Posted in Blog Posts, Feed Me, Seymour!, LOTR

Stores Boards

(aka charcuterie boards…or adult lunchables)

All throughout the series there are moments where the characters (be it on film or in the books) are in and out of people’s stores.

For those of you who don’t know what Stores are in a historical context here you go:

Stores are where food and items needed to feed/take care of a family or group for long periods of time are stored, particularly through times or war, drought or even the change in seasons.

Pretty simple. 

Often these are full of vegetables that can be saved for extended periods of time like carrots, potatoes and other roots, apples, cabbages and squashes/gourds.  Canned or jarred goods are also usually present and feature foods that will not keep in their natural state.  This is common for tomatoes, fresh fruits like peaches and berries that go bad quickly, and pickled veggies for long term storage.  Sugar, flours and other ingredient as well as dried, salted, smoked and preserved meats and fish, even cheeses, are also stored.

The variety of stores that are available depend on who is filling the store, the area in which the food is grown, if greenhouses are able to be erected, or even the traditions of the area.

What I love about Stores Boards is they can be eaten in a variety ways.  Here I’m going to build out a full fancy board as well as several variations I eat on a regular basis but I’ve also been known to just grab a few items and toss the into a bag for a hike or even to take to a convention.  You don’t have to be super fancy to enjoy food from your stores…especially if you pair the items with fresh foods made from other stores items like breads or sweets.

Ingredients and How to Make the THING!

  1. Make up your menu… here I’m going to feature a few cheeses (some which do require basic refrigeration and may not have been seen in ancient stores in this small of a quantity… these cheeses usually would be stored and fermented in caves and other cool spots), some preserved meats (again that we as modern humans tend to keep in the fridge though would be stored whole), nuts, root vegetables, pickles and sauteed mushrooms.  I’ll be doing three different boards to feature different items and styles.  But first I’ll make up a menu.
  2. Board 1:
    • This is my pretty typical over the top fancy board I’ll serve at events like Yule or Thanksgiving as a snack board before the meal or for myself to snack on as I prepare the larger meal.  This will feature a lot of different items, some of which are better fresh and others that can be made fresh…
    • Ingredients:
      • A nice triple crème brie
      • An Irish or English Cheddar (I prefer strong, sharp or mature cheddars)
      • A gruyere cheese (or other strong swiss style cheese)
      • An exotic cheese (this will vary on what I find in the store…cheese with truffles or wine, a cheddar with honey and sea salt, or even an goat cheese with cinnamon and cranberries)
      • A goat cheese or other soft and crumbly type of cheese (I choose this flavor based off the other flavors on the board…if I need sweet I’ll do honey, if I need savory I’ll do herb and garlic…)
        1. Preserved meats: pancetta, Prosciutto, speck, salami, peperoni
      • “Fresh” meats: turkey or chicken is really nice
      • Carrots (I like rainbow if I can find them or get them from my garden) or other root vegetables that can be eaten raw like jicama
      • Fresh cucumber, tomatoes, strawberries or other berries, apple slices, grapes, etc.
      • Small dill pickles
      • Honey to drizzle on honey goat cheese…if you don’t have this then you don’t need the honey
      • Jam (raspberry or strawberry)
      • Crackers or mini pitas
      • Mushrooms (sauteed in butter, garlic and onion, or marinated in oil, veggie broth, Worcestershire sauce then sauteed)
      • Guacamole and hummus
    • Additional items needed:
      • A display board of some sort
      • A few small containers for things like the mushrooms and the hummus
      • Small forks, cheese knives and small spoons
      • Small display cards (if you want to label the cheese!)
    • Put the board together!  I like to start with the large cheeses (making sure to cut a slice of the brie out) first and figure out how they should be placed.  Then I deal with the small bowls, then the crackers and veggies and fruits.  Then fill in the gaps with the smaller items… making sure to cut the cheeses into different shapes and leaving some whole so that there is a variety of textures, colors, flavors and other things.  This display takes some times to figure out how to make everything look beautiful
  3. Board 2:
    • This is a smaller board….something that I will make on a weekday just to eat as a lunch or even as “Adult Lunchable” dinner night…. If you can’t tell I love small bites and meals with a variety of textures and flavors
    • Ingredients:
      • 2-3 cheeses in smaller quantities…I like to buy a larger block or piece and then just cut off what I need for the board. Examples of what I use:
        • Cheddar
        • Brie
        • Cheeseballs
        • Goat cheese
        • Exotic or strange cheeses I want to try but am not sure about and can get in smaller quantities
      • 1-2 varieties of some sort of preserved meat that is easy to get ahold of at most grocery stores:
        • Turkey meat cut thick at the deli
        • Prosciutto
        • Salamis
        • Peperoni
      • 2-4 fresh vegetables and fruits
        • Strawberries or other berries
        • Apple or banana slices
        • Carrots
        • Cucumbers
        • Grapes
      • 1-2 preserved vegetables
        • Pickled onions
        • Marinated mushrooms
        • Dill pickles
        • Gherkins
      • 2-3 types of crackers (or just one…whatever you like but I like variety)
      • Some sort of dip:
        • Caramel or cream cheese fruit dip
        • Italian dressing
        • Ranch dip
        • Hummus
    • Additional items needed:
      • A plate or small display board depending on how fancy you are feeling
      • A small fork or spoon and a cheese knife… or whatever you have around for spreading soft cheeses and putting other ingredients on crackers that you don’t want to have on your fingers
      • A small bowl for each dip you choose to use
    • When setting up this board follow the steps of the board above.  This is all about your personal aesthetic…or you can be a heathen (no judgment here because I’ve definitely done this) and just eat everything out of the package
  4. Board 3:
    • This is the board on the go…think similar to the protein boxes you can get in the grocery or at a coffee house like Starbucks.  In my life this is what I toss into an airtight storage container, full fruits and then put in my bag for eating on the go be it hiking or in the car as I run errands or go to an event or convention where I need snacks but don’t want to spend money on mediocre food…or if I’m feeling Hobbitish and need to escape on an adventure
    • Ingredients:
      • If you have a way to keep things cold:
        • Hard boiled eggs
        • Hard or medium hard cheeses like cheddar or swiss
        • Packaged cheeses like small cheddar pieces or string cheese
        • Preserved or deli meats
      • If you can’t keep things cold
        • Shelf stable cheeses or cheese spreads
        • Jerky
      • For everything:
        • Full sized fruits that can end up slightly battered (remember this is getting tossed in a bag)
          • Cuties or other small citrus fruits
          • Apples
          • Bananas
          • Grapes
        • Vegetables that do well whole
          • Baby carrots (I prefer rainbow if possible)
          • Celery
          • Whole mini cucumbers
        • Nuts and other dried items:
          • Raisins
          • Craisins
          • Peanuts, cashews
          • Sunflower seeds
      • Additional items that you need:
        • An airtight container with or without dividers
        • Smaller containers for things like sunflower seeds or nuts if you are adding them in and the main container you are using doesn’t have dividers
        • A ziplock bag to store fruit/veggies if they don’t fit in the container OR to throw away any rinds, fruit skins, shells from nuts or seeds, etc.
      • Put everything together!! Toss in your bag and you’re off on an adventure!!!!
Posted in Blog Posts, Feed Me, Seymour!, LOTR

A Proper Fry Up plus bonus Buttermilk Pancakes!

“Down in the lowest and most sheltered corner of the dell they lit a fire and prepared a meal.  The shades of evening began to fall, and it grew cold.  They were suddenly aware of great hunger, as they had not eaten anything since breakfast; but they dared not make more than a frugal supper.”

-The Fellowship of the Ring

I’ve always been obsessed with proper British food and honestly the descriptions of the food (which is far and between in the books) is one of the things that kept me focused when I read The Lord of the Rings series in high school.  While I don’t appreciate Sam, Merry and Pippin’s choice of timing when it came to making a Proper Fry Up in the movie adaptation, I do appreciate their choice in hearty food when they are on a long and perilous journey.

This Fry Up is a little more complex and has a few more ingredients than the one featured in the movie on the top of Amon Sûl, but it mimics a proper British Fry Up with all the components built from scratch.  I know a lot of people in England will argue as to what constitutes a proper fry up and quite frankly it seems to change from area to area with some places serving it with Black and/or White pudding, and others serving them with fried potatoes or proper Chips. 

But here is how I serve it at home on rainy days when I have time in the morning.  And you’ll get a bonus recipe of my delicious and fluffy buttermilk pancakes (because as an American I can’t turn down a good pancake!)

Ingredients:

For the general components of the Fry Up:

  • Streaky bacon (or as we say here in the States…bacon… I prefer something hardwood smoked and thick cut particularly if it is from a local farm)
  • Bangers (or pork sausages similar to what we consider bratwurst here in the States though smaller pork or even turkey sausage links work fine in a pinch)
  • Fresh tomatoes or tinned whole tomatoes if you can’t find nice fresh ones (I like the color and variety of the heirlooms I find at my local farmers market when I can get them)
  • Fresh mushrooms (I like the woody taste of Portobello mushrooms for this)
  • Fresh bread (try the 1-hour No Knead French Bread in this post if you want to make it fresh: )
  • Fresh eggs
  • Olive oil
  • Butter (if you want to go the extra mile then make the Fresh Salted Butter in this post: )
  • Tinned beans….or the following ingredients to make your own fresh beans:
    • 3 cups of dried beans (I like Navy but a mix of Navy, Pinto and white beans like Great Northern is good as well)
    • ½ lb Streaky Bacon
    • ½-1 sweet onion
    • 7-9 cups Vegetable broth
    • 2-4 TBS tomato paste
    • ½-1 cup brown sugar (to taste)
    • ¼ cup honey
    • 1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • Small fingerling potatoes
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

For the Bonus Buttermilk Pancakes:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBS white sugar
  • 1 ½ TSP baking soda
  • ¾ TSP salt
  • 3 cups buttermilk (if you go above and beyond and make your own butter for above use the saved buttermilk from the butter for this!)
  • ½ cup milk (whole is best but I do it with 1% because that’s what we keep in my house)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1-2 TSP vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Step by Step:

  1. Additional Supplies and Equipment:
    • A 13×9 inch baking dish or two if you need or want to keep your food warm as you finish up other parts of the fry up
    • Several pans including a large pot for cooking beans, at least one (I prefer two) large flat bottomed sautee pan for cooking meats, onions and mushrooms, and a smaller sautee pan for making the pancakes
    • Spatula and cooking spoons
    • Strainer or collander
  2. If you are making beans from scratch follow these steps:
    • Rinse your beans several times in the large pot, filling it and then dumping into a strainer, to get rid of all the dirt and small stones that can end up in dry beans
    • When they are clean put the beans back into the large pot and cover with water allowing to soak for at least 12 hours
    • Rinse the beans one last time, dumping the soaking water and beans into a colander and rinsing under cool water.  Rinse the pan as well then return the beans to the pan
    • Cover the beans with vegetable stock (while reserving ½ cup of the stock for later) and simmer for at least 1 hour or until the beans are soft and tender
    • While the beans are cooking prep your other ingredients… cut the pieces of bacon into smaller pieces to sautee, slice the onion thinly for caramelization
    • Fry the bacon in the large flat bottomed sautee pan until crispy, straining the bacon out of the fat and putting it into the large pot with the beans
    • Using the bacon fat sautee the onions, seasoning well with salt and pepper, stirring occasionally until they begin to caramelize…if they need a little help after about 15-20 minutes then you can add a tablespoon or so of white sugar well mixed in to assist in the caramelization
    • As you caramelize the onion preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (149 degrees Celsius)
    • Add the caramelized onions to the beans wiping out the pan as you will be using it later to do a bunch more of your fry up
    • Add the tomatoe paste to the ½ cup vegetable stock and stir to thin it out.  Add this mix, the brown sugar, honey and Worcestershire sauce along with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper to taste (I use somewhere between ¼- ½ TSP of the garlic and onion to start and don’t add salt and pepper till later as these were added to the onions as they cooked)
    • Mix this all together and add to the 13×9 inch pan, cover in foil and put in the oven for 2 hours uncovering for the last 30 minutes…make sure to check and stir the beans every 30 minutes or so to keep the sugars from sticking and thickening too much
  3. Start your fry up with about 20 minutes left when cooking the beans…or start here if you are using tinned beans!
    • Prep your ingredients: wash and slice your mushrooms or keep them whole, slice two pieces of bread, crack your eggs into a small bowl and scramble them if you want them scrambled (or leave whole if you want you sunny side up), prep your pancake mix if you are making pancakes or waffles, slice your fresh tomatoes and wash and cut up your fresh potatoes
    • I like to start two pans, one with the meats (if you have made your beans from scratch use the pan you used for bacon and onion) and one with olive oil and butter for the veggies
    • In the pan with butter and oil add in the potatoes and sautee until crispy on all sides, if the potatoes are not completely done through add about ½ cup water to the pan and cover on medium low heat to steam through the potatoes…these can be put into the baking dish and into the oven to keep warm
    • Add 2-4 slices of streaky bacon to one pan and 2-3 sausage links, cooking over medium heat until cooked…in the other pan add the mushrooms either whole or sliced to the pan when the oil and butter come to temperature
    • When the meats are done you can place them in a baking dish in the oven with the potatoes to keep them warm but move quickly at this point because the hot oven can over cook the meats
    • Add more oil and butter to the potato pan and sautee the mushrooms until golden brown seasoning with salt, pepper, garlic and onion to taste
    • As the mushrooms come close to finishing you can add the mushrooms to the pan in th oven to keep them warm
    • Use the pan with the meats and bacon fat to fry up your two slices of bread being sure to flip the bread immediately to get fat on both sides of the bread
    • In the mushroom pan add more butter and oil if needed and add in the sliced or tinned tomatoes and sautee until heated through and with bits of char if you like that while keeping and eye on your bread so it doesn’t burn
    • Pull the bread out of the pan plating it and add the eggs in scrambling or frying to your preference
    • If you are using tinned beans warm these up either on the stove or in the microwave according to the directions on the tin
    • Pull out your beans and your food you are keeping warm and plate it along with your bread
  4. If you are making pancakes this can be done during the time you are frying up your potatoes… to prep the batter put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until almost but not quite smooth, use the small sautee pan and grease it with butter (or cooking spray in a waffle iron making sure to respray between each waffle), dole out a measure of batter about ¼ of a cup and put in pan or maker, close the waffle maker or wait until bubble form and pop in the batter, turning when the bubbles pop but do not fill back in with batter…flip and cook until golden checking every few minutes… serve hot with butter and syrup or compound butter
Posted in Blog Posts, Feed Me, Seymour!, LOTR

Fresh Bread with Homemade Butter: a Lord of the Rings Recipe

“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scrapped over too much bread.”

– Bilbo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring

While I know that Bilbo was talking of growing old and the odd feeling of being pulled in every direction by responsibilities that one does not want to bear, but I cannot help but think of beautiful freshly made bread with homemade or even compound butter when I read this quote.

As you grow older you begin to realize the small things in life are what bring happiness and satisfaction. One of the greatest joys in life is a beautiful, warm slice of homemade bread with fresh, bright and well-seasoned butter.  And while I completely understand Bilbo Baggins the older I get I do feel like a recipe for a beautiful loaf of bread and handmade butter is worthy of note when discussing the food of the Lord of the Rings.

The following recipes are for my favorite No Knead French bread, and Butter in three ways…a normal beautiful salted fresh butter, a garlic and herb savory compound butter and a brown sugar and vanilla sweet compound butter.

Ingredients:

For Fresh No Knead 1-hour French Bread:

  • 2 c. warm water
  • 2 TBS instant yeast
  • 2 TSP salt
  • 3 TBS vegetable oil
  • 5 ½-6 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg white or 1 TBS melted butter for creating a crusty surface

For Fresh Salted Butter:

  • 1 pint of heavy cream
  • ¼-½  TSP Kosher or Sea salt

Additions for Compound Butters:

Garlic and Herb:

  • ½-1 TBS Fresh Garlic Paste or 2-3 TSP Roasted Garlic Paste
  • ¼ TSP onion powder
  • ¼ TSP black pepper (fresh ground is the best!)
  • 1-2 TBS fresh herbs or half this of dried (oregano, rosemary, thyme, or parsley all do well in this)

Brown Sugar and Vanilla:

  • ¼ to ½ a cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ to 1 TBS good quality vanilla paste (I’m using a beautiful Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste for this recipe)

How to make the things!

For the No Knead 1-hour French Bread:

  1. Additional tools you will need for this recipe are as follows:
    • A stand mixer with a whisk attachment and a dough hook
    • A standard sized baking sheet
    • Parchment paper
  2. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside…you will need this when the dough is ready to rise
  3. Add your water, yeast and sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer and whisk this mix together until frothy, usually around 3-5 minutes.  Make sure your water does not exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (between 37 and 38 degrees Celsius) as water that is too hot can kill the yeast
  4. Once this is bubbly and frothy remove the whisk attachment and switch to your dough hook.
  5. Add in your oil, salt and 5 ½ cups of all-purpose flour mixing on low speed until the dough comes together in a loose, shaggy texture then increasing the speed to medium until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl to form a ball.  If this doesn’t begin to happen fairly quickly then add more flour slowly until it does (you shouldn’t need more than 6 cups of flour total).
  6. When this happens allow the dough to knead in the bowl for 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed.
  7. Remove the dough hook and cover the bowl with a warm damp towel to allow the bread to proof the first time.  Allow this to rest for at least 15 and no more than 30 minutes
  8. Grab your parchment lined baking sheet then remove the towel and punch down the dough. Divide the dough into two roughly equal sizes and shape into a loaf…I like to make mine into longer oval shapes (about 15-18 inches or 38-46 cm in length). Cut a few diagonal cuts in the surface without going too deep into the tops.
  9. Allow the dough to rise a second time while you move the rack in your oven to the center ang preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius). As soon as the oven is heated put your bread into the oven to bake
  10. Set your time for 23 minutes. Remove your bread from the oven and brush with the melted butter or egg white mixed with a little water being sure to catch all the exposed bits of the loaf so they turn golden brown
  11. Return to the oven for an additional 3-5 minutes watching for a nice crisp crust that is golden brown but being careful to not let the bread burn
  12. Rest the bread on a wire rack after removing it from the oven for at least 5 minutes before serving. 
  13. You can store remaining bread in a few ways…(if it lasts that long!):
    • Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days room temperature
    • Full loaves can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days at room temperature
    • Full loaves can be stored in plastic wrap and foil in the freezer for up to 3 months

For the Fresh Salted Butter:

  1. Additional tools needed:
    • A stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer with whisk attachments (though I do recommend the stand mixer for this one as you’ll be holding the mixer for up to 20 minutes)
  2. Pour 1 pint of heavy cream into the stand mixer bowl with a whisk attachment on the machine.  Start slowly on low speed until the milk is frothy gradually increasing the speed so that you don’t end up with cream splattered everywhere in your kitchen
  3. Allow the cream to go through the stages of whip from frothy to soft peak, then stiff peak to broken where it will eventually separate into to things…buttermilk and butter… this can take anywhere from 8-15 minutes
  4. When the butter and the buttermilk separate and the buttermilk starts to splatter then stop the machine and pour off the buttermilk (save this in the fridge for up to a week and use it to make some delicious buttermilk pancakes…you can find the recipe for these in the Proper Fry Up post as a bonus recipe)
  5. Take the butter from the bowl and rinse it in ice water, pouring the cloudy water off and rinsing again and again until the water runs clear… this is getting out all the remnants of the buttermilk which can cause the fresh butter to spoil
  6. When the water runs clear, add salt to the butter, mixing it in well and enjoying on fresh bread OR split it in two sections to continue with the compound butters that are next!

For the Compound Butters:

  1. Additional tools needed:
    • A stand mixer with a whisk attachment
    • Or a fork and a bowl
    • A spatula
  2. Take your divided butter which should be at room temperature (or take a stick of good quality unsalted butter at room temperature) and add it to your mixer or your bowl
  3. Add in your ingredients for your compound butter of choice
  4. Mix either on medium speed or like crazy with your fork until the ingredients are incorporated
  5. Scrape the butter out onto plastic wrap or parchment paper and carefully roll into a log, put in the fridge until it stiffens up OR use on fresh bread right away!
  6. The vanilla brown sugar butter is amazing on fresh bread, toast, waffles or buttermilk pancakes and the herb garlic butter makes incredible garlic bread especially tossed with a little parmesan cheese (which also makes a beautiful addition to compound butter as well…)