recipe

Testing, testing, one-two-three.

recipetestingland

You know when you pick up a cookbook, and choose a recipe, and then make it, and it turns out? That’s a result of a well-written recipe that had a lot of work in the background before it got to you.
And to make them that way, a lot of kitchen testing was involved. These pics are all kitchen testing shots from my latest cookbook, which just went off to the publisher.

Something Fishy

Now, some of these things I’ve been making for years, and some were developed just for the book. Some were inspired by recipes of others, and some are classic recipes that don’t need rewriting, but do need the methods rewritten to suit the tone and skill level of the book’s readership.

Bubble bubble

Whatever the origin, I start out with a rough recipe draft, paper version (I don’t like to use electronics around the cooking area–that’s got disaster written all over it.)

As I prepare the recipe, I follow this task list:

1. record ingredients
2. measure quantities used
3. record preparation steps
4. record timings
5. make notes
6. taste
7. record the final yield

bits and pieces

Once I’ve had a successful outcome, then I sit to write the recipe. There’s a particular style and order of things that I adhere to, as per my guidelines for writing the technical part.
And after that, much later, I write the intros that will be in the book, trying for some tidbit or fact that will grab your interest, and make you want to try it out.

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Because, while I may do all the testing, it’s you who will be doing the grading, and I won’t know if I passed until the book is out there, from my kitchen to yours.

Limoncello Tiramisu

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Tirami su (Italian “pick me up”)

One of my favourite desserts to trot out for company is tiramisu; most people love it, it’s make ahead easy, and there’s usually enough left in the bowl to lick clean so I don’t have to wait for dinner for a taste.
A twist on the typical espresso-soaked ladyfingers is to use the lemony Italian liqueur Limoncello, with grated lemon rind on top. For individual presentation, I spoon the mascarpone cream into glasses, and stick a couple of the ladyfingers upright in the glass. An added benefit of this presentation is less cake, more cream.
Here’s how I make it:

For 6 portions:

6 eggs
500 g mascarpone cheese (most mascarpone is sold in 500g containers, easy!)
4 tablespoons sugar
1 cup Limoncello
12 ladyfingers
2 lemons, zested

Directions
Drag out your stand mixer. Separate eggs, and place the whites in the bowl of the mixer. I like to beat the whites first, because any trace of fat can prevent them from whipping nicely. Whip them into fluffy peaky firmness, then scrape them into a large bowl.
In the mixer bowl go your egg yolks, with 3 tbsp sugar. Beat this until pale yellow, then add the mascarpone cheese until smooth. Now’s the only tricky part of the whole business–incorporating the mascarpone mix into the whites, keeping it fluffy and not letting the whites break down. Do it with a large rubber spatula, carefully, CAREFULLY folding it all together. Once it’s folded successfully, you can relax and reward yourself for a job well done by eating a couple of spoonfuls. Yummy, right?
Now, pour out the Limoncello into a shallow container and carefully dip your ladyfingers in it, one at a time. You want them to absorb a little but not get soggy. Soggy fingers are not good.
Line up your glasses (I use cocktail glasses. It’s amazing how haute cuisine you can appear by using different dishes and glasses. It’s been fooling guests for years.)
Divide the cream evenly among the glasses, then stick the ladyfingers in the mix. Sprinkle the lemon zest over the top and poof! You’re set!
Let stand a couple of hours for best flavours.

I know, I know, the picture is of regular, big bowl tiramisu with chocolate shavings. We ate the lemon ones too quick to get a pic.

ACT-7: Liechtenstein

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Destination: Principality of Liechtenstein

Where: Central Europe, landlocked by Austria and Switzerland

Snapshot: This tiny (160 sq kilometres) country is situated entirely in the Alps. Skiing and snowboarding prevail in winter; cycling, hiking, mountain biking in summer. Liechtenstein is the supermodel of Europe–rich and beautiful! And, the lowest crime rate. With no active military, the whole country’s police force has less than 100 officers.

Time for dinner!
Liechtenstein cuisine is similar to that of neighbouring countries, with Swiss, Austrian and German influences. Cheeses and other dairy, pork and beef, pastries, grains and vegetables. Large dairy industry (moo!), agricultural resources.

Specialties: Hafalaab (soup w/bacon), Kasknopful (little dumplings), muesli, roesti, schnitzel

Drink up! Winemakers since pre-Christian days, Liechtenstein has over 100 winemakers (that’s a lot, isn’t it?) Beer and milk also widely consumed.

Recipe:
Ribei (Semolina dessert)

1 1/2 cup milk
1 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
3 cup semolina
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons butter
sugar, to garnish

In a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat, add milk, water, and salt and bring to a boil. Add semolina. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to stand for 3 hours.
Heat oil in a frying pan, add semolina and heat. Once semolina is heated, being adding butter gradually and continue cooking over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Golden brown crumbs will form, at this point, you’re done!
Garnish with sugar, serve with fruit.

For a tiny country, Liechtenstein has tons to see and do. Read more here.

ACT 6-the Gambia

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Destination: Republic of the Gambia

Where: Africa’s west coast, bordered by the Atlantic and Senegal.
Snapshot: This long, narrow country bordering the Gambia river is the setting for Alex Haley’s Roots. The smallest mainland country of Africa, the Gambia gained independence from the UK in 1965. English is the official language, great for tourism, and Groundnuts (peanuts) are the main agricultural export.

Time for dinner! Seafood (both fresh and saltwater) including oysters, crab, barracuda, butterfish and snapper; beans, peanut butter paste, cassava, okra, lamb, goat, kani peppers (similar to Scotch Bonnets in intensity). No pork–the Gambia is 90% Muslim.

Specialties: One dish meals: Nyombeh Nyebbeh, Pepeh, Benachin

Drink up! Observing Muslim customs, so alcohol tends to be restricted to hotels and tourist spots. Wonjo juice (dried red flowers of the sorrel plant), Baobab juice (from the fruit of the Baobab tree) are local beverage delicacies.

Recipe: Domoda (Peanut Stew)

1 tbsp oil
1 whole chicken, cut into 9pcs
2 quarts water
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 cups peanut butter
2 lemons, sliced
1/2 lb pumpkin (or other winter squash)
4 tbsp tomato paste

Heat oil in heavy bottom pot, sear chicken. Add onions and cook until softened. Add water and bring to boil. Add tomatoes, peanut butter, lemons, pumpkin and tomato paste and simmer 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with rice.

Interesting food customs practiced in the Gambia may be found here. As with most cultures that have seem to have far less than others, food is always offered and shared.

More about “Africa’s Smiling Coast” here.

Flank Steak Friday (should be a thing)

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NaBloPoMo’s Armchair Culinary Tour will return tomorrow. Tonight, may I present, FLANK STEAK! I’m in the middle of recipe testing for my next book, and one of these recipes is a marinade for moose steak. Moose is very lean, and steaks can have the texture of old boots if not prepared carefully.
In lieu of moose, I’ve used flank steak. Cut from the underbelly, flank has little fat or marbling and can also be tough, so it makes a great stand-in for experimentation (texture-wise, taste wise beef has nothing on moose).
This marinade had some pleasing results, but needs a bit of tweaking to get it exactly where I want it to be. It’s good enough to share, and so without further ado:

Molasses Mustard Marinade
(enough marinade for 1lb meat)

4 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons red wine (a good quality table wine, reserve the rest)
2 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil

In a bowl, whisk together molasses, red wine, dijon, and olive oil. Pour over steak (I like to use a large freezer bag for marinading, makes it easy to keep the meat covered) and let marinate 6-8 hours or overnight.
BBQ or broil to desired doneness. Drink the rest of the bottle of wine with dinner!

ACT 4-Suriname

Suriname1_Fotor_CollageSuriname is one of lesser known, lesser traveled South American countries. Last night, I was re-watching an episode of River Monsters, in which extreme angler Jeremy Wade was tracking the giant wolf fish in Suriname. River Monsters aside, the diverseness of Suriname’s cuisine is impressive, so here were are.

Destination: Republic of Suriname
Where: South America, on the Atlantic coast sandwiched between French Guiana and Guyana.
Snapshot: Suriname gained independence from the Netherlands in 1975, and is a member of CARICOM (Caribbean Community). The smallest SA country, Suriname has a northern lowland coastal region (where most of the settlement is), and a sparsely inhabited southern rainforest region.

Time for dinner!
Amerindians, Indian, Indonesian, Dutch, Chinese, Creole–all blend to form a distinct Surinamese cuisine. Staples include rice, cassava root, salted fish, okra, long beans, chicken, curries.

Specialties: bami (noodles with meat),pepre watra (spicy soup), her’heri (plantains and cassava with salt fish), pom.
Drink up! Kasiri (processed cassava), Dawet (coconut), Gemberbier (ginger beer)

Recipe:
Bakkeljauw Balletjes (Cod balls)

1 lb salt cod
4 medium yellow fleshed potatoes, chopped
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves,chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped celery
2 tablespoon tomato ketchup
2 teaspoons seeded and chopped red chile pepper
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Soak the salt cod 3-4 hours in cold water, changing water once.

In a a large pot, boil potatoes for 20 minutes or until cooked. Drain and mash.
While potatoes are cooking, prepare fish.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring fish and fresh water to boil; reduce heat and simmer 5-6 minutes.
Drain well, flake the cod into small pieces.
In a large bowl, combine potatoes, cod, egg, onion, garlic, celery, ketchup, chili pepper,pepper, salt, parsley,and bread crumbs.
Gently form mixture into balls.
Heat oil in frying pan. Cook cod balls over medium heat until browned, turning so that all sides are cooked.
Serve warm.

ACT 2-Estonia

Estonia

In mulling a second stop on my NaBloWriMo project, I came across a news article on an Estonian engineer who’s just begun an around the world trek in his amphibious vehicle. Estonia it is!

Destination: Republic of Estonia
Where: A Baltic State of Northern Europe, west of Russia and south of Finland
Snapshot: Held by the former USSR for fifty years, Estonia regained independence in 1990. Home of the first decorated Christmas tree in Europe (1441). One of the most wired countries in the world, thank Estonia for Skype!
Medieval towns, rich folklore, secluded beaches, and the tallest building in the world, if it was still 1519 (St. Olaf’s Church in Talinn).

Time for dinner!
Heavily influenced by surrounding countries, the peasant-style cuisine springs from hearty, simple fare. Pork, potatoes and rye bread are staples; food is commonly preserved and so chutneys, pickles, jams, and jellied foods abound. Fish is also plentiful, typically sprats, eel, and herring.
Specialties: Boiled pork in jelly, blood sausage, marinated eel, black bread
Extra special: leivasupp, sweet soup made from black bread and apples, with sour cream, cinnamon and sugar.
Drink up! Kali (a kind of unfermented beer), local beer, vodka, and milk

Recipe:
Sült (brawn)

1lb leg of pork (with bones and skin)
2 pig trotters
1 medium yellow onion, unpeeled
1 carrot, unpeeled, chopped roughly
10 black peppercorns
6 allspice berries
1 bay leaf
2 tsp sea salt

Rinse the meat and trotters well. Fill a large pot with cold water, add meat. Bring to a boil and let boil 4-5 minutes, then discard water and rinse meat. Return to pan, cover with boiling water, and bring to simmer.
Cook gently, skimming foam, over low heat for one hours. Add carrot and onion and continue cooking for 2-3 hours, until meat falls away from bone. Add peppercorns, allspice, bay leaf and salt and cook for 10 minutes more.
Remove the meat from the pot, allow to cool then chop into small pieces. Strain the stock, and return meat and stock to pan. Bring to boil then remove from heat.
Pour into several smaller containers and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until set. The sult will keep for a week, refrigerated.
Serve with boiled potatoes, pickles, and mustard.

Learn more about this Baltic gem here.