Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful day full of delicious food. Tell us all about it!


Bee said...

It looks like I'm first up to offer my Easter lunch breakdown! (Even though I'm about 8 hours ahead of you, coming in first was not assured . . . as we eat breakfast at eleven and "lunch" at five. There is method in my madness -- two holiday meals in one day is plenty!)

First of all the ham/gammon:

I bought two small gammons -- about 2 1/2 lbs each. They were both dry-cured, but one was smoked and the other was not. First, they both got boiled: typical English procedure. I boiled them with onion, celery, peppercorns, and a few cloves. Now I have lots and lots of ham stock -- so we will be having lentil soup, black bean soup, and ham/pea risotto in the near future. After about an hour's boiling, the hams were dried, glazed and roasted. I used a glaze recipe from the Williams & Sonoma "Thanksgiving" cookbook: port, brown sugar, honey and dried Coleman's mustard. This glaze is absolutely gorgeous; I much prefer it to the traditional orange marmalade/clove thing that the English use. So: smoked vs unsmoked? Unanimous verdict that smoked was nicer. It has a sweeter, more complex flavor.

Gratin dauphinoise: this was okay, not great. (The kids thought it was good; but I wasn't satisfied.) It did get cooked through, but I want something with more layers. Also, it wasn't creamy enough. It called for 1 cup of milk and I actually added two.

Asparagus -- steamed, speck of lemon and butter. Nice.

Biscuits: these were perfect. I used the Homesick Texan recipe, but added some chives from my garden and the Wexford Velvet cheddar. I used a smaller cutter than usual -- one with fluted edges.

As I've been writing this, both kids have come in to nag me about dessert. We are having two: bunny cake -- which is a vanilla cake (from Apples for Jam cookbook -- the only cookbook I know where recipes are organized by "color") with 7 minute frosting (decorated as a bunny, as you could probably infer from its title). The other dessert is the fastest thing in the world -- but utterly delicious and refreshing. You mix 0% fat greek yogurt with lemon curd. (Do you know about lemon curd? I'm sure you do.) Equal parts. Chill until really cold, and then top with slightly sweetened raspberries. I actually buy frozen organic berries and then let them thaw -- but I like to keep a little of the lingering iciness. An English friend taught me this "dessert" and it is really, really good -- plus you can make it in 5 minutes. I like to make my own lemon curd -- because I am a nut. My friend buys the Duchy brand that Prince Charles heads up. Can you get that in "foreign" parts?

During our twilight lunch, we ate by candlelight -- with masses of orange tulips and an Avro Part song cycle called "Fratres" (Brothers)playing.

Since we are all a bunch of nonbelievers, we decided to toast to friendship and chocolate -- which we have worshiped heartily today.

So, now I can't wait to hear about TX and CA lunch rituals!

Anne said...

The ham sounds delicious. I'm looking forward to trying my own ham at some point--not this weekend, probably not next weekend, but hopefully at some point in the near future. I've made a note to go with the smoked version!

Sorry to hear that the gratin was not up to snuff. You could perhaps add more layers and cook it longer, and use cream instead of milk if you are looking for more creaminess. I think that when I made it, I used milk but did in fact layer it up a bit more.

I can't wait to try your biscuits (the HT recipe, but with cheddar and chives). Biscuits are a treat that I rarely make, but always enjoy when I do make them.

I've never found it necessary to buy lemon curd in a store, as both my mom and I make our own, so I have no idea if it's available here. My parents are on the verge of being overwhelmed with lemons, so perhaps I'll take some off their hands and make a bit of lemon curd.

What a wonderful meal you had! The twilight "lunch" with music, tulips, and candles sounds lovely.

Anne said...

Oh, and as for my own meal: it is being postponed until tomorrow, or later this week. A few things came up that could only be down here, and I'm also feeling a bit under the weather again. I'm not particular about when I make a delicious meal as long as I get to do it eventually, so a few days' delay is fine with me.

But we did have a wonderful spring day in Big Sur: reading the Sunday NYT outside on lounge chairs overlooking the beach, enjoying cupcakes and leftovers from yesterday, and so on. A day without much cooking, but a good day just the same.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Alas, my lack of effort yesterday, has glued me to the computer today, to finish up for tomorrow's meeting.

I will make the boys a holiday meal this week.

I did, however make H.T.'s Oatmeal bread today, and I will add a picture to the post.

You know, I have never made lemon curd. I have a lemon tree right in my backyard, and I have never made it.

Maybe this year.

Bee, the entire affair sounds great. I love sitting down to eat with flowers on the table and music in the back ground.

I am sorry to confess that for just the boys and myself, we usually just eat in front of the TV on trays.

I'll bet the biscuits were awesome.

So, if "cookies" are biscuits over there, what are biscuits?

Bee said...

Biscuits are scones.

Everytime I make biscuits, someone says "Oh! you've made scones!" Most English people pronounce scones with an "ah" sound. "Scahne"
It is considered declasse to say it the Texan way, with a long "o."

I'm so impressed both of you know about lemon curd -- and yet not surprised, as you are both fully-paid up members of the fanatic foodie group. I'm v. jealous that you both have access to lemons!

Tomorrow Jenni is going to buy me a bay tree, she says. So I'm excited about that. I started an herb garden last summer and we've been slowly adding to it. The rosemary, chives, sage, thyme and mint all survived the winter. Although we've actually had our worst winter weather this weekend! Blech! Jenni and I did manage a walk today to blow the cobwebs away -- but it was pretty icy.

BSR, did you end up playing tennis with Flo? Tennis is my sport! I love it; would play every day if I could. Another one of my time-squandering hobbies . . .

Regarding Anne's food faves: I want to know what everyone likes for birthday cake and/or cupcakes.

And if we could take a foodie tour, where is our top destination? Italy? France? New England? somewhere else? Let's fantasize a bit.

Bee said...


You know, chilling in the Big Sur sounds pretty darn good, too.

What kind of cupcakes? I need details!

Bee said...

Sorry! I keep thinking of more to say . . .

Anne, I loaned Jenni the Tamasin foodie book, but Tamasin is really getting on her nerves. She finds her entirely too privileged and self-serious. (But don't let that put you off!) She just came into my study to borrow Nancy Mitford's "Love in a Cold Climate" -- one of the best titles, ever. Do either of you know this book? It is charming -- but Mitford's best, in my humble opinion, is "The Pursuit of Love." (also a great title; and, more or less, what life is all about)

Anne said...

Hang in there, Brave Sir. I usually find that homemade bread improves a rough day, and I hope you're finding the same today.

Do lemons not do well in England, Bee? They do seem to be cold-sensitive. I didn't realize that bay would grow in a cooler climate, but that's a wonderful thing to have around. Exciting, too, that your herb garden is doing well!

I have a hard time picking one cake for birthdays. When I was growing up, I had carrot cake almost every year (for the first several years, homemade in the shape of--and frosted as--Raggedy Ann). I don't think I've ever met a cake I didn't like. One cake I'd love to make again is this one. It was a little unstable, but incredibly good. The ginger-lime curd (two of my favorite flavors!) was delicious, and the marshmallow fluff-like frosting was perfect. Perhaps I'll make that for my birthday this year!

Foodie tour: my first love is France, but I also enjoy Italy and Spain. And perhaps it's my German blood, but some of the food I've had in Germany was delicious, too! Thailand, Vietnam, and India would also be amazing. And of course, I'm partial to my own little corner of the foodie world: the SF Bay Area (with extension up to Yountville, home of a total of six Michelin stars).

We made the cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery. I first made them for potluck when I was living back in Houston. I don't think they turned out quite as well this time, but I'll post more on them (with pictures of the finished product) tomorrow.

I'm not familiar with Nancy Mitford, although the name does ring a bell. So many books to read! This is wonderful. I feel like I'm terribly behind on my literature, after so many years of physics, and getting all these recommendations (from you, BSR, and my friend Katie) is very helpful.

Bee said...

Oh, that coconut/ginger-lime curd looks yummy! What a perfect spring cake! I loved your post about the Magnolia cupcakes as well. It was interesting to get some scientific explanation for all of the things that I've always been taught to do. (BTW, I always have to soften butter in the microwave -- with great care, of course! Our kitchen is too cold to ever get butter to a "soft" room temp.) Also BTW, I've always wondered about those silicone baking cups. What do you think of them now -- with more practice, I assume!

We all have January birthdays, except for oldest daughter -- who has June. I always make carrot cake for my husband, and often for my oldest daughter as well. (I use the recipe from "The New Basics Cookbook," and it has always been super-reliable -- in three different countries.) Because this has been my tradition, when I don't make it, some friend always complains! When I was a child I always had Italian cream cake -- which was a family specialty. My family is very, very partial to pecans. BTW, the above cake is a southern thing; I've always wondered where the "Italian" bit came in. This year I made a really rich chocolate cake -- called a tuxedo cake -- with whipped cream and chocolate ganache. It came from "The Pastry Queen" cookbook -- which has some of the most decadent baked goods I've ever been exposed to. My daughter had a "puppy/red" party in Jan. and I made about 50 red velvet cupcakes for that. No one had ever heard of those! The kids loved them, of course.

Please do read Tamasin if you can. She does foodie tours of France, Venice, Puglia and your area -- plus talks a lot about the NYC scene and also Somerset (near Bath and Bristol), where she lives.
Nancy Mitford was the oldest of a group of 6 very interesting, famous sisters. I could talk about them for hours -- but will spare you that. Do you have all sisters, too -- or are there boys in your clan as well? I'm really interested to know more about your family.

Mitford describes the aristocratic world of English life between the wars. Her books are charming fluff; very easily read; but also part of the canon of 20th c. British Literature.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Wow Anne, how did I miss that cupcake post the first time around?

They look beautiful.

Bee - are pecans readily available over there?

btw - Ham stock in the freezer gives me a warm fuzzy feeling all over.

Yes, I am a hopeless dork.

Anne said...

You're right, it is a perfect spring cake! And the layers just melt into each other when you take a bite... it's heavenly.

Carrot cake is probably my all-time favorite cake. Grade-A comfort food. Red velvet cupcakes would be darling! I made red velvet cake for potluck a year or two ago, and it was a huge hit. The chocolate tuxedo cake sounds delicious, too.

I'm terrified of softening butter (or melting chocolate) in the microwave. If the kitchen is too cold, I'll either put it next to the preheating oven or, if I don't need to have the oven on, I'll put the butter in the oven with the light on.

It sounds like I would love Nancy Mitford. I just watched Gosford Park and very much enjoyed it. You should do a post on the Mitford sisters!

Family: I'm the oldest--and shortest--of four. Sister #1 is 2.5 years younger and a year or so out of college, Brother is 5 years younger and in his third year at college, and sister #2 is 7 years younger and heading off to college in August. My parents are not quite sure what they're going to do with all their free time!

BSR - I think the cupcakes went up some time before you and I started visiting each other's blogs. Better late than never! I'll try to upload this go-'round's cupcake pictures after work this evening.

I am a hopeless dork, too. Lentil soup with homemade ham stock sounds SO good.

Speaking of which, Bee, if you don't have a favorite lentil soup recipe, I highly recommend this one. If you can't find kielbasa, I'm sure you have plenty of sausages available that would be excellent substitutes.

Bee said...


Yes, we can get pecans -- no problem. They come from some random place, though; I will try to remember to check where. English food has to be labeled so that you know where everything comes from!

I know what you mean about the ham stock! It just suggests a well-stocked larder, doesn't it? Last night I made a Sigmund a risotto with the leftover ham and ham stock. He said it was delicious; I didn't eat any because we ate in Oxford.

So Anne, how short are you then? It is pretty clear that my oldest daughter is going to be much shorter than my younger one. I don't know why this seems to be a common phenomenon. Are all of your siblings foodies? What are your parents like? Are they Californians in the hippie style?

I just printed out your lentil soup recipe. Sounds like dinner tonight -- although I'm not sure that I can procure kielbasa.

What are you up to today?

Anne said...

If I remember correctly, pecans like hot weather... perhaps yours come from Spain or Turkey? I would like to grow (or for my parents to grow, since they're the ones with a big enough garden) pecans, but it doesn't get hot enough here. Can't have everything, I suppose.

Lol, I'm not short at all, except when standing next to my siblings. Perhaps I should have said "least tall" instead of "shortest." I'm 5'11", my two sisters are somewhere in the neighborhood of 6'1", and my brother (who last I checked was still growing) is nearing 6'6". The youngest sister shows some foodie promise, but the other two are at least becoming more open-minded eaters. My parents are sort of foodies, but in a more subdued way. I wouldn't describe either of them as hippies... they're both down-to-earth, hard-working people who enjoy growing and eating good food. Mom makes her own jam (and how!), applesauce, etc. and Dad makes pizza, does a lot of the cooking, and so on. Maybe that makes them a kind of hippie? I guess it depends on how you look at it.

I'm sure you'll be able to find a great sausage substitute. Or you could just do it without the sausage! I look forward to your review!

Today, in short, I'm trying to get the sun to be opaque. There are a number of ways to do this, but some really slow down the simulation. I'm trying to write my code in a cleverer way that makes it run more quickly. How about you?

Bee said...

Oh, I just have to laugh at the height comment . . . 5"11!!!!

I am (almost) 5"6 -- and by far the tallest female in my family. Where does your height come from? I'm assuming both parents? Are your parents California natives?

I just checked my pecans -- and they are from South Africa (and not as big as Texan ones, unsurprisingly). I think you're right though; I know that I've seen ones closer to "home."

I have a bread pudding in the oven -- and it has pecans, dried sour cherries, and chocolate chips in it. We didn't have enough choc chips, so I threw in my some dark chocolate with pistachio nuts. That is so typical of my cooking; necessity is definitely the mother of invention around here.

My dinner is typical of my modus operandi: v. healthy dinner (your lentil soup) with bread pudding for dessert! Oh yes! The reason I got on here was to tell you what a GREAT RECIPE for the lentil soup! I've tried dozens, and this is easily top three. I didn't get any kielbasa -- (must check out the little Polish store that just opened). I thought that we'd go vegetarian. Last night we had the ham risotto -- well Sigmund had it, and I had the leftovers for lunch. It was pretty darn good.

Must dash now -- Camille and I are closing in on the end of "Little House on the Prairie." (bedtime story)

opaque sun, huh? do you work from home?

Anne said...

Both of my parents are of above average height for their respective genders: Mom is 5'8" and Dad is 6'2 or 6'3". I have some tall extended family, too. Mom's father, at 6'2", is the shortest of the men in his family. And I think that on Dad's side, I have a 6'7" cousin somewhere, as well as a number of other 6'2" uncles and cousins and such.

My dad's a California native, but only to the extent that he was born here, and has (or rather had at the time) extended family here. Grandpa was in the Air Force--his is the family that spent a couple of years in Bracknell--so they moved around a lot. Mom's father was in the Navy, so they moved frequently as well.

That bread pudding sounds wonderful. I'm always tweaking recipes here and there with whatever I have on hand, especially if I can throw in some nuts, chocolate, or dried fruit.

Glad you enjoyed the lentil soup! It's so straightforward, and so tasty! I've also made a mental note of your ham risotto. I've only once put meat in risotto (beyond chicken or beef stock, that is), as I'm usually worried that it just won't work out very well. But perhaps I'm being overly cautious.

I loved the Little House... books when I was growing up! I wasn't as taken with the TV series.

I think I've just gotten the sun to cooperate and be opaque while not slowing the code down too much. I work from a solar physics lab near my house--working from home is far too distracting. There's always some cooking or cleaning to do, not to mention cats who want me to play with them (or give them a lap and petting). Last summer I was doing some work "from home" before transitioning to the lab, and I always tried to work in coffee shops. I was much more productive that way.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Do we have to talk about height, (or lack thereof).

I have actually been working on a post about that.

I am short.

Very short.

As a far shorter than average male, society expects me to act in a certain way. When I don't, well then I obviously have "issues" or a "Napoleon complex" etc. .

I am 5'-2", and taller than my Mother, sister, and both grandmothers.

btw - Rene' was 5'-11". Think we didn't get a few looks?

Anne said...

Rene' was 5'-11". Think we didn't get a few looks?

Dude, props to you for dating a taller woman. Twice I've been into a guy who was clearly into me, but wouldn't date me because he was a few (or several) inches shorter than I am. At least I assume that's what it was, since the interest was apparent on both sides and there weren't any other obvious obstacles.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Props to me? Props to her!

I can't imagine why a guy wouldn't be willing to date someone taller?

His loss.

Anne said...

Some men (people in general, I assume, but since we're talking about men dating women, I'll just say men) are intimidated by tall women. See, for example, comment #2 on this thread.

I don't know how common such sentiments are. I get comments about my height from male strangers more often than from female strangers, but that's neither here nor there.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Anne I see. If I wouldn't date a taller woman, my dating pool would shrink drastically.

btw - go look at comment 4.

Anne said...

True, it goes both ways. I think it's a bit of a shame: why miss out on what could be a great relationship just because of some weird cultural norm about the guy being taller?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We can discuss all this if/when you write that post on height. :)

Bee said...

I have been catching up on the back-and-forthing about height. Ya'll do your best stuff when I'm asleep at night!

Today I was at the clinic (picking up meds for Simon; I'm in perfect health) and I was flipping through a Hello magazine. (Hello=UK version of People) Apparently it is a trend for short men to date tall women. Just in this one issue there were pictures of:
Sarkozy and Carla Bruni
Mick Jagger and L'Wren (she's over 6")
Jamie Cullam (5"2!) and Sophie Dahl
Rod Stewart and Penny Lancaster

and let's not forget those wacky home-grown favorites -- Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes!!!

BSR, I'm sure this accounts for your sensitive, well-developed personality. Men who think they are God's Gift are usually pretty jerky -- or "jerkified" as my kids say.

One of the loveliest men in my bridge club is probably about that height -- and he is SO charming that I'm sure he doesn't have any trouble "pulling." (English term for picking up women.)

Brave Sir Robin said...

So all this time I've been "trendy" Who knew!

Clinton will be impressed! (#3 son, who finds me very embarrassing)