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Entries in fruit (18)


SHF #31: The roundup

Whew. When I was first approached by Jennifer to host this month’s Sugar High Friday, I approached it with nervous optimism. Everyone’s had that feeling, that illogical fear of “what would happen if I threw a party, and nobody came?”

Thank goodness for food bloggers. I did not expect, and could not have hoped for, a more enthusiastic and supportive group of contributors to this month’s event. From the dramatic to the sublime, these desserts celebrating the shades of white run the spectrum. 45 entries from around the world, are all delicious variations on the theme. What a party!

Again, my gratitude to those who participated, and those of you who have come by to see the results of our little event. Cheers to Jennifer, once again of the Domestic Goddess, who will be the host of next month’s SHF installment. It will be a confectionery celebration of Canada’s 140th birthday on July 1st - look out for the announcement and details on her site.

And with that, on to the desserts; click the photos to link to the author's site ...


Cooking for mummies

In my enthusiasm to detail the ways our Benjamin has changed how we eat, I neglected to mention that he has had a profound effect on what we eat as well.

Experiencing food through a miniature set of taste buds has even further ignited my desire to try new flavours; offering variation on the plate as well as the palate. I am much more aware of the colours of food, the textures and the interplay of tastes. I am happy to play Navigator to Benjamin’s Explorer of the culinary world.

Surprisingly enough, these travels have lead me back to well-trodden trails of an old favourite. And so I must sheepishly admit, I now eat the same breakfast almost every day.

It is true; while my son and dear husband will be offered a virtual smorgasbord of options, I will contentedly cuddle up with a cup of coffee and my most humble bowl of breakfast. And what is in that bowl? Oatmeal.

Up until recently I do not think I had made oatmeal, as oatmeal, in years. My last remembrance would be my eight-year-old self and those packets of instant oats that promised to make “a hot cereal lover out of me.” Since then, while I almost always have had oatmeal in the house, it was usually relegated to my baking cupboard - destined for crisps, crumbles, cookies and crunchy granola.

Let me explain how I came back to this taste of childhood. It all started over the winter, as Ben was further expanding his food boundaries. While he was all too happy to nibble and munch a myriad of tastes through the day, his little belly seemed happiest with a comforting brekkie of oatmeal each morning.

As many parents will surely know, beyond being food provider, we are also the designated cleanup crew. So when there was any cereal left over, it became Mummy’s breakfast too. Warming and filling on those cold mornings, I started making enough for us to share. Benjamin happily watching from his chair while I stirred the bubbling pot on the stove, baby babbling about his dreams from the night before and his plans for the day ahead.

Mummyhood has brought about a greater interest in my own health, as I want to make sure that I can keep up with an ever mischievous little man. I have found my bowl of oats, along with long term heart-health benefits, gives me more than enough energy to make it through my daily toddler wrangling.

But lest you think I am boring, I do offer a pantry cupboard full of garnishes. Dried cranberries and blueberries add mouth-puckering tartness; Demerara sugar brings textural sweetness; cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom offer heady aromas and depth of flavour.

Simple and satisfying, yet offering a complex world of possibilities. What a happy discovery.

Oatmeal with sultanas and spice
The warmth of spices comes up in a scented cloud as they cook; a moment of aromatherapy before a busy morning. Paired with the throaty sweetness of plump sultanas and honey, this is a favourite combination of golden goodness. With an eye on nutrition, I have also included a sprinkling of bud-style bran cereal.

2/3 cup water
1/3 cup milk
1 heaped tablespoon sultanas
1/8 teaspoon (a good pinch) cinnamon
2 green cardamom pods
pinch salt
1/3 cup whole-grain oats
1/8 cup bud-style bran cereal
Honey, to taste

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water, milk, sultanas and spices to just under a boil. Add the salt. Stirring, sprinkle in the oats and cereal.

Reduce the heat to low. Cook, according to the package instructions.

Remove cardamom pods if desired. Spoon oatmeal into serving bowl, drizzle with honey to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 1.

• If you prefer a more pronounced cardamom flavour, slightly bruise the pods with the heel of your palm to release their black seeds. Add these, along with the husks, to the water and milk as directed. If you, like me, read the paper while eating breakfast, keep an eye out for the seeds when eating.
• For a creamier version, increase the amount of milk and adjust the water accordingly.
• Slivered pistachios with figs (dry or fresh) is also a frequent favourite.


What I did over summer vacation ....

While I may have not had the opportunity to sit in front of the computer lately, I have been managing to spend a good deal of time standing in front of the stove (and grill, and oven and cutting board). True to my word, here is a list of some of the recipes that have been keeping me busy, and our bellies full, over the summer. If there are any items of particular interest, please feel free to let me know and I would be more than happy to provide additional information. Happy eating!


BCFS= Barefoot Contessa Family Style, Ina Garten
BIP = Barefoot in Paris, Ina Garten
FS= Forever Summer, Nigella Lawson
MSBH = Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, Martha Stewart
NC= The Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver
TBCC = The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Ina Garten
TIC = The Instant Cook, Donna Hay
* = Recipe prepared with changes

Those items without notation are my own.


• Pancakes: I have a standby recipe of my own but I've recently been experimenting with these as well.
• Hashed browns (BCFS)
• Frittata with chèvre and oven-roasted tomatoes


• Herb-baked eggs (BIP)
• Lemon and parsley chicken (TIC)
• Grilled chicken and vegetable stacks (TIC)
• Griddled aubergines with feta, mint and chili (FS)
• My Mom's pea and mushroom subsi
Tabbouleh with chickpeas
Ben’s tomato and herb spaghetti
• Salmon and asparagus tart
Le grand aiöli
Seared tuna with mango salsa: The salsa is great as printed, but I have tweaked the recipe. In once case, I used sriracha chili sauce instead of the jalapeno and added some toasted sesame oil to finish. On another occasion I used peaches in the salsa, to pair with a grilled chili-rubbed pork loin.
• Roast leg of lamb (NC)
• Rack of lamb persillade (BIP)
• Perfect roast chicken (TBCC): I do not actually use Garten's recipe exactly, but this is the closest to my method and a source of inspiration.


• One-bowl chocolate cupcakes* (MSBH): made once as cupcakes, once as a layered slab cake. Both delicious, moist and insanely popular.
• Dark chocolate frosting (MSBH)
Outrageous chocolate cookies*
Double Chocolate Cheesecake*: I am told family members fought over this cake.
Blueberry cheesecake
Mixed berry cream cake
Arborio rice pudding: Instead of apples and caramel, I recently made this with mango purée and cardamom.
• Honey poached peaches: Recipe below.

Honey poached peaches
If at all possible, start these peaches the day before serving. I love the visual combination of the spiky green pistachio slivers against smooth, blushed peach cheeks. It is the perfect dessert to linger over in the late summer sun.

3 cups water
5 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways
5-6 medium peaches, about 1 kilogram in total, halved lengthways (see note)

In a medium saucepan, combine water, honey, sugar and vanilla bean. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add peach halves cut side down (this may need to be done in batches), and simmer uncovered for 3-4 minutes. Turn using a pair of spoons and simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes, until the flesh is just tender when pricked with the tip of a knife or tines of a fork. Cooking time will, of course, depend on the ripeness of the fruit. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl and continue until all the peaches are cooked.

Increase the heat and boil the remaining poaching liquid until reduced to a syrup consistency. The poaching will stain the syrup a pink-peach, which will deepen upon reduction.

While the liquid is reducing, use your fingers to peel the skins off the peaches and remove any remaining stones.

Pull out the vanilla pod and pour syrup over the peaches. Cover and chill, for at least an hour or preferably overnight. The longer the peaches sit, the more they will soak up the deeply aromatic liquid.

Serve as pictured with ricotta cream and a sprinkling of slivered pistachios, or over ice cream or simply as they are.

Serves 4-6.


• If the peaches are freestone, then remove stones before cooking. If not, then pit after cooking. Leaving the peels on the peaches will not only protect the tender flesh, but also tattoo the fruit a mottled sunset hue.
• Testing for doneness on the cut side of the peach helps to hide any marks.
• My dear Sean’s mother suggests these peaches on top of Belgian waffles for a truly decadent brunch.


Reality bites

Aside from some cursory mentions and to answer specific questions, I have rarely felt the desire to write about this site on this site. Maybe it was because it seemed too self-referential, or maybe it is because I enjoyed the romantic notion that my writing was part of a conversation rather than a post on a computer screen; either way I always felt better in ignoring the technicalities of food blogging and website management.

However, due to a technical glitch, I have had to republish certain articles from my archives. My day has been spent resurrecting old posts, my eyes now sore from scanning old files and rearranging templates.

Since I enjoy the illusion that hides the work that goes into the site and my writing, I must admit I do believe that many of us subscribe to a similar fantasy in regards to the lifestyles behind food blogs. While I can only speak for myself definitively, I am sure that there are others who would admit that not every dish that graces our table is camera-ready, or that every meal eaten out is from a starred restaurant.

How very fitting it is then, that while rooting around for some files to reconstruct the archive I came across this picture for a Mixed Berry Ricotta Fool. A dish made up completely of odds and ends from other dishes featured here, it is a good dose of honesty - I mean, how often does one mention, let alone write about, the humdrum reality of leftovers?

Not every meal I cook is meant for publication; most days (especially in these last few months) I have not been able to enjoy the luxury of planning multi-course meals or experimenting as much as I used to. More often than not the focus of my cooking is to resolve the grumbling of stomachs and the solution lies in whatever is in the fridge. Far from glamorous I know, but closer to the demands of the everyday.

I will admit though, as much as I can recognize this actuality, I have little desire to write or dwell upon it. As shallow as it seems, I would like to continue my daydream that every author behind every site I read is living an utterly fashionable life, that every city is exciting every day, that almost every meal is a success, that any failures are dealt with aplomb and are simply fodder for a rapier wit.

But please do not draw back the curtain on the dirty dishes and take-out meals and the midnight snacks of saltines and peanut butter. While I do believe a good measure of self-awareness and accepting oneself, leftovers and all, let's not go overboard.

My apologies to subscribers of this site for old posts appearing on the site feed. I hope you don't mind the trip down memory lane.

Mixed berry ricotta fool
My own creation. Luscious, yet light, this recipe delivers a perfect balance of flavours and texture.

Blame it on lack of sleep (an infant will do that to you), but while I have the photo, I have no recollection of where I put the exact recipe. The following are estimations.

1/3 cup of mixed berries
3 tablespoons ricotta
Honey, I believe I used about 1/2 teaspoon, but go with your taste depending on the tartness of the fruit
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
A few grates of lemon zest (optional)

Crush the berries with the back of a fork or in a mortar and pestle to form a coarse purée.

In another bowl, combine ricotta, honey, vanilla and nutmeg (if using). Fold the berry mixture through the ricotta, until marbled well but not completely blended. Check for sweetness and adjust honey if needed.

Spoon on slices of baguette, scones or to top waffles and pancakes.

Serves 1.

• Omit the lemon zest and use a few grates of nutmeg for a background note of spice.
• Alternatively this fool can be mounded on split strawberries for a quick snack, multiplied to fill prebaked tart shells, in a napoleon of puff pastry, or between layers of sponge cake. It also makes a simple summer dessert when served in a cup with shortbread or sugar cookies alongside.


The handy pantry; secrets to my success

I tell you, I feel for ducks; all is calm above water, but below feet are paddling madly. That about describes how I feel some days.

As you may have heard, I've been busy these last seven weeks. A particularly life-changing event, in the form of a perfect little bundle of boy, has taken up most of my energies. Energies formerly used for things like wandering markets aimlessly, or going out for a coffee and a chat or, on some days, brushing my hair. Not that I'm complaining - my days are filled with much more worthwhile endeavours; endeavours that bring me boundless joy.

But come on now, its not all puppy dogs and butterflies and all things lovely; there still are those times when it is the end of the day and you have to get dinner on the table.

I know I've touched upon it before, but a well-stocked pantry can be a lifesaver. I consider mine my bag of tricks, full of my go-to solutions for easy meals, last minute entertaining options and perennial favourites.

I remember when I had my first apartment, I was so excited about setting up my kitchen. I spent hours scouring cookbooks and the internet for ideas on what to stock in my pantry. I looked at the way I cooked, the way I lived and, most importantly, the tastes I crave. I used these ideas, and some trial and error, to come up with my list of essentials - my desert-island kitchen kit.

My dear Sean laughed the first time he saw my grocery database I've made - a master list of the foods I always like to have on hand, ready to be printed out at a moment’s notice. Though maybe not everyone is as type A as I am, I'm sure most have at least a mental list of those ingredients that they would rather never be without.

There are the usual suspects; pastas, rices, vinegars, oils, canned goods and dried herbs and spices. My baking pantry has jars filled with dried fruits, sugars, toffee chips and all manners of chocolates.

I have also learned to treat my refrigerator and freezer as an extension of my pantry staples. Fresh herbs, lemons and limes, chilies and cheeses can elevate a typical meal into something special. Frozen stocks add a depth of flavour to a quickly-assembled meal. Prepared puff pastry, phyllo dough, shortcrust pastry and a best-quality vanilla ice cream mean that a dessert is never too far away.

My latest addition to my little inventory has been frozen fruit, especially berries. Perfect for not only smoothies and frozen cocktails, but also for sauces, pies and cakes. These little jewels bring a dose of summertime sweetness to the grey days of March. In truth, I rely on them year-round.

This last weekend, with family and friends visiting, it was a luxury to feel at the ready for hostessing ... even though we had not been to the grocery store in days. With my secret stash I was able to welcome them with open arms and a full table - the highlight of which was this berry cake. Rich with a cream cheese pound cake base and topped with luscious berries and a coconut almond streusel, I won rave reviews. Thank goodness for good planning and a full pantry.

Am I busy? Yes. Do I feel stressed? No - it’s all like water off a duck’s back.

Favourite Berry Cake
My own creation

For the cake
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) block of cream cheese, softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt

For the topping
2 to 21/2 cups berries, depending on your choice of mix
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup blanched sliced almonds
1/3 cup flaked coconut, use sweetened or unsweetened - your preference
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Additional butter for greasing pans

If you would like to make the miniature version pictured, grease 8 four-inch round spingform pans and preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). If baking one large cake, generously grease a 8-inch round springform pan and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

Make the crumble topping first. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, almonds and flaked coconut. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, cut in the cold butter until a coarse crumb forms. Set aside in the refrigerator while you assemble the cake.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated. Take your time at this step, allowing about five minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time; beat well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.

In a bowl, sift together flour and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour to the batter. Mix until just combined and smooth. Pour batter into prepared pans, and sprinkle over berries. Finish with the chilled crumb topping and bake.

For the miniature versions, they will be done after about 50-60 minutes, when they should be a pale golden brown and a cake tester comes out almost clean (there may be a tiny amount of clinging moisture). For the larger version, it will take about 75 minutes.

Allow to cool in the pan, on a wire rack, for 20 minutes. Unmould and allow to cool completely.

• I use a full-fat (regular) cream cheese for this cake. I have not tried it with a reduced fat variety.
• Alternatively, you can also make this cake in two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans. Bake at 350°F for about 60-75 minutes.
• There are no leaveners in this cake; all of its rise comes from the amount of air beaten into the batter with the creaming process and the addition of the eggs. Take care at these steps to ensure a dense,yet well-formed, crumb.
• If the kitchen is particularly warm, you might want to keep the topping in the freezer until ready to use.
• If the cake browns too quickly, tent with aluminium foil.

My apologies. This recipe was initially published with a typo - the springform pan is meant to be an 8" instead of a 9" as orginally listed.

A sincere thank you to all of you who have written with your well wishes for the three of us. We are terribly happy and cannot express our gratitude for all the support we have received. I am sorry that I have not been able to respond personally to everyone, but please know that we are humbled by your generosity and kindness. All the best to you and yours.