Archive for October, 2011

Apple sauce with lemon, cinnamon, and ginger

25 October 2011

Fall has come with crisp air and deepening sunshine, piles of fallen leaves to jump into and carpets of prickly chestnuts to tread onto, scarves without gloves and short skirts with leather boots, and apples, and apple sauce.

Apple sauce should be made with the newest, crispest apples of early fall as a celebratory leap away from summer; but also with the last, gnarly, bruised, and slightly soft apples of spring in patient anticipation of the summer’s first strawberries; and all winter long through grey skies and rainy days, snow storms and frigid winds.

Because making apple sauce is as easy as cutting apples into pieces and letting them cook for a little while, with a film of water at the bottom to prevent burning. But there are countless possible variations. Sugar or no sugar. Chunky or smooth. Spices? Even butter, for some. This is how I often make apple sauce, though by no means the only way.

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This makes an intensely fragrant, chunky apple sauce. For a smoother texture the cooked apples can be run through a food mill. The spices and amount of sugar can also be adapted according to taste. I prefer fresh ginger and whole cinnamon because it imparts a more subtle taste, but ground spices would be fine, too.

About 10 small apples

Rind and juice of 1 lemon

1-inch (2.5 cm) piece ginger

1 thin cinnamon stick (or a half)

2 or 3 Tbsps brown sugar

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Peel, core, and cut the apples into quarters and place in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

Peel the rind of the lemon into a long ribbon, carefully avoiding too much pith, juice the lemon, and add both the rind and the juice to the apples.

Peel the ginger, cut it into thin slices, and add to the apples. Also add the cinnamon stick and the sugar.

Toss the apples. Pour in 2 or three tablespoons of water, just enough to coat the bottom of the pot.

Cook, covered, over medium to low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, until the apples have softened.

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Pork rillettes

20 October 2011

I’ve been in the mood recently to serve a somewhat more elaborate apéritif, tapas style, when we invite friends over for dinner. It’s convivial and frees up last minute cooking time since I then usually skip the first course.

A typical apéritif includes marinated olives. Cherry tomatoes, radishes, or daikon radish depending on the season. Cashews or almonds, which I’ve just learned to dress up by roasting them with some spice. For something more substantial, I’ve often made salmon rillettes or chicken liver terrine. But as I was delving into Moro The Cookbook, I found this Spanish pork rillettes recipe.

French rillettes don’t usually include overt aromatics. They taste like pure, unadulterated pork, in fat. They are delicious. This recipe uses pimentón (Spanish paprika), fennel, and sherry alongside garlic and bay. It’s different from the rillettes I knew; it certainly is no worse.

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I reduced the amount of pimentón for a more subtle flavor and added a note about the leftover pork fat, but otherwise the recipe is that of Moro the Cookbook.

2 lbs (1 kg) boneless pork belly

1/2 lb (225 g) pork back fat

6 garlic cloves

1 heaped tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns

3 bay leaves

1 tsp sweet smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón)

2/3 cup (150 ml) fino sherry

Sea salt and black pepper

***

Preheat oven the 275°F (140°C).

First trim the rind from the pork belly, then cut the meat and fat into roughly 2 x 1 1/2 inch (5 x 3 cm).

Prepare the aromatics by roughly chopping the garlic cloves; in a mortar, lightly crush the fennel seeds and peppercorns; halve the bay leaves.

Place the pork and fat in a large mixing bowl and add the garlic, fennel seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves, paprika, sherry, and a good pinch of salt, and toss well with your hands to combine. Transfer to a 2 quart  (2 liter) earthenware terrine or heavy cast-iron pot, seal tightly with foil so no steam can escape, and place in the oven for at least 4 hours, until the meat is very soft and can be shredded easily.

Remove from the oven and strain the meat in a sieve, pressing with a spatula or spoon to release the juice.

Put the liquid aside to cool, then in the refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and solidifies.

Once the meat has cooled enough to handle, shred between your fingers. **This is best done when the meat is warm rather than cold, as it will become more difficult to shred.** Set aside any pieces of fat that have not melted away (see note).

When the fat on top of the juice had somewhat solidified, spoon it off and set aside. Add all the juice and 2 tablespoons of fat to the shredded meat. Mix well, season with salt and pepper, and put the meat back into the terrine or other earthenware or glass jar. Pack the meat gently and seal with a layer of fat about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick.

Keep in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours before serving, and up to 2 weeks if well sealed with fat.

Note: You could discard the leftover fat, but it seemed a shame to do so, so I placed it in a small skillet over very low heat, letting it melt further. I then strained the fat and kept it in the refrigerator, to be used on bread instead of butter. The pieces of fat that remained solid, brown and caramelized, we ate — just like that.

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Cookbooks | Moro The Cookbook (Roasted almonds with Spanish paprika)

14 October 2011

I think I own more than a hundred cookbooks, and yet often, when I look for inspiration, I am tempted to reach for the same one (or four): the River Café Cookbooks. I know them, I trust them. Over the years, with their reliable support, I have become confident in their flavor profiles.

I don’t know all my cookbooks so well. I often use them as a reference, comparing similar recipes for a dish — braised rabbit? — from which to distill a personal take. In many I have found a few recipes I like. Some I’ve made once, some I’ve repeated many times, some I plan to make one day. But I don’t feel I know these cookbooks intimately.

I want to get better acquainted.

So I am delving into my library. And Moro The Cookbook is where October led me. Moro is a restaurant in London opened by two former River Café chefs, Sam and Sam Clark. The cooking is familiar in its simplicity, but while the River Café is Italian in inspiration, the Clarks look to Spain, and the Southern Mediterranean, and therefore use herbs and spices very differently. I was already enamored with Moro’s lentil soup and have often served hard-boiled quail eggs dipped in cumin and salt, but that was about it.

So I have plunged. In the past few weeks I have made many dishes from this cookbook, and here are some of the things I’ve discovered.

Roasted almonds with Spanish paprika (method below) is an excellent complement to marinated olives for an apéritif.

It’s okay to cook loin of pork in milk with bay and cinnamon rather than, more traditionally, sage and lemon. It’s heady, subtle, surprising. It doesn’t taste like cinnamon. It tastes pretty great.

“Beets with yogurt” sounds deceptively innocuous for something quite as good as this. The beets are simply boiled then drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. The yogurt is mixed with garlic. That’s it — but it’s incredible.

Given a great piece of pork belly you can make rillettes yourself, and flavor them with herbs and spices that are not French but completely addictive.

And the best mashed potatoes are cooked in milk.

The book’s 200-odd recipes are punctuated by personal anecdotes as well as history, and interspersed with information about Spanish ingredients such as pimentón (Spanish paprika), piquillo peppers, mojama (cured air-dried tuna), and the many different types of sherry.

In their introduction, the authors say: “We hope, like us, you will be excited by these flavours and enticed by the romance and tradition inherent in each dish. We [...] want to impart something of the ‘language of spice,’ how a teaspoon of ginger or five allspice berries can speak of different continents. ” The book achieves exactly that.

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Roasted almonds with Spanish paprika from Moro The Cookbook

2 cups (250 g) whole blanched* almonds

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp smoked sweet Spanish paprika

1 tsp sea salt

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*To blanch the almonds, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Drop the almonds in the water and let sit for about 10 seconds, strain immediately and wash under cold water. The skins will have blistered and can easily be removed.

Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).

Place the blanched almonds on a roasting tray at the top of the oven and dry-roast for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a mortar, grind the sea salt to the consistency of powdered sugar.

Remove the almonds from the oven and sprinkle with the olive oil, paprika, and salt. Return to the oven for just a couple more minutes.

Let cool before serving.

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Related posts

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Plum cake

10 October 2011

Geese are heading South over Manhattan this morning.

So briefly, before it’s too late, before the plums are all gone, here is Nigel Slater‘s “Wonderfully moist, fresh plum cake.” It is exactly that, at the very least.

It is autumnal and luscious. With a crunch from the chopped walnuts and a hint of spice, which I couldn’t resist adding to the recipe.

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Recipe very slightly adapted from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries

I have doubled the recipe and I doubt anyone would mind. However if it is just for one or two, the recipe can easily be halved. The cooking time would then be 40 – 45 minutes at an oven temperature of 350°F (180°C).

32 plums

1 1/2 cups (300 g) butter

1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar

6 eggs

1 1/4 cups (150 g) flour

3 tsps baking powder

2 cups (200 g) ground almonds (1 1/2 cups whole almonds yields 2 cups once ground)

1 cup (100 g) walnuts

Zest from 1 lemon

2 Tbsps muscovado (dark brown) sugar

2 tsps powdered ginger

***

Preheat oven to 375°F (200°C).

Line the base of a cake tin 10 1/2 inch (27 cm) in diameter with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the tin.

Wash the plums, halve them, remove the stones, and cut each half again in two. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar thoroughly until light and fluffy.

In a small bowl, break the eggs and beat them slightly with a fork. Then add them little by little to the butter/sugar mixture.

Sift the flour together with the baking powder and fold in gently with a spatula or wooden spoon. Gently add the lemon zest and ground almonds.

Roughly chop the walnuts and add them too.

Sprinkle the muscovado sugar and ginger onto the plums and toss carefully, preferably with bare hands in order not to squash the plums.

Scrape the batter into the cake tin and place the plums on top, pushing them into the batter ever so slightly (they will sink in more as the cake cooks).

Bake the cake for about 1 hour 15 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a knife or skewer into the cake, which should come out clean. But also gently move the cake tin. If the center jiggles it needs a little more time.

Let the cake cool a little before removing from the tin.

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