Thursday, June 09, 2005

Yuzu Curd Baby Cakes

Posted by Hello
For everyone who loves to cook and lives to eat, the idea of terroir-driven cuisine, of eating in season, makes sound sense. Just anticipating the first tender morels of Spring, say, or early summer's virgin crop of tiny Jersey Royal potatoes, is mouthwatering. Thinking about the last of the autumnal filberts, or the beginning of ankimo (monkfish liver) season as the year draws to a close, is enough to drive you straight into the kitchen.

As much as I subscribe to seasonal eating in theory, it is in practice rather difficult here. Aside from the fact that it's pretty much one long hot summer, I occasionally get irresistible yearnings. Sometimes, there's nothing much I can do but ride through the craving. Other times, I've found ways around it. Case in point: yuzu. This beautiful Japanese citrus fruit is available for all of three to four months towards the end of the year. While not eaten as a fruit, its juice and zest lend a haunting fragrance and subtle tartness to many a Japanese dressing, pickle, and sweet. Ponzu is one of my favourite ways of enjoying yuzu's special taste. This citrus and shoyu based dressing infused with hana-katsuo (bonito shavings) and konbu (kelp) is most often used with shabu-shabu. But in my mind, its richly nuanced taste makes it an incomparable match for ankimo - that other prized wintry delight so often called the foie gras of the sea - cutting through its livery lusciousness with just the right degree of acidity.

When yuzu is not in season, and all that is available is bottled yuzu juice, I tend not to make ponzu or any other uncooked preparation that demands the ethereal perfume of yuzu's just-squeezed juice or grated zest. Bottled yuzu juice, however, is a real boon for flavouring heated preparations, in which the purity of fresh yuzu's taste would be somewhat muted had it been used. Citrus curd, it struck me today, seemed like yet another good way to make the most of the bottled juice.

Based on Sherry Yard's lovely lemon curd recipe in The Secrets of Baking, I made some yuzu curd, stirring in a squirt each of lemon and kaffir lime as well for a freshly-juiced lift. After the curd cooled, I piped it atop some little cakes I had baked in a mini-muffin pan, the batter for which had been flavoured with beurre noisette and citrus zest. While the curd is good as is, I can't wait till November (when the real McCoy makes a brief appearance on the fruit aisles) to try the recipe with fresh juice.


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