Roux to the Rescue!

I was watching a re-run of the Great British Baking Show, and they had them making soufflés for the technical challenge (which, for the record, I have never made, Kevin makes the soufflés in this house generally), and one of the contestants said she’d never made a roux, and they were all ‘what, never?’ and she was all ‘shut up,’ but more polite and British about it. Poor thing!

I can’t remember when I first learned to make a roux, but I was probably at least thirty. Which is sort of astonishing to me now, because I do the basic, stripped down version of it all the time. I mean ALL the time. Basically every week we end up in a situation like the one we were in last night, where we had some leftover chicken thighs that had gotten a little dry, and some cooked asparagus that wasn’t so appealing on day two. We needed a little sauce, desperately. Roux to the rescue!

I generally do sort of a haphazard version of it. I set the water boiling for pasta, then threw a knob of butter in a sauté pan. Added some sliced red onion because I had it on hand and onion is never going to to hurt a savory pan sauce. If I hadn’t been feeling lazy, I would’ve peeled and smashed some garlic and added that too, but I was tired, it was a weeknight, we just wanted to eat something decent. Let the onions get golden, stirring a bit, added the chicken and asparagus, stirred it all together.

Now, I could’ve done a proper roux in a separate pan, but that would make an extra pan for cleaning up. No good. I just scooched the chicken and asparagus and onion over to one side of the pan, and tipped it a little so the melted butter gathered at the other side.

Added a bit of flour — not too much, or you’ll end up with something gluey and sad. Maybe 1/2 a teaspoon? I suppose it depends on how much sauce you want, though! Stirred the flour in the butter for a few seconds, letting it cook a little and start to get golden brown (raw flour, no good). There’s the roux, done! Then I added some milk, stirred it in (maybe 1/2 a cup?). Cream would’ve been good too. I happened to have some shredded Gruyere left over, so I stirred that in too. Tasted, added a bit of salt, and then stirred that lovely sauce in with my chicken and asparagus.

Somewhere in there, the pasta water had boiled, I’d tossed in some fresh tortellini (careful not to boil it too furiously, or fresh tortellini tends to burst; you want a gentle boil), cooked it 7 minutes, then drained it. Gently folded the tortellini into my creamy chicken and asparagus in sauce, and it was just enough sauce to very lightly coat the pasta. The kids loved it. Dinner was saved (and lunch the next day).

It should be a slogan, or a cooking show: Roux to the rescue! 🙂

Cooking While Sick

Kevin wasn’t feeling great yesterday, and as a result, he overcooked the broccoli for Anand’s birthday dinner. (Cooking while sick generally doesn’t go well.)

But no worries! Today, we turned it into broccoli cheddar soup, sprinkled some more cheese on the top and served with a loaf of hot, crusty bread. Fabulous for a cool early autumn day. All is well. 🙂

(This is one of many reasons to always keep chicken stock on hand.)

Sri Lankan Dal With Coconut and Lime Kale Recipe

I haven’t made this dish, but there are many Sri Lankans commenting on it, so I draw it to your attention. (Spoiler alert — they mostly don’t seem to love her version. The kale on the top is definitely not traditional, but in her defense, the intro does note that.)

(This is pretty different from the dal in my own cookbook. Which I think is delicious. But, y’know, I would. 🙂 )

Sri Lankan Dal With Coconut and Lime Kale Recipe

“Red lentils are the king of weekday cooking,” said Meera Sodha, the British cookbook author In this robust dish, she turns to quick-cooking red lentils, deepening their flavor with fried green chiles, garlic and ginger It’s not traditional to serve the kale on top, but it turns a simple dish into a luxurious, complete meal: Just add hot rice and a spoonful of yogurt on the side.

Battenberg Tempted

I really was tempted to make a Battenberg cake for Anand’s 11th birthday after the season premiere of GBBO featured them, but there were a few problems with that plan:

a) I suspected he wouldn’t like the traditional marzipan icing. Honestly, I don’t particularly like marzipan icing — I can handle a little of it on Sri Lankan fruit cake at weddings, but it doesn’t excite me.

b) I didn’t think he’d like the jam used to adhere the layers — we had a very nice birthday cake earlier this summer with jam between the layers and he scraped it all off. Why my children don’t like jam, when they love fruit and sugar, I really don’t know. But anyway. Kavi was worried that I might put jam in her brother’s cake, and I assured her that I would not. (I love jam in cake. Sigh.)

c) Most of the Battenberg cake recipes I looked at also incorporated ground almond in the cake mix, and I wasn’t sure he’d like that flavor either. It would be sad to make him a birthday cake he didn’t like, and while he could scrape off marzipan and jam, he couldn’t scrap the ground almond out of the cake! So that seemed right out.

But in researching, people mentioned checkerboard cakes, and it looked like it was basically the same concept, with regular cake (no ground almond), frosting instead of jam to adhere the layers, and more frosting on the outside. Perfect.

I told Anand I was thinking of making him a two flavor cake, and I knew he wanted chocolate for one of the flavors. I offered him a choice of vanilla, raspberry, strawberry, apple, or mango for the other flavor, and he went for vanilla. Not what I would’ve picked, but hey, it’s his cake.

The next step was making decisions about pans and cutting. Most recipes for checkerboard cake call for 4 9″ cake pans. I have only 1 of those, and the prospect of using it 4 times seemed a bit much.

I might’ve done it, but they also called for 6″ and 3″ cookie cutters (or sometimes 5 1/2″ and 2 1/2″), and I don’t have any cutters bigger than 5″. I didn’t want to buy specialty items just for this cake, so I reluctantly abandoned that plan. (It does look quite a bit simpler than I what I did, and more likely to hold together well, so I’d recommend looking for those if you’re going to try it.)

Instead, I used a rectangular cake pan (of which I only had one). I used this recipe for the cake mix, baking half of it as a yellow cake, and then adding cocoa and baking half as a chocolate cake. (My halves weren’t quite even, so I ended up cutting off some excess chocolate cake. Hey, they do that in GBBO all the time. I think it’s legit.)…/chocolate-and-vanilla…

I didn’t use her frosting recipe, mostly because I didn’t have any heavy cream on hand, and just made a classic buttercream instead, which is really what I like best anyway. (Passionfruit buttercream is to DIE for.)

Then it really was pretty simple — just cutting it up and alternating layers to make the checkerboard lines. I did a lot more little squares than most such cakes, which gives a pretty fun result — the kids at the birthday party were mildly impressed.

But that many squares also makes the cake a little less structurally sound, especially since the classic cake batter yielded a pretty soft cake. I suspect Battenberg, with the ground almond, has a slightly more cohesive result that’s a little easier to work with (and jam is easier to spread than frosting).

I didn’t try to frost vertically between layers, just horizontally, and that held it together BARELY enough. More frosting on top and sides — I’m not very good at that, and definitely didn’t have the energy to try piping, but sprinkles cover a multitude of sins.

Overall, pretty easy, honestly, and would do again if someone wanted one, though I might make them buy me a large cookie cutter and at least one more 9″ cake pan first. I still kind of want to try the Battenberg someday, but I think it’d probably have to be for a more grown-up event. 🙂

It Doesn’t Have to Be Pretty

Breakfast doesn’t need to be pretty, but it’s nice when it is. 🙂 I’m not sure it counts as cooking if all you’re doing is assembling components? If you get great fresh bagels from your local shop, they don’t even need toasting. But I suppose we usually count salads as cooking, so this can count too. 🙂

One of my favorite breakfasts, and pretty healthy too (although if you do it open-face like this, it can be a little messy to eat.) Summer tomatoes from the garden take it up a notch!

Flash Sale

I have some goodies left over, so if you missed out on the September treat boxes and are sad, you can still pick one up for $30 if you like. It won’t have everything that was in the Patreon box, but it’ll have more of the things it does have, so it’s still nice and full.

• jasmine rose black tea (in a test tube)
• mulled apple cider, honey, and jaggery marshmallows
• banana scones with candied ginger, cranberry, and a jaggery-brown butter glaze
• chocolate cayenne sandwich cookie with mango curd

• salted caramel iced cookies

Just comment below if you want one (I think I can do 5 more with what I have on hand), and we can arrange payment via PayPal…

Spoonflower is Addicting

Happiness is shipping out lots of Patreon treat boxes + one special order. 🙂 I have to spend the morning on e-mail & teaching work, but this afternoon, more mask sewing!

And I have the most CHARMING new autumn fabrics from Spoonflower (that site, so addicting!), as well as Halloweeen fabrics (which will need to be ordered soon if you actually want them for Halloween), so watch this space.

Photos with detailed names and notes for all of those should be posted later today…but here, I’ll throw the thumbnails in here, just give you a sneak peek. So pretty!

Definitely Chocolate in December

I couldn’t figure out how to photograph the September Patreon treat boxes so you could actually see everything them, so you have to imagine the chocolate-dipped madeleines that would go on top. Not every box got exactly the same things, but most of them got most of these:

• jasmine rose black tea
• dark chocolate with coconut and goji berries
• mulled apple cider, honey, and jaggery marshmallows
• banana scones with candied ginger, cranberry, and a jaggery-brown butter glaze
• jaggery & lime bar, with coconut-cashew crust (gluten-free)
• Totoro chocolate cookie
• chocolate cayenne sandwich cookie with mango curd

• “Asclepius in the Garden” soap

The only one I’m not thrilled about sending out is J’s, which was meant to be vegan and gluten-free, and it turned out that very little of my food items were in that category this time around, so J got more soaps than they might perhaps want. I don’t want that to happen again, so I’m going to try to use the gluten-free flour for most if not all of any Patreon treats going forward.

The winter box for December will also have more of a chocolate ratio, so that should help too. I didn’t want ship a lot of chocolate this time around, because I worried it still might be warm enough that if it sat in a mail holding facility for a long time, it might melt.

December, though, definitely chocolate. I’m thinking of adding a theme this time around too — dragons & knitting. You’ll see. 🙂

Ridiculously Silly and Fun

This was ridiculously silly but also fun — I packaged my teas in test tubes. Why? I don’t know! They’re pretty that way. Hopefully the Patreon recipients will find some other use for the test tubes when the teas are done — fill them with bath salts or some such. And I have enough test tubes left for holiday gifting, so I hope my friends and family all like tea.

A Nice Weekday Meal

This was a nice weekday meal. Start with Vietnamese-seasoned-sausage from the Girl and Goatceries, wrap around skewers, grill (I did it on a stovetop grill pan), turning to brown all sides. Delicious drizzled with chili oil, accompanied by fresh veggies, pickled onion and peppers, and a little leftover rice and chicken w/ green beans.

The kids loved the sausages, and I loved the combination of different kinds of elements on the plate.