Monday, June 18, 2018

607/1038 - Gooseberry butter (but with raspberries)

This treat was made especially for a dear friend of mine. We have been close for more than 25 years and we have that kind of wonderful friendship that does not change, no matter how much time we spend apart. He is quite simply one of my favourite people in the world and so when I found out he loved raspberry, I just had to find a recipe that would fill my macarons and satisfy his penchant for this fabulous fruit. 

I feel some guilt for switching the fruit in this recipe but have decided that if I ever want to finish this challenge I need to make substitutions for ingredients which are difficult to find. This was a difficult mental hurdle for me to get over but now that I have decided that messing around with main ingredients is not the end of the world, there are more than a few recipes that no longer haunt my thoughts!

There is a reason behind my desire to make this particular friend smile and it is not a good one. While it is true that our friendship has never waned, in some ways it will never be the same as it was. There is a veil of sadness that covers us now when we meet and every day that I do not see him, he is not far from my thoughts. 

The truth is that my friend is not well. In fact we have no idea how much longer he will be able to eat and if I am honest, no idea how much longer he will be with us. My friend is battling the most hideous of all diseases, Motor Neuron Disease. His decline has been rapid and devastating. He still possesses his incredibly dashing good looks, sharp wit and beautiful and wise soul that is largely unmatched. But his body is failing him. He no longer has the full use of his hands and he has been wheelchair bound for some time now. His beautiful singing voice has also been taken from him. I could go on.

...and in this unwinnable situation, I do what I do best; show my love with food.

My tips for this recipe;
  • Castor sugar can be substituted for coconut sugar. It is one of my favourite sugars and so I generally do this when possible.
  • If you see tiny bits of egg in the mixture when you add it, don't panic! It disappears. Just keep stirring (and stirring, and stirring...)
  • I like texture (and hate waste) so didn't bother to strain the mixture. Instead I simply mashed the fruit with a wooden spoon as it broke down.
  • Given my example above, it appears that substituting gooseberries with another berry is a viable option. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

606/1038 - Eliza Acton's quince custard (with mini angel cakes)

Given the wide variety of foods that have been experimented with in my kitchen, people might be surprised to discover that this week's foray into the quince chapter is the first time I have worked with this fruit. 

Of course, anybody who is aware of my zillion different food allergies and intolerances would not be at all surprised. Quince is not really my friend and last night's gut ache confirmed that this is still the case. The pain was absolutely worth it though. This custard is beautifully sweet with a zingy finish thanks to the addition of lemon juice. The best thing about it was that it used up a stack of the quince poaching syrup and took only a few minutes to make. 

Pairing it with little mini angel cakes was a stroke of genius, creating a fabulous and fun little dessert and of course, using up the spare egg whites at the same time. I cooked the cakes in muffin tins, gently prising them out with a flexible spatula. They were like little bite sized pieces of heaven and, unlike me, very good friends with quince custard. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

605/1038 - Poached quince

It's quince season and I will be making the most of it this week.

First up (and first recipe cooked from the quince chapter) is a big batch of poached quince. One of the things I like best about cooking is that it is just one big science experiment. There is something deeply satisfying about putting creamy coloured fruit into the pot and pulling it out hours later a beautiful ruby red. 

I was a bit thrown when I tried to put everything in my beautiful copper pot and realised it was not going to fit! I decided to halve the ingredients and cook one batch in the oven and the other on the stove top. Interestingly they both took the same amount of time to cook which is great to know that I have options next time. 

My cooking tips for this recipe;
  • If you have a mesh bag for making nut milk or even the little mesh produce bags (I used one of each) they work perfectly as the holder of quince cores and pips. Admittedly they came out a little red but a bit of natural colouring can't hurt!  
  • A teaspoon of vanilla bean paste can be used in place of the vanilla bean. 
  • Be gentle when putting the pieces of quince into the sugar syrup or risk ending up with little sticky spots all over your table, floor and clothes. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I will be honest; we like poached fruit but we don't love it. With this (and efficiency) in mind, I will be turning this lovely red pile into a variety of different things this week. Why tick off one recipe when you can tick off several? 

Stay tuned for all things quince.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

604/1038 - Barbecued skewers of bay leaves and pork

I bought the pork fillet for this recipe weeks ago. It went from the fridge to the freezer about four times, oscillating between my good intentions and periods of slothful indifference. 

Yesterday was finally the day I defrosted it fully, made a batch of baguettes and then actually took the time to put this lovely dinner together. For anybody keen to try this recipe out, here are my tips for success! 
  • Use metal skewers. They are relatively inexpensive, don't need pre-soaking and are a good choice for the environment
  • A barbecue is great for those who are keen, but a barbecuer I am not. A griddle on the stovetop, or even a frypan if you don't have a griddle is a more than adequate alternative
  • Rashers of streaky bacon can be used instead of cubes. Simply fold them lengthwise and then in half a couple of times the other way so that you end of with a little folded cube
  • Use the thinnest baguette you can find otherwise risk the slices being so thick your pork won't get a look in on the hotplate. Alternatively, cut each slice in half. If you are a keen baker, simply make your own and roll one much thinner than the others
  • If you send your son into the yard to pick bay leaves, make sure your instructions are clear. Below is evidence of the variety of leaves mine brought in before he finally found the right tree
Finally, enjoy these beautiful skewers! They are packed with so much flavour thanks to the bay leaves and the inclusion of crusty bread was a revelation. Serve with piles of crunchy raw vegetables and you have an incredible and well balanced dinner on your hands.

Leaves from the passionfruit vine, a bunch from the olive tree
 and then finally, some bay leaves

Thursday, May 24, 2018

603/1038 - Braised fennel in meat juices with cheese

Vegetables do not have to be boring!

We adore fennel and this recipe was lovely served alongside a beautifully roasted pork shoulder. My husband looked after the pork on this night, reaffirming our longstanding tradition of making quite the formidable cooking team. Of course, I don't mean the kind of couple who should appear on My Kitchen Rules. More the kind that can produce beautiful and complementary dishes for the same meal whilst gently avoiding one another in the kitchen, ever mindful of not stepping on one another's toes, both physically and metaphorically.

My new, and already much revered, agreena wrap got another airing while cooking this recipe. Instead of using a sheet of baking paper to contain the moisture, I used a large wrap, careful to keep it away from the edges of my copper pot given the amount of heat it generates. 

The inclusion of parsley, fennel tops and a handful of parmesan at the last minute ensured this was another vegetarian winner.

No baking paper! Using my re-usable agreena wrap to keep the moisture in.  

Sunday, May 13, 2018

602/1038 - Scallops with Jerusalem artichokes

To spice things up a bit we have changed our weekly market trips from the Queen Victoria Market to our local Preston market. These beautiful scallops were officially our first Preston market seafood purchase and we were very happy with them indeed!

I have never baked scallops before and while I still prefer them fried, this was a lovely change and also incredibly fast to cook. 

As usual, the Jerusalem artichokes came from our regular neighbourly donor. Any future donations can be prepared in any which way because the Jerusalem artichoke chapter is done and dusted! 

That's 21 chapters finished now. Goodness, only 104 to go...

Saturday, April 28, 2018

601/1038 - Crumble topping

I am probably late to the party but Greek yoghurt on dessert is my new very favourite thing! 

Since making the syrup cake a couple of weeks ago and enjoying it with yoghurt, I have started putting it on top of everything and this crumble was another opportunity to indulge my new obsession.

This was possibly the nicest crumble I have ever made and I am putting it down to the fact that the fruit was puréed which meant that the flavours melded beautifully. From memory (I made this a few days ago!) I used pomelo, red grapes, banana, strawberries and blueberries and just a little bit of crystallised ginger because it is my go to snack and I buy it by the kilo. A sensational combination. 

There were two options for the crumble topping and I opted for the one which replaced some of the flour with rolled oats and loved the extra crunch it provided. 

I do love to cook desserts as individual portions and it was lucky I did or we might have been fighting over who got the larger serve. The Greek yoghurt was simply amazing on top; in my opinion much better than cream or ice-cream.

I am drooling as I write this and have decided I will whip this up again for dessert tonight.

Simple. Tasty. Fabulous. (...and better than my husband's!)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

600/1038 - Yoghurt and citrus syrup cake

It is so very hard to believe I have made it to 600 recipes! 

When I started this challenge almost seven years ago I had no idea how long it would hold my interest. As it turns out, it has become a lovely (and very productive) form of meditation for me in the midst of an otherwise busy life. 

This year will see less recipes cooked as I head back to university and get my head back around being a full time student. Seven weeks in and so far so good! This cake was the result of me needing to get my head out of the books for a minute so that my brain didn't explode.  

I used pomelo as the citrus in this cake which is very much like a grapefruit in taste. Of course I am drinking a smoothie as I write this filled with the pomelo pulp thinned out with almond milk. A healthy lead up to a very decadent dessert. We plan to eat this with honey flavoured Greek yoghurt as per Stephanie's suggestion and I might also try it with some ginger flavoured yoghurt too. Of course I have no problem trying multiple pieces in order to figure out which yoghurt works best!  

So hooray for 600 recipes...and now back to the books. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

599/1038 - Zabaglione with mascarpone

Italian desserts really are the bomb! 

We had some beautiful figs gifted to us from another neighbour of my husband's work and I just knew this recipe would be the perfect accompaniment to what is one of my very favourite fruits. As well as needing something to go with the fruit, I had opened a tub of marscapone to make icing for a cake (a green one for St Patrick's day no less!) and needed a way to use the rest of it up. I believe this is what is called a win-win scenario.

I made the amaretti myself and they were absolutely beautiful. If anybody needs a recipe, I used this one. Two of my boys don't like figs and so they ate this with extra crumbled amaretti instead. Personally, I thought the figs were what tipped this over into sensational territory and highly recommend their addition to this dish.

I halved the zabaglione recipe which not only turned out to be the perfect amount for four, but it meant that I used four yolks in the zabaglione and four whites in the amaretti mix. Perfect, no?

My oldest is off to camp today and so we ate this as his farewell dessert last night. Celebrate with food...who me?

I have assignments coming out of my ears and so I can't guarantee when the next recipe will happen but am assuming we will hit this wonderful milestone sometime in April. Exciting! x

Sunday, March 18, 2018

598/1038 - Prawn (in lieu of rock lobster) oil

Where has this fabulous concoction been all my life?

Loving this prawn oil so much has had me lamenting all of the prawn heads I have discarded over the years. Making it was so very easy and the number of meals we have eaten with the oil is still growing! My favourite was spaghetti, well coated with prawn oil and topped with loads of fresh tomato, rocket and freshly cracked black pepper. So very good. 

Of course this recipe actually comes from the rock lobster chapter but given how difficult it is to obtain green rock lobster heads, I opted to take Stephanie's suggestion of using prawn heads in their stead. 

As the heads cooked, my house was filled with the most incredible smell, which continued to make me hungry until the next day with the oil sitting out overnight to marinate. 

Quite simply, an absolutely wonderful recipe and very highly recommended! 

Simmering with the vegetables