Make cake while the sun shines (twice cooked is twice as good)

Today has been a gorgeous spring day in Melbourne.  I’ve always loved the “in-between” seasons, spring and autumn. The cool crisp mornings that give way to sunny warm afternoons.  It makes me just want to get into the garden and pull up the weeds that have thrived in the winter rains.  Instead I’ve been in the kitchen, driven by the small nagging voice of my 5 year old daughter.  “I want ice-cream, mummy”.  I’ve been trying really hard to refrain from buying things from the supermarket.  Instead I make it at home.  Mostly it’s mayonnaise, more on that another day.

Instead of going back out to the shop to buy cream for ice-cream, I remembered a Nigella Lawson recipe from delicious Magazine I’d made sometime ago.  It has no cream in it, only egg yolks, milk, sugar and lemon rind.  All these things I had.

So having made the custard for the gelato di crema, I was left with egg whites.  Usually I put them in a container in the fridge with good intentions of doing something with them.  They then languish at the back of the shelf until discovered some months later as the source of that mysterious bad smell in the fridge.  Not today.  Today I decided to make pavlova.  I used a mish-mash of various recipes.  The result was a concoction of 5 egg whites, a cup of raw organic sugar ( ground in the food processor to somewhere between caster and icing sugar), a pinch of cream of tartar, 2 tsp of white vinegar and 2 tsp of tapioca starch.

I baked the pavlova in the oven at 160C for about 40 minutes then turned it off and let it cool down in the oven whilst I went and did the after-school pickup.  When I came back and opened the oven about and hour later, I was somewhat disappointed with the results.  It was crust, but when touched it broken and seemed to be very thin.  There was also a lot of weeping going on and not by me!  I had undercooked it or not whisked enough after the sugar went it.

After it was cooled I put it into and airtight container to await the return home of my pav-loving partner.  When I took it out again a few days later it was very wet and not looking the best.  My choices: bin it or rebake.  So back into the oven it went, for about half an hour, I can’t tell exactly, I forgot to set the time (something I do a lot).  I was alerted by the smell of something cooking and when I opened the oven, I remembered I was trying to save the pav! By this stage it was nicely brown and crusty so the oven went off and I left the pav to cool again.

Some of you may remember I had collected a large box of blood oranges from my defacto-cousin-in-law a little while back.  Being early spring here in Melbourne, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy strawberries to top my twice cooked pavlova.  I like to use what’s at hand where possible.  I’d been reading Maggie Beer’s “Maggie’s Table” and had come across her recipe for Blood Orange Curd.  “Why not?” I thought.  It would be a bit like an upside down lemon meringue pie, only with blood orange.  So I preceded to follow her recipe, but being nervous about curdling it, I took it off the heat and but it into a bowl in the fridge to cool.  it seemed a bit runny but I hoped that was because it was hot and a rest in the fridge would thicken it.

A few hours later I returned to check and the curd was still runny.  Under-cooked again! What was going on.  So this time I did away with the bain marie and put the curd into a saucepan and recooked over gentle heat until it thicken.  It tasted good but lacked the citrus punch I wanted to compete with the sweetness of the pavlova, so I zested a blood orange and added it to the curd.  This vastly improved the flavour, however next time I’ll add more juice.

When the curd was cold, I slathered it over the top of the pavlova, and served it with a good scoop of lemony gelato di crema.  Delicious!

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Dinner, the easy way…

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur for me.  My partner is often away for work. Usually it’s two-three days at the most.  This time it’s different.  He’s in Europe on business (and pleasure!) and he’ll be gone for 4 weeks in total.  Today marks the end of the third week.  He was due to return tomorrow, but is staying away an extra week. Lucky him!

Tonight I had to pick up my eldest from a play date at his friend’s house at 5:30, right in the middle of dinner prep.  Whilst doing the food shop today I picked up some chicken schnitzel at the butcher.  For anyone who knows me, this is unusual.  Normally I would buy the chicken and crumb it myself but after three weeks of solo parenting whilst also going to school three days a week, I was looking for something quick.  So at about 5 pm I decided I should get dinner organised.  Obviously chicken schnitzel was on the menu, but the last few times I’ve cooked it, I’ve found it a bit oily.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about paleo diets and not using processed oils, so I needed another way to cook my schnitzel.  Why not cook it in the oven, so I Googled and came up with this recipe.  It solved both my problems of frying and using oil.  Fantastic, Butter Baked Chicken Schnitzel.

Whilst searching for recipes I came across a Jill Dupleix recipe for Chicken Parmigiana  which took my fancy, so by combining the two recipes, and steaming some vegies, I had dinner on the table in half an hour of arriving home. As I don’t have a microwave, this was a bit of an achievement. I made the sauce from Jill Dupleix’s recipe. It took 5 minutes to chop the garlic (and onion, not in her recipe, as I realised after I’d chopped half of it!).  Then I threw the lot in a saucepan, brought it to the boil and simmered for 20 minutes.  That was done before leaving to collect son number one.

When we got back, I put the potatoes in the bottom of the steamer, covered them with water and brought them to the boil.  I brushed the crumbed schnitzel with butter, put them on an oven tray and baked in a hot oven for 10 minutes.   By the time they were ready to turn, the potatoes were almost done, so I put the broccoli, cauliflower and carrots on to  steam.

The kids all turned up their noses at the idea of chicken parmagiana, so I was on my own. I put the sauce and cheese on one lonely schnitzel and put under the grill while I served up the kids meals.  Being 3, 5 and 8 they like their food to be simple.  I need a bit more flavour.  It turned out to be a delicious meal with a minimum of stress, just what I needed.