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That one was almost 3 weeks ago, shame on me shame on me. It was busy in the meantime, as I stated earlier. Fortunately the next week I only had a raclette on, and that doesn’t require an entry, really! So, let’s see if I can try and catch up today before I add a third extra week to my backlog!

So, that Monday long ago, we had: Surimi Mousse, Chicken and Apples in Cider, and a Rapsberry and Almond Cream Gratin.

 

Surimi Mousse (7/8 people)

  • 12 crab sticks (yes, that’s what surimi is)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 litre milk
  • 1 shallot
  • Parsley
  • A few shrimps for decoration (optional)

This must be prepared a day ahead and kept in the fridge.

Start with chopping (or mixing in a food processor) the sticks, the shallot and the parsley. Mix this with the eggs, milk, some salt and pepper.

Place either in a dish with a central hole or, like I did, in individual cups.

Cook in a “Bain-Marie” for 30 to 40 mn (a bit less if you’re using individual cups), at 200 C. The mousse will be fully cooked when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let it cool down, put it in the fridge, add a few shrimps for decoration. Serve.

Not bad, but frankly nothing to write home about. Not the most memorable entree ever!

 

Chicken and Apples in Cider (3/4)

  • Chicken breasts (one per person at least)
  • Apples (I used red ones) – 4 or 5
  • Cider (2 glasses)
  • Chicken stock
  • Fresh cream (about a glass)
  • 1 onion
  • Corn starch

Cut the breasts in bite-sized pieces. Slice the onion thin. In a large (cast iron!) pot, saute the onion until nicely golden, then add the chicken and let it cook for a couple of minutes.

Add a glass of water and the two glasses of cider (more or less depending on taste), then add the stock cube. Let it all simmer for about 20mn.

Add some fresh cream, then thicken the lot with some corn starch.

Cut a few apples in slices, add them to the pot, put in the oven (grill) for a few minutes.

Absolutely delicious! Man that particular recipe was brilliant. The only changes I made were with the apples: I cut them, then microwaved them for around 5 mn before adding them to the pot, so they wouldn’t be too crunchy – I like my apples nice and soft. Don’t forget to add some salt and pepper at some point.

Also, Kim and Sean both suggested at about the same time that this was really really good, but that it could definitely do with the addition of mushrooms. Since I tend to agree, I believe I will try that again someday – with added ‘shrooms.

 

Rapsberry and Almond Cream Gratin (6/8)

  • 300g rapsberries
  • 100g almond powder
  • 60g soft butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon liquid cream
  • 1 egg + 1 yolk

Turn on the grill of your oven. 

Whip together the butter, the almond powder, the flour and the sugar. Add in the cream and eggs, whipping all the time.

Put the rapsberries in a dish large enough to have only one layer of them. Cover them with the cream, then put them in the oven and let it “gratiner” for a few minutes (not too close to the heat source) until it takes a slight coloration. Serve immediately.

Very tasty, and easy enough to make. Extremely sweet though – I wonder if a bit less sugar might not be a good idea, so as to not overwhelm one’s tastebuds!

 

So that was that. The cider chicken was a definite hit, and we obviously drank more cider with it. That one will resurface at some point, when I’m tired of experimenting with new stuff and start going back to those recipes that needed improving.

Anyway. Toodles for now, o hypothetical readers! mrgreen

July 8th is my birthday. I generally don’t make a big fuss over it – no specific reason, just… I dunno. As time goes by, you start caring less about those things. I’m perfectly happy with spending some normal time with friends on that day, no frills.

On the other hand, I also very much like to do something special for my friends’ birthdays. I function by inspiration – if an idea strikes me, I’ll use it, but I won’t really scrub my brains to find one if it doesn’t come naturally. Same way with gifts. If you don’t have a gift idea that’s a little bit special and personal, better not to offer anything, you know?

Anyways. As it happens, my Monday culinary ventures had given me a vague desire to try and do something sci-fi themed, just for the crack. But as I kept having ideas about what to cook, I quickly realised doing this for only 3 people was a bit of a waste – too much material available. Maybe I should make a special evening out of it? A party of sorts? But what occasion would justify this?

Funnily enough, my friend Sean’s birthday is on the 9th of July. Now there was a happy coincidence! mrgreen So, in full cooperation with the interested’s wife Kim, I set about putting together a sci-fi menu for about 15-20 people.

Let’s start with a view of the buffet table at the start of the party – it’s only missing the two hot food items I’ll describe later, and the special gift from Kim to Sean. Fully nerded folks among you might want to stop reading here and try to recognise as many of the foodstuff as possible – the little flags might help there.

Full table

Got them all, didja? cool  

 

After thinking about it for a while, putting our heads together and sorting through what was possible and what wasn’t, Kim and I settled for food from the following movies/series:

  • Firefly
  • Star Trek
  • Star Wars
  • Dune
  • Futurama
  • Soylent Green
  • The Lord of the Rings (I know, that’s fantasy, not sci-fi.)
  • And of course, Aliens! mrgreen

Okay, so let’s start from the left, with a bit of Firefly:

Blue Sun boxes

Firefly actually came late in the brainstorming, as I could not remember any food really specific to the series – aside from fried tomatoes, protein-rich chocolate cakes and the general Chinese feel of the series. Then 3 things hit in short succession: first off, Kim remembered that line in Our Mrs Reynolds – Wash asking of Saffron: “Did she really make fresh Bao??” Now, I wouldn’t have been any the wiser alone, since I don’t know how to cook Chinese and you can’t find Bao in Ireland. Fortunately, her Kimitude is a bloody amazing cook, and she tackled that particular bit with gusto and impressive skill. I regret that there weren’t any pics taken of the BBQ Pork Bao she made, by the time they came onto the table the party was in full “inebriated-guitar-plucking” mode (they’re all musicians, the silly buggers!) and this was sadly overlooked. In any case, as good-looking as they were, no picture could do the taste – or the gorgeous smell as we were cooking that afternoon – any semblance of justice…

Anyway. Once the Bao idea came up, we realized that if our guests were a tad hungry, we’d need something more than finger foods to satiate them. Adding a few store-bought spring rolls and other Chinese munchies could pad our buffet – and would fit in an idea I’d been toying with but had not finalized yet, suggested by LSKIV from the Aliens Legacy boards: get some of those ubiquitous (at least in the US – I had to order them online) Chinese take away boxes and decorate them with logos from Firefly, Blade Runner or the 5th Element.

So, only Firefly made it through the final cut, and we didn’t make any of the store bought munchies at all. Still, the savvy among you will have recognised the Blue Sun logo – simple sticker made from an internet-sourced file (http://xaonon.dyndns.org/logos/ thanks Ripper).

As for the third thing, you can see it in front of the boxes: took me ages to find a suitable wooden box, but that was simply too good – and specific to Firefly – to pass up. The strawberries were also the only thing on the table to be polished off before the end of the party! No wonder either – look at the gorgeous little things:

Oh, Grand-Pa...

Oh, Grand-Pa… mrgreen

 

Moving away from Firefly we go to Star Trek territory. Starting, of course, with Klingon Gagh:

GAGH!

My friend Rob had slaved a fair portion of the day to build us a system that would make the Gagh squirm – a small motor at the bottom of a dish. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out, which is kind of a pity in a way but might have been a blessing – Kim was already having problems with the very idea of Gagh, if it had moved I could have lost my partner in crime there! twisted

Anyways, the Gagh was a simple panfull of Chinese noodles boiled with red food colouring and a sprinkled with soy sauce to give taste and a little ‘tan’ to the original pinkish colour. Worked out well enough, didn’t taste nearly as horrible as it looked, and was cheap enough that wasting it wasn’t a problem.

The other Star Trek dish was Hasperat Sandwiches, a Bajoran delicacy (approximated, of course!) that also happened to be vegan-friendly. And, I must say, quite tasty as well. It’s basically a tortilla with a spread of hummus, filled with grated carrots and sliced cucumber marinated in soy sauce and rice vinegar, and a layer of baby spinach. I added a few Jalapenos to give it some kick rather than use tabasco, which can sometimes kick through a brick wall… For the full recipe, go check the original creator’s site: http://veganyumyum.com/2008/02/hasperat/ because, no, I didn’t make it up myself. This is what mine looked like:

Hasperat Sandwich

Moving on we reach the buckets at the back. First one is our only offering from Star Wars: Aunt Beru’s blue milk (Thanks Sarge!), party version (Warning: not suitable for breakfast, or for children at any time! You have been warned!). 1.5 parts vodka, 1 part Blue Curacao, 2.5 parts milk. Tasty, and surprisingly mild – also sneaky as a Bothan trader. A few people were moaning about the blue milk for a couple of days! twisted  

Next to it is one of the Dune offerings: Spice Beer. Made with Fuller’s Honeydew and a liberal dose of cinammon powder (as we couldn’t find cinammon oil), it worked out pretty well. Advice if you want to try it: beer+cinammon=lots and lots of foam. Keep that in mind as you pour!

I’ll take this opportunity to talk about the other Dune dish: Spice Sticks. Simple cinammon fingers biscuity type things (recipe to follow – tasty little buggers, made by Kim) presented in a wax-sealed wooden box with the (adapted) Atreides coat of arms:

Atreides

The box was one of Kim’s presents to her husband – a Victorian antique with mother-of-pearls inlay and satin padding inside. Beautiful thing. The sticks idea comes from David Lynch’s version – Paul munches on a spice stick after arriving in Arrakis, I think, and that triggers one of his first visions. Easy enough idea, tasty sweet dish, and the proper box and wax seal gave it an official appearance that went well with the intention. Unfortunately, as this was kept for last and offered as a special gift and all, we sort of forgot to take a picture. Ah well. No biggy.

Next on the table we have a couple of Futurama offerings:

Slurm!

Slurm was replicated in this case using the following proportions: for a 2 litres pitcher, 30 cl vodka, 20 cl Creme de Menthe, 20 cl apple juice, then top it up with soda water (or, if like me you run out of soda water, Sprite…). It’s called a Russian Spring, and it was almost as effective at taking people by surprise as the blue milk was. It also comes out in a colour that is pretty accurate for Slurm – and yes, it is strangely addictive!

Right in front was a little bit of trickery: simple bowls of peanuts with Bachelor Chow stickers. It kinda kept the ‘dry food’ imagery, and fortunately no one tried to put them in a bowl and add water or milk. razz

Bachelor Chow

Next we have a couple of plates of Soylent Green:

Soylent Green

These were savoury short bread with green food colouring. I’ll dig up the recipe at some point, it’s one of Kim’s. She did a damn good job on those as well – they were tasty and lreally looked the part. Maybe too much actually – people tried them, found them good, but pretty much everyone (including herself!) chose not to get more. I guess the green colour wasn’t to everyone’s taste. Or maybe the fact that a couple of people who had been invited never showed up might have made people wonder about exactly WHAT was in those crackers. twisted

Next to that was our only foray into fantasy, with some Elvish bread wrapped in Mallorn leaves: Lembas!

Lembas

Recipe to come (found online as usual). The Lembas was made by our friend Yasmine, who kindly offered to help us when she arrived at the party and saw us a tiny bit behind schedule. She did good, and saved our bacon on that one, and the Lembas was well received by everyone – very tasty.

As for the leaves, they’re simple green card paper with a Mallorn template printed on, then cut, folded around the Lembas and held with twine, for that authentic feeling. Surprisingly efficient. I found the template there along with one recipe – there are a few others floating around. I’m not sure which one we used, that was Kim’s area of responsibility.

Now for the final two items, coming from my personal favourite: Aliens!

I guess she don't like corn bread either... 

Starting with corn bread, from a recipe given to me by 101Radioman from the A.L boards (Thanks!). Now, I’d never made, eaten or even seen cornbread outside of that movie, so I was sort of expecting something flattish, hard and probably nasty to a civilian’s tastebuds – but that may have just been the military version. Because what I took out of the oven was fluffy, beautifully golden, and tasty as hell. Definitely something I’ll make again!

For presentation, well, I happen to own a certain item of headgear that seemed rather perfect for the job, so… bread in a helmet. Ain’t that pretty? mrgreen

And finally we come to the last bit, my pride and joy! At some point while researching this whole project I came across this page (probably on the advice of someone in the AL chatroom). And it was easy to make, looked tasty, and above all I immediately saw the potential for adapting it to my favorite universe!

So, I procured a pork tenderloin, some Parma ham (why did every single supermarket in town suddenly stop carrying Spanish Serrano?? Parma is twice as expensive!), and got to work. All the extra I needed was a small piece of pork cut, shaped and stuck between the ‘jaws’ of the roast, and:

Roasted Chestburster

Voila! Roasted Chestburster ‘a la Coloniale’! Big hit with the crowd for the disgusting aspect, the uber-nerdness of the idea, and the fact that it was basically a nice bit of roasted meat, when all’s said and done. Yum!

Bit of a close up on the jaw. Pictures aren’t perfect because Kim declined to photograph that one (Her exact words were something like: “OhGodUrgh…”), and the man who stepped forward to do it for her had already sampled the blue milk quite a bit! lol

Jaw close-up

 

And that was our sci-fi dinner party! It was tremendous fun (and a fair bit of stress) to organise and cook, and turned into a nice music-filled night, although that had nothing to do with the food itself I suppose! I’m pretty sure it was a success with most people who were there, and it certainly earned Kim and myself some MAJOR Geek points! mrgreen

On that subject, and for the record, I’d like to state first that Kim was outstanding in this collaboration, and did a fantastic job of getting everything ready on that day, not to mention refining my ideas and coming up with a couple extra ones – her Bao was nothing short of amazing. I made the sad mistake of not trusting her as I should have, and she proved me wrong in superb fashion, and forgave me for it too. There, folks, is a good friend. My public apologies to you, Kim. It won’t happen again.

And also, still about Kim but on a much more professional level: the lady cooks like a devil, but she’s not selling her products yet. On the other hand, she’s also pretty impressive with a camera in her hands, and that is her job. So since she took those lovely pictures of the evening just so I could fill my blog with something vaguely interesting to say and show, the least I can do is direct anyone with a taste for photography to the following adresses:

  • http://music.lightholder.com/blog/ is the site where she collects and showcases the many pictures she takes of the incredibly active music scene in Athlone. She has an eye for the life, the vibrancy, the emotions of a live gig – maybe because she’s a musician herself.
  • www.kimotay.com is another blog, temporarily on hold, where she has other, non-music related photographs on display.
  • www.kimotay.com\photography is the sub-gallery where she puts whole series rather than choice examples.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/kimotay is her Flicker page.

Give he a try, she’s that good.

 

Anyways. That be all for today. I’ll post those recipes soon for anyone interested. In the meantime, sweet dreams, Qapla!, no power in the verse, etc… And I’ll leave you with a couple extra pictures of our table!

1

2

3

 

Spud Mania!

SPUD NIGGERS!

One reason I haven’t made such a post before – besides my natural tendency to let things slide in this cyberspace, of course – is that pretty much all of my readers are either involved in the Spuds, or at the very least aware of them. Seems kinda redundant to go and make a post informing them of something they’re fully aware of already… Then again, that’s pretty much 90% of the internet for you, really. And I suppose I do have a couple of readers who might not know of the Spuds yet. And exposure can’t hurt, really, even minimal…

So, here I am, about to introduce you to the biggest musical phenomenon since the Beattles, no kidding. There’s three of them: Father Jack, the Tool and Tigger, and together they play absolutely shite Irish acoustic punk music that’ll make your ears shrivel and your hair fall off – unless it’s the other way around, not sure…

No, really. The “shite” part is their word. Personally I think they’re brilliant – I hadn’t laughed so hard listening to a song as I’ve done when I heard “40 Stone”. mrgreen It’s rude and offensive and irreverent, and very very funny – and also quite good and catchy as hell.

Of course, if you only like opera or are expecting Irish trad, you’ll be mostly disappointed. But if you like punk, or diversity, and you have a sense of humour, give them a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Here is the portal to their central page (http://www.spudnigger.com/), from where you can go to their Bebo or MySpace profiles, download the free songs, and possibly contact them to get their CD. And here is the video of “40 Stone” they shot at their first gig: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1q4rv800ig

I wish I had pictures, but for the moment they’re being hoarded by that evening’s official photographer, Mrs Lightholder – I’ll try and get a couple from her to illustrate the glory that this band is! If not, visit her website, they’ll be on eventually.

 

Now, I originally had more content for this post, but I was reminded gently by Father Jack that some things were supposed to remain a bit more discreet – or even altogether secret – because the Internet is a series of tubes that connect too many freaks and whackos. And I suppose that’s fair enough! mrgreen So let me urge you once more to listen to Da Spuds, and conclude in typical Spud fashion:

FECK OFF, YOU BUNCH OF ARSEWIPES!

 

(Oh, and I should probably mention, in case some goober wandered onto this page from Dimwit Gulch or Harebraintown, Spud Nigger has nothing to do with black people. It’s a slang name for Irish people – and here it’s used ironically. Just so you know…)
 

This week has been a bit on the busy side, what with working on organising Sean’s birthday, having mine, some work-related things and all, and so the Monday report is delayed. Fortunately I took the easy way out for last week as I simply got a Raclette going (and spilled the dessert all over the floor, so we’ll see what that one was like next week!), so I’m not falling TOO far behind.

I’ll report – with great geeky pride and much preening – on Sean’s party as soon as I have the pictures that were taken then. In the meantime, I want to share some pretty good news with whoever still reads this occasionally. See, Tuesday was a good birthday for me – nice day, good friends, nothing special done or anything but just a good feeling. Wednesday was great with the cooking and the partying, and the drinking – oh, the drinking! And this Thursday was gearing up to be rather less fun, what with the aftermath of the drinking, and having to work the evening shift and all. But…

But, by coincidence, I received this very morning a copy of the first comic I translated for CineBook, a British publisher of French-language comics. It’s Yoko Tsuno’s 12th ‘graphic novel’, 3rd in English: “The Prey And The Ghost”.

The Prey And The Ghost

“Yoko Tsuno” has long been my favourite comic (we call them BD). I grew up reading this. I’m fairly certain that my interest for Japan stems from this character, as does the fact that seeing women in positions of authority or importance does not hurt my male sensibilities – if they can be the main character of a BD, then why not something similar in real life, mmh? And, no, I’m not kidding. I am convinced that a great part of my education comes from what I read (in fairness to them, I should say what my parents either let me, or encouraged me to read), and being exposed early in life to equal opportunity heroics must have had a strong impact on opening my mind to possibilities.

Be that as it may, Yoko was forst and foremost one of my all-time favourites, and being offered to translate Mr Leloup’s albums was a fantastic opportunity – and quite an honour. So when I received the album this morning, I opened it at the first page, and saw this:

Look at MEEEE!

I’ve got my name on a Yoko Tsuno album… shock

 

Trust me. To me, this is big. Picture yourselves having a cameo in your childhood’s favourite TV show, or meeting your favourite actor. This is this kind of thing.

35 years and 2 days old – and I can finally call myself a translator without blushing.

Good day, today, really. cool

 

Yoko Tsuno – The Prey And The Ghost.

 

Once again not much to say about the Monday itself, except that despite Kim’s rather accurate program for the evening we managed to keep the argument to a minimum, AND Sean stayed awake for all of Dr Who! How’s that for a splendid effort, mmh?

Never mind, pretty private joke I suppose. The menu that night was as follows: Lentil and Smoked Salmon Salad, Lamb Marinated in White Wine, and finally some individual Chocolate Cakes.

The salad was nice, although I clearly made too much lentils; but it’s a nice enough mix and the flavours go well together. The lamb was quite good. I served it with more lentils cooked in what was left of the marinade; they weren’t bad, but that might have been just way too much of the same vegetable for one meal. As for the chocolate “fondants”, once cooked they turned out to be pretty much brownies with a chocolate squared melted in the middle. Nice, but nothing out of the ordinary. 

 

Lentils and Smoked Salmon salad (3/4)

  • Lentils (green or “du Puy”) – for 4 about 125/150g
  • 2 shallots
  • Oil, vinegar, mustard
  • Smoked salmon

Cook the lentils, rinse, let them cool down [recipes calls for them to be warm, I just tried cold].

Make a vinaigrette with some oil (I used almond), vinegar (I used tarragon flavoured white wine vinegar), the chopped shallots and some mustard (wholegrain). Prepare a fair amount.

Cut about 2, 3 slices of smoked salmon per person into strips. Split the lentils between the number of plates you need, put the vinaigrette over, then place the salmon strips on top. Serve! 

 

Lamb Marinated in White Wine (4)

  • Lamb for 4 people (boneless chops for example)
  • Half a bottle of white wine (Gewurtztraminer is a good choice! -) )
  • Fresh mint – one branch
  • A bit of curry powder
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive oil, black pepper

The marinade: in a large dish pour the wine and a bit of oil, then add the curry powder, the pepper and the basil and mint. Leave the meat in to marinate, ideally 24 hours but at least one night.

Cook the meat to taste (in a cast iron pot for example…) and towards the end add a little bit of the marinade with the mint branch, salt and pepper as needed.

 

Individual soft-centered brownies (4)

  • 120g dark chocolate, + 8 squares to set aside (or 4 large squares)
  • 3 eggs
  • 80g sugar
  • 35g butter
  • 1 table spoon flour

In a saucepan melt butter and chocolate together, stirring regularly to obtain a smooth and homogenous mix.

In a larg bowl mix together eggs, sugar and flour. Incorporate the melted chocolate and mix thoroughly.

Pour one third of the mix into individual shallow bowls; place 2 (or 1) chocolate square on the batter then cover with the rest of it.

Put into the oven – 210° – for no more than 12 minutes.

Eat, preferably hot, or at least warm.

 

 

That’s it. See you Monday, probably!

One week and bits late, I know, but hey, it’s not like anyone’s reading. So, last week’s dinner – not much to report, just the usual fun.

Layered glasses (verrines)

For this one I managed to not find, forget to buy, or decide to pass on practically every ingredient in the actual recipe, apart from the salmon. Lessons learned: first of all, cucumbers aren’t that green inside, so I added a bit (too much!) green food colouring. Second, if you put them through a food processor, the result is too liquid for layering – it needs to be done manually, and maybe add something that’ll thicken the cream (or use thick cream to start with).

The idea was: one layer of green stuff at the bottom (originally it should have been petits pois, but it became cucumber at the last minute. Taste might have been better that way though…), one layer of white in the middle, and then one layer of orange (the salmon) on top. Irish flag! The green crept up the sides of the glass unfortunately, so there wasn’t much white visible. Still, it was fairly tasty. If nothing else, the marinated salmon was delicious.

  • One cucumber.
  • 200g mushrooms.
  • Salmon, extra fresh (one piece).
  • Olive oil.
  • Balsamic vinegar.
  • Dill
  • Fresh cream.

Cut the salmon in cubes, put them in a dish, cover with rock salt, olive oil, vinegar and dill. Leave it to marinate at least an hour.

Chop the mushrooms into small bits, then crush them by hand with a big spoonful of cream (add salt and pepper if desired, and a tiny bit of water if you find it too thick).

Do the same with the cucumber – add something to make it greener if you want.

In big whisky-type transparent glasses, put one layer of cucumber puree, one of mushrooms, then complete with salmon bits, one-third each. Serve!

 

Roast beef fillet with parsley butter (4)

  • 800g beef fillet.
  • Fresh parsley.
  • 2 cloves of garlic.
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence.
  • 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs.
  • 1 tablespoon mustard.
  • 40g butter.
  • 2 tablespoons oil.
  • 1 teaspoon green pepper.
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper.

Pre-heat the oven at 210 degrees. In a suitable cooking pot (Le Creuset cast iron, do I have to tell you again??) place the meat and oil, and put in the oven for 15 mn.

Meanwhile, chop up the parsley and the garlic, add the peppers, the herbes de Provence, half the breadcrumbs and the mustard, and mix it all up with the butter (don’t melt it, though). Add salt if needed.

Take the meat out, throw the cooking juices away. Leave to cool for 10 mn, remove the meat; add a bit of water to deglaze the pot, put the resulting ‘sauce’ aside.

Put the meat back into the pot and cover with the parsley butter, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, put back in the oven for 5 mn (grill mode) to get that golden aspect on top.

Serve with sauteed potatoes or something similar.

Note: the meat was slightly overcooked for my taste – I like my fillet to moo when I stab it. Lovers of rare meat and assorted French snobs like me might want to cut cooking time by a few minutes!

 

Avocado Ice Cream (for 8+)

  • 2 large avocados.
  • 4 cups liquid cream.
  • Some rum/tequila.
  • 3 egg yolks.
  • 2 tablespoons flour.
  • 1/4 cup sugar.
  • Vanilla (I used pods)

Peel and slice the avocados, add one cup of cream and put the lot through a mixer; add the rum or tequila until smooth. Refrigerate for two hours.

Beat the yolks with another cup of cream.

In a saucepan put flour, sugar, a pinch of salt and mix well. Slowly whisk in the two remaining cups of cream, and stir over medium heat until slightly thikened. Pour half of it into the egg yolks, mix, then pour the lot back into the saucepan and heat up for another minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla (pods must be cut and sliced open) and chill for 2 hours.

Finally, combine avocado and egg yolk mixtures and freeze it all (or use an ice cream machine if you have one).

 

The avocado ice cream has a surprising but lovely taste; thorough testing has allowed us to discover that it goes well with powdered chocolate – the darker the better!

 

Right, that’s all for now. I’ll be back with this week’s installment soon, soonish. mrgreen

 

Well, that was another weird one and no mistake…

Before I write down the dream itself, let me take a minute to discuss the series Torchwood.

It’s crap. It really is. Acting is pretty much lousy from everyone except Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), special mention to John Barrowman for some of the most dire emotional sequences in recent TV history. The writing is nothing short of abysmal – the first few episodes were basically each character screwing up massively in turn, causing civilian deaths, and getting away with it because Jack is a lousy commanding officer. Holes in stories, inconsistencies, hackneyed plot devices, deus ex machinae… In fairness, they did improve radically in the second season, especially towards the end – but then totally fucked it up again in the two-parter season finale, which wrapped up in less than five minutes an emotional side of Jack’s character that could have taken a whole episode, and used an idea that was interesting but would also have needed another full episode to employ, explain and develop to full. Two episodes’ worth in 5 minutes, as a side dish to the rest of these episodes…

Anyway. When compared to the most excellent Dr Who, it’s complete and utter rubbish. And yet, like the occasional Mickey D poisonned burger, you can’t really help yourself: you just have to watch the next episode. Despite being cardboard cutouts the characters kinda grow on you, and the plots keep you just entertained enough. It’s weird.

 

Right. But all that is just to introduce last night’s extravaganza. There was something about a large university campus with many huge buildings, a grand gathering of people outside, a Japanese girl (not Toshiko) driving a small car, and me climbing in that car at some point, for some weird reason.

From there, the car drives around the grounds, avoids the massed spectators of whatever is going on, and to both the driver’s and my glee, goes straight into what seems to be the Library, through the front doors. No worries.

Once inside, the building is a lot bigger than on the outside – and it’s not exactly a newspaper stand to start with. There’s a massive ramp spiralling inward towards a central esplanade, and the walls are made of glass, so we can see everything inside.

At the centre there are people, all black – I know, it sounds racist, but it kinda makes sense in a historical way. They are doing a certain number of things, including beating people up (all skin colours), hanging them from ropes, from butcher hooks, chopping off various limbs and appendages, salting the meat, smoking it, cooking it, and, of course, eating it with all appearances of extreme enjoyment. shock

The car quickly stops spiralling inward as we take the vision in, and like in all bad movies, I actually get out to get a better look. Oh, how smart of me. I take a couple of steps only and suddenly my cute Japanese friend is throwing her plastic deathtrap in reverse and zooming out of there at top backwards speed, the bitch. And of course, the nearest people have just realised we’re there, and they’re apparently enjoying the idea of French-grown “Long Pork“…

Ensues a chase scene, with me running for my life from a whole bunch of cannibals. During this a few things become clear one way or another:

- They’re all escaped slaves, and somehow straight from the US Civil War;

- Many of them, and most of their victims also, are immortal (Jack Harkness-like). They get killed, but come back to life and regenerate. A pretty horrible thought for those who are suspended from the butcher hooks and getting chopped off again and again…

- Their leader is a damn fast runner and getting pretty close to me.

At that point I turn around and deliver one of my most magistral right hooks ever, then go on to pummel the guy into an immortal pulp while discussing plot points with him at the same time – just like in Torchwood, bad acting, bad writing!

Why am I talking of Torchwood now, then? Because the guy happens to be wearing a Union Army coat, faded blue with modern Colonel’s rank marks on it – four parallel bars on the shoulder – which looks VERY MUCH like Captain Jack’s coat. In fact, in my mind at that moment, that IS Captain Jack’s coat. And as I take it from the dead body of the cannibal leader, and lift it and prepare to put it on, time slows down, and the camera shows the coat twirling around my body and wrapping itself around it, one arm going into one sleeve, etc… And all the while there’s this triumphant orchestral music playing, the kind you get when young Arthur pulls the sword from the rock or Spiderman puts on his full suit for the first time – it’s the birth of a character, the creation of a legend, ta-DAAAAAAA!

So… There you have it. I’m Captain Jack. Really. mrgreen

Mmmh. Long Pork!

 

Ahooga! Ahooga!

  mrgreen

Don’t mind me. I just arrived at work after spending about an hour with Mr Daddy Lightholder, and upon seeing that I was zoning out a bit – one of those days – he gave me a vitamin B12 pill. These babies seem to work wonders with him and his wife as a before-gig good mood agent, and I think I can understand why now… It’s not a buzz or a high, I just feel in a good mood. Or maybe I just think it’s working and I’m putting myself in a good mood, of course, but hey, the result is the same, so why look the gift dragon in the mouth, eh?

Pouf-pouf.

Last night I had one of my happy dreams – labyrinth-like buildings, crowds of innocent people/cannon fodder, deadly creatures and mortal dangers of all kind. In this case, the entire skyscraper-like structure I was in was basically a giant fly-trap for some sort of consciousness: attract people in with office space or shops, and then consume them. The idea was to make everyone mutate through a biological agent, and some pre-mutated humans slaved to the consciousness were providing the “cattle herders”.

Anyway, after running around for a while, up and down stairs, through corridors, escaping the zombies, witnessing a couple of distressingly gruesome deaths (ragdoll mechanics on someone falling 27 storeys down a narrow staircase are… impressive) and generally speaking having a ball, I find myself along with about a hundred other people in a circular room, very big, with a sort of central modern art fountain. We’re milling about in panic, because there are no exits – all the passageways leading out are blocked by 4 or 5 metres tall barriers.

Suddenly the fountain starts spraying everyone with something that seems to be water, but I just know it’s the biological agent that’s going to mutate everyone; and the pandemonium that erupts at that point is of truly epic proportions. While the me in dream is trying fruitlessly to protect a certain lady from the Evil Water of Mutated UnDeath and despairing at being copiously showered in this crap myself, the dream’s focus suddenly shifts to some other random guy, along with the camera view, and I see him take off at a dead run towards one of the barriers. This guy was hit by the mutagen before reaching this room, and has started changing – among other things, he’s a lot faster and stronger. And he vaults the barrier in one mighty jump, before dashing down a long series of tunnels and corridors…

At that point, the me that dreams is following him (not much choice really) and is fully aware that this is not the me in the dream. Yet I do have a connection with that bugger and I feel a lot of what he feels – for once, the exhiliration of running at full superhuman speed is a welcome change from the usual “I’m wading through pea soup and can’t break the snail barrier” sensation.

Of course, it’s not that easy – one of the full-fledged zombies is after him and catching up quick, and the tunnel seems endless. Still there’s hope in the guy’s heart – and I feel and share it, and root for the guy…

… Until I realize that if this guy, who’s a bit me, a bit under my control, escapes, then the contamination will hit the city outside, and kill or enslave millions.

That moment of complete schizophrenia, with one part of you desperate to escape and the other suddenly crushed by the weight of responsibility, was astonishingly clear and painful – so much so that it actually woke me up, so I don’t know if he made it or not.

Man I hope I’m never placed in a situation where I have to make that kind of a choice. If this was anything like the real feeling…

 

Yep, it’s (past) that day again, and I shall give you a report on that fine evening, o you my inexistant readers!

So this was the fourth week, and I’m glad to report we’re all still happy with doing it: I’m still having ridiculous fun cooking to French music, and my Yanks enjoy the food and the break in having to take care of themselves. I mean, Sean spoke of “wonderful indulgence”, and Kim said thinking about the fact that it was Monday brought a tear to her eyes during an otherwise shitty day. If that’s not a vote of confidence… And I’m not being sarcastic here, I felt really touched when they told me that; since I already know that I’m getting quite a lot out of it, it’s nice to be sure that I’m also meeting the objectives as far as they are concerned.

Of course, being the tongue-tied schmuck that I am, I didn’t tell them that immediately like I should have. So instead I write it here – who knows, maybe they’ll read it someday! ^_^

Anyways. Enough of the soppy stuff, on to the main attractions: grilled mushrooms with cream cheese and four-spices, crab fondue and jasmine tea ice cream.

Starting with the shrooms, and boy that was tasty. My Yanks seemed a bit thrown by the unusual mix of spices, which seemed extremely seasonal to them – only not this particular season! But it went down well anyways – I know I enjoyed it thoroughly. The only thing was that the portobello caps let out a lot of water in the oven and right afterwards – take that into account when cooking and presenting the dish.

The fondue afterwards was a bit more random in its results. We enjoyed it, it was tasty, and it’s always fun to dip your bread in the communal pot to eat; but I doubt it tasted like it should have. The main problem came from the unavailability of the cheese soup, which forced me to substitute what I imagined the soup was like. Eek! shock I added more milk that the recipe calls for, and put in a whole block of Canadian extra mature cheddar (since the recipe was apparently Canadian, I went for that one). That was a definite mistake, as the cheese was too strong and killed the taste of the crab. It turned out to be mostly a cheese fondue made with beer, rather than something more exotic. But it wasn’t bad either, not at all, so, not a waste of time!

Finally, the ice cream was a big hit. Ice cream usually is with Kim, and Sean was very happy with as well, even though I may have overdosed him on dairy that day. The unusual flavour of the Jasmine Tea was delicious and subtle, and I’d made a cherry coulis to go with it, before deciding that some actual cherries wouldn’t go amiss. The flavours went very well together, and that’s definitely a dessert I’d make again.

Finally, drinks were provided in the form of Wheat Beer – a French one from Tesco Selection, that was used for the fondue and drunk by Kim and myself, and I’d bought a German Weissbier for Sean, because I knew he didn’t like wheat beer. How silly did I feel when he explained that “white beers” (Weiss = white in German) are in fact wheat beers. Oops. Fortunately he had his own stock of beverages!

 

Grilled Mushrooms with Cream Cheese and Four-Spices (3/4)

  • 200g button mushrooms
  • Some large flat (Portobello) mushrooms – I had 5 
  • 150g of some sort of soft cheese, preferably flavoured. I went for a Garlic and Herbs Boursin.
  • Some parsley
  • 3 or 4 shallots
  • 40g butter
  • 1 teaspoon Four-Spices (that’s nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and ground cloves)
  • A bit extra nutmeg.

Wash the mushrooms, letting them soak for a while in vinegary water if needed. Cut the feet off the Portobellos, dry the heads and set them aside. Chop everything else, not too fine.

Chop the shallots, melt the butter in a pan, add the shallots and fry them until they turn tranparent. Add the shrooms and cook until they’ve lost all of their water. Once that’s done, add the cheese and mix well, salt and pepper, then add the spices and the parsley, and mix again.

Cover the Portobello heads with the mix, put the lot in the oven for 12 minutes at 180 degrees. Take out of the oven, drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil, let it cool down; serve with salad (cress for example) – a step I totally forgot. o ops:

 

Crab Fondue (3/4)

  • 1 cup crab meat (200-250 g)
  • 175ml beer
  • 250g Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 1 can Cheese soup (or replace with about 200g of a lightly flavoured cheese and a bit of extra milk)
  • 2 table spoons of milk
  • A dash of Tabasco
  • 2 table spoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Bread

Cut the bread in cubes – either the day before and let it dry by itself, or toast it briefly in the oven.

Heat up the beer and let it simmer a bit. Add the Philadelphia and whip it nicely, add the cheese soup (or cheese) and the milk, whip again if something needs to melt. Finally add the tabasco, Worcestershire, and the crab meat (well drained and shredded).

Add pepper, serve in a fondue dish. And whomever loses their bread in the pot must watch their least favourite type of movie without complaining!

 

Jasmine Tea ice-cream (4-6)

  • 250 ml liquid cream
  • 3 or 4 tea spoons of Jasmine tea (recipe calls for black – I used green tea)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 table spoons sugar

Throw the tea in 50ml of cream and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, leave it alone for 5 or 10 minutes, then filter and let it cool down.

Beat the yolks with 5 spoons of sugar until the mix turns white. Whip 200 ml of cream, then add to the yolks. Finally add the tea-flavoured cream.

Beat the whites into foam; add one spoon of sugar and beat a little longer, then very carefully incorporate to the cream.

Either freeze directly, or use a ‘sorbettiere’ (ice-cream machine) to get the consistency you desire.

 

It’s been a while since I posted anything that didn’t have anything to do with food. Been quite busy, also a bit off centre; and also the fact that not even the people who encouraged me to write this thing even bother reading it anymore isn’t encouraging much activity. Not necessarily their fault – if I can’t capture their interest, obviously I’m doing something wrong…

Anyways. Two nights ago I had a weird dream (NO??? Yes! Very weird! Indeed? How unexpected…) about living in a place where vampires were the norm. There was a strong ‘Buffy’ feeling, without the California sunshine though. At one point I was at a kind of gathering/party; one guest left briefly to go to the toilets, failed to come back. We all start looking for him in a sort of decrepit dorm; eventually I find him dead in the loo, totally empty of blood. His girlfriend freaks out a bit when she sees him, as you’d expect, but the rest of us, while sorry, aren’t really fazed. “It’s vampire country here, miss. These things happen all the time, not much that can be done about it…”

That was pretty cold, but it was also pretty much the feeling there. Now, fast forward to the next night, and I have a dream that seems to be a kind of sequel of that one: same setting, same bat problem, mostly the same cast. This time it’s my friend who disappears, and I’m not taking it lightly at all. I start running through corridors and chasing the distant glimpses of her shiny blonde hair disappearing around corners… [Quick digression: it's my friend Samantha. I know it: same face, same silhouette, same golden hair, not a doubt in my mind. Yet, her name is Kim. And even weirder, as I call out to her, a corner of my mind thinks: "Funny, she's named Kim but it's not really Kim. Huh. Strange, really...]

Eventually I run out of the building and onto a large plaza of some kind; behind me are several dozen people who seem to have followed my ‘banner’. In front of us are a large number of rather unpleasant looking… people? Let’s be nice and call them people. They don’t look too friendly, though…

But behind their line is Samantha/Kim, and so I start towards it, and my line follows and starts jogging, then charging.

It looked like it could have been a fun scuffle, but I woke up then (to the happy sound of a two year old yelling “bye bye!” from the neighbouring balcony). The final interesting bit is that I woke up with “Under Pressure” by Bowie and Queen in my head.

Apparently I’m also providing my own soundtracks now… mrgreen

Third Monday

Monday has come and gone, and once again there was much merriment and enjoyment of the foodage. This time I didn’t forget my camera – although whatever skill I may have once had at taking pictures was obviously left behind in the kitchen with the dirty pots and pans!

One thing I have to say about this weekly thing – even if it’s only the third installment – is that I’m enjoying it enormously. Not only is it a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the company of very close friends without interruption from the idiot box, a somewhat lost art in this day and age; but it’s also a great chance to exercise the cooking muscles, something I was sadly neglecting of late. The enjoyment of the food itself obviously depends mostly on what I make and how well I do it – no total failures so far, thankfully, but give me time!

But generally speaking, even though I spent the best part of 3 hours preparing that meal (taking my time and cleaning up afterwards and dancing in the kitchen all the while – not all-out restaurant kitchen 3 hours work…), it was absolutely and totally worth it. My thanks to the Lightholders for giving me the chance to do this!

Dinner companions - none finer!

 

So, the evening opened with some chorizo cooked in white wine. This was presented as an “apéritif” recipe rather than an entrée, and it called for the chorizo to be allowed to cool down completely. It wasn’t bad, but honestly it wasn’t anything special either. I didn’t find that the cooking process really improved the chorizo’s flavour that much – it’s a spicy, salty sausage to start with after all, that kinda lacks subtlety… Also, the recipe didn’t mention the onions as anything else than something to flavour the chorizo with, yet it was really the nicest part of the dish.

All in all, not a complete failure, but definitely something that should be served as an appetizer, to more than 3 people, and hot. It’s so much better hot. Look at the picture – it even looks sorta congealed and much less engaging when it’s cooled down.

Chorizo cooked in white wine

Anyways. I followed with a “Pork with Apricot and Red Wine sauce”. That wasn’t bad at all, although I’m afraid the pork was way too dry. Either don’t pre-cook it in a pan, or leave it to boil for more than an hour and a half – having the sauce thicken a bit wouldn’t be bad either. I added chick peas to the recipe – since I served it with Couscous and I always associate those two. (A quick note: contrary to what I believed, couscous IS the grain and the grain only, not the full dish with vegetables and stewed meat – my Yanks were right. You live and learn…) That worked well since the dish already had a strong Mediterranean flavour. Also, for purely aesthetic reasons, I’d advise using black raisins – gold ones look rather greyish-pink after soaking in the wine all night long, and that’s not a very pleasant colour for your food.

Pork with Apricots 

Finally dessert was strawberries – again, yes, I know, but I like strawberries – with a special cream. The main ingredient is supposed to be “fromage blanc” – which, as it happens, I actually found in Tesco’s. Fancy that… Since I wasn’t sure of the quality of the product, I also bought some greek yogurt – then realised that since I was making twice the amount (I figured having extra desserts for the lads couldn’t hurt roomate/neighbours relations!) I’d have to use both anyways. I also added a dash of one of my special rums, and I think that clinched it. Sean was quite enthusiastic about it, to the point that he ate half of Kim’s portion – I dunno if she was simply full or didn’t love it too much. As for me, I was definitely happy with the result!

No pictures of the dessert – it’s just a bowl full of yellow cream, nothing to look at really – but here’s one of the wine we drank all through the meal. It was the same one I used for the pork – a pretty good 2005 Gigondas from Tesco’s selection, just like the Gewurtz. I have to admit that they pick their wines well.

Gigondas

So, now for the recipes:

Chorizo cooked in White Wine (3/4)

  • 500g chorizo
  • 15cl white wine
  • 1 onion
  • Olive oil – 2 table spoons
  • Pepper

Slice the chorizo, peal and chop the onion. Heat up the oil in a pot and throw the onion in. Let it take a nice colour, stirring all the while, then add the chorizo slices. Let it cook for 3 mn.

Add the wine, and pepper to taste. Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat and cover. Let it simmer for 10 mn. Take it off the heat altogether and let it cool completely.

Remove the chorizo and let it drain; serve on a plate.

[Now that's the official recipe - I just realized I'd removed the chorizo too early, thus failing to let it marinate properly in the wine and onion sauce. Maybe that would have improved the result. I'd still advise serving hot, really.]

 

Pork with dried apricots and red wine sauce. (4)

  • 1 Kg pork shoulder, diced.
  • 4 shallots, chopped.
  • 100g raisins.
  • A dozen dried apricots.
  • 15 cl red wine.
  • 1 dl wine vinegar.
  • 1 tea spoon of cumin seeds.
  • 1 table spoon pepper.
  • 1 table spoon honey.
  • Stock (diluted cubes do fine).

The day before (or maybe in the morning): put the apricots in a bowl of warm water and let them soak; put the raisins, the pepper, the cumin and the honey in the wine.

On the day: brown the pork in heated oil for a little while. Take the meat out of the pot, throw the oil away, pour the vinegar in and add the shallots. Let it reduce almost to nothing.

Put the meat back in, add the wine with its flavouring, and the apricots (drain them first). Add some stock to keep the contents in liquid – don’t drown it, though.

Cover, then let it cook gently for one, one-and-a-half hours.

 

Strawberries with fromage blanc mousse (3/4)

  • 400g Fromage blanc
  • 10 cl milk
  • 100g sugar
  • Vanilla sugar (one sachet’s worth)
  • 2 eggs
  • 250g strawberries

Beat the whites into foam. Mix the fromage blanc with the milk. Add the sugar and the egg yolks. Whip until the mix is foamy [at this point I added a dash of rhum arrangé]; then incorporate the whites.

Clean the strawberries and cut them in quarters, keeping a few for decoration. Put them into separate bowls, cover with the cream, decorate with the last whole strawberries. Serve nicely cold.

 

 

Right. And just for the sheer pleasure of a funny picture, here’s another of my hosts and co-munchers, the delightful Lightholders, peacefully discussing who’d get to finish the wine bottle:

FOIGHT! 

If they don’t kill me for that one, it will be a miracle!  mrgreen

 

And as promised this is the menu from our first Monday night dinner, 19th of May.

Starting off with some “Pirogues de concombres au saumon fumé“. These I was particularly happy with – they were delicious, fun to make, and a minimum of work even made them kinda pretty to look at. Hey, it was the first item of the first dinner, had to make an impression, you know! Since I’m not a mayo lover, I went easy on the total amount, and replaced half of it with Greek yogurt anyway. I’d bet anything it was a good idea. Also, unfortunately, I had to use dry dill – fresh herbs are almost impossible to find where I am, except for the most common ones. Still, a fair success.

As for the decoration of those, I turned the canoes into gondolas with slices of carved radish stuck on a toothpick and attached to the cucumber’s prow. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures, but this is something I’ll make again, so I’ll try to document the next attempt!

The main dish was some pork chops with a wholegrain mustard sauce. Nothing really fancy, to be honest, but it’s usually nice enough. I overcooked the pork slightly – at least for my taste – and managed to forget the bouquet garni altogether after all the trouble I went to to find some. Go me. roll

I served them with some of those tiny ‘new’ potatoes I had left from the raclette night – boiled for about 20-ish minutes, sliced, then quickly sauteed again in the pan used for the chops. With the onion and carrots it made enough of a side dish and was actually pretty good. 

Finally, for desert I made a Strawberry and Orange Soup. I even found some fresh mint, although that took some digging as well. It’s a good thing we now have no less than 3 supermarkets in the center of town… It was a nice dessert, fresh and tasty, which I think was appreciated by all although we were all deep in conversation and there was little discussion of its merits! No matter, as long as no one is choking on it or leaving half of it uneaten, I consider it a success. mrgreen

 

There we go. That was a fun enough evening that we decided to make it regular, a fairly good sign I’d say. Wine was that Tesco Gewurtz as well – a fine find at 10€ a bottle, if I might say. I hope they don’t discontinue it, that’d be a shame – and totally in keeping with their track record, of course! Still, for the coming Monday I’m planning on switching to red, for a change. And then I’ll have to make something with beer, to keep Sean happy!

 

The recipes:

Gondolas of Cucumber and Smoked Salmon (for 3/4)

  • 2 cucumbers (try to choose them fat, it helps with the carving)
  • Mayonnaise (about 2 or 3 heaped spoonfuls)
  • Greek yogurt (same as the mayo)
  • 200g smoked salmon
  • Dill
  • Some green salad for decoration – also some radishes and toothpicks for the gondola prow!

Peel the cucumbers, cut them in two along the length. Remove the seeded inside with a spoon – don’t hesitate to carve a bit of flesh out too, you need room for the salmon afterwards. Cut each half into 2 or 3 gondolas, roughly 10 cm long. Salt them lightly and let them drain in the fridge (a step I almost forgot…).

Dice whatever cucumber you have left over into small cubes. Cut the salmon in small bits, and mix it with the mayo and yogurt, with some dill, salt and pepper. Ideally this should be done at the last minute.

Spoon the tasty mix onto the gondolas, stick a radish prow onto it, serve it on a bed of lettuce. Enjoy!

 

Pork Chops with Wholegrain Mustard Sauce (for 3/4)

  • 4 Pork chops
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 Carrots
  • 1 Bouquet garni (don’t forget to use it…)
  • 1 spoonfull wholegrain mustard (a l’ancienne)
  • 5 Cl white wine
  • 10 Cl cream

Start by quickly getting the chops slightly golden – don’t go overboard, they’ll cook some more afterwards. Just a pre-cook in a pan. Then throw the chops into a pot (cast iron, baby!) along with carrots, onions and bouquet garni (again, oops), and throw into the oven for 10 mn. I’d suggest pre-heating the pot a bit before doing so.

Take the lot out of the oven, deglaze with the wine, remove the chops. At this point you’re supposed to filter the juice – I merely removed the vegetables. Then add the mustard and the cream, and let it all reduce on medium/high heat.

Serve everything covered in rich, tasty sauce.

 

Strawberries and Orange Soup (for 4)

  • 3 oranges
  • 2 spoonfuls of honey (liquid – either acacia, orange or lemon honey)
  • 3 spoonfuls of “eau de fleur d’oranger” – water of orange blossom. I really don’t think you can find that at all in Ireland, and have no clue about other countries. Pretty common in France, though… Good thing I brought some back on the last trip! It is not exactly like an extract – it’s lighter in taste.
  • 800 g of Strawberries (I only had 750, but then there were only 3 of us…)
  • Fresh mint

Wash the strawberries, let them dry a bit, cut them in halves, fill 4 cups with them.

Juice 2.5 of the oranges. Heat the juice gently with the honey. Once warm, take it off the fire and add the fleur d’oranger or any replacement you may have found for it. Let it cool down a bit if you went over ‘warm’ like I did.

Pour the still-warm juice over the strawberries. Leave them to macerate for half an hour in a cool place – not the fridge, it’d make the strawberries too soft. Carefully stir the cups every once in a while to ensure equal maceration among the strawberries.

Cut the rest of the orange into halves or quarters and decorate the cups with that; serve with a sprinkle of mint leaves.

Monday foodage

Since I use this blog for everything and not much at all, including keeping a trace of those dreams I can remember, I figure another ridiculous use won’t actually hurt. With the readership I have, anyways, it’d be hard to do wrong…

[Insert cricket noises and the mournful whistling of the wind here]

So, as of two weeks ago my friends the Lightholders and myself have decided to make Monday night a regular dinner appointment, with yours truly as wannabe chef. It started as a once off, because I felt like cooking something for people who mean a lot to me – occasionally I get those strangely generous AND active impulses at the same time, it’s weird, I can never get used to it – and it felt so nice to have a real, three-course dinner sitting at a table and talking, rather than quick munching in front of the TV, that we figured doing it more regularly would be even nicer.

To prepare those dinners, rather than making stuff I usually make, I plunged into the Internet’s cooking communities and grabbed things that looked yummy. Therefore, in an attempt to keep track of what I tried, and leave my opinion of it, I’ll try to write it all down here.

We start then with Monday the 26th, our second dinner actually – I’ll deal with our first later on. The menu for this time was:

  • Melon gazpacho
  • Blueberry Duck
  • White and Blue cups

The Melon Gazpacho was simple to make, and a good alternative to normal gazpacho – Kim’s allergic to peppers. It was nice and refreshing, pretty sweet; the recipe called for added sugar, which I decided not to add. Good call, I think. Kim suggested that adding some carrots could give it the needed additional kick. I agree that it needs something extra. I will try carrots, maybe a bit of garlic.

The Blueberry Duck (recipe found here in French) is actually quite close to a recipe I’ve been making for myself on a semi-regular basis. Instead of blueberries I usually use cranberries, or cranberry sauce, and replace the butter with some fresh cream; also I don’t use any vinegar. But all in all, this one was not a complete unknown. It was met with a fair amount of enthusiasm, too. I was all pink with joy inside. Like the duck, really. Kim’s cast iron pot is a pure marvel for cooking.

Finally, the dessert cups were… well, they weren’t bad, and my dinner companions said they liked them; however I personally wouldn’t make it again. While they certainly weren’t bad, they weren’t anything special either, and I don’t feel like they were worth the time. Lots of other things to try out there! [A last minute question from Rob just made me realise that adding a dash of some sort of alcohol - Curacao, maybe - could have made these more interesting. Might warrant some further digging after all.]

All in all, quite a good dinner, which left me at least feeling pretty full and happy, Sean looking quite the same, and Kim only slightly miffed that I made a scene when she tried to smoke in mid-meal. What can I say, I’m a food-Nazi. twisted  ”No cold soup for you!” We accompanied the whole thing with the same Tesco Gewurztraminer I’ve used last Monday and for our Raclette night previously – a remarkably good white wine that has yet to give me the slightest headache.

I really have to remember to take some pics next time…

 

Right. And now the recipes themselves:

Melon Gazpacho (for 3/4)

  • 1 Cantaloupe (I used one and a half – may have been a mistake)
  • 1 Peach
  • 1 Tomato
  • Half a Spanish yellow melon
  • Oregano
  • Olive oil

Peel cantaloupe, peach and tomato, remove stones and seeds, dump into a mixer. Add oregano (preferably fresh). Mix. Add a dash of olive oil once everything is nice and liquid. (I also added a bit of ground green pepper – maybe adding whole pepper grains before mixing would give it that kick…).

Slice the yellow melon, put the slices in a bowl, pour the juice into the bowl, leave in the fridge, serve real cold. 

 

Blueberry Duck (for 3/4)

  • Duck fillets (one for each and more in case of much-eating people). Ideally, magrets, but they’re hard to find in Ireland…
  • 300g of blueberries (juice 2/3rds of them)
  • 200 g of butter
  • 6 cl of Cider vinegar
  • 15 cl of white wine
  • 3 shallots

In a good cooking pot (Le Creuset cast iron, for example!), cook the duck. 10 mn on the skin side, 5 mn on the meat side, on average heat. Add salt and pepper at this stage – and remove the excess fat regularly. Once the duck is nice and pink inside, take it out and keep it warm.

Remove the fat from the pot, put it on high heat, deglaze with the vinegar, then add the shallots. Leave them for 2 mn, then add the blueberry juice and the wine. Reduce the mixture for about 10 mn on medium/high heat, then incorporate the butter in small cubes. Whip the sauce for about 3 mn until it’s homogenous and creamy, then add the last whole blueberries.

Serve the fillets with the sauce. I served this with some fresh pasta – linguini, I think – and these went very well.

 

Blueberry and White Chocolate pots (for 3)

  • 75 g of white chocolate
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup of liquid cream
  • Gelatin: about 2 spoonfuls.
  • Blueberries

Melt the chocolate in the milk and cream. Prepare the gelatin; when the chocolate is melted, take it off the heat and add the gelatin, whipping for a few minutes, then letting the mixture rest. Once it’s cooled a bit, add the blueberries, and pour into separate cups. Leave in the fridge for an hour.

 

I should state again that I did not come up with those recipes myself – I found them on the net, in either English or French. I don’t actually have the sources available though, sorry.

How about a fun one, after all the philosophy and travels, mmh?

Happened last Sunday in the Cafe. I’m doing the evening shift for Paddy cause he’s busy doing something golfey. Before getting there I buy a couple of burgers to stop myself from starving to death. You know – emergency bad food.

I start munching before taking my shift, and pretty much as usual I’d bought too much. I end up not finishing before the start of the actual shift, and so I’m dealing with customers and eating at the same time.

Comes a Western Union customer and I start filling in his form, while slowly finishing the last of my non-meat in a bun. I didn’t really look up at him, just typed away on the PC; and after a while, against all better judgement, I “engaged the conversation”…

“Urgh” says I in a flash of brilliance. “Man, this is horrible. I can hear my arteries go ‘clang’”.

“Don’t even joke about that…” he answers.

I look up, expecting a half-smile, half-cringe. Instead, there’s this very, very tired looking man in a… paramedic uniform, who says: “It’s been a really bad day for us…”

There are times in life when you really, really, feel dumb.

 

See? I told you it was funny. mrgreen

Last night I had a wonderful dinner with my friends and neighbours the Lightholders, and we polished off a tasty amount of a rather good Gewurtztraminer. The end result being that when I went home, I was feeling preeeeetty good about the world.

Going home I ran into Rob, who wasn’t drunk but seemed in a hazy-brained mood too. I keep telling him that studying is bad for you, but he won’t listen. Something about passing exams, I think. Unless it was passing gas. Not sure.

Anyways, for some reason, after barely 5 mn of late late night conversation, we found ourselves talking about Hell. Yes, that is the kind of cheerful, fulfilling conversations I have with my roomates at 1 AM. Curse my Judeo-Christian cultural background.

In any case, we worked our way through the following reasonning:

Hell, as described by the more traditional bits of the Bible, and the various people who take every word inside it at their literal value, is a place of fire and brimstone. You burn in Hell. Unending heat, pain, etc…

Of course, that’s too simplistic. First, even at the height of the Church’s power, some people were describing something more varied (Dante Alighieri). Second, if you decide to inject a little common sense into your faith, you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that a Hell of fire and brimstone simply cannot be the place of eternal, absolute torment that it is supposed to be. Not for everyone at any rate.

Human beings are too flexible. Soldiers got used to the trenches of WWI. People managed to keep their sanity in Extermination Camps. We can get used to practically anything, as a species – not all of us, of course. But Hell, being of divine origin, albeit indirectly, is supposed to be hell for everyone. Therefore, you can’t have something too specific. Some people will say: “Fire? Bring it on, I don’t mind the heat! Lakes of blood? I like the coppery flavour! Icy wastes? Let’s skate, baby!”

Therefore, to be truly efficient with everyone, it seems to me that what it would really be is nothingness. A featureless non-place, where you’re basically faced with only one thing: yourself. Sensory deprivation experiments have shown it well enough, you’re never more likely to go cuckoo than when you have no distraction from your own thoughts, your own fears, your own inner terrors.

Such a Hell – the flat, unending plain of gray sand Terry Pratchett uses in his Discworld stories – would work with everyone, by letting you provide the content yourself. You’d inevitably populate it with whatever frightens you the most, bringing down upon your own head the most accurate punishment for whatever your crimes are. Spend eternity there, contemplating your mistakes and transgressions – nasty, innit? Certainly nastier than being poked in the ass by a trident-toting imp…

Still with me so far?

Note that this works only if we assume that all Humans have a spark of decency in them, a touch of ineffable Good that will make them feel some sort of guilt when plunged into Hell, no matter how horrible they were when alive. But how would it work in the case of a true sociopath? A man with absolutely NO understanding of Good and Evil, right and wrong? Would such a man be ‘cured’ of his disease upon dying, exposing his inner soul to the consequences of his actions? Would he, in that case, be punished for them – after all, if it is a disease, he’s not actually responsible for it, is he? Or would he remain the monster that he was, and be utterly immune to the effects of Hell?

Anyways, that’s a digression. At that point Rob and I had fairly agreed on the probable nature of Hell – if it really exists – and then Rob, halfway down his beer by then, said: “For all we know, we ARE in Hell right now, just pretending this is the living world.”

Would that work? Obviously it wouldn’t be the Hell we were discussing, where everyone should stay separate – sensory deprivation, right? But it could be a Hell, and we’d be running around, oblivious to the fact, using each other as distraction from ourselves and our inner fears.

Think about it – most people need the presence of others around them to function. The World itself can be construed as a distraction, a sufficient ones for the most misanthropic among us, but mostly humans need human company. Could it be a desperate need to avoid being faced only with ourselves? Could it be a defense mechanism against the nature of where we are – Hell?

Far-fetched? Well, yeah. Especially since I don’t actually believe in Hell. I’m just going for the intellectual game here. )

Jean-Paul Sartre said: “Hell is other people”. If we go with our idea at the moment, it would actually be the exact opposite – other people save us from the full impact and horror of Hell. No wonder we’re such social animals…

Still, so far, I see no real holes – it’s possible, right?

But, if we are in Hell, in Niffelheim, how do we escape it, rise back to Midgard or Valhalla?

Logically, the only ways to leave this Hell on Earth would be either to atone for what we did to be here in the first place -  which only works if we’re here for a reason; if this isn’t a biblical Hell we got sent to, there’s no possible atonement.

Or, to leave behind what makes it Hell. To beat it, by defeating its nature.

But its nature is, by definition, our nature. It’s using us to be a Hell, and we only escape it temporarily by bonding with others. We keep it under the blankets, but we don’t defeat it. We don’t escape it. Possibly, we live, keep our heads in the sand, die, then come back to exactly the same place again.

So… The only way to actually defeat such a Hell, would be to leave behind all that ties us to it. To free ourselves from the bondage of our fears and guilts and beliefs and convictions. All those things that make us question ourselves.

Which, one might argue, is precisely what makes us ourselves

And that is pretty much the conclusion of our – Rob and I’s – discussion. If Hell is that featureless void where we face ourselves without masks, if this life down here is another form of such Hell, then the only way to escape it is to escape – no, not escape, lose ourselves. We must attain a level of non-being, of non-consciousness, so that Hell will no longer have any sway over us.

Something which, for Buddhists, is called Nirvana. Becoming Buddha. Losing yourself entirely, and becoming one with the universe.

Fancy that.

 

My point? There isn’t one, really. I don’t believe in God, Satan or Hell, nor would I adhere to the Buddhist tenets of losing yourself. I may be [seriously] imperfect, but I am, and I’m too much of an individualist (also known as: sad, materialistic Westerner) to find the idea of surrendering my individuality even remotely acceptable.

I just found the conversation interesting.

Hey, it’s a personal blog, were you expecting earth-shattering discoveries??

 

 

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