SEA­SONAL FOOD – 1

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE - FOOD, DRINK and OTHER MAT­TERS with Pa­trick Skin­ner

As far as our beloved re­tail stores are con­cerned, Christ­mas is im­mi­nent. So, I sup­pose, thoughts must soon turn to the ca­ter­ing as­pect. Tur­key has be­come “Bird of Choice” – the only prob­lem for me is that it seems to last for weeks! If you are making tra­di­tional things like Christ­mas cakes or pud­dings, now’s the time and a clas­sic cake recipe fol­lows. To de­tract thoughts of the ca­ter­ing to come, or de­lay them, I be­gin with a sim­ple and very tasty lunch dish. Some chefs serve this as a starter. It’s one of a few de­li­cious things you can do with our ex­cel­lent fresh chicken liv­ers. 1. Re­move any gris­tle or choggy bits from the chicken liv­ers. 2. Mar­i­nate the chicken liv­ers in the milk for two hours, then re­move and drain them. Dis­card the milk.

3. Heat the oil in a large fry­ing pan and fry the chicken liv­ers, on medium heat turn­ing from time to time un­til they are pink but cooked through (around 10-12 min­utes). Watch out for spit­ting liv­ers, though! 4. Mix Com­man­daria with corn-flour un­til smooth. 5. Add herbs, salt and pep­per, lower heat of pan and stir. 6. Fi­nally stir in the Com­man­daria mix­ture and let sim­mer for 3-4 min­utes, un­til the sauce thick­ens rea­son­ably.

7. Serve on a bed of rocket leaves.

For those de­sirous of putting off the mo­ment when you have to con­sider Christ­mas cook­ing still fur­ther, here is a lovely dish for a wet or cold win­ter’s night.

1. Lightly poach the fish in milk for about 8 - 10 min­utes. Re­move from pan on to a serv­ing dish or large plate, and sep­a­rate flakes to re­move any bones, skin etc. Keep the juice and aside. 2. In a medium-large saucepan, melt the but­ter; add the flour and stir into a roux. 3. Add a lit­tle milk, stir­ring into a smooth thin­nish paste. Add the rest of the milk, in­clud­ing the juice from poach­ing the fish, and re­turn to the heat. Stir con­tin­u­ously, (I rec­om­mend a plas­tic spat­ula for best re­sults) oth­er­wise your sauce will go lumpy. Af­ter as few min­utes or so the sauce will be­gin to thicken.

4. Re­duce the heat and con­tinue stir­ring un­til the liq­uid is fairly thick, then re­move from heat. 5. Fold in gen­tly the fish and hard boiled eggs, shelled and roughly cut into chunks. 6. Stir and pour into an oven­proof dish. 7. Put in the oven at low tem­per­a­ture to keep warm. 8. Boil the pota­toes un­til cooked through (around 11 min­utes), drain and dry on heat 9. Add black pep­per, half a cup (125ml) of milk and a good knob of but­ter and mash well un­til smooth.

10. Gen­tly spoon the mashed potato over the fish mix­ture, brush with some melted but­ter, then “cor­ru­gate” the top with a fork, making the sur­face quite crumbly. As an al­ter­na­tive joy, in­stead of melted but­ter at the fin­ish, mix to­gether some finely grated hard cheese and bread crumbs and sprin­kle them over the top and gen­tly fork over (see my pic­ture). Put un­der a hot grill un­til golden, or, bet­ter still, in the top of a very hot oven, un­til the top is crisp and golden and the sides are be­gin­ning to bub­ble.

Serve with a crisp green win­ter veg­etable: cab­bage, sprouts, broc­coli or curly kale.

Last year, about this time, I of­fered you the recipe for a very rich Christ­mas cake. This year, I am offering the recipe for a de­cid­edly fes­tive cake which is not quite as rich. Ice it, dec­o­rate how you will, or just serve it with some sliced al­monds on the top, it makes a lovely sea­sonal bite. It also makes a good dessert, ac­com­pa­nied by some vanilla ice-cream.

For this hand­some and de­li­cious cake you will need a 20 cm / 8 inch di­am­e­ter round cake tin (one with a re­mov­able base is best). You will also need grease-proof pa­per or bak­ing parch­ment. Get­ting it ready takes about half and hour and bak­ing it re­quires three hours or so in an oven heated to 150C (300F).

1. Grease with but­ter the in­sides and base of the cake tin.

2. Cut two pieces of grease-proof pa­per: a cir­cle for the base and a long straight piece to fit around the in­side of the tin.

3. Spread soft but­ter thinly with a spat­ula or pal­let knife on both sides of the pa­per pieces. 4. Line the tin with the pa­per. 5. Sift to­gether the flour and salt. 6. In a bowl or you food pro­ces­sor, beat the but­ter un­til soft and creamy. 7. Then add the sugar and cream un­til light and fluffy. 8. Add the eggs a lit­tle at a time, beat­ing well. 9. Now steadily put in the flour. 10. When well mixed fold in the sul­tanas, cur­rants, peel, cher­ries and lemon rind. 11. Chop half of the al­monds and add to the cake mix­ture. 12. Mix for the last time and then spoon the mix­ture into the tin. With your spat­ula or knife smooth the top to make it evenly flat.

13. Split the re­main­ing al­monds length­ways, and ar­range them, rounded side up, over the lev­elled cake sur­face.

Bake just be­low the cen­tre of an oven for about two hours. If the cake shows signs of brown­ing too quickly, cover the top with a sheet of damp grease­proof pa­per, and re­duce the heat to 140C/275F for the last hour. Re­move the cake from the oven when a skewer comes away clean from the cake.

Cool in the tin for 30 min­utes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack. Wrap the cake in foil, leav­ing the grease­proof pa­per in place. Put into a stor­age tin or cake keeper. Ideally, the cake should “rest” for a good week be­fore serv­ing. It will keep a month or more months stored this way, even af­ter slices have been taken from it. In our house, though, it doesn’t last that long.

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