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Fiadone (Corsican Cheesecake)

Fiadone with fresh cherries doused in eau de vie.

A small, inset picture in an article in Waitrose’s magazine – but unaccompanied with instructions – inspired me to look for this recipe. The texture is grainier than a cheesecake made with cream cheese, but it is also more juicy and succulent. Lemon zest gives it fragrance and lift. This is a very quick and simple recipe. In Corsica it is made with Brocciu cheese, a fresh sheep cheese, but Ricotta can be substituted. If anyone tries it with soft sheep or goat cheese, please let me know how it turns out (unless I beat you to it). Also the lemon zest may be replaced with orange zest or orange flower water.

To make a lighter Fiadone, it is possible to separate the whites from the yolks of the eggs and beat them until stiff separately before adding them back into the mix.

 

Ingredients:

500g fresh Brocciu cheese (or Ricotta)

5 eggs

200g sugar

zest of half an unwaxed lemon

one shot of eau de vie (I used kirschwasser)

a knob of butter (‘une noix de beurre’)

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C

In a bowl, whip the eggs with the sugar and lemon zest until foamy, then add the cheese bit by bit, continue to whip briskly as you go. When the cheese is thoroughly worked into the mixture, beat in a shot of eau de vie.

Pour the batter into a buttered pie dish or springform pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Despite the eggs, this cake will rise only very slightly and collapse again after being removed from the oven. Serve cool.

Zucchini, Rice, and Feta Cakes

ImageMy partner hates rice pudding, so in our household, leftover rice has a way of making it into patties of various types and soups. Consider this recipe as a base – you can always vary the quantities to suit the amount of leftover rice you have. This makes a healthy plateful of patties.

Ingredients:

2 Zucchini (about 350g), grated

2 C cooked rice

200g feta, grated

Juice of 1/2 lemon

4 spring onions, finely sliced

1/2 C plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs, beaten

1 T olive oil

Method:

Mix all ingredients together. Drop into a hot pan containing a light sheen of olive oil. Fry on each side until nicely browned.

Apple Clafoutis

How to describe a clafoutis? It is somewhere between a custard, a tart, and a flan, being composed of an eggy batter that is poured into a hot dish. The centre takes on the character of a baked custard, while the top and base acquire a slight crispiness. This is not a traditional clafoutis, which is a Limousin tart made with black cherries or other stone fruits, but an American evolution via the pages of Saveur magazine which I have doctored up slightly, as the original is a bit too sweet and heavy for my tastes – both my sweet tooth and my taste for cream are waning with age.

This dessert is marvelously simple, but the result is so elegant and delicious that it could crown the most princely and elaborate of meals. This should be popped in the oven just as you’re serving dinner so that it has a chance to cool just slightly before serving. The aroma of apples, custard and cinnamon will keep appetites soldiering on until the last. This should be made in an earthenware pie plate, or you can do as I do and make it in an iron skillet. Mine was my grandmother’s and its surface is like silk from well nigh on a hundred years of seasoning.

 

Ingredients:

For the batter:

3 eggs

1 C milk (or cream if you wish)

6 T unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2/3 plain flour

1/2 C sugar

1/2 tsp salt

 

For the apples:

4 T unsalted butter

4 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced

a splash of Calvados (or brandy)

ground cinnamon

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C

Prepare the batter: Put milk, eggs, melted butter, vanilla, flour, sugar, and salt into a blender. Whiz it around until smooth and set aside. Grease a large, deep pie plate with butter, then set in the oven to heat.

Prepare the apples: Saute apples in butter over medium heat. Add brandy and cook until apples are slightly soft but not disintegrating – about 5 mins.

Then prepare the clafoutis: Remove the pie plate from the oven and pour half of the batter into the hot dish. Arrange the apples over the batter, then pour in the remaining batter. Sprinkle a bit of sugar and a generous amount of cinnamon over the top and bake until the clafoutis is set, about 25-30 mins.

The last time I made this I drizzled it with homemade quince honey – a bit like a thick quince syrup. Apple syrup or even Maple syrup could also be used.

Zabaione (Sabayon, Zabaglione)

Garnished with flowers …

This dish is a rarity. I can’t readily think of another dish that is based upon whipped egg yolks, but it’s such a wonderful comfort food, that one wonders why there aren’t more. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to imagine an improvement on this recipe.

Zabaione (or Sabayon in France) is often served alone as a light custard, or with fruit. It is apparently an American practice to serve this in a wine glass with fruit such as berries or peaches, but the pleasure of this combination need not be limited to the New World.

I have raspberries, blackberries and yellow raspberries for this tonight, and I’ll serve them in separate piles atop the custard. The Romanian flag is blue, yellow and red, so I will pretend that I am serving Satou – which would be much like this, but made with sweet Muscatel.

Ingredients:

4 egg yolks

1/4 C sugar

1/4 C Marsala wine

Method:

Place a round-bottomed mixing bowl atop a saucepan with 2-3cm of water in the bottom and place the whole on low heat. Place the egg yolks in the bowl and, as the water heats, beat with a balloon whisk until the yolks are foamy and pale. Gradually add the sugar, and then the wine. Continuously beat the custard until it is thick and foamy. Serve immediately while warm.

If the heat is too high the custard will be grainy.

Soft Boiled Eggs

This morning it’s soft-boiled eggs, fresh squeezed orange juice and rough-hewn toasted baguette with salted butter and John Dennis’s excellent Romford honey.

Taking a cue from Hervé This’s fascinating book Molecular Gastronomy, I tried salting the water to flavour the egg whites. He debunks the myth that salted water prevents the eggs from cracking, saying that piercing the shell is the only viable method, but recommends salted water for flavouring. I didn’t find that it had enough effect to bother wasting the salt – particularly when a sprinkle of fresh salt on the cooked egg brings the flavour so marvelously to life.

I did find, however, that this method quoted from the London Daily Telegraph in The New Yorker of September 13, 2010, works a treat. This snippet appeared under the heading ‘There’ll Always be an England’.

‘Surely of more importance than the correct way to eat a boiled egg is the timing of the cooking in the first place. My own foolproof method involves placing the egg in a pan of cold water, bringing it to the boil and timing the cooking with a leisurely recitation of Henry V’s speech at the siege of Harfleur. If, upon reaching the line “Cry ‘God for Harry, England and Saint George!'” the egg is then plunged into cold water, the white will have set while the yolk remains delightfully runny.’

I can vouch for the efficacy of this method, and I will use it from now on. It’s a bracing way to start the day – to ‘Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,/Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit/To his full height.’

Here is the full text for any reader who would like to give it a try:

SCENE I. France. Before Harfleur.

Alarum. Enter KING HENRY, EXETER, BEDFORD, GLOUCESTER, and Soldiers, with scaling-ladders

KING HENRY V

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’
Exeunt. Alarum, and chambers go off