Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saturday Night Comfort

Even though it was a lovely day on Saturday,
I craved something warming and homey.

So I hit the books and came up with something that reminded me of lunch at the cafeteria when I was in university.

The first time I ever ate cornbread was back in the days when I still had the world ahead of me, and I had not even contemplated leaving Canada. This was not something that we had grown up with at home. Its crunchy texture, almost sweet flavour and sunny yellow colour, when matched with whatever soup was available, usually my all-time favourite Scotch Broth, was an instant hit with me.

But for some reason, I rarely make it. So when I do, it becomes a special occassion.

I saw the recipe in the Silver Spoon and thought
"hmmm, a cornbread cake".

But on making it I found there were a few things wrong - for one thing, the recipe calls for a scant 1/2 cup of yoghurt - and when mixed in with the 3 cups of dry ingredients it was immediately obvious that there had been a typo. So I trebled the yoghurt, and then added an extra glop inadvertently - the yoghurt container burped... And when I tasted the unbaked mixture, it was definitely not "cake" sweet. And then there was the issue of how many this would serve - the editors say it serves 6, I say it serves 12 hungry people, because of course you don't just serve this on it's own.

Yoghurt Cornbread – adapted from The Silver Spoon

  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1 1/2 c cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 c balkan style yoghurt (the original recipe calls for 1/2 c)
  • 5 tbsp neutral oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Thinly sliced almond paste (optional)
    (I used 2-3 oz for 1 pan – not everyone likes almonds)

Preheat oven to 350F

2 8inch cake pans well buttered and then dusted with a flour and sugar mixture

Beat eggs, oil & yoghurt, add well mixed dry ingredients.

Divide into the pans.

If using, push almond paste into the batter so that it is covered

Bake approximately 40 minutes until nicely browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool for about 5 minutes, then turn out.

In my opinion this is best eaten while still warm.

If you have used the almond paste, dust with icing sugar and serve with lightly sweetened, sloppy whipped cream or creme fraiche.

And then...

I found a gorgeous bunch of celery at the Carmel Market on Friday - after I had gone on another job interview. And it immediately called out for being made into soup.

Now here in Israel there are 3 kinds of celery. There is the traditional kind, called American here (big wide stalks that call for being stuffed or braised), this has a very "celery" flavour, which becomes milder as it cooks. The leaves are used very sparingly because they are so strongly flavoured.

There is celery root, which is lovely as a remoulade salad with homemade mayonaise and to which I add, untraditionally, chopped eggs and lots of onions and lemon zest.

And then there is soup celery, which looks rather like the scraggly stalks and leaves from the celery root. This is much milder, and is added prolificaly and uncut, to traditional chicken soup - usually a big bunch is added to 1 chicken's worth of soup. For those of you who have never encountered this type of celery, you would think that the soup would be inedible, but it adds a depth to the soup which normal American celery just doesn't manage to pull off. I actually like eat the celery after it has been cooked to almost disintegration, it is sweet and mild and doesn't resemble it's namesake at all.

And for the more esoterically minded cook, the leaves of lovage are very similar to pale green celery leaves, and can be used in the same manner as soup celery, but it has a much more intense flavour that resembles Maggi, and imparts an almost umami meatiness to the soup.

Cream of Celery Soup – adapted from The Silver Spoon

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp butter
  • 4 cups chopped celery (SS called for 3)
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2 – 3 medium potatoes diced
  • 1/2 stale French stick torn apart
    ('cause it was there and I thought "aha - thickening agent)
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme (because my post of thyme is growing out of control)
  • Salt & white pepper to taste
  • Water
  • Lightly whipped cream, chopped thyme and finely grated parmesan for garnish.

In a large pot melt the oil and butter, add the onions & sweat them off, then add the celery and thyme and sweat them off until bright green and starting to soften.

Add potatoes and bread and cover with cold water (level should be about 2 inches above celery/potato mix). Add about 1 tsp salt.

Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer until potatoes are very soft.

Puree with immersion blender, season to taste.

Garnish with cream, thyme and parmesan.

And so, as the sun set over Jaffa, I warmed my soul with comfort food.

4 comments:

ontheface said...

I am so glad you're blogging again. My kitchen is not equipped for baking, but I love reading your recipes and planning to make them when I move to a proper apartment.

Lisa

aja said...

Hey Lisa,
Thank you so much - I have to admit to be glad to be back! For the longest time I only had a toaster oven - but I managed to make small quantity batches (1/4 cakes & 3 muffins...) and then after enjoying the luxury of having an oven it died on me, well not exactly died, but decided to have only two temperatures - cold or burn - we're talking about 300C here... But I got a brand new oven recently and it works like a dream, so I am back in the kitchen and loving every minute of it!

yudit said...

Thanks for the recipes, and no i do not have an oven either, but i do have a "sir pele" (does that have a name in English?
An i make almost everything in it.

They sell them in the flea market as well as the carmel

aja said...

Hey Yudit,
You will have to explain "sir pele" to me - it sounds interesting... and then I will go look for one!