Archive for December, 2010

Countdown To Christmas

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

It is that time of the year again when I start panicking that I have not got everything ready for Christmas.  What have you forgotten?  No presents bought that is for sure, but the thought and desire is there.  Soon, I feel myself say, there’s still plenty of time. 

The organic turkey has been ordered from Copas via our local village shop, The Smithy in BaldersbyChristmas cake made, but I must make the marzipan and also ice it.  Christmas pudding made for us, my parents and good friends.  Recipe for mincemeat tweaked and new batch of mincemeat made and stirred last weekend with heavenly, boozy smells.  The crib scene has been put out.  I must remember to get the Christmas tree this weekend otherwise we will end out with a scraggly twig like the last few years.  Our daughter’s nativity play watched and enjoyed, where Emily played the part of Mary, which she has been bursting to have forever.  Pantomine booked and to be watched in New Year at Newcastle Theatre Royal: Robin Hood with the fabulous father-son team of Clive Webb and Danny Adams. Lebkuchen from Schmidt & Co in Nuremburg ordered and received.  Treats from Forman & Field ordered and received.

I think I will just marzipan the cake now and try and stop worrying about it.

Wooden Crib Scene

Wooden Crib Scene

Beautiful German Biscuits From Lebkuchen Schmidt In Nuremburg

Beautiful German Biscuits From Lebkuchen Schmidt In Nuremburg

Forman & Field Box Of Christmas Food

Forman & Field Box Of Christmas Food

Food Blogs November 2010 (Part 2)

Friday, December 10th, 2010

At Mahanandi during November, Indira proposed a Telugu menu for Thanskgiving celebrations, which looks a good menu.

While at Not Without Salt, Ashley has been sweetening up her Thanskgiving with delicious Mock Almond Crunch biscuits that I might try for my daughter’s rearranged birthday party (she had chicken pox for the original date, so we had to cancel).  I love the toasted almonds to give the sweet bite that nutty crunch.  Then Ashley talks about dark days during November, happy snow days and Duckfest, a day for preparing ducks from slaughter to plate.

While at Orangette, Molly Wizenberg thinks she might have found her new favourite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and so I might need to also bake that for Emily’s birthday party.  I am always on the quest for a better chocolate chip cookie recipe, not that the one I currently use from Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall is bad, but this is one of those fab biscuits that just can be made in so many different ways.  A good chocolate chip cookie has a great balance of bitterness and sweetness and different textures coming from the biscuit and the chocolate.  Then Molly treats us to a great way to cook carrots with onions and thyme, which is a rare treat into the world of vegetable recipes.

At The Wednesday Chef, Luisa Weiss bakes a squash pie for a German-American Thanksgiving in Berlin and points us to a great video from The New York Times on making the perfect pie crust and links back to Orangette for a Chard, Onion, and Gruyère Panade from back in 2005.  Luisa, also, baked some Benne Wafers that in her words are “insanely good”.

While Ree Drummond at The Pioneer Woman Cooks puts us all to shame with the sheer volume of blogging she manages to do and cooking that she gets done.  Several recipes caught my eye, including: Green Bean Casserole which sounds a clever way to sneak in some veg past the kids (by the way it does include bacon so it is not vegetarian); Hard Sauce which is a Texan version of Brandy Butter using whiskey rather than brandy and used to scoop over puddings at Thanksgiving, especially apple pie and pumpkin pie; Bobby’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding With Vanilla Creme Anglaise per Bobby Flay; Parker House Rolls that are an essential bread for Thanksgiving.

At Wild Yeast, Susan explains to us why you cannot switch baker’s yeast for soudough starter in bread recipes and vice versa at Going Wild.  Then, there is a recipe for Cranberry Bread that was ideal for Thanskgiving 2010 (or future Thanksgivings) and a Caramel Cheesecake, which sounds great for two reasons: I like cheesecake; and I also was given cheesecake for my birthday cake also in November, so snap.  While at Bread Cetera, there is a recipe for Baguettes a la Bouabsa, which call for an immense 21 hour fermentation period; they are (Steve B says) brilliant and after that length of prep time, I should hope they are stupendous.

Elsewhere In Food Blogs (Part 1)

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

At A Slice Of Cherry Pie, Julia Parsons has been enjoying creating with candelight with a warming goulash for a warming early November night, spiced with the gentle heat of smoked paprika, plus some meringues for pudding.  Then for a warm late November pudding, Julia made a delicious Orange and Stem Crumble, which is full of warming ginger (both as a spice and sweet stem ginger).

At Cannelle et Vanille, Aran Goyoaga made a colourful Creamy Potato and Celery Soup with  Purple Potato Crisps, where the purple coloured crisps have a frightening purple colour.  However, just look at the photos of amazing baking of cookies and meringues for Thanskgiving in mid November and Aran Pear, Apple and Fennel Salad with more Thanksgiving bakery.  I like the delicate nuttiness of the Pistachio Sandies and like baklava imagine that pistachio biscuits would work really well.

At Chocolate & Zucchini, we have a healthy sounding recipe for a Multigrain Starter Bread, which really helpfully refers back to Clothilde Dusoulier’s earlier recipe for Sourdough Starter Baguettes that is one of those great recipes that are so simple that it seems obvious and natural immediately you have read it.  Also, there is a reference to Bread cetera, the bread making blog by Steve B.  In Mid November, Clothilde posted a really healthy sounding Walnut And Date Cookie Recipe that sound wholesome.  While around Thanksgiving, there is a recipe for colourful Chunky Pumpkin Soup which sounds good; I must confess to generally not liking the sweetness and texture of pumpkin, however the addition of cumin and harissa may overcome that aversion for me.

Which neatly brings us on to Cooksister where Jeanne Horak-Druiff made a spicy Thai Spiced Roast Pumpkin Soup that might also satisfy my annual need for doing something useful and tasty with pumpkins, when you do not really like the texture or flavour of them in the first place.  I think I would chose to substitute the coconut milk for milk as I find that coconut milk can also be too sweet and would need to experiment with the type of Thai curry paste used, i.e. red, green or yellow Thai curry.  Then there is Jeanne simple (I like simple) Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seed recipe that uses up the seeds that usually we just scoop out and throw onto the compost heap.

I tend to go for recipes and like bloggers that move with the seasons, obviously trying to take into account where they live, but normally quiche or salad recipes at -5C does little to appeal to me.  However, David Lebovitz’s recipe for Brown Bread Ice Cream is an exception to that rule (that is the key thing about rules, especially your own, they can be broken at will), as I have always been intrigued as how to make bread ice cream and David mentioned Grape Nuts Ice Cream, for which there is a link to the Yankee Magazine.  Now that is something that will be made next summer when the mercury rise to a sensible number.  During Autumn this year, I faffed about trying to get an apple cake that really worked, something that would bring back memories of lazy Kaffee und Kuchen in München aeons ago when I did a German language course there in the mid 1980s.  As usual, David bakes a much better cake than me and his recipe for French Apple Cake will be tried next autumn, or perhaps even earlier as I want to try and make the Bavarian classic Zwetschgen Dachi.  Then I like the idea of the herby floral flavour of Baked Rosemary Apricot Bars.

Shuna Fish at eggbeater has been going through the trials and tribulations of being a chef and writes a heart felt Eminem style poem “for cooks only; an unapology” that expresses the pain in the soul that being a cook can cause, and I love the piece “Put some gratitude in your attitude” as I hate being treated like the dirt on the bottom of a shoe as if I should be grateful for the business and doing business with XYZ with almost never a thank you but many a moan or grumble over zip.  Both blogs have put some light into what for me was a very low and hard November that tested my will to continue with Steenbergs.

Helen Best-Shaw at Fuss Free Flavours baked some gorgeous Soul Cakes for All Soul’s Day and mentions Sting playing at Durham cathedral accompanied by my favourite Northumbrian Pipes, a concert which I am sorry to have missed.  Helen reviews the famous Meat Wagon run by Yianni in London and blogs that his burgers truly are delicious.  I like the Chocolate & Ginger Cake With Brandy Cream, but would perhaps just serve with cream or ice cream being a non drinker.

While from Australia at Lemonpi, we have an intriguing Three Milk Cake and Peanut Butter Parfait With Brownie Salt, which also sounds weird and wonderful.

Recipe For Traditional Steamed Ginger Treacle Sponge Pudding

Monday, December 6th, 2010
Ginger is a wonderful spice, warming and earthy in flavour with a comforting aroma. For me, it is redolent with memories of warmth indoors with an open coal or wood fire while the outside is heavy with snow. It is also so versatile with the spice being warming and earthy and perfect for everything from curry through to ginger biscuits, while sweet crystallised ginger is lovely and sweet and ideal for ice creams through to puddings. I have bought in traditional crystrallised ginger sweets for this Christmas along with some chocolate gingers boxed up in retro wooden boxes. So with the weather brisk over the last week and heavy snows for this time of the year, my mind has wondered to traditional sponge puddings full of suet, treacle and, you got it, ginger.
I made this on Saturday evening, enjoying listening to the pop pop pop sound of the lid on pot as the pud steamed away for 2 hours while I listened to Radio 5 Live. There was a really frank and open phone in hosted by Alec McGivern on the failed English bid for the FIFA World Cup in 2018, but I must admit that I sympathise with Niall Quinn and his view that those who disclosed corruption at FIFA prior to the announcement of the winners of the FIFA World Cups should explain to those football fans in Newcastle and Sunderland why they did it and whether they really believe that they were right to push for disclosure in a way that could harm the “now failed” bid. They need, also, to explain to those in the North East who could have benefitted from any investment in local infrastructure and sport in the build up to a World Cup where that hope for jobs and change will now come from. There are times to talk and there are times to keep stum, and this surely was one of those times to wait for a better moment. I accept that there might have been no change in the result, but it still sticks in the craw.
Anyway back to the Steamed Ginger Sponge Pudding, this is a dark and rich sweet steamed pudding. It is moist and succulent with a satisfying heaviness, rather than a dry lightness that many modern puddings have. I think that hearty body comes from the suet, whereas many recipes now seem to exclude the suet and use self raising flour, breadcrumbs and butter to make more of a cake than a traditional buxom sweet.
Recipe For Steamed Ginger Treacle Sponge
3 tbsp golden syrup
1tbsp black treacle
1tbsp ground almonds
225g / 8 oz plain flour
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
75g / 3 oz suet
50g / 2 oz light muscovado sugar or soft brown sugar
2 tsp organic Fairtrade ginger powder
½ tsp organic Fairtrade cinnamon powder
¼ tsp sea salt
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
25g / 1 oz golden syrup
25g / 1 oz black treacle
75 ml / 2 ½ fl oz / ⅓ cup full fat milk
Prepare a 1 litre (2 pint) pudding basin by placing greasing lightly the whole basin with butter or sunflower oil.
Add the golden syrup and treacle to the bottom of pudding bowl. Sprinkle the ground almonds over the top of this.
Add Golden Syrup And Treacle To Pudding Basin

Add Golden Syrup And Treacle To Pudding Basin

Sieve the plain flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl. Add the muscovado sugar, ginger, cinnamon and sea salt, and mix thoroughly. Make a well and add the egg, golden syrup, treacle and milk and stir the mixture together to thick consistency.
Mix The Ingredients Together

Mix The Ingredients Together

Pour the mixture into the prepared, greased pudding basin over the ground almonds.
There should be about 4cm / 1 inch space at the top of the basin for the sponge to rise into. Now cover the sponge mixture: cut a square of baking parchment and grease one side; place this over the top of the pudding basin; cut a larger piece of aluminium foil and place this over the top; tie the covering down with a piece of string wound around the basin twice and then knotted.
Prepare The Pudding For Steaming

Prepare The Pudding For Steaming

Steam in a pan with boiling water for 2 hours, topping up the pan as necessary to keep the level roughly consistent. If cooking earlier then reheating, reheat by steaming for 1 hour or nuking in the microwave for a few minutes.
Turn out onto a warmed plate and serve with custard.
Steamed Ginger Sponge Pudding

Steamed Ginger Sponge Pudding

Serve With Custard

Serve With Custard