we're back!

So, as 5 of you noticed, VDuck went dark for a couple of weeks. I was applying for a job with a challengingly perky young vegan blogger whose public disposition is laughably far away from that of your beloved VDuck. The application process was lengthy, and just before I clicked on Submit I thought "let's have a quick look at VDuck to see just how footshootingly counterproductive it would be to have a potential employer read it."

I had a quick look, the second post out here was about my balls, I decided, yeah, let's put things on pause for a couple weeks. But! I failed. Was not hired. So let's resume shall we. Ish.



This is not two slices of the worst-looking pepperoni pizza ever made. It's an unexpectedly good snack of roasted homemade sourdough, hummus, and Momofuku sweet pickled radishes. I'd serve it to someone.


sour notes.

3/4 cup starter
1 and 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
3 cups all-purpose flour, unbleached
1 and 1/2 tsp kosher salt

  1. Get two bowls. Combine the ingredients in one. Let rest for 10-20 minutes. While it is resting, lightly coat another medium-sized bowl with olive oil. The bowl needs to be a big enough to allow the dough to double in size.
  2. Work dough the absolute minimum to get things into a ballish shape, for me this was like 1 minute's work. You are not kneading. 
  3. Shape into ball and put into the oiled bowl, smooth-side down, and then flip it smooth-side up so that all sides of the dough are covered with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
  4. Let rise in a warm place at least 6 hours, folding every 30 minutes. 
  5. Form bread into a boule (a round loaf) and place on a square of parchment paper. With a wet serrated knife, cut a couple of slashes on the top. Cover loosely with a damp towel and allow to rise for 1½- 2 hours.
  6. In the last 30 or 40 minutes of the last rise, move your oven rack to the bottom third of oven. Put a cast iron Dutch oven with lid in the cold oven and preheat to 450º for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the lid from the Dutch oven and put the boule in by picking up the corners of the parchment and gently setting it in. Be very careful - the Dutch oven and lid are very hot. 
  8. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and bake for 12-13 minutes. Uncover and bake another 12-13 minutes.
  9. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. DO NOT slice the bread until it has set for 30 minutes, everyone insists that this is completely important, though it is wholly inimical to the enjoyment of bread.  


sev puri.

I've said it before in these pages, and knowing me I'll probably say it again. I mean who can really keep track of everything they've said over the course of 13 years of jotting down over 2,200 compulsively-rewritten notes to themselves. In public. Who can even count the number of years or notes properly (EDITOR'S NOTE: actually Blogger does a pretty good job of that last part, yes scroll down, it's right there in the right sidebar...but right that was probably rhetorical, anyway, carry on).

Indian food may be the hardest cuisine to replicate in the home kitchen (I say this without ever reaallllly having tried to cook with anything in that challenging-smelling Chinese medicinal herb aisle in the supertoko). I was just thinking. There are two components to the complexity: 1) exotic/authentic ingredients, without which you are not cooking the real thing. And 2) the sheer number of ingredients and techniques involved.

Japanese cooking, for example, also requires exotic/authentic ingredients in order to taste "accurate": miso, kombu, sake, furikake, etc. But once you're cooking, the ingredient list is totally manageable, six or seven things. It's the rare Indian recipe that doesn't involve at least two recipes within itself (I'm including condiments), and each one involves several ingredients, we're not even necessarily talking about curries from scratch yet.

But: I blather on about all this not only to unspool my mind into a text box in order to hopefully put myself back to sleep soon, which is why probably mm half of VDuck was written, but in order to proclaim into the void that I am currently "better at Indian food" than I've ever been in my life. In that what I cook tastes vaguely like the original thing I tasted that made me want to cook it in the first place.

Today's case in point: bhel puri/sev puri. Back in the day (I just spent 10 seconds deciding if quotation marks or italics more clearly indicated that that is not a phrase I normally use), I used to make the 35 mile (57 km) drive down to Indian Delights in Decatur as often as I could manage the incredible boringness of the scenery and the dent that the whole enterprise put in your day's productivity. OK, two hours, a two hour dent. Doesn't sound like all that much at the moment for a chance to eat at Indian Delights. Luckily they didn't serve alcohol or the dent would've been twice that and significantly more structurally damaging.

Annnywayyyy. That was where I first tasted South Indian chaat, special thanks to Cliff Bostock, who sent me into all the dark corners of Atlanta's 1990-2000-era exotic food scene via his column in Creative Loafing. Indian Delights is, of course, closed now, so I can't even find a menu to look at (although Chat Patti's seems to be very similar), but yes, their bhel puri was the stuff my dreams were made of. Crunchy, sweet and sour dreams.

This week, in an effort to re-locate the ever-elusive Pleasure Button, I started looking at chaat again, and thought that sev puri seemed like a slightly easier/more fun version of bhel puri. And, having made it, I can verify that it is. Once you 1) find some chaat masala (which is really nothing like any other masala, if you've been trying to substitute for this do yourself a favor and find the real thing) and black salt and papdi and sev, and 2) make the chutneys, the rest is just assembly.

Each one of these (as pictured above) is roughly the size of a light and crispy golfball.


sev puri.

1 recipe date-tamarind chutney
1 recipe cilantro-mint chutney
5 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed roughly
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chaat masala

1 mango, diced
1 cup chopped tomato
1 lime, juiced

1 red onion, minced
bunch of mint, leaves stripped, chopped

20-30 papdi (somewhere between a kroepoek and a pappadam and a rice cake, puffy and crunchy, the size of a Pringle)
2 cups sev (the chickpea vermicelli sprinkled on top)
1 tbsp chaat masala
20-30 dots of sriracha

This makes enough for at least 20 bites. So, you make the chutneys the day before, you boil and mash the potatoes with the cumin and chaat masala the day before but make sure they're back to room temperature before you try and serve. You can cut the mango and tomato the day before as well, I left them combined in the fridge overnight with the lime juice and a shot of agave because neither was very good by itself.

The last thing that should be done is dicing the onion. Then, assemble: on top of a papdi you put a tsp of potato, a tsp of tomato/mango, a dollopette of each chutney, sprinkle the onion on, put a dot of sriracha on top, throw a tiny pinch of chaat masala at it, and top with the sev and mint. Serve immediately or they get soggy. Apparently if you don't like cilantro, you can also just use a mint leaf instead of the green chutney.




stamppot of red beets in agrodolce, spinach, potato, gorgonzola, walnut. 

1 kg potatoes
2 handfuls fresh, washed spinach

3 large beets, roasted, peeled and sliced
3 tbsp raw sugar
3 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 handful good walnuts, toasted and halved or so
1 tbsp butter

butter or olive oil
freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper

blue cheese, crumbled


This was also pretty delicious as a red-wine risotto with roasted cauliflower instead of beets. And rice instead of potatoes.



school lunch.

Irrelevant picture alert. The above has nothing to do with the below recipe, the above is the pretty fancy-seeming app I made out of pre-cooked stem-on artichokes from the local Turk and Marcella Hazan's carciofi alla Romana concepts.

Then, also, later, and relevant to school lunches: this salad.


carrot and quinoa salad. 

2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground cardamom

freshly ground black pepper

3 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp honey or ginger syrup



age of aquarius.

spinach and ricotta ravioli with brown butter, walnuts and gorgonzola.

enough ravioli for 3 people, in our case it was 16 or so
3/4 cup butter, preferably unsalted but it  don't really matter if you careful
1/2 cup good fresh walnuts, coarsely chopped
2-3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, under no circumstances curly, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream, go on, it's a special occasion
1 tsp fresh lemon juice, or "a squeeze of one half lemon into your seedcatching cupped palm held over the skillet"
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, or slightly less, I mention this in case you're the kind of person who always says "we always run out of Parmesan so I better grate a little extra": this is so you don't run out, you don't need much
1/4 cup crumbled or very thinly sliced Gorgonzola, to taste, I went light, this is the light amount
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a medium-sized sauté pan over medium or possibly medium-low heat, cook butter without stirring until it starts to darken to a golden color. This should take 5-10 minutes. Watch it, do not take your eye off of it. You are going for the point where you notice it is browning, and then like maybe 30 seconds beyond that. It should not be smoking or smell burned.

When your butter has been noticeably brown for 30 seconds, add the nuts and cook until the butter is definitely golden brown and the nuts are fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the parsley, cream, and lemon juice, and stir to combine. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring to integrate. Add Gorgonzola. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can let this sit for 10 minutes or so while you do the next part if you're cooking by yourself, otherwise have someone else do this part:

Bring 3 or 4 liters of salted water (considerably less than "ocean salty", like half) to a full boil, reduce heat and then add ravioli. (if you add ravioli when the water is at a roiling boil, you risk having the ravioli pop open, nobody wants that). Have an occasional gentle stir to make sure the ravioli ain't sticking nowhere. Once water returns to a gentle boil, cook about 5-10 minutes, there's no way to be more precise b/c I didn't make your ravioli. Keep tasting for doneness. Drain carefully, or simply use a slotted spoon to remove the ravioli individually from the pot.

Spoon sauce over ravioli. If you likey, sprinkly more freshly grated Parmesany on toppy of ravioli.



stovetop tajine.

This picture of a pseudoghetto Sydney liquor store has nothing to do with anything, just needed a picture. Just liiiiiiike....last night, I just needed a dinner. Yeah, sorry, I've been reading and writing art history for 72 hours, I used up my brains. Here's an Anna Jones recipe that, as usual, sounded totally weird and mwah but ended up being pretty darn ok and yay. I'd make this again.


chickpea, zucchini, dates, quinoa, lemon-coconut yogurt.

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 leeks finely chopped
A generous pinch of saffron
2 teaspoons of ras el hanout spice
500ml of vegetable stock
a drained 400g tin or jar of chickpeas, or 250g home-cooked chickpeas
1 tbsp sriracha

2 courgettes, thickly sliced
10 dates, roughly chopped
200g of runner or green beans, chopped into bite sized lengths

100ml of coconut yoghurt
A sprinkling of dried chilli
The juice and zest of 1 lemon
A couple of tablespoons of sesame seeds
A few sprigs of fresh mint or basil

optional: 4 free range or organic eggs

Heat a good glug of olive oil in a pan, add the leeks and garlic and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes until the leeks have started to soften. Then sprinkle the saffron and ras el hanout over top.
Next add the chickpeas and the stock and bring to a steady simmer and cook for 5 minutes until the broth has thickened a little.

Meanwhile, heat a pan with a little olive oil and add the sliced courgettes and the dates and sauté until the courgettes are browned on both sides and the dates have begun to caramelize.

Next turn the heat down a little add the green beans and cook for 8 minutes. Throw the lemon juice in.

Meanwhile mix the yoghurt with the chilli and lemon zest with a good pinch of sea salt and pepper.

Ladle the vegetables and broth into a bowl, top with sesame seeds a squeeze more lemon juice, herbs and the yoghurt for spooning over.