25 November 2014

Nutty Chewy Treats

Another recipe I came across in going through my recipe collection is the following. It's really easy and massively tasty, yet I'd managed to miss it completely in the 20 odd years I've had it.

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Ingredients
Make 18 large pieces

100 g pecan nuts
1.5 dl icing sugar
2 large egg whites
pecan halves for decoration (optional)

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150 °C fan and line two baking sheets with baking paper.
  2. Place the pecans and the icing sugar in a food processor and blend together as finely as possible, but without the pecans releasing their oil.
  3. In a separate non-plastic bowl whisk the egg whites to stiff peak stage.
  4. Carefully add the nut/sugar mixture a bit at a time and fold in.
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  5. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a fairly open star nozzle and pipe lengths of about 7 cm onto the baking paper, making sure to leave a lot of space between them as they'll swell during baking. Decorate with a pecan half on top if using these.
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  6. Bake for about 25 - 30 minutes, then remove and allow to cool on a wire rack. Store in an air tight container.

Once the nut/sugar mixture has been folded into the egg whites, the whole thing will appear to collapse a bit, this is OK.

The original recipe said hazelnuts, but it seems I forgot to buy these, so used pecans instead. I also forgot to put a pecan half on top of each. It also said to bake for 15 minutes, however at this point the treats were firmly stuck to the paper. Now since these are basically meringues with nuts, just like macarons, I resorted to the rescue method and baked for a further 15 minutes. They'd sunk in a little by then, but given how ugly my piping was, this didn't really matter.

For next time, I'll pipe round rosettes instead, so that they can be eaten in one bite as they are fairly crumbly along with the lovely chewiness in the middle. Lundulph and I gobbled ours up way too quickly.

I'd also like to try them with different nuts, in which case the decoration on top is a good way to know which one you're eating.

Curried Aubergine and Potato Pie

I've been rummaging through my recipe collection for ideas on what to do this Christmas and so I came across a small book which I received as a farewell gift when I left a previous job some years back. It's the Good Food 101 Hot& Spicy Dishes book and it has quite a few interesting things in it, I've just not tried any of them yet.

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But since Lundulph's vegeterian week challenge, the following recipe took my fancy, especially since I know that Lundulph loves aubergines.

Ingredients

1 kg waxy potatoes
1 large onion
1 large clove garlic
3 medium sized aubergines
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp curry powder
1 can of chopped tomatoes (400 g)
1 dl water
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 can of chick peas (400 g)
salt and pepper to taste
butter

Method

  1. Wash and if necessary peel the potatoes, then cut into bite-sized chunks and steam/boil until soft.
  2. Peel the onion and garlic and chop finely.
  3. Trim and wash the aubergines, then cut into chunks of about the same size as the potatoes.
  4. Heat up the olive oil and fry the onion and garlic gently until transluscent.
  5. Add the aubergines and fry for about 8 - 10 minutes until they start going soft.
  6. Stir in the curry powder and fry for a further minute or so, while stirring constantly.
  7. Add the chopped tomatoes, use the water to rinse off the can. Also add the tomato puree and chick peas and cook for a couple of more minutes.
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C fan and grease a deep oven proof dish.
  9. Transfer the aubergine mixture to the dish, then add the potatoes on top, covering the aubergines.
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  10. Cut very thin slices of butter and place over the potatoes here and there.
  11. Bake for 35 minutes, until the potatoes go golden brown and crunchy.
The recipe is lovely as it is, though I wouldn't call it hot and spicy. Perhaps if I'd used hot curry powder possibly, but currently I have medium. So next time, I'll add more curry powder and also swap the tomato purée for harissa or chipotle paste. Possibly some mushrooms wouldn't go awry either, but there is a risk of ending up with a baked ratatouille. Lundulph certainly enjoyed it as did I. It works both as a main dish and as side with meat.

21 November 2014

Coconut Onigiri

When my Sister Bip came to visit back in September, the last thing we did was to try two new desserts from Wagamama - the sweet onigiri and the mochi ice cream. Both turned out to be really tasty and I set about to try my hand at these beautiful and tasty delicacies from Japan. It took me a while to get all the ingredients, mainly because I kept forgetting to put them on my shopping list, but finally today I got my act together and made the onigiri.

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Obviously Wagamama haven't published the recipe, but a quick search on coconut onigiri gave resulted in this recipe with instructions, which seemed to be on the right line. I made some minor adjustments and converted to metric amounts.

Ingredients

2.5 dl sushi rice
5 dl coconut milk drink
0.7 dl granulated sugar
3 tbsp maple syrup
1.25 dl dessicated coconut
white drinking chocolate (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the rice in a sieve and rinse well under running water.
  2. Transfer the rice to a casserole dish, add the coconut milk drink, granulated sugar and maple syrup. Stir through and bring to a boil.
  3. Put the lid on and let simmer gently for about 15 or so minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Place the dessicated coconut in a pan and toast for a few minutes under constant stirring - some of the flakes should go golden brown. Once this happens, remove from the heat and set aside.
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  5. Once the time is up on the rice, turn off the heat and leave the rice to stand for a further 10 - 15 minutes. The liquid should have soaked into the rice and it should have the consistency of a thick porridge.
  6. Transfer the rice to a bowl, add the toasted coconut and mix well.
  7. Sprinkle white drinking chocolate on a large plate and also place some in a small bowl. Using latex gloves, form small balls from the rice, about the size of walnuts. Then roll these in the white chocolate in the bowl and place on the plate.
  8. The chocolate will likely melt/soak in, so they'll end up just as sticky as before, however it adds a nice flavour to the onigiri.

Actually, talking through these with Lundulph we thought that dipping the onigiri in melted white chocolate would work nicely. This would mean we'd need to eat them cold of course. So far, we've whizzed a few in the microwave and had them warm, which is really nice and I'm not sure if cold would be as nice. Perhaps if I make them a little smaller.

Using ganache as a filling would probably also be quite nice and I'm trying to work out how to achieve the ones at Wagamama, which had been battered and deep fried very briefly, adding an extra crunch.

18 November 2014

Quick Kimchi

I've been thinking of trying my hand at kimchi for a while and as I'd ended up with spare courgettes the other day, I looked round for a recipe involving courgettes and I came across this one. The recipe also calls for cabbage and I had some left over from the cabbage rolls I made a couple of weeks ago, so things worked out quite nicely.

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Ingredients

1.5 l water
3 tbsp salt
600 g cabbage coarsely shredded
400 g courgettes cut into 4 cm thin strips
3 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 large clove of garlic, pressed
2 tbsp Korean chilli powder (gochujang)
1 tbsp sugar

Method

  1. Place the water in a large non-metal bowl and stir in 2.5 tbsp of the salt.
  2. Add the cabbage and courgettes into the water and leave for about 12 h, stirring occasionally.
  3. Scoop out the vegetables and transfer to a side bowl, but keep the brine.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the ginger, garlic, chilli powder, sugar and the remaining salt, then stir the mixture into the vegetables.
  5. Transfer the vegetables into glass jars, packing as tightly as possible. Add any liquid the vegetables might have released and top up with the saved brine.
  6. Place a piece of baking paper over each jar and secure with a rubber band. Let stand in room temperature for 3 days, the jars should start bubbling a little.
  7. After 3 days, taste the kimchi. If it tastes nice, put lids on the jars and store in the fridge, if not, leave for longer and taste every now and then until ready.

We ended up leaving the kimchi for one extra day. The only thing is, the courgettes went quite mushy and neither Lundulph nor I liked them much. But the cabbage was really good. I'll try to remember to get spring onions, like in the original recipe next time. But I'll swap the courgettes for carrots. Lundulph also suggested beet root, though the whole thing will end up purple. Hm, perhaps with red cabbage...

10 November 2014

Cauliflower soup

This is a recipe from our local magazine, which this month had three warming recipes for warming up after having been to see the fireworks at Bonfire Night. Normally it's cold and wet and Lundulph and I will sit with our feet in warm water drinking whisky, however this year we've had a heat wave and it was 17 °C! Absolutely no need to warm up at all.

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But I decided to try this recipe anyway, since I really do need to improve my soup making and we've been having canned soups for way too long. And I'm glad I did, this turned out quite nice.

Ingredients

1 large head of cauliflower (mine was 1157 g)
3 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
1 large onion
15 g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 l water
4 vegetable stock cubes
1 tbsp chanterelle stock concentrate (optional)
1 dl boiled arborio rice
1 large clove of garlic
fresh parsley and chilli sauce to garnish

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C fan.
  2. Cut up the cauliflower into florets, wash and drain.
  3. Place in an oven pan, drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper, then stir round to coat the florets.
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  4. Bake the cauliflower for 30 - 40 minutes until it start going golden brown and begins to soften.
  5. Peel and dice the onion, then fry it in the butter and olive oil until it goes translucent.
  6. Peel and finely dice the garlic.
  7. Bring the water to the boil and stir in the stock cubes and the chanterelle stock concentrate.
  8. Add also the onions, rice and garlic and stir through while simmering.
  9. When the cauliflowers are ready, add them to the soup and let simmer for a further 15 minutes.
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  10. Allow to stand for a few minutes, then using a blender, carefully blend the soup.
  11. Serve with fresh parsley and chilli sauce on top.

This is very little effort for a very nice flavour. After blending, the soup was quite thick, which Lundulph seemed very happy about. I would have preferred it a little runnier. So a bit more water next time. I think the original recipe stated that the garlic should be fried together with the onion and I forgot that, but I don't think adding it later made too much difference. The original recipe didn't include the rice, but I had some left over from the cabbage rolls I made the other day and I wanted to use it up.

9 November 2014

Kåldolmar

Kåldolmar translates to cabbage rolls and is one of my favourite school dinner dishes. It appears these have been made in Sweden since the 18th century and are heavily influenced by the vine leaf rolls made in the Eastern Mediterranean. They differ from the Bulgarian sarma in that they are wrapped in "fresh" cabbage, which is surprisingly sweet.

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My original intention was to try and recreate a dish I had in Latvia a couple of years ago, but I was running late and decided to go for the Swedish variant. I did have left over mince mixture, so I'll try out the Latvian version as well in the coming days. As a guidance I used this recipe (in Swedish).

Ingredients

4 dl mushroom stock
1 ½ dl arborio rice
1 -2 white cabbages
water and salt for blanching
1 medium sized onion
20 g butter
800 g beef mince
2 large eggs
2 tsp dried dill
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried mint
2 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper
butter for greasing

Sauce
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
½ l milk
the baking liquid from the cabbage rolls
2 dl parboiled yellow foot mushrooms
salt and pepper

Garnish
Steamed vegetables

Method

  1. Bring the mushroom stock to the boil and add the arborio rice. Let simmer until the rice is ready and has turned to a watery porridge consistency.
  2. In a large casserole, bring a lot of water to the boil along with some salt. In the mean time, carefully peel off the leaves from the cabbage(s). You'll need about 30 or so leaves.
  3. Place the cabbage leaves in the boiling salty water for a few minutes to blanch and soften them up, so they are easier to handle. Then drain well and set aside.
  4. Peel the onion and chop very finely (or whizz in a food processor), then fry for a few minutes in the butter.
  5. Place the mince in a large bowl and stir in the rice and onion to combine well.
  6. At this point the mixture shouldn't be too hot. Add the eggs and the dried herbs as well as salt and pepper and mix well.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C fan and butter a large deep baking tray.
  8. Take one cabbage leaf at a time, place some of the mince mixture in it (about the size of a golf ball) and roll up the leaf into a package.
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  9. Place in the baking dish and continue until it has been filled.
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    Add 4 dl of the blanching water to the baking dish.
  10. Place a small knob of butter on each cabbage roll, then place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. If the cabbage leaves go brown, cover with aluminium foil.
  11. Now make the sauce by heating up the butter and stirring in the flour.
  12. Fry for a minute or so, then start adding the milk, a little at a time and stir constantly so it doesn't burn.
  13. Once all the milk is in, add the mushrooms, season and leave to simmer for a few minutes, then take off the hob.
  14. When the cabbage rolls are ready, remove from the oven, then pour in their cooking liquid into the mushroom sauce, stir it in and bring the sauce to the boil once again.
  15. As a garnish, steam some vegetables like carrots, cauliflower and French beans.
  16. Ready to serve.

Now reading through the Swedish recipe, it didn't have any herbs or spices for the mince mixture, which I thought was quite strange. Looking at a few more recipes, they all seemed to skip this as well, but I thought this wouldn't work at all. I should have added a bit more than I did in fact, or left the mince mixture for a few hours so that flavours would develop better.

As for the mushroom stock, this is the liquid I save from canned mushrooms. It freezes quite nicely and adds a nice flavour to rice or sauces where water is called for.

I'm very pleased with the end result though and Lundulph liked them too. I particularly liked the mushroom sauce and am pretty sure I'll have to do another batch, to allow us to finish the cabbage rolls. I saved a further ½ l of the blanching liquid and I have more cabbage leaves to go as well. Actually, peeling off the leaves proved quite tricky and I ended up breaking most of the leaves. Now that the two cabbage heads are quite small, I think I'll place them in the blanching liquid and then try to prise off the leaves. I just need to be careful not to boil them for too long, I want to keep some of the crunch.

I also think the cabbage rolls would work with the Madeira sauce I made a couple of years back. And to add even more flavour to the mince mixture, I think capers would be nice too.

As I mentioned, I was running late with the dinner, so completely forgot to steam vegetables. Instead I garnished with sprouted alfalfa, this worked quite OK as well.

1 November 2014

Dolsot Bibimbap

Last year some colleagues took me to a Korean restaurant in London. It's called Bibimbap and was my first experience in the Korean cuisine and it was brilliant. Since then I've taken both Lundulph and my Sister Bip and they both really enjoyed it.

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However, since I no longer work in London, I decided to have a go at this wonderful dish at home and invested in two dolsots. These are large stone bowls in which the bibimbap is made. They are not strictly necessary, but I think make the whole meal a bit more special. They arrived at my doorstep the other day, so I thought I'd try them out straight away.

The first crucial thing to do is to prepare the bowls - they need to be seasoned and oiled. The procedure was a bit curious - fill up with water and add a tbsp of salt, then heat up slowly in the oven. Then you're supposed to put them straight on the hob and let simmer for some time. Now since we had our kitchen re-vamped, we have an induction hob, so absolutely useless with stone. Thus I had to continue with just the oven. At 200 °C the dolsots were hot enough to have a rolling boil of water. Once the time was up, I took the bowls out and wiped them dry. Then I applied sesame oil with a brush and kept doing this until they stopped absorbing it and thus were ready for use. At this point I was wondering if I could also use them for bread baking...

The next thing to do was to get the ingredients and research on how to prepare the bibimbap. As Lundulph is still in his vegetarian week challenge, I had to make sure to get lots of veggies and I opted for carrots, beetroot, courgette, French beans, red and yellow pepper, pak choi and shiitake mushrooms. In addition I sprouted some mung beans and chickpeas for a couple of days. I didn't measure my ingredients, roughly about a handful of each.

Now the first thing to do is to cut everything into julienne strips, this is fairly time consuming and I've decided to invest in a mandolin at the earliest opportunity.

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While doing this, boil some rice - preferably the brown short grain variety which takes about 30 minutes. Keeping all julienned vegetables separate, the instructions stated that each should be blanched and then sautéed. A massive piece of work and not entirely healthy. So I decided to just blanch everything except the pak choi and the mushrooms which I sautéed with a little sesame oil. I left the mung beans and chickpeas uncooked. I allowed 4 minutes for the French beans, 3 minutes each for the carrots and beetroot and 2 minutes each for the courgettes and peppers. I used the same water for all of them, making sure to do the beetroot at the end as it released a lot of deep pink colour.

While blanching, I started heating up the dolsots in the oven, some 15 minutes at 75 °C, then a further 10 minutes at 120 °C, 160 °C and 200 ° respectively. Once at the final oven temperature, I added about ½ tbsp of sesame oil to each bowl, swirled it around and gave it a further 5 minutes to heat up. Once the oil is hot I placed the rice at the bottom of each bowl and pressed it down to spread it evenly at the bottom and a little along the sides. This I left to bake for 10 minutes.

Then taking out one bowl at a time, I placed the vegetables around the rim of the bowl, finally cracking an egg in the middle. Then it's ready to serve. The idea is that once on the table, the person eating will stir everything through and thus cook the egg, as the dolsot is sizzling hot. To add a bit of a kick to the whole thing, Lundulph squirted in about a tablespoon of harissa paste. I was more careful with it, but I also added half a teaspoon of smoky chipotle paste.

I'm very pleased with my first attempt, the rice got the desired crust in the oven and was wonderfully crunchy and all the veggies were really nice - cooked, but still crunchy.

Finally the cleaning of the dolsots - again the Internet had answers. Given the preparation treatment, I suspected that dishwasher was out of the question, but I wasn't too keen on just wiping the bowls clean. Actually what you do is to add a tbsp of rock salt, top up with boiling water and then scrub with a bristle brush. Keep detergents away or they might get absorbed into the stone. Allow to air dry, then brush with sesame oil and it's ready for next time.

Now the above may seem like a lot of effort and it was, which is why a mandolin makes sense. But some further reading about the concept of bibimbap noted that in fact any leftovers can be used as toppings. All you need is the rice bit and it would be a good use of leftover rice too. Lundulph seemed very pleased and agreed that the dolsots were a good investment. And as he likes his food piping hot, the stone bowls do keep their heat throughout the whole meal, which is a great bonus.

List of ingredients for two portions

1 large carrot
1 medium courgette
1 large beetroot
130 g French beans
2 sweet pointed peppers - one red and one yellow
5 - 6 large shiitake mushrooms
handful of mung bean sprouts and chickpea sprouts
2 dl brown short grain rice
toasted sesame oil
2 large eggs
harissa paste and/or smoky chipotle paste
salt to taste

30 October 2014

Fiery Healthy Crispbread

A while ago I came across this recipe (in Swedish) and the photo looked really nice, so I put it on my to bake list.

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I've been meaning to do another batch of crispbread for ages, but since Lundulph and I found that they sell real Swedish crispbread in our local farm shop, I've been buying these and putting off making my own time and time again.

But this week Lundulph has taken up my challenge to go a whole week without meat. This of course means that he'd be particularly hungry when he comes home, so it as a stroke of luck that I made this bread the other day. He could munch on it while I was finishing dinner.

Ingredients

½ dl almond flour or ground almonds
1 dl sesame seeds
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp psyllium husks
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 eggs
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
1 small clove of garlic, pressed
6 finely chopped sundried tomatoes without oil

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 155 °C fan and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
  2. In a bowl, mix together almond flour, sesame seeds, chilli powder and psyllium husks.
  3. Add the oil, eggs, basil, garlic and tomatoes and stir through thoroughly.
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  4. Spread the mixture on the baking sheet as thinly as possible, but making sure there are no "holes", about ½ cm.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave the crispbread in there for a further 30 minutes.
  6. Take out and cut to desired size. Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container.

Now I wasn't able to get hold of sundried tomatoes without oil. There were three different varieties in my supermarket, two of which had the tomatoes swimming in sunflower oil. The third one had just a little at the bottom, so that's the one I bought and patted them dry before chopping. What I also hadn't realised is that they were quite salty. The original recipe recommended adding salt and I added a little, but this was completely unnecessary. Check your sundried tomatoes!

Psyllium husks is also a new thing, I bought a packet ages ago with the intention of trying a paleo bread recipe which called for these. That is also on my baking list and I'll try to make it later on this week. The wikipedia page about them sounds a bit alarming in that these can get dangerous if not prepared with sufficient liquid. Well, both Lundulph and I have eaten this crispbread and are fine.

Unfortunately I managed to burn my first batch, as I baked it for 30 minutes. However Lundulph thought it was quite nice, thanks to being extremely hungry. He also thought that they were very salty, so I should perhaps rinse/soak the sundried tomatoes next time. Thanks to the chilli, there was a very good heat to them. I think they would be very nice with just mashed up avocado or hummus.