Strawberry smoothie

It is only a smoothie… Not much art in putting it together, really.  Just drop in the mixer 1 part of cut strawberries, 1 part of plain yoghurt and 1 part of milk. If you must, add crushed  ice cubes. Buzz in a mixer, check for sugar, buzz again. Chill. Drink. It was definitely more complicated put the kitchen aid to work for the first time…


Pain perdu with raspberries and ricotta

Pain perdu literally means “lost bread” in French. As in the bread which you cannot eat while french and becomes stale. Probably during Roman times, a resourceful cook realized that if the bread was softened by dipping it in milk and/or  eggs and then fried, it could be converted it into a delicious dish apt for all tastes. I grew up in Portugal eating it, as fatias douradas [golden slices] over Christmas, generously sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. When I moved to Spain, I learnt their name was in fact torrijas and it would make its appearance later down the year during Lent. I am pretty sure if I bring this topic up in the office,  Swiss and the Germans would claim to have their own variety of the dish. But, that belongs to another post…  To close the debate, it might be worthwhile mentioning there is a considerable difference between fatias douradas, torrijas and pain perdu. The iberian varieties are deep fried, while the French opt for browning them with butter.

In any case, when I found an ancient  panettone in the back of the cupboard, I remembered this recipe I had seen ages ago in a Gordon Ramsay’s book. It also had been a while ever since I used this book, and in fact, I even had a perfect group of [s]suffering guests[/s] testers coming home for brunch. Perfect occasion, perfect ingredients, perfect guests…  As every Gordon’s recipe, if you follow the instructions to the letter, you will get exactly what you are supposed to get. Probably due to the differences in the ingredients,  the raspberry mix got a bit messy, but nothing a pair of experienced hands couldn’t fix to the right consistency and taste. All in all, in almost less time than it took to cook it, not only I managed to get rid of old panettone but also had a very happy and satisfied crowd. Definitely calories worthwhile taking.

Pain perdu with raspberries and ricotta (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food: Recipes from The F Word)

Ingredients

  • 125g ricotta cheese drained
  • 125g mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 200g raspberries
  • 25g butter
  • 4 slices of panettone 
  • 3 large eggs beaten

Method

1. Put the ricotta, mascarpone, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix until it is smooth. Fold half the raspberries and mix softly.

2. Put 1 slice of panettone in the egg mix and let it soak for a couple of minutes.

3. Fry the slice on both sides until golden brown (about a couple of minutes). Take it out of the pan and put it in a serving plate.

4. Repeat (2-4).

5. Put a generous spoon of the raspberry mix on top of the warm slices of fried panettone, and finish with the remaining raspberries.

6. Serve.

2. Melt the butter in a non stick pan until it begins to foam.


Rice Pudding with Orange Jewels, Tarragon and Puffed Rice

I cannot make rice pudding the way my Mother does. No matter how many times I have watched her doing it or how scrupulously I follow her instructions, it is not the same thing. It doesn’t taste the same, it doesn’t feel the same and it doesn’t do her recipe any justice. It seems just impossible to reproduce her pudding rice. For a while, I tried other recipes, like the one Spanish chef Juan Maria Arzak has in one of his books, to less than optimal results.

A few days ago, while watching season 2 of Masterchef Australia, I saw how Gary Mehigan  and George Calombaris did this rice pudding during one of their masterclasses. It looked delicious, packed with different flavors and textures, and they comprehensively explained how to cook it. And, I decided it to give a another go to rice pudding. Anyway, what sort of expectations would you have on an Australian rice pudding recipe?  It was worthwhile the effort. In fact, there was a respectful silence around the table while people eat their desserts… Do not feel tempted to remove the tarragon, on the pretenses that no rice pudding has green stuff on it. With the orange, it is a delicious combination.

Rice Pudding with Orange Jewels, Tarragon and Puffed Rice

Ingredients 

Rice pudding

  • 40g caster sugar (or sugar too taste )
  • 700ml milk (the real thing, with all its fat)
  • 135g Arborio rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

Candied orange peel

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • the peel of 1 orange, pith removed, julienned in the vertical
  • 1 orange, peeled zest, pith removed, julienned

To serve

  • tarragon leaves,
  • 1/4 cup puffed rice, toasted
  • 1 orange flesh segmented

Orange jewels

  • 15g caster sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp agar agar powder (do not follow the instructions on the bottle, as they are aimed to get a gelatin consistency. The jewels need to be solid to be cut properly, so it is OK if you add agar agar in excess).
  • 190ml freshly squeezed orange juice, strained (I used the juice of 2 oranges and topped with water until I had 250mL of liquid)

Method

Step 1: For the candied orange peel, place 1 cup of the sugar and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium, add orange peel and simmer gently for 45 minutes until syrupy. If you are not using it immediately, it is better to separate the peels and letter then cool).

Step 2: For the orange jelly, line a 500ml plastic container with cling film. Add ¼ cup water, orange juice and sugar to a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Sprinkle in agar agar and whisk for about 5 minutes until dissolved. Remove from the heat. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into the lined container. Refrigerate for about 25 minutes or until set. Invert jelly from container onto a board and cut into 1cm cubes.

Step 3: For the rice pudding, add the milk, rice, vanilla bean and seeds to a non-stick saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for 30-35 minutes, or until creamy and the rice is tender, stirring regularly. Add the remaining sugar and stir for about 2 minutes until dissolved (I had to use the whole 1-L of milk, as the rice absorbed the first 700mL of milk).

Step 4: To serve, divide rice pudding between serving bowls. Arrange the jelly jewels on top, along with the orange segments, tarragon leaves, candied orange peel, a spoonful of syrup and some puffed rice. Serve immediately.