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Hot Buttered Rum Caramels

malt caramels

A few years into living in Brixton, I started drinking rum as my go to drink. Previously that had been gin which was my loyal weekend tipple throughout my late teens and twenties. My friend Jo and I used to sit in the park watching the world go by on sunny days when we first moved to London with matching plastic glasses, a bottle of Gordon’s, some slimline tonic and a sliced lime in a plastic bag. But somewhere along the line, my tastes moved on and gin and tonic is an occasion drink for me these days.

Living in a heavily Caribbean area, it’s not really that strange that my allegiances have switched to rum. I prefer dark rum, preferably something spiced and have learned that it’s an excellent spirit for drinking either neat or mixed. Hot Brixton days often involve rum drunk long with soda water so that they are very thirst quenching and not particularly likely to get you drunk.

In the winter though I’ve become a huge fan of hot buttered rum. A big favourite in Brixton Village because it warms you up more than you’d think possibly when the wind sweeps through those avenues, I was introduced to it at Snugg (the name starts to make more sense now!) and have made several versions at home including this one with spiced quince rum. This year though I’m taking it easy on the seasonal booze and have turned my attention to making sweet treats instead.

Inspired by this recipe for homemade caramels by Diana Henry, I got my sugar thermometer out. I tweaked it to use condensed milk instead of cream (cheaper when like me you are prone to burning sugar based dishes) and added some spices along with a big glug of dark rum and got my buttered rum fix in a chewy caramel way instead. It’s very easy if unlike me you prepare well first and pay attention while you are making them.

Buttered Rum Caramels (makes about 65)

  • 175ml condensed milk
  • 60g salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 75ml dark rum (I use Bacardi Oakheart which is excellent and easy to get)
  • 250g white sugar
  • 160g golden syrup

Start by lining a 8 inch square dish or baking tray with greaseproof paper. Oil it lightly with a flavourless vegetable oil and set it aside.

Pour the condensed milk in a saucepan, add 30g of the butter, the salt and all the spices. Warm it through to infuse the spices and melt the butter but don’t let it boil. If you are doing this on an electric cooker do it on the ring behind the one where you’ll melt the sugar so you have a cold area on the hob so you can take the sugar off the heat for ease. Take the pan off the heat and add the rum. Set aside.

In a large deep pan (I used my Le Cresuet) heat the the sugar and the golden syrup together on a medium heat, stirring occasionally to help melt the sugar and prevent it burning. Once it is molten, turn the heat up and without moving the sugar around too much, heat to 155℃. I used a thermometer to make life easier here.

Take the pan off the heat the second it hits 155℃ and pour in the still warm spiced condensed milk. It may spit and bubble slightly so be careful. Stir it well to make sure it is smooth and return it to the heat until it reaches 127℃. Take it off the heat again and pour it into your lined tray.

Leave the caramel to cool for about 5 hours. Then lift the greaseproof paper out and cut the caramel into bite sized squares and wrap in 10cm squares of waxed or greaseproof paper. I got my rather festive looking stuff from Ebay but also used plain white. The caramel is soft enough to be able to roll up nicely. Store in an airtight container for up to a month. These make a lovely gift and are basically a very grown up version of Highland Toffee bars from my childhood.

 

Hot Buttered Rum

December is here in all it’s crisp, cold glory, Christmas is just around the corner and a little bit of luxury never goes amiss. It’s also traditionally a time of dairy and booze, quite often combined and I’m here to enable you whether you’re toasting the season or trying to steel yourself for wrapping your gifts. This recipe uses the quince rum I made back in autumn, but in the interests of making this a treat for everyone I tested it on regular rum and on a non alcoholic version using hot apple juice and enjoyed them all.

It’s deliciously decadent, very warming and incredibly easy to do. Make a batch of the butter and keep it in the fridge for when people drop by. It’ll go nicely with a mince pie and it’ll impress people much more!

Originally published on Brixton Blog…

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Quince Rum

Autumn is unmistakably here. There’s a cool crispness to the sunny days and the shops are groaning with harvest produce, including gorgeous fruits like apples and its close cousin, the quince. Looking like an apple crossed with a pear, it’s well worth getting past the downy skin of this beautiful fruit to taste its perfumed flesh. It goes well with apple or pear in a crumble or cobbler or is wonderful roasted and served alongside roast pork, but I wanted it to be the star of the show this season so am using it on its own.

It is often used to infuse brandy for a rounded slightly sweet but floral drink that warms the cockles on a winter’s night, but I don’t like brandy, so I’m subbing dark rum instead. Incredibly simple to make, it sits and infuses for around six weeks to keep the spirit of autumn alive as the light fades completely around Christmas.

Originally published on Brixton Blog…

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Chocolate Liquorice Cake or how to perk up a prune…

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur of new tastes and food experiences and travel and general activity. I’ve had great company and great meals, but I’ve been yearning to get back in the kitchen and play with my new finds. Mister North had very kindly shared some of his Lakrids Liquorice Powder from a Harvey Nicks bloggers’ lunch and I was intrigued as to what on earth to do with it since the package gives no clues and the site is entirely in Danish and my Sarah Lund fixation really only gives me rudimentary Danish vocab for the world of crime, not cooking.

I’d been eyeing up this David Lebovitz chocolate and prune cake for a while. Luscious with dark chocolate and butter, it’s a flour free number with a squidgy mousse-like consistency and having never made a cake like this before, I couldn’t wait to give it ago. I decided to give it an extra edge by adding some of the liquorice powder to the cake as liquorice is many times sweeter than sugar and I liked the idea of using it to smooth out the sharpness of the dark chocolate and give the prunes an extra earthiness.

 

I’ve linked to David’s orginal recipe so you can just follow that or you can do what I did and misread it and thus go about it slightly differently and awkwardly. Your call, but be aware my version gives you an excuse to drink some rum as you go…

Chocolate and Prune cake (from David Lebovitz, tweaked by me)

  • 170g pitted prunes
  • 80ml dark rum (or other dark spirit of choice)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 340g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 170g butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons raw liquorice powder

First prep your prunes. I cut mine into quarters and then soaked them overnight in the rum and sugar because I obviously thought I was making a tealoaf instead of reading the recipe properly. However, if I’d done it properly, I wouldn’t have discovered how good rum soaked prunes on my morning porridge…

Then butter a 9 inch cake tin (preferably springform). I also used cocoa powder on it and the cake stuck more than usually happens in my tin so I’m not sure I’d do that again.

I melted the chocolate and butter over hot water, stirring well to make sure it was well melted and glossy. I took it off the heat and added in the prunes and remaining rum which cooled the mixture slightly which meant I could add the egg yolks without fear of scrambling them. Pop the liquorice powder in at this point.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and firm, adding the sugar gradually and then fold them into the chocolate mix a third at a time, making sure you don’t overbeat and knock all the air out of the batter. Pour it into the tin and bake at 170℃ for 40-45 minutes. You can’t use the old skewer trick as the cake rises massively and the centre should be slightly soft, but the edges are pulling away from the tin. Cool well and you’ll notice the cake settles back down again in size.

David Lebovitz says the cake can be made up to three days in advance. I made mine two days in advance and kept it in a tin and felt that actually it was a touch dry round the edges, so I’d say wrap it well in a tea towel to be sure.

The cake was worth waiting for, very grown up with the bitter edge of dark chocolate,  sticky and squidgy with nuggets of prunes and completely and utterly lacking in any hint of liquorice at all. I couldn’t taste it and I’m presuming the others who ate it couldn’t either as no one asked what the other flavour was or if there was a magic ingredient. It didn’t even sweeten the cake particularly as the one question that was asked was if there was any sugar in the cake at all. I actually really enjoyed the lack of sweetness, which is unlike me and my common milk chocolate eating ways, but was disappointed by the Lakrids.

This is the second dish I’ve used it in. Once sweet and once savoury, and I couldn’t taste it either time. I’ve bookmarked this recipe as my go to quick chocolate cake, especially for gluten free folk, but I’m not inclined to persevere with the Lakrids, unless someone can give me a really good idea for it or takes me quietly to one side and explains that I’ve been doing it wrong…

Brixton Marmalade

Walking through Brixton Market is a riot of fresh fruit and vegetables of all colours. Some are familiar, but sometimes your eye is caught by something you don’t recognise, which is exactly what happened when I saw green oranges on many of the stalls. Some questioning and Googling later, I realised these are Jamaican oranges and not just the colour is different. They are thinner skinned than the peeling sort like Jaffas we are used to in the UK with plenty of pith and pips and a bittersweet flavour. I knew immediately that they would make the most fabulous marmalade…

I was sure I didn’t really like marmalade after one too many single serve portions of Golden Shred in a B&B. Sickly sweet instead of tangy and tasty, the commercial version leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Determined to overcome this dislike, I decided to try making my own and see if I could be convinced. Not only was I won over in abundance, I’ve become slightly obsessed, making pots and pots of the stuff from every citrus I can get my hands on, entering the World Marmalade Awards and slathering it on doorsteps of Wild Caper sourdough like there’s no tomorrow. The homemade stuff tastes amazing and is incredibly cheap and easy to make. You’ll never look back.

To make 2 large or 4 small jars you’ll need:

  • 800g of Jamaican oranges (about 4 in total)
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 pints of water
  • 1 kilo of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • jars, empty and well washed
  • muslin cloth (look in the baby section for these cheaply)
  • length of string
  • cellophane jam jar covers, wax covers & elastic bands
  • two saucers or a food thermometer

The marmalade is very easy, but it does take several stages and needs to left overnight. Don’t be daunted though!

Start by cutting the oranges in half and juicing them. You should get about half a pint from this amount of oranges. Reserve the juice in a jug. Keep any pips you came across and soak them in water. Then chop your orange shells. Pull the most fibrous flesh out and then cut the peels in chunks of your choosing. I like my marmalade quite thick cut for flavour and ease of prep, but it’s your choice.

Soak the peels overnight in about 2 pints of water until it turns orange and smells delightfully citrus scented. Bring it all to the boil and then simmer for up to hours or until the peel is soft and squishy, but not pulpy. Add in a bit more water if needs be.

Iron your muslin cloth (and cut it to be smaller if needs be) and gather the reserved pips in it like a purse, tying to the handle of the pot so it hangs down into the boiled peel mix. They contain extra pectin that helps set the marmalade. Turn the oven onto 160℃ and put the jars in, using a baking tray rather than trying to grab individual hot jars with oven gloves and feeling like you’re playing a game fit for particularly sadistic PTA fundraisers. Get your thermometer to the ready if you have one or put your saucers in the freezer if you don’t.

Add the reserved orange juice to the mix, pour in the sugar and the lemon juice and bring the pot back to the boil. This is the stage when you work your magic and turn the mix into marmalade by heating it to 104℃ exactly. The thermometer will tell you this with ease, but you can also tell by spooning a drop or two of the boiling liquid onto a cold saucer, leaving for a sec and testing it with your finger to see if it ‘wrinkles’ when pushed. If it does, you’ve reached 104℃ and if it doesn’t, keep trying with alternate chilled saucers til it does.

Take the pot off the heat immediately. Add the rum (or ginger if you prefer a teetotal kick) and stir well. Leave the marmalade to sit for a minute or two to stop the peel sinking in the jars and then carefully fill the jars you’ve just taken from the oven right to the brim. Both the jars and the marmalade are obviously devilishly hot so keep your wits about you and any small children and pets away. Cover with the wax circles from your little kit.

Allow the jars to cool just enough to handle, then wet the cellophane lids well with a clean washing up sponge and stretch tightly over the top of the jar and fix with the rubber bands. This is fiddlier than you’d think and there may be some sailor’s language to accompany the rum. Let the marmalade cool completely and set before digging in and sampling your handiwork.

You’ll be amazed. It’ll be punchy with citrus and a slight hint of smooth rum with each peel exploding into little chewy nuggets of deliciousness. You won’t be able to stop yourself having a second (or third) slice of marmalade smeared bread, but if you can bear to part with a jar of it, your boss will understand why you are late for work now breakfast has become the highlight of the day again!

Jamaican green orange

* This post originally appeared on Brixton Blog who kindly asked me to write a local recipe and is re-posted here due to popular demand.