Thursday, July 28, 2011

There and back again

We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures.
Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!
I can't think what anybody sees in them.

Well, here we are, back from three lovely weeks in England, and my feelings are the usual bittersweet mix: happiness at being home, and reunited with my beloved furry friends, combined with the sadness that comes with leaving a place I love so well. This particular trip took us to a flat in Bloomsbury, a farm in Yorkshire, and a strange, three-story townhouse in Witney (a market town near Oxford, where my partner was looking at some manuscripts). Overall, it was a combination of work and play, with a couple of conference papers thrown in for that added soupçon of virtue. We visited loads of museums, saw a few plays, took walks, hung out with friends and family, visited some wonderful churches, ruins, and pubs, and drank a lot of excellent beer and cider. One of the best things about being away is the break it imposes on our usual routines - not just what we do, but what we read, see, and think about. For three solid weeks, hardly a thought was bestowed upon American politics, current events, or popular culture. During that brief time, we were dimly aware of, yet somehow separated from the good (NY legalizing gay marriage: W00T!), the bad (the already-looming specter of the 2012 presidential race), and the tawdry (the horrendously sordid and sensationalized Casey Anthony trial) events taking place in the USA. On the other hand, we had front-row seats for the breaking shitstorm of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, heard about red-top paparazzi favorite/victim Amy Winehouse's death as it was first reported, and spent hours each morning reading newspaper articles filled with information about people, places, and things that don't necessarily get much space on this side of the Atlantic. (We also managed to miss what was by all accounts some filthy, record-breaking heat and humidity, which suits me just fine; there's a reason I spend my summer holidays in a place famous for cool, damp weather.)

So now we're home, which is nice, but still feels a bit...weird. It's a sort of liminal state of mind in which I'm not really here or there; this seems particularly true in the domestic sphere. I have thrown a few meals together, but don't feel that I've quite reconnected with the kitchen. When we're away, my culinary horizons are determined by the random vicissitudes of rented kitchen; I adjust my expectations accordingly, and tend to cook very simple things. Being back on my own turf means that the sky is - in theory - the limit, but those vague ideas I stowed away for future exploration have yet to find expression in any edible form. That said, I did have some ideas (all based on classic, podgy British comfort food, so be forewarned), and I'd be happy to entertain any thoughts, opinions, and/or suggestions. The first thing I'd like to do is a proper "fish" and chips, inspired by a really great version we had in a pub in London. At the time I was too jetlagged/overwhelmed by the medieval reliquary exhibit at the British Museum to ask how they did it, but damn, was that some good fake fish; any and all suggestions as to how this might best be achieved are welcome. The next thing is the replication of a proper, raised crust "pork" pie (for the cognoscenti, think Melton Mowbray, without the grossness). I've got a pretty good idea about the filling, but it's the hot water pastry that has me stymied at present; again, any and all advice would be most appreciated. The last thing is sausages; one of the things I lament as an Anglophile vegan in America is the utter dearth of proper, English-style veggie sausages, and whenever we're there, one of our chief pleasures is exploring the variety of available commercial renditions. Having tried several types of Fry's, Redwood, and Linda McCartney on this trip, we found LM's the best (albeit a bit salty) for flavor, and Redwood's the best for texture. Alas, since I despair of ever being able to purchase such products in this benighted former colony, we have no choice but to make our own; my partner and his daughters have made seitan sausages with excellent texture, so that's sorted, but what I seek now is the seasoning combinations for Cumberland, Lincolnshire, and Glamorgan varieties. So - please feel free to share whatever knowledge you may possess pertaining to this Very Important Matter.

And I guess that's it, for the moment. It's kind of hot here, so tonight's dinner is a big salad topped with falafel and some previously roasted potatoes (recipe to follow, b/c I kind of stole it from Nigella and it rocks), after which a bath with some of the wonderful homemade soap from the Kelmscott village crafts fair seems indicated. Thanks in advance for whatever help you may be able/inclined to offer on my upcoming experiments (and for continuing to read my ramblings).

Roads go ever, ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Curried Roasted Chickpeas

It's kind of ridiculous to even call this a "recipe," but these chickpeas are so great that I don't care. You could sprinkle these crunchy little darlings on a salad, stir them into soup like croutons, or just eat them all by themselves as the world's greatest snack: think of all the crispy, deliciousness of popcorn with nooch and curry powder, only loaded with protein and B vitamins!

Curried Roasted Chickpeas

~ 1 28 oz. can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
~ 1 tbsp. chaat masala (or curry power, garam masala, or some combination)
~ 2-3 tbsp. nutritional yeast
~ Cooking spray

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with non-stick foil.
~ In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, chaat masala, and nutritional yeast. Mix thoroughly to make sure all of the chickpeas are coated.
~ Place the chickpeas on the baking sheet in a single layer, and coat lightly with cooking spray.
~ Roast for about 30 minutes, shaking the pan every ten minutes or so, until the chickpeas are crisp and golden.
~ Allow to cool for a minute or two, and then serve; these are good hot or at room temperature.