Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Apricot season

The apricots I've bought this year seem to be particularly good.  But nice as they are eaten fresh, the full flavour comes out best when they're cooked.
So far I've used them in two different recipes. One is Apricot Suédoise, a superbly simple dessert that tastes purely of apricot. You can see how to make it here.

The other is even simpler - roasted whole apricots. Here's the recipe.

Small apricots roasted whole

12 small rosy apricots
200 g runny honey
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Juice of ½ or 1 smallish lemon
100 ml water
1 tsp cinnamon
whipped cream and/or yoghurt, to serve

Preheat the oven to 170ºC fan forced (180C without fan).

Place the honey, sugar, lemon, water and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Cook on a medium heat, stirring, until it comes to a boil. Turn down to a simmer for 3 minutes and remove from the heat.

Place apricots into a small ceramic or glass baking dish. You want them to be sitting neatly together without too much extra space around them.

Using a sieve (to filter out the cinnamon), pour over the honey liquid.
Gently turn the apricots over in the liquid to coat them.

Put in the oven and roast for 10 minutes, then take out the dish and spoon the liquid over them again.
Put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes approximately. Remove them when they are cooked through, but not collapsing - you want them to stay whole.

Carefully take out apricots one by one with a spoon and transfer to serving dish or small individual dishes. (I made small dessert servings by putting three apricots in each of four pink glass Arcoroc teacups, with a dessert biscuit in each saucer.) 

Pour liquid back into small saucepan and gently reduce to form a syrup. Pour syrup over fruit and leave to cool. 

Serve with either whipped cream, or yoghurt, or a mixture of both (this is very nice). If you want to, you can flavour the cream with a dash of orange liqueur. Remember to warn your diners that there's a stone in each one.

I forgot to take a picture! Sorry. Here's one of the cups I used, only with an incredibly easy to make chocolate cream in it. You'll have to imagine it with apricots. Come to think of it, apricots and chocolate have a marvellous affinity, so you could try a shallow layer of this chocolate cream with apricots on top...

Monday, December 23, 2019

Gingerbread for Christmas: remembering Harvey

In the weekend I decided to make gingerbread. I think it's the first time I've made it since 2010. Unlike Christmas cake, it's really easy to make, and you can bake it as close to Christmas as you like.
       This morning I took some as a small thank-you to shopkeepers in Marsden Village who have been so kind and helpful to me this year, and indeed every year since Harvey and I first moved here in 2007. There was still plenty left over for me, my son and our visitors.
        Nine years ago, on 9 December 2010, I posted about making it for Harvey and gave the recipe, which came via our friend Beth Hill.

In The Colour of Food, I described Harvey finishing off my 2010 batch on what would later prove to be his last day at home:
By the Wednesday before Christmas we had had so many visitors that there wasn’t much gingerbread left in the tin. I cut it up carefully and put it out for that afternoon’s arrivals, then went out to finish the shopping, knowing Harvey was well looked after. When I came home there were three small pieces left – his visitors had enjoyed it, but he hadn’t had any. I sat down with him for a late cup of tea and he asked for a piece, then the second and the third. I watched him eat with astonished delight.
That evening he had a fall and was taken to hospital. At first he seemed to have recovered well, but by the next day he was much weaker. He died early in the morning of Saturday 25 December.

I'm really pleased I managed to make it again this year.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Let them eat brioche?

This rather magnificent brioche can be accurately described by the French term 'maison', meaning house-made. I did make it myself, in my house - but I did it with the help of my new breadmaker. I had a dear friend staying who grew up in a French-speaking country and is fully conversant with French food, so I decided I would make this on Friday night for our Saturday breakfast.
       Honestly, it's magic. Get out the recipe book that came with the machine, fetch the bread pan from the laundry where the breadmaker lives (it's far too big for my kitchen), and put in the ingredients in the given order. Set the machine going and have an extra 70 g of chilled bits of butter ready to add after 55 minutes. Then leave it to do its thing for another two and a half hours. Et voila!
       We ate it very lightly toasted with yet more butter and good jam. In a couple of days the loaf looked like this:

I do of course also make ordinary loaves for everyday use - mostly half wholemeal and half white high grade flour - and very good they are too. No weird ingredients: just yeast, flour, salt, milk powder, butter, treacle, water. It takes 5 hours to bake, but that's easily managed.
       I was spurred into doing this because a few weeks ago, I downloaded an e-book (from our wonderful Wellington City Libraries): The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies and Our World, by UK writer Bee Wilson (Fourth Estate, 2019). It was recommended to me by Asher Regan, whom I met at a food writers' lunch.
        It's one of the best books I've read about, well, the way we eat now - not just in 'Anglo' countries, but around a broad sweep of the world. There's a useful review of it here. It's refreshingly sensible and pragmatic, but at the same time makes it plain that the way we eat now is, in far too many cases, killing us.
        One of the topics Wilson discusses at some length is bread - particularly how its traditional way of making has been speeded up, using various previously unnecessary ingredients, to suit commercial food production and supermarket selling.
        I love good bread, and so does my son. It was one of the best things about the food we ate during our sojourn in Albania: huge dark rye loaves with a slightly sourdough flavour. But here, properly made 'artisan' loaves have to be sought out and are too expensive for everyday use. Vogel's is the best the supermarket has to offer, but at full price it's around $7 a small loaf. And I am not adept or even strong enough to make bread from scratch by hand, as some of my admirable friends do.
        But I do now have some time to spare, So I decided that a good way to improve our everyday food would be to invest once again in a breadmaker, and produce our own. I'm under no silly illusions that this is a mass solution of any kind - obviously that's rubbish, as is exhorting everyone to grow their own veges. And I don't know how long I'll be able to keep it going, But for now I feel very lucky that it's working so well for us.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Memories are made of...rissoles

Being drawn back into paid work on a major Suffrage 125 project this year has seriously got in the way of my own writing, including this blog. But today I got another comment about what I think must be my most popular post ever: Real-life Rissoles.
        I received the latest comment today, and looking back, I realised that they've kept coming in since I first posted this eight months before Harvey died. The rissole recipe seemed to have remarkable power to prompt readers' detailed memories of the versions they had eaten in their childhood. I think this must be partly to do withe rissoles being a sort of quintessential waste-not-want-not recipe, an approach to daily food which still prevailed in so many post-war families - they could usually afford a weekly roast, but they made sure they used up every scrap of it.
      So in honour of all our mothers and grandmothers who thriftily concocted something so tasty out of leftovers and scraps, here's the recipe again, together with all the wonderful comments. Thank you to everyone who sent them in - and if they helped you recreate a taste of the past, that makes me very happy.

Real-life rissoles

(First published Thursday, April 29, 2010)

I grew up with rissoles - usually on Mondays. They're one of those things that I never actually asked my mother how to make. But when I came to make them myself, I realised I must have been watching, because I did know roughly what to do. But I've just been looking up rissole recipes on-line, and I'm shocked. In my view none of them are authentic, because they use fresh mince. That's not what rissoles are made of! The real-life rissole is always made of leftover roast meat (which is why we had them on Mondays, after Sunday's lunchtime roast and teatime cold meat). When I was growing up they were usually made of hogget or beef - pork was for special occasions only, and it all got eaten before there could be any question of rissoles.
            Harvey loves any kind of rissoles, and after we've had a roast he always asks hopefully if there's enough meat left over for them. He never wants any potato or bread with them - he argues that there's already enough carbohydrate inside. If he eats three, I know I've got them just right.
             I used to put the meat through a mincer, but then we acquired a food processor. The first time I used it to make rissoles, it was a disaster. I put everything in at once, and the result was a kind of brownish paste. You could make patties with it, but the texture had nothing to do with the authentic rissole, which should just hold together and be a bit crumbly when you cut into it. Since then I've learnt to grind up the various ingredients in separate batches before mixing them together. 
             There's no exact recipe, because it all depends on the amount of cold meat available. You mince the leftover cooked chunks or slices of meat in the processor first, see how much you've got, put it in a big bowl and add the other things to it.
             First you need something to bulk it out a bit. You can use leftover mashed potato, or fresh breadcrumbs (which can be made in the processor after you remove the meat), or either or both of these with a little flour. The crucial thing is not to overwhelm the meat with the padding, or the rissoles will be too stodgy and dull.
             Mix meat and padding together well, with plenty of salt and pepper. Then use the pulse button to mince a small onion, garlic if you like it, and some herbs - parsley, thyme, oreganum - together in the processor, and add them to the mixture. 
             Break in an egg (or two, if you have a lot of meat etc) and mix thoroughly. The mixture should not be too wet or too dry - it should just hold together enough for you to shape it into balls, using damp hands. If one egg leaves it just a bit too dry, you can use a bit of stock, wine or water, but be careful not to make it too wet. 
              Flatten each ball and coat it lightly with flour on each side, or fine dry breadcrumbs if you prefer (but flour is traditional!).

Set the oven to low - about 100C - and put an oven tray in to warm, with a folded piece of kitchen paper on it to absorb any excess oil.  
              Heat a frypan with a small amount of oil. (My mother, of course, always used lard or dripping, but we wouldn't do that now, would we. It tasted good, though.) When it's hot (but not smoking), cook the rissoles over medium heat in batches, not too many at a time - I get five into a large non-stick pan. They should be brown and a little crispy on each side. As each batch cooks, put them on the tray in the oven to keep warm. You may need to add more oil between batches.

We eat them with a salad, and I like some kind of chutney or chili sauce too (at home it was always bought tomato sauce) and some fresh bread and butter. Harvey is a purist - he just wants plain rissoles, followed by a bit of salad because it's good for him. If there are any left over, they're good cold for lunch next day.


Deborah said...
I simply fail to see how there could possibly be any left!

AnneE said...
Ah well, there never used to be - but Harvey has such a small appetite now, and is the one person I know whose eyes are NEVER bigger than his (minute capacity) stomach. And I'm trying very hard NOT to pack all the leftovers tidily away on my hips...

mermaidnz said...
I don't remember my mother ever making rissoles - we always had Shepherd's Pie on Mondays to use up the Sunday roast. It was one of my favourite meals - the meat moistened with left-over gravy, and eked out with any left-over veggies, some sage or thyme added for extra flavour, and the mashed potato topping nicely browned. Real comfort food, and nothing ever wasted. After reading your blog I googled Shepherd's Pie and like you was shocked to find that most recipes used fresh mince! Some even included garlic, red wine and tomatoes, with things like cheese and sour cream in the topping. We hardly ever have a roast nowadays, but I'm tempted to go out and buy a leg of hogget (can you still buy such a thing?) for the nostalgic pleasure of Shepherd's Pie just like Mother used to make.

Suzieanne said...
Rissoles - that brings back memories of my mother making them when I was a child.I can only remember them made with corned beef left over from tea the night before.I have attempted to make them, but somehow they were never very nice usually falling to bits before they reached the plate, there were always these strange looks at what they were supposed to be as they were never round , so I then decided my talents in the cooking department lay else where.

I'm not here said...
My Mum's recipe was for equal quantities of minced cold meat and cold cooked rice. Mix it with @1tsp curry powder, 1/2 tsp each garlic and onion powder, 2 tblspn tomato sauce (ketchup) for every 1 cup of meat, one small onion chopped finely and one small egg. Mix this all together, form into rissoles and egg and breadcrumb them and fry until brown. These are a such a favourite that we roast lamb/beef etc just to make the rissoles.

Eirwen said...
My husband has been begging me for rissoles like his Mum used to make for years. When we were first married I sometimes made them but couldn't be bothered after that. Now I am inspired to make them again - I won't tell him until he sees them on the plate. Thanks for the recipes (the rice one looks interesting too). I agree that it's not authentic to use raw mince - that's what beefburgers are made from.

Anonymous said...
When I was a child I the 70's my mother used to buy rissoles from the butcher. I dread tothinkwhat was in them as they tasted horrible. The worst part was the fact that my mother used to cook the rissoles in the oven for me and my two brothers while she cooked my dad a lovely pork chop or steak.

sharon said...
I remember my mum making rissoles just like your recipe and I have managed to make them just as nice, thanks to you! I added chopped wild garlic leaves (in season right now), as my partner can not eat onions so the garlic was an alternative. Absolutely delicious!

Anonymous said...

These recipes were from a different era and before my time, but sound lovely. I'm interested in the old ways and will certainly try making these. Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...
this sounds like the ones i remember in the late 60s 70s yummy

Djc said...
A really tasty tea with crusty bread and butter d jc

Carol Hansen said...
i make mine with minced beef left over from Sunday a bit of corn beef if got some,mashed potato and i mix in sage & onion stuffing served with baked beans, that's how my Mum made them.

Richard said...
I have yearned for rissoles as our mother used to make in the 50's and early 60's. Always from cold leftover Lamb. Sadly she seemed reluctant to remember how to do them in her 60's and recently died aged nearly 87 without my being able to extract the recipe from her which almost certainly would have come from her Mom, our Nan. Your recipe seems to be very close to that which I remember. However, I have always been intrigued by the flavour and just what seasoning and/or spice she added, as in those times there just wasn't the range nor inclination to seek out exotic! flavourings. I WILL be attempting to make your recipe, so now to get the Lamb for the weekend. NB If any one does know of the 50's Wolverhampton style Rissoles please pass it on.

Anni said...
I have been craving the rissoles made by my Nana in the early 50s, like yours with left over roast but remember the pork ones with rice from a very early age , probably 3 onwards. Sadly, I don’t remember my mum making them. I couldn’t remember the missing ingredients and realising reading your recipe, it is parsley, onion and maybe garlic. Thank you! Off to start cooking, oh and like you, realise you have to process in stages, like meatballs or stuffing!

Unknown said...
My childhood memories of Rissoles are of a hamburger shape of (probably) mincemeat with a filo-like pastry around the edge of the pattie (rather than encasing the pattie). I remember the meat being really dark. I think they were bought from a butcher and then fried or grilled or ovened --I used to love them but don't see them now.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Calm after the storm - lemon custard shortcake

Apart from my birthday, which was entirely enjoyable and thanks to dear friends is still going on, May has brought nothing but mayhem, with an apparently never-ending sequence of things falling apart. 

The crack in a favourite plate. The lamp I knocked over, breaking the light fitting. The food processor lid and bowl that finally collapsed, costing half as much as a new machine to replace. The tooth filling that fell out. The arm of my glasses snapping off. The massive scrape on the back of the car, from hastily backing it down the drive early in the morning out of the house painters' way and banging into the one bit of scaffolding sticking out into the drive. 

The iPad mysteriously insisting I was someone else who did not have access to it (I managed to get the NZ helpdesk number and they put it all right). Spark changing their security and sending my power bill straight to Spam so it didn't get paid on time (and not being able to put it right).  The worst was saved till late last week: Microsoft's latest massive compulsory update being followed by the complete collapse of my hard disk and the permanent loss of everything on it. Had I saved it all somewhere else? No, of course not. 

The only consolations: Most of the work I'd done on the big project I'm currently engaged in is retrievable from other systems; and I didn't lose any major new work of genius (because I don't have any such thing under way). With a bit of finangling, I could afford to fix everything. And thanks to fantastic help, I now have the computer up and running again, with newly installed software and a brand new hard drive. Plus I have relearnt the old lesson I used to know by heart: BACK UP.

In these circumstances, I did something rare for me: I took to baking. In last week's DomPost Saturday magazine there was a strikingly simple recipe for lemon custard shortcake, and I had everything I needed to make it.  

Lemon custard shortcake
Slightly adapted from House and Garden recipe, 
DomPost magazine, Saturday 26 May 2018

2 c plain flour + 2 Tbsps flour for topping
1/2 c custard powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 c sugar
200g butter chopped into smallish pieces
zest of 1 large lemon
2 eggs
1 and 1/2 c lemon honey/curd, bought or home-made

Heat oven to 180C or 170C fan bake. Either grease a slice tin, approx. 27 cm x 17 cm, or line tin and sides with baking paper.
Put 2 c flour, custard powder, baking powder, sugar, butter and lemon zest into food processor bowl. Process until the mixture looks like rough crumbs.
Add eggs and process until mixture forms a ball. 
Press two-thirds of mixture evenly into tin. Spread lemon honey evenly over the top.
Put remaining third of mixture back into processor, add 2 Tbsps flour and process briefly until mixed.
Crumble this evenly over the curd. 
Bake 25-30 minutes until slice is cooked through. 
Allow to cool and set in the tin before cutting into fingers or small squares. 
(Once it's cool and set, the baking paper allows you to easily lift the whole thing out of the tin and onto a board for cutting.)

Here's a not-very-good copy of part of the photo from the magazine - doesn't do it justice, but gives an idea of what it was supposed to look like:

And here's mine. In real life it looked reassuring similar to the original, and tasted like sunshine - just what I needed.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Amazing peaches, if you're quick

Hardly any posts recently because I've been planning, shopping and cooking for my long-awaited visitors from Berlin. Last week I went to Moore Wilson for the obligatory leg of lamb (theirs are beautifully trimmed, and have part of the bone removed so they're easy to carve).  In their fruit section they had one of the most wonderful but hard to catch (because of the very short season) treats I know: Black Boy peaches.
      So I thought you might like to see my post about them from 2012 - and if you're very quick you might be able to find some. Not outrageously dear, mine were $7.95 a kilo and I only needed four, which cost me less than $4 (though I did have to buy the dessert wine as well). Cooking them as a dessert is really easy - you just have to stay vigilant so as not to overcook them and not to reduce the syrup to a sticky mess. The colour is incredible and the taste is uniquely delicious.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Strawberries and rhubarb

When I was growing up, we did of course eat both strawberries and rhubarb - but never together. Strawberries were cut up and sprinkled with icing sugar. Rhubarb was stewed or cooked with apple under a crumble topping.
          So the first time I saw a recipe for cooking them together, I was a bit dubious. But I shouldn't have been. They truly are a delicious and beautifully coloured combination, with the rhubarb adding an invigorating sharpness to the familiar sweetness of the strawberries.
           Hunting online for some kind of summer cooked fruit to serve with slices of lemon cake for dessert, I found a strawberry and rhubarb compote. I had a punnet of strawberries which needed using, and my pot-grown rhubarb (yet another successful garden item I owe to my friend Ali, who brought me a superb plant) was flourishing despite the drought. I do love plants that behave as they should, despite my less-than-zealous care, and don't give me any trouble. (Well, okay, I do need to give it a handful of Nitrophoska about once a month, watered in, make sure the soil doesn't dry out, and feed it a weak Epsom salts solution if the leaves go a bit yellow - but that's all perfectly simple and straightforward, because I was told exactly what to do.)
         Experimenting with the easiest way to slice a stalk of rhubarb, I've discovered it's best to rest the stalk on the chopping board so that the side facing away from you is rounded and the one facing you is flat with the two edges, and cut across it in that position - the knife seems to cope best with its odd shape that way.

The recipe is quite flexible - it depends on how much fruit you've got. The oroginal was for a rather large quantity, 500 g of each fruit. My punnet of strawberries had about 260 g of fruit in it, so I picked enough stalks to make up roughly the same weight of rhubarb and adjusted the other ingredients to fit. This gives enough cooked fruit to serve 4 to 6 people, depending on what else you serve with it.

Strawberry and rhubarb compote
        260 g (one punnet) fresh strawberries, neatly topped
        260 g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2 cm pieces
         3 Tbsps sugar
             (depending on how tart the fruit it - taste when it's half cooked and see if it needs more)
  Pinch of salt
  Zest from 1/2 a navel orange
  3 Tbsps rosé wine or port
  3-4 Tbsps triple sec or Cointreau (you can then leave out the orange peel)

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan and add a scant 1/4 cup of water. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar. 

Cook gently, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a very small amount of water (or a tiny bit more alcohol, but taste-test - don't overdo it) if the mixture seems too dry. You want most of the liquid to evaporate and the fruit to cook through and soften, without completely losing its shape and texture.

Put into a glass or china bowl to cool. If not serving immediately, cover and put in the fridge (the flavour does seem to deepen if you cook it a few hours before serving). Take it out of the fridge an hour before serving, so that it isn't too chilled. 

You can serve this with a piece of dessert cake, as I did, or with cream, plain yoghurt, sorbet, or plain vanilla ice cream.