Monday, January 27, 2020

Leftovers #4: Curry Thingy

Sometimes there isn't much in the category of food in the fridge when you have teenage sons. Strangely, there are just bits of previous meals that seemed like the last forkful would be too much. Of course, later empty bags of chips or cereal boxes can be found in the house in places unexpected like under a couch, on the toilet tank or in a hallway. Maybe it's a half empty jar of peanut butter that I swore I just opened...

Anyway, there will be odds like a few mouthfuls of pasta. Maybe you have an end of an opened package of luncheon meat or sausages of some type. Sometimes, I find a package of frozen vegetables with a few tablespoons that is slowly becoming freezer burnt. Okay, that last one is often my fault. What do I do with this stuff. Maybe I am done with omelets or maybe I am just out of eggs. 

I get home and that is basically all I see aside from the pantry which seems to demand more work than I want to spend cooking for me. 

Now, I hate cooking for one sometimes but this is somewhere between cooking, warming up and being a little inventive. I call it curry thing. It requires that you have some curry powder or mix of some sort. Most masala mixes would work as well. 

The point is simple. Warm those few bits and pieces up with some liquid. Add a curry roux and serve it in a bowl with beer out of a can. Preferably some rye or red beer. Or a lager. Or whatever is in your fridge. 

The big leftover technique here is the thickening technique. Simple sauce thickener here. Mash equal part fat and flour. Mash in spices. Add to liquid that is warm. Cook it until you have the thickness you want. 

I usually use flour, butter and for this thing; yellow curry and a few spices. That's it. Like the frittata leftover thing, it is putting a bunch of ingredients together and making harmony with a sauce. 

Here are a few more in the series that I have been developing to deal with food waste. The first deals with spreads, sugars and syrups. The second with vegetable and vegetable soups. The third with odd bits into an omelet. 

More Leftovers:

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Peanut Butter Stout & National Peanut Butter Day

So, January 24th is National Peanut Butter Day. Last year, I drank a Whitewater Peanut Butter Stout. I had received it from my sister as an oddity. I love stouts and I half promised to write about it. Then, the date came and went. No post.

Strange, even then that wasn't my first peanut butter beer. Peanut butter beers have been around for at least fifteen years. I know that some of you have heard about nut brown ales but no, nut brown ales do not typically have nuts in them. That is in reference to the colour.

My notes on the Whitewater suggest that I didn't like it but could see why there would be some that would. Whitewater is still a youngish brewery and several of their beer taste like it is from a brewery that is riding the line between mass and craft. They are looking for a beer that sells on the regular while trying to capture people that are fed up with the big breweries and their beer. So, they are capturing a market that wants better tasting mass market brews. That isn't a bad thing. I admire the brewery for doing that. It is smart business and something worth doing.

What I found was that the sweetness was out of proportion. I was able to drink almost the whole thing but did have to toss this last sip. It did come in a 473 mL can. Maybe that was just too much.

About a couple weeks ago, I had another peanut butter based beer from the Left Field Brewery. It was called Reggie Bar. Left Field focuses more on the more traditional craft beer drinkers with a side of progressive politics. The beer still has the sweetness and in a smaller can, it is easy to get through. 

I am still not sold on the value of a peanut butter stout. Full disclosure, I do drink pumpkin beer and tend to regret the ones that are super reliant on the spicing. So, I wonder if a more delicate peanut butter beer would work better for me. Some type of peanut putter IPA or pale ale might give the sweetness some counterpoint. 

I am glad that I celebrated because I got a badge on Untappd. I will always try the next one but I haven't found one that I want to go back to on a regular basis. 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Waragi is Gin?

I know a few things about gin. It is probably one of my favourite spirit. When I went to Belgium in my twenties, one of the things that I brought home was a bottle of henever. The Belgian precursor to gin. It was flavoured with juniper which is where jenever got is name. Of course, from the latin nam of juniper. 

So, when I heard about this Ugandan spirit that was drank straight at a slightly lower percentage than traditional gins, I was skeptical. I was pretty sure that it wasn't flavoured with juniper berries but I was intrigued by what was on the bottles. Pineapple and coconut. 

The coconut flavour reminded me of the coconut palm wine called toddy. A friend from India told me about this wine that they would make. Sometimes they would distill it. After the process, they call it gin. BTW, this is where we get the word toddy. It somehow became a hot toddy. 

Well, maybe that explains it. There is a historical connection between moonshine and gin. There was a gin craze where folks made bathtub gin and it didn't necessarily need juniper. It was a rough and ready way of making booze. This particular process was a hit in Victorian England. Of course, with the expansion of empire, India makes sense. Uganda also had to gain independence from the United Kingdom as well. I guess that solves that first part. 

Now, where it gets weird for me is that the definition of gin and the history still talks about juniper as being the deciding factor. Gin is flavoured vodka. But somehow this legal definition is probably only in reference to Anglo nations. I am not sure that I want to step into that nest. However, India and Uganda, do talk about these beverages as gin in the sense of illicit moonshining. 

In Uganda's case, Wiki talks about the high alcohol consumption and the eventual government sanctioned production of this gin. They passed an act aimed at keeping British gin out and protecting the local market. 

I was told that this is something of a regular drink to drink straight. The bottles I tasted were in 250mL containers at 37.5%. It could run hot in the alcohol. I tried them. They are flavourful and smooth. The pineapple one tastes like pineapple and not flavouring. If it is made from banana and millet where it is fermented and then distilled, that would make a lot of sense. It is a soft alcohol burn that tastes great on its own. Sure, you could mix it. It would make sense to add tropical flavours and citrus. You don't need to dumb it down or hide anything. It was seriously a great drink.

The coconut one tastes something like I would imagine toddy to taste like, except I was told by the person I worked with that toddy burned. This had none of that. It tasted like a more intense and refined coconut water. No fake flavourings. Another one that could just be drank like that. 

I can imagine that the 250mL would be something to grab and drink. It seems reasonable and doable. I have tried several exotic alcoholic beverages over my life that we don't see here. Some of them I like and many I do not. Every now and then, there is one that makes me wish we had it here. This is one of those. 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

A Tale of Two Roasts

Cooking can seem like such a chore. Sunday roasts seem like some mythical thing that happens on television. I mean Netflix. Er, YouTube! My point is that is seems old fashioned and takes up a lot of time when no one eats like that anymore. We are all keto or low carb or whatever seems like a good idea this week.

Who boils potatoes and carrots and puts a whole roast on the table? Well, maybe we should think of roasts a slightly different way. For instance, this week I had a huge pork loin that somehow was magically on sale. It would be easy to cut it into pork loin chops and barbeque them. However, I have been making a conscious effort to try some older recipes and approaches to cooking.

I want to revisit some of these ideas and see if they are worth making or modernizing. What I did was cut the huge piece into two. One went into a slow cooker for hours with some onions, barbeque sauce, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, homemade hot sauce and cumin. When it is finished cooking, it can be used for pulled pork, base for chili or spaghetti sauce, an addition to salad... and it took little less than fifteen minutes to prepare. One roast that will feed me and my kids all week.

I will probably freeze most of it as I think I will eat the other portion. I sliced leeks to act as a raft so the meat wouldn't stick. I coated the roast with mustard, brown sugar, cloves and allspice. Put it in the oven at 350F for about two hours or until it is cooked.

This was one of my Dad's favourite way to eat pork. It is especially good when you use a shoulder roast and stud the meat with clove nails. The minty and spicy cloves flavour the fat and leave a tingle in your mouth.

Now, I have let it cool because my favourite way of eating this is cold on a sandwich. Yeah, you could do up some potatoes and carrots if you wanted a sit down meal but this is just as good with a green salad.

A roast is a meal that gives a few times. If you eat it will all the fixings, then it can make a fine family supper for Sunday. The leftover meat can be used for sandwiches, soup, a base for a meat sauce, or an addition to a baked omelet.

My verdict is that Sunday roasts should make it make to your table, even if you are doing one of those low carb diets, there is value.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Recipe: Buttermilk Pudding

I had some buttermilk in my fridge. I wanted to use it up and so this conversation with myself happened. 
Okay. I want to make something sweet... I have this buttermilk I want to use up. Used it for making pancakes. Damn, that was a good recipe.  
Let's check the internet... No, nothing quite right. Um, Let's check Fanny, Joy and Bittman... No?! 
What the hell?  
This should be super easy. I mean it is just a custard. And buttermilk is such an old fashioned thing. Why isn't there anything out there? Okay, maybe I'll try sour milk pudding.  
Got a few hits there but they are all so measured. I guess I'm going to have to wing it.
Turns out, old fashioned cooking doesn't always make it to the internet. So, I made something up. Before I share what I did, I guess I'll tell a little story about buttermilk. It is a tangy and viscous milk product that provides .... nah, my dad used to drink the stuff. He would be left with an odd smelling glass and a bit of thick white mustache. Mom called it sour, disgusting and like snot. She isn't totally wrong. I love using it in baking and in desserts. I have never quite got used to having it as a cold drink. Then again, I don't drink milk either.

So, I had about two cups of milk and it turned out I was short on vanilla. I looked at what I had in the cupboard and put together some flavours that I would thought work. Added some eggs and flour and cooked it until done.  I had added some orange blossom water and orange zest. My son thought it tasted like all the citrus. Combined with the tang of the buttermilk and the scant vanilla made it taste like something really fresh and flowery and nothing like a custard. Anyway, here is the recipe.

Orange Blossom Buttermilk Pudding

2 cups buttermilk
4 eggs
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ginger
splash of orange blossom water (can omit and add extra vanilla or some other flavouring, but then you have to change the name. Rosewater would be good)
zest of one orange

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat sugar and eggs together until creamy. Add flour and mix. Add remaining ingredients (buttermilk, vanilla, ginger, orange blossom water, and zest). Mix and pour into a pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Check to see if center is still liquid. I jiggle it. If it is still liquid, cook for another few minutes. I tend to use five minute increments. Once firm. Take out and cool. 

This has an interesting floral flavour when warm. I don't think it is for everyone's palate. But folks that I have shared it with like it even though they don't like custard textures. So, there is that. When cooler, the orange notes are more dominant. I think it would be good to serve with some type of simple syrup or maple syrup. 

Friday, January 3, 2020

A Brand New Old Way to Cook Potatoes

I wonder if my sisters will recognize this pseudo recipe?

One of my fondest memories is of Mom slicing potatoes onto the woodstove to blister. The slices were about an eighth to a quarter inch thick, just blackened and flipped onto the plate. A bit of salt to finish it off. When hot, the outside just bit your fingers a bit. My teeth would go through the salty, sweet layer outside to get to the more resistant and just cooked inside. It was better than potato chips or french fries.

If they had sat for a while when waiting for the whole potato to be cook, the potato soaked in the salt and they became more pliant. Like a sitting steak, it continued to cook. It never got to the softness of a fried or boiled spud. The texture is unlike any other potato I had ever had.

Eventually, the cookstove was retired for a more block like woodstove. For a while, we would put them on the electric elements where cool patterns would emerge. It was fun to try and create a nice crosshatch like you see on burgers.

This eventually caused problems with keeping the burners clean and the fire alarm from going off. Waving a tea towel every time you cook gets old fast. When you are young and the ceilings are more than nine feet, you have to jump and wave. I guess it was good exercise.

I remembered this snack and tried to recreate it for my Christmas dinner as the starch element. It worked. I used a non stick pan once and a cast iron another time. Both worked well but the problem of smoke still remains. So thick that the exhaust fan could not remove it quickly enough. However, the flavour and texture were as I remembered. The juices from the turkey burger enhanced the salty and starchiness. I wonder why I had never tried this before.

My next attempt will be using the broiler and seeing if I can get a good cook that way. I may have to cut the potatoes thicker and turn on the exhaust on high but we will see if we can do this.

My younger sister should remember this. We would wait together as Mom would only take a potato or two to create a good snack. My youngest sister might not as she was there in the transition from cookstove to electric. Her memory might not go back that far.

I bet she could recreate it though. She does have a fireplace. I wonder if putting these things on one of those racks for cooking... oh, or maybe the BBQ. Maybe a plancha.

I will get this down. It is worth doing. It isn't just nostalgia. This is a really old and good way of eating tubers.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Re-imagining a Holiday Tradition

When I'm talking about re-imagining a holiday tradition, I'm talking about a Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. I love it. I am a single parent with two teens, one of whom is perpetually absent at supper time. This means that a traditional multi dish meals will be a lot of work for little gain.  The next day, the offspring will be gone and leftovers will be high. Sure, a midnight raid by the Ghost will  leave a dent in something. Never quite sure which dish it will be. Most likely desserts and turkey. Maybe the leftovers will be spared or ignored but the ever present peanut butter and bread dented leaving all the foods.

Then I am left with weeks of dealing with foods that are less than optimal and limiting my diet. More heavy carbs than ought to be eaten for weeks and made into such strange things as mashed potato waffles, turkey and stuffing sandwiches, and fried carrots. Anything to get them out of the fridge and not thrown out. If I am industrious and forward thinking, maybe a few will be made into the best type of tv dinners. But, just no. I can't do that any more. Partially because it seems so damn sad. Partially because I can't stand eating the same thing over and over again.

So, I came up with something a little more reasonable this year. Here is what I did. Made a turkey meatball or loaf or burger and added all the standard stuffing spices; sage, thyme, and whatever. I made this several times so the herbs and spices varied. It worked. Made some cranberry sauce. Added a little winter salad with endive and pomegranate that had a little orange maple vinaigrette. Served on a potato that was quickly fried. All topped off with a store bought biscuit or cranberry bread.

The good news. No leftovers. The better news. Ghost showed up the table to snarf one down before heading to his room. He ate everything. The best news. After making it several times, everyone who ate it enjoyed it. Even me.

Oh, I served it with a cranberry and orange sparkling water spritzer for the underage folks but added a little something something for the older folk.

I can get behind Christmas and Thanksgiving. I am looking forward to it and may even make this when it isn't the holidays.