Sunday, 29 April 2012

Red capsicum & lime marmalata, and grilled ricotta.

Even though the price of red capsicums hasn't gone dow to their usual late summer levels this year, there's one preserve I have to make - roasted red capsium and lime marmalata (marmellata).  Only trouble is that it's also a favourite of husband Russ, so before I knew it he'd consumed (almost single handedly) a whole jar over two days; marmelata on bacon, with cheese on biscuits, with creme fraiche and hot smoked salmon and..and. It is delicious, though I'm going to have to get smarter, obviously, and secrete some away.

The recipe is in my 'Vegetarian Kitchen' anyway, but here it is below as well.

This ‘marmalade’ is such a gorgeous, eye - catching red that it’s almost a surprise to find it tastes as good as it looks. It’s a hit as a topping for crackers spread with cream cheese, but use it as you please – there won’t be a shortage of ideas once it’s tasted.
*If kaffir lime leaves are not available, use young lime leaves or the pared and finely julienned zest from an extra lime or lemon. 

8 large red capsicums
1 cup orange juice, no preservatives or added sugar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp peeled and minced ginger (prepared)
3 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
½ - ¾ tsp chilli powder
5 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1 branch tip of kaffir lime leaves, 12-14 whole leaves*
Thinly pared rind of 2 lemons, finely julienned or use a zester
Juice of two lemons

Preheat oven to 225 C.
Place the capsicums on a baking tray and roast for about 25 minutes or until the skins are blistered and blackening. Remove from the oven and cool until they can be handled (place in plastic bag if you wish, but this is not necessary). Peel, and discard the core and seeds. Chop finely.
Place all the ingredients into a heavy based saucepan, bring to simmer point and cook for 30-40 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and is the consistency of jam.
Discard the kaffir lime and bay leaves using tongs.
Spoon into hot, sterilized jars and screw on hot sterilized metal screw- on lids.

The marmalata is also great with home-made ricotta on rye, which reminds me that I stumbled upon a really easy nibble this week. I'd made some ricotta and have had so many guests and visitors lately that I haven't had a lot of time to cook anything other than main meals - but I just mixed some ricotta with crushed garlic, fresh pizza thyme leaves, sea salt and coarsely ground pepper, transferred it to a ramekin, drizzled virgin olive oil over the top and grilled it so it was soft and squishy and spread deliciously  - soooo good. Then I trialled it again, but this time lightly sauteed finely chopped garlic in the virgin oil before mixing it in the ricotta with the thyme, (oregano is nice too) salt and pepper before grilling. Really don't know which I prefer, so hopefully someone out there will try and let me know what they think!

I've been trialling for a mid-winter Xmas shoot next Monday, too - a full menu, so time is a little pressured. Today, however, I am definitely setting aside for making my Life's Too Short Marmalade - just because I can't live without it, that's all there is to be said, really. Just email me if you want the recipe. . .

Monday, 9 April 2012

Rhubarb Sparkle and chocolate beetroot cake mmmmm

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Wanaka is gorgeous, of course; but Hawea is only 10 minutes away and its charms have grown on me, especially as it's quiter and with such stunning weather late March and April. . .

Leaves are just turning, there's not a breath of wind, only day after day of sun and clear skies.
It wasn't just a holiday, I gave a talk to about 100 Probus members in Wanaka while I was there; you'd think it would be easy to talk about yourself and what you do but it never is, it's nerve wracking and sleep depriving. I ran out of time so never got to the anecdotes  of life in France and Tuscany and culinary adventures there, which was a shame, but I did refer anyone interested to the blog.

In addition, I'm now on a first-name basis with the 'girls', my son and his partner's four chooks. They're happy free rangers, produce four delicious eggs per day and seem to enjoy a bit of cluck cluck conversation and attention down the back of the garden. The garden, incidentally, is endowed with beautiful, mature fruit trees  - apples, an apricot, a nashi pear, a quince tree so laden the branches have to be propped up so they don't break off;

Large golden quinces

a loquat, crab apples and two!! very large almond trees.

Not the clearest photo, but here the two halves of the shell are opening to reveal the nut inside
So, we made quince paste for Hannah to take to family over Easter, and I raided the garden to make rhubarb champagne for when they get back. I made sure I snuck a few quinces into my luggage, too, because I love their perfume in the house - I have enough of the paste to last for a while.
Rhubarb champagne has been a great success here over Easter,  everyone loves it - someone even called it 'summer in a glass' which is a good description.
Here's my recipe. . . how easy is this?

                  RHUBARB SPARKLE

 A vigorous clump or two of rhubarb is always an asset in a garden, and not least of all for making this delicious summer thirst quencher. Refreshing but not sweet, it has such a lovely colour that it seems to epitomize fun, fizz and summer.
Makes three 1.25 litre bottles.

1 kg red rhubarb stalks
3 lemons, rind and juice
700g sugar
4 litres water

Wash the rhubarb, slice into 2cm lengths, and if the lemons are thick skinned, you may need to peel them with a floating blade peeler. Slice off the white pith and discard, then chop the lemon flesh roughly. If the lemons are thin skinned, this step is not necessary – just chop the whole lemons roughly.
Dissolve the sugar in hot tap water.
Place the prepared rhubarb and the lemon rind and flesh in a non-metallic bowl or bucket, pour the dissolved sugar mixture over, cover with a clean cloth and set aside for two – three days, depending on how warm the temperature is. The mixture should have a light fizz when ready to bottle.
Strain very thoroughly through muslin and transfer to extra clean plastic 1.25 litre bottles with screw on tops. Fizzy drink bottles are ideal. Don’t fill right to the top, leave a gap of five – eight centimeters, to allow the natural gases to rise.
Keep the bottles in a cool, dark place if possible for three days or until the neck of the bottle swells and becomes quite hard, indicating the bottles should then be refrigerated. This could take up to two or even three weeks, depending on the weather.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 three
Serve chilled. 

The other Easter success has been a chocolate beetroot cake with a chocolate glaze - moist, light and delicious (actually, it's more accurately a chocolate mocha & beetroot cake).  Well, it wasn't a total success story because I made two quite different versions and only one cut the mustard, the other will be for family only consumption - but the successful one was something of a triumph. Also, in the frig was the prefect accompaniment - my passionfruit curd. This partnership worked brilliantly, and was also great on hot cross buns instead of butter and marmalade.

Just email me if you want the recipe. . .

I'm off to make tomatillo salsa base and check the figs (I know, I must make and photograph the mole!).