Friday, 30 March 2018

Taiwanese Noodles

First thing out of the garden - green onions! We have quite a few this spring as they did not die down properly last fall and we never picked them. You are unlikely to get any this early though, if you don't have them in your garden. Never mind, they are on their way.

This is usually made with pork but I had turkey, so that is what I used. Otherwise this is consistent with most of the recipes out there. I have to say if I make this again I will be inclined to add a little grated ginger and a handful of bean sprouts. Otherwise, this was a quick and easy dish.

There is no doubt a particular noodle used in Taiwan for this, but it is a wheat noodle and lots of people seem to just use a fine spaghetti, which is what I did.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Make the Sauce:
1 teaspoon 5-spice powder
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Mix all in a small bowl and set aside.

Make the Noodles & Topping:
225 grams (1/2 pound) dry noodles
2 or 3 shallots
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
6 to 8 green onions
225 grams (1/2 pound) fresh shiitake mushrooms
225 grams (1/2 pound) lean ground pork, turkey, or chicken
1 tablespoon bacon fat or mild vegetable oil

Put a pot of salted water on to boil to cook the noodles. They should be done at the same time as the topping, which will require 8 to 10 minutes in the pan. Time the noodles accordingly.

Peel and slice the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic, and set it aside by itself. Wash, trim, and chop the green onions, keeping the green and white parts separate. Remove and discard the stems of the shiitake mushrooms, and slice the caps.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the meat and brown it, breaking it up into small pieces. As soon as most raw spots are gone - 2 or 3 minutes - add the shallots and shiitakes. Cook, stirring frequently, until they are softened and reduced in volume, another 3 or 4 minutes. Mix in the garlic and the white parts of the green onions, and cook for another minute or so.

Drain the noodles and divide them between 2 large bowls.

Pour the sauce over the pan of meat, etc, and let it boil up. Stir in the remaining green onion tops, then divide the mixture over the 2 bowls of noodles, being careful to give each equal parts of the sauce as well as the meat, shiitakes, etc. Serve at once. 

Last year at this time I made Okonomiyaki... Waffles!

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Celeriac Zeytinyagli

We saw quite a few of these "Zeytinyaglis" when we were in Turkey; that is to say, vegetables cooked with olive oil and served warm to cool. This one is excellent for late winter or early spring, since the only things it calls for that are not available are the peas - but you can use frozen - and the dill. You could use dried dill, I suppose, but I have to admit I bought some. I keep meaning to experiment with starting some in a pot indoors but have yet to do it.

This comes pretty directly from Ozlem's Turkish Table. I only used about 1/3 of one celeriac, which tells you how much they vary in size. Mine was huge. I also had a bit of a heavy hand with the potatoes, as I had some to use up, and the peas, just because I like them.  

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time; 30 minutes rest time

 Turkish Celeriac Salad

1 cup water
the juice of 1 lemon
2 cups peeled and diced celeriac
1 cup diced potato
1 medium carrot
3 to 4 medium shallots
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
OR 1 teaspoon dry dill weed

Put the water and lemon juice into a heavy-bottomed pot.

Peel and dice the celeriac, and add them to the pot. Peel (if you like) the potato, and cut it into dice. Peel and chop the carrot into slightly smaller pieces. Peel and chop the shallots. Add all these to the pot.

Add the olive oil, salt, sugar, and pepper. Bring to a boil and boil gently but steadily for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes and celeriac are tender. Keep the pot partially covered. The water should be mostly absorbed/evaporated, but watch it towards the end as it needs to not run dry.

Have the peas standing by, and when you remove the pot from the heat, stir them in. Let the dish cool to warm or room temperature, and stir in the minced dill. If made in advance and chilled, it should be brought back up to room temperature to serve.

Last year at this time I made Irish Soda Farls

Monday, 26 March 2018

Gomel Style Cutlets

In my Russian cutlet research wanderings, I came across these Gomel Style cutlets. Gomel is a city in Belarus, about 200 kilometres north of Kiev. These are not nearly as well known as the cutlets of Kiev, but I have to say I liked them a lot.

Traditionally they seem to be made with very thinly pounded pork scallops, but many people do suggest making them with chicken. Since I can't be having with pounding pieces of meat, I used ground turkey. I did see some recipes out there calling for ground meat so I don't feel like I have gone too far astray.

The potato coating before they are fried are what make these really unique, although the mushroom and cheese filling is somewhat unusual as well. Some recipes called for these to be finished in the oven and some didn't; my experience was that it took long enough for the potato coating to cook in the pan that the cutlets were definitely done by the time the potatoes browned, so I didn't bother to bake them. I suspect they would be reasonably amenable to being kept warm in the oven if that is required though.

I found them a little nerve-wracking to form, but they came out much better than I expected. I'm giving fairly detailed instructions on how I did that. Once they were in the pan they pulled themselves together nicely. I suspect I'm going to try coating other things in grated potato and cooking them like this too - it worked really well.

3 to 6 servings
1 hour prep time

Gomel Style Cutlets made with ground turkey and stuffed with mushrooms and cheese

Make the Mushroom Filling:
100 grams (1/4 pound) mushrooms
2 medium shallots
2 teaspoons butter
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Clean, trim, and chop the mushrooms. Peel and mince the shallots.

Heat the butter in a small skillet, and cook them together until the shallots are softened and translucent, and the mushrooms are softened and slightly browned. Season with a little salt and pepper; keep in mind the cheese is quite salty. Transfer them to a small mixing bowl to cool. Grate the Parmesan and add it once the vegetables are cool.

Make the Cutlet Mixture:
1/2 small stale dinner roll (50 grams; 2 ounces)
1/4 cup milk or cream
250 grams (9 ounces) lean ground turkey, chicken OR pork
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon rubbed (dry) dill OR 2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Crumble the roll into a mixing bowl, and pour the milk or cream over it. Let it soak until the cream is absorbed. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.

Coat the Cutlets & Fry Them:
1 large egg
about 1/2 cup barley or wheat flour
250 grams (1/2 pound) white potatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Break the egg into a small bowl and whisk with a fork until smooth. Put the flour into another small bowl.

Wash the potatoes (peel them if you like, but you will need the weight above when peeled). Grate them coarsely. Season them with the salt and let them sit in a pile on the cutting board. Do not do this until you are ready to start forming the cutlets, or else the potato may turn dark as it sits.

Take one sixth of the cutlet mixture and form it into a flattened patty. Drop it into the bowl of flour. Take one sixth of the mushroom filling, and squeeze it until it holds together. Put it in the middle of the patty, and fold it up around the filling until it is covered - hold it in your hand and shape it. Once the filling is covered, roll the cutlet in the flour to evenly coat it. It will be round to ovoid in shape at this point. Roll it in the egg, allowing as much egg as is reasonable to drip off back into the bowl before rolling it in the pile of grated potatoes. Set it aside gently on a plate until you are ready to cook them.

When you have only 2 or 3 more cutlets to form, put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large skillet and start heating it over medium heat. Finish preparing the cutlets, then place them in the hot pan, not touching each other so far as is possible. Press the patties gently to ensure they are no thicker than 1" anywhere.

Cook for about 7 to 10 minutes per side, until the potatoes are nicely browned and the patties are firm. If the potato coating browns too quickly - or does not brown quickly enough - adjust the heat accordingly.

Let the cutlets rest for 5 minutes before serving them.

Last year at this time I made Rutabaga & Mushroom Soup

Friday, 23 March 2018

Warm Mushroom Salad

Warm mushroom salads were all the rage when I was a young adult back in the early '80s. No restaurant with any pretensions to style would have neglected to have one on the menu. Inevitably their popularity waned, but they were often very good salads and are worthy of a come-back. I think they are coming back, and hopefully this time they won't become so ubiquitous as to wear out their welcome.

I used a mixture of button and oyster mushrooms; a few shiitake would have been good, or use whatever you can find - part of the pleasure is the subtle differences in flavour and texture of the mushrooms. At this time of year it was hydroponic lettuce and pea shoots, but later in the spring there should be arugula and spinach; both of which go really well with mushrooms.

2 to 6 servings
1 hour prep time

Make the Dressing:
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon walnut oil

Peel and mince the garlic. Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl or jam jar. 

Make the Salad:
1 large head Belgian endive
3 cups chopped greenhouse lettuce
2 cup chopped pea shoots, micro greens, or other sprouts,
     spinach or arugula in season

Wash, trim, and chop the endive. Wash, trim, and chop the lettuce. Wash and chop any other greens to be added to the salad. Toss them all together in a salad bowl, or distribute them amongst individual serving dishes.

Cook the Mushrooms:
400 grams (scant pound) mixed mushrooms
3 or 4 shallots
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon rosemary leaves, ground
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sherry

Clean and chop the mushrooms roughly. Use a mix of mushrooms; oyster, button, and shiitake are the easiest to get and make a fine combination.

Peel and slice the shallots thinly. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook the shallots until just softened. Add the mushrooms and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring regularly, until the mushrooms are softened and browned, and cooked to your liking. Add the rosemary, salt, pepper, mustard, and garlic, and cook for just a minute longer, stirring constantly. Add the sherry and stir them up once.

Remove the pan from the heat and let the mushrooms cool for just a couple of minutes, then spread them out over the salad (or salads). Drizzle with the salad dressing and serve at once. 

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Today's the Day!

Red winged blackbirds are back! IT'S SPRING!

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Friesian Thumbs

The Dutch do cookies; they even gave the English language the word. And is there a more Dutch cookie than this one? Distinctive spicing; check. Chopped nuts; check. Traditional shape and back story; check. And yet it seems a bit obscure outside of Holland.

Oh, the story? It seems that they are from the northern province of Friesland (surprise! Okay, no) and not only are they traditionally cut into a thumb-like shape, but they were originally made in a local bakery, where the baker was proud enough of these that he put his maker's mark on them - his thumb print. I didn't bother, but you could if you like. I have to say mine ended up more like fingers than thumbs but whatever.

All the source recipes I looked at were extremely similar, and called for 1 egg. I used 2 egg yolks instead, because I was also making cookies that took 2 egg whites. It worked just fine so that's convenient but I'm sure the original version works very well too.

36 to 48 cookies
1 hour - 40 minutes prep time, plus 1 hour chill time
not including toasting the nuts - allow 30 minutes for that

Friesian Thumbs Dutch Cookies

Toast & Peel the Hazelnuts:
3/4 cup whole hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking tray, and bake for 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub them in a clean tea-towel to remove most of the skins. Chop them coarsely.

If you can find them being sold already chopped, you can replace them with 1 cup chopped hazelnuts (100 grams). Give them a little toast too, but WATCH THEM; like, literally stand there by the oven, because I can't tell you how long it will take but I suspect the answer is not long.

Make the Cookies:
2/3 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
1 large egg, OR 2 egg yolks
1 2/3 cups soft unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground anise seeds

Cream the butter and work in the sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg (or egg yolks).

Measure the flour and add the salt, cinnamon, ginger, and anise seed to it. Add the prepared hazelnuts to the flour. Mix well.

Mix the dry ingredients into the creamed butter and sugar, and mix to form a soft, smooth dough. Cover it and refrigerate it for 1 hour.

Bring the dough out to warm up a little. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking trays with parchment paper.

Pat or roll the dough into a neat rectangle, about 1 cm thick. Cut it into fingers; 1 or 2 cm wide by 6 or 8 cm long. A pizza cutter is very nice for this. Place them on the prepared baking trays. Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly coloured and set. Let cool and store in a tin, in a cool, dry place. They keep well and even improve with a little sitting, if you can keep them hidden.

Last year at this time I made Baked Apples with Cheesecake Filling. Uh, apparently the end of March needs some help, no kidding.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Sausage Scrapple

When I lived in Pennsylvania for a year, I fell in love with scrapple. I sometimes wonder why it has not spread beyond Pennsylvania, but really, I know. Traditionally it's made by boiling a pig's head, picking off the meat and reboiling it with cornmeal and other cereal grains to form a loaf which then gets sliced and fried. In the first place that makes a lot of scrapple so most people buy it ready made. No; scratch that. Even there most people don't eat it at all, because in the second place they know it's made with the scraps from a pig's head.  But c'mon people, that's just sausage. Let's not even talk about what goes into hot dogs for instance.

I came across this much more domesticated and accessible version in an old cook book. It's not as gelatinous as the original but I suspect most people won't find that a fault. Mr. Ferdzy had no problem chowing down on this along with some poached eggs and a little Beet & Red Cabbage Relish. If you eat pork, you will like it too.

4 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time; overnight set time; 20 minutes fry time

Sausage Scrapple

1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 or 2 shallots
250 grams (1/2 pound) pork breakfast sausage
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon powdered gelatine
2 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
bacon fat or other oil to fry

Mix the salt, pepper, coriander, and sage and set aside. Peel and finely chop the shallots. Peel the casings off the sausages, and discard it; crumble the meat.

Heat a medium-large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage meat and the shallots, and cook until no pink remains and the meat is lightly browned in spots. Break up any large lumps.

If there is a lot of fat, drain some off. Season with the mixed spices. Add the cornmeal and mix it in well. Pour in about a cup of the chicken stock and mix well. Reduce the heat to medium, so that it is simmering but not too hard. Stir frequently.

Pour about half a cup of the chicken stock into a small bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Add the remaining stock to the pan of sausage and cornmeal, and mix it in well. Simmer for about 12 to 14 minutes (total) until the cornmeal is cooked and the mixture is quite thick. Stir in the last of the chicken stock with the gelatine and mix well. Let it simmer for another minute or two, then scrape it all out into a loaf pan. Press the surface level and let it cool.

Cover the scrapple and chill until completely set; at least several hours, and the best and easiest is overnight. Turn it out onto a cutting board (you will need to run a knife around the edge) and cut it into 12 even slices.

Heat a tablespoon of bacon fat or oil over medium heat in a large skillet and fry the slices of scrapple until nicely browned on each side; about 3 minutes per side. Add a little more fat if needed when you turn them. You will need to do them in 2 batches, but it will keep in the fridge if well wrapped for several days so no need to fry it all up at once if you don't want to. 

Last year at this time I made Duck & Wild Rice Salad.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Baked Beans with Garlic, Lemon & Rosemary

Wow, I was really pleased with how these turned out! It is so hard to come up with something different to do with beans. I am happy to eat the old standards, but we eat enough beans that new ideas are always welcome.

In retrospect, I put too much of the cooking liquid in with them, and they ended up pretty soupy. I must have put in 3 cups or so, and really about half that would have been plenty. I'm sort of not telling you how much to put in though; it will depend on how you like your beans and to some degree how much cooking liquid you have. I like to put my beans on toast so I want them a little juicy rather than flowing like a river. On the other hand, you don't want them to dry out.

If you save any extra cooking water it would be good to thin leftovers into soup. For soup, I would purée it. Of course, that assumes you don't just eat it all.

If you prefer, you can replace the rosemary with thyme, assuming you can find some that is any good. 

6 to 8 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time
not including cooking the beans

Baked Beans with Garlic, Lemon & Rosemary

Cook the Beans:
2 cups dried white beans

Wash and pick over the beans, and put them in a pot with plenty of water to cover them. Bring them up to a boil, let them boil for a couple of minutes, then cover the pot and turn it off. Let soak for a couple of hours.

Repeat boiling and soaking once or twice more, until the beans are fairly soft but not broken. Add more water if they need some.

This can be done a day in advance. 

Bake the Beans:
2 heads garlic
1/4 cup sunflower seed or olive oil
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
the juice of 1 medium lemon
1 teaspoon rubbed rosemary, OR fresh minced rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
plenty of freshly ground black pepper

Peel the garlic and chop it coarsely. Put it in a small bowl with the olive oil, and set it aside. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the beans, along with a little puddle of their cooking liquid, into an 8" x 10" shallow roasting (lasagne) pan. Grate in the lemon zest, and add the lemon juice. Add the remaining seasonings, and mix well.

Drizzle the garlic and oil over the top of the beans. Bake for 1 hour. Stir before serving. 

Last year at this time I made Hungarian Mushroom Duck Soup.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Red Cabbage Slaw in Cucumber Boats

Cucumber boats filled with red cabbage slaw make a simple but very visually striking salad and they combine very nicely in the mouth too.

It's a bit hard to say how many cucumbers this amount of slaw will fill; it will depend on the size you get and to some degree you will have to eyeball it. I only had enough to fill 3 cucumbers (6 halves) but mine were unusually large for greenhouse cucumbers. This made them easier to stuff probably, but also meant they made rather large servings. That's okay if they are your salad at a meal, but if you want them as an appetizer or hors d'oeuvre, it would be better to get smaller ones.

makes 6 to 12 servings (boats)
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Red Cabbage Slaw in Cucumber Boats

2 cups finely chopped red cabbage
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 6 small greenhouse cucumbers
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped pea shoots or parsley
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil

Wash, trim, and finely shred the cabbage. Massage it with the salt until it feels quite wet, then place it in a strainer and drain for about 1/2 hour.

Meanwhile, slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Use a grapefruit spoon or other thin-edged spoon to scoop out the cucumbers; all of the seedy area should bring you to within a quarter inch of the sides, which is good. Chop the scooped-out flesh and mix it in with the draining cabbage.

Salt the insides of the cucumbers, and set them aside. 

Wash, trim, and chop the pea shoots or parsley, and mix them in with the cabbage.

After half an hour, rinse and drain the red cabbage, etc., well. Rinse and drain the cucumbers well. Toss the cole slaw with the lemon juice and olive oil, and use it to stuff the half cucumbers.

Last year at this time I made Duck Terrine Roasted in the Duck Skin.

Monday, 12 March 2018


I came across a recipe for this Russian Easter dessert in Dad's old cook books; it was given to him by a friend from England in the mid-1970s. Oddly enough it does seem to be better-known in England than here.

Essentially, this is a kind of unbaked cheesecake; really just a flavoured and molded cheese in fact. I stopped to wonder why it should be associated with Easter, but then the answer was obvious: it isn't just eggs that are starting to show up again as the days get longer, milk is reappearing again after several long months without any. Oh well, not any more, but traditionally that would have been pretty much the case. Of course the first milk of the season would have been celebrated and treated with ritual respect.

I have scaled this down considerably from the original recipe. It's quite rich and small portions are a good idea. You can really use whatever dried fruits and nuts you like to enrich it, but I like the combination below very much.

6 servings
36 hours - of which about 20 minutes are actually prep time

Pashka - a Russian Easter cheese dessert

1/4 cup dried apricots OR candied peel
1/4 cup dried cranberries
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons sherry OR rum
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
300 grams ricotta or dry cottage cheese
a pinch of salt
2 to 3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sour cream OR thick yogurt
1/4 cup chopped nuts; almonds, hazelnuts OR pistachios

Chop the apricots, if using, to about the size of candied peel, and chop the cranberries a little too. Mix them - whatever combination you are using - in a small bowl. Grate in the lemon zest, and add the lemon juice. Add the sherry or rum, and cover. Soak overnight.

Cream the butter thoroughly in a small mixing bowl, and work in the ricotta or cottage cheese with a pinch of salt. Mix in the honey and sour cream or yogurt. Mix in the chopped fruit and any liquid still unabsorbed. If you like, mix in the nuts. I dislike the texture of nuts in an otherwise smooth composition, so I saved mine to sprinkle over the pashka at serving time.

Line a mesh strainer big enough to hold the mixture with a piece of cheesecloth, or an old, clean handkerchief or thin tea towel ready for a second career. Scrape the mixture into it, and fold the cloth over it to cover. Put the strainer into a bowl which will allow the strainer to stay level, and for liquid to drip into it with good clearance. Put a plate and a weight on top of the pashka, and place it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Discard the whey, etc, which has flowed out of the pashka. Turn it out onto a serving dish. Serve it garnished with nuts, more dried fruit, or fruit preserves. A very small dollop of thick rich sour cream might work too.

Last year at this time I made Cumberland Sauce.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Carrot & Tomato Soup with Garlic Croutons

By itself, this is a very fast and simple soup. The garlic croutons do a lot to lift it out of the ordinary, so do make them. They are really not hard either.

I used cheese bread for my croutons which in the face of the garlic was a bit subtle, but in fact did come through and was very nice. Watch those croutons in the oven towards the end. You want them nice and crisp and a bit browned, but as with most things it can be overdone.

If you are using this for 6 servings, or if you have some serious crouton eaters, you may need to make a second batch of the croutons. Both soup and croutons can be made in advance and reheat very well. Don't try to reheat the croutons in the microwave - oven only. A minute or two under the broiler will do it, just be sure to watch them and give them a stir to help heat them evenly.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour - 40 minutes prep time

Carrot & Tomato Soup with Garlic Croutons

Make the Soup:
250 grams (1/2 pound) carrots
250 grams (1/2 pound) potatoes
1 medium onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rubbed basil
1/2 teaspoon celery seed, ground
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups crushed/diced (canned) tomatoes
a dash or 2 of Worcestershire sauce

Wash, trim and cut the carrots into chunks. Put them in a heavy-bottomed soup pot with water to generously cover them and bring them to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile wash, trim, and cut the potatoes into somewhat larger chunks. Peel and coarsely chop the onion. Add them both to the carrots at the end of the 10 minutes and continue to cook everything for another 20 minutes. (Work on the croutons while they cook.)

When the vegetables are quite tender, drain off most of the water - a bit of a puddle at the bottom is fine. Purée them with seasonings and return them to the pot. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes, and season with the Worcestershire sauce.

Simmer for another 20 minutes or so to allow the flavours to blend. Stir regularly. Adjust the seasoning and serve with the croutons.

Make the Croutons:
4 slices of stale bread
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon rubbed basil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Slice the bread. Soften the butter in a small bowl, either on the back of the stove or in a microwave - it should be solid but workable. Peel and mince the garlic, and mix it into the butter with the other seasonings.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Heat a large skillet that can go into the oven on top of the stove, over medium-low heat.

Spread the butter evenly onto both sides of the bread, then stack the slices and cut them into squares. Add them to the pan, and cook, stirring regularly, until the bread pieces and garlic are very lightly browned all over. Transfer them to the oven and let them dry out and crisp up for 20 to 30 minutes.

Last year at this time I made Thai Style Peanut & Sweet Potato Soup

Wednesday, 7 March 2018


So what, you may ask, are - is? - Rumbledethumps? It's simple, really: it's another one of those oddly-named British dishes consisting mostly of potatoes and cabbage, in this case from Scotland. The name is presumed to come from the sound of everything being mashed up together.

This is a bit fancier and more complex than champ or colcannon, requiring as it does 2 pots and a baking dish, not to mention all the cheese. On the other hand, this would be a perfectly reasonable thing to assemble from leftover mashed potatoes and cooked cabbage. In that case, just sauté the onions before adding them, and allow the casserole longer in the oven as it will all have to heat  up again.

I am being very vague about the amount of cheese as it will depend on your plan for this dish - is it a vegetable side dish to some sort of meaty main dish, or is it the main dish itself?

4 to 6 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Rumbledethumps - A Scottish casserole of potatoes, cabbage, onions, and cheese

750 grams (1 1/2 pounds) potatoes
3 cups shredded Savoy or green cabbage
1 medium carrot (optional)
2 medium onions OR 4 to 6 green onions
OR 1/3 cup snipped chives
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 or 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup buttermilk OR light cream
1 to 3 cups grated old Cheddar cheese

Scrub and trim the potatoes; peel them if you must. Put them in a pot with cold water to cover, bring them up to a boil, and boil steadily until tender - 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile wash, trim, and shred the cabbage. Peel and grate the carrot, if using. Peel and chop the onions, or wash, trim, and chop the green onions or chives. Put the cabbage (and carrot) into another pot, with water, and bring to a boil. Add the onions about halfway through the cooking, or if using green onions or chives just drop them in for the last minute. Boil until the cabbage is just tender and drain well.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter an 8" x 8" shallow baking dish.

When the potatoes are tender, drain and mash them with the salt, pepper, butter, and buttermilk. When the vegetables are ready, drain them as well and mix them in. Mix in about half of the grated cheese and press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the top, and bake the casserole at 375°F for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned.

Last year at this time I made the utterly scrumptious Etta Ferguson's Oat Cakes. EDIT - Whoops, said that already. Nevermind; they were good enough to mention twice.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Oatmeal Farls (Soda Bread)

Another very simple Irish soda bread. This one takes a little advance planning, as the oats must be soaked overnight in the buttermilk, but it is otherwise extremely quick. You can cut it into 8 or 12 scones if the farls seem too big for your purposes.

We ate some of them with butter and cheese, and some with butter and jam. Delicious either way. They were a bit delicate but cut nicely with some caution. Appealing as they are right out of the oven, it's best to give them at least 15 minutes to cool before serving. 

I've been making these regularly this winter - they are really good, and the amount of effort involved is so minor. There is something about the texture of them that I really like. 

4 to 8 servings
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time - plus overnight in the fridge

Oatmeal Farls (Soda Bread)

2 cups raw rolled oats
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 1/4 cups soft unbleached wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
a little more buttermilk as needed

Mix the rolled oats with the buttermilk, and cover and refrigerate overnight. Transfer it to a mixing bowl (unless that's what you refrigerated it in...)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a baking tray, or line it with parchment. Even so, you should sprinkle it with a little bit of flour.

Measure the flour and mix in the baking soda and salt. Mix the flour into the oats and buttermilk. I found myself cutting it in with the edge of my spoon; a pastry cutter might come in handy. The oats soaked up the buttermilk enough to be surprisingly dry and firm.

Once it is all evenly combined, you will find yourself with a dryish but crumbly mixture. Begin adding a little more buttermilk to form a stiff and not sticky dough. I used about another 1/3 of a cup. (If it ends up just a tad sticky, you can dust your hands with flour to handle it, otherwise mix in a little flour, but be careful with that.) It should be fairly smooth; don't be afraid to knead it but do so for no more than 10 or 15 strokes.

Turn it out onto the prepared baking tray and pat it into a flat circle about an inch and a half thick. Cut it into quarters - a pizza cutter works best - and move them apart from each other an inch or so. Bake for about 30 minutes, until firm and cooked thorough. They won't really brown on top.

Right on schedule! Last year at this time I made Etta Feruguson's Oat Cakes. I really don't do this on purpose! It's just that early March apparently demands oatty baked goods.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Carroty Nut & Seed Loaf

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

Carroty Nut & Seed Loaf

Prepare the Vegetables:
1 medium onion
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
4 cups grated carrots
100 grams (1/4 pound) button mushrooms
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon savory, thyme, or oregano

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and grate the carrots. Clean, trim, and slice the mushrooms.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and mushrooms, and stir to coat in the oil. Cook for a minute or two, then add the carrots. Sprinkle them with the soy sauce and seasonings, as well as a tablespoon or two of water to help them cook down if they seem to need it. Cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables are softened and reduced in volume. Remove them from the heat and let them cool slightly.

Make the Loaf:
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 cup broken nut pieces (walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts)
1/2 cup chick pea flour
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and nuts into a food processor and chop until fairly evenly fine. Add the chick pea flour and nutritional yeast, along with about 1/4 of the prepared vegetables. Process again until well blended.

Turn the chopped nuts, etc, in with the remainder of the vegetables, either in the skillet if it has cooled enough and is large enough, or in a mixing bowl. Stir or mix by hand until everything is well combined and clumping together.

Use the oil to generously grease a loaf pan. Press the mixture into the pan, mounding it slightly to form a loaf shape. Bake for 1 hour. Serve hot. 

Last year at this time I made Spicy Chinese Style Noodles.