WWhat we decide to serve at our Christmas tables in this year of every year could be in two ways. On the one hand, tradition can be reached even more firmly than ever: the food we associate with Christmas can provide the reassuring certainty that has been lacking for much of 2020. I get it, completely, but surely there is also a case for serving one. food that dispenses with “the way things should be done” and instead travels the world for inspiration. After months of not being able to go anywhere, why not go international with a light Southeast Asian-inspired entree, a celebratory Mexican entree, and a Mauritian-inspired cake to see it all. We were all in this together, after all.
Prawn and lettuce dumplings with mandarin sauce
I wasn’t sure whether to call these dumplings, packages, pot stickers, or wrappers. What I’m sure of, though, is that it will make a very welcome starter or snack at any festive table.
Homework 18 min
Cook 22 min
Make 12, to serve 4
300g of raw and peeled prawns
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
2½ teaspoons (5 g) peeled and minced fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon green (or black) peppercorns, roughly crushed
3⅓ tablespoons (10 g) chives, minced
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Salt and black pepper
2 heads of lettuce
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds, well toasted
For the dipping sauce
50 ml of fresh mandarin juice (i.e. 2 to 3 tangerines) or fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons lime juice
¼ teaspoon fish sauce
1½ teaspoon maple syrup
½ small garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
2½ teaspoons (5 g) peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
½ red chilli, finely chopped
Place the first six ingredients and a third of a teaspoon of salt in the small bowl of a food processor and blend until you get a paste.
Trim the bottoms off the lettuce heads, then separate them to make 12 of the larger leaves (reserve the rest for another recipe). With the rib side up, use a sharp knife to shave off the thickest part of the lettuce rib, so the leaves can be easily rolled without breaking.
Lay all the lettuce leaves, rib side down on a work surface, then place about 30g of the shrimp mixture in the center of each leaf. Roll tightly, encircling shrimp mixture on all sides; The natural stickiness of the shrimp should help you seal the packages. Place packages seam side down on medium-sized cookie sheet.
In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dipping sauce and a quarter teaspoon of the salt, and set aside.
Put the oil in a large nonstick skillet that you have a lid for and set it over medium-high heat. Once hot, put the lettuce packets seam side down, cover and fry for three and a half minutes, until the bases are golden brown.
Arrange the meatballs on a plate, sprinkle the sesame seeds on top, and serve hot with the sauce on the side.
Holding chiles rellenos (top in photo)
Stuffed peppers, a classic Mexican dish from Puebla, consists of charred, stuffed, battered, and fried peppers (traditionally Poblano, although I use Romans) served with salsa. The combination is intoxicating and a celebratory dish that is well worth the effort. If you want to get ahead, you can roast the peppers and make the red sauce up to two days in advance.
Homework 15 minutes
Cook 45 min
It serves 6
6 red and yellow Roman peppers mixed
200 g mozzarella, torn into small pieces
200g made, broken into small pieces
800 ml of sunflower oil, for frying
2 lemons, Cut into pieces to serve
For the red sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
300g sweet red cherry tomatoes, as datterini
½ dried habanero pepper (or ¼ teaspoon chili flakes, if you prefer less spicy)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
120 ml of water
For the mass
4 eggs, separated
80 g all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon of salt
For the fresh sauce
2 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
2 jalapenos, finely chopped (seeds and marrow removed and discarding, if you prefer less heat)
1 tablespoon coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1½ tablespoon lime juice
1 pinch of salt
Turn the oven rack to its highest setting. Cut a slit along one side of each of the peppers, making sure to keep them attached at the top and bottom. Place the peppers cut side up on a wire rack set on a large pan and grill near the top of the oven for seven minutes. Carefully flip the peppers so they are sliced down and grill for another seven minutes, until the skin is blackened and bubbly in places. Remove the tray from the oven and allow the peppers to cool slot side down on the rack so the liquid can drain off. I don’t bother peeling the peppers, it really isn’t necessary, and I love the charred skin, anyway, but if you prefer, peel them once they’re cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, make the red sauce. Put all the ingredients except the tomato paste and water in a large skillet, add a teaspoon of salt and sauté over high heat for six minutes. Lower the heat to medium and sauté for 10 more minutes, until the tomatoes and onions are soft and golden. Pour the contents of the pan into a blender, add the tomato paste and water, mix until smooth and set aside.
For the batter, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk in place, and beat on high speed for a minute and a half, until you have medium-stiff peaks. Beat in the egg yolks, then fold them gently, flour and salt through the whites, until just combined. Transfer to a wide container.
Mix the mozzarella and feta cheese in a bowl with a good pinch of salt. Turn the peppers so they are sliced up, fill with the cheese mixture, being careful not to pierce the skin, then press the seal with your fingers.
In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients for the fresh sauce with a good pinch of salt.
Heat oil in large high-sided skillet. Once very hot (180 ° C, if you have a temp probe), dip the peppers into the batter three at a time, making sure they are well covered in batter. Carefully lower the three peppers into the hot oil and fry for two minutes on each side. Transfer to a wire rack to drain, sprinkle with flake salt, then repeat with the remaining three bell peppers and batter.
To serve, heat the red sauce and then pour it into a bowl. Top with the fried peppers first and then with the fresh salsa, and serve with the lemon wedges squeezed on top.
Pineapple Ring of Fire
This spiced cake is based on a traditional Mauritian dessert, and it’s a wonderful sight when the rum catches fire and a ring burns around it. You should use tamarind from a block here, instead of store bought pasta (which can be very salty). Serve with vanilla or coconut ice cream.
Homework 20 minutes
Cook 1 hour and 20 minutes
It serves 6-8
For the tamarind caramel
50 g tamarind, soaked in 100 ml of hot water for 15 minutes
200 g caster sugar
60 ml cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 pinch of salt
1 medium-large pineapple, peeled, cored, and pulp cut into 5mm thick half moons (you will need about 600g pineapple moons, so treat any excess as a chef’s delight)
For the cake batter
225 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
225 g all-purpose flour
50g desiccated coconut
1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 star anise, finely ground in a spice mill (or ½ teaspoon ground star anise store bought)
1 teaspoon Aleppo chili flakes (or ½ teaspoon chili flakes)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 pinch of salt
4 large eggs, gently whipped
50ml dark rum
Heat the oven to 200 ° C (180 ° C / 390 ° F / gas 6 fan) and line a 23 cm round detachable pan with parchment paper.
Pass the soaked tamarind through a strainer, to collect the seeds and collect all the paste in a small bowl (discard the seeds).
To make the caramel, put the sugar, water, vanilla, ginger and a pinch of salt in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook for 15 minutes; Resist the urge to stir, but turn the pan occasionally, so the mixture takes on a uniform dark golden color. Add the tamarind, careful, because it could splash, then, once incorporated, add the pineapple and stir gently so as not to break the slices. Cook for a minute, then remove from heat and use a spoon to flip the pineapple chunks so they are caramelized on both sides. Let cool.
Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla paste on medium-high speed for 15 minutes, until pale and fluffy. You will probably need to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to ensure an even mix.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, coconut, cinnamon, star anise, chili flakes, baking powder, and a pinch of salt.
Add half of the eggs and half of the flour mixture to the buttercream and beat on medium speed until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides again, then repeat with the remaining eggs and flour mixture.
Use a spoon to gently transfer the pineapple to the lined can, forming the pieces into concentric circles with overlapping edges. Pour in half of the caramel and turn the can carefully so it spreads evenly. Spread the cake batter evenly over the top of the pineapple and use a spatula to gently flatten the surface. Place the cake pan on a baking sheet to catch any escaping caramel, then bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Place a plate on top of the can and quickly turn everything over. Loosen the outer ring, remove the greaseproof paper, and then drizzle the remaining caramel over the exposed pineapple.
To serve, bring the cake to the table, pour the rum evenly over it, and then use a gas lighter or long match to set the rum on fire. Serve hot with ice cream.
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