Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Last night, Monday night, just as I was about to doze off, I remembered that today was Pancake Day. I decided to set my alarm an hour early so that I could make pancakes for breakfast. I have made the delicious basic crêpes-style pancakes once before, but luckily for me there was a variation suggested in that recipe which was perfect for a Pancake Day breakfast.
285. American Breakfast Pancakes (Basic etc.)
The method for these is exactly the same as for the crêpes, but with an extra egg, double the amount of flour, some sugar and a bit of baking powder. I’m pretty sure these are the same as the breakfast pancakes in Nigella Bites that she makes in a KitchenAid blender, but they’re not difficult to make in a bowl with a wooden spoon. And there’s less fiddly washing up.
While the batter had its 30 minutes obligatory resting time, I thought about how I should serve them. Nigella suggests eating them with maple syrup and crispy bacon, but we didn’t have either in the house, and I didn’t exactly feel like walking up to the shops to get some. Furthermore, didn’t think I could handle such a heavy breakfast. I was reminded me of the episode of I’m Alan Partridge, Season 2, where Alan’s 33 year old Ukrainian girlfriend Sonja makes him a full English breakfast…
Alan: That… that was the best full English breakfast I've had since Gary Wilmott's wedding.
Sonja: It was bloody superb?
Alan: Oh yeah... I would have that three times a day if I could… but… I’d be dead!
Sonja: It kill you?
Alan: Yeah… it’s cholesterol. Scottish people eat it. Few of them reach 60.
And if Alan says it, it must be true! My first idea was that bananas and alternative sweet syrup would be the go. However, as I was looking through the pantry for the alternative toppings, I realized that golden syrup or honey just wouldn’t cut it. I hurriedly changed, and ran to the corner store to get a bottle of proper Canadian maple syrup. And while I was up at the store, I thought, "Fuck it, I'm already up here, so I may as well go the whole hog", (so to speak). I bought some bacon rashers from Rendinas.
I came home, fried up the pancakes, and then fried one rasher of bacon each. (For my mother and I).
Rendinas butchery bacon is very meaty and tasty, but not very fatty at all, so it doesn’t go crisp that easily. For whatever reason, apparently most of their customers prefer lean bacon. (I've asked them for fatty fatty bacon before, they don't do it). Their bacon still tastes awesome though.
breakfast - coffee in silver pot
closeup of plate
Yum, yum, yum! Mum loved it too, even though she'd never tried the bacon-maple syrup combo before. Because I was quite restrained with the bacon (or was it that I was generous with the pancakes?), we still had pancakes left once we'd eaten all the bacon, so I whipped out a banana to go with the rest of them.
Look, it's a healthy breakfast!
Happy Pancake Day!
Sunday, February 26, 2006
"You have to start this well before you want to eat."
This simple sentence has scared me out of making this recipe. When I made the lacquered quail, I saved a couple, and froze them in anticipation of making the flattened, marinated quail sometime in the not-too-distant future. That was 8 months and 15 days ago. I like quail, and I like all the flavourings in this recipe, but each time I'd flick the book open, I'd see that little sentence, and I'd suddenly be filled with a great sense of apathy. Then I'd move on to a different recipe. Until today.
Last night I finally got around to defrosting the little quails, and I marinated them today. In this recipe, they are flattened out (after cutting out the backbone with a pair of scissors), and rubbed in an oil-rosemary-garlic-bayleaf mixture. At this point, they're supposed to sit for at least 6 hours. But I have to admit, the shadow of apathy was still hanging overhead, and I only got around to marinating them in the late afternoon. They had an hour marinading at room temperature. But they turned out fine nonetheless.
Then you fry them in a cast-iron pan until brown and cooked through. The accompanying sauce is made by deglazing the pan with red wine and meat stock.
Following Nigella's comment that "This is picnic food", to be eaten with the fingers, I served it with salad, and some fab pumpkin and onion sourdough that my dad bought this morning.
Delightful. I love quail. The flavourful crisp skin and the juicily tender flesh beneath is just wonderful. And they're so quick to cook and eat that you forget all about that effortful far-in-advance preparation. Almost.
Yesterday, while we were eating our chorizo and poached egg for lunch, Daniel made a suggestion. “You know what this would be good with? Hollandaise sauce!”
What a fabulous idea. I had a whole chorizo leftover, as well as eggs and spinach, so why not?
282. Hollandaise (Basics etc.)
283. Hollandaise with Saffron (Basics etc.)
I decided that this breakfast dish should have fried chorizo slices, poached eggs, wilted spinach and 2 versions of hollandaise sauce, in a kind of culinary interpretation of James-Bond-going-to-Spain. Olé, Miss Moneypenny.
So I started off by preparing the sides (that is, slicing the chorizo, washing the spinach, putting on a pan of water for the eggs). Then I made the hollandaise with my right hand, whilst cooking the prepared sides with my left hand. Anthony Bourdain is right. Never underestimate the importance of a good mise-en-place.
Needless to say, this was quite an effort. I don’t think I could ever handle the pressures of being a real breakfast cook. It’s not that the cooking of any one element is particularly difficult, but it’s the co-ordination of all the elements that is the clincher.
Hollandaise sauce, Nigella-style, is not difficult. All you have to do is whisk egg yolks in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, and slowly beat in cubes of soft butter until it reaches a thick, golden sauce. You’re supposed to stay with the sauce at all times and never stop whisking, but I can attest that no harm comes to it if you leave it for a few seconds while you attend to other parts of your breakfast. Once you’ve got the sauce thick enough, you whisk in lemon juice and that’s it. For the saffron version, you whisk in lemon juice that has had saffron threads steeping in it. I divided the thickened sauce into 2 bowls, added ordinary lemon juice to one, and saffron-steeped lemon juice to the other.
As you can see, they both look quite similar. The saffron hollandaise, (in the front bowl), however, is markedly different in that has the unmistakable smokily earthy flavour and aroma of saffron in it.
Breakfast, with sauce
I forgot until today, just how much I like hollandaise. It tastes so good, on everything. And there's something about the rich sauce on toasted white bread that just transports me back to the wonderful memories of hotel buffet breakfasts in Penang, with enormous trays covered in rounds of white toast topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, rapidly congealing under heat lamps. Good God, I loved them.
Mum came home from shopping whilst we were eating, and she looked at our plates with such envy that I couldn’t help but get up and make her her own plate. Daniel and I had eaten all the chorizo, but luckily she was happy with just toast, egg, spinach and the sauce. (She particularly liked the saffron-infused version).
In fact, I rather like the saffron-hollandaise too, and I immodestly say that I like my Spanish interpretation of eggs benedict much more than the original. If I ever were to open a café, I'd definitely serve it. And if this were to happen, imagine, one day it might even appear on the The Breakfast Blog.
Is it ok to ask another question??? Since HTE doesn't have any pictures, and since you have photographically documented close to 300 recipes now, if HTE ever was illustrated (kinda hypothetical), which picture would you want to definitely be included based on its general aesthetic beauty??
Answer: Of course it's ok!
Here are my favourites.
Mushroom Udon Soup
Pig's Bum & Custard
The Perfect Plain Sunday Lunch for 3
Truffle Oil Potatoes
A strip of meat about to be eaten... with dijon mustard
Fruit Salad, vanilla ice-cream and butterscotch sauce
Liam with Crackling
A picture of health
Risotto-inspired Rice Pudding
Typical, eating in front of the computer.
Golden Root Vegetable Couscous
Great Aunt Myra's Moroccan Orange & Date Salad
A Summer Lemon Meringue Pie
One slice gone
Vegetarians turn away now
Fried Prawn Cakes
Queen of Puddings
Poached Peaches and Baked Sauternes Custard
I think I ate my first real macaroon at age 9, bought very excitedly from a café in Carlton. Can I just say I was incredibly disappointed? I was expecting a mouthful of crunchy-chewy deliciousness, but my immature palate was totally unprepared for the assault of artificial almond essence. Feral. So since then, I have avoided macaroons and anything flavoured with almond-essence like the plague.
281. Macaroons (Basics etc.)
Naturally, I wasn’t too keen to make these, but it’s gotta be tried. And it happened to be raining like a biatch today, so I was happy to spend the afternoon indoors.
To make macaroons, you stir together almond meal, castor sugar, and egg whites to form a thick paste. My mixture turned out really stiff, and keeping in mind that they’re supposed to be piped with a piping bag, I added extra egg whites to loosen it. Then add a tablespoon of flour and a teaspoon of almond essence (I was very, very sparing with the essence), and pipe out into 5 centimetre rounds.
Now, even though they’re supposed to be piped, I must admit that I was not too keen on the idea of washing up a piping bag. So, I just spooned out the mixture into appropriately sized circles. They take about 20 minutes to cook.
I got 13 out of this mixture. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed them! I ate them with the parentals in front of the TV, watching some old Dirk Bogarde spy film. They’re quite sweet, but very tasty. I prefer them with just a hint of almond essence flavour, rather than the invasive artificial taste that you get with excessive amounts. (My rule-of-thumb is to halve the quantity of almond essence stipulated in a recipe). And there was a lovely contrast between the chewy interior and crunchy interior. I guess Fatty Trotterville was right after all!
Saturday, February 25, 2006
280. Chick Peas with Sorrel
These two recipes are some of the last remaining recipes from the One & Two chapter. They've been left this long primarily because of the impossible-to-find ingredients - kale and sorrel. However, after much googling and sleepless nights, I found out exactly what kale and sorrel are, and what other vegetables I could substitute for them.
Kale is like collard greens: a thick, dark cabbage-like leaf with a "distinctive" flavour, apparently. Luckily for me, Nigella herself suggests a substitute for kale in the recipe - baby spinach and watercress. Watercress is only available in Australia occasionally, and I regularly substitute peppery rocket for watercress in recipes, which is what I did today.
About the sorrel, google told me (via a friend), that watercress is an acceptable substitute. Again, I used rocket. But having looked at the recipe again, I see that Nigella's inspiration for the chick pea and sorrel recipe was the "Middle-Eastern way with chick peas... sour with lemon juice and thick with spinach". So if you feel like making this recipe (and I do believe it is well worth it), you could use spinach and lemon.
Nigella doesn't suggest that these two recipes be eaten together; rather she designates them (in smaller quantities) for solitary suppers. But seeing as the whole family was home for lunch today, and I thought we'd all like these dishes, I made both, in bigger quantities.
Neither is too complicated - for the chorizo dish, you chop it up and cook it in some oil, then stir in your green vegetable of choice until wilted, and top with poached eggs. As you can see from my photo below, I'm not a highly-skilled egg poacher, but they turned out edible and decent-looking nonetheless.
For the chick peas, you cook some onion, garlic, cumin and dried chilli until soft, then wilt your green leaves in the onion mixture, before adding some chick peas and stirring until warmed through.
As I said, Nigella doesn't say that these two dishes should accompany each other, but they do make a good pair - the rich and highly-flavoured chorizo works well against the slightly bland graininess of the chickpeas. They only took about 30 minutes in total to make, and were very delicious.
I'm not sure what real kale and sorrel taste like, but eating these dishes, even with the substitutions, didn't feel like we were missing anything at all.
Apparently I have 19 links to this site... which is EXTREMELY small by world blog standards, but very exciting for me. The top bloggers are pretty hardcore - hundreds, even thousands, of links! Craaaazy stuff.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
277. Bakewell Tart with Fresh Raspberries (Weekend Lunch)
Pies take a lot less effort to make than it seems. Perfect for when you want to look Bree Vandercamp but without the hard work or the ski-slope hairdo.
As far as I can make out, Bakewell Tart is a tart with a pastry base, a layer of jam, and almond frangipane on top. Nigella's version includes fresh raspberries.
When I travelled to England 2 years ago, I had the opportunity to go to the town of Bakewell itself, but I declined. You see, I was staying with some friends in Manchester, and on that particular day, my hosts offered me the choice of either driving up to Bakewell (pie city), or spending the day shopping in Manchester city. At the time, the choice was easy. Even though I was already interested in food at that stage, I guess I wasn't quite as pie-obsessed as I am now. Today I'd be hard pressed to choose between a day of shopping and a visit to pie-central.
But back to the task at hand. I have decided to show you the pie in its layers.
1. Pastry [This is a rich shortcrust, with the addition of an egg yolk, icing sugar and ground almonds]
empty pie shell
2. Raspberry Jam
pie shell w jam
3. Fresh raspberries [Devilishly expensive in Australia - $6 for a 150gram punnet!]
pie shell w raspberries
4. Frangipane [A mixture of melted butter, beaten eggs, sugar and ground almonds]
5. Flaked almonds
pie shell w almonds
Then you bake it at 200C for 35-45 minutes. In the recipe, Nigella specifies quantities for a 26cm pie dish. I didn't think we'd be able to handle all that pie, so I used my beloved 20cm pie dish, and reduced quantities by one-third. The filling ended up being the exact right amount, but I did have a decent-sized ball of pastry leftover. Which meant it was time for...
278. Periwinkles (Feeding Babies and Small Children)
I am such a douchebag - I must have made at least a dozen pies by this stage, and always have leftover pastry, but it had never occured to me, until tonight, to make the freakin' periwinkles! I usually just toss the extra pastry out.
The periwinkles are designated as a recipe to be cooked with children, but I have no children, and don't intend to bring any in, just for the sake of it, so I made these myself.
You get your leftover pastry, roll it out, spread honey over it, followed by brown sugar and cinnamon. Then you roll it up, like a sticky bun, and slice it crossways, before baking the slices for about 15 minutes.
Annoyingly, the pastry log wasn't nearly firm enough to be sliced and kept squishing as I tried to slice it. Slightly perturbed, I decided to stash the log in the freezer for about 20 minutes and then was able to slice it with slightly less drama.
Both periwinkles and pie came out of the oven during Desperate Housewives, and cooled in the kitchen for the second half of the show. And if Desperate Housewives wasn't exciting enough, following that show was the BAFTA awards, hosted by the impossibly fabulous Stephen Fry. So we brought the pie and its accompaniments to the lounge room to eat as we watched the awards. The ceremony was so cool - I love Stephen Fry's wittily verbose delivery style, and awesome actors/filmmakers like Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, Steve Coogan, Kristin Scott Thomas, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ang Lee all made appearances. How delightful!
pie + accompaniments
And here are the remains of the pie, some raspberries, and 2 large periwinkles on the footstool in front of the TV.
Bakewell Pie is awesome. I can't believe that Laurent patisserie charges exorbitant prices for their similar mini raspberry & frangipane tarts, when they're so simple to make yourself. And so good! Almost as tasty as Jake Gyllenhaal...