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historical fiction

book review, recipe

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society + Potato Peel Pie

Recently, my book club elected to read Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a charming piece of historical fiction about life on the British Channel Islands during and after WWII. It is a bit of a book about books, but more than that it’s about how literature can bring people together, unexpectedly, even in the worst of times.

In 1946 London, a mysterious man writes to Juliet Ashton because he somehow came to be in possession of one of her books and is looking for more by the same author, who he’s come to adore. Of course, as a reader, Juliet steps in to help him get the books he needs, and with that, she launches a friendly correspondence with him – and his fellow islanders. All of them belonged to an impromptu book club during the German wartime occupation of their home on Guernsey, and Juliet is beside herself to learn more about them.

While I was expecting a potentially difficult read, as many WWII novels tend to be (including The Nightingale and Lilac Girls), I was pleasantly surprised. There are some brief descriptions of time in the concentration camps, but it mostly serves as a way to provide the characters – who’ve survived the war at that point – with some closure. Book narratives that take place solely through letters can sometimes fall flat, but in this case, my whole book club enjoyed the choice. I thought it added to the charm.

Though the Guernsey Literary Society also boasts the name of a disgusting-sounding dish, the potato peel pie is mentioned only briefly in the novel. It is described as a pie made out of potato peels and something to do with beets. As I read, I was slightly horrified to think about making such a pie for this post. Luckily, I remembered my Book Club Cookbook and thought I recalled seeing this book listed in the index.

Sure enough! It listed a recipe for an “occupied” version, using just beets, potatoes (including the peels) and a bit of milk, but it also included a “non-occupied” version, which sounded delicious. I decided to make it for our book club meeting. 

Since we were meeting during the week and I don’t have a lot of time after work before everyone arrives, I got started the night before. Since the non-occupied version still includes potato peels, I made sure to scrub them thoroughly before peeling. Here is the after photo:

I peeled them as carefully as I could and layered them into the pie dish, making sure to completely cover the bottom.

While they baked in the oven, I cut the potatoes into large chunks and got them going in a pot of salted, boiling water on the stove.

After about 20 minutes in the oven, the potato peels were looking slightly crispy, so I pulled them out before they burned. I was surprised, however, to see that they’d all curled up and no longer completely covered the bottom of the pan – a bit of a disappointing crust in look only, as it still tasted delicious later.

Once the potatoes were fully cooked, I drained them and transferred them to a large bowl with some butter to mash them up with a hand mixer (my typical method, since I don’t actually own a manual masher). Then, I stirred in the milk, and once that was absorbed, added the cheddar cheese and sour cream as well.

Finally, I spread the whole mixture in the pie dish on top of the potato skins.

Because I wasn’t serving it until the next day, I covered it with plastic wrap and stored it in the fridge overnight. Then, prior to book club, I baked it for the first time. It was still cold from the fridge (not room temperature, or slightly warm as if I’d baked it immediately), so I cooked it for longer – closer to an hour.

Once it was melty, slightly bubbly on the edges with just a touch of brown on top, I removed it from the oven. My entire book club could smell it, and we were starving, so we didn’t wait the recommended 15 minutes before serving. It ended up being more like cheesy mashed potatoes – probably the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had, honestly – than potato “pie” but everyone enjoyed it just the same. The crispy skins throughout added a pleasing texture.

From our book club to yours, we recommend checking out this charming novel before the movie comes to theaters in April. I, for one, always look forward to the opportunity to have a lively discussion about whether the book or movie is better (even though we all know the answer going in) – and who better to do that with than your favorite book-loving friends?

Annie Barrow’s Non-Occupied Potato Peel Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1½ – 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes (about 4 medium or 6 small potatoes)
  • No beets
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1¼ cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • and maybe some sour cream, too (about ¼ cup)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Go ahead and use the peelings as the crust, but cook them first: Scrub potatoes and pat dry. Peel potato and lay peelings evenly in the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan. Place in oven and cook for about 15-20 minutes, because it would be nice if they were a little crispy. When they’re done, reduce oven heat to 350 degrees F.
  3. In the meantime, place potatoes in a large pot, cover with salted water, and boil until they’re soft, however long that takes (about 30-40 minutes). Then, drain the potatoes and mash them up with the butter until they’re nice and fluffy. Add milk slowly and stir until milk is absorbed. Stir in that delicious cheese and the sour cream, too, if you want it (and who wouldn’t?).
  4. Pour the potato mixture on top of the crispy skins. Then, put the pie in the oven for about 30 minutes until it’s all melty and glorious (and lightly browned). Allow to cool for about 15 minutes, until it sets. Serve warm. To reheat: Cover with foil and heat for 15-20 minutes in an oven preheated to 300 degrees F.

From: The Book Club Cookbook, pages 162-163

Recipe Notes: If, for whatever reason (say, book club), you need to make this the night before. I recommend stopping before you put the potato peel pie in the oven. Fill pan with the mashed potato mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove from the fridge while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour (checking as you go) to ensure it’s heated through and then allow to cool before serving, per the above directions.


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of interest

Show Us Your Books – January 2018

Happy second Tuesday of 2018, everyone, and welcome to the first Show Us Your Books of the year! I’m excited to share with you what I read over the holidays and what I’ve gotten into so far this year, especially thanks to some fun reading challenges that I’m hoping will help me read my shelves and get through my TBR.

Before I kick off today’s SUYB, I want to explain how I’ll be rating the books today and moving forward. I’m going to start using my Goodreads rating method here to keep my ratings consistent across every platform. This is how I typically rate books:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars = LOVE LOVE LOVE. I will recommend a 5-star to anyone and everyone and won’t shut up about it. I absolutely need to own a 5-star read, so I can lend it out and have it available for re-reads. I usually have half a dozen or less books in this category each year because they need to be really outstanding to warrant 5-stars.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars = REALLY liked it. I will recommend a 4-star book to someone I think would like it – depending on interests/genre – and like to have them as part of my collection (for the same reasons as above). I’ll probably rave about this one a fair amount as well.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars = liked it. A 3-star book was good. I didn’t feel like it wasted my time and walked away with an overall positive feeling about it. I give the majority of the books I read each year 3 stars, and I don’t consider this rating to be a bad one.

⭐️⭐️ 2 stars = not a fan. This book just didn’t do it for me. It may have been a bit of a waste of time, or it may have been an experimental genre/topic that didn’t work out. I’m not upset about the time I spent reading it; I was likely just hoping for more. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t really like it either.

⭐️ 1 star = hated it. Pretty self-explanatory, and I don’t hand a 1-star rating out lightly. Like the 5-star books, these are pretty rare.

Linkup Guidelines:
This linkup happens the second Tuesday of every month. The next is Tuesday, February 13, 2018.
1. Please visit and comment with both of your hosts, Jana & Steph
2. Please display the button or link back to me and the linkup hosts on your blog post
3. Please visit a few other blogs who’ve linked up and get some book talk going!

Last Month’s Edition

 

4-Star Reads ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

The Boat People – Inspired by true events, this fictional account of refugees seeking asylum in Canada tackles a timely topic. It did an excellent job straddling the complexities surrounding asylum-seekers and the emotional decisions refugees must face not only at the beginning of their journeys but throughout the process. In short, it was everything I wanted Exit West to be.

The Secret Life of Bees – I adored this coming-of-age story about fourteen-year-old Lily Owens and her black caretaker Rosaleen, as they navigate the troublesome South in 1964 and take refuge in a pink house owned by beekeeping sisters. It was a strong show of female power, heartwarming and uplifting.  

 

3-Star Reads ⭐️⭐️⭐️

In the Midst of Winter (3.5) – This seemed like the perfect book to read in the cold of December – and it was. It takes place over the course of a week or so, in the middle of a snowstorm in New York; the cold was palpable. Allende weaves together the beautiful and harrowing stories of three very different characters, taking us to 1970s Central and South America and back to present day America. It brings to light the struggles of undocumented immigrants and issues of human rights, and it all starts with a seemingly innocuous fender bender.

The Nest (3.5) – Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney’s novel is the story of four siblings who must learn to deal with disappointment and potential financial ruin when their trust fund, or “the nest” as they call it, is not quite as big as they anticipated. Filled with unlikable characters in unlikely situations (compared to most of us), it wasn’t a story I expected to like. But, low expectations may have saved this book for me and I was quite surprised to find myself enjoying it throughout – even the epilogue, which left me walking away satisfied.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (3.5) – A book about books and so much more than that, I’m looking forward to discussing this one in my book club tomorrow night (for which I’m making actual potato peel pie…stay tuned for that). Through a series of letters, this novel tells the story of a group known as the Guernsey Literary Society, which comes together while Germans occupy their island during WWII. It was like a less tragic The Nightingale combined with everything I wished The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend was.

 

Standard Deviation – This was one of those completely random, stumbled-upon books; I can’t even remember how I heard about it. Still, it was funny and entertaining. Katherine Heiny’s novel was a quick read about Graham, his second wife Audra, his son who may have Asperger’s, and all of the random house guests that flit in and out of their NYC apartment.

No Time to Spare – Ursula K LeGuin is an inspiring woman, and though I’ve only read one of her novels, I have every intention of exploring her work further (thanks, in part, to Karen Joy Fowler who is an admirer of hers). As I am not as familiar with LeGuin as I’d like to be, I probably didn’t appreciate this memoir as bigger fans may but it was still enjoyable. As in her fiction writing, she discusses gender equality and meditates on life.

I will not be doing a longer post on this book, but if I were to do so, I would definitely have to make soft-boiled eggs, to which LeGuin devoted an entire chapter. It became very clear that I do not have the very specific tools required, nor the patience to handle a food that requires such delicate precision.  

  

MAUS I & II – I read MAUS I as part of the Literary Feast 2018 Reading challenge, since it was published in the year of my birth; it was the first book I picked up and finished this year. I also read the second MAUS because it just felt right to complete the story.

Though graphic novels aren’t my genre of choice, I tend to end up reading one almost every year. I’m always surprised when I don’t really like them, especially these since the ones I choose are so critically acclaimed. I just found it hard to get into, I suppose; the style didn’t evoke as much emotion as I would expect from a story about concentration camp prisoners. That being said, both were quick reads (as graphic novels are) and the content was clearly heartfelt and personal. It’s an important story to be told.

Britt-Marie Was Here – I wanted to like this more than I did, probably because I love Fredrik Backman’s writing (especially A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry). Like all of his novels, there was quite a cast of characters, some likable and some not. Britt-Marie fell in both categories intermittently, though of course she grows more endearing as you get to know her. I certainly enjoyed the story, but I wish there’d been a different ending.

When the English Fall – I’ve always been fascinated by the Amish lifestyle, so when I saw this dystopia about what happens when the power grid goes down and no one but the Amish are situated to survive, I knew I had to pick it up. I read it in a few hours – it was quite riveting for the most part. I think I was hoping for more about how the rest of the world was surviving, aside from the bits of information brought in to the Order from the outside, and in that, it fell short.

 

2-Star Reads ⭐️⭐️

Manhattan Beach (2.5) – Jennifer Egan may not be my author. I didn’t like her much-acclaimed A Visit from the Goon Squad, and while this one was a bit better, it wasn’t really my thing either. A historical novel set first during the Great Depression and then in WWII, it primarily follows the young, fearless Anna Kerrigan. There are several chapters that focus on other main characters, but her story was the most interesting to me; I especially enjoyed her journey to become a female scuba diver and wish it was a bigger focus of the narrative.

 

Books I Didn’t Finish

None!

 

Books I’m Reading Right Now

I haven’t actually picked anything up yet, since I just finished When the English Fall last night, but my plan is to dive into another Book Challenge by Erin selection – I’m leaning towards The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo because it’s been on my shelf long enough!

What did you read last month?

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book review, recipe

The Red Tent + Honeyed Cake

Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent has been on my radar since I read The Boston Girl earlier this year. Several people recommended it to me, so I bought it at my library’s used book sale in the spring. I finally got around to reading it, and though I was expecting a bit of a grueling read – it’s set in biblical times – I was pleasantly surprised.

In this piece of historical fiction, Diamant explores the life of Dinah, who is briefly mentioned in the Bible as the only daughter of Jacob (father of a dozen sons). The Red Tent starts with the story of Dinah’s mothers, the four wives of Jacob – Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah – and continues into her life as she grows up and leaves the land of her father.

For the most part, the lives of women are glossed over in the Bible, and this novel takes an interesting look at what life might’ve been like for a woman of that time. It gives several strong female characters a voice when the book in which Dinah first appears did not and thoughtfully portrays the unique relationships that women have with one another. It also offers a different, and dare-I-say feminist, perspective on a Christian narrative in which things may not have been exactly as depicted.

In Jacob’s camp – which is how I thought of it, as it was rambling and full of tents and animals – the family usually ate quite well. In an interview Diamant said, “There’s a lot of food in The Red Tent…To not write about food…is to not talk about women’s experience.” They depend on the land for food, and the selection seemed quite abundant. There is mention of olives, lamb, figs, pomegranates, barley, mint, and of course, honeyed cake.

Honeyed cake, in fact, was mentioned a few times, and though it was given little description, I was intrigued. I wanted to make it try it myself. After a Google search, I finally settled on a recipe from Genius Kitchen for a recipe that seemingly dripped with honey. (And drip with honey, it did!)

To start, I combined the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and some orange zest. The orange zest smelled absolutely amazing while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.

In a different bowl, I creamed the butter with the sugar and then added in the four eggs, one at a time. To these ingredients, I added the dry mix, mixing just until incorporated. Then, I added the chopped walnuts.

I poured the batter into a prepared square pan and set it to bake for 40 minutes in a 350-degree oven.

Meanwhile, I began making the honey sauce. This recipe uses quite a bit of honey, which can be expensive, but otherwise the ingredients are pretty run-of-the-mill baking ingredients. Still, we used almost half of this little honey bear.

In a saucepan, I combined 1 cup of honey, 1 cup of white sugar and ¾ cup of water. I let it simmer for about 5 minutes before adding the lemon juice and bringing it to a boil. Please use a medium-sized saucepan. When it gets boiling, it can boil over easily and quickly – it’s not as easy to tame as boiling water. And it’s possible you’ll get a sticky mess all over your stove, like I happened to do. Anyway, once it was finished cooking for 2 minutes, I removed it from the heat, where it say until the cake was ready.

After the cake finished baking, I removed it from the oven and allowed it to cool for 15 minutes.

I then cut it into triangles. The original recipe recommends diamonds, but I’ll admit I wasn’t sure how to accomplish that. I’m not sure shape matters that much, though the more cuts, the more honey will soak through the cake. Regardless, after cutting the cake, I covered it with honey sauce. I used about a third at a time and did my best to allow it to soak in before covering it with the next third. (This requires some patience.)

I found the cake to taste a bit like Fruit Loops (probably from the orange zest). Overall, it was quite good but very sticky.

Greek Honey Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • ¾ cup butter
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup honey
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 inch square pan. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and orange rind. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Stir in the walnuts.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then cut into diamond shapes. Pour honey syrup over the cake.
  4. For the Honey Syrup: In a saucepan, combine honey, 1 cup sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.


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book review, recipe

The Heart’s Invisible Furies + Custard Slice

Generally, I do enjoy most of what I read. Sometimes I don’t, but luckily, sometimes the opposite is true and I love a book so much that I can’t shut up about it. John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies is one such book. Readers, my second 5-star book of the year is here, and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you!

I first heard about this book on my new favorite podcast, All the Books. (Thank you, Liberty Hardy! You’re always full of excellent recommendations.) So, when I saw it in my August BOTM selections, I knew I had to select it. When it showed up in the mail, I was surprised at its heft – it’s nearly 600 pages – and set it aside for nearly enough, thinking I didn’t have time to get into a difficult, long book. I waited a couple of weeks, but when I finally picked it up, I was captivated in just the first few pages and by the end of the first chapter, I was hooked.

The novel follows Cyril Avery beginning when he is still an unborn child in his mother’s womb in a small town in 1940s Ireland. When she is cast out by a cruel priest, she finds herself in Dublin, where she must make it on her own. Her circumstances almost require her to put Cyril up for adoption, and he is taken by a hunchbacked Redemptionist nun to the home of Maude and Charles Avery, an eccentric couple who aren’t exactly cut out for parenthood. From there, Cyril’s life takes both heartwarming and heart-wrenching turns, bringing us to modern day Ireland in truly spectacular and unforgettable fashion.

This book may be 592 pages, but I couldn’t put it down. I finished it in a weekend and have been talking about it ever since. Furies is filled with complex and varied characters, all memorable in their own way. As entertaining as this novel was – it absolutely had it’s laugh out loud moments – I should probably mention that, like my last 5-star favorite, it tackles some sensitive topics and was hard to read in parts. But to me, that is the beauty of Boyne’s novel; he expertly captured all the nuances of humanity, from the mundanely everyday to unexpected tragedy in a captivating way.

Finding a recipe to pair with such a sweeping saga wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. Several key scenes throughout take place in a parliamentary tea shop where “cream slice” seems to be a popular menu item. After doing some research, I found it’s also known as custard slice. I was able to find a recipe from RTE, or the Raidió Teilifís Éireann in Ireland, which is a real television station where Cyril finds himself working at one point in the novel.

The recipe has quite a lot of steps, but the ingredients list is small and it’s not really that complicated, so don’t let the long recipe below fool you. It’s totally doable.

To start, I set out my frozen puff pastry sheets to thaw while I made my pastry cream. I poured the milk into a saucepan, added a vanilla pod split down the middle and let it come to a boil. In the meantime, I combined the sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch with a mixer, beating for a few minutes until it became pale and light.

Once the milk began boiling, I removed it from the heat and slowly added it to the egg mixture, whisking all the while. I added it back to the saucepan, bringing it up to a slow boil over low heat, stirring continuously. After several minutes, it thickened, so I removed it from the heat and added it to a wide bowl to cool more quickly. I covered it with cling wrap and placed it in the fridge.  

Once the puff pastry dough was thawed (able to be unfolded), I used a sharp knife to cut it down to an 8×8 square. (I don’t think this is entirely necessary, if you have a 9×9 pan, which I found I did after the fact. I’ve explained further in the recipe notes below.) Then, on two parchment-lined baking sheets, I baked them for about 10 minutes each, until they were lightly golden.

After they cooled, I placed one pastry in the bottom of my pan, which was lined with foil. Per the directions, I made sure to leave extra foil hanging out of the pan so the completed custard slice could be removed more easily later; this is definitely a big help. Then, I smoothed the cooled pastry cream over the bottom layer of puff pastry and placed the prettier looking pastry sheet on top. The assembled dessert went back into the fridge to set while I made the topping.

I combined powdered sugar with a small amount of cold water to create a drizzle-able icing. I also melted some dark chocolate (you could also use milk chocolate if you prefer) in a small bowl in the microwave, until it was thin enough to drizzle with a spoon.

First, I drizzled the icing diagonally across the top of the pastry. Then, turning the pastry 90 degrees, I drizzled the melted chocolate to create a criss-cross pattern with the icing.

I covered the completed custard slice and put it back in the fridge to set until we were ready to give it a try. Later that evening, I cut it into 8 rectangular slices and served as our dessert. We found it to be sort of messy to eat, and I would recommend using a fork and a knife, but it certainly was tasty. If you decide to give it a go, I hope you enjoy!

Have you read John Boyne’s novel yet? What did you think?

Vanilla Custard Slice

  • Servings: 8
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry
  • 13 fl oz whole milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, split down the middle or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons, or 1 ounce, or unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup melting chocolate or chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Make the crème pâtissière to begin: Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the split vanilla pod, if using. (If using the vanilla extract, add it in with the butter at the end.) Bring the milk mixture to the boil, then remove from the heat.
  2. Whisk the sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch together in a large bowl for about 2–3 minutes using a hand-held electric mixer until pale and light.
  3. Pour the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking continuously, and then return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook the mixture over a low heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture becomes thick. It should just come to a boil. If it boils unevenly or too quickly, it may become lumpy, in which case use a whisk to mix until smooth again.
  4. Remove the custard from the heat and pour into a bowl (push the mixture through a sieve if there are any lumps). Add the pinch of salt and the butter (and vanilla extract if using) and stir until melted and thoroughly combined.
  5. Leave to cool, cover with cling wrap and chill before using.
  6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  7. If using frozen puff pastry sheets, these should already be approximately 9×9. If you have a 9×9 pan available, you can use as-is. If you only have (or prefer to use) an 8×8 pan, cut the puff pastry sheets so they will fit the smaller pan. Cut approximately 1 inch off two of the sides, forming an 8×8 square.
  8. Place each pastry sheet onto the lined baking trays, prick each piece a few times with a fork and chill for 10-15 minutes. Then, bake the pastry sheets for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Set aside to cool.
  9. While the pastry bakes, line your baking pan with foil, allowing plenty of extra foil at the sides to allow you to lift out the assembled slices. If you don’t have a square tin, it’s not the end of the world, just use the foil to make a base and sides.
  10. Place one pastry sheet in the bottom of the lined tin (reserve the prettiest piece for the top). Spread the crème pâtissière evenly onto the pastry in the baking tray before placing the other piece of pastry on top. Refrigerate while making the icing.
  11. For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Stir in 3-4 teaspoons cold water – just enough to give you a thick, drizzling consistency – and set aside.
  12. Place the chocolate in a bowl sitting over a saucepan with a few centimetres of water. Bring the water up to the boil, then take off the heat and allow the chocolate to melt slowly. (Another option would be to heat in the microwave at defrost or 30% power in 30 minute increments, stirring until it becomes melted enough to drizzle. If using melting chocolate, follow directions on the bag.)
  13. Take the custard slice from the fridge to decorate. First, using a spoon, drizzle the icing diagonally across the pastry. Turn the pan 90-degrees and, using a different spoon, drizzle the chocolate across the pastry forming lines that criss-cross the icing lines. Repeat with icing and chocolate as desired/until you run out.
  14. Place the slice back into the fridge to set. Later, cut the finished custard slice into 8 pieces. Using the foil, carefully lift the portioned vanilla slices out of the tray and serve.

Adapted from: Rachel Allen, via RTE

Notes: This recipe was adapted for the US from a recipe created in Ireland. Measurements were converted when necessary to accommodate American cooks.


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book review, recipe

The Other Einstein + Serbian Hamburgers

As the saying goes, beside every great man, there is a great woman. In many cases, those relationships are public and well-documented, as in the case of the Roosevelts. In the case of Albert Einstein, however, the life and accomplishments of his first wife Mileva are not widely known. A physicist and likely genius in her own right, her contributions to Albert’s theories has been debated in the physics world for decades. Marie Benedict’s novel The Other Einstein explores the life of this extraordinary woman a bit further.

Like the author before she dove into research, I hadn’t heard of this “other” Einstein before and I was intrigued when I learned about this novel last fall. The novel follows Mileva (or “Mitza”) from her time as the only female physics student at a Zurich university, where she meets Albert Einstein. Though she and Albert share dreams of living a bohemian life together of intellect and discovery, he doesn’t stand by her when his vision of success seems clearer without her.

As a feminist, the part of the novel I found the most particularly compelling was the meeting between Mitza and Madame Curie, where the differences between their husbands and situations could not be more clear. It is amazing how much can be accomplished by women when their husbands are not only supportive but treat them as true equals.

Mitza and her family were of Serbian descent and many new-to-me foods were mentioned through the novel. The one I bookmarked to make for today’s post was the pljeskavica, which when I looked it up later, was revealed to be a large hamburger. I found a few recipes, and though I borrowed from a few of them for inspiration, the one I most closely followed was from The Spruce.

First, I combined all of my ingredients to make the patties. I opted to use 1 pound each of ground beef and ground pork, but you can use a combination of beef, pork and lamb if you’d like (see recipe notes). To the meat, I added minced garlic, finely chopped onions, salt and paprika. I let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for a while before forming the patties.

I used a salad plate lined with parchment paper as my guide for sizing, using the paper to prevent the patties sticking to the plate or each other.

I grilled the burgers outside, approximately 7 minutes per side.

While they grilled, I prepared the pita bread by cutting it open partway to reveal the pocket. I also sliced some fresh tomato and lightly grilled some onions, being careful to not let them lose too much of their shape. Other serving suggestions include green onions, pickles and Kajmak cheese.

I slotted each cooked hamburger into a pita pocket and topped with my veggies and a dollop of quick homemade Kajmak.

Serbian Hamburger (Pljeskavica)

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • ½ pound lean ground pork
  • ½ pound lean ground lamb
  • 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • ½ cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sweet or hot paprika

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together ground beef, ground pork, ground lamb, garlic, onions, salt and sweet or hot paprika until thoroughly combined. Do not overmix because this will toughen the meat.
  2. Refrigerate meat mixture for several hours for the flavors to meld and for the mixture to firm.
  3. Heat a grill, indoor grill, broiler or skillet. Using slightly dampened hands, divide meat mixture into 6 portions. Form into thin patties, 9 inches by 1/2 inch or about the size of a small dinner plate.
  4. Cook pljeskavice about 7 minutes per side.
  5. Serve with green onions or chopped raw onion, tomatoes, ajvar, lepinje or pogacha bread and Serbian potato salad or cole slaw on the side. Some Serbs place the patty on a large bun like an American hamburger.

From: The Spruce

Note: Other recipes I read used the same amount of meat to make 4 patties, and so I ended up making just 4. This also kept the patties approximately as large as recommended – I used salad plates as my guide and did the best I could to get them that size.

If you can’t find ground lamb or don’t want to use it, I used a mixture of ground beef and ground pork, 1 pound each. The other recipes I found used only beef and pork as well.

Lastly, other recipes recommended using pita bread in place of lepinje, which is what I did. Though it made it slightly hard to photograph, I think it worked better than a traditional American bun would’ve given the size of the burger. The pita helped hold in all the toppings and didn’t fill us up too much with bread – the burger filled us up enough!


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