Cranberries are pretty synonymous with Christmas food, and if they’re not for you they will be after reading books by Nigella Lawson. But I’m a fan any time of year, despite their kinda maligned image. They’re not as give-it-to-you-on-a-plate sweetly juicy as strawberries, not as popular as raspberries, not as purple as boysenberries and their medicinal purposes aren’t as dinner-table-conversational as blueberries. In fact cranberries are like the grapefruit of the berry world: sour, prone to bitterness, with connotations of…groin. Luckily Nigella Lawson’s here, with her recipes for cranberry sauce and cranberry stuffing and all kinds of good Christmassy things, to save the cranberry’s image.
I’ve gone one further, and taken one of her more interesting recipes – Cranberry Curd – and turned it into an ice cream, where swirls of frozen whipped cream whirl around slashes of crimson. A beautiful vortex, like holly berries on snow…that have been prodded at and moved around with a stick…the harshness of the berries muted with sugar, eggs, and butter; the plain cream embiggened by the gorgeous colour and the still-remaining hint of sourness, as well as the frozen, buttery crunch of white chocolate (Whittakers – my favourite and what I almost always use. Just enter the name into the search bar for proof…) While you can make this any old time, the colours and the frozen nature of it and the fact that I’m making it in mid-November means it’s ideal for a yuletide pudding. Especially since December is summertime in New Zealand. Although if I had a glazed ham for every December 25th that was either coldly rainy or airlessly humid…
Bring the cranberries and the water to the boil in a small pan till the berries are softened and have released their juices. Now comes the one horrible job. You have to try push all this through a sieve into a bowl. There’s a technique – go slowly, keep pressing down and stirring with a spatula and then scraping the underside of the sieve with that spatula. You should end up with around 1/3 cup cranberry matter and a permanently clogged sieve. From here it’s simple though. To the strained, velvety pink liquid add the butter and sugar and gently melt over a low heat, then beat the eggs and sieve them into the pan while stirring (ordinarily a pain but you’ve already got a dirty sieve, so?) continue to stir over a low heat until it has thickened a lot. Don’t let it overheat and curdle after all that trouble – if you suspect shenanigans, just remove it from the heat and keep stirring. Allow to cool. Stir in a few daring drops of red food colouring if you like – this particular time I did.
Meanwhile, whisk the cream till it has thickened and has increased in body mass but isn’t at the point where you’d call it whipped. Fold in the shards of white chocolate, and spatula all this into a freezer-proof container. Tupperware lunchboxes like the one I’ve used here are perfect.
Ripple technique: I worked this out on the fly, as the spoonful of curd hovered questioningly over the container of whipped cream. Firstly, spoon the curd into the container of whipped cream in three rough horizontal lines (across the width, like a bumblebee) then take the handle of a spoon or a skewer or something, and make lines up and down across the length of the container, through the stripes. From here, carefully swirl all this around till you’re happy. Just remember you can’t un-swirl, so go slowly and carefully.
All these surrounding ingredients really truly mellow out the cranberry, leaving it velvety and intriguingly sweet and berryish without any of that mouth puckering, tooth-coarsening quality that you might expect. The stripe method of swirling means everyone’s guaranteed a decent portion of sherbety cranberry ripple to dissolve, and white chocolate is so delicious that I almost don’t want to demean it by explaining why it’s there, but its rich sweetness works perfectly with the ingredients and lends an alluring crunch to all that smoothness. I’m proud of myself for this one.
So I’m super tired because it has been a big weekend of activity, from a raucous book group on Friday night followed by a catch up with a friend at Havana, Saturday’s plans for mini-golf were dashed upon the raindrops, but we all went to Denny’s and ate a whole lot of food (including a proper coke float) and followed it up with a Whisky Appreciation Evening that carried on long after the night had turned into the next morning. That’s what weekends are for, but now my brain’s feeling a little frantically underslept – if nothing else I can lean on this container of ice cream, cool my fevered brow, and spoon it into my mouth while I’m at it with but a minimum of effort. Just like the ice cream itself. I feel like it’s not too early to start thinking about Christmas-related things, but if you do, then maybe come back and re-read this post in three weeks so you can absorb it more comfortably?
Title via: Eurythmics, Who’s That Girl – so our Whisky last night was Scottish, but I didn’t realise babein’ Annie Lennox was too. This song doesn’t encroach on Thorn In My Side’s Favourite Eurythmics Song territory, but it’s still damn good.
Mos Def, Rock’n’Roll. I absolutely love Jack White, truly, but I was a little surprised he didn’t get mentioned in this song.
Underworld, Rez. So twinkly and light and gratifyingly endless.
Next time: I started making progress on a Christmas Cake today. Would’ve actually made it but was far, far too sleepy. More fool me…