Satay sauce

It is much better to use salt-free peanut butter to prepare your own satay sauce.

SheWhoMustbeFed provides the household with home made nut butters – cashew and peanut being the staples with the occasional foray into macadamia. To make nut butter, fresh nuts are simply lightly roasted and then they are introduced to The Champion. The Champion is what you get when you cross a bench mounted grinder with a kitchen tool. Its easy to imagine The Champion being the result of Tim Taylor from the TV show Home Improvement being asked to design a new food processor.

In the absence of your own home made peanut butter, salt free peanut butter can be generally found in health food stores, if you can find one that hasn’t been overrun with body building supplements that is!

Needing to have (suggested measurements are just that…suggestions. You have to fiddle a bit to get the right consistency)….

  • 3/4 cup of lightly roasted peanuts. Crush in a mortar and pestle and reserve
  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup of coconut cream
  • 1 tablespoon of tamari
  • A few thin slices of onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 hot chilli
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of peanut oil (or coconut oil) – for frying the onion and garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil – for flavouring
  • Water

To do…

  • Boil the kettle, and dissolve the peanut butter in a cup of water. It doesn’t have to completely dissolve but it helps to get it as pre-dissolved as possible
  • Meanwhile, in a small pan over a low flame…
  • Lightly sauté the onion, garlic and cumin. If these at all burn, discard and start again as they really need to be very lightly cooked
  • Add the dissolved peanut butter, tamari, and the whole chilli (the chilli is meant to add a little heat, and then be fished out before serving). Add up to an extra cup of water to help thin the mixture
  • Simmer lightly for a few minutes, do not allow to boil. Keep an eye on the sauce and stir regularly as it will tend to stick to the pan easily
  • Remove the chilli. Add the coconut cream and the sesame oil. This will take the heat off the sauce so bring it back to a simmer.
  • As soon as it simmers again, add the reserved crushed peanuts and serve

Stuffing

Christmas isn’t Christmas without stuffing. Though it is a fair and reasonable question to pose whether Stuffing is Stuffing if it isn’t stuffed up the vent* of a dead chicken/turkey? One reasonable answer is that the name is still appropriate because after you’ve gorged on the meal it is you who feels stuffed. This was made on the afternoon of the day before Christmas, simply because it could be and thus gave me one less thing to do in the kitchen on The Day. But if you want to sagely nod and claim that doing so will allow “the flavours to stew, intensify and gain complexity” go right ahead..

Ingredients…

  • As luck would have it, a loaf of homemade wholemeal bread had just been finished leaving only the two end crusts from the loaf. Each of these was a fairly thick slice. So…two end slices of bread.
  • 6 or so thin slices of onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium, firm mushroom
  • 1/4 cup of almonds, finely crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of marinated black olives
  • 2 teaspoons of light miso
  • 2 teaspoons of tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped, fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • Put the kettle onto boil…

Méthode de la fabrication bourrant…

  • Breadcrumb the bread slices. In my case, they were torn into medium size pieces and then “wizzed” using the ever useful Bamix.
  • Do the same for the mushroom and the olives.
  • Combine these with all other dry ingredients into a bowl
  • Dissolve the miso and tomato paste in about 1/2 cup of boiled water, and add to the mix
  • Add the olive oil, and mix thoroughly
  • Place mixture into an appropriately sized and lidded baking dish, squeezing down as you do so to ensure a tight fill.
  • Pour in additional boiled water to about the halfway level (this was easy in my case as the baking dish was glass so I could see the level).
  • Bake, covered for about 45 minutes in a hot oven.

* “Vent” is the official name for the common opening that birds have, that is used for reproduction, and for the evacuation of stools and urine.

Christmas Gravy

“You are making gravy aren’t you?”…..spoke SheWhoMustBeFed about five minutes before everything else was about to be served for Christmas Dinner. Blinking innocently, the love of my life informed me that “I’ve told everyone you’re making gravy”, which struck me as being an odd thing to feel the need to drop into conversation with family and friends on the run up to Christmas. Note to self: should buy She WhoMustBeFed a copy of “The Fine Art of Small Talk: How To Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills — and Leave a Positive Impression!” by Debra Fine for her birthday.

And so…to the gravy…

Ingredients…

  • Cornflour
  • Dark miso
  • The glass of red wine you’d just poured yourself to drink
  • Two or three thin slices of onion, finely chopped
  • Pinch of mixed herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme)
  • Ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • Olive oil

Putting it all together quick enough that the rest of the meal doesn’t burn…

  1. Smile sweetly at SheWhoMustBeFed and say “Of course I’m making gravy dear…”
  2. Put the kettle on to boil. Once boiled, fill the gravy pitcher with hot water to warm it up
  3. In a small saucepan, over a low flame…
  4. Lightly saute the onion in 2 tablespoons of oil, together with the pepper
  5. Remove from heat and add a tablespoon of cornflour, stir out any lumps
  6. Return to the heat and add all other ingredients
  7. Add about one cup of boiled water
  8. Stir; taking care the miso dissolves thoroughly
  9. If not thick enough for your taste; remove a tablespoon of the gravy and in a cup, mix in another teaspoon or so of cornflour. Once mixed to an even paste, stir into the pan.

Christmas 2008

That’s that then. Only 363 sleeps until Christmas. And if there are any stores actually left trading come next Christmas (that haven’t gone bankrupt) we can again wrap a collection of gifts under the tree and contribute our own little way to the engine of economic consumption. Bless you all and especially the little darling loinfruits, and to paraphrase Dear Queen Lizzie – “Blessed are those who sacrifice a moment of their wealthy days and give something to the common people, standing in their unwashed millions beyond the castle walls”.

Thus directed by the only person who’s effigy jingles disturbingly near my groin when I have a pocketful of change, it is my pleasure to share the recipes for the two most important parts of the Christmas meal; The Gravy and The Stuffing. Now…get yourself off to the 90% Off Boxing Day sales before the last store closes…forever.

PS. For Christmas SheWhoMustBeFed gave me a set of digital kitchen scales. Accurate to 1 gram and able to be “zeroed” at any weight these are a boon to breadmaking as they mean all ingredients including liquids can be accurately measured by weight

Being Grateful

Anyone with Loinfruit will either have gone through, or have still ahead of them the joyous task of nagging them to say “Please” and “Thank you”. Those simple, oft neglected words in whose absence the ire of parents rises, and which are perhaps the simplest defining difference between a child (and ultimately an adult) who is considered polite and one who is not. At some point as Loinfruit learn to speak, and more importantly to take part in communication we make all this effort to teach them how to communicate thanks…and then we get older ourselves and we…errrrr….forget.

During our years living in Disneyland (a.k.a. The USA) we made a great many friends. One night we were invited to to dinner by our friends Jill and Sharon, and as we sat down for dinner around the table with their two Loinfruit they pulled out a book and asked us to read a blessing. Now, SheWhoMustBeFed and The VegHead could not be described as Attendees of Church in our wildest dreams. I admit in fact to being somewhat taken aback, though the flow is to go with in style and grace as far as I am concerned.

Sometimes lessons are not attended. Sometimes they happen. A copy of the book I was handed that night has since become a much thumbed one in our own dining room; A Grateful Heart edited by M. J. Ryan – “Daily blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to The Beatles.”

My lesson that night as I sat down to share a meal with our friends is that we sometimes shun ritual because we associate it overly with something else that we choose to not be be a part of our lives. In this case the ritual of expressing gratitude for the food we were about to eat, and appreciation for the effort and love that had gone into all stages of its creation was avoided; as saying “Grace” was associated in my mind with a religious blessing.

It has since become a ritual for us to read a blessing as we sit down together for dinner, or sometimes as the mood requires to just make something up. That simple act is a moment of pause and reflection between the rush of the day and the (enjoyable) effort of cooking a meal, and the meal itself.

Along the way we have also been reminded of a simple truth – that as we get older we too often forget to express our thanks to those in our lives for even the simplest of acts that they do for us, and that they undertake in an everyday manner to contribute to life and household. We forget to say “please” and “thank you” even as we teach our Loinfruit to do the same. It is almost a cliche that the reason expressed for unhappiness in a relationship is that one party “takes the other for granted”. Translation: “You don’t notice all the things I do for you and you never say thanks – therefore you don’t love me anymore”. Saying “thank you” isn’t the answer to life, but it is interesting in a simple and fundamental way that we think it important to teach Loinfruit the importance of those words.

To quote from the Grateful Heart…

As the sun illuminates
the moon and the stars
so let us illuminate
one another
-Anonymous

Thanks for reading.

Poor old brussel sprouts

It must be sad being the vegetable that everyone loves to detest. Lets face it, children hate brussel sprouts even more than they hate broccoli, even more than they hate cleaning their rooms, or kissing the cheek of their creepy Aunt Edith who smells unsettlingly of urine.

Just maybe though, as you get older you get a taste for this little member of the brassica family. December in England is the time of year when fresh, seasonal and locally grown sprouts can be found in the farmer’s markets. Sprouts are best bought still on the stem – and lets face it they are one of the wackiest looking plants on the planet. For that reason alone it deserves a little respect. The sprouts grow directly off the woody stem, and the whole thing is then crowned by a large, loosely bundled mega-sprout on the top.

And here’s THE THING. That mega-sprout on top is the best bit. Not only does it’s presence herald a truly fresh sprout stem, but it is also lip smackingly good to eat. Underneath it will be surrounded by little cute sprouts; cut it off the stem at this point and steam the whole head. Wash any dirt from amongst the leaves first.

OK – you have to like brussel sprouts to begin with enjoy this. But life isn’t just oranges and bananas. Live a little…

Bolognese sauce

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is a National Security Agency plot to make everyone think that veg*ism is blah. Resist with every cell of your being. Tempeh on the other hand is a traditional soya product harking from Indonesia. Grated, it fulfills the role of minced meat with gusto and verve. If the NSA still has control of your mind then I suppose you will be tempted to use TVP in this recipe. It would work however your life will be a little less fulfilling and you will be less likely to be popular with random strangers. Your decision…

Ingredients..

  • 1 packet of tempeh – grated
  • 1 medium carrot – grated
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion – finely chopped
  • 4 large fresh tomatoes, chopped (or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes if you have to)
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 small aubergine, cubed; OR equivalent volume of chopped mushrooms; OR both if you’re a gutsy pig
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons of miso paste
  • 1 tablespoons fresh whole pepper corns (don’t substitute dried ones – must be fresh or if you don’t have them don’t use them)
  • 1 ½ cups of red wine; plus a glass for you – You’re Worth It!
  • Fresh picked herbs – chopped; parsley, rosemary, thyme, basil, 3 bay leaves
  • Optional – a small hot, red chilli, chopped

Method…

  • Lightly sauté onions in a truly excessive amount of olive oil until clear
  • Add garlic, and chillies and sauté for an additional minute; low heat
  • Add tempeh and sauté for an additional minute. Be careful it doesn’t stick
  • Dissolve tomato and miso pastes in over medium heat with about half a cup of water. Add red wine and chopped tomatoes
  • Once tomatoes have released some of their liquid, add all remaining ingredients
  • Simmer on low heat for 45 minutes – covered. If it looks a little dry, add more water – you can alway reduce it.

Serve with your favourite pasta