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Asparagus & Garden Pea Risotto

July 2, 2018

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I’m not an asparagus person. There’s something unpalatable to me about the stringiness, the taste and the smell that pops up hours – days! – later when you least expect it. But this risotto has me on an asparagus kick and wondering what else lives in Asparagus World that I should be eating. But because I am now the mother of THREE human children (two of whom are under the age of 2 and do not sleep through the night) and I’m typing this out while watching the World Cup quarter finals and eating frozen chocolate chip cookies (it’s hot) (not that it has to be hot to eat them frozen, I always eat them frozen) I’m going to skimp on the newsy opening blurb and just get to the point: this risotto is really good. I’ve made it twice in the last few weeks and am planning to make it again.

It highlights fresh garden peas (the ones you buy still in their shells) and asparagus, two things best bought in spring when they’re harvested. The pea flavor is revved up here by using a super simple broth made from boiling the pea shells rather than a chicken broth to make the risotto. The asparagus flavor is highlighted by pureeing boiled asparagus stalks (which aren’t as nice to eat as the tender tips anyway) and then mixing that “asparagus cream” into the risotto at the end.

If you’re low on time/energy or you have a life and can’t be bothered to shell a kilogram of peas (it takes…a while) or it’s not garden pea season, you can definitely substitute frozen garden peas and forgo the pea broth and use the standard chicken or veggie broth. If you can’t be bothered to puree a bunch of boiled asparagus stems, it’s whatevs. This is risotto: the only real rules are in the method and the rice.

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ASPARAGUS & GARDEN PEA RISOTTO

A fussy but worth it vegetarian risotto that really shows off spring’s bounty. 500 grams/1 lb of risotto rice should be enough for 4 – 6 people. Some of the steps can be skimped on (see: shelling 1 kilogram of peas) but I’d definitely recommend making the asparagus stem puree to add a ton of flavor. 

3 – 4 bunches asparagus

1 kg / 2.2 lbs garden peas (in their shells)

2 shallots, diced

500 grams / 1 lb risotto rice (carnaroli or vialone nano; arborio is far inferior here)

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

1 cup white wine

a big pot of broth (can be homemade pea broth made from the pea shells, see below, or chicken broth)

1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

about 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes

  • Shell and Boil the Peas: Remove the peas from their shells; save the shells if you want to make pea broth. 1 kg of peas in their shells takes awhile so make it a group activity if you can. Bring a pot of water to boil and boil the peas for 2 minutes then immediatly strain and rinse with cold water. Set aside. NB: garden peas need to boiled separately; don’t try to cook them from raw in the risotto. If you’re using frozen peas, just add them at the very end of cooking the risotto, a minute before you “mantecare” it.
  • Make the Pea Broth (optional): To make pea broth, simply cover all the shells, a chopped carrot and a chopped onion with a dash of salt in a lot of water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 30 mins. Set aside and reheat when ready to make risotto.
  • Make the Crema di Asparagi: Cut off the delicate tips of the asparagus and reserve; you’ll be frying these up as a garnish. Boil the asparagus stalks until very soft, about 20 mins. Remove most of the water then blend with a handheld blender until completely smooth soft creamy. Set aside for later.
  • Make the asparagus garnish: Fry the tips of the asparagus in a little olive oil and salt, covered, until browned and almost crispy, about 20 mins. Turn often. Set aside.
  • Make the risotto:
    • heat the broth in a pot so it’s steaming; you’ll be adding hot broth to the rice. In a large pot over low heat, melt the butter or olive oil and add the diced shallots. Don’t let them brown. After a few minutes, when the shallots are fragrant and no longer opaque, add the rice. With a wooden spoon, stir over medium heat for a few minutes to toast, then add the wine. Cook for a few minutes, stirring, until the smell of alcohol has cooked off.
    • Now start to add the heated broth, one ladleful at a time, cooking over low-medium heat. Wait until one ladleful is mostly absorbed by the rice before adding the next, stirring most of the time so nothing sticks to the bottom and the rice cooks evenly. Grate your parmigiano while you make the risotto.
    • After about 15 – 20 mins, start taste-testing the rice to see how al dente it is. You’ll want to stop adding broth when it’s still a tiny bit undercooked, with a lot of bite left in it.
    • When it’s still just a few minutes underdone, add the crema di asparagi and stir it all in. When rice is al dente, turn off heat. It shouldn’t be liquidy at all. Now quickly add the peas (pre-boiled garden peas or frozen peas), the chopped butter and most of the parmigiano. Mix with only 2 or 3 big stirs then COVER AND LEAVE IT for 5 full minutes. This is called “mantecare” and is the key to a perfect risotto. Set your timer and walk away. Clean up a bit, drink some wine, gently heat your asparagus tips and wait.
    • After five minutes, uncover the risotto – it should be perfect. Scoop into individual bowls and top with the fried asparagus tips that you’ve warmed, the remaining grated parmigiano and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
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The Apple Cake

February 14, 2018

 

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I’ve forever been on the hunt for The Apple Cake. Like The Bran Muffin, the homemade version has always, invariably eluded me. (For a historical explanation, feel free to read this post about my moist apple cake, which has been kindly filling the void where The Apple Cake should be. Or you could try this pleasant, apple-rich version that will use up lots of apples but won’t blow your mind. I once made this absolutely beautiful and delicious meld between an apple tart and cake, though it isn’t exactly – or even remotely – The Apple Cake I’ve been looking for. Over the years, there have been countless other contenders that I’ve never bothered to post about [but had no problem eating] in the quest for The Apple Cake.)

So what is The Apple Cake I’ve been looking for? It’s moist and full of big chunks of fruit. It’s a little sweet but plain enough for breakfast and possibly topped with a simple crumble. Seems simple but it’s usually the simplest things that are the hardest to get right.

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When I stumbled across this recipe, called Heavenly Apple Cake, while looking for something (chocolatey) to make for Eric’s birthday, I couldn’t not make it: not only did it have perfect reviews, but it might, just might, be It. Plus, at 39 weeks pregnant, I’m listening to my cravings and all my cravings point directly to cake. After a bout of sinusitis that robbed me of tastebuds for a month, I’m back on the Eating All The Things Wagon, baking cake at a rate of about one every two days. So this would also be a little break from the lemon drizzle cake I’ve been really, really (really) into recently.

So how is it? It’s definitely a keeper. It’s a good, solid, everyday cake. Every time I walk into the kitchen, I can’t help but take another slice. It’s absurdly easy to make and clean up after – it’s a one-bowl, no-creaming, no-fancy-stuff wonder. You just mix some flour, sugar, baking soda and spices with melted butter, eggs, apples and brandy-soaked dates. That’s really it. The result is a very moist, very flavorful cake with a crunchy top and a soft, fruity middle. Its real beauty is in its adaptability – the apples can be substituted with any fruit, the dates with prunes or raisins, the brandy with any other liquid. The way I made it, with apples (and a pear), dates and brandy, it is really sweet and really boozy. If I sub the dates with raisins and the brandy with orange juice, I think it’ll be even better. Maybe I’ll switch out a little of the flour for almond meal next time I need to make this cake/tomorrow…

But is it The Apple Cake? You know, with some tinkering – and maybe a little crumble – it might just be.

UPDATE: I made this cake again (literally two days after the first time) and it’s nearly perfect. The recipe below now reflects what I did the second time around and what’s what I think makes as close to the perfect Apple Cake as I may ever find.

UPDATE No. 2: I have recently been using this recipe every time an apple cake craving hits (sooo about every other day). I make a ton of changes – I add about 1- 2 cups grated apple, reduce the sugar to 1 cup, reduce the oil to 1 cup, don’t add raisins or nuts, and just throw all the batter ingredients in a big bowl with an enormous quantity of roughly chopped apples and bake it. Sometimes I add a lot of chopped, grated and ground ginger. Is it better than the below recipe? I don’t know. But does it even matter?

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APPLE CAKE 

Adapted very liberally from this recipe , aptly called Heavenly Apple Cake. It’s supremely easy to make – it’s just one bowl, no creaming, almost no clean up, an eyes-closed kind of recipe. I’ve made it three times now and no matter how I tinker – no spices, adding vanilla extract, adding some ground almonds and almond essence, adding a crumble on top – it’s been delicious. The original recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar but I found that sickly sweet so recommend you reduce to 1 cup sugar (or even less if you prefer). I love my booze but I found the taste of brandy in the original way too pronounced, so now I orange juice and was really happy with it; feel free to soak the dates in another liquid, like apple cider, tea or apple juice. You could also add nuts if you’re in that. I also found the baking soda called for in the original a little on the metallic side, so substituted half with baking powder. I have a feeling this recipe is made to be messed with.

1/2 to 3/4 cups chopped dates

1/2 to 3/4 cups apple or orange juice (or brandy, as called for in the original recipe)

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar (any combo of white and brown is fine)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

some sprinkles of cinnamon and a little nutmeg (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 – 8 apples, roughly chopped (you can use pears)

1/2 cup (125 grams/1 stick) butter, melted

3 eggs, beaten

Place the dates in a small bowl and cover with whatever liquid you’re using. Add a little more liquid if they soak it all up.

Preheat the oven to 325F/160C. Using butter, grease a loaf tin, cake pan, or bundt pan (or combo…I used a standard loaf tin and a small bundt). I also recommend throwing a piece of parchment paper on the bottom.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

Add the chopped apples, dates/dried fruit in their liquid, melted butter and the eggs; mix well. It’ll look like a ton of apples held together by a little bit of thick batter. Spread the batter into the prepared pan(s), and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour (the bigger your pan, the more time it will need). Don’t worry too much about over-filling the pans as the cake won’t rise much. It will be done when it’s a dark tan color, springs back to the touch, and a toothpick inserted comes out with crumbs on it but not gooey.

Serve warm with boozy whipped cream for dessert or at room temperature for breakfast or tea. Stays fresh for days.

 

Extremely Lemony Lemon Drizzle Cake

February 7, 2018

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In my fitful sleep, I dream of lemons. Not just lemons. Limes, too. Lemon-lime flavored gummies and jello, cookies and cake. Lemon-scented candles, lime-scented cleaning supplies. Pretty much anything lemony and limey. I’m not sure how but there’s no doubt that my citrus obsession relates to my current state of being really, extremely pregnant and really, extremely congested. And probably isn’t unrelated to the fact that London is in the middle of a record-setting cold snap with which our 150-year-old house is finding hard to compete.

IMG_7603.jpgI am ready to have another baby. Like, really ready. At 37.5 weeks pregnant, baby is fully cooked and I’m fully over it. This pregnancy has not been especially difficult but for a raging sinus infection that has tortured me (and destroyed my ability to breathe, smell and taste) on and off for the last few months. Yes, months. Since early November. The doctors I’ve been to all assure me that for reasons unknown sinus infections are super common in late pregnancy and will clear up as soon as I deliver. “Not long now!” they say with a smile as I storm out of the office, under-prescribed, under-medicated and unimpressed.

With nothing to do but self-medicate, I woke up this morning from another lemon-infused dream knowing that I needed to make the lemony-est cake possible. Something even I, with my nose completely out of commission, could tell was lemony. Something bright and sunny, the opposite of a head cold in an English winter.

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And so this cake. Compiled from a bunch of different things I found online (but mostly this recipe), it has the loveliest, moistest, lemon-infused crumb with just the right amount of lemon syrup soaking through, capped by lemon icing.

So if life gives you lemons – or a sinus infection you can’t medicate away – rest easy knowing you can always make this extremely lemony lemon drizzle cake. It’s everything I dreamt it would be.

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EXTREMELY LEMONY LEMON DRIZZLE CAKE

I lost track of the number of lemons that went into this cake, but I wouldn’t start making it with less than 8 or 9 on hand. Just buy a lot of lemons and be ready to juice and zest. I even topped the cake with zest because I honestly cannot get enough lemons. The thing that makes this cake so special, though, is the crumb. It’s just really, really good. When I’m not on such a lemon-kick, I’ll come back to it for other things, perhaps substituting the lemon juice with orange juice or milk.

ED note: I have made this recipes many more times, sometimes substituting limes for lemons, and it’s always perfect. 

Makes the equivalent of 2 big loaves.

LEMON CAKE (makes the most delightful crumb)

250 grams/2 sticks butter, softened

2 cups sugar (this can be reduced to 1 1/2 cups)

4 large (or 5 medium) eggs

1/3 cup lemon zest (this was about 4 lemons + a lime)

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 6 lemons)

1/2 cup yogurt + 1/4 cup mik + big splash vinegar (or 3/4 cup buttermilk)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

LEMON SYRUP

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice

LEMON GLAZE

2 cups icing sugar, sifted

juice of 1 – 2 lemons

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease 2 loaf pans or a bundt pan plus some other small pans. I lined the bottoms with parchment paper in them, too, and they were super easy to remove from the pans.

First, make the cake: In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then add the eggs and lemon zest. Beat together until very pale and creamy, about 3 minutes.

In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk & vinegar to make a curdled buttermilk-like thing (otherwise, just use 3/4 cup buttermilk). Mix with 3/4 cup lemon juice and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt to combine.

Using a spoon or spatula, alternately add the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, until just combined. Divide the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30 – 45 mins, testing after 30 mins. They’ll be ready when a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out mostly clean or with a few dry crumbs. After a few minutes, carefully remove cakes from pans and cool upside down on a wire rack set over a pan to collect the syrup and glaze drippings.

Now, make the syrup while the cakes cool for a few minutes. In a small saucepan, combine the 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice over medium heat, until sugar is completely dissolved, about 3 minutes. Let the glaze cool for a minute or two, then spoon it over the bottoms of the cakes, letting it seep through.

Finally, flip the mostly cooled cakes right-side-up on the wire rack and make the glaze. Whisk together the sifted icing sugar with enough lemon juice to make a thick, smooth glaze. (Mine came out yellow because I used unrefined icing sugar. Drizzle or pour the glze over the tops of the cakes, letting it drip down the sides.

Frank’s Pasta with Peas

January 19, 2018

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Instagram is a wondrous thing. It’s definitely my social media addiction of choice (@leannekilroy) and I find myself getting lost inside its many (many) rabbit holes. (At this point I know everything there is to know about a girl I went to high school’s fiancé’s brother’s wife’s sister’s family, including that one of her rescue dogs, a lab mix, requires that we all pray for it). One of my favorite places to get lost is the feed of NYC restauranteur Frank (@frankprisinzano) and his NYC restaurants (@FrankRestaurant, @LilFrankies, @SupperNYC). I’ve spent too many nights scrolling through the glossy images of pasta and risotto, wiping the drool and planning to copy everything he does.

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Living in London means that it’s pretty easy to get an authentic Italian pizza, but it’s pretty impossible to get proper Italian American food. You know what I mean – chicken parm, spaghetti and meatballs and their more creative but no less comforting cohorts. I’m sure Frank would argue that his food isn’t Italian American but authentically Italian, and he’s right. But there’s something more heavy-handed, more unctuous, more satisfying in the way Americans eat, serve and enjoy Italian food. And it’s that abundance, that sauciness, that I crave and miss.

Good thing Frank posted the step-by-step making of an especially delicious looking plate, pasta with tomato sauce and peas, on his feed. I watched, drooled and made my version of it that night. Nothing like my tried and true pasta with peas, it turned out to be one of my most successful new pastas in a long while; everyone in the family – from the protein-obsessed man to the 10-month-old – adored it. Which should not have come as much of a surprise, considering Stella requests Frank’s spaghetti al limone – from his restaurant Supper – on the regular, even for her birthday.

No need to get lost in the Instagram rabbit hole in search of inspiration for tonight’s dinner: try this and save yourself the time and the drool.

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FRANK’S PASTA WITH PEAS

Makes enough for 4 generous servings. It’s the best kind of comfort food: dead simple and incredibly satisfying, without being too heavy. It’s even vegetarian! It’s nuts, really, how easy and delicious it is. I’m already planning to make it again very soon. Like tonight. 

2 onions, diced

big glug wine (white or red)

2 8-oz. cans (800 grams) crushed tomatoes

5 – 10 basil leaves

2 bay leaves

3 cups frozen peas

2/3 cup (170 fl) heavy (or double) cream

Finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano, about 2/3 cup

1 bag/1 pound/500 grams dried short pasta – we used riccoli, but any short pasta works

In a large pot, sweat the onions in ample extra virgin olive oil over low heat for at least 15 minutes, up to 30. The longer the better. When the onions are clear and fragrant, add a big glug of wine and cook off the liquid until you can’t smell the alcohol anymore, a minute or two. Add the crushed tomatoes, basil and bay leaves and cook over medium heat, stirring every so often, until most of the liquid has been reduced, about 30 – 45 minutes. You can set this aside until you’re ready to make the pasta. (Remove the bay leaves before serving.)

To finish the dish, boil lots of water in a separate pot. Cook your pasta in heavily salted, vigorously boiling water until very al dente then strain (it will continue to cook slightly in the sauce). While the pasta boils, turn up the heat up under the sauce and add the frozen peas. When the pasta is just about ready, but still a teensy bit underdone, add strained pasta to the bubbling sauce, add in the cream and a handful of parimigiano, stirring and cooking for a few minutes, until pasta consistency is perfect.

Serve in bowls with extra grated parmigiano on top.

White Chicken Chili

September 20, 2017

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I married someone who loves food as much as I do. When we visited our families this summer we worked through – and smashed – a rather ambitious Must Eat list (pad thai, corn muffins, Anna’s Taqueria super burrito, lobster roll, BBQ chicken calzone, Cape Cod potato chips, blueberry pie, etc. etc. etc.) that we’d posted in my parents’ kitchen. We choose vacation locations based on how well we think we’ll eat. But he’s also someone who goes through phases of controlling his food (high protein, no carbs, 6 meals a day) despite my intense eye rolling, exasperated sighs and general disdain.

But choose your battles one must so choose my battles I do and I genuinely try to cook to his diet, which we can summarize as Lots of Meat And Eggs And Not Much Else. (This isn’t directly relevant but it makes my efforts to cook to someone else’s whims appear all the more valiant so I feel compelled to point out that I’m currently nearly halfway done cooking yet another baby in my body. And I’m not cooking to my cravings. But rather, to my husband’s super important desire to eat protein. There. I said it. I’m done.)

In any case, despite my begrudgingly going along with his new diet (it all comes from a place of love!), scrounging the internets for interesting high-protein meals while eating straight up Pop Tarts from the wrapper, I have discovered some really amazing recipes. This is one of them.

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He wanted lots of chicken. I was cold (see: London) and wanted queso (see: pregnant). What to do? I decided to make a souped up (lolz) variation on a White Chicken Chili found on Food52 and not mention that there’s a maybe a litttttle bit of cream and cheese in the soup. The original called for all sorts of things one cannot easily buy in your average London supermarket (half-and-half, pinto beans, poblano peppers) so I did some tinkering and man it was good. Even the baby ate it (which, come to think of it, isn’t saying much). The rich, creaminess comes mostly from a simple roux (with help from a few heavy-handed splashes of cream) and the zesty flavor from the simplest spices (cumin, chili powder, Tabasco).

I won’t even link to the original recipe because I messed with it beyond recognition, but feel free to peruse Food52 for other white chicken chili options.  Though you’ll be hard pressed to find one better than this.

CREAMY WHITE CHICKEN CHILI

All of the ingredients are flexible and can be adjusted to taste. You can even add some vegetables like summer squash to add some nutrition and flavor. The method is a good one – and can be replicated with all sorts of flavors to make hearty cold weather soups. This made enough for the two of us plus one very big helping of leftovers. (A note about the photos: I took them halfway through cooking, so the chicken – while cooked – wasn’t yet shredding by itself in the soup. You can cook it less with chunky chicken as pictured or keep cooking if you’ve got time for shredded chicken. It’s up to you!)

6 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, chopped

2 jalapeños (or any chili you want), deseeded and chopped (or more to taste) NB: I used a medium squeeze of crushed fresh chili

4 – 8 chicken breasts (or thighs or a mix); the amount of meat is up to you, I used 3 lbs; chopped into 1″ cubes

1/3 cup flour

2 – 4 cups chicken broth (or water with 2 chicken bullion cubes)

1/2 cup cream (I used single cream, you can use heavy cream or half-and-half)

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I used mild)

A few drops of Tabasco

1/2 – 1 cup frozen corn kernels (optional)

1/2 cup Gruyere, grated plus more to serve

Chives or cilantro to serve (optional)

In a large pot, melt a chunk of butter and sautée the onions and chilis or over medium heat until translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. While this cooks, chop the chicken. Scoop out the onions and chili and reserve them in a small bowl. Now turn up the heat a bit and sautée the chicken chunks until starting to brown, then scoop them out and reserve in another bowl.

Melt the rest of the butter in the large pot then add the flour, whisking constantly for 2 minutes until the roux forms. Return the onions and chili to the pot, then slowly add in the broth and the cream, whisking constantly over medium heat for a few minutes unti it starts to bubble and thicken. Return the chicken to the pot and add the beans and the spices – cumin, chili, Tabasco – and some salt and pepper to taste.

Let the soup cook at a low bubble (stirring occasionally) for as long as you want, anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours, until chicken is starting to fall apart in the soup. Add more chicken broth (or water) if the soup gets too thick for your liking.

Just before serving, add the corn and 1/2 cup grated Gruyere and stir through. Serve with a little grated Gruyere and some freshly cut chives on top.

Rhubarb Crumb Cake

May 11, 2017


This is a milestone post – the very first of the Shortlists’ storied existence that hasn’t been written on my 2009 MacBook Pro. The old girl can’t handle much excitement these days so processing and publishing a crumb cake recipe was out of the question. Finally downloading the WordPress app on my phone should mean that I post more often and definitely get carpal tunnel. It’ll be worth it. It’ll also mean the formatting may be all off. Win some lose some.

Beyond degrading technology, I haven’t posted because we’re all suffering from the daycare disease – endless runny noses, head colds, dry coughs, and general grossness. Vesper, who’s crawling and pulling herself up to standing, seems unfazed by the constant nasal drip. Me? Not so much.

My true talent of complaining incessantly is reaching Olympic levels. Weeks into my Complain Marathon and what do I have to show for it? I can now breathe exclusively out of my mouth for days on end. I can maintain a scowl throughout an entire SNL Trump cold open. Eric and I can effectively communicate through nothing but grunts and shrugs. So essentially, nothing. I have nothing to show.

Except, of course, this amazing crumb cake!

It’s springtime in London according to the calendar but not the thermometer. (Another complaint!) Rhubarb is just about in season so I jumped joyfully on the bandwagon. Hoping the springtime bandwagon would bring warm weather and an end to my cold. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.) I asked the internet for help with how to showcase rhubarb and the internet delivered this delightful cake, which I seriously can’t get enough of. It’s the only non-human thing that can reliably erase my scowl.


RHUBARB CRUMB CAKE

Serves 8 – 12. The original Recipe is by Bob Vivant and published at Food52. I adapted it liberally but still is moist and scrumptious with just the right hint of almond. It could showcase any fruit really but the rhubarb’s sweet tartness really shines through. It’s definitely going into my everyday cake rotation. Perfect for breakfast, tea or dessert with sweetened whipped cream or ice cream. 

THE CRUMB – completely eyeballed this (these quantities represent an approximation of what (I’m glad) I did, which was double the amounts in the original crumb recipe)

1/4 cup flour

2 tablespoons slivered almonds or shredded coconut or both

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

THE CAKE

Butter for greasing the pan

2 eggs

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon almond extract

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1 1/4 cups flour

1 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (6 – 8 stalks)

Heat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch, deep tart pan / 8-inch round cake pan or 2 7-inch cake pans.

For the crumb, combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Using a fork or your fingers, gently work in the butter until pea-sized lumps are formed.

For the cake, combine the eggs, sugar, salt, and almond extract in a large bowl. Beat on high until the mixture triples in volume, about five minutes. Fold in the melted butter, flour, and rhubarb. Evenly spread the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top. Bake for around 60 minutes (more or less depending on pan size), until the topping is deeply golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the pan when mostly cool.

Pulled Pork with Homemade BBQ Sauce

March 22, 2017

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Look what I did! From scratch! All by my onesie! And it was delicious!

I don’t know why this particular culinary feat has me so proud, but I suspect it’s because I was sure I’d fail both at the start and at multiple points along the way.  I am American (as I think I make abundantly clear) but not from the places where BBQ is common or authentic. I’d never attempted (or even eaten) pulled pork made in a home kitchen. And not living in the U.S. means the butcher actually has no idea what you want when you ask for “Boston butt.”So we were off to a rocky start.

The recipe I glanced at was easy enough: take a massive piece of bone-in pork shoulder, rub it with spices and cook it slow and long. I decided to cook it a few days ahead (thank Jesus) and add some liquid to the pot. I also decided eight hours seemed like a mighty long time to slow cook something. It was, I found out, not. So I ended up frantically texting my parents at midnight to ask if it’s safe to go to sleep in a house full of children with the oven on (it is) and will a huge chunk of slow-cooked meat left out to cool and not immediately shredded at 3AM when it’s (FINALLY) cooked to perfection seize up and become an inedible lump of gristle (um, no? What are you talking about? Go to sleep).

The pork cooked slowly all afternoon and halfway into the night when I’d set my alarm to retrieve it and left it on the stove top and went the f*@& back to sleep. And because I’ve got a million things to do, most of which I have to navigate while holding a baby on my hip, pulling the pork (two hands required) didn’t actually happen until about 18 hours after it came out of the oven. (It was graciously easy to pull – and snack on – while the BBQ sauce simmered.) Mixing the pork with the BBQ sauce didn’t happen until a whole day after that (see above about free hands). Would it dry out? (NO, go to sleep.)

Eventually, it all came together. Pork was slowly cooked until it fell apart, pulled, and doused in a homemade sauce that, had I known how easy BBQ sauce is to make, I’d have been making all my life. It was served warm with Boston baked beans (I know, not super authentic but still very American and very close to our Bostonian hearts), cornbread (Jiffy!) and coleslaw. Guests brought Pimento cheese dip, deviled eggs and champagne. We ate and drank like we weren’t sitting in a North London kitchen. We had hot fudge brownie sundaes for dessert. We stayed up until all the candles burned down. We fell in love with homemade pulled pork and complained that there wasn’t more leftover.

Next time – and there will be a next time – I’ll just put it in the oven in the morning, cook it all day and remember that it’s as forgiving as it is delicious.

IMG_7749PULLED PORK AND HOMEMADE BBQ SAUCE

This recipe takes time, lots of time, but not a lot of it is hands on. The only things you have to DO is rub the rub, put it in the oven, check the internal temperature and then shred. Most of the ingredients (but not method, I did that myself because I think I know better) I pulled from Mark Bittman’s recipe. My alterations are in ellipses. We found it fed 6 adults with leftovers for two. Would be unreal as a pulled pork sandwich.

  • 4 tablespoons paprika
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns (or ground pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (I used sweet because I wanted all the kiddles to eat it)
  • 2 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander (I don’t have so didn’t use)
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (ditto)
  • 1 pork butt, 5 to 6 pounds (I used bone-in pork shoulder)
  • water or broth

Mix all the rub ingredients together in a large bowl. Place the pork shoulder in the bowl and rub the rub (!) all over, into all the little crevices. Really get in there.

In the morning or sometime when you’ll have like 12 hours to leave the oven on and not freak out, preheat oven to 120C/200F. Place the pork in a large ovenproof lidded pot. Doesn’t matter if it’s fatty side up or down. (My pot’s lid wouldn’t sit tightly because the pork was so big, that’s OK.) Put a little water and/or broth in the bottom of the dish. I probably put enough to come a little less than way up the pork.

Put the pot in the oven and leave it to do its thing, 8 – 12 hours, or until the meat falls off the bone. You’ll know for sure it’s ready – when it will be moist, falling off the bone and easy to shred – when the internal temperature will read between 180-200F on a meat thermometer.

Set aside to cool a bit before shredding by hand. You can do this a few days ahead if you want. Once you shred it, add 2/3 of the BBQ sauce (recipe below) and mix well. Serve slightly warmed with extra BBQ sauce.

HOMEMADE BBQ SAUCE

 From Melissa Clark’s recipe. Made more than enough for the quantity of pork we made. Keeps well in the fridge for a few weeks at least.

  • 1 ½ cups ketchup
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated (I used garlic powder because #lazy)
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sweet or hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • Pinch of cayenne (didn’t have it, didn’t use this)
  • Dash of hot sauce, more to taste

Combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer gently for 10 – 20 minutes to bring the flavors together and deepen the color. Adjust seasoning to taste. Can be made a few days ahead and kept in the fridge. Serve warm or at room temperature.