Savoury

Horsey New Year!

What if I told you you could ring in the New Year with a Zombie Horse! For those of us of a gothic persuasion, the spirit of the New Year cannot be embodied in a better form than that of the Welsh Mari Lwyd. Mari Lwyd, or Y Fari Lwyd in Welsh, translates as Grey Mare or Grey Mary. Mari Lwyd is a horse that comes back from the dead in the guise of a horse’s skull decorated in ribbons and mounted on a pole. A white sheet is attached to the pole hiding both the pole and the person carrying the Spooky Hobby Horse.

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Mari Lwyd and her gang of followers engage in Hobby Horse Hijinks by travelling from house to house trying to gain entry. They do this by singing and engaging in a battle of riddles. The occupants refuse entry in song and riddles. The banter continues until the occupants relent and allow Mari Lywd inside, where she is rewarded with food and drink. It is lucky to allow the Grey Mare entry as she brings good luck to the occupants for the New Year.

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If Mari Lywd comes knocking on your door New Year’s Eve, you can try offering the Zombie Horse some horsey based food and drink. Devils on Horseback sound like an appropriate treat. My two versions of the popular canapé feature dates and prunes stuffed with blue cheese wrapped in prosciutto and dates and prunes stuffed with dark chocolate wrapped in bacon.

Devils On Horseback

 

Ingredients
12 dates, pitted
12 prunes, pitted

for the blue cheese devils
100g blue cheese
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
12 thin slices of prosciutto

for the chocolate devils
12 squares of 70% dark chocolate,
6 strips of bacon, halved crosswise

Instructions
Preheat oven to 230C / 450F.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Place the blue cheese in a small bowl. Add the pepper and mash until combined.
Fill 6 dates and 6 prunes with an equal amount of cheese.
Wrap each one tightly with a slice of prosciutto.
Secure with a toothpick.
Fill remaining dates and prunes with a piece of chocolate.
Wrap each one tightly with a slice of bacon.
Secure with a toothpick.
Place on prepared trays and bake for about 10 minutes or until the prosciutto and bacon are crispy. Turn over once, halfway through cooking time.
Serve warm.

What better way to wash done these tasty snacks than with a horsey cocktail 🙂 I thought of making a Moscow Mule, but chose a less known drink called a Horse’s Neck. I think it is the perfect drink for a horse whose head is balanced on a stick!

Horse’s Neck Cocktail

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Ingredients
Ice
25ml whisky
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Spiral of lemon peel
Ginger ale

Instructions
Fill a highball glass with ice.
Pour the whisky over the ice.
Add the bitters and lemon peel.
Top up with ginger ale.

Omit the lemon peel and you have a variation on the Horse’s Neck cocktail called a Horse Feather cocktail.

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Scary Xmas!

There are many reasons why the holiday season can be scary – family gatherings being one 🙂 But did you know that there is a dark side to the tradition of gift-giving? If good children are rewarded with gifts, what happens to naughty children? Enter one of the many scary creatures of xmas – Krampus!

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Krampus is half goat, half devil. He is hairy, has cloven hooves, goat horns, a long pointed tongue and fangs. His horned form appears to be a blend of ancient horned goat deities like Pan and traditional images of the devil. The name Krampus is derived from a German word for claw. I first saw Krampus in the television series Grim. He made a real impression on me 🙂

Krampus is the dark half of Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas. Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas reward good children by giving them gifts, while Krampus punishes bad children by giving them coal and sometimes beating them with the bundle of birch sticks he carries. In his scariest moments, Krampus carries a sack which he stuffs with naughty children. The fate of the children varies – but the outcome is always grim.

Krampus Night is celebrated on December 5, the eve of the Feast of Saint Nicholas. It is on this night that Krampus appears, ready to punish naughty children. Sometimes he is accompanied by Saint Nicholas, reflecting they are two halves of one gift-giving whole. So ask yourself this on Krampus Night – “Have I been naughty or nice?” The consequences of the answer have never been so scary!

To honour Krampus Night I thought I would do a cheeky pasta dish – Gnudi with Puttanesca Sauce. Gnudi are nude or naked ravioli. Basically they are a ravioli filling without the pasta. I have chosen goats cheese for the gnudi to reflect the goat origins of Krampus. I chose to serve them with a puttanesca sauce as the name is derived from an Italian word for whore or prostitute. I couldn’t resist topping my naked gnudi with a tart sauce. Serve with breadsticks, just in case some naughty children come for a visit and need a light beating 🙂

Gnudi with Puttanesca Sauce

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Ingredients

for the gnudi
150g soft goat cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
good pinch of sea salt
100g hard goat cheese, finely grated
1/4 cup plain flour, more or less may be needed
extra flour for dusting

for the puttanesca sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic gloves, finely minced
6 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
6 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
1 + 1/2 tablespoons small capers, drained
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Instructions
In a large mixing bowl mix together the soft goats cheese, eggs and salt.
Using a wire whisk, beat until smooth.
Using a wooden spoon stir through the hard goat cheese.
Add a tablespoon of flour at a time and mix through until you have a soft and light dough.
Shape into walnut sized balls.
Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
Add onion and saute until soft and lightly caramelised.
Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients.
Stir until combined, then simmer gently while you cook the gnudi.
Preheat oven to 190C / 375F.
Bring a large saucepan of generously salted water to boil.
Remove gnudi from fridge and roll in extra flour until lightly dusted.
Drop in batches into boiling water.
As they cook they will rise to the surface. Once risen, remove them with a slotted spoon and place them in a large oven proof dish or individual ramekins.
Pour the puttanesca sauce gently over the gnudi and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

A Kimchi For All Seasons

As the wheel spins toward Halloween, I’m thinking about the Pagan festival I usually don’t celebrate – Beltane. It’s not that I don’t like Beltane, it’s just that it happens to fall on Halloween. In the topsy turvy world of the southern/northern hemispheres, Pagan holidays are reversed. As the classic festivals were celebrated in the northern hemisphere, those of us in the southern hemisphere can feel a bit out of place. Do we celebrate Yule in December or June? Halloween in October or April?

As the festivals are based on the seasons, it makes sense to simply reverse the holidays down under. I do this for seven out of the eight classic seasonal celebrations, but when it comes to Halloween, I celebrate it twice! It hasn’t bothered me before. As a vampire loving goth, I love celebrating this spooky holiday twice a year. But as I went for my usual walks down my local streets, I felt the draw of Beltane deep in my bones. While alternating between keeping my eyes up for swooping magpies and eyes down for passing snakes, I was inspired by all the animal life coming out to enjoy our Spring. So now I am in a quandary. Do I celebrate Halloween, Beltane or both next week? I’m not sure, but I am certainly getting signs that paying attention to seasons is very important! Which brings me to kimchi 🙂

Ever since I heard about Korea’s national dish I have wanted to try it. Kimchi is a fermented vegetable dish, famous for its rich red colour and its spiciness. Unfortunately, one of the key spices is chilli, which I am allergic to. It was only after talking to a friend well versed in kimchi, that I discovered white kimchi, a type of kimchi that doesn’t have chilli. Armed with a copy of The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat Kimchi (Lauryn Chun), I began exploring the world of white kimchi.

Apart from the different types of vegetables that could be used, the different seasonings and the different types of fermentation processes, what I also learned was that there are different kimchi for different seasons. I considered making a Spring kimchi but was more drawn to the Autumn offerings. You just can’t take the Halloween out of me 🙂 So while I still don’t know what festival I will be celebrating next week I do know one thing – I’ll be contemplating my dilemma over a bowl of refreshing Autumnal kimchi.

Apple, Pear, and Cabbage Water Kimchi with Fennel in Clear Broth

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Ingredients
450g wombok (napa) cabbage
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 medium nashi pear
1 medium fuji apple
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons sugar
4 cups cold water
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced

Instructions
Cut the cabbage in half.
Cut the core out of the cabbage then cut into 5cm pieces.
Wash the cabbage thoroughly.
Mix together the cabbage and salt in a large bowl. Let stand for 30 minutes.
Peel and core the pear and apple.
Cut into quarters or thick slices. I do a combination of the two.
In a food processor, puree together the onion, garlic and ginger.
Place the pureed mixture into a large bowl.
Add the sugar and water and stir well.
Add the cabbage with the brining mixture.
Add the pear, apple and fennel and mix together.
Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.
Use within 1 month.

This is my first attempt at kimchi. It came out rather salty and I’m not sure if that’s how it is meant to taste. I’ve taken a small batch out and added extra water. I’ll see how that goes. I’ve also read that adding radish slices can cut down on the saltiness. However, the apples and pears work well with the saltiness. Am happy for any tips or advice on my kimchi journey 🙂

Spring Equinox / Spring Pancakes

When I first tried a spring onion pancake at a Chinese New Year festival, I almost wept in happiness. The moment I bit into the crunchy, flaky pastry and tasted the warm spring onions I had a memory of a similar taste sensation from my childhood – leek zelnick. A zelnick is a Macedonian flaky pastry filled with all sorts of things from pork, pumpkin, cheese and my favourite – leek with ricotta and feta. I love zelnicks but they can be a bit time consuming to make. Could I make a fusion version of a spring onion pancake? There was only one way to find out – experiment!

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I followed the recipe for Shanghai Onion Cakes from Bamboo: A Journey with Chinese Food by Sally Hammond & Gordon Hammond and then added my own Macedonian twist. After adding the spring onions, I crumbled some feta cheese on a few of the pancakes. I then followed the recipe to completion. The traditional spring onion pancakes were as fabulous as the ones I tried at the festival. As for the feta ones, they ended up tasting like a delicious cheesy spring onion pancake zelnick 🙂 I’m already thinking up new variations.

These pancakes make me think of the Spring Equinox, and not just because of the key ingredient! The Spring Equinox in the southern hemisphere falls on Friday the 23rd of September this year. The northern hemisphere is heading for its Autumn Equinox at the same time. The Equinoxes are a time of balance, when day and night are relatively equal. After the Spring Equinox, the days will be longer than the nights, until we reach the Autumn Equinox and night once again overtakes day.

Like the Equinoxes, these pancakes symbolise balance and union. They are a balance between two cultures and a melding of a childhood staple food with a new culinary discovery. I loved the idea of playing with spring onions for Spring!  And for those of you celebrating the Autumn Equinox, don’t worry, pancakes are great for Autumn too 🙂

Spring Onion Pancakes

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Ingredients
1 + 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup boiling water
sesame oil
sea salt
4 spring onions, green parts only, chopped
feta cheese (my fusion twist)
high smoke point vegetable oil for frying

Instructions
Sift the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the boiling water. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, quickly work into the flour until you have a smooth, soft dough. Invert the bowl onto a board and leave the dough to cool.
When cool enough to handle, knead the dough for 2 – 3 minutes or until smooth. Form into a smooth ball. Rub with sesame oil. Cover and leave to rest for 1 hour.
Lightly flour a board. Cut dough into 5 pieces. Roll out thinly. Brush with sesame oil, sprinkle with sea salt and cover evenly with spring onions.
It is here that I add my fusion twist. I crumble some feta cheese over the spring onions!
Roll up the dough then coil each roll into a round cake. Lightly dust with flour, then gently roll into a thin circle (about 1/2 cm or 1/4 inch thick).
Heat oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Fry the pancakes until golden brown, turning once or twice. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot.

Check out my recipes for Pumpkin Pancakes and Yeasted Pancakes 🙂

The Spice Is Right

One of the things I was really looking forward to at Jamala Wildlife Lodge was the food. The South African inspired menu sounded wonderful, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat much of it. Being allergic to the capsicum/chilli family and being sensitive to tomato and eggplant meant many dishes were going to be off limits. I discussed my dietary requirements when I booked. The staff were lovely and assured me that the chef would prepare special dishes for me. I couldn’t wait! Happily I wasn’t disappointed 🙂 Tangy salads, succulent prawns and mouthwatering salmon were some of the dishes that arrived especially for me. I could indulge in the cheese platter without worry, accompanied by some tasty wines. The hot chocolate to end the night was rich and soothing. I had no complaints or worries about the food. My only regret was that I couldn’t try the bobotie.

Malva pudding and bobotie are two traditional South African dishes that I had heard about and really wanted to try. They were both on offer at Jamala but I could only have the malva pudding. But what a pudding! A sumptuous cake is soaked in a sweet, rich sauce made with butter, sugar and cream. If that’s not enough it’s served with hot custard. I was in heaven. As much as I loved the pudding, I couldn’t help staring at my partner Paul while he devoured his enormous serve of bobotie. The best way I can describe bobotie is that it’s like a spicy, fruity shepherd’s pie. But, rather than being topped with potato, it’s topped with an egg and milk custard. It is the spices and chutneys that made it impossible for me to try. Paul did assure me it was delicious.

Suffering from bobotie envy, I created my own version as soon as I got home. I tried to stick as close to an original recipe as I could, whilst making a few tweaks and eliminating the spices I couldn’t have. I’m pretty happy with my efforts. I finally got to try bobotie!

Bobotie

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Ingredients
for the mince
1 slice white bread, crusts removed and torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons milk
3/4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small, tart apple, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
500g beef mince
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
good crack of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flaked almonds, toasted
1/2 tablespoon apricot jam
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

for the custard
3 eggs
1 cup milk
good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 bay leaves

Instructions
Preheat oven to 165C / 325F.
Lightly oil a baking dish, approximately 28cm x 20cm.
Place the bread and milk in a small bowl. Allow to stand until the milk is absorbed.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onions and apples. Cook until the onions are soft and golden brown, stirring occasionally.
Add the ginger, cumin, coriander and turmeric. Stir until combined and aromatic.
Add the meat, salt and pepper. Stir until cooked, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon as you go.
Add the almonds and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the bread mixture and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 – 2 minutes or until the bottom of the pan begins to brown.
Stir in apricot jam and lemon juice, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.
Remove from heat and taste for seasoning. Add more salt or pepper if needed.
Spoon the meat mixture into prepared baking dish.
In a medium sized bowl whisk the eggs for 2 minutes.
Add the milk, nutmeg and lemon zest and whisk until combined.
Pour custard over meat mixture.
Add the bay leaves and press into the custard.
Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until set around edges and centre is no longer runny.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

A Study In Fours

Cordelia’s Mom from Cordelia’s Mom, Still invited me to play the Four Fact Survey. Basically I give four answers to each of the questions below. So settle down with bowls of my Popcorn Four Ways and have some fun!

Popcorn Four Ways

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Ingredients
8 cups freshly popped popcorn
1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, melted

Instructions
Drizzle the melted butter over the popcorn. Toss to combine.
Place 2 cups of popped corn into each of four bowls.

for Traditional Salted Popcorn
Sprinkle in sea salt to taste. Toss to combine.

for Cumin Popcorn
Sprinkle in 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin. Toss to combine.

for Cinnamon Sugar Popcorn
Sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of icing sugar. Toss to combine.

for Cocoa Popcorn
Sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon of icing sugar. Toss to combine.

You can vary the seasonings to your own taste.

Four Fact Survey
Four names people call me other than my real name:
Panda Lady
Purple Haired Lady
Variations of my names
The usual “nicknames” 🙂

Four Jobs I’ve Had:
Bass Player in a Punk Rock Band – It was a very short career
Examinations Supervisor – I was nicknamed the Dragon Lady but that was a long time ago
Producer and Director of two Community TV Programs:
– The Pet & Wildlife Show – where I got to be in an enclosure with 8 Mississippi Alligators
– Eat – where I got to consume great food
Tutor and Lecturer in Cinema Studies – When I screened The Exorcist, half the class didn’t turn up because they were scared!

Four Movies I’ve Watched More Than Once:
Interview With The Vampire
Kung Fu Panda
Nosferatu/Dracula
The Wicker Man

Four Books Or Authors I’d Recommend:
Anything by Anne Belov
Anything by Terry Pratchett
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice

Four Places I’ve Lived:
I’ve only lived in Melbourne but I have moved around a bit. The most interesting place I have lived has been on campus at La Trobe University in Bundoora.

Four Places I’ve Visited:
China – to cuddle a baby giant panda
Iceland – for the puffins and the scenery
New Zealand – because it’s totally awesome
Romania – for all things Dracula

Four Things I’d Rather Be Doing Right Now:
Cuddling baby pandas with Justin Trudeau
Dancing with Channing Tatum
Patting my dogs
Spending more time with my partner whilst cuddling baby pandas with Justin Trudeau, dancing with Channing Tatum and patting my dogs 🙂

Four foods I don’t like:
There aren’t many foods I don’t like but I am allergic to the capsicum/bell pepper family which limits my choice. I’m also sensitive to tomatoes and eggplants which also limits my choice.

Four of my favorite foods: 
Alcohol
Cookies
Cupcakes
Toasted Cheese Sandwiches

Four Shows I Watch: 
Bewitched
Buffy/Angel
Hamish Macbeth
Seinfeld

Four Things I’m Looking Forward To This Year: 
Eating and drinking at interesting places
Finishing writing one of my cookbooks
Going to Adelaide (South Australia) to see the giant pandas Fu Ni and Wang Wang again and maybe meeting a coati
Spending more time with my partner and dogs

Four Things I’m Always Saying:
It’s too early to get up
This is doing my head in!
Time for a drink
What’s to eat?

If you enjoyed reading this Q&A and want to join in please do.

I am tagging the witty and acerbic Not Cordelia’s Mom to join the fun. I know how much she will love it!

 

Pancakes for Bram

Wednesday the 20th of April is the 104th Deathiversary of Bram Stoker, author of Dracula.

Every year I commemorate his birthday and death day.
Last year I went to the newly resurrected pancake restaurant appropriately named Stokers.
This year I decided to make my own pancakes in honour of Bram.

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Pancakes are filled with mythological and folkloric meanings. They are most commonly associated with Shrove Tuesday and Lent. Their circular shape associates them with the sun and they are often eaten at the end of winter to welcome the coming spring. They are symbols of the beginning and the end of life. I remember eating pancakes at funerals and I remember new mothers being given pancakes after childbirth. With their links to life, death and the sun, pancakes are the perfect food to honour an author whose greatest character was deeply connected to life, death and the sun.

The pancakes below are unusual as they are leavened with yeast. Yeasted pancakes are common in Eastern Europe, especially in Transylvania! They can be eaten with savoury or sweet fillings. I have chosen a classic combination of strawberry jam and cream, not only because I love the flavours, but because the colour combination has a vampiric feel for me – perfect for Mr Stoker.

Yeasted Pancakes

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Ingredients
2 cups flour
2 cups lukewarm milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dried yeast
extra olive oil for frying

for serving
strawberry jam
cream

Instructions
Add the flour to a large bowl.
Slowly stir in the milk.
Add the egg, butter and oil and mix until they form a smooth pancake batter.
Add the salt and yeast and stir until combined.
Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit in a warm place for 1-3 hours or until doubled in size.
Heat a small amount of oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat.
Pour in approximately 1/4 cup of batter.
Cook for 3-4 minutes or until it starts to form bubbles.
Flip and cook for a further 2-3 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
Repeat with remaining batter.
Serve with jam and cream.

A Very Magical Weekend

I knew it was Imbolc weekend but I forgot it was also a Blue Moon.
To find out more about Imbolc and see my recipe for Grenadine Mulled Wine click here. To find out more about Blue Moons, read on 🙂

There are actually three different types of Blue Moons which I call Calendar Blue Moons,
Astrological Blue Moons and Seasonal Blue Moons.

A Calendar Blue Moon is when a second Full Moon occurs in the same calendar month. While this is now the commonly accepted interpretation, it is actually the newest way to calculate a Blue Moon and is the least celebrated in the esoteric realms.

An Astrological Blue Moon is when a second Full Moon happens in the same Astrological Sign. Much like a calendar month, Astrological months are approximately four weeks in length. Astrological months begin and end around the 20th of each month. If an Astrological sign begins and ends with a Full Moon, the second Full Moon is a Blue Moon. This was the type of Blue Moon I was taught about in both my vampiric and witchy education and is the one I celebrate.

A Seasonal Blue Moon is when there is a fourth Full Moon in a seasonal cycle. I had never heard of this interpretation before and only discovered it whilst doing research for this blog. It is a bit more complex to work out. Basically there are four seasonal cycles in a year measured from Solstice to Equinox. Each cycle lasts three months and has three Full Moons. Occasionally there is a fourth Full Moon, but, surprisingly, it is the third Full Moon and not the fourth that is a Blue Moon!

The reason for this appears to be that the twelve Full Moons of the seasonal cycles have names and seasonal attributes such as the first Full Moon after the Solstice, the first Full Moon of the season and the first Full Moon before the Equinox. When a fourth Full Moon occurs in this cycle it throws off the order. I’m still not sure why it is the third and not the fourth Full Moon that is Blue. I’ll have to research that further.

To celebrate the Blue Moon I thought I would create a fun version of the retro cheese ball –
after all, isn’t the Moon made of cheese 🙂 There are no quantities, only ratios, so feel free to change it up how you like. Just make sure you use blue cheese and blue corn chips!

Blue Moon Cheese Ball

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Ingredients
2 parts cream cheese
1 part blue cheese
crushed blue maize corn chips

Instructions
Bring the cheeses to room temperature.
Mash together then form into balls. You can do one big ball or multiple bite sized balls. There are no set rules.
Roll in crushed corn chips.
Cover and refrigerate until set.
Serve with shots of blue agave Tequila.

Pass The Pumpkins Please

Our local coffee shop makes the best coffee. I mean it’s really, really good. The only problem is everyone wants one! And they don’t take reservations on the weekends. So if you don’t get there early enough you go on a waiting list, or you order one to go. The coffee is so good that it has inspired me to roll out of bed early on the weekends and get there just after it opens – 8.00am!! And while I’m there, I sometimes have breakfast as well. My favourite breakfast? – pancakes 🙂

The walnut pancakes with side orders of bacon and hash browns were my favourite. Sadly they’ve changed the menu for summer and the latest pancake offering is okay, but not fantastic. This made me think – why don’t I make my own pancakes when I get home? I’ve made buttermilk pancakes before, which were delicious, but I wanted something different. The first flavour that came to mind was pumpkin pancakes. The only problem was my partner Paul doesn’t particularly like pumpkin. I didn’t want to make a batch just for myself because I knew I would eat them all 🙂 How could I tempt him to try pumpkin pancakes? There was only one way – add them to my cookbook. As my main taste-tester he could hardly refuse!

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We wanted to make our own pumpkin puree so our preparations for Sunday pancakes began Saturday night. Here’s what we did:

Preheated our oven to 180C / 350F.
Removed pumpkin seeds from pumpkin and kept them aside to make pepitas.
Cut the pumpkin into pieces and placed in a baking tray. Sprinkled lightly with olive oil and baked until cooked. When cool enough to handle, we removed the skin from the pumpkin and discarded it. We mashed the pumpkin with a potato masher until smooth and refrigerated it for the next day.

To make pepitas, we separated the seeds from the remaining pulp surrounding them. Rather than discard this pulp, we thought we’d try baking it too.
We preheated the oven to 200C / 400F and lined two baking trays with baking paper.
We dried the seeds with paper towel, tossed them in olive oil and salt and then spread them out on one of the baking trays. We tossed the pulp in olive oil and salt and placed it on the remaining tray. We baked the seeds for about 10 minutes until they were crispy and the pulp for about 15 minutes until it was caramelised. The seeds and pulp were eaten straight away! They were so delicious I almost couldn’t wait for Sunday to make the pancakes – but I did 🙂 Here is the recipe:

Pumpkin Pancakes
Makes 4 fluffy pancakes.
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Ingredients
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 + 1/4 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
extra butter for frying

Instructions
Whisk together the buttermilk, pumpkin, egg and butter in a large bowl until combined.
In a separate bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and mix until combined.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Heat some butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
Pour in 1/3 cup of batter.
Cook for 1-3 minutes or until it starts to form bubbles.
Flip and cook for a further 1-3 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
Repeat with remaining batter.

Well I’m happy to say that both Paul and I loved the pancakes! Paul had his with butter and maple syrup and I had mine with sour cream and crispy fried prosciutto. Naturally we tried each other’s to see which was best. I loved my savoury ones but I think Paul’s sweet ones were better.

We can’t wait to make them again. If you make them let me know which topping you prefer – sweet, savoury or both!!

In the Footsteps of Jonathan Harker

Jonathan Harker’s adventure in Transylvania takes up the first four chapters out of twenty seven in the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. Yet this small part of the novel contains some of the most memorable scenes and lines from the book. When I went to Romania in 2005 I couldn’t wait to retrace Jonathan Harker’s journey from Bistrita to Castle Dracula. This was written shortly after I returned 🙂

In the footsteps of Jonathan Harker

Count Dracula had directed me to go to the Golden Krone Hotel

Jonathan Harker – Dracula

A hotel recommended by Dracula himself was definitely a place I wanted to visit. Luckily for me The Hotel Coroana de Aur, (The Golden Crown Hotel), which did not exist in Stoker’s time, has since been built in Bistrita to capitalise on the burgeoning popularity of Dracula tourism.Nine of Coins

As I arrive at The Hotel Coroana de Aur, I cannot help but feel that I am stepping into gothic literary history. At first the foyer of the hotel seems like any other until I spy the Dracula and Bram Stoker postcards, the hotel stationary which features Bram Stoker’s face and the store selling a variety of vampire paraphernalia. There is also a Jonathan Harker Salon.

As I step into my room I am disappointed to discover that they are standard hotel style, with barely a hint of the vampiric. But my disappointment is allayed the next day when I take breakfast in the Jonathan Harker Salon. Draped in the traditional vampire colours of black and red, and decorated with animal heads, flying bats and dripping candelabra the salon offers a feast for the eyes as well as the body. Devouring a sumptuous buffet breakfast, surrounded by such paraphernalia, is a real gothic treat. I am reluctant to leave the salon, but equally eager to continue my journey. Following in the footsteps of Jonathan Harker, my next destination is the famed Castle Dracula.

The castle is on the very edge of a terrible precipice

Jonathan Harker – Dracula

The road from Bistrita to Piatra Fantanele is the same road described by Stoker over a century ago. The long journey takes in the Borgo Pass, the place where Jonathan meets the horse drawn carriage of Count Dracula. After a long and fearful journey, Jonathan reaches the dreaded Castle Dracula. But I enjoy a relaxing car trip, not to a haunted castle, but to a modern hotel.

The HotTowerel Castel Dracula is another hotel created to take advantage of Dracula tourism. Built where Dracula’s Castle is described in the novel, the hotel is a curious construction. The strangely greyish purplish building is both gothic and comically vampiric. There is even a cemetery on the grounds. A small market on the hotel grounds stocks local souvenirs and Vlad Ţepeş and Dracula memorabilia. The hotel lobby also stocks an assortment of Dracula gifts.

After freshening up, the staff offer me a guided tour of Dracula’s Dungeon. I’m excited as I slowly walk down the stairs into the candlelit room. There is a coffin in the corner and I move forward to take a closer look. The staff have a surprise for me which I won’t reveal, but I screamed, loud and hard, but not before swallowing a few Aussie curse words. The staff are ecstatic at my response and after I catch my breath, we leave the dungeon for the next unsuspecting guest.

After dinner I return to my room which boasts beautiful views of the famous Carpathian Mountains. I sit and drink champagne, watching as darkness creeps along the mountain tops. It’s not hard to picture wolves, and other creatures, roaming free in the mountains. Finally I retire to sleep contented on a bed whose bedhead features the dragon motif of the Dracula family. I have enjoyed following in the footsteps of Jonathan Harker, but tomorrow my journey takes a different turn.

Good-bye, all!

Jonathan Harker – Dracula

In the novel, Jonathan jumps out a window of Castle Dracula and is eventually found physically and mentally traumatised in a hospital in Budapest, Hungary. I, not surprisingly, chose a different way to end my journey.

Four of CoinsHeading for Bucharest, the capital city, I spend my final night in Romania at The Count Dracula Club, a gothic club that truly caters to the vampirically inclined. Themed rooms and a downstairs dungeon are some of the treats that await the diner. I am lucky enough to be there the night of a Dracula show when the Count himself makes an appearance. Quoting from the novel in both Romanian and English the dashing Count cavorts around the restaurant, swishing his black cape and menacing the willing patrons. The menu contains Dracula themed dishes and vampire inspired cocktails are sipped between courses. I finish the meal with a glass of ţuică, the traditional plum brandy. My Jonathan Harker journey is almost at an end. Thankfully it is not with madness and despair that I end my trip but with an evening of food, wine and entertainment.

Three of Goblets

Like me, Jonathan Harker has a great love for food and drink. There are a number of passages in the novel where Jonathan describes the food and drink he is enjoying in Transylvania. He even writes the names of some of the dishes so he can get Mina to cook them when he gets home! When I returned from Romania I also brought home a love of Romanian food and a deep desire to know more about this cuisine. Below is my version of the classic Romania breakfast dish that both Jonathan and I ate and loved in Romania.

I had for breakfast more paprika, 

and a sort of porridge of maize flour which they said was “mamaliga,”

Jonathan Harker – Dracula

Mamaliga

IMG_8572

 Romanian cornmeal porridge with honey and sesame baked feta.

Ingredients
for the feta
225g feta cheese
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

for the cornmeal
2 cups water
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup cornmeal
30g unsalted butter

Method
Preheat oven to 200C / 400F
Drain feta and dry with paper towel.
Slice feta in half.
Pour half the oil in the bottom of a baking dish.
Place feta side by side in the dish.
Drizzle with remaining olive oil and honey.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the feta is soft but not melted.
While feta is baking bring the water and milk to a low boil in a saucepan.
Add the salt and stir through.
Pour the cornmeal in a slow stream then turn the heat to low.
Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 10-15 minutes.
Stir in the butter.
Place cornmeal in bowls and top with baked feta.

This makes two very generous serves.

Artwork for the Dracula Tarot by the wonderful Anna Gerraty

If you have any Romanian dishes you’d like to share with me please do 🙂