Gooseberry pie

It’s a good year for gooseberries. Our supply of them seems to be limited only by our tolerance for the spines. Gooseberry jam, gooseberry ice cream, and the tartest, most gorgeous pie…

4 cups fresh gooseberries, stemmed and tailed
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg

pastry for 1 pie crust

Speedy Streusel:
2/3 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
5 Tbsp melted butter

Roll out the dough and line a pie plate. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Mix all ingredients for the streusel, stirring until crumbly. Set aside.

Put gooseberries in a medium saucepan and add a few tablespoons of water. Heat over medium heat until the berries ‘pop’. Combine sugar, flour and nutmeg. Add these to the gooseberries and cook until thickened.

Pour gooseberries into the pie dough. Sprinkle streusel on top. Bake at 190ºC (375ºF) for 30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting.

This pie is very tart. Serve small slices, accompanied by whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

How (not) to Curb Your Sweet Tooth

Many years ago, I decided I was not going to buy sweets anymore. If I wanted cookies or cake or pie, I would have to make them myself. It was a way for me to curb my sweet tooth, at least a little.

Oh, how that has backfired.

It’s turned me into an obsessive baker.

I’m sure it’s done good things for my health—my baked goods are full of whole grains, and much lower in fat and sugar than commercial products—but it hasn’t curbed my sweet tooth.

Instead, my sweet tooth has simply developed a more sophisticated and discerning palate. As I’ve mastered a wide range of baked goods and refined my recipes and techniques, I’ve grown uninterested in the vapid sugar-bombs on the supermarket shelves. They leave me unsatisfied (where’s the flavour?) and slightly ill (excess fat and sugar to mask low-quality ingredients). Instead, I now crave my own cakes, cookies and confections. And because I’ve had a lot of practice, it’s easy for me to whip up a delicious desert whenever I have a hankering for it.

The result is, I probably eat just as many sweets as I ever have.

I just eat better ones, now.

I suppose it’s an improvement…

‘Tis the Season

And So It Begins…

We’ve been watching the berries for weeks, and the signs have been promising. The gooseberry bushes are dripping with fruit. The currants, too, promise a good harvest. In spite of a viral infection, even the strawberries are managing a crop. The raspberries are humming with bees, attracted to a plethora of flowers.

The first harvest was tiny—a handful of berries—but it marks the beginning of my favourite season on the property. The season of fresh fruit. It begins with strawberries and gooseberries, moves on to currants, cherries and raspberries, and ends with apricots and plums. Watermelons, apples, and peaches come late in the year, and they’re lovely, but nothing compares to the early summer fruits. Their season is short, but bountiful. It’s the season of jams, fruit pies, and fruit ice cream. The season of gooseberry fool, strawberry-smothered waffles, and apricot upside down cake. It is the season of plenty.

In festive red and green, ’tis the season, indeed.

Orange Cake

Having friends over is such a good excuse to bake. I normally wouldn’t experiment for guests, but I was pretty sure of the orange cake I tried out on Saturday, because I based it on my lemon cake recipe.

It’s a close race, but I think I may like the orange version even better than the lemon. I filled the cake with gooseberry jam and drizzled it with a simple orange icing, both of which nicely set off the cake itself.

Here’s the recipe. I suggest trying the lemon version also, to see which you prefer. You might need to make them both several times to decide.

1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
grated rind of 1 orange
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup barley flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup threaded coconut

In a medium bowl, mix flours, salt, and baking powder. In a large bowl, cream butter. Add sugar gradually and beat until fluffy. Add egg yolks and orange rind and continue to beat. Add dry ingredients alternately with orange juice and water. Beat thoroughly after each addition. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites and coconut. Pour into greased pans. Bake at 180ºC (350ºF) for 30 minutes.

Orange frosting: Sift 1 cup confectioners sugar into a small bowl. Stir in orange juice by the teaspoon until the icing reaches a thick, just pourable consistency (I used about 2 Tbsp total).

Cheesy Scones

I came home late earlier this week. No time to really cook. So I pulled out a couple of jars of summer soup and made savoury scones (biscuits to the Americans) to go with it.

But I didn’t want plain scones…

These are what I threw together, and they were divine.

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
60 g butter (about 4 Tbs)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped dill
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 small leeks (about 1/2 cup), finely chopped
3/4 cup milk

Combine flours, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut butter in until it’s the consistency of coarse meal. Mix in the herbs, cheese, and leek. Stir in the milk. On a well-floured board, knead the dough gently 4 or 5 times, then roll out to 1.5 cm (5/8 inch) thickness. Cut into squares or use a biscuit cutter.

Bake on an ungreased sheet 15 minutes at 200ºC (400ºF).

An Abundance of Artichokes

It’s a terrible thing, having excess gourmet vegetables. We are in our usual springtime artichoke excess. It’s not unusual for us to eat eight or nine artichokes five days out of seven.

A quick online search shows artichokes currently selling for anywhere from US$3 to 10 per pound (that’s NZ$9-31/kg). Given we easily eat a kilo per meal…Well, you get the idea. If we had to pay for them, we couldn’t afford them.

Of course, the problem remains–what do you do with that many artichokes? We preserve quite a few for use at other times of the year, but that still leaves plenty to enjoy during the season.

We eat a lot of artichokes in risotto, pasta, pizza, and gratins. The other day, I tried a new way of preparing them–crusted with parmesan and baked.

It’s simple, if a bit time-consuming (it would be trivial if you simply bought canned or frozen artichokes).

First, prepare the artichokes: snap off the outer leaves, peel the base and stem, trim off the top 1/3 of the leaves, remove the choke and any spines on the inner leaves, and cut the remaining heart into wedges. Drop wedges into a bowl of lemon juice and water as you go to avoid browning. Drain and steam for 3-5 minutes, until just tender, but not falling apart.

Then prepare the breading: mix in a medium bowl 1 cup bread crumbs, 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp paprika, 1/8 tsp cayenne, and black pepper to taste.

In another bowl, beat two eggs.

Dredge the artichoke wedges first in the egg, then in the breading to coat thoroughly. Arrange in one layer on an oiled baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes at 190°C (375°F) until brown.

I served them plain, but they would be lovely with a dipping sauce like aioli or skordalia. They made a delicious accompaniment to the tiropitas (spinach and feta triangles) and salad that rounded out the meal.

Restaurant Review: Crazy Corner Cuisine

“I e-mailed you a picture. I want a blog.”

I find it difficult to blog about a meal I haven’t cooked myself. I can’t give you a recipe or even a detailed ingredient list.

So I’ll have to blog as though I went to a restaurant for a fine meal…

I walked into Sedgemere’s finest vegetarian restaurant, Crazy Corner Cuisine, early–my reservation wasn’t until six–but I was ushered into the lounge and encouraged to relax with a book while I waited. As I reclined in a delightful window seat overlooking the restaurant’s herb gardens, the wonderful aroma of my meal wafted through the restaurant.

Crazy Corner isn’t your usual restaurant, where the meal is prepared behind closed doors. At Crazy Corner, the chef consults with the patrons, tweaking the meal to suit their tastes. In fact, on this visit to Crazy Corner, I was given a colander and allowed to enter the restaurant’s garden to pick my own salad.

Crazy Corner Cuisine grows nearly all the vegetables used in the restaurant, so you can be sure that whatever you eat, only the freshest ingredients are used.

On this visit, dinner included a beautiful polenta ‘lasagna’–layers of herb-filled polenta and thick lentil stew rich in mushrooms and spinach generously topped with cheese and baked to perfection. The portions were generous, and the side salad was the perfect foil to the hearty lasagna. The meal was accompanied by an excellent New Zealand Merlot.

I have to put in a good word for the kitchen staff, too. Though quite young, they cleared the table efficiently and I heard them industriously washing dishes as I left.

The whole experience was delightful and relaxing. I highly recommend a visit to Crazy Corner Cuisine the next time you’re in Sedgemere.