freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Recipe time! because I want to keep in the blogging flow, and can't think of anything else offhand. Also, because these are stv's favourite candidate for occupancy of the Endless Cookie Tin, a birthday present I gave him a few years back, constituting a fancy tin + undertaking to fill same with home-made cookies on demand, which gives me a lovely excuse to undertake wild baking experiments without entirely submerging my house in baked goods I'll never eat. Also, I have been tinkering with these for umpteen iterations and now diverge fairly wildly from the recipe and should probably write it down before age and chronic fatigue gently erase it from my memory.

This recipe relies, ironically enough, on the health food lunatic fringe's market clout having made various pure nut butters freely available in supermarkets over the last few years. It makes a very rich, short biscuit that spits in the general direction of healthy eating in any sense. You can actually make it with any nut butter and relevant nuts (cashews, almonds, the choc almond butter version is good), but the macadamia are best by a fairly long way, probably because of the richness of macadamia nuts.

This is based on Joy of Cooking's peanut butter cookie recipe, but basically I open the book to the right page and then cordially ignore it.


120g butter (at room temperature is easier)
125ml soft brown sugar
125ml brown sugar
1 egg
sploosh of vanilla to taste (I like lots)
260g macadamia butter
360ml flour
2 tsp ground ginger, dash of nutmeg (if you're feeling fancy, substitute a couple of teaspoons of grated orange zest)
1 tsp bicarb
1/2 tsp salt
15ml buttermilk (because there clearly isn't enough fat up in here already)
at least 100g dark chocolate chips
at least 100g coarsely chopped macadamia nuts (150g is good for reasonable levels of decadence)

  • Preheat oven to 180oC (350o F) and line two baking sheets with baking paper.
  • Soften butter a bit by beating with an electric mixer or whizzing in a food processor; add both types of sugar and beat for a few minutes, as long as you would to achieve the traditional "light and fluffy", which it won't achieve because this is coarse sugar, so it ends up looking sandy and a bit clumpy.
  • Beat in egg. Beat in nut butter and vanilla.
  • If you were a higher, nobler human being than I am, you'd sift the flour, spices, bicarb and salt together before adding them, but I never do, I bung them all into the measuring jug together and stir vaguely with a butter knife. Add the dry ingredients in approximately thirds, beating for the first two thirds while adding the buttermilk between them, then mixing in the last third with a butter knife, it gets a bit stiff and will burn out your mixer if you give it half a chance.
  • Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips.
  • You should end up with a stiff, moist drop cookie consistency rather than the usual rollable peanut butter cookie dough. Wodge dollops of mix onto the cookie sheets, leaving them room to spread a bit, and squidge them down a bit flat as they don't actually spread that much.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes depending on the personal proclivities of your oven, they should just be starting to brown at the edges. They are very crumbly when hot, and particularly delectable while still warm. Watch out for the molten chocolate bits.
  • Inhale.

children of the corn

Saturday, 22 October 2016 03:21 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I do not at all wish to think about the campus situation, given that library and lab access was, in fact, disrupted by protests all week, and that clashes with police and security have become violent. My inbox is filled with panicked and plaintive queries, I am exhausted and despairing, and I am forced to contemplate the need to produce four weeks of teaching in virtual form by the end of this weekend. I am therefore going to distract myself with cooking, mostly because I have recently discovered American-style cornbread, and both Jo and Claire are badgering me for the recipe.

I have wanted to make American-style cornbread for years, because it sounds cool, but we don't actually produce cornmeal of the requisite grade in this country, so I've never pulled it together before. However, a couple of months back one of the Tumblr bloggers I read posted a recipe for skillet cornbread with caramelised onions, which looked so good I was moved to do five minutes of internet research, which revealed that you can substitute the cornmeal in cornbread with polenta, which is, in fact, apparently identical to coarse-ground cornmeal. As I retain my pathological inability to follow a recipe with any degree of fidelity, I am posting below my version, rather than simply linking to his, although you can have the original link as well, here. My version doesn't caramelise the onions with actual caramel, but compensates by upping the butterfat quotient of the cornbread itself to more civilised levels, i.e. decadent ones. I will have no truck with skimmed milk. It also reduces the amount of maple syrup, because I think this is better if it's not too sweet. It doesn't seem to make much difference if you use real maple syrup or maple-flavoured golden syrup, you just need that touch of sweetness and flavour.


Onion Topping:
1 tsp brown sugar
3 tbsp butter
1 medium-sized red onion, diced (or sweet white onion if you can find them)

1 egg
250ml full cream Greek yoghurt (you could use low fat if you prefer, but why?)
125ml buttermilk (or normal milk if you must be health-conscious)
3 Tbsp melted butter
3 tblsp maple syrup
250ml polenta
60ml flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 a tin of whole kernel sweetcorn (this is optional, but works very well).

I make this in a weird but magical handle-less stainless steel pan thingy I inherited from Jo(ty) when she and Phleep fled the country - it has a nice heavy base, which I think is the important bit, and you can bung it in the oven owing to the lack of handle. I've also made this in a Dutch oven, i.e. my heavy cast-iron Le Creuset knockoff. You don't need anything with a lid.

  • Preheat oven to 425oF
  • Caramelise the onions: on medium to low heat, melt the 3 tblsp butter and add the chopped onions. Allow to sweat gently and soften for about 20 mins, stirring occasionally, until they start caramelising properly. Cheat and add 1 tsp brown sugar and a little water. Cook another 5 mins or so.
  • Mix dry ingredients (polenta, flour, backing powder, baking soda, salt) in a mixing bowl. Mix yoghurt, milk, melted butter and syrup with the egg in a measuring jug. Fling wet and sinfully fatty ingredients into dry ingredients and mix.
  • Mix in the sweetcorn. You can also fling in things like bits of chilli, chopped peppadews, crispy bacon bits, grated cheese or chopped spring onion, although I wouldn't put them all in at once. I like the spring onion/peppadew version, although the whole corn one is my favourite.
  • Tilt the onion pan to run the butter up the sides, for greasing purposes, and spread the onions vaguely evenly over the bottom.
  • Pour the batter over the onions and bung into the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until firm to the touch and starting to brown. Let it cool for five minutes or so before loosening the sides and inverting onto a plate. You'll end up with a flat round loaf with caramelised onion topping, like a savoury upside down cake.
  • This is damned good with chili, or soup, or in chunks all on its own, and would make a superb and wildly cross-cultural accompaniment to braai. It's also, I warn you, absurdly moreish, I can flatten a whole loaf unaided in 24 hours. If eating it over a couple of days, it works to microwave slices for 20 seconds or so on Day 2, it freshens them and it's better warm.

say cheese

Monday, 21 April 2014 10:57 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
My grandmother (maternal, for the use of) was generally a dreadful cook, firmly in the lesser British tradition of stodge, overcooked vegetables and the general, fixed conviction that being terribly serious about the quality of the food you produce is some sort of decadent European vice and not to be indulged at any cost. (I identify this in sharp contradistinction to the greater British tradition of gloriously hearty fare, which has given us apple pie, superlative pork products and infinite varieties of pudding and cake, and should be celebrated in legend, song and heaped second helpings). I remember with some vividness the particular stodge-bent which led Gran to offer any serious meal with both rice and potatoes in the main course, and with both cream and custard for the dessert. Also, her scones used to be over-baking-powdered to the point where they squeaked on your teeth, and she made pastry which has been an inspiration to me my entire life mostly because I'm damned determined never to reproduce anything resembling hers. It was always a bit leathery, and she used to sugar the hell out of it. Eek. I was greatly fond of my Gran, but not of her food. It's a source of both amazement and pride to me that my mother is a good cook in the teeth of the odds.

One thing that Gran did do well, though, was a cheese scone thing - more of a savoury muffin, really - which originated, I believe, with a great-aunt, and which I have both adopted and adapted to the point where Gran probably wouldn't recognise it and would regard with suspicion and disdain its culinary exuberances. (I have regarded with suspicion and disdain its baking powder excesses and have reduced them forthwith). This is quick and easy and really rather good in its overall effect, a marvellous recipe for making at the drop of a hat when you have guests for tea - I inflict it frequently on the unsuspecting, mostly recently [ profile] egadfly and his Nice Lady in one of their characteristically flying Cape Town jaunts. Since I promised Iza, herewith the recipe.

Gran's Improved Randomised Cheese Scones

  • 360ml flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Whatever other spices grab your fancy – I like a tsp. of smoked paprika, you could try cumin, coriander, dried mustard, etc. Cheese does need a bit of underlining with something that delivers bite.
  • Approx. 1 packed cup grated cheddar or other sharp cheese (you can actually vary this fairly safely, I like them more cheesy than this, and a Parmesan/cheddar mix is a particularly good effect)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tblsp oil (olive oil is preferable for flavour)
  • 180ml milk (buttermilk or sour cream is even better, you could probably also try yoghurt)
  • Bits! Optional, but I like to add any combination of chopped chives, other chopped herbs, chopped spring onions, fried bacon bits, fried red onion bits, toasted pine nuts, chopped peppadews, etc. You could add cooked vegetable bits (e.g. pumpkin or grated baby marrow) for a muffin-like effect. These are also quite good with small chunks of feta or chevin crumbled into them, or, more accurately in the case of chevin, glodged.

  1. Preheat oven to 400oF.
  2. Sift dry ingredients together.
  3. Beat egg, oil and milk together and chuck into dry ingredients. (All the best quick-and-easy recipes don't mind if you chuck stuff in together more or less wholesale - my banana bread recipe, courtesy of Michelle, actually specifies "sift dry ingredients and chuck in.")
  4. Mix (not too savagely, this requires a few goes with a wooden spoon, not a food processor) to make a stiff batter, and stir in cheese and whatever bits you’re flinging in. I usually add a bit more milk if it’s too stiff.
  5. Drop into greased muffin tins in generous dollops, these are better if they’re a bit larger - at least two-thirds fill the tins.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot if at all possible, with butter. They respond quite well to being bunged into a hot oven for a few minutes to refresh them if you're eating them a day or so later. Warning: seriously moreish. They make a damned good accompaniment to soup, too.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
We've fallen into the habit of having a larney sit-down umpteen-course formal meal for New Year's Eve, on the grounds that it gives us something to do until midnight and keeps us all awake rather effectively. Also, we cunningly construct our immediate social circle with a high preponderance of really good cooks, which adds a pleasing level of quality to the proceedings. This year was eleven of us, which is probably the outside edge of numbers for this sort of thing, and, following the traditional French 75s, featured five courses: tapas, a mushroom salad, seared Aisany salmon with noodles, beef with cauliflower, and chocolate mousse. (I made the dessert, which as an experiment featured layers of white and dark chocolate mousse, a considerable departure given my personal belief that white "chocolate" is actually a sort of sad and misplaced cheese. I feel I have grown as a person in recognising, if not actually embracing alternative creeds).

I had originally offered baked Camembert for the second course, but it seemed too heavy for (a) the amount of food we had, and (b) the weather, which has really been ridiculously hot of late. So instead I constructed a mushroom salad thingy based entirely around my new-found addiction to truffle oil, and a vague inspiration which hit during a 4am heat-stressed insomnia bout, during which I lay awake randomly thinking "truffle oil... dark leaf salad... roasted mushrooms... chevin". This was refined on the fly into a fairly cobbled-together rehash of inspiration ingredients, fragments of recipes ganked off the internet, and the last-minute inspired addition of whatever I happened to have in the cupboards and garden. There is absolutely no way in hell I am a scientific cook. I shall proceed to blog the recipe because in defiance of probability it worked really well and I'd like to remember how to do it again.


You need:
  • a couple of packs of dark salad leaves - I used rocket and wild rocket, but you could also use something like baby spinach. It needs a good strong flavour to support the truffle oil. We had normal iceberg lettuce with truffle oil dressing at a restaurant recently, and it was a complete travesty.
  • a handful of spring onions
  • about half a packet of pine nuts, more if you have as much of an addiction to them as I do
  • garlic/herb chevin, as in the soft goat's cheese, enough for a medallion per person
  • a couple of packs of fancy mushrooms, I used mostly shimeji with a few shitaki, but you could equally do this with black mushrooms or portobellini or even oysters. I wouldn't use white button mushrooms, you need something with a strong flavour that takes well to roasting.
  • four heads of garlic
  • half a cup of good quality mayonnaise and a dash of cream, no more than half a cup.
  • lime juice
  • a slice of ciabatta per person
  • olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, chopped garlic

  1. The dressing: roast the heads of garlic. This entails cutting across the whole head towards the top, so the end of each clove is exposed; drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper; place cut side down on a baking sheet and roast at 160o for about 45 minutes, or until the cloves are soft. Squeeze out the softened garlic from the clove cases and mash it with a fork; add to mayonnaise, with a dash of lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Thin with cream until it's a drizzlable consistency allowing you to do exciting nouvelle trails across the salad.
  2. The mushrooms: wash and trim mushrooms, put in roasting tray. Toss with olive oil and chopped garlic, season with salt and pepper. Roast at about 200ofor about 15 minutes, or until cooked and starting to brown. You don't want them too pale; you need the solid dose of caramelised flavour.
  3. The ciabatta: one thick slice of ciabatta per person; brush both sides with oil and a bit of garlic, sprinkle with salt, and grill to make toast.
  4. The salad: wash leaves, remove rocket stalks (I prefer the leaves without the stalks on grounds of texture and ease of eating). You'll need a handful of leaves per person. Use the equivalent of one small spring onion per person, and cut lengthways into thin strips, including some of the green end. Toast the pine nuts in butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly (they burn at the drop of a hat). Make sure you do more pine nuts than you actually need, it's completely impossible to avoid snacking on them as you assemble the salad. Mix greens and spring onion strips in a large bowl; drizzle fairly generously with truffle oil (if you toss this in your hands you end up covered in truffle oil which you are then obliged to lick off, possibly with pornographic sound effects), and season to taste.
  5. Plate the buggers! You need a small plate per person. Assemble salad on one half of the plate: a handful of greens, sprinkle of pine nuts, medallion of chevin on top. Place toasted ciabatta on other half of plate, pile with generous spoonful of roasted mushrooms. Artistically drizzle the garlic mayonnaise in long trails across both the salad and the mushrooms. (I didn't quite manage that, I ran out of cream and the mayonnaise was too glodgy to trail properly).
  6. Ideally you want the mushrooms and ciabatta hot, but it's a bit of a bugger to co-ordinate; it probably works best if you make the dressing ahead of time, cook the mushrooms first, assemble the salad while they're cooking, and leave the mushroom tray in the oven for the few extra minutes while you grill the ciabatta.

I wish I'd thought to photograph the course, it actually looked rather good and seems to have gone down rather well. It was a damned fine meal and a very civilised and appropriately sybaritic way to start the new year. Also, truffle oil. Totally made it to my annual list of Things I Discovered This Year. It's a tiny, expensive, mycorrhizal god.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
There's a particular kind of terminally vague student interacting with whom inserts unnecessary homicidal impulses into my working life. Girl child, wanders through door, encounters my standard bedside-manner query "What seems to be the problem, then?". (Usually followed by "Let's have a look", as I peruse their transcript. I'm totally an abstract sort of doctor). Says she wants to do {X broad admin process}, looks at me expectantly with deer-in-headlights gaze. I carefully explain she needs to do Y and Z procedures. Oh, she says, when I did that there was a problem with P. Gritting my teeth, I suggest she speaks to person Q who habitually sorts out P quite usefully. Oh, she says, she already spoke to person Q who couldn't help because U and V. Restraining my Administrative Laser Glare of Stupidity Vaporising only by an extreme effort, I say tersely, "Right, so actually the problem you want me to help with is U and V, why didn't you say so up front and save us both ten minutes of wasted explanation?" To which she has no response. So I vaporise her. Because really. First thing on a Monday morning and me insufficiently fortified with Earl Grey. What did she expect?

We braaied last night, it being now officially Summer and open to such shenanigans. I made an extra-specially lovely and entirely new salad using fresh broad beans, which I've never actually cooked before. A few months back the Evil Landlord had a burst of Germanic creativity and energy, and made me new veggie boxes for the back courtyard, in place of the old ones, which finally disintegrated after producing about five years' worth of unlikely quantities of baby tomatoes and what have you. It being the depths of winter when the new boxes were ready, I planted beans in a vaguely enquiring sort of way, just to see what happened. They didn't do much for a few months, and then the weather warmed up a bit and suddenly!, jungle. Viz:


Broad beans are the most pleasingly Cthulhoid of creatures, they grow out huge and knobbly and vaguely tentacular, and when you open the pod all the little beans are nested beautifully in a sort of luxurious foam bed. Also, they are prolific like whoa and dammit, possibly at least partly as a result of the sunny hotbox of that back courtyard. This is the haul from yesterday, with a pepper grinder for scale. There's another batch of babies on the vine, maybe half as many, but still lots.


Surprisingly Wonderful Broad Bean Salad

So, you need a bunch of fresh broad beans, the above wasn't quite enough for five people. Once you've excavated the beans callously from their beds, fling 'em into boiling salted water for two minutes, or until the skins just start to split. Skin them. The skins come off really easily, leaving a soft, green, nutty bean behind. Restrain yourself and guests from eating too many just as is. I had no idea fresh broad beans were so good.

Grab a handful of mint and chop finely. Fry up four or five rashers of streaky bacon until crispy, and chop finely. Mix mint and bacon in with beans, carefully, the beans break easily. Grab a double handful of cos or butter lettuce and tear into small chunks. Toss with bean mix.

Construct dressing using Dijon mustard, brown sugar, olive oil and white wine vinegar in your favourite proportions, seasoned with salt and pepper. Toss with salad.

Inhale. The recipe (which I actually pretty much followed, for once) says to serve with pita bread, which is probably worth a try sometime for a light meal in itself.

I am definitely planting broad beans as soon as seasonal wossnames permit. A+, would grow, harvest and enthusiastically consume again.

Subject line from "Poor Boy", also on the Byrne/Eno compilation album. I spent a happy half hour playing some of the songs randomly on the piano yesterday, which solidified my sense that they have surprisingly few actual chords in them given how textured and interesting the sound is. Then I read the blurb on the website again, and remembered, oh yes, the root of the album is explicitly in gospel, which explains a great deal. Vocals dominate, chords are simple, lyrics feature a sort of earthy, emotional reality in vivid images. Still my favourite album of the moment.

charming potato

Sunday, 12 February 2012 10:23 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
You know I make those oven-baked baby potato thingies for braais? Where you halve the baby potatoes and sling them into a pan with garlic and olive oil and whatever other seasonings occur to you at the time (herbs, lemon, spices, the flesh of the living), and bake them until crispy? Well, this evening Jo & I, via the essentially random processes outlined above, accidentally created the best ever version of this. The One True Crispy Potato. The Platonic Ideal. I undertook to blog it quickly before we both forgot what we did. Herewith.

Excessive Potatoes

So, you need:
  • 1kg baby potatoes. (This serves 4 of us. Don't mock). I like the Woolies yellow-fleshed Mediterranean ones, but any will do.
  • A generous splodge of peanut oil.
  • A couple of fairly heaped tablespoons of crushed garlic/ginger mix.
  • Two mediumly ferocious chillis, chopped, seeds included.
  • A mad sprinkling of Thai seven spice, to taste, but I tend to sprinkle a bit wildly.
  • Half a pack of uncooked bacon bits.
  • A couple of tablespoons of honey.
  • A couple of tablespoons of soy sauce.
  • A dash of fish sauce.
  • A generous couple of handfuls of chopped spring onion.
So, you halve the potatoes and sling them into a wide roasting pan sort of thingy. Splosh generously with peanut oil; add ginger/garlic and Thai seven spice, and salt liberally. Whizz the potatoes around with a spatula to coat evenly with oil and seasonings. Chop chillis finely and add. Whizz around some more.
Stick the pan into a preheated 200o oven, uncovered, for 30-45mins. If you remember you could come and mix up the pan a bit halfway through so they brown more or less evenly, but I usually forget.
At a point around 20 mins from the meat coming off the braai, add the bacon bits. Swirl around madly to coat/mix. Sling back into the oven.
Ten minutes later, haul the pan out of the oven and slosh over the potatoes the mixture of honey and soy/fish sauce you have previously prepared by warming the honey very slightly in the microwave before mixing in the soy and fish sauce. Once again, mix madly. Sling back in the oven.
As the meat arrives onto the table off the braai, triumphantly haul the potatoes out of the oven and decant into a serving bowl, making sure to scrape out the somewhat delectable sauce remnants and bits of crispy bacon. Add the chopped spring onions and mix together. (We contemplated adding sesame seeds, but it seemed redundant at this point).
Serve, to universal adulation and overeating.

I have only two things to add, being a bit overwhelmed by too much registration, too much braai, too much braai smoke, and a two-day headache.
(1) The possibilities for Skyrim mods seen in this video are making me drool more than slightly. Also, the editing on that irritatingly catchy tune is sheer genius. (I know that irritatingly catchy tune all too well because my OLs insist on using it every year for their opening presentation thingy. It's a terrible ear-worm even without all the arrow in the knee bits).
(2) I am utterly enjoying Veronica Mars anyway, but the last episode I watched completely made my weekend by developing precisely the 'ship I've been rooting for madly for about half the season. This makes me feel smug, and gratified, and prescient.

I have to note for posterity that my subject line will make absolutely no sense to anyone who doesn't read Pajiba. If you did, you'd know that the site has a running gag where they refer to Channing Tatum solely by the sobriquet of Charming Potato. You have to admit it's terribly apt.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I can't remember if I've linked to the 2011 Lyttle Lyttons before, but I have now. Much innocent glee to be had.

By way of being completely irrelevant either to the previous paragraph or to the subject line (other than in strict dadaist terms), I shall now proceed to blog for posterity my recipe for Spaghetti Bolognaise. This is both to enable SpagBol-loving friends in their own SpagBollular endeavours, and to strike a blow against my increasingly erratic memory, i.e. it's entirely possible that I'll forget how I make it if I don't document it. Also, eccentric recipes with way too much directive detail are incredibly good fun to write up. Please note that this is officially Spag Bol, not Spaghetti Bolognaise, and it's all [ profile] friendly_shrink's fault.


PHILOSOPHICAL PREAMBLE: too many people don't do the right things to mince. As far as I'm concerned, doing the right things to mince includes (a) using ostrich rather than beef (leaner, much better flavour, doesn't encourage cow-production and global warming), (b) browning it properly (grey mince is vile), and most importantly (c) including not only lots of vegetable matter, but enough liquid. Mince dishes should be gloppy. Dry mince is an abomination unto Nuggan.

You need:
  • 1 500g pack of ostrich mince.
  • One or two onions, I prefer red.
  • Two tins of tomato of any description. I like the tomato with garlic, or with basil and oreganum, but you can use tomato/onion or the one with chilli or whatever grooves your ploons. You can also use fresh tomatoes, but you'll need 5 or 6 nicely ripe ones.
  • At least four rashers of reasonably fatty bacon. You have no other fat sources in this dish, really, so can afford to be non-healthy.
  • GARLIC! lots of it.
  • A couple of large carrots (three or four is good).
  • Half a punnet of mushrooms, preferably brown ones or portabellini.
  • A red or green pepper.
  • At least one sachet of tomato paste.
  • A generous couple of glasses of red wine.
  • An oxtail stock cube.
  • Your Seekrit Ingredient, a heaped teaspoon of Bisto, and there will be no heckling from purists, please. It works.
  • Something sweet, either a tablespoon of brown sugar or one of chutney - I prefer hot or chilli chutney.
  • Random seasoning to taste - salt and pepper, certainly, but also and optionally dried or fresh oreganum, ginger, cloves, coriander, whatever.

So, you chop the bacon up reasonably small, and hoy it into a large pan or pot to fry. It should produce lots of lovely bacon fat. If it shows a tendency to stick, fling in some olive oil to show it the way.
Then you turn the heat up to high, and throw in the ostrich mince. You are going for browning it here, and it'll try and stick, so scrape it around with a wooden spoon occasionally. After about five minutes it should be starting to separate and go grey. Give it a stern, repelled glare, and sprinkle the Bisto over it. Stir. Leave to cook, stirring occasionally, until it's actually started to brown, about 10 minutes. (It never does brown properly, you're going to fake actual gravy with stock and tomato).
Chop the onions, chop the garlic finely, fling both into the mince. Stir, cook for a few minutes. Grate the carrots on the large holes in a cheese grater, and fling in. Stir, cook for a few minutes. Are you sensing a theme here?
Turn the heat down to low-to-middle, and add the two tins of tomato and the tomato paste. The bolognaise should should start to glop nicely now. Bung the oxtail stock cube into one of the empty tins and half fill with boiling water. Stir the resulting stock to remove cube lumps, and add to the bolognaise. Stir, assess your relevant level of gloppiness, and fling in a generous couple of splashes of red wine. The sauce should be quite liquid and soupy. If you're not using chutney, add the brown sugar now - tomato-based sauces really need the sweetness to bring out their flavour and cut the acidity.
Now you turn the heat right down to low and leave the glop-monster to bubble quietly, with a lid half on it, until it's simmered down to a slightly less liquid form. At this stage you can chop the mushrooms and peppers fairly small and add them to the mix; they'll cook through in about twenty minutes, so aim to serve just after this time.
Before serving, stir in the chutney, if you haven't already added sugar, to taste, and stuff around with salt, pepper, dried herbs, fresh herbs, random Worcester sauce, whatever else you need to bring the mix up to optimal taste levels. If you've cooked off too much liquid, add more red wine.
Serve with spaghetti, grated parmesan, and a green salad. I like to stir chopped fresh sweet basil into the spaghetti just before serving, the flavour is rather lost if you add it directly to the sauce.
[ profile] friendly_shrink can eat approximately her own bodyweight of this recipe, despite having in general terms the appetite of a small bird, so you can take that as an endorsement if you like.

While on the subject of complete non sequitur, my copy of the Season 5 of Doctor Who (the first 11th Doctor season) has just arrived. [ profile] khoi_boi, is that the one your wife is dying to watch? come and grab it, if so - I'm still in computer game rather than tv-watching mode and won't get to it for a while. Also, Capetonian witterers please to be recommending good ethnic restaurants in the city? I have a Salty Cracker choice to make, and have a yen for something hearty like Indian or Mexican or Spanish or suchlike.

tchokka cheep

Sunday, 20 March 2011 09:17 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I can't make chocolate chip cookies without remembering the first Jo'burg roleplaying tournament I ever played, which was one run by the Wits crew, way before ICON was even a twinkle in Grant's eye. It was a cute tournament. We played pygmies, members of the Tchokka Cheep tribe, tasked with dealing with a crashed spaceship in our jungle. I was in the 'B' team, having had all of about two years of roleplaying experience by then, and we dismally and totally failed to do anything meaningful to the module. I don't even remember who else was in the team - Mike, certainly, possibly Anton? Carlo? I was probably 22, it's a hell of a long time ago now. It was fun. But it's the "Tchokka Cheep! Tchokka Cheep!" chant which stays with me, for some reason.

All of which is an unlikely segue into the fact that [ profile] wolverine_nun asked me for my chocolate chip cookie recipe. Since I am still sinusy and pretty much without brain after a blissful four days of doing damn near nothing, I am delighted to oblige her and incidentally achieve a free blog post without needing to think about it.


(This recipe is based on the Quick Oatmeal Cookies one from The Joy of Cooking, with variations. I think if you stood over me with a whip you might persuade me not to fiddle with a recipe for the space of a single iteration, but it's a long shot).

  • 125ml soft brown sugar (they're currently selling it as treacle sugar, for no adequately defined reason)
  • 125ml brown sugar (i.e. the yellow-brown unrefined sugar with the same granule size as normal sugar)
  • 110g butter (not marg, it does affect the flavour)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tblsp milk
  • 250ml cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (optional, but I think it improves it - you can also stuff around with allspice and cloves if you feel so impelled)
  • 250 ml uncooked quick-cook rolled oats
  • 2 bars Bournville Dark (the 90g slab. And when did those start being 90g instead of 100g? Rotten swizz, if you ask me).
  • 100g pecan nuts

Right, so for various arcane reasons this recipe is much easier to make when the weather's hot, particularly since I just burned the motor out of my hand mixer. To start with, preheat the oven to 350/180, and leave the butter out on the counter for half an hour so it's a bit soft and you don't have to start the process with an ice-pick.

Either sling the butter and both sugars into your food processor and process the hell out of them with the normal blade, OR mix with a hand mixer, OR assault it sadistically with a wooden spoon. By whichever method, or preferred substitute (place in large tub and dance upon with clean wooden clogs?), you want the butter/sugar mix all creamy and slightly light. Add the egg, vanilla and milk to it and give it another whirl so it's even lighter and creamier.

If you're using the processor, at this stage use a rubber spatula to remove the mix and put it into a large bowl. If you're using a wooden spoon or hand mixer you should already be using a large bowl. Oops. Go back and use a larger bowl.

Right, now sift the flour, bicarb, baking powder, salt and spices into the creamed mix. Secret confession: I don't usually bother to sift them. The skies have not yet fallen, nor have the biscuits. Mix it all in, either by hand or by machine - it should be a slightly sludgy batter. Now sling in the oats and mix with a wooden spoon - trying to use a machine at this stage will burn out the motor, see above. You'll end up with a sort of crumbly oaty consistency, not a smooth batter.

Unwrap the two slabs of Bournville Dark and place them lovingly on a chopping board. Take a large, broad-bladed knife, a sharp one, and pray it's a warm day, softening the choc just enough to cut it easily. (Bournville Dark is very hard indeed in temperate climes. See ice-pick, above). Slice the bar in a grid both ways, so that each block is cut into two both lengthways and widthways. The best way to do this is to put the knife across the line you want to cut and lean on it heavily - as I say, works better if the weather is warmer. You could cheat like hell here and use commercial chocolate chips, but I don't like the grade of chocolate they use. Feel free to ignore my chocolate snobbery. Your delicate bar-hackery process should end up with a whole bunch of semi-regular chocolate blocks plus a whole bunch of shavings, bits and what have you. Fling the whole lot into the biscuit mix.

Coarsely chop the pecan nuts - I usually aim to cut them approximately in half down the length and in three bits the other way, but this is not an exact science. You want chunks of pecan nut of a pleasing size to bite upon unexpectedly in a cookie. Sling them into the mix.

Mix the mix a bit with a wooden spoon to make sure everything is more or less distributed. Your texture here should be a sort of sticky-together oatmealy not-quite-batter full of pleasing nutty/choccy chunks, i.e. it's not smooth. It shouldn't be smooth. It can't be smooth. Abandon smoothness all ye who enter here.

Chocolate chips in cookies melt and stick like evil-minded glue demons, so if you have teflon-coated baking sheets I strongly recommend you put down a layer of baking paper, or else the burned chocolate bits will lift the coating off the sheet. Take teaspoonfulls of the mixture and plop onto the paper in rows, leaving a good 5cm between dollops - they spread. I find the biscuits are a bit more regular and morphous (as in, not amorphous) if you very vaguely shape the dollop with your fingers before you drop it, so it's a sort of roughly spheroid thingy. Alternatively, cookie shoggoths are a valid lifestyle choice.

Bake for about 10 minutes, until they are starting to brown. They'll be a bit soft as they come out the oven, but harden and become crispy as they cool. The optimum time to nosh them is about ten minutes after they've emerged from the oven, when the chocolate is still soft but won't actually take the roof off your mouth.

Ways to mess with the recipe: responds well to flavour modulation, e.g. orange zest instead of the ginger, or fresh ginger in addition to the ginger. The original recipe doesn't include nuts and says the chocolate chips are optional, but they're not, trust me.

Let me know how they turn out!
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Noxious day, again, continual students. My job is pretty much the pure paradigm of continuous partial attention. In addition, today's particular horrors included a high-level faculty meeting at which I was forced to defend Admin Streamlining Innovation #Umpty-thing against (a) determined and idiosyncratic opposition, (b) determined incomprehension and (c) determined and rather aggressive irrelevance. Academics. I do love them, really. Fortunately reasoned explanation gave me enough support on (a) and (b) that I carried the point. On (c) I was able to bring to bear my new favourite arguing technique, which is to pretend the aggression never actually happened and to calmly, quietly and in a subsequent email forum be sweetly reasonable and explanatory. This made lions into lambs with gratifying swiftness. I'm feeling exhausted, but faintly smug.

[ profile] first_fallen asked me for my crème caramel recipe earlier today, so I shall continue the cat/cream connection, and incidentally soothe my soul, by posting it here for posterity. Apart from being my Evil Landlord's favourite and one of those perfect comfort foods, crème caramel is actually surprisingly easy to make. No blowtorch required, even. Go on, try!


I should add that my extremely syrup-stained copy of this has an annotation which reads "NB Claire doesn't like" in an anxious scribble. The secret of successful hostessing is to keep a hitlist of guestly preferences. Claire also doesn't eat green pepper. I should also add that I don't remember where this recipe originated, except that I'm fairly sure I got it from my mother extremely back in the day when I raided her personal handwritten cookbook for my first year in digs. Hi, Mum!

You need:
  • 250ml cream
  • 300ml milk
  • vanilla pod or extract or a squirt of that gorgeous vanilla paste stuff
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 oz sugar, for a value of "oz" which reads "a rounded tablespoon"
Important note: don't stress too dramatically on the quantities, this seems to work within the nearest 20ml or approximate spoon size. Important other note: the Evil Landlord holds that this dessert is better with 550ml cream, rather than half cream half milk. I find it too dense and solid. We argue. YMMV.

So, you need a smallish pot with a fairly solid base, and an ovenproof dish about (gods, now I'm going to have to go and measure it, aren't I? this posting recipes lark is a Huge Responsibility) 22cm across and 5cm deep. Pyrex is nice because you can see the layering. You'll also need an equally deep ovenproof dish or pan which will hold the first one comfortably. You will need to remember to preheat the oven to 150oC (300oF) round about now, and put the rack in the middle. (NB yes, this is a very slow oven. If you cook custard too fast it tends to curdle).

Put 4 oz sugar into the pot and place on medium/high heat. Restrain your urge to add water, you are caramelising sugar, which only needs sugar and heat. It is COMPLETELY VITAL that you stand over this like a hawk. A hawk with a wooden spoon. A wooden-spoon-equipped hawk with a sugar fetish. You cannot let your attention waver. The first minute or so is uneventful, I usually give the completely boring and unmoved sugar a couple of stirs just to break up any lumps and persuade myself I have a purpose here. However, as the sugar heats up, which it will do logically enough from the bottom, you will see it start to turn liquid and transparent. Give it a stir, whereupon it will form hard sugary lumps. Ignore this, it's a necessary ugly stage in making beautiful lethal molten syrup. Leave for another ten seconds or so, and stir again as it melts. Keep doing this. You'll have to give the stirs a fair amount of elbow, this stuff sticks to itself and the spoon - I tend to scrape it all off with a knife at intervals. Gradually the syrup will increase and slowly melt the lumps of sugar - towards the end you should be stirring continuously. If the syrup turns too dark a brown or starts to smell as though it's thinking of smelling burnt, turn the heat down and stir like crazy. You should end up with all the sugar a molten caramelised golden syrup. DO NOT splash this on yourself. It's the equivalent of your own organic kitchen napalm, it both sticks and burns like a fiery glue demon.

Pour the molten syrup quickly but carefully into the ovenproof dish. If you scrape the pot fairly quickly you should get most of it before it hardens into toffee, which it will cheerfully do at the first opportunity. While it's still molten, tilt the bowl so that the bottom and as much of the sides as possible are covered while it's still running. Put the pot and spoon immediately into water and leave to soak off the toffee for ten minutes or so. Have a celebratory gin: that was the hard part.

Right. Take a medium sized mixing bowl. Break the four eggs into it and add the remaining two spoons full of sugar. Whisk like mad with one of those balloon whisks. It should be well mixed and slightly frothy, although there's no real point in serious whiskage at this stage, you're making custard, not sponge cake.

Put the milk and cream into the rinsed pot and put back on the stove on medium/high. If you're using a proper vanilla pod, split it and add it to the milk as it heats. You'll get little black vanilla grains in the custard, but I consider this to be a sign of authenticity and absolutely worth it. You don't quite want to boil the milk: you want it to form a skin on top and start to foam a little at the edges. Remove from the heat and take out the vanilla pod if you're using it. If you're using essence or paste, add it at this stage. (Variation: this is surprisingly amazing with 1 tsp orange blossom water in place of vanilla).

Take the whisk in your left hand and the hot milk pot in your right, and steady the egg/sugar mix bowl with your third hand, your foot or a passing cat. Pour the milk in a fairly thin stream onto the egg/sugar mix, whisking like mad as you do so. This is how you avoid Evil Lumping. Once all the milk is in, give it a few more whisks for the hell of it.

Right. Now. Place the ovenproof dish containing the syrup coating into the larger pan. Pour cold water into the larger pan until it comes about halfway up the side of the smaller dish. You get the most amazing patterns in the syrup as it cools and cracks while you're doing this: about half the time mine makes little scallop/scale patterns, for unfathomable but presumably sound reasons having to do with Basic Physics. What you have just created is the fancy French cooking apparatus called a bain marie, a water bath: you are surrounding the custard with water to regulate the temperature and cook it gently rather than quickly. (Works like a dream for cheesecake, too).

Now pour the whisked custard mix into the dish on top of the set caramelised sugar. (If you've had a Lump event or are feeling fancy you can strain it, but I never do). Put the whole bang shoot - pan, dish, custard - carefully into the oven. It will attempt to slop. Restrain it with the statuesque calm of your motions.

Bake at aforementioned slow temperature for 45 minutes. Don't overcook, it goes a bit tough. It'll still wibble gently when you take it out; this is as it should be, it'll set up a bit as it cools. When it's cooled you should technically be fancy and turn it out like a mould, so that the caramel tops it, but I never bother to do this, mostly because I prefer it hot and it falls apart if you try to turn it when it's still warm. It's also very good chilled, though.

It's possible to make this in small ramekins rather than one big dish, but it's far trickier; the caramelised sugar is quite difficult to spread evenly in multiple dishes before it's turned to toffee. The cooking time is also much shorter, obviously - just under half an hour usually does it.

Recipe repeatedly stress-tested under Germanic conditions for slightly over a decade, and guaranteed Evil Landlord-friendly. Contents may settle in stomach. Void where prohibited by law.

up the anti

Sunday, 30 January 2011 01:12 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
It's been a torrid week, and the coming one will be worse. I'm tired, grumpy and all peopled out, and inclined to be very, very short with stupid questions. Is it just me, or is it increasingly depressing to realise that things one takes for granted - grammar, politeness, a modicum of altruism, actually reading important texts or listening to important lectures - are not equally accepted as a baseline of behaviour by about 80% of the people you meet? I must be getting old, and set in my ways. There was a particularly egregiously horrible advertising poster in the supermarket this morning, threatening to "UP THE ANTI!" on value, or prices, or quality, or something. Instead of inciting me to righteous mockery it made me want to cry. It's not helping that the English department, bless its snakepit soul, doesn't want me to teach again this year. Am feeling rejected and non-academic.

This is all very low and blue, so I shall attempt to introduce a more cheery and colourful note with a rather delectable recipe I recently invented. Please excuse the smugness of tone in the ingredients list, I need all the happy I can find right now.


You need:
  • One medium butternut you grew in your garden, and practically had to run down and tackle owing to the speed with which the vines are streaking for the borders.
  • A double handful of the baby tomatoes your tomato vines are producing in insane quantities possibly reflecting a new religious cult of some sort.
  • Three or four spring onions which are growing in your garden with a ridiculous enthusiasm given that in some cases they have to grow out from under the butternuts.
  • A handful of sweet basil which manages to grow manfully in your garden despite being repeatedly sat on by the cats.
  • A couple of generous dollops of marscapone. (If I could find a way to grow this in my garden I would).
  • A couple of rashers of fatty bacon. (You could leave this out, I suppose, if you were adhering to strict vegetarian principles for inscrutable reasons of your own).
  • A generous slosh of olive oil.
  • Garlic to taste, i.e. lots. Five or six cloves at least.
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper, anything else that grabs your fancy and looks as though it might work with the above.
Wash the butternut to remove random cat hairs, and halve lengthways. Scoop out the seeds and a little bit of the pulp to leave a hollow down the middle. I usually shave off a small piece of the round, curved underneath part so it sits firmly and doesn't rock the boat and tip off all the stuffing at inopportune moments. Throw the seeds etc. into your compost with a brief benediction.

Chop up the tomatoes, spring onions, basil and garlic and mix together. Add the marscapone and mix. Cut the fat off the bacon and reserve; chop the bacon and add to the mix. Add salt and pepper in appropriate quantities.

Slash quite deeply into the cut side of the butternut in a cross-hatch pattern or angular mystic runes or whatever your preference is. Slosh olive oil generously onto the cut surfaces and sprinkle with salt and pepper. It sometimes pays to rub it in a bit so you season into the slashes.

Pile the tomato/marscapone mixture into the hollows and mound it generously above until you've used up all the stuffing. You should pretty much aim to cover the whole cut surface, but peaking along the middle of the length. If there's any stuffing left over you're not trying. For extra decadence, drape the bacon fat over the top. Aesthetics demand that you remove this before serving, and principles of non-waste demand that you eat it. It'll be melt-in-the-mouth crispy. Darn.

Bake uncovered at about 200o for about an hour, or until the butternut is soft. This always takes longer than you think it will. It helps to haul it out the oven every twenty minutes or so and baste it with its own evil, fatty pan juices. You are aiming for all the artery-hardening marscapone goodness to ooze down into the flesh. In more ways than one, see expanding hips.

Slice into fat 2cm-slices to serve as a side dish. Or eat an entire half yourself for a not particularly light supper. Remember to wipe your chin.

Documentary evidence of the Insane Tomato Explosion follows. This is the second time this week I've filled this blue plastic bowl, and there must be almost as many still ripening on the vines.

Also, more demented butternuts in preparation. Observe the spring onions scrabbling out from under.

freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I don't post enough recipes on this blog. I like cooking, a lot of you like cooking, I also like tinkering with recipes in ways the originators wot not of, and probably never intended, and which I never preserve for posterity because I never make things the same way twice. Blogs, of course, are invented with posterity in mind. If you don't like cooking, feel free to stop reading now.

I also like buying random cookbooks at the cheap book places, the most recent acquisition being something called Practical Rice Dishes, which is a nicely no-nonsense sort of title. I have subsequently conceived an addiction for my version of their tomato-rice soup thingy. Free-form recipe follows, with the caveat that I don't do exact quantities much with this sort of thing, and also become awfully optional and madly inventive with some of the ingredients.


  • A couple of red onions
  • Four or five cloves of garlic (peeled and whole, not chopped, and more if you're a serious garlic fiend, as I am.)
  • A couple of carrots, scraped and chopped into smallish bits.
  • A dash of olive oil.
  • A couple of reasonably bitey chillis, chopped but not deseeded (optional, not in original recipe, but Thai food has corrupted me and I like a bite).
  • A few rashers of bacon, or a couple of bacon steaks (this wasn't in the original recipe, but really works, and allows me to look all smug when the Evil Landlord does his trademark rummage through the dish and plaintive query about where the meat is. You could fry up the fat from the bacon and use it in place of the olive oil, if you wanted).
  • About a cup and a half of brown rice, and it's even better with a brown/wild rice mix
  • About a stock cube's worth of chicken stock.
  • A tin of chopped tomatoes of some sort.
  • Two or three whole tomatoes, or a couple of handfuls of baby tomatoes, halved and roasted
  • A couple of tablespoons of tomato paste (I use one of those 50g sachets)
  • A whole stick of cinnamon (this is actually essential)
  • Two or three fresh bay leaves, or equivalent dried. (My laurel tree is flourishing proverbially, which means I tend to pity people who have to rely on dried bay leaves. Scrunch the fresh ones in your fingers, they release more flavour, and make your hands smell edible for a bit).
  • A sort of a generous couple of pinches of soft brown sugar (note to self, try this with honey sometime)
  • A handful of fresh oreganum or marjoram, or even basil, washed and finely chopped
  • Optional thingy I discovered last time I made it, and which is delectable: about a tablespoon of Thai roasted chilli paste. Added bonus, it's an excuse to eat the stuff out of the jar with a spoon.
So, find a large pot. Chop the onions to medium small, peel the garlic cloves but leave them whole. Heat the olive oil in the pot on medium heat, and fry the onion, garlic and carrot bits together until the onion starts to do that translucent thing. Chop the chillis smallish and add, together with the seeds. Don't rub your eyes at this point. Aargh. Add the chopped bacon steak or bacon, and fry a few more minutes.

Add the rice to the frying stuff and mix it up; fry gently for a few minutes, mostly to introduce the rice to the flavours in a sticky, intimate sort of fashion.

Add the tinned tomatoes and the chicken stock, with enough water to make sure the rice is covered. Add the tomato paste, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and sugar (or honey, if you're ahead of me on this experimental thing). Stir madly. Add more water so it's soupy rather than gloppy.

Turn pot down to extremely low simmer, put lid on, leave it. Come back every ten or fifteen minutes or so to give it a stir and add more water if necessary, the rice absorbs it. This stage will take probably around 45 minutes.

Add the roasted tomatoes (you could also add fresh, but you'd need to cook it a bit longer) and mix in. Fiddle around with the seasoning: it'll probably need salt. Add more water to retain the soup consistency.

When you think it's pretty much ready to eat, add the fresh herbs and the chilli paste. Fish around for the cinnamon stick and bay leaves and feed them to your compost heap. Adjust seasonings - probably more salt, rice eats salt. You should have a subtle but detectable cinnamon flavour coming through, and the rice for some reason makes the tomato base velvety. Freshly ground black pepper good at this stage. There will be soft, sweet, whole garlic cloves swimming around in this: I consider this to be a bonus.

Serve in deep bowls with grated cheese if you like that sort of thing, which I sometimes do, and with buttered crusty brown bread if the rice isn't carb enough for you. One of these days I'll try adding bunches of chopped-up chorizo just before serving.

This reheats well and the flavours marinate in the fridge overnight; add more water when you reheat, the rice will have absorbed it all.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
It becomes urgent to post this, because in return [ profile] mac1235 and [ profile] tngr_spacecadet will give me more Doctor Who! *fangirlfangirlfangirl*. I'm dying to see the Agatha Christie episode.

(traditionally made by way of celebrating the calorie-burning chilliness of Cape winter)
(adapted from Ina Parman's recipe)

250ml caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tblsp apricot jam
300ml flour
1 tsp bicarb
pinch salt
30 ml melted butter
1 tsp vinegar
125ml milk
(1 heaped tsp ground ginger, optional)

250ml cream
125g butter
125ml brown sugar
100 ml orange juice
30 ml sherry
(actually, you have about 130ml of liquid to play with as seems good to you - you can use any mix or proportion you like of orange juice, sherry, rum, brandy, weird liqueurs, whatever - be creative. I wouldn't personally recommend gin).

Right, so you sling together the eggs and caster sugar and beat them like hell, until they do that creamy frothy thing. (I use the whisk wossnames on the food processor and let it rip for a couple of minutes, usually while the guests shout to drown out the noise). Then add the apricot jam and give it another whirl - if you don't mix it properly you'll get weird jammy bits. You should, incidentally, use that hyper-smooth and unnatural low-quality apricot jam, anything with chunks of real fruit in it is (a) a waste, and (b) doesn't work, said chunks being too heavy for the mixture. If you've used a food processor you'll need to decant the egg mix into a largish bowl at this point.

Sift together the flour, bicarb, salt (and ginger, if using) into a small bowl, and leave with sieve poised. Mix the milk, vinegar and melted butter in a jug, completely ignoring the fact that the butter will promptly solidify and make bits. Let it, it's just teasing.

Sift about a third of the already-sifted dry ingredients into the eggy creamy apricotty mix. Carefully fold it in. Add about a third of the liquid mix and do likewise. Repeat procedure twice more with remaining two-thirds of both mixtures, alternating them, to give you an equation which looks something like P=3(FD/3 + FL/3) which you have arrived at by a process almost, but not quite, completely unlike integration. ([ profile] wolverine_nun, stop wincing. I can reduce that equation to P=F(D+L), but it would hardly be useful). By the end of it you should have everything mixed together and no ingredients left except those for the sauce. Now is the time to realise that you should have turned the oven on to 180oC before you started all this.

Reverently tip the fluffy mixture into a greased baking dish - I use a squarish pyrex one about 20cm across, and it'll need to be at least 6cm deep or you'll have interesting sauce catastrophes later. Bake at 180oC for about 45 mins, or until it does the requisite springy-back cooked-cake thing when prodded.

While it's cooking, heat the sauce ingredients in a saucepan - you don't want to actually boil them or you'll get fudge, but you need to melt the sugar and butter and reduce the whole thing to a smooth creamy evil artery-hardening sauce. When the cake is cooked, poke it lavishly with something to make deep holes in it, right through to the bottom (I use a kebab stick), which will assist in the absorption of said evil sauce, and sling said sauce over it. You'll then need to leave it on the counter for about ten minutes for the cake to slurp up the sauce. It's usually worth standing over it with a wooden spoon as guests tend to stick their fingers in to sample the sauce, and rapping the knuckles of unrestrained samplers is one of a cook's innocent joys.

This makes a dense, rich, thoroughly unhealthy pudding, traditionally served hot with custard, only I'm usually too lazy to make the custard. And dashed good too.

Last Night I Dreamed: epic quests with a group of animal companions. Hills, rivers and Significant Fountains were involved. Possibly also picnics. Memo to self: must go and see Prince Caspian.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Actual time to post! Owing, mostly, to waking up ungodly early and wandering up to campus at 6.45am. The rest of the day is solid curriculum advice and wrangling academics, the new sport.

This made my morning. Teh Internets unleash random anarchic meme-activity on Scientology. In V-masks!

Also, because you're all very sweet and supportive of my narcissistic maunderings:


250ml flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 heaped tsp ground ginger
1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
180ml brown sugar
2 heaped tblsp cocoa
200ml milk
2 tblsp oil
100g chopped pecans or walnuts
100g chopped dark chocolate

250ml brown sugar
60 ml cocoa
350 ml boiling water
100 ml sherry or rum

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cocoa; stir in sugar. Mix in milk, oil, fresh ginger, nuts, chocolate. Spread cake mix in oven-proof dish (I use a large, flat, squarish pyrex about 25cm across). Mix the brown sugar and cocoa for sauce, and sprinkle over the top of the cake mix. Pour sherry or rum over, and then boiling water. Bake at 350o for about 45 mins, or until it resembles a chunk of cake floating in a pit of bubbling black chocolate tar. Eat, cautiously, in smallish servings, with cream or ice-cream.

You can also mess quite nicely with this recipe - for example, it works rather well to substitute grated orange peel for the ginger/ginger, and substitute orange juice and/or cointreau for some of the boiling water/booze.

Last Night I Dreamed: I was having a baby, by caesarian section, in a beautiful bedroom in a mansion somewhere, with the assistance of a nice doctor. No pain or anything, but halfway through I had the sudden thought that hell, I was going to have to share my bedroom with the baby, I really hadn't thought this through at all. Then I thought, no, wait, there's no way I'd randomly have a baby on my own given my circumstances, this is clearly a dream, upon which I woke up in considerable relief.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
'Tis the season for random recipes. Ye gods, 'tis July. I cannot condone this helter-skelter promiscuity of the months, just lately, even if my Star Wars calender has just flipped over from June's images of Anakin Skywalker being petulant (new trilogy, ptooey) into the far more acceptable July collage of Luke and Han. But, since Scroob asked, and because I bear her no malice for her unaccountable alien marzipan fondness, there shall be culinary distraction from the wanton passing of time. Chocolate Pear Tart recipe lurks decadently within. )

Jo&stv came round last night and wantonly cooked a large Thai meal in our kitchen, a process auxilliary to the main point of the evening, which was getting our Friendly Psychologist drunk. (She's stressed about the immanent arrival from overseas of the other half of an internet relationship). Much fun was had, except that I seem to be labouring under some kind of weird virus which means I became heavily nauseous, with extreme room-spinnage, on two G&Ts. (This is absurd. I can hold my gin, usually in a large bottle cradled protectively to my chest.) I'm still feeling faintly ick, tired and achey today, which is annoying since this evening sees Part 2 of the FP Distraction Program, which is more gin, and Indian take-out, at her place. I may be a small, pale, quiet presence in a corner.

Despite quasi-viroid ickness, I did this day finally and utterly kill not only the 2500 words on Disney (with a stake through its heart, at a crossroad, with a rude inscription about consumerist manipulation on its headstone) but an additional 250+ on John Crowley (this one buried beneath a gallows in an alternate universe, with a small, enigmatic hieroglyph). How the hell my Nice Editor Man expects me to be definitive on Crowley in 250 words is utterly beyond me. Crowley's writing is dense, weird, literary, intellectual and rife with reference to folklore, mythology, fable and gods know what else. I'm still reeling from Aegypt and that was months ago, not to mention the complete quasi-Victorian folkloric rehash that is Little, Big. 250 words, tchah, I say! He got 317, and cheap at the price.

(Actually, the Nice Editor has just mailed me back to thank me for the entries, with a sweet little punning riff on the fact that they're "outstanding" - indeed, he says, outstanding in quality, not lateness. I preen.)


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