Sunday Kitchen and a Greek moment

Sunday Kitchen and a Greek moment June 2011.

Yesterday it was kitchen… all day. A couple of days back the wind blew over a pot plant with a lime tree growing lushly, result, a basket full of ripe limes, the same wind managed to make a bunch of the oranges on the bitter orange tree in the back yard, fill another basket. A daughter arrived around with yet another basket, this one lemons. It was clearly a conspiracy and it worked, I was not bought up to waste food, it is wrong so my dilemma was what to do.

Earlier in the week I had managed to have a tantrum and vowed my Sunday cooking stints were at an end, I was convinced that my efforts were all in vain, that nothing I could do in the kitchen was going to satisfy my inner Italian mamma and bring the family running to my festive table week in and week out. I was left with no choice but the tantrum. In the end, my well honed sense of guilt and the jibes of ‘stop being so childish dad’ had the effect of making me sulk for a while and then do nothing. That of course meant, I had to at least prepare for a possible family meal, I bought a shoulder of lamb (no no!!! so not lamb, two tooth, but not lamb, the bloody sheep are still in gestation, how can it be lamb?).

The whole family had gathered on Thursday for a meal to celebrate the birthday of the mother of my children, yet another Greek restaurant in my seemingly endless search for the perfect Greek meal as done by Johnny the Greek and his cohorts of 60’s. But I must not bore you with more of my endless ravings on the past, but suffice to say that if another (no matter how handsome he is) Greek waiter comes along and offers a meat and a fish platter, dip’s from plastic buckets and (bad Turkish bread… since when did a slightly warmed up Pitta bread sliced into triangles… always triangles, become crusty Greek bread. A Greek salad, often these days poorly made with a very cheap and nasty fetta on the basis that most of us will not know the difference. And of course the current vogue, a single bread and butter plate with a wedge of fried Haloumi and a lemon quarter. I will yell blue murder.

I want real Greek food, the whole schemuzel, not this dumbed down version, I want a sea of olive oil, a raft of olives, a salad that alone would sustain me for days and meats and fish from the grill. I want vegetables as only the Greeks know how to cook them, simple, light, full flavoured and unspeakably delicious. I want a Greek Yia Yia out the back spending loving time making utterly delicious dips. That’s not too much to ask? Mind you I did have a great bottle of Greek Red and another of Greek white, one hailed from Santorini, the other from mainland Greece, both worth searching out, Domaine Sigalas 2008 was the white and the red Kir Yianni 2006. Needless to say with this mini rant, it did not happen. But my search will continue as I remain convinced that tucked away in some obscure place is my Greek food Idyll. The point about this is that I was smoodged.

With utterly no respect at all for you mad car driving crazies who manage to almost completely clog the roads on the weekend making driving a nightmare, yes I know, you cannot (and why should you, you work hard etc etc) not have one of those huge great people moving 4 wheel drives that takes the space of two normal cars. And forces people like me who choose to be aware of environments by riding an amazingly fabulous bright red Aprillia Scarabeo scooter, light on petrol, park almost anywhere, stylish and so now, machines; almost off the road. I had to take the mother of my children down to the South Melbourne market, she wanted some pants and then home to don the pinny and start working through the piles of citrus fruit, a challenge indeed and resolved by making a shred marmalade jelly, a lime and orange curd, a Lemon Meringue pie and a long cooked piece of sheep.

Sheep first, a shoulder, lots of fat, good sweet meat and many bones. An enamelled cast iron cooking pot into which a whole red onion, quartered, three or four whole cloves of garlic, unpeeled, one of the bitter oranges quartered, several branches of thyme, a slurp of white wine (half a cup at most) and then place the shoulder on the bed of fruit and vegetables, lid in place and into a 150°c oven and don’t even look at it for at least five hours, turn the oven off and leave the pot in there for an hour and when you are ready to serve, lift out the meat and remove it from the bones, it will be so tender it just falls off, lay on a bed of steamed long sliced potato and after removing the excess fat from the pan juices and the garlic from its skin and squeezed back in, return the pot to the stove and stir in some grated orange rind, a splash of orange juice and a big heaped tablespoon of redcurrant jelly, melt all together and serve separately as a sauce. Just a good salad to accompany.

The pastry for the pie was next, take your pick… the Pate Sucree is stunning, both should be well chilled.

Pate Brisee (The French Version Of Shortcrust)

a plastic or metal scraper is useful for this job.

200gr (6 1/2oz) plain flour

100gr (3 1/2oz)  of cold butter cut into smallish pieces

1 egg yolk

1/2 tspn salt

2 tspn sugar (for sweet crusts)

45 mil (1 1/2fl oz)cold water or more if necessary

Sift the flour onto a work surface, make a well in the centre. Add the butter that you have flattened a little with the egg yolk, slat and sugar.

 

Using your finger tips, begin to draw the flour in from the edge, working in the butter, egg yolk, salt and sugar, add the water as you go. Keep working with your fingers until coarse crumbs are formed. Scrape these together with your scraper to prepare for kneading. Lightly flour the work surface and begin to knead the dough with the heel of your hand. 1 – 2 minutes is enough and the dough should now be very smooth. Shape into a ball and chill for 30 minutes. Roll and use. Alternatively, toss the whole lot into a food processor and blend but not too much and then ball and chill.

Variations…

*for a savoury pie dough, substitute 45gr (1 1/2oz) of lard for the half the butter and use a whole egg.

* for a different savoury flavour, substitute 30 – 45mil (1 – 1 1/2floz) sour cream for water.

 

Pate Sucree

This is a shortcrust sugar pastry used only for sweet tarts. It is made in exactly the same way as pate brisee.

100gr (3 1/2oz) flour

100gr (3 1/2oz)  cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces

100gr (3 1/2oz)  caster sugar

4 egg yolks

1/2 tspn salt

1/2 tspn vanilla essence

Sift the flour onto a work surface, make a well in the centre. Pound the butter to soften it .

 

Add the butter and the rest of the ingredients to the well and begin to bring the flour in from the edges to mix with your fingertips until coarse crumbs are achieved. Use the pastry scraper to form into a ball, knead for 1 – 2 minutes and chill for 30 minutes before rolling into shape. See above, toss it into the processor and blend but not too much. The rolling is a little more difficult with the high sugar content.

Variations..

*substitute 90 gr (3oz) of crushed nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts for 1/2 the flour, omit two of the egg yolks.

* for many Italian pastries, the same recipe, but add the grated rind of one lemon with the vanilla.

 

I used a 20 cm pie tin in the end and both will make enough.

As the pastry was resting in a cool place, the Marmalade was next, in the end I had about 1.5 kilo of oranges and so with a zester, I removed as much zest as possible from all the oranges and juiced the rest, adding all the juice and zest to the pot, I wrapped the rinds in to a piece of muslin and immersed them in the pan, I then placed this over a low heat for about an hour until the juice and rind as well as the peels were well cooked, I removed the peels and placing in one basin and topping with another, squeezed the juices into the pan, to this I added 1.5 kilo of white sugar and proceeded to cook as I would for any jelly, keep cooking until a jam or sugar thermometer reads 104°c, test to see that the jam sets by placing a small amount on a cold plate, allowing it to cool and running your finger through, if the finger marks remain, then it is cooked. I like a good bitter marmalade and this has come out just right.

Next on the list was the lemon pie filling and this was going to become a major conundrum, there were so many recipes and each one varied. I even discovered one by one of Australia’s more successful food entrepreneurs, which had milk as opposed to water. I must say the milk aspect did not appeal. In the end, I used the following..

3/4 cup of lemon juice and the rind grated from all three lemons

1 1/2 cups of water

1/4 cup of cornflour

1/4 cup of plan flour

1 cup of caster sugar

40 grams of butter in a small dice

6 egg yolks (keep the whites unless plastic wrap for the meringue)

Place all in a basin and beat well, I used a wire whisk and place over the pan of boiling water and cook until very thick. Put a piece of plastic sheet over the top of the mixture (right down on the mix) and allow to cool. be aware that there are dozens and dozens of very different variations on this theme, one of my daughters made the same pie and her lemon filling refused to set, I urge you to be careful.

The Lime curd is a nippy thing, limes are already quite tangy and so you need to be aware that the resulting curd will be the same, that said, it is delicious and can be mixed with such things as ginger (just grate a bit into the curd as it cooks, not too much). This curd is yummy as a cake filling, great in pastry cases and delicious by the spoonful.

Juice and grated rind of 6 large ripe limes.

Juice from one orange or lemon

340 grams caster sugar

4 large eggs

112 grams butter.

Grate the Limes and juice them. Beat the eggs and add to the juice along with the sugar and butter, place in a basin on top of a pot of boiling water and cook until it thickens. I like to keep cooking .. slowly… for another few minutes to be sure that all the egg is cooked, then it is best hot bottled and when completely cool, kept in a cool place for no longer than a month, after opening, keep refrigerated.

To complete the Lemon meringue, roll out the pastry and place in the pie tin, preheat the oven to 180°c (allow a good 20 minutes for this to happen) and then blind bake the shell… place a piece of baking paper over the pastry and either use some rice or beans to weigh it down, remember to prick the base of the pastry with a fork to allow the air to escape. Bake covered for 18 minutes, remove the baking paper and rice and cook a further 6 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. To Make the meringue, take the six egg white and beat them until stiff peaks occur, slowly add 1 1/2 cups of caster sugar beating well after each addition until a glossy, thick meringue is made. Hopefully you will not have turned the oven off. Take the cooled shell and pile the lemon filling into the base, top then with the meringue (its kind of traditional to use a knife and create some sort of wind blown wave effect by kind of lifting and flicking it up … gently) cook for about 10+ minutes until the meringue is slightly golden and turn off the oven, allow to cool in the oven for 30 minutes and then remove to cool completely, remove from the pie tin onto a place and serve.

 

~ by peterwatson on July 1, 2011.

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