Frugal flavoured butters and breads

reader wants to share their enthusiasm about a present they received for Christmas.  Their family had a make or bake Christmas and they were given a yummy home-made flavoured butter spread. It was simply an equal mix of butter and cold pressed olive oil. The trick was the olive oil was locally grown and had a bit of “character” about it – a peppery flavour.

That got us thinking about flavoured butters generally. Like sauces and dressings, flavoured butters can transform an otherwise unexciting meal into something quite special – ‘Master Chef’ standard special.

Those living off the smell of an oily rag tend to use pretty basic ingredients, so having something on hand to make meals more exciting is not a bad thing. Basically you can serve up the same old thing, but adding an embellishment can produce a completely different taste treat.

Flavoured butters work well as a spread with breads, or as a drizzle over vegetables and meat.

To make a flavoured butter, soften your butter to a creamy texture which can be easily stirred – by letting it stand at room temperature, heating it in an oven, or zapping it in the microwave. Once it is soft, stir in seasonings, such as any of those listed below, to produce the desired flavour. The flavoured butter can then be stored in the fridge.

Orange butter. Stir in 1 tablespoon icing sugar and 2 teaspoon grated orange peel. Serve with bread.

Garlic butter. Stir in 2 cloves of minced garlic or 2 teaspoon garlic powder. Serve with bread or beef.

Parsley butter. Stir in 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 3 teaspoon dried savory (crushed), a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper. Serve with potatoes, fish, or bread.

Onion butter. Stir in 1 cup finely chopped onion, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon dry mustard and a dash of pepper. Serve with beef or burgers.

Herb butter. Stir in 2 teaspoon dried thyme (crushed), and 2 teaspoon ground sage. Serve with vegetables.

Tarragon butter. Stir in 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon dried tarragon (crushed). Serve with fish, beef, chicken or vegetables.

Making lemon butter sauce is easy. Place lemon juice into a pot and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add cubes of butter and mix. If it’s a bit sour, add some sugar. Once the butter has been combined, mix in some parsley and season with salt and pepper. Now it’s ready to pour over the meat or vegetables. Top with fresh parsley, and, if you want to get really fancy, sprinkle over some toasted sliced almonds.  This is perfect accompanied by a summer salad and fresh bread rolls.

These variations are so easy and can make all the difference between “Oh no, not vegetables again”, to “Yum, vegetables!”

And what about a dab of flavoured butter mixed with steamed, fresh picked butter beans straight from your garden, or spread over home baked bread straight from your oven – now that’s living off the smell of an oily rag in style!

Let us know if you have a favourite oily rag embellishment.

Speaking of bread, here’s a simple recipe for bread sticks.

To make two French Baguettes (French sticks) all you need is 3 cups white flour, 2 teaspoons bakers yeast, salt and 300mls (13 cup) luke warm water. Take 1 cup of flour and mix in one teaspoon of yeast. Mix in the water. Cover, and leave for an hour to allow the yeast to ferment. Mix the remaining 2 cups of flour and the second teaspoon of yeast, then add to the fermented yeast mix. Mix to form a dough. Remove from the bowl and knead for five minutes or so on a floured board. Shape it into a ball and place into a bowl. Cover and leave for 30-40 minutes to double in size. To form the dough, cut it in half. Shape each piece into a roll about 300mm long (or to fit your oven) by tucking the dough into the centre and gently rolling with your hands to achieve the desired length. Taper the ends. Cover and leave for another 60 minutes. All going well they should again double in size. Coat top and bottom with flour. Using a sharp knife, make diagonal cuts about 5mm deep every two to three centimetres apart, which makes the distinctive pattern. Preheat the oven to 225C and heat the oven tray. Slide the dough onto the oven tray and bake for 20 minutes. Serve hot with dripping butter or olive oil. Fantastique!