It's the freakiest show
Take a look at the Lawman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh man! Wonder if he'll ever know
He's in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?
From "Life on Mars" by David Bowie
We watched the final episode of Life on Mars last night. This has to be one of my favourite television shows at the moment and possible of all time. I wasn’t going to mention it but it really resonated with me, and seemed to relate to many aspects of life where difference can be hard to articulate and understand. It even seemed to encapsulate some of my feelings about trying to understand foreign recipes.
For those who have not seen it, it is about a policeman from present day who has an accident and ends up in 1973 unsure if he is time-travelling, mad or in a coma. The lyrics from the David Bowie song seem so spot on if you have watched the show. There is a brilliant scene last night in the police station where he can’t understand it all nor explain to others why he is out of step.
Life can look very strange when you are looking in from the outside. Recipes can seem odd when they don’t speak your language or use your ingredients or measurements. I have been here before (in my biscuit post) and I am sure I will be again. I wont go into a lot of detail about it today but will share my experience making Heidi’s version of Mark Bittman's Autumn Millet Bake.
I found the recipe on 101 Cookbooks and loved the warming autumnal combination of pumpkin, cranberries and maple syrup. I found it so sweet that at one stage I thought I had accidentally cooked a dessert for my dinner. In reflecting on why it was so sweet, I thought maybe it was because I had to make do with sweetened dried cranberries and I decided to use Kent Pumpkin instead of butternut ‘squash’. I’ve never seen fresh cranberries in Melbourne and I did wonder if butternut squash or pumpkin (as we call it) might have made a difference. My other explanation is that a lot of American recipes seem quite sweet and maybe Heidi liked it like that.
The sweetness wasn’t disastrous. I served the bake with roasted cauliflower and broccoli which were well seasoned. It was even better the next night when I reheated with more stock (and a generous helping of stock powder) The second round of cooking also made sure the millet was well cooked. As well as being unsure of my ingredients, I am still not very experienced at cooking millet. If I had more time to dedicate to my cooking I would try this a few times but life is too short so I have just tried to write a few notes in this post and the below recipe to remind myself for next time.
Autumn Pumpkin and Millet Bake
(adapted from Mark Bittman as seen on 101 Cookbooks)
2tbsp virgin olive oil
¾ cup millet
800g pumpkin, peeled and cubed
½ cup dried cranberries (or 1 cup fresh cranberries)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoons maple syrup or honey (or less)
1 – 1½ cup vegetable stock (or a mix of stock, water and cream), warmed*
¼ cup pumpkin seeds or coarsely chopped hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 190 c (or 375 F). Grease a largish casserole dish or a 22 x 32 cm (or 9 x 13 inch) baking dish.
Heat oil in a medium frypan over medium high heat. When hot, add millet and cook about 3 minutes or until fragrant and golden, being careful not to toast too much. Spread in bottom of the prepared baking dish.
Scatter pumpkin, cranberries and sage over top of the millet. Season and then drizzle with maple syrup or honey (I have recommended 1 tbsp if you are using dried sweetened cranberries – if you have fresh ones you might need more syrup.) Pour a cup of warmed stock over mixture and cover with lid or foil and bake for 45 minutes.
Taste the millet and if it is not cooked, add additional stock. When tasting, also check that it is not too sweet and if it is, add more seasoning. (Heidi said not to disturb but I really wanted to stir and I think if I did it again I might give into this temptation and give a stir at this stage.) With hindsight I think I would just add an extra half cup of stock and bake an additional 15-30 minutes. Then turn oven up to 200 C (or 400 F). Uncover casserole, sprinkle with pumpkin seeds or hazelnuts and bake for about 10 minutes or til the top is browned (and Heidi says it should be bubbling but mine wasn't).
On the Stereo:
Best of Bowie: David Bowie