Friday, 18 December 2015

Pavlova with Poached Apples and Caramelised Verjuice Syrup

Apples and almonds have a great affinity with Verjuice. Although apples are not a traditional topping for a Pavlova, they work beautifully in this recipe, with its extravagant, brittle nest of almond-scented meringue, its clouds of whipped cream, and a reduced Verjuice syrup that’s just on the point of turning to caramel. The Pavlova should be made 8-12 hours ahead of time, and you can also prepare the apple filling well in advance.

Pavlova with Poached Apples and Caramelised Verjuice Syrup

This is another in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice (available at Woolies), and I hope you'll give this recipe a bash, even if you're mortally afraid of making anything involving temperamental meringue.

My attempts at making billowing pavlovas and snowy, crisp meringues were spectacularly flat, sticky failures for many years, but eventually I nailed them, and I haven't had a flop since.  I hope my method works for you - and it it doesn't, please drop me a line on Facebook so I can assist you.

Pavlova with Poached Apples and Caramelised Verjuice Syrup

For the Pavlova:

5 extra-large free-range eggs
a pinch of Cream of Tartar
250 g caster sugar
2-3 drops of good almond extract

For the filling:

5 large crisp apples, peeled, cored and quartered (I've used both Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, with good results)
1½ cups (375 ml) Verjuice
½ cup (125 ml) caster sugar
1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream
¼ cup (60 ml) flaked almonds, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan

First make the Pavlova. Heat the oven to 160 ºC, fan off. Separate the eggs and place the whites in a spotlessly clean bowl together with a pinch of Cream of Tartar (you'll find this in the baking aisle of supermarkets). Keep the yolks for making mayonnaise.

Using an electric beater or a food processor fitted with a balloon whisk, beat the egg whites for 2-3 minutes, or until they are standing up in firm - but not dry - peaks.

Add a third of the caster sugar at a time to the whites, whisking well for a few minutes between each addition. When you've added all the sugar, drop in the almond extract, to taste, and continue beating for another 3-4 minutes, or until the meringue is very thick, firm and shiny (with no sign of grittiness when you rub a blob between your fingers).

Your mixture should hold its firm billowing shape without drooping. If the meringue seems thin or floppy, your Pavlova will collapse in the oven, and you'll need to chuck out the mixture and start all over again.

Line a baking sheet with lightly oiled baking/greaseproof paper (put little blobs of meringue on four points under the paper to stick it down). Draw a plate-sized circle on the paper, spread a third of the meringue mixture over it to form the base of the Pavlova, then place big, generous dollops of the remaining meringue around the edges to form a basket. A huge metal spoon is the right utensil for this.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of your preheated oven, and immediately turn the heat down to 110 ºC (oven fan off). Bake for an hour and a quarter, then switch off the oven (don't open the door!) and let the meringue case dehydrate, undisturbed, for at least 8 hours, or until it is crisp and dry.  If you'd like a Pavlova with a slightly squidgy centre, let the case dry out for 6 hours.

To prepare the apple filling, put one cup of Verjuice and the caster sugar into a pan.  Bring to a gentle bubble, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Add the apple quarters and poach, covered, for 9-11 minutes, or until they are just soft.  Set aside to cool completely.

To assemble the dessert, remove the apples from their syrup with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Add the remaining ½ cup of Verjuice to the syrup, turn up the heat and boil over a medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until the syrup has reduced by about two thirds, is turning to an amber colour, and is thick, glossy, and producing plenty of big lazy bubbles. Watch the mixture like a hawk – you want it to be just on the point of caramelising.

Whip the cream until it's thick and billowy, pile it into the Pavlova and arrange the apple pieces on top.  Drizzle the hot syrup over the top, scatter with toasted almonds and serve immediately.

Serves 6. 

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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Verjuice-Gooseberry Compote

A delicate, barely set vanilla cream topped with a glorious sunset-orange compote of Verjuice and Cape gooseberries. Verjuice enhances the tartness of gooseberries, and the contrast of cool and creamy with sharp and sweet is sublime. You can prepare this dessert well in advance and merrily assemble it at the last minute.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Verjuice-Gooseberry Compote

This is another in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice (available at Woolies). If you don't have Verjuice, poach your gooseberries in a light sugar syrup (see Cook's Notes at the end of this page).

Like this recipe? Try my Fresh Plum Jelly with a Lemon Panna Cotta Topping.

Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier. He says: "Asara Vine Dried Sauvignon Blanc 2014 - a stunner of a natural sweet wine."

It looks like: Packed in a 375 ml Alsatian Flute.  In the glass a golden straw - and please serve it in a decent sized glass..

It smells like: Soft dried apricots and sliced lime poached in fynbos honey. 

It tastes like: Rich and unctuous: desiccated pineapple rehydrated in fynbos honey. Guava, yellow Canary melon.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Verjuice-Gooseberry Compote

For the panna cotta:

300 ml cream
300 ml full-cream milk
5 Tbsp (75 ml) caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, or a few drops of good vanilla extract
4 tsp (20 ml) tepid water
2 tsp (10 ml) gelatine powder

For the compote:

200 g Cape gooseberries
½ cup (125 ml) Verjuice
2 Tbsp (30 ml) caster sugar (or more, to taste: see recipe)

Put the cream, milk and caster sugar into a saucepan.  Split the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape out the seeds and add them to the pan (or add the vanilla extract, if you’re using that).  Bring gradually to just below the boil, over a low heat, stirring now and then.

When the sugar has dissolved, take the pan off the heat and gently press a sheet of clingfilm directly onto the surface of the mixture (this will prevent a ‘skin’ forming).  Set the cream aside to infuse for 45 minutes, or until it has cooled to blood temperature.

Put the water into a small teacup or ramekin, sprinkle over the gelatine and set aside to ‘sponge’ for 3 minutes.  Now place the cup in a pan of simmering water (the water should come halfway up its sides) and leave it there for a 3 minutes, or until the gelatine has melted and the liquid is clear.  Whisk this into the cream mixture, then strain the cream through a fine sieve into four wine glasses.  Chill for at least 5 hours, or until the panna cotta has set, but is still very wobbly.

To make the compote, put the gooseberries, Verjuice and caster sugar into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, skimming off any white foam as it rises.  If the gooseberries are very tart, you may need to add a little more sugar.   Simmer for about 7 minutes, or until the fruit is just beginning to collapse.  Remove from the heat, tip into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until very cold.

When you’re ready to serve, remove half the whole gooseberries from the bowl using a slotted spoon and set aside.  Use a potato masher or fork lightly to crush the remaining berries.  Spoon a layer of the crushed fruit over the top of the panna cottas, and top with the whole berries you put aside

Serves 4.

Cook's Notes: 

If you don't have Verjuice, poach your gooseberries in a light sugar syrup.  Here's how: put ½ cup (125 ml) water into a saucepan and add 4 Tbsp (60 ml) caster sugar - or more, to taste, depending on how sour the fruit is.  Bring gently to the boil, stirring occasionally. When the sugar has dissolved, add the gooseberries and continue with the recipe (paragraph 4, above).

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Monday, 14 December 2015

Prawn and Asparagus Salad with Verjuice Dressing & Mayonnaise

An easy, sea-breezy salad that takes just minutes to put together, and you cannot go wrong if you use the very best ingredients in this simple dish. I've specified cooked, peeled prawns from Woolies here, which I admit are expensive, but they are very good, fresh and springy, and a fine ingredient to splash out on when the festive season comes rolling in.  If you're on a low-carb or diabetic diet, omit the Verjuice (which is a little sugary) and use more lemon juice or white-wine vinegar.

Prawn & Asparagus Salad with Verjuice Dressing & Mayonnaise

This is another in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice, which is wonderful for making salad dressings with a slightly sweet, subtle zing.  Its gentle acidity makes it the perfect companion for ingredients with a delicate taste, such as prawns.

In this bright salad, a two-ingredient dressing and a clean-tasting homemade mayo make magic with prawns, asparagus, dark salad leaves and peppery baby radishes. If you can't find Verjuice, use more fresh lemon juice, plus a whisper of caster sugar to cut through the sharpness.  Please see my Cook's Notes at the end of the recipe for what to do if your mayo curdles.

Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier. He says: "Bellingham Whole Bunch Roussanne 2015, 
recently awarded 5 stars in the 2016 Platter's South African Wine Guide."

It looks like: Elegant bottle The Bernard Series labelling. In the glass pale golden straw with youthful lime flashes.

It smells like: Gentle tropical fruits, desiccated pineapple, kiwi and scrunched fynbos herbs. 

It tastes like: A full circle through easy entry with white flowers, ripe nectarines, Canary melon and gentle sweet spices. The fruit is generous, the acidity balancing and zesty in its youth. Long, full, richly flavoured, with a gently waning aftertaste.

Prawn and Asparagus Salad with Verjuice Dressing & Mayo

350 g asparagus tips
a packet of dark mixed salad leaves
200 g Woolworths ready-cooked peeled prawns
8 baby radishes, halved lengthways

For the dressing:

100 ml Verjuice
100 ml extra-virgin olive oil

For the mayonnaise:

2 extra-large free-range egg yolks, at room temperature
flaky sea salt
1 tsp (5 ml) Dijon mustard
200 ml sunflower oil
100 ml extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp (45 ml) Verjuice
1 Tbsp (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 tsp (5 ml) Tabasco, or more, to taste
milled black pepper

To make the mayo, put the egg yolks, salt and mustard into a bowl.  Tuck a damp cloth under one side of the bowl to tilt it. Using an electric beater, whisk the yolks until creamy.

Mix the two oils in a small jug. Turn the beater to its highest speed. Now, as you whisk the egg yolks with one hand, dribble the oil onto the yolks, a few drops at a time, with the other. Continue patiently whisking and dribbling on the oil, a little at a time, and within a few minutes you will see the egg mixture begin to thicken. Keep adding the oil in a small steady trickle until you have a thick, pale yellow ointment.  (See Cook’s Notes, below.)

Stir in the Verjuice, lemon juice and Tabasco and season with salt and pepper.  Place in the fridge to chill for a few hours.

To make the dressing, combine the Verjuice and olive oil in a small jar or jug.

Blanch the asparagus tips in boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes, or until just tender-crisp.  Drain then plunge into a bowl of iced water to set the colour. Leave for 3 minutes, then pat dry on a clean towel.

Put the salad leaves on four plates and arrange the prawns, asparagus and radishes on top.  Drizzle with the dressing  (give it a good shake first) and serve with the mayo and plenty of warm crusty bread.

Serves 4.

Cook’s Notes:

If your mayo ‘splits’, or does not thicken, start again with a clean bowl. Place a whole egg yolk in the bowl, whisk till creamy, and very gradually dribble on the split mayo mixture, whisking all the time, as above.  In most cases the mayo will re-emulsify.

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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Chicken Liver Paté with a Jellied Verjuice Topping

A fine, smooth chicken liver paté is a splendid starter for a celebration, and specially for a festive feast, for so many reasons.  You can make a glorious paté several days in advance; it will cost you peanuts. And because this is such a rich and indulgent snack, a little goes a long way, particularly if you have plenty of snappy little gherkins, salty capers and Melba toast or crackers.

This recipe is based on my Low-Carb Silken Chicken-Liver Pâté with Green Peppercorns, but instead of sealing the dish with clarified butter, I've topped it with a wobbling layer of sweet, tart, lightly jellied Verjuice, which contrasts beautifully with the rich metallic taste of the livers.

Chicken Liver Paté with a Jellied Verjuice Topping

Wine recommendation by Michael Olivier.  He says: "Monis Medium Cream: Traditional Flor Method" 

It looks like: The Monis look is a classic one and very clearly states the type of wine – degrees from driest to sweetest on the label. In the glass the wine is gem bright pale gold amber.

 It smells like: Barley sugar sticks and pine needles. 

 It taste like: Silky smooth. Honey. Christmas Cake spices. Touches of windfall citrus and plump raisins.

Chicken Liver Paté with a Jellied Verjuice Topping

For the paté:

500 g chicken livers, thawed
120 g salted butter
6 spring onions, white and pale green parts only, sliced
1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Verjuice
3 Tbsp (45 ml) cream
a pinch of nutmeg, to taste
salt &  milled black pepper

For the jelly: 

½ cup (125 ml) Verjuice
3 ml (a heaped half-teaspoon) powdered gelatine

To serve:
crusty fresh bread or crackers

Trim and rinse the livers, and set aside in a colander.

Melt all the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the spring onions and thyme, and cook them gently in their bath of butter for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are soft but not browned.

Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute, with out allowing it to burn. Now turn the heat up, add the livers and fry briskly for 3-5 minutes, or until the livers are lightly browned on the outside, but still rosy in the middle.

Tip the livers and their juices into a blender.  Deglaze the pan with 2 Tbsp Verjuice, stirring and scraping to dislodge any bits.  Bubble for 30 seconds, remove the thyme and pour the pan juices into the blender.

Blitz to a fine, smooth paste, then add the cream, and whizz again until just combined.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then pour into a paté dish (or individual pots), and smooth the top. Cover with clingfilm and chill for 3 hours.

To make the jelly, pour the half cup of Verjuice into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatine on top and leave to ‘sponge’ for 3 minutes. Set the bowl in a pan of simmering water, halfway up to its waist, and leave until the mixture is clear.  Allow to cool for 3 minutes, then pour the jelly over the paté in an even layer. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and black pepper, then refrigerate until the topping has set.
Serve with bread, crackers and capers.

Serves 6-8 as a snack.

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