Saturday 14 April 2007

Ageing gracefully

The cheap-and-nasty yoghurt trick appears to have worked - only two weeks after application, the pots already seem several decades older, and this is even before we enter the lichen-growing period of the year......all looks promising!

The Brancolis - originators of the yoghurt advice - came for dinner the other evening, laden with gifts. Bottles of both this year's and last year's oil harvest (the former exquisitely 'grassy', and to be used sparingly on salads, the latter now consigned to cooking purposes), plus armfuls of fresh lemons (since the Brazilians appear to be nicking all of ours!), and a hygrometer, in order to measure the strength of our grappa distillation from Christmas. Gratifyingly, it came out bang on 45% proof, which is exactly what it should be (and not a 'grado troppo forte' as Umberto had opined knowingly when he tried it). Since we've now consumed almost all of the Christmas production of five litres, it's time to get on with the next distillation batch, this week, or we risk running dry.

Building work proceeds apace....which suggests that the project might just about be completed this side of terminal loss of patience! The newly-created loggia will be blissful in the summer - actually, it will probably be blissful as soon as it's free of builders. Destruction elsewhere is practically over, and the start of the long, slow climb to a world free of brick dust and the smell of damp plaster is significantly underway.

One for the annals: with the Brancolis, we broached the bottle of Recioto di Soave that Laura and Giovanni had brought when they came to dinner the other week. Sublime. Another version of bottled sunshine. And it went splendidly with Chocolate and Apricot Tart......

Tonight's Dinner:

Aubergine and Parmesan Tarts

Fegato alla Veneziana

Lemon Souffle Glace (lemons thanks to Brancoli. )

Recipe: Lemon Souffle Glace

For Four.

Ingredients: 3 Eggs, separated; juice and rind of 2.5 Lemons; 50g Sugar (or equivalent volume sweetener); 1 tablespoon powdered Gelatine; 275 ml Double Cream.


1. In a simmertopf (or double boiler) make a custard, using the egg yolks, sugar, and lemon juice & rind. Once done, set aside to cool down.

2. Dissolve the gelatine in 70 ml warm water (I normally use the zimmertopf for this, as well, having transferred the custard to a bowl to cool; the zimmertopf doesn't need cleaning before you use it to dissolve the gelatine. Over a very low heat, let the powdered gelatine dissolve in the water, stirring constantly.) Mix the dissolved gelatine into the custard base.

4. Whisk the cream until firm, then fold into the lemon custard.

5. Beat egg whites until stiff, and fold thoroughly into the custard/cream mixture. Chill for at least two hours before serving.

For presentational effect, you can pour the mixture into ramekins prepared with paper collars around them, allowing the mixture to stand an inch proud of the top of the ramekin once it has chilled and the collar has been removed. I have to say, I don't generally bother ......

Sunday 8 April 2007

Programmed Eating....

...was what Jocasta Innes called it in The Pauper's Cookbook. I think she had in mind a positive, forward-looking process whereby meals are planned for days (weeks, even?) ahead, on the basis of knowing '.....what baked meats (will) coldly furnish forward...' future meals - or, more prosaically, what leftovers will be available from one meal to form the basis of something else down the line. Personally, I tend to do it the other way round, and am pleasantly surprised to find in the fridge things available for future use which have survived from previous dinners, and which have withstood the ravages of the Technical Department on a midnight raid.

For me, part of the satisfaction in cooking is the sense of efficient management of resources, and the avoidance of waste. This past week has been a prime example of this: leftover sauce from Salmon in Walnut Oil was splendid subsequently with green taglietelle, tasting of celery and tarragon and faintly of salmon; Poulet Antiboise provided leftover onion, which two days later was used in Pissaladiere Nicoise, whilst the chicken carcase made stock which was used firstly to blanch broccoli (for broccoli puree, to have with garlic and anise flavoured pork belly, a frozen leftover from a month ago) , and then in turn for a Celery Risotto (using the leftover Celery from the aforementioned salmon dish), and finally was used up in making Spinach Soup. Possibly rather perverse, but I take as much pleasure in a freshly emptied fridge and freezer as I do from a freshly filled one - as long as I know all the contents have found their place in one dish or another.

I remember encountering Jocasta Innes once, many years ago in Nevile's Court at Trinity, in the middle of a May Ball. Gushy woman, and rather irritating, I recall. Nevertheless, her recipe for potato and bacon hotpot will always rank high on my list of comfort-food-to-be-eaten-in times-of-great-personal-stress.......even if its consumption is to be strictly unobserved and with the curtains closed.....

Dining out again tonight. Ms Robinson's Chocolate Bread & Butter Pudding last week was stellar!