Sunday, May 30, 2010

Recipes from the Road

Irish Soda Bread
We're in Ireland right now, and being reminded of some of the wonderful food we've grown accustomed to - country vegetable soup (a rich, creamy concoction) and brown soda bread is a favorite combination.

4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 (US) pint buttermilk (= 16 ounces or 4/5 UK pint)
(You can, of course, substitute milk, rice milk, soy milk, etc. for some or all of the buttermilk, but if not using mostly buttermilk, then make part of the volume up with plain yogurt).
optional extras: sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, linseed, rolled oats... - mix in or sprinkle on top before baking, or do both! If you add much dry content, like oats, you may need more liquid.

Preheat oven to 200C/375ºF
Mix all ingredients thoroughly to form a soft dough.
Tip dough onto a floured surface, form into a ball and place on a lightly oiled or floured baking tray.
Flatten into a disk (about 2" high).
Cut an x in the top to let the bread bake through more evenly.
Sprinkle seeds, oats or just a bit of flour on the top.
Bake 40 - 50 min, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
Cool on a wire rack, wrapped in a tea towel for a softer crust.

My sister in Anchorage gets regular vegetable deliveries from an organic farm cooperative. Even in the winter, which is when we're usually there, boxes arrive, but they get pretty heavy on root crops. My sister had been sent too many beets and was looking for ideas... After reading through a bunch of different borshch (borsht, borsch, borscht...) recipes on the internet and raiding my parents' kitchen to see what I had to work with, I came up with this, which worked extremely well if I do say so myself (pause to unkink shoulder after attempted pat on back).

olive oil (1tbsp or less) for sauteing
1 very small or 1/2 medium onion (more if it's very mild, less if it's really intense), chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 beets, topped, tailed and cubed or julienned (cut into strips like french fries)
2 large or 3 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 or 3 carrots, topped, tailed and chopped
(1 small parsnip would have been good, too, if I'd had one)
1 very small or 1/2 average size cabbage (I used red, but green's fine), chopped
1 or 2 tomatoes, chopped
~ 1 tsp honey (or sugar)
1/4 cup or less red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

sour cream or yoghurt for topping. If you really want to be fancy, sprinkle on some dill, too, preferably fresh!
Cut up the onions, garlic, beet, potatoes, carrots and cabbage (& parsnip) into whatever size and shape you want floating around in your soup. Smaller is easier to get on a spoon.
Get at least the onions and beets prepared before you start, because it takes longer to cut up the beets than it does to fry the onion.

Be careful with the beets. Don't wear a white shirt. Don't use a wooden or white plastic cutting board if you ever want it to look clean again. This is where glass cutting boards are really useful!

Fill the kettle and put it on - you'll need boiling water later.

Heat a little bit of olive oil in a big soup pan. Test by dropping in a bit onion; you want it just hot enough to sizzle.
Add the onion and garlic. When the onion starts to get soft, add beets, potatoes, carrots and cabbage (and parsnip). Stir frequently.

When this mix looks cooked (soft, not burned), add the tomato, honey, vinegar, and some salt and pepper (not too much - you can always add more at the taste test stage).

Cover the whole mess with boiling water and let simmer until it tastes like soup. 30 minutes will probably do it. 60 minutes is probably better. Better still is eating it the next day, but who wants to wait that long?

Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream or plain yoghurt, and (optionally) sprinkled with fresh or dried dill.

Coconut Pyramids

Mike's sister-in-law in Manchester gave us this recipe (thanks Kerry!) and we immediately made a batch the next chance we had to use a kitchen, in Yorkshire. Mike thought it was very similar to what his mother used to make, except for the amount of lemon. Next time we do it, we'll use just some of the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon.

2 eggs (or 4 egg yolks)
200g (1/2 lb) dessicated coconut
100g (4 oz) caster sugar (works w/ ordinary, just not as smooth)
juice and rind of 1/2 lemon (doesn’t need this much!)

Beat eggs & sugar until creamy.
Stir in lemon juice, rind and coconut.
Form into pyramids using moist egg cup.

Bake at 190C / 375ºF / gas mark 5
for 18 – 20 minutes.

How many it makes depends on the size of your egg cup – I got 20.

Barbara’s Sweet potato Curry
Norwich is a fascinating medieval city full of labyrinthine shopping lanes. As you get out into slightly newer parts of the city you still find tiny, sometimes nearly invisible, lanes. Our friend Andy lives in a lovely old place tucked away down one of those lanes, with an amazing hidden garden and orchard only seen by going through the house. His bright, spacious added-on kitchen overlooks the orchard, and is a perfect space for playing music or sharing food. His girlfriend Barbara, from Germany, fixed this fabulous dish for us.

(for 2 people)

Start 15-20 min before rice will be done…

2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1-2 leeks, sliced (rings)
2-3 tsp green Thai curry paste
1 can coconut milk
~100g cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
juice of 1 lime
oil for frying
coriander leaves OR ground coriander

All quantities can be varied

Heat oil in wok or wide pot.
Fry leeks until a bit glazed over, then add curry paste. Fry for another 2 minutes.
Add sweet potatoes and fry for 3-5 mins (but don’t burn them), then add the tin of coconut milk.
Bring the mixture to a boil, turn down heat and simmer until sweet potatoes are soft and the coconut milk has reduced, stir occasionally.
If there’s not enough coconut milk, add some water. Add more curry paste if it’s not hot enough.
Add cherry tomatoes and ground coriander (if you use this option). Cook for ~2mins (cherry tomatoes should not go mushy).
Before serving, stir in lime juice and sprinkle with coriander leaves (if you use this option).

Leek and potato soup
I had never come across leek and potato soup before I started spending time in England, and then I started seeing it everywhere. First just in England, but soon I was finding it in the states, too. Maybe it was always there and I hadn't noticed. Once I'd tried it, though, I had to have a recipe!

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
225g/8oz potatoes, cubed
2 medium leeks, sliced
1.2 litres/2 pints vegetable stock
150ml/5fl oz double cream or crème fraîche
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions, potatoes and leeks.
Cook for 3-4 minutes until they start to soften.
Add the vegetable stock and bring to boil.
Season well and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
Puree with a hand blender or in a blender.
Reheat in a clean pan, stir in the cream or crème fraîche, heat through and serve.

Makes 4 - 6 servings.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Where to Start

When did I set up this blog? This must be at least the third one I have put in place and then never posted to. Time to leap.

(Mike, Tania, William & Felicia at Cowgate, Norwich- photo by Mike) We're in Norwich, so this is where it starts. This is actually where it started - at least the "Mike and Tania" part of the travels. I'd been to Scotland the previous year, played sessions and floor spots at several festivals and clubs, and had invitations to come back for gigs, but booking them myself had proved problematic. William and Felicia had this friend in England who was booking a tour for them. They'd met him just two years earlier, when they did a tour with Tom.

So Mike and I met in the Norwich train station. And that was... a long time ago. If I try to catch up the whole back story I'll never get on to posting new stories of our travels, so if you're interested, you can get at least some bits and snippets by reading about our adventures in restoration after Mike sold the house in Norwich to buy an old farmstead in Ireland. Yikes. I have tried to move all that onto a blog page, but it's too much back-tracking.

(Mike on the Interstate - photo by Tania) We've put in a lot of miles together, up and down the UK by car, bus, train, plane, ferry and probably other transport too numerous to recall, and back and forth across North America in our slightly rusty but extremely cozy VW camper van.

OK, some places in North America are a bit far for the old VW, so we do fly when we're going up to Alaska to visit my old stomping grounds and spend time with my family. (On Campbell River Bridge - photo by Mike)

As I mentioned at the start, we're back in Norwich now. It's raining, so not great photo weather, and yesterday when we were out wandering we didn't get the camera out. Oh well. Norwich is still Norwich, with its stunning selection of church towers, including not one but two cathedrals, and its maze of winding medieval streets.
We had a wander through the Norwich Lanes, stopping for a few bags of Mike's favorite tea from Wilkinson's, and to see what's new at Inanna's Festival. Passed through the Market just to see who's still there. We didn't go into the Castle Mall this time, but I remember being very impressed with the way the modern structure had been worked in between the castle and old shopping streets. Didn't even spot it when we walked past yesterday, but I know it's easy enough to find when you're looking for it. (Norwich street view photo from Google Maps).

So there - I've blogged a page. Now it's time to get back to playing music. Rainy days are made for practicing!