Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Chopped Chicken Liver

 1 pound fresh chicken livers
 salt and freshly ground black pepper
 4 tablespoons chicken fat, goose fat, vegetable oil, or unsalted butter (more as needed)
 2 large onions, diced (about 3 cups)
 3 cloves garlic - optional
 3 hard boiled eggs - large
 1 tablespoon brandy or cognac - optional

1 medium frying pan
1  small pot with lid
1 large bowl and several small bowls
hand chopper (often called a mezzaluna or lunette)
If you prefer, you can use a food processor for this.

1. Add your choice of fat to a medium size frying pan, turn heat to medium and allow the fat to melt and heat. Add the diced onions and cook stirring often until they are caramelized brown and soft. Watch carefully so they don't burn; the process takes about 45+ minutes. This is the secret to the best tasting results - lots of rich, soft, brown caramelized onion. When onions are done, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a bowl and allow to cool.

2. Place 3 large eggs in a small pot and cover with water. Put a lid on the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, turn off the heat and allow the pot to stand covered for about 25 min. Drain off hot water, rinse with cold water, peel eggs. Set eggs aside or into fridge to cool.

3. Back to the frying pan - add another tablespoon or two of fat to what's left over in the pan from the onions. Start heating the pan over medium heat. Pat the livers dry with a paper towel. Cut them in half or so if they seem large. Add the livers to the frying pan and saute until lightly brown.

4. While the liver cooks, peel a few whole garlic cloves and toss into the pan with the liver. Check after 5 min or so - the liver should be lightly brown and only slightly pink in the center. Turn off the heat and gather everything for the final assembly.

*This assumes manual assembly which is my preference. Skip to the end if you are using a processor for this.

5. Scrape the cooked livers and garlic into the large bowl. Use the hand chopper to coarsely chop the livers and garlic until it looks about how you like it. Grind some black pepper and salt over the liver.

6. Grate the eggs over the liver. Graters usually have 2 sets of holes - regular and tiny - I use the regular size, the tiny turns it into mush. Now set aside the grater and use the chopper a couple times to chop and mix the eggs into the liver.

7. Scrape all the caramelized onions into the big bowl on top of the liver and eggs. Make sure you get all the fat and tasty bits. Use a spoon to mix in the onions thoroughly. Add the brandy now if you intend to use it. Mix well and chop more if you want a finer texture.

8. TASTE! This is seriously important. You will probably need to adjust the salt & pepper. It should taste gorgeous but slightly under-salted. Mix and taste until it's exactly as you like. Please don't oversalt.

9. Pack mixture into a tupperwear type container or small bowl and cover tightly. Put into the fridge and let cool.

10 - If you are not using a food processor - you're done and ready to eat.

* If you are using a food processor -
Scrape all the cooked ingredients (liver, eggs, onions, etc) into the processor bowl. and pulse until its the consistency you prefer. Season to taste and pack into storage container.

Notes: I think this tastes best the day its made after it has a chance to cool and settle. It's also gorgeous the next day if there's any left over. Generally it will keep up to 3 days from preparation so you can make it ahead of time for parties.

Any questions, Ask!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

My take on Weisswurst

I'm just going to start by dealing with the elephant in the room. Yes, Weisswurst is made from veal. Deal with it.

Now that that's taken care of:

As usual, I didn't have the ingredients to make what I might have originally envisioned, and made do. I expect you'll do about the same. The result was incredible, however, so even if it's inauthentic, I recommend it.

I made this on the side because I didn't have any traditionally made sauerkraut. Traditionally made is fermented in a brine solution, then rinsed thoroughly before eating. The end result is a pleasant, crunchy vegetable with a touch of sharpness and piquency. Supermarket sauerkraut, however, is fast pickled in vinegar, and tastes nothing like the real stuff. I wanted something light and sharp to contrast the meatiness of the rest of the dinner, something to act as an astringent palate cleanser. Well, I had the cabbage...

Take 1 head of cabbage and peel off the nasty outer leaves. Quarter and core it, then slice into strips. In a large bowl, add the cabbage, a few tablespoons of mayonnaise, a dash of salt and pepper, a quarter cup or so of lemon juice, a heaping tablespoon of horseradish, and about a teaspoon of dried dill. Mix thoroughly, cover, and stick in the fridge.

As always, cole slaw is better if prepared the day before, but we don't always have that luxury. Thus, get it out of the way at the beginning so it has at least an hour or so to sit in your fridge before eating.


Grab six large russet potatoes. Peel them and chop them into cubes. Dump into a pot of cold water, then heat the pot under high heat. The pot will take a long time to come to boil and cook the potatoes, by which time hopefully everything else should be ready.

Take a half dozen thick cut strips (double the number for normal thickness) of bacon. I used a medium-fatty bacon, so if yours is leaner, use a bit more. For my readers overseas who use bacon which is cut from leaner parts of the pig, you can use goosefat instead. Chop the bacon into strips about a half inch wide by an inch long. Throw into a large, high-walled pan in medium heat. You'll be cooking the bacon until all the fat has rendered out and the whole bottom of the pan is generously covered in fat. Seriously, don't be afraid of having too much fat. While the bacon cooks, make sure to stir it and break it up on occasion so the bacon gets a little crispy.

While the bacon cooks, take a half dozen large leeks (more if you have skinny ones) and remove the outer leaves. Chop off the very tops, but retain as much of the green part as you can. Slice off the root end. Make sure to rinse to remove any dirt present. Separate the green and white parts, then half the white part lengthwise through the middle. Slice the entire leek into the thinnest strips you can and put into a large bowl until ready to use them.

Similarly, take six stalks of celery, remove and toss the tops and bottoms, and rinse under cold water. Slice lengthwise, then chop the celery into small pieces and add to the leeks.

Once the bacon is done, carefully but quickly remove the bacon to a separate container while retaining the fat in the pan. To the still hot pan, add a flat tablespoon of minced garlic. Watch the garlic like a hawk- the fat will be very hot, and the garlic will likely be done within 30-60 seconds. Once the color just begins to turn (BEGINS to turn), dump in the sliced leeks and celery. Stir the vegetables occasionally and add a dash of salt and pepper.  Cook until the leeks and celery have started to soften, but they don't need to be completely soft and cooked through.

Check your potatoes. They should only need to boil for ~10 minutes. By that time, they'll be done but still very firm. If you aren't sure, grab a piece out and (after blowing on it to cool it off) bite into it. You should reasonably be able to tell if it's done then. Drain the potatoes and add to the leeks. Aren't you glad you had that high walled pan now? Add back the cooked bacon, and stir until everything is well incorporated. Ah, the smells should be pretty fantastic now.

Take 8 weisswurst and add them to the pan. You don't want them sitting on the metal bottom getting heated directly by the pan. Stir them around so that they get a nice coating of the leeks and such, and have all of them nicely snuggled into the potatoes. Cover and turn your heat down to low for 25 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Chicken Corn Chowder

Alan and I are in the process of shifting our eating habits. It's not a deliberate choice; it's just recognising the changing nature of our appetites and needs as we age. An example is that we often find we definitely want something to eat for supper but we don't have a great appetite for a proper, full meal. What we want is a bowl of very tasty soup with a chunk of buttered bagette on the side. So I've started to make interesting soups and decided to share some recipes with you. The amount I make is good for about 2 meals for 2 people. I'm not into making vast vats of soup which will age and degrade even if frozen. A vat of soup works if you are feeding a horde of indiscriminate guests. But you can't make delicate, elegant broths or silky, creamy veloutes in vat size amounts. You'll also grow weary and bored with even the nicest soup if you have to work your way through a vat of it. The charm of homemade soup is that you can make something that appeals to whatever mood you are in at that moment. And tonight Alan was yearning for Chicken Corn Chowder.

Remember that we're tossing this together so there's no precise measurements. You need a stick blender for this. It's an essential piece of basic kitchen equipment and only costs about $25 (US).

Ingedients for soup base:
Chicken stock - about 1 liter - homemade or bought. I used Tesco Finest Chicken Stock. In NYC I used to use College Inn No Salt. Whatever you use, try to get something that relies on chicken for flavour not yeast. (I find the yeast flavour musty and disgusting not meaty.)
1 onion - 3" yellow or white - peeled and roughly chopped
3 potatoes - peeled and chopped - Floury or Idaho type preferred
1 heaping cup of corn kernels - I used frozen 
1 plump clove garlic
white pepper
sea salt

Ingredients for soup finish:
1 heaping cup corn kernels
leftover cooked chicken - remove all skin, bones, etc and roughly chop into bite size pieces or shreds
double cream

1. Dump chicken stock and veg into a comfortably large pot.
2. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer
3. Cover and simmer for 60 min
4. Take the pot off the heat and taste the soup base. Add a bit of white pepper and a sprinkle of salt to taste. Go easy as this is not the final adjustment.
5. Use the stick blender to grind everything to a relatively smooth soup.
6. Smash and chop the clove of garlic to pulp. Add to the soup to taste - keep it subtle, you just want to add a background warmth.
7. Add the additional cup of corn kernels and the shredded chicken.
8. Cover and simmer gently for another 30 min
9. Add some double cream to enrich the soup - 1/4 to 1/2 cup, adjust the salt and pepper. You may want to add a spoon of honey to enhance the sweetness of the corn.
10. You can serve the soup now or cover and allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight. Bring to a simmer before serving it the next day.

A chunk of bagette with butter goes very nice on the side.

Monday, February 23, 2015


As most of my friends and family know, I love Kickstarter. So about a year ago, the opportunity came up to back a small-batch home pickling/fermentation system. Last week, it finally came in.

Bolstered by the success of my pickles, I wanted to make something immediately. But between my lack of wide mouthed mason jars (soon to be rectified) and the difficulty in finding appropriate ingredients in February, I went with making sauerkraut.

Classic sauerkraut uses caraway seeds and juniper berries for flavoring, neither of which I have. I have, however, found that celery seed (of which I still have a ridiculous abundance left over from making celery soda) is an acceptable substitute for caraway.

I also thought it would be neat to make a mixture of red and white cabbage. So the ingredients were as follows:

1/2 head white cabbage
1/2 head red cabbage
sea salt
onion powder
black peppercorns
celery seed

Chop the cabbage into thin slices and combine with ingredients in your preferred proportions. I didn't really measure anything out, but it was roughly 3-4 tablespoons salt, a couple of tablespoons of onion powder, a tablespoon of black peppercorns, and about a teaspoon of celery seed. Mix until evenly coated, then cram into a clean and sterilized mason jar. Add your water well air blockage system (I am now using the Kraut Source) and set aside. It's important to cram it in and pack it tight. This is a lot, and I used a half gallon mason jar, the only one I have with a wide mouth. Even then, I thought it was crammed in properly, but I didn't have a nice pounder, and I didn't pound as I layered. The result was that once I set up the press and it began to mascerate, the level dropped a solid inch or two, which made it awkward.

Now, in theory, if you live in a place where you can get fresh cabbage, the cabbage should spew enough moisture over the course of 24 hours to more than cover the solids. This may not happen for the rest of us. If after 12 hours it still hasn't happened, I'd make up a brine solution of 1 tbsp salt in 1 cup warm water. Add until you have a half inch or so of brine above the solids.

After 2 weeks, take some out and taste test. If you like it, great! If you want it more developed, give it another week or two.

After 2 weeks, ready to eat!
You will occasionally get what some people call bloom or scum. It's mold that grows on the surface of the brine. That is a-okay, as it happens. Just use a spoon and try to scoop out the worst of it. You don't need to worry about getting every tiny little bit. So long as the solids stay below the brine level, they should be just fine, protected by the brine.

You can play with the ingredients. Use paprika, tumeric, garlic, whatever you like. I like the Kraut Source system because it allows me to experiment with small batches using mason jars. Your mileage may vary. As always with pickling, be aware of keeping an anaerobic environment- see my post on LES-style pickles for an explanation.

Final verdict on my sauerkraut: weird for the first bite, but a nice aftertaste. Realized that it was weird because I expected more of the classic sauerkraut flavor, but the different spices made it, of course, taste different. Once I got over the initial shock, I really enjoyed it. Added it as a side for a roasted and stuffed pork tenderloin my wife made, it was a bright note both visually and on the palate to contrast the savory meat.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Lower East Side Jewish Pickles

Time was, you could throw a cobblestone in the lower east side and hit a pickle vendor. Now they're all gone but for The Pickle Guys (and I don't really care for their pickles). For years, I've been frustrated about this, and given serious thought to making my own. Ultimately, I was stopped by the lack of access to appropriate cucumbers- you can't just use any variety.

However, I recently stumbled onto some at a farmer's market. I decided to finally put my money where my mouth is and give it a try. Coincidentally, I had recently been looking up pickle recipes. They tend to fall into two categories:

1. The Wrong Kind. These are the recipes which call for things like vinegar or enormous quantities of dill. If you are only familiar with pickles that you get in your supermarket, these are for you. These are not the kind I was looking for. However, the FDA has a page with some of these recipes and give a bit of useful background on them too, worth reading.

2. The Hippy Kind. These were posted by people who swore that the secret magic of fermentation cured their AIDS. I'm not joking.

So, before I go into my recipe (which is the simple part) I want to talk a little bit about what pickling is, how it works, and what you *need* to be aware of before you start. You can skip this section if you've done it before, but it's good for newcomers to learn about proper, safe setup.

What it is: there are two types of pickling, fast and slow. Fast pickling has to do with preserving food by storing it in boiling hot vinegar. This is normally what your sauerkraut at the supermarket is, or how onions may be preserved. More or less, if it's been canned, it's probably the fast method. And that's fine for a lot of things.

Slow pickling is very different. Here you generally (although not exclusively) use a salt brine solution to allow naturally occurring anaerobic lactobacteria (bacteria which are active in oxygen-free/limited oxygen environments, as opposed to aerobic bacteria which thrive in oxygen rich environments. So if you buy an airtight coffin, it's the anaerobic bacteria which will break you down) to break down and ferment the food. When done correctly, you get a pickle. When done incorrectly, you get poison.

Which begs the question- how can I do this correctly? Well, remember that you want to encourage growth of anaerobic bacteria, not aerobic- so you need to limit the amount of fresh air the brine is exposed to. However, the fermentation process results in the production of carbon dioxide (just like in beer) which means that you can't use a sealed container. A sealed container will undergo high pressure and may explode. In addition, the carbon dioxide may re-dissolve in the brine solution, increasing the acidity higher than it should be, affecting the anaerobic bacteria. So, you need to have a way of releasing the pressure while simultaneously minimizing the exposure to fresh air.

There are many different ways of accomplishing this, and with a little bit of thought, you can build a water well setup like I have or create your own. Or you can buy a fancy high-end kit. It's all up to you, depending on the amount of work/expense you want to dedicate to the setup.

I used an old clean 1/2 gallon mason jar I had laying around. I cut the bottom out of a pint sized plastic food container to that it would slip down and around the neck of the mason jar. The edge was sealed with silicon caulking and allowed to dry. I then cut the top of a diet coke bottle to shape so that it would fit over the mouth of the mason jar. Once the mason jar was filled, I was able to pour water around the outside of the neck of the mason jar and fit the diet coke bottle over it. This acted as a water well- the water would seal off the inside from fresh air, but when the carbon dioxide inside built up, it could bubble out without a problem.

In addition, as the pickles fermented, mold will grow on top. It is very easy to scoop that off the top and throw it away.

Now, you've got your setup completed. What kind of pickles do you want? There appear to be two competing theories regarding Half-Sour vs Full Sour pickles. One is that it is dependent on the salt concentration in the brine. A lower salt content will simply develop a half sour pickle and be done with it. A higher salt content will create full sour. The other theory is that it has nothing to do with the salt content, it has to do with the length of time that the fermentation is allowed to continue. So a half sour pickle will turn into a full sour pickle.

From my experience, I think that both of these theories are correct to an extent. I suspect that in addition to the temperature, the salt content plays a role in the activity of the lactobacteria. Thus, a lower salt content may prevent a full sour from being achieved in a reasonable timespan. However, people who have experience with real pickles know that they have a limited lifespan, as the older they get, the softer they will become as the bacteria continue to break them down. Thus, new full sour pickles are crunchy, while old ones become mushy. To make the fermentation process more rapid, a higher salt content is desired. However, a salt content that is too high will also inhibit the bacterial growth, so it is a balancing act.

Since the temperature plays a key role in the bacterial growth, the fermentation time can vary. I predict ~1 week for half sour, 3-4 weeks for full sour.

In the interests of science and tastiness, I decided to try a middle ground.

One last note, and it's on salt. Look on the back of the salt container you're going to use. Most table salts contain anti-clumping agents which are perfectly non-toxic for you and me, but cause issues with fermentation. As such, you'll want anti-clumping agent free salt. Everyone tells you to use sea salt or kosher salt. This is bullshit. Some kosher/sea salts will contain anti-clumping agents. There's no magical way to know unless you actually check the ingredients. The kind I used listed only sea salt as the ingredient, and had a warning that since it contained no anti-clumping agent, that clumping could occur over time.

Take your pickling cucumbers and give them a good rinse in cold water and remove any remnants of the blossom. Naturally, the fresher the better. Prepare your brine by making a 5% by volume salt solution. That is: measure out 9 1/2 cups warm water (it does not need to be boiling- in fact, you don't want it boiling hot as it will thermally cook the cucumbers. the warmth is simply to aid the dissolution) and add a half cup of salt. Mix until the salt has fully dissolved. This is way more brine than you'll require for a single 1/2 gallon jar, but it's better to not have to make more if you need it- and it's salt water, it's cheap.

Fill your mason jar with the cucumbers. Try to wedge them in so they won't be floating and bobbing to the surface too much. Pour the brine over them. Add the following to the brine:

1 tsp dried dill
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp celery seed
1 head garlic, peeled.

Close up the container, however you've decided to do it, and wait.

 Jar, on initial setup.

My reports:

1. After ~48 hours, the clear brine has become cloudy. The brine is becoming proper pickle juice

2. After ~96 hours, the cucumbers seem to be visibly changing.

 3. After 135 hours (~ 5 1/2 days) 1 pickle removed to check taste and consistency. Conclusions: a) it's definitely working- it's a pickle alright. b) the flavor is more or less dead on exactly what I was looking for. c) the pickle is just shy of being half sour- what is called a New Pickle (thanks mom). This means that most of it has reached half-sour status, while parts of it are still under-fermented. The color looks a more olive green. d) some mold grew on top overnight, scraped off. e) seems to be meeting my prediction for 1 week=half sour. Remains to be seen if full sour will be achieved, how long it will take, what the state of the pickle will be at that point. e) pickle has large hollow center, which stems from the age of the cucumber before pickling (fresher cucumbers do not form hollow centers.) This is also evident from the size/hardness of the central seeds. f) while the pickle isn't soft, it isn't quite as crunchy as I'd like. This may be partially due to my slicing it with a knife to share with people. Will know more later. A soft full sour is *not* desired.
 Jar after 5 days

Pickle after 5 days

Pickle jar after 12 days

Pickles after 12 days

After 12 days, I was worried. I'd begun to notice some growth among the dill and celery seeds along the bottom of the jar. In addition, the brine smell was beginning to take over in my apartment, partially thanks to my rather shoddy homemade pickling jar. So, I figured to roll the dice and decant the pickles a couple of days early. I gave them all rinses in water just in case.

Coincidentally, my father and sister had gone to Katz's Deli to pick up some pastrami, and grabbed a couple pickles while they were at it. I thought it'd be fun to have a taste comparison.

My pickles: range in shade from light to dark green, but healthy looking
Katz pickles: uniform deep green, slightly wrinkled as if they were a little old.

My pickles: crunchy (!) like a half sour
Katz pickles: some crunch, but more firm than crunchy

My pickles: garlicy and flavorful, with the bite at the back of your tongue that I always look for.
Katz pickles: they tasted like unflavored brine. Boring. My sister went so far as to spit hers out in disgust.

So, overall a resounding success. Some notes and thoughts for the future:

1. The garlic flavor intensified as time passed. If you don't want it as garlicky, either use less, or decant sooner.

2. Better protection from the air.

3. Seeing some mold at the bottom of the jar among the spices makes me think it might be time to buy some new spices.

4. Nobody has come down sick with anything after ~24 hours.

5. The debate regarding brine concentration versus time is still not settled, but I'm still going with my argument of both.

6. The cucumbers were right on the edge of usability. I had two left over that I couldn't fit in the jar. I put them aside for a couple of days. Within 4 or 5 days, both had become disgusting rotten masses. In addition, some of them were clearly older and more fully developed than others- less developed is better, to prevent the hollow middles, the hard seeds, etc. Try to get the youngest and freshest you can find. Remember that these cucumbers go from green to yellow during the growth cycle, not the other way around.

7. The flavor is excellent, the texture is excellent, this is a classic LES pickle.

8. The temperature will naturally have some effect on the length of the pickling process. This was completed late September/early October, and the temperature in my apartment was generally in the neighborhood of 75 degrees for most of it. But during the hottest part of the day it could go up to the mid-upper 80s, and on cooler days it could potentially drop down into the 60s (though only the last few days did the temps begin to really drop).

I'm really, really pleased with how well this turned out. I'm determined next year to grow my own cucumbers, my mind has been made up now.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kirsten's Japanese Style Potato Salad

If you are looking for a new way to enjoy potato salad, try this:


6 potatoes.  Russets are fine. White potatoes are starchier but better as they hold their shape. Yukon gold are fantastic. Just peel 'em and quarter them.
3-4 red radishes, chopped small
1 large carrot, scraped.
1/2 cup sweet corn kernels
2 Tbsp chives or scallion, chopped
1 boiled egg
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
1 small cucumber. If you can find Persian cucumbers get that because they are smaller and closest match to Japanese kyuuri. However, if you can only find regular cucumber, scrape it and slice it thinly.
1-2 slices smoked ham (optional)
1/3 cup Kewpie Mayo (please do yourself a favor and find Japanese mayo! Go to any Asian grocery store and look for Kewpie.)

1 Tbsp rice vinegar (use white vinegar if not rice)
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. sea salt

1. Set the peeled, quartered potatoes in cold, salted water (just enough to cover them) in a pot on the stove. Heat them to a boil and cook 15 minutes or until a wooden toothpick can be inserted easily into them. You want them tender, not mushy.

2. Drain the potatoes pieces and set aside.

3. Cook the peeled carrot in water for 1-2 minutes until tender. It should still be firm and a bit crisp though. When finished, chop the parboiled carrot into small cubes.

4. In a bowl, combine the chopped onion, carrot, and cucumber and pour the sugar, salt and vinegar on top of them. Mix well with your hand to make sure everything is coated.

5. Chop the cooked potatoes into bite-sized cubes. Most Japanese potato salad is mashed smoothly but if you prefer to have solid cubes of potato as in a chopped salad, be my guest.

6. Mash the egg and combine with the mayo. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

7. Now combine the potatoes with the egg-mayo mash and the corn and vinegar-ed vegetables. Chop the ham into thin strips or squares and add if you want. Mix well until combined. The texture is up to you. Most Japanese potato salads resemble smooth mashed potato with bright chunks of vegetables inside. But if you want the texture to be lumpy instead of smooth, use a gentler hand when you mix.

8. Use chopped radish and scallion as garnish. You can also use fresh parsley.

9. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve. This is great food to take on a picnic or to have with roast chicken. Use an ice cream scoop to serve it on a fresh leaf of lettuce.

10. Ingredients are really to your taste. Want to omit the egg and ham? Fine. Prefer to add a teaspoon of salad mustard? Rock on.  Require Adobo on it the same way you require it on everything else? Please do! Wanna get funky and add strips of seaweed or mentaiko? It's up to you how you want it to taste. Everyone has a different method for making potato salad but I enjoy this smooth, Japanese version so much. Plus, I love making my woman happy!

Note: I made this recipe today in the more western "chopped" style. The flavour is very lively, fresh, and exiting - just right for spring. It was definitely improved by allowing it to sit in the fridge for a few hours before eating to allow the flavours to blend and mature. I suspect an overnight rest might be optimal as it is with our usual potato salad recipe.
Also note: If you don't already have rice vinegar as part of your standard kitchen supplies - get some! It's terrific stuff and magic at adding a slightly tart, lively note to many dishes.

With thanks to Kirsten Phillips for allowing me to steal her recipe.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Tuscan Wine Cake

This is a refined, elegant variety of Italian cheesecake made with ricotta cheese. (It's completely different from the classic NY cheesecake made with cream cheese.)


2 sticks plus 5 Tb unsalted butter (UK: 1 block/250 gr plus 50 gr), softened (plus extra to butter pan)
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 cups whole milk Ricotta (UK: 2 250 gr tubs)
4 large eggs
1/3 cup vin santo or dry sherry
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
Rum soaked sultanas
2 Tb pine nuts
1 to 2 Tb confectioner's sugar (UK: Icing sugar)

Tip 1: If you don't routinely keep a jar of sultanas soaking in dark rum (shame on you!) then put some up to soak overnight or a few hours ahead of time. The sultanas should have time to absorb the rum and plump up before use. I use Mount Gay Barbados Rum which is a golden dark rum.
Tip 2: Make sure you take the butter out and let it sit at room temperature on the kitchen counter to soften.
Tip 3: You can use either a stand mixer or a sturdy hand mixer but gently please, don't overbeat.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180C/160C Fan
2. Butter and lightly flour a nonstick 9 inch springform pan
3. In mixer bowl/large bowl combine and beat butter and sugar then add ricotta and beat until fluffy.
4. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then with mixer at slowest speed add the wine.
5. Measure flour and baking powder into a small bowl, then slowly and thoroughly beat them into the batter.
6. Remove bowl from stand mixer if you're using one. By hand with a rubber or silicone spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Sprinkle 2 or 3 Tb of drained soaked sultanas on top - amount is to personal taste - then gently fold into the batter.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and lightly smooth. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top and place into the center of the oven.
8. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cake is firm but springy to the touch.  When I checked my cake at 30 min it needed a bit more time and to be turned around to brown evenly. An additional 5 min was all it needed.
9. Remove cake from oven and place on a wire rack. Cool before removing the cake from the pan.
10. Sift confectioner's sugar over the top before serving if desired.