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Subatomic Cheesecake (£1.60)

My favourite subatomic particle is the quark, simply because it was first theorised the year I was born and confirmed by scientific observations shortly after. Higgs-Boson particles were actually theorised the same year, but they took half-a-century and billions of pounds, dollars and euros to have their existence proven.

quarksThe man who theorised the existence of quarks named them after a word he saw in a nonsense rhyme by James Joyce.

JoyceJames Joyce was referring to the name used for a kind of light, soft, saltless cheese, made from curdled and strained milk with no other added ingredients. It was seen as a simple, downmarket product, and it was probably in this sense that Joyce was using the word as slang for ‘rubbish’ or ‘leftovers’.

Hence, from this string of temuous connections, I name this recipie, ‘Subatomic Cheesecake,’ because it it made with quark. It could also be made with Philadelphia or the more familiar supermarket soft cheeses, but I wanted to retain the natural lightness of fresh quark.

Ingredients:

quarkcake1

  • 250g digestive biscuits
  • 350g plain quark
  • 100g sugar (I used icing sugar here, but with hindsight I think castor or even ordinary sugar is better as it is not so overpowerfully sweet. All down to personal taste though.)
  • 50g butter or marg.
  • Some extra flavouring of some sort – whatever is about. Vanilla essence in the quark mix, chocolate or cocoa in the biscuit mix (mixed with extra sugar if using cocoa), lemon juice. I use a few drops of lemon essence in both the base and quark mix. A sprinkle of raspberries on top would also be very nice.

Method:

Crush the biscuits thoroughly and mix with the butter/marg. There are various clever ways of doing this, such as in a bag or rolled up inside a tea towel, but I simply whacked away at them in a bowl with the end of a rolling-pin. Useful therapy after a stressful day at work if you need one.

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Press this mixture into the bottom of a cake tin – the kind with a removable bottom if you have one.

quarkcake2A

Mix the quark with the sugar thoroughly and spoon it over the top of the biscuit base.

Add any toppings such as raspberries or chocolate chips at this point, then put it in the fridge for at least half-an-hour – it’s best cold.

quarkcake4

A bit of a challenge to get it out of the container on to a plate, but it can be done, or just serve straight from the container. £1.60 to make and theoretically serves six at 27p a portion, but I managed to personally eat half of the one I made within a very short time.

quarkcake5

Traditional Greek Pizza (41p)

Kimolos mapPizza Ladeniaίτσα λαδένια, pronounced something like “PEET-sa la-THEN-ee-a”) has been produced on the island of Kimolos in the western Aegean Sea since medieval times. It is claimed to be the origin of the modern pizza, later developed, of course, by the Italians and which is now consumed the world over.

Whether Italian cooks really got the idea from Greece or were just developing traditions found throughout the Mediterranean is open to debate, but the Greeks are very proud of their own, more ancient version.

The main difference between traditional Greek and modern Italian-style pizzas is that the former is rich in olive-oil and baked slowly in a high-sided tray or pan, while the latter is a less oily creation rapidly roasted on a dry hot plate or oven shelf and which first appeared in Naples about the year 1800. The origin of the name, ‘pizza‘ is lost in time, but probably originally simply meant ‘bread’ or ‘bite of food’, while ‘ladenia‘ is derived from the Greek words for oil (‘lathi‘) and olive (‘elia‘).

Acknowledgments to Giota Nikolau at faghta-giagias.blogspot.com for this. In the photo below there are three tomatoes and two onions, but when I came to chop them up I found I needed one less of each.

2018-03-19A Pizza ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2 vine tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 350g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons dried yeast
  • Cup of warm water
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • A dozen chopped olives
  • Dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper

Method

In a bowl add half the warm water, yeast, sugar, two tablespoons of flour and mix it all together. Cover and leave to rise for 15 minutes. Doesn’t need to be anywhere especially warm – mine rose very happily in a coldish kitchen. Stir in thoroughly the remaining flour and water to make a firm dough and knead this for 10 minutes.

2018-03-19C Kneading

If it came out right it shouldn’t be sticking to your hands of fingers while you’re doing this. If it is too sticky, add pinches of flour until it is right. After kneading, put it back in the bowl, cover and leave for a further ½ hour to rise again.

2018-03-19D Bases

Flatten and stretch out the dough moderately thinly into one large or two small pizza base shapes. Press the sliced tomato, onion and olives on top and drizzle olive oil over them – traditionally this was quite an oily creation! Sprinkle on some dried oregano with some salt and ground pepper. I’m normally anti-salt, but this definitely benefits from it.

2018-03-19E Drizzled

Bake in a lipped dish or tray, lined with a generous smear of olive oil, for 20-30 minutes at 180C (all depends on how efficient your oven is, might need a little longer). Important to used a lipped dish or tray because otherwise the olive oil will run off and burn on the bottom of the oven. The pizza is cooked when it is browning all over and not flexible when lifted.

2018-03-19F Cooked.jpg

Cost: This made two pizzas, each quite filling, and could happily have been shared between four people. The price per meal was therefore (assuming 4 people each with a mug of tea, and including electricity and washing up costs) … 41p.

I found I’d made mine a bit too thick – would have been better flattened to under 1cm height when making the pizza bases. Also might add a sprinkle of bacon bits or shreds of ham next time, but important to remember that originally this was everyday, filling food, not a fancy treat like modern pizza.

Messy Gnocci (50p)

This is the last of my transfers of recipes from Facebook to Cooking For Nothing. The posts will now go back to their normal frequency.

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Facebook post 2 Nov 2016.

polish-flagHad these not infrequently in Poland – how I miss that country – but they were not a particular favourite, being rather squidgy and tasteless. Not a criticism of the chef, just something my palate is not used to or keen on. Had a go at the recipe in A Girl Called Jack, with modifications.

The ingredients:

  • 1 egg.
  • 500 g tinned pots.
  • Big pinch of dried parsley.
  • 100 g flour

Jack said boil the pots, mash them with the other ingredients, roll the mixture out like dough, cut into shapes – drop them in boiling water and when they float, they’re done. Not quite so …

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The mixture was ridiculously sticky, so I kept added more flour, 100g or more, until it was manageable. The ‘cooked’ gnochettes tasted half-raw (I’d made them too big), so had to boil them for another 10 minutes. And messy! A lot of clearing up afterwards, flour and gnocchi dough all over the place.

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Gnocchi are bland things on their own, so made a sauce with what was to hand – a fine chopped onion, tin chopped toms, good pinches of oregano, thyme and paprika, spoon of horseradish, crushed garlic clove, all fried and mashed together.

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It worked. With the mandatory mug of tea and including electricity, tasty and 50p a meal.

Avgolemono Soup (47p)

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2016-12-16-lemon-chicken-0-flagSecond attempt at this one, and with a more pleasing result.

The Greek name for this is Κοτόσουπα Αυγολέμονο (pronounced something like  “koto-zoopa avro-lemono”), literally translating as ‘chicken-soup egg-lemon’.

  • 250 ml chicken stock
  • 1 egg (but see note at bottom)
  • 25 g rice
  • Half a lemon (plus a thin slice for decoration)
  • Garlic clove
  • ½ an onion, red or white
  • 1 carrot
  • flat teaspoon of all-purpose seasoning*
  • 25 g cooked chicken meat
  • pinch of dried parsley

Made my own chicken stock. After cooking a chicken in the crock-pot (AKA slow cooker), poured off the juices, and after they had settled for a few minutes scooped off the fatty layer that separates out on top – the flavour is all in the lower watery part (typically about 250 ml depending on the size of the original chicken).

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Simmered this for an hour with a grated carrot, half a fine-chopped onion, a crushed garlic clove and some all-purpose seasoning thrown in, plus 250 ml water.

Strained this, discarding the veg, and simmered with 25 g rice for 15 minutes, then poured it into a cold bowl to cool down a bit.

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Meanwhile, whisked an egg with the juice of half a lemon – not to a foam, but with a good bit of air in it (I used a hand-blender) – then added this to the stock once it was cool enough. The trick is not to have the stock too hot, otherwise you end up getting scrambled egg. The end result should have a smooth consistency. Threw in 25 g of chicken meat and reheated it to steaming point in a pan before serving. With a thin slice of lemon and sprinkle of parsley it looks fab.

2016-12-21 lemon-chicken soup - meal 2.jpg

And there it was! There are numerous variations of avgolemono on the web, some with stock, others chicken broth, others with lumps of chicken and various vegetables thrown in. Some have the sauce floating on top or whipped to a meringue-like consistency, most (like mine) have it blended in. On this occasion it was a little bit ‘eggy’, so would add less of the egg/lemon mix next time.

As the stock was free (the by-product of cooking a chicken) just needed to add up the cost of the other ingredients and electricity. Came to about 78p. As there was enough for two, with a slice of bread and cup of tea, 46p a serving.

* I currently use an equal mixture of Schwartz ‘Season-All’ and Polish ‘giros’ seasoning, but any ‘all purpose’ or ‘universal’ seasoning will do, or a quarter of a chicken stock cube – but not more than that as it will drown out the subtle flavouring of the dish.