It was the end of the week and I’d somehow ended up with two large mandarin halves in the fridge. The mini food critics had decided that they didn’t like daisy mandarins . To be honest, I couldn’t really blame them. The daisy mandarins had a beautiful colour and large juicy segments, but were quite difficult to peel and separate. And the flavour wasn’t as “mandariny” as the other mandarins.
I must confess, I’d never cooked with mandarins before, they seemed fiddly, and I find the flavour insipid compared to oranges (which I use in cooking quite a lot). But, I was determined to put the mandarins to good use! If anything, at least I’d have something to write about in Test With Skewer.
First, I juiced the mandarins and a spare lime quarter that I’d found in the fridge too. The combined juices went into a small saucepan and simmered on low heat to reduce and intensify the flavours. A trick I’d learnt from Steven Raichlen’s Miami Spice cookbook. After this treatment, I ended up with about ¼ cup of concentrated mandarin/lime juice.
What could I do with it?
A flick through Quick and Easy Small Cakes (by Kazuko Kawachi), and I had my answer : Mandarin mousse.
Mandarin Mousse (adapted from Quick and Easy Small Cakes:
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup mandarin/lime juice reduction (or other citrus juice of choice)
1 tbsp powdered gelatin
3 tbsp cold water
1 ½ cups whipping cream
1 tsp sugar
(none for the kids portions)
First up, soften the gelatin. I know you're meant to sprinkle the gelatin onto the water, but whenever I just mix the gelatin into the water, it seems to work fine. stir and leave to soften. Mix the egg yolks and the 40g sugar in a saucepan. Warm up the juice (I just put it in the microwave), then add to the egg mixture. Scald the mixture then immediately remove from heat and strain. Add in the softened gleatin and stir to dissolve.Then add about 1/2 cup of the cream and stir well. Leave to cool but not set.
Whip remaining cream and 1 tsp sugar. Fold into the cooled egg mixture and liquer (if using).
(The original recipe is poured over sponge cake in moulds, but I used little cups instead). Pour into moulds and refrigerate until set (at least 30 mins)
Since I was on a learning curve, I thought I’d attempt some sable pastry too. My very first attempt at sable pastry a couple of years ago wasn’t quite as successful as I’d have liked. They tasted good, but the tart cases I made were all wonky as I found the pastry very difficult to handle (the fact that it was high summer may have contributed somewhat!).
So out came my trusty The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander. This is how it goes:
Sable Pastry ( tweaked from The Cook’s Companion)
125g softened unsalted butter
¼ cup caster sugar
150g plain flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cloves (instead of the recommended nutmeg)
½ egg lightly beaten
dash of vanilla extract
Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor. When it's well mixed, add the egg and the sifted dry ingredients, pulse a few times until starting to combine and clump together. I was wary of overworking the pastry so I took it out just before it was ready, and put it into a mixing bowl. Then I used a spatula to gently smear and mix the pastry till it looked “right”.
Divide dough in half and make 2 discs. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least half an hour. Preheat oven to 180˚C and line two trays with baking paper. On a well floured work surface (it helps to flour the rolling pin as well), roll out 1 of the chilled disks to desired thickness.
I used a well floured egg ring to cut out the pastry. When I attempted to lift the cut circles onto the baking tray, they started to distort. Luckily, I had been rolling and cutting on baking paper, so I just removed the pastry from around the circles and carefully lifted the baking paper onto the tray instead. It worked a treat!
Refrigerate this tray for 15 minutes. Use the waiting time to work on the other disc. Prick the first tray of chilled dough, then bake until golden and crisp. Cool the biscuits on a wire rack and repeat with the second tray.
I also made some orange caramel sauce from The Cook’s Companion. (substituting mandarin juice for orange, and I added a clove to flavour the syrup). Then, removing all the pith from a small mandarin (Imperial this time to please the critics), I soaked the segments in the caramel for about half an hour, to get caramel mandarins.
I was very pleased with the results. The mousse is actually very rich, so smaller pots next time I think, but the overall flavour combinations worked beautifully, and I think I impressed the critics. :)