Sunday, September 9th, 2012

It was the spring equinox last weekend, and I can feel the change of season in the warmth of the air, and in the five (!!!) sunny days we’ve had out of the last ten. I can see it in the garden, where the daffodils are withering, the fruit trees are densely covered with white flowers, and every branch of the fig tree is tipped with soft green leaves.



But the one thing that’s really made me feel like we’ve turned the corner out of winter into spring is the fact that when we washed our sheets last weekend, we hung them outside on the line to dry, rather than draping them over chairs in the dining room and turning up the central heating. Looking out of our back windows and seeing the white sheets billowing in the sunshine finally made me really believe that spring was here. I never thought I’d get such a thrill out of laundry.

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Some fantastico links:

Two excellent blogs I’ve started following recently: Suburban Tomato and Whole Larder Love. They’re both about producing more of your own food, and the pleasures to be had therein, though in very different modes.

Thinking about food gardening, here’s a post from blue milk debating the feminist case against homesteading.

I made an omelette this morning (with chives and chervil from the garden), following this Delia Smith recipe. Who needs a recipe for an omelette? I do. I’ve never made one before and was very happy with how this one turned out.

The best thing I ate last week may have been the chard panade Ted made on Wednesday night while I was at pilates. It was comfort food of the highest order – the bread soaked in stock became almost custardy, in lovely contrast to the crisp pieces on top. Chard, home-made chicken stock, sourdough, gruyere, slow-cooked onions – there is nothing there not to like, and it was perfect for a cool rainy evening. Leftovers for lunch the following day were also still good.

I bought Seville oranges at the markets last weekend, and today I finally got around to turning six of them into marmalade, using David Lebovitz’s recipe. I initially thought that there was far too much water in the recipe, but after simmering away for quite a long time (I wasn’t checking the clock, but it felt like well over and hour) it cooked down and set nicely. I put not only the pips but also all the membranes into the cheesecloth bag, and left it in until about ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, more out of forgetfulness than deliberation.

I still have a couple of Seville oranges left over, and intend to use at least one of them to make requesón.

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This evening I made a cake, based on this recipe, which was itself based on Dorrie Greenspan’s recipe for French yoghurt cake. The version I made had so many of my cake fetishes in it that I feel the urge to name it to reflect them all:

Yoghurt, olive oil and almond cake with orange, lemon and thyme.

It has the almost crumbless texture of a cake that’s not based on creamed butter and sugar, but it’s simple to make and the flavour hits all my buttons.


1 cup plain flour
0.5 cup almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
sprigs of thyme, leaves picked, finely minced to yield two level teaspoons
0.5 cup plain yoghurt
3 large eggs
small dash of vanilla extract
1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180C, and line a 21 x 12 cm loaf pan with non-stick baking paper.

In a smallish bowl, mix together the flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt.

Put the sugar in a larger bowl, then zest the lemon and orange over the sugar. Add the thyme, then rub the sugar and flavourings together until the zest and thyme are infused throughout the sugar. Add the yoghurt, eggs and vanilla and mix until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix through. Finally, add the olive oil and use a rubber spatula to fold it in. The mixture will be smooth and moderately thick, but quite pourable.

Pour the mixture into the pan, smooth the top, and bake for 45-55 minutes. The cake should be golden brown and coming slightly away from the edges of the pan. A skewer inserted into the cake should come out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely on a rack.

Tuesday pasta for ten

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Luciano is in Melbourne for a workshop, so we gathered up most of the old lab from UQ to come over to our place for wine and chat with him this evening. He was eating dinner at the workshop, so I wanted to make something for the rest of us to have before he arrived, but I also wanted to avoid any frantic or stressful cooking on a Tuesday night. Solution: a giant pot of pasta, served with a not-quite-so-giant side dish of green beans. Ted and I got home and started cooking a bit after 6 pm, and served this up a bit after 7 (and had loads of time to sit about on the couch for a while in between).

I really like the way the eggplant is cooked here. I think cutting it into long wedges and then slices, so that each piece of eggplant has skin on one side and so holds together nicely, works well. And then just chucking it in the oven to roast, rather than sauteeing it, leaves each piece with a little bit of crispy-chewiness, and doesn’t result in it soaking up litres of olive oil. The fact that it requires no stirring or other attention while it cooks is just an added bonus.


Fusilli with tomato, chorizo and roast eggplant

4 medium-large eggplants
olive oil
aged red wine vinegar
sea salt and pepper
2 onions, peeled, quartered and sliced
4 cured chorizo (Saskia Beer’s Black Pig chorizo is great)
1 sachet tomato paste
1 ultra-gigantor glass of red wine
3 x 400g cans of whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 x 700g jar of passata
1 kg good quality fusilli

Heat the oven to 180 C. Cut the top off each eggplant. Slice each eggplant into quarters lengthwise, then cut each quarter into half lengthwise again. You should have eight equal-sized long wedges. Cut the wedges crosswise into pieces about 1.5 cm wide. You should now have lots of little triangular pieces of eggplant, each with skin on one end. Spread the eggplant out across four oven trays (you might need to do this in a couple of goes unless you have a very large oven). The pieces can touch each other a bit, but should not be piled up, or they will steam rather than roast. Drizzle the eggplant with some olive oil and red wine vinegar, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Note that the eggplant doesn’t have to be drenched in oil! Just a decent drizzle is fine. Put the trays in the oven and  leave to cook 20-30 minutes, until the pieces are cooked through and browning on the edges. No need to toss them part way through cooking. Once they’re cooked, remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, until they’re soft and golden. Cut each chorizo in half lengthwise, and then into 1.5 cm pieces. Add the chorizo and the tomato paste to the onions, and cook another couple of minutes. Then add the red wine, tinned tomatoes, and passata. Stir together, bring to the boil, then turn down to a rolling simmer. Cook for about 30-40 minutes, stirring now and then, until the sauce has come together and is a bit reduced. Add the cooked eggplant and cook another minute or two.

Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain. Combine the pasta and the sauce, and serve at once.

Serves 10-12 people with a vegetable on the side or salad to follow.

Potato and chorizo tortilla with chard agrodolce

Monday, April 9th, 2012

This tortilla was dinner tonight, together with some chard agrodolce. It was all delicious. We used royal blue potatoes – purple skin, yellow flesh – though the skin didn’t stay purple through cooking, alas. The chorizo was from Black Pig.  I think the success of the tortilla would depend on using a really flavourful chorizo (this one was fantastic). In the absence of that, I’d add a couple of skinned roasted peppers and some smoked paprika. This tortilla has less egg per potato volume than a traditional tortilla, and is thinner (about 2 cm thick), but that’s how I like it.

The chard agrodolce was a good match. This was a large bunch of ruby chard, stemmed, chopped, blanched and squeezed dry, then sauteed with olive oil, minced garlic and a handful of currants, and finally tossed with a splash of aged red wine vinegar and some toasted pine nuts. A++ would make again.


Potato and chorizo tortilla

2 onions, quartered and sliced
olive oil
5 medium waxy or all-rounder potatoes, scrubbed, cut into 1-2 mm slices
1 cured chorizo, ~120 g, sliced
1 good handful chopped parsley leaves
4 eggs
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a frypan over moderate heat, add the onions, and cook until translucent and soft. They’ll get quite a lot more cooking, so no need to take them to the golden stage at this point. Add the raw potato slices and continue to fry, stirring frequently, until they are cooked (but still keeping their shape). This took about 15 minutes for us – it will depend on the potato type and how finely they’re sliced. Add the chorizo a few minutes before the end, so its flavour gets mixed through everything.

Turn down the heat under the pan to low. Whisk together the eggs, parsley and salt and pepper, then add to the pan. Give it a very quick stir through, and pat everything down flat. Our mixture was about 2.5 cm thick at this stage. Leave to cook until the middle of the frittata is getting solid, and just the top remains runny. At this point, you can flip it if you are highly skilled. If you’re like me, on the other hand, you can instead just put the pan under the grill until the top is cooked.

Serves 4, with a vegetable side.

Roast rhubarb with lime and cointreau

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

This is so basic it’s hardly worth writing, but for my own records, it was great.

500 g rhubarb stems (weighed after trimming)
2/3 cup sugar
juice of 1 decent-sized lime
a good glug of Cointreau

Cut the rhubarb into 3 cm lengths. Put in a baking dish, and toss together with the sugar, lime and Cointreau. Roast, uncovered, at 180 C for about 20 minutes, until the rhubarb is softened. The pieces will still be intact and beautiful red. Let it sit for a couple of minutes before eating, or eat cold later. Good with yoghurt for breakfast, or creme fraiche and crisp almond biscuits for dessert.


Fritter science, non-best-practice version

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I like to do my culinary science the right way. Standardisation, controls, a well-thought-out experimental design. This isn’t always possible to achieve on the fly, however, so tonight’s dinner should be considered as exploratory experimental work that will require rigorous follow-up. Fortunately fritters lend themselves to this kind of experimentation, as you can fry a couple, taste, modify the batter, fry another couple, modify again, and so on.

I felt like corn and zucchini fritters for dinner, and wanted to try making them with besan flour. I prepped the vegetables: corn, zucchini, scallions, coriander leaves and chili flakes. I then made up a batter based on this recipe: besan flour, plain flour, salt and water. Mixed the vegetables and the batter, fried the first batch of four, and split one with Ted for a taste test. Not bad! They were particularly good hot off the pan, crispy on the outside and light and toasty inside. I wondered, however, whether they might not be better with a little bit of feta crumbled in. So I added some feta to the mix, and cooked up another four. These were also good straight off the pan, though the feta was a little dominating in flavour. Still, the cheese was in there now, so we pressed on and cooked another four, leaving the rest on a plate underneath a tea-towel to stay warm until we were ready to sit down.

We were pretty peckish at this point, so while cooking we split another one of the first feta fritters once they had cooled down a bit, and actually the flavour was pretty good – more appealing than the no-feta version. Both the feta-free and feta-ful versions, however, were getting slightly lumpen as they cooled. There was enough mixture left for two more fritters, so I added about a quarter of a teaspoon of baking powder to this before frying them off. Ah ha! Now we see a difference – there were a few little bubbles rising to the surface as we cooked the first side, and the fritters were puffier and had straighter sides. Fresh off the pan, the first one of these that we shared was softer and lighter than the previous versions, and tasted great.

We sat down to eat a few more, with some salad and roast tomatoes. After about 5 minutes, when all of the fritters had had a chance to cool down a bit, we did a side-by-side tasting of the three versions. The first version (no feta, no baking powder) was ok, but quite dense. The second (feta, no baking powder) was noticably softer than the first version, and the feta added some more interest to the flavour. The third (feta, baking powder) was quite similar to the second, but still a little lighter.

So, the secret is feta and/or baking powder, right? Perhaps, but I am tormented by the confounding variables. The feta-free fritters were cooked earliest, so were the coldest, and maybe that’s why they seemed less good. What if I cooked the different batches for different times, so that the first set were actually just overcooked? What if the performance of the batter improves with sitting – some fritter recipes do call for a resting period before you start cooking. There’s no way to disentangle these factors! I need to make three batters in parallel, rest them the same amount of time, and then fry a fritter from each batter in the same pan at the same time, using the same amount of batter for each one. Only then will I know the truth. Until then, the recipe below is the one I currently hypothesise to be the best. Further testing required (and I will be happy to oblige – these were damn good fritters).


Corn, zucchini and besan flour fritters

2 medium zucchini, finely julienned on a mandoline
kernels cut from 2 cobs of corn
4 scallions, finely sliced
2 large handfuls of coriander leaves, chopped
2 large pinches of chili flakes, or to taste
150 g besan flour
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
salt and pepper
170-200 ml water
80 g feta, crumbled
olive oil

Sprinkle the julienned zucchini well with salt, and leave to drain in a colander or sieve for 30 minutes. Squeeze out excess water, the spread out over a tea-towel, roll it up lengthwise, and twist to squeeze out all the remaining liquid. Put the zucchini into a bowl with the corn, scallions, coriander leaves and chili flakes, and mix.

In another bowl, sieve together the besan flour, plain flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Stir in the water, to make a thick batter. Combine this with the vegetables and the feta. The mixture should be thick but not excessively stiff. Add a little extra water to thin if necessary.

Heat a little olive oil in a frypan over moderate heat. Spoon fritter-sized portions of batter into the pan, and flatten them out so they are about 1 cm thick. Allow them to cook until browning on the bottom, then flip and continue to cook until golden on the other side and cooked in the middle. Remove to a plate and keep warm.

Makes about 14 fritters (about 7-8 cm in diameter).

We ate the fritters with some roast cherry tomatoes  and some snow peas and pea shoots (all harvested from our garden! I was overly pessimistic about our chances of getting more ripe tomatoes on the weekend).


Baked eggs with backyard tomatoes

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

This summer was the first time we’ve ever had a garden we could grow things in. We’d previously attempted (and eventually killed) many pots of herbs in many apartments, but nothing more. Despite this not very stellar record, I was smitten with horticultural lust when we moved into a house with a sunny back wall and a fallow garden bed. I went a bit overboard ordering heirloom vegetable seeds from Diggers, then carried through a major operation starting seeds of seven different kinds of tomatoes, two kinds of peas, many different herbs, Italian broccoli varieties, and so on. And then, after preparing the soil (and filling quite a few pots as well) I planted them all out, pruned, staked, weeded, picked caterpillars and treated for whiteflies. It was a joy. It made me happy every morning when I went outside and checked how much things had grown, what varieties were flowering, which was the first to set fruit, which the first to ripen.

Like I say, it was blissfully satisfying. And I will do it all again next summer. But with one difference: I will start about three months earlier. I knew I was getting everything started late. We’d just moved to Melbourne, I was trying to catch up with things in the lab, we worked some weekends, I delayed putting in the seed order because was I really sure that I was going to do this, given my previously black thumb? By the time I committed and put in the order, it was the start of November. The first seedlings came up in late November, and I transplanted them outside in late December. This might have been ok in Brisbane, but Melbourne was not quite so forgiving. Our garden has been a lush, gorgeous, endlessly enjoyable paradise in which I have spent scores of happy hours working or sitting, but our first tomatoes only ripened a couple of weeks ago. About the same time, in fact, that I was writing an entry about how the autumnal weather was making me long for osso buco.

Since then, despite the recent rain and cold nights, a handful of tomatoes have slowly ripened, turning yellow or orange or red one by one, like lights coming on at night. Their texture wasn’t the best, but the flavour was excellent – sweet and sharp, each variety distinct. This morning we harvested all that were ripe, to roast for breakfast. We got one jaune flamme, several brown berries and lemon drops, a couple of black cherries, and about twenty incredibly tiny wild sweeties. The plants are becoming decrepit now, dropping brown leaves and looking exhausted. I’ll leave them in for another week or so to see whether any more fruit ripens, and if not then pull them out for compost. But even if this morning’s small dish of tomatoes is all we eat from this crop, it’s still been absolutely worth it. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve shown myself that my thumb is not entirely black, and I’ve gained hours of relaxation and pleasure. I’m without regret, though I have put a reminder in my diary to start the tomato seeds in August this year.


Baked eggs and tomatoes with sourdough and chevre

This wasn’t the prettiest dish, but it was delicious. I took our bowl of mixed tomatoes (probably the equivalent of about 25 cherry tomatoes), halved all but the smallest, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted in a smallish baking dish in a moderate oven (about 160C) until they were softened, about 15-20 minutes. I pushed the tomatoes aside to make a couple of indentations, into which I cracked eggs. Back in the oven for 5 minutes or so, checking frequently towards the end, until the whites were cooked but the yolks were still runny. Meanwhile, I’d toasted a slice of sourdough, and spread with some young chevre. I spooned the egg-and-tomato mixture out of the baking dish over the toast, and ate immediately.

Osso buco not-strictly-milanese

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

After a weekend of 37 degrees C a couple of weeks ago, it has rapidly turned autumnish. The doona is back on the bed. I shivered through a day at work when it hit 15 degrees in the afternoon and I had come in stupidly wearing just a T-shirt. The figs on the huge tree in our backyard have finally ripened, and there are enough of them that I’ve been able to eat at least a couple of fresh figs every day, to give some away to friends, and to make this delicious fig, hazelnut and brandy cake.  While I was up the ladder picking figs a couple of evenings ago, I smelled the first wood fire of the season from one of our neighbours’ houses – a little early, perhaps, but I’ll be getting our own chimney swept soon.

When I was at the St Kilda farmers market last weekend, it was chilly, drizzling, almost misty. I had a powerful surge of homesickness for the UK and Ireland! Even though there were stalls there selling the last of the heirloom tomatoes of the summer, in all other ways it felt utterly like autumn was upon us. I stocked up on cold-weather vegetables – cavolo nero, kohlrabi, beetroot – and various bits of meat to go in the freezer for episodes of weekend slow-cooking. One of these purchases was some osso buco from Warialda Beef. The slices were enormous, about 500 g each, dark purple in colour and marbled with fat. Warialda cows are rare breed, grass-fed, and slaughtered at two and a half years, and the meat is then dry aged. And oh my god, it tastes so good. I’ve been more in the habit recently of cooking osso buco in stout, to beef (ha) up the flavour a bit, but since this meat looked so good, I cooked it a bit more traditionally in white wine. It was spectacular. Tender, rich, deeply flavoured – the best osso buco I have ever had.


three large pieces of osso buco, approx 1.4 kg in total
olive oil
2 onions, peeled, quartered, and sliced
2 decent-sized carrots, peeled and cut into 1 cm cubes
2 sticks celery, cut into 1 cm cubes
2 large glasses white wine
1 tin peeled tomatoes
500 ml stock (chicken or veal)
2 fresh bay leaves
1 large sprig rosemary

1 clove garlic, crushed finely
zest of a lemon
a handful or two of parsley leaves, finely chopped

Season the meat with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Heat some olive oil in a large oven-proof saucepan, and brown the meat on each side. Do each piece separately if they are large – don’t crowd them. Remove the meat and set aside.

Add the onions, carrots and celery to the oil remaining in the pan, and cook over moderate heat until the onion is softened and translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add the wine, stock, the tin of tomatoes (roughly chop them with a knife in the can before adding), bay leaves, rosemary, and a teaspoon of rock salt (less if using table salt). Stir, then add the meat. The meat should be mostly covered by the liquid.

Put the lid on the saucepan and cook in the oven at about 150 C for 2.5-3 hours, until the meat is extremely tender and the liquid has substantially reduced. I tend to turn the meat over every hour or so to make sure both sides get a go under the liquid. This does make it more likely that the marrow will fall out of the bone, so if you value eating the marrow with a spoon (delicious), you might not want to turn them. It’s almost certainly not really necessary.

Just before eating, combine garlic, lemon zest and parsley to make gremolata, and sprinkle over the meat.

We served this with tubetti pasta because we were too lazy to make the more traditional risotto. It was so, so fine.

Sunday lunch of three salads

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

It’s summer officially, but not quite really. We’ve had some hot days, but they’re rare interruptions in the temperate progression of 20-degree days (and 12 degree nights). But when the sun is out, as it often is, I’m starting to get to wanting crispy salads and cold beer. We had Iñaki and Begoña, and Henry and Linda, and all the kids, over for lunch today. Henry brought a fantastic roasted spatchcocked chicken, I made these three salads below, and we finished with Greek sweets from Iñaki and Begoña, and this orange and lemon poppyseed cake. The sun stayed out for us during lunch, and while Iñaki let his gardening urge take over in the back yard (gardening date next Sunday, Iñaki?), and for a walk to the Union St park. Now it’s 7 pm and the sun is still up, but I’m thiiiiiis close to turning on the heater. Doesn’t matter, summer lunch was awesome while it lasted.


Couscous, eggplant, dried fig and orange salad

185 g couscous
250 ml boiling water
2 largish eggplants
olive oil
sherry vinegar
1/3 cup pine nuts
180 g sheeps’ milk feta, crumbled
1/4 cup currants
8 dried figs, chopped into 1 cm pieces
1 large orange, zest and juice
lots of fresh mint and parsley, finely chopped

Cut the eggplants into 2 cm cubes. Divide between a couple of large baking trays or dishes. Make sure that the cubes are in one layer, not piled up, otherwise they will steam rather than roast. Toss the eggplant with a glug or two of olive oil, a splash of sherry vinegar, and sea salt and black pepper. Roast at 180 C for about 30-40 minutes, until golden and soft.

Toast the pine nuts in a fry pan over low heat, stirring often, until they are lightly golden.

Put the couscous in a large bowl, add a good pinch of salt, and pour over the boiling water. Leave for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. I like to make the couscous early and let it dry a little before using it, but you can eat it warm if you like.

Once the couscous is cooked, add the roast eggplant, pine nuts, feta, currants, figs, the orange zest, half the juice, mint and parsley. Toss and taste. Add more juice and/or salt if needed.


Kipfler, green bean and smoked salmon

10 medium kipflers, peeled and cut into 2 cm pieces
about 40 green beans, tops trimmed
400 g hot-smoked salmon, skin removed
1 small bunch dill, leaves chopped
a couple of tablespoons olive oil
juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons seeded mustard
sea salt and pepper

Steam the kipflers in steamer baskets over boiling water until they are tender. Boil the beans for about 4 minutes, until they’re cooked to your liking. Break the salmon into bite-sized pieces.

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Put the potatoes and beans in a large bowl, and toss with the dressing. Add the salmon and dill, and toss again, gently. (You toss it in two stages so the salmon doesn’t get broken up.) Serve warm or at room temperature.


Summer salad, inspired by Jess

2 handfuls baby spinach leaves
2 handfuls rocket
2 handfuls baby cos, torn into pieces
2 cobs of corn, kernels cut off
1/2 yellow capsicum, finely sliced
1 small cucumber, halved, seeded, and sliced
8 giant cherry tomatoes, quartered
8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
olive oil
vinegar (sherry, champagne, tarragon, your choice)
salt and pepper

Toss together all the vegetables. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Dress the salad and serve at once.


Spring sushi bowl

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Hello comrades. I have lots to report, but I am rather tired, so I will keep this short.

Melbourne is awesome! Life is fab. We have a wee back yard with a lemon tree, a fig tree, lavender, and a rampant mint plant. I am growing seven kinds of tomato from seed, as well as snow peas, zucchini, and forests of herbs. I’ve found excellent markets, pastry shops and restaurants. I dawdle down the streets near our house, transfixed by the lushness and prettiness of people’s front gardens. I’m getting closer to finding a bike route to uni that I am happy with. I love the fact that it’s almost December but I still don’t swelter during the day, and in the evening I can sit in the garden, listening to the cicadas, and appreciate the coolness. I thought it would be the city and inner suburbs that I would love in Melbourne – and I do love them – but our day-to-day life out in Armadale is wonderful. I am very happy. I can imagine living here for a long time.

Here’s what I ate for dinner tonight. Very simple, but satisfying to both the eye and to taste. The cicadas, the garden and the cool night air took care of the other senses.


Sushi bowl for one

a handful of cooked brown rice
1 bunch of asparagus
a quarter of a large avocado
a slice of firm tofu
sesame seeds

Trim the asparagus, halve the spears, then steam until tender. Peel the avocado segment, then slice crosswise into about 10 slices. Saute the tofu until golden, then cut into bite-size batons.

Spread the rice over the bottom of a flattish bowl. Top with the asparagus, avocado and tofu in an aesthetically pleasing manner (I put asparagus on one side, the avocado fanned out on the other, and tofu in the middle). Sprinkle with sesame seeds, snips of toasted nori, and ponzu. Eat.

Earmuffs, lemon possets, etc

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Tedster and I are moving to Melbourne in 13 days. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!

… Let me take a short pause here to hyperventilate …

Fortunately, a couple of weekends ago we went to Christmas in July at the Chaddo, and Santa gave Ted a pair of furry earmuffs. We decided tonight that these were the Stress Earmuffs. You would put them on if you were stressed, and they would make everything better. Or perhaps they would just be the outward sign of your stress, so other people would see and treat you nicely. Either way, we have spent the last few hours donning the ‘muffs to express our angst. I have some of the best photographs I’ve ever taken, of Ted wearing the earmuffs and facially demonstrating his stress, but I will not put them on the internet because I love Ted like no other husband and every man deserves his dignity. And also because there are quite a few photos of me looking deranged too.

We’re clearing out our apartment, writing lists of the dozens of things that need to be done each day between now and when we leave, putting earmuffs on, making appointments with an accountant to get several years’ worth of tax returns done, arranging for the utilities to be disconnected, taking photos with earmuffs on, sorting out a couple of cupboards, deciding that this morning’s resolution not to drink any wine today was stupid and should be broken forthwith, and so on. It feels like we’ve been preparing to move forever, but no matter that I thought I was decently organised up until now, crunch time has made me realise how very, very wrong I was. Oh god, excuse me while I go and put something warm and fluffy on my ears.

Part of the moving process is seeing many of our friends for goodbye-for-now meals. There have been many occasions recently, at one or other of these meals, when I’ve looked around the table at the faces of my so, so dear friends and wondered what the hell we are doing leaving. (The answer is job-related.) The eating notes have chronicled many of these meals. The most recent of these was last Friday, when Ian, Lisa, Charly, Rich, Sal and Jim came over to our place. It was an awesome evening.

We started with olives and some saucisson that Lisa brought. Then onion, mustard and fennelseed tart, with a mixed-leaf salad. Then, a little while later, seven hour leg of lamb (more or less like this, just larger in size and cooked for the full seven hours at 120 C) , with mashed potatoes and green beans. And finally, while reclining on the couches afterwards, lemon possets for dessert. The possets are great: fairly small, rich but refreshing, and very easy to make. They also need to be made well ahead of time, which means that your effort upon serving is limited to getting up and getting them out of the fridge. Bonus.


Lemon possets

800 ml cream (see note below)
200 g sugar
finely grated zest of three lemons
180 ml lemon juice (from approx three lemons)

Combine the cream, sugar and zest in a saucepan. Bring to a moderate simmer, and cook for four minutes, stirring a few times a minute. Keep an eye on it!

Remove from the heat, let it settle down for a minute, then stir in the lemon juice. Let it sit for a few minutes.

Strain through a sieve into a jug, to get rid of the zest. Pour the strained liquid into eight ramekins. Refrigerate them for at least 4 hours, and preferably closer to 8 (or overnight). This tastes much better and has a more enjoyable texture after it has been really thoroughly chilled.

Serves 8.


Note: I used Barambah cream, which looks thick and slightly yellow like double cream, though it is only single cream (36% fat). Most posset recipes call for double cream.