Tag Archives: Novice Gardener

An imagined pie, lost splendours and a Sicilian timballo (macaroni pie)

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Update: recipe added!!

Recently, work has been intense, crazy-good-intense, plus I have been cooking for friends: lingering, laughing, food-laden, wine-tinted dinners where people meet old friends and make new ones. All of which means I’m catching up on the blogosphere this weekend.

The good thing about cooking for a bunch of friendly guinea pigs friends is that I can foist “out there” dishes on them. And unlike a family Christmas lunch, I run less risk of offending the mother-in-law-of-cousin-in-law.

Dishes like a macaroni pie from the novel The Leopard (Il Gattopardo), by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.

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Like the Triumph of Gluttony, the idea of the pie has haunted my imagination since I read the book years ago:

“When three lackeys in green, gold and powder entered, each holding a great silver dish containing a towering macaroni pie, only four of the twenty at table avoided showing pleased surprise.

Good manners apart, though, the aspect of those monumental dishes of macaroni was worthy of the quivers of admiration they evoked. The burnished gold of the crusts, the fragrance of the sugar and cinnamon they exuded, were but preludes to the delights released from the interior when the knife broke the crust; first came a spice-laden haze, then chicken livers, hard boiled eggs, sliced ham, chicken and truffles in masses of piping hot, glistening macaroni to which the meat juice gave an exquisite hue of suede.”

Yes, another dish from a book, another Sicilian recipe. Must be something in the water there.

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O Cheese – whipped ricotta on a whimsical afternoon

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O cheeses that dance in the moonlight, cheeses
that mingle with sausages, cheeses of Stonehenge.
O cheeses that are shy, that linger in the doorway,
eyes looking down, cheeses spectacular as fireworks.

Sometimes you just want some cheese. Something soft, creamy, light-hearted. Nothing too heavy or stinky. Some days call for ricotta cheese.

On one of these days, I made goat ricotta cheese – strictly speaking goat curds: goat milk, lemon juice, cooked over the stovetop until curds separate from whey. As this might have been done for centuries and centuries by farmers and shepherds.

Then, I made whipped ricotta / curd. A cup of ricotta / curd, a good dollop of cream cheese, a drop of milk, a good beating with a wooden spoon (you can also do this in the stand mixer), and we had this.

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A bowl of this stuff went with crusty bread. Another dollop was used to stuff some dates. I barely needed dinner!

Whipped ricotta recipes abound on the interwebs. Some mix the ricotta with milk, others with cream cheese (as I did), some add sugar for a sweet topping, others add sea salt or salty feta cheese. As for serving and eating, many recipes suggest pairing it with crepes and pikelets, others also suggest serving with meatballs (!), or using it to make icing for cupcakes (maybe whipped ricotta icing for sunny-lemony ricotta cookies?)

O cheeses of gravity, cheeses of wistfulness, cheeses
that weep continually because they know they will die.
O cheeses of victory, cheeses wise in defeat, cheeses
fat as a cushion, lolling in bed until noon.

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Fiesta, Siesta, sprinkles, cake truffles!

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Sprinkles! Coconut! Chocolate! Ricotta! Accidental good stuff! Did I mention sprinkles?

It’s cake truffle time in Casa Gander when I make too many of these Turkish coffee brownie layer cakes:

Or these coconut-mango bundt-lettes from last Fiesta:

Or gluten-free chocolate layer cakes (one from the archives!):

Or other good things that haven’t made it onto the blog, like the most sensual banana cake. (I’m calling it cake, because something with so much butter, cream and sour cream really couldn’t hide under the misnomer ‘bread’.)

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Ode to le weekend: coconut mango bundt-lettes

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Week-end. Sleepy eyed morning, sun-bathed cafe.

Being a dilettante, flaneur, lady of leisure.

A wake-up-in-the-morning-and-jump-in-the-car day trip to Mittagong and Bowral. Where we ooh over antiques (a Indo-Persian chain mail helmet? Yes please), eat an intriguing tart (shiraz-poached pears and proschiutto, suspended in a barely-set, brie-enriched custard), and have a cheerful coffee:

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(The coffee was in the Bradman Museum, aka Cricket International Hall of Fame. Yes, Mr Gander is a cricket fan. Yes, we bought a souvenir cricket ball. Yes, I still want that Indo-Persian chain mail helmet.)

A tropical thunderstorm on the drive back! While we wound our way down to that pretty little dam on the Nepean River, across a bridge that fits one car at a time, and up the other side.

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That evening, making a promise to bake a layer birthday cake, while maybe mildly under the influence of the prettiest Pimms cocktail I’ve ever seen. Spending Sunday making and eating a coconut-mango cake (recipe below), before remembering the Pimms-enriched promise about a birthday cake. Dang.

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It’s (not) easy being green: Burmese green mango salad

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It’s not that easy being green;
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold…
or something much more colorful like that.

This song could have been written for young mangoes, as they slowly grow on mango trees, nestled in the mango flowers (!), blending in with the leaves and other ordin’ry things.

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As we go into late summer, mangoes ripen, and take on the colours of red, or yellow or gold. They become such a luscious fruit, the essence of summer, humidity, sun, and heat like a warm blanket.

But each year, part of me looks back nostalgically on the green mangoes, appearing in the markets so briefly, like that moment between spring and summer. Green mangoes that are fresh and cool, rather than heady-tropical. As Kermit might have said:

But green’s the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green’s the color of green mangoes.
And green can be crunchy and sweet-sour-like.*

* with apologies for the textual travesty

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This year’s green mango season, I made the green mango salad from Naomi Duguid’s book, Burma: Rivers of Flavor.

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