Monthly Archives: December 2012

raspberry jelly & meringues

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For the last couple of years Nana & Poppa have come over & stayed with us for Christmas, but Poppa isn’t up to travelling any more & so this year we spent Christmas over there – but to save them any effort we said we’d cater 🙂 Nana insisted on doing the potatoes (newly dug from their garden), but we took fresh beans, a chicken & smoked red pepper roulade (because they’d enjoyed the smoked salmon one so much) – & for dessert, raspberry jelly & meringues. (This would work just as well with strawberries or blueberries & indeed, since we have way too many strawberries & the husband is tired of making strawberry jam, strawberry jelly is probably in our near culinary future.)

Now, this was no ordinary raspberry jelly ie its ingredients had been nowhere near a packet! I’ve been freezing our raspberries as they’re picked; well, most of them, anyway. So I had plenty to hand. I put about 2&1/2 cups of the frozen berries in a saucepan with 1 c sugar & heated them slowly to a gentle simmer – all the luscious juices ran from the fruit & the smell was divine. Then I poured the mix of juice & pulpy berries through a sieve; I didn’t worry too much about the fact that I was catching pulp as well as juice, but I really didn’t want the pips. (The husband joked that I should sell those to the manufacturers of raspberry jam.)

Next, I added 4 tsp powdered gelatine to 2 Tblsp cold water, & once it had softened I heated the mix gently in the microwave till the gelatine had dissolved. Then I went back to the raspberries & made what was effectively ‘thick juice’ up to 500 ml with hot water, before mixing in the dissolved gelatine & pouring the jelly into a pretty bowl to set. That travelled safely over to the Mount the next day in a chilly bin, & before serving I poured 500 ml vanilla custard over the top: the combination of ruby red jelly & creamy yellow custard looked most attractive.

And, because I’d made blueberry brioche the day before & as a result had egg whites to spare, I made meringues to go with dessert. While I adore meringues I’ve never made them often, but these were a breeze – the recipe’s from taste.com.au, & it’s a good one. I beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt in a glass bowl until they were stiff, & then beat in 1 c sugar, a little at a time. Once the sugar had all dissolved I had a lovely, glossy, stiff meringue mix. I transferred this to baking-paper-covered oven trays using a tablespoon, & then put them in the oven, which I’d heated to 120 degrees C but lowered to 90 as soon as they went in. After about 90 minutes the meringues were crispy on the outside & this lovely pale, golden-white colour, at which point I turned the oven off & left them there to dry overnight. Stored in an airtight container they would have lasted a week or so, but there was little chance of that – there were 8 of us round the table on Christmas Day & every single meringue disappeared.

And I was delighted to find that they were just like the ones I remember my mother making: crisp on the outside but soft & chewy within. One more happy nostalgia trip 🙂

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chocolate nommyness

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That’s what my friend Annette called the Christmas present I made for her Significant Other, David. The recipe was originally in the NZ Herald, where for some reason it was called ‘chocolate bark’. I tweaked it a bit…

For this, for each batch you intend to make you’ll need one block of Whitaker’s white chocolate & one of their dark – for the latter I used the 72% dark ghana, as it’s very chocolate-y indeed without being too sweet. Melt one of the blocks, either (carefully! ie short bursts & stirring often) in the microwave, or over a pan of boiling water on the stove. Into the melted chocolate mix – well, whatever takes your fancy, really. With the white chocolate I used a mix of dried blueberries & dried cranberries, but dried/crystallised pineapple would probably be delicious too. (Did wonder about dried strawberries but decided against it.) Pour this into a sponge roll pan lined with baking paper & shake gently to spread the chocolate/fruit mix reasonably thin, then put it in the fridge to set. After which, melt the other block of chocolate (in this case, the dark block) & pour it over the top, so that you have a chocolate bi-layer with one of the layers containing lovely tasty little inclusions. Leave the lot in the fridge again & then break into pieces – or cut with a heavy knife, which is what I did.

With the second batch, I melted the dark chocolate first, & added a pile of chopped crystallised ginger. But chopped nuts would be good too; I had macadamias on hand but felt the ginger would be even nicer.

Then I packaged a mix of the two up for David. There was rather too much to go in the box so I put the leftovers in another container in the fridge. In retrospect I should have hidden it at the back of the fridge – behind the broccoli, where people seldom venture. But I didn’t, & the family discovered the little stash… Really must make some more!

aubergine stacks

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We had a real house-full over Christmas, including a vegetarian niece. So, I made quite a few vegetarian dishes. One of them was this one, which is actually from the latest cookbook – The Ultimate Vegetarian Collection – by Alison Holst & her son Simon. (Dame Alison is a real national treasure, here in NZ: according to an article in the morning paper,  from a list of celebrity cooks, she was the one most people would choose to cook a New Year’s dinner.) I made it because a) it looked delicious & b) I was a bit pressed for time & it was going to be faster to prepare than eggplant parmigiana (which was the daughter’s original pick for tea). The original recipe has you slicing the aubergines/eggplants in half longitudinally & then slicing each half in half, so that at the end of the recipe you end up with tidy stacks, each with a skin-up slice of the aubergine. But mine were huge things & so I sliced them horizontally, keeping sets of 2 slices together so that they were roughly equivalent in size. It worked fine but probably lacked the visual appeal of the original.

Anyways, once the eggplants are sliced, brush both sides of each slice with oil (I used olive oil), sprinkle with salt, & then pop under the grill until they soften & are starting to brown. Then whip them out & assemble thusly: cover the bottom slice of each pair with sliced or diced tomatoes. (I used the first of our summer crop, & they were delicious.) Follow this with a layer of basil; while you could chop this, I just used whole leaves off the big bunch of basil that I’d bought at the market. Top that with sliced or grated mozarella, & then pop the other aubergine slice on top, & arrange the stacks in a roasting dish big enough to take them all.

At this point I looked at the stacks & decided that they needed a bit of extra something, so I put another slice of mozarella atop each one. (If I’d sliced them the Holst way, this wouldn’t have been necessary 🙂 ). Then back them at 200 degrees C for 10 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted & golden & the tomatoes are cooked.

We had them with zucchini fritters (gussied up by the addition of parmesan & basil, which replaced the cumin I often use) and a sweet red pepper sauce. Vegetarian and omnivores alike declared them delicious!

scuffins!

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Today being Christmas Eve, we have a real houseful. Dinner is sort of taken care of (in the sense that the lamb’s butterflied & marinating**, the beans are sliced, I’ve found a recipe for an italian-style zucchini salad to take care of that particular oversupply problem, & the spuds are scrubbed), but what to feed everyone for lunch? The husband wanted scones & I fancied muffins, being as you don’t have to rub fat into flour. But I compromised – hence the title of the post 🙂

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  • Stir together 4c flour, 1 tsp salt & 8 tsp baking powder.
  • Then mix in whatever savour stuff takes your fancy – I used about 1 c tasty cheese (cut into tiny dice), a couple of finely chopped little red onions from the garden, & 3 rashers of bacon (chopped).
  • Beat together 4 eggs, 100 g melted butter & 1 c milk, & fold that into the dry ingredients (don’t overmix) – should be a fairly sticky dough.
  • Drop large spoonfuls of the mix onto baking trays that you’ve a) greased or b) covered with baking paper (here I must say that I swear by my teflon baking sheets), & bake for 10 minutes or so until risen & golden.
  • Enjoy your scuffins warm, with butter.

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** Today’s marinade being several large cloves of garlic – we’ve just harvested another successful crop – crushed to a paste with a tablespoon of rock salt, a large handful of rosemary & another of parsley, & then mixed with a good slosh of olive oil & 1 T of sesame oil.

today’s lunch: spicy zucchini fritters

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As is usual for this time of year, we are trying to keep up with a glut of zucchinis. Every year we agree that we’ll grow just one plant, & then we add another in case the first dies, & it never does… This year the first plant was a yellow ‘tennis ball’ zucchini, & because early indications were that all we’d get were golf balls, we added a ‘normal’ green plant as well. However, the yellow plant is now happily producing tennis ball-sized offerings and the green one is giving us the normal long variety. So today for lunch (myself, the daughter, & our two foreign imports, lol) I made spicy zucchini fritters.

  • Put 1&1/2 c plain flour, 3 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp ground cumin seeds & 1 tsp ground coriander seeds in a bowl & stir to mix. (I have never owned a sifter, although Mum always used one.) 
  • Add one small red onion, finely diced, and as much coarsely grated zucchini as you like, plus lots of chopped parsley.
  • At this point I decided to liven the mix up a bit more so I added 1/4 c of crumbled blue cheese.
  • Add 4 eggs & 1/2 c milk & mix to a soft, pouring-consistency batter – you’ll probably want to add more milk.
  • Fry in oil over a moderate heat until golden and crispy, then drain & serve with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce.

The only complaint from the young persons was that I could have added more blue cheese 🙂

strawberry icecream

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I don’t remember having ice cream very often when I was very little, & when we did, it was the home-made variety. Mum used to make an ice cream based on condensed milk (must look the recipe up some time) & froze it in the metal ice-cube tray in the dinky little freezer that was part of the fridge. (When my parents first married, the little house at Tutira didn’t have any power: lighting was by kerosene lamp, cooking on the wetback stove in the kitchen, & meat would have been kept in the meat safe. So that fridge would have been a real boon, & a luxury.)

These days, of course, you can buy a multitude of different ice creams, but it’s still rather fun to make your own occasionally. Which is what I decided to do today, partly to help dispose of a slight oversupply of strawberries from the garden. I used to make ice cream quite a bit, when we were flatting, and while I was fairly sure I’d used a recipe from the Edmonds book, when I checked that mighty reference tome today the recipe looked nothing like the one I remembered – there was no custard base. So (“as usual,” sighed the daughter), I modified it.

Oh, all right, I made things up as I went along. I’d already sliced the strawberries & they were macerating with some icing sugar & a good slosh of Grand Marnier. This is what went into the actual ice cream part:

  • First, put 2 c milk into a large saucepan & set it on the stove to heat. You don’t want to boil it! Just get it up to around blood heat. (Otherwise the egg yolks will basically ‘scramble’ when you add them!)
  • While this was happening,  separate 4 eggs. Put the whites in one bowl – you’ll need them later. Beat the yolks together with 1 tsp vanilla essence & 1/4 c sugar (the Edmonds recipe said caster sugar but I never seem to have any) until they’re thick, pale, & glossy.
  • Whisk a little of the warm milk into the egg yolks & then pour this into the saucepan in a thin stream, whisking as you go. Then return the pan to the stove & cook over a low heat, stirring all the time, until the custard thickens slightly. Now put it aside to cool.
  • In a clean bowl (if you use the yolky one, the fats from the yolks will probably lead to the whites not whisking up properly), beat the egg whites till stiff & glossy, adding another 1/4 c sugar a little at a time until it’s all incorporated. Fold this carefully through the cooled custard.
  • Then beat 500 ml cream until thick & fold that through the custard. (The original recipe says, 300 ml cream, but you can’t have too much cream in ice cream, amirite?)
  • Finally, puree the berries & fold them into the nice fluffy creamy mix, before pouring it all into a large-ish shallow container & putting that in the freezer. (This recipe gave me rather too much to fit in a 2 L tub, so the excess went into a smaller tray.)

You’ll need to stir it with a fork, after a couple of hours & then again another 2 hours later, to break up all the ice crystals & give you a smoother ice cream. It’ll still be harder than the commercial varieties though, so will probably need softening a little before you serve it. Unless you don’t mind ending up with a collection of bent spoons, that is!