Monday, 26 October 2009

Daring Bakers: Macarons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.
Ah macarons. Like salted caramel, they seemed to take the food blog world by storm a short while ago. I resolutely/accidentally missed the boat on both, then felt behind the times enough to not want to make either since everyone else had been there, done that on my behalf. This month's Daring Bakers challenge gave me the chance to rectify this baking
oversight and dig into a plate of dainty sweet sandwiches.

My macarons were destined for imperfection. Not failure - what is failure when you still have a highly edible finished product? They were simply not going to be the macarons that any Frenchman would be seen eating. More for me, then!

Our oven has a slight flaw in that all the numbers on the temperature dial have fallen off. Silly oven. I know where to set the dial for most cakes, cookies, muffins, and roast dinners, but anything falling outside the 160 - 200C range is danger territory. In order to achieve the tell-tale crusty 'foot' on these macarons (see every other Daring Baker page for what this looks like), this recipe has the temperature starting very low and increasing after the macarons have had a chance to rest outside the oven. Low, in this case, is defined as 100C. Or, on my oven, the Vast Unknown.

And so though I journeyed to The Land I've Never Yet Been To, and the macarons returned from that journey with me, they were not as they should be. They were
soft, a bit moist, and with no feet (or limbs of any sort) on them. Oh well. They were also delicious, with the rose water buttercream and nutella buttercream I made for the standard macarons, and a mint buttercream to go with the chocolate version. They may have had trouble in baking, but not any trouble in eating.

Thanks goes to Ami from Baking Without Fear for setting the recipe and setting everyone's macarony imaginations going. Please have a look at her blog for the recipe we all used.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Vietnamese Lamb and Noodles

I cooked a soup this past weekend (soup season has begun, so I've declared). Butternut squash, corn, butter beans, cream. Something of a chowder, with gentle bay and thyme to give it more flavor. It was supposed to be my blog post, but it was brutally ugly. Fairly tasty, but in need of a good food plastic surgeon to bring some beauty to that bowl.

The innocuous "What's for dinner tonight?" question on Monday was a loaded one. The weekend is for food blog time, week nights for survival. But I declared to Mr A&N that Monday night's dinner (lamb chops in the fridge) would have to be blog-worthy as I had nothing to post about this week.

"Leave it to me" Mr. A&N declared. "I'll put something together."

The 5pm phone call to tell me he was leaving work early began not with a hello but with a declaration I wouldn't have guessed had I been given 100 chances. "Vietnamese", Mr A&N stated. "It's more traditional with pork chops but I think it will work. I'm picking up a lime and some noodles, but I'll be home to help with Baby A&N's feeding and bedtime and then cook dinner."

He was of course as good as his word. Got home, set the marinade for the lamb going, pulled funny faces during Baby A&N's dinner and then played with him in the bath. Gave him his milk, bundled this very sleepy baby into bed, came downstairs and cooked me a wonderful meal. The noodles were treated to the marinade the lamb had been sitting in, and I stole irresistable mouthfuls from the wok as I set the camera up. The marinade had created very succulent chops thanks to the lime, with the slight sweetness to it melding seemlessly, and beautifully, with the chilli and soy flavors bringing up the rear. The Vietnamese know what they're doing with flavors, and so did Mr A&N when he put this together.

Mr A&N and I had a discussion in the car this past weekend, after seeing some friends. "Why do you always tell stories when I'm the butt of the joke? Why do you tell people about when I mean to say or do something nice but it comes out wrong and seems like an insult instead? Why don't you ever tell the good stuff, like how I make you dinner and help around the house and get up in the middle of the night to deal with Baby A&N?"

"Because those stories are funny. You like being funny. If there's one thing I know about you it's that."

"I like being funny," he admitted "but when it's me being funny, rather than me being insensitive. I'd like to be seen as the good guy sometimes."

"You're right, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. You are the good guy. You're the great guy. I promise to do better. I'm sorry."

"Okay." he said. "Thanks."

"I promise." I said. "I promise to do better. And I promise I'll only tell those stories when I'm guaranteed a really big laugh."

He accepted his victory with customary grace.

Vietnamese Lamb and Noodles
Serves 3 eating averagely, 2 greedily, 4 modestly

  • 6-8 lamb good lamb chops
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small chilli (more if you like it hot), chopped
  • thumb of ginger, well chopped
  • 1 stalk or 2tsp lemon grass paste
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • chinese egg noodles, enough for the number of people you're serving
  • 2 stir fry veg nicely chopped - like carrot and broccoli, eggplant and zucchini, etc
  • 1 Tbsp seasame oil
  • 1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
  • handful of chopped coriander

  1. Combine the marinade ingredients (the garlic, chilli, ginger, lemon grass, sugar, soy sauce, and lime), mixing until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Pour the marinade in a flat casserole dish that's just big enough to hold the lamb. Layer the lamb on top and let marinate for at least a half an hour (or over night, if you're very prepared), then turn the chops over and give that side of the chops as much time to marinate.
  3. Turn the grill on to 180C / 375 F. When ready, lay the lamb out under the grill and cook for 4-8 minutes each side, depending on the thickness of the chops. (This will give you chops that stay nice and pink in the middle; if you don't like pink, add a couple of minutes more to the cook time). Make sure you keep the marinade left over.
  4. Meanwhile, boil water for the egg noodles. When boiled, add noodles and cook according to manufacturers instructions.
  5. Heat a wok on a high heat. Add the oil and give it a short while to heat up.
  6. When the oil is hot, add the vegetables and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
  7. When the vegetables are softening slightly (only slightly), pour in the remaining marinade.
  8. After the garlic in the marinade is a bit softened, add the cooked noodles and give a minute or two worth of stirring.
  9. Serve with the cooked lamb chops on top of the noodles, with a bit of chopped coriander for garnish.