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Archive for the ‘nuts’ Category

The Hiatus, so to speak, that I’ve taken over the last four months is hopefully on the wane.  That ever ambitious and itchy-footed Mr P hooked a big fish in a rather different pond last year and I found myself, in the middle of the Christmas festivities, sorting through our life’s material goods; deciding which to keep, which to give away/sell and which would end up in the land fill (very, very little, I assure you) in preparation for a move to a new country.  Then, once the glorious feasting of another fantastic Canadian Christmas and the exuberant celebrating-in of a New Year had fattened us all up enough; the cookies all eaten; the champagne bottles had been recycled and the tree dismantled and put out in the snow it was time to get down to the hard work of packing.

One of the most difficult tasks in the move was saying goodbye to my wonderful, extensive and hard earned pantry.  I spent most of the Summer last year in a frenzy of pickling, jamming and preserving the amazing bounty of the Ontario growing season.  I’d amassed an extraordinary array of beautiful preserves in a tower of glass jars that couldn’t be shipped and had to be parted with.  What heartache!  Not to mention the the eclectic collection of sugars, flours, spices, pastes and seasonings one accretes over time that wouldn’t be allowed over the border.  Eh bien, c’est la vie. Tant pis

In the first week of January four burly men arrived with a large truck and proceeded to wrap, package and cart off everything we owned, destined for a new adventure across the Atlantic Ocean.  It was a horridly emotional time, having to uproot to the life we’d taken such pains to plant, water and nurture to such beautiful fruitfulness.  Our little home in Toronto had been a haven from storms, a cozy bubble of hospitality and love and fabulous cooking.  Oh, Toronto, how you’d gotten under my skin!

It takes time to settle in to a new environment.  It takes time to find the right markets, the right ingredients, the right oven temperature.  It takes time to figure out how to fit mustard, the rice, the pots, the baking tins into a new and smaller kitchen.  It takes time to adjust to a new way of life.

But here we are, the intrepid Mr P and I, four months into our new lives in Londontown, and slowly starting to sink into that glorious, feathered bed called Routine.  I’ve pumped up the tires on Storm, my trusty two-wheeled steed and roamed the streets of this crazy, manic city (getting lost most of the time in the organic warren of highways and byways) searching for goodies and treats.  I’ve traveled the roads on the top of  giant red buses to spy on delicatessen and bakeries from above.  I’ve taken long and hypnotic underground routes in search of the perfect coffee beans, the finest Rose Jam.  And I’ve worn a good layer of rubber off my sneakers trekking my own little neighbourhood from Baker to Butcher to Bonbonerie.  Still, I’ve managed to uncover and wheedle from hiding but a tiny portion of the cornucopia of goodies lying in wait in the nooks and crannies of this fantastical Town.  There is so much here, such dense collage of cultures and cuisines that it is an impossible, inexhaustible territory to map and charter.

Finally, however, I begin again to cook.  Like a bear coming out of hibernation; slow, awkward first steps into a light too bright for such sleepy eyes.  But I’m getting the hang of it again, bit by bit, stretching the cooking muscles; limbering up.

An army marches on it’s stomach and so while I’m pouring over new recipes and dabbling in this and that on the stove, I thought I’d better have a little something to snack on.

Cauliflower has never been my favourite of favourite veggies.  It’s not something I dislike, per se, but usually I can take it or leave it, really.  Cauliflowers, however, are bang on in season here and they looked so amazing sitting all plumped up and voluptuous at the farmers market that I just couldn’t resist.  Now to find something wonderful to do to them; something to bring out their flavour and inspire me to greater things.  I decided to make a spread.  It’s a wonderful, deeply flavoursome, nutty and complex spread that is just perfect spread thickly on a chunky slice of freshly baked loaf.  Mmmm.  Or try mixing a large spoon of it into mashed potatoes; adding it to some veg stock for a good soup; braising it with some good bacon and cabbage for a scrumptious side dish to a roast.

*Note: The garlic I used in the recipe was very special Oak Smoked garlic made by an enthusiastic garlic grower.  The smell and flavour are amazing, but I’m betting you won’t find it in a grocery store very easily, so use regular garlic instead.  The roasting will mellow the flavour sufficiently.

Roasted Cauliflower Paste

Ingredients:
½ cup Olive Oil
2 tsp Baharat
½ tsp Nutmeg
¼ tsp Salt
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
2 cloves Garlic, peeled
½ cup walnuts, toasted
¼ tsp mustard powder
2 tsp – 1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses

method:
– pre-heat a small roasting pan in the oven to 400˚F

– mix the oil, baharat, nutmeg and salt in a medium sized bowl

– add the cauliflower and garlic and toss to coat with oil/spice mix

-Place in the hot roasting pan, in the oven, and roast for 20 minutes, stirring and basting every 10 minutes.

– Turn the temperature down to 325˚F and continue roasting for a further 30 minutes until the cauliflower is very tender.

– Remove from oven and allow to cool.

– In a medium sized bowl (or a food processor) blend the cauliflower with the walnuts and mu
stard powder until smooth.

– Add pomegranate molasses bit by bit according to taste.

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strawberry-pistachio-tart-combo1

On a balmy, sensual, early summer night in the season now past the dashing Mr P and I were invited to a dinner, eaten out doors in the charming garden on a very good friend.  She asked for a dessert for 6 and, it being the season of all things fresh and lovely, what better than an ensemble exploding with fresh strawberries.  Now, I’m not going to give you an ingredient by ingredient recipe for these little tarts. It’s simply a version of a typical little fruit tart, not dissimilar to these, or these, using a pate sable and a type of nut custard, like frangipane but with pistachios instead of almonds in both cases.  I love including a fruit in puddings, as you’ve no doubt noticed.  I tend to keep the sugar content a bit lower on the rest of the dessert and rely a lot on the sweetness in the fruit instead.  I think the ultimate difference with these tarts is that the tart shell is baked with the pistachio-cream, then when the tarts are cool the fresh strawberries are added on top.  Somehow, a fresh strawberry is infinitely better than a cooked one on a hot summer evening, don’t you agree?

*note: if you’re battling to get the strawberries to stand nicely on the cool tarts, heat a little strawberry jam and use as a type of glue between the fresh strawberry pieces.

strawberry-pistachio-tart-52

Strawberry Pistachio Tarts

for the pate sable:
200g butter, softened
pinch salt
⅓ cup icing sugar, sifted
⅓ cup shelled pistachios
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
400ml plain flour

for the pistachio cream:
½cup shelled pistachios
1 egg
⅓ cup sugar
60 ml unsalted butter, softened

Punnet fresh strawberries
3 or 4 Tbls strawberry jam (preferably an all fruit jam)
¼cup shelled pistachios, finely chopped

– first, grind or blend or process the pistachios, in two separate batches for the pastry and the creme, until they are very fine (think ground almonds)

make the pate sable:

– beat the butter with the ground pistachios, salt and sugar until creamy.

– add the egg, vanilla and 1 Tbsp of the flour and beat until smooth.

– add the rest of the flour and combine to form a sticky dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour

make the pistachio creme:

– beat ground pistachios, egg, sugar and butter until smooth. Refrigerate 10 mins until firm.

– preheat the oven to 375˚F

– grease and flour 6 individual tart tins (about 5″ diameter) or, alternatively, one large 9 or 10 inch dish.

– when the pastry is well chilled, roll it out on a floured surface to about 5mm thickness.  Line each tine with pastry, trimming away excess. Keep combining and re-rolling the scraps of dough until all the tins are lined.

– prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork a couple of times.

– divide the pistachio creme between each tart Shell and smooth out.

– bake for about 20 mins until the pastry and the top of the pistachio creme is a lovely pale gold.

– allow the tarts to cool for 10 mins before removing from tins.

– wash, hull and halve the strawberries. Gently heat the strawberry jam.

– when the tarts are completely cooled top with halved strawberries.   Brush a little jam onto the berries of each tart. Top with a sprinkle with the chopped pistachios.

strawberry-pistachio-tart-combo2

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Muslie

We humans, for the most part, like a bit of ritual in our lives. Well, I know I do. Setting a certain, predictable rhythm to the day creates a sense of purpose and dependability, little ceremonies that break up the chaos in between our modern lifestyles. I like to read in bed with a cup of chamomile tea before turning in for the day, and I like having the time to sit on weekdays over my morning’s emails and news with a cup of good, hot coffee and a bowl of muesli. I usually mix my own muesli from jars of grains, nuts and fruits in the cupboard, but in the spirit of the Christmas Clear Out, I took the opportunity to use up  the various stores of dried fruits and nuts left over from the Christmas pudding and fruit cake and mix up an enormous bowl of muesli to keep in jars, ready to go. Just add yoghurt and that cuppa java.

There’s no recipe for this, just use what ever you have on hand. Start with handfuls of chopped dried fruit: I used cranberries , apricots and cherries for zing; papaya and pineapple for that almost candy like sweetness; and pears, figs, apples and dates for texture as well as raisins, currants, mulberries, prunes and oh, I forget what else. Add a few cups, to taste, of various grains: I used both raw, rolled oats and oat bran and a generous helping ground flax, to which I added poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes and a variety of nuts (brazil, almond, walnut). Sprinkle with cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg and a pinch of garam masala and mix it all up. Make it as fruity or as whole-grainy as you like and you’ll never want boxed breakfast again. Promise.

Muslie fruit mix

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