A quince disappointment, turned around or the lucky quince mistake

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Quinces hold a mysterious allure. Hard unconventional fruit requiring delicate coaxing to emerge, like beautiful butterflies from dreary cocoons. Their scent is perfume, a complex fragrance that translates to an indescribable flavour after gentle and extended cooking.

I love quinces, but this time the specimens I bought this time were lacklustre, I got tricked and purchased too early in the season. The resulting quince paste was not worth writing about, but it can be regenerated, or dried further, reused. (I have plans for the paste, expansive and experimental as they may be. I can imagine it melting through shortbready biscuits, tarted up, or dried til chewy and eaten with yogurt and pistachios). The poached quinces, though, would soon enough need to be thrown away.

After so much work and time I couldn’t just ditch these ruby beauties, so I made them into a wonderously fragrant cake, flavour-rich on top, crispy and chewy at the edges and homely on the inside, like a warm hug. The dense crumb punctuated with a crisp fragment of almond, nutmegy, quincey and complex. But who knew that this would be the outcome? It came on a whim, I was out of cinnamon which the original recipe called for, so nutmeg was called as the understudy, I had no ground almonds so chopped would have to do. I tinkered here and there and the result was happily our dessert for days straight. A week later F was so excited when he found the final two pieces I had secreted away in the freezer – in a few weeks we can be reminded of this lucky quince mistake.

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Best eaten warm, with thick greek yoghurt or cream

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Quince Cake

(adapted from Mieze’s Plum Cake in Stephanie Alexanders A Cooks Companion)

180g softened butter
150g castor sugar
135g plain flour
135g SR flour
2 large eggs
80ml milk
3/4 c finely chopped almonds (works best with some very fine pieces mixed with larger chunks)
Poached quince*

topping
60g butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1t nutmeg
2 eggs

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, mix in sifted flour. Lightly whisk eggs with milk and add to mixture, stirring lightly to form a soft batter. Spoon batter into greased 26cm springform cake tin, flatten top and sprinkle over almonds. Arrange pieces of poached quince evenly over the almond layer. Pour topping over fruit, bake in pre-heated oven at 180C. Serve warm.

for topping: Melt butter and stir in sugar and spice. Let cool slightly then whisk in eggs.

* No specified amount as you can use as little or as much as you like. You can slice the poached quince very thinly for an even layer, or top with large chunks.

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Macaroons, jumping on the bandwagon.

Thats right, yet another macaroon recipe.. I’m jumping on the Macaroon (Macaron) bandwagon!

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But, I promise this isn’t my choice I swear. For our family seder, a very unconventional Sunday lunch, I was penciled in to bring a salad, and something sweet to have with coffee.

‘Just buy some Macaroons’, my Grandmother said ‘they’re kosher for Passover’. Buy? I’m not down with that.

A lifetime ago, macaroons were the petit-four du jour. This meant that I got to eat many of the rejects, leftovers, and offcuts, but not working in the pastry section, I was never able to master the fine macaroon art. There seems to have been a macaroon resurgence of late. Beautiful posts detailing perfectly formed edible delights in such wonderful complex and subtle flavours – they are so prevalent that I won’t bother to list them all here.

Local food press even featured a macaroon image this week, in short, macaroons might be kosher for passover, but they’re also delicious and trendy.

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Now I won’t bother to talk about my macaroon failures (too strong cardamom, soft and sqidgy morsels) and there were many, I also won’t include the recipes because these were edible, but not perfect. Instead I want to talk about flavours.

Traditional coconut is not to be frowned upon, the nutty sweet aroma when they hit the bowl was divine. The wonderful thing about this recipe I used (2 egg whites whipped til stiff peaks with 70g sugar, then fold in flavourings) is that anything can be added, chocolate, nuts, dried fruit (quince paste too), spices and fruit rind. I made almond, chocolate and orange, pistachio and quince, and roasted almond.

After these chunky practical macaroons, I am now yearning for the smooth, refined perfect kind, filled with rich splashes of creamy flavour. Or maybe I should just go and eat another coconut morsel.

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What I’ve been eating to combat miserable.

I have been absent, in more ways than just ignoring this blog for a while.

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Last friday, I graduated from university and in a stunning coincidence, also turned 25.

A lovely evening party with friends at the pub was dotted with dismal food, but lovely company and an earlier disappointed meant substandard sushi, but more on that later. So, my birthday/graduation was a culinary wasteland (bar my birthday cake, but again, more on that later).

All of a sudden, I’m old. My brain isn’t functioning at work, and my body is breaking down. For the first time in years I feel sick, like my whole self has suddenly dismantled.

So what have I been eating to combat miserable?

Mandarins – tiny juicy sweet mandarins with thin skins that have just come into season. Even if they weren’t full of vitamin C the placebo effect would work just as well, I think. We bought kilo’s of these babies, and their larger, airier cousin variety in freezing Beijing, eating them everywhere, internet cafe’s, buses, hotels, in an attempt to stave off infections.

Pomelo – Read all about it

Dry Soups – I don’t know what else to call this comfort food that has been spilling out of my kitchen recently. They’re chock full of vegetables, garlic, grains and flavour, to keep sickness at bay, but they aren’t pretty or planned. One variety was mushroom and risoni, loosened with chicken stock and studded with peas and spinach, the next was Tomato, chorizo and pearl barley. Eating leftover’s at work I was approached, a co-worker was drawn in by the smell, ‘is that risotto?’ taken aback, it was, sort of, I replied. Whatever, these are the food equivalent of a big warm hug, and so much easier than wet soup to cradle in your blanket covered lap and eat in front of the tv, your throat too sore to talk anymore.

Unfortunately, these homemade cures don’t seem to be working. The miserable is seeping in, matching the soggy, gray weather, today.

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Bircher Muesli, the perfect everyday breakfast

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I love breakfast. I could, and have, eat breakfast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to mention brunch or afternoon tea. When I was younger I remember eating nutri grain for dessert, its sickly sweetness too much for dawn, drenched in cold full cream milk it became the perfect quick end to an evening meal.

As a child sometimes as a treat on relaxed and lazy Sunday Evenings Dad would make us ‘Indian eye Eggs’ for dinner. Pieces of bread with a circle cut out from the center, fried in butter with an egg cracked into the hole – comfort food (and I’m sure pretty politically incorrect too).

Despite this love of all things breakfast, I am a creature of habit, and need to actually start my morning with something familiar, quick and easy. For a long time this was a combination of packaged cereal, but for the last few years I have been making my own Bircher Muesli.

I was working in an ‘organic health food’ cafe when I rediscovered Bircher, their recipe was definitely not something I could eat first thing in the morning. They took pre-made muesli, mixed it with a huge amount of sugar, and soaked it in freshly squeezed apple juice. A dessert muesli indeed!

I have been playing around with my own mix, each batch comes out slightly differently, so change it to suit your tastes. Easy to prepare and digest, studded with dried fruit and nuts and not cloying, what a better way to start your day? (oh no, I’m starting to sound like an add for Kellogs).

I make enough for breakfast for 2 people to last just over a week, and find it gets better with age. Eat with creamy yoghurt and fruit, banana’s, berries, and coming into winter poached quinces, pears or apples.

Continue reading »

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Pomelo, the most fun citrus fruit I know.

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For someone who doesn’t really like grapefruit, I sure love pomelo. I think it has something to do with the consistency, the jewel-like sacks of tart juice that hold together oh-so well, and explode in the mouth.

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Although they are for sale locally, we don’t buy them often. $9 pieces of fruit are, unfortunately, not within our regular budget. When in China though, it is a very different story.

A pomelo was an essential accompaniment to a long train ride in China where I grew to love these huge fruits. Perhaps is was my body’s way of telling me I needed more vitamin C to combat the freezing winter, but I yearned for pomelo. Large but not messy, and one of the only citrus variety that size that you can easily access knifeless.

Yesterday, defences weakened, the ruby red flesh of the display half was enough to convince us. I could already taste the delicate pearls, almost.

I have cooked with Pomelo before, in restaurants, mixing the whole pearls carefully with cool lemony sauces to go with simply panfried barramundi fillets, also, it would work beautifully regenerated into a dessert. But I prefer to rip the skin off with my fingers, peel the pith back and savour each mouthful, fresh, raw.

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