Gordon Ramsay’s Cranberry-Apple Sauce

Note: I apologize for the lack of photographs in this post. They’ll appear sooner or later! I kept forgetting to take pictures, what with all the holiday madness running rampant. I hate it when cookbooks don’t have pictures of food, but trust me, it’s worth trying this even without any photographs to look at!

Cranberries are divisive, don’t you think? People rarely have a “meh” attitude toward them; it’s either love or hate in cranberry town. I always liked cranberry juice, and could even stomach a slice or two of canned cranberry sauce. (Gosh, that’s just so wrong! Anything with ‘sauce’ in the title should not slice, period. Correct me if I’m wrong in the comments.) So I was firmly on “Team Cranberry.”

I’m now Team Cranberry’s head cheerleader, or quarterback, or whatever sports metaphor means leading a group of people toward a goal pursued with fiery passion. For I have, rather late in life relatively speaking, discovered homemade cranberry sauce. And not just any sauce; Gordon Ramsay’s cranberry sauce, as cooked on his Christmas special (published on YouTube in December of 2012). I’m sure that his personal life is… interesting, to say the least, given the multiple accusations of extramarital affairs and the highly publicised split with his father-in-law that dog him to this day. A friend of the family has even stated publicly that at this point, Gordon’s marriage works best when he and his wife, Tana, see one another only rarely. I think all the juicy gossip about him makes him all the more interesting. But the most interesting thing about him is that he makes cooking look effortless, and he has inspired my husband and me to push our limits in the kitchen.

I digress; this post is about his fabulous cranberry sauce, not about his salacious personal life. Gordon adds star anise, cardamom, and black pepper as seasonings to this sauce, and this would definitely give the sauce a far-eastern flair. I actually hate star anise and hold lukewarm feelings, at best, toward cardamom, so I left those ingredients out but kept the black pepper and added cinnamon sticks (removed after the cooking process is complete) to impart a subtle but notable cinnamon flavour. As Gordon’s cranberry sauce contains diced Braeburn apples, the cinnamon works to marry the apple and cranberry flavours together. Although I’m not sure they really needed cinnamon as their relationship counselor; they work together marvellously well as it is. I suppose one can never have too much harmony, eh? šŸ˜‰ The black pepper sounds weird but works beautifully; you cannot taste black pepper per se, but the sauce develops the faintest hint of a spicy kick with this addition. Fresh orange juice and orange zest elevate this dish to something I would expect at a high-end restaurant; a garnish with duck breast, perhaps, or with savory chicken. It truly is amazing.

I have adapted the recipe even beyond the changes described above. Gordon caramelizes sugar before adding the cranberries, but I found, through trial and error, that it is far too easy to burn the bottom layer of sugar before the top layer even starts to caramelize, so I combine the cranberries and sugar and then cook them together. The moisture from the cranberries helps keep the sugar from caramelizing unevenly, and is handy at preventing the sugar from burning. Gordon uses ruby port to deglaze the pan, but as I did not have any on hand at the time, I used a blend of pomegranate juice and sweet Riesling (specifically, Pacific Rim 2016). You can use any liquid you wish to deglaze the pan: Good options for this recipe include the aforementioned pomegranate juice, Riesling or white wine, apple juice, cranberry juice, red wine, even water. To boost the complexity of flavours, I threw in a teaspoon of vanilla extract, which added a lovely warmth of flavour. I added a cornstarch slurry at the end of cooking to ensure the sauce would set up nice and thick.

This sauce keeps for up to a week in the refrigerator. The flavours meld and become even more complex the longer it sits. Serve at room temperature.

Gordon Ramsay’s Cranberry-Apple Sauce

Yield: About 4 cups

Ingredients:

1 3/4 c. white sugar
350 g. fresh cranberries
4 cinnamon sticks
pinch or 2 of ground ginger
generous pinch of Kosher salt
3 Braeburn or similar apples, peeled and diced
approx. 140 mL (there is some leeway here; you can add a tad more or less liquid as you see fit) of deglazing liquid
1 orange (zest + a gentle squeezing of the juice)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 TBS. cornstarch, mixed with the orange juice you didn’t add to the pot + a bit of theĀ  Ā  Ā  Ā  Ā deglazing liquid (I used some of the Riesling along with the orange juice)
generous pinch of black pepper

Method:

Combine sugar, cranberries, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved; cranberries will start to soften at this point. Add apples and cook, stirring frequently, until apples have softened somewhat, about 5 – 10 minutes. Add deglazing liquid, orange zest, and approximately half of the orange’s juice, reserving the other half for the cornstarch slurry; add vanilla extract. Simmer until apples are at desired softness. This takes between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on how soft you want the apples to be. Ten minutes will leave a slight crunch in the apples; 20 minutes will leave the apples about as soft as the cranberries. I prefer softer apples.

In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with the remaining orange juice and some of the deglazing liquid. Add slurry to cranberry sauce and cook, stirring often, until mixture thickens noticeably, about 3 – 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in black pepper. Allow to cool completely at room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

Source:Ā Adapted from Gordon Ramsay (see thisĀ YouTube video, starting at 7:50)

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Dairy-Free Taco Seasoning

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A spice melange, indeed!

As I mentioned, I have a dairy allergy. Therefore, I’ve had to be vigilant about hidden ingredients in food. Surprise, surprise, commercially available taco seasoning has whey in it! As do many other storebought spices. There was no way I was giving up taco seasoning, when I already had to give up so many other things. So I gave an online recipe for homemade taco seasoning a try. I was amazed – no exaggeration – to find that it tasted exactly like the well-known McCormick brand, maybe even better! The McCormick brand now tastes too salty in comparison. I’ll be sticking with this recipe, even if my dairy allergies ever go away.

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Contrasting rather boldly with my blue plastic cutting board, the taco seasoning resonates proudly with the teaspoon measure. Yes, that doesn’t make any sense.

To be a bit cheeky, I washed our old McCormick container and stored my brand-spanking-new, homemade taco seasoning in it. I get a kick out of seeing my creation housed within a mass-produced container. I don’t know why.

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The colours of all the spices are breathtaking. Plus, they smell yummy.

Use the same amount you normally would for cooking. My husband and I have been using 2 generous TBS per pound of ground beef, and adding just a skosh of water. Cook as you normally would – no changes necessary!

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A mountain of… erm, I’m actually not sure if that’s paprika or cayenne pepper. But it’s there, and it’s mountainous. Mountains.

The only drawback to this recipe is that it only yields around a cup of seasoning. That sounds like a lot, unless you cook with taco seasoning frequently. If you number among such people, then I suggest you double the amounts found below when making this yourself.

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The spice melange rides again!

Finally, please forgive the many photographs accompanying this post. I couldn’t resist playing with the spices as I added them to the bowl, forming my own little Sahara made out of scarlet, vermillion, mustard yellow, and gold. The colours of the spices together are gorgeous.

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Couldn’t you just imagine sliding down the hills of paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, and other spices? What a tasty journey that would be! Probably sneezy, too.

Dairy-Free Taco Seasoning

Yield: About 1 cup of seasoning

Ingredients:

4 TBS chili powder
3 TBSĀ plus 1 tsp. paprika
3 TBSĀ ground cumin
1 TBSĀ plus 2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
Ā¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

Method:

Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Store in an airtight container.

Source: Annie’s Eats

Vegan Dark Chocolate

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The vegan chocolate is posing resplendently, admiring its non-waxy, richly flavourful self.

Hello, my fellow earthlings! Today I am writing about vegan dark chocolate. As its name attests, it is completely free of any animal products whatsoever, including dairy. (It is also gluten free!) As such, I felt leery of calling it “dark” chocolate, because this implies there is also a vegan milk chocolate out there. However, when I gave it more thought, I concluded there probably is a vegan milk chocolate recipe out there that relies on something like coconut butter and / or coconut cream to achieve a more familiar milk chocolate-like taste – albeit with a coconut spin.

This recipe is high in fat and, depending on how much maple syrup you use, low in carbs. Even if you use the full 6 TBS of maple syrup, this still has fewer carbs per serving than commercially sold chocolate. So I would describe this recipe as keto-friendly.

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An even closer close-up. Oh, baby.

This recipe does not include any coconut products, which normally feature heavily in vegan dessert recipes. I am going to further develop this recipe, but for now, it is coconut-less. For those with coconut allergies, this must be a welcome relief. I cannot imagine how difficult life must be for people who cannot eat dairy, yet who also haveĀ coconut or nut allergies, as dairy-free cuisine is heavily reliant on these things.

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Melting the cocoa butter. I neglected to chop mine finely, as I specify below in the method section, and so it took much longer than it should have to melt the cocoa butter. I could have ridden horseback along the beach in the time it took to melt this stuff.

Some of you are likely wondering why I bothered making vegan chocolate at all. If I’m being fair, vegan chocolate does have the reputation of being oddly textured, not chocolate-y, and / or a multitude of other yucky things. This chocolate, gleaned from Minimalist Baker, throws all of that on its head: It is damned good. It tastes like high-end chocolate with 85% cacao content. The texture is silky and rich, even when the chocolate is freshly plucked from the freezer. It isn’t waxy at all, which many commercial chocolates are. The chocolate flavour is deep and true, achieved by using cocoa butter and cocoa powder in concert. (And there isn’t a hint of coconut taste!) Out of curiosity, I tried a piece of plain cocoa butter – I’d never tasted it in this form before. I was expecting it to be oily; instead, it is rich and smooth. And, not surprisingly, it tastes like unsweetened chocolate! It does form the central ingredient of commercially produced chocolate, after all.

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The cocoa butter is more melted here, allowing you to see what it looks like in liquid form. It’s yellow!

I didn’t know how this chocolate would taste before I made it, of course. I still haven’t offered an explanation as to why I made this recipe. Nice circumlocution, eh? šŸ˜‰ I have had to cut dairy out of my life for the time being, save for rare – very rare – excursions back into its seductive embrace. Why? Allergies! I now ride the dairy-free train full time, cheerfully waving my ticket and irritating the other passengers with my enthusiasm. For, my friends, I feel better. My inflammatory markers nearly disappeared after cutting dairy out of my life, and I’m not alone in suspecting that most people react in an inflammatory way to dairy consumption. I don’t miss it, actually, except for butter and icing. This blog did begin life as a dessert blog, after all.

Oh, die Ironie.

Since I hadn’t tasted dairy-based chocolate in months, I asked a friend of mine to taste this recipe, just in case my tastebuds had gone off the reservation. He said what I initially said – that it tasted like really expensive dark chocolate. I rejoiced that my taste buds are still with me. šŸ™‚

We can talk about my egg allergy another day.

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As you can see, everything melts together beautifully! Just a few lumps of cocoa powder to smooth out, and things are ready to engage in a guitar solo.

Vegan Dark Chocolate

Yield: About 1 lb. of chocolate

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups cocoa butter, finely chopped (if it isn’t finely chopped, it will take forever to melt; cocoa butter is actually fairly hard at room temperature, unlike coconut oil, for example)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process is fine)
2 – 6 TBS maple syrup (2 TBS yields a very dark flavour; 4 TBS is probably akin to the flavour of chocolate with 60% cacao content)
2 tsp. vanilla paste or vanilla extract*

Optional ingredients (for topping the finished chocolates and / or mixing into the batter):

unsweetened coconut flakes
sea salt or Kosher salt
dried fruit
…and whatever else tickles your fancy šŸ™‚

Method:

Line an 8×8″ baking dish with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Alternately, you can set up cupcake liners (I’m guessing you’ll need up to 24 normal-sized cupcake liners for this recipe) on a cookie sheet.

Melt all ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan over med-low heat, stirring occasionally. Once melted, add any optional ingredients, such as coconut flakes or sea salt.

Pour into prepared container(s). If decorating the tops with coconut flake, sea salt, or something else, now is the time to do this. Freeze or refrigerate until firm.

If using a lined baking dish, try to cut the chocolate into even 1″ squares. It’s okay if it cracks into triangles or other weird shapes. If using cupcake liners, unmould. Transfer to an airtight container.

Store in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 3 months. (The original post specifies 1 month, but I’m 3 months along and the chocolate is still fine. You’ll have to decide for yourself how long you feel comfortable keeping the chocolate around.) You can store small amounts in the refrigerator if you’re sure you will eat them within a week or so. I’m not actually sure storing in the freezer is even necessary, but I haven’t tried just the refrigerator, so I cannot speak with authority about that.

*Instead of vanilla, you can use orange, raspberry, or mint extract – any flavour you like, really. You can also omit the extract or paste altogether, although I think it adds a nice richness of flavour to the chocolate.

Source: Minimalist Baker