October 2006 Archives

Granny Smith apples

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Who was Granny Smith?  The apple is named after Maria Ann Smith, who first propagated the variety in Australia in 1868, apparently by chance.  It is thought to be a cross between a wild species and a domesticated one.  Maria and her husband had been recruited to come to New South Wales from England 30 years earlier due to their agricultural skills.  The apple was then widely grown in New Zealand, then introduced to England in 1935 and the USA in 1972.

A fresh Granny Smith will be bright green, firm, heavy, shiny and with a tight skin, as depicted on the logo of Apple Records, known for releasing Beatles tunes from 1968 onwards (and for fighting with Apple Computers over use of the apple).

Granny Smiths are great for eating, cooking and salads as they are so juicy, crunchy and tart.  They also go brown less quickly than other apples once cut.  To ensure your slices don't go brown you can rub them with a wedge of lemon.

Carlo's Florentine apple cake

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Well, I've had complaints that there hasn't been enough butter or cream in the last couple of recipes, so this week you're getting cake and next week you'll get the ice cream to go with it.  Has anyone attempted the (very healthy) pot stickers or gravlax yet??

This is the first recipe I've sent you that I learnt at culinary school in San Francisco.  We're getting a little more advanced now.  Having done stocks and soups we're now on to oysters and profiteroles (tricky).  Let me know if there's something you want a recipe for and I'll see if I can help..

Carlo's apple cake.jpgI was taught how to make this cake by Carlo Middione, who learnt it from his father, who lived and trained in Italy.  Carlo himself has 50 years of culinary experience and now runs an excellent Italian restaurant in San Francisco called Vivande.  I think the cake is delicious.  If possible, serve it while still warm, with coffee, vin santo, cold zabaglione or ice cream.  I think it goes well with wildflower honey ice cream.  It will keep well in the fridge for a week.


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Wild Pacific salmon has been in season here (apparently), so I have been playing around with gravlax.  This is really easy, and worth experimenting with now so that you can make a batch for Christmas and impress everyone with it.  I like it cured with allspice and whisky but you might like other flavours.  Please let me know what you try...


Pot stickers

california, japan
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OK, this one looks a little long and complicated... BUT you should try it as really it's easy and the results are delicious.  Let me know which option you like best if you try them.  I guess Sainsbury's might not do pot sticker wrappers and you may need visit your local Chinatown, if you have one.  They will be in the refrigerated section.

Pot stickers.JPGThere are hundreds of different recipes for pot stickers.  The Japanese version tends to use thinner wrappers, which I prefer to the more doughy Chinese version.  I was inspired to experiment with different fillings and wrappers by the delicious pot stickers you can get in little dim sum restaurants in San Francisco's Chinatown.  I couldn't decide which of these three fillings I liked best, which is why you're getting them all...


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Ricotta is an Italian cheese made from the whey resulting from the production of mozzarella, provolone and other cheeses.  The name means 're-cooked', because the whey is processed for a second time when it is used to make the ricotta.

Ricotta is a good source of calcium.  This is because most of the calcium in milk is contained in the watery whey ('buttermilk') part, rather than the creamy 'butterfat' component.

Ricotta can be preserved through salting, baking or smoking.  For the Amarone-poached figs recipe it is essential to use fresh ricotta, which should be soft, bright white and mild in flavour.  It goes off easily so eat within a week of purchasing.

You can make ricotta yourself using nothing but whole milk, white distilled vinegar and salt...


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Figs.JPGFigs were one of the first plants to be cultivated by humans.  Recent evidence found suggests they were cultivated in the Jordan Valley as early as 9400-9200 BC, ie before the first cereals were domesticated.  

The fig is actually a fig/flower - the tiny flowers are clustered inside.

Amarone-poached figs with ricotta

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Figs have been in season here in San Francisco recently, so I have been experimenting with them.  You'll either love this or hate it I reckon.  Let me know how it goes if you try it.  If nothing else, it provides a good excuse to open a bottle of Amarone.

Traditionally in Italy this dish is made with Sambuca instead of Amarone.  I tried it with both and much prefer it with Amarone.  You could try any anise-flavoured spirit, or perhaps Marsala, port or brandy... 

What makes the dish work is the contrasting combination of the salty, crunchy pine nuts, the soft, cool ricotta and the warm, sweet figs and syrup.

Amarone figs.jpg


Culinary Anthropologist