March 30, 2013

Traditions: Hot cross buns

With the Easter long weekend finally upon us it was once again time for the annual checking out of TPB's hot buns. Although I've kept this tradition for a few years now it's still early days, and with many variations left to try before settling on an all-time favourite I decided to test drive Felicity Cloake's perfect hot cross buns this time around.

Her recipe was straightforward enough. The base was a light, brioche-like dough, and while I was hesitant about the low (and in my opinion, sissy) quantity of spice, I was hopeful that the long time in steeping would help the flavours come through. Kneading the dried fruit through after the prove was also a little tricky, but it was nice to see such liberal application of peel.

As a sweet bun they were delectable. The spice-kissed buttery dough complemented the citrus notes beautifully and the golden crust was indeed most appealing. Fresh from the oven they were lovely, perhaps even slightly better toasted, but as a hot cross bun?...

My perfect hot cross bun would be dense and chewy in texture, generously studded with plump fruit and sharp citrus appeal, and be heavily spiced. There is no need to be subtle here, and I don't care for anything delicate. I want something robust, that will fill the whole house with its fragrant aromas as they gently brown under the grill. These buns were unquestionably delightful, but for my tastes, not perfect. Oh well, guess I'll just have to try again next year...

March 28, 2013

Midweek mayhem: Breakfast, lunch & jam

Time for midweek mayhem: round two, and a few new discoveries that have graced kitchen TPB of late.

This light and fresh green pear and birdseed bircher made for a nice start to those unseasonably hot autumn mornings.

My vegetables-as-pasta infatuation continued with some simple and satisfying Moroccan carrot ribbons with beluga lentils.

This kale rice bowl was a perfect way to enjoy the beginnings of a bumper kale crop and some red rice I'd been recommended to try.

A small glut of super-ripe figs were preserved down as this rather delectable fig and vanilla jam.

And with mum's spectacular blood plums at the height of their season, there was just time for a quick dimply plum cake and roasted carrot hummus with pita chips for my turn at staffternoon tea.

March 10, 2013

Book club: Falling Cloudberries

Falling Cloudberries is beautiful, a gorgeous gem of a book by Tessa Kiros filled with dishes as visually stunning as they are delicious. Within, favourite feasts are interlaced with tales of tradition and sweet family anecdotes. This is a collection of recipes that she loves, and it's easy to see why.

With such inspired dreams of a shared table close to hand, today's lunch began with the simple and familiar flavours of chicken, oregano and lemon, the bird's juicy flesh and crisp skin brightened by the refreshingly tart citrus and the rich, earthy herbs.

It was accompanied by a chickpea, feta and coriander salad, filled with the freshness of green summer herbs, the creaminess of chickpeas and feta, and some chilli for a little extra kick.

To finish, the most luxurious lemon ice cream ever encountered. Made simply from cream, sugar, lemon and sage it was smooth beyond compare. The richness was cut nicely by the zest of lemon, and the sage a welcome variation on this all-time classic treat.

A perfect Sunday lunch.

March 3, 2013

Technical challenge: Sausages

I love making things from scratch. Not only is the process itself therapeutic, but there's also this deep sense of satisfaction in being able to build something, complete from beginning to end. And in particular, what I really like is the learning. To take in the history of a dish, and to understand the biology, chemistry and physics behind its composition and construction. To see everything that goes in, and to appreciate the reasons why all of those classic combinations have become just so. Even more fun, however, is sharing the process with others, and when some lovely folks tweeted recently that they'd be holding an amateur sausage making competition, I was excited by the opportunity to hang out with like minds and share some ideas and innuendo over good beer and snags. There was just one catch, however, a somewhat minor detail - I'd never made sausages. Having dabbled a few times at various classes they were certainly high on my to-do list, I'd even bought myself a mincer some months back, but do you think I'd actually got around to making any? Sigh...

Naturally I should have just backed myself and taken them on regardless, but fearful of turning up sans sausage I instead sulked at my unpreparedness, and resolved to give them a crack as soon as could be. Luckily, however, I didn't have to wait long as, thanks to one of my favourite farmersall of my sausage making needs were sourced very quickly indeed.

For the filling, a delectable piece of pork shoulder was coarsely ground and then mixed with a simple combination of fat, salt, fennel, nutmeg, white pepper and sage. There was, of course, a quick taste test, and then it was time to grab the bag o' intestines and get stuffing.

Barring a few minor mishaps, like rediscovering why you need to prime the nozzle with filling  before tying off your casing, it all went rather swimmingly, and I was quietly chuffed  to have made something that looked exactly as a sausage should do.

But as always, the real test is in the cooking, and while it's hard to go wrong when you work with good-quality ingredients, it was pretty exciting to create snags that were both moist and full of flavour, and that held up under the pressures of a hot grill. Yep, it's fun making things from scratch...