Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Europe, here I come

Badly neglected blog lately, sorry - and badly neglected cooking too. I've been rushing round getting organised for two months in Europe, including giving the house and especially the kitchen a long overdue spring clean because I have housesitters staying the whole time I'm away.
      Kind friends have helped to fill the culinary gap by inviting me round. (Most of my friends tend to be very good cooks, which is wonderful for me.) Last Sunday I abandoned my lists and cleaning cloths and went out for a very long lunch: seafood soup, followed by haloumi, broad bean and roast cherry tomato salad, poached chicken with watercress and avocado. Then a strikingly good NZ "Jersey camembert" made by Runaway Spoon, perfectly ripe; a peach sponge with cream; and a (small) piece of figgy stuff - I forget what it was called, sorry, but it was very good indeed - normally I don't like figs, but I liked this.
        So I am off on Friday - Berlin, then Tours, the Loire Valley and Lyon (renowned for its food). I have my iPad and all the connecting bits I need to feed it photos from my camera, and naturally a fair number of them will involve food. So watch this space, and also my Facebook food memoir page for brief updates (well, as brief as I can get - I don't tweet). In the meantime, here's the main course from that splendid lunch.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Beautiful buckwheat blinis

This week two friends came for our annual long lunch - they have birthdays close together. Last year we made ravioli. This year Ali had happened to mention she'd never made a souffle, so I did my Julia Child impersonation and made her classic cheese souffle. To start with, Lynn composed a toothsome salad with roasted pears and superbly fresh roasted walnuts. Ali had brought everything for blinis and showed us how to make them. It was not difficult at all, and I'll definitely do it again. 
Buckwheat blinis with smoked salmon 
(Adapted slightly from Cuisine magazine, September 2012)
Makes 18-24, depending on how big you make them. Can be made in advance, and gently reheated before
125 ml milk
¾ tsp active dried yeast
50 g buckwheat flour
50 g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 egg, separated
butter for cooking
Heat the milk to lukewarm, then sprinkle the yeast over it.
Sift the flours, salt and sugar into a large bowl. Whisk in the warm milk and yeast mixture and the egg yolk.
Set aside in a warm place until the batter has doubled in size. (This can take up to an hour, depending on the air temperature and the freshness of the yeast. I find a metal bowl standing in about 5 cm of warm water in the sink, covered with a chopping board, works very well.).
When ready to cook, beat the egg white to soft peaks, then fold it through the batter.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, and use kitchen paper to smear it with butter. 
Add small spoonfuls of batter to the pan and cook until bubbles break through the surface, then turn and
cook the other side until golden. 
Leave on kitchen paper to cool a little.
4 Tbsp crème fraiche or cream cheese, mixed with 2 tsp horseradish cream
150-200 g hot smoked salmon, skinned and broken into small pieces
1 Tbsp chopped chives and/or dill (Ali brought both from her garden)
Put a blob of the cream cheese mixture on each blini, top with pieces of smoked salmon, and garnish with the chives and/or dill.  

We scoffed three or four each and had to have a pause before the souffle. Then we had another pause before the lemon tarts - pastry by Ali, filling by Lynn. After all that I had a very late dinner of leftover souffle (see my Facebook page), and tonight I finished up the last bit of lemon filling by way of dessert. Waste not, want not....