Sunday, October 25, 2020

Spanish baked beans

October 20, 2020


I've been keeping my cooking pretty simple lately... few new recipes and no big projects. How simple? Well, making beans on toast has been the biggest deal of the past couple of weeks. When you do it the Smith & Deli way, there's cooking dried beans (never our forte!), a couple of veges, lots of dried spices and even a burst of capers. But mostly there's a lot of slow simmering.

That slow simmer really mellows everything out. The beans, a bit floury on their own, became soft and comforting. The fennel, vinegar and capers lost all their bite. I couldn't pick out any of the spices distinctly, though they contributed to the overall flavour. Our big pot of beans lasted for days. We made an effort to buy some fresh bread to eat with it, then garnished it in different permutations based on what else needed eating: a spoonful of sour cream, a vege sausage on the side, or a fried egg on top. These beans served us well every time.

Spanish baked beans
(slightly adapted from a recipe in 
Shannon Martinez & Mo Wyse's Smith & Deli-icious)

375g dried white beans
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup olive oil
1 brown onion, chopped
1 red capsicum, chopped
1 fennel bulb, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
400g can diced tomatoes
500mL vegetable stock
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon capers
pepper, to taste

Soak the beans overnight in water. Drain the beans, and place them in a large saucepan with lots of fresh water. Add the bay leaf and pop on a lid. Bring the beans to the boil until just cooked. Drain the beans.

While the beans are cooking, prepare the sauce. Choose a big saucepan or a deep frypan, and use it to heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, capsicum and fennel, gently cooking them until they're soft. Stir through the garlic and thyme, cooking for a further minute. Add the paprika, chilli, cumin, salt and tomato paste, stirring and cooking for a minute. Add the white wine vinegar, dice tomatoes, stock, brown sugar, and capers, stirring some more. Turn down the heat and gently simmer the sauce for 30 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf from the beans, then combine them with the sauce in whichever of the two pans can fit it all. Simmer it all for another 30-60 minutes. Add pepper to taste before serving.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Butter pecan turtle bars

October 10, 2020


This is a rerun of a recipe that I first baked in 2006, but didn't record in full here. Butter pecan turtle bars were a household favourite for several years before eventually fading from our recipe rotation. We revived them this month when our pandemic-times weekly online Quiz Club marked its six-month anniversary with a chocolate theme. 

It looks like the source website has had a transformation from Southern Food to The Spruce Eats in that time, and to their credit they've effectively set up URL redirection and updated their photos. The recipe remains pretty simple: blend a biscuit base in a food processor and press it into a dish, spread over pecans, caramel and bake, then layer on chocolate chips while it's still warm. We've not yet made this slice vegan or gluten-free, but the necessary substitutes are clear and seem likely to produce a good result. 

The biscuit base was more powdery than I remembered, but it melded into a cohesive, crisp layer during its bake. The combination of pecans and caramel was even better then I remembered - gooey in that first quiz-time slice, and chewy-fudgy when properly set later in the week. I liked this slice best when paired with a glass of milk, and I've vowed not to leave it unbaked for so many years again.

Butter pecan turtle bars
(slightly adapted from a recipe on The Spruce Eats)

2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 cups pecans
2/3 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a medium-large tray with baking paper.

Place all the base ingredients in a food processor, and blend until well mixed. (For me, the mixture was still very powdery - it turned out OK!) Turn the mixture out into the tray, and use the back of a dessert spoon to spread it out evenly and press it down firmly. Spread the pecans out across the base.

Melt the butter for the topping in a small saucepan, and add the brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until bubbling. Allow this caramel to boil for a minute, then take it off the heat and pour it across the pecans. 

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the caramel is bubbling and the base edges are light brown. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the slice as soon as it comes out of the oven. Allow the slice to cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.

Monday, October 05, 2020

A Singaporean 'fish' curry

 September 26, 2020


I took a walk through Fitzroy last month, and made a point of finishing at Vincent's Marketplace. This was a chance to stock up on mock meats and other vegan treats we can't access during our regular weekly shop. Since then we've been munching on novel chocolates, rationing out mock-salami on pizzas, and feasting on BBQ sauce stir-fries. I also picked up a Vegan Mould Fish (pictured below). It's not an appetising name, but I figured out that it refers to the whole-fish shape that the mock has been moulded into.


Before I get to the recipe, let me tell you that this is a great mock fish. It's made primarily of bean curd skin layers, with a sheet of nori on one side. It's as tender and flaky as mock fish gets - I've not had anything like it since White Lotus closed. For this recipe I decided to pre-fry it a little, to give it a crisp golden skin and prevent it from disintegrating during cooking.

Now, to the recipe proper. This is a fish curry recipe that's included in the same LNY zine as the crispy skin 'duck' we recently enjoyed. I've just realised that Steph posted this fish recipe on her blog at that time, too, but it was my recent flick through the zine that reminded me of it. I remember eating this curry at that LNY picnic and trying to mop up as much curry sauce as I could with the spring onion pancakes Michael brought along. It's a beautifully flexible recipe and I'm including it below, with Steph and Liz's permission, as it appears in the zine (if you need a plain text version, you can find that on Steph's blog).


In this incarnation, we used:
  • spring onion for the 'onion thing', because we had leftovers from another recipe
  • Vincent's Nyonya curry powder, which we keep a good supply of,
  • chilli flakes, because we were freshly out of chilli oil, and
  • a generous handful of French beans, to round this up to a meal with rice.
There's every chance we'll adjust future batches for whatever's convenient on the day. The recipe would be feasible for cooking on a weeknight if you had thawed mock fish on hand and it was a pleasant, almost meditative activity for a Sunday evening with a podcast. Our lightly simmered curry was colourful and fragrant, rich with coconut milk and flaky bean curd, warmly spiced with only a low chilli heat. We enjoyed one round of smug lunchtime leftovers.