I usually avoid recipes that call for stiff egg whites, as I don’t own an electric whisk and I am pathetically weak. But I was in a reckless mood today and attempted some Ottolenghi, macaroon-type biscuits that demanded soft peaks. And despite my generally poor baking skills and lack of arm muscle, the cherry-studded beauties came out just as Mr O said they would: tinged with gold and soft and chewy in the middle. Lovely.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s Sour Cherry Amaretti
60g dried sour cherries (or cranberries)
120g caster sugar
180g ground almonds
1/2tsp almond essence
zest one lemon
2 tsp honey
2 egg whites
icing sugar, for serious dusting
Heat oven to 170degrees. Mix together the almonds, sugar, lemon zest, almond essence and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and honey into soft peaks. Fold these gently into the other ingredients to form a soft paste. Form walnut-sized balls (enough so the mixture divides into 20), roll liberally in icing sugar, flatten slightly into irregular rounds and place on a greaseproof-covered baking tray. Bake for 12 mins, until slightly coloured but still gooey inside. Leave to cool. Share.
Though I do love Masterchef, I feel I’ve spent way too much of the last week watching people make little scallop, black pudding and pea puree piles. Nevertheless, it’s given me a craving for the green stuff, so tonight, after work and some unnecessarily extensive research on how best it could be done, I made parma ham and pea puree crostini, plus some other tasty bits.
L-R: Goats cheese, beetroot, thyme, walnut oil; Roast tomatoes with garlic, olive oil, rosemary; Krisprolls with pea puree, parma ham, olive oil
Bring a pan of water containing a peeled garlic clove and some sprigs of mint to the boil. Add the peas, simmer for one min. Drain, remove garlic, put peas and mint in blender. Blitz, season, add a slug of olive oil, blitz again.
Was supposed to be going to a swish magazine party this evening, but inexplicably got involved in a heated argument with Sol who I was meant to be going with because… Anyway. Didn’t go to the party, but stormed home and expelled anger by cooking Claudia Roden’s meatballs for Patrick and Ed instead. Specifically – there are several types in her Book of Jewish Food – I made the garlic and mint, sweet and sour ones. Simple, zingy, brilliant midweek supper. Served with couscous and green salad.
Claudia Roden’s Sweet and Sour Meatballs with Garlic and Mint
800g (2 packs) minced lamb
Large bunch parsley, finely chopped
One large & one medium onion, chopped
Six cloves garlic, finely chopped
Bunch mint, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
Juice one large lemon
Couscous, to serve
Chop onion, set to fry on a low-ish heat. Meanwhile, combine lamb, parsley, s&p and roll into balls, and finely chop garlic. When onion is soft, add garlic and meatballs to pan, turn up a bit, and brown meat on all sides – disturbing infrequently so golden crusty bits form. Next, add the chopped tomato, then pour over water to almost cover the meatballs, season, bring to the boil and simmer for 25mins, turning the balls over just once. Meanwhile, stir the sugar, lemon juice and mint together, and when the 25mins is up, pour in and simmer for a further 15mins. Serve with cous cous.
I admit this brunchtime Ottolenghi number is dubious-looking, especially for a Sunday morning (who wakes up on a hangover in the mood for garlic?) but there’s no recipe I’ve cooked more often in the last year. It is jaw-droppingly delicious and eye-poppingly pretty – especially if you serve it in your posh housemate’s individual lemon Le Creuset dishes. This morning I served it to said housemate plus three bleary-eyed friends, but it also makes a great quick supper.
Yotam Ottolenghi Baked Eggs with Yoghurt and Chilli
(courtesy of the Guardian, yet again)
2 tbsp olive oil
150g Greek yogurt
Garlic clove, peeled and crushed
50g unsalted butter
1/2 tsp kirmizi biber (a Turkish spice apparently, but we’ve always used harissa + pinch of sweet paprika)
6 sage leaves, shredded (never have these, always omitted)
Maldon sea salt (his specification, not mine)
Preheat oven to 150degrees. Put rocket and olive oil in pan, add salt, cook on medium for 5mins until rocket has wilted.
Divide the rocket between individual oven-friendly dishes – or one big one – and make four egg-sized holes. Break an egg into each crater, taking care not to break the yolk (I break each egg separately in a bowl first, as the chances of me getting this right four times in a row is slim). Put in oven for 10-15 minutes, until the egg white has set.
Meanwhile, mix together the yoghurt and garlic with a pinch of salt, then set aside (but not in fridge).
Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the kirmizi biber / harissa / even chilli powder and another pinch of salt, and cook until the butter starts to foam and turns a nice golden-red. If using, add the sage, cook for a few seconds longer, then remove from the heat.
When the eggs are done, spoon over the yoghurt, then pour on the hot chilli butter. Serve piping hot, with toast/bread for mopping up the sloppy bits.
From top to bottom:
Simon Hopkinson: Roast Chicken and Other Stories
Jane Grigson: Vegetable Book
Claudia Roden: The Book of Jewish Food
Yotam Ottolenghi: Ottolenghi
Been on a cookbook spree recently, trying to build up a little library so I can get off the Nigel/Nigella/Hugh FW/Jamie merry-go-round. It may only be putting myself at one tentative remove from the great man, but I found a nice little Q&A with Nigel listing his favourite food writers and recipe books (here), while this Guardian article, a collection of favourite recipes nominated by great contemporary cooks, also provided me with some new names: Marcella Hazan, Alain Chapel, Paula Wolfert, and Anna del Conte (Nigella’s own goddess) all added to my to-be-explored list.
Mid-week, post-work, long-planned dinner party. Argh. In the door at half 7 (late already thanks to the newsdesk), guests at half 8, two course dinner for six meat-eaters plus two veggies ready for 9. Ish.
Already had a giant butternut squash, plus some duck legs in the freezer – which is the excuse I’ll give for making for a second time the only disappointing Nigel Slater dish I’ve ever attempted. Duck legs on the hob with squash and thyme for three-quarters of an hour did wonders for the vegetable, but gave me flabby, greyish limbs of meat – neither meltingly, confit-soft nor crunchily crisp-skinned. Sorry Nigel. Feel like I’ve let you down.
But on to pudding. Nigella’s chocolate pots! For the second time in a week! A bit Come Dine With Me perhaps but they’re delicious and pretty and a massive crowd-pleaser, which I suppose is all that counts.
Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Pots
– so easy I already know the recipe by heart
Serves eight (really does)
150ml double cream
100ml whole milk
150g chocolate (best dark, obvs)
1/2tsp vanilla extract
Bring the milk and cream just about to the boil. Meanwhile, blitz the chocolate in a blender (to “smithereens” I think are the goddess’s commands). Add vanilla to the hot liquid and pour it into the blender over the chocolate. Leave to stand for 30 secs (I imagine this is so the chocolate melts). Blitz for 30 secs. Crack the egg in. Blitz for 45 secs. Pour into little cups (I think she says “or ramekins” but I think maybe that would be taking the late nineties thing too far) and put in fridge for six hours to set (though I put mine in the freezer for an hour and a half and they were just fine). Remove 20mins before serving so they soften up a bit.
Oh, and the vegetarians had Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s butternut squash stuffed with blue cheese and walnuts, which I think everyone else secretly wished they were having too.
Tomorrow is my birthday (we’ll skip over the significance of today’s date) and I celebrated with the family by having everyone – parents, grandparents, little bro – over to my cosy East End flat for lunch. It was the first time I’d had my mother here for any length of time, in daylight, which meant I had to remove dirt I usually can’t even see. So this week I have done the following things: dusted the living room skirting boards, WASHED THE KITCHEN WALLS, cleaned behind the u-bend. But enough. This is a food blog. To the menu.
Warm Jerusalem Artichoke Salad
(bastardised Nigel Slater, see below)
Seven Hour Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Onions, Thyme, Balsamic Vinegar + chickpea mash and watercress salad
(Tom Aikens, here; Nigel again, here)
Cranberry and Pear Upside-Down Cake
(Yotam Ottolenghi, take two)
(hastily assembled Nigella back-up dessert after late-onset cake-collapse fear)
What can I say? It was a triumph! Honestly it was. And damn right – not including the three shopping expeditions (to Borough Market, Broadway Market, and Sainsbury’s), or the fact I was up making the cake until 12 last night, prep began at 6:55am with me stumbling my way to the oven to commence the to-the-minute schedule I’d planned on iCal. But it turned out great: the meat fell off the bone! the chickpea mash was glossily smooth! and – woop! – the cake was cooked all the way through (see previous mishap)! My cautious grandpa even had a second slice, declaring it the best dessert he’d ever eaten. Bless. And everyone was merry. Twas lovely. And tomorrow I’m 24. Eesh. Off to the pub. (But look – the cake…!)