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Run ragged with ragù

Apologies for the lateness of this week’s post — I’ve been seeing a strange phenomenon recently, with the WP login screen not loading properly. Only on Monday evenings (my usual posting time) at first, but this week it’s started happening on Tuesday evenings as well. Weird…

Anyways, on to this week’s recipe! Mushroom and lentil ragù — although the recipe allowed for the substitution of quorn in place of lentils, which is good because lentils tend not to agree with me… I also used a whole celery heart rather than just a couple of sticks, because I’d found said heart on yellow-label and didn’t want it to go to waste.

It turned out pretty well overall, although the flavour felt a bit pallid — I suspect that this is due to a combination of the large amount of celery I used, as well as my having tipped the quorn mince, still frozen, straight into the sauce from the packet (thus adding extra water in the form of accumulated frost). The absence of meat and meat fats may also have been a factor, but that would defeat the object of this being a low-calorie vegetarian recipe! This does indicate a need for much experimentation and testing 😉

Pie? Load a’ cobblers!

This week’s recipe was mushroom, leek and chestnut pie — an interesting combination.

Owing to a slight mishap when constructing the potato pastry for the crust — I forgot to add the milk — I ended up putting the pastry over the filling in blodges, as in a cobbler. It worked pretty well, I’d say ^^

The filling was pretty good too — good creamy texture to the sauce/gravy, and the mushrooms and leeks were very satisfying. The chestnuts added a good crunchy texture to the dish and helped to bulk things out further.

I did my usual trick of adding the rinsings of empty jam and chutney jars to the stock, but I might have overdone it this time — I’m not sure the flavours of mixed fruit jam and mango chutney really go together. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing learned ^^

Bathing bread in flavour

Pan bagnat — ‘bathed bread’ — was this week’s recipe, a pleasant Provençal sandwich to match the continuing heatwave.

Owing to a lack of ciabatta rolls, I used basic pre-sliced wholemeal bread — I don’t think this influenced the final flavour negatively. I would have used the rye bread I made last Friday, but that ended up spreading out from the oval shape I put it into the oven as (between the sugar and the heat, the yeast was VERY lively) so the shape was a little flat for my purposes). The use of wholemeal bread also obviated a concern I had about the recipe as printed, which instructed the scooping out of most of the bread from each half of each ciabatta roll, leaving a crusty shell and a pile of breadcrumbs for use in some future recipe. My main worry about this was that the crust alone would nit possess the structural integrity to hold the filling without falling apart, especially as the quantity of filling is quite generous. Using some decently sturdy wholemeal slices sidestepped this nicely 🙂

The sandwiches themselves were delicious! The recipe says that pan bagnat tastes even better when kept for a few hours than it does fresh, and experience bears this out — the raw red onion can be a tad powerful in the fresh sandwich, especially in conjunction with the tomatoes and the vinaigrette-style dressing. Twenty minutes’ pressing (ten each side) and a night in the fridge, wrapped in foil, helped mellow things out nicely 🙂

I’ll definitely make this again, but I might leave out the step of rubbing the bread with the cut side of a garlic clove before assembling the sandwich. It was a bit fiddly and didn’t seem to add anything to the overall flavour. I suppose it could be replaced with a small quantity of garlic purée, though…

Some topping tofu

The weather’s swung right back around to warmth, so it’s back to lightness for meals! This week’s recipe: Tofu BLT

This is a rather ingenious little Hairy Dieters idea: firm tofu marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, maple syrup, mustard and chipotle paste as a substitute for bacon. I like it 🙂 I used a cylindrical block of egg tofu, in the spirit of experimentation, rather than my usual carton of firm tofu. It worked out pretty well, actually — the egg tofu is a bit cheaper, it holds together much better than my usual stuff, it takes up the marinade much more readily (I let the tofu sit in the marinade for a few hours in the fridge, so as to be sure) and is considerably easier to remove from the packaging. Plus, it tastes a little like scrambled eggs 🙂

The tofu fried reasonably well in a very small amount of oil; there wasn’t much change in texture, apart from a sight crisping around the edges (though that might be due in part to my having sliced it rather thickly), but it didn’t stick to the pan and didn’t fall apart when nudged or turned with the spatula. The marinade which made it into the frying pan caramelised rather nicely and I was able to scrape it up and add it to the sandwich fairly easily. The maple syrup/chipotle paste combination, with its sweet/fiery flavour blend, added a very pleasant edge to the dish. I furthered the effect by drizzling the marinade remaining on the tofu plate over the slices of bread before assembling the sandwich.

In conclusion, while marinated tofu can never truly replace bacon, in either flavour or texture, the TLT is a good, light alternative suitable for lunches or light suppers on warm summer days 🙂

An Interview with Philosopher Robin Zheng

The Philosopher's Eye

Interview conducted by Jacquelyn Kelley

In her article, “Precarity is a Feminist Issue: Gender and Contingent Labor in the Academy,” Robin Zheng establishes that two common myths—“the myth of meritocracy” and “the myth of work as its own reward”—not only reinforce the academic job crisis but also have gendered origins, ultimately allowing gender stereotypes and job insecurity to reinforce one another within the discipline of Philosophy.

Published in the Spring 2018 issue of Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, Zheng’s research was first presented at the 2016 SWIP UK Conference followed by the 2017 Joint Session at the University of Edinburgh.

Her article was cited by the Australasian Association of Philosophy’s Committee for the Status of Women in Philosophy in their Statement on Insecure Work, and has received notable recognition and praise on social media.

Zheng holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Michigan…

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Sifnos, island of cooks and potters.

Diane Seed

We are just home from our 2018 Greek Adventure in Sifnos.

Over the years I had enjoyed many family holidays in Sifnos, at sleepy Vathi where the road stops behind the beach, and the small church and tavernas can only be accessed by sea, or a trudge along the sand.One year, irritated by a work companion who lamented the absence of steaks and hamburgers, I sat alone at Manolis,  enjoying once more Margarita’s delicious filo pie, tsasiki and saganaki, and reflected it was more fun to travel with my cooking school students. After a few glasses of local white wine my mind became clear, and my Greek Idyll was born.

I took small groups to Vathi where we swam, relaxed and cooked for a few hours most days in the local tavernas. We eventually moved on to Symi, in the Dodecanese, where we grew lazier and the lure of the…

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Pastie pasttimes

The weather’s cooled noticeably in the past few days, so it seemed appropriate to work up some hearty(-ish) cold-weather fare — veggie pasties!

Being a Hairy Dieters recipe, the pastry for the pasties was potato pastry — made with 275g cold mashed potato to every 80g flour and 40g butter. It’s interesting stuff to work with — it holds together pretty well and chilling in the fridge works to firm it up if you only leave it there for an hour or so, but leaving it for four or more hours as I did is liable to make it go a bit soggy/sticky. Careful application of flour to implements, hands, pastry and working surfaces should help counteract this, though.

When cooked, the pastry had the texture of smooth mashed potato under the crispy outer layer (though it firms up nicely once the pasties are cooled and kept in the fridge for a bit). This did throw me somewhat — I instinctively expected more of an all-flour-pastry feel and initially thought the pasties hadn’t cooked properly. That proved incorrect, though 🙂

Filling-wise, the recipe called for 100g each of swede and celeriac in addition to the onion, but I used equivalent quantities of carrot and potato (both finely diced) instead, for reasons of expense and serious dislike of celeriac. It worked pretty well, and the potato/onion/carrot combination is absolutely traditional for the Marazion area of Cornwall, so I feel perfectly justified in making this particular substitution.

The pasties themselves turned out well, although they were more erratic-lump-shaped than pastie-shaped… Practice makes perfect, I guess. Also, they took rather less time to cook than stated in the recipe, which instructs for 45 minutes at 200C. As it turned out, some quirk of ingredient quantities and preparation combined with the thinness of my rolled-out pastry meant that 30 minutes on a high shelf at 180C proved perfectly sufficient. A nice little saving on electricity!

I got 8 pasties out of the recipe, which means I have plenty in the freezer for emergencies 🙂

More salad

Noodle salad this week, since it’s still very much salad weather 🙂

I made a few tweaks to the recipe, I have to admit — leaving out the red pepper and carrot (because the recipe instructed that they be used raw, and I can’t comfortably eat these raw) and the asparagus (a little too pricey for my budget when I was shopping for the ingredients for this salad). I also used a couple of packets of fresh udon noodles from my local Asian food shop rather than egg noodles from Sainsburys — it worked out a few pence cheaper, and the udon noodles were fabulous! Good, thick strands with just the right amount of firmness and they held on to the dressing, vegetables and tofu pretty well 😀 I’m definitely going to look up udon recipes for future reference now!

One other tweak that I made was to steam the babycorn and mangetout rather than blanching them for a short time in boiling water. I bought a bamboo steamer from the Asian food shop a couple of weeks ago, and this was a perfect opportunity to test it. It worked brilliantly! The veg was cooked to perfection, and even the steamer smelled good 🙂 An excellent investment, I feel, especially as steaming is a brilliant way to cook veg without losing nutrients (as happens in boiling and so on).

Veggie pasties next week — I’m looking forward to the pastry-wrangling already!

Salad days

Things are getting pretty warm and humid in my neck of the woods (enough that it’s making the pollen count overwhelm my hay fever pills…), so cool and refreshing salads are the way to go as far as supper is concerned.

This week’s recipe is especially good for such a purpose — tomato, feta and watermelon salad. On paper, it looks rather outré, but it really works!

A bed of subtle, peppery rocket leaves, layered up with black olives, halved cherry tomatoes, cubes or chunks of watermelon, with cubes of feta (oven-baked for 15 minutes at 200C with lemon juice, lemon zest and paprika) — a magnificent combination! The sharpness of the tomato, the mellow fruitiness of the olives, the subtlety of the rocket and the rich, strident salty-savouriness of the feta set each other off perfectly. My salad also had a spicy-hot edge, as I only had hot paprika (mixed with cayenne) in stock, rather than sweet paprika. It still worked, though 🙂

Chowder cuddles

Sadly, the title doesn’t refer to plushie bowls of chowder (can you even get those?), but to the vegetarian chowder I made over the weekend — the recipe intro refers to the dish as ‘a cuddle in a bowl’. That’s a worthy description — this is a very hearty, comforting soup that is very easy to make.

One onion sautéed with a couple of sticks of celery (though I used the whole head so nothing would get wasted) and some chopped garlic, about 400g diced potato (a 40/60 mix of ordinary and sweet seems to work best), 800ml vegetable stock, 2 finely sliced leeks, 100g sweetcorn (the recipe says to use frozen, but for some reason that’s become next to impossible to find in my local area so I used a small tin’s worth instead) all simmered together for a good long time to get everything really well-cooked and soft, and 200ml whole milk added right at the end of the cooking time — this recipe gives very generous portions and is pretty filling, so it will most likely make for as good a winter dish as it does a summer dish.

One of the things I like about this recipe is that it doesn’t need blending at any point — only a gentle squishing with  a potato masher at the end of the cooking time to break up the vegetables and help the potato starch thicken the soup a little. This makes for an interestingly varied texture.

I’m definitely putting vegetarian chowder on the semi-regular roster — I’ve a feeling much experimentation will be necessary to find out which thicknesses and ratios of ingredients work best 😉