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The produce at our local markets has grown and multiplied from a few sparse punnet baskets and bunches of herbs to tables creaking and groaning under the plenitude and abundance of Summer Harvest; farmers groggy and bewildered by the weeks of harvesting, packing, selling, counting and chatting with the locals.  Speaking of local, have you seen this? It’s a message I wish more people would take to heart and it comes from an unusual source; more proof that the message is sinking in to a larger audience and being picked up as a marketing tool by larger corporations.  Nothing wrong with that, if you ask me. Let’s get this voice out there a bit, yes?

I’ve taken a little hiatus, so to speak, from the blogosphere to concentrate on various little projects that have kept me out of trouble over the warmer months.  The last week, however, I’ve been a captive to my kitchen, a large quantity of jamming jars and boxes and bags of fresh produce that I’ve been slowly turning into the most delicious, tempting, multi-coloured jars of preserves, pickles, chutneys and jams.  I’ve gone through all my aprons, tea towels, wooden spoons and dish soap in an attempt to keep up with the seemingly never ending supply of this wonderful season’s fruits and vegetables.  I’ve stirred bubbling pots of sticky, syrupy jams until my arms have gone into spasm.  I’ve washed utensils and sieves and strainers until my fingernails have become soft as jelly.  And I’ve loved every hot, sweaty, sticky minute of it.  I look at the mountain of red and purple and green jars growing larger and larger on the counter and think forward to the cold months coming too soon to meet us, and the joy we’ll all get opening up those jars, Summer springing forth again like a surprise visit from an old family friend as we dip into the sticky, sweet, sour or bitter preserves inside. But more about that later.  It’s time for a little catch up.

While I have been absent in the digital sense, I’ve been far from quiet in the kitchen.  In fact, as absent from or tired of I get of one thing or another, somehow I always have time for the kitchen.  I find that the act of cooking in the kitchen metomorphosizes  to suite my mood: from a comforting hug for a bruised or bitter soul to an outward expression of joy and happy energy, the kitchen shapes itself around my current mood, filling in the gaps, holding me upright, much in the same way as that personification of love, the ever supportive Mr P.  And Stirring and seasoning and sieving my way through the last few months, I’ve made a couple share-worthy things:

strawbrhubmix

Like a trio of Strawberry and Rhubarb concoctions not tried before in the Lick Your Own Bowl Kitchen:

Firstly, a Strawberry Rhubarb bread pudding made with an unopened, left over Panettoni from Christmas.

Strawbrhubpud1Strawbrhubpud2

Then came a Strawberry Rhubarb Cookie Sandwich, using up a half batch of sugar cookie dough left in the fridge from a previous endeavor.

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Finally, for a picnic with friends on the banks of Lake Ontario, celebrating Canada’s Birthday, tartlets of Strawberry Rhubarb Mousse with a minted Strawberry Rhubarb Salsa.

StrawbrhubmousseStrawbrhubmousse1Strawbrhubmousse2

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white chocolate tart with blackberries 1

I’ve been using Mr P’s camera for the last while to take blog photographs, seeing as how I’m still a poor and starving artist. Wait. Did I just say ‘starving’? Well, hardly, but I’m still holding out for the camera I long for and in the interim I’m a Borrower. On Sunday I did something I’ve never done before, trained as I am with the reflexes of a cat (ahem) and dropped Mr P’s appropriated private possession, destroying the focus and retraction on the lens. Not wanting to beat about the bush for too long I ran out at first light, well 10am when the shops opened doors you must be a stickler for detail, and purchased a replacement model, which is shiny and new, with bells and whistles (the old one just had the bells) and fits in to the hand like it was born to be there. The proof of the pudding, as always in this house, is in the eating, so we’ll have to wait and see the first foodie photo’s it takes before we judge.

In the mean time, perhaps I could interest you in a little something something for that sweet tooth. A little derivative from Sylivie, who somehow always leaves me feeling a little breathless and under qualified in the baking department.

*note: this recipe needs about 6 hours in the fridge, preferably overnight. It’s great for entertaining as you can make the shells and filling the day before and just whip up and decorate the tarts before your guests arrive.

white chocolate tart with blackberries 2

White Chocolate Tarts with Black berries

for the pate sable:
200g butter, softened
pinch salt
⅓ cup icing sugar, sifted
¼ cup almond flour
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 Tbsp + 1½ cup flour

for the filling:
70g white chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp + 60 ml Cream

1 punnet black berries, washed

make the pastry:
– beat the butter with the almond flour, 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

– roll out and line greased and floured tart tins, refrigerate for a few mins

– heat oven to 360˚. Blind bake tarts (using parchment paper and legumes/lentils/etc) for 10 mins

– remove from oven, remove paper and legumes, bake empty tart shells another 7 – 10 mins until pastry is coming away from the sides of the tins and is “singing”.

– cool tart shells to room temperature.

make the filling:

– in a bain mare, melt the chocolate with the 2 Tbsp cream

– when the ganache is smooth, remove from heat to cool a bit. Add the rest of the cream and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

– whip the chocolate cream until it’s stiff. It whips up really quickly.

– fill the baked tart shells and top with black berries.

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Strawberry sorbet

Could they be the last of the season?  I always thought Strawberries were a Spring thing, everywhere except England where they’re a year round thing, it seems.  Well, it’s August, isn’t it?  And that’s no time for Spring Chickens.  But yet, there they were, sweetly fragranced, locally produced Strawberries, shining freshly under the market lights.  And a bargain too!  Why?  What’s the deal?  Well, I gave them a good sniff, a prod and decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth.  When I got home I popped one in my mouth and the flavour was every bit as good as the colour and smell.  Too good to be true!  These were almost the best Strawberries of the season, and here it’s the middle of August.  Those didn’t last long, and I went straight back the next morning for another batch.  Of course we ended up eating them with all sorts of things, but this was my favourite way:

Strawberry Sorbet

about 1½ cups strawberries,
washed and hulled
5 or 6 blocks of ice
¼ cup water
1 Tbsp or so lemon juice
3 Tbsp castor sugar
1 tsp Vanilla essence

-Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until the ice has broken down.

-blend on high for a minute or two until the mixture is a good slush.

-place the mixture in the freezer.

-freeze for ½ hour at a time, remove from freezer and blend to break crystals.  repeat 4 or 5 times before freezing.

-Remove from freezer 10 mins prior to eating and beat a bit to loosen the ice.

*try adding a couple Tbsp of your favorite alcohol to the mixture to prevent it from freezing so solidly

strawberry-comp.jpg

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salad with hers and fava beens

When it’s hot outside, all I seem to want for lunch is something light and fresh and low in energy-producing carbohydrates. But why stick with ye olde faithful lettuce tomato and Cucumber, not that there’s anything wrong with that, when you can have a mixture of fresh herbs, like Cilantro, fennel, basil, parsley, tarragon, chives and thyme with baby root veg like beets and carrots. Add some freshly steamed fava beans, sprinkle with sesame seeds and, Voila!

ps/ the dressing is a mixtrue of a crushed clove of garlic, a Tbsp on tarragon infused Dijon mustard, the juice of a lemon and a good measure of extra virgin olive oil.

Herb Salad with Sesame Seeds and Tarragon Dijon Dressing 2

Herb Salad with Sesame Seeds and Tarragon Dijon Dressing 3

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Thai Summer Salad

We were blessed, this weekend, with extraordinarily good weather on our portage trip. Which meant a clear, deep, warm blue sky bereft of clouds, temperatures perfect for swimming and lounging on rocks like lizards and no need to ever use the gas burners to cook our food on. All meals were prepared over an open wood fire from start to sweet, gooey, smorsey end. Now, usually after 4 or so days in the bush eating what you managed to drag with you leaves one craving some or other comfort food from home, not to mention ones own mattress and a hot soapy bath. On this trip, however, the wonder-woman in charge managed to organise meals of such fabulous diversity and succulence that ne’er a soul hankered after anything for their belly that wasn’t somehow already there. No dehydrated-rehydrated pea passed the lips. No thirst went without quenching by beer or wine or cold, fresh water. And, thanks to our (rather belated) discovery of a little thing called the Thermarest, no ache graced a bone in my back through the nights. All said and done, it was a trip which bordered on the sublime and trembled dangerously near perfection.

And after a long, long weekend of, in one team member’s words, Ghetto Gourmet, what better way to get back on the bright side of health and digestion than a salad made from the sweetest, most succulent of Summer’s wares? After a trip to the farmer’s market on our return, I picked up a selection of crisp, freshly picked goods for a dinner filled with all the flavours of a gorgeous season. Due to the abundance of things like garlic, Shitake mushrooms and Cilantro (coriander leaf) I opted for a somewhat Thai inspired arrangement.

 

summer bounty

Thai Summer Salad with Sweet Corn and Watermelon Beetroot

for the topping
¼ cup pine-nuts, toasted

1Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp canola oil (or other veg oil)
1 onion, thickly sliced
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
about 1 cup Shitake mushrooms, sliced

for the saladwatermelon beetroot
small bunch of lettuce, torn
1 big handful fresh basil leaves, torn
1 big bunch Cilantro leaves, torn
a dozen or so golden cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ear of sweet corn, kernels removed
2 new carrots, julienned
2 watermelon beetroot, scrubbed and thinly sliced
⅓ garden cucumber, peeled and julienned
2 spring onions, thickly sliced

for the dressinglettuce
1½ Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small chili, finely chopped
juice of 1 lime

– combine all dressing ingredients and leave to infuse.
This dressing is particularly good made a day ahead.

– keep toasted pine-nuts to one side

– in a skillet, heat oils. saute onions until they just start to brown slightly. Add mushrooms and cook on a medium heat until mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat.

– when cool, add pine-nuts and mix. Set aside.

– combine all salad ingredients, top with mushroom pine-nut mix and dress only when ready to serve.

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Raspberry Rosewater Popsicles

Popsicles are a great way of cooling down, and you can use what ever you have in the fridge or fruit basket. Basically, you make a smoothie, throw a popsicle stick in it and freeze. Voila! Try peach and blueberry or strawberry and banana. yumaroo!

Raspberry, Banana and Rosewater Popsicles

1 cup raspberry pulp
1 large banana
½ cup fat free plain yoghurt
⅓ cup pear juice (or try apple)
¼ cup rosewater

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into individual containers (I used large shot glasses), pop a popsicle stick into it and freeze.

To remove from glass, run the outside of the container under a warm tap for about 15 seconds and pull out the popsicle.

Raspberry Rosewater Popsicles 2

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Chocolate Cake with Raspberries

One of the toughest parts of relocating to a far and distant land is that your loved ones, your friends and family, become far and distant in their own right. Celebrations become a little bitter sweet events spent with fewer people and often thinking of the loved ones you wish were there. When a couple of expat friends celebrated their Birthdays days apart and had a celebratory picnic in the park I offered to bake a cake. And with all their family as far from them as ours are from us… well. What’s a Birthday without cake?

They asked for Chocolate. This one is almost very nearly flour free, and dense and gooey. Too rich for a ganache or icing I opted to make use of the berry season and covered it in the Raspberry and Orange Flower jam I’d made a few weeks ago and some gorgeous, dark red raspberries; not the jelly-red, candy looking giant, red lumps you see in the store all through the year. Oh my. It was good.

Chocolate Cake with Raspberries 2

note: this recipe uses only a few ingredients, so use the very best you can find because you’ll taste the difference!

This cake is great the day after, but brilliant served hot like a pudding with

Chocolate Cake with Rapsberries 70% Callebaut and butter in bain marie

to make a small, 5½ inch cake:

100g dark chocolate (I used Callebaut 70%)
100g good unsalted butter
100g light brown sugar
small pinch salt
2 eggs
2 Tbsp flour
tiny pinch ground cardamom

– preheat oven to 350˚F

– grease and flour a 5½ inch spring form cake tin. Line bottom with parchment.

– in a bain marie, melt chocolate and butter and stir until fully mixed.

– when chocolate is smooth and liquid, add sugar and salt. Mix and remove from heat.

– add eggs one at a time and mix well between each.

– Add flour and cardamom and mix.

– pour into cake tin and bake about 20 mins until firm on the outside and slightly sticky in the middle. Allow to cool thoroughly before decorating.

for a normal sized cake: double the ingredients and bake for 25 – 35 mins

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