Archive for the ‘fruit’ Category

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A Persian excursion

July 31, 2009

persianstuffOne of the best reasons for having a proper food writer as a friend is joining them for the spontaneous suburban sojourn in search of a particular dish or ingredient. The Empress took me the other day to Auburn in the mid-west of Sydney, where all things Persian, Afghan, Turkish & Lebanese can be found (and where the Gallipoli Mosque is a feature).

As DrDi wrote recently, it’s very cool for we postcode-centric Sydneysiders to take a trip along the discovery highway to an unvisited suburb – and the Empress is the gal to do it with. Our trip was a short sharp operation but chock full of discoveries for me. First stop was a great restaurant for lunch, where among the delights was an an eggplant dip to die for called Kashk-e bademjan; I devoured the lot and got an extra tub for takeaway.

After that we popped into a Persian supermarket where we filled our shopping bags with these goodies: green raisins, dried sour cherries, barberries and slivered pistachios. The shop guys and we managed to cross the language barrier with the aid of some friendly other customers, which was a very nice part of the encounter.

I haven’t used any of these staples of Persian cooking yet, and have never seen those ruby-red barberries or the chewy black and very tart sour cherries before, but plan to have a go very soon at a polow – a Persian pilaf, basically, which apparently has a lovely crusty bottom.

I’ve checked out some polow recipes with barberries here and with sour cherries here and here and here.

But I’m also thinking that both of these would be delicious chucked into any tagine or, as I found after taking this photograph, just eaten as a little dried-fruit mix from a bowl.

Years ago when making the divine mast-o khiar – a yoghurt & cucumber dip with walnuts, green raisins & rose petals (and another recipe here)  I had the devil’s own job finding green raisins, and now I know they’re everywhere in any Middle-Eastern suburb I feel a bit of a dill for buying them from these elegant and expensive packagers (although their stuff is top quality, so if you can’t get near a Persian supermarket, they are worth a shot online).

And as for my plans for the pistachios, well obviously the list is endless. But apart from Karen Martini’s quite incredible baked lemon and goat’s curd cheesecake with pistachios (from Where the Heart Is, but Stonesoup has an adaptation here – scroll down to find it), I have just come across this delicious-sounding pistachio dukkah which sounds a very fine idea.

Now, off to Culburra for the weekend with a bunch of food-crazy friends. Will return fatter and more recipe-laden than ever next week…

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Lady Marmalade

July 19, 2009

marmaladeMy husband recently returned from a visit to his mum, Annie, bearing Gift: this jar of cumquat marmalade, made on a whim from the cumquats in her own garden and last week’s Good Living recipe (I think this recipe here is the one, right Annie? Let me know if not!).

Anyway, it wasn’t till yesterday that I had some of it slathered on toast (sourdough from the excellent Bourke St Bakery which happily for us has opened a new shop just a couple of blocks from our house). And my, that stuff was good.

This marmalade is magic – I’m not much of a jam person, having a reasonably low sugar tolerance, and so absolutely love this stuff which is sweet but tart and just with that teeny subtle bitterness that  makes marmalade so much more interesting than jam.

So this is, as you see, a cheat’s blog, given that today’s recipe is not only someone else’s but I didn’t even make it  – but it’s so good, and looks so beautiful, that I thought the Lady Marmalade wouldn’t mind me sharing her triumph with you.

The Lady reports in her comment on the polenta posting that this recipe is easy and results in feelings of industrious virtue.  And I am sure that if there are any tricks or tweaks required, she will let us know.

I have never made jam or anything like it in my life, but I heartily recommend you all rush off and make jars of this stuff (and then pop one  in the post to me…)


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Zest for life

June 2, 2009

lemon zestFurther to our earlier discussion of simple but essential kitchen gadgets, I hereby withdraw my remarks to Hughesy about the humble zester being interchangeable with a grater.

For I now am in love with a six-dollar zester – it takes up no space, and is perfectly designed to take exactly the right depth of citrus peel for flavour and texture.

I realise now that a grater either takes too much or (in the case of our super-fine Microplane), too little, with the latter result being a sort of vaguely citrusy fairy floss instead of the sharp, fresh zing required. And digging too deeply, of course, means icky bitter pith. 

And as for lemons, oranges and limes, and why these zesty friends must be included in  life’s truly essential ingredients – well, you all know. ‘Sundry items too numerous to mention’, as the old clearance sale adverts in the Cooma-Monaro Express used to say. We’re talking sharpening up and /or sweetening everything from lamb shanks to roast chook to fruit salad to curries to chocolate cake.

Maggie Beer puts citrus peel in everything – from this incredibly delicious Moroccan poached ocean trout (have cooked several times, it’s from my treasured copy of  Maggie’s Table that chefbro Hamish gave me for Christmas – personally signed and everything, following their cooking gig together in Shangers) to the completely different but equally luscious  Haloumi & Citrus Lentils (ditto).

Skye Gyngell is another lemon freak, and her wonderful book A Year in My Kitchen is one of my favourites.  Here’s what she says about lemon zest:

The zesting of a lemon could never be described as a recipe, but this is an ingredient I use so often that it warrants a mention …  

Lemon zest works beautifully when tossed into a simple salad whose leaves include basil, mint, chervil and rocket. The addition of grated Parmesan, lemon juice and good olive oil is all that is needed, in my mind, to creat a perfect green salad. 

The tangy zest also cleans up the flavour of many desserts that would otherwise seem a fraction too sweet. Similarly, it works well to counteract the potentially cloying flavour of pickled fruits. In essence, lemon zest is a simple, quick way to add freshness to your cooking. There is no real secret, just be sure that to use the finest holes on your grater and only use the yellow part of the skin. The white pith tends to taste very bitter. Grate your zest as close as possible to the time that you are going to use it, as it will dry out fairly quickly if left out uncovered, or indeed even covered in the fridge overnight. 

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Holus bolus – whole orange cake

April 26, 2009

orangecakeThe dimpled things in life are often the best.

Why does the idea of making a cake using a whole orange – peel, pith, flesh & all – appeal to me so deeply? Apart from the taste and texture of the purely gorgeous orange and quince cake we’ve made twice in the last couple of weeks, from Jared Ingersoll’s Danks Street Depot Sharing Plates book, there’s just something I absolutely love about chucking a whole piece of otherwise fiddly fruit into a cake. 

There are lots of different variations on this cake, which seems to have originated with the classic Claudia Roden Middle Eastern Orange Cake. Some (like hers & Jared’s, which I will now refer to as ours) use almond meal instead of flour (and are thus perfect for gluten-intolerant folk)  but otherwise whole-orange-cake devotees appear to divide into two camps – old boilers and cold callers. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Quince prince

April 17, 2009

gardenamateurFenella’s food feature has led me in a roundabout way to her friend Jamie’s garden blog, Garden Amateur – well worth checking out right this minute for his beautiful quince photos and prep & cooking tips.

Sean and I picked some quinces in Bathurst on the weekend, in the garden of a friend, and the weekend will see S doing some quincy magic with them, I hope – specifically, an orange cake with quinces that Steph alerted us to, from Jared Ingersoll’s book, I think?

Will show you the results, if they happen …