Tag Archives: tessa kiros

Return of the (now rather pretty) ugly apple cake

The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.
~ Frederick Buechner

Right now, my head throbs like a wall has just slammed itself against me 50 times. It hurts. Both literally, and figuratively. I am angry with and thoroughly tired of pretense, pride, and people with a shaky set of principles/values. I want to say to Life, “oh why bother?” and storm off.

But I refrain (barely), because that isn’t a party I want to crash. There are moments like now at which my resolve to remain optimistic and true weakens, but I really want it to stay intact. Somehow.

Maybe I have a naïve sense of optimism, maybe the world says “grow up kid, and start joining in if you want to go somewhere”… but I can’t. I don’t know how. If being real means losing, then I suppose I’ll have to learn how to contend with loss. And I get tired of people with ugly hearts but I keep trying again for some bizarre reason that even I don’t understand. I remember I am far from perfect too. I remember that everyone carries their own pain. I try. I fail. I try to try again.

I find myself journeying sometimes repeatedly to the centre of disaster in a completely mad quest for truth, and from a belief that deep down people are still good before they are bad.

But can I just be honest about how I feel right this moment. I am exhausted. I doubt my own sanity. I wonder if maybe honesty just “doesn’t work” in some places, if people are actually really happier if they can sweep things under the carpet and leave them there to rot. I am tired of feeling empathy. I want to not care. I have temporarily lost the sense of optimism I woke up with today (6.30am, I was making caramel for the cake topping in my kitchen, and I was feeling happier than Maria singing on the hills).

Tomorrow will be better.

Hmm. This post is not conducive to a food blog, you are saying…… and yes of course you are right. I’m sorry. Will you accept cake as an apology?

It’s not my cake, it’s Tessa Kiros’s. And it’s got apples below and caramel on top :-)

Last night, I made the cake bit of Tessa Kiros’s apple cake with toffee topping (made the topping this morning). I was excited whilst making it because I thought it was a new recipe… and I am glad I didn’t realise I had made it before until I looked through my blog archives. If I had, I would have recalled the disaster it was last time and not discovered the recipe for what it’s meant to be (a lovely cake).

Funny, even as I conclude this post I realise that this cake is apt for today. It’s “try again” cake. If it turns out ugly the first time (and it may, if you have a funny oven and no electric beaters), try, try again.

And that’s all folks. I’ve got a very busy day tomorrow, so time to hit the sack. Have a beautiful Saturday filled with hope and perfect caramel!


Au revoir janvier, bonjour février!

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.
~ Frederick Buechner

If you’ve read my blog for a long, long time, you may recall (vaguely) that I once made a project of cooking through Tessa Kiros’s “Falling Cloudberries”. As it is, I reached #62 with her champagne risotto… and mysteriously fell off the cookbookwagon after that.

I still feel a little bad about that.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll get around to completing that project. I’m considering the amount of $ that will go into this if I do it (and the resultant smaller budget for other things). I’m hesitant about the sound of a few recipes. I do not think I can afford to pour the necessary time into it if I am to live the rest of my life, love humans, see the light of day, work full time, and sleep too.

But if I find a friend who’ll force me to make stuffed fried herrings and then eat them with me, or a friend who will dry my tears as I burn my lingonberry jam crazy, perhaps I will pick up the project again. (Chances aren’t high though, if you must know).

In the meantime, I’m happy to share that I made something from her book, the first new Tessa-recipe I’ve attempted since… October 2010! Ding ding ding!
#63 Nut Meringue Cake with Whipped Cream – Page 268

I almost didn’t make it. When my eyes first fell on the phrase “you will need two springform tins that will fit in the oven at the same time”, I got ready to turn the page… you see, I’m a little afraid of sandwich cakes. Somehow I always imagine them turning into catastrophes… being too thin, looking stupid, getting uncomfortably “smooshy”, collapsing, etc.

But something about the recipe title caught my attention, too. “Nut meringue cake with whipped cream”… it definitely sounded like something different, something light and floaty and fun. Something challenging… I like challenging. Lastly, a two-tiered cake felt strangely apt for the day: saying bye to January and saying hello to February.

I followed Tessa’s recipe as best as I could (without kitchen scales) and modified a few things to use what I had (blueberries for raspberries, kahlua for vanilla essence, and 9″ cake tins in the absence of 8.5″ ones).

The two cakes came together pretty easily, especially with a handheld electric whisk that I still feel grateful for each time I see it! (Gone are the days of beating egg whites till my hand cries). The finished product was light-tasting, nutty and fragrant – and I like the cream and berries in the middle. I took it as a lovely compliment that most everyone ate and finished their slice even though we’d all already shared a marvellous carrot cake just before! (Yes, we ate two cakes in an evening).

The last picture in this post is courtesy a boy who made my cake blush with the number of pictures he took [so we could “tag” a girl on Facebook, who left early, and let her know that she missed cake]. (Thank you Daniel M).

A good risotto to conclude Risotto Season

Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.
~ Mark Twain

There’re a few dishes that are lovely to cook and to eat, but not in excess – and I am fast learning that risotto is one of them. For instance, I fashion meals with eggs all the time and never tire of them, but risotto… risotto is different. It’s beautiful, elegant and comforting, but it’s absolutely smothering if you have it too often (made the third one this month tonight – oops).

I think both Matt and I were heaving wearily with the weight of risotto after a few spoonfuls of it this evening!

The recipe came from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#62 Champagne Risotto – Page 297

Tessa Kiros describes it perfectly with the phrase “startling honesty”… that is exactly what it is. The champagne is invisible, seemingly lost in a galaxy of rice, butter, parmesan and shallots – but its aroma penetrates your mind and its flavour arrests your tongue the moment it enters your mouth. It’s a blade of truth, transparent and pure. I do like this dish, and think it is best served in smaller portions as a prelude to seafood or vegetables.

As the risotto bubbled to cooked perfection, I stirred in a whisked egg yolk as suggested in the notes; I think I liked this and will do it again in other risotto dishes in the future.

You’re looking for photographic evidence now, I know. Well, I am sorry I am unable to post any of the pictures I took. I ran them past three people just to be sure I was not the only one who thought them distasteful, and all of them think you will be better off not seeing them… :-/

Tonight, we also had:

Matt’s Juice (version #50-something-at-least? of juices like this)… tonight’s version included baby carrots and beetroot leaves. :-/ Pretty potent.

Monkfish baked with lemon zest and juice, garlic, olive oil, rosemary, salt, pepper… (wrap the fish up in foil parcels and bake at 180°C for around 20 minutes. Simple).

And now we are drinking stovetop hot chocolate… always a welcome finish to the evening!


PS. Cute is this post on The God of Cake.

How to enjoy tomatoes

Hunger makes you restless. You dream about food – not just any food, but perfect food, the best food, magical meals, famous and awe-inspiring, the one piece of meat, the exact taste of buttery corn, tomatoes so ripe they split and sweeten the air, beans so crisp they snap between the teeth, gravy like mother’s milk singing to your bloodstream.
~Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina

From Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#61 Oven-Roasted Tomatoes – Page 288

These do take some time to cook, but they are so worth the wait! They emerged from the oven slightly crisp and golden around the edges, aromatic, succulent and so deliciously sweet… I have to admit I whooped in delight as I bit into the first wedge. Mmmm!

Modifications: 1.5kg of tomatoes seemed like an awful lot to roast when I am not an avid fan of tomatoes! I won’t be afraid to roast that quantity next time though :-)

I had three perfect wedges of these oven-roasted tomatoes with scrambled eggs and pan-fried asparagus tonight, and I’m pretty sure they will taste equally good with bread, pasta or on an antipasto platter.

    Oven-Roasted Tomatoes – recipe adapted and modified from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”
    5 ripe tomatoes
    3 garlic cloves (if storing)
    1/4 cup olive oil (if storing)
    1 bay leaf (optional, if storing)
    2 sprigs rosemary (optional, if storing)
    Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a flat baking tray with aluminium foil, then brush the foil with oil to prevent sticking.
    Rinse the tomatoes, pat dry and cut in half vertically. Arrange them close together, seeded side up, on the foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 15 minutes, or until they start sizzling or colouring.
    Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C and bake for another 1.5 hours, until they are golden around their rims and a little shrivelled, but still a little juicy. They should not be soggy or collapsed, but firm and a little more juicy than store-bought sundried tomatoes.
    Remove the tomatoes from the oven, and serve immediately (mmm!) or transfer them to a container suitable for the fridge, adding the oil, garlic, bay leaf and rosemary (or seasonings of your choice). They will keep for a few days – and you can use the flavoured oil with other dishes after the tomatoes are used up.

Launch into artichokes

Vous au moins, vous ne risquez pas d’être un légume, puisque même un artichaut a du coeur (at least you’ll never be a vegetable — even artichokes have hearts).
~ Amélie

From Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#60 Risotto with Artichokes & Italian Sausage – Page 294

Modifications: I used less ingredients to make it enough risotto for two instead of for four, used warm white wine as well as vegetable broth, and added sliced zucchini.

Verdict: Everything about it was warm, creamy and tasty with the lyrical flavours of thyme, parmesan, vegetable broth and riesling – but I would love to learn how to successfully cook artichokes (interesting first experience cooking them)!

In other news, I finished reading “Notwithstanding” this morning – a smooth, sweet blend of essential truth and creative fiction. I like.

Corrine’s Lamb with Spring Onion, Ginger & Coriander & Ginger Relish

I am open to everything.
~ Luciano Pavarotti

One of my favourite ways to cook is to do it in stages, letting the flavours mix & mingle, take time to know each other… while I carry on with the rest of my activities, floating in and out of the kitchen periodically to check how it’s doing, progress things when appropriate, and let it draw to completion naturally.

Eg. I love marinading meat overnight, or making pastry in the morning to fill and bake in the evening, or letting things simmer into tenderness while I sit and read a book, go to work, etc.

Tonight’s roast lamb happened this way.

My guests, Mr & Mrs Brown and Sally, did all the things perfect dinner guests do – bring apple crumble and wine, help carve the lamb, smile and thank politely, etc…. ;-) and I was very appreciative – above all, it was great to just sit and chat about all things meaningful or trivial, relax and laugh with them over a meal!

On the menu tonight:

    Garlicky Turkish Bread – those convenient loaves you can get from the supermarket and bake for 6-8 minutes
    Broccoli & carrot roasted with spices & maple syrup – the drizzle of maple syrup was a spontaneous addition, and lent the dish a light, round sweetness
    Potatoes with zest and herbs – chosen as much for convenience as taste: boiled potato quarters tossed with orange zest, olive oil, salt & pepper, rubbed oregano, marjoram & rosemary… easy, quick and tasty
    and from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
    #59 Corinne’s Lamb with Spring Onion, Ginger & Coriander & Ginger Relish – Page 363 – tender, flavoured lamb which was easily sliced, and a relish reminiscent of Thai flavours – with refreshing lime!

Two nights ago, I had sprinkled spices and chopped garlic, swirling it into the thick white yoghurt, watching as the colours interacted to become a colourful cream…

It was a perfect pre-bedtime activity. All I had to do was make a simple yoghurt sauce, pour it over a leg of lamb, hide it in the fridge and go to bed!

Today, when I took the lamb out of the fridge, it smelled comforting and just mmmm!

I burnt my fingers a few times juggling hot plates and trays… I also scarred my oven with lamb dripping, nearly broke the sieve, and dipped the oven mitten in sauce. I was slightly amused by it all, but I did not have the mood or time to take photos during the cooking process!

By the time my friends arrived, I was afraid of touching any plates without the protection of at least two intermediary tea towels, but all went well from there. Introductions between them done, we all sat down and got down to some important business – eating and connecting!

The lamb had a deep brown crust and was soft and flavoured within. The yoghurt sauce and oven had worked their magic!

The Browns made some amazing crumble! Sticky, sweet and delicious. We devoured it with a generous scoop of ice cream on top.

PS. This video is just the cutest!! :-)

Pork with celery in egg & lemon sauce

It is a solemn thought: Dead, the noblest man’s meat is inferior to pork.
~ Mark Twain

Over the weekend, we went walking along the waterfront… we still needed our coats, but the sun made its welcome presence felt nevertheless!

(There is something marvellous about eating pizza on a wooden bench by the waterfront too)

Last night, dinner was from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#58 Pork with Celery in Egg & Lemon Sauce – Page 112

This was a dish that smelled wonderful from the beginning – even when it was just sauteed onions and pork chunks in the pan. With the addition of garlic and some frothy sauvignon blanc it took on extra character – by the time my fingers smelled of celery & fennel, it felt so good just to stand and breathe. This dish took some time (almost 2 hours) to cook – a perfect way to get some reading done in between!

Alas, the eggs scrambled a little in the pan – it’s so important to mix the eggs in well before squeezing in the lemon, I learned! We ate the lot with slices of Vienna bread. Jono liked it, I liked the soft pork and the sauce, but not the abundance of cooked celery – as for Matt and John, I am not sure! :-/

PS. Thanks everyone who has commented and/or entered the giveaway draw so far – there are still 11 hours to go before the draw, so join in if you haven’t!