Pear Liqueur

pear-liquor

I’ve just returned to Maine after having spent Christmas and New Year’s in New York with  my family and friends. The Dear One – whose name I may now change to Dear Husband, we were married in October – was away in Antarctica working. It was wonderful being able to spend so much time with my family and friends, and also wonderful to return home to Maine. At times it feels as though I don’t feel quite settled in either place.

One of the questions I am constantly asked is “Do you miss New York?”

This is a question I have asked myself many, many times. I have no solid answer. I have more of a pro and con list for both New York City and Bar Harbor.

Bar Harbor is a car culture. I find myself at work going through my cabinets and fridge and freezer to figure out what I need at home. Once home, it’s 6 miles to the nearest store. In NYC, you can find anything you need or want at any time of the day or night – and within walking distance. I walked  more in NYC over my three week visit than I have in Bar Harbor in three months.

New York City wins HANDS DOWN restaurants, supermarkets, ability to find unusual ingredients – well, anything a foodie may need or desire. Bar Harbor is a barren foodie land. There are very few restaurants open here during the off season and those pickings are slim and not necessarily diverse. As for ingredients? OH PUH-LEASE! Thank goodness for Amazon!

Bar Harbor is beautiful and quiet. We hear no sirens or honking of horns. As you drive down roads there is one beautiful view after another. Breathtaking at times. Don’t get me wrong, there are views in NYC that are unforgettable, but they’re only enjoyed with the 300 or 400 people swarming around you.

The sidewalks are not as crowded in Bar Harbor. Not crowded from October to May and increasingly crowded May to October with tourists. But, no one is walking down the street with their heads down staring at an illuminated screen missing the world going on around them. Or a phone in one hand and a cup of Starbucks in the other behaving as though no one else is walking down the street.

People here say please and thank you regularly. I’m greeted by name in the bank and post office and supermarket. There’s a friendly spirit amongst the residents of this bucolic town.

I would say that the major disadvantage between NYC and BH is my family and friends. They’re all in NYC. I miss my family and friends desperately. That sense of community, of belonging, of loyalty, being a member of and a part of a family – whomever that is made up by – has not yet been found here. We all have those people – friends and family that call when you’re alone or not feeling well, that like to spend time together, gravitate toward each other; the phone that rings at just the perfect moment when you’re wandering around a big house all alone with a voice inviting you to dinner or a movie or a walk or just a chat. People who are truly intertwined in each other’s lives with more than just ‘saying’ they are. Perhaps it’s being the new person, or not being ‘from’ here. Quite frankly, I have met a small handful of people who actually are ‘from’ here. Everyone was new at one time or another.

Boy, oh, boy do I miss that. I’m not sure how to find that here or if it even exists. I’m still looking. I’m open to it actually happening, but after 3 years, I’m not sure if it will happen.

Wish me luck! Fingers crossed.

pear

After reading all of that, we’re finally at the foodie portion of this blog post.

One of the best things about living in Bar Harbor are our lovely gardens. Flowers and herbs and veggies and fruit trees. We have cherry trees and apple and peach and pears. Some years there are bumper crops of each and some years not a one. We were blessed with a bumper crop of pears.

The first time the trees had pears! We have three. Two were here when I  moved in and one we planted. The two that were here were very strange. They were alive, they had leaves, but never a flower. Early the first spring I spoke to them and mentioned that if they didn’t flower, they would be cut down and replaced. One tree flowered, one didn’t. The next spring, I spoke to the unflowering one and nicely asked it to catch up to the other and at least flower – or else. We planted the third tree. That spring two flowered, but not the new tree. The third spring, I was very adamant about them ALL flowering and having at least ONE pear EACH! And KA-BOOOOOOOM!

Pears! Our pears had pears! The question is, what do you do with PEARS? Bushels of pears. They don’t have a long shelf life. You cannot do a lot with them. I made pear butter, pear sorbet, many blue cheese, walnut and pear tarts … now what?

Pear liqueur here we come! It’s easy to put together. Most of the time preparing this comes during the waiting, waiting, waiting for it to be finished. But the jar is sitting in the dark just getting ready to bring you great joy.

The liqueur is sweet and fragrant, warmly infused with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, just a hint of citrus from the orange peel. We served this ice cold from the freezer in small glasses – you really cannot drink a lot of this (well, one person drank an entire jar – the last jar!)

I used a good, inexpensive vodka. Please don’t spend oodles of money on a top shelf vodka. The vodka here is really just a vehicle for the pears and spices.

If you have an abundance of pears or can get your hands on some beautiful, fresh pears, give this a whirl. I’ve also done the same with peaches and made a peach liqueur, so keep an eye out!

pears

1 large pear
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/4 nutmeg broken into small pieces
2 strips of dried orange peel
6 cloves
500ml vodka
150g (5 oz) caster sugar

NOTE: I quadrupled this recipe.

Make sure you have a ripe yet unblemished pear. Rinse and pat dry.

Pierce the pear all over with a fine skewer Place the pear in a sterilized glass jar that it fits quite snugly in. Make sure it’s large enough to hold the 500ml vodka. Add the spices and orange peel.

NOTE: To make the dried orange peel, use a potato peeler to peel strips of skin off an orange, making sure you just take the skin and not the bitter white pith. Leave this on a radiator or in an airing cupboard overnight, or warm in a very low oven till completely dried. I used the oven method for quickness. This intensifies the wonderful orange flavor.

adding-vodka

Fill the jar with vodka and close the lid.

ready-to-age

Set on a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks.

After 2 weeks open the jar and add the sugar. Shake well and set aside in a cool dark cupboard for a further 6 weeks. Shake every day or so that the sugar to completely dissolves.

After 6 weeks, remove pear and spices from the jar and strain the liquid through a sieve lined with a double layer of muslin. Do this part twice to get a really clear liqueur.

NOTE: I used a sieve with a coffee filter set inside.

Decant the liquid into a sterilized bottle and enjoy! It’s best served ice cold, so keep the jar in your fridge or freezer.

Perfect Roast Chicken

DSC_1069

This is so much less about roasted chicken than it is about chicken in general.

Really, once you’ve roasted one or two chickens, you have the basics down pat and there isn’t much to change aside from herbs and citrus and, perhaps, what you roast around it.

My fall back recipe – as I cannot for the life of me keep oven temperatures or timing in my head – is an oldie but a goodie, from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten. I admit. I’m boring. I stuff a head of garlic that I cut in half horizontally, a lemon that I cut in half, and whatever fresh herbs I have around inside the chicken. I liberally sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, and Bob’s your uncle. Potatoes, carrots and onions around the chicken. Completely fix it and forget it.

As most of you know, I am now living in DownEast Maine – and why is it called downeast Maine? Well, I’ll tell ya! Coastal schooners laden with goods for Portland and other Maine ports would leave Boston, Massachusetts keeping their compass headings generally east or northeast, hoping that the prevailing wind from the westerly quadrants would stay behind them. Hence, they sailed downwind in an easterly direction. Hence, they were traveling down east. Things are very different here.

And you must be wondering why, if I don’t really use a roasted chicken recipe am I prattling on about roasted chickens and living on an island off the coast of Maine.

El Dia de la Pollo Muerto … the day of the dead chickens.

A some of our friends once a year purchase chicks. They’re so very cute when they’re little. We would go over and look at them, watch them grow. I would wonder why, unlike the laying birds that are free range, these chicks were penned. Seems you can have either laying chickens or eating chickens.  They raise a bunch of eating chickens. Once they’ve been tended to and loved and fattened up … well, el dia de la pollo muerto.

HORRIFYING! I know! Growing up in the big city, while you try to be conscientious about how animals are being raised and what they’re being fed, you don’t necessarily give much though to the in between raising and purchasing/eating.

Around November, the Dear One and some of our friends get together and – to quote the Queens of Hearts – off with their heads.

I have been invited to attend this gala event. I have politely declined, trying not to make the squelched up face I’m making as I type. ‘They’ say it’s quick and painless (let’s ask the chicken that!) and rather quick to go from live chicken to ready to eat. I don’t know the actual process, but there are beheadings, and contraptions that look like dryers that do the defeathering, and the descriptions just get worse from there.

My last conversation with our friend MG went something like this –

MG: You should come. It’s great. Fascinating to watch.
ME: Are you kidding? No way, no how, no time.
MG: Oh, it’s not so bad. Quick.
ME: Well, what time do you start? But DON’T count on it. And I’m not helping
MG: ME? No, no, no, no. I don’t go. I can’t bear it.

Seriously, Dude?

So I stay home. Thinking good thoughts for the poor little chickens giving so much of themselves for my roasting pan, and convince myself that the chickens going to my freezer are all from the grocery store. You see, the one request with these 8-10 incredible chickens that come into the house … no feet, no heads, no feathers, no guts, and please put them in plastic bags so I can pretend there was just a fantastic sale on chickens.

I do wonder if the laying hens feel guilty. There they are, well fed, out all day playing in the sun with the turkeys and guinea fowl, goats (meanest little creatures ever born), and the pig, Kevin. Why are they safe? Are they to be next? One will never know the mind of a chicken.

That being said, these are probably the best chickens I have even eaten. Cooked here only for those deserving, chosen few.

This past go round, I was honored with a big bag of chicken livers and skin … pate and cracklings … more no that later.

  • 1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
  • 4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
  • Olive oil

NOTE: I skip the melted butter, use whatever fresh herbs I have around, and substitute potatoes for the fennel.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

Beef in Barolo

Done

Trying to decide what we’re having for dinner is liken to an unending loop of a scene from the film Marty. “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know, Marty, what do you want to do?”

“What do you want for dinner?”

“I don’t know. What do YOU want for dinner?”

Only the person who asks the question first has an advantage … “Well, I asked you first,” is usually the (not so) snappy retort.

Pick a protein, pick an ethnicity, give me a jumping point and I’ll happily create something, but please decide before I leave for town …

This entire stressful, daily conversation usually takes place before 8:00 am.

This one particular day, a Saturday even, I was saved by a rather large box in the mail. From KitchenAid. A box from KitchenAid is ALWAYS a good thing.

A little back story … When the Dear One and I moved all my worldly possessions to Maine 2 1/2 years ago, my slow cooker was the last thing placed on the truck. When we opened the doors some 9 bouncy hours later, the ceramic liner for my slow cooker was the first thing off the truck … KER-plunk … SMASH … sadness.

It’s has taken me that long to pick up the phone and call KitchenAid (BTW, some of the BEST customer service around) and order a new one. I was SURE it would be expensive. I was SURE they wouldn’t have  it. I was SURE wrong! It was very, very reasonable and the shipping was $2!

While opening the box I knew, just knew, that whatever “what-do-you-want-Marty” meal I was going to cook was definitely going into the slow cooker.

There’s something wonderful and magical about the slow cooker … food goes in, you set it, go about your day, come back to a home filled with wonderful aromas, a couple of quick sides and you’re done.

But what to make?

Wait! In our chest freezer in the bowels on our basement is a chuck roast. The Dear One offered to do the grocery shopping one morning. Thrilled with the idea of rolling over and going back to sleep for a while, I acquiesced. (As an aside, I love food shopping. There’s something about looking at food, loving picking out produce, picking just the right cut of meat or fish that’s just so … well, my fellow foodies, I know you understand.) Back to the Dear One. He wanted a roast. Okay. I made a list and sent him off into the world. He returned with a chuck roast. Not really a Sunday dinner kinda roast cut so I scowled at it and sent it off to the freezer, mostly to be forgotten.

Gazing through the slow cooker books on my shelf, I came across The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone. I’ve had this recipe for Beef in Barolo bookmarked from my very first pass through the book. What cut of meat does it take, you may wonder. Well, a CHUCK ROAST. The Dear One has been saved, the roast has been liberated from the icy depths.

And what a recipe it is! The cloves give the beef and sauce a wonderful warmth, the wine and pancetta … just layer after layer of flavor. There is the bit that early in the morning you’re searing a hunk-o-beef and veggies, but so worth it in the end!

  • 1/3 C all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 3-pound boneless beef chuck or bottom round roast
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 C dry red wine, such as Barolo
  • 2 C peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
  • 1 C beef broth
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 medium celery rib, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pinch of ground cloves

NOTE: Even here in culinary wasteland of Bar Harbor I was able to find chopped pancetta in the specialty deli section. I always keep a few of these in the freezer for a quick meal and to avoid chopping. I used the wine I had on hand and open. As long as you’d actually drink it and it’s dry any red wine will do.

Combine the flour with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the mixture on a piece of wax paper and roll the meat in the flour.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown it on all sides, about 15 minutes. Place the meat in a large slow cooker. Add the pancetta and onion to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender. Stir in the garlic. Add the wine and bring it to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Ready to Slow Cook

Pour the mixture over the beef. Add the tomatoes and broth. Scatter the carrots, celery, bay leaf, and ground cloves around the meat. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with a fork.

Transfer the meat to a platter. Remove the bay leaf from the sauce. Slice the meat and spoon on the sauce.

NOTE: I served this over garlic mashed potatoes, but polenta would be wonderful. Sadly, the Dear One isn’t fond of polenta.

done 2

 

Skillet Focaccia

Done

I have a go to bread recipe. It’s easy and versatile. I can make loaves or pizza or focaccia from the dough and they’re all equally good.

But every once in a while I want to change things up. Something with a different flavor. Something with a different cooking method.

When I came across this recipe I knew this was something I needed to have in my arsenal.

It’s faster to put together than my dough, has a nice crumb, and bakes in a cast iron skillet. I’ve played with the topping … different herbs, grapes, olives. The shy’s the limit. Which is cool. Oven to table.

Baked

 

for the dough:

  • 3/4 C warm water
  • 1/2 t granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 t yeast
  • 2 T olive or canola oil
  • 2 C all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 1/2 t salt

 

for the topping:

  • 3 T Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1 T parmigiano
  • 1 T chopped fresh rosemary

Place water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir until sugar dissolves. Sprinkle yeast over the water and stir few times. Let sit until foamy (about 5 minutes).

With mixer on low speed, add 1 cup of flour and salt. Mix until combined. Add oil and mix well.

Gradually add as much of the remaining cup of flour as you can (it may only be 3/4 of it) and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Preheat the oven to 220 F. When it’s at 220 turn it off and keep door closed.

Grease the skillet.

Place dough onto a floured surface (use the remaining flour from the second cup) and fold the dough few times until you feel it’s smooth and not sticky anymore. Shape into a ball.

Roll the dough out to the size of your skillet.

Ready to Rise

Place in skillet. Stretch up the sides. Cover with a kitchen towel and place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Take the skillet out of the oven and increase oven heat to 400 degrees F. Make indentations in the dough with your fingers.

Risen

Mix melted butter, parmesan and rosemary in a small bowl. Brush the dough with half the butter.

Brushing

Place skillet with dough in the preheated oven and bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush with remaining butter. Let cool until safe to the touch and slice. Serve.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookeis

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I should start this with … these are THE BEST vegan chocolate chip cookies EVER. And quite nearly the best chocolate chip cookies. But …

I am a carnivore. A carnivore through and through. A believer in a well balanced diet being far better for you than one completing omitting a food group.

I now find myself surrounded by vegetarians and vegans, many of whom consider themselves foodies (?). Always hungry. Always looking for snacks. I need a cookie that would work for everyone and this is the one.

I have found most homemade vegan cookies to be either tasteless, ridiculously complicated to make, way too many ingredients and ending up with a crumbling, sandy cookie like substance.

Try these once and you’ll be hooked. It’s all in the mixing.

  • ½ C coconut oil
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • ¼ C almond milk
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 2 C flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 C vegan chocolate chips (I love ‘Enjoy Life Mini Chips” for this)

 

Preheat oven to 350

Cream coconut oil and brown sugar. Best to use stand mixer, second best a hand mixed.

NOTE: The key to this cookie is the length of time you spend combining the ingredients. This should look like butter and sugar having creamed before you continue. It’s not always quick.

Add almond milk and vanilla. Mixture may be a little liquidy.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients using a hand mixer or stand mixer. Fold in chocolate chips.

Scoop tablespoon sized balls and place on cookie sheet. Flatten the balls a bit with your hand.

Bake 7 – 10 minutes

NOTE: You want the dough to be the consistency of cookie dough and not crumbly or sandy as many vegan recipes tend to be.

NOTE NOTE: I have varied the size of the cookie from half-dollar sized to 3 inches around. It holds up no matter the size. Just vary the cooking time.

Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Done

As Robert Burns once wrote … ‘The best laid schemes ‘o mice an’ men’ …

As anyone still out there may recall, this past January I took a stand against cyber stalking, pledging to not allow fright and fear of judgment curb my enthusiasm for writing.

AND THEN …

Came the snow! (Imagine that, snow in Maine …) And there was the Dear One, shoveling and shoveling and shoveling. It pained me to watch him do this all alone, so off I went to help. It pained me to watch him and then it pained me the next morning ~ SCIATICA. Crippling sciatica. Off we go to the doctor. Here’s some meds. They will help. Rest. Heat. Cold. Drugs. Repeat.

After a few days, they did help. Helped enough so I was able to get myself out of bed and go downstairs.

At our house in cold and snowy and blowy Maine, it was not easy to keep the outer door closed tight and we would offer awake to inches of snow inside the porch doorway. The solution? Put a log there.

Physically fragile and compromised me goes to walk outside and instead of bending over to move the log, I pushed it aside with the outside of my left foot. No big deal.

HA!

I opened my eyes the next morning in the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. It was blinding. I couldn’t stand or walk or sit. I had one comfortable position and one emotion ~ hysteria.

Dear One and I drive off to the doctor again, this time with me lying across the back seat in the fetal position sobbing. Different drugs. Rest. Heat. Cold. Drugs. Repeat. No better come in and we’ll start running tests.

And really crappy drugs. I needed the mother of all muscle relaxers and I truly felt this medical office was ‘not getting it’. I managed to get flexeril, but I was in pain. I needed relief. It wasn’t happening. I was just stoned out of my head. Not sleeping, just passed out. Not eating (not the worst thing in the world). Sad. Deflated.

A friend or two stepped in and suggested an osteopath. Being the skeptical gal I am, I just didn’t see that working. But at this point – three weeks of being in bed – I would have done nearly anything anyone suggested for relief.

On a ridiculously snowy day, the Dear One and I drive 40 minutes to see the osteopath. I walk in the door and there’s sitar music playing and incense burning and I’m thinking – ‘yeah, right. This ain’t gonna work. $230 down the drain.’

I lay on the table and the doctor placed his hands on my middle and lower back. Then my knee and hip. Light little fluttery touches. Nope, nope, nope, not working, not working … OH MY GOD, the muscles I pulled and twisted and tore RELAXED. No more drugs, slow pace, less bed rest, more sessions with him. And after 6 weeks, I felt like … well, at 80%.

What I didn’t realize at the time was the emotional and mental blow this took on my psyche. I was just unhappy and unmotivated. I did just the bare minimum I needed to do to get by. Quite frankly, I didn’t even realize this was happening. I wasn’t writing or cooking anything new, certainly not taking photos. I felt myself slipping away. Nothing was fun. Nothing was interesting. Get up. Shower. Eat. Work. Sleep. Repeat.

Finally, a dear friend who had been trying to reach out to me over and over again, cornered me. And we started talking … and talking … and talking … it didn’t hurt that she is an incredible neuropsychologist …

Everything had caught up to me after the injury … moving, being away from my family, my friends, being away from my darling son and his new bride, trying to find a place to fit in with the Dear One and his children, making new friends, being seriously injured, feeling isolated and alone. I don’t have those bring you chicken soup at 2:00 am friends here yet. No one who would reach out and come and visit or … It all just came crashing down on my soul at once. I was just paralyzed. My dear friend has known me for many, many years and heard the sadness and desperation creeping into my head. Her answer … let’s talk some more and let’s think about prozac.

I knew what I thought about prozac and I was VERY reluctant. The first pill I took was truly really hard to swallow. I was terrified. And I sat, patiently (well, as patient as I am capable of being) waiting for something to happen. As if there would be a TA-DA! moment. There wasn’t.

But one morning I woke up, just as dear Dr. D.T. said, and it felt as though the haze was gone. I felt happier in my head, my heart and soul felt lighter. I tried a new recipe. I giggled. I’m sleeping.

I’m getting better. I’m at the edge of the woods about to step into the sun light. Thank you, Dear one for being so patient and for dropping everything to stay home and take care of me. Thank you, D.T., I would have been able to get to this point without you. To my friends and family I’ve hidden from for the last number of months, I’m sorry, I love you all, and I’m back amongst the living.

So, while in bed I saw this recipe for Rhubarb Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping from Melissa Clark in the New York Times Cooking section. It looked like it had to be made. I had rhubarb that had to be cooked.

Tender, sweet, easy, yummy. The true testament is it being gone in a day!

Cake

  • 1 C of sugar
  • ½ C of butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 2 C flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • ½ t nutmeg (optional)
  • 2 C rhubarb, diced

 

Streusel Topping

  • ½ C sugar
  • ½ C walnuts, chopped
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 T butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a nine-by-thirteen pan. Assemble the cake, cream together the sugar and the butter, beat in the egg and buttermilk. Whisk or sift together the flour, soda, and optional nutmeg, and add it to the sugar, butter, egg, buttermilk mixture. Mix all together completely, and then fold in the rhubarb. Spread in the baking pan.

Mix the topping by combining the sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, and melted butter, and distributing it over the top of the cake batter.

Bake for forty-five to fifty minutes. Serve warm.

Makes one nine-by-thirteen cake.

Italian Sausage with Lentils

done

Dear Mother Nature:

ENOUGH!

You’ve had you’re little joke!

IMG_0244

We get it. We live in Maine. Snow is part of the equation … except for, as my friend John Dwyer says, July 18th between 1:00 and 1:15.

We’ve shoveled the walk, and

IMG_0243

and shoveled the walk!

And although it doesn’t look that way, dug the car out! (And, no, Jeannie, that isn’t Jack Nicholson and this isn’t Shiningville)

We’ve spent many a quiet Saturday hanging around the house with no problem. A little puttering here, a little puttering there. But when you CAN’T go out. When your driveway looks like one of the faces of Everest, you’re suddenly bored to tears and pacing the house like a caged cat! Well, at least I am. The Dear one spent the last two days building new cabinets for the kitchen (yay, snow!)

Boredom sets in.

Binge eating is a possible solution, but then when it’s time to go outside, you won’t be able to fit into your clothes or get through the front door.

But cooking, cooking is always an option, and for me a cure to what ails me.

I wanted something warm and filling, simple, yet not too simple. Most importantly, it had to be made with what I had on hand. See, our snow has snow and while we may get a wee reprieve this afternoon, Sunday night we’re getting … what, you may ask? Yes, that’s right SNOW! And then Thursday? SNOW!

Wait, we were talking about what I had on hand … sausage, lentils, red wine? Nigella and Nigella Bites saved me and my frosty Dear One.

  • 3–4 T olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • sprinkling of salt
  • 500g Puy lentils
  • 1 fat clove garlic, squished with the side of a knife, and skin removed
  • 8 Italian sausages
  • 100ml red wine
  • 50ml water
  • flat-leaf parsley for sprinkling

NOTE: THIS IS A RIDICULOUS AMOUNT OF LENTILS! I used slightly less than half and still have some in the freezer for soup!

To cook the lentils, put 2–3 tablespoons of the oil into a good-sized saucepan (and one which has a lid that fits) on the heat and when it’s warm add the chopped onion. Sprinkle with salt (which helps prevents it browning) and cook over a low to medium heat till soft (about 5 minutes).

Add the lentils, stir well and then cover generously with cold water. Bring to the boil, then cover and let simmer gently for half an hour or so until cooked and most, if not all, the liquid’s absorbed. I don’t add salt at this stage since the sauce provided by the sausages later (and which will be poured over the lentils) will be pretty salty itself.

NOTE: You can cook the lentils in advance.

When either the lentils are nearly ready or you’re about to reheat them, put a heavy-based frying pan on the stove, add a little olive oiland add the bruised garlic. Cook for a few minutes then add the sausages and brown. When the sausages are brown on both sides add the wine and water and let bubble up.

NOTE: You can add some extra chopped garlic here.

Cover the pan, either with a lid or tin foil, and cook for about 15 minutes. Using a fork, mash the now-soft garlic into the sauce and taste for seasoning, adding a little more water if it’s too strong.

Remove the lentils to a shallow bowl or dish then cover with the sausages and their garlicky, winey sauce. Sprinkle over some flat-leaf parsley.

NOTE: OR … takes sausages out, add the lentils, mix, sausages back on top and sprinkle with parsley!

done 2