Tag-Archive for ◊ English ◊

06 Sep 2013 Pavlova

pavlova1

In England, Australia, New Zealand and my house Pavlova is  a very popular dessert.  I am not sure why it’s not only not popular in the US but it’s not even well known.  Pavlova is a  quick, light, inexpensive, impressive, and utterly delicious dessert.  Pavlova is usually served during summer months since fresh berries are an important component.

Legend has it that Pavlova was named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova sometime in the 1920’s. But there the agreement ends. There is a huge and controversial issue around the country of origin of this dessert.  Both Australia and  New Zealand claim it.  Pavlova is a popular dish and important part of the national cuisine of both countries–as it is England (but England doesn’t claim to be a country of origin). Ok, ok! I can hear you all hollering but, what IS  “Pavlova”?

Pavlova is a meringue dessert with a crisp outer shell and a soft, light, fluffy center.  The meringue crust is  topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries–and kiwi– to serve.

I make two versions of this dessert.  Version #1, and the most traditional is below.  In Version #2, I mix a little lemon curd into the whipped cream, and I use blueberries instead of the more traditional raspberries and strawberries.  Trader Joe’s carries a very good and inexpensive lemon curd.  If you have a lemon tree, you can make your own lemon curd in the microwave with my recipe.

Pavlova doesn’t keep!  Don’t assemble the Pavlova until JUST before serving, and don’t expect to enjoy they leftovers (they’ll be soggy).  Make sure this is eaten all up all at once.  The good news is that the meringue base can be made ahead and stored for a few days in an airtight container before assembling and serving, which makes this a great showstopping dessert to make for guests.

High humidity might negatively affect this dessert. It’s best not to attempt to make this on a humid, wet, rainy day.

Pavlova

  •  4 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt (about 1/8 tsp)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sweetened Whipped Cream, recipe follows
  • fresh raspberries, strawberries, kiwi or combination (see above for a blueberry version)
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
  2. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking pan. Draw a 9-inch circle on the paper, using a 9-inch plate as a guide.  Turn the paper over so the drawn circle is on the reverse side of the paper. (This way you won’t get a pencil mark on the meringue.)
  3. Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. (Be SURE the bowl and beaters are very, very, very clean–with not one bit of oil, butter or fat residue.)
  4. Beat the egg whites on high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar, in slow steady stream or 1 T. at a time and beat until it makes firm, shiny peaks, about 3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
  5. Mix vanilla, cornstarch and vinegar together then fold that mixture lightly into the egg white mixture using a very clean rubber spatula (there should be no oil, fat, butter, residue on the spatula).
  6. Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk. Then, make a crater or a bowl in the middle of the flat meringue pile. (So the meringue looks like a rimmed soup bowl or large saucer.  This “crater” will hold the whipped cream and fruit at serving time.
  7. Bake at 200 degrees for  1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven, at least 1 hour, overnight is better. (The meringue will deflate if exposed to cold air before it’s cool).  Store in an airtight container until ready to serve. Do not refrigerate.
  8. Place meringue disk onto a serving plate and JUST BEFORE SERVING spread the top completely with sweetened whipped cream. Spoon the berries and the traditional Kiwi, if you can get it, carefully into the middle of the Pavlova, leaving a border of cream and meringue. Serve immediately.

Sweetened Whipped Cream:

1 cup cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
½ – 1 teaspoon vanilla

Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until firm. Don’t overbeat!  If using a Kitchen Aid, make 1 ½ or 2 cups cream, any less and the whisk won’t get it all up from the bottom.

You’ll love it!  Practice this once for the family, and then WOW your guests with it the next time!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

09 Dec 2012 Skibo Castle Crunch

This cookie is something you’ve never tasted before.  There’s no chocolate, no caramel, no peanut butter, no nuts, no oatmeal, no coffee, no mint, nor is there any jam in this cookie, so how can it be good?  I don’t know, but it is.  Damn good.  Two bites and you’ll be addicted and you won’t know why.

I don’t know why I made this cookie in the first place.  I found it in “The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe From Each Year 1941-2009” by Gourmet Magazine.  This was billed as the best cookie of 1999.  Maybe I made it because it was made famous in Scotland and I have a fondness for all things Scottish.  Maybe because it was a 15 minute bar cookie recipe and I had all the ingredients on hand.  Nevertheless, I made it, and this odd, crunchy ginger cookie has become one of my favorite all time cookies.

I had to change the recipe though.  The first year I made it, I loved it, but it was ODD, downright ugly and temperamental (no two batches turned out the same).  So I twiddled with it a bit and then , sadly, had to let it go as an “almost great” cookie.  This year,  I found the recipe again,  on Epicurious. com…, with twenty-five comments!  So I tried the recipe again and incorporated some of the suggestions.  Success!  This is the cookie I am taking to my Cookbook Club’s annual Christmas Cookie Exchange (my yoga group already gave it 10 thumbs up–and they got to taste both years’ versions).

The biggest change was doubling the recipe, but baking in the same size pan as the original recipe.  The second big change was using a food processor to make the base.  The third big change was cutting the cookie into squares before the cookie cooled. So here is the recipe for an odd, crunchy, ginger-y cookie that takes 15 minutes to bake and is totally addictive.

If you want more ginger flavor, add 1/2 cup minced candied ginger to either the shortbread base or sprinkled on top of the glaze.

Skibo Castle Ginger Crunch

For Shortbread Base:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into pieces

For Glaze-like Topping:

1 1/2 cups butter
2 tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup (British cane sugar syrup-try World Market or an Indian Grocery or Amazon.com…or sub dark corn syrup)
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F . Line  a 13″ by 9″ baking pan with parchment paper.

Make shortbread base:
Place the dry ingredients in a food processor and whirl to combine.  Add in and blend in butter  and whirl until mixture resembles coarse meal and just starts to hold together.  Pour mixture into parchment lined baking pan. With your fingers, press mixture evenly into bottom of pan.  Do this lightly.  If you press too hard the shortbread will suffer.  Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden and crisp around the edges, 25 to 30  minutes.  Keep  your eye on this.  The shortbread can go from perfectly done to over baked in a minute.

Just before shortbread is done, make the topping:
Five minutes before the shortbread is to be taken out of the oven, melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Whisk in remaining ingredients until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer, stirring, for one minute. Remove shortbread from oven and pour topping over, tilting pan to cover shortbread evenly.

Cool in pan on a rack for about 20 minutes, then cut the Skibo Crunch into small squares or rectangles.  Let the Skibo Crunch cool completely before removing from pan.  Then…WOW your guests with this seriously odd cookie.

Let me know if it becomes one of your favorites, too.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

 

31 May 2011 Yes, I am baaaaack…

I’ve been gone so long, I don’t know what to say. Perhaps an explanation??  OK…

…all of a sudden I was planning my daughter’s wedding.  She gave us nine weeks from announcement day to wedding day.  Not a whole lot of time for a do-it-yourself wedding.  Not a whole lot of time to do anything other than make invitations, programs, wine and water bottle labels, menus, bake cookies and dips and pastas, shop for dresses and all the other clothing bits plus shoes, food, plates…, and ask for HELP!

Handmade invitations.

Fooling around while dress shopping. NO, I am NOT the one  supposed to be getting married.

How many dozen cookies did we make for the Cookie Shoppe thank you gifts?  I think we got up to 20 or 30 dozen.

Then my Aunt-from-England arrived to celebrate Easter with us and to attend the wedding and–stay with me for five weeks.  She turned out to be pretty high maintenance, and firmly attached to my hip.  With being a good and attentive hostess to a much loved aunt,  and doing all sorts of wedding stuff, spending any significant time cooking, photographing, and blogging  was out of the question.

My son gave me a fuzzy pink toilet seat cover for Easter.  When I asked him why, he said it was egg shaped and the right color!!!  Didn’t I think it was brilliant, too?! My next question he couldn’t answer, “What was a 20 year old boy, sorry, man, doing in the toilet seat aisle in Target?”

Then,  just ten days before the planned “I do”s, the wedding was suddenly CANCELLED =:O.

The Ring Bearer shirt arrived too, too large.  Not an issue now though….

The shower for the wedding that never happened.

We didn’t quite make it to the church on time…

Then my Aunt-from-Scotland arrived to attend the now not happening wedding.  Then my Mom arrived from San Diego to attend the not happening wedding.  We were all in shock and totally incapable of anything other than watching the Royal Wedding.  Twice.  No, three times. We stayed up all night to watch it, then we watched all the repeats the next day, and then again the next day.  The day after that my Dad started having tizzy fits so my Mom and Aunt-from Scotland had to fly down to San Diego ahead of schedule to tend to him.

Enjoying the Royal Wedding from San Jose!

Then my daughter left on her honeymoon, which was now not a honeymoon, but I still got to watch my two and half year old grandson while she was gone.  For a week. He’s a handful.  Wonderful, but a handful. Not much time to do much of anything other than count his break dancing head turns, play cars, feed, bathe, change and try to get him to go to bed-which turned out to be a nightmare.

My grandson in his usual motion.  He LOVES to run…and break dance…on his head.

Two days after my daughter returned to pick up her son, my Aunt-from-England and I went on a 10 day cruise to Alaska.  Now that was fun.  In the down time, of which there was a lot, I read 6 novels (only one I would recommend, “Room” by Emma Donoghue, and one Alaskan cookbook (wonderful, can’t wait to try out some Asian influenced Alaskan seafood dishes), but Internet access on board was seventy-five cents a minute, and s-l-o-w.  Plus, although I was eating three or four course meals four times a day (breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner), I was not cooking a thing.  I did receive instruction on how to make Gravlax though.  I can’t wait to try my hand at that and hopefully post some very successful results.

Two tourists in Alaska. (Never trust a skinny cook!)


Five desserts on one plate! Am I in heaven?  BTW, the Pavlova was the best.

Gravlax!  The Head Chef of the cruise ship shared his recipe and method.  I took lots of notes.

After the cruise we were home for about forty eight hours, attended Cookbook Club (fondue!)  and a Dining for Women meeting (our second year anniversary!),  repacked our suitcases, and then headed down to San Diego for five days.  San Diego was heaven, but again, limited Internet access, and I was so busy going out for expensive lunches I had no time to cook or blog anyway!  Then home for two days, my Aunt-from-England had a meltdown, and I put her back on the plane to England with a very heavy heart.

Butterscotch Fondue

Some of the wonderful women from my Dining For Women chapter. We are doing what we can to assist impoverished women and children around the world out of poverty and into self sustainability, and we are doing it one grassroots project at a time, one dinner at a time.

One of the decadent open air lunches in San Diego, this one with my mother at the Hotel Del Coronado.

Now I have been home, alone, more-or-less, as my two college age children have returned home for the Summer, and it’s been bliss, but the only thing I have cooked is a s’more at my elder daughter’s home after a Memorial Day BBQ!  Tonight, another house guest arrives.  I’ve never met him.  My daughter invited him to stay with us, for the Summer, because he had nowhere else to go.  Um…what???? OUR house?  Are we a half-way house now?  I barely have enough bedrooms for my two returning students and ME!  We are adding one more now?  WHERE???  But I digress, this is tomorrow’s story, not yesterdays!

So today I am moving furniture around to accommodate one more summer resident and I am flipping through the cookbooks and magazines I have bought over the last few weeks, in hopes and anticipation of the day and time I will get back into the kitchen…which seems to be SOON!  Maybe this afternoon!  I have an cheese enchilada dish I want to remake, and lollipop steaks, and anything at all from my newly purchased David Lebovitz cookbook “Ready for Dessert”, and the previously mentioned Alaskan seafood cookbook, “Fishes and Dishes”.  I’ve made butterscotch fondue and Grand Marnier marshmallows, and Microwave Marmalade that I want to remake and photograph, along with my Blackberry Ribs, and recent sorbets that my Aunt-from-England enjoyed every afternoon.  And there’s the Blueberry Hot Chocolate I tasted in Alaska that I want to create for my non-coffee drinking daughter, and the Strawberry-Mango Meringue Pie my daughter and I want to perfect.  So much fun stuff to do…and hopefully I will have all Summer to do it.

Blackberry Ribs.

Pie with promise, Strawberry-Mango Meringue.

It’s good to be back!  Hope you missed me.  Now let’s start where we left off!  Where to begin, where to begin?

 

31 Jan 2011 Strawberry Sandwiches

I have never seen a recipe published for this sandwich, but it’s one of my favorites (probably because it’s more like dessert than a sandwich.  I have my demons, and all of them are sweet…).  I first encountered this sandwich on the campus of San Diego State University, in the late 1970’s, then I never saw it anywhere else, except in my own kitchen. I’ve made my version a lot over the years, usually for tea (tea-the-meal, the one with finger sandwiches, scones, little cakes, and  served on fancy china).  I love tea-the-meal.  It’s a grazers delight; little bits of everything, and everything tasty and pretty. But I digress, back to the Strawberry Sandwich.  (I have never been able to spell “sandwich” without spell check…, it just doesn’t look right without another “h” in there. And I digress yet again…) With strawberries now showing up in our farmer’s markets (yes, in January!) I had a hankering for this sandwich, so I made one, or two.

Like I said, this s-a-n-d-w-h-i-c-h is a great addition to any tea, but it’s a good treat to serve at play dates (PB&J for the kids, SBS for the moms), pack for a walk or a picnic, or to pull together if someone stops by and you want to keep them around for awhile.  The trick to pulling these together at the last minute?  Keep a loaf of raisin bread in the freezer!  Pull out 2 or 4 slices when needed, by the time you get the honey and cream cheese out, the strawberries sliced, and the tea brewing, the bread will be defrosted and ready to use.  These sandwiches would also be good for a Valentine’s Day treat, or a special Mother’s Day event. My daughter had a catering gig on Sunday and I suggested this sandwich to round out a fabulous spread of finger sandwiches. This sandwich could fit in anywhere!  I really can’t understand why no one else makes it.

So, a big Thank You to the cafeteria ladies of San Diego State University for this lovely sandwich.  I hope you get your day in the sun 🙂

Strawberry Sandwich

For each sandwich:

2 slices of good quality raisin bread or cinnamon-raisin bread

approx 1T cream cheese (whatever kind you like, full fat, low fat, no fat…)

approx 1 teaspoon honey (or a little less)

3-4 strawberries, thickly sliced, rounded edges set aside for another use.

Thinly spread the cream cheese on both sides of the raisin bread.  On one side, drizzle the honey and spread evenly over the cream cheese.  On the other slice, lay thick, flat slices of strawberry.  It’s bit of a jigsaw puzzle to get them all to fit without leaving too much space between the slices, but it’s only a small puzzle, nothing intimidating.  Put the bread with honey on top of the bread with the strawberries.  For easiest slicing, flip the sandwich over.  Cut off all the crusts, and then slice as desired.  I usually get three rectangular shaped finger sandwiches from each, but in the picture above I cut in half on the diagonal.  Eat within a few hours.  The sandwich does not keep long, and definitely not overnight.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  If you are looking for a more savory sandwich to serve with this, check out the post for Smoked Chicken & Almond Sandwiches!

16 Jan 2011 Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts ruined every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for the first thirty years of my life.  It was a rule, in my house, that everyone had to eat one Brussels sprout at Thanksgiving dinner and another at Christmas dinner. I dreaded Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner.  Brussels Sprouts were bitter, soggy and all around YUCKY.  I would choke. I would gag.  My stomach would lurch.  I’d grimace.  My family would laugh, but show no mercy. It had to be swallowed. It usually took two bites. Although Brussels Sprouts were number one on my most hated foods list, there were other foods on the list, too: lima beans, pancakes, corn and maple syrup. But! Lima beans, pancakes, corn and maple syrup didn’t constitute a power struggle with my parents.  Brussels sprouts did.

I was thirty years old before I had the wherewithal to refuse to eat one more Brussels sprout.  When I put down my fork that Christmas, I didn’t pick it up again, for ANY Brussels sprout, for another twenty years.  Whatever possessed me to try Brussels sprouts again, I don’t know, but when I was fifty years old I found out Brussels sprouts could be rendered edible if they were fresh and roasted.  My parents used to serve frozen Brussels sprouts that had been boiled.  Please! Don’t do this!

Buy fresh Brussels sprouts, preferably on the stalk, and preferably after the first frost (Brussels sprouts that have been nipped by frost are sweeter).  Old green beans don’t taste good, neither do old carrots or old mushrooms.  Cook the Brussels sprouts soon after harvest, and roast them using the recipe below (which is based on a recipe I found at Epicurious.com in 2004).  They’re GOOD!

Of all my hated foods, the only one left on the list is lima beans. And I’m afraid that I raised my kids to hate them, too.  I told them they never, ever, ever have to eat a lima bean. Then wouldn’t you know, a very nice, very personable college boy takes a liking to one of my daughters.  After awhile, he invites her over to his parents farm to have lunch with his parents.  His parents are lima bean farmers, ROFL!!  She had lima beans for lunch!! Fortunately, the relationship hasn’t progressed to the point where I have been invited to meet the parents and have lima beans for lunch!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

2 oz. pancetta, minced (2 oz. thick, good quality bacon can be substituted)

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine (or chicken broth)

salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, toss together sprouts, pancetta, garlic, oil, wine and salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a shallow baking pan.  Make sure the Brussels sprouts are laying flat in a single layer.
  3. Roast Brussels sprouts for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Turn over, and roast for an additional 15 minutes.
  4. Serve hot.  Makes four servings.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today! Go ahead!  Make this recipe! You won’t be disappointed 🙂

15 Jan 2011 Banoffee Pie

Banoffee Pie! You’ve heard of it, right? Toffee, bananas and coffee flavored cream in a pastry crust? There is more to British desserts than Trifle, Spotted Dick, and Sticky Toffee Pudding, you know!

This pie took the British Isles by storm in 1972, and  gets more and more popular by the year. I’ve read Banoffee Pie is now on Australian menus, New Zealand menus, and even a few US menus!

Last March I went to England with a specific goal: to taste Banoffee Pie.  It didn’t happen.  FINALLY, almost one year later, I got a taste and it was made by me in my own kitchen!  If you want something done right… 🙂 It’s a pity I had to wait so long, but it was worth the wait.

Now that you’ve heard of Banoffee Pie, don’t wait as long as I did to try it.  It’s as easy as pie to make!  There is no doubt in my mind that my very next dinner party will feature Banoffee Pie. No doubt at ALL.

The original pie was made in a regular baked shortcrust pastry, but I made mine in a crust of crushed “Digestive Biscuits” (another English specialty! And, no, I don’t know why they are called “digestive” biscuits. I don’t want to think about it actually.) and melted butter.  A graham cracker crust can be substituted.  So you have three crust options! Pick the one that best suits your tastes, what you have on hand, or is easiest for you to pull together.

Banoffee Pie

For “Digestive” crust

4 oz. melted butter

8 oz. English Digestive Biscuits (available in International sections of many larger grocery stores, British Food stores and Indian markets…)

For Bottom Toffee Layer

4 oz. butter

½ cup dark brown sugar

1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk

For Middle Banana Layer

3 or 4 small bananas

For Top Cream Layer

1 ¼ cups whipping cream

½ – ¾ teaspoon instant espresso powder (to taste)

2 tablespoons sugar

small amount of grated chocolate (or ½ of a “Flake” bar, crumbled–another very good British chocolate bar)

Directions:

Decide what kind of crust you want and prepare it.  To make the English crust, crush the digestive biscuits in a food processor and then stir in the melted butter.  Press mixture along the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  (If you don’t have a 10-inch tart pan, use a quiche pan or a regular pie pan).  Chill until firm.

Combine the butter and sugar into a saucepan and place over medium heat.  Stir constantly until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.  Stir in the condensed milk and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust.  Let sit until cool.  This step is OK to prepare one day in advance.

If using a tart pan, remove the pie from the pan and place on serving tray.

Cut the bananas in half lengthwise.  Using the curve of the banana against the outside layer of the pie crust, begin to layer the banana halves lengthwise on top of the toffee layer.  When you get towards the inside you will have to cut the long banana halves to fit.

Combine the whipping cream, espresso powder and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip until soft peaks form.  Spread the cream mixture on top of the bananas.

Grate the chocolate, you only need a tablespoonful or two, and sprinkle over the top of the whipped cream.

Serve immediately (or within an hour or two, although leftovers do keep rather well for a bit longer than that.., if there ARE any leftovers…)

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  I hope you make this soon and NEVER say terrible things about British food again! I may get offended! There is some very good British food out there, you know 🙂