Monday, May 24, 2010


I first made oatcakes over a decade ago. When I presented them to friends during a Ceilidh, I was met with some skepticism. People tried one rather dubiously. By the time they finished their first one, they had a handful they jealously guarded from everyone else!

Best of all, they are dreadfully simple.

8 oz oats (by weight)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lard or bacon fat (melted)
3 ounces hot water

Grind oats in a food processor until they are coarsely chopped. Mix all ingredients in a bowl; the dough will be sticky.

Sprinkle some flour on a flat surface to prevent the dough from sticking. Roll out walnut-sized pieces until they are palm-sized disks.

Bake at 325°F (190°C) on an ungreased baking pan for 30 minutes or until dry and crisp.

Oatcakes store wonderfully in a cookie tin, so you can make up a bunch and store for later use. Spread a little butter or jam on the oatcake (though I prefer them plain) and your off on a taste and texture sensation.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pancakes with Fiber - but don't tell anyone

I like pancakes for breakfast on weekend mornings. Not the banal, overly leavened things you get from certain mixes, but a nice, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth pancake. Unfortunately, they tend not to be so good for you -- lots of sugar and not much fiber.

Why can't something that tastes so good have fiber that is so good for you? It can!

Sneaky Pancakes
1-1/2 cups white all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
4 tablespoons sugar
1-3/4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon (add up to a second if you prefer heavier cinnamon flavor)
2 eggs
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cup milk

Mix the dry ingredients together. Beat eggs and milk together, then add butter (mix well while adding to prevent the butter from lumping). Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring to combine. A few small lumps should remain. Let rest for 1/2 hour or so.

Heat griddle. Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter on the griddle and let cook until bubbles form and pop on the top surface. Carefully lift the edge to check how brown the underside is. If the underside is brown, flip and let finish cooking until the bottom browns.

This recipe should make about 8 - 10 small pancakes.

When I make the pancakes, I preheat my oven to about 170°F (77°C) so I can keep them warm until they are all done. Then we can sit down and eat breakfast together instead of one person eating while the other cooks (and then eats alone).

The wheat bran I use is 8 grams of dietary fiber per 1/3 cup (not really great, but think how bad it is without the bran). Split between two servings, that's not great, but it's a little better than most US cereals.

This recipe uses a bit more fluid than most recipes, but that is because bran is often somewhat dry, which is why it gets compared to cardboard. The eggs in particular add a richness that offsets the coarseness of the bran, providing a much more luxurious mouth-feel and tenderness.

I like how the cinnamon comes out in this recipes. I think it helps distract you from thinking about how "healthy" the pancakes are. Then again, I really like cinnamon.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pork Fajitas?

Last week, my partner decided she wanted pork. Then she discovered that avocados were on sale, so she decided we should make pork fajitas.

The more common meats for fajitas are, of course, beef, chicken, and shrimp, but there's no reason pork couldn't work, so I was game. Of course, we were out of lettuce and sour cream, but we don't let little things like that stop us.

Pork Fajitas
1 large pork steak
1/2 large onion
1 red pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoon canola oil

Slice onion and pepper into narrow slices and place in separate bowls. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt into each bowl and mix.

Mix all the spices together.

Cut the pork into strips. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture on the top and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Flip the pork and sprinkle remaining spices. Let sit again for 5 to 10 minutes.

Heat canola oil in a medium-hot pan. Saut&233; the onions until they are translucent and start browning, then add the peppers. Once the peppers soften, remove from pan.

Place the pork strips in the pan and brown on each side. Add the onions and peppers and saut&233; until pork is done. Remove from heat and serve over tortillas with your favorite toppings.

I wasn't confident how well the pork was likely to turn out, but it was really, really good. I was concerned that the pork would dry out, but adding the vegetables to the pan while I was finishing the pork kept the pork tender and moist.

Green peppers would work in this recipe, but I think the red is better. The sweetness of the red pepper brings out the sweetness and savoriness of the pork in a way green peppers can't. Green peppers are a little too bitter to do so.

Normally, I prefer corn tortillas over flour, but getting fresh corn tortillas can be a real challenge. With the pork fajitas, I think flour would work better as they are milder in flavor and really let the pork shine.

So now I know that the meat I use in fajitas is only limited by my imagination!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Not your mama's potato casserole!

Sorry about last night -- I went to a photography discussion and it ran way over time.

So, about that title. I had an enjoyable weekend with a couple friends coming over to help sort through some stuff that we are sending off in a couple of weeks. Anyway, that presented a rather interesting conundrum for dinner. One friend is a lactovegetarian and the other is allergic to most grains, including rice. So what do you feed them?

Did I also mention that it was wet and chilly? I wanted to get the oven going to drive off some of that chill.

Potato-Leek Casserole
4 large potatoes
1 leek
1/2 to 3/4 pound crimini mushrooms
30 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
16 oz sliced American cheese
3 tablespoons fresh chopped garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
~1 cup 2% milk
1 tablespoon butter

Slice the potatoes about 1/4 inch thick. Parboil them until they are about halfway done.

Slice the leek into coins. Saut&233; leek and garlic until leek is soft.

Slice the mushrooms. I prefer thick and meaty, but others like thin and melt-in-your-mouth.

Put cheese (reserve 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar), spices, and milk in a large microwavable bowl. Microwave in 1 minute increments, stirring after each time period, until somewhat smooth and creamy.

Layer cheese sauce, potatoes, mushrooms, and leeks in a large casserole dish. Sprinkle reserved cheese over the top of the casserole. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for half an hour or until the potatoes are done and the cheese on top has browned.

Let me start by saying, I cheated on the cheese sauce. I use the American cheese to help make the cheese sauce smooth and creamy without spending huge amounts of time over the stove stirring and stirring and stirring.

I will also admit that my measurements of the milk and spices are approximations. I made the casserole by the seat of my pants, adding stuff until I got the spicy scent I wanted and the cheese texture. I started with about 1/2 cup of milk and added more to the cheese sauce until it was creamy. So you may not need as much milk as I said or you may need more. Also, it depends on how hard your cheddar is.

However, the end result is so totally worth it! I believe potatoes, leeks, and cheese are an amazing flavor team, but when I added in the curry-ish spices, I took it so far beyond the next level, it was unbelievable. Serve it with broccoli (you need a veggie, c'mon!) and it's a well-balanced vegetarian meal with a variety of textures.