Sunday, 23 September 2007

Eating for England

I heart Nigel Slater.

I also heart the strawberries bought yesterday that have perfumed the whole fridge with intense deliciousness and which will be turned into a tart this afternoon.

Pleasantly surprising, too, was the Sundowner apple I ate last night. I am a Granny Smith fan, addicted to mouth-puckering tart crisp crunchiness. The Sundowner is milder, less lip-chapping, but pleasingly crisp.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Citrus Season - II - Blood orange, lemon, Cointreau tart

I've just been to see Ratatouille - very cute, but for the really badly brought-up (dragged-up?) children who were unfortunately in the cinema. Since when was animation for kids anyway?

The second part of my citrusy series of blog posts is dessert. Having grabbed some blood oranges at South Melbourne market, and aware that I didn't want to use all of them in marmalade (of which more later), I decided to convert some into a tart.

The tart shell was made in a biscuity sort of way - creaming 100g butter with 50g caster sugar, then adding an egg and 220g "00" flour. It doesn't make for a particularly easy-to-handle dough, but the method is far easier on weary fingers than the normal pate brisee or pate sucree.

The case was blind baked in 9" springform tin, creating a deepish shell. I used the springform because, mystifyingly, I do not have a metal flan case (the horror, the horror). Ceramic moulds are hopeless.

The deepness of the case turned out to be a good thing.

Next came the filling - a lazy person's bastardised custard, comprising 330mL milk, three eggs, 40g caster sugar, the zest of two blood oranges, the zest of a lemon. In fact, I can't exactly remember what came next - but I think two or three blood oranges got squeezed, along with the lemon, and somewhere along the route this was added to the custard.

Unsurprisingly, this made for a very runny custard. Panicking, two tablespoons of cornflour went in. Eventually it thickened - and once it had cooled, a good splash of Cointreau went in.

The case was filled, the tart baked at 180˙C for about 45-50 minutes. It wobbled slightly, but wasn't runny.

Alas, by the time I took the picture, it had cracked. On the other hand, it tasted superb. Smooth, sweet, tangy, and - perhaps thanks to the Cointreau - more complex as the week progressed.
And as you can see, my photography skills leave a lot to be desired.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Citrus Season - I - Seville Orange Marmalade

Last year I promised myself that I wouldn't miss out on Seville Orange season in 2007. Cutting it perilously close, I traipsed down to the Vic Market on Saturday (in between brain-bending seminars on Lakatos) and bought four huge Seville Oranges from Stall 83.

On Sunday, I set about marmalade production, having also bought a teeth-aching 3kg bag of sugar, and some lemons. Nominally, I used the recipe in Nigella Lawson's How to Eat, but a pretty-much identical version can be found on the BBC Good Food website, here. The advantage of this method is that it absolves the maker from trying to locate muslin and reduces the faffing around.

So far, so good. Except, of course, the damn thing wouldn't reach setting point to my liking. This is probably because I didn't boil up the pips for long enough. I was, however, pleased to see Nigel Slater dismissing the importance of very-set jam, in that day's Observer. And he's quite right - for jam, at least.

As it is, if the marmalade is too set it you end up squashing your toast as you attempt to spread, and that's awful.

Now, the marmalade. As far as I'm concerned, the only marmalade worth having is Frank Cooper's Vintage Oxford. It is fiendishly dark, chunky, and bitter. My marmalade is not as dark - despite a good two tablespoons of treacle drizzled in, and this is probably from insufficient boiling - but it is certainly chunky and tart/sour/bitter. It leaves you salivating like after chewing on a lemon. Yum.

Just as well that it is delicious, because there are eight jars of the stuff.

Still to come: blood orange marmalade (my task for today), and a post about the blood orange and lemon tart I made on Sunday.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Review: Commercial Bakery

I have a feeling that all my reviews are going to consist of "Oh god, I have been [insert dish/cafe/restaurant]'d to death".

This is owing to the fatal combination of:

1. My appallingly minuscule appetite; and
2. Portion size being out of control.

Unfelicitously, I wasn't even feeling very well, but after reading mutemonkey's review of the Commercial Bakery I was determined to try the beetroot and goats' curd sandwich.

So I did.

And then when it arrived, I realised that mutemonkey's lovely photograph was deceptive. Because what looks like a normal sandwich, turns out to involve 9" square slices of bread, stuffed with lettuce, beetroot, onion jam and goats' curd. The combination was divine. The quantity worthy of the seven deadly sins.

Excellent stuff, just make sure you have the capacity for it.

Aside from that, my long macchiato was superb, and most of the staff were lovely except for the very surly young woman who took my money. Which was a shame, as that was my last impression before I waddled off. It's also pretty noisy, but I suppose most cafes are.