Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lemon and Lime Marmalade

Having your wisdom teeth pulled out is not fun. Despite what blogger #800 says about having his taken out at 9am and eating steak at 6pm. He must have been either terribly drugged up or was already on crack to begin with. And when you're at my age when your bones are as dense as your brain, the healing process takes about three times longer.

I had mine taken out last Friday and am still suffering the after effects of vicodin overdose, a throbbing sensation in my left ear and the distinct smell of gums. I looked like John McCain for the better half of the week, but the nut-filled cheeks have slowly dwindled away and all I'm left with now is teeth socket that has been soaked to the core with homemade chicken broth. I never thought I would say this but I'm actually quite sick of ice cream. What has this world come to!

Anyway, on to happier things, while drugged up on a cocktail of painkillers, I managed to potter around long enough without burning down the kitchen to whip up some lemon and lime marmalade, something that's entirely British but is a very good way to get rid of an overstock of lemon and limes that we bought in bulk from Costco in a fit of madness. This marmalade is a staple in British pantries (along with Marmite!) and puts a little zing in your morning muffins with a dab of butter. I made it less sweet because I like the bitter/sourish taste but you can up the sugar amount from 1 lb to 1.5 lb.

Lemon and Lime Marmalade
Adapted from Delia Smith

Makes 4 12oz jars

3 lemons
3 limes
1 lb granulated sugar
3 cups water
1 piece muslin/cheesecloth about 6in x 6in.

Measure 3 cups of water into a preserving pan or heavy-bottomed saucepan. Turn on the heat to low.

Meanwhile, set up the muslin cloth over a small bowl. Squeeze the juice from the lemons and lime into a medium bowl. Set aside the pith, seeds and pip on the muslin cloth. Cut the lemon and lime peel into thin strips. Don't worry about any of the pith that clings to the peel, it will get dissolved and turn into pectin.

Pour the juice into the water and bring to a simmer. Add in the shredded lemon and lime peel. Tie up the muslin cloth containing the pith, pips and seeds and hang it to the side of the saucepan so that it is suspended in the water.

Simmer the mixture, covered for about 1.5 hours until the peels are soft. At this point, wash your jars with warm soapy water, dry and pop into the oven at 225°F. Pour the sugar onto a baking sheet and pop this into the oven as well. Also, put two saucers into the freezer to be used for testing later.

Once the sugar is melted, pour it into the jelly mixture and stir lightly to ensure all the granules are dissolved. Once the granules are dissolved, bring the entire mixture up to boil. Once it starts boiling rapidly, time yourself. Let it boil for 15 minutes and spoon a little of the jelly onto one of the saucers from the freezer. If the jam has set, it will be stiff and not runny on the cold saucer. If it is runny, time yourself for another 10 minutes, and do the same test.

Once the jelly mixture is set, remove the saucepan from heat and set aside to cool slightly for 20 minutes. This is important so that the jelly has time to set.

Spoon the cooled into the sterilized jars.

P/S: I don't do canning, once the marmalade has cooled in the jars, I just pop them in the fridge. It will last for at least a month.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Orange and Almond Tart

As promised, here is the orange and almond tart from yesterday's Easter lunch. I'm much too tired today to go into all the details of concocting this, so I will leave you with words of wisdom: This is the easiest tart you will ever make. 'Nuff said.

P/S: And it tastes like exploding blobs of citrus too! And it can be made dairy-free! And no crazy pastry-making!

(I couldn't resist the temptation, sorry for the missing slice!)

Orange and Almond Tart

Adapted from The Organic Seasonal Cookbook
Makes 6 servings

1 store-bought frozen pie pastry shell

1 unwaxed organic orange
1 stick butter (Earth Balance or Saffola also works)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup ground almonds (or almond meal)

To make the filling, put the orange in a saucepan, cover with water then simmer for 40 minutes, covered, until completely soft. Let the softened orange cool slightly, then cut in half and remove the seeds. Put in a food processor and whiz to a puree. Add the butter, sugar, eggs and almonds and whiz again until smooth.

Unroll the pastry shell over a 8" tart tin. Anchor the edges of the pastry overhang to the side of the tart tin and prick with a fork all over. Pre-bake in oven at 425°F for 10 minutes.

Fill the pre-bake tart shell with the orange filling and bake at 350°F for 40 minutes until the filling is firm. Remove from the oven and let cool. Serve the tart in slices with good vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!: Springtime Lamb Stew

I have a love-hate relationship with lamb. If it were up to me, and genetics did not make my metabolic rate so terribly flawed, I would have lamb everyday of the week. Lamb chops, lamb patties, lamb shanks, lamb pies, lamb curry and of course lamb stew of all sorts. Before you associate eating lamb with the killing of babies and all things cute, if you have ever tasted a pan-seared lamb loin chop while on vacation in Southern France, you will know that eating a tiny spring lamb is akin to sipping the finest wine in a field of golden tulips at sunset. Well, ok, I was trying to be poetic, but you catch the drift.

This is a Provencal recipe I nicked off a book I found in Borders for less than $5. It's called 'Savoring Provence' and has a fantastic selection of French recipes, every which one I will try at some point. The recipe calls for shelled English peas, but since young tender sugar snap peas are in season, I substituted that instead. The recipe also calls for bouquet garni (pic above) which is just a fancy French name for a herb bouquet made up of fresh parsley, fresh thyme and one bay leaf (fresh or dried is fine) tied together with a piece of butcher string.

Unlike traditional winter stew, this recipe doesn't incorporate potatoes, but is served on the side with boiled potatoes (pic below) tossed with butter, salt, pepper and freshly chopped parsley. For dessert, I made an orange and almond tart that rounds off the whole spring theme really well. But I'm not going to just hand you the recipe, you'll have to work for it by coming back and clicking on this blog and humor my shameless self-promotion.

Oh, and find a good bottle of Cotes du Rhone or Bordeaux blanc. This is one of the few times you will want to pair a meaty dish with white wine.

Springtime Lamb Stew (Navarin d'Agneau)
Makes 6 servings
Adapted from 'Savoring Provence'

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 boneless leg of lamb (about 2lbs), cut into 2-inch cubes
1 large yellow onion
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups low-sodium chicke broth
Bouquet Garni (3 parsley stalks, 2 thyme stalks, 1 bay leave)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lbs young Nantes carrots, cut into 2 inch lengths and halved
4 baby turnips, quartered
1 bunch small radishes, trimmed
1/2 lb (about 6) shallots, peeled and quartered
1/2 lb sugar snap peas
24 asparagus tips, about 3 inches long
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (for garnish)

In a large dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Working in batches, add the meat and brown well on all sides, about 15 minutes for each batch. When all the meat is browned, return it to the pan, add the onion and saute until translucent, about 1 minute. Scatter the flour all over and cook, stirring, until some of the flour browns, about 30 seconds.

Add the wine, the chicken broth and the bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes. stir the meat, add the garlic, sugar and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover and continue to simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. [Amanda's note: You can cool this part and refrigerate if you intend to use it the next day. Just reheat and do the following:]

Add the carrots, turnips, radishes, shallots and cover and cook at a gentle simmer until the meat is tender, about 40 minutes. Add the peas and asparagus about 6 - 8 minutes before the end of cooking time.

Remove the bouquet garni. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat and vegetables to a warmed serving dish and keep warm. Raise the heat to high, bring the liquid in the pot to a boil and boil rapidly, stirring constantly until reduced to a light sauce consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Spoon the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Garnish with the parsley and serve.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cheesy Moving Blues: Spaghetti with Chards, Prosciutto and Roquefort Cheese

The lack of recent updates can be attributed to the activity of moving into a new place - a somewhat tedious chore that has taken well over two weeks and have driven both me and the boyfriend nuts. We've moved out to the edge of the city, not quite the burbs, but on the edge no less where a lawn mower wakes us up on Saturdays and the bus drops off a bunchload of yelling kids down the road, much to the chagrin of my dog who goes off at the slightest sound.

The one good thing about moving farther away from the center of downtown though is that rent is a tiny bit cheaper and I can now afford a CSA box. The box we get from New Roots Organics is massive even though we only signed up for a personal bin meant for a one person household. This week we got a whole bunch of chards, carrots, lettuce and mustard greens and a few asparagus spears, apples, oranges, pears, red peppers and zucchinis.

The other good thing about living farther away from everything that matters is that we make "stock-up" trips so that we don't have to go to the grocery store every now and then. Enter Costco. I've always found their cheese and wine selection to be top-notch. But over the weekend, I must have had dry-heaves about 18 times looking at a 12oz wedge of Papillon Black Label Roquefort that was selling for $13.99. That's right, $13.99. It can cost almost three times the price at a gourmet cheese store, and is one of the reasons I hardly ever eat Roquefort except when we're at a fancy French restaurant.

The combination of chards from my CSA box and finding the Roquefort for cheap leads me to perhaps what is one of my all-time favourite ways to make pasta. You have to ensure that you use really good quality ingredients so that all the flavours meld together to create a wonderfully savoury dish. Everything from the pasta to the cheese down to the lemons you use have to be the best you can afford, otherwise you might just dismiss this as a bland affair. If you can't find/afford Roquefort, a good grade Italian Gorgonzola would also work well. Enjoy with a light white wine such as Semillon or Riesling so that it doesn't overwhelm the flavour of the cheese.
Spaghetti with Chards, Prosciutto and Roquefort Cheese
Makes 2 servings

4 oz good quality whole wheat spaghetti
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups rainbow or swiss chards, chopped and stem removed
4 slices prosciutto, sliced in thin strips
1/2 cup good quality Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoon toasted pine nuts, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat a saute pan with 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil. Add in the minced garlic and saute gently over medium-low heat for 1 minute until it starts to turn slightly golden. Add in the chards and 1/4 teaspoon salt and saute for another 3 minutes until the chards are wilted. Turn off the heat.

Stir in the grated lemon zest, sliced prosciutto and roquefort cheese. Add in the cooked pasta and toss to combine. The residual heat from the chards will melt the roquefort slightly. If the pasta seems to dry, you can add in a little bit of the reserved pasta water.

Add in the freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve the pasta topped with a slight scatter of toasted pine nuts.