There are a lot of wild plum and greengage trees near to my house and they all seemed to crop incredibly well this year, after starting a gallon of plum wine and making a lot of plum jam there were still thousands of fruits on the trees, the majority of which I knew would simply rot and go to waste on the floor. So I started looking into more ways to use the fruit harvest when someone mentioned that it would probably be pretty easy to make a drink like Umeshu… Well that turned out to be a great idea. The Japanese plum or ume (Prunus mume) is halfway to an apricot in flavour, so tastes slightly different to this recipe which used the fruit of a sweet, late-season red-skinned cultivar of Prunus domestica. But like with Umeshu I only used the still-firm unripe fruit. I think the similarities between the two flavours are close enough for this to be a very similar drink, and using wild plums fits much more into the whole gathering ethos than paying hefty import costs for something only slightly different to the fruit I can get for free.
This basic recipe can be used for any fruit liqueur, at the moment I am also making blackberry whisky using the same principle, and next summer I am going to be making batches using strawberries and currant fruits from the garden too. You simply need to steep fresh fruits with sugar in a hard alcohol of your choice for at least 3 months (and preferably around 6), to produce a delicious and versatile liquor.
- Recipe -
- Clean a tall jar with a tight fitting lid, the bigger the jar the more drink you can make.
- Wash the Fruit you are going to use, discarding any damaged or discoloured fruit.
- Pour the fruit into the jar until it roughly half fills the jar and then weigh the Fruit.
- Measure out half the weight of the fruit in Sugar, then pour both the Sugar and the Fruit into the jar.
- Pour your chosen alcohol in (Vodka is best for a clean fruit flavour) until the Fruit is covered completely by roughly an inch of alcohol, close the lid and shake well.
- Put this in a cool dark place for at least 3 months (and preferably around 6), shaking it every week or so.
If anyone browses the drink section on this blog maybe they will notice that I am a bit of a fan of lightly fermented alcoholic drinks. This is now number 4, after being given a recipe from a friend I had to have a go at making it.To recap we have had tepache – made from pineapple, ginger beer – everyone knows that, sima – made from lemons, a bit less usual but not too odd sounding, and now kvass – made by fermenting rye husks!
It’s light and summery tasting with a delicious sour twang, perfect for hot days (which are sadly drawing to a close for the year!). To make kvass you need to use proper loaves of rye bread (not the crispbread stuff that is easier to find in the UK), most cities in the UK now have a few Polski skleps so try one of those or health food stores to find the bread if it isn’t readily available. When complete the drink will come out in the 1-3% percent range and get stronger (as well as less sweet) the longer you leave it. The recipe was given to me by a friend and has been pretty much copied straight here, just with a little reformatting.
- Kvass -
1 loaf of rye-bread // 8 litres of water // 55 grams of yeast // 220 grams of sugar (or more, if you like it sweeter) // raisins (a handful)
- First, you need to slice the bread and put it into oven (to rusk/dry it). Be careful not to overcook it.
- Then you boil water and add the sugar into it.
- Put the rusks into a pot and add the sweetened water. Leave it until it cools down.
- Next add the yeast. Don’t cap the bottles you’re using (my mum used big 3-litre glass bottles), just cover them with a canvas or a towel and leave them on the table or window sill for one day to a day and a half.
- After that, filter it and add some more sugar and raisins. You can also add peppermint/blackcurrant leaves or ash-berries (we’ve never tried this, though).
- Leave it for one more day, filter it again (you can wash the raisins and put them back into the drink). Pour it into plastic bottles and put into fridge, it will be ready to serve once chilled. You can adjust the flavour before serving by adding more sugar if needed.
- The mash left from filtering can be used again (put rusks, yeast and sugar again). If re-used the next portion will be tastier and stronger.
Disclaimer – Today I bring you a very unusual guest post from a friend with a very unique cooking style. This recipe was written by my friend Max, the sole inventor of recipes such as “greasy sausages cooked in an inch of oil before being cut into rings and pushed into plain pasta” (the name needs a bit of work) and some of the most carbonized pizzas I have seen in my life. This man makes bad cooking into an art and somehow manages to still eat the results. Here we go:
Original recipe – http://tinyurl.com/honey-roasted-walnuts
* * *
So I arrive at the supermarket, seven minutes to go until closing time. What am I doing there? Beats me. Just a vague yet urgent feeling that I should buy… something. Something gloriously unhealthy to pig out on as I settle down that evening to watch ‘Ghost’ with Patrick Swayze on DVD and get nothing of importance done.
‘Ah. But!’ croons a voice in my mind. ‘Why buy something unhealthy when you can MAKE something unhealthy? It’ll be easy. Brilliant. And it’ll make your consumer experience all the more fulfilling.’
‘But what should I make?’ I ask the voice. Hopefully not out loud.
Five minutes left. Four. Three. Two.
By now I am gripped – haunted, one might say – by the urge to make my own snack. I am a competent person! I tell myself. I don’t need to rely on pre-packaged Dairy Milk products or Walkers crisps! I have useful, practical skills! ‘Buy something!’ says the voice. ‘Buy, buy, buy!’
The world goes blurry.
Four minutes later I find myself sitting in my car, blinking in the sunlight as though waking up from a fever dream, walnuts and honey sitting in the back seat and having spent over double the amount I meant to. The feeling that I’ve somehow been robbed hangs heavy in the air.
As I drive home, I start hoping that Ghost will be a complete trash-fest. The feeling of being robbed fades away.
* * *
ALRIGHT LET’S DO THIS. Y’ALL NEED:
- Half a John Lewis blue mug of honey
- A quarter of the same mug of weird brown sugar
- 4 birds eye chillies.* No more, no less.
- Half a teaspoon of Marks and Sparks cayenne pepper (Tom said afterwards this is actually a kind of chilli or whatever so I feel the name is a bit deceptive)
- Half a teaspoon of ground allspark allspice by Sainsbury’s**
- Half a teaspoon of special mystery spice selected at random from your spice rack/cupboard (in my case I happened to grab some paprika, so paprika it was)***
- A wing and a prayer that you don’t burn your mug of walnut halves by Sainsbury’s
*I didn’t have the cinnamon stick the original recipe asked for but I figure that birds eye chillies are basically the same thing. Disappointingly not made by Bird’s Eye.
**Not in the original recipe but spice makes everything better (probably).
***The key to good cooking is the element of surprise (probably). The original recipe was a bit lacking in this so I thoughtfully included it in my own.
- ANTI-METHOD -
1. Measure out the honey in your mug. Ditto with the sugar.
2. Yo, it’s mixing time! Chuck it all into a small black saucepan – honey, fake pepper, allspice, and chillies (NOT THE MYSTERY SPICE ‘COS THAT COMES LATERS). The original recipe said to mix it just once, but I wasn’t sure if that meant one turn around the pan or until it was all blended together. So I kept on going until it was a horrible brown mess. Make sure to do the same.
3. The original recipe said to put on a medium heat for 3 minutes. I don’t know what counts as a medium heat so I made a guess. It didn’t burn, so I guess I guessed right.
4. Add yo walnuts. Simmer for 7 minutes. Don’t do what I did and get so caught up with taking pictures of the walnuts that you forget to keep an eye on how long they’ve been simmering for.
5. HORRAY MYSTERY SPICE TIME. As the mixture simmers, close your eyes, cross your fingers, and select a bottle from the spice rack. No peeking. No second tries. Chuck half a teaspoon in regardless of how questionable it is. YUMMERS.
6. Drain using a coarse sieve and get rid of the chillies. I don’t know what the difference between a regular sieve and a coarse sieve is, so I used a wire one. Good ol’ Wirey. Never lets me down. Worked a treat.
7. Right, so I hope you’ve remembered to pre-heat the oven ‘cos the original recipe says that you’ve gotta put the walnuts on a wire rack and place the rack on a 19 x 29cm slice pan then stick it in the oven. I don’t have a wire rack and I don’t know what a slice pan is, so I improvised and used the thingni that I cook burgers on. WORKED A TREAT.
8. You’re supposed to cook them for 8 minutes at 180’, but stuff that. 210’ is what I cooks my meals at and so 210’ it what it was for the walnuts.
9. Don’t do what I did and start watching ‘H20: Just Add Water’ on Netflix and then accidentally burn your walnuts. Once they’re out of the oven, leave ‘em to cool for a little bit.
10. EAT YO WALNUTS. AWW YEEEEEAAH.
11. Turns out that dunking the dirty dishes in cold water makes the honey mixture go rock hard and difficult to clean so don’t do that. Learn from my suffering.
- VERDICT -
So like, better than I thought they would be I suppose? Honestly, they started off pretty darn good. Then they got cold and I was left with a bowl of walnuty pain. Those last four! Oh man. Oh man. No more happiness. Only chilli scented walnut tears.
I would advise against eating them at 2am lest you get a splitting headache and crawl into bed paranoid that you might slip into a sugar coma during the night. Luckily I didn’t, but it was a legit worry.
Didn’t watch Ghost in the end. Head hurt too much.
2/10 Must try harder
Sadly it seems that outside of during Mardi Gras celebrations in the South-Eastern USA the English speaking world has forgotten about King’s Cake. It is traditionally eaten during the feast of the Epiphany, a Christian celebration of the visit of the three wise men to Jesus’ crib in Nazareth. We used to have Twelth Cake on the epiphany here in the UK, a cake very similar to Christmas Cake, but that tradition fell out of favour.
It’s traditional to include a small figurine of baby Jesus in Latin American King’s Cakes, however in other European King’s Cake traditions (most countries in Europe have a traditional type) objects such as a dried pea or bean, a coin or other little trinkets. Not having any little baby Jesus figurines knocking about the house I opted for a coin which I cleaned thoroughly before inserting into the cake.
This particular recipe is a word for word translation of the Spanish language recipe found here, so all praise for the recipe itself should go to Sra. Arguiñano.
Rosca de Reyes Tradicional
500g Plain Flour // 125g White Sugar // 3 Eggs // 1 small splash of Orange Blossom Water // 1/2 a shot of Rum // a splash of Milk // 25g Fresh Yeast (1 sachet dried) // a splash of Water // a pinch of Salt // 150g warm Butter
Glacé Cherries // Candied Citrus Peel // 1 Egg, beaten // Icing Sugar
- In a bowl mix the Flour with the Sugar, the Eggs, the Orange Blossom Water, the shot of Rum, the Milk, the Fresh Yeast, the Water and the Salt. Gently kneed until you have a mix that is compact and without lumps.
- Next, add in the Butter a bit at a time and slowly kneed by hand until you can make a ball.
- Place the ball into another bowl, cover it and leave it to rest for a few hours so that it can ferment (until it has doubled or tripled in volume).
- After the fermentation time, return to kneading and shape it into the form of a wheel. Place the wheel on top of a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and cover it with strips of Candied Citrus Peel and Cherries, and then leave it t rest for 2 hours.
- Push inside the “surprise” (see advice below) and smear all of the surface of the wheel with Beaten Egg. Bake at 175C (gas mark 3 1/2, 340F) for 15-20 minutes.
- At serving time you can cover the wheel with Icing Sugar.
*Advice from the original translation: When you introduce the surprise it is important that the figurine that you choose to use can withstand the oven temperature, so it doesn’t melt (use porcelain, stone or metal).
If you have leftover Kings Cake, don’t throw it out. You can use it to make this delicious desert: Roscon de Reyes with Pineapple Gratin, in which the cake is soaked in cream and accompanied with fruit and yogurt. (I’d be happy to help anyone with a translation for that recipe if people want one)
What on earth has happened to the time! I meant to post this recipe before Día de Muertos in November 2013 and now it’s almost the end of January 2014! So it goes, anyway, this as you can probably guess is a seasonal food. Bread of the Dead is only made for Día de Muertos celebrations, 31st October-2nd November.
There are lots of good websites that explain Día de Muertos, the events that happen during it and its cultural significance, so I’m not going to explain something that someone else has already put into better words. To give a very short overview, it is not something morbid, or creepy or occult; the modern day of the dead is a celebration of the lives of loved ones you have lost and a time to remember them while also remembering your own mortality and celebrating the time you have on earth. It’s origins are a combination of a pre-Columbian Aztec festival and the Catholic All Souls’ Day. This is my translation of a Spanish language recipe sent over by a Mexican friend.
Various techniques are used to make the bones for the bread, the very simplest types are long thin cylinders, but people often shape the ends of them into balls, or sometimes add balls to the middle too. Due to the rising process the bread will undergo more elaborate shapes are generally not worth making as they will deform as they rise. If you wanted to try and make an elaborate design chill the bread in the fridge between shaping and putting it in the oven, and make sure the oven is at a high temperature when the bread goes in. This will help the bread to set in shape rather than rise excessively. My friend described my latest attempt as “pan Botero” as during cooking the bones rose a lot giving them an exaggerated appearance like the characters in Botero’s paintings.
Orange Blossom Water can be made by infusing warm water with orange blossom for 20-30 minutes, but most large supermarkets should carry it.
Recipe for Pan de Muerto Casero
Prep time. 1 hour 30 minutes + resting time
430g Plain Flour // 1 tablespoon of Salt // 5 Eggs // 250g White Sugar // 1 tablespoon of Fresh Yeast // 1/2 a tablespoon of ground Anise // 1 tablespoon of Orange Blossom Water // 250g Butter at room temp. // 75g melted Butter // Icing Sugar for dusting
- Mix the flour and salt together in a mound. Hollow out the middle and mix the eggs, sugar, yeast, anise and the orange blossom water. Kneed into a consistent dough and then mix in the melted butter to make it smooth.
- Leave it to rest overnight in the fridge, covered other with clingfilm or a teatowel.
- Split into balls of around 100g.
- Place the balls on a greased baking tray. Reserve one of them and use it to decorate the surface of the loaves with long bone shapes (see above), place a small ball on top of each loaf.
- Cover over with a tea-towel and leave until they double in size.
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F, gas mark 4) and then cook the loaves until they turn golden.
- Completely cool the loaves, then glaze them with butter and dust over with icing sugar.
This one is a bit of an oddity, which is probably what made me so keen to cook it. I was really shocked when I moved to the South East of the UK and discovered that Yuccas seem to be pretty common garden plants around here, they are hardy desert plants so can cope with temperature extremes, but I have never seen one in a garden north of London. Yuccas are native to the Americas and taxonomically they fit in the Agave sub-family (as in Blue Agave, the Tequilla plant), many parts of the Yucca are apparently edible only in certain species, but as far as I am aware the flowers of all of them are perfectly palatable.
I ate this meal once, quite a while ago, as breakfast in the semi-desert of northern Zacatecas, Mexico, some of the guys had gathered a flower spike from near where we were staying. When I once again saw the distinctive foliage and flower spikes overhanging a wall close to my current home I decided I had to cook some. The inner stamen and fleshy parts of the plant are apparently bitter, so need to be removed before cooking. I’ve included some photos of the Yuccas I saw in Mexico as I think their strange sinuous forms really should be appreciated, they added a alien feel to an already hostile landscape, becoming especially dark and foreboding as the sun sets and the wild coyotes begin to howl.
- Recipe -
1 cup of Yucca Petals (just the petals, stigma and stamen removed) // 1 medium Onion // 1 Garlic Clove // 1 large Tomato // 1 Jalapeño Pepper // a pinch of Epazote // 2 Eggs
- Boil the Yucca Petals in salted Water until slightly translucent (2-5 minutes) and then drain and reserve.
- Finely dice the Onion, Garlic and Jalapeño and then heat a knob of Butter in a small frying pan.
- Add the diced vegetables to the pan and fry for 5 minutes or so until soft, roughly chop the Tomatoes and add them to the mix, fry for a further minute.
- Break the Eggs into a cup and lightly whisk with a little Salt, add the Yucca Petals and Epazote to the pan and then the Eggs straight after.
- Cook until the Eggs are done and then serve garnished how you like. I used a Salsa Fresca, Black Pepper, Radishes and Lime Juice.
A friend sent me this recipe saying it was really worth trying and a good example of traditional Hungarian food. The end results were a really rich satisfying ‘cake’ perfectly complimented by a smooth and sweet sauce. I use inverted commas because the best way to plate this is to pull the dumplings apart rather than slicing it in a more typical cake style.
Although I am using a recipe that can be found online here, I felt this was still worth the time it takes to write up as the instructions could do with a little bit more embellishment than they were originally given, a tiny bit of enrichment making the recipe much easier to follow. It’s a good idea to make the sauce a few hours in advance so you can let it completely cool before the cake is ready, the best way to eat this is having still warm cake with refrigerated sauce poured liberally over it.
- Recipe -
The Vanilla sauce
500mls Milk // 2 Egg Yolks // 50 g Granulated Sugar // 1 teaspoon Plain Flour // 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract (roughly 1 Vanilla Pod)
- Mix the egg yolks with 100 mls of the Milk and all of the Sugar and Flour.
- In a saucepan bring the rest of the Milk and the Vanilla to a simmer (don’t bring it to a rolling boil).
- Take the pan off the heat and stir in the Egg Yolks quickly so they mix thoroughly.
- Put the pan on the lowest heat setting on the stove and thicken it, stirring regularly, until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Take the sauce off the heat, cool it and then refrigerate.
500g Plain Flour // two packets of Live Yeast // 2 Egg Yolks // 300mls Milk // 60g Butter // 150g Granulated Sugar // a pinch of Salt // 80g butter, melted // 200g ground or heavily chopped Walnuts // 50g Caster Sugar
- Heat 100mls of Milk until lukewarm (warm to your finger but comfortable to touch).
- Stir into this 1/4 of a teaspoon of Granulated Sugar, all the Yeast and 3 tablespoon Flour, let stand for 15 minutes or so.
- Whisk the rest of the Granulated Sugar with the Egg Yolks, add the rest of the Milk and a pinch of Salt.
- Sieve the Flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre of it. Add the Milk-Yeast mixture to the well and then the Egg Yolk mixture.
- Knead this into a soft Dough and then knead the Melted Butter into it. Let this raise for one hour.
- Mix the Caster Sugar and Walnuts (the Walnuts should be less broken up than a Flour but still quite fine).
- Grease a baking tin (any shape you fancy) and sprinkle it with the Sugar and Walnut mix.
- Use a tablespoon to cut small lumps of Dough and roll them in the Walnut/Sugar. Add these to the tin in layers.
- Sprinkle some of the Sugar/Walnut mix and a little melted Butter on top of each layer until all the Dough is used.
- Bake for 55 minutes at 160C (Gas mark 3/325 F).
Enjoy while warm!