Friday, May 30, 2008

Paddington Bear, Balloons,

There are celebrations in the UK at the moment because Paddington Bear is 50 years old. Michael Bond, the author, has written a new book to mark the occasion and apparently was interviewed this morning on British TV. Quite an achievement to make a bear so famous. I knew Michael Bond had written a series of detective stories about Monsieur Pamplemousse, but recently learned he has written a number of other things too including a children's series which was on TV quite a few years ago. There was a big brouhaha when Paddington recently appeared on TV eating a Marmite sandwich instead of his usual marmalade. I thought it was a great ad, but I hadn't bought into the Paddington mystique I suppose. Lots of people were outraged to see him eating Marmite. Don't know what Marmite is? I know its not readily available in the States although it can certainly be bought in Canada. It is actually a yeast extract, but it tastes like a beef extract and is generally spread on bread. There are different versions, for instance in Australia there is a similar product called Vegemite which they swear is better. However, Paddington's choice is normally marmalade, I am not sure where he would have acquired a taste for that, coming from deepest, darkest Peru. When he first came to London I suppose. Anyway, Happy Birthday Paddington.

This morning I have to go and get my locks shorn, a haircut if you prefer. I hate having it done mainly because of all the hair that ends up down the back of my neck. I always used to cut my own hair, did it for years, but I got lazy and now I pay for it. Its a bit of a nuisance as our Superintendent's wife used to cut our hair, but now they have left, so I have to go back to the hairdresser we used to use. She is very good, but its not so convenient.

Actually, talking of Superintendents, we are awaiting a new one. The assistant was filling in, but now he has broken his hand, so the previous Super who is retired, is helping out. I assume the property management people are looking for someone, but you don't find good Superintendents over night.

We saw our first balloon of the year this morning, in fact, unusually, it went right overhead. Normally they fly past us some distance away, but depends on the wind, obviously. I would have thought it would have been pretty chilly up there this morning, summer came and went one day about a week ago. Funnily enough on GMA this morning they were inteviewing Kent Couch who has been floating around in a lawn chair held up with helium balloons. He is planning to try another trip this summer and wants to go further than last time, 193 miles it was.All it needs is some idiot to take pot shots at him. If you want to read all about him, click here. I gather his wife wasn't too happy with his experiments, not sure I blame her.

Here's another rhubarb recipe for you:

Chocolate Purses with Rhubarb Raspberry Mousse
Serves: 4

Source: RecitopiaUK

Rhubarb-Raspberry Mouse:
1 1/2 c Fresh or frozen rhubarb about 1/2 lb. finely diced
1/3 c Sugar
1 tsp. Unflavoured gelatine
1/4 c Sour cream
1/2 c Fresh raspberries
1/2 c Heavy cream, well chilled

Raspberry Sauce:
2 c Fresh raspberries
5 tbs. Confectioner's sugar

Moulding Chocolate:
7 oz Semisweet chocolate, grated
2 oz Unsweetened chocolate, grated
1/4 c Light corn syrup
1 1/2 tsp. Rum or cognac
Confectioner's sugar, for kneading and rolling

Place a medium mixing bowl and the beaters of your electric mixer in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Make The Mousse: Combine the rhubarb and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb is very soft. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and puree. Transfer the puree to a medium non-reactive mixing bowl and set aside.

Put 2 tablespoons cold water in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatine over. Set aside and let soften for 5 minutes. Heat the mixture over low heat, swirling until the gelatine is completely dissolved and no grains remain. Stir the gelatine into the pureed rhubarb and allow to cool. Then fold the sour cream and berries into the puree.

In the chilled bowl, whip the cream with an electric mixer at high speed until it holds soft peaks. Do not over beat. Gently fold the whipped cream into the fruit mixture with a rubber spatula. Cover the mousse and refrigerate until it sets, about 4 hours, or overnight.

Make The Sauce: Combine the raspberries and confectioner's sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until the berries are soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a food processor blender and puree. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a small bowl and discard the seeds. Stir 2 tablespoons of cold water into the sauce to thin. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate.

Prepare The Moulding Chocolate: Put both chocolates in the top of a small double boiler over simmering water. Melt over low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon until the chocolate is very smooth and shiny. Remove from the heat and add the corn syrup and liquor. Using a wooden spoon, mix the chocolate vigorously (the chocolate will start to "seize"; don't worry, be happy, you're doing just fine) until the chocolate gradually thickens and leaves the sides of the bowl to form a loose, soft mass. The stirring should take no longer than a minute; do not overwork the chocolate or its oils may separate.

Divide the chocolate into 2 equal portions. Place one portion in the centre of an 11 by 16 inch long sheet of plastic wrap on a cool flat surface. Level the chocolate with a spatula. Cover the chocolate with a second sheet of plastic wrap the same size as the first sheet. Using a rolling pin, gently roll the chocolate into a rectangle about 10 by 15 inches and 1/16 inch thick. Leaving the chocolate still covered, set aside at room temperature away from any heat source for 30 to 45 minutes to partially set. Repeat with remaining chocolate. When the chocolate is partially set, it should be no longer wet by still very pliable. If at first it's still too wet to handle, let it sit for about 5 minutes more but do not allow it to harden or it will become difficult to knead.

Remove the plastic wrap from one sheet of chocolate. Generously dust a work surface with confectioner's sugar. Gather the chocolate into a ball. If the chocolate has dried out and cracks or crumbles a little, don't be concerned, the chocolate will soften and come together again after kneading. Knead it briefly, pressing it into the confectioner's sugar as you knead, until soft and no longer sticky. If it feels sticky, knead in a little more confectioner's sugar. The moulding chocolate should feel very soft and smooth.

Divide the chocolate in half and shape each half into a ball. Cover the balls with plastic wrap and set aside. Knead and shape the remaining sheet of chocolate in the same manner, for a total of 4 chocolate balls.

Assemble The Purses: Brush off any chocolate crumbs left on the work surface; the surface should be dry, or the chocolate will stick. Lightly dust the work surface and a rolling pin with confectioner's sugar. Slightly flatten one chocolate ball and gently roll it out into a circle about 9 inches in diameter. As you roll the chocolate, be sure to lift it from time to time and dust the surface underneath with a little more confectioner's sugar to prevent the chocolate from sticking.

Place one quarter (about 1/3 cup) of the mousse in the centre of the chocolate circle. Gather the sides up to enclose the filling. Pinch the purse at the neck to seal in the mousse, allowing the top edges of the purse to fan out. Transfer the purse to a large platter, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Repeat rolling and filling the remaining balls of chocolate to make 3 more purses. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To Serve: Place a chocolate purse on each chilled dessert plate and spoon some raspberry sauce around it.

Have a great day.


  1. Jo - I love Paddington Bear and I can't believe the little fellow is 50. I've got one, actually, bought him a few years ago at Waterloo waiting for the Eurostar.

    This rhubarb recipe will also go to my friend. We're spoiling him.


  2. Actually I am very good friends with Michael Bond's daughter and family. I have only ever read one PB book although I read most, if not all, of the M. Pamplemousse books. I love the stories, his dog, by the way, is called Pommes Frites. The books contain wonderful food descriptions and all, obviously, take place in France.