A year begins with an ending of a life

January 12th, 2011

The vagabond is in grief as the new year pushes forward.  MC – my Master Chef, Master of Ceremonies and partner for twenty memorable years – suffered a fatal heart attack on Sunday, January second.  Please bear with me, perhaps reread some previous posts on the wonders of this season, and I will return with a post later this month.

A humble apple pudding to welcome 2011

January 1st, 2011

HAPPY  NEW  YEAR !

We’re just settling back into the old stone house after a snowy Nordic Noël.  The vagabond was itching to cook up a little something sweet to welcome the New Year, but what could be found in the cupboard? A few golden apples, almonds, eggs…and some (essential) cardamom from Finland, with a walnut of butter left in the fridge.

After being away, apple pudding from scratch

What can we pull together to celebrate a new month, a new year? It isn’t unusual that this urge to make a sweet something seizes me when we return from a long, arduous trip (why go North in December…?).  So, quickly I reached for a  shallow, small (20 cm/7 to 8″) baking dish, popped a knob of butter into it to melt in the oven while it warmed to 350°f, and sliced up two golden apples.  This is the way our pudding for two went together:

1 knob of sweet butter

2 apples, quartered, seeded & peeled and thinly sliced

1/3 cup sugar (or less if your apples are very sweet)

1/3 cup runny yogurt or thin crème fraïche

1 heaped Tablespoon plain flour

1 tsp. crushed black cardamom, 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons toasted almonds, coarsely chopped

Variations:  add rum-soaked raisins (+ the rum), or chopped pitted prunes

Melt the butter in the baking dish, remove from oven before it browns.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the 2 eggs with sugar, then blend in alternately the yogurt and flour with spices. Pour the melted butter in last, and arrange the apple slices in a whorl, overlapping in the hot dish.  Transfer the batter to the baking dish, top with the chopped almonds (or pecans if you have no almonds).  Slip the dish onto the middle oven shelf and bake for 25 minutes or until it is puffed and toasty-golden. Let this cool in a draft-free place (but it will deflate anyway) – it is more of a flan pudding than a cake.  Serve warm with a cup of afternoon tea – or after lunch espresso.  Dusting with powdered:icing sugar is optional …the vagabond didn’t – having seen enough snow for quite awhile!

Coming up in January:  more about Janus/January in France, more on (essential?!) cardamom, a few truffle notes + a really red soup