Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chocolate Mint Squares, Anyone?

Lovely quick recipe for a hot summer's day, unless you don't feel like turning on your oven.

Since I don't remember exactly where I got this recipe from, I'll try not to be too specific. The general idea:

For the brownie layer:
Any brownie recipe will do, if baked in an 8-9 inch square baking dish. I recommend Brownies Cockaigne from the Joy of Cooking because they're delicious.

First, line the the greased pan with aluminum foil, with about two inches of overhang. Then add batter, bake, and leave them to cool completely IN THE PAN.

For the mint layer:

This is a simple cake frosting with peppermint extract added. It takes about

2 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 (or more) tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Mix these together with a hand or stand mixer until smooth and spreadable.

Since you've let the brownie layer cool in the pan, you should be able to lift the entire layer out using the tin foil. If it crumbles or sags in the middle, leave it a little bit longer. Putting it in the fridge will help. If it doesn't, your brownies weren't done. Sorry.

Anyhoo, flatten the edges of the foil and spread the icing evenly over the brownie layer. Let the icing layer set in the fridge while you melt:

1 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 tbsp butter

in the microwave, or on the stovetop, however. Once it has melted, pour it over the chilled icing. Rock the brownies back and forth until the chocolate covers as much as possible, then GENTLY fill the rest in with light painting strokes using a small spatula.

Put the whole thing back into the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Then your slab is ready to cut into squares! Hooray!

These freeze well and are useful for potlucks.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

ओह हेल्लो

Ahem. Caroline here. The silent contributor and mysterious Quinn Street Attic resident whose name does not appear on the banner. Not even in small print or in a parentheses or anything!

Anyway, Subway in Ireland has nachos. And there's one attached to the building I live in. Yes. So I haven't been cooking for pretty much the entire summer. Actually, that's mostly because I'm quite far from any decent supermarket and the ones that are easily accessible have a very poor selection of vegetables.

This post isn't completely pointless and does serve a bit of a purpose, however. I'm posting this here to say that because of that fact, I've really been missing cooking. And since I'll be getting back to Canada with a few weeks to play with before school starts, I would gladly accept a challenge from either of you (or any of the readers) that I would document and post here.

My only rule is that it has to include sausages, since seeing Sophia's torte thingy. Mmm sausages. Okay, that's a lie. You can challenge me with with whatever you like and then cook me sausages as a belated birthday present. That sounds fair.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kiekenpastey: I'm never making this again.

Sitting in Victoria on a sunny day with a reclining ocean-view deck chair is not optimal for relating unpleasant cooking experiences. Okay, only comparatively unpleasant: The stress level of this dish is minimal, but the recipe clearly dates from times when aristocrats hired cooks who, you know, had nothing else to do in a day.

Today, if it's made at all, this pie is made at Easter, presumably because one has more time one one's hands, and many more mouths to feed with a single meal.

For the crust:

3 ¼ cups bread flour (this is a bread crust, not a pastry crust)

1 packet of yeast (The recipe calls for rapid-rise yeast, but more on this later)

2/3 cup lukewarm water

½ tsp sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

¼ butter, softened (plus extra for greasing)

For the Filling:

800g chicken (the recipe calls for a whole chicken, but being lazy, I just bought chicken breast. Expensive, I know)

1 tbsp lemon juice

¼ cup butter

150g ground veal

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (I don’t know anybody not Dutch who has a nutmeg grater... or maybe it’s just not something people talk about. I’m sure pre-ground nutmeg would be fine)

300g pork sausage

150g oyster mushrooms, diced

8 canned artichoke bottoms, drained (I’d never bought artichoke bottoms, and now even canned artichoke hearts are difficult to find. You’ll have to try Pete’s in Halifax or Vincenzo’s in Kitchener-Waterloo)

4 tbsp breadcrumbs

5 small eggs (I did not use small eggs)

4 tbsp chopped celery leaves (I used something else I found in the garden. I don’t remember what it was)

2 green onions, finely chopped

milk for glazing

salt and ground black pepper

For the sauce (which I don’t recommend; it just made the pie soggy, but I’ll include it in case you DO make the pie and turns out inexplicably dry):

1 cup whipping cream

1 tbsp corn starch

2 tbsp chives, chopped.

There’s a note under the ingredients that says morels are more authentic than oyster mushrooms, but the most I’ve heard about morels is that they’re only available for a short time during the year, so I doubt many stores would bother with them. I wouldn’t bother either.

First we make the dough! Sift the flour, if you wish, and make a well in the center. Add the yeast and water, and stir gently until incorporated. Leave it to rise for fifteen minutes. The issue I had here was that the only yeast I had was breadmaker yeast. It said it was interchangeable with regular yeast, but wasn’t rapid-rise, I guess. The only issue was that the dough didn’t rise during this stage at all. So... if it doesn’t rise during the fifteen minutes, don’t worry about it. If it does... then good for you, you’re better than I am.

After fifteen minutes, add the egg and butter and knead! I chopped the butter into cubes even though it’s softened, because I couldn’t imagine trying to knead half a stick of butter into wet flour with my hands. Transfer the whole thing to a floured surface and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. I wish I’d timed how long this took, but we’ll just say it was longer than I thought it would be. But it DOES happen. Form the whole thing into a ball and place it in a clean bowl. Cover it with a dampened dish towel and leave to rise at room temperature for 1 ½ hours.

Here’s another warning for this recipe: it uses a LOT of dishes. This is good practice for the clean-as-you-go style of cooking. If you don’t cook that way, you’ll need to start.

Anyhoodle, it is now time for the hard part. If you use a whole chicken, cut it into eighths. Otherwise, simply divide it into manageable, cookable pieces. Rub them with the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. In a large flame-proof casserole dish (or a dutch oven, like I used), melt the butter over high heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned, about ten minutes. Transfer the chicken to (yet another) plate and take the casserole off the heat.

Mixed the veal with nutmeg and whatever seasonings you want, and form into six little meatballs. return the casserole to the heat* and add the meatballs and sausage. Cook at a high heat, turning frequently, for about ten minutes, until browned. Return the chicken to the casserole. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

*let me be the first to point out that one could simply form the meatballs earlier, and do all the cooking at once.

Remove the meat. Here the book says to reduce the cooking liquid until it sizzles. I didn’t know what that meant, really... so I reduced it until... well... until I saw fit. SO helpful, I know. Add the mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes. Remove them from the casserole using a slotted spoon. Discard the fat. You’re very welcome, your kitchen now smells delicious!

Cut the chicken meat from the bones, if there are any, and dice neatly. Slice the sausage thickly. Pat the artichoke bottoms dry and stuff with the mushrooms.

Your dough should now appear to be turning into some sort of lagoon resident-type monster under its dish towel.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Grease a 10 inch springform pan. I love springform pans. They’re the best. Cut off one third of the dough and knead on a floured surface, if you have any surface left with all those dirty dishes. Form into a ball and return to the bowl. knead the larger piece and form it into a ball as well.

Roll the large dough into about 14 inch round. Gently line the springform pan with the round. Roll the smaller bowl into a 10-inch round and cut out six hearts with, what else, a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Does everybody have these? I went through my mother’s cupboards and found about six different sizes of heart, among other novelty shapes. Sugar cookies this year are going to be FUN.

spread the breadcrumbs over the bottom of the pie crust and evenly distribute the artichoke bottoms on top of the crumb bed. Spoon the cut meat over and around the artichokes.

There are supposed to be more of these, but you get the idea.

With a spoon, or whatever, make five evenly spaced impressions in the top of the mixture. Into each, break an egg!

Sprinkle everything with the spring onions, celery, and seasoning. Pour in the cream.

Cover the pie and press the edges together, cutting off any “surplus.” brush the pie with milk, arrange the heart cut-outs to your liking, and brush with milk again.

Let bake for 1 hour. Halfway through baking, sprinkle the pie with water and cover it lightly with baking parchment.

For the sauce (sigh), heat the cream in a small pan. Mix the cornstarch with 2 tbsp water to a paste in (yet another) small bowl, and stir into the cream. Season to taste and stir in the chives. Pour into a sauce boat.

By now, it's likely late at night. You might want to stick this in the fridge and eat it for breakfast. I recommend reheating it in the oven though, because after a while the cream tends to make the bread crumbs quite soggy. And my last warning: make sure there are others willing to help you eat this; it's hefty.