Cranberries have long been used in Scandinavian and American winter cooking, with many Brits joining the berry party after Delia featured them in several recipes in her Winter Collection book. At this time of year, there are both frozen and fresh cranberries available on the shelves of most supermarkets, yet I frequently see the fresh ones marked down in the bargain section. I picked up four bags of fresh cranberries recently for 25p each! This led me on to some experimentation – I make curds throughout the year, including using seasonal fruits like strawberries and blackberries, so why not a cranberry version?
115g unsalted butter
450g caster sugar
4 large eggs
Put the cranberries and 150ml of water in a saucepan and cook on a low heat until they have popped and become tender. Use a stick blender to process into a puree. Sieve into a large microwavable bowl. Add the butter and sugar and microwave on full power for about 2 minutes until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
Whisk eggs together and add to the cranberry mixture. Continue cooking in the microwave in 1 minute bursts, stirring each time, and reducing the length of time to 30 seconds as the mixture thickens. Once it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon
(and you can draw a finger through it, leaving a channel), sieve again to remove any cooked egg bits and put into jars – this will make about 900g – so will fill 4 or so small jars.
I made the gloriously pink curd and then it seemed a shame not to use it in a cake, so I adapted the meringue cake found in Nigella Lawson’s Feast to create a festive version.
Cranberry Meringue Cake
125g very soft unsalted butter
4 large eggs (separated)
300g caster sugar (plus 1 teaspoon)
100g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100 dried cranberries
4 teaspoons milk
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
150 ml double cream (or whipping cream)
150g cranberry curd (see above recipe)
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200°C/400ºF. Line and butter two 21cm 8 inch sandwich tins.
Mix the egg yolks, 100g of the sugar, the butter, flour, cornflour, baking powder, bicarb, and dried cranberries in a processor. Add the milk and process again. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins. It looks like it won’t be enough mixture, but spread it out as evenly as possible.
Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until peaks form and then slowly whisk in 200g sugar. Divide the whisked whites between the two sponge-filled tins, pouring or, more accurately, spreading the meringue straight on top of the cake batter. Smooth one flat with a metal spatula, and with the back of a spoon, peak the other and sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over the peaks. Put the tins into the oven for 20-25 minutes.
With a cake-tester, pierce the cake that has the flat meringue topping to check it’s cooked all through. (It will have risen now but will fall back flattish later.) No sponge mixture should stick to the tester. Remove both cakes to a wire rack and let cool completely in the tins.
Unmould the flat-topped one on to a cake stand or plate, meringue side down. Whisk
the double cream until thick but not stiff and set aside. Spread the flat sponge surface of the first, waiting, cake with the cranberry curd and than spatula over the cream and top with the remaining cake, peaked meringue uppermost. Dust with icing sugar.
And finally, I’m including the very simple recipe I use for a cranberry sauce – which is lovely with turkey, cold meats, pates and creamy cheeses.
300ml red wine
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
zest and juice of a large orange
Put all the ingredients in a large pan and bring to a very gentle simmer. Stir well, and leave to cook very gently for about an hour on a low heat without a lid on the pan. Stir occasionally. You will end up with a thick cranberry sauce that can be left to cool and then put in a covered bowl until needed.