Sharp Knives; the Big Dinner; Watching Your Weight This Month

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Recipes and Resources from today's Good Food:

Figgy Pudding with Custard Sauce
Makes 12 servings

A traditional English steamed pudding served during the Christmas holiday. This version calls for butter and shortening instead of suet, a solid white fat from the loin and kidney regions of meat animals.

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons rum extract (or flavored extract of your choice)
  • 1 apple, peeled and cored and finely chopped
  • 1 lb dried figs, ground or finely chopped
  • Grated peel of 1 lemon and 1 orange
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 3 large egg whites, stiffly beaten
  • Custard Sauce (recipe follows)
  • Sweetened whipped cream (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 325F (160C). Generously grease an oven-proof 2-quart bowl or mold; set aside.
  2. Cream together butter and shortening. Gradually add sugar, egg yolks, milk, extract, apple, figs, lemon and orange peel. Add next 6 ingredients, mixing well. Fold stiffly beaten egg whites into mixture.
  3. Pour into prepared bowl or mold and place into large shallow pan and place on middle rack in oven. Fill the shallow pan half-full with boiling water and slowly steam pudding in oven at 325*F (160*C) for 4 hours, replacing water as needed.
Custard Sauce:
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
In saucepan, scald milk and allow to cool.
  • Mix together remaining ingredients, except for butter. Add to cooled milk. Cook over low heat until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter, mixing well.
  • Serve pudding warm with custard sauce or sweetened whipped cream. Store unused portions in refrigerator.

  • Nigella Lawson is the author of Feast, published by Hyperion.

    Ham in Cherry Coke
    Serves 8

    • 5-6 lb boneless mild cure ham
    • Approximately six 12-oz cans Cherry Coke
    • 1 onion
    • Approximately 16 whole cloves
    • 3-4 Tablespoons cherry jam
    • 1 tsp pimenton dulce or smoked paprika
    • 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
    1. Put the ham snugly into a large saucepan (you really need the tightest fit you can, so that you don-t have to use lots of Coke to cover it later) and fill with cold water. Put the pan on the heat and bring to the boil, then drain ham into a colander. Wash the ham under the tap and rinse the saucepan before returning the ham to the pan. This will get rid of some of the saltiness. Or just soak overnight, as above.
    2. Add the Cherry Coke and the onion, halved, to the ham and if the liquid doesn-t cover it then add some water. Put back on the heat and bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and partially cover the pan. Cook for approx. 2-2 1/4 hours.
    3. When you are ready to glaze the ham, preheat the oven to 450F. Remove the ham from the liquid, reserving it for later, and sit the ham on a board. Strip off the rind, and a little of the fat layer if it-s very thick, and cut a diamond pattern into the remaining fat with a knife in lines about 3/4 inch apart. Stud each diamond with a clove.
    4. Put the jam, pimenton dulce and red wine vinegar into a saucepan and whisk together over a high heat, bringing it to the boil. Let the pan bubble away so that the glaze reduces to a syrupy consistency that will coat the fat on the ham.
    5. Sit the ham in a roasting pan on a layer of aluminum foil, as the sugar in the glaze will burn in the oven as it drips off. Pour the glaze over the diamond-studded ham and then put it in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the glazed fat has caught and burnished. Take the ham out of the oven and return it to the carving board to rest before you carve it.
    Cheesecakelets (Pancakes)
    Makes 15
    • 3 eggs
    • 2 Tablespoons superfine sugar
    • 1 cup cottage cheese
    • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp best quality vanilla extract
    • Approximately 2 cups strawberries
    • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
    • 1/2 - 1 tsp superfine sugar
    1. Prepare the fruit so that it can macerate while you make the pancakes. Depending on their size, chop the strawberries into quarters or eighths, sprinkle over the balsamic vinegar and sugar -- you-ll need more or less depending on how sweet and ripe the berries you have are -- and swirl the bowl about a bit so the strawberries are coated before covering with plastic wrap and leaving to steep while you set about making your cheesecakelets.
    2. Separate the eggs. Mix the yolks with the sugar, beating well. Add the cottage cheese, flour and vanilla. In another bowl, use a hand whisk to beat the egg whites until frothy (you-re not even approaching making meringue or anything) and fold the white froth into the cottage-cheese mixture.
    3. Heat a smooth griddle or non-stick skillet and spoon dollop tablespoons of the curd-thick batter on to it to make cakelets of about 3 1/4 inch in diameter. Each cheesecakelet will take a minute or so to firm up underneath, when you should flip it and cook the other side. Remove to a warmed plate.
    4. Turn the strawberries in the ruby syrup they-ve made and squish some pieces with a fork. Decant them into a bowl, with a spoon for serving, and bring your cheesecakelets to the table at the same time.

    Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Parsley
    Serves 8 - 10

    • 10 Cups/2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
    • 8 oz pancetta, rind removed, cut into - inch cubes (to give 1 1/2 cups)
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 1/2 cups/ 8 oz vacuum-packed chestnuts
    • 1/4 cup Marsala
    • Large bunch parsley, chopped to give about 1 cup
    1. Trim the bottom off each sprout, cutting a cross (or at least a slash) into each as you go. Tip them into a large pan of salted boiling water and cook until the sprouts are tender but still retain a bit of bite, about 5 minutes, depending on size. Test by spooning one out of the water, being careful not to burn your tongue.
    2. Meanwhile, in a pan large enough to hold everything later (or just drain the sprouts and use that pan), cook the pancetta cubes in the oil -- or with the rind for more salty fat rendering -- until they-re bronzed and crisp, but not dried out.
    3. Add the butter and chestnuts. With a wooden spoon or spatula, press on the chestnuts to break them up a little. When they-re warmed through, turn the heat up and throw in the Marsala, letting it bubble away, fusing with the pancetta fat and chestnutty butter to form a glorious savory syrup. Add the drained sprouts and turn well, sprinkling in half the parsley as you do so. Give a good grinding of pepper. You shouldn-t need salt, since the pancetta is by nature salty, but taste to make sure. Decant to a warmed serving plate and sprinkle over the remaining chopped parsley.
    Yellow Split Pea and Frankfurter Soup
    Serves 6 - 8
    • 1 onion
    • 1 carrot
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1 stick of celery
    • 2-3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1/2 tsp ground mace
    • 2 1/4 cups yellow split peas
    • 5-6 cups chicken or veg stock
    • 2 bay leaves
    • Approximately 8 frankfurters
    1. Peel the onion, carrot and garlic, and cut the onion and carrot into rough chunks. Put them all, along with the roughly cut up stick of celery into the bowl of a food processor. Blitz until all are finely chopped.
    2. Add the oil into a heavy-based wide saucepan and put on medium heat. When warm, add the chopped vegetables from the processor and cook for 5-10 minutes, until soft but not colored.
    3. Add the ground mace - this may be a small amount but it-s crucial to the taste - and give a good stir. Add the split peas and stir again until they-re glossily mixed with the oil-slicked, cooked-down vegetables. Pour over 5 cups stock, add the bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Cover, turn down the heat and cook for about an hour until everything is tender and sludgy, adding more stock as needed. Sometimes the peas seem to thicken too much before they actually cook and need to be watered down. Taste for seasoning once everything-s ready.
    4. Add the frankfurters as you wish. It-s probably easiest just to cut them into slices of about one inch, and throw them into the soup to warm. Alternately, heat them in the microwave (40 seconds on high is about right for one or two franks; fiddle about with times when there are more). Slice them hot and add them to each person-s bowl as they come. It may not be an elegant soup, but it's a near-perfect one.
    Champagne Risotto for Two
    Serves 2
    • 1 small stick of celery, 1/4 cup when chopped
    • 2 leeks, 1 cup when white part is chopped
    • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
    • 1 1/2 cups champagne
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 3 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
    • 1 1/3 cups carnaroli or Arborio rice
    • 1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
    • Ground white pepper
    1. Chop the celery and the white part of the leeks very finely. In a wide saucepan, melt 1/2 stick of the butter with the oil, and cook them gently until softened. In another saucepan, combine 1 cup of the champagne and all the chicken stock. Keep the mixture on a very low simmer, close to your risotto.
    2. When the vegetables are soft, add the rice, stirring to coat in the oil until slicked and glossy. Turn up the heat and pour in the remaining 1/2 cup champagne. Stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed.
    3. Turn down the heat slightly -- not too low, and continue adding ladles of the champagney stock, letting one ladleful be absorbed before adding the next, stirring all the while.
    4. Once the rice is cooked, approximatley 18-20 minutes, stop--even if you-ve got some stock left over. If the rice has absorbed all the stock and still needs further cooking - both happen, add a little more. It-s just a very little more you think you need, boiling water will do.
    5. Remove risotto from heat, and beat in the remaining butter and the Parmesan. Season with a good grinding of white pepper if possible to keep it looking pure and unspeckled.

    Recipes from Mark Bittman, Minimalist columnist for the New York Times and author of How to Cook Everything, published by Broadway Books.

    Tandoori Raan: Grilled or Roast Lamb with Spices
    Serves at least 6
    Time: 1 hour, plus up to a day-s marinating time

    • 1 large onion, peeled
    • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
    • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
    • 1 tsp fennel seeds
    • 1 tsp cardamom seeds, preferably black (if you have pods, crush and remove seeds)
    • 6 cloves
    • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
    • 1 3-inch piece cinnamon stick
    • 6 black peppercorns
    • 2 dried chiles, or 2 tsps dried red chili flakes, or to taste, optional
    • 1 (3-lb to 4-lb) butterflied leg of lamb
    • Salt
    1. Combine the onion, garlic, and ginger in the container of a food processor and grind until pasty. Put in a fine strainer and drain as much water as possible. Meanwhile, toast the dried spices in a small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently until they become aromatic, about 3 minutes. Grind together until very fine.
    2. Trim the lamb of any excess fat and, if any parts seem overly thick, make a horizontal cut in the meat so they lie fairly flat. Sprinkle with salt. Combine the spice mixture and onion mixtures, and rub this all over the meat. Use a thin-bladed knife to poke some holes in the lamb, and stick a little bit of the mixture into each of them, too. If time allows, fold the meat in half, wrap tightly in plastic, and marinate, refrigerated, for up to a day.
    3. When you-re ready to cook, start a charcoal or wood fire, or preheat a gas grill or broiler. The fire should be quite hot, and the rack should be at least 4 inches from the heat source. Grill or broil the meat until it is nicely browned--even a little charred--on both sides, about 20 to 30 minutes, and the internal temperature at the thickest part is about 125F. This will give you some lamb that is quite rare, as well as some that is nearly well done. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing thinly, as you would a thick steak.

    Pork Chops with Prunes and Cream
    Makes 4 servings
    Time: 45 minutes

    • 2 Tablespoons butter (preferred) or extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 thick pork chops, cut from the rib (shoulder) end of the pork
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 2 sprigs thyme
    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
    • 1 cup not-too-dry white wine (or use cider)
    • 1 cup pitted prunes
    • 1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream
    • Chopped chervil for garnish, optional
    1. Put the butter or oil in a large skillet that can later be covered and turn the heat to medium-high. When the butter melts or the oil is hot, add the pork chops and brown well on both sides, rotating them in the pan so they brown evenly. Turn as needed, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When they are just about browned, add the thyme and garlic.
    2. Pour in the wine and scatter the prunes around the pork. Cover and adjust the heat so the mixture simmers steadily but not violently. Cook just until the chops are tender, or until their internal temperature measures 145 on an instant-read thermometer.
    3. Remove meat to a platter. If there is a lot of liquid, reduce it over high heat until only about 1/2 cup remains. Over medium heat, slowly add half the cream and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Add a little bit more, up to the remaining 1/2 cup, until the sauce has a consistency you like. Spoon the prunes and sauce over the chops and serve.

    Kalbi Jim: Braised Short Ribs
    Makes 6 servings Time: 2 hours, plus marinating time, largely unattended

    • 6 pounds short ribs
    • 10 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
    • 1 cup soy sauce
    • 5 tablespoons sesame seed oil
    • 2 tablespoon minced ginger
    • 12 scallions, trimmed and roughly chopped
    • 4 tablespoons toasted and ground sesame seeds
    • 1/2 cup sake
    • 4 tablespoons mirin
    • 2 tablespoon sugar
    • 1 Asian pear or 2 crisp apples, peeled and chopped
    • 1 or 2 fresh chiles, preferably long and red, minced, or to taste
    • 2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
    • 4 tablespoons olive or neutral oil, like corn, canola, or grapeseed
    • 1 large potato, peeled and chopped
    • 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
    • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
    • 2 eggs, optional
    • Salt
    1. Combine the first 14 ingredients and marinate overnight, covered and refrigerated. About 2 hours before you-re ready to eat, put half the oil in a broad, deep saucepan or casserole and turn the heat to high. Remove the short ribs from the marinade and brown on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes.
    2. Add the marinade to the meat, along with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for an hour or longer, until tender. (These are not cooked until falling-off-the-bone tender, but tender as if they were a good steak.)
    3. Turn the heat back to high, uncover, and add the potato, onion and carrots. Cook at a lively simmer until the stew is thick and the vegetables are done, about 20 minutes longer. (You can prepare the dish up to this point in advance; let sit for a few hours, or cover and refrigerate for up to a day before reheating and proceeding.)
    4. Meanwhile, if you want to make a traditional egg garnish, put the remaining oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Beat the eggs with the pepper and a pinch of salt, add them to the skillet. Turn the heat to medium and let sit, undisturbed, until the bottom is lightly browned. Flip and cook until the omelet is firm. Turn out onto a cutting board and cool slightly, then roll up and cut into thin slices. Taste the stew, adding a little salt if necessary. Garnish the meat and serve, with white rice.

    Beef Stew with Prunes
    Makes 4 servings
    Time: 2 hours, largely unattended

    • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 lbs lean, boneless beef, preferably chuck cut into 2-inch or smaller cubes
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
    • 3 plum tomatoes, stemmed and chopped (canned are fine)
    • 1 tsp sweet paprika, or more to taste
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 cup chicken stock
    • 1 cup dry red wine
    • 2 Tablespoons sugar
    • 1 cup pitted prunes
    • 1 Tablespoon sherry or other vinegar, or to taste
    • Chopped parsley leaves for garnish
    1. Place a deep skillet or casserole that can later be covered over medium-high heat, and add the oil. Add the meat and brown well on all sides, seasoning meat and adjusting the heat as necessary, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
    2. In the same pot over medium-high heat, saute the onion and tomatoes with a large pinch of salt and some pepper. When they soften, about 5 minutes, stir in the paprika, cinnamon, and bay leaf. Return the meat to the pan, and add the stock and wine. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, adjusting the heat so the mixture simmers steadily. (It-s unlikely, but not impossible, that you-ll need to add a little water or stock during the simmering. Check every 20 minutes or so.)
    3. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf, and stir in the sugar and prunes. Simmer until prunes and meat are soft, another 30 to 45 minutes or so. (You can prepare the dish up to this point in advance; let sit for a few hours, or cover and refrigerate for up to a day before reheating and proceeding.) When the meat is very tender, uncover the pot and, if necessary, raise the heat a bit so the sauce thickens and becomes glossy. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve hot, garnished with the parsley.

    Braised Lamb with Honey and Almonds Makes 4 servings
    Time: about 2 hours, largely unattended

    • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
    • 2 lbs boneless lamb, from the shoulder or leg, cut into 1-to-2 inch chunks
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 1 Tablespoon curry powder, or to taste
    • 1 cup whole blanched almonds
    • 1/4 cup raisins or currants, optional
    • 1 cup chicken or beef stock, preferably homemade, or use water or lamb stock (see above)
    • Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro leaves for garnish
    1. Put the oil in a large, deep skillet and turn the heat to medium. A minute later, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until quite soft, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and raise the heat to medium-high. Add as many chunks of lamb as will fit without crowding and brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. (You will inevitably have to brown in batches). When each batch is browned, turn meat out and season with salt and pepper. Adjust the heat so the pieces brown as rapidly as possible without burning; the process will take 10 to 15 minutes.
    2. Turn off heat and allow the pan to cool down a minute. Pour off any excess fat. Turn the heat back to medium and add the honey. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the honey has thinned and coated the lamb. Stir in the spice mixture, then the raisins, and finally the reserved onions and stock. Cover, and adjust heat so the mixture simmers steadily. Meanwhile, put the almonds in a skillet that will accommodate them in one layer over medium heat. Cook, shaking the skillet, until lightly browned and fragrant.
    3. Cook, undisturbed (you can stir occasionally if you want to but it-s unnecessary) until the meat is very tender, an hour or more. Taste and adjust seasoning, stir in the almonds, and serve (or cover and refrigerate for up to a day, stirring in the almonds only when you reheat the stew).

    Russ Parsons is a food writer for the Los Angeles Times. He spoke about knives. His favorites are Gyutou-style knives made by Hattori or Misono. Go to,,,,, or To learn more about how knives have revolutionized the kitchen, check out Russ Parson's recent article in the LA Times.

    Dr. Will Clower runs a website called You can find info on exercise, diet, the benefits of eating chocolate and other helpful resources.

    Jonathan Gold is food writer for the LA Weekly and Gourmet magazine. He spoke about:

    • Tacos El Michoacano
      5933 York Blvd, Highland Park; (323-258-0794)
      Recommended dishes: Guillota (quail) in sauce; delicious liquados (fruit milkshakes) and house salsa made of pulverized roasted chiles
    • Mariscos Sinaloa
      5633 York Blvd, Highland Park; (323-258-6823)
      Octopus tacos and botanos (tapas-like servings of boiled seafood)
    • Antojitos Guerrero
      5623 York Blvd, Highland Park; (323-254-6118)
      Noted for barbacoa (beef cooked long and slowly) served with handmade fresh tortillas
    • Villas Durango
      5672 York Blvd, Highland Park; (323-255-1491)
      Yucatan food
    • El Pique (truck)
      Parked at the NW corner of York Blvd and Avenue 53
      Mexico City-style food; -One of the great taco trucks in LA;- toasty tortillas and delicious tacos al pastor (grilled pork) and carne asada
    • El Huarache Azteca
      5225 York Blvd; (323-478-9572)
      For huaraches (sandal-shaped fried masa) with grilled beef, Mexican sour cream, lettuce and salsa on top; great alblondigas (turkey meatballs)
    • Galco's Soda Pop Stop
      5702 York Blvd; (323-255-7115)
      For old-fashioned sodas and candy bars
    • La Estrella (truck)
      Parked on the north side of York Blvd, near Avenue 54

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    Sang Yoon is the owner of Father's Office brew pub on Montana Ave in Santa Monica. He talked about holiday brews:

    You can find some of these brands at Beverages and More, either online or their new super-store at 7100 Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.