I am an unabashed fan of Farscape. The show had me hooked from the first time I heard the percussive theme song, with its Lisa Gerrard-like like vocals. Though the show doesn’t always make perfect sense, that was all part of the charm. One of the many loveable aspects of Farscape is the fact that all the protagonists are crazy. John Crichton, for all that he comes off as a boy scout at first, ends up extract of batshit, having voices in his head that have their own voices. Everyone on Farscape is a weirdo, which makes it all splendid. I see Farscape as Crack Trek, basically. With super cool muppets!
In terms of culinary weirdness, no one comes close to Utu-Noranti Pralatong, AKA “Granny.” One of her many repulsive offerings (which include radioactive tea, fungal chowder and her own regurgitation), Roasted Spider Soup is made from the meat of the Wolaxian Arachnid, a race of shape-shifters that feed on neural energy. In recreating it, I wanted to make something that fit the strangeness of the show and would be good enough to serve to Aeryn Sun (because really, what Farscape fan doesn’t dream of serving Claudia Black?).
Initial thoughts: There really isn’t a heck of a lot to go on with this one, other than the fact that Granny cooks up some bizarre stuff. I wanted to make something easy and tasty, but in this case would have to reflect the strangeness of her character as well as the principle ingredient: Wolaxian spider meat.
To create an otherworldly soup, I drew from Moroccan cuisine because it is unfamiliar to a lot of people in the English-speaking parts of the world. It’s not only delicious but also distinct. There are methods and flavor combinations you won’t find anywhere else in the other Arabic or North African cultures.
My take on Granny’s arachnid comfort food is a distant cousin of Moroccan Chorba, with a few noticeable variants. First, I used pork, which of course is never eaten by Muslims. An equal amount of chicken or lamb would work well, but I enjoyed the heartiness (and economy) of pork. I thought at first to use crab meat, but that can be expensive.
Morrocan food often calls for preserved lemons, which aren’t always easy to find, so I’ve opted for using both peel and juice of a fresh lemon, added at different times. Since this is roasted spider, I added fire-roasted red bell peppers, which aren’t usually part of Chorba. The spidery aspect I got mostly from the soft yet firm strands of slow-cooked pork.
1 1/2 lbs of pork (loin, chop or shoulder) trimmed of most of the fat and cut into stew-sized chunks.
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons paprika (try to use the sweet Hungarian kind)
1 Tablespoon salt
1 medium onion, chopped.
2 red bell peppers
2 medium zucchini (or one large zucchinus) coarsely chopped
In a crockpot or Dutch oven (or similar large, heavy pot with a good lid) on low heat, add the pork, tomato paste, paprika, onion and zucchini with seven cups of water.
Using tongs or some other safe-distance-from-fire pokey-graspy thing, roast the bell peppers until the skin begins to bubble and some of it blackens (this can also be done in a broiler). Allow it to cool a bit before handling it further.
When the bell peppers are cool enough to touch, cut off the stem, scrape out the seeds and pith and throw that stuff away. Coarsely chop the remaining peppers, and into the soup it goes.
Wash and peel the lemon. Taking care not to include the pith, cut the peel in large, wide strips and add half of the lemon peel to the soup, discarding the rest. Reserve the lemon itself. In a crockpot this will cook six hours or so on low, until the pork is falling apart. On the stove it will take half as long at most.
Just before serving, remove as much of the lemon peel slices as you can and juice the reserved lemon, mixing the juice into the soup. With a potato masher or similar smashy thing, break up the pork until it’s all fallen apart in strands. Serve with a dentic (to be eaten after).
You’ll need a tube of marzipan (available in the baking section of most grocery stores) and several cardamom pods (in the spice aisle, but if you have a middle eastern or central Asian store nearby, the prices will be better there). If you’d like to make your own marzipan, a Google search will yield several good recipes, but I won’t detail them here.
D’argo told Chriton never to swallow a dentic (a small, squishy dental hygiene parasite) but he’d say different if he’d ever had mine.
Marzipan, dotted with a few cardamom seeds yields a pleasant and edible alternative to the plaque-leeches Moya’s passengers use to clean their teeth. Marzipan won’t fight tooth decay, but neither is it larval.
Simply take a marble-sized bit of marzipan and roll it into a worm shape, tapered on either end. Roll a few segments into the body with a butter knife and slit both ends for the tentacles. In each segment, place a cardamom seed. One cardamom pod yields 10 or 15 seeds. Makes for some tasty dren and not too frellin’ hard to do.
Next Week: Futurama!