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Posts Tagged ‘nut-free’

cestfromage

Without easy access to a good fromagerie, one may still buy young cheese at a grocery store and ripen it at home in hopes of making it a bit more interesting. Large grocery stores will sometimes carry decent cheese that is young (and hence has shelf-life) but will be more flavourful closer to it’s best-before date. Along the lines of last year’s cheese post, we’ve stocked up for Christmas in mid-November at our local superstore (anyone from the UK will recognize these generic labels). By wrapping our cheese in greaseproof paper and hiding it in the lettuce crisper of the fridge for weeks, we hope to improve the hand we’ve been dealt. Most of these cheeses have some sort of official seal, such as DOP, AOC or PDO, which guarantee that they come from a particular region and are made in a particular way. It does not guarantee that they are good, or that we will like them, but in our experience a regional protection symbol greatly increases the odds.

I’m presently ripening the four whole cheeses in the front row of the photograph, and they all just happen to be French. Take note of the word ‘whole': in my experience home-aging works most effectively for small whole, soft cheeses. I’ve had no luck at all ripening cheese that has been cut (is that possible? impossible?). So, starting from left to right in the front row, epoisses is an unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Burgundy, full fat with a rind washed in a spirits, and when ready it will smell like a horse’s arse. The pont l’eveque is a beefy-tasting brine-rubbed cheese from Normandy, politely sold in demi size. The vignotte is a pasteurized triple-cream from Champagne with no name-control; in other words it’s what passes for brie in many countries. The chaource is also from Champagne, and also similar to brie with a bloomy rind, but expected to march past the vignotte by virtue of being unpasteurized. Are these specimens going to be any good?: only time will tell. Are my cheeses from great ‘farmhouse’ producers? I doubt it, but I won’t be jetting off to Paris this December, so Tesco Finest™ will have to do. (Speaking of Tesco, the Ardenne Pate shown is gluten-free (and a £1!).) All these cheese will be improved by their native beverages: white burgundy, good apple cider, and of course champagne, repsectively.

Otherwise-pictured treats are a DOP pecorino tuscano, the aforementioned pork pate, an AOC gruyere, a PDO greek feta, an AOC issau-oraty, and finally a PDO british blue stilton from the Long Clawson Dairy, which is brilliant, and inexpensive domestically. Admittedly, not all these things will see December. Besides ripening some softer cheeses, another tip is that if you live far from cheese production is to consider harder cheeses that are designed to travel better, and are often raw-milk cheeses (once a cheese is aged long enough the FDA doesn’t care about the original milk). I’m enjoying a Swiss Sbrinz this week, a nutty two year-old, something like grano padano only creamier with and a hint of butterscotch. If Heidi can safely carry it up the mountain, an exporter can safely carry it to my cheese aisle.

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I rarely adapt bread recipes to gluten-free, because the results are so often disappointing compared to the real thing, but gluten-free steamed puddings are an exception. A traditional steamed pudding is essentially a quick-bread cooked in a very gentle and moist environment, and it never relies much on gluten for its success. Steamed pudding is also made of completely crumbled bread and is highly spiced, and so cleanly deals with two shortcomings of most gluten-free loaves. In Newfoundland, our “figgy pudding” is called figgy duff, and it is an old, old recipe. It is made with the kinds of sweeteners and spices brought to Newfoundland from the Caribbean by ships that were picking up salted cod on their way back to Europe. The recipe makes economical use of bread crumbs, and employs ingredients that do not require refrigeration, including cinnamon and raisins, which retard mold growth. It is very moist, chewy, dark, sweetened but not terribly sweet, and full of the wintery spices.

The traditional figgy duff recipe measures moistened bread crumbs that have been squeezed dry and rubbed loose again. That wasn’t feasible using my everyday store-bought gluten-free loaf: the squeezed crumbs remained too compact and a lot of water-soluble components dissolved and washed away. Gentler was wetting the crumbs, letting them drain in a sieve, and adjusting the batter consistency at the end with a little gluten-free flour. The inexactness of this wetter method doesn’t seem to matter: the batter is filled with thirsty raisins and hygroscopic brown sugar, and it is all cooked in a very wet environment. Likewise, I doubt it matters much which kind of bread or flour you use (I used a rice-potato-tapioca blend with a touch of xanthum gum in it); steamed puddings are very forgiving creatures. You may notice a great deal of baking soda in this recipe, but it is needed in such a dense and unbeaten batter, and the acid in the molasses finishes it off easily.

After having used a messy pudding bag in past years, buying a proper English pudding basin this season has been quite a revelation. If you haven’t seen one, a pudding basin is a ceramic bowl with thin sides, a grooved outer base that allows water to circulate beneath, and a thick outer lip that allows a paper top to be tied to it. Mine cost £3 and it turns out perfectly shaped, evenly cooked figgy duff. The recipe below could be poured into a pudding bag, but it would be less shapely. Probably, you could use any ceramic bowl put to rest over an inverted saucer (to keep it off direct heat) and covered with foil, but I haven’t tried that myself. gfhbe3.jpgI might recall metal pudding tins with lids in my mother’s panty, but perhaps I’m confused by a memory of jelly moulds and bundt pans. Perhaps your grandmother had yet another contraption for this cause. At any rate, as steaming is the closest I’ll come to baking this season, this post is for the Gluten-free Holiday Baking Event, as instigated by Kate of Gluten-free Gobsmacked, and hosted these few weeks by Sally of Aprovechar.

The traditional accompaniment to figgy duff is a molasses syrup called a coady, but I find molasses-on-molasses a bit cloying. For some contrast, whip cream to soft peaks, then whip in a little confectioner’s sugar, and finally a splash of chilled rum. Either coffee or tea are lovely with the spice-island flavours here.

2 hours, including 90 minutes steam; serves 6

Newfoundland (Gluten-free) Figgy Pudding (Figgy Duff)

4 cups fine (gluten-free) bread crumbs (about half a loaf)
butter for greasing
1 cup raisins (do not plump)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup melted butter
3 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp baking soda
gluten-free flour blend (eg. rice-potato-tapioca blend)

1. Put the bread crumbs in a large bowl. Fill it with water to the level of the crumbs. Turn the sodden crumbs into a sieve and let drain for twenty minutes.
2. Grease your pudding basin. Choose a pot with a tight-fitting lid, fill it with enough water to come half-way up the basin (a few inches, usually), and set it to boil.
3. In another large bowl mix the raisins, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Mix in the drained bread (you should have about two cups in the sieve).
4. Stir in the butter and molasses. Wait for the water in the pot to boil. Dissolve the baking soda into 1 Tbsp of room temperature water, and mix this into the batter.
5. Mix 1/2 cup of gluten-free flour into the batter and judge its thickness. You want a consistency like that of a medium cake batter – not runny, but not stiff. If it isn’t there yet, stir in another 1/4 cup and judge again. This is probably enough.
6. Turn the pudding batter into the basin.
7. Prepare the barrier that will keep condensation out of your pudding while allowing it to rise. Take a piece of parchment paper (or double two sheets of greaseproof paper) that is a few inches larger than the basin, and make a one-inch pleat in it. Centre the pleat over the basin and mold the paper down over the sides. Tie this little paper hat onto the basin by running a piece of twine under the lip. Trim the excess.
8. Lower the basin into the pot and steam for 90 minutes, checking every 30 minutes that your pot hasn’t gone dry.
9. Remove the greaseproof paper. Cover the top with a pretty plate and invert the basin. One good quick shake downward should release your pudding.

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It seems the right time of year for this sentimental series, but here in the UK I am at a loss for the island’s most distinctive proteins. I know that I am not going to find seal meat, just forget it. Faux-moose stew made with beef is really just beef stew; ditto caribou. I have eaten farm-raised rabbit before, and it bears not a lick of resemblance to the wild version at home. In a restaurant in Italy last year, a waiter brought me rabbit and I tried to send it back because I thought he had mistakenly brought me chicken. But even though my fishmonger has no fresh cod tongue today, any immigrant grocer catering to ex-pats from the West Indies, northern Spain or coastal India will carry salted cod fillet on his shelf. The salting of North-Atlantic cod was a major occupation for generations of Newfoundlanders, up until electricity and thereby refrigeration became commonplace on land and at sea, and many traditional dishes use salted cod, often with ingredients like potatoes and pork fat.

This is the kind of simple recipe one employs to make away with leftovers. I love mashed-potato-bound cakes fried in hot oil because they achieve a browned-crispiness on their faces while retaining the creaminess of mashed potato inside. For these cod cakes I used last night’s mashed potatoes straight out of the refrigerator without even warming them up, and although I had to be gentle, the cakes held together admirably. When I mash potatoes, I use a medium- or high-starch variety, mashing them while still hot, first with butter and then with whole milk, which does make them smoother and stickier. Suprisingly, these salt-cod cakes are not particularly salty after soaking the fillets overnight. The most delicate issue when dealing with salt cod is the odour: it stinks, particularly during the initial boiling (once cooked and bound with potato the smell all but disappears). In summertime, open the window. In winter, simmer a splash of vanilla essence in a small saucepan of water. A Belarusian visitor who stopped by recently to look at my babka and reminisce about his childhood got me thinking about scruncheons, the crisped skin of a pork belly (you may know them as cracklins or scratchings) and salt-cod. I have some pink-veined pig skin here right now (having removed it from the riblets that I am presently salt-curing in the hopes of a Jiggs’ Dinner on Christmas Day), so I made my salt-cod cakes with rendered pork fat and garnished them with crispy scruncheons. (Disclaimer: scruncheons are very bad for you and you shouldn’t be eating them).

I think your choice of beverage depends upon your accompaniments here. If you go creamy, like a (gluten-free) parsely bechamel, then an un-oaked chardonnay would be nice, but with lemon squeezes a Loire muscadet would be better. Or go Basque with a manzanilla sherry and a mayonnaise-based sauce. Of course, if the salt-cod cakes are for breakfast, you’ll already be having a cup of sweet tea made milky with a tin of Carnation, won’t you?

Newfoundland Salt-cod Cakes

40 minutes after an overnight soak, including 20 minutes boiling; serves 4.

1 lb salted cod fillets
4 cups left-over mashed potato (medium- to high-starch variety, like Yukon Gold, Maris Piper, or Russet)
2 Tbsp pork fat rendered from scruncheons (or sunflower oil or corn oil)

1. Cover the salt cod in an excess of fresh water and let it soak overnight on the counter.
2. Remove the cod and immerse it in fresh water in a saucepan. Boil for twenty minutes.
3. Drain the cod, skin it, and remove any bones. Flake your fish.
4. Mix the cod with the potato. No need for salt. Shape into twelve balls and then flatten into cakes about 3/4″ thick.
5. In a heavy frying pan (cast-iron is excellent) over medium heat gently fry your handful of scrucheons until crisp, then remove them. Alternatively, heat your vegetable oil to near smoking.
6. Over medium heat fry the cakes, in batches if necessary, to crisp them on the outside and heat them through. Perhaps six minutes on the first side, then flipped gingerly for four minutes on the second, depending on your pan and heat source. Serve hot.

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Kisiel (or kissel) is a pan-Slavic dessert, served either warm or chilled, the texture of which typically falls between a soup and a pudding. A traditional kisiel is made of a sour fruit, and Belarusians have a well-developed appreciation for the sour (eg. rye bread, soured cream, saurkraut). For the holidays, here is the simplest cranberry pudding, quick and easily made the day before if you like. The balanced sweet-sourness of a kisiel is a refreshing change from all those creamy holiday desserts, as it concentrates on the tart flavour of cranberries, the quintessential holiday berry. That said, this kisiel would love some sour cream or creme fraiche stirred into it, and perhaps a pinch of powdered cinammon dusted over, too.

There is very little to say about this pudding, technically. As it cools the percieved sweetness will change, so if it seems too sweet when warm rest assured that this will dull with chilling. Conversly, if you’d like to serve your kisiel warm you might like to reduce the sugar, too. What will change much less with cooling is its thickness. A classical kisiel has a rather fluid set, more fluid than western-European puddings, and I suspect that the incredible pectin level of the cranberries does as much of the setting as the potato starch (it is also true that available pectin levels change as fruits ripen, so any particular batch may give results that are a little more or less firm). But on any occasion what you see hot in the saucepan is essentially what you’ll get: the kisiel will thicken some more as it cools, but not much. If you would like it thicker, heat it back to a simmer add another 1/2 Tbsp of starch slurry in water, and see if you like that better. This recipe is for a simple naked cranberry pudding, so use the best ones you can find. To jazz-it-up, the aforementioned creams and cinammon would be nice, and a contribution from an orange would be lovely, too.

Belarusian Cranberry Pudding (Kisiel)

20 Minutes; serves four

hot water
3/4 lb fresh cranberries
3/4 cup cup sugar
1 Tbsp potato starch (may substitute 1 1/2 Tbsp corn or tapioca starch)
1 tsp sugar

1. Put the kettle on the boil. Don an apron; cranberry stains are stubborn.
2. Pick through your cranberries for rotten ones and give the cleaned bunch a rinse. Place them in a small saucepan with 3/4 cup water, bring to the boil, and simmer for ten minutes to pop them all open.
3. Mash the cranberries with a potato masher in the saucepan. Strain through a sieve, pushing the pulp around with a spoon. When it has mostly drained, rinse the pulp with 1/2 cup of hot water. Repeat. Scrape off the underside of the sieve.
4. Return the strained juice to the saucepan and heat to dissolve 3/4 cup of sugar in it. Stir as you heat to a simmer.
5. Make a slurry of the potato starch with 1 Tbsp room-temperature water. Stir the slurry into the cranberries and keep stirring as you heat to thicken.
6. Grind the 1 teaspoon of sugar in a mortar. Pour your pudding into serving vessels (via a funnel, perhaps) and sprinkle the sugar lightly on top to foil its attempt to skin-over. Chill and serve.

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