Tag Archive | cooking

THE QUINCE QUESTION AND COOKING LIKE CORDOBA

I was quite surprised – reading some comments on my last post – to learn that the quince is not widely known. I’ve always loved this fruit, with its quality of romantic history. When I was a child the trees were everywhere and the fruit abundant. Nowadays, it seems the tree has become unfashionable and the fruit is rarely available and – when it can be found – is obscenely pricey.
From Wikipedia: The quince /ˈkwɪns/ (Cydonia oblonga) is the sole member of the genus Cydonia in the family Rosaceae (which also contains apples and pears, among other fruits). It is a small deciduous tree that bears a pome fruit, similar in appearance to a pear, and bright golden-yellow when mature. Throughout history the cooked fruit has been used as food, but the tree is also grown for its attractive pale pink blossom and other ornamental qualities.

Most varieties of quince are too hard, astringent and sour to eat raw unless ‘bletted’ (softened by frost and subsequent decay). High in pectin, they are used to make jam, jelly and quince pudding, or they may be peeled, then roasted, baked or stewed.
The flesh of the fruit turns red after a long cooking time. The very strong perfume means they can be added in small quantities to apple pies and jam to enhance the flavour. Adding a diced quince to apple sauce will enhance the taste of the apple sauce with the chunks of relatively firm, tart quince. The term “marmalade”, originally meaning a quince jam, derives from “marmelo,” the Portuguese word for this fruit.
Quince trivia:
In Turkey, the expression ayvayı yemek (literally “to eat the quince”) is used as a derogatory term indicating any unpleasant situation or a malevolent incident to avoid. This usage is likened to the rather bitter aftertaste of a quince fruit inside the mouth.
When a baby is born in Slavonia (Croatia), a quince tree is planted as a symbol of fertility, love and life.
Ancient Greek poets (Ibycus, Aristophanes, e.g.) used quinces (kydonia) as a mildly ribald term for teenage breasts.
Although the book of Genesis does not name the specific type of the fruit that Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden, some ancient texts suggest Eve’s fruit of temptation might have been a quince.
In Plutarch’s Lives, Solon is said to have decreed that “bride and bridegroom shall be shut into a chamber, and eat a quince together.”
I was interested to find, in my research, that the quince is used in Argentinian cuisine. As my daughter is currently there for six weeks on a cultural exchange programme, living with a host family in Cordoba, I’m very keen to try and replicate what she could be eating while she’s there.

 

MY DAUGHTER WITH HER HOST FAMILY IN CORDOBA

MY DAUGHTER WITH HER HOST FAMILY IN CORDOBA

It’s rather fascinating to discover that our food culture so closely mirrors theirs. Beef barbeque is as popular there as it is here. In Argentina the membrillo, as the quince is called in Spanish, is cooked into a reddish, jelly-like block or firm, reddish paste known as dulce de membrillo, very good with a nice slab of steak.
Quince cheese, also known as dulce de membrillo, is a sweet, thick, jelly made of the pulp of the quince fruit. Quince cheese is a common confection in several countries, where it goes by various names, such as carne de membrillo or ate de membrillo in Spanish, marmelada in Portuguese, codonyat in Catalan, cotognata in Italian and membrilyo in Tagalog.

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Pic credit: Wikipedia

Recipe adapted from here: http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/easy-quince-cheese-recipe-membrillo-467/

I added two chopped chillies to the mixture.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to eat my lunch … and daydream that I’m right there with my daughter, sharing in this wonderful adventure she’s on …

 

AN ANNIVERSARY AND A REAWAKENING

I was dreaming of food. Crisp baguettes, the flesh of the bread a virginal white, still steaming from the oven, and ripe cheese, its borders creeping towards the edge of the plate. Grapes and plums, stacked high in bowls, dusky and fragrant, their scent filling the air.” The Girl You Left Behind – Jojo Moyes.

Almost exactly to the date of the anniversary of my move into my apartment, I had a week-long leave from work. Restless and feeling that niggling Calvinist guilt at the prospect of a period of sloth, I was nonetheless determined to have a bit of a holiday – I had a new novel that – unexpectedly – had food reference throughout, and a stash of sweets. So, as one does, I also stocked up on what has been my staple diet for the past year: pot noodles and sardines. My kitchen has been neglected for the better part of the past year, with hindsight I now understand that neglect to be part of my grieving process. In any event, the pot noodles had to be laid aside when my microwave oven and my kettle died within two days of one another. I was forced to engage with my gas hob and oven.

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Removing the microwave to the rubbish collectors, I cleaned the counter top, rather pleased with the rearranged space and hauled my coffee machine out of its retired status and – very peculiar – the desire to cook again came over me. I had to bake immediately and did so, muffins first, then a tomato and onion tart tatin.

A lamb tagine followed; enough for two days’ lunch. I was mortified by the layer of dust that coated the tagine when I took it down from the shelf.

I went shopping and rediscovered that unfortunate-looking fruit of my childhood: the quince. Ah! Bought a little pork fillet and pan-seared it with cumin and ginger, then wrapped it in peppered smoked Black Forest ham and roasted it with the poached quince …

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“As lamb is often suited to flavours redolent of its habitat – grassy, herbal, maquis – so pork is complimented by the earthy flavour of cumin. Sprinkle ground cumin on pork tenderloin or chops before cooking …” The Flavour Thesaurus, Niki Segnit.

And so it goes, as if the advent of the end of our winter has swept spring back into my kitchen, I am filled with resolve to cook, if not every day yet, more frequently. And my healing heart can only grow stronger; one day at a time …

I just need something to look forward to, she wants to say. I just want to smile without having to think about which muscles to use.” The Girl You Left Behind, Jojo Moyes.

TWO TRIPS: IN PINK TAXIS AND DOWN-BLOG-MEMORY-LANE

Being carless is beginning to make me experience severe cabin fever; I was going batty with little to do except watch my flowers open.

flowers opening
A glance at my very full laundry basket reminded me that I urgently needed to purchase a washing machine and prompted me to do what many people who live in city centres the world over do: catch a taxi.
My drivers, Cecilia and Thobile, were very entertaining and they showed me clever shortcuts to use there-and-back in future.

Thobile with her Cabs for Women taxi cab.

cabs for women
Washing machine duly purchased (they can only deliver next week), I did some other shopping for bits and pieces I needed, including a plunger for one of my bathtubs that won’t drain. Alas, the plunger hasn’t done the trick and I’ll have to fork out for a plumber to come around.
I had time for some lunch while reading up on some Italian recipes and thinking about my answers to Mandy’s ‘Getting to know you better’ series. All too soon my outing was at an end and I had to rush to meet Thobile for my ride home.
Mandy has revisited the series on her latest blog post and I thought I’d do it to see how many of my answers have changed since the last time I completed the quiz way back in 2011.
1. What is your favourite non-alcoholic drink?
Coffee, I drink copious amounts of it throughout the day.
2. What is your favourite alcoholic drink?
I’m an alcoholic in recovery, so I don’t drink, but I used to love red wine.
3. What is your favourite food?
I’m a bit fickle and it changes from day to day, generally I favour Italian food, but today I just read about it while eating good old fish and chips.

taxi outing lunch_edited

4. What is your least favourite food?
Carrot cake, I don’t get what all the fuss is about.
5. What do you eat that others think is really weird?
Tripe, I don’t cook it myself, but I make a pig of myself when I’m invited to eat it at someone else’s house.
6. What is your favourite thing to cook/bake?
I love cooking fiddly little things that look pretty, like stuffed and breaded pumpkin flowers. Pic from when I blogged about them on 21 November 2011.

7. If you could only chose one, would it be sweet or savoury?
Savoury.
8. What time do you usually eat your dinner during the week?
I’ve long had the philosophy that eating a big meal after 4pm is not good for the body. I have my main meal at lunchtime. If I am peckish in the evening, I usually have cheese and crackers.
9. What kitchen item/s have you never owned?
A chinois, I first saw Tandy using one to make sous vide crayfish bisque and have yet to get myself one.
10. What tip would you give to a newby cooker / baker?
It’s easier than you think, relax and enjoy the process and the rewards.
11. What is the best vegetarian dish you have eaten?
Parmigiana di Melanzane. I love it! Picture from when I made it from Jamie Oliver’s recipe on my blog on June 14 2011.

12. What is the easiest meal you can cook?
Mie goreng. Picture from the recipe I posted here on 2 October 2010.

13. If you could only grow 3 herbs in your garden, what would you grow?
Coriander, rocket and parsley.
14. What would you use as a substitute for salt?
Soy sauce.
15. What 5 items would you pack for a quick and easy picnic or day out?
Ciabatta, humus, taramasalata, cottage cheese and cranberry juice.

And now I’m hungry again …

FRESH HELL AND HOISIN DUCK

Motley crews are, by definition, non-uniform and undisciplined as a group. They are characterised by containing characters of conflicting personality, varying backgrounds, and, usually to the benefit of the group, a wide array of methods for overcoming adversity. Traditionally, a motley crew who in the course of a story comes into conflict with an organised, uniform group of characters will prevail. This is generally achieved through the narrative utilising the various specialties, traits and other personal advantages of each member to counterbalance the (often sole) speciality of a formal group of adversaries. (Source: Wikipedia.)
We’re a motley crew at the moment, us at work. Our toenails are chipped, our legs unshaven and our eyebrows … well they’d give hairy caterpillars a run for their money. With our deadline for submission of our books for selection into the 2013 teaching curriculum, we’ve been pulling long shifts. Most mornings have found me having a good bawl; drying my eyes, getting on with it and collapsing at midday – only to start all over again for the afternoon stint.
(What fresh hell is this???My spellchecker won’t accept ‘bawl’ as a word. It damnwell is too, I’m doing it often enough these days! Hmphfff! :
More Wikipedia trivia:
“If the doorbell rang in her apartment, she would say, ‘What fresh hell can this be?’ — and it wasn’t funny; she meant it.” You might as well live: the life and times of Dorothy Parker, John Keats (Simon Schuster, 1970, p124). Often quoted as “What fresh hell is this?” as in the title of the 1987 biography by Marion Meade, “Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?”)


My desk has been an island of hell, but with the support of my amazing team mates, the impossible has been achieved and all my books are running nicely on track. Small, thoughtful gifts from caring friends form a little shrine to my spiritual sanity throughout this trying time.


I get home too wired to sleep immediately, and have utilized this energy to cook and freeze as many meals as I can and so ensure that I have a hot meal at work every day.


Eating a steaming bowl of Hoisin duck, telephone at my ear, while an irate author bangs on about outstanding artwork … well, it does make things bearable.
And so it goes … as my friend, Charlie, always says. We forge ahead and keep in mind that the end is in sight, and that – with it – comes the promise of the return to serenity. And chocolate always helps …

HOT LITTLE BASTARDS, FOWL FODDER AND GINGER BEER

My dad was short of stature and had a ruddy complexion, helped along – no doubt – by his love of brandy and Coke. He was also partial to peri peri sauce and we always had a little bottle of the red stuff on the dinner table. A particularly good concoction earned my dad’s greatest praise and was labeled a ‘bastard’. I recall one night at supper, when one of my siblings wanted to add some zing to the meal and asked my mom “Where’s the little red bastard?” I got the short end of the stick and replied that he was away on business. It became a standing family joke that my dad, God bless him, took very well.


I’ve discovered a new product that would have invoked a howl of ecstatic agony from my dear old dad; this is a product to raise anyone’s hair on end. My recent chicken and pasta salad was positively wicked and a ginger beer and strawberry cooler was called for to render things bearable. It made me wonder – rather darkly – if anyone living alone has ever died from hot chili sauce.

I was hard-pressed to catch my breath and sweated for about an hour after eating.
My friend Paula has requested my recipe for ginger beer and I must ‘fess up that it’s a filched one. That Jamie lad gave it to me, although he doesn’t know he did:
I’m not going to be found guilty of plagiarism, so here is the link. It’s a sure win in these hot, hot, hot days of summer.
Speaking of summer and chicken, I’ve been hard-pressed to restrain myself from joining my colleagues in their daily consumption of take-away foods. I have succumbed on a few occasions and there was mass disbelief, until photographic evidence emerged…


I’ve now become disciplined and prepare healthier versions of chicken the night before. It makes me feel far more virtuous and I can almost feel my heart pumping its thanks.


I don’t quite understand, though, why everyone collapses into fits of mirth when they spy my lunch bag make its way into the office in the mornings …

RUDE HABITS, HEARTS AND ROSES

Someone out in the road is being rude and making loud, crashing noises. It sounds to me like a Waste-Tech bin is being filled with metal and pieces of broken concrete. It’s late afternoon and I’m battling with the flu (again!), which makes it doubly rude and annoys me no end.


People are rude about habit. It is supposed to suggest sloppiness and laziness, but I don’t think they have thought about it properly. Habit is useful and comforting: it rides over the bumpy bits, it is the track that cuts across the hills and valleys and carries passengers safely through.” Elizabeth Buchan – Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman.
I bought myself a small treat. Having not chosen to own a television set, I nonetheless found that the radio didn’t do much to dispel the uncomfortable silence in my home. Sundays are especially bad and on impulse, I went out and purchased a small, portable DVD player and have taken to spending Sundays in my pyjamas, watching movies. I began with the entire first and second series of Downton Abbey and have move on to other period dramas. As habits go, this one seems perfectly acceptable.


More distressing is the slow disintegration of my blogging habits. I simply don’t have anything very interesting to say, much less any interesting food to blog about. I’ve nudged myself back into action by my very kind friend, Mal. She’s bestowed upon me the ‘One Lovely Blog’ award, of which I feel very undeserving, yet very grateful. Thank you, Mal. I’m to accept the award my nominating 15 other bloggers, which – for those bloggers who’ve befriended me over the past 5 years of blogging know – I never do, as I can’t isolate only 15 bloggers.
I also need to disclose 7 things about me, so here goes:
1. I obsessively remove price stickers from things. I am incapable of reading a new book while my finger constantly catches on that little scrap of paper on the back cover, I must pick at it until it comes loose.
2. I rub my feet against one another while I read or watch movies. I’ve tried to make a conscious effort not to do it, but then find I’ve been concentrating so hard on not doing it that an entire chapter has run away under my eyes and I can’t recall a single word of it.


3. I’m a magpie for many objets, but in particular for heart-shaped knickknacks. (This is, according to the very reliable Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the correct spelling. I can’t find the origin of the term, but would be very interested to know it.)


4. I should like to have been named Rose, after my mother. Roses are quite one of my favourite things and I always have a bunch or pot of them somewhere in my home where I can catch a glimpse of them. “Roses are the only flowers that have never had a nickname. No heart’s-ease or Dutchman’s breeches for the rose … Roses rustle in the wind and smell of heaven. They are tokens of love, as well as grief. Think of that.” IBID.


5. I have a new tattoo. It is on my wrist and very small. I suppose one could say I now wear my heart and roses just below my sleeve.


6. This past Monday was our National Heritage Day and – over the past few years – it has become our national habit to braai. My solitary barbeque was a bit sad and I couldn’t help but compare it with last September and to marvel at how much one life could change within the small time span of twelve months.


7. If I should be asked to give a young girl a piece of sage advice, I’d tell her to wear the highest heels while she can. And that life is too short to try to match everything perfectly.


Once again, thanks for the award, Mal. It’s flattered me and brought me back to the blog world.

WONDERING ABOUT PEOPLE, A HAILSTORM AND GOD

“It must be the same all over England. People buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The superhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that.” – Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.


In growing accustomed to living alone, I am becoming fascinated with strangers and I stare and stare; in supermarkets, in traffic and in the corridors at work. I try to interpret their posture or their facial expressions and I wonder about there being so many stories out there; some wonderful and some dreadfully sad. I wonder if they, too, look into my shopping basket and wonder about the single curl of smoked sausage, the small piece of blue cheese and the three slabs of dark chocolate …


I’ve become rather a slave to Lindt’s new wasabi infused dark chocolate, discovered at the same time as I found Ms Joyce’s wonderful novel. I’m devouring both shamelessly, with the freedom to do both well into the small hours of the morning without disturbing anybody.


This morning I took the book and a toasted sandwich into my garden, on which the Garden Gods seem to have bestowed a curse. With Betsy rabbit gone and no longer eating all my plants, new shoots were pushing their way up everywhere. My pigeon had finally flown away; her damaged wing healed, and was no longer coating everything in guano. Things were looking up, my roses were budding and my agave florets were sprouting again. And then the most ferocious hailstorm hit and everything was battered.


Still today has dawned sunny, I’ve cleared most of the debris and am considering a trip to the nursery. Optimism is a funny thing, the way it refuses to be quashed. My tranquil corner is restored.


On the new job front, things are going well – I was terribly stressed at first, but I’ve got my head around the work. I resolved to keep to myself and not make friends, but my resolve was very short-lived and the good nature of my colleagues won the day. Friday was ‘Casual Day’ and we were presented with pirate hats and had a bit of a party, which was tremendous fun.


Another thing I vowed was that I would not entertain in my new life in the little cottage. This vow, too, flew out the window with time and I’ve had a few dinner parties, which went some way to placating the disapproving funk my kitchen had been greeting me with in the mornings.
I’ve even resumed my habit of a weekly cake bake. A friend and I are currently working on a long-term ‘spiritual journey’ and she gave me an assignment to write on my personal perception of a Higher Power. Writing it made me feel so uplifted that I presented her with a heart-shaped cake.


My Higher Power is not embodied in my mind in the form of man or woman. Rather, my own Higher Power is an abstract concept which contains at its core a concrete set of moral values and principles. This set of values in its simplest interpretation sits in my mind as the essence of difference between good and bad. In effect, this Higher Power is – as I conceive it – “the absolutely RIGHT way’, in other words; the counterpart to evil. For want of a better term, I use the words ‘SPIRITUALITY’ ‘PIETY’ HOLINESS’ or – that term with which I feel most comfortable – ‘MERCIFUL GRACE’. For purposes of meditation and prayer in my daily life, I will continue to address myself to this Higher Power as ‘God’.

Have a peaceful week, my friends. I feel the need for another cup of coffee. And something sweet …