A week of indulgence - those generously-sized sticky date pudding with the ladlings of rich caramel sauce and dollops of sour cream, every night; the silverbeet in its buttery pastry with ricotta blobs, every lunch; and pasta, just about every dinner. I needed to cut back a little, choose something simpler, something less rich, less weighed down by butter and sugar and carbs. It puts me in the mind to be very spartan.
Also, I was not feeling inspired this week to do anything fancy or new with my lunchtime cook-up. I wanted something warming - the forecast for this week is more of the same low temperatures - but nothing too much trouble. Nothing too much.
When I'm in this mood, for being strict and virtuous, to get back on track after a bit of excess, brown rice always seems like a good idea. It's undeniably healthy, has a lovely nutty flavour, is nicely chewy, and is filling. So I set my rice cooker to work in the corner while I roasted some chunks of pumpkin (more of that magnificent pumpking from dad), butternut and pencil-thin baby carrots rescued from the work fruitbowl. I dusted these with my now-favourite mix of smoky paprika, hot chilli flakes, plus some crushed garlic. This, I knew, would warm me up nicely in the cold week ahead.
To alleviate the unrelenting orangeness before me, I steamed the last of some dark brocolli and tender, beautiful brussel sprouts. I tumbled this altogether, assembled into five little lunch containers - sorted.
Of course, going on the straight and narrow does not mean giving up sweeties. Oh no! This is not a diet. And I cannot fathom a day without cake. I cannot fathom a home without a cake or batch of biscuits or clutch of cupcakes (what is the collective for cupcakes?) or a bowl of pudding waiting patiently in the kitchen. Quelle horreur.
No, I would still make a pudding, just something less overwhelming than last week's caramel-drenched wonders. Something with fruit - that would even be good for me!
So I made these little cherry upside-down puddings. I used frozen cherries stashed away during the sumer months; you could use tinned ones if you aren't blessed like me (I wonder about the recipe - printed in a magazine only recently - that called for fresh cherries. At this time of the year? Where?).
I simmered these as directed, but with a splosh of my secret weapon: rosewater. Rosewater's perfumey prettiness is so lovely with cherries, as I discovered this summer when I was cooking a full-size cherry galette and decided to add a dash, just to see what would happen.
The cherries go in the bottom of muffin tin holes and are topped by a very simple butter cake mixture. However, I watched in alarm as these baked - and rose, and grew, and towered into very impressively-domed cakes. Which would be quite okay if they were normal cupcakes - but heavens, how would they sit upside down? They would topple over ungracefully!
So I gently sliced off (and ate) their 'tops' so these would become their flat 'bottoms'. Still, I have no idea how it happened, or if it will happen to you.
My only quibble here is I would have added the cherry juice into the muffin holes with the fruit, instead of draining them as specified, so I got a more syrupy end result. But these are lovely and soft and moist. A pudding for when you are being good.
From the Coles supermarket seasonal magazine
- Preheat your oven to 180, grease a texas muffin tin (6 hole) and put a disk of paper down the bottom (cut the bottom out of a patty-paper; quicker than drawing circles on baking paper).
- First, the fruit. Take 400 grams frozen (or tinned) cherries, add 1 tbspn liquid from the tin (or water), a splosh of rosewater (no more than 1 tspn) and 1 tbspn vanilla sugar (though the recipe said to omit this if using tinned cherries in syrup). Bring to simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes. You will have some liquid left; the recipe said to drain but I added some cornflour to thicken and would keep/use this, as noted above.
- Next, the cake batter: Cream 150 grams butter plus 1/2 cup sugar, then add two eggs and 1 tspn vanilla extract. Sift and stir in 2/3 cups SR flour and 2/3 cups plain flour, then 1/2 cup milk (I put a spoonful of sour cream in the half-cup measure and topped it up with soy milk). Stir until blended - it was quite a stiff batter.
- Assemble the pudds: Divide the cherries (and some or all of the syrup) between the muffin tins, then top with the cake batter. Bake 20-25 minutes until done. Once out of the oven, if yours have risen like mine, slice the domes off, then turn out of the tins and remove the paper disks (feel free to lick these). Enjoy!