Tagged: dessert

Nigel Slater’s Pears with Florentine Cream

*This post came up here a lee-tle late. I was a bit under the weather.*

So I know it’s Halloween and everyone is obsessed with all things scary and icky. I love the idea but I don’t do scary or icky very well. I’m hopeless. I’d be like that colleague of mine at work who tried to prank me with a wormy apple but dissolved into helpless laughter before he got four words into his prank.

I also don’t get the yucky food schtick. Gross food, for me, is sacrilege. I’m going to grow up someday to be the mom who’s a real party pooper in this regard. I cannot get behind “blood-and-guts” potatoes or “barf soup” or even “jellyworms”. No, no and no! Why go through this when you can freak a kid out simply by dishing them a bowl of spinach soup? I did once though it was not my intention. Suffice to say that my nephew runs a mile away when he sees anything green in my hands.

So believe me when I say it was not my intention to mess up the plating of this dessert that I want to tell you about today. Really it wasn’t. My attempts at emulating Pollock were ill-fated from the start, as they would be since I am in fact, a far cry from absolutely any kind of painter. Sad really, because the dessert is fabulous, easy and divinely delicious. Try not to be put off by the drowning-in-chocolate sauce scenario. The gremlins of Halloween are cackling with glee somewhere at the irony.
Continue reading

Diwali sweets (faral) – Coconut-Semolina Laddoos

It’s Diwali…the festival of lights! Everywhere in India, diyas and electric lights brighten homes, turning night into day. This is a time for family and friends, festivities and merriment; wonderful food eaten next to flickering lights while enjoying shimmering and stentorian firecrackers…. an annual celebration of the triumph of light over darkness.

All these years, I’ve succumbed to the time-saving promise of the microwave pedha and quick-fix barfi. Not to take anything away from these convenient modern versions, but there is something to be said for the traditional fare, the ritual of planning your time and variety in the weeks before the festival, preparing to cook various Diwali delicacies, aside from the regular cooking of lunches and dinner. I thought I’d give this route a shot this time. I’ve been cooking for a while now. How hard could all of this be, right?

Continue reading

Melons in Moscato and food firsts

I remember I had a sort of foodie aha! moment as a kid, the first time I was playing around with a rind of orange. I twisted it and it squirted out this sour-bitter yet wonderfully fragrant oil at me. I didn’t know about orange zest then but I do remember wondering whether it had any uses. Along similar lines, I’ve since wondered about many things… foodwise (I use that term loosely, after all one man’s idea of food is another man’s recurring nightmare)

So who was it who first…

…looked at a snail and thought, “Mmmm, that looks like good eats!”

…looked at the truffles pigs dug out and ate and thought, “Well, if it’s good enough for the pig….”

…had the guts to try tomatoes again for the first time after they had been declared poisonous.

…thought that burning his food would make it more edible.

…thought that the inside of a yam would be good to eat (despite the itchy, outer skin).
Continue reading

The Kitchn’s One-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream

We tried this recipe for an ice-cream over the weekend and I don’t think I’ve been so excited about ice-cream ever! Saying this is saying a lot, because really ice-cream lists high…high on my list of favourite foods. I have been known to plead for it at the oddest times. My poor, harried husband has been known to drive me to Swenson’s at all odd hours because of ill-timed cravings for a chocolate orange swirl. It took some time before he completely understood just how deep my love affair with this delicious frozen delight really went. He also knows he needs to move very quickly once the craving has struck. I steam-roll over anything in my way.

Even so, ice-cream and I have had a love-hate relationship. I have always loved it, it kind of hates me, I think. As a child, rarely could I get away with blatantly eating it at will. Doctors threatened tonsillectomy and my mother watched me like a hawk, but I still managed to whine and whimper until my dad gave in and bought me a cone. Flash forward to adulthood and not much has changed except that the absence of parental supervision means I can eat all the ice-cream that I want. Doctors still threaten impending doom for the tonsils, but you know what? I look forward to it. Apparently, after a tonsillectomy, you-can-have-all-the-ice-cream-you-want! Heaven, is that you??

Getting back to this recipe that has me all worked up, it is so simple, yet so amazing and delicious, the person who figured it out should be given the food Pritzker or some thing like that. It is a banana ice-cream that uses…are you ready for it?…one ingredient. And no, I don’t mean bananas and one ingredient, I mean one ingredient…period, full-stop, end of ingredient list. I read about it here for the first time, though from what I read I gather that this recipe has been around for a while.  I love bananas. I love ice-cream. How did I not know about this sooner? Then, as I read on, I got a bit skeptical. How is it possible? Ice-cream is cream, sugar and ice. How could the humble banana manage to reach the exalted heights that whipped cream and sugar can reach when iced? The symphony of that frozen music surely can’t be created merely by a fruit!

So of course, I had to try this right away. I had some bananas at home. What I read told me that it would be better if the bananas were as ripe as possible, without having gotten spoiled. So I bunged all seven bananas into a paper bag to speed up the ripening process. Come Friday they had turned into beautiful black and yellow specimen, slightly squishy. So I peeled them and tossed them into the freezer. The next morning they had frozen rock hard, at which point a few of them were placed in a blender and given a whizz. At first they just kind of sat there, sort of confused about what they were supposed to do next. But slowly, with the gentle cajoling of the ‘pulse’ button, they got with the program and began to gently whirr about the blender. A few more rounds of blending turned everything into mounds of creamy looking clouds. We stopped the blender, grabbed the jar and reached in spoons and fingers. And to quote my favourite F.R.I.E.N.D.S, oh-my-god!

The resultant whipped fruit is out of this world. I was tempted, tempted to swear there and then that I would never eat bananas any other way again (but I love banana bread entirely too much.) Something almost magical happens to the frozen bananas when they are blended. The banana ice gets air whipped into it and they turn into a wonderful creamy ice-cream like concoction with the consistency of a soft-serve. Rich and creamy, you just cannot believe all it took was a couple of bananas. We squabbled like little kids over who got to finish the first batch!

Caramel for the brittle
Caramel for the brittle

I added some powdered green cardamom and a teaspoon of vanilla essence to my second batch, just to see how it would turn out. It was like adding additional icing to a cake that was already frosted. The cardamom worked very well, the vanilla essence might have been a bit of an over-kill. We also added some caramel, hardened into lovely little golden brittle to the mix, which worked superbly. My mind is racing with ideas. There are new bananas freezing as I write this and I have big plans for this lot.Some of them are going to go in with some walnuts, another lot is going to become best friends with chocolate, a home-made chunky monkey of sorts. Maybe top it with some berries…the possibilities are endless. We’ve been wondering what else might work with this treatment, maybe mangoes…or papaya? But it would have to be good, really ripe fruit. If you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, look no further for the perfect ice-cream. This is it.

We did manage (only barely just) to save enough to fill a small box and put it in the freezer, only to see if it froze and kept as well as I had read it would. I have to say It managed fairly well. But I very much preferred the version that came out of the blender as opposed to the re-frozen one. Somehow, though the frozen version tastes pretty good, the fact you are eating only bananas becomes more obvious here. Still, at the end of it, I was never more happy to have my skepticism turned on its ear. This is a delicious and amazing one-ingredient miracle. You will love it. Your children may insist on having their bananas only this way in the summers. You have to try it to believe it.

Simplest banana ice-cream

Software required: Bananas, peeled and frozen solid
Hardware required: a blender
Introduce one to the other and watch them make sweet music!

Strawberry-Ollalieberry Jam

Having acquired the berries, there were still lingering questions in my mind. How does the complete novice start with making jam? It is a bit scary to think that tasks that women of the past easily performed now have to be assiduously read about on the Internet by the 21st century person. Accompanying all instructions to jam-making are dire warnings about canning and storage, hot water and cold plates. It is enough to scare off the most easy-going person. Well, I’m here to tell you that the whole process is absolutely as easy as reaching out and picking the berry off the tree. Put all those people screaming about contamination on mute. Also ignore anyone who tells you that you need tons of specialised equipment. All that you really need is a large stockpot, some very clean Bell jars, a pair of very clean and hefty tongs and a clean ladle. Make sure your hands are clean and that you don’t touch the clean stuff with messy hands, and you’re in business.

Since ollalies are not the most well-known of berries, it is hard to find a recipe with them. I read in several places that they can be used wherever blackberries are specified. However, it is even harder when you are looking for something coupling strawberries with them. So I decided to loosely follow this recipe for easy jam off the Food Network, from Ina Garten. This would be a bit of a trial and error since there is some science to the proportions of fruit, sugar and acid used to make jam. At worst I figured I’d end up with lots of fruit syrup. Not what I was looking for but given how good the berries tasted it would still taste good. When life gives you fruit, messing with its natural perfect state without knowing exactly what you’re doing must come with some punishment. So I steeled myself to possible failure and decided to forge ahead.

Amey found me some wide mouth Bell jars at the local Safeway. It really is a pity how in the city of San Francisco, they do not sell these individually. The size of the apartments here is hardly going to encourage bulk canning and storage. Yet the smallest amount of jars available are fifteen. But I had committed to serious jam making and if my math and understanding of the process was correct, at least three to four jars were required. Having gotten the jars home without mishap, we proceeded to wash them clean in soapy water. Then I boiled some water in my largest pot and placed the jars, lids and all in the boiling water for ten minutes. Taking them out, careful not to touch the mouth or inside of the jar, I placed them on a tray and put them in the oven to dry out.

That truly is the only possible aggravating portion of jam making. From there on, it’s all downhill. You cut wash the fruit and clean it. Hull the strawberries and clean out any leftover stems from the ollalieberries. Mix them altogether and then measure them out to see exactly how much fruit you have. Ina’s recipe had about 3 1/4 pints of fruit to 3 cups of sugar. I had about that much fruit, plus a few more cups. But three cups of sugar had already made me nervous. Chalk it up to the ingrained mass of worries we all become around sugar. So I didn’t increase the quantity of sugar. I put ollalieberries in whole, halved the strawberries, tossed in a cup of sugar and set the bowl aside so that all three could get to know each other a bit better.

This recipe instructs you to use half a green apple. This provides the pectin for the party, the natural sugar found in apples that allows for the jammifying of things. It’s one of the reasons I like the recipe. No futzing around with pectin powders in sachets allowing it to stay as basic as possible. So half an apple, duly peeled and sliced, joined the rest of the fruit. I squashed the fruit a bit with my hands (let me tell you it is strangely therapeutic squishing berries under your fingers, an instant calmer), but not too thoroughly, then poured the entire thing into a deep pan to boil away and become this magic deep red nectar of the gods.

Strawberry-Ollalieberry Jam
Adapted from an Ina Garten recipe off Food Network

Strawberries – 2 pints
Ollalieberries – 2 pints
Apple – 3/4, peeled and sliced (I used a Granny Smith)
Sugar – 3 cups
Orange Liqueur – 3 tsp
Lemon juice – 1/2 lemon

– Wash the fruit. Hull and cut the strawberries in half. Toss the ollalies in whole.
– Add one cups of sugar to the mixed berries in a large bowl. Set aside for ten minutes.
– Peel and finely slice the apple.
– Gently squeeze the berries to release the juices then place into a deep bottom pan at medium high. Add the rest of the sugar and orange liqueur
– When the mixture comes to a boil, add the apple and lemon juice. Stir the mixture often and keep it at a rolling boil.
– Skim and remove the foam that forms on the top as much as you can. Keep boiling the mixture until it thickens. This can take anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes.
– Once the mixture has thickened considerably, give it the frozen plate test. Place a few drops on a plate and place in the freezer for a minute. If the syrup on the frozen plate doesn’t run when you tilt the plate, you have the desired consistency.
– Move off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature before storing. This jam can then be canned per your jar manufacturers’ instructions or, it can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Cook’s notes:
My first jam-making experiment was a resounding success according to my very happy husband, who was thrilled to eat several crackers with the freshly made jam, making a crumby mess. It is almost as if the essential fruitiness of the berries multiplies exponentially as it conentrates and you reap this glorious nectar. The jam hits you with a sweetness immediately followed by tartness that lingers in your mouth and you immediately reach for another bite. There is a goodness in it that cannot be denied.

This quantity of fruit yielded two and half jars of jam. I proceeded with canning the almost full jars. You leave some room on top to allow for the expansion and cooling of air. Using a very clean ladle to dollop out quantities of jam into the prepped jars, I was careful to clean the few spill ups with fresh paper towels, never using the same one twice. Then placing the lids and tightly screwing on the rings, I used the tongs to place the full jars for a bath in a pot of boiling water for a scant five minutes. Fishing them out of the water (narrowly avoiding an accident that might have turned my kitchen into ending scenes from The Amityville Horror), I placed them on clean paper towels to cool. Everything was as sterilised as is possible in a kitchen environment.  As the jars cooled there were two faint pops. I have to say there is nothing as satisfying hearing that lid pop. It means all your mucking about with the jars was accurately done. I’m reasonably sure that these jars would have lasted to winter but had no opportunity of testing it with this batch. Between my co-workers and Amey, we have gone through two jars of jam. I wish I’d made more. I love to cook for people but there is nothing as gratifying as watching someone whose eyes light up when they taste jam that you made. That childhood bliss is written all over their face. I was struck by how many people told me only their grandparents actually made jam. Not only is it unbelievably easy to make, it is extremely economical when made in large quantities. Also, no store bought jam in the world tastes like the one you make at home. The aromatherapy of cooking jam is an unbeatable added benefit. At least two neighbours stopped by to ask what was cooking and I didn’t even know them (city dweller, so that’s no surprise), but I do now. I wish I’d made more to share but that is a mistake that can easily be remedied. I will certainly make more jam before the summer fruit season is over. If you are wondering about jam, I encourage you to try it. This is so easy that the idiom ‘easy as pie’ should really read ‘ easy as jam’.