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Must try harder

We recently had two further weeks away in our campervan, taking the Remoska with us. Being without electricity and/or Internet for most of our time away, I failed to keep up to date with our use of the Remoska.

What can I say, other than it comes in jolly useful for warming breakfast Brioche Buns and cooking breakfast Croissants from the freezer!

Yes, that is about the sum extent of the use that I made of it this time.

That said, I can report that I am continuing to familiarise myself with using the Remoska now that we are home. When all is said and done it is nominally Summer now and so the AGA is switched off.

This weekend I tried cooking a whole chicken for our dinner.

The suggested method of roasting a chicken in the Remoska is by using a roasting bag. The chicken is recommended to be 1 Kg or less in weight.

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Completely ready-to-cook, with nothing to do whatsoever. £3.99

Lidl sell some remarkably cheap ready-to-cook chickens. When I say “ready-to-cook”, I mean it. These chickens come ready seasoned and flavoured (or stuffed), sitting in a foil roasting tray inside a roasting bag. You literally take them from the ‘fridge and put them into an oven. The cooking time for the oven at 190°C is 1hr 45mins.

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One hour and 45 minutes away from a dinner

Fortuitously, the Remoska cooks at around 190°C.

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A foil roasting tray contains the chicken inside the sealed roasting bag

Even more so, the foil tray is sized such that it just fits into the Remoska Grand base with only a little judicious bending of the corners.

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Like Cinderella’s foot in her glass slipper, it just fits perfectly

I was aiming to serve our meal at half past four, so the Remoska went on at a quarter to three.

Armed with the information that many dishes cook more quickly in the Remoska, I returned to check how things were progressing. At five minutes to four, when I checked the pan, the chicken was already cooked. The bag had become unsealed as the edge had blackened and melted against the pan lid. As this bird was larger than Remoska suggest (I think it was 1.5 Kg), I imagine that bagging a smaller bird yourself would avoid this issue.

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Finished in an hour and 5 minutes and looking very appealing

Ample juices in the foil tray form a basis for a tasty gravy.

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Roast chicken, parsnip/potato mash, broccoli, stuffing, leek and carrot in a tarragon gravy

I removed the breasts as entire as I could and we had one each, which was definitely more than required. The remainder I left to make at least one further meal.

As you might expect from the price, this is not top flight meat but it is tasty enough and moist and quite acceptable.

Importantly for van cooking, the bird cooks quickly and very cleanly with minimal smell in the van,

I would certainly be happy to cook another of these when we are out on the road and I recommend them perhaps not wholeheartedly but agree that they are a help in balancing the budget if nothing else.

Rosemary and Olive Oil roasted potato slices

The Remoska was deployed today to roast the potato slices for our Gousto Box meal of Rosemary Lamb Meatballs, with Roast Potatoes, Carrots and Mint Sauce. (Read all about it at Two Snails)

Our previous attempt at Roast Potatoes was not a great success. These potato slices were, I think, somewhat better but still lacked crispness.

The potatoes were sliced (skin on) to about 1 cm in thickness, then dressed in olive oil with salt, pepper and chopped Rosemary. I cooked them on foil and this turned out to be an error as the slices stuck to the foil.

The recipe called for 20 – 25 minutes in an oven at 200°C – I knew they would take longer when cooked from cold in the Remoska but had no idea how long to give them. I decided to cook them until they began to brown and then to start the rest of the meal as the other element only needed ten minutes in total. In the end they had 50 minutes or so and were well-browned in the end. I believe 40 minutes would have been enough.

Lifting the lid to encourage the loss of some steam seems to help the process but of course this drops the temperature, so it is a juggling act and one that I need to refine.

Golden brown and tasty but not really very crisp at all

The Wright Stuff

Major Remoska experiment today – I have been baking bread.

Bread-making in a small campervan is an interesting experience and I doubt whether I would ever attempt bread from scratch in the way that I make it at home. I have however been carrying around a small packet of bread mix “for emergencies”. Mr Snail had bought a lovely locally-produced Smoked Brie the other day when he walked to Colvend shop. We decided today is the day to eat it and wanted some nice bread to go with it. So, I dispatched both Nell and Mr Snail, rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in.

 

Wright’s mixes are very reliable. I have used them in the past in bread-making machines.

I USED: a packet of Wright’s Cheese and Onion bread mix, the Remoska and my hands (we don’t carry an electric mixer)

 

Bread mix, water and elbow grease

I MADE: 8 bread rolls

Eight rolls, ready to bake

I FOLLOWED: the instructions on the packet, more or less, but paid little attention to any actual clock – timing my two and five minutes by the number of songs I listened to on the radio between step in the process. The initial mixing was done with a silicone mixing spoon, then I deployed Richard Bertinet’s no-flour kneading method.  My work surface was the removable front table, which wobbles alarmingly. It did not assist the kneading process. I might have used the kitchen worktop but I find that too high to be ergonomically sound, so wobble it is then.

The rolls went into the cold Remoska.

I forgot to note the time that the rolls went on to cook, so have no idea how long they took. I used my highly practised nosing skills to understand when it was time to remove the lid and check on the bread’s progress. I found the rolls to be browned and crusty on top. The outer ring tapped hollow but the centre roll did not, so I flipped the whole batch over and put the lid back on for five minutes before turning the rolls out to cool.

Ready to eat

They should go well with the smoked brie, a simple tomato and onion salad, and a bottle of beer.

Toad in the Hole

I must confess that I was entirely sceptical regarding the chances of a decent Yorkshire Pudding emerging from the Remoska but I read around and found a few posts saying that people had made their best-ever Toad in the Hole in one, so who was I to argue. Time to put things to the test.

Having pondered the challenge I elected to buy Chipolatas, thinking that they would be less likely to emerge in an unhealthily uncooked state.

Googling around for Remoska-specific instructions found a recipe at Lakeland, several blogs reproducing largely similar instructions and Remoska’s own User Recipes. The Lakeland version is for the Standard Remoska and is the same as the one on the Remoska site but they also supply a version for the Grand model, which is the one that we have.

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The usual ingredients, not the usual bowl

The mix is the same as the 2-egg quantity that I would use at home but I would normally use an oven pan of much smaller size and I had imagined that I would use a similar one inside the Remoska. As every example that I found cooked the pudding simply in the Remoska pan itself I decided to try this myself.

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Plain flour (4 oz), 2 eggs, salt and milk, ready to mix

I made up the batter before going out for a long walk. I wanted to rest the batter in the fridge, as I do at home, so used a small bowl that would fit in the fridge in the van. Normally I would use a much larger bowl in order to whisk energetically.

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Checking my facts before getting going. We do not carry an electric mixer in the van, so I use an old-fashioned but effective wire balloon whisk

I departed from the recipe by adding, as I often do, a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs to my batter. Chipolatas in the cold Remoska, having pricked them first. With hindsight I believe that the pricking was not a good idea.

It’s all very well to say that the Remoska Toad is a low-fat version but any Yorkshire cook worth her salt knows that it is the fat that lends flavour to the pudding. Pricking the sausages would get the fat to run and make a tastier result… or so I thought.

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Sausages after 30 minutes in the Remoska

The instructions for both sizes suggest 30 minutes pre-cooking time for the sausages and this makes sense. That is what I gave  them and at the end of that time they were beginning to brown nicely.

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The herb-speckled batter added to the hot pan with the sausages

The lid went back on and I expected to wait 40 to 50 minutes for my dinner. I planned to put my veg on after 30 minutes.

It was not long at all before I could smell distinct cooking aromas. On investigation, the pudding was already well risen and browning, though it gave up some steam and visibly sank before me when I removed the lid. Clearly I needed to get my veg on immediately.

I boiled an onion in one saucepan on the gas hob and put my carrots and broccoli in a steamer basket above the gravy onions.

I checked the pudding again as the veg were steaming and panicked a little when I saw how brown the sausages and batter were. I added a deflecting piece of kitchen foil… and then fretted about spoiling my pud by making it steam.

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A bit well done about the edges

In the end I think my Toad in the Hole had around 30 minutes cooking time.

It was not an unqualified success, though went down well enough in the end. It was however a very thin pudding and quite soggy. Serving it was a conundrum as I had nothing large enough to put it on in order to cut it up. Also, the softness of the centre made the whole thing difficult to lift out and it took two pairs of hands to do that job.

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Slightly “caught” about the edges, slightly soggy in the middle but tasty enough and we ate the lot

We ate it! There’s nothing wrong with a soggy pudding and many people prefer that to a crispy one full of air. Me, I like them both ways, so am easily satisfied. The sausages were the worst part. It may be my fault for choosing skinny ones and for then pricking them. They were dry and tasteless. The pud was far too thin in the centre… too little batter for such a wide diameter pan.

Next time I would either use a baking tin inside the Remoska or possibly increase the amount of batter to a 3-egg mix if not using a tin. I will certainly use a good butcher’s sausage next time in preference to the supermarket chipolatas and I would not prick them. Very probably a knob of good tasty fat will go in to start off the sausage cooking and add flavour to the whole dish.

By the way… the Banks’s Amber was a good accompaniment (89p a bottle from Tesco.)

Pasta Bake, convenience-style

Further Remoska experimentation. Not wholly successful, I’d say, I think that was more my fault than the Remoska’s. The pasta was overcooked and that is just a matter of timing. I think it can be fixed for future attempts.

Anyway, this was my first time using the Remoska to cook hob-top type food rather than to bake or grill, though the final stage might be regarded as a bit of both the latter.

This dish utilised a tub of ready-made sauce and some fresh pasta. I like to keep cooking times to a minimum in the van, especially when it comes to boiling and steam generation. Fresh pasta takes usually 2 to 4 minutes against up to 15 minutes for dried pasta. That’s a lot of steam and condensation saved.

Not so much a recipe as a throwing-together.

Ingredients

  • Fresh Pasta spirals for two
  • Small tub of tomato and basil pasta sauce
  • Half a spicy chorizo
  • A handful of ripe cherry vine tomatoes
  • A few mushrooms
  • The remains of a red and yellow pepper left from cooking a previous meal
  • An unnecessarily humongous block of Mozzarella Cheese

 

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Ready to cook after minimal preparation: quarter the button mushrooms, slice the peppers, halve the tomatoes. Boil the pasta separately for the time recommended on the packet, drain when cooked.

Slice or chop the chorizo and add to the Remoska. Pop the lid on and switch on.When the sausage is sizzling, remove the lid and stir about a bit before replacing the lid for another minute or so. The chorizo should start to brown  for maximum flavour but as it is already cooked there is no need to fret over how long to give it, just get the fat running.

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Get the fat running

Now add the peppers, stir them around in the pan and add the lidd. Cook for a couple of minutes or until the peppers begin to soften and relax a bit.

Now would be a good time to pour a glass of red wine. Save it for later…let it warm up a bit in the glass.

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Sweat the peppers and uncork the wine

Now would be a good time to boil the pasta if you haven’t already done so. Keep a close eye on it and don’t let it overcook. Drain when cooked. It is a good idea to rinse the pasta with cold water to stop it from further cooking but be sure to drain very thoroughly after doing so.

Add the tomatoes and mushrooms to the pan with the sausage and peppers. Stir about a bit to distribute and coat with the juices already in the pan – put the lid back on and leave for a minute or two if you have yet to deal with draining the pasta.

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Mix in the tomatoes and mushrooms and heat through a little

Fancy a slurp of wine? Grab one and carry on.

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Add the cooked pasta and the tub of sauce. Mix well and…

Now add the cooked pasta and the contents of the tub of sauce and mix all together well before topping with cheese or, if like us you have way too much cheese, try cubing it and mixing it into the dish.

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… add the cheese. Put the lid on and bake until heated through and the cheese has melted.

Put the lid back on and return to your wine until the dish is thoroughly heated through. Your cheese may or may not brown – ours didn’t, but it did turn magnificently stringy.

Serve with a green salad and perhaps some garlic bread to mop up the sauce with. Don’t forget to pour another glass of wine and enjoy it.

Feel free to ring any changes that you like. Use Cheddar instead of Mozzarella perhaps, or bacon instead of chorizo. It’s your dinner, have it your way.

 

 

 

Cheese Pudding

Our first attempt at anything like “real cooking” in the Remoska: Goat’s Cheese Pudding

Cheese Pudding is a regular at home, where we have a proper oven. It’s cheering, hearty comfort food that is quick and simple to make and makes use of leftovers.

CAVEAT: this  is not a prescriptive recipe and I do not offer exact quantities.  Cheese Pudding is a flexible dish that you can play around with until you find your preferred mix. Whatever you do, however it turns out, it will always be tasty.

Ingredients:

  • Bread (stale, or at least day-old)
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
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I had two slices from a small sliced white loaf plus part of yesterday’s part-baked baguette, crusts removed

The bread used can be really stale, it doesn’t matter at all – just ensure there is no mould sprouting.

Normally you would make breadcrumbs but I have no facility for that in the campervan. I just removed the crusts (it’s ok to leave them on if you wish to) – and then cut the bread into small cubes.

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Soak in milk

I gave the bread a good long soak in semi-skimmed milk (use any milk you like) and then broke it up with a fork.

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Then stir in beaten eggs and add cheese plus any extra flavourings and seasonings that make you happy

EGGS: Normally I would pop in three nice free-range eggs for this kind of quantity but today I had only two eggs at hand. More eggs gives more rise and a firmer texture; less eggs yields a softer  pudding.

CHEESE: I usually use grated Cheddar Cheese, perhaps in combination with some Parmesan. Today I had a soft Goat’s Cheese to use up, plus a small amount of Brie-type. Cheese Pudding works well with any tasty cheese and I particularly favour the use of Sage Derby. Mixing a small quantity of a blue cheese in with a sharp non-blue works very well too. You can pull off a similar trick with a tasty smoked cheese such as Dorset Red, where a very small amount will add a real kick to a Cheddar or Lancashire base, for instance.

How much cheese you use will depend on how strong your cheese is, how tasty you want your finished pudding to be and, to be honest, how much you personally like cheese (or whether you are on a reducing diet). For two persons, 50 to 100 grams of flavoursome cheese ought to be plenty, though I have been known to use more and to make a pudding simply oozing with cheese. Usually my quantities are governed by what needs using up and how much of it remains.

ADDITIONS: Rarely is salt required, as cheese is naturally salty. Black pepper is always good, as is the use of small amounts of Mustard (dry powder or ready-mixed) or Cayenne Pepper. Dried Herbs in moderation work well – choose the right herb to play nicely with your chosen cheese(s). Chopped Spring Onions might be nice, or some chopped sun-dried tomato… whatever floats your particular cheesey boat. Sometimes I like to add something as a decorative topping that will supply some added texture e.g. flaked almonds.

I added nothing today as the Goat’s cheese that I was using was already flavoured with Thyme and Honey (!)

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Mix it all together quite thoroughly and pour the mixture into a greased baking dish

Use a baking dish that allows room for rising. Top with further grated cheese if desired. A few sliced tomatoes or a sprig of rosemary make an effective decoration.

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My chosen dish fits nicely into the (cold) Remoska pan

Okay, while that cooks, we’ll decide what to serve with the pudding. I often serve it with a crisp green salad. Mr Snail favours chips and petits pois. Today I went for new potatoes and some steamed broccoli, which I set to cook after the pudding had been on from a cold start for half an hour. (At home I would bake at around 190°C, going into the hot oven for around 40 – 45 minutes.)

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Almost done and now well-risen and golden. I added a truss of cherry tomatoes (with olive oil and flaked sea salt) half-way through the cooking time

When the potatoes went on, I added some cherry tomatoes to the Remoska pan. The foil is simply an aid to removing the soft juicy tomatoes at serving time.

I had little idea how long it would take to bake in the Remoska, so allowed an hour but checked progress at the mid-point before committing the veg to the stove. After the first half hour, the pudding was forming a skin and beginning to rise around the edges. I judged that the second half hour would be enough… and it just about was. Perhaps an hour and five minutes would have rendered my pudding perfect.

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Dinner is served

As I expected, using only two eggs (and a soft cheese) produced a very soft pudding which, in imitation of a soufflé, sagged as soon as it was spooned onto the plate. Three eggs would have served us better but I would far rather have some eggs left for breakfast tomorrow. In fact, the soft pudding made for excellent eating.

VERDICT: Will make a great Remoska stand-by meal. Boiling the potatoes in a pan of water and steaming the veg over the top meant that I had only one pan to clean, plus the baking dish. Snuggling the tomatoes in foil before adding them to the Remoska means that I had only to give the Remoska pan a quick wipe with a damp cloth before putting it away. My kind of van cooking.

On the road with the Remoska

Shortly after returning from the Galway Forest Park we were off again, this time on an extended trip to Ireland. We planned to be away for three weeks and knew that we would have electric hookups from time to time and so we packed the Remoska.

We have been on hook-up for much of this trip (we are still on the road as I write this) and so I have been trying to put the Remoska through its paces. It is time to report back.

We have actually made less use of it than I would have hoped but only because we have tended to buy foods that did not require the use of an oven.

The bottom line verdict: it’s a mixed bag of results. How much of the inconsistency is due to my inexperience and how much is down to the gadget, it is difficult to say at this stage.

We have had wedges, both ordinary and  sweet potatoes; jacket potatoes; pizza; and part-baked baguettes finished in the Remoska.

Successes first.

The Jacket spuds were remarkably good. I treated in the same way as I would for baking in my normal oven – just pierced them then oiled and salted them and dropped them into the pan for an hour and a half. The outers were really crispy and evenly cooked, the insides dry and fluffy. I scooped them out, added cheese, butter and egg and then returned  the filling to the skins and baked them for another twenty minutes until golden and oozy.

Tonight I baked two baguettes of the half-baked variety. They came out beautifully browned and crispy, with the crumb still moist.

Less successful were the wedges. They cook, eventually and even brown a little but I have not yet had success in getting them to crisp. I have tried them on foil on the rack and also loose in the base of the pan. Neither method yielded a wedge that I might be proud of.

The pizzas that we made were okay, but not brilliant. I got things slightly wrong in buying (Lidl) bases that were slightly larger in diameter than the pan. Luckily the bases were flexible and things worked out such that I was able to drop the base in, with the sides slightly raised. This helped to keep the toppings on when extricating the pizza. I used strips of foil crossed in the pan and brought up the sides to make a handled support for easing the pizzas out when cooked.

To make matters worse I used jars of pesto for the saucy part. These were very oily and made things a little soggy.

The first pizza went into the cold pan and took ages to cook. The second went into the hot pan when the first came out and was, I think the more successful as it crisped and browned quite nicely around the edge. It also cooked more quickly and was ready when we had eaten the first.

I plan to use the Remoska tomorrow to make a Cheese Pudding for our dinner. This may happen or it may not. My dinner plans are always somewhat fluid.