It would be fair to say I’ve been pretty lazy lately.
We’ve had Thanksgiving, essays, exams, Christmas, Friendsmas, Boxing Day, an iron deficiency, a new puppy, new jobs… and it seems like somehow along the way I forgot how to cook in my own kitchen.
This is a very, very overdue but very simple frittata with fresh spring-y, summer-y flavours. We needed a low-carb, healthy, vegetarian dinner on a warm evening for a large group and this worked perfectly. And even though the ingredients sound scary on the wallet (what doesn’t after Christmas, lets be fair), we bought the asparagus on special and divided by our eight diners it was surprisingly reasonable. The side ‘salad’ of zucchini and red onion helps to keep up our smug healthy face and mix things up.
Just the sort of thing for someone who needs to ease back into home cooking.
Spring Frittata (based on a taste.com.au recipe)
Ingredients (serves 8):
4 bunches of asparagus
1 large leek
2 dozen eggs
200g fresh goats cheese, or to taste
Salt, pepper, olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
Cut or snap the woody ends off the asparagus and cut the spears in half. Slice the leek into coins about 3-5mm wide.
Heat a heavy frying pan on the stove and add a glugg of olive oil. Toss in the leek and asparagus and cook until the leek has softened.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a large bowl until they come together. You could add milk or cream here, to your taste.
Scatter the sauteed vegetables into a large, deep sided glass tray. Crumble the goat’s cheese over the vegetables. Pretend like you’re Nigella and your vegetables automatically tumble gracefully into position. Then fix them so there’s a more or less even coverage of vegetables and cheese so no one misses out. Season to taste.
Pour the egg mix over the vegetables and place the tray in the oven.
Bake until the mix is set in the centre. How long this will take will depend on how big your tray was – the smaller and thus deeper the mix is, the longer you’ll need. I think ours took about half an hour.
Zucchini ‘Salad’ (based on a taste.com.au recipe)
As many zucchinis as you can bear to cut up. They get squeaky after a while but I can usually handle 4 or so. But if you can take turns this scales really well.
1 red onion per couple of zucchini
A handful of mint leaves
Salt, pepper, olive oil
Roughly chop the zucchini, finely slice the onion(s), and pile onto a baking tray.
Zest and juice the lemon, then pour over the vegetables. Add a glugg or two of olive oil and season to taste.
Place the tray in the oven under the frittata and roast for 20-30 minutes or until the zucchini is cooked. Scatter with mint leaves and serve with a dollop of yoghurt if you’re that way inclined.
TBP – Joffrey should just die. I do love eating these meals though. This was probably my favourite yet (but I really liked that cherry stuffing). If you agree with me (about Joffrey) you should check out this gif. You’re welcome.
This is a recurring favourite from last years Game of Thrones cookery. It’s as savoury and warming as you’d expect, hailing from the Wall.
Last year the Swansea Street Butcher was closed due to a fire and refurbishment and didn’t re-open until Christmas. I drove to four butchers looking for mutton, to no avail, and eventually settled on some fatty, boney chump chops figuring they’d have the most flavour. I was pretty excited this year to finally get my hands on some mutton so I could make this properly. Swansea Street have all sorts of exciting goodies, from the legendary ‘curry meat’ to sheep’s testicles and just about any other offal you care to name. I spotted some black pudding and decided to push my fellow diners buttons by adding that to the menu. Luckily they all rose to the challenge. Next time I’ll deep fry it.
Black pudding, crumbly cheddar and bread
Mutton cooked in a thick broth of ale and onions
Greens dressed with apples and pine nuts
Stewed quince with honey yoghurt
Mutton and Ale Stew
Ingredients (serves 6-8):
Leg of mutton
~12 375ml bottles of your favourite ale or equivalent volume (I like James Squire Nine Tales Amber Ale, and we buy a carton. To be on the safe side.)
~6 large onions
2c barley (or more to taste)
oil for frying
flour for dusting
optional: actual vegetables. This has worked well on various occasions with some combination of diced carrot, swede, turnip and parsnip.
Break the leg of mutton down into similarly sized chunks with a very sharp knife. You can either include the bone in the pot or save it for making stock later. Toss the chunks of mutton with some flour, heat some oil in a heavy saucepan, and brown the mutton in batches.
While the mutton is browning, roughly chop the onions. I leave mine in hefty wedges, I think if you cut them any smaller you’d barely notice them after a long cooking time. Remove the last batch of mutton and fry the onions until they start to soften. Place the mutton back to the pan and add about two thirds of the ale, and top up with water until the meat is all submerged. Bring to a boil, stirring, to avoid the pot foaming over. Reduce the heat somewhat and cook at a medium-high heat for two and a half to three hours, topping up with the remaining ale if the liquid gets too low, and diluting with water if the taste is too strong.
About 45 minutes before you want to eat, add the barley and stir through. Make sure there is a little more liquid than you think you need at this point as the barley will absorb some of it.
Serve with a hunk of bread to soak up the leftover broth.
Sugar to taste (ballpark 200g, allow far more than you would for most other fruits)
Vanilla pod and/or a lemon (either a squeeze of juice or some sliced rind, without the pith), if you like
Peel and slice the quinces. You’ll need very sharp tools and getting the core out can be a real challenge, so watch your fingers. Place sliced quince in a saucepan, add the sugar (and any other extras) and cover with water. Bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar and reduce the heat down as far as it can go. Simmer, uncovered, until the fruit is done to your liking. I never really pay attention to how long this takes as it seems to vary greatly between quinces, so check every 10 minutes or so and allow 45 minutes or so.
When the fruit is tender, remove it from the liquid with a slotted spoon and put aside. Boil the syrup aggressively until it reduces somewhat to make a sauce. We served it with honey yoghurt, but it makes a great filling for a crumble, or a cereal topping for breakfast.
TBP – I got a complaint earlier about including too many photos! So today you don’t get as many ingredient shots as I took (you only get two! *gasp*). But this meal was amazing, and our friend said he had never tasted chicken so tender. I, on the other hand, fell in love with the stuffing. CHERRIES IN STUFFING, it’s like having TWO desserts!
Sorry this took so long to get up, I’ve been horribly busy with assignments and stuff and I was feeling pretty out of it that day. But we have three more posts on their way to you very soon.
A couple of weeks ago I discovered the food history section of our University Library. Somehow, amazingly, I’d never run across it at work and as TBP and the Breeze can attest, I got a bit excited. Showing great restraint I borrowed a mere seven titles and am currently plugging through them under the justification of it being ‘practically study’. Pleyn Delit by Constance B Hieatt and Sharon Butler gives a recipe in the original language (if that language bears a vague resemblance to modern English, and otherwise translated) with a reference to the text it was drawn from, followed by a version of the recipe translated for modern readers and their tastes. While they go to great lengths to explain that medieval cookery was not all heavily spiced sauces on boiled chickens, there is still a fair bit of that going on. Fabulous Feasts by Madeleine Pelner Cosman on the other hand (and granted I haven’t finished reading this one yet) features more recipes that seem accessible for modern tastes and comes recommended by Julia Child, so what more could you want? This menu draws from both of them. As it was, yet again, a public holiday rounding up the (fairly standard) ingredients was somewhat of a trial, made no easier by the fact I had my clumsiest day so far this year and managed to knock something off the shelf in every store we went in to as well as ruin a caramel, nearly ruin a thermometer, drop a mug and cause two boxes of plastic cups to fall on my foot. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am all class.
Chicken with oats, ricotta, cherry stuffing & a bread sauce
Farsed Chicken from Fabulous Feasts
(recipe is verbatim except for my comments in parantheses and quantities/temperatures were translated to metric)
1 large roasting chicken, 2-2.5kg
½ c dry lentils
1 ½ c ale
1 c chicken broth
200-300g cherries (we used jarred)
200g ricotta cheese
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sweet basil
2 TB butter
⅔ c white wine
¾ slices of white bread, crumbled
¼ tsp salt
Soak lentils in ale overnight (or skip this step if you’re disorganised). Boil lentils in residual ale plus broth for 15 minutes. Drain lentils and reserve 1 cup of fluid.
Remove pits from cherries (we used jarred so this was already done) and cut each in half, or if very large, in quarters.
Mix lentils, cherries, ricotta, and oats. Sprinkle on salt and basil (which I replaced with thyme).
Stuff the bird, rub the skin with butter (or dot if you’re lazy) and bake at 180 degrees celsius for about 2 hours or until flesh is tender and skin crisp. Prepare a ‘gravy’ with 1 cup of reserved lentil fluid, wine, bread and salt, gently simmering all for 10 minutes.
I admit I was a bit skeptical about the ‘gravy’ as I’d never had a bread sauce before, but it did all come together passably smooth. Just keep stirring, it works even though it looks unlikely.
L: “gravy” at the point where I started to panic. R: barley just before the eggs are added.
Frumenty from Pleyn Delit
(recipe is verbatim except for my comments in parantheses)
Aym clene Wete and bray it in a morter wel that the holys gon al of and seyth yt til brete and nym yt up, and lat it kele and nym fayre fresch broth and swete milk of Almandys or swete mylk of kyne and temper yt al, and nym the yolkys of eyryn; boyle it a ltyl and set yt adon and messe yt forthe wyth fat venyson and fresh moton.
Cracked Wheat (Barley Variation)
1 c pearl barley
3 c meat stock or bouillion, or use half milk (can be almond milk)
optional: pinch of saffron, 1 or 2 egg yolks (both highly recommended by the book)
Bring the stock to a boil and stir in the barley and saffron (if you have time, heat the stock and saffron and let them sit a while first). Cover the pan and turn the heat very low; let the frumenty cook for about 45 minutes (or a little longer for barley). It may be served as it is, or you can remove it from the heat, stir in beaten egg yolk, then return to very low heat and stir for a few minutes before serving.
I added some extra liquid so I could safely leave it on the stove while I did something else and had to strain some of it off so it wasn’t soupy. Depending on how high you have the heat, you may have to do this even if you use the correct quantity.
Spynoch Yfryed from Pleyn Delit
(recipe is verbatim except for my comments in parantheses and quantities/temperatures were translated to metric)
Take spynoches; parboile hem in sepying water. Take hem up and presse out he water and hewe in two. Frye hem in oile clene, & do her-to powder & serve forth.
1 kilo fresh spinach, washed, picked over for withered leaves, and trimmed
salted water for parboiling
2-3TB olive oil
pinch each of ginger and allspice
parboil spinach in a large pot of water for about 4 minutes; drain, press out excess water with your hands, and chop the spinach; put in a saucepan or small casserole with oil and seasonings. Stir and leave to cook over very low heat for another 15 minutes or so; or put in covered casserole in a low oven for about 20 minutes
This spinach was not amazing. Spinach is my go-to lazy vegetable for Game of Thrones dinners but I normally wilt it in the pan juices. Maybe I didn’t fry it long enough? I only gave it about five minutes because I was pretty convinced there’d be nothing left after fifteen. It’s probably worth giving this one more go with something a bit hardier like cavolo nero.
We went down south last winter and road-tripped home again via the Blackwood Meadery near Karridale (and the Venison Farm and everything else delicious we passed). They don’t have a website but if you’re in the South-West you should consider going to check them out. One of my favourites was the plum and mead liqueur, which we had a nip of in keeping with the stone fruit theme. On the hot tip that it would be a good match for roast chicken we challenged my irrational fear of Chardonnay and tried a lightly oaked specimen from Margaret River that did indeed go quite nicely.
Verdict: all round delicious. I would definitely make the chicken again for a non-themed dinner as the flavours were modern and although it sounds odd, unusual but not unfamiliar. The barley was a bit of a dark horse and may become a staple at Game of Thrones night in the future. I’m going back to my usual spinach method in the future though.
George R R Martin is one of my favourite authors. His universe is detailed, his plots are intriguing and infuriating, and you can barely turn a page without running into some kind of food, be it acorn paste or suckling pig. Luckily for me, a list has been compiled of almost all the mentions of food in the series (although they haven’t included A Dance with Dragons yet). I’ve been using that list as inspiration for themed dinner parties since mid-2010, originally for a friend’s role playing game, and later as we watched the TV series. For the return of the second season, we got together for a not-entirely-accurate-but-nonetheless-delicious feast. And if anyone knows where to get wild boar at short notice in Perth, please let us know.
Boar cooked with apples and mushrooms
Crispy roast potatoes
Roasted onions, dripped in gravy
Summer greens tossed with pecans
I kept forgetting to order the pork so I had to go to a different butcher because I was too embarrassed. I have a pretty great relationship with my local butcher and he is always happy to help enable my ridiculous food adventures but it’s also a running joke how I leave my projects until the last minute, and asking for a piece of meat that big only about 6 hours before I wanted to eat it would have been sure to get me in trouble. I headed to a butcher in a more pretentious part of town where I figured no one would bat an eyelid at an outrageous request and had a glorious 10-bone rack of Plantagenet Pork in my arms fifteen minutes later. Hopefully the apprentice wasn’t too put off by me hanging over the wall watching as he broke it up.
Boar with Apples and Mushrooms
(“it tasted like victory”)
1 pork rack (ours was around 2.5kg with 10 bones and allowed 6 people to absolutely gorge themselves)
1 cooking apple
knob of butter
200g interesting mushrooms, or more to taste (we used shiitake because they were local, but you could use any variety, or substitute dried forest mushrooms soaked in hot water)
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
Start with the stuffing so it can cool while you prepare the pork. And, as I always forget to do, pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees.
Peel, core and cube the apple. The size is up to you, I went for very rough 1cm cubes. The larger they are they more they will retain their shape and texture, and the smaller they are the more likely to turn to apple sauce, so it depends on how you like it. Melt the knob of butter in a frying pan and gently saute the apple.
Peel and finely chop the garlic. Wipe the mushrooms clean and cut them into pieces around the same size as the apple. Add them to the frying pan and continue to saute until the apples are tender and the mushrooms soft. Set the stuffing aside to cool.
Lay the pork rack skin side down on a chopping board or piece of baking paper and grab a long, narrow bladed knife, the sharper the better. Find the end of the bones and cut down behind them, being careful not to cut all the way through to the skin and fat. Pull the flesh away from the bones a little so you can see what you’re doing and change direction, cutting parallel to the table heading away from the bones. Continue to ‘unroll’ the pork as you go until you’re happy with how far you’ve flattened it out and that you have enough room to fit the stuffing in.
Cut some lengths of twine long enough to wrap around the pork with another 15cm or so spare so you have plenty to hold on to. I cut one to go between each bone to make sure everything was really secure but you could make do with 3 or 4 if you’re in a rush or short on string. Slide these into position under the pork with the ends trailing out on each side.
Season the exposed meat and add the stuffing. The size of the ingredients you use may mean you have too much – you don’t have to use it all. You still need to roll it back up and any leftover stuffing would make a great garnish (though if you laid it on the raw meat and then changed your mind, you’ll need to cook it again). Starting with the middle, draw the pork back together and tie it tightly closed. Do the ends next and work your way back to the middle.
When you’re happy it’s all secure, trim the ends of the string close to the knot, flip the rack over and place it in a roasting pan. Wipe the skin with a paper towel, mix together some baking powder and salt (I find a really finely ground salt works much better here than flakes or rocks) and rub the combination into the skin. Place the tray in the oven and roast until done to your liking.
If you have a meat thermometer, the minimum temperature you want is 71 degrees celsius. If not, as a rule of thumb roasts tend to cook for around an hour a kilo. In this case I knew we had more than an hour a kilo up our sleeves and there was enough fat on the cut to keep it moist, so we left it in until we were ready to eat. The crackling was amazing and the meat was falling off the bone.
Make a gravy. Feast.