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All posts for the month June, 2014

Washing up must be in season!

Published June 27, 2014 by Storm

English berries and an unexpected avocado

This week I was planning to try a Turkish dish I’ve not made before, Imam Bayildi, I was even considering making my own pitta bread to enjoy with it. My plans changed when I got to the fruit aisle in the local shop and saw some lovely, large punnets of English gooseberries. I wasn’t expecting to see gooseberries for another couple of weeks but there they were and, to make them even more tempting, they were marked down to half price. I knew I’d seen a gooseberry ice-cream recipe in The Book of Vegetarian Cooking, so changed my plans and bought what I thought I would need to make ice-cream. I almost guessed what I would need correctly, there was just one ingredient I hadn’t expected… an avocado. I’m sure I could have come up with my own gooseberry ice-cream recipe without an avocado but in the spirit of my challenge I went back to the shop to buy the unexpected before creating the largest pile of washing up I’ve ever known one dish create.

2 saucepans, 1 blender, 1 sieve, 4 bowls, 1 fork, 1 whisk, 1 spoon and an ice-cream maker

Actually I only used one saucepan, because I rinsed it out between cooking the gooseberries and making the syrup, but even so there was a lot to wash up at the end. If I’d read this recipe through before getting excited about gooseberries I might not have chosen to make it.

I expected to need to cook the gooseberries first and then set them aside to cool but the rest of the method was a little different to my expectations. When I’ve made ice-cream containing egg yolks in the past I’ve always beaten the egg yolk and sugar together and then poured heated cream into them before returning it to the heat, as you would to make an egg custard; this recipe had me making a syrup and whisking it into the beaten egg yolks with the, separately whipped, cream being added right at the end. Beating eggs, then beating eggs and syrup, mashing avocado, then whipping cream, I certainly had aching arms by the time I poured the mix into the ice-cream maker; this is the most physically demanding recipe I have tried making this year, if not ever.

Was it worth the effort?

The finished ice-cream was (is, I still have a little left) delicious, I won’t be following this recipe again though. For a start, why the avocado? The note about the recipe claims that the avocado is there for the texture of the ice-cream; the texture was not discernibly different from what I think I would have achieved with my usual egg-custard based ice-cream, so if I want a rich gooseberry ice-cream in future I’ll be going back to familiar methods. If I want a lighter ice-cream, which in summer I might, I’ll try making gooseberry fool and putting it in the ice-cream maker. Either of my preferred techniques would create less washing up and cause less of an ache in my arms than this week’s recipe gave me.

2 out of 5 for technique – this was fiddly for the sake of being fiddly (I don’t need something to have been hard work to view it as a treat).

5 out of 5 for flavour- I can’t fault the finished dish.

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Something like Sangria

Published June 23, 2014 by Storm

Last week wasn’t a good week for my recipe challenge. I did bookmark several recipes I’d like to try but I didn’t actually try cooking any of them. I re-visited the Pasta With Spring Vegetables I tried a couple of weeks ago and come up with a slightly less extravagant, but still very tasty, version to enjoy one last bunch of asparagus at the end of the season; that’s not exactly trying a new dish from one of my recipe books though.

There was a reason I didn’t try anything new; I’d organised a barbecue at the weekend. Now, taking pleasure in catering for people seems to run in my family (Mum once asked a friend what she was good at to be told picnics and parties), it’s fair to say I rather over-catered. We probably didn’t need 5 times as many veg’ kebabs as there were people, nor a whole packet of burgers or sausages each; and that’s just the food which needed barbecuing. For most of the week we were eating leftovers, which didn’t leave much opportunity for experimenting with new recipes.

I’d decided that we needed a really summery drink to enjoy with the barbecue, I considered pimms but decided to do something different; we enjoyed a jug of pimms anyway as a friend brought some. Working from the memory of the sangria from my sister’s hen night, I tried to create a sangria style summer punch; it worked, it was enjoyed, and I wasn’t at all disappointed when I realised I had a few glasses left to enjoy over the next couple of days. It was so nice I decided to share the recipe I came up with…

Sangria style summer punch

  • 750ml bottle red wine
  • 150ml brandy
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 oranges
  • 500ml orange juice
  • 750ml lemonade
  • 2 dessertspoons sugar

A few hours ahead of time: mix the wine and brandy, and add the spices. Leave for the flavours to start infusing.

About an hour before you plan to serve: peel the oranges, chop them into chunks and add to the alcohol and spice mix.

Just before serving: add the orange juice, lemonade and sugar, stir well until the sugar is dissolved.

Serve chilled, over ice or frozen chunks of fruit.

If you do have some leftover it’s probably wise to fish the cinnamon and star anise out, if you don’t you’ll have a punch which tastes like pernod, perfectly pleasant but it loses the blend of flavours.

Extravagant Asparagus

Published June 10, 2014 by Storm

Still in season, still locally grown, I had to try another asparagus dish this week. The indulgence levels crept even higher this time though, with fennel and baby leeks amongst the vegetables creeping in with some double cream to accompany the asparagus. Following it with strawberries was pure decadence.

Pasta with Spring Vegetables

I didn’t quite follow the recipe as written; Vegetarian Classics would have had me boil each of the vegetables, one after another, in the same pan of water then keep them warm while cooking the pasta and the sauce, instead I steamed them together and cooked the rest of the dish towards the end of the steaming time. My approach worked perfectly well and seemed simpler.

The sauce called for fresh mixed herbs so I raided the garden. In addition to the suggested parsley, thyme and sage I used lemon thyme and oregano. The lemon thyme particularly worked to compliment the fennel and asparagus and even in less extravagant suppers I will be combining those flavours again. Asparagus and lemon thyme omelette is crying out to be created.

As is often the case with vegetarian cookery books, Parmesan was the recommended garnish for this dish; I’ve said it before and will no doubt find myself saying it again but Parmesan is not vegetarian. I have had this cookery book for 10 years so perhaps more recent publications have finally started getting this right! I’d have been substituting on the cheese anyway as cows’ milk doesn’t like me but it does irritate me when vegetarian recipe books specify non-vegetarian ingredients.

3 out of 5 for clear instructions and ease of cooking (too much faffing about as written)

5 out of 5 for flavour

Leeky Asparagus Soup

Published June 4, 2014 by Storm

The best of this season’s veg’

It can’t be beaten, locally grown asparagus that is. I know the supermarkets try to tempt us with asparagus year round but that just doesn’t work for me. Part of the joy of asparagus is that it has a relatively short season; I indulge, as far as budget will allow, while that season lasts but before I can make myself sick of it or start to feel guilty about the extravagance of it the season is over. Asparagus season marks Spring transitioning to Summer and, while we’ve already had some uncomfortably warm nights, I do relish the longer days and lighter evenings. White asparagus is different, I’ve never seen it UK grown and it’s fiddly to prepare from fresh (I have done so when I was treated to a bunch from Germany), and I do occasionally use it from jars in the later part of the year but green is to be enjoyed in season from local growers.

Souped not steamed

Usually I steam asparagus and serve it with, well, anything really! It pairs well with French toast and is fabulous alongside baked mushrooms with goats’ cheese. This week though I was offered some beautiful asparagus at a discounted price, it would have been rude to say no so I bought three bunches and tried the Asparagus Soup recipe in The Greens Cookbook. 

There’s no cheating in this recipe, it starts with using the ends of the asparagus stems and the greens of the leeks to make a stock. Boiling the stock up is the longest part of the proceedings, once the stock is made it takes about 10 minutes to make the soup itself. Instructions are given for making this either a clear soup or a creamy one; we had cream open in the fridge so I opted to make the slightly more decadent version. This soup was easy to make, probably just as well since I was making it late at night to have some for the freezer and some to re-heat over the next couple of days.

I might make this again, if I get another chance to buy good quality bargain asparagus, but I’ll do a couple of things differently if I do. When I make the stock I’ll reduce the volume of water used but keep to the same quantity of asparagus stalks, I might also add a second bayleaf, as it was almost too delicately flavoured a stock and I had half as much again as I needed for the soup. I’ll also reduce the leek content and possibly increase the asparagus as the flavour of the leeks was attempting to overpower the flavour of the asparagus. It was tasty but definitely more a leek and asparagus soup than an asparagus one.

5 out of 5 for clear instructions and ease of cooking

3.5 out of 5 for flavour

I froze a tub of this soup, which I defrosted and reheated a month after I made it. The flavour of the asparagus came through much more in the portion that had been frozen than it had when I first made it.

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