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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Oh, My Lord!

I know it’s been ages since I posted but this has drawn me out: the BEST butterscotch pudding recipe I have come across to date. Below was adapted from Ripe For Dessert (HarperCollins), by David LeBovitz. I have tried other butterscotch recipes but they didn’t turn out anywhere near as nicely as this one did. Maybe it’s the three teaspoons of cornstarch (corn flour to those from the UK), maybe it’s that I now know what “just to boiling” means for milk. Either way, I was super-satisfied with the result, though I will experiment with using less cornstarch. I’ve seen many other recipes use only two teaspoons. I may also experiment with arrowroot powder. Sorry, no photos. It was devoured quickly. I actually spent many minutes getting as much out of the pot as I could after I’d poured it into glasses.

Butterscotch Pudding
4-6 servings

4 tablespoons (60g) butter, salted or unsalted
1 cup (180g) packed dark brown or cassonade sugar
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt (if using salted butter, start with 1/4 tsp or omit salt from recipe)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2½ (625ml) cups whole milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons whiskey (I used Jack Daniels)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the dark brown sugar and salt, then stir until the sugar is well-moistened. Remove from heat.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup (60ml) of the milk until smooth (there should be no visible pills of cornstarch), then whisk in the eggs.

3. Gradually pour the remaining milk into the melted brown sugar, whisking constantly, then whisk in the cornstarch mixture as well.

4. Return the pan to the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently. Once it begins to bubble, reduce the heat to a low simmer and continue to cook for one minute, whisking non-stop (furiously, and I do mean furiously – your arm should be about to drop off by the end of that minute; it negated the need for a strainer, at least in my case), until the pudding thickens to the consistency of hot fudge sauce.

5. Remove from heat and stir in the whiskey and vanilla. If slightly-curdled looking, blend as indicated above.

6. Pour into 4-6 serving glasses or custard cups and chill thoroughly, at least four hours, before serving.

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I think rhubarb is mostly seen as a sour, strange thing in the States, though that may just be my Southernness, as it doesn’t grow down there. I personally love tangy rhubarb pie and sweet delicious strawberry-rhubarb pie (and jam!). Since coming to London, I have noticed the British predilection for rhubarb; it’s sold at every place that sells fruit & veg, around this time, and every major brand of yogurt makes a variant (even Activia!). I am in LOVE with rhubarb yogurt! A while back I bought a yogurt machine but it just ended up being a bit more work than I had anticipated and you can’t re-use any of the pots you make to start more than the very next batch, or at least so I remember. I am up for the challenge of making yogurt again, but I need to buy a strainer. I think that’s what was the problem with my last attempt; it was so wet it hardly resembled yogurt, especially when I’d been eating thick-as Greek yogurt.

I also really want to can things. When I tell young British people they should can something, they look at me like they’re waiting for me to finish the sentence. It’s then I realize that I haven’t seen canning jars in the £ stores. Or anywhere else. And I think, “But this is England! Everyone prides themselves on their can-do, old school DIY, make-do attitude!” But it doesn’t seem like they can here the way we do in the States. So I’m not sure how I’ll can anything, especially since my main goal was to can tomatoes, and I’m pretty sure you can’t can tomatoes via the hot water method. Something about the acids, but I don’t quite know what. I am sure, however, that people make jam, so I wonder how they can it? I mean, do you have to close it up a different way than you close up canned veggies or soups or whatever?

£ stores, that reminds me of another story. Last night at South Drinks, a friend was saying her boyfriend wants a dog and she wants a cat. She’d told him they could get a dog only if they moved to a bigger place. I said, “Make sure you get a pound dog.” The two Brits stopped and sort of looked confused, so I said, “Wait, what do you call the RSPCA?” “For what, dogs? Cats? You just say “Battersea” (after the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home).” “Right, because we have £ stores. That would be a cheap dog!”

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Sorry for the doom and gloom of the last post, things are looking up now. I finally asked my groupito bicicleta if anyone on board was in social work. Someone mailed me, said, “Ask this dude,” I asked that dude, and I now have a recruiter looking for work for me! He’ll help me get a work visa! He may even be able to negotiate a better salary than I could receive on my own, potentially with a hiring package! I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, just the fact that someone else feels confident I can retain employment makes me feel better.

In other news, I’ve ridden 15-17 miles in one shot twice in the past week. It feels good to know I can do that, no problem. This time my legs didn’t even bother me.

I made this fresh pea salad with the minor tweak that I had to use ripped up sugar snap pea pods because I couldn’t find any regular peas. I broke them when I discovered that shelling peas does not make for a “quick” recipe (the section this one is filed under). It should have been spicier; it calls for serrano peppers but I couldn’t find any and didn’t know the spice level of the ones I got. Should have tested it but couldn’t be arsed. Other than that, I recommend it but look for real peas and see if you can find them pre-shelled. Yeah, yeah, yuppie.

And now that I’ve found out where to buy coconut oil I can make healthy cookies from 101cookbooks.com. I love this lady’s recipes, though they are a bit like Martha Stewart’s, they often have either local or difficult-to-find ingredients, which isn’t very useful if you’re not from San Francisco.

Not much going on, otherwise, being jobless is wicked boring.

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Last Saturday I met O & K at the Royal Court Theatre for my first theatre-going experience in London since the summer 2005 debacle at The Old Vic. I thought I was seeing Kevin Spacey in Philadelphia and was looking forward to the drama but discovered, after the bartenders downstairs fell all over themselves to ply me with drink, that it was neither Philadelphia nor Kevin Spacey I would be seeing that night but The Philadelphia Story and his under study.

It is Wallace Shawn Season at the Royal Court with old and new pieces finding the light of the stage and I was able to see The Fever gratis, from the front row. A 90 minute, one woman performance ranging from illness to touchy political subjects; I feel less-than-qualified to give much of a review due to lack of experience with theater, so I will just say that I was impressed by the pacing and how it crept from light talk to heavy political debate. If a tad melodramatic, a bit black-or-white at times, and difficult for me to sit through 90 minutes of one person talking, I still enjoyed the performance and look forward to repeating the experience. Actually, I would greatly like to see Grasses of a Thousand Colors when it comes out. Likely a Monday.

I could have ridden there, but I wanted to wear the black cashmere beaded 3/4 sleeve length sweater that I’ve had since I got here and haven’t had the chance to wear b/c I’m always riding, so I took the train instead. Stupid public transport, it took ages and cost me about £6 there and back. I guess if I have to start taking it frequently I’ll look into getting an unlimited pass. O & K and their friends were in the basement bar of the Royal Court, a nice, dimly lit space with plenty of seating and tasty if not inexpensive eats. After the performance, and after saying goodbye to the friends, we went back downstairs for a quick nip and bite. They had soup & chips with aioli (ha! mayo “with” garlic!), I had rhubarb crumble. I’m obsessed with crumbles and K wants to learn how to bake, so I told him I’d teach him how to make cake. Then the next day a bunch of us went to the Chiswick boot sale and I picked up a cast iron baking dish perfect for making crumble and vow to wow K at the next opportunity. We talked baking for a little bit and then ran into the wall of one particular baked good.

Imagine trying to explain something to someone that is completely unlike anything they’ve ever encountered before and yet bears the name of something they know well. How do you do it? I thought that because he was Canadian he might know what biscuits are but no. Apparently Canadians do not know from biscuits.

Me: It’s…well, they’re biscuits. But not like cookies.
K: Are they crunchy?
Me: No, they’re…fluffy. And when you pull them apart they…*thinks*
K: ……. *blank look*
Me: Imagine a scone…like a pillow. *eyebrow wrinkle*

That’s the best I could do.

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Last night was a surprisingly booze-filled outing to Westies (drinks get-together for those on the London Fixed Gear Single Speed Forum who live in/near West London). Madness, really, by the end of the night I found myself wrestling with someone in the pub! I don’t know what I was thinking, but I was really mad b/c without taking off my earrings, or bracelet, or having a little padding on the floor, I couldn’t go all out.

These past two weeks have been better for me than being in Madrid, I can go out and actually speak to people and though it’s a different culture it’s not quite as different as Spain. The boyfriend is out of school from Thursday to Sunday, we ride our bikes a lot, talk a lot, mess around on the internet and clean house. I’m still trying to wade through the application to register as a social worker trained and qualified outside of the UK. It’s an amazing process. After however many weeks it takes me to gather all the necessary paperwork, fill it out, etc., once I send it in it will be four months before I receive my registration. Only then may I apply for jobs. And if I have the information correct, once I find an agency that is able to sponsor me, I am not guaranteed sponsorship but if I am, they have to submit the paperwork 2 months before start of employ and I must leave the country for no less than 6 weeks. *sigh* It is ridiculous to have so much red tape surrounding a field for which they’re desperate to find more workers.

And since I’m here on a tourist visa I might possibly have to leave the country before I find work, in which case I’ll have to come back, find work and then leave again. I think. But I am trying to do everything by the book so as not to jeopardize my chances of receiving the proper papers and legal standing here.

I’ve purchased a new (used) bicycle frame, we’re going to build it up in the coming weeks. It’s a Joe Waugh and I’ve decided to repaint her and call her Evelyn. I’ve found the original Evelyn’s signature online and plan to have a decal made of it to put on the top tube just at the juncture with the seat tube. It came in the mail this morning at the ungodly hour of 8:15 and we’ve been up ever since, despite tying one on last night. I feel a disco nap is in order so we may be prepared for the housewarming party tonight but since I’m sitting here with a cup of coffeerocket fuel I doubt that will happen.

Can’t wait to see the mix of people we amass tonight, there are people from the forum, some of the boyfriend’s classmates, O & K, and our female roommate’s friends. There will be tacos, guac, salsa, indian rice (brought by an attendee, made by her mom), and other bits and bobs. Our lovely attendees will be bringing booze, so except for the Drambuie the boyfriend mistook for some sort of whiskey, we aren’t contributing much of anything in that area.

The painting of the bedroom is mostly done, it’s a rich robin’s egg blue, there are just a few more places I missed when filling holes in the wall; will do those soon then paint them over.
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Rabo de Cerda

You know all those mistakes I’ve been telling you about, regarding food and not knowing what it was? First, there’s a phenomenon here that I am shocked and appalled by: restaurants give you bread and then don’t tell you they’re charging you for it. The boyfriend says, “Whatever happened to free bread?”, and, “You didn’t have to put that.”

But really, whatever happened to free bread? I suppose we’ve probably had free bread at some establishments and just not noticed it because that is the way it should be, but I’m not sure now. Wracking my brain, I can’t come up with a single definitive instance of free bread here in Spain. We grow up with that! Go to any Italian restaurant, free white bread with the little flat knobblies on the bottom from where it’s been baked. Go to any restaurant, really, in the States – free bread.

Also, no tap water. If you ask for water, you will pay for it. It comes in a bottle and is delivered graciously to your table by your smiling waiter.

But back to food mistakes – here in Madrid, or I suppose anywhere you don’t fully know the language, it is supremely easy to make expensive mistakes when dining out. Witness the 39€ mistake in Toledo, Spain, which included two unasked for pieces of bread and two bottles of water and what amounted to two starters. To be fair, that was Toledo, where we were warned that because of its Tourism Destination status, it would be quite expensive (remember, children, the 6€ map we bought when we could have had a free one had we waited just one plaza longer).

Now, I don’t want to complain unnecessarily, so I’ll tell you the hilarious tail, er tale of our excursions into dining in in Madrid. Tonight, we bought habichuelas at Carrefour Express, some toothpaste, and rabo de cerda (to flavor the beans and rice) because I was “translating” too quickly and these looked enough like the little rib bits you’ll sometimes see in Chinese or Korean barbeque.

The boyfriend put them in with the beans and minutes went by wherein we were distracted, until a smell wafted over us we weren’t very happy with. The pig smelled funny. Bad funny? I didn’t think so, and to that end I asked him the name on the package again. “Rabos”, finally looked up, yields images of tails. Oh, great. We’ve just flavored our beans with pig tail. Man! We are Americans not accustomed to this type of thing. So he fished them out and the beans smell much better. If we become rampantly sick, I’ll tell you all about it later.

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