Thursday 1 January 2009

Cook's Alphabet 'W'

Cook's Alphabet 'W'

This is the twenty-third in my series of 28 postings going through the entire alphabet, as it relates to cooks and cooking. As you can see, today I'm dealing with the letter 'W'.

The letter 'W' is, of course the twenty-third letter in the English alphabet and today's recipe is for a classic British w-themed cake from the 1950s:

West Indian Cake

450g plain flour
225g butter
225g sugar
150ml milk
3 eggs
270g currants
115g mixed peel, chopped
1 tsp baking powder
freshly-grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
a little freshly-grated nutmeg

Sift together the flour, sugar, lemon zest, spices and baking powder in a bowl. Cube the butter and add to the flour mix then rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Bring the milk to a boil and pour into the flour mixture. Stir to combine thoroughly then add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. Stir-in the currants and mixed peel then beat together lightly. Turn the batter into a buttered and floured cake tin and place in an oven pre-heated to 170°C. Bake for around 90 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre emerges cleanly.

Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely

(This recipe reproduced, with permission, from the Celtnet West Indian Cake Recipe page, which is presented as part of the site's British recipes collection. )

Today's cooking term is Worcestershire Sauce: Worcestershire Sauce,is a classic British bottled sauce or condiment. that's said to have derived from an original Indian recipe. It is a widely used fermented liquid condiment originally manufactured by Lea & Perrins. The sauce itself ses malt vinegar (from barley), spirit vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind extract, onions, garlic, spices, and flavouring. This is an essential flavouring in many dishes as it imparts umami or fullnes in the mouth, due to the anchovies. It therefore gives dishes in which it's used an indefinable 'moreish' quality.

Worcestershire sauce is an essential ingredient in a Bloody Mary and in Hong Kong style dim sum, Worcestershire sauce is the de facto standard sauce for serving steamed beef meatballs. Once fermented the sauce is left to age in barrels, which concentrates the flavours. As a result only a dash is required in most meals.

Today's spice is Wasabi: Wasabi represents the pods of orchids in the genus Vanilla. Wasabi (also known as Japanese horseradish) is produced from the root of Wasabia japonica, a member of the Brassica family. The root itself has a very strong flavour and produces vapours that irritate the sinus cavity. As such, it is quite closely related to horseradish.

Wasabi is sold in root form, which must be very finely grated before use, or as a ready-to-use paste, which comes in tubes approximately the size and shape of travel toothpaste tubes. Once the paste is prepared it should remain covered until served to protect the flavor from evaporation. Wasabi is also available in powdered form, but because the active component is very volatile this is nowhere near as pungent as fresh wasabi. It should also be noted that many commercial preparations of 'wasabi' are actually a mix of horseradish, mustard and chlorophyll (used as a green colourant).

Below is a recipe for a classic Fusion dish of avocadoes and prawns served with a wasabi-flavoured dressing:

Avocado and Prawns in a Wasabi Dressing

2 avocadoes, stoned and skinned
250g cooked, shelled, prawns
4 tsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp wasabi paste

Cut the avocado into 2cm cubes and the prawns into 2.5cm lengths. Place the prawns and avocados in a bowl, add the other ingredients together in a small bowl, whisk to mix then pour over the avocado and prawin mixture and toss to mix. Serve immediately to prevent the avocados from colouring.

(This recipe reproduced, with permission, from the Celtnet Avocado and Prawns in a Wasabi Dressing Recipe page. This is presented as part of the site's Fusion recipes collection. )

For more information on cookery-associated terms and information beginning with the letter 'W' here are various links that may well be of interest:

Recipes beginning with 'W'
Spices beginning with 'W'
Herbs beginning with 'W'
Wild foods beginning with 'W'
Cook's glossary 'W'

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