Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

Apricots roasted in verbena honey syrup

10 July 2014

DSC_0111

I’m completely in love with this dessert.

For years I have in vain chased the apricots of my childhood; just picked, intensely ripe, every juicy bite cooked by the Provençal sun to a sweet compote. Nothing comes close, and so, for years, I have spurned apricots; sighed in resignation.

I don’t expect to resuscitate these childhood memories here in London, but I have found a recipe to rekindle my interest in the forsaken fruit.

Cooking less-than-perfect apricots in a sugar syrup is the obvious solution, you say. I agree, of course, but this method takes it a step further. Roasting concentrates and intensifies aroma while the lemon verbena elevates a potentially stodgy dessert of stewed fruit to a surprising burst of flavor.

photo(27)

Apricots roasted in verbena honey syrup, adapted from a recipe by Allison Parker
The original is a recipe for apricots with vanilla and chamomile, which I received, from my friend, through the unlikely channel of an email recipe exchange. I’ve transformed it in honor of the vibrant verbena plant in my garden.

12 apricots

1 cup (200 g) sugar

1 cup water

3 small twigs fresh lemon verbena

3 Tbsps fragrant liquid honey (borage honey worked beautifully)

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C)

Wash the apricots, slice them in half, remove the pits.

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Reduce to the heat, add the verbena and honey, and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Pick out the verbena sprigs and reduce syrup for another 5 to 7 minutes, swirling the pot occasionally making sure the sugar doesn’t start to burn.

Pour the syrup into a pan which will fit all the apricots in one layer. Place the apricots in the syrup, cut side down, and spoon a little syrup over each hump of fruit.

Roast in the oven (rack in the upper third, so the apricots get slightly bushed from the heat) for about 10 minutes. Turn over the apricots, baste with syrup, and roast for another 5 to 10 minutes, until soft.

Let cool and serve at room temperature, with a big dollop of clotted cream, crème fraîche, or thick yogurt.

DSC_0106

Clafoutis de Lily

1 July 2014

photo(24)

There are two schools when it comes to cherry clafoutis. Those who pit the cherries, and those who don’t. I like not to, because it allows the clafoutis to be ready for the oven in just a few minutes; because the pits reputedly impart flavor; and because I don’t mind gently removing the pits with each mouthful. It prolongs the enjoyment.

Thomas, on the other hand, is adamantly against pits. Indignant. What had I done? Never mind that a clafoutis had miraculously materialized within the 15-minute half-time break of Brazil vs Chile. Still, he insisted, had he known, he himself would have pitted the cherries.

Pits are polarizing. The good news is, at the end of the day, no one complains. Certainly not the one who surreptitiously finished the last remaining piece of clafoutis to which I had been looking forward throughout all of Colombia vs Uruguay.

Practically any fruit can go into a clafoutis but for me the craving springs with the seasons’ first cherries. Sour cherries even better. But no matter the fruit.

Pulling up in her ageless navy blue Renault 4L, my father’s fairy godmother Lily never arrived with fewer than one or two cakes, crates of homemade jams, and, always, little boxes of cotignac. But ask anyone in the family, Lily is practically synonymous with clafoutis. And, many years ago, she gave me the recipe!

Fruit
2 spoonfuls flour
5 spoonfuls sugar
3 eggs
2 glasses milk
Salt
Whiskey

Beat the ingredients together and pour over the fruit in an ovenproof dish.
(Some fruit – apples, pears, apricots – should first be allowed to brown in butter and sugar)

As far as I remember Lily always left the pits. Perhaps that is why, to me, clafoutis if foremost cherry, with pits.

photo(26)

Clafoutis de Lily
Though I have translated into more precise measurements and added my two cents in parentheses, I leave the recipe, in its masterful simplicity, intact.

About 1 kg fruit

2 Tbsps flour (or 1 Tbsp flour and 2 Tbsps ground almonds) plus one for dusting the fruit

3 eggs

5 Tbsps sugar plus one for dusting the clafoutis

250 ml (1 cup) milk

Pinch salt

1 Tbsp whiskey (or kirsch if using cherries)

Preheat oven to 375°F (200°C).

If using apples, pears, apricots, plums, or peaches: brown the washed or pealed, cored, and quartered fruit in a large skillet with a generous pad of butter and sprinkling of sugar until golden brown. Set aside. If using cherries, pit them. Or not.

Butter an ovenproof that will fit all the fruit snugly in double layers.

Place the fruit in the dish, sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour, and toss gently to dust the fruit.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until frothy. Add the milk, then the flour, salt, and whiskey (or kirsch).

Pour the batter over the fruit and slip into the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the batter is set and the top nicely golden. In the last 5 or 10 minutes of cooking sprinkle a spoonful of sugar over the clafoutis.

Let cool.

(I much prefer clafoutis to be completely cool, though some like it lukewarm. Like the the question of pits or no pits, it is entirely up to you.)

Rhubarb rosemary jam

7 June 2014

photo(22)

This is me realizing that jam need not be a well planned out, day-long project. It can be, of course, and should, on occasion, because is there a better way to spend a day than whiling away the hours hunched over bubbling vats of sugared fruit? This is not about those days. This is about how making jam can be an afterthought, as easy as clearing out the fridge before a week-long holiday.

I was the first to consider jam making an incredibly laborious process. Carefully timed trips to the market to grab the last of the season’s fruit at an unbeatable bargain, endless kilos of berries to cut and trim and wash, giant jam pans boiling furiously for hours… I didn’t make jam very often. For one, market vendors in New York don’t usually sell off fruits for a good bargain, even as they pack up to leave  (I’ve tried); second, fruit at home often disappears so quickly I need to hide it to keep it safe (and I have); third, I don’t own a jam pan, giant or otherwise.

So I don’t (didn’t) make much jam. There were exceptions, naturally, few and far between, so noteworthy I usually recorded them, here, and here.

A few years ago my mother gave me Christine Ferber’s book (available only in French). Christine Ferber is a world re-known Frenchwoman from Alsace, widely described as the ‘fée des confitures’ (jam fairy). I’ve never actually eaten from one of her jars, but I have read so many tantalizing descriptions that I feel I might have. Taken literally, her technique is quite time-consuming, but using her inspiration, some latitude, and a little improvisation (she would be appalled), I’ve realized that making jam can actually fit quite snugly into my life.

Key is that the process in divided into two parts. In the evening, prep the fruit, mix it with sugar and lemon juice, and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, cook the jam. Chances are, it’s easier to find 15 quick minutes in the evening and another 45 of mostly cooking time the next day, than scheduling a full long slot for the entire process.

Emboldened by this realization, last week I made jam, the easiest thing I found to save a few remaining bunches of rhubarb.

Rhubarb jam recipe

1 kg rhubarb

1 kg sugar

Juice from one lemon

Few sprigs rosemary

Wash the rhubarb, trim the ends, and chop the stalks into 1/2 inch (1 cm) pieces.

In a saucepan, mix the rhubarb, sugar, and lemon juice.

Let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

The next morning, cook the jam. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for approximately 30 minutes. At first it will bubble furiously, but as the jam jells it thickens, the bubbles slow down and burst at a more leisurely pace. To check whether the juice has “gelled,” take out a small spoonful and let it cool. Once cold, the juice should have thickened in the spoon, and when you try to pour it the drip is not liquid but heavy, as though it was sticking to the spoon. Cook longer if necessary and check again.

Meanwhile, sterilize the jars in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes.

Once the jam is ready, stir in the rosemary to steep for about 5 minutes. Remove. Pour into sterilized jars and close tightly.

Jam is best stored for a few weeks (and up to a year at least) before eating.

 

 

Mackerel rillettes

15 May 2013

DSC_0016

Sometimes food happens without much forethought or planning. I could have pondered it for weeks, in fact I’ve been wanting to make these for years, but when I bought mackerel fillets at the market last week I had no plan; a quick weeknight dinner at best. Rillettes were far from my thoughts, lurking behind the distant corner of a hazy summer memory. But as I contemplated dinner for friends and something that could easily be made ahead, I found myself searching for mackerel rillettes recipes.

So this is adapted from one by Annie Bell, modified to suit what I had on hand. It was delicious.

*

Recipe adapted from Mackerel Rillettes by Annie Bell

8 small mackerel fillets

2 bay leaves

2 stems fresh garlic (or 3 garlic cloves)

Few sprigs fresh thyme

100 ml dry white wine

100 ml water

1 lemon

3 Tbsps very good olive oil

Fleur de sel or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the mackerel fillets flat at the bottom of a pan, add the bay leaves, garlic, thyme, wine, and water. Bring to a gentle boil, simmer for 1 minute and remove from heat. As soon as the liquid is cool enough, take out the fillets and flake the fish, taking care to remove any remaining bones.

Place the cooking liquid back onto the stove, cook for a few minutes until ireduced to a couple of tablespoons.

In a medium bowl, combine the mackerel gently with the reduced liquid, the juice from 1/2 lemon (the other half for serving), and 3 Tbsps very good olive oil. Season with fleur de sel or sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Transfer to a serving bowl or jar and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 2 days.

Serve with bread and butter, and a generous squeeze of lemon.

DSC_0014

Related posts

Baked mackerel with mustard and thyme

Pork rillettes

 

Lamb stew with lemon, spices, prunes, almonds

26 March 2013

DSC_0450

It’s late March and no one heeds the snow flurries that still furtively sprinkle the city. Winter always draws too long in New York, we know, we grumble, we long for spring, for sunshine warm enough to cut through the chill, for blossoms, for green!

Looking for distractions some flee south, others hide out, I make stew. This one will briefly delude with the promise of travel, or dupe into enjoying the lingering cold.

*

I modify this recipe constantly. I have added spices, forgotten the prunes, used ground ginger… It is meant to be played with. It took me a while to get perfect, melt-in-your-mouth consistency, but this is it. The cooking method was inspired by April Bloomfield’s lamb curry.

3 lbs boneless lamb shoulder

Salt

Olive oil

4 onions (red and or yellow)

4 garlic cloves

Fresh ginger, a piece approximately 1 x 2 inches long

2 tsps turmeric

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 dried chili

1 bay leaf

1 lemon

A generous handful dried prunes

A generous handful blanched almonds

*

Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).

Cut the meat into 2 x 2 inch chunks, season with salt, and brown assertively in a little olive oil in a heavy saucepan (with lid) or dutch oven, a few pieces at a time (about 5 to 7 minutes per batch). Set meat aside.

Peel and chop the onions into large-ish (1/2 inch) pieces. Cook in the meat fat (unless it is burned, in which case discard the fat and use more olive oil) until the onions start to turn golden, stirring occasionally and adding oil if necessary.

Meanwhile peel and slice the garlic. Peel and grate the ginger. Crush the fennel seeds in a mortar. Thinly slice the chili. First peel the lemon, then juice it.

Add the garlic to the onions, stir and cook for a few minutes, then stir in the spices: ginger, fennel, turmeric, chili, cinnamon, chili, bay, and lemon rind. Stir a few times to combine well.

Place the lamb pieces on top of the onions mixed with spices, sprinkle the lemon juice over the meat, add just enough water to cover the meat, close the lid, and place in the oven.

Cook for 2 hours at 300°F (150°C), stirring occasionally. Add the prunes after 1 1/2 hours.

Lower the oven temperature to 250°F (120°C), and cook for another hour. Add almonds 1/2 hour before the end.

*

Related posts

Slow-roasted lamb shoulder

Slow-roasted pork shoulder


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 109 other followers

%d bloggers like this: