Monday, November 24, 2008

D'Isney mange les Lentilles.

Guy: Friends and fellow gastronaughts, this is for me, a heart warming story and recipe from my dear friend Georgia. Both the Lentil burgers and her story bring waves of revery flooding back. Ah....the good times remembered, like handcuffing Martin to the fridge, or dressing up in drag and frightening drunken callers. Well I remember the punk rock days, no money, some beer and lots of friends! We prepared Georgia's signature dish and were lucky to have our dapper friend and avid foodchains reader Bill Disney over to enjoy the results (hence the title). Bill's burger got the full Aussie treatment, with a fried egg and beetroot (that's pickled beets for our U.S. readers), and he declared it "Good". Please note the recipe below provides enough burgers to fuel a small Hippy Punk army (Note to self, must mobilize a small Hippy Punk army fueled on lentil burgers and subvert the dominant paradigm!) so this one will work for a large number of guests. So with out further ado, HERE'S GEORGIA!

Georgia: I'll start this off by saying that Guy and I go way back. WAY back. I first met Guy when I was 18 or 19 years old, and had just moved back to Perth from a short stint living in Melbourne. I just turned 42 in August. Guy was living with a bunch of other guys just up the road from me in East Perth. One of those guys became my boyfriend and I remember spending many hilarious days and nights in that ramshackle house.
Those were heady days. I was still a punk but was moving away from the bondage pants and spiky hair phase, settling into a more introspective phase that included some political motivation, Black Flag and hair crimpers. We were all on the dole and spent our time enjoying life for the most part, which included going to see bands (a lot), drinking beer (a lot) and staying up all night (most of the time). I had some part time work that subsidised my income a little bit, and before too long, the Lord St guys (as I will coin them as a collective) made frequent appearances at my house when they were hungry. And I fed them primarily with one of my most famous recipes, for which I'm still renown – my lentil burgers.
At this house, and subsequent houses once we moved on from that place, we'd make sure that my makeshift barbeque was set up in the back yard somewhere. This involved a steel plate approx 1 ½ cm thick placed atop two stacks of bricks, giving enough room for a good fire to be made underneath. When the BBQ wasn't appropriate (ie when it rained), a cast iron frying pan sufficed very nicely.
During the height of my lentil burger fame, I was asked by Squasha, who ran The Wizbah (great live music venue in Perth in the 1980's) if I would like to make burgers to be given away for free on Sunday nights. I had free reign in the huge commercial kitchen, drinking as much alcohol as I could consume on the house. Squasha decided giving away my burgers for free would be a great drawcard for Sunday evening gigs.
By my 23rd birthday, we were living in a great house on Cambridge St in West Leederville which had a big back yard. The BBQ was placed in the top corner, and people would just show up on Sunday afternoons and I'd have a big mix made up ready to go. Those were some of the best days I remember – just hanging out with your friends, making good, simple food, listening to great music, and it was all so free, easy and casual.
Now for the recipe. The recipe for my lentil burgers is as fluid as you can probably make it. If you have some great fresh vegies available, use them. Quantities can vary greatly too, I have always played it pretty much by ear.

About 300 grams brown lentils, soaked overnight
1 large carrot, finely grated
1 large potato, finely grated
1 large brown onion finely chopped (these three things should always form the basis of your mix)
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons of plain flour
large bunch of English spinach, finely chopped (can use frozen if you like)
150 grams mushrooms (field are very good and tasty but not overpowering) finely chopped
1 medium knob fresh ginger, grated
1 cup flat leaf parsley, loosely packed then finely chopped
1 heaped teaspoon of toasted cumin seeds
½ teaspoon paprika
Some ground chilli flakes/powder to taste
Good pinch of salt
Lots of fresh ground black pepper
Any other spices you particularly like – anything that will add the flavours you like

Put the lentils on to boil and cook til tender but not falling apart.
Grate the potato and squeeze out all the excess moisture. Add all the grated/chopped veges together into one big bowl, stir in the eggs, flour and spices. Mix thoroughly.
Place about two tablespoons of the mix together into the pan/onto the hot plate and shape into a pattie, cook fairly slowly to reduce the moisture content. Flip and when browned well on both sides, serve on a lovely toasted bun or piece of good bread (sour dough would be great). Add condiments to taste. Simple. Healthy. Delicious.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ruby's Effervescent Peach Cobbler

Zola: This story is so touching; it really needs no introduction. I will say that I made the peach cobbler at the end of summer, choosing only the best peaches to honor this dish in the way it deserves.

Cyre: I have had a difficult time trying to describe this cobbler of my frankly...I've never had anything even close to it and have given up hope that I ever will. Ruby was a house parent at the Hutton Settlement, a children's home located in The Spokane Valley. She was also the BEST COOK EVER!!!
There were 4 cottages on campus, 2 for girls and 2 for boys. Ruby almost always worked in the boys cottages, but on very rare occasion we were delighted to have her cooking for us! My very favorite recipe of hers, is indeed her Peach Cobbler.
It stood 4-5 inches tall! Stretchy, chewy and white like unbaked bread dough! It magically sputtering in our mouths with the explosion of tiny effervescent bubbles! When I first tried it, I thought it uncooked! But I sure wasn't gonna tell Ruby that! It was AMAZING! The peaches and syrup sank deep into the dough making it even gooey-er!!! I honestly don't remember the crumbly topping as indeed it was all about the huge mouthfuls of sparkling dough. She always served it with fresh whipped cream and let us eat to our hearts desire. Ruby was not a woman of many words...but managed to make every one of us feel very special, and very loved with her cooking. Talk about a good memory!

Zola: For the biscuit topping, I used a recipe with baking soda to try to get that 'effervescent' quality. I almost think, to really recreate this, one should make a lot more biscuit so you could really lay it on.
For the biscuits:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), frozen
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons heavy cream

For the peach filling:

Get enough peaches to fill your pie pan, remove the skin
add white & brown sugar to taste
add flour (when you can *just* taste the flour, that's enough to act as a thickening agent)
I like to add a little lemon juice & cinnamon but that's up to you
sprinkle the top with small butter pieces before putting your biscuit topping on
brush your biscuit top with cream & sprinkle with sugar

Bake at about 375 until the peach juice is thick and bubbling up under your biscuit topping & the topping is brown. Say a special thanks to all the Ruby's of the world!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bacalhau e todo bem!

Yes indeed Portuguese salt cod and everything is good! For many years now Zola and I have traveled and enjoyed the wonder that is salt cod in a number of preparations, in a number of countries. A magnificent fillet with white bean casserole in Barcelonetta,  Barcelona. Brandade du Morue in our favorite french bistro in Seattle (Le Pichet). Acorda (pronounced Ashorja) and other Bacalhau delights in Lisbon. And finally many various preparation (pastels, fritters, stews and croquettes) in the food menagerie that is Brazil.  Long has been the passing time from the first tasting to the fateful day last week when finally Bacalhau was discovered at PFI grocery in Seattle's international district! And indeed purchased by this very writer. 

Having just returned from an invigorating trip to Brazil, Zola and my interest in preparing our own bacalhau was rekindled, and what follows is two recipes The first is borrowed from Anthony Bourdains "Les Halles Cookbook", it's a french bistro standard/classic called Brandade Du Morue.
 Essentially a baked dip of salt cod served in its baking apparatus, a ramekin. As the preparation of salt cod is an undertaking in it's own right, I took the opportunity to double-up if you will, using half the cod prepared to make a Brazilian lunch counter mainstay, Bolinhos de bacalhau, literally "little balls of salt cod". These are essentially small croquettes of  potato and salt cod, deep fried and served through out the day as a snack. I'll begin with the Brandade as that was how the Cod was prepared, the left over was used to make the Bolinhos. 

First things first, salt cod is a 24 hour preparation. The fillets will come frozen in the USA due to this country's bug phobia and strict quarantine laws. The whole idea of Bacalhau is so that Portuguese fisherman in the north sea could preserve their catch centuries before the invention of refrigeration. I digress, essentially you treat your frozen fillet the same, place in cold tap water for 24 hours, changing the tap water every hour for the first few hours. We let ours sit overnight and did a couple of changes the next morning and everything was fine. It's fine to taste your uncooked bacalhau along the way to see if it's too salty. 

One pound of cod was enough for both dishes. The initial cooking of the cod was used for both dishes. Bring a 1/2 cup of full cream to the boil with 4 crushed cloves of garlic and a bouquet garni (that's 2 sprig of Thyme, 1 sprig of flat parsley and a bay leaf tied up in a cheese cloth parcel). At the boil, add the fish (1/2 lb) and reduce heat to a simmer, poach the cod like this for 6 minutes, it should be a little flaky by this point, so retrieve from the pot with a slotted spoon. The Bouquet and the garlic stay in as you continue to reduce the cream at a boil for 10 minutes. Set the cod aside.

 After the reduction, fish out (ha, ha!) the Bouquet and the garlic, combine the reduced cream with 1/2 cup EV olive oil. Add this liquid to the cod that you have mushed up with your fingers (hmmm, cod finger smells). Slowly mix the liquid and cod with a wooden spoon. Add in some cracked black pepper (and maybe some salt if you de-salted your cod too aggressively). Stir in 2 sprigs of chopped parsley, portion out into a couple of mid sized ramekins top with bread crumbs, and head for the oven. Our method, bake at 500 degrees for 10 minutes, finish under a low broil until bread crumbs are brown. Serve with sliced french bread. Swoon with delight!

Now the Bolinhos! You've still got a 1/2 pound of cod if you did a whole pound. An option would be to poach the cod in a cup of water with the same herb preparation, if you were doing separate dishes. For the bolinhos make two dry cups of mashed potato (use a russet it's good and starchy). Shred the cod with your fingers, stir into the mash potatoes with some chopped flat parsley, some cracked pepper and salt if needed. I had quite a few of these while in Brazil and salty was the apparent preferred savour. 
Now the trick is to roll the balls into 2 inch diameter spheres, roll them in some bread crumbs and deep fry 
until golden brown. We endorse the Cuisine Art mini deep fryer in the Maddison household.  Serve to friends as we did at a suitable festive occasion. Ours went down a treat at a joyous party celebration of Barack Obama's monumental election. It's true they go great with champagne!