Time out

After a week of revelry, my liver is sitting up and begging for mercy, and right not all I want is to sit still, stare at the wall and maybe have a little white rice, with possibly a touch of miso soup.
New Year is coming up, and there´ll be some serious eating to do then, so it´s best to take it easy for a day or two. And then, maybe, I can tackle the post about stuffed capons. Right now, I can´t even look at the cookbooks I was given for Christmas.


Merry Christmas

The Lobster Squad wishes you all a very happy Christmas. I´ll be back on Monday, and hope to be posting soon the recipe for my mother´s famous Christmas Stuffed Bird. Ciao


Preparing for Christmas: shortbread

The blogosphere seems to be awash with shortbread, and that´s all right and proper, given how easy it is to bake and how baking seems to go hand in hand with winter holidays.
My recipe won´t contribute anything in the way of originality, since it´s for plain old shortbread, but I think users of the metric system will love me for it.
It´s from one of my favourite cookbooks, Joanna Weinberg´s "How to feed your friends with Relish".
I´ve only had this cookbook for a couple of months, but I love love love it. Why? Because it´s chatty and well written, beautifully designed, has gorgeous photos and lovely little line drawings, and, because the recipes I´ve tried so far have not only worked, they´ve worked without alteration. Gasp. I´m telling you, Weinberg, she´s the one.

The shortbread recipe is one of those you can memorize, thereby possibly cooking it while away from home, while staying with somebody. If you can produce this, you´ll be getting a lot of invitations, I think.

You´ll need
100 gr. of sugar
200 gr. of butter
300 gr. of flour

a generous pinchh of salt, and whatever you like in the way of aromatics (simple stuff, like chopped pecans, or lemon zest).

Thermomix users, you will love me even more when you know that I´ve adapted the recipe for you. Just put everything in, flour first, butter cold, and pulse 20 seconds, speed 6. Pat the rubbly dough into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

Rest of the world users, please begin by creaming the butter with the sugar, adding flour and salt, and making a ball which will rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

After this, you can either press it into a tin with a loose bottom, or you can cut out shapes after rolling it out. It´s easier if you let it come to room temperature, but still, it´s not easy to cut out shapes. If you cut, stay with small uncomplicated shapes.

Bake at 170º for about 20 minutes. You want it golden at the bottom but creamy yellow at the top. Remember, like all cookies, they will harden as they cool, so let them cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then lift them out. If you´ve done it in a tin, cut it while it´s hot and soft and lift them out after five minutes.

It keeps perfectly in a tin, and also freezes very well. I find it´s easier to keep my paws off it if it´s frozen, because the 5 minute defrosting wait helps. But maybe you´re strong.


Compota navideña: poached fruit for a crazy month

Life in December is too hectic for me. I just want to crawl into the sofa and let it roll by.
My mind is beginning to boggle at the thought of all the dinners and lunches and drinks parties that are coming. And I like food, mind you, but so much of it, in such close succession, and all so rich, I don´t know. And then the awful shopping. No. It´s all too much.
My favourite antidote is this fruit compote. Many people make it as a traditional holiday pudding, but I like to make a batch and eat it for dinner or breakfast, as the case might be. It´s very healthy and soothing, and while not bland, it´s definitely some of the least exciting food available. Which is just what you want after a lunch of jamón, foie, steak tartare and chocolate bombe.

It´s so easy I feel kind of silly writing the recipe, but anyway, here´s my favourite version. Qantities are for one person, as J hates poached fruit.

1/2 a kilo of cooking apples, peeled and cored
100 gr. dried apricots
100 gr. prunes

first, cover the apricots and prunes and let them soak for about an hour.

Then, tip the dried fruit with its water and the apples into a pot, cover it, bringt it to a boil, and let it simmer on a heat diffuser for about half an hour.

After that time it´ll be a sludgy golden mess, studded with the dark prunes. You might have added a cinammon stick at the beginning, but other than that, it will taste fruity and sweet, but not too much. When it cools, it will be sweeter, but never cloying (which means, of course, that you might want to add some sugar at the beginning, if that´s the sort of thing you like).

I love it with yogurt, just like that, or maybe with a bit of brown sugar. It goes very well with oatmeal, can be pressed into service as pudding with some good biscuits or cake (bought, of course!) and will even make an impressive side dish for roast pork or duck.



Ok, ok, jeez. Apologies, yes, my last recipe was sloppy to the point of madness. But come on, people. I was mostly concerned with the icing. And anyway, you know how to adapt a set of ingredients to a method you know from another recipe, surely? I got that one from the Thermomix sect book, and the set of instructions as I know them will be no use to anyone without one. If you really want to make it, then use my ingredients with this recipe.
See, how hard was that?
I promise to be more precise from now on, if I can, but please remember, I´m learning as I go along, and burning cookies hard and fast, too.


Lemony tea biscuits

Of the two batches of cookies we made last week, this recipe is the less stellar of the two. But it´s still very good. They´re crisp and buttery, are easy to cut, and hold their shape resonably well. So they´re a good starting point if it´s decorating you want to do.
The recipe is from the Th official book, and the method is the same as for a rich shortcrust pastry, which it resembles. So I´m going to give the quantities and assume that interested bakers will know how to deal with these ingredients. If you don´t do the pulsing, sandy dough thing, you can do the creaming the butter, etc process, I think.

300 gr. flour
170 gr. butter
100 gr. ground almonds
1 egg
125 gr. sugar
lemon zest, or vanilla for flavour
a pinch of salt

These are nice enough biscuits, but it´s the icing I was excited about. Every time I´ve tried to make icing, it´s been a liquidy, dribbly disaster. I blame the recipes. "One cup icing sugar, the juice of one lemon" is misleading. It all depends on the lemon, duh.

This time we were careful. The cup of sugar went into the bowl, and I added the lemon juice drop by drop, literally, until I had a stiff paste, and then I added a little more, but not much. I´d say the ideal consistency is between Nutella and thick cream.
I added more lemon zest, and P went artistic and added drops of food colouring. It hardened perfectly, set into a pretty lacquered finish, and, as a plus, it tasted lemony, which I enjoyed.
The biscuits have lasted a week in a tin. I don´t know if they´d have lasted more, but they´re over.
All in all, I´d say they´re the perfect cookie to make as a present. And I can´t wait to begin icing cupcakes and cakes.


Tiny roast potatoes, the perfect snack

Last Saturday J and I went over to P&S´s for a giant cookie bakeoff. P&S plan to make a whole lot, decorate them, and give them out as Christmas gifts. Me, I just planned to eat a lot of cookies.
I usually cook on my own, with music for company, so hanging out in a kitchen full of people was really fun and quite an event. The cookies turned out great, but I´ll blog about them next post.
Because the first thing we made, to keep the pangs of hunger away, was a tray of roasted new potatoes.
This is going to be one of those cheeky non-recipes, because all we did was toss the potatoes in a couple of spoonfuls of olive oil, some crushed salt and a few sprigs of rosemary from the garden, and then blast them in a hot hot oven for twenty or thirty minutes. The beauty of this particular batch was that I´d bought them in Málaga central market, and they were amazing, tiny and delicate, with the thinnest skins.
I´ve never seen potatoes like that in Madrid, so next time I´ll just have to go with the basic recipe, and cut wedges, skin and all, of normal potatoes. It´ll still be very good, of course. The trick is not to fill the tray too much, and to shake them about a couple of times, so that different sides have the opportunity to brown and crisp up.


New blog header for Rose

There´s a new member of the little community of blogs that have one of my illustrations as a header. Check it out, Rose´s "64 sq ft kitchen " is really great. You´ll find lots to cook, beautiful photos, and for you francophones, it´s a bilingual blog. Pretty impressive.
The lemon tart is one I´ll be making soon, as I have a sack of lemons I picked myself on Monday. After having risked the fate of Absalom, I think I deserve a treat.