February 24, 2014

Freihofer's Hermit Cookies - Reincarnate

The citronella kitchen has been resting for a while. But we return - with a bang - in a new house. With, drumroll please... an oven! We've sadly lost our sand plot, blooming basil and arugula/rocket. But, we've inherited the mother plant of our old plants (where we got our seeds from), a rosemary bush and a dog. (left to right: Vuvu -Our dog, Lula)

In this oven so far, we've done a glorious roast chicken, soon to become soup, toasted garlic bread, a sideways cake (the oven comes at a slant), and now Hermit Cookies.

A few years back while I was at the University of Washington, my mom called me up and said "Hannah I have some very sad news". I begin thinking that someone in the family has passed, one of my beloved goldfish from high school biology, my dog got hit by a car...all the dark thoughts!!! But no - Freihofer's: upstate New York's prized cookie makers, have discontinued their best product: Hermit Cookies. I recall later that same month mom sent out a box of her own version that were stupendous! So in my new oven I thought I'd try to recreate my childhood favorite.

I tried this recipe, but I've made some changes for next time. I got the molasses from South Africa as well as the nuts and the spices are from the states:

- 1/2 cup salted butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup molasses (fun fact: Molasses comes from the Portuguese word melaço, derived from mel, or 'honey')
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/3 cup warm coffee (I used Tanzania ginger coffee)
- 3 1/2 cups of flour
- pinch of salt
- healthy pinch of shaved frozen ginger
- healthy pinch of cinnamon & cloves
- 1 cup of cranberries or raisins (Raisins are more traditional)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Beat sugar and butter until soft (doesn't matter if the sugar is still chunky). then stir in the molasses and one egg. Dissolve baking soda and ginger in coffee then stir into the wet mix. In a separate bowl sift in flour and mix the salt, cinnamon & cloves. Slowly mix the dry materials into the wet, then fold in the nuts and raisins. The mixture shouldn't be too wet and 'logs' can be formed on the greased baking sheet. Otherwise if it is, I just put mine into a cake tray.
<-- already 1/2 gone - good for my border run tomorrow!

Our oven barely reaches 325 degree F - so I just turned it on and put the tray in once it reached 200 degrees F. (If your oven behaves: 350 degrees for 13 minutes.) Or for me I just turned the tray around at 7 minutes and then took it out to cool after 16 minutes. Really I don't use the timer much - just my nose!

My preferred method of consumption is with a big glass of milk!

June 28, 2013

Ile de Ré Soup and Saffron Remoulade

When I, Hannah, was ten years old my family lived in France for a year, just outside of Paris. At the young age I was eating escargots, trotters, pâtés, tripe, confits and a plethora of classically French food (and wine). In one of our final weekend trips before returning to the USA, we visited Ile de Ré. I distinctly recall eating a fish stew that was the grandfather of all fish stews. All forms of sealife were included, crustaceans, invertebrates, arctinopterygii, molluscs, and. Saffron. The evening of the fish potjie, I tasted that taste.

Some people say smell is one of the most memorable senses, the way you can remember a scent from years ago, the smell of your grandmother's sweaters, the smell of your primary school, a lover. It can all come back to you with one whiff, all the emotions involved. This was the case for me and this fish. The taste and smell of the stew brought me back to fourteen years ago...

Ile de Ré Fish Soup and Saffron Remoulade

1 qt. Fish Stock* pushed through a fine mesh sieve
1 qt. of puréed vegetables**
1 onion, diced
2 tomatos, diced
2 T. tomato paste

1 baguette/pão

1 T mayonnaise (Helman's is the best)
1 T Olive oil
1 pinch of saffron
1 t. lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, minced

Start by sautéing the onions in a saucepan with a small amount of vegetable oil. Once they are translucent, add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook until the tomatoes are soft, and then a bit more. Let cool.

Combine the Fish Stock, and puréed vegetables into a large saucepan over low heat.

Meanwhile transfer your onions and tomatoes into a blender, (only because we've only got one pan). Once this cools sufficiently, as in, once the heat doesn't cause your blender to explode onto the ceiling, then blend and add to the stock and veggies.

In another pan heat up the round slices of bread and toast with some olive drizzled on top until golden brown and crispy.

In a spice grinder, as if make aïoli, combine the mayonnaise, and olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. then slowly stir in the fragil flowers of saffron and water until mixed.

Once the Soup is sufficiently warm, place the toasts in a deep soup bowl and top with a generous dollop of the remoulade. Around the toast pour the soup until the toast just floats in the dish. Sprinkle with course sea salt and a crack of fresh ground pepper.


*Fish Stock
1 fish carcass, hacked into filet sized pieces
1 peeled carrot, chopped into larger bits
1 onion, quartered so as to stay together
2 cloves of garlic, loosely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 star of anise
1 t. celery seeds
1 t. pepper corns
1 dried peri-peri chilled with seeds

Place the fish carcass, into a large pot and cover with water, even one inch above. Turn the heat on low as you empty in all the other ingredients. Let simmer with lid off for about 1 hour, any leftover meat should fall easily off the bones of the fish.

From here I set aside about 1 quart of stock to freeze for later use, and the rest I pushed through a fine mesh sieve (if I'd had a food mill I'd have used that).

**Puréed vegetables: These were veggies from the fish potjie, however any soft pumpkin, potato, peppers, carrots, eggplant/aubergines, and onions can work just fine. I put the soft veggies into a blender and blended until smooth.

June 27, 2013

Slinger Seabream

Being a fish biologist, I, Hannah, take it upon myself to eat only sustainable, pole caught fish from the artisanal fishermen. After returning home one night Lorien presented me with two, fresh from the sea fish, that his guardo had sold him. After some investigation and the brilliant FishBase (eveloped by a professor of mine), I discovered our catch: the slinger seabream, or Marreco, Chrysoblephus puniceus. This is a commonly caught commercial fish of significant importance to the people here, and the fishermen come in with this pinkish-silver, scaly fish on a regular basis.

The species itself is very prolific, quickly reaching sexual maturity, and releasing many small eggs in the summer months. It was still fall and our two fresh fish were larger than the 20cm length that this species matures at. Bingo! I've got a sustainable one. Enough fish nerd stuff:

The meat was easy to filet with a few pin bones that required a wrench to remove, but nothing too complex. The leptoid scales had already been removed so I can't comment on the ease with which you can remove them. The flesh was a pale pink that was not very firm to touch.

Once cooked the white meat was not too firm but held together well. The two fish lasted for three meals, not including leftover lunches and the stock that was made from bits and bobs of the skeleton. Our first night it went in some tinfoil with lemon, garlic and pepper. Done. The second night we made a fish potjie (think cast iron pot on fire with a layering system for the ingredients-a South African tradition):

Fish Potjie

1 onion, cut in rings
2 potatoes, cut in half-inch rounds
1 carrot, cut in bite size morssels
2 eggplants/aubergines, cut in half-inch rounds
2 tomatos, cut in wedges

2 T. oil, high heat tolerant
2 c. stock (fish or vegetable or Knorr soup mix works too)
1 t. salt
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T. Moroccan Ras el Hanout (A broad mix of 36 spices brought from Morocco)

(This does not need to be strict, a variety of vegetables can work in potjies)

The potjie needs to sit upon the flames for a while as the fire heats up on the Braai/BBQ, once it is hot to touch, add oil, it should be hot enough to shimmer but not smoke. Add the onions so that they may brown, stir as they cook, about 2 minutes. Layer on the potato rounds, then the carrots, then the eggplant/aubergine, lastly lay the tomatoes around the resulting mound of food you have created. Mix the warm stock, salt, spice, and garlic in a cup, then pour evenly over the mountain of veggies in you potjie.

Once replacing the hot, heavy lid your dinner should begin to speak to you, not just your stomach but the pot as well. Listen for a constant bubbling, but not a rapid bubble, think bubbles from a straw in a thick milkshake, rather than in a soda. After about 15 minutes, or once your densest veggies are al dente (in this case the potatoes), then we added the fish fillets to the top of the mound to steam, skin down. After about 8 minutes we removed the whole pot from the flames and let sit for 5 minutes while the table was set, and citronella candle lit. All it took after that was dishing up. Eating. Enjoying. Seconds. Then leftovers!

June 26, 2013

Welcome to the Citronella Kitchen

One evening, we, Lorien and Hannah, had such an amazing dinner (cooked by us, sourced by us, using ingredients flown* from the US!), that we decided we needed to show and tell more people about it.

Our kitchen, named for the citronella oil we burn to keep the malaria leadened mosquitos off our bare legs, is a simple outdoor affair. A gas burner, a sink (no hot water), a refrigerator, and a semi-functioning freezer. All of our large items and produce come from either South Africa or Mozambique (we get the nicest abacates (avocados), maracujas (passion fruit), naranja (oranges), limãos (limes), limas (lemons), papayas, bananas, and frutos do mar (seafood**).  But, that's about it, so to the exporters we go. Family visiting from the US has brought us some spices and cooking utensils, like spatulas and shark knives, friends with cars bring us things like blenders and coffee roasted in Mozambique***, and some shops do import things from our neighboring countries.

We have also tried out our budding green thumbs and planted arugula/rocket, basil, coriander/cilantro, and recently tomatoes. All found here in Mozambique :) We plan to post photos of our food and garden and travels with food. We hope you enjoy!

Bom apetite!

*this is not a carbon footprint friendly kitchen
** Hannah works for a marine conservation association, Eyes on the Horizon (EOTH), views on this blog are not necessarily that of EOTH, however the seafood that is sourced will be determined to be sustainable and caught in a sound manor. (...and shrimp suck)
***Lorien is a distributer of this coffee in 250g and 1kg bags from Café Sol...he also sources and distributes peanut butter. Let us know if you want some.