zondag 18 december 2011

Cheats plum/ Christmas pudding...when a cake becomes a pudding.

No not a disaster in the kitchen, on the contrary....a recipe to save the day.
It is Christmas related, not even strictly a recipe, more a improvisation of ingredients put together to create an almost authentic dish, but please bear with me- if I don't post it now I know I never will. A plum pudding or as many call it Christmas pudding is a rich fruity English dessert traditionally eaten on Christmas day.
It was December 2010 I was in a dilemma, as what to choose for my Christmas dinner.
While I love a traditional British Christmas dinner, turkey with all the trimmings followed by Christmas pudding, because I live in Holland it is not always possible to come by all the ingredients or they are extremely expensive.
Of course many things you can be made completely from scratch, (my mother always makes her own), but when you are dithering about whether to return to the UK for Christmas or not, time is running away...
I had a small Christmas pudding a la mama (if you make a batch you can have them throughout the year- they only improve with age!) but not nearly enough to serve all my guests. I decided on a trio of desserts but I still wasn't happy that each person would get no more than a teaspoon or two of plum pudding. At Tuckerbox, leiden they were asking 17,50euro for Christmas puddings! No way!....I do see cheaper ones on their website this year.
I'm taking you back to Christmas morning and my brain was working over time. Hmm What if.......
Yes and in minutes, I concocted up a cheats pudding- and what is more, no one would ever have noticed the difference!
I had a fairly stale- well pretty dry fruitcake and some mincemeat (left over from my mince pies) I roughly crumbled the cake added the mincemeat and a good dose of whisky. I stamped the mixture into a glass pudding basin, covered it with greaseproof paper and steamed it for two hours in a large saucepan.
I nervously turned it upside down hoping it would flop out, waiting with baited breathe...it did. Of course, we just had to flame it prior to serving. Part one of my dessert was ready.

The proof of the pudding is in the tasting...
It was amazing...really. Moist and soft. Perhaps I had added a little too much liquor ;-)
So if you have a fruit cake that no one want to eat- mix it together with some mincemeat, a glug of spirit, and you'll have yourself a winner- all year round!
Poached pears were the second part of my trio of desserts. I favour whole pears for a special dessert simply because they look so elegant. The poached water/wine becomes a thick delicious wine sauce packed full of flavour. The pears balance out the heaviness of plum pudding.

Poached pears:

1 kilo cooking pears (try to pick ones out with the stalk intact)
250ml red wine
lemon juice
lemon peel strip x3
Star anise
1 cinnamon stick
3 tbsp. brown sugar
Scrub the lemon and cut three strips of peel.

Peel the pears and cut the bottom off so they will stand. Rub in lemon juice (to prevent browning- I just squeeze and rub the lemon halves over the pears).
Place in a pan, add the wine and top up with just enough water so they are almost covered. Add the cinnamon, star anise, lemon peel and sugar. Bring up to the boil and simmer for just over one hour. (test the pears for tenderness or continue to simmer until done).
Remove the pears and lemon strips, cinnamon and star anise and boil the remaining liquid until it is substantially reduced. It will be a thick delicious sauce.
Serve the pears warm or cold with the wine sauce.

I wasn't very organised last Christmas (haha am I ever?) and didn't know if I would be here in Holland for Christmas, the thought of making a traditional English Christmas Cake hadn't even crossed my mind. This is a rich fruit cake with lots of dried fruit, nuts and spices, made well in advance (before November) usually stored upside down and regularly moistened or 'fed' with brandy or other liquor before being covered in marzipan and icing.
So there I was a week before Christmas without Turkey, Christmas pudding or Christmas cake- what kind of cook is this you may well ask yourself! I wracked my brains once again and came upon a wonderful idea-
I would make a Panforte, a traditional Italian fruitcake. It is a beautiful spicy, nutty cake. According to wikipedia The original name of panforte was "panpepato" (peppered bread). This was to become the third element in my trio of dessert.

Only a very slight problem- I had never tasted one let alone made one! This would be rather a challenge! One I was prepared to take though.
I don't particularly make things easy for myself either- instead of using an existing recipe- I made one up!
The recipe will follow….soon. HERE!

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