Thursday, 29 July 2010

Black halibut and runner beans

That wasn't my lunch, nor is the guy family or even known to me. He does stand next to a species of black halibut, and that's what I had for lunch today.
I had no idea how huge these fish could be!!

Black halibut filet with runner beans

2 halibut filets (I actually got one and cut it in two, as it was too large to be one portion)
a teaspoon or so of lemon juice
some plain flour

500 gr of runner beans
2 plum tomatoes
1 rasher of streaky smoked bacon
1 clove of garlic

a few black olives (optional)
1/2 teaspoon of capers (optional)
salt, pepper, dried chili flakes
olive oil, vegetable oil (optional addition: butter)
some fresh thyme and rosemary

Cut the runner beans into 1 inch pieces, and cook in salted water for about 5 mins or until tender, but still with a "bite". Dry through a colander.
Heat a bit olive oil, add chopped bacon and garlic, brown over medium heat. Cut the tomatoes into 1/4 inch cubes and add, cook till they are soft and slightly falling apart. Add the beans back in, season to taste with salt and pepper. Throw in the herbs, leaves just plucked from the stems.

In the meantime, season the fish with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and roll in flour so both sides are covered.
Put in a hot pan, with a mixture of sunflower oil and butter (or replace butter by olive oil as I do). Fry on medium heat for 3-5 mins each side, depending on how thick the fish is.

And because I don't have a photo of the dish, you get my thyme and chives instead. :D

Monday, 26 July 2010

Keyboard ...

This is my awesome keyboard. Yes, I am a geek ... and that's why I'm making you happy with a fuzzy photo of my glowing keyboard - I need to test my new phone! Yay for smart phones.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Change. Yeah, that again ...

We've all heard it more times than worth remembering - change is the only constant in life. It's so trivial, and yet so unsettling. Sometimes you crave change, but don't really realize it. The status quo isn't bad, after all, is it? True, the place you find yourself in doesn't enthrall you quite as much anymore as it did a couple of years ago, but hey, think about it - there are much worse places out there, right?

Sometimes you might feel like change is just coming over you like a bloody tsunami. Oy, I just cleaned that carpet!!

Tough luck. Actually, thinking about it, maybe the carpet needs a ... more radical treatment. Maybe cleaning it isn't quite enough.

Not that you'd think any of those philosophical thoughts when faced with your ruined floor. Of course you'd be too busy worrying about practical things.

When you find yourself in such a situation, where fundamental, expensive and tedious change is determining how you see your future, go to the pier. Take a ride. Maybe you don't have "Scream" near you - if you have, it's perfect!
This might not look like much (and no, I'm not in this video, but it's the Brighton ride), however is one of the scariest rides I've ever been in. You're hanging over the sea for a good while, kept in just by the harness, and then it swings down at a rather breathtaking speed.

I'm not joking, and I said it before - nothing but a few seconds of actual fear for your life to put things back into perspective.

What it made me realize is that I actually like being scared - well, maybe that's putting it a bit strongly, but it certainly describes the feeling at the heart of it. Of course I could just say I thrive on challenges, and that would be true, too.

Challenges wouldn't be challenges if you didn't have something to lose. There's fear right there for you.

So - challenged by coming to terms with change? Find a ride, spend a couple of quid, and I promise, things will look much brighter in a matter of minutes!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Beef Jerky!

It's finally summer, it's been nice and sunny and lovely for days. It's the time for great salads, fresh peas, ripe tomatoes. Light, crisp and - well, summery. But let's face it, beautiful as a well-made summer salad can be, it's not exactly comfort food. As I've been in a bit of a weird mindspace this weekend, I'm very much in need of comfort nibbles.

Also, of course, there's a solar eclipse today. Not that we have a chance of even a glimpse, as it's crossing the South Pacific, but it still feels strangely fitting.

So I decided to give the Sunday roast a pass (well, I did do a couple of duck legs, with a sauce of dried apricots, prunes and tomatoes, with thyme and bay leaf), and instead make the silver-side I had in the fridge into beef jerky.

It came out great, much better than I expected for a first go - slightly sweet, a bit salty and quite peppery. If you don't like your jerky hot, go easy on the pepper and omit the chili.

Beef Jerky

1 pound beef (try to find something as lean as possible, like silver-side)
1 tbspoon brown sugar
3 tbspoon light soy sauce
1 generous dash of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon seasalt
1 tbspoon coarsly ground black pepper
(optional chili powder/sauce - I used a chili/lemon mix)

Trim off all "white" stuff - no matter if it's tendons or fat. Then cut the meat into thin slices, about 1/4 inch. You can either do rather long-ish strips and cut them later, or cut the meat into smaller lumps now (I prefer the latter, but it makes the lining on the rack a bit fiddly), either way - cut with, not as usual over the grain. That gives it the desired texture.

Mix all spices in a bowl, mix with the thinly sliced beef, and let sit for an hour or longer.
Arrange the meat strips on your oven rack so that they don't overlap. They can be very close to another as they shrink, but overlapping will glue them together.

Cover your baking sheet in kitchen foil and put it in the lowest position in your oven to catch any drippings. Preheat your oven to 70C/160F, and stick the rack in on the high position. It takes 4 - 8 hours for your beef to dry out, and the oven door should be slightly open all the time to allow the moisture to escape.
It is done when it can just be bend without breaking.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Pork Chops with cider and peaches

I was watching "Come dine with me" over the weekend (knitting is the perfect excuse to watch hideous stuff, as one "doesn't really watch"), and there was Gerard, the butcher, doing pork chops in cider. I thought they looked very appealing, and in a rather vague way decided to do some sometime.

Well, what can I tell you? Pork chops were on offer in my supermarket yesterday, so I bought some. As it happens, I have a few cans of cider in the house, too - thank you, Sainsbury delivery man!
I did think about buying apples for a sauce, but already had more fruit than I really needed and didn't want to add to it, so I left the apples where they were and just bought some rosemary and sweet potatoes instead.

I have a bit of an ambivalent relationship with sweet potatoes. In theory, I love them. One of the reasons for loving them is a memory of my best friend's mother. When in secondary school, my best friend was Elena. Her parents were from Spain, having fled the Franco regime to come and live in Germany. Her mother was a fantastic cook, but when she wanted to really spoil herself, she'd have a broiled sweet potatoe.
Most of the times, though, my love for sweet potatoes is theoretical, as I find them too ... well, sweet. But still, I do love them! So I'm on a constant plight to find recipes in which they're done in a way I actually like. Up till yesterday, I had one and a half. Now I've got two and a half, as it turned out that frying and then broiling them in cider is just perfect.

This is what I made them into, and it was GRAND. Easy, too.

Will feed 2 people, goes very well with fresh crusty bread and a leafy salad.

2 pork chops
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 shallots
1 ripe peach
1/2 pint of cider
1 clove garlic
a pinch of chili, salt and pepper
4 twigs of rosemary

Preheat your oven to 200C. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into about 1/2 inch cubes, the peach into thin slices.
Heat some oil in a pan, fry the sweet potatoes for about 3 - 5 minutes, season with chili, salt and pepper. Take out of the pan, leaving the oil in. Line a small-ish baking sheet with the rosemary, set the sweet potatoe cubes on top and stick it in the oven so they get a bit of a headstart (about 10 minutes).
Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and fry them in the pan, just browning them on the outside, then take them out and set them aside.
Fry the shallots, garlic and peach slices in the pan until they start to brown, pour in the cider and let it boil up for a couple of minutes.
Take the baking tray out of the oven, place the pork chops on it amidst, not on top of, the sweet potatoes. Pour the shallot-peach-cider mixture over them, and put back into the oven for about 10-15 more minutes.

Inedible! But delicious nonetheless.

This is a piece of lace I made over the weekend. It's also the first piece of knitted lace I ever made.

I'm not totally sure why I never tried lace before. Maybe because I gave up knitting for a long time shortly after my Einstuerzende Neubauten Sweater was finished. Man, I wished I'd have a photo of that one ... it was somewhat famous in my hometown, and many a punk asked me where I'd gotten it. It was (of course!) black, with a neon-yellow Neubauten logo.

Anyhoo. I'm no longer a punkrocker, but I took up the knitting again. And it's real fun, I have to say ... I'm somewhat better at finishing projects now, too (I think). By which I mean, I stopped myself successfully from starting another one before I finish the current one.

You might have seen the buttons I was so happy about on my Facebook wall. If not, here they are again - they go perfectly with what's going to be a cardigan, modelled after my favorite one. The favorite one I bought in H&M about five hundred years ago ... well, okay, so make that 10. But that's still a proud age for a highstreet cardigan, and it's about time the poor thing is allowed to retire. Look at it, how sadly it's drooping and all ...

So the "new version" is slightly different. To begin with, I'm not quite as fond of black as I used to be, so I picked a lighter colour ... I can't quite make up my mind if it's lilac or gray, but I'm rather happy with the in-between-colour-but-not-really-colourful quality of it. Me, weird? C'mon, give me some time to get used to the concept that clothing doesn't have to be black!
Also, because I've been off the needle (ha! Yes, I'll put a fiver in the pun tin. It's worth it.), I didn't want to bother with figuring out how to do the pockets. So the new one won't have any.

Also, and here we're back to the buttons, it'll have no zipper. I'm an arm and a half away from completion. Somehow it's exciting - and I really want to finish it now as I feel ready for more challenging projects. Like, a 1920s inspired lace vest. Or something.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Sour dough - the full monty

This is what my starter looks like after a week in the fridge. Sad. But - don't let it fool you! It's a very lively little starter, this!

With some TLC and flour, it will turn into this lovely brown bread:

This is how the magic is done:

You will need:

2 cups of sour dough starter
2 cups of plain white flour (and some to dust your working space)
2 cups of luke-warm water
3 cups of strong, brown flour

Take the starter out of the fridge. If it's separated (don't panic, that's perfectly normal, the watery layer on top is the so-called "hooch"), give it a good shake/stir and let it come to room temperature. Then pour it into a bowl, and mix with two cups of plain white flour and 2 cups of tepid water, adding one at a time. Cover with a clean towel or cling film and let it sit for a couple of hours. Once it's starting to show bubbles, it's ready for the next step:

Take off 2 cups of the mixture and put back in the (by now washed and thoroughly drained) container your starter lives in. Pop back in the fridge. This is now good to be ignored for up to a week. Should you not want to make bread after a week, take it out, let it come to room temparature, take off half and mix with one cup of flour and one cup of water ("feed"). Then you can put it back into the fridge. Wash, rinse, repeat weekly. Some bakeries proud themselves by claiming to have used the same starter for more than a hundred years!

Mix in 3 cups of strong, brown bread flour and about 4 pinches (equals roughly half a teaspoon) of salt. I do that using a wooden spoon, and switch to hand-kneading once the dough starts to form a ball. You can of course do this in your kitchen aid ... anyhoo, the dough's ready when it's just stopped being sticky, but is still pretty soft. Like this:

Cover tightly with cling film and put in the fridge overnight. Well, that is, if you prefer your fresh bread for breakfast ... you can leave it outside for proofing, of course. It will, depending on your starter and the room temperature take 3 - 12 hours for it to go up, it should about double it's size. Test by poking it with a finger - if the dent stays and doesn't pop out again it's done. In the winter, I sometimes stick it in the oven to proof - turn it on for a minute or two, and then off again. It should be just handwarm (press hand against glass panel in the door to test - if it's too hot for your hand, it's too hot for the dough!).

In the morning, take the dough out and let it come to room temperature. Give it a quick knead on a dusted workspace ... if you prefer your bread to be fine-crumbed, knead up to 15 minutes. The less you knead at this stage, the more rustic the bread will be ( read: bigger holes).

Shape into form, and put on baking tray lined with dusted baking parchment. Put a little bowl of water into the oven and preheat the oven to 220C. Let the dough proof one final time (about 30 minutes usually do the trick), then slash with a very sharp knife, and bake for about 40 - 50 minutes, until it's nicely browned and sounds hollow when you tap it's underside.