May 15, 2013

Hummus. And chocolate.



You know how ‘the news’ isn’t ‘the news’ but ‘the BAD news’?

Every now and then something slips by the radar—it’s newsworthy and it’s not bad.  It may even be good.

I love this.  Virginia tobacco farmers, floundering in the dropping demand for tobacco, are planting chickpeas instead.  Because hummus is booming.


I of course have been eating hummus for decades.  I’d’ve said all us old original-Moosewood-Cookbook** hippies and freaks and navy-blue-suit wearing secret counterculturists ate hummus.***

But I do want to draw your attention to hummus chocolate cake.  I’ve got a recipe for it myself somewhere but I couldn’t find it and I had to go bell ringing†.  There are several of them out there in internetland†† but they seem nearly identical and epicurious is usually pretty reliable:

This looks like mine—the four eggs and two teaspoons of vanilla are right.  I may use more cocoa.  It’s a safe bet that I usually use more cocoa.  But the cake is lovely.  Really.  It’s chiefly the tahini that gives what you think of as the hummus flavour to, um, hummus.  Hummus chocolate cake is just very, very dense and moist and filling and scrummy and excellent.  It’s also dairy and gluten free and doesn’t taste like a lot of the contents of those grim ‘without’ shelves at the supermarket.†††  You can even fool yourself that it’s good for you.

* * *

* I am also going to risk being heinously politically incorrect and say that given America’s^ relations with the Middle East I can’t help but feel that enthusiastically adopting even a mere humble foodstuff can’t hurt.  They’re people like us, you know?  They eat.  And eating together is usually bonding too.

^ And most of the western first world’s

** Which is out of print.  The new one is all low fat.  Feh.

I’ve got so many physical issues it’s not frelling funny.  My intolerances are intolerant of my other intolerances.  But one thing this body has always got right is its cholesterol levels—even back in my heavy dairy, if-it-stands-still-long-enough-put-butter-on-it days, I had low Bad Cholesterol and high Good Cholesterol.^  So everyone moaning about Katzen’s high-fat recipes I was like, What?^^  I remember reading an interview with Katzen I think around the time that the new revised not-so-much-fat edition came out, saying (as my flaky memory recalls it) that she was a little embarrassed at the way she’d trowelled on the dairy and the oil and so on but that she’d been publishing a vegetarian cookbook at a time when vegetarian food was perceived as feeble and weedy and listless and she wanted to present it as able to duke it out with steak and chops.  And it does, unless you have the kind of politically incorrect metabolism that DEMANDS MEAT, which mine does.  Oops.  But I don’t have to have it every day.  And my original MOOSEWOOD and ENCHANTED BROCCOLI FOREST cookbooks have a lot of pages stuck together and a lot of notes in the margins.

^ I must have told you this story:  when I first had ME, and my NHS doctor had grandly declared that she didn’t believe in ME—thanks ever so, lady—I went briefly to a private doc recommended by another ME sufferer.  He had, he said, found himself making a speciality of it simply because he saw so much of it.  I couldn’t afford him for long but he got me started taking care of myself and was very encouraging even when I told him I had to pack as much in as possible in as few appointments as possible.  One of the things he did was have my blood tested for seven single-spaced pages of stuff.   The ‘normal’ ranges for most things are wide enough you have to be a doctor to find any of the readings suggestive, but anything that counted officially as abnormal was marked by a big band of colour, like a giant highlighter.  My cholesterol levels were highlighted.  NOOOOOOOO.  CHOLESTEROL IS THE THING I DO RIGHT.  No, no, said the doctor.  The lab doesn’t differentiate between good abnormal and bad abnormal.  Your bad cholesterol is abnormally low, and your good cholesterol is abnormally high.

Oh.  ::Beams::  Pity about the ME though . . .

^^ I also have another of my crunchy-granola, geeky health-nutter fringe rants about the fact that fat is good for you.  The super-low-fat thing is BAD.  And margarine is not fat, okay?  Margarine is evil.  Greasy evil.  What they do to it to make it solid is far worse than butter ever was or could be unless you injected it with curare or something first.+

+ I think one of the fashions for eggs as good for you is current too.  Yawn.  Yes.  They’re good for you even when they’re out of fashion, unless you’re allergic to them.  I eat a lot of eggs.

*** My hummus is actually not Katzen’s.  I was indeed faintly superior and ho-hum^ when Moosewood came out.  It wasn’t going to have anything to teach me and what’s with the twee hand lettering?  I think one of my long-ironed-hair, tie-dyed-skirt-wearing friends gave me a copy^^ and when I still had more than twelve calories a day available I was a sucker for a good cookbook.

^ I have never claimed to be a nice person, and I was worse when I was younger

^^ Tie-dye took a long time to go away.  AND IT CAME BACK.  AAAAAAAAUGH.  Barring a pink tie-dye t shirt that a friend and her kids made me a few years ago+ that I am very fond of, I have the same feeling about tie-dye that I do about bell bottoms.  AAAAAAAAAAAUGH.  AAAAAAAAAAAAUGH.  And don’t come near me with shag carpeting or Austin Powers either.

+ It’s colour proof and everything.  You can put it through the washing machine.  They make home-hand-dyeing colour a lot better than they used to.

† I RANG THREE TIMES TONIGHT.  YAAAAAAAY.  It was almost like being a real person.

†† Along with a lot of suggestions for straight hummus-chocolate mousse-like-substance or frosting or cookies which I will leave you to discover for yourselves although if you’re asking me all those involving things like Nutella are impure.

††† Personally I think chocolate-covered rice cakes are a sin against nature.

Geography and Chocolate


THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO HAS MADE THE AUCTION/SALE A HELLGODDESS-ASTONISHING SUCCESS.  THANK YOU.   The rough results are up on the auction site.  When Blogmom and I have caught up on our sleep a little, one or the other of us will tell you more about final results and future whatevers.  But chiefly . . . THANK YOU.  Ding dong bell, you might say.

* * * 

There’s been a conversation on the forum about geographic perception.  Or lack of perception. 

blondviolinist wrote:

Black Bear wrote on Sat, 08 October 2011 10:28

Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas–those are all “great plains states.”

I had a friend (who had grown up in Seattle) once inform me that those states were Eastern states. I just about died laughing. Honey, do you know where the Mississippi is? Do you know how many hours you have to drive from those states to get anywhere near the Eastern United States?

Everyone knows this iconic New Yorker cover, don’t they?  Or are my own East Coast roots showing?

          The New Yorker shop [sic*] sells prints of it and if it cost about one-fifth of what it does cost I’d buy a copy.**

 * * *

Meanwhile . . . I promised a friend about three weeks ago a red velvet cake recipe.***  I  knew I had a red velvet cake recipe, but I also knew that I hadn’t made it in a while because if I’m going to deal with all those calories I want them really, really worthwhile.  Here’s my biased take on the red velvet cake question:  there isn’t enough chocolate because some deranged person has decreed it’s more about the colour.†  I got rid of a lot of my cookbooks when we moved out of the old house—aside from the bookshelf space problem, menopause zero-metabolism was already creeping up on me—so even after trolling through the cookbook shelves of three houses†† there are at least two other red velvet recipes I can’t seem to find.  But here’s one that I know I’ve made, both because I kind of remember it and because the annotations are clearly in my handwriting.  And the pages kind of stick together.  This is a good sign.  I may have to make this one again some time.

            Note that the original called for one tablespoon of cocoa powder and a two ounce bottle of red food colouring.  Ewww

½ c soft butter

1 ½ c golden sugar:  the raw, low-refined kind that isn’t the pure white of standard granulated.  It doesn’t have as much flavour as brown, but more than white, and it’s mellower than dark brown (and more interesting than light brown.  Say I).

2 large eggs

1 tsp REAL vanilla

2 c flour, or maybe a little more

¼ c unsweetened non-Dutch-process ‘natural’ cocoa powder

pinch salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 c buttermilk, or 1 c milk minus 1T, plus 1T vinegar to sour it.  I’ve been told many times this is cheating, but it’s a lot easier than finding buttermilk and then figuring out something to do with the rest of it.  Theoretically, I think, if you’re using vinegar, it should be skim or low-fat milk—‘butter’ milk is a misnomer—but I always used to use whole/full fat because that’s what I drank, and it worked fine.†††  Most of that soured-milk stuff works semi-interchangeably in baking—I always thought—you get a slightly different taste and texture if it’s sour cream or yogurt, say, but if your ingredients, especially your chocolate, are good quality it’ll all be silky—or velvety—and damnably excellent. 

             Standard cake deal:  cream butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs.  Sift dry and add alternately with sour milk.  Beat hard, but don’t hang about either:  as soon as the vinegar hits the baking soda your batter starts expanding.  Turn into 2 8” or 9” round pans with removable bottoms which have first been buttered and floured with great enthusiasm and thoroughness.  (A greased and floured cut-out of parchment paper works just as well if you don’t have push-out-bottom pans.)  350°F about half an hour:  the layers should rise in the middle, and the edges start to pull away from the pan walls.  Let cool at least ten or fifteen minutes before you try and get them out of the pans.  I tend to think soured-milk cakes are more fragile than others, but that may just be my karma. 

            Frost when cool.  I recommend vanilla buttercream, myself, but as you like. 

I still haven’t given you my favourite chocolate cake recipe, have I?  Or have I?  The Red Devil AKA McKinley’s Famous Exploding Chocolate Cake?  Which is another of these sour milk + baking soda + chocolate = red.   My Red Devil cake, despite its distressing incendiary habits, is the reason I pretty much don’t make any other chocolate cake any more.  I don’t dare have cake very often‡ and I only really pine and yearn for that one. 

* * *

* I grew up in the hard-copy only era, certainly, but I also grew up at a time or anyway on the fringes of a society that believed The New Yorker was cool^.  I am still having a hard time getting my head around the on line presence of a New Yorker shop.  It’s like finding out that Hillary Clinton moonlights selling pencils on a street corner.  I even follow the NYer on Twitter.  It’s just not the same, reading the cartoons off a computer screen.^^  

^ Although I don’t think I’ve actually read the thing since Janet Malcolm on Sylvia Plath, which seems to have been 1993.  How time flies.  Eeep. 

^^ Which is not to say that some comics were not totally made to be read off computer screens.

** Maybe this is the modern on line version of cool.  

*** I believe she needed it by last week. 

† Also, chocolate has changed.  I’ve been trying to remember, but I seem to be unduly tired yet again today,^ my progress through the erratically charted geography^^ of chocolate.   I stopped using Dutch process when I stopped drinking cocoa, but that was a long time ago;  I may have cluelessly used Dutch process in the pre-annotation version of this recipe, which would help explain why I thought it was boring.  (It still needed more chocolate.) 

^ Go away, you Mutant Virus, and take the ME with you!  You have seriously outstayed your welcome!, as Holofernes might have said to Judith if he’d had the chance. 

^^ I perceive a theme.  Also, speaking of themes, anyone who doesn’t follow me on Twitter may need to know this: 

†† I never said there weren’t drawbacks. . . . 

††† I’d use low-fat now because the rest of the carton would be easier to give away, because that’s what everyone I know now uses.  And yes, I assume I could still escape major punishment for ingesting the amount of (cooked) milk that was in a few pieces of cake, despite the ‘no dairy’ billboards lining my alimentary canal.  I’d be worrying more about getting the waistband of my jeans closed. 

‡  See:  getting waistband of jeans closed

Happy New Year*


Roll on 2011.  I like the look of ‘2011’.  A very nice collection of numbers nicely arranged.   May it be a Year of Multifaceted Wonderfulness.**

            I think we need a sticky celebratory pudding.  A little late for tonight, but it’ll be excellent tomorrow too.  If you’re not too the-day-after-the-night-before-ish for getting your eyes to focus on a recipe.

Spicy cranberry gingerbread pudding 

The original recipe wants you to make eight individual puddings.  You must be frelling joking.  You’re already going to have to make the sauce as well as the pudding.  Life is way too short to spend that much time buttering pudding basins, not to mention cleaning the suckers afterward, since in my experience putting them through the dishwasher is pretty futile.  I don’t know, are there Miniature Pudding Basin Liners like there are paper muffin cups? The latter entirely revolutionised my baking half a million years ago when I discovered them, or someone started making them, which I think is what happened—some muffin-eating industrialist’s wife told him that paper muffin cup liners would not only mean he could have fresh muffins every day but that they would thereby be made wealthy***.

            Anyway.  In the absence of miniature pudding basin liners, you can make it in an 8” square pan, although a 6-cup Bundt is ideal because it looks pretty without being nearly so much work.† 

1 ¾ c all-purpose flour

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp (ground) ginger

¼ tsp allspice

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

2 medium/large eggs, room temp

5 T soft butter

¼ c blackstrap molasses

¼ c dark brown sugar.  If you’re a wimp you can use white sugar

1 heaped teaspoon freshly grated ginger root

4 oz preserved ginger in syrup, finely chopped, with its syrup

about 1 c water

Sift the dry stuff together.  Squash the butter and sugar together thoroughly, then add molasses, then eggs.  Beat well.  Then start adding flour alternately with water, and mixing each time, starting with flour:  half the flour, then half the water, then half the flour . . . then stop.  At this point add the two gingers (the ground went in with the spices in the dry), so you can judge how much water you’re going to need to make a good batter.  I have found I need slightly less than the full 1c.  Beat well again.  If you are an electric-mixer person, use it.  The batter should get very homogenous and very slightly paler.

            Pour in your chosen WELL BUTTERED pan, and bake about half an hour at 350°F/moderate.  It should look done like a cake looks done.  Use a toothpick if you’re nervous.  If it’s a Bundt, you’ll want to let it cool a bit and then turn it out;  if it’s in a boring old brownie pan, you can just serve it from there.

Sweet Cranberry-Cider Sauce 

1 lb cranberries

16 fluid oz British cider.  Which is to say, alcoholic.  If you can get British/hard cider, use whatever kind you like to drink, which is to say this is not the time to go cheap.  If you can’t get hard cider, use about 1 ½ c ordinary cider and ½ c port, Madeira, sherry, or whatever of that kind of thing you have around.  You ought to have something of this sort because it’s great for enlivening dull food.  You could certainly use Calvados or some such but I think that’s getting on for apple overkill myself.

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp (ground) cloves

¼ tsp nutmeg

about ¼ c, somewhat depending on how dry your cider/etc is and how sweet you like your sauce, dark brown sugar

2 oz preserved ginger in syrup, finely chopped, with its syrup 

Put the cider in a pan with everything else except the preserved ginger.  Bring to boil, boil gently till cranberries pop.  Take off the heat, add the ginger.  Let cool.  Reheat just to warm to serve.  You can warm the pudding too.  I generally don’t, but you don’t want it cold from the refrigerator.

It’s five minutes to midnight as I write this.  Tick . . . tick . . . tick. . . . †† 

* * *

* We had ringing practise tonight.  How sad is that?  New Year’s Eve and we’re all in the bell tower making horrible crashing noises.^  There were even enough of us tonight to make a wide variety of horrible crashing noises.  But I think possibly some of us had got a head start on celebrating.^^ 

^ Niall did suggest that if anyone wanted to ring in the New Year it could probably be arranged . . . but not by him. 

^^ Which is to say that my Cambridge was perhaps more accurate than some others of those present. 

** In the immediate future however . . . I have had a long detailed email from a professional photo geek, who says in essence:

(a)    Yes, the Canons are too slow.

(b)   Yes, the Panasonics’ jpeg handling isn’t good enough. 

At present my choices seem to be:

(a)    Learn photo editing after all and shoot in RAW mode.

(b)   Give up on the compact idea and go for a full DSLR.

(c)    Learn to draw.

How’s progress on cloning coming?  I need two of me, whatever I decide.  I need hours for photo editing and I need hours to write more books to pay for my renovated, upgraded and expanded camera habit.  Or I need hours with my sketchbook.   Hours and hours and hours and HOURS AND HOURS.  And possibly a gene-splice from JMW Turner or James Whistler or  John Everett Millais or Edward Burne-Jones. 

*** And she could hire someone to make muffins while she got on with writing her great novel.  He probably wanted a bigger car or a string of polo ponies or a castle in Spain.  Men.^

^ Although I’ve always wanted my castle in Scotland which is manifestly insane.  Winter?  Darkness?  Rising damp?  Cold?  I think the top ten most uncomfortable places on earth must include at least one paradigmatic Scottish castle.

† Although they don’t go too effectively through the dishwasher either.  Butter it really well.  

†† And I’m listening to Handel’s MESSIAH.  Well, it’s festive.  They’ve got the last night of the Proms running on Radio Three and I cannot take the blurky self-congratulation.  It’s stickier than the above pudding, which is not appropriate on the radio.  Get a grip, guys.

SUNSHINE contest II winners


Ajlr writes: 

After a truly amazing outpouring of culinary talent and ideas over this last week, the winners – yes, two winners* –  of a signed copy of the new and beautiful golden edition of SUNSHINE is cgbookcat1 for Chocolate Basilisk Balls with Kiss of Life sauce and  DrRo for Berry Crumble Butter Cake.  I can imagine happily eating the products from any cafe run by either of these forum members.**

If the winner(s) will PM me on the forum – soon*** – with the details of where their copy should be posted to, then all will be arranged. Many congratulations to both of them.

Now, where’s my mixing bowl…

Meanwhile . . . I was just explaining in a footnote† that one winner wasn’t enough.  Well, clearly two isn’t either.   So just as this contest is an addendum to the previous one, we are going to have an Addendum to the Addendum, to wit, a third winner of a signed shiny gold SUNSHINE is going to be chosen by popular vote, out of the recipes already posted for this contest.

            I, of course, who can just about call up a new game of Fingerzilla††, have no idea how to run a vote on the blog.  But ajlr seems to think it can be done.  Since I kind of sprang the idea on her about twenty minutes ago she and her fellow mods haven’t quite worked out the details yet.  But they will.  And then I’ll post them here.  So to get yourselves in the mood, here are our first two winners’ recipes.  Then you can go cruise the Playing With Your Food SUNSHINE contest thread and think hard about who you will vote for.  It will not be an easy choice.  And when you go to bed tonight visions of sugar-plums (and chocolate) will dance in your head.  Mmmmmm.


For the previous contest I said I would make “Chocolate Basilisk Balls with Kiss of Life sauce,” so I figured I’d better invent the recipe. These were inspired by the Indian dessert Gulab Jamun, although they are really nothing alike except that both feature spheres in sauces. The Basilisk Balls (basilisk eyes) are dark chocolate truffles, and the Kiss of Life sauce is a Cardamom Creme Anglaise. The truffle recipe is modified from Cooking for Engineers, and the sauce is modified from Epicurious.

The goal is to petrify the guests at the first bite, and slowly bring them back to life with murmurs of intense appreciation.

for the Basilisk Balls,

1 pound dark chocolate, cut into small pieces (not unsweetened — Ghirardelli dark chips are good)
1 cup heavy cream
about 3 Tbsp of a really good cognac (I used Hennessy)
unsweetened cocoa powder to coat

Heat cream in a saucepan until just boiling. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate and cognac until your ganache mixture is shiny and smooth. Refrigerate until stiff.

Scoop truffles into small balls using a melon baller or tablespoon measure, and roll until smooth with your hands (this is a messy process). Place in refrigerator to harden for a few minutes. When solid, lightly coat with cocoa powder.* Eat a truffle to check quality control at this point.†††

for the Kiss of Life Sauce,

4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar, divided into halves
scrapings from 1/2 vanilla bean
1 tsp crushed cardamom seeds

Lightly whisk egg yolks and half of the sugar in a small bowl and set aside. In a saucepan, combine the cream, milk, vanilla, cardamom, and the rest of the sugar and heat on medium until almost boiling. You should stir almost constantly (and scrape the bottom of the saucepan) for the duration of the heating process. When the cream mixture is hot, reduce heat dramatically and slowly pour the egg mixture into the cream, stirring as you do so. Increase heat again to medium and stir until the mixture becomes a custard. You will know this has occurred when you can run your finger across the back of the spoon and the track will remain. The mixture will also look very slightly grainy. Remove from heat, cool, and put through a fine strainer to remove unwanted bits of egg.

To serve, place two basilisk balls on a small plate and cover with sauce to taste. The sauce also makes an excellent ice cream if there is any left over.

* The cocoa powder will make the sauce run down the sides of the truffle without properly sticking. This can be solved in two ways — leave off the coating and use just the ganache, or keep adding sauce until it looks right. I prefer the second method, because you get to eat more chocolate that way.


Ok, I admit I just joined so that I could enter the competition‡‡… plus Robin said something about needing more forum members who bake [smiley omitted because WordPress turns them into squiggles] ‡‡‡  Plus I’m rereading Sunshine, AGAIN… and it always makes me want to bake things.

This is an entirely original recipe in that the cake base probably originated from a golden Wattle cook book sometime in the 195/60s… my mum baked a lot of cakes (6 kids can eat a cake like locusts on a pea plant – gone in seconds) so I learnt it from her – using wooden spoon measurements – as in, 2 spoonfuls of butter! I’m trying to convert back to real weights. The rest came from one of those happy accidents of wanting to use something up and not knowing what to do.

Berry Crumble Butter Cake

Heat oven to 180 deg (C)

185g butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups self raising flour
~1/4 cup of milk

Berry mixture
Any combination of ~ 3cups of stewed berries. It works really well with stewed apricots or apples as well. The key to this is that the majority of the liquid is removed. Do this by sitting in a fine-ish sieve for several hours, or by sitting a heavy ladle in the mixture, and spooning out the fluid as it fills. The final mixture should be almost thick enough hold its shape when a spoon is drawn through the middle.

Crumble mix

2 eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 cups dessicated coconut


Cream eggs and sugar, beat in eggs, then flour and finally mix in milk. Should be a nice smooth creamy batter consistency. Put mixture into a buttered and papered 23cm round tin (or about a 20 cm square one). Top with berry mixture.

Mix together crumble ingredients and strew over cake.

Bake for 1 to 1.5 hrs, until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. If the topping starts to over-brown, cover with alfoil


* * *

* Yes.  Well.  There were so many amazing recipes, one winner hardly seemed enough.  Is clearly not enough.  And then Ajlr had the bright idea that since the Basilisk Balls do not, in fact, involve any baking^, maybe there should be a second drawing for something that involves baking.  I’m not sure what we would have done if the second recipe didn’t have any baking in it either.  Kept drawing possibly.  Fortunately the second one did include some actual oven time.

            But, speaking of extra winners . . . well, keep reading.

 ^ Although they are clearly something Sunshine would be all for.  Maybe in the Sequel That Does Not Exist Paulie starts making truffles as a manifestation of his individuality.  In which case he would certainly make not only these but also Magpie’s Cloud 9 white chocolate truffles. 

** Okay, guys, I want to hear that you’re together at the negotiating table having a meaningful dialogue.  Or the start-up counter at the bank.^ 

^ Don’t bother me with geography.  Geography is boring.+ 

+ Except on Google Earth. 

*** Let me put it this way:  Fiona^ comes on Tuesday.  If the books don’t go out Tuesday . . . gods know when they’ll go out. 

               PS:  When you PM ajlr, be sure to include if you want them signed to anyone, or just my generic scrawl.

 ^ Fiona, who is not afraid of the post office and, furthermore, has not desired to murder any of our local postpersons this week.+ 

+ I say nothing about her attitude toward her own local postpersons. 

† You do read the footnotes as they happen, right?  You don’t just read them all in a lump at the end of the post and then have no idea what they refer to? 

†† I have just bought an upgrade.  Yes, to Fingerzilla.  Six more levels.  More stuff to blow up.  Stay tuned. 

††† Absolutely.  Eat it slowly and thoughtfully, right?  I can do this.

‡  Good attitude.  Excellent attitude.   An attitude that manifests the true spirit of this blog. 

‡‡ Yaay!

‡‡‡ Yaaaaay! 

Frelling ratbag


It has been an absolute frelling ratbag sod of a day.   A lot of the most emotionally oppressive garbage is inherently unbloggable.*  But I’ll tell you I’ve had a second friend in I think two months diagnosed with cancer;   they got the news for sure yesterday, it’s just a question of how bad it is and what they do next.    Friend number one has come through surgery with flying colours but . . . who needs to have cancer, you know?   There are so many better things to be doing with your time. 

            And Daisy and Roy are giving up on Mike:  long phonecalls from both of them today.  And I’ve said I’ll find a new home for him.  Yes, I am nuts.  And your point would be—?  I look at my hellhounds—four little shiny eyes immediately staring back at me, hoping I will make an Interesting Gesture:  a toy?  Another piece of chicken?**  A move toward the sofa, a picking-up of the TV remote?  A step toward the door?***–If you’re a critter person, how can you live without your critters?†  But I want to say something utterly naive and puerile here about how can you love a critter and not put in the basic time to train it, if it’s the kind that needs training?††  It doesn’t have to be top in its agility class or able to do canter pirouettes, but it has to know its place and what’s expected of it.  And basic companion-animal training just isn’t that hard.  You just have to do it.  And there’s nothing wrong with Mike but its lack.

            Moan moan moan moan moan.  But I’m pretty depressed.  Oh yes, and Pegasus the Cow has just taken another dive into the ravine†††, although that may be a result of all the other stuff that’s going on.  MOAN.


Comfort food.  I need comfort food.  

This is my variation on a recipe from one of my favourite cookbooks, whose name and notoriety have been seen on these virtual pages before:  All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed No Holds Barred Baking Book by Judy Rosenberg.  The title says it all.

 Lemon Raisin Pie 

1 pie crust bottom:  there is no top crust to this pie.‡  Having said that, I recommend you make it in a deep pan and build the edge up a bit, so you may need more than a half-recipe of a two-crust pie.  Half-bake it:  about 10 minutes at 400°F, just till it’s beginning to show faint colour.  Cool.

1 ½ c golden raisins, or mixture of any kind of raisins you happen to have on hand.  All golden is very pretty, and probably looks most like you thought ahead and got your ingredients organised, but I rather like the speckled effect of golden with ordinary black, and maybe a few currants thrown in for make weight.  I’ve also made this with part cranberries, but I’m a big cranberry fan.‡‡  The clever boys and girls of the food industry have figured out a way to dry cranberries so they’re sweeter than fresh ones, but you may still need to adjust your sugar.

1 T grated lemon zest (I don’t have to remind you not to grate the white, do I?)

½ c lemon juice

¾ c chopped almonds or hazelnuts or a mixture.  I suggest you toast them first too.

1 stick lightly salted butter at room temp

½ c granulated sugar

¼ c dark brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

3 large eggs at room temp

 Preheat oven to 350°F

Soak raisins and lemon zest in the lemon juice for at least 15 minutes.  If you’re going to make the pie this afternoon, you could put them in in the morning.  Add the nuts at the last minute, just as you’re putting the rest of the pie together.

Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy.  It’s easier if you use an electric mixer.  Throw the cinnamon in at some point.  Add the eggs one at a time—remember to scrape the sides of the bowl a lot—mixing thoroughly but no more than that.  Mixture will look curdled.

Stir in the raisin mixture and pour into the crust.‡‡‡

Bake 40-45 minutes.  The centre should be just set, but it’ll be paler than the edges.  It’ll still be soft though.  It’ll set better as it cools.  Let cool THOROUGHLY before you try to cut it.

Warning:  this is seriously rich. 

* * *

* Insert standard rant here about the gob-smackingly indiscreet things people have been known to put in their blogs and then they get all upset when the people they’ve been writing about get upset.  Can you say ‘clueless clodpole’?  You can choose some other phrase of opprobrium as suits you, but I like the euphony, even if no one has said ‘clodpole’ since Mark Twain. 

** I have fallen into the reprehensible habit of giving them a bit of neat chicken each after supper, supposing they eat supper.  This is in theory to inspire them to eat more supper . . . I doubt it does anything of the kind, but they’re bright enough to have figured out that they don’t get the chicken if they haven’t (nearly) finished their proper food, with all that lumpy brown kibble stuff.  I think what it does is give me, for about five seconds about three nights out of four, the illusion of having real dogs, you know, the kind that think food is terrific, the kind you can clicker-train because they respond to treats.  It does my little heart good to see them surge out of the dog bed and slap their butts to the floor to get their scraps of chicken.  And no, since chicken is the only thing that makes them eat at all, I am not going to push it by trying to use it as a training treat.


 *** It’s the middle of the night.  It’s dark out there.  We are not going for another hurtle.

^ We might run into something.  Trees.  Telephone poles.  Vampires. 

† Dogs, cats, horses, giraffes, poison dart frogs, whatever 

†† I think poison dart frogs generally just hang out in their terrariums.  

††† Speaking of basic training for your critters.  Novels are feral. 

‡ Can’t remember if I’ve posted my pie crust recipe.  One of these days I’ll go check. 

‡‡ I’m from Maine.  I didn’t need any frelling British cooking maven to tell me about cranberries. 

‡‡‡ I always start my pies off with tin foil around the crimped edge, to prevent it browning too soon and being wrecked by the time the filling is cooked through.  Take it off, if you use it, about halfway through.

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