The recipe, very literally, of my dreams

Other people get portentous dreams prophesying war: I get dreams insisting this is a Scandinavian folk dish colloquially called a “Shitstorm”. It is no such thing, but what it is is a handy rice-cooker meal which marries principles of a Levantine Makloubeh with a Spanish Tortilla.

Not A Shitstorm

  • about 1/2 measure of rice
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g ish of new potatoes, sliced into flat slabs
  • one chonk of frozen spinach
  • two little chonks of frozen chopped kale
  • vegetable boullion
  • cooking spray
  • garlic powder, roughly 1 mustard spoon thereof
  1. spray the inside of your rice cooker bowl
  2. layer the bottom with the potato slices
  3. cover with rice, add the frozen vegetable chonks
  4. fill to the appropriate level with vegetable boullion (remember you will need to account for the potatoes). add garlic powder.
  5. let the rice cooker do its thing. while it’s doing that, beat the eggs.
  6. pour the eggs into the cooked tower of rice and veg. Give it a bit of a poke so it actually filters through.
  7. Another round of the rice cooker.

You should have a kind of… ricetila with green bits that tastes of garlic. I’ve no idea if the Definitely Not Shitstorm Of My Dreams will catch on but it’s very easy to make and I’m always in favour of recipes like that.

[Recipe] Dirty Posset

Experiments with English recipes as per my dumb weird mission to revitalise the national palate continue.

After noodling with Roman British recipes I’ve leapt a long way forward in time to investigate the Age of Sail, which has raised a nagging question about a childhood favourite book.

In The Silver Chair by CS Lewis, when the Queen of Harfang offers “possets and comfits and caraways” to a knackered, cold, hungry and fed up Jill Pole, what kind of posset does she refer to? Comfits and Caraways are pretty straightforward (if not exactly pleasant in my opinion). A cold set lemon posset doesn’t seem to cut it…

So we begin with a recipe for Posset, an old favourite for sickly and miserable types which, as far as I can work out, before it was cream curdled with lemon juice as it is now, was more like milk curdled with Basically Any Alcohol But Probably Wine and then spiced. By the 16th century it had reached its current cold confection status, but during the age of sail cream and indeed fresh lemons were not always available to sick bay invalids, and improvisation was necessary. While “boil milk, add either wine or ale “and no salt”, let it cool, gather the curds and discard the whey, and season with ginger, sugar, and possibly “sweet wine” and candied anise.” sounds like the start of a compelling meal, if I wanted sweet cottage cheese I probably wouldn’t go to the trouble of making it, and I very definitely do not discard whey, that stuff is expensive for Body Building Types.

The version I liked best, Sack Posset, also involved oatmeal for additional strengthening properties, and comes out of experimentations by Anne Chotzinoff Grossman and Lisa Grossman Thomas in their seminal and incredibly useful Lobscouse and Spotted Dog, which along with John Edwards’ Apicus translation and modernisation, and endless different translations and approximations of The Forme of Cury, is proving exceptionally useful in the quest.

Full disclosure, the Grossman and Grossman version contains both dry sherry and ale as per the original they worked from whereas I cannot abide either and have no intention of buying them. I also wanted something that would work as a restorative for me personally, a man best described as a night shift gremlin with a loose relationship with sleep schedules: coffee.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 tsbp oatmeal
  • 1.5 tsbp sugar
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • about 35-50ml of whatever sweet & spicy liqueurs/flavoured vodka you have around. i used Christmas cake vodka* but frangelico, vanilla vodka, amaretto, caramel vodka etc would work just as well. if you’d put it in your coffee you can put it in this.
  • 1 spoonful of instant coffee power or two firm squirts of coffee concentrate, or an espresso
  • 1 cup of whole milk or, if your hangover is really bad, 1/2 a cup of whole milk & 1/2 a cup of single cream (and add another espresso)

Method

  1. Combine ingredients thoroughly in a milk pan and simmer while stirring continuously, until the mixture has thickened to thickshake consistency
  2. Chug or eat with a spoon from your mug
  3. Will cure: hangover, heartbreak, horrible weather, and possibly death

* Technically it’s Mince Pie Vodka Liqueur and it’s made to a Hairy Bikers’ Recipe. I rate it highly. I think Clary would also work a treat under these circumstances, but as that takes at least a month to mature and the vodka only takes three days, I know which side I come down on.

 

 

A break for your daily language lesson

I realised recently that my use of Duolingo is largely ritualistic. Catalyst for this was French getting a whole bunch of bullshit added: not proper lessons, just individual words and stuff being added to Basic so that all my progress got wiped out of level 1 and I have to do all the additional stuff. Now, each time I finish those skills I get a Lingot, so if I were *grinding* (as Yon Gamers Say), I’d be pleased I had an easy way to build up Lingots. If I were merely interested in progress, I’d be using my massive Lingot stash for streak freezes and buying bonus skill rounds. If I were truly dedicated to actually learning I’d be consuming Turkish especially outside of the app, but I’m basically not stretching myself at all. It’s just a morning ritual: 5-10 minutes of swearing at the phone as it analyses my ability to bullshit in two different languages: a mild warm-up for the brain like my lazy work-outs are a mild warm-up for the body.

I am, largely non-consensually, learning more French though. My current job requires (unlike my old one) that I read press coverage from various client-selected non-UK countries. They don’t expect me to be multilingual (they’d need to pay a lot more for that); one platform autotranslates (sometimes badly) from the German, Italian (very badly: translate cannot handle this AT ALL), Chinese, French, Spanish, Portugese and theoretically Polish (although none’s come up yet) business press. The other offers a click through translation applet: which at shit o’clock in the morning, when I’m trying to process a million billion articles, is just a waste of several seconds and CPU on an already beleaguered laptop.

So I’ve been kind of learning enough context and minimal vocab to know whether this or that article is relevant. I’ve also, in the privacy of my own head, taken to referring to the SNCF, the French national train service which causes the people of France such consternation despite being so much bloody cheaper than the privatised UK “services” I could weep (seriously, France, it’s very easy here to spend 2/3 of your day’s wages getting to and from work), as “Sncoof” or “Sncoeuf”. If I’m feeling really petty, it’s “Le Sncoeuf.” Why petty? Because in that blasted unnecessarily gendered language, the rail service is feminine. It’s La SNCF. Referred to as “she” when the translate function has finished muddying the waters.

That’s right: I’m expressing my displeasure with mountains of bickering about French trains by deliberately misgendering the national rail service. Take THAT, French journalists!

What, in theory, is happening with my writing?

First of all: Vulture Bones Magazine have a short story of mine in their current issue, #5, available to buy on their website. The story is called The Invention of Terms, and it’s about data architecture and gender outlaws, and is not as dull as that probably sounds. It’s botanical sci-fi, because John Wyndham Happened To Me at a formative stage.

What’s ahead?

I have A Project brewing with my comics collaborator, Emma, but it’s going to be a while before I can tell you all about that. Suffice to say it is very exciting.

My howevermanyth novel, Architects of the Flesh (a hellish Lammarckian dystopian fantasy London where literally self-made characters go head-to-head with a eugenics-based class system and there are absolutely no winners), is currently at the first-proofing stage, and will with good wind and no catastrophes be coming out later this year. I can’t wait to introduce everyone to the book’s five terrible protagonists, Levi, Jonah, Amara, Margaret and James.

Currently in the “critical feedback” stage between first and second draft is Tourist’s Guide To The Ideal London, a multi-reality London contemporary fantasy about the toxic and panegyric forms of belief, about the nature of London and the nature of people, and about how avoiding your problems does not make them go away. Bodge, Alec, Ed, and Opportunity await to take you on a tour through near-infinite Londons but, unfortunately for Opportunity, absolutely no Manchesters.

At the “drawer time-out” stage after first draft is Eggs & Rice, a noir murder mystery set in 1920s Harlem–with a twist. Less Jazz Funtimes and more PTSD and conspiracy, this will leave you on the edge of your seat or possibly actually sitting in the aisles depending on what you’re expecting from it.

In the planning phase I have The Noble Art of Treachery, a bird-heavy fantasy novel about, so far, conspiracy, identity, the unwholesome threesome between politics, religion and commerce, and what happens when you don’t take responsibility for your fuck-ups, especially when that fuck-up is also a whole human person.

Awaiting further input but well into the heavy brainstorming stages are Hooked, a historical romance/murder mystery set in the the end of the studio era of Hollywood; an as-yet untitled sci-fi calamity about nanobots, corruption, the power of framing a story for yourself, and revenge; and the aforementioned Secret Comics-Related Project.

Slowly being collected is my first proper collection of short stories: some are awaiting the end of a contractual obligation to their original publisher; some are already available as individual shorts on the books page, and some are completely unpublished bonus material! Keep an eye out.