Posts Tagged cooking

Changing my life 

If I’m honest, it was the one-pot-does-everything idea that attracted me to my new toy, the Instant Pot, because I liked the idea of getting rid of a bunch of single-task stuff and still being able to simmer oatmeal, slow-cook beets and fast-cook chickpeas for hummus.
But after just two weeks as a member of the IP cult, I realize that the yogurt it makes has the potential to change my life. This a smooth, creamy yogurt, which I make with full-fat, organic milk and strain just long enough for a medium firm consistency. (It works both for me and for the “I don’t like Greek yogurt” spouse.) I add it to my morning oatmeal, for a spoonful of tang, and then eat it by the bowlful with a generous dollop of jam. He mixes his with hemp seeds and maple syrup and takes it into work. The only problem is making it fast enough and often enough that we don’t run out.


The recipe, if you can call it such, is beyond simple. Heat milk in the pot until it gets to 180F (or a bit more), cool it back down to 115F (or a bit less) – experts suggest placing the inner pot in a sink of cold water and whisking the hot milk to cool it down. Add starter (basically a tablespoon of the previous batch), and then leave the pot of milk on the yogurt setting overnight to let the bacteria do their stuff. Come morning I strain the yogurt for an hour or so for a set that’s half way between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt. You need almost nothing: strainer, cheesecloth, thermometer and a container to store the yogurt when it’s done.


No muss, no fuss, true perfection.

The bonus: the leftover whey is perfect for bread and for that amazing Ottolenghi chocolate babka. I even added some to a pasta casserole instead of milk.

My life will never be the same again.

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The cult of Instant Pot

It’s a cult, I tell you, these Instant Pots. One pot to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them in the Land of Mordor, where the shadows lie. Sorry. Wrong genre. I got a little carried away.*

But how else do you explain the appeal of the latest foodie gizmo, a single gadget that functions as a slow cooker, rice cooker, pressure cooker, vegetable steamer, sauté pan and yogurt maker? It boils eggs, makes cheesecake and would probably tie my shoelaces if I asked it nicely. I mused for a few days whether I wanted one, and the spouse upped and bought it, even though I assured him he had already bought me a very generous birthday present. Today it arrived. And the adventure began.

I admit the warnings, both on the pot, and in the Facebook Instant Pot Community (414,174 members as of today), are pretty daunting, and I read horror stories of people storing their gadget on the stove, and then switching a burner on (cue melted pot), or pouring liquid into the pot’s housing rather than into the pot itself (the electronics don’t seem to like that much). It has more buttons than a microwave, and a lot of very irritating beeps, marking the on-off moments, the up-to-pressure moments and the what-if-I-change-my-mind moments. So in a day of get-to-know you experiments, I boiled water, hard-boiled (hard-steamed?) four eggs, almost followed the Instant Pot recipe book for a distressingly tasteless dal and cooked a cup of brown rice. I’m not hooked yet, but I’m definitely curious. This adventure could be fun.

I’ll skim over the pressure-cooked water, which is the recommended way to test that the pot is working as advertised, and the eggs, which admittedly did peel very nicely after pressure steaming according to the internet’s consensus 5:5:5 rule. Put eggs on trivet, slosh half a cup of water into the pot, then cook for five minutes at pressure, wait five minutes on keep-warm mode to let the pressure come down a bit and then cool for five minutes in cold water. The lentil dish (lentils, onions, garlic, red pepper, spices, apple cider, water and home-canned tomatoes) was very quick and very easy, but it definitely needed a lot more oomph, as well as a very generous dose of salt. This was a recipe with no salt and no fat, both of which add taste, and I consider the recipe a fail. I should have trusted my instincts and used the saute function to fry my onions/garlic/pepper mix before adding the other ingredients. And I should have added more (and different) spices.

Then I followed the instruction manual’s recipe for “perfect brown rice” which called for a ratio of 2.5 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. Hmm. My rice tasted good, but it had not absorbed all its cooking water after the recommended 22 minutes at pressure and then 14 on keep-hot mode. Was my rice to old, or was the recipe (which was also lacking salt) wonky? I’ll never know, but I will try again, and I certainly liked the cooking speed.

Conclusions: Ignore the confusing buttons and do everything manually, and add salt to everything to taste. The eggs are very, very easy, and yes, the peel well. I have not figured out a final answer to the tasteless dal – the sealed lid of the pressure cooker means you can’t just taste your dish as it cooks. But I’ll get there. It definitely wasn’t bad.

Any favourite things out there that I should be doing when I play with the new toy?

*Apologies to Tolkien fans.

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Oranges, meet salt

The challenge over at Food in Jars is all about salt preserving this month, and the discussion centres on whether there’s enough stuff to keep the 1000-plus canners going all month. Marisa has a number of suggestions, including salted egg yolks (???) and an intriguing sounding vegetable stock base. But the thing that everyone keeps coming back to is preserved lemons, which I’ve made several times and always enjoy.

But for me this challenge is all about learning and experimenting, so I’m going for salt preserved oranges, because … why not? It was quick, although it will take a few weeks before I open the jar and decide about the taste.

I started by cutting two organic navel oranges into segments, dipping them in kosher salt and cramming them into a 1-pint Mason jar. Add orange juice to cover, seal and store in the fridge for a month or more to let the flavours develop. If I remember, I’ll turn the jar over a few times to mix the salt and fruit, but I’ll probably forget. I seem to have lost my little plastic lid for Mason jars, so I put a layer of plastic film between jar and lid, in the hope that will stop things rusting too fast — a salt/acid combination can pretty much destroy a ring/lid combination.

Worst case scenario.

Preserved oranges turn out to be sort of indifferent, and I don’t make them again.

Best case scenario.

They are new and wonderful, and I make them week after week after week after week, putting them in soups, stews, hummus and anything else that can do with a citrus tang.

Bonus scenario.

I zested the orange I was juicing to cover the fruit, and mixed that with the remaining kosher salt in a no-waste effort to make some citrus salt. No clue what I’ll use that for either, but again, it’s an experiment. If it doesn’t work I’m out a couple of ounces of salt.

Now comes the waiting.

 

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Marmalade musings: Using it up

My latest marmalade adventures, plus a spirited debate over on the Food in Jars community Facebook page, has got me thinking about what I use marmalade for, and whether the 16 jars I have so far will be enough for the year.

So far, I favour the following.

  • Toast and marmalade. Well doh. That’s what marmalade is all about. It’s especially good if the toast is made from home-made bread. Lashings of butter, preferably salted, is a welcome addition.
  • Marmalade and peanut butter sandwiches (also on home-made bread). That’s become my go-to snack for summer biking and winter cross-country skiing because it offers carbs, protein and sugar in an easy-to-transport, not-too-sweet package. It was the main reason I almost ran out of marmalade last year.
  • Marmalade and cottage cheese. Try it. Even better than marmalade and yogurt. It works as a post-ride protein boost as well.
  • Marmalade and oatmeal. In winter, I slow-cook a large batch of steel-cut oatmeal every few days, usually adding dates or cranberries for taste, and then microwave a portion for breakfast each morning. Adding a dollop of marmalade offers sweetness with a slightly bitter kick,. I’ve also started throwing in a handful of different grains when I make the oatmeal. Flax/wheat/rye based Red River cereal was a good addition, but I recently switched to amaranth seeds, which give a slightly nutty taste, and might move on next to quinoa or teff.
  • Nigella Lawson’s chocolate marmalade cake (recipe below). I can’t remember where I first found this recipe, but it’s like a cross between a brownie and a cake, with the marmalade’s bitter taste and peel adding something very special. I’m willing to bet you can’t just eat one slice.
  • The inside of a thumbprint cookie, preferably a cookie with lots of almonds and one that uses maple syrup instead of sugar. I like this Wholefoods recipe.
  • A glaze for any other sort of cake, within reason.
  • A glaze for meat (chicken, pork. beef) or fish (salmon, especially). OK, I’ve not tried this one for ages, but how can it possibly go wrong?

I am still looking for the perfect recipe for marmalade cake. Any offers?

And any other marmalade-using ideas?

In fact writing this blog got me so excited about the chocolate cake that I raced down to the library (in the rain) to get their copy of Nigella’s “How to be a domestic goddess,” which is the book with the recipe. She calls it store-cupboard chocolate-orange cake, because she assumes most people have all the ingredients in their store cupboards.

I beg to differ. You think I keep dark chocolate at home?

Chocolate marmalade cake
(or store-cupboard chocolate-orange cake, if you prefer)

125g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate (I used Lindt with 70 percent cocoa)
300g home-made marmalade (that’s one full 250 ml jar, plus a little bit)
130g sugar (Nigella says 150g, but I figured a little less wouldn’t hurt)
a pinch of salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
150g self-rising flour (or 150 g all-purpose flour and 1.5 tsp baking powder)

Melt the butter and chocolate together, as if you were making brownies. Nigella suggests a saucepan over low heat; I microwaved, cautiously, on half power. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in the marmalade, sugar and salt and then the beaten eggs. Mix in the flour and then pour into a greased 20-22cm cake tin. I used my trusted, nogrease silicon pan, which makes life easier.

Bake for 40-50 minutes in a preheated 375F oven, until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack.


I had forgotten quite how yummy this is.

 

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From tree to table, via pan and jar

Another on the road adventure, during a short trip to Florida to escape the Canadian winter. Friend here has citrus trees in her lush green yard, but in 30 (or is it 40?) years of living here, she’s never made marmalade. Cue batch no. 4 of 2017 marmalade, which I consider to be one of the best yet. A real classic marmalade, with tangy peel suspended in glorious bittersweet orange jelly. This one might win prizes at the county fair.

We went small on this one. Just two large home grown oranges and one extremely large home grown Meyer lemon, a trio that weighed in at two pounds exactly. That made the 1:1:1 fruit/sugar/water ratio an easy one to follow. Two pounds of fruit, two pounds of sugar, two pounds (or two US pints) of the glorious citrus-infused cooking water.

Orange and lemon marmalade

An equal quantity of fruit and sugar, by weight

Wash and quarter the fruit and cover with water. Bring the water to the boil, and then simmer, slowly, until the peel is really soft. It took the best part of an hour.

Allow the quarters to cool enough to handle, and then scoop out the flesh of the fruits, saving the seeds and the membrane in a cheesecloth bag, which you tie up tight with string or ribbon. It’s the pits and the white stuff that gives the marmalade it’s set, do don’t skimp that one. Measure the water, and add as much as you need to make up the same weight as the fruit – one pound of fruit means one pound (16 fl oz) of water;  a kilo of fruit means a kilo of water and so on.

Chop the peel as finely as you like it and return the peel and the flesh to the pan, along with the sugar, the liquid and the flesh of the citrus.

Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved, and then boil madly until it sets, stirring as you go so you don’t end up with something that burns or caramelizes. It took almost 15 minutes of a rolling boil, but it could be more or less, depending on far too many variables to count. I test for set using a drizzle of marmalade on a cold plate from the freezer. If you can run your finger through the blob and the liquid stays apart, it’s just about done. It’s a test that usually works.

Bottle in sterilized jars.

And that was it. Six jars of golden awesomeness, which was especially good on fresh from the oven home made bread. It’s my fourth contender of the month for the Food in Jars marmalade mastery challenge. Still waiting for the Seville oranges to make it to Toronto for contender no. 5.

 

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Mmm Meyers

The plan, for what it’s worth, was to make marmalade later this month, once the Seville oranges hit the stores. But how could I resist a giant bag of Meyer lemons at suspiciously low Costco prices?

Meyer lemons make magnificent marmalade, even though I admit to some frustration in the past with recipes that tell you to prep the fruit in three different ways, and some WTF moments with a Meyer marmalade that started off like a syrup, and then set, surprisingly, two days after the canning. So this time I kept things simple, following the formula from Marissa at Food in Jars : one pound fruit, one pound sugar, one pound water.

Well actually, I used two pounds each of fruit, sugar and water, so it wasn’t exactly the smallest of small batches, but it was incredibly easy and it set incredibly fast.

Meyer lemon marmalade

2 lbs Meyer lemons
2 lbs sugar
4 cups water

Wash the lemons (my babies were not organic, sadly), slice off the ends and cut them into quarters or sixths, lengthwise. Slice off the edge piece of the membrane and fish out the seeds, keeping both in a cheesecloth bag to help the marmalade set. Then slice the peel/flesh as evenly as you can, and put it in your pot with the water.

Bring your lemons to a simmer with the little cheesecloth bag (at the top of the picture) and cook until the peels are butter soft — it took about 3o minutes — and allow the mix to cool. Then squeeze out the cheesecloth bag to get as much as the gooey pectin-rich liquid as you can, discard the bag and add the sugar. Heat, gently until the sugar dissolves, and then at a rolling boil until it sets. Some people use a thermometer for this (222F is the magic number, I am told), but I just put a blob on a cold plate, and if it looks right and stays separated when I run my finger through it, it’s done. I did my first test after 5 minutes of rolling boil, and it was still a little liquid, so I went on for another 4 minutes, which was perhaps a minute or two too long. It’s a good, firm set.

Bottle in sterilized jars and waterbath for 10 minutes. The satisfying pop of the seal came seconds after I took my lovely little jars out of the water.

Five and a half beautiful little jars of sweet-tart marmalade.

I have 8 Meyers left, plus half a bag of luscious Cara Cara oranges. Has anyone ever made a Cara-Meyer marmalade? Would it be good?

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I am not a winner

I was so pleased with the taste of my Sweetie-based three-citrus marmalade from earlier this month that I rashly decided to enter it in one of four competitions at last week’s Mad for Marmalade celebration, organized by the Culinary Historians of Canada. It’s an annual event, but this is the first time I’ve managed to attend, despite frequent pleas from fellow blogger/jam maker at Eat Locally, Blog Globally. And it’s certainly the first time in my life that I’ve entered a cooking competition.

Of course it might have helped if I had read the instructions before deciding which marmalade to enter, as there’s a lot of emphasis on the clarity of jelly and the texture of the final jam. “Do not add dry pulp,” the judges’ comments said firmly in the section that gave me just 1 out of 5 for texture. (I like adding dry pulp. I like the taste, and I like the extra fruitiness in what was, after all a made-up recipe.) I also lost points for leaving in a couple of seeds, although my peel scored well, which means it was “cut into attractively fine, even pieces, evenly distributed, good proportion of rind to jelly, translucent to clear, tender; not chewy.”

But the judges gave me 4 out of 5 for taste, which is what really matters to me. And I didn’t come in last.

citrus1

The event itself was a lot of fun, if only because it was so good to be in the company of a whole group of women and men (mostly women) who think it’s quite normal to transform oranges into marmalade, and who can talk knowledgeably about the amount of pectin in a strawberry, and whether blueberry apricot jam is a good combination. I happen to be one of those who think it isn’t; the dark purple of the blueberry jam completely drowns out the beautiful golden apricot and the two flavors fight with each other. But one jammer said it was the best thing he had ever made.

Among a series of morning workshop options, I signed up for Italian Marmalade, which turned out to be very similar to non-Italian Marmalade, except that the chef used a mandolin to slice the fruit and then simmered it away for the whole of the seminar. We got to taste lemon gelato, made with cream, which was seriously yummy, and enjoyed a lunch of chicken, salads and pasta. I’m even inspired to try candied peel again, if the historical method outlined wasn’t quite such a long and painful process.

citrus2I’ll update the blog when I get a chance to taste my Italian marmalade, but I have a lot of made-by-me stuff to get through first. The latest experiment — blood orange, regular orange and lemon, which has red streaks from the pulp. I guess that would have scored even fewer points.

And I’ve found new uses for my marmalade, which opens the horizons well beyond the marmalade-peanut butter sandwiches I take on the bicycle rides.

1. A very small spoon of marmalade adds a tang and a chew to my morning slow-cooked oatmeal

2. I’ve never liked marmalade in yogurt (the sourness and bitterness just don’t seem to go together), but it works like a charm mixed in with cottage cheese. Try it. You’ll be surprised.

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