Thursday, September 21, 2006


A Kitchen Without Water

An advanced state of depression is about to set in. We have had plumbers in our apartment complex since Monday (it is now Wednesday), and instead of repairing the problem by Thursday (coating the inside of galvanised pipes - instead of replacing them with copper ones), they may not be finished until Tuesday of next week. We have only one temperature of water (warm) that works in the bathroom only when the plumbers are not here (i.e. from 6pm until 9am). The kitchen sink is completely out of order. This has meant that my angelheart, Eric, and I cannot cook. I can now sympathize with darling Ivonne over at Creams Puffs in Venice.

I know that you foodies that do drop in from time to time have not really had a chance to expect anything from me yet as my blog is new, but I feel like I'm letting you down. This entry is my justification for an absence of any food content on the blog this week.

And now I have to order dinner. Ordering takeout (as it is called in the U.S.) gets old very fast. Even if food is bought from a good restaurant, nothing satisfies like cooking at home.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Lemon Risotto

  I am lame, I know. As soon as we had a coolish evening (75 deg. f./23.9 deg. c.) in Los Angeles, I dove straight for the arborio rice in the cupboard. Ever since owning Nigella Lawson's Nigella Bites, I have been utterly smitten by the Lemon Risotto.

Ms. Lawson whole-heartedly embraces adaptation - in this case, she was inspired by an Anna Del'Conte recipe - and I decided to do the same. Okay, the lying stops here...I didn't have any rosemary, so I used sage. Did it make a difference? Typically I find sage to be quite pungent and sometimes slightly astringent, but the lemon is so over-powering that the sage faded (if you can believe it) nicely into the background. The problem with omitting the rosemary is that there was no nice mellow low note in the flavour package. If you are not a citrus lover, then I suggest you tone it down a little...This easily serves two (it is heavier than it looks!), but it makes for a nice appetizer (as one says in the U.S. - elsewhere: entree, which they consider the "main" in the U.S.!)

Lemon Risotto
(Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Nigella Bites)

2 shallots
1 stick of celery
1/2 stick (60 gms) of butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
10.5 oz (300 gms) arborio rice
4 1/4 cups (1 litre) stock (Nigella recommends vegetable, but I used chicken)
zest and juice of 1/2 unwaxed lemon
5 leaves sage (torn)
1 egg yolk
4 tablespoons (60 ml) grated parmesan
4 tablespoons (60 ml) milk (Nigella suggests double cream - of course)
sea salt

1) Blitz shallots and celery together in a blender until they are a combined, finely chopped mush.
2) Heat half of the butter, the oil, and the shallot and celery mixture in a wide saucepan or heavy bottomed pot. Cook to soften for five minutes.
3) Add the rice, coating it in the oil and butter (the shallot and celery mix will seem to have all but disappeared by this point).
4) Heat the stock in a saucepan and keep it at a simmering point.
5) Add a ladleful of stock to the stock and stir it until it has been absorbed by the rice. Then add another so until the rice is al dente. (All of the stock might not be used, yet water from a hot kettle may also need to be added to supplement should your stock reserves be depleted.)
6) Mix the lemon zest and the sage into the rice.
7) In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk, lemon juice, parmesan, cream, and pepper.
8) When the rice is ready (no longer chalky), remove it from the heat and add the egg yolk mixture, and the remaining butter and salt to taste. Posted by Picasa

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Monday, September 04, 2006


Weekend Cookbook Challenge # 8

I decided to participate in the eighth Weekend Cookbook Challenge (WCC), putting a cookery book of choice to practical use. Truthfully, I use my cookbooks whenever I cook, but I haven't quite gotten around to using all of them yet, and being required to use them makes the compulsive cookery book shopper in all of us feel less guilty; the idea behind WCC is thus beneficial as one feels simultaneously accomplished and spiritually cleansed. The theme for this WCC is a foreign dish, one that is foreign to the cook, that is.

I'm sure that half of the dilemma in submitting to WCC is deciding which cookery book to use. Fortunately, I knew from the outset that I wanted to make a small meal (main dish, side vegetable plate, and dessert) from Claudia Roden's magnificent The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Because the Middle East is a vast area and is constituted of many cultures, it was very difficult to decide what to make. I resolved myself to making dishes from Ms. Roden's country of birth, Egypt. I served Hamam Mahshi bil Burghul (poussin/squab/pigeon stuffed with bulgur wheat, raisins and pine nuts), Bamia bel Takleya (okra with garlic and ground coriander/cilantro), and Assabih bi Loz (almond fingers).

How did it all taste?

I could not find poussins when shopping, so, sticking to the small bird notion, I bought cornish hens instead. The coarse bulgur wheat that was cooked inside the hens absorbed the hens' juices and made for a most flavorful and comforting accompaniment to the tender and juicy hens.

I wanted to make the okra dish because I had never used okra before - I'm not even sure if it is available in New Zealand because I had never heard of it before moving to the U.S. Knowing in advance that badly cooked okra resulted in a slimey mess, I was prepared to not enjoy the result, but it didn't turn out slimey at all (perhaps due to cutting off the stems and caps). The seeds contained in the okra gave the skin infused with garlic and coriander an little kick without overpowering heat.

My angelheart Eric is not a fan of orange-blossom water, but I wanted to make the almond fingers anyway since I had not worked with filo before. My goodness, how fiddly it is! One has to ensure that the sheets not in use are covered with a damp cloth so they do not dry out; they are susceptible to dry air. Fortunately, I was well-armed with this information due to Roden's clear and concise guidance. Eric thought that the almond fingers tasted like soap; I, on the other hand, like orange-blossom water and thought that the combination of the crisp filo and the almond paste made for a delicately flavoured and other-world-transporting dessert. I miscalculated the amount of almond I needed, so I added walnuts that I had on hand, but this is not a real deviation as Ms. Roden suggests using walnuts to create a Turkish variation.

The following recipes take into account my ingredient subsitutions and portion sizes (for two people).

Hamam Mahshi bil Burghul (Pigeon, Squab or Poussin stuffed with Bulgur, Raisins, and Pine Nuts)

2 cornish hens (approximately 1.25 pounds each)

For the marinade:
1/3 large onion, finely chopped
Juice of 1/3 lemon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or butter)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice

For the stuffing:
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/3 pounds coarse bulgur wheat
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 1/4 tablespoons vegetable oil (or butter)
1/4 cup raisins, soaked in water for 15 minutes

1) For the marinade, combine all ingredients in a blender until liquidised.
2) Marinate the birds for 30 minutes (for deeper flavour, however, the birds could stand up to being marinated for longer, which is what I will do next time).
3) For the stuffing, bring chicken stock to a boil in a pan, then add the bulgur wheat, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Stir together, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur is tender.
4) Preheat oven to 350 deg. f. (180 deg. c.)
5) Fry the pine nuts in 1/3 tablepoon of vegetable oil until lightly browned.
6) Add the pine nuts, raisins, and remaining vegetable oil to the bulgur wheat and mix well.
7) Stuff the hens 2/3 with the bulgur mix, allowing room for bulgur to expand, and then secure the legs with kitchen twine (toothpicks can be used on smaller birds).
8) Rub some of the marinade on the hens, then put them in the oven spine side up for 25 minutes.
9) Turn birds over (breast side up) for 20 minutes, while at the same time roasting the remaining bulgur wheat mix covered with foil for 15-20 minutes. The birds are cooked through when the juices from the thick part of the thigh run clear.

Bamia bel Takleya (Okra with Garlic and Coriander)

1/3 pound small, young okra with stems and caps sliced off
1/3 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 cups water

1) Fry the onion in the 2/3 of the vegetable oil until golden.
2) Add the okra and saute gently for 5 minutes.
3) Barely cover with water, add salt and pepper, and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender.
4) Heat the garlic and coriander in the remaining 1/2 of the vegetable oil, stirring for 1 minute or until garlic is lightly coloured.
5) Stir garlic and coriander into okra, and cook for a two minutes before serving hot.

Assabih bi Loz (Almond Fingers)

1/4 pounds filo pastry sheets (approximately 4 sheets)
3/4 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup ground walnuts
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons orange-blossom water
3 tablespoons butter, melted
confectioners' sugar (for decoration only)

1) Mix ground almonds and walnuts with the suger and orange-blossom water.
2) Cut the filo sheets into 4 rectangular strips about 12 by 4 inches (30.5 by 10 cms) and pile them on top of each other, covering the top one with a damp cloth.
3) Preheat oven to 325 deg. f. (170 deg. c.)
3) Take the top sheet of filo, cover lightly with melted butter, and roll a heaped teaspoon of the almond filling into a sausage shape before placing it 1 inch (2 cms) from the edge of one of the short ends of the filo sheets.
4) Roll edge of filo sheet over almond filling.
5) Roll into a cigar shape, folding the longer sides slightly over the almond filling midway.
6) Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or butter the baking sheet).
7) Repeat with all filo sheets. Makes approximately 16.
8) Bake in oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until lightly golden.
9) Serve cold sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.

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Friday, September 01, 2006


Blog Day

While browsing at Anne's Food today, I have discovered that it is Blog Day, meaning that one is to list five websites that are new to the blogger. Well, since I am very new at this entire thing, most are actually new to me, but I will present a list of the five most recent ones that I have added to my favourites:

1. Chocolate and Zucchini - This is maintained by the insanely talented Clotilde Dusoulier, a young woman who began like most of us, a food lover and blogger, who has just turned in her manuscript for her first cookery book. She has tonnes of recipes and anecdotes. Her writing style is fluid and engaging, and her photographs are gorgeous. She also reviews the restaurants she goes to in Paris and beyond.

2. Once Upon A Feast - Ruth is probably known to most people who participate in the Weekend Cookbook Challenge since she is hosting version # 8 (the entries, which are to be of a dish that is foreign to you, must be submitted by the 4th of September). Her blog is replete with practical information on menu ideas and cooking for large groups of people. She also reviews her cookbooks and favourite food magazines.

3. Creams Puffs in Venice - I do not think that I will find a better blog that includes so many sweet treats, but I could be wrong because I have not yet sought out the blog that belongs to the one who created the food blog event Sugar High Fridays (which you can learn more about here), the Domestic Goddess. Ivonne is in love with all things Venice, so she includes gorgeous Italian recipes from time to time, seeming rather cognizant of the culture too, which is an added bonus. She writes with great humour and makes no excuses for indulging in her passion for delectable, sweet treats.

4. The Passionate Cook - Out of all the "new to me" blogs, this is probably the most eclectic that I have come across. This month alone, this blogger has covered rillettes, jams, and panzanella! The blogger grew up in Austria (part of the reason why I am hooked on this blog is because her perspective is so vastly different to my own antipodean one) and now lives in London. She reviews restaurants, tests out new recipes, and has categorised everything that she has written on very precisely, so you can find a recipe that suits your cravings at any given time. I've yet to play with her recipes, but I will soon :-)

5. Anne's Food - I found this blog with a host of others on the same day, but this is the one that I have tuned in to most. Anne writes frequently, and her posts detail food that is interesting to me (limoncello, pelmeenid, cloudberry vanilla souffle). Truthfully, my angelheart Eric and I often fantasise about moving to Scandinavia, principally Sweden or Denmark, so reading this blog always inspires me. Anne's entries are charming, well written, and are accompanied by lovely photographs. Anne has also categorised her recipes really well, which makes it all too tempting for me to pretend I'm in Sweden! I love this blog.

As much as I would love to have friendships with all these lovely food bloggers (and others on my list of favourites), I know how busy everyone is, and how inundated this field of blogging is what with new people creating blogs daily (like me), so I take great joy in reading these five blogs because their styles of writing are comforting and friendly. Check them out! :-)

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