Wandering mind

WanderersSoup3

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 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.  

WanderersSoup

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.

WanderersSoup2

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.

QuinceJelly2

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!

BeansMozzarellaSoup1

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!

BeansMozzarellaSoup2

 

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

Crispy leaves and shively prunes

A Flicker in October

The wick begins to pool
one leaf falls
the wax begins to drip
a crunch under foot
my cheeks begin to glow
this precious time
before the wick runs out

Prune Loaf 3

Prunes! Glorious jammy things. Juicier than an apricot, whose color is alluring, but it’s the prune I find most satisfying of the dried fruits. A thin protective skin, just barely sealing a smoothing prune cream. Confoundedly a flavor both of vanilla and milk chocolate. And even a fragrance faintly reminiscent of orange blossom. Glorious prunes!

The leaves are beginning to turn in New York. Yellow and crisp. A few scattered underfoot, one crunching, another saved inside a book. The sun is still warm to the bone, and it’s…quite. Where might be the flock of finches whom lived in the tree outside my window be? The window unit is unplugged and the floor fan switched off. This precious, and perhaps introspective time!

I was a thinking about what I might like to eat for breakfast during the next few days, while I had the time, and prunes showed up first in mind. The first place I looked for inspiration was a big cookbook, humorous and light, but each recipe a rather serious matter. Fairly charming that such a talented and experienced chef wrote a book for us at home, reading in a way that feels, well quite doable. Needing only the right ingredients and a good dose of confidence. One day I’ll get to that warm pig’s head… ! Seemingly, Fergus Henderson loves prunes too. And seemed to crave the same sort of pruney breakfast loaf as I did. A prune loaf with brown sugar and molasses, extra vanilla for a lift of fragrance, and then quite a buttered tin – yielding a crust buttery and textured. The heavenly heavily buttered tin is a small trick I learned in school, beurre en pommade, a consistency mayonnaise like, which when heavily lining a tin makes the most lovely cake and loaf crusts.

So here is a slightly adapted recipe of Fergus Henderson’s le grand prune loaf. Fit for even those who may think they might not like a shriveled prune.

Prune Loaf 1

Prune Loaf

  • 4 ½ oz softened (soft by leaving out, mine usually overnight) unsalted butter, and extra for greasing the pan
  • 4 ¾ oz light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 8 oz flour, plus a five fingered pinch for dusting the pan
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp black molasses
  • 3 tbsp prune juice, mine coming just from my soaking liquid of tea and prunes.
  • 3 tbsp full-fat milk, obtained at the coffee shop, thank you baristas, a generous slice coming your way!
  • 20 oz prunes, and strips of lemon peel, soaked in two bags of black tea, mine being a rose like blend, soaked overnight or least an hour before.

Rummage about for a loaf tin, mine being a tube pan. With your softened butter, brush heavily into pan. Dust with a bit of flour and tap the excess out. Set aside and get on with the mix.

In a bowl with a wooden spoon, paddle the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Incorporate the beaten eggs slowly, which will help prevent a curdle. Sift in the flour, baking soda, salt and mix in. Next add the vanilla, molasses, prune juice and milk.  

Fill your prepared tin with half of the mix, then lightly pressing in the prunes. You’ll notice it’s quite a lot of prunes, it is, a prune loaf! Spoon in remaining mix and lightly spread about evenly. Place in the fridge for 2 hours. The chill stops the prunes from sinking to the bottom during the bake.

Bake in an oven preheated to 350ºF for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven, invert onto a rack, remove tin, and allow to cool for ten minutes before serving.

**Fergus Henderson mentions a mist in his recipe which is 2 ½ oz of prune juice, heated in a saucepan until it starts to boil. Off heat, ¾ oz of Vieille Prune (prune brandy) is stirred in. Two spoonfuls of mist is soaked into a slice before serving along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Prune Loaf 2

Saved for the gourmand

 

dear anchovy,

you slender silver thing. green then blue. a tone of gray, polished.
you are cared for.
as colatura di alici
as burre cafe de paris as anchoiade
atop this egg
you are richness to this garden.
i’ll help care for your shallow, temperate, just salty waters.

thank you,

A purse full of silver coins or purse full of little fish.

Anchovy, perhaps always anchovies, is an oily little fish, not beefy enough to satisfy a slightly sneering tummy, But a lick to satisfy the gourmand. Anyone who likes anchovy is a gourmand, in my book. Their tongue welcoming the tantalization this little fish brings.

When fresh, it’s an essence of what it will become packed and tinned under salt. Buy a bundle, fillet them and simply serve with halves of lemon. I can’t help but imagine; an hour of aperitivo, sheets of Carta di Musica (or, Pane Carasau, sheet music) stained with green olive oil and dusty flakes of pestle pressed fennel seed, chili and salt. The sun beaming a setting golden mist, and just like a candle blown out from the soft summer wind you’re whisked off to dinner.

A moment hopefully all of us, least have once. For some, a friendly routine out of convenience and perhaps stimulated by the milder nature of the fresh fish.

When handled with care, placed under salt, still full in body and bone, they become something stronger. A taste that lingers. A sharp and clear moment for your own bliss.

Preserved this way, anchovy may be considered even more a delicacy. It’s flavor dependent on the seasoned hands who cared for it. Known as alici to Italy, and anchois to France, both countries in the southern coastal towns, enjoy the little fish fresh and tinned in throngs. Being part of the land just as the people.

In Campania, during the summertime, fresh anchovies are placed in wooden barrels, salted then pressed. Then in the fall, the barrels are speared from the bottom and a  longly awaited viscous and amber liquid secretes. An Italian fish sauce. It’s then bottled in glass and labeled Colatura di Alici. With a special place in the cabinet it’s to be dotted along with pasta and vegetables as northern Italians might balsamic.

Beurre Cafe de Paris made its name by a French chef in Geneva, but I would think it has been around for time before then. It is a compound butter of tinned anchovy and fresh herbs such as thyme and marjoram. Rolled into a log and served in rounds, maybe atop anything. I still want to toss it in pasta.

Anchoiade is a thick and hearty emulsion coming from Provence. Truly, an anchovy mayonnaise. Best set a little looser, a touch of water will achieve this. (Italians having a similar sauce, without eggs and the splash of liquor replaced with vinegar). Like a skier’s favorite trail wide and curling. High with newly fallen snow, I imagine endive, puntarelle, chicory or frisse gathered highly upon a wide plate. Then capped from a large silver spoon, a robust round of anchoiade. Curious and a bit dangerous, it’s first licked from the tips of the diners heavy fork. Next, gently and next, greedily tossed desiring every leaf to be strewn. The bitter green is the last remaining ingredient making the sauce perfectly harmonized and desirable.  Make a jar full and lunch for a week! Only more needing a boule of bread and a row of eggs to softly poach.

Anchoïade

  • 1 yolk
  • 6 whole anchovies, cleaned, filleted
  • palmful of thyme leaves
  • juice from ½ a lemon
  • 150g extra virgin olive oil
  • dash of Cognac
  • salt + pepper

By hand using a pestle and mortar then a big bowl and a whisk:

Using a pestle and mortar, cream the anchovy fillets along with the thyme and a dash of the lemon juice. Transfer to a large bowl and add the egg yolk. Whisk until combined and smooth. Continue to whisk, quite vigorously now, as you slowly drizzle in the olive oil. When fluffy and spreadable it’s done. Season with more lemon juice, a dash of cognac, (a little trick I picked up at the restaurant, which may have been picked up from Alice Waters, who may have picked it up from Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. A fickle string to follow), lots of freshly ground pepper and some salt.

This can also  all be done in a food processor, the same, but with a less achey arm, and gratitude for your machinery. But, never as triumphant as the one who beat willfully.  Still, be be sure to slowly add the the oil as the processors blade quickly turn.

P.S. making an emulsion is marrying  fat (olive oil) to a little protein (yolk). Quite temperamental! Be sure all ingredients are the same temperature, (just out of the fridge, or room) to ensure at least one variable is against forsaken mishap. As it does sometimes happen. And in which case; don’t fret. Pour the split sauce into a cup, add an egg yolk to the bowl, and slowly drizzle in your split sauce while whisking, the extra protein will help bring the sauce together again. 

anchovy and egg

Tozzetti alla mandorle

Tozzetti

 

I cannot quite pinpoint which book it may have been where my eyes first glazed over Italian pastry recipes. I think it actually was a flood of books I brought home all at once, I’d scramble to the ends of each book and try to absorb every ingredient and method. The style in which the author wrote the recipe, I was, and am still elated. My heart nestled into Italy, it was the mentor I had been looking for but didn’t know existed. This cookie that looks like what I first knew as biscotti, seemed to be an Italian classic, (I suppose as most Italian recipes are), lots of cookbooks had their variation of it. Seemingly alike, it took quite a handful of trials and reading to discover the difference. Biscotti means twice cooked and in Italy there are two types of biscotti; tozzetti being softer and more cookie like. And cantuccini being made from a bread-like dough, dry and crisp. This recipe falls under the tozzetti category.

Classically enriched by egg yolks, being that the land had more eggs to offer than butter at a time, this recipe is delightfully and nutritiously rich. In what to me feels to be relatable to human digestion, being easy on our metabolism. Still, lots of sugar is necessary for the sharp tooth this cookie is known for. Making it a sublime treat. Any mix in additions to the dough will be lovely. I can imagine showcasing chocolate, and other ideas being pine nuts, rosemary, anise, or candied orange and melon. I think when you try an ingredient and it strikes you that would be a delight savored over a morning coffee ritual, or a weekend 4pm break, working your way slowly through the cookie studded with the ingredients that first drew the inspiration, all along the while sipping a sweet glass of Vin Santo to celebrate yourself and the moment.  

It’s summer now,  I am enamored with Sicily, and these almonds I brought home from a local Italian market. Flatter and wider in shape they looked interesting. The flavor to me was remarkable. Still fragrant and plump of the mediterranean air scented with oregano, tomatoes and fennel growing abound. I imagined biscotti and as I gathered my ingredients I threw in lemon and vanilla feeling it was the right melody I most felt like savoring along with my special almonds. It’s likely you too have the remaining ingredients already in your cupboard, really just flour, eggs and sugar. The cookie is strong, sweet and soft when warmed by the tongue but resilient to all else. I like that the yolks keep it from being crisp like many biscotti’s I’ve had before. This biscotti in that sense fills you like a meal. It’s a delightful breakfast and a joy to hold in hand with a to go cup of coffee on the train as I make my way to work.  

Tozzetti with candied lemon, vanilla and mandorle

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 yolks
  • 350 g sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 450 g flour sifted with 4 ½ tsp baking powder and 1 tsp fine salt
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 200 g mandorle (Italian almonds)
  • 2 tbsp finely minced candied lemon
  • Pinch of flaky salt

Preheat oven to 375ºF, if convection 350ºF. Blanchir the eggs with sugar and vanilla. Sift in flour mixture. Mix in the butter, almonds and lemon peel. Work with hands to make two strong logs. Set atop parchment paper and a strong baking tray, bake for 25 minutes until lightly golden. Turn oven temperature down another 50º. Cool for three minutes, and using a tea towel and a serrated knife, saw the log along a slight angle, making tozzetti shapes. It’s an important time to do this now while still hot from the oven, otherwise it will prove difficult.  Arrange slices back onto the baking tray and return to oven for five minutes. Flip the tozzetti to their other sides, and bake another five minutes. Turn the oven off, set the door slightly ajar and allow the rich glory to cool completely as the oven does.

Tozzetti with candied fennel and mandorle

The same as above, simply take away the candied lemon and vanilla. And mix in the candied fennel along with the almonds.

For candied fennel:

  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed of outer leaves
  • 300 g sugar
  • 300 g water

Dice fennel into small cubes of equal size.

Meanwhile make a simple syrup, by bringing the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan. Add cubed fennel and turn down the heat to a lively simmer. Continue on until fennel is plump and full of sugar, Drain and set aside fennel to cool. Either discard or reserve syrup for other uses, perhaps a dash in your seltzer. Or drizzled on your morning cantaloupe.

I am part of the summer
my bare feet spread on the warm wooden floorboards
a sense of temperature warmly like the womb
And like me, the frayed screen awry
our curling hairs
Soft wind, humming engines, play and flighted notes, a field of cilia sways
My water glass round, of the overgrown mint and the bouquets of fennel fronds set aside …

The stone building is warm, I am warm

Cantelope_Syrup