Brandied Kumquats

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This recipe is a bit of a cheat, because it's not actually IN the Recipe Box. All I have from the Box is the title of the recipe, at the bottom of a torn-off piece of newspaper that included the recipe for Cinnamon Pecans that let me down way back in 2015. But I was immediately taken with the idea of Brandied Kumquats- I adore brandied cranberries and I positively relish citrus fruits, so I figured this would be totally up my alley.* What I didn't account for was the fact that I no longer live in Florida, the land of kumquats, where they grow so plentifully that people throw them instead of candy in parades, and instead I live in Scotland, where the only thing that grows between the months of September and May is neeps.

For the last two years and two months, ever since I found the name of this recipe in the Box, I've had my eye out for kumquats, and this week I finally found them, at the rich people supermarket, of course. I came home and googled recipes for brandied kumquats but none of them sounded like exactly what I wanted- a citrusy version of cranberry sauce, the perfect mix of sour, sweet, bitter and boozy. So I invented my own recipe.

I'm not really sure what to do with these now that I have them- I love the flavour enough to just snack on them, but I've also made a citrusy riff on an old-fashioned with them, adding a sliced kumquat and two spoonfuls of the sugared brandy to a glass of bourbon and serving over ice. I served some with pork chops and they were great that way too; I think they'd be lovely chopped coarsely and stirred into scone dough, or sprinkled on top of a cardamom bun, but I'm happy enough eating them straight from the jar or mixed into cocktails.

These will last forever in the fridge, so make them when you find kumquats and then use them to your heart's content!

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*When I saw I love citrus, I mean it: one of my favourite snacks is citrus peel, and Judson finds it repulsive that my preferred method of eating an orange is whole, like an apple.

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. These are slightly more on the sweet side than cranberries treated in the same way would be, but they still have that essential tartness and most importantly, the edge of bitterness from the peel and the alcohol. They work well in cocktails (I can't wait to try one as a garnish for a gin & tonic!) and even better as a side dish or topping to pork, pastry and more. Plus, they're a cinch to make- what more could you want?

One year ago:Toll House Marble Squares
two years ago: Happy New Year!

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The recipe:

Brandied Kumquats

the directions:

Prick kumquats all over with a wooden pick or the tip of a paring knife (you want AS MANY HOLES AS POSSIBLE, so don't skimp).
Heat kumquats, sugar and brandy over low heat, stirring constantly, until all sugar has dissolved.
Continue cooking for 3-5 more minutes until syrup has thickened and kumquats are softened.
If any of your kumquats are still stiff, poke them with a paring knife in the pot and keep stirring.
Leave to cool slightly in the pot, stirring occasionally.
As they cool, they'll become translucent.
After 30 minutes, add ¼ c more brandy and stir into mixture.
Pour mixture into a jar and refrigerate or use.

Will keep in refrigerator for at least one month, probably longer.

the ingredients:

1 lb (500g) kumquats, washed and stems removed
2 c (250g) sugar
½ c (4oz) brandy, plus additional for topping up

Italian Walnut Cake

Here’s a fun fact you can remind yourself next time you think I’m cool: my first job was at the local public library and I loved it. All I did was shelve books for 10 hours a week (at $5.93/hour), but I worked with the coolest group of people and I loved the hell out of that job. Anyway, one day I was complaining to the youngest person on the full-time staff (and possibly the coolest person I’ve ever known) about not knowing what to write a paper for my AP European History about, and she said ‘duh, Eurovision.’

Knowing nothing about this, I asked her if that was a TV channel and was duly educated: Eurovision is a song contest that happens every year in Europe where each country sends their best act to sing against all the other countries to win… I’m pretty sure they just win bragging rights and maybe the right to hold the next Eurovision in their own country? I can’t remember if I ended up writing the paper on Eurovision- in a world without Youtube, finding performances to watch stateside was a drag, but I couldn’t stop reading about it; I was hooked.

If you’re not familiar, there’s a whole sea of weird nuances to Eurovision that I don’t think a transplant to this continent can ever really grasp, but it’s like a game of Risk trying to figure out who will vote for who; each country gets points to allocate to each act but they all vote based on politics and past events, not actual merit, so the whole thing is a bit of a joke. France always takes it super seriously, but most other countries play up the camp value and know the whole thing is a bit of a joke. I always feel bad for the countries you know are going to lose (coughRussiacough) just because no one likes them, and there’s all these rules about not including anything political in your songs- but last year the Ukraine sneaked in a pretty political song and still won, so this year they hosted and it was awesome.

Judson and I planned a night in around Eurovision on Saturday night: a cheese & charcuterie plate with representation from as many countries as we could think of, cocktails from Italy and Russia, printed ballots to allocate our own points to, fully-charged phones to live-tweet as needed. It was a blast- we stayed up until the wee hours screaming at the TV when the points weren't going in our favour, snacking on all kinds of treats and snuggling with the dog when things were boring. Moldova should have won but they were totally robbed, but it was still a blast and I'm already counting down the weeks until Eurovision 2018 in Portugal.

We may have overindulged on the Moscow Mules a bit, though- this morning was a little rough so I was glad I thought ahead and prepped this Italian Walnut Cake for us to munch on this morning with our (very hot, very black) coffee. A little hair of the dog and all that. I know I'm always over here promoting the idea of cake-for-breakfast, and while I don't regret it, I also don't want it to be assumed that all I eat is cake. However, I really don't know what else you'd do with this cake. It's not sweet enough to be really desirable as a dessert, and it's too hearty to be served after a meal. Rum notwithstanding, the rest of the ingredients are basically the same as what you'd put into a breakfast bread, so I stand by having it for breakfast- especially on the morning after a celebration of all things European like we had this weekend.

The verdict:

3 spoons out of five. It kicked our hangovers in the teeth and had us feeling better by lunchtime, but it was a bit dry and falls into that 'not-sweet-enough-for-dessert-but-sweet-enough-that-I-feel-guilty-eating-it-for-breakfast' category. It's definitely an old-fashioned type of cake, the sort of thing that would probably be great to make next time you have family coming to visit.

One year ago: Fried Chicken & German Potato Salad
two years ago: Oatmeal Toffee Lace Cookies (still a favourite in the RBP kitchen!) 

the recipe:

Italian Walnut Cake

the directions:

Grease a 9-inch round layer cake pan with 1 tbsp (14 g) of the butter.
Place oven rack in the bottom half of the oven and preheat to 175C/350F.
Chop walnuts very fine but do not reduce to a paste, then set aside.
Sift together flour & baking powder, then set aside.
Beat remaining butter and sugar.
Add egg, rum and lemon zest to sugar mixture and beat until blended.
Stir in the walnuts, a little at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Gradually stir in the flour mixture, mixing thoroughly.
Turn into prepared pan, leveling the top with a spatula.
Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the centre comes out clean and cake is well-browned, about 35-40 minutes.
Place on a wire rack in the pan for 10 minutes before loosening edges and turning out, then allow to cool completely right side up.
Store overnight in a tightly sealed airtight container to allow the flavours to come together completely before serving.

the ingredients:

½ c (113 g) butter, softened
8 oz walnuts
1 c flour, sifted
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2/3 c sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp rum
1 tbsp lemon zest