Archives for the month of: October, 2011

It has been a while since I studied and I have forgotten how to do it. (Though, past exam results would question if I have ever known how to do it.) Instead of re-reading and re-writing notes on topics I will possibly never ever contemplate again, even in the deep, dark recesses of my brain, I find myself pondering the deeper questions of life… what to get my sister for Christmas? Why didn’t I buy that lovely biscuit tin in France? Why did my mother not have me learn French In-vitro? What would I do if I won Lotto? What to cook for dinner? Coffee or tea?

And today’s question: could I make tomato chutney from canned tomatoes, a cheater’s tomato chutney of sorts? Could I? Is this a dangerous thought to be thinking right now? I am having wondrous visions of my business communication notes splattered delightfully in a sweet, red, juicy sauce…

A tomato chutney, I feel, is one of life’s staple ingredients. If made with the right ratio of brown sugar to vinegar to spices it really is the most versatile of condiments. A good tomato chutney can liven any dish. Take the corn fritters I had for lunch: palm sized, crisp edged, buttery yellow fritters with hints of coriander and pieces of red capsicum, well seasoned and kindly re-heated in the oven, rather than the microwave which makes all the difference. They were everything a corn fritter should have been. But, I couldn’t help thinking a sweet tomato chutney with traces of spice and ginger could have made these fritters truly exceptional.

This chutney, this chutney, you will be eating from the jar with a teaspoon. It is more like a jam, but don’t let that hinder its versatility. I think I will eat this on toast with a generous spreading of butter, or in rice dishes, or stirred through cream cheese for a dip, or atop baked potatoes, or as an omelette flavouring, or in any egg dish for that matter, or with cold roast chicken in a sandwich, or simply with cheese and a cracker.

This chutney-jam is very easy to make. Just mix everything in the pot until it reaches jam-like consistency. As it shimmers and simmers away the colours begin to change to richer and darker hues, the colour of ripe chillies, or smashed berries.

Ideal for dramatic note-staining. Or eating by the spoonful.

Tomato Chutney-Jam

Adapted from this recipe and this recipe.

1 800g tin of whole peeled tomatoes in juice plus 1 400g tin.
330-ish ml of white wine vinegar (or cider vinegar, or just plain white vinegar)
1 cinnamon quill
4-5 whole cloves
1 head garlic, finely diced
1 piece of ginger about the size of your thumb, finely diced
handful raisins
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
pepper
generous pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

Pour the tins of tomatoes into a medium-large pot. Chop roughly with a knife. Using the 400g tin, fill 3/4 of the way up with vinegar, swirl to gather left over tomato juice. Pour into pot. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and leave uncovered for 90minutes, or until liquid has reduced and the consistency is thicker.

Take 2 preserving jars and sterilise in hot water or the oven. When jam has finished cooking, pour into jars and place lid tightly on top. Leave to cool. The jar lid should make a ‘pop’ sound as it seals itself.

If you plan on eating the chutney within 2-3 weeks, preserving jars are not necessary, simply place in fridge.

N.B If you would like a less sweet jam reduce the white sugar content to only half a cup.

The World Cup is over. The tourists will leave. The Cup will stay. We will have to find something else to talk about.

I feel the Rugby World Cup has opened an entirely new door to rugby appreciation for me. (Beyond the players’ physiques…) For the opening weekend, quarter finals, semi finals and finals weekends I have been working at Eden Park in Auckland. The atmosphere has been quite electric and everyone is so passionate. We have been able to watch snippets of the games while polishing glasses and making coffee. It does get a bit exciting. Although, we do worry about the effect of the game on our guests. Are they too nervous to eat? Will they leave in disgust and embarrassment as soon as the final whistle has blown? Will they drink to their success or to their sorrow?

Before the semi finals game between the All Blacks and the Wallabies we were busy folding napkins discussing the various merits of Dan Carter and Richie McCaw.

We decided Richie was the one. He seems equally comfortable in both city and country. He is dashing in a suit but undoubtedly ruggedly handsome in a Swandri and gumboots. He can drink a beer with the boys or a cup of tea with your Nana. A bit of a lumberjack but he could probably whip up a sponge cake should he so desire. Gracious in defeat and in victory. And, that jaw line! Our male colleagues were not particularly impressed by this discussion.

This chocolate spiral is from Lois Daish’s fantastic book A Good Year. According to Daish, chocolate spiral is the sort of thing to make in October. Personally, I feel anytime of year would be ideal chocolate spiral eating time.

As I made this spiral cake, re-reading the recipe a thousand times (one can not serve Richie a messy chocolate spiral), I thought this recipe could not possibly work. I poured the chocolate mixture on to the baking tray. It seemed far too runny; it was surely going to bubble off the edges. I was expecting a burnt and blackened mess in the bottom of my stove. I pulled up a chair and took stove-side vigil.

But, instead it came out rather nicely with a light spring to the touch and a smooth finish. I filled the roll with sweet vanilla cream, chocolate may have been nice, but with the black and white it seemed rather fitting at the moment. Like a delicate fern frond, twirled in black and white. Or an All Black shirt, tightly wrapped and white collared.

Signing off like a lovesick teenager, Richie, this is for you.

Chocolate Sponge Spiral
From Lois Daish, A Good Year

3 eggs
75grams icing sugar, plus 2 teaspoons extra
15grams cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
pinch salt
pinch cream of tartar
10grams cornflour
25grams plain flour

Preheat oven to 210°C. Place a piece of baking paper on a baking tray.

Separate the eggs – yolks into a large bowl, whites into a slightly smaller bowl.

To the yolks add the 75grams icing sugar, cocoa, vanilla essence and salt.

To the whites add the cream of tartar. Beat the whites until just foamy then add the 2tsp icing sugar. Continue to beat until firm and droopy peaks form. (Not hard peaks, you don’t want the mixture to be too dry.)

Without washing the beaters, beat the egg yolk mixture until well combined. Detach the beaters and leave one beater in the bowl.

Mix the cornflour and flour together. Sieve half the mixture into the chocolate egg yolk mix, then add a heaped scoop of the egg whites. Fold gently but thoroughly together with the detached beater.

Sift the remaining flour and cornflour and add the remaining egg whites. Fold together with the detached beater. Lastly, use a plastic spatula to sweep the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Scoop the mixture onto the prepared baking tray and use the spatula to spread into a rectangle about 30cm x 15cm and 1cm thick.

Place in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the cake feels bouncy when gently pressed. Do not overcook or the cake will break when it is rolled.

When the cake is removed from the oven spread a clean tea towel on the bench. Lift the cake and the banking paper and place baking paper side up on the tea towel. Peel off the baking paper. If the paper sticks to the cake brush lightly with warm water and leave to sit for a few minutes.

While the cake is still warm, roll it up loosely and leave to cool on the tea towel on a cake rack. Once completely cooled, unroll and spread a sweetened cream filling. Roll up more tightly.

Sprinkle with icing sugar. This spiral cake is ideal for afternoon tea or dessert.

There are very few things in this world that I can say to be true with absolute, one hundred percent, unfaltering conviction. That’s quite a hefty statement to make. It is making me nervous, but here goes: my favourite meal of the day is breakfast and brunch.

Not only are the metabolic and health advantages of eating breakfast rather persuasive, but in the morning taste buds seem so much sharper. Food tastes better, more flavoursome, more full, sweeter or with more zing, fresher and more tantalising.

Breakfast and brunch really is the most friendly meal of the day.

French toast, pancakes, hot cakes or crepes. Eggs benedict, eggs florentine, poached, scrambled, fried, soft boiled with soldiers. Muesli – toasted, natural, bircher, with fruit or chocolate. Sausages, bacon, hash browns. Toast and butter. Pastry, muffin, bagel, waffle. A breakfast salad, a breakfast dessert. Cold pizza bleary eyed and in a dressing gown or champagne brunch with pearls and heels. Cereal, porridge, yoghurt, fruit. Tea, coffee, juice, smoothie.

So, the idea of a breakfast rut, of blindly pouring cereal into a bowl, maybe a sprinkle of sugar, then too much milk and sitting, slouched, reading the back of the box for the umpteenth time, or worse, standing over the sink staring glassy eyed out the window is quite insulting. We do not have time every morning for pearls and heels, for hauling out the waffle iron or whipping up a holondaise. But let’s avoid the ruts, let’s make a little effort, please.

Last week I made a rather ho-hum sort of banana-seed-raisin loaf. It was dense like a brick, a bit like condensed bird feed and due to a lack of a one litre capacity loaf tin, I had TWO of the overwhelmingly average loaves. What to do?

Make breakfast parfait! Slices of banana-seed-raisin loaf, sliced banana, stewed apple, repeat, yoghurt. These could very well be my new go-to breakfast. Versatile – use any fruit, quick, easy, added health points, plus if you are feeling fancy eat them in a Sunday glass! Or, feeling a bit cute in a glass jar like mine.

A breakfast parfait really could be made with anything-toasted fruit bread or split muffin, a breakfast muffin, berry might be nice. Or porridge oats or normal cereal. The key is in the layering: a little added moisture to the bread-y base enhances the flavours but add the wet fruit directly on the bread and you might have a soggy mess.

Experiment and see what you come up with. Sprinkle some nuts, seeds or oats on top. A spoonful of honey or two different yoghurts. Fresh berries in summer would be lovely and make for bright layers.

The Northern hemisphere blogosphere is going crazy over “fall.” My favourite writers are either lamenting the end of the stone fruit season- wondering how they will survive without roasted peaches and apricot compotes. Or other bloggers’ posts are full of exclamation marks as they look forward to woollen coats(!), thick stews(!), extra duvets (or comforters)(!), pumpkin and squash(!), crunchy leaves under foot(!) and wearing scarves(!), gloves(!) and seeing your breath at winter market stalls(!!!).

I love this excitement over the change of seasons. The new produce, a new wardrobe, a change in weather (hopefully for the better) can make all the difference to winter’s drudgery. New season asparagus, purple tipped and crunchy. New season potatoes, or rhubarb, or spring lamb – all are wonderful reminders of the importance of eating seasonally.

I wish to jump on this seasonal bandwagon with a pretty-in-pink rhubarb tart. Last week, while the weather in Wellington was decidedly not Spring, I went to cook and eat and speak french with Ollie’s lovely French flatmates, Gabrielle and Antoine. On the menu was a pear, walnut and Gorgonzola risotto and une tarte à la rhubarbe pour le dessert.

The risotto was, as Ollie declared, one of the best risottos he had ever had. Risotto can be quite rich and overly creamy but the sharpness of the Gorgonzola plus the sweetness of the pear made quite a delightful combination.

For la tarte à la rhubarbe I peeled the pinky-red threads from the rhubarb stalks while Gabrielle made the pastry. We drank mint tea and the kitchen steamed up, making it near impossible to see the rain still drizzling outside. With Gabrielle’s instruction I mixed the tart filling. Gabrielle is the kind of cook I would love to be one day – instinctive. We chatted away in a sort of franglais about grams and cup measurements as we made the tart filling, un petit peu plus, oh un peu trop, oh well!

La tarte came out of the oven slightly golden, the rhubarb pale shades of pink. I think it would be lovely with marscapone or vanilla bean ice cream.

It really is a very pretty dessert.

Rhubarb Tart
From the kitchen of Gabrielle et Antoine

Pastry:
200g flour
100g butter

Filling:
6 stalks of rhubarb
2 eggs
150ml cream
2 tablespoons ground almonds
3 heaped tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Pre-heat oven to 180°C.

Place the flour in a bowl. Rub in the butter and knead the mixture until a smooth dough forms. Press the dough into a shallow tart pan.

Peel the rhubarb and chop into 2cm pieces. Spread evenly over the pastry.

In a separate bowl thoroughly whisk the eggs. Then add the cream and other ingredients, whisk well. Pour over the rhubarb and place in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft.

Serve hot or slightly warmed.