May 6th, 2009 | No Comments »

Here we go: I’m still working on the details, but I think most of the major growing pains have been addressed, so let me welcome you to the new Magothy Treats page! Many, many thanks go to my very dear friend Kate Milford but I think she would agree that her husband Nathan really did all the setup and the subsequent fielding of my million questions. I do very well with burning sugar but I am not at all facile with a computer, as evidenced by how long it’s taken me to put even a temporary image up for myself on the Twitter account I have been using for something like three months. But I did that today, too, and it looks like this. For the time being, anyway. annabelles-glasses-picture1

As I was putting all my old posts up on this site, I realized how much has happened in the last year. My heirloom copper disappeared, of course, but I discovered MMA (and my deep, abiding love for Forrest Griffin and Lyoto Machida…and where the hell was Bisping for poor Dean’s destruction, anyway?) and had my quiet little shop turned into a salon by a bunch of over-caffeinated teenagers who don’t seem to know that financiers are not slice-and-bake cookies and should not be inhaled as such. And I had my thirtieth birthday.

That’s right. I’m thirty, okay, not sixty-five. Kate tells me there has been some confusion about this amongst her friends back in New York who have been following my Twitter posts.

Which is why if Forrest Griffin is ever single, he should give me a call.

Posted in Mixed Martial Arts
May 5th, 2009 | No Comments »

December 9, 2008

I am a fan of liquor in coffee, which I suppose isn’t all that unique in the world when there are such good things to spike coffee with. This morning, however, after waking up with a hangover I don’t remember earning (must’ve been a sleepless night last night!), I decided to go simple, and since I am a charter member of my friend Kate’s twenty-book Patrick O’Brian book club (the name’s changed a couple of times, beginning with the exclamatory Book Club Of The World! and currently going by Around O’Brian in However Bloody Long it Takes), I decided to make boiled coffee.

Now if you read the excellent Lobscouse and Spotted Dick (Which It’s a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels) by Anne Chotzinoff Grossman and Lisa Grossman Thomas, you will find that boiling coffee is not looked upon fondly by the primary characters, which, frankly, is why I decided to make it. Kate loves these damn books and I am so damn sick of them I actually think my spontaneous hangover might be the result of my attempting to stay up late last night in order to finish The Ionian Mission (Book Number Eight!) in time for tonight’s book club meeting. I suspect I might have been drinking a lot of grog at the time, justifying it on the grounds of being in the spirit of the book (spirit–do you smoke it? Hahahahahaha!) but hoping it would knock me out eventually, thereby giving me an excuse to pass out without actually deciding to stop reading, which would’ve caused me some guilt as I absolutely promised to help keep this book club going no matter what it took.

Okay, I guess I remember why I’m hung over.

I LIKE BOILED COFFEE. JACK AUBREY AND STEPHEN MATURIN CAN KISS MY EGGSHELLS.

Boiled Coffee is made with fresh medium-ground coffee, cold water, and eggshells, the last of which help the grounds to settle. It’s a thicker, stronger brew than your normal brewed stuff. I, of course, have to doctor everything, so here’s what I made this morning, which is also a lovely Christmassy sort of beverage for holiday celebrations due to the subtle spice flavors added by cardamom and clove.

Ingredients:

4 heaping tbsp fresh-ground coffee

4 cups cold water

2 eggshells, crushed

2 white cardamom pods

3 cloves

*Throw everything into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and boil for at least five minutes. Strain and serve.

Posted in Recipes, Toddies
May 5th, 2009 | 2 Comments »

September 19, 2007

I always know it’s fall when the  summer breeze starts for the first time to feel like the tiniest of chills and I excavate a scarf from under the pile of coats that’s been threatening to topple my coat rack for the last six months.

Either then or the first time of the season my AWFUL next-door neighbor gives me that ghastly leer of his and says, “Cold, Annabelle?” I know that son of a you-know-what-kind-of-bitch isn’t asking because he thinks he should offer me a sweater.

So, scarf or nasty neighbor’s nipple-observations, whichever comes first–that’s what really tells me autumn’s in the air. And you know what that means for an insomniac? If you guessed cold-induced shaking fits no number of blankets will put a stop to, you guessed right. The point, however, is: at Magothy Treats, fall is for hot toddies!

In celebration of this, my favorite time of the year, here are my most stalwart recipes for drinks to take the chill off the first bite of the season. And many of them involve boiling water, which, in conjunction with a capably-wielded teakettle, can be a formidable way of discouraging the nasty man next door from commenting on the physical manifestations of cold weather on your person.

Buttered Toddies have the same charm for me as truffles; you can accomplish almost endless variations by changing one or more of the primary ingredients: in this case the liquor, the spices, and the butter. Or, more precisely, what goes into the butter.

The basic technique here, if you can call it that, will be the same for the variations that follow. With a flavored butter, you change the drink. I make up half-sticks of each kind of butter and use about one tablespoon for each drink.

Equipment you’ll need for all these variations:

A teakettle

Heat-proof glasses or mugs for serving (although glasses are prettier for presenting)

A small wooden spoon (or use metal, just be careful not to break the glass)

Honey-Buttered Rum

Delicious, delicious. Honey and rum were meant to go together.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp brown sugar

3 oz dark rum

3 white cardamom pods

boiling water

1 tbsp honey butter (see below)

To make honey butter:

*Soften 4 tbsp (half a stick) of butter to room temperature

*Blend with one tablespoon honey.

Cool to solid in refrigerator (I form it into a rough rectangle and wrap it in wax paper, gift-wrap style)

To make buttered rum:

*Boil water, then pour some in to warm the glass. Pour it out again.

*Put brown sugar and cardamom pods into glass. Add water, stir to dissolve sugar. Add rum. Fill rest of glass with boiling water. Stir. Top with a tbsp of honey butter.

Orange-Clove Buttered Rum

This is a good one for the holidays. Oranges and clove always make me think of Christmas.

Follow the recipe above, substituting Orange-Clove butter and a slice of orange peel studded with three whole cloves for the garnish. Also for this recipe I use gold rum rather than dark rum. It’s a personal preference, and you can really use either one.

To make Orange-Clove butter:

*Soften half a stick of butter to room temperature.

*Stir in the zest from half an orange and one large pinch of ground cloves. Cool to solid in refrigerator.

Rumrunner’s Breakfast

Not a buttered toddy, but another hot rum drink that I couldn’t I couldn’t survive the fall and winter without. Because when you add coffee, rum really doesn’t seem so inappropriate earlier in the day. Especially if you sleep late, like I did today.

Ingredients:

Fresh-ground coffee

White cardamom pods

Milk or cream to taste

Dark, gold or spiced rum

Vanilla extract (I prefer double-strength)

*Brew a pot of coffee as you like it, and add one cardamom pod for every two cups you brew–so if your pot is a twelve-cup coffeepot and you fill it up, you should add six cardamom pods. By the way, if you don’t have fresh ground, you won’t spoil anything by using a decent pre-ground coffee.

*Pour coffee, add milk to taste, and add 1/2 oz rum and 1/4 tsp vanilla to each cup.

Variations and Notes on Flavoring Coffee

Adding flavors to the brew basket is a nice, subtle way of flavoring coffee; you’ll get just the hint of whatever you add. So, obviously, you can use this technique to flavor coffee even if (perish the thought) you’re not planning on adding rum.

The variations on this recipe are just about as endless as the things you can throw into the basket to flavor coffee as it brews. Orange zest is fantastic, and if I’d had any this morning, I’d probably have thrown it in there right along with the cardamom. In fact, one of my favorite gifts to give is a pound of coffee beans flavored this way–you just throw the flavoring in with the beans (do this in advance, though, so the spices can sit in with the beans for a while before the coffee is to be used), make sure it’s all nicely mixed up, and voila! Just throw the flavorings right in along with the beans when it’s time to grind.

Posted in Recipes, Toddies
May 5th, 2009 | No Comments »

August 30, 2007

Well, if it’s the good stuff or an inspired combination thereof, liquor can be so many things…something special to share, the icing on a spectacular meal, a tasty accompaniment to an afternoon on the beach or an evening on the porch, a conversational lubricant, a truth serum, a sleeping draught…

I’ll be posting some potables here shortly, but right now I’m trying to cut down on my alcohol to see if it really has any impact on my ability to sleep. Right now I’ve locked up the liquor cabinet, so I just don’t feel like helping any of you have any while I can’t.

I might have to open the cabinet up soon, though, because I think I might have locked my cat in there.

Simple Syrups for Sweetening the Days

I held out as long as I could, but when the cat stopped making noise I had to give in and open the cabinet. What if the poor baby had suffocated? Or lost its taste for anything but my heirloom gin?

Then I had to check in on my heirloom gin and make sure that was as much a joke as I meant it to be.

Then dear little Holly and Rebecca who are performing this week at the bookstore down the street popped in and Holly and Rebecca do like a nice cocktail, so I decided it was time to crack into my syrup cupboard and show those city girls how we do things down here by the beach.

Simple syrups are like truffles–decadent though they are, they’re sinfully easy to make, and once you have the hang of it you can blend up whatever crazy combinations take your heart can conceive of. They are lovely mixed with seltzer or tonic for a refreshing pick-me-up, or incorporated into your own alcoholic inventions to create signature cocktails when visiting performance poets from Los Angeles stop by. They can be thickened up to drizzle over desserts, and the same basic method, with a few adjustments, will set you on the road to jams, jellies, preserves, and pates de fruits.  Here’s what I have in my cupboard this week.

Equipment you’ll need for all these variations:

a medium saucepan (I don’t use my copper here because I find it gives the fruit syrups a mineral aftertaste).

wooden spoon

a mandoline or slicer (optional)

clean glass jars or bottles for storage

Spiced Plum Syrup

This syrup pairs beautifully with brandy or rum–especially a nice dark one like Gosling’s. I’m not a big vodka girl but I suspect that’d be a nice option, too–you can’t seem to mess things up with vodka, probably because all it does is add alcohol.

Also, for purposes of the syrup you don’t need the solids, but they are delicious for spooning over ice cream or stirring into yogurt–just take out the cardamom pods before eating. I’ve even used a spoonful in place of jam in a pbj special. Or you can whip up a chocolate cake and use them to make cocoa-plum filling…which might or might not be the secret center of what some people around here call ANNABELLE’S FAMOUS MIDNIGHT TORTE…recipe coming soon to the sweets page…

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup thinly sliced ripe black plums

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup water

4 white cardamom pods

2 large pinches lavender

1 small pinch sea salt (I like fleur de sel for this, but any sea salt will do)

Combine all ingredients in saucepan. Stir to combine, and keep stirring over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 20 minutes; fruit should be soft and breaking down.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a container. Press gently on the solids with the back of a spoon to express as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids; you may want to put it through the sieve twice if you like less pulp. Cool and store for up to one week.

Plum Punch

1 part dark rum

1 part Spiced Plum Syrup

1 part seltzer water

Mix rum and syrup, pour into glass (over ice if desired), top with seltzer and a sprig of mint or slice of lemon for garnish.

Lemon-Herb Syrup

I love a nice gin gimlet. I call it my grown-up girl drink; it puts me in mind of Nora Charles, or one of those moderns they used to photograph up at the Shutter Club mansion back in Grandmom’s day. This syrup is nicely modern, not too sweet, and just different enough from the standard lime syrup to stymie whomever you serve it to.

Ingredients:

One cup fresh basil leaves

Zest of one lemon in wide slices (avoid the pith; it adds bitterness)

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup water

6 juniper berries

Juice of one lemon

Combine the first six ingredients in a saucepan and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, then turn off heat and add lemon juice. Allow mixture to cool on stove, strain solids, and store for up to one week.

Byway Gimlet

You can mix a gimlet according to your tastes, but this is a good start. Sometimes I add seltzer or tonic for a little fizz.

2 oz gin

1/2 oz Lemon-Herb Syrup

2 oz tonic (optional)

1 lime or lemon wedge

Mix. Drink. Refill. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Sugar-Rum-Cherry Syrup

I named this recipe after that great jazzy version of the Sugarplum Fairy number from the Nutcracker because I love that song and because it’s basically the recipe in so many words.

Ingredients:

One lb pitted cherries, halved

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/4 cup water

Juice of one lime

4 oz light rum

Combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer for twenty minutes; fruit should be softened.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a container. Press gently on the solids with the back of a spoon to express as much liquid as possible. Drain liquid and cool.

Discard the solids, or then again you can puree them for cake filling or whatever.

Cherry Kir Royale

This is the easiest little cocktail ever. Serve it in champagne flutes or martini glasses. Just put a tablespoon of Sugar-Rum-Cherry Syrup in the bottom of each glass and top it off with Brut. Give it a stir if you want, and garnish with a cherry on a sword or a twist of lime.

Sometimes I get two bottles so I can make one of these cocktails for a guest.

Posted in Recipes, Toddies
May 5th, 2009 | No Comments »

December 2008

Well, here it is December again, and once again I have failed to update in forever and a day. It isn’t my fault, though. Inexpectedly, my entire kitchenful of copper pots inexplicably vanished at the end of the summer. I am so pissed off. I have been pissed off since August. Who. Steals. Pots?

Well, okay, I have a pretty good idea. But I don’t write here to make accusations. I write here to share joyful stories of confection and fellowship, and recipes sometimes. Not to cast stones. Even when people insist on making themselves targets. All I’m going to say is, I don’t have the money to replace those pots, and if anybody wants caramels or basically anything with sugar in any form other than granular or simple syrup from Magothy Treats ever again, I better get my copper back. I won’t ask any questions. Just leave it on my porch.

Until then, it’s time to start thinking about gingerbread! I am formulating some variations I’m particularly proud of, so stop by for a slice with hot buttered rum or hot chocolate–and be sure to hit last year’s column on buttered rum to make some for yourself at home!

Posted in Sweets
May 5th, 2009 | No Comments »

April 2008

Spring again here on the Magothy–how does the time fly this way? and this spring I have such wonderful things to look forward to–my dear friend Kate’s sister Stephanie is getting married in November, which gives me exactly six months to figure out how to make the candy I’ve suggested for favors for her wedding. When I figure them out, I’ll post them here, of course. In the meantime, I’ll be talking caramels…because spring always makes me think of caramels. I don’t know why.

Well, maybe I do. When I was a girl, the boardwalk at the south end of Bayside was a pilgrimage site from the first ray of warm sun in March to the passing of the last breeze with any hint of summer flavor sometime around October. Everybody went. The grade-school hierarchy transferred itself to the boardwalk as if the little storefronts and the benches across the boards were little colonies. The popular kids ruled Vinegar Tom’s Boardwalk Fries.  The drama geeks took over the 50’s themed Shimmy Shack. Kids on dates went to the Griddle on Grand for pancakes. How pancakes became the official date food of my graduating class I have no idea, but that’s how you knew you were about to get serious in a relationship. Nobody took hookups out for pancakes. It wasn’t done. On the other hand, if your significant other herded you, however casually, toward Tosser’s Pizza at any point in your relations, you were honor-bound to (at minimum) sock him in the mouth or (if the situation merited) kick him in the balls. Either way you knew things were doomed. Kind of a shame, since Tosser’s has pretty good pizza considering it’s still only seventy-five cents a slice.

For me, the pilgrimage began and ended at Beurre/Sucre (which as as a kid I used to pronounce berserker…not that my French has improved much since) for caramel. Fall came not with the sign of falling leaves but with caramel apples, and springtime arrived not when snowdrops and crocus came up, but when Beurre/Sucre put out their garden caramels: flower-inspired bites of sunshine even if it was still bitter and rainy outside.

So that’s why spring is for caramels at Magothy Treats! Recipes for my Bouquet Caramels are coming soon!

Posted in Sweets
May 5th, 2009 | No Comments »

June 2007

Well, it’s June, and summer is officially here! Warm days mean one thing at Magothy Treats: it’s time for taffy!

Up until her accident last year, my grandmother still spoke about childhood summers in rented cottages on the Bay Byway, and how she and her sisters always rated their favorite homes away from home based on how far the walk was to the soda shop. That, and whether or not the local lifeguard appeared to have a whorey girlfriend.

Well, the soda fountain no longer stands where Granny insists it was, right about at Milepost Five, but it lives in her memory, along with the famous saltwater taffy the owner’s wife made fresh every day, twisted up in little squares of pink waxpaper. I spent a long time working on the recipes we use here, because I knew they needed to meet Granny’s exacting standards. And they needed to be chewy enough to work her dentures loose, because that’s my favorite thing about her visits.  My favorites are simple taffy variations made with the flavored sugars I whip up at Magothy Treats. They’re very subtle, but since you chew them a long time, you get the flavor in the end.  The recipes below are not so subtle, but are customer favorites every single year.

Taffy-making is not for the impatient, but it does have a certain comfort factor, a touch of zen-in-a-pot. Here’s why:

The sugar mixture can take a long time to reach its appropriate stage. You can do nothing to speed the creep of the thermometer needle, because turning the heat up too high will make the sugar boil over, and you have to wash down the sides of the pan to keep seed crystals from forming, so you can’t really walk away.  You must be patient, even if you think it’ll kill you; if you turn up the heat or walk away for too long, the sugar will pass the soft-crack stage and move to the hard-crack, and then all you’ll have to look forward to is smashing the brittle result into pieces and hoping you can convince someone it’s a strange, nutless brittle. Then there’s the pulling. It’s both an upper-body workout and a mindless, meditative exercise.

Also, good quality ingredients are important here. Trust me and don’t skimp on your extracts or your cocoas, or all the time and energy you spend stirring, watching, pulling, cutting, de-sticking your fingers will result in candy that tastes like you got it at a gas station, and which you might just as well use for attaching posters to your walls.

Although these recipes work equally well for that.

Equipment you’ll need for all these variations:

a medium saucepan (I like copper because it heats up fast, reacts quickly when you adjust the heat, and helps the sugar to keep from re-crystallizing once it’s melted, but really any saucepan will do as long as it has plenty of space for the sugar syrup to double in volume during boiling.)

candy thermometer (although as I’ll discuss below, I don’t fully trust mine and think it’s safest to second-guess it early and often)

wooden spoon

pastry brush

a prepared greased baking tray (baking spray works wonders during taffy making, and please do consider using a half-sheet pan with raised edges just in case)

Almond-Rose Taffy

I make this for weddings sometimes. Then I go home and cry into my teacup. Then I put some brandy in my teacup and I feel better.

You can add 1/2 tsp luster dust or a few drops of food coloring to this one if you want to make it even more cutesy.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/8 cup rosewater

3/8 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp almond extract

*Mix sugar and cornstarch in saucepan. Add the rosewater, water, salt, and butter and set over medium heat.

*Stir continuously until mixture boils, then leave to boil untouched until it measures 250-270 degrees or reaches the soft crack stage. (See hints below for more on this.) Wash down sides of pan with a pastry brush and warm water to keep sugar from building up on sides.

*Remove from heat, stir in extract, and pour onto prepared pan.

*When cool, butter or spray hands with nonstick spray and stretch taffy until it lightens and takes on a pearly sheen. This should take 10-15 minutes.

*Draw taffy into a rope and cut into 1″ pieces. Scissors work well for this. Wrap each piece in wax paper.

Honey-Liqueur Taffy

I discovered this recipe when I was forced to hide a glass of bourbon quickly.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup honey

3/4 cup honey liqueur

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

Follow the recipe above (minus the extract step). This is a smaller batch, so watch the heat and pan size.

Velvet-Chocolate Taffy

This produces a sticky, chewy, fudgy taffy that’s best kept in the fridge on hot or humid days. I make it for a picky kid who says it tastes like brownies.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

4 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp butter

Mix cocoa in with sugar and cornstarch, then follow top recipe. Make sure to break up any clumps of cocoa. Watch the heat carefully on this one, and wash the sides of the pan down often. This taffy needs some extra pulling; pull until the taffy really resists, or it won’t hold its shape once you cut it into pieces.

Things I Learned From Painful Trial and Error:

I don’t trust my thermometer. Maybe it’s been broken since the day I got it. Maybe it really reads centigrade and I never noticed. I use the thermometer for reference, but instead watch for the sugar mixture to reach the appropriate stage myself and follow the advice of my doctor: test early and often. To test for the soft crack stage, watch for the bubbles to get small, thick and dense at the top of the mixture. Then drop a bit of it into cold water; the drops should form strands that are flexible, not brittle.

When pulling the taffy, be persistent, and try to hold out for ten minutes even if it starts looking like it’s reached it’s final state before then. Stretching aerates the taffy and makes it chewier, so underdoing it makes for harder candy. All of these recipes double perfectly, but this batch size is small enough to pull comfortably without assistance.

On the subject of pulling, try to grease your hands just once when you start , otherwise the butter or spray will keep the ropes of taffy you pull apart from sticking back together and you’ll wind up with a million strands it’ll take forever to work back together again. The good news is, you can work them back together, but it’ll annoy the hell out of you and you’ll wish you listened to me in the first place.

Posted in Recipes, Sweets
May 5th, 2009 | No Comments »

January 3, 2009

Happy New Year! Well, I had a happy accident happen yesterday, and my life has changed. I have discovered mixed martial arts.

I wasn’t going to get to sleep. I think I finished off an entire bottle of Gowerseult trying to ensure at least being passed out for a couple of hours, but sleep wasn’t in the cards. I think I kind of knew it. So I did a bad thing. A friend of mine’s husband sent a care package to her care of Magothy Treats because she’s been having problems with her mail, and in it was a set of DVDs–a complete collection of all 92 UFCs to date, along with five DVDs of Pride, three of Dream, and a smattering of UFC events with decimals.

I spent the entire night watching them. It was amazing. I feel like something I had been missing from my life without ever knowing had been miraculously restored to me!!

I suppose I’ll have to give them back to her eventually, but they don’t look like the kind of thing she’d like anyway. I bet it’s one of those things where she’s going to turn out to be glad I gave her the excuse not to waste her time on them. In the meantime, I’m up to UFC 12!!

GO, BOHLANDER!! BOHLANDER!!

Posted in Mixed Martial Arts
May 5th, 2009 | No Comments »

May 20, 2008

Everybody’s heard of Lapland sesame, one of the key ingredients in producing a Hand of Glory, but fortunately for safe homes, nobody today knows what they meant back in the early centuries when they wrote up those recipes. I certainly didn’t start working on figuring the truth out because I meant to turn into a super-robber, but those old ingredients turn up in different places, and for reasons of another recipe I needed to find out.

For reasons of journalism–feel free to skim ahead if you paid attention in elementary-school social studies–I will remind my readers what you already know about Lapland sesame; namely, that you can’t make a Glory Hand without it, along with other things like green vitriol and the hand of a hanged man. A Glory Hand is, of course, how burglars keep you asleep while robbing you blind: once they light the hand, which burns like a candle, the sleeping homeowners can’t wake until you extinguish the flame.

Now, obviously an innocent confectioner doesn’t need a Glory Hand for anything like that (although it has occurred to me that if someone else lit one in my home maybe I’d finally get a good night’s sleep). However, Lapland sesame is also listed in the Pharmacopoeia das Benmoirecz, one of my favorite sources of rare seasonings, as an excellent seed to make comfits from, and since anyone who’s been to my shop knows about my obsession with classic comfits, I of course had to find a way to try this out. Lapland sesame, according to Mrs. Hillard, the compiler of the Benmoirecz, has a bitter flavor totally different from what we now call sesame, but not unlike wormwood. Also being an appreciator of absinthe, I couldn’t resist the possibilities. So off to the spicer I went!

Perhaps this is where I should mention that I absolutely hate John Pinnard, who runs Nagspice. The only thing is that there’s nowhere else to go if you want good spices and seasonings and herbs and whatnot. The man has connections I can’t begin to explain and can get you things you really have no business being able to get, so I put up with giving him my business despite the fact that I think he’s an asshole. Pardon my francais. And frankly, I don’t always think it’s any of John Pinnard’s business what I’m up to with what I buy. So here’s a transcript (paraphrased) of our transaction the day I went to do some reconnaissance on the subject of Lapland sesame.

Doorbell: Jinglejangle.

JPinnard: Morning, Annabelle!

Me: Hi, John.

JPinnard’s dog Fletcher: Grrrrrrr.

Me: Um.

JPinnard: (not very convincingly) Down, Fletch.

Fletcher: (grudgingly) Grr.

Me: John, I’m not going to beat around the bush. Do you have any sources for rare sesame?

JPinnard: Sure, Annabelle. I got Open Sesame, and some uncut Street Sesame, and…

Me: You’re not funny.

JPinnard: Sure I am. Okay, what kind of sesame are you looking for?

Me: Lapland.

JPinnard: There’s no such thing.

Me: Mrs. Hillard says differently.

JPinnard: There’s no such thing. Mrs. Hillard is a stupid blockhead.

Me: Take that back, John.

Fletcher: Grrrrr…..

JPinnard: Mrs. Hillard is an idiot. Mrs. Grieve could kick Mrs. Hillard’s fifteenth-century ass.

ME!:  TAKE IT BACK OR I WILL KICK YOUR–

Fletcher: Grrrrrr!!!

JPinnard: Fletcher thinks Mrs. Hillard shouldn’t have quit her day job, even if it was turning fifteenth-century tricks.

ME!: WHY YOU SON OF A–

Which is how I usually leave Nagspice looking like I lost a fight. And for the record, I have all the respect in the world for Mrs. Grieve. I just hate John Pinnard, because he is an asshole.

Also if you were wondering why Magothy Treats is out of peppar kakar this week, it’s because I also needed to get cardamom and I was so mad I forgot about it.

May 5th, 2009 | No Comments »

January 24, 2008

I don’t properly know how half a year has passed since the last time I updated this page! Part of it is, of course, the fact that I’ve actually been sleeping most nights. That, and the fact that I don’t know how long it’s been since I came out of my kitchen.

It started, whenever that was, when I got a parcel in the mail from my dear friend Allison (hi, Alli!) who was vacationing in Grenoble sometime over the summer. Alli went into a little spicer’s shop in what she described on a postcard as a “back-alley hole in the wall.” She says she told the proprietor that she had a friend who made candy and liked unusual spices, and the fellow took a dusty apothecary jar down off a high shelf, filled a bag from it, wrote out a label and stuck it on, and told her it was the perfect thing for a good batch of manna.

Manna? Manna?

The bag held a handful of curls of something that looks like cinnamon: thin, barklike, about six inches long and rolled up to pencil-width. Unlike cinnamon, however, these curls smell of something halfway between honeysuckle and pink peppercorn: sweet, but peppery at the same time. This was before Alli had told me what the spicer said, so immediately my mind went to caramels and turkish delight, burnt sugar marmalade and liqueurs made with this delicious oddity–I guess I just can’t shut off that part of me, especially when I get something fun and new to try out. But then Alli told me what the guy in Grenoble said.

Manna.

I’m not a biblical scholar, and I don’t care about all the debates over what sustained the Israelites in the wilderness. Know what else sounds like Manna?

Manus. As in manus christi.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Annabelle, you’re doubtless protesting, cinnamon–let alone any kind of strange cinnamon-like honeysuckle pepper bark thing–cinnamon is hardly ever even mentioned in the common recipes for manus christi! And you’re right, of course. You’d understand if the old guy had scooped a bunch of pearls or something smelling like damask roses or that looks like gold leaf or something like that. Of course there’s something I haven’t told you yet.

The label on the bag. The old spicer had written this on the bag: Epice Perdue de Main.

Lost Hand Spice.

Lost Hand, get it?? Manus means hand. The recipe for manus christi has been lost over long centuries. Coincidence? I think it’s unlikely. Occam’s Razor: the simplest answer, folks, is the one to bet on.

Anyhow, of course I went right into the kitchen to see what kind of damage I could do with the spice from Grenoble, whatever it was. I took one of the sticks and grated it down; it’s softer than cinnamon, and comes apart nicely. I started out putting some in my famous Rose Perlata, just to see what the flavor’s like. After that, I tried adding it into a batch of quiddany, then a gilly-clove liqueur, then…well, somewhere around the liqueur I lost track of time. It could really have happened to anyone. Anyhow, that’s why I haven’t written in a while. I’ll try and do better.

In the meantime, I still have some of the Rose Perlata from that first batch left, folks. Get it while the gettin’s good. It may not be an avatar of the manus christi, but it’s absolutely delicious.