So one of the things that I really wanted to plant in our allotment, was cucamelons. I’m not even that big of a fan of cucumbers, but these just looked so cute! And of course, I love pickles, so growing cucamelons just pretty much means turning them into cucamelon pickles!
Here in the UK, I find pickles to be a bit sweet for my North American tastes. I like my pickles mostly tangy garlicky-dill rather than sweet, so I thought I should just make my own! My mom used to always buy those “yum-yum” pickles and I used to refer to them as “yuck-yuck”…
I used this recipe from The Kitchn as inspiration. I only made enough for two half pint jars, as that was the emount of cucamelons that I had. Just adjust the recipe up for the amount you need. As mentioned in the original recipe, I trimmed the blossom end of the cucamelons to prevent them from softening. (more…)
I have always been a fan of strange things. When I was a child, I wanted nothing more than to have red hair and green eyes, because they were uncommon and would make me look unique (brown + brown = boring to little Amy). When my mom would take me to the grocery store, I would ask her to buy all of the strangest fruits. Passionfruit, grenadilla, star fruit, dragon fruit, prickly pear… you name it, I wanted to try it! And for my birthday, I didn’t want any old cake, I always wanted pavlova!
Unlike nowadays, pavlova wasn’t as common when I was a kid in Canada. My siblings always opted for things like cheesecake or chocolate torte, but I wasn’t such a fan of those. Of course, my mom made a version almost more like a traditional cake, with whipped cream icing all around, but it was pavlova all the same. Ever since then, I have been a huge fan of simple meringue bases topped with all kinds of fun and colourful fruits.
Pavlova is a fantastic dessert because you can top it with anything! In this instance, I chose to pick some tropical fruits that we had in the house, and one of my favorite weird ones – passionfruit. For the passionfruit, I chose to make it into a sauce with some coconut water. I had a coconut that I wanted to turn into toasted coconut flakes (for decoration) and decided not to waste the water. It’s not necessary though, so feel free to just use the passionfruit as is if you want.
The next time I make a pavlova, I’m going to try using an italian meringue, rather than a classic french meringue. I haven’t made a french meringue in a while, and kept over-whipping it (I’m just that strong). The nice thing about italian meringue is that the egg whites cook in the simple syrup as you whip it, making it the most stable meringue you can make. Finally, I just decided to add some acid to the mixture in order to make it more stable.
Fancy chefs whip their egg whites in copper bowls, as they create a chemical reaction that helps to prevent over-whipping. You can make a similar reaction by adding a bit of lemon juice to the egg whites, or cream of tartar. For this recipe, I added cream of tartar, but feel free to substitute a couple teapsoons of lemon juice if that’s what you have on hand. Just add the cream of tarter to a couple tablespoons of the sugar, and mix together. Add that sugar first while whipping.
The other great thing about pavlova, is that it looks pretty no matter how perfect the meringue. Even if there are cracks in the meringue, it still looks pretty. And, if you break the meringue accidentally, you can still eat it! Just call it Eton Mess, and mix all the same stuff together in a layered trifle type dessert. Although, according to Richard it’s not an Eton mess if there are fruits other than strawberries and raspberries in it. He’s British.
So whether you serve it broken up, as one large meringue, or as the individual ones here, give pavlova a try! Who doesn’t like fresh fruit, cream, and copious amounts of sugar?
First, make the pavlovas. Preheat the oven to 100 degrees Celsius and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix together the cream of tartar with a couple tablespoons of the 300g of caster sugar. Whip the egg whites until foamy, and soft peaks are beginning to form.
Sprinkle over the sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, beginning with the cream of tartar sugar. Continue to whip the egg whites and sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form. Be careful not to overwhip.
Gently fold in the coconut and divide into four mounds on the parchment paper. Using a spoon, create little depressions in each meringue for the cream.
Bake in the peheated oven for 1 hour, 25 minutes. Turn off the oven, and allow to cool to room temperature.
To make the passionfruit sauce, stir together the 150g sugar and coconut water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, and stir in the passionfruit seeds.
Shortly before you're ready to serve, whip the cream to medium peaks and mound on the meringue shells. Add the mango cubes on top, the coconut flakes (if using), and the passionfruit sauce.
As I mentioned in the lemon tart recipe post, one of my favorite cookbooks is by the Bouchon Bakery. It contains a recipe for a plum tart that uses a wonderful pâte sucrée crust, and frangipane filling. I made it before as a thank you for some plums I was gifted, and have loved the combination ever since. Frangipane works well as a base for almost any fruit, especially stone fruit. So when we were given a load of damson a week ago, it was the first recipe I wanted to try.
Now, a word of warning here. Unless you’re a masochist for baking (like me!), I won’t recommend making a damson tart. Instead, use any larger plum, or even nectarines, or peaches. The amount of wedges you need to cut from the tiny damsons is ridiculous, and takes ages. However, if you’re like me, and have more damsons than you can eat (and a lot of free time), why not? (more…)
In my quest for more no-churn ice cream recipes, I came up with this delight. It’s strawberries and cream season over here, especially with Wimbeldon just over, so why not ice cream? Enter my way to use up some of summer’s red + juicy bounty – strawberries and cream ice cream!
Now, just a word of warning, this stuff is rich! Basically, lots of no-churn recipes out there use only cream, with no milk. The increase in fat (and the ability to whip it up) makes it nice and soft sans ice cream maker. The only thing is that you’re eating a lotof cream. So this is the kind of ice cream to consume in small doses, just like gelato! (Man I love gelato…)
I’m working on another vanilla base that uses some milk in it to cut the fat, but it’s not ready yet. I’m hoping to use is to make honeycomb ice cream, just like the kind Richard loves from Nothern Ireland, but am debating adding a ripple of chocolate to it. Good idea, or keep it simple? (more…)
Now, lots of recipes out there call themselves quick, simple, or easy… but I am here to say that THIS pineapple popsicles recipe, is seriously easy! You just chop up some pineapple (or buy it pre-cut – it’s up to you how lazy you want to be) and mix it with two other ingredients.
As with most new recipes that I try these days, this one comes from the latest Waitrose magazine. Seriously, I love this thing. So if you happen to have a giant pineapple ripening on your counter, and need something to do with it – why not try this? (more…)
Just a quick post today. I’m on a roll with the salads and lighter fare lately! Maybe it’s the warm weather, or maybe it’s because Richard is away? I find that when I am alone, I tend to eat almost entirely vegetarian cuisine, completely without thought. I guess my brain doesn’t think “meat” when I’m alone.
But it does still think “comfort food” which is why I really love this salad. Not only does it have some unusual flavors in the tahini and miso paste, but it’s got the warmth and hearty sweet potatoes. It’s the kind of salad that works well in the summer and winter – it’s easy like that.
Now, the only thing to be careful of is the tahini. Not everyone will like it – it’s a bit… bitter? Maybe it’s just the lemon juice. I really like tahini but I can imagine that it’s not to everyone’s taste. However, it is the star of this dressing, so don’t bother making it if you’re not a fan.
Feel free to adjust the amounts of red onion and parsley to your heart’s content – same with the potatoes and chickpeas. The great thing about salads is that you can simply make them however you want, it’ll work. Feel free to throw in other things too! I think some toasted chickpeas would do nicely – don’t you?
While in my course at the Northwest Culinary Academy, we spent a day at an allotment garden in Richmond. Part of what we learned was about foraging for edible items. One of the things readily available in the springtime is stinging nettle! As the culinary students were required to use a foraged item in their menu development (and the pastry students were their guinea pigs), I got to try plenty of nettle pesto!
Now, if you’re like me, you may not have heard of stinging nettle before. Honestly, I don’t know how I wasn’t aware of it until that day, as it’s everywhere! It’s not just prolific, but it’s also the kind of thing you should be aware of… it hurts! Seriously, don’t touch this stuff without protective gloves. I accidentally touched the bag I was putting it in with my arm, and got stung. I guess my gloves got some residue on the outside…
But while stinging nettle, well… stings, it’s also one other thing – free! Homemade pesto is one of those things that always seems to cost too much. Fresh basil and pine nuts aren’t the cheapest things to buy. So I decided to try my hand at making some nettle pesto using not just free stinging nettles, but the cheapest nuts I could find! I think pine nuts could give it a better flavor, so if you’re flush, go for it! Buuuut… if you’re trying to save on money, try walnuts! (more…)
Every pizza is a personal pizza if you believe in yourself
A couple of years ago I found myself working at a little cafe in Victoria. It was a great job, as there were only two of us in the kitchen, and we had plenty of freedom in terms of our hours etc. One of the other great perks of this job was the lunch! Most restaurants etc. have free food as part of the job, but from my experience it’s almost always unhealthy! Pasta, pasta, pasta… pretty much cheap carbs every day. But here we could make our own lunches with salads, sandwiches, and the occasional pizza!
They would make these individual pizzas for lunch each day, with different toppings. And boy, were they good! They would also sell the pizza dough for people to make their own at home.
As the baker, it was my job to make the pizza dough in large batches, and then we would defrost a few each day. These small balls made perfect thin crust personal pizzas – so you can imagine I decided to make them at home! I adjusted the recipe a little bit for myself (I’m not super into whole wheat flour), and then would make a batch and freeze them. Then, all you need to do is pull a couple little pizza dough balls out, and let them prove/defrost for a couple hours. You can even bring them out first thing in the morning, and let them defrost in the fridge. (more…)
A couple years back, I was in the cookbook section of my local library, looking for books on making pasta. Unfortunately, I hadn’t done my reconnaissance properly, and didn’t realize the books I was looking for were at other branches. But while I was in there, another book caught my eye – the Bouchon Bakery cookbook.
It was so big that it stuck out from the shelf, and looked like it would contain good recipes. And yes, I definitely pick books based on their covers…
Imagine a photo of this book right here… but it’s currently stuck in a gap beside our upper kitchen cabinets! We need to take stuff apart to get it out…
Bouchon Bakery has become one of my favorite cookbooks, and contains lots of classic recipes – including the pâte sucrée crust for this tart. I pretty much use this recipe for any tart I am making – whether it be for a frangipane and fruit tart, or classic lemon.
Lemon tart is one of Richard’s favorite desserts. So the other day, I decided to surprise him with a lemon tart when he came home!
I had a recipe from the Waitrose magazine that I was thinking of trying, but I was worried that it wouldn’t be good. (Although, I haven’t had a bad one yet…) Instead, I decided to break out my whisk, and make something I knew would work – this lemon sabayon.
Sabayon is simply the name given to cooking eggs over a Bain Marie while whisking. Unlike other tarts, this one mostly cooks the eggs before you bake, which reduces the possibility of cracks.
The original recipe is for an 8″ round tart shell, and the lemon mixture shouldn’t be whisked too much, as you don’t want to incorporate air. Since my only tart shell is 10″ in diameter, I whisked my mixture a bit fuffier so that it would fill the shell. Turns out I should have done the math on the volume of my shell, rather than the surface area.
The original recipe was an 8″ round that was 1.5″ tall, and my 10″ round was only 1″ high. I ended up with too much filling, and it gave it a slightly weird sensation when eating. Almost like those “whipped” yogurts that were popular a few years ago? Very light and airy tasting, but still lemony. Not unpleasant at all, but it made it feel like something other than a lemon tart.
top this with fresh fruit, and even a dusting of icing sugar – the choice is yours!
So depending on the texture you are after, watch how much you whip the lemon over the stove. You’re not trying to increase the air, just keep it moving so that the egg doesn’t cook in big chunks. Unless, of course, you want an airy-whipped-lemon-tart. Maybe that’s your thing?
If, like Richard, you’re a fan of the classic lemon tart – perhaps give this method a try!
For the pâte sucrée, sift together the flour, ground almonds, and 23g icing sugar. Add any of the almond that doesn't pass through the sieve back into the mixture.
Beat the butter and vanilla seeds until light in colour and soft, and then sift in the remaining icing sugar. Whip the sugar with the butter until light and fluffy.
Add the sifted dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until it resembles a sort of wet sand. Tip the bowl out onto your work surface, and press together.
To make sure all of the vanilla and sugar is evenly mixed, you will use a technique called 'fraiser' or 'fraisage'. Use the heel of your hand to smear the mixture together on the table, then scrape it off the table, fold it over itself, and continue smearing until it's evenly mixed (see image above).
Pat the dough into a disc, and wrap in cling film, Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 325°F (162°C), grease and line a tart pan with a circle of parchment paper.
To roll out the dough, place the disc between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll out until it is large enough to fit your tart pan and lay inside*.
Press the dough into the corners and fluted edges of your tin, then trim the edge either with your fingers, or by rolling over with your rolling pin,
Line the tart with parchment paper, and fill with rice or beans.
Bake in your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are starting to turn golden. Remove the beans and paper, and continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the bottom is golden brown. If the edges brown too quickly, cover them with some aluminum foil.
Remove tart from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
While the shell is baking, prepare the lemon sabayon filling.
Place a large heat safe bowl over a boiling bain marie, and whisk together the lemon zest, juice, sugar, and eggs.
Continue to whisk the mixture slowly, trying not to add too much air, until the sabayon is lighter in colour and thick. You should be able to draw a figure 8 on top with the mixture and it'll sink slowly. If the mixture is heating too quickly, don't whisk more, simply take the bowl on and off the heat to prevent it from getting too warm.
Remove from the heat, and whisk in the cubed butter, a little at a time. Preheat oven to 300°F (148°C).
Pour the mixture into your tart shell, and bake in the preheated oven for 10+ minutes, or until the sabayon forms a skin, and the tart is set but jiggles a bit in the middle.
Allow tart to cool before removing from the tin, and decorating with fresh fruit or a dusting of icing sugar, if desired.
*This dough is very forgiving - if it cracks or breaks, simply press pieces together. No need to remove and roll again.
I’m starting to realize that I can’t do everything by hand. And I don’t mean that in the sense of handmade… but that sometimes, you just need machine power when baking. Case in point – these Nanaimo Bars.
When I was studying pastry in Vancouver, our course had us doing almost everything by hand. Whether that was whipping cream, or making meringue, there were few things that we did with our Kitchenaid mixers. One of the few things we did with a machine was an italian meringue – and I resigned myself to not making them while living in this tiny flat. (I also resigned myself to not making marshmallows while here, as it’s pretty much the same process.)
As I couldn’t bring my Kitchenaid mixer from Canada, and had no room to put one here even if I did, I didn’t bother to buy a hand mixer. Maybe it’s because once you go Kitchenaid you never go back? Or perhaps my hand mixing at school had made me cocky? Bah ha ha, you puny machines – look at the strength of my arms!!! Mwah ah ah…
But seriously – if I could whip cream by hand, and make meringues (just not italian), why did I need a hand mixer? Well folks, creaming butter, that’s why! It is easy to do when you’re just softening it for a cookie dough, but trying to incorporate air and make it fluffy?! My upper body strength has its limits. So the next time I need to make a fluffy layer, I may just review my aversion to hand mixers.
For anyone not already aware, Nanaimo bars are something from the West Coast of Canada (named after the city of Nanaimo). They are so ubiquitous that as a child I thought they were as common as chocolate chip cookies. It’s a crust of digestive/coconut/nut/chocolate, covered with a buttery custard layer, and topped with more chocolate. Normally the crust contains graham crackers, but over here I substituted with digestive biscuits.
I personally was never the biggest eater of Nanaimo bars, as I found them too sweet/rich as a child, but homesickness has crept in. Either than or my new Canadian coworker, lamenting the lack of these delectable bars, persuaded me to break out the ol’ wooden spoon.
Maybe you will too? Or do you have one of those fancy hand mixers?
Add the egg, and stir until it has cooked and thickened.
Remove from the heat, and stir in the crumbs, and nuts.
Press firmly and evenly into the pan. Chill in the fridge while making the second layer.
For the custard layer, cream together the butter, custard powder, and icing sugar, until light and fluffy.
Add whipping cream, and whip until light. Spread over first layer, and chill until firm.
For the chocolate topping, melt the butter and chocolate together over a bain marie, being careful not to overheat.
Remove bowl from the heat, and allow to cool. Once cool, but still pourable, spread over the custard layer, and chill to set.
*Bain marie is a fancy way of saying hot water bath. It is used to describe cooking items in the oven surrounded by water (to ensure even cooking), or cooking items in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. In our case, it means the latter.