Of plums and puddings and Christmas…

{ Fruit.  Booze.  Dried fruit, raisins, more booze, spices, more raisins, lots of currants, dates, zests of fruit, apple/pear, tanned apricot, candied ginger, dark dark sugar, butter and eggs. }

I was going to write something about Christmas here.  It is, after all, a Christmas cake we’re looking at up there – straight Cratchett-style, boiled for 8 hours in a pot just like ye olde medieval Englyshe wyves used to do when terrible things like sausage casings and beef broth seemed like a good idea (MMM ^-^), before thankfully we had the option of butter.  But then I remembered that talking about Christmas these days is like talking about religion and politics (yethink?) and having an opinion on it is even worse, and really I’m just giddy for a few certain things like strings of tiny electric lights, drinking with family, and mincemeat.

Have I ever even had plum pudding before I decided to make not one but two of these silly things?  Errrrr.   Well, no.  But given that I’m no stranger to food projects that need babysitting while burblegurgling on the stove (see: canning season), I couldn’t help but just throw a whole bunch of quality fruit and spices together into a gigantic bowl earlier this month with my fingers crossed that whatever bowling-ball-resembling Xmas-bomb that emerged from my double saucepots would be both A: delicious enough to get me off the hook for making cookies this year, and B:  drenched enough with booze to actually do that little immortality trick it’s supposed to (ie; keep in the pantry until next Christmas if necessary).  

And see the annoying thing is that despite everything being an apparent Resounding Success (!), I actually can’t confirm either of those two things until freaking Christmas Day!  Which is like totally unfair and makes me all squirmy and excited like a kid hopped up on candy canes and halfway believing that Santa Claus might not only exist but hand out name-brand merchandise, too.  The anticipation!  Eeeeek.

I’ve even managed to post this in time for others to benefit from a recipe I found that was very nice, that comes with a website for troubleshooting and has all manner of plum pudding minutiae.  Thank you Paul!!

and … don’t be afraid of the ingredients list!  It is long but it is mostly raisins.

PAUL DENYER’S CHRISTMAS PUDDING

My Changes:

I used butter instead of suet.  I used candy ginger and apricots instead of lemon peel.

I used a St. Viateur bagel instead of breadcrumbs, and instead of Guinness I just dumped 1/2 a cup of brandy in there.

These things are true.

SERVES 10 TO 12 PEOPLE  This recipe makes one large steamed pudding in a 2 pint (1.2 litre) basin. and will need a day’s advance preparation!

  • Suet, 4 oz (110 g), you’ll need to order at least 175g, chill first then use a grater or chop with a knife
  • Self-raising flour, 2 oz (50 g) sifted
  • White bread crumbs, 4 oz (110 g) from the Bakery, not the Supermarket (see associated recipes page)
  • Salt ¼ teaspoon
  • Nutmeg (freshly grated) 1¼ teaspoons
  • Cinnamon, 1¼ teaspoons of freshly ground (buy a cinnamon stick/quill and grate this just before mixing)
  • Ground Ginger, 1/3 of a teaspoon
  • Ground Cloves ¼ of a teaspoon
  • Soft dark brown Sugar 8 oz (225 g) (the darker the better)
  • Currants 10 oz (275 g)
  • Sultanas 4 oz (110 g)
  • Raisins 4 oz (110 g)
  • Dates (dried or fresh) or Prunes 4 oz (110 g) cut into pieces, removing the stones.
  • Peel, mixed & candied 1 oz (25 g) chop finely
  • Almonds 1 oz (25 g), skinned and chopped (packet bought is OK)
  • Pear or Apple, 1 small, peeled and grated (remove core)
  • Lemon, 1 LARGE, grate the skin (zest) only the yellow surface layer, not the white bit!
  • Eggs 2, size 1 (large) fresh
  • Guinness 5 fl oz (150 ml) you may use any dark beer. (you MAY substitute the same amount of Milk)
  • Muscat 2 Tablespoons (fortified wine, similar to but not the same as Tokay, but Port will substitute)

The following are optional (much less than a ¼ teaspoon of each!);

  • ground Allspice
  • ground Coriander
  • ground Mace

Very optional;

  • 6 silver Threepenny pieces (be very aware of the danger of choking, add these at your own risk, and warn diners!)

The start…Use a LARGE mixing bowl and start by adding the suet, sifted flour (hold the sifter high to add some air) bread crumbs, salt, spices and sugar. Mix these WELL together, then gradually add & mix in all the Almonds Mixed Peel and dried Fruit, Then the Pear (or Apple) and the grated lemon zest. Make sure you have included everything, as, with all those ingredients around, it is easy to miss one. (I generally put all the ingredients all in a line in front of me).

 Step Two

In another bowl break the Eggs (if you break Eggs into another bowl, you won’t spoil the main mixture if one of the Eggs is bad!)
Add the Muscat and Guinness, and blend or whisk them all together. Add this mixture into the large mixing bowl, and stir. (Add the Threepenny pieces here).
Make sure the mixture is well blended, it should look very light brown and should be fairly sloppy, you can test this by taking a spoonful of the mixture and tapping the spoon handle on the side of the bowl. If the mixture is right it will drop instantly from the spoon.
If in the previous test the mixture stuck to the spoon the mixture needs a bit more liquid. Add a trifle more Guinness until the test is successful!
Leave the mixture in the bowl, press the mixture down so there are no air-gaps, cover with stretch-film and leave overnight, (you can leave in the Larder, or, in the Fridge if you’re in a hot country like Australia!) this is important as it will allow the Dried fruit and Breadcrumbs time to absorb the liquid

Step three, now get the pudding bowl/basin ready….

You will need a 2 (Imperial/British) pint (1.2 litre) clean, dry, pudding basin, lightly greased using some Suet. To make sure the pudding doesn’t stick, after greasing the bowl with the Suet, sprinkle a small amount of caster sugar (or icing sugar) around the bowl to coat the suet, then turn the bowl upside down to remove the excess. When greasing the bowl, pay particular attention to the bottom of the bowl. 

Step four, the next day

Next day pack the mixture into the prepared pudding bowl (see instructions above), the mixture should be within ½” of the rim of the bowl (this pudding doesn’t expand much), cover it with a double sheet of greaseproof/silicone/baking paper (I use GladBake) and a sheet of foil. Tie these securely with string, pudding basins have a rim ideal for string! Tie another piece of string (see photo) to make it easy for you to lift the pudding out of the pot.

Take your saucepan, add your home made “trivet”, I just use a piece of bent coathanger wire to keep the pudding off the bottom of the saucepan (otherwise the pudding burns where it touches the bottom of the saucepan).
Put the pudding in the large saucepan, then add boiling water, (about half to three-quarters of the way up the bowl) set to a high heat and watch it until the water boils. Reduce heat to allow a gentle simmer and steam the pudding for about 8 hours, make sure the lid is on for the whole of that time.

Make sure you keep a regular eye on the water level about once every 30 minutes, and top it up with boiling water as needed.
When the pudding is cooked, remove from the pot, let it get quite cold, remove the paper and foil and replace with fresh ones, duplicating your previous wrapping. (as an optional extra, you can add a top layer of pudding cloth, it makes it more attractive on Christmas day).

Store in a cool dark place, a larder will be fine. NOTE: this will keep for years stored like this!

Christmas Day

To serve on Christmas day, steam for 2½ hours.

Remove from the Saucepan, leave for a couple of minutes for any pressure to escape, remove string, foil and paper, you will find that it’s a dark colour, and smells lovely! give it a little shake to observe how loose it is, (you might need to loosen it a bit using a flexible knife around the sides). Have a warmed serving plate ready, place the plate upside down on top of the pudding bowl, then flip the whole thing over give a gentle shake (you might hear a “slurp” sound, as the pudding releases). Place the plate on the table and carefully remove the bowl. HOORAY, it’s done!
Serve with any or all of the following; Cream, home made Custard, or Cumberland Rum Butter.

And one last bit of festive cheer, c/o anachronistic gastronomic miniseries’d feastmaking:

Merry Skidzmas to everyone!

Christmas Pudding on Citeeze

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Jardin du Cari – goat on the corner

Photo by MICHEAL BEAULIEU

So’s, I love me some goat, y’know?  It’s kinda like lamb but with more guts, heft, and twang (woo!).  Annnnnd, it’s not the sort of the thing you’re going to find at the local sandwich shop or one of the myriad sushi express places that pepper most neighbourhoods.  Thankfully, for the goat lovers there are options in the Mile End.  Well, I know of one place now.  Jardin du Cari.

The air when you enter is thick with spices.  The walls are deep brick red and even in the depths of winter it almost feels like a short whirring fan in the corner to combat the “heat” would make the atmosphere complete.  Jardin does Caribbean food in a simple and straightforward way and if you were curious about the exotic details of the cuisine this might not be the place to learn much, but it’s pretty tasty stuff for a fast lunch and it’s real food.

Cloudy got one of the famous rotis – curried chicken wrapped in a soft flatbread (7.30$), and I had to (obviously) get the goat curry (8.75$) with the optional addition of baked pumpkin on the side (+.75$).  The pumpkin was bright and crammed with ginger and the curry was warmly spiced, smooth and studded with potatoes and fat chunks of long-stewed goat.  The rice was just rice but it soaked up the ample sauce nicely and once slathered with the housemade hot sauce (DELICIOUS housemade hotsauce with real heat and real flavour), it was a treat of a plate.  Also featured: fried plantains (a touch too sweet, but oh well), and a decent salad with actual vegetables and a zesty simple dressing.

I didn’t try so much of the roti, but the place slowly filled over the course of our lunch with relaxed locals… eating roti.  So, it’s probably really awesome.  Anything involving fresh bread, flat or otherwise, is generally a win.  And, there is that amazing hot sauce.  So… recommended.   (The owners are also super nice.)

For the record here is a quick guide to Jardin du Cari’s menu:

Choose a protein – shrimp, goat, chicken or chickpea.

+

Choose a foods type – roti, curry, guyanese chow mein, or fried rice

= your thing.  tada!

One more thing – YOU MUST ORDER THE PEANUT PUNCH!!  Holy, it’s delicious and only 2.50$.  It’s like if peanut butter collided with a milkshake and made an ice cold frothy nut baby.  Mmmmmmmmmm.

Jardin Du Cari (Le) on Urbanspoon

Dishcrawl: Montreal’s Chinatown Secret Menu Edition hosted by Jason Lee

Michel Cluizel's Sardines au Chocolat Lait ~ ♥♥

I’m distracted right now.  All I can think about is chocolate.  Chocolate, feuilletine, caramel, crèmes, glaçages, chocolate (more chocolate), génoise, syrups, brittles, mousses, sabayon, pralines and biscuit and millefeuilles and butter and cream.  It’s all dancing around my head, maybe a sign of the upcoming christmas season (which becomes increasingly about what I’m eating rather than what I’m gifting more and more every year – and I would argue that celestial dining with your most beloved of loved ones is the greatest gift.  Evah).

tiny puffs to amuse the bouche

Buuuuuut.  Even with that kind of introduction, I’m going to be talking about a mostly sugar-free adventure.  A Dishcrawl even.  This is the plum-backwards way we do things over here at Bubble Tea.  When other people have covered an event already so thoroughly, all I can do is be honest.  And boy, I would really love a resplendent single origin 70% dark right now.. ^^;;;;

Buuuuuuut.  I can tie this in.  Watch this!  See, it was a dark and temperate November 1rst Dishcrawl night, hosted by the ebullient gastronome Jason Lee of Shut Up and Eat, and things were surprisingly void of dessert.  Well, we did start with an ethereal and nutty-crisp bang by placing that little puff of confection – DRAGON’S BEARD! – on our tongues and letting it dissolve into softly sweet toasted acorn of gritty tongue-wakening chewiness.  You might even imagine that this was my favourite part of the night, and perhaps if I had never experienced it before, this candy might have been.

Buuuuuuuuuuut.  No.  That was reserved for the peking duck pancakes we enjoyed over at Mon Nan.  (It is at this point that I’m realizing that this post will in no way be thorough, informative, objective or complete.  Boring!  This is kinda just to complete my Dishcrawl coverage collection and give a brief recap of the yumz ingested).  It was at these round tables that I learned the correct way to spread hoisin on the thin house-made pancake of flour (apply first, before the insane crisp duck pieces).  Mon Nan is evidently the only place in Montreal that still makes Peking duck the proper way, and they’ve only whetted my appetite for more.  Other things to mention:  The meal starts (Number One!) with a thin duck broth floating with soft tofu, shared around the table washed down with amber tea – savoury, sweet and delicate.  Then, the pancakes, wrapping ’round slivers of green onion, threads of daikon and carrot, BIG CHUNKS OF DUCK (oho!) and hot sauce if desired.  Inhale, Construct, Repeat.  Finally (Number Three!) out comes a quick stir fry of fat sprouts and duck meat, refreshingly crunchy and a textural contrast the rest of the meal.  Lovely!

adorable gesticulating owner of Kam Fung

And so, on we go.  Next stop was a one-dish wonder at Maison Kam Fung, which is otherwise known for it’s killer Dim Sum brunch on Sundays, and had a pretty lively dining room on that Tuesday night when our party of 50 (ish?) descended on them en masse.  We started simply with one of the best spring rolls I’ve had in memory – darkly crisp skin, generously porky but not obscene inside.  However, I don’t tend to eat spring rolls, so there’s some grain of salt you should take with my opinion.  What I DO tend to eat a lot of is mysterious Chinese food, so the next dish I can confidently say falls under my jurisdiction of “silly Canadian non-Chinese xiaochi addict”.

Again, other people will introduce this with more depth than I.  Wor Siu Gai is a dish with depth, or at least Montreal specific history.  What was originally an ancient dish made with bird’s nest – an ingredient best enjoyed by the royal, the independently wealthy, and those with a taste for the dried saliva of cave birds – has been reinvented by Maison Kam Fung to become a glorious pink landmasse of ham, shrimp, crab, chinese sausage, wrapped in wonton skin, fried, served on a giant platter and covered with, and I quote, “Chinese gravy,”  yum yum.

cozy in the rice bowl

I’ve had more gastronomically sensational food – this went down like a bowl of perfect white rice and a block of seafood-tasting low-salt Spam – but gosh I don’t know if I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating so many different mystery meats in one mouthful before.  And the history!  I googled Wor Siu Gai and almost every rendition I could find called for chicken and not too much else, so this version really is a specialty of Montreal – try it at your next Maison Kam Fung gorging session!

the mystery, it oozes

Finally, I had my belly ready for the best part of the night.  The promise of dessert was ringing louder and louder with every step we took towards the Hong Kong-style bakery, Patisserie Callia.  I love me a squishy milky cool-to-the-touch sweetened bun.  LOVE IT.  The only hard part is deciding was the filling should be.  Mango custard?  Blueberry cream?  Red bean, sweet egg, lemon curd, sesame paste, or taro?  Eeeeek, I want to know!

Wait.  No wait.  *bites into mystery bun*.   Noooooo, I didn’t want to knooooooooooow!!!  :D

Seriously, poutine bun?  Wow, I’m suddenly welling up with all these mixed feelings ranging from inner giggling to mild sugar-deprived rage to disaffected cultural malaise.  Mostly just the yen for a real donut though.  At least, the accompaniment to “dessert” was panacea for the jilted sweet tooth – hot milky tea made with a blend of many different strong teas – highly aromatic, bittersweet, complex and roasted-tasting.  I think they were all black teas, I don’t quite remember  (as in, black and not green).  Each sip was slightly different, playing chimes at different places in the mouth, and in different harmonies with subsequent sips – definitely the most interesting cup of it’s kind that I’ve had, and I’ve had lot of Chinese milk tea.  Bubble Tea for Dinner is no mistake as a blog name.  I’d return to Callia in a second for another cup, bypassing even my beloved Patisserie Harmonie for a chance to dip my head in it’s swirling and very mature-smelling steam.

And that’s about it!  Whew, another Dishcrawl penned and ready to share with the world.  Thanks again to Jason Lee for being SO energetic and helpful and informative and friendly whenever I had annoying questions about the herb-using habits of the Vietnamese or how to properly wrap a peking-pan-duck-cake.

~~~~~ here’s where to witness the brilliance of topic-tying-in action ~~~ ……. \/

Alas, I don’t know if I can make it to the Chocolate Dishcrawl this Sunday, but I would love to, obviously.  If I can move my schedule around, I will see.  I also might just spend my ticket money on chocolate bars.  We’ll see.  (  It’s even – in some stroke of life-appropriate brilliance – hosted by chocolatier Olivier Piffaudat, who specializes in low and no-sugar confections, which would delight BF Cloudy to no end.  He’s on a sugar-cleanse!  Brave soul.  )

EDIT:  I am going!!!!  Yeehee.  Also, there are 2 tickets left.  Go go go!

Dishcrawl Coverage on Citeeze

Dragon Beard Candy on Urbanspoon

Mon Nan Village on Urbanspoon

Kam Fung on Urbanspoon

Patisserie Callia on Urbanspoon