Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Cooking with Alyssa

Today Alyssa Terrel takes over the blog. Alyssa is helping us with our EcoCampus Environmental Management System and rather than an introductory blog post explaining who she is and what she'll be doing Alyssa is delighting us with a lesson in cooking....

In my first week John asked me to make a green pledge... Although we only have a small balcony at home, I pledged to fill it with herbs and leaves of all edible sorts and to buy all the fruit & veg we couldn’t grow ourselves at our local Farmers Market at Bermondsey Square.

Besides supporting UK farmers, it also ensures that we are eating local and seasonable foods with bonus carbon points. The problem has been finding myself enamoured by the beauties of the season, which don’t put in public appearances at supermarkets (like gooseberries and red currants), getting them home and not knowing what to do with them!

Alyssa's haul from the farmer's market including the red currants
A couple of weeks back the bright red currant caught my eye. Once getting my new found treasure home, I tried one... yuck! It was like the wicked witch that had polished and positioned these little beauties right in front of me had forgotten to mask the poison! An experienced mind and a big lump of sugar was definitely in order, so I had a look on the net and found this recipe on which worked a treat... Red Currant Tart

The recipe is easy to follow and the result is definitely worth the effort, my colleagues will attest (they say mmmmmmm). For those like me that aren’t too accustomed to being in the kitchen here are some top tips:
• Before you start, make sure you have one of these funky springform tins - it saves on those moments when shaking a tin upside down ends in disaster. Remember to suss out your borrowing or second-hand options before buying one new, the baking fad may be short-lived!

• Once you have made the pastry, ensuring you don’t handle it too much, rest it in the fridge for at least 30 mins
• Get going on the tart filling while the base is baking, putting aside a small bunch of red currants to garnish the top once it is out of the oven.
• This recipe is brilliant because it makes use of the entire egg and doesn’t leave you with extra yolks or whites. My free-range farmers market eggs made the meringue top fluffier than the recipe pictures, if I do say so myself! I am not one to invoke violence, especially on eggs, but you need to beat them like you mean it including prior to and whilst adding the sugar and cornflower, and for at least 5 mins after. The best way to do this is good ol’ arm power, no electric beaters in this household!
• My tart topping took a tad longer than 10 mins to cook but just leave it in there until the peaks are slightly browned and the top is firm and slightly crumbly to touch.
• Finally, enjoy! I served mine with natural yogurt which cut through the tarty sweetness.

Served with a big dollop of yogurt
I enjoyed my seasonal berry adventure so much that I have made another green pledge which is to share with you my successes (and failures) in a Meat-free Monday recipe special on the blog.

For this week, I tried out a recipe from Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall which appeared in the Guardian. Using beans, dill and walnuts from the Market and fresh mint from our herb garden it was a delicious summer salad with a bit of cheesy goodness. French beans with feta, walnuts and mint salad

Summer salad inspired by Hugh!

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