Sunday, 30 November 2008

Another of those weekend food reports

It's been pretty good. I did some shopping at Gungahlin on Friday, which left me with some useful ingredients. A few more ingredients arrived via the Bakeshoppe and Meatways in Kambah, which I am saving to write up when I get to the letter K. And yet more came in from the garden: I picked 1.5 kg of rhubarb, and a few late lemons.

A friend needed a bit of cheering up after some stressful times with illnesses in the family, so I made her dinner last night. For a scratch meal, it was pretty bloody good, if I do say so myself! We had veal, sage, prosciutto and wine wine ravioli, with proper parmigiano reggiano cheese, both from Fruitylicious. And a very simple roast tomato, capsicum, garlic and balsamic sauce - with no extra herbs, so as not to compete too much. We had a green mixed leaf salad with olive oil & balsamic dressing, and a dessert of Maggie Beer quince and bitter almond icecream, with stewed rhubarb and an orange, almond & spice biscotto from Cook & Grocer.

Tonight we're going over to a friend's place for dinner and I'm taking dessert. I seriously contemplated doing a pumpkin pie, since that's all over the blagosphere at the moment with US thanksgiving. But I eventually decided it was probably too weird a concept for Australians, and it's not ideal to experiment on people that I don't know very well. There were some rather fabulous sounding recipes about: bourbon-pecan-pumpkin cheesecake, anyone? It's on my "one-day" list.

Anyway, I finally decided to make a lemon meringue pie. And then I had an attack of the lazies and bought a pre-baked pastry shell from Woollies. It claims to be premium butter shortcrust. We'll see. The lemon filling doesn't quite fit in the tart shell, so I'm also trying some Pampas frozen pastry shells - a new line, you get 12 unbaked shells in little foil cases for about $4.50-ish. I'll report on the quality later. And maybe try to grab a picture.

Update: done. As for quality: the Woolworths pastry seemed quite good, really. It's more expensive than making your own, but handy when you have no time.

Recipes follow.
Recipe 1: Roast tomato, capsicum and garlic pasta sauce
4 large tomatoes
2 medium red capsicums
1 head of garlic
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
Roast the tomatoes, garlic and capsicums in a pie plate, in a low oven for 1 1/2 hours.
Allow to cool. Set garlic and capsicum aside.
Over the pie plate, skin tomatoes and discard hard stem end. Let the juices drip into the pie plate. Return tomatoes to plate and squash. Let sit for 5 minutes to dissolve pan drippings.
Skin capsicum and chop, discarding stem and seeds.
Remove 4-6 large cloves of garlic from the head, or cut the top off and squeeze out 2 tsp of roast garlic paste.
Put the garlic, capsicum, tomatoes and juices into a saucepan and simmer gently to reduce slightly to your preferred sauce consistency. Stir well to distribute the garlic.
Season to taste with pepper, balsamic vinegar and salt.

Notes: Serves 4 sparingly, but it's richly flavoured. If you are serving this with a plain pasta, rather than a flavoured ravioli, some herbs might be nice. I'm imagining some shredded fresh basil.

Recipe 2: Stewed Rhubarb
1.5kg chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 tsp rosewater
Cochineal or red food colouring (optional)

Wash rhubarb well, rinse in a colander, but do not dry.
Put in saucepan with no extra water.
Pour over sugar and rosewater and stir well.
Add whole vanilla bean.
Bring to simmer slowly, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring regularly, or until done.
Add colouring to improve pink colour if desired.

Notes: I actually did mine in a casserole dish in the oven (since it was on for the tomatoes anyway). It doesn't come out as whole as the roast variety, since it's so deeply filled, that it stews rather than roasts. My garden rhubarb was very green, so I added colouring for prettiness.

Recipe 3: Lemon Meringue Pie
1 20cm shortcrust pastry shell, prebaked
3 large lemons
1/2 cup caster sugar
another 1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour
25g butter
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar or cream of tartar

Zest and juice the lemons - you want about 175ml juice.
Top up the lemon juice with water to make 350ml.
Mix cornflour and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan, and gradually mix in the lemon/water mix, keeping back about 75ml. Add the lemon zest.
Heat up, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens and boils.
Simmer for one minute further, stirring well.
Remove from heat and add butter. Stir until melted and well combined.
Add remaining lemon/water mix, and stir well.
Add the egg yolks, and stir well.
Set aside to cool.

Whisk the egg whites until just stiff.
Slowly whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, in about 6 batches.
Add the vinegar or cream of tartar, and whisk again

Preheat the oven to 150C.
Spoon the cooled lemon filling into the tart shell.
Cover it with the meringue, being sure to seal it right up to the edges.
Fluff it up a bit by dabbing with the spatula to make lots of little peaks.
Bake for 45 minutes, until pale golden.
Cool before eating; serve lukewarm or cold.

Notes: The Woollies Select brand pastry shell was a bit smaller so I had some leftover filling. But this doesn't make a lot of meringue, so I used it all and had a few plain lemon tarts left in the Pampas brand mini shells. If you want to make your own pastry, 1 cup flour and 60g butter is about the right amount.

This is an old fashioned version of this classic pie, with a little meringue rather than the massive fluffy towers you get in cafe versions. You'd need a lot more eggwhites to do that. The filling is lighter than the modern lemon tart - these are usually made with a lot of egg yolks and cream, and no cornflour and water filler! I got the recipe from a book that I've had since 1982 or so: Philippa Davenport's 100 Great Dishes Made Easy. I think I bought it at Mary Martin's bookshop in Civic, anyone remember that? The only modification I've made to the original is to use more lemon juice. I like my lemon bitey.

1 comment:

KJ said...

Thanks for the kind comments you left on my blog (A Cracking Good Egg) and the link. I've been reading your blog for ages but have never commented before.

I found your post on Mawson. I love Cedars of Lebanon. I can never resist going in there. I look forward to another post if you decide to do one.