Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Stewed dried fruit

13 April 2013

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My intention was to make Louisa’s cake, which I’ve craved since I first saw it two years ago. And since I had no ricotta at home I thought making my own, as I’ve also been wanting to do for a long time, would be the perfect, lazy Saturday morning, we’ve-been-away-and-I-haven’t-cooked-in-a-week sort of project. So I set forth, resolutely and with a tinge of excitement, salting and boiling cream and milk, when I realized there was no cheesecloth at home, either.

Perhaps it was the slow pace induced by a gorgeously sunny, cold week by the sea, cycling, walking, eating, and generally just being, but I was completely stumped. Not for a moment; for many minutes, an hour maybe. Just standing there in the kitchen, wondering what in the world I might do with two liters of salty milk, and what dessert might be on a post-vacation weekend. The invitation was a last minute thing, too.

I thought about the stewed fruits, something I used to make often, in winter especially, but rarely do anymore, for no particular reason. We usually have dried fruit around the house, and though a bit short on prunes to my taste, there was a good enough mix for my purpose.

A few hours had gone by, the morning behind us, and the milk still on the stovetop, so I decided to make a very dense, creamy yogurt to go with the fruit, as I’d done before.

All went quite well from then on. I added bay leaf to my usual recipe, and was very pleased with the result. Of course, the yogurt was nowhere near being set in time for dinner, but I had some commercial greek yogurt handy, too.

My salty yogurt is still sitting in the fridge. I’ve been thinking of making cheese, but for that I’d need some cloth.

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This dessert is very good and extremely easy. Adapted from Jüdische Küche by Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen.

200-250 g (1 1/2 cups) dried figs

200-250 g (1 1/2 cups) dried apricots, preferably unsulphured

200-250 g (1 1/2 cups) prunes

100-150 g raisins

(Also dried apples, pears, unsweetened dried pineapples, as desired, adjusting the quantities to have enough syrup to cover all the fruit)

2 lemons

4 Tbsps honey

6 or 7 cloves

1 or 2 cinnamon sticks (depending on their size)

About 20 peppercorns

1 bay leaf
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Make a syrup with 2 l (8 cups) water, the rind and juice from the lemons, the honey, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the figs (and pears if using) and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the apricots (and apples and pineapple if using) and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Finally, add the prunes and raisins and simmer for a final 10 minutes (total stewing time 30 minutes).

Let the fruit cool in the liquid then refrigerate for a few hours at least before serving with thick yogurt or crème fraîche. (Remove peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaf before serving, or warn your guests.)

Slow-roasted pork shoulder (or butt)

2 March 2011

The long story of the slow-roasted pork shoulder starts in 1998, when I acquired my first cookbook: the River Cafe Cookbook Two (Yellow). The word at the time was that this wonderful cookbook not only had delicious recipes, but that they all worked. Indeed, this and the other River Cafe Cookbooks have been my number one go-to cookbooks over the years. I love the recipes and they always worked out very well.

For these past twelve years, the recipe for a slow-roasted shoulder of pork has smiled up at me, enticingly, from page 248, but I never tried it. One of the reasons was that I rarely ate pork, and never cooked pork, mainly because I could not find good pork. Until I discovered it at Union Square market; Flying Pigs Farm has single-handedly transformed me into a cooker of pork.

But I still didn’t make the slow-roasted pork shoulder. After so many years, the recipe seemed frozen in the forbidding aura of “I will make this one special day” dishes.

As I recently became somewhat fixated on slow-roasted lamb shoulders, and slow-cooked things in general, I gathered the necessary momentum to try the promising, melt-in-your-mouth, delicious slow pork. And it didn’t work. The recipe calls for “dry roasting” on an open rack in the oven. The flavor was amazing and the crackling skin predictably perfect, but the meat wasn’t falling off the bone. It was tasty and not forbiddingly dry, but not what I had expected. Since I had only been able to cook it the minimum suggested amount of time (8 hours), I decided that must be the problem. So I tried again. I cooked the second pork shoulder some 18 hours. Same result.

Rather than try to cook it even longer (the recipe says 8-24 hours), I decided to look elsewhere. Surely Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall must have a failproof slow-cooked pork in his River Cottage Meat Book. Alas, the recipe basically starts: “Actually, versions of this dish have already been enthusiastically championed by both the River Cafe and Nigella Lawson” and proceeds to give the same cooking method. Not helpful.

Now I really did acknowledge that the problem must be me, but I just wasn’t convinced that cooking the pork even longer would have done the trick, and how many pork shoulders need I bungle before the winter is over?

So I perused my cookbook shelves for a different recipe, one that cooked pork in a closed dish. And, not surprisingly, found it with David Chang. His cookbook Momofuku‘s pork shoulder for ramen has a simple salt/sugar rub, but I was looking for cooking time and temperature.

The answer is 6 hours at 250°F (120°C). It was perfect.

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The quantities below are for a piece of meat of approximately 6 lbs (3 kg). The seasoning should be adjusted according to size, but the cooking time remains the same.

Note from March 2012: I have revised the cooking method. I believe starting the pork on low is a better guarantee to completely and deliciously tender meat, and finishing on high assures a crisp outside.

1 bone-in pork shoulder or butt

8 garlic cloves

2 Tbsps Maldon sea salt

6 Tbsps fennel seeds

Freshly ground black pepper

3 small dried red chilies

2-3 Tbsps olive oil

Juice from 3 lemons

***

Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C).

In a mortar, crush the garlic together with the salt, add the fennel seeds, a generous amount of back pepper, the crumbled chilies, and mix with the olive oil to create a thick paste.

Remove the skin and trim some of the fat. Cut deep, long gashes into the pork on all sides. Fill the gashes with the herb/spice mixture and rub all over the pork and place in an ovenproof dish with a lid (such as a Le Creuset dutch oven), then pour the lemon juice over the pork.

Cover with a tight fitting lid (or seal with aluminum foil) and cook in the low oven for 5 to 6 hours, basting occasionally.

(Optional: Finish by increasing the oven to 450°F (230°C), take off the lid, and brown on high heat for 20 to 25 minutes.)

Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for about 30 minutes before serving.

Note: Like most slow-cooked dishes, this pork will taste even better reheated. So if planning ahead, cook the pork on low the day before for about 4 1/2 hours to 5 hours. Let it cool slowly and once cold place it in the refrigerator. On the day you plan to serve the dish, reheat the meat at 250-300°F (120-150°C) for about 45 minutes, then turn up the heat to crisp up the outside as shown above — 450°F (230°C) for 20 to 25 minutes, as needed.

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Related post:

Lentils

Slow-roasted lamb shoulder

Spiced tomato soup

16 February 2011

Traditionally for Valentine’s we invite friends over for dinner. This year I decided to make a monochrome meal. It’s frivolous – precisely. And since I was in a kitsch mood, the meal might as well be red. So on Monday I made a red meal for Valentine’s day: tomato soup, steak tartare, roasted red potatoes with pimentón, radicchio salad, mimolette and Red Leicester Sparkenhoe (orange being the closest thing we found to red cheese), and blood orange sorbet with blood orange slices.

(I first made a chromatic meal 10 years ago, a memorably fun black and white dinner that started with Sophie Calle and ended in the early morning hours with a drive out to see the sunrise on Fire Island. But that’s another story.)

Back to the soup. It was my first tomato soup. And I thought it turned out quite well. I hadn’t made tomato soup before because I don’t buy tomatoes in winter. I checked my most trusted cookbooks but all required the use of the “best, ripest” tomatoes. So I had to improvise, and find a way to make the most of the canned variety – i.e. use lots of other good flavors.

I was quite happy with the result. Thomas – less so. “The flavor of the broth is too strong.” Hmmm, this might be the opportune moment to mention that, in addition to being, in my opinion, quite good, this soup requires no broth. Granted it may have been the celery, or the cumin; Thomas wanted a tomato soup that tastes like tomatoes. For that he will have to wait until next summer.

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Serves 6

2 x 28 oz. (1 lb) cans good whole peeled tomatoes

2 large onions

Olive oil

3 stalks celery

3 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

2 bay leaves

Maldon sea salt

Cayenne pepper to taste

Crème fraîche or sour cream (optional)

***

Drain the tomatoes (reserve the juice), cut them lengthwise into strips, and set aside.

Peel, cut in half, and thinly slice the onions. Heat enough olive oil to cover the base of a large heavy saucepan. Brown onions in the oil, stirring regularly.

Thinly slice the celery stalks. Add to the onions when they start to turn golden. Continue browning, stirring regularly.

Thinly slice the garlic. When the onions and celery are deep golden (after about 10-15 minutes), add the garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric, bay leaves, and stir well. Add the tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes over high heat. Add the tomato juice, reduce the heat, and cook at a low simmer for about 35-40 minutes. Remove bay leaves, season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper, and blend until very smooth.

Serve with a spoonful of crème fraîche or sour cream.


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