Wednesday, November 20, 2013

November recipes

DSC01432 (911x1300)Thanksgiving dominates cooking plans for the month, and I’m no exception.  There will be a 22-person party in Sandbanks for the occasion and I’m in charge of stuffing the turkey and assembling the cheese board.  An early trial of echte Limburger kaas got a big thumbs up, but it was subsequently banned after the smell permeated every corner of the herenhuis.

I’m hoping that my Opa’s recipe will be a winner.  It hasn’t set well inside the bird since he passed away, but proximity to his homeland should bring better luck next week.

…and The New York Times has a fun article about expat thanksgivings in Paris.

RECIPE 1: ‘continuing the theme of hearty soups and light desserts as the weather gets colder (only 1 degree C along the ‘skade this morning).  I had a run at Lemony Carrot and Cauliflower soup last week, a thick mixture of vegetables with minimal water.  Miso paste wasn’t easy to find (and needs a lighter touch than the recipe suggests), but that was balanced by the fun:  frustrated souls benefit from a half hour hacking root vegetables.  In the end, it was a good result but slightly underseasoned. Adding a few herbs didn’t help, and a chilli simply over-livened the puree.  Still, it kept well, tasty served warm or cold, for the next few days.

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I have been fiddling with variations on my favourite tomato soup recipe as well.  ‘Adding creme fraiche is good; substituting leeks for onion is not (too many fibrous bits).

And plums make a killer coulis.  Better yet, it’s only two ingredients away from a decent plum sauce for the duck.

INTERLUDE:  The FT went on a rant about the epidemic of people taking pictures of their food in restaurants.  I wasn’t impressed: What’s the harm if people want to remember an occasion or post a review? I do it myself, if only to compare what gnocchi should be as compared with my own failing efforts.

The rant-able problem, though, is people taking flash pictures of their food.  And that I agree with. (and with people taking pictures of other patrons…).

RECIPE 2:  Masterchef Pro is back on-air with an early challenge to make a coconut tuile in 12 minutes.  Like a fondant, it seems simple: mix egg white and sugar, then butter, flour, and vanilla.  Smear onto parchment paper and bake briefly. Voila: a thin wafer to garnish ice cream or accompany a coffee.

The reality is, surprisingly, also trivially simple.  The only tricks are not to whip air into the batter nor to make the wafers too thick.   A thin, even application works best, and a couple of practice tries to make sure that the edges don’t get overdone before the middles.  Mine needed half the cooking time and easily slid off the parchment paper, yielding an airy, sweet and slightly chewy macaroon.

The fun is that they are still malleable for about 20 seconds, so they can be shaped around glasses, twisted into corkscrews, pressed into cups, and folded into fans.

It’s edible art.

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CODA:  The FT also took a swipe at televised cooking competitions which are redefining the national perception of food. Cooking shows emphasize on technique and presentation (good television) instead of ingredients and taste (difficult television).  They thus create an audience of spectators: people who know good play when they see it but who will never pick up a ball for themselves.

I absolutely agree that great cooking, like great art, should inspire and motivate participation.  There’s no way to better understand the chefs and artists than by giving their techniques a try, and I find that I get a lot more out of watching chefs work in restaurants as a result.

As well as a flash of confidence and pride when something turns out well from my own hands.

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