Gooseberry and strawberry jam

12 July 2017

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A happy accident, this spectacular combination, and one that has reconciled me with strawberry jam.

The last time I attempted to make strawberry jam, I chose a Christine Ferber recipe that requires to marinate the strawberries overnight, cook them once, let them macerate some more, strain the syrup, let it reduce, finally add the strawberries and boil until set. I followed the instructions, the infusion smelled divine, all was going very well. Until the final step. A few late evenings of jam prep, and the rest of life in between, and I actually fell asleep (!) as the strawberries were in their last phase of cooking. Having nurtured the sugary jewels, painstakingly, over the course of two days, I might have paid more attention.

That jam now sits somewhat abashedly on the shelf in the pantry with the incriminating label: ‘Burnt Strawberry Jam.’ It could have been intentional.

Here we are a couple of years later and, having made my favorite life-saving yogurt birthday cake with strawberries and gooseberries instead of raspberries, I had some berries left over. Forgotten overnight to marinate with some sugar for preservation until they might be consumed, I ended up cooking them. A tiny batch, two small jars and one additional tablespoon — we were all fighting for the scraps.

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And so I can’t stop making this jam. I’m hoping to build some stock so the jars may last beyond the season.

Strawberry and gooseberry jam recipe

1 kg strawberries and gooseberries (I used about half and half, but I leave the ratio up to your inspiration)
850g caster sugar
2 small lemons

Trim (top and tail) and wash the gooseberries. Wash, trim and cut the strawberries into quarters (or more if they are huge).

In a large bowl, mix the fruit with the sugar. Add the zest and juice from both lemons. Leave to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, cook the berries for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the jam gives signs of beginning the set (place a spoonful of juice in the fridge and, once cold, check for the ‘gelling’ effect).

Sterilize jars for 5 minutes in a pan of boiling water. Fill the jars immediately and seal tightly.

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Tahini chocolate chip cookies

30 June 2017

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I had never made chocolate chip cookies. I am not sure I had ever even eaten a chocolate chip cookie. I exaggerate, of course, but only slightly. I have never found chocolate chip cookies very exciting. But hint at the addition of tahini, and I suddenly find myself ensnared in a cookie baking extravaganza.

You are enraged by my disparagement. But listen. Tahini transports that rather pedestrian cookie to a different place, another time, other scents, new flavors. Suddenly, I am traveling, just with the whiffs from my oven, all in that first bite.

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I understand your skepticism, why take advice from a self-declared chocolate chip cookie non-believer? Because, whether you love chocolate chip cookies or not, these are special.

Even David Lebovitz says so: ‘[They] were some of the best chocolate chip cookies that have ever come out of my oven…’ — See?

Salted tahini chocolate chip from Danielle Oron via David Lebovitz
Note: Plan ahead, the dough should rest overnight before baking

230 g dark chocolate (1 3/4 cups once cut into chunks)
115 g (8 Tbsps) butter, softened at room temperature
120 g (1/2 cup) tahini
100 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
90 g (1/2 cup) packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
150 g (1 cup plus 2 Tbsps) flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
Fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt to sprinkle on the cookies at the end (optional)

Chop the chocolate into rough chunks (about 1/2 or 1/4 inch).

Make sure the butter is very soft. In a bowl or stand mixer, beat together the butter, tahini, and sugars until light and fluffy (a good 3 to 5 minutes).

Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla extract and continue to stir until the egg is well incorporated (another few minutes).

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and sea salt.

Add the flour mixture to the butter/egg/sugar, mixing lightly until just combined. Add the chocolate, mindful not to overmix. Cover the dough and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight (or up to one week if it’s more convenient!).

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

With a spoon or with your hands, form a small ball for each cookie. Place the balls on the baking sheet, at least 8 cm (3 cm) apart (the cookies will spread!).

Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on their size. Best to watch them like a hawk and remove the cookies from the oven as soon as they turn golden on the outside but are still pale and soft in the middle (I overcooked my batch!). Immediately sprinkle with few flakes of salt, if using.

Let cool before eating. The cookies will keep for a few days at room temperature in a cookie jar.

 

Quail eggs with cumin salt

22 June 2017

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Since we’re talking about apéros, here is one of my favorite things to accompany those pre-dinner drinks.

The idea is from Moro The Cookbook, which I talked about in detail some time ago. Re-reading now what I wrote then has inspired me to delve back in, because in the intervening years the only things I’ve made from the book were the Pimentón roasted almonds and these quail eggs; there is so much more!

It’s hard to overstate the simplicity: Boil the eggs — four minutes. Run them under cold water. Toast the cumin seeds lightly, grind them with some sea salt.

It can be made ahead. It’s so simple, so pretty, and so good! And now that we’ve all stopped smoking, we need something to occupy idle hands while drinking our negronis.

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Quail eggs with cumin salt recipe from Moro The Cookbook

Quail eggs (a dozen serves about 4)
2 tsps cumin seeds
1 tsp sea salt

Boil the quail eggs in a gentle simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from heat, run under cold water, let cool.

In a small saucepan, roast the cumin seeds on low until just beginning to change color, about 2 to 3 minutes.

In a mortar, grind the cumin seeds with the sea salt. Transfer to a small serving bowl.

To eat, peel each egg and dip it in the cumin salt for every mouthful.

L’Apéro

19 June 2017

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Summer is around the corner and the weather isn’t lying. One gloriously sunny day succeeds the next; pale limbs are bared, the parks have erupted in green, speckled with readers and sunbathers, the odd spot of color. There is no place like London at this time of year — the air is impossibly mild, fragrant. ‘Tis the season for ‘apéros,’ or better still, ‘apéros longs.’

The apéro — short for apéritif — is the cultural habit any visitor to France will learn. It is the first insight young French children have into the mysterious interactions of the adult world; that fleeting moment, saying hello to the guests before being sent off to bed. — For a French child, staying up through an apéro marks the stages of growing as assuredly as notches on the kitchen door.

‘C’est l’heure de l’apéro’! A tray is pulled, the bright clinking of glasses, a bottle or two, a bowl of ice, some olives, nuts, saucisson — the basics.

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The hallowed French tradition of apéros is ubiquitous; a pastis in the South, a beer in Paris; after work during the week, on holiday after an afternoon at the beach. It is the unwinding at the end of the day, the coming together before dinner. The apéro might include a bowl of peas to shell, some vegetables to chop. The evening could continue together, or everyone is free to go on to other occupations.

And in the middle, there are ‘apéros longs.‘ Here, the casual early evening drink morphs more or less intentionally into an informal dinner, a leisurely succession of bite-sized food and drink, that evolves organically into elastic evenings.

I’m a huge fan, especially when time becomes constricted by the other stuff of life.

Dinners are time-consuming and can be constraining, even for someone who loves to cook. ‘Apéros longs‘ are less pressure. The food must be forthcoming, and I like to bring different elements out in stages, rather than everything at once, to create a rhythm, give the evening some punctuation. But it can all be extremely simple. Starting with those olives, nuts, saucisson; continuing into a platter of prosciutto, mozarella, and basil; always some vegetables — tomatoes, fennel, radishes; cheeses. All of this only requires assembling, no cooking involved.

But of course, one could cook. Lightly charred padrón peppers, chicken liver terrine or pork rillettes, potted crab, quiches, asparagus with burrata! Things to make ahead or last minute improvisations. And, always, something sweet at the end, even if it is just a bowl of cherries or a few squares of chocolate.

Listen to the call. Apéros longs are the siren songs of elongated summer evenings.

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Asparagus with burrata

18 May 2017

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Even better than a softly oozing egg with asparagus is asparagus with creamy burrata. I don’t take credit for the pairing, a friend made this appetizer for us the other day. It is, as you can see, radically simple, and swoonfully delicious. There isn’t much more to add.

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Asparagus with burrata

Green asparagus
Burrata
Good olive oil
Flakey sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh herbs optional (basil, marjoram, mint)

Trim, wash, and peel the asparagus. **Peeling here is important for the asparagus to yield seamlessly into the burrata.**

In a pan large enough to hold the asparagus stalks, bring about 2 cm (1 inch) salted water to a boil. Cook the asparagus for 3 to 4 minutes — no more!

Strain out the asparagus and arrange onto a plate with the burrata. Drizzle some olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with herbs if using.

Basta!

Related posts
Green asparagus salad  **  Asparagus soup **


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