Saturday, 24 October 2015

Pearl Meatballs

I have decided to do a little run of recipes with interesting names. I had intended to start off by remaking ants climbing the tree, but whilst looking at recipes, I got distracted by pearl meatballs- a Cantonese dim sum of minced pork studded with chopped prawn and water chestnuts, and rolled in sticky rice. The whiteness of the rice gives it its name.

For dim sum, these are not too fiddly to make at all. The meatball mix is a little wetter than the European meatball mixes that I am more used to handling, but not unworkably so. I would suggest using a pair of forks to roll the meatballs in the rice when you are coating them- it saves your fingers from getting glued up with pork meat and rice. Another tip I found when making these is to get the rice properly dry, after soaking and draining, I put it in the oven on a very low temperature for a few minutes.

They are pretty easy to make and very delicious- between three of us we managed to finish the whole batch.

The recipe I used was from Sunflower Food Galore, a seemingly endless source of recipe inspiration for me.

After steaming

Finished meatballs

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Black Cake: The first of the Christmas recipes...

... Yes it is rather early to be writing about anything festive. But I wanted to get started on this year's Christmas cake, and it requires quite a lot of advance planning.

This year, I am not making the traditional British Christmas cake,  but instead am making black cake, which hails from the Caribbean. Instead of making the cake in advance, and then feeding it with alcohol, you soak the fruit for the cake in alcohol, for somewhere between 2 weeks and 6 months, and then mix it into the cake batter. The alcohol in question is different too, instead of brandy you use a mix of dark rum and sweet wine.

As I mentioned, this is a traditional Caribbean recipe, but I first heard of it in Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess, and she in turn got it from Laurie Colwin- a wonderful writer who I discovered a few years ago- if you like reading about food, I can really recommend her books.

It's quite hard to make Laurie Colwin's recipe, as it requires burnt sugar essence, which is not an expensive ingredient, but a very elusive one. Nigella uses treacle, but according to my internet sources, it's not really the same. I'll probably have to make do with treacle though.

In terms of soaking the fruit, I used rum, madeira, and also added a few dashes of bitters, which I saw suggested online, and liked the idea. The soaked fruit makes enough to make two cakes. I am planning on making one cake with half the ingredients, and leaving the remaining boozy fruit mix to macerate for the maximum six months, to see the difference.

Here is Nigella's recipe and here is a photo of some of the soaked fruit. There is loads of it- about 2 kilos of it- but a spoonful of brown pulp makes a slightly better photo than a tub of brown pulp.

So far, I have just got to the fruit soaking part- I will report back in few weeks when the cake is made!

23/11/15- Baking the cake
After about 6 weeks of soaking the fruit, I baked the cake. I stuck to Nigella's recipe, but added 2 spheres of grated stem ginger. The cake isn't as dark as the photos of black cake that I have seen, but I think without the elusive burnt sugar essence, it was as dark as I could have gotten in. I am leaving the cake now until Christmas, but tasting the cake mix, and the half baked bit of cake that clings to the knife when you check if it is ready makes me feel pretty confident that it is going to be a success. It has a complex, caramelly flavour, that hopefully will mature between now and Christmas. I am undecided whether or not to ice it. I don't especially like royal icing, but it does make it feel more festive- I shall see how I feel in December.

And finally! The difference between black cake (right), and the more British Christmas  cake (left)

Monday, 12 October 2015

Cornish Yarg and Cider Fondue

I got married a few weeks ago, which was wonderful. You might not be surprised to read that the food was an important factor (obviously not the most important, but up there). The caterer I opted for was Rose's Kentish Kitchen- she offers 'family style dining', i.e. each table has a shared dish and serves themselves, like you would at home. This appealed to me, as it felt much less formal than having something served individually. Also, crucially, she could source me a cheese cake- as in 5 whole different cheeses, stacked up to resemble a traditional wedding cake.

Photo by Oliver Facey
I ended up eating very little cheese on the night. But I did have about 3-4 kg of cheese to take home, including well over a kilo of Cornish Yarg. This is great, but a little tricky to get through when you only live with one other person. But it does give you a lot of scope for trying out different recipes. I came this Cornish Yarg and Cider Fondue from the dairy who makes Cornish Yarg's website.

I kept the recipe basically the same- I couldn't find specified cider, but just used another dry cider. Extras-wise, I used some sourdough rye bread that I had made the day before, instead of the suggested focaccia. As well as the prosciutto, I  sliced some cox apples- not to dip, but just to cut through the richness.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Recipe Revisit: Hazelnut Loaf Cake and Damson Curd

I recently remade the recipes from my most visited blog post, spiced damson curd- damsons have been in season, and I wanted some better pictures of it than they ones I have when I made it the first time around.
When I made it the first time, I had tried it with this hazelnut loaf cake. This also has some rather dark and blurry photos, so I wanted some new ones. It's also really good- with the curd, by itself, and also some buttery-cinnamony fried apples and cream