Monday, April 5, 2010

Eccles cakes and other adventures

Here is a view of a usual lunch break around here, the only thing not in this shot is Hera the dog sleeping on her side, drooling on the floor. This soup recipe was from Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.. Green Tea Broth with Udon. I found it rather plain, not my best effort. I used cheap green tea in a bag, as opposed to loose, that probably had something to do with it.

The Bittman book rarely fails... tonight was a successful risotto primavera. I have tried many recipes but this one finally resulted in the creamy but not too sticky risotto I have had in good restaurants. I've always found vegetable risottos to be lacking flavor, but finally learned the secret. Butter! 6 Tbs of butter. Whoa. Makes sense though, given that scientists have confirmed what we already knew, that fat is a flavour.

Speaking of fat, I made Eccles cakes for dessert this Easter. They are a traditional British cake that taste a lot like a mincemeat tart, made with currants and citrus. They were a lot of fun to make, although I was nervous when I realized they were a quarter of the size of the ones I remember my mom getting at the bakery when I was young. However they were well received, everyone said they preferred a small dessert with more fruit than pastry. Also, there was no added sugar in the recipe, which surprised me. They baked up nicely though, and the currants provided more than enough sweetness.

I used frozen puff pastry left over from Christmas (which is where the fat comes in..). Not quite ready to try making it on my own. Although reading the ingredients on the side of the Pillsbury box is enough to scare me into it. Mmm, hydrogenated GMO soy oil.. Next time something calls for puff pastry, I'm going to try Delia's recipe, in which you freeze butter and grate it into the mix. It won't be as puffy but it won't be as cancer-y either. That's a fair trade.

I've learned that we will be making a trip to Paris, London, and Cambridge this summer! Very excited. I've started researching places to eat with help from David Lebovitz and Clotilde Dusoulier at Chocolate and Zuchinni. There are organic markets to see, vegan French peasant foods to eat, and some amazing gardens that I learned about in the Four-Season Harvest, like the Jardin des Plantes. In the nineteenth century, gardens in Paris provided a significant amount of the fresh produce to the citizenry. They extended the growing season by piling horse manure between the beds in greenhouses, which then let off heat as they composted and heated the greenhouses. Then the compost was turned into the soil. Cool, huh. Except for the part about steaming piles of horse crap, of course..


nicole said...

i have always wanted to try eccles cakes...oh and i am envious of your summer travels!

Julie said...

I adore eccles cakes! Sigh. And I'm jealous of your trip! have fun!

Anonymous said...

Thanks ladies, I am quite excited about the trip. Pain au chocolate everyday for a week!