Saturday, November 27, 2010

An American Thanksgiving

So, Eating Like The World has been to five continents so far, but this entry is staying right here in Northern Michigan.  Thanksgiving (and Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I guess) is as thoroughly American as the Fourth of July, and we had a pretty decent one this year.

Most years we go to my in-laws, and we "have to" get there at a certain time, which devolves into Angel yelling that we're late, and the kids dithering about instead of putting on coats and shoes, and a sullen car ride.  The visit is a marathon of different family complaining about all the little dramas and injustices of their life while the kids get increasingly stir crazy and malignant.  The food is generally mediocre.  After the visit, the venomous debrief of all the things that ticked off one or the other of us is epic.

Not this year, though.  We stayed home.  We had Thanksgiving for our family, and it was awesome.  We planned the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner -- turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy for the core.  (the Holy Four, as I call'em)  Angel wanted hash brown casserole, Evie wanted green bean casserole.  Gable wanted steak fries.

Pieee-eees

Angel started early, and baked three pies on Tuesday: Pumpkin, Caramel-Apple and Cranberry-Blueberry.  She attempted home-made pie crust instead of using refrigerated, and was properly proud of the results.  Wednesday night we mashed together the hashbrown casserole and put it in the fridge so all we'd have to do on T-Day was put it in the oven.

Home-made Honey Rolls

Thanksgiving day, Angel started with making home-made yeast rolls, which sat on the stove rising for most of the afternoon.  When in the pan, Angel brushed them with home-made honey-butter, and popped them in the oven.  Out came the most beautiful looking rolls I've seen in a long time.

The Turkey (tm)

When dinner time came, we assembled our plates of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, beans, casserole, cottage cheese, steak fries, rolls, and accompanied with a local red table wine.  We then went around the table and each of us related the things that we are thankful for.  And we ate.  And ate.  And ate until our stomachs felt like they were going to stage a revolt...which I suppose is the focus of Thanksgiving, at least for a lot of people.

After dinner, Angel's mom stopped by for a piece of pie and a bit of relaxation before heading over to the chaos that is the in-laws' holiday dinner.  At the end of the day, we realized just how relaxing the day had been.  And we were thankful for that, too.

Ellie vs. Turkey Leg

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Israel II

And now...the long-overdue conclusion to Israel Week.

Cliff Notes version:  We ate stew, then we ate chicken.

Right.  So, there seems to be a lot of tradition involved in Israli and Jewish cooking.  As we rolled into the weekend, there were Sabbaths and things to think about.  For one thing, Angel made Challah bread -- traditionally two loaves are made, one to give to the Rabbi, and one to eat with dinner on the weekend.  The twins helped.

Ellie Excited About Challah

Lucy Kneading Challah Bread

As we don't have a Rabbi, we ended up eating both loaves of bread, and they were darn good.  Challah is a mildly sweet bread, braided on top, and (I swear) just made to soak up yummy butter.

Kosher Cholent Stew, with Challah Bread and Red Wine

For Saturday's dinner, we had Kosher Cholent, a stew of beef, beans, barley and potatoes.  It roasts in a 200-degree oven for over ten hours -- I swear the longest time I've ever seen anything roasted -- and when it came out, the beef was so tender, I could cut it with my spoon.  Absolutely delicious.  We had the Challah with it, and a nice red table wine.

Roast Chicken, Rice, Challah Bread

Sunday's dinner was chicken roasted with oranges inside the cavity, with an interesting cinnamon/raisin rice.  There wasn't any chicken left after dinner, especially since petite-looking Evie turns into a ravenous jackal when roast chicken hits the table.  The instructions said to pull the oranges from the chicken after roasting, quarter them and serve them.  Which we did.  Mmm...warm oranges, all ferment-y tasting and stuff.  Tried it.  Didn't like it.

And as if the meals weren't enough, we made home-made hummus and baba ghanoush for snacks.  The hummus was very easy, and with the home-made pita bread from falafel night, it was stupendously tasty.  From what Angel says, the $5 tubs of hummus in the grocery deli sections are outrageously expensive, given the price of a can of chick peas, garlic, oil and tahini.

The baba ghanoush, on the other hand, I can't say much about.  It's basically hummus from eggplants, not chick peas.  We roasted a pair of eggplants, peeled them, seeded them, pureed them...did you know that eggplant innards look disgusting?  They do.  I realize that I've only ever had eggplant cut into slices, breaded and fried.  I love it that way.  but after roasting and peeling them open, the seeds look just like fish roe, when you clean a fresh-caught fish.  We made the stuff....but we never took the first bite of it.

Looking back at our Israeli week, we're left with several impressions.  The first is that there seemed to be a definite focus on making very filling meatless dishes -- the falafel, the soup with matzo, everything during the week left us (or at least me) feeling stuffed to the gills.  Second, the dishes were relatively simple and there was a lot of roasting -- Angel reported that we really didn't have to buy any special ingredients, and that a lot of the recipes were basically "throw ingredients in a pot and roast them for a while," and hence easy to cook

And while we're pausing to celebrate Thanksgiving -- we didn't have to make Indonesian Scuttle-Bugs or something for Turkey Day -- we resume in a week or two in our new country...Italy.



Recipes:

Challah


1 loaf
  • Water -- 1/2 cup
  • Margarine -- 1/4 cup, or 4 tablespoons
  • Sugar -- 3 tablespoons
  • Salt -- 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Active dry yeast -- 1 (1/4-ounce) package
  • Lukewarm (110°F) water -- 1/4 cup
  • All-purpose or bread flour -- 3 to 3 1/2 cups
  • Eggs, beaten -- 2
  • Egg yolks -- 2

Method

  1. Add the water, margarine, sugar and salt to a saucepan and heat, stirring until the margarine is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to lukewarm.
  2. Mix the 1/4 cup warm water and yeast together in a small bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes to activate the yeast.
  3. Add 3 cups of the flour to large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast mixture, warm sugar-margarine-water mixture and the beaten eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients and bring the dough together.
  4. Remove the dough to a floured work surface and knead, adding extra flour as needed until the dough is no longer sticking to your hands and is silky and elastic. Remove the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm corner until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface and punch it down with your fists to deflate it. Cut the dough into 3 equal-sized portions. Roll each portion out into a log about 15 inches long that is tapered at each end.
  6. Lay the three logs next to each other, and starting in the middle, braid them together. Pinch the ends together to make them stick and tuck the ends under. Place the loaf on a baking sheet and cover it lightly with a clean towel. Set aside to rise for another 30 to 45 minutes
  7. Beat the egg yolks with a tablespoon of water. Brush the top of the challah all over with the egg yolk wash.
  8. Place the challah in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the challah and brush it again with more egg yolk wash to get any of the newly exposed places on the loaf. Return the loaf to the oven and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the challah is golden brown on top and has a hollow sound when you tap on it. Remove and cool before serving.
~ From the Whats4Eats website.

Cholent

Ingredients

  • 3 onions, quartered
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 pounds chuck roast, cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup dry kidney beans
  • 1 cup dried pinto beans
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 5 large potatoes, peeled and cut into thirds
  • boiling water to cover
  • 2 (1 ounce) packages dry onion and mushroom soup mix
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a large oven safe pot or roasting pan, saute onions in oil over medium heat.
  2. Add meat, and brown well on all sides.
  3. Mix in beans; stir continuously until the beans start to shrivel. Stir in the barley. Add potatoes, and add just enough boiling water to cover the meat and potatoes. Mix in dry soup mix and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer partially covered for 20 minutes on stove top.
  4. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F (95 degrees C).
  5. Cover pot tightly, and place in preheated oven. Allow to cook overnight for at least 10 to 15 hours. Check periodically to make sure you have enough liquid to cover; add small amounts of water if needed. Do not stir; stirring will break up the chunks of potatoes. 
~From the allrecipes.com website 
Rice Dish (un-named)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup basmati rice, soaked in water for 20 minutes and drained
  • 1 3/4 cups boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and drained
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds, slivered 
Combine olive oil, rice, boiling water, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and salt to taste over high heat.  Cook, uncovered, until all of the water is absorbed.  Stir in raisins, lower the heat to the lowest level possible, and cover tightly.  Cook for 10 minutes, turn off heat, and let stand for 10 minutes.
Place a small skillet over medium heat.  Add almonds.  Toast for 5 - 10 minutes or until they are just golden and they release their aroma.  Stir almonds into rice, and keep covered until serving.

~From the inmamaskitchen.com website.

Israeli chicken stuffed with oranges (off memooleh betapoozim)

  • 1, 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 onions, peeled
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Rinse chicken inside and out under cold running water. Pat dry.
  3. Place chicken in a roasting pan. Cut lemon in half and rub one half over surface of chicken.
  4. In a small bowl, mix salt and spices together and sprinkle over chicken.
  5. Squeeze juices from lemon half and from one of the oranges into roasting pan and add water. Place remaining orange, whole and unpeeled, in chicken cavity. Cut onions in half and add to the pan.
  6. Cook chicken for 15 minutes, then baste with the pan juices and lower heat to 350 degrees F. Cook for 1 hour, basting after 30 minutes. (*)
  7. Remove orange from cavity of chicken. Cut orange and onions into wedges and serve with chicken.
(*) When checking chicken for doneness, it's a good idea to cut it open gently to make sure the meat is white, not pink, all the way through.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 1 1/4 hours
Serves 4 to 6
~From the ethnicrecipes.us website

Roasted-Garlic Hummus

  • 3 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • One 19-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons sesame tahini
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, minced
  • Assorted crudites, for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place garlic cloves on a small piece of foil, and lightly drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Seal foil to form a pouch, and roast garlic in oven until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the garlic from the oven, and allow garlic to cool slightly; peel and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the chickpeas, and process until finely chopped.
  2. Add lemon juice, sesame tahini, water, salt, cayenne pepper, and 1 tablespoon olive oil, and process until the texture is light and fluffy but not entirely smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in chives, and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve with assorted crudites, if desired.
~ From the Martha Stewart website...I hope she doesn't sue us! ;^)

Baba Ghanoush

Ingredients

  • 1 eggplant
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. Place eggplant on baking sheet, and make holes in the skin with a fork. Roast it for 30 to 40 minutes, turning occasionally, or until soft. Remove from oven, and place into a large bowl of cold water. Remove from water, and peel skin off.
  3. Place eggplant, lemon juice, tahini, sesame seeds, and garlic in an electric blender, and puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer eggplant mixture to a medium size mixing bowl, and slowly mix in olive oil. Refrigerate for 3 hours before serving. 
~From the allrecipes.com website 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Falafels Rock!

This week, ELTW traveled to Israel.  Research showed that they enjoy a combination of Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern recipes, which would make sense given their location near the Middle East and the Mediterranean.  This week also showcases some of the food of my father's family heritage -- firmly Long Island Jewish...if that's a race or species or...hmm, I can hear flame-mail coming my way.  Anyway, I was introduced to matso and bagels and lox at a very young age.  Gefilte fish, too.  Eeyuck.

So we opened on Monday with what several (okay, at least one) website has called the national dish of Israel:  Falafel.  I thought I knew what these were, but it turns out I was completely ignorant.  I'd thought that they were kind of like a gyro -- meat, veggies and sauce in a pita.  Turns out...nope.  They're essentially, well, hummus hush-puppies, deep-fried and served in a pita shell with tomato, cucumber and Tahini sauce.  There's more to it than that, but basically, there you go.

Evie Rolling Falafel

Boxed Falafel Mix. Ecch.

So, Angel made falafel from scratch, and she also got a boxed mix and made that, too.  And as if that weren't enough, she made her own pita bread from scratch.  To go with the falafel, she made a wicked fruit salad called "charoses."  By fruit salad, I mean apples and nuts soaked in red wine.

Well, dinnertime comes around and we load the table with all the stuff.  I cut one of Angel's homemade pita in half and it formed a perfect pocket...but not thick and flatbread-y like storebought pita.  This was more like a shell, thin and chewy and fairly resistant to liquid.  I layered in some tomato and cucumber slices, three falafel balls (scratch, not boxed) and drizzled the tahini sauce over it.

Falafel Fixin's

Oh.  My.  God.  Falafel rock, they one-hundred-percent rock.  Savory, with crispy cucumber and tart tomato, and a sort-of-musty sauce, on that chewy pita?  Holy Potatoes, they're freaking good!  My second one, I tried the boxed-mix falafel, and they were as ashes in my mouth compared to my wife's home-made ones.  I suppose if I'd tried them first I'd have liked them -- there was nothing really wrong with them, they were just way more herb-y and less savory than home-made.


Charoses and Falafel

And the Charoses was (were?) all right.  We used a really sweet red wine to complement the apples.  The kids loved it, actually.  We had to resist the urge to let them eat all they wanted and hope they went to bed really early -- we were good parents and restricted the amount of wine-soaked apples they could have.

After Monday, we had a couple of busy days where we skipped on Israel.  Thursday was the next night in Israel, and the menu was what my dad calls Jewish Penicillin -- chicken soup with matzo balls.  Big shock to me:  Jewish chicken soup has no actual chicken in it.  When I found this out, I was despondent.  I like meat, and I like nice, chunky chicken soup.  Angel informed me that this soup was supposed to be a clear, tea-like broth.  Only.  Everything else is prepared in separate pots to avoid thickening or clouding the broth.  Carrots, noodles, both made in their own pot and combined with the matzo in the bowl, and the broth is poured over it all.

So, Angel made this all from scratch.  She boiled chicken all day to make the stock.  She made the matzo from scratch, not a mix, and enlisted the help of Evelyn, our oldest girl, to help mix and form the balls.  We had an excess of the stock, so we froze a couple-three baggies of it for later, and then we sat down to our meat-less chicken soup dinner.

And after two bites, I apologized for being grumpy about my misguided desire for chicken chunks.  This soup was flavorful and wonderful, and the matzo were not only excellent, but very filling.  A half-hour after dinner, while I did the dishes, I realized just how much they expand and become little lead balls in the belly -- happy lead balls, but lead balls nonetheless.  Still, it was a darn tasty soup.  The kids all liked at least some part of it, if not all things for all kids.  And better yet, I combined a bowl of soup and let it sit overnight in the fridge, and ate it for lunch today, and the flavors had combined nicely.

This weekend, I think we sacrifice a goat.  (What?  Israel doesn't do that?  You sure?)  Stay tuned, anyway.

Jewish Chicken Soup w/Matzo


Recipes:

Felafel

Note: This recipe involves hot oil. Adult supervision is required. Many grocery stores now sell prepared felafel in the deli section.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, well-drained
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • ⅔ cup fine breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • Oil for deep frying, enough to fill the pot about 3 inches
  • Pita bread

Procedure

  1. Mash the chickpeas in a large bowl.
  2. Cut the garlic into tiny pieces. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, and bread crumbs to the chickpeas. Mix the ingredients together.
  3. Add the eggs and oil to the mixture and mix thoroughly.
  4. Heat oil in the pot until little bubbles rise to the surface.
  5. Shape the mixture into 16 balls, each about 1-inch across.
  6. With the mixing spoon, gently place a few of the balls in the oil—do not drop them in because the hot oil may splash.
  7. Fry a few at a time until they are golden brown—about 5 minutes.
  8. Remove the felafel with the slotted spoon. Drain them on a plate covered with paper towels.
  9. To serve, cut pita bread in half to make pockets.
  10. Put two or three felafel balls into each pocket and drizzle with tahini sauce (see recipe).
Serves 6 to 8.

Tahini Sauce

Some grocery stores stock tahini sauce, already prepared, or packaged tahini mix.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup tahini (sesame seed paste; can be purchased in stores that sell Middle Eastern foods)
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅓ cup water

Procedure

  1. Mix tahini, lemon juice, and garlic powder in bowl until you have a smooth sauce.
  2. Add the water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until sauce is thin enough to pour.
  3. Pour tahini sauce over pita sandwiches; can also be used as a dip for raw vegetables. 
~ from the Food By Country website

Pita Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of yeast, or quick rising yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water

Preparation:

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until water is frothy.

Combine flour and salt in large bowl.

Make a small depression in the middle of flour and pour yeast water in depression.

Slowly add 1 cup of warm water, and stir with wooden spoon or rubber spatula until elastic.

Place dough on floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes. When the dough is no longer sticky and is smooth and elastic, it has been successfully kneaded.

Coat large bowl with vegetable oil and place dough in bowl. Turn dough upside down so all of the dough is coated.

Allow to sit in a warm place for about 3 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

Once doubled, roll out in a rope, and pinch off 10-12 small pieces. Place balls on floured surface. Let sit covered for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 deg F. and make sure rack is at the very bottom of oven. Be sure to also preheat your baking sheet.

Roll out each ball of dough with a rolling pin into circles. Each should be about 5-6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick.

Bake each circle for 4 minutes until the bread puffs up. Turn over and bake for 2 minutes.

Remove each pita with a spatula from the baking sheet and add additional pitas for baking.

Take spatula and gently push down puff. Immediately place in storage bags.
~ from About.com

    Charoses

    What You Need:

    2 red apples
    1 cup of sweet red wine or grape juice
    1 cup chopped walnuts (you can buy them already shelled and
    chopped into pieces)
    paring knife for peeling apples
    wooden bowl
    metal chopping blade
    measuring cup
    large spoon for stirring

    What You Do:
    1. Carefully peel the apples (ask an adult to help you) and cut them
    length-wise in half and then in half again. Discard the peels and
    cores.

    2. Put the peeled and cored apples into a wooden bowl. Ask an adult
    to show you how to use the chopping blade to chop the apples into
    pieces the size of your thumbnail.

    3. Add the chopped nuts to the bowl with the chopped apples.
    Measure one cup of red wine or grape juice and pour it into the
    apple and nut mixture.

    4. Stir the mixture until it becomes the color of the wine or juice.
    Now the charoses is ready to eat—or you can sprinkle it with
    cinnamon before serving.
     
    JEWISH CHICKEN SOUP
    • 1 1/2 kilo chicken parts: bones, wings, thighs, feet, gizzards, hearts, skin in any ratio
    • 2 large carrots, washed, unpeeled, broken into coarse pieces
    • 1 large onion, peeled, cut into quarters
    • 2 celery stalks, cut into quarters
    • 1 medium parsnip, washed, unpeeled, cut into three pieces (or parsley root)
    • 6-8 sprigs fresh Italian parsley, whole
    • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, whole or 2 tsp dry thyme
    • 1 Tbsp salt
    • 1 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorn
    • matzo balls (recipe below)
    Place all ingredients in a large stock pot and add water to cover (3 to 4 liters). Bring water to boil over medium heat but watch the pot so water never comes to rolling boil (to avoid clouding the soup). When water is just about to boil, turn heat to lowest setting so only a few lazy bubbles break the surface. Cover pot and let simmer for 4 hours. (Longer simmering will not hurt soup.)
    Remove pot from heat, fish out most of the chicken parts and vegetables and discard. Strain the liquid through a fine strainer and defat soup if necessary (see defatting suggestions above). Adjust salt to your taste.
    Makes about 3 to 4 liters of chicken stock.
    For soup body, take about 1/4 cup dry vermicelli (broken into matchstick lengths), 1/4 cup peas (fresh or frozen) and 1/4 cup thin carrot slices per serving. Cook vermicelli in salted water, blanch peas and carrots in boiling salted water until cooked but still crunchy. For garnish, coarsely chop fresh Italian parsley. Add these with matzo balls into individual soup bowls.
    MATZO BALLS
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
    • 3 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped
    • 1/2 t ground black pepper
    • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
    • 3/4 cup matzo meal
    • 2 Tbsp soft butter, oil or chicken fat
    Scramble eggs, blend in salt, ginger, parsley, pepper and garlic. Slowly mix matzo meal and butter (or oil or fat) into egg mixture until it forms a dough. This will be a stiff dough, to lighten it add water slowly until it is workable (about 1/4 water).
    Shape dough into neat, round 14 to 18 walnut-sized balls, lower them into simmering stock (using chicken bouillon), cover pot and sgently for 10 minutes. Drain stock.

    ~ From the Jewishmag.com website.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Boring Names & Delicious Snacks

    Things settled down for the second half of England week.  No more toads, faggots or bangers...things grew normal names for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

    Beef'n Cheese Pie

    Friday was Beefsteak Pie with Cheese Crust.  Essentially, stew meat with gravy, onions and carrots, baked in a casserole and covered with a cheese and bread crust.  It was good -- really good.  The kids even all liked it, which is like finding a critically-acclaimed Schwartzenegger movie.  We had no leftovers.  Well, none that weren't welded to the casserole dish or the pizza pan that was thankfully under it.  After soaking for 24 hours in soapy water, I was able to release the charred remains into the wild.

    Saturday was not only "Beef Braised With Beer and Cheddar Cheese Dumplings" -- but it was also "Nick Cooks Dinner" night.  Mwoo-ha-ha-haaa.  Honestly, the dinner was very similar to Friday's dish.  Beef baked in a casserole dish with onions and gravy, and dumplings this time.

    Beef'n Beer Casserole with Dumplings

    However, this meal didn't receive the same rave reviews as Friday's.  The recipe called for a fair amount of brown sugar and some cinnamon, and that sweetness carried all the way through the dish.  It meshed with the brown ale all right, but not really with the beef, resulting in a sort of off flavor that turned off pretty everyone but me.  The dumplings were pretty darn good, though, and marked our first encounter with shredded suet as a dry ingredient.

    Sunday, though, redeemed itself.  For Halloween Sunday, we had Beef Wellington before taking the kids out to trick or treat.  For the uninitiated, Beef Wellington is a whole tenderloin -- or as much of one as you can afford (!) -- browned and wrapped in pastry with mushrooms and pate, and baked until golden-brown and delicious.  The logistics involved in wrapping a 2lb piece of meat that wants to fall apart with a thin, rippable pastry are difficult, requiring the hands of two adults, but the end product is worth it.

    Beef Wellington

    Nevermind for now that pate is pretty much unobtainable in northern Michigan, and that we had to mail-order it.  Never mind that we spent $20 for just the meat.  This dish is good!!  The meat was fork-ably tender, and so savory-delicious with the pate and 'shrooms, and then add flaky pastry just because you can.  My head almost exploded when I managed to get a bite with all the flavors combined.

    Beef Wellington, Rice, Green Beans

    There were no leftovers.  If we'd made twice as much...there would have been no leftovers.  It's almost blasphemous that we ate this while watching Monsturd on the tv. (it was Halloween, after all!)

    And, it was actually after the week was over, but I was looking for hidden Halloween candy in the cupboard, and I found a little bag of Smiths Bacon Flavoured Fries.

    Bacon Fries? Bacon Fries!!

    "Bacon fries?  What's this?" I asked.
    "Those are yours," Angel said.  "We ordered them, remember?"
    "Squeak!"  I said.  I did remember when Angel was placing an order for some of the more, um, British ingredients, she'd asked about Bacon Fries and I'd said "sure, whatever."

    Oh, man, I don't know why they can't make these in the States, because it was like eating bacon in a bag.  The pieces were colored and striped like bacon, and flavored perfectly like bacon, and crunchy like well-cooked bacon.  I shared them with the kids...but truth be told, I didn't wanna.  They were delicious.

    Bacon Fries = Yum!



    Recipes:

    Beefsteak Pie With Cheese Crust

    Besides being eaten on its own with bread, Cheshire cheese is often used in the north of England for cooking pastry or scones.
    Ingredients
    Serves: 4

    ---- filling ----
    1 Kilogram Lean stewing steak (2lb), trimmed & cut into small cubes
    2 Tablespoon Seasoned flour
    2 Tablespoon Dripping or oil
    2 Medium Onions, finely chopped
    4 Medium Carrots, finely sliced
    Pinch Mixed herbs
    Pieces Grated nutmeg
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    2 Whole Cloves
    600 ml Beef stock (1 pint)
    ---- pastry ----
    150 Gram Plain flour, sifted (5 oz)
    Pinch Salt
    65 Gram Butter (2 1/2 oz)
    75 Gram Cheshire or Lancashire cheese (3 oz)
    Method
    Preheat oven to 190 °C / 375 °F / Gas 5.

    Roll the meat in the seasoned flour. Reserve 2 teaspoons of the excess flour.

    Heat the fat or oil and just soften the onions and carrots in it but do not let them colour. Remove them and put them in a flameproof dish. In the same fat quickly brown the meat all over and add it to the vegetables.

    Add the herbs and spices to the pan juices, together with the reserved seasoned flour. Mix well to absorb the fat, then add the stock and mix well until it boils and becomes smooth.

    Pour the thickened stock over the meat and vegetables, bring back to the boil then cover and put into the oven for 1-1 1/2 hours.

    Meanwhile, make the crust by putting the flour and salt into a bowl, then rubbing in the butter until it is like coarse breadcrumbs. Add the cheese and mix well.

    When the eat is cooked, allow to cool slightly, then sprinkle the pastry mix evenly over the meat and bake for about 30 minutes or until it is golden and cooked.
     
    Beef Braised with Beer and Cheddar Cheese Dumplings
     
    A delicious and economical meal using good West Country ingredients.

    Dumplings are known as 'doughboys' in the West Country.
    Ingredients
    Serves: 4

    25 Gram Beef dripping, or oil (1 oz)
    2 Medium Onions, sliced
    675 Gram Stewing beef, cubed (1 1/2 lb)
    1 rounded tbsp Plain flour
    1 Teaspoon Brown sugar
    Pinch Cinnamon
    300 ml Brown ale ( 1/2 pint)
    Salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    ---- Dumplings ----
    100 Gram Self raising flour (4 oz)
    50 Gram Shredded suet (2 oz)
    25 Gram Cheddar cheese (1 oz)
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    2-3 Tablespoon Water
    Method
    Preheat oven to 180 °C / 350 °F / Gas 4.

    Heat the fat or oil and soften the onions, then take them out and put them into a casserole dish. Quickly brown the beef on all sides, then add the flour and let it cook for 1 minute, stirring from time to time. Add the sugar and cinnamon and gradually pour in the brown ale. Stir well then add salt and pepper to taste. Put the meat and gravy into the casserole dish. Cover and cook for half an hour, then reduce the oven temperature to 170 °C / 325 °F / Gas 3 and continue cooking for a further hour.

    For the dumplings, mix together all the dry ingredients. Add the water gradually, adding a little more if needed to make a fairly slack dough. Flour your hands and break the dough into 8 small pieces, then roll into little balls with the palms of your hands. Chill until required.

    After 1 1/2 hours' cooking time, test the meat with a fork. If necessary, cook for a further 30 minutes. If the casserole seems dry, add a little water, or more beer. About 20 minutes before the meat is ready, place the dumplings on top of the casserole, leave off the lid and cook until they are risen, about 20-30 minutes. Alternatively, poach the dumplings, about 4 at a time, in a saucepan of boiling salted water, for about 15 minutes. Drain well.
     
    Beef Wellington
     
    The Duke of Wellington was a highly prominent statesman and soldier of the nineteenth century. This dish, however, bears his name not because he was a great gourmet but because the finished joint was thought to resemble one of the brown shiny military boots which were called after him.
    Ingredients
    Serves: 8

    1.4 Kilogram Fillet of beef (3 lb)
    1 Tablespoon Vegetable oil
    40 Gram Butter (1 1/2 oz)
    225 Gram Button mushrooms, sliced (8 oz)
    150 Gram Smooth liver paté (6 oz)
    325 Gram Puff pastry (13 oz)
    1 Egg, beaten, to glaze
    Method
    Pre-heat oven to 220 °C / 425 °F / Gas 7.

    Trim and tie up the fillet at intervals with fine string so it retains its shape. Heat the oil and 15g ( 1/2 oz) of the butter in a large frying pan, add the meat and fry briskly on all sides. Press down with a wooden spoon while frying to seal well. Roast for 20 minutes, then set the beef aside to cool and remove the string.

    Meanwhile, cook the mushrooms in the remaining butter until soft; leave until cold, then blend with the paté. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a large rectangle about 33 x 28 cm (13 x 11 inches) and 0.5 cm ( 1/4 inch) thick. Spread the paté mixture down the centre of the pastry. Place the meat on top in the centre. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg.

    Fold the pastry edges over lengthways and turn the parcel over so that the join is underneath. Fold the ends under the meat on the baking sheet. Decorate with leaves cut from the pastry trimmings. Brush with the remaining egg and bake for 50-60 minutes depending how well done you like your beef, covering with foil after 25 minutes. Allow the Beef Wellington to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
     
    ~ Recipes from the Great British Kitchen website, here, here and here.
     
     

    Friday, October 29, 2010

    England, Land of Funny Food Names

    Fade-in: keys turning in a lock.  Pull back to see a shopkeeper unlocking the front door to his store.  The windows are dusty and there is a pile of wind-blown leaves and papers in the doorway.  The shopkeeper opens the door and steps into his store, obviously left closed for quite some time -- cobwebs are in the corners and a thick layer of dust covers all the shelves.  He sighs, grabs a broom from a corner, and starts sweeping.

    And welcome back to Eating Like the World!  We've had quite a hiatus over the summer and the kids' school athletics season, but we're back, and we've been eating like England for the past week.  So far I can say that the names of the dishes alone are worth the price of entry -- we've had Toad In The Hole, Bangers & Mash, Bubbles & Squeak and (ahem) Faggots.  Granted, from here they get less amusing...Beef & Cheese Pie doesn't have the same comedic impact.

    Okay, I have to get this out of my head:  "If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding!  HOW do you expect to get any PUDDING, if you don't eat yer meat!?"  Sorry.  Better.  I loathe Pink Floyd, but I've had that line rattling around in my head for this entire week, and it feels good to finally purge it.

    Toad in a Hole

    Onward.  We opened on Monday with Toad In The Hole.  Sounds gross, I have no idea why it got that name, but in practice, it's sausage links cooked in Yorkshire Pudding...which itself is essentially a really eggy pancake batter.  It was a hectic evening, so the kids and I sat down to our meal of Toad In The Hole with a side of Angel's home-made applesauce, while she ran out to do a bit of evening work.

    Piece of Toad in a Hole, with applesauce.

    I liked this dish.  The sausages were done to perfection, and the pudding reminded me of the "apple pancakes" my mom used to make on occasion, very eggy and dense, with huge, puffy crust.  Dipped in the applesauce, this just melted in my mouth.  Initially the kids loved it, but as they ate they started turning their thumbs down to the pudding.  The best explanation I got was that they started out liking it, but it "built up" on them.  They loved the sausages, though.  When Angel got home she had hers and deemed it surprisingly good -- better than she thought it'd be.

    Bangers'n Mash

    Next up, Tuesday night we had Bangers'n Mash -- the amusing way to say sausages and mashed potatoes.  Oo, this was yummy.  Nicely crispy dinner sausages, mashed potatoes and a savory onion gravy over all of it.  Add a side of spinach.  Oh, and enjoy with a nice pint of ale like I did. (local drinking ages and laws apply, void where prohibited, etc...)  In a rare instance of karma, everyone at the table liked something about this meal.  Leftovers?  None, sorry.

    What struck us about both Monday and Tuesday's dinners is that we expected them to be greasy and heavy, what with all the sausages, eggs and gravies, but they really weren't heavy at all.  We left the table nicely satisfied both nights, without that "ick" one gets after eating a load of squidgy foods.

    Wednesday was busy.  Angel worked all day and didn't get home until 7pm or so.  We ate Banquet Pot Pies.  I guess there's a tenuous link there...you could tilt your head, squint really hard, and call them "meatpies," but it'd be a reach.

    Last night, we ate...um...*cough* (ahem).... FaggotsWhat was that you said?  Um...we ate faggotsWhat?  Speak up, you're mumbling.  Fa-- we ate Faggots, all right?  Faggots.  Yes, that's what I said, and it's the real name for these things.  If you read the Wikipedia link up there, it describes them as meatballs made from "meat off-cuts and offal," mixed with onions, spices and breadcrumbs, wrapped in caul fat (or bacon in our case) and baked.


    Oh, God were these disgusting to make.  Angel "let" me help her.  (she refused to handle the meats involved)  So I had to chop up liver, pork-belly (unsmoked bacon), pork shoulder and bacon -- all raw.  Since we don't own a "mincer,"* I tossed the pieces into the food processor.  Unfortunately, bacon fat doesn't food-process.  It wraps around the blades, keeps them from cutting, and ends up flailing around and tossing chunks of pork around inside the device...while pureeing the liver into a paste.  I ended up pulling the liver-smelling mess out of the processor and splacking it into a bowl, then pulling out hands-full, trying to chop the ropes of hard fat, putting it back into the processor in smaller lumps and trying to chop it down that way.  I was sort of successful.


    After the debacle of the food processor, I got to squish the lumpy meat-paste around in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, onions and spices until it was all mixed together.  It was then formed into 16 meatballs, which were wrapped individually with bacon, loaded onto a broiler pan so the fat could run off, and baked for an hour at -- not 450 degrees, but 445.  As I was doing this, Angel was preparing onion gravy and the Bubble and Squeak: mashed potatoes and cabbage, formed into patties and fried in bacon fat.

    Faggots with Bubbles & Squeak

    When it was all done and assembled onto plates, the result was totally less disgusting than we thought it'd be.  The faggots verged on actually tasting good, depending on how much liver was in a particular bite.  The ropes of fat cooked down and infused the meat with flavor; the gravy moistened the crispy exterior and added savory goodness.  The potatoes were honestly delicious.  I thought the cabbage was unobtrusive, and the crispy edges were nice.  In the most surprising development of the night...the kids liked the faggots more than Angel and I did.  If we had to pick a food for our kids to scream at and throw across the room, this would've been it.  But no, they had seconds.  Evie had thirds.  Ellie (who sometimes won't voluntarily eat a bite of food for weeks on end) sat there nibbling the bacon off them after everyone else was done.

    And yes, dinner conversation was a nonstop joke-fest centering around the more ribald meaning(s) of the main dish's name.


    * Actually, upon looking for a link for a "mincer," I see that it's basically a meat grinder, and that we have that attachment for our ancient, 1967 Kitchenaid mixer.  If we'd only have known...



    Recipes:

    Toad-in-the-Hole

    No one really knows the history behind the name of this traditional light supper dish.

    Ingredients

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 2 cups milk
    • 6 eggs
    • 2 pounds pork sausage links
    • Applesauce as accompaniment

    Procedure

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. Prick sausages all over with a fork.
    3. Place in lightly greased 13x9-inch baking dish.
    4. Bake for 15 minutes at 350°F.
    5. While sausages are baking, measure flour and salt into a medium bowl.
    6. In another bowl, combine milk with eggs, and beat lightly with a wire whisk or fork.
    7. Gradually stir milk and eggs into flour mixture, stirring to make a smooth batter.
    8. Let stand for 30 minutes.
    9. When the sausages have baked for about 15 minutes, turn them and return pan to oven for 15 minutes more.
    10. Remove sausages to paper towels, and drain fat from pan.
    11. Return sausages to pan.
    12. Increase oven temperature to 425°F.
    13. Stir batter and pour over baked sausages.
    14. Bake the combination for 25 to 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.
    15. Serve immediately. 

    Bangers & Mash

    Prep Time: 20 minutes

    Cook Time: 45 minutes

    Total Time: 65 minutes

    Ingredients:

    • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
    • 8 thick sausages (beef, pork, or flavored as you wish)
    • FOR THE MASH
    • 2 lb / 900g peeled potatoes, quartered
    • 6 tbsp milk
    • 1 stick/ 110g butter, cubed
    • Salt and ground black pepper
    • FOR THE ONION GRAVY
    • 2 medium onions, peeled and thinky sliced
    • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
    • 1 ¼ pint/700ml beef stock
    • 4 tsp corn starch/corn flour
    • 4 tsp cold water
    • Salt and black pepper

    Preparation:

    Serves 4
    • Heat the oil in a large frying pan, turn the heat to medium and add the sausages. Fry until the sausages are golden brown and firm, turning them from time to time - about 20 minutes. Once cooked place in an ovenproof dish and keep warm until the mash and gravy are ready.
    • Meanwhile start the mashed potato by boiling the potatoes in lightly salted water until soft. Drain, and keep warm until ready to mash.
    • While the potatoes are cooking make the gravy - melt the oil and butter in a large saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the onion and cover with a lid. Cook slowly for approx 10 mins or until the onions are soft and translucent.
    • Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar to the onions and stir well. Cover with the lid and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes.
    • Add the stock and boil gently uncovered for 5 minutes.
    • In a heatproof jug or bowl mix the corn starch/flour with the cold water to a thin paste. Pour a little of the hot gravy into the starch mixture and mix thoroughly. Pour the starch mixture back into the gravy, raise the heat to high and boil for 10 minutes or until the gravy is slightly thickened. Keep warm until ready to serve.
    • Finish the mash by placing the milk and butter in the pan used to boil the potatoes, return to the heat and warm gently until the butter has melted.
    • Add the potatoes and mash using either a potato masher, a fork or a potato ricer. Whip the mashed potato lightly with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper.
    To Serve: Spoon the mash onto 4 warmed dinner plates, place two fat sausages either on the top or at the side of the mash and pour the hot onion gravy over.

    Faggots

    Prep Time: 20 minutes

    Cook Time: 1 hour

    Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

    Ingredients:

    • 4 oz/110g pork shoulder, roughly chopped
    • 4 oz/ 110g pig's iiver, roughly chopped
    • 8 oz/250g fatty belly pork, roughly choppped
    • 4 oz/110g bacon scraps
    • 4 oz/ 110g bread crumbs
    • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
    • 1/2 tsp mace
    • 1 tsp allspice
    • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
    • 2 sage leaves, finely chopped
    • 1 small red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
    • Salt and Pepper
    • Caul fat*** or streaky bacon

    Preparation:

    Serves 4

    Preheat the oven to 445°F/170°C/Gas 3
    • Mince all the roughly chopped meats, if you don't have a mincer, then chop in a food processor.
    • Place the minced meat into a large bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, onion, herbs, spices and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
    • Divide the mixture into 8 and shape into balls.
    • Wrap each ball in caul or streaky bacon. Make sure the caul or bacon overlaps as it will seal as it cooks and hold the faggots together.
    • Place the faggots onto a baking sheet and bake in the hot oven for 50 - 60 minutes.
    Serve the faggots hot from the oven with mashed potatoes and peas, preferably mushy peas and onion gravy.

    ***Caul is the membrane which holds in animal organs and it makes a good container for the faggots. If you can't get caul, then use strips of streaky bacon.

    From the Britishfoods.about.com website.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Like a Train In The Distance...

    ...ELTW is coming down the tracks.  We're looking at recipes and traditions from Merrie Olde Englande.  We're finding a lot of sausage and a lot of toast. ;-) Beef Wellington, bacon steaks, Toad in the Hole, Bangers'n Mash.  Woo!  Can I get a pint of bitters with that, mate?

    In all seriousness, the kids finished up their cross country last week, and soccer finishes this weekend, so our evenings shed a whole bunch of craziness.  The ELTW fun starts next week!

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    The Long, Hot Summer

    Well, not so hot, though we had some hot days.  My wife would argue that the summer was not so long, either.  Me, I had a break from grad school for most of July and a couple of weeks in August, so this seemed like a marathon summer.

    Anyway, it's September, the kids are back in school, and we have an eye on traveling to England for our next country of ELTW.  Kinda waiting for the budget to catch up with us, you could say.

    Wednesday, July 21, 2010

    July...

    ELTW isn't forgotten or finito...
    ...we still plan to eat more food that's neat-o.
    While summer's here, we're taking a break,
    eating foods familiar, and easier to make.

    When spending time with kids,
    and going on vacation...
    it's awfully hard to find weird stores
    and cook from other nations.

    So never fear, in a couple weeks
    we'll head back to the kitchen.
    And eat around the world again,
    Hey, our next country is Britain!

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010

    So Long Chad, We Hardly Knew Ye!

    It's hard for me to believe that Chad week has been over for a few days.  As I type this, I am sitting in a hotel room in Lansing, Michigan, at about 20 minutes past midnight, after finishing my homework for tomorrow.  I'm smack-dab in the middle of an intensive one-week residency for my graduate program -- Today was Tuesday, and I'm done at lunchtime on Friday.

    Anyway, back to Chad.  Our final recipe was on Friday, and Gable picked out the meal.  He picked out corn/sausage/bacon/prune skewers for the grill and bread that's cooked by wrapping the dough around a stick and cooking it over a fire.  Stick bread.  It even sounds fun.

    So, yet another "when I got home from work" anecdote, I guess.  Angel and Gable were deep into making the skewers, chopping corn into segments and trying to ram skewers through the cob; wrapping bacon around L'il Smokies and prunes; generally having a good time with food.  I was enlisted to hammer a metal skewer through the cobs, so the bamboo ones would go through.

    The recipe is easy enough.  Honestly, it called for good sausage, twisted to nip it down to Lit'l Smoky size, bacon, corn on the cob and prunes.  Bacon wrapped around the sausages and prunes, and all of it was stuck on skewers to be grilled.  Likewise the stick bread was easy, Angel said.  It took beer, flour and like two other ingredients for the dough, and then strips of it were wrapped around sticks for the fire.

    Sausage, Bacon, Corn Skewers

    So, I cooked the skewers over charcoal first.  I have to say, the drawback to this one is that the corn is browned and the sausages are blackened before the bacon is even a little bit cooked.  Consequently, there were several bites of raw, squidgy bacon that I tossed over my shoulder. (we ate outside at the picnic table)  Except for that, though, I loved this one.  The corn was fresh and smoky; the bacon-wrapped sausages are like a dream-come-true, and the prune's sweetness meshed really well with the pork products.

    Sausage, Bacon, Corn Skewers

    The kids?  Humph.  I have the only children in the country who steadfastly will not eat food from a stick.  When I was a kid, I wished my parents would make food-on-a-stick, because of the awesomeness.  My kids?  I might as well sling a turd in front of them.  If it were on a stick, they wouldn't eat that, either.

    We had problems with the stick bread.  After it was wrapped onto the sticks, I realized I had to slide the bread dough down a bit in order to lay the sticks across the grill, so I unwrapped it and slid it down...but it had already dried enough that I couldn't get it to re-adhere to the sticks.

    Stick Bread

    I took my oldest girl to her T-Ball game while the bread was cooking, but Angel said that it tasted fine, though there were more black and more raw parts .

    Saturday was supposed to be a boiled kind of dinner, but we had a crazy hectic day, and it was hot outside, and we decided to grill steaks instead -- cop out on the project?  Sure, you can think of it that way, but we choose not to.  So there.

    Actually, ELTW is going to take a hiatus for most of the month of July.  For one reason, I have this residency.  For another, we are going on vacation in two weeks and don't want to try sourcing ethnic foods while in a condo on the beach.  Evelyn did draw our next destination, though.  When we get back from vacation, we go to England.

    Friday, June 25, 2010

    Welcome BACK to Chad

    Tuesday's post about Chad was rather bleak and sobering, I understand that.  However, there is so much more to Chad than sandstorms, strife, refugees and desperation.  Yes, there is all that -- and on a scale that's truly sobering -- but that is only part of that region of the world.

    Truth be told, after looking at the cuisine of Chad for about 15 minutes, both Angel and I were excited -- this has to be the most fun country we've visited yet!  The variety of foods, and cooking methods, and seasonings...truly interesting.  Turns out, they eat lots of beef and chicken in Chad, as well as greens, bananas and plantains, and spicy foods.  There's lots of cooking over fire.  There was even a recipe for a pineapple beer that included the instruction "be careful in case the fermenting beer explodes."

    Cooking + Explosions = Win!!

    In stark contrast to Tuesday's meal of millet porridge stood Wednesday's dinner of Moo Sate and Futari.  I actually started Tuesday night -- Moo Sate is (are?) thinly sliced beef, marinaded in a concoction of onions, garlic, ground chilies, and curry powder, threaded on skewers and grilled over charcoal.  It's served with a peanut butter sauce that's flavored with Worcestershire, soy and Tabasco sauces, and coconut cream.  Complementing the skewers, futari is a pot of acorn squash and sweet potato chunks, simmered in sauteed onions, coconut milk, cinnamon and cloves  Look at that roster of ingredients and tell me you thought they'd come from a central African country known for starvation and refugee camps!

    In our recently re-worked version of ELTW, this was my night to cook a dinner that I had chosen.  I actually got home from work before Angel and the kids and was working on the vegetable dish when they arrived.  As the charcoal out in the grill ashed over, I brought in the skewers to warm up.  This was greeted with "what is that horrible odor?" from my wife.

    "Dinner," I said.  I actually thought the skewers had an enticing curry/spices aroma.  Tangent:  did anyone know that curry powder makes your fingers smell like curry powder even after washing several times, sleeping overnight, showering, working a full day and washing your hands several more times?  Well, it does.

    Futari

    So, I started with the futari.  It did what I thought it'd do, essentially.  I am not a fan of acorn squash...I blame over-zealous squash-loving parenting in my childhood (sorry, dad!) for my distaste of orange squash.  That being said, I know that squash and sweet potatoes take fairly well to sweet flavors like cinnamon and sugar and in the end, I actually liked this dish.  The squash and tubers did soak up the coconut, cinnamon and cloves and had a vaguely pumpkin-pie-ish flavor.  Angel thought it was just okay -- she's pretty attuned to texture and I suspect that this was a bit too mushy for her.  The kids didn't like it.

    Moo Sate

    The moo sate was spicy.  Flat out, I could've left out the ground chilies (I used red pepper) and maybe half the curry -- the kids wouldn't eat it, and I don't really blame them...until I tried the peanut-butter sauce with the skewers.  The sauce added a whole new dimension to the hot, curried beef, and cut the heat down almost totally.  The kids still wouldn't eat it.  Surprisingly, even to her, Angel really liked it.  She had to stop before she wanted to, just because of the spiciness.  I dunno, maybe we're wusses when it comes to spicy food.  Very tasty, though.

    And last night, Evie chose the dinner and helped with the cooking.  Starting with a cup of oil, seasonings and a big helping of greens, she and Angel cooked some chicken breast, a handful of prawns and rice.  The recipe called for smoked fish, but Angel couldn't find any while grocery shopping.  As an aside, seeing the prawns, I realize that those are what we should've used for the Australian shrimp dinner.

    This time, I'll admit that I was the one a little bit dubious about greens boiled in oil, and I generally have a love for greens that's unheard of in most Yankees.

    Amusing story:  Years ago we lived in Indiana, and most of my co-workers proudly touted their southern upbringing.  "I wuz born'n reared in Kentucky," they'd proclaim.  So, one Christmas season they were deciding on the menu for the department holiday party and sent around a little menu so we could check off whether we wanted beef or chicken, potatoes or yams, cole slaw or salad....corn or collard greens.  So, I filled out mine and sent it on to my manager.  About a week later, he comes into the computer room while I'm working and starts out, "Nick, um..."  Turns out, the only one in the department of 50 or 60 Hoosiers who wanted good, southern collard greens was the northerner from Michigan!

    Sweet Potato Greens w/ Fish & Shrimp

    Back to Chad -- dinner was awesome!  The greens soaked up the flavors of the oil, spices, chicken and prawns, and it all melded into a wonderful, mild dish -- granted it did call for chili peppers, but Angel left them out to have mercy on the kids.  The flavored oil soaked into the rice, and everything picked up a bit of prawn-y essence.  Very good.



    Recipes:

    Moo Sate
    • 2 lb Beef; thinly sliced                1 c Peanut butter
    • 3 tb curry powder                     1 c coconut cream
    • 1/2 ts Ground chilies                  1 tb lemon juice
    • 2 garlic clove; minced                1/4 c Soy sauce
    • 2 Onion large; minced                1 tb Worcester sauce
    • 4 tb lemon juice                         2 x Tabasco sauce; dash
    • 1 tb Honey                                1/4 ts salt

    1. Slice the meat into thin strips no more than 1/4" thick and about 1" wide.
    2. Make strips paper-thin if possible.
    3. Mix curry powder chilies garlic onions salt lemon juice and honey in a large bowl.
    4. Add the meat strips and toss well to cover with the marinade.
    5. Thread meat strips on bamboo skewers 3 or 4 pieces per skewer.
    6. Make sure that plenty of Onion and garlic bits cling to the meat.
    7. Arrange skewers of meat in a dish cover with any remaining marinade and refrigerate while making the sauce.
    8. Brown or grill the meat skewers and serve with the warmed Peanut butter sauce for dipping.
    9. Sauce: Blend all ingredients together well to make a smooth sauce.
    10. Keep refrigerated but warm before serving.
     Futari
    • one Onion, chopped
    • one pound Squash, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
    • a pound or two of yams (sweet potatoes may be substituted), peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
    • oil to sauté
    • one cup coconut milk
    • one-half teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • one quarter teaspoon ground cloves
    • salt to taste


    1. Fry Onion in skillet, stir and cook until tender.
    2. Stir in all other ingredients, and heat to a boil.
    3. Reduce heat, cover and stir occasionally.
    4. Cook until vegetables are tender (ten to fifteen minutes).
     Sweet Potato Greens with Fish and Shrimp
    • 1 cup cooking oil
    • 2 to 3 pounds (or more) of sweet potato greens, or similar
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1 hot chile pepper, cleaned and chopped (or left whole)
    • 1 piece of dried, salted, or smoked (such as cod or herring), soaked in water and washed
    • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
    • ½ teaspoon baking soda
    • ½ cup of dried shrimp or dried prawns (or a handful of fresh shrimp or prawns)
    • any, pan-fried and cut into pieces (optional)
    • chicken, pan-fried and cut into pieces (optional)
    • salt and black pepper to taste

    Directions

    1. Heat the oil in a large pot.
    2. Add the greens, onion, pepper, dried, tomato paste, baking soda, and dried shrimp or prawns (if desired).
    3. Cook for fifteen minutes, stirring often.
    4. When greens are tender, add fresh shrimp or prawns, and fried or chicken.
    5. Adjust seasoning to taste.
    6. Serve with rice. 
    -- all recipes from the wikia lifestyles Recipes Wiki.

      Wednesday, June 23, 2010

      Welcome to Chad

      "You don't...have...to live like a refugee." -- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

      So Tuesday was our first real start of Chad week, and we began with what we thought of when we thought of Central Africa -- refugees, subsistence rations and so on.  The family from Chad detailed in Hungry Planet is actually from the neighboring country, and living in a refugee camp in Chad, where they subsist on millet provided by aid agencies, and not much else.  Over 350,000 people currently live in refugee camps in Chad, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, and 541,000 people are assisted by the UNHCR.

      The acute malnutrition rate in the refugee camps is around 12%.  There is not enough water.  The majority of camps lack enough latrines.  Movement to and from the camps is restricted due to attacks by roadway bandits.  Women are raped in the camps.  Regularly.

      That is right now.  In 2010.  While my children play at their grandparents' house.  While I sit in an expensive office chair and put a blog on the internet.

      If there is a bright side to look at, the U.N. has a $161 million budget to try improving the situation.  The "general health condition" in the camps is "acceptable."  Most amazing to me is that school enrollment in the camps is at 80% -- in stark contrast to my son, who would skip school for a hangnail if he could.

      So with that bleak background, last night we set out to make aiysh, a congealed porridge of ground millet.  I think most people in America are familiar with millet -- it's the little round seeds in birdseed.  Chadian refugees are given a ration of millet seed, and either take to a mill to be ground into flour, or they grind it themselves with mortar and pestle -- or rocks.

      Millet, Granite and Rocks

      So, we found and purchased millet seed and some millet flour.  We measured out a pound, which would be the ration for a family of six.  I found and washed a couple of rocks from our firepit, and a couple pieces of flat granite that I had lying around, and took them out on the deck. And we ground our millet into flour.  Our deck is on the west side of the house, and in full evening sun.  Yesterday was an 85-degree day, so the kids almost immediately started complaining that they were hot.

      Millet to be Ground

      "Yes, it's hot," I said.  "Just like Chad.  In fact, it routinely hits 100 degrees in Chad, so this would be a relief for them.  And they can't just duck into the kitchen to cool off like we can."  I think they got it.

      Evie Grinding Millet

      First, we put some millet in a Ziploc bag and tried to grind it, to keep from losing any.  We didn't do much but rip the bag.  Next, we sprinkled some on a granite slab and rolled the rock on it, and that ground the millet nicely, but was slow.  Lastly, we put another granite slab on top and rubbed back and forth, which was quicker, but ground less finely, and also spilled a fair amount of the seed on the deck, and on that point we told the kids of the women who will spend hours sifting through the sand where the millet is distributed to pick out individual grains so their children have another mouthful.

      Grinding Millet

      Lastly, I told the kids how if we were in Chad, I wouldn't even be there.  "I would've been killed three years ago when our village was raided."  And I went off to mow the lawn.  Angel says they got through about half of the millet before they were all fed up, and she used flour to fill out the rest of the pound.

      Aiysh

      The porridge itself wasn't actually too bad.  I thought it was rather like Cream of Wheat cereal, with no cream or sugar in it.  Angel likened it to rice, with the consistency of mashed potatoes.  Gable liked it as-is.  The twins did not.  Evie started out liking it but quickly turned to thumbs-down.  I found much the same thing...it started out okay, but started leaving a mildly acrid residue in my throat and I needed a glass of water.  Regardless, aiysh is very filling and at least palatable, if not scrumptious.  Actually, in the end I added butter and brown sugar as if it were cereal and everyone but Gabe liked it more.

      As a final aside, we were all pretty darn hungry again by 10:00 p.m.  It doesn't take much empathy to understand how full one would NOT feel from eating this every day, three meals a day.



      Recipe:

      Ingredients
      • 1/2 coro (approx. 1 lb. millet flour
      • 1 coro (approx. 2 qrt) water
      • vegetable oil (enough to coat aiysh) 
      Bring millet flour to mill to grind.
      After obtaining ground millet flour, light fire and bring water to a boil in a pot.
      Add millet flour in small amounts until it begins to thicken and bubble. Stir constantly, pulling mixture toward you in the pot until it holds together in a gelatinous mass.
      Press mixture into an oiled bowl to make a round shape. Invert onto serving plate or tray.

      Tuesday, June 22, 2010

      Hanging Chad

      So, I realize I never let on what country we're traveling to this week.  It's Chad.  You know, Chad.  Central Africa, poverty, starvation, refugees...Chad.  From the moment I even put Chad in the official tin, I knew I was gonna have to make the "hanging chads" joke at some point, so there it is.  It's even a bit relevant.

      You see, last night was supposed to be our first Chadian night.  (Chadians, that's what they call themselves.)  So all we (and I) had to do last night was:
      • 5:10-5:15 -- get home from work
      • 5:30 -- run Evie to her T-ball team photos and game.
      • 7:30-8:00-ish -- get home from T-ball game
      • 8:00 +2hrs -- Cook authentic Chadian Dinner
      • After That -- clean up authentic Chadian Dinner
      • After THAT, what's this now...10:30? 11:00? -- Begin homework: Business Law Case Discussion
      • 1:00 am -- Continue homework: Business Law online lectures
      • 2:00am -- Business law quiz
      • 2:30am -- quiz complete, go to bed.

      So we punted on the first night of Chad and ordered pizza to cut out the two hours of cooking and subsequent hour of cleanup.  My wife took the kids to the T-ball game and I got those two hours to work on homework, so I was able to go to sleep before 1:00 am.

      So I'm sorry for the bad pun...but we've left you hanging, Chad.

      Thursday, June 17, 2010

      Vegemite

      "He just smiled, and made me a vegemite sandwich." -- Men at Work

      Vegemite is an Australian staple.  It's one of the first foods fed to Australian babies.  It's a phenomenal source of B vitamins.  I've heard the taste described as "distinctive," and been cautioned that I won't like it.  We know that it's sold by Kraft, and it's a yeast extract.  So yeah, if we're trying the Australian experience, we needed to experience Vegemite.  We ordered a jar of it from a website.

      When we got it, the first thing I did was open the jar and smell it.  Well, I've smelled worse things, I guess.  I think everyone has a different description of what it smells like, but my stab at it is a mixture between beef bouillon and boiling beer wort.** -- like yeasty barley malt with beef undertones.  I swiped my pinky finger in it and tasted it...kind of like salty beef-yeast malt.  Kind of icky, to tell the truth.

      Vegemite Toast

      Well, Sunday morning came and we'd put off having traditional Vegemite for breakfast, as we read the Aussies do.  On toast.  So I toasted two slices of bread, (not six...I've heard that we probably wouldn't like it, so I figured baby steps) spread a liberal amount of Vegemite on them, and cut them into toast points.  When spreading, I would describe the color and consistency of Vegemite as somewhat akin to axle grease, or maybe really dark Vaseline.

      Anyway, I carried the toast points to the table, and distributed them amongst us.  The kids looked skeptical, and we admonished them that they had to at least swallow ONE bite...there would be no spitting.  We agreed to eat on the count of three.  One...  Two....  Three...

      ...and we all bit down on our Vegemite toast.  The initial flavor wasn't good, but wasn't too awful.  Rather like the smell, actually.  Salty, yeasty (I guess) and sort of tangy...

      ... that was for the first 1.4 seconds.  Then all hell broke loose in my mouth, and from the sound of it, in everyone else's mouth as well.  A sort of strangled howl loosed forth from all of us at the same time.  Hands started flapping, eyes started watering, and at least one of us spun around in place a few times.  During the following 2.3 seconds I debated whether the contents of my mouth were, in fact, swallowable, or whether someone had actually shat in my mouth when I wasn't looking.  I came to the conclusion, as I lunged across the kitchen for the trash can, that neither scenario was possible, and I spit it out into the garbage.

      This was not happening in a vacuum, mind you.  Behind and around me, bedlam was breaking loose.  In my peripheral vision, I could see what looked like a dozen people rushing back and forth and spinning around.  Person after child after person bent over the garbage can and spat.  I looked over at the twins, trapped in their high chairs, and they were inconsolable.  I carried the can over and they blew out the vegemite slurry in their mouths.  Poor Elouise had big, sad tears and a look on her face that said, "Why, daddy?  Why would you do this to us?"

      But things didn't stop here.  Vegemite toast appears to have adhesive qualities similar to spackle, and we immediately found that even after spitting, the flavor remains, as do little bits and specks in your teeth.  I didn't know if I should use my beleaguered tongue to scrape out the Vegemite -- thus tasting it more -- or leave it in my teeth -- thus tasting it more. I found iced tea in the refrigerator and swigged, and swished, and spit...and found marginal relief.  Unthinking, I upended the nearly empty jug in the sink as Angel screamed "NOOoooo!" over her outstretched hands.

      The kids were still crying, by the way.

      I sprinted across the house and out into the garage, where the beverage fridge sits, and found a 2-liter of diet orange soda.  I brought it back and poured glasses for all of the kids and handed it back to my red-faced wife.  There was a disgusting chorus of gargling and swishing, and we all, finally, found some relief from the oral putrefaction.

      Whereupon we went out for brunch.

      Vegemite Sucks

      ** beer wort is the raw barley malt / water / hops mixture that one boils for an hour before putting in a bucket with yeast to ferment for two weeks.  It's a heady aroma, malty, yeasty and warm-smelling.  If you've ever driven by a distillery, it's much the same.