"A thick rich taste that is felt as much as tasted. Deep jammy currants roll over and coat the tongue in a wave of black currants. Like drinking a jam preserve." Spirits Review
We have a cupboard full of liqueurs from many years past, partly the result of our own buying when in Europe, partly gifts from visitors from 'over there'. Amongst them is this bottle of Crème de Cassis. I don't use these liqueurs very much - indeed I should use them more, particularly after Monday's experimental dish - which I shall come to. These days liqueurs are generally just the mainstays of cocktails, and in the case of Crème de cassis Kir - which is white wine with a few drops of it, or it's more refined cousin Kir Royale - Champagne with a few drops which you place in the bottom of your champagne glass before pouring over your bubbly. It is really, really nice. There are countless other cocktails that use it, but I just don't know much about them. Ask my son.
I also adore blackcurrants. Something you just never, ever, ever see here. Whenever we go to Europe - alas no more - and it's summer we, both of us, always have a cassis sorbet when we indulge in ice-cream. This pretty dreadful picture of us was taken in the lovely Mediterranean tourist haunt of Cassis. You pronounce the name of the fruit with the final 's' - sort of like 'casseesse', but the town follows the French custom of dropping the final 's'. We asked the lady who sold us these gorgeous sorbets why - but she did not know.
And just a few words about the producers of this particular bottle. The company was founded back in 1874 in Dijon, where it still is, although, it was bought by Marcel Battaut in 1936. It is still in the family hands - the only independently owned liqueur company in Dijon. Their Crème de Cassis, and now other offerings such as Saffron Gin, have won multiple international awards, and they are also, I think, the only Crème de Cassis to be made purely from blackcurrants. It's great stuff.
So back to the original impetus for this post - the dish I made on Monday - Sticky Cassis pork ribs with mint and fava bean couscous, which came from this book by Rachel Khoo, who you may know from her various television programs. However just in case you don't know of her - she is British although both of her parents - father Malaysian Chinese and mother Austrian - were British immigrants. Apart from a four year stint from the age of 12 near Munich where her father was working at the time she otherwise spent her early life in Britain. Since graduating in art and design she has lived in Paris, London, and now Sweden where she lives with her Swedish husband and two children. Not that you are probably that interested - that was more for me, because although aware of her existence, I had never seen any of her programs or bought any of her books. But there, one day on the Readings bargain table was the above book. On that day I also bought another cookbook - the Anna Jones one - so feeling somewhat guilty about this I decided to put it away as a potential Christmas present for someone - well my daughter-in-law or maybe one of my granddaughters. However, one day recently with nothing much to do I started to flip through it, thinking it would be full of all the usual French stuff. But no. Sure it does have some of the classics, but most of them have a twist, and some of them are really tempting. So I'm adding it to my collection.
It's a book arranged in sections on some of France's regions and this is the first recipe she presents on the food of Provence. When I saw it I instantly thought of that bottle of liqueur lurking in my cupboard and decided to have a go. The dish can be made with beef or pork ribs, but I went for pork, mostly because they were on a special and anyway much cheaper than the beef version. Not that either were cheap. Why is this? In my youth I don't think even we poor people ate ribs - well maybe the animals were cut up differently. If they had existed I'm sure they would have been like all this other so-called cheap cuts like skirt, lamb shanks, oxtail and rabbit which are now pricey and not everyday, end of the month when we have no more money, food.
I could not get fava beans - well broad beans to us common folk - the freezer compartments in the supermarkets had none. Anyway David doesn't like broad beans, so I substituted peas, which went very well. It is such a simple dish - although it requires a long cook - 2 1/2 hours. You just make your marinade - which also includes blackcurrant jam - so I had to go and buy some of that as well - French from Bonne Maman of course. Like I said we don't have blackcurrants here. Why not? Then you put your meat in it, then cook it in the oven for a couple of hours. If your marinade is not syrupy enough by then to act as an absolutely scrumptious sauce, cook it down a bit. The water that you pour over the couscous is water you have boiled your peas in - with a bunch of mint stalks. She said to chop them roughly, but I just tied them in a bunch. You have to take them out, so why would you chop them? Finish the couscous with chopped mint and a bit of olive oil and voilà dinner is served. It was truly wonderful. Unctuous and somewhat surprisingly not too sweet but not really sweet and sour either. There was lemon in there to cut the sweetness a bit, but not too much. David gave it 4 stars which is praise indeed. It's the kind of dish that makes me wonder why people say they can't cook. And a tick in my diary for a new dish for the week.
Lots of people have made this online, with one of them saying that she might try it with pomegranate molasses sometime. And I think that would work. I also thought of plum brandy and plum jam.
I see I have bookmarked another couple of dishes in the book for another time - Baeckehoffe and Ham and Vegetable Pastry Puffs but there were lots of others I could try as well. Must look out for some of her other books.
Back to that Crème de cassis. There is still plenty in the bottle and, of course, I could just start indulging in Kir Royale, but I thought there might well be other things out there that I could contemplate. And indeed there are. Most of them are in the drinks and sweets category - lots of ice cream and syrups for various fruit dishes - including the divine summer pudding, with the occasional cheesecake in the mix. But I wanted something different and, moreover, savoury, and I did find a few: Duck breasts with berries from delicious. which had a faintly Asian twist with the addition of five spice powder; Chicken with creamy cassis sauce from Simply Recipes - a few people mentioned a creamy cassis sauce for chicken, but I couldn't find any other recipes; Oven braised beef from Charlotte Puckette - slightly more complicated than Rachel Khoo's pork ribs; Diana Henry's Baked sausages with prunes and gremolata on the British delicious. website and possibly the most innovative - Planked figs with pancetta and goat's cheese from Epicurious - if you like figs that is.
And for the sweets - well Martha Stewart does biscuits - Cassis crisps, which didn't seem to get a lot of stars on her website I have to say; then two gorgeous looking desserts - Kir Royale jelly from Jill Dupleix who is really adapting ever so slightly a recipe from Heston Blumenthal - and she does say that; and Flourless chocolate crème de cassis cake from Charlotte Puckette.
I think I'm going to try the jelly some time. It didn't sound that hard and it looks sensational. But probably a summer dish. It's only going to be three degrees overnight here at the moment, so not really suitable for now. Though it could make you dream of summer and those cassis sorbets.