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Archive for January, 2012

Phew, choux!

Or, Choux Part Two. See, I tried to make choux pastry back in 2010 and failed. But some clever spark at Playcentre inspired me to try again, by naming my future cooking show ‘Shoes and Choux’, so another attempt was long overdue. And it kinda worked, because when it came down to it I knew more or less what I had done wrong first time.

First, I let the flour get properly hot once I’d put it in the hot butter mix. Last time I had followed the instructions to the letter and found that this business of ‘forming a ball and coming away from the sides of the pot’ thing happened as soon as you stirred the flour in. Perhaps it is that I am using the Pams flour instead of a higher quality one, but regardless I kept the pot on the stove for a few minutes and let the mixture get hot before I beat in the eggs with my New. Red. Hand. Mixer. Oh my.

I don’t know if that is what is actually meant to happen with the recipe but it was a moderately educated guess. Things worked better this time, but as there is still room for improvement I may choose a different brand next time.

But then there is the matter of cooking the cream puffs and I think that’s really where my problem lies. I have a roasting dish and I have a baking tray but the two do not fit together seamlessly and thus the business of steaming the puffs to towering puffiness does not happen. These ones did rise nicely but not nearly enough. I do seem to remember some kind of roasting dish that can be purchased with a lid that fits nicely on top and is easily removed. Ta da!

Anyway, these were edible. I took them to a party with the brownies I made also, and nobody was complaining… though the brownies were, if I am allowed to say so, much nicer. And there were more of them! And I think I have worked out how to cook with this new oven so there is hope for us all! Hurrah!

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Rainsome

When the weather is frightful and you’re poor but want yummy things to eat… BAKE!

Rata is pretty great at helping now. Sometimes she can be a bit bossy though – see the wooden spoon on the table? It was quickly demoted. It turned out we didn’t have enough oats for Anzac Biscuits but topped up the measurement with rice flakes (in a little green bag from Healtheries – like cornflakes really) and they were fine. Our new oven, which fails so miserably with cake (raw in the middle, burned on top) coped alright with trays of biscuits. It definitely runs too hot though. A thermometer may sort it out, but then I suspect it is a little wonkier than that. While cooking dinner I noticed it wasn’t as hot as I had expected it to be. I don’t think this is the oven for dizzying achievements.

We also made Date and Ginger Slice from Ladies, A Plate (the Anzac recipe came from there too) and it is really rather good. Frightening amounts of butter in it though. It’s a funny old-school kind of recipe with dates cooked in butter, sugar and ginger, cornflakes mixed through and chilled and topped with chocolate. Nanaimo Bars are still my favourite uncooked slice, but this slice has something about it. It’s fruity and spicy but not in a Christmas cake kind of way.

p.s. I have finished my dress! I will have to take some pictures! Good thing I have had my hair did!

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scatty harvest

My brain is a little absent at present. I feel a bit ‘out to lunch’. My brother is getting married next week and there are quite a few things I need to do to my dress before I wear it, but instead I am fiddling about in the garden doing things wrong.

Like, pulling up all my garlic in the rain. When I got home from doing this I read that you should pull your garlic up on a dry day after a dry week… we had that dry week (a glorious, glorious week) but I managed to do this on Friday after a night of rain. So then my garlic (all forty decent-sized bulbs!) was subjected to a complicated, made up as I went along process of drying out. First I laid out a lot of newspaper on the garage floor and arranged the garlics so they didn’t touch each other. Then I pulled out a clotheshorse the next day and laid them over the top of that (the leaves were allowed to overlap).

Then when the sun came out today I got Rata to help me cut the roots off each bulb (she turned out to be VERY good at giving the garlic a haircut) and we pulled the clotheshorse out into the sunshine. At about 5pm I started to braid the garlic. It turns out I am not very good at this.

That is not the kind of garlic braid I remember from my childhood.

Then I made an effort to rescue the tomato plants in my new garden from their wild neighbours – this involved pulling out a lot of coriander and wild rocket I would have liked to let set seeds and digging up a few potatoes I am very much looking forward to eating.

There are some red skinned potato ‘volunteers’ as my landlord calls them (self-seeded, and in the ground for goodness knows how long) and two other varieties, one of which is probably Agria. I’m trying to sprout seven of the smaller of my ‘Tutae Kuri” purple potatoes on the windowsill in the hope that I can squeeze out another crop of them before winter. I am finding this potato growing business really quite exciting.

This is what Tutae Kuri potatoes look like as a Christmas potato salad. I had left staking my tomatoes so late that each plant had four or so stems in need of a prop – so things look very interesting with so many stakes and comparatively few plants. Oh well.

I planted a row of crinkly kale seedlings today, sowed some Mexican coriander and land cress, eyed up a courgette on the plant and watched the blackbirds dive bomb the cat like they thought they were magpies. Quite an exciting day, I must say.

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Lemony thicket

So, the lemon trifle voted Most Delicious Pudding at Louis’ birthday and my family’s Christmas gathering came from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries, a recipe book I often dip into for a read but rarely cook from. I don’t think I’ve eaten a proper trifle before (unless you count Kath’s bizarre creation last Christmas that included LIME jelly – of all things – icky) so it looks as though I never will… I shall remain faithful to this one because it is SO. DAMN. GOOD.

You can make your own sponge cake and lemon curd: I made the lemon curd a while back, but purchased some sponge from the supermarket in a moment of practicality because there really was no time to bake a sponge for the party and I knew that I would go crazy if I tried to fit it in. Also my kitchen whizzy-wotsit doesn’t like being continuously on for 10 minutes at a stretch (nor does my thumb pressing the on switch for that long). Things may change because… tada!… I was given a flash new hand mixer for Christmas. All those hints I dropped about why I didn’t make the sponge landed on the right ears (my dad’s). Might I just add that I love my dad’s new hearing aids.

Nigel Slater’s Lemon Curd, with omissions and additions

100g sponge cake

100g lemon curd

3 Tbsp Limoncello

500ml cream

120g caster sugar

100ml lemon juice

To finish:

250ml cream

zest of one orange (or lemon)

and as Nigel says, ‘I regard the sugary crunch of chrystalised violets on top as essential’ – we did not have any and we lived to tell the tale.

Slice the sponge cake into 1cm thick slices and spread thickly with lemon curd. Arrange in the bottom of a large glass bowl and sprinkle the Limoncello over the sponge.

In a heavy bottomed pot, bring the 500ml cream and sugar to the boil over a moderate heat, then turn it down and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and then pour over the sponge. The sponge will probably start to float, but it doesn’t matter. When the mixture has cooled, refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.

When the custard had set I spread some lemon curd over the top of it (Nigel didn’t say anything about doing that, but he also didn’t tell me not to). Whip the 250ml of cream and spread it loosely over the trifle. Sprinkle the zest (and chrystalised violets) over the cream, and return to the fridge until you are ready to serve it.

Hmmm… it’s so zingy and creamy and lemony and dreamy.

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we like to party

Louis turned 30, so I threw him a party. He was pretty happy about that.

Ryan and Ying designed the invitation. (That’s not my address anymore, don’t worry). The invitation includes, among other grotesques, Ryan’s very own invention: baked beans with sausages and ice cream.

The party food was very tame by comparison (though if anyone arrived disappointed they could have eaten the table decoration).

We had three kinds of pudding: this chocolate cake filled with cream and strawberries (baked in two sponge tins)…

(it disappeared very quickly)

… this semolina and almond orange syrup cake (not very good)…

… and a lemon trifle, which launched a thousand Christmas lemon trifles (okay, three) and wasn’t much to photograph… you can sort of see the lemon curd in there, and that it also disappeared very quickly. It was so good it deserves its own post.

Louis made pizza. So much pizza.

And our guests made short work of the damsons from the damson gin (I did not like the damsons but I DO like the gin.) We also got through all my jars of “Moominpappa’s Summer Mead” aka Rhubarb Fizz. You can see it top right of this photo.

And then we packed everything we’d partied with into boxes and moved house three days later. You could say I am still recovering. Happy new!

 

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