Friday, October 31, 2014

Granda's Dumpling aka Christmas Pudding

A beautifully rich steamed cake or pudding, filled with raisins and black currants, is one of the traditional Christmas desserts in the United Kingdom. At our house, we serve it with homemade brandy butter and/or lashings of thick cream.

If you come from a family that makes proper Christmas pudding each year, you probably have a recipe that’s been handed down to you from a generation or two back. Sadly, I do not. So each year I borrow my friend, Jacky’s family recipe, known colloquially as Granda’s Dumpling because it’s her father who is responsible for its production in their family. I’d love to be able to explain to you why they call it a dumpling, rather than a pudding, but The Google struggles with that question (so many “authorities” with diverse opinions!) and I am sure to get a ream of comments correcting me if I try. Suffice to say that in Scotland, from whence our dumpling -making patriarch hails, these things have been, in days gone by, wrapped in a cloth or clootie and boiled, dumpling style, instead of being steamed. Alan chooses to steam his, so I do as well. After all, this is HIS recipe. If you are going to borrow treasured family recipes, the least you can do is respect the method.

Most Christmas puddings are made a couple of months in advance of Christmas and then are soaked with whiskey or rum or brandy at regular intervals until the big day arrives. But the beauty of this particular recipe is that it can be made ahead of time and soaked but it is just as fabulous when made the night before it’s needed. This is just the ticket if you happen to be traveling to another country to celebrate Christmas.

It was December 1998 and Jacky and I were living in the small oilfield town of Macaé, Brazil with our husbands and children. Rather than go home to Aberdeen and Houston for Christmas, we decided to invite our families to come south and celebrate with us. Her father hauled all the items he needed for his dumpling from Aberdeen and made it up a just few days before Christmas. Actually, if I remember correctly, he mixed up two and they were absolutely perfect. Sometimes I do the same and sometimes I make it early and soak it with rum. Such flexibility!

The dumpling man, singing Christmas carols, surrounded by granddaughters, one actual, two adoptees. 

Granda Panda, as all the children call him, even my two, gladly shared his recipe, which he recited from memory. I will add it here, exactly as I wrote it down. I’m pretty sure he was talking about a teacup here, rather than a measuring cup.  As long as you keep using the same cup for all the ingredients, the proportions will be right and the cup size shouldn’t much matter.

1 cupful plain flour
1 cupful breadcrumbs
1 cupful shredded suet
1 cupful sugar
1 cupful raisins
1 cupful currants
1 cupful milk
1 level teaspoon baking soda
2 level teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 egg (hen’s) Alan added that detail with a twist of his mouth that made us all laugh.

I weighed these out when I made the dumpling for this post, using a US 1-cup measuring cup (8 oz volume) as my cupful. So one cupful equals:
125g plain flour
85g breadcrumbs
150g shredded suet (I used the light Atora.)
200g sugar
160g raisins
160g currants (I used 320g mixed dried fruit which has both.)
240ml milk

Mix the dry ingredients together. Add the beaten egg and milk.

Mix to soft consistency.

Pour into greased basin.

As you can see from the weight 1.5kg - and that is without the bowl - you are going to get a substantial pudding. 

Cover with a greased paper and steam for 1 1/2-2 hours.

And that’s where Alan’s instructions end so let me extrapolate on that and show you how to cover the basin and steam the dumpling.

Wet and crumple up a large piece of baking parchment. Put a pleat in it and lay it one top of your basin or bowl.

Tie string around the outside in a loop.

Cut another length of string and tie the ends together to form a circle. Twist it through the tied loop on either side of the basin. This is going to be your handle to get the basin out of the steaming pot.

Put an upside down, heat proof saucer in the bottom of your largest stock pot. I used the lid from one of my smaller pots. Put the covered basin on top and hang your handles out the side.

This is actually a photo of it after the steaming time, as you can tell by the pudding show through the parchment.

Cover the pot and steam the pudding for the required time.

It sinks back down a bit as it cools.

That’s it, easy peasy. You can soak it with liquor if you’d like. If you’ve made it well in advance of Christmas, the alcohol will keep it moist and help preserve it until serving time. I keep mine in the refrigerator, well covered since it's warm here.

Serve with brandy butter or double cream and a tot of whiskey, if desired.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mushroom Ginger Congee #Giveaway #OATrageousOatmeals

A wonderful twist on traditional congee made with oats, mushrooms, ginger and vegetable stock, and a dash of hot spice, this dish is a bowl of pure comfort when you are feeling down or unwell or cold or hungry. So pretty much any morning around nine or any evening around six o’clock for me. 

Choose wisely but take chances
As I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’ve learned to say no to more things, for instance “volunteer” opportunities that will overextend me or make me feel resentful or used, even if they are for a very good cause. On the other hand, I try to say yes to more things that will push my level of comfort and make me try new experiences. This oatmeal cookbook is one of them.

When my friend Kathy first approached me about reviewing her new cookbook, OATrageous Oatmeals, I thought, “Oatmeal? A book full of oat recipes?” Yeah, I wasn’t sure about that. You see, I am not a breakfast person. By which I mean that I don’t believe in traditional American breakfast food. I’d rather have last night’s leftover lasagna than a piled plate of pancakes with syrup. And for me, oats are breakfast food, except when they are in our family’s favorite chocolate chip cookies.

Savory oatmeal. Who knew? 
But the book blurb promised so much more than breakfast or sweet uses of oatmeal. I was intrigued by the potential of “pepperoni” crumbles made with oats and spices to mimic the texture and flavors of chopped pepperoni and I imagined them sprinkled on a Caprese salad. But the one recipe I most wanted to make was, funnily enough, a breakfast one. On my maiden voyage to Southeast Asia, when I met my first hotel breakfast buffet in Singapore - oh, they are tables of deliciousness - I fell in love with all the Asian breakfast options, including congee. There it is made with broken rice simmered in savory broth and garnished with soy sauce, chopped chili peppers and spring onions, often crispy fried shallots and occasionally, pork floss. If I could make congee that delicious with oats, it would be a game changer for me and how I usually think of oatmeal.

Kathy’s Mushroom Ginger Congee did not disappoint. Each spoonful was as much a delight to my nose as it was to my mouth. The heady rich vegetable broth, thickened with oats, sent steaming tendrils of ginger and spice through the air in the most warming and delectable of ways. I was so wishing that I had doubled the recipe and I think my husband agreed, as he went back to the pot and poured out the mere dribbles left at the bottom in the hope of just another mouthful or two.

So, I’m here to tell you what Kathy’s been trying to say for ages on her great vegan blog, Healthy Slow Cooking: Oats can be so much more than porridge with a spoon of jam! (Which is, by the way, my younger daughter’s favorite way to eat them. We went through a lot of oats and jam in her childhood!) Kathy has simple instructions for making your own oat milk – so much better and cheaper than store-bought – along with desserts and smoothies and scones and myriad baked and breakfast ideas. But, for me, it’s the savory recipes that have won my heart. How about a cashew curry savory granola as a snack for your next cocktail party? Yes, please, and can you invite me? Her Indian-Spiced Tomato Soup will be next on our menu, if I don’t make the Chickpea Veggie Soup first. Before you know it, I'll be putting oatmeal in everything. And that's a good thing now!

Want your own copy of OATrageous Oatmeals
I’ve got great news for you. Page Street Publishing has generously offered to give one copy of OATrageous Oatmeals to one of my readers. Make sure you scroll on down to the rafflecopter and enter the giveaway. (My apologies, but US and Canadian shipping addresses only.)

Now on to the recipe
Kathy’s headnote says, “Served in a bowl, congee is a thick Asian comfort food that can soothe a sore throat or just make you feel better after a bad day. This recipe makes enough for two but feel free to double or triple if you’re feeding more or want to keep some in the fridge for the duration of your cold. The mushrooms and ginger are great for getting your immune system back on track.” I concur. Especially with the part about doubling or trebling the recipe.

My adaptations
The only change I made was to serve the soup with a garnish of spring onions and season with chopped red chilies soaked in soy sauce, instead of salt and the hot pepper flakes. Oh, and I used portabella mushrooms because I couldn’t find shiitakes.

Recipe © Kathy Hester from OATrageous Oatmeals - Delicious & Surprising Plant-Based Dishes From This Humble, Heart-Healthy Grain, printed here by permission from Page Street Publishing

(Per serving: Calories 140.4, protein 3.9 g, total fat 1.5 g, carbohydrates 29.0 g, sodium 1570 mg, fiber 2.5 g)

Ingredients for 2 servings
3 cups (710 ml) vegetable or vegan chick’n broth
1⁄2 cup (48g) rolled oats
1⁄2 cup (35 g) minced mushrooms (shiitakes are great)
1⁄4 cup (27 g) minced carrot or sweet potato
1 tablespoon (6 g) grated ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1⁄2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
salt, to taste
hot pepper flakes, to taste

Bring the broth, oats, mushrooms and minced carrot or sweet potato to a boil in a medium pot.

Lower the heat to medium-low and add in the ginger, soy sauce and vinegar.

I put all three together in a small bowl, measured and at the ready, while the congee was cooking.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the oats are cooked and the stew becomes thick.

Before serving, add salt to taste and spice with hot pepper flakes.

My concoction looked more like this.


Thick and savory and delicious!

Many thanks to Page Street Publishing for generously donating one copy of Kathy's wonderful book for our giveaway. Please be aware that they will only ship to US or Canadian addresses. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Please leave a comment and tell me what your favorite recipe with oatmeal is then click on the rafflecopter for other opportunities to enter. Not leaving a comment will disqualify your other entries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received one copy of OATrageous Oatmeals for review purposes. No other compensation was received. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Muffins #MuffinMonday

Ground hazelnuts add richness to these chocolate muffins and perfectly complement the surprise Ferrero Rocher hazelnut candy baked in the center of each.

Sometimes when I am at the grocery store, I browse the candy/sweetie aisle for muffin inspiration. There are such a lot of great combinations of flavors on every shelf, some classic like chocolate-covered cherries, others a little more “out there” like chocolate and lime or chili peppers. At first I was just planning to bake chocolate hazelnut muffins and then I thought to myself, “I wonder what would happen if I stuffed an entire Ferrero Rocher chocolate-covered hazelnut candy in the batter” and then I had to try it. There was always the possibility that the chocolate surrounding the hazelnut would get molten and cause 12 mini explosions in the oven, sending muffin batter everywhere. Some part of me was hoping for that result, but the better part of me was counting on the candy staying intact and creating a lovely surprise at the center of each muffin. I’m pleased to tell you that, as you can see from the photos, my better part won! The other part was just slightly disappointed but these great muffins are sweet consolation. Clearly I need to get out more.

1 1/2 cups or 190g flour (or an equivalent amount Dove Farm’s gluten-free flour mix)
1 cup or 110g coarse hazelnut meal or ground hazelnuts (I did mine in the food processor.)
3/4 cup or 170g golden caster sugar (Normal white sugar can be substituted.)
1/4 cup or 25g extra dark cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark.)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup or 120ml milk
1/2 cup or 125g sour cream
1/2 cup or 115g unsalted butter, melted then cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
12 Ferrero Rocher chocolate-covered hazelnut candies

Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C.   Put liners in muffin cups or grease well with butter or non-stick spray.

Whisk together your flour, ground hazelnuts, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk together milk, butter, sour cream, eggs and vanilla in another bowl until combined well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and, if using normal flour, fold until just combined. If you are using the gluten-free mix, stir well until no flour is showing.

Divide the batter among muffin cups. Decorate each with a Ferrero Rocher chocolate and push it down gently into the batter.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin alongside the chocolate candy center comes out clean.

Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan and then remove the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.


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