Mayonnaise slight revision

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At the beginning of the Pandemic, I did a blog about making mayonnaise. At that point I was simply just excited to be able to make it and to be able to do so fairly consistently. However recently had a couple of occasions where the mayo failed. This will ultimately happen if there’s too much oil per egg protein. I’d also observed that I never quite used that whole cup of oil per egg yolk. So I’ve been determined to figure it out so that my efforts can be 100% consistently successful. That’s what this blog is about.

Essentially I’ve come to understand that one needs to multiply the weight of the egg yolk by 7.66. More than that, and it will fail. Less is OK. The less oil, the thicker the mayo.

Here is the text version of the basic 2 yolk mayo. Even if you never open up my little ap with the formulas all built in, the following proportions should give you a decent and dependable mayo:

(Originally from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio)

Generally, one egg will yield a cup of mayonaise.

Ingredients

This will make 500ml mayonnaise.

2 egg yolks

330 g grapeseed oil

1 tsp salt

2 tsp water

2 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp vinegar

Method:

This recipe assumes you are using my little mayo ap.

  • Use an immersion blender and the mixing jug that came with it, or alternately a wide mouth 1 L mason or salsa jar.
  • Place the immersion blender container/jar on a weigh scale and tare to 0. Separate the eggs, putting the yolk in the immersion blender mixing jug. Input the yolk weight in the ap, then weigh/measure the oil, vinegar,lemon juice, water and salt.
  • Add the vinegar,lemon juice, water and salt to the egg yolks and whirr around with the immersion blender until well mixed.
  • Slowly add the oil a little at a time to gain emulsion. Continue until all the oil is used.
  • Taste for lemon and salt at the end.
  • Refrigerate.

Other considerations and notes

  • Ensure your lemon is fresh. A ‘getting slightly bitter’ lemon can be disguised in other dishes but not this.
  • Ensure your oil is fresh and as tasteless as possible. Grapeseed oil is the best for this, but do taste before using. If there is any harshness or even a hint of rancidity, it will shine through in the mayo, and not in a good way.
  • I like to make this simple 2 cup base. If I want to make variants such as dijon mayo, or hot mayo, I’ll scoop some in a 125ml ramekin or jar and go from there. There are so many variations! Dijon mayo (add a tsp of dijon to the ramekin size), or hot versions with cayenne, hot sauce, Harissa immediately come to mind. Adding ketchup leads you down the road to a Thousand Islands dressing.
  • Mayo and Cesar dressing are definitely culinary siblings. Both involve egg, oil and lemon juice. Both are emulsified. Cesar merely adds garlic, herbs, pepper, hot sauce and parmesan.
  • If you do mess it up, and the mayo breaks, pour the failed mayo into a measuring cup. Add a teaspoon of water and another yolk in the mixing jar. Slowly add in the broken mayo. Or you could use it as it is either a vinaigrette base, a dressing for coleslaw or potato salad, or as noted above, make into a Cesar dressing.
  • If you do need large quantities of mayo for that big summer BBQ coleslaw, you can do a quickie version that may not give you the full emulsification of that nice jar in the fridge, but will go a lot faster. Use the ap file to scale up the quantity you want, use whole eggs instead of only the yolk, and work with a food processor. It will also be a lot cheaper than buying all that mayo.

Mascarpone Cannelloni

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This recipe is a long standing Christmas eve mains in our family, but its great to have anytime. The original published recipe (Step by Step Pasta Cookbook, p.117) has a good core, but is badly written – the book is quite old too.

Beside sharing a favorite dish, I also want to point out what makes for good recipe writing and what does not. In the picture above, this is the entire recipe! They have sacrificed space on the page taken up with an uninformative and mediocre photo to condense the recipe so that one has to continually ask, “ What exactly did they mean??” As a result, I’ve – shall we say – ‘rephrased’ it so it makes more sense.

I also made changes to the procedure. In the recipe, the spinach is boiled and squeezed. (Who would ever dare boil spinach these days?) In mine, I give it my standard green vegetable braise treatment.

Mascarpone

A note about the mascarpone is in order. Mascarpone is essentially a sweet cream cheese. Its flavour and sweetness is important in the recipe. This year when we did the cannelloni it was in a covid time lockdown, and it was very difficult to get into some stores to buy the required mascarpone.

I was about to give up, but then asked myself, “Can I do a workaround?” Once the question was asked, I realized I could! It was remarkably simple. Take organic cream cheese and add a spoon of honey. It does taste different: the organic cream cheese is a more fermented product and so you get a bit more of a tang to it but I quite like that. Besides which, mascarpone isn’t really any kind of a special cheese except that it’s really expensive. Take a look at the picture showing the ingredient list of the mascarpone and the cream cheese. The mascarpone is on top. After the milk, it is an entirely manufactured chemical product. It’s part of the big cheese industry, whereas the organic cream cheese is much more natural and a lot cheaper too. From now on I’m not going to worry about Mascarpone. Much easier to get a good quality cream cheese and add a little honey.

And on the subject of cheese:

Try Emmental/Gruyere/Swiss. The original recipe calls for Fontina. We prefer these other somewhat harder cheeses, for both texture and taste.

Ingredients & instructions for each step
The most efficient way to do this is to prepare the different components in the following order:

  1. Filling
  2. Pasta
  3. Assembly
  4. Sauce
  5. And, of course, the final bake

Filling

Ingredients

  • olive oil or unsalted butter for sauteeing.
  • 2 bunches of spinach or chard
  • 1 large onion
  • 250g mascarpone or cream cheese with honey
  • 250g ricotta
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter
  • Pepper, salt and nutmeg to taste
  • Approximately 500g of slices of fontina/ementhal/gruyere/swiss cheese. Its not necessary to lay down perfect squares of cheese. Rough slices with a potato peeler are fine.
  • 100 g grated Fontina/Emmental/Gruyere/Swiss cheese.

Instructions

  1. Finely chop a large onion and saute with olive oil and a little salt on medium until onions are translucent. Cover and turn low for about 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, wash the spinach or chard, chop fine (including the stems) and add to the onion mix but do NOT stir it in.
  3. Leave the greens on top of the onions so the onion layer gently steams the spinach/chard. Put a lid on it. It should very gently simmer. Add pepper and a little nutmeg to taste. Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes (while you make the pasta.)
  4. Once cooked, thoroughly mix filling ingredients: spinach/chard/onion mix, 250g ricotta, 250g mascarpone, grated cheese. Taste for flavor: salt/pepper/nutmeg

Pasta

Make a pasta dough with

  • 4 eggs – but weigh them! They should come out to about 200g.
  • flour = weight of eggs divided by .6 – about 333g

See my blog on making perfect pasta every time. Here is what it should look like when it is properly mixed:

Although you could use a rolling pin, it will go faster if you use a pasta maker. The pasta should be thin, but not too much so. The main idea is to roll it through so that it eventually takes up the entire width of the pasta maker, which you cut into 5-6″ /13-15cm squares.

Here it is all set for the filling. Be sure to cover them with wax or parchment paper to avoid them drying out.

Assembly

The main part of the assembly is done before the sauce is made.

  1. Turn oven on to 375F/190C.
  2. Place slices of cheese in the middle of each square. You need to cover about 90% of the square’s area.
  3. Spoon a dessert spoon of filling on the pasta squares with cheese slices. Spread out the filling so it covers the whole square.
  4. Roll up the caneloni and place seam down in a large glass serving dish.

Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk (the original recipe does not make enough sauce!)
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 3 tbs all purpose flour
  • Pepper, salt and nutmeg to taste (You want to make your sauce sing a little.)
  • Grated cheese that is dropped on the casserole as it is going into the oven.

Sauce instructions & final assembly

  1. Make a roux: in a pot on medium-low heat, mix 3tbs/44g butter with 3 tbs/30g flour.
  2. Once combined and cooking, slowly add cream, then milk, & keep stirring as it thickens.
  3. Add in salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
  4. If too thick, add more milk. The sauce should pour, but barely.
  5. Pour over cannelloni, dot with grated fontina/emmental/gruyere/swiss cheese and butter
  6. Brown in 375 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes

This recipe makes enough for about 8 servings (not 4 as the original recipe suggests). Should it not all be eaten, they make amazing day-after canapes when cut into half inch slices.

Wild onions part 3: Braised nettles

This is a continuation of the last blog where I’m still experimenting with wild onions. 2 weeks in and the wild onions are at their height. A few days ago, the forest was a carpet of trout lillies, and today it is a wash of green and white trilliums. In the past 2 days, all the leaves have suddenly come out on the trees. Such a magical time of year.

This recipe features nettles – another of the first springtime crops to come up here in Ontario. I buy them in a bag of maybe 50-60g from the market. ( I don’t have a personal spot in the woods yet). When I buy them in the bag I don’t touch them until they are cooked.

I’ve covered the cooking of nettles and other wild greens a couple of years ago, and this recipe follows that basic braising technique.

Ingredients

2 tbs coconut oil

1 bag (about 60g/2oz fresh nettle leaves

1 medium onion

2-3 garlic cloves

15 or so fresh wild onion leaves

3 tbs chevre

salt to taste

pepper to taste

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Dice onions and garlic and sautee in coconut oil with a 1/2 tsp salt until nicely caramelized.
  2. Once they are well caramelized, throw on the bag of nettles, cook on a bare simmer, lid on, for maybe about half an hour. Add water if needed.
  3. Meanwhile, toast the sunflower seeds in a dry frying pan until they’re a little toasty.
  4. Cut the chevre into a few small pieces.
  5. Chop the wild onion leaves so they are like a garnish & set aside.
  6. Mix in the chevre. It will act as a sauce. Mix in the cranberries, sunflower seeds, nutmeg.
  7. Taste for salt and pepper and transfer to a serving dish.
  8. Spread the wild onion on top.
  9. Serve immediately. Its probably best served warm.

Wild onions part 2

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged here. February 2021 was my last. It’s been an exceptionally busy time boiling down our lives from a house in the city and another place in the country to just one place in the country. It’s meant packing, selling, donating and tossing. This work still continues. It’s time to get back into blogs, though. I miss doing this a lot. They are my vehicle to learn about food and cooking.

Much has changed in how I approach cooking. There’s much more of a focus on simplicity. A focus on one or two ingredients in a dish to showcase those specific flavours. I’m cooking in smaller quantities, and preparing fewer dishes. Somehow I seem to be getting a lot more efficient as well.

The place we are currently living is Grey County, Ontario on the Niagara Escarpment. We’re in an area full of wonderful deciduous forests. At this time of year there’s a succession of new growth as the first gentle green of the year comes in. Just in in this past week the trout lilies are in full bloom turning the forest floor into a carpet of green speckled with little yellow flecks of the emerging flowers. These will be followed by carpets of trillium, with ferns coming in short order while the trees bust out their annual leaves.

In terms of cuisine it’s significant because it’s the rare two to three-week period in the year where wild onions are available. It means I have the wonderful luxury of heading out my door into the woods and foraging for just enough wild onions for the meal at hand. This blog documents my recent exploration using wild onions in a variety of ways. I’ve written about wild onions before and my work in developing a hot Wild Onion jelly condiment. I still have a few of those and they are quite unique, different and also delicious. The fact that two years on I still have them also speaks to the uniqueness of the taste. This year my focus is on using the leaves fresh and examining different treatments and uses of them. With wild onions, you do need to keep tasting to get the right balance between them not showing up at all and being too overbearing with their unique musky forest taste.

I developed 4 recipes using the leaves, and this blog describes them. In the first case I wanted to make a potato salad. Potato salads typically involve potatoes, some kind of a mayonnaise type dressing and sprinkles of parsley or chives to give a little kick in flavour. Here I am using the wild onions for that garlic/onion function. I also decided to use a couple of boiled eggs in the mix. I felt that would be a nice taste and textural complement to the potatoes. There aren’t specific quantities here. I used 4 potatoes, 2 eggs, and a couple of tablespoons of mayo. I also have some chives growing and I used those as well. Pretty simple: combine the ingredients, tasting as you go. Obviously there’s some salt and pepper to taste.

The second recipe I worked on was a spinach salad. The same principles apply: wild onions substitute for regular onions and garlic, taste as you go for the right amount and balance. Spinach is the fairly neutral base of the dish, with the other ingredients adding the pop and excitement. In this case its the wild onions, chives and sorel.

My third application was a beet salad salad. Beets already have a pretty strong individual taste, so they can take a lot more wild onions to balance the flavors. I like some heat in my beet recipes so a little bit of Scorpion sauce went in too. Olive oil and apple cider vinegar as the dressing were the dressing base. A final addition was pomegranate seeds. These are always great to provide that bright, fresh slightly tangy pop in any dish they appear.

My final effort which worked out really well was a barley salad. Again the wild onion leaves form the base of the flavoring. to taste, a dressing of olive oil and apple cider vinegar, The wild onion is finely chopped wild onion, with salt and pepper to taste. Since I already had that pomegranate out, it seemed like a natural addition. For the cup or so of cooked barley grain I used about a third of the seeds of a pomegranate. Other possibilities that would have a achieved a similar result could have been dried cranberries or Granny Smith apples. I wouldn’t want more than that otherwise the dish would be too busy and the wild onions would recede to the background.

I should make a note about cooking whole grain barley used here. Start in the morning. 1 part barley to 3 parts water. A little salt. Simmer for 30 minutes, lid on. Take off the heat, keep the lid on, and leave it for the rest of the day. It can be used in multiple ways: in soup, salads, as a breakfast grain, a substitute for rice or other grains….

I hope where you are that you can get into some local woods and suss out some wild onions. These are but a few possibilities – there are many more!

Can apples be like onions?

This is an account of our February 22nd pandemic dinner which took an interesting culinary twist.

As usual I had really not much of a clue of what I was going to make for dinner, other than defrosting some chicken parts earlier in the day. What I usually do with chicken is cut off what breast I need, and also a leg. (We have one family member who only likes breast and other family members who don’t care.) I did my usual basic rub where I weigh the chicken and add 1.5% salt by weight and 1.5% sugar by weight (in other words equal parts of each) and then I figure out what else I want to spice it with. I decided to use my pumpkin spice mix. Why not? Let’s try chicken with pumpkin spice! Get that cloves, allspice and nutmeg thing going.

Having done that I next turned my attention to a squash which we had sitting in the fridge needing something to be done with it. My usual squash treatment is to cut it in half, remove the seeds, score the seed cavity, and fill it with butter, maple syrup and cinnamon. This was also a flattish Kabocha squash with a very wide seed cavity. Here I started with the butter, thought that since I had the pumpkin spice out, it might work well here too, and then a splash of maple syrup. Here’s where things got a little interesting. The butter and syrup did not come near to filling the squash so I’m asking “What else can I add? Apple! Why not?” The apple would really nicely complement both the meaty squash and the pumpkin spice mix. A little like bringing back the Fall in February. This is getting interesting! I then thought “What goes well with apple?” How about some cheddar cheese? I found a package of goat cheddar in the fridge and added slices of that as well. Once it was nearly baked I would add some Quinoa I had previously cooked on the top just to heat through.

About this point it occurred to me that perhaps one can make apple work like an onion. Where else can I go with this? The chicken! Beyond the rub I’m still wondering how I’m going to finish it. I knew I would wind up braising it because I was too lazy to do much else. So I cut up some onions, added a little bit of salt and pepper to them (The chicken parts have already been salted) and some butter to saute and caramelize, lid on. At that point I began to think about the apple idea. I had a half Granny Smith level left over from the squash. What if I cut that up fine and pretended it was an onion? That’s what I did. Once the apple and onion had disintegrated into their sweet buttery mushiness, the chicken went on the top. Low heat – 30 minutes – until the chicken had cooked through and the flavors had all come together.

This pandemic dinner had a couple of other parts to it too – a typical ‘leftover’ soup, steamed broccoli, rice and sourdough bread on the side.

So that is how apple became the theme of the dinner and that is how I began this spontaneous inquiry about how apple can function like an onion. Indeed it can! It’s sweet, and when you cook onions they’re sweet as well with a completely different yet complementary flavor. Depending on how much apple you put in you can give a range of dishes anything from a sublime hint of apple to it being a full on part of the flavor profile. Apple is not all you can use in this way. Pear also would work well. I can see this working with fish, pork, lamb, carrot, parsnip, rutabaga, as well as a variety of grains – rice, bulgar, quinoa, couscous… – and that is only what immediately comes to mind.

It also occured to me that I’m hardly the first to think of apples in this way. Check out Mollie Katzen’s Sweet Potato Surprise which does the same apple treatment only with bananas as well.

What a great new tool in my culinary toolbox, hiding all these years in plain sight!

Chocolate mini pots

A few weeks ago I had this dessert challenge. I wanted to come up with a dessert that was fast, chocolaty, delicate, not too sweet, very rich, easy, small portions with nothing left over.

I had a recollection of something like this – and sure enough there were some inspirational ideas in America’s Test Kitchen.

But they weren’t quite what I wanted. Usually the amounts were too big, or they were too complex. What I had in mind was small ramekin sized chocolate pots to serve 3-4 people who are watching their weight, have just had a great dinner, and want a little dessert finisher at the end.

Here is what I came up with that will yield 4 – 3 ounce ramekins.

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Mise en scene (not including the flour)

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • (you can happily make the recipe without the flour – it will be more moussy)
  • 125g unsalted butter (about 1/4lb butter)
  • 125g semi sweet chocolate (about 4 oz)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup whipping cream with a teaspoon of sugar and a dash of vanilla. You only use 2 tbs in the dessert itself. The rest is for the topping or whatever else you want it for.
  • 1 tsp liqueur – your choice
  • 1 tbs whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter and chocolate together. Any way you can. Microwave is fine
  2. Make whipped cream. The whipping is optional, but it will make a difference, as you are adding in air that will make it lighter and somehow silkier
  3. Mix the flour and baking powder together – if you decide to use them. With them, the result is a little more like a cake and without, more moussy.
  4. Whisk together the egg, milk and vanilla and liqueur
  5. Blend in the melted butter and chocolate until fully intergrated
  6. Blend in 2 tbs of the whipped cream
  7. Fold in the flour/baking powder (if you are using them)
  8. Pour into ramekins.
  9. Cooking can vary. Essentially you need to get them to a temperature where the eggs solidify, and it does not matter how you do it. You can zap it in a microwave for 30 seconds at a time until it looks cooked & a toothpick comes out clean – about 1-1.5 minutes. Or you can stick it in a cooling down oven beginning at 375-400. Leave it and let it cook gently. Or you can push the oven to 375, put in the ramekins, turn off the oven. They should be done in 10 minutes. I imagine that 250 for 30 minutes will also work, though I have not tried that yet.
  10. Cool the ramekins down to room temperature or lower.
  11. Add topping as you see fit: whipped cream, icing of your choice, fruit, candied nuts, jam- whatever grabs you.
  12. Other options: add a tbs of your favorite jam to get a fruit flavour.
  13. Also your liquer can change or if you don’t like, omit it. I’ve tried bourbon, brandy, kirsh so far. The main thing is that it should have a distinct flavor. (So no vodka)

Qurs – Our Ethiopian breakfast

Its not often that one has the opportunity to deeply participate in a culture that is not ones own. Unless you are someone like Anthony Bourdain who did it for a living, I would say its extremely rare. I’ve often thought that an ideal personal holiday for me would be to spend a week in the home kitchen of another culture, taking it all in.

I got pretty close on this one, and it felt like a real honour.

Here’s how it all came about.

We’ve known S for a number of years now. She arrived as a teen here in Canada about 30 years ago, but she says she wasn’t taught how to cook in Ethiopia. She was however, very well taught by her friends, relatives and the restaurants she worked in once here. She is now a master of Ethiopian cuisine and has over the years shown me things about heat and spices I never could learn from reading a recipe.

So this past summer, she was staying with us at our place up north on the Bruce Peninsula. She said “I’m going to cook you guys an Ethiopian breakfast.” How exciting! We didn’t even know there was such a thing. My almost immediate response was, “And I’m going to blog about it.”

And so it has come to pass. I took on the role not of someone learning and practicing – that comes later – but of note taking and taking pictures that hopefully capture the technique in the moment. Unlike me, S does not weigh out things. Everything is by feel. She has very finely honed taste and scent buds. She doesn’t need to compare a prior smell or taste, she knows how close or not something is, and usually what to do to adjust it.

For each of us, our way works. If you have read my other blogs, you know that what I’m after is consistency and transferability. If someone 15,000km away from me reads one of my recipes, I want it turn out the same as what I would do, and on the strength of my text and pictures alone.

Ethiopian cuisine is unique in the world. Possibly its a result of the harsh mountainous terrain that separates it from its neighbours and may have led to the development of a more singular and unique cuisine – though there was definitely sharing – importing and exporting of ingredients and ideas. Please check out Harry Kolman’s site on Ethiopian cuisine – its extensive and rich. His is one book I would not mind getting. He also has a blog entry on Ethiopian breakfast!

Nit’ir Qibe

Nit’ir qibe is quite literally the secret sauce that makes all the recipes work. I’ve described it more fully, in my companion blog along with a version that can be made with more commonly available ingredients here.

Kinche

A good breakfast must have its grains, and bulgur is the grain of choice here. The cooking process is the same for any other delicate grain like couscous or white rice: rinse thoroughly to remove starch, add some salt, boil then immediately simmer, lid on. Finally turn off the heat (lid still on) and let the grains fully absorb the water. The difference here is that the nit’ir qibe is added right before serving.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbs nit’ir qibe

Instructions

  1. Rinse bulgur well
  2. Add water and salt to bulgur & bring to a boil uncovered
  3. Reduce heat to lowest, cover, and leave for 20 minutes null
  4. Turn off heat, keep the lid on, and let sit for another 20 minutes
  5. Add 4 tbs of nit’ir qibe.null

Firfir

Firfir is a berbere based stew that is infused into pieces of cut up injera. What’s important in this recipe is the heat and water. My western approach to breakfast was stretched a little here with this very spicy meat dish, but it was a case of ‘twist my rubber arm’.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 lb beef or lamb, chopped into 2-3cm (1″) cubes
  • 2-3 tbs sunflower oil
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tsp minced ginger , minced
  • 10 tbs berbere
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 2-3 c water
  • 2 tbs nit’ir qibe
  • 2-3 injera

Instructions

  1. Finely dice a large onion and put in a 4 or so litre pot on the stove. Cook dry on a medium heat for 3-4 until the onions begin to soften – but not burn.
  2. Cut 1 lb beef or lamb in 2-3cm (1″) cubesnull
  3. Add garlic, ginger and sunflower oil. Cook stirring on a fairly hot heat to disintegrate the onionsnull
  4. Add berbere, adding a little water as needed to prevent sticking. Keep stirring for 5 to 10 minutes. If you cook the berbere longer it’s taste will infuse into the onion and it will also lose heat.
  5. After 10 minutes of cooking and stirring, add meat, and continue stirring for a further 10 minutesnull
  6. Add 2-3C water and 1 tbs salt, bring it to a simmer, and cover it. null
  7. As it is simmering, tear up injera into the bowl you will be serving this dish in. It should be about 10-12″ (25-30cm) wide. These should be in strips big enough that you can use them to pick up a bite of food with your fingers – about 6-8″.null
  8. After 30 minutes of simmering, raise the heat with the lid still on, and add 2 tbs of the nit’ir qibe. Cook, stirring on this higher heat for a few more minutes.
  9. Work the meat mix gently into the injera pieces and servenull

Chechebesa

This is a very addictive carb dish. The ingredients speak to that: flour, salt and qibe

Ingredients

  • 400g (3 cups) all purpose flour
  • 8g salt (1 tsp) – 2% of the flour
  • 240g water (1 cup) In other words a 60% hydration dough.
  • 3 tbs berbere
  • 3 tbs nit’ir qibe
  • small bowl of water on the side

Instructions

  1. Make a dough with the flour, water and salt. Once fully combined and kneaded, separate into 3 balls and let rest for a few minutes
  2. Heat a cast iron frying pan to a high temperature. Flatten the balls using the palm of your hand. It should be about 1/4″ 6-7mm thick. turn itnull
  3. Place the dough in the hot pan and press it out as much as you can. Dip your fingers in the water and continue pressing it out. Fip it several times. It should be about 1/4″ 6-7mm thick. turn it to cook evenly on both sides, until you see brown flecks on both sides. Check this video to see the technique.
  4. Once it has cooled, tear into bite sized pieces
  5. Melt 3 tbs of nit’ir qibe and add 3 tbs berbere
  6. Work the berbere & spiced butter mix into the torn up bread and serve

Enqulale firfir (scrambled eggs)

I really love this wonderfully spicy take on scrambled eggs. Note the treatment of the Jalapenos – the flesh only. The seeds can be saved and used in something else hot.

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion chopped fine
  • 1 large tomato in small chunks
  • 2 jalapenos, no seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tbs nit’ir qibe

Instructions

  1. Chop the onion finely
  2. Cut the tomato into small chunks
  3. Remove the seeds from the jalapenos and cut coarsely dice
  4. Dice or press the garlicnull
  5. In a cast iron pan, sautee onion, garlic, jalapeno and tomato in the nit’ir qibe until the onions are translucent.
  6. Beat 4 eggs and add to the sautee. Stir a little, taste for salt, turn off the heat, and cover.

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And here is our final result. A truly spectacular cottage brunch!

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Nit’ir Qibe

Nit’ir Qibe

Nit’ir qibe is a spiced butter that is as key to Ethiopian cuisine as berbere and injera are. Its the secret sauce that makes all of the recipes in my Breakfast Blog work.

I remember when we made our Ethiopian breakfast, all the ingredients were from scratch and I could easily weigh them and record them. There was one – a tub of yellowish buttery looking fat that I was told there were “special ingredients that were exceedingly difficult to find – and don’t ask me what they are right now. You will eventually find out.” The finding out took a couple of months, but I finally did learn how to make it, and I now have this wonderful multi purpose flavoring oil at hand.

Although nit’ir qibe recipes are to be found online, what is presented here is S’s special and personal version. Although similar to ghee, there’s something of a different focus. To begin with, the spices are toasted, then ground. Although the butter is heated (separating the butterfat from the milk solids and water), the main purpose is to slowly infuse the taste of the spices into the butter. The challenge is finding the ingredients as there are four unique ingredients only, and even rarely available in a groceries catering to the Ethiopean community: Kosseret (from the Verbena family – but its not verbena either) and Korarima (or Ethiopian cardamom that tastes very different than our common green cardamom.) Ajowan tikur asmud, and finally, ground fenugreek .

In this blog I will be presenting S’s original personal and special recipe, followed by a reasonable alternative that can be made from more common ingredients.

My rant on spices and misappropriation.

When I began this project, one of the first challenges was to get clear about my nomenclature. What was I going to call the dishes, and the ingredients in them? This was particularly true of the nit’ir qibe. Indeed I began by calling this ‘spiced butter’ which is true enough in English. But really, since this particular condiment exists only within Ethiopian cuisine, it became quickly clear that it has a name: nit’ir qibe. That is then how it should be called by everyone.

Similarly the spices have their unique names. This is where we ran into some problems of identification. Some of the herbs and spices in nit’ir qibe uniquely come from Ethiopia. Some are only be found in that part of the world. Others are more common in Arabic and Indian cuisine as well. Some of these herbs have somehow acquired along the way, quite misleading English common names, even though they are unrelated. I’ll describe each in turn:

Here are the Ethiopian/anglicized/latin name & link/ as well as possible substitutes

Tikur asmud – Nigella Sativa ‘black cumin’. Possible substitute: onion/black pepper/oregano

Nigella Sativa has been used for centuries throughout the Mideast as both a spice and a medicinal covering numerous ailments. What it is definitely not is a variety of cumin. Clearly someone felt it looked a little like cumin (really??) and so for Anglophones, the name stuck. Some other names include nigella, kalojeera, kalonji or kalanji. Its probable that it can be purchased in grocery stores catering to middle east and Indian cuisines. Possible substitute: onion/black pepper/oregano

Korarima – Aframomum corrorima – ‘Ethiopian cardamon’ is of the ginger family, though it tastes nothing like either one. Possible substitute: nutmeg/cardamom

Ajwain Trachyspermum ammi– Bishop’s weed – Possible substitute: thyme

Ajwain is used widely in Indian cuisine as well, associated with ghee. Its also used in Ayurveda herbal medicine

Kosoret Lippia abyssinica – – Verbena -Possible substitute: oregano, mint leaves. Its used in herbal medicines and shows some antibacterial properties.

Fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum the final item is to be already ground. Of them all this should be reasonably available. Don’t roast the whole fenugreek, then grind it. The taste is not the same.

S’s original recipe

Ingredients

  • 3lb unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs ground funugreek
  • 6 tbs Koseret
  • 1 tbs Ajowan
  • 1 tbs tikur asmud
  • 3 tbs koramima

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in fairly large pot on a low to medium heat. you want it to melt but not boil.
  2. Heat a cast iron pan on high for a couple of minutes, add the ajowan, koiramama and tikur asmud, turn down the heat and stir. When it begins to smell good, then take off heatnitir-qibe20201013_121540-19
  3. Grind the roasted spices to a medium/fine consistencynitir-qibe20201013_121540-15
  4. crumble the koseret in your hands
  5. Add all ingredients to the now melted butter, put a lid on it and leave it on low for between 1-4 hours.nitir-qibe20201013_121540-13
  6. Using a very fine cheesecloth over a jar (make a cup in the neck of the jar and put an elastic band around it) and carefully pour in the butter. Near the end. heat up the butter to make it less viscous and squeeze all you can through the cheesecloth.nitir-qibe20201013_121540-5
  7. Leave it at room temperature overnight then store in the fridge.nitir-qibe20201013_121540-2

An alternative version with more common spices

Its pretty clear that if everything in this and the Breakfast blog which follows hinged on the 5 ingredients most people (including Ethiopians) can’t get their hands on, there would be little interest in trying out these dishes. That would be terrible! Although the nit’ir qibe will not be quite the same, you can still make a tasty version with more commonly available herbs and spices. The ingredient that really carries the day is the fenugreek.

Here are 3 alternatives:

Common ingredient alternative 1 (for a 1 lb quantity of unsalted butter)

454g unsalted butter 1 lb

5g ground fenugreek – 1 ¼ tsp

5g diced ginger root 1 ¼ tsp

5 g pressed garlic (small clove)

3g cardamom nibs (the seeds inside the cardamom pod) – ¾ tsp

Common ingredient alternative 2

All of alternative 1 plus 8g thyme (2 tbs) and 8g oregano (2 tbs)

Common ingredient alternative 3

All of alternative 1 plus 19g thyme 4 tbs and no oregano

Instructions for common ingredient alternatives

The basic process is the same as for the original recipe except that I toasted all of the herbs and spices.

  1. Melt butter in fairly large pot on a low to medium heat. You want it to melt but not boil.
  2. Prepare the herb & spice mix
  3. Heat a cast iron pan on high for a couple of minutes, add the herb & spice mix, turn down the heat and stir. When it begins to smell good, then take off heat
  4. Grind the roasted spices to a medium/fine consistency
  5. Add all ingredients to the now melted butter, put a lid on it and leave it on low for between 1-4 hours.
  6. Using a very fine cheesecloth over a jar (make a cup in the neck of the jar and put an elastic band around it) and carefully pour in the butter. Near the end, heat up the butter to make it less viscous and squeeze all you can through the cheesecloth.
  7. Leave it at room temperature overnight then store in the fridge.

What can you do with it?

Lots! Here is a brief list:

  • Flavor a grain: fluffy rice, bulgur, couscous, buckwheat, …. Steam the rice gently, leave the cover on at the end, and add the Qibe at the very end. This would be like the kinche recipe in the breakfast blog.
  • Braised vegetables: begin with sauteing onion in qibe butter – same as what you would use as butter or oil. Once the onions are translucent to caramelized, add sliced root vegetables, gently layered in on top. Add a little stock, or white wine. Cover at a low simmer for 40-60 minutes.
  • Chicken – same process as the braised vegetables except use chicken pieces. Use enough and you have Ethiopian buttered chicken!
  • A meat stew – check the Firfir recipe in the Breakfast Blog and adapt it to another meat
  • Anywhere you would use butter to cook and also want the unique flavor of this fragrant condiment.

What about other spiced butters?

Sure – go wild! You can use any combination of herbs and spices to make your own spiced butters. For a Mediterranean palette, consider garlic and rosemary. For Mexican, garlic, cumin and lime. A couple of words of advice: Don’t use many ingredients – they will cancel each other out. Start with just a little and keep notes. When I was developing the alternatives, I used 100g of butter at a time and a jeweler’s scale to keep things accurate.

Here’s one I made with a Mediterranean feel to it:

  • 1lb butter
  • 8 tbs thyme
  • 4 tbs rosemary
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic

Finally, keep in mind that these are prepared with unsalted butter, so you will inevitably need to add salt to whatever you are cooking, and you may need to add quite a bit too. Salted butter is about 3% salt by weight so if you are experimenting with either salted butter or ading in salt, keep that in mind.

And oils?

Sure! Why not! One of my fav appetizers is duck confit. In it you cure the duck in a salt sugar and herb mix for a number of days, then cook it sous vide at 180F in its own fat. All of the cure for the duck flavors the fat. Once the confit is done, pour the fat into a jar and you have really delicious spiced duck fat.

It is important for the emulsification of the additives that your fat is hard at fridge temperature. This would preclude using cooking oils – although maybe not. I’ve seen many an artisanal ‘Rosemary Olive oil’ or what have you. I have not yet tried coconut oil, but this would be really interesting too, especially combined with spice mixes from countries coconuts naturally grow in.

My Breakfast Sandwich

I used to love hitting Tims in the morning for breakfast, and my go to choice was a bagel belt and coffee. This is a breakfast sandwich with egg, cheese, bacon or sausage, lettuce and tomato.

For those of you who are not in Canada, ‘Tims’ stands for Tim Hortons – a fast food chain that was started in the ‘60s by a famous retired hockey player (how Canadian, eh?) and is now the main fast food joint across Canada. What’s good about it is that every Tims has exactly the same menu and it tastes exactly the same no matter where you are in the 8,000km stretch that is Canada. What’s bad about it … is that same consistency. Each store is run like a mini factory, the employees needing to meet quota deadlines on their performance all to get minimum wage. It can be a pretty awful place to work. I still don’t know if Canadian tastes influence Tim’s menu choice, or vice versa. Its a chicken and egg thing.

A while ago I was determined to be able to better the Bagel Belt at home, and it wasn’t that hard to do. If you have read some of my other posts, you know I always have some sourdough on the go, which means a bag of dough ready to be made into a loaf at any time its needed. So without further explanation, here’s one of my go to at home breakfasts.

If you are a baker and have a bag of dough ready to be made into bread, shape about 140g piece of dough into a bun slightly bigger than a ramekin, and throw some sesame seeds – or whatever you like/have. Or, you can use a burger bun, pita, a bagel or an English muffin. Whatever you have on hand.

 

And cook it dry in a cast iron frying pan at a medium heat, covered. Flip it every minute or so. Its ready when it starts turning brown.

 

Cut up a few pieces of bacon into a ramekin

And toss them in the microwave, covered for 30 seconds

Make your coffee….

Add a raw egg to the partly cooked bacon and stir….

Add some cheese on top

 

And throw it back in the microwave for 1 minute….

 

Prepare your sandwich….

 

And… Brekky!

Beer trub bread

Brewers out there – this blog is for you!

I know that your friends and family are ooing and aaaawwwing at your brewhouse accomplishments. This blog will show you how to get them ooing and aaaawwwing over a great loaf of bread from your beer trub.

For readers who are not beer makers, trub is the ‘gunk’ that forms at the bottom of a beer fermentation vessel. Once the yeast has been active, and has fermented the beer, it drops out and falls to the bottom. The trub is highly bitter as it also picks up the taste of the hops and other bittering agents. But perhaps you are a bread baker who knows a beer brewer. Get some of that trub – its a unique baking experience.

Perhaps the most important aspect to master is the bitterness of the trub. A little is nice – but too much can kill it.

There are also many recipes out there for a beer bread in which beer is substituted in whole or in part for the water. This is also not like that. In this, the beer trub provides both the rise and the flavour.

So lets get started. The whole process takes between 6 and 24 hours, depending on the temperatures you ferment at. Its a great project to do on brew day when you have to wait around and monitor things. This recipe will make one 950g loaf.

Ingredients

  • Beer trub – about 100g. The fresher the better. Use what you have from your last batch that has been refrigerated.
  • Flour: about 700g total. Flour also imparts flavour. For this beer I would go with whole grain high protein flours – whole wheat, red fife, rye, spelt, kamut. Some all purpose white flour can be used, but that is not what beer bread is all about.
  • Water – less than a litre. It must not have chemicals in it.
  • Salt – 12g
  • Various seeds and toppings of your choice.

Directions

  1. Get the starter happening

In a 500ml or 1l mason jar combine 100g trub, 60g flour and 100ml of water (no chemicals in it though, they will kill the yeasts). Mix thoroughly and leave for a few hours. If your trub is fresh (less than a month old and has been refrigerated) place the mason jar in a bowl as it may very well overflow. (Check the ceiling photo. This one blew its top!) Leave the starter until it gets really active. This should take approximately 4 hours at room temperature.

Beer trub, flour and water= your starter

Beer trub has some really active yeast!

It twisted the top off … and BOOM!

2. The Bulk Rise

Now is the time to mix in the rest of the ingredients and let that trub yeast get refreshed and go to work! Combine the following dry ingredients:

  • 545g of flour. This can be your choice. Just as in beer making the grains you use determines the flavour, so it is true in bread making. Since trub has those hoppy beery qualities in abundance, my suggestion would be to try heavier whole grain flours: whole wheat, rye, red fife. Some white all purpose flour is fine too. (note the similarities to your grain bills?)

    Dry ingredients for the bulk rise
  • 12g salt
  • 25g DME (for you non brewers this is dry malt extract) or another sugar.

Now mix in the wet ingredients:

  • 285g of water. This could be other liquids, though I would not suggest beer, as there is plenty if beeriness in the trub.
  • 109g of starter: the trub/flour/water you just refreshed

  • Plus water and starter

Mix it all thoroughly together, turn it out on a counter and knead (wet your hands with water, don’t add more flour) until everything is nicely combined. If it gets a little sticky, wet your hands

at the start of the bulk rise

End of the bulk rise

some more.

Place your bulk rise in a bowl and cover with a very damp towel. This can be left at room temperature for about 4 hours or until it is doubled in size. You can also stick it in the fridge overnight.

3. Proofing

For this super simple first go at it, I’m advising you use a typical loaf pan.

STRETCH AND FOLD (S&F)

STRETCH AND FOLD: TAKE A CORNER OF YOUR DOUGH, PULL IT OUT AND FOLD IT OVER THE REST OF THE DOUGH. REPEAT A FEW TIMES UNTIL THE DOUGH GETS STIFF.

S&F: stretch and fold over

THE TASTE TEST

At this point I would taste it to see where it is at for bitterness. I don’t usually do this for bread, but with the hoppiness in the trub, you might want to. Heat up a frying pan (cast iron is best), flatten out a small piece of dough you have pinched off, and put it dry into your pan at a medium heat. It will rise and get brown. Turn it a couple of times. After a couple of minutes it will be ready. Taste it. If you like what you have then go for it. If you feel it is too bitter, add some sweetener – honey, maple syrup, DME. Repeat the process (if you like).

SHAPING AND PROOFING

Now that the basic taste of the bread is where you want it, shape it more or less into a shape that will nicely fit in your pan. You can add other things: cereals, seeds, cornmeal – whatever your brewer’s heart desires. Sprinkle your additives on or roll the dough in them.

To place the bread in its pan, tear off enough parchment paper to hold the loaf. I advise parchment paper as it makes the loaf super easy to extract.

If you are baking it right away, leave it for about an hour at room temperature. If you want to wait overnight or a similar longish period, put it in the fridge for 8-24 hours at this point. Just make sure it is covered with a damp cloth.

Shaped into a loaf, you can add seeds etc. on the crust if you like.

4. Baking

Turn your oven to 450F. When it reaches cooking temperature, score the loaf: using a sharp knife cut a slash from one end to the other. The blade should be at an angle and not go in more than a few cm/1/4”.

Just before it goes in, slash from one end to the other.

At this point you can also brush on a variety of crust caremelizing liquids – either water, oil or egg white.

Bake as follows: You will be using 3 different temperatures.

You proofed it at room temperature You proofed it in the fridge
12 minutes at 450F/230C 16 minutes at 450F/230C
12 minutes at 425F/218C 16 minutes at 425F/218C
12 minutes at 400F/205C 16 minutes at 400F/205C

If you are unsure if it is ready, test it with an instant read thermometer (you are a brewer, you will have one of these!). It should be at an internal temperature of between 190F (88C) – 205F(95C).

Once out of the oven let it cool off for about 15 minutes – then dig in. You will find it pairs so excellently with the beer you brew!

Further discussion….

ADJUSTING THE RECIPE

What is presented here is a precise recipe yielding a 950 or so gram loaf. You can easily adjust it using my handy bread calculator spreadsheet.

The highlighted cells can be changed by the user, however the other cells are all formulas and the cells are protected. The two key cells are B6 and B8.

In B6 you control the ratio of flour to starter. Making regular sourdough, I typically have this set for a 3:1 recipe. For trub starters, I suggest it be set to 5 or 6 – a higher 5:1 ratio.

B8 is the amount of trub starter to use. Remember that the trub starter is what resulted from initially combining trub with water and flour. In this recipe, you will have trub starter left over. Put it in the fridge and you can use it a day or two later. You can also refresh it with the following ratios of flour and water: 1 part trub starter, 1 part water, 60% of the starter weight in flour. If you wanted to be adventurous you could even use it to get your next brew going! What you are doing is using flour instead of wort to refresh and strengthen the yeast.

B7 is the hydration – what is presented is a fairly dry 60% hydration loaf. You could nudge this up, but if you are trying it for the first time, just leave it as it is.

Where next?

If you loved doing this you will want to do it some more. You can! You can keep refreshing your starter using equal amounts of the old starter and fresh water, with 60% of the starter weight in flour. The hoppiness will dissipate the more flour refreshing you do until you will eventually have your own strain of sourdough starter.

If you want to explore even further, check out my blog on sourdough here:

More sourdough related posts

Making sourdough easy and ‘just in time’

More fun with Sourdough: Party Bites

Fun stuff to do with sourdough

Backwoods Sourdough

As well as the following bread resources here:

Facebook groups

https://www.facebook.com/groups/perfectsourdough/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/360136781918/

Plus some other cool sites

NWSD2

https://breadtopia.com

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/

https://food52.com/blog/10044-dan-leader-s-4-hour-baguette#comments

https://food52.com/blog/10557-8-rules-for-altering-baking-recipes?utm_source=FOOD52+Subscribers+List&utm_campaign=03bb5226cf-Digest_Edit_Only_6_15_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_191568346e-03bb5226cf-19271481&mc_cid=03bb5226cf&mc_eid=3a9f42af79

Whole Wheat Croissants

https://www.shipton-mill.com/baking/recipes/sourdough-croissants.htm#comment-837

March 12 2019: A postscript to this blog: I’ve noticed this blog has received more attention than any of my other (frankly) more useful bread blogs. What’s up with that? I’m genuinely curious.

Please let me know how you found it & what intrigued you about it!