Pancakes, 1970s style

Given that it’s Shrove Tuesday tomorrow, I thought it was about time I showed you a pancake-related relic from my childhood….

No, that’s not me, though I did think the woman in the foreground was very glamorous. It’s a shot from the box of the Monier Crepe Maker, straight out of the 1970s.

I don’t recall my parents hosting huge crepe-related soirees, though I do remember Mum using it occasionally (and letting me use it, when I was deemed responsible enough. I definitely remember reading the accompanying recipe booklet and wishing we could have Crepes Suzette. I was less keen on some of the other suggestions, such as ‘moistening a little corned beef with milk, then wrapping it in a crepe’.
It might seem a ridiculous, mono-use tool, but after trying it out yesterday I can confirm that it really does work just as easily as the box claims it will. Not bad for something that must be at least 35 years old (according to this Sydney Morning Herald advertisement). I’ve never been particularly good at making light, lacy crepes, but switching on the Monier yesterday gave me new confidence. Maybe it was the recipe on the box.

Monier Crepes
All batters are better after a resting period, but this one was good to go after 10 minutes. I’ve yet to try it out in a normal pan, but I’m sure it would still be fine, you just won’t look as cool as I do when you make them.

3 eggs
1 cup flour
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup milk

Whisk the eggs and flour together, then slowly add the milk and melted butter until you have a smooth batter. Rest in the fridge for at least 10 minutes before using. Makes about a dozen crepes.

Is there a Monier Crepe Maker in your past? What’s the secret to your best pancakes?

Treat me: Lemon meringue ice cream

I don’t know what is wrong with me but all of a sudden I have become the world’s worst maker of meringues.
I’ve made two batches now that have gone from fluffy peaks of snow-white mixture to dull beige piles and I’ve lost my nerve completely.
It might be my oven, which doesn’t do low temperatures very well (surprising, given that the door has taken to falling open of its own accord). Anyway, the good thing about this is that I’ve worked out a really good way to use up my meringue disasters.

Lemon meringue ice cream
Don’t worry – you don’t need to go through the trauma of making a deliberately bad batch of meringues to make this ice cream. In fact, you don’t need to make them at all. But you do need meringues of some sort (I won’t judge you if you buy them) to fold through this tart, marmalade-streaked frozen wonder.

110g icing sugar
140ml (1/2 a cup plus 1 Tbsp) lemon juice
300ml cream
1/3 cup good lemon curd or marmalade
6-8 meringues, crumbled

Put the lemon juice and icing sugar in a large bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the cream and whisk until it forms soft peaks. Fold in the marmalade or lemon curd and crumbled meringues.
Pour into a lidded plastic container and freeze for at least four hours. Let soften for five minutes out of the fridge before serving.
If you want to be really fancy, pour the ice cream into a loaf tin lined with cling film. Top with a layer of marmalade or lemon curd, then a layer of meringues (obviously, you’ll need more of both if you’re doing it this way). Cover loosely with plastic and freeze as above. To serve, lift the whole contraption out of the loaf tin, whisk away the plastic wrap, and transfer to a serving platter.

Have a great weekend, everyone. If you have a fail-safe meringue recipe, especially one designed for temperamental ovens, I’d love to see it…

Grapefruit curd

You know how lemon curd is always so painstaking to make, with all that double-boiler anxiety and fretful stirring? It doesn’t have to be that way.
I had an epiphany in the weekend after coming across Stephanie Alexander’s revolutionary method. As so often happens with The Cook’s Companion, I was looking up something else when I stumbled across her lemon curd recipe. In it, she dismisses the received wisdom that it needs gentle heat and patience and instead gives some short-cut instructions.

I was a bit nervous – it’s a bit like setting out on a half-marathon to have some geezer pop out from behind a bush and say, ‘look love, here’s a short-cut that will get you there in half the time’ – but I can confidently report that it works a treat. I’ll possibly never remember what I was looking for to start with, but with this kind of knowledge now under my belt I’m not too bothered.

Easy Way To Make Grapefruit Curd

Grapefruit Curd
Did you know that if you Google ‘grapefruit’ most links are for the ‘Grapefruit Diet’. I find this profoundly depressing. Instead, I’m prescribing a course of the Grapefruit Curd Diet. Try some of this on your toast and see if you don’t feel better about life. Don’t worry about the butter and eggs, think of the vitamin C! The recipe is adapted from the one mentioned above in The Cook’s Companion, one of my most used, most loved books.

4 free-range egg yolks
2/3 cup caster sugar
100ml freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (one or two grapefruits should do it)
finely grated zest of two grapefruits
60g butter, diced

Put the egg yolks and sugar in a small pot and beat together until well blended. Add the grapefruit juice and zest, and the butter. Put the pot over medium-high heat and stir constantly until it comes to simmering point. As soon as the bubbles appear, remove from the heat. Keep stirring for another minute or so, then pour into sterilised jars. Makes about 450ml. Refrigerate when cold.

Now, I know you’re thinking, ‘but what will I do with four egg whites’? I have the perfect answer for you, but you’ll have to wait until Friday. Put them in a plastic lidded container and freeze them while you await further instructions.

Happy Waitangi Day to fellow New Zealanders everywhere. Hope you are celebrating with some appropriate feasting, whether it’s pipis and paua, asparagus rolls and whitebait fritters, roast lamb or a hangi. Cheers!

Random recipes #22 : Picnic Eggs

After the horror that was October’s Random Recipe, I was a bit wary of taking part this month. But considering we were having a quiet weekend at home (apart from shrieking at Downton Abbey), I figured I could cope with another disaster. Then I opened page 38 of ‘250 Ways To Serve Eggs’ – sample recipes: Egg And Liver Ring, Egg And Liver Salad, Pickled Eggs – and nearly passed out.

This book is one of my most recent acquisitions and, dodgy recipes aside, I am very proud of it. I bought it, along with its 23 companion volumes, for a dollar (thanks, Trade Me!) about two months ago. These books are edited by the Culinary Arts Institute and they are a fantastic snapshot of American food culture in the 1960s and 70s. There’s not even a whiff of social change in these pages – it’s all about ways to show “the alert homemaker” how she can “add interest and delight to the family menu”. Some of the recipes are hideous – Body Building Recipes For Children is especially revolting – but there are some surprisingly good things too. Like this recipe for Picnic Eggs, which I turned to after I recovered from reading p38.

Picnic Eggs
Did you know that if you Google ‘how to boil an egg’ nearly 11 million results come up? How did people learn these things before the internet, do you think? I wish the cooks at my high school had been able to access it – the hardboiled eggs they made were cooked for so long the yolks had turned to dusty grey powder and the whites nearly bounced.
There’s a great method here – from a Le Cordon Bleu chef, no less – but his egg still looks a little dry for my liking. I used a Ruth Pretty method when cooking these eggs – bring a pot of water to the boil, add salt, then add the eggs, one at a time. Lower the heat so the water isn’t boiling so ferociously, then cook for eight minutes exactly. Drain the eggs, bash the shells a bit in the pot and leave under cold running water until cool enough to handle so you can shell them. This gives you eggs with perfectly soft-but-not-runny yolks.

4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved lengthways
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
a pinch of cayenne pepper (Togarashi Shimchi would be nice here too)
1 tsp vinegar
1 Tbsp very soft butter

Gently remove the yolks from the eggs and put them, along with all the other ingredients, in a small bowl. Mash together until smooth, then spoon this mixture back into the whites. Either serve immediately, or, if going on a picnic, press the halves back together and wrap carefully in greaseproof paper (twist each end so it looks like a giant sweet). Coriander flowers look sweet (and taste good) as a decorative touch.

For more about Random Recipes, you need to see the nice man at Belleau Kitchen. For more fun with eggs, you can have a bit of fun playing spot the difference between a boiled egg and Heston Blumenthal.

How do you cook boiled eggs? And have you ever seen volume 25 of the Culinary Arts Institute series, 500 Ways With Cocktails? I am desperate to complete my set…

The crunchy, crusty omelet

At least once a week the Small Girl and I have an intimate dinner a deux. A ladies’ night in, if you will. It’s every bit as relaxing as you can imagine an occasion where one of the participants is tired and cross after a long day in the sandpit and the other has run home, jumped in the shower, waved their spouse out the door and set about cooking dinner, fast.

On these nights, we have a special treat for dinner: cobletts. No, don’t go to the Larousse to look it up – a coblett is what omelets are called at our place. The shocking revelation by my husband recently that he didn’t know how to make one (deprived childhood, I blame his parents) made me determined to get our daughter up to speed. I’m not making her hold her bare wrist over the gas flame to ensure the omelet is suitably runny, but she’s got the egg mixing (“just a little bit, Mummy”) down to a fine art.

But because no girl can live by ordinary cobletts alone, we have started getting fancy. Here’s the latest version, a crouton-stuffed coblett inspired by Ferran Adria’s crisp omelet.

 

 

The crunchy, crusty omelet

This is perfect if you live in a household that’s bread-rich and time-poor. Or you just happen to like bread. And eggs. I’m sure you all know how to make an omelet but I include some instructions here in case my husband wants to learn.

 

For one person:

 

Take a couple of slices of bread – the crust from the end of a loaf, or the heel of yesterday’s baguette – and cut or break into small pieces (about 1.5cm, if you’re being pedantic).

Drizzle these with olive oil and bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until crisp and golden. Set aside while you break two eggs into a small bowl and stir them with a fork. If you like cheesy omelets, now’s the time to grate some good cheese and set it aside too.

Heat a good knob of butter in a small frying pan. When it foams, pour in the egg mixture. Let it set for about 10 seconds, then take a small spatula and lift up the edge on one side and let the runny mixture underneath. Continue doing this until most of the liquid has set – except for on the top. Scatter the crunchy croutons and cheese on one half of the omelet, then fold the other half over the top so you have a semi-circle. Let sit in the pan over gentle heat for about 10 seconds, then slide onto a plate. When you cut into it, the omelet will be the perfect mixture of soft and crunchy textures.

 

What’s your favourite ‘instant’ dinner?