Friday, 18 October 2013

Salted caramel pavlova (OMGYES)

K so pav. Subject of much debate, discussion, and anger. Who invented it, when, etc. What you put on it, etc. Not going to go into it here. My answer to the above questions is usually 'who gives a fuck, it tastes good, make one' so yeh.

It's pretty much a bigass meringue thing that you have added vinegar (tiny bit) and cornflour (tiny bit) to before you bake it on a high heat turned immediately down to a low one, so the exterior sort of crisps instantly and the interior maintains this brilliant marshmallowy texture. Then you top it with cream and whatever the fuck you want. In NZ this usually means kiwifruit which makes me want to scream and throw things, but it is a good excuse to get creative. Berries, pomegranate seeds, chocolate, all are acceptable. You can also flavour the cream and the actual meringue itself so you can actually have quite a bit of a play. This recipe is inspired by Nigella's Prodigious Pavlova from Nigella Christmas but I have taken it and played with it quite a lot.

The gorgeous LeeAnn Yare who has a fabulous shop that I am privileged enough to work next door to for some reason uttered the words 'salted caramel pavlova' to me yesterday and immediately my brain went apeshit and I figured out a way to do it in my brain at work. Here it is. It's still in the fridge and I haven't eaten any of it yet cuz saving it for after dinner but it looks hysteeeeeeeeeerical. Every now and then I'll bake something that is just so insane I can't stop laughing at it and this is one of them.


Eggs. You will need 8 whites.


Sugar. 500gms of brown sugar.


I find the easiest way to separate the whites out is to break the egg into your hand over a little bowl so the white oozes through, put the yolk into another bowl for custard later, and then transfer the white to a big bowl. This way if the shell pierces the yolk you haven't fucked the whole lot. You can't have even the slightest thread of yolk in your whites here or else your whites will not mount properly and it'll be fucked and it'll be your own god damn fault.

Oven at 180c preese.


8 whites.


Beating.


Take them to about here.


Then add the sugar spoonful by painful boring spoonful about 15 seconds apart so it all melds before you add the next one. By the time you're about halfway through you can add it faster.


Beaty beat. 


You'll end up with this fabulous dusky coloured mass. Your arm might even hurt a little bit even if you're using an electric beater cuz this shit is thick as fuck.


Now sprinkle 4 teaspoons of cornflour over it


with two teaspoons of white vinegar.


And a teaspoon of vanilla.


ok two teaspoons of vanilla.


maybe three. fuck it. vanilla's good.


Now fold it all in with a metal spoon. Use a metal spoon here because the point is to make cutting motions through it as opposed to stirring it with a flat plastic or wooden thing and squishing all the fucken air out of it. Fold it all through good.


Now. Baking sheet and a piece of baking paper. Draw a circle type thing on it. Maybe 25cm or so.


Dot four dots of mixture onto it.


Flip it over and trace your circle again. This will stop the paper from moving every which way to fuck while you're forming your pavlova on it.


Yeeeep.


You'll end up with that.


There's always some cunt who appears around this stage to get stuck into the empty bowl. You can usually beat them away with a rolling pin or some shit.


Use a spatula or something and sort of.. form it.. going around the sides and just using the circle you made on the paper try to make it so the top is flat and the sides are even. It's pretty easy and quite a lot of fun.


Then bung it in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 120c. Let it be in there for half an hour (do not even fucking THINK about opening the door) and then turn it off completely with the door shut or else it'll just sink and you could maybe play frisbee with it. When it's done, and cold, take it out. It takes about four hours to cool completely so do it ages before you want to do it, even a day before will do.

Now take a cup of sugar in a dry saucepan. Heat on medium. That's all. Let it sit.


After a couple of minutes the edges will begin to melt. Turn the pot around on the element so it's all even cuz some pots/elements have hot spots. You can push it around gently in the pan with a spoon or something but.. don't stir it.


Soon you'll have this. Be fucking careful. Sugar burns will take your god damn skin off. When it gets to about here turn that heat right down to low.


chuck a couple of tablespoons of butter in there, it'll bubble and spit so stir it carefully. This'll calm it down and stop it cooking.


Then about a quarter of a cup of cream. Also be careful. Pardon the blur. I was busy.


When it's all smooth, take it off the heat and add a bare teaspoon of salt flakes to it.


Dribble it sexily over your pav and let it cool.


Now whip some cream. I used about a litre because I am ridiculous.


Also I put maybe 3 or 4 tablespoons of this amazing Cream Soda syrup I bought from Father Rabbit which is another fabulous/dangerous/take-all-my-money shop downstairs where I work. 


Salt the beast once more if you think you can take it.


If you require a moment before or after this to go and bash one off then you may do so.


hnggg


And just for that last tasteful and understated touch I found that halved caramel candies did the job perfectly.



Hehhhh.

Chur.


























Lasagne, finally.

So this one has been a long time coming since Cheekbones etc. have been wanting me to post this for a million but I am a lazy prick and never really got around to making it, and then when I made it it took a couple of weeks to actually write this one. To be uncharacteristically straight-faced and honest about myself here, I've been quite unwell in my mental space for the past few months and I let a lot of shit that is important to me slip a bit, this included. Time to get things back on track. So.

Lasagne. Can conjure up several different images. Beautiful, tall, sturdy constructions proudly cooling on the stove-top, covered in golden cheese, dusted with burnished paprika, sitting there almost vibrating with pride and pretty much screaming 'FUCK YEAH I RULE'. When you cut into it, the layers hold, and it is filled with delicious varied glory. Cheeses, meats, sometimes vegetables if you wanna roll it that way, and as you eat you have to clutch your pants and stop yourself from crying out. Lasagne can be fucken unreal.

Also, lasagne can be one of the most hideous things on earth. Sloppy, bland, unseasoned, beige, watery, vulgar, and utterly ruinous. When I was in rehab (so much you don't know) I came across several lasagnes like this and it burned me to the depths of my soul. I vowed I would learn2lasagne properly so I would never have to sit through another gut-rending ordeal like that again.

Lasagne is a balance. You have to get the amount of liquid you're putting in right so the dry pasta sheets will absorb it and cook in the sauce as you bake. Do Not. EVER. Cook. The pasta sheets. Before. You bake it. Or else you will end up with fucking soup. Oh god the very thought actually made my mind turn blank and white and rage-filled as I type this just then. Jesus. Anyway meanwhile, after you bake it, you must let it sit for like an hour or two to cool properly before you cut it so that everything sort of absorbs and soaks back in so it has structural integrity or else you'll just have a fucking sloppy mess.

Meanwhile, enough talk.

Oh god I have no idea how much of anything I put in this. I didn't use a recipe for this either so this is one I just pulled entirely out of my ass so if it works for you, bonus. Also this was for 2 lasagnes in 30cm foil baking trays I picked up from the supermarket because fuck doing the washing up when you've got crusty cheese and shit involved. This way you can just eat it or portion it out for freezing or whatever then just chuck it all in the bin and go play playstation.

Half-assed Bolognese sauce component -

4 cloves of garlic
2 onions
A stick of celery
150gm of streaky bacon
1kg minced beef (get a lean one, if it's fatty it'll just be hideous)
4 tins of tomatoes in juice
fresh thyme
couple of slugs of port wine

Mornay sauce component -

6tbsp flour (you can add more)
6tbsp butter (you can add more)
1 litre of milk (you can add more)
400gm cheddar cheese (piss off it tasted GOOD)
salt
pepper

Pasta component -

Packet of lasagne sheets. Two if you need it but you probably won't.

Also 1kg of cottage cheese or ricotta. (yeah, what.)

Also all the parmesan. I just got a big wedge and went to town on it.






Make your roux. This is how you make a white sauce, or Bechamel, pretty much. It's considered one of the Mother sauces of French cuisine. A basic Bechamel can become many things afterwards which I cbf going into right now but you are going to make a Mornay sauce here. It's a white sauce flavoured with cheese. A roux is an equal ratio of flour and butter that you cook down to caramelise it, and then you add a liquid to it. In this case you are adding milk.

Before you begin, put your milk in a big jug or some sort of vessel and stick it in the microwave for a few minutes to heat it up. This will make your life MUCH easier later on. If you want to be oldschool and use the stovetop and another pot, go for it, but you're the one who has to do the fucking washing up ok so may as well make your life easier.

So melt your butter over a medium heat, and then bung in your flour. It looks wierd and dry but it'll calm down. Keep stirring it. It'll eventually sort of spread out a bit like this -


.. it'll go a bit foamy and shit, and it will gradually begin to darken in colour. If you think it looks dry and it weirds you out you can add more butter. I do that because I find it easier to work with, and a bit more fat, in my experience (remember I am not a chef and I don't care) does not change the finished product at all except make it more DELICIOUS.


Like this. This is good.


So this was hard to take a picture of because only two hands, whisk camera, and pot, but whevs. Add your milk with one hand and whisk with the other. It'll bubble and thicken perceptibly immediately, and then gradually thin out as you add more liquid. Do not be discouraged, it will eventually thicken again as it cooks.


yeah so now it's thin again eh.


But fear not. Let it bubble gently and whisk it (or just use a spoon but I got this whisk for less than 10 bucks from a chef supply shop so really..) and as the proteins in the flour expand your Bechamel will thicken rather quickly. When this happens and the spoon/whisk leaves a trail in it and you can see that you have quite a thick sauce here, season it. I use white pepper because I am a diva, but you can use whatever the fuck you want, though you must season it. Unseasoned sauce is a fucking sin.


Also sea salt.


Now some would argue against my doing the sauces in the order I did them in, but it was my lasagne so I did. If you are going to let Bechamel sit for a while, it will develop a skin unless you do a thing called a 'cartouche'. This is where you stop the air getting at your sauce by doing various things, but what I did here was melt some butter and then very gently spoon it over the surface and spread it around with the back of the spoon. It's liquid, and it will sink, but you just want to make it so you have a thin layer of butter over the top so you don't get a fucking disgusting retch-inducing skin thing happening and I am sure all of you know what the hell I am talking about right hurr. This stops that shit. Now you can leave it for a while and it will even cool down but it'll still be legit. Now on to the Bolognese.


Garlic.


Yep.


Celery. You need dis. Even if you don't like celery, it does this amazing thing where it adds a huge base note to your food. It doesn't taste of itself, but sort of melds with the whole in that fucking awesome alchemeic way that shit does sometimes. Anyway, celery. Cut it into strips.


Then dice it real fine.


Now we get down to business.

Oil and butter. About.. 4tbsp of butter and 2 of oil. but whatever.


Garlic in.


Onions in.


You don't want anything to brown or colour here, so remember the salt trick? It'll leech the water out so they won't stick. Just a couple of pinches.


Celery in.


If you did what I did and forget to chop your bacon, turn the heat right down and put a lid on and cut that shit up. Then turn the heat back up and put it in.


Then your beef. Brown it some. You don't have to brown it completely and separate it all or else it'll go dry and sawdusty and gross, just.. coax it a bit, as my Queen suggests.


Now these are my new toy. How fucking CUTE. Four tins.


LOOK HOW GORGEOUS. Don't pop them. Just stir it all in gently.


Slug of port, maybe 50mls? this adds depth, though you can do without it easily. Pardon the blurry picture but fuck it.


If you've got some fresh thyme, use it. I bought a plant. It was three bucks. As much or as little as you want. You could also use another herb like oregano. You could also use the dried versions of. Dried herbs are better in this sort of thing I think because their flavours are deeper, but just make sure they haven't been sitting in the back of your pantry for a month or whatever or else you may as well add fucken wood chips.


Now let that simmer happily for about twenty minutes or half an hour on lowish for the flavours to marry. Just let it bubble happily for a while. It'll be sweet.

Also turn your oven on to about 180c

Meanwhile, crank the heat back up on your Bechamel and cheese that bitch up. Grate about 2 cups of cheese into it. Be not afraid of the cheese. Stir it, sexily, so it all combines.



so I fucked up the picture on this one, but here is how you build. BUILDING TIME.

This was the photo I took to make sure the thing would fit, but it is not quite the correct process and I forgot to take the proper picture, but here is how you do it.

You must begin with a layer of your meat sauce. Just enough to moisten (moisties) the bottom of the tray. You MUST do this or else it will not cook evenly. Anyway, a bit of the meat sauce, then place your pasta sheets over it like in the picture.


Now we construct. You can see how the steps go on my two lasagnes I had going here. It goes like this.

On top of your first layer of pasta sheets, you add more meat sauce, as in the lasagne on the left.

On top of your sauce layer, you add a layer of Mornay sauce, and then some blobs of cottage cheese or Ricotta, as in the lasagne on the right.


Then you add more pasta sheets, then more meat sauce.


Then more Mornay sauce and more cottage cheese or Ricotta.


Finish it off with another layer of pasta and meat sauce.


Then you may proceed to add all the Parmesan in the entire world.


This is about right.


Just another picture because so fucking pretty. Anyway, in the oven for about half an hour/40 minutes. Just keep checking it depending on your oven.


If you're baking two, just swap them around halfway through the process because the different oven shelves are different heats.


Hnnnnnnggggggg.


You must let it sit to cool for an hour or so before you cut it, but then, by all means, hell, take the whole fucking tray to bed with a knife and fork.


Chur.

Addendum - no, we didn't eat this all in one go. I managed go get 8 or so pieces out of each one, put them in freezer bags, and froze what wasn't eaten immediately. There is still some left and it is fucking glorious. You can just thaw it out, put a piece or two in a little baking dish, put some more cheese if you are feeling rebellious, and then bake it til it's hot and bubbly. Refreeeeeeeesh!