Posts Tagged ‘food’

Asparagus soup

11 May 2017

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It all starts with the memory of a chilled asparagus soup served with black salt. It was at a friend’s house and I was smitten with the combination. I immediately proceeded to buy black salt — i.e.  Hawaiian lava salt — which added nicely to my slightly frivolous collection (never fewer than five or six salts in the house at any time). And the black salt became the wallflower of my pantry cupboard. Always there, rarely noticed. But every time I did, I thought of asparagus soup.

Quite a few years later, here, then, is the ideal — though entirely optional — use for black salt.

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Asparagus soup recipe inspired from Simon Hopkinson’s Roast Chicken and Other Stories

The soup requires only four ingredients and is very simple if the use of a food processor and then a food mill doesn’t seem like too much trouble.

4 small leeks
1 medium potato
600 g (1 1/2 lbs) green asparagus
120 g (1/2 cup) butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Black Hawaiian lava salt to serve (optional)

Prepare the leeks by removing all the green leaves, slicing thinly, and washing thoroughly to remove any grit. Peel the potato and cut into small chunks.

Wash and trim the asparagus stalks to remove the tough ends. Reserve some asparagus tips to garnish the soup: about 8 to 10 tips if the asparagus is quite thin, or 4 to 5 tips to be each cut in half (lengthwise) if the asparagus is thicker. Roughly chop the rest of the stalks.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and stew the leeks over low heat until soft (about 5 to 10 minutes), taking care that the leeks don’t color.

Once the leeks have softened, add 750 ml (3 cups) water and the potato. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes until the potato pieces have cooked through.

Add the chopped asparagus stalks (not the reserved tips) to the soup at a lively simmer for another 5 minutes until the asparagus is cooked. *Take care not to overcook at this point, it will damage the delicate taste of the asparagus.*

Transfer the soup to a food processor and blend thoroughly until the soup is as smooth as possible. There will always remain strands from the asparagus, however, which is why the soup then needs to be passed through a food mill (or a fine mesh sieve, but I’ve always found that to be much too fussy).

The soup can be served hot or chilled. Before serving, quickly sautée the asparagus tips in a little olive oil in a small frying pan. *If reheating, use very low heat and take care not to let the soup boil as it will distort the flavor.*

The soup should be garnished with black salt or regular flakey sea salt and pepper, and/or a spoonful of crème fraîche.

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Related recipes

Asparagus salad ** Cauliflower soup ** Roasted leeks

Rhubarb almond cake

5 May 2017

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This is simply the best rhubarb cake, and possibly the best use of rhubarb in any form, in my opinion. (Hmm — on second thought, rhubarb ice cream is high in contention.)

The strands of rhubarb on top are striking, but this cake is much more than a pretty picture. It has excellent crunchiness on the outside; soft, near-cheesecake quality in the center; while the rhubarb’s tartness plays off a subtle sweetness. It is not exactly easy, but it’s certainly worth the — slight — effort.

Rhubarb almond cake recipe from Bon Appétit with just a few tweaks

225 g (1 cup) butter (plus a bit more for the pan)
175 g + 3 Tbsps (3/4 cup and a bit) sugar
450 g (1 lb) rhubarb stalks
150 g (1 1/4 cup) flour
100 g (3/4 cup) blanched almonds (or almond flour)
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
Zest from 1/2 lemon
2 large eggs
60 ml (1/4 cup) plain thick Greek-style yogurt

Bring the butter to room temperature *Note: The batter needs to be beaten for a good length of time, so it is best to use a food processor. However if, like me, you do it all by hand, make sure the butter is very soft before you start, it will make things much easier.*

Preheat oven to 150°C (350°F).

Butter a cake tin (9″ in diameter), sprinkle some sugar and tap out the excess.

Wash the stalks of rhubarb, slice them in half lengthwise (in four parts if the stalks are very thick). Reserve about 8 of the prettiest strands to decorate the cake. Chop the rest of the rhubarb into 1 cm (1/2 inch) pieces.

In a food processor, pulse the flour, almonds, baking powder, and salt until the almonds are finely ground. *Alternatively, if using almond flour, mix all those ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl.*

In another bowl or electric mixer, beat together 225 g butter and 175 g sugar. And beat. And beat. If possible, beat for at least 4 minutes to get the lightest dough. Add the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating the first before adding the second. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the batter (or add the vanilla extract), as well as the lemon zest. Beat again vigorously for a good 3 to 4 minutes.

Slowly (without any more beating from this point) incorporate the dry ingredients into the batter, and finally the yogurt. Once everything is combined, add the chopped rhubarb. The batter will be quite thick. Scrape it into the buttered cake pan, smooth the batter as best possible, arrange the reserved strands of rhubarb on top, and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Place the cake in the oven and bake for 70-80 minutes until the cake is set and a knife comes out clean. It will have browned nicely on top.

Let the cake cool completely before removing from the tin.

This cake gets better overnight and it keeps for a few days well wrapped at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Related recipes

Rhubarb ice cream  **  Rhubarb compote

Rhubarb raspberry crostata  **  Rhubarb rosemary jam

Rhubarb rosemary syrup

Surprisingly manageable duck confit

28 April 2017

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‘Why on earth make duck confit in the first place?’ Fair question. ‘Why on earth make duck confit again?’ Even more to the point. And again?! Because there is a happy ending.

Many moons and about a decade ago I made duck confit. Why? Well, I was in New York, where confit duck is not, as in France, available on every supermarket shelf. I must have been in an experimental mood. And I certainly had no idea what I was getting myself into. As I remember the experience — faintly (the worst ones fade) — I see endless vats of rendering, handling, splashing, filtering duck fat (it was actually probably goose fat). It took hours, days, perhaps weeks? In the end the thighs were much too salty.

And yet, I did it again. — Why?

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Perhaps because so much time had gone by that I had glossed over the experience? Because I was again/still in a country where duck confit is somewhat elusive? Because I don’t like to leave things on a frustrating experience?

Because in April Bloomfield’s book A Girl and Her Pig there is a duck confit recipe that fits on one page.

It works. It’s not that hard. It’s worth the adventure.

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Duck confit recipe from A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield adapted for 6 duck legs. The process takes 2 days and is best made some time in advance.

36 peppercorns
36 juniper berries
8 dried pequin chilies or pinches of red pepper flakes
1/2 small cinnamon stick
Small handfull fresh thyme
10 medium garlic cloves
1/3 cup coarse sea salt
6 duck legs
About 1.4 kg duck (or goose) fat

In a mortar, crush together the peppercorns, juniper, chilies, and cinnamon. There should be fine and coarse bits. Add the thyme leaves picked from the stems and the garlic and crush some more to obtain a coarse paste. In a small bowl, mix the spice mixture with the salt.

Place the duck legs in a shallow dish and rub the salt/spice mixture all over the legs. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, very slowly heat the fat in a small pot that will perfectly fit the duck legs (I used a 10″/25cm pot). Rinse the duck legs and pat them dry with a paper towel, then carefully put the legs in the fat. The legs must be completely submerged — if they are not, use  a smaller pot or add a bit more fat. Cook on extremely low heat for about 2 1/2 hours. There should be barely a simmer. Adjust the heat as necessary.

Remove the pot from the heat and leave the duck legs in the fat to cool completely before placing in the refrigerator, covered with a lid. The legs submerged in fat will keep for a few weeks.

When ready to eat, remove the legs from the congealed fat, and carefully scrape off as much of the fat as possible. Thoroughly heat a heavy skillet/frying pan, add a few generous spoonfuls of the duck fat, and fry the legs over high heat, skin side down, until deliciously crispy. Turn around and fry the other side of the legs too. Serve immediately.

Crispy duck confit is best served with roasted potatoes and a salad of bitter greens (traditionally frisée, but also escarole, radicchio, arugula, etc…).

Baked apples

26 January 2017

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January is the time to huddle close, meet friends, have a pint, a meal, a whiskey nightcap. But after months of cooking and feasting, dim winter days call for easy comforts. Delicious meals that require barely any effort. Hardly a thought. Simple dishes that can be effortlessly adapted with whatever languishes in a pantry in the aftermath of holiday baking marathons.

Baked apples for instance. The basics are simple, the variations many: wash an apple, core it, stuff it, bake it, eat it warm with a dollop of cream.

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Any apple will do. Some hold their figure while others erupt into shapeless volcanoes; anything is fine by me. For the stuffing the elements might be dried fruits — for example raisins, chopped dates, cranberries; chopped nuts — pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds; some sweetness and spice — brown sugar, dark sugar, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, lemon zest, ginger, allspice, cardamom. A splash of fortified wine. For serving, a generous spoonful of cream.

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Baked apples recipe

One whole apple per person
Currants (or raisins, cranberries, chopped dates or apricots)
Pecans (or walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds)
Dark muscovado sugar (or brown sugar, honey, maple syrup)
Ginger and cardamom (or cinnamon, allspice, lemon zest)
Sherry (or Marsala, Madeira)
Clotted cream (or crème fraîche, ice cream, yogurt) for serving

Preheat the oven to 375°F (180°C)

Wash and core the apples (leaving them whole)

Toss the nuts, dried fruits, sugar, and spices together. Stuff each apple with the mixture. Sprinkle with a dash of wine if using. Send into the oven for 25 to 40 minutes, until the apples are soft through.

Let cool just a little and serve warm with a spoonful of cream.

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Quinces poached with honey and bay

20 October 2016

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For someone who has named their blog after the fruit, I have far too few quince recipes on this site! So if you have made too much quince jelly, if you have no time for quince paste, if you are still waiting for the lamb and quince tagine promised some six years ago (blame this, like so much else, on Thomas), here, finally, is a recipe for poached quinces.

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Poached quinces recipe
Recipe inspired by Alice Waters’ poached quinces in Chez Panisse Fruit and Skye Gyngell’s baked quinces from A year in my kitchen

2 cups golden/caster sugar
4 medium quinces (about 2 lbs)
3 Tbsps flavorful honey
1/2 vanilla bean
One bay leaf (I used a fresh one)
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 untreated lemon

Make a syrup with the sugar and 6 cups (1.5 liters) of water. Bring to a boil and simmer briefly until the sugar has dissolved.

Meanwhile, wash, peel, core, and slice the quinces lengthwise into quarters then eighths (this must be done at the last minute as quinces tend to turn brown very quickly).

Slice one half of the lemon very thinly, and juice the other half.

Add to the simmering syrup the honey, the vanilla bean after scraping out the seeds into the syrup, the bay leaf, the cinnamon stick, the lemon slices, the lemon juice, and finally, the quince slices. Cover the liquid with a round of parchment paper and place a weight on top if possible to ensure that the pieces of quince are submerged in the liquid as they cook. Let the quince simmer for approximately 45 minutes until they are tender.

Once cooked, carefully strain out the pieces of quince and place them in a bowl or canning jars. Return the syrup without the quinces to the heat and simmer down for a good 20 to 30 minutes to concentrate the liquid (there must be enough left to cover the fruit!).

If preserving, sterilize the canning jars in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes and close the jars immediately after pouring the reduced hot liquid on top of the fruit.

If using immediately, pour the hot liquid over the fruit and let cool to room temperature.

In both cases serve with thick Greek-style yogurt.

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