Tag Archives: Summer

Garlic Mayo

You won’t ever see mayo curdle; you’ll feel it. It will suddenly lose all its fight, and go slack, before turning to liquid. Don’t let this put you off, as it’s easily avoided, easily rectified, and, once you’ve had homemade mayo, there’s no going back. Yes, I know you can do this with a blender, but the washing up is more effort than whisking by hand. Yes, I know it’s properly called Aïoli, but not all my guests speak Foreign. Yes, I suppose you could make it without garlic but, frankly, what’s the point of being alive?

Assuming two greedy people, you’ll need one egg yolk, 150mL groundnut oil, 50mL of your best extra virgin, half a lemon, a pinch of salt, and a clove of garlic. You’ll also need a certain amount of sang-froid in case it all goes wrong, plus a spare egg.

Start by popping the yolk and the salt into a small round mixing bowl. Crush the garlic into this and give it a good thirty seconds with a balloon whisk. Doesn’t need to be furiously thrashed, just steadily mixed. This will seem pointless, but don’t worry. The mixture will lighten in colour; now leave it alone for a minute or two. It helps if your mixing bowl is heavy, resting on a rubber mat or, failing that, a slightly damp teatowel.

I find pouring directly from the oil bottle a bit awkward, so normally measure it out into a jug with a spout, to give me a little more control. Start with the groundnut oil, and have your half lemon ready.

Start whisking the yolk again, slowly, and feel how it’s slightly sticky, slightly resistant. From now on, keep on whisking. Slowly. Gently. Steadily. More of an andantino than an allegro furioso. Pour in a few drops of the oil. You’re aiming for a teaspoon or less, and keep whisking. Feel how the mixture momentarily loosens, then tightens again, as the oil is incorporated. Another teaspoon. That’s five millilitres. And again. And again; whisking all the time.

At this point you can start to think about adding larger quantities of oil (always less than a third of the volume you’ve already got in the mixing bowl) perhaps even consider a constant pour, in the thinnest stream your measuring jug permits. After around 50mL of oil, the mixture will start to become extremely sticky, and will threaten to attach itself to your whisk as an almost solid lump. Before that can happen, put the oil down, and give the half lemon a gentle squeeze to add a teaspoon of juice. Don’t stop whisking at any point. The mixture will loosen, and return to its prior stickiness. Keep adding oil, and a squirt of lemon juice each time the mixture becomes too thick.

Once all the groundnut oil is incorporated, you can stop for a quick rest, but once you’re ready, add the olive oil as before, again with a squirt of lemon juice to loosen. You may not need the entire half lemon.

Some recipes recommend more or less oil, but 200mL per egg yolk seems safe. Made using nothing but olive oil, it’s a little overwhelming, plus groundnut oil has the advantage of being cheaper. And when it goes wrong? Deploy the yolk of your spare egg into a clean bowl, start whisking, and gradually add the curdled mayo from the other bowl.

Serve it with steamed asparagus, new potatoes, baked fish, or as a dip for crusty white bread. It can be kept in the fridge for a day or two, assuming you have enough self control.


Naughty Strawberries

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However you might feel about British food, you cannot deny this island produces some of the best strawberries on the planet. I’m given to understand that this is because they’re still grown in the ground, whilst the rest of the civilised world have taken to growing them hydroponically, which maximises the yield, but at the expense of texture and flavour.

That said, they can occasionally disappoint, and my box of new season’s strawbs are pleasant, but without the richness that they’ll have in June. Here’s how to improve them, quantities below for five greedy people:

  • 500g strawberries
  • 250g Mascarpone
  • 300mL double cream
  • quarter cup icing sugar
  • 60mL Marsala

Lever the mascarpone out of its tub, and into a large mixing bowl. Sift the icing sugar over it. You need to combine the cream and Marsala, but if you add them all at once, you’ll just be chasing a lump of mascarpone around the bowl with a spoon. So start by adding a quarter of the cream and use a pair of metal spoons to break up the mascarpone and combine, after that it shouldn’t be too hard to add the rest. You want a smooth mix.

Retain a few of the most attractive strawberries for topping; hull and quarter the rest. In each bowl, place a dollop of the cream/mascarpone mix, a portion of strawberries, the remainder of the cream/mascarpone, and top with a single strawberry.

Leave in the fridge for an hour or two to set, and serve chilled.

More?!

You could use single cream, but you’ll need to sift in half a teaspoon of cornflour with the icing sugar to give it some stability. A chilled double espresso will add a certain kick to the mix, and you could also try a different alcohol. You could also sprinkle the strawberries with booze and allow them to sit for a while.


Art of the Tart

This is a rough and simple tart; not as refined as a quiche. The addition of egg to the pastry makes it remarkably forgiving. No blind baking, rolling, or faffing required.

For my 10″ diameter, 1½” deep pie dish, I use:

  • 220g plain flour
  • 110g butter, cold and cut up into small cubes
  • pinch salt
  • one egg
  • some milk

In a large mixing bowl, rub the butter into the flour and salt until the consistency of breadcrumbs. Beat the egg and mix it in with a palette knife, or failing that, a spoon. You may be able to coax it into a ball with your hands, but more than likely you’ll need to mix in a tablespoon of milk; maybe more. Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

The basis of the filling is three eggs and 250mL double cream. For a richer consistency, you can replace one egg with two yolks. This produces a fluffy, but set consistency, for a more wobbly version, increase the cream.

Today, I’ve got some pancetta (10 wafer thin rashers, about 70g) so I fry that gently until crisp, and set aside. No need to drain on paper towels, as the fat is flavoured with the spices in the cure, and we want it to infuse the rest of the filling.

Push the pastry into the pie dish with your hands. (I don’t need to butter my ceramic dish, your mileage may vary.) You could roll it, but there’s really no need. If it tears, just patch it. If you end up with more on one side of the dish than the other, just rip some off and patch. As I said, it forgives much, although if you work it too hard, and it’s a hot day, the butter will start to melt, so whack it back in the fridge if this happens.

Today I spread the pancetta in the bottom of the pastry case, and beat together the remaining ingredients, with some salt, pepper, nutmeg, and some grated grana. Any kind of Italian hard cheese will do.

Into the oven at 150°C for an hour. The case looks underfull.

…and then the filling puffs up, alarmingly…

…before relaxing at the end. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn. You’ll see that the pastry shrinks away from the sides of the dish, so easy to rescue.

Variations

This is only the beginning. You could:

  • peel and slice 750g of brown onions, and gently gently gently fry them in butter for an hour or so, with salt, pepper, and maybe a clove – allow to cool and pour over the cream/eggs
  • do the same with some leeks, and add some goat’s cheese to the mix
  • replace the goat’s cheese with some salmon, smoked or otherwise
  • add some steamed (and vigorously squeezed) spinach to the fray

Clafoutis

The last time I made clafoutis, it was the 90s, and Take That were performing – for want of a better word – to crowds at Wembley Arena. Oh. Wait. I see. What goes around comes around. What alarms me, even more than Take That, is that I haven’t made one of these for more than a decade, as it’s stupidly easy, stupidly quick, and can be made with just about any kind of fruit.

Beware. Strictly speaking, a clafoutis has to involve cherries. Anything else, and it’s a “flaugnarde”. There are even people who will tell you this in a huffy voice. I wouldn’t want to spoil their fun, so I proudly say “blueberry clafoutis”.

But today, it’s cherries.

Quand nous chanterons le temps des cerises,
et gai rossignol et merle moqueur
Seront tous en fête!
Les belles auront la folies en tête,
Et les amoureux du soleil en coeur.
Quand nous chanterons le temps des cerises,

Sifflera bien mieux le merle moqueur.

You’ll need a dish that is big enough to fit the cherries in a single layer. I use my quiche dish, which is ten inches in diameter, and one and a half inches deep.

I used:

  • 450g cherries
  • 4 eggs
  • 225mL milk
  • 225mL double cream
  • 75g caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 75g plain flour

Start by stalking and stoning the cherries. I know, it’s a pain, but it can’t be helped. Pomiane suggests leaving the stones in, but then greed gets the better of you, and before you know it you’ve chipped a tooth.

Get the oven going at 200°C. Like Yorkshire Pudding, a little shock and awe will help it rise.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together, quite vigorously, until they’ve gone a little pale and fluffy. Whisk in the cream, milk and salt and then gradually add the flour, whisking gently, ’til there are no obvious lumps. (Don’t worry about the occasional tiny lump.)

Generously butter the dish, and chuck in two teaspoons of icing sugar, giving the dish a good shake, so that the inside is well coated. Tip away the excess. This helps the pudding not to stick.

Put the cherries in the dish in a single layer. Put the dish on the shelf in the hot oven. Pour over the batter, stopping when you’re about half an inch short of the top. The tops of the cherries will be peeping through. Using these quantities, and the above mentioned dish, you’ll have a few tablespoons left over.

Leave in the oven for half an hour. It will puff up and go golden on the outside, and start to smell good. My fan-forced oven tends to give the side closer to the fan more of a tan, so you may want to turn the dish around halfway through.

Now, slip a knife in. Does it come out clean? Probably not. Close the oven door, and leave it for another five minutes, and keep repeating the test. Expect around forty minutes total. The photo at the top shows it about five minutes short of being done, so it will have much more of a tan. (Pomiane suggests turning the temperature up for the last few minutes to ensure this.)

Let it cool for about half an hour, then serve. It will collapse, but that’s fine. You could dust it with icing sugar. Some ice cream would be good at this point.

Variations

Loads. Today I chucked a tablespoon of brandy into the batter, and also a heaped tablespoon of ground almonds. Also, the caster sugar came from the jar wherein lurk the mummified corpses of a few vanilla pods. You could also sprinkle the top with flaked almonds if there were any handy.

I used to do this with Morello cherries from a jar, which is also good, and handy for the fifty weeks of the year when it isn’t cherry season.

You may want more sugar. You’ll need to double the sugar if you’re using the bitter but aromatic cherries you sometimes see from the East.

It’s also very good with raspberries or blueberries.


Pomiane’s Cherry Tart

This is based on a recipe by Pomiane, which he in turn based on a recipe given to him in his youth; allegedly how they cooked cherry tarts in the Île de France in 1860. For such a simple recipe, it’s marvellously tasty – thin chewy pastry and lots of runny juice. I’ve taken a few liberties with it.

To begin with, don’t make this with the best cherries. Those aren’t in season yet, and should simply be washed and devoured on the spot. Also, it’s quite runny, so not very portable. Assuming a six inch flan ring, you will need:

  • 300g bread dough, risen once and knocked back
  • 450g cherries, washed and stoned
  • 30g caster sugar
  • some butter to grease things

Bread dough?! Yeah. Pomiane suggests one ought to be able to order it at one’s local bakery, and apparently you can still do this in rural France. Otherwise, make a batch, and any you don’t use can be kept in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Anyway, start by stoning the cherries. There is no shame in owning a cherry stoner, unless you use it for olives, in which case I will slap you if ever I hear about it. There is no shame in donning an apron, as this is messy. There is also no shame sampling a few cherries as you go, this will tell you how sweet they are.

This is the point where I’d consider getting the oven going at 220°C for a fan forced. Elsewhere, roll out the piece of dough until it’s about ten inches in diameter, and quite thin, as though you were making a pizza base. But no holes. Ever.

Generously butter the baking sheet and the flan ring, and lay the dough on top, gently pushing it into the corners.

Use a knife or pressure of your palm against the flan ring to separate the excess dough.

Sprinkle half the sugar in, and then pack in the cherries, as tightly as they will go. If there are any spaces left, tear some cherries in half and squish the halves in. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar evenly over the top. (You may have some leftover cherries: due to a massive miscalculation I had 400g of stoned cherries left, which are now sitting in a clean jar with a generous splash of cheap vodka.)

Put the whole lot in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove, sprinkle with a few teaspoons more sugar, and leave to cool. It will have shrunk a little so it shouldn’t be too hard to ease off the flan ring.

Serve when almost cold. Mascarpone if you’re feeling fancy, but plenty of vanilla ice cream is better.


Pomiane suggests working 50g of butter into the pastry. Don’t think this is necessary. Also, his tooth is sweeter, and he recommends 50g of sugar. Not sure he’s dealing with the same sweet cherries that I get from the supermarket.

I wonder what would happen if you poured clafoutis mix into the tart before baking?


Ginger Beer

This is cloudy, fiery, and a teensy bit alcoholic. But oh, so good for a Summer’s day, even one where it’s cold, rainy, and with a maximum of 18ºC.

The quantities used produce 2L of finished product, allowing for spillage and avoidance of sediment.

Peel a piece of root ginger, with the aim of ending up with 50g of the stuff. (Wrap and put the excess in the freezer for later.) You could grate the ginger, or just chop it up into pieces and give them a going over with a rolling pin.

Get the kettle going.

Plop the ginger in a 3L capacity bowl, along with 250g caster sugar and the juice of two lemons, around 50mL, if you’re in a tight squeeze and using stuff from a bottle.

Pour the contents of the kettle on top, you’re going to need 2.5L boiling water, so you may need to boil and pour again.

Leave this to cool until it’s below 45ºC – use a thermometer or your little finger if you trust it. Add a level teaspoon of yeast, a level teaspoon of cream of tartar, and stir. (If it’s too hot, it will kill the yeast, so don’t skip the cooling phase.)

Cover and leave overnight (i.e. around twelve hours) somewhere cool, but not in the fridge.

Now, for the bottling. Always use PET drink bottles, preferably ones that have been used to store fizzy drinks, as you know they will be able to stand the pressure. Never, ever, ever use glass bottles. Make sure they’re clean. You now need to get the ginger beer into the bottles, without any stray bits of ginger or sediment from the bottom of the pot. So pour carefully and gently, using a fine mesh sieve (or a coarse one lined with muslin) and a funnel.

Fill the bottles to within about an inch of the top. Screw the caps on tight enough so that when you squeeze the bottle, the air escapes. Keep squeezing until all the air has escaped, and then tighten the caps.

It will need 2 days before it’s ready. Store the bottles at room temperature, but somewhere cool, and out of direct sunlight. There is a risk that the bottles may explode, so make the necessary arrangements. I put mine in a plastic tub, with a garbage bag tied over the top. From time to time, inspect the bottles, and if they’re bulging, loosen the caps momentarily to let out the excess gas.

Oh, the glamour!

Chill, and drink within a few days. There will also be sediment in the bottles, so pour carefully.

Variations

  • use different kinds of sugar, and/or a blend of sugars
  • vary the sugar:water ratio – 100g:1L seems the norm but you could try 80g:1L if you wanted something a little sterner
  • the sugar I used previously shared a jar with a vanilla pod, which added a nice aroma and mellowed the fire of the ginger
  • another lemon won’t hurt, but you’ll end up with gingery lemon squash
  • play with the quantity of cream of tartar to vary the amount of fizz – I think my one level teasp is probably at the upper limit
  • pop in a couple of cloves
  • include the zest from the lemons, if they’re unwaxed
  • Nigel Slater suggests a bashed up lemongrass stalk
  • some sources recommend the yeast you use for beer or winemaking, breadmaking yeast is bred for speed and aggression, but doesn’t stay the course

Tonno è Fagioli

I am deeply suspicious of anyone who says they like Mondays. It has nothing to recommend it, especially after a sedate, but enjoyable weekend. By the late afternoon I have zero focus, zero concentration, and an urge to get home as soon as possible and do as little as possible. Random things acquired at the supermarket en route in the hope of a more creative week ahead.

Tonight: the remains of the borlotti beans, a tin of tuna, a hefty splash of balsamic, one red onion, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, used to produce some tonno è fagioli which I scoffed wrapped up in a couple of tortillas.

Might win the Nobel Prize for Snacking, but little else. (It is much improved when done with some parsley – fresh or from the freezer.)

Good intentions reserved for the rest of the week.