Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tutti Frutti Jam


Finally, I can make all the jams and preserves I've been craving so much. Well, not all of them as I I don't have much space to store them for the bleak winter days ahead. When I grow up ( at this rate that will never happen!), I'll have a special pantry just for jams and preserves. A special little nook for concoctions like green tomato and fig jam, chili-vanilla red currant jam and the like.
You know, for the cave woman in me, just to evoke those primeval feelings of self sufficiency and survival.
Until then, I'll keep it simple. I made this tutti frutti jam from leftover fruit. Jam making is easy if you stick to some basic rules. It's just fruit+sugar (a concentration of over 60 % of sugar will create a hostile environment for those nasty micro-organisms),+ some lemon juice for some added pectin. I made this jam using equal amounts of cherries, strawberries, raspberries, red currants and apricots. Mixing low pectin fruits(cherries, strawberries) with high pectin ones( raspberries, red currants) will make for a not overly sweet or overcooked jam, as the jam will set faster, giving you a real fruity taste.
Make sure you use sterilized jars. You wouldn't want those previously mentioned micro-organisms taking up residence in your jam, now would you?

Tutti Frutti Jam

1400 g of cherries, red currants, strawberries, raspberries, and apricots (equal amounts)
850 g sugar
juice of one lemon

Wash and clean all fruits, halve and stone your cherries and apricots.
Add all fruits to a medium sized pan and cook over medium heat until they release some of their juices. Add sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium high and cook until setting point is reached. A simple method to check the setting point is to put a saucer in the freezer when you start making the jam.Then, when your jam has somewhat thickened drop a little jam on the cold saucer and let it cool for a minute or two. Push with your finger. If the jam crinkles, setting point has been reached. If it looks too runny, boil for a few more minutes then test again. Remember this will be a soft set jam, unlike the store bought hard or jelly like varieties.
When setting point has been reached, remove jam from heat and pour into hot sterilized jars.
Have a regal Sunday breakfast by serving this fruity goodness on some toasted apricot bread, slathered with ricotta cheese.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Spiced cauliflower with Egyptian dukkah


A few weeks ago I bought a beautiful head of organic cauliflower from the farmer's market. It was a hot summer day and I was going to make some creamy cauliflower spread with shallots, mayo and lots of lemon; And then have it slathered on fresh white bread with juicy ripe tomatoes, just the way my grandmother used to serve it when I was a child. I used to spend most of my summer vacation at my grandmother's. Back in the day when life wasn't crazy, when we could afford the luxury of loosing track of time without any repercussions and the 3 month long summer vacation seemed like an eternity. In a good way. Back then it was all about friends, games and the meals in between . Most mornings I woke up to the smell of savoury french toast and mint tea. After breakfast we went fishing at a nearby creek, then played hide-and-seek in the orchard. To get away from the scorching sun we took a nap. Every day, after lunch. No exceptions. Not just the children, but every living creature enjoyed some good old siesta time. It was dead quiet, except for one pesky fly that always found its way into my cool, shady room.
Very annoying at first, I must say. But after a while It became indispensable for my afternoon nap. Sort of like an odd lullaby.
By the time I woke up my afternoon snack was ready. It was usually this creamy cauliflower spread, with just picked juicy tomatoes, or vanilla custard with poached meringue, caramel pudding or ice cold lemony apple compote.
Those days are long gone but as vivid in my memory as ever. I try to make the above mentioned goodies as often as a can. Every summer. It was one of these hot, kinda quiet days a few weeks ago when I decided to buy some cauliflower. I wasn't able to prepare it the same day, and as luck would have it, the weather cooled down so drastically the next day, that it felt more like October than June. So I decided to forgo my previous plans and go for a more weather appropriate, hearty cauliflower dish instead.

Spiced Cauliflower with Egyptian Dukkah

Dukkah is a delicious mix of nuts, seeds and spices. My version has almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts with coriander, sesame and cumin seeds, but feel free to use any type of nuts you may have on hand.

For the Dukkah:

Preheat oven to 375F. Roast 1/4 cup each of blanched almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts until fragranat, about 8 minutes. Cool. In a skillet toast 1/4 cup each of coriander and cumin seeds. Cool. Add nuts and spices to a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Add mixture to a bowl. In same skillet toast 1/4 cup of sesame seeds until fragrant. Add sesame seeds along with some salt and pepper to mixture in bowl. Store in an airtight container.
Dukkah is also lovely sprinkled on top of salads, carrot soup, spicy tomato soup or used as coating on fish or chicken.

For the spiced cauliflower:

1 large head of cauliflower, cleaned, cut into small florets
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 red chili, seeded, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup of bread crumbs
Thick yogurt and lemon juice to serve

Cook cauliflower in salted boiling water just until crisp-tender.( It will have an unpleasant smell and texture if overcooked).
Drain well. In a large skillet heat the olive oil, add chili, lemon zest and bread crumbs. Cook until toasted and fragrant. Add cauliflower and stir to coat. Sprinkle a generous amount of Dukkah on top and serve warm with thick yogurt and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Oh, and special message for ZS. Long live all hockey players!!!