Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Chicha Morada (Peruvian Purple Corn Drink) #FoodieReads

 

Earlier this year I discovered the writing of George Mahood when I came across Not Tonight, Josephine: A Road Trip Through Small-Town America. You can read my thoughts about that book in my post - Road Trip Food + Jake's Scrambled Eggs. In any case, that cemented my admiration of Mahood's writing. 

Then, earlier this month, I read Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain by George Mahood and made a California Chip Butty. So, when Travels with Rachel: In Search of South America by George Mahood* popped up in my Kindle suggestions, I ordered it immediately.

On the Page

photo from amazon.com

As usual Mahood seamlessly fuses the informative and the hilarious when he recounts his and Rachel's belated honeymoon through South America. In typical Mahood-fashion, much of the hilarity ensues through the couple being frugal in their spending. One example was then they wanted to save three dollars on a tour which had them hunting for anacondas wearing flip flops and shoddy sneakers instead of waterproof boots. And, on their anniversary, they decided to splurge from their usual hostel accommodations and discovered that their two single beds were located in a room with a flimsy curtain that looked directly into the dining room of the hotel.

Through their adventures and misadventures, Mahood describes their time in Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and more. In his usual self-deprecating manner he both acknowledges and respects the cultural differences between the South Americans and the tourists. If you like travelogues and love a good laugh, any of Mahood's books will do the trick. This one had the added humor of including miscommunications and clashes that can only occur between spouses! Though I will say Rachel seems remarkably chill through everything.

Just a few passages I really enjoyed that clearly illustrate Mahood's writing style and travel mindset...

"As we sat chatting with full stomachs, we felt acutely aware of the strange and slightly uncomfortable dichotomy of being first world travellers in a less developed country. In the morning, we had been helping locals swap chickens for milk from the back of a rusty pickup truck, in the evening we were sipping mojitos on a roof terrace" (pg. 41)

"Before coming to South America, many people had suggested that we shouldn’t eat street food because of the risk to our delicate Western stomachs. Rachel had been more cautious than me. I had ignored this advice and only showed restraint when offered hallucinogenic cactus juice with life–altering side–effects. I don’t think you can fully embrace a country unless you eat its street food" (pg. 66).

"I stumbled upon the notorious Mercado de las Brujas – Witches’ Market – where the definition of weird purchases is rewritten. Here you can buy an array of bizarre things, such as potions, voodoo dolls, statues, dried frogs, herbal ‘stimulants’ and dried llama foetuses. The llama foetuses are said to ward off evil spirits, and are often built into the foundations of new houses in Bolivia to ensure a happy household" (pg. 113).

In the Glass

Chica Morada at a localish-to-me Peruvian restaurant


As with his other books, he describes a lot of food on the pages, included boiled sweets that I just can't picture. "A woman resplendent in a series of brightly coloured shawls and a black panama hat popular in the area, boarded the bus in one of the many villages we stopped in. She walked down the aisle selling small plastic bags of boiled sweets. We bought a bag and she continued down the bus. Ten minutes later, another similarly–dressed woman boarded at a different stop and offered identical bags of sweets" (pg. 26).

More food from vendors..."We had a three hour wait in Sigchos for our connecting bus, so we had a look around the town – it didn’t take very long – and then sat in the main square and ate a bowl of fried potatoes and onions bought from a street vendor" (pg. 39).

Some language challenges..."My poor Spanish was evident when I ordered us each a toasted ham and cheese sandwich at a neighbouring cafe by pointing to the pictures of the toasted ham and cheese sandwiches on the wall, and asking for, in Spanish, what I thought was two toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. What arrived were two normal ham and cheese sandwiches, which were perfectly decent but not toasted" (pg. 120).

Then, more about the local fare..."Huanchaco is credited as being where the Peruvian dish ceviche originated. Ceviche is a dish consisting of raw fish with lemon juice and often chili" (pg. 71).

And something slightly illicit..."Juan Pablo made us all a cup of mate de coca – a tea made from coca leaves and sweetened with shit-loads of sugar. Locals use coca tea to help cope with altitude sickness, although no scientific studies have ever proved its effectiveness. It is more likely that it acts as a stimulant because of its mind–altering qualities. The leaves of the coca plant are the base ingredient for cocaine, and although considered mild in its dosage, one cup of mate de coca is enough to test positive for a cocaine drug test" (pg. 87)


I made these for Peruvian Independence Day and neglected to share it then. This was the perfect opportunity. While not specifically mentioned, I could imagine George and Rachel drinking refreshing glasses of Chicha Morada, a Peruvian purple corn drink.

Ingredients
  • 6 to 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup purple corn powder*
  • one organic pineapple
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 Tablespoon whole cloves
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 organic lime, juiced
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup

Procedure
Gently scrub your pineapple and slice off the skin in thick strips. Cut the pineapple meat into cubes and set aside. 

Add the water and purple corn powder to a pot and bring to a simmer. Whisk until the purple corn powder is completely combined. Stir in the pineapple skins, pineapple cubes, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and star anise. Bring to boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Let cook for 35 to 40 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes. Strain out the fruit and spices. Stir in the maple syrup and juice from the lime. 

'

Let the drink cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge to cool completely. Give it a stir before pouring. Serve over ice and enjoy. In the photo above, there are two glasses of Chica Morada, two glasses of Inca Kola, and one Chilcano de Pisco. Salud!

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


Click to see what everyone else read in September 2020: here.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Feijoada To Delight a Carnivore #SoupSwappers


Here we are at the September Soup Saturday Swappers event. Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm started this event and, every month, I get a new array of soup recipes to put in my to-try pile.

This month, Rebekah Making Miracles is hosting as we explore beef soups and stews. She urged us to "Use any cut of beef to create a soup or stew to share! The options are endless."

Here's the line-up of beef soup and stew recipes from the #SoupSwappers...


Feijoada To Delight a Carnivore

This Brazilian stew is fairly simple since the ingredients just cook together for an entire day. The result: tender chunks of meat in a filling, satisfying dish. Feijoada traditionally includes dry chorizo which I didn't have. Next time I'll try it, but with bacon, pork Andouille, and beef, there was plenty to delight my carnivorous boys.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried red beans (I used Domingo Rojo from Rancho Gordo), soaked overnight
  • 4 to 6 slices bacon, diced (if you're local to me, I prefer PigWizard)
  • 3 pounds beef, cut into ½" cubes (I used beef cheek meat)
  • 1 pound pork Andouille sausage, cut into thick coins
  • 2 cups organic white onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups organic celery, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 cups fresh tomato sauce
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly thyme
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Procedure

Cover dried beans with cold water, the night before you plan to cook, and soak overnight. If you forgot to do that, cover the dried beans with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for an hour. Drain and proceed with the steps below.

In a large souppot or Dutch oven, cook bacon until the fat is rendered. Add in the onions, celery, and garlic. Cook until the onions are softened and translucent. Stir in the beef and cook until nicely browned. Stir in the sausages and soaked beans. Pour in the stock and red wine. Whisk in smoked paprika, paprika, and ground cumin.

Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook on low heat for 6 to 7 hours. The meat and beans should be tender. Uncover, raise the heat, and cook until the sauce is thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper, as needed. Fold in the fresh thyme just before serving.

This is stew is typically served with rice, but we served it with mashed root vegetables. Yum!

That's a wrap for the #SoupSwappers beef event. We'll be back next month when the group's founder hosts a Halloween appropriate event of Spooky Soups and Stews.

Sourdough Gouda Toasts #FoodieReads


No matter what your political lean, Becoming by Michelle Obama* is a candid memoir that will leave you in awe of this articulate, elegant, and accomplished former First Lady.

On the Page

This has been on my bookshelf for several weeks - maybe months. And on the Labor Day holiday, I picked it up and retreated to a chair on the patio. Between cooking meals for the day, I read and read and read some more. When the sun went down, it was still sweltering inside my house. I retrieved my booklight and continued to read on the patio until it was time for bed.

She's articulate. We know that. She's Ivy League-educated - Princeton undergrad, Harvard law - but her parents insisted on proper language. On one family vacation, she recounts: "At one point, one of the girls, a second, third, or fourth cousin of mine, gave me a sideways look and said, just a touch hotly, 'How come you talk like a white girl?' The question was pointed, meant as an insult or at least a challenge, but it also came from an earnest place. It held a kernel of something that was confusing for both of us. We seemed to be related but of two different worlds. ...I knew what she was getting at. There was no denying it, even if I just had. I did speak differently than some of my relatives, and so did Craig. Our parents drilled into us the important of using proper diction, of saying 'going' instead of 'goin' and 'isn't' instead of 'ain't.' We were taught to finish off our words. They bought us a dictionary and a full Encyclopaedia Britannica set.... Dandy, too, was an influence, meticulously correcting our grammar or admonishing us to enunciate our words when we went over for dinner" (pg. 40).

She's accomplished. When she took her position as Executive Director of Community Affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center, she explains, "I was well supported by my new boss, given the freedom to build my own program, creating a stronger relationship between the hospital and the neighboring community. I started with one person working for me but eventually led a team of twenty-two. I instituted programs to take hospital staff and trustees out into the neighborhood around the South Side, having them visit community centers and schools, signing them up to be tutors, mentors, and science-fair judges, getting them to try the local barbecue joints. We brought local kids in to job shadow hospital employees..., encouraging students in the community to consider medicine as a career. After realizing that the hospital system could be better about hiring minority and women-owned businesses for its contracted work, I helped set up the Office of Business Diversity as well" (pp. 209-210).

But, perhaps, her most endearing quality, at least for me, is her love of family. She is a fierce and loyal wife and mother. That is not to say that her role is solely supporting her husband and her children; she clearly has her own passions. But this is a fascinating glimpse into the life of the Obamas - how they met, their dating years, his unique proposal, and their marriage. It clearly expresses the philosophy behind their commitment to public service.

The word that comes to mind as I read this: gravitas. Gravitas was one of the ancient Roman virtues that connotes dignity, seriousness, and responsibility. At least that's how I remember it being described in Latin class; yes, I took Latin in high school...five years of it, in fact! 

In Becoming, Obama reveals the human behind the title. She shows us how deeply she committed to being the First Lady of the United States and how seriously she took her responsibility to the people of this country. She has always had my respect. Now she also has my fervent admiration as well.

On the Plate

There was a surprising number of passages about food. Food as connection and routine between her and Barack as they met weekly for the same dinner at their favorite restaurant: pot roast, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes. Food as a comfort when she was in college and went to a relative's house for family dinners. Food as survival on the campaign trail that involved too many fast food meals and packages. Food as sustenance and nutrition when she worked with Chef Sam Kass to grow a garden at the White House and educate children about fresh fruits and vegetables.

But the dish that I decided to make embodied food as a pause, food that she made for herself when she wasn't responsible for anyone else for the evening or no one else was fussing about her.

"...I was hungry. I walked down the stairs from our bedroom with the dogs following on my heels. In the kitchen, I opened the fridge. I found a loaf of bread, took out two pieces, and laid them in the toaster oven. I opened a cabinet and got out a plate. I know it's a weird thing to say, but to take a plate from a shelf in the kitchen without anyone first insisting that they get it for me, to stand by myself watching bread turn brown in the toaster, feels as close to a return to my old life as I've come. ...In the end, I didn't just make toast; I made cheese toast, moving my slices of bread to the microwave and melting a fat mess of gooey cheddar between them. I then carried my plate outside to the backyard. I have to tell anyone I was going. I just went" (preface xii).


As a busy wife and mother myself, I know that doesn't happen often. When it does, I don't always make a healthy choice. Cheese toast probably isn't the healthiest choice either, but it is comforting. Also, I don't have a microwave, so I just let the cheese get melted and gooey on a skillet...and I used a sourdough baguette from our favorite local breadmaker and two raw milk gouda - one with black truffles and the other with lavender and thyme. Because, for me, cheese toast is all about the quality of the bread and the cheeses.

Ingredients serves 4 as an appetizer

  • 8 to 12 slices of sourdough baguette
  • slices of cheese cut to fit the top of your baguette slices
  • butter for the griddle

Procedure

Run butter over the griddle and let it get nice and hot. Place baguette slices on the pan and heat until it's toasted, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the slices over and top them with cheese. Heat until the cheese is melted and gooey. Serve immediately.


It was a toss-up as to which gouda toast was our favorite. But I think it was the truffle cheese toast!

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


Click to see what everyone else read in September 2020: here.

A Trio of Côtes du Rhône Pairings #Winophiles


This month, I am leading the French Winophiles discussion on Côtes du Rhône wines. You can see my preview post here. If you are reading this early enough, join in our live Twitter chat on Saturday, September 19th at 8am Pacific time. Follow the hashtag #Winophiles and be sure to add them to any tweets you post so we can see them.

Here are the #Winophiles' Côtes du Rhône explorations, tastings, and pairings. These articles will be live between Friday, September 17th and early morning Saturday, September 19th...

A Trio of Côtes du Rhône Pairings

When I decided to jump in to host, I figured I needed to try several wines. And, as I have for the past six months of this shelter-in-place order, I was able to find several bottles online at wine.com. Then I set about to pair the wines with a variety of cuisines. I used to stick with the what-grow-together-goes-together 'rule', but I've found that very limiting. Now I just do a little reading and pour wines with what I want to eat. Nevermind any wine pairing rules!

M. Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Belleruche Blanc 2018 +
Gougères Stuffed with Smoked Salmon Mousse
The first pairing went with my September offering for my Fish Friday Foodies group, #FishFridayFoodies; the assignment was to use smoked fish and posted today. Here's my recipe post for Gougères Stuffed with Smoked Salmon Mousse.


You can read more about M. Chapoutier wines in my post - from January 2019 when this same group focused on biodynamic wines - Learning about Biodynamic Wines + M.Chapoutier Wines withSome Cross-Cultural Pairings. Back then I poured the 2017 Belleruche Blanc and paired it with ginger-poached fish.

As for this vintage, the 2018 Belleruche Blanc, is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette, and Bourboulenc; it retails for around $14 on wine.com.

In the glass, it poured a bright straw color and had an intensely complex nose of summer stone fruits with a hint of fennel and flowers. Those aromas were matched on the palate with the sweetness of ripe peaches and the subtle savory of anise. This was an elegant yet easy-going wine and the round freshness was a good flavor foil to my mascarpone-filled puffs.

M. Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Belleruche Rouge 2018 
+ Lapsang Souchong-Crusted Fish

For that same #Winophiles event in January 2019, I poured the 2017 version of this wine as well. Back then I paired the wine with shredded beef enchiladas. As for this vintage, the 2018 Belleruche Rouge, is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah; it retails for around $14 on wine.com.

In the glass, it poured a deep garnet hue and had intense aromas of black fruit and pepper. Juicy and robust, I wanted to pair this wine with an equally powerful dish.


So, I opted to make a local lingcod that was crusted with a lapsang souchong tea spice blend and quickly pan-fried in a splash of butter. This dish was actually made for an October post, so is not yet available on my blog. I'll link to the recipe here once it's live.

Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2016 +  
Beef Burrito Bowls with Avocado Crema 
and Peach Pico de Gallo

The third bottle I'm sharing is the Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2016 which retailed at wine.com around $15. This is a GSM blend with a composition of  50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Mourvèdre.

In the glass, it poured an almost inky red with glints of blue. The nose was deceptively spicy. On the palate the wine was full-bodied with round tannins and a delightful earthiness. I poured the wine with Mexican inspired flavors that enhanced the experience of this wine. I created this recipe after taking part in a virtual cooking party. Here's my version: Beef Burrito Bowls with Avocado Crema and Peach Pico de Gallo.


That's a wrap on the September edition of the French Winophiles. Join us next month when we head (virtually) to the Jura with David of Cooking Chat leading the discussion. Stay tuned for more information.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Gougères Stuffed with Smoked Salmon Mousse #FishFridayFoodies


It's time for Fish Friday Foodies' September 2020 event. We are a group of seafood-loving bloggers, rallied by Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm, to share fish and seafood recipes on the third Friday of the month. 

And this month, Stacy of Food Lust People Love is hosting. She asked the bloggers to share recipes with smoked fish. "Our theme for this event is Smoked Fish - smoke your own or use smoked fish in a recipe!" Here's the September 2020 line-up from the #FishFridayFoodies. I cannot wait to try these recipes...


Gougères Stuffed with Smoked Salmon Mousse

Gougères is just another way of saying 'cream puff'. I used the same dough, Pâte à Choux, and just filled it with a savoy mousse instead of with whipping cream or pastry cream.

Ingredients

Pâte à Choux
  • 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 9 eggs

Salmon Mousse

  • 4 ounces smoked salmon, sliced with some slices reserved for garnish
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream plus more as needed
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, approximately juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh organic herbs (I used dill)
  • freshly ground salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste


Procedure

Salmon Mousse
Place the salmon in the bowl of a food processor, leaving out a few slices for the garnish. Add the mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, lemon juice, and herbs. Pulse and process until lightened and creamy. If the mousse is too thick, add in more cream. Add in 1 teaspoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to fill the gougères.

Pâte à Choux
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring butter and water to a boil in a large saucepan.


Remove pan from heat and add flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a thick dough and pulls away from sides of pan, approximately 3 minutes. Return pan to heat and cook, stirring constantly, until dough is lightly dried, about 2 minutes more.


Transfer dough to a bowl, and let cool for 5 minutes; using a wooden spoon, beat in 8 eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next. Dough will come together and be thick, shiny, and smooth.

Dip two spoons in water, shake off excess, and scoop a walnut-size piece of dough with one spoon. With other spoon, scrape dough onto parchment-lined baking sheet, setting pieces 1 apart on a baking sheet.

Lightly beat remaining egg with pinch of salt and brush each piece of dough with it. 


Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit until puffed and light brown, approximately 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and continue to bake until well browned, approximately 15 minutes. Let cool.

Once cool, slice one side of the gougère and spoon in the mousse. Garnish each gougère with a slice of smoked salmon on top. Serve immediately.


I actually made this for an upcoming French Winophiles event, so I paired these with a bottle of M. Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Belleruche Blanc 2018. If you're interested in hearing more about that, come back on Saturday. Otherwise the #FishFridayFoodies will return in October with seafood-based comfort foods. Sue of Palatable Pastime will be our host. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Secret Life of Teas Braised Duck Legs #BlendsBash #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the Book Club Cookbook.
I received complimentary product for the purpose of review and recipe development,
but all opinions are honest and they are my own. This page may contain affiliate links.

Earlier this summer, my contact at The Book Club Cookbook emailed, offering me a few new spice blends to participate in their 2020 #BlendsBash. You betcha! 

photo from The Book Club Cookbook's Facebook page

Though I haven't read the book on which this blend was based - The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd - I selected The Secret Life of Teas (Smoked Tea Rub) because I am a nut for anything with lapsang souchong tea. Really. Its smokiness is one of my favorites.

Ingredients serves 4

When I think of lapsang souchong, I always think of duck...and crispy duck skin. I decided to use the spice in a braised duck dish.

  • 4 duck legs
  • 1 large onion, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thickly sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thickly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon The Secret Life of Teas (Smoked Tea Rub)*
  • 1-1/2 cup stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup brewed lapsang souchong tea

*If you don't have this spice blend, the ingredients in this salt-free blend: granulated molasses, sea salt, lapsang souchong tea, demerara sugar, sesame seeds, paprika, garlic, black pepper, fennel, rosemary, and marjoram. You can use a combination of which ever of these you have in your spice cabinet.

Procedure

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a Dutch oven, place duck legs, skin side down. Turn heat to medium. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes until the fat is rendered and the skin golden and crisped. Flip to the other side and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.


Remove the duck to a plate. Place the onions and bell pepper in the same Dutch oven with the rendered duck fat in the bottom. Lay the browned duck pieces on top. 


Divide the spice blend between the four legs, approximately 3/4 teaspoon per leg then pour in the stock and brewed tea. Bring to a boil, cover, and place in the oven. Braise for 90 minutes.


Raise the temperature of the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Return the duck to the oven, uncovered and roast for 15 to 20 minutes until the duck is browned and the skin on top crispy.

To serve, plate the duck. Spoon the sauce on the side or over the top.

Find the Sponsor
On the web, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Pinterest, on Instagram
*Disclosure: I received product for free from the sponsor for recipe development, however, 
I have received no additional compensation for my post. My opinion is 100% my own and 100% accurate.

An Anti-Beige Salad, A Sixteen-Year Whisky, and A Californian Chip Butty #FoodieReads


Earlier this year I came across a book by George Mahood when I read Not Tonight, Josephine: A Road Trip Through Small-Town America. Find my thoughts about that book in my post - Road Trip Food + Jake's Scrambled Eggs. In any case, that cemented my admiration of Mahood's writing and when Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain by George Mahood* popped up in my Kindle suggestions, I ordered it immediately.

On the Page

This is another hilarious travelogue of Mahood's; this time he recounts biking from Land's End in the southern tip of England where he and his friend Ben started off with only their Union Jack boxer shorts. No clothes. No shoes. And, definitely, no bikes. They were relying solely on people's generosity to get them from one end to the other.

"'We started this morning at Land’s End in a pair of boxer shorts and we have to get the entire way without spending a single penny.' 'Ok?' replied the man behind the counter. 'And we were wondering... ' continued Ben, 'if you had any food that you were about to throw out that we could perhaps have?' There was an uneasy pause as he looked around to see if he had any senior staff to check with. The kitchen was empty. 'How does a coffee and a bacon sandwich sound?' he asked. It was as simple as that. We had got our first free meal. We were expecting some half-chewed bread at best, or maybe an old lettuce, but we were soon presented with a huge steaming bacon bap and a mug of freshly brewed coffee" (pg. 12).

Over the course of three weeks - with a pledge to spend no money in their journey -  they forge North on their quixotic quest. Through charm, fast-talking, and a willingess to do menial tasks for their hosts, they acquire clothes (albeit sometimes inappropriate weights and sizes), food (not always the most appetizing), bikes (not always fully functional or properly sized), and lodging (think barns, boats, and university students' floors). It's a great adventure and Mahood is, as I have discovered, a fantastic observer and witty writer.

This is one of the funniest books I've read in a long time and I love that it celebrates the kindness and generosity that exists in the world. That is a much needed reminder in these times of political strife and conflict here in the United States. If I ever have the chance to meet Mahood, I'm definitely buying him a drink and dinner!

An Anti-Beige Salad

Colorful salads often land on my table. This one was particularly vibrant and inspired by this passage. "If a nutritionist had analysed what we ate during the bike ride, I think they probably would have concluded that we should not be alive, let alone fit enough to cycle. I read somewhere that beige food is bad for you. Almost everything we ate was a shade of beige; bread, pasta bakes, chips, pasties and bananas. Anyway, all I'm saying is that peas and carrots taste unbelievable if you only eat beige food for 17 days beforehand. Give it a try." 

Beige food definitely lacks nutrition and table appeal! No recipe here, just as many colorful veggies as you can manage.

A Sixteen-Year Whisky

At the end of their journey, they tour the Glenmorangie distillery. He writes, "To be fair to Glenmorangie, their whisky was definitely the least offensive that I had ever tasted. I would not go as far as saying that I enjoyed it, but it didn’t make me gag and I managed to finish each of the three shots" (pg. 290). And though Mahood doesn't appear to be a whisky fan, Jake and I definitely are. He did approve when he messaged me - "Haha, I like what you've done but you over complicated it. The beauty of a chip butty is its simplicity. Chips, bread, ketchup (butter optional). Tastes even better after half a bottle of whisky!"

Okay, so there's the whisky tie-in. This was a bottle that friends gave us: a sixteen-year Lagavulin which is aged in oak casks for at least 16 years and has an intense smoke flavor that Jake and I both adore. It's peaty and powerful. Just our kind of sip. And it made the Californian Chip Butty tolerable. I'll get to that now...

A Californian Chip Butty


There was an astonishingly amount of food mentioned in the book. Maybe that's because they were laser-focused on getting room and board at the end of every day's pedal. Here are some of the meals they acquired...

"It was time to delve into the ice-cream container. Ben ripped the top off the container and we were presented with a huge pile of cold roast pork, a heap of stuffing, an enormous lump of cheese, several pieces of crackling and a stack of thick brown bread with some sachets of butter. We could not think of a single sight in the entire world that would have looked more alluring" (pg. 28).

"'Thank you so much,' said Ben, 'Is there any cleaning or washing up we can do in return?' She smiled for the first time. 'No,' she said. 'Five minutes. I bring it over to table.' And so she did. Two huge plates of steaming Chicken Chow Mein were soon sitting in front of us and we gratefully devoured every last noodle" (pg. 53).

"'Ham, egg, chips and peas,' said Siobhan the barmaid, as she placed two huge plates of food in front of us. 'The chef heard what you were doing and thought it sounded very funny so wanted to spoil you.' It was our best day’s eating of the entire trip; a fry-up for breakfast, lasagne, chips and salad for lunch, and ham, egg and chips for dinner. We would not have eaten so well had we had our wallets with us" (pg. 98)

There were lots of foods with which I am not familiar - Cornish pasties and sausage baps - but it was the Chip Butty that intrigued me.

"'That’s perfect. Thanks very much,' I said. 'We managed to get some chips down the road, so we’re going to make chip butties.' 'What a good idea. You certainly are on an adventure. Do you have any butter and ketchup?' 'No. Thank you. We’ll be fine with just chips and bread,' I said. 'Don’t be silly. You can’t have a proper chip butty without butter and ketchup. Can you?' 'No, I suppose not. 'Wait there, I’ll be back in a minute.' She returned a minute later with a packet of butter and bottle of Heinz Tomato Ketchup" (pg. 171).


And I love his sidenotes; I definitely have wondered this, "If, like me, you were curious about the origin of the word 'ketchup' (No? Just me?), I will fill you in. It is thought that the word comes from the Malay word kēchap, which was also a sauce. But rather than being tomato based, it was made from fish brine, herbs, and spices (not so great in a chip butty). In the 18th and 19th centuries the word was used as a generic term for all vinegar based sauces and it was not until the 20th century that the word became synonymous with the tomato sauce that we know today. Thank you, Wikipedia" (pg. 172).

Little did I know that by making and sharing my version of a Chip Butty I would inspire so much social media interaction. A British blogger with whom I'm connected replied to me - and Mahood because I had tagged him in my photos - "God love you but that's not a chip butty..." And so it began...



You can see it there, but Mahood replied, "Yours was a Californian chip butty! The bread is not usually toasted (although I'm tempted to try it). That looks more like salsa than ketchup. And you did cook the potatoes, right?" I admitted that I have rolled my potatoes smoked paprika before roasting them and used a harissa-ketchup blend for my sandwich.

"Haha, I like what you've done but you over complicated it. The beauty of a chip butty is its simplicity. Chips, bread, ketchup (butter optional). Tastes even better after half a bottle of whisky!" Yeah, over complicating things is my superpower.

Lucy gave me even more directions. "Ha ha. Okay first off you need deep fried chips (fries), squished into buttered white bread - the cheap kind. Or a bap/barm tho regional wars have broken out regarding that. Salt mandatory, vinegar usual, ketchup/curry sauce or gravy to personal preference."

I still need to clarify baps and barms. But that caused my husband to laugh uproariously and chime in. "Yes! You should definitely try it with fries." I did. "No, as in really fried, actual fries." Not oven-fried?! "You are aware that there's no such thing as oven-fried, right? Those are just baked potatoes, no matter what shape you've made." Whatever...

Cat shared: "Had a few chip butties in England growing up. As well as beans on toast, toad in the hole, mushy peas, fish and chips, scampi, shepherd’s pie, steak and kidney pie, soft boiled eggs with soldiers, Yorkshire pudding and roast beef, milk in bottles with the cream on top, wall’s ice-cream, sweets out of waxed paper bags from the glass jars at the corner store (humbugs were m’y Grandad’s favorites!) and lots of veggies out of the garden including new potatoes (jacket potatoes) and for dessert, trifles, or fresh fruit and cream in a pitcher."

Jeff wrote: "15 minutes before reading your post, I was reading an article on AC/DC and it mentioned Angus’s favorite food was a chip butty. I was going to ask Jenn to make me one. Never heard of it, and now twice in 15 minutes. Weird." That's a sign, Jeff! Definitely can't wait to see Jenn's interpretation. I'm sure it will be culinary genius.

Another American friend commented, "That looks way more appetizing than any chip butty I had when I lived in the UK lol." Thank you, Laurel! My inner culinary witch needed a little compliment after the bashing my butty took. Still, I'm sharing my Californian Chip Butty as Mahood dubbed it...

Ingredients serves 4

  • 4 to 5 cups sliced potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 1 Tablespoon oil (I used olive oil)
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 8 slices bread (I used a soft potato bread)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon harissa
  • Also needed: baking sheet, butter for the pan, a griddle


Procedure

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In a mixing bowl toss the potatoes with the smoked paprika and flour. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Turn the potatoes out onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the sheet pan in the oven and roast potatoes for 40 to 45 minutes. They should be fork tender but crisped on the outside.

Stir the ketchup and harissa together in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat griddle and run a stick of butter on the pan. Set the bread on the griddle and 1 to 2 minutes, until it's slightly toasted. Turn the bread over and smear it with ketchup mixture.

Place the fries on top of the ketchup and close up the sandwich. Serve immediately. 

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Click to see what everyone else read in September 2020: here.

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