Monday, April 20, 2009

Oatmeal and Guinness and pies we once knew

Please forgive my laxness in posting lately, but our lives have been very busy with the start of warm weather! Between holidays and my 9 month old becoming truly crawl-mobile, my energy is running low. This weekend we visited Darling Husband's parents and our little girl had a chance to spend time with her uncle from Miami. It was a fantastic visit with beautiful weather and a thrilling trip to the zoo and aquarium--Baby Girl loved the jellyfish!

Before I get off topic, please remember to submit ideas for our appetizer challenge, detailed in the previous post. We're excited for the idea already there and hope more come in! Darling Husband suggested we do all of them, but not on the same night. So submit a list of three ingredients and we're likely to make stuff and post about it!

Getting back to this weekend. We also had a fantastic cake that, as my father-in-law joked, I just have to blog about. When it was announced that desert was "oatmeal cake," I was admittedly a little wary. I'm not a huge oatmeal fan, and I tend not to like oatmeal cookies. Although, now that I think of it, it's not that I don't so much like oatmeal cookies as the fact that they so often have raisins in them. I like raisins on their own okay, but not in baked goods.

I just realized I spend an awful lot of time on this blog saying things I don't like! I don't think of myself as a picky eater, and I eat a wide variety of things. Hmmm... I wonder what that means? But back to the cake. It was a wonderful cross between regular cake and coffee cake, as it had a brown sugar crumble topping on it that gave a great crunch and mouth feel. The cake was moist but not doughy or chewy, the way oatmeal things can be. My mother-in-law served it with Cool Whip (or "licky-dab," as the family sometimes calls it) and I really looked forward to leftovers the second night. She gave me the recipe and I will be making it the next time I have occasion. It's really a pretty straightforward recipe--even baking-challenged me could probably make it okay!

Of course, I looked at the recipe and immediately started thinking of ways to change it. I wonder if I could make it into cupcakes, or put a layer of crunch topping in the middle for a little extra texture. She said you can add cocoa to make a chocolate oatmeal cake, and so I wondered about chocolate chips. Hazelnuts instead of walnuts? I don't have quick oats, but I do have steel cut oats (leftover from a challenge) so can I just make a few substitutions and alter it? Do I really need all that butter? This seemed like the start of a story that would end up in me throwing away inedible cake-like substance, so I stopped my train of thought. I'll try to be good and make it as directed. No promises as to when that will be, though!

Tonight was Steak and Guinness pie, a recipe we got from Jamie Oliver. Remember? The "naked chef?" Who was never naked (more's the pity) and cooked with a weird frenetic energy, bobbing and weaving like an amateur boxer while he clipped away in his working class English accent. Essentially, it's a pot pie. We seared cubes of stew beef and stirred in small leeks (usually we'd use onion), garlic, mushroom, parsnip, carrot and frozen peas. Add one Guinness, minus a sip or two, and let come to a boil. Thicken with a few spoons of flour, flavor with salt, pepper and rosemary, and you have a wonderful looking instant stew. We lined a casserole dish with a sheet of puff pastry, added the stew, topped with a generous mound of grated white cheddar, then covered with a second sheet of puff pastry that had been rolled lightly and scored in a diamond pattern. The edges of the pastry are not perfect, and that's just fine. Jamie Oliver just flopped the edges up and crimped the best he could, and we follow suit. Then we popped it in the oven for 40 minutes or so, until the puff pastry was golden and, well, puffed. If you cut and serve immediately, you'll have a big mess. We've found it's best to let it rest 20 minutes or so first, to allow the insides to settle and not lose all the wonderful gravy. It won't get cold, but it will cool down to a temperature that will not blister all of the skin on the roof of your mouth, which I appreciate.

It's warm and comforty, good for a wind stormy, rainy day like today. (I should mention that I saw a rainbow today, though.) Darling Husband thought today's pie might have been the best we've made it yet. I agree. That's what comes from cooking without recipe or measurement--it's never quite the same dish twice. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, sometimes just different. I seem to recall my father lamenting about this when I was growing up... I wonder if my daughter will be the same?


  1. Lament is a good word, much better than complain, which I almost never do. I remember on time Wife made the absolute best meatloaf I ever tasted - a combination of several kinds of meat and spiced just right. I raved about it and she was pleased. The next time she made meatloaf I asked if she made it the same as before. Probably not, she admitted, since she could not remember exactly how she had made it. "Maybe I should have written something down," she offered.

  2. Jamie Oliver, incidentally, has been accused of his accent being slightly fake and played up to make him sound more working class and 'authentic'... ;-)

  3. Great post. I found it when I was looking for Guinness recipes.