20 June 2010


I has been months since I have posted anything, and it has been a while since I have cooked anything particularly exciting too, but I have cooked a few good things in the last while. Last year sometime I made a Lemon Posset, I think I posted about it. This time I used cream that had been frozen and then thawed. That doesn't work. It changes consistency and just doesn't set up in custards. So the lemon posset never really set and it had a weird consistency. So I now know that cream doesn't freeze. But at the same time I made Scottish Shortbread cookies. Those did turn out pretty well. They didn't taste exactly like Walkers, but pretty close.

I also made Zupfa, which is a sort of Swiss bread. It is delicious. I have a friend who has a good recipe and I used hers and it was delicious. I've decided that it is much cheaper to make your own bread than to buy it at the store and so that is what I've been doing. I made this recipe for between $5 and 6 dollars. And it made approximately 9 loaves. So it was 60 or 70 cents a loaf. So much cheaper than store bought bread, and it has no preservatives! The recipe was huge--I think the hardest part was finding a bowl bigg enough to mix it in, and then enough pans to bake it in. I had regular loaves, and more french bread shaped loaves, and round loaves, the works. I also tried to make cinnamon rolls out of some of it, but that didn't work too well. It's definitely not good for sweet breads.

Sometime after my Zupfa adventure I tried my hand at a chocolate rice pudding. I had all sorts of leftover rice one and I thought that that would be a good way to use it up. Yeah, no. I've never really had good rice pudding, but this definitely wasn't it. It tasted a lot like warm, mushy, cocoa krispies. Definitely not exciting. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Maybe other kinds of rice pudding are good, but this one wasn't.

Let's see, after my not so delicious rice pudding I made a dessert that I was a little more comfortable with. I needed a pie for something so I whipped up a cherry pie using cherries I bottled myself last summer. It turned out pretty well. I'm always glad when my pies turn out.

And the last dessert that I've made was a mango shortbread bar. It was pretty good. It had a shortbread base, and then mango slices on top of that and then more shortbread crumbled on top. it was a bit like a cobbler. Everyone seemed to like it well.

On my way

well, As I sit in the airport in SLC it still feels extremely surreal that I'm really leaving today, and that tomorrow morning I will land in London--Heathrow. And then I will start a whirlwind tour of the Isles. Oh, but it is exciting. Yesterday I drove to Grandma's house and spent the night with her. We had Zupas for dinner. It was delicious. I had a tortilla soup and a turkey and cranberry pannini. It was so light, and yet very filling.

But now I am ready for my flights and hopefully it will all go down uneventfully. The line at security was quite long, but it moved quickly. I think that aiports are the only place where it is not only socially acceptable but encouraged to get undressed in a crowd. Airports are a world of their own. I will try to post during my tirp, but I make no promises.

21 March 2010

Banoffee Pie and more

I find that once again I am behind on my posting. A few weeks ago I was flipping through a dessert cookbook that I picked up at a sale for 50% (because the dust jack has a tear in it) and I found a recipe for banoffee pie. Now, this recipe looked quite a bit more sophisticated than the banoffee that I'm used to, but for lack of any other recipe I decided to give it a shot. And, it even used my new tart pan--what could be better? When I made it, it certainly was more formal looking, and it didn't have quite the same flavour, but it was still delicious, and it tasted like banoffee. I will most definitely make this one again.

I also tried my hand at making calzones. They're not too hard. Pizza crust, pizza toppings, folded in half... They took forever to make. I guess all that dough rolling just took a long time. And it made about a billion calzones. I'll be eating them for a few more weeks. But, at least I don't have to cook as much now. I filled my calzones with ham, bell pepper, mozarella, and ricotta cheese. They were pretty tasty.

Then today, I was eating my grilled cheese sandwich for lunch and trying to decide what to make for dinner. I thought to myself--Mac and Cheese sounds good. I wonder if I have a recipe for that. or the ingredients. Turns out that I did find a recipe. It seemed simple enough, and I even had the ingredients; how rare is that? So, I made mac and cheese for dinner and also traditional Irish soda bread. I've made the soda bread before, and it turned out alright this time too. I haven't had mac and cheese in a long time, and this was way better than any box one I could have made.

25 February 2010

Telephone box library?

I was reading this article in Fine Books & Collections (February 2010) about how the residents of Westbury Village, Somerset solved their book problems when the city council decided that their mobile library van wasn't cost effective. They bought an old telephone box from British Telecom and fitted it with shelves and 100 books. It's a pretty nifty idea. I hope that people never stop reading books. Check out the whole article.

20 February 2010

Souffles and Custards

I would be remiss if I didn't update soon. It appears that it has been quite a while since I have written.

Some number of weeks ago I tried my hand at a Chocolate-Banana Fool. The OED explains a fool as "A dish composed of fruit stewed, crushed, and mixed with milk, cream, or custard." The word was first used in this sense in the late 1500s and was spelled with an e (foole). So essentially, a chocolate-banana fool is a sort of chocolate-banana custard. It was quite delicious, though the I think that next time I'll use a little less chocolate because it didn't mix into my custard as smoothly as I would have liked and so was a little grainy. but the semi-sweet chocolate definitely was a good sweetness.

After the fool, I tried a Cheese Souffle. Now, I have always heard the souffles are quite difficult to make, and that anything much of a loud sound will make them fall. I don't know about the loud noise (though I suspect that's merely and old wives' tale) but I do know that souffles aren't really that hard to make. You mix the ingredients, whip the egg whites, fold them together, and bake. They are delicious. I've tried to describe what exactly a souffle is to a number of people, and I have yet to come up with a very good explanation. It's sort of like a cake, only spongy-er, and a cheese souffle is kind of like cheesy scrambled eggs, but not. They are extremely light, and moist, and delish.

The week after I made this cheese souffle, I decided that one good souffle deserved another so I made "Hot Berry Souffles with a Mixed-berry Coulis," you know I like coulis. Instead of making these souffles in a big souffle dish like the cheese souffle, these I made in individual ramekins, so they were delightfully easy and individually portioned. The berry souffles were a nice light shade of purple, and were light, and fruity, and a great dessert. The best desserts are the ones where you can eat just a little and feel satisifed, and this was just that way. The coulis on top looked nice, and gave the souffle just the right sauce to eat it with. I included a picture of them right after they came out of the oven. They are amazingly tall, and fell quickly. but they were good--if I'm allowed to say that.

Earlier this week, I had the responsibility of providing treats for our weekly staff meeting, and so I made a Lemon Cream Tart. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture, so I have nothing to show for my work. Tarts are surprisingly easy to make, and quite tasty. The dough for the crust reminded me of the smell of cookie dough, (though the dough didn't taste like it. In fact it wasn't yummy at all). The lemon cream part was reminiscent of the filling that lemon meringue pies. I'll have to make it again sometime so that there can be a picture.

24 January 2010

Just a Minute

BBC Radio 4 has a delightful radio show called "Just a Minute." It is a kind of gameshow that is absolutely hilarious. There is a panel of contestants and one person is given a topic to speak on for sixty seconds without hesitation, repetition, or deviation. They are allowed to repeat the words in the topic, but that's it. And so, they begin speaking and when the other panelists catch the speaker hesitating, repeating themselves, or deviating from the topic the buzz in and if they make a correct challenge then they pick up the topic and the remaining time on the clock. The person speaking at the end of sixty seconds wins the round. It is the best show ever. I hope that I can contrive to get some tickets to see a recording while I'm in London this summer. Nicholas Parsons, the host, is hilarious. Such a good show. Check it out, you can listen on Radio 4's website.

19 January 2010

Cadbury or Kraft?

This just in. It looks like Cadbury is really truly on the brink of being bought out by Kraft. I've seen a few news articles to this extent over the last few months, but didn't think much of it until today. Check out the article. I really hope that if Kraft does in deed win the bid to buy out Cadbury that they don't change the chocolate at all. If they do then I will be quite saddened. Cadbury is one of the best chocolates on the market.

18 January 2010

One a penny, two a penny

Everyone remembers that song they learned in third or fourth grade called "Hot cross buns," right? Did you ever stop to think that maybe that song was based on a real kind of food? Well, if that thought never occurred to you, then maybe it's time for it to. Today (well and yesterday) I made Hot Cross Buns. I had some raisins left over from my adventures in December, and since I had some extra time because of the holiday today I thought that I would make buns. These buns are rather time intensive so I actually had to make the dough last night so it could rise in the fridge overnight, but it was so worth it. They really are delicious. It was nice to take a moment and remember the good times in England. They still eat these there. In the old days one a penny buns were larger than two a penny buns, but if you get the two a penny buns then I think you still ended up with more bun at the end.

10 January 2010

London called, I answered

Well, my love of London has finally paid off. I have found a way back to this beloved city, and adored country. I am to accompany a couple of professors and a number of students on a study abroad this summer term. It will be a wonderful experience, and one that I am desperately looking forward to. To return to the land where children say "yeh" after every sentence, and where I get to gratefully ignore all the strangers around me, where I can ride the tube everyday, and where I can consume as much Ribena as possible. Oh, it will be delightful. And maybe I can even learn more about the delightful gastronomy of the English.

02 January 2010

A Veritable Christmas Feast

For my final project in Victorian Literature this last semester I prepared a Victorian Christmas feast. It was an exciting project, one that certainly kept me on my toes. I ended up cooking for about 15 hours straight, but I think it was worth it. Though,I don't think that I will embark on such a venture again for a long time. Here is just a taste of the foods that I cooked. This is the finished product of the Christmas pudding I made. I made about a billion other dishes too. In fact, if you are curious, there is a pretty detailed account at refreshingfare.blogspot.com. This project forced me to learn so much about Victorian gastronomy. In fact, I have found a new interest. Victorian food is fascinating.

A Victorian Christmas Feast

Well, I tried to update my blog a few weeks ago, even in a reasonable amount of time since my feast, but I ran into a number of technical difficulties. But then we both know how quick I am to update.

For my Victorian Literature class this semester, my professor and I decided that instead of having me write a second paper for the class, that I would plan and execute a Victorian Christmas Feast. We decided this sometime in mid-October, and I spent much of the next nearly two months planning this meal (and for all that planning my logistics were awful). I did a lot of research, consulted a number of period cookbooks, and even attempted some of the recipes. In order to convert from mid-eighteen hundreds cooking style to present day can be a challenge. Many recipes I looked at instructed you to boil the food over a “clear fire” for 8 hours. How hot exactly does a “clear fire” burn anyways? All I really know about clear fires is that it must be a fire that isn’t smoky. But that doesn’t help me much since I cook on an electric range. And 8 hours? Really? Or how about the recipes that say “add the weight of two and one half eggs of flour”? How much does an egg weigh? How much is half an egg? And why not give me a measure of flour in cups and tablespoons? After some trial and error, and some decisions to go with my perhaps more modern recipes, but nonetheless tasty and authentic ones, I formulated a menu.

Now, Victorians like to eat a lot of meat, and so a traditional meal for them would often feature six or more different kinds of meat, however mine only included three (which was still costly enough). I started us off with a nice carrot soup. Of course a more traditional Christmas soup would have been a clear gravy soup featuring veal, but I neither know how to prepare veal nor know really where to buy it; so I went with the less traditional Christmas soup in favor of one that is perfectly acceptable in December. After the soup we settled in for our meat. A nice sirloin roast complete with horseradish sauce and Yorkshire pudding (one of which even came out of the pan perfectly), some cold boiled ham, and turkey with sausage stuffing. The turkey was quite an experience. I bought a turkey breast thinking that it would be something along the lines of a chicken breast (and therefore easier to deal with than a whole turkey), little did I know that while a chicken breast is about the size of your fist a turkey breast is about the size of your head (and definitely complete with bones). The turkey and I had a bit of a contest, but I won hands down—though I certainly wouldn’t say that I’m ready to carve the next thanksgiving bird.

Dessert is one of the most important parts of a meal, and not only would there be the big, large desserts served, but there would be a number of smaller dishes like nuts and fruit to sort of fill in the gaps and make everything look absolutely heavenly. Naturally I chose to make a classic, Christmas pudding in addition to the mince meat pies, orange jelly, Charlotte Russe, and gateaux de pomme. The Christmas pudding ought to have been doused in brandy and then set aflame as it was being brought in; however, as I told my class, the university frowns on open flames in the buildings—though the class reminded me that they also frown on food in classrooms. Puddings take forever to make. The recipe said that it should boil for about six hours. I didn’t really believe them, but it does in fact boil for about five. The pudding mold that I used wasn’t particularly large, and so I ended up having to boil two of them. Ten hours later when I was done with the puddings, my apartment was not only quite warm but also very humid and a little foggy. The desserts turned out very well, and were even well received. I was glad that my class took the time to set aside their prejudices and give the mince meat pies and Christmas pudding a chance.

For reasons I don’t understand the English have a reputation for rather awful food. I am here to dispel this rumor. Nearly all of your favorite Christmas and Thanksgiving foods are English. And besides, mince meat has no meat in it, it hasn’t for hundreds of years. Its really just apples, raisins, and spices—in a pie crust. How is that not delicious?

Well, this meal was certainly an adventure, I learned a ton, and enjoyed every minute of it. But then I always have enjoyed moldy, dusty books, sometimes even more than their non-moldy counterparts—so the research was a blast. The cooking took quite a long time. One thing I can say for the Victorian cook is that she had help. I had only myself, and consequently I would have been terminated as an employee of anyone since about half the food I served, I served quite cold. But I think that we spent probably comparable amounts of time in the kitchen, nearly 15 hours (not including the foods I prepared a day or two in advance). Since you likely didn’t get to enjoy the food, enjoy the pictures, though I warn you that some of them are a little blurry.