Monthly Archives: November 2003

Longest break

Well – sometimes it seems like it. But actually this may have been the longest time since I last blogged.

OK – I am going to miss out on winning NaNoWriMo. I have done 16,000 words and I don’t think I can manage 34,000 in 24 hours. But the girls are going to make it, so that’s good. I will finish my novel in the next couple of months anyway. Then I can pretend that it’s high quality is because of the extra time I had to finish. Or is that backwards?

Thanksgiving has come and gone. All those who deserve thanks please consider yourselves thanked. You know who you are.

On to the important part of Thanksgiving – dinner.

The night before we had hours fresh abalone pounded flat and thinly sliced, then pan sauteed in white wine, garlic, thyme and lemon zest. That was accompanied by angel hair pasta tossed with chunks of morels fried in garlic. That may have been better than the real thing.

Dinner was a free-range turkey stuffed with cranberry, chestnut, prune stuffing. We had more of the dressing and gravy and sauteed chard and beet tops and roasted winter vegetables (butternut squash, yams, beets, onion, leek) and cranberry-satsuma sauce. Dessert was pecan pie. Probably the simplest Thanksgiving meal I’ve done in years, but actually very good and NOT hugely wasteful like usual.

We stripped the carcass afterward for sandwiches and turkey pot pie and I boiled the bones and odd scrapings to make broth and blended in the winter vegetables later for a superb soup.

Somewhere in there we also had Jan’s fabulous baked brie and cranberry appetizer.

I may or may not get to the recipes….

Crunch Time!

Whew – big fortnight coming up. First I have until Wed night to get through this big horrible work project. Then Thurs and Friday is Thanksgiving. Then Saturday drive back down fom Sea Ranch where we will be staying, then Sunday leave for Berlin. Coincidentally, also the last day to get any NaNoWriMoing done. Then Berlin for work for three days, then England to see everyone for five days, then home again, accompanied by Paul who will sta with us for five days.

Somewhere in there, the fencing contractors will come by again…

Big dinner tonight. Lots of people over and a lot of rather ambitious food. I did the baked chicken thing since there were so many kids. I also made spinach ricotta gnocci from Marcella Hazan’s first cook book. But I left out the pancetta/mortadella and I left out half the parmesan and I added extra spinach and flour — and then I forgot the nutmeg. Didn’t matter – they came out spectacular. I boiled them then layered them in a casserole with tomato sauce and a little more parmesan and baked them just enough to get the sauce bubbling. Recipe will come later.

Also made a persimmon baked egg custard – kind of like a flan with baked persimmon – also really good.

Also baked cheese straws for the appetizer platter which included persimmons wrapped in prosciutto, olives and baby chicken apple sausages.

Salad, bread and one set of friends brought over a lovely light stew which we had as a soup equivalent to start the meal.

Curries and Rice

It has been a while since I wrote anything here, so it’s time I did. I can’t even remember the food issues that have come up since I last wrote. I know I’ve done some cooking but I can’t remember beyond last night. Last night I made a pretty standard lamb curry except that I cut the lamb of a leg of lamb rather than use a more normal set of stewing lamb. Lot’s of reasons…

I also made my now usual rice dish for curries which is a great success and really easy in the rice cooker.

Onion Cumin Rice

Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in the bottom of the rice cooker. Turn it on for cooking. Add a full tablespoon of cumin seeds and leave them in there cooking until the rice cooker turns itself off. Now add an onion diced up and stir it in carefully and thoroughly and then turn the rice cooker full on again until it turns itself off. Then add the rice stir it in thoroughly and repeat the process again until the cooker turns itself off. Finally add the water in – the usual amount – and let the rice cook as normal.

The best baked fried chicken

OK – Grace said this was the best chicken she had ever eaten.

I used chicken legs but you can use any cut up parts.

Best baked/fried chicken

First get about a quarter of a loaf of old dried out bread. Blend it in the blender to make breadcrumbs. Then mix in about three tablespoons of any dried herbs you like, a tablespoon of garlic powder, a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of ground pepper. Remove the skin if you can from the chicken pieces (I don’t bother to do this on wings). Then cut deep slashes to the bon in each piece of chicken. Put the chicken pieces in a bowl and dump on two cups of good quality plain yoghurt. Mix it in thoroughly so each piece is coated, even into the slashes. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour.

Turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Get out enough baking sheets to hold the chicken. Put a little oil on each of them to thinly coat the bottom. Put the breadcrumb mixture in a bowl. One at a time take each piece of chicken and roll it in the crumb mixture until coated thoroughly, then put them on the tray in a single layer. Drizzle or spray a small amount of oil on top of each piece. Bake for 15 minutes until the bottom is turning brown. Turn each piece over and bake for another 15 to twenty minutes. Check for doneness. If not done, turn again and bake for another ten minutes. Repeat until done.

Superb hot. Good cold.

Too full, slow day

Glub. We ate too much yesterday. Today was a quiet day. Grace wrote or dictated 5000 words. I wrote about 300. (Well, so far). We ate leftovers – lots of leftovers. Cleaned the house, wrote, did odd jobs and so forth.

I did make one new thing. We skipped lunch and about 4 o’clock everyone was hungry, so I made smoked trout pate sandwiches with apple slices.

Smoked Trout and Apple sandwiches

I opened two tins of smoked trout. Available from the endlessly useful Trader Joe’s. I mashed them up in a bowl with about two thirds of a cup of cream cheese. I ground in some coarse black pepper. I sliced a nice rustic italian loaf of bread. I sliced a fresh, crisp, organic fuji apple. I made open face sandwiches with the bread, a couple of spoonfuls of smoked trout pate and a few slices of apple. MUCH, much better than it sounds – and it sounds good!

Birthday feast

Yesterday was more than a little full. It started with lots and lots of house cleaning. Jan and I were going out to the theatre with friends and they were coming to dinner beforehand for sort of a birthday celebration. Then Grace and I dashed off to her last soccer game of the season. They won two to nothing, which is pretty typical for the season they had. They ended up in second place on goal difference. We and one other team ended up with 8 wins one loss and one tie. But they had a LOT more goals than us. (Plus they beat us – that was our one loss).

Then we raced home, helped Jan with more cleaning and some awfully fancy looking cooking, then off to NaNoWriMo at Papillon. Lots of people there this time. Even though Jan bailed out and went home to cook, there were ten people writing and two people from the CC Times – a photographer and a reporter. The coffee shop had arranged for them to come. They interviewd the woman who is the CC organizer and they interviewed me and they interviewed one of the women there who turns out to already be a published novelist and they interviewed Grace. Then we all wrote pretty furiously for while.

Then I ran and got bread and olive oil for the dinner, dropped kids and laptops off at the house and went to pick up the kids’ trophies for finishing second.

Back home again in time to help with the last of dinner.

The menu was:

Appetizers:

Melted brie with cranberry sauce

Grilled portabella mushrooms with goat cheese

Satsuma mandarin and persimmon slices wrapped in prosciutto

olives

crackers

Main course

Crown roast of pork stuffed with wild rice, rosemary, prosciutto, ground pork and mushrooms

(basted during roasting with a whole bottle of chardonnay)

roasted seasonal vegetables (beets, onion, butternut squash, pattypan squash and more)

braised dinosaur kale and spinach

Dessert

salade de fruits aux petits femmes

celebratory cake

Even better than all this, Grace and Amelia acted as hostesses and waiters. They greeted the Atkins’ and Benjamins’ at the door, served them drinks, waited at table and made the whole thing a LOT more fun and fancy.

The food was absolutely spectacular.

Then the adults all went to the local theatre to see ‘The Last Night of Ballyhoo’ which was pretty decent for a small town theater but also rather strange and a little surreal.

Corn fritters and bacon

For breakfast yesterday.

Corn Fritters

We had left over frozen sweetcorn, so I just made a pancake batter with a little baking powder added and made it a little thick and then stirred in all the corn. Then I cooked some bacon, threw away most but not all of the grease and cooked the corn batter in it like pancakes but with a little extra time per side because they were thick.

Amazingly easy. I got this done in twenty minutes while the kids were running around getting ready for school and with enough time that they got to eat it for breakfast on the way out.

The opportunities in pasteurized egg whites

So in the midst of all our usual weekend insanity (soccer, birthday parties, novel writing, work around the house, etc.) we also had some friends come to dinner. I made a nice pilaf from the rice cooker cookbook that is a companion to the excellent bread machine cookbook and we had lamb sausages (they brought them) grilled and then quickly warmed in a tomato red pepper sauce. Plus a salad and kale and pan fried butternut and delicata squash.

Blackcurrant rum froth

Then for dessert I made something I remembered from the dim and distant past. I beat the pasteurized egg whites (no Salmonella so OK to eat raw!) with sugar and blackcurrant syrup. Kids had that and then I added in some rum for adults. Light, airy, fluffy and delicious (and simple). There was a lot left over – I made eight eggs worth and should have made four at most – so I beat in a bit more sugar and baked the left overs at 250 degrees for two hours to make meringues. All very satisfactory.

Here we go, Here we go, Here we go…

I thought I’d publish the official first words of my NaNoWriMo novel right here. You can find out more about it at its very own site, The Shooting Match.

Anyway, here’s the first few hundred words…

I was getting pushed every which way. Bodies thumping in to me, people trying to push my head down, elbows flying. And all around me the deep, satisfying roar of the football supporters’ pack at full bay. Little Donny Wisdom had the ball and was flying down the left and in the middle the giant presence of Jimmy Kashnemu was headed for goal, elbows out, knees out, a terrifying sight for any defender. The crowd sensed another great Hammersmith comeback. There were two minutes left and we were down one to nothing.

“Here we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go,” came the roar. And, indeed, here we came. Donny Kebab got the cross in. Kash rose above the field of defenders like a giant crane above suburban row houses and nodded the ball past the hamstrung goalie. It was inevitable, it was predestined and we had about a minute and half left plus maybe a minute of injury time to get a winner. Somehow, even then, right at the start of the season, we knew it was inevitable. It was Hammersmith’s year.

Of course, while on the pitch we were going crazy, sensing victory, the forces of darkness and evil were undermining us from another and unexpected direction. We had few enough pleasures in life in 1982. Maggie was in power, the dark forces of the ‘free’ market had been unleashed and greedy men in business suits were making hay while the sun shone. My own personal rug was waiting at home to be yanked from under me, but I didn’t know that. I had levitated spontaneously twenty feet in the air along with 3000 other Hammersmith fans and was urging the ball back to the centre circle. We wanted another goal. We needed another goal. The macabre sound of ‘Maxwell’s silver hammer’ rang out. It was our anthem and it was oh so ironically suited to the times.