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Archive for the ‘cinnamon’ Category

Okay. I’m sorry for the awful pun. Although, I know that once you taste this scrumptious little mound of deliciousness you’ll forgive me in an instant. I’ve been holding on to this little gem for a while now, not because I didn’t want to share, but because it somehow, as things occasionally do in the manic digital mayhem that can be our lives, got lost in the ether, so to speak. Having finally surfaced from wherever it is that pear puddings go to holiday, I’m finally getting around to sharing it. This pudding seemed to be thwarted at so many points in it’s short life at it’s time in the lime light. Having been originally made to appear as a piece de resistance at the end of one of more decadent dinners the ever fabulous Mr P and I hosted, it was politely refused it’s place of glory when a second dessert appeared, as if by magic, in the hands of one of our guests. Not having been the first time a guest has brought a dessert to the table (and let me tell you, what a dessert it was! A pear pudding knows when to gracefully bow out to superior forces) I was well versed at organising a suitable Sunday Tea for the consumption of said pudding. However, a pear pudding’s prime not being as long as Madonna’s, a new set of Tea Guests were sadly disappointed with a somewhat dry, if tasty, bit of pud. Not to be out done, Pear Pudding was dutifully recreated to it’s original glory and enjoyed by all. I love a happy ending, don’t you?

Having the visual idea in my head of what I wanted my pear pudding to look like, but no recipe to follow or adapt, I did the next best thing and combined a couple of different recipe’s. I used the basics from a Women’s Weekly Pear Tart Tatin (from their New French Food cookbook) to caramelise the pears and a basic pudding recipe for the rest (thanks grandma). Best served with clotted cream.

Caramelised Pear Pudding

for the caramel pears
3 large Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
90g butter
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup cream

for the pudding batter
½ cup butter, softened
⅓ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon

– slice the pears length ways into 1cm (½”) wide slices, keeping their peary shape. Keep the middle, pear shaped slices whole and chop the remaining bits into cubes. You need about 10 of the pear shaped slices for the sides of the pudding basin.

– heat the butter, sugar and cream slowly in a large, heavy based saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pear slices and chopped bits to the caramel and bring to the boil.

– simmer over a low heat, turning the pears every so often, for about 25 minutes, until the pears are tender. Remove from heat, drain pears from caramel, reserving sauce.

– preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease a 500ml pudding basin

– for the batter, beat the butter and sugar until creamy.

– beat in the eggs, one at a time.

– sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add to the egg mixture and mix until just incorporated.

– stir in small, chopped pear pieces

– line your greased pudding bowl with the pear shaped slices, alternating head to toe. Us two slices to line the bottom of the basin. (chop up any remaining pieces and add to pudding batter.)

– coat the pears in half the reserved caramel.

– fill the basin with pudding mixture and top with the rest of the caramel sauce.

– bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 35 minutes (checking often after 25 mins) until set in the middle.

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Chickpea and Luganega stew

Funny that in French the word for garlic is ail. Funny, that is, when garlic, that wonder, that golden child of the onion family, is so good at protecting you from what ails, meaning keeping those nasty little cold and flu viruses at bay. I have personally noticed the relationship between number of cold viruses inflicted to the amount of garlic consumed. The New Year put that theory to the test with a bout beans-on-toast living followed by a visit from Sniffy ‘n Snotty. I love garlic and I tend to use it in just about every dish I make for dinner, along with a liberal and counteractive sprinkling of parsley, to be sure. I do, after all, have to interact with the rest of humanity now and again. When my dear friend and partner-in-crime at the Summer Market, Ms A, gave me a treasured bottle of Iranian pickled garlic, I gushed with happiness. These sweet, heady, more-ish pods of sweet, slightly tart garlic are a delicacy produced in the north of Iran and I can see why it’s a well kept secret. I’ve had the jar in my fridge for a good few months now, nibbling on a clove de temp en temp and in my mood of using what’s in the cupboard I tried to make a dish which would perfectly compliment them.

I opened up my pantry, now stocked mostly with canned and bottled goods, pickles and conserves, dried herbs and spices and jars of various sauces and did what we all like to do now and then: I winged it. So here is something made pretty much from what I had on hand in pantry and refrigerator. The last couple of carrots and the last but one clove of fresh garlic from the Summer Market went into the pot, along with the frozen, left over Luganega from the Pizza Rustica. And I have to say, not only was this little dish heart warming and super satisfying but it made fabulous wraps the next day for lunch, which the ever inventive Mr P made up with a good smearing of balsamic onion chutney. For the dinner it was served with minted couscous and goes brilliantly with those pickled garlic and a dollop of plain yogurt.

*note: I used Luganega sausages because I had a few left in the freezer I wanted to use up. Use any spicy pork sausage, or lamb, or leave them out for a vegetarian option.

Chickpea and Luganega stew 2

Chickpea and Luganega Stew

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 pork sausages, thickly sliced
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp sweet paprika
½ ginger
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 14oz (400g) can whole, peeled Italian tomatoes
1 14oz (400g) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup water
2 carrots, finely grated/chopped
cilantro

– heat the oil in a large, heavy based pot. Saute onions and garlic over a moderate heat until softened.

– add sausage and fry until browned. Add spices, cooking for a couple of minutes until fragrant.

– add tomato paste, cook for a minute, then add the tomatoes and water, breaking them up with a wooden spoon as they cook.

– when the mixture is bubbling, add the chickpeas and carrots. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer very gently for 40 mins.

– serve with generous cilantro and minted cous cous.

pickled garlic

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Whiskey figs with oats

There’s something about a hot, steaming bowl of fresh oats porridge on a lazy Sunday morning that somehow sets the tone for the rest of the day. A good, long read of the Sunday papers, a walk in a park in the winter sunshine and a late afternoon nap, followed by a sightly too long, intricately woven Sunday Night Movie, with the wonderful Mr P’s fabulous toasted cheese and a glass of good red wine.

My mother used to make us oats porridge in the winter back home and it still remains an essential part of our routine here, steeped as it is in nostalgia and caring. Of course, we wouldn’t be indulged so much with such adult delights as whiskey and figs, but rather heap our bowls up with a slathering of butter and golden syrup. Our tastes being somewhat more subtle and grown up these days, the smokey, peaty flavours of a good whiskey or scotch paired with fruity figs takes that humble bowl of oats from chilly school morning to the glories of the Sunday breakfast table.

*As with all things cooking, the better the ingredient used the better the results. Don’t skimp on a cheap whiskey, use what ever your favourite nightcap version is; after all, you only use a tiny amount. Naturally, if you don’t do the booze feel free to leave it out.

**Try get dried green/white figs as the flavour is more subtle than the red or black mission figs. I like the softer ones from Iran or Turkey.

Figs in whiskey

Whiskey Figs with Oats Porrige

5 or 6 dried figs, quartered
about 1 cup water
1½ Tbsp good whiskey or scotch
2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed with the back of a heavy knife
1 cinnamon stick

whole oats, not the instant kind, enough for 2 people
water for cooking the oats

cinnamon sugar to serve

– combine the water, whiskey, cardamom and cinnamon in a small, heavy based saucepan and bring to a simmer.

– add the figs and simmer over a low heat for 10 – 15 minutes, checking that the pot doesn’t run dry. Top up with water as needed.

– when the figs are done, drain, reserving liquid, and keep warm.

– use the liquid from the figs along with hot water to make up the liquid needed to cook the oats as per the package instructions.

– top cooked oats with figs and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar to serve.

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Muslie

We humans, for the most part, like a bit of ritual in our lives. Well, I know I do. Setting a certain, predictable rhythm to the day creates a sense of purpose and dependability, little ceremonies that break up the chaos in between our modern lifestyles. I like to read in bed with a cup of chamomile tea before turning in for the day, and I like having the time to sit on weekdays over my morning’s emails and news with a cup of good, hot coffee and a bowl of muesli. I usually mix my own muesli from jars of grains, nuts and fruits in the cupboard, but in the spirit of the Christmas Clear Out, I took the opportunity to use up  the various stores of dried fruits and nuts left over from the Christmas pudding and fruit cake and mix up an enormous bowl of muesli to keep in jars, ready to go. Just add yoghurt and that cuppa java.

There’s no recipe for this, just use what ever you have on hand. Start with handfuls of chopped dried fruit: I used cranberries , apricots and cherries for zing; papaya and pineapple for that almost candy like sweetness; and pears, figs, apples and dates for texture as well as raisins, currants, mulberries, prunes and oh, I forget what else. Add a few cups, to taste, of various grains: I used both raw, rolled oats and oat bran and a generous helping ground flax, to which I added poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes and a variety of nuts (brazil, almond, walnut). Sprinkle with cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg and a pinch of garam masala and mix it all up. Make it as fruity or as whole-grainy as you like and you’ll never want boxed breakfast again. Promise.

Muslie fruit mix

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basler brunsli

These little hearts of joy were a new thing for my cookie collection this year. This is traditional Swiss cookie-making at it’s best, if you ask me. Chocolate, cinnamon, cloves and almonds, what’s not to like? And with no butter or other fat in it, it’s a conscience-soothing nibble at this cookie-glut time of the year. Goodness, it doesn’t even use the yolk of the egg, so you have a great excuse to make real custard for your Christmas pudding this year as well. I’m just so in love with these cookies, I made two batches instead of one and intend to extend their seasonal allocation right past Christmas Nibbles on to Spring Snack and Summer Ice-cream Garnish.

A friend gave me lovely gift of fair-trade cocoa and vanilla sugar, which I used to make the second batch. Just too yummy.

basler brunsli 2

The dough can seem a little tricky the first time you make these, not being quite so doughy as crumbly, but just keep the batches you work with small, the rest in the freezer, and keep working the crumble, nutty, chocolatey mass together one cookie at a time if need be.

*note: I used turbinado (Raw) sugar for the top sprinkling because I like the slightly golden colour and the texture, but you can get large sugar crystals in all sorts and colours so don’t feel limited.

**note: for the first batch I used Callebaut Couverture, chopped up and on the second batch I got a little lazy and used Callebaut Choc Chips. I found the chips a little harder than the couverture and ended up having to warm them, along with the cocoa and spices, over a bowl of warm water until just before the chocolate started to melt in order to grind the chocolate up.

***note: if you don’t want to use the alcohol, substitute water or apple juice. Although, the actual alcohol will evaporate during cooking, so it’s perfectly fine for children. Also try using Kahlua for some fun.

basler brunsli 3

Basler Brunsli

250g good dark chocolate, 70%, chopped
⅓ cup cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
2 egg whites
¼ cup icing sugar
3 cups ground almonds
3 Tbsp Brandy or other
Course sugar for sprinkling (about ¼ cup)

– blend the chocolate, cocoa and spices in a food processor until finely ground

– add almonds and mix well

– in a large bowl, whip the eggwhites until frothy. Add the icing sugar in two batches, whipping well between additions, until firm peaks form

– fold in the chocolate-almond mix and the brandy

– form into two logs, wrap in plastic and freeze for at least 30 mins

– preheat the oven to 325˚F

– working with one batch of dough at a time, sprinkle your pastry board with sugar and roll dough out carefully over sugar until 1cm thick. Cut shapes (traditionally 2″ hearts are used) and place on a cookie tray. Sprinkle each cookie with sugar crystals, pressing slightly on each cookie to embed the sugar a little.

– bake in the oven for 18 – 20 mins

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Spiced Maple cup cakes w cream cheese

Isn’t there something magical about a cupcake? Stupid easy to make, requiring, in general, no special ingredients that you don’t normally have in the pantry and taking just about no time at all to whip up, yet they illicit a disproportional amount of joy and happiness in the recipient. Everybody, surely, loves a cup cake. What’s not to love, I ask you with icing sugar in my eyes? It’s the one time you get to eat the whole cake from start to end and it’s socially okay to do so. No sharing, no fighting over who’s slice is bigger, no dainty little forks, no politely leaving the last slice on the platter. Just you and the cake, head to head. Winner takes all. And then, of-course, there is the cute factor. Mini-cakes!? Yes, please. Sign me up.

So when you’re invited, back to back, to mid-week social events, in between a schedule involving working for a living and a long list of errands, can you honestly tell me you can think of a better take-along than a little plate of cup-cakes? I think not. These babies took 45 mins from tying on the apron to cinnamon-sugar dusted end and I can honestly say, they went down a treat. They were perfect, in their Mapley, cinnamony, cream-cheesy goodness, for the chilly weather. In fact, they were eaten on the day of the first snowfall of the season. Oh my, what brilliant timing.

*note: I used a generic cupcake recipe I’ve always had around and substituted maple syrup for the sugar, then left out any milk at the end. You might find you need to add a bit more flour at the end to form a suitable Cake consistency.

Spiced Maple cup cakes w cream cheese 2

Maple Spiced Cup Cakes with Cream Cheese Centers

For the cakes:
1 stick (125g) butter, softened
½ cup maple syrup
2 eggs
½ tsp maple essence
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
pinch ground nutmeg
cream cheese (about ⅓ cup, maybe a little more)

For the Icing:
½ stick (60ml) butter, very soft
about 1 cup sieved icing sugar
1 tsp maple essence
pinch cinnamon
2 tbsp cream cheese

– preheat the oven to 400˚F and line 12 muffin/cup cake tins

– in a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

– in a different bowl cream the butter until very soft, then add the syrup and beat until combined. Add the eggs and essence and 2 Tbsp of the flour.

– then add the rest of the flour mix in two goes and mix well

– divide cake mix between 12 muffin tins. Place a blob of cream cheese in the middle of each (about ½ Tbsp each)

– bake for around 15 mins until cooked and golden. Cool well before icing.

– to make the icing, first beat the icing sugar into the butter, then add essence, cinnamon and cream cheese. Mix well and taste: you might want a little more cinnamon.

– ice the cakes and sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar to decorate

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Butternut Fritters with Ginger Anise Poached Quince and honey spiced Cream Cheese

I might have mentioned, in the last few posts, all the culinary disasters that have emanated from my kitchen over the last couple of weeks, while I’ve familiarised myself with new cooking appliances. Well, okay, a bad workman always blames his tools, right? So I suppose I have to take just a wee bit of the blame moi-meme, though I’ll still try to look like the poor blameless victim and blame my flops on mental distraction due to life upheaval and an over abundance of missing kitchen gadgets and unpacked boxes. Anyway, some spiteful, slightly belligerent part of me has insisted on getting it right in one respect: those darn Pumpkin Fritters I made my gracious friends pretend to like at a Sunday tea. Poor dears, they put on brave faces one and all, while covering up the cinders with extra honey spiced cream cheese. “Wow, this cream cheese is great, what ever is in it?”, was a common cry from the infantry on the couch.

One of my Mother’s great food hugs, in my opinion, is the Pumpkin Fritter. Up there with crumpets, these little scrunchions of delight would appear sometimes on a Sunday afternoon, still hot from the pan and drenched in fresh butter and apricot jam. Sometimes they wouldn’t even make it that far as my brother and I would hang around the stove grabbing one as it came off the egg flip. I can’t remember, thinking back now, whether they were an Autumn treat or just a general now-and-again treat, seeing as how Every Season is Pumpkin Season where I come from… Oh, I did try to recreate those marvelous morsels for that awful tea…

Not to be defeated, this time I put my war paint on and, wielding my largest (and favouritestest) Henkles 4-star (le sigh) bravely attacked a real, live butternut for the purposes. Forget that canned stuff, which was half the problem with the first lot and probably had my great-grandmother turning in the grave (it just seemed so much easier than the thought of peeling and cooking a pumpkin when the guests were expected any moment now.) Pumpkin Fritters seem to be one of those uniquely South African things. Just ask any obliging South African about Pumpkin Fritters and they usually get that far away look in the eyes. Here in North America (as far as I can tell) a fritter is a doughnut type thing, deep fried and considered bad for you in that McDonalds kind of a way. Not so the humble Pumpkin Fritter. It usually uses real pumpkin, eggs, flour and a bit of sugar. In the traditional waste-not-want-not kind of a way a lot of South African food evolved, pumpkin fritters were usually made from last night’s dinner left over pumpkin. Add some spices and you’re A-for-away. Also, Butternut is slightly sweeter and more, well, buttery than regular boere pampoen (farmer’s pumpkin), which really made for a softer, less floury fritter at the end of the day.

I teamed the end results with another Autumn favourite of mine: quince, poached with ginger and star anise. The ever experimental Mr P does have his faults, one of which is his dislike for all things ginger and I have to say, I had great satisfaction watching him wolf down his dessert knowing that he had no idea he was so thoroughly enjoying a gingered treat. I knew it! He just thinks he doesn’t like ginger! I guess from now on I’ll be making “cinnamon-spice-breadmen” and “molasses-spice-houses” around Christmas time… ha!

Butternut Fritters with Ginger Anise Poached Quince and honey spiced Cream Cheese 2

Butternut Fritters with Ginger-poached Quince and Honey Spice Cream Cheese

For the poached quince:
1 large quince, cored and cubed (1 inch cubes)
1 tsp fresh, grated ginger root
2 Tbsp sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 or 3 star anise (I used 3 for extra flavour)
3 cardamom pods
hot water, enough to almost but not quite cover quince (about 1½ cups)

For the fritters:
1 cup cooked, mashed butternut (I used ¼ of a large butternut)

1 egg
1 Tbsp sugarQuince and Ginger
pinch cinnamon
pinch cloves
1 ½ tsp baking powder
⅓ cup flour
1 – 2 Tbsp milk

For the honey spiced cream cheese
1 tub plain cream cheese
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp clear honey (or more to taste)
2 Tbsp milk

1. Poach the quince
– put all spices and sugar in a medium sauce pan, add 1 cup water and bring to boil. Add quince and more water if necessary. Bring to boil then lower heat and simmer for 2 – 3 hours until quince is tender. Remove from heat, cool, remove hard spices and reserve.

2. Make the Honey spiced cream cheese
-mix all ingredients together

3. Make the Fritters
– beat the butternut with the egg and sugar

– Mix all the dry ingredients and add to the pumpkin. Mix then add enough milk to make a soft dropping consistency.

– Heat a large, heavy-based non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Cook about 3 Tbs worth of batter per fritter, as you would a pancake: 1 minute or so per side.

4. Serve!
– Top 3 or so fritters with quince, cream cheese and some reserved quince juice.

Quince

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