May 27, 2008

Bergamot

Susan from Athens, 25 May 2008, comment to ‘More Peter’s Garden, Maybe, I hope.

It looks like a cross between an orange and grapefruit (pale orange colour) and a large lemon in shape. But the scent is heavenly. You capture this by zesting enthusiastically and macerating the zest in sugar (for sweet stuff) or sea salt (for savoury). It makes for a lovely bergamontade or a chicken with mustard and bergamot respectively.

 

How to clean a cast-iron pan

Susan from Athens, 23 May 08, comment to ‘Scrambled Eggs’

 

Yes, of course I have advice on how to clean a cast-iron pan. You put it over a gentle heat and cover the bottom of the pan with salt. As it heats up, you use kitchen paper to scour it using the salt. The salt will change colour. If it is really bad, repeat a few times. This is a great way to prepare the pan if you want to make pancakes, as well. Do remember to toss the salt away… :)

Chocolate Chip Cookies That NEVER Forget To Be Awesome

Brynne, 22 May 08, comment to ‘Scrambled Eggs’

 

 

Large mixing bowl
Spoon
Cookie tray, greased
Cup measure/tablespoon measure
Preheat oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit.

1 C. butter, softened
1.5 C. sugar
2 eggs
1 T. vanilla

Cut the butter and the sugar together until they’re evenly mixed. Stir the eggs in. (Yeah, this is really fancy.)

2 C. chocolate chips
2.25 C. flour
1 T. baking powder

Stir the chocolate chips in. Add the flour and the baking powder at the same time. Don’t go spraying flour all over the place. Mix until there’s no powder left anymore. It will probably be thinner than you think it should be but don’t add any more flour.

On greased cookie tray, spoon evenly spaced balls of dough. Bake for 10-15 minutes (I usually do about 12) OR until brown around the edges.

 

Scandinavian Apple Charlotte

Susan from Athens, 21 May 08, comment to ‘Scrambled Eggs’

 

from Gran’s cookbook – not our Gran, Mrs. McMenamin was the mother of our Mum’s bridesmaid, Pat and one of her cookbooks, I have no idea which, contained this recipe. This was in the early eighties, so apologies to whoever wrote it, if I could reference them I would. All measures imperial rather than American.

3 oz butter
8 oz (6 cups) fresh white breadcrumbs (works with any other kind you fancy so long as it has a good crumb)
2oz (1/3 cup) brown sugar
1 1/2 lb cooking apples, peeled and sliced (Bramleys are best, but Granny Smiths will do)
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tablespoons water
2 oz castor sugar
¼ pint cream (optional)
coarsely grated or shaved dark chocolate

Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add breadcrumbs and fry slowly until crisp golden, sirring frequently. When they are ready, remove from heat and blend in brown sugar.
In another pan put the peeled, sliced apples, lemon juice, water and castor sugar. Cover and cook until the apples are soft. Mash into a puree and leave to cool.
Place half the puree into a 11/2 to 2 pint glass serving dish. Spread half the breadcrumbs on top. Repeat with a layer of apple sauce and another of breadcrumbs.
Leave to chill before serving.
If using cream, spread or pipe lightly whipped cream on top. Sprinkle with the chocolate.

(I seldom bother with the cream, which I find hard to digest. Delicious and a great way to mop up leftover bread or extra apple sauce)

Note on measurements: this is an old recipe and one of the first I collected myself. We still have a set of scales that measures ounces and pounds. For those who do not, 1 ounce is 1/16th of a pound and is the equivalent of 28.349 grams. So 3oz is 85 grams, 8 oz is 225 grams and a pound and a half is 680 grams. However, a recipe really can’t be more forgiving than this one. Add a bit or take away a bit, it will still taste darn good. I haven’t tried frying the breadcrumbs in oil, but no reason not to try using something fairly innocuous – maybe peanut oil? With a light squirt of walnut oil at the very end, for flavour.

Democratic Brownies

danceswithpahis, May 21, 2008, comment in “Playing With Your Food”

Okay, I finally got the time to look over Playing With Your Food, and was inspired to post a recipe here that I invented for brownies*. I call them Democratic Brownies because I took 5 different recipes and averaged some of them out, or took the ingredients that I particularly liked, figured out basic proportions, and then kind of made things up from that. If anyone has a better name I’m more than willing to hear it; I’m not super happy with it but couldn’t think of anything better. My best metric equivalents are in parentheses after each ingredient; I have actually cooked in metric-based countries and these generally worked for me.

Democratic Brownies

1/2 c. cocoa (120 mL)
small (or “small”) handful of chocolate chips**
1 c. butter (240 mL)

1 1/2 c. sugar (360 mL)
1 tsp baking powder (5 mL)
a bit of salt (up to 1 tsp/5 mL)
1 1/2 c. flour (360 mL)
2 tsp vanilla (10 mL)
3 eggs (3 :) )
1 c walnuts (240 mL)
raspberry liqueur to taste
raspberry preserves (a few spoonfuls)

The last bit is where I sort of change things each time. I always start by melting the butter a bit, then mixing in the chocolate chips and cocoa and stirring them until everything is melted. After this I take it off the heat and stir in everything else but the raspberry preserves, generally starting with dry ingredients. Spoon it into greased baking dish(es) of choice, and then plop a few spoonfuls of preserves on the top. Swirl them in with a knife, but not too well; you want to have little clumps of preserves and clumps of preserveless brownie batter. Bake it for 25-30 min in an oven at a temperature of 350-375 degrees (175-190 degrees Celcius). If you want you can glaze them with raspberry preserves after they have cooled slightly.

I hope youall enjoy. As I mentioned***, I’m not a brownie fan, but I actually enjoyed these (perhaps because of the raspberries and walnuts).

* Which is odd, because I generally don’t LIKE brownies, but for some reason I really enjoy making them for other people. I think it’s because I had a friend who was crazy about them, and always got so happy when I would make them.

** I usually do about two handfuls, actually, but it depends on how much chocolate one wants.

*** You ARE reading the footnotes, right?

Beef Stew

Kristin in MT, May 21, comment in “Playing With Your Food”

(makes a big pot-full (8qt?)– freezes beautifully)

3# beef (stew meat is okay, though I prefer to use a sirloin or chuck roast), cut into 1″ cubes)
1/4 c. flour (whole wheat okay), seasoned with salt and pepper

3 carrots, medium, sliced into 1/4″ rounds (peel ’em if you like — I do, Stef doesn’t)
1 onion, large, peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces
5 potatoes, medium (red or yellow), chopped into 1″ pieces
1 beet, large, peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces
3-6 cloves garlic, minced (pick your own garlic comfort level)
(optional) 1/3 c dried porcini mushrooms, ground to dust in a food processor or spice grinder

3 bay leaves
2 rosemary sprigs, about 7″

2 qts. beef broth (I like Pacific or Swanson’s Organic)
1 bottle red wine (a nice Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot)(may omit — replace with 3 c. water or broth)

Place seasoned flour in a big pot. Add beef and stir well to coat. Add the vegetables, optional mushroom dust, herbs , broth and wine to the pot. Stir. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for as long as you can stand it or about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs (which are most likely just sticks now) before serving.

This keeps really well in the fridge, right in the pot (lidded). Reheat leftovers on med-low heat with the lid on, stirring occasionally.

Walnut-Parsley Pesto with Pasta

eiriene, May 20, 2008, comment in “Playing With Your Food”

I could swear that you mentioned a walnut-parsley pesto somewhere, but I couldn’t find a recipe for it, so I thought I’d share the one I made last night with you. The measurements are mostly approximate, but I guessed based on other recipes I found online and it came out really well.

Walnut-Parsley Pesto with Pasta

1/4 cup walnut halves
1 bunch italian, flat-leaf parsley (about 1-1.5 cups packed)
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese, finely shredded (I microplaned, but you could grate too)
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste
1 lb. of pasta

1. In a dry skillet, toast the walnut halves over medium heat. This should only take a minute or two, and it’s important to keep them moving, as they will burn easily. As soon as they look done, take them off the heat and out of the pan. If you come across one or two burnt ones, just pick them out and dispose of them.

2. Wash parsley and cut off stems with a kitchen scissor. Pat dry.

3. Peel cloves of garlic and cut off the inedible ends of them.

4. Boil a decently salted pot of water for the pasta. I used linguine last night, but any pasta should do decently. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the pesto, as in step five.

5. Place the clean parsley, the toasted walnuts, the grated cheese, and the cloves of garlic in a food processor. Run the processor for about thirty seconds to a minute to finely chop everything (you want it VERY fine), and then, while the food processor is running, start to drizzle in olive oil through the feed tube. Add as much oil as you like, until it gets to the desired thickness. I used about a quarter cup of oil, since the pesto will be thinned out next.

6. By this point, the pasta should have finished cooking. Reserve one cup of the liquid that the pasta has cooked in, since it’ll be used to thin the sauce out. It’s very important that you use the pasta water instead of regular hot water, as the pasta water has released starch in it. Anyway, drain the pasta and return to the pot. Add in the pesto, which should be thick, and then dump the pasta water in the pot too. Stir liberally to mix and thin out the pesto enough that it’ll coat all the pasta. Add as much salt and pepper to taste, at this point, as you like.

7. Serve with some more fresh Parmesan cheese on top, either grated or shredded.

It’s a very fresh and green dinner; it made me feel like spring. =)

Scrambled Eggs

Robin, May 21, 2008, “Scrambled Eggs”

When I unveiled the Five Heroines a few days ago I got distracted, as I am inclined to do, but I’d been thinking about a recipe to commemorate all that noble and continuing effort. Chocolate, I hear you say. Well . . . believe it or not I don’t think chocolate is the answer to all of life’s conundrums.* And chocolate, while paradise,** isn’t sustaining in what I feel is the necessary manner here. And I was thinking about nursery food and desert island food and what I want when I get back from bell ringing or when I crawl miserably out of bed at 6 am to go to a homeopathic seminar*** as well as cheap, easy, requires no prior planning, development, or exotic kitchen equipment, and hot. Scrambled eggs.

I realise that there are people who think that cooked eggs are creepy and icky, but I feel sorry for them, as I feel sorry for people who don’t like LORD OF THE RINGS, or walking, or dogs. Or think that Stonehenge is boring, or Edward Burne-Jones’ paintings embarrassing or quaint. I know what you’re talking about, but what you’re missing. . . . I feel the same way about people who don’t like scrambled eggs.

I also wonder how many people don’t like cooked eggs, or scrambled eggs, because they’ve never had good ones. Or have had the wrong kind: I prefer them seriously gooey, but there are people who genuinely like them dry. If you’re a gooey kid growing up in a dry household you probably converted to Cheerios† and take out pizza at the earliest opportunity and have never looked back.

There are at least two controversies on the subject of scrambling your egg: the first is about the addition of milk or other pollutants and the second is the employment of a bain marie. Laurie Colwin has it right about bain maries: ‘The loveliest scrambled eggs I have ever had were . . . by an Englishman who insisted that scrambled eggs should be made in a double boiler. The result is a cross between a scrambled egg and a savory custard, and if you happen to have about forty minutes of free time some day it is certainly worth the effort. . . . Stir constantly. . . . Stir as in boiled custard until you feel either that your arm is going to fall off or that you are going to start to scream uncontrollably. . . .’ Yes. Life is too short. All you need is a heavy-bottomed pan and a low flame, and then you can scramble your eggs perfectly in less time than it takes to flip through the latest Peruvian Connection catalogue with your other hand.

But the question of milk! Ugh! No less a personage than Julia Child puts heavy cream in her scrambled eggs.†† And I say, so much for Julia Child. People keep telling you to add milk or cream because this makes your eggs softer and, yes, sure, you put some liquid into something and it becomes soggier. But in this case at an intolerable cost to the texture. Properly cooked scrambled eggs melt in the mouth. Scrambled eggs with milk–or, worse, cream–are slightly sproingy. Slightly too coherent, too muscular, because of what happens to milk when it cooks. The Joy of Cooking, which I admit I do not love †††, gives ‘3 T cream’ as optional, but in the instructions it says ‘When the eggs begin to thicken, break them into shreds . . .’ Shreds? You only get shreds if you’ve put cream in. Eggs do not shred. Cabbage shreds.

The ex-sainted Delia gets it about as right as anyone: http://www.deliaonline.com/cookery-school/how-to/how-to-scramble-eggs,9,AR.html

But in her current incarnation she’s probably using powdered eggs from a packet anyway, and I don’t want to know.

So this is how I make scrambled eggs: first, something that I feel is undervalued in the literature, get the size of your pan right. It makes all the difference in the homogeneity of the finished product. I have a tiny iron skillet–about five inches–for two eggs; I use the omelette pan, which is seven, for three. And I think it’s piffling mystique-making to say you must have a dedicated scrambled eggs pan that you use for nothing else. The iron skillet, for example, is my pine-nut and sesame-seed roasting pan. I also use more butter than I’ve seen anyone else recommend: I won’t tell you you’re doing it wrong if you want to use less, but it’s another of those missing-out things.‡ Too much is great.

Melt about a tablespoon of butter in your pan–put it on the heat only just till the butter starts to run and then take it off or it will get too hot. I beat my eggs in the frying pan, not a separate bowl‡‡, which means the pan can’t be too hot or the eggs will start to cook before they’re mixed. Also for lazy absent minded sluts it’s a useful back up to not having the pan too hot when you do start cooking them, because you don’t want that either. Use a fork; beat till blended. Then put back on the heat and start stirring. I use a wooden spatula for greater scraping prowess. This is the main thing: keep those eggs moving. That’s how you get them cooked evenly so every mouthful is as divine as the last. You can stir fairly leisurely till your spatula starts picking up solids on its business edge: then raise your stirring speed and possibly even take your attention off the fascinating Peruvian Connection catalogue. ‡‡‡ As soon as the eggs are almost but not quite the consistency you want, whip them off the heat, but keep stirring, and add another wodge of butter–okay, I use nearly another tablespoon; this is both why I have to walk hellhounds and why I don’t eat breakfast, because this is my idea of the perfect scrambled eggs, and having known perfection, I’d rather just miss out dull–and keep on keeping stirring, because you want the new butter to work its way into every interstice: this is what stops the cooking process and leaves you with eggs of the precise degree of gloopiness, or ungloopiness, you like best.

It does take a little time and experimentation to be able to do it right every go. Oh, and, possible note of warning to other lazy absent-minded sluts: the thing I still forget to do occasionally is to have that final wodge of butter already on the knife in easy reach before you put the eggs on to begin cooking. You lose precious seconds–stirring like mad, of course–groping for it after the fact.

And having learnt to scramble eggs, you can also now make the perfect omelette with only the minorest of adjustments.

* Yes. Conundrums. Why would five normal, sane . . . uh. Wait a minute. Why would five regular readers of the Hellhounds and Roses^ blog who are no doubt otherwise normal, sane, functioning members of society, want to run a recipe blog when there are so many more interesting things they could be spending time on. At least three of them, for example, live within range of a change ringing bell tower.

^ Even my piano’s name is just a fancy classical Greek way of calling her Rosie

** No doubt the inconvenient tendency to melt in contact with human flesh, which means it is inclined to get distributed all over your keyboard not to mention your shirtfront, has to do with what usually happens when something escapes Plato’s cave: the ideal version is slightly contaminated by mortal reality. In the Elysian Fields you can eat chocolate with your fingers and still keep typing. Oh yes and your battery never runs down, in the Elysian Fields. Here in the humdrum world I stay plugged into the mains as much as possible, and I eat my chocolate with a fork. Since I’m always typing.

*** The mere shock of having breakfast is almost enough

† I was just looking Cheerios up on Wiki to make sure they still exist–I don’t eat breakfast, how would I know?–and I observe you can now get them cheese flavoured. Ewwwwwwww. Has General Mills no shame?

†† She also tells you to hold a spoonful of raw egg back, and stir it in at the end, after you’ve taken the pan off the heat, to make the result creamier. Yuck. I don’t want an oiling of raw egg, I want the entire dish to be equally soft and squidgy.

††† Which will no doubt cause many people to feel the pity for me I feel for people who believe Tolkien should have stuck to his translations from Anglo-Saxon.

‡ My usual caveat here about salted butter. If you’re using 2T salted butter, you don’t need salt. If you’re using a couple of teaspoons of salted butter, you probably do need salt. And of course if you’re using unsalted butter. . . .

‡‡ Lazy SlutTM, it’s in the rulebook.

‡‡‡ Do you suppose anyone ever wears the denim skirt with the ragged hem and the train?

Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Q, May 20, 2008, comment in “Playing With Your Food”

I think balsamic vinegar (or the pursuit of it) is what brought humans into civilized society. Or if that’s not right, it should be.

Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Base:
(however much you’re hungry for)
Washed and spun spinach

Possible Toppings:
(in whatever proportions you please)
Oranges
Strawberries
Pineapple
Sliced grilled chicken (if you eat meat)
Feta cheese
Pine nuts
Slivered almonds
Most any other nut
Croutons
Whatever else you think would be good

Dressing:
(I know this does not go along with the traditional drown-the-salad-in-oil vinaigrette. Trust me, this dressing is better this way.)
2 parts olive oil
2 parts (GOOD) balsamic vinegar
1 part white sugar (brown might work, but I haven’t tried it)
Whisk until sugar dissolves and oil and vinegar are thoroughly combined.
(This dressing does keep in the refrigerator, but the oil might congeal so you’ll need to set it out to warm it a bit and then whisk it together again before dressing your salad)

Note the almost complete lack of precise measurements. Basically everything is flexible and open to interpretation–the best kind of cooking. I hope I haven’t forgotten anything.

Morning Glory Muffins

SusieBirds, May 20, 2008, comment in “Playing With Your Food”

Speaking of apricots…

I’ve been meaning to post this for awhile – my favorite Morning Glory Muffin recipe. It’s been adapted from several various recipes culled from cookbooks and internets and tweaked until I don’t remember the original portions. The nice thing about these is that they are pretty flexible in terms of what you put in them, so they are really great to customize.

Morning Glory Muffins

1C unbleached white flour
1C whole wheat flour
2tsp baking powder

2/3C honey or more to taste (pick something flavorful – I like fireweed honey)
2C carrots, shredded
1 apple, peeled and shredded (pick something firm rather than something soft or mealy. Granny Smiths are good).

1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries (not the Ocean Spray “Craisins” – too much sugar)
1/4 cup chopped apricots
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)

3 eggs
1C vege oil (can sub applesauce in same amount, but may need more flour)
2 tsp vanilla
lemon zest to taste ~ 2tsp (just enough to give it some zip)
Spices to taste (I use cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, about 1/2tsp each)

Mix together dry ingredients, set aside. Beat eggs, add carrots and apple, honey, oil/applesauce, vanilla. Combine with with dry ingredients, then mix in fruit bits and lemon zest. Taste and add more spices or honey if needed.

Grease muffin tins and preheat oven to 350. Fill cups about 2/3rds way full, and bake for about 30 mins or until toothpick comes out clean. Makes about 18 muffins, depending on how far you fill the cups. They also make decent mini-loafs.

Notes:
I’m a no-refined-sugar person, and it can be hard to find shredded coconut (or dried cranberries, for that matter) that’s not slathered in sugar or corn syrupy whatever, but it’s worth it. If you use sweetened coconut, cut the honey a bit (unless you like your muffins sweet).

You can also adjust the carrot/apple-to-flour ratio until you get it to your liking. I like my muffins squidgy and moist, honestly, so it tends towards the heavier carrot/apple side.

I’ve also always thought these would be fabulous with cream cheese filling, but I have yet to try it. They’re such a healthy little muffin if you do them right that it seems a shame to add the unhealthy cream cheese bit. And by shame I mean delicious.

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