Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Experimental Cooking

Every now and then I like to try and cook something 'complicated' that I haven't tried before, or I sometimes have a mental list of food items or recipes I would like to try. This is usually having read some recipe book or another. My collection of recipe books is growing quite well now.

Here are some things I have tried (and the results..)

1) Bagels - I actually quite enjoyed making these.. the kneading the dough part and the resting were quite easy steps in the process, forming them into perfect rings, putting them in boiling water, and ensuring they stayed in for the right amount of time was not so easy... These did taste perfectly bagel-like even if they did not quite look the part !

I would love to try croissants next - if I can get over the idea of how much butter goes into those things!

2) Preserved lemons - One of the wonder ingredients of North African cuisine, they add a certain something extra to tagines and couscous dishes. To make them basically squeeze lemons and lemon juice into a preserving jar. Add the squeezed lemons to the jar, cover the lemons with salt and top up with more lemon juice. Leave to stand for a good 4 weeks, you will see the difference when they are ready to use as the lemons are quite literally cured and the lemon takes on an amazingly soft texture. Chop and add to tagines, casseroles etc.

3) Glace Cherries - I have just been reading a recipe book that tells me that what I made (which I thought were glace cherries) were acually candied cherries... When fruit is candied you leave it in a sugar syrup for several days, boiling it every day and adding more sugar. Finally after 5-7 days the fruit is strained of the syrup and left to dry out, result in lovely candied fruit. The glace-ing process is completely different and less lengthy - which I wish I had known at the time ! Incidentally, the reason I was making these was because I wanted organic glace cherries in my Christmas cakes which I could not find. Despite all this, the resulting cherries were delicious. However, glace cherries is back on my 'to make' list.

4) Sprouted Seeds One of the easiest things to make ! Buy a seed sprouter, add seeds (which you can buy in a special mix from most health stores), rinse the seeds several times and leave on the window sill. Rinse thoroughly every day, after a few days the seeds sprout. I love these in cheeses sandwiches (of all things..), they are also lovely in salads and some people add them to stir fry. (I prefer them cold.)

5) Lemon Curd / Plum Jam/Mincemeat Never have I got so much for so little effort ! I still have jars of the stuff now and I made this years ago !! Having made some sweet preserves I would love to try some savoury chutneys which I haven't made yet.... I would definitely recommend that you get the jars and a pan and get cooking !

6) Simnel Cake I really enjoyed making this. I love the idea that the 12 marzipan balls around the edges represent the 12 disciples. I also loved the marzipan layer that goes through the center of the cake. Basically this is a lovely delicately spiced, light fruit cake with marzipan. Quite delicious.

7) Passion fruit and meringue cake I made this for a friend and her husband when they were over for lunch one day it looked amazing ( it was triple-layered if I recall correctly) and tasted great too.

8) Blackcurrant studded American style pancakes these were great served with maple syrup and bacon. Make a thick, sweet pancake batter add to the skillet in big spoonfuls about 6-8 cm in diameter. Whilst these are cooking, drop a couple of blackcurrants into the uncooked side of the pancake and then flip them over. Once cooked remove to a hot plate and serve at once. Yum !

9) Beans on Toast I love to wind my mother-in-law up by telling her that I am making her beloved Biscuit Boy 'Beans on Toast' to eat. She, of course, is thinking dodgy baked beans in tomato sauce on brown bread .. meal for pauper-like good-for-nothings no ?? (Actually, if I was going to eat anything like this on toast, it would be spaghetti hoops from a can not beans)....

No, my beans on toast is thus: Bread, grilled and rubbed with garlic clove - but only lightly otherwise the raw garlic is too strong. Meanwhile, cook some broad beans (microwave or blanch) and remove them of their tough outer skin. When you have your bowl full of bright green beans add salt and pepper, lime juice, mint and feta cheese, mix and drizzle with olive oil.

Pile onto the 'garlicked' bread, and drizzle with a little more olive oil. EAT and ENJOY. This is totally delicious. My mother-in-law nearly choked when she saw what my 'beans on toast' really was. Bless !

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