Auld Link Sausage in the VeloKitchen

December 29, 2015

Wrapping up 2015, my 12-year-old son asked me for one word to describe my year. The one I chose is slow-food. I’m using the URL address spelling to fit into the “one word” rule.

Since moving to Idaho in 2014, I began connecting with local food and farmers and started gleaning essential gardening tips for our short growing season in the Idaho Panhandle from savvy natives. I met some interesting and wise characters at farmers markets and roadside stands whose wealth of know how filled holes in my local knowledge. Participating in the “Food for Thought” book club sponsored by the Inland Northwest Food Network and our public library has become my favorite meeting of the month, and our discussions open my eyes to food-related topics that had rarely crossed my mind.

In our first Idaho garden, we harvested over 100 lbs. of organic produce mostly grown from seeds, (yes, we had an abundant potato crop), saved seeds from an heirloom tomato plant following instructions from a farmer who also sold us dehydrated llama poo fertilizer. In our kitchen, we adapted modern technology for old-time techniques and mastered a few “advanced” cooking skills.

Our biggest adventure was purchasing our first half-hog from Cable Creek Farm. Bob the Butcher, helped us decide on meat cuts from the 90 lbs. hanging weight, and away we went with several boxes of cut and wrapped Berkshire pork. Allow me to share how we are slowly honoring this pig’s life.

  • Slow Pork Pie – My husband, Tony, who hails from Leicestershire, England, home of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, began perfecting his from-scratch recipe in our Coeur d’Alene kitchen. Surrounded by a hot water pastry and filled with pork seasoned with herbs from our garden, he injects gelatin made from home-made pork bone broth. The finished product takes two days but is well worth the effort. This pork pie is savory and eaten cold which made it an ideal contribution to our gourmet picnic lunch at the bottom of the Trail of Hiawatha bike ride last August.
    Slow British Bangers – Next came ground pork shoulder sausages. Perfecting the traditional banger recipe by experimenting with different cuts and grind settings and taste testing herb and spice combinations was a party in our bellies. We eat bangers with a “full English” breakfast and bangers and mash for dinner. There are never any leftovers.
  • Slow Bone Broth – I owe my bone broth success to simmering browned bones in a slow cooker with veggies, herbs and spices and apple cider vinegar for three to five days creating a clear, deeply flavored, savory hot beverage or a base for soup, stew, chowder, Phở, etc. My kitchen smells satisfyingly medieval when chicken, beef, pork or lamb bones are simmering 24 hours a day for days on end.
  • Slow Pulled Pork Tamales – I understand that preparing tamales from scratch is usually a multi-person hands-on project. But after becoming inspired by a cooking class at The Culinary Stone by Chef Colomba from Cafe Carambola, I undertook a tamale cooking project in my kitchen. Using a beautiful, creamy white lard from Sunny Springs Garden Farm’s Berkshire pigs, I whipped the lard in my KitchenAid for 15 minutes, according to the chef’s instructions, until it became the consistency of a butter cream icing. My first tamales, which took a few hours to prepare on my own, were filled with pulled pork (simmered for a day in the slow cooker) and chipotle salsa. While they look rustic on the outside, I achieved a light and airy masa.Slow food is a team effort. In our family we back away from industrialized “food” and understand that a home-cooked dinner takes at least an hour to prepare, but nourishing our bodies and souls with good food at the dinner table and knowing where our food came from makes our meals all the more satisfying.

    Here’s wishing you and yours Auld Lang Syne, love, kindness and friendship, at your kitchen table every day in 2016!

 

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Stamina in the VeloKitchen

March 7, 2010

Mole Poblano

Ride a hilly Metric Century on my bicycle (62 miles) or prepare a Mole Poblano? Each takes about 5 -1/2 hours to complete, and both are epic events. Standing in the kitchen can be nearly as tiring as pedaling for that duration. I’ve had the pleasure of eating many kinds of moles of pureed spices, chiles, seeds and a myriad of other ingredients in Mexico many times. I had heard that preparing this Mexican haute cuisine dish from scratch was time-consuming, but I had no idea of the effort required.  The recipe I chose is from Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years of Food and Art (available on epicurious.com) and is very similar to the one in Frida’s Fiestas, Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo a lovely, beautiful cookbook.

22 dried chiles

My preparation began by shopping at the Mercado Latino which sells the dried chiles in separate bags for about $2.50 each. Nearly every one of the 20+ ingredients in this mole needs pre-treatment before being combined into one of three distinct purees. I toasted, roasted, blanched, blended, plumped, chopped, popped, husked, ground, soaked, fried, … you get the picture. In my pre-cooking research, I read many warnings against taking shortcuts to avoid a muddy-tasting mole.

My husband helped out after his 30-mile bike ride by de-veining and de-seeding 22 dried chiles: 9 mulatos, 7 pasillas and 6 anchos. The dried chiles are black with specks of red and give the Mole Poblano its color. Chef Ravago strongly advises using exactly 22 chiles, and although you can vary the number of each, you may never substitute any other kind of chile. I counted out the chiles three times. I never question cooking superstitions, especially on such an elaborate dish.

Ibarra chocolate

In the spirit of keeping my blog posts at around 500 words, I will summarize the next few hours of the preparation process which challenged all of my cooking know-how and followed with heavy-duty pureeing to ensure smooth pastes. By the end of the afternoon, even my VitaMix and food processor were tired, their motors heating up in protest! I can certainly empathize with cooks from the days of old when the ingredients were hand-ground in a molcajete. After combining half a round of Ibarra Mexican chocolate with the purees, the mole quietly simmered in a dutch oven for about an hour requiring frequent stirring to prevent scorching. My fear of ruining four hours of food preparation and needlessly splattering the VeloKitchen and dirtying countless dishes counted toward my day’s upper body workout.

Mole Poblano is commonly served over chicken in Mexican restaurants. Frida’s recipe calls for turkey. Since we prepared this dish as an appetizer for a chocolate-themed wine dinner with foodie friends, we decided to present the mole over three kinds of meat: poached turkey, roasted duck and grilled pork, and served with a dark Mexican beer: Negra Modelo. My husband handled the roasting and grilling.

The result was a divine Mole Poblano: well-balanced, smooth, spicy, but not too hot, and no flavor overpowered another. By far, the duck brought out the virtues of the mole’s flavors and the beer nicely complimented the spices and textures.

If you are interested in more photos of the mole preparation process, please visit my Cycling Chef Facebook page and share your Mole Poblano cooking and eating experiences in the comments below!

Originally published on March 7, 2010.

©2010 Cycling_Chef’s Velokitchen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. All Rights Reserved


A Curry Love Affair in the VeloKitchen

November 22, 2009

I haven’t always had a love affair with curry, especially Indian curries. In fact, when I met Tony and we began our long distance, (7,253 miles or 11,671 km), year long courtship between Seattle, Washington, and Wellington, New Zealand via email, I learned Indian food was his favorite. The thought crossed my mind that we might not be as compatible as we had seemed in person. I now realize my Indian curry experience had been quite limited.

Hundreds of emails in 12 months where his burning question EVERY day was, “What are you having for dinner?” made me realize the way to this man’s heart was through his stomach. It wasn’t until after we were married and he moved many jars of assorted spices, seeds, pods, sticks, peppers and leaves into our spice cupboard that I learned he was quite serious about his curries. I made a mental note that to have harmony at our dinner table, I should learn to embrace Indian curries. As it turned out, he introduced me to my first homemade Indian curry via his favorite recipe book “Indian Curries” by Madhur Jaffrey. Timatur Murghi (Chicken with tomatoes and garam masala) was delicious! This dish is what I now call my “comfort curry.”

With curry peace achieved, my husband cooked about two curries a week. I started reading curry recipes but felt intimidated by the long lists of ingredients. It’s not unusual for a curry recipe to call for 10 to 15 spices PLUS another five or more other ingredients (meat, tomatoes, onions, etc.). Most curry recipe instructions are fairly precise of when to add each ingredient and the duration to stir, cook or simmer each before adding the next which makes them seem complicated, but once I got brave enough to cook the first few, the steps became logical.

I don’t remember which curry recipe I chose first to prepare on my own and without a pre-made curry mix, but I found cooking Indian curries quite enjoyable. That led to our next step, our 50 Curries Project, where we are cooking our way out of a curry rut of preparing the same 6-8 recipes. We decided to stretch our apron strings and are experimenting with different curry flavors by cooking our way through Camellia Panjabi’s “50 Great Curries of India” cookbook. The photos in the cookbook are mouth watering.

We are cooking the curries at random, and a few weekends ago we prepared our eighth curry from Panjabi’s book, Malabar Shrimp Curry (Konju Curry). The photo of this curry graces the cover of the cookbook and is a beautiful combination of red and orange accented with green curry leaves and hot peppers. We made this curry with U15 prawns. The most interesting and different preparation step from other curries we have cooked was heating two teaspoons of oil in a ladle over the stovetop burner and adding sliced shallots and curry leaves to infuse the oil which we poured over the prawns just before serving. We rated this dish 8/10 and will indeed be preparing this curry again.

Next weekend we invited friends to dinner for the ninth curry. I’m pretty sure we will delay making the egg curry, (I’ve got to get my head around hard boiled eggs and curry), or the Aab Gosht (Lamb Cooked in Milk). The photo of Aab Gosht shows white meat, apparently from the milk, served on white rice which doesn’t look too appetizing. But every curry in this cookbook has surprised our taste buds, so stand by for the next curry post and the rest of this book. We are committed to cooking all 50!

Do you enjoy preparing and eating Indian curries? Check out our Curry Crazy Project on our 50 Curries Project page where we are cooking our way through Camellia Panjabi’s 50 Great Curries of India cookbook!

©2009 Cycling_Chef’s Velokitchen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. All Rights Reserved.


Death Row Meal in the VeloKitchen

October 31, 2009

The D.C. sniper’s execution date is set for Nov. 10th, but I’m not here to debate the death penalty. Nor is this post meant to be morbid or macabre even though it’s published on Halloween. However, the topic brings up the question, if you were able, “What would you choose for your last dinner?”

death row mealMy husband has a menu he has long called his “Death Row Meal.” (He’s not planning anything sinister. Neither am I). His ultimate comfort food meal is braised lamb chops with onions and gravy served with boiled potatoes, green peas and cauliflower with English cheddar cheese sauce. This supper is a straightforward and hearty dish he insists on preparing whenever I bring home lamb chops. If I were choosing my last meal, I think I might like someone else to cook my dinner. In my research for this post, it seems that inmates on death row choose comfort foods or foods unique to their culture rather than meals that are exotic or rare. Some do not make a final meal request. Reportedly the most requested meal by death row inmates is a cheeseburger and fries.

Last year, at a wine dinner with our foodie friends, we went around the table and asked each person to describe their Death Row Meal. Because we are cooking and food enthusiasts, our conversation took a couple of hours and we ended up going around and around the table describing our “last” entree, appetizer, dessert and salad. The wide variety of choices, some simple and others rare, made for fascinating debate and quite a few laughs.

Feel free to leave a comment below of your Death Row meal!

Originally published on October 31, 2009.

©2009 Cycling_Chef’s Velokitchen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. All Rights Reserved.


35 Green Cardamoms in the VeloKitchen

October 25, 2009

35 cardamomsIn my research to write this post I learned that cardamoms are part of the ginger family. There are three types: green, black and Madagascar. The Indian curries we cook usually call for green cardamom and we use two to three whole pods which are cooked in the sauce and then discarded. Sometimes we forget to remove them before serving and we find out when we bite into something crunchy and bitter. This recipe, Elaichi Gosht, (Meat cooked with Cardamom), on p. 86 on Camellia Panjabi’s cookbook “50 Great Curries of India”, caught our attention because it is prepared with 35 ground green cardamoms, ten times more than any other curry we have cooked.

The other ingredient curious to us, as compared to other Indian curries we cook, is that this recipe calls for two teaspoons of ground black pepper. Our cookbook explains that in many parts of India this dish is prescribed to women who have recently given birth and in the Sindh region new mothers eat this curry every day. It makes me wonder how this primes the palates of breast-fed babes in India.

Elaichi GoshtMy husband prepared this curry with lamb, although it could be prepared with chicken. He ground the cardamom pods in our coffee bean grinder. The black pepper flavor was very intense and overpowered the other flavors, (tomatoes, turmeric, chile, coriander powder). This is our fifth adventure in our “50 Curries Project” and we have no regrets about trying something different, but it did not rate anywhere near one of our favorite curries. If we prepare this dish again, we would season it with about 1/2 tsp. black pepper, add garam masala before serving and garnish with a flavorful chutney.

Do you enjoy preparing and eating Indian curries? Check out our Curry Crazy Project on our 50 Curries Project page where we are cooking our way through Camellia Panjabi’s 50 Great Curries of India cookbook!

©2009 Cycling_Chef’s Velokitchen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. All Rights Reserved.


Palak Gosht (slow Indian cooked curry) in the VeloKitchen

September 23, 2009
Palak Gosht

Palak Gosht

We finished eating dinner two hours ago and our house still smells like a curry! I broke in my brand new All-Clad slow cooker with an Indian lamb and spinach curry, also known as palak gosht. I was inspired by the recipe in the October 2009 “Oprah” magazine. Here is the link: http://www.oprah.com/recipe/omagazine/recipes/200910-omag-recipe-lamb-curry . If you have never made a curry or your family is not used to eating Indian curries, I recommend this recipe as it is mild and tasty. I think you could easily substitute chicken for lamb, or even make this recipe vegetarian with an equally succesful result. 

We eat Indian curries at least twice a week so I enhanced this recipe based on our experience of cooking with Indian spices and after consulting one of our Indian cookbooks, 50 Great Curries of India by Camelia Panjabi.  When you open our spice cabinet, the smells of curry ingredients waft out of the cupboard. We usually make a mild version for our youngster (little to no chili or cayenne pepper) and a spicier one for the adults. If my husband sweats from his brow, then the curry is hot enough! This was my first attempt at cooking a curry in the slow cooker. The advantages of slow cooking are that you can prepare the meal in advance and the meat turns out melt-in-your mouth tender.

To the recipe above, I added 3/4 tsp. coriander powder, a bay leaf and 2 cloves. The next time I prepare this curry I would also add 1/2 tsp. Garam Masala powder just before serving. To prepare a family-friendly recipe, I cut the cayenne pepper to 1/8 teaspoon while the curry simmered in the crockpot. When the slow cook cycle was complete, (eight hours on low heat), I removed my son’s portion and added two small Thai chilis to the rest to add heat to the curry. If you like your curries very hot, then you could add even more chilis at this step since adding the yogurt at the end cuts the heat of the chilis.

If your slow cooker has been on the warm cycle for an hour or more, you will need to slightly heat the curry before you add the spinach at the end so that it will wilt quickly (in about five minutes). Beware not to heat the curry too much or when you add the yogurt just before serving, the yogurt will curdle. This will not change the flavor, but curdled dairy looks clumpy instead of creamy. I served this curry over rice.  My vote for cooking a curry in a slow cooker is a win and I look forward to adapting other recipes. What’s your experience cooking Indian curries? Please leave a comment below!

Do you enjoy preparing and eating Indian curries? Check out our Curry Crazy Project on our 50 Curries Project page where we are cooking our way through Camellia Panjabi’s 50 Great Curries of India cookbook!

©2009 Cycling_Chef’s Velokitchen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. All Rights Reserved.


Green Lips in the VeloKitchen

September 19, 2009

My mom is from Cataluña, the northeast region of Spain, and our family grew up eating what’s now called a “Mediterranean Diet.”  The aroma of olive oil, garlic and onions sauteeing in a fry pan are comfort food smells in my kitchen. I often joke that when we were growing up my mom would begin cooking dinner each night with these three ingredients, and then say, “What should we have for dinner?” and then add chicken, fish, vegetables, etc. to the pan.

A few weeks ago Scallywag, who as an unusual palate for a six-year old, requested one of his favorite dinners: greenlip mussels. I’m always looking for different “brain foods” to add variety to our diet. Greenlip mussels are reported to have low mercury content and are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. I have prepared greenlip mussels in many different ways, but my favorite recipe is a simple broth of my mom’s favorite meal starter plus chopped fresh ginger, red peppers, white wine, Thai fish sauce and sweet chili sauce. The greenlip mussels we are able to buy in our neighborhood are cooked and flash frozen so we only need to steam them for about eight minutes in the broth before we eat them. In this photo you can see apricot and cream colored mussels. The apricot colored ones are female; the cream ones are male. They taste the same.

I will never forget the first time I tasted greenlip mussels at the Mussel Boys Restaurant in Havelock South, near the top of the South Island in New Zealand in the year 2000.  They were that special! The Mussel Boys Restaurant was once described by Travel and Leisure magazine as a “funky roadside shack.” Greenlip mussels are endemic to New Zealand and although the mussels are large in size, they are not chewy, but tender and flavorful. The Mussel Boys prepare greenlips is many different ways. If you have the opportunity to visit New Zealand, don’t miss this great delicacy! And if you can find greenlip mussels in your neighborhood, they are easy to prepare to make a quick, tasty, nutritious meal.

©2009 Cycling_Chef’s Velokitchen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. All Rights Reserved.