Posts

pineapple cream

Pineapple Creams

pineapple cream I am obsessed with Northern Irish traybakes and home baking. I’m obviously having some kind of childhood regression, homesickness or strong desire to bring such delicacies to a wider primarily English audience.  Basically it makes sad that there are people have never eaten a fifteen or a top hat until now.

However having introduced several friends and readers to these entry level traybakes and got them hooked on the sugary delights of Norn Irish cuisine, I’ve been leafing through some prized local cookbooks to look for more niche items to feed to them.

Often these books are collected by a local church, parish or community organisation like the WI and while it’s tempting to giggle at the old fashioned recipes involving tinned fruit juice or glace cherries, these pamphlets and books have grown ever more fascinating to me as I’ve been working on Recipes from Brixton Village. Both capture a certain place and community in its time and introduce you to people’s lives through food, conversation and friendliness.

Books like this are a snaphot in time, a glance at history, fashions and people’s celebrations. They tell you as much as family albums and concentrate on home cooking rather than restaurant trends. They welcome you into their community and wider family and they appeal me to much more than the TV tie in cookbooks of recent years, leaving you feeling like you know something about the person who made the food as well as the dish itself.

I think people will enjoy dipping into Recipes from Brixton Village and feeling like they are getting to know the traders through the recipes and Kaylene Alder’s illustrations as much as I enjoy flipping through The Belfast Cook Book by Margaret Bates and seeing the environment my extended family were raised and lived in. I’ve learned things about my Protestant background in Belfast and mid Ulster from the church and WI books I’ve collected recently that I never noticed as a child (mainly that the traybake is a distinctly Prod way of eating…) Food is a very effective way to communicate no matter where you come from.

A recipe that just leapt out at me on this traybake inspired cookbook meandering was the now somewhat unfashionable pineapple cream. A small pastry tart case filled with crushed pineapple and whipped cream before being topped with pineapple water icing, these were a real favourite of me and my granny when I was wee. Trips into Lurgan town centre on market day weren’t complete without two of these in their little foil cases from one of the fantastic (and sorely missed) home bakeries every Northern Irish town centre had in those days.

Shelves at places like O’Hara’s, McErleans, Jeffers or Kennedy’s groaned with baps, farls, pan loaves,  gravy rings and sweet buns, biscuits and tarts. You couldn’t miss the pineapple creams with their vivid yellow toppings and we brought two home in a white paper bag to be eaten with a cuppa at the kitchen table. Strangely I don’t remember eating them with anyone’s else except her and I’ve certainly never heard of anyone making them at home, so it seemed time to try both.

Pineapple Creams (makes one 9″ tart or 12 small tarts)

  • 400g shortcrust pastry (not sweetened)
  • 2 x 425g cans pineapple chunks or crushed pineapple, juiced reserved
  • 400ml double cream
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 100ml boiling pineapple juice
  • pinch of yellow food powder or liquid colouring

I have to admit that I used shopbought pastry for this pineapple cream tart because my homemade stuff shrinks like wool on a boil wash and while I’m trying to work out what I’m doing wrong, I rolled out some commercial shortcrust instead. If you are more pastry proficient than me, this Dan Lepard recipe for pastry is a good basis.

Line a 9″ tart tin or a 12 whole small tart or bun tray and chill the pastry for about 30 minutes before blind baking for 25 minutes on 200°C. Remove the lining and baking beans after this and bake naked for another 5-7 minutes to give a golden finish. Allow the pastry to cool completely.

Drain the pineapple chunks and reserve the juice. These pineapple creams always used crushed pineapple with its soft almost sticky texture but this is much harder to get these days than it used to be. Del Monte sell it or you can simply crush your chunks with a potato masher. Drain off any excess juice after this and layer the pineapple into the tart tin.

Whip the cream and spread it over the pineapple evenly. Smooth the top down as much as possible with a spatula or a palette knife.

Pour the reserved pineapple juice into a saucepan and bring to the boil, adding the food colouring now if using the liquid version. Tip the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the pinch of yellow food powder if using. Pour the hot pineapple juice into a measuring jug and add about 25mls at a time, whisking well. 100ml will give you a loose but not pourable texture, but you might want a drop or two more if it is too stiff to spread. It should be a soft yellow colour rather than looking like the background of a smiley face.

Use a spoon to pour the icing over the cream. It should be thick enough to obscure the cream completely. Allow the icing to set for at least 1 hour before serving. The pineapple will begin to leech its juice after a few hours and the pastry will become sticky and a little difficult to cut in a large tart. No one will notice when they are eating it but don’t make it too far in advance. Serve with tea and a certain amount of nostalgia.

pineapple_cream_in_bakery-01

PS: Recipes from Brixton Village is available from May 22nd. Free P&P at the Kitchen Press website on orders!

In praise of fat…

Our ancestors were afraid of many things they didn’t understand, conducting many a witch hunt and seeking out scapegoats. We like to think we’re different with our knowledge and scientific skills, but we do the same today. But instead of women with cats, we’ve gone after fat with a flaming pitchfork for the last forty years, pushing it off our plates and yet seeing it on our bodies more and more.

We’ve all heard the theories from Ancel Keys to the French Paradox to Paleo eating or Atkins around whether we should eating fat or not and its enough to make your head spin. We’ve certainly been sold the idea that low fat is better and products modified to fit that category are now abundant on our shelves to the point where it’s almost impossible to buy yoghurt that doesn’t say 0% on the label.

Some of that demonisation of fat has rubbed off on me, compounded by developing gallstones at the age of 18. Fatty food became my nemesis and a slice of cheese or side portion of chips could leave me in so much pain I ended up in A&E. Things didn’t improve much after I had my gallbladder removed and I was put on a low fat diet by my doctors to try to ease the discomfort. Fat was forbidden and I was encouraged to learn the fat content of all the things I ate. I dreamed of butter and triple cooked chips and I’d have sold my soul for whipped cream.

My gallbladder issues resolved slowly and I was allowed to re-introduce fat back into my diet gradually, but I remained suspicious of it as if it might strike back at any time. Learning to cook allowed me to experiment and see that fat wouldn’t attack me over the plate and I began to shake over that guilt from the food industry a bit. But the turning point came when my food budget shrank and I had to re-embrace the thrift that my grandmothers might have employed in their kitchens.

The cuts of meat I was eating were fattier and as well as being flavoursome, they left a legacy of bones and grease that could be used to add interest to soups and stews without adding actual meat. I discovered that preciously hoarded bacon fat could lift simple lentils into a feast or that lard rendered pastry perfect with little effort and that beef dripping makes Yorkshire Puddings the star of the show.

Soon my fridge became a shrine to solid animal fats. Along with blocks of butter, salted, unsalted and homemade to infuse with anchovies and herbs, there was creamy white lard, a jar of duck fat pinched from a friend, a kilner of goose fat treasured from the Christmas roast, schmaltz rendered down from each chicken I’ve cooked, bacon fat from the homemade rashers from Porcus and my own cure, beef and pork dripping bought from Morrisons, pork fat from those belly slices over the months and the cupboard always contains proper suet for dumplings. (I’m also envious of Mister North having used caul fat earlier this year.) Because these fats have to be melted down to use them and are packed with the taste of the place they came from, I find I use less than I did of vegetable oils and yet enjoy them more.

I also find they sate me and my hunger is less rampant. I’ve started buying full fat versions of dressings, mayonnaise and yoghurts where I can (don’t even start me on the slimification of the humble yoghurt) and without commiting to anything as rigid or faddy as Atkins, my appetite has stablised and by desire of to snack has eased. My body has changed shape for the better and I feel contented with my food. I’ve also saved money and waste, making my small shopping budget stretch much further and having to empty the bin less.

Fat has become my friend and few things thrill me more than seeing all those jars and blocks in my fridge and deciding what to use today (although the day I finally get to render my own lard according to Shu Han’s amazing instructions will knock it into a cocked hat). I feel that everytime I use a proper solid fat, a margarine fairy loses its wings…

Candied Bacon Toffee: a new Christmas tradition

Christmas is within touching distance. You’ve battled the high street. You’ve wrapped everything. You’ve ordered the bird. You’ve breathed out a massive sigh of relief. And then remembered that you’ve forgotten to get Great Uncle Aloysius anything and there’s not even a 24 hour shop handy for an emergency can of anti-freeze and a family pack of Kit Kats. What do you do?

I suggest raiding the fridge for some simple essentials and making a batch of toffee that will both taste delicious and be a festive talking point. Whipped up using butter, sugar and cream and then spiked with crackling shattering shards of crisp candied bacon, this is simple enough to do in under a hour and it doesn’t break the bank…*

In fact this lovely ‘Highland’ style toffee is so easy to do, I made mine by accident. In trying to whip up some toffee sauce to go with the pumpkin ice cream recently and being easily distracted, I overcooked it and it went from runny sauce to firm chewy slabs of toffee and my mum had the inspired idea to add in the remaining candied bacon to perk it up.

I used this Rachel Allen recipe from Bake and didn’t even measure things as accurately as I might, going for dashes and glugs rather than getting out the measuring jug. So basically put all your ingredients in a slightly bigger than needed pan as the sugar will boil and bubble and might spit and cook for about ten minutes at a rolling boil or until it is very thick and gloopy and reduced by about a quarter, take off the heat, stir in the shards of bacon, then pour into a lined tin or tray and allow to set at room temperature. Come back to it when you’ve done the washing up and it’s had a few moments to settle and mark out squares in it with the back of a bread knife and then leave to harden overnight.

Next day, break the squares up into individual pieces and dust lightly with icing sugar to stop the pieces sticking together and then store in an airtight container or cellophane bag in the fridge and then enjoy in front of a roaring fire or an old movie in front of the TV over Christmas if you can’t bear to give it away. You’ll make about 50 pieces of toffee from this recipe so there’s plenty to share even if you love the salty-sweet and crispy crunch chewy texture as much as I did. I imagine this one might become a Christmas tradition every year!

*It may break teeth though. Check for dentures before gifting.

Veda Bread Ice-Cream

July is a hot month back home in Belfast. Not especially due to the weather, but because of the slightly heightened feeling on the streets due to the Orange Order marches held in what is known as the Twelfth Fortnight. This was the traditional summer holiday for the shipyard workers in the city and a chance to hark back and remember Catholics and Protestants knocking the pan out of each other at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. For those of us who don’t enjoy some light civil disobedience, it’s a good time to potter around at home doing all those things you’d sort of meant to do all year since you can’t really go out. Or ignore them completely and spend time watching box-sets and eating ice cream instead…

Feeling oddly left out here in London, I thought I would try and join in with a ice cream recipe with a taste of home. I’ve been wanting to make a traditional brown bread ice cream since I got my ice cream maker earlier this year, but the arrival of my mother on the week of the Twelfth with every Northern Irish exile’s request in the shape of a loaf of Veda bread, meant I decided to give it an Ulster twist and use Veda instead.

A dark delicious slightly sticky (non-fruited) malt bread, Veda makes the best toast in the world, marrying together with butter like nobody’s business. Adding sugar to bring out the natural sweetness and crisping it up with butter is what my life has been missing up until now. Using this recipe by David Lebovitz, I crumbled the Veda into smallish pieces, fried off in butter and a good unrefined caster sugar and then toasted in the oven for about 30 minutes or until I had clusters of crispy, sticky, malty heaven that were so good, I could have skipped the ice cream and just eaten them alone.

But since I had promised ice cream, I made ice cream. The recipe uses a basic custard, but with the addition of cream cheese to stop it all being just too sweet. This is much more faffy, needing a third bowl, more counter space, a sieve, a whisk and more potential for the custard to curdle as it needs to be hotter to melt the cream cheese, so in future, I don’t think I’ll bother with this addition. Otherwise, it was all pretty straightforward.

I gave this ice cream a bit of a Brixton twist and added a slug of dark rum, some vanilla and then stirred the caramalised crisped up Veda into the churned mixture about five minutes before the end. Because the Veda is stickier and maltier than regular brown bread, the crumbs clumped up more and made huge nuggets of crispiness. Fearing that I would either break my teeth or the machine, I blitzed them in the blender to make them more crumb like. Everything then went in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up and create hands down the finest ice cream ever created.

Creamy beyond belief but crunchy and chewy due to the crisped up bread crumbs and with a slightly grown up flavour from the rum, this was just magnificient. Rich with butter and with a gorgeous toffee feel, I defy you not to fall in love with this amazing ice cream and want to sneak a spoonful everytime you pass the freezer. It was declared even better than the Northern Irish ice cream institution that is Maud’s Pooh Bear Delight*.

You need to make this ice cream immediately. If you don’t have access to Norn Iron’s best kept secret, try it with some Soreen or a really good brown bread instead. This is what breadcrumbs aspire to being…

*Youse know it’d be belter in a poke.

Marmalade Ice Cream

One of the best things about having an ice cream maker is that you can indulge in your own choice of flavours and make ice cream a more grown up treat than the usual selection of tubs in the supermarket offer you. Having enjoyed the salted caramel butter creation of the week before, I was keen to try something else, but not too sweet and a bit different, so when I espied the half finished jar of marmalade in the fridge, I knew exactly what to do with it…

I’m actually not a huge fan of marmalade (or jam) but I’ve never met an ice cream I didn’t like, so I thought this would be the perfect way to convert myself to this most traditional of preserves. And if I still couldn’t summon my inner Paddington, I’d simply feed it to friends and make myself very popular.

I adapted the basic recipe that pretty much every ice cream recipe uses, heating a carton of double cream and the same amount of milk in a pan with the zest of an orange until about to bubble while whisking 5 egg yolks with about a quarter of a cup of sugar until they were light and fluffy. I then used the same quarter cup to pour some of the heated milk into the egg mixture to combine it, warm it up and prevent it scrambling when added to the rest of the milk as you make the custard. I then heated the whole thing a bit more, until the custard thickened slightly (don’t expect it to go the consistency of Bird’s) before taking it off the heat sharpish. Don’t linger or you’ll have an unholy mess on your hands.

Pour the custard mix into a metal bowl you have already placed inside a larger bowl full of iced water and chill the whole thing in the fridge for a few hours or overnight if you have time. Then pour into your ice cream maker and churn to make a super easy ice cream with a minimum of fuss. Or do what I did and have a moment of sheer lunacy and forget to put the arm into the machine, leaving the frozen bowl to spin as aimlessly as a 1970s drummer at his kit awaiting his solo, and creating a bizarre semi frozen mess that clings to the edges of the bowl without resembling actual ice cream. You can then defrost the entire thing in a bowl of hot water and have to rechill it all overnight before trying again.

Next morning, I gave everything another 25 minutes churn with all parts of the machine in place and was rewarded with a creamy masterpiece. I then gently heated the roughly half jar of marmalade til it went all sticky and jammy and soft, added a tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice and poured it all into the ice cream, whipping for another five or so minutes until well combined. You could also do this as a marmalade ripple if you preferred and I think I’d add a splash of rum if I was doing this. Pop the whole thing in the freezer for a couple of hours or until needed. Then prepare to taste the best ice cream in the world…

Rich and creamy beyond belief, it is spiked with tiny chewy shreds of peel just bursting with refreshingly tangy bitter citrus gorgeousness and the sunshine sweetness of fresh orange. Stunning on its own or with some dark chocolate ( I used Maya Gold in the pic), it is a very grown up and utterly sensational ice cream that has converted me so wholeheartedly to marmalade that I’m booking a ticket to Darkest Peru tomorrow…