Sunday, January 29, 2012

Breakfast, Lunch, Tea, Repeat

Rose Carrarini is the reason I put so much butter and cream in scrambled eggs.

She’s the Englishwoman behind the popular Rose Bakery, in Paris, and behind a gem of a cookbook, Breakfast Lunch Tea. You might have guessed it, but the bakery and the book are full for pastries, soups, salads and puddings.  And more.

I trust her because of those afore mentioned scrambled eggs. Never before had I followed a recipe for scrambled eggs, and she admits she “feels a bit silly” giving one. But they are what she promised: creamy but well cooked. She shouldn’t feel silly. I’ve made my eggs her way since. One day, I’ll feel “silly” enough to pass it along too.

But not today. Today is a good day for blueberry and cranberry scones. In Breakfast Lunch Tea, Carrarini calls only for blueberries, so feel free to omit them. But I found they offer a fresh pop! of a counterpunch, though. 

Don’t, however, omit the wheat germ. It’s just a handful, I know, but it really makes the texture in these scones, gives them a moist crumble. They are most satisfying. If you don’t have wheat germ on hand, use cornmeal, or a handful of whole wheat flour.

Blueberry and Cranberry Scones
Adapted from Breakfast Lunch Tea, by Rose Carrarini of Rose Bakery

500 grams white all-purpose flour (about 3 1/3 cups), plus extra for dusting
A handful of wheat germ
2 very heaping tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons white sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon salt
Grated zest of a lime, lemon or orange
1 cup butter, straight out the fridge and cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
2 handfuls of fresh or frozen cranberries
1 handful of fresh or frozen blueberries
1 ¼ cups milk (or almost)

Grease a baking sheet, and preheat the oven to 400F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, wheat germ, and baking powder. Give it a good thorough mix. Add the sugar, salt, and lime zest. Mix.

Add the cubed butter. Using your fingers, rub the mixture until it is a fine crumble. Mix in the blueberries and cranberries, and form a crater in the middle.

In a glass measuring cup, beat one of the eggs. Add milk until you reach the 1 ¼ cup mark. Poor the liquid into the crater, and gently mix with a fork. Finish mixing the dough with your hands, very gently so that you don’t burst all the berries (you will, inevitably end up with some bursts, creating a beautiful purple swirl in the dough).

On a floured surface, roll the dough out with a rolling pin or just your hands. You want it quite thick—3 cm or so. Using a round cutting tool (a glass works), cut the dough into individual scones and place on baking sheet, nearly touching each other.

Beat the second egg, and brush on the scone tops. Sprinkle each one with a pinch of sugar. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until just golden. Serve warm with butter and lots of tea.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Extravagance

Today, I have a question for you. Let’s call it crowdsourcing.

This is salt that I bought in New York.  It has white truffles in it, and when I unscrew the jar, I get a hefty, earthy whiff.  It’s pretty much the only thing I bought on our trip to New York, so the frivolity of spending that (embarrassing) amount on a jar of salt is excused (in my imperfect opinion).

Anyway. So my question is this: I’ve used it in a few things—eggs, dressings, sprinkled on cold meats and on toast with avocado—but I need your help. Where else should extravagant truffled salt go? Leave a comment and let me know. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

An Indian Mushroom Soup

Let’s cut straight to it. You should really make this soup.

I made it almost by accident yesterday afternoon. It happened for two reasons: First, I had too many mushrooms in the fridge. Second, I’ve been perusing Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij’s book, Vij’s At Home, religiously over the last week.

It’s such a lovely book, and while every recipe was a snap to make, the results were complex flavours and a full variety of curries on the table.  

But this mushroom soup stands out. It’s like alchemy. It’s mostly water, really, but heavily spiced and thickened with potatoes, it becomes the absolute best vehicle for a large handfuls of mixed mushrooms.

Dhalwala and Vij call for buttermilk, but I had to substitute for every kind of dairy I had in the fridge (mostly milk, a bit of cream, and dollop of yoghurt), which I soured with a drop of vinegar.  Go for buttermilk if you have, though.

As for mushrooms, any combination will do, but shitakes are just so nice. If you can include them, do.  

This will serve six people for a light meal, with a little something on the side (some rice, or a salad, say).

Another tip: Once you get the oil going, everything starts to happen quickly. So make sure you’ve prepped and measured everything, before you get going.

Indian Mushroom Soup
Adapted from Vij’s At Home, by Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij

1 ½ lbs potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
½ cup sunflower or other high-heat cooking oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
8 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt  (or up to a tablespoon, depending on taste)
2 ½ tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon crushed hot chilies
1 ½  teaspoon turmeric
5 cups water
2 ½ cups buttermilk
A few large handfuls (6 to 8 ounces) of mixed mushrooms (shitake/cremini/oyster, or anything you fancy), sliced quite thickly.

First boil the potatoes. But them in a large pot with plenty of water, and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes, or until tender. Drain and leave to cool. Then peel the skins and discard (when they are cooked, you can even do this with your fingers).  Roughly mash the potatoes, making sure to leave some larger, bite sized pieces.

In a heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil on medium-high, and add the cumin seeds. Allow them to sizzle for 30 seconds.  Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or so, until just golden. Then add the ginger, and continue to stir, for 30 seconds more. Now add the dry spices: salt, coriander, chilies, and turmeric. Stir for a minute, reduce the heat, and add the potatoes. Give them a good mix to combine, and add the water. Bring up to a boil, then down to a simmer. Leave those flavours to marry for 5 minutes or so.

Before adding the dairy, spoon some of the hot curry into the cold milk, to prevent curdling. Then, carefully pour the milk in, stirring as you pour. Bring it slowing up to a gentle boil, still stirring. Add the mushrooms and cook them until they are just soft. This will only take two minutes or so. Take off the heat, and serve. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Very Fresh Ceviche

I promised a ceviche recipe, inspired by the freshness of the fish we ate in Costa Rica.  Here’s what I’ve come up with. It’s based on a brilliant ceviche that my friend Stacey makes, but I replaced the spicy element with crunchy red pepper—not out of principle, but in keeping with the Costa Rican-style ceviche I tried.

The recipe calls for tilapia, but any firm white fish—as long as it’s perfectly fresh—will do. My Rick Stein book on seafood recommends a similar recipe, using monkfish.

These amounts will serve six as a first course, but three or four people could share it as a main course, served on tostadas. For something a little decadent but not especially authentic, but a thick layer of mayonnaise helps the ceviche stick to the tostada.

A Very Fresh Tilapia Ceviche
Adapted from a recipe by my friend Stacey

1 lb tilapia filets, cut to about the size of the tip of your finger
The juice of 6 limes
A smallish red onion, very thinly sliced
A small red pepper (bell or otherwise any mild pepper), thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced
A generous handful of chopped cilantro
A few generous pinches of salt (to taste)

In a medium sized bowl, combine the fish and the juice lime. For about forty minutes, allow the lime juice to “cook” the tilapia. Give it a good stir every so often.

About ten minutes before serving, add the red onions to the bowl, mixing them in. The lime juice will take away some of their bite.

Transfer this mixture to a large bowl by the handful, discarding the majority of the lime juice by squeezing the liquid. Add the rest of the ingredients, combine thoroughly and serve.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pura vida, as they say

Here, some photos to explain my absence.

We spent a week in Costa Rica, near the small city of Puntarenas.

The first four photos were taken by Andrew, in a neighborhood called El Roble, and the last four were taken by me, on a very hot afternoon in Puntarenas proper.

The most impressive of Costa Rican food comes from the sea. We ate a few fantastic ceviches. Ticans are not crazy about heat in their food, so unlike some Mexican ceviches that I’ve devoured, they’re not spicy. But they are delightfully bright and with so much lime juice it’s nearly a cold soup. I will be working on my best imitations of Costa Rican ceviche, and will report back!