The kitchen is a place for many wonderful things in life, one of those being friends.
We filled this summer afternoon with the kinds of pleasures a Sunday should be filled with: laughs, music, chit-chat, the smell of burning charcoal from the barbecue slowly crackling away out on the terrace, and creating recipes made of beautiful ingredients while learning the stories behind them.
Together with previous FvF guests Elena and Ana – the authors of the Hermanas Arcë blog – we spent a lazy summer Sunday in the the kitchen of Caroline Heredia Abernethy and Luis Montenegro, the creators behind blueyellow, a food brand dedicated to a selection of exquisite herbs.
Up to her usual experimental antics in the kitchen, Ana whipped out her own evolution of what was once a raspberry crostata while Caroline and Luis charmed us with the protagonists of their recipes and many of our conversations that afternoon: their herbs.
Each herb included in both Caroline and Luis’ recipes has a story, its own special features, tastes, textures, smells, uses and benefits: and into the night, these stories unfolded. One of the outcomes of the couple’s particular investigation into recovering the ecosystems of cities through the cultivation of plants is blueyellow: it’s their creative way of transforming the benefits of these plants into handcrafted, original products.
Caroline and Luis’ creations, Ginger Beer Mojitos, a spectacular Mascarpone Cream Berry Tart and an array of grilled vegetables accompanied by their special herb sauce, did more than just satisfy our palates. They also made us reflect how the process of food preparation is about the appreciation of details, since each ingredient has the power to influence the end result.
Ginger Beer Mojitos
In the midst of one of Madrid’s sweltering summers, we absolutely fell in love with Luis’ Ginger Beer Mojitos: the fresh, zesty combination is one of the best cures for the heat!
2 oz fresh lime juice
summer floral ice cubes
1.5 oz light rum
4 oz ginger beer
1 oz mint syrup
Muddle the mint syrup together with the lime juice in a glass. Add a few large ice cubes, then pour in the rum and ginger beer.
For the ice cubes:
Caroline’s dedication to detail charms us even in the form of ice-cubes: “For a special touch, I prepared ice-cubes frozen with cuts of lavender, anise hyssop and chocolate mint!”
Mascarpone Cream Berry Tart
Ana challenges the strict rules of baking with her personal improvisation of a basic dough recipe she once found as part of a raspberry crostata: “I have been making thin apple galettes and fruit tarts from this basic dough, adapting the recipe over the years by applying tricks I read about in other places and by using ingredients I happened to have at hand.”
140g all purpose flour
35g wholemeal flour, spelt flour or whichever kind of flour you want to try
1/2 tsp salt
15g granulated white sugar (I have also used brown sugar) plus 1- 2 tablespoons
113g cold unsalted butter, diced
3 – 4 tbsp ice cold water plus a teaspoon of vinegar
Mascarpone Cream Topping
250g whipping cream
100g mascarpone cheese
50g sugar (to taste)
berries and/or stone fruits
hyssop and lavender flowers
In a food processor, place the flour, salt and sugar and process until combined.
Add the cold butter and continue to process (using the pulse button) until the mixture is crumbly (resembling meal). “The most important thing in a pastry is to make it flaky and not too hard,” Ana emphasises, “so you want to keep some bits of butter unmixed in the dough, and I have learned that adding just a teaspoon of vinegar to the water really helps.”
Pour the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, through the feed tube, and pulse until the dough is moistened and starts to clump together when pinched, but make sure it does not become a solid ball of dough.
Turn the dough out on your working surface and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes. “The pastry can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for a month. However, if frozen, defrost in the refrigerator overnight before using,” Ana advises.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Butter a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
Once the pastry has chilled, place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry into an 11-inch round. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll, and always roll from the centre of the pastry outwards. It helps to stretch the pastry out directly on the parchment paper, after flouring it, so that you won’t have to later transfer it to another tray and risk breaking it.
“Usually now I prick the dough with a fork, add the sugar, some fruit followed by some more sugar, crimp the edges and put it into the oven to make the perfect fruit galette, but today I wanted to make something fresher!” Ana smiles as she introduces the new twist to the old story with the creation of a new topping: a cream mascarpone and fresh berry mixture.
For this variation, prick the dough with a fork and sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of sugar over the top, and bake in the oven until it turns golden (15-20 minutes).
Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Mix the cream and the mascarpone by adding the cream slowly and mixing well to avoid any lumps (make sure the mascarpone is out of the fridge for at least 15 minutes before it is used). “Taking advantage of my host, I added some lovely bee balm sugar that Caroline provided, but you can just add regular sugar.” Keep the topping in the fridge until you assemble the tart.
Once the pastry has cooled down, spread the cream-mascarpone mixture onto it so that it covers the whole surface. Pile the berries on top and enjoy! “To add some extravagance to the whole deal, I added some hyssop flowers and some lavender that I had at hand thanks to Caroline!” Ana explains, “This just shows that even while baking, you can always innovate when the opportunity arises!”
Stay tuned for the full ‘Summer Afternoon’ feast coming up next week – expect fresh vegetables and sausages grilled to perfection, and a special herb sauce that brings out the best of flavors. Until then, find more culinary inspiration in our previous FvF Cooks.