Vintage lenten buns.

The recipe for this year's lenten buns comes from an old cookbook. Dating from 1908. But the recipe itself is even older.

The bun

120ml warm milk
15g fresh yeast
2 tbsp rose water
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp spirit, 80 proof
260g flour
75g sugar
50g butter

Dissolve the yeast in warm milk with a spoonful of sugar. Wait till it starts to foam.
Now add the rose water, spirit, cardamom, salt and three-quarters of the flour. Knead well.
Cover and let rise in a warm place for an hour.
Cream soft butter with sugar until pale and fluffy, mix into dough. Add the remaining flour and knead well.
Cover and let rise again.
Knead the dough briefly and form into eight round buns, leaving enough room between them on the baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and let the buns rise until doubled in size. Bake in a 200c oven for about 10 minutes. Brush hot buns with egg wash once more, this prevents them from drying out while cooling.

For the filling (*a more common version)
bun crumb
100g marzipan
130ml double cream
25g sultanas

Cut off the bun tops, set aside. Using a paring knife and a small spoon, scoop out the crumb, creating a good-sized cavity. Place all of the crumb into a bowl, mixing it with marzipan. Heat the cream with vanilla and sultanas. When cool enough to handle, mix into the crumb. Make sure it is an even, smooth paste and fill the buns.

To serve
400ml double cream
4 tbsp icing sugar

Whip cream with sugar and pipe a mound on each bun. Cover the buns with the reserved tops and dust with icing sugar.

*The book lists a second, more elaborate filling as well, which I will probably tackle next year.
Roast pork a la confit.

85C roast pork. Cooked in fat.

Probably the easiest yet tastiest method for meltingly tender roast pork with a killer crispy crackling.
There is no marinating, browning, turning, mopping, basting, checking, probing etc. You just take the meat, season it, put it in the oven and then forget about it until you're ready to eat.

It does take time so it's not for a speedy lunch but excellent for dinner parties or Sunday lunches. The process takes about 12 to 14 hours, ideally overnight, but there is practically zero chance of burning the meat or drying it out. I've done this more than ten times now and it never fails.

It might seem scary but it isn't. And no, there is no obligation to eat all that fatty liquid. The oil and melted pork fat will rise to the surface of the meat juices after resting. Then ladle it up and use the meat juices for a tasty gravy.

about 1.6 kg pork, skin on
sea salt, approximately 2 tbsp
8- 10 peppercorns
4 fresh sprigs of rosemary
handful of fresh sage leaves
4 fresh sprigs of oregano
4 bay leaves
rape seed oil

My preferred dish for this is a classic cast iron pot but a good stainless steel loaf tin also does a good job.
It is best to use a piece of pork the same shape as the tin, since the meat must sit very snugly in the tin leaving very little space between the meat and the tin. The fewer air pockets the less oil you need to use. Oil is poured on top to keep the meat from drying out. In a way, this is like confit.
It is also important to not put a too big chunk in the tin since you want the edges of the tin to rise above the meat (and not the other way round) to keep all the liquids in. Otherwise you might end up with a bit of a puddle.

Start by bringing the meat to room temperature and turning on your oven, 85C. The temperature is approximate, it just has to be above 80 and below 95C. You do not even need to wait until it is fully heated, just proceed as you go.

Score the skin. Season the meat all over with sea salt. Sprinkle a good amount of salt in the tin as well. Toss in some peppercorns. Place half of the herbs in the tin, spreading them around, then put the meat on top with the skin upwards. You've really got to use your hands here and make it fit well, filling all the corners but keeping the meat level on the surface. Now take the rest of the herbs and tuck them between the pork and the sides of the tin.
Take the oil, pouring it all over the meat. Tilt the tin and make sure the oil fills all the cracks and cavities. If you've tucked the meat well, it should take only about 100ml. Sprinkle some salt on top.
Place the tin in the oven, uncovered, close the door and forget about it for the next 12 hours. It can even sit there in the oven for 18 hours without any problems so don't take it out too soon if you're not ready to eat yet.

My dad just popped a 3 kilogram pork roast in the oven. Same method, just a bigger pot. That will be our dinner tomorrow, on Christmas Eve. Eaten together with sweet and sour stewed cabbage, boiled potatoes and spiced marinated pumpkin.

But it can be served in so many ways. Between two slices of rye bread with pickles. In a bun with salad and sauce. Shred it into a noodle soup. Any way you you like.
Can also use the meat juices as a base of a soup.

The little Sugar Pie pumpkin climbing the fence.

It doesn't matter much which sort of pumpkin or squash you've got. Last time I made them using Cucurbita pepo var. styriaca, the oil pumpkin (seen above, the green-striped pumpkin).

Pumpkin cardamom muffins

200g flour
1 tsp baking powder
1g salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp chopped orange zest
175g sugar
100g egg
200g pumpkin purée (either made by a steaming and puréeing or straining and mashing the pumpkin after boiling)
50ml oil
80g cranberries or cowberries

pumpkin seeds, to sprinkle on top

Whisk eggs until homogeneous and slightly bubbly. Add sugar and the pumpkin purée. Mix in orange zest, cranberries and oil.

In another bowl sift flour with baking powder, cardamom and salt.
Add half of the flour to pumpkin mixture and stir well. Then add the rest of the flour and stir until all flour is just mixed in but not super smooth.

Divide batter between muffin tins. Nine regular size or six jumbo size.

Sprinkle some seeds on top and pop into a 210C oven. Then lower the temperature to 180C and bake for about 25 minutes.