Archive | January, 2012

Day 20: Raisin-Walnut-Stuffed Baked Apples

30 Jan

Since butter and sugar were in short supply during the war, I’ve fallen back on fruit-based desserts to deliver the sugar and acidity that make a great dessert without depleting my rations in one sitting. This recipe’s inspired by the baked, raisin-stuffed apples my mother used to make when I was little.

Raisin-Walnut-Stuffed Baked Apples

1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 cup walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon brandy
1/4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon dried cherries
1 teaspoon dried currants
2 Granny Smith apples
Vegetable oil in a spray bottle
1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the butter in a small bowl. Toss the walnuts with the butter. Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar over the walnuts and stir the mixture. Pour onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until the sugar begins to crystallize. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Turn the walnuts onto a cutting board and chop roughly. Warm the brandy in the microwave and soak the raisins, cherries and currants in the warm brandy. Peel and core the apples. Put 2 squares of foil on a cutting board. Put 1 apple on each. Combine the raisin mixture with the walnuts. Stuff the apples with the raising mixture. Spray the apples with vegetable oil and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Seal the foil around the apples, in individual pouches. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the apples are cooked through. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.


Day 19: Spam-off – House-made Spam vs. Spam

29 Jan

At left, House-made Spam, At right, Spam from a can

Sadly, the Monty Python spam sketch had not yet been made in the 1940s (for the lyrics to the Spam song, click here). But as Brit Jean Parnell recalls in this History Channel clip of her childhood in Dorset during the war, “US forces training in England,” American GIs stationed in the UK frequently gave Brits, among other things, Spam! So when I came across this article from my old haunt,, I decided to give the spam recipe a whirl and do a comparison. I’ve adapted the recipe a little from Chef Sawako Okochi of the Hawaiian restaurant Lani Kai in New York.

House-made Spam from Chef Sawako Okochi, Lani Kai restaurant, New York, NY via

Adapted from recipe

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 ounces brandy
1 ounce sugar
2¼ ounces salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch ground coriander
1 pinch smoked paprika
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 clove, crushed to a fine powder
1 pinch fennel seeds
2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 pound ham, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons potato starch

Heat vegetable oil in a pan, sweat the shallots and garlic, and deglaze with 1.5 ounces of brandy. Cool. Combine the sugar, salt, pepper, corianer, paprika, cayenne pepper, clove and fennel seeds. Combine the pork and ham cubes in a large bowl. Sprinkle the spice-sugar-salt mixture over the pork mixture. In a meat grinder, grind the pork and ham through a large dye. Combine half of the ground mixture with the shallot-brandy mixture, and grind though a small dye. Put the ground meat mixture in the fridge.

Whisk together heavy cream, eggs, potato starch, and 0.5 ounces brandy. Transfer the ground meat to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn on the mixer, and slowly incorporate the cream mixture. When all the cream is incorporated, take a small amount of the meat, wrap it in a plastic wrap, and poach in simmering water. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Put the mixture in a plastic wrap-lined terrine mold, and cover with plastic wrap. Put another terrine mold on top of the meat, filled with 3 pounds of weight. Press overnight in a refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Remove the weight and cover the terrine with foil. Cook in a bain-marie for about 2 hours, until the center reaches 147ºF. Put the weighted terrine mold back on the cooked spam, and press overnight in the refrigerator. Wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated, the spam will last for a few weeks.

The recipe uses ham and pork shoulder, just like spam, but it contains some spices, cream and egg, which make it a lot more perishable than the real thing. It’s also a coarser ground than Spam, which is more of a mousseline texture than the country texture of the house-made one. The meat jelly that develops when the terrine is cooked means it stays nice and moist when grilled.

In the 1930s, spam, the canned meat product, was born at the American Hormel company. Its name was a shortened version of “spiced ham” – spam. Even though it wasn’t developed to be a non-perishable, highly transportable meat product for the war, those features made it ideal, since in times of food shortage and limited supplies of fresh meat, it made a good stand-in protein source.

Image courtesy of America in WW


Nearly everyone who lived through the war has a spam story (great Margaret Thatcher spam story at that link). It leaked into UK recipes during the war. This might be because after the Lend Lease act of 1941 in the US, America assisted the Allied forces by supplying, amongst other things, foodstuffs. One of those foods was spam. Today it’s still hugely popular in Hawaii, and is served there in all sorts of recipes, including a sort of spam sushi. Shudder.

I haven’t seen it in the UK before. Do share any spam stories in the comments!

At left, grilled house-made spam, at right, grilled spam


Day 18: Twice-baked Potatoes

28 Jan

Housemade spam is currently spamming in the fridge! Stay tuned for the big reveal tomorrow.

Twice-baked Potatoes

2 side servings

10 small potatoes, such as fingerling
Vegetable oil in spray bottle
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 strip bacon
Bacon drippings
1 cup parsley leaves, chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon brandy

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray the potatoes with a little oil, season with salt and pepper and bake in the oven on a sheet tray for about 30 minutes, depending on the size. Remove from the oven, them when the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop out most of the potato flesh, leaving the skins in tact. Mash the potato flesh in a bowl. Cut the bacon into thin strips and render in the bacon drippings. Remove from the heat and allow to drain. Add the parsley to the potato flesh. Sweat the shallots and garlic in the remaining drippings. Deglaze the pan with the brandy. Mash the shallots in with the potato flesh. Carefully spoon the potato flesh mixture back into the potato skins and broil the filled potatoes on high for about 3 to 5 minutes. Top with the bacon and serve.

Day 17: Pollock with Cabbage, Radicchio, Bacon and Apple

27 Jan

Let’s face it, cabbage? Not so sexy. Cabbage and bacon? OK, getting a bit warmer. One of the reasons cabbage gets its unfair reputation of tasting foul is that when it’s cooked over a high heat it lets off sulfurous fumes that stink to high heaven and turn the cabbage bitter. If it’s cooked low and slow – braised – it can be delicious. In this recipe, a bed of cabbage and apples made colorful with radicchio is topped with a fillet of pollock and some sizzling, crispy bacon.

Pollock is less funny in America. Mostly because nobody says “bollocks” here. But it is very similar in texture to cod and usually quite a bit cheaper than cod nowadays.

Imperial War Museum

One reader was nice enough to bring the above poster to my attention. Fish was generally more readily available than meat during the war, so a substantial portion of fish could be had more easily than of meat. And salt cod was no exception!

Pollock with Cabbage, Radicchio, Bacon and Apple

2 tablespoons drippings
1/3 white onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon brandy
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and large diced
1/4 head cabbage, sliced medium
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon black currant jam
1/4 head radicchio
1 cup vegetable broth
6 ounces pollock
1 strip bacon, finely sliced

Heat the drippings in a shallow pot. Sweat the onion and garlic until translucent then deglaze with the brandy. Add the apple until slightly softened. Add the cabbage and season with the salt, sugar, fennel seeds, pepper and jam. Cook slowly until the cabbage has broken down a little. Don’t be tempted to crank up the heat and cook it on high as the cabbage lets off sulphurous compounds when cooked rapidly that can mean it tastes a bit bitter. You want the cabbage to have bite, but to be fully cooked through. Add the radicchio and vegetable broth then gently lay the pollock on the top of the cabbage. Sprinkle it with a bit of salt and cover the pot. Steam for about 5 minutes until the fish has just begun to flake. While the fish is cooking, render the bacon until crisp. Pour off and reserve the drippings for some other use. Spoon some of the cabbage mixture on a plate and top with the fish. Spoon a little of the cooking liquid over the top of the fish and top the fish with the bacon.

Day 16: Scalloped Potatoes, Carrots and Salt Cod

24 Jan

Microplanes are some of the handiest kitchen tools around. They only cost about $15 and you can use them for grating everything from lemon zest to cheese to chocolate. If you really enjoy wasting your money, you can splurge on all the different models for nutmeg, zesting, chocolate, cheese etc., but this one can be used for just about anything. The nice thing about these tools is that they produce really fluffy grated cheese. This means you can stretch a small amount of cheese, since its volume when grated with this is a little bigger. Most scalloped potato recipes include a hefty amount of cheese. For this recipe I just finished the dish with cheese instead of including it in each layer, since the cheese ration for each week was so small during the war. This could be a side dish, but since it includes fish, vegetables and cream, and is pretty filling, you could serve it as a main course.

Scalloped Potatoes, Carrots and Salt Cod

4 Servings

6 or 7 medium potatoes, preferably waxy, like Yukon Golds
1/4 horse carrot, cut into thick coins
2 sprigs thyme, leaves only
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 clove, crushed
3 tablespoons salt cod, soaked overnight in several changes of cold water
3 tablespoons microplaned hard sheep’s milk cheese

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Lightly grease a baking dish that’s about an inch and a half high and 8 inches square. Cut the potatoes into 1-centimeter slices. Don’t bother to peel the potatoes unless they are Russets or Idahos – they should be thin-skinned, so it won’t matter if you leave the peel on. Put the potatoes in a pot with the carrots, thyme, garlic, nutmeg and clove. Cover with equal parts milk and cream – just enough to cover the vegetables. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook slowly for about 5 minutes to soften the potatoes and carrots. Remove from the heat. Separate the vegetables and liquid using a strainer. Carefully layer the potatoes and carrots in the baking dish. Season VERY lightly with the salt since even soaked, the salt cod will add a lot of salt to the dish. Put the salt cod in with the warm cream mixture, then pour the mixture over the top of the layered vegetables. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top is bubbly and golden brown. Then remove from the oven, sprinkle with the cheese and return to the oven for 5 minutes to melt the cheese. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little. If you want to portion it neatly, you can chill it in the refrigerator, cut it into squares and then reheat the individual squares when you’re ready to serve.

Day 15: Chocolate Hazelnut Turtle

23 Jan

The average chocolate ration during the war was 2 ounces per person, per week. Now, I mostly eat that amount of dark chocolate every day. So this has taken some adjustment. But when it came to rationing,  chocolate and candy were hit rather severely during the war. This was part of the reason why American GIs stationed in Britain were often popular with locals – they had a generous supply of cigarettes and chocolate (and SPAM but that’s another story) compared to the Brits. They’d often share their supply.

My Grandfather’s sister ended up marrying an American and moving with him to Staunton, Virginia after the war. Hopefully not just for the chocolate. Coincidentally, Staunton is where some of my husband’s family lives now. Hopefully we’re not related except by marriage. And no, I didn’t marry Ed for the chocolate.

Image Credit: IMP Awards

Speaking of war-time romances, if you’ve never seen the Cary Grant movie I Was A Male War Bride? Worth it, just to see Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan argue. In that movie, it’s a French officer and an American army woman who marry, but you get the idea. Some things, like marital squabbles, are an international language.

Ed just got home and is pouting because there is none left for him.

Chocolate Hazelnut Turtle

2 ounces semisweet chocolate
Equal volume toasted whole hazelnuts
Vegetable oil

Chop the chocolate and melt it in the microwave, or over a double boiler. Spray a baking sheet with the vegetable oil, or line the baking sheet with a Silpat. Coat the hazelnuts with the chocolate and spread evenly onto the baking sheet. Leave to cool at room temperature. Unless it’s very hot outside, do not put in the fridge. Condensation is the enemy of chocolate.

Day 14: Pear and Raisin Crisp

22 Jan

My Granny is the leftover queen. When I went to stay with her, she’d always refashion leftovers into a meal that felt like it had been carefully thought out. I always think of her when I think about restaurant family meals, because it takes a lot of imagination – and experience having to make do with what you have – to make something nurturing and delicious from leftovers.

After I made a Walnut Apple Crisp, I had a little leftover crumble mixture, sans walnuts. I saved it in a tupperware container and froze it. It’s one of those things that comes in handy when someone comes over for dinner unexpectedly, because most people have an apple or pear, some raisins and a bit of sugar handy. Then today, I reworked it into (rather unimaginatively) a pear and raisin crisp. If you want to substitute prunes soaked in armagnac for the raisins, this makes a bit more of a decadent dessert, but I’ve always loved pears and raisins together, and find sometimes when you lace desserts with booze, they tend to taste more of the booze than anything else. Depending on what you like, sometimes that’s a good thing. Tax season, for example.

Pear and Raisin Crisp

2 Servings

1 firm pear
1 tablespoon raisins
Leftover crumble mixture without the walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Peel and core the pear, then cut it into large pieces. Sprinkle lightly with the sugar, then warm in a small pot until heated through. Put the pears in the ramekins, then add the raisins. Top with the crumble mixture and bake until the tops of the crumbles are golden brown.

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