Tag Archives: cherries

Abundance

21 Aug

Sunday is my sister’s birthday, and of course I am planning a really lovely meal for her. I am trying to rein myself in a bit because its really muggy and hot here at the moment … and you dont really want to eat lots of rich overwhelming hot dishes when its a thick summer’s day. But I do want it to be an exciting meal, and to that end, I went mosey-ing along to Whole Foods (my personal mecca) to see what was in store. I have never been there during the summer months, and I have to say… WOW. Amazing, beautiful, gorgeous, luscious, astonishingly bright, delicious, fragrant, touchable, edible fruits and vegetables. I mean really, really stunning. I probably spent about an hour in the produce section. I couldnt believe how lovely and tempting everything looked…

These are just some of the things I picked up…

Such colour and texture and taste!

Check out these baby heirloom tomatoes. Seriously gorgeous. I chopped some up tonight to go into a bean (pinto and kidney) stew. They added brightness and freshness and a certain pizzaz to the dish. I just love how they smell… essence of tomato but each one subtly different.

Lusciousness

Peaches, with baby fuzz skin, and a scent like a perfect perfume. Flesh juicy and sun warmed, sweet and tangy and thirst quenching … like your first kiss. Unforgettable. And the avocadoes… bright green and creamy, we had one for lunch today, sliced thin and sprinkled with salt and pepper and a tiny drizzle of olive oil. With sour dough bread, and some smoked white fish salad. What a summer’s meal!

Cant eat just one...

Oh these cherries. So glossy they seemed out of a magazine. Such blood red colour, and tartsweet flesh. Staining our lips red, like lipstick. These cost ten times as much in Malaysia, and when I had these today, I realised the ones at home dont even taste like cherries should. These had such a complete and full flavour that all your senses are satisfied after eating just a few…

Oh My Goddess

These grapes were phenomenal. We had them for dessert with the cherries. Thick skinned, so you had to work at biting into it, but once you did … An explosion of juice, the essence of grape – but greenpurplered all combined. You had to spit out the seeds and skin after, but each bite was like a firework going off. Amazing!

Roasted for dinner tonight :)

Have you ever seen such beautiful kale? Frilly, thick, perfect. Roasted it for dinner tonight with bean stew and rice. What a great, healthy, vegan meal. Simple and yet infinitely satisfying. This kale was so vibrantly green it almost hurt the eyes. And it was absolutely delicious. Earthy, strong, vibrant.

Perfection

Strawberries. I was literally assaulted by the perfume of these berries in the store. I tried one, and they were sooooooo good. I couldnt resist. I got a four pound box first, but then decided may be it was overkill, so I compromised with a 2 pound box. Again, it cost about ten times less than it does in Malaysia, and these were so richly strawberry-ish I couldnt believe it. I plan on making a strawberry fool with some organic whipped cream to go with the chocolate cake for M’s birthday dinner…

There were so many other things – firm succulent mushrooms, tender delicate raspberries, red and green figs, leeks, parsnips, arugula, elephant garlic, bright broccolini… I was totally and blissfully immersed in these lovingly grown and sold fruits and veg. I was so happy today, and I am so thankful that my family and I can experience such abundance.

Speaking of which… I am still musing on the menu for the birthday dinner, but I think its going to go something like this…

  • Poached fig tart – made with a walnut crust, mascarpone and blue goat’s cheese base (all local cheeses), and wine poached figs on top
  • Mushroom pastry
  • Roasted butternut and parsnips
  • Broccolini with almonds
  • Honey glazed carrots
  • Heirloom tomato salad
  • Arugula + Avocado
  • Creamed spinach
  • Chocolate blackout cake with a raspberry coulis + Strawberry fool

What do you think? 🙂

Paul’s Black Forest Birthday Cake

24 Jun

Since I posted the best cookie recipe ever, I thought I would stick to that sweet theme today, and post my dear friend, Paul’s birthday cake. Paul liberated me as a cook many years ago when I presented him with his first Black Forest Birthday Cake. I was shy because the cake was a bit wobbly, and listed to the side. When I told him this, he laughed and said to me that that was the perfection in my cakes – he could tell they were home made and created with plenty of love and sayang BECAUSE they were a little imperfect, and they were full of my energy and my love. I realised that people taste and see and feel and smell the love that you put into food, and it doesnt have to be visually perfect for it to be satisfyingly lovingly perfect. He made me a braver and more confident cook, and when he was here for his birthday, I couldnt resist making him another Black Forest Cake – this one even MORE wobbly than the last!

This cake is a bit of a major undertaking, BUT its easy peasy if you make it in stages. I made the alcoholic version, but you could easily substitute cherry juice in place of cherry brandy, and have a delicious non-alcoholic cake as well. Make the cherry filling, and cherry sauce the day before. You can bake the cake up to two days ahead as well. The whipped cream should be prepared on the day of serving, though if you really need to, you can make it up to a day ahead, given that its stabilized with agar agar.

Cherry filling + Cherry sauce

  • About 5 – 6 cups cherries, pitted (I used fresh frozen because we had none in the shops)
  • 1 bottle cherry brandy (or 1 bottle cherry juice or other dark berry juice)
  • Sugar (to taste)
  • Water
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon

In a large bowl, drain and defrost the cherries. Pour off any juice into a measuring cup. You should have about 2 cups. If you don’t, make it up with water (or cherry brandy!).

Pour the juice into a small saucepan, add about 3 tablespoons of sugar and about 1 cup of cherry brandy. Boil until syrupy. Cool and refrigerate.

Meanwhile, put the cherries in a large saucepan and add:

  • 1 – 2 cups cherry brandy
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Boil until cherries release their juice, and the entire beautiful heap becomes soft and jammy. Cool. Pour about 1/2 cup of brandy over and refrigerate.

Chocolate sauce

  • 3 bars of extra dark, bittersweet chocolate,
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 3 tbsp butter

Break the bars into small chunks, and put all in a small saucepan, over very very low heat. Stir until melted.

Keep aside until ready to assemble cake

Chocolate buttermilk cake

Prepare 3 baking pans, lining the bottom with parchment paper, and buttering bottoms and sides. Preheat oven to 170 C

Beat together:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cup sugar

until fluffy, creamy and light yellow.

Beat in

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp vanilla
  • About 1/2 cup of melted chocolate (which you have put aside)

To this mix, beat in

  • 3 cups flour mixed with 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt and 1 cup cocoa powder

alternately with

  • 2 cups buttermilk

Taste. If its not chocolately enough for you, add up to 1/2 c cocoa or melted chocolate.

Divide equally between 3 cake tins, and bake for approximately 10 – 15 minutes each tin, or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cool, in the tin and if you are not using the same day, refrigerate, wrapped tightly in grease proof paper.

Whipped cream

Beat together

  • 4 – 5 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla

As the mixture just reaches stiffness, add

  • 1 tsp agar agar to every cup of cream

Whip until very stiff peaks hold. The agar agar acts as a vegetarian gelatin – it ensures the whipped cream holds its stiffness and does not leak or become watery. It can stay this way for hours and hours and there is no added taste or influence from the agar agar.

Assembly

Turn 1 cake onto serving platter, and with a fork, poke holes in the cake … everywhere! Brush the reduced cherry (brandy) sauce on to cake, and if you like sprinkled with a little more neat cherry brandy.

Cover with a thin layer of chocolate sauce, then spread the cake with a layer of whipped cream. Heap cherries on top, and sprinkle with crumbled chocolate (I use Flakes).

Repeat for remaining layers of cake, finishing with whipped cream along top and sides, sprinkles of chocolate and maraschino cherries if you like.

Refrigerate for at least two hours (and up to 12) to let the cake set well before serving.