A little more kitchen sink, please!


Oh, my. James made SUCH  a delicious dinner tonight. I wish I had gotten a photo. And no way is there a recipe. He told me to watch out while eating because there still might be bits of the kitchen sink in there.

To my knowledge, the stew contained the following:

  • Leftover kalua pig
  • Okra
  • Tomatoes
  • Salsa
  • Black olives
  • Olive oil
  • Onions

And who knows what else.

Anyway, it was DELICIOUS, both plain and on tortilla chips.

I am a lucky woman.

Day three and a promise

Day 3 of the cleanse brings a promise from me.

I promise to post about something else as soon as:

1) This cleanse thing is over; OR

2) I have a day where I forget to take photos; OR

3) I have a day in which I eat all stuff I’ve already posted about.

But in the meanwhile, here’s the food for day 3 of the cleanse.

Breakfast: Fried O’Brien potatoes, homemade ketchup, watermelon, and V-8


Lunch: Big salad with homemade sesame dressing (mixed up sesame oil, rice vinegar, agave nectar, grated fresh ginger, wheat-free tamari, and grated garlic to taste), topped with sesame salt; fresh cherries

Salad and cherries

Snacks: Nuts, seasoned seaweed, and Oh, so much fruit. More than I can show you here, but among the bounty was more watermelon. Also, white peaches so ripe it’s making my mouth water to tell you about them. And more cherries. And so on. Plus a latte made with decaf espresso and homemade soymilk. (The soymilk maker is still in the testing phase. I’m working on it.)

peaches, watermelon, and soy latte

Dinner: Tamale pie. The plan was for chili, but I was waffling on finding a good vegan, gluten-free cornbread, and James suggested I just make some more polenta, add olives to the chili, and make tamale pie. Those of you who’ve been around a while know that James is big on suggesting yummy and time-consuming things for me to make, so I was happy to oblige with this relatively quick and easy dish.

Tamale pie

I also added some olive oil and a fair bit of garlic and nutritional yeast to the polenta before pouring it over the chili (which I dished into the baking dish with a slotted spoon so it wouldn’t be too soupy). The chili is based on the Moosewood recipe that Susan V. adapts here, but I left out the bulgur and used some olive oil in the preparation.

So there it is. There’ll be more Mom Food when this is over. I promise!

Mertie’s Mondays: Experimenting with a Sausage and Kidney Bean Stew

Sausage and Kidney Bean Stew, in honor of Mertie!

[Note from Serene: Please forgive my lateness in posting this. Chris uploaded it weeks ago and I’ve been snowed under, as I mentioned. I hope that Mertie would forgive my negligence, and I hope you all will, too.]

Now, for Chris’s post:

I would like to dedicate this Mertie’s Monday to Mertie herself, who passed away 30 years ago this week. She would never have made something like this, but I think she would have liked it had I made it for her.

I’ve been laid up for a couple of weeks in hospital, eating pretty bad food, and feeling sorry for myself. So when I got out earlier this week, I decided that I’d cook something in a couple of days and have some homemade cuisine. However, I must confess, the first meal I had when I got out was Beef with Green Pepper and Black Bean Sauce and Vegetarian Spring Rolls from our favourite Chinese restaurant. And last night HWMBO (He Who Must Be Obeyed, my husband) bought a Crispy Aromatic Duck packaged by Waitrose, our upscale supermarket (think “Whole Foods” without the high prices.) It was surprisingly good. But these are only asides.

A few days ago our favourite newspaper, the Guardian printed a recipe in its G2 section (daily magazine). Angela Hartnett (a hot-shot chef here in London) contributed a recipe for Sausage and Kidney Bean Stew.

Sausage and Bean Stew

If you’re interested in her original recipe, follow the link. There is also a nice picture there, much nicer than mine. I liked the look and the imagined taste of the stew, so rooted around for ingredients to make it for tonight. What I write below is my thought process when planning the meal.

I had British sausages in the freezer, and decided on a traditional recipe pork sausage. If you are not in the United Kingdom do not under any circumstances use breakfast sausages for this. I imagine they will not only taste terrible in this kind of sauce, but will ooze lots of fat which will make the stew stodgy. In the United States I would suggest sweet Italian sausage, or even hot Italian sausage. That will give it a tingle, and it will be closest to what we eat here in England.

When I looked at the recipe, I thought that limiting the vegetables to sliced onions might lack a bit of a crunch. So I added to my shopping list a bunch of celery. I have a bottle of pickled sliced jalapeno peppers in the fridge, and thought I’d substitute those for the chile.

So here’s my altered recipe, and HWMBO liked it, so that’s all that counts. I hate it when I cook something and he doesn’t care for it. After all, he’s the breadwinner and he deserves good tasty food because he supplied the ingredients.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Sausage and Kidney Bean Stew
Recipe type: Main
  • 6 traditional British sausages. Do not skimp on these. Run-of-the-mill sausage will not be tasty and will cook to a pap.
  • (in the US, substitute hot or sweet Italian sausage. Do not use breakfast sausage.)
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 4 ribs of celery, sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can of tomato paste (or if in the US, ¼ tube of tomato purée)
  • 1 can of kidney beans, partially drained
  • 1 tablespoon of bottled jalapeno slices, with liquid, OR 1 sliced seeded chili
  • Adobo seasoning, or salt and pepper to taste
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried basil
  1. In a medium stewpot, sauté the sausages in olive oil and a gentle heat, browning them on all sides. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add the sliced onions and celery (and the sliced seeded chili if you're using that), and sauté them until the onion is transparent but not caramelised.
  3. Once the vegetables are done, dump in the tomatoes, rinse the can with a little water and add that to the stew. Add the tomato paste, the jalapeno slices, and the beans. I decided that lots of the goodness of the beans was in the liquid with it, so I poured a couple of tablespoons of that into the stew, then drained the beans and added them. I stirred to mix everything, then added the sausages. I put Adobo seasoning in it instead of salt and pepper--a holdover from my days living in the Bronx and cooking Red Beans and Rice every few days. I also added a teaspoon of dried oregano and one of dried basil. Whenever I cook with tomatoes, I always add basil, as basil and tomatoes go together like a horse and carriage...um....yeah.
  4. Some devil in me drew me to the fridge, where I took out the bottle of Tabasco Sauce and sprinkled it liberally into the stew. This was a mistake. The peppers added enough of a kick and the stew was a bit spicy when I got finished with it. However, you may want to try a splash (no more than that) and see whether you like it that way.
  5. Simmer for 20 minutes so that the sausages are cooked through. Stir occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Serve in a soup bowl over white rice, and enjoy. This particular recipe would serve 3. As good UK sausages usually come in packages of 6, allowing two for each person is just right. You could double everything but I think the stew might not be as good if 12 sausages were crowding out the liquid. I haven't tried that yet.

Another substitution that I would be eager to make is pork chops or pork steaks for the sausages. Pork chops can be pretty dry and tough if not treated right. Imagining this stew with pork chops makes me want to try it—perhaps you’ll try it and report back to us. I suspect that the stewing action will tenderise and moisten the pork chops. Before using them, though, be sure to trim the fat and brown them on both sides just as I did the sausages.

Experimentation is a good thing

Note that while I generally followed Ms Hartnett’s recipe, I felt free to experiment. Some of the things I tried worked—the jalapenos and the celery really made this dish sit up and sing! Other things I tried didn’t. Too much Tabasco Sauce can actually be a bad thing and while it adds its own taste to blander foods, when you have something full-bodied like this I’d recommend leaving the bottle at the table and letting those who wish add some to their own plates.

I can’t stress too much: when you are cooking from a recipe, feel free to experiment according to your own and your family’s or guests’ tastes. When I cook with tomatoes, I always think “oregano and basil”, even if they aren’t in the recipe. I use my experience to do what in the physics lab would be called a thought experiment, but what I would like to call a tongue experiment. When you look at a recipe, think of other dishes you’ve cooked or eaten that had similar ingredients. Feel free to add things you like. Also, feel free to leave out ingredients you don’t like. If you don’t like anchovies, for example, substitute a bit of salt or perhaps some Thai fish sauce in the recipe.

The only things to be careful of here are not to experiment too much with things like baking methods for breads and cakes, or cooking methods for meat, fish, and eggs. If you’re cooking pork, make sure it’s cooked through no matter what method you’re using. Rare pork isn’t a gourmet delight. If you’re roasting a chicken, make sure that you use a meat thermometer and place it between the thigh and the body, directly into the bird. I have often roasted chicken or chicken parts, and plunged my fork into the meat and the juices ran clear. What I encountered when I cut it apart was a red patch right in the middle. The microwave cures that, but it detracts from the taste.

In baking think “chemistry set”. When you are baking, the ingredients should be accurately measured and substitutions should be made with care and only when you are a successful and competent baker. Otherwise, you may end up with a flat loaf of bread rather than a nice risen one.

In short, the stew was indeed spicy. It was very tasty, however, and the kind of a stew that really goes down a treat on a cold day. The blandness of the sausage was complemented by the complexity of the rest of the stew. It sure beats Bangers and Mash as a way to make a British sausage into a great meal. I hope that if you make it you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.

Korean-style braised beef

Korean braised beef stew. So good!

The starting point was Maangchi‘s recipe for Doejibulgogi, or spicy stir-fried pork.

I used a pound of chuck, and since chuck prefers a slow braise, I put the ingredients (minus the green peppers, which I didn’t have handy) into a cast-iron Dutch oven instead. I browned the beef first, then added the remaining ingredients and about a half cup of water, then cooked on low heat for about an hour and a half.

It’s not too spicy, but it’s got a little zing to it. It’s very very rich and delicious.

Korean beef braise

Two bad photos equal a good one, right? This stuff was far more tasty than it looks here.

Korean braised beef stew

Mertie’s Mondays: Chowdah


Growing up in Marblehead as I did, fish and seafood were omnipresent in our lives. The Town was still a centre for fishing, and the wharf at the foot of State Street still landed catches of fish every day. Just at the foot of the street stood McClain’s Fish Market. When Mom wanted good fish, she would send us there. Like all good fish markets, it smelled nautical but not fishy. There were a couple of shelves with jars of tartar sauce and the like, but the fish counter at the rear of the store was the centre of attention.

There are three kinds of New England-style chowder: fish, clam, and corn. The chowder I made last night was corn chowder, but I think that people need to know how to make all three.

In preparation, let me state right now that, although it’s not true that the State of Maine once made it illegal to call any soup with tomatoes in it a “chowder”, my Mom never made a fish, corn, or clam soup with tomatoes. While Manhattan “clam chowder” may be tasty, I don’t consider it a chowder, properly speaking.

I will start out with corn chowder. If you make it without salt pork, it is vegetarian. It’s also amazingly filling, and very tasty.

Corn Chowder
Corn chowdah!

To start, put around two tablespoons of butter into a large pot. When it’s melted, dump in three medium onions, chopped.

Does anyone else find chopping onions a chore? I used to, but when I discovered Julia Child’s method of chopping onions, I stopped thinking of chopping onions as a chore and found it a breeze. Here’s how.

Peel the onion, and cut in half lengthways through the root and the top. Lay one half cut side down on the chopping board. Slice it lengthways nearly to the root end, but not quite all the way. Then carefully cut the onion half horizontally one or two times. Finally, slice the onion from the stem end, and the onion will just fall into dice, naturally. When you’ve gotten as close to your fingers as you want, place the end down on the cutting board and chop it a few times. Hey presto, a diced onion.

Now put your chopped onion into the pot and sauté it until translucent. Meanwhile, peel and cut your potatoes. Cut them lengthways, then cut each half into halves again. Finally, cut each quarter into 1/4″ slices. Use around 5 medium to large potatoes. As much as you might be tempted to leave the skins on, don’t! Chowder requires peeled potatoes for perfection.

Put the potatoes into the pot and immediately pour water in to cover them. No more than that, please! Add salt, pepper, and some thyme (a tablespoon is too much but a teaspoon may not be enough—use your discretion). Remember that the potatoes will absorb salt so you may want to add more at this stage or make sure that your table has a full salt grinder on it. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down, and simmer. Open three cans of corn kernels. You could use fresh, if you have the patience to cut the kernels off the cobs, but I never have had that much patience. Add them to the pot, cover. and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through.

Now there are two (at least) schools of chowdercookery. The first one only requires full-fat milk, and the other requires some sort of thickener. The people who make canned New England clam chowder are of the second school, but it often tastes floury to me, not milky. My Mom was of the first school, so her recipe concludes with simply adding full-fat milk to the chowder, as much as you like, and stirring it in and heating it through. You will want the chowder to have a milky-white colour but not caused by as much milk as there is water in the pot. Use your discretion and your taste.

I decided to thicken our corn chowder with a roux. If you’ve been following my posts, you know how to make a roux. Melt butter in a shallow fry pan, then stir tablespoons of flour into the butter and stir them around until the butter/flour mixture is a paste. Spoon the roux into the chowder before you put the milk in. Then bring the fire up a bit and stir the roux into the chowder until it’s disappeared. Then add the milk. Stir the chowder until it’s thickened. It will not be as thick as canned chowder is, but it will be thicker than liquid milk.

Now, for the non-vegetarians and the piscivores (love that word, even if I don’t much care for fish), there is clam and fish chowder. The beginning and end of the recipes are different; the middle is the same.

Start off with a pound of salt pork, cut into slivers. The salt pork should be fatty and not lean. Place the salt pork into your pot and, over a relatively slow fire, try the pork until the fat has bled out of it and the pork is crisp. Remove the pork with a slotted spoon and, if you have no worries about cholesterol, drain it onto a paper towel and offer it as an appetiser. It’ll be crisp, oily, salty, and kind of like pork scratchings. We used to love it, but with the health concerns of today I wouldn’t dare eat it. I would discard it.

Now sauté the onions in the fat from the pork, and follow the recipe above with potatoes and water and seasonings.

For clam chowder, open around four small cans of Snow’s Minced Clams. No other will do. Chuck the clams and the liquid into the chowder. I suppose that if you had them, whole clams cut up might be OK. Of course, you wouldn’t get the clam liquid in that, and you’d have to deal with chopping up the clams, which I personally don’t feel comfortable doing. There are parts of clams that you should eat, and some that you shouldn’t, and I can’t tell them apart. My Mom never used whole clams so I don’t either.

Now follow the rest of the recipe by adding milk and heating it through. Thicken it if you want in the same way as I wrote above.

Fish chowder is different again. Follow the clam chowder recipe until you get to chucking in the clams. Cut several boneless haddock fillets into small pieces, and put them in the simmering chowder. They should turn white in around 5 minutes or so, which means they are poached and ready. Add the milk, heat it through, and serve immediately.

If you can get them, common crackers are the accompaniment of choice to chowders. The Vermont Country Store sells them. I have a great friend, Sue, in Connecticut, who sends me a CARE package from time to time, in which there is a box of common crackers. They were originally baked to provide carbohydrates to sailors, and used to be packed into barrels on the ship. If they remained dry, they did not spoil and were perfect for long sea voyages. Split a few crackers and put some halves into each bowl. As the chowder is probably going to be salty enough, it’s less desirable to use saltines or oyster crackers. But, your mileage may vary, so add whatever you like.

My brother and sister, along with me, do not like fish very much. We ate too much of it when we were young, so we don’t choose to eat it now. However, my Dad loved fish chowder, and when he was in the nursing home from 2001-2003, fish chowder was never on the menu. So, when I returned to Marblehead from England, I would cook fish chowder and bring him a bowl of it when I visited. No matter whether he’d just eaten or not, he’d ask me to heat it up for him. I’d bring common crackers with me, and he’d split a couple, put them in the bowl, and eat with relish. He is no longer with us, but I’ll always remember him when I make a pot of chowder. It was my gift to him, and I think he liked it better than any other gift I could have brought him.