It’s already a good while back since I got to visit my first Indian restaurant and got to smell Basmati rice for the very first time. It was incredible. Until then I had mostly eaten boil-in-bag rice, and some rice a Korean guest student had made a couple of times in the dorm. Of course I wanted to make Basmati rice all by myself. (Note to self: need to rant about Basmati(tm) )
So I got the instructions kind of right, 1 1/2 cups of water for every cup of rice, get it boiling and turn it on low for 20 minutes or so. That worked well a couple of times. Sometimes I added some more water. Sometimes I ended up with a more or less solid layer of rice on the bottom of the pot. Which I had to soak over night and to scratch out from the pot next day. But it did produce a decent amount of rice.
And then I burned my $50 1 gallon pot. Blackened, inside and out. No way to wash it off the ionized surface. Kaputt. Damn. I admit, I had forgotten to set a timer. But there were no obvious signs I was in trouble. No smell. No smoke detector went off. Nothing. The rice was burned, too. I tried to revive the pot a couple of times, but nothing helped and all that was left to do was to give it a proper burial. I salvaged the lid, though. And I face that lid at least once a week.
I haven’t managed to make rice since. Not that I didn’t attempt it. No, I failed multiple times: burned, under cooked, soggy beyond believe, not enough rice. And worst of all, I think I infected my wife, too. I think next time she attempts to make rice, I’ll just leave the house for a while.
And then there were a couple of attempts to cook rice in the crock pot. I am being told it is possible, but you need to have the right rice and good timing. Me? Impatient and struck by ADD as I am?. The crock pot recipe did produce a soggy hard to describe mix of halfway dissolved rice, overcooked chicken and various vegetables. Tasty, actually, but it felt more like eating grits.
All that’s left now is boil-in-bag. The bag of Basmati rice is half empty, sitting right next to a bag of Jasmin rice, also half empty. Don’t start a discussion if they are half full or half empty, I don’t know which one the pessimists view is. All I am saying is, I want to eat some good rice. Without trouble. In my despair I looked up an article about making risotto. It made me cry. Somewhere two paragraphs in they said, this cook was able to make such great risotto only because he knew his rice so well. Oh, the horror!
By now it’s a good while back that my friend Lutz and I had meet those two great women we anted to impress. Nothing easier for Lutz to invite them for dinner, since he’s a great cook. And careless as I am, I am offering to make the dessert. I had just come back from a trip through France and had tasted mousse-au-chocolat for the first time. That’s what’s it going to be.
Yeah, right. I really don’t recall the details of the recipe, but there were three core ingredients: chocolate, coffee and eggs. Which presented a few challenges. Working with chocolate is tough, so I hear nowadays. Back then I had no clue and I skipped the part that says it is complicated. I got it molten and I kept it that way for a while. Part two required half a cup of coffee. Great. The recipe I found stated it clearly. What it didn’t say was: brewed coffee or coffee powder. It’s french food after all, they do weird things to their food. There was no internet to look things up quickly. I had found the recipe I was working with….somewhere. And still no idea about the coffee.
So I mixed the coffee powder with the molten chocolate. And I needed to fold the chocolate mix into the egg yolks. Grumble. WTF. Folding A into B. No clue what they want me to do. Somehow I just mixed it. Might have been the right thing to do. Who knows. Who cares.
And then there was the egg foam. I did ask my mother how to make it: Separate the egg whites, add sugar and beat it into submission with a mixer. Well, there is no mixer in this bachelor household. There’s no need for it. Up until now, all mixing could be done easily with a whisk. Doing heavy whisking by an impatient bachelor without any talent to cook? Beating egg whites until there’s stiff foam? Exactly. I produced a layer of foamy egg whites, about 1/4″ thick, but not very stiff. And there was still plenty of egg white. That got soaked up by the chocolate/coffee/egg yolk mix and somehow stiffened to feel like a pudding. Good enough.
I didn’t taste it, since it was supposed to cool in the refrigerator first. And once it was cooled down, tasting it, would have left marks on the perfect surface. Off to Lutz’ house. He’s almost done with his part of the food. I tell him my mousse story and he raises his eyebrow. Coffee powder?? Funny. The rest of the story is short. Each of us tasted 1 spoon full of it and tried to get the coffee grinds out of our teeth for the rest of the night. I was branded as a clueless cook, but willing to take a risk… with the life of my friends.
Good thing we had Lutz’s food and plenty of red wine.
Imagine your 8 year old in front of a plate of broccoli. That’s me sitting in front of this stew. We had it relatively often, since it was easy to make and the ingredients weren’t to expensive. And making a big portion of it wasn’t hard, either. There was just the resistance of a rebellious youth to deal with.
The stew eventually grew on me and I was happy when it was served. I didn’t have this dish for many years, since I had left for Munich and the US, because I was only rarely eating at my parents house, and when, it was usually a more festive meal. It is something for every day, something great for a cold fall or winter day. Warms you up from the inside.
- 1 pound green beans
- ½ pound thick sliced bacon or diced ham
- 1 pound potatoes
- 1 large onion
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- olive oil
- garlic optional
- nutmeg optional
- Dice onion and potatoes.
- Cut the beans and bacon into ½-1 " pieces
- Heat the oil and fry bacon and onions in a large sauce pan until the bacon is light brown and the onions glassy. Don't let the bacon harden.
- Add some garlic, pepper and salt to taste.
- A sprinkle of nutmeg is optional.
- Add beans and potatoes and add vegetable stock until most is covered.
- Boil for 20 minutes and stir occasionally.
- Stir one final time until all the water has been soaked up by the potatoes
Eggplant is somewhat problematic to prepare for cooking, since it is bitter and turns often mushy. What is done often to draw out some of the bitterness and fluids, is to slice or dice it, lay it out on some paper towels, carefully sprinkle some salt over it and cover it with another layer of paper towels. After about 30 minutes a lot of the moisture has been soaked up by the paper towels and it can now be cooked. Adjust your recipe for the amount of salt you’ve already added in this step