Archives for the month of: January, 2015

mr vague research

“We won’t get 101 recipes together” lamented Mouse. “We are already scraping the bottom of the barrel with our left-over recipes.”

“I have another one” called Mr Vague. “At least I think it is different.”

Mouse was surprised, as Mr Vague never puts his hand up for anything. Besides, the kitchen is not his favourite place. He prefers to sit on the garden fence and watch the world go by, waiting for a better day. This time he seemed keen to participate. As he lacked his own ideas he combed through old recipe books looking for an easy-to-make bread. Sure enough, he found a toast bread that was as plain as himself. He believes old equals trusted so he expected a good result. But when he tasted the finished product he really didn’t like it much. Disappointed, he chucked it in the chicken bin. Witch was furious when she saw the wasted bread.

“It can’t be that bad,” she said “What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s too buttery” Mr Vague answered meekly. “And you can’t toast it. It’s too crumbly, it falls apart” he added. Witch looked at the book and saw immediately what the mistake in the recipe was. It is a yeast dough and it has to rise twice, but the book only mentioned it once. “And 90 grams of butter, yes, you are right, that is a bit much. Just use less.”

“I am not doing it again” said Mr Vague and went to leave for the garden. “Yes you are,” insisted Witch. “Otherwise you will think you can’t bake, but in truth it was the recipe that was wrong.”

Reluctantly Mr Vague got all the ingredients out and tried again. “Knead thoroughly and give it time to rise” Witch said, when she left him to it. Indeed, she was right, the bread worked perfectly this time.

Mr vague unveiling

Ingredients

6 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of dry yeast, 2 cups of warm milk (or milk and water), 1 tablespoon of butter. Milk to brush on the surface.

You also need a non-stick loaf pan (or a loaf pan and baking paper)

Method

Pour flour into a bowl, make a well in the middle, add half the liquid and the dry yeast. Let it sit for 20 minutes until the yeast is sloshy. Stir the liquid into the flour and transfer to a flat surface. Knead everything to an elastic dough while adding the rest of the liquid. Knead for five minutes, then put the dough back into the bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Let it rise in a warm place for one to two hours.

Preheat oven to 180 0C

Knead again and place in a baking tray (lined with baking paper if it isn’t non-stick). Let it rest again until the dough has risen to twice its size. Brush milk on the surface and bake for 1 hour.

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french toast court jester

“I have a good one” called Court Jester “if you want to give stale bead a second life!” He was preparing something on the stove top and delicious smells eminated from the pan. Mouse went over to have a look. “Ah she said “I know that one, it’s French toast, isn’t it?” Court Jester nodded affirmatively.

“Not so much my thing” said Mouse, “but I know a few people who love it”

“Including me” said Court Jester and transferred the finished toast onto a plate. He couldn’t help to grin in anticiapation. Mouse looked at the recipe. “My one is slightly different. You coat it with bread crumbs, after you soaked it in the egg/milk mixture.”

“This doesn’t sound right to me.” remarked Court Jester “I like my recipe as it is”  and he had a first big bite.

Ingredients

4 slices of slightly stale bread, 2 eggs, ½ cup milk, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, Butter

Method

In a bowl big enough to accommodate the size of bread your are using, whisk together the eggs, milk, and cinnamon. Place each slice of bread into the mixture and allow the bread to soak up some of it. Make sure it doesn’t get too soggy.

Melt butter in a large pan over medium high heat. Shake off the excess, and place the bread slices in the pan. Fry until it is browned on one side, then flip and brown the other side.

Serve hot with butter, honey, jam or fresh berries.

 

boss man croutons

“We should have a section on what to do with left-overs!” Devil suggested. Mouse had mentioned yesterday that she chucks her left-over bread in the blender to make bread crumbs. Bread dumplings, too, give stale bread a delicious second life. Today Calamity came forward and said she finds the recipes too difficult as she is a catastrophy in the kitchen. But she can use her left over bread to make croutons. That is easy enough. These little toasted bread pieces are lovely to sprinkle over a salad or put in soups for a crunchy extra. It is so easy she doesn’t even need a recipe and simply told Mouse “Just cut the stale bread up into little squares, heat up some butter in a pan, add the bread pieces and toss and turn them until they have a nice brown colour and smell delicious. Let them cool as they are soft when they are warm and only go crunchy when cooled.”

“No, no, no” cried Boss Man who is of the opinion Calamity can’t do anything right. “That’s not how you make croutons.” He pushed Calamity to the side. “You heat the oven to 1800C. Melt the butter in a ramekin in the oven. When the butter is melted, brush it on both sides of the stale bread, cut the bread up into little pieces and place on a baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes or until nicely browned.” He looked expectantly at Mouse and asked, “So, which recipe do you think is better?”

Mouse didn’t want to favour anyone and said “The one on the stove top might soak up more butter, but you know, when you don’t have an oven, what can you do?”

“Who in this day and age doesn’t have an oven?” asked Boss Man.

alien bread dumpling

“You Germans have some strange recipes” commented Alien. “When I was there they served me bread dumplings. Can you believe it? Dumplings made from bread!”

“Why, what’s so strange about that?” asked Deutsch Fraulein defensively. “We don’t want anything to go to waste.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Mouse who couldn’t quite follow. Deutsch Fraulein turned around and explained that there is a recipe that uses left over buns, egg and milk to make dumplings. They are great to have with a creamy sauce, like mushrooms in sour cream.

“To be honest” said Alien “I quite liked them. I even asked for the recipe. I just thought it is a strange idea.” He handed Mouse his notes.

Mouse looked at it for while and said, “Technically it is not a flour and water recipe.” she handed the recipe back. “But buns are made from flour and water, aren’t they?” asked Alien.

“Yes, but there are also onions in it. And onions were never on the ingredient list”

“If you must, just leave them out. But who doesn’t have onions in their pantry?”

“We are stretching it a bit, but okay then.”

Deutsch Fraulein piped up. ”These dumplings are basically made from reconstituted stale bread. If you want to make them, don’t throw out your left over buns or feed them to the chickens. Instead, cut them into thin slices while they are still a little soft and let the slices dry. Once the buns are hard, cutting them becomes more difficult, though it can be done.”

“You can also use toast bread instead of buns” said Alien. “To be honest, I even use normal loaves if they go stale. Sometimes if I’ve had enough of bread, half a loaf would otherwise go to waste.

“I just chuck my left over bread in the blender” said Mouse “to make bread crumbs. But I should try your recipe next time.”

Ingredients (for four dumplings)

4 dry buns, ½ a cup of warm milk, 1 egg, 1/2 onion (salt, nutmeg to season is optional)

Note: if the buns are not totally dry, add less milk.

Method

Cut the buns into thin slices, put in a large bowl and add some of the warm milk. Let it soak to allow the bread to become moist (but not soggy). When the milk has cooled down mix the the bread with your hands. The pieces should be well wetted and stick together. If there are dry bits in it, add more milk. If the mixture is too soggy, press out the superflous milk and throw away. Chop the onion into small pieces and add to the bread mixture. Add the egg. Mix thoroughly and form dumplings.

Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the dumplings. Let them simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.

If you have bread dumplings left over, you can eat them the next day with vinegar and oil, like a salad.

deutsch Fraulein potato press2

“Yesterday you said all the recipes are easy” called Deutsch Fraulein. “But I know one that is difficult to master.” Mouse looked at her expectantly and asked, “Made of flour, water and egg? I find that hard to believe!”

“Yes, precisely,” answered Deutsch Fraulein. “Where I come from we eat soft noodles called Spaetzle. They are fantastic with lentils for a cheap and healthy meal. As they are very porous they love to swim in sauce. They soak it up.” She gave Mouse the recipe. Mouse read it and looked very confused. “Yes,” said Deutsch Fraulein “they are a bit messy to make as the batter is very soft and it is best if you have a potato press. It’s even better if you have an experienced person to show you how it’s done.” The difficulty with this recipe is in getting the texture of the batter right. It can’t be too thin or too thick. But when it works, they are delicious.

“There is also salt in it” Mouse pointed out. “Do we need this? You know some of us have be careful with our blood pressure.”

“Yeah” said Deutsch Fraulein. “I would put it in. I personally find them a bit bland otherwise. But isn’t it the same with sugar? When you do so much home cooking, you cut out all the salt that’s in processed food, so this bit little won’t hurt, right?”

“I guess so” said Mouse. She still wasn’t sure whether a difficult recipe should be included, but then, who doesn’t like a challenge? “Apart from lentils, what else can you have with these soft noodles?”

Deutsch Fraulein’s eyes lit up and she explained that Spaetzle can be used as condiment for any dish that would go with pasta, though it’s best if the dish has a thick sauce. For a very cheap and filling meal, fry chopped onions in a good helping of butter and add breadcrumbs. Fry until the bread crumbs are saturated with butter and smell nicely toasted. Pour over the Spaetzle.

Or place a layer of Spaetzle in an oven-proof dish, cover with grated cheese, add another layer of Spaetzle and another layer of cheese. Bake at 2000 C until the cheese has melted.

In the end, Deutsch Fraulein said “I strongly recommend a huge side salad with these meals! Never forget to eat your greens!”

Ingredients (for 2 people)

1 cup of flour, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon of salt, scant cup of water.

You also need either a thin wooden cutting board and a long knife or a potato press with medium sized holes or a colander and a spatula.

Method

Pour flour into a bowl. Add the salt. With a wooden spoon stir in the water little by little. Just enough so it feels and looks like a very stodgy porridge. Stir in the egg and then use the wooden spoon to beat the hell out of the batter. Beat it until it comes away easily from the side of the bowl and little air bubbles rise to the surface when you stop beating.

Let the batter rest for half an hour. In the meantime you can prepare the lentils or whatever you want to eat with your Spaetzle.

Prepare a bowl with cold water to spoon the finished Spaetzle into and bring a big pot of water (at least 2 liters) to the boil. The Spaetzle love space.

Now the tricky part starts. If you have no other utensils, use a thin wooden board. Wet it with water and smear the batter on the board. Use a long knife and slice off a piece of batter and push it into the hot water. Continue until all the batter is in the water. The process is much easier and faster if you have a potato press with medium sized holes. Just fill the press with the batter and press into the boiling water. (But make sure you move the press in a circular motion over the pot while pressing to avoid dropping all the batter in the same spot in the pot. If this happens you will end up having one doughy blob instead of noodles). The third option is to fill a colander with the batter, hold it over the pot, and with the spatula force the batter through the holes into the water below. With the last option you will end up with short Spaetzle.

The batter sinks to the bottom of the pot and the noodles are done when they float back to the top. This won’t take long at all. Scoop the finished Spaetzle out of the pot with as slotted spoon and put it into the bowl of cold water you prepared earlier. Then spoon them onto a warm plate and they are done. Make sure you shake the water off well.

If they get too cold you can reheat them in a skillet with a little butter.

mouse devil eggs

“I would go for pasta without eggs anytime” said Evan G List, the vegan. “How can you possibly eat animal products when so many Dedes are animals?”

“Well…” Mouse felt uncomfortable. She understood Evan’s point of view but felt like she was put on the spot.

“Look” said Devil, who calls a spade a spade, coming to her aid. “We have the chickens in the backyard because there is too much weed and they love to eat it. In return they produce chicken poop, which is a brilliant fertiliser for the vege garden. It happens that they also lay eggs. Shall we throw those out, or what?”

“No, of course not. But you shouldn’t have chickens in the first place!”

“Then we would need to go and buy fertiliser. Who knows how that is produced. Sorry, that doesn’t make sense to me.”

Mouse does a wonderful job. All the food scraps go either into the worm bin or in the chicken trough. And what either of them produces from their food, goes on to nourish the soil in the vege garden. We eat the veges and produce scraps. It is a perfect cycle.

“But you don’t have a cow. And you use milk and butter!” Evan said triumphantly.

“Yes, you’re right, we’ve made a choice. Our mantra is everything in moderation.” Devil didn’t want to get into an argument. There are some things you just can’t argue about. (By the way, in New Zealand all cows are grass fed and outside all year round. However, there are far too many for the environment.)

Mouse turned to Devil and said, “I think we need some sort of summary about what we are actually doing here. Can you succinctly describe the reason for our recipe collection?”

Devil didn’t need time to think. “There are two goals, remember. Firstly, if you buy these staple foods in the shops, they are highly processed and contain too much sugar and salt, as well as flavour enhancers and additives to extend their shelf-life. Secondly, they are overpriced in my opinion. Well, maybe not too overpriced, as the processing certainly costs money. We just want to show everyone that you can make staple foods much cheaper and healthier at home. The recipes aren’t too difficult or time consuming. ”

Mouse said “Yeah right, now I remember. The idea was conceived when you lost your job, wasn’t it? You didn’t get out of bed and moped about because you had nothing to do and no money” Devil didn’t want to be reminded as it was a sad time for him, but Mouse was right. It was the creative L’Artiste who suggested they should write a book called The Artist’s survival cookbook or 101 recipes with flour and water. He knows a thing or two about living on the breadline. Mouse was excited that all the Dedes were working together to make it happen, even though the bulk of the work landed on her. Again! She doesn’t mind. “It’s coming together nicely” she said. “But we need a full Dede meeting to get ideas on how to take it further.” Mouse is a good administrator, but creativity is not one of her strengths.

 

Mouse pasta

“Enough of the sweet stuff” Mouse squealed. “Have you noticed we haven’t even published our staple food?” She looked at the recipe list in disbelieve.

“What would that be?” asked Devil looking over her shoulder trying to glimpse what’s been published so far.

“Pasta” replied Mouse.

“But we had pasta! Remember? Right at the beginning.”

“Yes, but that was no egg pasta. Now that we have started using eggs we can finally make our famous egg pasta public”

Egg pasta is such a common thing for the Dedes they nearly forgot about it. It only takes them 5 minutes to make, though they do have a pasta machine. Mouse demonstrated and took a picture of the dough before and after using the pasta machine. You can use different flours such as wholemeal or spelt, or mix some buckwheat with normal flour. Anything. Once you know what the dough should look and feel like it is easy to add other ingredients.

dough noodle machine

Ingredients

1 cup of flour, 1 large egg, dash of water

Method

Knead all the ingredients together to form an elastic ball. Only add water if necessary and only enough for the dough to stick together. It should not be sticky at all, but rather dry. Divide into two, roll out with a rolling-pin. Fold over, roll out again, fold over, roll out again, fold over…. you get the picture. This is the part where the pasta machine comes in handy. You have to repeat the procedure until you have a very smooth piece of dough (pictured above). With the machine, you just wind it through, fold over and wind it through again. Once the dough has the right consistency you will have to roll it out as thin as possible. With the machine you wind it through, increase the pressure by one notch and wind it through again until you have the desired thickness. Cut the dough into strips and hang up to dry. You can place a clean tea towel over the back of a chair and place the dough strips on the tea towel, or you can hang it up on a pasta drying rack.

Bring a pot of water to the boil and while you are waiting for that prepare the sauce you want to have with your pasta.

When the water is boiling place pasta in the water and cook for 5 to 7 minutes.

Mouse’s favourite dish is pasta doused with garlic and chillies fried in olive oil. Simple, but yummy.

 

king crumpets

All the Dedes gathered in the kitchen to try the sweeter stuff that was currently on offer. King tried a bit of this and a bit of that but nothing seemed to satisfy his tastebuds. “You know” he said, “when I was a little prince, we had crumpets as a special treat for breakfast.”

“Crumpets? What’s that?” asked Deutsch Fraulein.

“I don’t know what they’re made of” said King. “It must be more than flour and water. I remember them as the most delicious Sunday breakfast” He paused for a while and everyone could see that in his mind’s eye he was being served a tower of delicious crumpets by his butler. “They are very similar to American pancakes but definitely not the same. They are really spongy with a honeycomb surface that soaks up any topping” he concluded.

“What do you have them with?”

“Butter or cream cheese and jam.”

Liar, who is a bit of a snob and pretends to be from a posh family, stepped forward and said, “I know how to make crumpets. And they do fit the profile.” He told the others that crumpets are a rather strange combination of a yeast dough and a baking soda batter. Like pancakes, they are baked on the stove top but they don’t contain eggs.

“Now that sounds interesting” said Mouse. “I definitely want to have that recipe!”

“As with any yeast dough they do take a little while to make, so they are good for a Sunday brunch rather than for everyday breakfast,” Liar explained as he handed over his recipe. “But you can make lots and put them in the fridge, and reheat them in the toaster over the next few days.

Ingredients

1½ cups flour, ½ cup hot water and ½ cup milk, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 2 teaspoons dry yeast. ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ cup of warm water. Butter for the pan.

Place the flour in a bowl. Make a well in the middle. Mix hot water and milk to create a lukewarm liquid (if necessary heat it up a little) and pour into the well. Add sugar and yeast. Leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes until it is sloshy.

Mix yeast with flour until it becomes a soft dough. It’s best done with your hands, though it is really sticky. The texture is more like a very thick pancake mix than a bread dough. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and put in a warm place to rise for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Dissolve the baking soda in warm water and stir into the yeast dough. It doesn’t combine easily, you need to be persistent. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

The batter is soft and won’t keep it’s shape well when placed in the frying pan. If you have some egg rings for poached eggs, they are ideal for containing the batter and make the crumpets nice and round. If you don’t have egg rings, you can cut a clean tomato tin up into rings (make sure there are no sharp egdges that can cut you). Grease the rings and place them in a frying pan. If you aren’t fussed about getting the perfect circular shape you don’t need to use rings :)

Fill each ring with some batter. The batter will rise while cooking and the crumpet dries from the bottom up. Bubbles come to the surface and pop, which gives the crumpets their distinct honeycomb surface. At this stage remove the ring, flip the crumpet over to cook the other side for a minute or so.

You can eat them immediately, or cool on a wire rack and reheat in the toaster later. If you eat them straight from the pan you don’t even need a topping.

“Only a King, with servants, could crave for crumpets.” Deutsch Fraulein said, after she had read the recipe. “No-one else would go to all that trouble.” After she had sampled them, she changed her mind.

foxy lady muffins2

Push Push appreciated that Nosy Neighbour had simply left the sugar out when he made American pancakes (or piklets, the name she knew them by). She never would have dared to alter the recipe, but he was right, it didn’t change the texture at all. She devoured them with a topping of mixed fruit and yoghurt rather than jam. Nosy Neighbour told her that when he was in America he ate them with real maple syrup, but this is far too expensive here. “And the production of maple syrup is environmentally questionable” added Foxy Lady who was passing by. She glanced at Nosy Neigbour’s recipe and said, “Blimey! That looks very similar to my muffin recipe, except there is less liquid in my muffins and they’re baked in a muffin tray in the oven.”

Push Push pricked her ears up as she loves muffins too, though like every other elephant she has to watch her weight. So can’t have them too often. “Can you simply leave out the sugar in muffins as well?” she asked excitedly.

“If you want to have them sweet and not savoury, it’s not that easy. With pancakes you have sweet toppings, so you don’t realise where the sweetness comes from. But you usually eat muffins without anything on them, so the sweetness needs to be inside. However, if you want to avoid sugar you can replace it by mashing up a banana or two and mixing them into the batter. They are sweet and you also get some vitamins and additional flavour.”

“We don’t want to have sugary recipes” said Mouse “When I eat refined sugar, my joints hurt.”

“Everything in moderation” answered Foxy Lady. “You are right, sugar is poison for the body as it depletes it of vitamins and has absolutly no nutritional value. But with your home cooking at least you know how much sugar you put into your food. Half a cup of sugar in eight muffins that you share around won’t hurt. That’s less than what’s in a glass of the fizzy drink people like so much!”

“Come on then.” Mouse held her hand out to Foxy Lady. “Give me your muffin recipe.”

As Foxy Lady handed over the sheet of paper she explained the importance of thoroughly mixing all the dry ingredients in one bowl and all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Once the content of the two bowls are combined you need to work fast and resist stirring too much.

“Yes,” confirmed Mouse. Professor already explained why when he did his scones.”

While Foxy Lady’s recipe was for simple plain muffins, she admitted she never makes the plain ones. She adds all sorts of things she finds in the cupboard to the dry mix, like cocoa or a pinch of chilli pepper and a dash of ground allspice. When she leaves out the sugar and adds banana or other fruit instead, it has to be added to the wet mixture. “I hope it all makes sense and it gives you an idea about what you can try to suit your own taste” said Foxy Lady finishing her speech.

“If you have never made muffins before, make the simple ones first” recommended Mouse. “And when you know what the batter should look and feel like, you can start replacing and adding.”

To make it easier to get the muffins out of the muffin tray in one piece, Foxy Lady places folded up squares of baking paper in the tray first.

Ingredients

2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda, half a cup of sugar, 1 cup of milk (or mixture of water and milk), 1 egg, 20g melted butter. Baking paper.

Method

Preheat the oven to 2200C. Place a ramekin with the butter in the oven and it will melt nicely while you mix the other ingredients.

Line the muffin tray with baking paper.

Place all the dry ingredients in a big bowl and mix well using a fork. (The bowl must be big enough to accommodate the wet ingedients later as well)

In a different bowl, whisk the egg lightly, mix in the milk and finally stir in the melted butter.

Then pour the wet ingredients into the bowl that contains the dry ingredients and mix it with a few turns of the spoon. Make sure all the dry ingredients are wetted through without overdoing it. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tray. Fill each mould up 2/3. The muffins will rise when baking.

Bake in the oven for 20 Minutes.

american pancakes

“These aren’t pancakes” Nosy Neighbour shook his head in disgust after he tried what Push Push called the best pancakes ever. She has refined them with a savoury topping made from mixed garden vegetables in sour cream. “Pancakes need to be fluffy and light and smaller. And you have them for breakfast, not dinner, with lashings of honey or butter.”

“No you don’t” Push Push huffed. “They should be a light healthy base for a quality topping. Not some unhealthy sponge without nutritional value that might fill you up but doesn’t sustain you.

“You can’t be good all the time. You have to have some fun and eat comfort food. Life is too short!” retorted Nosy Neighbour. Mouse reminded them they should be open minded about each others recipes. There is no right and wrong. “Have you ever tried American pancakes?” asked Nosy Neighbour now. Poor Push Push turned scarlett as she had to admit she hadn’t.

“I’ll make you some” offered Nosy Neighbour kindly “and because you want to be healthy I’ll make them without sugar. Sugar just adds sweetness, but doesn’t make a difference to the texture.”

Ingredients

1 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, (1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of caster sugar if you want), 1 cup of milk, 2 tablespoons of melted butter and 1 lightly beaten egg. Oil or butter for the pan.

Method

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar) in a large bowl. In a separate bowl lightly whisk together the milk and egg, then stir in the melted butter. (I melt the butter in the pan I use for baking later. This saves on dishes)

Pour the runny mixture into the dry mixture and stir with a fork until you have a smooth batter. Make sure there are no lumps. Let the batter stand for a few minutes.

Heat a pan and melt a little butter or oil over a medium heat. When it is hot, add a ladle of batter (or two if there is enough space for two pancakes at once). It should be a thickish blob which will rise further due to the baking powder. When the top of the pancake begins to bubble, turn it over and cook until both sides are golden brown and the pancake has risen to about 1cm thickness.

They taste best fresh out the pan.

Push Push was surprised to find out she actually had eaten them before, but where she comes from they are called piklets and she always loved them.