Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tentura christmas cake

While in Greece I was served up some Tentura after a meal. It is a liquer and the main ingredients are cinnamon and cloves. You drink it down in a small shot glass and I suppose it is an ancient version of Salmiaki Kossu. So it was Maija's idea to make a cake with Tentura as a spice.

Now Christmas cakes have a great tradition in the UK and America. These christmas fruitcakes weigh a tonne and apparently if you don't eat them they last for ever. A bit like the English wedding cakes covered in icing and marzipan that can be saved so that the first born can sample their mother and fathers wedding cake.

Fruit cakes given as presents at christmas can be left uneaten, and if you don't like them they can be passed on to someone else. who will undoubtedly pass it on to somebody else the following christmas. They are so rich they will last forever it left untouched. I bet you the Pharaoh had perfectly good cake in his burial chamber.

Eggs, sugar, flour, butter, all go into the basic dough and you add it the fruits like raisens, sultanas, appricots, cherries and of course a generous helping of Tentura.

Now you don't want the cake to turn out like a coal-dust brickette so to prevent the cake from burning and sticking to the container, the inside is lined with brown baking paper and the outside is covered in newspaper.

Now I hear you question as to what type of newspaper to use. Well personally we got good results with Helsinki Sanomat, though I dare say The Times would have done equally well.

At all cost avoid The Sun, or The National Inquirer. For some reason cakes wraped in these newspapers always come out badly.

Finally when the cake is ready it has to be spiked with more Tentura, for after all eating cake is only a discrete way of consuming alcohol. Prick the cake with a toothpick and pour in as much Tentura was you want.

You will observe that after people have eaten a few slices they will remark how wonderfully moist the cake is, and will be asking for another slice.

Nuckle of Lamb

Knuckle of Lamb... I ate it many times in islamic resturants in Cairo. It is an awesome sight to have a chunk of meat like this braized to perfection and falling off the bone placed in front of you.

There is something very special about the way lamb is cooked in North africa or the middle east, that makes it so different from the roast lamb that you would get in England.

Perhaps it has something to do with the lamb itself in that it is not deep frozen stuff from New Zealand. Whatever it is freshness, spices, cooking method, it sure is tasty.

In marocco they will add to the casserole apricots, dates, almonds, sultanas or raisins, honey, saffron mixture, tomato juice and lamb or chicken stock, and I guess all that fruitiness gives a sweetness to the dish that you do not usually associate with lamb

The spices that I added were freshly sliced ginger. Don't use that powdered stuff it may give ginger flavour, but there is nothing so satisfying than to bite into a bit of ginger that has been cooked. It does something for the appetite.

Then there is Bay leaves, and rosemary and thyme which are traditional herbs to go along with lamb. In addition Rose Pepper and Black Peppercorns give the casserole some extra bite.

Whack the whole thing in a cast iron pot and add a couple of onions quartered and a large carrot diced. Add a stock cube and water, clap on the lid and cook in the oven for 2-3 hours at 180 C

It is read whn the meat falls off the bone and all the marrow has dissolved from inside the bone. at it with either rice or couscous.