20 April 2014

Thai Beef Patties

Once again I'm lagging well behind my blogging, to the point where I'm on the verge of completely forgetting what I've done.

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A couple of weeks back, I made another recipe from my card collection, and it completely doesn't balance the fact that I've accumulated another batch of recipe cards already.

This card is from Waitrose and turned out to be a rather good one. The original recipe is here, but I made some changes as usual.

Ingredients
4 portions

4 Portabello mushrooms
3 carrots
2 courgettes
2 large cloves of garlic
2 red chillies
1 stick of lemon grass
20 g fresh coriander
salt and pepper
8 salad onions
500 g lean beef mince
25 g sesame seeds
toasted sesame oil
1 Romaine lettuce

Method

  1. Peel and chop the mushrooms, carrots and courgettes and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 100 degrees and place an oven-proof dish to heat up inside as well.
  3. Peel, wash and cut into chunks as appropriate the garlic, chillies, lemon grass, coriander and 5 of the onions.
  4. Place the garlic, chillies, lemon grass, coriander and onions into a blender along with salt and pepper and blend until smooth.
  5. Mix the paste together with the mince and make 12 - 14 patties.

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  6. Heat up a little sesame oil in a large pan and fry the patties, making sure not to crowd them. Fry just enough to give them a nice colour, then transfer to the oven to keep warm.
  7. Heat some more sesame oil if needed and stir fry the mushrooms carrots and courgettes until they soften.
  8. In a small dry pan, toast the sesame seeds. Slice the remaining 3 salad onions finely.
  9. Serve the patties on a bed of Romaine lettuce with the stir fried vegetables on the side and sprinkle the sesame seeds and onions over them.

These turned out to be really tasty and with a good kick to them. They were also so very easy to do, no need to make the mixture on the night before to allow the flavours to develop, so a great recipe for weekday night. And we managed without the carbs too.

Actually there were a lot more stir fried vegetables than beef patties, I had them for lunch a couple of times on their own.

12 April 2014

Mini-semlas

This year, my Mum and Dad informed me, mini-semlas are in fashion in Sweden, though the traditionalists are still pretty strong. They sent me a recipe with a very lovely photo and I decided to try them out for Mother's Day.

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The recipe promised the use of chocolate truffle rather than cream under the lids. The original recipe suggests three types of truffle - dark chocolate, milk chocolate and liquorice. The last one required a specific type of sweet that I'm not familiar with, so I decided to swap it for Viennese nougat. The recipe may seem a bit long-winded, but isn't really that difficult and I recommend that the parts are done separately and the mini-semlas only put together before serving. The buns should freeze quite well as would the filling, but not the truffles.

Ingredients
Makes about 40

Buns
75 g unsalted butter at room temperature
¾ granulated sugar
2 ½ dl milk
25 g fresh yeast
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
7 dl strong flour
2 tbsp water

Filling
250 g marzipan
3 tbsp whipping cream

Truffle
50 g dark chocolate
1 tsp icing sugar (if the chocolate isn't sweet)
50 g white chocolate
50 g Viennese nougat
5 dl whipping cream

Method

  1. Whisk together the butter and sugar light and fluffy, then set aside.
  2. Warm up the milk to 40 °C, transfer to a large bowl and stir in the yeast until it dissolves completely.
  3. Crack the egg in a glass and whisk it lightly, then add half of it to the milk and keep the rest for brushing the buns.
  4. Next, add the vanilla extract, a table spoon of the butter-sugar mixture and 5 dl of the flour. Work quickly together into a soft dough, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes in a warm place.
  5. Turn out onto a work surface and add the remaining 2 dl flour and start kneading the dough. Add the butter-sugar mixture a table spoon at a time while kneading until all has been incorporated and the gluten has developed.
  6. Line three baking sheets with baking paper.
  7. Weigh the dough and work out how much each mini-bun should weigh, then cut up the dough and shape each piece to a round bun. Place on the lined baking sheets, cover and let proof for 30 minutes. They should just about double.
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C (fan assisted). Stir in two table spoons of water to the remaining egg, then brush all the buns and bake for 12 - 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the ready buns to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

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  10. Prepare the filling by grating the marzipan coarsely and stirring together with the cream (not whipped). Cover and keep refrigerated until needed.
  11. Weigh up the chocolates and nougat, chop each finely and place in separate bowls.

    IMG_3932
    Add icing sugar to the dark chocolate, if it isn't sweet.
  12. Heat up 1.5 dl of the whipping cream until it starts boiling. Then distribute it among the bowls - ½ dl for the nougat, a bit less than that for the white chocolate and the remainder for the dark chocolate.
  13. Stir together each to melt the chocolates and nougat and get three smooth ganaches, then cover and place in the fridge for at least 1 h to set.
  14. Whip the remaining cream to stiff peaks.
  15. Distribute among the ganaches and carefully fold in to form a truffle which is easy enough to pipe, but able to keep its shape.
  16. Prepare three piping bags with star nozzles and transfer the truffles to them.
  17. Cut lids off the buns and spread a thin layer of the marzipan filling on each bun,

    IMG_3935
    then pipe a swirl of one of the truffles and put the lid back on.

I suspect there were some mis-communications regarding this recipe, because the ganaches didn't work out very well and certainly didn't look like in the photo. I still ended up with a very runny white chocolate ganache, despite some attempts at adjusting on the fly. The Viennese nougat was most suitable for piping and tasted nicest too. The dark chocolate was very hard and went sort of grainy when I piped it and because I'd not added icing sugar to it, it tasted rather unpleasant. Still, the buns lasted about a week. I also think there was no need to make a marzipan filling by softening it with cream, a round thin slice of marzipan would work just as well and allows you to control how prominent the marzipan flavour should be. I spread the filling quite thinly and it was barely noticeable.

For sure, I need to practice making ganache and truffle...

3 April 2014

Tandoori Salmon

My next recipe is from a Waitrose card and here is the original recipe.

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Now I don't shop at Waitrose on a regular basis, so I had to skip the recommended ingredients and find replacements. Looking at the comment on the original recipe, this turned out to be a good thing. However, I did use the recommended amount of potatoes and ended up with quite a lot left over. I also used the recommended amount of yoghurt and it was way too much for the amount of salmon.

Ingredients
Serves 2

about 1 kg of potatoes suitable for mashing
3 tsp tandoori spice mix
300 g Greek style yoghurt
250 g salmon fillet, skin removed
225 g small plum tomatoes on the vine
1 tbsp onion seeds
salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Peel, wash and boil or steam the potatoes until tender
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 200 ° C and line a tray with baking paper.
  3. Mix together the tandoori spice mix with 100 g of the yoghurt, then coat the salmon generously and place on the tray.
  4. Wash the tomatoes, but keep them on the vine, then place next to the salmon and bake for about 25 - 30 minutes, until the salmon is ready and the tomatoes are soft.
  5. When the potatoes are ready, transfer to a large bowl, add the remaining 200 g yoghurt, onion seeds, salt and pepper and blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
  6. If the salmon isn't ready yet, transfer the mash to an oven proof dish with a lid and keep warm next to the salmon and tomatoes.

This turned out to be very tasty, although it was a touch on the sour side overall, due to the yoghurt. But as I write up this recipe, I've realised that I used way too much of the tandoori paste, halving it would have given a better result.

The tandoori spice mixture was quite good. The instructions on the packet were to use one part of spice mixture to 13 parts of yoghurt, but I decided to ignore that. Though perhaps the 3 tsp I used with 100 g yoghurt might have been just that anyway. There was quite a nice kick to it as well and it's a shame that it also said to use for cooking only, not to eat "raw", so I can't use this mixture as a dip.

The mashed potatoes were also very nice and I'm glad I made the full amount. I've made mashed potatoes with crème fraîche before, which was very nice, but with Greek yoghurt it's even healthier. The reason I used onion seeds is that there were no fresh chives in the supermarket and I didn't have any frozen ones either. The onion seeds softened up while I kept them warm in the oven and infused nicely with the mashed potatoes. Otherwise, 25 g of fresh finely cut chives would probably be nice too.

Lundulph certainly liked this dish as did I and it's a shame there was no salmon left over for seconds. The tomatoes were quite a nice surprise as well, the flavour was quite different to what I expected. Much sweeter and really tasty and worked perfectly with the tandoori salmon and mash. I'm glad I followed the recipe on this one, as I'm not a fan of cooked tomatoes in general.

Garden Chicken Supreme

My laptop is seriously lacking in memory and takes forever to respond, so I've held off with blogging for a couple of weeks, but it's time to catch up, I've focused on my Ye Olde Recipe project and the recipe cards are piling up.

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I've no idea where I got this one from - it's most definitely a card with a recipe on it and photos, but no actual reference to where it may have come from. It's also fairly quick and easy to make, however in my eagerness, I defrosted boneless chicken legs rather than breasts, which resulted in spending over an hour to trim them.

When I mentioned "Chicken Supreme" to Lundulph, his response was "mm, chicken with white wine". This caused me some worries, the recipe didn't mention any wine at all and flicking through my other cook books, none of them even mentioned a "Chicken Supreme". I intended to look it up later, but ended up not bothering. This dish turned out to be pretty much herby chicken with ratatouille, a combination I believe I've done in the past. It certainly was nice though.

Ingredients
Serves 4 - 5

500 g skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp savory
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
2 cloves garlic
2 medium sized onions
2 courgettes
3 bell peppers - red, yellow and green
6 tbsp grapeseed oil
400 g can of chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
fresh basil leaves for garnish
couscous for serving

Method

  1. Trim the chicken breasts and cut into bite-sized chunks and place in a plastic bag.
  2. Mix together the spices and grind in a pestle and mortar, then sprinkle over the chicken pieces and shake in the bag to get them well coated.
  3. Peel the garlic and onions. Chop the onions.
  4. Trim and peel the courgettes, then dice.
  5. Wash the peppers and remove the stalks and seeds, then cut into strips.
  6. Blend the tomatoes until smooth and stir in the salt and pepper.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 80 °C along with an oven proof dish. Heat up 2 tbsp of grapeseed oil in a large pan and brown the chicken for a few minutes, then transfer to the oven to keep warm.
  8. Add the remaining grapeseed oil and when it's hot, add the onions, courgettes and peppers and press in the garlic. Then cook while stirring for about 10 minutes until the vegetables soften.
  9. Add the tomatoes, stir through and check the seasoning and adjust if necessary, then cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes.
  10. Stir in the parsley and add the chicken on top. Cover again and leave to simmer for a further 10 minutes
  11. In the mean time make the couscous according to the instructions on the packet.
  12. Serve the chicken ratatouille with the couscous and decorate with a couple of basil leaves.

Actually the original recipe calls for 2 tbsp Herbes de Provence, but it seems I didn't have this in my spice collection, so I improvised from the list in Wikipedia and I had to skip the marjoram as I didn't have that either. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever used marjoram.

But on the whole, it's just ratatouille without aubergines and frankly I realised that aubergines seem to function very much like a filler or bulk, without affecting the overall flavour.

17 March 2014

Dillstuvad Potatis

This apparently is a fairly common way of serving potatoes in Sweden. Oddly enough, the first time I had it was this past Christmas. Patsy, who's known me for almost 20 years was massively surprised that I was unaware of this delicacy. So, time to rectify.

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"Dillstuvad potatis" translates to "potatoes stewed with dill" and is a very nice way of sprucing up boiled potatoes, not to mention that they work very well with salmon.

After a brief search on the internet, I decided to try this recipe (in Swedish).

Ingredients
Makes 4 side dish portions

16 waxy potatoes, around 600 g
25 - 30 g butter
2 tbsp plain flour
400 g milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 dl finely chopped fresh dill

Method

  1. Peel or scrape off the potatoes and wash well.
  2. Boil or steam until cooked, about 20 - 25 minutes, depending on size.
  3. In the mean time, melt the butter on high heat in a sauce pan large enough to accommodate the potatoes.
  4. Using a wooden spoon, add the flour and stir vigorously for a minute or so, then add the milk slowly, a little at a time and incorporate to form a thick-ish béchamel sauce.
  5. Turn down the heat and let simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper, then keep warm until the potatoes are ready.
  6. When the potatoes are ready, cut into dice of about 2 cm, then add to the saucepan along with the dill and stir carefully to make sure the potatoes are coated and the dill has distributed evenly. Ready to serve.

Since I've recently re-stocked the freezer with salmon, I coated a piece with chilli sauce, wrapped it in aluminium foil and baked for 30 minutes at 200 °C. Yummy! And we'll try the left-over potatoes with some of my home made meatballs tonight.

Chia Pudding

Some time ago, I came across this site, while searching for vegan recipes. It's in Swedish and describes how to make a lovely pudding with chia seeds. I really liked the photos, I think that's what got my attention originally. So in recent days, I've been purchasing the ingredients to try it out. Now obviously things in the shops here in the UK are different from the things in the shops in Sweden, so I was prepared to improvise my purchases as well, this time and a good thing I did, as it turned out.

Ingredients
Makes 5 - 6 portions

8 tbsp chia seeds
4 tbsp dessicated coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 dl hazelnut milk
4 tbsp agave nectar

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Method
Stir together all ingredients and distribute into five small serving bowls. Cover with cling film and put in the fridge overnight or for about 8 h and it's ready to serve.

The original recipe uses unsweetened almond milk, but I prefer hazelnuts to almonds, so opted for the hazelnut milk instead. As it turns out, it tastes like Nutella. Bonus! I'll have to try it out with coffee. Can you tell I've never had hazelnut milk before?

Actually I ended up changing the recipe quite a bit - I skipped the saffron and swapped the dates for agave nectar, but it turned out rather nice. Lundulph certainly liked it and so did I. I made the mistake of only making four portions of the above amounts and they were way too big, but it was so very tasty we both ate our portions and are now wonderfully stuffed.

Lundulph said it reminded him of the semolina pudding he used to get at school. I thought it smelt a bit like rice pudding.

And as the first lot was so successful, I immediately followed up with a second batch:

Ingredients

8 dl unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp agave nectar
8 tbsp chia seeds
4 tbsp dessicated coconut
1 ml ground cinnamon

Method

  1. Mix together the almond milk, vanilla essence and agave nectar in a jug.
  2. Stir together the chia seeds, dessicated coconut and ground cinnamon in a bowl, then add to the liquid and whisk together until any lumps that might have formed are gone.
  3. Cover and put in the fridge for 6 - 8 h.

This second batch turned out quite nice too - the almond milk has a more subtle flavour than the hazelnut, but worked very nicely with the cinnamon. Also, I think it was a bit thinner, because the chia seeds had swollen a bit more than in the first batch. So much so, that Lundulph was wondering if we were having frog eggs for dessert. And since the pudding doesn't really go solid, I thought it would be easier to just leave it in the jug and take out servings as needed. The real danger is that I might scoff the whole lot straight out of the jug, if I get a sugar craving.

Lundulph's resolution is to eat as healthily as possible and he scrutinises every packet of food we have. And he established that the almond and hazelnut milks were made of about 2 % nuts, which he thought was a bit outrageous. So next, I'll try to make my own. However, thinking about how the nut milks are made, I wonder if the 2 % is for the final product and not what amount of nuts has been used to make it. As I understand the principle is to blend an amount of pre-soaked nuts with water, then filter the liquid. Which of course removes most of the nuts and a very small amount should be left. The tricky bit here would be to actually keep the pre-soaked nuts for milk making - the nuts are very tasty to eat after soaking overnight, but I'll definitely give it a try. If nothing else, it's bound to taste nicer when freshly made.

Next I'll need to think of different flavourings and perhaps adding some fruit.

5 March 2014

Pork Vindaloo

Last time I went to our butcher's, they were advertising pork and even had small booklets with recipes for the customers to take home. Which I did, and there are a few interesting recipes there that I intend to try out. However, I decided to make a curry tonight because I still have a substantial surplus of grated ginger and roast garlic in the freezer and I am after all trying to clear it out.

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Thus, I flicked through my "Fat Free Indian Cookery" book by Mridula Baljekar. My thought was to just pick any curry and use pork with it, however there was a pork section and the second recipe was for pork vindaloo. As it also turned out, I only needed two ingredients - pork and cider. I had all other ingredients. Besides, Lundulph quite likes cooking with cider, so had no objections to this.

However, I completely forgot to read through the whole recipe and when I finally started cooking, it was actually way too late to follow the instructions. But the curry turned out quite tasty anyway, so I'm rushing to write it down, before I forget anything.

Ingredients

650 g boneless leg of pork
4 green cardamom pods
4 cloves
2 tbsp finely grated ginger
1 tbsp pressed garlic
½ tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp very hot crushed dried chillies
2 tbsp cider vinegar
250 ml medium-dry apple cider
5 cm piece of cinnamon
8 portabello mushrooms
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp salt
1 large onion
1 large handful of lentil sprouts
1 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp soft brown sugar

Method

  1. Trim off any visible fat and sinews from the meat as much as possible, then cut into small bite-sized chunks and place in a bowl.
  2. Mix together the ginger, garlic, mustard seed, fenugreek seeds, black pepper, chillies and vinegar, then add to the meat and stir through so all pieces get coated with this "marinade". Set aside for 30 minutes or so.
  3. In the mean time, peel the mushrooms, dice and place in a bowl. Peel and finely chop the onion and place in a separate bowl.
  4. Place the meat along with the "marinade" in a casserole dish and heat up on medium heat. Stir frequently until the meat goes opaque.
  5. Add the cider and cinnamon, cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the lid, then add the mushrooms, paprika, salt and onion and stir through. Keep stirring every now and then and let simmer uncovered for a further 10 minutes.
  7. Stir in the lentil sprouts, tamarind paste and soft brown sugar, simmer for a few more minutes if needed, to reduce the liquid a bit.

Actually, I used cloudberry vinegar, which I bought from IKEA because it seemed intriguing. However, I didn't like the way it tasted, so I've been looking to use it up somehow and this seemed like a good opportunity.

Because of the mustard seeds and vinegar, Lundulph thought I was making "brown sauce". The curry turned out very nice indeed, despite not following the instructions in the recipe. Perhaps the meat could have benefitted from either marinating or cooking a little longer, it felt a bit tough and dry, but overall the vindaloo was really tasty. I served it with boiled potatoes, which worked quite well. Despite the name vindaloo, this dish wasn't extremely hot, though I guess this can be regulated by using higher or lower amounts of chilli flakes and mustard seeds.

Multi-seed Bread

I've been hankering for bread with lots of seeds in for a while, and finally I got round to baking some. It turned out rather nice, so I want to write down the ingredients, so I don't forget.

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Ingredients

1 kg strong white flour
20 g salt
4 tbsp sesame seeds
1 dl sunflower seeds
1 dl pine kernels
2 tbsp black onion speeds
2 tbsp black poppy seeds
1 dl pumpkin seeds
1 dl spelt flakes
20 g fresh yeast
700 g water
vegetable oil for brushing

Method

  1. Mix together flour, salt, all the seeds, pine kernels and spelt flakes in a large bowl.
  2. Crumble the yeast into the water and stir until it has dissolved completely.
  3. Pour into the dry mixture and bring together to a dough, either manually or with a machine.
  4. Knead until the gluten has developed, then cover and let rise for about an hour.
  5. Brush 3 loaf tins with oil. Weigh the dough and divide into three equal parts. Shape each into a loaf and place in the tins.
  6. Brush the top of the loaves with a little oil, slash a couple of times if you want, then cover and leave to prove for a further hour.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees and when the loaves have proven, bake for about 45 - 50 minutes, until ready.
  8. Remove from the oven and loaf tins and let cool down on a wire rack.

I think I could have left it to prove a bit longer than I did, it hadn't risen as much as I expected it to. Perhaps because of all the seeds. The oven spring left something to wish for as well, however, the breads turned out very tasty indeed. Because of the onion seeds, I recommend savoury applications, however, I had a slice with maple syrup and that worked well too. Yum!

Shrove Tuesday once again

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Yes, I've spent most of the day baking semla buns. And although my parents sent me a new recipe for this year's trend in this department, Lundulph put his foot down and demanded the traditional stuff and implied that anything else is plain wrong. Thus I will try out the mini-semla buns with ganache some other day...

Again on Lundulph's request, I followed my first recipe, as it has been the more successful so far. Now reading through the recipe and what I did, I didn't feel I could replicate my rescue activities, so I tried to keep as close as possible to the original recipe. However, now that I'm in the process of digesting my first semla for this year, I've come to a number of conclusions, so I'm writing up a new post on this subject.

Ingredients
Makes 21

Buns
100 g unsalted butter
3 dl semi-skimmed milk
45 g fresh yeast
325 g strong flour
325 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp ground cardamom
1 dl caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 large egg
milk for brushing

Filling
crumbs from the buns
300 g marzipan
3 dl milk

Topping
600 ml whipping cream
5 tbsp icing sugar
icing sugar for dusting

Method

  1. Place the butter in a small pan and melt on low heat.
  2. Add the milk and stir. Check the temperature of the mixture and bring to about 37 °C, then stir in the yeast until it has dissolved.
  3. Mix together the two types of flour, baking powder, cardamom, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Add the liquid and the egg and bring together into a dough. Knead for a few minutes to develop the gluten, then cover and let rise for about 45 minutes.
  5. Line three baking trays with baking paper.
  6. Cut up the dough into 60 g pieces, then roll each one into a ball and place on the baking trays, cover and leave to prove for a further 45 minutes.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 190 °C (do not use fan if you can). Brush each bun with a little milk, then bake one sheet at a time for about 15 minutes, until the buns turn golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
  9. Cut a lid off each bun, then pinch out the middle and place the crumbs in bowl. Put the lid back on and put in an airtight container before repeating with the next bun.
  10. Dice the marzipan and add to the crumbs along with the milk, then process in a blender or food processor until fairly well mixed and sticky, but not runny.
  11. Assemble as late as possible before serving. Whip the cream together with the 5 tbsp icing sugar to stiff peaks, then transfer to a piping bag with a star nozzle.
  12. Take the lid off a bun and cut the lid into a triangle.
  13. Put some of the marzipan filling into the bun cavity, then pipe whipped cream over it and place the lid back on top.
  14. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Today I remembered to use strong flour, however, I have the Canadian Manitoba flour which is very, very strong and really good for bread. But these buns need to be light and fluffy and this type of flour turned out too strong. Which is why I've written a mixture of equal parts plain and strong flour, I think it would give better results.

Next I've used a lot more milk for the filling. Not only because it's hard to blend together, but also because last time I ran out of filling and it's supposed to be enough for all the buns.

The marzipan I used today was really posh with 60% almonds. This means a very strong almond flavour, almost like Amaretto. Generally, 50% almonds marzipan is recommended for baking. The stuff I've seen in the supermarket is around 35% - 40%. It's a question of taste of course, lower percentage almonds means higher percentage sugar and thus sweeter, possibly also softer to work with. It may well be worth making marzipan yourself.

Finally, now that I have a new and fancy electric oven, I baked at 190 ° C for 15 minutes, which gave good results. Possibly I could reduce the temperature to 180 ° to get slightly lighter buns.

On the whole, I'm quite pleased with the result, and so is Lundulph - he had two semla buns and I've no idea how he managed to fit them in, after a good portion of pork vindaloo.

We now have 7 buns left, I gave most of the buns to my lovely neighbours.

27 February 2014

Köttbullar

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A year ago, I came across this recipe for Swedish meatballs or köttbullar. What's interesting is that it is from 1960! And as I didn't have any ideas of what to cook this week-end, I decided to give this one a try. The original recipe is for 300 g of minced meat. I adjusted for 500 g, which is what I had.

Ingredients (original amounts)
2 tbsp fine breadcrumbs
1.5 dl milk
300 g mixed mince
1 boiled cold potato
1 onion
1 tsp salt
1 pinch of finely ground white pepper
1 pinch of ground allspice
2 tbsp butter for frying

Ingredients (adjusted)
6 tbsp fine breadcrumbs
2.5 dl milk
165 g peeled, then boiled and cooled potatoes
1 large onion (190 g after peeling)
500 g beef mince
1.5 tsp salt
2 ml ground black pepper
2 ml ground allspice
butter for frying

Sauce
2 tbsp plain flour
1 dl water
3 dl from the liquid used to boil the potatoes or liquid from canned mushrooms
salt and ground white pepper to taste
Boiled potatoes for serving

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 80 °C and place a large oven proof dish to warm up.
  2. Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk and let them swell.
  3. Blend the potatoes and onion as smoothly as possible
  4. Mix together all ingredients. Note that the mixture will be fairly runny.
    IMG_3872
  5. Have a small bowl with water, wet your hands and form small balls. Place on a plate ready for frying.
    IMG_3873
  6. Heat up some butter in a frying pan and fry the meatballs in batches, taking care not to crowd them.
  7. Remove each batch to the oven proof dish and keep warm in the oven.
  8. Make the sauce by stirring in the flour into the water.
  9. Pour the potato/mushroom liquid into the frying pan and bring to the boil.
  10. Add the flour water and stir vigorously for 5 minutes.
  11. Season to taste and it's ready to serve.

Now, the runny mixture meant that I couldn't use my meatball maker. Instead I made 21 meatballs and fried them, as Lundulph was hungry and we had them for lunch together with chilli flavoured spaghetti and the 1960's gravy, which went a bit lumpy in the cooking process. Needless to say, it was not possible to keep the meatballs in constant motion during the frying, they were way too soft and wouldn't keep a round shape. Not to mention that they were difficult to turn and wanted to just disintegrate. However, they smelt and tasted very nice, as did the gravy.

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So, later in the evening, when I was going to cook the remainder of the mixture, I stirred in a large egg with the hopes that it would help with binding the meatballs better. I also rolled them in flour before frying. Neither seemed to make much difference. I think I got about 50 meatballs from the 500 g mince recipe, I didn't really count. I'll need to find a more recent recipe next time though.

24 February 2014

Birthday Cake for Roger

In the last week, there were many events in the family, one of the good ones was Roger's birthday. Roger is Lundulph's older brother.

P1010841 - edited

The plan was to celebrate Roger over the whole week-end in his new house. However, he was one of the many that got flooded and evacuated even, bang on his birthday. Lundulph's Mum had asked me to make a cake and Lundulph and I'd worked out what to do and I'd made a big shopping list and so on, when all this happened and the celebration was cancelled.

However, the decision was made to move the celebration to my parents-in-law's house. So I spent Valentine's day baking the cake. Now, Roger is a huge fan of squash, so we decided that the cake should be in the shape of a squash racquet.

The first thing was to make a template, thus after searching for images on the internet, I taped two pieces of A4 paper together, the short side of one with the long side of the other. I then folded this along its entire length and drew half of a racquet and cut it out, thus achieving symmetry. Lundulph inspected it and approved.

Next, decide on the cake recipe. I flicked through my cook books and decided the Caramel Layer Cake from my book "Great British Bake Off Showstoppers". I made a double dose of the sponge and a single dose of the filling.

Ingredients

Sponge (single dose)
300 g plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
0.25 tsp salt
300 g caster sugar
250 g unsalted butter at room temperature
4 tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Filling (single dose)
225 g unsalted butter
450 g soft dark sugar
175 ml double cream
300 g icing sugar
0.25 tsp salt
100 g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C and line 2 Swiss roll trays with baking paper, about 34 x 23 cm in size.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl.
  3. Cut up the butter in pieces and add to the bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract, then add to the bowl with other ingredients.
  5. Beat everything with an electric whisk on low speed until well combined and smooth.
  6. Distribute equally between the two baking sheets and bake one at a time for 23 minutes. Check readiness with a skewer, it should come out clean.
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  7. Allow to cool a couple of minutes in the baking tray, then turn out onto a cooling rack covered with baking paper and leave to cool down completely. Repeat with the second tray.
  8. Mix a second batch and bake in the same way.
  9. Once everything has cooled down, use the template to cut out three racquet shapes. You'll need to do some puzzling to get whole shapes.
  10. Now make the filling by gently heating together 175 g of the butter, the soft dark sugar and the double cream. Once the mixture starts to bubble, reduce the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes, while stirring.
  11. Transfer to a heat-proof deep bowl and gradually beat in the icing sugar with an electric whisk.
  12. Once the icing sugar is in, add the salt, then break up the chocolate and stir it in. Keep whisking until the mixture is barely warm, then beat in the remaining butter.
  13. Lay out one of the sponge racquets on a suitable tray and spoon some of the filling over it. Smooth over with a knife so that the whole sponge is covered and about 5 mm thick.
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  14. Place the next sponge racquet and cover with filling in the same manner, then place the third sponge racquet on top and leave for about an hour to set.
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For the decorations, I needed some sort of white icing, but given the amount of sugar that has gone into the cake already, I was reluctant to use fondant icing to cover the cake as well. Instead I opted for ready made frosting with the hope that it wouldn't be as sweet. There were two types in the shop and I wasn't sure what the difference was, so I bought two tubs of each.

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The "Vanilla icing" one seemed a bit paler than the other one. It also tasted a bit yoghurt-y. Frankly, I didn't like the taste of either of them, but then they're not supposed to be eaten on their own. I decided to go with the "Vanilla buttercream style icing" and covered the cake. It was a bit crumbly and I wasn't able to get it as smooth as I would have liked. I had half a tub left from the icing, which I kept for repairs, once we got to Lundulph's parents' place.

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Next, I used black fondant icing for the handle. I rolled a piece as thinly as I could between to layers of cling film, then cut into 3 cm wide strips, long enough to go across the bottom of the racquet handle. Also make a rectangle to go at the bottom of the handle. Here is the end result:

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I'm quite pleased that the cling film gave a leather-like pattern on the icing, I hadn't expected that at all. The next thing to do was the logo of the brand that Roger uses - this one. I rolled out more of the black icing and carefully cut out the first letter of the brand. I then used the tiny digit cookie cutters that Lundulph bought for Falbala's hidden design cake to punch out Roger's age in the bottom of the logo letter. Finally, I rolled out two circles to cover the two squash balls that would accompany the racquet cake. They would be vegan, so that my niece Lou can have them and join in the celebrations. My original plan was to make the squash balls in layers, with ice chocolate with roasted hazelnuts in the middle and caramelised popcorn on top of that, finally covered with black icing. However, I ran out of time. Thus, I skipped the popcorn and made the balls entirely from ice chocolate. I didn't shape them very well, though.

The final part to do on the cake was the strings on the racquet. Lundulph said they were very important and it struck me - hazelnuts dipped in caramel and with a caramel spike. I saw these ages ago and have been wanting to try them out. First working out how many hazelnuts I'd need...

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At this point Lundulph was home, so I stopped working on the cake and focused on our Valentine's dinner.

The next day, Lundulph and I drove over to his parents. Because of the size of the cake, I had to sit in the back and about two-thirds into the drive, I had to ask Lundulph to pull over, because I was very car sick. Still, we made it and with the cake mostly intact - the icing had cracked where each layer parts met and this only because the cake drum was actually two that I'd taped together. I'd planned ahead and had brought the remaining icing, so repairs were easy.

Once my stomach and head had settled, I completed the decorations. Some preparations are required. First a tooth pick or a cocktail stick needs to be carefully inserted into a hazel nut. Then a heavy chopping board or book should be placed on the work surface, so that the edge of the board/book and surface are aligned. Next, a piece of paper should be placed on the floor right under the board/book. This will catch caramel drips. A couple of pieces of baking paper should be placed nearby on the work surface. Here the ready items can be laid out. A heat mat should also be within reach, to place the saucepan with the caramel and a large bowl with very cold water should also be ready. Clearing the kitchen of other people will of course help as well.

I melted about 300 g of granulated sugar to caramel stage in a thick-bottomed saucepan. I didn't have a sugar thermometer, but it seems that the trick is to use white sugar. Once it goes pale yellow, like honey, it's reached the right temperature for caramel. Using a wooden spoon, I kept stirring the sugar until all had melted and reached the beautiful golden colour. Then a quick dip (about 10 seconds) into a large bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process and it was ready to start dipping the hazel nuts. I had to work fairly quickly and it's not easy the first time, but it's not difficult at all. Dip so each nut is completely and generously covered, then push the toothpick under the chopping board or book and allow the caramel to drip onto the paper on the floor.

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I needed to do about 30 of these and I put them too close together under the chopping board, so the spikes sort of tangled up a bit, but were long enough to work for the cake. The caramel set fairly quickly as well. This is not a problem - just re-heat to make it runny again. However, this will make it a little darker. I even did a second re-heat, before it went too dark and bitter. But it was enough to get all the hazel nuts done. After a couple of minutes, the hazels should be cool enough to handle. Using the kitchen scissors, I cut the spikes at the length I needed, took out the tooth picks and placed on the baking paper I'd prepared. I scraped out as much as I could of the burnt caramel, then cleaned the saucepan by filling it with water and bringing to the boil. This dissolved the caramel stuck to the saucepan and could easily be poured out in the drain. I had to repeat three times. Then I made a further batch of caramel, and with less sugar. This also allowed me to try my hand at caramel baskets.

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For this I brushed the back of a ladle with some vegetable oil, then using the wooden spoon, I scooped some of the caramel and let drizzle over the back of the ladle, criss-crossing to form the basket structure. Because the ladle was metal, it took a little longer for the caramel to set, but once it had, I carefully slid off the ready basket. If making more than one, it's important to brush vegetable oil before each, otherwise it may stick to the ladle and break when attempting to remove it.

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Finally, I noticed that the spike tangle under the hazels had actually become like a nest of spun sugar. I didn't have any use for it this time, but it's good to know. The cake itself was a great success and we ate quite a big part of it on the day. But for me, it was very sweet and dry, so not one of my favourites. I should have moistened the sponge layers a little. However, given its size, this was a good thing, there's no way I could get it into the fridge and a moist cake doesn't really keep in room temperature. I need to work on how to spread icing and make it smoother, though. I did a second run of caramel with my nieces, so they got to try making hazel nuts with caramel spikes as well as caramel baskets and we also found out what happens if you use a saucepan with a thin bottom - some of the sugar burns badly and some doesn't melt. Also using small amounts of sugar and keeping an eye on the caramel reduces the waste. I remember reading somewhere that adding water and glucose gives more control over caramel work, I need to do more research for this. Besides, I'd bought 500 g of hazelnuts and I barely used 100 g, so I have plenty to practice with.