Monday, April 27, 2009

The Twitter Guide to Pumpkin

During the week I asked Twitter friends what were their favourite pumpkin ideas. Actually it was a simple request, one little tweet (Twitter miniblog post), and I was surprised by so many replies and retweets (repeat posts). Here are the responses:

@sgere: pumpkin polenta! we just had that for dinner on Sunday

@Amykr: I love pumpkin ravioli or since it is late some pumpkin bread

@Kimbitz: my 5 year old asked for pumpkin pie today - something in the air? I make my pie with honey and coconut milk - fantastic!

@achillesmama: RT @frombecca: so now have pumpkin on my mind ... maybe pumpkin risotto tonight ... other pumpkin ideas anyone?

@VeronicaFitzhug: after din din you should watch the christin ricci movie pumpkin. it's 1 of my favs & soundtrack is awesome. love that ricci chick

@fridley: Pumpkin pudding!! Had it the other night. Delicious!!

@crazybrave: try pasta with chunks of pumpkin roasted with cumin and chilli, grilled ricotta and pesto.

@JohannaBD: nothing beats pumpkin soup with crusty bread

@divinepurple: pumpkin scones. mashed pumpkin with honey and carroway seeds. classic pumpkin soup. pumpkin gnocci

@lavieenchocolat: Dorie Greenspan has a great stuffed pumpkin recipe on her website.

@Miss_Melbourne: @frombecca I'm planning on making tortellini with pumpkin, feta & pine nuts..yum!

@KathrynElliott: @frombecca I'd make @FoodStories beetroot, pumpkin & haloumi salad with chilli dressing

@essexgourmet: @frombecca How about roasted Pumpkin with Gorgonzola cheese - great with a baked ham or a simple pork chop... Yum?

@doriegreenspan: @frombecca a pumpkin recipe? here's a great one:

@ciarando: @frombecca Roast pumpkin risotto w sage & pinenuts is absolutely heavenly. Oh & don't forget sweet pumpkin pie! Mmmmmmmm...

@megmaker: @frombecca Pumpkin is so autumnal! You must be down under :-)

@transcribe: Love pumpkin sound with melted cheese on toast as a side ;)

@starrnat: i'll be having pumpkin soup for dinner i think

@figandcherry: @frombecca pumpkin and cauliflower curry!? Or pumpkin, chorizo and chickpea soup:

@KeyIngredients: pumpkin risotto family fave - roast it first for max flavour.

@queenglass: ...How about pumpkin bisque? Or grilled with a balsamic reduction glaze?

@MaryLuzonfood: Pumpkin ravioli with a sage butter sauce! Yummm.

@lyndons: Aaaah. U just can't go past sliced pumpkin *roasted* hot and fast & toasty..

@Allyinspirit: Haven't had sweet pumpkin pie for decades * Used to make it myself * Thanks for reminder * Can almost taste it now.

@NON53N53: been a while - I tend to just make pumpkin soup - I'm boring :o)

@lyndons: Rockpool Sydney has an excellent unusual side-order: Baked pumpkin & sweet potato with yoghurt & mysterious [2 me] herbs... yum.

@GypsyOwl: Would love to see the pumpkin blog post :) Missed submitting. Did you get pumpkin drizzle? (a glaze)

@GypsyOwl: :) 2 C powderd sugar, 2 TBSP Pumpkin (pie filling), 1TBSP milk Whisk Together & drizzle ovr pastry (sprinkle w minced pecans)

@fridley: Pumpkin pudding - Recipe in translation if you want it. My wife puts them all in Japanese so its a challenge... :-) (note from Becca - a recipe in 8 tweets)

1.Line cake tin with butter;
2.In a small bowl,put 100g caster sugar+50cc h2o & caramelise in microwave for 5min. Place in base of cake tin.
3.Remove pumpkin seeds and skin,cut into small pieces totaling 500g.Steam or microwave until soft.Blend until smooth.
or force through a strainer
4.Add 80g caster sugar,2.5 tbs cornstarch,3 eggs,150cc cream,cpl drops of vanila ess,+few dashes of nutmeg & cin powder(to taste). Then mix.
5. Add pumpkin mix to the cake tin and tap to remove large air bubbles.
6. In a preheated 180C oven,steam bake(place cake tin in larger container filled with boiling h2o up to half the height of cake tin) 30min.
7. Done if when skewered, stick remains clean.
And that folks is the best damm pumpkin pudding recipe I have ever tasted. I especially love it the next day out of the fridge...

@Ozquilter: good idea, I have a savory pumpkin pie recipe to include as well :)

@fridley: @ozdj And again with the pumpkin.... :-) @frombecca

THANKS to my wonderful twitter follow friends!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fine Dining and the Ultimate Truffle

While I have a great love of home cooking and comfort food, there are a few food moments that stand above all the great memories (food delights or otherwise) of my life. On food, one of my favourite times was enjoying a simple piece of artisan bread shared with some local NZ cheese on a parkbench on the banks of Lake Taupo, New Zealand. Another bread and cheese favourite, is of course enjoying fresh baguette and camembert in Paris (cliche! but unforgettable!)

The greatest moments however have been above fine produce, and ultimately have included exceptionally crafted cookery. I'm talking the kind of food (and service), that no matter how much I do love to cook, and no matter how practiced, that I just could not ever achieve at home.

My star amongst a handful of ultimate dining experiences is still a recent memory.

I'd done some research on what would be my selected 3 star Michelin dream for this Parisian holiday.

Yes, such 'fine' dining is a costly exercise, but, to me, to unfold this treasured moment in a lifetime of good food, well, how can I call it expensive. I chose to dine at Arpege and furthermore, as this was a once in a lifetime experience (well once in a handful of ultimate dining experiences) I indulged in the 'tasting' menu. As it happens, it was near the end of truffle season (January 2009) and so the hero of the menu was de truffe.

I applaud the kind of exceptional dedication, talent, focus, and training for chef, and the kitchen team and front of house that delivers an experience, that is, as close to perfection as one can get.

'Arpege de truffe'

Oeuf a la coque
quatre spices

Damier de truffe noire du Perigord et coquilles Saint-Jacques d'Erquy
huile de noisette

Bouquet de homard de Chausey au miel du jardin 'recolte ete 2008'
vinaigre de Xeres

Couleur saveur, parfum et desiin de jardin
cueillette ephemere

Foie gras de canard de l Madeleine de Nanancourl
pays d'Avre et d'lton

Aiquillette de Turbot ux Cotes du Jura et truffe noire
pomme de terre fumee u bois de chene

Rotisserie 'flamme d'hiver' eleveurs de nos regions
arlequin de legumes

Comte de Garde Exceptionnelle septembre 2004
truffe noire du Perigord


3 macarons de jardin

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Reigniting the 'gentle'woman

There are a few friends and acquaintances that really impress me. They have outstanding manners. It doesn't matter if their sense of etiquette matches mine or not, if their manners are from a similar cultural background, or a same sense of generation. What impresses me is that they are always thoughtful. After all that's what the foundations of etiquette are all about.

I've been lucky enough to grow up with a fine example. On the second day after any event, there will always be a card arrive in the post from mum to say thank you. Maybe, heritage post is a lost tradition. I certainly am not as vigilant in using that medium. I do always try to show my appreciation for thoughtfulness that has been extended to me.

Mum relates that if a woman left the table, or the room, the gentlemen would always stand. I think this is divine and always appreciate that courtesy (though rarely observed today).

Knowledge of the table setting, of how to act when dining, is an art that is worth retaining. The reason it is so precious is that it makes everyone in company feel comfortable to know how to act.

I pine for the return of 'gentle' when it was part of our social responsibility to think of others. The terminology of 'gentle'man and 'gentle'woman I feel was used with good reason.

I've lived within a shadow where I was told that is pretentious. To the contrary, gentle manners are an art! I'm releasing the albatross, and reigniting my authentic self: the self that shows and admires these arts before they are lost. Will you join me?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

on food and celebrations

This week is mum's birthday, and I have a big '0' birthday not too long afterwards ...

I got to thinking about celebrations and the part that food plays, and has always played in the defining moments of our life. Birthdays are just one of the celebratory milestones of course. On a personal note we also have births, deaths, marriages, coming of age, and more. These celebrations mark the passage of our lives. There are also celebrations in community, whether that is spiritual or other. Food is significant in all of these, and sometimes symbolic as well.

Each year for mum's birthday, we try and make her feel even more special to us, by selecting the foods for her family birthday celebration from amongst her favourites. For her birthday in April, in Sydney, in Australia, this will mean that some of her favourites are in season: figs, persimmons, pomegranates, chestnuts, artichokes, spinach, white sweet potatoes, mushrooms... Mum's getting on and it only just dawned on me that most of her top favourites are autumnal, and I then wondered if they 'are' favourites 'because' they relate to childhood memories of birthday food, birthday celebrations. Quite possibly so. Many of these foods are also my favourites too!

The pomengranate has found recent fashionable favour. Its been hailed for the health benefits it bestows. It's long been a favourite in our family. Until recently I did not remember knowing anyone who treasured a pomegranate the way that mum did. That labour of love has another memory for mother and daughter too. Early last year we cruised The Nile. Each morning the breakfast table was laden. I selected one item only: a very very generous portion of pomegranate seeds in juice, a treasure I would not have time to indulge in as a daily ritual at home. When I think of the pomegranate, I'll always remember that marvellous holiday with mum.

While there are many significant life experiences tied to food, one of my greatest memories is from my friend Janina's wedding. Janina is of Polish background, and food in her family symbolises that bond. It is nurturing and generous and shared. Every menu item at Janina's wedding was carefully selected. The caterers could reheat, plate, serve but the food had been cooked by the family. We were warmed and welcomed into the celebration with a demitasse of abalone chowder. This was a family treat, the abalone was dived for by her brothers on the morning of the wedding, she had cooked the chowder herself fresh from the sea.

The feast continued and each dish represented a memory of her family. The festivities finished with breaking of the bread, signifying the union and the part that each friend or family member had and would play in their marriage.

Food is also represented not only in religious festivals, but there is also a required respite from food at certain religious times in the calendar.

There are other food associations too. Not of the significant personal milestone, but celebrating achievements in events or by people. Some that come to mind are the naming of the meringue dessert after the dancer Pavlova, or the dessert Peach Melba in honour of the opera singer Dame Nelly Melba. Then comes to mind the other April celebration commemorating the valour of our soldiers Australian New Zealand Army Corp ANZAC. Our family recipe for ANZAC biscuits is on the Becca's Bakery post: