Pavlova

Pavlova

I’ve always wanted to make this delicate dessert, and I took the plunge last weekend. Both Australians and New Zealanders claim to have invented the dish to celebrate the visit of a famed Russian ballerina in the 1920s. The key element is meringue, which can be finicky to make. If the egg whites are not whipped and then baked correctly the merengue will collapse. I had some ice cream on hand in case the worst happened. It did not. I kept a close vigil while the meringue cooked for over four hours. Then I carefully stuffed the mascarpone into an opening I’d created in the underside of the fragile confection. The individual portions all survived this operation with flying colors. I made a fruit syrup and covered the meringue with blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. The result is a light, crispy dessert that literally melts in your mouth. The revues at my dinner party were unanimous. Not a trace of the Pavlovas remained. And I’ve added a new dish to my repertoire.

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A Night to Remember

ChrisEllen

Visited good friends and former restauranteurs last weekend for an epic feast. These days our friends cater events to spend more time pursuing their other love—traveling. But before they leave on their next trip, they invited several couples over for a dinner I will never forget. As you can see from the photo, there were ten dishes set out when we came to the table, and this after an abundance of superb cocktail noshes. The emphasis was on fish, with mussels, shrimp, octopus, haddock and flounder on the menu. And several mouth watering salads. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many different taste sensations in a single meal. From strong, edgy spices to fragrant understatement, this meal had it all. Plus, of course, lovely wine, and most important, the joy of good fellowship with fascinating people. The best entertainment of all.

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Eating Well in London

waffle

Bresaola

porkbelly

Turkish

gnudi overhead

Souffle

My son’s lovely wife Nicole has a true passion for food, and our trips to visit them in London inevitably become culinary extravaganzas. She works for a group of restaurants, and it’s a case of “you mean they pay me to do this?” Well, not really, she works very hard and the restaurant business is challenging, but being around all that amazing food and the people who make it happen is a big plus for Nicole. We went to two locations of Vinoteca, her company, and they made us feel like genuine VIPS. Above you’ll find her photos of this moveable feast—apologies to Hemingway.

From the top pic down…

Went to Trompette, a fine French restaurant, for Christmas eve lunch, a traditional English event. Here are the restaurant’s signature trompette mushrooms, so called because of their horn-like shape, atop a waffle-like wafer.

Home cured bresaola with mixed salad leaves and parmesan.

Crisp suckling pig shoulder with greens and polenta.

Hole in the wall Turkish restaurant close to our kids place provided one of the best meals of our trip, including char-grilled minced lamb combined with light seasoning, wrapped in thin home made bread topped with butter, tomato sauce and yoghurt.

The best pub food bears no resemblance to the cold sausages of my youth. Nicole’s restaurant friends told her about a pub in Brighton, and they were not wrong. This is hand rolled gnocchi (called Gnudi because it’s stuffed with ricotta, not potato.)

A majestically risen soufflé is topped with apple crumble and ice cream. The heat of the soufflé melts the ice cream and the result is unlike any apple crumble I’ve ever tasted. Heavenly!

In addition to our stomachs, we fed our heads as well, seeing two plays. Belleville is an American play which was receiving its London premiere. The Ferryman is a new Irish play set in the 1970s. I thought both plays were going to be comedies, nothing particularly challenging. We were on holiday after all. Well, Belleville ended with a suicide, The Ferryman with multiple murders on stage. Good thing we ate before the plays. 

 

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Orangettes

Orangettes

My brother in law—a notorious dessert lover—is arriving with my sister this week from Paris. I chose one of his favorite treats to welcome him: orangettes. These are small pieces of orange rind that are blanched multiple times over several days to take the acidity and toughness out, cooked in a water/sugar mixture, let rest until they become transparent and finally dipped in melted chocolate. The combination of candied orange and dark chocolate is hard to resist.

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Ultimate Foodie

ROAST

hakecrispycabbagepotatoes

VEALRIBEYE

RUMPSTEAK

Ducklegcasoulet

VENISON

GREEK SALAD

Nicole

My daughter in law, Nicole, has found her dream job in London, working in marketing for a restaurant company. I say dream job because she is slightly obsessed by food. Lately this obsession has morphed into a tangential, though no less avid, enthusiasm for photographing food. I’ve attached several samples of her recent work, and I think her passion is apparent in every image. They are truly mouth watering. When we were in London last summer she was our expert guide in the search for hidden gastronomic gems. Since I have been known to fixate on food myself, I’m in total sympathy. When I ask how she manages to keep trim despite her food fetish, she says it’s the miles of walking she does daily, to the various restaurants her company owns, and to her and my son’s home on the western edge of London in Chiswick. As an aside, I’ve found that the most fervent  residents of a city are often those not born there. There are few more committed Londoners than my son and daughter in law. For them Samuel Johnson’s quip “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” is all too true. While my first choice is Paris, I can understand the sentiment.

For more of Nicole’s photography, go to https://getinmybelly.london/. On instagram:   https://www.instagram.com/getinmybellylondon/. Many of her photos appear on her company’s website vinoteca.co.uk. When you’re next in London I heartily recommend a visit to one of their five locations.

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A Peek Behind the Curtain

Factory3

Last weekend was a kitchen marathon. I produced a mountain of cookies for assorted special occasions, not least my son’s birthday. A special package is now winging it’s way to England with comfort cookies that cure all ills. You can see the tools of the baking trade in the photo—aluminum sheets, mixers, measurers, and ingredients—eggs, flour, sugar, all distributed around the counters and tables in my handily sized kitchen. I also cooked a few roast chickens and assorted vegetables for a lunch on Sunday with old friends. For me, cooking like this is therapeutic. I focus on sights and smells, tastes and textures, working by instinct to create something elegantly delicious. Not too dissimilar to my day job in the interior design studio, though the result is a touch more ephemeral. Here’s what my kitchen looks like in a less frenzied state.

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Eat the Moon

mooncake

As soon as I saw this photo—on griottes, a French photographer/chef’s website—I knew I had to attempt to replicate this sinful-looking confection. The cake features a meringue bottom, a layer of chestnut mouse, mascarpone cream, and a crust of meringue mixed with black sesame, for that moon-like look. This is one trip to the moon I’m looking forward to.

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Variations on a Cheesecake Theme

Cheesecake1

 

Cheesecake2

After work last Friday I spent a few salubrious hours producing two cheesecakes, one as a gift for a good friend and the other for a family gathering. Here’s the recipe:

I start with 8-10 butter cookies, use a food processor to grind them into a powder, then add a couple of spoons of melted butter to create the base of the cake. Next I put 4 packages of cream cheese in a blender (I refuse to use non-fat cream cheese!) plus one cup of sugar. You can use white or brown sugar; the brown sugar makes the cake darker. Then add 4 eggs, one at a time. You want this to blend really well, at least 2 minutes.

Press the base into a cheesecake dish, then pour the cream cheese mixture on top. I melt 60% dark chocolate to create the swirl pattern on top with a knife. Bake in a 350-degree oven for one hour. Turn off the oven and leave it for another hour, to prevent cracking. Remove and refrigerate for at least a few hours. Serve chilled, for taste and consistency.

It’s too boring to make two cakes exactly the same, so for the second I melted 5 ounces of apricot jam in the microwave, then added 1.5-2 cups of blueberries to the jam, tossing delicately and spreading on the top and sides of the cake.

I dropped off the first cake at 9am to my friends in South Orange. They are Michelin star quality hosts, so the addition of another dessert on their menu did not go amiss. A few hours later we drove up to Putnam County to put the other cake on a dessert table at the family BBQ.

My husband cannot understand how I could possibly come home after a dinner out on Friday night and spent a few hours baking. For me, it was far more relaxing than a couple of hours staring at the tube. Probably better for me, too, so long as I don’t consume the product.

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Bread and Chocolate From Griottes

griottes.fr_chocotartine2

On the theory that there is no inappropriate use of chocolate, Griottes, my favorite French food website, has posted a recipe for bread and chocolate. As usual, they’ve accompanied the recipe with gorgeous photos. When I look at their photos, I can almost taste this irresistible combination. But, really, what’s not to like: A crisp baguette with different varieties, textures and colors of chocolate, plus a pinch of hazelnut. Count me in.

 

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High Tea at The Original Maids of Honor

high-tea-with-fire-smll

During my holiday trip to London I fulfilled a long held desire to take a genuine high tea. My English friends obliged with an invitation to one of the most genuine tea rooms: The Original Maids of Honor at the edge of London in Kew Gardens. I was told to skip lunch. I ended up skipping dinner as well. We arrived at 3:30 and managed to squeeze through a long line of waiting customers. You can book a table only if you’re ordering the complete high tea, so we felt like royalty going to the head of the queue. When the multi-level tray arrived I felt as if I’d entered an episode of Downton Abbey. A variety of delicate crustless sandwiches occupied the bottom tray, filled with smoked salmon, cucumber, egg salad and ham and cheese. The second tray featured a selection of scones as light as air and tubs of cream as thick as butter. Finally, we arrived at the sweet pastries on top, including the original Maids of Honor, a custardy confection which, legend has it, was served when Henry VIII met Ann Boleyn. He liked it so much he confiscated the recipe and kept it locked in an iron box at Richmond Palace. If he hadn’t fallen for the pastry, perhaps he wouldn’t have fallen for Ann and, who knows, the English Reformation might never have occurred.

We stumbled out of The Original Maids of Honor in a state of high tea induced intoxication. Unfortunately our chauffeur was not waiting demurely at the curb to take us to Downton. Oh well. At least the show has started up again, so we’ll get our vicarious fix of English nostalgia for the next few months on Masterpiece Theater.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to duplicate those lighter than air scones in my own kitchen. If I manage it I’ll be sure to post the recipe.

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