Never in the course of human pudding endeavours has one woman spent so much time wondering if she was doing it right. And this is a great thing about this project: I’m learning so much! And, as you’ll see from my triumphant end product, Tamal’s pie is so worth overcoming terror of processes, lack of knowledge and general apathy when faced by cooking setbacks.
I don’t think my tinned mango pulp was the ‘kesar’ or ‘alphonso’ in the recipe but it seemed to work and tasted superb. For the mango filling, Tamal asks you to put the mango and lime juice into a saucepan and reduce them by 300g in weight – I’ve never had to do this before. I protected my scales from the hot pan with a cork mat and managed the reduction – although it took a little longer than 40 minutes. I think I was a bit cautious about the mix sticking to the bottom of the pan. It didn’t.
I’m getting a bit better at pastry (pricking, blind baking and all that) – but still not great at rolling out the pastry to the right size. As you’ll see from the pics below, my pastry shrunk too far in places.
The filling finally chilling, the pastry case baked, I set about making the meringue. I followed Tamal’s instructions and whisked the egg whites, taste of lime juice and salt to soft peaks bang on the moment the golden syrup, sugar and water hit 110C. Then, ass soon as the syrup reached the required 118C, I drizzled it gradually into the whites, whisking all the while. It looked like it would never go stiff and glossy. In fact it looked as deflated as I felt.
Don’t tell Tamal, but in a panic I put in some cornflour in the hopes this would remedy it. No luck. I did a quick internet search on Italian meringue and read something that said to whisk for ten minutes plus. By this time, I was overheated and so was my hand whisk. However: success! I had sprayed meringue over the recipe, across the work surface and up the walls. I didn’t care: my meringue was ‘stiff and glossy’.
The next challenge came with pouring the filling – which was a tad liquid – into the case – which was a tad challenged at the sides. I tucked some of the cooked offcuts into the worst gaps and tipped the orange mango nectar in. I ladled on the meringue and began to feel pretty good about myself. A quick blowtorching of the meringue and, hallelujah!
It is true that the filling was a bit runny when cut, so maybe I didn’t reduce quite enough after all but…
Dear reader, this pie is a beautiful thing. A fine centre piece for any celebration. Sweet, yes, but the touch of lime in filling and meringue is transformative. My Sri Lankan friend says that lime juice reveals the true flavour of mango. She is absolutely right.
I’m celebrating my love of the food columns and supplements in The Guardian by trying to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Guardian Feast in 2021. Find out a bit more about that here.
I tackled three recipes from Guardian Feast Issue No.158: Rachel Roddy’s citrusy Budini di riso fiorentini (little rice pudding tarts), Thomasina Miers’ lip-smacking Savoy cabbage and fennel sausage ‘lasagne’, and Yotam Ottolenghi’s rich and dreamy Macaroni with yoghurt and spicy lamb. Read on to find out how I got on and which recipes hit the spot. Link to original recipes at the end of the post.
I’ve never been a great one for making pastry. It does, however, remind me of my lovely mum. When we were little, she always seemed to be wearing an apron dusted with flour and making pastry of some sort for something: steak and kidney pie, sausage rolls, apple pie, jam tarts. Let’s face it, back in the 60s pastry was a good cheap filler.
My participation in Mum’s very own Great British Bake Off was limited. Once I’d graduated from turning pastry offcuts into grey bobbly blobs, carefully arranged on a tray and baked in the oven (and always semi raw in the middle when they came out), I was allowed to rub the fat into the flour. I found it tedious. Mum always had to redo my rubbing. I still leave a lump of butter or six – nuggets of gold – in my bowl of ‘moist sand’.
Reading Rachel’s wonderful build up to the recipe for little rice pudding tarts gives me a false sense of peace and security. Additionally, these little tarts give me a warm glow as they remind me of pastel de nata – those delicious Portuguese tarts which I’ve enjoyed cooking with my youngest daughter.
But it was time to stop procrastinating and get on with the recipe. I feel the tension build: I can’t do pastry, there’s lots of stages to this and I’ll get it in a muddle. I breathe deep and think of my friend Pauline Beaumont, author of Bread Therapy: The Mindful Art of Baking Bread. Pauline advocates that baking is a stress buster and if approached mindfully can help us cope with the setbacks and imperfectness of life. My tendency is to try to ‘get ahead’ with recipes, but I determine to follow Rachel precisely. No running around with pastry daggings hanging off my hands grabbing forgotten items – I get all the ingredients out upfront and lay them out neatly.
Yes, the pudding rice went out of date in 2018 and there’s not quite enough but… I hum a happy tune, use the rice anyway and top it up with arborio – fine, right? One other little thing, Billy the fruit and veg man at Berwick’s depleted Saturday market has only Seville oranges. I understand there’s just a tiny window to make marmalade from this fruit but (hangs head) I’ve never really engaged. But Seville orange instead of ordinary and sweet sherry instead of vino santo – all good, yes?
Rice pudding tarts a la Jackie – I rather like the art-deco look of my blind-baked pastry cases
As you’ll note from the pictures above, I did blind bake the buttery sweet pastry. Not altogether successfully. Ah, well, ‘we move’ as my youngest daughter has taken to saying. The final result was pretty good, I think. The daughters felt the rice was a bit al dente (maybe to do with the date – I certainly cooked it for what felt like forever). I was rather partial to the effect of the Seville orange – a bit like a citrus version of the famous numbing Szechuan peppercorn. The Husband declared the pastry ‘like shortbread biscuits’. Perhaps pastry and I will eventually reach a truce.
Next up, Thomasina Miers’ savoy cabbage and fennel sausage ‘lasagne’. This turned out to be a delicious and pretty easy supper. It feels as if it’s going to take ages with the blanching of individual cabbage leaves and so forth but all very manageable. I’m not used to tipping milk along with the tomatoes into a meaty sauce, so that was a bit of a revelation. I did double up as suggested by Thomasina. In these lockdown days, the four of us also eat lunch together, so it’s handy to over-cater the night before.
As you’ll see from the pics, my ‘lasagne’ was a lot sloppier than Thomasina’s, but that was probably my use of a tin of lentils from my cupboard. I assume Thomasina used dried lentils in the original (note to recipe writers – it’s useful to know these things). We all enjoyed the zing of the fennel seeds and were surprised at how effective cabbage leaves are as a sub for pasta. I used goats cheese I had in stock instead of ricotta – I can only get ricotta from the supermarket and it’s not supermarket week. Definitely on my list as a go-to easy-ish supper dish. However, the daughters declared that Yotam’s recipe (see below) trumped Thomasina’s.
My take on Thomasina Miers’ ‘lasagne’ made with cabbage leaves, sausages and fennel.
And, finally, Yotam’s macaroni with yoghurt and spicy lamb – probably the overall favourite of the week in a strong selection. It was interesting to make two recipes involving layering and dairy in the meat sauces (this one and Thomasina’s above) – and creating such different effects. I used fischiotti pasta (because that’s what we had) not sedanini – but any tuby pasta’s good, I think. Also I had no fresh coriander but had picked up a bag of frozen last time I was in our nearest food shop – Iceland – it worked fine.
The eldest daughter made positive murmurings about the ‘flavour profile’ of Yotam’s robust comfort dish and also enjoyed the texture the pine nuts delivered. It was quite a faff to make – so many largish pots crammed on the cooker at once – and I was glad it was a Friday night rather than a weekday ordinaire. And, just one thing, Yotam: ‘roughly grated tomatoes’? I mean, I did grate a couple and put the skins to one side (see pic below) but then I thought: dang it, I’ve got the processor out to finely chop the veg (which works a dream, by the way!) might as well make the most of it. So, in the tomatoes went, skins and all. It made the getting out, washing up and putting away of the processor worthwhile.