As our time in London draws to a close, we're starting to cast about for some conclusions, making lists of all the loose ends we need to tie up and the places we need to visit before the next leg of our trip around the world. We're creating ever-more-interesting concoctions and casseroles from what's left in the fridge and the back of the cupboard. Recipes using pork belly and Special K will be gratefully accepted!
Today, though, on our last Sunday in London, we shrugged off the mantle of responsible leftover consumption and embraced that quintessentially English culinary tradition, the Sunday Roast - in this case, rare roast beef seasoned with cumin, coriander, garlic and ginger. This might seem like a rather un-English combination of spices, but it was inspired by a highly regarded eighteenth-century English recipe published by the doyenne of English cooking, Elizabeth David. In her Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen, she argues that the use of such apparently exotic spices as coriander and ginger was actually fundamental to English manor house cooking from the seventeenth century onwards, a result of England's strong ties with the Middle East and North Africa.
We accompanied the beef with roasted root vegetables, and sticky toffee pudding for "afters." The roast was fantastic, but the sticky toffee pudding was the most fun to make, as it turned out that the secret to its stickiness is to poke lots of holes in a newly baked spice cake and pour hot toffee sauce into them, thus imbuing the cake with its characteristic gooey goodness. Traditionally it also has dates in it, which we left out for two related reasons: 1) we didn't have any dates and 2) we both hate dates. If you feel differently, by all means add some in, finely chopped or even pureed.
We served this with the last dregs of Tam's delicious Christmas port from Fortnum and Mason; it's also good with tea and, like all of our dessert recipes, makes a fine breakfast.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
For toffee sauce:
1 cup whipping cream
2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Sift dry ingredients together. Cream butter, sugar and eggs together. Combine wet and dry ingredients, mixing just until blended. Mix in walnuts. Pour batter into 8x8 buttered pan and bake until skewer comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the toffee sauce. Combine half of cream with sugar and butter in heavy large saucepan. Boil over medium-high heat until mixture thickens slightly and is deep golden, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in remainder of cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir over low heat until mixture is smooth.
Poke warm cake all over with a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon and pour half of toffee sauce over, making sure it soaks into all parts of the cake. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
Serve warm, topped with remaining toffee sauce and creme fraiche or unsweetened whipped cream.
Makes about 9 servings.