Along the Grapevine


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Lilac Ice Cream

In this recipe I have, to my delight, figured out how to capture the intoxicating scent of lilacs and make it accessible to the taste buds. Having experimented before with wild flowers, I know how their delicate aroma and colour are not always easy to use for edibles, and I considered lilacs another one of those barely-worth-it ingredients. The flavour of the blossoms is bitter, and cooking them leaves little flavour apart from the sweetness of the recipe.

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I decided to make a no-cook ice cream, realizing that the result might be bland or even bitter. Also, how to infuse the blossoms without using heat or alcohol?

Some flowers I ground finely with equal parts sugar. I also took one cup of blossoms and mixed them with milk, set them in a sunny place outdoors for three hours, which was as long as the sun lasted. I then left this milk/blossom infusion for another 12 hours in the fridge.

The rest was easy. I strained the blossoms from the milk, and feared the flavour was not as strong as I needed it. However, once I mixed the lilac sugar with the milk and an equal amount of cream, the flavour was definitely that of lilac – sweet, aromatic and superb.

“Lilac

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So now I have another favourite ice cream which inspired me to use lilac in other no-cook ways. One is to preserve some in raw honey, leaving the infusion for a few weeks and leaving the blossoms in to serve. I will also try and preserve as much as I can in sugar which I have no doubt will be useful in all sorts of creamy ways.

Related Links: Honeysuckle Ice Cream

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #173; Love in the Kitchen and Her Life is Love.


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Dandelion Cake

DSC03373The nutritional value of the dandelion is becoming increasingly understood, yet the number of appetizing ways to use the plant are still rare. While the flowers are not the richest source of nutrients compared to the roots and leaves, they do contain some health benefits, including antioxidants and vitamins A and B12. For more about the flower as a food source, this article is worth reading.

I just finished making a syrup from dandelion flowers which I found so good I already have a second batch on the go. I have used it to make a cocktail and a sourdough fruit bread, adding some to the batter as well as a glaze when it came out of the oven.

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The recipe in this post was inspired by a recipe for revani, a Greek cake soaked in syrup after baking.  I found this recipe in my newest cookbook called “Three Sisters – Back to the Beginning” by Betty, Eleni and Samanth Bakopoulos which I noticed has just been shortlisted in the Taste Canada awards. Their cake calls for coarse semolina, which I substituted with casava which has a similar texture, but either can be used. It also calls for orange and lemon zest, but of course I didn’t need those with my own fresh and local dandelions, both in the form of petals and syrup. It makes a pretty dense cake, something like cornbread, and is sweetened mostly by the syrup which is poured over it right after baking. The cake could have absorbed more than the cup of syrup I used, so if you want a really sweet dessert, add another cup.

Dandelion

Ingredients

1 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup dandelion petals (approx. 12 flowers)

5 eggs

1/4 tsp vanilla

2 cups casava flour or coarse semolina

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup dandelion syrup
Method
Cream the butter with the sugar and petals. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Mix the dry ingredients together and add to the batter, beating well. Pour into a greased 9 inch square pan and bake at 350 degrees F. for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately cut it into serving size pieces. Pour the cooled syrup over it slowly, letting it be absorbed by the hot cake gradually.

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Linked to Fiesta Friday #171


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Maple Syrup Tarts

This is a great seasonal recipe for maple syrup fans. Not as cloyingly sweet as the ubiquitous butter tart, they are made with pure maple syrup and walnuts, although other nuts, fruit or nothing at all can be added. Less than one cup of syrup makes two dozen small tarts.

Maple syrup season is just winding down now. We got an early start this year, and the quality of the syrup seems better than ever – either that or we are just becoming pros. I still have some to use up from last year so decided it was high time to invent some recipes.

Most recipes for maple tarts use a combination of white and/or brown sugar along with the syrup, but I wanted mine to be pure maple. Even so, I didn’t use that much, a mere 200 ml,  and the flavour of maple is so much better on its own. Some recipes also called for flour or cream, neither of which I wanted. So the recipe I came up with is as simple as it gets – just syrup mixed with eggs, a splash of cider vinegar to cut the sweetness, and walnuts. A really good pastry is a must, but whatever crust pastry you like would work well. I have been following a recipe from Married with Cauldron, much the same as mine but I find it is actually easier and better with the measurements given in weight rather than volume. I also replaced a bit of the water with lemon juice. dsc00438.jpg

Maple Syrup Tarts


For the pastry

175 grams butter or lard

225 grams flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp of lemon combined with enough cold water to make 120 ml.

Cut the shortening in the flour and salt until you have a crumbly mixture. Gradually add the cold liquid, stir and pull together into a ball. Cover and refrigerate for an hour before rolling out on a lightly floured surface. Cut into rounds, set them into muffin tins and chill in the refrigerator while you make the maple filling.

For the Filling

200 ml syrup

2 eggs

1 tsp cider vinegar

3/4 cup walnuts

Beat the eggs well. Add the syrup and vinegar and beat again. Place walnuts (chopped or whole) into the chilled tarts, then fill with the syrup mixture. Bake in a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes.

DSC03350This recipe makes 2 dozen small tarts (2 in.) or 18 medium (3 in.).

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #166


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More about Bitters & a Recipe for Rhubarb Ginger Ice Cream

This ice cream and the meringues are both flavoured with rhubarb bitters , the recipe for which I posted a couple of weeks ago. The flavouring is very subtle, not at all bitter, but really does enhance the flavour of the dish. These are just two examples of how a fragrant fruit bitters can be used.DSC02979

Since I made my first batch of bitters, I have been curious as to just how to make use of them. After all a good half litre is a bit much for the odd cocktail. I have used it to make a salad dressing for fruit salad, mixed with fruit juice, zest, ginger and honey;  I used it to glaze sweet buns; best of all I added a teaspoon or two to my coffee. In each of these applications, the bitters enhanced the flavour of whatever it was added to with the most delicious floral notes and aroma.

Ice cream seemed a good place to start, and if you have a favourite recipe of your own, I would recommend adding the bitters to that. Frozen desserts are one of my favourite ways to experiment with flavours, so I decided to stick with the rhubarb theme and mix that and fresh ginger in a sauce which was mixed into a standard ice cream custard mixture. If you are not convinced that it is worth making your own ice cream, just consider the wonderful variations you can create which you would never find even in the best ice cream parlours – much less any supermarket.

Rhubarb Ginger Ice Cream

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar or honey

1/2 cup chopped rhubarb

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 cups 10% cream

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

4 Tbsp rhubarb or other fruit bitters

Method

Mix the first three ingredients in a sauce pan, bring to a boil and simmer until the rhubarb is soft and the ginger cooked, about three minutes.

In a separate pan heat the milk to just below boiling. Gradually add a small amount (about 1/4) cup to the egg mixture and blend, then add another of the same amount and do the same. Pour the egg mixture into the milk and simmer until the custard coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and mix in the rhubarb mixture. When the custard has cooled, add the rhubarb bitters. Chill, process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then freeze. Makes 3/4 litre.

And since I had three egg whites, I whipped them with 3/4 cup sugar, 1/3 tsp cream of tartar and a splash of bitters. Dried in the oven for an hour at 220 degrees F and allowed to cool in the oven once done. I made some ice cream sandwiches with the small ones, and the larger ones I used as a base. Either way they were great.

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Linked to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #113, Sonal at Simply Vegetarian and Laurie at ten.times.tea.

Related posts: Anise hyssop and Peach Ice Cream; Olive Oil Ice Cream with Balsamic Wild Strawberries; Salted Caramel Spruce Ice Cream


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Applejacks

DSC02909I have been wanting to make this recipe for some time now ever since I saw it on one of my favourite cooking shows on PBS, A Chef’s Life with Vivian Howard. Her recipes are very straight forward, and her attention to ingredients, always local and usually inspired by her own regional cuisine of N. Carolina is what draws me to her programme.

You can see her original recipe for applejacks, a sort of fried apple turnover, here. My original intention was to make the same recipe except instead of using dried apples, I planned to use dried crabapples. I never did locate the crabapples I was sure I had, so went for the apples after all. However, instead of using 2 cups of cider, I diluted a bit (about 1/2 cup) of crabapple preserve in the required amount of liquid. I’m sure her recipe is excellent, but I found that the preserve did add a lot of fruit flavour, to say nothing of the deep red colour. If you don’t have crabapple preserve, I feel quite confident in suggesting you just use the 2 cups of cider with 1 cup of water for the liquid as she does even though I haven’t tried that myself.

I fully intended to follow the original recipe by frying the applejacks, but I lost my nerve once I had them all assembled. I really don’t enjoy frying things, so I just brushed them liberally with butter and baked them.  The crust is very easy to make, and because it’s made with hot water it is resilient and very crisp. You can roll these out super thin, making them less rich than a regular pie crust. DSC02904

Applejacks

For the filling:

2 cups dried apple pieces

1/2 cup crabapple preserve diluted in 3 cups of water

OR 2 cups of cider and 1 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

zest of 1 organic lemon

juice of 1 lemon

For the pastry:

2 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup lard

2/3 cup hot water

butter for brushing the tops

Combine everything except the lemon juice in a saucepan and simmer until the water is absorbed and the mixture is the texture of a thick applesauce. Remove from the heat and mix in the lemon juice. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile make a well in the flour and put the lard in the centre. Begin by pouring about half the hot water into the bowl and mix it all together with your hands. Add water as needed until you are able to form a ball with it. Wrap it in a damp towel and set aside for about half an hour.

Roll the pastry very thin on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin as the dough is quite wet. Cut out circles of about 4 inches in diameter. Place about 2 Tbsp of filling just south of the middle, fold over and seal with the tines of a fork. Brush with some melted butter. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 25 minutes or until the pastry browns.

Makes about 24 applejacks.DSC02923

Linked to our Fiesta Friday host Angie at Fiesta Friday, co-hosts Su at Su’s Healthy Living and Margy at La Petite Casserole.

 


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Orange and Ginger Fig Pudding

DSC02817I made this steamed pudding for Christmas dinner. We always follow the English tradition of ending the meal with the drama of a flaming dish soaked in rum or brandy. There seems to be no question of abandoning this tradition, but truth be told, no one really likes it that much.

So I decided that by making my own version I could not only satisfy the vegetarian without having to make another dish, I could also make something that was lighter and even tastier. And while I was at it, I thought I could improve on the original just by adding some fruit from my garden.

This turned out to be pretty easy, and I have no idea why I didn’t think of this years ago. In fact, it is such a good dessert that there is no need to have it only at Christmas, although I would save the flambeing part and addition of alcohol for that occasion – otherwise it wouldn’t be so special.

Instead of using any sort of candied fruit, I dried the peel of one organic orange and chopped it along with some fresh ginger, thus giving the mass of mixed fruit a distinctively orange and ginger flavour – hence the name.
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Orange and Ginger Fig Pudding

Ingredients

500 g of mixed dried fruit including dates, figs and apricots

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cups dried apples, chopped

1/4 cup orange juice, brandy or rum

10 Tbsp all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups bread crumbs

dried zest of 1 orange

1 tsp freshly grated ginger

2 eggs

4 oz butter

Method

Chop the fruit and pour the juice or alcohol over it and let it sit for about an hour. Mix the softened butter with the sugar, and when thoroughly combined beat the eggs into the mixtures. Add the breadcrumbs, ginger and fruit. Measure the flour and add the baking powder, then gradually stir all the dry ingredients into the fruit mixture.

Pack it into a mould or a pudding dish. Cover it with parchment paper, making a fold in the paper to allow for expansion. Steam it for 2 1/2 hours. It will be easy to invert onto a plate just by running a knife around the edge of the bowl to loosen it.

This recipe makes approximately 1 litre of pudding, so you will likely need two pudding bowls.

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Serve with custard or cream. For Christmas I made a simple sauce of butter, maple syrup, rum and cream.

Linked to Fiesta Friday 

 

 

 

 


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Seabuckthorn Gelato

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To begin with, I don’t want anyone to think that this plant is in any way related to our local buckthorn. It is an entirely different plant, but the name is fitting because it does have nasty thorns on it. I presume the sea part might have something to do with the appearance of the silvery green leaves which in windy weather make a mass of them look like waves on the sea. I have no idea if that is fact or my own fiction, but it makes sense to me.

Usually found in China, Russia and adjacent countries, this berry is appearing more and more frequently in these parts. I have seen several posts and articles about people cultivating it here in North America. Small wonder considering how hardy it is, how easy it is to grow and how nutritious these little berries are. For more on the benefits of it you might read this. I believed it to be a remarkable source of everything ever since I read somewhere that Ghengis Khan had a constant supply of it for his soldiers so that they could take over the world. How’s that for an endorsement!

Having made some delicious jelly with my first pickings in my last post, I decided to try something new. I had never made gelato before and after reading some articles on making gelato I was intrigued and encouraged by the fact that only milk, starch, sweetener and flavour are required. So sea buckthorn gelato was my choice for this week’s Fiesta Friday.

The recipe requires only three ingredients, one being my recent jelly concoction. Other than that, just milk and some cornstarch. Obviously you could do this with other sweetened preserves too, so even if you haven’t come across these berries yet, you can still use this recipe for a not-too-rich but thoroughly delicious frozen dessert. If you use non-dairy milk, this would be a vegan dessert. Unfortunately I failed to think of that until after I had started – but next time.

I used four cups of milk, 1 cup of jelly and 4 Tbsp cornstarch. I used one cup of milk to dissolve the cornstarch. The remaining three cups were heated with the jelly, and then the cornstarch mixture added. Bring to a boil on medium heat continuing to stir. Once it comes to a boil turn down the heat further and allow to boil while you stir for another two minutes. Cool it, then chill it well and freeze in an ice cream maker. In the absence of one, just stir the mixture around every half hour until three or four times.

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Put it in a freezer container and freeze for a few hours more.

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Compared to ice cream, this was much easier to make. It is also a lot less rich, and the reduced fat actually lets the taste of fruit come through better. I won’t be giving up my ice-cream endeavours completely, but it will not be the last time I make gelato either.