In a pickle

… is a terrible heading, and I am sorry.

Anyway: I made pickles! I pickled pears, and I pickled eggplant.

The pears were courtesy of a friend who managed to salvage 2kg of them from a tree before the rosellas ate them all. I had had pickled pears at Kate’s house, with cheese and then in a chicken salad, and NOM. These were different from the ones she had: I used white vinegar and cinnamon and cloves; I used a recipe that was meant to be for pickled peaches (whichL whoa. If ever I get cheap peaches…). Kate used cider vinegar and rosemary and pepper corns; that will be my next trick, if I get more pears.IMG_1408.JPG

The eggplant were from my garden, because BY GOLLY I’m getting a lot. Trying to figure out when the darned things are ripe has been a hassle, since the first info I looked at was all about what the fruit look like on the INSIDE… which is less than useful. Finally I found someone who said eh, if the skins are shiny they’re probably fine. Which meant I got to go and harvest a lot. So I made pickles! They don’t look very appetising, hence no photo, but they have turmeric and cumin and lots of ginger (side note: I discovered that peeling ginger with a spoon is EXACTLY as awesome as all those people have ever said).

I am now about to make moussaka with more of the eggplant, so hopefully that goes well…

 

Tart!

IMG_2557.JPGPart of my new year’s eve was finally having a pastry lesson from Andrew, he of the amazing tarts. We made three.

I was initially inspired to make a lemon meringue one. Andrew had been challenged to make a strawberry and rhubarb one. And just because we could, we also made a cherry and almond one.

So we started with me making the pastry… and as requested, here’s the recipe! From Nancy Silverton to Starving Dan (don’t ask… it’s been his nickname for as long as I’ve known him, which is at least 15 years), to Andrew to me:img_1357-copy

Actually very easy, it turns out, although you wouldn’t want to be making it on a hot day. Bonus: freezes well so you might as well make the whole batch and put some away!

IMG_2558.JPGOnce you’ve got the pastry you can do whatever… the lemon (and passionfruit) filling was one Andrew has memorised from a Stephanie Alexander. Clever suggestion from Andrew: put the lemon filling into a jug, then pour it into the tart case while the tart is still in the oven. This removes one level of complexity (you don’t have to move a full, liquidy, tart). The rhubarb and strawberry one had some stewed rhubarb as a puree base then rhubarb (baked for a while to soften) and strawberry on top. The cherry was a Classic Andrew, with (frozen) cherries placed on a nut slurry: 100g crushed nuts (you still want some larger bits) + 100g white sugar + 100g melted butter, mixed; add an egg and some salt, mix and put in the baked tart case with the fruit.

The meringue is egg whites and sugar whipped furiously for however long. I was just going to dollop and randomly shape, but my darling decided he would pipe. The lemon one doesn’t look as good as it could because I put a round nozzle in, which he wasn’t expecting; for the strawberry and rhubarb he made the bold decision to change nozzles basically mid-piping for a star-shaped one (it’s fair to say meringue went everywhere), but as you can see it had very good results. I had intended to use my kitchen flame thrower but then the nozzle broke so that didn’t happen (I did manage to set fire to a couple of meringues before that happened).  IMG_1356.JPG

So that’s three tarts between four people. It’s fair to say there’s a fair bit left over. Happily, the non-meringue tart will freeze… and the strawberry one will freeze if we remove the meringue… which means I might have to eat the meringue, OH NO.

Sweet treats

IMG_1241.JPG1. A friend came home from France with a madeleine pan for me. I had never had the urge to make madeleines before, but now I have a madeleine pan.

From France.

So I’ve made madeleines. I followed Stephanie Alexander’s honey madeleines recipe, and… they’re ok. They’re definitely not as crispy as they should be, although the second batch was a bit better (her mixture is for 24, and my pan is for 12, although it only made 18 I think) – I’d put a bit more butter in the pans I think. So that’s something to experiment with. I’m also not sure whether madeleines come in different flavours, so I guess I’ll do some hunting around to find out.

2. Our fruit n veg box this week came with a large number of bananas, so my mother IMG_1242.JPGreminded me that caramelised bananas are excellent. These are not as she suggested, though, because she was reminiscing about making them with rum or brandy ‘or whatever you’ve got handy’ – and I had nothing like that handy (not using Frangelico, or Pimms). I did use some of the cardamom-pistachio sugar mix I have from Gewurzhaus, which I think added a little to the experience, as well as a whack of butter and some additional brown sugar. Very tasty with ice cream.

Candied orange peel

Take some orange peel. Bring it to the boil a couple of times to soften them and lose some IMG_0983.JPGof the bitterness. Then let them simmer in a heavy sugar syrup (1:1) for about an hour. Allow to drip for a day… or more… then roll in sugar and stuff into jars.

This is courtesy of Stephanie Alexander; the recipe is actually for candied lemon peel, which I’ve also made and is delicious. You can eat it by itself – Stephanie says a piece with a post-dinner coffee is delightful – or put it on things: I put a piece on top of some IMG_1021.JPGgingernuts before baking and that was a winner. Not sure where these will end up, as yet, but I anticipate they’ll keep pretty well.

Later: well, unfortunately some orange peel kept well, and some did not. Given that IMG_1020.JPGthis is the same batch of orange peel I can only assume that I did not sterilise this jar as well as I should. Which is a really shame, since I think they were going to be very tasty.

Le sigh.

Yet Moar Figs

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This is what happens when you have a fig tree and don’t mind fig jam but don’t love it either. You decide not to let the blasted birds, bats and rats have more than their fair share so you pick them which means you have to cook them or eat them. I cooked this batch.

This was actually the second time I made this cake; the first time I took it camping and didn’t manage to finish it because it got hot the second day and it didn’t fit in the camping fridge. THE WOES.

My cake is a fig variation on a plum cake from Stephanie Alexander’s plum cake recipe. I figured figs were a lot like plums, so what could go wrong? You make a batter – top it with almond meal – put the figs on top – then pour over a butter, sugar, cinnamon and egg concoction that’s been cooling since you made it before the batter DIDN’T YOU.

I imagine it’s wonderful with plums but it’s also spectacular with figs. In this case, even if you only have one egg not two for the topping. IMG_0915.JPG

Figs

I have a fig tree. I got it pruned this year. I have figs.

IMG_0910.JPGThese are the ripe figs that I didn’t cook with.

I like figs. I have had figs with salad; I have dehydrated them. When I had quite a few today, I thought to make a cake. (I have no prosciutto in the house.) But… zero fig cake recipes in any of my cook books. How is that even possible?

Happily, the NY Times came through. I didn’t have almond so I just used almond meal – I think I used a bit too much actually, or possibly overmixed (although it’s with melted butter so is that even possible?) – because the mixture was a tad too dry. Anyway it tasted pretty fine. I could probably have put more figs on though. IMG_0046.JPG

BakeClass: Rhubarb Cake

This book was sent to me by the publisher at no cost.

Unknown.jpegAnneka Manning promises that I will “learn to bake brilliantly, step by step,” so that’s a rather exciting thought. I’ve been baking for years, but I am always interested in new recipes, and of course there are some things that just elude me (darn you sponge cake). So: lessons AND recipes!

Firstly: it’s a lovely looking book, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I appreciate that in a recipe book. It’s hefty (275-odd pages) at nearly A4 size, so I’m mighty glad I have a cookbook stand. The pages themselves are well laid out; mot recipes have a picture (which, I’m not completely a must-have-pictures girl, but it definitely adds something to the look of it), and the recipes are clearly laid out and so far, easy to follow. There are some ‘Baker’s tips’ on a few pages some of which seem obvious, others – well, I’ve made a few springform tin cakes, and it had never occurred to me to put the baking paper OVER the base and THEN clamp the sides in. I think this is a case of ‘dumb smart person’. So if nothing else I’ve learned that. IMG_0888.JPG

The first thing I’ve made is the Rhubarb Sour Cream Crumble Cake, which is in the ‘measure and beat’ section. Again, didn’t think I’d learn anything here, but um, I think I usually put the dry ingredients in before the wet but not consciously… so that’s an excellent pointer. And I’ve started picking up on the idea of room-temperature eggs, so this was yet another reminder about that. Guess I have to plan my baking a bit further in advance than I have tended in the past.

IMG_0889.JPGI made this because a friend gave me a pile of rhubarb sticks (whoo!), and we had people coming over for dinner. The cake batter itself turned out beautifully and I am once again glad I have a stand mixer, because it makes multitasking a reality. For some reason my crumble did not crumble, but turned into dough – perhaps too little flour? the butter was straight from the fridge but it was a fairly warm day, so that may have been a problem. At any rater I have dotted it over the top and spread it out a bit; it cooked fine and tasted perfectly nice.

Verdict in the end was very positive. We ended up with a bit left over but I think that was because our guests were being too polite to have extras.