Wednesday 24 February 2016

Baked eggs with greens & dukkah

I forgot that it was Potluck Week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, but as it happens our tea last night was a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi, who was featured on IHCC in 2013. Well, I say it is one of his recipes but I did go a bit off-piste.

It started life as his braised eggs with leeks & za'atar. But as I looked at the leeks dwindling in the pan as they sauteed, I realised I needed to add more veg. I bunged in some baby courgettes and looked again at the recipe. With the liquid the courgettes was giving off, I couldn't see any reason in the world to boil it all in vegetable stock, so I left that out. I divided the vegetables between two ovenproof dishes, added a couple of eggs to each, crumbled over some feta and discovered that I had dukkah in the cupboard, not za'atar. So a tiny drizzle of oil over the yolks, a sprinkle of dukkah and into a hot oven until the eggs were set and the feta golden brown.

We had it with sourdough toast, rubbed with garlic and sprinkled with a little olive oil. Delicious, and very comforting.

Monday 22 February 2016

Flourless Calamondin Cake

I am told there are people who don't like Claudia Roden's orange and almond cake or Nigella Lawson's clementine cake, without the excuse of a nut allergy, but I have never met them myself. Flourless, moist and intensely citrussy, to me they are pretty much perfect. They've been on my mind a bit lately - I've recommended it to a friend who needed a gluten free recipe: it was very well received, and Kavey made it for the first time recently. And, of course, we're still in citrus season, with all sorts of interesting blood oranges, seville oranges, mandarins and whatnot to be had.

But what I chose to use were the fruit from our calamondin bonsai. Calamondins aren't frost tolerant, so it's been inside for the winter, and has responded to the coddling with loads of fruit.

The method of making the cake usually involves boiling the whole fruit, then removing the seeds and processing it. I decided that was probably not going to work for the calamondin, because they have loads of seeds. Instead, I used the method I hit on a couple of years ago making calamondin marmalade, of freezing the fruit. The peel then has a really soft texture, just like the boiled citrus, and the pulp comes away cleanly. I put all the peels in the processor and pushed the pulp through a sieve.

I followed Nigella's recipe, but did a half quantity (calamondin aren't sweet, so I followed her directions for the lemon version) and baked it in a 6" tin. I should have reduced the oven temperature a bit, I think - it was very thoroughly browned outside by the time it was cooked in the middle.

This cake doesn't need icing, but Paul had an inexplicable craving for a lemon butter icing. I didn't know he knew what butter icing was. So I reserved a teaspoon of the pureed calamondin, and whipped it with 70g butter and 130g icing sugar and a splash of milk.

It really is an excellent cake.

Thursday 18 February 2016


Way back at the end of summer, which seems like a million years ago, a friend left a bag of plums on the doorstep. I knew she was going to - her daughter's tree was laden and she'd made as much jam as she could be getting on with - but I didn't realise just how many there were. It wasn't quite like the cherry mountain, but it was a good 5kgs of small, ripe plums.

I've been meaning to post about those plums and what I did with them for ages, but I kept thinking "just one more dish and then...".

I made jam, of course. But I think I overcooked it and I haven't actually been game to try and get it out of the jar yet. Might need a hatchet.
Baked plums with almonds
I baked some, with a handful of almonds for crunch, and ate them with vanilla yoghurt for breakfast. I stewed some and froze them in portions.
Custard slice
I baked some in a sort of galaktoboureko-inspired custard slice. It would have been much more successful if the phyllo pastry I ordered had turned up - as it was I used puff, which was too thick and didn't bake through nicely. Tasted good but.
Custard slice, sliced
Some went into a rather nice duck dish, with ginger and star anise. I should have written down the recipe.
Duck in plum sauce
But most of them I semi-dried and then bottled in a boozy syrup. I dipped each half in a simple syrup, laid them on a rack over a baking tin, and cooked them in a 120C oven for about half an hour until they were slightly dried and chewy. They went into a sterilised jar, and I poured equal measures of hot simple syrup and rum over them.

The jar has sat in the kitchen for months, waiting for inspiration to strike.

Finally I decided. I baked them in a tart with a pistachio frangipane. And very nice it was too.

Saturday 13 February 2016

Year of the Monkey

We haven't done anything for Chinese New Year this year. Paul reckons not to like Chinese food very much and couldn't be persuaded to go out for it. But I kept seeing people talking about delectable Chinese meals, so I made dinner at home, from dishes that I knew he'd find acceptable.

Crabmeat & sweetcorn soup to begin. It's always Paul's starter of choice, but not all Chinese restaurants do it.  We actually had it at about 5pm, to fortify us to wait for our main course. Not exactly fancy or refined - a can of creamed corn, that can filled with water, a stock cube, a couple of sliced spring onions and some grated ginger, simmered together for 5 minutes, then a tub of pasteurised white crab meat, some light soy sauce, a teaspoon of cornflour slaked in Shaoxing rice wine, simmered another couple of minutes until pleasingly gloopy, and a beaten egg stirred in. Seasoned with white pepper.

Then red braised pork belly, fried rice, and bok choy with oyster sauce and a lot of garlic.

Thursday 11 February 2016

Anniversary Dinner

Yesterday was our 10th wedding anniversary. We decided on dinner at home, since it was a Wednesday. Champagne to start, of course. Then a rib of beef, seared in a cast iron pan on the stove, then put in the oven on a bed of thyme and garlic to finish cooking. Roast tomatoes, potato gratin and flower sprouts. We had a 13 year old Tempranillo with the meat. It was wonderful.


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