J and I just returned from Ghent (or Gent), a delightful medieval town approximately 50 minutes from Brussels. Last Friday I spent a good number of hours doing some exploring while J was at the university attending a seminar and giving a lecture at the end of the evening. So I was pretty much left alone for a whole day. The tram journey into the town centre was so much fun, although I was practically stuck to my map counting the stops. Everything was in Dutch. But hey, I was up for a little adventure. The weather was so rotten however, that my plans for major exploring/walking/taking-plenty-of-photos went down the drain. All was not lost though; I found a charming salad bar and sandwich shop (tucked away in between the touristy restaurants and shops) which I almost missed. LKKR is a small family business run by Dahlia and her husband, both lovely and friendly. This is the place where to have a healthy, delicious, homemade lunch, plus coffee, of course. You could also have a cookie if you wish like I did on that rainy morning. I liked the place so much that I just had to take J for lunch there on Saturday. I felt so in-the-know! It was so cold that he ordered a soup. I had a chicken curry sandwich. Just what I needed. If you’re in Ghent, do yourself a favour and go. Prices are reasonable and if there’s no seating inside, you can take a table outside, people-watch while wrapped around a cozy pink blanket you will find on your chair. Nice. The frites, mussels, fish stews and waffles can all wait until you arrive in Brussels. Even nicer.
Most people would say that I have a sweet tooth, but if you read in between the lines of my several rants in this blog (for which I constantly apologise – but I know I don’t always need to), you’ll know that perhaps this is not the case. I love sweet things, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes there’s nothing better than some fresh crusty bread and cheese to alter my mood. Did I forget to include those lovely salty anchovies?! It’s now widely acknowledged that too much salt is not good for the system, but extra seasoning is needed many times for flavour. There’s nothing worse than a bland plate of soup. I know you know what I’m talking about.
When I lived in Michigan some years ago I spent loads of time alone in the kitchen thinking about what my next bake would be. Food Network US was constantly on, day in day out, no exception. I used to drive J totally mad I think! But that’s when my food obsession started. So one morning I saw a short snippet of Nigella Bites. I can’t remember the episode this recipe was from, but I saw her concocting a pudding she served with ham. I quickly tried to write it down and missed some steps here and there, but I thought that I had a workable recipe anyway. So I tried what I had written and the recipe worked. This is before I bought the book. The result was a creamy cake, not that solid I must say, but it was done, the skewer came out perfectly clean. It was wierd but tasted great and I wondered where Nigella got the idea from. You see, however far you look, recipes are always inherited when it comes to home cooking, and there’s nothing wrong in this. There’s a sense of tradition which I love – I have no worries about passing on recipes, especially the ones which I’ve grown up with. There’s no secret here.
I never found where this idea came from until I came back from Rome last week. I was reading through Anna Del Conte’s Gastronomy of Italy which is definitely one of the must-haves in your kitchen library if you are interested in Italian food and its history. I was thinking about buying it when I discovered that I already had! I rummaged through my books on my last visit to Malta and found it hidden in the shelves! Go figure. In this book I found a recipe for what Del Conte calls Salviata, a.k.a. sage pudding. Nigella’s version is *not* a replica of the Salviata – there are many differences. What I would say is that the Italian recipe is much healthier, if you’re counting the calories. Also, like almost all things Italian it has Parmesan in it of course. I haven’t tried the Salviata yet, but the following is Nigella’s English pudding, which is really quick and easy to prepare, but don’t make it often, ok? You’ll get why in a minute. Also it needs it’s time in the oven to bake through. So give it time. As always, please note that every oven is different, so experiment and don’t give up if it doesn’t turn out the way you’ve hoped.
Before you read on, you also need creamed corn for this recipe. I would recommend you add it here because it will make a big difference in the pudding’s consistency. It’s so good you’ll want to eat it straight out of the can with a spoon! Well I do anyway! You can easily find it in supermarkets in the UK. This is my version of Nigella’s recipe. I take her advice on board as always and use a Pyrex dish, which always works. You need:
- 5 eggs
- 280g sweetcorn, frozen (or drain a 340g can – you’ll get roughly the same amount)
- 420g can creamed corn
- 300ml semi-skimmed milk (Nigella uses full-fat but I find it works like this too)
- 300ml double cream
- 60g plain flour (4 heaped tablespoons will work fine)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- Grease an ovenproof dish with some butter and flour, and preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.
- In a large bowl whisk the eggs, add the other ingredients and beat very very well! Pour into the dish and place it in the oven. Give it 45 minutes and keep an eye on it through the oven. That’s why you’ll want to use a glass dish here. Wait for it to turn golden brown and puffed up on the top. Give it a good hour if this isn’t so. If you think it’s cooked check it as you do usually, with a knife or skewer but try to leave the dish in the oven as you do this. Ask for some help if you need to.
If you see that it took longer than an hour to cook, next time try it at 190°C as the book says. I find that for an electric oven ten degrees less is more than enough. Experiment and enjoy it though. It makes a mean snack, or a really good side with anything. Happy baking!