Saturday, July 9, 2011

Vim and Vinegar

I meant to check out the currants today, but I was so discombobulated with everything else going on in my life that I forgot and just bought raisins.

I decided to do the chutney first so it could cool. I was stunned to discover that a standard-sized packet of dried apricots contained only a bit more than a cup of diced apricots, so I was forced to slightly-more-than-halve the recipe on the fly. I'm not sure whether I overestimated the amount of malt vinegar, or whether the recipe doesn't cut down, but I think the inside of my nose was burned clear every time I leaned over the burner.

Once the chutney was on the heat, I prepared the cookie dough to go into the fridge. This is the third or fourth time I've mixed tiny bits of cold butter into a dough, and this time, I think I got closer to the mark - but I still find that the butter starts to melt even before I get into the dough. I'd say I have warm hands, but I know that's not the case. Trust me, I love circulation at the drop of a hat. This is, yes, a problem for a harp player.

Final verdict (Chutney): I liked the melding of flavors, but there was simply too much malt vinegar taste remaining for me. Would try it again and use half as much. It also took longer to reduce than advertised - closer to 45 minutes.

While dough was in the fridge chillin' out, I put together the wet masala blend for the beef vindaloo. Discovered when I went to fry up the spices that cinnamon bark is not the same thing as a cinnamon stick ... oops. So I didn't get as much cinnamony goodness as I would have liked. Also, food processor oozed orange. Bits of wet masala everywhere, I tell you.

Just as this is the third or fourth cold-butter dough I've worked for an English scone / cake / cookie, this is the third or fourth dough where it has been too sticky to use a cookie cutter, even after refrigeration. I tried rough-forming the dough with my hands, but the problems didn't stop there: it was nearly impossible to flip the cookies, even after they had pan-cooked fully on one side.

Too much butter? Not enough butter? Lots of variables, but less butter in the pan seemed to help. Smaller cookies, perhaps? Seems likely, given the amount left. Definitely discovered that three is the maximum number of cookies one can safely do at a time. Ah, the mysteries - a good half-dozen variables to juggle.

Final verdict (cookies): For all the hassle, these are the soft, "meaty" griddle cookies I remembered. So would definitely try these again, changing some of the steps in an attempt to get a better results.

Onwards with the beef vindaloo! Not much more to tell, except that I chose the perfect pan despite myself and being quite sure I had the wrong one. Once it was on the long cook, I started on the pilau and ... once again ... discovered quantity issues. Not quite enough basmati rice; mixed in some arborio to approximate the remainder, more or less because that was the closest rice to hand.

Sidebar: I really need to get myself some cardamom pods already.

Final verdict (beef vindaloo): I cooked this for ten minutes longer than advertised, but even though the mixture was boiling, not simmering (despite me turning it down a couple times), it still was tough when I took it out. Beyond that, I didn't think it had a great deal of flavor other than generalized heat. Would not bother repeating. Sorry, Aarti!

Final verdict (fruity pilau): As with the last pilau recipe (same book), a simple, flavorful rice. It comes out very fluffy and not at all mushy, with just enough taste to be interesting on its own.

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