Monthly Archives: October 2011

On grapefruit…


Recently, I found myself in possession of a grapefruit. Not a lovely pink or ruby red grapefruit, mind you, a regular ol’ yellow grapefruit. It must be tough being a yellow grapefruit these days, living in the shadow of your pink and ruby red cousins. Needless to say, I wasn’t particularly enthused by the grapefruit. Had there been gin in the house I may have been more enthused, given that my favourite way to have grapefruit is in a gin and tonic with a splash of Campari. But, my lack of enthusiasm was trumped by my hatred of wasting food, so I set about finding a way to use the grapefruit. I guess, at this point, it could have occurred to me to just eat it, but I’m really not a massive fruit fan. And why does such an ordinary tasting fruit have to be so comically large? Grapefruit are all like ‘Yeah, I’m bitter, but there’s HEAPS of me’. I don’t know… do they want to be eaten or not?

Grapefruit cake

If I can’t combine fruit with alcohol to make it palatable, I usually try to find a way to bake it. And this is what I did with the grapefruit. Remember my lemon yoghurt syrup cake disaster (of course you do, I know how religiously you follow this blog!)? Well, I swapped the lemon for grapefruit. Revolutionary, I know. Swapping one citrus for another has NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE. Until now… It’s probably a bit early on in the life of this blog to start rehashing recipes, but I can’t think of anything else to write about this turned out so well I thought I’d put it up. Anyway, I’m not reposting the recipe because I didn’t really change it, I just used a bigger pan, which I greased AND lined with paper, and I put grapefruit zest and a couple of tablespoons of grapefruit juice in the cake mixture, and grapefruit juice and some orange peel in the syrup, because I’d used all the grapefruit rind by that stage. The cake is actually really nice with the grapefruit, the vast amount of sugar cancels out the bitterness, and it goes splendidly with a cup of tea and a hangover. Obviously, it would be even better with a pink or ruby red grapefruit.

Grapefruit cake and tea

A crunchy salad and a kitchen injury

celery, asparagus, walnut and fetta salad

It’s Heston Blumenthal’s fault that I burnt myself making this salad.

In The Fat Duck Cookbook, under the recipe for ‘Salmon Poached in a Liquorice Gel, with Black Truffle, Asparagus, Vanilla Mayonnaise and Manni Olive Oil’ (totally on my list of things to make and blog about…), Heston notes that asparagus is best cooked in oil, rather than water, because of the hydrophilic – that is to say, water-soluble – nature of the asparagus’s ‘aroma molecules’. So, in short, cooking asparagus in oil retains more flavour than cooking it in water.

I don’t habour any delusions of being able to cook like Heston, but when I read this I figured it was a tip I could easily employ. And it makes sense – when you cook asparagus in water the water does take on a very strong asparagus-y smell. The problem for me was that when I first made this salad, I threw the asparagus in a pan and didn’t realise how hot the oil was. Well, to be fair, I’d been cooking some zucchini fritters in the pan and the oil didn’t seem that hot. But when it splashed out onto my wrist, I realised that it was, in fact, quite hot. If it weren’t for Heston, I would have cooked the asparagus in water and probably just scalded myself…

Injuries aside, the salad was a success and was surprisingly tasty. To be fair, the common element of most things I find ‘surprisingly tasty’ seems to be cheese, which may go some way to explaining why I liked this salad so much… The first time I made it was to use up some sad, floppy celery stalks and a bunch of asparagus that was threatening to go slimy at the tips (hence why I felt the need to add cheese). The second time I bought the ingredients for it specifically, and it was better. It also stays fairly crunchy for a few days, so it was good to take for lunch.

Celery, asparagus, walnut and fetta salad
Serves 4

olive oil
1 bunch of asparagus
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
handful of walnuts, toasted and chopped roughly
handful of fresh parsley and basil, chopped
splash of white balsamic vinegar, or a squeeze of lemon juice (I understand most people don’t have white balsamic vinegar, but I have a slight obsession with it)
cracked black pepper
about 50g fetta

Snap the woody ends off the asparagus. Chop into 2cm pieces.

Heat some olive oil in a pan that has a lid over medium heat. Heston says 2mm of oil… I just pour a splash in. Add the asparagus and cover the pan with the lid. Cook for about 5 minutes, then drain on a paper towel. Leave to cool.

When the asparagus is completely cool, combine in a bowl with the celery, walnuts and herbs. Add the white balsamic or lemon juice, pepper (however much you want) and a splash of olive oil and toss until combined. Crumble the fetta over the top. Jamie Oliver would tell you to do this ‘from a height’, and I have no idea what the benefit of this could possibly be. But now I always think it whenever I crumble fetta on things. The only benefit I can imagine is that it makes you feel like you’re on a cooking show. Anyway, that’s it, and when you serve the salad you can mix the fetta through a bit more evenly.