Banquets of Masters, Leftovers for Slaves
by Susu & dieFledermaus
Dia Passik had many duties as a slave, depending on the need and on her behavior. Sometimes as punishment, she would be sent to the kitchens, the laundry, or the nursery, so she could understand how lucky she was as a dancing girl. Any length of time doing the backbreaking, sleep-depriving labor was guaranteed to cure any errant servant and make her beg to be allowed back in the master's chambers. Dia had less privacy as a scullion than as a pleasure slave, and certainly had less time on her back!
The slaves were not allowed to taste anything they cooked, as a security measure, and they were supervised heavily to make sure the food was not tainted. But the smells drove Dia and the other girls wild with hunger, and they took furtive licks of their fingertips when the guards weren't looking. This is not to be done lightly -- being caught might mean execution. Fortunately, if there were leftovers, it was returned to the kitchens to be distributed to the wives, children and slaves. Since the food was now for them, the slaves became creative and produced wondrous meals from the dried up scraps of the luxurious meats and sauces from the night before.
Dia knew that the original dishes must have been delicious, because the leftover concoctions made everyone moan with pleasure. As a slave, she was among the last to be fed, so she never got more than a few spoonfuls of sauce or a few bites of a fried pastry or sandwich. But it was enough to make her feel that being a kitchen slave would not be so bad a life.
She remembered some of the recipes and made them for the squadron on occasion. But somehow, they never tasted as good as when she snuck a dab of sauce on her thumb, or when she was waiting to share a morsel with the other servants. As much as she appreciated her freedom now, she did miss some of the camaraderie and some of her experiences as a slave -- but only just a bit.
But don't ever ask her about that -- she'll bite your head off! And despite the loss of savor, the dishes and their leftover incarnations are really very delicious!
Spicy Chicken Morsels (chicken tikka)
This party dish was a great favorite, and did double duty as a main course offering or an appetizer when individual cubes were skewered with toothpicks. It was also popular as a wrapped sandwich -- flatbreads could be rolled around the succulent meat, or the cubes could be shredded for a more traditional sandwich or canapé. Sometimes Dia lined them up in a packed bed of rice and rolled that all up, and sliced the tube crosswise -- a sort of chicken sushi, served with a thinned herb mayonnaise. Use powdered spices (reduce the quantities by about a third) or already-prepared pastes for convenience (some of the pastes come in tubes, and can be found in Indian, Italian, or Chinese markets).
Using bamboo skewers, thread the meat. To prevent the pieces from spinning on the skewer when the meat is turned later, used two skewers, parallel to each other. These can be cooked over a grill, like a hibachi or barbecue, or can be run under a hot broiler. Turn the skewers frequently to prevent burning, and cook till nearly done, when a piece cut in half is very slightly pink inside. Remove from the heat and let sit; it will cook all the way through on standing. (A simpler method -- place the chicken pieces in a roasting pan or baking pan in a single layer, or over a wire rack if you don't want the pieces to "stew" in their exuded juices, and bake at 325°F/145°C for about 20 or so minutes, till done. They need not brown.)
Serve over rice, or as part of a hearty salad. Be sure to save some for the next day's leftovers!
Spicy Chicken in Tomato Gravy (chicken tikka masala)
Dia would taste this sauce off her fingers, then quickly cut one of her digits, so it looked like she was attending to a wound! If the guards suspected the cooks were consuming the sauce, the punishment was often instant death for kitchen middens. However, being that she was a more valuable dancing girl, they might have subjected her to a simple beating. Either way, Dia was risking bodily injury, but she couldn't help herself -- the sauce called to her. The list of ingredients may look formidable, but in reality, it's basically condensed tomato soup mixed with melted butter and doused with spices and cream. Use powdered spices (reduce quantities by about a third) and prepared pastes if you prefer not to do the arduous pounding and mashing in a mortar and pestle. The gravy is heavenly mixed with hot rice, or even as a sort of noodle sauce. It's also a luscious, rich, spicy tomato soup! Sometimes, it would be served in small cups as a meal starter at Dia's master's parties. If you wish, you can make the gravy in advance and refrigerate it till you need it.
Melt the butter in a skillet and cook the onions till translucent, without browning. Add the pounded spices mixture and cook till the smell is strong and irresistible. (At this point, Dia sometimes puts in the leftover marinade from the Chicken recipe, but since there are raw chicken juices here, be sure to cook the sauce thoroughly.) Stir in the undiluted tomato soup, tomato paste, cream, milk, and fenugreek. If the sauce is too thick, add more cream or milk till the desired consistency has been achieved.
Add the grilled chicken pieces and heat through in the sauce. Serves about 4, with leftover sauce. (If you wish, strain the sauce and thin with milk to serve as a rich spicy tomato bisque!)
This stew can be rustic or elegant -- it's basically boiled vegetables and meats in a sauce, thickened with a roux. This is a flour and butter mixture, cooked in a frying pan. The desired effect really depends on personal taste. A whiter paste will thicken more liquid, but might taste of raw flour; a darker, brown roux will add flavor, but the same quantity of paste will thicken much less liquid. The amount of liquid can be varied, for a thin, wet pottage, which can be puréed or mashed for a more sophisticated soup offering, or add less liquid for a nearly solid rough-and-tumble style dish, to be served on a flat plate with bread or rice. Finally, the size the vegetables and meat are cut will also affect the presentation of the stew. In any case, it improves on standing, so feel free to make this dish in advance and keep it covered and cool. Reheat gently -- you will need to be more careful not to burn it if the stew is very thick. The master liked this dish because it was inexpensive and nostalgic, kind of a play on rustic humbleness. Dia liked the dish because it was easier to make than people thought! (Some Asian markets sell prepared curry roux, in a brick-like block, which you can use instead of making your own roux and spices mixture. The block is scored, so you can add as little or as much as you need.)
In the same skillet, add the vegetable oil and heat. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes, then add the carrots and celery. Cook another few minutes, then add the apple and potatoes. When the vegetable surfaces start to brown, put the ingredients into a stew pot. Into the hot skillet, pour the liquid and spices, and bring to a boil, scraping up the bits in the bottom of the skillet, then pour over the vegetables. Simmer in the large pot, covered, for about 30 minutes, or till the potatoes are cooked and soft.
Add the meat toward the end of the cooking time, poaching it gently till done. In a small bowl, mix together a few spoonfuls of hot liquid from the pot with a tablespoon of roux till blended, then mix into the stewpot. Stir till thickened. Repeat this process till the stew is as thick as you want. (Since you're not a dancing girl, go ahead and taste the stew and correct the seasonings, as desired.)
Serve hot over boiled or steamed rice, or over spaghetti, or with bread for dunking. Leftovers should be put into a covered container and cooled to room temperature, then covered and put in the refrigerator. Expect it to harden up so that it's quite solid in the cold environment. (This will make making the Curried Pastries simpler!)
Fried Curry Pastry
This is reminiscent of a grilled cheese sandwich, but it's deep-fried and inside the sandwich pocket is curry leftover from the day before. Refrigerated curry stew will solidify, allowing the cook to "slice" in the filling without making a mess. On frying, the filling melts, without becoming searingly hot. The hearty sandwiches stretch out the small amount of leftovers, so that everyone can be fed. Using stale bread slices is fine too -- making this a 'recovered' meal, all around! Dia could never eat it without getting the warm, gooey filling all over herself, so she likes it cooled to room temperature, and eaten with a knife and fork on a plate. Others just wrapped the sandwich in wax paper and pocketed them for later snacking, and reported them to be equally delicious cold or reheated in a toaster oven. (Unfortunately, the microwave makes the bread soggy and the curry too hot to eat! Be careful if you choose this option -- use a knife and fork, like Dia does!)
In a bowl large enough to take the curry sandwich, beat the eggs. Put the bread crumbs in another bowl. Dip the sandwich in the eggs, top and bottom, then coat with bread crumbs, pressing the crumbs on gently.
Heat the oil to 350°F/165°C and drop in the sandwiches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. The oil will foam up and might splatter if you put too many in, and if the oil cools down significantly, the oil will sink into the bread and make it greasy and soggy. When a nice dark brown, remove from the oil and drain on a rack.
Serve hot or room temperature. Makes 8 pastries.
Sugar & Spice Nuts
Leia Organa found herself enslaved to Jabba the Hutt in her attempt to rescue Han Solo. Though he used her as a pleasure slave -- the better to humiliate the princess -- she managed to get away from him a few times by claiming to be able to make a dish so delicious that rival crime lord Durga the Hutt jealously guarded the recipe. Leia intimated that she knew the secret of this "moreish" snack (meaning the more you have, the more you want!). Jabba demanded she make it, and she refused unless she was left in the kitchen by herself with R2D2, to do the work. Jabba had never tasted anything so nibblingly good, and thus Leia got to be by herself as she plotted how to escape. Jabba threatened to beat the "secret" out of her, but she played a game with him ... she'd make it as often as he wanted it, and he could guess at the ingredients -- he never guessed there were only four items! For every correct guess, she would succumb ... She kept him guessing till Luke was able to rescue her. These nibbles are great with drinks, or just as is.
Peanut Butter, Banana & Honey Sandwich
This is not your average kiddie sandwich -- it's rich and sweet, and like a little cake when sliced prettily. It could actually be a dessert, when sprinkled over with powdered sugar, or perhaps a honey/caramel sauce! Princess Leia would save some of the peanuts she made for Jabba and blend them down to a paste, spread it onto bread and layer it with bananas and spicy honey. She'd fry the whole concoction in butter in a frying pan, and might even use a canapé cutter to present the sandwich in fanciful shapes. It was a favorite comfort dish, and perhaps the only thing she could really cook, and it brought her a measure of solace as a slave. Though she ate a lot of these, she fortunately got a lot of exercise, avoiding the slimy Hutt who had imprisoned her, or she never would have fit into that metal bikini!
In a small frying pan or skillet, melt half the butter and carefully place the sandwich in the pan. Fry till golden brown, then melt the remaining butter if needed, and carefully flip over the sandwich and fry the other side. Serve immediately.
Cheese is the result when milk "matures." How that maturity is reached and the subsequent flavorings are the pride of many tribes and nationalities. Many peoples offer a tasting of the best or tastiest cheeses somewhere in the course of a formal meal: appetizer, salad, even as a dessert. In the GFFA, societies have complex rules as to the meaning of each cheese, and what combinations of certain cheeses could mean. Serving smelly, soft cheeses could be seen as a political opinion concerning the guest of honor; serving hard cheeses might hint at needing building or factory construction, whereas a hole-filled Swiss-style cheese might indicate faulty logic. At a wedding, serving a combination of delicate camembert or plump cheese balls in tiny sizes might remind the couple to produce cherubic babies.
Some Guidelines for a Cheeseboard
A good cheeseboard will provide contrasts in flavor and texture. The other foods you present with the cheeses can enhance the experience. There are many categories of cheese, but here is a classification Dia found useful when she was assigned to prepare the selection:
After the party, there would be odd bits of cheese left over, which the masters were never interested in. A cook Dia worked with used to hoard these scraps. She never saw the cheese again, so she wondered what happened to them. Dia hid in a cupboard one night and saw the cook enter the kitchen, test the brick ovens ovens for residual heat, and start cooking. To her surprise, in about an hour, the wives and concubines would come down and seat themselves on the floor of the kitchen while the cook dashed about with plates, and fed them. The smells were incredible and the food was consumed greedily. No wonder that cook got special favors from the mistresses! Dia hid in the cupboard till clean-up had been done and everyone had gone. She crept out and stole the last scraps of cheese from their hiding place, and spent what time she could trying to duplicate what she had seen.
On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough into a circle larger than your tart pan and put the dough in the pan. Trim the edges, then dock the dough (prick all over with a fork) and place in a heated 375°F/175°C oven will lightly browned. Remove and cool. (This is called "baking blind," blind meaning with nothing in the crust.)
Lower the oven heat to 350°F/165°C. In a bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients except the soft/crumbly cheese, then pour this mixture into the baked pie shell. Cut up, crumble or pull apart the remaining soft cheese and distribute over the top (don't worry if it sinks into the filling). Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the filling firms up, with a bit of slow wobbling left toward the center. It will continue to cook as it sits outside the oven. This cheese pie serves 6 to 10.
Picadillo (sloppy joes)
This was a favorite dish for the children of the master. They could make a mess, and it was made from ground meat and chopped vegetables in a tomato-based sauce, something that didn't require cutting or mysterious ingredients. Children are often reluctant to eat things that don't fit into their mouths, or are made in such a way that they don't recognize them. Dia, in her time in the nursery, would spoonfeed even the smallest, most truculent child this dish, which smelled a bit spicy, and she was surprised the children liked it. She discovered when licking bit of the leftovers of their plates that it was somewhat sweet, to neutralize the fire of the spice. Older children ate it with rice, or as a sandwich between slices of dry toast.
Golumpky (stuffed cabbage)
Children being children, they eat what they want and no amount of coercion will make them eat a bite more. So the spicy-sweet picadillo often was served the next day, and the day after that; but after that, the cook would give up and make something else. The leftover meat dish and rice could be used by the slaves, and to make it appear less like a leftover (simply serving on a bed of rice, for example, or with a piece of dry bread), Dia helped one cook make a dish that made everyone clamor for more. The master and his wives and concubines knew about it, but they couldn't bring themselves to partake of rough, smelly boiled cabbage leaves (they preferred the more tender inner leaves), so the whole batch was left to the slaves to savor amongst themselves.
In a pot, make the sauce by sautéing the onions and garlic in oil. When done, add the stock and tomato paste/water, stirring to blend well. Blend in the paprika, and take off the heat, setting aside.
In a bowl, mix together the picadillo, rice or crumbs and beaten egg. With wet hands, for about ¼ cup of the mixture into a croquette-type of patty then place in the center of the cabbage leaf. Fold over the stem end, then fold over the sides, and roll up toward the tip.
In a baking dish, cover with a ladle-full of sauce and place the cabbage leaf parcels seam-side down. Fill the dish with the rolled golumpky, then pour the remainder of the sauce over the parcels, covering completely and evenly. Cover the dish, using foil if necessary, and bake in a 325°F/100°C oven for about 1 ½ hours. If you wish, uncover the dish and bake for another ½ hour. At any time, if the dish looks dry, add extra sauce, beef stock, wine, or water.
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