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Archive for December 2010

Gingerbread House

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This is the last of my Christmas-related posts til next year! I had great fun making this house– I haven’t made a gingerbread house for probably fifteen years. And of course, this one was vegan! I visited Whole Foods while I was in Vancouver and got all sorts of vegan fancy versions of candy, and carried it home to Hamilton in my carry-on baggage.

Back view:

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Written by phdelicious

December 29, 2010 at 2:31 am

Posted in Baking

Christmas Plum Pudding!

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Ah, plum pudding. My mooma has always made it for Christmas dessert, accompanied by hard sauce, custard sauce, and turning out the lights and setting the thing on fire. And we all sing the “bring us a figgy pudding” verse of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” It’s possibly the most English thing my family does on an annual basis. I was determined to replicate this tradition in my first Hamilton Christmas away from my West Coast homeland, and I was very pleased it all worked out the way I wanted it to! In both taste and flammability. Not everyone loves Christmas pudding, which is really just a moist, steamed version of the much-maligned and alternatively loved Christmas fruit cake. I love all these things, for the record. If you want to attempt this early-modern monstrosity yourself, I’ve copied below the recipe that emerged from one I found on Allrecipes. You really feel like you’re making something old-fashioned here, and I found it to be pretty fun. I’m glad it stuck around past those dreary centuries that it was a type of “meat pottage.”
For the hard sauce, I just mixed some icing sugar and Earth Balance with some brandy, rum extract, and vanilla extract– like a very thick buttercream.

Christmas Plum Pudding– makes one pudding that fills about 2/3-3/4 of a 7 cup corningware.

1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 and 1/4 c. fresh bread crumbs (I shredded a slightly stale kaiser bun)
1/4 c. Earth Balance, melted (about– I kind of eyeballed it out of the tub)
one of those little individual size containers apple sauce (I think one of these is about 1/2 c.?)
1 T. ground flax whisked with 3 T. water
1/2 small carrot, grated
1/2 apple, peeled, cored, and grated
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sliced almonds
about 2-3 T. chopped crystallized ginger
1 T. ground almonds
1/4 c. + 2 T. chopped walnuts
2 T. + 2 t. dark raisins
3 T. dried currants
3 T. golden raisins
scant 1/2 c. deluxe Christmas mixed candied peel– I used one that included cherries; I think this is what made it “deluxe.”
5-7 small dried plums (aka prunes), diced
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
3/4 t. pumpkin pie spice (you could rig something up with ginger, cloves, and cinnamon if you don’t have a dad that passes on mysterious tins of “pumpkin pie spice” when he moves to another city)
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 c. brandy
1 T. blackstrap molasses

(Now, I think recipes for this kind of pudding are pretty forgiving with regard to little substitutions and so forth.)
Several days before serving time, mix all ingredients together in a big bowl. If it’s super stiff, you can add a bit more brandy, but I didn’t have this problem.
Grease a seven-cup corningware or similar basin. Fill with the mixture, cover top with greased parchment, then cover the basin with foil. I stuck the glass cover on top of this and then molded the edges of the foil in and around the edges of the glass top to make as tight a seal as possible. (The original instructions say to tie the foil down to the sides with string.)
Now, the steaming. I used a large soup pot with a steaming basket in the bottom. Water is supposed to go halfway up your pudding container. Boil the water and then turn the heat down and simmer the whole shebang with the soup pot top on for five hours. Fill with more water when necessary– I only had to do it once or twice; having the thing covered keeps in the vast majority of the water.
Cool the pudding and keep covered in the fridge, basting or “feeding” the pudding every one or two days with a bit of brandy.
On serving day, you’ll want to heat up the pudding by the same steaming method you used to cook it, for about one to two hours. The way my Christmas day unfolded, I ended up steaming it for an hour or two during dinner prep, and then turning it off and leaving it in there while we watched a movie, and then turning the heat on again and steaming it some more, and it turned out great. To flame the pudding, I just poured a little puddle of brandy over the inverted pudding and put a lit match to it. Instructions all over the internet say to hold a ladle of brandy over a lit candle until it alights, then to pour the lit brandy over the pudding, but this seemed unnecessarily tricky to me!

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Me to Mack: “This has to have medieval origins when it looks like this, yet would have been one of the most special and expensive dishes a family would have cooked in the entire year.”

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This is the delicious hard sauce. A little goes a long way.

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The next day, cold. You are supposed to serve the cold hard sauce over the hot pudding so the sauce melts all over it, but it was just as enjoyable this way.

Written by phdelicious

December 27, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Posted in Baking

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Christmas Feast

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Here’s what my boyfriend and I ate for Christmas dinner last night! I was so pleased with how everything turned out.
The soup is the Scarlet Carrot Soup from the final printed issue of Gourmet magazine, November 2009. I thought they reproduced all the recipes from Gourmet on epicurious, but apprently they don’t. Someone’s reprinted the recipe here, though, so take a look if you like. It’s a great soup– very simple yet interestingly layered in flavour. Because it’s so simple, be sure to taste and fiddle at the end with the salt level and so forth. I tasted it and found it a little too bland, but just one more twist of salt brought out all the flavours as if by magic. The carrot ribbons were a great touch and worth the effort.
The crazy-looking entree is from The Artful Vegan, one of Millennium Restaurant’s cookbooks. I’ve had this cookbook for years, but have really only had the chops to cook from it properly for the past year or two (my first attempt to make an entree out of it, years ago, was one of the most stressful experiences ever!) Now I know better what kind of prep is required, and what I can substitute and how I can streamline the process. Necessary knowledge when you’re cooking from an ingredient list that’s not only lengthy, but includes multiple other recipes from the book that I don’t have a sous chef preparing for me at 5AM. I made this entree last year for a para-Christmas meal in Vancouver, and didn’t get any photos because I didn’t bring my camera on that trip. For that meal, I had made a parsnip puree in place of the garlic grits you see here. It had been delicious, but I think in the end the Millenium folks sure know how to pick the elements of a dish and I’m glad I followed them this time. Yet instead of the the grilled broccoli rabe, here you can see I substituted a saute of beet greens– I just prefer beet greens over broccoli rabe, and so does my boyfriend! But beet greens still fit the tuscan profile very well.
So, what you see here is a pool of wine-mushroom sauce– they call it zinfandel porcini sauce, but what you see here is cabernet-portobello sauce. Now, this is one of the most flavourful sauces around. Not only is this–

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–not even all the shallots I used, but this–

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is just the first flavour layer of the sauce: Dark Roasted Vegetable Stock from the same book. This stock alone has two layers of wine flavour–the vegetables are roasted with wine, and then simmered with more wine and herbs. The resulting stock is just one element of the final sauce. Along with the shallots I already showed you, there’s also a pound of mushrooms, a beautiful dark roux, and more wine. Nuts. Special-occasion worthy.

Okay, enough about the sauce. The purse is filled with a beautiful mix of white beans, shiitake and oyster mushrooms, fennel bulb, onions, herbs, and a bit of crispy vegan sausage (the only Tofurkey product that made its way into this holiday meal, incidentally). The purse sits on a cloud of garlic grits, which have been elevated to crazy decadence with some cashew cream. Grilled bosc pear and sauteed beet greens complete the picture. And below we have a picture of the stars of the soup, just because it looks pretty:

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Stayed tuned for a plum pudding post!

Written by phdelicious

December 26, 2010 at 6:51 pm