Not Awful Offal!

Haggis, that
is. 

haggis

I’ve heard haggis described as “a sheep, turned inside out”. 
Traditionally consisting of all the bits of a sheep you weren’t going
to serve up in recognizable form (the “offal”) made into a sausage and
cooked in the
sheep’s stomach.  Well, you asked.    And before
you get disgusted, set
down that forkful of breakfast sausage you have in hand, and give it a
good, hard think:  its ingredients aren’t a lot different.

Anyway, I’ve enjoyed haggis from and in Scotland.  Sadly, it’s not
the sort of thing that is easily importable, anywhere, labeled as
food.  As I’ve only ever managed to get to Scotland once, it
occurred to me that the only way to get a haggis fix would be to figure
out how to make it myself…  though I drew the line at having to
cook it in a sheep’s stomach.

Pictured above is Haggis the Second.  Haggis the First was
pleasant, but really more of a  lamb hash — made with ground lamb
and rolled oats, it tasted far more of, well, lamb than my recollection
of something slightly chewy, spicy, and oaty.  I decided I needed
to tackle the oat problem, as well as introduce some of the more
“intense” bits of meat (offal).

First up, the oats.  And, here’s a visual aid:

oats

Clockwise, from the top
left: 

  • old fashioned rolled oats,
    made from oats that have been parcooked and pressed through rollers
  • Irish, or steel-cut oatmeal,
    oats that have been literally sliced into pieces
  • Scottish oatmeal,
    stone-ground oats
  • Quick-cooking rolled oats,
    same as old fashioned, but flaked into smaller pieces

Naturally, I decided I’d better go Scottish for this application. 
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any in the cupboard.  Wasn’t really
sure where to find them around here, either.  So, I took the
simple route, and ordered online from the
MegaOnlineEmporium.   I was only mildly put off by the fact
that I had to purchase 4 20oz packages (5lbs).  Then there was an
unfortunate collision betweent their choice of CutRateShipper and some
bad weather in our area, which lead to me exercising my Angry Customer
Rights when the 2-day delivery still hadn’t shown after 5 days, and
another box was sent (free of charge, overnight, free of charge, with
ReputableShipper).  Never mind that there was more weather — the
second box was on my doorstep the next day.  And a few days later
(making it a week late), the first box.  “Sorry, no returns on
grocery items”.  I had 10lbs of Scottish oatmeal (in convenient
store display boxes):

a lot of oatmeal

For reference, that is enough for Haggis the 2nd through 16th.

Moving on.  To get that nutty flavour, I toasted the 2 cups of
oats:

toasted oats

And then the trick was to get the proper meat texture.  Apart from
the 1lb of ground lamb pictured above (beside the toasted oats), I
boiled 1/2 lb beef liver and 1/2 lb beef heart, with onions.  That
essentially cooked the meats, and made a broth.

Offal about to be chopped —

parboiled offal

Mixed all together with ground lamb, toasted oats, spices, and ready to
go (cheesecloth, not sheep stomach):

raw haggis

A couple of hours of steaming (using that fine broth) — voila!

cooked haggis

My (completely non-authoritative) opinion:  the texture really
worked, and I need to work on the spices.

Of course,  I’m going to have to get some proper haggis soon to do
some taste comparison!

Subbed

One of these years (evidently, not this one), I’m going to get better
at starting meal planning from what’s available, instead of working
from recipes and engaging in elaborate scavenger hunts to find the set
ingredients.   Now, it’s not the south
of
France
or anything, but there is a summer Farmer’s Market on
Grand Manan, and goodness knows there’s plenty of local fish and
seafood to be had.  And, it’s always a bit of a gamble as to what
will be at the grocery store on any given day — some days, the chicken
thighs are boneless/skinless, some days they’re not.  Some days
there are lemons but no limes.  Others, it’s the red onions that
have vanished.  I have sympathy — inventory control must be
hellish on an island that can double in population on a sunny summer
weekend, and who knows what they’ll all take it in mind to want by way
of groceries.

So I decided to make Indian Butter Chicken.

Actually, I was looking for a set-and-forget meal, and came across one
for
Chicken Makhani
, and decided to give it a whirl.  Of the
ingredients I needed, the grocery store was obliging with the chicken
(though with bones & skin) and the lemon.  IXNAY on the curry
powder, coconut milk, and cardamom pods (garam masala, fenugreek —
right out).

Not deterred, I picked up some (unsweetened) dessicated coconut, and
headed home to sort it all out.  The Internet was as obliging as
usual — turns out there are Ways to
make coconut milk
from dessicated coconut.  Of course, that
requires spinning the drenched coconut in a blender (which I don’t have
on the island), and squeezed through cheesecloth.  Hmm.  I
didn’t have any of that in the house, either.    Moving
from “not deterred” to “obnoxiously stubborn”, I elected not to race out to the store in the
few remaining moments of openness on a Saturday afternoon, and worked
with what I had — my busted up  old Braun food pro, and a tea
towel.  I had to work very
hard not to think about how much fabric softener I’d used when I’d last
laundered it…

Coconut milk

Does that coconut milk look faintly blue…?  (No!).

Next up were the spices.  I knew “curry powder” is a generic label
applied to a spice combination you can (and should) make up
yourself.  Even with the lack of critical components, I wanted to
have a go — my random spice collection included some important pieces,
such as coriander seeds.  These toasted up nicely in a hot
pan.  Of course, I don’t have a mortar and pestle ono the island,
or a blender (see note above) or a spice grinder.  I was resigning
myself to resorting to the always-suboptimal ziptop and rolling pin
method (yes, I have a rolling pin — and no blender.  I didn’t say
it made sense, did I?), and then I recalled this trip’s extravagant
addition:  the table salt grinder, with its ceramic mechanism.

impromptu spice grinder

In the end, I didn’t have anything like the right components, but I
added extra dried mustard, and a bit of this and that, but the grinder
did it’s thing, and I had  curry powder & garam masala:

ground spices

In the end, I guess all that really mattered was the chicken and the
butter — set to slow cook for a number of hours.

en voiture!

And plated:

respectable finish

It was, actually, quite tasty.  A flavourful braise of
chicken.  Someday, possibly even soon, I will have to try the
recipe again with more of the expected ingredients.  It certainly
won’t be quite the same adventure, but I’m sure it’ll be tasty.

168 hours to Play!

When looking at grey November vistas, stunning in their simple beauty…

cliff

horizon

there’s only one question:  guess who’s coming…

look who's coming

… to dinner?

dinner

And a fine dinner they were, too.

Didn’t stop me from playing with the “Duck
a la Something or Other”
recipe — browning the cabbage and onion
before adding it to the duck in the slow cooker to braise for the last
hour.

duck redux

And this year’s sauce was orange and raspberry:

duck dinner

Wanting to play with something completely different, I came across a
recipe for smoked
cheddar, spinach and sundried tomato ravioli
.  But, I thought
it would be dull to use the wonton wrappers called for — made some
fresh pasta, instead.  And, I didn’t have a ravioli form — went
with a mini-muffin tin, instead:

raviol - i

ravioli

Which made yummy, if oversized, ravioli!

And, there was pasta leftover.  I cut the leftover pasta into
fettucini.  Now I know why there are those nifty holes in the
backs of chairs:

leftover pasta

And, in more discoveries… The measuring cup lurking on the stovetop
in the duck adventure?  Well, gelatinous.  And, suspiciously
like “graisse
de canard
“.

graisse de canard!

Haven’t quite found the gumption to try a slice of this on bread…
might just sort it into duck soup (still have the bones) and keep the
fat for confit.  Who can say what the next culinary adventure will
be?  If you could, it wouldn’t be play…

Leaning Tower of Cake

I’m sensitive to the mutterings I’ve been hearing lately — that for “knitbot”, there sure isn’t much knitting content on this blog.  Well, this post is not going to change that situation! 

If you happen to find yourself considering making Bon Appetit’s Devil’s Food Layer Cake with Pepperming Frosting, there are a couple of things you should know.

First, if you have a stand mixer with a paddle blade, get yourself one of these silicone self-wiping paddle attachments:

sideswipe

This is a SideSwipe.  It seriously removes the need to be constantly scraping down the mixing bowl as you work — which more or less improves the effectiveness by (subjectively) 50%.  I fell in love with my KitchenAid all over again…

Second, when they say 2 nine-inch cake pans, 2″ deep.  They mean minimum 2″ deep.  Otherwise:

overflow

Not only is that a “switch oven to self clean mode, do not pass Go, do not collect $200” situation, it is not possible to salvage the cakes in the pans, even if cooked — because they are too delicate to extract from the pan:

broken cake

Well, those cakes wound up in the freezer, no doubt to reappear for some future dessert (chocolate cake trifle, anyone?).

And, the third thing you should know is that the resulting cake (once you’ve given in and recognized you don’t have 9″x2″ cake tins, and bake the cake batter in 3 9″x1.25″ tins) is really, really tall:

tall cake

(Yes, I can count.  The middle cake is split in two, to make 2 layers of four).

Personally, I thought that height was out of control.  Moreover, I could not fathom how I would cut and serve it without making a toppled mess.  So, I quickly did a re-distribution:

one cake now 2

Worked out okay — though, not surprisingly, there wasn’t quite enough frosting to cover the top of the second cake:

2nd cake naked

And, you should consider making the cake — because it is very very tasty.  Decadently rich, of course, but certainly worth the effort of making the cakes from scratch (yes, much better than box cakes, even if you have to make them twice ๐Ÿ™  ), the bittersweet chocolate ganache, the white chocolate filling, and the peppermint boiled icing…

Tagine — You’re It!

For Christmas, I received one of these:

tagine-thepot

It’s an Emile
Henry Flame Top Tagine
Tagine is a North
African pot for producing slow-cooked delicacies, such as one might
experience in Morocco.  “Flame top” is Emile Henry’s special
material — a clay vessel that works on the cooktop, in the oven, in
the fridge etc.  Deeee-lightful.

tagine-thefood

Oh, and it is perfect tableware, too — bring this to the table!

salmon-tagine

“This” is the salmon
tagine
I made tonight.  It was perfectly cooked, and very
flavourful.  I regretted I could not get preserved lemons in time
— I have resolved to preserve some myself for a future effort.

Truly Fowl Holidays

It started innocently enough, with the duck
thing
, and slid right along with the roast turkey
challenge.

Then there was the choux done
proper-like:

choux

to accompany the rock cornish hens (stand ins for perdrix this year):

cornish

(There is cabbage in there, between the hen-halves & the toast
points:  trust me!).
 
Finally, for good measure, some coq
au vin
to round things out.  This was done a
la Alton Brown (Good Eats)
.  I had to hold it over a day, so I
brought the components out of the fridge:

componentns

and mixed them together, to heat:

purple chicken!

Mmm!  Purple chicken!  Doesn’t get much better than that ๐Ÿ˜‰
.  Really, the chicken is cooked in that picture; the 2 bottles of
Pinot Noir (Trapiche) had something to say about the colour, though.

Heated up and served, it was perhaps more appealing:

served

And, that’s that! 

What?  What other thing?  Oh, that.

cake

A little spot of  Doris Greenspan’s “Dressy
Chocolate Loaf Cake”
never went amiss.

Roasted

Merry merry!  Best wishes of the season.

 It’s certainly been merry here.

An important point about message fragmentation.  Here are 2 very
different messages, each starting with the same first chunk:

  1. We found the roasting pan we thought we’d given away.
  2. We found the roasting pan we thought we’d given away, but it’s
    not in fit condition to use for food preparation, you’d best bring
    yours again.

Guess which version of the communication I had, right up to the point
when I was hotting up the oven and ready to pop in the turkey I’d
volunteered to prepare  chez
les beaux parents
this year?  ๐Ÿ™‚ 

The roasting pan was lurking under the shelves in the basement
workshop, a WWII-generation looking thing that had been gathering dust
for more years than I’ve been cooking. And the worst-looking kind of
dust (and rust).   There weren’t great alternatives, so I
consented to see what DH could do to clean it up — convincing him to
use cooking oil to scrub it with, not inedible WD40…  And when
successive wipes with a paper towel were still coming away with bits of
rust, I wiped it down with canola oil and threw it into the already hot
oven to seal it.   Apart from having to position a standing
fan by the oven to direct the inevitable smoke towards the windows
(away from the alarm-company wired-in smoke detector), that did the
trick rather nicely.

uboat

I’ve decided it has the character of a cast iron pan — a little oil
and TLC, and it comes through like a champ.

turkey

Note the rounded bottom — no nasty corners to catch and hide cooking
food.

I think I know the perfect home for this old champ.

A propos of nothing in
particular,   Christmas sunset over Waterloo Lake:

sunset