22 December 2010

Mulled Wine & Christmas Cake (and a gravy note)

Posting has been fairly light of late - I'm spending most of my non-teaching time knitting rather than cooking. Hence we've had quite a few unimaginative, if nice, meals, and my attempt at something innovative last night went really badly. (I made pumpkin seed pesto, which actually hurt to eat. Pumpkin seed shards are no fun.) I did make a leftovers soup this morning from a roast chicken dinner on Sunday, with lots of white wine and half a teaspoon of ssamjang, which was delicious, but there's no point rehashing old recipes.

Speaking of Sunday's meal, I forgot my resolution to never be allowed near gravy again, and actually ended up making a really nice sauce. I roasted the chicken with one onion (cut into eighths) and eight or nine garlic cloves; to make the gravy I removed six garlic cloves from the pan, squeezed the others out of their skin back into the chicken juices, and put on a low heat. I added red wine, gravy powder, salt and pepper, and stirred. There wasn't much gravy, because I have finally learnt that when you're only cooking for two you don't need enough gravy for six, but what there was was thick, and delicious, and onion-y. Mmmm.

Anyway. We also made mulled wine on Sunday, using Jamie's recipe. Leftovers went in the ice-cube tray (without any of the peel) so we can have 'instant' mulled wine whenever we feel like it. We're also planning on putting a couple of the ice-cubes into Christmas Day gravy. Ooooooh. I also spent this morning making Christmas cake - I've never liked it so didn't even consider making one, but when Tom expressed his despair at the prospect of Christmas Day without Christmas cake, I had no choice. I went shopping after work last night (which is really late!) and picked up about a kilogram of dried fruit, and this morning I got up early to start. I used this recipe.

Mulled Wine
Makes 4 servings and 12 ice-cubes

2 tangerines
250g brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5ish gratings of fresh ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla powder
1 bottle red wine

Using a peeler, cut off the outer layer of the tangerine skin (the orange bit) leaving any of the white pith behind and put the peelings into a pan. Squeeze the juice from each tangerine segment into the pan (this part is time-consuming!). Add the cloves, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla, and enough red wine to just cover everything in the pan. Simmer roughly for five to ten minutes until the wine has reduced and is very hot. Add the rest of the wine and heat through before serving.

Christmas Cake
Makes 2 cakes

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
5 eggs
2 cups flour
1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5ish gratings fresh ginger
2 tablespoons honey
200ml beer
100g almonds
About 800g of dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, blueberries)

First of all, the original recipe says to preheat the oven before starting on the dough. It took me sixty-five minutes to get to the point where I was ready to use the oven, so I'm glad I ignored this instruction!

I let the butter soften to room temperature and then squished it together with the sugar with my hands. I then whisked it roughly for about five minutes.

In a separate mug, I beat one egg and then added it to the butter mixture, stirring it through. Repeated with each of the five eggs until the mixture was fairly wet. The original recipe warns against potential curdling at this point but I had no problems. Zested the lemon and added this with flour, clove, cinnamon and ginger and stirred through - I loved how this batter completely changed texture several times throughout the process. At this point it was very dry and stiff.

I bought two 60g packs of almond slices, and blitzed them in the blender to make an almond 'flour.' I added this to the dough along with the 200ml beer (I used the Korean brand 'Black Beer Stout', which is apparently quite similar to the original cook's Old Speckled Hen) which made the dough extremely wet again. It required a lot of stirring at this point to get the beer to assimilate entirely. I folded in the dried fruits.

After some difficulty, we managed to line two glass oven bowls with parchment paper. The first cake was big and took 70 minutes at 150 degrees C (300 Fahrenheit) until a toothpick inserted into the centre came out clean; the second was smaller and only needed an hour. After cooking, we tipped each cake out, removed the baking paper, and returned to their bowls. Poked some holes in the top and poured rum in and around them. Covered in clingfilm and they are currently sitting happily in our kitchen - tomorrow they'll be re-fed with more booze.