“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!

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! 

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.

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!

Do I Dare Say It …

quick & delicious!

Spring has finally sprung!!  What does that mean on Pole’ Pole’ Farm?  It means lots of mowing, planting, growing, weed whacking, more mowing, building and baking!
This quick scone recipe is just as tasty as the one we learn to make at Ballymaloe Cooking School during the 3 month course, but it is less involved and for those who use imperial, a bit easier to throw together.
makes approx. 5 scones
Ingredients:
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons granulated sugar, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold whole milk
1 large egg
Preheat oven (I use my toaster oven for this) to 425F.    Put the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl and whisk until well incorporated.  Cut the butter into pea size pieces.  Rub the butter into the flour making a very coarse mixture.  Pour in the cold milk and mix with your hand until a soft dough forms.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  With clean and floured hands, gently pat the dough down to about a 1 inch thick circle.   Using a floured, 3 inch biscuit cutter cut out as many biscuits as possible, reshaping the dough gently if necessary.   Spray a baking tray with non-stick coating (one that can take high heat such as grape seed etc).  Place a 1/4 of additional sugar on a small plate.  Whisk the egg and pour into another small plate.  Dip each scone top into the egg wash and then into the sugar and place on the baking sheet allowing space between each scone.  Bake until golden brown on top, about 15-18 minutes.  Serve with butter, jam and freshly whipped cream.

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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)

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!