jump to navigation

Vinegar date (and apricot) cake January 13, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Fruit, Sweet things.
1 comment so far

I’m a big fan of vinegar and certainly use a lot of it, in brines, salads and of course, shrubs. But I don’t normally put vinegar in my cakes. Until I found these recipes, that is. I was really intrigued by the notion of adding vinegar to cakes and wondered if it would operate in a similar way to a shrub, adding brightness and tartness without actually tasting of vinegar.

Naturally I wanted to try making a vinegar cake as soon as I could. I used the second recipe on the page – but then adapted it slightly. I didn’t have enough dates so I decided to use some dried apricots too. Then I didn’t have enough of those either, so made up the difference with some dried cranberries. After I’d chopped the dates and apricots, I added them and the cranberries to a saucepan and simmered them in red wine for a few minutes.

Once that had cooled slightly, I added butter and stirred it in until it melted. Next I added olive oil, the vinegar, and then more normal cake things – sugar, eggs, flour. It was great being able to mix everything in the saucepan, and I was rewarded with a nice looking batter.

I poured the batter into a springform tin, and topped it with some slivered almonds (yes, yet another deviation from the recipe…). I baked it for about 45 minutes and left it to cool in its tin.

When it was cool, I carefully removed the sides of the tin and cut a slice. It was much fluffier and moister than I’d been expecting – I was expecting more of a fruit cake-type consistency. But I was definitely pleasantly surprised by the texture.

Having no cream or icecream in the house, I made do serving this with some fresh fruit. The cake itself was great and I was very happy with the combination of the fruit. As expected, I couldn’t taste the vinegar specifically but there was a general tartness which definitely brightened up the cake. As I am not a huge fan of traditional fruit cakes, I am very pleased to have found a substitute – and it has the added bonus of continuing my use of vinegar.

Lemon meringue swirls December 9, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Fruit, Sweet things.
1 comment so far

Faced with an excess of eggwhites after making my apparently now-annual eggnog, I had a look around for what to do with them. I was thinking something to do with meringues, maybe something lemony… when I came across this fabulous idea for lemon curd meringue nests. Here’s my interpretation, although mine are not as cute…

I should note I also had 12 eggwhites to use up so ended up with a lot more nests than the original recipe! But the concept was the same. I started by whipping the eggwhites until they reached soft peaks, and then added caster sugar. I whipped them again until they reached firm peak stage.

I transferred the meringue mixture to a piping bag, and piped out disks onto a sheet of baking paper. I pushed down the peaks with the back of a spoon dipped in water.

As you can see, mine were a bit bigger than the recipe’s, but I figured I had a lot of meringue to use up! Once I’d done the base, I went back and piped two rings on top of the base, to create the sides. The original recipe only called for one ring for the side, but I liked the idea of mine being a bit higher and having more room for the lemon curd.

The meringue was a lot easier to work with than I’d been expecting, and I certainly found that they held their shape very well. I actually had too many meringues to cook at once, so had to leave some on the counter, and even those ones were fine when they were cooked.

I then baked them in a low oven for about an hour and a half, and then let the oven cool with the shells still inside.

At this time I also turned to the lemon curd. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos from the process, but I used the lemon curd recipe from the same site that the meringue recipe came from. It was called the best ever lemon curd – and I have to agree. I’ve not had much success with lemon curd in the past but this recipe was easy, tasted very lemony and actually thickened as it was meant to!

As the lemon curd also needed time to cool overnight, I left both the meringue shells and the curd overnight and resumed the next day. I should say that the meringues were absolutely fine the next day – still hard and crispy. I assembled my shells ready for filling.

As you can see some of the shells had gone a little brown on top, but I was still pretty happy with how they came out. Then it was simply a matter of filling the shells with the lemon curd. I found that even though I’d added an extra layer of meringue ‘wall’ the shells still only took a couple of teaspoons of the curd. Anyway, since mine are on the large size, one was the perfect size for an afternoon snack.

As well as being a great way to use up all those egg whites, I really enjoyed these lemon meringue nests. They weren’t too sweet and were a clever play on the more traditional lemon meringue pie. The curd was fantastic and very lemon-y which worked very well with the sweet and fluffy meringues.

I was very pleased to use up all my eggwhites in this way, and will certainly be making these again. I can see these being a very useful transportable dessert to take to events – and they’re just a bit fancy to boot.

Relapse: Preserved lemons September 16, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Drinks, Fruit, Relapse.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Relapse: An occasional series where I discuss several ways of preparing an ingredient.

It being the season for stupid amounts of lemons, I decided to make some preserved lemons. I kept mine pretty straightforward, packing them in salt with a couple of bayleaves. I left them for about a month, and hae recently started using them. I find these preserved lemons very versatile and thought I’d share a few things I do with them.

Chicken tagine with preserved lemon and olives
This is of course a very popular way to use preserved lemons, but this doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. I blended up preserved lemons, garlic, chili, onion, coriander, cumin and saffron with some olive oil until it formed a paste. I marinated the chicken pieces in this mixture for about 2 hours. I chopped up more onions and tomatoes, and placed them in the bottom of a cast iron pot. I put the chicken on top, adding more tomatoes, preserved lemons and olives. I let it cook over a low stove for about 45 minutes, before serving with couscous.

Technically I probably can’t call this a tagine since I didn’t cook it in a tagine, but I think regardless of what you cook this in, the flavours are going to be fantastic.

Preserved lemon martini
You could celebrate how delicious your tagine is with a cockail! This is a variation on a dirty martini, using the lemon juice left over from the preserving process. Make a martini how ever you like it (as long as it’s with gin, of course), and add a splash or two of the lemon juice liquid. I also added a couple of slices of the preserved lemon as a garnish.

Not surprisingly, this is quite similar to a dirty martini, but with a lemony flavour instead of only just the brine.

Preserved lemon salt
Following a post by A Cook Blog, I thought I’d try dehydrating some of the liquid left over from the preserving process. I didn’t use much liquid but had enough to line the bottom of a ramekin. I dried it in a low oven, and after a couple of hours, I was rewarded with some very intense, flavoursome salt.

This is a great way to add an accent of lemon to a dish – it’s very strong, so you don’t need much, but it makes a big difference even in small amounts.

There’s so many ways to use preserved lemons, and I would definitely recommend any of three listed above. I still have lots of preserved lemons left so will be trying out some other ways to use this ingredient. But in the meantime, I’m off to make another preserved lemon martini…

Pomegranate jelly August 12, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Fruit.
add a comment

After bringing home four pomegranates when I saw them on sale at the local market, I then had to work out what to do with them. While they’re useful to put into salads and things, I wanted to do something else with them. I knew I didn’t have enough to make molasses, so thought instead I’d try to make pomegranate jelly.

Normally when I remove the arils from a pomegranate, I chop it in half, then put the half in a bowlful of water and separate the white pith from the arils; the pith floats and the arils sink. However, I’d also read it was possible to juice a pomegranate by using a normal citrus juicer. This method destroys the arils, of course, but seemed to be an easy way to get the juice.

Apart from shooting juice all over the counter, I was pleased to see that the citrus juicer worked very well in extracting the juice. I was left with quite a lot of juice (about 1 cup) and a pile of squashed seeds. I added a bit of sugar to the seeds and left them to macerate and get every last bit of juice out.

After leaving it for a couple of hours, I pushed the seeds through a strainer to extract all the juice. I put all the juice in a saucepan and started to heat it up. It was such a nice colour.

When the juice was almost boiling, I added a sheet of gelatin and stirred until it was dissolved. I let it cool and then poured the jelly into some tins I’d lined with baking paper and sprayed with oil.

I left the jelly to set in the fridge overnight, and then had fun using my cookie cutters to chop the jelly into different shapes.

The jelly was quite tart, but very refreshing, with the pomegranate flavour not too strong. I really enjoy using this method to make jellies from fruit juices; it means the flavour and sweetness can be controlled. In this case I was very happy with the use of the pomegranates and was happy I’d found something else to do with them.

Marmalade June 3, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Fruit.

As you’ve probably worked out by now, I’ll pretty much eat anything. I’ll definitely try anything, at least twice. Like everyone, I’ve overcome childhood dislikes and some of my most hated foods are now my most liked. However, some things I’m still not sure about. One of these, slightly bizarrely, is marmalade.

Due to a glut of fruit, I thought it was about time I tried making marmalade. Before I made this batch, I couldn’t actually remember the last time I’d eaten it. It had certainly been several years. Therefore, I was quite optimistic when making this batch. It was homemade! It had no strange preservatives! The fruit would speak for itself! And so on.

So I started, chopping the fruit (both oranges and mandarins), peeling off the pith and retaining the skin.

I made sure to pull of all the pith from the individual mandarin segments, and also kept the seeds. I scraped the back of the skin with the back of my knife to remove as much of the remaining pith as possible. I finely sliced the peel and wrapped up the pith and seeds in a clean cloth (they are high in pectin and therefore help the marmalade set). I added equal quantities of sugar and water and put the whole lot on the stove.

I stirred until the sugar had dissolved and then heated it until it boiled. I was so excited! It certainly smelled nice and not awful at all. I was careful to not let it boil too quickly, and after several hours I was rewarded with a much thicker, darker concoction.

I tested a little bit by putting it on a saucer I’d left in the freezer, and was pleased to see that when I ran my finger through it, it had well and truly set. I had previously prepared my bottles by putting them in a warm oven for about 30 minutes; now, I filled them while they and the marmalade were still warm and let them cool together.

I was still excited at this point. The marmalade had set nicely, and I spread some on a slice of my cracked wheat bread to try it.

And, the moment of truth: Yeah. It tasted exactly as I remembered, which was not a good thing. I can’t actually put into words the expression that was on my face when I tried this. I find marmalade both too sweet and too bitter at the same time, both cloying and sharp. On the plus side, I am now quite convinced I don’t likeall marmalades, instead of a particular brand or type of marmalade.

While I won’t stop trying different childhood dislikes, I will now approach them with the thought that while some may no longer be dislikes and I may now actually enjoy them, others will firmly stay in the realm of horror and disgust.