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Effervescent storyteller.

Welcome to My Modern Diary, an electronic journal filled with tales of nostalgic cuisine, wistful wanderings & personal recollections by Sarah Orman.

Apricot and Yoghurt Eton Mess

Apricot and Yoghurt Eton Mess

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Last week I purchased a beautiful typography print that states "mistakes are simply another way of doing things." When it finally arrives, it will be framed and displayed on the off-white dresser in our master bedroom so that every morning when I wake-up, it will be one of the first things I see. Why these particular words over something more poetic or poignant? Simply put, it's a valuable lesson that I've recently discovered is as important to me as "everything happens for a reason."

It's no secret that I am a total perfectionist. My obsession with all things being just so is something I talk about openly and with honest conviction.

In truth, I don't really know when my quest for excellence began. As a child, I would spend hours setting-up my Sylvanian Families; an adorable range of distinctive animal characters with charming homes, furniture and accessories. Every piece was so perfectly placed, it could hardly be considered "playing" to a normal young girl.

In my first few years of high-school, I was known for my artistic perfectionism in every notebook; each piece of homework accompanied by a painstakingly perfect drawing that took three times as long as the actual written assignment. In addition, I was obsessed with every letter of the written word being totally impeccable. White-out {or Tip-Ex in England} was my best friend.

And of course, as soon as I was old enough to play in my parents kitchen, episodes of tears and tantrums ensued should the end result of a new recipe not quite appear as pictured {the most notorious of which was an apple tarte tatin; funny, I still remember it being the best pastry I've ever made despite the ridiculous outburst just an hour before as it continually cracked and tore under the rolling pin}.

Fast forward several years. I'm now a proud home owner and I've been happily married to my husband since April 2012, yet unfortunately not much has changed. That is until the start of 2016.

Before those of you who know me roll your eyes in question of my proclamation, let me explain. Read the above sentence again. I didn't say I was no longer a perfectionist, right? I simply stated that there have been some changes since the New Year commenced. And let's be honest, while we all know I will never shake-off the disease that is perfectionism in its entirety, no one can deny that a change was in order.

Unsurprisingly, one of the areas I continue to struggle with my quest for precision is in the kitchen. Ask anyone who's known me long enough about my childlike meltdowns when something doesn't quite turn out as hoped {my mom can tell you all about the tarte tatin tantrum}.

Considering that I want to spend more time dreaming-up new and exciting culinary creations this year, I knew my over-the-top obsession with every single thing being just so had to ease-up. I was also aware that any additional time spent in our kitchen {which would inevitably result in more breakdowns} was simply too much for my husband to deal with... I feared that perhaps I'd already pushed Erkan to his breaking point; he most likely couldn't and wouldn't put up with any more.

So I consciously sat down in January and made a list of resolutions, one of which was to regularly cook, photograph and share my work via this blog. With that, I told myself the temper, the tears, the disappointment and the depression when something wasn't quite up to my high standards had to be controlled and channeled into reflection and improvement.

Two weeks ago I faced my first big test {if you don't count hubby's birthday cake!}. And since then, many, many more. What is it they say, when it rains it pours right?

If you follow me on Instagram {@mymoderndiary}, you know that my downfall started with a simple French meringue. When I posted an old image of some successful meringues via social media two weeks ago, I had been defeated twice. Scratch that. I've now failed to make the perfect pavlova not once, not twice, but THREE. TIMES. Can you imagine the tail spin that would have sent me in pre-2016 resolution? I shudder; it doesn't even bear thinking about.

Since the pavlova palava, there have been one or two additional "tests" including the disheartening struggle to capture a delicious British comfort-food dish and a terrible case of overthinking everything, which resulted in me feeling like I'd wasted a week of my life. To be totally frank, the past two weeks have been a complete write-off, which explains my brief hiatus.

With that being said, ordinarily each of these occurrences alone would have gotten under my skin and I can pretty much guarantee there would have been several bouts of tears. Worse still, combining these situations over a short two-week period would typically have been disastrous. But not this time.

Three failed attempts at a pavlova and I have acquired more knowledge about meringue preparation and cooking techniques than I ever thought possible. I have spent countless hours researching, reading and reflecting on my mistakes, finding ways to improve and make progress. And despite being unable to capture my winter-warming slow-cooked ground beef with suet dumplings, I was thrilled with the recipe development and I'm excited to share it once I've conquered the hurdle that is making it appear as delicious as it truly is in every image.

When I read over my words in this blog post, I ask myself if it all seems too easy; how did I suddenly go from the verge of fault-finding insanity to someone who can honestly say I'm ok with imperfections?

Before you judge my total turnaround, know that I would be lying if I said these incidents didn't leave me feeling massively frustrated and a little crushed, particularly the pavlovas. This time, however, I didn't wail or whine, shout or scream. No. I took the urge to do all of those things and buried it, which, after some time to reflect on each situation, ignited the fire inside of me {otherwise known as determination} to overcome the obstacle.

I'm still working on plucking-up the courage to attempt a perfect pavlova. There is a bowl of egg whites in the fridge waiting to be whisked into a sweet, airy, cloud-like substance before being baked slowly to create a beautifully crisp, off-white meringue shell. Sounds amazing, right? I'll let you know when I get there...

Perfectionism is hard. Throughout every set back though, I have continually reminded myself that "mistakes are just another way of doing things." In this circumstance, my baking blunder led to a my own version of Eton Mess, which I am delighted to share below.

In addition to this quote I've come to love, I purchased a second print to encourage me to continue with this journey, because when one or two mistakes do their utmost to drag you down, it's easy to ask yourself why you're even bothering in the first place. I'll leave the second quote from the thought-provoking Mr. William Wordsworth right here, and thank you for listening.

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."

Apricot and Yoghurt Eton Mess
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Sarah Orman
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried Turkish apricots
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • 5 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups best quality natural yoghurt
  • 2 cups broken meringue pieces
  • 1/4 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
Instructions
The day before:
  1. Carefully split the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into the granulated sugar. Mix to combine.
  2. Place 1/2 cup of the vanilla sugar in a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and the bruised cardamon pods.
  3. Set the pan over a medium-high heat and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  4. When boiling, gently add the dried apricots and reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow the apricots to simmer in the sugary liquid for approximately 30 minutes or until the fruit becomes soft and plump and is just beginning to fall apart.
  5. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before placing in a airtight container. Chill the stewed apricots in the fridge overnight.
  6. Place the natural yoghurt inside a cheesecloth to strain. Leave for 24 hours.
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To assemble dessert:
  1. Heat oven to 300°F/150°C. Roast the shelled pistachios for approximately 10 minutes, until toasted and fragrant. Set aside until cool and then roughly chop.
  2. Remove the apricots from the fridge and dice into small pieces. Arrange evenly inside the bottom of four serving glasses or one large decorative dish.
  3. Spoon some of the vanilla and cardamom infused syrup over the diced fruit.
  4. Whisk the cream with the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar until it forms stiff peaks. Add the strained yogurt in batches, beating and folding until the mixture is smooth and mousse like.
  5. Break and crumble the meringue on top of the fruit to create a layer, leaving some larger pieces to add texture.
  6. Spoon the yoghurt mousse over the meringue.
  7. Sprinkle liberally with chopped pistachios and serve immediately.
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