The Chronicles of Naania

Last week I spent several days with my dear friend Allison. It was just the sort of spontaneous visit that we both needed. We had both been feeling pretty restless in our summer downtime, and the mini-vacation filled with cooking, wine, and a bit of gossip really hit the spot.

To get out of our late-July slump, we decided to enter into a completely magical land in the kitchen. Like young Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia, we were seeking something exciting, and we found it by daring to try something foreign and new. In making this chutney and naan combination, just as Lucy found when she climbed through the wardrobe, the most interesting parts were the unfamiliar. We paired spices whose uniqueness created perfect complements. Some of the color and flavor was completely accidental, as when the lid fell off the curry powder and a heaping amount turned from a mistake into a brilliant innovation.

The result was delicious, and Allison and I contentedly parted ways with renewed spirit (and palate)!

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Mango ginger chutney:

3 mangos

1 red onion

~1/4 cup fresh ginger root

1/2 cup lemonade

1 tsp olive oil

1/4 cup brown sugar

Spices (about two shakes of each): ground ginger, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, chile flakes, cinnamon, salt, pepper)

Instruction:

1. Peel and slice mangos, discarding of pit. Thinly slice red onion, and finely chop fresh ginger root.

2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add all spices and onion, allowing the latter to soften for about five minutes. Stir in brown sugar, ginger root, and mango. Allow sugar to melt – about two minutes.

3. Add lemonade and bring mixture to boil. Lower heat to a simmer and leave (uncovered) for about 45 minutes. Turn off heat and leave chutney in pan – letting it come to room temperature.

Naan bread:

2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp yeast

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp curry powder

1/2 tbsp cumin

3 tbsp olive oil

¾ cup whole milk

1 egg yolk

Instruction:

1. Whisk olive oil, milk, and egg yolk. Set aside.

2. In food processor, pulse flour, yeast, sugar, salt, curry powder, and cumin. Begin to process while gradually adding wet ingredients. Stop when dough has just come together (about five seconds after all ingredients have been added).

3. Turn out onto floured surface and knead until smooth – about two minutes. Transfer to oiled bowl and cover with tea towel. Leave in a warm place for about two hours.

4. Punch air out of dough and knead again. Divide into four equal parts and form each part into a smooth ball. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and cover with tea towel again.

5. After another hour, roll each ball out into a disk – about quarter-inch thickness. On very hot grill (about 450 degrees), place each disk, grilling each side for about two minutes. Serve warm with chutney.

Enjoy naan bread and mango ginger chutney with C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

James and the Ginger Peach

“My dear young fellow,” the Old Green Grasshopper said gently, “there are a whole lot of things in this world of ours you haven’t started wondering about yet.”

When I created this blog, it seemed like a very big stretch to combine so many different passions of mine. To somehow jam cooking, reading, creative writing, and corny word playing into every single post felt a bit scattered. But often times, a person’s individual and seemingly unrelated interests create a more dynamic whole.

This is a notion my father has instilled in me from the start. He taught me to love cooking by filling the kitchen with irresistible smells each Saturday night when I was growing up. He taught me to love reading by introducing me to books that – like so many of the characters that Roald Dahl invented – celebrate what makes each person different.

Happy Father’s Day weekend to my dear old dad, who has given me a great sense of wonder.

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Ginger Peach Shortcakes

Filling:

2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 8 oz. can of peach slices, drained (or equal amount of fresh peaches)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 cup whipped cream

Shortcake batter:

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups double cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instruction:

1. Toss ginger, peaches, lemon juice, and sugar in a bowl. Let peaches macerate while making shortcakes.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, and lemon zest. Add vanilla extract and buttermilk and stir with wooden spoon until just combined.

3. In a greased muffin tin, fill each cup about halfway with shortcake batter. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes (until shortcakes have risen and are golden brown).

4. Allow shortcakes to cool for five minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut cakes in half. On the bottom halves, spoon peach mixture and whipped cream– then finish with top half.

Enjoy Father’s Day ginger peach shortcakes with Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Much Ado About Stuffing

My actual boyfriend was the one who broke the news to me about my make-believe boyfriend’s engagement. When Benedict Cumberbatch made his grand announcement in the Times last week, Sherlock devotees all over the world took the news quite hard. But he’s not the only Benedict causing trouble. In William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick toys with Beatrice in a variety of ways and surprises everyone (players and audience alike) with a sudden shift of his views on marriage.

All of Shakespeare’s comedies make for very pleasant reading (or viewing) material. Like a proper Thanksgiving stuffing, something that has gone stale (seemingly past the point of being salvaged) can indeed be the foundation for all of the other components. In this dish, different textures keep each bite interesting, and the playful combination of smooth honey and punchy ginger teases the consumer’s palate.

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Ginger Honey Stuffing

6 pork sausage links, casings removed

10 strips of bacon

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced

1 onion, finely diced

2 loaves of stale bread, crusts removed

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 small egg (or half of a larger egg), beaten

1/4 cup honey

3 tbsps ground ginger

3 tbsps unsalted butter

1. Cube bread and lay out in baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with half of the ground ginger. Bake in 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes, then remove and let cool.

2. In the meantime, cook sausages (casings removed) over medium heat in olive oil, breaking up with a wooden spoon into small bits. Remove and let cool on paper towel (to soak up extra fat). Dice bacon and cook in same pan until crispy. Remove and let cool on paper towel (to soak up extra fat).

3. In excess bacon fat, cook diced onions until translucent and soft. Let cool, then combine with sausage, bacon, diced raw apples, and cooled bread cubes.

4. Beat egg with warm (but not hot) chicken stock. Toss dry ingredients in the liquid, then spread entire mixture evenly in baking dish. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle the rest of the ginger. Dot the stuffing all over with bits of cold, cubed butter.

5. Bake stuffing in a 350-degree oven until liquid is absorbed and top is golden brown.

Enjoy ginger honey stuffing with William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!