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  • Mango Chutney

    Mango_Chutney

    As with all events at the Bad Wolf Bar and Grille, Poker night would not be Poker night without food from the kitchen, and drinks from the bar.

    On one such evening, I decided on an Indian flair, and made my first attempt at Samosa’s. These were “passable”, as in passable to starving wolves, with several libations in them. The TRUE star of the snack table was a mango chutney, I had thrown together on a whim.

    Of course, having thrown this together on a whim, means no measuring, no recipe, no clue. (BAD ROGUECHEF!!!) Over the next several weeks, I made several attempts to recreate the chutney, and after many tries, and samples produced, tasted, and rejected, I managed to come very close to the original. And to make sure I DON’T have to do this again, I kept notes.

    From Wikipedia:

    Chutney is a loan word incorporated into English from Hindi-Urdu describing a pasty sauce in Indian[1] and other South Asian cuisines. It is a term for a class of spicy preparations used as an accompaniment for a main dish. Chutneys usually contain an idiosyncratic but complementary spice and vegetable mix.

    Chutneys are wet or dry, having a coarse to fine texture. The Anglo-Indian loan word refers to fresh and pickled preparations indiscriminately, with preserves often sweetened. At least several Northern Indian languages use the word for fresh preparations only. A different word achār applies to preserves that often contain oil but are rarely sweet. Vinegar or citrus juice may be added as preservatives, or fermentation in the presence of salt may be used to create acid.

    In the past, chutneys were ground with a mortar and pestle made of stone or an ammikkal (Tamil). Nowadays, electric blenders replace the stone implements. Various spices are added and ground, usually in a particular order; the wet paste thus made is sauteed in vegetable oil, usually gingelly or groundnut oil.

    American and European styled chutneys are usually fruit, vinegar and sugar, cooked down to a reduction. Flavorings are always added to the mix. These may include sugar, salt, garlic, tamarind, onion, or ginger.

  • Cold Soup – Gazpacho

    Gazpacho

    Ambushed again by the green grocer. But, it is hot, and it is late spring, early summer.. Now I have some lovely tomatoes, cucumbers, all sorts of herbs, garlic, red onion, citrus and a flavored olive oil the owners wife made for me to try. Sounds like I am making Gazpacho.

    Background

    Gazpacho is a cold Spanish tomato-based raw vegetable soup, originating in the southern region of Andalucía. Gazpacho is widely consumed throughout Spain, neighboring Portugal and parts of Latin America. Gazpacho is mostly consumed during the summer months, due to its refreshing qualities.

    The soup has ancient roots. There are a number of theories of its origin, including as an Arab soup of bread, olive oil, water and garlic that arrived in Spain with the Moors, or via the Romans with the addition of vinegar. Once in Spain became a part of Andalucian cuisine, particularly Seville, stale bread, garlic, olive oil, salt, and vinegar. Tomato was added to the recipe after it was brought to Europe after the Columbian Exchange which began in 1492. The dish remained popular with field hands as a way to cool off during the summer, and to use available ingredients (fresh vegetables and stale bread).

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  • Ras El Hanout

    spices

    I do so love having a properly stocked pantry / spice rack. The situation is this, while in the store shopping I decided that I wanted to produce a Tangine for Saturday Dinner. Madam BadWolf, just looked at me and asked what did we need. (No pressure there, Just DO NOT SCREW THIS UP..) A quick visit to the meat counter showed very little in the way of acceptable and affordable lamb, we really could not think of chicken, and a “pork tangine?”, I think not, so this left beef. Looking at the beef selection, and referring to my trusty internet connected communications device, I settled on Beef Short Ribs.

    Think of hearty chunks of brisket, with a bone on one side. Perfect for slow cooking, the high collagen and heavy marbling lend this meat to the low and sustained heat and as the meat fibers swell they absorb the braising liquid to deliver a taste that can NOT be duplicated by any other means.

    So several packs of short ribs, some dates, dried apricots, and other items were loaded into the cart, and away we went. The next morning I start my prep to find… I AM MISSING A KEY item. (Ras El Hanout), I missed the line in the recipe, and as if the local not-so-mega mart would carry such… As if I KNEW what Ras El Hanout was…

    Again an internet connected device to the rescue..

    From Wikipedia

    Ras el hanout or Rass el hanout is a blend of spices from Morocco but also used in other countries in North Africa. The name is Arabic for “head of the shop” and implies a mixture of the best spices the seller has to offer. Ras el hanout is used in many savory dishes, sometimes rubbed on meat or stirred into rice.

    There is no definitive combination of spices that makes up ras el hanout. Each shop, company, or person may have their own blend. The mixture may consist of over a dozen spices. Commonly used ingredients include cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, peppercorn, and turmeric. Some spices may be particular to the region, such as ash berries, chufa, grains of paradise, orris root, monk’s pepper, cubebs, or dried rosebud. Ingredients may be toasted before being ground and mixed together.

    A peruse of my spice provided all but one, (optional) ingredients. The smells from the toasting, and grinding were amazing, I can not wait to actually start cooking with this.

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  • Mediterranean Herbs and Spices (My Guide)

    spices

    As I have spoke prior:

    I have started playing with a fusion diet of Mediterranean, Mid-Eastern, and Far Eastern cuisines. Heavy on Rice, Noodles, Breads, Pastas, fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, olive / sesame oil, and very light on red meat

    Mediterranean cuisine consists primarily of fruits and vegetables with an emphasis on poultry and seafood, grains, beans and pastas. Olive oil the most prevalent fat or oil used in the preparation of salads, marinades, vegetables, poultry, and seafood. Eggplant, artichokes, squash, tomatoes, legumes, onions, mushrooms, okra, cucumbers, and a variety of greens are served fresh, baked, roasted, sautéed, grilled, and puréed. Yogurt and cheese are also major components of Mediterranean cooking. Coastal areas use seafood.

    Herbs and spices are used in abundance. The very special “blend”, and I will use the word blend as the entire Mediterranean culture and hence the cuisine is a mix of many, many cultures in what has to be the cradle and blending bowl of civilization. The very special “blend” of herbs and spices is quite long, but I have listed some of those that have been identified as essential Mediterranean seasonings.

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  • Preserved Lemons

    I have started playing with a fusion diet of Mediterranean, Mid-Eastern, and Far Eastern cuisines. Heavy on Rice, Noodles, Breads, Pastas, fuits, veggies, nuts, beans, olive / sesame oil, and very light on red meat. A fair amount of fish, lighter on poultry. This does not mean I will run screaming at the sight of a a steak, (or at least run screaming AWAY..)

    One item that keeps popping up is preserved lemons, used in all kinds of dishes around the Mediterranean, it really should be called preserved lemon peel, as that is the component most used.

    From Wikipedia:

    Preserved lemon or lemon pickle is a condiment that is common in Indian and North African cuisine. It is also known as “country lemon” and leems. Diced, quartered, halved, or whole, lemons are pickled in a brine of water, lemon juice, and salt; occasionally spices are included as well. The pickle is allowed to ferment at room temperature for weeks or months before it is used. The pulp of the preserved lemon can be used in stews and sauces, but it is the peel (zest and pith together) that is most valued. The flavor is mildly tart but intensely lemony.

    Pieces of pickled lemon may be washed before using to remove any surface salt, or blanched to remove more of the salt and bring out the natural mild sweetness. They may then be sliced, chopped, or minced as needed for the texture of the dish. The rind may be used with or without the pulp.

    Preserved lemon is the key ingredient in many Moroccan dishes such as tagines. In Cambodian cuisine, it is used in dishes such as Ngam nguv, a chicken soup with whole preserved lemons. They are often combined in various ways with olives, artichokes, seafood, veal, chicken, and rice. Lemon Pickle is a standard accompaniment to curd rice, which is often the last course in South Indian Cuisine.

    The pickled pulp and liquid can be used in Bloody Marys and other beverages where lemon and salt are used. The flavor also combines well with horseradish, as in American-style cocktail sauce.

    In Ayurvedic cuisine, lemon pickle is a home remedy for stomach disorders, and its value is said to increase as it matures. In East African folk medicine, lemon pickle is given for excessive growth of the spleen.

    From a VERY OLD COOKBOOK (Elizabeth Raffald (1786). The experienced English housekeeper )

    They should be small, and with thick rinds: rub them with a piece of flannel; then slit them half down in four quarters, but not through to the pulp; fill the slits with salt hard pressed in, set them upright in a pan for four or five days, until the salt melts; turn them thrice a day in their own liquor, until tender; make enough pickle to cover them, of rape-vinegar, the brine of the lemons, Jamaica pepper, and ginger; boil and skim it; when cold, put it to the lemons, with two ounces of mustard-seed, and two cloves of garlic to six lemons. When the lemons are used, the pickle will be useful in fish or other sauces.

    Note: When I speak of “Fresh” dried spices, I am stalking about items recently acquired, not sitting on a back shelf for a year. This should yield about a quart, so having a sterilized quart jar and lid is necessary. As a point, it is easier to manipulate the lemons in a wide mouth jar.

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