A couple of summers ago, my friend Robin, a chef, stayed for a week in my cottage to escape from the busy kitchen he oversees in a Toronto hotel. After a day of complete relaxation, he asked me if he could cook for me – be my private chef (are you kidding??!!) He said it would be his pleasure to take me shopping, show how he chooses his produce and to find some special things to make. A couple of things I remember about the shopping lesson was: organic IS better, and when you’re buying citrus fruit, weigh the orange or grapefruit in your hand. The more it weighs, the more juice is inside: don’t go by the attractiveness of skin. Makes sense!
Well I had the best private school all to myself. I learned how to cook salmon and lamb with sauces, how to make easy, beautiful salads with poached pears and best of all, we made pastry. I had always been disappointed in the way my pastry turned out and I needed a fool-proof recipe. Now I make pies and quiche and I always have a ball of dough in the freezer – just for “emergencies”.
Surprisingly, my little granddaughter Laura loves to help me bake. She’s interested in the process as much as she’s keen to sample the wares. She insists on having on her “appon” and makes sure I’m wearing mine. She knows that after the pie is made and the crust trimmed and ready, she can have all the cuttings. Then we make “jam busters”! This photo is of Laura and me making jam busters a few days before Christmas. She didn’t need to ask why this kid-friendly treat is called a jam buster. The folded over circles of pastry with the most jam in them bust open, and the jam runs onto the baking pan. This browned fruit “taffy” is part of jam-buster goodness and has to be savoured.
Here’s Robin’s pastry recipe: