I couldn't think of a title for this post. Nothing seemed to work in my head. So, when in doubt, why not quote Jack White? He certainly describes how I currently feel, as you will find out later...Unfortunately I haven't actually cooked any pancakes. Goodness knows what I'll use for a title when I do...
This is my 100th post! How about that! Between this, and my six-month blog anniversary, and my birthday all occuring recently, I hope you don't think I'm one of those girls who bursts into passive-aggressive tears if my significant other doesn't buy me a diamond pendant to mark the three weeks that have passed since our first date.
Above: Picadillo, which ended up focussed backwardly. Depth of field, I do not haz it.
There's something about those cheerfully forced "midweek meals" that womens' magazines regularly publish that seem so, well, cheerfully forced. In my line of work I am exposed to a lot of womens' mags and though I keep a keen eye out, it has been a long time since I've been inspired by any of the recipes. They never quite get it sounding right, what with their Thai Pumpkin and Couscous Bake and Sausage Chow Mein with 2-Minute Noodles. I mean, everyone needs those midweek meals, including me, it's just the ones I see seem to be so...colourless. Although I cook dinner at every possible opportunity (sometimes even at lunch) this week has felt particularly practical and magazine-y. Monday: Picadillo, a Cuban mince dish (done in the slow cooker!). Tuesday: Salmon burgers, even the kids will like them! Wednesday - Spaghetti Puttanesca... which Jill Dupleix coyly describes as pasta for "working girls." I like to think of it (rather gleefully I'll admit, but how often do you get a name like this) in its more literal sense - Whores' Pasta. Suddenly things aren't looking so dull after all...In fact happily everything has tasted great so far.
On Monday night, spurred on by a recipe on the Tea and Wheaten Bread blog, which in turn was using a recipe from Culinary Travels of A Kitchen Goddess, I chose to make Picadillo. It looked easy to make, very cheap, and a bit out of the ordinary. Even though it has risen so alarmingly in price that it's not much of a cliched student ingredient anymore, mince would still be what Tim and I eat most of from the meat family. And it is difficult to find new twists on it. So when I saw that this had olives, raisins, and lots of spices in it, not to mention that I could bung it in the Crock Pot and forget about it, I had to try it...unfortunately I forgot to put the raisins in. I always forget one crucial thing it seems, even when the recipe is right in front of me. But it still tasted great. To be honest I didn't initially think there was much point in doing something like mince in a slow cooker - it's not like it's going to get any more tender - but it definitely seemed to enhance the deep, mellow flavour. I'll be making this again for sure this Winter, and hopefully will remember the raisins next time (well, I'd substitute sultanas. I know they're practically the same thing, but I can't stand raisins. Maybe I subconsiously left them out on purpose.)
On Tuesday night I decided that I (rather desperately) needed some brainfood, so attempted to make salmon burgers. Because I was in overachiever mode, I made the buns as well, using a laughably easy recipe from Nigella's Feast, that I have made so many times I know it off by heart. Well at least I hope I do. It is rather late at night that I'm typing this...
Above: the background necessarily blurred because I have carny hands, "neither beautiful nor practical." Hopefully it looks a bit upmarket on top of that.
Nigella's Buns (*titter*)
- 500g high-grade/bread flour
- 1 sachet yeast (the sachets come in little cardboard boxes, I can't deal with any other sort)
- 375mls milk
- 25g butter
- 2t sugar
Place the flour, yeast and sugar in a large bowl. If you use a large enough bowl, you don't even need to get your bench dirty as you can just knead the dough inside it. Well, it works for me...Warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan till the butter has melted and the milk is tepid. You don't want it too cool, but neither should it be anywhere in the neighbourhood of 'hot.' Tip this into the flour, and using one hand (I find it handy - ha! - to just use one) knead this mixture till smooth, cohesive, and elastic. For some reason this mixture comes together remarkably fast. Once it's looking good, tip the mound of dough onto a plate, and grease the bowl it was in. Put the dough back in the bowl, turning so that all sides get a little shiny, then cover tightly with gladwrap and leave in a warmish place for an hour or so.
In an hour's time, punch the now spookily-puffy dough (satisfying!) and then shape into buns. Nigella recommends quite small ones, (these are dinner-roll type thingummies) but because I was using them for burgers I made mine bigger, and therefore got less out of the mix. Now, leave them to sit on a tray, covered with a teatowel, for about 20 minutes. You might as well turn your oven to 200 C and sit the tray on top so as the residual warmth helps them to rise even more. Finally, brush with a beaten egg or melted butter (guess which I plumped for, as it were) and bake for 15-20 minutes. Actual timing is a bit vague, it's dependant on size of bun and type of oven, but reckon on something like that. These babies smell incredible, and though they don't have the staying power of shop-bought stuff, can be recussitated the next day in the microwave.
Above: You're supposed to tap them on the underside to see if they sound hollow, therefore cooked- but fresh-baked bread is one of the hottest things known to man. Use oven mitts, please...don't go down the same sorry path I did (on the upside, should I choose to commit a heinous crime, the police can't fingerprint me!)
Above: Ooh they were good. The combination of tender, still-warm buns and slightly crunchy salmon was awesome. Worth the effort, I assure you.
Above: Unfortunately this was the best shot I could get, the lens kept steaming up and none of my twirly-fork tricks were working and anyhow pasta seems to get cold and claggy very fast, so I just snapped and served it. Tasted much nicer than the photo looks though. I love how the olives and capers provide an addictive saltiness that is so much more complex than just salt itself.