26 July 2015

Lemon and poppy seed cupcakes

This year has quite a few big birthdays in the family and next up is my Mother-in-Law. And I get the honour of making some of the desserts - cupcakes and cake pops. Lovely! So on my latest trip to my local Lakeland, I couldn't resist buying moulds for making lace out of icing. Of course it's not regular icing, it requires some special mixture to allow it to keep its shape.

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And as I'm doing more and more advanced things in my baking, I have to practice in advance and this is it - try out one of the many cup cake recipes I saved from the Danish Bake-off in 2012 and combine with icing lace. Note that the original recipe is in Danish.

Ingredients

125 g soft unsalted butter
100 g caster sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1 tbsp lemon juice
275 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 ml salt
2 tbsp black poppy seeds
¾ dl single cream

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C (160 ° C fan-assisted) and prepare some muffin cases.
  2. Whisk together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, and incorporate well. After the final egg, also stir in the vanilla extract, lemon zest and juice.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Add the poppy seeds and stir through to make sure they are well mixed.
  5. Add the flour mixture a little at a time and whisk incorporate into the butter mixture to form a thick batter. Add the cream when the batter becomes stiff and the electric whisk is struggling.
  6. Spoon or pipe into the muffin cases, filling about ⅔ of each case.
  7. Bake for 15 - 25 minutes (depending on size), test with a toothpick to see if they're ready, it should come out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool.

I bought slightly smaller muffin cases recently, they are much more manageable when eating and have a better balance between the cake part and the icing. So I used them and had 20 muffins from the above amounts. I should have placed them in my metal muffin tins even if they are smaller, that would have helped them keep their shape, but instead I squeezed them all into one tray and so some went rectangular as they bumped into their neighbours while baking.

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Now for the decorations, I first went for the recommended icing in the recipe, however it split and I couldn't sort it out, but it was very tasty, so I've frozen it into creamy ice lollies. I also was reluctant to flavour it - it was supposed to be divided in 2 equal parts and one to be flavoured with lemon juice and coloured yellow and the other part to be flavoured with orange juice and coloured orange. It seemed to be a lot of the two juices to be added and I thought it would end up being rather runny.

Ingredients for icing

90 g soft unsalted butter
75 g icing sugar
250 g mascarpone
1 tsp vanilla extract
yellow food colouring

Method
Whisk together everything until it's soft and fluffy. If it doesn't split, pipe onto the cooled down muffins. Otherwise freeze into ice lollies.

I tried to pipe the split icing with the hopes that it might force it to come together, but it started melting in my hands and I gave up. I put some giant raspberries on top, which tasted nice, but made the cupcakes so very top heavy they were not able to stand up on their own.

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The next thing was to try out the icing lace. The packet instructions were for industrial amounts, I made a fifth if them and still had a blob left over. The mixture was very rubbery from the start and it took me quite a while to work out the right level of pressure to use to get the lace moulds filled enough to form a lace and yet not accidentally scrape half of the filling off. I left them to dry naturally through the day and in the evening, I dug out some ready to roll blue icing, rolled it out and cut out circles, then put the icing lace on top and it looked very pretty.

The next day, the blue icing had bled into the muffins and also picked up lots of moisture from the air, as it is very rainy at the moment. The white icing lace kept well, but also succumbed to the strong blue colour of the rolled out icing on day 2. I'll need to make another batch of the icing lace, to make sure I have the knack for Mother-in-Law's birthday party. And I also need to work out a good recipe for the cupcakes.

I personally liked the poppy seeds, they give a very nice crunch, but Lundulph thought they were more of a savoury ingredient and we both were struggling to taste the lemon. I also thought the muffins were a bit on the dry side - the original recipe called for milk, but I think using single cream should make them a bit more moist. Lundulph suggested muffins with cardamom flavouring, like a cinnamon bun basically, so that'll be the next thing to try.

I also took some to work for some of my overworked colleagues. I've not heard anything from them, so my guess is these weren't quite a hit with them either. And not surprising, work has been hectic and stressful for weeks and I'm tired and have headaches, so my baking very much reflects this. I think I need to knead a dough by hand and get some of the built-up frustration out.

18 July 2015

Baked Churros

While spending a number of evenings watching youtube recipes, I came across the wonderful channel of Ann Reardon of How to Cook That and one of the recipes was for churros, which I think of as the Spanish version of mekitzi.

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I've had churros a couple of times and really enjoyed them, but never really thought about making them at home and when I found the tutorial video, I decided to try them out.

The basic dough is very similar to the choux dough, but with fewer eggs and I was a little concerned that they would puff up, but they didn't and perhaps that's down to the smaller amount of eggs in the mixture.

Ingredients

Churros dough
250 ml water
115 g butter
160 g plain flour
3 large eggs
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cooking oil spray

Cinnamon sugar
54 g caster sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Nougat dipping sauce
1 part nougat
1 part semi-skimmed milk

Method

  1. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 200 °C.
  2. Put the water and butter in a saucepan and melt on the hob.
  3. Stir briskly in the flour and once the dough starts thickening and comes together into a ball, remove from the hear.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time and incorporate well in between.
  5. Finally stir in the sugar and vanilla and transfer to a piping bag with a fairly narrow star nozzle.
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  6. Pipe straight lines, a couple of cm apart onto the prepared trays and spray with a little cooking oil.
  7. Bake each tray until the churros go golden brown on the ridges.
  8. Stir together the caster sugar and ground cinnamon to mix well.
  9. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack and sprinkle immediately with the cinnamon sugar.
  10. Make the dipping sauce by dicing the nougat and placing in a heat proof bowl.
  11. Bring the milk to the boil, then pour over the nougat and stir until the nougat has melted and has become a homogeneous mixture.

I also used a nozzle that was too wide, so my churros were a bit on the thick side, but I wasn't sure if I'd be able to pipe the dough, it felt a bit thick and I didn't want to get a smaller nozzle clogged up. In the past I've mostly used too small nozzles and had tremendous problems with piping things well. This meant I had to bake my churros for 25 minutes and I also upped the temperature to 220 °C as they seemed to be taking forever to develop colour. I also had some cinnamon sugar left over, but that can be used when I make cinnamon buns next.

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But they were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and worked very nicely with the nougat sauce. In fact the reason I made it was that I didn't have any chocolate in the larder and thought I could make a "ganache" with the nougat, but rather than using cream, I used semi-skimmed milk. This resulted in the mixture not setting like a ganache would, even after being chilled in the fridge, so it's a good one for ice cream as well I think.

This was a surprise for Lundulph and a very tasty one too. We ate almost all of the churros for breakfast, so if I make this for more people, I definitely need to increase the recipe. Hopefully I'll remember to use a smaller nozzle next time too, that should shorten the baking time considerably. Lundulph liked that they weren't greasy like deep fried ones and of course you could tell the difference, but it wasn't a bad one at all.

13 July 2015

Chicken Burger with Beetroot Tzatziki

After two fish recipes, we decided to go for a chicken recipe from my new diet book.

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Also pleasing is that I get to try out sambal ulek - I've heard of this, but never cooked with it. It's an Indonesian chilli paste. The brand I bought wasn't as spicy as I expected and would have liked, but was still very nice.

Ingredients

Beetroot tzatziki
2 large beetroot
300 ml light crème fraîche
2 tsp horseradish paste/sauce
salt and pepper

Burgers
500 g chicken breast
4 shallots
2 large eggs
2 tsp sambal oelek
1 tsp lime juice
2 tbsp cornflour
salt and pepper
oil for frying

Method

  1. Peel the beetroot and then grate it coarsely and place in a large bowl.
  2. Stir in the crème fraîche, the horseradish, salt and pepper.
  3. Next, trim the chicken breasts and chop finely - or whizz in a food processor, then place in a large bowl.
  4. Peel and finely dice the shallots and add to the chicken.
  5. Stir in the eggs, sambal oelek, lime juice cornflour, salt and pepper and mix to get well combined. It will not be possible to form into burgers, that's OK.
  6. Heat up some oil in a frying pan, then using a scoop spoon 2 - 3 patties into the frying pan and press down into burger shapes, making sure they don't touch.
  7. Fry for a few minutes, then flip over and fry for a few more minutes and the burgers are done.
  8. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. Serve with the beetroot tzatziki and steamed or sautéed potatoes.

The beetroot tzatziki is a bit misleading I think - tzatziki has fairly fixed ingredients, none of them being beetroot. But the mixture was very nice and I would have added more horseradish if I'd dared, I quite like the flavour, but I suspect Lundulph doesn't. The key thing is to wear protective clothing when peeling and grating the beetroot and preferably red in colouring or you'll be sorry. The book recommends stir-frying the beetroot first and letting it cool down before making the mixture, if you want to tone down the beetroot flavour. To be honest, I think it was nice raw and I keep thinking we should try to eat more beetroot, but it is a bit of a hassle to prepare it as it can stain and also as it would discolour our food. My Sister Bip usually makes juice and she's promised to make some for us next time we go to Sweden.

As for carbs, I'd bought some lovely baby potatoes, which I first steamed and then fried in the left-over oil from the chicken burgers. If you do that, I strongly recommend that you warm up the oven to about 80 °C and keep the burgers warm. But of course burger buns would work just as well, maybe add some sliced tomato, red onion and a couple of salad leaves.

Finely chopping the chicken took a lot of effort, as the processor attachment on my handheld blender broke the other week and so I don't recommend doing this on a week-day. But it's well worth trying to dice finely, rather than mince as the burger texture was very good. I was also pleased that I didn't need to get my hands dirty forming patties and I'll try that when I make Bulgarian meatballs in the future. I used my ice cream scoop to plop 3 scoops into the frying pan and then gently pressed them down, leaving about a cm between them. But next time I'll add a spicier chilli paste.

Lundulph's verdict - nice texture, meatier than normal burgers, tasted nice and the beetroot and potatoes worked well with them.

5 July 2015

Trinidad Moruga Scorpion

Some time ago, my friend Electric Bob kindly gave me a small bag of chilli seeds labelled "Trinidad Moruga Scorpion" and with the comment that they are among the hottest type of chilli there is. A few months ago I finally got around to planting them and they all happily sprouted and grew and grew. I even gave a couple to brother-in-law Roger as he's a keen grower of unusual plants.

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And indeed in the Spring the first flowers appeared, I dug out a small brush and set to work pollinating them every morning and one set fruit. This fruit seemed mis-shapen from the start, but it grew and grew until it reached the size of a walnut and then stopped.

After our trip to Sweden in early June, we came home to this chilli as it had started blushing and within a couple of weeks it was bright red. Lundulph was quite pleased as it matched the colour of his favourite football team.

I left it on the plant for a bit longer and the other day I decided to make a curry with it, so I went for what is arguably my favourite curry - Chicken Do-Piaza.

I used some chilli powder and added Mr Scorpion at the end. I cut off his tail and sniffed it - not only did it smell wondefully, it was also noticeable that it was going to be spicy. Lundulph had a sniff too and concurred.

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As it turned out, it was indeed massively spicy hot - in addition to the 4 tbsp of yoghurt the original recipe states, I added at least 500 g more and still it was plenty hot. Lundulph reckoned that one chilli would have been enough for 10 more curries... It's a good thing I had also made a huge bowl of tarator, which we ended up having as dessert. That calmed down the taste buds.

Since then, there have been plenty more flowers, but only a couple of fruits and they are still tiny. But once they ripen, we'll be sorted out for the rest of the year at least.

We had the curry with teff and courgette spaghetti. Teff is an Ethiopian cereal. I need to do more research on how to cook it, the instructions on the packet didn't give a good result, it tasted more like semolina pudding. The courgette spaghetti was very nice though - courgette sliced lengthwise, then boiled for 5 minutes. Very nice and pretty.

Lundulph's verdict: the hottest chilli ever.

3 July 2015

Fish Burgers With Guacamole

With the success of the lovely teriyaki salmon skewers, I cracked on with the next recipe I'd marked up in my new diet cook book.

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However, Lundulph had made an impulse purchase of smoked herring and suggested I use it, rather than the suggested fish in the recipe, which was either salmon, haddock or hoki. The result was really not to my taste and frankly why would such a small fish need so many bones? Lundulph obligingly ate all of the burgers, apart from the one bite I tried. I think using one of the suggested fish would work better. The recipe actually calls for raw fish, not pre-cooked in any way. In fact they recommend frozen fish, that's been allowed to partially thaw, for easier handling.

Ingredients

Guacamole
1 small red onion
2 tomatoes
1 large avocado
2 tsp lemon juice
a few drops Tabasco
salt and pepper

Burgers 200 g smoked herring
2 boiled potatoes
1 egg
2 tbsp fresh chopped dill
salt and pepper
1 - 2 tbsp butter for frying

Method

  1. If the fish is frozen, take out to thaw.
  2. Starting with the guacamole, peel and dice the red onion finely and place in a bowl.
  3. Dice the tomato and add to the bowl. Peel the avocado, dice it and mash up with a fork, then add to the bowl.
  4. Stir through and add lemon juice, Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste, then cover with cling film and set aside.
  5. Chop the partially thawed fish finely and place on a piece of kitchen tissue to drain off.
  6. Peel and grate the potatoes, then stir together with the fish in a large bowl.
  7. Stir in the egg, dill, salt and pepper, then form into small flat patties.
  8. Heat up the butter and fry the patties until golden brown.

Serve with granary or rye bread and perhaps sliced tomato and lettuce. I didn't have any suitable bread, so I served with quinoa, stir-fried mixed veggies and alfalfa sprouts.

As I said, this really wasn't to my taste and spending most of the evening removing tiny bones from the herring didn't contribute to enjoying this meal.

The guacamole was OK, unfortunately the original recipe stated way too much lemon juice and I ended up adding a second avocado to neutralise the flavour. I had the left-overs for breakfast the next day on a slice of toast, which was very yummy.

30 June 2015

Teriyaki Salmon Skewers

For my birthday, my lovely Sister Bip bought me two cookery books from the itrim programme (in Swedish), which started a few years ago in Sweden and is now spreading across the world. I've mentioned them before and I must say the two books are looking very good with beautiful photos and relatively simple recipes that are quick to make.

I looked through the first book a few days ago and marked up recipes that seemed like both Lundulph and I would like and given that a heat wave had just kicked in, I decided on teriyaki salmon skewers, which also claims to be the simplest recipe in the book.

Ingredients

250 g salmon fillet
½ dl thick teriyaki sauce
a few chives for decoration
quinoa
stir-fry ready vegetables
oil for stir-frying soy sauce

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 ° C and check the salmon fillet for bones and remove them as well as the skin.
  2. Cut the fillet into cubes of about 2 - 3 cm and put on bamboo skewers.
  3. Drizzle the teriyaki sauce over the fish and use a brush to spread it all over the pieces, then leave on the side for a few minutes.
  4. If needed, rinse the quinoa and cook 1 part quinoa with 2 parts water for 15 minutes, then let stand to soak up any remaining water.
  5. Turn the salmon skewers around and brush to get more teriyaki sauce on them, then bake in the oven for about 10 minutes.
  6. Stir-fry the vegetables in a little oil for a few minutes. Sprinkle some soy sauce over.
  7. Plate up salmon, quinoa and vegetables, cut some chives over the salmon and serve.

Indeed a very simple recipe and extremely yummy and we finished it very quickly. Definitely a good alternative to meatballs, potatoes and "brun sås" as emergency food, when we come home late from work and are too tired to cook a proper meal.

28 June 2015

Coconut Flour Bickies

Earlier this year, I bought a huge packet of coconut flour as it sounded intriguing, not considering for a moment that I should perhaps start with a smaller amount and see if it works for me.

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So the first thing I did was to split it in two and take one half to Sweden and my sister Bip. I sincerely hope she's using it, because it's actually pretty good, even if the recipes I found after a quick google session didn't really inspire me. I've used it in my Arunachal curry instead of blending dessicated coconut. It changes the texture and taste a little, but works absolutely fine and saves some time on blending.

Since Friday I've been planning to make another batch of stamped cookies and wanted to use some of the coconut flour in the recipe as well. Due to administrative errors, I only managed to do them today, and as it's very hot, I've been moving the butter in and out of the fridge to stop it from melting, yet not going cold and hard either.

And as it was Gay Pride in London yesterday, I thought I'd play with my food colours and make them rainbow coloured. The recipe is the same I used back in January when I first got the cookie press.

Ingredients

170 g unsalted butter at room temperature
150 g caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 egg, preferably large
½ tsp vanilla extract
100 g coconut flour
150 g plain flour
6 food colours for a rainbow

Method

  1. Start a couple of hours early by placing at least 3 baking sheets in the freezer.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C (fan assisted).
  3. Cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy in a large bowl.
  4. Add the egg and the vanilla extract and incorporate well.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the coconut flour and the plain flour, then slowly add to the butter mixture until a fairly solid "dough" forms.
  6. Divide up into 6 equal parts and colour each one with a rainbow colour - purple, blue, green, red, orange and yellow.
  7. Starting from the purple, flatten to about ½ cm thickness and form into an oblong rectangle. Mine were a bit too thick and were about 3 x 15 cm.
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  8. Repeat with the blue, then green, then red, then orange and finally yellow and stack them on top of the purple in that order.
  9. Using a large sharp knife, cut the stack along the middle, then carefully insert into the cookie press.
  10. Take out one of the frozen sheets and stamp the cookies with the press directly on it - no baking paper, no greasing.
  11. Bake the biscuits for 6 minutes, then remove, allow to cool a little on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Swapping part of the flour resulted in a somewhat crumblier dough I think, but still soft and workable and stamped better than my previous attempts. However on tasting the biscuits, Lundulph thought they could do with a bit more sugar and I agree, so I've increased the amount to 150 g. Lundulph suggested adding icing - in particular dipping the bases of them just a little, which would balance them better, so I'll do that later today. Or just drizzle over them, depending on how good my icing turns out.

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I also expected them to taste more strongly of coconut, but they didn't. Maybe reducing the vanilla might do the trick. Still the texture is nice, so I'm quite pleased with this variant, though I might not do them rainbow coloured next time, I'm not entirely pleased with the end effect. An option would be to stamp out different colours with the same pattern, then carefully take the pieces apart and re-combine with mixed colours. But I don't see this happening any time soon, I just feel tired thinking about the amount of fiddling this would require.