The Trip

It was always going to be difficult. Beaker, the larger of our two cats has never been socialised. He was completely feral when we rescued him from the mean streets of Houston, and a girl. We had thought that he was about 3 months old, but after a week or two of decent, regular food we realised that 1) he was a boy and 2) that he was about 6 months old. And kitty puberty was upon him. Poor thing, that’s a lot to deal with. Changing your address, sex, and leaving kitten-hood all over the space of a couple of weeks can’t be easy.

He’s barely even sociable, At least not with others. He’s friendly enough with us (read “with Angela”). A bit wary, but friendly. That’s not to say that he is mean or violent. He isn’t, he’s a total sweetheart, one of the nicest cats I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. He’s just scared of everything and everyone, and has exceptional hiding skills. Right now he’s inside the lower part of our bed in the hotel. Inside it. Apparently there was a rip on the underside, a small one but large enough for him to drag his big cat arse into. It’s going to be a joy trying to get him into his carrier when we leave for our apartment next week. We are looking for somewhere that sells duct-tape for this very reason. We aren’t going to hog-tie him, in case you are concerned, just try to tape up that particular avenue of escape.

Since he’s so difficult to catch – ex-feral cats never lose their edge, they can dodge, weave and jump like pro rugby players – we actually had to use the services of a mobile pet clinic since catching him ourselves has always proved to be nigh on impossible. The vet had to come out several times in order to vaccinate and chip him. The first time was a failure – Beaker, despite his size, leapt to a hiding place that we thought was out of reach. He’s good at that as I mentioned above. The vets brought a net with them the second time they came, and caught him that way. Very undignified it was too, and Beaker let them know of his displeasure by peeing. Who knew the kitty bladder was so capacious? The life of a vet clearly isn’t all private jets and glamour.

They came the morning that we were due to fly out to catch and put him in his carrier. Mission accomplished, so Beaker (and his more sensible sister Squee) were ready for their epic journey across the Atlantic. Our friend Matt had kindly volunteered to drive us to the airport, and we loaded everything up, included two rather quiet cats and headed out.

I was expecting them to be able to stay in their carriers through security, but that was not to be. While the TSA folks manning the security x-ray stations were really nice, their supervisor was an officious, humourless, ….I’ll stop there. We had to take the kitties in their carriers into a small room where they had to be taken out while the carriers were scanned. Angela went first with Squee, thankfully this was uneventful, since Squee is a level headed little thing. I went in with Beaker, and two very rotund security guards. One of them picked up a broom as a weapon. I’m not kidding. I told him in no uncertain terms that if he attempted to use that on Beaker great unpleasantness would ensue. I know you aren’t supposed to threaten security personnel, but you don’t hit animals with brooms either. Something about my demeanour, probably brought on by the fact that I was convinced I was about to be pissed on and bitten by a very scared Beaker, and so probably looked rather grim and very determined, made him put down the broom. I managed to get Beaker out of the carrier and kept him close to me while they took his carrier to be scanned. They then swabbed him and my hands for explosives. All negative of course. Beaker was eager to get back in his carrier, so all in all, getting him through security was not as bad as we had anticipated. The officious, unfriendly ICE supervisor made it a lot more unpleasant than it needed to be however.

The flight to Frankfurt was uneventful. I like flights, any flight to be uneventful. It’s better that way. When we arrived, again we had to take the kitties to a small room where they could be taken out of their carriers and the carriers taken away to be scanned. I was less nervous this time, made so in no small part by the security agent. Rather than threaten to hit the cats with a broom, the lady agent was nice, had cats of her own, and was eager to hug our cats while their carriers were examined. Beaker wasn’t particularly eager to be hugged, but he didn’t kick up a fuss. The agent was also Portuguese, and when she realised where we were moving to, became very friendly indeed. What a difference from our experience in Houston. Security checks are very important, but there really isn’t any need to be dickish about them.

It was snowing when we arrived in Frankfurt, and as we waited at the gate for our flight to be called, we could hear succesive announcements of cancellations over the intercom. Oh dear.

Pâte Brisée Pie Crust

 

This recipe for páte brisée is my go to pie crust recipe.  It can be made quickly in a food processor. Also it stays flaky if you need to reroll your crust. If you don’t have a food processor you could always form it by hand. The butter must be at a cool room temperature to blend correctly. I usually make the dough the day before baking to prevent shrinkage.

 

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Coddled Eggs with Maggi Seasoning and Toast Soldiers

This recipe was inspired by Andy Ricker’s Khai Luak Kap Khanom Pang Ping in The Drinking Food of Thailand. I have applied different cooking techniques.

Coddled eggs are gently cooked and can run the gamut from hardly cooked to mostly cooked. They are similar to poached eggs as they traditionally are barely cooked with an intact runny yolk, but whereas poached eggs are dropped directly in the water, coddled eggs are cooked in a simmering water bath (bain-marie) in a heatproof vessel. These coddled eggs are cooked in mason jars and given an extra umami kick with some Maggi seasoning.

Small Mason Jars

You could get egg coddlers, heat proof cups with lids, especially for this purpose, but I used some small 4 oz mason jars. Heat proof ramekins could also be used.

 

 

You need a shallow pan with a tight fitting lid to make a bain-marie.  Water should be 3/4 high on the jars. Test this with empty jars, keeping in mind the water will be displaced. Put a trivet at the bottom of the pan to keep the jars from touching the bottom of the pan. Bring the water to a gentle simmer.

 

 

Ingredients for Coddled Eggs

The eggs are simply flavored with salt, freshly ground white pepper, and Maggi seasoning sauce, a dark thin hydrolysed vegetable protein-based (MSG) liquid condiment that was first developed in Switzerland in the 19th century. MSG gives the liquid a rich umami flavor that only requires a few drops for impact. MSG has been used to season food for a hundred years and the “Chinese restaurant symptom” has been shown to be a fallacy so feel free to enjoy your MSG.

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Mouse Ear Mushroom Salad ~ Yam Het Huu Nuu Khad

 

This recipe is adapted from The Drinking Food of Thailand by Andy Ricker with JJ Goode.

 

 

 

 

For the palm sugar simple syrup I used some tablets I already had.  I’ve used palm sugar in several forms, dried blocks and moist tubs. These have been my favorite; they’re so easy to work with. I used five, which was slightly over the 2 1/2 ounces called for in the recipe.

 

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Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

These meatballs have a great texture and are not heavy due to the panko breadcrumbs. You can substitute traditional breadcrumbs, but they won’t come out as light.

This dish has big flavors. The garlic mellows with the long simmer time, but you can reduce it if you like it milder. The anchovies will dissolve in the sauce and add subtle depth. (This also works for any sauce you’d like to kick up a notch). Romano cheese has a sharper flavor than parmesan which I really enjoy. Simmering the meatballs in the sauce gives them even more flavor.

Also using the best canned tomatoes you can find will add a lot of flavor.  Carefully read the fine print on the label; many are not true San Marzano tomatoes.

This recipe makes approximately 22 meatballs. This is usually more than I need so I freeze the remaining meatballs uncooked. You can serve these by themselves or with pasta.

For the sauce:

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