Cold, festive nights beg for inviting treats— even better when they are homemade. This week, the boys helped me make almond flour thumb prints with raspberry jam. A glass of milk goes really well with these subtle-sweet almond medallions with a fruity, chewy jam to challenge the texture. Almond flour is delicate in its nutty taste, and is often accompanied by cardamom— at least in the delectable Indian desserts I grew up with. The aroma alone is heaven for the hippocampus; paired with the coziness of wintertime, it’s pure holiday perfection.
A few weeks ago, I met Trudie Styler at the launch of her product line ‘Il Palagio’, sourced from her garden in Tuscany. Honeys that range from mild and unimposing, such as, Acacia to fuller bodied honeys, like chestnut and thousand flowers. Wines whimsically named after Sting’s songs – Sister Moon and When We Dance. Olive oil so pure, leaving you to decide where to apply it; skin or salad? As the conversation progressed, Trudie shared how she and their family chef, Joe Sponzo, gather ingredients from their backyard for evening supper be it at The Lakehouse in the U.K or Il Palagio in Italy. And a cook book was born – The Lake House Cookbook. With the bounty this British countryside home has to offer, there are many hearty dishes, such as, roast chicken with corn and broad beans, rolled lamb and pies and tarts to keep company with on rainy days. Trudie and Chef Joe shared their recipe for Apricot tart. The tart from it’s very almond shell alone hints at something of pastoral origins – textured and rustic, topped with dreamy pastry cream and delicate apricot halves. Recipe adapted from The Lake House Cookbook for Apricot tart Ingredients Almond nut crust ½ cup whole almonds, with skin ½ cup + 2 tbsp. unsalted butter 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp. sugar ¼ tsp. pure almond extract 1 cup + 1 tbsp. flour Pastry Cream 2 egg yolks 2 ½ tbsp.superfine sugar 1tbsp. flour 1/2 cup milk 1/4 vanilla bean, scraped and reserving bean and pods Apricots 1 1/3 cups sugar 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise 3 pounds ripe apricots, halved and pitted (If they are not ripe, wrap them in a brown paper bag and leave in the oven for a day) Method Crust 1) Pulse almonds in food processor until chopped. Add butter, sugar and almond extract and pulse until combined 2) Add flour in 3 batches, pulsing 30 seconds after each addition. Once it forms in to a dough ball, wrap in plastic shaping in 6” disc. Chill for 1 hour 3) Butter and flour 10” tart tin. Remove chilled pastry. Place it in tart shell and press down and out to spread it over base and sides. Refrigerate 2 hours 4) Once chilled, remove shell and prod with fork throughout shell. Line shell with pie weights or uncooked beans and bake at 425F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Reduce temp to 325F and removing lining and beans, bake another 15 minutes until golden-brown Pastry Cream 5) Place yolks and half the sugar in a small bowl. Sift flour and mix thoroughly. Heat milk in a saucepan with remaining sugar and vanilla pod and bean. Bring to boil, stirring. Add a ¼ cup of hot milk to temper mixture and stir constantly. Remove from heat and add remaining milk. Return to medium heat and whisk until it bubbles and thickens for 10 seconds. Remove from heat and cover surface with plastic wrap to avoid skin formation. Chill on iced water/ refrigerate for 20 minutes Apricots 6) Remove the apricot skin by peeling back with a knife. Remove the pit Assembly 7) Remove tart shell from pan on to serving plate 8) Spread pastry cream evenly over the bottom of pastry. Arrange apricot halves faced down in a circular pattern
Last Sunday unintentionally, the morning was calm. No kiddy birthday parties to run to, no soccer practice to get ready for. As the kids anchored down to some stacked paper and a bundle of crayons, I had a chance to hear myself think in my mecca – the kitchen. Some eggs and a half-filled mason jar of cream would do me nicely for a creamy mound of scramble but rather than toast, I decided upon a skillet hash with a few slivers of pepperoni. Hash browns can provide for a failing experience if the potatoes haven’t been salted and then wrung out to release that extra moisture. When this step is skipped, they may look great from the outside, but nudge it with a fork and it reveals a blue’ish white interior with a gummy texture. Observe the handful of steps below and this will be your gateway to a golden-brown crust with potato strands that tightly knit together yielding a white and tender inside. I added crisped-pepperoni for a little ‘snap’ and set it down before my husband and kids. What a Sunday morning winner! Recipe for Hash Pepperoni Browns Ingredients 2 TBSP. unsalted butter 3 large russet potatoes, peeled, grated and combined with 1 tsp. salt 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions) 1 TSP. freshly ground black pepper 2 TBSP. unsalted butter 5 standard slices of pepperoni, sliced in to thin strips Method 1) Make little balls of the grated potatoes and squeeze out all moisture. Add the black pepper 2) Heat a large 12” frying pan with the butter and sauté the pepperoni for a minute (to crisp up) on high heat 3) Spread the potato hash tighty over the pepperoni and pan surface and pressed down with a spatula to compress and lock stands together 4) Cover with a lid for 5 minutes and reduce to medium. Insert a knife and when almost cooked through, cover with a plate to help you flip hash pancake over. Cook the other side until golden. Remove from heat and serve whilst hot and crisp
In our home, making a quick meal often involves some ground meat, a pinch of herbs, diced onions, ginger or garlic and finally some rough hand-shaping before it is thrown down on the pan. It is then christened burger or kebab. Last night was one of those evenings, except; the predictability of ground chicken was getting dull. A fleeting thought was to use crab but again, the density felt unappealing. The mind and palate feeling a bit weighed down by all this winter business wanted to take a short flight somewhere fun and flirty – perhaps the South. Are you thinking shrimp? Shrimp is such a wonderful protein to work with. Treat her well and she will show you her ‘lychee’ side; sweet and fleshy. Overcook her and she will seize up like rubber. With such attributes, very little work needs to be done on her. I decided on shrimp burgers. Chives work really well with shrimps adding brightness in flavor and a hint of an oniony taste but without the heavy handedness. The burgers are gently held together with a coating of breadcrumbs and mayo but if you want a tighter patty, feel free to add more breadcrumb as a binder. I served the shrimp burger on sweet and delicate challah bread – a perfect suitor given the delicate flavor of the shrimp don’t you think? Barely 6 minutes later (including prep time) and you will have a juicy and flavorful burger in your hands. Recipe for Shrimp Burgers Ingredients Shrimp Patties 1 ½ lbs. medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, and chopped in to ½ cm pieces 1/4 cup mayonnaise 1 tsp. onion powder 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce 1 tsp. Tabasco 1 tsp. chopped chives Zest of 1 lemons Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 tbsp. per burger 1 cup dry bread crumbs for dredging and 1 tsp. for burger mixture 8 slices of Challah bread Butter (to butter challah bread) Chive Mayo ½ tsp. of chives 2 tbsp. mayo ½ tsp. lemon juice Method Combine shrimp, mayonnaise, onion powder, Worcestershire, tabasco, and salt and pepper to taste and bread crumbs into a medium bowl and mix well. Set aside for if you have time for 10 minutes Heat the oil on medium/high in a sauté pan Lay out 1 cup of breadcrumbs on to a plate. Portion the mixture in to 4 and shape in to patties. Gently dredge patties in to the breadcrumbs on both sides and fry until golden. Cover the pan with a lid when cooking the second side to cook the shrimp through. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel Combine the chives, may and lemon juice. Butter the sliced challah bread and toast on a pan on both sides, spread lightly with chive mayo and serve with burger