Try a little invention

Michele Guinness says never forget that cooking should be fun!

I am laying down my spatula - at least for a while.  I have thoroughly
enjoyed  pretending to be a culinary doyenne.  It has stretched my
creativity in the kitchen no end, but only yesterday my materials
reminded me, as they so often do, that I cook for the pleasure of my
friends’ enjoyment rather than because I’m an expert.
I had people for dinner and a mound of leftover bananas, so
invented a chocolate banana pavlova. Just take a common pavlova recipe and add two teaspoons of cocoa to the mixture.  What could be easier? 

But within five minutes of lifting it out of the oven it cracked,
collapsed and ended up looking like a pile of something in a farmyard.
I thought, “Good job I’m not photographing this for Woman Alive!”
Notwithstanding, I filled it with low fat mocha ripple ice cream and
chopped bananas, drizzled chocolate sauce over the top - and it looked and tasted fabulous. The flattened meringue was actually deliciously gooey and chocolatey inside - which all goes to show, invention not perfection is what counts.

The simple cheesecake below is one of those inventions that I came
up with when I needed a dessert in a hurry and had lots of nectarines
and a fresh pineapple to use up.

And before I go, I couldn’t miss the chance of sharing with you my
son’s favourite, dark, rich Guinness stew.  For those of us who fail to
understand its charms in the glass, (even if my husband is great great grandson to the man whose name is on the bottle), Guinness can’t fail to please in the pot.  Don’t be tempted to add more than the recipe says however - or it will be bitter.

Not everyone enjoys cooking.  But food is a gift of God. He didn’t
have to create us with taste buds.  We could have been fed by
swallowing nutrients in a tablet. Instead, he gave us a wonderful basis
for fellowship, relaxation and celebration. So until we share the oven
gloves again, this Jewish Mama’s prayer is that even if you don’t
always like the process, you will enjoy the end results.
Guinness Beef Stew or Pie

 Serves 4

  750g/ 1½lb lean beef braising steak, cut into pieces
  2 tablespoons olive oil
  One large onion, chopped
  225g/8oz button mushrooms
  2 rashers of bacon, chopped (optional)
  Half a 440ml can (8 fl oz) of Guinness
  2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  2 tablespoons plain flour
  I x 400g (14oz) tin chopped tomatoes
  1 tsp dried bay leaves
  1 brown stock cube
  Salt, ground black pepper, garlic and a pinch of sugar

Marinade the meat in half the Guinness, 1 tablespoon oil, the black
pepper, garlic, bay leaf and Worcestershire sauce for around 3-4 hours.
Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a pan, lift the steak out of the
marinade and brown quickly.  Set aside. 

Heat the remaining oil and cook the chopped onion until golden.  Add the chopped bacon, the mushrooms, garlic and fry for another two minutes.  Add the flour and stir it in well to coat the bacon, onion and mushrooms. 

Add all the remaining ingredients, including the steak and cook until the sauce thickens. 

Place in a casserole and cook on gas mark 3/170C for around
an hour and a half.

To make a pie:

Simply roll out a sheet of ready-made puff pastry.  Then, 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time, bring the casserole out of the oven (it should be a low-sided rectangular casserole for the pie) and cover the meat with the pastry.  Raise the temperature to gas mark 4/180C for the last 30 minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden.

Quick Fresh Fruit Cheese Flan

  250g/9oz shortbread biscuits
  50g/2oz good quality margarine, melted
  2x 200g/7oz tubs low fat cream cheese
  50g/2 oz castor sugar
  A few drops of vanilla essence
  Around 1k/2lbs fresh fruit - pineapple, nectarine or kiwi slices,
  grapes, strawberries.
  150ml/1/4 pint orange or other fruit juice
  1 heaped teaspoon cornflour

Grind the shortbread biscuits, mix with the melted margarine and press into a 28cm/11 inch flan dish.  Allow to cool.
Beat the castor sugar and vanilla essence into the cream cheese and
spread over the base.

Cover the cream cheese with a variety of sliced and chopped fresh fruits.

Dissolve the cornflour in a little of the juice, then add the rest and
bring to the boil to thicken. Allow to cool slightly and pour over the
fruit as a glaze.  Refrigerate to set.