Tag Archives: caramel

granny’s oranges and caramel

10 Dec

orange, peeling 1

“Too busy” seems to be a modern malaise. Too busy, an endless motor of the million tasks and self improvements we feel we ought to accomplish every day.

For the moment, I am working a lot. A lot a lot. I get home after work less than eight hours before I have to get up and go again. It means a few choices – more sleep or a drink with friends? a quick run or a lovingly prepared meal? It can be oddly freeing to choose only the people and things that I love most and let go of guilt for the rest.

Eventually after the holidays and the fifty million Christmas logs we have to bake, everything will calm down. Until then I am calling on a bank of favours and having others cook me dinner. The other week I turned up, sleepy, with a bag of oranges, for lunch with a friend. He made me green tea with vanilla and let me yawn as he chopped vegetables and squeezed lemons.

We had an orange-themed meal, shades of sun and baked earth on a grey Paris day. He steamed a sweet-potato and served it halved, a swirl of this year’s green olive oil and a dash of cinnamon on one side, lemon and salt on the other. Then a turmeric, pumpkin and mushroom stew with cardamom rice. It was nourishing, calming food, full of warmth and spice.

orange, peeling 2

Because I couldn’t face any more baked goods, my dessert was an old favourite from my Granny. I sliced a few oranges, with care, into starry rounds and piled them over thick mascarpone. A couple of handfuls of sugar went into a saucepan, left to go brown, the colour of steeped tea. When the caramel smelled as if it might be on the edge of burning, I poured it quickly over the two bowls of oranges and watched it crack hard on the cool fruit. The combination was just right – heavy, juicy winter oranges against thick cream and almost-burnt sugar set into shards. We chipped the caramel off the bowls with our spoons and finished the meal content.

When I get to feeling too busy, I take a breath and remember that lunch, those kind of lunches, and remind myself of the snippet of poem on my bedroom wall:

I do not mind living

like this.  I cannot bear
living like this.
Oh, everything's true
at different times

in the capacious day,
just as I don't forget
and always forget

half the people in the world
are dispossessed.

-Stephen Dunn

I am lucky to be busy with work, to pay my rent. I can choose to be calm or stressed. And the capacious day includes time for work and oranges and friends.

orange, peeling 3

Granny’s oranges with caramel

serves two tired people

3 oranges

100g caster sugar

100g mascarpone

Choose large, juicy oranges. They should feel heavy in your hands, like a good grapefruit does, and not polystyrene-light. Slice off the top and bottom and cut off the peel on the sides, careful to follow the round shape to take off all the white pith and not the fruit. Slice cross-ways to get those bicycle-spokes patterns.

Scoop mascarpone into two bowls and pile with orange slices. Throw the sugar into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan (this is important, for it will let the sugar melt evenly and not just burn on one side) and heat on high. Watch it carefully as it melt into a clear syrup, then starts to bubble and go brown. Do not stir, but you can swirl the pan gently if one side is cooking faster than the other. Have your oranges ready. When it really smells like caramel – like creme brulee – tilt the pan and note the colour of the syrup at the thinnest part. It should be brown as mahogany. (I like my caramel to taste a little burnt.) Tip directly, and quickly onto the oranges. Done.

It should take less time and effort to make the caramel than it did to read that paragraph. If it were to go wrong, just soak the pan in water and try again.

(Nothing to be afraid of, Rachel!)


upside-down pomegranate cake

3 Nov

More post! Lucky me. A black and white postcard of Clint Eastwood, and an envelope full of recipe cuttings. Something about having a paper copy is instantly more appealing to me. It makes me want to run to the kitchen, prop the recipe up in the toaster but still manage to smudge it with butter.

Digression. I like post and paper and also pomegranates. (Things beginning with P.) Apart from adding a jewelled touch to fancy salads, pomegranates have never seemed to me an obvious ingredient for baking. They are pretty on their own, red seeds hiding in the hard orb. Like pistachios, the pleasure comes in cracking them open and popping out the insides.

The picture for this recipe really showed off the fruit: a sparkling ruby slipper-made-cake. A layer of pomegranate seeds that melded into a buttery yellow cake with the help of a deep red caramel. It tastes just as it sounds. The cake itself is dense and rich with butter, just a touch of vanilla, the caramel-pomegranate top sweet but tangy.

We had it for afternoon tea, still warm. It was admired all round.

And now, a pomegranate peeling tip pinched from Smitten Kitchen (this is clearly a day for Ps): fill a clean sink with cold water. Score the pomegranate skin as if you were going to cut it in quarters, but just pull it apart with your hands and let it fall into the water. Crumble the seeds gently to separate and remove the inner membranes. The latter will float to the top and the seeds will sink. Scoop out the floating debris with a sieve and chuck out. Then scoop out and drain the seeds.

That was too many words for a simple concept. You get the idea: no explosions of scarlet pomegranate juice, no seeds squashed in the cutting. No fiddling.

Just like this cake, no fuss, delicious reward.

Upside-down pomegranate cake

from a French magazine of which I only have the initials CWF; they recommend POM juice or to halve a pomegranate and squeeze it like an orange

1 large pomegranate

for the caramel: 

150g sugar

100ml pomegranate juice

1 tsp lemon juice

for the cake: 

150g butter, melted

3 eggs

120g sugar

150g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla essence

Heat the oven to 180C. Melt the butter in it at the same time if you are being efficient.  Grease a large round cake tin and line it with baking paper.

Peel and de-seed your pomegranate. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the sugar and pomegranate juice to a boil. Let it bubble away merrily for 5 minutes or so, until you only just start to smell caramel. (The colour is deceptive because of the juice.) Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and tip into the cake tin. Swirl to coat the bottom evenly. Sprinkle your pomegranate seeds on top.

Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and pale. Sift the flour and baking powder and stir into eggs, with melted butter (not too hot) and vanilla. When smooth, pour into tin to cover caramel/pomegranate seeds.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. When the cake has risen, come away from the sides of the pan and turned a nice golden-yellow, you should be done. Check with a skewer. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge, place a plate over it and turn upside down. Peel off the paper, replace any stray seeds.

Serve with crème fraîche or sour cream to balance the rich texture. Still good kept in a tin at least 3 days later. (I cannot verify further for it is All Gone.)

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