Facon (Tofu bacon)

I have recently discovered my love for tofu. Turns out all the people who always told me that you just needed to do x to make it taste good were lying and you actually need to do Y. We’re currently using about 2 pounds of tofu per week and a lot of it is used to make fake bacon.

Start by making am marinade: soy sauce, barbecue sauce (if you really want it vegan, use some without honey), liquid smoke (the secret ingredient to so many things) and whatever you like. I often use herbs, or some fruit sirup, garlic, … Put it into a ziplock bag or plastic box. Slice some smoked tofu into thin slices and put into the marinade. It should be in there for at least a couple  of hours, best over night. You can now fry it in a pan or an airfryer, or use it like that. And unless you need to be careful with sodium, you can eat hlf a pound and still call it healthy.

The best vegan rabbit stew you’ve ever had

This was from our “watch the LOTR trilogy and eat like Hobbits marathon”. The original recipe uses rabbit or chicken, and is an homage to Samwise’s rabbit stew.

A plate with stew at the top, couscous on the leaft, and vegetable Tajine on the right

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Sorry for the bad pic…

Anyway, my friend made it with soy chunks and it was so good we had to make it again  a week later. It takes a lot of time, but not much work.

Ingredients:

2 pounds of unseasoned soy chunks, the “like chicken” variety that is pretty dense. I wouldn’t use tofu here

2-3 onions, depending on size and your taste, cut to taste

garlic

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice

2 teaspoons sage or thyme

3 tbsp olive oil

2 teaspoons sugar

500 ml red wine

some red wine vinegar (I prefer crema de balsamico)

50g tomato paste

2 laurel leaves

salt and pepper to taste

  • rub the “meat” with herbs, pepper and allspice, set aside.

-use a cast iron pot, a dutch oven or anything that allows the stew to simmer nicely on the stove or go into the oven, heat the oil and gently brown the onions with the sugar for about 10 minutes. If you use the oven, preheat to 150°C now.

-add the garlic, fry for another minute. Add the “meat” and fry for five more minutes or so. Add wine, vinegar, tomato paste laurel and salt. Cover with a lid. Either put it into the oven or reduce the heat. Stir every 10 minutes or so for about 2 hours. I had to add some more wine and water because the soy chunks basically slurped up the sauce. Season again, garnish with parsley, and serve with po-ta-toes.

Just Bread

If you’re one of the three people globally who didn’t make their own sourdough bread during the first Covid lockdowns, this is for you.

Contrary to popular belief, sourdough is neither difficult or complicated, it’s just time intensive, because if you want to make it, you need to start at least a week before. Or you buy sourdough starter. Whatever. About once a year I get the strong urge to make sourdough bread. I start my sourdough, bake breads for a couple of weeks, and then at some point my starter dies. I feel zero remorse over this.

To start your sourdough, mix 50g of flour with 50 g of lukewarm water in a mason jar, and put it somewhere not too cold. Repeat every day for at least 6 days. Some recipes will tell you it’s fine after three days, but in my experience, it takes at least a week to get a really active sourdough.

Once you have a nice starter, you can make bread. Start the day before your want the bread, best around early in the afternoon. Take:

1kg of flour, 22 g of salt, 200 to 300 g of starter, 400-500ml of water. You can add nuts, grains, seeds to your liking.

I’m not telling you which flour to use, it should work with most gluten containing flours, but you’ll have to find our how much water you need.

If you want to give it a headstart, you can make a “poolish”: feed your sourdough well (at least a double amount), take off your 200-300 g, put those in a nicely warm place (30-35°C) for an hour. This step is optional, but probably wise if you only start late in the afternoon.

Back to the non optional parts: put everything into your kitchen machine and knead for about 10 minutes. You can watch internet tutorials that will tell you how to do it by hand, insisting that those very movements, turns and folding techniques are absolutely necessary, but in my opinion, that’s nonsense. Once it’s done, cover with a damp cloth. Every 1.5 to 2 hours, you wet your hands and stretch and fold it, right until you want to go to bed. Then you fold it a last time, shape it into a ball, and put it either in a special bread basket liberally coated with flour, or a bowl, cover again with a damp cloth, put it somewhere cool but not cold (I use our stairway as it is pretty much lways between 15and 20 °C)and go to bed.

In the morning, you bake it. There are several options here: you can just use your cookie sheet, a pizza stone (my preferred method) or a dutch oven (put in baking paper), but it’s very important that you preheat to 200°C, especially when using a stone or dutch oven. These need to be 200° as well, so I usuall preheat at least 30 minutes. Put the bread upside down on your stone/sheet, dutch oven and  cut the top. If you’re using a dutch oven, cover it for the first 30 minutes, if not pour some water on the bottom of your oven (or use ice cubes) to create steam. If you use the dutch oven, remove the lid after 30 minutes, bake for about 1 h. Let it cool and enjoy.

A sourdough bread with a golden brown crust, cut in half

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The Hobbits go plant based

I’ve long suffered from a bad conscience from leaving Charly to do all the work here, but I still couldn’t drag my butt in the metaphorical chair (no more real chair for me) to type something meaningful. I still don’t have the spoons to type anything politically interesting, but since I’ve been sharing more and more food on Mastodon I thought: why not write some lighthearted recipe posts? I think I can manage that.

The recipes will all be plant based. The Giliell family has significantly reduced their animal product consumption over the recent years anyway and a few weeks ago my eldest went fully vegan. Now, this is a disclaimer for all the posts here: I’m not vegan. I’m not trying to be and this is NOT and invitation to any vegans to try and convince me. You didn’t manage to do so the last 15 years and I doubt you will do so now. That’s why I’m using the label plant based as it describes my personal approach: creating delicious food while using plant based ingredients. This is about the joy of eating, not about discussing ideology or philosophy. Just yummy, no judgement.

Why Hobbits? Because during the easter week we hosted a Lotr movie marathon (actually 2 days, because eating took too much time) with mostly vegan food, mostly based on “things that fit the general middle earth theme” from an unofficial cookbook.

So, let’s get started with some hearty date and sesame bars that will give you lots of energy for walking to Orodruin or going to school

You need

150g of dried fruit: dates, apricots, raisins…, cut into small pieces. I wouldn’t use too much apples or mangos, because they’re lacking stickiness.

125g of flour

125g of oats

1 tsp baking powder

1-3 tbsp sesame seeds

Mix all dry ingredients

120-150 g margarine or vegan butter. Don’t try to reduce the fat or your mass will not stick

75 g brown sugar

1tbsp maple syrup or any other sugary syrup

Melt margarine, mix with sugar and syrup. Pour over dry ingredients and mash together. Put everything on a cookie sheet, push flat. Don’t try a dish. I did that the first time and they stayed nicely soft.

Bake at 180° C for about 20-25 minutes, cut while hot. They keep well. Or would if they weren’t gobbled up so fast. you can create your own favourite mix. Add sunflower seeds, leave out dates, your call.

rectangle bars in a plastic container and on a cookie sheet

©Giliell, all rights reserved

My Lucky Pear Tree

About a decade ago, a pear tree sprouted just outside my garden in a patch near the fence where the meadow owner can’t mow the grass with a tractor so he does not bother with it at all and it is up to me to keep the growth there in check. The tree did have some tiny pears last year, edible, but nothing to write home about. I thus thought the tree wouldn’t be worth anything and I left it to grow in order to fell it for firewood when it is big enough to be worth it, like I always do with trees that sprout near the outside of my fence.

This year the tree was covered in pears, many small, but also many fist-sized. I forgot to take a picture of that, so here is one with my ladder against the tree and some last pears on the topmost branches. I had to take those off with a stick, I could not safely reach them.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The tree was so covered in fruit, that one branch unfortunately snapped under the weight before I got some time to pick it. And the fruit is dee-licious! I do not know what the odds are of getting a good-quality fruit from a pear seedling but I do strongly suspect that they are not in favor. Thus I consider this my lucky pear tree.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

When left to ripen, they become incredibly sweet. Indeed there were many -not in this picture – that were damaged by wasps. But even when still green they are very tasty. This suits me since I do in fact prefer fruits when they are still ever so slightly unripe.

There is no way to eat this many pears before they spoil so we are processing them by cutting them up and putting them in a dehumidifier. We had to buy a second one this year so we could process all the fruit from the garden and mushrooms I brought home from the forest more expediently. We will go into this winter with an overabundance of dried pears, apples, strawberries, raspberries, and prunes. And walnuts. I intend to experiment with making my own bowel-scouring müsli from all of it and also I will try and mix some of the dried fruit in teabags to see if I can manage to make tasty homemade fruit tea.

Mush Room Seas ‘n

After an abnormally hot and dry June came an abnormally wet and cold end of July and the beginning of August. The weather was more akin to an average October around here than to the middle of summer. At least one good thing came out of it – the mushrooms are growing. A lot. I went on a hunt today and I picked about 8 kg of mushrooms. If you happen to live in west Bohemia or northern Bavaria, now is the time to go out mushroom hunting.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I found some ceps, pretty big ones. And although they look battered, they were actually pretty healthy, with very little maggot damage.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The main bulk were bay boletes. Those were not as healthy and we ended up throwing almost half of them away. Still we filled the whole food dehydrator and some.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

There were also some larch boletes. No maggots in those, but they were watery like sponges. There was more than we could immediately eat so we do try to dry them in the oven.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

And there were also enough blushers for a tasty lunch for me.

I have made over 13.000 steps today, many of those accompanied by squats. Then it took about six hours to clean and cut it all (my mom helped with that, otherwise I would still be at it). It was quite a workout. I am glad to note that I was not as tired as from a similar mushroom hunt two years ago. It appears that I was at that time suffering from the long-term effects of the flu I had at the beginning of 2020. This year I am finally feeling again fit-ish, I do appear to be able to work harder and longer than I was the previous two years.

I do plan to go to the forest again in a few days, there should be again enough boletes to fill some jars. I would like to fill the pantry with dried mushrooms as much as I can since they do not grow every year.

If the weather gets warm and some insects start buzzing around, I will try to take my camera with me and make some pretty pictures. I haven’t done that for a loooong time.

Strawberry Chips

It is the Time of Strawberries again and I am spending several hours daily picking, sorting, and processing strawberries.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

However, since we still did not eat half! of the various strawberry, figs, and other jams and marmalades that we made last year, I have decided to try and use the fruit dehumidifier on them.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I was worried a bit they will lose aroma and/or color, but neither happened. They are still bright red (that might still change over time) and very aromatic. Enclosed in jars they should hold for years in our cool dark cellar. And unlike marmalade – which is way too sweet for me to eat regularly – I can add them to my breakfast yogurt together with other dried fruits from our garden (prunes and apples) almost daily without adverse effects, so they should disappear over time hopefully quicker than the marmalade (which we cannot manage to give away, let alone eat). Even running 24/7 at 60°C, the dehumidifier cannot manage to dry all strawberries that I gather daily and the smaller and unseemly fruits still have to go into marmalade, which thus will continue to accumulate. Next year I will plow over some of the strawberry patches, this is simply too much.

Blast it. I wish that more useful and edible foodstuffs grew here as well as strawberries and walnuts. I had no luck with sweet corn or red beets this year, most seeds did not even germinate. With garlic and onions, I had zero luck for several years too. And this year’s pole beans were partially destroyed by voles and partly by the too-harsh sun (although I still have enough plants to hope for a reasonable harvest), and my only apple tree appears to be dying from water vole damage. And those little fuckers ate all of my tulips as well, so I did not even have pretty flowers in the spring. I still had no luck in finding a remedy that works on these pests.

I Made Some Shroomce

I have read about mushroom-based ketchup a while ago and I wanted to try to make some kind of condiment out of mushrooms ever since. So yesterday when shopping I bought two handfuls of button mushrooms to try out the idea. I pressed the mushrooms through a garlic press to get them into a really fine mince, but chopping them or just crushing them by hand would probably work too. I added some leftovers of dried peppery bolete  (Chalciporus piperatus), a lot of salt (about two spoons), some basil, oregano, and marjoram and I mixed it all thoroughly together. I left it in the pot overnight in the fridge and today I added two crushed garlic cloves that I interspersed with two lovage leaves so those got crushed too in the process.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

It was an unappetizing-looking wet mass with the consistency of minced meat. The mushrooms did release a lot of liquid due to the salt but it was not enough so I added some water and heated it all to ~80 °C. I left it to simmer under a lid for about half an hour and after that, I strained it through a cloth. I got about half a liter of brown liquid, looking like a weak coffee or very strong tea. I left it to simmer at ~80 °C for about half an hour more until approx half of it evaporated and I bottled the now significantly darker brown liquid into old (washed and boiled for disinfection) bottles from soy sauce and Worcester sauce. Here they are.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Houbáčka – a portmoneau of houba (mushroom) and omáčka (sauce). It tastes great and I think it will make a good addition to soups and sauces. I think it could even be sprinkled directly onto chips or potatoes or shrimp and similar. I will definitely use it a lot, it really tastes nice. I hope it won’t spoil, maybe it needs more salt to last – thus one bottle went downstairs into the fridge and my mother will use it in her cooking, and one bottle remained with me upstairs at room temperature and I will use it in my cooking. We shall see whether my bottle spoils before it runs out.

The pressed remains could be thrown away but they still had some flavor left so I dried them. It is interesting to see how little has remained from what looked like a lot of mushrooms.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

After it thoroughly dried out in the fruit dehumidifier, I crushed it and put it into a glass with screw-on lid. I will sprinkle it on pasta or fryup when I am making them.

Now I am hoping that my other mushroom based experiment works out well.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I had this old barrel lying around and being useless – it has no bottom and the lid was lost some time ago. So I have drilled holes into the sides, filled it with stamped-down willow and poplar woodchips and I bought Agrocybe aegarita mycelium to inoculate it. It is near the house, north side so it stays in shade and I can water it occasionaly when I am watering my bonsai. If it fails, I can empty it in the fall, dry out the chips and burn them as was their original fate. But now I really hope it works out and I get some fresh mushrooms to cook from. Not that I mind going into the forest to gather wild mushrooms, but that depends a lot on the weather. We shall see.

Happy New Year, have some Ma’amoul

First of all, let me wish all of you a happy new year. We’re all smart enough to know that things won’t magically get better, so I’m wishing us the strength to hold on and fight the good fight, since there’s no alternative anyway.

Last year I promised a post about cookies, so here we are, with a bit of a story. At the start of the school year, we did a project for grades 5-7 in order to welcome the new kids. The motto was “welcoming new things” with a focus on our diverse student body. I offered a cooking/baking workshop where we made things as “catering” for the party at the end of the project. It was positively exhausting. Come Friday afternoon I was completely done, but for the first time in ages in a good way. Obviously, having only one stove/oven and very limited funds (i.e. what I was willing to spend), our selection was easy stuff like Russian pancakes and American cookies, so some of the kids decided to spend the weekend baking treats from their home countries. I was particularly in love with the Ma’amoul and asked the kid for the recipe. Well, her mum didn’t just write me the recipe, she also gifted me one of her forms, which absolutely tore me up.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I expressed my thanks by making her a batch of traditional cinnamon wafers (without the rum) and the kid an I set to making ma’amoul. Though I didn’t ace the dough (it went too puffy, I think I didn’t get the instructions right), they were absolutely delicious and lasted maybe a week. Enjoy!

Some ma'amoul made with the mould. The pattern is not clearly visible.

https://amiraspantry.com/maamoul/

Runner Beans Riches

Our south wall used to be shaded by a rabbit shed, later converted to a chicken hoop. Ever since I demolished that, the sun was directly blazing at it. It does not heat the house much because it is well insulated, but I felt somehow that the space is wasted. After some thinking, I have decided that it would be an ideal space for growing runner beans, one row, close to the wall. Runner beans do not mind the low-quality soil, so they do not need to be fertilized and thus there is no risk of polluting our well which is down the slope exactly on the opposite side of the house.

Last year was somewhat poor, the beans did not grow that much. There was enough rain, but not enough sun for them to really prosper. Even so, the harvest was big enough that we still did not eat it all.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

This year the weather was extremely hot and dry again. However, we managed to collect enough rainwater in the spring to be able to water the beans the whole time sufficiently, so they prospered enormously and covered the whole wall.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

They are still blooming and they will continue to grow until the first frost.  I will probably wait for two more weeks, then I will harvest all green immature pods and clip the plants so they do not waste energy on growing and instead mature the remaining pods quicker. But maybe I won’t bother. The harvest looks extremely promising even so, I will have to convince my mother to cook beans more often. I like them better than chicken anyway.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

I am thinking about buying seeds of other vine beans and planting them next year en masse on the vegetable patch where this year grew potatoes. But I like runner beans the best because they are big and thus they require the least work per weight when shelling. We used to have white runner beans too, but  I haven’t seen them in shops for a long time. I could not put seeds consistently aside, because the white and red beans hybridized and after two-three years I had neither white nor purple beans but a mish-mash.

More Summer Content

Don’t worry, there’ll be some more serious content soon, and for once it’s good news. But for now, let me take you on a tour of the garden. This year, somehow, growing the seedlings on my window sill didn’t work. Don’t ask me why, but there’s no peppers this year. The tomatoes are way behind schedule. But we’ll see how it works out.

Let’s start with the potatoes:

Beet with potatoe plants

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This looks more dense than it is, I think for the future, the beet can sustain twice the amount of plants.

Next: peas

Beet with pea plants

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I planted sugar snaps and normal peas, though the latter were disappointing, too. They’re strictly for snacking, something the kids greatly appreciate. They’re mostly done now, so I plante a courgette in between. We may possibly drown in courgettes come a few weeks.

Beet with tomatoe plants

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As you can see, the tomatoes are still too small. The metal boughs are leftovers from the old trampoline so i can cover them should it rain too much.

beet with corn, beans and squash

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And a “three sisters planting”, this year hopefully with the right kind of beans. Again, I tried to pregrow my corn, and then when it didn’t take off I just sowed more outdoors.  Those plants are much stronger now than the few pregrown.

That was the “serious” gardening, now for the fun part: Flowers!

Purple mallow plants

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I always throw a few hands of flower seeds on the wild side of the garden. Last year, there were a few purple mallows. This year there are a lot of purple mallow plants. I love them.

Red lilies

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Lilies, I think. I know I planted them last year, but too late to bloom. They’re so pretty.

And last but not least, the Hollyhock. I love hollyhock. I planted those last year as well, the need two years anyway. Let’s just hope that they’ll just reseed themselves like the mallow.

Red hollyhock flower

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Pink hollyhock flower

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Black hollyhock flower

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Tummy Thursday: Around the World in 5 Courses

On New Year’s Eve we held our traditional dinner where we all draw our courses and continents. With only three families left, two families had to do two courses each while one (we as the hosts) had to do one. You never know how much you can miss somebody’s bad cooking until they’re gone.

The first course takes us to Africa, to Ghana in specific:

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It’s a leek and peanut soup and damn delicious. I think this will become part of our culinary repertoire

The second course jumps across the Atlantic to México:

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Pimientos con queso y beicon. Bell peppers filled with garlic cream cheese and wrapped in bacon. They were delicious.

Back across the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean, straight to Italy:

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Classic lasagna and never a bad choice.

Now we travel east and south to Oceania for the fourth course:

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Chicken Fa Fa, a popular dish from Polynesia. This was my course and I didn’t want to do something from Australia or New Zealand, since those are very European cuisines. Of course I didn’t get taro leaves to make an authentic chicken fa fa, but several recipes said to substitute with spinach. You fry the chicken, then simmer in tock until mostly done, add spinach and coconut and thicken with a bit of starch and it’s so damn delicious. the chicken was tender as butter, the spinach creamy, and I had a lot of trouble not eating the whole thing before the guests arrived.

For the final course we didn’t have to travel quite that far, our dessert from Japan:

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Macha petit fours: Small coconut cakes with red bean paste and a macha frosting, served with green tea. Those were delicious. The “cake” itself is made from “Butterkeks” a not overly sweet biscuit, coconut and butter with no added sugar, while the frosting is basically just sugar and macha. This makes for the perfect amount of sweetness with the bitter macha notes.

All in all we had a delicious and nice evening, right before the crying started at midnight. You see, January the first is Uli’s birthday. For almost 20 years we celebrated together. She’d spend Christmas with her family, but New Year’s Eve with us. I remember celebrating with her back when I was still living at home, bringing out a cake at midnight with the whole neighbourhood bursting out in “happy birthday”. Or partying in way too small student flats, sleeping on a floor so cramped it was difficult to go to the loo. We said that she would host this year. Damn, Uli, why didn’t you just say that you weren’t comfortable with hosting so many people right after moving in? Don’t you think that dying on us is a bit extreme?

Gingerbread Houses

These are the more “traditional”

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

gingerbread houses my mother made this year.