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Thursday, 25 February 2010

Happy 1st birthday Jasmine T (cake 2)!

A very important lesson was learnt in the making of this cake. Never, EVER, substitute full-fat with light cream cheese. Even if the supermarket only has light cream cheese left and you can't be arsed going to another shop to get it!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Happy 1st birthday Jasmine T!

Oh me oh my. This time last year I was on my way to hospital in a taxi screaming out the window at people on Upper Street. Three and a half hours later sweet little Jasmine T was born.

To mark this momentous occasion, Carters took the day off work and we invited some of her close buddies over for a little party. I made Nigel Slater's pear and blueberry cake, and it went down a treat with Jasmine - pears and blueberries are only, like, her favourite. Stay tuned for the novelty be unveiled on Saturday.

Nigel Slater's really fast cake with blueberries and pears (serves about 7-8)

Given my talent for screwing up measurements, this cake is brilliant because I only had to measure out 130g three times...and the only other things I did differently was I used a round tin instead of a square one and I didn't peel the pears because I was feeling lazy. It was enjoyed muchly by us adults (and babies) with a cup of tea or if you're having it for dessert take Nigel's advice and serve it with some vanilla ice cream, fromage frais or double cream

What you need
130g softened butter
130g unrefined organic caster sugar
2 ripe pears
2 large eggs
130g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
250g blueberries
a little extra sugar to sprinkle on top

The do
Set oven at 180c. Line a round 21-22cm springform cake tin with some baking parchment. Using a cake mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Core the pears and chop into small chunks. In a small bowl, break the eggs and beat with a fork then gradually add to the butter and sugar. Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold them gently into the mixture. Scrape into the lined cake tin and level it out - don't worry, it looks like you don't have enough mixture but it will work out. Mix the pears and blueberries togther and tip then into the cake. Scatter 1-2 tablespoons of sugar over the top. Bake for 55 minutes, then test with a skewer. If it comes out clean, remove cake from oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

A question about vinegar

My sister-in-law, who has just started an excellent blog on food and life in Japan, has a question for all you pickling experts out there.
She is thinking of making yuzu (above) vinegar but isn't sure how to go about it. Some recipes say to heat the vinegar, in others you just poke the peel in the vinegar bottle. Can anyone help?

While we are on the subject of blogs and Japan, my brother-in-law is also a newcomer to the blogging scene. You can check out his foodie adventures here

Monday, 8 February 2010

Gratin tombé

Today I decided to make a sweet root vegetable gratin of potato, pumpkin and sweet potato. Seemed like a simple enough idea...until I discovered that my sweet potato was one of those white yammy ones (SO inferior to the orange ones). Grrr!
Nevertheless, I soldiered on, lovingly applying thin slices of a third of a pumpkin, 1 red onion, 6 small potatoes, 1 sweet potato (imposter) and thyme to a baking dish. Then in a measuring jug I whisked up with a fork 200ml of milk and 200ml cream, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 crushed garlic clove and a big handful of grated Parmesan, poured this over the top and sprinkled a layer of breadcrumbs over the top and a bit more Parmesan for good measure. Then I baked this at 180 for about 1-1 1/2 hours.

The thing about my personality sometimes is that while I can be quite meticulous in constructing a dish I can be equally careless when it comes to oven handling. I pull things out of our oven one-handed in the most precarious and dangerous fashion. Usually when I pick it up I know it's going to be fine, but sometimes I know I'm in trouble and I still don't stop...


The 5-second rule prevails, plus it didn't even touch the floor anyway, so I scraped it up and re-baked it with a new breadcrumb layer. And it was delicious - creamy, earthy vegetables with hints of thyme and Mr Muscle.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Advance Australia fare

To celebrate Australia Day this year, instead of going down to our local Walkabout dressed as cast members from Home and Away to drink copious amounts of VB, we had a civilised lunch at Kim's.
With Possum Magic on high rotation at bedtime in our household, it's no surprise that I've been thinking about pavlova - sweeeeeet pavlova.
Pavlova has a Proustian effect on me. One bite and I'm at a barbecue in someone's backyard, beer in hand, the smell of 30+ sunscreen and Aeroguard in the air, shooing flies off my plate. Nothing tastes more like an Australian summer...other than maybe a Golden Gaytime.

Surprisingly easy pavlova (serves about 8-10)

What you need
4 room-temperature egg whites (you can keep the egg yolks covered in a bowl in the fridge for later use, see below)
Pinch salt
1 cup golden caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

and to top it off...
1 tub of whipping cream (200-300ml)
1 kiwifruit, quartered lengthways and sliced
2 handfuls strawberries, halved lengthways and sliced
2 handfuls of raspberries, squished up
2 handfuls of blueberries

The do
Preheat oven to 180. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then trace a 25 cm circle on the paper. Put egg whites and salt in the clean bowl (any grease will prevent the egg whites from expanding to their full potential) and beat with the whisk attachment of a hand blender on medium-low speed until frothy (approx 2 minutes). Increase speed to medium-high and beat until whites form stiff but not dry peaks (2–3 minutes). Gradually add sugar while whisking, then increase speed to high and beat until stiff and glossy, 3–5 minutes. Sprinkle cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla over whites, then gently fold in with a rubber spatula.
Fill traced circle with meringue, build the sides slightly higher than the middle so the cream and fruit have somewhere to sit. Place very gently in middle of oven and reduce heat to 150, taking care not to slam the oven door shut. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven and leave meringue inside with door slightly ajar until completely cool for about 4 hours - or make it at night and leave it in the oven til morning.
Remove paper and place meringue on a cake plate. Whip cream to soft peaks, spread onto the meringue and pile the fruit on top. Passionfruit pulp would also be a nice addition, but a little hard to find at my local Sainsbury's in the middle of winter.

Tip Stephanie (Alexander) says "if syrupy droplets form on the surface of the meringue, you'll know you have overcooked it; liquid oozing from the meringue is a sign of undercooking".

Carter's use-up-the-egg-yolks mustardy mayonnaise
2 egg yolks
4 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
2 cups olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

The do
Place yolks and mustard in a medium bowl. Beat with a wire whisk, and begin to add the oil a tablespoon at a time, adding more as each bit is incorporated. When it starts to come together, you can add the oil a bit faster. Add salt and pepper, then stir in the vinegar.

Warning: this makes an obscene amount of mayo. Alternatively, you could halve this recipe and throw the other three egg yolks into some scrambled eggs for breakfast.

A playlist including Magic Dirt, You Am I, Screamfeeder, Sandpit, Howling Bells, The Avalanches, The Go-Betweens, Nick Cave, The Cruel Sea, the theme Tune to Round The Twist, and plagiarists...Men at Work