Guest post from South America: Maracuya Sour

This post comes from Ayngelina of Bacon is Magic, which is a blog we absolutely need right now. Look her up, and live vicariously through her as she has adventures in warmer climates while the rest of us toil up here in the cold. Here. Have a cocktail.

I’ve been traveling through Latin America for ten months, but while saving for the trip back in Canada I was glued to this site as I vowed not to eat out but still to eat well. Well fed, flat broke was a savior as I share the love for sriracha and found one of my favourite recipes, the bulgur risotto.

So when I landed in South America, I wanted to give something back, to contribute a recipe to show you can both eat AND drink well at home and on the road.

Mojitos are so popular now that they’re almost banal and while cairpirinhas will likely be this summer’s big drink,  you can stay one step ahead of the hipster crowd with the hottest drink in South America – the pisco sour, specifically the maracuya (passion fruit) pisco sour.

I  fell in love with this drink when I landed in Peru,  but it’s price hurt my heart like a scorned lover. At $6 a glass, it really cut into my budget of $30 a day. But when I arrived in Cusco I landed a job working at a hostel and there learned how to make this drink on my own which turns out to be so cheap and easy that I asked my co-worker, Miguel, to make one for me so I could share it with you.

Maracuya Pisco Sour

1. In a blender, place 8 ice cubes and 2 oz. of frozen maracuya (the size of two ice cubes).

2. Add 6 oz. pisco alcohol and 2 oz. simple sugar syrup.

3. Add one egg white.

Note: In South America they only use very fresh eggs for pisco sours, if you are uncomfortable with raw egg white you can make it without, it will simply be a little less frothy so blend it a bit longer

4. Blend for a full minute and pour into two glasses. At this point you can top the traditional way with bitters, which don’t add much flavour – it’s more common for it to be topped with cinnamon.

5. Enjoy with someone special!

 

 

 

Ayngelina left a great job, boyfriend, apartment and friends to find inspiration in Latin America. Follow her adventures on her blog Bacon is Magic, on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Feuerzangenbowle!

A few weeks ago my mom and I went on our annual holiday outing to Christmas shop and eat and generally be merry, and we went to the Vancouver Winter Market beside the Queen Elizabeth Theatre downtown because the ad said there would be food and festivity and because this was the first time we’d ever heard of the thing.

When we got there, the first thing we saw was a kiosk dispensing something German we couldn’t pronounce, but it smelled good so we put a deposit on a pair of mugs and had our first round. Feuerzangenbowle, the thing we got, is mulled wine with cinnamon, cloves, star anise, orange, and rum, and when I did a bit of research I discovered that it’s also something that involves fire, which stirred my mild pyromaniacal urges in the best possible way.

The most important thing about feuerzangenbowle is zuckerhut, a sugar cone which is doused repeatedly in rum and set on fire above the heated wine mixture. The sugar caramelizes and melts into the wine, and the result is magic. I wanted to create this on Christmas, so I asked Brigitte, a German lady I work with, how to spell the thing I wanted to make (I still can’t, and pulled the name from the email she sent me, which also included this recipe for “rumtopf,” which I also must make) and where to buy the zuckerhut. I ended up not being able to find it in town, but she would be going to Greco’s Specialty Foods in Surrey and she had called and found that they had some, and she would pick one up for me. And she did.

To find zuckerhut, visit your local German deli; if they don’t have it, they may be able to order some in for you.

And so, on Christmas Day, we poured two bottles of cheap, off-dry red wine into a Crock Pot, and set it to heat for an hour. We added strips of orange and lemon peel, and two cinnamon sticks and two cloves to the pot and let it simmer with the lid on; next time, we’ll add two star anise pods and slice the orange and lemon into the pot so that the fruit flavour is more pronounced. Our adapted recipe comes from this one from WikiBooks, but deviates significantly enough that I’m okay calling the recipe below an original interpretation – we wanted it to taste like the drink we had at the Winter Market, and I think we made it work.

After an hour, we placed the zuckerhut in a wire mesh strainer and held it over the pot. We poured rum over top, and then lit the cone on fire. It was awesome. We ended up using about a cup and a half of rum; the cheap white stuff worked better than the good amber stuff for burning. When there was no more rum and we couldn’t light the sugar on fire anymore, we stirred the remains of the cone into the pot and let it dissolve. We served it in mugs immediately, and felt very warm and delighted and then had naps.

Feuerzangenbowle

(Serves six.)

  • 2 bottles of off-dry red wine
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 zuckerhut
  • 1 1/2 cups rum

Heat wine with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, orange, and lemon slowly. If using a Crock Pot, set on high heat and let sit for about an hour. Do not bring to a boil. If heating on the stove, heat over medium-low heat, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes.

Suspend zuckerhut in a wire mesh strainer (one that has no plastic on the edges of the strainer). Pour two tablespoons of rum over top, ignite, and continue feeding the flame with small amounts of rum until no rum remains. Do not pour rum directly from the bottle.

Stir any remaining sugar from the zuckerhut into the pot, test temperature, and if it’s warm enough to serve, ladle the drink into mugs.

Moon Chai.

Ugh December. I have a bijillion things to do and am way too easily distracted. On the one hand, my holiday shopping is just about done; on the other, my apartment looks like a crime scene.

Last night I had macaroni and cheese for dinner. From a box. Which I ate on the floor while watching the cartoon channel and wrapping presents while simultaneously attempting to defeat the cat. It’s her first Christmas and she doesn’t mean to be annoying, I’m sure, but to a tiny wild-eyed beast nothing is more thrilling than scissors cutting Iron Man-themed wrapping paper.

It’s easy for me to think that my life is real life, but I can’t imagine how overwhelming this would all be for someone with more people than I have to buy for (I’m shopping for 14) and a family who cares about folded laundry to impress. I had a temper tantrum the morning after laundry day and there’s still a pile of socks beside my front door and that’s embarrassing and it’s been that way since Tuesday. And then there are all the events, and I noticed as I was getting dressed for this evening’s party that these tights aren’t controlling a goddamn thing up top anymore.

But the party was fun, and filled with the kind of geeky people I love so much, book people, and we talked about reading and writing while sitting on my friend Tracy’s kitchen floor while her pug Penelope snorted all over us, bounding from lap to lap like the excited little monster she is. Evenings like these are why I am so excited about December.

When we came home, I made Nick and I mugs of moon Chai. Moon Chai is a tea we used to get at this place on Broadway. It’s a Middle Eastern restaurant that’s filled with chaises and awkward tables with tiny little stools, and for awhile I really liked it but now it annoys me to have my knees bump the table I’m eating from, and I don’t particularly enjoy their prices these days. These must be signs of aging. It’s just that I feel a buffet should be reasonable, and that the price should reflect the quality of the food, you know? But anyway. The thing I took from there was their Moon Chai, which is really just hot hot hot Chai tea spiked with brandy.

I don’t know Chai’s recipe, but I’ve adapted and interpreted and made up my own, and this stuff is a sedative if you use decaffeinated tea. I’ve never had it before 8:00 p.m. So you can see how it would be perfect for the holiday season.

Moon Chai

(Serves two.)

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1  tsp. fennel seeds
  • 10 green cardamom pods
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or real milk, if that’s what you have/prefer)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean pod
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 bag black tea, such as orange pekoe (bonus points for decaf)
  • 1/4 cup French brandy (not the stuff that tastes like paint thinner)

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, toast cinnamon, peppercorns, fennel seeds, and cloves until fragrant, stirring frequently, about five minutes.

Pour almond milk into the pot. Add vanilla bean (seeds scraped plus pod), and honey, and tea bag, and reduce to medium heat. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat. Add brandy, cover, and allow to steep for five minutes.

Strain into mugs and serve hot. I guarantee instant relaxation. And possibly a slight buzz.

Stout hot chocolate.

We put up the tree a week or so ago, and the cat is just thrilled. It was cute at first, the way she’d clamber up the middle and make a nest of her own legs and tail in the branches. We didn’t put ornaments on at first, because we thought that we could get her used to the tree so she’d ignore it, but it turns out she intends to do no such thing.

Irritating as she is about the tree, the cat has had a calming effect on our holiday season. This will be our third Christmas married to each other, and so far it has not been marked with the usual bickering, moping, or scrambling to get everything done once we’ve decided we can save the fighting for February because we’re bored then anyway. It’s still early, but I’m optimistic. We’ve committed to fewer events this year, and we’re not spending so many evenings and weekends running around. We’re spending our time eating comfort food and entertaining friends and petting the cat, and it’s working out pretty well so far.

And with the exception of the dinner I ruined tonight, which was not salvageable and which I and subsequently pouted about for an hour and a half, this evening was fairly relaxing. We watched a holiday movie, and I made hot chocolate.

I love hot chocolate, but don’t make it very often – it’s a treat, and the last time I made it was this time last year. Tonight’s batch was made with stout,  just enough melted dark chocolate, a bit of milk, and cream to fill the whole thing out. It was rich and dark like coffee, and its effect verged on sedation. Nick was in bed by 9:45, suddenly overcome by feelings of warm snuggliness and a desperate need for his pillow.

The recipe will make enough for two to four people, depending on how big your mugs are. It’s rich, so you will not need a lot. It’s not too sweet, but pleasantly  bitter with that dark chocolate and beer. We drank it as dessert after Nick finally made grilled cheese sandwiches to make up for dinner.

Stout hot chocolate

  • 1 1/2 cups stout or your favourite dark beer, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. chopped dark chocolate
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Put chocolate into a saucepan over medium-high heat, and pour over stout, whisking briskly to knock out any bubbles and to ensure the chocolate melts without burning. When chocolate appears to have melted, add milk. Stir occasionally until the whole thing comes just to a simmer – you don’t want it to boil, but it doesn’t hurt to have it come close.

Taste. Depending on the beer you use, you may find this a touch too bitter. If that’s the case, add a tablespoon of granulated sugar (or to taste).

Whisk in cream and vanilla. Serve in mugs, with a dollop of whipped cream if you’re feeling saucy (or sulky).

Coq au Riesling.

Sometimes I like to imagine that I am someone quite fabulous like Ina Garten or Nigella Lawson, and at the end of a grueling day of snacking and writing cookbooks and lunching with my fabulous friends in the garden and making roast chicken I come home to my sprawling manor and there is calm and wine from France and a library just heaving with books that I have all evening to sit and read while nibbling on bits of ham.

I usually imagine this on the bus, and it keeps me from sobbing or stabbing someone. The 99 B-Line is a hell of a thing, an accordion bus polluted with the tinny blitz of a thousand little ear buds failing to hold the bad music in, and it smells like a damp sheep’s crotch, and everyone wears his backpack and is telling his friend how he’s, like, probably going to medical school or that her favourite poet is TS Eliot because he’s so super deep or whatever. It’s the bus that ends at the University, and for a ride that takes 25 minutes on a slow day, it feels like the relentless march of karma getting even.

And so I escape into my head, and by the time I’ve arrived at work I have dinner planned, and even though the evening always ends at my less-than-palatial apartment which is always in frantic disarray, with its shelves that don’t heave nearly as much as I’d like, there is wine here, and a cat who very much wants to be in my lap even when I’m standing, and Nick is so nice about not mentioning that my hips are looking more and more like Nigella’s all the time. And while the fantasy is nice, I have no idea how we’d pay for it all, and we probably couldn’t keep it clean anyway.Anyway, the best part of it all is the food, and that’s something I can replicate. What follows is a version of Nigella Lawson’s Coq au Riesling, with the addition of cornstarch for thickening. It’s the perfect stew for pretending you’re someplace else, like Alsace or Nigella’s dining room, and you can have it in under an hour.

Coq au Riesling

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

(Serves four to six.)

  • 1/2 lb. thick-sliced bacon, diced
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced width-wise, white and light-green parts only
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 10 to 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 lb. oyster or chanterelle mushrooms, sliced or torn roughly
  • 1 750mL bottle of dry Riesling
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, fry bacon until crisp. If you’re using a non-fatty bacon (I used peameal bacon), add a bit of butter. Stir in leeks and garlic, and sauté until leeks have softened, about two minutes. Add chicken, then mushrooms, and deglaze the pot with the wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove cover and turn heat back to medium-high. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Whisk cornstarch together with 1/4 cup of water, and stir into the pot. Let the mixture return to a gentle boil until thickened. Remove from heat and serve over rice, buttered noodles, or (my favourite), braised cabbage.

Basil lemonade: Perfect for sunny patches, summer picnics, and chilled bottles of vodka.

It’s the weekend! Fantastic. And it’s sunny, which is making my headache and massive to-do list seem less like factors that could screw up my whole day … perhaps the sun will be to blame for a whole day of doing nothing, perhaps with a magazine, perhaps on the beach. Fortunately, the lemonade is ready to go, and my bike tires aren’t as flat as I thought. To the water!

Basil lemonade

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 large basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about four ripe lemons)
  • 1/2 juiced lemon, quartered

Juice lemons. Cut half of one lemon into quarters.

Over high heat in a heavy-bottomed pot, heat sugar, water, basil leaves, and quartered lemon-half until sugar has dissolved. Let stand five minutes, pour into a bowl or large measuring cup, and chill up to four hours.

Pour lemon juice into a pitcher, and strain sugar-water-basil mixture into the pitcher as well. Stir, and add three to four cups of cold water, to taste. Alternately, you could use sparkling water for fizz.

Serve chilled, with basil leaves to garnish. Is improved greatly by a generous splash of vodka and a patch of sunshine to sip it in.

Eggs Rabbit.

So, last week was unpleasant. I was a raging cyclone of stress and emotion and death threats, and Nick did his best but holy crap, and by Wednesday, I was on the verge of stabbing someone. That was the day my friend Corinne (her company is linked in my sidebar because it’s awesome) was to come over and I had all these big ideas about making Italian Wedding soup with barley and chard, because I saw these tiny meatballs and fell in love with them but had already eaten stuff baked in cheese that week.

But when I got home on Wednesday night, the thought of doing something detail-oriented like rolling teeny tiny meatballs was enough to hurl me into catatonic despair, so instead we had breakfast for dinner, and I didn’t have to stab anyone and then I drank a bottle of wine because alcohol makes me seem less unstable and also funnier. We watched The Great Muppet Caper. It took until at least 10:00 am on Thursday for the stabby feelings to return.

This version of breakfast for dinner is also a version of Welsh Rabbit/Rarebit, which has a surprising number of variations for something that is really just cheesy beer sauce on toast. We were going to have Eggs Benedict, but Corinne hates Hollandaise sauce (which, I know, right?). So, this is a saucier version of Rabbit, which you can use in place of Hollandaise on any eggy old thing. Corinne took all the photos, by the way.

Eggs Rabbit

(Serves four)

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tsp. dijon mustard (grainy is better, but not critical)
  • 1 cup beer (whatever kind you like – I use a pale ale)
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 English muffins, halved and toasted
  • 8 strips bacon, cooked and drained
  • 8 eggs, poached to desired doneness
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter and stir in flour, garlic, and mustard to form a paste. Whisk in beer, and reduce to medium heat.

As the butter-paste begins to melt into the beer and the sauce begins to thicken, whisk frequently, adding nutmeg, thyme, and Worcestershire sauce as well. Once mixture is smooth, stir in cheese and allow to melt. Once mixture is smooth again after the cheese has melted, stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Stack English muffins with bacon and eggs, and pour sauce over top. Sprinkle with parsley, and then serve hot.

Now, this is very basic, and can be fancied up in any number of ways. I like this with sauteed mushrooms, or with roasted squash slices in fall or wintertime, or with fresh tomatoes, avocado, and spinach in the summer. I bet a little bit of grilled asparagus would make this fantastic. I served the dish this week with roasted curried cauliflower in place of hash brown potatoes, but you can improvise there as well. I thought the meal could have used a salad, but that could just be spring panic over the imminence of swimsuit season setting in. In any event, please try the basic recipe, and adapt it to your taste however you like. I guarantee, if you’ve had a very bad day, breakfast for dinner, especially cheesy-beer covered breakfast for dinner, will make everything all better.