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Classes were cancelled the entire week of Thanksgiving.  I thought I’d have lots of time to catch my breath and work on The Otium.  But having brought a pile of work home, run a Turkey Trot, and cooked our annual South Indian-style Thanksgiving dinner with the S.O. [our menu leaned Tamil Nadu this year], by Sunday, I felt like I’d just finished an 80-hour work week.  I didn’t have the energy for anything — especially with the guilt of procrastination looming over me because of a neglected research proposal.

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I finally got the proposal submitted today.  And as a way to relax from my week off, I finally got back into the kitchen and made something of my Thanksgiving leftovers.

I know I’ve previously talked about my hatred of leftovers.  My S.O. hates ’em too.  This is one of the main reasons we always cook South Indian on Thanksgiving — we’re not left with 15 extra pounds of turkey sitting around.  But we did have leftover cranberries.  So I stuck with the South Indian theme and whipped up this easy semolina skillet cake.

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Semolina cakes are common treats across South Asia — Burma, India, Thailand, Bangladesh.  This isn’t a fluffy Western-style cake, but a denser, almost pudding-like spoon bread.  The cake batter is first cooked on the stovetop, then finished in cast iron (or a heavy glazed skillet) in the oven.  Coconut milk provides a velvety canvas that contrasts the sharp, tart cranberries.  I turned most of my leftover cranberries into this cranberry-maple sauce — an amazing autumn Native American recipe that I’ve spiced to complement the skillet cake.

I love the unique combination of South Asian with autumn flavors.  It’s warming and comforting without being too heavy.  Because it’s rather delicate, it’s best eaten straight from the skillet — so it’s a perfect dessert for sharing around a table with a friend, your S.O., or another couple.

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Cranberry Semolina Skillet Cake

Serves 4-6 | Cook Time 90 mins (35 inactive)

Adapted from Burma by N. Duguid and Spirit of the Harvest by B. Cox

Cake

  • 1/2 C semolina (a.k.a. cream of wheat)
  • 1/2 C packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 C coconut milk (1/2 C coconut cream + 1/2 C light coconut milk is ideal)
  • 1 C lukewarm water
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1/4 C fresh cranberries
  • 1 recipe of cranberry-maple sauce, below (for serving)
  • 1/4 C roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped (for serving)

Cranberry-Maple Sauce

  • 1 C fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 C maple syrup
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1/2 inch peeled and grated ginger
  • 1/3 T ground cardamom
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  1. Toast wheat in a heavy skillet over medium heat until it becomes aromatic, then immediately remove from heat.  Do not allow it get too brown.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine toasted wheat, sugar, salt, coconut milk, lukewarm water, and olive oil.  Stir until well-incorporated, then let batter sit for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 6″ cast iron skillet.
  3. After 30 minutes, pour batter into a second heavy skillet over medium heat.  Stir batter frequently until thickened to almost Play-Doh® consistency, about 20 minutes.  Add 1/4 C cranberries, and stir to incorporate.
  4. Pour batter into cast iron skillet, and bake 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  5. While cake is baking, prepare cranberry-maple sauce by combining cranberries, maple syrup, water, ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon stick in a stockpot over medium-high heat.  Cook until thickened, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes.  Mash cranberries for a thinner sauce, or keep them whole for a chunkier sauce.  Discard cinnamon stick before serving.  [Note this sauce can also be made ahead.  Can also double the recipe and reserve the extra as an accompaniment to pork or poultry.]
  6. For serving, let cake cool about 10 minutes after coming out of the oven.  Spoon cranberry-maple sauce over cake, and sprinkle with roughly chopped roasted hazelnuts.

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