Tag Archives: lemon

lemon and lime melting moments

10 Dec

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At a birthday party for a little cousin, there was a pink number 4 cake. It was neat and simple, decorated with marshmallow flowers and hundreds and thousands. (Just cut the marshmallows into thin rounds and press into sprinkles or coloured sugar; arrange petals into a flower and place a smartie in the middle.) It brought back childhood memories of poring over this one birthday cake book, months before the day itself, to pick that year’s special cake. It had all the numbers, and the patterns needed to cut them out of a square or round without wasting cake, it had fairy castles and cowboy shootouts. It has a shark with long eyelashes cut out of liquorice. It had the ultimate in kitsch, a swimming pool cake decorated with blue jelly, tiny figurines splashing up and down. Any Australian child will recognise it: the Women’s Weekly birthday cake book. My brother and I grew up with it; my mother had brought it over to England. We looked and looked, still often chose the old favourite: a train cake with multiple sponge cake carriages, rainbow colours and an enormous amount of sweets.

I remembered that their biscuit book too was always on the recipe book stand, never filed away on the shelf. The Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits. The pages fell open at Anzac biscuits (crisp, golden rounds made with oats and coconut) and Weekenders (biscuits with raisins, covered in crushed cornflakes) which sound weird but are very moreish. Inspired to look through it again years later, I found an old extravagance: Melting Moments. They are very rich, buttery shortbreads, akin to Viennese Whirls, sandwiched with lemon cream. Though they look a little like macarons, they are simpler to make and better to eat. The shortbread crumbles, gives way beneath your teeth. The citrus just barely cuts the richness; they are pure indulgence. It is impossible not to chase the crumbs left on the plate with a forefinger, to enjoy every last scrap.

There are other recipes – Dan Lepard’s version with passion-fruit and whipped cream looks delicious – and at one point I was tempted by the basil plant on the balcony to modernise the biscuits, give them the macaron treatment, but I’m glad I tried the original version first. The Beautiful Biscuits book is clear and simple, sparse with instructions but heavy on pictures. Actually, I lie, I used lime juice instead of lemon because there was a half in the fridge. Still, they taste like my memories, pretty damn good.

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Lemon and lime melting moments

Just barely adapted from the Women’s Weekly Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits

Makes 25-30

250g unsalted butter, softened

55g icing sugar

225g plain flour

60g cornflour

1/4 tsp salt

Zest of 1 lemon + 1 lime

Filling:

60g butter, softened

75g icing sugar

1 tbs lime juice (about ½ lime)

Zest of 1 lemon or lime

Heat oven to 160C. Cream butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Sieve in the flour and cornflour, add salt and zests, and mix well. Dollop a teaspoonful at a time, about the size of a large cherry, onto baking trays lined with paper, well-spaced apart. The mixture should make 50-60 small biscuits. Dip a fork in flour and gently flatten the blobs. Bake for 10-12 minutes until just turning golden brown around the edges, still pale on top. (You may need to rotate the trays halfway so they bake evenly.) Let cool on a wire rack.

Make the filling: beat the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy, then gradually add the lime juice and zest. Match the biscuits into evenly-sized pairs. Turn half upside down and spoon a little filling onto each, then sandwich with the other half. Refrigerate for half an hour to firm up.

Serve with plenty of tea.

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lemon maple snow

22 Jan

lemon snow

After shuffling cases of cakes to the delivery van, careful not to spill their precious contents, we had a quick and furious snowball fight still in our aprons, running around and around the bare trees like hopeless cartoons. A faceful of snow, and then we were whistled back indoors so as not to shock the few customers that might have braved the chill for an early croissant on a Sunday morning. It was childish and exhilarating.

Later, on a train bound for equally snowy London I found myself cursing the weather – in the way of a precious two days at home. Keeping me company as we crawled through the tunnel was a book – a memoir with food – called ‘Risotto with Nettles.’ The stories of pre-war Milan, of tough Italian women rolling metre-wide stretches of homemade pasta and an angry army officer searching bags only to confiscate freshly made salami distracted me from the delay, left me dreaming.

One of the nicest images in Anna del Conte’s childhood is of running up to the attic overlooking the city and scooping snow into a large glass for an improvised lemon granita, simply mixed with lemon juice and sugar. Waking up to still-white England the next morning, I snuck outside in my pyjamas to make my own version. I used a whole lemon because I love the bitter twist and added a touch of maple syrup, in a nod to the Canadian maple syrup candy poured when boiling-hot onto the deep snow. Back inside, in the warmth, it was fresh and sharp and satisfying, a winter lemonade.

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Lemon maple snow

serves 1 cold girl – inspired by Anna del Conte

juice of 1 lemon

3-4 teaspoons maple syrup

1 large glass of snow

Squeeze half the lemon into a large glass and mix with 2 tsp maple syrup. Fill the glass with fresh clean snow, stir vigorously and top with more juice and syrup. Stir again, taste and adjust flavouring accordingly. Eat straightaway.

lemon surprise pudding

15 Jan

I like citrus fruit, obviously. Just recently I sat down to breakfast with grapefruit juice, grapefruit cake and slices of fresh grapefruit. Then there was the lemon curd, the orange curd, the lemon and almond creme fraiche dip. Lemon drizzle cake. Orange and almond cakelets. I like the bitter twist, the masochistic pleasure that demands just one. more. bite.

The waiter politely announced, just as we slid into our seats, that the two-lemon soufflé would have to be ordered straightaway, should we want it. I did. He did. (Already, a restaurant that puts dessert first makes a good impression on me.)

Past the miniature parsley butter cannelés, past the regal lobster salad dotted with mango puree, past the rack of lamb carefully balanced over garlic cabbage, a crisp flake of chickpea socca just so, I thought I was full. Then they bullied us into a cheese plate. Then, finally, the perfectly circular soufflés appeared.

One large ramekin, the pastel soufflé floating a good two centimetres above the edge, alongside a little dish of fromage blanc sorbet adorned with a translucent wisp of candied lemon. So simple, so beautiful. It seemed a shame to demolish it, but we did.  The “two lemons” turned out to be lemon and lime. The sorbet provided a neat foil to the soufflé, cold and clear. (I was informed that this  followed the medieval tradition of balancing ‘humours’ for a healthy body: hot with cold, humid with dry.)

It reminded me of Granny’s lemon pudding (and the infamous occasion wherein I had seven helpings and Granny none) with its same light citrus perfume, delicate cloud-like sponge.

We asked a lot of questions, wondering if the chef used a kind of soufflé hat to make it rise so neatly – but the secret turned out to be a restaurant oven, precise timing and unning a fingernail around the edge of the dish before baking. We left, intrigued, more than elegantly full.

While it may take some time to recreate the most beautiful dessert I have ever had the pleasure to destroy, I did find a recipe for Granny’s lemon pudding. A little like a simple soufflé, but it has a fluffy top and a liquid lemon sauce hidden underneath. But it suffers from no pressure to be pretty – the grandchildren don’t mind. Seven helpings is proof enough, no?

Lemon Surprise Pudding

(adapted from Simon Hopkinson, serves 4 people or 1 grandchild)

50g butter, soft

1 lemon, zest and juice

90g caster sugar

2 eggs, separated

15g plain flour

300ml milk

Heat oven to 180c. Butter and flour a large pudding dish or 4 small ramekins.

Beat the egg whites until stiff. In a separate bowl, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest to a fluffy consistency. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Add half the flour, half the milk, then repeat. Finally add the lemon juice and carefully fold in egg whites. Tip into dish or ramekins, and bake for 45 minutes until golden and springy. You should get a fluffy sponge with a rich lemon sauce underneath.

To serve: make an approximation of fromage blanc sorbet by mixing the juice of half a grapefruit with 250ml fromage blanc (or yoghurt if you prefer) and icing sugar to taste. Freeze until almost solid (but not a block of ice), then blend to a smooth sorbet texture. Serve immediately in little shot glasses.

chicken soup with lemon, ginger and nam pla

7 Oct

Sunday was market day. Two pineapples, lots of lemons, a bag of carrots that went mouldy the day after, and a chicken, its head lolling grotesquely. Squeamish girls, we asked for the head and feet to be chopped off.

Sunday night we had roast chicken and leek tart. I boasted that I had not been really sick, stay at home miserable sick, for more than a year.

Wednesday the leftover roast chicken went in a pot with a red onion and a dodgy carrot. The tiny apartment was invaded by chicken stock, the scent of smug preparation. We thought of risottos, soups, pasta.

Thursday morning I got sick. Nauseous, head-spinning sick. At a creepy crawly pace I cut salmon slices at work. Whipped eggs and almonds. For once I didn’t want to taste the latest experiment: turmeric, pistachio and rose-water tart. I just wanted to go back to bed. To have someone make me chicken soup.

No-one made me soup. I went home early (was accosted by a creepy pony-tailed man who insisted on complimenting my breasts) and dozed off alone on the sofa.

I made me soup. I chopped onion and courgette, grated ginger. Skimmed the fat off the stock. Pulled the remaining scraps of chicken from the grey carcass. Stirred, slowly. I squeezed in half a lemon and added a tiny splash of soy sauce and fish sauce, nam pla, for flavour without salt.

It was clear if not pretty, a lemon slice floating on the surface. Light and bright and soothing. Just right (and just easy enough) for sad invalids. When I feel better, I might add salt and pepper, bulghur wheat or rosemary-garlic croutons, cherry tomatoes. Cream. Endless possibilities.

Chicken soup for sad, sick people

For the stock:

1 leftover chicken carcass (roast or not), a little meat left on

1 red onion

1 carrot

For the soup:

a little olive oil

1 red onion

1 courgette

1 inch ginger

50ml white wine

leftover chicken pieces

chicken stock

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp nam pla (fish sauce)

juice of 1/2 lemon

lemon slice, to decorate

Make the chicken stock: (Preferably the night before.) In a huge pot, place your chicken bones, hopefully with a little meat left on, onion and carrot. Fill the pot (at least enough to cover the chicken). Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for at least one hour if not two. The kitchen should smell satisfactorially chickeny. Let cool and skim off some of the fat on the surface.

Make the soup: Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Finely dice the onion and courgette and grate the ginger. Sautee the onion until translucent, then add the courgette and ginger. Cook and stir every now and then until the courgette is nice and soft. Add the white wine and let most of it bubble off.

Now add enough stock to fill your saucepan. While it heats, pull any leftover chicken meat off the bones and shred it with your fingers. Add to pot. Squeeze in the lemon juice, add the soy sauce and nam pla. Let it warm to desired temperature, then serve with a slice of lemon.

If you are not sick – I hate you. But you may add fun things: croutons, parmesan, black pepper, creme fraiche, lardons.

 

 

 

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