Tag Archives: cumin

Now with Double Pie Action!

7 Feb

Today was a GIANT day for cooking. My hands hurt from chopping.

First, I went to The People’s Supermarket to make a pie. I’ve been in discussion with them to get an evening job, but based on my irregular student-y schedule I might just be a “special event”  two days a week (paid, though! £7/hour!). They have a lunch deal called The People’s Kitchen where they try to use all that day’s “best-before” food and slightly-wilted vegetables – thus lots of stews, soups, curries, pies, et cetera with little side salads, usually £1.50-4 each; anything not sold that day gets put into the ready-meal section to sell the next. They have a board where they list how many kilograms of waste they’ve saved that week, and the maximum was 210 kg. I mean, wow. The difficulty with starting to serve dinner is that they would have to use groceries as they’d have used up all the waste at lunch. SO they’re trying to do a small pilot program and I’m being tested out for some type of future position once they get it started, hopefully in the next couple of weeks.

Of course, I decided to do Lee’s Pie. I tried to use as much waste as I could, which ended up being potatoes, onions, and chanterelles (I hate thinking of them as waste, but they were starting to get all shriveled) and bought the rest on the kitchen account (came to £4 and resulted in two pies – classy!) I hung out in the kitchen, talking to people while cooking, running out to help find things with butter all over my hands… fun times. Laura T showed up just to do her grocery shopping and stayed to help for a bit.

Here is the first mistake I made: I sugared the potatoes. The water was boiling and I reached over to the container of white crystals and threw some into the pot. Only later, when it came time to season the filling, did I take a closer look: indeed, ’twas not NaCl. The kitchen was out. The whole store was out. I was about to run to Waitrose when I remembered the friendly Italians at Ciao Bella. Ciao Bella is a wonderful restaurant. Truly lovely. I think the food is Sicilian in origin, but in the interest of common appeal has dishes from all over. It is always full, even the outdoor party table, even in winter. They have posters of old movies and Italian beer and, above, all, it’s served the way Italian food should be served. Typical scenario: a middle-aged, balding, mustachioed Italian man with a big belly asks what you want. “I don’t know if I wan’t the margherita pizza or the penne arrabiata,” I say. “Oh, have the PIZza, the PIZza! Mwa! Delicious!” he replies. It is delicious as promised. “I don’t think I’ll have dessert,” is met with “Nonono, dessert! The dessert is delicious! Delicious!”

So, instead of running all the way to Waitrose to buy the salt, I went to Ciao Bella. The man I asked (for a description, see above paragraph) told me to hold on and he ran down the stairs. One of the other waiters asked me about the TPS documentary airing on Channel 4. After a few minutes, I started to lose hope, but then I saw a sight of sights: the man was bounding up the stairs with a bucket – A BUCKET – of salt. I’m sure I must have had a look of absolute joy on my face.

I am only eating Italian at Ciao Bella in future.

My second mistake was forgetting the sage, but I think the excessive amount of parmesan I used was fair compensation. The pie turned out nicely – I even attempted a crust from my Easy Pies book (175g flour, 140g butter, 3 T ice water, mix, chill 30 minutes). I split the contents into two smaller pans rather than making it too thick. We’ll see tomorrow how it turns out – I left it unbaked so it’ll be fresh for serving at lunchtime.

While I was waiting around for the filling to cook and the pastry to chill, I thought back to that giant pile of rhubarbs in the waste fridge. Oh wait, I forgot to mention that there was a GIANT PILE OF RHUBARBS. Laura T had not ten minutes before found a recipe for rhubarbs in my Easy Pies book and said how delicious rhubarbs are, and we discussed how to cook rhubarbs. The recipe called for: rhubarbs. brown sugar. pastry. I didn’t want to make another batch of pastry, but when I looked in the fridge, someone had left an extra blob of sweetened pastry yesterday. This was fate. This was b’shert. I was making that rhubarb pie. First I had to pick out the really inedible rhubarbs, which was a lot. However, the remainder were the perfect size to fit in the crust I’d laid out. I covered them in brown sugar and threw in some cinnamon and sultanas (raisins) for good measure and set it in the fridge for tomorrow’s baking.

Although I meant tonight to be pie night, I changed things around a little bit and decided to have Superbowl Chili Night – not for any love of sports but because for the last four years I’ve been the champion spicy chili maker in my college dorm. I figure I’m a real grown-up now, so I should go for flavor rather than just burning people’s mouths. (I did have two chili-burn incidents tonight, fortunately both in my mouth. Much better than eyes/nose/open wounds/etc.) As usual, I made a meat and a veg. The veg used soya mince, which seems to be the British name for TVP, an odd “food product” I came to love on camping trips in high school. (And in college – unlike meat, it never goes off!) It’s the easiest thing to cook: literally, just add boiling water and it puffs up. I only wish rice did that instead of being so annoying. I hate cooking rice. It also had green bell peppers, onions, celery and carrots, all chopped to large chunks and quickly stir-fried; I then let it simmer with tomato sauce and vegetable stock for about 1.5 hours. I seasoned it with chili peppers (the long thin red ones), cumin, garlic, paprika, chili powder, oregano, s+p, and garnished with cilantro springs. It definitely tasted better than the Bob’s Red Mill chilis I used to make, but it did take a lot longer. Worth the effort.

For the meat, I used 900 kg lean beef  (couldn’t find ground turkey), browned and salted, combined with red and green bell peppers, onions, and celery, all simmered in stock and 2 cans for about 2.5 hours. For seasoning I used the same spices as above, but replaced the chilis with aji amarillo and 90% cacao dark chocolate. I was always planning on using my ajis – I had lots of aji dishes in Peru, and really like its warm flavor – but only hit on the chocolate today at about noon. My downstairs neighbor has a very romantic flat, decorated with roses and candles and silk (and it always smells like flowers!), and she keeps a bowl of dark chocolate out on the coffee table. I only used 2 squares of chocolate, but it tasted amazing – it didn’t make it taste like chocolate, but gave it that kind of chocolately smoothness and color, perfectly matched by the ajis. Wonderful. And I have leftovers!!!

Also, the tzatziki is no more. The 1,450 grams of yogurt are now happily gone. I think I can wait a bit before I make more…

 

UPDATE: I was told that the Lee’s Pie needed a bit more spice (I was missing the sage, after all) but that everyone loved the rhubarb pie.

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Pie Night: Butternut Bonanza

31 Jan

Great turnout tonight! Nine people seems to be the limit, as we were almost out of glasses and would have been out of knives had everyone decided to use one. We had three new guests, two from class and one whom I met in the grocery store and realized shared my love of pies. I love this city – I feel like it’s so easy to meet people.

For appetizers, I made tzatziki and butternut-pepper dip. I’d been meaning to make tzatziki since Wednesday, when Laura J had her “paella night” as a weekday meal (it was great! Nice theme!) but after visiting every grocery between the lab and home, I was unable to find a single cucumber and thus settled for pre-made tzatziki. (Isn’t it a little weird that I found packaged tzatziki but not cucumbers?) I have been craving it since then. It’s your regular old tzatziki – Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, dill, and I added a little bit of mint to make it more like the Persian yogurt dip I had on Tuesday (Simurgh Persian Restaurant: marry me). The butternut dip was an idea I had yesterday while shopping in M&S – they had a butternut dip with harissa topping, but I thought it would be better economically and as a cook to make my own.

The stuff: butternut squash (about 100 grams), big slice of red pepper, half an onion, 3 cloves of garlic, juice of half lemon

The spice: cumin, paprika, chili pepper, s+p

The method: Roast the butternut squash in a little bit of oil. In a blender, puree the onion and garlic and add the spices and lemon juice. When the butternut has cooled, add it into the mixture and puree. Cut the red pepper into chunks and puree that as well. Serve room temperature with chili sprinkled on top.

I felt this recipe – adapted from a few I found online – was overwhelmingly oniony. It was missing a certain sweet element to bring out the roasted butternut. Maybe some brown sugar? Maybe caramelize the onion? However, it tasted quite good when blended with the tzatziki. I served both of them with little strips of puff pastry for dipping.

In addition, Laura J brought a lettuce and sundried tomato salad with balsamic dressing and Laura T brought crackers and brie.

The main course was, of course, the pie. I somehow (miraculously) managed to make two different dishes with only one pan (confirming the American wok’s place as Best Kitchen Instrument Ever) plus a roasting dish.

The stuff: butternut squash (400 grams cubed), 4 potatoes, 1 large leek, 1 clove garlic, flour, and EITHER [about 2 handfuls venison] OR [fresh plain goat cheese]

The spice: the Simon and Garfunkel quad (parsely, sage, rosemary, thyme), nutmeg, allspice, s+p

The method: Roast the cubed butternut and potato with a little bit of oil and salt until they’re squishy enough to eat. Concurrently, caramelize the leeks in the wok. Remove from the wok and pan-fry the cubed venison. When it’s good and cooked, set in on a plate to rest and wash the pan.

Put the pan back on the heat with 3 cups (approx) and a crushed cube of vegetable stock. Put the leeks and the contents of the roasting pan into the wok and cover. When everything starts to get squishy, add all the spices and keep cooking. When the water has almost soaked away, add some flour to thicken. It’s pretty much ready to eat now.

The amounts in this section are rather arbitrary – since I invited more vegetarians, I made more without venison. I put about 3/4 of the butternut filling into the pie dish; once in, mix it up with goat cheese and cover with the pie crust. Put the venison back into the wok and mix it up with the butternut; season to taste, and throw it in a pie pan with a crust. Bake until the crust is ready!

I would say that these were pretty much perfect. There was not as much general mmmmmming as for Lee’s pie, but everyone enjoyed it all. I think the butternut definitely benefited from being roasted rather than microwaved or simply thrown in the pan. It was also a much simpler process than usual! My kitchen is too small to allow mis en place, but cooking everything in the pan really saved on space and dishes. I think I preferred the sweetness of the venison and pumpkin pie I made in the fall – this venison was much gamier (I think venison is really an autumn meat). The butternut and goat cheese, though -mmm. The goat cheese was one Anna P bought at a market this week – a very simple one with a brie-like exterior but the typical chevre on the inside. Delicious. Unfortunately Anna was not here this week to share in the pie or bring wine per usual, but Liam compensated with a few bottles of red.

Liam, in a brilliant pie night move, brought a New World-themed squash salad with roast squash, pumpkin, small potatoes, wild rice, balsamic, and sunflower seeds. It went really well as a not-overwhelmingly-similar side: it shared elements but had a completely different flavor.

Also, I decided to weave the crust this time! It makes them just darling, eh? Top left is the veg, top right is Liam’s salad, and middle is the meat. For more butternut recipes, check out Hungry Girl’s “Salute to Butternut Squash“. After realizing just how tedious it is to peel whole butternuts, I decided just to go with packs of cubed. This week M&S had some for 80p. Ah, until next week!

EDIT: Oh wait, I forgot to mention that there were nNO LEFTOVERS.