Posts Tagged ‘food’

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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Maybe you always had tendencies but no space or money before. Now, you’re growing a garden!

There are vegetables galore, everything your ignorant mind could throw at a 4×10′ plot! 6 pea plants, all put in at the same time. 6 sprouting broccoli plants. Three corn plants (one died), a row of onions, a row of beets, three courgette plants, 7 pepper plants (none thrived, four eventually moved to pots, one of which has flowered), 4 tomato plants in two varieties, lettuce.

Who knew courgettes grew 3′ wide? Surely it would have said that on the back of the packet! (Wait, men don’t read the backs of packets)

And to top it all off, your old “poor food” meal, rice & veggies (no meat) has gone from taking about 20 minutes to make, to 45 minutes, has red camargue rice and brown rice, courgettes, carrots and peas from your garden, and duck breasts (because they were on sale).

But damn, is it good to eat yummy food that you’ve grown yourself!

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After a beautiful, often sunny several days, the weather decided to kick us in the nads last week and turn back into winter again. None of us in the house noticed this, so the heating stayed off and we started getting torpid and shivery. A couple of days ago, the husband was asked what he wanted for dinner and came back with, “Comfort food,” after which both of us said, “I want mac and cheese!” Never Enough Thyme’s Cheesy Beefy Mac recipe was what we decided upon. The inclusion of vegetables sounded like a really good idea, so I got to work.

I’m not sure if it was just the fact that I didn’t measure anything but the shredded carrot (if memory serves, I accidentally doubled it), or if people don’t like their macaroni and cheese to resemble the gooey goodness of Velveeta Shells n Cheese (note: this is most likely just nostalgia talking), because most recipes I find call for a much lower cheese-to-pasta ratio than I wanted, and this was no exception.

So I doubled the cheese sauce. It had to be done, even if that means I used more cheese than you can shake a stick at in this recipe.

1 8 oz package elbow macaroni
cooking spray (or olive oil)
1 cup chopped onion
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
2 tsp. minced garlic (optional)
1 cup shredded carrots
1 pound lean ground beef (I used 500g)
1 cup tomato sauce
1 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup low-fat (or fat-free) milk
2 tblsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated (most of a med-large block)

I didn’t fuss with all that low-fat malarkey, we used mostly semi-skimmed versions (in the UK, 2% is considered “semi-skimmed”). I couldn’t imagine it being creamy enough without some milk fat.

Preheat oven to 350 F (190 C).

Cook the elbow macaroni while preparing the rest of the recipe. Drain and reserve until called for.

Cook the onion, celery, bell pepper, carrots and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat, sauteing 4 to 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and set aside. Add the ground beef and cook until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain the ground beef and return it to the pan along with the reserved vegetables. Add the tomato sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.

Add the cooked macaroni into the beef/vegetable mixture and stir to combine well. Spoon the beef and macaroni mixture into an 11×7 baking dish. The recipe says to coat it with cooking spray but I used a bit of olive oil because I didn’t have any spray.

Make a light roux by whisking milk, flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan until well blended. Cook over medium heat 2 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add 1 cup cheese, stirring until smooth. (This is what I doubled.) Pour the cheese mixture over the macaroni mixture and stir together. Top evenly with the remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake at 350/190 for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I think this would be super easy to make for kids; if your kids won’t eat any particular vegetable addition, just nix it in favor of something you know they will. This week. While this isn’t exactly “mac n cheese”, it is delicious, and I recommend trying it at least once!

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We got the rubbish pile organized and all the herbs in pots. The washbin had to have holes drilled into it, as well as the galvanized steel pail that we planted the strawberries in. We also drilled holes in a decorative pot that had been used mostly to allow water to stand in it and become fetid. It stank up the whole back garden as well as the kitchen when we dumped it out. Now it’s being used to grow tarragon, thyme and coriander. It may be too small for so many herbs, or we just won’t get as much of each as we’d like. But how much of those herbs will we possibly use?

We had to put bricks between the fence and the raised bed to help keep it from falling apart as we couldn’t attach it to the posts. Then we put in the “walkway” in front of it and marked off the outer edges of the bed at the right so the few rogue pea plants I put in over there won’t get stepped on when the decking and shed start to get built. I also put in more red onions back there and filled in the row behind the rocket with white onions.

lavender and rosemary

herbs & bucket o' strawbs

Here is when we started the project.

I seriously want to try this upside down plant idea, I don’t like the bags (Topsy Turvy), I think pots are the way to go, even though its more plastic.

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I have been really interested in trying out British recipes, stuff like cottage pie (it’s not shepherd’s pie unless you use lamb [Gordon Ramsay’s is the best ever]), bread pudding, yorkshire puddings, beef wellington, meat pies, finally getting a pork roast down well, and various offal and “unusual” cuts of meat, like oxtail. After watching some cooking shows and hearing about how good and cheap oxtail is I decided to search for some recipes and make braised oxtail. I don’t remember how I found this recipe. I also don’t know how much one oxtail weighs but I’m going with the 1 kilo I purchased at the butcher’s shop earlier tonight.

Braised Oxtail in Tomato and Red Wine

Take one oxtail, jointed. Brown the pieces well in hot olive oil – remove to an oven-proof casserole. Soften a mirepoix of carrot, celery, onion and garlic in the oil.

De-glaze the pan with a large glass of gutsy red wine (I suggest a decent Rioja), then add to the caserole. Add two tins of chopped tomatoes, bayleaf, thyme and season.

Bring to a gentle simmer, put on the lid and place in a low oven for appx 3 – 4 hours. N.B. It must cook very slowly and gently – I run my electric oven at just over 100C degrees to achieve a tremulous simmer.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool, then flake the meat from the bones and pop back into the sauce. Place in the fridge overnight, which will ripen the flavour, and allow you to skim off hardened fat as you feel necessary the next day.

Warm through when required and dress cooked linguine with the sauce. What’s left of the bottle of Rioja will be a perfect accompaniment.

I’ve also become interested in cooking seasonally, and inspired by the movie Julie and Julia, I kind of like the idea of finding a cookbook of British recipes that will take me through one year’s worth of seasonal cooking. I suspect River Cottage will be my best bet, but my roommate has also mentioned Nigel Slater and I also ran across the magazine Taste Britain, that looks amazing.

It also seems to be quite easy to shop locally here in Britain, there’s a big push to Buy British, and when we’re flipping out about how disgusting the beef industry’s destruction of the Brazilian rain forest is, the fact that you can know that you are buying beef that isn’t shipped overseas, that makes me feel better. G is trying to turn her household slow food/whole food but might not get very far with three young children’s picky appetites to assuage. I fare better with a much more adventurous adult male appetite to deal with.

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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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It’s shocking how fast time has gone by and here I sit, a married lady for twelve days! I wish I had written about the wedding earlier, things are already starting to slip away.

For the first week I kept saying, “Dude! We’re married!” until he was sick of hearing it. But then he’d turn around and say, “You’re married to me! How does that feel?” We thought it wouldn’t change anything, getting married, it would still be just us, right? But there’s a definite feeling of being more closely bonded and shmoopy (though maybe that last bit is just on my part). He has a new-found, highly amusing tendency to tell me I have to turn down his side of the bed and have dinner waiting when he gets home. I laugh at him, or hit him, and then eat some peanut butter. It works.

As for the day itself, I’d been worried I’d forgotten to take care of something, or things wouldn’t go smoothly, and of course they didn’t. It wouldn’t be a wedding without things going wonky. From flowers that arrived packed not in boxes but flimsy paper bags, or with half the buds unopened (even to this day), to forgetting I would like an escort to the registry office, things were mildly difficult from the word GO! The car called to take the Moms and a bridesmaid, and the wedding dress and assorted items never showed up, but luck was with us in a roommate who owned a vehicle and hadn’t yet left for the wedding. The registry office was behind schedule and the groom and best man arrived before the wedding dress did, so I was in my riding outfit. A friend of ours from the States (who spent all her monies to get here!) was with me when she noticed them coming, grabbed me and steered me away, yelling at the groom to go away! but was not heeded.

In fact, he eventually came toward me, spoiling plans to keep us apart until the exact moment I walked in the registry office, but that was a foregone conclusion anyway. We ended up meeting in a lovely hug on flagstones, surrounded by friends, and staring at each other for about twenty minutes before the ceremony started, to The C-Quents’ “Dearest One”. This song is so ideal, a melding of his soul music and my doo wop, all wrapped in one perfect tune! With so many of our friends around us, our moms there, this fantastic song, my cheeks hurting because I was smiling so much, we walked in to begin the first steps to married life.

Wedding cake! An amazingly rich, three-tiered, marzipan-covered Guinness-soaked fruit cakestrocity! Apparently fruit cakes are customary at English weddings; I also had a fantastic vanilla cake layered with strawberry mousse and covered in cream cheese frosting, strawberries and silver decorator balls. It was gone in about 2.5 seconds flat but you bet I claimed the first gigantic piece for myself. Well, I did share a bite, as is traditional. And I ate marzipan cycling caps and cogs off the Guinness cake, as well as all I could manage of the richest cake I’ve ever eaten save flourless chocolate torte.

Dancing, drinking, eating, DJs, friends, bikes out the wazoo, we couldn’t have hoped for a better wedding day and reception! It passed in a blur, but at least we have the photos.

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