Monthly Archives: September 2003

Sourdough Starter

This weekend I started to get back to something I spent most of last year doing — making sourdough bread and keeping an ongoing live starter. It takes a couple of weeks for the full sourdough flavor to develop but initial results for this new batch were warmly received.

I got the starter going with some flour and a bottle of ordinary New Zealand lager I had lying around. Just mix the beer and flour together – use about a cup and a half of flour for a bottle of beer. You want it quite runny – nothing like bread dough really. But bottled beer doesn’t have very much live yeast, plus for authenticity you want some wild yeast, so I left the beer and flour mixture uncovered in the kitchen for 36 hours. Then as it started to ferment a little I fed it again (add warm water and flour) and stirred it up and let it work a second time. Now it was really starting to grow, so I divided it and made a batch of bread with one half and once again fed the other half and left it for twelve hours and put it in the fridge.

For the batch I made into bread, I simply added a little salt and enough flour to make it a proper bread dough with the right consistency and then kneaded it properly. I let it rise three times, since sourdough started bread is low on yeast to start with. Then I formed two french bread loaves and baked them. It all worked out great.

If you want more information about making bread, especially with bread machines (I didn’t use a machine in this case but I own one and DO use it pretty frequently) then I strongly recommend the best bread baking book in existence:

While I’m on a bit of a tear, I’m going to have to start a little cookbook corner – and since cookbooks are important and my time is important, I’ll try to set it up via an Amazon affiliate thingy so I can help pay for Tomatilla!

Getting back to the food, my kids have been pushing me to come up with a ramen noodle cookbook since I have long been fond of coming up with creative uses for these cheapo noodles…

So, here’s the first one.

Lemon, tomato, parmesan noodles

Boil a kettle (or pot) of water. Meanwhile, slice up a tomato and chop a clove of garlic as fine as you can (or mash it in a garlic press) and then chop into it a large pinch of salt. Alternatively, if you intend to use the MSG-laden flavor packet, chop that in instead. I personally throw the flavor packets away.

Get a large bowl, put the garlic/salt or garlic/flavor packet mixture in, put the tomato on top and add a tablespoon of lemon juice. Crush the noodles up inside their plastic packet and then put them on top. When the water boils, pour about two to two and a half cups of water on and make sure the noodles are immersed. Let it sit for three minutes, stirring a couple of times. Sprinkle all over a tablespoon and a half of grated parmesan and stir it all in. Enjoy!

I’m trying to figure out the best way to start including the most recent recipe list in the links on the right – and eventually I’d like to have a nice, handy little searchable recipe database too. If my slightly more philosophical ramblings get a lot better I could include them too.

And, once I have a most recent ten recipes list I can publish it as an RSS feed – just for the hell of it.

In some ways I like times of change. More possible options open out for you. You take seriously ideas that you would have dismissed in seconds. You think harder about where you are headed and what you are doing.

But you also stare over the edge of the pit and tremble.

And since I am the way I am, I also sit there, frozen in indecision.

Talking loudly in public.

Something insulates the voice

From the brain, the brain from the ears.

But only when you’re talking on the phone in public.

Is it exhibitionism?

Is it a complete focus?

Or is it just plain fucking rude?

I know that not everyone does it.

I don’t do it.

Some of my friends don’t do it.

But some of them do.

I don’t want to know about your sister’s friends.

I don’t want to know about paying your bills.

I don’t want to think about who you are going to kiss.

It’s hard enough to keep track of my friends.

It’s hard enough to keep track of my bills.

And I want to think about who I am going to kiss.

And it isn’t you.

I’ve clearly been on something of a recipe drive lately. It has been a few weeks since I wrote something that didn’t include a recipe so I am now resolving to do better.

Work at the moment is hanging in limbo. We just finished a huge project and literally simultaneously with that we got word that our manageer is moving on and our group is getting ‘re-orged.’ Another horrible US tech industry buzzword. Not the worst since there is a chance that some people can figure out what it means. Anyway, we are all sitting around doing makework waiting on the word about what is to happen next. There is some good news. It seems likely I can parlay this change into more time working from home and also I may be able to work toward a transfer overseas for a year or two. That’ll take some time to work out (if indeed it is possible) but it is a worthy goal.

I was trying to learn some new formatting to make this blog look a little nicer last night and I got immersed – just AFTER I put the noodles in the water to boil. A while later I wondered what the crackling sound was but couldn’t be bothered to find out. Since the vent fan was on I didn’t notice the burning smell until later. So then I had to rescue a pot of slightly burned noodles. I left the worst in the pot but took the rest out and put them aside. Then I made a killer double tomato carbonara.

Two Tomato Carbonara

dice about a quarter pound of high quality bacon. As it browns and the fat renders out, toss in half a large diced onion and let that brown. Pour of all the fat you can get off once the bacon is cooked. In the meantime, pour a cup of boiling water onto four ounces of sun dried tomatoes. When the bacon and onion is done, pour the tomato water into the pan and then slice the moistened dried tomatoes into thin strips. Throw them in the pan too. Get a handful of fresh herbs. I went out and picked some thyme, oregano and sage and chopped them. Add them to the pan too. Now add a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Stir this all together and then add four ounces of goat cheese and stir again to a common consistency. Now add half a pound of cherry tomatoes and the noodles and stir thoroughly to combine. Warm up to serve.

Yet another 100 degree day. Yet another 95 degree night. So Jan asked if there was some kind of cool fruit dessert on a tart I could make. Since we don’t have anything like a tart lying around (OK – get your jokes in now) and I was certainly not going to turn the oven on, I made something up.

Blackberry-Lime sherbert with mascarpone and shortbread

I dug about a half pound of frozen blackberries out of the freezer, blended them with two tablespoons of lime juice, two tablespoons of sugar and a tablespoon of rum. Split it into two small bowls. Then I dropped on a teaspoon of mascarpone and a shortbread biscuit. That’s it!

We are marginally cooler now – maybe 93 degrees…

Dinner with a few friends is the best. A full blown party is too much work – the hosts never can really relax and enjoy it. But up to about twelve people is just great. You want to do something a bit special for guests, so you make more of an effort.

Yesterday for dinner we had one family come over, two kids from another family over on their own for the first time, and then our neighbours added on after everyone else had eaten. The neighbours pushed it a little over the edge but not too much. I decided to go for kebabs big time and went out shopping for meat. The boneless turkey breast looked good and was priced right. So was ground turkey and then a really nice piece of chateaubriand.

Chateaubriand skewers with paprika and red wine

I cut the meat up into pieces about 2/3 of an inch square. I made a marinade out of red wine, olive oil, salt, pepper, a tiny amount of cayenne, herbs de provence, smoked paprika and a little pomegranate molasses. Let the meat sit in it for a couple of hours, then alternated the meat on skewers with pieces of onion and grilled on high, direct heat and turned until richly browned all over.

Cardamom Yoghurt Turkey kebabs

Cut the turkey up into thinnish pieces about an inch square. Make a marinade out of lemon juice, olive oil, yoghurt, garam masala, cayenne pepper, freshly ground cardamom, some oregano, salt and pepper. Marinate the turkey for a couple of hours. Put on skewers alternating with pieces of onion, but don’t pack the pieces tight – leave a quarter of an inch between them. Put them on the grill on high, direct heat and push them sideways so that the pieces of turkey lie down flatter on the grill like overlapping fish scales. Grill until done – about six minutes each side.

Grilled vegetables with solomon’s dressing

Pomegranates – Song of Solomon – that’s the connection. Cut up into large bite sized pieces lots of grilling vegetables. Squash, zucchini, onion, eggplant, peppers. Toss with olive oil and salt. Grill on the grill until browned and cooked through (just). Then toss again with a dressing made of lemon juice, pepper and pomegranate molasses.

Scallion Kebabs

Most people wouldn’t think these were kebabs – they look more like very tiny and thin hamburgers – and they aren’t made on sticks. Tough – kebabs they are and kebabs they ever shall be. Get a couple of pounds of ground turkey and put it in a large bowl. Finely slice the green parts of a bunch (or even two) of scallions. Put them in the bowl as well. Add about three tablespoons of ground cumin, one and a half tablespoons of ground pepper, one and a half tablespoons of salt, two tablespoons of olive oil, two tablespoons of lemon juice. Thoroughly mix together and let rest for a couple of hours in the refrigerator. Take out to the grill and make sure the grill is hot and well oiled. Then take lumps of the meat mixture about one and a half tablespoons in size and firmly flatten them into disks between your hands until they are disks between two and three inches across. Put them on the grill – as many as will fit – and grill until there are brown marks on the down side. Turn and repeat. Serve with all kinds of things. These worked out especially well the next day reheated in pita bread with rice, tomato, cucumber and olives.