We have had a very wet week. The ground outside is sodden. Being Saturday, I like to fiddle around in the kitchen. We've been invited to dinner at some neighbours tonight and I'm taking dessert. I'm also taking along a batch of biscotti for coffee afterwards.
I have this Italian cookbook. I bought it at an op shop for $4. Best $4 I have spent in a while! It's a Murdoch publication. You can probably get it on Abe Books. Worth it if you can get hold of one. The recipes are easy to follow and tasty. I used this book a lot last summer as it was great to get ideas of what to do with all the ripening vegetables. Zucchini flowers were a wonderful treat, as was the aubergine parmigiana. I'll be delving into this recipe book many times again this coming summer!
(recipe from the book above)
380g plain flour
160g castor sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g blanched almonds
(makes about 40 slices)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Sieve the flour into a large bowl or food processor, add the sugar, eggs, baking powder, vanilla and a pinch of salt and mix or process until you have a smooth dough. Transfer to a floured surface and knead in the almonds.
Divide the dough into two pieces and roll into two logs about 20cm long. Flatten the logs slightly. Put on baking trays and bake for about 25 minutes until the dough is golden in colour. Take the logs out of the oven and leave to cool slightly while you turn the oven down to 170 degrees.
Cut each log into .5mm slices on the diagonal. Lay these slices on your baking tray and bake for 15 minutes until they start to brown and are dry to the touch. Store in an airtight container. These biscotti will keep for weeks.
I like to keep the biscotti jar full. If I don't make my own biscotti, then we're usually lucky enough to have Stephen's Nonna send us the real deal from Melbourne. She makes a mean amaretti too!
And here is the dessert I'm taking to tonight's dinner. It's a recipe I pulled out of the Saturday paper oh, about 3 years ago. It's by Karen Martini. I have made this tart so many times. It is impressive to serve and tastes wonderful. I tweeked this one slightly and left out the plain flour and instead added more almond meal to make it gluten free. It works well. It may be gluten free, but it is definitely not fat free! Ahh... everything in moderation right?!
Pear, Chocolate, Almond and burnt butter tart
By Karen Martini
This tart presents beautifully. It’s also easy to make, as there is no fiddly pastry involved.
4 beurre bosc pears peeled, quartered and cored
3 tblsp brown sugar
1 fresh vanilla bean split and seeds scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
½ tsp almond essence
5 egg whites
340g icing sugar plus extra for sprinkling
110g plain flour
140g ground almonds
120g tiny chocolate drops or chopped chocolate
2 tbsps flaked almonds
Crème fraiche to serve
In a frying pan over low heat, place pears, 50g butter and brown sugar. Cook for 20 mins or until pears are slightly soft and golden. Remove and allow to cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 160 deg fan forced (180 deg conventional)
In a small pot over medium heat, place 180g butter and vanilla seeds (or extract) and cook for 4 – 5 mins until dark nut brown. Tip mixture into a bowl and allow to cool to room temp. Remove vanilla pod pieces.
In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites with salt and 170g icing sugar until soft peaks form, then fold in remaining 170g icing sugar, flour and ground almonds. Fold in vanilla butter and almond essence.
Line the base of a loose base 24cm fluted tin with baking paper and grease with baking spray. Pour half the mixture into tin, then top with half the pears and half the chocolate. Repeat to make 2 layers. Scatter flaked almonds on top. Bake for 45 mins until puffed but not too coloured. Allow to cool. Dust with extra icing sugar. Serve with crème fraiche on the side. (Or cream)
I went into the greenhouse this morning to water a few seedlings. I've not planted up the summer crops in there yet. Maybe next week! Anyway, I decided to closely inspect a clump of green folliage. Low and behold.... a great little crop of parsnips! I'd forgotten I'd planted them last season. Bonus. I know just what I'm going to do with them. Neil Perry's recipe for Spicy marjoram and thyme marinated lamb cutlet with parsnip purree' was in last week's Saturday paper. Gee, I love the Saturday papers... if only for the recipes! They're usually easy and very tasty.
I was pretty pleased with my little parsnip harvest. There are still a dozen or so roots hunkering down in the greenhouse. I will be adding them to a hearty vegetable soup next week. Just look at the size of these babies!
You know how I bang on about our wonderful chickens? Well, they are great. These girls are so good that they have not stopped laying through winter, which is what our text books tell us should happen. Instead we're collecting an average of 10 eggs a day. And with only two of us living in this house, there are only so many eggs we can consume! So we barter, sell and give away quite a few. By the way, we think our eggs are pretty special. They have the brightest, almost flurescent yolks I've ever seen. The going rate for free range eggs at most farm gates is $4. Pretty cheap really. If you buy our eggs you know you're getting a quality product. The hens have been allowed to range freely and graze on worms and grubs all day, not to mention the silverbeet and garden treats I feed them. They only get clean organic grain. But I digress...
What do I do with all the excess eggs? Well this week I've had a go at pickling them. They were once very popular as bar food. Somehow I can't imagine holding a beer or a glass of wine in one hand and holding a boiled egg in the other! I have taken it on good advice from my clever friend Melinda from MindiLindi Makes Things that her Mum used to feed them pickled balsamic eggs, salad and fresh bread. To me this sounds pretty good, so I have gone with her reccommendation and tried a balsamic egg version as well as a beetroot one.
So here are my first two batches of pickled eggs. If they prove to be successful, you can be sure I'll be serving them to you if you visit us over summer! They have to 'pickle' for a while in the fridge before we can try them out.
I used two dozen eggs to make the pickles with. Shells. Lots of them. Usually I crush them and sprinkle them around my seedlings in the garden. The snails do not like crawling over the sharp edges of the shell. But this time I baked them in the oven to dry them out. Then I crushed them using a mortar and pestle. I'm going to feed the bits back to the chickens. They eat the shells which gives them a calcium boost and this helps their eggs be stronger. A bit canabalistic arn't they!
And you know how I was counting our ducks before they hatched? Well I can't help myself hoping that the only little duck we hatched will be a female so we can get a steady supply of duck eggs. Else... I'm afraid this little duck is going to be Chinese Duck with soupy rice, ginger and spring onion dressing!
This pic was taken this morning. Frans attended to his morning farm chores then brought the little duck to me so I could see how it's grown in three weeks. Little wing feathers are developing. Any day soon it will grow to proportionally match those huge webbed feet!
Have a happy Saturday evening!