How do you recharge your batteries during the weekend?
We each have a particular prescription we give ourselves when we know it is time to refuel after five days of hard work. Mine is very simple – spontaneity. Yes, I usually decide on the day of. It doesn’t really matter if I end up waking at noon on Saturday. It’s permissible.
Nothing is as liberating as knowing that you have nowhere to be, no one to answer to (except God of course) and just a road full of endless possibilities. Oh you don’t know the buzz I get out of it.
The number one spontaneous weekend activity that always charges up my batteries? BRUNCH. Without fail. And since I am a creature of habit, Spruce is always my go-to place.
Most recently, I arranged an impromptu brunch and brought a friend there as he had not been before. I take a kick out of pretending I know all the best brunch places when all I do is go back to my usual favourites. Shhh… don’t tell
Turns out it is no fun being a creature of habit because while I was ordering my usual Big Brekkie, my companion asked the wait staff if Eggs Royale was on the menu. Turns out it wasn’t but they could make it. What was this royal sounding egg I asked? Blimey, it was just smoked salmon and eggs benedict. Pfft. Royal, I thought? Pretentious more like it. So I waited so see the ‘wonder’.
When it arrived, I stayed silent. I was enamoured by the beautiful salmon that was laid over two poached eggs.
Try it, he said. Ok, don’t mind if I do. Did I mention how they served it on waffles? Best idea ever. Was I just a noob or was I just plain igorant? Turns out it was both and much more.
My fork went through it, and the oozy golden yolk spilled out like molten lava, and together with the salty salmon, fluffy waffles and hollandaise sauce which I stuffed all at once in my huge mouth, I let them sit so that the flavours will mingle.
Then I chewed. Slowly. The creamy, salty, spongy textures came together and all at once I lifted my eyebrows and went ‘whoa, this is good shit’.
That my friends is how you should spruce up your weekend brunch where ever you are. Not quite life-changing but it changed my perception of brunch. That I should have Eggs Royale for brunch now, instead of beans, bacon and sausage.
Perhaps I will have Bacon Egg Royale. Now that will be a mighty treat!
Two weeks back, I went to Savour 2014 for a glutton fest and did not leave disappointed (more on that in an upcoming post). Lucky me even found kumquats at the grocery section. These babies are so hard to find. Ever since I saw David Lebovitz’s kumquat marmalade recipe, all I wanted to do was to cook some up myself and experience its gorgeous tarty flavour and have it with some comte cheese. Guess the stars were aligned and I scored.
Two packs of these miniscule ‘tangerine-look-alike’ citrus fruits yields about 2 medium jam jars (you have to buy the Quattro Stagioni glass jars from Mustafa! They’re cheap). And if you’re thinking of making this marmalade for yourself, please get as many kitchen helpers, for the slicing part of it. Since they were tiny, I spent a good 20 minutes slicing them and cut my finger in the process.
Have you ever eaten a kumquat? If you’re not quite a fan of a strong sour sting, don’t try. I popped one just to have a preview of what my impending marmalade would taste like and it was a brow-raising experience. Though it wasn’t quite as torturous as popping a warhead candy (do you remember those?), I literally had to squint my eyes shut for a split second because of the rush of tartness. But the momentary sourness was soon replaced by a slight tinge of sweet from the rind. What a puckering moment of realisation!
After what must have been more than 50 kumquats, and 2 lemons (sliced and blanched as per recipe), they went into a pot to sit for 24 hours witha bag of kumquat and lemon seeds I saved (it apparently produces natural pectin)
24 hours is a long time. As much of a eager beaver as I was, I resisted cooking the marmalade there and then. Patience is a virtue one must have when making marmalade. So I waited.
The next day, I did as Lebovitz instructed – cook over heat, add in sugar and bring it to its jelling point. I don’t have a candy thermometer and his ‘chilled-plate’ method didn’t seem to work.
I boiled the hell out of my mixture and it seemed to thicken ever so slightly, but it wasn’t enough. “Please please don’t let my first kumquat marmalade be an embarrassing failure!,” I agonised.
10 minutes. 15 minutes. My marmalade was like kumquat stew. I really was going to cry.
Then I stopped. Just add pectin powder Cheryl. It’s made from apples and oranges anyway. No one needs to know you didn’t use the pectin from the kumquat seeds. Maybe the seeds were weak. My science (or is it chemistry?!) is deplorable so I stopped trying to ask why and just added the powdered pectin. And voila, within a minute, my sexy marmalade started to gel. Phew, what a close call.
My pectin fiasco has me convinced that natural pectin (from seeds) are for marmalade goddesses. Since marmalade adventures and successes aren’t something I have under my belt quite just yet, I am going to excuse myself from the real thing. If store bought pectin ensures I won’t have a marmalade crisis, then that’s what I will use. At least for now.
One of the brilliant things about having this marmalade in my fridge is that I can add it to so many things – yoghurt, my overnight oats, toast and of course cheese. Comte cheese and kumquat marmalade are a pair made in flavour heaven. The tart elevation to the comte works (I cut down on the sugar a fair bit as I like sour marmalades) and I can imagine having it at a relaxing picnic with the wind in my hair.
Marmalades are something I could make more of. They are so underrated I feel like I need to do something to raise its profile. I mean where in the world can you find kumquat marmalade? I haven’t seen it sold anywhere and I think it’s a real pity.
And speaking of pity – it is another pity that no one here sells chia seed jams. Before I added the store bought pectin, I took some of the soupy marmalade mixture, placed it in a separate jar and added a generous helping of chia seeds to the mixture to hold it together. Chia seeds are a great replacement for pectin. They suck up the liquid and turn it into gel. It’s a gorgeous sight!
Would you buy chia seed marmalades from me if I were to sell them?