shewhomust: (dandelion)


What? Fermented fish is totally breakfast related!
shewhomust: (bibendum)
I mostly avoid the chocolate option on the menu. It's not that I don't like chocolate, it's that it is rarely chocolatey enough: if it isn't rich and dark and intense, I'll have something else, thanks. This is true of beetroot chocolate cake as well: it sounds like a great idea, harnessing those two sombre sweetnesses into one rich cake, but too often the result falls short of the potential.

Now for the good news: I may be on the right track at last! Recipe, for the record, under the cut )

What is the purpose of the sugar? By the time a cake contains both beetroot and chocolate, it really doesn't need extra sweetness. The sugar makes it easier to beat the eggs to a thick cream, but does it actually add any lightness?
shewhomust: (bibendum)
  1. Nigel Slater fantasises about what he would do if someone left a box of quinces on his doorstep - and then gives two recipes, one of which is, effectively 'serve poaches quince with gorgonzola cream' (sounds good); the other is for Quince and panettone pudding, but the proportions seem off: the recipe specifies 1.2 kilos of quinces (peeled and cored weight) to 220g panettone (or brioche): that's a whole lot of quinces.

  2. Mistakes do happen. In yesterday's Cook supplement, Henry Dimbleby concludes his introduction to a digest of his 'Back to Basics' series with the words: "And, finally, we have not included baked potatoes in the contents because I was weong. I am so sorry to all of you who sent me photos of your ovens looking like a culinary crime scene. Baked potatoes really can explode if you don't prick them with a fork. Quite violently, it turns out." Oh, yes. Been there, done that, washed the T-shirt. I've typed out the text, because I can't find it on the Guardian's website (though the column in which he claims that the exploding spud is an urban myth is still there).

  3. We had haggis for dinner. Since we did a big supermarket shop rather than going in to Durham yesterday, it was some fancy brand, i.e. not MacSween's, and it was not as good. The casing was some dark thin plastic, and the contents dense and claggy - not unpleasant, but, as [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler says, we'll be having the real thing on Burns Night.

  4. On the bright side, since I was cooking a haggis in the oven (in a bowl of water, because that's what you do), I was able to observe the effects of putting a bowl of water into the oven while the bread is baking. Today's chestnut loaf was rising very nicely even before it went into the oven, so this isn't conclusive, but it does seem to have helped.

  5. This is further support for the hypothesis that the wetter the dough, the better it rises - and the harder it is to get out of the tin.


ETA: some quince links, courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] cmcmck and [livejournal.com profile] browngirl: The NYT praises the quince, because there are quince trees at the Cloisters Museum. But there are more, at the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon. Quinces seem to be having a moment, and there are several cookbooks (or cooking and growing) books devoted entirely to quinces. Barbara Ghazarian wrote one of them. She has a quince blog.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
  • I hadn't come across Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Borders, until Dick Gaughan told us about him - "He's English!" He is attempting to strengthen the bonds that unite the United Kingdom, and discourage the Scots from voting for independence, by organising a mass show of unity in which thousands of people link arms in a human chain a human chain from coast to coast. The only problem is that this chain will run along Hadrian's Wall. Given the location of his constituency, I'm pretty sure he knows this isn't the border, and he's careful in interviews not to say that it is. And I can see that it wouldn't be easy to organise a chain along the border itself, which runs through some remote country, and some sizeable rivers. But treating the Wall as the dividing line is just asking for mockery.


  • Talking of the Wall, the Hadrian's Wall Trust is to close for lack of funds. I'm still trying to process this information.


  • Library porn! "It's bigger than the Lit & Phil," says [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler.


  • As we parked by the river to go swimming this morning - hooray! the students are on vacation and there is room in the pool on Tuesdays! - two herons flew low along the river and under Pennyferry Bridge. One flew on, the other doubled back and stood for a few minutes right opposite us, before flying back the way it had come.


  • The recipe supplement in Saturday's Guardian offers its ten best chickpea recipes. Some of them are just variations on familiar recipes, but some look worth trying, if only to satisfy my curiosity: chickpea, parsnip and saffron soup, for example, or the chocolate cake... The only snag is that most of the recipes use tinned chickpeas, and I use dried (I love my pressure cooker). Does anyone have a rule of thumb for converting quantities, or do I have to proceed by trial and error?
shewhomust: (bibendum)
I bought two pounds of beetroot at the farmers' market ten days ago, and the last of it went into last night's salad: sliced cooked beetroot, shredded red radiccio, an orange, an avocado which defied all precedent by being as ripe and ready to eat as it said on the packet, and a walnut oil and lemon juice vinaigrette. I like the bitterness of radiccio, and its firm crunchiness, but it needs to be tempered with richness and moisture if the resultant salad isn't to be dry - this mix worked well.

The beetroot were smaller than usual: the nice vegetable growers are very helpful about picking through the box looking for the size you want, but the smallest are usually nearly the size of tennis balls. These were golf balls if not ping-pong, and they had a lovely purple sheen - which is why I bought so many. Also, there was a recipe I wanted to try in the Guardian cookery supplement; and my foresight was rewarded, because the next Saturday there were a whole 10 beetroot recipes.

So I scrubbed the whole lot and gave them 15 minutes in the pressure cooker, which left them still on the firm side - don't believe recipes that tell you to boil normal-sized beetroot for 20 minutes in a normal pan (yes, beetroot risotto recipe, I am looking at you), this will get you nowhere. On the other hand, raw beetroot is fine, too...

First, from the Guardian's collection of pink recipes (you may want to avert your eyes as you scroll past the pomegranate and lime cupcakes) I made the beetroot and spelt flour bread. Inevitably, since I had been boasting about how I had sorted my baking routine, guests and other distractions intervened, and I had gone eight days since the last batch of bread. I was brave, stirred the separated liquid back into the starter, pretended not to notice how runny the whole thing had become - and it behaved perfectly. It took prolonged kneading to take up all the flour (that is, as much as I was prepared to insist on) but rose so stickily I ended up adding more flour just to handle it. The tricky bit was kneading in the chopped beetroot: chunks kept flying off in all directions, and some got on the floor and I trod on it, there were red stains everywhere ("I thought you must have cut yourself," said [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler, who thinks I am bluer-blooded than is actually the case) and I had to wash the kitchen floor. Worth it, though.

The following week's ten best beetroot recipes inspired me to make a beetroot risotto, though I can't claim to have followed their recipe. For one thing, it required you to puree the beetroot, and mine (see above) were not really soft enough for this - or perhaps I just fancied the more interesting texture of little cubes of beetroot. Perhaps one day I will puree it, just for the comparison (or perhaps I won't). I also stirred in quite a lot of goat's cheese at the last minute, because I could, and the last of the thyme (yes, I ran out of thyme. I am easily amused.)

I followed the recipe more closely whyen it came to the beetroot and ginger chocolate brownies - though I had to improvise when it came to the stem ginger, since the recipe forgets about it - I chopped it up, and also added a slurp of syrup, and that seemed to work, since the brownies are distinctly gingery, but with no distinct traces of ginger. I halved the quantities, and may have overcooked the mixture, which came out as a light delicate cake with none of the fudginess of brownies. I may have to experiment further with this one.

And I seem to have bought more beetroot, though I'm thinking of grating it raw...
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
In a more leisured world, any one of these could have been a post on its own; this post is like showing you the bookmarks, but not letting you read the pages they are marking.

  • If it's February, it must be time for a re-release of Casablanca. One day I will write about the paradox of this movie, product of the studio machine (in which the actors are not the first choice casting, and struggle to perform truthfully without knowing the end of their story or even sometimes the meaning of a scene) and the most dubious of sexual politics. Despite which we continue to love it. There's a clue in Peter Bradshaw's Guardian review, in which he selects a favourite quotation: "I bet they're asleep in New York; I bet they're asleep all over America."

  • We had a guest to dinner last night: Farmers' Market was this morning, so it was a meal constructed from whatever I could find in the house - it ended up a meatloaf, beef mince seasoned with almost all the harissa that was left in the jar (I should have used it all) and leavened with beetroot (three small ones, coarsely grated). The beetroot was a good addition, but another time, two would probably have been enough. A few walnuts might be good, too - in fact, a few pickled walnuts might be even better.

  • From Saturday's Travel supplement: where to eat in Ghent. Also links to a the blog of some Flemish foodies capable of taking quite disproportionate pains over a cherry tomoto.

  • Went to the Lit & Phil yesterday to hear Anne Fine talking about her books, her writing, her life - the first time I'd heard her speak to an audience which included both children and adults, and I was impressed how smoothly she included both groups in the conversation. There's a ruthlessness to her humour - her daughter, learning to play the violin, sounded like someone hammering a nail into a small gerbil - and I laughed immoderately.

  • Jeanette Winterson proposes the occupation of Valentine's Day in an article of which pretty much every line is quotable: "Love is an ecosystem. You can't neglect it, exploit it, strip-mine it, pollute it, and wonder what happened to the birds and the bees."

  • It's not that I'm dissatisfied with the photos I took in Spain: they document the trip and help keep the memories fresh. But I'd been wondering why there weren't more of them that stood alone, that I could appreciate purely as pictures, without context or associations. So I was quite relieved to come across this one:

Lucky 13
shewhomust: (Default)
I decided, almost on the spur of the moment, to bake a Christmas cake this year - I had almost all the ingredients, so why not?

I've written before about the recipe I use ('use' rather than 'follow' seems about right). This year's is definitely a plum cake: chopped prunes, a handful of the damsons from the bottom of the damson gin, and the gin itself as the main alcoholic additive. For the record, and because, when I was looking for this information earlier this week, I couldn't find it, these quantities fill the big square cake tin and one loaf tin - rather more than fill them, and although I could have squeezed it all in, I made five little buns (in a muffin tray) from the scrapings.

I reduced the oven temperature to mark 2, with the buns on the top shelf for an hour and a bit more, the cakes on the lower shelf for three hours (or thereabouts; I lost count).

One way and another, this seemed to take most of the day (surprising, since so much of the preparation was done the previous day - but then, it was one of the year's shortest days); the upside of this is that by the time I thought the cakes were ready to come out of the oven, [livejournal.com profile] desperance was there to confirm that they were indeed done. We ate the little buns for pudding. They were surprisingly light and cakey - good, but not what I require from Christmas cake. But perhaps the scrapings of the bowl have a lower than average density of fruit? We shall see.

[livejournal.com profile] desperance and I sat up long into the night and a little way into the morning too, with a bottle of armagnac and much conversation to catch up on.

And now, though it's too soon to tell, the season turns and the days begin to lengthen.

Cake update: After cooking the cake remains lighter than usual in colour, and with a more cakey texture, though still moist. I think, in fact, that I have finally got the cooking time right, and while this is good, and it makes a pleasant change to have a cake I can offer to others without a health warning, I sort of miss the damp soggy thing that I usually bake. The damsons are not discernable, but I suspect their influence can be felt, though not identified.

Also, the marzipan: Jane Grigson's recipe makes too much for the larger cake, as you'd expect, even when the quantity of sugar is drastically reduced, and rather too little for both. It's good, though. I'd forgotten how much I like home-made marzipan.
shewhomust: (Default)
Not autumn yet, but summer's ending. Not so much the rain - Bank Holiday weather, August downpours, I'm hoping for better weather in autumn (it often happens), but the first students returning (much slamming of doors, though not yet the symphony for burglar alarms which signals the new term), and the autumn fruits appearing at the greengrocer's.

Or perhaps that's premature, and plums are the last fruit of summer, not the first of autumn. I bought damsons (from the wonderful Robinsons), thinking they'd make a fine desert for Thursday's dinner party - and they did, though in the end I had to invent a recipe: I could find nothing but recipes for preserves, damson jams and jellies and cheeses (the first place I turned was Jane Grigson's Fruit Book, but she let me down; she doesn't like damsons, finding the flavour unsubtle, which indeed it is). It wasn't hard to invent: I stoned the damsons (don't believe the recipes that tell you you can skim off the stones later; you can't) and stewed them with just enough sugar, and they collapsed of their own accord to a thick wine-dark puree; I spread that over the bottom of a large flat dish and topped it with a Victoria sponge mix to which I had added a couple of ounces of ground almonds. Sprinkled flaked almonds generously over the top, and baked it on a low shelf at mark 4 until I remembered to take it out - something over an hour left it just slightly moist in the centre. I liked it that way, but slightly longer would have been fine, too.

It was a good dinner party, I think. I would have liked to have been slightly better prepared, so that when my guests arrived I could abandon the cooking and play with them - but that's always the plan, and it never happens. Reasons why it didn't happen on this occasion might have included [livejournal.com profile] desperance and [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler vanishing off upstairs at a critical moment to scan documents (and [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler reappearing to tell me there was an e-mail just come in that I should probably go and answer); and they might also have included several pounds of greengages bought cheap and needing to be sorted and stewed down. But since it was a gathering of friends, they were able to entertain each other while I caught up. After which, my only regret is that it was all over so quickly, since people had to leave to catch trains.

Probably for the best, though, since we were off quite early yesterday, abandoning the washing up to spend the day in Whitby with the Bears, who were there for the folk festival. The moors were beautiful in the rain, carpets of purple heather and veils of grey sky - except at the highest point, where we were in cloud so dense that nothing else was visible. No first glimpse of the sea, though, and no walk on the beach after. But there was good music. We went to a 'meet the Tom McConville Band' session, chat and tunes and songs, in a curious format at which the audience were implored to ask the band questions - I wondered whether there was an equivalent for musicians of the much-mocked "Where do you get your ideas from?". And we may have been forced to take shelter in a bookshop (or two). There was time for an early dinner together, then back to the flat for coffee and the interesting process of watching the Bears decide what they would do if they got a floor spot (or two) at the folk club that evening - but we didn't stay for the evening performance.

Leaving before eight o'clock, we were driving through deepening dusk from the start. Still summer, but not for long...
shewhomust: (bibendum)
[livejournal.com profile] rushthatspeaks was inspired by Niki Segnit's The Flavor Thesaurus to build a cake on the flavours of parsnips, anise and lemon. Well, why not? Carrot cake is familiar enough, and parsnips are even sweeter. [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler refers to parsnips as "God's own vegetable", so obviously what he needed for his birthday was a parsnip cake. I refer you to the original recipe for the sheer pleasure of the writing; this is my working version, with my modeifications / conversions / approximations:

Ingredients )

Method )

Icing fail )

How it was for me )
shewhomust: (bibendum)
There were Seville oranges in the greengrocer's at the weekend. The season never lasts long, so I bought some, thinking of zesty orange puddings for cold grey days.

On Saturday, when [livejournal.com profile] desperance came visiting, I dug out a recipe I'd cut out of a magazine long ago, and made Seville and blood orange tart, reducing the quantities to about two thirds of those given, and using some of the Tropicana Sanguinello that D. had brought us for the blood orage juice. Both this recipe and a similar one I found on the net specified an almost cakey pastry, made with egg: another time I'd use a more standard, crisper, sweet shortcrust. And if I could get real blood oranges, that'd be good, too, and worth trying the finishing touch of slicing a blood orange thinly and laying it on top of the almost-cooked filling. But it was fine without (and the quantities served the three of us on Saturday, and five to Sunday lunch).

I made marmalade with the rest, rather nervously, since I'm never confident that preserves will set. Since it seems to have worked, I'm noting down what I did, while I can still remember. The basic recipe came from a very old pressure cooker cookbook (not only older than my new pressure cooker, but older than my old one, too) but it's vague about times, and I messed about with it.

I had a generous pound of oranges left (including the shell of an orange whose juice I had used; but I discarded the ones of which I had also used the zest). I cut these into quarters, and placed them in the pressure cooker with water to (just) cover. It seemed like too much water, especially since I usually reduce the quantity of liquid when adapting recipes for the pressure cooker - but since it was a pressure cooker recipe to begin with, I thought I'd give it a try. Another time, I'd reduce it a bit. I boiled this for ten minutes at pressure, as per instructions, which made the oranges very soft and easy to handle. When they were cool, I removed the pips and cut the oranges into small chunks. I added a chunk of root ginger, finely chopped, about an ounce of black treacle (all there was in the tin), the last lump of stem ginger and the syrup that remained in the jar, and about 12 ounces of fructose, and brought it back to the boil until the sugar was dissolved. Then I turned it off, put a lid on it, and went and did something else. I don't know if this two-stage process helped at all, but it doesn't seem to have done any harm.

This morning when we got in from the pool I turned the heat on again, and let it boil quite hard while we had breakfast. After about half an hour I tried testing it by dropping a small amount onto a plate, but it didn't seem to have gelled. On the other hand, the fruit element was thickening nicely, and by the time I had a couple of jars ready, the marmalade was ready to go into them.

[livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler tested it tonight, on a toasted muffin, and approved.
shewhomust: (Default)
The fridge has been long overdue for defrosting. It claims to be 'self-defrosting' or some such phrase, but all this means is that it has no 'defrost' setting. When you can't put it off any longer, you switch off the electricity, put the spare washing-up bowl in the fridge where it will catch the drips, and a floor-cloth in front of the fridge to catch those drips which escape the bowl, and pour a kettle full of boiling water into the washing up bowl. Eventually enough ice is dislodged that it is possible to open the door of the ice-box, and then you can put a bowl of hot water in there, too. At a certain point the ice also becomes susceptible to the application of brute force ([livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler likes this bit.

I usually allow 24 hours to complete the process.

Yes, it would probably be an easier job if I didn't leave it so long - but I wouldn't put it off for so long if it were an easier job.

Yesterday, though, the time was right, because of a string of circumstances: we'd skipped the Farmers' Market on Thursday, because [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler has had toothache (and had been to the dentist who x-rayed the offending tooth, and sent him home with a course of antibiotics and a pack of painkillers) and didn't feel up to much; we'd had lunch guests at quite short notice, which was delightful in itself and also contributed to the emptying of the fridge; and it was too grey and rainy to go out walking. So I defrosted the fridge instead.

This meant that the surviving contents of the fridge (the last of the radiccio from the salad drawer, the lemons, several jars of chutney and some more of jam, some cheese) were spread on all spare surfaces in the kitchen. And to complete the chaos, yesterday was stir-up Sunday, and I wanted to start my Christmas cake. I use an amalgamation of recipes, but they key point is that the fruit is left to soak overnight in a mixture of liquids. The cake is baked the following day (or, this year's variable, the day after - we'll see if it makes a detectable difference).

By lunchtime today the ice had all gone from the fridge. After lunch I mopped up, wiped down and switched on - and then we went out to Tesco's to restock.

Random afterthought from the supermarket: ground coffee usually displays a number on the packet, describing how strong it is, on a scale of 1 to 5 - and this seems to be standard. Everyone who uses the system at all uses the same scale. Except that Taylor's Hot Lava Java goes up to 6.
shewhomust: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] weegoddess and her husband are back in the UK for a mixture of work and pleasure, fitting an improbable number of visits into their limited time. And yesterday was our turn, for the duration of a lovely relaxed evening of catching up. There were presents, because [livejournal.com profile] weegoddess is a champion shopper, and brought me a coffee pot (because she not only reads her f-list, she remembers, too!) from a charity shop - no, from a thrift shop, because it was in the US (and she transported a glass coffee pot in her luggage from the US, because she is also a champion packer) - and Toblerone from the pound shop. And there was talk, about ourselves and others ([livejournal.com profile] weegoddess tells us news that we didn't know about people in Durham!) and eating and drinking.

And I promised to pass on the recipe for the lentil and beetroot salad: which is not so much a recipe as a 'what it says on the tin', and I've seen different versions of it. But this is what I did last night:
5 oz Puy lentils, soaked
3 medium beetroot, boiled
vinaigrette: tarragon mustard, cider vinegar, olive oil, salt to taste
block feta cheese (the recipe said 'goat's cheese', and that would work too, but I found some good feta)
parsley

Boil the lentils until just cooked, mix into the vinaigrette while still warm.
Peel and dice the beetroot, cube the cheese, chop the parsley, mix into the lentils.
I've seen a version which mixes in rocket leaves - or you could serve it over salad leaves, if you had any.

I also promised to pass on a link to the Durham Daily Photo blog, which has just completed a year of daily photos, mostly from Durham, and has fallen mysteriously silent. I hope there will be more.

And I almost forgot to say: that the goddess departs trailing gifts in her wake. Today the post brought my order of Lush Retro goodies - and while this could just be a sign of the efficiency of Lush's mail order service, I suspect [livejournal.com profile] weegoddess of acting a a Lush attractor...
shewhomust: (Default)
I may just have destroyed my food processor - it was seven eighths of the way through grating some carrots (which is as far as it ever gets, actually, but that's another story) and it stopped dead. It had already done most of the heavy lifting in baking a cake, and had, with a certain amount of complaining, reduced the remains of the onion baguettes to crumbs, so perhaps it has just overheated, and will function again after a rest: we shall see.

The food processor had to do more of its share on the cake* because the hand mixer was not up to the task of creaming butter and sugar. My mother didn't believe in creaming the butter and the sugar, and when she reached this instruction in a recipe she was using, she would melt the butter and stir in the sugar. She didn't believe in kitchen scales, either, so all her measurements were in tablespoons-full - heaped tablespoons-full, because she was always generous. She didn't sift the flour, either - "don't worry about that, darling!". Her cakes should have been as heavy as bricks, since she avoided every opportunity to add air to the mixture, and perhaps they were, but she liked to make fruit loaves, where it didn't really show. Oddly enough, she did, in her own way, stick to recipes: "Reach me that book, datling - Now find me such and such a recipe - Double the quantities..." She had a big Kenwood mixer, large enough to be sold as a professional model (and therefore exempt from purchase tax, way back when), but she still didn't believe in creaming the butter and sugar together.

Anyway, that's what I was thinking about while I was mixing up the cake, and getting treacle everywhere. Which seems more worth writing about than the fact that it was a post-birthday lunch. We were ten, the cassoulet was delicious (I have no faith in a recipe which involves beans but no tomotoes, no celery, no vegetables to lighten and flavour the mix. But it was good. It was very good, for which I take no credit, since I have no faith) and the company was delightful.



*Black cake made following Dan Leppard's recipe. I was uncertain whether the recipe was instructing me to soak the (pre-soaked) prunes and then use the soaking liquid, but for the record, yes, the mixture needed that. Also, it takes about twice as long to bake as the recipe says.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
I made an approximation of [livejournal.com profile] lamentables's beetroot, lentil and tamarind soup: approximate mainly in the spicing. I suspect that my chillies were less fearsome than hers (because I am a wimp). Also, discretion was the better part of tamarind: there was indeed some at the back of the shelf, but the wrapping (which I had had the foresight to cram bodily into the glass jar) said "Best before: December 1999" - and that joke about things being a bit last millennium has been going strong for over a decade, and... So I squeezed in half a lime (might have used more if there had been more, but there wasn't) and added about a quarter of a stock cube just to be on the safe side.

Anyway, it was delicious, and the red lentils gave a lovely smoothness to the beetroot, so I shall stock up on tamarind and try again. Note, therefore re quantities: I used a bunch of beetroot (this being how they sell them at the greengrocers - five or six small ones) and three ounces of lentils. It would take more lentils, I think.

I served it with a dollop of sour cream, and Dan Leppard's cider rye loaf. The bread recipe was rather unnerving: no sweetening for the yeast to work on, no fat, bake in a covered pot which you place in a cold oven and turn on the heat. But (apart from stretching some of the timings to suit my schedule) I did what it said, and it worked very well. It was quite dense, but I like that in a loaf; well-risen, springy and moist. The scent of the cider was very distinct, even at the point when I took it out of the oven, but it wasn't particularly noticeable in the bread itself.
shewhomust: (Default)
It starts with the chestnut and chocolate cake I made for the wine tasting lunch; the recipe is torta di castagne from Claudia Roden's Food of Italy, adapted because the recipe instructs you to start by preparing your chestnuts, and I had a couple of tins of crème de marrons, French sweetened chestnut puree, and I melted the chocolate instead of grating it, because it was easier. So the revised recipe goes: something like this: )

The resultant cake is surprisingly light and delicate - which I had not expected, hence the miscalculatio about the tin. There were no leftovers - except the other half of a tin of crème de marrons. I also had the remains of a packet of chestnut biscuits gradually going soggy in a tin. With the aid of Google, I found a recipe for chocolate chestnut cake and a recipe for chocolate tiffin cake mix. There was a substantial overlap of ingredients and method, so I combined them more or less like this: )

And something completely different: at a birthday party last night we were served Trinidadian Christmas cake, which tasted (completely wonderful and) like a bar of compressed dried fruit, only moister and more alcoholic. A search turns up a variety of recipes for Trinidad Black Christmas Cake, of which this one looks particularly promising. But they all look more like the familiar Christmas cake than I expected...
shewhomust: (bibendum)
So, as I was saying, I came home from holiday with a bucketful of quinces (decanted into a cardboard box and layered in newspaper, because they travel better that way and besides, the Bears needed their bucket back). That was eleven days ago.

On the first day of quinces, I chopped up four pounds of the smaller, knobblier quinces and stewed them, peel, cores and all, plus very little water in the pressure cooker. I wasn't bothered about cooking them under pressure, but it's about the biggest pan I have, and even so, I couldn't quite fit four pounds of quinces into it. So I peeled and cored the overflow, added a couple more and poached them with pears for dinner.

On the second day of quinces, I sieved the pulp in the pressure cooker (and added in the leftover pear and quince - there wasn't much of it - for good measure). The I added sugar until it was still quite tart, and cooked it down to a thick paste. When it was so dry that a line drawn through it with a wooden spoon stayed drawn for some time, and it had turned a deep garnet red, I poured the paste (all of it) into a dish about half an inch deep and seven inches square, and left it to set. Meanwhile, since I was frizzling up bacon and potatoes and leftover greens for dinner, I chopped a quince into that, too (that was delicious - it gave it the lift that adding an apple would have given, but sharper).

On the third day of quinces, I poached more pears and quinces in a thin syrup of vanilla sugar, and froze them for later. We ate them with guests on Friday, all except a small amount which is still in the fridge and which I think I will bake with the almondy poundcake mixture on top.

On the fourth day of quinces I chopped up all but the two nicest of the surviving quinces and stewed them whole with water, quartered apples and a cinnamon stick. I sieved the cooked fruit and boiled it with as little sugar as I could get away with until it was thick, but not as thick as the first batch. That made a jar and a half of quince and apple butter, and it is very tasty, but I admit that the apple cinnamon flavour is further to the fore than I'd intended (this is probably the fault of the cinnamon stick). It didn't turn red either.

On the fifth day of quinces, I followed (at a safe distance) Claudia Roden's recipe for tagine with quinces: chopped onion, garlic and ginger root are stewed gently in- You know, I think I used olive oil, and butter might have been better. Quinces like butter. Anyway, then I added the chicken breasts, and the remaining quinces, peeled and sliced, and some saffron, and very little water, and stewed it until it was almost done. Then I added a little sugar, because I found the dish too tart without it. It was OK, but the component parts didn't really get together. If I try that again, I might use lamb instead of chicken.

Also on the fifth day of quinces, I pricked a pound of sloes, put them into bottles (one large, one medium, on small) added sugar and filled the bottles with gin. But that's another story...
shewhomust: (bibendum)
We can haz Bears! Despite upheavals, our visitors have arrived, and I have cooked caponata for them. If you asked me, I would say I used the recipe in Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book, but I don't follow it all that faithfully - she suggests, for example, that you cook the celery and aubergine separately, thus using three saucepans instead of one - and on this occasion I wandered further than usual from the text. Since it worked, I'm writing it down while I still remember what I did.

Cut for recipe )
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Here's a fine confusion of cakes.

I have a recipe, which I was given by my thesis supervisor way back when, for Thar Cakes. He brought some spicy biscuits to one of our meetings, around this time of year, and I begged the recipe from him - and that's all I can say with any certainty.

Not that "around this time of year" is any great degree of certainty - I'm sure that the biscuits had a seasonal connection, and my memory tries to associate them with soul cakes, but while there may have been a similar tradition of going from door to door (or then again, I may have invented that bit) a quick poke around the internet confirms that soul cakes are something completely different: recipes vary (here's an example, with information about the associated traditions) but they seem to agree that soulcakes are a rich yeasted bun.

Recipes for thar cake, on the other hand, claim that it's a variant of parkin. But parkin is a thick oatmeal and treacle gingerbread as in this recipe - often baked for Bonfire Night, 5th November (so that works). (If you come from Leeds, it's called moggy, and easy on the ginger - but I digress). Ah, no, wait, it seems that the cakes may be baked on a griddle, and here's a recipe for Winksworth Thar Cakes in which the cakes are separate rounds (where's Winksworth? Google offers me Wirksworth in Derbyshire - and my recipe comes from Derbyshire).

Here we are, this is what I was looking for! Among much other fascinating information:
"The association of parkin with November derives from confusion. Parkin Sunday in West Riding areas was the Sunday in the Octave of All Saints that is any of the first seven days of November. In Lancashire Tharcake Monday was the last Monday after October 31st. Cake night in Ripon and Caking Day in Bradfield, Sheffield was November 1st. or All Hallows. On these dates boys and men conducted mumming activities from house to house collecting money for their cakes which were, as is parkin, made with oatmeal, butter and treacle. Soul mass cakes were made for the poor on November 2nd, All Souls' Day. In Lancashire thes cakes were oatcakes
but in York they were a kind of parkin."

Which brings me back to my starting point: a recipe for Thar Cakes from Tideswell in Derbyshire:
4 oz oats
4 oz flour
2 oz butter
2 oz brown sugar
tablespoon treacle
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
candied peel pinch salt

Melt sugar, butter, treacle. Add to dry ingredients. Form into walnut-sized balls. Bake 10 minutes in a moderate oven. Cool on tray.
shewhomust: (Default)
I can resist big glossy cookery books, the ones with a picture for every recipe; but I'm a sucker for little pamphlets produced as fundraisers, or to promote local produce, or to preserve traditional recipes. So much the better if they're old. So, I have a copy of Cornish Recipes - Ancient and Modern, originally issued by the Cornwall Federation of Women's Institutes in 1929, though this twenty-first edition was published in 1962. I don't know where I got it from - possibly from [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler's mother, and she seems (from the crumbly white blob encrusted on the back cover) to have baked from it at least once. The fifth - 1930 - edition was revised and enlarged, gaining a foreword by Arthur Quiller-Couch, who also contributes his recipes for pickled damson and claret (or cider) cup, which he suggests you serve alongside the ham for which a recipe is given elsewhere in the book.

In addition to the curing of ham and bacon, there are chapters on the baking of bread, cakes, pasties and pies, a chapter on cream (admittedly, a single page chapter; it includes a recipe for fried eggs with clotted cream: fry eggs until quite brown, and serve with a lump of clotted cream on each), chapters on soup, fish, remedies ("medical and otherwise") and a description of a traditional Cornish oven, supplied by a member of St Kea W.I. in response to an appeal for a descripton of the old ways of baking.

This is the essence of the book, I think: it is an attempt to record the old ways of cooking and baking, the traditional dishes of Cornwall. Many of the recipes come with a footnote: "This is an old recipe dated 1805" (one of the ten recipes given for saffron cake), "Dated 1698" (one of four for metheglin, or mead). A gingerbread recipe "was given to a Falmouth member by a woman who made and sold them at a stall in the streets of Redruth." Even without these notes, the quantities involved are characteristic of old recipes (the gingerbreads require three pounds of flour and two of dark treacle).

I wonder if some of the omissions from the book reflect this emphasis on the old-fashioned: did the contributors and editors simply not bother to record things that were still current at the time? There is no chapter dedicated to vegetables, and very few vegetables appear - and when they do, it is mainly in pies. There are herbs, plenty of potatoes, parsnips, leeks and an unexpected broccoli pasty ("Boil broccoli until nearly cooked, but still quite firm, strain it and fill pasty in usual way, adding salt.") Perhaps vegetable recipes were felt not to be interesting, because unchanged, or perhaps cleaning and boiling vegetables wasn't felt to require a recipe.

Almost anything, on the other hand, could be made into a pie or a pasty: the chapter on pasties lists, alphabetically, apple, broccoli, chicken, date, eggy pasty, herby pasty, jam, mackerel, meat and potato, parsley (actually lamb or mutton with parsley), pork, rabbit, rice, sour sauce (sorrel), star-gazing pasty (with herring), turnip and windy pasty (the last piece of pastry left over from making pasties, baked empty and served spread with jam).

There are three recipes for star-gazy pie, seven for squab pie, not all of which contain squabs (young pigeons). The version "as taught by the Phoenicians when they mined tin in Cornwall" uses mutton chops). Another recipe for squab pie, contributed by Penzance W.I., involves layers of veal, ham, mutton, beef, a cormorant and as much clotted cream as it will take. This is such a massive and baroque undertaking that I don't suppose it was cooked very often, but a recipe for rook pie has a more believale air. There's also a recipe for curlew pie, but I really don't want to think about that...
shewhomust: (bibendum)
For [livejournal.com profile] artistatlarge and [livejournal.com profile] sinfulkitten, by request.

I use two recipes taken from Claudia Roden's Book of Middle Eastern Food (one of my favourite cookbooks; I have worn out one copy, and the replacement is looking the worse for wear!). She describes them as Sephardic in origin, and intended for Passover (hence the absence of flour). Recipes behind the cut )

She also gives a recipe for Coconut Cake, which also sounds good, if you like coconut.

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