5/18/2017

Pub Grub for Bryant and May


 My latest read in the Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery series by Christopher Fowler, is Bryant & May: Strange Tide.  I'm caught up now and will just have to wait (impatiently) for the next in line. Anyway, being as the I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC) theme this week is Pub Grub, it fits right in with my fiction book selection.  The two elderly detectives spend a goodly amount of time in London pubs.  So, we're serving them up a digital lunch of Chicken and Leek pasties.  Though that term is a bit cringe-worthy, harkening as it does to naughty night club strippers.  I would prefer turnovers, empanadas, meat pies, hand pies, take your pick.  Good, tasty finger food at any rate -  the recipe from our IHCC featured chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's scrumptious cookbook, River Cottage Every Day.

Arthur Bryant, the oldest of the detective duo, by 3 1/2 years, is also the funny, wildly eccentric, totally intuitive, odd man out to his straight man, John May, who tries, unsuccessfully, to keep his partner in line with Metropolitan Police standards of operation.  Let's just say that Mr. Bryant operates out of the box.

Christopher Fowler has got to be one of the most inventive, witty, and hilariously funny writers on the scene today.  Mystery or otherwise.  As The Guardian says, he "takes delight in stuffing his books with esoteric facts, together with a cast of splendidly eccentric characters (and) corkscrew plots, wit, verve and some apposite social commentary, they make for unbeatable fun."  Totally on spot. Of course I've raved on previously about his novels, The Memory of Blood, and The Water Room.  Terrific reads.


So, Pub Grub.  I've had some in my day, not a whole lot as I don't really frequent pubs, since my husband doesn't drink.  In London I did enjoy fish and chips with a side of mushy peas in a nice pub near the Tower bridge, in Honolulu there are a couple of Irish pubs we've gone to, where the music was great, and in Ireland we  popped into one or two.  That's about it.   Still, you don't need to be in a pub to serve up some typical pub grub.


I especially liked the way Hugh's recipe separates the slices of chicken from the lightly caramelized onion and cream filling.  When you bite in it's not all smushed together, and the taste is sublime.  I used a thick kefir cream and previously prepared chicken. (you notice how I'm not using the L-O's term anymore?)  My pastries didn't get crimped too beautifully though.  Still they were yummy.


These little meat pies are great to take on picnics, as your lunch to go, or just for dinner with a bit of salad. You'll notice I'm also having mine with a glass of Guinness for more pub authenticity.

And, now a slight diversion on a little known pathway, about that particular sort of Guinness, the Draught, black label with the harp, it gets rid of tape or heart worms in your cat or dog.  I kid you not.  Just 1 oz. per 20 lbs. of critter, due to the particular type of hops, and that Dublin water, which renders worms sterile.  You can do your own research, but here's a link..  I was looking for something more natural, to replace the rather toxic meds from the vet, for our elderly kitty and came upon this info. And, yes the cat is fine now.  End of rave.


I'm linking this post to Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event and to IHCC (I Heart Cooking Clubs), so be sure to drop in and link up yourself or get some good book suggestions and or cooking ideas.
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5/11/2017

Cooking In Her Kitchen


An absolutely delightful book!!  In Her Kitchen, Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World, by Gabriele Calimberti.  Soooo precious, these lovely women in their kitchens with a meal they've prepared for family and friends.  And, what a raft of countries are represented in the pages of his beautifully photographed book.

Gabriele begins with a photo of his own grandmother, Marisa, in her kitchen in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy on one side and a shot of the meal on the opposing page, then her story and recipe follow on the next two pages.  He continues with that format throughout the book, making for 58 evocative profiles and recipes.

All so different, and sympathetically portrayed.  Several of them had me in tears.  No matter their situations these special women show their love for home and family through the food they prepare.  As the publisher's blurb states:

 "The kitchens he photographed illustrate both the diversity of world cuisine and the universal nature of a dish served up with generosity and love. At each woman's table, Gabriele became a curious and hungry grandson, exploring new ingredients and gathering stories....From a Swedish housewife and her homemade lox and vegetables to a Zambian villager and her roasted spiced chicken, this collection features a global palate: included are hand-stuffed empanadas from Argentina, twice-fried pork and vegetables from China, slow-roasted ratatouille from France, and a decadent toffee trifle from the United States."

5/02/2017

Mango Crepes for Life from Scratch


Our Cook the Books Club selection for April/May is Life from Scratch, a Memoir of Food, Family and Forgiveness, by Sasha Martin.  All in all, heart rending, and poignant, but not my favorite memoir.

Just extemporizing here, as it's all another's history, but right at the outset, one would have thought that a woman with "Mom's" independence of mind, and spirited personality would have tucked her kids into their car, with all essentials and split for the West Coast or somewhere in between, rather than give up her precious children once again.  Especially since she regretted turning over her first two to an ex.  It's not explicitly stated, but perhaps she would have lost her welfare?  It happens all the time, for one reason or another, children are put into foster homes. That whole scenario bothered me.  Particularly as we see the awful effects it had on the children of both her relationships, based on Martin's memories. Definitely where forgiveness came into play.

Children without the mother they loved, no father, the business of her beloved brother's molestation and suicide, the coldness of her foster mother (which you can actually sort of understand, taking on two teens, angry and unhappy at leaving their own mother).   An interesting, honest, albeit sad story.


All that aside, and two thirds of the book in, we come to a point of, "Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,"  I loved the whole concept of  her Global Table Adventures, cooking right through the countries of the world, alphabetically.    I would like to give that a try myself, maybe take the remainder of my life, certainly no rush if you're not planning a book from it.

4/26/2017

An Everlasting Meal - Potato, Brussels Sprouts Salad


I have recently been reading a charming little book picked up at a secondhand book shop, An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler.  It's lovely popping into that store when you have a bit of time between things, getting a "free" book for later browsing with a cup of latte.  I say "free" because my account usually has a credit line from books brought in for re-sale.

Books about cooking and food in general, or cookbooks are especially nice when you come away with at least one excellent idea or re-encouragement.  This particular book had more than one, and reinforced something taken away from another recent purchase - A New Way to Dinner from Food 52 - purposefully preparing food ahead of time - not left-overs, combining various previously made foods in creative ways.  Also a good bit on how to "sharpen strategies for turning failures into successes."

Along those lines, I like Adler's note:  "A recipe for onion bread soup from Simple French Cooking by Richard Olney demands stale bread that is 'coarse, vulgar, compact.'  We have all tossed loaves for meeting that description at some point.  Stale bread cannot be bought.  It must be waited for, which gives all dishes containing it the weight of philosophical ballast, as well as dietary and budgetary ones."

And on the subject of adding herbs: "Fresh herbs have always been relied on to perk up whatever needs perking.  Parsley, in particular, has long been called into duty when things were fading:  in ancient Greece, anyone or anything on its way out was said to be 'in need of parsley'."  I often feel that way myself.

Her comments on the issue of steaming versus boiling vegetables, and for how long were also thought provoking as well as practical - "For boiled vegetables to taste really delicious, they need to be cooked.  Most of ours aren't.  Under cooking is a justifiable reaction to the 1950s tendency to cook vegetables to collapse.  But the pendulum has swung too far.  When not fully cooked, any vegetable seems starchy and indifferent: it hasn't retained the virtues of being recently picked nor benefited from the development of sugars that comes with time and heat.  There's not much I dislike more than biting into a perfectly lovely vegetable and hearing it squeak."

Tamar Adler, a former editor at Harper's Magazine, and chef at Chez Panisse and Prune, her writing in this book, on everything from eggs to olives is both wise and insightful, as well as being delicious and thought provoking.  Besides her interesting philosophical ramblings she does include lots of recipes, and with approachable instruction.

4/15/2017

Pasta Cheese Soufflé

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, gotta love that name, is featured chef of the moment at IHCC (I Heart Cooking Clubs); especially focusing on recipes with eggs in them this week, since it's that time of year.  I have a cookbook on order, but for now am going with something found at his BBC site: Spaghetti Cheese Souffle.  So, for Happy Resurection Sunday, we had this - risen eggs!  How appropriate.  I think so anyway.


4/11/2017

Chouquettes - The Postscript


As a bit of an addendum to my previous review post on Gourmet Rhapsody, I am sharing the lovely Chouquettes, which were mentioned as the elusive, wonderful flavor sought in that novelette.  Just couldn't resist making them, and so glad I did after eating about 100 of the little delights for breakfast with my hot cocoa.  They are just small cream puffs without the filling, and baked with coarse or pearl sugar on top.

4/07/2017

A Not So Rhapsodic, Gourmet Rhapsody

 Just finished a little, 156 page, novelette, Gourmet Rhapsody, by Muriel Barbery.  I had read a review of this book last month, which led me to check it out myself.  So, my two cents' worth follows.  Especially as it follows Dinner with Edward, this provided such a contrast in characters.  One a loving  husband, caring father and warm human being, the other a greedy, self-indulgent, self-absorbed and cold hearted individual, who treats his wife, children and most other people with contempt.  We know from the outset that he's an arrogant douche-bag, so no surprises there.

The book alternates the reminiscences of a renowned food critic on his death bed, trying to recall a particular flavor from his past, with chapters from the point of view of various his relatives, acquaintances, etc.  He blatantly  enjoys his power to make or ruin both chefs and restaurants; a man who has spent his life, as Barbery notes, among those erecting "temples to the glory of the goddess Grub."  Definitely an extreme of living to eat, rather than eating to live.  I found the whole thing rather sad, as there are so many in this world who do spend a lifetime seeking pleasure in one form or another, often at the expense of others, dying unregretted, and spiritually bankrupt.

3/28/2017

A Meal in Memory of Edward


I am currently hosting our bimonthly edition of Cook the Books Club, Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship, by Isabel Vincent. This was a book I read last year, and at my re-reading had to wonder -  how does one compose a proper tribute for a guy like Edward?  However, our author has totally nailed it.  I feel as though I was graced to know a wonderful man, just a bit, through her poignant memoir, She brought him to life for us.  Though it was also about her, and what she was going through at the time, that story served as a fine contrast and underscore to Edward's own character, his concern, compassion, ability to love, and enjoyment of life, which he is able to gradually regain after the death of his great love and wife, Paula.

 Isabel's old friend, Valerie, is worried about her grieving father, as as she and her sister are both out of the country. Valerie asks that Isabel look in on him occasionally.   When she does, he invites her to dinner. The book serves as a chronicle of their developing friendship and the dinners he prepared for her, with menus heading up each chapter.

Something Edward told Isabel early on, sums up his attitude toward entertaining, and hospitality:
"The secret is treating family like guests and guests like family,"  And she continues, " No matter how terrible I felt in the moments before I knocked on his door, I always left Edward's apartment with a smile on my face, a sensation that I had just experienced some kind of pure joy."

There was so much to inspire as far as food, lots that I eventually want to prepare.  The meal I finally chose came from near the end of the book, a dinner celebrating the anniversary of Edward and Paula's wedding.  His menu reads:

                         Chicken Liver Pate, Crackers
                          Flounder alla Francese over Steamed spinach
                          Grilled Sweet Potatoes
                           Chocolate Cake
                           Riesling


Well, I have made chicken liver pate, but not right at this point in time.  I'm attaching a photo of it though.  Mine has cognac included as well, and is from Elizabeth David's recipe.

Next adjustment - the flounder - which I couldn't source, but changed out for cod, and instead of Riesling, there was my Carambola wine.  Nonetheless it all came together wonderfully.  I am doing things in a more relaxed mode these days, thanks to a terrific cookbook, Food52 A New Way to Dinner, by preparing parts of a meal ahead of time.

3/21/2017

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower from Food52



What a terrific Cookbook.  I keep telling myself, "You do NOT need any more cookbooks Claudia!!" - however we are making an Executive Exception for this one -  A New Way to Dinner, by Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs, sub-titled, A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead.  This was actually my first acquaintance with Food52.

At the present point in time, I've composed (yes, they're artistic compositions) a number of the recipes in this book, starting with that one shown on the cover, Steak with Arugula, Lemon and Parmesan.  In addition, there were Grilled Pork Chops with Hacked Romesco, which I double hacked, doing a more Mexican take with tomatillos, some wonderful Chicken Fingers (yes, home-made and delicious), Tad's Roasted Potatoes, which I converted to Claudia's Roasted Cassava, a lovely Braised Chickpeas with Celery (another adaptation using lentils instead), some wonderful meatballs (Bob's favorite), the Brussels Sprouts Salad with apples and Anchovy Dressing (pictured below), the wonderful lamb merguez with preserved lemon cream, and my featured Spicy Roasted Cauliflower.