Posts Tagged ‘Apricot’

Apricot Tart with a Shuffle

June 19, 2010

No matter how hard I try, there’s a particularly irritating sound I find very difficult to bite my tongue and ignore.

For anyone who’s gone food shopping with a partner who is not as “into it” as yourself, the hopelessly bored shuffle of unwilling feet behind you as you go about trying to gather everything you need can be a bit of a – now, how can I put this politely? – pain in the posterior.

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There’s not much that I love more than food shopping, especially at the market.  Most of the time I manage just fine getting it all home (with a fair bit of dexterous arrangement) on my bicycle, but occasionally a little help is needed.  On these occasions, I tend to play on the ‘you’ve got such big muscles’ tack, but I think I’m wearing that one out.

But anyway, on to the main theme.

We had friends round for dinner tonight, and of course I leaped at the opportunity to “do something Mrs Beeton-y”.

With a bag of golden-orange apricots in my boyfriend’s unwilling hands (“Can you please go and weigh these?” I directed, hoping to distract him from sighing and twitching desperately behind me.  Off he went, shuffling and sighing forlornly.  Geez and blimey!!!)

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INGREDIENTS – 12 or 14 apricots, sugar to taste, puff-paste or short crust.

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“Sweeten with good moist sugar”, Mrs Beeton advises.  I’ve long been puzzled as to what ‘moist sugar’ is – I’ve been given a few hints about modern equivalents, but I’ve found myself puzzling over the question on occasion for quite a while.  Eventually, after quite a bit of internet research, ‘moist sugar’ in Mrs Beeton’s world was something like Muscovado Sugar (which is not actually moist, but has a higher molasses content, apparently, hence the ‘moist’ – in comparison to other sugars – label).  Off I rushed to hastily grab a box, my poor suffering boyfriend shuffling forsakenly behind me.

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Our friends are German, and they’d never heard of Mrs Beeton.

“She studied in Heidelberg, really?’ one of them cried.  An instant convert was born.

I opted for (shop-bought) puff-paste (pastry) – one of these days I’ve got to give Mrs Beeton’s recipe for this a try.  In the meantime, the pre-made stuff made a very good substitute.

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However, the recipe doesn’t specify clearly whether pastry is meant to form the sides of the tart, or if it’s just to go on top.  After debating it with my boyfriend for a few moments, we figured she meant ‘just on top’.  On it went, over the fresh apricot halves, and popped into the oven.

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Unfortunately, I served the dessert after a rather large dinner and too short a pause between the main and sweet courses.  Politely reluctant looks dressed the faces of our guests as I keenly encouraged them to try a little bit, whilst at the same time deftly putting all the blame on Mrs Beeton should it not be to their taste.

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Thankfully, they really liked it.  I accompanied it with Mrs Beeton’s custard, which I’ve made before (https://mrsbeetonin365days.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/day-91-lemon-brandy-custard/).   This time, unfortunately, I curdled it ever so slightly – but I sploshed enough brandy into it to mask any deficiencies.  I hope.).

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“Mmm, interesting,” one of them commented about the sauce as she took another bite.  Luckily, this sort of custard is not a typically German thing, so I got away with the slight curdling by saying it was an English sauce.  (“Oh, OK then.”)

The fact that there was nothing left is a testament to the simple tastiness of this simple dessert (thank you Mrs Beeton).

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Apricot Tart (Recipe 1239 ): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/27-chapter27.html#1239

Lemon Brandy Custard (Recipe 404): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/10-chapter10.html#404

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Apricot Cream

June 4, 2010

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Well, this is not exactly a cream.  Actually, it’s more like a jelly.  A creamy, smooth-bodied jelly, flavoured with new-season apricot.

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INGREDIENTS – 12 to 16 ripe apricots, 1/4 lb. of sugar, 1–1/2 pint of milk, the yolks of 8 eggs, 1 oz. of isinglass.

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We had a friend coming round for dinner, and I wanted to make a light dessert to go with the after-dinner coffee, as well as to satisfy my boyfriend’s insatiable sweet tooth (if I haven’t mentioned this already, he typically takes 3 HEAPED tablespoons of sugar in his coffee.  And he drinks a minimum of 5 cups of coffee a day.  Despite my horrified retching whenever I catch him flavouring a mound of sugar with coffee, I’m still waiting for him to develop diabetes or for his teeth to fall out, to provide me with a smug ‘I told you so’ opportunity.   Alas, so far the gods are on his side…).

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This is a simple, 2-stage dessert to put together.  Firstly, an apricot compote is made by boiling the fruit in a sugar syrup, then it’s mixed together with the other (pre-simmered) ingredients.  The recipe calls for 1/4 lb of sugar, but this is a mistake – it actually needs 1/2 lb sugar (as discovered when I read the recipe process steps).

I just made half the quantity as the dessert was only for three people.  Still, I couldn’t quite bring myself to use 4 egg yolks (cue some cheeky, grinning tut-tutting from my boyfriend, and his perpetual crow of ‘What would Mrs Beeton say?’ when I balk and gasp at some instruction or other).  Even with three yolks, it didn’t seem to adversely affect the final outcome.  And boy was our oldest, greediest cat Saturn excited when she was given the fried-up egg whites as a treat!

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As with the previous Mrs Beeton jelly-like dessert I made, I substituted agar agar for isinglass (I’ve never even heard of isinglass for cooking before I ‘met’ Mrs Beeton, anyway).  This time, I was a bit savvier with the quantity, and added slightly more agar agar to give the dessert a firmer consistency and appearance.

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Despite the amount of sugar used, and despite it being a really nice dessert (especially when served with vanilla ice-cream), it wasn’t quite sweet enough even to my taste.  Perhaps it’s something to do with the agar agar, which smells a bit like chlorine (but, thankfully, doesn’t taste like it – I don’t want to be thinking of swimming pools when I’m eating dessert!).

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“Maybe you should’ve used 4 yolks like she told you to,” grinned my boyfriend wickedly.

Maybe.  Perhaps.  It’s possible.  But, I’m more inclined to blame it on the apricots I used, which were rushed-to-the-shops, early season specimens and not as fruitily, robustly ripe as they will be in a few weeks time, when the season is in full-swing.

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Roll on spring and summer, with the glorious bounty of fruit and vegetables you usher in with you!

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Apricot Cream (Recipe 1405): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/29-chapter29.html#1405

Day 21: I Can’t Believe It’s (Not) Jam

December 8, 2009

Carrot Jam to Imitate Apricot Preserve

Wouldn’t your attention be laughingly-arrested by this too?

When I came across a recipe for Carrot Jam in Isabella Beeton’s chapter on Preserves, I knew I had to give it a try, despite my instinctive absolutely-no-way-it’ll-taste-even-remotely-edible response.

I knew there was no way it could (I mean, come off it, carrot on toast?!).  But as I’d bought a bottle of Brandy for Friday’s apple-custard tart, I’ll jump at the chance to honourably be done with it as soon as possible.

The last time I (allegedly) partook of this particular beverage was as a baby.  (Allegedly) I was a bit of a lusty, high-pitched wailer, so my war-time nurse of a grandmother (allegedly) prescribed a drop of Brandy in my milk.  Allegedly.  I’ve no idea if it’s actually true (my late grandmother sometimes enjoyed pulling my leg), but an abiding aversion to the smell lingers on.

INGREDIENTS – Carrots; to every lb. of carrot pulp allow 1 lb. of pounded sugar, the grated rind of 1 lemon, the strained juice of 2, 6 chopped bitter almonds, 2 tablespoonfuls of brandy.

It’s an easy recipe, but that still didn’t warm me to the idea of eating carrot on toast.

The most time-consuming part was boiling the thinly-sliced carrots to near-mash, which didn’t take that long at all (35 minutes).

I’ve never heard of bitter almonds and most certainly don’t have any lying around, so 6 regular almonds were pestle-and-mortared into service.

I summoned (begged) my boyfriend into the kitchen to share the moment of tasting with me.

“You’re trying some,” I muttered as he grimaced at the gingery pulp.

I ladled a spoon of carrot onto two very small pieces of bread.  We couldn’t bring ourselves to look at each other as we slowly, with eww-ick expressions, raised the bread to our lips.

Slowly.  Slowly.  Slowly.

We shoved the bread into our mouths and chewed as quickly as our disgust would allow us.

Suddenly, my boyfriend’s face cleared.  Munching carefully, he quietly gave his pronouncement.

“Hmm.  It’s… not… bad.  Not… bad… at… all.’’

My own prior expectation of a loo-dash faded away as my tastebuds assessed the new flavor sensation.  With huge surprise I had to agree– it really was pretty damn good.  Who’d have thought it?

Give it a try for yourself and see what you think.  I was unexpectedly impressed by the lip-lickety sweetness of this surprisingly tasty (not to mention economical) concoction.

Carrot Jam Recipe: http://www.mrsbeeton.com/31-chapter31.html (recipe 1525)