Friday, April 17, 2015

Steampunk + India = Tasty

While I was doing the background research for 'Hearts Before Diamonds', I wanted to find a Victorian-era breakfast dish that would have been popular with Westerners visiting India. A British friend told me about kedgeree, but the flavor profile (and the flaked haddock) were too British. A little looking turned up more recipes than I can count for khichuri, the root dish kedgeree is derived from.

So, presented here is the recipe I used for Edward Wallace's breakfast. It's appropriate for any Steampunk adventure, and if you see something you don't like, by all means replace it. Khichuri is as malleable as the cheeseburger or the omelet. Case in point: this recipe calls for red lentils, but I think yellow ones are more tender. Also, I hate cauliflower. 

Recipe originally posted on Zesterdaily and shamelessly copied here.  You don't want to know how much time I've wasted browsing recipes there...

Allez cuisine!

Bengali Red Lentil Risotto (Khichuri)
(Recipe adapted from “The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles”)

1 cup dried red split lentils (masoor dal)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup short-grained rice (such as Arborio or kala jeera)
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 medium-sized tomato, finely chopped
1 medium-sized potato, peeled and cubed
1/2 small cauliflower head, cut into small florets
3 to 4 green chilies, slit halfway lengthwise
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons ghee (clarified butter)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 to 2 bay leaves

1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan put the red lentils and about 4 cups water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
2. Add the turmeric and simmer for about 10 minutes. The lentils should be partially cooked but not mushy at this point.
3. Add the rice, 3 more cups water, ginger, ground cumin and coriander, tomato, potato, cauliflower, green chilies, sugar and salt. Simmer for about 25 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. The rice and lentil mixture should be a porridge-like consistency (add more water if too thick). The texture is important. You do not want the rice to completely lose its integrity, however it should be softer than a regular well-made bowl of rice. Add in the greens peas and stir well.
4. While this is cooking, heat the oil in a wok or skillet and add the onion and cook on medium heat until soft and pale golden. It is important to cook the onions low and slow to let them caramelize.
5. Stir the onions into the rice and lentil mixture and cook for about 2 minutes.
6. Turn off the heat and stir in the cilantro.
7. Heat the ghee in a small skillet and add the cumin seeds and the bay leaves. Cook for about 40 seconds until the cumin seeds darken and turn fragrant.
8. Pour the spice mixture over the rice and lentils.
9. Stir lightly and serve the mixture hot.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Every picture tells a story...

A friend of mine, Rowan Moonstone, took this picture up near Estes Park a few years back.  She posted it in one of the Charles de Lint groups on Facebook a few days ago, commenting that she thought there was a story there, but she couldn't find it. She threw the gates open for folks to give it a shot, so here's my submission.

The Business of Winter
by Bryan Fields

Fall in the Rockies is a time of great industry for the creatures living there.  They look around themselves, seeing this sign and that, and watch the days grow shorter, and each sign they see stirs them to be about the business of winter.

As happens sometimes, a bluebird gave heed to an excess of distractions, and, for a time, forgot to give account to the doing of needful things.  It was not until the first flecks of snow intruded on her that she realized she was unprepared for winter.  The thought terrified her, and she gave a great wail of despair.

Her cries startled a young bull elk, who was full of dry grasses and thoughts of lady elk, and of things done with lady elk in large meadows of soft, dry grass…  He sounded a challenge and turned to face his attacker—but it was only a foolish bluebird weeping over….well, something.

He snorted at her, and assumed his proudest stance.  “What did you say to me?  I warn you, I’m not to be trifled with.”

“My troubles are my own,” said the bluebird.  “I have been foolish, and winter is here, and I am not ready.  I must spend my time well, and be fierce, but I will endure.”

“HMMPH,” snorted the elk.  “Well, your fate is not my concern, but winter is unkind, and I am noble and true of heart, not to mention virile and powerful.  I will aid you.”  So saying, he lifted his hoof, and struck it on the ground, again and again. His blows tore the grasses and the earth asunder, exposing grubs, and seeds, and berries dried and forgotten, and the crunchy things burrowing for their life. 

The bluebird ate, and ate well, listening to the elk, who had quite forgotten her.  When she could eat no more, she took to wing.  All the land was before her, and so also its secrets.  Soon, she returned to the young elk.

The bluebird spoke to the elk, asking, “Is this what you seek, my friend?”, and she cast a tuft of fur on the ground before him.   

The elk sniffed and cried, “Yes!  Tell me, what…er, how, I mean, where?” 

The bluebird spoke of where, and of things seen from the sky that may be touched on the ground, and of how a trail had been left into the thick forest, guiding one who knew how to look to the resting place of the lady elk who had given her fur to the bluebird.

“But, what of the herd bull?” the elk asked.  “He sees all, he knows all-“

“Go,” said the bluebird.  “I will fight the herd bull for you.  Go!”

This, the elk did, and found his way to the lady elk, and they did what elk do in thick forests.

The bluebird flew to the meadow where the herd bull held his court, and watched his rivals with wary eyes.  The bluebird flew past him, and alighted on the rump of the strongest rival bull.  She took a twig in her beak, and gave the rival a good poke in the place where a small twig must seem a cruel branch.

The rival broke onto the meadow, snorting and bellowing.  The herd bull was upon him at once, for a challenge must be answered. 

Another rival charged forth, and another, and soon a great tumult engulfed the bulls, and no calm returned until all the bulls were exhausted.

The bluebird found her friend, who was well accounted of himself, and the two went forth, one aiding the other, and so they attended to the business of winter.