Cookbook Challenge Part 12
I am not very good at winter. I don’t like cold, or damp, or dark evenings and I miss green leaves and colourful flowers and bare feet. At the point when I finally had to admit that summer was really over, this felt like a good book to revisit. As soon as I opened it I wondered why I hadn’t thought of going back to it before – every picture is glowing with light and colour and promises of summer flavours. The blurb says, ‘Forever Summer is all about how to prolong that lazy, warm summer feeling through the darker days of winter’. That’s enough to convince me.
This time I chose a three-course dinner, partly because we had a guest but also because this starter sounded so good that I just really needed to try it. It’s baked ricotta with grilled radicchio.
I used red chicory, which according to Wikipedia that is the same thing as radicchio. On Ocado however, radicchio was about three times as expensive, making that decision very easy.
You beat the ricotta with egg whites before baking it with thyme and lemon zest, so it makes a sort of savoury cheesecake. In fact, the appearance reminded me of the cheesecake I made some time ago for cookbook number 3 https://bexknits.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/ottolenghi-simple/
It didn’t taste similar of course – both recipes included thyme, but the effect was completely different. The baked cheese tasted fantastic! It was intensely savoury but slightly tangy and not too heavy.
The grilled chicory we will put down as ‘interesting’. It was a good contrast to the cheese, and the oil, herbs and lemon took away some of the bitterness. My husband, older son and our dinner guest thought it was OK, but it was too strong for me and my equally bitter- sensitive younger son. If I did this again I would just go with a green salad.
The main course was sea bass with saffron, sherry and pine nuts. I liked the idea of using sultanas with fish, which I don’t think I’ve done before. I bought the fish ready filleted, but I did have to skin it, hence the sharp knife. Apart from the fish- skinning this was really easy, although the fish did fall apart a bit when I lifted it out of the frying pan.
Here’s the sherry I used. It has a lovely slightly nutty flavour and I found it was perfect for sipping whilst cooking.
I served this with basmati rice as suggested, but not the lentils which would have been too much as part of a three course meal I think. We just had some broccoli on the side.
It was quite a nice golden colour, but you can’t really see it well here. I should have put it against a blue background as they did for the book. New blue plates needed!
Everyone liked this one. It had a delicate, slightly exotic flavour and the sultanas balanced the earthy saffron taste. It definitely needed the crunchy pine nuts for contrast.
And now dessert, which I had to make earlier in the day as you can’t rush a meringue. This is a chocolate raspberry pavlova and those three words were all the encouragement I needed to make this.
The meringue contains cocoa powder and dark chocolate which needed to be finely chopped. I used the mezzaluna which I usually chop herbs with and that worked quite well, apart from the odd chocolate splinter flying across the kitchen. It’s from Nigella’s kitchenware range as well, so it seemed appropriate to use it here.
The recipe requires six egg whites and I also needed another two for the ricotta, so I bought a carton which was much more convenient than having eight leftover yolks.
The cooled meringue was so light and fragile that it cracked very easily when I transferred it to a plate (with the Bake Off move in which you turn the plate upside down and look scared). The one in the book looks cracked too, so I’m sure it’s fine. I also overwhipped the cream because I still forget how powerful my Kenwood Chef is and I forgot to sprinkle grated chocolate over the top.
None of that mattered though, because this tasted incredible. The meringue was so light and crisp and dotted with little pieces of chocolate that melted in the mouth. The raspberries were just tangy enough to stop the whole thing being too sweet and sickly. Possibly the best dessert yet.
In all a very successful meal. Did it make me feel summery? I’m not sure, but it certainly made me happy.