Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Couldn't Be Arseds

I had an attack tonight. I think it's the first one since we got here, and given how much I've been cooking, it was probably overdue. And we ate all the leftovers for lunch, and I've stopped buying Things In Jars for these moments, so there was only one solution: breakfast for dinner!

Since we don't have a microwave down here, it resulted in a lot of washing up, but it was very delicious. We had scrambled eggs (just eggs scrambled in butter, since I had no cream), fried onion rings, fried tomatoes, a scattering of bacon pieces, and baked beans, on toast. And now that we've digested a while, Mr Bat is making pancakes (the big fat fluffy American hotcakes), to be served with maple syrup or lemon juice and sugar. Nom.

What do you do if you're having an attack of the Couldn't Be Arseds? Does someone else cook, or do you have simple standbys?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

O Dumplings, glorious dumplings!

Time to revive this blog from its hibernation. After our epic holiday and 3000km drive to our new home (during which our camera met an Unfortunate End, so alas this blog will be returning to bland monochrome for the foreseeable future), we've settled in happily over the last week. Part of the process of making a house into a home for me always involves cooking, putting my the skill of my hands and heart into filling the house with familiar scents and energy. I've been experimenting with perfecting a bread recipe, kneaded in the bread machine to spare my RSI but baked in the oven, baking muffins and cakes, and taking advantage of the glorious bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables on every roadside farmstand.

While I might be waking the blog from a hibernation, the weather is definitely encouraging the reverse. Since we arrived in the Huon Valley, the weather has been rainy and autumnal, blessing us with sunshine, fogs and a multitude of rainbows, but over the last two days we've had a real taste of winter's blast on our hilltop. So tonight was definitely a night for a rich, warming winter soup of grains and root vegetables, topped with the glorious fluffy clouds of dumplings.

I love dumplings. They are not, as they are for my Beloved, a childhood comfort food - indeed I don't recall my mother ever making them when I was a kid - but I discovered them a few years ago in Sara Lewis' cookbook, Veggie Food For Kids. Since then, I've made them innumerable times and this particular recipe has never failed me. Tonight, however, I absentmindedly mixed up two recipes I had been reading, and made the dumplings with different proportions and added an egg. The dumplings attained gigantic, saucepan-dominating proportions with the larger quantities, and the addition of the egg seemed to make no particular difference, so I'm giving my usual recipe here instead.

Barley and Lentil Vegetable Soup with Dumplings

2 onions
2 cloves garlic
2 potatoes, diced (I used Dutch Cream, grown ten minutes up the road from here, and they were superb)
1 carrot, diced
1/2 sweet potato, diced
2 tbsp pearl barley
2 tbsp red lentils
2 tbsp Puy lentils
lots o' stock, or 2tsp stock powder and water
1/2 tsp each cumin and coriander
2 bay leaves
black pepper
1c frozen peas

Saute the onion until tender, add chopped garlic and fry until fragrant. Brown the root vegetables for five minutes or so for deeper flavour. Cover the vegetables generously with water or stock and add stock powder (if using) and other seasonings. Toss in the barley and legumes of your choice (I like the way that the red lentils cook down and thicken the soup and Puy lentils are just divine, but use whatever you have or prefer), bring to the boil, and simmer, covered, until vegetables are almost tender. Add the peas just before you're ready for the dumplings, but make sure the water comes back up to the boil before you add them.

200g plain flour (I use a mix of wholemeal and white, but it works with all wholemeal too)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground parmesan or 1/2c grated cheese
50g butter, diced
enough cold water to form a soft dough

In a food processor, whizz the flour, baking powder and cheese to make sure it is evenly mixed, then add the butter and process until it forms coarse crumbs (don't overprocess). Gradually add water and knead gently until it comes together into a sticky dough; try not to handle it too much or the butter melts and the whole thing goes horribly squoogey. Quickly form into a log, and cut into 12 equal pieces. Let your kids practise their ninja playdough rolling skills and make them into rough balls, then drop them into the gently boiling stew, evenly spaced out. Put the lid on and simmer for fifteen minutes or until light and fluffy - don't take the lid off if you can avoid it. They should double in size into gorgeous fluffy pillows of carbolicious goodness. Devour!