Garden Diary

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ash Wednesday is fast approaching
and it's a good idea to begin assembling Lenten recipes. One good online source of recipes that might not occur to you immediately is Meriadoc's Miscellany. This online book from members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) has lots of recipes. Because the SCA is very interested in Medieval European customs, which included much stricter fasting practices, many of the recipes are very good for Lent.

With Lent beginning in the cold of February, meals of hot soup and bread are seasonally as well as penitentially appropriate. The first recipe we'll look at is Rapes in Potage.

The recipe in the Miscellany is:

1 lb turnips, carrots, or parsnips
2 c chicken broth (canned, diluted)
1/2 lb onions
6 threads saffron
3/4 t salt
powder douce: 2 t sugar, 3/8 t cinnamon, 3/8 t ginger

Wash, peel, and quarter turnips (or cut into eighths if they are large), cover with boiling water and parboil for 15 minutes. If you are using carrots or parsnips, clean them and cut them up into large bite-sized pieces and parboil 10 minutes. Mince onions. Drain turnips, carrots, or parsnips, and put them with onions and chicken broth in a pot and bring to a boil. Crush saffron into about 1 t of the broth and add seasonings to potage. Cook another 15-20 minutes, until turnips or carrots are soft to a fork and some of the liquid is boiled down.

To make this suitable for Lent, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth; and if saffron is beyond your budget, you could add 1/4 tsp turmeric, but a better idea is to look in the Spanish/Mexican section of your grocery store. The spices in that section are usually cheaper than in the "regular" spice aisle or the baking needs aisle, and saffron is a common spice in Spanish cooking. We've used Goya brand and found it quite suitable. You can also check in some of the larger dollar stores; around the Boston area, the Ocean State Job Lots have large spice areas, although I'm not sure if you'll find saffron there (but you will find the cinnamon and ginger). Also note that the original recipe from which the Miscellany's was derived, called for three vegetables: turnips, carrots or parsnips, and water parsnips. The latter are near impossible to find, but the first ingredients are plentiful, so perhaps having 1/3 pound of each would be a bit more authentic (and tastier too).

To go with this soup, a nice bread is in order. This recipe is called "Tear (as in cause a hole, not as in weeping) Bread" because it's brought to the table in a whole loaf and everyone tears off pieces.

1 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup warmed milk (substitute almond or soy milk in Lent)

add yeast and sugar to a bowl, pour in warm water (around 95 degrees) and let the yeast begin to proof (i.e., bubble). Add flour, salt and once mixed slightly, add warmed milk. Continue to stir and add more flour as necessary.

Knead the dough for 7-8 minutes and place in a bowl covered with a towel for about 1-1/2 hours. After the dough has risen, punch down and knead for 2-3 minutes and form into an oval loaf. Put this on a cookie sheet dusted with corn meal or on a baking stone dusted with corn meal. Slash the top of the loaf and cover to rise a second time (about 1/2 hour). Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Let the loaf sit about 15 minutes before serving and bring to the table to be torn into ; )

If you want to use this recipe for festive occasions outside Lent, you can add 1/4 stick softened butter and an egg, and adjust the amount of flour upward as needed.

Friday, February 02, 2007

You know we're nearing the beginning of Lent

when bloggers begin talking about fasting. Over at The Continuumthere's a new discussion about Orthodox fasting practices and a link to St. Nectarios Press cookbooks that can be useful in preparing food in the distinct mode that the elimination of meat, wine, dairy, eggs and oil requires.

One useful trick is to use soy milk instead of milk both for over breakfast cereal and in baking. If you want to follow fasting rules strictly and have no oil, you may have to read the ingredients label, as most soy milks have some oil. But buying soy milk is a whole lot easier than making your own almond milk, which was the solution that our medieval forebears came up with. You can buy almond milk, but it's rather pricey, and could interfere with your almsgiving, which wouldn't be a very good thing to do during Lent.