Wednesday 7 January 2009

Cook's Alphabet 'Y'

Cook's Alphabet 'Y'

This is the twenty-fifth in my series of 26 postings going through the entire alphabet, as it relates to cooks and cooking. As you can see, today I'm dealing with the letter 'Y'.

The letter 'Y' is, of course the twenty-fifth (and penultimate) letter in the English alphabet and is one of the more difficult letters in English to find recipes for. Of course, yam is a starch staple beginning with 'y' and we also have that essential leavening agent, yeast. As a result, today's recipe is for a classic American Yeasted Fruit Cake:

Yeasted Fruit Cake

240ml lukewarm water
2 tbsp (30g) dried active yeast
100g sugar
1/8 tsp ground mace
240ml milk, scalded
200g lard, melted
1 tbsp salt
3 eggs, beaten
980g plain flour (about)
melted butter
mixed cinnamon and sugar to dust
cherries, strawberries and blueberries to decorate

For the Icing:
1 tsp vanilla extract
450g icing sugar
5 tbsp milk, hot
1/2 tsp lemon extract
2 tbsp melted butter

Stir the yeast into the warm water and set aside to activate.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, mace, milk, lard, salt and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture and just enough flour to bind everything as a soft dough. Knead until smooth then place in a bowl, cover and set aside in a warm spot for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Knock the dough back then turn onto a floured surface and roll out to about 12mm thick. Using a sharp knife cut into strips about 12mm broad. Brush these with butter then sprinkle with the combined cinnamon and sugar. Take a pair of the strips and twist together as you lay them in a greased 20cm cake tin. Continue tiwsting and laying in the tin until all the dough has been used up.

Cover with a cloth and set aside to raise for 40 minutes. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180°C and bake for about 20 minutes, or until baked through and golden brown. Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing, combine all the ingredients and beat until you have a spreading consistency (add a little water if it's too thick) then use to spread over the cake. Decorate with the fruit and serve.

(This recipe reproduced, with permission, from the Celtnet easted Fruit Cake page, which is presented as part of the site's North American recipes collection. )

Today's cooking term is Yakitori: Yakitori is a classic Japanese dish made out of bite-sized pieces of chicken that are threaded on to bamboo skewers, dipped in a type of sweet teriyaki sauce, and then grilled for four to five minutes.

Today's herb is Yerba Santa: Yerba Santa (also known as Mexican Pepperleaf, Piper auritum, Piper sanctum, hoja santa, Sacred pepper, Root beer plant, yerba santa, hierba santa and Eared pepper) is a creeping vine of the Piperaceae (pepper) that's native to tropical Mesoamerica. The heart-shaped leaves (which can reach 30cm in diamter) are commonly used as an Herb in Mexico. The leaves have a scent that's varously described as being akin to anise, nutmeg and black pepper and the flavour is strongest in the young leaves which also have a mild peppery pungency. The Spanis name hoja santa (sacred leaf) refers to a Mexican legend which says that the Virgin Mary dried the nappies of the infant Jesus on a bush of this plant.

The plant is used to a great extent in the cuisines of tropical Mexico, however it is virtually impossible to source outside its area of origin. The leaves themselves are used to wrap fish and chicken before baking and are an essential ingredient in mole verde. They are also commonly used to flavour chocolate drinks. If you wish to make this herb-based paste or to try any of the other Mexican dishes using Mexican Pepperleaf then you will need to find an acceptable substitute. Mexican tarragon works well (but only where the pepperleaf is used as an herb and not a wrap), though avocado leaves seem to be the usually-suggested alternatives (but you will have to use Mexican aromatic avocado leaves).

Below is a recipe for a classic Mexican green mole using pepperleaf as an ingredient:

Mole Verde (Green Mole)

180g raw, un-hulled, pumpkin seeds
500ml chicken or beef stock
180g tomatillos (with husks removed), coarsely chopped
6 large sorrel leaves, coarsely chopped
4 Mexican pepperleaf leaves, de-stemmed and de-veined, coarsely chopped
8 large sprigs epazote, (5 coarsely chopped, remainder left whole)
4 jalapeño chillies, coarsely chopped
60g lard or vegetable oil for frying.

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan until well toasted but not coloured. Set aside to cool then grind to a fine powder in a coffee grinder. Add 300ml of the stock to a food processor along with the tomatillos, sorrel leaves, Mexican pepperleaf, chopped epazote and chillies. Blend to a smooth purée.

Heat the oil in a casserole dish and fry the purée'd ingredients, cooking for about 25 minutes, stirring continually then add the remaining epazote.

Meanwhile stir the remaining stock into the pumpkin seeds until you have a smooth consisitency. Gradually add this to the cooked ingredients then cook the mixture for a further ten minutes. Season to taste and add a little water if the solution is too thick. Serve immediately.

(This recipe reproduced, with permission, from the Celtnet Mole Verde (Green Mole) page. This is presented as part of the site's Central American recipes collection. )

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

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

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