Saturday, August 25, 2012

Armenian rice pudding

This is a delicious and easy pudding, adapted from Arto der Haroutunian’s Middle Eastern Cookery (Grub Street). It is traditionally served to visitors on the birth of a son, he tells us. "When I asked my mother what people served on the birth of a daughter, she gesticulated with her hands, shrugged her shoulders and said: 'Oh, a glass of orangeade or something like that.'"

I used raisins rather than the sultanas in the recipe, and pine kernels rather than split almonds, which some members of my family do not like.

75g pudding rice
1 pint milk
Peel of 1 lemon
100g raisins
100g caster sugar
2tbsp (yes, really) vanilla essence
50g pine kernels, toasted in a small saucepan over a very gentle heat

Bring a pan of water to the boil, throw in the rice, bring the water back to the boil, and drain. You’re getting rid of some of the surface starch and dust.

Put the drained rice into a heavy saucepan with the milk and the lemon peel. (I managed to peel my lemon in about five vertical strips.) Bring slowly to the boil, and simmer gently, uncovered, until the rice is tender and the milk is absorbed – by this, I took Haroutunian to mean that you want a consistency like that of a thickly soupy risotto. Stir in the raisins and simmer for a few more minutes. (I soaked the raisins first in boiling water, perhaps unnecessarily.)

Remove from the heat, and stir in the sugar, vanilla, and pine kernels. Chill.

Remove the lemon peel before serving, and loosen with a little milk or cream if you like.

These quantities will provide about six modest portions.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Potatoes, and when to peel them

Some people insist that potatoes boiled in their skins produce the best mash. I am doubtful, but perhaps this is because I have allowed the potatoes to cool before peeling: the flesh has firmed up, requiring more vigorous efforts with the masher, which has released more starch, which has given the mash a gluey quality. (Making potato salad, you should dress the potatoes with vinaigrette when they’re hot, so that their looser textures absorb more sauce.)

One possible solution, I suppose, would be to wear a rubber glove on one hand, hold the potatoes in it, and peel them with the other. But I have never found peeling cooked potatoes as easy as it is reputed to be. The skin often comes away in tiny strips, which stick to one’s fingers.

I wondered whether a potato ricer or a food mill, which will de-skin cooked tomatoes, would spare me the aggravation. So I tried both yesterday. Neither was satisfactory.

It’s back to pre-peeling, I’m afraid.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Plum tart 2

With the addition of a dessert spoonful of sugar and a few drops of vanilla, and with the cheese omitted, the savoury custard in my previous post became a filling for this plum tart.

The pastry included 150g flour; 75g of butter, cubed and rubbed in; another dessert spoonful of sugar, stirred in; and a few teaspoons of water to bind it. As usual, lacking the skill and patience for pastry-rolling, I shoved the dough into the lightly greased (with sunflower oil) tin, and worked it into place by hand.

I baked the pastry blind for about 20 minutes at gas 6/200C, until it was firm. (I took a risk in not weighing it down with foil topped by baking beans; it didn’t buckle.) I spread halved and pitted plums over the surface, scattered sugar over them, poured the sweetened custard on top, and baked the tart at gas mark 3/170C for 30 minutes.

I don’t believe the pastry would have improved with rolling. It was crisp and buttery.

This was much simpler, and just as good, as the tart in the recipe below. Also, I no longer include salt in the pastry mix, believing that it encourages the development of gluten.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Savoury custard topping

Sparing flour in consideration of a gluten intolerance in the family, I made this as a topping for a gratin of aubergines and tomatoes. Double cream might be a safer option than the crème fraiche, of which many factory-produced brands tend to split, in my experience. Any hard cheese would do instead of the Comté, though Comté and Gruyere would be my favourites.

For a gratin serving 3 to 4

1 egg, beaten
150ml crème fraiche
50g Comté, grated
A few scrapings of nutmeg

Beat the cream into the egg until well amalgamated. Stir in the cheese and the nutmeg.

Pour the custard over your gratin, and bake at gas mark 3/170C for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden.

Aubergine gratin (the one I made this time included onions in the tomato sauce; also, I prepared the aubergines the same way, but fried them gently rather than roasting them)