Preserve Parade

Posted in eggplant, mango, preserve, tomato, vegetables, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2014 by oskila

Again, very erratic posting patterns. I’ve been planning for this post for about a week now and will try to type like the wind while baby’s asleep.

For some reason the project with the citrus marmalade set something off and I’ve been boiling stuff with sugar like crazy for some time now. These three were the main events so to speak.

Mango Chutney
Mango chutney is of course a classic. I just happened to have about 0.3 mangos in the fridge and couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Added onions, mustard seeds, vinegar, chili, cumin, cinnamon, ginger and sumac. Boiled for a bit. Certainly looks like chutney to me.

chutney

Eggplant Marmalade
Eggplant may not be the most intuitive marmalade material, but I’m certainly not the first to do it – in fact, I’m quite sure I’ve eaten industrially produced eggplant marmalade. It may have been from Libanon. Mine contains finely diced unpeeled eggplant, a dash of vinegar (would have preferred lemon) and half the amount, by weight, of gelling sugar. Ordinary sugar is fine too, but the gelling sugar has some pectine added to it and thus gives better texture.

eggplant
Tomato Marmalade
After a burger night we found ourselves in possession of surplus tomatoes (mrs Nerdcuisine is allergic) so I made marmalade and gave most of it away. Once again I didn’t bother with any peeling. I don’t mind a bit of tomato peel and I think it adds flavor and probably pectin. Classic marmalade recipes usually use equal amounts of fruit and sugar, but that can be quite sweet, so in the eggplant recipe above I used only half as much. Even that proved too sweet with the tomatoes so I would have liked an emergency lemon to turn to, but we didn’t have any. This time I attempted to remedy the sweetness with a generous dose of vitamin C which is quite tart. For added excitement (and to go better with cheeses) I seasoned with black pepper and a sprinkle of chili flakes.

tomato

Well, that’s it for today. Make marmalade from anything, and remember that baby food jars are excellent for small batches of preserve.

Three year celebration

Posted in dairy, eggs, italian with tags , , , , , , , on October 22, 2014 by oskila

The little wordpress notification gnome just told me it’s three years since I registered nerdcuisine.wordpress.com! How time flies… Regular readers (if any are left) have noticed a decline in activity over the last year or so. Baby Olivia says hi :)

There’s an obvious need for some kind of celebratory action, but I don’t have any material for a proper recipe post, so here’s just a pretty nice picture from last week of panna cotta with home made strawberry jam.

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The picture is also available from my all new instagram page

That’s it for this time. Hopefully the next year will have more regular posting. Thanks for hanging around!

Long time no see marmalade

Posted in condiments, fruit with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2014 by oskila

My last post was in March. I’ve got a backlog of stuff that I’ve photographed that would take very long time to get up on the blog, but I’m doing new stuff instead, because making it felt exciting. My daughter takes most of my time these days since I’m on paternity leave, but I’m slowly learning to get stuff done in the window between her and my bedtime.

I’ve never made marmalade with oranges or any other citrus but suddenly felt a need to preserve. (I’ve also discretely been pickling cucumbers. A 7 oz. jar of baby food holds one sliced pickling cucumber). I’ve also seldom followed any recipes (except for the sake of consistency) and didn’t want to this time either, so I read a dozen and then made my own up. The important part is really to use equal amounts of fruit and sugar.

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Pot, sieve, tea-strainers, jam funnel, juicer, fruits, potato peeler, scotch, preservatives, knife, preserving sugar, muscovado sugar, granulated sugar. Who knew marmalade was so equipment-intensive…

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Also, jars. Lots of baby food jars for obvious reasons, but anything with a tight lid is good.

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Take the fruit – in this case five oranges, a red grapefruit, four limes and three lemons – and peel the rind off with a potato peeler or contraption of choice. Some recipes says to take care to get as little pith as possible, while others simply peel the fruit and slice the whole peel, rind, pith and everything. I found some sort of middle ground. The pith contains pectin which is desirable for a good wobbly marmalade and also causes bitterness, which is desirable in my book.

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Next, we slice the rind. It’ll take forever but turn out nice. Or you can make like a barbarian and have at it with a food processor.

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Juice extracted and then strained into the pot with the rind. Collect pits and pulp and put in tea strainers.

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Juice, rind, a dash of whisky, a pint of water and a small heap of dark muscovado sugar combined in a pot. Tea strainers full of pulp, pith and pits (the three Ps of marmalade??). Simpler and more economic recipes for citrus marmalade make use of the pulp in the actual marmalade, but I felt like giving the juice and rind only-path a go, if, perhaps, only for the nice translucent effect. Simmer for some time to get the pectin release going.

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Mixture boiled for some time, then carefully skimmed, then mixed with lots of sugar and boiled for some more time. About half my sugar was preserving sugar, which is a mixture also containing pectin, citric acid and a bit of potassium benzoate. Note the difference in cloudiness and stuff. There’s a million recipes for citrus marmalades out there, so I don’t feel a need to explain the finer points to marmalade making or what the marmalade test is.

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After arriving at an agreeable texture, pour the marmalade into cans that until recently were huddling in the oven at 100 degrees (C) to sterilize. Lids were boiled. Take care not to spill marmalade on your or anyone else’s person since it’s like napalm – it sticks to anything and burns for a long time. Dishing the rind out evenly between the jars can be tricky, but I tried.

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Apparently, if the marmalade is poured when scalding and one manages to get the lid on properly, the container will be vacuum-sealed in the morning (central bit of lid won’t ‘click’) which is good because it means longer shelf-life. Also, baking cups make excellent lid covers. Also, I worked for quite some time on a full color label (complete with table of contents) only to discover that the printer was all out of cyan and yellow.

That’s it for today! It’s good to be back and I hope it won’t be six months until the next installment!

Addendum re Lentil Soup and Umami

Posted in cheese, condiments, lentils, soup, vegan, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2014 by oskila

Yesterday I hurried to get my first post in months done and forgot to include lots of things in the text. Rather than editing the post I decided to do a new one with some explanation and deeper analysis. Before writing the post on lentil soup I had planned to give suggestions about what else to add and elaborate on veggie umami stuff a bit more.

Lentils, even beluga lentils, aren’t that rich in umami stuff themselves, and may need a helping hand. Stock usually gets the task done, but people are often wary of MSG these days (mostly without reason, since it doesn’t cause migraine, ADD or cancer at all, at least not when used sensibly. Read up on ‘Chinese Food Syndrome’ for more fun facts).

My soup didn’t contain lots of tomato, but it’s high in glutamic acid, another umami agent. Especially sizzled tomato paste or ‘sun dried’ tomatoes are handy tools in this aspect. Even a dollop of ketchup in the right place can enhance many a bland dish.

Onions are another useful umami vegetable as long as you let them cook properly to give off maximum flavor. In the soup I used fried onions because it’s a rather odd thing to do, but also because they’re more thoroughly fried than one would ever bother to do at home and packed with flavor, both from natural umami compounds and from maillard reactions associated with frying. The batter also acts as thickening – it’s funny how things work out sometimes.

Mushrooms are also a classic umami ingredient, but the combination with lentils in soup felt a bit out of place.

Ssamjang, Korean chili paste with garlic and soy beans, has been a trusty companion in the kitchen for several years. The umami content is largely due to fermentation, one of the common methods for getting more umami.

Enough about umami. The other thing I forgot to write at the end of the last post was the suggestion of adding a splash of wine, either red or white, to deepen the flavors in general. Those of a less vegan persuasion can add for example grated cheese, a splash of cream or fish sauce, especially if you’ve made a large batch and are having it for lunch for the fifth day in a row…

I’ve had the images for the next post ready for publication since just after Christmas, but other things got in the way. Hopefully that post will be up soon.

Meat Lover’s Vegan Lentil Soup

Posted in indian, lentils, soup, stew, Uncategorized, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2014 by oskila

Turns out this parenting thing takes quite a lot of time, which means the blog has been on backburner to say the least. A strike of genius (if I might humbly say so) just yesterday prompted at least an attempt to squeeze a bit of blogging in. Since we have to eat anyway it’s mostly a question of scaling back on photo editing to shorten the amount of time spent on a blog post considerably. Now to business.

I’m far from vegan myself, but unlike a lot of people I meet I don’t obnoxiously defend meat eating as some kind of human right or whine about unappealing veggie food. Although vegetarian/vegan food made by nonvegetarians or the uninspired or untalented can be on the bland side some times. My solution to this is to add more umami. And not in a way that attempts to substitute meat for something almost similar to meat or downright ghastly (hello tofurkey). To celebrate the occasion and compensate for the lack of images I’m going to give a proper list of ingredients.

Lentil soup (serves 2-4)

1 tsp cumin, coriander, Sichuan pepper, mustard seeds (1 spoon in total. Add more if you like)
1 tsp turmeric
1 bayleaf
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp ssamjang or other kind of chili paste
2 cups beluga lentils
6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup crisp fried onion (yes, the store bought crunchy stuff you put on hot dogs)
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup finely grated beetroot
minced garlic to taste
ginger to taste
salt, pepper and vinegar for final adjustments

Toast cumin, coriander, Sichuan pepper and mustard seeds in a dry pan and grind. Sizzle along with turmeric, ssamjang and tomato paste in some oil. Add carrots, beetroot, bay leaf, ginger and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Then add stock, lentils and onions and simmer for about 40 minutes while watching closely since lentils have a reputation of sticking to pots. Add more water if  necessary, especially since the soup gets quite thick and curryish after a while (which is also nice of course). Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and vinegar (or lemon juice) and serve with flatbread or similar.

curry

Pea-sto

Posted in cheese, condiments, italian, mediterranean, pasta, peas, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2014 by oskila

ärtpesto

 

Funny punny title, yes. What it means is that today’s food is pesto made with peas instead of basil. And it’s real easy too.

2 parts green peas (fresh or defrosted)
1 part oil
1 part whatever kind of nuts or seeds you like
1 part grated parmesan cheese or similar.
garlic
salt
pepper

Mix all the stuff and blend it to desired texture. Adjust thickness with oil and cheese or more peas. I use a hand blender and get it ready in almost no time at all. The pesto in the picture has more cheese and peas instead of nuts since the pine nuts were way too expensive and my wife dislike sunflower seeds and is allergic to most proper nuts. It works beautifully with for example pasta anyway.

Jammed Onions

Posted in condiments, leftovers, peppers, preserve, sauce, side dish with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2014 by oskila

It’s finally time for a proper post about food again! This time it’s about a cold sauce that goes well with pâté rustique and similar dishes. The need for such a sauce arose when we got some pâté (and other awesome food) left over from my brother’s 30th birthday party, which me and mrs NerdCuisine missed on account of being busy fussing over NerdCuisine jr. (also known as Olivia) in a maternity ward.

Now, the pâtés I’ve eaten have usually been accompanied by Cumberland sauce, which consists mainly of red wine, black currant jelly and orange rind. I possessed neither and had to improvise something of a similar sweetness and acidity. Also, there’s an unprecedented amount of pictures, just because. These things happen.

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This was the first batch of ingredients I decided on – red onion, tomatoes, raspberry syrup, lime, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and red bell pepper. Since this is a highly improvised affair, more stuff will be added along the way.

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A bit of chopping later, the vegetables are sizzling in a pot, along with some unannounced red currants I realized were in the freezer. A small pinch of salt gets the sweating going.

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With the liquids added, a slow simmer for as long as one can stand waiting is in order.

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Another late addition; a squeeze of pomegranate juice (and probably quite a few seeds)

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Adding some lime zest. The whole thing has started to thicken somewhat and it’s also probably time to add what else in the way of spices one would like to have.

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Acidity was a tad high, so a bit of palm sugar was  added to balance it out (and make the ingredient list complicated)

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And now it’s time to squeeze the whole thing through a sieve. Mainly because we’re still attempting to mimic some aspects of real cumberland, which means a smooth texture without any bits.

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That taken care of, we put the pot to a simmer again, with some gelling sugar and very thinly sliced red onions added in. I used raw onions, but I’d hazard that onions with a bit of sear on them would render the result sweeter and less sharp.

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Simmer just long enough for the gelling agent to kick in. A couple of juniper berries also found their way in, and since I overdid it slightly with the sugar, I compensated with a couple of splashes raspberry-flavored balsamico. As the title suggests, the end result is something ranging from rather sweet and sour sauce to comparatively tart jam.

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And so – cold, red, sweet sauce accompanying pâté, like nature intended. Long time readers might wonder what the deal is with me and making sweet condiments out of onions around NYE, but it’s pure coincidence actually.

It’s great to be back in business! Next time I think we’ll look into a bit of Swedish and Finnish Christmas food, only some 50 weeks in advance. Take care until then!

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