Sunday, 29 December 2013

Excellent Rice Pudding.

If your memory of rice pudding is of the crispy brown-topped version done in the oven, and you like that, stick with it.

If however your memory of rice pud involves burn-anxiety, fear of crispy bits, drying out or wasted rice fused to the side of the pot, and you long for the utopian creamy smoothness of vanillagasms oozing forth from gently-cooked individual Arborio rice grains, do this.

If you think you can cope with the port-baked plums on top, go for it, but don't say we didn't warn you.

This recipe was not originally vegan, but was made so with such ease it makes me wonder why anyone even goes to the trouble of digesting milk, to be honest.

Here goes.

Get these together:

For the baked fruit -
• 200ml port
• 200ml red wine
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1 star anise
• 100g agave or maple syrup (but use the real deal or not at all)
• zest and juice 2 oranges
• 500g plums and/or damsons, halved and pitted

For the rice pudding -
• 1 litre soya milk (you can use rice milk but you'll need to decrease the amount of sugar if you do. Nut milks work well too, but taste as you go along for sweetness)
• 250ml soya or oat cream
• 1 vanilla pod, split
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 100g caster sugar
• 200g pudding / Arborio rice
• 50g vegan marge (we're into Vitalite Dairy Free right now; in the US, use Earth Balance but not the really salty one)

Then do this:

Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Bring the Port and wine to the boil in a pan, with the cinnamon and star anise. Reduce by half, then add your choice of syrup, orange zest and juice.

(Home-grown plums these are!)

Pour the reduced liquid over plum halves in a roasting tin, cover with wet baking parchment (we didn't bother with this and it was fine) and very gently poach in the oven for 30 mins until soft but not exploding. Allow to cool in the liquid. Leave the skins on - they're full of flavour.

Meanwhile, make the rice pudding.  

Rinse the rice VERY thoroughly till the water runs clear. This can take a good few minutes, so be patient - it makes for a cleaner, more defined pudding.

Put the soya milk, vanilla pod, cinnamon stick and sugar in a pan. Simmer for 40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice is soft. Keep checking - you don't want mush. Remove from heat when the rice grains are still distinct but not 'bitty'. Keep it warm till serving time.

When you're ready to serve, remove the vanilla pod and cinnamon. Stir in the marge and soya cream. Spoon into large coffee cups or bowls and pour over some of the stewed plums. 

Let the superlatives commence.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Mole's Christmas Nut Roast

Here's my recipe for nut roast. I made it from a combination of a recipe I found and one of our own with suggestions from a chef friend. It's worked every time!

All ingredient measurements are 'ish'.

250g mixed nuts - nice oily ones, don't be a cheapskate.
Invest in some cashews, macadamias, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts if you can...plenty, and a good mix.
100g shallots, finely diced
A couple of carrots, also finely diced
Bread crumbs
400g tinned tomatoes (DRAIN OFF the juice - keep it for something else)
Sage, thyme, rosemary, lovage, any other savoury herbs you fancy
Parsley is optional - is quite a distinctive taste (I don't use it because I'm allergic to it)
Tablespoon of yeast extract blended with 1tsp boiling water
Black pepper, salt to taste (add at the end)
A little oil for greasing the pan

Toast all the nuts gently and carefully till browned, in a dry frying pan on medium heat. Leave to cool.

Cook down the onions and carrots in a little oil with there herbs till nice and soft (onions should be transparent).

While these are cooking, blitz the cooled nuts in a blender till they're broken up nicely, pretty ground up, but not powdered - you need texture.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Prepare a loaf tin by lining with greaseproof paper.

Put the nuts and cooked veg into a bowl and combine with the tomatoes, bread crumbs, the boiling water and yeast extract mixture and any further seasoning. Mix well.

Test the mixture for dryness - if it feels dry, add a little of the tomato juice at a time or boiled water (oil will come out of the nuts, so there's no need to add this).

When scoopy and a good stiff texture, put into the loaf tin and bake for at least 40 mins. Keep testing - it'll firm up but won't go too hard. If the top starts to burn, cover with foil and continue baking.

The loaf should be allowed to cool before attempting to slice. If you want it hot on the day, you can either gently re-heat the loaf or cut some slices (easier when cool) and warm those up. It's good fresh from the oven, but don't expect picture-perfect slices if you serve it this way! It'll come out a little more...idiosyncratic.


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