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Easter brunch - The Lyorn's Den

Wed Apr. 27th, 2011

04:10 pm - Easter brunch

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Easter was a welcome opportunity to make and then eat lots of food.

On Friday I also managed to finally tidy up my wardrobe (again). Bunch of stuff had to go for not fitting me anymore (again). N___ and Snow offered advice, support, and took a few shirts and T-Shirts.

Friday and Sunday I mostly spent preparing food.

Fruit cake with marzipan

Seeing a picture of this one in a cooking magazine was what triggered my "must cook! must bake! must feed people!" compulsion. It's such a pretty cake.

Mix well 175g each of room temperature butter and brown sugar. Then mix in 3 eggs until the whole is smooth. Sieve 225g wheat flour (I used type 1050, medium dark, a lighter one would have worked, too), a little salt, some cinnamon (about half a teaspoon) and mix into the dough. Add 450g of dried fruit. I used 200g of raisins, 100g of candied orange peel, and 150g of dried cherries. I should have added some lemon juice or powdered lemon peel too, but I forgot. A little bit of milk was needed because the dough was very solid.

I put half the dough in a 21cm round buttered springform tin, put a 200g plate of marzipan paste (rolled out somewhat smaller than the springform) in the middle of it and covered it with the rest of the dough. Baked for 2 1/4 hours at 150°C and let it rest in the tin for another hour to give it time to solidify. With so much fruit, you do not want to handle it hot, it will fall apart.

I put another marzipan paste plate on top. Should have pasted it on with egg white, in retrospect, it tended to come off when the cake was cut. Also, I stored the cake for two days (wrapped in tin foil), and the marzipan on top dried out. This needs some thought.

Before serving, I coated the top marzipan layer with egg white, sprinkled on some almond slivers and put it under the grill until the almond slivers browned (about 120 seconds). Then I decorated the whole thing with 12 halves of candied cherries.

It's a very solid, very heavy and very pretty cake. Tasted great, too, but 1/12th of it was lots.

Pasta salad with basil pesto

I had meant to get bear's garlic (ramsons) pesto, but grabbed the wrong jar by accident and got vegan basil pesto instead. Vegan is a good deal in this, because it contains more herbs and less filler.

I cooked 600g of Fusilli (curly) pasta, drained it, poured cold water over it, mixed with some olive oil in a large bowl and let it cool. Stirred occasionally so that it would not stick together. Roasted 50g of organic Italian pine nuts (which are scarily expensive, but the more affordable ones of unclear origin might be Korean pine nuts, and Ceridwen says these taste like heating oil) in a pan, sliced a handful of spring onions into thin rings and grated about 80g of parmesan cheese finely. Mixed it all together, plus the pesto (200g of it) and 250g baby mozzarellas.

I___ said that some browned onions and cherry tomatoes wouldn't have hurt, either.

Spelt focaccia with goat cheese

The picture in the cooking magazine showed a flat bread sprinkled with some onion and cheese bits and a few grains of salt. That was not what the recipe produced, and I already reduced the amount of topping.

Starting with a yeast dough: 25g yeast and half a teaspoon of sugar mixed with a quarter litre lukewarm water. That mixture becomes alive and bubbling very quickly. By the time I had put 500g whole grain spelt flour, two teaspoons of salt and about 25 grams of olive oil in a bowl, it was already hissing. I ignored any sounds it made and kneaded it into the flour, first with the electrical mixer, then by hand. Worked like a charm. It seems that I never have trouble getting whole grain yeast dough right the first time, no need to add flour or water. Put a damp cloth on the bowl and let it raise for 45 minutes. Kneaded it again and rolled an oval shape, nearly the size of a baking tray and not much more than one centimetre thick, on the new silicone baking mat that Gwydion had given me for my birthday. I cut a diamond pattern into it carefully because I did not want to damage the mat. Damp cloth got back on, and I let it raise on top of the stove while the oven below was heating up to 220°C. Crumbled 400g (250g would have done just as well. Or 200g.) of white goat cheese with herbs, peeled two small red onions (again, one medium-sized one would have been enough) and sliced them into very thin rings.

Covered the bread with the onions and the cheese crumbs, sprinkled some olive oil and coarse salt over the whole and baked for about 20 minutes.

I cut it into 24 narrow rectangular pieces. Unfortunately I could not serve it fresh, but it can be heated in the microwave very well (one minute on low for two fingers). Taken on its own with a green salad, it would have fed six or eight people.

Carrot and leek soup

This one is really simple. One pound of carrots and about twice that of leeks, clean, slice. Dice one large onion, a piece of ginger and a bunch of garlic cloves finely (or use fresh garlic and just peel and crush the cloves), fry in butter (or vegetable oil) on medium heat. When the onion starts to brown, add veggies, then some hot water to de-glaze, then enough hot water to cover it, and instant veggie broth. It's done after about 15 minutes. Puree well. Add salt and pepper to taste, a little cayenne pepper if you like. If you have it, chop some fresh parsley and add it shortly before serving.

Marinated filet of pork

This was the most ambitious thing I did. I had thought about marinating, then cutting in thick slices, then frying in a pan, but I___ recommended frying it whole and finishing it in the oven. Internet research recommended low-temperature (80-100°C), but that would have taken forever. I set the oven to 150°C and used a meat thermometer to check every ten minutes. When it's close to 70°C inside it's done.

But starting from the beginning, which should be two days before the actual serving:

Prepare a marinade by putting a handful of thyme, some crushed black pepper corns, some crushed cloves of garlic, 100g sea salt and 60g brown sugar into cold water. I used 2 litres, which resulted in too much marinade. Two-thirds of it would have done nicely. Set it to boil. When it does, take it off the stove, stir to dissolve the salt and sugar, and let it cool to room temperature. At room temperature this will take at least two hours. Pour through a sieve, put in a bowl and into the fridge.

Once it's cold, put your washed and dried pork filets in. I had three of those: about 1 kg of meat. It all fit nicely in a two litre bowl, the meat was covered with the marinade. I put a small plate on to keep the meat under before closing the bowl and putting it back into the fridge.

After about 24 hours, I took it out again, heated vegetable oil in a large pan which would hold all the meat at once, and fried the filets. Meanwhile, I heated an oval casserole dish with some olive oil in it in the stove, set to 150°C.

When the meat was nicely brown outside, I put it in the casserole dish in the oven and set the kitchen timer to 20 minutes. De-glazed the pan with water, then added balsamic vinegar and two finely chopped shallots and let it boil into a thick sauce before taking it off the heat.

After 20 minutes I started checking the core temperature of the meat as described above. I should have noted down how long it took, but I forgot. Anyway, once it was done, I re-heated the pan on medium, drained the juice from the casserole into the pan, added a bit of butter, and glazed the meat, before I wrapped it in tin foil with the sauce.

Next morning, I unwrapped it, wiped it down with kitchen tissues, and sliced it in about one centimetre thick slices heaped it on a breakfast plate and decorated it with some basil, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.

It was very good.

Eggs and green sauce

Snow provided the coloured eggs which just have to be part of every Easter brunch. I asked her to do it after I attempted to hard-boil five eggs a few days before and broke three of them. I can be amazingly incompetent at the easiest things. Fortunately, Snow isn't.

For the eggs, I made a sauce of equal parts of full-fat mayonnaise, Greek yoghurt and crème fraîche, mixed in some lemon juice, a finely chopped shallot, a finely chopped pickled gherkin, salt, pepper, and a box of frozen six-herb-mix (parsley, chives, dill, chervil, salad burnet and sorrel, IIRC). Keep in the fridge overnight for the tastes to blend and for the whole to become less fluid.

I am a little unhappy with the mayonnais-y part of the taste. Maybe I should try to make my own mayo next time.

The rest

cyrna and her husband brought a very tasty lentil salad with sesame and arugula. And I had made apple bread, too, and had got bread rolls and cheese and cold cuts and jam and the whole nine yards. And eggnog. And, of course, I had a bunch of nice people to eat it all, chat with about whatever, and help with the dishes afterwards.

...and a role playing game

In the evening, we played "Exalted: Dragon Blooded" again. I need to make some changes on my character, which was originally designed to be a bookworm, a strong believer in logic, and a little aloof, but who has found her ecological niche in the group much closer to her element, which is Fire. She really and truly believes in all the imperial stuff, the order of the universe, everyone at their place, the dragon-blooded's burden and all that. Not a cynical bone in her body, like a dangerous imperialist Kaylee.

We are still negotiating with a barbarian chieftain, because our commander has trouble feeding her legion (or the part of it stationed on this particular corner of Barbaristan) and we need to get him to pay tribute (by any other name). I suspect we are looking like a bunch of complete morons. Also, it would be in our best interest if the chieftain started to play the imperialism game himself and subjugate neighbouring tribes (with our support) as to better be able to pay tribute. If we added some alcohol and opium into the trade, it could become very Heart of Darkness here.

For some reason I enjoy playing a storm trooper of the empire (slightly enhanced, as in, able to hit the broad side of a barn at ten paces) a lot more in Exalted than in Engel. Maybe because I never could make heads nor tails of the not-theology in Engel, while the imperialist ideas in Exalted make several kinds of sense. I can have my character follow the party line without making them incompetent morons, or up to their wingtips in the Nuremberg defence, hunting heretics while the world burns.

Anyway, the chieftain wanted to see if the gods we claimed to be messengers of were worth the trouble. So he's putting us through a series of tests. I got the first one, a fight "until someone bawls" with the wielder of the biggest club in the tribe. I finished the first round in two combat rounds and the second in one (a roll of four tens and a nine helped). Next time, the others will get their slice of the spotlight. I'm looking forward to it.

And then it was Tuesday, I had to go to work, and was hung over from too much food and, one suspects, eggnog. (*sigh*)

Current Mood: tiredtired