Thursday, January 29, 2009

Frijoles de Olla, Treacle Tart with Clotted Cream and Fig Balls

Easy beans.
A couple of years ago, my cousin Nesteren, who is a talented ceramist made me three beautiful earthenware pots- great for a hearty portion of dinner or lunch. I could fit in a confit duck leg on leftover lentils, a spot of pork shoulder, stew, cozidos, you name it, all in a tidy little package. About a year ago I decided to cook more beans for use during the week and these pots were the perfect piece of equipment for my technique. They are literally pint sized (14-16 oz each), and if you don't have a gifted cousin who can whip up some earthenware pots for you, an alternative is using a small bean pot, Staub or Le Creuset's smallest tight sealing casseroles.
Here's the recipe:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Pick through 1 cup of dry beans (cannelinis, garbanzos, pintos, black turtles, christmas limas, limas... etc, just not lentils). Add to pot, throw in a fresh or dried bay leaf, cover with water to the brim and place it in the oven. After about 2 hours, check the beans for tenderness. If they have softened, add 1t kosher salt (or more if you like your beans salty) and 1T olive oil. Return pot to oven for 20-30 minutes. The beans are now ready to eat!
So, you can add in other seasonings at the start of the process: whole black peppercorns, thyme, sage, a small cinnamon stick, a piece of allspice... just no salt until the end.

Treacle Tart
After I made this tart, I read that it's a favorite of Harry Potter. Still not sure if that makes me feel excited or a little silly. On our recent visit to London, we sought out a gorgeous and very British fancy food deli called Melrose and Morgan. We had a delicious Beet and Kohlrabi Gratin as well as Sausage Rolls, Cornish Pasties and some nice Lentil Salad.
Of course I've been obsessed with their menus since we left, so today they had Treacle Tart listed, so I had to make it. I found a recipe on BBC online and after a couple of hours, mmmm, Treacle Tart.
It's ridiculously simple to make and very, very nice. At the end of making it I needed clotted cream, which also turned out to be quite simple. I imagine I'll continue to make clotted cream at home, although I'm moving to the Land of Clotted Cream.
Here's the recipe:
Cook 1 pint of heavy cream (raw is best) in a bowl over simmering water until it's reduced my half. It will thicken and form a golden crust. Cover the bowl and let stand at room temp for 2 hours, then refrigerate at least 12 hours. Stir the crust into the cream before serving. The cream will keep for up to 4 days.

Fig Balls
I have my good friend Sara to thank for my most recent obsession... Palloni di Fichi (Fig Balls).
The Cosentinan recipe is fairly simple but quite specific- Calabrian figs are slightly roasted, tossed with honey and molasses, then 20-25 are shaped into a ball, wrapped in a fig leaf, tied in straw, then roasted again. The flavors are earthy and slightly smoky. The consistency is chewy and sticky and they are an impressive companion of soft ripe cheeses, fresh pecorino, drippy gorgonzola. I bought mine from D'Italia.