Hot 'n' Cold

Yes, today is the first day of fall. And if I the weather of both today and the last three weeks were to have a theme song, the royalties would have to go to our very own Katy Perry because yes, this weather is PMS-ing like a bitch, I would know! It rains…a lot…and drops down to 45 degrees…and then rains again…and then goes up to 85 degrees, turning the universe into a giant sauna. And this is all in the matter of a day! I’ve been waiting and waiting but those typical crisp cool days where the sky is blue and the air fresh and dry, yeah, they haven’t made a single appearance.

So you know what I did. I decided that maybe the only fix is to be a little mocking. Maybe, I thought, if I brought a little Hot 'n' Cold, a little contrast, I might just get this weather to whip itself back into shape. So of course I used food to implement my plan.

The Hot: Beef Meatball Curry. 

Oh man. This stuff is pretty insane. I loooove curry but don’t get to eat it a lot because my dad isn’t too crazy about spicy stuff and there are no Indian restaurants in my hometown. So now, living on my own, I took full advantage of the fact that I can make a big pot of curry and eat it for four days straight. I just ate the last bit of it a few hours ago and it was still as delicious as it was on day one.

Organic grass fed beef is mixed with hot red chili and ginger and shaped into little meatballs. And then they are slowly simmered in a vat of tomato and coconut sauce flavored with shallots, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, and cayenne. The aromas in my kitchen wafted around me in en exotic dance. My tastebuds did the same with each spoonful of sauce and beef-soaked brown basmati rice and naan. The recipe came from Aarti Sequeira. You can find it here. I made it almost verbatim but excluded the cilantro (yuck), used only half of a milder red chili, only 3 cloves of garlic, used a can of diced tomatoes instead of fresh, and reduced the added water to ¼ cup. I really like her by the way and her approach at making Indian food accessible to everyone. I hope she comes out with a cookbook soon.

The Cold: Mint Ice Cream

I actually made this a while ago but one can only go through so much ice cream. The dessert plays up the coldness in two ways. First, obviously, it’s physically cold in the mouth with microscopic ice crystals melting into creaminess on the tongue. But second, a refreshing coolness comes from the fresh peppermint that I got at the farmer’s market. When making it, the mint hangs out with the milk for about 2 hours, permeating it with its tingling qualities. I got the recipe from David Lebovitz and just left out the chocolate because I wanted the pure mint flavor to shine. I loved it although if I try mint ice cream again I may go for a Philadelphia style because the custardiness of the eggs overpowered the mint somewhat.

So will my culinary weather mocking work…I guess we’ll see. If not, I got an amazing meal out of the situation. I guess that’s one way to brighten up the day.

Harry Potter and an English Supper

I know that this is a food blog, and yes there is a recipe at the end of all of this, but I simply cannot neglect to mention the fact that just on Friday a legacy and phenomenon finally came to an end. Of course many of you know that I am talking about the release of the last Harry Potter movie which I saw at for the midnight showing. In terms of the Harry Potter craze, I was of the lucky group of people who were 10 years old when the books came out and 17 when they finished, so I literally grew up along with the main characters. This has made them special to me in a way that younger generations, who did not endure the 2 year long waits for the next books, will never understand. So now, with the release of the last movie, the end of it all is a bit sad.

The movie itself was enjoyable, but I cannot pretend it was my favorite. Unlike Hallows Part 1, full of suspense, tension, and darkness, Part 2 was filled with much more slapstick humor than I really thought necessary, turning moments where I wanted to be one the edge of my seat, biting my nails, into those where I don’t know if I should laugh or not. That along with Ralph Fiennes’ awkward performance, the slightly non-impressing special effects, and the fact I was in a theatre full of immature pre-teens in costume that whispered incessantly, the big bang I wanted to end with was a bit stunted. It was a good movie regardless and I highly applaud the hard work that went into it, but while the world seems to be ranking it as their favorite, I’m placing it about 3rd or 4thon my list.

On a more food related note, however, I was very pleased to see fellow food bloggers taking advantage of the Harry Potter excitement by recreating some of J.K Rowling’s better known HP food inventions. I saw some delicious recipes for pumpkin pasties, chocolate frogs (apparently you can buy frog shaped moulds somewhere), some adorable chocolate cauldrons that look like they took forever to make, and of course Butterbeer. I only saw this child-friendly version, but I’ve tried one with cream soda and butterscotch schnapps that definitely fulfills that warming-of-the-stomach factor.

Though I did not partake in this Harry Potter treats fiesta, I did, however, recently make a British-style Sunday supper complete with roast beef, gravy made from the drippings, roasted potatoes and carrots, and Yorkshire puddings. Don’t ask me what prompted this move…it was about 90 degrees outside and by the end of things my hair was a frizzled mess and my face greased from the excess number of steam blasts. But in hindsight, its deliciousness makes that issue unimportant.

However I warn you that a full Sunday supper, regardless of the time of year that you make it, is a time-consuming, arduous, sweat-inducing, and messy ordeal. It dirties nearly every dish in the house, as well as every countertop, and leaves no time for cleaning while cooking. Those British mothers really have quite a task for themselves every Sunday. My respect sincerely goes out to Mrs. Weasley…imagine doing this for a family of nine plus the many guests usually present at the Burrow. Though I guess a little magic probably eases the task.

This dinner’s preparation is almost a game of strategy and necessary of extraordinary time-management skills. The roast goes in the oven first, followed 30 minutes later by the vegetables. By the time the roast is cooked the veg should be halfway done, ensuring enough time to make the Yorkshire puddings while the potatoes finish. And while all of this is going on gravy bubbles away on the stove top, waiting to be messily strained through a sieve. Phew! But, I imagine when made in late fall and in the winter, the result would be welcome and comforting, and the experience, probably not much different from the beginning of term feast in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. And the thought of the leftovers the next day makes cleaning much more bearable.

Sunday Roast Supper
I have Jamie Oliver, king of British food, to thank for the recipes and his guidance as he led me to make a meal that I believe Mrs. Weasely would be proud of, Due the complexity, however, I’ll link you to the recipes for the roast, the gravy, and the Yorkshire pudding, and leave you to figure out the time management. I will however give you the roasted potato and carrot recipe, as it has become a new favorite way of preparing vegetables in our house and seasonally more appropriate. We’ve used the technique many times since and have found it a perfect way to prepare the summer’s delicious potatoes and other vegetables. Eat them on their own or as a side dish and the leftovers are great used in something like a frittata the next day.

Roasted Potatoes and Carrots
2 lb potatoes
6 carrots
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, plucked from the stalk
olive oil
salt and pepper

First, wash and peel your vegetables and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut any large potatoes in half and cut the carrot in half lengthways. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the potatoes and carrots and let them rapidly boil for 8-10 minutes. Drain in a colander and let the vegetables steam dry for a minute.

Pluck out the carrots and set them aside. For the potatoes, however, shake them around in the colander until the sides are really scuffed up on every potato. The uneven edges will crisp up amazingly. Set these aside as well.

Put a large roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Add about 3 or 4 lugs of olive oil into the pan and let it heat up. Add the sprigs of rosemary and mix them around for a second. (You can even add a few unpeeled garlic cloves at this point too if you want some garlic flavor). Finally, toss in the carrots and potatoes and stir them around so they are well coated in the oil. Add a little more oil if they look too dry. Add the salt and pepper, give everything a stir, and position the vegetables so that they are in an even layer in the roasting pan. This will allow then to roast and become crispy rather than steam. Place in the oven for one hour or until golden, giving the vegetables a turn or flip about every 20 minutes so all the edges crisp evenly.