A bit late, I know, but in my family you can wish each other a happy new year during the entire month of January (I have a ginormous extended family, so it would usually take a while to tick everyone off). Also, getting a stomach bug is a wonderful way to lose all that holiday weight, but not such a fun way to start the new year. My stomach is back to its old good self now, but there hasn’t been much cooking in the V&C kitchen and hence not much to report either.
S and I spent most of the holidays with our families in Belgium – a wonderful week of eating, sleeping and not much else. And I was too busy chatting with everyone to think about updating my blog. We‘ve always celebrated with our little family on christmas’ eve; christmas day was reserved for a big lunch with my dad’s side of the family (fifty-odd people – told you I have a big family) and the last years is a perfect day for going to the cinema, or, even better, doing nothing at all.
The traditional christmas day lunch with turkey, cranberry, stuffing etc. is not really done in Belgium though (and we don’t have Santa Claus either – but we do have Sinterklaas, who comes on 6 December). We usually eat something nice and festive, and this year we all helped cooking. Mum did something nice with fish for starters, my brother made a lovely cream of mushroom soup, S made a beautiful gratin dauphinois and of course I was in charge of dessert.
I wanted to make something Sinterklaas-inspired, with speculoos, spices, and mandarines. And dad loves ice cream, so there had to be ice cream in it as well. And this is what I came up with: speculoos with cinnamon ice cream and mandarine caramel. Those fancy schmancy mandarine segments I didn’t do on purpose (I do have a life you know, and I don’t spend it dissecting mandarines into individual thingies); my original intention was to have large segments in the caramel and when I was trying to get the membrane off each segment, they just fell apart in these little thingies. And they looked kinda cute, so I used them like that. All the components for this dessert can be prepared in advance and are very easy to make; just be careful with the speculoos, because it burns easily.
500g self raising flour
350g soft or dark brown sugar
1/2 shot glass of cognac (or milk or water)
mixed spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg etc.)
Knead everything together into a smooth dough. Leave to rest in the fridge for at least one hour. Roll dough to a thickness of 1/2 in for crispy speculoos, or 2 in for soft speculoos and shape as desired. Bake at 170 - 200˚C, for about 5 to 10 minutes (burns easily).
For this dessert I baked thin crispy rectangles of speculoos which I trimmed again after baking (the scraps mixed with coffee made a delicious spread for sweet sandwiches), but this recipe makes massive quantities of dough and, as my mum loves the thick soft speculoos, I baked a massive slab of that with the leftovers. Which disappeared in no time.
cinnamon ice cream
Find any basic ice cream recipe and infuse milk or cream with cinnamon sticks when heating it. (sneaky, I know, but my old basic recipe doesn't really cut it. Not enough egg yolks I think)
adapted from Claudia Fleming's Last Course
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup mandarine juice
1 tbsp butter
combine water and sugar in saucepan and simmer until sugar dissolves (stir regularly). Raise heat and boil mixture until caramelised. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and fruit juice. Set over low heat and whisk until caramel is smooth. Let cool for at least 1 hour. Before serving, stir in mandarine segments (which I didn't have, so I just scattered my mandarine thingies over the plates).