Moroccan Meatballs With Couscous and Saffron-Harissa Sauce

Meatballs.  Let's just take a moment, shall we? (.......quiet moment of meatball contemplation...). So what came to mind during your moment of meatball meditation?  Perhaps a perfectly tender, flavorful, moist and meaty orb of deliciousness?  Possibly dunked in or drizzled with a tasty sauce?  My own meatball fantasies span the globe and it matters not whether Asian, Mexican, Swedish, Italian, Middle Eastern or Canadian 🤔, as long it's ground meat in a round-ish sort of ball shape and tastes good, I'm in!

And while that may sound like my meatball standards are a bit low, that's not entirely the case. Yes, I will eat and enjoy just about any kind of meatball, but I know a good one when I meet one, and a great one really does make the sun shine a little brighter.

After we first tasted these meatballs, I used the word "beguiled" to described how I felt about the extraordinary flavors in this awesome little meatball.  Cousin Katie made me promise to use that word in my blog post, so there it is, my girl.  Yes, we were beguiled.  And enchanted.  They were delicious.

I will now refer you to the meatballs in the recipe below, but don't freak out!  Yes, there are 84 ingredients, but it really does come together quickly.  I just opened my spice drawer and pulled out every one of them (or maybe it just seemed like it) and proceeded to mix together this fragrant combination of scents and flavors that come through in every last bite.  Be not afraid.  You can do this.

And I haven't even mentioned the sauce!  While it was good and provided a lovely bath in which our meatballs finished cooking, as a finishing sauce, it was a little too thin.  To remedy this, I stirred Harissa into some Greek yogurt and whisked this into the broth, creating a seriously flavorful sauce for not only our meatballs, but for the couscous as well. 

Just a word about Harissa, if you're unfamiliar... it's a North African (think Morocco) chili paste that's loaded with roasted red peppers and chiles and spices and herbs and is ever so amazingly flavorful and delicious.  It turned our sauce into something quite special indeed.  You can buy it full strength spicy or mild, so choose according to your preferences.  I like getting the mild so I can use more of it - the flavors are amazing.

Alrighty then, folks.  Enough talking.  These meatballs aren't going to make themselves, so pull out your spice rack and get to it!  You will be ever so glad you did.  Here's the recipe...

Moroccan Meatballs with Saffron-Harissa Sauce

Click here for a printable recipe

First of all, I must encourage you to not freak out.  Yes, that is a very long ingredient list, but it's all so do-able.  Most of this stuff you probably already have in your pantry, except possibly the saffron and Harissa.  If you can find it in your heart to spring for these two ingredients, you will be well rewarded.  Oh my heavens, this is a very special, flavorful, festive dish and possibly the best meatballs I've had.  Still, I did some major tweaking to the original recipe, which was delicious, but in my humble opinion, the sauce needed a bit of help.  I used the yogurt to add some body and the Harissa for a lovely flavor punch.  If you've not had Harissa, you're in for a treat.   It's basically a sauce of roasted red peppers and spices and is ever so delicious.  If you like spice, it can be spicy, but if you're preferring less spice, it comes in a mild version that's dialed back on the heat but retains its earthy spiciness.

Recipe Adapted from David Tanis, NY Times

For the Sauce…

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups finely diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 inch piece cinnamon stick
Large pinch saffron, crumbled
Salt and pepper
3 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons Harissa

For the Meatballs
(I got out a small bowl and measured all of the spices into it and then stirred it well before adding it to the meatball mixture for even distribution)

1 and 1/2 cups cubed day ­old firm white bread
1 cup milk
1 pound ground beef, turkey or lamb
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
All­ purpose flour, for dusting
Olive oil or vegetable oil

For the Couscous

1 cup couscous
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water to soften, then drained (optional)
Salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preparation

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add onion and cook without browning until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon and saffron, and stir well to incorporate. Season generously with salt and pepper, and allow to sizzle for 1 minute more. Add broth and simmer gently for 5 minutes. May be made several hours in advance, up to a day.

Place the bread cubes and milk in a small bowl.  Leave this to soak until softened, about 5 minutes, then squeeze dry.

In a mixing bowl, beat the egg and add add salt, pepper, garlic, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, cloves, coriander and cumin. Mix well to distribute seasoning. Add 2 tablespoons each of parsley, cilantro and scallion, stir well and then add squeezed-out bread and the ground meat.  Use your hands to mix it all really well.  This may be prepared several hours in advance, up to a day.

With your hands, roll mixture into small round balls, a little smaller than a golf ball.  You should get about 25 or so.  Dip each ball into a bowl of flour, shaking off the excess. 

Heat a few tablespoons of oil, or a quarter-inch depth, over medium-high heat and fry meatballs until barely browned, about 2 minutes per side and set on a rack over a baking sheet while you finish the rest.  

Place the meatballs in the sauce and simmer, partially covered over medium low heat for about 20 to 25 minutes. 

Remove the meatballs from the sauce and keep warm. Let the sauce cool for a few minutes.  meanwhile, stir together the yogurt and Harissa.  When the sauce has cooled somewhat, whisk the yogurt mixture into the sauce until well combined.  Return the meatballs to the pan and warm through.

Cook the couscous according to package directions, fluff gently and stir in butter and raisins. Season with salt and cinnamon, and toss well.

Serve the meatballs over the couscous and pour some of the sauce over the meatballs.  Garnish meatballs with remaining parsley, cilantro and scallion.  Place the remaining sauce in a pitcher to pass at the table.

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Pasta With Chickpea Sauce

Are they a pea or a bean?  A chickpea or a garbanzo bean?  I've always called them garbanzo beans, but I think I'll switch to chickpeas.  It sounds cuter and kind've more affectionate which aptly describes how I feel about these little guys... I 💗 em.  They totally make the list of my top five legumes.  AND they move waaaay up to the top of that list if they're soaked and cooked from their dried state.  From the can, they slide down towards the bottom, but still make the list.

Perhaps you might be wondering if there really is all that much difference between canned and freshly cooked chickpeas, and I'm here to tell you that, yes, YES!, there is a difference, and it's pretty significant.  Chickpeas from the can have a very pronounced bite to them, not crunchy, but not exactly soft either.  But when cooked from their dried state, oh my goodness, they get sort of creamy and luscious and if you infuse your cooking water with aromatics (onions, garlic, herbs, etc), your little chickpeas are also going to win in the flavor department, hands down.

Now, this day and age you can't even talk about legumes without addressing the paleo and ketogenic and other diets that sort of disparage our little chickpeas.  They have their reasons and we'll let them hold on to them because we are pro choice in all matters here in the Circle B Kitchen. Whatever floats your boat or makes your skirt fly up.  Fine.  Whatever.  But I'm hanging with culinary history and the cultures that have thrived on chickpeas for centuries (think India, North Africa and the Middle East for starters), and I'm calling them scrumptious and ever so good for you (think fiber, protein, calcium, iron, read more about that here).

Now that we've got that out of the way, I want to help us move beyond hummus with our chickpea consumption.  Don't get me wrong, we love our hummus here and make it frequently (with freshly cooked chickpeas), but I have to tell you that our little garbanzos also make an amazingly delicious pasta sauce.  I mean, really good.  But don't try making this with canned beans.  I mean, you could, but it just isn't going to have the same creamy lusciousness.

OK, now hopefully I've convinced you to spend a few pennies on some dried chickpeas.  The first thing you're going to want to do is soak them overnight.  I never remember this part.  But don't worry about this too much.  You can circumvent potential tragedy by "quick soaking them" (bring them to a boil and then let them sit for an hour or so.  Done.  Consider them soaked.

Next you're going to simmer them with some onions, garlic, rosemary and some salt for a couple of hours until they're soft and yielding and sort of sexy like that.  

Then remove the aromatics and drain the chickpeas, saving your cooking liquid.

You're going to add some of that chickpea broth back into the pan with your beans, saving out a few to throw in whole at the end, and blitz it all with an immersion blender until your sauce is smooth and silky.  Alternately, you can also do this in a blender or food processor.

Then you're going to cook up some pasta  Flat, curly pasta like mafalda and farfalle are perfect for this.  I didn't have enough of either of those shapes, so I got creative and cooked up some lasagna noodles and then sliced them into little rectangles and they worked surprisingly well.  You could also serve this sauce over couscous or quinoa or farro or polenta or rice or spaghetti squash or whatever comes to mind. Like I said, we're pro choice here.  

Finish your chickpea pasta with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a dusting of grated parmesan cheese.   If you leave off the cheese, this would be an awesomely delicious thing for the vegan peeps in your life.  (But if you have a choice, the Parmesan is a must).  Here's the recipe...

Pasta with Chickpea Sauce

Click here for a printable recipe

The original recipe called for cooking up 12 ounces of chickpeas, but most chickpeas come in 1 lb bags, so I always cook up the whole thing.  The leftover chickpeas are great in salads, soups, or go ahead and make some hummus.  If you would like to discard all of my good advice and use canned chickpeas, click on the Serious Eats link below where you will find instructions for this.  Evidently, they are even more pro choice than I.

Recipe barely adapted from Serious Eats

INGREDIENTS

1 lb dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in salted water*
1 large onion, split in half
1 head garlic, 3 cloves thinly sliced, the rest left unpeeled
3 sprigs rosemary
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I like to use white pepper here)
4 cups cooked chickpeas (see note above), divided
1 1/2 cups chickpea-cooking liquid or vegetable broth, plus more as needed
1 pound short ruffled pasta, such as farfalle, mafalda, campanelle or cut lasagna sheets
1/4 cup chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)

DIRECTIONS

* Chickpeas can also be prepared using the quick soak method. Cover with water in a large pot, bring to a boil, remove from heat, and let rest for 1 hour. Drain and proceed with the recipe as directed.

Place chickpeas in a large pot and cover with lightly salted water by at least 2 inches. Add unpeeled garlic, onion, and rosemary. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook, topping up with water as necessary to keep beans submerged, until beans are very tender and creamy with no graininess left, about 2 hours. Beans can also be cooked in a pressure cooker at low pressure for 30 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, combine oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until garlic is lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Add 3 cups chickpeas and the 1 1/2 cups of chickpea-cooking liquid (I ended up using a little more than 2 cups), and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and, using an immersion blender, blend to a smooth, saucy puree, adding more chickpea-cooking liquid if too thick. Stir in remaining 1 cup chickpeas, crushing some lightly with a wooden spoon or potato masher but leaving them mostly whole. Season with salt and pepper.  And, by the way, don't be afraid of adding more of the cooking broth to the sauce than called for.  The sauce tends to thicken as it cools, so it's OK to err on the side of thin.

In a pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until just short of al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta-cooking water, then drain pasta. Return pasta to pot and add chickpea sauce along with 1/4 cup of reserved pasta-cooking water. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring until pasta is al dente and sauce has thickened just enough to coat pasta, about 3 minutes; add more reserved pasta-cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if sauce becomes too thick. Remove from heat, stir in chopped parsley and drizzle in some fresh olive oil, stirring to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon pasta and sauce into bowls, drizzle with another whirl of olive oil, some chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

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Oven-Roasted Salmon with Couscous, Shredded Greens and Cranberries (and bacon)

Thanksgiving is only days away, and for those of us who will be entrusted to cook this iconic meal for friends and family, it can be a bit stressful and all-consuming.  It's most definitely coming down to crunch time here at the Circle B Kitchen, and with 32 people to cook for on the big day, you can bet I'm in the thick of it here.  

But I'm not even scared.  Yet.  I love this meal and I love cooking this meal and I've promised myself that I will enjoy the heck out of every moment.  So to preserve sanity and give me the best shot at enjoying my day, most of the meal will be cooked over the next few days.  If you're at all curious about that and how to pull it off (or not) 😳, I'll be posting photos and recipes over on the "What's Cooking" page.

But in the meantime, there are still mouths to feed and meals to be made that aren't turkey, and this is one I've been ever so excited to share with you.

Just every now and then a dish or a recipe comes along that leaves you wondering why in all your 65 years you haven't before thought to put these flavors and textures and ingredients together in this particular way.  I mean there's nothing really remarkable here... no cutting edge new ingredient that you HAVE to try, no new technique for creating the perfect something.  No, this dish is simplicity itself.  And yet I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.  Sometimes a thing is just what you've been craving but had no idea, but sometimes it's in itself a perfect meal. Perhaps both things are true here. 

For me, this is indeed, a perfect meal.... tender couscous studded with shaved brussels sprouts, shredded kale and cranberries all roast together with tender salmon fillets, sharing flavors and textures and I just never wanted it to be the last bite.  

And thankfully, the perfect meal is also quick, easy and something you can easily throw together on a busy weeknight.  A couple of shortcuts will get you there even quicker.  You can shred or shave some brussels sprouts or you can buy them pre-shaved (I'm not enjoying that imagery), and if you snag yourself a bag of chopped kale, you're going to have dinner on the table in under 30 minutes.  

And let me just say as well that this couscous would make an incredibly wondrous side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner, partnered up with roast turkey.  Likewise it would also be very festive and yummy on your Christmas dinner table.   

So here are the Cliff notes (do they even still have Cliff notes?)...

Salmon is sauteed briefly and then removed from pan...

Chopped shallots, shredded brussels sprouts and kale are sauteéd....

and then couscous and chicken broth are added to the pan along with some dried cranberries.  The salmon is placed back on top.

The whole shebang goes in the oven to roast for about 8 minutes, during which time you will cook up some bacon (or not, according to your preferences, but bacon should always be a preference in this life).

And that's it.  You're done.  Oh wait, no, you have to dish it up and sprinkle the bacon on top and then the fun begins.  

And I'm not even kidding about that.  Might I suggest that you give yourself a break from the Thanksgiving madness and make yourself something quick, delicious and yes, fun for dinner?  I guess I just did.  Here's the recipe...

Oven-Roasted Salmon with Couscous, Shredded Greens and Cranberries

Click here for a printable recipe

The original recipe from The Kitchen used prosciutto-wrapped halibut which I’m sure was delicious.  I decided to use salmon and instead of the prosciutto, I cooked up some bacon to add to the mix.  The original recipe also said that it serves 4, and I’m sure those people are out there, they just don’t live here.  I’m saying it serves 2, maybe 3.  If you’re feeding 4, I’d make 1 1/2 servings (4 salmon filets, 3 cups brussels sprouts, 1 1/2 cups kale, 1 1/2 cups couscous, 1 1/2 cups broth, 4 slices bacon, etc.).  You can leave the skin on the salmon if you like, it adds great flavor to the dish and peels off easily before serving.

Recipe adapted from The Kitchen

Serves 2

(2) 6-7 ounce salmon filets (skin on or off - see headnote)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
Pinch chile flakes
2 cups shaved Brussels sprouts
1 cup shredded or chopped kale
1 cup couscous
1 cup hot chicken stock or water
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 slices of bacon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Season the salmon with salt and pepper and then heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the salmon on each side for 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove the salmon from the pan.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and quickly stir the shallots, lemon zest and chile flakes into the skillet. Add the Brussels sprouts and kale and saute until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the couscous, hot stock and cranberries. 

Place the salmon on top of the mixture and transfer to the oven. Bake for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the bacon until crispy.  

Remove the pan from the oven and remove the salmon from the pan.  Fluff the couscous with a fork and then place a few spoonfuls in serving bowls or on plates.  Place the salmon on top of the couscous and then crumble the bacon on top and serve.

Lentil Soup Rx

The last few weeks and months have been hard on us all, right?  It's been a grueling, punishing, and yes, heart-breaking election that's left us just a bit worn out by politics and pundits and well, I for one am ready to put it all behind me (perhaps something easier said than done).

And when it comes to healing from a brutal event such as this has been, cooking and eating just the right things can be cathartic and soothing.  Of course, copious amounts of drinking doesn't hurt either.  We might start with the drinking (quite advisable), and when ready, find what it is that your mind and body are needing.  It became evident to me very quickly that I needed soup. Not only did I need to eat soup (something hearty and warming and healthy), but just as urgently, I needed to make soup.  And I needed to make lentil soup. It was amazing to me how quickly I knew this was what I needed.  Must have lentil soup.  Now.

I've been making this soup since sometime in the 1970's, so it's like an old friend who's familiar and comforting and there when I need it.  And yes, I've posted my lentil soup before, but it was years ago, and this soup is so incredibly perfect, and one of those meals that just feels good for the soul, that it totally deserves a second post.  

And I knew this would happen...chopping the veggies and cooking the lentils and barley and the bulghur helped to refocus my energies; a rather welcome prescription for burnout.   Unfortunately, no soup can change the tide of politics, but eating it with someone you love can bring momentary joy and comfort.  Here's the recipe...

Lentil Soup

Click here for a printable recipe

This makes a lovely, warming, healthy bowl of soup deliciousness.  Use whatever kind of broth you have on hand, but it's a great vehicle for leftover holiday turkey broth. As for the celery, I like to use the heart of the celery and chop the celery leaves too.  They add great flavor to the soup.  The bulghur wheat is optional, but again, it adds a depth of flavor and some thickening to the broth.  If you would like, you can reduce the amount of lentils and increase the barley and/or add chopped zucchini to the soup for even more flavor and nutrition.

1 1/4 cups lentils
½ cup medium bulgur wheat
1/2 c barley
6 cups water
2 T butter
4-6 cups chicken or turkey or vegetable broth
1 onion, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 t chopped fresh mint (optional)
3  carrots, shredded
3 stalks celery, chopped (I like to use the heart of the celery with the leaves)
3 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste)
Grated Parmesan for serving
olive oil

Place the lentils, barley and bulgur wheat in a large saucepan.  Cover with water by about 2 inches or so (about 6 cups, depending on the size of your pan).  Add 2 teaspoons of salt, bring to a boil and cook for about a half hour.

Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, saute the onion, carrots, and celery in the butter and a little olive oil until soft.   Add the cooked lentil mixture and cooking broth, along with the chopped parsley, another teaspoon of salt, a little more pepper if you like, and enough of the chicken broth to cover by about an inch.   Stir well and simmer 1-2 hours, adding more chicken stock if it gets too thick.  Taste for salt and pepper.

To serve, drizzle each bowl of soup with a little olive oil and then sprinkle with grated parmesan.

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Election Cake

We need cake.  We need cake and we need booze and we need whatever else it might take to get us through these next few days.  The good news?  This election is going to be over in a few days.  The bad news?  We've still got a few more contentious, mind numbing days to endure it all.

But did you know that back in the 1700's (maybe even earlier) they used to celebrate election day?  It was a holiday; a community event that drew people together, and people even made cake! To be more specific, they made Election Cake (aka Hartford Election Cake)!  Back in the day, these tended to be "Great Cakes", which were huge things that could serve everyone who came to vote.  They were yeast cakes, studded with fruit and frosted, and some historians say they were maybe even made like rolls to make individual servings easier to deal with.

So yeah, this really is a thing.  And seeing as how no one is going to be giving you a piece of cake when you exit your polling booth on Tuesday, you might want to make yourself and your loved ones an election cake and reclaim what used to be (maybe) a communally festive day, except for the odd year here and there when people were shot and killed or worse for voicing unpopular opinions or perhaps voting "incorrectly".  It happened.

Historically, election days have probably been more contentious than celebratory, but it's kind've nice that someone thought to bring cake.  And what an interesting cake it is.  They were mostly yeast cakes, and from what I can tell, more like a sweet bread than a traditional cake. They appeared long before people were writing down recipes, and the first recorded one was in 1829 by Lydia Maria Child (no relation to Julia).  You can read a bit of history on this here and here.  

Towards the late 1800's, the yeast was being replaced by baking soda and baking powder and election cakes were become more like cakes as we know them.  I found this recipe in my Boston Cooking School cookbook from 1910...

...in which they were still using bread dough as a base for their Election Cake, which is the direction I wanted to go, with yeast, but individual little rolls, all the while maintaining the appearance of a cake, which turned out to be a sort of monkey bread-ish cake in which individual rolls can be torn off and easily shared with others.  I also opted to infuse a little booze into my cake (cuz heck yeah) and which is also very traditional, and I have to say I'm pretty pleased with how my election cake came out.  It's definitely yeast-y and bread-like, but still sweet, with the feel of an old-timey dessert, but mighty nice for breakfast too.  So get out and vote and then go home and eat some booze-y cake. You've earned it.  Here's the recipe...

Election Cake

Click here for a printable recipe

Election cakes were being made as far back as the 1700's and often took the form of "great cakes" which were huge cakes made to feed an entire community to celebrate any event that brought everyone together.  They were traditionally yeast cakes that were sort of hybrids between cake and bread, but evolved in the late 19th century to be more like cakes, using baking powder instead of yeast.  My version here combines a bit of just about every recipe I've found - it's a sweetened yeast bread made in the shape of a cake and perhaps a bit more like the original election cakes of the past.  Do not be alarmed at the amount of yeast.  It freaked me out too, but it works.

P.S.  A little tip... this is a cake (bread) best eaten warm, which makes the idea of drizzling this icing a bit dodgy (if the cake is warm the icing won't set up).  I would suggest planning on eating the cake soon after it comes out of the oven, making the icing a little thicker and spreading it on rather than drizzling.  The warmth of the cake will loosen it up and allow it to drizzle.  Leftover cake can be reheated and eaten with a bit of butter and jam.

Recipe adapted from New England Today

1 cup currants, raisins and/or dried cherries
1/2 cup rum, whiskey or other dark alcohol

1/4 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup whole milk, heated to lukewarm
2 packages dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and forming
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

Rum Icing
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons rum
1 1/2 tablespoons milk (or as much as is needed to create a pourable consistency

Instructions

As far ahead as is humanly possible (preferably the night before), combine the dried fruit and the rum or whiskey in a jar.  Seal tight and set aside.

Pour the warm water and milk into a 4- or 5-quart mixing bowl. Stir in the yeast and set aside until the yeast dissolves and begins to bubble, about 3 -5 minutes. Then beat in 1-1/2 cups of the flour, making a stiff batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes (no longer).

Beat in the butter, egg, sugar, spices, and salt. Then work in the remaining 1-1/2 cups flour, making a soft, rough dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 to 30 minutes.

Drain the dried fruit, but reserve the alcohol.  Measure 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid and add it in with the dough mixture and continue kneading until it’s combined.

Knead the dough until smooth, for 5 to 10 minutes. It will be very soft and sticky. Gradually add more flour as necessary, a few tablespoons at a time, to form a smooth dough. (Do not add too much extra flour; the should be fairly moist).  Knead in the dried fruit.

Roll the dough into an 8-inch log. Cut the log into 4 equal pieces, then divide each piece into 6 little rolls. To create surface tension so the rolls will puff up round, roll each into a little ball until the surface looks taut. Dredge the rolls in flour and arrange in a greased greased bundt pan layering the balls in a scattered way on top of each other.  Alternatively, you can place them in a 9x13x2-inch baking pan, 4 rows across, 6 rows down. Loosely drape with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until generously doubled, about 2 hours. If using a 9x13 pan, the rolls should all be touching.

Set a rack in the lower-middle level of the oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Bake the cake until all the rolls are puffed and richly browned, and just crowning the top of the bundt pan, about 25 to 30 minutes. (It will only take about 20 minutes if using a 9 x 13.  

Let the cake rest in the pan for 3 minutes, then gently run a knife around the edges to loosen.  Place the cake on a rack to cool.  Cool completely before icing.

To make the icing, measure the powdered sugar into a bowl and then whisk in the melted butter, rum and milk.  The icing should be sort of loose and pourable, but not runny. If it doesn’t drizzle well, microwave for about 6 or 7 seconds to loosen it up. 

To serve, pull off the individual rolls, and if desired, make some extra icing for dipping.