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.

Palomar: the food

This book was sent to me by the publisher. Go here for discussion of the physical product.


There’s some nice basics in here: harissa, watercress pesto (which I used to make snow pea pesto, and it was quite good), labneh and tapenade. I have prepared the cured lemons – one thing I do not lack is lemons – which the book promises will eliminate a “bleach-y taste” they claim preserved lemons carry. I haven’t noticed. I haven’t turned them into cured lemon paste, yet, but I definitely plan to. These things are in “The meal before the meal,” along with other dips and felafel and such.

The next section is “Raw beginnings” and I haven’t made anything from this section… and I’m not likely to. I’m allergic to scallops so that’s a few recipes gone, and I’m just not the sort of person who will ever come to steak tartare. There are one or two salads that might get a look at.

I have mostly cooked from “The main act.” The book has two shakshuka recipes; I’ve made the “New style” one with cauliflower, zucchini, garlic and chilli and coriander – then eggs cracked over. It was ok – I was perfectly happy to eat it – but not completely brilliant. It was one I had altered, taking out the eggplant because my beloved isn’t a huge fan… but since the recipe has a section called “Variations,” telling you to “reinvent” it every time, this shouldn’t have been a problem. I am intrigued with making it with chorizo and/or olives, feta… or, they promise, “any old stew or cooked vegetable you have as leftovers from yesterday’s main meal.” So I’m not quite giving up on this.

Polenta Jerusalem style: I admit I used instant polenta, which the author of the book would abhor, but that’s what I have. This involves making polenta; putting “mushroom ragout” on top (mushrooms cooked in butter), and then blanched asparagus. Garnish with Parmesan. I mean yes, it was tasty, but it’s not all that miraculous. Maybe ‘real’ polenta makes a huge difference?

Aubergine and feta boureka: ok these were quite cool. Bourekas are made by cutting butter puff pastry into four triangles, then brushing with egg, sprinkling with sesame seeds and cooking for about 18 minutes at 200C. Then you halve them and throw stuff on top – again, I omitted the eggplant, but the swiss chard stew with bacon and feta was really good. (This recipe also looks awesome.)

Papi’s spinach gnocchi: was a disaster. I’ll wear this one because I didn’t want to simmer them in goat’s yoghurt (too hard), so I simmered them in water instead. They just fell apart. I didn’t drain the spinach enough? Who knows.

Right in the middle there’s a series of pictures showing octopus – both cut up and not cut up. It’s my least favourite part of the book.

Cod chraymeh: I didn’t use cod, because that’s too hard in Australia; I think I used ling. This was … well, not flavourless, but really not worth the effort. It has red capsicum, garlic, spices, harissa… I was surprised how much it didn’t work.

Chicken thighs in green olive and tomato sauce: this was quite nice – the chicken with the olives worked really well.

IMG_1293.JPGLabneh kreplach tortellini: probably my favourite recipe to date. Kreplach are “the Ashkenazi Jewish version of Italian ravioli, Chinese wonton or Russian pelmeni.” Palomar suggests making IMG_1294.JPGthem like choux (choux? I can totes make choux) – flour into boiling water, into the processor to add more flour and egg yolks (which means making meringues later), then leaving the dough til the next day to roll and fill. As the name suggests, these were filled with labneh (yes, homemade) mixed with za’atar. I then simmered them in borscht (made with some of my own beetroots, EAT YOUR HEART OUT Katering Show). It was awesome. (I’m interested that a number of online recipes, like this one, call for whole eggs – no meringues! – but very excited that it points out that like dumplings, kreplach can of course by frozen. EXCELLENT.)

IMG_1295.JPGVerdict: I’m not sad to have experimented with it, but I wouldn’t be rushing out to buy it for all my friends. Possibly I’m spoiled by Jerusalem plus my two Sabrina Ghayour books, and The Saffron Tales, which basically cover these sorts of recipes – the ones I’ve enjoyed anyway. That said, I am looking forward to trying the date roulade, and their version of pitta bread.


I have been curious about trying my hand at preserving for a little while. Partly this is Kate-of-JAM’s fault, of course, because along with jams and jellies she also does some wicked chutneys. Partly it is being sucked in by the home-made-is-good crowd, and partly the desire to just be good at a lot of things…

IMG_0870.JPGIt turns out that, of course, my mother-in-law had an old Fowlers Vacola tub from way back when J was a wee thing. I had never heard of Fowlers, but most people I’ve spoken to seem to regard them as an old friend, so we’ll just write that off as resulting from a tropical childhood. You can still buy Fowlers jars and accoutrements, and they Magically Appeared at our door soon after I announced my interest, so I feel compelled to experiment. I started today.

IMG_0871.JPGThe first thing that J wanted me to do was some fruit, because that’s what he remembered. So I went off to the Preston Market (first time visit – very exciting), and bought peaches (which I thought were apricots shut up what a pain to halve) and white-flesh nectarines. The picture shows that I clearly didn’t fill the bottles well enough; apparently that makes this An Experience and I deserve to be scolded for wanting to be perfect first time ’round. Whatever. I think next time I would cut them a bit smaller so as to be able to pack them a bit better… and who knows, there are probably YouTube vids out there about how best to pack your fruit for preserving… anyway Unknown.jpegthese will be eaten sooner rather than later.

The other thing you can see in the pic is my first attempt at tomato sauce, and yes one of those jars is underfilled and will have to be used ASAP. The recipe is from this new book I got; it’s called Seasoned Tomato Sauce and certainly smells awesome. I no longer (or don’t yet…) have a vegetable garden, so having to buy tomatoes means it’s not quite same, but I’m quite looking forward to using this in bolognese or something similar.

Finally, because I was on a roll and I figured why not, I finally got around to making candied lemon peel. I always feel guilty ditching lemon skins after juicing them, and then I found a recipe in Stephanie for candying them – and you don’t have to use them right away, she’s totally fine with you freezing them until you have enough to make it worthwhile. So this is the peel draining after being boiled a few times to lose the bitterness, and then cooked in heavy sugar syrup for an hour.IMG_0872.JPGYes that’s some burnt bits shut up. These will be rolled in sugar and then jarred in a couple of days when they’re done with draining.

So it was quite an epic day in the end. I had planned on trying my hand at dill pickles but apparently we don’t do pickling cucumbers really in Australia. I’ve done some reading and apparently I can use small ‘normal’ cucumbers, so that may be next week or the week after’s experiment….

Sipping vinegar

aka drinking vinegar

aka shrub

This is another recipe that I got courtesy of Kate of Just Add Moonshine. I have no idea where she got it from, and a very cursory search online doesn’t find me the recipe she gave me.

Sipping vinegar is for adding to soda water or other sparkling water, or gin and tonic or… other alcohol, I suppose. It’s very easy to make: it just involves fruit, white or cider vinegar, and sugar. The variations Kate told me about are lemon or apple. The lemon was ok but the apple – I used pink lady – was fantastic.

Three apples, grated

1 cup cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

Put it all together in a saucepan; wait til the sugar dissolves then leave it simmering gently for half an hour. Then strain it – Kate’s method is to put a Chux into a sieve over a bowl or jug, and leave it to drip for however long.  The vinegar is really strong, of course, so you’ll need the rangehood going; I’ve taken to doing the straining outside, because it’s still pretty potent at that stage.

I’ve also tried it with mango leftovers – pips and skins, after cutting them up for dehydrating – and an apple to make up the quantity. It wasn’t very mango-y, tragically, and I’m not sure I can face sacrificing a mango or three to make sipping vinegar.

The end result: it is a little vinegary, of course, but the sweetness cuts through it nicely; refreshing is a good word for it. You don’t need too much for it to add a good flavour. The above recipe gives about a cup or so of vinegar; I haven’t noticed it going off, and I suppose it lasts for quite a while with those ingredients. I have no idea how many drinks you’d get out of that much – depends entirely on how much flavour you require.

It’s definitely worth giving it a go.