Friday, May 27, 2016

Damper: National Quick-Bread of Australia

Some recipes are too easy not to make. Damper is one of them.

Damper, a cross between a scone and a biscuit, is the official and national bread of Australia. Unlike an Irish soda bread which uses buttermilk as the leavening agent, damper simply uses self-rising flour. Loaves were baked by ranchers in the outback in cast-iron Dutch ovens over wood-stoked embers. Lacking a camp, my bread in the oven baked to a moist, tender crumb and nice crust.

This recipe makes a small loaf and is perfect for two to four people. I found it a bit on the salty side; so, next time, I will omit the salt since the self-rising flour has plenty. I will add a bit of sugar, instead.

Authentic damper used water, but any liquid may be used, including beer or milk. Butter was never used, but a dollop or two does wonders for the texture. I suppose one could also use a drizzle of olive oil, instead. Or lard.

Slather it in butter. Or honey. Or jam. Even maple syrup. Scrummy!

My mistake here was that I did not flatten the dough into a six or seven-inch disk as instructed. Instead, I baked it as a sphere. No problem. It was perfectly done in the center and not at all doughy. It just took a few minutes longer in the oven. I used a convection oven at 370 degrees Fahrenheit and turned it up a wee bit the last few minutes to get a rosy crust on all the nicely risen tips. It is done when it sounds hollow when tapped on the underside.

Next time, like Southern biscuits, I may brush it with melted butter as soon as it comes out of the oven to tenderize the crust.

This is the kind of recipe that, like my great Uncle used to say, "excites the imagination." I'm thinking of a loaf with lemon zest, chopped rosemary and golden raisins. Or, certainly, a handful of grated hard cheese, chopped chives, and a bit of onion and bacon! Or Greek olives and dried tomatoes.

Yes, I did weigh the ingredients. So should you. How many times have you told yourself you were going to invest in a scale? Ah haaaaaaa....

Best to keep the dough a bit on the wet side. You can always add more flour as you knead it.

  • 250 grams self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional) or
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar or brown sugar depending on taste
  • 25 grams unsalted cold butter (a good heaping tablespoon or so)
  • 175 mls. tepid water (begin with 2/3 cup .... )

In a medium bowl, add flour salt and/or sugar. Whisk to combine ingredients.

Using fingertips, grind/sift butter into flour mixture.

Add water beginning with about 2/3 cup. Stir with a knife or spoon. Add a tablespoon or more if necessary.

Place dough on floured surface. Knead for 2-3 minutes until it becomes elastic. Form into a neat ball. Pinch underside to form a nice seam .... or

Flatten into a round, about 6.5 inches or so.

Place on a greased baking tray. Using a sharp knife or serrated knife, lightly score into quarters (about one-quarter-inch deep. Brush with milk or butter (optional).

Bake in a 375 F. oven for about 30 minutes or until when tapped it sounds hollow.

Best eaten warm; but, cold ... not at all bad.

You don't need those refrigerated rolls or biscuits! Terrific with soups and stews!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Chicken in Mushroom, Onion, Wine, and Sour Cream Sauce

Have you missed me? I have missed me!

Working full-time since January has certainly changed my schedule and life. And how I cook and what I eat.

Be that as it may ...  Regardless of my age ... I will post this recipe I have made several times. Yes, it is rich. Even decadent. Great for a special occasion. Or a day when you are ticked off at the entire world and want revenge! Or, when you are just really tired and want something comforting. Saucy. Buttery. Bad.

Do serve over white rice, wild rice, mashed or silky wide noodles. The "gravy" is uplifting. Yes, we all need to be uplifted ... Is not that what food is all about?

I used a natural, whole chicken that I cut into two leg quarters and then two whole breasts. I saved the wings and the back for the stock pot. Use bone-in, skin-on chicken. Yes, that is what super heroes consume ... not flabby, rubbery fillets ...

  • 2.5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, washed and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour mixed with one teaspoon seasoned salt and one teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 ounces chopped celery
  • 4 ounces chopped red onion
  • 1-2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 8-12 ounces sliced mushrooms (white, Bella, mixed)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-minced thyme or one teaspoon dried thyme flakes 
  • 2-3 tablespoons dried onion soup mix
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional but really do not skip)
  • Cayenne pepper, pinch or two (optional)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • Using same can, 3/4 can dry white wine or dry sherry (I prefer sherry) and 3/4 can chicken stock
  • 1/2 - 1-cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Dredge chicken pieces in seasoned flour mixture. Set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven, heat 1/4 inch of oil. Do not be stingy. Add chicken. Brown on both sides ... about 8-10 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Lower heat. Add onion and celery to the drippings. Saute until soft and tender. Add garlic. Stir until fragrant. Add a bit of pepper.

Now add the mushroom soup, wine or sherry and chicken stock. Stir until smooth. Add dried onion soup mix.

Nestle the browned chicken pieces into the sauce. Top with mushrooms. Cover. Simmer on LOW for one - two hours. DO NOT BOIL!

Last ten minutes or so, add sour cream.  A bit of butter. Stir until creamy and smooth.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Most Popular Recipe for 2015


My most popular recipe for 2015 was not a "recipe" at all; not, at least, in the usual sense of ingredients.

But, it was certainly about food.

And feeding; for, food is Love.

It was the video of the feral kittens I have been tending since last September.
Number two was the poem I wrote for my cat, Chalk, whom I had to put to sleep in July. (Yes, I still cry.)

Number three was the recipe for ham sliders. Links below.

The kittens are now pretty much grown. Yearlings. I am "sorry" to say we have lost "Biscuit," the orange-and-white spotted cat, brother to the black-and-white cat, "Boo." Their mother, "Cali" has also disappeared. Oh, she was so incredibly beautiful! She would never eat until her two kittens had their fill. Looking back, I think she had been declawed. Disarmed. I just can't go there ...

Biscuit wanted a home. And I have no doubt he finally found one. He often disappeared for several days and then showed up for breakfast when I showed up. 

Oh, how he debated: "Go? Stay?"

In the end, on the final day I held and kissed him, his amber eyes said it all. I will never forget that last gaze. Took me awhile to figure out what he was trying to tell me.

All the cats are chipped; so, it is my hope that, one day, we will get a call from a vet saying he has a cat named Biscuit.

I don't care if he is a zillion miles away, I will bring Boo to unite with his sibling, Biscuit.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Smoked Salmon Appetizers

The "sign-up list" at my place of employment was for Christmas "finger food." It was strategically and psychologically situated at the time clock.

The day before the "feast," I worked the late shift, so that precluded nothing complicated that involved turning on an oven.

So I whipped up this non-cooked recipe. It was a snap to put together just before I left for work. It had a festive "catered" look. More importantly, it was gobbled up.

I was able to purchase the smoked salmon (lox) at a sale price. One has an option for the cheese. I used President brand "rondele." One could, of course, use a Boursin cheese or herb-flavored cream cheese. It basically depends on one's budget.

  • 3, 3-ounce packages smoked salmon
  • 2, 8-ounce containers garlic and herb spreadable cheese, room temperature
  • 20 Party Jewish Rye squares
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced into 20 thin slices
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Dill for garnish
  • Smoked paprika (optional) 

Lay out the rye squares on a foil-lined sheet pan. Pipe (or spoon) softened cheese on each square. Be generous. Angle a cucumber slice onto one side of the cheese so it "sticks." Layer slices and bits of salmon onto the cheese. Tuck in pieces of thin-sliced red onion under the salmon. Sprinkle very lightly with smoked paprika, if using. Garnish with fronds of dill. Chill before serving to firm everything up. Remove to a serving platter or leave on foil-lined pan.

Serve and watch them disappear.