25 August 2017

Knäckebröd Pizza

Lundulph has become seriously addicted to Swedish crispbread and he's quite right, it is very tasty. And like many Swedes who live abroad, we as well as all our guests from Sweden bring packets and packets of crispbread. And on one of the packet, there was a recipe idea of using a round of crispbread as a pizza base. We almost missed it, because it was in such a small font, we thought it might be the ingredients and nutritional listing.

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One thing to note is that many of the Swedish crispbreads have one side on which the bread was baked and which is reasonably flat. Then there is the other side, which has deep holes in it - this is the Sunday side. Monday to Saturday, you butter the flat side, but on Sunday you butter the Sunday side, so you get more butter. Not sure how true this is, but I like it either way.

Ingredients

1 round of crispbread
100 g fiery chilli pesto
1 handful of sweetcorn
1 handful of canned mushrooms
½ roast pepper cut into small thin strips
thinly sliced pepperoni
black olives

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Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C and place a large piece of baking paper on an oven rack and place the crispbread round on it with the Sunday side up.
  2. Spread the pesto over the round going all the way to the edges.
  3. Sprinkle the sweetcorn, mushrooms and roast peppers, then cover everything with the pepperoni. Finish with a few olives.
  4. Bake in the oven until the pepperoni slices shrink, but before they start looking dry, then remove, cut and eat.

In the baking, the crispbread soaks up some of the liquid and fat from the toppings and goes a bit chewy yet doesn't disintegrate and one round is just about right for two people. Very easy and tasty.

Lundulph says it's not as nice as real pizza, but was nice enough.

Also, in the photo of the ready pizza, it looks like the edges have been blackened - this is the pesto that went black, I baked it for a touch too long. I did better in the second one I did, but didn't take a photo of it.

16 August 2017

Cinnamon Pear Cake

During one of my rummagings through my recipe collection, I came across this recipe, which I carefully set aside for when pears would be in season and I could harvest some of the lovely pears of Lundulph's parents' tree.

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Ingredients

Batter
1½ tsp baking powder
3½ dl plain flour
150 g unsalted butter at room temperature
2 dl caster sugar
3 large eggs
½ dl plain yoghurt

Filling
1 dl dark muscovado sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly ground cardamom
2 firm but sweet pears

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 °C. Butter and flour a large gugelhupf cake tin (25 cm diameter).
  2. Stir together the baking powder and flour in a bowl.
  3. In another, larger bowl, cream together butter and sugar, then whisk until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk in to incorporate fully before adding the next.
  5. Sift the flour mixture into the batter and add the yoghurt and stir through to mix thoroughly.
  6. Spoon carefully into the gugelhupf tin, making sure it's evenly distributed and level.
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  7. In a small bowl, stir together the muscovado sugar, cinnamon and cardamom.
  8. Wash and peel the pears, trim the stalk and cut into four wedges. Remove the seed core. If the pieces are too long, trim the thin parts to make them roughly the same length as the depth of the batter.
  9. Roll each pear piece into the muscovado mixture and push into the cake batter, space the 8 wedges evenly. The pears can stick out a cm or two above the surface.
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  10. Sprinkle any leftover muscovado mixture on top of the cake.
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  11. Bake the cake in the oven for 45 minutes, check with a skewer if it's ready before removing, but careful not to pierce a pear.
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  12. Remove from the oven and let cool down a bit in the tin before turning out onto a cooling rack, but still leaving the tin over it.
  13. The cake can be lightly dusted with icing sugar when serving.

This is a really tasty cake, I ended up making it twice in quick succession. There are two tricky bits to it - choosing suitable pears, that are sweet, but reasonably firm and not too juicy and pushing the pears in so that they'll end up in the middle of each slice of cake. I didn't succeed on either of these. The first cake had pears that weren't quite ripe enough, so there was a crunch to them and not much flavour. The second cake used riper pears, but this resulted in them going quite mushy in the bake, so I need to do more research on pears suitable for baking. And I also failed on the second point:

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Lundulph wanted to have a stronger pear flavour too, but all in all, very tasty.

5 August 2017

Vietnamese Salad Rolls

We recently went to Australia and while at Brisbane Airport early in the morning of our return, Lundulph and I went our separate ways to hunt for breakfast. The food court we were in, didn't seem to cater much for breakfast. While Lundulph ended up queueing at three different food outlets just to put together something in the vicinity of a sandwich and a tea, I marched straight to the corner where the Vietnamese street food outlet was located and bought a lovely looking roll thingy with tofu and greens and opted for a spicy Hoisin sauce to go with it.

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This turned out to be a revelation and a flood of ideas in my head for various fillings. So nice and fresh and filling and no guilty feelings of gobbling an unhealthy item!

Therefore, I set off for my two nearest supermarkets and their "special ingredients" sections, only to find disappointment - there was no rice paper to be found. Luckily there are a couple of Asian food markets in my nearest town, so as the heat wave kicked off in the South East of England, I armed myself with a Frappucino and went in search of rice paper. I struck gold in the second of the two shops and bought two packets, just to be on the safe side.

I'd also bought several fresh herbs that I like - basil, tarragon, dill, mint and chives. And a packet of stir-fry veg because it's a good mix of things and cut at the right size; some ready cooked and peeled king prawns for Lundulph and halloumi for myself. I'd also been to my local Pick-Your-Own and brought home a back of broad beans. So I searched on google about how to fold the rolls and got to work, following one of the many the instructions available.

After de-podding the broad beans, I fried them with a little butter and salt. I cut the halloumi into slices and fried in the same pan as the broad beans, then cut into strips and had everything else ready. Using my large pie dish, I half-filled it with room-temperature water. Using a large chopping board as base, I dampened the surface about the size of one of the rice paper rounds. I then dipped one of the rounds into the pie dish and "massaged" it a bit to get it pliable - this took only a few seconds. Then quickly onto the damp circle on the chopping board, line up a selection of the broad beans, stir-fry veg and herbs, then fold. For Lundulph, I lined up 3 prawns on per roll, and for me a couple of halloumi sticks for me. Then a couple of chives before completing the final fold of each roll.

It's good to work reasonably fast in putting the rolls together, or the rice paper wrappers will tear I found, so no photos of the folding process. I also found that the rolls would happily stick together, so I tried to keep them in one row only and not touching too much. I covered them with cling film and kept in the fridge until lunch. Lundulph and I ate 4 rolls each and Lundulph was surprised at how filling they were. At which point I realised that they were also very low carb, since I'd not used any rice or noodles inside. This of course made it difficult to dip and we ended up using tea spoons to drizzle sauce instead.

For dipping, I'd bought a ginger-chilli sauce and a Hoisin sauce and we also tried a satay sauce as well. Lundulph liked the ginger-chilli sauce best, while the Hoisin worked best for my spring rolls with the salty halloumi. We tried the satay sauce, but weren't too impressed with it in this instance.

Some further googling has revealed a lot of other ideas for rice paper wrappers that I'd love to try.

30 July 2017

Georgian Inspired Coconut Macaroons

During my Sister Bip's visit this year, we went to the beautiful estate of Petworth. We've visited before, but only the park. This time we planned ahead and went early, so were also able to go into the house as well. Most interesting for me were the kitchens, which were set up the way they were in the Georgian era and there were a number of ladies dressed up and demonstrating various activities that would have been done then. Very exciting, because they were baking different biscuits and were also giving out recipes, so I quickly grabbed one.

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From the four recipes, the one I had all the ingredients for was the coconut macaroons, so that's the one I made to take into work the following day. So it was quite good that although the recipe stated it would make 24, I got 36 of these.

Ingredients

4 large egg whites
115 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
&188; tsp salt
170 g desiccated coconut
100 g dark chocolate for decoration

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C and line a couple of baking sheets with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract and salt to stiff peaks stage of a meringue.
  3. Carefully fold in the coconut to distribute it evenly within the meringue.
  4. Using two tablespoons, make quenelles of about 3 cm length and place onto the baking sheets, allowing some 5 cm space between them.
  5. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until they go golden on top and look dry on the surface.
  6. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, the carefully transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
  7. When all macaroons have cooled completely, melt the dark chocolate. It's not necessary to temper the choclate.
  8. Place in a small piping bag, cut a tiny hole then pipe over all the macaroons and let set.
  9. Store the macaroons in an airtight container, layered between pieces of baking paper.

These turned out very similar to the Swedish coconut tops I've made before, but a variant without yolks. However, these were very sticky. Tasty none the less and although the chocolate wasn't in the recipe leaflet, it did make them even nicer.

I actually piped the mixture, but this didn't work very well, as the meringue reverted back to liquid and separated somewhat, so the macaroons became runnier towards the end. I've added a note about this at the bottom on the leaflet with an exclamation mark. I've also written to use a silicone mat rather than baking paper. I do have one, but I don't think I've ever used it, I'll need to see if I can find it.

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Lundulph and I shared one of these, the rest I packed up and took to work on my first day of my new job. They were popular despite their stickiness and Lundulph was a bit sad that there weren't any left over for him.

21 July 2017

Rhubarb Harvest

After much procrastination about what to do with this year's rhubarb harvest, I finally got some motivation for it when I was asked to bake a cake for a barbecue we'd been invited to in late July. After searching for some ideas on decorations on the internet, I decided to go for this one. Unfortunately I didn't opt to follow the actual recipe, just for the look at the top of the cake.
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For the filling, I wanted to do something with jelly. Now I'm really not confident about using gelatine, I usually get it wrong and this time my Sister Bip insisted that I make it vegetarian friendly, so we bought agar flakes to try out.

The cake itself was my usual sponge recipe:

Ingredients

50 g unsalted butter
3 dl plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
2 dl caster sugar
1 dl single cream

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 °C and butter and four a springform cake tin of 20 cm diameter.
  2. Melt the butter on low heat and leave to cool.
  3. Sift together the flour and baking powder.
  4. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until very pale and fluffy.
  5. Slowly whisk in the flour, alternating with the cream.
  6. Finally fold in the melted butter, then pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for about 35 minutes.

As it would be a large party, I made two of these, where I sliced a couple of rhubarb stalks lengthwise and placed on top of one of the cakes and sprinkled some caster sugar before baking it.
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Once both cakes were baked, I started on the rhubarb. I chose this recipe from the BBC, it seemed nice and simple.

Ingredients

750 g rhubarb stalks
150 g caster sugar
1 dl orange juice
4 dl water
agar flakes

Method

  1. Trim, wash and dice the rhubarb stalks. Prepare a sieve with double layers of cheese cloth inside it and stand over a bowl.
  2. Place the rhubarb in a thick-bottomed saucepan together with the sugar, orange juice and water and bring to the boil.
  3. Simmer for 10 minutes, then strain the mixture, making sure it's all dripped through. You may have to help a bit with a spoon to push it through. Do not discard the remaining rhubarb.
  4. Measure up the amount of liquid from the rhubarb and work out how many tablespoons of agar flakes are required to set it.
  5. I wanted two layers of rhubarb jelly, so I divided the liquid into two and made one at a time, following the instructions on the agar flake packet and then pouring into a shallow dish of the right diameter for the cake. I lined it with cling film, to make sure I'd be able to get it out.
  6. The agar flakes set quite quickly, compared to gelatine, but still allowed enough time to do everything without rushing.

I think the rhubarb jelly set a bit too hard. The packet said to increase the amount of flakes somewhat if setting acidic fruit and I thought rhubarb would be acidic, so I followed this recommendation. What I should have done is to experiment first and make adjustments. But I skipped this because I wasn't sure I'd have enough rhubarb liquid for the two layers.

For the middle filling of the cake, I wanted to use custard, again inspired by the rhubarb tea cake. But I decided to buy ready made fresh custard, rather than make my own. This was quite runny, so I added some agar flakes to set it, but it seems I didn't add enough or they didn't dissolve well or something, because I didn't get the consistency I was aiming for. I wasn't able to find any useful guidance on the internet either.

To make sure the cake wasn't too dry, I made a light sugar syrup.

Ingredients

1¼ parts caster sugar
2 parts water

Method

  1. Place the sugar and water in a thick-bottomed pan and bring to the boil on low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Simmer for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and leave to cool

I cut each of the two cakes in half and as I built up the layers, I brushed a little syrup. Sadly I was worried I'd over-do it and ended up not using enough, so it wasn't noticeable and was quite dry. Must remember to be braver. The term for this is "imbibing" and that should give some indication of the amounts required.

So, bottom sponge, then a layer of the rhubarb jelly, then a second sponge, then the custard, then a third sponge, then another rhubarb jelly, then finally the decorated top sponge.
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Sadly the rhubarbs got engulfed during the baking, possibly I should have made them thinner and a bit shorter so they could rise along with the cake surface. I think they got stuck together, so the sponge just rose around them.

Overall the cake didn't look too pretty and didn't taste too nice either, mostly down to the dryness and the texture of the parts. But I think the idea was sound overall.

Now for the remaining squeezed out rhubarb pulp - I had a packet of filo pastry in the freezer and I wanted to try and make what Lundulph terms Rhubarbnik (to match the Bulgarian pumpkin pie tikvenik). And I had custard to spare too.

So I cut the filo pastry into rectangular strips and piped some rhubarb pulp and some custard, then rolled up, brushed with butter and baked until golden brown.

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These turned out very nice, but again the custard was just too thin and I couldn't be bothered to try and thicken it either, so it oozed out sadly. I think that perhaps wrapping like samosas might work better here. Or I could have just added more rhubarb to the pulp and made jam again, that usually goes down well.

25 June 2017

A Different Aubergine Dip

Often when I'm bored, I'll look for recipes and I came across this one, which seemed very intriguing. Besides, Lundulph always states that aubergines are his favourite purple vegetable, so I set about to make it.

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Like many of the people commenting on this recipe, the main surprise is the boiling of the aubergines. And although I opted for the standard type of aubergines from the supermarket, after boiling, the texture seemed along the right lines and they were very easy to peel. I was wondering if this could be an alternative to baking/roasting them for kyopoolu.

I cut the aubergines in chunks, added the remaining ingredients and blended. Yes, the original recipe state to do everything in a pestle and mortar, but I don't have a large one and it's ceramic and unglazed, so would have soaked up a lot of the liquid and probably ruined everything else I'd choose to put in it ever after.

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It certainly looks a bit like kyopoolu, doesn't it? But, what struck me was the blandness of the dish, even after letting the flavours develop overnight in the fridge. It could well be because I used European type of aubergines, it could well be that I used the generic supermarket chillies. But it was not nice to eat at all and I was very sad about it, because it did sound nice. I mentioned the boiling of aubergines to my Mum and she didn't think this was a good or interesting idea at all. She turned out to be right in this instance. I may try this another time with the correct ingredients, but I might just stick with my pepper roaster and get the smoky flavour that I so like.

21 June 2017

Shredded Beef

This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, but never got round to. However, during my last escapade to Costco, I picked up some very nice looking flank steak with the vague intent of doing something slow cooked like a guyvetch. But when I found this recipe, that vague intent took form into a plan.

Lundulph is not a big fan of tacos or burritos, but with my recent escapade into Vietnamese street food, I have a plan for the shredded beef already.

A note on the ingredients. The original recipe states 1.5 kg of meat, I had just over 800 g, so was going to halve all other amounts. But I didn't write down the halved amounts, which resulted in making the full amount of sauce. This is not a bad thing.

Ingredients

Spice mixture
1.5 tbsp chipotle flakes
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp garlic granules
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

Other ingredients
1 - 1.5 kg beef suitable for slow cooking
3 large cloves of garlic
1 large onion
1 ¾ dl orange juice
2 tbsp lemon juice
400 g can crushed tomatoes
5 dl beef stock (3 Oxo cubes)
2 - 3 tbsp grapeseed oil

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients for the spice mixture in a mortar and pestle and stir through to mix well and also grind things down to roughly the same size.
  2. Cut the beef into large chunks (about the size of a hand) if needed and pat dry with kitchen paper.
  3. Sprinkle the meat with about half of the spice mixture, pat to get them well coated and get the spices to stick.
  4. Peel the garlic and onion and dice. Prepare the beef stock if using stock cubes.
  5. Put the oil in a casserole dish and heat on high, then brown all the meat, in batches if needed so as not to crowd it and set aside.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium and add a bit more oil, if it looks dry. Add the garlic and onion, stir well, scraping the bottom of the casserole to get the flavour from the beef. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, to soften the onion.
  7. Add the orange and lemon juices, the crushed tomatoes and beef stock along with the remaining spice mixture and stir through to combine.
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 160 °C and add the beef back into the casserole. It should be mostly covered by the liquid, if not, add a little water.
  9. Bring the stew to a boil, cover the casserole and put in the oven for 2 h.
  10. After 2 h, check if the beef is tender enough to pull apart with a fork, if not, let it cook for a further 30 min and check again. Repeat until the beef is shreddable.
  11. When the beef is done, carefully remove from the cooking liquid and shred with a couple of forks while it's still hot.
  12. Carefully blend the cooking juices to make smooth, then simmer without lid to reduce to the desired consistency.
  13. Mix the shredded beef and sauce as required, but keep separate for storage/freezing.

This recipe was surprisingly easy and having ready-made shredded beef in advance is quite a bonus, Lundulph had it as his protein ingredient in his salad on the same night I made it, then had some with ratatouille for lunch the following day, along with some of the sauce, prior to blending and reducing. Now that sauce has some kick to it from the chipotle flakes, I got tears in my eyes after a couple of spoonfuls of my ratatouille, not to mention my traditional coughing and spluttering on the first mouthful of spicy hot food, which I very rarely manage to dodge.

So, a good place to stop is after shredding the beef. I was sorely tempted to just leave it in chunks, but suspected it would be more difficult to shred, once it had cooled down, so shredded it straight away. I've yet to blend the sauce and I'm not sure it needs to be reduced and thickened any further, perhaps this makes more sense if I'd added extra water for the slow cook. I've also yet to freeze this dish. The original recipe recommends keeping beef and sauce apart to avoid the beef going soggy and I think this is a good idea, so I'll stick with that.

The sauce was certainly a good add-on to my usual ratatouille, which this time also benefitted from some broad beans, which I got from my local Pick-Your-Own.

My main plan with the shredded beef is to use it in Vietnamese Salad Rolls for Midsummer's Eve, which is tomorrow.

I'm most pleased with finally trying out chipotle chillies. Though I'm sure I've eaten dishes with chipotle chillies, but I've never used them . When I bought them from the shop, I also took the opportunity to buy a jar of ancho chilli flakes as well, they are different too, so I'll need to try and use them at some point as well. I did open both jars to compare the aromas, both were very nice.

Finally I realise I've forgotten to take a photo of this yummy dish, I'll have to try and remember to do this next time, it's definitely a repeat.