I’m always a few months in arrears on movies because, years ago, my husband and I decided we’d spend our movie money on HBO and interactive cable. We only go to the movies when one of us just…can’t…wait. Not often.
So the other night, my husband and I stumbled across one of those “The Making Of . . .” short films that HBO is always showing. And it was about turning Roald Dahl’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” (www.fantasticmrfoxmovie.com)
into an animated movie using a new combination of puppetry and paintings. I don’t care much for animated films unless they’re very, very good (which, to me, means they remembered to invite the writers, as in the first “Shrek” movie).
But listening to Mrs. Roald Dahl talk about the unique approach taken by bizarro filmmaker Wes Anderson and his team, I was already hooked. (Besides, I’d be happy to listen to George Clooney read a bookful of computer code just for the pleasure of the wise guy smile in his voice).
I was enjoying the heck out of the movie (in which Clooney voices the character of a loveable schemer whose signature gesture is stolen from Donald Sutherland’s Hawkeye Pierce in the original “M.A.S.H.”). Then two young foxes, imitating the escapades of Mr. Fox, break into a farm kitchen and spot a plate of Mrs. Bean’s Famous Nutmeg Ginger Apple Snaps, sitting on top of a book called “Your English Kitchen” by Richard Armstrong-Smythe. Forgetting what they came for, they explode into a food frenzy when — gasp! ‚ the knife-wielding Mrs. Bean comes home!
Forgetting what I was doing, I leapt to the laptop and Googled the cookbook title.
First, I looked for the cookbook. It didn’t come up but I haven’t given up. The one in the film — which is done in a very realistic combination of filmed characters — looked too real to have been a fabrication.
A moment later, I was delightedly eyeing a bunch of links to “Nutmeg Ginger Apple Snaps.” Turns out TV chef Mario Batali was asked to create a recipe for the film. And a number of food bloggers did so, as well. Batali’s recipe is a sugar-spice cookie with a dried apple slice on top. Looked scrumptious.
But, cuss it! (as they keep saying in the movie), I used up the last of my dried apples last night making breakfast bars.
Top 10 Signs of a True Foodie: All the world is just a recipe cue! I’ll let you know how the cookies come out.
Meanwhile, I promised to let you know what I’ve been up to:
1. A girlfriend gave me Nigella Lawson’s Feast” for Christmas. I’ve watched Nigella on TV a few times and been charmed by her Englishisms and sexy way in the kitchen (this book contains an unashamed segment on midnight dishes to share in bed to wrap up a successful first date). But I’d never had a cookbook. There are quite a few recipes in the book I found tempting but, predictably, my eye went unerringly to the least sophisticated, most indefensible (from a health standpoint) recipe in the book, Chocolate Caramel Crispy Cakes. Get this: Cut 2 Milky War bars into slices, melt them in a saucepan with 1/4 cup butter, stir in 2 1/2 cups cornflakes, turn mixture into mini-muffin molds and refrigerate 1 hour. She says this recipe makes 40. Don’t know what she’s been smoking but I only get one mini-muffin tray. I can eat a whole tray of these by myself. (And if my husband doesn’t get home soon, I might just do so.) She also makes them with Mars bars. I tried Snickers and they worked, too. You can cut the butter back to 2 tablespoons. I can’t be responsible for the weight gain if you start making this recipe.
2. After listening to an NPR interview with Madhur Jaffrey, the Indian actress turned cookbook author, I decided I had to have “At Home with Madhur Jaffrey,” a collection of the recipes she makes frequently for family meals. I spent $50 on ingredients (sounds like a splurge but that got a boxful of stuff, including six kinds of spices in bulk) and have been cooking Indian for a week or so.
The other night I made Chicken Makhani, chicken in a tomato-cream sauce, a dish very like Moghul-style Butter Chicken. I LOVE THIS DISH — such rich flavor. Butter Chicken is so labor intensive and this is so easy. I’ll share the recipe and a picture next time I make it.
I served it with a Butternut Bharat. Costco sells cubed butternut squash and my husband and I both love starchy vegetables as a side dish. To make this bharat, you saute 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds and a generous pinch of asafetida (an ingredient beloved of Indian cooks made from the resin of a particular plant in mustard or olive oil. Add 3-4 cups cubed butternut or pumpkin, cook until golden brown, throw in a splash of water and and cook 10 minutes until tender (don’t cover). Add 3/4-1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon plain yogurt and cook until yogurt is absorbed. Dress with 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro. Oh, yeah!