Meringues

I’ve only recently started making my own meringues. It came about after a weekend at the Serpentine Lido. The swans were out and my five year old commented on how much more graceful they were than the ducks at our local pond. This, I told her, was why there weren’t any ballets about them.

And thus began a conversation about Anna Pavlova, the Russian prima ballerina who danced the role of The Dying Swan more than 4,000 times and had a dessert created in her honour. That was it for Helena. She insisted we had to make a pavlova for Sunday lunch.

Since then, we’ve been on a meringue making kick. Below is our recipe. It’s very easy and yields lovely marshmallowy meringues as light and fluffy as Anna Pavlova’s tutu.

 

Ingredients:

egg whites

caster sugar

cream of tartar

*Weigh you egg whites. Double this weight and that’s how much caster sugar to use. For each egg white, add 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar.

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to Gas 2/150°C/300°F.

Line a metal baking tray with wax paper.

Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites then beat them with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar a dessertspoonful at a time and continue beating until well incorporated and there is no sugary grit at the bottom of the mixture. When the mixture is smooth and glossy, it’s ready to be baked. Do be careful not to over beat the mixture or the meringues won’t rise properly.

Pipe or spoon the meringues on to the wax paper. If you’re making a pavlova, spread the mixture into a large circle.

Put them in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to Gas 1/140°C/275°F. Allow them to bake for an hour and a half. Rotate your tray halfway in between. After this time, turn the oven off but leave the meringues in there to cool.

Enjoy them on their own, with ice cream, or berries and whipped cream.

 

 

Strawberry Shortbread Sundaes

 

I love ice cream.  I love it so much that when I was child, I used to celebrate my birthdays with sundaes instead of cake.  Now that I’m an adult I celebrate with both.  Frankly, because I can.

For me, no sundae spells summer quite like strawberry.  Which is why I am going to share my strawberry shortbread sundae recipe with you.  The inspiration for it comes from one of my favorite milkshakes in Los Angeles–the strawberry shortcake from MILK on Beverly Boulevard.  It’s creamy and crunchy and bursting with strawberry sweetness.  Think of it as the summer solstice in a bowl.

Ingredients for the strawberry sauce:

400 g strawberries, halved

1/2 cup apple juice

the juice of half a lemon

caster sugar, anywhere from 2 tbsp to 1/4 cup depending on how sweet you like it

 

Method:  Place all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over a low flame.  Stir until all the sugar has dissolved then turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat.  Purée with a hand blender.  Pour into a small pitcher and allow to cool.  Once room temperature, chill the sauce in the refrigerator.

 

 

Ingredients for the shortbread:

2 oz caster sugar + a little extra for dusting

4 oz room temperature butter

6 oz plain flour

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

 

Method:  Preheat the oven to gas 5/190C/375F.   In a large bowl, mix the butter, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  Beat in the flour a bit at a time until incorporated.  The mixture will be extremely crumbly.  Use your hand to push the dough together in the bowl.  Shape it into a disk.  Cover it with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for half an hour.  After this time, remove it and roll it out on a lightly floured surface.  I actually prefer rolling mine out on wax paper.  Roll it so it’s about 1/2″ thick.  Cut out shapes with cookie cutters.  Place them on a baking tray.  Sprinkle them with a bit of sugar and bake for about 15 minutes.  Do not let the cookies brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

 

To assemble the sundaes: Crumble part of a shortbread biscuit in a bowl.  Add your ice cream.  I like a scoop of vanilla and a scoop of strawberry, sometimes a bit of strawberry sorbet.  Top with strawberry sauce and the rest of the shortbread crumbles.  Put on the Beatles and enjoy.

 

sundae

 

 

Food for a Summer Cold

Being sick in summer is the worst.  Especially if you live in England where blue skies and sunshine are rare.  When my Casablanca lilies are in bloom and the berries out back are ripe, I want to be outside.  Not tucked up in bed surrounded by Kleenex, wearing socks,  and smelling of menthol.

To me, summer means swings on which to swing.  Or if you’re Southern, swangs on which to swang.  A boat pond begging for paper schooners to sail across its surface.  Berries for crumble and cobbler that won’t pick themselves.  Bubbles to blow, daisy chains to make, and roses that I want in my cheeks instead of just in a bedside vase.

That’s why this weekend I said chest colds be damned and made a delicious lunch to heal all the family.

If you’re like me you might not think much of celery on its own.  Sure it’s great for adding depth to things like chicken stock or bolognese, but by itself I’m never tempted.  Unless it’s in a soup.  Which is exactly what I made.  My recipe is as simple as it is savory and equally delicious.

The other thing I made was a drink I call Hot Ginger & Dynamite.  It’s a potent hot lemonade with a fiery kick that’ll burn whatever ails you.  Ginger to heal, honey to soothe, and lots of lemon for vitamin C.  Cold medicine’s never tasted so good.  Except maybe at night when I like to add a splash of whisky to it.

Below are my recipes.  Though they have healing powers they’re also great to make when you just want to eat something good and clean.  I hope you enjoy them.

Celery Soup

Ingredients:

2 bunches of celery (with leaves–that’s where the flavor is), washed and chopped

1 onion, chopped

chicken or vegetable stock (or just water)

2 Tbsp olive oil + 1Tbsp butter

Marigold stock powder (optional)

Method:

Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.  Sauté the onions and celery until soft.

celeryonion Sautéing

Here is where I stir in a tablespoon or two of Marigold powder for a extra depth, but you certainly don’t have to.

Add the stock or water.  I put in enough to cover the celery by half an inch.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

Lastly, blend until smooth then serve.  If you haven’t used Marigold powder, do be sure to season with salt.

simmer bowl of soup

Hot Ginger & Dynamite

Ingredients:

the juice of 3 lemons

1-2square inches of freshly grated ginger

2 mug fulls of water

1/4 cup honey and then some to taste

Method:

Bring the lemon juice, ginger, and water to a boil.  Turn down and simmer for at least 10 minutes.  Stir in the 1/4 cup honey until dissolved.  If you want it sweeter, add more 1 tablespoon at a time to suit your taste.

ginger lemon tincture

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

I don’t eat rhubarb though I’m sure one day I will.  Kind of like “when I am an old woman, I shall wear purple.”  Or as Holly Golightly said about diamonds,”It’s tacky to wear diamonds before you’re 40; and even that’s risky … they only look good on the really old girls … wrinkles and bones, white hair and diamonds.  I can’t wait.”  My sentiments exactly.   With diamond tiaras and crowns of rhubarb in my stars, I look forward to being a woman of a certain age.

My Great-Grandma Sorensen grew rhubarb outside the back door just off the kitchen of her home in Harlan, Iowa.  She loved it, especially with strawberry.  Each summer, she would stock her pantry with strawberry rhubarb jam and cover her windowsill with strawberry rhubarb pies.  My Great-Grandpa had no objections.  For her, strawberry rhubarb was the most winning combination.  For him, he was the biggest winner.  This year, in memory of her, I’m going to pick up where she left off.

Though the distance between what used to be Great-Grandma Inez’s house in Harlan and my in-laws’ in Buckinghamshire is 4,219 miles, there is one thing about these places that’s exactly the same.  The summer rhubarb.  At the far end of my in-laws’ English garden, past the flowerbeds and my daughter, the Weekend Primrose Fairy, who conjures magic with camellias for wounded ladybugs. . . beyond the bramley apple tree laden with blossom that will (fingers crossed) bring us a bumper crop this September. . . after the greenhouse sheltering sweet peas and cherry tomatoes . . . next to the squash, sorrel, and kale. . . is a row of regal scarlet rhubarb.  This weekend I made several crumbles.  Below is the recipe.  I hope you enjoy it.  Actually, I hope my Great-Grandma would have enjoyed it.

Sorensens

primroses

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garden bramley apple tree

best blossom rhubarb in the garden rhubarb growing

Ingredients:

fruit filling:

2 stalks of rhubarb, chopped into 1 1/2 – 2 inch pieces

1 1/2 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, and halved

1 teaspoon crystallized ginger, chopped

3 tablespoons brown sugar

crumble topping:

1/3 cup Demerara sugar

1 cup oatmeal

1/4 cup flour

4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes

a pinch of salt

Method:

Preheat oven to Gas 5/375ºF/190ºC.

Place the rhubarb and strawberry pieces in a small ceramic baking dish.  Add the brown sugar and crystallized ginger.  Gently stir to mix.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the butter, flour, oatmeal, sugar, and salt.  Rub with your fingertips until it forms a coarse meal.

Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and bake for an hour or until the crumble is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling.

Serve with creme fraiche, Greek yogurt, ice cream or whatever you like.  And to eat it like my Great-Grandma did, be sure to have it with a game of Scrabble.

windowsill crumble

Sticky Summer Cobbler

The smell of wild British blackberries in August is my favorite.  I love how after picking them their sweet dark scent lingers on my fingers and in the palms of my blue-black stained hands.  No wonder the perfumers at Jo Malone have tried to capture this scent.  It’s the sweetest, most luscious fragrance of high summer.

Which is why I feel lucky to have a garden full of rampant bramble bushes.

garden

 

Today was the first day of the season that I took Helena out to pick blackberries.  It’s still early so most of them have yet to reach their peak, but I couldn’t wait.  I had to gather those that were ready.  Their perfume, especially in the sunshine, was too strong to be ignored.  All I could think of when gathering the fruit was Seamus Heaney’s poem, “Blackberry Picking.”

Greedy Guts Helena ate a third of our berries before we got back inside.  So I decided to use some of the raspberries her grandparents picked at Peterley Manor last weekend in my cobbler as well.

Last year, I posted a blackberry cobbler recipe that was assembled like a lasagne by layering pastry cut outs between layers of fruit.  The recipe below is not like that.  Instead it’s made with a batter and I love how soft and sticky it is.  My husband said it reminded him of an old English pudding.  I hope you like it.

Ingredients:

2 cups blackberries

1 cup raspberries

zest of half a lemon

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

approximately half a stick of butter

3/4 cups flour

1/4 cup cormnmeal

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup + 4 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup plain yogurt

Method:

Preheat the oven to Gas 4/350ºF/180ºC.

Rinse and drain your berries.

raspberries up close raspberries sieve of brambles

Put the butter in your baking dish.

butter

Melt the butter for a few minutes in the oven as you prepare the fruit mixture.

Tip your berries into a medium mixing bowl.  Add 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the zest of half a lemon, and 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla.  Gently mash the fruit but be careful not to turn it into pulp.  All you want to do is release some of the juices.  Once this is done, set the bowl aside.

mashed berries

 

In another bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal (this gives the cobbler its sticky chewiness), salt, baking powder, 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, milk, and yogurt.  Add the melted butter and stir until combined.

Pour the batter into your baking dish.  Then spoon your fruit mixture on top of it.

 

2014-08-04 18.07.14

Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve with your favorite creamy topping.  Mine for this is bourbon vanilla ice cream.

serving

Orange and Purple Summer Salad

Summer happened overnight.  Which is really rude when you consider how unready I am for summer clothes.  All I’m saying is perhaps a milder spring could have cajoled me into running around Greenwich Park a few more times before it became so hot you just want to walk around with as little on as possible without getting arrested for indecent exposure.  No matter.  All this heat and humidity will make me sweat my way to my target weight in no time.

That said, Sunday lunch needed adjusting.  A traditional roast just ceased to be weather appropriate.  So after I finished my first run of the season, my family and I headed to our local Farmers’ Market and bought the makings of a proper summer lunch.  A dressed crab (we named him Jeff on the walk home), avocados, a German seeded loaf, and the ingredients for my favorite salad–red cabbage, carrots, ginger, and sesame seeds.  While I fixed the salad, Helena enjoyed a homemade blueberry banana popsicle and played with a bucket of water on our balcony, as children with no pool do.  Henry read with his feet up in the shade.

playing in water popsicle smile

Below is my salad recipe.  It’s so simple and incredibly fresh.  I especially like the palate cleansing ginger.  Really nice with something like crab.  It’s also a really pretty salad, provided you like purple and orange.

 

Ingredients:

3 carrots

1/2 head of a small red cabbage

3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

3 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons honey

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

Method:

In a large bowl, grate the carrots and cabbage together.  Next, toast your sesame seeds over a low flame just until their oils release.  Add those to your vegetables.  Finally, mix the last 4 ingredients together in a small bowl.  Flavor to your taste.  Pour over the salad, toss, and serve.

salad lunch

laughing jeff the crab horned snakey

St. Clement’s Cake

I named this cake after the first church in the nursery rhyme as it’s bursting with oranges and lemons.  Or clementines and lemons to be exact.  It also contains blackberries because I’m desperate for summer.  I know it’s only February but I’ve met my quota on gray and gales and sideways rain.  I’m a California girl.  I long for sunshine.  And I will take it however I can.  These days that’s mostly on a plate.

As the above mentioned nursery song is a bit morbid, I’ll leave you with some Eileen Barton to bake with instead.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

the zest of a clementine as well as the zest of a lemon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup olive oil (NOT virgin or extra virgin,  Just plain old olive oil.)

the juice of the lemon

the juice of the clementine

1 1/4 cups self-raising flour

3/4 cup ground almonds

1 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

1 cup blackberries (I defrosted summer brambles I froze last summer)

oranges and lemons

Method:  Preheat oven to Gas4/350°F/180°C.  Grease your cake tin with butter and lightly dust it with flour.  Line the bottom with parchment.

Now get out 3 mixing bowls.

In the first bowl, combine the sugar, zests, and vanilla.

In the second bowl, combine the olive oil and the juices.

In the third bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Now add the eggs, one at a time, to the sugar mixture and beat on high until fluffy and pale yellow.

Then switch the speed to low and slowly pour in the olive oil mixture.  The mixture will look frothy.

Finally fold in the dry ingredients.

Pour 2/3 of the batter into the cake tin.

Scatter the berries evenly on top.

Pour the rest of the batter on top of that.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until golden brown.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and allow to cool.

Serve with Greek yogurt.

cooling cake

slice