Good things – January 2014

I’m not sure how it happened, but someone has stolen my January. I can’t believe the first month of 2014 has disappeared so fast. This afternoon, as I rushed to the hardware store to buy window hinges (don’t ask), I tried to recall what we have done and drew a complete blank.

From looking at my diary I can work out there was one bout of tonsilitis, 10 flights up and down the country and one funeral. I have met approximately a dozen tradesmen, one of whom I have seen more of in the last two weeks than my husband. In fact, one of the other tradies thought he WAS my husband. I have spent more time in hardware stores than I have in food shops. I’ve only read two books (this one and this one) and become hooked on this show. I have worried about paint and carpet and too many other things to mention.

It is mid-summer and I have still not eaten an ice cream.

Miso Caramel Sauce

But I have become absolutely addicted to this insanely good and easy to make miso caramel sauce, which goes with absolutely everything.

I loved listening to this podcast with Colonel Chris Hadfield about eating in space. Surely he must be a contender for Person Of The Year?

I have made quite a few things from this book, aided by vegetables I’ve been growing in my own garden (please note high levels of SPF – Smug Person Factor – in that statement).

Yellow Zucchini With Blossoms Picture Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

And I was utterly transfixed by this video – though I can see the point in this argument against it (it’s still mesmerising though, don’t you think?

So maybe January wasn’t all bad after all. What have you been up to?

Treat me: Rhubarb Coconut Fool

They say there’s no fool like an old fool – but in this case, they’re wrong. Because this new too cool for school fool is something else. I’d planned to make a classic rhubarb fool with the first stalks I’d harvested from my garden, but didn’t feel like ordinary cream and Greek yoghurt seemed too tart. Then I remembered this coconut cream ice cream and a new plan was born…

Rhubarb Coconut Fool

Rhubarb Coconut Fool
The hype over coconut water and coconut oil drives me to distraction, but I am a bit of a sucker for coconut cream. Here it’s chilled and whipped into fluffy clouds before being folded though honey-sweetened rhubarb for a new take on the classic fool. If you’ve got a dairy-free diner coming for dinner, this is what you should make them for pudding. It’s also a sumptuous breakfast, whether you’re dairy-free or not. The rhubarb can be made well in advance and kept, covered, in the fridge
One tip: Make sure you buy coconut cream rather than coconut milk (in New Zealand, the Samoan brand Fia Fia is good) and remember to chill it thoroughly by leaving it in the fridge for at least five hours before you whip it. Longer doesn’t hurt.

400g rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into 2.5cm pieces
1 generous tablespoon of honey
2 tablespoons water
1 400ml can of coconut cream, well chilled
more honey, to taste
toasted nuts – hazelnuts, almonds – to sprinkle on top

Put the rhubarb, tablespoon of honey and water in a small saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft but still holds its shape. Scrape into a bowl and let cool before covering and putting in the fridge.
Open the coconut cream and scoop out the thick, almost solid material from the tin (if you’ve got good coconut cream, this will be nearly all of it). Put into a bowl, add a teaspoon or two of honey and beat until fluffy with electric beaters (or rotary beaters and a lot of muscle).
To serve, put a dollop of coconut cream and a scoop of rhubarb in each bowl. Either leave as is, in a yin and yang sort of style, or gently stir through to get a marbled effect. Some chopped, toasted nuts on the top are good for crunch. Serves four, with leftovers for breakfast.

Because the rhubarb came from my own garden – and was grown from a cutting donated from a garden three streets away – and you can’t get much more local than that, I think it’s a good fit for Shop Local – a blogging event run by the lovely Elizabeth of Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary. Even if you’re not into shopping
(or growing) local, you should check out her lovely blog header.

Have a great weekend, everyone! x

Treat me: Fruity snowballs

Last weekend, seized with a sudden desire to Do Something Christmassy, I made my Christmas mincemeat. I don’t know why I’d been putting it off, because it took all of about an hour to make (including a trip to buy some suitable alcohol to put in it).

I used this recipe, but augmented it with some finely chopped granny smith apple, a good amount of chopped almonds and a few slugs of amontillado sherry. I also dug out the remains of last year’s version and added that to the mix (with a bit more sherry for good measure).

The resulting mixture, heady with fruity, nutty (and somewhat boozy smells) has sat on the kitchen bench all week while I thought about what to do next with it.

Yesterday morning, after spreading some on my toast (surprisingly good, but the toast does need to be buttered), I had an epiphany while thinking about gluten-free things I could make for a coealic friend. These fruity, nutty (and ever so slightly boozy) balls are the result.

Fruity snowballs
The consistency of these will depend on what your fruit mincemeat is like. Be prepared to adjust quantities accordingly so the initial mixture is firm enough to roll into balls, but still sticky enough to pick up the coconut coating. You could also use finely chopped nuts instead of coconut.

150g fruit mincemeat
60g ground almonds
60g dessicated coconut, plus another 50g for rolling
finely grated zest of an orange
1 tsp Cointreau or 1/2 tsp orange blossom water (optional)

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until the mixture clumps. Take teaspoonfuls of the mixture and roll into balls, then roll in the extra dessicated coconut. Put in an airtight, covered container in the fridge. Makes about 15, depending on how much of the mixture you sample first.

Have a great weekend, everyone. x

Treat me: Boozy figs

If you were beamed to earth from another planet at the moment you’d think all humans did was eat, drink and be merry. While the period between mid-November and early January is fairly intense on that scale, it’s pretty much always the season of entertaining at our house. And I love it, I really do, except for perhaps that tense 15 minutes just before the entertainees arrive and I feel in a state of complete chaos.

This year, with two fairly major entertaining events scheduled chez nous in the next fortnight, I’ve decided to take control. Firstly, I’m going to delegate a lot more (sorry, invitees, I understand if you want to pull out now) and secondly, I’m going to have something up my sleeve that I prepared earlier.

These boozy figs are an excellent do-ahead option at this time of year, whether you’re holding a soiree or you’ve been invited to one by someone like me who wants you to cross town with dessert in your handbag. The recipe is of unknown provenance – it’s out of one of my mum’s notebooks – and it is very simple. I’ve a hunch it is just the thing for this month’s Tea Time Treats challenge, hosted by the ever-lovely Karen of Lavender and Lovage (with able support from Kate at What Kate Baked) – in which dried fruit is the theme.

Boozy figs
You can whip these mulled figs together in five minutes before you go to work, then when you come home they’ll be all plump and juicy. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, serve them warm over a slab of posh vanilla ice cream., if you’re in the southern, add strawberries. If you’re really, really organised, put them in a lidded jar in the fridge and they’ll be good for several weeks.

400g dried figs, cut in half (use scissors)
500ml fruity red wine
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 small orange, washed and halved
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 punnet of strawberries, washed and hulled (optional)

Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and let bubble away for five minutes. Take off the heat and let cool. Then, either transfer to a bowl or jar, cover and put in the fridge. Or, if you’re planning to eat them in a few hours, add the strawberries before putting in the fridge. Serves six.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tea Time Treats

Treat me: Tahini bars

In the circles I move in, or at least the online ones, tahini is having a little moment. First I saw this rendition of Ottolenghi’s Tahini Soup, then I saw this Turkish Tahini Cake. Then, as if to prove that tahini’s time had come in real life too, I had a lengthy discussion with two friends about whether or not the tahini available in the Middle East is different to the stuff we can buy here. (We didn’t reach any kind of conclusion. Your thoughts on this important matter are very welcome.)

Anyway, all this tahini talk reminded me of two things. One, it’s easy to make your own. Two, it’s even easier to make these gorgeous oaty bars.

Easy-Tahini-Chocolate-Bars

Tahini Bars
These started life as a sort of biscuity thing, but I wasn’t that happy with them. They’re much better this way – richy, chewy and not too sweet. Vary the extras – the chocolate, nuts and fruit – to suit your cupboards. I think it’s best to opt for very dark chocolate and tangy fruit, such as apricots and cranberries.

125ml (1/2 cup) tahini
80g (three generous tablespoons) golden syrup
80g (three generous tablespoons) honey
1 1/2 cups (150g) rolled oats
50-70g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
50g (about 1/3 of a cup) dried apricots, roughly chopped
50g (about 1/3 of a cup) dates, roughly chopped
50g (about 1/3 of a cup) almonds or sunflower seeds, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 180C. Line a brownie pan (measuring about 20 x 20cm) with baking paper.
Put the tahini and honey in a large bowl and stir well, then tip in the other ingredients. Mix well, then press into the prepared pan. It may not be enough to fill the pan, but don’t panic. Just press it out until it’s about 1cm thick.
Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. It will still be soft, but it will harden as it cools. Mark out the bars while it’s still warm. Store in an airtight container when cold. Makes about 18 bars.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Do share a link to your favourite tahini-related recipe in the comments below.