Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Tasty partners

I seem to remember lovely things just being available to eat when I was young. Perhaps it was because I was not aware of the planning and organisation that was behind the food and dishes which stood around ready to feast the eyes and make the mouth water.

My mother was always very busy with her work, and with a florist business in the tropics, from growing to completed displays, it was hard work too. Flowers soon go over, and often there were flowers in the big fridge rather than dishes. She still had time to make cakes, using the Kenwood Chef, which she had managed to bring hand luggage from England....can't see that happening now with hand luggage restrictions!

We also had two lovely maids, gosh that sounds so old fashioned now, who were excellent cooks, producing local delicacies. In Quatre-Bornes in Mauritius, where I grew up, in view of the cliff like Corps de Garde Mountain, we had access to a vast array of exotic foods. In those days we had itinerant vendors, well known to the old families, who came selling door to door, things which they had made, grown or picked that day: gauffes, which were thin crispy biscuits to serve with ice cream; macatia ena coco, sweet bread buns stuffed with coconut and sugar, still warm from the oven; gateaux piments and dhal purris: fresh wild raspberries and guavas picked that morning from the mountains, huge bunches of bananas, leitcheess and mangoes. Most intriguing to us children octopus and huge fresh lobsters, the eyes of which were touched so that they moved and you then knew they were still alive and therefore fresh and good to eat. This was in addition to all the things which grew in our garden and those of neighbours and friends. During the hunting season, often there would be a tap at the door before breakfast, and a gift of a huge slab of venison. As very few people there had fridges back then, it was the norm to share around produce as it was ready to eat, and it had to be preserved or eaten within a day given the temperature and humidity. Those days have now past, and the super markets with their ready packed and prepared meals, their packaged fruit and veg. emulate their European counterparts. For lots of other reasons just as in the UK, food production, preparation and consumption has changed so much.

With a turn towards more activities and outings, I am trying to have dishes ready in good time and which can be eaten over a couple of days, rather than cooking just as they are needed, which is more my usual style. Often Friday I spend time making up dishes, or preparing food ready just to assemble when we come in from gallivanting.

Some russet apples had been lingering in the fruit basket, and wondering how they would be like baked, I popped them into the oven, cored and stuffed with mincemeat, below the Italian lemon and mascapone cheesecake. I had picked up a large bag of russet apples at Kenilworth Market for £1.00, which is a bargain. These apples are only usually available in the autumn, so these must have come out of store, but they were fresh and firm. They baked beautifully and being smaller than granny smiths, were ideal for platting up with a slice of cheese cake, which we had with a good dollop of Greek yogurt, drizzled with some of the juice from the baked apples. They made tasty partners, and was excellent warm and cold. I even warmed the apples through for 10 minutes the next day, so this would make an excellent combination when having visitors, being able to be cooked in advance and then produced when needed.

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