Category: Recipes

English Plum Pudding – using an Instant Pot

English Plum Pudding – using an Instant Pot

Plum pudding is a traditional holiday dessert that goes back hundreds of years. And it doesn’t actually contain plums: just raisins and candied fruit. In the 17th century, “plum” meant any dried fruit. Traditionally, you make it a year ahead so it can age, but even a couple of weeks will do, so don’t worry about getting a late start. You can start another one after the holidays and you’ll be all set for next year, too!

Plum pudding is a steamed pudding, cooked for many hours in a slow oven. We sped this up by using our Instant Pot counter top pressure cooker, to reduce the time to just 2 hours. The recipe we are using is half the original, which makes a slumgullion of pudding, and even then we did it two batches, one in a Mrs Anderson’s Baking  Steamed  Pudding Mold, and a smaller one-hour amount in a small bowl wrapped in foil.

Fruit Mixture

  • ½ lb seedless raisins
  • ½ lb golden raisins
  • ¼ lb currants
  • ½ cup thinly slice citron
  • ½ cup chopped candied peel
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp mace
  • 14 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ lb finely chopped suet (powdery fine)
  • 5/8 cup brandy

Pudding

  • 5/8 cup fresh bread crumbs, (about 2 cups)
  • ½ cup warm milk
  • ½ cup sherry or port
  • 6 eggs, well beaten
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Brandy

Hard Sauce

  • ½ cup softened butter
  • 1 ½ cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or 2 Tb brandy or rum

Beat the softened butter in an electric mixer and slowly add the sugar.  Add the vanilla or brandy and served with the plum pudding.

Making the pudding

  1. Blend the fruits, citron, spices and suet in a bowl or jar.
  2. Add 1/8 cup brandy, cover tightly and refrigerate for 2-4 days, adding more brandy each day.
  3. When ready to mix up the pudding, mix the milk and sherry or port together.
  4. Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk/ wine mixture.
  5. Combine the beaten eggs and sugar and blend with the fruit mixture.
  6. Add salt and mix thoroughly.
  7. Put the pudding in a buttered pudding mold or buttered bowls. With the pudding mold we bought, we get about 2/3 of the batter in it. Cover with foil to seal it and keep out the moisture.
  8. Put a cup of water in the Instant Pot, add the trivet, and place the pudding mold on the trivet.
  9. Seal the Instant Pot, and steam on Manual for 2 hours.
  10. Uncover and place in a 250° F oven for 30 minutes.
  11. Add a dash of brandy to the pudding, and store in a cool place.
  12. Repeat with the remaining batter in a small bowl covered securely with foil.
  13. Allow the pudding to age for a week or two, adding a dash of brandy every day or two.
  14. When ready to serve, reheat in the steamer, and unmold.
  15. Sprinkle with sugar, add heated brandy and ignite.
  16. Serve with hard sauce.

flamed

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Holiday ‘Indian’ pudding

Holiday ‘Indian’ pudding

Indian pudding is a simple Colonial era recipe made with corn meal, eggs and molasses. While you can bake it, you get a smoother, creamier pudding if you steam it like other puddings. In this recipe, we used our Instant Pot to steam it quickly. You can also follow the same recipe steaming it in the oven I a water bath.

  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups milk
  • ½ cup corn meal
  • 2 Tb butter
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp dry ginger
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup golden raisns
  • ½ tsp vanilla extact
  • 1 tb butter to grease the pan
  • Vanilla ice cream
  1. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a 3 quart pan, heat the milk to just under a simmer
  3. Slowly add the cornmeal and whisk it in. It should slowly thicken.
  4. Cook for 10 minutes, whisking to keep the mixture from sticking to the pan.
  5. Remove from stove and add all the other ingredients except the eggs and mix in.

6. Temper the eggs by stirring in a cup or so of the milk mixture. Then add the egg mixture back to the milk mixture and stir it in.
7. Pour the mixture into a buttered casserole dish or cake pan that will fit into the Instant Pot.
8. Wrap the dish securely in foil to keep the water out
9. Add 1 cup of water to the pot and place the wrapped dish on top of the trivet.
10. Cook on the Manual setting for 30-45 minutes.

11. The pudding should be somewhat firm, but may still be jiggly in the center.
12. Let the pudding stand for 15 minutes and then serve warm with a scoop of ice cream.

in bowl

If you like the pudding a bit firmer, chill it in the refrigerator, and scoop out pudding into serving bowls and microwave them each for 30 seconds. (See above) Serve with ice cream.

You can also steam the pudding in a 325 ° F oven, sitting in a water bath for about 90 minutes.

 

 

Shrimp scampi carbonara

Shrimp scampi carbonara

If you think Shrimp Scampi is great, imagine it served on spaghetti carbonara instead of boring old spaghetti! This is the the perfect meld of two excellent dishes, resulting in shrimp on a rich, creamy spaghetti base. And the whole recipe still takes only half an hour.

For the scampi

  • One pound large (or larger) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 lemon, juiced. Save the zest, too.
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 5 Tb butter
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley

For the carbonara

  • 2 strips bacon
  • ½ to 1 lb vermicelli
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

  1. Start by frying the 2 strips of bacon from the carbonara recipe. Cook until dry, and drain on a paper towel. Chop the bacon up and reserve in a small dish. Pour the bacon drippings in the bowl as well.
  2. Rinse out the pan, removing any excess “bacon tracks,” dry and add the olive oil.
  3. Saute the shrimp 2-4 minutes, depending on size. They should be pink and firm, but don’t cook until they shrink. Set the shrimp aside.

 

  1. Add the minced garlic and pepper flakes and a little more olive oil. Saute for a minute or so until fragrant.
  2. Add the lemon juice and wine and cook down for a couple of minutes.
  3. Stir in the butter, a Tb at a time until the sauce is smooth and uniform.
  4. Cook the vermicelli in boiling water until just past al dente. For this recipe, we prefer starting with dried, rather than fresh, pasta, because it will hold more heat for the next step.

 

  1. Drain the pasta and return to a bowl. Using two forks, mix in the eggs one at a time so they cook in the hot pasta.
  2. Add the parmesan cheese and stir in so it begins to melt.
  3. Mix in some or all of the bacon or you can also use steak that you can cut in little pieces following the best filleting tips.
  4. Reheat the shrimp in the sauce, briefly and pour both over the spaghetti.
  5. Sprinkle parsley on top.

There! Done in half an hour or less, and creamily good. Serve ladling the shrimp, sauce and pasta onto each plate.

plated

Buon appetito!

Easy peel hard-boiled eggs

Easy peel hard-boiled eggs

Some people get frustrated when they can’t get the shell of their hard boiled eggs and we’ve done the experiments to tell you what actually works to make them peel easily.

A lot has been written about how to hard boil (actually hard cook) eggs, and much of it is wrong. Bittman suggests that you should put a pinhole in each end of the egg before boiling, but McGee says that studies have shown that this is ineffective. McGee gets two other points wrong though about  fresh eggs and boiling temperature, though, so we tried all these things for you.

The single greatest secret is that it is best in acne spot treatment! Chilling the cooked egg is helpful but less significant. And as for fresh versus older eggs, wait and see!

farmers cowIn this article we used Extra Large eggs from The Farmers Cow cooperative, with a Julian packing date of 238 (August 26) which means they were 3-4 weeks away from the hens when we bought them at Stop and Shop.

Our favorite way to cook 2-4 eggs is to put them in a vegetable steamer over boiling water; however, I would recommend to get organic eggs, for me they taste better and are also better for you. This is way easier and safer than putting the eggs right into the boiling water.

  1. Put the steamer in a pan, and add water until just below the surface of the steamer, and bring the water to a boil. Using a big, slotted spoon or a set of tongs, lower the eggs into the steamer basket. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil, and cover the pan for 10 minutes.
  2. Then, remove the pan from the heat and run cold water into it. Dump the water (which is now luke-warm) and add more cold water to chill the eggs. This isn’t supposed to be a big deal, it is just to get the eggs down to a temperature where you can hold and peel them.
  3. Peel each egg under running water. This will wash away any eggshell shards and help separate the egg from the shell. The shells should come right off without sticking.

pan boilAnother simple way is to simply use boiling water without the steamer. Bring the water in a pan to a gentle boil and quickly slip the eggs into the water. Let them cook, covered for 10 minutes as above and cool them the same way. The advantage of this method is that you can get more eggs into the pan. The disadvantage is that it is hard to get a lot of eggs into the pan quickly so they all cook for the same length of time, and if there are too many, they may bump together and crack.

Using the Instant Pot

eggs in IPA third way that works really well is using an Instant Pot or any other counter-top electric pressure cooker.  It’s very simple, but most of the on-line recipes get it wrong, resulting it overcooking or tough eggs. You put the trivet in the Instant Pot (or use a vegetable steamer) and add one cup of water. Then add all the eggs you want (you could do a dozen or more) and close the pot. Use the Steam setting (high pressure) rather than the Manual setting, which will result in higher pressure and tough eggs.

Nearly all of these cooker have a “rest” or “cool down” setting. This is intended for cooking meats and allows them to draw the juices back into the meat before you depressurize and open the pot. For eggs, however, this is silly. A typical recipe suggestion is 5-5-5, meaning 5 minutes cooking, 5 minutes cooldown and 5 minutes in ice water. This is way too long: the eggs will be overcooked. If you play the recipe writer’s game, you should cook using the High Pressure Steam setting, and then let the eggs cool for at most 3 minutes.

To cool the eggs, just lift the whole stainless steel pan out of the pot and remove it to the sink. Then run cold water into the pot, drain and run cold water again. When the eggs feel cool enough to handle peel them under running water. We tried 5+5, found that they were overcooked, and settled on 5+3. A half of each is shown in the right hand bowl below.

It’s interesting to note that the 5+5 (10 minute) egg was just a little more difficult to peel, because the egg was harder and less flexible. Slightly less done eggs are easier to peel!

3 boiled


3 cut openThis photo shows eggs cooked in the vegetable steamer, in a pan and in the Instant Pot for 5+3 and 5+5.

A simpler way to use the Instant Pot, is to forget the cooling period and just cook the eggs for, say, 8 minutes, release the pressure and cool them in running water as above. To see what different times do, see the photo below, which shows cooking times of 7, 8, 9 and 10 minutes.

What about fresh eggs?

fresh wggA pervasive legend, perpetuated by McGee is that really fresh eggs are more likely to stick to their shells than older eggs. We decided to test this out by getting a dozen fresh eggs from a neighbor who raises chickens, and cooking two on a vegetable steamer.  These eggs were probably laid within the past 3-4 days and are about as fresh as we could get.

They cooked perfectly. There was no difference whatever!

Do you really have to use boiling water?

Since everything worked perfectly, we decided to see what it would take to produce an egg that peeled terribly. All we had to do was to start the eggs in cold water and then cook them for 10 minutes from the boil. We chilled them as usual by running cold water into the pan until the egg was cool to the touch. Trying to peel this egg was a disaster. Everything went wrong, just as we predicted.

boil fail

What about the chilled water?


chill failDo we really have to chill the eggs after cooking? Well, that’s easy to try as well. We cooked one egg in the veggie steamer for 10 minute as usual, and left it on the counter for an hour to cool. The result was an egg that peel pretty well, but was not as perfect as the ones that were chilled right away. Obviously the quick chilling causes the white to draw away from the shell a bit, making peeling easier.

You don’t have to chill the eggs for 5-6 minutes. Just get them to room temperature so you can peel them. This takes a minute or less.

Conclusions

  1. Always start your eggs in boiling water.
  2. Always chill the eggs in cold tap water or ice water after cooking. You only need about a minute of chilling.
  3. Always peel the eggs under cold, running water.
  4. Slightly less done eggs peel more easily.
  5. Farm fresh eggs are no more difficult to peel than older eggs.
  6. Don’t bother with pinholes in the eggs. They don’t do anything.

 

Baked sea scallops in less than 30 minutes

Baked sea scallops in less than 30 minutes

The delicate flavor of scallops is a marvelous treat whenever they are in season. Sea scallops are the bigger scallops; the little ones are called bay scallops and are best used in dishes like Coquille St Jacques.

This recipe is so easy, you should start the rice you serve it with first, in a pan, an Instant Pot or a rice cooker. Then preheat the oven. We got our idea from one by Christine Laliberte.

  • About 1 lb sea scallops (around 16)
  • 5 Tb melted butter
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions, chopped in short lengths, green part included
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 4 Tb olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • Lemon wedges or sliced for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.
  2. Place the scallops, melted butter and chopped scallions in a bowl
  3. Add the garlic, using a garlic press or just mince it.
  4. Add salt and pepper.
  5. In another bowl, add the breadcrumbs and mix in the olive oil.
  6. Place scallop mixture in a casserole and cover with the breadcrumbs.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven for 11 minutes or more, until brown.
  8. Sprinkle parsley over the browned breadcrumbs and serve with rice.
Open faced sandwiches with fresh tomatoes

Open faced sandwiches with fresh tomatoes

Now is the time of year to make our favorite fresh tomato sandwich: open faced with tomatoes, bacon and cheese. But you don’t have to wait for the big main crop tomatoes to ripen (our first one will come in tomorrow). Instead, you will find that smaller tomatoes have a richer flavor.

Our smaller tomatoes this year include Fourth of July, which always comes in first (July 17 this year), Garden Gem (from Prof Harry Klee’s breeding lab in Florida), Indigo Rose, Mountain Magic, Garden Treasure and one early plum variety: Gladiator.

tomatoes

The main trick to making these sandwiches is to put the bacon over the tomatoes, but under the cheese, so it doesn’t burn when put under the broiler.

  • 6 slices bacon
  • 4 sliced bread
  • Butter
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Sliced cheddar ( we use Cabot)
  1. Fry the bacon slices until rather crisp
  2. Toast the bread and butter it.
  3. Arrange the sliced tomatoes on each piece of toast
  4. Put 3 half slices of bacon over the tomatoes.
  5. Put the cheese slices over the bacon

Broil the sandwiches for 2-4 minutes, until the cheese begins to melt.

Serve at once.

Pancake breakfast sandwiches

Pancake breakfast sandwiches

Why not make a breakfast sandwich using pancakes instead of a roll? Then it is all hot and delicious, right off the grill. All you need is bacon, eggs, sausage, cheese, butter and buttermilk pancake batter.

We never actually have used a pancake mix, because this old family recipe is so quick:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • Buttermilk (a bit more than 2 cups)

mix batter

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, break in the 2 eggs and add the buttermilk to make a thickish batter.

  • 2 Tb softened butter
  • 1 Tb maple syrup
  • 4 strips bacon
  • 2 sausage patties
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 slices cheese
  • Butter as needed
  1. Mix the maple syrup with the butter, adding more syrup if needed to get a buttery/mapley tasting spread.
  2. Place the strips of bacon and the sausage patties on a 350° F griddle, and allow to cook slowly.

bacon sausage butter

  1. When the bacon and sausages are cooked, put them aside and keep warm.
  2. Melt 1-2 Tb butter on the griddle and drop 4 ¼ cup measures of patter onto the griddle.
  1. When one side of the pancakes are almost done (judging by bubbles forming on top) break the eggs onto the griddle and allow them to cook slowly.
  2. Flip the pancakes and let them cook.
  1. Place a sausage patty and cheese slice on two of the pancakes.
  2. When the eggs appear nearly done, flip them for 10 seconds to cook the tops, and then place them face up on top of the cheese.

butter pancakes

  1. Add two half-slices of bacon over each egg.
  2. Butter the bottom side of the remaining two pancakes with the maple butter, and top the sandwich with the butter side inside.

one sandwich

Serve right away. You can eat them with or without syrup, and with a knife and fork or in hand like a sandwich. Delicious and satisfying, and while rich, it is way less food than a classic “big breakfast.” So there!

The trick to doing the eggs right, is to cook them until they are fairly opaque and then flip them only briefly, so that the yolks stay runny.

Stay hungry!

Lime Posset: a cool refreshing dessert

Lime Posset: a cool refreshing dessert

This easy recipe makes a cool lime custard in ten minutes work plus 4 hours chilling time, and is just made from limes, sugar and cream. No eggs, no flour. So why does it thicken? It’s the lime juice that coagulates the milk proteins. This recipe was suggested by one in Bon Appetit. Possets go way back to the 16th century and are mentioned in Shakespeare as well as by other writers of the time. In British Food History, Neil Cooks Grigson writes that most mentions of possets in the 18th and 19th century were to a warm drink made with curdled milk, sugar and alcohol, but there is one 1769 article that pretty much describes what 20th and 21st century cooks are making. You can make possets using any acidic fruit juice: orange and lemon possets are also common. In each case, the acid of the fruit coagulates the cream, but because of its high fat content, it makes a smooth custardy texture.

  • 2 limes, peeled into strips
  • Juice of the same 2 limes
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 4 ramekins
  • 1 peach
  • ½ cup cream
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • 4 mint leaves
  1. Put the cream, sugar and salt in saucepan and add the strips of lime peel. Boil gently for 5 minutes to reduce and thicken the cream.
  1. Strain the cream and return it to the saucepan. Add the lime juice and stir.
  2. Allow the cream to cool a bit and begin to thicken and pour into four ramekins.
  3. Chill for 4 or more hours.
  1. Peel the peach by submerging it in boiling water for a minute and cooling it in cold water. Pull off the peel, using a vegetable peeler if it is stubborn.
  2. Cut the peach into slices, place into a bowl and sugar them with about 1 Tb sugar.
  3. When ready to serve, add the sugar to the ½ cup of cream and whip it. Place a peach slice on each ramekin, add a dollop of cream, and decorate with a mint leaf.
African chicken peanut stew

African chicken peanut stew

Here is a really easy chicken stew made with peanut butter and peanuts. You might find this strange and you won’t believe that some people actually do some of these diets in the eastern countries thinking it is an american tradition. If you have a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, the cooking time is only 30 minutes. It’s probably 60-90 minutes in a covered pot. The original recipe on the Simply Recipes site serves 6-8. We cut that in half and easily had enough for 4. And in an Instant Pot, it is very little work.

  • 1 to 1.5 lb chicken thighs
  • 3 Tb olive
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, sliced. (you needn’t peel it as it almost dissolves anyway.)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into chunks
  • ½ small can (7 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 12 oz chicken stock (add more if not using pressure cooker)
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup roasted peanuts
  • 5 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ¼ cup cilantro (omit if you don’t like it)

saute chcken

  1. Brown the chicken pieces in olive oil in the Instant Pot, set to sauté. You can remove the skin or not, as you wish. It will come off later when you cut up the cooked chicken. Do this in a couple of batches if need be. Remove and drain.
  2. Sauté the onions until they soften, and add the ginger and garlic. After 1-2 minute, add the sweet potatoes and mix together.

 

  1. Add the chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, peanut butter, peanuts, coriander and cayenne. Stir to combine, and add the chicken back into the pot. Add salt as needed.
  2. Cook the stew under pressure (manual setting) for 30 minutes.
  3. Release the pressure (quick release is fine), cut the chicken off the bones and discard the skins. Return the chicken to the pot.

 

  1. Add as much black pepper as you’d like to make it peppery. Stir in the cilantro if you must.
  2. Serve over steamed rice.

We make Chicken in Milk

Last Sunday, the Times published its version of Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk recipe. It is rare that you read articles about attempts to replicate experiments (or recipes) but this is such a report.

The relatively simple recipe says that you season a whole chicken and brown it in butter and olive oil in a snug-fitting pot. We chose a 3-liter Corningware casserole. Then you drain out the fat, add a cinnamon stick and garlic cloves and brown them briefly and put the chicken back and add whole milk, sage leaves and strips of lemon peel, and bake it for about 90 minutes.

The result is supposed to be “chicken in a thick, curdled sauce.”

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken, 3-4 lbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 10 cloves garlic, skins still on
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 handful fresh sage leaves (about 15-20 leaves0
  • Strips of zest from 2 lemons

Perhaps because the chicken fit snugly, the milk didn’t clot or reduce much. But the flavor was terrible, dominated by way too much sage. We didn’t get any note of cinnamon and very little of the garlic flavor.

roasted

If we made it again, we’d probably use about 5-6 sage leaves, maximum, and a little bigger pot. We’d prefer to make Chicken Baked in Cream instead.