Re-rising to my Edmonds Challenge: introducing broccoli with almonds

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You could be forgiven for thinking my Edmonds Challenge had gone off the boil somewhat…truth is, it had, and for that I apologise. But, dear readers, we are back on the boil, quite literally in fact, as today’s recipe includes broccoli, boiling water and a saucepan.

A while ago, I promised a run of almonds as I worked my way through almond recipes in the ‘A’ section of our national treasure the Edmonds Cookbook, and indeed they did as I grabbled with some new treats, including devilled almonds and almond biscuits.

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Today we greet the last entry in the ‘Almonds’ section, Broccoli with Almonds. And can I say, what a delight. Lightly cooked broccoli covered with lemony butter and toasted sliced almonds. Oh yum.

This happy marriage of food with butter and nuts has its own official culinary term, ‘amandine‘, which means food cooked with butter and seasonings and garnished with a sprinkling of almonds.

Edmonds’ own take on this delight, a ‘Broccoli Amandine’ if you like, is a little gem. Easy and tasty, it would be a classy and delicious accompaniment to any supper. I chose to accompany mine with a little brown rice for lunch and can report this was a very satisfactory pairing.

The recipe is below…enjoy.

Edmonds Broccoli with Almonds
500g broccoli, cut into florets
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt
pepper
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds

Cook the broccoli in salted, boiling water until it is just tender.
In another saucepan, melt the butter and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Drain the broccoli.
Add the almonds to the butter mix and spoon this over the broccoli.

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Lime and polenta cake

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You can tell the state of the economy by the price of a lime, or so the saying goes.  What it’s meant to tell you, I’m not sure, but I can reliably inform you that limes in these here parts cost a small fortune at the moment.

This is why I can never resist the bags of juicy, home-grown limes which perch temptingly by the counter for only five dollars a pop when I visit the lovely Shannons to attend to matters of personal grooming.

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I’m never at a loss for what to do with a lime  and with a whole bag in hand, my thoughts turned to this delicious orange and almond cake that my lovely sister brought along for a lunch visit a few years ago.

Curiously, I learned, the orange is boiled to provide a flavoursome, moist base.  It may feel sacrosanct to boil a precious lime, but with a whole bag, I was feeling reckless.  Having never considered the possibility of boiling fruit for the purposes of cake before, my imagination was on fire.

A little polenta to the recipe, inspired by Nigella’s lemon polenta cake recipe, gives this cake a lovely texture and just the right amount of chew to the crust.  I enjoy the tanginess of the limes, but for the more faint-hearted, include a little extra sugar if you like a touch more sweetness.  And, if you make sure to use gluten-free baking powder, this even ticks the gluten-free box.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 limes
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 cups ground almonds
  • 3/4 cup polenta
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Butter and line a 21cm springform tin.

Put the limes in a saucepan, cover them with cold water and pop them on the stove.  Bring to the boil and boil for an hour.

Drain the limes, watching for your fingers as they will still be a little hot.  Chop the limes into bits and pick out any seeds.  Use a blender or masher to puree the limes, skins and all, until smooth.  Set this aside.

In a largish bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale.

Add the pureed limes, ground almonds, polenta and baking powder to the egg and sugar mixture.  Gently fold in until everything is just combined.

Pour the mix into the prepared cake tin.

Bake in a 180 degrees celsius oven for 45 minutes, or until a skewer prodded into the centre of the cake comes out clean and the cake is just beginning to pull away from the sides of the tin.

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Leave the cake in its tin on a baking rack to cool before turning out. I can heartily recommend this cake warm, with a little yoghurt or vanilla ice cream on the side.

 

 

 

Turducken

Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it something else entirely ungodly?

We’ll go for the third option here.

It was Midwinter Christmas and, following a decision a few weeks earlier and most likely assisted by the fine beers available at Goldings Freedive, Turducken was the dish of the day.

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I like to think of Turducken more as a Frankenducken. An unwitting turkey becomes host to both an entire chicken and, in our case, four duck breasts, evolving into a bulging meat sack that is neither bird nor beast, but is definitely dinner.

I have to say our Frankenducken may never have got off the ground (so to speak…sadly for all birds involved, their flying days were well and truly over) had it not been for the wisdom and generosity of YouTube, in particular this aptly named ‘How To Make A Turducken’ clip by Armand Ferrante, who happened to be crowned Wholefoods Best Butcher in the US in 2012.

And thus, all research was completed, the de-boned and de-frosted poultry was collected from the butcher, a poultry lacer was purchased, and the hour of truth had arrived. Our merry Mid Winter Christmas party gathered in the rented holiday home’s kitchen to look on in horrified fascination. A hush fell over the group.

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Constructing a turducken is not pretty to watch, but it certainly is interesting. We were blessed with the culinary skills and can-do attitude of Chef and Chief Sommelier Jeremy, who began by splaying out the deboned turkey on the bench and generously slathering the upturned surface with stuffing.

Next, the chicken is laid out across the turkey, with more slathering of stuffing, and finally the four duck breasts (de-skinned) are laid out across the top.

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Here’s the bit where you need the poultry lacer. No, I had never heard of such a thing either, but we concluded it sounded much more sophisticated than’meat needle,’ the name we had assigned to this tool in earlier planning sessions. The Frankenducken comes to be when the turkey is sewn back up together with the chicken, stuffing and duck inside. The poultry lacer works a little like a corset, with the metal spikes pinning each half of the unfortunate bird together and providing eyelets for the twine that sews it up. The chef will need some willing helpers at this point.

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The appearance of the metal spikes and stitching does nothing to dispel any thoughts of Frankenstein’s monster. Here we have our final product, pre-cooking. There was much sniggering, the exact cause of which I will leave to your imagination as you gaze upon this sight.

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There are a number of schools of thought on how one should cook one’s Frankenducken. My main concern was reliability. I did not want a raw bird on our hands, nor a house of Christmas revellers struck down with salmonella.  And so, I found myself tiptoeing around the kitchen like a little Christmas elf early in the morning, putting our Frankenducken in the oven at roughly 110 degrees celsius.

This seemed terribly low to me, but it was most effective. Our turducken took about 4 and a half hours to reach the recommended internal temperature of 165 degrees farenheit and maintained its heat for several hours happily nestled in a layer of foil.

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Now, for the most important question that is no doubt on everyone’s minds…how did it taste? Quite delicious! The low temperature cooking left all meat moist and tender, with bacon layers on the turkey breast crisping up pleasingly.

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I’m wondering if we should try a goose next year.

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Pollo alla Romana

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Bacon, chicken, red wine…what’s not to love?

Forgive my absence; I’ve been on a food writing course at the weekends over May and June, which has taken up all of the food writing time in my life.

I’m back with a vengeance however, and with a few new bits and pieces for Lick Your Plate.  This post dedicated to Pollo alla Romana, or Roman Chicken, stems from a class exercise on re-writing classic recipes in one’s own style.

I have to say I had not heard of Pollo alla Romana before this little adventure, but reliable sources, especially the lovely Rachel Eats blog which is all about eating and living in Rome (jealous much?), pit it as a Roman classic.

And I say jealous much because I fell totally and utterly in love with Rome when I was lucky enough to visit, and this love made Pollo Alla Romana jump out at me as a suitable classic to tinker with.

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To make my version of Pollo Alla Romana you will need:

  • 1 x whole chicken, cleaned and cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 50 grams pancetta or streaky bacon
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 600 grams fresh tomatoes, chopped (save the juice!)
  • 3 red bell peppers, de-seeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Yikes, was my first thought, a whole chicken cut into pieces?  Yes indeed, and with the help of Chef Tony and his YouTube clip, let me assure you it can be done.  It’s a little brutal and if you’re inexperienced in such things like I am, there’s quite a bit of wrenching and cracking.

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Heat the oil in a heavy pan with a lid.  The one featured is known in my household as ‘The UFO’ on account of its similarity to a flying saucer when it has its lid on and is perched on the kitchen shelf.

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Brown the chicken pieces in the pan, doing this in batches if you need to.  Remove them and set aside.

Add the pancetta or bacon to the pan, stirring to stop it sticking and to scrape up any of those delicious meaty bits that stick to the bottom.

When the pancetta or bacon becomes fragrant and releases its fat, add the garlic and cook for five minutes.

Pour in the wine and let it bubble up, then add the tomatoes with their reserved juice and the peppers and cook for about five minutes until they start to soften.

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Return the chicken to the pan (it will look full!), season with the salt and ground black pepper as suits your tastes and place the lid on the pan, leaving it slightly ajar.

Turn the heat right down and simmer gently, giving the pan a stir from time to time to ensure nothing sticks.  It is ready when the sauce coats the back of a spoon – about 45 minutes.

Stir in the chopped parsley and serve.  We had ours with large hunks of fresh wholemeal bread and it was a suitably hearty winter fare.  Pasta, polenta, or the less Italian mashed potato, would be suitable partners too in my opinion.

Buon appetito readers.

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Herman the German Friendship Cake

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Herman came into my life my accident.  My plans were to have morning tea with my sister and gorgeous little niece.  This did happen.  But what I didn’t expect was to leave my sister’s house with my very first sour dough starter for my own Herman the German Friendship Cake.

 

Herman is the chain letter of sour dough.  A lucky Herman recipient is given a portion of sour dough starter and instructions on how to feed, love and nurture Herman for 10 days.  On the tenth day, Herman is split into four portions.   Three are given away to new Herman owners to start the process again.  The fourth portion is kept to be made into one’s very own Herman sour dough cake or bread.

 

I love the savoury chewiness of sour dough.  Ever since reading the lovely Clotilde’s sour dough adventures on Chocolate&Zucchini I’ve been keen to try my own but just a little too scared.  My unexpected acquisition of Herman was just what I needed to kick-start my own sour dough adventures. Herman and I were meant to be.

 

Sour dough starters are rather fascinating.  The happy little bugs and bits who occur naturally in flour develop into a culture that will rise dough if they are left for long enough and treated to water, refreshment and the right temperature.   And so, Herman took up residence on top of my microwave.  Devotedly following the Herman instructions, I heartily stirred Herman each of the first four days.  He was developing an interesting bubbly texture.

 

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On day four, the instructions informed me, Herman is hungry.  Dutifully, I fed Herman (or refreshed him, as it is known in sour dough parlance) with 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar.  Days five to eight: more stirring.  My Herman now had a sticky-looking top and plenty more bubbling.

Day nine was a big day.  Three quarters of my Herman were packaged up and shipped off to their new homes.  It was time to turn my mind to baking for day 10.

 The Herman website has plenty of delicious ideas for when it’s time to bake your Herman.  My sister made the original Herman, and it is indeed lovely.  I played around with the original recipe, borrowing heavily from my most favourite Christmas cake recipe, Nigella’s chocolate fruit cake (because why wait until Christmas to make a delicious cake?).  Prunes, chocolate, orange and coffee combined to make this Fruit and Chocolate Herman.  This recipe produces a dark, dense cake with a pleasant hint of spice.

 

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Fruit and Chocolate Herman

Ingredients:

  • 1 portion of Herman starter
  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1 cup of cocoa
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups of pitted prunes
  • 1 & 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1 cup of currants
  • 1 cup of cranberries
  • 2 oranges, juice and zest
  • 1/2 cup of espresso coffee

Grease a 23 cm round cake tin and line the bottom.  Heat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Stir the flour, cocoa, baking powder, brown sugar, mixed spice and vanilla essence into your Herman starter, which will be in the large mixing bowl as per the Herman instructions.   Add the eggs and mix in.

Next, tip in the prunes, raisins, currants and cranberries. Add the orange juice, zest and the espresso coffee, and stir all ingredients together.

Pour the cake batter into a 23cm round cake tin.  Bake for 50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cool on a cake rack.

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Parsley pesto

It was time to slay the mighty parsley-beasts.  I felt a little regretful about this, as they had done me proud by growing all green and bountiful, despite my doing very little to help them.  But, many leaves had been picked for many dishes, and now the beasts had gone to seed.

My parsley-beasts looked a little sad all uprooted and laid out on my deck:

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My garden likes very much to grown parsley, which has left me with similar questions in the past about what one should do with the crop.  This was an unprecedented situation because rather than just a mere glut, I had several large plants’ worth of the stuff.  And when I think ‘something that uses an unholy amount of herbs,’ I think ‘pesto.’

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As I’m sure you know, traditional pesto is made from basil, pine nuts, olive oil, parmesan and Fiore Sardo, a sheep’s milk cheese.  Its name comes from the Genovese word ‘to pound,’ and some even say it lends itself to the English word ‘pestle’, as in ‘mortar and.’

Apparently the Ancient Romans themselves ate a paste called ‘moretum,’ consisting of herbs, cheese and oil.  This was of particular interest to me, as my only memories of food and the Ancient Romans, scraped from the dim, dusty part of my brain labelled Third Form Latin Class, were that stuffed field mice were typically on the menu.   How unfair of me.   I shall be contacting the editors of Ecce Romani forthwith to suggest a showcasing of moretum and pesto.

It seems to me that these days, we are increasingly embracing any number of nut, cheese and herb combinations for our pesto.  The parsley pesto I have made here, based on this parsley pesto recipe, contains walnuts, almonds, parmesan and olive oil. I made it like so..

My ingredients (note: I had a HEAP of parsley, so needed a heap of everything else and in turn made a heap of pesto – you could quite easily halve or quarter this and still have a respectable amount):

  • About six large handfuls / cups of parsley
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 peeled garlic cloves
  • 200g parmesan cheese, cut into small chunks (as much as you can manage, depending on how firm it is!)
  • ground black pepper
  • lemon juice and a pinch of salt, to taste

I toasted the almonds and walnuts of the stove-top in a non-stick frying pan until they were all golden and smelling tasty.

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I ripped the parsley into smaller bits with my hands, and added it to the bowl of my food processor, along with the toasted nuts, parmesan, olive oil and plenty of ground black pepper.  I processed it until it made a smooth paste, adding a little salt and squeezing in some lemon to taste along the way.

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I wound up with 6 jars of roughly 250mls capacity, meaning that a few friends and family members had pesto thrust upon them.  Our first meal with the bounty was a salad with roasted potato, shredded poached chicken and plenty of pesto. This pesto is rather tasty slathered on freshly toasted bread, and I am reliably informed it tops pasta quite nicely too.

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Happy gardening and eating.

 

 

Ginger shortbread with orange curd

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This idea came to me by accident, really.  I’m always a fan of shortbread, so any excuse for that.  But the orange part happened when a lonely orange, languishing in the fruit bowl, happened to cross my field of vision whilst I was enjoying a Sunday morning browse through Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess.

I happened to spot Nigella’s cute little Lemon Gems and immediately wanted to create similar little dollops topped with something rich and citrus-y.  Lacking the vegetable shortening required by the recipe, however, and not feeling much inclined to go out hunting for some, another hearty biscuit was needed.

Shortbread is the heartiest of the hearty in my opinion.  My friend the internet tells me that shortbread is so named due to its texture, as an old meaning of the word ‘short’ was ‘crumbly.’

My go-to shortbread is recipe is the trusty Edmonds’ and so I very naughtily used it here…and I say naughty, as I’m using not using Edmonds as part of my Edmonds Challenge, which reminds me that I am due some more excitement with that particular endeavour.  And so, I mixed things up by deviating from the recipe slightly with the addition of ginger.

Edmonds asks the following, and I have added my ginger tinkerings…

Cream 250g butter and 1 cup of icing sugar together until it’s light and fluffy.  Sift 1 cup of cornflour and 2 cups of flour together.  If you’re me, at this point also add 1.5 teaspoons of ground ginger and 1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger to the flour and cornflour.  Mix the dry and creamed ingredients together, knead and roll out to 0.5cm thickness on a floured board.

At this point, I transferred the shortbread to an oven tray and it into rectangles.  I used a (clean!) fingertip to make little craters in the biscuit and popped them into a 150 degree celsius oven.

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And now for the curd. Seeing as I was having a Nigella day anyway, I used her recipe for lime curd, replacing the lime juice and zest with the juice and zest of my orange, along with a quick squeeze of lemon juice.

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When my indented shortbread had become pale golden (which took about half an hour) I removed it from the oven and filled the little craters with the orange curd.

It was a creamy, custardy curd which was rather pleasant with the shortbread.  And the whole lot went at work the next day, so they can’t be all bad.

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