I have a surprising success in the kitchen! We have what should not have been a surprise in the camping kitchen! Anastasia talks about being a pastry chef at The Village Bakery!
In this episode, I CONQUER A NEMESIS – sponge cake! – and cook from The Feast Goes On, and talk to Natanya and Merelyn from the Monday Morning Cooking Club (you should totally check them out) about their books and cooking in general.
The sponge cake recipe to DEFEAT ALL ENEMIES. Look what I created!
I received a copy of the Monday Morning Cooking Club’s book The Feast Goes On from the awesome Alisa for my birthday, and I’ve got a plethora of tags sticking out already because there’s a heap of things I want to cook. (For starters, look at the cake on the front.) This weekend I took the opportunity to cook three of them.
Mains was slow-cooked beef with ras el hanout. I went with chuck steak, and I used the slow cooker, which was awesome. It’s got onion and garlic, I did grate the tomatoes although I’m not convinced it was necessary, and I chucked in all the right spices for the ras el hanout. I used the cured lemon that I made courtesy of Palomar and I think it really was better than preserved lemon. It was… smoother, somehow (I mean yes it is a smooth paste, but even the taste seemed smoother). It cooked in about 6 hours, I think, and it has gone straight to the top few recipes of How To Impress Without Too Much Effort. I served it with yoghurt and some more cured lemon.
(I can’t find a recipe online for cured lemons like in Palomar. At any rate, it’s layer the lemons with salt and canola + olive oil; leave for three days then strain out the oil, blitz the lemons with some chilli and add some oil until it’s smooth.)
On the side I did a potato and onion gratin, with a big bunch of thyme and rosemary (the recipe called for one or the other, but why not have both?). I layered this too densely so I ended up having to cook it for longer. Which was fine but I felt stupid. I will make this again and I will use a bigger dish.
For dessert I kinda committed sacrilege. In my family, Mum’s lemon delicious is almost holy. So to make mandarine delicious, and to make it in individual ramekins, and to follow someone else’s recipe – ! They were quite lovely. They had quite a different texture from the lemon delicious I have made in the past; not sure if that’s the recipe or the individual ramekin or if I made some mistake. But they weren’t as sponge-y; they were a bit more gelatinous, and they didn’t have much syrup underneath – it was more on the inside. Nonetheless I will be making these again, too… even though it did mean I had to blitz a mandarine in the wee processor and then strain the juice through a tea strainer.
I have flirted with beef bourguignon many times over the years. The first time it was from Elizabeth David’s recipe – the long, somewhat involved version. Then I went with a slightly easier version from some stock-standard Australian book, and then I went the extreme edition and did a slow-cooker version. They’ve all been passable – in fact they’ve all been very tasty – but I felt the need to go back to where it all began. So I made David’s version again.
Firstly, I must say that I used the wrong meat. Our local butchers are really nice, but they don’t have a great range, and their diced meat isn’t always all that. So when I asked for meat for a casserole – which I admit was also a bad move – and the butcher gave me oyster blade… well, I figured that it was going to marinate for 6 hours and then cook for more than 2, so it would be ok, right? And yes, it was ok, but it wasn’t fantastic. So next time, I will go with a better cut of meat.
Secondly, this is the first time I have used streaky bacon. I figured if I was going the David route I’d go proper. And… I dunno. I’m sure there’s something to be said for the fat, and maybe there’s something special about the meat that’s next to the fat, but I think next time I’ll go with short cuts again, or maybe middle rashers: a bit of fat, but more meat. Also for the first time I cooked the bacon in lard. The recipe calls for meat dripping, which – ?? – but I happened to have lard left over from a friend’s cooking, so I thought I would use that. I don’t think it made much difference to the taste.
Overall, this was really tasty. Marinating the meat in thyme, wine, oil and onion does make a difference, I believe, and I love that you reuse the marinade. I’m beginning to realise that I really am an onion fan, so the little onions used as a ‘garnish’ (added for the last 30 minutes, after cooking them briefly with the bacon earlier) were delightful. And when you’re making this you might as well make a decent batch, so I’ve got enough in the freezer for another meal for two, plus lunch for one.
And there are no photos of this dish because no matter how you try, it’s just not a pretty dish to look at.