Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Nigella's Cappuccino Pavlova

This delicious pavlova is so good – chewy, marshmallow-like centre, crispy shell, silky cream, bitter cocoa and lovely cappuccino flavour. All hail Nigella, Domestic Goddess; Potentate of Pavlova.

As I'm sure Nigella would agree, one does need an excuse to make this, but this week I found many, including:

  • left-over egg whites from the home-made egg pasta at the weekend
  • it's mid-March, and I'm still wear a polo-neck jumper everyday, as I have been for the past three months (excluding a recent trip to Italy)
  • I'm addicted to sugar (and I'm #sorrynotsorry)
  •  it's Tuesday

I followed Nigella's recipe for Cappuccino pavlova from her delicious Nigellisima series, but halved the ingredients and the cooking time (from 1hr, to 30mins). The two egg-whites I had produced a lovely sized pavlova, enough for 4 portions, with enough to spare for a dainty-sized portion left-over for me to eat when I'm home alone.

See, here's the math:

  • 250 grams caster sugar / 125g caster sugar
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder (not instant coffee granules) / 2 tsp instant espresso powder although also works with 'Americano' instant coffee powder as I discovered)
  • 4 large egg whites / 2 large egg whites
  • 1 pinch of salt / 1 pinch of salt 
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour / 1tsp cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar / 0.5 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 300 millilitres double cream / 150ml double cream
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder / 0.5 tsp cocoa powder
Once the pavlova was cooked and cool I put it on a plate and wrapped it in cling-film to be stored in the fridge. The main thing is to store the pavlova as air-tight as possible, and in a place as-dry-a-place as possible so that it doesn't go soggy – the cling-film and fridge combination works just fine.

I assemble the pavlova with the whole works (cream and cocoa additions) just before eating.

Nigella will tell you that you can actually freeze egg-whites – excellent for emergency pavlova-making, stash them in freezer bags and label how many egg-whites are in each.

Monday, 7 March 2016

A Simple Way to Cook Monks Beard

Monks Beard is a rarely seen green. It's from Tuscany and has a very short season (late Jan - early Feb) and it's only around for about 5 weeks. Blink and it's gone.

Sure, like all rare things, it's expensive. But you'll likely only be able get your hands on one bunch a year anyway – so you might regret not 'getting it while you can'. I found the beautiful bunch in my local 'Natoora' in Chiswick, a gorgeous green-grocers who only sell the best produce from expert growers in the UK, France and Italy.

It looks like the spiky kind of grass that grows at the beach and it kind of tastes like a very delicate spinach.

When it comes to cooking there are limited recipes on the internet so I went with the flow and had mine as part of one my favourite week-night dinners: greens and eggs on toast.

I washed my monks beard (very hairy) and steamed it in a frying pan – (I say steamed, I put it in a pan over a low heat with the aforementioned washing water, lid on). Seasoned. And that was it.

I toasted my sourdough bread (home-made, more on this another time), rubbed a garlic glove over it, trickled over some olive oil over the toasty, garlic-y bread, topped with monks beard and crowned it all with a couple of poached eggs. What a handsome week-night dinner.

Julia Child's Egg Poaching 
The egg poaching, I have recently been experimenting with Julia Child's method. You boil the eggs in their shells for about 10 seconds, then remove them from the water, turn the boil down to a simmer, then crack the eggs into the water and cook for about 3 minutes. Sometimes the eggs aren't perfect, but it's the most consistent egg-poaching method I have found.
NB: those smart men, the Hairy Bikers do it this way too (read about it The Hairy Bikers' Meat Feasts)

Beautiful Monks Beard from Natoora - so pretty.
Eggs and Greens, the perfect week-night supper

The bountiful crop in situ at Natoora