Wednesday, October 27, 2010

grandma wright's christmas pudding

You know, I still have a letter on blue paper from my husband's Grandma Wright that she mailed to us in Japan from the UK in 2001. I had asked her for her Christmas pudding recipe and she indulged me (in her usual sweet way). We miss her so much but know we will see her again someday.

In the meantime, my mother-in-law (Grandma Wright's daughter) and I made Grandma's famous pudding today (ready to mature until Christmas and beyond) and it was a wonderful way to remember special moments from her life.

This is a gorgeous "pudding" that is basically a brandied-fruited-succulent-dense-moist-spicy-heady cake.

It takes two days to make so I will break it down for you (and for my own future reference!).

Day 1

Grab 3 "pudding basins" (if you're in the US, just get some round Pyrex glass bowls with lips, 1 quart/950 ml each). Cut 3 pieces of wax paper into circles to fit the tops of the bowls. Cut 3 pieces of aluminum foil into squares, bigger than the wax paper circles and big enough to cover the bowls and go down over the sides. Get yourself 3 pieces of muslin or white sheets, cut into squares big enough to cover the top of the bowls and to be able to tie up over the top (more on that later). You'll also need 3 pieces of string, each long enough to wrap around the bowls (under the lip) about three times and then to tie off.

Soak 12 ounces sultanas (or golden raisins), 12 ounces currants, 12 ounces raisins, 2 ounces chopped candied orange peel, 2 ounces chopped candied citron peel (or a total of 4 ounces "mixed peel" as it's called in the UK), and 1/2 ounce chopped almonds (I bought slivered almonds and then just chopped them a bit more) in "2 egg cups of brandy" (or in my case, two sake cups). I soaked mine in a casserole dish with a lid.

Measure out 4 ounces of breadcrumbs, 6 ounces self-rising flour, 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. If your flour doesn't have salt, add 1/2 teaspoon salt, otherwise leave it out. Store the breadcrumbs in one covered bowl and the rest of these dry ingredients in another bowl for tomorrow's use.

Day 2

Chop 8 ounces of suet (a block of beef fat--I got mine from Better Meat) into small cubes the size of breadcrumbs.

Put the soaked fruit, nuts, and peel into a stock pot (or other very large bowl or pot) for mixing. Add 2 ounces demerara sugar (or dark brown sugar) and mix in well, then the suet and mix that in as well. Then beat 3 eggs in a separate bowl and stir those puppies in. Next comes the breadcrumbs and after they're stirred in well, throw in the flour and spice mixture bit by bit. Stir with your wooden spoon each time you've added a bit of the flour mixture and if you've got a man hovering around anywhere, get him to do it--it gets very thick and hard to move around.

If the batter is a bit stiff with just 3 eggs, splash in a bit of milk to loosen things up.

Butter the 3 Pyrex bowls well and divide the batter into 3 parts. Scoop 1/3 of the batter into each bowl and pat down well.

Butter one side of each of the wax paper sheets and pat one down on to the top of the batter in each bowl (butter side down), making sure there's no air between the batter and the wax paper.

Then place a piece of foil over each one, shiny side down.

Next, tie the muslin or sheet on the top of each bowl, wrapping the string under the lip of the bowl three times or so, then knot tightly.

Pretend you are wrapping an omiyage with a furoshiki and tie two opposite corners together at the top, then the other two corners over that.

Now you've got a Christmas pudding parcel!

All you have to do now is steam them for 4 hours or so (preferably 6). Make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the bottom of the pan...

And you can even steam 2 at once if it makes you happy (and if you don't happen to have tons of large pots hanging around with nothing to do). Check often to make sure the water hasn't boiled out and left your pan dry and if you do need more water, boil it in a separate pot or kettle before adding it to your pots with the puddings.

Stay tuned for Christmas Day when we'll be setting our Christmas pudding on fire and serving it with brandy butter!

Just remember to re-steam the pudding for 2 hours before eating it. Oh, and it can be stored at room temp--all that brandy sloshing around in there is great for preserving it. And the more years it sits, the better. Honestly. It just gets better and better, my friends.

This pudding is stunning. Thank you, Little Grandma!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

something's fishy pie

Sorry about that title. I just can't help it if I'm a product of the Wheel of Fortune generation. (Where is Vanna these days, anyway?)

This pie was definitely a joint effort: My aunt peeled and cut up the potatoes, my mother-in-law inspired me to add the parsley to the sauce and also made the mashed potatoes for the topping, my father-in-law minded the white sauce while I answered the door and then he washed the dishes after the meal (mother-in-law dried them), my uncle read to the kiddos, hubby worked, and two boy-beans chipped in and helped me eat it after all was ready.

Went down like a treat.

A Mamatouille special so I'll try to recreate this for you here but my memory is a tad hazy. I mean, come on, I made it two whole weeks ago. Don't hit me if the ingredient amounts are a bit nebulous, either. I'm trying here, folks! (Or am I trying your patience?)

This makes two casserole dish-fuls, one 9X13 inches and one 8X10 or so.

You'll need:
  • 5 pieces of salmon, probably about 1.5 pounds or so
  • 1 package of tiny scallops, about a pound
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoned salt
  • 1 package bacon, chopped and pan fried till crispy
  • Frozen organic green peas, probably a pound or so
  • Grated cheddar cheese for the mash and also for sprinkling on top
  • Plenty of potatoes - peeled, chopped, boiled, and mashed
  • Milk, butter, minced garlic, and seasonings for the mash
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 cups milk, 16 T. flour, 16 T. butter (for the white sauce)
  • S&P
Do this:

Pan fry the salmon and scallops in olive oil (adding seasoned salt), flake the salmon and add that and the scallops into the bottom of the two casserole dishes. Toss over the peas and then add the chopped cooked bacon.

Make a white sauce (I like to use a wire whisk to eliminate any lumps) by melting the butter and then whisking in the flour. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking all the time till thickened. Stir in the fresh chopped parsley and check for seasonings.

Pour the white sauce over the fish, scallops, peas, and bacon.

Spoon the cheesy garlicky mash over the top of the two casseroles and then sprinkle a bit of extra cheese and parsley over the top. Bake at about 350 F/180 C for about 30 minutes or so until bubbly and utterly delish.

Consume with some of your favorite peeps and serve with yo mama's carrot-pineapple-raisin-apple salad, nice bakery bread, vine-ripe sliced tomatoes, and some chilled white vino.