Tuesday, 15 February 2011
Of Mice And Moles
I was very saddened this week to learn of the death of Brian Jacques. He was the author of some of my favourite books, growing up - The Redwall Series, which chronicled a community of animals in Mossflower Woods and all centred around the hub of Redwall Abbey, inhabited by a brotherhood of berobed mice.
They're lovely books, and if you've never come across them before I highly recommend you check them out. I first read them years ago (when I say them, I mean the first 8 books. Jacques was an incredibly prolific writer and I think there are now 21 of them. I have some catching up to do!)
I can remember being struck by some of the brilliant character names - Cheesethief, Darkclaw and Ragear, bloodthirsty sergeants in the rat army of the terrible Cluny the Scourge; Asmodeus, the fearsome and sly adder; Basil Stag Hare, eccentric leader of the long patrol with a stiff upper lip and a voracious appetite; and Warbeak the feisty sparrow.
But what I remember most about the books, quelle surprise, was the food. These were mice and badgers and moles and squirrels who could really eat! Honeyed apples, nutbread, oatcakes, the Abbot's special trifle, meadowcream, October ale, otter's hotroot soup, cowslip cordial, a huge grayling caught from the Abbey pond and cooked to perfection by the affable and rotund friar Hugo. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.
So, imagine my delight when I discovered that there is, in fact, a Redwall cookbook. This features a new short story from Brian Jacques and illustrations from Christopher Denise. The recipe below is a moley specialty, the very tasty 'Nunnymolers'. Here, they are introduced to Constance, the badger ...
'Constance looked around the trolleys. "Anything else the moles have thought up? I like molefood - it has a nice, homely taste to it." Pansy picked up a dumpy-shaped little pastry. "Try a Nunnymoler."
Constance scratched her great striped muzzle. 'A Nunny what?'
Friar Hugo broke the pastry in two and gave Constance half. "Molewives bake them for the little ones. They were supposed to be called Honey Moles, but in molespeak they're known as Nunnymolers."'
So now you know! Constance is not wrong, they do have a homely taste about them, and they're lumpy, inelegant little things, but they aren't half tasty. They're sort of a cross between a shortbread and a scone, with a fruity, honeyed centre. The Redwall Cookbook is an American title, so I've adapted these quantites into grams.
300g plain flour
75g icing sugar
200g butter, cubed
6 strawberries, halved
Berry jam or compote
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas mark 4.
2. Mix together the icing sugar and flour in a bowl to form a fine powder.
3. Rub the butter into this mix with your fingertips until you've got a coarse, sandy mixture.
4. Sprinkle over four tablespoons of cold water and mix with your hands until a ball of smooth dough forms.
5. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and divide the dough into 12 equally sized balls.
6. Flatten them into burger shapes with your palm and place them on the baking tray.
7. Spread each one with a thin layer of honey, and place a raspberry and half a strawberry in the centre of each one.
8. Fold the edges of the dough upwards and pinch them in to form a small, dumpy parcel with the fruit in the centre of it.
9. Put a small blob of jam in the top of each parcel.
10. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes until golden and let cool on a wire rack before eating.
Posted by Blue Cheese and Mangoes at 22:28