Quick Pickles

October 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

We did it! Our boy, Henry Baxter, was born 4 weeks ago. He’s pretty much the sweetest thing we’ve ever baked.

Life has changed pace in the meantime. Parts of the day are much slower: languid hours spent nursing or napping, or both. Most other things get done quickly. Give one or the other of us an hour, and we’ll whip through the laundry, empty the dishwasher, shower, eat, answer email and pay bills, probably all while changing a diaper with the other hand. With the help of wonderful friends and a bounty of on-hand local provisions, we haven’t done too badly at all in the food department, even when HB decides that it’s his own dinner or cuddle time just as the rib-eye hits the plate (we’re getting used to having steak served up in bite-sized pieces like a toddler). Following our first 3 month survival plan to keep life as simple as possible, we haven’t undertaken big culinary projects, needless to say. No more 3 day ravioli for a little while. But in between meals of ragus and curries from our freezer stockpile we’ve found solace in the brief time we have in the kitchen: a quick pasta sauce of tomatoes, zucchini and capers; kale dressed up with chorizo, garlic and onion; and lamb chops well-seasoned and quickly seared.

We’ve been getting a weekly box of vegetables from Tomatero Farm for the last couple of months, usually featuring an abundance of tomatoes, greens and sometimes more unusual items like lemon cucumbers or watermelon radishes. A couple of zucchini-laden weeks towards the end of my pregnancy were flavored by a wonderful sweet meets savory zucchini-basil bread recipe from Good to the Grain, and more recently the piles of carrots were finely grated into a homely loaf, simple enough for me to make from start to finish during nap time. Although I’ve given up former visions of time for canning and pickling, setting up our pantry for the winter months ahead, I was inspired by a part of a recipe in the new second volume of The Kitchen Diaries, which I bought at 3am during a night feed, promptly forgot about, and which then made for a brilliant surprise when it arrived a week or so later. Nigel makes banh mi, and quick pickles some carrots and cucumbers for a garnish. I settle Henry on his sheepskin and once I’m certain he’s down for a good hour, I rush to the kitchen and slice carrots, radishes and the aforementioned lemon cucumbers. Into a small pan goes a cup of rice wine vinegar, a cup of sugar, a few chunks of fresh ginger, a couple of star anise and a few white peppercorns. The whole thing comes to a boil and begins to perfume the kitchen. The pan comes off the heat and I pour the liquid over the vegetables. They sit for about three hours that way, but could have waited longer, or been used an hour sooner: flexible enough even for our baby-dominated schedule. Drained, we pile them alongside a piece of steak. Tonight it’s daddy’s turn to have his meat chopped up for one-handed eating while baby-wrangling. It’s different but we like it this way too.

Quick Pickles
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries II

2-3 carrots
1 cucumber
4-5 radishes

1 cup/250ml rice wine vinegar
1 cup/200g sugar
a 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into chunks
2 star anise
10 whole peppercorns (optional)

Slice the vegetables: I like the carrots and cucumber in batons; the radishes in chunks.
Mix the vinegar and sugar and bring to the boil. Add the aromatics and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and either add the veg into the pan and set to one side, or pour the liquid over the vegetables in a bowl. You want to ensure that the liquid covers most of the vegetables. If they are sticking out the top of the liquid, you should stir them every half hour or so to allow them all to soak in the liquid.
Leave for 2 hours or more, drain and serve.


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