11/08/2018

Pear, Pistachio and Rose Cake At My Table

Some one of you out there mentioned this cookbook, At My Table, by Nigella Lawson.  Who can be blamed??  I checked it out of the library, then was forced to buy my own copy.  Me, who had earlier determined that there was a surfeit of cookbooks around here. It was just kismet I suppose.  The too lovely photographs and too delicious sounding meals.  Wonderful concoctions I needed to try for myself.  One of which was this Pear, Pistachio and Rose cake.  And another, her Indian-Spiced Chicken and Potato Traybake.  Both turned out so scrumptious. 

Now I have all the rest of Nigella's book to have fun experimenting with.  Because, of course, as must be admitted, and along with many of you, I actually get inspiration more than anything else from a good cookbook; it's a take-off point.


Though for the cake, I followed her directions exactly.  Recipes for cakes, and most baked goods are an area of cooking where it's important to respect the creator, at least for the first go around.  Glad I did, as it turned out as promised, "a delicately perfumed confection."  There are 3 pears ground up in there!!  As well as almonds and pistachios. I had a group of women over and we all thoroughly enjoyed this floral delight. Bob too, as we saved him a piece.


Luckily, I had just enough ground almonds in my freezer, so didn't need to improvise, grinding my own.  Though whirring the pistachios up in the blender was easy enough. The whole endeavor was simply and easily done; made the day before and topped before serving.


There was also a piece left for me the next day.  Perfect with a glass of iced tea, a new favorite of mine, Numi's Chocolate Rooibos.


Her Indian-Spiced Traybake is a form of cooking I've heard called a sheet pan dinner.  And probably what you, like me, just called a toss it together one pan meal.  Simple, quick and very delicious.  Can easily be adapted to what you have on hand.  I added in extra sweet red peppers, and used half sweet potatoes from our garden along with the regular white potatoes the recipe called for.


Nigella's combination of mostly whole seeds and spices in this was especially nice, including her signature nigella seeds, which I normally just use to top my bread. And the addition of lime zest and juice were just right, offsetting the unctuousness of the chicken.

I'm sharing this post over at Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, and with the November Foodies Read Challenge, hosted by Heather.  Be sure to stop by for good book suggestions, and some yummy food.

10/19/2018

The Algerian Couscous Connection

Don't you love finding terrific new authors?  Often I'll read the review for a brand new book, not even out yet, (which can be frustrating), but will go find what other books that author has written, read those reviews and perhaps check  one out.  Here's an enjoyable read by Juliet Blackwell, The Paris Key. first of a new series.   I noticed she had other books in series that didn't appeal (witches, ghosts and paranormal fiction), but this one definitely did, and I've already reserved her follow up to it.

A young American woman, Genevieve, with family ties to France, and even to Algeria, returns to Paris after the breakup of her marriage.  The city was where she spent some happy time as a troubled adolescent, with her loving aunt and uncle.  When he dies, she returns to find solace there once more, wearing around her neck an unusual key she inherited from her mother.  I loved all the connections, between family lost and found, secrets kept and finally revealed, past and present.  From the publishers:

"As a girl, Genevieve Martin spent the happiest summer of her life in Paris, learning the delicate art of locksmithing at her uncle’s side. But since then, living back in the States, she has become more private, more subdued. She has been an observer of life rather than an active participant, holding herself back from those around her, including her soon-to-be-ex-husband.

10/10/2018

Panellets de Pinyons for Dia de los Muertos


For this month's round of our Eat the World Recipe Challenge we are visiting Spain.  At least I am.  Actually, the theme is meant to be Halloween in a country of our choice.  And I picked Spain, partly due to a nephew recently moved there and another, his brother, visiting at the moment.  Instead of the American traditional  Halloween, Spain celebrates with a three day holiday honoring deceased relatives.  It is a time when family members come home to pay their respects to the dead, decorate tombstones with flowers, prepare meals together and attend church.  The festivities kick off on October 31st with Dia de las Brujas (Day of the Witches), continues with Dia de Todas los Santos (All Saints Day) on November 1st, and finishes off with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on Nov. 2nd.  To discover what all is happening for the holiday in Spain, go to Halloween in Spain for a ton of celebrations and attractions.

9/27/2018

My Own Spicy Soup for Sourdough

Our latest Cook the Books Club read has been Sourdough by Robin Sloan.  And what a fun, often wacky, and very entertaining one it has been!  I loved this book, even reading it the second time, picked up stuff missed on the earlier go round.

Basically, Lois, a young computer nerd, software programmer, recently graduated, is working at a moderately interesting job, until being recruited at a much higher salary.  Lois moves from her home in the Midwest, to a new job in San Francisco.  She becomes absorbed into the Silicone Valley culture at a large robotics corporation, is soon feeling dysfunctional, over worked and unhealthy, with a permanently clenched stomach.

Then Lois encounters a pair of strange foreign, "fast food" marketers, near her apartment, who feature 2 items on their delivery menu.  The Spicy Soup and a Spicy Sandwich, or the Combo (the Double Spicy). Near magical items, as it turns out, which restore her body and mind.

9/10/2018

Argentinean Tamales for Eat the World

This month at Eat the World we are featuring Argentina. Just the name makes me want to sing along with "Don't Cry for Me Argentina".  Madonna did a fantastic job as Eva Peron in Evita.  I loved that movie.  Though I meant to review a book connected with the country to go along with my post, it didn't happen, so the film trailer link will have to do.

 I found the perfect recipe for Argentina, with some history, posted a few years back by Rebecca at From Argentina with LoveHumitas en Chala.

9/04/2018

Spicy Chicken from The Dollhouse

I just finished The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis, a fine tale, blending the old with the new.  A present day reporter begins researching the lives of women who had lived at a New York City women's hotel, the Barbizon, after hearing the poignant story of an older woman, still living there, while she is herself in residence. I loved this book - a terrific story with mystery, romance, history and some food as well.

From the Publishers:
"Fiona Davis's stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City's glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where in the 1950s a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side by side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon's glitzy past.
 
When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren't: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn't belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she's introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that's used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.
 
Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby's involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman's rent-controlled apartment. It's a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby's upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose's obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed."

8/17/2018

Big Lou's Butteries or Bacon Rolls


If any of you are familiar with the novels of Alexander McCall Smith, particularly the 44 Scotland Street series, you will have heard of Big Lou.  She is a delightful character, proprietor of a little Edinburgh coffee shop.  All of his characters are well drawn and unique, some uniquely annoying, some just charming and others fascinating.  Big Lou is an autodidact with a heart as big as herself.  

This particular book, A Time of Love and Tartan, is 12th in his series. As per McCall Smith's style, it is a humorous, even comic, delightfully  thought provoking, ramble between the lives of his various recurring characters, couples and families, living at 44 Scotland Street, in their various flats.  Some others are featured as well who have moved on, but remain a part of things.  Of course, I would recommend you begin the series with the first novel, 44 Scotland Street.  Such enjoyable reading, all of them.  From the Publishers:
 "When Pat accepts her narcissistic ex-boyfriend Bruce's invitation for coffee, she has no idea of the complications in her romantic and professional life that will follow. Meanwhile, Matthew, her boss at the art gallery, attracts the attention of the police after a misunderstanding at the local bookstore.
Whether caused by small things such as a cup of coffee and a book, or major events such as Stuart's application for promotion and his wife Irene's decision to pursue a PhD in Aberdeen, change is coming to Scotland Street. But for three seven-year-old boys--Bertie Pollock, Ranald, and Big Lou's foster son, Finlay--it also means getting a glimpse of perfect happiness..
Alexander McCall Smith's delightfully witty, wise and sometimes surreal comedy spirals out in surprising ways in this new installment, but its heart remains where it has always been, at the center of life in Edinburgh's New Town."

So, back to Big Lou, who was preparing bacon rolls when I had to stop reading, and make a note to do some foodie research.  Before moving to Edinburgh, Lou's first job was a long term stint in an Aberdeen Nursing Home.  Here we had a background clue to the type of roll she might have been making.  It seems Aberdeen is known for a particular breakfast treat - rolls known as butteries, due to the high fat content. These needed to be made and tried.  As it turns out they're quite tasty, a sort of cross between roll and Croissant, good with jam as well as bacon.  An egg might also be sandwiched in there.




Aberdeen Butteries
250g butter
125g lard (or all butter, which is what I did)
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
500g flour
2 teaspoons of dried yeast
450ml warm water
Pinch of salt

This Aberdeen buttery recipe should make about 16. (I cut mine in half, so as not to eat too many.)

1. Make a paste from the yeast, sugar and a wee bit of the warm water and set aside. (Note - I don't know about the "wee" bit, I used about 1/4 cup, then added the rest of the water with the flour, as I didn't think a "paste" would bubble properly, but what do I know?)

2. Mix the flour and the salt together. Once the yeast has bubbled up add this and mix well to a dough and leave to rise.

3. Cream the butter and lard and divide into three portions.

4. Once the dough has doubled in size give it a good knead then roll into a rectangle about 1/2 " thick.

5. Then spread one portion of the butter mixture over two thirds of the dough.


 6. Fold the remaining third of the dough over onto the butter mixture and fold the other bit over - giving three layers. Roll this back to the original size.

7. Allow to cool for 40 minutes. I chilled in the fridge. (it's warm here)

8. Repeat stages 5-7  twice more.

9. Cut the dough into 16 pieces and shape each to a rough circle (another note - I wanted more of a roll shape and made balls) and place on lightly floured baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each piece to allow for expansion of dough.
10. Cover and let dough rise again until doubled or about 45 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 375°F (160°C) oven for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.


Butteries are named after their high butter content. They are also known as morning rolls and rowies and are a traditional Aberdeen roll. The best way to describe their look and taste is a saltier, flatter and greasier Croissant. Which doesnae sound nice, but rowies are really delicious and filling for breakfast. Aberdeen butteries can be eaten cold and many shops, garages etc sell them pre-buttered for anyone snatching an on the go breakfast. 
Legend has it that the buttery was made for the fishermen sailing from Aberdeen's harbour. The theory is that they needed a bread that would not become stale during the two weeks or more that they were at sea. The high fat content meant the bread also provided an immediate energy source.[1]
(1) "Aberdeen butteries". Information Britain.


As if you'd need any extra butter? What a lovely breakfast treat, and at our house anyway, there's enough for several days. This post will go over to the August Foodies Read Challenge, and to Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, hosted this week by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen.  Be sure to visit both for lots of good food and books.

8/10/2018

Bifteck Hache a La Lyonnaise! for Eat the World - France

So, I have joined a new Challenge group, called Eat the World!  This month the group is virtually visiting France, and every month, under the direction of Evelyne of CulturEatz, we visit a new country. Since I love exploring other countries and especially food, this should be a fine adventure.

On the subject of books (don't worry, things will connect eventually) I've been working my way through the wonderful novels of Nevil Shute, and finally decided it was about time I reviewed one.  This most recent read, The Far Country, is as well written as his other books, but with the added very interesting context of England and France as compared to Australia, in the years following WWII.

Up to now, I had no idea of the horribly impoverished state England and Europe were reduced to post WWII.  Probably a result of reading too many "cozy" mystery novels set in England. The end of the war did not mark the beginning of better times at all.  In fact, things got worse for quite awhile.  Probably due as much to the "new era of Socialism" as to the loss of all those young men. This novel takes place in the Korean War years of the '50s, and taxes are rising continually, rationing is even more strict, and meat almost totally unavailable. People are starving to death (usually the elderly who don't ask in the right places for help or are ashamed to) in both England and France -  Italy as well from what I've read in other books.

8/02/2018

The Language of Bees and a Drink to That!


There are a number of authors I go back to again and again, but have never posted about.  We need to remedy that situation. Immediately.  A favorite of mine has been Laurie R. King, with her Mary Russell series, a woman in partnership with Sherlock Holmes (yes:)), solving mysteries and raising bees.  This one I've just finished, The Language of Bees, is ninth in King's series.  I do recommend beginning at the beginning with the first, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, or On the Segregation of the Queen. Also a totally excellent read.

From the Publishers, on The Language of Bees:: 
"For Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, returning to the Sussex coast after seven months abroad was especially sweet. There was even a mystery to solve—the unexplained disappearance of an entire colony of bees from one of Holmes’s beloved hives.But the anticipated sweetness of their homecoming is quickly tempered by a galling memory from the past. Mary had met Damian Adler only once before, when the surrealist painter had been charged with—and exonerated from—murder. Now the troubled young man is enlisting the Holmeses’ help again, this time in a desperate search for his missing wife and child.
Mary has often observed that there are many kinds of madness, and before this case yields its shattering solution she’ll come into dangerous contact with a fair number of them. From suicides at Stonehenge to the dark secrets of a young woman’s past on the streets of Shanghai, Mary will find herself on the trail of a killer more dangerous than any she’s ever faced—a killer Sherlock Holmes himself may be protecting for reasons near and dear to his heart."