27 August 2010
SEPTEMBER COOKING CLUB: LEMONS!
Okay, I know its not September yet but we're only a week off! This month's theme of LEMONS was a ripper. The fruit is abundant and currently at its absolute best, heralding the start of Spring and all things fresh, light and sunny!
We started off the night with a fresh and fruity cocktail of freshly squeezed lemon juice and gin (I wasn't paying much attention to the specific ingredients - I just remember it was scrumptious and really whet the appetite!)
Starters was a sophisticated and elegant dish of Lemon & Spinach soup served with creamy and salty feta, a seared scallop and king prawn finished with snipped chives and a heavenly lemon oil! *sigh*
Our Main course came in the form of a succulent, fresh-out-of-the-sea fillet of Norwest Snapper, smeared on the inside with a paste of butter, garlic, lemon zest and fresh parsley. The whole fillet was wrapped in prosciutto (or was it pancetta?) and roasted. The filling melted in the cooking process and rendered out a sweet, buttery puddle of sauce - I had to hold myself back from licking the plate of every drop! Crispy fried caperberries finished it off perfectly. They were crunchy, salty and extremely moreish. A robust, warm salad of balsamic roasted vegetables (sweet potato, potato, betroot and greens) was a deliciously earthy accompaniment.
Dessert is undoubtedly my favourite course to prepare, and with lemons I was presented with a mind-boggling number of options. What that distilled into, was the idea of three 'tastes' of lemon. (well, actually I just couldn't choose!) These were:
1. Lemon Pistachio Nougat
I'd never made nougat before so I tested the recipe-something I don't usually get the time to do. Armed with my brand new candy thermometer I set about making the syrup for the nougat. I'll save you the details but suffice to say I panicked a bit when the sugar syrup had to bubble its way to 150 degrees which is the 'hard crack' stage, but it just refused to do so. I made a judgment call and pulled it off the heat at 125 degrees and whipped it through the egg white mixture. The end result was the nougat would not set and I was left with a giant puddle of stickiness. Still delicious though, but after some extensive research I made a few adjustments and managed to figure it out. Hmm, I didn't really spare you the details but perhaps that bit of info will give you some sort of heads-up should you attempt it. Oh, and you also need a stand mixer with a good motor, as the mixture gets very thick and difficult to blend once you pour in the syrup and dry ingredients.
2. Lemon & Ricotta Fritters
Well, they were sophisticated doughnuts really. Made with fresh ricotta, eggs, lemon zest and juice and a bit of flour, they puffed out into billowy, crispy-on-the-edges but moist-and-creamy-on-the-inside clouds when fried, and were finished with a dusting of caster sugar.
3. Fresh Lemon Ice Cream
I credit Nigella Lawson for this one, it has just three ingredients and is a no churn/crystal breaking-up recipe. It is a recipe EVERYONE should have. The best thing about it, is that it uses up almost as much juice as it does the zest. It had a good twang of that citrusy, mouth-puckering tartness and provided a sharp, cold contrast to the sweet and hot fritters.
In all? Seriously.Good.Food.
Well done Ladies! Who'd have thought the humble lemon could inspire such a feast?