Tag Archives: rhubarb

Vodka Crust

30 Apr

Kathleen K recently posted this hint, which is to use cold vodka instead of water in the pie crust to make it flakier. Perhaps you could use it in this Serious Eats rhubarb pie? According to Kathleen, Alton Brown recommends using apple brandy for an apple pie crust, but I doubt there’s a suitable rhubarb liqueur replacement… suggestions welcome!

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Rhubarbarbarb, Barbarann

27 Feb

I completely forgot to write about the other pie I made last Monday! But that’s ok, because there was no pie night tonight as I was out all day and have work to do.

The People’s Supermarket has had a glut of rhubarbs recently, so this is the second time I’ve cooked with them. I don’t actually like rhubarbs – they always taste much too bitter to be a dessert food – but these are apparently really special ones, picked in Yorkshire by candlelight. I have no idea why the rhubarbs are so sensitive that they must be picked at night, but perhaps they are some sort of “unicorn” food (a term used among my friends to describe things that are very special and rare and generally too complex in their simplicity to exist). The rhubarbs had already been stewed and were waiting for me in a bucket, cooling next to a pre-mixed crumble (flour and butter). So easy! There were some big apples, so we decided to throw those in as well. I peeled, cored, and chopped them and put them on the stove to cook with a splash of water (one recipe called for one tablespoon per four apples) and 50g sugar. We were out of regular sugar so I used powdered sugar instead, and it seemed to work just as well.

I combined the rhubarb and apple and layered the mixture with the crumble, then put it in the oven at 200 C for 45 minutes. I didn’t get a picture of this one either as people wanted it eat it as soon as it was out of the oven!

Tonight I made a pretty good dinner – chicken laksa, or Malaysian coconut soup. I put sweet potatoes and thin-sliced zucchini in the oven to roast until they were about 3/4 cooked, and steamed a head of broccoli. In the wok, I heated a can of low-fat coconut milk with sweet curry powder and sunny Singapore seasoning, both from The Spice House in Chicago. I put a diced chicken breast in the coconut-curry mixture to cook for about 10 minutes covered, then added the vegetables and some rice noodles, letting everything simmer until the vegetables were fully cooked. It’s really easy and, I believe, quite healthy. It feels very light to eat, unlike a curry made with thick yogurt and curry sauce. (Did you know? The diet on many South Pacific islands before westernization was coconuts, fish, and breadfruit. Coconuts supply 54% of the daily caloric intake! That’s a lot of coconuts!)

In other news, I will now be an official columnist for Londontopia, probably doing one post a week. Yay, I’m a paid blogger!

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.