Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Killing Thyme

I’m sitting on my terrace looking at all the things growing in the pots and flower beds. I have basil, coriander, parsley, mint, sage, rosemary and thyme. Having these things growing is not only great for the kitchen but them is awful pleasing on the eye too. Particularly when they flower and particularly the thyme.

Tiny mauve buds open into white petals with just the vaguest hint of violet. Because it is new growth the leaves are a light green and their texture has not become too dry yet. The stalk is all soft too. At this time (thyme, ha ha, how hilarious) of year I add it to sauces such as salsa verde and mix into salads. As the season goes on I find it dries out too much so aint that nice just raw. It aint bad, don’t get me wrong, its just not so nice.

Women make infusions with it and say it tastes nice. It is distinctly good for you. You could add it to (the) lemonade (you have been conscientiously making since my last entry). You can add it to just about everything you eat at the moment. It has a particular affinity with white fish, chicken, tomatoes. It goes jolly nice with goats cheese salad.

Thyme grows wild here so you if you wanted some for free you could go for a walk and dig some up. Alternatively you could just drive to a garden centre and buy some. Or get someone else to.

Beyond my pots and flower beds the field opposite has now become baked sand colour and will stay that way till September/October next year. Until now it has been a kaleidoscope of colour. It seems to change from week to week from that bright yellow citrusy stuff to the bluey purple of the borage to the blood red of the poppies. There are also white rocket flowers and my favourite of all, the pink garlic flowers - of which more another thyme.

Goats Cheese Salad

- ½ a tomato per person roasted with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Maldon salt, black pepper and thyme (do this slowly so the tomato dehydrates intensifying the flavour and sweetness)

- The nicest leaves you can get hold of (there are some superb mixes of organic leaves at the moment, many of them coming from Farmer Rene ‘s Organic Garden Can Riera)

- Toasted pinenuts

- A vinaigrette made with sherry vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, garlic and olive oil

Toss all these together and add on top

- 1 slice of goats cheese per person grilled till golden and bubblying on
1 slice of Juanitos white bread toasted and rubbed with garlic (not optional)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You great big lemon.

Citrus fruits are glorious fruits and all of them have their place in the kitchen. But king of the kitchen would have to be the lemon. So versatile, so uplifting, so……yellow. Here in Ibiza, as with almost all of the indigenous produce, the lemons are hard to beat. Big, sweet but sharp and with good thick pith and skin, I have had lemons here that are pure sherbet. The lemon season starts in December but I reckon it is around now that they really come into their own. Nobody who knows anything about lemons agrees with me on this but I reckon that they are a bit like grapes – the longer they stay on the vine/branch, the sweeter they become.

In the kitchen they are a must in so many dishes, particularly the zest. The zest gets into just about every salad I make during the summer leaving me with a fridge full of zested but unsqeezed lemons. They get stored in the fridge once they are zested cos otherwise they deteriorate quickly but the juice always gets used up pronto; into dressings, over fish, over lamb, into sauces, into sorbets and icecreams and most excellently into lemonade. Homemade lemonade. It is enough to make you weep it is so good. Below is a recipe that once tried will be tried again and again.

When you are zesting lemons make sure that you don’t dig into the pith as it gives an acrid aftertaste. The two best ways of removing the zest that I know of is by grating it (see below) or by shaving it with a potato peeler and then cutting off any pith you may have shaved of with the skin.

An aside -There is an unbelievably excellent grater that has come on the market in the last few years and is unsurpassable for fine zesting lemons (and creating snowlike grated parmesan). It is called a Microplane and was invented by a carpenter cum home chef. He was making spaghettis for his kids and couldn’t find the grater so went to his workshop and brought back a wood plane and Voilá – the best addition to Kitchen Paraphernalia in recent years was born. If you don’t got one – get one

Perfect this and you will never be lonely

250g sugar
500 ml lemon juice
1.75l water
(7 good sized lemons make around 500ml)

Zest the lemons (you can forego this is you have a fridge full of zested lemons)
Squeeze the lemons
Add juice, zest and sugar together and dissolve over slow heat
Sieve out zest.

At this point you have cordial and this will keep in your fridge till hell freezes over.

When needed pour ½ of it into a jug and fill with crushed ice, mint and slices of lemon and orange and then pour in around a litre of water. If you wanna really get them going fill with fizzy water.