Weekend | The Proof of the Pudding


Last Friday I gave you a sneak peak of what I was about to cook, and I’ve finally recovered from the weekend enough to write up the recipe for the main event of my birthday dinner: Puerco en Naranja (or Pork cooked in Orange Juice). This is a stunning recipe and perfect for a really special occasion. It takes a bit of time, but it is so worth it.

Mum ordered the pork from the butchers (it’s an unusual cut, so you will probably need to order from your local butcher, or at least visit the meat counter at the supermarket. However, if you fancy the flavour of this dish without the cost, you could try the same marinade with a cheap cut of pork like shoulder or even chops and just adjust the cooking times and technique). I gave the butcher the name for the order. He returned with the biggest cut of pork loin I’ve ever seen, chuckled and commented “Spears: never a small order”. Well he’s not wrong. But to be fair, every last morsel of meat was devoured.

Ingredients (serves 10 to 12) 9 lbs rib-end pork loin, with the bones chined and the skin scored (ask your butcher to do this for you) 10 cloves of garlic 2 tbsp salt 4 tsp oregano 24 peppercorns

6 oranges

Method 1. Pierce any exposed meat with a sharp knife and place skin side up in a large roasting tin.

Serve with wraps, rice and whichever extras you like – we went to town and had beans, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, jalapeños, cheese and lettuce. I’m not sure how many of these are authentically Mexican sides but darn they taste good!
This recipe is in Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico by Diana Kennedy. It was originally passed on to my parents more than 25 years ago by Professor David Weisblat, my dad’s boss while he was a postdoc in California. I’m told that David was a genius at cooking Mexican cuisine, and one night he scrawled this recipe on a scrap of paper for mum and dad. Now we have Diana’s recipe book, but I just love the jumble of words and instructions that David wrote so I thought I’d share it with you:

Recipes for some of the sides are to come later in the week….



There’s something about meringues that is pretty magical. Maybe it’s the way that a gloopy, anaemic liquid can be transformed into light, frothy clouds with just a whisk. Or maybe it’s the glossy, bright white mixture that appears once sugar has been added. It could be the texture after cooking, a perfect combination of crisp, soft and chewy. It’s definitely the wonder that only two basic ingredients, egg whites and sugar, can result in such a delicious treat.

Meringues can fit in equally well at afternoon tea or a fancy dinner party, and look impressive, but are easy enough that children love to make them. When we were small we had a wonderful step-by-step children’s recipe book which included a recipe for pavlova that we loved to make. Aged about 10 my little sister gave it a go all by herself. Unfortunately, she misread teaspoon as tablespoon and the end result was, shall we say, a little vinegary in flavour. A valiant attempt, but an advert for reading a recipe thoroughly if ever there was one.

I’d been contemplating making flavoured meringues a lot recently, and with four unused egg whites leftover from the custard I made last Sunday this seemed like the chance. I think the flavours I chose work perfectly together: the sharpness of the fruit, the bitterness of the dark chocolate and the intense sweetness of the meringue itself. If you want to try other flavours then go for it, but be careful when adding anything wet or runny as this can affect the texture of the meringue (for example, in this recipe don’t add any extra zest than stated because of the orange oil that will come with it). If you want plain meringues then just leave the added extras out, they will be just a scrumptious in their natural form.

Ingredients (makes about 14 meringues, depending on size) 4 egg whites 115g caster sugar

115g icing sugar

Zest of 1 small orange 2 tbsp freeze dried raspberries

Orange and pink gel food colourings (optional, but this gives a stunning finish)

150g dark chocolate

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 120C/100C fan/Gas 1. Meringues require an extremely low oven temperature, which cooks them through without burning the outside and dries them out. 2. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. You are really going to want either an electric whisk or someone with tireless biceps to do this.

3. Add the caster sugar a spoon at a time, whisking constantly.

4. Add half the icing sugar, whisk, then add the other half and whisk. Pro tip: do not add the icing sugar while the blades are switched on. This results in unnecessary clouds of powdered sugar billowing around your kitchen and requires a lot of wiping down of surfaces, chairs and toasters.
5. You will now have a glossy, sticky mixture. Remove half of it into a different bowl and gently fold in the orange zest. Fold the freeze-dried raspberries through the remaining mixture.

6. Line 2 baking trays with parchment, not greaseproof, paper. Meringues will stick to greaseproof paper, but not baking parchment. I like to place a small blob of meringue mixture at each corner of the trays, so that the baking parchment has something to stick to and doesn’t slide around.

7. Use a large dessert spoon to create individual mounds of meringue mix on the trays. Dip the end of a skewer into the gel food colouring and swirl through the meringues to your hearts content.

8. Cook the meringues for approximately 1¼ hours, or until they are crisp on the outside. Turn the oven off, turn the meringues upside down and leave in the oven to cool. Pro tip: do not forget that you have meringues in the oven and switch it back on to cook something else. This will lead to burnt meringue (or pavlova, as it was in that case).

9. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water. Make sure that the bowl does not touch the water otherwise the chocolate will get too hot.
10. Dip the base of the meringues into chocolate, allowing a few seconds for excess chocolate to drip off. Leave to dry upside down, again on baking parchment.

We had these after a delicious Thai meal that my mum cooked on Saturday. She made her ridiculously simple, but exquisite tasting caramelised oranges. (**BONUS RECIPE** Allow 1 orange per person. Peel and slice. Slowly heat 170g sugar with 140ml water, bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the juice of ½ a lemon and pour over the sliced oranges. Chill.) As I banged on about before, oranges are at their primes right now, and they went so well with the meringues.

I think that the raspberry meringues would also be amazing served with fresh mixed berries and a generous dollop of cream during the summertime.

Speaking of which, is it summer yet? I have such a hankering for pesto and salad niçoise and fresh strawberries and Pimms.

No?

Sigh.


Let’s talk about pasta. More specifically, let’s talk about homemade pasta. Tasty, satisfying, versatile, impressive, quick and, best of all, easy; making your own pasta from scratch is guaranteed to have your friends and family oooh-ing and aaah-ing and complimenting you on the dedication you have to cooking. Well my friend, lap it up as you laugh on the inside and reminisce about the 2 glasses of wine that you knocked back while you made it. The longest part of the process is letting the dough sit in the fridge for an hour (this is when most of the aforementioned wine drinking probably took place) and the trickiest part of the process is rolling out the dough. If you have a pasta machine and a spare set of hands, then this is a breeze. If not, then never fear, I’ve found that pasta is easily a one-woman job. A rolling pin, or a bottle of wine (SEE? SO MANY USES), will do the job of the pasta machine and you can use a sharp knife to cut the pasta to size.

The only ingredients that you really need for pasta are flour and eggs. That’s it. 00 flour is the super fine flour that Italians use to make pasta so if you can get your hands on that then great. However, I’ve been advised by my go-to foodie friend that regular plain flour works too. The most basic pasta dough recipe that you can follow is 100g flour to 1 egg, which will serve roughly one person.

I add a small amount of olive oil for elasticity and a pinch of salt for seasoning. Semolina can also be added to your dough to give it more texture and bite. The proportions of semolina to flour in a recipe vary from family to family, and depend on where in Italy you are. Apparently, the further south, the more semolina in the recipe.

I’m yet to experiment with different proportions of semolina to flour, but here is the recipe that I have been using lately. I find it has a lovely bite, especially if only cooked very briefly, and a rich flavour. It holds up to a flavourful sauce and I’ve used it to make tagliatelle and raviolis so far (like here in my Seafood Tagliatelle).

Ingredients (serves 3) 225g 00 flour 75g semolina 3 medium eggs, beaten (if you have large eggs then add the mix a bit at a time in case you don’t need it all) Small glug of olive oil

Pinch of salt

Method 1. Weigh out the flour and semolina and mix together with a pinch of salt. Pour into a mound on your work surface and make a well in the middle.

2. Pour the beaten egg and olive oil into the well and use a fork or your fingers to slowly begin to incorporate the liquid into the dry ingredients.

3. Combine to a stiff dough and knead for 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, but preferably one hour. Set up your pasta machine, if you’re using one.

4. Cut the dough in half, wrapping one half back up and putting it in the fridge. This will make it easier to deal with rolling out the dough – if you have many spare pairs of hands and a super long kitchen then knock yourself out and do it all at once. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

5. Lightly flour the work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into an oblong thin enough to go through the first setting of the pasta machine. If you’re going rustic then continue with the rolling pin until you have a nice thin dough and then use a knife to cut your pasta shapes.

6. Flour the pasta machine and put the dough through the thickest setting. Fold the dough on top of itself so that it’s half the length and put it through the same setting again. Now take the thickness down a setting and repeat the process. Do not be tempted to skip a setting as the pasta is likely to tear!

7. I take this dough to the second thinnest setting and then put it through the larger cutter to make pieces of pasta about 1cm wide. You can take it as thin as you like and either use the cutter on the machine, or cut by hand with a knife.

8. Lay your pasta on a tray sprinkled with semolina, which will stop it sticking together, or hang the pasta until you are ready to use it. I got a fancy pants pasta hanger for Christmas, but I used coat hangers when I didn’t have one (how did I survive??). Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Cook in heavily salted, boiling water. The pasta will cook in 2 minutes.

If you give homemade pasta a go then let me know how it works out, or if you have your own favourite pasta recipe or semolina to flour ratio then I would love to hear it!

In our house, Friday night is fish night, and it has been for as long as I can remember. Friday mornings involve a trip to Eddie’s Seafood Market, an amazing fishmonger in Edinburgh which offers up a huge range of fresh seafood from crabs to monkfish to sole to scallops to cod roe to mussels to mackerel, and much, much more. Rick Stein named it as one of his Food Heroes, so take it from him if you won’t from me! Friday evenings start with the lights being dimmed and mum lighting the Shabbat candles. The melodious tones of Alanis Morissette or Joni Mitchell often float through the house. Sometimes things are a bit more upbeat and we’re going 70s style with Billy Joel, Elton John or David Bowie. There’s wine chilling in the fridge, fresh bread on the table with real butter to slather over it and a general feeling of contentment that the weekend is beginning.

So I guess this recipe is the first of my odes to glorious Friday nights. (We actually ate this dish on a Sunday. So sue me.) I made homemade tagliatelle, a recipe for which I will post soon, promise, but you could use bought fresh or dried pasta. I chose prawns and cute little baby scallops, but if you’re taking a trip to your local fishmonger, or even the supermarket, then don’t be restricted by that – go for whatever looks fresh. If you pick mussels or clams then I would clap a lid on top of the pan after the wine and cream goes in, until they have opened up. This feels like a truly indulgent pasta dish, but it’s actually not too rich. Crème fraiche is quite aciditic, plus the white wine and the lemon juice cuts through the creaminess of the sauce. The chilli adds a perfect hint of heat.

Ingredients (serves 3) 1 shallot Bunch of flat leaf parsley 3 cloves garlic 1 red chilli 1 lemon 1 small glass dry white wine, plus a large one for the chef 300g dried or fresh tagliatelle, or homemade pasta made with 300g flour and 3 eggs 1 tbsp olive oil 175g scallops 200g king prawns 2 heaped tbsp crème fraiche

Salt and pepper

Method 1. Finely chop the shallot and parsley and crush the garlic. Finely slice the chilli. I used about ¾ of the chilli, but you can test a small piece of yours to see how hot it is and make a judgement from there. Juice the lemon and measure out the wine.

2. Put a pan of water on to boil and liberally season with salt – apparently pasta should be cooked in water as salty as the Mediterranean Sea. Cook the pasta according to the instructions. Dried pasta will probably take about 10-12 minutes so get it on now. Fresh pasta will take 4-5 minutes and homemade pasta only 2 minutes, so wait until the sauce is nearly ready before cooking. 3. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the shallots for 2 minutes. 4. Add the garlic and red chilli and fry for a minute. 5. Increase the heat under the frying pan and add the seafood for 2-3 minutes until it starts to become opaque (fancy word for the seafood gaining colour and being less see-through) . 6. Add the wine and allow the alcohol to cook for 2 minutes. 7. Add the crème fraiche and bubble the sauce for 2-3 minutes. Note: this is the time to chuck your fresh pasta in the pot, if that’s what you’re using.

8. Finish the sauce with the lemon juice, parsley and season with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta and mix through the sauce.

Serve with a green salad, crusty bread and another large glass of chilled white wine.

When I was little, I remember it being such an exciting feeling to be allowed to stay up a bit late, join mum and dad at the table and taste some unusual new seafood or have a sip of wine. Now I’m allowed to decide my own bedtime, but it’s still just as lovely to relax lazily with the perfect combination of company, music, food and wine.

I guess that it comes with the territory of being an insane food-lover that most of my fondest memories tend to involve food in one way or another, and I’m sure there will be more to come on the blog. Do you have any particularly happy food-related memories? I’d love to hear them if you do.

Anyway, enough of these sentimental, and probably tedious, ramblings. Whatever you’re doing tonight, I wish you the most lovely of Friday nights…