Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Girls weekend

Last weekend I played hostess to two of my dearest friends, Natalie and Amy: the very same ladies who coerced me into blogging again. They are personally responsible for taking all the photos that you see here, in hope, I believe, that if they did some of the work for me, I might go the extra mile and post the photos onto this blog. After their efforts, I feel obliged to at least post their photos of our marvelous weekend of food, movies and merry-making.

The fun began on Saturday afternoon with some cheese and spinach triangles, made with the spinach from our very small, but nonetheless precious, vegetable garden. Another day in the scorching sun and the spinach leaves, I fear, would have withered away, so their coming over was a perfect excuse to use them up. In addition to the spinach, which I steamed and then drained thoroughly, I added ricotta, fresh mint, lemon zest, parmesan, an egg, as well as a generous grinding of salt and pepper. I placed a mound of the filling onto several sheets of buttered filo and rolled, to the best of my ability, into triangles. Brush with egg wash or more melted butter, and then bake at 180 for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

For dinner we had hamburgers with homemade brioche buns;  homemade pickled Jalapenos, red onions and cucumbers; ground beef patties (made from mince with 10-15% fat content); Gruyere cheese and a special sauce. When I was in New York in November, I had the most amazing burger at The National. It was called 'The Ugly Burger' on account of its turning into an ugly mess when eaten, but nothing about the taste, could be said to be ugly. It was so magnificent that I had to try and recreate it at home: this is my attempt. Although delicious, I'm afraid nothing will quite live up to my memory of the National 'Ugly burger'. If you are at all interested, you can find the recipe for the pickled vegetables and special sauce here.

I also served up a side order of Nigella's delicious Tuscan fries from her new book, Nigellissima. You can find the recipe for those here.

Now onto dessert. Again taking inspiration from Nigellissima, one of my newest culinary acquisitions, I opted for something cool and summery to end our evening: The Double Amaretto semifreddo. A semi-solid parfait, if you like, littered with shards of crunchy amaretti biscuits and enhanced with a dosh of Disaronno- that headily aromatic, almondy liquor, often referred to as Amaretto. I LOVE anything almondy: Marzipan, almond croissants, friands, Dr Pepper, Maraschino cherries. If it contains almond, I'm a taker. This dessert was, to my great delight, as intensely almondy as you can get. It was just as well that Nat and Amy both like Almond- or so they told me- because if you weren't a fan of Almond, you most certainly wouldn't like this dessert.

The only thing I would say against the recipe, is that there wasn't really much process involved. I suppose that's good if you are in a hurry or you don't really enjoy cooking; if, however, you are like me, it is a joy to spend a little more time pottering in the kitchen. I suppose, in truth, had I made the sauce to go along with it, there would have been a bit more to do, but anything that contains Apricot- apricot jam being a core ingredient in the semifreddo sauce- is of absolutely no interest to me. I just served mine with a little maple syrup and a scattering of a few more crushed amaretti biscuits instead. If you enjoy apricot, the by all means, make the sauce.

Before we knew it, it was Sunday morning and time for brekky. I had made enough brioche dough on Saturday to be able to make a small loaf in addition to the burger buns. What do you do with stale brioche? French toast of course. I cut the brioche into fairly thick chunks, so they did need quite a long time to soak. It is so vital that you take the time to soak the bread properly, as there is nothing worse than dry french toast. After soaking in a mixture of egs, cream, sugar and vanilla, cook at a low heat until golden and cooked through. I had some lovely ricotta left over from the triangles, so I sweetened that with maple syrup and added a little cinnamon and vanilla. I then macerated some strrawberries in some sugar and balsamic vinegar. To serve, I smeared some ricotta across the plate, sprinkled over some of the remaining amaretti, put the strawberries along side and the french toast on top with a mint leaf garnish. Serve with extra maple syrup, if desired. In my books, a little maple syrup is always desirable.

This post is dedicated to Nat and Amy! Thanks for sharing the weekend with me :)


NMParms said...

What a wonderful blog entry. It encapsulated the wonderment of the weekend we had! Amy and I enjoyed ourselves immensely thank you so much my good lady!

Princess of the kitchen said...

Thanks, Natty. Good job with the photos. It was a great weekend- we'll have to do it again sometime :)

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