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What is it with snacks in the UK?

I LOVE THEM.

One UK trend that hasn’t been widely imported to the US (and Japan for that matter) is highly flavored potato chips. Wait, CRISPS.

I make sure I have a smattering when I’m over there….just for science, of course.

On my way to Shetland, in Edinburgh airport while I was perfecting my “No Fog In Shetland So My Flight Takes Off” dance, I decided to have these:

IMG_0067On the left….my favorite flavor. On the right, a flavor I have been scared to try. (I always get 2 just in case the flavor I’m trying is completely gross).

The Roast Chicken tasted like Maggie bouillon, which wasn’t too bad, if you like that artificial chicken flavor.

And, my “no fog” dance worked because my flight was on time!

I was bored. I had a pretty long layover in Edinburgh, so after taking care of a bit of a “thing” with the folks at FlyBe, I took full advantage of the free WiFi. I posted this on Instagram of course.

And I got a CHALLENGE…”Have you tried the Haggis and Black Pepper one??”

Well? Of course I had to try it. Found in Lerwick:

IMG_5511Paired with what seems to be the perennial favorite, Prawn Cocktail.

Haggis was not reminiscent of the first time I had haggis, almost 30 years ago. When I didn’t quite now what it was and there was no Google on my smartphone to help me out! It tasted of spices. I didn’t taste anything offal like, and no oat. It was a bit strange, but I could see myself serving these with maybe gin and tonics.

I’m back in the UK later this year. What flavor should I try? And, should I be bringing over some BBQ flavored American Chips (a.k.a. Garlic In the Mouth for Days Flavor) to comparison taste with?

I have just returned from Shetland, and I do mean to blog about the trip (after a big hiatus here…). Before I start posting some of my many photos (see sneak peek photo), I have to write about something else. IMG_5446 No…not food, not yarn, not dogs….Tea. It is a Shetland-adjacent topic, and I thought appropriate as I hunker down to pare down my photos to post here.

I have a new friend, “A”, from Britain. We met in Shetland. She drinks tea. A lot of tea.

I’m Japanese. I drink tea. A lot of tea. And I don’t care what color…black, green, I like them all.

“A” told me that she uses —- HORRORS — tea bags because, well, she drinks a lot of tea, cannot be bothered to wash out pots, and does not like her tea to be “stewed”.

I brew tea from leaves. Because….Mom does. And it tastes better. (Unless of course, I’m in a pinch.) I’m not sure if I know what stewed tea tastes like….but it could be I drink my tea faster than it can stew.

My family has a favorite tea. It is a tea that we fell in love with, when Mom and I went to London a long long time ago. It’s Fortnum & Mason’s Royal Blend tea. It brews an excellent, strong cup. I can still remember the first time we had this — in the tea room in the back of the store, with smoked salmon sandwiches and scones with clotted cream. Every time anyone in my family goes to London, we make a trip to the flagship store in Picadilly, and stock up. (Because you can only get the tins in the airports, not the bags of leaves.) There is also several orders online a year, and despite the shipping cost, it is cheaper to get it shipped from London than it is to get it through William Sonoma.

When “A” said that she had one of the best cup of tea of her LIFE upon reaching Shetland and it came out of a tea bag, my ears perked up. She did warn, though, that it could be because the Shetland water was so good. Despite the warning, I did drag “A” to the tea aisle at Tesco to pick up a few packets. I was not too worried about water quality in New York City, as I remembered reading that someone from Fortnum & Mason had declared NYC water to be “fine” for tea. (And I found the link, a NY Times article here).

This morning, I received word that this tea was still good with non-Shetland water, so I decided that I would drink the two teas side by side. (Well, one after the other.) image Of course, even I know that you need to warm up your cups and pots before brewing tea with BOILING water. (“A”, really, next time you are in the US, ask for your water to be boiled. Peet’s, I know, will do it.) The Royal Blend is, and was, a taste of home for me. It was an excellent pot of tea. image Now for the tea bag…Tea Pigs Morning Brew. (Now available in the US through their website and some retail locations, and it’s called “English Breakfast” here.) image I cracked open my last packet of Sainsbury’s Garibaldi cookies (why bake when you can buy these!?). image And the verdict is….Tea Pigs Morning Brew will be distributed to my family for further testing. It is a DELICIOUS cup of tea. And it comes in a bag! Thank you “A” for your recommendation 🙂

I was at Shepherd’s Hey Farm recently, and blueberries were in season.

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I left with enough blueberries to eat every single day for breakfast. YUM. But what to do with what is left over which I should have frozen right away but didn’t? (And while they are still OK, they feel a little wilt-y to me).

I LOVE muffins. I try not to eat them too often because they are not exactly figure-friendly. But sometimes, I do indulge. So when I do make muffins, I don’t try to make them healthy. I just go for it and try to give them away faster than I can eat them.

When I lived on the Upper West Side, Good Enough to Eat was a favorite brunch spot. I’ve not gone there in years, but I still remember the crunchy topped muffins that they used to have (and probably still have…I just haven’t gone in years).

My favorite blueberry muffin recipe is a heavily modified version of the blueberry muffin recipe that appears in the Good Enough to Eat cookbook….I have taken that recipe as a base and played around with some ingredients and ratios. It is most definitely not diet-food — but the buttery, cakey dough with a hint of lemon is perfect for blueberries (or black raspberries!) and the crunchy top is very reminiscent of the Good Enough to Eat muffins.

Part of the reason why I love this recipe is that it is made in a bowl with nothing but a wooden spoon!

The muffins freeze well, and once defrosted, I like to peel the paper off the muffin and stick it in the toaster oven.

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My Favorite Blueberry Muffins
(yields 12 muffins; adapted and modified from The Good Enough to Eat: Bountiful Home Cooking)

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 to 2 cups blueberries, depending on size of the berries
zest of 1 lemon
sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350F, line muffin tin with baking cups.

In a bowl with a wooden spoon, cream butter with sugar.

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Add egg and vanilla extract, mixing after each addition until incorporated. Add cream, a little at a time, and beating into the batter after each addition.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until incorporated. The batter will be a relatively stiff batter.

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Mix berries and zest into the batter gently. Divide evenly into 12 muffins.

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Dust top with some granulated sugar.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.

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Enjoy!

When I was growing up, I remember going through a magazine with Mom and picking out a lemon dessert. The dessert is called “Lemon Souffle”. I still have a copy of the magazine cutout (now digitally permanent!) and I have decided to give it a go. The spring weather we are finally getting here in NYC is making me want to eat this dessert.

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Remembering the dessert and looking at the recipe, I don’t think I would call this a soufflé. We ate it chilled, so there is a layer of a cake, almost like a sponge on top, and a layer of lemon custard on the bottom. Not the puffy, hold your breath, airy dessert that I would characterize as a classic French soufflé.

I went hunting around my cook books, wondering whether this is a uniquely Japanese dessert…or whether it is called something else in the US. And there it was, in the very first cookbook I ever purchased….The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. The ratios are slightly different, but the description sounds exactly the same.  In this country, it’s called Lemon Pudding.

Here it is:

Lemon Pudding/Lemon “Souffle”
(adapted from Mom’s old magazine article, above, and The Fannie Farmer Cookbook)

Ingredients:

40g butter, at room temperature
140g sugar (separated into 100g and 40g – 40g to be used for whipping the meringue)
3 eggs, separated
Juice of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 lemon
30g flour (I used cake flour)
200cc milk
confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F; boil a kettle of water (for the water bath)

In a medium bowl, with a wooden spoon, beat butter. add 100g of sugar, a little at a time. When all of the sugar has been incorporated into the butter, add egg yolk, one at a time mixing well to blend after adding each yolk. The mixture at this point should be egg yolk yellow and starting to get fluffy.

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Add the lemon zest, and add the lemon juice a little at a time, beating well to incorporate. If you add the lemon juice all at once, this mixture may separate. (The mixture will look a little curdled. Do not worry!)

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Add the flour, and then the milk, adding a little at a time and making sure to incorporate.

Beat egg whites until they are foamy. Add the 40g of sugar a little at a time, beating all the while, until stiff peaks form.

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Mix 1/4 of the egg whites and mix into the egg yolk mixture, when that is fully incorporated, add the remainder of the egg whites, and fold it gently but quickly until no white streaks are visible.

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The original recipe has you bake this in a buttered and floured sponge form, I am baking it in a pie dish since that is what my Mom did.

Place the filled pan into a larger pan, fill the outside pan with the hot water until the water is 1/2 way up the pie dish.

Bake 40-50 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let cool and serve either tepid or cold. Mom always refrigerated it and we had it cold. Fannie Farmer wants you to eat it with heavy cream…I am totally happy with it plain!

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I don’t know if you can see it, but see, there’s a cake layer on top and a custard/pudding layer on the bottom!

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Enjoy!

I seem to eat more than my fair share of simple carbohydrates and protein during the holidays. Some days, I just want a nice, hearty salad. Tonight was such an evening.

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My friend Donna brought this salad to a recent get together…and I fell in love. The colors make it festive, and I loved the addition of the butternut squash that is roasted with a sprinkling of red pepper flakes.

I love the variety of the squash and pumpkins that are available now at farmer’s market, and I incorporate what I’d like to try in here, whether it’s white acorn squash or sugar pumpkin, and of course there is my favorite, kabocha. I like the sweetness that comes from roasting these vegetables.

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The other special ingredient in this salad is pomegranate, which is also mirrored in the pomegranate molasses that is drizzled over the top of the salad. I’ve found that taking the pomegranate seeds apart from the pith in a bowl of water is the easiest and least messy method of getting at these jeweled seeds.

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I also make the dressing separately, using the zest from the citrus that I am using, so it’s easier to make a single serving of the salad, and to keep the left overs for tomorrow’s lunch.

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I have already made this several times and you know what happens once a recipe becomes part of your repertoire. It gets tinkered with. I’ve not changed it around a bit too much from the original, but here is my take on a wonderful winter salad.

My New Favorite Winter Salad
Adapted from Autumn Farmer’s Market Salad (Bon Appétit October 2008)
yield:Makes 6 servings

Ingredients
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups 1-inch cubes peeled seeded winter squash. The original calls for butternut squash, but it’s a great opportunity to try different types of squashes!
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 an orange
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • Olive oil or walnut oil, about 3 Tbsp — should be about 1/2 the volume of the juices of the citrus from above.
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces arugula (about 8 cups lightly packed)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (optional)

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Toss squash, olive oil, salt and crushed red pepper and roast on baking sheet for 15-20 minutes or until the squash is cooked through and a bit browned on the edges.

Zest and juice 1/2 and orange, zest and juice 1/2 a lemon, and shake together in a container with the oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, add arugula. Toss with dressing (do not drench the greens, but use enough dressing just to coat the greens — my dressing ratio is about 2x what the original recipe calls for). Add warm or room temperature squash, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses, if using, and serve.

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I’m not 100% sure any more where my Mother got the original recipe. Suffice it to say that this has been made so many times by members of my family that it has gone through multiple modifications. My version is slightly different than Mom’s, mostly because I prefer things less sweet than she does.

The cake is full of apples. In fact, it is basically baked apples held together barely by a batter that is slightly thicker than pancake batter.

What makes this cake so very my Mom’s is that there is a pretty healthy amount of brandy in it. You can substitute the brandy with a dilution of vanilla extract (but you realize that is alcohol too, right?), but I really love the brandy with this cake. If I have it on hand, I may use Calvados or Armagnac with this but Mom’s brandy of choice is Remy Martin.

Any apple would work, but my favorite is Gala or Cortland.

Apple Cake
(yield: one 8×8″ pan)

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
100-150g granulated sugar. I tend to the lower amount usually, but this can be adjusted between these amounts based on the sweetness of the apples that are being used
2 large eggs
150g flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp table salt)
2tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp nutmeg
3-4 apples, depending on size, quartered and sliced. (The thinner you slice, the more apples you can pack in — I like mine about 1/4″ thick)
1/4 cup raisins, soaking in 3-4 Tbsp brandy

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour baking pan, line bottom with parchment (unless you are using a nonstick pan)

Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition.

Shift together all dry ingredients. Add to batter in 2 batches, mixing until just incorporated after each addition.

Add apples, raisins and brandy and stir to incorporate.

Put into prepared baking pan, smoothing out the top. The cake will look and feel like a bunch of apples held together with a thickish batter. I like to bang the pan against the countertop to knock out air pockets.

Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, 45-50 minutes.

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I think the dried cranberries would be great in this cake as well. I define “raisins” broadly here — I have used sultanas and currants. Obviously, the brandy is optional…it can be substituted with some diluted vanilla extract (I would dilute it with apple juice if you have that on hand), enough to plump up the raisins.

The texture of the cake will be affected by the amount of sugar that you add to the batter. 100g is, in my opinion, the minimum amount of sugar necessary. Mom always makes it with 150g, but I don’t have as big a sweet tooth as she does so I tend to err on the lower side. If I’m using a very tart apple, like Granny Smith, I will add more sugar to compensate for the tartness.

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I have a confession to make. I love watching DVDs of Julia Child shows as I’m falling asleep. I find her voice strangely comforting. This may explain my food dreams, but that is another story.

I was watching Baking with Julia…the quick breads episode with Marion Cunningham. I was obsessed with how Marion Cunningham mixed practically EVERYTHING with her hands. I had Irish Soda Bread firmly embedded in my brain.

Irish soda bread, in my mind, is the ultimate quick bread. Simple ingredients, the bread leavened by the CO2 bubbles created by the baking soda reacting with the acid in the buttermilk.

The only debate, then, is whether you make Irish Soda Bread plain, or with “stuff” in it. For me, as I dislike caraway seeds (and anything that tastes of black licorice, for that matter, blech), the question is….with or without raisins? I usually do with, unless it is a part of a St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage boiled dinner.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Irish Soda Bread (Adapted from Baking with Julia and other recipes from the web)

  • 4  to 4.25 cups flour (depending on the humidity of your location or the day)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk (or in my case, 7 tbsp of Saco Buttermilk blend)

IMG_8749(The original recipe in Baking with Julia only has flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. The addition of butter and egg make for a richer dough. If you omit the egg, up the buttermilk to 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 400°. Make sure the oven is well heated before starting the mixing process — as soon as the liquid is added, the leavening process will begin.

Whisk together 4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl. If you are using Saco, blend the powder in at this point.

Work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then add in the raisins.

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Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add beaten egg and buttermilk  (or water) to well and mix in until dough is too stiff to stir. Dust hands with a little flour, then gently knead dough in the bowl just long enough to form a rough ball. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf. The dough will be a little sticky — STOP as soon as the shape is formed — work dough  just enough so the dough just barely comes together.

IMG_8756Transfer dough onto a baking sheet (it will flatten out a bit in the pan or on the baking sheet). Using a  knife, score top of dough about an inch and a half deep in an “X” shape. Bake bread until golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped, about 35-45 minutes.

Cool and serve.