Saturday, 21 May 2011

Joyful things for joyful people

I was a little busier than I thought today - that often happens. But, I had a lot of fun. As I went about the day,  I was thinking up recipes for my holy trio of 'heavenly stars', but no sooner had I decided on something I would change my mind. The thing about Oxford is that we are spoiled for choice. I do not buy 'fresh' vegetables that have thousands of airmiles attached to them, but even so, in mid-May, the variety of delicious GB produce on offer astounds me. Everything is beautiful. In the end I was so excited about all the joyful things in front of my eyes I bought very little, but I did have a lot of fun. I kind of wonder what St. Dominic, St. Madeleine Sophie and St. Philip would have made of it all. 

I am sure they wouldn't mind me starting with something that makes me smile about this time every single year. 

 I normally make a bee line for the first sign I see. This year, I have seen it, but I haven't had time to get there yet. Asparagus - pick your own - just up at the farm next to The Perch. You can get there through Botley, or take your bike across Port Meadow. Last year I went, and finished my foraging with a half pint of cider in the sunshine. It was bliss. This year, I cheated: I bought two bundles of fresh green spears, from Oxfordshire, from the man in the Covered market.  They are super fresh. When I got home I  unwrapped them from their brown paper, boiled them in deep salted water until they would bend and their green shade had changed from vibrant to muted. I had a loaf of fresh brown bread, which I sliced as thin as I dared, and buttered as if I was plastering a wall. It was heaven. And, I have to confess to a sneaky glass of chilled white wine. It is the sort of thing I would be happy to cook up outside my tent and eat in a hedgerow, so I am guessing friar types should approve. I am not going camping till next week though, so this was just a practise run :-)

Since I am on my own for this evening, I am not about to start cooking up the rest of the feast for my merry band. The asparagus was my tea, and it brought such a smile. But, later in the week I might just get around to these two little treats: Lamb Fillet with Anchovies, Garlic and Rosemary (goes very well with Burgundy and Chianti, I'll have you know). For those that come looking for cake, Apricot, Lemon and Almond Tart might make and appearance rather soon too. It is with these little plates of happiness I will celebrate this week, sharing them with friends and family as they pass through. 

I saw a lot of other exciting and joyful things today: fresh cherries, for example - and I thought about cherry focaccia - who couldn't smile at that? And, fresh mint to make lovely tea, or to put with strawberries and cream.  Basically, I shouldn't be allowed into the Covered Market. There is always a danger I will never make it out, especially when there are feasts to celebrate. :-)

Lamb Fillet with Anchovies, Garlic and Rosemary
This is a dinner in seconds. To feed two or three people, it goes like this:

Enough Lamb Fillet to feed your number
2 - 3 anchovy fillets
a large clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
a few finely chopped Rosemary leaves
1 glass of yummy, deep and fruity red wine (far be it from me to dictate what that should be :-) )

On a clean chopping board, bash out your lamb fillet with a rolling pin. Each piece should make a small oval shaped escalope. Heat a heavy pan, and melt a large knob of butter in the pan until it is frothing. Cook the lamb, I like it rare, but to your taste. Put the escalopes somewhere warm - in a low oven covered by a plate. Tip away most of the butter from the pan, and stir in two or three finely chopped anchovy fillets, a large clove of garlic, peeled and crushed, and those few finely chopped rosemary leaves. Let them froth in the butter for a minute or two (smells divine), then pour in a glass of red wine. Once that has reached a fast bubble for a while, stir in a knob of butter and pour the sauce over the lamb to serve.

I recommend vegetables that you can use to soak up the yummy sauce. New potatoes, definitely. And perhaps, spinach or sprouting broccoli. Not carrots. St Madeleine thought they were boring, apparently. :-)

Apricot, Lemon and Almond Tart
(For 6 - who ever makes dessert for three? Tsk.)

350g Plain Flour
225g Unsalted Butter
100g Caster Sugar
a pinch of salt
3 Large Eggs

450g fresh, ripe Apricots
300g Unsalted Butter
300g Caster Sugar
300g Finely Ground Almonds
Juice and grated peel of 1 Lemon
3 Large Eggs

Crumble the flour and butter together in a bowl, using your fingers, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. My Ma can do this in minutes. It takes me hours. Add the sugar and salt. Add the eggs yolks and whisk fast with a metal spoon, until the mixture with happily leave the side of the bowl. Form into a ball, wrap in cling film, and place into the fridge for at least an hour.

Grease a 30cm, loose bottom tin. The next bit is tricksy. Take the pastry out of the fridge, and using the largest side of a cheese grater, grate it into the bottom of the tin. Working quickly to keep the pastry cold, press it evenly into the sides of the tin. Return the pastry to the fridge for 1/2 an hour.

Pre heat the oven at 180C. Blind bake the pastry for 20 minutes, let cool completely

(I'll mention at this moment, that you can BUY sweet pastry in the supermarkets - just saying, just because I take great joy in this kind of thing, doesn't mean you have to)

For the filling, cut the apricots in half and remove the stones. Place them cut side down in the tart case. In your mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and light. Add the almonds, and whisk to combine. Slowly add the grated lemon and lemon juice, whisking as you go. Stir in the eggs one by one. Pour the filling over the apricots and smooth over just to surround the fruit. Bake for 40 minutes. Leave to cool.


Oh look! Near my old house!
PS: I bought SUNFLOWERS! The first of the year! They make me very very happy indeed, and they make me laugh. I LOVE them very much :-) These days they remind of a sequence in a very cheesy film:

Alex: I hope you like sunflowers Mara: I love sunflowers. You know that. Alex: Why? Why do you love sunflowers? Mara: Because I always thought that when God was making beautiful things, He messed up with sunflowers. Alex: How? Mara: Well, 'cause they look like - I don't know. They look like crooked teeth around a mouth that's too big, kind of. Alex: Yeah. Mara: But... just when He was about to start over, He realized that's what made them beautiful. They were a brilliant mistake. 
Alex: Like you and me.


Daniel Hutton said...

A lamb recipe, with a picture of a cute lamb!
I'm going to post a "fluffs recipe".

a few posts ago you said you were thinking of becoming vege again!

Cloister said...

There are TWO vegetarian dishes in this post! I sometimes think of becoming vege again, but I still have not rooted out the moral principle which suggests I ought. Working on it. :-)

Leave Fluffs alone. You are sharing her room next week, so you have to be nice :-)