Part 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:
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!
Once 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).
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.
I have a confession to make.
I’m not so good with the green leafies.
Rocket? Oh yes, my favourite salad leaf of all time.
Baby spinach? Sure, great in a salad. Baby spinach and strawberries and feta and balsamic!
Mature spinach? Um, sure. You can wilt it, right? Use it with lentils? … add it to breakfast if you have to?
But then there’s silverbeet. And kale. oh gahd, kale. These are not things I would buy for myself. But my Ceres box has contained them rather frequently.
What to DO??
So, kale. Turns out kale is ok if you mix it with garlic and crispy potato. Thank you, Stephanie Alexander, for Elizabeth Schneider’s Baked Curly Kale with Potato, Olive and Garlic (this recipe is very similar), you have saved my kale from just being automatically given to the worms. Who would have loved it but I would have felt bad. Not exactly my choice of dish but perfectly fine when it just… turns up…
And silverbeet? Well, once you discover that it’s also called Swiss chard, it gets easier to find recipes. (Do not get me started on foods with more than one name. EGGPLANT AND ZUCCHINI I AM LOOKING AT YOU. AND YOU CORIANDER.) So my current Swiss chard has mostly become Ottolenghi’s Plenty: Swiss chard, chickpea and tamarind stew. And it was really quite good. I liked the tamarind; also I added some cured lemon paste mixed with some Greek yoghurt, which of course makes everything delicious.
I still don’t love these greens but at least I have things I can do with them now when they inevitably turn up in my Be Healthy box.
1. 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.
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 reminded 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.
As a privileged first-world person I have many boring things to complain about. Today it was lunch. I do not like deciding on lunch, and I do not like having what I decided to have for lunch be unavailable.
So. Today I took inspiration from a dear friend who, when I went to visit some time ago, had made scones. Just like that. I like scones but I’ve only ever made lemonade scones, and I’d never rally thought about them as lunch. I grabbed out my Stephanie Alexander and there’s her scone recipe – under Basics (well sorrrrryyy). I decided to be adventurous and divide the mixture in half. One half I added parmesan to. The other half… choc chips and sour cherries. Yup.
They were easy and they were yum. They didn’t rise as much as I might have liked but I think I was a bit too rough with them. Now to decide whether to freeze the rest or just, y’know, eat them.
Take some orange peel. Bring it to the boil a couple of times to soften them and lose some of 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 gingernuts 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 this 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.
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.
Step 1: make a sponge cake the day before.
I decided to go with Stephanie Alexander’s Genoese sponge, because it looked straightforward and it’s the one she recommends for making lamingtons with. (Dear autocorrect: I really do mean lamington. NOT lamination, nor leamington.)
Problem 1: the recipe just said ‘electric mixer’ for the egg and sugar, so I just used the K blade… wondering the whole time whether it should be the whisk. After 10 minutes, yes it should be the whisk.
OK, done. Add the flour…
Problem 2: I think I stirred it too much. But I kept finding these flour swirls! So I had to get rid of them, right?
Into the oven. Check after 15 minutes. Not quite done. Couple more minutes – out it comes. Turn it out a few minutes later, onto a towel, so it doesn’t stick to the rack (as suggested).
Problem 3: an hour or so later, I turned the cake back over to cover it properly for the night. And discovered that the top of the cake was left on the towel because the cake was not cooked properly. Like, still soggy in the middle. How was that even possible? The poker came out clean!
Back into the oven. For maybe another 20 minutes? perhaps a bit less. This is weird.
Step 2: the next day, cut up the cake and cover it with chocolate and coconut. Happily, this bit didn’t go too badly. Made a lovely mess. But the cake is nowhere near as sponge-a-riffic as I would have hoped.
Possible problems: 1. I used the wrong sized cake tin (20cm not 24cm; is that going to prevent it from rising?); 2. Too much stirring; 3. Too much cooking; 4. I am not a sponge-maker.
Still they taste all right. And I shall not give up.
I SHALL attempt sponge again.