Broken Yolk

Broken Yolk
Play with your Food!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Real World Porridge

And at last I have been forced to succumb to the food of the romanceless; oats. This staple of Scottish fare may have nourished many ginger man-mountains, and even my brother while living rough in Australia (don’t ask), but for me it is a symbol my generation’s lot. The world is not our oyster – it’s our bowl of porridge. Only Goldielocks would truly understand.

And we weren’t prepared for this. Being born in the eighties fostered a certain apathy and expectation of the boom to continue, of heaps of commodities and only so much time to consume them.

Instead it’s the end of the month and after rent and too many small luxuries, I have barely two pennies to rub together. Renting in central London comes at a hefty price and my job in media subsidizes its “take it up the ass” minimum wage only with free lubricant (booze). This cheap buyoff works like a charm in our binge-drinking nation. The memory enema that is booze is the only panacea we post-student hobos have. At least porridge lines the stomach.

But Britain redeems itself as I wander home through the corridors of my building; my nose is accosted with the beautiful Asian and Middle Eastern aromas that permeate its walls at dinnertime. Transparent sustenance maybe, but it invades me with nostalgia for travelling. Oscar Wilde once said that, “a man who lives within his means suffers from a lack of imagination” but I find that living within my meager means sparks mine.

And when faced with an uninspiring ingredient, my mind wanders to strange places to find inspiration - or not so strange, as in this case. I had a mind blank over oats. But then remembered some of the recipes people had divulged to me over the years, whether intentionally or not. From these people I found the spark for my inspiration that oats could not ignite. So here are their recipes, tweaked (made palatable) by me.

Smoked Mackerel with parsley porridge and pumpkin 

This is a very strange recipe, from a very strange girl. English, tall, aristocratic waith with long peroxide blonde hair puffed out like candyfloss. I met her of all places in China, on a lovely paid-for holiday for Oxbridge types, a scam in Chinese education-consumerism, but with good heart. You see if you put people passionate about learning in front of a group of eager students we cant help ourselves. We devised how to twist the lesson plans, from ‘super heroes’ to Nietzsche’s Ubermensch, ‘over man,’ unintentionally making the scam actually genuine. I’m not sure what the 16 year olds made of it…

Anyway, this is the only savory porridge recipe that’s ever been suggested to me. Most people would reel in horror at the mention of mackerel porridge, but I saw potential, from the unlikely tastebuds of one person who dared to really push the boundaries. I’ve challenged myself to somehow make it work. I believed it could, and it does. Smoked Mackerel is intense, with a deep fishy saltiness and creamy fattiness. It needs clean flavors to cut through its intensity, like fresh parsley and tart blackcurrants. I’ve rounded this dichotomy of flavors by serving it with peppery rocket and soothing pumpkin puree. A congee with a difference, which we actually tried in China and no one liked.

Parsley Butter
1 garlic clove
3 small shallots
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
handful of rocket leaves
handful of fresh parsley
25g of cream cheese

1. Blend together all of the above ingredients until you have a smooth green coloured butter. Refrigerate.
2. place 40g (per person) of oats in a pan and cover with milk, simmer gently and when the porridge is nearly done add the parsely butter.
3. flash fry one smoked mackerel fillet per person.
4. Make a pumpkin puree by blending chunks of pumpkin with a pinch cumin and cayenne pepper to taste.
5. Assemble the three elements of the dish and serve.

Matcha tea, raspberry and chocolate motchis

Every so often I come across a certain type of person. Seemingly unexpected but oddly symptomatic of some deep discontent, or at least emo-style discontent. Any guesses? It’s people who love Japanese culture. And I mean love it. This love comes in varying degrees, from a love of karaoke, sushi and anime all the way to deep intellectual examination of its culture, usually starting at ‘the Art of War’ and ending as some enduring philosophical psyche stamp. Such a one was the guy who, before my eyes, managed to transform porridge into something like onigiri and motchi, with that same doughy, chewy texture. All he did was leave it in the microwave for too long. Although he still claims it was intentional. I’ll take it as a sign of fate, that something of himself imbued itself into the recipe with a slight of hand. I decided to use matcha tea in this recipe because of our many highly caffeinated adventures on the stuff. (seriously try it)

1.     Take a bowlful of porridge and put in as little water as possible to just cover it.
2.     Microwave for 1 min or until the porridge is very thick and sticky. Take spoonfuls of the mixture and use your hands to roll into balls.
3.     I then made a chocolate soup our of melted chocolate diluted with milk until the desired consistency and placed the porridge balls on top of it.
4.     I sprinkled them with sweetened matcha tea and served with raspberry jelly.

Orange and Chrysanthemum set porridge

This recipe is inspired by someone I have never met. One of those people you brush up against in the tide of life, but never see or know. A person made out of mediation on an object. In this case it was some used pots and pans I lifted from a bin. I’m not above a bit of freeganism when the time calls for it. I was living in a building surrounded by international students leaving this isle behind and discarding their debris. What was once practical necessities was now erroneous baggage, to be picked up by some other person in need. My whole kitchen was fitted out this way. I even found a huge unopened bag of chrysanthemum tea, which I’ve only ever had in china before. I knew this lightly floral and earthy scent would go well with porridge in a dessert, more sophisticated in reality than its humble ingredients would suggest.

750 ml milk
225 g oats
3 tbsp chrysanthemum tea 
150 g sugar
3 tbsp rose water

1.     Gently warm the milk in a medium-sized saucepan on the hob. 
2.     In a separate larger saucepan cook the porridge and chrysanthemum tea for about a minute, stirring until the oats become translucent. 
3.     Halfway through the cooking time, stir in the sugar and two leaves of gelatine. 
4.    Then remove the saucepan from the heat and add the rosewater. Leave to cool slightly. 
5.     Line four individual pudding moulds with cling film. Then carefully fill with the porridge mix, patting down to ensure there are no gaps. Cover with more cling film and chill until completely set - this should take about 2 hours. 
6.     To serve, carefully turn the puddings onto plates and decorate with some dried chrysanthemum petals and coulis.

And so, In an attempt to transform porridge into something more palatable, I’ve used all my innovation to take it’s earthy Scottish heritage and combine it with the flavors of more exotic places, where flavor isn’t somewhat ironic and may actually awaken your nose and taste buds from their salt & butter stupor.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

I once cooked truffles over a kettle – I still have the scar. 

Byron and Fitzgerald Truffles

It was the last thing I cooked in Oxford, for a party my tutor was throwing to bid us fine young academics farewell. Ironically she themed it ‘sing for your supper.’ The dark undertones of which didn’t sink in until I was jobless and fleeing north in search of affordable rent. We English students, eager proprietors of words, quoted poetry and wrote verse (no one sang) – I even gave the chocolate truffles that were my talent pretentious literary names. These were the tools of the trade we had been taught in dusty libraries, pouring over books in search of some hidden meaning, which never surfaced. I can tell you of Milton’s ranting delusional essays, of the kinky side of the middle ages. Can I hold down a job? No.

They call oxford a bubble, it is, and the bubble finally burst after that day. We had spent three years slaving over essays, cut off from the world, reveling in an upper class party that seemed like it would never end. Well, for the rich ones it won’t, their lives will be more champagne evenings, white tie balls and supper (that’s what they call dinner) parties. Only maybe relocated from the Oxford Union to the House of Lords. As for me, I cooked my chocolate truffles and left all that behind. I can’t say I wont miss the handy ledge in the Oxford Union toilets, but I definitely wont miss effeminate boys and stripy scarves.

Don’t be put off by me incurring an injury while cooking these truffles – just maybe don’t cook them last minute at 5am after a night out, like I did, and kick over the kettle and get a steam burn. You don’t even have to use a kettle, unless, like me, you enjoy the simple irony of making sophisticated food using only the most basic of utensils.

Fitzgerald Truffles
“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you”

My Fitzgerald Truffle

Like his literary contemporaries F. Scott Fitzgerald liked a drink, maybe even as much as Faulkner. These truffles pay homage to him destroying his liver for the sake of literature. I've tried to capture the heady exoticism of those speak-easy days with ample amounts of Pernod, combined with zesty oranges and limes.

225g dark Chocolate, broken into chocolate small pieces

175ml double or whipping cream
1 ½ shots of Pernod
1 shot of orange juice
the zest of one lime and two oranges
Granulated sugar

1.    Make a bain-marie using a glass bowl placed over a kettle with its top lifted up so that the steam hits the bottom of the bowl,
2.    Place the chopped chocolate and the cream in the bowl, and gently heat until the chocolate completely melts into a ganache.
The 'Ganache' should look something like this
3.    Add the Pernod and orange juice to the ganache and then cool in the fridge until set (about 1 ½ hours)
4.    In the meantime mix the granulated sugar with the orange and lime zest to allow time for it to infuse.
5.    When the mixture has set, use a teaspoon to measure out bite-sized pieces. Then roll in the palms of your hands to make a small balls.
6.    Immediately roll the truffles in the granulated sugar mixture and voila! You’re done.

Pernod, Orange and Lime Truffles

Byron Truffles 
"A woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster salad and Champagne, the only true feminine and becoming viands."

My Byron Truffle

Although the comment above might have the feminist in me reeling, when it comes from one of history's most notorious womanizers I have to give fair dues. So in accordance with Byron's wishes here is a truffle oozing with feminine vitality. Aromatic rose water adds a floral quality, with decadent Champagne (or Cava let's be honest) and earthy sesame seeds, to make an edible interpretation of femininity.

225g White Chocolate, broken into chocolate small pieces
100ml double or whipping cream
1 shot of Champagne (or other sparkling wine)
1 teaspoon of rose water
Sesame seeds

1.    Make a bain-marie using a glass bowl placed over a kettle with its top lifted up so that the steam hits the bottom of the bowl,
2.    Place the chopped chocolate and the cream in the bowl, and gently heat until the chocolate completely melts into a ganache.
3.    Add the Champagne and rose water to the ganache and then cool in the fridge until set (about 1 ½ hours)
4.    If you want the truffles to be a rose colour then add a couple of drops of beetroot juice to the mix.
5.    In the meantime spread the sesame seeds out in a shallow dish.
6.    When the mixture has set, use a teaspoon to measure out bite-sized pieces. Then roll in the palms of your hands to make a small balls.
7.    Immediately roll the truffles in the sesame seeds.
8.    Eat! Or look at admiringly for a while…

Rose, Champagne and Sesame Seed Truffles

One day, maybe, I’ll be dining on such decadent morsels again.

Literary Truffles a la Emily Ludolf

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Good-bye proverbial Mud Pie

"old folks say, ya poor little fool" 
- Runaways

Some experiences are just informing – going to university say, traveling, or appearing on a national tv series called Masterchef. But these are just catalysts; everything else comes unbidden. For most people growing up means getting a job, money, and not gyrating to house music as much as they used to. For others its means something different. When getting a job is impossible and claiming the dole is even harder, and you feel yourself slipping back into disaffected youth. This is my generation; squatting where they can and living at home when the rent money or couches wear out. Or at least this is me…

Since graduating from Oxford University in July I’ve had a strange run. Blinded by that tenuous invincibility of the post-university naive, I launched myself onto the terrifying trapeze that I call life. My attempts to navigate a swamp of a recession, festering with unemployment and instability, have led me to some interesting places. I got as far as Mexico. Learning to live; sink or swim.

Same old, maybe. But this time, there were recipes. Edible memories, like the mud pie I once cooked on Masterchef, but with childhood left behind, 25k of students loans behind…

The tales they tell should, at the very least, be mouth-watering.