Ana’s cake

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to skim the skum
to be clarified stock
to be as juicy and nutritious as bone and vegetable water
bearing all of my past lives
without anything to cling to

i’ll ladle all of myself into a bowl

don’t forget to drink me up

i’m ardently simmering to be nothing more than en,lightened

and to give nothing less

 

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Japanese Sweet Potato Loaf

This recipe was inspired by my roommate and dear friend Ana, her person always inspires me to bake for her.

  • 225g AP flour (I used Magog, a hard red wheat variety, flour milled by Maine Grains)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Palmful of crumbled dried sage (in the summertime pick them fresh and lay on a flat surface in the sun till sunkissed and crisp. In the wintertime buy from the market and lay on a dinner plate above the radiator till dry and crisp)
  • Heaping ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • 10 scrapes across microplane of nutmeg
  • 225g mashed roasted Japanese sweet potato
  • 250g sugar
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp sugar for topping

Think about it like this, 1,2,3! Set your oven to 325ºF and lightly butter a loaf tin. In a bowl just large enough, toss dries together. In a big mixing bowl, toss the wets; whisking the eggs in one at a time. Once the wets are well combined, gradually mix in the dry. Transfer batter to your prepared tin. Lightly sprinkle with sugar if you love a little sandy sweet texture on a crust. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Cool in tin for 20 minutes before unmolding.

 

A burning bundle of sage to waft the heaviness away

 

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How many brix?

Lately, all that’s been on my mind has been warm drinks. I suppose it could be my practically rotting cold fingers. A bit too far away from the irrigation system. As they’ve always been. There has got to be more than just morning rocketfuel? And my daily cup of joe has been a delightful journey, starting from not, to necessity, to a fateful espresso, to specialty beans, to now. Still a morning brew but perhaps a bit more to find under my cap. I promise, the coffee snobbishness has worn away! Because in any scenario, what else can be as comforting and essential as that muddy brown pool of delight?

White coffee of course! Too quick and simple? That’s how I felt after my first cup. This recipe and name is something I came across from a cookbook called Ducksoup, written by Tom Hill and Claire Lattin, chef and owners of three charming eateries in London. Which I haven’t yet visited, but I’m eager to do so. Especially see their new Picklery.

Without the recipe, just an idea of ingredients, I got to work. Setting the kettle to a boil and a sorting out a favorite mug. (It is funny that my favored mug, a sort of South American high tea inspired cup shaped with clay, is my roommate Ana’s. Ana, we will just have to live together always or figure a good trade!) Fulfilling a spoon least twice with honey (it’s likely I had a sweet tooth and the idea seemed most accurate), a dash of essenced water and finally pouring the already boiling cup of water atop.

The most lovely thing about this particular warm drink and my feeling of a full understanding of the name, is that it has the same body as coffee. That conditioning mouthfeel I think is what sets coffee apart from breakfast tea. I’m almost positive it’s a large part of why we love and feel nourished by coffee so much. Is it a stretch to ask, could that be the same consistency of breast milk? Just a fleeting thought…

 

what can be cast with porcelain
can also with wet earth
i’ll always choose you
just as i do each meal
what grows in abundance i’ll pick
and on the day we celebrate
i won’t forget the where the gifts came from

 

In the end, I learned I nearly had Tom Hill and Claire Lattin’s recipe backwards. Being, they add more essenced water than honey. Perhaps their idea for the name White Coffee, is that its strong perfume is as calming as a cup of coffee may be. A bit dry to the tongue, yet nonetheless soothing. A bit embarrassed about my jump to conclusions, I decided I quite very much like my recipe, as much as a mistake as it may have been!

So, in the evenings before our landowner turns on the heat and all ends are covered but my creeping hands, I’ve been charmed to have a drink like this, when I can’t do for caffeine but welcoming something to settle myself in or slick myself off into a slumber. A bears honey filled belly slumber.

 

remember what it was like to live atop this rock
honey from the bees
valiant roses atwine
slumber with the bears
upon this earthly cold rock

 

White Coffee

This recipe is inspired from Tom Hill and Claire Lattins cookbook Ducksoup. Theirs being with an opposite ratio of things, (2 tbsp essenced water to 1 tsp honey). And not only that, their recipe calls for orange blossom water but myself having rose. To my surprise, orange won’t be missed until I have that in my pantry too.  I have always wanted to make a perfumed orange blossom brioche cake, a take on Provence’s famed Tropézienne. Perhaps then that cake will be a fine pairing with Mr. Hill and Mrs. Lattins proper White Coffee recipe. 

  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 150 ml hot water, recently boiled from the kettle

Stir all the ingredients together in a favored mug and enjoy.

I love myself

Letters to the New Year:

dearest new years,

your rays reflect so strongly off the snow i can see into myself.

thanks for the update,
jessica
. . .

dearest new years,

what are you but new soil to plant myself in?

sprawling scratchlings within my journal have become seeds
such i have planted in your soil
i know they need tending…

will there be a harvest at the end of the year?
a distribution of my own being?

jessica
. . .

dearest new years,

i have to remember
that the most important step in filling this void is
truly deeply loving my, self
with, out comparison

i will become what i feed
i will bloom from what i have already affirmed

until if there should be a next letter,
jessica
. . .

 

Breakfast Couscous

Thy, self!

  • 1 tea cup filled with milk* or water (mine being half flax milk, half water)
  • half a tea cup filled with raisins
  • 1 heaping spoonful of nut butter
  • pinch of salt
  • half a tea cup filled with Moroccan couscous
  • half a tea cup filled with blanched almond slivers

Brink milk, nut butter and raisins to a boil in a small saucepan. Add remaining ingredients and continue to boil for one minute longer.  When plump and steaming, eat right from the pot with a wide spoon. Or be civil and set in bowl with perhaps a smaller spoon.

*If using an alternative milk I would recommend flax as it holds up fairly well when heated. I’ve had perils with almond, separating and then just to make sure I got the picture, going sour.  I’ve never tried hemp or oat, or coconut for that matter! Be what may. I lesson will be learned in the end anyhow! But you know, regular milk will do wonders!

Winters bouquet

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A number of weeks ago I brought a bowl of speckled yellow green apples into my room to take a photo of. An unusual variety, with a rough skin airing on the side of a mans five o’clock shadow. Nicely nestled in the bowl atop a little dining table I’ve wedged into my bedroom, formally patio, that’s why it’s so sunny! (And why I sleep with two comforters and sometimes a knit hat) I decided to keep the bowl of apples in the bedroom, in place of flowers which have long since tucked in until spring.

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Seeing an apple soaking in the early mornings winters sun seems quite appealing to me. I’ve been munching on an apple in my bedroom many mornings lately when I’m not in a rush. As I tidy the bed, unknot my hair, dress and chat with Thomas, my pet bird, about today’s plans. Have you ever seen Benjamin Franklin’s Daily Scheme? “Munch on an apple as you tidy yourself and your space before getting on with it!” Just kidding, that’s my daily scheme!  And because of it I’ve been topping up my bowl of apples each Saturday. The abundance of apples has lead to a few namely pleasures. 1. Discovering  locally grown and unfamiliar varieties. 2. Baked apples with prunes. 3. A morning snack to hold me over before whatever is in store for the day. More talk about point 1. and 2. . . .  For me,  the most notable apples of the year have been a delicate French varietal known as Calville Blanc d’Hiver, almost quince like in appearance, soft and honey like to taste. Golden Russet, being the one I first photographed, under its tannic and rough speckled skin a refreshingly juicy, sharply cider tasting flesh awaits.  Finally, the elegant Winesap. Tasting like roses, and rose tinted  wine.  Each I’ve cored and piped inside a floral pruney paste. Raisiny, vanilla-like and chocolaty, there is something about this prune paste which has made for a wonderful treat with apples.
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Baked Apples with Prune Filling

Prune Filling – A paste I learned from a sunny English chef, as she casually tossed ingredients about pastry counter into the processor. Between pulses she’d taste, smiling the whole bout of it. Truly, she loved a good prune and showed me shortly that I would too.

It’s a rough ratio of things but prunes should be dominant. I have found this recipe to work for me, packaging the remaining and keeping in the fridge until another night in the week which calls for more baked apples.

  • 4 apples
  • 400 grams prunes
  • 200 grams blanched almonds, ground coarsely in a oter and pestle, plus more for garnish
  • 75 grams light brown sugar
  • Large knob of softened butter
  • Pinch of maldon salt
  • Glug of amaretto, or of course, whatever is still lurking in the pantry.

Begin by preheating the oven to 325ºF. Set your prunes in a bowl and soak in a small glug of amaretto. Set aside just for a few minutes as you prepare your other ingredients for assembly.

Take a handful of whole almonds, and spread onto tray, sprinkling a bit of sugar atop. Toast until golden about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare you apples and baking parcels. Core the apples and set aside. Cut parchment paper into squares just large enough to contain one (I like two!) apple. Along with a few strands of bakers twine to tie each apple parcel up. Set aside as well and move onto the filling.

It will all be done in a food processor. Begin by adding the prunes and their soaking liquor, pulsing until a jammy. Add a large, softened knob of butter, I’d say in between a ⅓ cup and ½ cup along  with the brown sugar. Pulse again until well combined. Adding a splash more liquor as needed and a pinch of maldon. Lastly adding the ground almonds, only pulsing together until just combined. Transfer the sticky and fragrant prune paste into a piping bag and pipe into each cored apple set atop their parcel, topped with a spoonful of butter, a few drips of the chosen liquor, a dusting more of sugar and a sprinkle of the almonds toasted earlier.  Tie up with the twine and bake in a pan until soft, about an hour, the time depending on the apple variety. Serve at once or reheat later. I love mine with creme fraiche loosened with heavy cream pooled in the base of the dish.

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. . .

 

 

Wandering mind

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So. It appears I quite like eating biscuits from the package. Not such a low, as it surprised me nearly gleefully. Who knew I’d soon be in the checkout line at the grocery store with only a semi-carefully selected chocolate bar in hand. It’s best to say I’m celebrating the time, and the time calls for this. My own version of Moroccan mint tea steeping, a packaged sweet, be it biscuit or chocolate unraveled nearby, and under the pressing glare of three lamps light. I have been nose deep in a crash course in what is Moorish cuisine. November has been a grave month for cooking but full of imagery.

Saffron infused rice. (Goodness, and it may stay an image until I can just go on with it and buy a few pinches!) Almonds, garlic and stale bread blitzed until becoming a creamy Ajo Blanco and then dotted with bursting muscat grapes. Sunset pink sherry vinegar both sweet and sour doused on lightly cooked white flakey fish. Pomegranate molasses spread upon dark braises and roasts, perhaps duck! Spices like sweet and smoky paprika, citrusy and earthy cumin and peppery caraway. Dried citrus and apricots pridefully standing on a serving platter or stirred into Asure (barley pudding). Ground almonds, cane sugar, nose curling cinnamon bound with pork lard baked into a humble batch of cookies known as Polvorones.

I’ve felt completely in awe of every dish. The Moors have cultivated an elaborate peasants cuisine. Every ingredient comes from the fruits of their own, or their neighbors labor. The food is balanced, dotted with delicacies, loving and humble. Resulting in the most satisfying meal, I’m partial to think. There is an emphasis on spices, fruits and herbs. And as the summer became fall and fall is becoming winter, the juicy crunch of a fruit is still at foot.  Paired with a warming spice or sharp herb my metabolism is radiating. I can still wear a dress and slippers about the house, the only thing  different is warming foods.

As I read
I daydream
As if I were there
An assistant to the director
We conjure magic and read minds

And then of course it being read

Being a cookbook

It’s us at the table, but every recipe looks good!
It’s a big table

Closed the book, picked up a few magic tricks
And please won’t you come for dinner?

It’s December now and I’ve cooked my first two Moorish dishes. Wanderers Soup and a Quince Jello Jelly. Recipes from le grand duo, Sam and Sam Clark. The couple and talented chefs wrote two cookbooks based upon their documentations through Moorish villages populating Southern Spain, Northern Africa and Morocco. And then thirdly, this one, Moro East. Dedicated to the Manor Garden Allotment in East London. Where the two learned to grow variety crops (from peas and salad greens, to artichokes, sorrel and bundles of herbs) amongst the help and knowing hands of their British, Greek, Turkish, West Indian, Kurdish, Polish and Italian-born neighbors. This book is dedicated to the people of the allotment, the allotments itself, and the British grown vegetables and fruits which have sprouted there and lavish every dish.

I can’t help but think of Mary, when the robin bird helps her find the way into The Secret Garden. Tending and then without realizing, blooming herself too.  

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Wanderers Soup

today I’m in my mother’s wooden sole brown clogs.
cooking her soup.

When I picked up the chorizo for this dish, it came in a nice ring, like a hoop earring or a fine christmas ornament. Good for fun, not good for you if there are dogs.

serves 4

  • 50g butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 medium potato, or six smaller ones (about 600g) peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 or 2 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 800ml chicken stock
  • A few grates of nutmeg
  • 4 handfuls (about 200g) or foraged greens (a mixture of sorrel, rocket, dandelion, parsley), I used spinach or pea shoots from the farmers market, washed and chopped
  • 150g cooking chorizo, diced small (the best part if I may say, of the dish!)

In a large heavy pot, melt the butter and 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion along with a four fingered pinch of salt and soften, cooking for about 15-20 minutes. Don’t forget to stir occasionally! Done when the onion is golden. Turn down the heat to medium-low and stir in the potatoes, garlic, and bay leaves along with another pinch of salt. Place the lid atop and allow to cook gently, for about 25 minutes. Or until the potatoes are tender. And again, stirring every so often, to keep things from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the potatoes are tender and glossy, plump with butter and olive oil, add the stock and a few grates of nutmeg. Now bring to a boil, and then a simmer for 5-10 minutes. It is almost lunch time! Turn the heat off, remove the bay leaves and whizz with a handheld blender, (a processor will do finely as well) until very smooth. At this point stir in your leafy greens. Meanwhile fry your chorizo in the remaining tbsp of olive oil, until crispy in parts and cooked through all over. Check the soup for seasoning, dot into bowls and spoon the chorizo and it’s spitting red oil dressed atop.

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QuinceJelly

Quince Jelly

serves 4

  • 2 medium quince (about 400g)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 125 g sugar
  • 4cm cinnamon stick
  • 700ml water
  • 12g leaf gelatin

Peel the quince and with a sharp knife cut each into 8 long wedges, coring from each wedge. Toss the slices in lemon juice as you go in the saucepan you will used to keep them from turning brown. When all are done, top up the saucepan with the cinnamon stick, sugar and water. Covering with a tight fitting lid, place over a simmer, the lowest heat possible, and stew gently for the next 2 ½ hours. When the quince is done the liquid will be a rosy pink, the quince will have matured a number of shades and be tender to the bite. Use a slotted spoon to gently lift the wedges into a jelly mold or a favorite bowl. Strain the liquid, measuring out 500ml, discarding the rest (or saving for soon to discover clever use as I like to do). Soak the gelatin in cold water for about three minutes, squeeze dry and stir into the hot syrup until completely melted. Pour over the quince wedges and leave to cool, followed by refrigerating overnight. Serve in the bowl or allow to stand in hot water for a few seconds before turning out onto a plate. I serve mine by the great spoonful with softly whipped cream.

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there once was a pear tree which who turned water into honey
thankful for the gifts the villagers brought her roses
in which
she gave them a quince

 

Duck, duck, soup!

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What’s in the fridge! That nice jar of dijon mustard. An indulgent buy of well salted capers imported from Sicily. The tin of anchovies which seemingly keeps on lasting. They are, preserves aren’t they? And that bouncing ball of mozzarella which was meant for something…but it’s lost on me now. Ah, and of course the rocket!

Received from a farm which sets up a stand nearby on the weekends. When I came about the tangled bunch, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the Italian rocket I’ve read about before. Wild and untamed. One rocket leaf, spun out from the bunch, unruly in formality and lengthy as my forearm. I can already smell the spice, similar to a juicy radish. After a sort of coiling, it’s in my mouth and I’m sure it’s leaning on the air of an herbs vanity.  Proud to be rocket! It’s lovely and I buy a big bag.

How charmingly simple this recipe could be. A peasants fare indeed, as I did no shopping. My bag of rocket was priorly enjoyed on its own, well dressed in olive oil and flaky salt. Until a morning, flipping through cookbooks, a recipe found for my bouncing ball of nearly forgotten mozzarella. And perhaps, my prideful rocket.

Mozzarella, Borlotti, and Wild Garlic Green Sauce, as says Ducksoup.
Mozzarella, Kanderly Yellow Eye, Rocket Green Sauce, I say.
It’s what I have. And it’s close enough.

Mozzarella, beans and herb sauce soup

  • 125g cooked beans, I had on hand Kanderly Yellow Eye
  • Handful of herbs, mine being rocket, not quite an herb but this one is nearly (others might be parsley, mint, wild garlic or a combination of the bunch)
  • 3 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
  • Zest of ½ a lemon
  • ½ tsp capers
  • ½ tsp dijon mustard
  • Small garlic clove, grated
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 mozzarella ball, about 150g
  • Flaky salt and black pepper

Warm the beans and their cooking liquid in a pan over low heat. Put the chopped herbs, anchovies, lemon zest, capers, mustard, and garlic into a large bowl with extra virgin olive oil and bind everything together, with a good stir. Stir your now green sauce into the beans and warm through, only taking a minute. Pour into your lunch bowl, placing a torn ball of mozzarella atop. Drizzle with more olive oil, flaky salt and black pepper. Serve with a soup spoon!

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when it faded
she grasped dearly
it’s shape missing

without a hand to hold
hands cold

and through the window the sun
stroked her cheek
warm, there
and it’s growing
a sparkling glimmer in her eye

a little spot inside of her
warm, right there
and it’s glowing

without a hand to hold
a little spot inside of her
warm

Life by coffee and sleep

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Ten days without coffee felt like a bear’s winter hibernation. It’s the season and I seemingly never miss a clean opportunity to get sick. Slightly out of commission.

Cup of joe number one since the crash. At 3pm. Splendid! I’m upright, and thinking about what I’ve done this week. What I’ll do from this cup, onto the next one, probably tomorrow a.m. And so! It’s been a week of discovering the famed New York dollar slice. That you can indeed just order a side of plain white rice at the local Chinese haunt without a batting eye. And, a resurgence of a famed banana shake from my archives. Which I will fondly share the recipe. It’s one I learned from a Scandinavian baker, both goddess of bread and salads. She was lovely.

I did happen to make one nice dish during the down time. A simple one which I had all the ingredients to already, but one. Being the season it wasn’t hard to find. Treviso risotto.  A woody amber kick coming from a glass of dry vermouth, and a roundness by parmesan and butter. I read today an article about Japanese ikebana. An art much to do with opposing characters, harmonized. Could treviso risotto be a good meal example for that? Bitter yet creamy. Hm. It’s a thought! A bit of a silly one at that. It got me thinking about making life more like ikebana. The Scandinavian baker, both goddess of bread and salads.

Green Banana Shake

  • 1 banana, best if frozen (adds creaminess!) at least for a few hours before blending
  • 2-3 juicy dates
  • palmful of cashews, raw
  • 1 small spoonful of vanilla paste
  • 2 big handfuls of kale, removed from their stems
  • 6-8 cubes of ice
  • Splash of nut milk

Blend all together until smooth. Serve in tall glass.

 

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Treviso Risotto

A recipe from the great chef Russell Norman. His book Polpo is a favorite of mine. One I slip out when I’m looking for a singular example of a fine ingredient, he probably has it. His book is a dedication to his restaurant in London, but also a definition of his experiences at aperitivo hour in Venice, Italy.  

  • 1 liters of stock, be it beef, chicken or vegetable
  • 50g butter, room temperature
  • Small sprig of rosemary
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 150g risotto rice, carnaroli is best
  • Flaky salt
  • Half a glass of dry vermouth
  • 250g Treviso radicchio, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 30g grated parmesan

To begin, bring a pot of the stock up to a gentle simmer on the back burner. On the front burner melt two-thirds of the butter in another pot. Add the rosemary and swig around a bit for a minute only to flavor, and then remove the sprig and discard.

Add the chopped onion, sweating slowly until glossy and translucent, about 10-15 minutes.

Now add the rice, being sure to coat in the butter. Allow to toast lightly, you’ll be able to smell it if you stick you nose over the pan. Add a pinch of salt, and stir for just a few minutes until the toasty smell is slightly present.  

Now is the time! Add the vermouth and lift any sucs sticking to the pan. Sizzling away until absorbed and steamed off. Add the first ladleful of stock, just enough to soak each grain, the mixture should be still gently simmering. Add the treviso now, reserve a small palmful for the final mix.

Slowly now, add the stock, one ladleful after the last has been absorbed. About 15 minutes. The risotto is done when a grain is chewy and soft on the outside, but the inside hull has a tiny al dente bite to it. Remove from heat, fold in the last knob of butter, parmesan and the palmful of treviso leaves set aside. Cover and leave for a few minutes before serving.

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Grilled Treviso

And if in the end. You can’t be bothered to make risotto. Halve your treviso lengthwise, rub with olive oil, slipping into the inner leaves. Set on a hot cast iron pan, or grill, and cook undisturbed for about four minutes on both sides. Serve, sprinkled with flaky salt and a few drips from the old balsamic bottle. Paired nicely with a bouncing ball of soft mozzarella dressed in more sweet olive oil and flaky salt.

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And now all I’m craving is to watch Alice in Wonderland or The Secret Garden. Until next time! Hopefully sooner than the last!

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