Somehow I fitted all of this cooking into three hours, which I think might be unprecedented.
Toasted Snow Peas
I got some snow peas as a substitution in my Abel & Cole box for a much more boring alternative (spring onions, I think, of which I already had plenty lurking at the bottom of the fridge). Snow Peas? Much googling later, I now know they can be treated the same as Mange Touts/Sugar Snap Peas, although I’m still none the wiser as to the difference. Mine were a kind of mottled purple,with a hint of green. Could that be it?
Anyway, Epicurious presented me with this Epicurious, which I proceeded to use as more of a general guideline. Can’t be bothered to weigh what I actually have? Check. Decide to use pumpkin seeds as well as flaked almonds? Check. Mincing shallots? What a faff, they can be finely chopped and like it!
The result is rather more almond-heavy than I’d intended, but none the worse for it.
Felicity Cloake’s “How to cook the Perfect…” series of columns in the Guardian is always interesting. She tries out lots of different versions of the same dish, with a view to creating a definitive recipe. I’d never heard of Guardian before, but her description sounded fantastic, so I thought I’d give it a whirl, immediately ignoring the bits of her method I couldn’t or wouldn’t do.
So my version involved a white rather than red onion, a small marrow and a medium aubergine rather than a courgette and a large aubergine, and I’ve got caper purée, rather than capers themselves. Otherwise I stuck rigidly to her instructions. Except I got over-excited when weighing my ingredients, so my green olives had sultanas and grated chocolate dumped on them before I had a chance to quarter them. Oops!
I’m glad I was firm with myself and stuck with deep-frying the aubergine and marrow, because it prevented the sliminess I’m sure would have resulted in shallow-frying. But it did rather prevent me from sticking with one of my Cooking Commandments: thou shalt not create washing up without good reason. What with the extra pan for the frying (although I did re-use the snow peas pan for the tomato base, so I wasn’t entirely profligate), the bowl for putting the newly rinsed veg, the plate for putting newly fried veg (with kitchen towel to de-oil said veg) and the bowl (with more kitchen towel) for trying to remove even more oil (it’s amazing there was any oil left in the pan by the time I’d finished), I was very grateful for the dishwasher by the end!
I took photos before and after the addition of toasted almonds, having learned my lesson from the snow peas photo – where you barely get to sea a snow pea for the mountain of almond! The caponata does glisten in a way that makes me think a lot of oil got in there anyway. Speaking of which, that was another diversion from the recipe; shallow-frying in my usual groundnut oil and deep-frying in sunflower oil, rather than the olive oil specified.
Apple & Blackberry Tart
At some point in the dim and distant past, I must have wanted to make fudge (a craving which quickly passed, not least because I just bought some), because I have been the proud owner of two tins of condensed milk (one labelled “light”, one which ought to be labelled “diabetic coma” but isn’t) for quite some time. In a fit of organisational mania, I looked at them a week ago and discovered they were rapidly reaching their date. While I’m deeply sceptical of dates on tins (although, full disclosure, I once nearly poisoned a friend by giving them an elderly Diet Coke, and I now respect the power of phosphoric acacid I thought I’d better do something with them before they start corroding my worktop or what have you.
I’ve sort of disposed of the full-fat tin, in a well-intentioned but ultimately misguided attempt to make small portions for adding to smoothies (short version: condensed milk won’t freeze, at least not solid). I refuse to make fudge; the fact that I haven’t thus far clearly means my subconscious really doesn’t want to and therefore something catastrophic will undoubtedly occur. So bring on the Google! The internet really wanted me to make fudge or banoffee pie, the latter I resisted because eating the entire thing and diabetic comas are a likely result without an imminent dinner party. Which there isn’t. But Apple & Blackberry Tart sounds suitably sort-of healthy (particularly with the “light” tin!) and shouldn’t risk dissolving my teeth, don’t you think?
I’ve been having difficulty recently with pastry, which relatives tell me is my own fault for buying ready-rolled rather than making from scratch. And they’re probably right. But I have fallen in love with the Sainsburys ready-rolled shortcrust pastry, which is just enough for not only one flan case, but also four little tartlets, which is just dinky. The only downside is that, when baking blind, the pastry keeps sticking to the grease proof paper (oxymoron, anyone?). I thought it might be the fault of the “light” version of the pastry not being greasy enough, so I went full-fat this time and gave the pastry a light coating of oil for completeness’ sake. The ?!#* still stuck. Given that my tartlets, which I – bow down before the efficiency queen! – line with paper which comes wrapped round the pastry, don’t stick at all (in fact, they positively sweat – sorry for the visual!), I’m forced to blame my elderly Waitrose grease proof paper. Can paper go off?
To counteract the all-encompassing sweetness, I bought a Bramley Apple and sliced it with the skin still on (although that was laziness, rather than any thought of taste, texture or vitamins). I rather under-fruited my flan, as the custard quantities completely intimidated me (just think of my smoothies for the next week, loaded up with a dollop of condensed milk and rapidly browning Bramley). Plus the cooking time was nonsense; it needed at least another fifteen minutes for the custard to be anywhere near set. And I still had enough custard for two tartlets. But it’s very pretty, n’est-ce pas?