Saturday, 17 September 2011

paring knives - where can you get them?

Those little knives that are so useful in the kitchen, paring knives. Why can't you get them any more. I don't mean  razor sharp plastic handled knives. I mean little knives with wooden handles, often a little bit blunt, that your mum used to use to scrape potatoes, imagining she did such a thing. Sitting on a stool in the summer, with a bown soaking the spuds and loosening the skin. With a saucepan full of water for the peeled, pared or scraped veg on one side. There were always too many potatoes for the gathered masses.

We need more paring knives. Couteau d'office in French. It's official.

although treasured, this knife has been in the compost for some time... 

... but a perfect example of a paring knife, balance of blade and handle just right

a modern equivalent, blade's too long, handle is plastic

small sabatier, carbon steel, king of knives, but not a paring knife
Everyone has their of perfection. Like Goldilocks, I like to try things out before pronouncing, and yes, sometimes things do get broken along the way. No forced entry here, these knives are all mine, and paid for. The small slightly rotted paring knife at the top is the elusive ideal. That one probably dates from the 90s. If anyone knows where I can get another, I'd be grateful for the information. It's a good scraper, ideal corer and, aesthetically, just lovely.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

tooth hurty leftover soup

Even with tooth ache I still think about food. It seems pain is no barrier to hunger, or perhaps it's greed. Following in the family footsteps, Liv asked for smooth food when she got back from the dentist. While cooking I got blow by blow descriptions of injections, the callousness of dental professionals and the overwhelming, intolerable experience of pain. I tried to maintain interest, and summon up some sympathy. Fortunately experience has reduced my daughters' expectations, apart from when it comes to food.

Soup is a clear winner as a post dentist meal. I do like a clear soup, with cabbage and carrot in visible strips, especially with home made stock, but that isn't suitable now, as bits can get caught in holes: we'll move along. Out with the stick blender, some leftover dhal and green stir fry, heat both up with a mugful of water, blend to make a smooth soup and bob is your uncle. I like a bit of toast to go with, and if you're worried about the bits, tear it up and let it soak a little in the soup.

Simple, and delicious. And no, Liv, we won't be getting a microwave.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

red fruit coulis - no sugar added

Coulis, is a jewel coloured fruit tang that adds a lot to desserts. Fancy chefs scribble on the plate with it, and sit chocolate mousses, cakes and more on top. It's a lovely supplement to a fruit salad, it's the ripple in the raspberry ripple, and it's a way to keep the flavour of red soft fruit without having the depressing sight of it turning into mush: it's mush with attitude.

On Sunday it worked brilliantly alongside Kitty's creme brulee (NB the creme brulee that was pronounced by a grateful cousin as the best he'd ever tasted). The coulis was made of thawed frozen fruit (500g bag of raspberries, redcurrants, blackberries and ... more). Instead of sugar I used 12 dates, soaked for a few hours in water (straight from the kettle, boiling water). The fruit was blended with the dates, along with the water and and the mixture was passed through a sieve to get rid of all those little pips that get stuck in your teeth, and in between your teeth. The result was a rich red, full bodied, flavoursome coulis, that will go very well with the meringues being made at the moment, from all the leftover egg whites. Sugar is used in the meringue, not dates. If your coulis is too thick, go mad, and add some more water.

Left over coulis can be frozen in ice cube trays and decanted into plastic bags. Unthickened coulis would top a cheesecake, a merveille.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Lemony Almond Shortbread

Makes 30+

This is a mixture of recipes for shortbread, with a mixture of flours, almond, plain flour and a little wholemeal flour. The almonds add a little flavour, and make the biscuits a tiny bit chewy. The lemon flavour comes out. If you are substituting non wheat flour it will make the biscuits crisper, and you don’t need to let the dough rest. If you don’t want to use butter (or don’t have any) it’s best to chill the dough before using it, and the biscuits will cook a little quicker.

Be careful around these biscuits, I’ve just eaten more than I meant to, with a cup of tea. I’m regretting it only because I’m quite uncomfortable. Eating them seemed so right at the time.

200g plain flour (or 175/25 plain/wholemeal mix)
225g salted butter, softened
125g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1tsp lemon zest (grate really fine)
150g ground almonds
  • Beat the butter and sugar together, along with the lemon zest, until creamy. Use a machine to avoid arm ache.
  • Beat in the dry ingredients a little at a time. It may not seem likely to come together into a dough, but it will. Don’t add any liquid.
  • Press the dough together and allow to rest for half an hour. Up to this point you can prepare the dough ahead and leave it, using it a bit at a time.

When you’re ready to make biscuits set the oven to Gas Mark 3/325F/150C (a moderate oven).

Prepare a baking tray – line it with baking parchment.
Roll out the dough and cut with a cutter if you like – and prick with a fork, or roll balls about the size of a walnut – and flatten with a fork.

Cook for 20 minutes, or until very lightly golden.
Allow to sit for 5 minutes before putting the biscuits on a rack to cool.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

pudding contribution... burnt cream, pineapple with raspberry coulis

Kit's cooking creme brulee for our contribution to lunch tomorrow, starting with an accompaniment of Good Vibrations. We've lost the dinky kitchen blowtorch so Steve will be used a flamethrower to caramelise the sugar. A normal blowtorch actually, that was a lie. Kit's last attempt at melting the sugar in the oven resulted in an overcooked scramble meets old custard, which was unpleasant. I hope she remembers the vanilla this time too. It's so easy to forget an ingredient when you're doing a recipe that seems familiar.

We got loads of fantastic fruit on Portobello Market today. Plums (purple skinned quetsch type, not the Victorias they were labelled as, since they are yellow flesh and reddish yellow skin. A bit of a shocker the innacuracy of experienced grocers.) raspberries, strawberries, and apples. The pineapple is massive and delicious. Blue (dog) added it to her fruit-I-like list. It will go with us as an additional pud to have with the creme, and I'll make a raspberry coulis ... pictures to follow.

She's got onto Ed Sheeran now, he doesn't need them and he didn't go to Brit School. They must be about to go into the oven.