31 December 2011


Last year over the holidays was the first time I had helped to make springerles, and I was amazed that the only anise flavor came from the aniseeds that the cookies lay upon. As I had recently taken up making my own extracts, and both Chris and I wanted more anise-y springerles, I made a lovely anise extract for this year's batch.

Making aniseed extract couldn't be more simple, either: Fill a small jar half way with aniseeds, top with vodka and let it sit for several months before straining. And I must say, this batch of springerles is most excellent. That said, whipping whole eggs 'til light and fluffy is still weird!

makes several dozen depending on thickness

3 large eggs
1-2 tablespoons of butter
1-1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon aniseed extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons aniseeds, or enough to cover your cookie sheet

1. Beat the whole eggs until light and fluffy and the eggs come off the beaters in ribbons

2. Add butter, sugar, and extract to the eggs and mix

3. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder

4. Add the flour mixture in 1/2 cup increments until you can no longer beat the mixture, then mix in by hand the rest of the flour

5. Roll out the dough so that it's 1/2 inch thick, then press into shapes so that it is at least 1/4 inch thick

6. Cut out the cookies and lay out approximately 3/4 inch apart on top of a cookie sheet that has been lightly covered with aniseeds

7. Leave out at room temperature overnight to 24 hours to dry out

8. Preheat the oven to 325°F and bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes. Do not brown!

17 December 2011

Oat and Neep Stew

Once upon a time, when I was looking for Scottish fare to serve on Burns' Day (because I neither could nor wanted to serve haggis), I found a stew that was thickened with rolled oats and called for turnip or rutabaga as the main starch. Of course, I've never found it again, and I've done some adjustments to the proportions of the stew, but the inspiration stands.

The original recipe called for some sort of bean or lentil, I'm sure, but I don't remember exactly what. I have, however, settled on using both beans and lentils, though more of the former, and I particularly like kidney or cannellini beans in this recipe. (By the by, I was looking up the correct spelling of cannellini and randomly found out that in fact "as few as five raw [kidney] beans" can cause poisoning "and symptoms occur within three hours, beginning with nausea, then vomiting, which can be severe and sustained [profuse], followed by diarrhea. Recovery occurs within four or five hours of onset, usually without the need for any medical intervention." [Wikipedia] Of course boiling them for ten minutes takes care of that, but still. How odd.)

I've also tried a few different meats in this stew. Ground lamb is what was in the original recipe, and it is delicious. Chicken (not ground) also works very well, but steer clear of beef as it's too bitter for this stew. And I guess that's all I really have to say about this recipe, so let's get to it.

Oat and Neep Stew
serves 6-8

3/4 cup dry kidney or cannellini beans
1/2 cup dry lentils

4 cups vegetable stock
1 to 1-1/2 pounds of rutabaga or turnip
2 large carrots
1 large onion
2 large cloves garlic
1 pound meat (chicken or ground lamb)
2 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup rolled oats
salt and pepper to taste


1. Soak your beans overnight or for at least 3 hours and discard soaking water. Lentils need to soak at least 1 hour, but can be soaked overnight too, just expect them to fall to mush if you do this. You can skip this step, but do at least rinse the legumes, and know that they will take longer to cook if you haven't soaked them.

2. After discarding the soaking water, put legumes in a pot and cover with water by about 3 inches. Bring this to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer until tender.

3. Meanwhile, cut the carrots and rutabaga into bite-sized pieces; dice the onions; mince the garlic, rosemary and thyme.

4. In a separate pan from the legumes, sear the meat and then sauté the onions and garlic. Set these aside.

5. Drain the bean liquor if you want, if not, you'll have to use a bit more oats to thicken the stew.

6. Add everything to the pot with the legumes; bring it to a boil, reduce again to a simmer and cook until the carrots and rutabaga are tender and the beans are a bit mushy.