marnanightingale: (Default)
It's been a Day. I've managed, barely, to meet my absolute Minimum Responsibilities to the Universe, but just barely and by the time [info] - personalfairestcat got home I was more or less gibbering and squeaking like the sheeted dead in the streets.

Then I remembered that [info] - personallovelokest and [info] - personalchaotic_nipple are both Officially Done School today and that I had promised them Cake.

So [info] - personalfairestcat and I just made two identical cakes, one for Sci Fi Friday and one for when [info] - personalchaotic_nipple gets home from work. And it is really quite astonishing how much better I feel about the general situation now. I must remember this trick.

What we made was Peg Bracken's Cockeyed Cake, which I have been making since I was about thirteen or so.

It is cheap, fast, vegan, foolproof, endlessly variable, incredibly easy, and nearly mess-free, because you mix it in the pan. It is also rich, moist, tasty, and just to make it even easier, best without icing or elaborate toppings of any kind.

The basic recipe is this:

Preheat oven to 350 F, and go find an 8" round pan (9" will do) or an 8x8 square. Grease it lightly even if it is non-stick.

Then dump in:

1 1/2 level cups flour, unsifted.
1 cup sugar
3 T cocoa [1]
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

and muddle it around with a knife until it's a fairly uniform colour. Then make three grooves in the mixture, and over the first one pour:

5 T. cooking oil

Over the third one pour:

1 T. vinegar

And over the middle one pour:

1 t. vanilla

Then, over the whole thing, pour:

1 cup COLD water (make sure it's cold; using warm or hot liquid is the only way I've ever screwed this up)

And mix it all up gently with your knife until you've got all the dry spots and the colour evens out (the bits where the vinegar hit the baking soda will be lighter at first)

Bake for 30 minutes. Then poke it with a toothpick, and if it comes out clean you're done. If it comes out damp, put it back in for five minutes, poke it again, and keep doing that until it DOES come out clean.

Eat it plain or decorate it with fresh berries, scattered icing sugar, or both.

Variations are more-or-less endless. You can substitute COLD coffee for the water. You can substitute rum, or brandy, for the vanilla, or use both. You can add spices. You can substitute spices for the cocoa. You can add dried fruit, or nuts, or both. If you know how to compensate for the extra liquid, you can use honey instead of sugar, or add mashed bananas or sift fruit. You can use brown sugar, in which case make the cup level and loosely packed.

Today's version has strong cold coffee instead of water, and then in addition to the ingredients called for:

1 C dried cherries
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t cayenne

Based on how the batter tasted, should be really good.

[1] T = tablespoon; t = teaspoon.
marnanightingale: (soul wellington)
I've been exhausted since I got back from California, and also flaring. Annoyingly, the usual pain, fatigue and scatterbrain was on this occasion accompanied by some serious food weird, in which there were only about five things I really wanted to eat, the healthiest and oddest of which was buttered toast with vegemite.

Maybe there was some sort of weird vitamin deficiency going on, because today I had four slices of buttered-toast-with-vegemite for lunch and then cleaned the kitchen, sorted a bunch of my room, and cooked a Real Supper, which I ate quite a lot of - breaded porkchops, peas, and Mushroom Rice:

2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/2 lb mushrooms, or thereabouts, sliced.
2 T butter or bacon grease or olive oil.
6-8 strips dried red pepper, chopped (optional)
1 cup white rice
1 cube mushroom stock
Winter savoury (or whatever other green herb or herbs you want), to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Fry mushrooms and garlic in the fat - and a largeish skillet - over one-notch-past-medium heat until brownish; you don't need to wait for the liquid to reabsorb. Add cup of rice and reduce heat to medium; add a bit more fat and stir the rice around until it's mostly translucent or you're really bored. 10 minutes, about.

While this is happening, dissolve the mushroom cube in a cup or two (whatever size is handiest to make broth in; either way you'll be adding more water later, so it doesn't really matter if you add one cup or two at this point) of boiling water. Pour this over the rice and reduce the heat so it simmers instead of boiling off.

Add the red peppers, herbs, salt, and pepper. Toasted cumin seeds might be good in this.

Stir frequently, adding water in small amounts, until the rice is dampish and nearly tender. Then reduce the heat to low, keep stirring, and let the rest of the water absorb. Keep it on super low heat for up to a half-hour if you need to while you finish the rest of supper.

You could add onions to this, or use beef stock, or chicken stock, or onion or veggie stock. I use a tiny dash of MSG, because I am Evil and find the stuff useful, in moderation. You could use any sort of mushrooms.

NB: This is basically a Risotto, except Mushroom Risotto sounds scary and hard and probably involves careful measuring and timing and stuff, whereas Mushroom Rice is unscary and involves chucking things into a frying pan while you thaw out the chops. :-)
marnanightingale: (soul wellington)
But at this time of year, it is sometimes the case that one has enough of it about to wish to move beyond the basic Steamed-with-Butter-Salt-and-Pepper approach.

Therefore, three easy things:

1) Grill it on your bbq, over hickory chips. (Fiddleheads are also good this way)

2) Saute several chopped cloves of garlic and a chopped onion in olive oil. When they are somewhere between transparent and golden brown, toss in asparagus spears, broken in half, turn the heat up to medium-high, and add a healthy squirt of lime or lemon juice and (optional) a lot of pepper. (Also fiddlehead suitable)

3) Blanch it[2], and then cover it with your favourite balsamic vinegar and leave it in the fridge for the afternoon, then eat it as it is or put it in a salad. (Haven't tried this one with fiddleheads)

In either case, when it turns dark green, it's done.

All of these things are good with Salsa Salmon, which is salmon fillets or steaks baked very fast[3] with a coating of salsa.

[1] Assuming you like asparagus at all, that is. If you don't, may I have yours?

[2] Blanch is one of those cookbook words designed to make you feel dumb. If you're told to blanch something, toss it into the minimum necessary boiling water, count to fifteen, drain it, cover it with cold water or, if you have some handy, ice (to stop the cooking process), count to fifteen again, and then drain that off. The saved water is not very good for stock, as if you've done this fast enough there's very little flavour or nutrient loss. You do this for vegetables that aren't very digestible eaten completely raw, or not terribly tasty that way, either: asparagus, green beans ...

[3] 475F/250C, 5 minutes per inch/2.5cm – if your fish is stuffed, calculate on the final thickness. This produces INCREDIBLY good fish, moist and perfect, although if you do it with a whole fish with fins and tail they will smolder alarmingly and you'll have to reset the smoke detector. This doesn't affect the actual fish, though.
marnanightingale: (cooking)
Findings: it was voted REALLY YUMMY all 'round, though there was some dubiety about the chocolate and general agreement that there needed to be less chocolate.

[ profile] fajrdrako actually has a little dish especially for baking brie in!

This is possibly too much chocolate. Note that we only chocolated half, as [ profile] fajrdrako and [ profile] auriaephilia were enthusiastic about the ginger marmalade but dubious about the chocolate.

we eated it )
marnanightingale: (cooking)
Having a fresh chicken carcass to hand last night, I turned out the stock bags in the freezer, decided the total haul (4 lamb shankbones, two small bags of veggie scraps and peelings plus the chicken) was adequate and made stock overnight.

My kitchen smelled like scotch broth this morning, but woe! for I have no barley, because [ profile] iclysdale doesn't like it very much.

So I chopped up four carrots and two lonely little parsnips and tossed them in, toasted a bunch of kasha with cumin seeds and tossed THEM in (did you know that when you put hot grains into simmering stock it boils over? No, me either.), added a bunch of summer savoury and some bay leaves, and while that was simmering, browned a pound of the ground lamb with onions, and have put it all on to cook.

It smells and tastes promising as of now; very thick -- more pottage than potage -- I'll let you know.

ETA: It is VERY thick -- definitely pottage -- and shows a tendency to stick to the pot, and I added a second round of toasted cumin seeds, but it is very good indeed. I think I will do it again.
marnanightingale: (soul wellington)
Though this is still fairly easy. It's not fast, but it's easy.

Locate one large fairly heavy pot, with a lid. Then procure:

1 mature stewing hen, approx 2 kg.

1-2 bottles white wine -- we used a home made riesling that we quite like.

1 litre chicken stock or one can-diluted-with-two-cans-of-water therof, if you're out of homemade, which I am at the moment.

mushrooms, whatever sort you have, as many as you have

2-3 cooking onions, quartered

3-6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1-2 large carrots

one large handful dried roasted peppers

one large handful sun dried tomatoes

5 bay leaves

1 large palmful[1] savoury

1 large palmful toasted cumin seeds

salt and pepper to taste

1 T olive oil. Or butter, if you like.

Sautee onions and garlic and mushrooms in oil until golden, (or at least get them frying and leave them on lowish heat while you get the chicken debagged and the innards out and the cavity rinsed and the wings twisted into neat little packets and generally render it ready to go in.)

Add the chicken to the pot and pile the remaining vegetables and herbs and spices in on top. Pour wine and chicken stock and water over everything. Bring it to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and go do something else for about 3 hours.

When the chicken is cooked through and falling-apart-tender, remove it and the vegetables from the pot and serve them.

Freeze the broth immediately; you can use it for your next chicken. (Or any other sort of fowl you want to stew, or even for a rabbit, which is what I plan to use this lot for next).

As long as you make sure it always goes hot into the freezer you can keep reusing the broth, adding more stock and more wine as your whimsy takes you. So you do get the value out of the 2 bottles of wine. :) But make sure you freeze it immediately. Put it into the freezer before you eat, even.

[1] "as much as will fit comfortably in the little cup that your palm makes when you hold out your hand". Some people say 'handful' but to me that always sounds like as much as your hand can possibly hold.
marnanightingale: (soul wellington)
Because [ profile] stultioquentia told me to.

Lazy Potato Soup:

1 package Knorr Fine Herbs

As much leftover mashed potato as you have available, or I suppose you could boil and mash some for the occasion, in which case do 4-6 potatoes.

1 cup milk.

Prepare soup according to package directions.

De-lump cold mashed potatoes with the milk.

Stir them into the soup.

Let it get good and hot through, and eat it.
marnanightingale: (soul wellington)
But it is very good.

1 package Knorr Vegetable Soup.

6 cups (1.5 litres) water.

6-8 potatoes, peeled or not as you like, and cut smallish (about like you do for mashed)

1 small cabbage or half a big one, chopped.
(Any sort, but only use red if you like royal purple food. Which I do.)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring water to boil, stir in soup mix, add potatoes, let cook 15 minutes, add cabbage, let cook 15 more minutes.

Eat, possibly with rye toast.
marnanightingale: (soul wellington)
I told Ian I'd post this for him:

[ETA removed]

Also, food!

We went to the Experimental Farm's Open House today and then wandered around in the Fletcher Wildlife Gardens.

While we were at the farm we helped a bit with the vegetable harvest. Specifically, we helped pull greens and stems off beets and escaped with a lot of said greens (the beets and most of the rest of the produce go to the food bank, but the greens don't keep more than a couple of days, so they go to compost)

... next year I'm going back with a wheelbarrow and enough friends to help me feast on all we don't freeze. And some string so we can make bundles and press them on other visitors, if we can get away with it. Why aren't beet greens sold commercially? They're no more trouble than spinach, and they are VERY good. But I only ever get them when I manage to find beets that are being sold untrimmed, and they are usually sparse and tough at that.

So dinner tonight was:

Broiled lambchops with dijon mustard and tamari marinade and some cumin seeds dropped on to toast when I turned the chops.

This worked out really well. Possibly next time less mustard; it was VERY rich. I think it would be perfect on a larger chunk of lamb, like a shoulder, or on venison. I don't know why tamari and mustard, btw. It seemed to make some sort of sense at the time... next time I need to take them out a few minutes AFTER the smoke alarm goes off, though; I like rare lamb, but this was a bit TOO rare.

Beet greens sauteed with bacon and a bit of the tamari-mustard sauce added in.

These were amazing. I had no idea how they'd turn out and they were mindblowingly smoky and rich and flavourful. And all the greens we could eat, for once.

Bread machine bread made with (ooops) expired yeast.

It made a goodish sort of crumbly, soda-bread biscuit, and tasted fine, but you couldn't call it bread.

Salad composed of red peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and dill all from Byward Market, with a can of tinned french-style green beans added because I wanted to see what it would do. Also the juice of one lemon.

Verdict: not bad at all. The green beans look funny but taste well. Something to remember for winter.

Iniskillin Late Autumn Riesling. As I can't drink reds at all, I tend to drink "heavy" whites with red meat. This was lovely. Possibly a BIT sweet, but it worked well with the food and we finished the bottle after.

Also there is an indignant skunk in front of my house, and I am very tired, as I often seem to be lately.

Normal programming or something very like it will resume shortly.


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