Monday, June 6, 2016

Rhubarb fizz


It's hard to ignore beautiful rhubarb. So, when I found some, I chopped it up, covered it in sugar and water, and waited. Then I found some spruce tips (whose flavor is very lemony) and I added a few. 

My aim with these fizzes (milkweed, honeysuckle, elderflower, pine tip, autumn olive flower - the list is growing) is to make a concentrated drink that will be diluted, later, with water, seltzer, gin, Tequila - you name it. The fizz is a mixer, a messenger from a moment in a season, caught in a bottle. 


For a week after combining my rhubarb and water and sugar, nothing happened. I was disappointed (I was probably not airing it often enough - you can stir it daily). I added the spruce tips. Another few days went by. No fizzing. It still smelled good (your nose is a very good ally, with fermentation), and the taste, when I dipped a clean spoon into it, was very appealing, 

I decided to strain and bottle it, fizzless, with a teaspoon of lemon salt (citric acid). Then, about two weeks later, on a routine check of all my bottles, it fizzed when I eased open the wire top cap. 

Wild yeast fermentation is not - in my experience - a precise science; at least, without equipment to measure every stage, it is not. These bugs be alive, and they behave according to the wiles of weather and sugar and temperature. I do realize that the more sugar I use the more volatile the fizz - yeast feeds on sugar and burps carbon dioxide. By all means, experiment with less sugar.


Here is the recipe.

Rhubarb Fizz

Be clean. Clean hands, clean equipment.

2 lbs sliced rhubarb stalks (do not peel, you want the color, and it's best if they are unwashed - wipe the stalks clean)
3 cups sugar
5 cups water, plus some more
20 spruce tips, optional
1-2 teaspoons citric acid

Put the raw, sliced rhubarb into clean glass jars (I used screw-top jars with an 8-cup capacity). Add the sugar, and cover with water. Screw the lid on tightly. Gently tip the jar back and forth until the sugar has dissolved. Loosen the lid again, and leave at room temperature. Check on it every day, stirring it with a clean, long spoon. Do not seal tightly.

Yours may begin to ferment before mine did.* I added the spruce tips after about 4 days. But when it is deep pink, after about 6-9 days, strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Strain the liquid again through double-folded cheesecloth. Stir in 1 teaspoon of citric soda for every liter of pop. Decant into a clean bottle. I use a wire top bottle with 1 liter capacity.

* I have also kick-started fizzless infusions with a slurp from an active ferment (I find any flower infusions to be very active) - but that assumes you have another one on the go at the same time.

Store in a cool cupboard. Check the bottle once a day by easing the lid open. As I learned (from Pascal Baudar) after an autumn olive flower eruption, you keep the left hand firmly on the wire top lid, while easing the wire stopper loose with your right. This way you will hear the hiss - if there is one - very soon. If it hisses, allow the gas to escape very slowly by keeping your left hand firmly on the lid and releasing gas very slowly. Keep an eye on the bubbles. If they threaten to froth out, clamp the lid down tightly until they subside. Then begin again until no more gas escapes.

It's tense, and better than TV.

Repeat daily. If you keep the bottles in the fridge this process is greatly slowed down. But who has the space.

Many of my other fizzes have kept well at room temperature for a year or more, sans burping, without accident, but before, I used less sugar. More sugar means more concentration, for me, and more dilution. So more mixing power.

The journey continues.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Rolled Tomato Soufflé



It might seem perverse to make a soufflé only to roll it into a sausage. Trust me.

This is a divine make-ahead snack for a picnic. I take it on my wild foods walks, pre-sliced and well-wrapped. Everyone wants the recipe, so here it is. You can make it the night before you need it.

In spring I use canned tomato sauce and invasive garlic mustard for the pesto. In summer I use fresh tomatoes, with basil in the pesto. And for garlic mustard I prefer pecan nuts; pine nuts for the basil.

(If using home-canned or bought tomato sauce, you need 3/4's of a cup.)

Tomato Sauce

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, finely sliced
5 medium, very ripe tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt
Black pepper

Tomato Soufflé 

5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1.5 cups milk
3/4 cup tomato sauce
3 egg yolks
Salt
Pepper
3/4 cup Emmenthaler cheese
5 egg whites

Garlic Mustard or Basil Pesto

4 cups tightly packed garlic mustard leave and flowers, or basil leaves
1/2 cup pecans or pine nuts
1 clove garlic, crushed (omit if using garlic mustard)
1 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup EV olive oil
Salt

For the tomato sauce: Cut a cross at the top of each tomato. In a bowl, cover the tomatoes with boiling water for 1 minute. Remove them, peel off their skins, and core the tough stem ends. Chop them roughly, saving the juice.

Sauté the onion and garlic in a large pan over medium heat, covered, for about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice, and the sugar. Cook at a simmer for 30 minutes, stirring. Taste and add salt and pepper. Allow the sauce to cool, then puree in a blender. (You'll have more than you need.)

For the tomato soufflé: Preheat the oven to 375'F. Line a 9" x 15" jelly roll pan with oiled parchment paper cut to extend above the sides of the pan.

Put the flour in a large round-bottomed saucepan and slowly add the milk, beating with a spoon or whisk till perfectly smooth. Place the saucepan over low heat and and keep stirring the mixture till thick, letting it boil for 60 seconds, still beating. Remove from the heat and stir in the tomato sauce. Allow to cool, and stir in the egg yolks. Add the cheese. Taste, and season heavily with salt and pepper (the egg whites will dilute the seasoning). Whisk the egg whites to peaks. Fold half the egg whites into the cool tomato mixture, then incorporate the second half, using a light hand.

Gently pour the soufflé mixture into the prepared pan and smooth it into the corners. Bake for 40-45 minutes - it will rise and the top will brown. A skewer should come out clean, when you test it.

Moisten a clean kitchen towel and wring it out (if it is not moist the souffle will stick). Remove the soufflé from the oven. Place the moist towel over a plastic chopping board and place the board towel-side down over the soufflé. Deftly invert, and remove the pan from the upside-down soufflé. Carefully peel off the parchment paper. Cover till you are ready to spread the pesto.


For the pesto: (You can make this well in advance, but bring to room temperature before using. You will need about 1/3 cup for the souffle. Freeze the rest.) Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse till it forms a rough paste. Scrape the sides down, add a large pinch of salt and repeat. If the mixture is too stiff, add a little more olive oil.

To assemble: Gently spread a layer over pesto over the whole souffle. Standing at one end, use the damp towel to roll the soufflé over on itself. Once it is in a log shape remove the towel gently and transfer the rolled soufflé to a flat plate or board and cover well in clingwrap till needed.

To serve, cut into slices. It's good with some extra, fresh tomato sauce poured over.

_________________________





Fava bean and knotweed meatballs


I love meatballs. I love fava beans. And then there is the edible invasive weed element.

This recipe is inspired by dishes with a heavy Middle Eastern spin, unapologetic with the spices and herbs.

The Frenchman wolfed these. I only told him he was eating weeds halfway through. That's how you reel them in.

You may know the knotweed story by now. Here it is on some detail, if you don't.

Japanese knotweed hails from Asia, as its common name suggests, where it has natural pests and competition. But Polygonum cuspidatum (its other botanical names are still floating about: Reynoutria japonica, Fallopia japonica) is highly invasive in parts of North America and Europe (the UK has an annual budget in the millions to combat it).

And it happens to be a really good vegetable in the springtime, when it is tender. Most people do not know that. It is also packed with anti inflammatory resveratrol, which has been cited in treatments for heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes.


I just like the taste. I have still not run out of ways to use it.



Serves Four

Adding breadcrumbs to meatballs makes them wonderfully tender. The dill and cumin reward you with a fragrant puff of flavor when you bite into them. Dill works well with tart flavors, and sorrel-tart is what Japanese knotweed is all about.

(If you don't have Japanese knotweed, increase the lemon juice to 3 Tablespoons, and add a cup of peas to the fava beans.)

For the Meatballs

1.5 lbs grassfed lamb
1/2 cup Panko breadcrums (or homemade, coarsely ground bread crumbs)
1 cup finely sliced scallions
1/2 cup chopped dill
3 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pepper
1 happy hen egg
2 Tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil

For the Sauce

2 cups fava beans, shelled
1 cup tender Japanese knotweed tips
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup chicken broth
20 mint leaves, torn up
1 Tablespoon olive oil

In a large bowl combine all the meatball ingredients and mix well. (You could do this the day before and leave, covered, in the fridge.)

Form the mixture into golfball-sized meatballs. It helps to wet the palms of your hands every now and then, to keep the mixture from sticking. Put aside on a plate (this can also be done the day before, and left covered in the fridge.)

Heat a couple of tablespoons of grapeseed oil in a large pan. When it is hot add about 8 meatballs, brown them on two sides; remove to a plate and brown the next batch (they should not be cooked though). Once they have all been browned return them to the pan, and add the fava beans, the lemon juice, and the cup of chicken broth. Over high heat shake the pan to get the beans in touch with the hot liquid. They will begin to lose its fresh green color. After 5 minutes add the knotweed (or peas) and continue cooking until they are tender.


Taste the pan juices, and add salt and pepper. Just before removing the pan from the heat drizzle the tablespoon of olive oil over everything and add the torn up mint leaves. Stir to allow the oil to emulsify, and serve at once, in bowls.

Good with buttered basmati and dilled yogurt.

* Pick knotweed only where you see the previous season's canes growing above the shoots. This indicates that no weedkiller (usually Roundup) has been sprayed there.



_________________________


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Milkweed flower cordial

Milkweed cordial

Milkweed season approaches. Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) flowers are heavily scented - once you smell their fragrance you'll never forget it. I like preserving the intense perfume of the flowers in a fermented cordial that I often call a fizz. It is delightful. And it turns out to be far more aromatic and flavorful than a syrup involving heat, which was my first attempt at catching this fragrance, in 2011.

If you know a tame farmer who lets you pick the milkweed he is going to rip up in his cow pasture anyway, all the better. You only need need about 15 flower clusters (umbels) for this recipe. Harvest with care - lots of pollinators and monarch larvae depend on milkweeds (all species, not just this one) for sustenance.  I tend to pick one cluster per plant in a large patch.

Common milkweed

It's very simple, and similar to the elderflower cordial I have been making for the last couple years.

Milkweed Flower Cordial/Fizz

2.5 cups common milkweed flowers, prepped*
2 cups sugar
6 cups water
Peel of 1 lemon, in long strips

*Discard all the stem parts from the milkweed (they contain sticky latex). Keep only the individual flowers. Scissors perform this job quite quickly.

Combine the flowers, sugar, water and lemon peel in a sterilized 1.5 liter jar. Stir well to dissolve all the sugar.

At this point you can either cover the jar's mouth with a double layer of cheesecloth secured with rubber band or string, or leave the lid on loosely.

Fermentation times will vary according to the moods of the wild yeast gods and temperature. But leave the jar at room temperature for about 3 - 6 days. You may stir daily, or not - both ways have worked, for me. If you keep the lid on tightly you should loosen it once or twice a day to allow any accumulated gas from fermentation to escape (this is called "burping"). For the first day or three you may notice no gas accumulation and wonder what the point is. But it should become obvious by day 4 or 5, when the bubbles will form and hissing heard.

Whatever you do, do not walk away from a sealed jar for a few days, do not go away for the weekend, do not forget about it, or you will have a detonation on your hands.

Elderflower cordial

Once the yeast really gets going the liquid will become gassy and the buoyant solids (the flowers) may rise up and out of the jar (like the elderflower cordial, above): This is when I strain the flowers off, gently strain the liquid a second time through cheesecloth. I bottle the fizz, in a sterilized narrow-neck bottles.

Just-bottled elderflower, milkweed and honeysuckle cordials, 2015

They will keep well at room temperature if sealed. The bottle I opened today (below), bottled last May, was still delicately effervescent.

Milkweed cordial, 2015 vintage

To drink? Dilute with water, prosecco, gin, or whatever else tickles your fancy. Drizzle over ice cream, or fold into whipped cream for an old fashioned newfangled syllabub. And yes, panna cotta. Totally.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Orange-Spicebush Loaf


I took this loaf cake on a recent forage walk, and none remained, after. So I think the walkers liked it. Loaves are easy to fit into my backpack, and I slice them before wrapping them.

I cook seasonally, and in April in New York the only vaguely seasonal fruit in the hood is citrus from the South or apples from these parts. Citrus pairs beautifully with spicebush (Lindera benzoin).


This recipe is based heavily on the Orange Bar Cake from Lesley Faull's book Bread, Buns, Cakes and Cookies (Howard Timmins, 1970, Cape Town), that fed my childhood. The copy I have is the second edition of 1982 - the original came to some sort of sticky end, the details are vague. My mom baked Ms Faull's cherry cake (my preferred birthday cake) and her chocolate cake ("baked with a man in mind," is its subtitle - the alternate favourite for birthdays), her hot milk sponges, her cookies and scones and maybe some things I have not found in the foxed pages, yet.


The original recipe calls for margarine because in 1970 margarine was cutting edge heart health (I wonder how many people it killed). Use butter. I added the powdered spicebush, tweaked some quantities and also drizzled a syrup over the top, which is pure overkill, so you can leave that out if you like. And if you have no spicebush...it's still a good cake. Just add an extra teaspoon of orange zest.

If you have not foraged your own spicebush berries in late summer, order them dried from Integration Acres, in Ohio (called Appalachian allspice, on their website). The berries freeze well, just grind when you need them. I have also used the spring twigs of spicebush to flavour a jar of fine sugar in the way that you would use a vanilla bean (use 8 twigs per 1 lb of sugar, and scratch them up before inserting them in the jar).

Orange Spicebush Loaf

6 oz unsalted butter
6 oz sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 Tbsp ground spicebush
3 large eggs
4 oz self raising flour
4 oz cake flour (I use all-purpose, truth be told)
2 Tbsp orange juice

Cream the room temperature butter with the sugar, orange zest and spicebush till light in colour. Gradually add the beaten eggs, with a dusting of flour each time, to prevent separation. Gradually add the flour with the orange juice until well mixed. Pour into a buttered 2-lb loaf tin and bake at 350'F/180'C for 3/4's of an hour or until a sharp skewer inserted comes out clean.

If using the syrup, stab a dozen holes in the loaf with the skewer and drizzle the syrup over while the cake is still in the pan, and warm. When the syrup has been absorbed loosen the cakes around the edges with blunt knife, and remove from the tin onto a wire rack to cool.

Syrup for Drizzling

1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup rye whiskey

Combine the orange juice and sugar and cook over high heat in a small saucepan until reduced in volume by two thirds. Add the rye and cook for another minute, bubbling. Turn off heat and allow to cool. Pour over the loaf when it comes out of the oven.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Fava bean and garlic scape bruschetta



A beautifully green toast topping. While fava beans belong to early summer, I have cheated before with very good frozen Italian fave, from Trader Joe's.

(You could make this with peas, instead, and use ordinary bulb garlic.)

Fava Bean and Garlic Scape Bruschetta - serves 4 as an appetizer

2 cups shelled fava beans
10 garlic scapes, tough ends trimmed off
8 stalks mint
1 head green garlic, peeled
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Pepper
2 slices sourdough, toasted and cut in half
1 clove garlic

Cook the shelled fava beans and scapes with the mint and green garlic in salted, boiling water till barely tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, and discard the mint. Shell a dozen of the favas, leaving the rest intact. Cut the buds with some tender stem from 5 scape stalks for a garnish and reserve.

Combine the fava beans, scapes, green garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, a hefty pinch of salt and pepper to taste in a food processor. Pulse lightly. You want a very rough paste. Taste, and add more salt or lemon if necessary.

Just before serving, rub the toasted sourdough with the garlic clove. Top each piece of toast with a generous spoonful of the bean and scape paste. Arrange the toast pieces on a plate and distribute the reserved peeled fave beans, and garlic scapes over the top. If you're feeling rich drizzle some more EV olive oil over the top.

Stir leftover fava-scape paste into risotto, or pasta.

Or make more toast.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Clam Chowder



I did not grow up with or on chowder but I love it. The best clam chowder I have tasted is at Pearl Oyster Bar on Cornelia Street in the West Village - and I used that as my taste-reference to make my own chowder for the first time. I used fresh clams. It seemed the right thing to do. And we are lucky enough to have access to the fresh shellfish as well as to fishmongers who are willing to shuck them, carefully saving all their juice. (See alternative method below.)

The result is wonderful. Creamy, but not cloying, very briny, with a hint of carroty sweetness rising through the smoky bacon. No doubt I commited various heresies along the way but here it is. I would also serve creamy hot milk on the side in case it is too salty for some...

For Four, one bowl each. No seconds. Or you know, two pigs. 

2 Tbsps butter
1/4 cup carrot, mire poix-style (tiny cubes)
1/4 cup onion, ditto
2 rashers bacon - the best* you can get your hands on - cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Tbsp flour plus 1 tsp
1 1/4 cups shucked clams (about 24 steamer clams, approx. 3lbs, in shell)
Clam juices reserved (about 1.5 cups)
1 1/2 cups milk, plus extra
1/4 cup cream
1 large potato - about 1 cup, peeled and cut into small cubes (1/4")
Half a lemon

Melt the butter and cook the carrots and onion till they caramelize a little, about 8 gentle minutes. Add the pieces of bacon. Cook until the fat runs. Sprinkle the flour evenly over the bacon and vegetables and stir well with wooden spoon. Allow to cook gently for a minute or two. This is the beginning of a quick roux.

[*See below for alternative method] Now add the clam juice, stirring furiously to prevent any sticking. Add the milk. Stir. Once the liquid reaches a boil (stir all the time), lower heat to a simmer. Add the cubed potato. Cook until just tender, about 6-8 minutes. Taste. Add the cream. The clam juices can very, very salty and if the soup is too salty, add a little more milk.  Bring back to a simmer and add the clams. The instant they cook and become firm, in under a minute, be ready serve the chowder, in warmed bowls. But taste one last time, and add a conservative squeeze of lemon juice.

I served this with still-warm crusty wholegrain bread from Sahadi, and a salad of roof greens that had a peppery kick.

No reason this would not work with mussels, but they'd have to be added after a gentle steaming to open them; and add the liquid they exude in the steaming pot (after straining it for grit). Maybe I'll try that in Cape Town after some mussel-scrounging on the rocks.

*An alternative method:

Instead of using raw clams, steam them open and remove the clam meat as soon as each shell pops. In which case:

24 steamer clams
1/2 cup white wine or dry white vermouth
1/2 cup water

Scrub the clams very well, or you will make sand soup.

Bring the wine and water to a boil in large pot with lid. Add clams and steam till they open - remove each one as it opens, or they will overcook and become tough. Collect the clam juices to use in the recipe as above, by straining though a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth (in case of sand). Proceed with the recipe above - adding thee clam juices after you have made the roux, Add the cooked clams at the last minute, and allow to heat through before serving.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Roast pecans


A perfect holiday and party snack. Salty, crispy, addictive. A good gift, too.

My Aunt Yvonne used to make these. At her beautiful old house in Paarl, there is (was?) a pecan tree. And she would shell the nuts herself, and then roast them. I think her recipe is a little different - my cousin Kate says she uses butter.


This sounds too simple to be good, I know. Trust me.

1lb fresh pecans
4 tablespoons soy
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat the oven to 350'F/180'C

Combine nuts, soy and sugar in a  bowl. Toss the nuts to coat them as thoroughly as possible. Spread in a single layer on an oiled cookie tray (or two, if one is not big enough to hold them). Place the tray in the oven and roast them for 15-25 minutes. After 10 minutes check on them every five minutes, shaking the pan every time to turn them.

Once they are browned and the sugar and soy have caramelized, remove from the oven and let them cool. Shake the cooling pan/s every now and then, or pry the nuts loose with a spatula to stop them from sticking.

The magic: as they cool, they turn crunchy inside a wildly delicious thin caramel shell.

When completely cool, store them in glass jars. Or set them out with drinks and snacks.

They disappear very, very fast.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...