Monday, 30 November 2015

Squash Polenta

Here it is just about December and we have barely made a dent in the Great Wall of Squash in our laundry room. However, this was good and easy enough to give me hope that someday we may make some progress. Also it got thumbs up from Mr. Ferdzy, who loves polenta (and cheese) but not squash, really. So apparently 2 out of 3 is good enough. Nice to know.

Do I have to tell you how to cook squash? In this case, it should be butternut (in nearly every case it should be butternut, in my opinion) and you cut it in half, remove the seeds etc, rub it lightly with oil, and roast it cut side down on a tray at 350°F for an hour or so, until very tender. Preferably yesterday, if you want to do the polenta today. Don't forget to roast the seeds, although they only get half an hour. 

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 10 minutes prep time
not including roasting the squash

Squash Polenta

1 medium onion
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup corn meal
2 cups cooked mashed squash
4 cups water or chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon rubbed savory, sage, or rosemary
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 to 1 cup diced cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Peel and chop the onion finely. Heat the butter in a small skillet, and cook the onion gently until it is very soft and slightly browned; about 10 minutes. Put it in an shallow 2 quart (litre) baking pan (8" x 10"). Add the corn meal, mashed squash, chicken stock or water, salt, and savory or other herb. Stir gently but well, then dot the mixture with the butter.

Bake the polenta for 1 hour. Stir gently, and mix the cheese into it, the quantity to depend on the type of cheese and what else you are serving with the polenta. Return the polenta to the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Last year at this time I made Wheat Crepes. And very good they were too...

Friday, 27 November 2015

"Sauer" Curtido

I did say I was going to try this. Attempt now underway!

I don't know why last time I made Sauerkraut I got 12 cups of vegetables into a litre jar, and this time I only got 8 to 9 cups. And yes, a litre jar is approximately 4 cups, so that is still some serious packing.) I made Sauerkraut in red and green as well as the curtido, and it was all pretty consistant.

You'll note that unlike when I made traditional short-fermentation Curtido, I did not add any fresh hot peppers. Firstly, they are no longer in season, and secondly, they got hot enough after a week in the fresh Curtido that I was a bit nervous about what would happen after 6 weeks. I'll add an update to this post once I know how this turned out...

1 packed litre - 16 servings?
1 hour prep time - plus 6 weeks fermenting time

Fermented Curtido with Sauerkraut in the background

Make the Curtido:
6 cups finely shredded white (green) cabbage
2 cups carrot, peeled and grated
1 cup sliced onion
1 teaspoon pickling salt
1 tablespoon rubbed oregano
1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot paprika or cayenne flakes

Put the number of litre canning jars you intend to fill into a canner and cover them with an inch of water. Bring them to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, wash and trim the cabbage, and finely shred it. Measure it and put it in a large mixing bowl. Peel, grate, measure, and add the carrot. Peel the onion, and slice it in half from pole to pole. Cut each half 2 or 3 times again from top to bottom, as each half lies flat side down on the cutting board. Then, cut into thin slices the other way. Add these onion shreds to the bowl of veggies.

Add the salt, oregano, and paprika or cayenne to the vegetables. Using your very clean hands, massage the vegetables together until the seasonings are very evenly distributed throughout, and the vegetables feel limp and are giving up a little juice. When the jar is sterilized, drain it well and pack the vegetables into it, using a wooden or stone tamper to pack it all in. A funnel (dropped into the boiling water for a few minutes before use) may be useful. There should be about an inch and a half headroom at the top of the jar once it is all in.

Add the Brine & Seal:
1 cup filtered water
1 teaspoon salt

Put a lid and rim on to boil. They can be used, if they are in good condition.

Put the water and salt into a pot and heat until the salt dissolves. The water can be warm, but should not be very hot. Ladle this brine over the vegetables now packed in the jar. Once it is all in wipe the rim carefully and put the lid on, making good contact with the jar but not tightening it too much. Put it in a cool spot on a pile of newspaper to ferment for up to 6 weeks.

Check every few days. If the jars overflow and the vegetables become exposed to the air, top up with a little more brine made as above. Change the newspaper as well!

Once the curtido is fermented, keep it in a cool spot, and once you open a jar keep it in the fridge.

Last year at this time I made Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Mashed Parsnips.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Beets à la Marmalade

I've done beets with orange and ginger flavours before, but you can't beat (sorry) this version for simplicity and speed. Well, apart from the fact that beets still take 45 minutes to cook first. However, you can do that right before the meal, or up to a day ahead. It will just take a little longer to reheat them and get the sauce going.

4 servings
15 to 20 minutes prep time, plus 1 hour cooking time in advance

Beets à la Marmalade

4 medium (500 grams, 1 pound) beets
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons orange or ginger marmalade
the finely grated zest of 1/4 orange
the juice of 1/2 orange
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash the beets and put them in a pot with water to cover them. Bring them to a boil and boil for about 45 minutes, until tender. Drain them and let them cool enough to handle, then peel them and slice or cube them.

Put them in a pot with the butter, marmalade, orange zest, orange juice, salt, and pepper, and bring up to a simmer. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens enough to coat them lightly, and they are hot through.

Last year at this time I made, uh, Sweet Roasted Beets. How about that. Yes, I like my beets a bit sweet. Bite me.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Cream of Leek Soup

Yes, I know it's a plain, unrelieved beige. It looks like wallpaper paste, as a matter of fact. But don't let that fool you, nor the fact that the ingredient list is fairly short and the technique simple. This stuff is delicious; so, so delicious. It's absolutely fine enough to serve at a very fancy occasion, perhaps even Christmas. Do try and find a sprig of parsley for it though, if you can, to gussy it up a bit. Unfortunately, mine is snowed under. Gack.

I put cream in mine because I had it in my head to put cream in it, but I have to say the taste I had of it before the cream went in was awfully good. If you are eschewing cream, it could be omitted with very little pain. 

6 servings
1 1/2 hours prep time

Cream of Leek Soup

3 medium leeks
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium shallots
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons soft unbleached flour
2 tablespoons good sherry
a couple scrapes of nutmeg
1/3 to 2/3 cup 10% cream, OPTIONAL

Trim the leeks, and slice them. Wash the slices carefully and drain them well. Put them in a large soup pot with the chicken stock, the bay leaves, and the salt. Simmer for about an hour until the leeks are very tender. Let cool a bit, then put the leeks and stock into a food processor or blender. Don't blend yet, though.

Peel and slice the shallots and garlic. Heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat, and cook the shallots and garlic gently until they are both ever so slightly browned; about 5 minutes. Stir frequently. Sprinkle the flour over them and continue cooking and stirring for another few minutes.

Slosh in a little of the stock from the stock and leeks, and mix it up quickly. Before it thickens, pour and scrape the shallots into the food processor or blender with the stock and leeks. Add the sherry and nutmeg, and purée until the soup is extremely smooth.

Pour and scrape it back into the soup pot. To serve, reheat to a simmer - let it thicken slightly - then stir in the cream, if you want it. Continue heating until it returns to steaming hot, but do not let it simmer again once the cream goes in.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Cornmeal Waffles

Goodness, all these waffles. This is what happens, apparently, when I have a working waffle iron. And very nice, too! 

You can cook the cornmeal just before you make the waffles, but it makes sense to use leftover cooked cornmeal from another meal if you can. You want to have about 2 to 2 1/4 cups of cooked cornmeal. If you can get the butter into the hot cornmeal to melt it, so much the better, but it works perfectly well to melt it later and add it.

about 18 waffles
1 hour 15 minutes prep time

Precook the Cornmeal:
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups water

Mix the cornmeal, salt, and water in a sufficiently large pot, and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the cornmeal thickens; about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool, with the butter added so it will melt.

Make the Waffles:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups soft unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups soft whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup sugar, OPTIONAL
mild vegetable oil to brush the waffle iron

If your cornmeal was cooked in advance (leftovers), melt the butter and mix it into the cornmeal. Otherwise, once it has cooled enough not to set the eggs, beat them in one at a time. Slowly mix in the milk. Put your waffle iron on to heat.

Mix the dry ingredients, and put them in a large mixing bowl. I like to add 2 tablespoons sugar, but you can add more or none, as you like.

When the waffle iron is hot, stir the cornmeal mixture into the flours. Blend thoroughly, but do not overmix. Ladle the batter into the prepared (hot, and brushed with oil) waffle iron. Cook each set of waffles for 7 to 8 minutes. Keep warm in the oven at 200°F, or let the leftovers cool and freeze them for reheating in a toaster.

Last year at this time I made Pear & Celeriac Salad.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Beef with Brussels Sprouts

I've mentioned before that Chinese cooking really ought to call for more Brussels sprouts. They fit in so nicely! Nothing much to serve this with but steamed rice. 

4 servings
1 hour prep time

450 grams (1 pound) Brussels sprouts
100 grams (1/4 pound) shiitake mushrooms
2 large shallots
2 or 3 stalks of celery
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
450 grams (1 pound) lean beef steak
1 cup unsalted beef broth or water
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Trim the Brussels sprouts and cut them into halves or quarters, depending on the size of them. Remove and discard the stems from the shiitake mushrooms. Peel and cut the shallots into slivers. Trim the celery, and cut it into bite sized pieces. Peel and mince the garlic. Trim the beef and cut it into thin, bite sized pieces.

Put the Brussels sprouts and broth or water into a large skillete and cook over high heat until the water is mostly absorbed. Remove them from the pan and set them aside. Heat the oil, and cook the shallots and celery until slightly softened, then add the beef and the mushrooms. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the beef and vegetables are cooked. Add the Brussels sprouts back into the pan, along with the garlic. Stir and cook for a minute more, then add the oyster sauce and sesame oil. Mix them in well, and turn out onto a serving dish once the sauces are absorbed into it.

Last year at this time I made Quick Braised Chicken with Leeks & Garlic.

Monday, 16 November 2015


Today we have another installment in the series, Obscure Italian Peasant Chow. I ought to make it a searchable feature; I've cooked enough of them.

Apparently this is a dish from the Versilia-Garfagnana area of Tuscany, and I'm not quite sure what it is. Soup? Polenta? Soupy polenta, I guess; thickened by the beans as much as the cornmeal. One recipe I found suggested  putting sausage in it, but I'd be more inclined to cheese myself.

Some recipes call for a potato to be added as well. If you would like that, I would cut it in small cubes and boil it with the beans for the last 10 minutes of their cooking time. 

2 to 4 servings
1 hour

Cook the Beans:
1 cup dried kidney or borlotti beans
water to cover x 2
pinch of salt

Cover the beans with boiling water and soak overnight. Drain, rinse and cook in 4 cups of water until tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add a pinch of salt during the last half hour or so of cooking. This can, and probably should, be done a day in advance.

Make the Intruglia:
1 large onion
1 or 2 stalks of celery
1 medium carrot
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon rubbed rosemary
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cups bean cooking water or broth
1/3 cup cornmeal
2 cups finely shredded kale or Swiss chard

Peel and finely chop the onion, celery, and carrot. Finely mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Saute the onion, celery, and carrot in the oil until soft. Add the sage, rosemary, pepper, and garlic. Mash well 1 cup of the beans and blend into the sauteed vegetables, along with 2 cups of the bean cooking water. If you don't have 2 cups of bean cooking water, top it up with broth or plain water. Add the remaining whole beans, and the tomato sauce.

Bring the intruglia to a simmer and pour in the cornmeal in a slow stream, stirring constantly. Slow! Or it will be lumpy. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the finely shredded kale or Swiss chard. Simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently, then turn off the heat and leave the pot covered for another 5 minutes. And so serve it forth.

Last year at this time I made Quick & Easy Braised Tofu

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Squash Glazed with Apple Cider

Still working my way through that bottle of apple cider... and also our laundry room full of squash. We planted a lot less this year than last year, but it did very well and we are again swamped with squash. Fortunately, since it was a lot warmer and dryer this year the quality of the squash is much better.

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes, 15 minutes prep time

1/2 of  a large (900 grams; 2 pounds) butternut squash;
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 of a small nutmeg, finely grated
1 cup apple cider

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Peel the squash and cut it into centimetre thick slices.

Put the squash in a shallow roasting pan dotted with the butter, and sprinkle the salt, cinnamon, pepper, and nutmeg over it. Toss gently. Pour over the apple cider.

Roast the squash for about 1 hour, stirring once or twice. Towards the end of the cooking time the butter and cider with thicken into a sauce; watch carefully and remove the squash just as it is thick enough to coat it .

Last year at this time I made Freeze & Bake Pumpkin Pie. We enjoyed eating pumpkin pies all winter last year!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts & Leeks

Here is a nice, easy, flexible dish of Brussels sprouts. Add mushrooms if you like, or have your bacon fat attached to chunks of bacon. Or both; why not. But we didn't do either of those and it was still just fine.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

300 grams (10 ounces) Brussels sprouts
2 medium leeks
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons bacon fat or butter
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts, and put them in a pot with water to cover. Bring them to a boil and boil for 2 or 3 minutes, until bright green. Drain well.

Meanwhile, trim, chop, and wash the leeks. Drain well. Heat the fat or butter in a medium skillet, and cook the leeks gently over medium heat until softened. Add the Brussels sprouts, and cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks and the Brussels sprouts begin to brown. Add the balsamic vinegar, and then the garlic and salt. Cook and stir until the garlic smell overcomes the vinegar smell. Total cooking time should be about 10 minutes, not including boiling the sprouts.

Last year at this time I made Broccoli & Cauliflower Cheese Casserole.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Ginger-Garlic Pulled Pork

Well this is just a great big hunk o' meat, I admit it. Still, this is a cut that is very inexpensive when it goes on sale, it's stupidly easy to make, and it tastes great. Leftovers refrigerate and freeze well. Also, it's very versatile: put it on sandwiches, stew it in its own sauce and serve over mashed potatoes or rice, or use it to fill tacos or burritos, maybe with some Vaguely Asian Cabbage Salad, since this is vaguely asian itself.

12 to 16 servings
15 minutes prep time plus 9 to 11 hours

2 1/2 to 3 kg (5 to 6 pounds) pork shoulder roast
2 cups water
1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/2 cup vinegar
1" x 1" X 3" piece of ginger
1 head garlic
1 or 2 dried hot peppers (OPTIONAL)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put the roast in a snug fitting, coverable roasting pan. Add the water, the tamari, and the vinegar. Peel and slice the ginger, and peel and trim the garlic, and arrange them around the roast, with the hot peppers if you want them. Dust with pepper.

Put the cover on the pan, and put it in the oven. Turn the oven to 200°F. Roast for 8 to 10 hours. Let rest for 1/2 hour before you remove the skin and fat from the top (if present), and remove the bones. The meat should pretty much fall apart in chunks. Cut them as desired, or pull them into strands with with a pair of forks.

I find it best to cook this a day ahead, then refrigerate. This allows for easier removal of more of the fat, and the pork reheats very nicely in a skillet, with a portion of the cooking liquid. If you don't use all the cooking liquid with the pork, it makes the most fabulous soup base ever, once you strain out the seasonings.

Last year at this time I made Squash & Carrots with Cinnamon & Ginger

Monday, 2 November 2015

Apple Cider Spice Cake

Lots of cider left after the Chai Cider Tea,  so naturally I used most of the rest to make cake. This is a nice, moist cake and since we are making an effort not to bolt it all down at once, I can say that it seems to be keeping (in a tin) quite well.

The one problem was that the cranberries all sank to the bottom. If  you want to try to avoid that, don't soak them; toss them in a tablespoon of flour and mix half of them in just before putting the batter in the pan. Sprinkle the rest evenly over the top and let them sink in as they bake. However, the cranberries were so nice and moist after their soak that I would be sorry to not give them the opportunity.

8 to 12 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 40 minutes prep time

3 cups apple cider
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
a good scrape of nutmeg (1/8 of a small one)
1 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup rum

2 cups soft unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

Put the apple cider, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg into a fairly large heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil and boil steadily until the cider is reduced in volume by half.

Preheat the oven to 350°F, and line an 8" x 8" pan with parchment paper (or butter and flour it if you prefer).

Turn off the heat and add the cranberries or raisins, the butter, and the honey. Cover and let sit until the butter is melted - stir occasionally. When the mixture has cooled enough not to set the eggs, beat them in. Add the apple cider vinegar and the rum.

Measure the flour and mix the salt and baking powder into it. Shake the flour into the pot of boiled cider, mixing it in well. Turn the batter - it will be fairly thin - into the prepared pan and bake it for about 50 minutes, until firm and set.

Last year at this time I made Spaghetti Squash Singapore Style