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Archive for the ‘apple’ Category

It always amazes me how quickly us humans adapt to new conditions in our lives (willingly or not) and form new habits to accommodate new problems. It also amazes me just how much of what we do on a day to day basis is, in fact, habit. I woke up a few days ago and realised that I had gotten into the habit, due to our fluffy new circumstances, of waiting until after 8pm to decide what to have for dinner. Not a convenient time to begin experimenting with exciting new ideas, and definitely not a good time to decide to take a duck breast out of the freezer. Looking back, the last while’s dinners have consisted of out-the-can and sauce-in-a-jar kind of dinners, with a fresh salad thrown on the side to ease the guilt of not having enough veg on the plate. Well, I’m trying to put that habit behind me again and take the time to think about what I’m putting onto my plate and down the hatch. We are what we eat, and I don’t feel like being Beans-on-toast any more. Not only did I actually remember to take the duck breast out the freezer the other day, I even had a vague idea of what I wanted to do with it. Something sweet yet sour, something with a big Asian edge, although undefined as to provenance of said “Asian” and something with sweet potatoes. Something a little, well, square for a change.

*apologies for the shoddy photo quality.  Sometimes one is so busy trying to make one’s chopsticks stand still, one forgets to check one’s ISO.

Duck Breast in a sweet/sour sauce
with Broccoli, Water Chestnuts and black sesame
and fried sweet potato

for the marinade/sauce:
1 clove of garlic, minced
½ tsp fresh, grated ginger
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp Chinese five spice
¼ cup grated apple (use crisp, green apples like granny smith)
juice from ½ small lime

about 500g duck breast, fat removed, thickly sliced
1 Tbsp oil for frying

for the broccoli:
1 tsp veg oil
3 spring onions, thickly sliced
½ head of broccoli, chopped
1 can (8oz/230ml) water chestnuts, drained
3 tsp black sesame seeds

for the sweet potato:
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 Tbsp sesame oil
peanut oil (or veg oil) for frying

-first, mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and add the duck breast. Let marinade for as long as you can (I only left mine for 40 mins and it was great)

– par-boil the sweet potato for about 5 minutes until almost cooked, but still very firm

– heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed pan on medium. Add the duck and it’s marinade and cook gently until done. You should end up with a juicy sauce. Set aside, cover with foil to keep warm.

– meanwhile, heat the sesame and veg oil for frying the sweet potato and fry, turning occasionally until tender and slightly browned.

– stir fry the spring onions, broccoli and water chestnuts in the duck breast pan. Add the sesame seeds after 5 minutes and cook for another minute or so.

– remove sweet potato and drain before serving.

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Newfoundland 2007 4

I seem to have my jet-set engines on at the moment. I’m only just getting my breath back from our trip to Newfoundland and already I’m busy packing for another bout of airports and baggage check. Naturally I’m thrilled to be partaking of one of my great loves in life: travel; but it also means that I’ve not had too much time to do any cooking. And all those squash and pumpkins just lying there, calling me! I love this time of year and I’ve been waiting patiently, almost on tender hooks, to sink my cooking teeth into some new dishes. Well, they’ll just have to wait, I’m afraid, until I’m back from my exploring. Oh, our lives are not boring, at least! Now the question is: will I have time to make real Christmas pudding this year, when the time to make it would be now? The proof of that pudding … well, you know. C’est la vie, non? Right now, though, I’m still dreaming of Newfoundland, with its raw, majestic landscapes and its wild, unforgiving storms and its seas, which throw themselves, now calmly, now violently at the shores like a heartbroken woman. The kind of seas you want to stand overlooking, on a cliff, and conduct into a crescendo. The kind of land filled with fervent passion and cold cruelty, wherever you look. And with blueberries and partridge berries covering the ground, just begging for a pie.

Newfoundland 2007 5

Newfoundland 2007 6

Newfoundland 2007 7

Newfoundland 2007 7

Newfoundland 2007 8

Newfoundland 2007 9

Newfoundland 2007 10

Newfoundland 2007 11

Newfoundland 2007 12

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Apple Mulberry Pie

Mmmm.  What more can you say about apple pie?  Well, actually, I can think of a thing or two.  Let’s be honest.  Is there anyone out there who doesn’t like apple pie, even if it’s somewhere deep down inside your most private thoughts?  Saying you don’t like apple pie is like saying you don’t like puppies, or the Seychelles, or the Sound of Music.  Ahem.  You know, a friend once told me, long, long ago, in a far away land, that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who like the Sound of Music and those who pretend they don’t.

I always have to be strict with myself regarding apple pie: to wait wait wait for the fresh crop of apples in the early autumn to make apple pie.  It’s all about eating seasonally, non? And yet every now and then I will break down and buy apples in April or May, those shipped in from South Africa or last season’s released from months of cold storage and make a big old apple pie.  Yet, that first pie of Autumn, with it’s super crisp, slightly tangy, tart apples is better than the Seychelles, better than it all, and a reminder to us all to be patient next year and just wait a few more months.  This pudding definitely has the proof in it.

*note: the dried white Mulberries where a gift to me from my wonderful friend, Ms A, who has opened my eyes to the culinary wonders of Persian food in all it’s glory.  You should be able to find them at any Iranian or Middle Eastern food store.

Apple Mulberry Pie 2

Apple and White Mulberry Pie

1 x pate brise
– 2 cups flour
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp sugar
– 2 sticks cold butter
– ¼ – ½ cup ice water

filling:
1 cup dried white mulberries
1 Tbsp Whiskey
Hot water
2 ½ pounds apples, peeled, cored and thickly sliced
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
pinch cloves
pinch salt
2 Tbsp butter

– put the mulberries in a small bowl, cover with hot water and whiskey and allow to sit for a at least an hour to soften.

Make the pastry:
– whisk together flour, salt and sugar.

– chop cold butter into small pieces and then run into the flour mix until it starts to resemble oat meal with pea sized chunks of butter.

– add water and mix with your hands until a dough just starts to form.  Dump the almost-dough onto a piece of cling wrap.  Divide the mix into two, putting the other half onto another piece of cling film.  Shap each piece into a rough disc, cover completely with plastic and pop in the fridge for an hour.

– pre heat the oven to 440˚F

– remove one half of the chilled dough at a time and roll out into a circle, large enough to line the pie tin with a a good 1½ inch flap over.  use one half to line a greased pie tin, in the fridge, and keep the other flat, on a baking sheet in the fridge for the top.  Refrigerate pastry for another 15 – 20 mins while you prepare the filling.

– mix apples with lemon juice, flour, sugar and spices, leave at room temp for 10 mins.  Add mulberries and mix.

– take pie shell out of the fridge. Fill with apple mulberry mix and dot with butter.

– Brush edges of pie crust with water and place top pastry over the filling, pressing down on the edges to seal the pie.  Trim the pastry edge to a 1 inch over hang. Tuck top pastry under bottom along the edges to form a good seal.  Use your fingers or the tines of a fork to reinforce and decorate pie edge.  Cut 4 slits into the pie, starting from about 2 inches short of the top and running to about 4 inches from the edge for steam vents.

– decorate with pastry leaves, if desired, and brush pastry with milk or beaten egg.

– place you oven shelf on the lowest rung available and bake pie for 50 – 60 mins until juices are bubbling out of the slits and the pastry is golden brown.

Apples and Mulberries

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the perfect apple

I received a phone call from a wonderful friend the other day. “I’m so excited,” she quirped, ” I’m outside a fruit stall and I’ve found the most perfect apples. They’re just too beautiful, I’m going to buy you one.” My kind of friend. And she was right. When we met up later at the Farmers Market, which has sort of become a naughty habitude of ours, she plonked her find down on the picnic table we were sitting at, snacking on various freshly bought goodies, and grinned at me. “Don’t you think?” she asked. I did. I thought very much. Just perfect. It’s colour somewhere between ochre and chartreuse, the size of a softball, and firm and crisp in texture. I got home, gave it pride of place in the fruit bowl and spent 2 days looking at it before deciding just what would be the perfect ouvre for this perfect apple. A perfect, early autumn apple. A bread pudding perhaps? Could it be that simple?

So, the problem I’ve always had with bread pudding is that it often felt like some sort of punishment at home. I was known, as a child (and sometimes as an adult), for living with ‘my head in cloud nine’, as my Mum would say. There were plenty occasions growing up where I left my lunch behind on the kitchen counter: peanut butter and jam sandwiches neatly wrapped in wax paper; only to find, later that starving day, that we were having bread pudding for dinner. Peanut butter and jam bread pudding. Needless to say, it’s taken me a bit of time to confront the bread pudding demon from my past and establish that it is, indeed, one of the greatest of comfort puddings known to man. And downright thrifty too, if you don’t mind me saying. In fact, I might go so far as to say that bread pudding is quite possibly the only acceptable way to head into autumn. An army marches on its stomach, after all. Best be prepared, non?

Apple nut bread pudding

Apple and Four Nut Bread Pudding

feeds 4 (or 2 with leftovers for round two the next day)

4 slices whole grain bread
butter, enough for spreading bread, greasing dish and dotting on pudding
6 – 8 Tbsp sweetened Chestnut Spread (creme de Marrons)
1 big (perfect) apple, peeled, cored and sliced (I ate the perfect peel, don’t you worry)
½ cup saltana’s
4 large eggs
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp clovesCreme de marrons
pinch nutmeg
pinch salt
¼ cup golden brown sugar
1 cup milk
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ pistachio’s

– preheat the oven to 400˚F

– thinly butter the bread and spread with chestnut spread. Cut slices into quarters, diagonally, to make tirangles

– grease an oven proof dish. Alternate slices of bread and slices of apple to fill the dish.

– scatter saltana’s over top

– beat eggs with spices, salt and sugar, then add milk and beat well but not long enough to froth the eggs.

– pour milk/egg over bread. Scatter nuts over top and let pudding sit for 5 minutes. This lets the bread absorb the liquid.

– bake for about 35 – 40 mins.

– serve with vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream.

Apple nut bread pudding baked

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Apple and Onion Chutney with Butterflied Pork

On a beautiful, clear and warm Sunday, what could be lovelier than a ferry trip to the Toronto Islands for a picnic brunch with some friends? I know, we’ve been having an awful lot of picnics lately, but what is one to do when the weather has been treating us so beautifully and we want nothing more than to be outside somewhere green. The Island is the perfect place for some reclining under a tree. You don’t hear any traffic, it being a car free zone (with the exception of the odd City of Toronto vehicle) and the breeze off the lake, along with the rich vegetation, keeps the air smelling sweet and fresh and truly good. It’s a good place to take your bicycle or rollerblades and do some sweating before a yummy picnic. We found a good spot under a shady willow and had a meal of pain au chocolat, bagels and cream cheese, coffee and apricot and Stilton cups I’d baked the night before. I’ll post the recipe for that at a later stage.

After all that nibbling and snacking through the day, added to some running around and plenty of sun, a good, solid meal was called for to end a great Summer weekend. Mr P and I hit the kitchen together and in record time we whipped up a dinner for two of butterflied pork, apple and onion chutney, baby potatoes roasted with baby red onions, lemon, rosemary and olive oil and a fresh garden salad. Mr P is one of those people who doesn’t like the sweetness of a plain apple sauce with his pork, so I thought this chutney, based on the cherry and rhubarb one from the duck a couple of days ago, would add be an interesting compliment with it’s slightly spicy, aromatic sweetness.

Apple and Onion Chutney

1 ½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp ground sage
½ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
big pinch salt

1 Tbsp veg oil (I use Canola)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 large cloves garlic

¼ cup sugar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
¼ cup maple syrup

1 large white onion (I used Spanish) chopped into ½ inch pieces
1 large apple, peeled, cored and diced into ½ inch pieces

– Combine all spices in a small bowl and mix

– Heat oil over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and cook until they start popping. Allow to pop for a few seconds, then add garlic. Don’t let the garlic brown or it becomes bitter. Remove from heat and cool slightly

– Add sugar, vinegars and syrup and heat gently until sugar dissolves.

– Add apple and onion and increase heat to simmer. Cook, stirring often, until mixture thickens, about 25 – 30 mins.

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