“Attention, This Vehicle is Reversing”

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I think in the States, if I multi-ton trash collecting truck was backing up using a warning voice, it would be something like, “Hey! You! Stop texting or playing Angry Birds and move your dumb-ass outta the way before I rub you into the pavement!”  Here in Edinburgh, you will hear in a calm and gentle voice, “Attention, this vehicle is reversing.”   Very different approaches to a common goal.

So on my way to cooking school I managed to live another day and make some darn tasty dishes, two of which I’d like to share with you.  Now I know some of you might be dismissive about soup and more specifically Mushroom Soup, but please give this easy and flavorsome soup a try!  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  The second dish I will post is Swiss Meringues.  The irony here is that I really like soup, just about any soup so I was excited about our first dish but when our instructors told us we’d be making meringues my nose wrinkled and I thought I’d be wasting a lot of time on cloyingly sweet little ‘precious’ puffs that would go directly into the compost after my critique. Not so!  Yes, meringues of course are very sweet but prepared in bite-size portions and cooked properly they are a delightful treat.  On to the soup! Then the Meringues!

Mushroom Soup

Serves 4

55g/ 2oz Butter

340g/ 12oz Button mushrooms, chopped

3 T Parsley, finely chopped

2 Garlic cloves, very finely chopped or, preferably,  pasted

2 Bread slices, crustless cut into small pieces

860ml/ 1 1/2 pints Chicken stock

Pinch of Nutmeg or Mace

Salt and Pepper to taste

3 T Heavy (double) cream

Fresh herbs for garnish

Melt the butter in a medium sized pot.  Add the mushrooms and chopped parsley and cook on medium high heat until mushrooms are completely cooked through and a little caramelized.  Add the garlic and bread and mix well, then pour in stock, nutmeg or mace and salt and pepper.  Bring to low simmer for about 10 minutes.  Taste to see if it needs to be reduced a bit more.  Pour into a blender or use a immersion stick blender and whiz. Pour pack into the same pot and reheat adding the cream.  Place in heated bowls and garnish with herbs.

 

Swiss Meringues

Makes about 50 small or 12 large meringues

 

4 Egg whites

Pinch of salt

225g/ 8oz Baker’s (caster) sugar

 

Filling (Optional):

200ml/ 7 fl oz Heavy (double) cream, whipped

 

Preheat oven to 225°F/ 110°C

Place parchment on 2 baking sheets.  Whisk egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry.  Add 1 Tablespoon of sugar whisking until stiff and shiny.  Continue adding sugar 1 Tablespoon at a time.  Drop meringue onto prepared sheet pans using either a small or large spoon – just make sure they are all about the same size.  Leave space between each meringue as they puff up during baking.  Depending on the size of your meringues bake from about 1/2 hour to 1 hour and a bit  What you’re looking for is to be able to peel the bottom of the meringues from the parchment easily and firm to the touch.  The color of the meringues should only go slightly off white otherwise they will be overcooked.

You can choose to sandwich the meringue (bottoms) two together with the optional whipped cream in the middle. Lecker!

Roasted Marrow Bones with Pickled Shallots

roasted marrow bone plate

Serves approximately 4

Ingredients

6 shallots, trimmed, quartered lengthwise with some root attached

1 cup of champagne vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon pink peppercorns

1 dried bay leaf (preferably Turkish)

1 dried chile de arbol

4 to 5 marrow bones

¼ cup parsley, roughly chopped

¼ of a lemon, sliced

flaky salt, such as Maldon’s

8 or more fresh slices of baguette, preferably homemade, toasted

 

For the Pickled Shallots

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Remove from heat and let cool for about 30 minutes.  Once cool, slice the shallots into julienne and place in a bowl with some of the pickling juice.

 

For the Marrow Bones

Preheat the oven or toaster oven for 450°.  Line a rimmed sheet pan with foil.  Stand the marrow bone upright with the widest end of the bone on the bottom.  Roast for 15-20 minutes.

Scoop out the marrow onto toasted baguette.  Sprinkle with flaky salt, lightly dress with lemon and top with  pickled shallots and parsley.

 

 

Chocolate Diablo Cookies

from Tacofino in Canada

Now this is my kind of cookie!  Chocolate, cocoa, ginger, cayenne, a touch of cinnamon and sugar, a dash of mischievousness topped with flakey salt.  This is definitely not a batch you plow through mindlessly while watching your favorite program and suddenly realize you’ve eaten your weight in an innocent looking snack.  These cookies have serious character.  They’re not too sweet, they definitely have some heat and a lovely crunchy outside with a fudgey like center.  These little beauties demand respect!  Be sure to have your favorite chilly beverage accompaniment at the ready – you’ll need it.

makes 12 big cookies or many smaller ones

Dry ingredients:

1 ½ cups of all purpose flour

1 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper

1 cup chocolate chips

Wet ingredients:

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

½ cup canola oil

2 eggs

3 tablespoons fresh squeezed ginger juice or freshly grated ginger root, peeled

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F

Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and add the chocolate chips mixing until well incorporated.

In another bowl whisk all the wet ingredients until very well combined.

Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl and mix thoroughly.

Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.  Press balls of dough mixture onto the cookie sheet until each is about ½ inch thick.  I used walnut sized pieces and flattened them, but the original recipe uses fist size balls.  Sprinkle with white sugar and rock salt or a finishing salt – I used Maldon’s.  Bake for approximately 11 minutes or until the cookies just begin to crack at the edges or feel slightly firm on the outside  (it’s unlikely that a toothpick would pull cleanly from these as they have a soft center).  Cool on a rack for a few minutes if you can manage the restraint.  Worth every bloomin’ calorie! 

Knife and Fork Burger

I was inspired recently by a blogger whose blog is called No Recipes today. ” My philosophy on cooking is that it’s 50% technique, 40% inspiration and 10% ingredients”, a quote from No Recipe’s blog master, Marc Matsumoto.  I haven’t actually had an opportunity to make any of Marc’s dishes, but in a way that is the point. His philosophy is one that I’ve been trying to grapple with more and more over the years.  Personally a surprisingly difficult process.  I’m a little addicted to cookbooks and I more often than not follow recipes and remain extremely envious of those creative and brave people like Marc who just ‘do’.  Well, today I decided to make lunch without thinking.  It worked for me, maybe this recipe won’t sit well with everybody, but darn it, I thought it was good.  My main ingredient was ground beef (86%) that was about to get funky, and I was really hungry so I didn’t want to spend much time in the kitchen reinventing the wheel; burger time.  I had mushrooms and chevre that needed using and spinach in the garden – although I would have preferred arugula.  I had also given the chickens the last of the hamburger buns, so the only thing bread-y left was english muffin.  My Knife and Fork Burger is born.

Serves 1

¼ pound of ground beef

½ cup rough chopped mushrooms

1 cup rough chopped fresh spinach or arugula

2 tablespoons plain chevre

1 half of an english muffin

1 tablespoon softened butter, devided

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, devided

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat a well seasoned cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  Form a patty with the ground beef and salt and (lots of) pepper both sides.  Toast the english muffin.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and butter in the pan.  Once the butter is melted add your patty and cover with a lid (preferably glass).  Once browned, flip and brown the other side.  Cook the patty until desired doneness.  Remove the patty and cover loosely with foil.  Add the chopped mushrooms to the pan, you may need to reduce the heat a bit.  Once the mushrooms are browned, add the spinach or arugula until wilted.  Add salt and pepper and the remaining butter.  Lightly butter the toasted muffin and top loosely with spinach and mushrooms.  Sprinkle the chevre on the mushroom mixture and top with the cooked patty.  Drizzle remaining olive oil over the burger.

Getting in Touch with Your ‘Inner Chicken’

eggs-press yourself

Who wouldn’t like a little fun in their lunchbox?  Or bento box?  These cute egg molds are from Japan made by Kotobuki I purchased through Amazon.  There aren’t any instructions that come with the molds and the packaging is in Japanese so I had to do a little research.  Once you’ve boiled your eggs, you peel them under cold water right away and gently squish them into each shape, snapping it shut.  You can then place them in cold water that has been colored with food dye giving the egg a kind of tie-dye effect.  This might be a little creepy for little ones.

groovy!

I used green because that’s all I had.  It looks a bit like mold, I think.  Next time maybe I’ll go for purple or another color that is more appeeeeeling – get it?  Ok, painful I know.  I’ll get a vote on this very important topic when the grand kids arrive.

Calendula Officinalis Martini-us Deliciousness

medicinal...

I’ve been experimenting with my edible flowers in our garden.  So far they’ve been regularly a part of our salads and an occasional garnish for cream based pastas, but tonight I thought my martini needed a little summer flare.  My standard martini mixture is as follows:

99% vodka (we use Kettle One)

1% vermouth (Dolin is the best)

equals 100% deliciousness

Pour the above into a shaker full of ice and shake gently so as not to break up too much ice and dilute the beverage.  Stream into your favorite vessel and add a sprinkle of edible flowers such as calendula/marigold, johny jump-ups, pyrethrum, bachelor buttons, lavender, lawn daisy, roses and pansies to name a few.  Many of the flowers are said to have medicinal properties so, in a way, a martini is a health drink.  Cheers to that.

 A terrific resource for herbs and flowers 

Lemon and Rose Scented Geranium Pudding

Heavenly...

Lemon Posset (aka pudding) is refreshingly clean, yet slightly rich dessert perfect for warmer days.  The scented geranium is optional but it does add that lovely mysterious flavor that no one can put their finger on.  Most larger nurseries carry scented culinary geraniums.  (And many of you will know by now, if I’m posting using a geranium in the dish, it was a recipe from Ballymaloe Cooking School).

serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

400ml (1 3/4 cups) heavy whipping cream

100g (scant 1/2 cup) caster or granulated sugar

5 leaves of rose scented geranium (optional)

50ml (2fl oz) lemon juice

Place the cream, sugar and geranium leaves in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.  Turn down the heat to low and cook for five minutes, stirring often.  Remove from heat and discard geranium leaves.  Add lemon juice, stirring to fully incorporate.  Pour into 4 small dessert bowls and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

We served these during our friends Teri and Jay’s visit from Orcas Island.  Orcas Island is a stone’s throw from Lopez yet unless you have your own boat getting back and forth on the Ferry takes some time.  Fortunately the ferries that service our islands are a relaxing and social way to commute!