Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lemon buttermilk pancakes with blackberry syrup

"I'd like Winter if it had more days like this."

Those are the words my husband sighed as he closed his eyes and lifted his head toward the sunshine. Despite dwelling deep within Winter's embrace we have been blessed this week with enough intervals of sun-drenched blue-bird skies to forgive the stretches of pewter-cloud rainfalls.
There is something about an unexpected sunny day that makes you cherish it that little bit more. It lifts your spirits and bestows a much needed energy refill allowing you to accomplish what you wish with a spring in your step. I was not the only one who threw open doors and banished the slumbering dust from their home today, but I was perhaps the only one who was luckily enough to taste these lovely pancakes this morning, fit for a day like today.

Lemon buttermilk pancakes with blackberry syrup
adapted from here

Makes 7 small pancakes.

Lemon pancakes:
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 tbs sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk

Blackberry syrup:
1 cup frozen blackberries
1/4cup sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest and salt. Add the egg and buttermilk. 
Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat with a little butter.  Add 1/3 cup of batter to the pan and cook a few minutes on both sides, until just lightly golden brown. 

Meanwhile, combine blackberries, sugar, lemon juice and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, cook until syrup reduces to desired consistency. Syrup will thicken upon cooling.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins.
cooking time: 15mins to make all pancakes.
total: 20mins.

taste: 4/5. Sunshine for your tastebuds.

The fluffy citron-hued pancakes filled with the summery sharpness of lemons pair beautifully alongside the wine-coloured blackberries bursting with rubicund berry sweetness.

would I make it again: Yes.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Baked custards with salted caramel

The wind huffs and puffs at my front door
threatening to barge on through.
But my house is strong and made of bricks,
submit it will not do.

The wind is mighty and ferocious today with a temper that will not be tempered. Like a petulant child in the midst of a tantrum, it cares not who it hurts with its reckless assault, throwing things around with abandon. I dared not brave its wrath and have therefore been bound indoors. But as with all situations, I endeavoured to put it to good use and decided to make some custard.
As a child my mother would purchase store-bought creme caramels that I would tip upside down before flicking a tab to release the golden syrup upon the wobbly dome. I was slightly apprehensive as to whether these would un-mould as easily and be bathed in such a generous ochre -coloured liquid, but I need not have worried, as they worked out wonderfully, and with a far more complex and palatable flavour than those bought in chilled aisles.

Baked custards with salted caramel
serves 4

400ml milk
175g caster sugar
1 tbsp orange zest
1 cinnamon stick
tsp sea salt
100ml water
3 eggs
2 extra egg yolks

Heat milk in a saucepan with 75 grams of the sugar, the zest and the cinnamon. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes to infuse. To make the caramel, heat remaining sugar, salt and water in a heavy-based pan, stirring gently, until bubbles appear. Stop stirring and continue to cook, watching carefully as the liquid turns the colour of toffee. Remove from heat and carefully pour into four ovenproof moulds, swirling to coat the sides and bottom. Heat oven to 170C. Beat eggs and egg yolks lightly in a bowl. Slowly pour into milk mixture, stirring, then strain into toffee-lined moulds. Place in a baking dish and add hot water halfway up the sides of the moulds. Bake for 25 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Remove and cool, then refrigerate, covered, overnight. To serve, dip each mould into a bowl of hot water to melt caramel and run a knife around the edges. Invert onto a serving plate, allowing salted caramel to flow down the sides.

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 35mins.
cooking time: 25mins.
total: 1hour plus at least 4hours to chill.

taste: 4/5. Not your average custard.

The ivory dome submits beneath your spoon as the amber nectar drenches the custard in its salt-spiked sweetness, spicy cinnamon and hint of orange bitterness. The smooth custard is mild and creates the perfect base for the zesty caramel's depth.

would I make it again: No, as alas my husband would not even try one, as cold custard makes him quiver in disgust so I would rather make something we can both enjoy rather than having to eat four pots on my own, despite their deliciousness.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Parsnip soup with pecans & feta

Between turns of the page is where I have abided for the past week.
My eyes have devoured millions of words and my fingertips brushed the corners of countless pages during this phase of my bibliophilia. There is one drawback to reading so many books in such a short period, I often find myself too absorbed in some character's world to bother making anything other than a snack to settle the howling wolves of my stomach. After a few night's eating toast or porridge for dinner I decided enough was enough and that I needed a good, nourishing meal instead. Thus enters a large bowl of soup...

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 15mins.
cooking time: 50mins.
total: 1hour & 5mins.

taste: 4/5. Sweet, creamy parnsip with salty feta and nutty pecans = delightful.

The feta is what makes this dish, without it the parsnip soup would have been too sweet for me, but with the cheese it was wonderfully balanced. The soup is thick and velvety and all together satisfying.

would I make it again: Yes.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Rhubarb, raspberry & rose tapioca pudding

May and June see me covered in mountains of wrapping paper, ribbons and tape; it is the Time of Birthdays. With both of my parents, as well as my husband's parents, and a dozen friends and relatives thrown in it becomes a bit of a party whirlwind. Last night was my Uncle's 30th where we dined on Turkish dips and meat packed skewers and were entertained by fiery belly dancers, twirling in blurs of beads and silk. Although it is a lot of fun, I am officially worn out. Today I wish nothing more than to drape myself over my couch whilst leisurely flipping through a magazine and slowly eating something by the teaspoonful.

My post-party recovery time has also been a little longer than usual due to something wonderful; hubby and I are expecting our first baby this September. Currently protruding out at 6months I can say I have been one of those fortunate, annoying women who have a completely easygoing pregnancy; no nausea, back pain or weird cravings, and so far I have not yet had to buy any maternity clothes, but my maxi dresses have begun to be put on heavy rotation. The little one (we do not know the sex, and as a pedantic organiser it is driving me nuts!) has been a dream to carry, only giving a few kicks at bedtime whilst I read. It has truly been a wonderful experience and I am so excited at the thought of meeting them and getting to know who they are and how they see the world. I am also curious to see whether the foods I have been eating during pregnancy will have any bearing on the foods they prefer later in life...

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 15mins.
cooking time: 30mins.
total: 45mins.

taste: 3/5. Delicate and dainty.

The tartness of the raspberry and rhubarb played well against the floral rose, crunchy pistachio and soft vanilla tapioca. I think my expectations of this dessert were a little high, as while it was pleasant it wasn't particularly exciting to eat, a touch too 'vanilla' for me.

would I make it again: No.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pear & cranberry cake

With Autumn's fog-drenched finale I assumed the first day of Winter would be wrought with slippery, frosted driveways and sodden grass; looking out my window I could not have been more wrong. It seems Winter has wryly greeted us with a day of sunshine and I could almost say, warm temperatures.
Despite this seemingly friendly gesture I remain dubious and intend to stock my cupboards and counter tops with comforting and warming foods, waiting readily for the moment this illusion of a lemon soaked day gives way to the palettes of ash and glacial winds that I have come to expect of Mr Winter. I shall take your sunshiny day my friend, but don't think you have me fooled, I have a remedy to your bone-chilling temperament in the form of a fruit-jewelled cake, ready to restore rosiness to my cheeks at a moment's notice.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 15mins.
cooking time: 60mins.
total: 1hour & 15mins.

taste: 4/5. Slyly addictive.

A crunchy topping gives way to moist cake filled with warm spices, sweet pear, and vibrant tart cranberries. At first thought this cake seems rather humble but after the first bite you will find yourself going for a second, then a third and then before you know it you have had two pieces and are considering another slice. I truly have no idea why this cake is so addictive, but it is. I managed to polish off half of it within two days...

I did not bother with the glaze, and I'm glad I didn't as I feel it would have made the cake too sweet.
I also upped the cinnamon to 2tsp and doubled the cranberries to 2cups as I wanted more pockets of that wonderful cerise tang.

would I make them again: Yes. Everyone loved it.