Grill Hills: It's all Greek to me
Stewing over a recipe? Baffled by an ingredient? Hilary Biller answers your food questions. Send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them to PO Box 1742, Saxonwold, 2132
Q I moved to a Greek island three months ago and am having trouble obtaining ingredients I've used for years in South Africa. For 30 years, I've been making muesli and buttermilk rusks, but the buttermilk here is extremely thin and runny. I'm not too worried about that, though, as you once wrote that any "soured" milk would do the trick.
Now I can't find self-raising flour and even the packets of plain flour are difficult to decipher, being one grade or another in Greek.
I tried the Internet for making my own self-raising flour and got even more confused. Some say add baking powder and salt, some say baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and salt and some only bicarbonate of soda etc.
The original recipe calls for 1.5kg self-raising flour plus 60ml baking powder. Due to the already high volume of baking powder, I decided to just give it a go, using the local plain flour, 60ml baking powder and 30ml bicarbonate of soda, plus the 7ml salt called for in the original recipe.
In SA, I used jumbo eggs, but here I can only find large eggs - I still only used the 4 ordered by the recipe.
The loaves rose during baking, but not as much as I would have liked. What would you have done with the flour etc in my circumstances? - Marcia Michalitsianos, Kefalonia
A I've looked at a number of rusk recipes and most use a combination of self-raising flour and baking powder as the raising agent. The simplest method of making your own self-raising flour is to add 5ml baking powder for every 250ml flour (125g) called for in a recipe. In your recipe, 1.5kg self-raising flour means you need 1.5kg flour, 30ml baking powder, plus the extra 60ml baking powder called for in the recipe. I put this revised recipe to the test and it worked out well, although I did use butter instead of yellow margarine and only used 75ml baking powder.
The buttermilk can be replaced with any soured milk and I'm sure a plain Greek yoghurt, likely to be made from sheep's milk, would be perfect. It will be quite thick, so you may need to add some milk to thin it down. I would stick to using 4 large eggs.
I imagine you have found an equivalent muesli and if you can't find the candied peel replace it with the equivalent in nuts - any nuts except peanuts - roughly chopped, or just leave it out.
For readers in South Africa, here is Marcia's original recipe.
MUESLI AND BUTTERMILK RUSKS
(Makes about 60)
700g margarine (brick, not soft)
1 litre buttermilk
400g All Bran Flakes
250g toasted muesli
1,5kg self-raising flour
60ml baking powder
200g seedless raisins
Small packet candied lemon peel
4 jumbo eggs
Melt margarine over very low heat in a largish pot. When melted, switch off stove plate and add the buttermilk to the melted butter.
In a very large bowl, place the two cereals, the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, raisins and peel. Mix well.
Beat eggs into the butter and buttermilk mixture with a small electric beater and pour every drop of that mixture onto the dry mix and mix well - this takes a bit of elbow grease as all the dry bits must be incorporated.
Divide this dough equally among three large bread tins - it reaches just under half way up the tins. Level out the tops a bit.
Bake at 200°C for the first 10 minutes then reduce to 180°C and bake for another 35-40 minutes.
Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Cut into rusk size and dry overnight in a cool oven - about 100°C.
Q I bought a tin of escargots in brine. How do I cook them and what can be added to them? - Ian
A In my student days, I waitressed at a French restaurant and one of my worst jobs was helping prepare the snails baked in garlic-parsley butter. I had to combine softened butter, crushed garlic and freshly chopped parsley with a canned mollusc - slimy greyish brown things - and use this mixture to stuff large snail shells. The canned escargot comes par-cooked and ready to use. Snails in garlic butter were enormously popular on SA restaurant menus in the 1980s and I'm sure most people ordered them for the garlicky buttery sauce, perfect for dipping fingers of brown bread into. Fairly tasteless things, escargots really do require a strong flavour to make them more palatable.
The butter used with the snails can be flavoured with other things, such as anchovy, mushroom or tomato. Another idea is to add pesto to the butter.
SNAILS IN GARLIC BUTTER
(Serves 4 - 6)
250g butter, softened
3-4 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
24 snails and shells
Combine butter, parsley and garlic together. Season generously. Insert a snail into each shell and spoon butter over to fill the shell. Chill before placing shells under a preheated grill and grill till butter has just melted.
Serve with fingers of brown bread.