Friday, 29 March 2019

An Ethiopian Feast - Ye'atakilt Wot (Stewed Vegetables)

Well, good news and bad news. The good news is, this is basically another very quick and easy dish. The bad news is that it requires 2 pots (and 2 burners) at a time when you are trying to finish up and serve everything. My suggestion is you finish it about half an hour before dinner time, leave it on the back of the stove or other convenient spot, and just re-heat it in the last couple minutes before serving.

I would be very willing to serve this as a side dish to some other meal altogether; some simply cooked piece of fish or chicken for example. In that case I might try to use the cabbage and the green beans both. Since I am winding up our 2 week long feast (ha! ha! no, it was gone in half an hour like every other meal) this is probably a good time to say that any of the dishes I made this week could be made in ones or twos and served with rice. I don't think it's in any way traditional but it would be really very tasty and sometimes that's the way to go, especially if you just want to give something a try.

6 to 8 servings
30 minutes prep time

Ethiopian Stewed Vegetables (front and centre)

Make the Spice Blend:
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and mince the ginger. Put them aside with the remaining spices measured and ready to go.

Cook the Vegetables:
1 medium carrot
3 cups water
3 potatoes
2 cups chopped savoy cabbage OR frozen green beans

Peel and slice the carrot. Put it in a saucepan with the water and bring it up to a boil. Set the timer for 10 minutes as soon as it goes on.

Wash, trim (or peel if you like) the potatoes, and cut them into bite-sized chunks. Add them to the carrots when the timer goes off, and set the timer for 10 minutes again.

Wash, trim and chop the cabbage, if using. Add it or the beans after 10 minutes and set the timer for another 5 minutes.

Fry the Onions & Finish:
1 medium onion OR 3 medium shallots
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Peel and chop the onion or shallots.

When the cabbage goes into the pot put the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring regularly, until softened and translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, and spices and cook for another minutes, stirring as it cooks.

Add the seasoned onions to the pot of vegetables and mix in well. Let simmer for a further 5 or 10 minutes until well amalgamated.

This should be the right amount of water to end up with a soft, loose mixture, but if at any time during the making of this dish the water seems to have boiled away sufficiently to be insufficient, please do add some more.

Last year at this time I made Celeriac Zeytinyagli

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

An Ethiopian Feast - Doro Wat (Chicken Stew)

This is probably one of the best-known Ethiopian dishes. It's traditionally made with a whole chicken, but drumsticks or thighs seem ubiquitous in the restaurants I've had it in. They are really a lot more convenient! Especially if you are only serving 8 to 12 people. *removes tongue from cheek* But seriously, like and combined with all the other dishes made for this feast, a little goes a long way.

Allow one chicken thigh per person, or if you really are serving a big group, I'd get fairly big ones, remove the bones and cut each one in half and serve half per person. Feel free to adjust the number of eggs in pursuit of convenience as well. I don't think big changes to the cooking sauce need to be made even if the quantities of chicken and eggs are somewhat rejigged.

The Niter Kibe should be made a day in advance. The stew itself can be made a day in advance as well, or at least earlier in the day it will be wanted, and re-heated. Don't add the eggs until the stew is being re-heated or the last 10 or 15 minutes of cooking. You can haul them out and slice them just before serving, as I did, and it looks nice but it's not really required.

20 minutes prep time for Niter Kibe & Eggs
1 hour to finish the dish
4 to 8 servings

Ethiopian Doro Wat(Chicken Stew) surrounded by other dishes

Make the Niter Kibe (Spiced Butter) & Boil Eggs
1 clove garlic
2 slices ginger
1 small shallot
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon (4 or 5 pods) ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon rubbed basil
1/4 teaspoon rubbed savory
1/8 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 large eggs

Peel and slice the garlic, ginger, and shallot, and put them in a small bowl. Add the remaining spices.

Heat the butter in a very small skillet over medium heat, until melted and just sizzling. Add the contents of the bowl and mix them in well. Let the mixture simmer gently - reduce the heat if required - for 10 minutes. Do not let anything brown. Remove from the heat and let rest for 10 minutes, then strain it into a small bowl - the one you have already been using is a good choice - and let cool. Keep refrigerated until wanted. This can be done a day in advance.

Put the eggs into a pot with water to cover them well. Bring them to a boil and boil them steadily for 1 minute. Cover the pot and remove from the heat. Let them sit in the hot water for 10 minutes, then drain off the water and cover them with cold water. Let cool completely. This can be done a day in advance. Peel them just before you want them.

Prepare the Onions & Seasonings:
1 medium onion
3 shallots
1 tablespoon finely minced (3 or 4 cloves) fresh garlic
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 to 2 teaspoons berbere
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ajwan seeds, ground

Peel and chop the onion and shallots, and set them aside together. Peel and mince the garlic and ginger, and set them aside together with the berbere, salt, and ground ajwan seeds.

Make the Chicken Stew:
4 large or 6 small chicken thighs
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil, if needed
2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 teaspoon (18 to 24 pods) ground cardamom
2 teaspoons ground chick pea flour

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the chicken thighs in, skin-side down and cook gently until lightly browned and some fat is rendered. If it looks like you will not have enough (you will need it to cook the onions and shallots) add a tablespoon of mild vegetable oil.

Add the onions and shallots around the chicken pieces and stir them down into the fat. Turn the chicken pieces over and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring and checking regularly to make sure the onions don't burn. When they are softened and translucent and the chicken is lightly browned, add the ginger, garlic, and spices. Mix in well and let cook for another minute or two. Add the Niter Kibe and let it melt into the mixture.

Carefully pour the chicken stock over the chicken. Mix in well, to make sure nothing is sticking to the pan. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring regularly and turning the chicken every 10 minutes or so.

If you are making this in advance and re-heating it, now is the time to take a break. 

Grind the cardamom, discarding the papery husks. Mix it with the chick pea flour and sprinkle it over the chicken. Mix it in well. Add the peeled but whole hard-boiled eggs. Simmer for 10 minutes more, turning the eggs occasionally. If you are starting with the cold stew prepared in advance, bring it up to a good simmer before you add things and start timing then.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

An Ethiopian Feast - Yeshinbra Assa Wot (Chick Pea Paste)

This is a very interesting and unusual dish and one I liked very much. Unfortunately, mine was very thick and came out lumpy on reheating. I did thin this one to reheat it, I had to! I'm calling for a bit more water than I used, and unlike the other legume-based dishes, I suggest that you DON'T make it in advance and reheat it. It cooks so fast - really, about 7 or 8 minutes from turning on the heat - so just have everything ready to go and cook it at the very end.

I have to admit I didn't see any recipes that called for prepared mustard, although my Ethiopian cookbook has a recipe for prepared mustard and a number of recipes calling for "mustard", although I think they mean ground mustard seed. So! I thought some ready-made mustard would not be going too far astray, and it works really well with the lemon juice. I used a bit heavier hand with the berbere here too, and made this really quite nippy. I'm thinking I will use this flavour profile for some other dishes.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Ethiopian Chick Pea Paste Stew

1/2 cup chick pea flour
1 1/2 cups water
the juice of 1/2 large lemon
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons berbere
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon prepared (Dijon) mustard
3 large shallots
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Put the chick pea flour in a small bowl, and slowly stir in the water a bit at a time to form a smooth paste, then stir in the rest with the lemon juice until smooth. Set aside.

Put the berbere, salt, and mustard aside together in a small bowl.

Peel and finely chop the shallots.

Heat the oil in a mid-sized saucepan over medium heat, and when hot add the shallots and cook for several minutes, stirring frequently, until they are softened and just slightly browned. Add the bowl of seasonings and mix in well. Cook for another minute or two.

Stir up the chick pea and water and slowly mix it into the pot of oil and seasonings. Cook until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes or less. Stir constantly. Dollop it onto the "injera" or put it in a storage dish for reheating later.

Last year at this time I made Gomel-Style Cutlets.

Monday, 25 March 2019

An Ethiopian Feast - Ater Kik Wot (Dried Pea Stew)

In the last post I discussed the heavy use of shallots or onions, ginger, and garlic in Ethiopian cooking. I mentioned the common use of basil. Here, I am using another common Ethiopian herb - savory. Like the basil, it is probably not quite the same as the type used here, but it's close enough to go on with. (Perhaps it's closer to this.)

All the comments about cooking first the legume and then the whole dish in advance of when it is wanted also apply here as with the Lentil Stew. It's almost as quick and easy to finish up, and like the Lentil Stew I should have thinned it a bit when reheating it. 

40 minutes prep time, not including cooking the peas
4 to 6 servings

Cook the Peas:
1 cup whole or split dry yellow peas
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Surprise! I didn't cook these in the rice-cooker, although I think I could have, using the amount of water listed. Instead I cooked them in the Instant-Pot (pressure cooker) and probably used another 2 cups of water. That took 30 minutes on high pressure. This can be done a day ahead; good idea. Save any cooking liquid.

Mix the Spices:
1 to 2 teaspoons berbere
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons rubbed savory
3/4 teaspoon salt

Mix 'em. Together in a small bowl. I found 1 teaspoon of berbere to be an elegant sufficiency, by the way, but you know your tastes.

Make the Pea Stew:
1 medium onion
3 large shallots
1 tablespoon (6 large cloves) finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Peel and chop the onion and shallots, and set them aside together. Peel and mince the garlic and ginger, and keep them aside, together.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and shallots and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and very slightly browned. Add the ginger and garlic and mix in well; cook for another minute or so. Now add the spices, mix in well, and cook for another minute.

Add the cooked peas along with 1 to 1 1/4 cups of their cooking liquid. (For me, that was all of it that was left. Use water if you are short.) Cook for 15 to 20 minutes over low heat (so, like, lower it). Stir frequently, especially towards the end as it thickens. Dollop it onto injera to serve, or reheat first. Making it in advance is probably a good idea.

Last year at this time I made Warm Mushroom Salad.

Friday, 22 March 2019

An Ethiopian Feast - Yedifin Miser Alicha Wot (Stewed Lentils)

Just about every Ethiopian recipe I looked at started off with shallots or onions, ginger and garlic. I've tried to keep the seasonings otherwise pulled in a few different directions to prevent everything from tasting the same (and in fact I picked this dish because there are no onions or shallots) but expect lots of onions, ginger, and garlic. Shallots are in fact the more authentic choice and you could go with all shallots if you like, wherever I call for onion.

One other thing you might consider doing is adding up the quantity required for all the dishes you intend to make and do the chopping and mincing in one session. I put the ginger and garlic through through the food processor and that really sped things up a lot. Don't forget you can freeze any leftovers!

For this dish and the Stewed Peas, it makes such a lot of sense to cook the lentils and peas the day before. It breaks up the work and I think they benefit from pre-cooking and a rest anyway. Once that is done this is actually a very fast and simple dish to make. Even making the finished dishes in advance is a really good idea - they reheat quickly and you are not trying to finish 5 or 6 dishes at the same time that way. In fact, we agreed that the left-overs were better! You will likely find you need to add a little more water when reheating. As you can see, I didn't and I really should have. That's a bit too thick.

Ethiopian recipes call for a surprising amount of basil. Unfortunately, it's a different variety than the readily available Italian types most common in North America. It is often referred to as holy basil, but I do not know if it is the same as Thai holy basil or not. I'm afraid I just picked up my jar of basic dried basil and used it. Such is life.

30 minutes prep time PLUS time to pre-cook the lentils
4 to 6 servings

Stewed Lentils as part of an Ethiopian feast

Cook the Lentils:
1 cup green or brown lentils
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

I did it in the rice-cooker, as always. Put in, turn on, wait. You can cook them in a pot if you like, by bringing them to a boil then reducing the heat and cooking for 30 to 40 minutes. Watch them carefully! Honestly? Rice-cooker.

Make the Stew:
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons (about 6 large cloves) finely minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon rubbed basil
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups water

Peel and mince the ginger and garlic. Set them aside together. Mix the basil, turmeric, and ginger together in a small bowl and set them aside too.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and add the ginger and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 or 3 minutes until fragrant. Add the spices and cook for another minute.

Mix in the lentils and the water. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently, especially towards the end as the mixture thickens. Dollop onto injera to serve. This can, and perhaps should, be made in advance and re-heated.

Last year at this time I made Friesian Thumbs - a very different take on spices from a different part of the world and a cookie I really love a lot. 

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Two Days Ago...

... but I keep forgetting to post!

You know! The red winged blackbirds are back!

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

An Ethiopian Feast - Injera is a Problem... So I Made Ployes

The next problem with making Ethiopian food is making the injera, upon which the entire cuisine rests. Quiet literally. Injera are big pancake-like breads made from a fermented teff batter. Teff is a seed traditionally eaten pretty much exclusively in the horn of Africa.

It is much more available now, and I probably could have gotten some if I tried. I didn't really try though, because it has not been uncommon for people to use buckwheat when teff was hard to get, and unlike teff buckwheat is produced locally.

The more difficult aspect of making injera is the fermentation part. I tried raising these pancakes (they are ployes, actually, about which a bit more in a minute) with yeast and leaving them to ferment over-night. The flavour was lovely but I could not get them not to stick to the pan. Ultimately, pressed for time, I made these.

These are a variation on ployes, a traditional Acadian buckwheat pancake that came out of traditional Breton buckwheat pancakes. Like injera, they were originally yeast fermented and used not solely as a sweetened breakfast food, but as a ubiquitous bread at every meal. They didn't (and still are not supposed to) contain any eggs. But mine continued to stick, and continued to stick, and finally in desperation I added a (large duck) egg to my batter and immediately they came out of the pan  like a dream.

If there is a way to get egg-free pancake batters to not stick to the pan I plainly don't know what it is, although I suspect the answer is to use a non-stick (Teflon) pan. I refuse to have them in the house, so it's a pancake stand-off that I am prepared to solve with eggs.

These are not very like the injera you get in Ethiopian restaurants, but I was reasonably satisfied with them. The buckwheat flavour went well with everything. Really perfect injera is notoriously difficult to make, and I suspect perfection rests on a long apprenticeship. In fact, we had some tenants from Ethiopia back when we were still landlords, and I once was able to try some injera they had made. It resembled these pancakes more than the very polished and technically sophisticated injera of the restaurants, so in the end I felt reasonably positive about using these.

I wanted to say much about the Acadian history of these ployes, but this is already a very long introduction so I will just say that there is lots of information out there if you want to know more. Maybe if there is anyone out there who can coach me on cooking egg-free pancakes I will give them another go sometime.

6 to 8 pancakes (2 to 4 servings)
40 minutes prep time

Buckwheat Ployes (Pancakes)

2 cups light buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1 or 2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups cold water
1 1/3 cups boiling water, plus a bit more
1 little oil to cook the pancakes

Put a kettle of water on to boil.

Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Add the oil, and break in the egg(s). Pour in the cold water and whisk until smooth.

Just before the water boils, use a bit of paper towel to grease as non-stick a skillet as you have (for me that's my stainless steel one) and heat it over medium-high heat. Turn on the oven to 200°C and put in a plate to receive the finished ployes. 

When the water boils, measure out 1 1/3 cups and whisk it in to the batter. Ladle out 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of batter. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for a minute or so, until the top of the pancake is dry all over.  Transfer the finished pancake to the plate in the oven.

Continue cooking pancakes, in the same way, greasing the pan a little more whenever needed. Also, the batter will thicken quite rapidly as it sits - add a little more hot water from the kettle when it needs to be thinned. A couple of tablespoons or so at a time will be a good amount.

Serve with butter and maple syrup... or with Ethiopian stews. 

Last year at this time I made Sausage Scrapple.

Monday, 18 March 2019

An Ethiopian Feast - Berbere

We love Ethiopian food, but you can't get it around here, no surprise. Quite a few of the usual ingredients are also impossible to get. I've been thinking of trying to make an Ethiopian meal for a while, but up until now I've been put off by my inability to get certain things. I still can't get them, but I guess I have reached the stage where I am willing to forge ahead anyway and live with the less-than-perfect results. So, over the next 2 weeks I'm going to post recipes for our Ethiopian feast. Several of them start with the spice blend known as berbere, so here's a recipe for that.

Berbere traditionally contains rue seed. That's ruta chalepensis, which I have never seen. It looks, from the photos, very similar to ruta graveolens which is occasionally grown in gardens for its attractive lobed blue-green leaves. It's a member of the citrus family, oddly enough, and like citrus it is supposed to repel cats. I think it did keep cats out of my flower beds when I grew it. I frankly thought it had a very unpleasant odour, and it is a byword in bitterness. I see a lot of recipes on the internet don't even mention it. So, okay.

That's a lot of carrying-on about an ingredient that isn't in this recipe. In spite of the fact that it's a traditional ingredient in Ethiopian cooking, I'm not at all sure I've ever had any food which contained it - it sounds like it would be very distinctive to say the least - so I decided to let it go and not worry about it. I couldn't get the ajwan either, but that's a reasonably common ingredient in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, and it should be available in more civilized locales.

Even without the rue, making berbere is a pungent experience. If you can set up a burner outside to do it, so much the better. And if you are in a place where you can actually buy pre-made berbere - well, go for it!

All the recipes I use in this set will lean heavily on a book called "Taste of Ethiopia - The Other Good Food" by Webayehu Tsegaye, although as always, I fiddle with them. Even when I don't know what I'm doing.

about 1/4 cup
20 minutes prep time

Berbere - an Ethiopian spice blend

1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon (about 12 pods) cardamom
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon ajwan seeds (IF you can get them)
1 tablespoon dehydrated onion
1 tablespoon ground cayenne OR dried red chile (cayenne) flakes
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons rubbed basil

It is best to measure everything in advance and have it all standing by. Make this in a well-ventilated area, (*cough* outside *cough*).* Crush the cardomom pods and remove the husks before you get started.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Toast the cloves, cardamom, coriander, peppercorns, and ajwan until they begin to be fragrant. Add the dehydrated onions, cayenne and paprika, mix in well, and immediately tip everything out onto a plate to cool.

Put the cooled spices and everything else remaining (the paprika, ginger and basil) into a spice grinder and grind well. If you don't have one, grind the toasted spices first in a mortar and pestle. Sift, re-grinding the bits that don't go through the first time, then mix with the remaining spices. I actually used the "dry" attachment for my Vitamix, and that worked well.

When your berbere is made, keep it in a small, air-tight jar in a cool, dark spot until you are ready to use it. 

Last year at this time I made Baked Beans with Garlic, Lemon & Rosemary.

*cough... cough, cough. Cough. Sputter, choke. Cough.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Nacho Macaroni & Cheese

Was this the last but the best of this weeks theme dishes? The photo certainly doesn't look glamorous (a faithful representation of the dish, in other words) but what it lacked in beauty, it made up in deliciousness. Mr. Ferdzy loved it, no surprise, and I had no complaints either, I assure you.

You will see I call for no salt, other than salting the cooking water for the macaroni. In particular, the corn chips are unsalted. And yet, what with the beans and the salsa and the cheese and, oh, everything that already contains salt in this dish, it was plenty salty. Do not add more, and be sure about getting unsalted corn chips.

4 servings

Nacho Macaroni & Cheese

Make the Seasoning:
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red chile powder
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano

Grind the cumin seeds and mix all the spices together. Set aside.

Make the Macaroni & Cheese:
225 grams (1/2 pound) elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
180 grams (6 ounces) medium Cheddar cheese
1 to 1 1/2 cups refried beans, or cooked mashed beans
1 cup cooked chopped (pulled) pork, chicken, or beef
2 cups prepared red or green salsa
1 1/2 cups crushed unsalted corn chips
minced pickled Jalapeños, sliced olives, etc; to taste

Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the macaroni. When it boils cook the macaroni for half the time suggested on the package. Drain well.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

While the macaroni drains, return the pot to the stove. Melt the butter and flour. Add the seasoning mix and cook, stirring, over medium heat until well blended and no dry powders remain. Slowly mix in the milk to form a smooth sauce.

Grate the cheese and mix it in. Mix in the macaroni, the beans and the meat. Mix in the salsa, gently and not too thoroughly (leave it streaky). Scrape the mixture into a shallow 2 litre (quart) baking dish and spread it out evenly. Crush the corn chips and sprinkle them evenly over the casserole. 

Bake at 350°F for 1 hour. Garnish with minced pickled Jalapeños, sliced olives, or other nacho toppings according to taste and availability.

Last year at this time I made Red Cabbage Slaw in Cucumber Boats

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Burrito Casserole

I love a good burrito, and there are so many things you can put into them. That's because they started life as the home-cook's way to serve up a bunch of leftovers, and now that they are ubiquitously supplied by chain fast-food emporia there are still a lot of choices about what can go into them.

Their one flaw, as far as I'm concerned, is that they are often very heavy on the carbs. When I get one out I always have the rice left out of it. Here, I've gone the other way and left out the tortilla that actually makes a burrito a burrito. Oh well. This is an excellent casserole and still a good way to use up leftovers - in particular leftover cooked rice and any kind of meat. I used chicken here, but beef, pork, or lamb will all be fine, especially if originally braised or stewed.

That little salad on the side is Cabbage, Carrot, & Avocado Salad and it went a long way to making this casserole burrito-like. I highly recommend making it and serving it right on top of the casserole as you dish it up.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time
NOT including cooking the rice or beans

Burrito Casserole with Sour Cream, & Cabbage Carrot and Avocado Salad

Mix the Seasonings:
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons rubbed oregano
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon ground hot red chile pepper
1 clove of garlic

Grind the cumin seeds. Mix them in a small bowl with the rest of the seasonings. Peel and mince the garlic and add it to the seasonings. Set aside until needed.

Cook the Chicken:
600 grams skin-on but boneless chicken thighs
OR 2 to 3 cups cooked dark chicken meat
1 large onion
1 green or red pepper
1 tablespoon bacon fat or mild vegetable oil
1/2 to 1 cup chicken stock or water

Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Peel and sliver the onion. Core and chop the pepper.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Cook the onion and pepper until softened but not browned. Add the bowl of seasonings and mix in well. Add the chicken and cook, stirring regularly, until browned. Add some chicken stock or water in small amounts if it seems things are getting too brown, and let it cook off.

If you start with raw chicken, add it very shortly after the vegetables go into the pan. If you start with cooked chicken, let them cook a few minutes before you add it.

Layer the Rice, Beans, & Salsa, & Cook:
2 to 3 cups cooked rice
2 cups cooked and drained OR refried black or kidney beans
2 cups prepared salsa
a little chicken broth or water if needed
250 grams (1/2 pound) Monterey Jack, old Cheddar, or other hard cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Crumble the rice into a large shallow baking pan (9" x 13" lasagne pan). Mix in the beans and spread it all out in an even layer. Drizzle over the salsa. If your rice is dry (possible with leftover rice) and your salsa thick, drizzle on enough chicken stock or water that everything is sitting in about 1/4" of liquid.

Spread the chicken and vegetables evenly over the rice, beans, etc. Grate the cheese and sprinkle it evenly over the casserole.

Bake the casserole for 35 to 45 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Pashka.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Pasta Taco Style

We have a very precise theme for this week - it's easy, trashy, cross-dressing Tex-Mex-ish comfort food! March needs all the help it can get, after all, and these are a lot of fun and very tasty.

Here to start us off with a bang is pasta with taco inspired toppings. Mr. Ferdzy's 2 favourite things! I thought it was pretty darn good too. Use whatever your favourite taco toppings are to finish your bowl of pasta.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Pasta served with a taco inspired sauce, and taco-style toppings

Prepare the Toppings:
1 cup grated Cheddar or jack cheese
1 medium avocado, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons finely diced pickled Jalapeños
1/2 cup sour cream
olives, finely chopped cilantro, grated carrot, shredded lettuce, etc.

All of these are optional and flexible; use the ones you have and which you regard as indispensable on a taco. Prepare them to be scattered over the pasta once it is served, and put them out in small bowls with the appropriate serving spoons.

Make the Seasoning:
2 teaspoons cumin seed, ground
1 teaspoon sweet or smoked Hungarian paprika
1/4 to 1 teaspoon hot red chile powder
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 or 3 cloves of garlic

Grind the cumin seed and mix it in a small bowl with the remainder of the spices. Peel and mince the garlic and add it to the bowl.

Make the Sauce: 
300 grams (10 ounces) lean ground beef
1 or 2 teaspoons mild vegetable oil, if needed
2 1/2 cups prepared salsa
1 cup water

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble in the ground beef - use a little oil it you think it will otherwise stick - and cook, stirring frequently and breaking it up - until most of the pink is gone. Add the little bowl of spices, mix in well, and let cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the salsa and water, and mix in well. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer steadily, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is ready.

Cook the Pasta:
300 to 450grams (10 ounces to 1 pound) stubby pasta

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Add the amount of pasta you believe will be eaten, and cook it until just tender, according to the package instructions. Drain well and toss with sauce. Serve at once, allowing people to apply the toppings of their choice.

Last year at this time I made Carrot & Tomato Soup with Garlic Croutons

Friday, 8 March 2019

Scottish Oatcakes

I've looked at various oatcake recipes over the years but never previously made them. I was always a bit hampered by the fact that, although the recipes were very simple, they always seemed to call for "oatmeal". No doubt whoever wrote the ur-recipe knew what they meant by that, but the trouble with being on a different continent is that it is a safe bet that my "oatmeal" is not their "oatmeal".

This post on oatcakes at the Guardian appeared serendipitously just as I was experimenting with my first attempts at making these. I was greatly helped by the commenters, who were quite clear that these were not the perfect oatcakes at all. I am inclined to agree that there should be no sugar or loads of butter, etc, in oatcakes - although getting bent out of shape by 1/4 teaspoon sugar seems a bit hardcore - these are a very basic staple bread dish, and as such should be quite plain.

I went for a slightly more luxurious* amount of butter than the teaspoon or two suggested by commenters - who also noted that butter in itself was a bit spiffy  and traditionally was more likely to be bacon fat or lard - and made several attempts with different kinds of oats. My conclusion, in general, is that your oats should be fairly fine in texture, but that quick cook oats are fine enough. Oat bran ups the fibre content and helps to keep that fine but rather sandy texture. I did make one batch with all oat bran, but thought it had too much of a sandy texture.

The butter helps keep these on the crispy side of crunchy, but the real trick to really good oatcakes is indeed to get them as thin as you can. I found it easier to pat them out by hand but if you are handy with a rolling pin you may prefer to do them that way.

8 to 12 oatcakes
40 minutes - 15 to 20 minutes prep time

Scottish Oatcakes

1 cup quick cook rolled oats
1 cup oat bran
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2/3 cup boiling water, about

Put a kettle of filtered water on to boil. Mix the rolled oats, oat bran, and salt in a mixing bowl. Work the butter in thoroughly with your fingers. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

When the kettle boils, measure out 2/3 cup and drizzle it over the dry ingredients. Quickly mix it until it forms a cohesive, workable dough.

You may need to add a little more water or a little more rolled oats to get the perfect texture. It should not be dry and crumbly; it should be pliable but not wet. The oats absorb the water quite quickly so give it about 10 or 15 seconds of mixing before you make a judgement.

Divide the dough out into 2 or 3 (better) equal portions. Roll or pat them out into thin rounds on parchment paper. Ideally they should be less than a quarter of an inch thick but I have yet to achieve that. One quarter inch thick will be okay.

Put them on a baking tray and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until dry and crisp at the edges. If they seem at all moist, give them a little longer. They are not likely to get brown, but if they do get a little brown that's fine. It's a good idea to turn them over for the last 5 minutes or so of baking.

Traditionally these are cooked on a griddle; a cast iron pan will work well. If you want to cook them that way, heat the pan over medium heat and brush with a little oil using a paper towel. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes per side until dry and lightly flecked with brown. If they seem to be browning quickly turn down the heat. You will need to do multiple batches and watch them, also they are quite delicate until they set up. It is really easier to bake them in the oven.

* I keep hearing a Monty-Pythonesque Yorkshire man bellowing "looooooxury" in my ear as I add my tablespoon of butter.

Last year at this time I made Rumbledethumps. What; is it Scottish day? I guess it must be.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Beet & Cucumber Salad

Isn't it pretty!? It looks so like spring. Unlike the great outdoors. If we were a little further along in the season, the onion could be replaced with some finely chopped chives, which would be even prettier, although just as tasty either way I would think.

Other than the need to cook the beets in advance, this is as simple a little salad as they come. The proportions given will serve one person, maybe 2 if you have light eaters. It is fairly substantial in comparison to its apparent volume. Scale it up according to how many people you are serving.This can be made a little in advance and leftovers, if well covered and refrigerated, will be not quite as good the next day, but respectable, which is more than you can say for most salads.

per 1 or 2 servings
15 minutes prep time

Beet & Cucumber Salad

1 small cooked beet
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 small greenhouse cucumber
1 tablespoon sour cream
2 teaspoons dill pickle brine OR 1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash however many beets you like and put them in a pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil for 40 minutes, until tender. Check the water and add more from a boiling kettle if it gets too low. Let them cool; this can be done a day in advance.

Chop the onion finely and put it in a sieve with a sprinkle of salt. Let it drain until you are ready for it.

Peel the beets and chop them. Wash, trim, and chop the cucumber. Rinse and drain the onion well. Mix the vegetables in a small bowl.

Add the sour cream, brine or lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Mix gently but well and serve.

Last year at this time I made Oatmeal Farls (Soda Bread).

Monday, 4 March 2019

Braised Steak Goulash Style

This recipe marks an occasion here; it is the first time I have mentioned the possible use of an Instant Pot. No, I am not what you would call an early adaptor. We've had one since just before Christmas (yay, sales) but hitherto it has been used almost exclusively for the cooking of beans. This is not going to become an Instant Pot recipe site, but I guess if I use it I might as well mention it, seeing as everyone else has one too at this point.

I have to say I don't think the results obtained were better than they would have been if I had cooked this the old-fashioned way, in fact not quite so good. The meat was very tender, but it was still pretty solid, a little dry, and not as imbued with flavour as it should have been. On the other hand: 25 minutes to cook and less energy used, both mine and the electric company's, as well as a slight reduction in dirty dishes. I've also mostly given up on browning meat to be roasted, etc, but for cooking in a pressure cooker I think it really ought to be done. There will be no browning at all happening during the cooking process and you really want some as it does supply an important layer of flavour.

If you make this on the stove top you should be prepared to keep an eye on it and add more liquid as much more will cook off than with the Instant Pot. As ever with the stewier cuts of meat, leftovers not only re-heat well but are probably better the second time around.

4 to 6 servings
50 minutes using the Instant Pot - 25 minutes prep time
2 hours on the stove-top - 40 minutes prep time

Mix the Seasonings: 
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika (could be smoked)
2 teaspoons rubbed savory OR thyme
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 bay leaves

Measure and mix the ground spices and set them aside with the bay leaves.

Prepare the Vegetables:
1 large onion
1 medium OR 2 small red peppers
1 medium carrot
1 stalk of celery OR 1/2 cup peeled, diced celeriac
3 to 4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil, for stove-top cooking

Peel and sliver the onion. Core and chop the pepper. Peel and grate or very finely dice the carrot. Wash, trim, and chop the celery or peel and grate or finely dice the celeriac. Peel and mince the garlic.

If you are going to braise the steak on the stove top, heat the oil in a large skillet (ideally the pan in which you aim to cook the dish) and sauté the vegetables (except the garlic) over medium heat until softened, reduced in volume, and slightly browned. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute more, then transfer them to another dish while you brown the meat.

If you are using the Instant Pot, place all the vegetables in the pot.

Brown the Meat, Etc., & Cook:
1 kg (2.25 pounds) round steak, flank steak, or similar
1 or 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1 to 2 cups unsalted beef OR chicken stock
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup wine vinegar OR apple cider vinegar OR red wine

Cut the steak into serving sized pieces. Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown the meat over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes on each side, until seared and browned.

If this is the pan in which you are cooking the meat, sprinkle the seasonings over it and mix in. Add 1 cup of stock, the tomato sauce, and the vinegar or wine. Return the vegetables to the pan. Cover and simmer gently for an hour to an hour and a half, until the meat is very tender.

If you are using the Instant Pot, place the pieces of steak evenly over the vegetables, add the seasonings, and pour over 1 cup of stock, the tomato sauce, and the vinegar or wine. Seal the pot ETC. 20 minutes. Hang on to the skillet used to brown the steak; this will be the easiest pan in which to thicken the sauce.

Thicken the Sauce:
2 tablespoons soft unbleached flour
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
sour cream ad lib

While the meat cooks, mix the flour, paprika, and salt in a small bowl.

When the meat is done, remove the pieces to a serving plate. Sprinkle the flour, etc, over the sauce slowly, whisking it in as you go. Let the sauce simmer until thickened; about 5 minutes. Stir frequently.

If you used the instant pot, you could in theory thicken the sauce while it is still in it. I found it easier to transfer it to the pan in which I browned the steaks and thicken it there.

Serve the steaks with noodles, rice, potatoes or something else that will soak up the plentiful sauce. Pass with a bowl of sour cream.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Honey Mustard Roast Lamb

Essentially, this is the technique for Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder, with the addition of a honey-mustard sauce. There's a lot of mustard in this, but it gets very mellow with cooking. If you want more of a bite - and I think it's a good idea - stir more mustard into the sauce just before serving it. I'm suggesting a tablespoon but adjust it to your own taste. 

As an aside, those Blue Lake beans sure do freeze nicely. They look just as good as fresh in the photo, and they almost are. 

6 to 10 servings
6 to 7 hours - 20 minutes prep time

Honey Mustard Roast Lamb on a Platter with Green Beans

3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon dry rosemary leaves, ground
1 teaspoon salt (but consider the mustard)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup sweet sherry
a 1.5 to 2.5 kilo bone-in leg of lamb
1 cup beef or lamb stock
1/4 cup beef or lamb stock
1 tablespoon arrowroot or corn starch
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Peel and mince the garlic. Grind the rosemary, and in a small bowl mix the garlic in with it, as well as the salt and pepper. Mix in the honey, then the mustard and sherry. Put the roast in a fairly snug roasting pan and rub/spread this mixture all over the roast. Cover it with a lid if the pan has on or foil otherwise, then let it rest for 45 minutes to an hour at room temperature.

Remove the cover or foil to allow the addition of the stock, then re-cover it.

After half an hour, preheat the oven to 250°F. Put the roast - with the lid on or covered in foil - into the oven and roast for 4 1/2 to 6 hours, until very tender.

Remove the roast to a carving platter and let it rest for about 10 minutes. The foil or cover should be loosely over it. If the roasting pan can go on a burner, leave the sauce (gravy) in it and put it on a burner over medium-high heat; otherwise it needs to be transferred to a saucepan first. Mix the starch up in the 1/4 cup of cold stock and mix it in well to the sauce. Simmer until thickened, stirring frequently - just a minute or two. Stir the mustard in just before serving.

Slice the meat and serve it with the sauce drizzled over it or passed in a gravy boat. Leftover meat is best re-heated in any leftover sauce.

Last year at this time I made a Bachelor's Omelette for the first time. Since then I have been making omelettes regularly, and they have been omelettes and not scrambled eggs! You can teach an old dog new tricks, apparently.