Just look at these colours. I don’t think anything has made me quite so happy in a long time.
Lemon peel, egg yolks, and passionfruit.
And it all came about because of a Pesach cookery demonstration Judith asked Claudia and me to put together. As a frivolous chaser to Claudia’s sensible main course, I opted for Nigella’s Spanish Macaroons. At least I think that’s what they were called. I reorganised my cookbooks at once point, and reorganised that particular Nigella (in the sense of lost, I am afraid), but have a list of ingredients scrawled in a diary from a few years ago. [By the by, the Nigella that I could never reorganise, no matter how small the bookshelf becomes, is How To Eat – a glorious book, one of my all time favourites. There’s an idea for a blog entry one day: Desert Island Cookbooks.]
But back to the point.
These biscuits are utterly simple, and always delicious. The recipe is no more than measuring, stirring, and shaping, and you’re done.
Nigella’s Spanish Macaroons
- 425 g ground almonds
- 250 g icing sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- zest 2 oranges
- 1/2 tsp almond essence
- 1 whole egg, 3 egg whites
Stir together the almonds, sugar and cinnamon, add in the rest of the ingredients, and mix together to a fairly sticky dough.
Take small, walnut-sized, chunks of the dough, and roll into balls, and place on the baking tray with a bit of room to allow for spreading. It helps to have a bowl of water nearby, to keep your hands wet while rolling (I seem to remember the phrase “de-gunk” from the original, and “gunk” isn’t the half of it).
Bake for 20 mins at 180C.
So there are your macaroons. They fairly roasted themselves in the shul oven, and came out nut brown – I think pale, golden brown is the more orthodox colour for them, but they tasted fine.
The only other thing to note is that this recipe does give you quite a few macaroons. I often halve the amount when it’s just for us, and I usually plump for one whole egg and one white. It’s a forgiving mix, in my experience.
Which leaves you with 1 or 3 egg yolks, and a question: Why can I never think of what to do with egg yolks at Pesach, especially given that I seldom am without one or two egg whites in the freezer during the rest of the year (I have 5 or 6 in there right now, for example)?? Why indeed?
[If rhetorical questions aren’t your thing, I think the answer is because I don’t often make ice cream or custard, and my yolks have gone into pastry or biscuits – not so useful at Pesach. The solution is obvious, of course, though I’ll keep you guessing to the end.]
And then I thought Lemon Curd might be the answer. My mother-in-law always gives us a jar of lemon curd at Pesach, and putting two and two together, I worked out why (or so I thought).
Not having made lemon curd for a long time – possibly ever – I decided it might be a great thing to demonstrate after the macaroons. So I sat down to my task and started googling. Five recipes later, I had 5 different ways of making the damn thing, and a half remembered joke about two Jews stranded on a desert island (there’s a theme emerging here), building three synagogues.
I thought it might help if I compiled a table (the first recipe is Mindi’s, from our blog):
|eggs||3 eggs||4 yolks||2+1yolk||3 eggs||5 yolks|
It didn’t – apart from a happy consistency in the number of lemons – nothing else remained the same, and worse, the majority of lemon curds use whole eggs. Whole eggs! – bang goes my theory – in fact I only got the yolks only recipes by adding “yokes only” into my search terms. It was possible that yokes only Lemon Curd was a red herring, and who would want to spread a Matzah with herring!
I was now hooked, and decided to conduct a scientific survey.
I asked my scientifically-minded husband.
He turned to our third Desert Island Cookbook: On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee, a wonderful and definitive exploration of the science of cooking. After a brief skim through the custard section, David thought that the proportion of butter and eggs is important, something to do with emulsifying or proteins (ok, ok, I don’t know what he was saying exactly, I was busy stirring), but that the sugar is just about taste. I didn’t get the answer about whole eggs or yolks, so I went ahead and made both.
The method is the same for all. One cook stipulated a double boiler, most don’t.
Melt the butter and the sugar together over a low heat, add the lemon juice and zest, then the egg yolks, and stir continuously till the mixture thickens. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat too much, it will get there, and you don’t want to end up with scrambled eggs in lemon juice. Once it has thickened, it’s done (it will thicken further as it cools).
There it is – the yolks only curd is pictured. I forgot to photograph the other, but you can see it in the original post. The yolks only is a more intense version of the traditional lemon curd, and much richer (though given how confused my notes were becoming at this stage, it may also have had more butter in it), but I have to confess a sneaking preference for the whole egg version. It’s just a bit lighter.
And then came Hetty’s Curd (Hetty is my 11 year old daughter).
Yokes only again – I wasn’t giving up on it yet – but, and here’s the gem, I substituted the juice of one large (two small) passionfruit for one of the lemons. It is called Hetty’s Curd firstly because she adores passionfruit. Who couldn’t, when they look like this:
And secondly, because she cooked this one, and cooked it to perfection. It was smooth, and silky, and so, so beautiful, that in the informal tasting session I ran after the macaroons, it won hands down. There was no doubt in anyone’s minds – Lemon and Passionfruit Curd is the way to go. Whether you use whole eggs, or are using up the yolks only from all those Pesach pavlovas and ground nut cakes, I think it will be as successful.
Oh, and although we sieved out the pips at first, we put some back in at the end; an aesthetic decision on my part, for Hetty, it’s all about the crunch.
I did eventually ask my mother-in-law how she makes her lemon curd: Whole Eggs – of course it is. It was a red herring, but not one I regret, with Hetty’s Curd at the end of it.
And the real solution to what to do with unwanted egg yolks at Pesach if you don’t want to make Hetty’s curd, is not to have any. Just remember to make lots of pastry and biscuits in the weeks leading up to Pesach and freeze the whites. I also saw that you can buy a carton of egg whites in the supermarket the other day – but where’s the fun in that.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, our first Desert Island Cookbook, is The Wimbledon Synagogue Community Cookbook. How could it not be.