Tag Archives: Cherry

Cherries, champagne & comedy. Mostly comedy

Hello!  I’m alive!  And back home from my trip to Edinburgh.  I’ve spent the past month busily working my way through a slightly mammoth To Do list, trying to make the most of the Fringe and overall having a thoroughly marvellous time, and consequently, as predicted in my last post, blogging took a bit of a hit.

Hey! Hi! Hello!

How splendid are these “HELLO” flags that are fluttering all over Edinburgh by the way?  I’ve never seen them before, so I presume they’re new for this year’s Fringe/Festival.  I thought I’d just recap a few of the highlights of my slightly whirlwind trip:

  • Summer fruit – I scarfed an awful lot of summer berries whilst I was taking a break from the NZ winter.  And cherries – I love cherries!

Cherries!

  • Only having to use a raincoat four times – this might not sound like much to those of you who have proper summers, but in Scotland, this is a major achievement (although lack of rain doesn’t necessarily mean sunshine).  The last few Augusts that I spent in Edinburgh, it rained. Every. Single. Day.  (I wish I was kidding.)
  • St Andrews – Kat and I went up one afternoon.  Some things have changed (why is there a Nando’s?) and some things haven’t (those 500 year-old cathedral ruins aren’t going anywhere any time soon).  My love for that wee town remains unchanged.

St Andrews Cathedral, looking suitably dramatic and moody

  • The St Andrews Wine Company – My friend Pete opened a bottleshop in St Andrews at the beginning of the year and I’ve been dying to see it.  So we obviously stopped by whilst we were in St Andrews.  And it’s amazing.  I wish it had been open when I was there.  Oh and there’s always a bottle open for tasting (maybe it’s not such a bad thing that I don’t live there anymore…).  We also happened to coincidentally visit on a day when there was also a champagne tasting…

Champagne tasting at the St Andrews Wine Company

  • Reunions – Kat, Craig and I were all in the same place for the first time in 18 months.  There was gin, food, wine, some James Bond and much laughter; all the best things in life.

As I mentioned, I tried to make the most of the Edinburgh Fringe as well.  The Fringe is always a mixed bag (which is half the fun), but here are a few Fringe-specific highlights.  If you’re in Edinburgh, you still have a week to try and fit these in:

  • Jollyboat – Their set started off with a medley of pirate-themed songs.  And then it got better.  That was a terrible description, but trust me and just go see it (although probably not ideal for anybody who is easily offended).  Oh and it’s free.
  • Shit-faced Shakespeare – Literally what it says on the tin.  One Shakespeare play (Much Ado About Nothing), one shit-faced actor, and all the other actors trying to keep the play together. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much.
  • Omid Djalili – Slightly pricey, but worth it in my opinion.  Smart comedy which makes you laugh but also makes a point.  He’s also brilliant at accents and works them in marvellously.  My mum and I were in fits.
  • Inspector Norse – It’s described as a “self-assembly Swedish crime thriller […] featuring a knitted set” and I can’t think of a more apt description for this wonderfully middle class comedic thriller.  And the set is actually knitted and self-assembled.  It’s amazing.
  • The Jeremiah Weed Cow Shed – This isn’t actually a show, but it’s Fringe-related.  We stumbled upon this  formerly empty space on the Cowgate which been transformed into a Kentucky-themed cowshed bar for the duration of the Fringe.  It sells Jeremiah Weed cider (it probably sells other stuff, too, but we went for the yummy cider) and there’s live music.  There are hay bales, plastic cows and wheelbarrow seats.  It’s so hipster it hurts, but it’s also rather brilliant.

So there we have it, a not-so-brief recap of highlights over the past month.  Blogging will resume properly soon, once I’ve settled back in, but in the meantime, here’s some proof of the Edinburgh sunshine:

Sunny Edinburgh (yes, really!)

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!  And if you’ve been enjoying the Fringe, feel free to leave some show recommendations.

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Sunday Smiles: A wee catch-up

Sunday SmilesAfter a wee breakSunday Smiles is back!  Well, sort of – I haven’t spent much time online in the last few weeks, so there aren’t any memes or random entries this week and it’s more of a little recap of what’s been happening since my last Sunday Smiles post.

Sunday Smiles (and the blog in general) will be back properly next week, but in the meantime, let’s go on what is essentially a little trip through my Instagram feed from the last few weeks:

  • So for a start, the world didn’t end (in case you hadn’t noticed).  Which is hardly surprising, but jolly good news nonetheless.

Good news indeed!  Also, free wine.

  • I mentioned that my mum and I went on a little jam-packed tour of NZ.  It was amazing.  To be honest, I’m still sort of processing everything that we saw.  I’ll go into more detail about various aspects of the trip in later Toothy’s Travels posts, but in the meantime, here a few photos:

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  • Just in case you live in a cave (with internet access) and weren’t aware, The Hobbit was released.  NZ is going all out – from banks

What about hobbits?  Are they welcome, too?

  • …To Auckland Airport.  I’ll be honest, I love it.  I also got to watch the Hobbit-themed Air New Zealand safety video on an actual aeroplane when we flew back up from Christchurch which was terribly exciting (even if it is rather silly and cringeworthy).

Guarding the… uhm… information desk.

  • Cherries are in season!!  My mum and I were able to get some straight from a producer when we were down in Central Otago, and they were so tasty.  Cherries are one of my favourite fruits but seem to be incredibly expensive here so I don’t think I’ll be eating very many this summer sadly.

CHERRIES!!!

  • Unfortunately, all holidays must come to an end, and after three wonderful weeks, my mum had to go back to Edinburgh.  We don’t know when we’ll next see each other, which is tough, but her departure was made a little easier by the fact that Kat arrived to visit for ten days (although sadly she leaves tomorrow) on her way to Australia, which was super exciting since I haven’t seen her since February.

Kat arrived, and so did the sunshine.  Our tans mostly come courtesy of the Instagram filter though.

  • We went on a little Hogmanay wine tour around Waiheke Island which I think might well be the best thing to do on Hogmanay ever.  Plus it was sunny and warm and the scenery is beautiful.  Oh and the wine was good.  And I got photobombed by a bumblebee, which I didn’t notice until we got home and I looked at the photos properly.

Bumblebee photobomb!

  • We watched The Hobbit, which was super exciting since we were in actual NZ (as opposed to not actual NZ…).  Have you seen it?  What did you think?  There were a few niggles and I’m not keen on the high frame rate and 3D thing – they seemed a little gimmicky to me and I’m not really sure what they actually added to the film – but overall, I loved it.

There was (good) wine involved.  And a cheese platter.  That's right – a cinema with cheese platters.

  • Having watched The Hobbit and re-watched the Lord of the Rings films, we had a bit of a geek-out and went to… Hobbiton!  I’ll write more about it in a future post, but suffice to say, it was a marvellous day out.

The ubiquitous Hobbiton shot.  Anybody home?

  • And finally, I’d just like to share this hilarious little gecko* that was just chilling out in his display case at Auckland Museum when we visited.  I think it sums up the wonderful NZ attitude pretty well.

What's up, bru?

What made you smile this week?

*So… I got so distracted by the actual gecko and its little pose that I forgot to note the actual species…  I think it might be a Northland green gecko (Naultinus grayii), but I’m not 100% sure about that.

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Mac Attack #20: Cherry margarita macarons

Since handing in my Dissertation (of Doom) way back in May, the limited organisational skills that I used to have appear to have entirely disappeared and I’ve missed a couple of blog challenges for June.  Granted, I’ve had plenty to do – packing the flat up, cleaning it thoroughly, attempting to sort my life out, graduating (no biggie), etc. – but still, I can’t help but feel that I might have been slightly more organised.  However, even though it’s technically no longer June any more, the round-up for Mac Attack hasn’t been posted yet, so I’m going to sneak my entry in, the theme of which was supposed to be “Fruit.”

There are plenty of fruit available at the moment, so my main difficulty was choosing which fruit to focus on.  After accidentally eating my way through an entire punnet of cherries in one sitting the other week (not that there’s anything wrong with eating cherries, but I’d planned to keep some for later.  Woops…), I decided to make cherry macarons.  My first thought for the filling was to use cherry jam, but I felt that making cherry jam was a little too much effort (and a little on the expensive side as well).  Then I thought of cherry curd.  After a quick online search for recipes, I happened across one for cherry margarita curd.  Hellooooo…  Plus, margaritas are totally summery, so I decided that cherry margarita macarons were definitely worth a try.

I had a few issues when making the curd – the recipe did not yield nearly as much cherry juice as it implied that it would (although that was easily solved with a tequila top-up), and I didn’t quite cook my curd for long enough so it was still a little bit on the liquidy side, which made filling the macarons rather interesting.  However, they still tasted rather delicious, even if not quite so practical to take photos of or give.  But cooking the curd until properly thickened should solve the issue I ran into.

Cherry margarita macarons

Makes about 60 small macarons (so about 120 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Curd recipe adapted from In a Row
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!

When making the curd, be sure to let it cook for long enough so that the curd sets properly.  It can be made in advance, and will keep in the fridge in sealed, sterilised jars for around two weeks  Don’t throw away the cherries when you strain the juice – they’d be great for adding to cupcakes/muffins/brownies, etc.  Any left-over curd would be lovely on scones or crumpets for Afternoon Tea with a slight twist!  Make sure you leave the macarons at least 24h before eating them, in order to allow the curd to soak into the shells a bit.  They can be stored in an airtight box in the fridge – just remember to bring them out at least 30mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!

Ingredients

For the macaron shells:
100g aged egg whites (age them for 4-5 days in a sealed jar in the fridge)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar
Red edible sprinkles or sugar (optional)

For the curd:
225g cherries
About 70 ml tequila
About 2 tbsp Cointreau
1 lime
1-2 tbsp kirsch
5g butter
50g sugar
2 tsp cornflour (US: corn starch)
1 large egg yolk
Pinch of salt

Directions

To make the curd filling:
1.  Wash, halve and stone the cherries, then add to a saucepan with 35 ml tequila 1 tbsp Cointreau and the juice from the lime.  Cook together until the cherries begin to disintegrate.

2.  Roughly mash the cherry mixture in the saucepan to squeeze as much juice out as possible, then strain into a measuring jug (if you don’t have a heat-proof measuring jug, then pour into a bowl first and allow to cool a little).  Reserve the remaining mushy cherries for later.

3.  To make the curd, 60 ml of cherry juice is required, so top up the cherry juice that you’ve strained as necessary using mostly tequila, 1 tbsp Cointreau and 1-2 tbsp kirsch.  Pour the 60 ml of juice obtained into a large heat-proof bowl and add the sugar, cornflour, egg yolk, cubed butter and pinch of salt.

4.  Place the heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of water, but make sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.  Mix all the ingredients whilst bringing the water to a simmer.  Cook the curd over a medium heat, mixing constantly with a spatula or whisk, until the curd simmers and thickens (I got bored and didn’t wait until it has simmered slightly and consequently it didn’t set properly.  Perseverance is key!  And don’t forget to mix constantly.).  Simmer for a further 30 seconds before removing from the heat, and straining into a heat-proof bowl.  Allow to cool.

To make the macaron shells:
5.  Whilst the curd is cooling and setting, make the macaron shells.  Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

6.  Blend the icing sugar and ground almonds together (don’t skip this step!)  Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl.  Sift them again if necessary.

7.  Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites at room temperature (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand) to glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.

8.  Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well.  Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture.  Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes.  The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.

9.  Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 1.5-2cm in diameter).  Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round.  Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.  Sprinkle red sugar or edible sparkles over the top of each if you wish.

10.  Leave to set for about 30mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

11.  Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3mins longer).  Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them up by size.

12.  Lay out half a mushy margarita cherry on the bottom shell of each pair (you may need to tear the edges a bit so that it lies vaguely flat).  Use a teaspoon to deposit a dollop of curd over the cherry.  Then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling.

13.  Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult!  But so worth it!!)

Enjoy!

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Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

A June adventure at the St Andrews Farmers’ Market

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I’ve neglected my blog somewhat over the past couple of weeks, mostly on account of Graduation and my laptop’s general unhelpfulness.  However, I intend to get my blogging back on track and post more regularly once again.  Before I launch into today’s post though, I have some related and exciting news to share.  I was asked a while ago by Visit St Andrews to write a guest post about the St Andrews Farmers’ Market, and after some serious disorganisation on my part and a distinct lack of cooperation on the part of my laptop, I finally sorted that out and it was published on Friday!  Do forgive me for being slightly over-enthusiastic about this, but it’s my first ever guest post!!

When I was at the Farmers’ Market a few weeks ago, one of the stalls had some wonderful-looking duck breasts.  Now, I love duck, so I was seriously tempted, though I had no special occasion coming up that would justify buying duck and I was going down to Edinburgh for a couple of days anyway, so there wasn’t much point in buying lots of meat.  And then I realised that I could freeze them until an occasion presented itself.  I’m awfully good at justifying purchases if I really want them.  It’s a bit of an issue in my life.  Anyway, Craig crashed my sofa for a few days at the start of Grad Week, and that seemed as good a reason as any to defrost the duck (well, that and the fact that I have to clear out my freezer since I’m moving out in less than a week).  Once they’d defrosted, I realised that I’ve never actually cooked duck before.  Oh dear.

After a quick trawl through all my recipe books and an online search, we decided on a basic cherry and port sauce to go with the duck, with some green beans on the side.  Simple but delicious.  In theory.  Just before dinner time, we ended up stopping off in the Russell Hotel bar on the corner of my street because it happens to be halfway between home and wherever we’d just been and it was pouring with rain (I told you I was good at justifying things).  We stole the idea of adding kirsch from their Graduation menu, and decided that a gratin dauphinois would be a wonderful addition to the meal.  Which it was, but it also takes forever to cook, so I think we didn’t end up eating until around 20h30 or something silly like that.  Woops.  The duck also turned out to have been plucked slightly oddly so that the ends of some of the quills were still stuck in the skin and we couldn’t get them out, so we had to cut the skin off before eating (hardly the end of the world, but frustrating nonetheless).  We also got so distracted by the port and the duck that we may or may not have completely forgotten about the green beans.  Woops.  I also accidentally over-cooked the duck so it was a bit on the dry side (sorry Craig!!).  Major woops.  The sauce however, was delicious, and in my opinion, well worth the wait.  So even though I ruined the duck a bit, it wasn’t all bad, thankfully!

Seared duck breasts with a cherry & port sauce

Serves 2
Adapted from The Times Online

I’ve slightly reduced the cooking times for the duck since mine turned out slightly dry, but this also depends on your preferences for how you like your meat cooked.  I’d suggest using these as guidelines more than times set in stone.  The sauce can be prepared beforehand, except for the final stage of adding the butter.  I served this with a gratin dauphinois, which was utterly delicious.

Ingredients

2 x 225g duck breasts
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

For the sauce:
300ml port
50ml kirsch
Large sprig of rosemary
150g fresh cherries
10g cold butter, cubed

Directions

1.  Place the port, kirsch and rosemary sprig in a medium saucepan, and bring to the boil.  Allow to bubble for 10-15 mins (depending on how much you’d like to reduce your sauce).  Meanwhile, stone and halve all the cherries.  Set aside.

2.  Whilst the sauce is starting to cook, score the skin of the duck breasts with a sharp knife and rub well with seasoning.  Heat a frying pan over low heat (do not add any butter or oil) and once hot, add the duck breasts skin-side down.  Leave for 8-10 mins until the skin is golden brown and crisp and the fat has nearly all been extracted.  Increase the heat slightly and turn the duck breasts over and cook for a further 2-3 mins (apparently the meat should feel springy when pressed if you want it cooked to medium).  Remove to a warm plate and allow to rest for 5 mins.

3.  Once the sauce has been bubbling for 10-15 mins, remove the sprig of rosemary and add the halve cherries, allowing to simmer for a further 5-10 mins (stop here if preparing the sauce in advance, then when required, gently re-heat before adding the butter).  Turn the heat down and whisk in the butter a cube at a time until the sauce is smooth and glossy.  Season to taste.

4.  Slice the duck breasts, fan out onto a serving plate (or individual plates), pour the cherry and port sauce over the top and serve.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Recipes, Savoury Foods