# Wednesday, September 07, 2005
OK, call it a niche market, but if you really want it, you can get Hufu, a soy based product that “tastes like human flesh”.  Their website claims that, contrary to common wisdom, human flesh doesn’t taste like chicken.  Apparently it tastes like Hufu. :-)  I’ll take their word for it, I think. [via Strange New Products]
Wednesday, September 07, 2005 5:56:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, August 29, 2005

Last night I tried making liver and onions for the first time (never eaten it either).  Why, you might ask?  Well, we bought a half of a cow a couple years back, and lurking in the deep freeze was a package of pre-sliced liver.  So I thought I’d give it a go.  The recipe I found suggested soaking the liver in lemon juice for a few hours before cooking, then dredging in flour, salt and pepper before sauteeing.  So that’s what I did. 

The end result?  I don’t much care for liver and onions, I now know.  You never know ‘til you try. :-).  My wife, who has had it before, said it was a good batch.  I’ll stick to chicken livers.

Monday, August 29, 2005 7:29:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, August 04, 2005
This stuff is really good!  I’ve been using it on sandwiches and hot dogs.  Nice, cholesterol free alternative with a very good flavor.  I’m a big miso fan anyway, but I think this has a wider appeal.  I found it at New Seasons.
Thursday, August 04, 2005 12:25:19 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

These worked out well as a taco filling…

I took some “country style” boneless pork ribs, slapped them in a 9 X 13 baking dish, and sloshed them with a mixture of

  • lime juice
  • olive oil
  • tequila
  • garlic paste
  • Mexican oregano
  • a dash of cumin
  • salt
  • a fistful of cilantro
  • a tablespoon or so of soy lecithin (keeps it from separating, I use Bob’s Redmill brand)

I hit the sauce briefly with the hand blender so it was a smooth consistency.

Baked in the oven at 375° for about an hour, sliced them up across the grain and used for tacos. 

Thursday, August 04, 2005 12:22:52 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, July 26, 2005

My wife has been goat-sitting for some friends-of-friends the last couple of weeks, which means we’ve been getting a bunch of goat milk.  Over the weekend, she decided to make most of the supply into farmer’s cheese, which left a big pot of whey left over.  We didn’t want to just throw it out, since not only is it tasty but quite nutritious, so we decided to make soup. 

I threw in some barley, and let it cook until the barley was soft, then added a can of diced tomatoes, a bunch of dried basil, and some pepper, plus a bunch of pre-made frozen meatballs (yay, Costco) and a couple of handfulls of pre-washed baby carrots.  My total involvement was about 5 minutes, with maybe an hour total cooking time (mostly for the barley).

The result was quite tasty, with a distinctly sweet taste from the way, and a very rich, velvety texture.  The slight sweetness mixed with the tomatoes made me think of Spaghetti-O’s, only good. :-)

The only thing I like better than easy food is easy food made from ingredients I already had.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 7:22:43 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, July 14, 2005

Last night I finished up making the snacks for the party this weekend.  I've read several times that there are numerous examples of the Vikings using pea flour in their bread, and I had to try it. 

I used my hand-cranked grain mill to grind split peas into fairly fine flour, then mixed it with barley and oat flours and proceeded as I described for the other breads.  The result is quite tasty, and the pea flavor is not really evident, which is interesting. 

The last thing I made was some root vegetables in sour cream.  Beets with sour cream is a common modern Scandinavian dish, but I didn't have any evidence for beets in a Viking context, so I used diced carrots and parsnips.  I sauteed them until semi-soft, then added sour cream, salt, cumin, and mustard seed (whole).  Pretty good on the crackers.

I'll post some info on sources soon, I don't have them on my just now.

Thursday, July 14, 2005 3:54:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, July 13, 2005

More snacks to add to the pile.  I made two sets of flatbread so far, which basically come out like big crackers.  These can be used to spread things on, such as the already made cheese, pea spread, etc.  Or herring, since who doesn’t like a good pickled herring?

There have been a few oven-like hearths found in the Viking context.  See Thora’s excellent summary for more info.  I think that bread, however, was probably more often cooked on the “frying pan”.  There are several examples from the archaeological record of long handled frying pans, which are essentially flat, sideless disks of metal attached to a long handle.  Flat, crackerlike bread would be very easy to cook on such a pan, by placing it over the open fire until the bread had dried.  Another possibility is the flat soapstone hearth.  Modern Finns still use (in some places) flat soapstones that sit next to the open fire.  You lay out your “cracker” dough, thinly rolled, on the soapstone until it starts to set, then take of off and prop it up next to the fire, with the top side facing the heat, until it’s dried hard.  Traditionally these breads were made round with a hole in the middle so that you could hang then on a string or pole in the rafters over the fire, where heat and smoke would keep the bugs off them making them last nearly indefinitely. 

I cheated, and made mine in the oven, since I didn’t have time to set everything up over a fire.  I modified a modern Swedish flatbread recipe.  I don’t think they’ve changed all that much, and it jives with the ingredients and techniques that were available in period.  I used 2–3 cups of mixed flour, part dark rye, part oat flour, part barley flour.  Wheat doesn’t grow well in Scandinavia, so rye, oats, and barley are much more commonly found.  There are also several instances from the archaeological record that include green pea flour.  I really want to try that out, and may tonight, but haven’t so far.  Anyway, I mixed the flours with about 1/2 cup of melted butter, maybe 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and baking soda, and enough buttermilk to make a very stiff dough.  In period, baking soda (calcium bicarbonate) as we know it wasn’t available, but they would have used hartshorn, which behaves quite similarly.  Hartshorn is ammonium bicarbonate, which is derived from burning deer antlers (hart’s horn).  It is still available from specialty stores, and is still used in baking in Scandinavia.  Supposedly (I’ve never tried it) it produces lighter bread/cookies than baking soda, and produces a very strong ammonia smell during baking, which isn’t present in the finished goods.

I let the dough rest for 20 minutes or so, then rolled it out on a greased cookie sheet and baked at 375° for 20–25 minutes.  After they were cooled, I left them out overnight to continue drying, since they should be crisp.  Putting them in a very low (200°) oven for a while would probably also help.  To roll them out, I used a modern Scandinavian rolling pin that is studded, so the resulting bread is textured on top.  I’m guessing in period they’d have probably rolled them out using a smooth stick, then pricked them with something fork-like to get the desired texture. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 6:27:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

I was asked a while ago to make some “Viking snacks” for a vigil party (it’s an SCA thing) that’s coming up this weekend.  The goal is stuff that can be eaten with fingers, and can be roundly divided into bite-sized thingies.  I started on the cooking last night, and wanted to share both the thought process and “recipes”. 

On the thought process side, it goes something like this: 

  • the Vikings didn’t use “recipes” as we understand them today, or if they did, they didn’t write them down, since most of them couldn’t write anyway. 
  • We do know from the archaeological record what cooking tools (and hence techniques) then had at their disposal
  • we do know from the archaeological record what ingredients they cooked with, since there’s physical evidence
  • nobody likes to eat food that’s gross
  • we do know from the Sagas and from later written sources that the Vikings were fond of certain tastes (sour being big).

So what I made last night was:

  • Some pea spread for putting on crackers/flat bread.  Split peas (which are common from Viking digs) cooked until pasty, tempered with some walnut oil (walnuts also prevalent) and spiced with salt, fresh dill and horseradish.  Essentially all the ingredients mentioned hereafter were common in the Viking context.  For a great summary, see Thora Sharptooth’s Viking Age Foodstuffs.  Most Viking hearth finds have been relatively large, open fire-pit style affairs, using pottery or the occasional metal pot that can be hung over the fire.  This dish lends itself to that style.
  • Two batches of soft cheese.  There are a number of finds of cheese strainers from Viking digs.  These basically look like flattish colanders, sometimes with the inclusion of a loosely nalbound “net” of horse hair or other coarse material.  I used 1 gallon of milk, brought up to 185°, then mixed with 1/4 – 1/3 cup of vinegar.  You can use just about any acid you want.  I’m guessing they’d have used cider or malt vinegar, since those would most likely have been available.  I used red wine vinegar, since it’s what I had. :-)  The resulting curds get placed in cheese cloth to drain until it’s as hard as you need.  One batch I made for spreading on bread/crackers, and seasoned it (after cheese cloth but before draining) with salt, cumin and fresh dill.  The other batch I mixed with a little sour cream and honey, to use in the following dish
  • Stuffed prunes.  I got some pitted prunes, and stuffed them with the honeyed cheese from above and some toasted hazelnuts.  Prunes were very prevalent in the Viking context, both local and continental species, which suggests that they were importing prunes to meet demand.  Hazelnuts are also very common.  In some places hazelnut shells make up the largest component of food remains found.  I could probably find the reference if anyone is interested.

More to follow as I continue to cook.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 6:02:15 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, July 11, 2005

Over the weekend we were having a family dinner that I needed something not too hard for, and I decided on caponata.  It’s one that my Mom taught me as she learned it from her Grandmother.  It’s an Italian dish (I think from the South, but I’m not sure).  It does take a little time, mostly because of lots of chopping, but it’s certainly not hard, and the results are great.  I’m trying to decide what to do with the leftovers, which only get better.

I started with two medium-sized eggplant, diced.  I cooked them in olive oil until they started to soften up a bit, some salt at this point helps.  Then I added some chopped onion, two chopped red bell peppers, garlic, oregano, and just a touch of pesto (I didn’t have any dried basil, or that would have been my first choice). 

Once that’d sauteed a bit, I added about 3/4 cup golden raisins, about as many green olives, and maybe 1/4 cup of capers.  Then about 1/4 of balsamic vinegar.  The trick is to balance the raisins and the onions against the vinegar/capers/olives to get a nice sweet and sour.  In times past I’ve added a touch of honey, but in this case the onions and raisins were enough. 

Just before serving I tossed in two sliced zucchini, and cooked it until they were just softening. 

Very tasty, and really easy.  Better the next day.  I served it with some polenta cooked with some aged fontina cheese.  The relative plainness of the polenta worked well against the caponata.

Monday, July 11, 2005 7:33:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, July 07, 2005

The party this weekend was quite a success, much food and much fun was had.  Here are some pictures of the spread.

chicken

On the far side are some spicy kebabs and some chicken wings, then a few cheese and olives (the small bowls) some kibbeh on the green platter, and various fruits.

more food

more of the chicken and kebabs.

The dessert table.  Baklava, semolina cakes (behind the candle stick), some fried cheese pastries, and a chocolate cake in the background.

At the far end are hard boiled eggs and veggies, in the middle are hummus and baba ghanouj and more veggies, then a great mess of pita.

Feta, olives, felafel and pickles.

Thursday, July 07, 2005 3:41:28 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]