Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Daring Kitchen - Substitution Central

The pavs were a flop, the mousse was divine, the cream okay. Altogether it was a delicious mouthful! Below, the table spread for the first course, with Harumi's sourbread, the walnut and white bean dip, and the vegetable terrine.

I can see the biggest problem with these cooking challenges will be trying to find the ingredients. That's one reason why we have not signed up for the proper challenge yet - worry that we'll have some amazingly difficult recipe thrown at us with impossible to acquire ingredients. Even with these recipes, which look so straight-forward once done, required some lateral thinking and scouring of the shop shelves.

The walnut dip was the oddest. In the future, I would probably use the packaged white soy beans, or garbanzo beans, or red kidney beans, or the canned 'mixed beans' that combines those three. But we decided to use HOMINY, just because it was there. Why on earth was I able to lay my hands on a can of hominy, but not a humble white bean? Back to my cooking partner Harumi, who bought them so she could get a teacher of Mexican extraction at the juku/English school I work at (and both our kids go to) to teach her how to cook with them. I told you she was a keen cook! That teacher had no idea how to cook, but when her mother came to visit, Harumi hijacked her and got her hominy lesson (we made posole) , in exchange for us cooking her loads of Japanese food, including niku-jaga, and taking her out to an old-fashioned izakaya, where we ordered frogs' legs and spitted sparrows.

But back to the walnuts. In order to get hominy, Harumi had to order a whole case from FBC. I ended up with a few extra too that she gave me, and made posole again for a party. I had ONE left, and decided THAT would be my white bean substitute. Well, let's just say hominy does not mash as well as kidney beans! I blended, then took it out and mashed, and blended again, finally we added loads and loads more olive oil and water than the recipe called for, and got it at satisfactorily mashed up.

The vegetable terrine was even worse, and I felt like I was making it up as I went along, 'inspired' by the original recipe, but having nothing to do with it. I suppose it is the kind of recipe that you can vary endlessly. The white (top) layer is supposed to be white beans again, this time I used chick peas. That actually turned out really well!

The red layer called for a can of roast peppers. A CAN?? I didn't expect that from the Daring Kitchen. I've noticed the recipes in American magazines become increasingly a case of 'a can of this, a packet of that', which often makes the recipe impossible to reproduce, since not only can I not lay my hands on this can or that packet, but I am not familiar enough with the contents to substitute. I thought DK was about learning to cook from scratch. However, roasting a pepper is not rocket science, and was easily achieved. The kitchen gods were smiling on me that day, as Youme Town just happened to have the hugest red peppers you have ever seen. I also needed to substitute the feta cheese, much to my disappointment. I used mozzarella with a dash of parmesan for flavor. Jusco sometimes has a jar of flavored feta cheese, but it was too far to go and check.

Finally the green layer. Having made pesto twice in the last few months, I thought I'd be in luck here, but the fresh herbs disappeared from Shinsen Ichiba, where I had found a mini-plant of basil and peppermint a few weeks ago, and snapped them up to make some pesto. I checked two other supermarkets, but had to make do with normal parsley, and dried basil. For the ricotta, I used cottage cheese. I did find pine nuts. Not with the nuts near the veggie section. Not with the nuts by the baking section. Not even with the nuts in the snack section - pine nuts are found exclusively in the Chinese cooking section. You can spot that section easily in a Japanese supermarket as almost all the goods are packaged in red.

Enough ranting about the ingredients, the vegetable terrine was delicious, and I will definitely make it again, maybe as a terrine like this, maybe runnier to use as dips.

Left, the bread. Dusted with flour, and scored with a knife to make the cuts. It was divine! And really was a touch sour. Definitely a bread to eat with cheese and dips! Right, the turned-out terrine.

Left, the walnut and 'white' bean (hominy) dip. Loads of garlic, so in the end, you didn't have any idea what bean it was anyway. Right, the three layers of the terrine are more obvious on the plate.

Left, the choc pav. Yeah, right. No, that is a cookie! On the right you can see just how much this 'pav' did NOT puff up!

The pavs however, tasted great, and were wonderful with the mousse and cream. Left: Amy's work. Right, Erica after making short work of her serving.

The girls basically ignored us and enjoyed the freedom to play ALL DAY. But every now and then they popped into the kitchen to see what we were up to, and of course lined up to decorate their own mini-choc-pav:


Vicky said...

Yum! I think in your case the "daring" bit was going on with all the substitutions and refusing to be beaten. From the photos it looks like you won!

Rachel said...

Thanks Vicky! Yes, I can be awfully stubborn sometimes, and having a guest coming spurred me on too. I think I like the challenge of finding something, the thrill of the hunt, my ancient cave-woman gatherer skills coming to the fore!

Helen said...

Do you think it's a bit humid these days for Pavlova? Not that I've ever made it or isn't a Canadian thing really...but I thought that macaroons/egg white thingys had to be really dry?

I'm looking with awe at the stuff you made...I don't do a lot of cooking usually...tomorrow I'm going to grill something, but it's the exception rather than the rule!

And my word verification today is darinal, which is a bit like....Daring All !

Rachel said...

Yeah, I thought of the humidity thing, but I'm not sure how to deal with it. The eggs were also cold, and I accidentally dumped the sugar in too quickly. I'm also not sure if we beat it long enough. Loads of possibilities - pavlova is the apex of the art and science of the kitchen, and I haven't mastered it yet.