15 December 2014

Vit Glögg

Last Sunday, Lundulph and I ended up doing a lot of things and completely forgot to have mulled wine and something freshly baked with the second Advent candle. So to compensate a bit, I decided to try something new this time (and a recommendation from my Mum).

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"Vit glögg" translates to white mulled wine. I've only come across it in Sweden and I don't believe I've ever had it before. This particular recipe includes almond liqueur and since we've had a large bottle of Amaretto for ages, this would be a great opportunity to use up some of it.

Ingredients
1 bottle of sweet white wine (750 ml)
200 ml almond liqueur
1 dl granulated sugar
4 sticks of cinnamon, about 5 cm long each
1 tsp of cardamom seeds
5 cloves
3 cm long piece of fresh ginger

Method

  1. Place the wine, liqueur, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves into a saucepan.
  2. Peel and slice the ginger thinly, about 2-3 mm, and add to the saucepan.
  3. Heat up gently to just under simmering for 15 minutes to let the spices infuse the liquid and allow the sugar to dissolve.
  4. Strain and serve.

The original recipe is here (in Swedish). I managed to forget the cloves completely, but it worked fine anyway. The original recipe states 2 dl granulated sugar and this is way too much.

A note about the wine. The recipe stated sweet wine, but the wines in the supermarket were marked as "dry" mostly. There were a couple of "very dry" and a couple of "medium dry". Luckily I spotted one that was marked "medium" and that's the one I went for. It was made from moscato grapes, which I guess would make it sweet enough for the mulling. I suspect if I'd found an even sweeter wine, with all the sugar I added it would have been impossible to drink.

With this, Lundulph and I had some lovely chocolate panettone, which we bought from our local farm shop. It's nice that this has become so popular and is easy to get hold of. The first time I had panettone was in 2002. It was a present I bought for Lundulph in our early days of dating. We both liked it a lot and wanted more, but I had severe trouble getting hold of it in the UK then.

But this white mulled wine was quite a hit, so it might be added to our Christmas traditions. We didn't put any raisins or blanched almonds in the cups, I don't think it's needed.

1 December 2014

Saffron Biscuits

The second thing I made for the first Advent Sunday is again from a very old recipe in my collection and looked quite nice in the photo.

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Ingredients
Makes around 55
2 dl granulated sugar
1 pinch saffron
150 g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg
2 tsp orange zest
2 tsp baking powder
4½ dl plain flour
whole almonds for decoration

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C or 180 °C fan and line two baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Place 1 tbsp of sugar and the saffron in a pestle and mortar and grind together.
  3. Mix the remaining sugar and the butter to a creamy consistency.
  4. Whisk in the egg, saffron and zest.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together the baking powder and flour, then add to the cake mixture. The dough will be too dense for a whisk, so use your hands to incorporate everything.
  6. Divide the dough into four pieces and form each into a sausage. Place two pieces on a baking tray, then flatten a little and decorate with almonds.
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  7. Bake the trays for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and slice at an angle with a sharp knife.
  8. Move to a wire rack and let cool completely.

These biscuits did not turn out like in the photo and I know the recipe was wrong as it listed finely chopped almonds at the top of the ingredients list, but then never mentioned when they were to be used. I'd hoped to use some of my ground almonds, but I didn't dare add them at a random place in the baking process and instead just stuck whole almonds on top. In the photo they looked like a saffron/orange version of my fudge biscuits, but that's not what the result was. Still, they were tasty, but I'll try to adjust the fudge biscuit recipe next time. I also need to actually measure the orange zest next time, I sort of guessed at 2 tsp and I think I added more than that.

The biscuits were nicer when still a bit warm actually and I'll try to warm them up in the microwave when I have some next. I suspect they'd be good for dunking in your tea/coffee, if that's what you like, they seem to be pretty solid.

Update 15th December 2014:
I had a good read-through of the recipe leaflet. Indeed there are issues - the almonds as mentioned above for sure. But also I noticed that the photos and the recipes order were "quirky". I was looking at the wrong photo, so no wonder my biscuits didn't look anything like the ones on it. In fact, once I found the actual photo, I established that mine looked prettier, which was very pleasing. What Lundulph and I also discovered is that once you start nibbling on them, it's really difficult to stop...

Gingerbread Muffins

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This year, I've decided to experiment a little with the traditional Christmas flavours and so decided to try my hand at gingerbread muffins. I didn't bother researching recipes, instead I opted for one in my collection. It's not a gingerbread sponge per se, but rather a "spicy sponge cake", which had the same spices I normally use for gingersnaps with the exception of ginger.

It's also a recipe of a basic batter with variations, something I always find appealing. I've made the nut sponge cake version on many occasions, it's very good for cakes, however, this time I made one bad ingredient swap. Please read on.

Ingredients
Basic cake batter for a 1½ l cake tin or 12 muffins
50 g unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 dl granulated sugar
3 dl plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 dl single cream

spicy variant
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground ginger

ready to roll fondant icing for decoration

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C for a cake and 175 °C for muffins and line the appropriate tin.
  2. Melt the butter gently and set aside to cool.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar light and fluffy.
  4. Sift together the flour and baking powder, then carefully add to the batter, alternating with the single cream.
  5. Finally fold in the melted butter and the spices.
  6. Pour into the tin and bake for about 35 minutes if making a cake or 15 -20 minutes for muffins.
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  7. Test for readiness with a toothpick or skewer and when it comes out clean, remove from the oven and onto a wire rack to cool.
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  8. Roll out some fondant icing, cut out shapes and decorate the cake/muffins.

I was not able to resist a new set of cookie cutters in the shape of snow flakes this year and I use them to cut the icing.

The ingredient swap I made was to use semi-skimmed milk instead of single cream. I believe this is the reason why the muffins ended up so very dry, however, I'll try to remember this for when making cakes which will be moistened with syrup. But in this case this was not a good idea. Perhaps I could have compensated by increasing the amount of butter, but I didn't. I also think I need to make adjustments to the amounts of spices - the ginger was a bit too strong for me, however I think the other spices need to be increased a little, rather than reducing the ginger.

I am quite pleased that the amount was right for 12 muffins, which Lundulph and I have been putting away at a decent rate over the week-end, since it's the first Advent. Lundulph has been really good and hasn't had any alcohol during the whole of November, so we had non-alcoholic spicy fruit punch instead of mulled wine, as we lit the first candle.
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For another variant of this cake, swap 1 dl of flour for 75 g of ground nuts and bake for 40 minutes if making a cake.

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.