Arrhythmic Borscht

Arythmic Borscht

Arrhythmic Borscht

For such a gentle and genteel fellow, my Dad loves a pun war .. and he fights dirty. The man who loves ballet, poetry and the Bible, who hummed Bach cantatas and spent endless hours reading Aesop’s Fables or Virgil to his tiny daughter .. also regularly threw down the gauntlet to engage in anything from light verbal sparring to a free-for-all that left me curled in a foetal position, waving a white flag. I mean, the man makes puns in Latin and Ancient Greek for heavens sake!! To be fair, Dad tried to prepare his offspring with a steady diet of “Goon Show”, Anna Russell and Victor Borge. Our wits were honed by plenty of mental exercise and fuelled by banquets of literature. But I didn’t stand a chance.

Came the day that Dad and Mum had joined us for dinner. I had found some monster purple carrots in the garden, too old and tough for anything but soup, so I adapted a recipe for Broscht and bided my time. Yes, it was a trap. Dad looked at the bright purple soup and commented that it tasted funny, not at all like the Borscht he was used to. I feigned my best innocent smile and replied that it was made from carrots, no beets at all. Quick as a flash, Scribbler replied “That would make it Arrhythmic; wouldn’t it?” Dad closed his eyes and bowed his head in surrender; “God help me.” he moaned “It’s bred true.”

Scribbler and I hi-fived each other and shared a grin. Revenge might be a dish best served cold, but in this house it is piping hot, and smells of carrots ..

Serves 6 – 8

  • 1 bunch purple carrots (about 700g)
  • 1 swede
  • 2 leeks, white part only
  • ½ head fennel
  • 1.5 litres stock
  • ½ teaspoon pimento/allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 clove garlic

Peel and chop the carrots and swede. Slice the leeks and fennel. Don’t be too fussy, as long as the vegetable chunks are more or less the same size so that they cook evenly.

Place all of the ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, cover the pan and simmer for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Make sure to stir the soup every ten minutes or so to prevent the vegetables sticking.

Cool the soup slightly, then transfer to a food processor. Process until very smooth (you may need to do this in batches unless you have a stick blender).

Return to saucepan and gently heat before serving. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve garnished with parsley and/or fresh dill and a generous dollop of either cream, sour cream or plain yoghurt. Don’t forget some nice crusty bread

Menya D’Àngels (Angel’s Food)

If you want to eat the fresh curds, put the curds in the mortar and pound with some good white sugar. And when pounded together, blend in some rosewater or orange-flower water, and put it in bowls or dishes or whatever you like; and serve it at table. And if you don’t wish to use sugar, add some good honey. And you can do the same with fresh cheese, which is better, and it is called angel’s food.

Libre de Sent Sovi, Catalan, 14th century.

Menya D’Àngels

Menya D’Àngels

In the Middle Ages, this sweetened cheese was served to accompany fruit platters and/or biscuits. I use it as an adventurous alternative to whipped cream. I love to use fresh strawberries to scoop up rich dollops. It also goes brilliantly with fruit pies, fritters, cakes, pancakes and as a filling for tarts or sponges.

The original recipe calls for “fresh curds”, and was probably very like a sweet, thick junket. I have experimented using cottage cheese, quark, marscapone, fromage frais, even stiffly beaten double cream. The version in the photo is a mixture of double cream and marscapone, the only curd product Beloved will allow past his lips. Ricotta is whey based and (in my opinion anyway) too thin to get the right texture.

makes 2 cups

  • 250g Marscapone
  • 200ml double cream
  • 2 teaspoons Rosewater
  • 2 teaspoons Orange Flower Water OR finely grated rind of 1 orange
  • ¼ cup Sugar OR 1 tablespoon honey

Beat the marscapone and cream together until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until sugar dissolves and the mixture is the desired consistency.

Spiced Feijoa, Plum and Pear Jam

Spiced Feijoa Jam

Spiced Feijoa Jam

We have had a particularly wet year, and Mum’s feijoa tree showed its appreciation in more, larger and juicier fruit than usual. Even the Fruit Monsters couldn’t keep up, so I decided to experiment a little. Fresh Feijoas have a slightly gritty texture, even cooked, so a jam is best as a mixture with soft, fleshier fruits. Kind of smooth things out, as it were. Pears are abundant, fresh and cheap at the moment and although plum season has officially finished, I had several kilos in my freezer. If you are not that lucky try using preserved (or tinned) plums or even apricots.

Turkey “Scotch Broth”

Turkey Scotch Broth

Turkey Scotch Broth

Up until a few years ago, lamb shanks were sneered at as practically offal and sold as dog food. My family sniggered at this ignorance, happily souping (or casseroling) it up and fighting over what we considered the best bit of a lamb roast. Times have changed and the last laugh is on us. With the advent of the Celebrity Chef phenomena came “gourmet peasant” cuisine, and the humble lamb shank was suddenly much sought after. As a result butchers now charge something like 3 – 4000% what they did a decade ago, putting the original of this dish firmly out of my budget. I began experimenting with the much more affordable turkey wings, finding that as long as I skinned them, something wonderful appeared. It’s not quite the flavour I remember with such nostalgia, it’s not lamb after all. It is however, warm, filling and delicious. Who knows? Perhaps a new nostalgia has been born.

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia Citrodora)

Lemon Verbena in Autumn

Lemon Verbena in Autumn

This shrub takes pride of place my list of must-have plants. Sure, it’s a little untidy looking, but one whiff of the delicious perfume and all is forgiven. To the dedicated sensualist, asymmetry is a small price to pay for interesting textures, glossy leaves and delicate sprays of flowers .. and that heady perfume. There are lime and orange peel scented cultivars which are pale in comparison to the heady lemon-musky original. To me it evokes memories of limoncello liqueur or Gran’s lemon delicious pudding. I love it so much that it’s positioned so that I brush against it when taking out the trash!