Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Mr Whippie

Ever wonder how the Brits got their lovely teeth? Banoffee Pie, darling--say no more, say no more. Think of a sugar-to-the-vein version of banana cream pie, with a caramelly, dulce de leche-style goo substituted for the usual vanilla custard. The Hungry Monk restaurant in East Sussex claims to be the originator of the recipe in 1972; I first heard of it last week, when a slightly drunken Englishman cornered me at Jane's party and recited the recipe, down to the topping of "Mr Whippie" (the Brit version of Cool Whip or Redi-Wip, presumably, although it's hard not to believe that English SM fanciers don't get a giggle out this every time they go to Sainsburys).

The filling is made from sweetened condensed milk--the same old supermarket staple that's the secret ingredient in those creamy-sweet, bright-orange Vietnamese coffees and teas. To reduce the milk to a toffee filling for the pie, the sealed cans are covered in water and boiled for a really long time--anywhere from 2 to 5 hours. Just make sure they stay fully submerged the whole time, otherwise they'll blow up. Isn't cooking fun?

Banoffee Pie

2 cans sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1 package Hob Nobs or McVitties digestive biscuits
2-3 TB butter, softened
1/2 pint heavy cream
1/2 tsp instant espresso granules (oh, go ahead and use regular instant coffee, or leave it out altogether. I think it's just a tiny attempt to mitigate the insane sweetness of the toffee-banana goo)
1 tsp sugar
bananas


Using a deep pot, immerse cans of sweetened condensed milk in at least several inches of water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer gently for several hours, topping up with additional hot water as needed to keep cans submerged. The cans MUST BE thoroughly covered with water AT ALL TIMES, otherwise they can explode. So don't wander off, and do not leave the house with the cans are still boiling away. Put a post-it on your door, set a timer, anything to avoid boiled toffee goo splattering all over the walls of your kitchen. Let cans cool before opening.

To make the crust, thoroughly bash up a packet of digestive biccies. Mix the crumbs with softened or melted butter and press into a pie dish. Whip cream with 1/2 tsp espresso powder and 1 tsp sugar until stiff. Spread cooled toffee goo over crust. Top with bananas, sliced lengthwise and arranged like the spokes of a wheel, or daisy petals (depending on your frame of reference). Top with a nice fluffy blanket of whipped cream. Refrigerate before serving if you must, but keep in mind that bananas don't love the fridge; it's better to assemble just before serving.


and in the What's Up with That category...
Is it just a big shaggy-dog stunt, or is Dan Leone, who's been chronicling his life through the Cheap Eats column in the Bay Guardian for 12 or 13 years now (and with whom I shared a page in the Guardian for 4 years during my time as the paper's main restaurant critic), turning into a girl? I don't mean metrosexual, eating salad and having facials and going to Will Smith movies; I mean actually male-to-female, losing the facial hair, getting divorced from the wife, the whole SF thing. For some reason, this staggers me, although it shouldn't, since over the years I've certainly seen enough women, from foxy femmes to andro-butches, turn into men. But Dan Leone? Mr. Fried-Food-Eating, Barbecue-Loving Ohio Baseball Fanatic? Not that any of those things are gender specific; it's just that in his writing, he always seemed like such a guy. Let's just hope he doesn't start worrying about what his butt looks like after a week's worth of fried chicken and two-pound omelettes.

and in the Line(s) of the Day category...

Well, I was going to post something nice and poetic about the cleaning of the Cloisters' Unicorn tapestries from this week's New Yorker, but that was before I read Shuna's paen to guianciale, aka cured pig jowl, and since we're going whole hog with the sugar thing here, might as well add in more fat and a bunch of salt and make it a real Southern-fried feast.

"Mmmmm jowl. Now there's a word! Rhymes with growl and there's a reason for that. My roommate was confused. 'Does the jowl have enough meat on it to eat?' To which I replied happily, 'You can eat the entire pig's face.' He left the kitchen looking a little upset."

Want more? Oh yes you do. Go over the right and click on the link for Eggbeater, Shuna's nifty little site. Greens, baby, greens, now with MORE PIG.

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