Blackberry Torte.

The first of our wild blackberries have come in. Not enough for a pie, but enough to make a torte. The picture below shows it just out of the oven.

Start with:

  • 2/3 stick butter. (real butter is best for this, but margarine will do in a pinch).
  • 1 cup (300 ml) flour (plain flour in the UK)
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Cream them together. It should resemble a coarse flour when done.

Reserve about 1/2 the mixture. Add enough cold water to the rest to make a dough (If you add too much add flour until it is smooth and not too sticky (i had to)).

Roll it out, add 1/5 or so of the reserved mixture. Fold over and repeat until all the reserved mixture is used. Basically you’re making a flakey sweet pie crust.

Put the blackberries down the middle and add about 1/3 cup sugar.

Fold over and slit the top. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 375F (190C +-) for half an hour.

Enjoy. It’s best warm, but makes a great breakfast too.

Pre-Christmas Sushi.

This is fairly simple, and surprisingly easy.

You need really fresh tuna – we went to the Dekalb Farmer’s Market – and use it to make sushi.

The trick is to keep the tuna on ice and once cut up use it immediately.

Make sushi rice (a large grained rice) – per cup dry rice you’ll need 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/8 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil.

Cook the rice as you normally would – with water about twice the volume of rice. When it’s finished, add the vinegar mixture and let cool.

Put spoons of rice on a plate and put a piece of the tuna on each.

Serve with soy sauce (the lighter sushi soy sauce is better), wasabi and Saki.  (We warmed ours in a gravy boat – after searching the house for our saki set.)

Kim-chee was good with it.

We also made miso soup. Cut up 1/2 onion thinly and saute then add 2-3 cups of water. Once it’s boiled add 2 tablespoons of miso paste. Stir to dissolve.

A new family holiday tradition.

A Man’s Meal

Having to revert to batchelor fare for an evening – fixing up from felonious damage and interviewing for a new alarm system – I had a chance to try a combination that is decidedly male oriented.

The meat course:

2 strips bacon, streaky (UK), meaty (USA). Cut into pieces and fried until nearly done.

4 pieces pounded steak. Fry with the bacon until 1/2 done, then turn over. Add two drops of Mayan hot sauce (green, smoked habanero peppers) to each piece. Turn over and finish.

When the bacon is nearly done, start water to boil dried tortellini – for one person about 1/2 cup. When the tortellini is nearly done add frozen peas to the water.

Serve with beer.

Turkey Pie

Meat pies are a traditional way to finish up with leftovers. Leftovers such as turkey.

Step 1) (Day before) boil the bones and less desirable parts of meat. (back & wings). I break it up and cover it with water. Then I boil for 4-5 hours until the fluid is dark and slightly viscous. Doesn’t that sound delightful? That’s the collagen dissolving to give the stock body.

Step 2) Filling. Precook by boiling two or three potatoes. Do it with the skin on. I’ll also cut up three or four carrots and add them to the mixture. Once they are cooked, drain and let cool (you can overlap this step with making the rest of the filling).

In a deep frying pan saute (tablespoon olive oil, tablespoon +- butter) two onions and 5-6 stalks of celery. Cut up the turkey while these are cooking. Add about 1 1/2 cups of the cooled stock to the frying pan and start the reduction process. Put the turkey and carrots (if they’re done) in the frying pan while you’re reducing. Reduce the stock by about 1/2.

Step 3) Crust. 2 cups flour, 1 stick margarine, teaspoon salt, teaspoon sage, teaspoon thyme leaves (I suppose you could used “mixed spice” in the UK). Cut the margarine into the flour mix. Then when you’re ready to roll it out mix in about 1/3 cup cold water. I add the water in smaller amounts as it’s easy to add more and dashed hard to remove it. Divide into 2/3 and 1/3.  Roll the 2/3 out and line a 9 inch glass pie dish.

Step 4) Assembly.  De-skin and cut up 1/2 the potatoes and place on the bottom crust. Add the rest of the filling from the frying pan. Then skin and put the remaining potatoes on top. Roll out the remaining crust and cover/seal with the lower one.

Bake at 375 F (210 C – slightly hotter than moderate) for about an hour. Since fluids may leak from the pie, it is a good idea to put the pan on a baking sheet with sides to catch the liquid before it messes up the oven.


Blackberry-apple crumble #recipe #goodfood

June and the wild blackberries are just turning ripe. It’s the fruit that green when it’s red. They’re best picked and used the same day, free from the weedy prickly brush.

Here’s a good recipe for a crumble:
You’ll need about 1 cup ripe blackberries and an apple, peeled, cored, and sliced.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick (1/4 lb) butter, cut into segments and hard from the refrigerator.
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened molasses (I use this rather than brown sugar).

2016-06-03 16.31.30 Use the mixer to thoroughly blend into a crumbly uniform state. It is a little more crumbly than pie crust mixtures and a lot sweeter.

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Mix in 1 cup oatmeal.

Wash about 1 cup of blackberries. I use a basin of cold water, twice, to remove bits of leaves and other things that tend to accompany wild fruit.
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Place 2/3 of the mixture in a 9×9 baking dish, put the blackberries on top. Peel, core and section a cooking apple (Granny Smith in this case) and place over the blackberries.
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Cover with the rest of the mixture and bake at 350F (200C) until the fruit is done and the crust browned. About 1/2 hour.
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Dutch Oven Pot Roast. #recipe #goodfood

This is a very simple way to make a traditional dinner. Although I did it at home, it’s fully suitable for camping and within the skill levels of young scouts.

Pot roast is a gristly, fatty, and usually inexpensive cut of meat. It needs to be slow cooked to become tender. Then it’s excellent. The grease at the bottom of the oven in the featured image has almost all cooked off the meat. The meat has lost about 1/2 its volume and is extremely tender.

Cut up and saute two large onions.

It is important to at least sweat the onions to remove some of the more volatile compounds. I used a small amount of olive oil, but anything will do. Were I camping, I’d do this in the bottom of the dutch oven itself and remove once done.  (It will sit nicely on a butane/propane camp stove.)

Add about 1 cup beef stock/bullion. I used a teaspoon of condensed stock and added a cup of water. Reduce the volume by about 1/2.

While the volume is being reduced do two things.

  1. start the coals
  2. wash and cut in half or quarter 1-2 pounds of potatoes.

Put a nice (about 1mm thick) layer of oil on the bottom of the dutch oven. Then place the potatoes in it. Put the meat on top of the potatoes. This will raise it out of the drippings and help it to cook cleanly. Place the cooked onions and remaining broth on top of the meat. Add one cup of water to the oven, cover and place on the coals. A dutch oven used over charcoal tends to dry the contents so it is important to start with extra water inside.

1 and 1/2 to 2 hours later, the meal should be done. I rotated the oven and counter-rotated the lid once or twice during this time.

Shortbread, done right this time. #easyrecipe #cookies

A while ago I tested a historical recipe for shortbread. It wasn’t exactly a success. Time to fix that. This is a fairly traditional English recipe that works well with American ingredients.

Take 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter and 4 tablespoons of sugar. You could use margarine, but butter really is best for this.
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Cream them, and then add 1 cup of flour. (Plain flour, not self-rising, about 1/4 pound or 115g) Mix until it is all combined. It should resemble:

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Press into a pan, about 1/2 inch or 1cm thick. You can prick this with a fork, but it isn’t necessary. Bake it for 1 hour in a cool oven (300F or 150C). The edges should just be turning brown.
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Cut into shapes while hot (it will be very soft). Let cool and remove from the pan.
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Afternoon Tea Cakes #victorianrecipe #recipe #goodfood

This is another Victorian recipe from the “Sure to Rise” cookbook.
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I’ve adapted the recipe by increasing the amount of sugar.

  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
  • 1 and 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • flour for dusting
  • Fruit Filling – the original says raspberry jam, see below for an easy quick and good apple filling

Mix the butter and flour, thoroughly to form a pie crust like mixture. Add the baking powder and sugar. Mix.

Add the egg, and enough milk to form a smooth dough. Roll it out about 1/4 inch (4 mm or so) thick.
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Then cut in rounds and put about 1/2 teaspoon of filling in each.
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Wet the edges and fold over. Bake at 400F (200C) on a greased sheet for about 10 minutes.
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Apple filling

Quarter, peel, and core one apple. Cut into small pieces. Add about 1 tablespoon sugar. Microwave four minutes and add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (if desired). Much easier than making jam in the Victorian manner, but it works.

Simplified care of Cast Iron Cookware or a Few Myths Removed.

Myths about cast iron are some of the things I run into as a trainer of scout adult leaders. Which is a bit of a shame. If you understand the chemistry, then care is easy.

The basic chemistry can be summarized as follows

  1. The black coating is Iron Oxide (Fe3 O4 and others).
  2. Iron Oxide doesn’t react easily with water and sugar.
  3. Iron Hydroxide (Rust, Fe(OH)3 and others) reacts easily with water and sugars
  4. Iron Hydroxide can be converted with heat, a carbon source and a somewhat anaerobic environment, into iron oxide

I am being a bit simplistic here, but it’s accurate enough.

The recommended care cycle for cast iron then makes sense. After cooking, use water to clean the debris. Really stuck on crud can be removed with boiling water. After the pot is clean, coat it in oil and heat.

What’s going on?

You’re removing the debris, and then regenerating a layer of iron oxide. That simple.


What happens when food sticks?

Sugar in the food reacts with trace amounts of iron hydroxide on the pan’s surface. But, you say, “Meat doesn’t have sugar in it and meat will stick?” The answer is that meat, at least from complex critters (Eucaryotes), is covered in sugars as part of how cells recognize and communicate with each other. Sugars contain alcohol groups (Not ethanol – you won’t get drunk from eating them) which interact with iron in much the same way as water. So you get an Iron-sugar chemical compound, which after pyrolysis (a fancy way to say burning) becomes a sticky mess.

So how do we stop the sticking?

Heat the pan first. This drives off much of the remaining water, converting the trace amounts of hydroxide back to oxide. A coat of oil also helps because it keeps the sugars in the food from contacting the metal surface.

Why shouldn’t I use soap?

Two reasons.

First, I will remove some of the protective oil and expose the more reactive iron to water. Thus generating hydroxides. I see this when I make a white gravy (Milk based) where the natural detergents in the milk strip some of the oil away. There’s usually a thin coating of the brown hydroxide after I’ve cleaned the pan. Coating the pan with oil and heating returns it to normal.

Second, the detergent mixes with the oil. You won’t necessarily taste it, but detergents have chemical groups that attract water and sugars. Therefore the detergent helps the food to stick.


Note that I haven’t given highly specific temperatures. Things like “sandblast and put in a 305 degree oven for exactly 45 minutes.” That’s because they are not necessary. Keep it dry, keep it oiled, and avoid detergents. Remember you’re trying to build up a layer of iron oxide and you’ll be fine. Not only that but your great-grandchildren will thank you when they use your pan.

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