Thursday, December 3, 2015

Odds & Ends: mince tarts, bean goop and a Christmas cake update

I was busy preparing another one of my beans, greens and grains bowls for dinner this past Monday night and I wasn't going to bother posting about it, but on a whim I decided try not draining the beans and using their liquid in the stew. Even though Mark Andrew Gravel calls for rinsing and draining the beans in his book, Kill the Recipe, it occurred to me that the liquid that beans are cooked and canned in must contain some of the nutrients found in the beans themselves and that it would be a shame to throw it down the drain. 

So, even though I have been heavily conditioned to think that the slimy bean "goop" should be rinsed off and washed down the drain, I took a deep breath and dumped the entire contents of 2 cans of navy beans into the stewpot.  The results are wonderful:

The bean liquid adds a lovely saucy consistency to the stew.  Just f.y.i., this incarnation of the beans, greens and grains bowl is made up of:

1 onion, 3 cloves garlic, 2 carrots, 3 celery stalks, 1 fennel bulb as the aromatics
2 cans navy beans, undrained 
1 large bok choy, white parts chopped and cooked with the aromatics, green parts chiffonaded
brown jasmine rice as the grain
2 heaping teaspoons yellow Thai curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen brand)
several good shakes Thai fish sauce (again, I used Thai Kitchen)
generous pinches each of cumin seed, fennel seed, ground coriander, salt and black pepper

I had it topped with about 3 tblsp. tahini hot sauce (1 cup tahini with 3-4 good shakes of Frank's red hot sauce -- save leftover sauce covered in the fridge).  YUM!

Later in the week, I remembered that although I had made a test batch of mince tarts using the leftover half-pint jar of mincemeat I had canned earlier, I hadn't posted it like I said I was going to, so here it is.

I had mentioned that the mincemeat tasted a little citrus-y and that I hoped it would mellow with time.  Well, after nearly 3 weeks, it has mellowed a bit and the spices, rum and brandy are showing through a little more.

What really surprised me was the pastry.  I found 3 balls of leftover dough in the freezer from various baking projects and I thought this would be the perfect way to use them up rather than make fresh. Now, I figure the frozen dough had to be at least 6 months old, if not closer to a year and having been rolled and manhandled several times before it was frozen, I figured after thawing it and rolling it out once again, it would be as tough as old shoe leather.  

I was pleasantly surprised to find otherwise!  Although it's not as light and flaky as freshly made, it's certainly not shoe leather by any means!  Overall, I was very pleased with the results and the tarts taste wonderful with a glass of sherry.  Next year at this time the mincemeat should be awesome!

I will be making a full batch of these for my annual Christmas get-together on December 12, making pastry dough from scratch, so watch out for a post on that coming soon.

And while my mind was occupied with baked goods, I thought I had better check on the Christmas cake.  It's really coming along nicely and I gave it one last top-up of dark rum and brandy. I will leave it until late next week to apply the fondant icing so it, too, can be ready for the party on December 12. Watch for a post on this as well.

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