And then there was… ‘The Shining’

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Researching  on info for this post, I was delighted to find out that Stephen is working on a sequel to ‘The Shining’, the only book that kept me awake at night.

I discovered Stephen King as many do, as an adolescent, through a school friend, who was a real nerd and conscientious as hell when it came down to studying. Dear Dora was the oracle we all turned to when we didn’t input the same dedication to the day’s study topic…

Her only vice was… reading Stephen King so she promptly introduced me. First, she lent me ‘Pet Sematary’ with its delightful introduction of a skull-exposed bulging brain (I was so disappointed when the film didn’t feature it). And then there was ‘The Shining’. I absolutely swallowed that book… on a couple of week nights. We were going to school in the morning so we had to be up really, (I mean REALLY) early. One particular night I was absolutely engrossed with Jack Torrance’s adventures but even I like some caution. It was 2 am and I correctly guessed it would be extremely unpleasant (if not downright impossible) to get up in 4 hours’ time. So, I finished the chapter I was reading and turned off the lights… Except it was the famous chapter where… you know, the door sequence with that unforgettable cinematic quote from (another) Jack? So, I stayed up, eyes wide open… for a full minute, until I threw caution to the winds and decided I’d better read the next chapter if I wanted to get some sleep at all. It was THAT good.

So yes, I have Stephen to thank for some of the scariest moments of my life (somehow reading and leaving things to your imagination can be so much more scary than having it all cooked up for you).

Now, it seems I also have to thank him for this Transylvanian stew, dark and Gothic, as befitting of him as the iron bats and gargoyles on the gates of his Maine house.

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Stephen King’s Transylvanian Goulasch

This is what he wrote back in the 1980’s

Dear Ms Campbell,

                 Thank you for thinking of me in connection with your cookbook project. My specialty is Franco-American Spaghetti with hamburger –my kids love it- but I don’t think it would appeal to most people. The following recipe was culled from Family Circle magazine –it is probably more what people would expect of me. It is really called Transylvanian Cabbage Gulyas, I didn’t make that up.

Transylvanian Cabbage Gulyas

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces

1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)

1 small clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons paprika (Hungarian, if available)

2 pounds lean boneless pork, cut into ½ inch cubes

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon caraway seeds

2 cups warm water

2 pounds fresh or canned sauerkraut (I used canned)

½ pound kielbasa (I used two kinds of Polish sausage, one of them made with garlic…)

1 container (8 ounces) dairy sour cream

at room temperature*

1.       Heat the oil and bacon in Dutch oven until bacon has rendered most of its fat. Saute onion and garlic in fat until soft (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in paprika. Add pork to pan, stirring to coat with paprika.

2.       Return pan to heat; cook over low heat 10 minutes, stirring constantly so paprika does not burn.  Mix in salt, pepper, caraway and water.

Cover; simmer 45 minutes.

3.       While meat is cooking, wash sauerkraut under cold, running water. Squeeze dry. Cut sausages into ¼ inch slices.

4.       When meat is tender, stir in sauerkraut and sausage. Cook 15 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in sour cream just before serving. *This dish is best prepared a day before serving. Do not add sour cream until meat has been reheated.

 

I hope this recipe will help. Best of luck with your book. It sounds like a good idea.

                                                                                      Sincerely,

                                                                                Stephen King


Now I also know why I am such a big ‘Lost’ fan…

Hotel Transylvania

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Or, more accurately garlic bread… chez moi. But not just any old garlic bread. For one, these are Russian rolls with a garlic glaze. For another, if you do them my way, they will also have a garlic heart to top. How about that?

I’ve been wanting to make pampushki (for that’s their real name) ever since I saw them included in the menu of the relatively new  Mari Vanna. Now, I have yet to visit that restaurant and sample their menu but the mere description of what a pampushki was (garlic bread roll) was sufficient to make me want to make them at home.

Last week I got my fortnightly box delivery from Abe & Cole. It has changed the way I eat for the better. You certainly don’t get veggies like that in the supermarket! Anyway, among the goodies I found a big fat garlic head (massive!) so I set to the task.

 

My thoughts on these little guys are the following:

 

I thought the dough was pretty much the standard bread dough (when you make it with milk). Personally, I like to use 50% milk and 50% water as that makes the dough less dense.

 

I also bumped across some versions where they “glazed” the pampushki in what appear to be Coca-Cola. I didn’t have any handy so I skipped that part.

 

Some recipes I found called for a garlic “sauce” or puree. I personally I like it a lot so I did some with some of the garlic puree inside the dough as well as outside. If you are going to make them with the garlic puree inside the dough, omit the salt when making the basic dough (the garlic puree has more than enough in it). If not, don’t forget to add it!

 

Basically, they are bread rolls with some aioli paste brushed on top.

 

ПАМПУШКИ (Pampushki)

 

Adapted and translated from the Russian by yours truly

 

For the pampushki you will need:

Yeast – 1 tsp.
Milk 250ml
Flour – 2 – 2.5 glasses (1 glass is 250ml)
Melted butter or oil – 2 tbsp
Sugar – 1 – 2 tsp.
Salt – 1 tsp.

For the garlic sauce you will need:

Garlic – 6 cloves
salt – 1 tsp

Melted butter – 1 tbsp
Water – 1 tbsp

 

For the starter:

 

Put the yeast, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of flour in a little bowl. Add a little tepid water. Cover with clingfilm and leave until it bubbles.

 

For the garlic paste:

 

Put 1-2 tbsp salt in the pestle and mortar. Add the garlic cloves and crush them in. Add a little melted butter (or oil) to amalgamate everything to a smooth paste. Set one half of the paste aside.

Add a little water and oil to the other half to make it runnier. Set aside.

 

Heat the milk, butter and sugar. Don’t let it boil. Set aside to cool a little.

 

Once the yeast has fermented, put the flour in a bowl or on a worktop. Make a well in the middle and add the starter and the milk with the melted butter inside. Knead well until you have a soft, elastic dough. Cover and leave until it doubles in size.

 

To make traditional pampushki:

 

Once the rolls have baked and are still warm from the oven, glaze the tops by holding them upside down and dipping them in the garlic paste.

 

To make my version:

 

Once the dough has risen for the first time, punch it down and add the other half of the garlic paste.  Form the rolls and leave to rise for a second time in the tray in which you will bake them. Glaze the tops with some egg yolk mixed with a little water. Bake in a moderate oven until the rolls sound hollow when tapped. Glaze with the garlic paste as above. Depending on how much you like garlic, you might find you need more than 6 garlic cloves for the garlic paste. For me 6 was more than enough.

 

Приятного вам аппетита!

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Pure goodness

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This is a quiche I made at my friend’s Alejandra. It was pretty much grab-what-you’ve-got-in-the-pantry kind of thing so I’m afraid there’s no precise recipe for it. Just your regular liaison of eggs and milk (again, nothing precise, just what you think it’s right) and whatever veggies you have at hand. I like to saute mine before they go into the quiche so that they give it a more interesting flavour. I don’t know if it is because we were all extremely hungry but it surely looked good!

Bella Notte

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I am really into Scandinavian culture and this is how I discovered that on Christmas Eve in Sweden, watching Disney cartoons is as much a part of the Christmas celebration as the Christmas tree, the presents, the tomten (Christmas elves) and the ham. This is something that, like the Lucia tradition, seems to be uniquely Swedish but let me tell you something. I grew up on Disney cartoons at a time when there was no internet, no skype, no you tube (hey! I am not that old!!!). I probably watched the Christmas special “From all of us to all of you” several times when I was little because when I re-watched it on you tube, out of curiosity on Christmas Day (I remembered too late, of course) I found I remembered most of the clips. When I was very little, the big day out for me would be to go to the cinema and watch a Disney film. So much was I into Disney that I firmly believed that all the stories like Cinderella, Snow white, Sleeping Beauty, even Alice in Wonderland were his own, that he had not only animated them but also written them and was very crossed (and disappointed) when I discovered otherwise. This took none of the charm off the fairy tales anyway and for me, the Disney weekly show (shown on Sunday evenings at around 20.00hs in Argentina) was my big treat and a wonderful way of finishing my weekend before I had to face another day at school. I also remember it was the no-cook day so instead of a proper dinner I would have all the things I couldn’t normally have during the week: cold cuts, variety of cheeses but my favourite were, of course, junk food such as crisps, coke and other snacks. So yes, I guess I can empathise with the Swedes and their strong willingness to watch this cartoon every Christmas Eve, all the generations sitting together for it doesn’t matter if you’ve watched the same show a million times, that’s precisely the point as I believe is the point of having the same Christmas turkey with exactly the same trimmings year after year. It is a sign of reassurance, a sign that no matter what the future brings some things will not change. And that, I think, is a beautiful thing.

Spaghetti col polpettini

 This is one of the most satisfying dishes I’ve ever made… or eaten. I believe that Lady is very lucky to have such a gentleman with her who rolls the last tasty morsel for her with the tip of his snout.

 For the polpettini

 500g beef mince (you can use 50% beef and 50% pork if you wish)

Milk, as needed

2 or 3 slices white bread

1 egg

Chopped garlic, to taste

Fresh, chopped parsley, to taste

Flour, as needed

Vegetable oil, for frying

1 red hot chilli pepper (pepperoncino), deseeded and finely chopped (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slug of white wine

 

For the pasta:

 100g spaghetti per person

 

Tomato sauce (use the recipe you like best)

 

To serve:

 Parmesan cheese, to taste

 

Soak the bread in the milk and leave for a few seconds. Squeeze it a little to get rid of excess milk.

Mix the mince, the soaked milk, parsley, garlic and egg. If you like them spicy, add the pepperoncino at this point. Or you can add it to your tomato sauce if you prefer.

With wet hands, form meatballs the size of a golf ball.

Roll in flour and place on a tray. You can also do this in a cup if it makes things easier for you. Just place a little bit of flour in a cup, add the meatball and shake the cup until the meatball is covered in flour. This will also keep the meatball with the minimum amount of flour.

Place the tray in the fridge for the meatballs to firm up until ready to cook them.   

 Meanwhile make your tomato sauce. When it’s almost ready, cook your pasta.

 In a separate pan, boil a good amount of water. It will always depend on the amount of pasta you’re cooking but you want the pasta to float freely, not get stuck. You can add a slug of oil to the water (this is a bone of contention, if you excuse the pun, as some chefs say there’s no point in adding the oil to the water when the pasta is cooking as it won’t prevent it from sticking. Gordon does it, so I follow his example). The really important bit (and here everyone agrees) is to salt the pasta water otherwise the resulting spaghetti will be bland and horrible. Bring the water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Cook it until al dente.

In a big pan heat a little bit of oil and fry the meatballs. It does not matter much if they are cold for they will finish cooking slowly in the tomato sauce. You don’t want to cook them here, just give them a bit of colour and make them more interesting as you don’t want to just boil them in the sauce. Once they begin to colour, cover the pan with a lid and leave for 1 minute.

Drizzle with the white wine but don’t touch the meatballs. Leave it for a few minutes until the wine evaporates. Add them to the tomato sauce and cover the pan. Leave the sauce until it finishes cooking.

Drain the pasta but reserve a little bit of the pasta cooking water. Put it in a pan and add the tomato sauce. Heat it up with the remaining pasta water shaking the pan if you know how to!

 Place it on a serving dish and finish off with a good amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Juicy bits:

 

The spaghetti and meatballs sequence, when Lady and Tramp accidentally kiss over sharing a strand of spaghetti is considered an iconic scene in American film.
Film: ‘Lady and the Tramp’ (1955) produced by Walt Disney

Magic in the kitchen: Gordon’s honeycomb

I’ve been wanting to do this recipe for a long time now.

Once again, I was reminded of why I love cooking so much.

There is something so festive about the golden colour of the honeycomb and the magical way in which it comes to be, bubbling like something out of a Harry Potter Potions lesson that while I was cooking it, I found myself thinking of Nigella and how she would describe it with her  wonderful prose. Indeed she has a very similar recipe which she poetically calls Hokey Pokey (hocus pocus?) but this, alas, is not hers. This is Gordon’s. It is moments like this which remind me of why I am a chef, not that I need reminding very often. It is quite telling that a lot of job specs for chef jobs actually ask for someone who has fun in the kitchen. And it makes all the sense in the world for cooking is a passion, being a chef is something you either are or you aren’t. This is not just a job, it is something some lucky ones are born with.

 

Gordon’s honeycomb

 

Makes 400g

 

75g clear honey

140g liquid glucose

400g sugar

5 tbsp water

2 tbsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

 

1. For the honeycomb: Line a shallow baking tray with parchment paper. Place the honey, liquid glucose, water and sugar in a large heavy-based saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and cook until the mixture starts to turn a light golden colour. Mix in the baking soda. The mixture will erupt into a foaming mass. Pour immediately into the prepared baking tray.

 

2. Leave to cool, then place in the fridge to set. This takes approx 6-10 mins. Break up with the end of a rolling pin and store in an airtight jar if not using immediately.

 

For an even more festive touch, I dipped the tips in chocolate.

Simple but effective

 

 

Sometimes this is just what you need, something simple, unfussy which will calm your sweet tooth.

This is a very nice recipe to have at hand and it’s very quick to put together.

 

Ingredients

 

200g butter

2 cups flour

4 cups plain flour

4 tsp. baking powder

2 cups milk

zest of 1 lemon

4 eggs

 

 

Cream the sugar and the butter (which should be very soft). Add the eggs one at a time while you continue whisking.

Sift the flour and the baking powder over the mixture.

Mix with a spatula, slowly incorporating all the ingredients while you gradually add the milk as you sift the flour. Add the lemon zest or vanilla extract.

Bake at 180 C for 45-50 minutes.