Monday, September 21, 2009

The Autumn Solstice, A visit to the Zoo and some Verrines

Tiger at the London Zoo
Today is the autumn solstice, which means a couple of things for me:
1) Since my precious little Baby Saffron was born on the 21st of March and thus the spring solstice, she turned 6 months old today. Where does the time go?
2) I really have to put up some of the "summer" posts I still have in my drafts since they're not really relevant anymore. It's time to start making heavier fare to pat the tummy and the spirit against the cooler weather.
So, you get to see our visit to the zoo (though you wouldn't have known it was summer with the weather we had at the zoo that day) and these mango and passion fruit verrines which come from the leftover ingredients of the mango macarons.
Mango Passion Fruit Verrines
To be perfectly honest, I hate the zoo. I just hate to see these poor animals in captivity. But we didn't go to the zoo for our own pleasure since A. hates the zoo even more than I do, we went because Baby Saffron is simply enthralled with animals right now and does the funniest acrobatics just to try and reach the dogs with her fingertips, so we thought she'd enjoy seeing all these other strange and wonderful-looking animals.
Unfortunately, the day was gray and drab, and while she loves seeing the dogs at close quarters, most of the animals were too far away in their pens to generate much more than mild interest on her part. Plus, there were so many people it was often difficult to get in a position where she could see something in the throng, which prompts me to say that the most obnoxious animals at the zoo were clearly the humans. She was fascinated by the hyenas, but I'm pretty sure that was because they looked like dogs to her.
The London Zoo & Verrines
We spent some time looking at the flamingos and I caught one of them in a ballerina stretch above, so effortlessly graceful. The ocelots were staring at the passage from their lair to their outer pen and we figured it was probably close to meal time. While it is necessary I suppose, particularly given some peoples' foolishness, I did hate taking pictures of the ocelots and the tigers through thick sheets of glass. 
The verrines are composed of a layer of the filling I made for the macarons, a layer of honey mango puree, a layer of whipped cream, and a topping of fresh passion fruit. They were actually even more refreshing than I expected them to be.
Malgache Bird at the London Zoo
While I do hate the zoo, I have to admit that generally speaking, most of the enclosures were much better and larger than at any other zoo I've seen. I still think it's a shame to "cage" the animals in this way and put them in environments that are nothing like their natural ones -I mean, it's London, so all those poor animals that are used to tropical weather must be freezing, I know I am- but as my sister pointed out, in some cases it may be better to be in a pen than staring down the end of a poacher's gun barrel. And it enables us and other parents like us to take their wee ones to see some beautiful animals without taking them on a trek across the globe.

For more filling (which I made up as I was going along so feel free to try your own version) than you can possibly put in mango macarons and thus end up making Mango-Passion Fruit verrines:

- 1/2 Honey Mango
- 2 egg whites
- 50g granulated sugar
- ~50g double cream
- ~100g fromage frais
- ~40g fresh passion fruit
- Puree the honey mango but you do not need all of it for the filling as it is very watery.
- Put the egg whites with the sugar in a bowl over simmering water (double-boiler) and heat to 100C whipping constantly. Take off the heat and continue whipping until cool (I use my stand mixer bowl for this). You should have a stiff glossy meringue (Swiss).
 - In a separate bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks. Add the fromage frais and whip until smooth. Fold in the Swiss meringue. Fold in the passion fruit (save the seeds with a little juice for the top layer of the verrine) and some of the mango puree so that the mixture is not too thin and will stiffen in the fridge.
- Then you simply put some of that mixture on the bottom of your glass.
- Top with a layer of the leftover mango puree.
- Top with a layer of whipped cream (preferably freshly whipped cream and not stuff from the can so that you can sweeten it as you wish and not as the manufacturer wishes).
- Top that with the reserved passion fruit seeds and juice. Cover and refrigerate so that it is cool and refreshing when you wish to enjoy it.

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MeetaK said...

delicious verrines! where is the recipe chica? i have very mixed feelings about the zoo too - i do not like the fact that kids think that it is natural/normal such gorgeous animals live behind bars. on the other hand when would they ever get to see such animals. so i take soeren to the zoo every now and then.

Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO BABY SAFFRON. Love the picture of the Bengal Tiger... he still looks the same...LOL! Took the kids to the London Zoo many moons ago, and I was bored silly, but the joy on their faces made it worthwhile. Love the verrines...beautiful flavours.YUM!!

Jamie said...

I'm mixed about zoos: I hate seeing those poor animals caged yet I find it fascinating to watch them. Your photos are as stunning as usual, amazing stills of the animals. Wow! And the verrines are beautiful and look too delicious. Happy Birthday to lovely Baby Saffron!

Mowie @ Mowielicious said...

Gorgeous pictures Hilda! Is that with the new macro lens? I'm with you & Jamie on this one - mixed on zoos: love the animals but can't stand that they're in captivity. Having said that, there's nothing more fun for a child than a day out at the zoo.

Eric Woods said...


ejm said...

Doesn't that tiger look sad?

I have very mixed feelings about zoos. It does seem wrong wrong wrong to cage wild animals. But on the other hand, it's such an amazing chance for us to see them.


(Once again, beautiful photos!!)

Stacy said...

I have pretty similar feelings as others about the zoos - our main one I think is pretty good, lots of space, but some I definitely avoid as they make me sad.

Heather said...

Your pictures are wonderful; zoos provoke mixed feelings for me as well, although I tend to forget it when any kids I've taken are completely excited...

Corey said...

I had to look up what a "verrine" was (I swear I am not an idiot.. I actually have a Master's degree.. but I guess I am not a foodie..) and the description I found was "luxury in a glass".. which is exactly what yours sounds like!

Leah W said...

that looks amazing!

Patricia said...

You wrote: "she turned 6 months old today. Where does the time go?" I know exactly what you mean. I have a 15 year old boy who suddenly sprouted into a just-over-6 ft tall young man. I swear that just yesterday he was 4.

I find zoos rather disturbing. The animals always look so forlorn and bored out of their minds. Maybe I'm being anthropomorphic and that's the way they look in their native places.

Wanna B Thin 2 said...

Great pictures!

darci said...

it's amazing how kids make it okay to go back to the zoo. i am starting to think they're okay places now that my son loves them!

Meg Kat said...

I love zoo's for the beautiful animals, but I too get so torn thinking of them being in captivity.

Dbe said...

I'm a lion fan myself, but that tiger is awesome.

Kat said...

Lovely pictures once again and an interesting verrine.

Jeanne @ Cooksister said...

I share your mixed feelings about zoos - big cats in any sort of pens particularly depress me. But I see their purpose - and they are great for kids.

Sari said...

The Mango passion fruit Verrines look delicious! Love the yellow colour.

Ted said...

I never met a passionfruit I didn't like. I'm passionate about passionfruit.

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