greens (cabbage or kale?) on the side.

I'm ashamed to say that the the mixed veg were just out of a frozen packet that I heated in a small pot with a generous knob of butter. But the pork stroganoff is real enough.

Pork Stroganoff
main meat
Pork chops in a mushroom and sour cream sauce
Serves 4

To make the sauce, halve the onion and chop finely. Clean the mushrooms, separate the stalks and mince them up. Finely slice the heads.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan and gently sweat the onions for 10 minutes until they soften, add the paprika and stir through, then add the mushrooms (in batches if necessary) and sweat them gently for a further 10 minutes until they have leaked much of their water and reduced. Set the mixture aside in a pot.
Now add a little more butter to the frying pan and fry up the mushroom stalks until they dry out, then deglaze with the wine and simmer to reduce by half. Use a stick blender to purée this reduction to a smooth paste, adding a little of the onion mixture and more wine if required. Add this to the onion mushroom mixture in the pot. This whole purée thing is optional - just deglaze the onion mixture with the white wine if you can't be bothered with it but it will produce a thicker, smoother sauce.

Now cook the chops - you can just fry them over a moderate heat for 10 minutes, season, turn them for another 5 minutes, then rest.
Or you can do as I did, and brown the seasoned chops quickly in olive oil over high heat, then throw in a finely sliced garlic clove, scrape out the pan and wrap the whole lot tightly in tin foil and stick it in the oven to cook slowly until you're ready for it, say half an hour at Gas Mark 4.
Interestingly, I decided to compare the two cooking methods - pan-frying a chop and cooking a chop in the oven for half an hour at Gas Mark 4 (both defrosted frozen chops - if that makes any difference). The oven-cooked chop was noticeably drier and tougher, so although it can make the preparation a bit easier particularly if you don't have much hob space, I'd have to recommend against it.

When you're ready to serve, reheat the mushroom mixture in the pot for 5 minutes until well mixed, then add the sour cream and the mustard (both to taste), season, and cook stirring for a further 5 minutes. Add any juices from the chops when they are cooked.
Serve the chops with mushroom sauce spooned over, an extra dollop of sour cream, and scattered with herbs.
The chops were ever-so-slightly tough, so maybe I left them too long in the oven or it was too hot and dried them out.
Or maybe you could skip the frying step and put the chops straight in the oven with the garlic - after all they'll be covered in sauce when you serve them so no one will know if they appear to have come from an albino pig.
Or maybe, as I mention above, it's just a bit of a rubbish way to cook them?
The sauce is good. You can also add a squirt of lemon juice to it at the end if you like, and you aren't cooking for someone with an acid sensitivity.

Easy Puréed Potatoes
side staple veg
I normally prefer to bake the potatoes for mash, but I had a bag of smallish King Edwards that needed using up, and couldn't be arsed to bake them all.

Serves 4

Bake your head of garlic at Gas Mark 4-6 for 30 minutes until soft and oozing, cut the top off the head and squeeze out the cloves using the back of a heavy knife (or your fingers).

Meanwhile simmer the potatoes in their skins for about half an hour until they are extremely soft and their skins have started breaking open. Drain them and leave to cool a little until you can handle them.
Carefully scrape off the peel with a sharp knife, and run the potatoes through a potato ricer back into the pot over a low heat to dry out, then vigorously beat in your garlic and your butter - a generous amount of butter. As much butter as you think you could possibly stand. Then a bit more. Now you can cover this mixture with buttered paper until you need it.

To serve, heat the cream, put the potato in a pot over low heat and whisk in the hot cream in a steady stream until the mash is nice and smooth, season generously, stir in the parsley and serve.
You can simplify this by heating the cream in the pot and then mashing the potato into it, though you won't incorporate quite as much air that way.
You can also add the butter at this stage too, rather than beating it in earlier.
You might prefer the coarser result, more like mash than purée.

Vanilla Ice Cream
dessert veg
If, like me, you have a pathetic freezer, make sure to put your ice cream machine sleeve in to freeze several days ahead of schedule.
Also make sure that the custard mix is really well chilled before churning it in the machine.

Serves 4

Remember to put the ice cream machine sleeve in your freezer a day or so ahead of time.

Slit the vanilla pod down its length. Put in a pot with the single cream, bring slowly to a gentle simmer and leave to infuse.
Beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and fluffy.
Pour the strained cream into the egg yolks, stirring constantly, then set the bowl over simmering water (or if you're feeling brave in a pot directly over a very low heat) and whisk vigorously as the custard heats to 80°C, and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Don't let it curdle or turn to scrambled eggs. You might be able to rescue it by dumping the pot into cold water and whisking like a lunatic if this does happen. Or you might not.

Put in the fridge, then the freezer to cool and thoroughly chill.
Whisk up the double cream until it is thick (though not stiff), then stir it into the custard and finally pour it into your ice cream machine.
Put into the freezer until required, but take it out and set it in the fridge 15 minutes or so before serving so it's not too hard.
Rather nice, but unlikely as it seems, just a bit too creamy. It's actually better made following the ingredients listed in the Carved Angel Cookery Book:
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 300ml milk
  • 150ml double cream

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