While living in San Francisco, training as a chef at Tante Marie’s Cooking School, I went through a phase of making lemon tarts. At home we ate them day after day after day, as I had to practise making the perfect sweet ‘shortcrust’ tart dough and the perfect lemon curd. Matt didn’t seem to mind.
Both crust and curd are harder than you might think. The tart shell must be perfectly even and crisp; the curd must have a perfect balance of sweet and sour, and be luxuriously rich and smooth. And then there is the challenge of slowly baking the assembled tart such that the curd sets up beautifully and does not curdle, blister or crack.
In San Francisco I used Meyer lemons – a particularly sweet and fragrant variety – but now back in London they are nowhere to be found. I recently dug out my notes (including tips I gleaned from two fantastic pastry chefs, Jennifer Altman and Jim Dodge) to make lemon tarts for one of my Secret Kitchen dinners. I served it with poached forced Yorkshire rhubarb flavoured with a little orange zest, and thick double cream.
Note that the dough’s sugar:butter:flour ratio is 1:2:3 – easy to remember. For a wonderfully golden curd, use free range organic eggs.
Carnitas was the last dish I cooked here in San Francisco. It’s
Mexican, porky and delicious, and was therefore a very fitting final
dinner in our apartment. It’s a Mexican classic and one I’d had many times at local taquerias. You can find all sorts of recipes for carnitas, involving different meats, flavourings and cooking methods. This pork ‘n’ lard version is the real deal. My method follows that of the chef at Mexico DF restaurant, who shared it after we’d devoured several pounds of the stuff. It is meltingly tender on the inside, crispy on the outside and wonderfully porky. You will be in pig heaven.
Since the carnitas-fest we have been desperately trying to
get round all the Bay Area restaurants we wanted to try, while packing up all our
I now sit in a beautifully clean and empty flat, with a whole hour to go
until we leave for the airport. Never before have we been so timely and
organised before catching a plane.
This one’s for Tamar, Raquel, Megan, Carri and Will, who actually gave
us money for our furniture. Tamar liked it so much she decided it would
be easier just to move in when we leave.
I admit to having said some not very nice things about eggnog in the past. But that was before I tried Nathan’s eggnog. Heavy on the bourbon, light on the sugar and spice, and silky smooth on the tongue, this one is a creamy and delicious dessert in a glass. Also, Nathan cooks (and bakes) at Chez Panisse, so we can trust him. Having said that, eggnog would more traditionally be made with rum, brandy or whisky, but Nathan’s from Kentucky.
Perhaps this should be ‘California Christmas cake’, due to the inclusion of apricots, dates and macadamias. You don’t have to use them – you can substitute pretty much any dried fruit and nuts you like. These ones worked for me, but maybe because I ate it in a log cabin near Lake Tahoe after inching my way down the freezing ski slopes. The use of two whole bottles of sherry, however, seems very British, and should work anywhere.
Despite the two week interval I’m afraid I’m still stuck on a hard
liquor theme. So this week, a delicious bourbon whiskey infusion, plus a cocktail to use it in. (Actually, the 1794 is usually made with rye
whiskey, but not in this household as we don’t have any.)
This ‘recipe’ comes from Scott Beattie, the talented barman at the Cyrus restaurant bar in Healdsburg, California, who is reputed to be the best ‘mixologist’ in America. After we’d worked our way through most of his cocktail menu, he happily divulged his bourbon-infusing secrets
This cocktail is in the Manhattan family, but much more elusive. It seems there are only two places sophisticated enough to serve it in San Francisco, not counting our kitchen – the top notch restaurant Range and the über-cool speakeasy style bar Bourbon & Branch. For a truly amazing cocktail experience, try it with vanilla and citrus infused bourbon instead of rye.
This recipe is for Tracy and David, who helped us enjoy a few last
weekend at Tim’s 21st(ish) birthday party in their super-stylish Eichler house in Orange County. It is the result of many
a long night of intensive research conducted at some of California’s
most sophisticated bars, just for you.
When weekending in the Russian River area recently with friends (picture higgledy hills, back-to-back vineyards of Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet, pasty San Franciscans soaking up the rays by day and in the hot tub by night ), we were delighted to find a fig tree in the garden. Roasted on their leaves, the figs went a treat with the grilled lamb we had for dinner.
I reckon they’d also go well with other grilled and roasted meats, or with cheese, or even with ice cream as a dessert (in which case add some sugar and go easy on the salt and pepper).
This soup might sound too plain and simple to be very interesting, but
it is very delicious. It is the first soup I was asked to make at Chez
Panisse, and I’ve made it several times since at work and at home. (It
was not the soup that ended up in the compost, so you can trust me on
this one.) It is creamy, sweet and delicious. The trick is to get a good balance between corny and courgettey flavours. You might be tempted to substitute tinned corn for cobs, but please don’t.
We are still getting corn here, but I guess the season may
have ended in the UK – ? Judging by the Halloween decorations ALREADY
out on our neighbours’ houses, it must be ‘fall’, so I guess recipes
will be moving over to the celeriac/potato/roast meat variety quite
soon. I’m going to have to send you one more corn recipe first though,
as there are just too many important corn facts I feel compelled to
write up. For instance, did you know that one quarter of the c.45,000
products sold in the average American supermarket contain corn? Find
out more about corn’s domestication of the human race next week…