It’s Meat Free Monday and we’re off to Japan and one of my favourites, edamame. I love them steamed with just a smidge of coarse sea salt or in soups or marinated in flavours of Japan. Today I’m using them in a salad, packed with vegetables and seasonings. With the weather being so kind to us these past few days its the perfect time to try it.
The Japanese name, edamame literally means, “twig bean” eda meaning “twig” and mame meaning”bean”). Edamame is a popular side dish at Japanese restaurants with local varieties being in demand, depending on the season. Edamame bean is a preparation of immature soybeans in the pod.Traditionally the pods are boiled or steamed and salt is a typically used to flavour the beans.This dish is mainly found in Japanese and Chinese restaurants, however, it is also popular as a healthy food item.
The earliest recording of the term “edamame” was in 1275, when Nichiren, a Japanese monk, ,wrote a note thanking a parishioner for the gift of “edamame” he had left at the temple. Edamame has also appeared in haikai verse in Japanese during the Edo period (1603 – 1868), with the earliest example being from the mid 17th century. Edamame appeared as a new term in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003, and in the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2008.
Edamame and indeed most soybeans are rich in carbohydrates, protein, dietary fiber, and micronutrients, particularly folates,manganese, and vitamin K. Edamame pods should be picked by hand so that no stems and leaves are caught up in the harvest. Green soybeans in the pod are picked before they ripen in order to prepare edamame. The ends of the pod are often cut before boiling or steaming. Then the pods are boiled in water, steamed or microwaved. We mentioned earlier that the most common preparation for the beans uses salt for taste. I love it added after the pods have been steamed.
- 800 g shelled edamame
- 250 g shredded Chinese cabbage
- 120 g shredded bok choy
- 20ml rice wine vinegar
- 20ml of mirin
- 60ml sesame oil
- A pinch of good coarse salt
- 120g shredded carrots
- A large pinch of black sesame seeds
- 80g shredded white daikon radish
Combine Chinese cabbage, bok choy, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, mirin and salt in a large mixing bowl. Let sit in at room temperature until the flavours have had a chance to get to know each other and the cabbage is slightly wilted from the vinegar, This should take no more than half an hour. Stir the edamame and carrots into cabbage mixture. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours and then garnish with the sesame seeds and shredded daikon before serving.
We’ve entered this recipe on Made With Love Mondays, Click the picture to take part
- 500g pork cheeks
- A glug of olive oil
- 50g butter
- 2 onions, peeled, finely diced
- A pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- A pinch of fresh thyme leaves
- 50g flour, plus some for dusting
- 250ml Fino sherry
- 1 litre chicken stock
- Smoked paprika for decoration ( optional)
Firstly prepare the pork cheeks. You can either leave them whole or if they are large just cut them in two. Season the cheeks with salt and pepper then lightly dust them in some of the flour. Shake off any excess. Add a glug of oil to a sauté pan and bring up to a medium heat. Add the pig cheeks and sauté them so that they are browned all over. Remove them and place on some kitchen towel so that any excess fat is drained off.
Next in a heavy-based saucepan melt the butter then add the diced onion. Saute for a couple of minutes then add the flour. This makes a roux, which thickens the sauce as it is cooking. keep the pan on a low heat during this process and gradually add the sherry and stock stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Bring to the boil and add the cheeks. Check for seasoning and simmer for about 2 hours. This can also be done in the slow-cooker with will take approximately 4 hours and also the Wonderbag allowing for about 5-6 hours. Serve on a plate dusted with paprika with seasonal vegetables.
Welcome to the Happily Ever Afters Kitchen this morning and a fabulous recipe featuring some of Caro’s favourite ingredients. We’ve also got a history of mascarpone. What a way to celebrate International Womens day 2014 with this sumptuous Italian cake.
Now as most of you know, being Jamaican-born, I am a real rum enthusiast. So I always make this recipe, which is one of the very fragrant Nigella Lawson’s, with rum. She recommends Tuaca liqueur, rum, brandy or marsala. A-C has a wonderful relationship with the wonderful team at Carluccio’s which prompted me to seek out this recipe because we were treated to the most scrumptious Carluccio panettone at Christmas. I also love the fact that this recipe uses marrons glacés, since I am such a fan of chestnuts but a key ingredient is that sumptuous Italian cheese mascarpone.
Mascarpone is an Italian cheese made from cream, coagulated by the addition of citric acid or acetic acid. After denaturation, the whey is removed without pressing or ageing in any way. Mascarpone can be manufactured using cream and tartaric acid, citric acid, or lemon juice.Iis recognised as a Prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale (traditional regional food product). Mascarpone originated in the area between Lodi and Abbiategrasso, southwest of Milan in Italy, probably in the late 16th or early 17th century. The name is popularly held to derive from mascarpa, an unrelated milk product made from the whey of stracchino (a young, barely aged cheese), or from mascarpia, a word in the local dialect for ricotta (although ricotta, unlike mascarpone, is made from whey).
Mascarpone is milky-white in colour and is easy to spread. It is used in a number of Lombardy dishes, and is considered a speciality in the region. A thick, creamy, soft Italian cheese with a high fat content (40 per cent), mascarpone is an essential ingredient in the Italian coffee trifle tiramisù and is great in cheesecakes. It is sometimes used instead of butter or Parmesan cheese to thicken and enrich a risotto.
Italian Festive pudding cake ( Nigella Lawson)
- 625g/1lb 6oz panettone (or pandoro)
- 6 tbsp rum (brandy or marsala if you’d rather)
- 2 free-range eggs, at room temperature
- 75g/2½oz caster sugar
- 500g/1lb 2oz mascarpone, at room temperature
- 250ml/9fl oz double cream, at room temperature
- 125ml/4½fl oz marsala
- 75g/2¾oz marrons glacés, chopped
- 125g/4½oz mini chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate
- 100g/3½oz pistachios, chopped
- 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds
Using a serrated knife, cut the panettone roughly into 1cm slices, then use about a third of these to line the bottom of a 23cm/9in springform cake tin. Tear off pieces to fit so that there are no gaps: panettone is fabulously soft and mouldable, so this isn’t a hard job. Drizzle two tablespoons of the rum over it so that the panettone lining is dampened. It looks like a beautiful golden patchwork made of cake. Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar until very frothy and increased in volume and lightness. More slowly, whisk in the mascarpone and double cream, then gradually whisk in the Marsala and carry on whisking until the mixture is thick and spreadable. Remove 250ml (a good cupful) to a bowl or other container, cover and put in the fridge: this is for the top layer, which is not added until you serve the cake.
Crumble the marrons glacés into the big bowl of mascarpone cream mixture, followed by 100g of the chocolate chips and 75g of the chopped pistachios, and fold in. Use half of this creamy filling to top the panettone layer that is lining the cake tin. Use another third of the panettone slices to cover the cream filling, again leaving no holes for the cream to escape through. Dampen with another two tablespoons of rum. Spoon on the other half of the cream mixture and spread it evenly. Then top with a third and final layer of the panettone, covering the cream as before, and drizzle over it the last two tablespoons of rum. Cover tightly with cling film, pressing down on the top a little, and put in the fridge overnight or for up to two days. When you are ready to serve, take the cake out of the fridge, unmould and sit it on a flat plate or cake stand, then spread with the reserved mascarpone mixture. Don’t try to lift the cake off the base as the panettone slices at the bottom are too delectably damp. Scatter the top – and all around the cake, if wished – with the remaining chocolate chips and chopped pistachios and your pomegranate jewels. These sprinklings also provide beauteous camouflage for any less than aesthetically uplifting edges of the springform base which may be visible.
We’ve been using our dehydrator more and more recently. Mainly for vegetable crisps and fruit. Today we’re stepping up a gear and making raw onion bread. It’s a labour of love, but it is so worth the wait.
Dehydrating food is something our ancestors have done for many moons, most specifically air drying, and a food dehydrator refers to a device that removes moisture from food to aid in its preservation. A food dehydrator uses a heat source and air flow to reduce the water content of foods. The water content of food is usually high, typically 80% to 95% for most fruits and vegetables and 50% to 75% for most meats. Removing moisture from food prevents bacteria from growing and spoiling the food, and in addition, removing moisture from food dramatically reduces the weight of the food. Thus, food dehydrators are used to preserve and extend a foodstuff’s shelf life.
Devices used to dehydrate food require heat using energy sources such as solar or electric power, and vary in form from large-scale dehydration plants to DIY or commercially sold appliances for domestic use. A commercial food dehydrator’s basic parts usually consist of a heating element, a fan, air vents allowing for air circulation and food trays to lay food upon. A dehydrator’s heating element, fans and vents simultaneously work to remove moisture from food. A dehydrator’s heating element warms the food causing its moisture to be released from its interior. The appliance’s fan then blows the warm, moist air out of the appliance via the air vents. This process continues for hours until the food is dried to a substantially lower water content, usually fifteen to twenty percent or less.
Most foods are dehydrated at temperatures of 130°F, or 54°C, although meats being made into jerky should be dehydrated at a higher temperature of 155°F, or 68°C, or preheated to those temperature levels, to guard against pathogens that may be in the meat. The key to successful food dehydration is the application of a constant temperature and adequate air flow. Too high a temperature can cause hardened foods: food that is hard and dry on the outside but moist, and therefore vulnerable to spoiling, on the inside.
Food drying is a tremendous solar energy application since food drying primarily requires heat, and solar radiation is easily converted to heat but it works slightly differently. A clear or translucent glazing allows sunlight to enter an enclosed chamber where it is converted to heat when it strikes a dark interior surface. Airflow is typically achieved with natural convection as the warm air rises and adjustable venting allows regulation of airflow and temperature. Solar food drying is effective and practical in most places globally. A general rule is that, if you can grow a successful vegetable garden, then there is enough solar energy to dry the food you produce (some overcast, northern maritime climates are the exception).
- 3 large onion, roughly chopped
- 240g ground sunflower seeds
- 240 g ground flax seeds
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 tbsp of tamari
- 2 tbsp yacon syrup
Place the roughly chopped onions in a food processor and use the pulse function to break the onions down without them being mushy. Place the flax seeds and sunflower seeds in the spice grinder and once ground at them to the onion mixture and pulse a few times to combine them. Next pop the mixture into a large mixing bowl and the oil, tamari and yacon syrup, mix thoroughly and adjust the flavouring to your own personal taste. Add a pinch of sea salt.
Spread the onion mixture on to baking parchment paper. The mixture should be about a quarter of an inch thick. Load up the dehydrator and start the bread off at 48C for an hour and then reduce to 45C and dry for a further 6 hours. Score with a knife to the size you want the pieces to be. We normally opt for cracker sized pieces. After 6 hours remove the bread from the parchment paper and flip the pieces over and continue dehydrating the onion bread for a further 8 hours or longer depending on how crunchy you like your raw onion bread. It’s totally up to you. Serve with your favourite toppings. We love guacamole or a tomato salsa with ours.
- Pasta asciutta, that is as a dish in its own right, served with a sauce or condiment
- Pasta in brodo, which is in a soup
- Pasta al forno, where the pasta is added to a dish and then baked
Today we are making a pasta in brodo dish, Pasta e fagioli. The literal translation meaning “pasta and beans”Pasta fagioli is made using cannellini beans or borlotti beans and small pasta commonly either elbow macaroni or ditalini. The base is generally olive oil, garlic, minced onion, and spices, along with stewed tomato or tomato paste. Some variations do not include tomatoes at all, and are made from a broth. Modern restaurant recipes may be vegetarian, or include chicken stock, or meat such as pancetta. The word for “beans” varies in different Italian dialects, for example fagioli in mainstream Italian, fasúl in Neapolitan, and in Sicilian, fazool.
This dish has featured in at least two musical hits. The first being a song released in 1927 called “Pastafazoola” written by Van and Schenck, with the legendary line, “Don’t be a fool, eat pasta fazool” and more famously In the Dean Martin song “That’s Amore” with the line “When the stars make you drool, just-a like pasta fazool, that’s amore”. So pop on either and lets get cooking.
- A glug of olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 250g of diced pancetta
- 1 bottle of passata
- 500 ml of chicken stock
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- A large pinch dried parsley
- A large pinch of dried oregano
- A large pinch of dried basil
- 2 cans cannellini beans
- 350g dried ditalini pasta
Shrove Tuesday or ‘pancake day’ is upon us. It’s the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Shrove Tuesday is always determined by Easter and of course that changes annually. The expression “Shrove Tuesday” comes from the word shrive, meaning “confess”. Observed by many Christian religions, Shrove Tuesday is often a time of reflection and soul-searching. It’s last day before Lent, which means that its last opportunity to feast before 40 days of fasting and religious obligations. The term Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins the next day. Pancakes are associated with Shrove Tuesday, because they were a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before Lent begins.
In the U.K, pancakes are made with three key ingredients: plain flour, eggs, and milk. The batter is runny and forms a thin layer on the bottom of the crêpe pan when the pan is tilted. It may form some bubbles during cooking, which results in a pale pancake with dark spots where the bubbles were, but the pancake does not rise. British pancakes bear many similarities to the French crêpe and Italian crespelle. Traditionally they are served with lemon juice and sugar or as many of my family prefer, drizzled with golden syrup. There are also many recipes for savoury pancakes. On Shrove Tuesday, it is custom to eat pancakes, when lemon juice and sugar may be added to top the pancake.
Being the terribly eccentric lot that we are, we Brits love to hold ”pancake races” They are usually held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom. This tradition is said to have originated when a housewife from Olney, Buckinghamshire, was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake. The pancake race remains a relatively common festive tradition in the UK, especially England, even today. Participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air and catching them in the pan whilst running. The most famous pancake race in Olney has been held since the middle of the 14th century. Participants are charged with tossing pancakes over a 415 yard course to the line. Rules are rigid and pancake tossing is taken very seriously as this the attire that accompanies the race, namely a headscarf and apron. The race is open to men and women and is normally followed by a celebratory church service. Want to see?
We’ve got two pancake recipes for you today. One traditional sweet one and a delicious savoury one.
Traditional Pancakes ( makes 12)
- 225 g of plain flour
- Pinch salt
- 2 large, fresh eggs
- 600 ml of full fat milk
- 3 tsp melted butter plus extra melted butter for cooking
- 2 Lemons
- Golden caster sugar
Start by sieving the flour into a large mixing bowl, next add the salt. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the eggs. Beat well until smooth and lump free. Next, add half the milk and the 2 tsp of butter, beat well. Add the remaining milk and stir. Leave the batter to rest for a minimum of 15 minutes.Lightly grease a crêpe pan with a little melted butter. Heat until very hot and add a ladleful of batter so it evenly and thinly coats the base of the pan. Cook until set and lightly golden.
Using a spatula or if you are really brave try tossing the pancake in the air, and cook on the other side for approx 30 seconds. Slip the pancake from the pan onto a warm plate. Cover the plate with a tea cloth and keep warm.. Continue as above until all the batter is used up. We love ours served with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of caster sugar.
Asparagus and Pancetta pancakes
- Pancake mixture ( above)
- 1 350g tub shop bought four cheese sauce
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 small pinch ground nutmeg
- 150g of asparagus
- 200 g packet of pancetta
- 4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
For the pancakes follow the ingredients in the recipe above together with the cooking process. Keep your pancakes warm whilst you prepare the rest of your ingredients. Combine the cheese sauce, Worcestershire sauce and nutmeg in a small mixing bowl. Use a medium-sized baking dish and make sure it’s well-greased. Preheat the oven to 190c/gas mark 5. Next add a large spoon of the sauce to each of the pancakes followed by the asparagus spears then a layer of pancetta on the top. fold the sides of the pancakes into the centre, then flip them over so that they are securely closed. Continue to do this until all the pancakes are in the dish, then add the remaining cheese sauce and a light dusting of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Cover and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and asparagus is tender.
IF YOU LOVE FLAVOURS WHY NOT BUY OUR BOOK
AVAILABLE IN KINDLE & PAPERBACK
It’s Meat Free Monday and we’re making a soup totally packed with wonderful vegetables. We’re also experimenting for the first time with our latest kitchen gadget. The Wonderbag. A friend had posted a picture of hers on her facebook page and being the kitchen gadget junkie that I am, I immediately searched on the web and found out more about it.
Wonderbag is the brainchild of Sarah Collins, who came up with the idea during power cuts in South Africa in 2008. She remembered occasions when her grandmother had used polystyrene cushions as primitive insulators to allow food to continue to cook once removed from the stove, she experimented with the same technique herself. The idea was further developed by Moshy Mathe, whom she had met during a flight, by replacing the cushions with an insulated bag.
Wonderbag is a simple catalyst for global change. We’re not about Wonderbags being sold, we’re about Wonderbags being used.
So what is it and what does it do?
Simply, It’s a completely power free slow-cooker in a bag. Like a conventional slow cooker it continues to cook food that has been brought to the boil by on the hob. You can cook almost any recipe including soups and stews in it and like all slow cooked food it’s always good to give it a head start on the hob and then transfer it. It doesn’t zap electricity, it just continues to cook the contents of the pot to perfection, within hours. We found ours easy to use and the instructions couldn’t be simpler. I simply put everything in the pot I usually use for soups and stews, boiled it for about 10 minutes to give it a head start then put it in the bag and left it for three hours or so. I was really delighted to see it still burbling away when the lid was removed.The soup was delicious, cooked to perfection and the perfect temperature. One final and actually really rather wonderful plus about The Wonderbag is that when you buy one, one is donated to a family in Africa where fuel is not just expensive but sometimes impossible to get and to sustain long periods of cooking. I can see us using ours a lot. So here’s what we made. You can cook it on the hob, in a slow cooker or if you have on a Wonderbag. It’s delicious, nutritious and packed with vegetables and pulses.
- A splash of olive oil
- 2 leek, finely sliced
- 1 red onion, diced
- 3 carrots, diced
- 3 celery sticks, sliced
- 1 pack of mange tout ( snow peas)
- 2 courgettes
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- A handful of dark greens, shredded
- 2 pints of vegetable stock
- A large handful of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
- 600g of flageolet beans, soaked overnight
- A pinch of salt
- A pinch of freshly milled black pepper
- A large glass of dry white wine.
Firstly if you are using dried flageolet beans, then soak them overnight, rinse them thoroughly, place in a pan of water and boil for 10 minutes. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for a further 30 minutes. Drain and pop them in a bowl for use later. Chop all the vegetables for the soup, this list is not exhaustive and you can add your favourites, these are just our choice from our organic vegetable box. Place a splash of olive oil in a heavy based soup pot and bring up to a medium heat. Add all the vegetables and garlic and sauté for 7-10 minutes until they start to slightly soften. Pour the vegetable stock over the vegetable until they are completely covered. Start to bring to the boil . Add the parsley and seasoning and keep on a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Add the wine and then remove from the heat, cover and then place in the Wonderbag, place the lid on and pull the drawstring tightly. Leave for an hour then undo the drawstring and remove the lid. Test for seasoning and add the flageolet beans and stir. Replace the lid and continue to cook for a further 2 hours. Once the time is up, remove the pot from the Wonderbag and serve. We had ours with rosemary and black pepper focaccia. If you are cooking conventionally, bring to the boil cover and simmer for 20 mins or so that the vegetables are cooked through.
WE SUPPORT EARTH HOUR 29TH MARCH 2014
We’ve entered this post into Made With Love Mondays The challenge: make a recipe (any recipe) entirely from scratch – no canned/jarred shortcuts, no pre prepared ingredients, no food dyes or pre-made decorations.
Confit ( confee) is a generic term for various kinds of food that have been cooked in oil or syrup then sealed in fat and stored in the larder or a dark cool place for several months. Confit is one of the oldest ways to preserve food and is best known as a speciality in the south-western regions of France. The word confit is derived from the old Latin – conficere which literally means, to make. Originally the term confit was used in medieval times fruit that had been cooked then preserved or prepared in sugar and stored.
Most people associate confit with goose ( confit d’oie) or duck ( confit de canard) both are simply made from the legs of the bird. There is a process involved in making confit and the first stage involves salting, using a mixture of herbs and spices. Next the meat is cooked slowly in its own fat and then preserved. Confit is best known in areas of the Dordogne and Toulouse where Cassoulet is king. If you want to know more about cassoulet then do check out its history and our family recipe here. It’s the area of Occitan in France, where one strand of my family originate which is most famous for its confit. In fact goose fat is used in this region in preference to olive oil. One of the main reasons for this originally was that olives were not easy to get and relatively expensive in comparison to Provence, where olives are available in huge quantities.
As with most regions in France, each has its own recipe or variation of confit preparation. Goose confit, for example is mainly associated with the Basque region and their version of the legendary cassoulet and the absolutely delicious soup come stew, garbure which is made using confit of duck or goose with cabbage, potatoes and white beans. Other areas namely Brantôme serve confit de canard with potatoes and truffles.
Today we are having a go at making confit de canard to add to our ever bulging larder to use in soups and cassoulet and today with our spiced red cabbage.
- 10 duck legs
- 6 tbsp of salt ( we are using pink Himalayan)
- 4 shallots, minced
- A large handful of parsley, minced
- A pinch of fresh thyme leaves
- 1 bay leaf, crushed
- 12 white peppercorns, crushed
- 4 lb of rendered pork fat
- 1 large head of garlic, halved and studded with a couple of cloves
- 480g of pork lard for storing the confit
Prepare the duck legs by cutting and trimming off as much fat as possible. Blitz the excess skin and all the fat in a food processor, place in a deep saucepan with 1 cup water and render the fat simmering it over a very low heat for about 45 minutes, strain, and reserve. Next it’s time to salt the duck. Roll each of the legs in the salt and then add to a ceramic bowl. Add the herbs, spices and shallots to the meat and massage for a couple of minutes ensuring they are all covered evenly. Pour any remaining salt over the top of the duck. Cover and place in the fridge for no less than 24 hours.
Once the time is up, thoroughly rinse the duck legs and pat dry. Heat the strained fat in a deep, heavy based saucepan. Add the duck legs, 120ml of water, the halved garlic head, and enough or the rendered pork fat to cover the legs. Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower heat and cook at a very low simmer for 1.5 hours. It’s really important not to let the mixture boil.
Remove the duck from the fat, drain and discard any loose bones. Strain the warmed fat. Put approximately 220 ml of the warmed fat into each of the Kilner jars intended for storage and cool in order to congeal the fat. Arrange the duck legs in the containers without crushing them. Strain the remaining warm fat,over the duck to cover. The duck legs must be completely submerged in the fat. Cover and chill until solid. Cover with a layer of melted lard and store in a cool place such as a cold cellar or the refrigerator. Leave to ripen at least 1 month. This duck confit will keep for up to 6 months. To use the confit, place the jars in a warm oven until the fat softens, remove duck as desired. Return jar to the fridge. Be sure all the remaining pieces are covered with fat. The duck can be served at room temperature or warmed in an oven, then sautéed to crisp the skin.
We are back in the Happily Ever Afters kitchen this morning and cooking with one of my all time favourite nuts, the pecan. The word “pecan” is from an Algonquian word, meaning a nut requiring a stone to crack it. The pecan tree is a large deciduous tree and is a species of hickory, native to south-central North America. In Mexico, it grows from Coahuila south to Jalisco and Veracruz, in the United States it is grown in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. It grows to about 66-131 ft (20-40 m) and usually has a crown 39-75 ft (12-3 m) kpmkl wide and a trunk up to 6.6 ft (2 m) in diameter. The flowers are wind-pollinated, and the female catkins are small, with three to six flowers clustered together. Pecan trees have been identified as 300 years old.
A pecan, like the fruit of all other members of the hickory genus, is not a true nut, but is technically a drupe, a fruit with a single stone or pit, surrounded by a husk. The husks are produced from the exocarp tissue of the flower, while the part known as the nut develops from the endocarp and contains the seed. The husk itself is a golden-green colour, the outer husk starts out green and turns brown at maturity, at which time it splits off in four sections to release the thin-shelled nut.
The seeds of the pecan are edible, with a rich, buttery flavor. They can be eaten fresh or used in cooking, particularly in sweet desserts, but also in some savoury dishes. One of the most common desserts with the pecan as a central ingredient is the pecan pie, a traditional southern U.S. recipe. Pecans are also a major ingredient in praline candy, most often associated with New Orleans.
In addition to the pecan seed, the wood is also used in making furniture and wood flooring, as well as a flavouring fuel for smoking meats.
Pecans were one of the most recently domesticated major crops. Although wild pecans were well known among the colonial Americans as a delicacy, the commercial growing of pecans in the United States did not begin until the 1880s. Today, the U.S. produces between 80% and 95% of the world’s pecans, with an annual crop of 150–200 thousand tons from over 10 million trees. The nuts are harvested typically around mid-October. Historically, the leading pecan-producing state in the U.S. has been Georgia, followed by Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
Pecans are an excellent source of manganese and a good source of protein and unsaturated fats. Like walnuts, pecans are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Clinical research published in the Journal of Nutrition (September 2001) found that eating about a handful of pecans each day may help lower cholesterol levels similar to what is often seen with cholesterol-lowering medications. Research conducted at the University of Massachusetts has also confirmed that pecans may play a role in neurological health. Eating pecans daily may delay age-related muscle nerve degeneration, according to a study conducted at the university and published in Current Topics in Nutraceutical Research.
A lot of our American readers will have their own versions of pecan pie, handed down from generation to generation. So instead I am offering this alternative, which will make one large pie or 12 small individual ones.
Maple and Pecan Tart
For the pastry
- 5.6oz/160g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 6 tblsps butter
- 2.11oz/60g golden caster sugar
- 2 egg yolks
For the filling
- 2 tblsps maple syrup
- 5.07 fl oz/150ml double cream
- 4.05 oz/115g golden caster sugar
- pinch of cream of tartar
- 6 tblsps water
- 6.17 oz/175g pecan nuts
- 12 pecan nut halves to decorate
For the pastry:
Preheat the oven to 200ºC / Gas 6. Sift the flour into a large bowl then cut the butter into pieces and using your finger and thumb rub the butter into the flour till it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar then stir in the egg yolks to make a smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for half an hour. On a floured work surface roll out the pastry as thin as you can (but not too thin). Cut out 12 circles (or one big one) and line the tartlet tins with them. Prick the bottom of each tart and cover with some foil. Bake blind for 10 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown, then remove foil and bake for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
For the tart filling:
Mix together half the maple syrup and the half the cream in a bowl. Place the sugar, water and cream of tartar in a saucepan over a low heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and boil until golden. Remove from the heat and add the cream and maple syrup mixture. Return to the heat and cook to the soft ball stage (116ºC, or when a little of the mixture forms a soft ball when dropped into some cold water). Stir in the remaining cream and let it stand until warm. Brush the rest of the maple syrup round the edges of the pastry and divide the pecans between the tarts. Spoon in the creamy mixture and top with a nut halve. Cool before eating. Enjoy!!