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Entries in lemon (6)


To all appearances


Eton Mess, at its simplest, is technically only one step up from strawberries and cream but what makes it somewhere around a million times better is the addition of crumbled meringues. Named after the famed boy's school in England, there are a variety of stories regarding the origin of the recipe but few that dispute its charms. 

It is something that wandered into my consideration a while ago, a recipe I'd made before but had unaccountably fallen by the wayside. 

There it was, back again, distracting me while I was folding laundry. Eton Mess. And then as I was supposed to be paying attention to a movie. Raspberry Eton Mess. And again in the midst writing a grocery list, what leaps onto the page but all the ingredients for Frozen Raspberry Eton Mess. 

Eton Mess, Eton Mess, Eton Mess. It was my Tell-tale Heart, only delectable.


And yes, frozen. The impulse for ice had hit me the the day before, when we turned down a street outside of our normal route, seeking its shade from a particularly-hot afternoon.

It's a street I love, a long avenue - so long that it is difficult to see its end. When you stand at its top you feel that distance stretch in front of you like a current. That length, that space, that breath of air.

Ash trees line the street. Each has a partner directly opposite and they are old enough that their branches meet in the middle and intertwine, like pairs of hands clasped in that song I remember from when I was little. "Here's the church, here's the steeple ..." 

It is perpetually cool and dim there this time of year, to all appearances existing in its own climate. And as you walk under that arched roof of branches, translucent green leaves above that cast a filigree shadow below, creating a grey and black damask upon the pavement. You feel as though you're down the emerald corridor on you way to meet the Wizard in Oz. 

We were halfway down that road when it struck me, I wanted a dessert that tasted as blessedly chilled as that place felt. My Eton Mess would be a frozen one.

i do like a sugar cone

To end my preoccupation, I settled on pureéd raspberries and a generous pile of meringue, stirred into peaks of cream touched with the tart freshness of crème fraîche. Against the toothy sweetness of the meringues, whose soft middles are marshmallow-rich, that crème fraîche helps to keep everything sprightly and springy. 

Although already peppy with fruit and coolly sour, I've included a few spoonfuls of lemon curd. It has a pure acidity that suits the chill of the fridge, and the nip of the freezer even better. Cold, its very lemoness seems to brighten even more if that's possible. It's like an exclamation mark to finish a phrase.

What we ended with was a dessert that had the qualities of pavlova but the citrus-twanged hit of a Creamsicle. 

That said, this is not ice cream, but is iced cream. It will freeze quite solid but wait and it will, all of a sudden, turn soft and yielding, as lush and rich as a semifreddo. We scooped ours, and if you plan to follow suit I would recommend a large shallow dish (rather than the tall one I've pictured) to ensure even freezing and optimal scoopability. Or, for ease, you can freeze individual portions in ramekins to be turned out as molded desserts.

Either way, it's up to you. It suits a spoon but is immensely lickable. But if you opt for the latter, I'll give you one last piece of advice and whisper two words: Sugar Cones. Truly. If you're going to do it, go full on.

I've mentioned Oz, I've invoked Poe, I sang and told you about Eton Mess. My work here is done and my mind is free and clear.

I have a feeling though, it won't be for long, because there are blueberries about and peaches (peaches!) are in season. 

Until next time.


Frozen Raspberry Eton Mess

This recipe from BBC Good Food was my jumping off point for the lemon curd, and I think it is what makes this dessert. I have added a concentrated sugar syrup (basically a pale caramel) to the cream in an attempt to keep it as luscious as possible when frozen.

2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream, divided
Seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean
A pinch of salt
1/3 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1/4 cup raspberry purée, divided, see note
1/4 cup lemon curd, divided, see note
4 ounces meringues

In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan stir the sugar into 3 tablespoons of water until it is dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Leave to bubble, without stirring or agitation, until the sugar becomes thick and syrupy and the bubbles begin to slow. This will take around 6 minutes.  

Meanwhile, warm 1/2 cup of the cream on the stove or in the microwave. Do not boil, just warm. 

When the sugar syrup is ready (it may have a hint of colour and that's okay), carefully whisk the warm cream into the sugar. Keep stirring, bring back to a boil and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, scrape in the vanilla seeds and sprinkle in the salt. Stir again to combine. Set aside to cool.

Once cool, pour the sweetened cream into the remaining heavy cream and refrigerate until cold.

Strain the chilled cream through a fine-meshed sieve into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat the cream into soft peaks. Fold in the crème fraîche.

Roughly crumble in the meringues. Drizzle almost all of the raspberry purée over top and fold for a rippled look. Spoon most of the lemon curd into the dessert, folding one last time until lightly marbled. Pour the dessert into a freezer-safe container. Use the remaining purée and curd to decorate the top.

Freeze until firm (the timing will depend on the specific dimensions of the container used). 

Place the dessert into the refrigerator of 20 minutes, or at room temperature for 10 minutes, before serving. Spoon into bowls or scoop into cones and enjoy. 



  • For the raspberry purée, I make a small batch of this recipe, substituting the strawberries.
  • When making the lemon curd I used one lime (and its zest) in with the lemons; it has a deeper, sharper sourness that I think is especially nice with raspberries. While we're on the subject, passion fruit curd would be heavenly.



Just in case you'd like to know, the latest issue of UPPERCASE Magazine is out! In it you'll find my recipe for Black Raspberry Milkshakes, the testing for which pretty much convinced our eldest that milkshakes should be considered an essential part of his everyday. A look at the shakes is here, and a glimpse between the covers is here.


In equal measure


I've stopped in with some chickpeas today, along with a recipe that has me acting like a crazy person.

How so? Well, let's read the ingredients. You will surely recognize the usual suspects, robust olive oil, our old friend garlic, aromatic leeks and of course the chickpeas. Then there's twangy lemon and woodsy rosemary, adding height and depth to the mix. Last, the salt. Can't forget that, the universal leveler, the thing that amplifies individual flavours while miraculously creating overall harmony.

But no pepper.

Who have I become? It's unlike me to bring Salt along without it's bosom buddy Pepper. And often I go one step further, with dried chili flakes, cayenne or Kashmiri chili thrown in for kicks. But in this case, (deep breath) I have decided I don't want pepper anywhere near this meal.

Let me give you some sense of this tumble of stewy leeks and chickpeas; they cook up in a way that is gratifyingly substantial, as is our need in these January days. But they are just cooked, without a trace of sludginess, still firm and springy-centered. Silken leeks curl around their goldeness, the pale jadeite strands are floral and sweet. The rosemary and lemon are noticed to be sure, but their forms are blurred at the edges, melting into and carrying forth the flavours of the others in equal measure.

The full effect is something akin to what it would be like to read the collected poems of e.e. cummings by spoon rather than by eye. While there is a variation in tone from bite to bite, there are no full stops or pesky uppercase letters to interrupt the rhythm we've got going here. Pepper would break up that essential mellowness, its wham! bang! personality, although a virtue elsewhere, would be too much for the delicate structure of this dish to bear.

We can't have that. So, I've banished the pepper. Scandalous behaviour, on my part.

Secondly, I'm mad for this stuff. Straight out of the pan it is terribly good, with some wilted bitter greens or steamed broccoli rabe nearby to swirl into the herby, lemony, garlic-infused olive oil left behind. Or, pour in few glugs of stock (chicken or vegetable, please) and suddenly there's soup. It can be eaten as is, with perhaps some Parmesan, or blitzed into a purée (but take the rosemary sprigs out before bringing out the heavy machinery).

Whatever way, in mine at least, hold the pepper.

Chickpeas with Leeks and Lemon
I was heavy-handed with the olive oil, as I knew I wanted that excess to dress the greens served alongside. For a lighter dish, or if your intended result is soup, reduce the oil to 2 tablespoons. Adding the rosemary back to the pan at the end gives a final hit of herbal steam. The twig, and the clove of garlic, can be removed before serving if desired.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, bruised but whole
1 6-inch branch fresh rosemary, broken in two
4 leeks, cleaned, trimmed and with the white and light green parts sliced in 1/4-inch rounds
kosher salt
2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/2 lemon

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, garlic and rosemary over medium heat. Once the garlic turns fragrant and the rosemary begins to sizzle, remove the rosemary but reserve for later.

Add the leeks to the pan, along with a good pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the leeks are soft and sweet but still brightly green, around 5 minutes. Tip in the chickpeas, and continue to cook for a 5 minutes more, at which point the chickpeas should have darkened slightly in colour.

Using a microplane or zester, add a few scrapes of lemon zest to the pan, along with a squeeze of lemon juice. Stir gently to combine. Check for seasoning, adding more juice, zest or salt as needed. Return the reserved rosemary sprigs to the pan, and enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4.


A nibbly sort

Since early Monday and up until last night, I was in quite a mood. By early, I mean truly very early. And by quite a mood, I mean a doozy of one.

It might have been the fresh start of a new week, or maybe it was my recent birthday, but whatever the reason I have been in a clean-out-the-closets-get-rid-of-the-clutter-oh!-should-I-start-the-flower-beds-there-is-laundry-to-be-folded-hey!-does-that-window-need-cleaning-air-out-the-curtains sort of mood. I felt like a squirrel riding the swell of a caffeine high, skittering between task to task, caught just between busy and absurdly frantic. More often that I would like to admit I veered recklessly into the latter category.

What finally brought this careening momentum to a halt was, to the surprise of no-one I'm sure, food. A nibbly sort of snack, the most modest of things really. Scorch-grilled bread, a mound of oven dried tomatoes, creamy bocconcini, and a healthy spoonful of lemony, herby, capery, chili-spiked olive oil was enough to stop me in my tracks.

All laid out on a big plate, it was the sort of thing to be lingered over.

A combination of flavours and textures well-suited to this in between time when Ms. Spring can still be a tad temperamental; substantial without being heavy. Rich and unctuous, creamy and mild, astringent and fresh - all piled together on top warm, crusty slice of garlicy bread.

True, I am one that would happily munch on my left shoe if it was topping a fat wodge of freshly-baked bread, but take my word, this is something rather good. Put down the to-do list and pass the wine.


Lemon and Parsley Sauce
A pared-down, rustic variation of the Italian classic, salsa verde. This recipe is for the amount I needed for our snack, but the (estimated) quantities are intended as only a guideline. You can also add some toasted pine nuts and plumped up raisins for a sauce to serve over griddled slices of salty haloumi.

3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers, roughly chopped if large
1-2 anchovy fillets, minced (optional)
Zest of one lemon, cut in thin strands
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/8-1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes
flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine the parsley, capers, anchovy fillets and lemon zest. Stir in the lemon juice. Slowly add the olive oil until you have a loose, chunky vinaigrette. Check for the balance of acid to oil, adjusting if needed. Season to taste with chili flakes, salt and pepper.

Makes around 1/2 cup.

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Making oven dried tomatoes is hardly new and not at all demanding, but the results are so rewarding it garners another mention. They are juicier than sundried, with a texture I far prefer. You can also control the level of roasting to best suit your needs, which is a bonus, and slow roasting coaxes a bit of summer sweetness from the hothouse varieties available to those of us waiting for local field tomatoes.

I basically use Nigella Lawson's recipe for Moonblush Tomatoes, with a few changes:

• I use fresh thyme instead of dried and add a few grinds of black pepper.
• More often than not I add a head's worth of unpeeled garlic cloves to the pan.
• Upon putting the tomatoes in to roast, I turn the oven down to 350°F (175°C). After about 10 minutes, I turn the oven off and leave the tomatoes to finish drying. Keep in mind that the total roasting time will depend on the size of tomatoes you use. Rarely do I leave them overnight.
• I often make these after baking bread, to take advantage of the already-heated oven.



[Thursday, March 26, 2009: Due to an under-the-weather little one, I will not be able to post today . Until he's feeling better, here is a sneak peak at what we've been enjoying this week - a luscious Grapefruit Tart with a buttery, shortbread crust. Just a bit of puckery-brightness for these early spring days.

Back soon.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009: Everyone is all better, and so I am back. Thanks for all your concern and well-wishes, and for keeping a spot warm for me.]

Orange peel. Air that is sugary sweet and heavy, ripe with moisture and the scent of citrus. I shut my eyes and inhale, swallowing whole.

Its February and I am in my parents' kitchen.

For years, my Mum made marmalade; each time turning to the same book, using the same recipe for as long as I can remember. Stains and smears have turned the page translucent in places, smudging the penciled notes along the margins.

The ceremony of marmalade making took the day. The speckled charcoal pot, used only for canning, appeared from the depths of cupboards. Sterilized jars lined up like soldiers on the counter, gleaming, waiting to be of service. I have a mix of memories of the procedure; the infinite boiling, reducing, concentrating of flavours, the endless task of cutting the thin peel into even thinner strips, staining my nails in the process.

And although at the time I did not much care for marmalade, the notion of those jars is still one of my strongest culinary memories and present-day aspirations. What care was there of winter when there was such warmth in the kitchen, such delicious bounty to be enjoyed?

While the calendar may (almost) read April, it still (almost) feels like February here. At best, early March. Maybe.

The sun may be warm but the wind is not; it still breathes bitterly against our faces each morning, sending me shivering back into the warmth of the house and reaching for a scarf. Just the other day I was greeted with snow in the moments just after sunrise; it cascaded delicately, like icing sugar upon a cake rather than a true snowfall, but it was frozen nonetheless. This morning there was no snow, thank goodness, but the grass was frost-tipped and blue in the early light.

Spring is dragging her feet.

But, there is hope. There are the teeniest buds on our lilac tree; tiny, perfect little bundled fists of green, holding within their grasp the promise of warm days to come. The afternoon light has changed its character, doffing its winter garb of blue-grey hues for warmer shades of palest flax. And while I wait, as patiently as I can, for local rhubarb and asparagus and, sigh, berries to make their way to market, at least I can count on citrus to bring even more sunshine to our day.

Bold and boisterous on the tongue, citrus is rah-rah-sis-boom-bah blithe, full of cheer and high kicks. Citrus fruits are sharp and spry, marching merrily ahead as spring lags behind, with enough pep in their step to wake our palates from the sedative effect of a season's worth of comforting richness.

I was looking for a tag-along companion for a Sunday brunch invite, something that could add some brilliance to what could be a gray morning. Citrus was surely the ticket, and I wanted to journey on the path of least-resistance; some quick Saturday baking and Sunday primping, with little worry and few opportunities to be lead astray.

I wholly ignored the option of sometimes-temperamental shortcrust pastry, eyeing in its stead a forgiving shortbread crust. I passed on the idea of a persnickety curd for its filling; with its demands of patient stirring over gentle heat and its abject fear of overcooking, a curd can be such the little fusspot. Not what I was looking for in a brunch guest.

A grapefruit-modified version of a traditional Key lime filling was my choice, whisked together and briefly baked, it demanded only the slightest attention; its presence fit perfectly in the bleary-eyed pottering about of Sunday morning.

Yellow upon yellow, this tart speaks of brightness in golden tones. The floral notes of Ruby Red grapefruit are accented by twangy lemon, and tempered by creamy-sweet condensed milk. The shortbread crust is the perfect foil for the citrus, buttery against all the tang of the filling.

So thoroughly-cheered was I, I (almost) felt prepared to be patient as I wait for spring's arrival. Almost.

Grapefruit tart with shortbread crust

Ingredients for the crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
2-3 teaspoons heavy cream

Ingredients for the filling
4 large egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons grated grapefruit zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (preferably Ruby Red)
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

Prepare the crust first. Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on low until light and well blended.

Add the eggs yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour and mix until almost blended. Slowly add 2 teaspoons of cream, checking if the dough has come together. If it is still a bit dry, add the rest. Stop mixing as soon as there is no longer flour visible.

Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, using the wrap to shape the dough into a flattened disk. Wrap tightly, then refrigerate for 1 hour.

After the dough has chilled, lightly flour your work surface. Roll out the dough into a 1/4-inch thick circle, about 12 inches in diameter. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, drape the dough over a 9-inch flan ring, fitting the dough gently and pressing it into the edges. Chill the dough for 10 minutes.

Using a sharp paring knife, trim the dough so that it is flush with the rim. Return the tart shell to the refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm up and chill thoroughly.

Preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C). Line the tart shell with parchment, allowing a 1-inch overhand. Fill lined shell with pie weights and bake until the pastry's edges are beginning to colour, about 15 minutes. Remove parchment and weights, using the overhang of paper to assist. Continue baking until the pastry is light golden all over, about eight minutes more. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely (still on parchment lined baking sheet).

Turn the oven down to 350°F (175°C).

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer or whisk, beat the yolks on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale, about 3 minutes. Add condensed milk, zests, juices and salt, and beat to combine, scraping down side of bowl as needed.

Pour the filling into the cooled prepared tart shell and bake until just set, about 10 minutes. Still on its parchment, transfer the tart to a wire rack. Cool completely, then loosely cover in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

Allow the tart to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving; remove the flan ring and garnish with some softly-whipped cream, crème Anglaise or simply with a dusting of confectioners' sugar.

Makes one 9-inch tart, serving 12.


• Alternatively, use the leftover egg whites to top the tart with a torched Swiss meringue.
• The tart as shown was baked in a 10-inch quiche pan with extra-deeps sides and a removable bottom. The amount of filling and pastry require a deeper capacity.


7QW #1

A mammoth muffin; from his cookbook, Marty Curtis' Lemon, Blueberry and Cream Cheese Muffins. Photo courtesy of Deep Media.

Although I consider myself the giving sort, I have a confession to make. While I do believe that to be asked for a recipe is the highest of compliments, whenever I hear that request I do take a millisecond pause. I mean, of course I will share. But then again, if I give away all my tricks, will I have no mystique left?

Marty Curtis boasts a love of food that is legendary in the Muskokas and seems to have no such qualms over divulging his recipes. Owner of Marty's World Famous Café in Bracebridge, Ontario, Mr. Curtis has recently released his first cookbook; a book that shares the favourties that have made his shop a success for the last 12 years. Even the secret of the house specialty, the absolutely enormous butter tarts, is revealed within.

A warm welcome Mr. Curtis as first guest for the new "Seven Questions" feature on the site. In his interview, Mr. Curtis spoke about his inspirations in the kitchen, taste trends and finally, those much-lauded butter tarts.

seven spoons: How do your café and the book reflect your food philosophy?

Marty Curtis: Keep it simple. Easy to find ingredients that people are familiar with, when prepared with passion, make for an enjoyable, memorable meal. How you feel before you begin cooking is in direct relation to the end results.

7S: In the book you reference a similarity to Paula Deen in the way you've come to your success. You also have a bit in common with Ina Garten and Martha Stewart in that you left other careers to follow a passion for food. What advice would you now pass on to someone planning a similar leap?

MC: Believe in yourself, feel positive and enjoy what you are doing. For me, having a greater purpose other than yourself will make your work much more enjoyable and a lot of fun.

7S: Marty's World Famous Café has been in operation since 1996; over the years what changes have you noticed in the tastes of your customers and how has your menu evolved?

MC: Some people are wanting lighter menu items loaded with flavour and others still love hearty comfort food. Our phyllo quiche with locally grown leeks has been a big hit lately, served with a simple spring mix salad with olive oil and rice wine vinegar dressing. Our squash soup will appear again this fall as will our Turkey Pot Pie. All in all keeping up the quality is key.

7S: What trends or ingredients are inspiring you right now?

MC: With fall upon us, I am getting excited about pumpkin and squash right now. Now is when we gear up for Thanksgiving time and we make our fresh pumpkin pies again and squash soup sneaks its way onto our menu once again. I absolutely love this time of year for the cooler weather and the smell of a roaring fireplace. The seasonal changes really bring out some creativity and make for fun culinary experiences too.

7S: Often you will hear chefs and cooks separate what they cook professionally, and what they cook in their own kitchen. Is that the case with you, and what is your go-to recipe at home?

MC: I enjoy all the salads at home that you will find on our menu at the café. A great rib steak every now and again as well as a great rack of slow cooked ribs with grilled vegetables. As for a go to recipe ... the Trivial Marinade as mentioned in the cookbook is a go to recipe for me. It works with just about anything for the grill ... beef, chicken or pork.

7S: What are your five pantry or refrigerator staples?

MC: Eggs, butter, pasta, veggies and fruit.

7S: And finally, the obvious question. Why share the secret of your famous buttertart recipe?

MC: It makes me feel good to know that people now have the secret recipe and are able to recreate something in the comfort of their own home that has brought us success on many different levels. It's educational, fun and comforting. Everyone wins.

Thanks to Marty Curtis for taking the time to speak with us. Look out for my review of Marty's World Famous Cookbook (Whitecap, 2008) coming up on Monday, September 15, 2008. The recipe for the Lemon, Blueberry and Cream Cheese Muffins is available in the book and online here (scroll down).