Showing posts with label kitchen electrics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kitchen electrics. Show all posts

Nomnoms! Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Why hello December. You made extra sure we’re aware of just how not-summer it is right now. While all this darkness and cold may stir up the desire to hibernate, there’s an excellent culinary defense against these doldrums: warm, yummy, comforting soup. Now I’ll fully admit that I’m in no way unbiased towards soup; if left to my own devices I’d probably eat it for the majority of my meals. This is especially true once the temperature starts to drop. The nice thing about the soup featured in this post is that the recipe doesn’t involve a lot in the way of ingredients or time, but still yields a very satisfying meal. It's perfect for one of those freezing cold work nights or if you wanted to introduce something new to your game night crew.
Difficulty: Easy
Availability of Ingredients: Semi-Common/Semi-Seasonal
Gadgetry: Highly Recommended
Feeds: 4-8 nerds
Time Till Noms: About 15-30 minutes of preparation and an additional 30 minutes of cooking time

Required Equipment: a cutting board, a large glass bowl, a large cooking pot, a heavy knife or cleaver, a wooden spoon
Optional Equipment: a garlic press, a vegetable peeler, a standard or immersion blender (if not using one of these, then a vegetable masher)
3.5-4.5 pounds (1.59-2.04kg) of Butternut Squash
1 large shallot
4-6 medium-to-large cloves of garlic
1 quart chicken or mild vegetable broth
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 Tablespoon of honey or agave syrup
1 Tablespoon of curry
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon of cardamom*
½ teaspoon garam marsala*
¼ teaspoon ground ginger*
A pinch of cayenne*


Step 1: Peel the squash then divide it into 1/2” (1.27cm) pieces. You want the pieces to be as small and uniform as possible; the smaller the pieces, the faster the squash will cook!

Step 2: Add the canola oil to your large cooking pot and swirl the pot around until the oil coats as much of the bottom as possible. Place the pot on the stove and turn the burner to a medium-high heat. Remove the skins from both the shallot and the garlic cloves. Dice the shallot (these pieces don’t need to be completely uniform) and add it to the cooking pot. If you’re not using a garlic press, dice the garlic along with the shallot and add them to the pot together. Otherwise, press the garlic into the hot oil after you’ve added the shallot.

Step 3: Sauté the garlic and shallot in the oil for 3-5 minutes until the shallot pieces turn translucent and the garlic becomes a golden brown color. Add the squash. Sauté the squash for 1-2 minutes, turning it frequently with your wooden spoon, just until the majority of it has been coated by the oil and the shallot/garlic has been mixed in.
Step 4: Add the broth, the salt, and the spices. Stir until the salt and spices are dissolved. Turn the burner up to a slightly higher heat (just off of high, if possible) and bring everything to a rapid boil. Allow the soup to continue boiling for 12-15 minutes, stirring the contents occasionally.
 Step 5: After Step 4 the squash should be tender (should squish easily if poked); turn off the burner and remove the pot from the heat source. Add the honey or agave syrup, then stir until it’s well blended with the rest of the soup.

Step 6: If you’re using a vegetable masher, you can use it now to mush the squash into as fine a paste as you can. If you’re using an immersion blender, lower it into the soup and blend until the ingredients are a consistent puree. If you’re using a standard blender, puree the soup in batches until all the liquid has been converted into a puree. While you can certainly eat it as soon as it cools, I’ve found that letting the soup stand for 30-45 minutes allows all the flavors come out. More flavor and less mouth burning!

A pinch of ground nutmeg and/or a dollop of plain greek yogurt are perfect garnishes for this soup. Pair it with naan or just enjoy it on its own. It’s a rich and surprisingly filling soup that will add a dash of color and keep you warm on these chilly nights.

I’m not big on butternut squash. Can I use another vegetable?
You could probably use this same recipe with acorn squash, kabocha, or even pumpkin (or a combination of these!). The key factors are the sweetness of the squash and the dense, fleshy texture. Given that, the recipe won’t work on drier squashes, like yellow or spaghetti squash.

I’m vegan/vegetarian and will be using vegetable broth in this recipe. Is there anything I should look for when buying a broth?
You want as mild a broth as you can find; something where no one flavor would jump out to steal the attention from the squash or compete with the curry. The spices are quite strong, so you just want a good base to tie everything together.

My grocery store doesn’t carry those spices. Will it be ok to omit them?
You really only need salt, honey, and curry to get the base flavor. Everything else is just a nice bonus. 

How do I pick out a good butternut squash?
Ah, this can actually be a little tricky. When selecting a squash, you want a thick specimen that feels surprisingly heavy (relative to its size) when you pick it up. The skin should be a uniform tan-peach color and free of blemishes. It should also be very firm to the touch with no squishy spots. Lastly, you want to wait until the squashes have been available for sale for at least 2-3 weeks. The early season squashes that first appear in stores and markets tend to have very pale ‘meat’ that doesn’t have a strong flavor. You’ll need a good, mature squash for this soup.

Peeling and chopping the squash is scary! Do you have any tricks to make this less perilous for my fingers?
One thing I try to avoid is peeling the squash with a knife. While a knife will get the job done, a peeler will make things go more quickly and spare your digits. As for the actual chopping part (which I find to be scarier), I divide the entire squash lengthwise before cutting anything else so no part of it rolls away. After that, it’s a matter of having a rag or paper towels available to keep my hands dry during the chopping. The best defense against cut fingers is, ironically, a very heavy and sharp knife.
Best of luck with your kitchen experimentations and stay warm!
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Guest Post, Kitchen Codex: Scrapplings Festival Bread

As promised yesterday, here is the second part of our special Scrapplings-based couplet of posts. Bread plays an important ongoing role in the novel and a specific holiday variation of that bread features prominently in the text's final act. Amelia Smith, the author of Scrapplings, graciously provided some background for her work, including this recipe, which was the inspiration for the holiday bread. With our own set of holidays approaching, this colorful bread may make a fun, fantasy-inspired addition to your table.
 In late 2006, I was working on a story about four kids trying to find their places in an ancient city. The city's guilds and temples took in new apprentices every year at the Midsummer festival a time of feasting and all-night revelry.

Every culture I know of has special foods for festival time, and Anamat city was no different. As I wrote the story, I watched Christmas/Holiday displays go up in shop windows and I read recipes for Christmas cookies, some of which I would even go on to bake. It was also the first year I made Stollen, a type of Christmas bread from Dresden, Germany. I believe the recipe called for eggs. You know what hens don't do in December? They don't lay eggs. They do lay eggs in spades during the run-up to the summer solstice, so I figured that an eggy Stollen derivative was just the thing for Anamat's festival bread. I modeled my bread loosely on this recipe.

Kitchen priestesses and market bakers in Anamat were living in a world very loosely modeled on the ancient Near East. They had access to a variety of dried fruit, including apricots, raisins, and figs. They also had almonds, salt, eggs, milk, and some kind of wheat. Instead of sugar, a new world product, they would have used honey as a sweetener. Those were the primary ingredients, but of course I relied plenty on modern technology. I used instant yeast, a mixer, and a gas oven instead of a sourdough starter, pure muscle power, and a wood-fired oven. My flour was home-ground from grain hard white wheat. Spelt might have been more authentic, but would have made a more dense bread and with the eggs and fruit it's plenty dense already. I also sifted the flour to get rid of some of the chaff.
So, why don't the people of Anamat eat this all the time? Well, mostly because the dried fruit, honey, eggs, and milk, are more expensive and a bit harder to work with than just yeast, flour, salt and water, which is all you need to make plain bread.

Recipe for Anamat Festival Bread:

Mix together and let sit for ½ hour or more:
2 cups mixed dried fruit (raisins, figs, and apricots)
½ cup rum or orange juice to moisten the fruit
(Drain off the excess rum before adding the fruit mixture to the dough)
In a large bowl (preferably the bowl of a stand mixer) combine:
1 1/3 cup milk
2 packages (or 2 tablespoons) of active dry or instant yeast
4 cups unbleached all-purpose or whole wheat flour
½ cup honey
½ teaspoon mace
2 tablespoons grated lemon or orange rind
2 eggs lightly beaten

Mix vigorously and let rise for about half an hour.

Stir to deflate and add:
½ cup softened butter
2 teaspoons salt
2-3 cups of flour

Mix in the flour gradually until you have a slightly stiff dough, then add:
1 cup chopped almonds
dried fruit mixture (drain off any liquid that hasn't been absorbed first)

Knead it all together, adding flour as needed, until you have a smooth dough that is not too sticky.

Put the dough in a bowl and cover tightly. Let rise for about an hour or until doubled, press down, let rise another 45 minutes

Turn out onto a clean countertop and divide into four equal parts. Shape these into loaves (round or oblong) and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes.
Bake in a pre-heated 375F oven for about 35 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
If you want to get fancy and more sugary with these, and make them more Stollen-like, you can make a frosting out of 1 cup confectioner's sugar and about 1/3 cup of heavy cream and paint it onto the baked loaves after they've cooled for about half an hour. I skipped this step because I wasn't sure about making icing with honey, and I'm quite sure they didn't grow sugar cane anywhere near Anamat. Using honey instead of sugar and whole wheat instead of white flour resulted in a less-sweet, healthier-tasting loaf of bread, but it was still tasty and very filling.
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NomNoms: Grilled Sweet Potato & Scallion Salad

It may not be calendrical summer just yet, but it’s finally starting to at least feel seasonably appropriate around here. The extended daylight hours and relative warmth can draw even the most computer-bound of us outside, even if just for a little while. The combination of costume construction and the litany of new game releases seeks to combat the tractor beam that is a temperate, breezy summer afternoon, but one thing will always trump the appeal of the indoors: cooking when the ambient temperature is high. Though I love both cooking and baking, the notion of turning on the stove when the daily highs creep above 80 degrees (26.67 degrees Celsius) elicits an almost gut-level repugnance. This is where a grill comes in handy. Oh grills, you are such a lovely invention.

It’s been a little while since we’ve had a new entry to the Kitchen Codex and this recipe seemed like as appropriate an offering as any. This take on potato salad features both attention-grabbing colors and a unique melding of flavors. There’s your classic salty and sweet blend, but also an interesting acid/base pairing along with a crispy/soft texture contrast. Best of all, this recipe involves very little active cooking time and it proves to be a nice complement to just about any barbeque entrée (or can be an entrée in itself!).

Difficulty: Easy (moderate if your potatoes are uncooperative)
Availability of Ingredients: Common
Gadgetry: None
Feeds: 4-8 nerds
Time Till Noms: About 10-15 minutes of preparation, an optional latency period of a couple hours, and an additional 30 minutes of active cooking

Required Equipment: A large bowl, a smaller mixing bowl, a whisk or thinly tined fork, a sharp knife, a cutting board, aluminum foil, a spatula or tongs, a grill or grill pan
Optional Equipment: A grill or marinade brush, a microwave or toaster oven, a plate


3-4 large sweet potatoes
4-8 whole scallions
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar
¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of honey*
¼ cup roughly chopped parsley leaves
Salt & Pepper to taste

*you can substitute 1.5 teaspoons of agave syrup or 1 teaspoon of brown sugar

Step 1: Thoroughly clean your sweet potatoes, taking care to remove all the dirt since the skins stay on throughout this recipe. Rinse your scallions and parsley if you’re using a fresh bunch.

Step 1.5 (Optional, but highly recommended): Once the potatoes are clean, pierce each of them once or twice with a fork or knife. If you’re using a microwave, arrange the potatoes on your plate and cook on HIGH heat for 4-5 minutes. If you’re using a toaster oven, place the potatoes in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees (190.56 Celsius) or the POTATO setting if there is one. The potatoes should emerge from this step with some give to them, but not entirely soft or cooked throughout. Leave the potatoes to cool to room temperature.

Step 2: Cut the potatoes into slices about ½” inch (1.27cm) thick. Pour your oil into the mixing bowl you’ll be using for the dressing. Pre-heat your grill to a medium-high heat.

These are actually a little overdone. Ideally, your potatoes won't separate from their skins like this.
Step 3: While the grill is coming up to temperature, either dip the potato slices in your oil or brush them with the oil using your marinade brush. You only want a light coating on each side so, if you’re dipping the slices, be sure to let any excess oil drip off.

Step 4: Once the grill is at the desired heat, cover your cooking surface with aluminum foil, then place your potato slices on the foil. Grill the potatoes for 3-5 minutes each side. The orange color of the potatoes will deepen, the slices will soften, and you should get distinct grill markings when each side is done. After you have turned all the potatoes over once, lay the scallions on the grill or foil. Cook the scallions for about 1.5-2 minutes a side.

Step 5: Remove the potatoes and scallions from the grill and put them in your large serving bowl; give the scallions a rough chop to divide them into bite-sized pieces. If you're using fresh parsley, chop it up now. In your mixing bowl, add both of the vinegars, the honey, the parsley, and your salt & pepper to the oil. Whisk these ingredients together, then pour them over the potato/scallion heap. Toss the heap until all components are evenly coated with the dressing. Ta da! You have some fancy, colorful potato salad!


I don’t like sweet potatoes. Can I use white potatoes instead?

Nothing’s stopping you from using white potatoes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. A big part of what makes this recipe work is the sharp contrast of sweetness and acidic tartness, so removing half of that formula will have a correspondingly huge impact on your final product. Yams, however, make for an excellent substitute, as do satsumaimo if you can get your hands on some of them.

Can I use red wine vinegar instead of the apple cider/balsamic vinegar?

Yes. Just about any vinegar other than plain white vinegar will work in this recipe. So long as your dressing base has an acid that gives off a hint of sweetness you should be good to go. Feel free to experiment with red wine, sherry, or even champagne vinegars.

The potatoes are taking much longer to cook than they did in your instructions. What happened?

Sweet potatoes are extremely fibrous and dense, so it can take a while to get heat to distribute evenly though them. If you didn’t do Step 1.5 and pre-cook the potatoes and/or the slices are more than ½” inch (1.27cm) thick, you may need to add a bit more cook time per side. Just watch the potatoes carefully and remove them from the grill when they are fork tender.

The potatoes are sticking to the grill! There are orange bits everywhere!

I’d be lying if I said this never happened to me. Since sweet potatoes are, well, sweet they tend to present the same cooking hazards that sugary foods do. That is to say, they can stick to every possible surface and lose all structural integrity if left to their own devices. This is why Step 3 and the high heat of your grill are so important, as they work together to prevent this exact scenario. It’s also why using aluminum foil on the grill itself is a good idea (this also prevents potato slices from falling to a fiery death between the grill slats). If you find yourself in the midst of a mushy orange mess, try to remove the potatoes from the grill as best you can and apply a bit more oil if at all possible. Unless they fall into your heat source though, the potatoes should still taste pretty good!

Best of luck with your culinary experimentations!
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NomNoms: Pumpkinpalooza!

Despite the fact that this year Christmas seems to have made its earliest foray onto the scene possibly ever (no lie, I saw decorations go up as early as October 18th), there is both a month or so of autumn remaining to us in the Northern Hemisphere and we would be seriously remiss to ignore the seasonal goodies still available. So this week's post is a full-on feature of a consummate fall favorite: the pumpkin. 
My pumpkins! Mine!
In the vegetable kingdom, the pumpkin is a nutritional powerhouse: low in calories but packed with fiber, vitamin A AND flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants (xanthin ftw!). It's highly versatile, capable of taking on either savory or sweet recipe profiles, and features prominently in many a holiday meal here in the states. The color alone will make pretty much any dish featuring this otherwise humble gourd the focal point of the table. Bonus: pumpkin is up there with the most forgiving of ingredients so I included not one, but three recipes for your kitchen experimenting pleasure.  

Pumpkin Pie
Difficulty: Easy
Availability of Ingredients: Common
Gadgetry: Optional, but recommended
Feeds: 4-8 nerds
Time Till Noms: About 90 minutes (30 minutes of preparation and an hour of bake time)

Required Equipment: A large glass or metal bowl, measuring spoons, a spatula, a pie plate (if not using pre-made graham cracker crust), a cookie sheet, an electric hand mixer.
Optional Equipment: A stand mixer

2 eggs
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 Tablespoon of flour
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
2 cups of pureed pumpkin
1 can of evaporated milk
1 9 inch (22.86cm) round of pie dough OR 1 tin of pre-made graham cracker crust

*Set your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232.2 degrees Celsius)*

Crack the two eggs into your bowl, then beat them slightly (until the yolks are thoroughly broken, but not so much that the whites begin to stiffen). Then combine the remaining ingredients exactly in the order listed above, mixing to approximate uniformity with each addition. The resulting blend will be very liquid and will exactly fit a 9 inch (22.86cm) pie plate. If you are using dough, place this into your pie plate and, using a fork, make about a dozen impressions into the dough with the tines (just an impression, not so much as to poke all the way through the dough). Pour the filling into the dough, then place carefully into the oven. Bake the pie for 10 minutes, then carefully remove from the oven. Lower the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius), then return the pie to the oven and bake for an additional 50 minutes.

A few quick notes on this recipe:

  • You want to introduce as much air as possible into the pie filling as you are adding the ingredients. Adding lots of air will result in a sinfully smooth, almost velveteen texture that will have people asking how on earth you did this. For this reason, I highly recommend using a stand mixer if you can get a hold of one. If that's not possible, an electric hand mixer will do. Only use a whisk if there are no other options available to you. The pie will still taste good, but it will be denser and will lack that coveted airy texture.
  •  For easy handling of the pie once it's been in the oven, put the pie plate on a cookie sheet.
  • You can use either canned pumpkin or pureed pumpkin that you've made yourself. Do NOT use canned pumpkin pie filling.
  • Making graham cracker crust from scratch is actually pretty easy if you wanted to give it a go. I typically use this method and recommend doing so right before you start making the filling, as graham crackers go stale quickly.

Pumpkin Bread

Difficulty: Noob
Availability of Ingredients: Common
Gadgetry: None
Feeds: 3-4 nerds
Time Till Noms: About 75 minutes (15 minutes of preparation and an hour of bake time)

Required Equipment: A large mixing bowl, measuring spoons, a large wooden spoon, a spatula, a loaf pan.
Optional Equipment: None


1.5 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 can pumpkin
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon of each of the following ground spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves
1 pinch of ground ginger
sprayable cooking oil/cooking spray

*Set your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius)*

Combine the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients. Stir until the mixture is well blended (it should look like thick orange brownie batter). Using your sprayable cooking oil, spritz the inside of your loaf pan until it has a thin, even coating. Now pour the bread mix into the loaf pan and put the pan into the oven. Let the bread bake for 1 hour. The bread is done when it begins to pull away from the sides of the loaf pan and a toothpick inserted in the center can be removed cleanly.

Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt

Difficulty: Noob
Availability of Ingredients: Common
Gadgetry: Optional
Feeds: 1-4 nerds
Time Till Noms: About 20 minutes if using an ice cream maker, about 60-120 if using other means.

Required Equipment: A large glass or metal bowl, a large spoon, measuring spoons, a spatula (and a whisk if not using an ice cream maker), an ice cream maker.
Optional Equipment: None

1 cup non-fat standard yogurt
2 cups 2% milkfat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*

*You can typically find this in your spice section of your local grocer. If there's none to be had, you can substitute 1/8th of a teaspoon of each of the following ground spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and ginger.

Combine the ingredients in your mixing bowl until the sugar is wholly dissolved, then give it a quick taste test. Akin to our friend, peanut butter fro-yo, this recipe is a base that you can modify to your heart's content before setting it to chill.  

If You're Using and Ice Cream Maker: Add your concoction to the chilled drum of the ice cream maker. Turn it on and leave it to churn for 18-20 minutes (time will vary slightly based on the model of your maker). Remove your freshly chilled noms from the drum. Woot for frozen goodies in the fall!

If you're NOT Using an Ice Cream Maker: Using your whisk, mix the ingredients together for 20-30 seconds, then put the entire bowl in the freezer. Wait 20 minutes, remove from the freezer and whisk again. Repeat this process until the yogurt takes on a semi-frozen state (it will be physically resistant to your mixing). Once the yogurt reaches this state then give a woot for frozen goodies in the fall!

A few quick notes on this recipe:

  • Feel free to experiment with other types of yogurt if you'd like, but I highly recommend starting with the 1:2 ratio of standard to Greek yogurt to get a handle on how the dessert is going to taste. Since the pumpkin has an intrinsic sweetness to it, the tartness of the standard yogurt tends to counter it nicely.
  • If you didn't want to use vanilla extract for any reason, golden spiced rum serves as a perfect substitute. However, just as with our peanut butter frozen yogurt, some sort of alcohol base is required to prevent our dessert from turning into a solid brick once we chill it.

Happy kitcheny experimentation and Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating this week!
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NomNoms! How to Make Lamb Samosas

Oh reality, we all have to return to your purview sometime. With the majority of this year's convention season, the Olympics, the summer (in the Northern Hemisphere) and its traditional accompanying reprieve from academia behind us, it's understandable to want heave a wistful sigh. However, the passing of some of these things opens new opportunities, or at least presents chances to encounter favorite seasonal activities and foods for the first time this year.

Here in New England, the transition from summer to winter is typically demarked with certain pastimes and events held so dearly by so many that they become associated with the region itself. You've got your apple picking, harvest festivals, pumpkin carving and, of course, the glorious explosions of color generously provided by our deciduous floral neighbors. These are all wonderful in their own right, this time of year rocks serious socks, but there are definitely a not-insignificant number of mundane little things that muster renewed appreciation when the weather turns cooler. Cooking is definitely one of these aforementioned things that I tackle with vigor after a few sweltering months wherein most food was either grilled or delightfully frozen.

With this in mind, I wanted to share a personal favorite mentioned a while back when the brilliance that is the personal pie maker first graced this blog. Oh pie maker, you are in your own class of phenomenal. Though this recipe is more difficult than any other currently in the Kitchen Codex, the tricky portion is limited to a single element of preparation and the end result makes this effort very worthwhile. Like all the other recipes posted on Care & Feeding of Nerds, this one easily accommodates variation and lends itself readily to experimenting.

Difficulty: Advanced
Availability of Ingredients: Will Vary Geographically
Gadgetry: Recommended
Feeds: 2-8 Nerds
Time Till Noms: 45-60 Minutes

Required Equipment: A large frying pan, a 2-quart saucepan, rolling pin, colander, a microwave-safe mug or small saucepan, personal pie maker*, small sauce brush, muffin tin**
Optional Equipment: pie lifter*, spatula**

* mini-pie maker version, **non pie maker version

1 pound lamb (may be ground or whole)
4-6 medium-to-large white potatoes
1.5 cups of frozen peas
1 Tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons of salt
1/3 cup milk or cream
Crushed black pepper to taste
2 nine-inch (22.86cm) circles of pie dough (pre-made or your own)
6 'sheets' of phyllo dough
1 Tablespoon of butter (melted and cooled)

Optional bonus spices
1/2 teaspoon of each of the following:
Garam marsala
Ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon of each of the following:

A pinch of cayenne pepper for those Scoville unit aficionados out there.
The foundation of samosa goodness
Prelude: Before beginning any of these steps, remove your phyllo dough from the freezer if it was being stored there. The dough will need to be completely thawed before you can work with it. If you're using this recipe to make mini-pies with a muffin tin, preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (218.33 degrees Celsius). If you're employing the muffin tin to get your mini-pie fix spray the cups with a light coating of the non-stick spray.

Step 1: Wash, then cut the potatoes into 1/2 inch [1.27cm] pieces. Once cut, give the potatoes a quick ice bath (see Stage One here for the how and why we do this) before them into your saucepan with enough water to cover them and a few shakes of salt. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and have the potatoes simmer in the background while you get to work on the next steps. Melt the butter in the microwave or on your stovetop in a small sauce pan. Set aside immediately after the butter has melted (this should only take a minute or so).

Step 2: If you're not using ground lamb, trim your cuts of lamb to remove the bones and/or as much of the fat as possible before cutting the meat into 1/2 inch [1.27cm] pieces. Toss the meat into a large frying pan with a pinch of salt and pepper, then brown the meat (about 8-10 minutes). 
If your mixture looks like this, then you're ready for potatoes

Step 3: After the meat has browned, toss the frozen peas into the pan to soften them. As the peas thaw, check the potatoes to see if they're done. They should give a little when poked with a fork or the utensil of your choice, but not be entirely squishy. Once the potatoes are of this texture, remove them from the stove and drain in a colander before adding them slowly to the frying pan with the lamb and peas.
Step 4: With all the ingredients in the pan, it's time to add the spices. Add as many or as few spices from the above list as you like, then add the milk or cream. The latter will help deglaze the frying pan, which will almost certainly be coated with bits of lamb and potato at this point. Fold all the ingredients together until they are well mixed, then remove the pan from the heat.
Post step 4 yummies
Step 5: This is the tricky part. Phyllo dough is usually sold in thick 'scrolls' that are comprised of dozens of tissue-thin 'sheets'. For every four pies you make you will need three 'sheets' of dough. The dough itself is extremely flimsy and prone to misbehaving (not cutting along a given line, clinging to countertops, etc). It will come coated in flour which will form a sticky paste when combined with your melted butter.

Mmm...delicious painting
Take a single 'sheet' of phyllo and gently paint the side facing up with a thin layer of melted butter. Now take a second sheet and lay it atop the first. They will stick together on contact, so be careful about lining up the edges as best you can. Paint the you-facing side of this second layer of dough with a coat of melted butter, then place a third 'sheet' atop the second. With a knife, cut your tripartite creation into quarters. These will be the tops of your pies. If you are making a full batch of eight pies (the yield of this recipe as listed), then repeat this step with a second set of three 'sheets' so you end up with eight pie tops.

Step 6: Unfurl your pie dough on your countertop. Gently press, stretch, or roll the dough until it's as flat and even as possible. Cut the dough into circles about 5 inches (12.7cm) in diameter. If you're using a muffin tin, test one of these 'rounds' in your tin to ensure a good fit and adjust succeeding rounds as needed. Cut eight of these 5-inch rounds (or as many as needed for the muffin tin).

Choose your own adventure!   Are you: Using a pie-maker? (Go to paragraph π) Using a muffin tin? (Go to paragraph τ)

Paragraph π: You preheat your pie-maker. You may want to return your rounds of pie dough (NOT the phyllo dough) to the refrigerator if your pie-maker is slow to heat, as pie dough is far more cooperative cold than warm. Once the pie-maker is hot and ready, you remove the dough rounds from the refrigerator and carefully place the 5-inch rounds into the appropriate places on the pie-maker griddle (you use a pie press if you have one). Carefully spoon out the filling, dividing it evenly amongst the four future pies. After dividing out the filling, you gently lay one of your quartered phyllo dough creations atop each would-be pie, then close the lid of your pie-maker. You wait with mounting impatience for 10 minutes while the pie-maker does its transmutation thing, then you open the device to reveal golden pastry nirvana. You try not to inflict second-degree burns on yourself by sampling prematurely as the pie cools.

Paragraph τ: You quickly test one 5-inch (12.7cm) round against the circumference of one of the cups of your muffin tin. Success! They are an approximate match (you adroitly adjust if they do not). You line the cups of your muffin tin with the 5-inch rounds then giddily spoon the savory curry filling inside. You cap each filled muffin cup with one of your quartered phyllo dough creations and gently press around the circumference to seal the flavor inside. You place the muffin tin inside your preheated oven, then ponder the true nature of human existence for 10 minutes as heavenly scents waft throughout your kitchen. You check your muffin-pies after realizing that hunger is a more pressing concern than the musings of the existential self. Brilliance! You are rewarded with flaky, flavor-filled delights. (You return the pies to the oven if they are shy and unready to be welcomed into the world...and your stomach).

Nomnoms ahoy! Wootz!


I'm a vegetarian/vegan/non-red-meat-eater. Do you absolutely have to use lamb in this recipe?

No. You can definitely substitute the lamb for another meat BUT know that the flavor will shift accordingly. Also, if you decide not to use meat at all (which is totally ok) I would recommend adding vegetables, lentils, or chickpeas to the mix rather than tofu or another non-flesh solid protein, as the latter tend to do funky things to the overall texture of the samosas.

Just how optional are those so-called 'optional spices'?

The only spices you absolutely should use in this recipe are curry, salt and pepper. Whether or not you add anything else is entirely up to you. Depending on where you live, it may be very difficult or prohibitively expensive to acquire the spices, so I tailored the recipe to stand on its own without them. If you can get your hands on any of the optional spices then I'd recommend giving them a go, but if not you're not going to miss out.

Where do I find phyllo dough? Does it go by any other names?

You can find phyllo dough in the frozen foods section of the supermarket, most commonly near puff pastry and frozen ready-made pie crusts. While phyllo does go by many different names, phyllo is the most prevalent nomenclature.

I can't find/don't want to use phyllo dough. Can you recommend any substitutes?

Puff pastry will work in this recipe if phyllo dough is a no-go, but this type of pastry dough is often pretty expensive. You can also use standard pie dough for both the tops and bottoms of the pies. If you have a Indian/Asian market nearby, you may be able to procure frozen roti, which would also work well.

As always, have fun with the recipe and happy nomming!
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Codex Entry: Kitchen Electric --> Ice Cream Maker

Now that it's officially summer up here in the Northern Hemisphere, I thought it would be a good idea to present a seasonal update to our Kitchen Codex. Certain foods are inextricably linked, by social convention or personal preference, to the sun-filled, BBQ-laden nostalgic brilliance that is summer. Though the stereotype of a subterranean, seasonless existence holds true for some of us (I'm a redhead; UVA/B rays and I exist in mutual antagonism), even the most solar-adverse nerds have a favorite flavor of ice cream.
One of the best parts about being an adult: ice cream for dinner
But I can go to the store to get ice cream, or my local Dairy Queen/Pinkberry/Red Mango/Baskin Robbins/Cold Stone Creamery/independent purveyor of chilled dairy deliciousness. Why bother making it when it's so easy to go out and buy it?

Fair question. Short answer: as with anything homemade, it's a matter of control over the finished product and exercising the predilections that shape said outcome. As mentioned before, we of the geeky persuasion often get thrown under the LAZY bus when it comes to the matter of feeding ourselves. This does not need to be the case, as we saw with the mini pie maker. Easier =/= Better.

However, I very much sympathized with the above skepticism as to whether actually making your own ice cream was a worthwhile venture. Floating somewhere in my temporal cortex is the memory of my mother attempting to make ice cream with an antique wooden drum, a hand crank, some cream and a smattering of rock salt. Attempting is an accurate verb, as this effort ended in creating little more than a salty, slushy mess. Similarly, a much more recent endeavor to make ice cream in one of these as a fireside diversion while on a camping trip produced inedible lactose mush and a cracked spherical plastic paper weight.  Given this dubious track record, I was aporetic of the potential of the tidy appliance that I'd been gifted with and was ready to consign it to the Valley of Unloved Kitchen Electrics even before removing it from its box.

I was sorely, sorely mistaken.

Sorbet, a fun alternative for the lactose intolerant
The ice cream/frozen yogurt/sorbet that you make yourself is better than 95% of the commercial offerings you'll encounter. Craving extra-rich coffee or chocolate chip cookie dough that's equal parts ice cream to cookie dough? Totally feasible. How about mudslides, sorbets or slushies? Also possible. Prefer to work with non-dairy alternatives for your desserts? No problem. What about tart or even savory flavors? Yours in about 20 minutes.

Seriously? Seriously.

Akin to the mini-pie maker, the amount of prep time required and degree of difficulty associated with using the ice cream maker is highly dependant on what you'd like to accomplish. Ostensibly, single flavors without additives are almost always simpler and quicker to make than something like Toasted Almond with Coconut or an ice cream that features all the marshmallows you'd find in a box of Lucky Charms.

Ok, this sounds great and all…but what do I look for in an ice cream maker?

There are a few different base models of ice cream maker currently available for retail: manual, freestanding electric, and attachment. All effectively utilize the same mechanic of churning liquid and semi-liquid ingredients in a chilled environment but vary considerably in composition and price. The cliff notes analysis is as follows (all prices are in USD):

Possibly the next fad in arm workouts?
The manual version is just what it implies, that you'll be the one supplying the power to churn the ingredients until they solidify. This could be via a vintage hand crank or by rolling the housing for the chilling core back and forth. These models tend to be the least expensive of the aforementioned three, ranging in price from $15 to $50, largely because many consumers prefer the convenience and ease of having something else do the churning on their behalf. If you're undeterred by the notion of spending 20-30 minutes cranking or rolling (tends to be best for kids or especially antsy geeks) then this may be a good option for you. However, as an item subject to human abuses on a regular basis, these makers tend to break frequently.

Freestanding electric ice cream makers are self-contained appliances that do all the labor of churning for you. Arguably the lowest-maintenance of the three base models, freestanding makers typically require only the addition of ingredients and the throwing of a switch/pushing of a button. These models are usually priced between $40 and $100 with some high-end versions costing as much as $300. In my experience, anything over $60 is too much for the number of uses and quality of experience the average nerd would want from a small kitchen electric.
A fairly fancy freestanding model

An attachment model
The third iteration of ice cream maker are those models that exist as ancillary modular components of a larger, multifunctional appliance. The classic example is this, the attachment for the KitchenAid Stand Mixer. Most of these are similar in price to the freestanding makers but, of course, you have to either purchase or already own the base appliance, which renders these the most expensive of the three options. If you already have a Stand Mixer or similar device then this may be an excellent alternative to a freestanding maker, as both function identically. Stand Mixers are versatile and can do a lot of work for you in the kitchen, but they are extremely expensive ($250-$500) and require thorough cleaning to properly maintain.

All three models make use of a core chilling unit, usually a metal drum that will need to be near-freezing prior to use. I leave the drum of my ice cream maker in the freezer when it's not in use and atone for the space it requires by storing frozen fruits and veggies inside it. Doing so allows for the creation of frozen concoctions on demand (otherwise the chilling units may take between 2 and 8 hours to reach an appropriate temperature). The chilling unit and housing of the makers tend to be very easy to clean, requiring only a gentle pass with soap and water, particularly if they have been allowed to thaw completely. (Exception: spherical manual ice cream makers can be very tough to clean)

Things to consider/keep in mind
¨      Don't be afraid to experiment. Again, you're limited only by your imagination and what ingredients you're able to procure. If you're unsure about trying this or fear wasting food with a failed batch then I recommend starting with frozen yogurt or sorbet rather than ice cream. Frozen yogurt/sorbet generally requires fewer ingredients and less prep time than ice cream (which sometimes requires cooking the components first). Bonus: you can easily beta-test your frozen yogurt by experimenting in a single-serving cup of standard yogurt, then tripling the ingredients to get to batch size.
¨      Be patient. Yes yes…this is not a virtue for which we geeks are renowned, but think of this like you would any other experimental process. It may involve some trial and error (I'll share my algorithm for beta-testing in a future post) but it will undoubtedly be worthwhile. The recipes you make are yours, to your specifications, made just the way you like it.
¨      Get creative. Aside from playing with flavors and additives, you can manipulate aspects of your frozen concoction in previously unconsidered ways. Now you can adjust texture, consistency, even preferred serving temperature. 
¨      Mull over the amount of space available in your kitchen you can devote to storing an ice cream maker. Most models aren't large (think 2 toasters stacked atop one another), but Stand Mixers or spherical makers may require extra space.
¨      Consider the amount of space available in your freezer. As mentioned, the core chilling unit will need to be brought to temperature before you can successfully use your maker. Unless you're reading this from Nunavut or Vostok Station this will probably mean devoting some freezer space to the drum.

This can be a fun addition to your kitchen arsenal, particularly on those steamy summer nights where you're loathe to go near your stove. As always, best of luck on your culinary adventures!
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