Bruadarach

Scottish Gaelic: Dreamer, Visionary

Tag: Cooking

Guest Post: Food and Kitchen Witches

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When my friend Val Griswold-Ford asked me if she could talk about food and her new book on my blog, I didn’t hesitate!

So here goes 🙂

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Thank you, Katharina, for letting me come over and talk about two of my favorite things: food and cooking! My main character for Winter’s Secrets is a kitchen witch, simply because I really wish I could be. She’s absolutely a Mary Sue in that respect, as she can cook ANYTHING. I first ran into the concept in a book that I cannot remember the title to now, but was a fantasy book based on the song “The Whistling Gypsy Rover.” The main character in that was also a kitchen witch who had to go and rescue her half-faery sister from the gypsy rover who stole her away. I was fascinated – her name was Meg, and what she could do with her gifts was amazing. How useful! Never to be without hot water, or be able to take a few bits of food and make a feast. Able to fix anything. Never to need a timer to know when something was done. Why weren’t more people writing about things like this???

Molly currently uses her gifts to run a tea room, but think of the applications for all sorts of fantasy books. Armies travel on their stomachs – which makes them vulnerable to poisonings, or having the enemy pursue a “scorched earth” policy, and means they have to travel at the rate of the provisions wagons. But if you had a kitchen witch or two with you? You could travel much lighter, and be less vulnerable. Think of the possibilities!

I love food (it’s really no secret), and so through Molly and her tea room, I get to play with ideas for all sorts of things. The idea of a tea shop is one of my favorites as well. When I was in college, there was a tea shop, tucked into the back of an antiques store, where I would go and write when I could. There was three to four tables, and everything was mismatched. For $20, you could get several pots of tea (really good tea), tea sandwiches, and whatever the owner felt like baking that day. And she liked writers, so she thought it was cool that we would sit there with our notebooks (because none of us had laptops at that point – this was back in the 90s, when we were all broke and computers were large) and scribble away. It was the perfect atmosphere, and one I wanted to recapture.

When I first thought of the Advent Story idea, I knew I wanted my main character to own a tea shop. The idea of putting it in a bookstore combined my other love (I swear, heaven is a library) and gave me the framework for what I could do. Molly doesn’t have a lot of room, and that allows her to experiment a bit. The original blog story (which starts at http://vg-ford.com/?p=317, if you want to go back and read it in its first form) actually had some recipes sprinkled in, but they were from various blogs I found on the internet. I’ve been threatening for a while to do a Carter’s Cove cookbook, but I’d have to actually sit down and test recipes, which I don’t really have time to do. But we’ll see.

You can order Winter’s Secrets, Book 1 of the Carter’s Cove Advent Stories from Amazon, and follow me on Twitter (@vg_ford). Schrodinger also has his own Facebook page (Schrodinger Barrett) and Twitter handle (@MollysSchrodngr).

Cookbook Challenge 3 – Paul Bocuse Standard Cookbook

The second cookbook in my challenge is the “Paul Bocuse Standard Cookbook”. Paul Bocuse is one of the big names in French cuisine, and this cookbook has it all. Everything but pictures, which is a good thing for me in this case. It’s more a reference book than a fancy and pretty cookbook. You’ll find any French classic and any basic you can think of – sauces, doughs, everything. A good French cookbook has always been my go-to place for a decent meal. I have made many of the classics, from Coq au Vin to Bouillabaisse to different desserts. So going for something classic French, which I haven’t made before, was already a challenge in itself. On top of that, Mick gave me the extra challenge of adding an ingredient I’ve never used before.

Reading through the index of recipes, I was immediately drawn to the Chateaubriand. The big chunk of filet steak. Now, I have made steak before, so I had to use something I’ve never done as a side dish. The recipe talks about pommes frites, so I wondered if I couldn’t just make them out of sweet potato, since I’ve never made anything with it before. A bit of research later, I found it’s not uncommon. So that’s what I was going to do – Chateaubriand with sauce and sweet potato frites. It usually comes one of the classic French sauces, like a Bérnaise, but here the tastes can vary so I am going to make something a bit more simple and fresh…

This time, I felt more comfortable with the recipe than the ones before – after all, I love cooking meat. I’ve just never made a piece that big! As always, I’ll take photos alongside cooking and then write up what I did afterwards.

 

Chateaubriand

600g piece of filet of beef
Crème fraîche
3 Sweet Potatoes
Garlic
Chives
Paprika
Flavourful cheese

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First up, I put the filet in oil, salt, pepper and paprika, for some extra taste. I like my meat rather on the rare side, so the times I am going to quote here will not be enough if you prefer your filet of beef medium or well done. Then you’re going to need to add a few minutes on the frying side or later in the oven.

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Preheat the oven to 220C. Knowing the meat would probably be quicker, I decided to start with the sweet potato fries. Peel them and slice them in fries-sized pieces. Then coat them in oil and paprika and spread the sweet potato fries out on a baking tray on top of baking paper. Make sure they don’t lie on top of each other.

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While the oven is heating up, put the crème fraîche and a bit of milk in a small pot. Take a garlic press and squeeze the garlic into the mix, then grate a big handful of cheese into it. I used Tyrolean mountain cheese which has a strong taste. It’ll be balanced out by the crème and milk a bit. Add salt and pepper, then heat it up on the oven and stir until the cheese is melted. Once it’s a nice sauce, take it from the oven, pour into a saucière and put it in the fridge to cool down.

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The sweet potatoes need to go in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, so depending how long you want to fry the meat, you can start with it when the potatoes are in. Fry the filet in one piece in a large pan. For rare you only need a couple of minutes on each side, so it gets a nice brown colour. The piece I used was thicker on one end, so I knew the narrower bit was going to be rather medium rare. Like this you can cater to different tastes.

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With a 600g piece you can feed 2 hungry people, or 3 if you add more side dishes or a starter. After being fried, the meat needs 5-10 minutes in the oven, mainly so it’s warm throughout. Once the sweet potato fries are about 10 min before being finished, put them on the bottom of the oven and the meat in the middle. Pour some of the oil over the meat before you put it in to keep it from drying out.

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The fries are softer than regular potato fries, so once they are done, use some kitchen roll for the spare fat and put them in a bowl. For the meat, it’s best served on a big wooden board. Before serving it, slice it in about 2-3 cm thick pieces. Like that, everyone can take fries, meat and sauce to their liking.

The sweet potatoes with the paprika tasted super and the paprika also added a nice flavour to the meat. The light creamy sauce with the chive-garlic-cheese taste was a great addition to the dish – it made it light and summery. I am glad I didn’t go with a heavy classic sauce this time, it would’ve been too much on a Summer day.

 

The Cookbook Challenge

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I love cookbooks. I would go so far as to say I collect them to a certain extent. The problem is, there are some I haven’t opened since I got them. Much like my husband Mick who collects musical instruments and sometimes doesn’t try them out. I called him out on it and last December, I gave him a challenge that would make him use all the instruments he hadn’t played before. 10 Weeks – 10 Sounds was very successful and led to really interesting music and a brand new instrumental album.

Now here I was, challenging him to play unused instruments when I still had cookbooks that sat unused on the shelf. There are three that I always use, you can find the reviews below. I can only warmly recommend to get them all. But this time, it’s about other books.

This time, the tables are turned. Now he is giving me a challenge to use the cookbooks that have – so far – only sat on my shelf. Here is the challenge:

You should create one dish from each of the following cookbooks, photograph the process and blog about each one. Let us know a bit about the book, why you chose the recipe, what (if anything) and why you had to change any ingredients or processes. What was difficult? What did you learn? How did the final result taste?

1. Haggis, Whisky & Co.    (leave out a single ingredient)
2. Paul Bocuse Standardkochbuch [The Paul Bocuse Standard Cookbook]    (use an ingredient you have never used) 
3. Austro Tapas    (use breadcrumbs)
4. Crèmes Brûlées    (change an ingredient)
5. Gordon Ramway’s Great British Pub Food    (pick a recipe that contains alcohol (it’s pub food, after all!))
6. Natürlich Jamie [Jamie at Home]    (add something red) 
7. Macarons    (something that goes well with coffee)
8. Vive la France    (add vanilla)
9. La Cuisine Grecque [The Greek Kitchen]    (served with a feta side dish) 
10. Plachutta – Meine Wiener Küche [My Viennese Kitchen]    (traditional, but different) 

 

Now my Favourite Cookbooks:

La Bonne Grand-Mère (The Good Grandmother) – for  French recipes.

No matter if it’s Coq au Vin, Crème caramel or Bouillabaisse, for everything French this is the go-to book. As much as I love full-colour cookbooks with photos, in my experience, the ones without are the ones I end up using most. Like this – there aren’t any photos, merely small sketches that really don’t do anything to help with the cooking. That might make you surprised at how some things actually look in the end, but that’s ok. The cookbook is just that good!

Die Gute Küche (The Good Kitchen) – for  Austrian and other basics.

One of the authors, Ewald Plachutta, is the beef king and Christoph Wagner knows his food too…! Whenever I need a recipe for a dough, a dumpling, any of the basic things that I grew up with and love – this is my go-to book. It’s not just Austrian recipes, also all-time favourites.

Süßes aus dem Sacher (Sweets from the Sacher) – for dessert and cake recipes.

Get it for the Sacher cake – and  then try out all the other recipes as well. If it’s poppyseed noodles or the fantastic lemon meringue pie, Austrian or international desserts… The dishes are really fantastic and one can spend many weeks cooking and eating their way through it all!

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