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I always end up making curry on a whim. Without fail I am on my way to make something else, something usually boring and somehow between the fridge and the stovetop it turns into curry in my brain and I’m always thankful for the switch. I can always eat more red lentils… and I got to try out these unreal curry powders my friend J brought me from India when he went this summer. Why have I not used these all over the place before???? They are crazy good, more on them later. They made an acorn squash, red lentil, coconut, pea and green pepper curry absolutely golden. Actually, pistachio coloured. Who says curry is homely? And cardamom raisin quinoa underneath doesn’t hurt in the pretty department, either.
The south indian blend has — white pepper, chili, mango powder, dagger fool, clove, ginger, mace, citric acid, concoun, cassia, and akarkhora. Badass.
The garam masala is black cumin, black pepper, bay leaves, piper, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, clove, black cardamom, ginger.
These are seriously aromatic and complex, and for some reason taste different in every curry I add them to. Maybe it’s like that chemical thing where the same perfume smells different on various wrists? Maybe it’s the akarkhora.
Then I made some DAIIIII-FU-KUUUU, yippee! I didn’t realize I was out of red dye for my envisioned green-and-red holiday colours, but I did have a beet, which worked perfectly and the subtle flavour didn’t mess with the beans at all. They are bean paste (anko) filled, which has got to be my favourite stuff ever. I’m still not 100% on the mochi part, I may have found the one food I’m not super crazy for, but they are definitely fun to make. And it was much as Julie in Japan describes: truly they are weird. But I did keep eating it and then later I did really want another one. That strange earlobe jellyness kinda becomes… intriguing? In a way? I must say I can taste the difference in the supple freshness of homemade mochi versus those awful pucks I got over christmas.
Okay, this is actually making my mouth water now, so disregard any blabbing about weirdness. You can also see that I like my anko (I LOVE my anko) chunky, generous in proportion to earlobe-jelly, and only moderately sweet.
J’s (half awake) response was A: “They look like the kind of thing that people eat in cartoons, Liz.” (I nodded). And B: “Hmm… they taste like rice cake.” Which I thought was mighty open-minded for a technicoloured blobby-dessert ambush, and indicative of an awesome generation of eaters. My parents would have certainly gone for the bugspray or something. :)
In response to KingoftheFrogs — what I did for the mochi:
The red and the green both had pretty different textures, since I used more water in the green, but they were both good… it takes some playing around I think.
1 cup rice flour
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup water + (if needed) 2-3 tablespoons
food colouring (optional)
(1 cup of anko/red bean paste)
* stir the flour, water, sugar and colouring together in a microwave-safe bowl, adding more water so that it’s smooth (but still pretty thick)
* microwave 2 minutes, then stir it like crazy
* microwave until it inflates, stir like crazy and stretch it and wack it with a wooden spoon until it’s smooth and bouncy.
* turn it onto a tray covered with potato starch (or cornstarch) and roll it into a snake, then cut that snake into 12 equal pieces.
* stretch a piece into a disc, thicker in the middle than at the edges, place 1 tablespoon of anko paste in the middle and wrap it up like a parcel, pinching the seam to join the mochi together. Dust with extra cornstarch, and set it aside, repeat with remaining mochi pieces.
note 1: they freeze pretty much perfectly, so uneaten candy can be squirreled away for later.
note 2: anko is soooo easy to make, it’s just red beans cooked with sugar and a touch of salt. Take cooked adzuki beans, add sugar til it’s sweet enough for you, mash with a spoon and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until it’s really thick, like cookie dough. Let it cool completely before using.
I went to a convenience store for the first time in a couple weeks since quitting diet soda – and all of a sudden I was pretty reminded of how delicious candy bars are. I don’t even like candy bars usually! But they looked really good that particular night.
So I went home and stirred together some no-stir peanut butter (ironical!), icing sugar, peanuts, crushed up rice cake, molasses, and salt, formed it into a log and coated it with some melted Cocoa Camino fruit & nut chocolate. Popped in a the freezer, then removed to get all soft and chewy again – it was so a real chocolate bar! It looked kinda like a turd. But tasted like a wunderbar, and I still have some left. :)
I’ve decided this winter will be an indian-styled winter. South indian, spicy and warming, full of root veg… it’s actually getting my passion for cooking back. Pomme made a great sambar last night and I made the apricot rice from Vegan Fire & Spice, neither authentic, but I started to actually ramble about food again, dreaming of dals and spice blends and techniques again… this is good. :)
And my first recipe from More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts was the caramel popcorn, which is essentially cracker jacks and toasty-crisp-sweet-YUM. I might use peanuts instead next time instead of sunflower seeds, but hey, it’s so easy and good I’ll probably be whipping up a batch for thanksgiving nibbles next week.
Yeah… can you believe that we’re hosting thanksgiving for both our families in our TINY apartment? MINISCULE apartment. 15 people? We’ll see how this madness goes… my mother is already lamenting the lack of turkey (she won’t after we’re through, though!).
………….. 15 people. X_x
This stuff is weird city, but I’ve pretty much fallen in love with “wet bean curd” now. I thought it was going to be spicy tofu in a jar, and for $1 I had to give it a try, but I got it home and it’s not tofu… exactly. It smells like briney blue cheese and the cubes inside are almost like… melted brie in consistency. So it’s kind of like cheese, but also a heck of a lot saltier and pungent-ier and I had absolutely no idea what to do with it (besides get kinda hooked on eating small bits of it with a spoon).
oil for frying
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1 bunch of ong choy/chinese water spinach, rinsed and cut into long sticks (separate the leaves and stems)
2-3 cubes fermented tofu
* Heat the oil in a heavy skillet or a wok on high heat. Add the ginger/garlic and cook for about a minute.
* Add the spinach stems and cook for maybe 2-3 minutes, then add the leaves, and cook until they’re just barely wilted.
* Make a bare spot in the middle of the pan and mash in the bean cubes, then toss to coat everything. Serve whilst hot and juicy!
And if it’s just you… well then eat the whole pan with chopsticks and a big grin, and then have peanut-brittly-rice-caked-bottom-y candy things for dessert and revel in the not having to impress dinner guests and/or represent all major food groups in one sitting. woo!
So I rolled in on the bus late last night, perky for some reason, humming inaudibly to myself for most of the trip (Dr Worm by They Might Be Giants for anyone who’s curious. It’s catchy!). I didn’t even nap like I usually do. And it’s probably a good thing the trip itself was easy, because I came home to a mailbox full of mysterious bills written all in french for exorbitant amounts with weird phone numbers attached and a kitchen that would make pigpen blush. *sigh*
It’s times like this I should (well, okay, start some administrative detective work, and yes, I am on hold right now) pore over probably my last fun grocery splurges for a little while. A few days before I left I went to the Kowloon market in Ottawa’s chinatown and found scads and piles of fascinating dried things, powders, pickles, extracts, roots, sodas and noodles, beans and seeds and instant desserts with happy fruits on them, cakes and canisters and flakes, oh my!
I also ducked into a middle eastern bakery and picked up the sumac and harissa you see right there at the front of all the treasure. The rest of it is (clockwise from the jackfruit can), green jackfruit, mochi cakes, licorice dried plums, mung bean noodles, the cool rice-noodle-thingers I loved at the Green Door (the package says to let them soak for 12 hours — we’ll see how that goes), spicy pickled turnips, black sesame seeds, and YES a big stick of agar! Weehee. I can make lemon bars now, and any manner of fiddly cupcake devices, I’m excited.
Total: a little under $15
And being in Ottawa I had to replenish my spices at my favourite bulk bin health place. When I first started cooking I couldn’t fathom the idea of tossing out spices after a year, I just couldn’t understand how that wouldn’t waste anything. And then I noticed my thyme canister was down a few teaspoons and I got simultaneously proud and concerned about my next quiche. Kardish is great for this kind of thing – I got basil, thyme, oregano, dill seed, ground and whole coriander, ground cardamom and cumin, aniseed, cinnamon sticks, kelp powder, mustard powder, onion powder, tons of paprika, white pepper, fennel, caraway and cream of tartar.
Total: $4.28 <—– (why I shop at Kardish)
The mochi was one of those pure experiential purchases. Having never tried it I didn’t waste much time breaking into that package and inspecting the chewy little blobs within. I was surprised to find them all filled with pastes (and pleased, at first, to find this), and the three flavours were pretty obviously sesame, peanut butter, and plain white with red bean.
I’m not sure if this was just low quality mochi, and it probably was, but I wasn’t totally bowled over by the stuff. The peanut butter was especially tasteless and UN-nutty, and the sesame was aromatic and crunchy but not much better. The plain white was without question my favourite, and I discovered that eating the paste first and *then* the plain mochi was definitely the way to go. But all in all I’ll leave this stuff to the macrobiotic crowd (actually, these ones did have sugar, so maybe I got the candy-style kind, I don’t know). They were really really fun to poke!
So in the interim I’ve hung up the phone, the musak even stopped playing. Time to put on pants, knock on some doors and squeeze my culinary dreams into whatever a bag of rice and the contents of my pantry can bring me. I have sumptuous photos from the rest of my trip to blog about after I get some work done, and hey, I actually love steamed rice and brown veggies (*guffaw*), so I’ll-a be fine.
And I DO have agar. Rawr!!
there’s good news and bad news.
the bad news is, I am hungover and drinking black-as-night-coffee with sweetener in it because that’s my remedy for feeling like my organs have turned to metal. but the good news is that I had the BEST DINNER ever last night. EVER.
See, my sister works at the neat-o Wheat Berry (where I used to work, actually), and they had their christmas party yesterday at the also neat-o Green Door restaurant – complete with free food! No more paying by weight for some seriously delectable foodstuffs. I had a plate full of sesame-oiled-kale-squash, and greek rice cabbage rolls, vegan fig bars, all sorts of beans, peanut satay whatnot, crispy-tender sourdough with little seeds in it, these awesome chewy noodle thingers with seaweed in them, more fig bars. Tapenade. Salsa. Punch with organic berries in it (and alcohol besides)! I missed the apple pie, but there was apple pie there, too. Lordy, it was fabulous.
I made some truffles. They’re on the ooey-gooey side, but they taste really good. And not bad for about 10 minutes of work. There’s kind of a recipe? But also kind of not, so here’s a list of ingredients I was throwing around —
150 grams of dark chocolate (chopped really finely)
2/3 cup almond milk (or less)
2 tbsp soy milk powder
2 tbsp margarine
3 tbsp canadian whiskey
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp icing sugar (maybe)
1 tbsp cocoa powder (sort of)
pinch of salt
* heat the milk, milk powder and margarine almost to boiling, then add the chocolate, remove from heat and let it sit for a minute.
* stir to melt the chocolate, add the rest of the ingredients (probably add more icing sugar or cocoa powder than I did at this point, to make the truffles firmer.)
* move to a container, let it cool to room temp, cover with plastic and chill overnight
* when it’s cold, dish out little truffle-balls and roll them in…………
cocoa powder, roasted chopped nuts, icing sugar, more melted chocolate, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, matcha powder, cookie crumbs, sprinkles probably, crushed candies, other stuff. I used hazelnuts (mmmmmmm).
oh yeah! and don’t bother buying paper candy cups if you don’t want to — little rounds cut out of wrapping paper are pretty cute. just squash the paper circles on the top of a bottle of soda – presto custom paper-cup!
(the egg carton is less posh. but hey, it was just for my friends, they don’t care. ^_^)
I never ate these as a kid. I’m vaguely aware that versions of these (toxic pink, brittle and oily) exist and probably still roam bake sales and birthday parties to the delight of sweet-toothed urchins everywhere. But I like popcorn, and I like sugar, so I figured they would probably taste good if I took matters into my own hands. I modified the Shmooed Food recipe slightly, and left them plain because I didn’t have any dried fruit/nuts around that didn’t scream “health food alert!!!”, and they were super just the way they were, tossed in a mandarin box and brought to Ze Ladies Crafting Day (and munched happily by all there). Very caramel-y!
12 cups air-popped popcorn (about 1/2 cup unpopped)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup syrup of your choice (brown rice, corn… I used corn b-cause I’m poor)
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
oil (for forming the balls)
1. Pop the corns. Eat some corns to get in the mood. Put 12 cups of the corns into a metal pot/bowl and stick them in a warm oven.
2. Bring the syrup, sugar, water and salt to boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Once it boils, turn down the heat and maintain that boil until the temperature reaches 250-270 degrees (lower for chewy/higher for crispy). A candy thermometre is nice for this, but you can also drop a bit of the sugar into a glass of ice-cold water – if it turns into a firm or hard ball, you’re good to go. (this took me about 20 minutes, but I’m a weeny with magmic pots of sugar and I kept the heat low).
3. Once the sugar is at the right temperature, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Take the corns out of the oven, drizzle the syrup over top and STIR STIR STIR with a wooden spoon to coat every kernel.
4. Oil your hands and form the sticky goodness into as many balls as you like. I got 22.
5. Scrape the extra syrupy popcorn out of the bowl and eat it! mmmm.