Saturday, May 28, 2011

A woodlander's vegetable pasty

Edit (10/2/11): This post, and all of the ones before it, were written prior to my diagnoses of having food intolerance/allergies. This and many of the other recipes do contain gluten and dairy. Be careful when browsing the other entries

This is the second post in a series. See this entry for an explanation behind these recipes.

A pasty is made up of a filling of meat and/or vegetables, enclosed in a case of pastry. They are a good way to make food more portable, but are also quite delicious as a feature of a sit-down meal. Pasties also are mentioned often in the Redwall books.
From The Outcast of Redwall:

I'd like a beaker of strawberry cordial and a big pastie, a mushroom, potato, and onion one; after that I think I'd go for some hot apple-and-blackberry crumble, with sweet white arrowroot sauce poured all over it.”

Vegetable pasties also make frequent appearances at feasts, or in heroes' haversacks when going on quests.

This is what I think a Woodlander's vegetable pasty might be like.

Woodland Vegetable Pasties

¼ c lentils
1 chopped yellow onion
2 minced garlic cloves
2 Tbs olive oil
1 chopped carrot
1 chopped stalk of celery
1 chopped portabella mushroom
½ tsp salt
2 Tbs water
2 tsp flour or cornstarch
sprig of parsley, minced
sprig of rosemary, minced

Pie dough (can purchase, but I used ½ of this recipe, and Deb's recipe and methods are foolproof)
Cook lentils in about ¾ cup of water for 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, fry the chopped onion and minced garlic in 2 Tbs of olive oil, until the onions are translucent.
Chop the carrot and celery in the meantime. Add these to the frying pan and sautee for 5-10 minutes. Add the chopped mushroom and salt to the pan. Sautee for another five minutes, then turn off the heat.

Combine the lentils and vegetable mix into a bowl. Once the mixture has cooled somewhat, add 2 Tbs water, 2 tsp flour, parsley and rosemary and mix together thoroughly.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Roll the pie dough into four or six circles, depending on how large you want your pasty. Place the filling on one side of the circle (2-4 Tbs of filling), then fold the dough over the filling, pressing the edges together. Flatten the edges of the pasty with the tines of a fork to seal. Prick the dough several times with fork tines in order to allow steam to escape.

Cook the pasties for 20-25 minutes, the crust should be golden brown.

I had enough dough for four pasties, but enough leftover filling that I probably could have made six. One of these with salad was enough for my dinner.

Chop a carrot and some celery into small pieces
Sautee onions and garlic in oil until translucent.

Add carrot and celery and cook for an other 5-10 minutes.

Add the chopped portabella mushroom to the pan and sautee another 5 minutes.

These are cooked lentils
Mix your cooked lentils with the vegetable mix, along with a little water, the herbs, and some flour to thicken the mixture.

Put some filling on the circle of dough. My circles were not perfect.

Fold the circle over and crimp the edges together to seal in the filling.

Bake for 20-25 minutes at 400 F. Some egg wash would have made these prettier, but I didn't think of it until later.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Redwall-inspired Blackberry-Apple Crumble

Tasty literary-inspired crumble

This is a post I have been meaning to write since February.
Brian Jacques, author of the beloved Redwall series of children's books, passed away on February 5th of this year. I found out shortly thereafter, and was saddened by the news. Not only did I love those books (and still do) but Mr. Jacques seemed like a genuinely lovely and kind man. To quote Wikipedia, “His book Redwall was written for his 'special friends', the children of the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind, whom he first met them when he delivered to the school as a milkman. He began to spend time with the children, and eventually began to write stories for them. This accounts for the very descriptive style of the novel and the ones to follow.” That is beautiful.

My copies of these books are "well-loved."
I remember that I posted a status commemorating him on Facebook, and many people commented on it expressing their sadness, but they also expressed a joy in reminiscing about reading the Redwall books in their childhood.
At school the next day, several people who had read my status talked to me about Redwall and Mr. Jacques' passing. It was interesting that everyone seemed to mention how reading any given Redwall book made them very hungry. Every book in the series contains many detailed descriptions about the food the animals of Redwall Abbey consume; from grand feasts to picnics to teatime.

The introduction of The Redwall Cookbook offers explanation for the detail Mr. Jacques went into about food.
...It really annoyed me [in books] when I'd come to a passage where somebody ate a marvelous feast. There never seemed to be any description of it. Afterward, the hero would ride off on his white stallion, thanking the King for the wonderful dinner. Wait! What did it taste like? What did it look like? How was it made? Did he really enjoy it? Questions that to even my young mind required much answering. That is why the fare at Redwall Abbey is featured so prominently— I'm trying to put things right!”

My boss at school also heard the sad news that week, and because we are both big fans of the books, she obtained The Redwall Cookbook from the library, and cooked several dishes from it, which she brought to school, then inviting me and other workers to partake in a feast of sorts. It was fun, and a little peculiar, and it struck me that this was the perfect way to remember Mr. Jacques: by telling stories while eating good food.

So in the spirit of remembrance, I am going to be posting a series of Redwall-inspired foods, taken from the books themselves wherever possible. Today's is taken from Mossflower, where the woodlanders eat a meal at Brockhall, including a blackberry-apple crumble. This is what I imagine it might be like.

Blackberry-Apple Crumble
Crumb topping:
½ c wheat flour
½ c rolled oats
¼ c brown sugar
1 stick of butter

3 chopped apples
12 oz blackberries
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp granulated sugar

Toss together the chopped apples, cornstarch, and granulated sugar. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes. Put apples into a baking dish, and mix in blackberries. (Alternatively, if you don't care if your berries get somewhat squished, mix apples and berries together at the beginning of this step.)
Meanwhile, blend together oats, flour, sugar, and cold butter with a pastry blender until the mixture forms pea-sized crumbs. Chill in the fridge for ~10 minutes.
Spread the topping evenly over the fruit. Bake at 375 for ~45 minutes.

This is most of what you'll need.
Chopped apples tossed in sugar and cornstarch. I didn't put the berries in yet because I wanted them to remain intact. I realize that this is irrational.

Crumb topping.

Crumbles are homely looking, but tasty.

Friday, May 13, 2011

No-knead wheat bread and strawberry-mint spread

I have been having a lot of fun being out of school, but after my first full day at home alone, I have to admit that I hope my unemployment doesn't last long. There hasn't been a single summer since I was in high school that I wasn't at a full-time job shortly after school ended. Given the economic climate since I started college, this means I have been extremely fortunate, which is not something I take lightly.

It has been nice to do relatively little these last two weeks, going on vacation and doing some housework for your parents is a far cry from the custodial work I used to do in the summers, or my awesome research job last year. But after submitting a number of applications for work and hearing back nothing for weeks is starting to get to me a little. Still, I know that I am very fortunate, and it is normal to not get a job right out of college. I am just going to have to get creative with how to spend this newfound time.
So much of the paraphernalia of school is still lying around, this stack of chemistry exams on my desk has been relegated to coaster for my tea. I should probably recycle or file those...

I have been trying to write more, and sew, between looking for jobs, and I am looking at taking summer classes, but the easiest thing to do for now is to start back up with cooking and blogging!

I found this recipe for no-knead bread this morning, and figured, "hey, I have time to make bread!"

I did tweak the recipe a little bit; first by cutting the recipe in half, then I used half white flour and half wheat flour. Finally, I didn't have cornmeal to dust the loaf with, so I chopped some rolled oats. It added some interesting texture.

The bread after rising for 3 hours.

After baking for 30 minutes.

Anyways, go over to the blog Honey & Jam to get the recipe, the bread turned out beautifully, and there was little effort involved.

But I also had some strawberries that were getting slightly wilted, and some mint leaves. So I made a strawberry-mint jam/fruit spread that was friggin' tasty, and it made a perfect accompaniment for the bread. Please note that it is not shelf-stable, and it must be kept in the refrigerator.

Strawberry-mint spread:

small bunch of mint leaves
1/2 cup water
1 cup chopped strawberries
1/4 cup white sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice

Boil the leaves in 1/2 cup of water for 4-5 minutes. Strain out the leaves, and add the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. After it comes to a boil, reduce heat slightly.

Mash the strawberries (I used a fork) and let the mixture boil for about 20 minutes. Let it cool, ladle into a clean jar, and then store in the fridge.

The mint flavor was not pronounced at all, but otherwise I was happy with my first-ever jam. Maybe I will teach myself canning this summer :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gluten Free strawberry desert, two ways

I have been absent from this blog for a long time. School work backed up on me, as well as applying for jobs, presenting research, and so on.

All of this work has culminated in my graduating from university! I officially have my B.S. in biology. (The Man and I find it amusing that he is B.A. because of his history degree, but my degree is just B.S? Yay for puns.) I will also have some more time in the foreseeable future.

Back onto the subject of graduation, one of my gluten-free friends threw a shindig for me. It was lots of fun, and I made desert. Then I had a pint of strawberries left, so I made desert for my husband's workplace, where there are a lot of people who can't have gluten or dairy. I felt domestic and it was weird.

Both recipes received very good reviews, so I am passing them on to you.

Gluten-free (GF) strawberry rhubarb crumble

Adapted from this recipe.

Fruit filling:

4 cups chopped strawberries

1.5 cups chopped rhubarb

2-4 Tbs granulated sugar (two was perfect for eating with ice-cream, but rather tart on its own)

2 tsp cornstarch

½ tsp ground ginger

Crumb topping:

¾ cup GF Bisquick

¼ cup brown sugar

stick of cold butter

1 tsp GF vanilla extract

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp cinnamon

Toss fruit with dry ingredients, and let sit for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Blend together ingredients for the topping with a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like crumbs. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Place fruit mixture into a 9x9 dish. Evenly distribute topping over the fruit. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Gluten and Dairy-Free Strawberry Cobbler

This was made on a whim, so there are no making-of photos. Disclaimer: I didn't actually get to eat any of this, but I was told that everyone in the office enjoyed it.

Fruit filling:

4 cups strawberries, cut into pieces

2 tsp cornstarch

2 Tbs granulated sugar

1 tsp GF vanilla extract

zest of 1 Meyer lemon

½ tsp ginger

Biscuit topping

¾ cup GF bisquick

1/3 cup coconut milk

3 tbs granulated sugar

1 tsp GF vanilla extract

¼ tsp ginger

Toss cut strawberries with dry ingredients until well-distributed. Allow the mixture to sit for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

While berries are sitting, combine the ingredients for the biscuit topping together in a bowl. Stir together with a fork or pastry cutter until the dough holds together in clumps.

Place berry mixture into a 9x9 inch glass pan, spreading evenly. Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto the berries, so that it covers most of the berries. Bake for 30 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.