Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Fig Project - Fig, Balsamic and Peppercorn Jam

A few of the figs taking part in this project

I thought I'd be posting more frequently now that school is out. But as usual, life is full of surprises... and not always good ones at that! As some of you might know by now, M. was in a motorbike accident a few weeks ago. He's doing fine... a broken nose, a broken knee and torn ligament. Nothing that won't be fixed eventually. It's not THAT bad. I'm grateful that he's home and wheeling himself about.

Figs - Trimmed and ready for action

After abandoning my kitchen for a while, this week I was back at it, getting another surprise (this time a good one) by being gifted a nice big bag of organic figs. We ate a few but I knew that unless I did something with them, they might go to waste. All in all, I have till now ate, cooked with or somehow used around 15kg of figs. I will attempt to document all the ways I have used/will use the said figs, starting with the first fig jam I made - Fig, Balsamic and Peppercorn.

My favourite mixture of pink and black peppercorns

Actually, as my cousin L. correctly pointed out, jam might not be the correct name for what I made first. By definition, jams should be smooth, not chunky. Preserves, on the other hand are chunks of fruit, suspended in a syrup base. Not sure whether that qualifies either. It's possibly more of a chutney, having a combination of chopped fruit, vinegar, spices and sugar all simmered into a chunky mix, balanced in sweetness, tartness and spice.

Figs- added sugar, balsamic vinegar, crushed peppercorns and lemon

I love this jam. Although I am a huge fig fan, fig jams were not my favourite, due to them being too sweet. But this jam is so balanced, you might want to eat all of it straight out of the jar. And I can already see it being used in tarts, pancakes, salads or over some home made galletti (water biscuits)... but more on that later. :) For now, I'll share the recipe...

The first batch of yuminess

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

And finally...Macarons!!

My First Successful Macarons - With chocolate Ganache filling

It's been almost a year since I last posted. I do feel the shame! But at least, this time I am posting as a free woman.

I'm no longer a student. School term is finished and my days at ITS are over. My time is now divided between making cakes and desserts for customers, and testing recipes (as well as cooking for M. and cleaning... but who wants to think about that?). If that's not happiness, I don't know what is! :)

One recipe I've been wanting to test is that for Macarons. Ever since I tasted them for the first time at Ladurée in Paris, back in 2009, I have often craved for them and have been toying with the idea of making these beauties myself.

Pretty little Pink ones

It was our last day in Paris and were were supposed to visit the Louvre. We got there at 5:00pm and the museum  was closing down for the evening, so we could not get it. But did I care about not seeing the La Vallette sword or the Mona Lisa? I forgot about them as soon as I caught a glimpse of the prettiest display of confections ever. Ladurée!

Deciding which ones to choose... now that was a difficult task. But I left the shop with 10 different Macarons in hand. Such beautiful colours! I savoured them slowly, marvelling at the sheer delicacy of the taste and texture, whilst sulking a little because I had to share. That's when the love affair started

Macarons: Thin crispy outer shell, chewy inside, creamy ganache

Maybe you wondering why it took me so long to try making them myself. Maybe the ingredients were difficult to find? Maybe they're too time consuming? No & No! The only reason why I have been stalling for 3 whole years is that I have been reading about them... in books, on food blogs, everywhere! The list of troubleshooting tips is huge! Something could would obviously go wrong, wouldn't it? And I'm a coward that way...

The thing is, I just had to try. I pencilled them into my to do list, for next week. Right between "fix the magimix" and "pester M. to update my website". And less then 2 hours after they were in my list, a customer called. She wanted a cake, with macarons stuck on the side, and could I do it for tomorrow please?

Mini-Macarons on a Chocolate Gateaux

I was about to say no, but I knew that I could do them. So why postpone? Why not get it over and done with? I had just got a gentle nudge in the direction I wanted to go, and what perfect timing! 

So I went shopping, armed myself with enough ingredients for 6 batches of macarons and by the time everyone was in bed, I was prepared for a long night of trial and error in the kitchen.

Don't they look gorgeous?

It actually took 2 tries to get them right. The first time I had too many holes on top and no feet. A little research revealed that it was a problem which was easily fixed just by tapping the bottom of the baking tray and bursting those pesky little bubbles with a toothpick. I also needed to wait a little longer between piping them and baking them, for a shell to form. I had no patience the first time round, even though I knew I should have. 

The second batch was just what I was looking for! They were perfectly round, with thin smooth shiny shells and they had FEET! And they were chewy too! Oh the excitment! I was so pleased, I just had to wake up M. to show him, even though it was 2:00am :) (He was slightly less pleased, but hey! I had to share...)