I woke this morning to the steady drop drip drop of icicles melting from the roof of our house. The thaw, at last, had arrived; and it was quite noisy. I was delighted, not because I do not like snow, I love it, but because the slight change in the weather was going to give me the excuse I needed to get out and walk. Today was going to be the day for combining a few passions: food, the great outdoors (pictures of my walk included) and a little reveling in the seasons. I looked out the window, and St Mary's Church across the green (pictured) looked great. It is a 13th Century Church, although they say the oldest part of the tower is from the 12th Century, and every Century since has made its mark. But today I remembered, that on that oldest part of the Tower two figures rest either side of the doorway, Mary and John the Evangelist, whose feast day it is today. Christ crucified, who presumably was once above the centre of the arch has gone, but Mary and John still look to the space where he must once have been, and their gaze is a witness the one whose kingdom is 'not of this world'. How come John the Evangelist gets his Feast day in the Christmas Octave? Answers on a postcard please? Is it because he sees the incarnation from the perspective of eternity? In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God? Could be. I'll think on that one...
|Wisemen on the mantlepiece|
I don't know about your houses, but this house has serious leftovers after the Christmas feast. I suppose I must take responsibility for that, since I cooked. But, there is enough turkey, ham, risotto, cheese, cake and pudding in our kitchen to feed an army through till Epiphany. Loving cooking and food the way I do, I hate waste. It is time to get creative. Only one problem, everyone here is fed up of rich food already, and they long for something gentle and healthy. I have turned to the wisemen, still making their way across the mantlepiece, for inspiration.
Sweet cakes and pastries traditional to Christmastide are usually highly spiced, packed with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, star anise and ginger. These spices are said to be an ancient reminder of the visit of the Magi to the infant King. Spices were an extremely valuable commodity for centuries; they were the traditional flavouring for the food of royalty and the very rich only. To serve sweet spiced food at Christmas is an acknowledgement that the guest of honour is a King. To combine the spirit of 'waste not want not' with the celebration of Christmas and the Evangelist who knew Christ as King, I have decided to bring an element of spiced luxury to some savoury leftovers. There is a certain amount of flexibility to this dish - use what you have in the cupboard.
Spiced Winter Leftovers
You need (for 4):
A tablespoon of Olive Oil
A little Groundnut oil
|Snowy Bamboo in a field near my house|
2 Onions (red or white)
2 Garlic Cloves
8 Cardamon Pods
2 Cinnamon Sticks
2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 teaspoon crushed Chilies
1 tablespoon grainy French Mustard
1 - 2 teaspoons of vegetable stock powder
200g Brown Rice
Leftover Turkey, duck or goose
a handful of toasted nuts (I have pistachio)
Fresh Coriander (if you have it)
A generous measure of Double Cream
Brown rice takes ages, so I do that first. Rinse the rice carefully. Add the rice to an empty pan and fill with cold water up to about an inch above the level of the rice. Add a teaspoon or so of the vegetable stock powder (be careful, they can be very salty - taste and see!); then 1 tsp of cumin, a crushed garlic clove, 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 crushed cardamon pods and some freshly ground black pepper. Bring the rice to the boil and cook according to the time on the packet, this can be up to 30 minutes depending on the type of rice you use. Keep a close eye to ensure the water does not boil off completely before the rice is cooked. If you need to add a little more, use boiling water from the kettle. Aim to have the rice nicely cooked, with no water in the pan, by the time you are ready to serve.
|Lost sheep looking for food|
Meanwhile, finely slice the onions and crush the garlic; gently fry them in the olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Make a spice paste by crushing 4 cardamon pods and removing their green husks, bash the little black seeds in a mortar. Add a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of turmeric, crushed chilies and a clove of garlic; continue to pound away, mixing in a tablespoon of french mustard and a little groundnut oil as you go. Add the spice paste to your sizzling onions and garlic and fry for a few moments. Take care it does not burn, spices can do that very quickly. After a minute or two add the leftover turkey (duck or goose) and mix well. Add a generous measure of cream and heat through thoroughly.
Toast a handful of nuts in a dry pan for a few minutes. Combine all the ingredients together, stir through some fresh coriander if you have some, and serve. Yum.
As you can see, I went out to explore the big wide world whilst I was thinking about this recipe. It was great. And, yes, I always look that silly, I can't help it. I love the fields of Bamboo near my house, particularly in the snow. Sometimes, when I miss the sea, I go and stand amongst the canes because the swishing sound they make has a similar rhythm. It is just about all a landlocked girl can do round here. Today I really loved how incongruous the tall brown crop looked in the midst of a wintry England. I liked meeting the sheep too, although I felt sorry for them because they looked hungry and were hoofing the snow about looking for fresh grass to eat. I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas Day and St. Stephen's day. Stay happy.
PS: My dear vegetarians, this can be done with fennel bulbs too and it is just as yummy. You aren't going to have the fennel pre-cooked though. What you have to do is slice each bulb into four pieces, length ways, season them with salt and pepper and gently fry them in the olive oil, until they are soft (about 15 - 20 minutes) before you add the onion and garlic. Love you!