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.

Nieces and nephews in Spain

It goes without saying that special holiday foods are involved in all this, therefore... from my source for our Eat the World foodie departure, HolaFoodie, comes the following information:
"All Saints Day is quickly approaching and in traditional Eastern Spain that means eating buñuelos, roast chestnuts and the very delicious panellets. These marzipan-based sweets are very popular in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, where you can find them in literally every single local bakery and or patisserie during the week preceding this popular festivity."


"Despite the presence of sweet potato as one of our recipe ingredients, it is important to notice that the original recipe is made with almond, sugar, egg and pine nuts only… or what it is the same, just traditional marzipan. The addition of either sweet potato or even regular potatoes is a much more recent contribution ... the result is a smoother texture and a much more moisturized marzipan. But of course, if you don’t agree with me or you simply would like to go for the most traditional recipe, just ignore the sweet potato and don’t add it to the rest of the ingredients. That easy!"


Panellets de Pinyons

Ingredients
150 g Ground almonds
125 g Icing sugar
125 g Pine nuts
75 g Sweet potato
Zest of 1 lemon
1 Egg


Method
Wash the sweet potato. Double wrap it in cling film, prick the film with a fork and cook it on the microwave at maximum power for 10 minutes. Take it out and leave it aside to cool down before unwrapping it, being careful not to get burnt. Alternatively you can also cook the sweet potato in boiling water for around 20 minutes.
Peel the sweet potato and mash it thoroughly in a big bowl.
In a different bowl, mix the almonds, sugar and lemon zest.
Crack the egg and separate the white from the yolk. Add the egg white to the bowl and reserve the yolk for later.
Knead all the ingredients until you get a marzipan dough that has enough consistency to shape little balls. Add it to the mashed sweet potato and keep kneading until everything gets mixed thoroughly.
Cover the bowl with cling film and cool in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Take out of the fridge and shape little balls (3cm max) with the marzipan dough. As you make the balls, roll them over the pine nuts and place them on an oven dish covered with baking parchment.
Preheat the oven at 350ºF. In the meantime beat the egg yolk and with the help of a baking brush, paint the panellets all over so that they acquire a lovely golden colour when we bake them.
Once the oven temperature is ready, bake the panellets for 10-12 minutes or until golden.


Let them cool down before you eat them. If you are patient enough, they are actually better the day after. The recipe made 1 dozen, the size I rolled them anyway.  Popularly served with a cup of tea or glass of Spanish muscatel. I got some Cava, Spanish sparkling wine for the occasion, but never opened it.  Instead, we enjoyed the little treats with a lovely glass of Amontillado Los Arcos, a dry Spanish sherry, and a perfect pairing to my mind.  The cookies turned out to be quite delicious, and much lighter than I was expecting.


Be sure to visit all the participants for Eat the World  at the bottom of this post, to see what they have prepared for Halloween around the world.
I will also be linking up with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event - more good food and interesting book considerations.

Simply Inspired Meals: Halloween Soul Cakes
Sue: Pumpkin Crescent Moon Empanadas

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."

7/18/2018

Amazing Food from Garlic and Sapphires

On this round of Cook the Books Club we have been reading and getting inspired by Garlic and Sapphires, a Ruth Reichl memoir, hosted by moi.  Like Miss Ruth, I am a woman who goes through life seeing the comic absurdity at play all around me.  Perhaps why I so appreciate her writing.  The disguises she literally got into here!

And, I absolutely love her many transfixing culinary descriptions. For instance, on the occasion of a meal at Jean-Georges' restaurant in the Trump Tower, in a hastily put together disguise: "'A little amuse bouche as a gift from the chef,' (which should have been the clue she was made) murmured the waiter, setting down a minuscule porcini tart framed by a delicate salad of tiny herbs.  I ate slowly, first the lacy licorice-flavored chervil, then sturdy, spicy wild parsley, and finally the aggressive little fronds of dill.  Poring through them I discovered a single leaf of lamb's quarter, bits of sorrel, dandelion, chickweed.  I followed the flavors in my mind until the walls vanished and I emerged into a deep glade that grew more distinct with each bite.  It was disappointing to come out of the woods...."

At that same meal there are creamed morels, spooned over asparagus.  That certainly caught me up, along with everything else.  But, perhaps something I could manage, when asparagus is back in season.  Later, there was Salmon with a Moroccan glaze, wild mushroom dumplings, scalloped potatoes, Risotto with Lobster and rosemary, Gougeres, and so on and on, throughout this tribute to food and the inventive chefs she encountered during her tenure as food critic for the NY Times.

6/28/2018

Scintillating Dishes from Indian Cookery

Being a long time fancier of Indian food, I was happy to order, and receive so quickly, Indian Cookery by Sameen Rushdie, recommended by Beth Fish over at her site, Beth Fish Reads.   Her brother, Salman, who seems to have loved his task as official taste tester for his sister's book, certainly has a way with words, and as it turns out, Sameen is also an excellent writer. I enjoyed her comments and many interesting reminiscences on food, her past, the culture, and her mother's cooking.

In the book, regarding chicken:  "'My children only eat chicken,' my father would remark sarcastically to emphasize just how thoroughly spoilt he thought we were.  In the subcontinent chicken is the most expensive meat available, and has become synonymous with good living, hospitality and privilege."  She found things to be much different upon moving to England, and remarks: "Personally I was very pleased to find chickens put in their place in the West.  It is true that I have always been fond of chicken, but the pomp and snobbery surrounding it in the subcontinent did make it a little hard to swallow."