Sunday, September 30, 2012

Where Have You Been All My Life?

As usual, I went about my cooking all backwards:  dessert first.  My conversion of ingredients from the English cookbook would have been easier, except my scale decided to die, so I had to rely on the internet.

By now, the process of cooking an ice cream base is second nature to me - to the point where I get weirded out by ice cream recipes that don't require it.  There were no surprises with this one - except for the fact that I needed to save four of the egg whites for the marshmallows, and that has nothing to do with the ice cream.  I had been imagining the Dime / Skor bar ice cream as being a flavorless / vanilla ice cream with pieces of candy in it.  What I discovered when I introduced the blitzed mixture was the fine particles became completely infused in the ice cream.

Verdict (ice cream):  Hello, where have you been all my life?  This was wonderful, and it really did taste just like a Skor bar - caramel, chocolate and goodness all over.  The bits did sink a bit in the freezer, creating a sediment, so I think I erred in that the base needed to be thoroughly chilled before being added to the ice cream maker ... but having strips of concentrated Skor in the finished product isn't necessarily a bad thing, either.

Next, I started on the marshmallows:  parchment paper into a 13 x 9 pan, then dusted with cornstarch, put the gelatin into a bowl of water, then added sugar, corn syrup and water into a pan with ... drumroll, please ... my new digital candy thermometer. 

This worked like an absolute dream.  It started to beep about 3 degrees below desired temperature and then reliably got me to fully cooked.  I was stunned when I added the mixture to the whipped egg whites at just how much sheer volume I ended up with:  it completely filled the mixer.  I ended up adding, I'd say, about two and a half teaspoons of chambord, which might have been a smidge too much.

The recipe says to sieve cornstarch on the top and then - after cutting - the sides, but I decided against it because I didn't like the slight texture change the cornstarch produced.  I decided to simply dust the bottom of my storage containers so the marshmallows would come back off and was careful to place them so they didn't touch.

Verdict (marshmallows):  You don't know what a marshmallow is supposed to taste like until you've made your own.  These are excellent - mine were a trifle dense, but very good.  The egg white method is much easier as it requires virtually no stirring.

I made the carrot salad next, as it was quick and intended to be served at room temperature.  I discovered the hard way that the problem with grating carrots is tiny orange flecks end up everywhere.  I do mean everywhere.

Verdict (carrot salad):  This is quite good, if a trifle acidic for my tastes.  It's simple, maybe too simple - feels like it needs something else.  I will probably try it again, but add another component.

Next, I prepped the patties and discovered that - gee, huzzah! - my spice grinder is pretty much permanently out of commission.  Word of advice for any of you who own one:  do not, under any circumstances, run almonds through it.  You will end up with paste, which will lodge itself inside the grinder, and at least with mine, there is no perceptible way to remove it.  I was relieved to find that I did not have the visceral headache reaction to the mint that I did the last time I cooked with it.

The mixture tends to ball up in the food processor, requiring the judicious use of spatula shifting.  Once out of the processor and into a bowl of its own, a quarter cup of chickpea flour turned out to be a surprising amount - just enough to bind it together.

Next, sauted the leek with the ginger, then added the bulk of the ingredients and fried it until the chicken cooked.  I remembered from last time that if you don't let the mixture cool sufficiently, it will cause problems in the blender; ended up using the food processor anyhow, but I was still cautious with it.

While the soup was coming to its final boil, I fried the pea-lafels.  They fried up what I thought was too quickly, but in hindsight, I may not have let them cook appropriately - the outsides were dark and crisp, but the insides were a trifle mushier than I wanted.  Next time, I'm going to try smaller balls, maybe go for 14 - 15 instead of the eleven I got.

Verdict (soup):  This is really a tasty and nuanced soup, with the almond prominent and the chicken noticeable even though it's only a flavoring.  I'll be happy to provide the recipe for anyone who might be interested.  My only objection is that it's so smooth that it's a bit boring to eat, as far as mouth-feel.

Verdict (pea-lafels):  Slightly underdone / too large or not, these are wonderful.  They taste a lot like their namesakes, but with the distinct sweetness of pea and just a hint of mint.  Love 'em.  Wish I had a double batch.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Menu Plan: Weekend of 9/29

This weekend, I'm delving into a trio of dishes, ice cream made with some of the best candy in the world, and - because I bought a digital candy thermometer and I've been bound and determined to do this for days, darnit - homemade marshmallows.  Flavored with liquor.  Alcohol.  Booze, yo.

The soup I've made before; all else is new.

Chicken & Almond Soup - 500 Indian Recipes (Shehzad Husain, Rafi Fernandez, Mridula Baljekar and Manisha Kanani)
The Rainbow Room's Carrot and Peanut Salad - Forever Summer (Nigella Lawson)
Fried Pea and Mint Patty Sandwiches:  Pea-lafels
Dime Bar Ice Cream - Forever Summer (Nigella Lawson)
Marshmallows - Lisa Cooper-Holmes

The marshmallow recipe was acquired from a cooking class I took recently.  I'm intending to flavor them with chambord.  According to the instructor, this recipe is easier than other variants, so I'm pretty confident.

I am also ridiculously excited about the fact that I need both egg yolks and egg whites, so that means I get to use the leavings from the ice cream, for a change.

Variants and substitutions:

According to the almighty Google, Dime / Daim bars are most closely approximated to Skor bars, which if you haven't encountered, are really wonderful things.  Single cream is not available in my store, so I've gone for regular cream.  Also could not acquire coriander seeds, so will be using ground.

By choice, I omitted the pitas and additional vegetables - I didn't want sandwiches, just patties to go as a side dish.

(As an aside:  I have been cooking since my last set of posts, just way too worn out / busy to write here.  Plus, it was beginning to feel like a chore ... and if I'm not doing it for fun, why am I doing it?  But I'm back, and we'll see how it goes.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Excuse me while I wax OCD ...

My habit for cooking has been, whenever I browse a book or see a recipe on a show that interests me, or obsessively trawl the internet for cupcakes or ice cream, or have a random encounter with a harp student with a slow cooker ... or am visited by telepathic cooking gnomes ...

No, scratch that.

I print off or photocopy the recipe and stick it in a file - Meal, Side / Snack, Bread or Dessert.  Once I actually make something and decide it's worth keeping, it goes into another file with the same labels.  All of this, stored in a basket, held up by a bookend, tucked away in my office.  But the folders were splitting, their sheer quantity made it hard to find specific recipes, and the papers were beginning to get bent out of shape like neglected toddlers ... it was time for a change.

Commence an extensive process of digging up spiral folders, purchasing an insane number of writeable dividers with tabs, and then even more dividers ... and then after shuffling, sorting and labeling, I ended up with eight notebooks with labeled segments.

I tried to avoid being too granular; I also focused on categories that catered to the way I look for what I want to make. Which is why "Cookies and Bars" are the same division, but "Italian" is divided into "Pasta" and "Other."  I was, on the other hand, extremely amused that I had enough Sides that fell into "Cheese."

I guess I'm just that cheesy.