Tag Archives: summer

Heatwave and failed chickpea meringues

IMG_4061Now that the worst of the summer heatwave seems to be subsiding here in Rome, life is improving. I might actually cook something soon, after weeks of proscuitto e melone,  caprese salad, Greek salad, anything that did not require cooking. What I have been enjoying are the articles in the Rome news about the heatwave. Like this: Il criminologo e gli effetti del caldo, where a criminologist advised us to avoid places with many people, as the aggressive tendencies increase with rising temperatures. Of particular interest were the dietary recommendations for a heatwave, in another article. Eat fruit and veg, of course, avoid mayonnaise, but drink warm or tepid beverages rather than iced drinks, as iced drinks may create alterations of the mucus of the stomach. I daringly continue to drink iced tea and iced coffee, wondering what havoc I may be causing internally.

giglio magnets

We had a few days by the sea, at Isola del Giglio in Tuscany, sharing a holiday flat with friends again, with a limited but OK holiday kitchen. One person was allergic to eggs, to I thought this was the perfect time to make vegan meringues with chickpea brine (also called aquafaba, trendy this summer). I have been reading about them, and optimistically packed my hand mixer to try. Indeed, the chickpea brine and sugar whisked up amazingly! whipping chickpea meringue

The chickpeas themselves we heated with some raw-el-hanout spice mix and olive oil, and sprinkled over a green salad.

Vegan meringues

Liquid from one 15-ounce can of chickpeas
3/4 heaping cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (to take the chickpea taste off)

Whisk until airy and stiff, bake at 250C on baking parchment. All fine so far. Unfortunately I had forgotten how unforgiving the holiday oven was: open gas flames, licking at the tray from below, which soon scorched the meringues. Still edible: we salvaged these not entirely black on the base, and served them as a do-it-yourself summer dessert: halves of fresh apricots, with cold vanilla yoghurt spooned over, and caramelised vegan meringue shards crumbled over the top.

burned meringuesDefinitely to be tried again, maybe next time with more sugar and longer whisking, and an oven with more all-over heat. This should be possible to conquer, and I love the idea of an egg-free pavlova.

Summer cake with yoghurt and cherries

cherry cake

Another hot day, 31C inside (cooler than outside) and I am drinking iced tea and recovering after a sweaty walk to getting groceries. Even the locals were complaining today: “Madonna! Che caldo! E insupportabile!”. Now after lunch,  those who are not at the beach are secluded indoors, blinds are dropped and fans are on, it’s OK if you do not do much.

On the way, dragging my carrello (personal shopping trolley) along the bumpy sidewalk, I met a neighbour, loading her car on the street, with bags and dog, who explained that they were departing. “Buona vacanza! Mare o monti?“, I asked: sea or mountains? Those are the options from Rome. Oh, the mountains, she said, but actually it was only her dog who was going on holidays. He was going to her sister in the mountains, to cool off for a couple weeks. When the dogs get moved, it is definitely warmer then normal.

We even had mystery packet ramen noodles for dinner the other night. Cook three minutes? Perfect! Still, we had watermelon and peaches and cherries, and a friend arriving, so this impromptu cake was made – then the kitchen was barricaded off to block the heat.

Quick summer cake with yoghurt and cherries (and a peach)

3 eggs
120 grammes sugar
120 grammes yoghurt (I used banana)
80 grammes melted butter
100 ml semi-skimmed milk
250 grammes all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of vanilla salt

12 cherries, pitted
One small peach, chopped

Optional: icing sugar to serve

cherries

Whisk eggs and sugar, add the rest and whisk  (not too much after flour is added). Layer baking parchment on base of 24 cm springform tin. Add half the batter, then fruit dropped over, then spoon on rest of batter. Bake in middle of the oven at 200C for 40 min or so. Cool and serve; sprinkle over a little icing sugar if you wish.
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I did not use much butter, which means the cake might be bit pale, but the structure was fine and the fruit comes through well (depending where you slice the cake…..). Wishing you all cooler days soon!

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Picking tyttebær in Norway, 2014

Wet birch leavesIn Norway for summer holidays. Time for a family trip to the cabin. It is almost September, and the birch tree leaves are beginning to fade.

Springe over myraAfter all the rain here, the bog was quite wet, but the nieces jumped their way through. We have buckets for berries, thermoses with coffee, packed lunches and are harbouring hope that the rain will hold off for a couple hours. This is a large forest that stretches over to Sweden, with lots of elg (moose) and the odd passing wolf, we hear. Just bring nieces, they are lively enough to petrify any wildlife nearby. imageFinally, the cabin appearing between the trees. It is an old fashioned cabin, with no running water (except in the stream down the hill) and an outhouse. They have installed a solar panel now, to run the coffee maker, but the old mattresses are a bit mice-ridden, so we just came for the day.
Old gamesNothing says cabin life like old board games!
TreOr old wooden containers (mouse proof).

TyttebærBut we were here to pick tyttebær, lingonberries, which carpeted stretches of the forest floor. Very low-growing, and abundant this year. Easy to see with the bright red berries against all the green. These are mainly used as a tart jam with savoury dishes, but are also delicious in spice cakes or bread.
BærplukkerSame berry pickers were used as for blueberries, though as you can see the plants are somewhat different. Lots of bending over to pick, you really feel it the next day (at least we soft city-living people did……) It is very satisfying though, to be out in the woods picking berries in the quiet spaces between trees and streams.
UthusThe rain came, so we retreated inside and to the veranda to enjoy our packed lunches and thermos flasks of coffee. Very nice! Here, a view of the outhouse.
Wet stepsSteps in the rain. We hiked back to the car, the rain cleared up and it was a really nice day out.<

Picked berriesWhat was picked, between the those of us who picked. (The others were busy dragging a water-logged boat out of the lake.) It is a good year for tyttebær this year, so this is not a bad haul for a few hours out. Maybe a little early, but for fresh jam (berries just crushed,  with a little sugar stirred in) these will be just fine.