Saturday, January 5, 2013

A fruity New Year to you

New Year's Eve: dinner at Lesley and Paul's. Lesley is (unlike me) a talented gardener, and every year - even in Wellington - she gets a great crop of blueberries. For our dinner she'd cooked them with red wine and balsamic vinegar to make a beautiful relish for her succulent ham (which followed Paul's home-smoked salmon). I didn't get the recipe, but it would be easy to experiment.

New Year's Day: dinner with my French friend Diane. French cheese and an enticing variety of cold cuts with salad. The dessert was my contribution: a wide shallow dish of tiramisu, with cherries poached in red wine (the last of the third box I've managed to eat my happy way through this year). This is a distillatin of various recipes. In some you're supposed to destone them, but I don;t have the correct implement (does anyone???) and after trying one I decided it wasn't worth the trouble. Besides, they look so much prettier left whole - and it meant we could play the French equivalent of "tinker, tailor", though it turns out to be a bit more cynical: "marié, pendu, cocu" (married, hung, cuckolded").

Cherries in red wine
500g fresh cherries (destalked and, if you insist, destoned)
1 cup red wine (grenache is good)
1/2 cup white sugar (I used a little less, I think it's better less sweet)
A little vanilla (a pod with scraped seeds if you have it, or a 1/4 tsp vanilla paste, or a dash of essence - I had some vanilla syrup, so I used a splash of that)

Heat the wine and dissolve the sugar in it. Add the vanilla, then the cherries. Poach over a gentle heat for about 5 minutes (they should be cooked but not squishy). Remove the cherries with a slotted spoon.

Raise the heat and reduce the liquid to a syrup (be careful not to overdo this stage). Pour the syrup over the cherries and leave to cool. Delicious with any light creamy dessert (lemon mousse is good) or just with vanilla ice cream.

Because the rhubarb Ali brought me has been doing so well in its pot, she told me I was allowed to start picking it now, instead of leaving it for another few months. So I very cautiously twisted off the two biggest stalks.

Not enough on their own, so I added an apple and put them at the bottom of the oven in a ceramic backing dish, with port and brown sugar, while I cooked something else. When the oven needed to eb turned off they were cooked, but there was too much liquid, so I left the dish in the oven to attend to later. Mistake. Next evening I turned the oven to 200C for roast veges, forgetting all about the fruit until I smelt burning sugar. Out came a sad-looking dark brown lump of amalgamated fruit.

I was going to throw it away, but first I broke off a bit and tasted it. Amazing - a sort of chewy fruit toffee. So I added a bit of water to soften it and tried a lump next morning with my muesli, milk and yoghurt. It was sensational, still slightly sharp but with a rich caramel flavour. I'm going to do it again, only better controlled this time so it doesn't look quite so much like a burnt offering. There are six more stalks waiting in the fridge...


Unknown said...

Wow -- I love the sound of dark caramelised rhubarb! What a wonderful discovery.

AnneE said...

And it turned the yoghurt and milk a beautiful pale beige. Now, can I do it again?