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Wednesday, 11 February 2015 16:04

Lemony love not bitter or sour

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When you’re married to a chef, Valentine’s Day, like other holidays, tend to whip out from underneath you. Whoosh!


There went another Easter, Anniversary, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day.
It’s not that we don’t see them coming. They’re marked on the calendar in bold, with special menus for every single one, new every year. And I get to hear about them, and the happy people who were lucky enough to get reservations, after the days are done.
Take last New Year’s Eve.
After planning, prepping and executing an a la carte dinner for 100 guests, Dean came home in time to watch the clock on our microwave turn to midnight, while we shared 2011’s inaugural pot of oatmeal.
Go ahead. Snicker. Gasp.
It’s hardly a stand-alone story, though. Our tenth anniversary was spent with one of us baking banana bread at home, while the other catered not one, but two weddings. Weddings that, when their anniversary’s come around, to this day are probably spent with the couples fondly remembering the occasion, instead of wishing they’d had the good sense to wed in mid-January, when no one seems in the mood to make merry.
There are only a few days left on the calendar, now, until our 17th wedded Valentine’s Day.
Some of those 17 days, though I can’t account for all of them, saw my chef bent for 24 hours over plates of gold medal-winning show food. In the middle of which I might have received a Happy Valentine’s Day progress report to say he wouldn’t be home until sometime on the 15th.
But do I feel sorry for myself?
Actually, not usually. Even despite the occasional cooing couple, who can’t help but suggest that a little bit of self pity is just what these occasions call for. That, after all, everyone else is holding hands with their sweethearts, sitting at candlelit tables for two at favourite restaurants all over the city.
True enough. But this is also when said lovebirds call to check on their own restaurant reservations, forgetting to wonder who might be in the kitchen that night, grilling, poaching and saucing their evening so it’s perfect to the very last bite.
I’ll admit it, though. Given the choice, I’d like a table for two this February 14th.
It’s okay, though. Because you don’t get to be angry years later about the things that made you fall in love in the first place. Being married to a chef has plenty of other compensations.
For example, as I write this, some several days before Valentine’s Day, Dean is in the kitchen.
Not only is he whipping up something extraordinary, but he’s making the very recipe I need in order to complete this Valentine’s Day column. A light and airy lemon pudding cake. To which I’ll add raspberry coulis, while counting my blessings.
And that is why I don’t need a Valentine’s Day dinner to remind me of things I already know.
Cook’s notes: This recipe is from our favourite pastry chef, and is measured by weight rather than volume. A electronic kitchen scale is a purchase you’ll never regret.

Lemon pudding cakes
128g granulated sugar
70 g all-purpose flour
pinch salt
4 large eggs, separated
325 ml buttermik
70 g fresh-squeezed lemon juice
zest from 3 lemons

Butter and sugar 8 ramekins (custard cups). Set aside.
Into a medium bowl, sift together sugar, flour and salt.
Whisk egg whites to soft peaks.
Whisk together egg yolks, buttermilk, lemon juice and zest until fluffy.
Gradually fold the dry ingredients to the egg yolk/lemon mixture until combined. Fold in the eggs whites, a little at first to lighten the mixture, then in thirds. Deflate as little as possible.
Divide mixture among prepared moulds. Place in deep-sided baking dishes. Add hot water to baking dishes, half way up the sides of the custard cups. Cover with foil, carefully place in a 300F oven. Bake 25 minutes, then uncover and bake until tops spring back when touched; about 15 minutes.
Remove custard cups from water. Let cool to room temperature. Invert over serving dishes and shake lightly until they come loose. Dust with icing sugar or serve with raspberry sauce.

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