K. J. Charles „An Unnatural Vice“ – The spirits made me do it

Dear Reader,

since I had met Mr. Lazarus, the great Seer of London, odd things have been going on in the kitchen. I’d find someone had been rooting about in the pantry, or that the spoons and forks had been rearranged. Just yesterday, I found the sink-full of dishes, which were waiting to be washed, all squeaky clean on the counter.
Then I knew, dear Reader, whatever was causing all this must be hungry.

Add 200 g of chilled (freezer for 30 minutes) butter, 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 of a tablespoon of sugar to about 2.5 cups of flour. Rub the flour and butter together until the consistency of the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add about 5 tablespoons of very cold water and mix until the dough starts clumping (add a little more water, if needed). Form the dough into a ball (do not knead), cover and cool in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Sort out the mess of spoons and forks while you wait.
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Take the dough out of the refrigerator, divide it into pieces if you are using multiple smaller pie-tins. Roll the dough out, about 0.5 cm thick.
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Line the bottom of your tins with baking paper. Place the rolled out dough into the tins, smooth out the corners and trim the overhanging edges.
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Bake the tart shells at 200 °C for about 35 minutes.

Justin sat in the kitchen eating hot buttered toast as he leafed through a couple of notebooks, reminding himself of the existing clients‘ previous seances: predictions, leads, gossip, weaknesses, crucial names. Breakfast had to be toast because that smelled homely but not ludicrously domestic.

While the shells are baking, let’s start making the filling.
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Like his own master, he’d placed a strict household ban on any form of bacon, smoked fish, or boiled cabbage as entirely unspiritual odors.
„When I retire I’m going to have bacon for breakfast every day,“ he remarked through a mouthful of toast.

Fry up several strips of bacon. Cut two medium sized onions into slivers and caramelize them (you can use the fat rendered from the bacon instead of oil for more flavor). Lightly whisk four eggs, add about 80 g of grated cheddar, the bacon strips (cut into pieces), the onions, a pinch of pepper, and a small pinch of thyme. Mix it together.
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Spoon the filling mixture into the tart shells. Sprinkle some dried basil on top.
Preheat the oven to 200 °C again. Say a quick prayer to the holy alchemists.
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Bake for about 30 minutes until the filling looks golden on the outside and is firm on the inside (test with a toothpick).
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Enjoy!
I see someone has already started without waiting for me.

„Tell you what, my spirit guide’s a f*****g tart.“

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Yours from behind the veil,
B.

 

P.S. If by any chance You should need any more convincing to read the book, take a look at Nosferatu’s review.

P.P.S. Dough recipe adapted from https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/classic-sour-cherry-pie-with-lattice-crust-242514.

Book info:
Author: K. J. Charles
Title: An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the Cities, Part 2)
Year: 2017
Find it on https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32161804-an-unnatural-vice

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Shion Miura „The Great Passage“ – A noodle shop in Jimbocho

Dear Reader,

greetings. Warm winds are blowing, a reminder of the swift approach of spring’s sunny skies. I trust you are well.
We haven’t seen each other in a while. May I invite you for lunch?
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Hidden in the book-lined streets of Jimbocho is a small noodle shop. And it seems that we are in luck – there are still some seats open. There are several offices nearby, so it tends to get a little crowded during lunch time.
Two colleagues are seated at the next table. Let’s take a peek at what they are having.

 

„So what am I doing, getting involved like this?“ Nishioka murmured, looking at Majime, who was sitting across from him slurping soba noodles. After finishing the morning’s work, he had invited the perennially broke Majime out to lunch at a noodle joint near the office. „My treat,“ he’d said. Majime modestly ordered a platter of morisoba, plain cold noodles with a dipping sauce.

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Morisoba is a simple, easily prepared dish. As the noodles are served cold, it is refreshing on a warm spring day.
Bring two to three cups of water to boil. Add about 100 g of soba (buckwheat) noodles. Boil the noodles until soft (but not mushy) – about 6 minutes. Drain the noodles, reserving some of the cooking water. Rinse them with cold water, drain well, and pile onto a plate. Pour sauce (I used a concentrated noodle soup broth) into your dipping bowl (or cup), dilute it a little with water, if needed, and add some wasabi and green onion. Dip, slurp, and enjoy.
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Having devoured his noodles, Majime was now pouring sobayu, the hot water the noodles were cooked in, from a little teapot into the rest of his dipping sauce to make a tasty drink. Nishioka had had a bowl of oyako domburi, rice topped with a chicken-and-egg mixture simmered with onions.“

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In a pot or pan mix 1.5 cups of water, a packet of dashi (broth powder, or make your own broth from scratch), a tablespoon of sugar, two tablespoons of soy sauce, and 2-3 tablespoons of sake (mirin can be used instead of the sake, add less sugar in this case). Bring this mixture to a boil, then lower the heat. Add a medium-sized onion, cut into slivers and about 200 grams of chicken (thigh meat), cut into strips.
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Simmer on low to medium heat until the chicken is cooked through and the onion is soft. Add two lightly beaten eggs on top, and continue simmering until they are cooked.
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Serve over a bowl of rice. Add some shichimi togarashi (seven spice mix) if you’d like a little heat. Miso soup is a great accompaniment.

Reader, those do look good. Shall we order the same?

 

Do take care of yourself.
B.

 

P.S. The amounts given above make one portion of morisoba and three portions of oyakodon.

 

Book info:
Author: Shion Miura
Title: The Great Passage (舟を編む)
Year: 2017
Find it on Goodreads

Aloha Higa „Polar Bear’s Cafe“ – Panda pan da!

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Dear Reader,

a bake-sale is going on at Polar Bear’s cafe. Let`s go take a look.
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Polar Bear is a talented baker and there are all kinds of bread and buns on offer.
Yet it wouldn’t be like him if there weren’t any puns about. Would you care for a loaf of Chopain? Maybe a Dessert Island?
We’ve been invited into the kitchen to make a special kind of pun-bun.
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Mix flour, sugar, egg, water, milk, salt, and dry yeast (for proper proportions, please see the original recipe here.) Knead the dough until it becomes less sticky and more elastic. Knead in the butter. Separate about 1/4 of the dough and knead in a spoon of cocoa powder. Form both portions into balls, cover with a damp cloth, place the somewhere warm and let the yeast do its job.
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Once the dough has risen, knead it through. Divide the  plain dough into six chunks.IMG_2457
Take a chunk of dough, flatten it on your hand and add a scoop of anko (sweet red bean paste). Fold the edges over and place the bun seam-down on the baking tray.
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Form ears, eyes-patches and noses from the cocoa-dough and stick them onto the buns.
IMG_2461 Cover the buns with a damp cloth (so that the surface doesn’t dry out). Once the dough has risen, brush the buns with egg-wash and bake at 200 °C for about 15 minutes.


パンダパンだ!(Panda pan da)  – it’s panda buns! and they are almost  too cute to eat. Almost.

Enjoy with a cup of your favorite beverage.

Best beans,
B.
 

P.S. This recipe is based on the あんパン recipe from justonecookbook.

Book info:
Author: ヒガアロハ (Aloha Higa)
Title: しろくまカフェ (Polar Bear’s Cafe)
Year: 2008
Find it on Goodreads

V. E. Schwab „A Gathering of Shadows“ – To London!

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Dear Reader,

pack your things and drain your drink. We are setting sail!
Where are we off to this time?

The table began to quiet, and Alucard brought his stein down. „Listen up, you shabby lot,“ he said, his voice carrying in a wave. The group fell to murmurs and silence. „You can have the night on land. But we sail at first light.“
„Where to next?“ asked Tav.
Alucard looked right at Lila when he said it. „To London.“

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Before leaving port, the Captain has invited us for a drink. Let’s just follow the crew into the tavern.

…rather than trail after, Lila made her way to the bar and ordered some kind of cider that smelled of apple and spice and strong liquor. She was several sips along…
Lila set a coin on the bar and stood up. The cider hit her like a pitching deck, as if she were no longer on solid ground but back on the Spire in a storm.

Allow me to fill your glass.
Pour about liter of apple juice into a pot and set it on medium heat. Add a cinnamon stick, an anise star, several cloves and cardamon pods, and the peel of about 1/4 of a lemon (organic, if available – the conventional ones are treated with chemicals and not meant to be consumed). Bring the concoction to a boil, take it off the heat and let steep for about an hour. After that, take out the spices and cool the infusion down.
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Mix 200-250 ml of the infusion with 30-40 ml of rum (the rum may be omitted for an alcohol-free version).

Kell hesitated, then drew the Red London lin from his pocket, the star glittering in the center of the coin. He always brought one for the king; every month, the old monarch claimed that the magic in his own was fading, like heat from dying coals, so Kell would bring him one to trade, pocket-warm and smelling of roses.

Since it is Red London we are sailing to, 1-2 tablespoons of rosewater (food-grade) will provide a magical undercurrent to the mixture.

Ah, it appears the Captain wants our attention.

Alucard chuckled and shook his head. He brought his glass to his lips, took a swig, and then slammed the stein down on the table. It shattered, but before the cider could spill, it sprang into the air, along with the contents in every other glass at the table, liquid freezing as it surged upward. The frozen drinks hung for a moment, the tumbled to the wooden table, some lodging sharp-end down, others rolling about. Lila watched the frozen spear that had once been her cider fetch up against her glass. Only the icicle that had been Alucard’s drink stayed up, hovering suspended above his ruined glass.
The crew whooped and applauded.

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Lila stopped drawing her finger through the cider, and no one noticed that the spilled liquid kept moving, tracing patterns across the wood.
Someone set a fresh drink in front of her.
Alucard was calling for attention.
„To London,“ he said, raising his glass.
Lila raised her own.
„To London,“ she said, smiling like a knife.

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Well, dear Reader? Shall we board the Night Spire?

To London!
B.

Book info:
Author: V. E. Schwab
Title: A Gathering of Shadows
Year: 2016
Find it on Goodreads

K. J. Charles „A Charm of Magpies“ – An English Chinaman

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Dear Reader,

today we are celebrating.
We are celebrating the Lunar New Year (a bit late, I know). We are also celebrating the release of the audiobooks for the „A Charm of Magpies“ series by K. J. Charles (a bigger bit late, yes).
And we are celebrating with cake.

…she had produced a pot of tea and a plate of heavy, wet cake and solid, indigestible buns…

No, we are celebrating with street food fit for a lord. Well, this particular lord:

The eighth Earl Crane lifted an aristocratic brow. „In my case the je ne sais quoi includes four years as a smuggler, two death sentences, and a decade as a Shanghai Joe, a dockfront trader.

Today we are making Shanghainese buns with steak and ale filling.IMG_2265
For the dough, mix a cup (about 300 ml) flour, 1 teaspoon of dry yeast, a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of sugar, and a tablespoon of oil (I used sunflower). Add warm water (about 200 ml) and mix until clumps of dough begin to form, then knead.
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The dough should be soft and not very sticky. If it is too hard – add water, if too soft – add flour. Continue kneading until the dough looks smooth, then form it into a ball, place it into a bowl, and cover with a damp cloth (or cling film). Place the bowl somewhere warm and wait until the dough has risen about double of its initial size.

While you wait, go for a walk to visit the ducks by the river (wrong book, B.!).

When the dough has risen, knead it and let it rise once more. And while it does that, let’s prepare the filling.
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You will need about 250 g of beef (cubed), one medium onion and a medium carrot (diced), 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced), and 250 ml of beer. 2 tablespoons of vegetable stock powder (with salt), 1 teaspoon of thyme, half a teaspoon of chili flakes, half a teaspoon of ground black pepper, and half a teaspoon of five-spice powder (aniseed, fennel, pepper, cinnamon and ginger) will flavor the mixture.
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Add some oil to a frying pan. Fry the carrots, onion and garlic, and add the beef. Once the beef starts browning a little, add the spices, stock powder, and beer. Give the mixture a good stir, cover the pan, and continue stewing on low to medium heat until the beef is soft (the duration will depend on the cut of meat used). Check the mixture from time to time and add water to replace the evaporated liquid, if needed.
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Flour your work surface, remove the dough from the bowl and give it a quick knead. Form it into a log and cut it into chunks.
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Flatten a piece of dough on your hand (flour your hands to prevent a sticky mess), add some filling and fold the edges over to form a ball. Place the bun seam-down onto a piece of baking paper. Cover the finished buns with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying while you make more.
Next step – steaming the buns.
IMG_2277If you have a pot with a steaming attachment or a bamboo steamer – great! If not, you can improvise like I did. bring water to boil in  a large pot, put a metal strainer on top of the pot, place the buns into the strainer and cover with the pot lid. Make sure not to crowd the buns, as they expand while cooking. Steam on high heat for about 15 minutes (until the dough is cooked through). Be careful not to burn yourself with hot steam!
The steamed buns can be eaten as they are, but to give the recipe a Shanghainese twist, we are going to fry them.
Heat about a finger’s-width of oil in a pan. Fry the buns on medium heat until the bottoms become golden brown and crispy.IMG_2280
And we’re done! The process is quite lengthy, but the finished result is worth it (you will just have to trust me here).
I recommend listening to an exciting audiobook *wink* to make the time pass much quicker.
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The finished buns are crispy on the bottom and fluffy on top. Enjoy them while they’re warm with some green tea (or finish off the beer left over from the filling).
They keep well in the freezer (reheat in a microwave).

Yours magically,
B.

Book info:
Author: K. J. Charles
Title: A Charm of Magpies (series)
Year: 2018
Find it on Goodreads (Part 1 – „The Magpie Lord“)

Andy Weir „Artemis“ – Premium Gunk

Dear Reader,

today’s recipe is out of this world. Really.

Have you ever wondered what Moon people eat? Moon-pies? Cheese?
Anyone who’s read Andy Weir’s new novel „Artemis“ will tell you – they eat Gunk.
What is Gunk?
According to moon-dweller Jazz Bashara

It’s dried algae and flavor extracts. They grow it here in Artemis in vats because food from Earth is expensive. Gunk is gross. Flavor extracts are supposed to make it taste good but they just make it taste gross in other ways. I have to eat it every day. I hate it.

Well, we can do a bit better than that (I had Jazz smuggle me some fruit). Reader, we are going to make some apple pie flavour Premium Gunk.
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Blend one banana, one medium-sized apple and about a tablespoon of spirulina powder together with 300-400 ml of water, add sweetener (I used xylitol), ginger powder, cinnamon, and vanilla flavor drops to taste.
The finished product is a (very) green smoothie.
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The trick with Gunk is to steer clear of stuff trying to taste like other stuff. Don’t get the „Tandoori Chicken“ flavorant. You’ll just be disappointed, Get „Myrtle Goldstein’s Formulation #3“. That’s good shit. No idea what the ingredients are. […] It makes the Gunk palatable, ant that’s what matters.

The spices and vanilla flavoring do a great job of masking the sea-grassy taste of the spirulina.
I might have to think up a snazzier name for our product. Reader, what do you think of „B’s Brilliant Green“?

Yours healthily,
B.

Book info:
Author: Andy Weir
Title: Artemis
Pages: 322
Publisher: Ebury Digital
Year: 2017
Find it on Find it on Goodreads

K. J. Charles „An Unseen Attraction“ – Part 2 – Polly’s ginger cure-alls

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Dear Reader,

long time no read. How has Your year begun? What is the weather like in Your corner of the world?
Over here the mornings mope about the absence of snow, cover themselves in thick blankets of fog, and refuse to get up.

Londoners took a perverse pride in the „particulars“ of yellow, blinding fog; Clem had been raised in the countryside, where you could breathe.

Our local variety is no match for an old London pea-souper, but still manages to creep into coats of any thickness and chill you to the bone.
Why not stave off the chill and dreariness with a delightful biscuit (or a plate-full of them)?

The ginger biscuits were not long in coming, and Clem was pleased to see their restorative effect. He wasn’t sure what Polly put into them, and nor was anyone else; there were women up and down Wilderness Row formally Not Speaking to her because she refused to give out the recipe.

Luckily for us, the Author didn’t mind sharing the recipe with her readers.
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All that is left for me to add is a note on substitution: if self-raising flour is not available, use regular flour and add a tea spoon of baking powder. Honey works in place of the syrup.
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Also, do not take the note about spacing your biscuits lightly. I was a little lazy and decided against starting a new tray for just a few biscuits. Well, see for yourself:
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…and they had much the effect on the system that a stiff drink had on people in books.

They are effective indeed. Along with a cup of tea they will warm you up in chilly times. Ginger is known for its pain-killing properties. A few of these biscuits manage to wipe out those pesky little weather-induced headaches for me (further clinical testing may be needed to support this claim, will report back after one more plate, or two).

How do you fight the murk and the morbs?

Yours warmly,
B.

 

P.S. „But B.,“ you think, „has the ginger gone to your brain? This is Part 2. Did you forget Part 1 in the oven?“
If it’s Part 1 You seek, dear Reader, you shall have to brave the fog and travel to Nosferatu’s lair to retrieve it.

New year, new adventures.

 

Sometimes I catch myself wishing for K.J. Charles to rewrite Sherlock Holmes. The wish got the fuel added to it with the book „An Unseen Attraction“ (Sins of the Cities 1), where the detective plot-line really had me hooked!
Both Clem and Rowley prefer peace and quiet, which is likely why they soon found themselves having those common evenings together, by the fire, with tea and the lodging house cat named Cat. Rowley isn’t very talkative, and Clem has things to hide. And if that doesn’t make the foundations for sound friendship…

Read more at Night Mode