“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.

 

 

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.

Hot Whiskey Crepes with Raspberries

This quick elegant dessert hits so many flavor points.  It’s hot, tart, citrusy, creamy, and slightly sweet.  Delicious!

serves 2-4

Ingredients:

½ cup all-purpose flour

pinch of fine salt

1 large egg

⅔ cup milk

2 teaspoons peanut oil (or other high-temp oil)

1 ¼ cups freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons honey (or agave nectar)

1 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoons whiskey

1 ¼ cups fresh raspberries

confectioner’s sugar for dusting

creme fraiche

Method:

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl.  Make a well in the center and crack the egg into the well.  Gradually add the milk and whisk into a smooth batter.

Heat a 9″ non-stick pan over medium heat.  Add a little peanut oil to the pan and carefully wipe most of it out with a paper towel (repeat this step before adding each addition of batter if necessary).   Pour approximately 2 ounces of batter (¼ cup) to the pan and swirl to coat as evenly as possible.  Cook for about 1 minute – the batter will begin to show signs of cooking.  Go ahead, loosen the sides and take a peek!  If the underside is browning slightly, it’s time to turn.  So far my method for this is to loosen the edges, grab the crêpe (and the side of the hot pan), cuss, wrangle the crêpe with the spatula and eventually get it to the other side.  Cook for about a minute more, looking for golden brown patches.  Rustic yet elegant, no?  Oui.  Place each cooked crêpe on a plate and set aside.  There should be 4 unless you’ve dropped one or stuck it to the ceiling with a mighty flip attempt.

Pour orange juice, honey and butter to the pan.  Simmer for about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened, letting the flavors amalgamate.  Remove from heat and add the whiskey.  Place the pan back on the heat and reduce the temperature to low.

Fold each crêpe in half and then in half again making a triangle.  Place each wedge in the pan with the point meeting in the center (so they all fit and show off your geometric prowess).  Let them simmer in the sauce about 1 minute and then carefully turn them.

Plate the crêpes using a spatula.  Pour some juices over the top and add raspberries, sugar and creme fraiche.

(modified from Ryland Peters & Small)

Sushi 101

 

Steve and I have been having some fun with experimenting with homemade sushi and sashimi;  we’ve been reluctant in the past to do so, having had access to some pretty amazing sushi restaurants in Santa Barbara that would be difficult to replicate.  Well, we found out that ‘sushi masters’ we are not, but our fish was fabulously fresh and tasty and our presentation….we’ll skip that part.  As with all dishes, your end results are only going to be as good as your ingredients.  So a little plug for our fish source, Catalina Offshore Products in San Diego, is worth some serious recognition.  We don’t know anyone there or have stock in the company, but we give them 2 big thumbs up.  They have a nice variety of things from the sea, their products are guaranteed, packed very well and they have great customer service.  Thanks Greg (brother in-law) for giving us the heads up on these guys.  Catalina Offshore also have little sushi 101 starter kits, which for most people may not be necessary as the items are often found in the Asian section of most supermarkets.

What’s equally critical – making properly seasoned sushi rice.  A rice that has worked well for us is Nishiki brand – we just follow the package directions.  After the rice is cooked it’s placed in a large wide bowl and fanned until your hand says ‘enough’!  Once the rice has cooled to room temperature, you add a sushi su seasoning that has been dissolved on the stove.  The seasoning is basically 3T sugar, 1T salt, and 1C rice vinegar. For each batch of rice add about 1-2 ounces of the seasoning  and stir well to combine.  Wet your fingers and have a go at making a sushi roll or tekka maki.  Kanpai!!

Cheese Straws

A nice crispy, nutty, cheesy snack for your holiday table!

makes 24-28

8 ounces puff pastry (homemade or thawed)

1 ½ ounces of finely grated Parmesan cheese

pinch of cayenne

egg wash

1 ½ ounces of finely chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 400°.

Roll the pastry to approximately 8×16 inches and about ⅛ of an inch thick.  Brush with the egg wash.  Sprinkle the lower half length with the cayenne and cheese and then fold over the upper half of the pastry, sealing the edge.

Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with almonds. Lightly roll the top with a rolling pin to secure the almonds to the pastry.  Chill for about 20 minutes.

Cut ½ inch wide strips with a sharp knife or pastry wheel.  Twist the strips once or twice and place on a baking tray lined with silicone paper.  Press each end of the strips to the paper to prevent unraveling if necessary.  Bake until puffed and golden, about 15 minutes.

It’s the journey…

I have to say overall I don’t travel well…or smart.  I’m definitely not one of those people that seem to stay mysteriously fresh looking throughout their travel experience.  I really envy those who dress smart and look perky and seem to know where their gate is via some internal GPS system.  I, on there hand, look like a train wreck, feel half dead, normally lost, drink way too much caffeine followed by beer, wine, champagne, followed by way more caffeine while I manage to food crawl through hours of layover.  I need to learn how to spend down time more productively no doubt.

On the brighter side, the 12 weeks at Ballymaloe Cooking School has ended and some students have found employment!  Well done for them.  Others have accumulated some valuable culinary knowledge that they will impart in one form or another throughout their lives.  I’m looking forward to seeing how much information from this experience will stay in my noodle and for how long.  The most enjoyable part of my time abroad was meeting so many fantastic people and working with them (and playing with them) in a very unique and intense environment.  I’ve made some new friends and that in itself was worth the journey.  Please stay in touch and look for posts from the green isle and other places in the near future.  Cheers!