Tuesday, April 24, 2007

bring us some figgy pudding

As many a cook exploring a new cuisine, there can be, of course, a wrench in the works. Many years ago, when I learned how to make handmade ravioli, I had tragically left half the pasta dough in the refrigerator, to the alarm of the dinner party I had assembled of 10 who were so hungry, and I was distressed at how little food actually came into being unaware that more pasta dough was sitting complacently in a fat little semolina lump being chilled.

A similar error came about the other day. Sticky Toffee Pudding in Warm Custard. It sounds brilliant doesn't it? On a trip to London last month, my friend and I stepped into a warm pub from out of the damp and chilly wintery mix night and shared this warm and comforting pudding.

Pudding is a word the British use interchangeably with dessert, more than what Americans regard as thick stirred custards flavored with chocolate or dappled with tapioca.

Winding my way through the local food hall stalls I ate a dried mini fig with its small seeds agreeably crunching against my palate. However, when I received my package of dried dates, I assumed dates and figs were similarly seeded.

You can imagine my alarm when I realized I had not "pitted" the dates as the recipe called for thinking it being akin to figs or blackberries where the seeds add texture, not the opportunity to perhaps chip a tooth!

Learn from my lesson and pit your dates, sticky as they may well be.

Individual Sticky Toffee Puddings in Warm Custard (the lazy way)

3/4th c pitted dates
1 1/3 c boiling water
1 c dark brown sugar
2 oz butter
3/4th c flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
dash of vanilla
2 eggs

1/2 c cream
2 oz butter
1/2 c dark brown sugar

store bought custard sauce

muffin tins
immersion blender or food processor

Preheat oven to 400 F

Immerse the pitted dates in the boiling water and let soak for five minutes. While this is happening either take out a bowl or a food processor and cream the butter and dark brown sugar together, and then add the eggs and vanilla. Throw in the flour and baking powder and baking soda and mix making sure that all is combined. Once the dates have soaked for about five minutes use a food processor or an immersion blender to make them into a nice date-paste. Add the paste to the pudding batter and pour into muffin tins.

I have extraordinarily good nonstick muffin tins, but if you do not, either use muffin cups or butter and flour your muffin tins to make turning them out easier.

This is going to sound odd, but I ended up with eleven individual sized puddings using my muffin tins. If this happens to you as well, fill the empty cup with water (this evens out the heat in the oven).

Let the puddings bake for about 15 to 20 minutes. The moment the tops are firm, remove them from the oven.

Throw the sauce ingredients together and stir until all is melted and combined.

To serve, place each sponge (little cake) in a shallow bowl with a moat of warm custard sauce and pour the carmel toffee sauce on top of each pudding (about 2 T for each pudding).

Try not to melt entirely away with enjoyment.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

some of my favorite things

I'm not quite sure where the cross over began.

The flavors of these scrumptious snacks hail from Thailand, to me, but there is some yellow curry also in the Chinese cuisine. So, I took the best of both worlds and served these with sweet Thai chile sauce. I've always ate these beef and potato curry puffs which my mother's friend used to make from complete scratch. Turns out, that my strategms of making food fast which keeps it fun, but still delicious, extends to buying store bought pastry dough. There are times when you just want to eat a curry puff prontissimo.

This recipe also relies on having leftover potato. Hopefully, either steamed/boiled potato, or even mash. Yes, indeed, you can use mashed potatoes for this recipe.

I used yellow curry paste ready bought from the Thai grocery store, but I'm sure curry powder will also do the trick. The Thai yellow curry paste is a bit spicier than the usual powder I use.

Joy's Lazily Made Curried Beef and Potato Puffs

250 g minced beef
1/2 large onion minced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 heaped T of yellow curry paste (or powder)
2-3 cooked, peeled potatoes small diced
1 package of defrosted frozen pastry dough
1 t vegetable oil/olive oil

leftover corn or peas

First, take out the dough and separate the sheets so it defrosts faster. Or, if you're super prepared, leave it in the fridge for a bit before you start.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

I cannot emphasis this part enough. Fry the curry paste/powder before you add the rest of the ingredients. Why? Apparently this makes the essential oils come out from the paste/powder and makes for a more flavourful curry.

Over medium high heat, heat the oil and then add the curry paste or powder. Fry until fragrant, and be careful not to burn anything. Mash up the paste/powder for about a minute or two. Add the minced onion until the onion is translucent (and will be, of course, rather yellow), and add the garlic for a minute or two. Add the minced beef breaking it up well. Add the cooked potato to the mix. I added a 1/4 cup of water at the end to make it a bit saucy. (If you added mashed potatoes, you'll get more of a soupy like filling, but it still is quite delicious). Taste the mix to make sure that it has the right flavor. Adjustments that can be made are adding a teaspoon of sugar, or a bit more curry paste, or a bit more water if your mix looks dry, and of course you can add those leftover cooked corn kernels or green peas.

Taking triangles of pastry dough cut to whatever size you'd like the curry puffs to be. I suggest making them smaller because they do end up being pretty filling fare. Pinch all the edges. As evidenced in the above picture, I'm no curry puff maker extraordinare, but mine ended up looking rather samosa like. Heap as much filling as you can possibly get into a triangle and seal it all the way around. Perhaps do something artistic with the edges.

Place puffs on a baking parchment sheet and bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until you see that they've turned a nice golden brown. Let cool, and serve with sweet Thai chile sauce. These taste great out of the oven, but also can be a particularly satisfying experience eaten cold for a tasty snack!

You will probably have leftover filling, but I can vouch that it makes for a very delicious lunch with some steamed white rice. Lunch, and curry puffs. Perfect.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

how to do an easter brunch

Apologies again for the delinquincy! Out in the Swedish archipelago, I learned how to make the easier Easter brunch ever, albeit Swedish style.

A Swedish Easter Brunch

hard boiled eggs (1-2 per person)
fresh dill
steamed potatoes (or boiled)
gravadlax sauce
Swedish crispbread
European butter
a hard cheese västerbottens if you can find it, otherwise something medium sharp will do

I tried to paint my easter eggs with the Dalarna horse colors. The Dalarna horse is something Swedes made up to sell to tourists, but Swedes themselves own them to furnish their countryhouses.

If you can't find the gravadlax sauce, mix a piquant grainy mustard with some sugar and water until it's a sauce like consistency. Constantly taste the sauce while adding each teaspoon of sugar to insure it won't be too sweet!