Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ilse's Tomato Soup


7 medium tomatoes
1/2 onion
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 Tbsp butter
1Tbsp evoo (extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 tsp basil
salt & freshly ground pepper
cayenne pepper - optional
Chives for garnish


Remove the core at the top of the tomato and cut an X on the bottom. Boil enough water to almost cover the tomatoes and put them into the boiling water on their bottoms. Let them boil for about five minutes or until the skin loosens. Turn them onto their tops half way through the heating. Remove to a plate and let cool for a few minutes. Working from the bottom pull the skin at the X away from the tomatoes in four places.

Turn the tomato onto its bottom and pull the skin all the way from the tomato. Discard the skin and you’re finished! Now cut the tomatoes into quarters, remove the seeds and cut the tomatoes into one inch cubes. You will want to do this on a large plate so that you don’t lose the liquid. Put a saucepan over low heat while you chop the onion finely. Put the evoo and butter into the heated saucepan, add the onion and sweat it until it’s translucent then add the garlic. As soon as you can smell the garlic add the chopped tomato, its liquid, the basil and salt & pepper. Allow to boil for about thirty minutes until the tomato softens and breaks down.

If you have a stick/immersion blender use it to blend the tomatoes until smooth, otherwise transfer the mixture to a regular blender or a kitchen machine and blend until smooth. Check the seasoning before serving and add some chopped chives. Can be served cold or hot.

Serves at least four


My mashed potatoes

I really like mashed potatoes and detest the texture of pureed potatoes, which is what is usually served as mashed potatoes. To me pureed potatoes taste like glue and lose their potato flavour the more they are processed. I consider them probably best for the sensitive stomachs of babies!

6 small potatoes cut into 1” cubes
2 scallions
a handful of parsley
2 Tbsp soft butter
1/2 a whole nutmeg
Salt & pepper

Wash the potatoes and cut into 1” cubes, put in a saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium to high heat, when the water boils reduce the flame to low. Put a lid at an angle over the pan so that a small vent is made.

While the potatoes are cooking chop the scallions and parsley finely.

Put the parsley and scallion into a bowl. Using a microplane grate the nutmeg into the bowl.

If the butter is hard from the refrigerator cut it into tiny pieces and add to the bowl, otherwise add it as is.

Add salt and pepper to taste. When the potatoes are tender drain them and add to the bowl. Using a fork mash the potatoes and mix them with the scallions, parsley, nutmeg, butter and salt and pepper. I like to keep them chunky, but you can mash them further until they are the texture you prefer. Add more butter, if you like. My mother, who taught me to make mashed potatoes, liked to add an egg. We had a large family so one egg wasn't that noticeable in the large quantity. I don't like to add an egg to this small amount, so I don't use it and have come to prefer my potatoes without it.

Check the seasoning and serve
Serves 3 - 4

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Perfect Cup of Coffee

A  Perfect Cup of Coffee


    If you’re a coffee drinker you might like to try making it as I do. It takes longer to prepare than a cup of instant, but I think it’s well worthwhile. As far as I’m concerned the only thing worse than instant is coffee made with one of those machines that heat the water past boiling and produce burned coffee that is unpalatable. After I kept seeing ads for these new fangled machines that make a cup at a time, I decided to try a cup when I was at the vet surgery recently and the coffee was so foul I had to throw it away. It had a horrible, burned, acidic flavour that put me in mind of medicine I’d rather not take.
    Anyway that’s enough of my ranting let me get on with my  method for making my perfect cup. Here’s a picture of what you’ll need:

A coffee grinder: any grinder will work as long as it grinds the beans finely.
A filter cone: you can choose between plastic or china. China is probably better, but I’ve had both and can’t tell the difference, which may be a reflection of my palate.
Paper filters: you can choose between cheap white or unbleached. Some say the flavour is better with the unbleached.
Coffee beans - try to find a company in your area that roasts the beans and uses free trade coffee.
A 1/2 Tbsp measuring spoon
A brush, which you can get for a dime at your local handicraft supplier.
Heavy whipping cream - unless you like black coffee.
A cup and saucer or a mug.
Barely boiling water - water for coffee should be just under boiling or the coffee will taste burned and acidic.

Put enough coffee beans in the grinder to reach the blades. This will make about two cups of coffee. Grind the beans for a count of 22 seconds.

Set the kettle on to heat while you prepare the coffee.
Put the filter paper into the cone.
Measure two skimmed tablespoons of ground coffee into the filter.

Put some cream in the cup or mug and place the cone on top. Use the brush to clean out the lid and also do this when the grinder is empty - this is important as any coffee left will go rancid and spoil future grinds.
When you see the first whiffs of steam coming from the kettle the water is hot enough. Pour a little into the filter to warm the grind.

When the water drips through add enough water to cover the grind. When this has almost dripped through wash down the sides with more water. Keep monitoring the level in the cup or mug to avoid overflow.
    I don’t advocate adding sugar, because it masks the full flavour of the coffee and is not good for your body! If you want a little sweetening add 1/16th tsp, but no more. If you’re used to a lot of sugar, please, please do try to reduce it until you don’t need any at all. It will be much healthier for you and you’ll be amazed how much better everything tastes without sugar. Sugar is a preservative and should be used very, very judiciously. The reliance on sugar has been encouraged by the food industry, which adds sugar to everything and this does not allow your palate to mature. If you find that the coffee is too acidic, even made this way, you can add about 10 grains of salt to the grind in the cone before you add water. This is much better for you than any amount of sugar. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Grano's scrambled eggs

    My grandmother’s scrambled eggs were tender, creamy delicious and heavenly! When I speak of scrambled eggs I don’t mean the rubbery, coarse concoction made in a frying pan and usually served as scrambled eggs in the US. Other than this egg preparation in the US is excellent.
    My Grano taught me how to make them. She always emphasised the need to take time stirring so as to break up the curds and avoid toughness. Low heat and patience are the main ingredients. She used a wooden spoon, but I now use a silicone spatula and find it an improvement as very little egg adheres to it and it does a fine job of scraping the eggs from the pan. 

I also like to use a pan with a non stick coating which will keep virtually all the egg from sticking to the pan.


2 eggs
2 slices rye bread, buttered on one side
1 tsp butter
1 1/2 Tbsp heavy cream
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper 

Finely chopped chives and parsley - optional


Put the frying pan and saucepan over a low flame to heat while you butter the bread and beat the eggs in a small bowl. Now
put the bread butter side down in the frying pan and put 1 tsp of butter into the saucepan. Raise the heat a little under the frying pan. Smear the melting butter all over the bottom of the saucepan and up to about a 1/2” around the sides. When all the butter has melted add the 1 1/2 Tbsp cream. As soon as the cream bubbles add the beaten egg, make sure the flame is low and start stirring. While you stir watch the bread in the pan and turn it when it browns on one side.

Keep gently stirring and folding the eggs. Curds will form and you want to keep these broken and small so keep scraping the bottom and sides and stirring in the curds. (Now you can add a tiny pinch of salt, if you like.) 

Do not let the mixture dry out, it needs to be nice and creamy! As soon as it is mainly curds remove it from the heat.

Now you need to be quick!!! Put the fried bread on a plate. Give the egg one last stir, scrape it from the bottom and sides and divide it between the slices of fried bread. Add a tiny pinch of salt, if you like and a nice grind of black pepper. If you feel adventurous you can add a few chopped chives and some chopped parsley!

Do not leave any time between serving and eating. Eggs can become quite unpalatable when left to cool on the plate.