- 2 cups unhusked hazelnuts, toasted
- 55 kumquats (about 21 ounces)
- 10 whole star anise* or whole cloves
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 1 cup unhusked hazelnuts, toasted
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder**
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 1/2 8-ounce containers mascarpone
- 1 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream
- 4 teaspoons Cognac or brandy
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Line baking sheet with foil. Stir sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, brushing down sides with wet pastry brush and swirling pan occasionally. Mix in nuts. Pour onto foil; cool completely. Coarsely chop nut crunch. Set aside.
Starting at rounded end, cut cross into each kumquat to within 1/4 inch of stem end. Bring wine, sugar, honey, and star anise to boil in heavy large saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Add kumquats; simmer until almost tender, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer kumquats to plate; cool. Seed and finely chop enough kumquats to measure 2/3 cup (reserve remaining kumquats). Gently boil kumquat syrup until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 12 minutes. Cool.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1-inch or 17 x 11 x 3/4-inch baking sheet with foil; butter and flour foil. Finely grind nuts with flour in processor; transfer to medium bowl. Whisk in baking powder, spice, and salt. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Beat in yolks and extracts. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with milk in several additions, just until combined. Using clean dry beaters, beat whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/3 of whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining whites. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes for 17 x 11-inch cake and 28 minutes for 15 1/2 x 10 1/2-inch cake. Cool cake in pan on rack 20 minutes. Run knife around cake to loosen. Turn cake out onto foil-lined rack; cool completely. Cut hazelnut cake crosswise into 3 equal pieces.
Combine all ingredients in large bowl; beat to soft peaks (do not overbeat or mixture will curdle).
Place 1 cake piece on platter. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over; sprinkle with 1/3 cup chopped kumquats and 1/3 cup nut crunch, then drizzle with 2 tablespoons kumquat syrup. Top with second cake piece. Top with third cake piece. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Drain remaining kumquats; remove seeds and any attached pulp. Top cake with kumquats, arranging like flowers. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead; cover and chill cake. Store remaining nut crunch and kumquat syrup at room temperature. Press remaining nut crunch around sides of cake. Drizzle 2 tablespoons syrup over cake and serve.
Fried barley and wild garlic, to eat at your leisure
prepping the barley, ready for frying
My love for barley began in two ways: a can of Heinz scotch broth which was packed with its chewy little nubbins in an otherwise forgettable soup, and Robinsons Barley Water which I personally believe to be the best way to soothe a fulminant UTI. No wonder tennis players, flinging themselves around on a hot court, drink gallons of the stuff.
I’ve found a better way of eating what is such a versatile little grain and this technique for fried barley will give you a fine carby foil for whatever fish, meat or vegetable you care to accompany it with. Barley is a wonderful carrier for flavour and accommodates reheating beautifully and I try to keep a cooked bowlful of the stuff in the fridge at all times to mix into salads, soups and stews or eat as is, with butter, black pepper and salt.
There are two forms of barley: hulled and pearl. Hulled barley has had the tough, inedible outermost hull removed and retains its bran and endosperm layer, resulting in a chewier grain when cooked. Pearl barley has been polished to remove the bran, leaving a pale and cream-coloured grain which cooks more swiftly. Hulled grain is the more nutritious of the two types because it has retained its fibre but pearl barley releases its starch into any liquid it is cooked within, making it a good thickener for soups and risottos.
The recipe that follows is more advice than prescriptive guide and serves around four or me, over several meals.
Make up 1½ litres of chicken (or vegetable) stock and bring to the boil in a large pan. Pour in 300g of pearl barley and cook at a simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the barley has doubled in size, becoming swollen and a little fluffy around the edges. Drain, place into a bowl and leave to cool.
Shred two large handfuls of wild garlic and mix into the barley. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze its juice over the wild garlic and grains. Add some fresh thyme sprigs too.Taste and adjust the salt if necessary. In the photo above, I have chucked in some leftover salad leaves which wilt beautifully in the heat of the pan but this is by no means compulsory.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet and when it is hot, add the pearl barley and stir fry in two stages unless your skillet is REALLY big. You want it to develop a bit of a crust underneath so don’t toss it too much. Keep on frying until it is golden and a little caught around the edges. Serve whatever way you like it keeps for three or four days too.
December 27, 2005
Christmas day and the day after christmas, sweetwise
Starting with a bottle of Gosset, we had a quiet, small but joyous dinner at home in the Christmas day evening. Usually, businesses don't close and people don't take a day off on Christmas day in Japan, but this year it was Sunday and we even had a 3-day weekend, so I reckon a lot of people got to have real Christmas "holidays" this time. I, meanwhile, had a deadline on the 25th and had been in the homestretch from the night before, although, I did get around to putting together a cake for the day early in the morning.
We rarely have snow around Christmastime in Tokyo, and we didn't this year, either. But I had some in my house, on a plate, upon a pretty small white cake called Snow Forest Cake. Ever since I had found its recipe in book Je veux du chocolat! by Trish Deseine (Marabout, 2002) I had meant to make one myself all in white, it looked just so pretty in the picture.
This was a layer cake, with cake made using melted white chocolate and heavy cream, filled with lemon curd and butter cream, frosted with butter cream, and topped with white chocolate pine trees and a finishing snow of confectioner's sugar. To tell you the truth, I hadn't particularly been fascinated by the components - it sure looked adorable, but seemed to be rather plain, sweet cake, frankly. I actually got intimidated by the amount of sugar used, so cut some down in the cake and buttercream (for the lemon curd and pine trees parts, well, there wasn't much I could do).
Little did I know. First one bite into it knocked me down it was sweet - sickeningly so. It's not that the taste was bad, but come to think about it, it was too sweet for me to taste anything but the sweetness. My first bite ended up being the last bite of the day, I really couldn't take it any more. I was shocked by the fact that I made something that I myself actually couldn't eat.
It was buttercream that ruined the whole thing. The cake was okay, white chocolate and lemon curd acceptable, but buttercream - it's not that I hate buttercream in general, but this particular batch was way too sweet, even though I had cut down the sugar in it. As I couldn't bring myself to use it up in the cake, I desperately made the remaining buttercream into another cake next day.
Basically, the buttercream was whipped butter with sugar. There I added an egg, some sour cream and flour along with mazipan paste, which I used in place of ground almonds. I baked the batter with apple slices, and there came out a decent square of apple cake. It tasted quite good - in fact, it tasted at least two thousand times better than the buttercream itself. Besides, I felt relieved as I didn't have to chuck the stuff away.
By the way, a bite of the pretty white cake made me not want to eat any more sweet stuff on Christmas day, I ate my fruit cake on the next day.
Having sit for a week or so, the cake was supposed to have fully developed its taste by then, according to the recipe I used. Or was it? We found it a little too boozy, still it would be tasting a little better after another week or so. Hopefully.
But at least the tea was good:
The vanilla-citrus flavored black tea in this beautiful tea caddy was among the exciting stuff (like White Chocolate Reese's, rose candies, and curried macnuts, I mean) in a package that Santos had sent me over from Guam a while ago. I had never had tea from Harney & Sons, but it was a kind of tea that I like - strong, full-bodied, and aromatic. Thanks Santos!
I had made some more Christmasy stuff other than these, which will come in the next post. In the meantime, I hope everyone had a lovely weekend, whether it was for Christmas or just another ordinaly weekend.