15 March 2013

The Forager's Kitchen

 I got this cool copy of The Forager's Kitchen as a birthday present.   The book was written by Fiona Bird who was a contestant on the BBC's Masterchef.   She has six kids and her husband is an island doctor on one of the Outer Hebrides. We are already tired and we haven't foraged a thing.

This foraging book offers up many a foraged item, but the items can be successfully replaced with supermarket finds, so even the land-locked city dweller can benefit from this book.  Some city dwellers might even be able to find some of the more exotic items like samphire (AKA sea beans or glasswort).  This forager was once able to find them on occasion at the Whole Foods, but alas, we haven't laid eyes on them in a year or two.  So we are off to the Hebrides!  (Not really, but...)

The book is divided into five sections offering up the different areas one might forage.  There are flowers, woodlands, fruits, herbs and the sea.    Like most forager's, Bird reminds the reader that one should never
dig into anything (in both the literal and culinary way) without the proper research.  Digging plants is not always legal and digging into a plant whose provenance is not scrupulously documented could be dangerous.  So forager beware.

These little firs de crème are a tasty indulgence.  OK, there is a great deal of foraged food and even some cardboard that we might eat enrobed in chocolate.  But the simple addition of the piney fir-infused cream
just punches up these chocolate pots.

Douglas Fir Chocolate Pots

What to forage and find:
Sprig Douglas fir, approximately 2 1/2 to 3 inches (6-8 cm) in length, washed and dried
1 1/2 cups (300ml) light (single) cream
7 oz (200g) bittersweet (dark) chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
1 medium (small UK) egg
2 teaspoons Douglas Fir syrup (or pine sugar)

What to do:
1. Put the Douglas fir sprig and cream into a pan and scald it over a low heat. Do not allow the cream to boil. Set aside for an hour to allow the flavor to infuse and then remove the sprig.

2. Put the chocolate into a food processor and pulse to break it into small pieces. Take care: the machine may need to be held in place.

3. Reheat the cream (do not allow it to boil). Slowly pour the hot cream into the food processor and pulse, ensuring that the chocolate doesn't overflow down the sides of the machine. If you don't chop the chocolate first,  it may do this. So slowly does it.

4. Add the egg to the hot chocolate cream, blend and then add the Douglas fir syrup or pine sugar. Pour into pots and refrigerate until set

OK fine, infuse the cream with rosemary!  Grab you little pot of chocolate and snuggle in on the couch and read about being a forager.  Of course, you could throw on your muck boots and head out to the wild.   Either way, The Forager's Kitchen is a spiffy birthday idea.

 We forgot to tell our readers that one can follow the foraging exploits of Fiona Bird on her blog.  On to the hedgerow!

12 March 2013

Breakfast Lunch Tea

Yes, we did this backwards.  The problem is so many cookbooks, so little time.  Often we just rave about a cookbook (in our head) and then we fail to get it on the page.  So here is the back story from yesterday's post which you should already know if we had posted about  Breakfast Lunch Tea years ago. 

Rose Carrarini was lovely English lass who like to cook, love food, and loved Paris.  So she married a Frenchman and got into the food business.  In 2002 they opened Rose Bakery.   The rest is history.  Every year people flock to Paris to find a British baker! 

Since 2002, the bakery has expanded to multiple locations across the globe and has been imitated by the best.

It is not so much that their food is remarkably innovative.  You have seen carrot cake and quiche before, but Rose Carrarini does it with more style and grace than almost anyone out there.  Her sheer joy in baking is infectious.  One look at this book and you want to rush to the kitchen.   He tiny complex tarts are little square bundles of goodness.  Her clean virtually unadorned cakes are sublime. 

We are not big on cereal here, but we do love a good a granola.  Rose Bakery's is a favorite.

Honey Granola

400 g (5 1/3 cups) old-fashioned rolled oats
125 g(1 cup) whole almonds
100 g (2/3 cups) sunflower seeds
100 g (3/4 cup) pumpkin seeds
50 g (1/3 cup ) sesame seeds
1 tablespoon wheatgerm
125 ml (1/2 cup) sunflower oil
250 ml (1 cup) honey
50 (1/4 cup) brown sugar
a few drops of vanilla extract
pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 handful of dried fruit such as sultanas or dates

Preheat oven to 165 degrees C/325 degrees F / Gas Mark 3.

In a bowl mix together the oats, almonds, seeds, wheatgerm.

Put the sunflower oil, honey, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in a small saucepan with 125 ml (1/2 cup) water.

Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly, then pour over the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix well. 

If the mixture is too wet add more oats -- there should be excess liquids  in the bottom of the pan, and the mixture should be sticky.

Spread evenly on a baking tray and bake slowly for about 1 hour.

Reduce the temperature to  140 C /275 F/ Gas Mark 1 and continue baking until the granola is golden - about an hour.

Switch off the oven and leave to dry out for a further hour -- or even overnight.

This is a great cookbook and cheaper than a flight to Paris.  But if you are headed that way, by all means, do fly on over!

11 March 2013

How To Boil An Egg

We were so excited to get a copy of  How To Boil an Egg by  Rose Carrarini from the Rose Bakery.  Then we were saddened to learn that we had never written about Rose's first book, Breakfast, Lunch, or Tea.  What were we thinking?  How did that one get away?  Well perhaps tomorrow.   Today we are looking at How To Boil an Egg.   If you read this blog you know we have a stacks of "how to" egg books.   I will be the first to admit that they are often quite repetitious, which is odd given all the things one can do with an egg.  

There are indeed plain egg recipes.  There are muffins and scones that use eggs, tarts and quiches.  An occasional flan.  Since these recipes were garnered from the Rose Bakery, there are many recipes that fall into that lunch and tea option.  Carrarini shines with sandwiches and soups.   The Hot Tofu Pot is not what one thinks of when one heads into a bakery, but on a cold day, what could be better.

Hot Tofu Pot

1 liter (4 ½ cups) vegetable or chicken stock
1 onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 leek, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 carrot, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/1 head spring cabbage, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 baby turnips, cut into bite-sized pieces
300 g (11 ounces) firm tofu, cut into large bite-sized pieces
dash of shoyu
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
25g (1 tablespoon) butter (optional)
4 eggs
salt and ground black pepper
hot chili sauce or Dijon mustard, to serve

Pour the stock into a pan and bring to a simmer.

Add the onion, leek, celery and carrot and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add the cabbage and turnips and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, until just tender but not overcooked, then add the tofu and warm through.

Season to taste with shoyu and salt and pepper, if necessary, and add the chives.

The eggs may be fried in olive oil or butter or added to the pan and poached.

Transfer the eggs to 4 individual bowls, ladle in the stew and serve immediately with a hot chili sauce, Japanese chili powder, or Dijon mustard.

 How To Boil An Egg features the work of Fiona  Strickland, a botanical illustrator from Scotland.  She has captured many of the Rose Bakery dishes with eerie calm.  At first glance they seem like photographs.  It might not have been such a great choice. Frankly, it seems hard to imagine that the food could possibly live up to the illustrations.  And then you read the recipe for the Welsh Tea Cakes or the Mashed Potatoes, Eggs and Parmesan and all you want to do is break a few eggs.

07 March 2013

Treasured Recipes From The Charleston Cake Lady

It has been so dark and drear around here that we have tried to brighten up things by baking... OK by reading about baking.  Baby steps.

We pulled off the shelf our copy of Treasured Recipes From The Charleston Cake Lady.  It would seem that in the mid 1980's, Teresa Pregnall began baking and selling cakes from her kitchen.  20,000 cakes later she published a cookbook filled with cakes and other goodies.  We should have been terribly inspired but 20,000 cakes! We were just exhausted. 

There are pound cakes and chocolate cakes and spice cakes.  We were a bit surprised that the ubiquitous Red Velvet cake was no where to be found.  We moved on to brownies and finally settled on a popular Charleston treat, the Charleston Chew.  Pregnall points out that the editor quite innocently asked,"What exactly is a chew?"  It is one of those, "Where are you from?" kind of questions.  But an old Southern chew is basically a gooey cookie bar. 

Charleston Chews

4 large eggs
1 box (1 pound) dark brown sugar
2-1/2-cups self rising flour, sifted
1-teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Sifted confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350º. Grease a 13 x 9" pan.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, brown sugar, flour, and vanilla extract until
well blended. Fold in the nuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden
brown on top. Sprinkle the chews with sifted confectioners' sugar. Cut into
squares when cool, and wait for the raves. 

Are we raving yet?  I must say, the sky looks a bit brighter...

04 March 2013

The Black Farmer Cookbook

 I hear about most cookbooks out there, but this one snuck up on me.   Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones is England's only Black Farmer.  Born in Jamaica,  Emmanuel-Jones' parents came to the United Kingdom where he was raised Birmingham. Coming from a large family in a small flat, he loved to work the small allotment where his family grew vegetables.   Emmanuel-Jones wanted more.

He managed to get into television, rising to become the producer and director for many of the U.K.'s big celebrity chefs, including Gordon Ramsey. He finally saw his chance to get his own small farm and soon after launched The Black Farmer brand. Before long, his sausages were winning awards.  Not content to be Britain's only black farmer, he launched a rural scholarship program bringing  kids from inner city communities to live and work on rural farms.

His empire is growing as he adds more products and enlists the help of family.  There is even a Black Farmer's Daughter line.

This books just oozes a love of product. One feels the land on every page.  While being grounded in a place, the influence of his travels and his Caribbean birth flavor his recipes making them seem at the same time comfortable and a touch exotic.  You want to sit down and have a meal with this guy.  Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones' love of the land extends not only to the animals of the farm but to the people in his community.  He shares his success, supporting sports teams and schools while making a mean bacon!

Trieste is one of my favorite places so this recipe caught my eye.  Trieste is a city on the  northern most edge of the Adriatic Sea. Now considered Italian, it has been claimed by East and West and Austrians, Germans, and Slavs.  It is a melting pot and goulash is a melting pot.

Trieste-Style Beef Goulash

2 tablespoons olive oil
800g braising topside, cut into large pieces
2 onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato purée
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 fresh rosemary sprig, leaves finely chopped
a small handful of fresh oregano leaves
1 bay leaf
150ml dry white wine
400g can plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons kalamata olive tapenade
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a  large flameproof casserole pan and cook the beef for 5 minutes, turning until brown. Remove and set aside. You will need to do this in batches. Add the onions and cook for 5-8 minutes until softened and just starting to brown.

2. Return the beef and stir in the tomato purée and paprika. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, then stir in the rosemary, nearly all the oregano leaves, the bay leaf, white wine and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until the beef is tender and the sauce has thickened.

3. Check the seasoning and serve immediately in shallow bowls, topped with a spoonful of tapenade and a few oregano leaves.

Seek out this cookbook.    You won't be disappointed.

02 March 2013

Charleston Kitchen

We  do love the Lee Bros. We love Charleston.  So The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen is kind of a no-brainer.   What we really love is cookbooks that offer up a big, fat bibliography.  Face it -- you didn't "invent" macaroni and cheese, you just cook it like Mama did.  There a few cookbooks out there that offer up truly new recipes.  Cookbooks are historical references and we feel they should be treated as such.  We firmly believe that every cookbook should have a big, fat bibliography.

Charleston Kitchen offers up most books published about Charleston cooking and quite a few that were never really published and they threw in all the spiral bound collections they could muster!  Then the brothers set out to interview a whole mess of cooks in Charleston, and face it there are a lot of cooks in Charleston.

As we stated earlier (and to pretty much anyone who will listen) cookbooks are historical documents and Matt and Ted Lee have provided a profound historical context for Charleston.  From the Junior League's  Charleston Receipts to longtime shrimper, Thoma Backman, Jr., the vast history of Charleston is uncovered and told through the food of the coast.

In 1985, Henry's, a rather famous or infamous restaurant in Charleston closed, but the Lee Bros. remember going to the restaurant and eating the cheese spread that was brought out as an appetizer to each table.In true form, the brothers tracked down Henry's son who provided them with the recipe to feed a restaurant.  The Lee Bros. whittled it down to a manageable size.

Henry's Cheese Spread

10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (3 cups)
2 ounces (¼ cup) lager or ale
Juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish, drained
2 teaspoons hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Crystal
1½ teaspoons dry mustard
1 garlic clove, minced

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is smooth and spreadable. Transfer to a small bowl to serve.

While we have been thrilled at thrilled at the great Southern food (and therefore, cookbook) revival, there seems to be a lot of sameness.  The Lee Bros. have offered up a fresh Charleston breeze.

01 March 2013

Florence Nightingale

I have been away being Florence Nightingale! I wore that exact bonnet...

Seriously, while we do not own a copy of Directions For Cooking By Troops, In Camp And Hospital, Prepared For The Army Of Virginia, And Published By Order Of The Surgeon General, as the 1861 pamphlet is quite rare, reprints do abound.

The very first recipe is as follows:

Put 12 gallons water into a suitable vessel (or divide if necessary), on the fire; when boiling, add 3 lbs. ground coffee. Mix well with a spoon; leave on the fire a few  minutes longer; take it off, and pour in a gallon cold water; let it stand till the dregs subside, say from 5 to 10 minutes: then pour off, and add 6 lbs. sugar. If milk is used, put in 12 pints, and diminish the water by that amount.
Let me say that that there were many days as I carried out my nursing duties that I needed coffee for 100 men!

More cookbooks to come!
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