A couple of weeks ago, my oven died. I came home one evening, turned it on to roast some nuts and heard absolutely nothing. There was no click of the thermostat, no wooshing sound of the oven fan. Nothing. My loud, but trusty oven had fallen silent.
My aunt gave me this oven when we first moved into our house 3 years ago. It’s on loan, really. Or it was. I don’t know. It was my aunt’s old oven and nobody seems to know how old it was exactly. Estimates range between 30 and 40 years old. One thing we do know, is that it was incredibly strong. You could easily crank it up to 300˚C and it would probably go higher if you tried, filling the entire kitchen with the crackling sound of warm air and built up heat. It had a numbered dial (rather than one listing the actual temperatures), which took me months to figure out, but it was nothing an oven thermometer couldn't solve. It was extremely fickle, too, especially at lower temperatures, but that was part of the charm. It seems silly, but I'll miss the moments spent sitting on the floor in front of that oven, making sure that my cheesecakes or macarons weren’t baking at too high a temperature.
Change is a strange thing. We look for it repeatedly, actively seeking out new patterns and experiences, yet when it is forced upon us, we twitch. Even though I deal with change relatively well, quickly adapting to new situations and making them the standard, there is always that initial feeling of disruption. My first reaction when I found out the oven didn't work anymore was panic. There was a sliver of hope that it could be fixed, but I think I knew that wasn't the case even before Thomas started taking it apart. So I switched to 'problem-solving' mode. As I grow older, I find that the 'panic' stage gets shorter and shorter and I start acting a lot more quickly. A few years ago, I would've sat in silent despair for at least a few hours ... the entire evening, probably. Now, I started to actually deal with the situation in a matter of minutes. I roasted those nuts in the tiny combination oven we have in the back kitchen and set on changing my repertoire for a bit, looking for recipes that didn't require an oven. I also cut myself some slack, taking the opportunity to slow down just a little bit.
One thing I didn't do, though, was adapt. I couldn't get used to life without an oven, even if only for a week or two. This struck me. I mean, I'd come to terms with the fact that I wouldn't be baking for a few weeks, but hadn't expected it to be so hard on our cooking. The words "we can make ... oh no, we can't" crossed my lips more than a few times. We have a new, second-hand oven now, but honestly, I still haven't adapted. This new oven seems fantastic - it has a self-cleaning option! -, but it doesn't really reach the scorching hot temperatures you want for bread baking or pizza making. Also, it hardly makes a sound. I know this is probably a good thing, but it feels awkward. My kitchen is just way too silent.
Anyway, one of the recipes I worked on during my oven-break, was this Berry Ginger Coulis. This really is a problem-solver's recipe. The kind of recipe you need when you have people coming over, but your oven has decided to die on you. The kind of recipe you need for those spontaneous visits that seem to happen so much more in summer and spring. The kind of recipe that uses mostly ingredients that you'll probably have on hand and that is easy enough to whip up in five minutes. The kind of recipe that makes your ice cream sundaes shine.
• I used a frozen berry mix to make the coulis, but you could just as well use fresh berries. Since frozen berries generally aren't as tangy and flavorful as fresh, seasonal berries, though, you might need to make some adjustments to the flavor balances. For instance, I didn't want to add too much sugar so as not to drown out the taste of the frozen berries, whereas fresh berries may actually need that extra bit of sugar. Taste the coulis as you go along and adjust where needed.
• Adjust the amount of ginger to your taste, but try not to be too stingy with it. If you're pouring this coulis over yogurt or ice cream, the creaminess will really mellow out the ginger flavor, so you want the coulis to have a proper kick to it.
• I used the coulis to top off ice cream sundaes, yogurt bowls, cake and smoothies. Waffles, pancakes and pavlovas would greatly benefit from a dollop of coulis, too.
Berry Ginger Coulis
makes ca. 300 ml
300 gr mixed berries, frozen or fresh (see notes)
50 gr granulated sugar
2-3 tsp freshly grated ginger, packed
1 tbsp + 2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp + 2 tsp water
pinch of salt
1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and the berries are thawed. Remove from heat.
2. Using a stick blender (or in a regular blender), blend the mixture until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If the ginger is really too overpowering for you, add some more berries, reheat and blend again. Keep in mind that you want it to be fairly strong, though. (see notes)
3. Using a spoon or silicone spatula, push the coulis through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids. If the coulis is too thick, adjust the consistency by stirring in a little bit of water and/or lemon juice. Refrigerate until use.
You can keep the coulis in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 5 days.