It’s snowing! I stayed up watching the snowflakes fall until I dozed off asleep at 3am. Everywhere they say snow is disruptive, that it happens every year, but I’m just not interested. The silence, that brightness rarely seen in Winter, the excitable pup barking at the sky; I’m in love.
There were plans to drive to Birmingham today, but they were quickly struck off. Instead, I am wandering around with my camera, seeing everything in whites and greys.
Back inside, I hunker down, pretending to be snowed in, refusing even to pop to the local shop for provisions. Store cupboard food only.
Baking is the answer, and the suggestion from the lovely weekly baking group on twitter (here) hits the spot. Dan Lepard’s recipe for North-South cornbread sounds like a real rib-sticking dish: savoury, comforting (contains pork fat), and baked (will fill the house with wonderful smells).
Slow-cooked spicy and porky beans, to accompany the cornbread, are just the thing to pretend I’m one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s characters in Little House on the Prairie. Plus beans are a great vehicle to for – at least a little of – the 4kg of Fergus Hendersons’s ‘trotter gear’ (recipe in the Guardian here) that I simmered up earlier in the week.
Recipe: Spicy beans
300g black-eye beans, soaked overnight in plenty of water
2tbsp oil or 30g pork back fat, diced
2 onions, finely sliced
70g pancetta or bacon, diced (optional)
2 tins chopped tomatoes
250g of trotter gear (optional)
1tbsp medium madras curry powder
2tsp ras al hanout (or any mixes of spice that you fancy: cumin, smoked paprika, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, etc)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt to taste
Soak the beans in plenty of water overnight. Put into a sauce pan, cover with cold water, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30-45 minutes until tender. Drain.
Add the pork fat or oil to a heavy bottomed pan, and heat slowly. Stir in the onions, cover with a lid, and sweat for 10 mins over a medium heat. If using, add the pancetta, and stir until lightly browned. Add in the curry powder and ras al hanout, and stir for 3 to 4 mins to toast the spices.
Pour in the beans, 2 tins of tomatoes, 400g of water, worcestershire sauce, molasses, and the trotter gear. Stir, replace the lid, and leave over a very low heat to simmer for 1-2 hours. Remove lid, add salt to taste, and turn up the heat. Boil rapidly until reduced to your taste (for me, this was around 15 mins).
Whilst the beans simmer, make a cornbread.
In Short and Sweet, Dan Lepard discusses an American cornbread divide between the Northern states (sweet, fluffy, cakey, yellow) and Southern states (white, crumbly, grainy, no sugar). A Southerner, with a Northern husband, has written a lovely essay here describing the challenge of balancing the heritage of the two. His recipe is grainier like Southern cornbread, but with a hint of sweetness and lightness from the North.
I won’t reproduce the recipe I followed, as it’s currently only in the Short and Sweet baking bible. However, it is not so dissimilar from the recipe on BBC Food: roughly using an additional egg instead of the milk, yoghurt and a little butter instead of buttermilk, an additional 50g of sugar (delicious!) and no chillis. The flour/polenta quantities in Dan’s are slightly lower, probably making it a slightly wetter dough.
Given the snow, I couldn’t get my hands on the 475g of yoghurt required in the recipe, so instead used 150g of sour cream and 250g of skimmed milk. This probably made the mixture wetter than prescribed, so took longer to set than the suggested 20-25 mins. It was just great, and I’d do it this way again; depending of course, on what I have in the fridge… Don’t leave to cool – serve hot, straight from the pan!