Saturday, October 31, 2009

FRANKFURTER KRANZ GATTINES

GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER: MOWIE TAKES OVER MY KITCHEN


For my last post, I was invited to bake... and write... for Mowie over at Mowielicious. I proudly carried over a little something I whipped up in my kitchen, something I created just for Mowie and his stunning little blog, the most elegant creation this simple girl could whip up. Now, my friend Mowie has returned the favor. A knock on my door very early this Saturday morning and there he is, Mowie, standing on my doorstep just waiting to be invited in. He blows me a kiss and pushes past me, rushing towards the kitchen in his excitement. "I have a wonderful surprise for you!" he laughs as he ties on an apron and starts rummaging around my kitchen for pots and pans, whisks and spoons. So after making sure that he's comfortable and has found everything he needs, I tip-toe out of the room, grab the novel I've been reading and go and curl up on the sofa with Marty and wait for the magic to happen, for Mowie only creates the beautiful, the luscious, the divine. Thank you, my dear friend, for all that you've given me. And here is Mowie's wonderful guest post and his fabulous Frankfurter Kranz Gattines!

Mowie takes over my kitchen

Life is a funny thing, isn't it?

Before I get into this post, I would just like to point out that I'm no Jamie in the writing department. Even though I write a blog, I am mostly hiding behind my camera clicking the shutter button. I prefer that to sitting behind my screen, clicking the keypad buttons.

Baking has always been like alchemy to me: bringing things together, mixing them up and creating something completely different, something whole, something new, like a cake, that can't be undone back into each of its original ingredients. I compare Jamies writing to alchemy as it truly is a form of magic: stringing bits of the alphabet together to create something beautiful, that touches the reader deeply on an emotional level, and satiates, just like any good cake, until the hunger pangs strike again, and all you want is some more good writing (and some more good cake!).


Jamie's path crossed mine recently, shortly before she lost her brother. Our friendship had been growing since, and when I'd heard of her loss, I knew exactly what she was going through, having lost my own brother not too long ago myself. Many emails later, much comfort was exchanged, but more importantly much laughter was shared as we realised we had almost exactly the same sense of humour. A bond formed and we started to build on the layers of our friendship, one that I feel will grow even stronger in time. The funny thing is, we haven't physically met yet, and out of our sadness was borne happiness. Life really is a funny thing, isn't it?

So, like the layers of our friendship, I thought I'd have to choose a fitting dessert to match, one that shows light, colour and is my favourite dessert of all. The original is called Frankfurter Kranz (literally, the crown of Frankfurt) and it is a very traditional German gateau. On my yearly trips to visit my grandmother, I knew she would always have some Frankfurter Kranz waiting for me, having worked on it for hours beforehand. As a child growing up, this cake was a piece of heaven on a plate for me, and it still is. What makes it so special are the many layers of buttercream and jam that hold it all together.


I remember my grandmother would spend hours on this cake making it just perfect, and getting as many layers as she could out of it. The original that gets served in cafes and restaurants never has more than three layers of buttercream, but when my grandmother whips one of these beauties up, she creates 6, 7, sometimes even 8 layers - not an easy feat, considering the original size of the cake to begin with - a true work of art. This cake really is a masterpiece when done properly and I was hoping I could create something just as special for Jamie.

Mowie, have you found everything you need?

I really love deconstructing recipes and starting from scratch, again, like alchemy, hopefully creating something new in the process. For this guest post I've made some Gattines (Gateaux in a glass), and given my recent obsession with all things verrines, it only seemed apt. A bottom layer of plump, juicy cherries I had left over from summer which I'd had in a jar of syrup, another layer of a very light vanilla buttercream topped with some lightly caramelized chopped almonds, and covered with a layer of spongecake. I also had some coconut macaroons in the cupboard that I thought completed this dessert perfectly. I hope you enjoy the final result as much as Jamie did.


Please visit Mowie over at Mowielicious where you will find a gorgeous blog filled with amazing, elegant, delicious desserts and his stunning photography. All photos of the Gattines and flowers are Mowie's.


MOWIE'S FRANKFURTER KRANZ GATTINES


Makes 9 Gattines:

You will need 10 empty glasses (make sure you leave the 10th glass empty for the last step!)

It's best to start with the bottom layer as it can be left to solidify in the time you get the other ingredients ready.


For the cherry jelly layer:

1 jar of cherries in syrup
1 pack of gelatine (I used 1 pack of agar seaweed flakes, as I'm not a big fan of gelatine)

1. Sift the cherries, making sure to collect the syrup.
2. Heat the syrup to a gentle boil and remove from the heat.
3. Stir in the gelatine (or agar).
4. Pour some into each glass, making sure it fills 1/3 of the glasses only.
5. Place 5-6 cherries into the syrup, and place glasses by a window to cool, and once cooled down, refrigerate. Only continue the next steps once the cherry syrup has solidified.

For the buttercream layer:

300ml vanilla custard
100g butter
1 pack gelatine or agar flakes
100g sugar

1. Whip the butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
2. Heat custard until warm and take off the heat. Prepare gelatine/agar as per pack instructions by dissolving in hot water.
3. Whisking constantly, pour the gelatine/agar into the warm custard and mix well.
4. Pour on top of the solidified cherry syrup in the glass, filling the next 1/3 of the glass, leaving the top third for the next few steps. Place glasses back in the fridge to allow the buttercream to solidify.

For the caramelized nuts:

150g almonds, chopped roughly
10g butter
60g sugar

1. Melt the butter in a pan.
2. Add the sugar and butter and mix.
3. Keep stirring until the nuts start to go brown. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
4. Place a thin layer over the solidified buttercream in the glasses.

For the sponge cake:

100g butter, at room temperature
150g sugar
Seeds of 1 vanilla pod (or 1 tsp vanilla essence)
Juice of half a lemon
1 pinch of salt
3 medium eggs
150g flour
50g cornflour
2 tsps baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 180˙C. Butter a baking tray (roughly 30cm x 30cm). Whip the butter with an electric mixer until the colour lightens.
2. Add the sugar, vanilla, lemon and salt and mix thoroughly.
3. Add one egg at a time, making sure to mix into the batter for at least one minute per egg.
4. Mix the flour, cornflour and baking powder together and fold into the batter in two additions.
5. Pour batter into baking tray and bake for roughly 30 minutes. Test by inserting a metal skewer into the middle of the cake. If nothing sticks to the skewer when you take it out, the cake is ready. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, use an upside down empty glass to cut out the final layers of spongecake to fit snugly on top of the gattines.
6. Place each spongecake layer onto the top of the nut layer in each glass. Decorate with whipped cream, biscuits or flowers.

Mowie, you can come back and bake for me any time you please! Fabulous!

Friday, October 30, 2009

CARAMELIZED PEARS AND CHOCOLATE PASTRY CREAM MILLE-FEUILLES

DYNAMIC DUO: THE GUEST POST

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson


My very first guest post on another foodie’s blog. And not just any blog. Mowielicious. Stunning in its simplicity, dramatic in color and style, desserts as luscious, rich and beautiful as the photography, I fell in love with Mowie’s blog on my first visit. When Mowie asked me to guest post on Mowielicious, I was amazed, thrilled and nervous; how could my simple, homey desserts, my flamboyant writing, my oh-so-personal tales of food and family fit into the beauty that he creates? But say no to Mowie? Not a chance! We’ve become such friends, that why not accomplices as well? Images flitted through my brain of us cooking and writing together, like the Dynamic Duo of the kitchen, his yin of culinary and artistic/photographic talents and my yang of writing, like Batman and Batgirl, like Peel and Steed, bringing excitement and adventure to the Gotham City of the food blog world! So I set out to create something beautiful, something special for him.


CARAMELIZED PEARS & CHOCOLATE PASTRY CREAM MILLE-FEUILLES

A thing of beauty has always had a profound effect on me. The rich beauty of a Van Eyck, the brooding beauty of a Rothko make my knees weak and send shivers up my spine. The magnificent splendor of the Cathedral in Sienna, the majesty of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater leave me breathless. I bury my face in a bouquet of flowers, breathing in the heady scent of beauty. A handmade quilt made with loving hands, a milliner’s confection of straw and feathers and plump silk flowers, the perfect picture of feminine beauty. And when it comes to food, place before me a chef’s creation, carefully, thoughtfully plated, tender slices of meat or fruit, a drizzle of a fragrant sauce, delicate tiny vegetables or light-as-air mousse, the red of red raspberries and currents or deep pumpkin orange, spun sugar like angel’s hair or swirls of chocolate, and my eyes fill with tears. I breath deeply to capture the aroma, every essence, every spice, I turn my eyes back to the beauty before me, I am overcome with emotion and I am reluctant to destroy the magic.


Mowie’s blog has this effect on me. The stunning simplicity of his blog, the lushness of his photography, rich, deep colors against stark white, sensual and mysterious, the beauty of his culinary creations and I am in awe, once again breathless, speechless. His talent bursts from the whiteness of the page, his sincerity and honesty spill across the screen. It is truly a thing of beauty.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

FRENCH KISS ESPRESSO SEA SALT CHOCOLATE MACARONS

BISOUS BISOUS

A kiss, when all is said, what is it?
A rosy dot placed on the "i" in loving;
'Tis a secret told to the mouth instead of to the ear.
~Edmond Rostand


Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
Song of Solomon, 1. 1


Ah, the mystery of a kiss. Soft and sweet, tender lips pressed gently against a forehead like the kiss of a parent given to a child, then slowly covering each eyelid, warm and romantic, one by one, breath tickling the cheek, lips wordlessly speaking of love. A nuzzle, lips curved into the neck, a perfect fit, honeyed words whispered barely loud enough to be heard, and finally lips brushed against lips, a quick caress, hearts beating, the affectionate kiss of a sentimental fool or of the well-beloved.


Or hard and wild, passionately pulled into his arms and held fast against him, lips greedily searching, eagerly tasting, possessing. Burning with desire, the kiss is returned, enraptured, exhilarated, head spinning, knees weak. A certain urgency sweeps over us, hands grabbing, groping, clinging, lips, mouth in ardent yearning, heart pounding, impatient.


Besotted, charmed, we give way to our better judgment at times, losing ourselves in the perfect kiss. If we are ever so lucky, the lips belong to us, and only to us, the lover a part of our life, always with us, the kisses ours for the asking, warming up a cold winter day, bringing sunshine to the gray and gloomy, sweeping away our cares and worries in a single, breathless touch. Languid kisses, slow and easy, like sleepy summer afternoons, a cool drink sipped, something dainty nibbled on, sugary, pale, the color of lavender and mint, mild and warm like a soft breeze rippling through the tall grass. Or kisses falling like rain, rat-a-tat-tat, quick and warm, like candy poured into cupped hands, making us giggle and squirm, anxious for more. Or strong, turbulent, heated like showers of dark chocolate, bittersweet, spicy and exotic.


And if we could package the kiss? What form would it take? Like a fairy tale magician or storybook Fairy Godmother how would we brew the Perfect Prince Charming Kiss? Sugar and spice and everything nice? Frog’s warts and eye of newt and a few drops of golden rays of sunshine? A red, red apple dipped in magic potion, sprinkled with fairy dust and offered to the fair maiden, pressed into her delicate hands, urging her to taste of its goodness, watching from the shadows as she hesitates, rejoicing as she bites into its juicy flesh and savors its sweetness. Soon, we know, she’ll be swept off her feet by the handsome fellow on horseback and off they’ll ride, off into the happy-ever-after sunset of eternal kisses.


I am not capable of this type of magic. My powers are limited to what I can brew, create in my own homey, warm kitchen, blending, mixing, stirring, kneading, flour, sugar, eggs, popped into the oven, warm cinnamon and vanilla scents floating through the house. Being married to a Frenchman, maybe my friends think that I have special insider’s knowledge of the making of the perfect French Kiss… well, I do not kiss and tell (contrary to what my Prince Charmant thinks…), but I do know that the perfect French macaron may just be the embodiment, the sugary and almond translation of the French Kiss.

Delicate, tender and sweet, the size of a kiss, hold one in the palm of your hand like lips touching your skin, any flavor you like, sweet as a kiss, salty as tears. Bring it up to your mouth, to your lips, hesitate, but only briefly, knowing that ecstasy is not far behind. Bite down into the gently domed cookie, formed of the perfect union of a feminine froth of white, white meringue, gently, tenderly, lovingly folded into fine almond meal, fine like sand on a beach, like arms wrapped around your body, barely scented with whatever you choose, whatever your mood, your desire, your urge. Piped out into beautiful shiny mounds, creamy smooth, to puff up in the warmth of the oven – bite down * crack * into the crispy barely-there outside and find yourself pulled into a tender chewy center, a burst of flavor and you are utterly swept off your feet. Choose your flavor, intense and exotic, dark chocolate or tangy raspberry, or something more subtle, sublime, a hint of cinnamon or nuts. Or something wild and dreamlike, white truffle or saffron, tomato or cheese. Let your imagination run wild!


Macaron Madness began for me at the end of the summer when the heat must have gone to our heads and my wonderful bevy of twitter friends and I decided to try our hand at making French Macarons together. We braved the challenge and I fell in love. My first try, my Shrinking Violet Macarons were a rousing success. Onward and upward! A month later I made my second batch, coffee and chocolate, and they were scrumptious. I love the whipping of the whites, the folding and the piping, watching the magic as each tiny round of batter bakes, rises, crisps up and becomes the perfect macaron shell. Filled with ganache and it truly is as sweet as one tender kiss.


This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge, chosen by Ami S. of Baking Without Fear, is none other than the wonderful French Macaron. There are so many flavor combinations that I dream of trying, but I decided to make a personal favorite flavor combo: chocolate-coffee-sea salt. Quite a while ago, I received a cute little sachet of Espresso Sea Salt from Heather at girlichef and it has been crying out to me to use it with chocolate. I love chocolate and sea salt together. So I made a simple chocolate macaron shell with just a pinch of the espresso sea salt, and I filled them with a simple chocolate buttercream flavored with more espresso sea salt. Outrageous! The macaron was full of flavor and tender and chewy, like an elegant brownie bite, with a subtle hint of espresso and a wonderful salty tang. One bite of this macaron is like the perfect stolen kiss.


ESPRESSO SEA SALT CHOCOLATE MACARONS

This recipe is based on a recipe from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Grammercy Tavern as given to the Daring Bakers by Ami. I cut back proportions for 3 egg whites. I will give both quantities here. I also relied on Aran’s recipe for her chocolate macarons on her beautiful blog Cannelle et Vanille for the cocoa proportions.

Daring Bakers Challenge:
Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

I cut back to:
Confectioner’s sugar: 200 g, 7.2 oz
Ground almonds: 110 g, 4 oz
Granulated sugar: 30 g, 1 oz
Egg whites: 3 large
Cocoa powder: 15 g (about 1 Tbs)
Espresso Sea Salt: a pinch, about 1/8 tsp *

* You can replace the Espresso Sea Salt with a pinch of table salt or eliminate it completely for wonderful chocolate Macarons.


Prepare 2 large baking sheets. On 2 large pieces of white paper the size of your baking sheets, trace 1 ½ inch-diameter circles (I used the wide end of my pastry tip) evenly spaced, leaving about ¾ - 1 inch between each circle. This will be your template to help you pipe even circles of batter onto the parchment paper. You will be able to reuse these endlessly. Place one paper on each baking sheet then cover with parchment paper. Set aside. Prepare a pastry bag with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809).

Sift the powdered sugar, the ground almonds and the cocoa powder together into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the espresso sea salt if adding. Set aside.


In a standing mixer or with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites for 30 seconds on low speed then increase speed to high and whip until the whites are foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar as you are whipping the whites until you obtain a glossy meringue. Mine was just stiff.


Gently but firmly fold about 1/3 of the whipped whites into the powdered sugar/ground almonds/cocoa. Add the rest of the whipped whites/meringue and fold, using a silicon spatula or the equivalent, turning the bowl as you lift and fold, making sure you fold in all the dry ingredients completely. When the batter is ready to pipe, it should be flow from the spatula like lava or a thick ribbon. To test to see if you have folded it enough, drop a small amount onto a clean plate and jiggle it slightly. The top should flatten, not remain in a point. If it doesn’t flatten, give the batter a few more folds and test again.

You can also fold the powdered mixture into the meringue if it is easier for you.


Fill your pastry bag with the batter. Pipe circles onto the parchment paper, using the traced circles on the template sheets to guide you, holding your pastry bag above each circle and piping into the center. When you have piped all of your batter out into even rounds, sprinkle half of the shells with some espresso sea salt if using. These will be the top half of each “sandwich”. DO NOT FORGET TO CAREFULLY REMOVE THE WHITE PAPER TEMPLATE FROM UNDERNEATH THE PARCHMENT PAPER. YOU DO NOT WANT THIS TEMPLATE TO GO IN THE OVEN!


Preheat your oven to 280°F (140°C).

Allow the macarons to sit out for 30 minutes to an hour. The top of each shell should form a “skin” (it will feel like it hardened a bit when gently touched). Bake the shells for 15 – 20 minutes, depending on their size (when I touched macs that were not quite done, the top jiggled a bit as if there was still a bit of liquid batter between the top and the “feet” so I let it continue to bake another minute.) I turn the trays back to front halfway through the baking.

Remove the tray from the oven and immediately slide the parchment paper with the shells off of the hot baking sheet and onto a surface, table or countertop. Allow to cool before sliding the shells very gently off of the parchment by slipping a cake spatula under the shell as you lift it up. Be careful or the center of the shell risks sticking to the parchment.


SIMPLE CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO SEA SALT BUTTERCREAM FILLING

6 oz (175 grams) powdered/confectioner’s sugar
3 1/2 Tbs (50 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 Tbs (25 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbs very hot water
¼ to ½ tsp Espresso Sea Salt or plain instant espresso powder to taste


Using an electric hand mixer, cream the butter and the powdered sugar together. Add the cocoa powder and the hot water and beat, scraping down the sides as necessary, until well blended and fluffy.


When the macaron shells are cool, pair the shells up evenly, each with a partner. Pipe a dollop, about a teaspoon, of buttercream filling onto half of the shells, the bottom shell in each pair. Carefully sandwich the shells together with the buttercream. If you didn’t sprinkle the top shells with the espresso sea salt, then shower a bit of cocoa powder over the macarons to decorate.


Kisses kept are wasted;
Love is to be tasted.
There are some you love, I know;
Be not loathe to tell them so.
Lips go dry and eyes grow wet
Waiting to be warmly met.
Keep them not in waiting yet;
Kisses kept are wasted.
~Edmund Vance Cooke

Monday, October 26, 2009

FOOD BLOGGER CONNECT - THE PARTY!

FOOD BLOGGER CONNECT 2009: MAKING IT THE FOOD BLOGGING EVENT OF THE YEAR…

… is up to you!

You’ve heard it being twitted about and seen it posted on Facebook. Wonder what all the buzz is about? Food Blogger Connect 2009! And you can be a part of it!


So far, the response has been electric and we’ve reached further than we ever dreamed; food bloggers are not only training in from all parts of London, not only driving in from all over Great Britain, but they will be flying in from as far away as France, Germany, India and Singapore! And you can be a part of the fun, exciting speakers and great food! Just RSVP as soon as possible and hop aboard!

Food Blogger Connect is a fabulous conference/party being held in London on Saturday, November 28 at the Lebanese restaurant Levant. This is your chance to meet your fellow food bloggers face to face over a great meal, get to know them better, share ideas, network, plan. We will have an incredible line-up of speakers – some of whom you can help choose depending on what food-blog-related topics you want to hear about – with time for questions and discussion. And as a plus, we are all meeting up on Sunday for breakfast and a morning foodie tour.


Please note: We are calling for your ideas, and we look forward to hearing from you about the topics you’d like covered and who you would love to see cover them. Food Blogger Connect is the first Food Blogging conference to take place in the U.K and we need you to take the lead.


Here are the nominated topics and speakers. (Your vote counts and so does your opinion. If you think we’ve missed someone who would be a great speaker or overlooked an important topic then please be sure to let us know by emailing us foodbloggerconnect@gmail.com.)

A) The Essentials Of Food Photography & Food Styling

B) Creative Marketing & Social Media

C) Writing Style & Voice

D) Did we overlook a topic- Let us know.

We are going for more of an open, discussion style and where stated will have two or more speakers at a time sharing the platform. There will also be an open floor for all attendees to ask questions or throw out their suggestions. Nominated Speakers For Topics:

A) Food Photography & Styling

1) Meeta from What’s For Lunch Honey

Meeta taught herself everything she knows about food styling and table-top photography for a food blog, evolving from the earliest days of her blog and progressing into one of the best. Many of us now turn to Meeta for advice and her blog has won recognition and awards for its content and food photos. She can speak from the perspective of someone who is not a professional photographer, but who is now well-known – and sought after – for her stunning pictures.

2) Kang from LondonEater

Kang will be talking about photography skills during low-lighting conditions. Which one of us hasn’t faced the ultimate brick wall of food photography – taking pictures of that perfect dish in dimly or artificially lit conditions? Kang has mastered that talent with ease – one look at the photography on his blog and you’ll be aching to find out his secrets, all of which he’ll be sharing with us on the night.

B) Writing Style & Voice

1) Jeanne from Cook Sister!

Wondering how in the world to distinguish your blog from the crowd and develop a style that will make others seek you out? After being featured in and writing articles for publications worldwide from Australia to South Africa to Europe, as well as garnering numerous awards as a result of blogging for over five years now, Jeanne can tell you what it takes to get there.

2) Jamie from Life’s A Feast

Jamie’s writing makes us dream, makes us laugh and makes us fly. Her amazing way with words blends nostalgia with her passion for food and it reads like a culinary masterpiece. Join us to hear Jamie share her secrets to gaining confidence with your writing, finding your voice and writing success.

C) Creative Marketing & Social Media

1) Kang from LondonEater

Kang turned LondonEater into a successful restaurant food blog in less than a year. He gained a large number of subscribers, building a popular newsletter and worked social media before being named one of London’s best food blogs by Time Out London.

D) Do you think we forgot somebody? Let us know by emailing us to foodbloggerconnect@gmail.com. We can’t guarantee that they will be selected but they will be considered. We are also looking for people to help spread the word. So, if you are interested in posting about this event on your blog, then please email foodbloggerconnect@gmail.com and we will be happy to send you a flyer with all the pertinent details. You can RSVP @ www.rsvpit.com. The event number is 2009.


* WHAT: Food Blogger Connect
* WHEN: November 28th, 2009, 1 PM to 5 PM
* WHERE: Levant Restaurant, London, W1
* WHO: Everyone who is or wants to be part of the Food Blogosphere. Food Blogger connect is open to all, and you don’t have to be a long-time blogger to attend. Are you thinking of starting a food blog? This is the perfect time to come and learn how. This event is open to Non-UK Food Bloggers as well.
* HOW MUCH: £30 for food and 1 glass of wine. This is the only fee and it covers the meal.
* WHERE CAN I RSVP: Go to www.rsvpit.com. The event code is 2009.
* Looking forward to seeing you there!
* Beth of Dirty Kitchen Secrets , Jamie of Life’s a Feast, Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry and Mowie of Mowielicious.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

CHICKEN CURRY

A TABLE LES ENFANTS! DINNER’S READY!


Contrary to popular belief, I do cook meals for my family. Occasionally. I love weekends and vacations when JP does all of the cooking. That frees me up to think sweet. Admittedly, there are days when my family starts hovering around the kitchen looking for signs of something savory, something which may constitute a meal, stomachs growling, and sadly they only find cake. Or macarons. Or pie. Then general grumpiness ensues. Oh, tell me why, gods of the sweet tooth? Why do I feel such a weight on my shoulders to produce a luscious, tempting, savory meal each and every day for my three men? True, they – well, he – never complains about the occasional cheese-bread-banana for dinner if I’ve been overwhelmed with my blogging duties, nor will he willingly turn up his nose at a scrumptious dessert. But dried pasta with jarred sauce doesn’t always cut it. Not 3 days in a row. Simon, admittedly, is happy enough if there are frozen pizzas in the freezer and Clem just huffs and puffs then makes plans with friends to eat out.

But once in a while, something stirs me to action, a brisk walk through the market on a cool Autumn day, the tempting odor wafting out of a restaurant as I rush by, an exquisite dish pictured on someone’s blog or a lazy stroll through one of my favorite cookbooks and my imagination is revved, my taste buds a-tingle, my hand itching to be wrapped tightly around my beautiful kitchen knife, slicing, chopping, mincing. Thoughts of stirring thick sauces in pots simmering merrily on the stove make me shiver with sensuous pleasure, delightful fragrances tickling the nose of JP as he walks through the door after a long slog through the rat race, and I’m off, basket draped over my arm and list held tightly in my hand.


I keep returning to my childhood mealtimes, times filled with either delight or dread, depending on what was placed before us on the table. Mom’s dry-as-shoe-leather liver, the crispy, caramelized onions she whipped up to accompany it and the bottle of ketchup my only saving grace. Cabbage soup that I won’t even begin to describe. Or would it be something wonderful like Surprise Burgers or Tuna-Noodle Casserole, that old Girl Scout-inspired standby? Whatever was brought to the table, good or bad, it was served up like clockwork: 6:00 on the nose every evening, exactly half an hour after dad got home. Mom, like all mom’s everywhere, would lean out the back door and yell for us kids to get to the table. Sue and Andrew on one side of the table facing Michael and I on the other, mom and dad flanking us at either end. Walter Cronkite blaring in the other room so dad could listen all the way through to “And that’s the way it is…” We were all happy eaters, giggling and laughing throughout the meal, trying hard, as hard as kids can, to stay quiet, not a peep, so dad could listen to the news. Games played around the meal: who could eat the most broccoli or spinach and titles would be bestowed: Popeye for the evening or Biggest Tree-Eating Giant. As we got older, “getting Sue angry” would be mine and Michael’s own special game: look like we were simply concentrated on whatever wonder was on our plate yet, through grimaces and secret signs, make our older sister blow her top! And get yelled at by dad!


A family meal.

There would be rejoicing all around whenever we saw dad pull out the pancake griddle or fire up the charcoal grill out in front of the house! Weekends, then and now, cooking was, and is, The Man’s Job: breakfast for dinner or steaks and burgers tossed on the grill when it was dad, moules frites or Potée or Tagine for my well-traveled husband. We were, and are, assured of something wonderful on our plates, a culinary treasure, a voyage to another place.

We are fueled by our childhoods, influenced in ways we may or may not like to admit. Dinnertime is a ritual we repeat across generations, its importance in our daily lives essential to our cultural survival. It holds the family together, gathering around the table after a day running helter-skelter between school or work, lunches grabbed on the run or lunches swallowed over business deals. Dinnertime is a calm haven, a time to get to know each other over and over again, to laugh and to bond.


Sometimes I go simple, striving to create a homey atmosphere, everything and everyone in their rightful, comfortable place. Sometimes I pull out all the stops, spending hours pouring over cookbooks, baking fresh bread or muffins, flour flying, or bringing a little exotic mystery and wonderment to the table. Ever anxious to elicit oohs and ahhs from those able and willing to make their way to my kitchen table, like the best of those 1950’s television housewives, I throw all of my energy into choosing the right recipe and recreating yet another scrumptious meal.


Lately I have been on an Indian streak, and influenced by my Indian food blog friends I have made luscious Eggs and Chick Peas in an Indian-Style Cream Sauce and that incredible Aloo Gosht, Delhi-style Lamb and Potatoes served over Aromatic Saffron Rice and both proved to me how simple it is to make and serve such fragrant, rich, delicious, magical dishes. So, streak I am on. This wonderful, family-style Chicken Curry is a recipe from Meeta’s blog, What’s For Lunch, Honey? She does point out that it is her dad’s recipe. It is indeed easy to make and is mild enough, yet flavorful enough, to please all palates. My only complaint was that there was not enough of the delicious sauce, so next time I prepare this dish, I will double the proportions for everything except the amount of chicken and make twice as much sauce. Thank-you, Meeta, for a wonderful recipe enjoyed by all.


CHICKEN CURRY
The perfect family meal!

1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces. You can also simply use 8 chicken drumsticks or drumsticks/thighs. I used 2 leg/thigh portions and 2 breast filets.
4-6 medium sized tomatoes – peeled and coarsely chopped.
1 medium onion - finely chopped
4 Tbs vegetable oil
1 ¼” (3 cm) piece ginger – peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves - finely chopped
1-2 green chillies – seeds removed and finely chopped. The fiery hotness depends on your taste.
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp turmeric powder
salt and freshly ground black pepper
100ml water
2 Tbs yogurt – I used thick Greek yogurt
1 lime
a small bunch of coriander leaves – chopped


In a large pan heat the oil and fry the chopped onions on a low to medium heat for 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally, gently brown the onions making sure they do not burn.


Add the chopped ginger, garlic and chili to the pan and continue frying for another minute or so.

Add the cumin, coriander and turmeric powders to the mixture and fry for another 2 minutes, stirring continuously so that the spices do not stick to the pan. Add salt and pepper.


Add the water and the tomatoes. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Place the chicken pieces into the pan and coat with the sauce. Covered, allow the chicken to cook for 30-40 minutes over a low heat, turning the pieces of chicken every so often.


Now stir in the yogurt. Make sure the liquid does not boil after you have added the yogurt to it as it will get clumpy. Add half of the lime juice. Taste and if you like add some more.

Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and serve with basmati rice or a pilaf.


Note:
I precooked the dish up until the addition of the yogurt and lime juice. I removed it from the heat, covered the pot and went with Simon to a cooking class we had signed up for. When we returned, I discovered that JP had finished the dish, gently reheating the chicken in the sauce and stirring in the yogurt and the lime. And he made simple, plain basmati rice to accompany it. Perfect!

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