Strawberry Pistachio Tiramisu

Spring has definitely sprung, y’all!

The sun is making an appearance much more often, the tulips in my backyard are bursting into bloom and the lambs I visited a few weeks ago were definitely gambolling in the fields.

Tulips and Lambies

At the farmers markets, I am sadly saying farewell to the brussel sprouts but am warmly welcoming asparagus and a myriad of spring greens. Tables are groaning under the weight of buckets of glorious cut daffodils and happy seedlings, but alas, the fruit stalls remain an apple and pear only destination. It would seem that the cooler climate in Tassie delays the arrival of the local fruit crops (as confirmed in print by my moving-to-Tassie green Ghandi, Matthew Evans).

So what is a girl to do when faced with providing a transportable fruit dessert for a dinner party? Celebrate the state of origin of both my parents and get my freak on with some Sunshine Coast strawberries. I headed the fruit market and flashed my wad of fives, and for just a single note was rewarded with two punnets of perfectly formed plump red berries bursting with flavour.

Sweet Strawberries

My points of inspiration both appeared the day before said dinner party: in the latest issue of ABC Delicious (who was the genius who green-lit the bonus bar of Lindt Excellence?) and at the wonderful Bottega Rotolo, Hobart’s newest speciality food providore.

The recipe in Delicious is for a Strawberry Tiramisu and the product that Silvana, the co-owner of Bottega Rotolo, introduced me to is Crema di Pistacchi (Pistachio Cream), the flavour of which is best described as a combination of pistachio, nougat, happy-thoughts, crack and nirvana.

Just try to not eat it from the jar

Using the Delicious recipe as a base, I omitted some of the sugar in the mascarpone/egg mixture and added in about 80g of the Crema di Pistacchi (the bottle contains 100g but not all of it made it as far as the mixing bowl…cooks treat!) and chose to use Chambord as the boozy soak for the savoiardi biscuits. This was mostly because  didn’t want to add extraneous liquer-y sweetness (like perhaps some framboise might) or overpower the glorious strawberry or pistachio cream flavours, but also in part because when I was about 20, I would occasional order Chambord with pineapple juice at a bar to feel REALLY sophisticated…classy, no?!

Oh and its a pretty bottle too.

Apart from a quick whizz in the KitchenAid and some setting/intermingling time in the fridge, tiramisu couldn’t be easier to put together. Folding in the Crema di Pistacchi gave the mascarpone layer a lovely pale green tinge, which looked gorgeous against the crimson of the strawberries.

The Many Layers of Tiramisu

Once the tiramisu had been hanging out in the fridge for the alloted 4-hour+ setting time, it was really easy to transport (d’uh) but I would say, it isn’t the most elegant of desserts to serve. I think you just have to embrace the whole casual flolloping Nigellla-ness of a big scoop in a bowl. I did also create a pistachio basil crumb to sprinkle over the top for visual appeal and to highlight the pistachio flavour (roasted pistacchios, fresh torn basil and white sugar pounded in a mortar and pestle). I don’t have pictures of the crumb because as soon as I scooped and sprinkled, the bowls were snatched and we all basically face-planted into the sweet scented strawberry commotion.

So here it is pre-piggy scoffing

Oh and for all you tiramisu purists who would argue that, by its very definition (“pick me up”), tiramisu must contain espresso, you can call it “Strawberry Pistachio Face-Plant Trifle”.

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Filed under Bottega Rotolo, Delicious Magazine, Desserts, Fruit, Italian, Spring

Chain Letters and Chocolate Cupcakes

A few days ago I received this email from my baking bestie, M’honey (of M’honey Bakes), in the U.S.:

“I NEVER do these, but I thought why the hell not.  But I am a little daft so I am not sure if I include my recipe and forward it along.  So just to be safe I have included my FAMOUS vegan cupcake recipe.  I know, I know…  Take part if you wanna.  Otherwise you are dead to me.”

Yep, the best kind of chain letter – a recipe chain letter (via email)!

I’m sure many of you have received these before and personally, I really quite like getting them. Of course, you never get as many recipes back as the email promises but it is fun to receive some tried and true recipes (often from strangers) and think of what to send for your own.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am very easily distracted by pretty things and have a bit of a goldfish memory (s**t, who put that cool plastic castle there!?!). I find that I get so caught up in trying new food combinations and recipes: I constantly pore over an array of food porn (both magazine and internet based smut), have my head turned by the Lifestyle Food channel, feed my cookbook addiction, and then there is the constant stream of blogging yumminess coming in on my RSS feed! Such is my distraction that I sometimes don’t return to a favourite recipe for months. These recipe emails make you think of those oft overlooked faves and since the recipients are necessarily as inclined for fancy food or ingredients, you need to think of something that’s simple and a bit foolproof. 

The recipe that M’honey mentions (her famous Vegan Chocolate Cupcake recipe) is perfect for this: easy, delicious and always a winner. I’ve made it countless times but probably the most significant time was when she visited for my wedding and we made 45 of the suckers (and 45 buttercake cupcakes too).

Wedding cupcake tower by M'Honey and El Moorish

It’s a simple recipe than uses soured milk and vegetable oil, and I can now pretty much throw it together with my eyes closed. You can use the soy milk suggested to make it totally vegan, or use any other milk (skim or full cream). For special occasions I also defile it’s vegan origins buy adding some melted 70% dark chocolate to the batter. This step is not necessary but it does add that bit of extra rich chocolatey goodness. [RECIPE HERE]

For the wedding, we frosted the cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream but the last few times I have made them I have used a brown sugar buttercream.

De-Veganised Chocolate Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Buttercream

I find that the brown sugar provides a lovely caramel/molassas flavour that really compliments the rich chocolate crumb and my very favourite way to decorate is with ground cocoa nibs, which don’t add any sweetness, but enhance the chocolate scent and taste.

To demonstrate their allure, I took 48 of them along to rehearsals for a big show I did in Jnuary (with 24 Lime and Almond Cupcakes), and they were inhaled. Singers, dancers, musicians and production staff all hoed in, and there’s nothing quite like watching a lithe dancer/gymnast finish a cupcake in about 3 bites. Actually, one of the male dancers (a ballroom expert) came up to me at the end of the day to confess he’d hidden a chocolate cupcake to give to his mum and dad :)

Chocolate Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Buttercream and, Lime and Almond Cupcakes with Lime Cream Cheese Frosting

After all that, I’ve realised that I have half a dozen unfrosted cupcakes in the freezer (recipe freezes well too) and now I’m pondering dessert. However, I mustn’t allow myself to be distracted as I have to decide which recipe to send on for the recipe chain: even though I know M’honey’s joking when she says “Otherwise you are dead to me”, I wouldn’t want to take the risk!

 

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Filed under Baking, Cakes, Chocolate, Cupcakes, Desserts, Vegetarian/Vegan

Apple Chai Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake (Daring Bakers’ March 2011)

I’ve not been much of a bread eater in recent years: in part because of boring blood sugar issues and, to be honest, in part due to trying to maintain a dancer’s figure, which is even MORE boring. But here I am, living a slightly more relaxed life and enjoying all delicious things in moderation. I’ve embraced baking, am making my own pizza dough and have found an exceptional sourdough baguette just around the corner from my new home. CARB-TASTIC!

There really is nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked yeasted or “starter” breads, and whether you’re kneading by hand or using a dough hook in a mixer, there is great satisfaction to be found in the process of combining simple ingredients to form a soft, smooth, unctuous dough, and then watch it magically double in size. And so we come to the Daring Bakers’ Challenge…

The rise and rise of a yeasted dough

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

The base recipe is for ‘mets la main à la pâte’ – a semi-sweet yeast-risen stuffed coffee cake. Yummo! There is some waiting time for dough rising but it is a surprisingly straight forward and simple recipe.

Once the dough is made and getting it’s rise on, you prepare the filling: a slightly sweet meringue, and your choice of nuts and spices. The recipe supplied included a choice of two fillings: either a traditional American style filling with pecans, cinnamon and chocolate  chips, or a Indian style with cashews and garam marsala. I’m absolutely obsessed with adding cardamom to sweet treats at the moment so I decided to use chai spices (cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and cloves) and apple.

Chai-spiced apple and walnut mixture

As you can see, I sautéed the apple and walnut filling: I thought it would be better to have softer spice-infused apple but in future, I would simply sprinkle the fresh apple pieces, walnuts and spiced sugar mixture on separately. The liquid that was released from the cooked apples made the filling a bit messy and made for a longer process (recipe link at the bottom is for a revised non-cooked apple version).

Once the ball of dough has risen, you get to punch that sucker down (so satisfying) and then roll it out, spread with the meringue and sprinkle with the fillings. The slightly tricky bit is to roll it up (Swiss/jelly roll style). In waiting for the apple mixture to cool, my meringue had deflated a little and that, combined with the additional liquid from cooking the filling, made this a little more difficult (another reason to not cook the apple first).

Dough spread with meringue and apple filling

You form the roll into a wreath shape and then snip through with kitchen shears. This then sits for a second rise before going into the oven.

Roll, shape and snip

The resulting coffee cake is not particularly sweet so is perfect for an afternoon tea. The meringue melts in to the dough and adds moisture, and the texture is similar to a brioche (but much less fattening). An brush of egg wash before baking makes for a lovely golden brown finish.

Fresh from the oven

The spices provided a lovely warm and subtle taste, and before serving I did add a drizzle of a simple icing sugar glaze (just icing sugar and water), which provided a touch of additional sweetness and is reminiscent of lovely cinnamon buns and those sweet scrolls from Baker’s Delight that wink suggestively at you from behind the glass cabinet.

Apple Chai Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake in the dappled sunshine

I will definitely make this recipe again: I’m looking forward to experimenting with other fillings and perhaps cutting the roll into scrolls or plaiting it – the options are endless! Here is a link to my version and both filling variations originally suggested [RECIPE HERE]

Tell me, dear readers, what is your favourite baked good? I’m out of my bread-less cage and ready to feed my face…in moderation, of course ;)

I’ve decided that bread (and cake and cheese) are no longer my enemy, and to stick to a policy of quality over quantity.

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Filed under Baking, Bread, Cakes, Daring Bakers, Daring Challenge, Nuts

The Great Blackberry Picking Caper

My childhood berry picking memories are few and far between: a handful of strawberries when visiting my grandma in Brisbane or finding a few errant raspberries at my aunt and uncle’s on Mount Macedon. Mango, starfruit or paw-paw picking memories? By the dozen, but berries just don’t grow in the far north of Australia. Non-frozen berries were quite hard to come by, and when they were available, it was at $9 a punnet: a real luxury!

So, when my dear friend, Musikerin, who is a Tassie native, texted me to say she found the mother-haul of pickable blackberries, and to ask whether I would like to go picking with her, I replied with “hells to the yes!”. With various plastic containers in hand, we set off in the hopes that someone else hadn’t been through on the weekend. Blackberry brambles are everywhere in and around Hobart but you can’t just go picking willy-nilly (certain local councils spray them). I wouldn’t have a clue where to look for them but luckily, I had Musikerin to give me the inside scoop.

We didn’t have to drive very far before we found our first stretch of blackberries growing at the roadside over fences to a paddock. I was happy to learn that any berries growing in such places are fair game, as long as you don’t have to hop a fence into someone’s land to get them. We were off!

Vines with a view

I must admit, my picking technique isn’t quite as advanced as my nimble fingered picking partner’s: she’s had lots of practice (plus she is a professional pianist) so, as you’d imagine, she’s fast and dexterous.

Mad pickin' skillz!

I managed to get my hands absolutely covered with blackberry juice: my impatient nature wants to grab more than one at a time, which leads to some squishing.  Nevertheless, our buckets grew more full, and we merrily picked while singing stupid songs (“Friiiday, Friiiday, gotta get down on Friiiiday”), which was punctuated by the occasional “ow, ow, ow, OW!” as we snagged ourselves on the thorns.

We've only just begun...

After a break for lunch we headed a little further down “the track” where we hit pay dirt! There, on the roadside, like a bramble-y shining beacon of deliciousness, was a huge length of blackberry bushes absolutely heaving with fruit. The excitement grew as we pulled off the road…only to discover JUST what a townie I am. It turns out that you can’t trust the ground beside a country road. What looks like a little indent turns out to actually be long grass concealing a silty boggy cavernous ditch…oops! After an initial steep decline, I stopped the car and began to carefully back out. The back wheels got traction, I gently accelerated, we both whooped in delight and then we heard the KERRRR-RUNCH! And so, dear readers, we come to what shall hereby be referred to as, “The Rock Incident”. Yep, there in the squishy silt of the trench was a HUGE rock. I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go back…we were stuck!

A smudgy photo entitled "car meets big-ass rock"

Ditches may be one of the negative aspects of country roads but the people who journey on them are definitely a positive. Just about every driver who passed stopped to see if we needed help: someone went to see if council workers nearby could help (after telling me “oh, you can’t park there”. Errr…thanks?), and phone calls were made (thank goodness for modern cellular technology). First to the scene was the family Musikerin and while we waited for Roadside Assistance to arrive, Pa Musikerin’s engineering mind started to tick: he set off down the road to a neighbouring properties, borrowed a large shovel and started problem solving.

Pa Musikerin to the rescue! Can you dig it?

I believe the technical engineering terms are: dig, roll, backfill and broom-broom. Once back on the road, I couldn’t thank everyone enough and Miguel (the car) managed to escape with a wheel rim full of mud and a fair old dint below the door but nothing a high pressure hose and a bit of panel-beating didn’t/won’t fix.

We ended up not picking anymore berries after ‘The Rock Incident’, but upon returning home and collating…

Some of the glistening fruity haul

…there were several kilos of fruit, which was more than enough for snacking, freezing and…Blackberry and Vanilla Bean Jam [RECIPE HERE]

Blackberry Vanilla Bean Jam on fresh sourdough

What an adventure! In the end it finished with a plethora of delicious ways to enjoy blackberries (not least the jam) so that makes any calamity worth it. Speaking of, the jam is really quite delicious but next time I will be tempted to make half with vanilla and half without. The vanilla does add a lovely sweet fragrant note but it does ever so slightly mask the freshness of the blackberries.

And by gum, there will be a next time!!

My childhood berry picking memories are few and far between: a handful of strawberries when visiting my grandma in Brisbane or much later, finding a few errant raspverries at my aunt and uncle’s on Mount Macedon. Mango, starfruit or paw-paw picking? Absolutely, but berries just don’t grow in the far north of Australia. Non-frozen berries were quite hard to come by, and when they were available, it was at $9 a punnet: a real luxury!So, when my dear friend, Musikerin, who is a Tassie native, texted me to say she found the mother-haul of pickable blackberries, and to ask whether I would like to go picking with her, I replied with “hells to the yes!”. With various plastic containers in hand, we set off in the hopes that someone else hadn’t been through on the weekend. Blackberry brambles are everywhere in and around Hobart but you can’t just go picking willy-nilly (certain councils spray them). I wouldn’t have a clue where to look for them but luckily, I had Musikerin to give me the inside scoop :) 

We didn’t have to drive very far before we found our first stretch of blackberries growing at the roadside over fences to a paddock. I was happy to learn that any berries growing in such places are fair game, as long as you don’t have to hop a fence into someone’s land to get them. We were off!

I must admit, my picking technique isn’t quite as advanced as my nimble fingered picking partner’s, though she’s had lots of practice (plus she is a professional pianist so, as you’d imagine, she’s fast and dexterous). I managed to get my hands absolutely covered with blackberry juice: my impatient nature wants to grab more than one at a time, which leads to some squishing.  Our buckets grew more full; and we merrily picked while singing stupid songs (“Friiiday, Friiiday, gotta get down on Friiiiday”), which was punctuated by the occasional “ow, ow, ow, OW!” as we snagged ourselves on the brambles.

After a break for lunch we headed a little further down “the track” where we hit pay dirt. There, on the roadside, like a bramble-y shining beacon of deliciousness, was a huge length of blackberry bushes absolutely heaving with fruit. The excitement grew as we pulled off the road…only to discover JUST what a townie I am. It turns out that you can’t trust the ground beside a country road. What looks like a little indent turns out to be long grass concealing a silty boggy cavernous ditch…oops! After an initial steep decline, I stopped the car and began to carefully back out. The back wheels got traction, I accelerated, we both whooped in delight and then we heard a crunch. And so we come to, what shall hereby be referred to as, “The Rock Incident”. Yep, there in the squishy silt of the trench was a HUGE rock. I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go back…we were stuck.

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Filed under Fruit, Hobart, Jams and Preserves

A Little Bit Country…The 110th Bream Creek Show

The past week has been a week of firsts for me in Hobart and I have officially had my townie mind blown. Through the guidance of my fabulous Hobart-native friend, Musikerin, I have now picked my very first bumper haul of blackberries (more on that adventure soon) and have been to my very first country show, and WHAT a country show it was!

The fabulous thing about being in a small city is that you can access most of the city living essentials (great coffee, general infrastructure, world class food and wine) but don’t have to drive very far out of town to be in a whole other world. Having heard about the wonders of country shows, I was excited when Saturday morning arrived (overcast but temperate) and the anticipation grew as I swung by to pick up Musikerin and we headed across the bridge and out to Bream Creek.

Located about 50km east(ish) of Hobart, Bream Creek is home to a small township, a few wineries and the “small country show with a big country heart”. We were directed to park in a big grassy area and as we walked down to the entrance I was struck by the beauty of our surrounds.

Heading down to the Bream Creek Show

Once we were though the gates there was much to see: firstly, we consulted our programs and headed to the livestock and animal nursery to get our fix of baby animal happiness. All of the pens were very clean and there were no signs of stress with any of the animals, which I overjoyed to see. I was particularly taken some baby British Giant rabbits, which we were allowed to gently hold (a handful of snuggling softness), some sleeping piggies, the fluffy white Silkie chooks and the baby alpacas.

Oodles of cuteness: Alpacas and Silkies

Next it was over to the arena to watch some of the demonstrations: sadly, we had missed the duck parade but did catch a Light Horse brigade and a bullock team. Apparently, this is very much a skill of yesteryear and working teams are quite rare these days. I don’t know what types of bullocks these are (a mixture of breeds, I believe) but holy schamoly, they were very responsive to the trainers vocal commands (they all had names) and whip cracking (it never touched animals), and they were the biggest cows I have ever seen! You don’t quite get the effect from the photos but look at the bullocks next to the man and know that he was at least 5’10”, if not taller.

Them's some big cows!

Finally, it was time to head to the Hall of Industries and it was there that we hit country show pay dirt: needlework, flower arrangements, crochet, vegetables and table upon table of baked goods and jams. And now, for your viewing pleasure, a collage of the wonders of The 110th Bream Creek Show Hall of Industries:

The 'Inexpensive Fruit Cake' s fight it out

Beautiful Neddlecrafts

Second prize? He was robbed!

An arrangement of native flowers

I noted that the most hotly contested categories included Baby’s Hand-Knitted Jumper or Cardigan, Inexpensive Fruit Cake, Plain Scones, Victoria Sponge, the children’s ‘Animal from a Vegetable, and a Collection of Apples, but then we hit the jam room….

Relish and chutneys and jams, oh my!

Exhausted from all the fabulousness of the hall, we headed next door to the luncheon area. Having paid our $5, we picked out our afternoon tea plates and joined one of the long communal tables to tuck in. For about the billionth time that day my mind was blown… by the Victoria sponge. Now, there is no evidence that the Country Women’s Association has an affiliation with the Bream Creek Show luncheon room, but it was just what I imagined a CWA lady’s sponge would taste like. Feather-light with just the right amount of jam and cream, I nibbled on it in a ladylike fashion (as befitting a Victoria sponge) until I spotted a burly middle-aged farming gentleman open his mouth and shove in half a slice, and so I followed suit (when in Bream Creek…)

Afternoon tea in the Luncheon Pavillion

We rounded out the day by checking out the giant pumpkins (the winner was 117kg) and the wood-chopping finals (death-defying tree lopping)

Giant pumpkins and the treefelling event

Both pretty impressive but I was still thinking about the Victoria sponge and wondering if I could join the CWA….

 

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Filed under Baking, Cakes, Crafts, Hobart, Jams and Preserves, Markets and Shows, Uncategorized

Kingfish Ceviche with Pink Grapefruit (Daring Cooks’ Challenge)

Oh, woe is me! At several stages during the past few weeks, I have been husband-less. While The Hub has been flitting around the country, I have been sitting at home with the puppy and alternatively plaintively staring out the window, distracting myself with busywork (embroidery, letter writing, trimming my bonnets) and aimlessly wandering the moors…bloody Emily Brontë!

In truth, while The Hub has been working very hard in Sydney, I’ve been unpacking a MILLION boxes in our very cool new apartment, spending extra time with awesome girlfriends and making some one person meals.

Despite my love for all things culinary, I sometimes find it hard to be motivated to cook just for me(or to resist the meals-for-one section at Coles or Woolies). That being said, it is a chance to prepare meals that others aren’t so keen on. In my case this is either meals that my dear husband would not categorise as an adequate dinner: poached eggs on toast, a big wok-full of kang kong with oyster sauce; or foods he doesn’t love: large amounts of mushrooms and…seafood! Yep, he doesn’t like it at all. A little sad making since I could eat fish or shellfish for just about every second meal but generally, I make do with ordering it when we’re out, or will grill a steak for him and salmon for me.

Anyways, I was mightily please that I could combine seafood and cooking for one by way of the March Daring Cooks’ Challenge:

Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.

Although the Papas Rellenas looked absolutely divine, all that work and fried carb-y goodness seemed a bit too much for just me. Instead, I opted to make a ceviche (fish/seafood “cooked” in citrus juice). I was interested to read in the Challenge notes that the citrus in Peruvian ceviche is traditionally sour orange, as I’ve only had it with lime. I used that as a starting point and sourced several recipes for ceviche with pink grapefruit (juice and segments).

My second inspiration was found at my favourite Hobart local market, the Tasmanian Farm Gate market. One of the stalls, the Naked Carrot, specialises in sprouts and micro-greens, and I had bought some roketini, which is just-sprouted rocket (arugula for any of y’all Stateside).

Teeny just-sprouted rocket...Roketini!

Rocket is definitely not a traditional ceviche ingredient but I did find a couple of recipes that included finely sliced radish. With all the peppery taste of the mature version, the roketini added a spicy zing, and I also used finely sliced baby purple carrot to visually take the place of the red ringed radish (say that 10 times fast).

For the protein, I had lots of delicious fresh local seafood to choose from but decided to use fish rather than scallops or prawns; and opted for a white-fleshed fish, rather than salmon or trout, to visually contrast with the slivers of peachy rose coloured grapefruit. At one of the fish punts off the King St Wharf, the helpful fishmonger recommended some mindblowingly fresh Yellowtail Kingfish: just what I was hoping he’d suggest!

Kingfish and Grapefruit Ceviche

I mostly based my recipe on a Jamie Oliver’s Sea Bass, Grapefruit and Fennel Ceviche but was also inspired by a delicious marinated kingfish dish I recently had at the exceptional Garagistes and a Ceviche and Pink Grapefruit Salad by Luca Villari.

The contrast of the fragrant crunch of the fennel with the soft just-“cooked” kingkish, and the fresh citrus from the grapefruit with subtle spice from the roketini and chilli was absolutely delicious. I particularly liked the more subtle taste of the grapefruit with the kingfish, as the flavour of the seafood in ceviche is often overpowered by lime. The amount I made would have been adequate as a starter for 2 people but I just scoffed the lot.

[MY RECIPE HERE]

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Filed under Daring Cooks, Farm Gate, No Cook, Seafood

Lamb Shoulder with Red Grapes and Pearl Barley (Gourmet Traveller March 2011)

Although the seasons continue their battle for my preference (way to write a narcissistic sentence), I think my favourite, overall, is probably Autumn.

Even before the much anticipated changing of the leaves begins, the glaring Aussie sun starts to give way to a more subdued light (but there are still some cooler sunny days), and I can break out long sleeves and light jackets, and wear boots with tights (my preferred way to dress). I also associate it with memories of my time in America: the arrival of hot apple cider and apple pies at the Union Square Greenmarket, the lead up to some of my favourite holidays (Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving) and, eventually, watching those leaves change and fall, and then feeling the crunch of them underfoot (in the aforementioned boots with tights, of course).

So, upon receiving the first Autumn issue of Gourmet Traveller my first moves were: read the article on Hobart and be chuffed that I’ve already visited a lot of the fabulous places mentioned and make note of the rest for future outings, and then ogle the food-porn and mark recipes I want to try with my trusty mini post-its.

Trusty Mini Post-Its

One of the recipes that immediately jumped out at me was the Lamb Shoulder with Grapes, Freekah and Parsley. It includes a lot of “my kind” of ingredients (cumin, preserved lemon, fruit in a savoury dish) and seemed suitably warming and filling for the recent cold snap.

” ‘Cos tonight baby, I wanna get freekah with you… “

Remember that song? Well, I sure do and I hummed it in the car all the way to buy some but…I couldn’t find any! If I had any kind of patience, one of the excellent local health or specialty food stores could have ordered some for me but instead, I opted to use pearl barley. For those of you not familiar with freekah (also sometimes freekeh, frekeh), it is a type of roasted green wheat grain. I’ve eaten it before and surmised that pearl barley would be a good substitute size, cooking method and texture wise (although it does take longer to cook and is missing the slight smoky taste freekah has).

Despite being an all-day recipe (in the sense that you slow roast the lamb shoulder for 4.5-5 hours), the actual preparation is pretty quick. Cut some red onions into wedges and scatter with some grapes in a roasting tray. Massage some olive oil and spices into the meat, plop it on top of the onions/grapes, douse with some verjuice and H20, and bung them in the oven. Later on, you cook the freekah (or in my case, pearl barley), quickly dry roast some almonds, chop a few things and mix it all together.

To assemble, I channeled my inner Nigella Lawson/Karen Martini, who are the queens (and my icons) of tossing and tumbling ingredients together and serving on a large platter. I’ve managed to take some pretty crappy shots with my iPhone, which really don’t do the dish justice, but that being said, it does lend itself to being a casual and throw-together kind of look. The added bonus is that you get the tactile satisfaction of pulling the lamb into pieces, squashing the fresh grapes, tearing the herbs, and tossing the roasted grapes and onions through the barley (very Nigella!).

Lamb Shoulder with Red Grapes and Pearl Barley

The end result was a very flavourful and filling meal: the tenderness and subtle spice of the meat is contrasted by the roasted crunch of the almonds, the texture of the grain, the freshness of the herbs, and acidity of the fresh red grapes and preserved lemons. As a serving size note, the recipe says it serves 4 but those 4 people will need to be American football players (or just very hungry). I’d say it’s more of a “serves 4-6″ kind of dish.

It was quite delicious and the abundance of leftovers proved to be even better the next day, either warm or cold. I am looking forward to making this again with the freekah adding an extra smoky roasty dimension. [RECIPE HERE]

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Filed under Autumn, Even Better The Next Day, Gourmet Traveller, Lamb, Slow Cooking