About chagrinnamontoast

I am an actress, a writer, a wife, and a mother. I'm also over thirty which, in Hollywood, means I'm almost a hundred and dead. Want to know about my life? Observe what's going on in my kitchen.

A Taste of Two Islands: Blackberry Jam and Lilikoi Custard

I was born in the land where palm trees sway, where the ocean feels like bath water, and the Goddess Laka set the thermostat to 27°C.  Anything hotter or colder would make the flowers unhappy.

Hawaii is the ultimate melting pot. Perhaps this is why its cuisine is so delicious or what the locals call ono. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, people from all over the world sailed to Hawaii’s sandy shores, each of them bringing the flavours of home.

Labourers were needed to work the sugarcane fields and pineapple plantations. Many came from Portugal, Puerto Rico, China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.  My paternal great-grandparents were among them.  My maternal family from Iowa came for different reasons.  Like the Blues brothers, they were on a mission from God.  Quite literally as my grandparents were Southern Baptist missionaries.

When my aunt and uncle lived in Hawaii Kai, they always had two things in their backyard–a stray ginger cat called Gus and an abundance of lilikoi. Lilikoi is what Hawaiians call passion fruit. They are red or yellow; the latter tend to be sharper and more acidic. You can add them to cream based desserts for a distinctly tropical note like I’ve done in this recipe here. 

Though I have long known that I enjoy eating lilikoi custard, it wasn’t until I moved to London that I realised how much I like it on buttermilk biscuits with blackberry jam. Bramble season in the UK is August through September. This is why I like to stock my freezer full of berries, so I can use them the whole year through.

Below are my recipes for lilikoi custard and a quick blackberry jam. Though the distance between Honolulu and London is 7,223 miles, I can bring their flavours closer together on a plate.

Ingredients for lilikoi custard:

300ml milk

100ml double cream

½ tsp vanilla bean paste

4 egg yolks

75 to 100g of caster sugar (depending on how sweet you like it and how tart your fruit is)

1 tbsp corn flour

3 to 4 lilikoi (3 fl oz. of juice and 2 tsp of processed seeds/pulp)

 

Method for the lilikoi custard:

First, put the lilkoi in a food processor and pulse. Strain the juice from the seeds. I like to do this with cheesecloth, but of course a fine mesh sieve will work.

In a saucepan, combine the cream and milk over a low heat. When small bubbles appear on the sides, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until it looks like a fluffy paste.  Then incorporate the corn flour.  Whisk this mixture into the cream.  Add the passion fruit juice and 2 tsp of the seeds/pulp.

Place the saucepan back on a medium-low heat and continue whisking. When the custard thickens, remove it from the heat and set it aside. Once it has cooled a bit, cover it with plastic wrap. Make sure to press the clingfilm right against the custard, otherwise a skin will form. Put it in the refrigerator to chill completely. 

Lilikoi custard

Ingredients for quick blackberry jam:

300 g frozen blackberries

the juice of half a lemon and one small orange

120 g granulated sugar

 

Method for quick blackberry jam:

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Warm them on low and stir until the sugar is all dissolved. When you can no longer feel any grains of sugar, turn up the heat. Bring the mixture to a boil. Allow it to simmer until reduced by half. You don’t want it too thick, just set enough that it won’t slide off your biscuit. When it is ready, pot the jam in a jar and allow it to cool to room temperature. Keep it in the refrigerator and use it within two weeks.

Quick blackberry jam

Lightly Lemony Mascarpone and Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

I know it’s Pi Day and everyone is making pies but I don’t care. This post is about cheesecake and I’m not just talking about the dessert. What I’m talking about is the illustrated art of Alberto Vargas and Gil Elvgren. The cheeky glamour of Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe. I’m talking about those black and white photos of me in 1940s swimwear and cork heeled wedges that I let my friend take the last summer we were in high school.

I mention this not only because I’ve made a cheesecake and want to share the recipe with you, but because there is such a cheesecake element when it comes to marketing women and food. Whether its Padma Lakshmi eating ribs in her underthings and licking chocolate off her wrists or Nigella Lawson provocatively putting pasta in her mouth, so many female cooks are presented like pin-ups. Gorgeous hair, makeup, and plunging necklines over pushed up breasts supported by flirty peek-a-boo bras.

I’m not judging this cheesecake aspect, but where’s the beefcake counterpart? Where is the Magic Mike of Mediterranean cooking and why isn’t he sexfully telling me how to make mezze? Men’s cookery books and television programs are not promoted this way.

While the story behind the term cheesecake is probably apocryphal, I choose to believe. In 1912, James Kane, a photographer for The New York Journal, was positioning a model when a breeze blew up her skirt. As more leg than usual went on display, he tried to think of the greatest superlative to express his delight. Being a huge fan of cheesecake, his response was “That’s real cheesecake!”

I wouldn’t necessarily call Dita Von Teese cheesecake even though some of the photos she has taken are very much so. But she has mastered the art of vintage pin-up glamour better than anyone else. So before I give you my recipe, I’m going to leave you with a video of Dita doing what she does. You’re welcome and I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Gil Elvgren

Alberto Vargas

Betty Grable

 

Marilyn Monroe

padma

Padma Lakshmi

padma2

Nigella Lawson

Ingredients for the base:

3/4 c ground almonds

10 Hobnobs

40 g meted unsalted butter

Method: 

Put the Hobnobs and almonds in a food processor and pulse until they are crumbly like meal. Add the butter and pulse the mixture again. Press the biscuit mixture into the bottom of a 9″ Springform tin. You can use your hand or the back of a spoon to do this. I like to use the bottom of a drinking drink. When it’s all smooth, place it in the refrigerator.

 

Ingredients for the cheesecake mixture:

500 g Mascarpone

100 g cream cheese

100 g caster sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp vanilla bean paste

zest of 1 lemon

4 eggs

Method:

Preheat the oven to Gas 4/180°C/350°F

Put the cheeses in a medium sized bowl. Use a hand mixer to beat them until they are smooth.

Add the sugar, eggs, lemon juice, zest, and vanilla bean paste.

Put the kettle to boil.

Remove the tin from the refrigerator. Twice cover the outside of the tin with strong foil.

Place the foil wrapped tin in a large roasting dish.

Pour the cheese mixture into the tin.

Pour boiling water around the outside of the tin. Don’t pour it more than halfway up the cake tin.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the center of the cake is set but not rigid.

 

Ingredients for the creme fraiche topping:

175 g creme fraiche

1 tbsp caster sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

 

Method:

Whisk the ingredients together until smooth.

Pour the topping over the cheesecake then put it back in the oven to bake for another 10 minutes.

Remove the roasting tin from the oven.

Carefully remove the Springform. Remove the foil from its outside then stand it on a rack to cool.

When it has cooled completely, put it in the refrigerator to chill.

Cardamom Layer Cake with Marmalade Mascarpone

Recently, I failed spectacularly at something. Not only did I fail, but I did so in front of one of my heroes. Want to hear about it? Of course you do. Schadenfreude is real. So get comfy, keep reading, and consider this a gift.

A few weeks ago I saw that my favourite bakery in London was in need of a new baker. Despite never having worked in a professional kitchen or having attended a cooking school, I decided to say what the fuck and give it my best effort. I composed the most thoughtful and succinct email I could and sent it off, never expecting to get a response.

Imagine my excitement when I received a reply inviting me to an interview and instructing me to bring along two different baked goods to taste. I thumbed through all my cookbooks for inspiration. I reread my recipes here. After days of waffling, I decided on a lemon chess pie or what I like to call a Blue Horizon pie and something completely new.

I wanted to bring in a layer cake as this bakery specializes in them, and while I do the classics rather well, I wanted this one to have a touch of the exotic. Cardamom sponge with marmalade mascarpone is what I made. The sponge was Melissa Clark’s from her Cardamom Cream Cake recipe featured in The New York Times (with omission of the rosewater), but the syrup to soak the sponge and the marmalade mascarpone were all mine.

The morning of my interview, Storm Doris was blowing up a gale. And there was a tube strike. I left the flat at 7:15 which I thought left me ample time to get to the bakery by 9 a.m. Keep in mind that my arms were full of an enormous cake box and a pie. Both of which I managed to carry north of the river and through three train stations without a hitch.

When I exited the last train station, I figured I’d get a cab the rest of the way. Nope. There wasn’t a single one. So I thought I’d do what any person living in a city in 2017 would do. I ordered a pickup from Uber. Due to the weather and the strike, traffic was terrible. The car took forever. My heart felt relieved when I got a notification saying it was arriving. Then, I got a notification saying it was cancelled.

The driver cancelled! I didn’t even know that was allowed. And I’d been standing in the rain. Holding a cake box and a pie. I didn’t know what to do so I just headed in the general direction I needed to go. That’s when I saw a cab. Who drove right past me.

I checked the time. It was 9 o’clock. I called the bakery to say I was so sorry but I’d be at least another 20 minutes. I kept walking. Finally a good Samaritan asked if I needed help. I explained everything to her and she said she was taking a bus to that area and I should follow her.

As I boarded the bus, a manchild with an enormous backpack pushed past me and I dropped my cake, I dropped my pie, and I almost started to cry. After picking them up, I reached into my pocket for my ATM card which is how I swipe in and out of public transportation these days. It wasn’t there.

I begged the driver to let me off. I took a minute and screamed like a madwoman in the street then I started to retrace my steps. Mercifully I found my card on the pavement three blocks back in the same spot where I had pulled out my mobile. As I stood there in my soggy coat, with my frizzy hair, and my busted baked goods, I thought about calling it a day and going home.

For whatever fool-headed reason, I decided to keep going. Call it my Elizabeth Warren moment because. . .

Nevertheless, she persisted.

When I made it to the bakery and they asked who I was I said I was the hot mess who was embarrassingly late to meet with the owner. Believe it or not, she ate my broken cake and my pie. She even had her staff sample them too and I got called in for a trial day. I didn’t get the job and if I’m honest, I never expected I would. Actually, I never expected an interview. But I am very proud of this particular failure. Without it, I wouldn’t have this story to share nor this recipe. I hope you enjoy them both.

Broken cake is the best cake.

Sponge ingredients:

170 g softened butter

330 g 00 flour

4 large egg whites

240 ml whole milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

300 g caster or granulated sugar

20 grams baking powder

the contents of 12 cardamom pods ground to a powder with a mortar & pestle

1/4 tsp salt

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350°F/177°C/Gas 4.

Grease, flour, and line two 9″ cake tins.

In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the egg whites, milk, and vanilla.

In another bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cardamom and salt with an electric mixer on a low speed. Only about 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and 1/3 of the milk-egg mixture. Mix on low until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium and beat until everything is smooth.

Add the remaining milk-egg mixture in three batches.

Pour into the prepared tins and bake for 25-35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Allow the cakes to cool in the tins on a rack for 20 minutes before unmolding them.

While the cakes finish cooling, make the syrup.

 

Syrup ingredients:

The juice of 2 oranges

the contents of 4 cardamom pods

3 tbsp caster or granulated sugar

1 tsp water

 

Method: 

Bring all ingredients to a boil and simmer until reduced by half. Let the syrup cool completely before using it.

 

Marmalade mascarpone frosting ingredients:

500 g mascarpone

85 g cream cheese

85 g marmalade (I use my own homemade which is not as sweet as most commercial brands. Take this into account when making your frosting. If your marmalade is sweet, you will not need as much sugar.)

the zest of 1 orange

2 tbsp icing/powdered sugar

 

Method: 

Use an electric mixer to combine the ingredients together until creamy. Do not overmix. Taste it. If you want it sweeter, add more sugar but only a small spoonful at a time. If you want it a little sharper, add more zest and marmalade.

 

To assemble the cake:

While your cake layers are still on the rack, brush them with some syrup. Be sure to get their sides as well as their tops. Beware you don’t saturate the cakes. You only want to add some moisture, not make them soggy. Leave them for a minute.

Select a cake plate or a stand that you want to use.

Put wide strips of wax paper around the plate.

Place your first cake layer on top of the paper. This will make cleaning up much easier.

Spread some of the marmalade mascarpone onto this layer. I like it about half an inch thick.

Put the second cake layer on top. Repeat with the marmalade mascarpone.

I coiled a piece of orange shred from my marmalade and placed it in the center of my cake. You don’t have to, but I think it looks nice.

Remove the strips of paper and you’re ready.

 

 

 

Sausage Rolls

Status

There are two things that almost always make me feel better–Neil Young and sausage rolls. Before I moved to the U.K., I rarely ate pork. I grew up in Los Angeles where turkey bacon and chicken sausage were the norm. It’s not that I never ate pork, I just rarely did. For me, it was something to be enjoyed but once a year, usually covered in a spicy vinegary Carolina barbecue sauce on the fourth of July.

My first year in London, I went pork crazy. A fact I attribute to our flat’s proximity to The Ginger Pig. I wanted bacon every weekend and pork chops most nights. Fish? Sure. Just cook it with some chorizo. Then I discovered sausage rolls. Which can be horrible, but when done right are divine.

For a long time I stayed away as my only reference was the pre-packaged kind I saw in the refrigerator aisles of supermarkets. The pastry looked sad. The meat inside seemed a better fit for house pet consumption than human.

Eventually, it was a sausage roll from a local cafe that changed my mind.

Sausage rolls are amazing because they are made with humble ingredients but yield a taste that is all luxury. They are the ultimate bar snack or perfect picnic food. Or in our house, my daughter’s favourite for weekend tea.

Below is my recipe. It doesn’t call for homemade puff pastry because at 35, I cannot be bothered. Father Time is robbing me blind and I have got to get on with other things. But if you have it on hand or like to make it, please do.

Ingredients:

1 sheet of puff pastry

700 grams of sausage (I use my favourite sausages instead of plain minced pork because I like the way they’re seasoned)

6 rashers of pancetta or bacon

1 small tart apple (I use a cox)

1 small bulb of fennel and its fronds, chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon Tio Pepe sherry or dry white wine

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds, ground

1 piece of toast put through a food processor and turned into breadcrumbs

2 eggs

salt/pepper

fennel pollen (optional)

nigella/sesame seeds

 

Method: 

Pre-heat the oven to Gas 4/350°F/177°C.

Fry the pancetta in a skillet. When it’s done, remove the rashers but keep the grease. Roughly chop the pancetta and place it in a large bowl.

Cook the onion and fennel in the bacon dripping. Add the sherry and cook a minute more with the thyme.

Put the onions, fennel, thyme, and fennel fronds in the bowl with the pancetta. Add the bread crumbs. Squeeze the meat out of the sausage casings and add this as well, along with 1 egg, the apple, some seasoning, and a pinch of fennel pollen if you have it. Mix well with your hands.

filling

Unroll the puff pastry. Fill the center of it with the sausage mixture. Roll it up.

Lightly beat the 2nd egg and brush it on top of the pastry. Don’t use all of it. Just enough to lightly coat it. Sprinkle with seeds and cut into pieces. Usually 8 -10.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until golden brown.

While you can eat these hot, I think they taste better at room temperature and dipped in brown sauce or your favourite relish.

sausage-rolls-2 20170204_152846 img_20170204_150526_225

sausage-rolls

Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup with Cream

I once knew a Sicilian woman who used to say “garlic should kiss you on the lips, not slap you in the face.” I quite agree. Garlic is one of my favorite alliums but it is entirely possible to have too much of a good thing. This is why I like to roast it.

Roasting garlic gives it a sweetness. You can use a whole bulb and it won’t overwhelm you.

Below is my recipe for roasted garlic tomato soup with cream. You can omit the cream if you like but as I live in Northern Europe and it’s winter, I’ll be keeping it in probably until summer–all three days of it. One of the reasons I love this recipe, other than the taste, is that it’s extremely easy to make. The ingredients are few and most of them are kitchen staples you’ll have on hand.

Roasted garlic tomato soup with cream

Roasted garlic tomato soup with cream

Ingredients:

1 head of garlic

olive oil

2 x 400 g cans of chopped tomatoes

1/2 c to 3/4 c chicken stock

1/4 c dry sherry

salt/pepper/red pepper flakes

2 tbsp to 1/3 c. double cream

basil

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6/

Trim the top off the garlic bulb. Drizzle it with olive oil. Wrap it in tin foil and place it on a baking tray. Roast it for about 45 minutes or until the cloves are soft.

While the garlic is roasting, heat some olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes then the tomatoes. When they start to thicken, stir in the sherry. After five minutes, add the chicken stock. Simmer for half an hour.

Once the garlic cloves are cool enough to handle, squeeze them into the soup. Season to taste and add the cream a spoonful at a time.

Use a hand blender to blend until smooth. Top with basil chiffonade and serve.

 

Shimmy Shimmy Ya, Ooh Baby I Like It Raw. . . A Chopped Winter Salad Recipe

 

So this isn’t exactly my mother-in-law’s winter salad recipe and not just because I can’t make it without singing a bit of Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Mine is a little flashier. The flavours are brighter. The textures more varied. Nothing is grated. It also includes oven roasted nuts and goats cheese.

Each bite offers a lot of crunch and color as well as a good dose of sweet, sour, and savory. It’s a salad that’s as balanced as it is beautiful.

Ingredients:

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1/3 small red cabbage, chopped

1 tart apple, chopped (I prefer Cox. Say it again and laugh. It’s alright.)

1 bulb of fennel, chopped (fronds too)

the arils from half a pomegranate

1/2 cup pecans

1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 tablespoons goats cheese (I like Moody’s Rosary Ash from Waitrose)

1 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

meyer lemon vinaigrette = 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard emulsified with 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil + 1 teaspoon honey + 1 tablespoon meyer lemon juice

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to Gas 6/4000°F/200°C.

While you wait for it to warm, chop your vegetables and fruit. Squeeze some lemon on the chopped apple to prevent it from discoloring. Set the fruit and vegetables aside in a large bowl. Add the pomegranate, cheese, and poppy seeds.

When the oven is ready, place the pecans and pumpkin seeds on a baking tray. Pour the maple syrup on them and toss lightly to coat evenly. Salt and pepper them. Toast them for about five minutes.

Make the vinaigrette while the nuts roast. When the nuts are ready, remove them from the oven and add them to the other ingredients. Toss and serve.

 

Winter salad

Winter salad

 

 

 

Frank Day (a chicken parmigiana recipe)

When I was in college my friends and I used to celebrate Frank Sinatra’s birthday, the 12th of December, with a feast we called Frank Day.  Frank Day was the perfect excuse to listen to lots of Ol’ Blue Eyes whilst wearing pin stripes and carnations and eating copious amounts of Italian-American classics like ragu bolognese, spaghetti and meatballs, or chicken parmigiana.  This year, I’ve decided to bring it back. Below is my recipe for chicken parm and I hope you like it.  I love it.

 

Ingredients for the sauce:

800 g finely chopped tomatoes

1 heaped tbsp tomato paste

half an anchovy

2 cloves of garlic

a pinch of red pepper flakes

bay leaf

1/4 c dry white wine

salt/pepper

caster sugar

olive oil

 

Method for the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a saucepan.  Put the garlic cloves and anchovy through a garlic press and briefly saute for no more than a minute.  Add the tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Stir in the finely chopped tomatoes and wine.  Bring to a simmer.  Allow this to gently bubble for at least an hour.  Season to taste.  If it’s a bit bitter or sharp to you, add a pinch of sugar.

 

Ingredients for the chicken parmigiana:

the tomato sauce from above

4 chicken breasts

bread crumbs from 3 pieces of toast

1 egg, beaten

1 c all purpose flour

2 tbsp grated parmesan

2 large balls of buffalo mozzarella, broken into pieces

1/2 tsp dried oregano

fresh basil and flat leaf parsley

olive oil

salt/pepper

 

Method: 

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap.  Use a rolling pin to pound them until they are thin.

Combine the bread crumbs on a plate with the parmesan and oregano.  Season with salt and pepper.

On another plate, have the beaten egg.

On a third plate, the flour.

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet. Take the chicken breasts and dip both sides in the flour.  Then dip it in the egg.  Then coat both sides with the bread crumb mixture.  Fry the chicken over medium-high heat until crispy and golden on both sides.

Pour the tomato sauce in a large baking dish.  Place the chicken on top of it.  Scatter the mozzarella on top of the pieces and add a bit more grated parmesan.

Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and brown in places.  Serve with basil and parsley, a green salad, and your favourite pasta.

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