12 June 2016

Rhubarb Muffins with Crunchy Topping

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Well, I finally got round to harvesting the rhubarbs this year. They haven't been too prolific, but then I did harvest them last year, so I should have left them to recover this time, but I really fancied making something with rhubarbs and also wanted to clear out some space in the freezer, where I had two packets of diced frozen rhubarbs as well, not sure from which year. And as the fresh rhubarbs were mostly fairly thin long stalks, I decided to use them for rhubarb muffins. But I wanted to try out a different recipe to the one from Dr Cutie.

And then I remembered that my dear friend Patsy made some fabulous bilberry muffins for a good-bye fika, when I moved back to the UK in 2012. So yummy that I promptly asked her for the recipe and here it is, but with fresh rhubarbs, rather than frozen bilberries. The original recipe is in Swedish here.

Ingredients

20 at 5 cm size
280 g rhubarbs
100 g unsalted butter
2 dl full milk
1 packed tsp lemon zest
2 large eggs
2 dl granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 dl plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
3 tbsp potato flour

Topping
75 g cold unsalted butter
1 dl porridge oats
1 dl almond flakes
1 dl plain flour
1 dl granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Method

  1. Trim and wash the rhubarbs, then slice thinly, place in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 185 °C and line up 20 paper muffin cases.
  3. Place the butter in a saucepan and melt on low medium heat.
  4. When it's completely melted, add the milk and the lemon zest and stir through. When it's at finger warmth, remove from the heat.
  5. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  6. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Make sure the baking powder is well mixed in.
  7. Pour in the warm liquid into the egg-sugar mixture, then follow with the flour mixture and whisk to get a smooth batter.
  8. Sprinkle the potato flour over the rhubarbs and stir to get them all coated, then stir into the batter.
  9. Distribute the mixture into the muffin cases, filling to about two-thirds.
  10. Make the topping by dicing the cold butter into a bowl, adding the other ingredients and pinching together with your fingers to make crumbs. Distribute between the muffin cases, carefully, as a lot of crumbs will go between them, rather than on top.
  11. Bake each muffin tin/tray for 30 minutes, test with a toothpick, it should come out dry.
  12. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely, then store in an airtight container, but preferably eat on the same day.

The original recipe states that the amounts are for "6 portions", but this doesn't necessarily mean 6 muffins, although that was my original assumption. I started with 12 muffin cases and had to add 8 more and a second muffin tin. And like never before, they rose perfectly without busting like volcanoes or spilling over the edges and they didn't sink back when they came out of the oven, so finally success.

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And boy, were they tasty! Lundulph didn't even wait until they had cooled down and ended up having to scrape crumbs off the paper case. Once they'd cooled down, they were easier to peel. But as per usual, he wants me to inject a blob of custard in the middle. I did think of that, but I'd planned things badly and couldn't try out my idea about this custard-in-the-middle concept.

As to the frozen rhubarbs, I made jam once more, my old recipe. But as the fresh rhubarbs were a bit on the depleted side, I used the thinner stalks for the muffins, as they seemed less fibrous and the thicker stalks went into the jam along with the ones from the freezer. Lundulph asked when we could start eating the jam, but he'll have to finish the jams he has on the go first. I'll save a jar for my Sister Bip, she really liked it with cheese.

5 June 2016

Green Masala

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A couple of weeks ago, there was a fête in a nearby village. We've been going to it for many years, it's a nice walk across the fields, even on rainy Spring days. This time it was a very warm and sunny day and we'd also decided to do a longer walk before the fête started at lunchtime. After the really nice walk in an area we didn't think existed, we went straight for the book stall and there I found a small treasure - The World Encyclopedia of Spices. It's not exhaustive in any way and I've used most of the spices described in there, but the book has some good tips on how to determine the quality of different spices. The book also has a lot of recipes for different spice mixtures and pastes, which is the really interesting part of the book. What really caught my eye was a recipe for green masala. This is not a dry spice mixture, but a paste and looks very much like pesto, but smells and tastes quite differently. Lundulph is sold on it and has suggested we move into industrial production and sell it.

A key point to note is that this requires a little bit of planning, as there's pre-soaking and resting/cooling time required before it's ready for use. A spice mill or a clean coffee grinder is needed as well, for best results.

Ingredients

Makes about 400 ml
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
10 green cardamom pods
6 cloves
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp salt
4 cloves of garlic
5 cm piece of fresh root ginger
50 g fresh mint leaves
50 g fresh coriander leaves
1 small green pepper
50 ml cider vinegar
60 ml grapeseed or sunflower oil
60 ml sesame oil, preferably not toasted

Method

  1. Soak the fenugreek seeds in some water overnight.
  2. The next day, bruise the cardamom and dry-fry in a thick-bottomed pan together with the cloves, stirring constantly, until their aroma develops. Then grind these finely and add the turmeric and salt and set aside.
  3. Peel the garlic and ginger and cut into chunks.
  4. Wash and cut the mint and coriander. Wash, cut and de-seed the pepper.
  5. Drain the fenugreek seeds and place in a food processor, along with the garlic, ginger, mint, coriander, pepper and vinegar. Blend until a smooth purée forms, then stir in the ground spice mixture.
  6. Mix together the grapeseed/sunflower oil and the sesame oil and heat it in a pan. Add the green paste, stir through to combine and cook for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
  7. Transfer to a clean glass jar, level the top with the back of a spoon and if necessary top up with a little grapeseed/sunflower oil to ensure there is a thin layer of it covering the top surface to preserve the colour and freshness. Close tightly and store in the fridge.

I recommend once it's in the fridge, it's left for a further night to allow the flavours to develop even further. A key point is the keeping of a layer of fat on the surface - after each use, I've topped up with a little grapeseed oil, to make sure the paste is kept sealed.

Now this can be used as a marinade - I used about 100 ml for 600 g chicken breasts, which had been cut into bite-sized chunks and I coated them with the green masala and left overnight in the fridge. I fried the chicken in a little toasted sesame oil and served with steamed Jersey Royal potatoes and some green peas.

Last week we had intended to barbecue and I wanted to try this out on another batch of marinated chicken. Sadly it rained the whole day, so I ended up frying it again, but this time we had it with Lebanese flat bread and hummus, also very tasty.

My plan for the remaining paste is to try it on salmon, before baking as usual in aluminium foil. Then I'll have to make another batch, probably a double one and freeze in ice cube trays as the other recommendation for this paste was to add a tablespoon or two to a regular curry, especially if it has coconut milk in it.

Lundulph also requested that I modify the recipe so that it can be used as a dip as well. I'll have to think about that, as it's very strongly flavoured in its "raw" form. The other thing Lundulph was speculating about was whether dramatic changes can be made to a traditional pesto recipe, so as to get the same texture and colour, but completely cut out the parmesan cheese. Another one to think about.

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23 May 2016

Chocolate and Raspberry Chia Pudding

On my last visit to Sweden just after Easter, I came across a fabulous blog, Zeina's Kitchen (in Swedish). She's not been going for long, but is very talented and her blog won the People's Choice Award in the Food Blog Awards of 2015. The thing that particularly appealed to me then was her recipe for chia pudding, very similar to the one I've been doing, but made with chocolate and raspberries and to a thicker consistency. Not to mention much more attractive than mine. So when my parents came to visit at the end of May, I decided to try this out and I even bought special glasses to serve it in.

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Actually they are disposable margharita glasses. But it was rather tasty, especially with some fresh strawberries and kiwi fruit diced on top.

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So without further ado, here is the recipe. I doubled the recipe and made one small addition to Zeina's recipe, I added sweetener to the chocolate pudding, as it wasn't quite sweet enough.

Ingredients

7 - 8 portions

12 tbsp chia seeds
8 dl almond milk (sweetened)
4 tsp vanilla extract
4 tsp honey
2 tsp xylitol sweetener
8 tsp cocoa powder
4 dl fresh raspberries
2 kiwi fruits
7 - 8 large strawberries

Method

  1. Place 3 tbsp chia seeds in one bowl, and the other 3 tbsp in another.
  2. Add 2 dl almond milk to each bowl and stir.
  3. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp honey to each bowl and stir in.
  4. Add the xylitol and cocoa powder to one of the bowls and stir through.
  5. Measure up the raspberries, place in a deep dish and mash up with a fork, then transfer to the second bowl and stir through.
  6. Cover the two bowls with cling film and place in the fridge overnight.
  7. Spoon alternate layers of raspberry and chocolate in serving dishes.
  8. Peel and dice the kiwi, wash and dice the strawberries and decorate each serving.

It is also possible to use frozen raspberries, the same amount, but they need to be thawed before mashing and mixing in and the amount of chia seeds needs to be increased slightly as they contain more liquid than fresh ones.

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The chocolate chia pudding is a lot less than the raspberry chia pudding, so keep that in mind when preparing to serve. IMG_4997

What surprised me was the combination with the fresh fruits on top, that really made a difference I think. We had the first four portions as dessert and the rest I had for breakfast in the following days, which was very nice, but I didn't bother with the fresh fruit then, so not as tasty as the first dessert. I also noticed that the chia pudding with fresh fruit doesn't last as long and towards the end, there was a distinct fermented tinge to it, so I should probably have stuck to a single batch.

16 May 2016

Flarn

Flarn is a thin baked wafer-like delicacy, quite popular in Sweden. The French word is tuile and I'm guessing the English version is the snap. I've never made these before, the shaping of them after baking has always seemed like something quite difficult to do. Lundulph is quite partial to the oat flans available to buy in IKEA's food shops and most supermarkets in Sweden. There are several variants in my big book of cakes and earlier this week, I decided to try my hand at two of them, as one of my colleagues was going on maternity leave and another was visiting my office and I wanted to take the opportunity to bake for both of them.

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Now the cake book has a few recipes that I've not liked much, but then there are others that have been really good and the two recipes I tried this time are actually really good.

Ingredients - oat snaps

Makes about 50
75 g unsalted butter
15 g baking powder
40 g plain flour
2 large eggs (around 125 g)
275 g caster sugar
175 g porridge oats

Method

  1. Melt the butter and set aside.
  2. Sift together the baking powder and flour and stir to ensure they are thoroughly mixed.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar with an electric whisk for about 5 minutes until really pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the flour mixture and fold in with a spatula.
  5. Add the oats and the melted butter, then set aside for about 30 minutes to let the mixture swell up a bit.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 190 °C and line 3 baking sheets with baking paper.
  7. Place the mixture into a piping bag, cut a hole about 1 cm wide and pipe walnut-sized blobs on the baking sheets, making sure there's 6 - 7 cm between as they'll float out quite a lot. I managed to fit in 9 per tray.
  8. Bake for 6 - 7 minutes, until the snaps start browning around the edges and have an even lace-like surface throughout.
  9. Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheet for about a minute, before carefully removing onto a cooling rack. At this point they can be shaped over e. g. a rolling pin or into tubes or bottles, but you need to be quick, they go solid quite fast.
  10. Store in an airtight container when they've cooled completely.

Ingredients - coconut snaps

Makes about 40
125 g caster sugar
125 g unsalted butter
25 g honey, preferably with a strong flavour
125 g dessicated coconut
75 g plain flour

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C and line 3 baking sheets with baking paper
  2. With the fingers of one hand work together all the ingredients to a smooth paste.
  3. Spoon out 15 g balls onto the baking sheets, making sure there's 6 - 7 cm between them, then flatten each ball to about ½ cm thickness. I managed to get 8 in per tray.
  4. Bake for 6 - 7 minutes, until they go golden brown around the edges and have an even lace-like surface throughout. Watch them, because they will burn within seconds.
  5. Remove from the oven and leave to stand on the baking tray for about a minute, before carefully removing onto a cooling rack or shape over a rolling pin or roll into tubes. Again, work quickly as they go solid very fast.
  6. Place on a wire rack to cool, then store in an airtight container lined with some kitchen tissue to soak up some of the butter that'll come out in the baking.

What can I say - these were absolutely delicious and Lundulph didn't really want to let me take them in to work. He said they were very moreish and almost impossible to stop eating once you've started. They certainly were popular at work too. And there were some left for when Lundulph's parents came to visit - they also struggled to stop eating them.

I've also realised why all recipes for such snaps always say to bake ridiculously low numbers on each tray. Yes, they spread massively, but not just that, it's for when they're baked and need to be shaped - there is about a minute at most to shape all snaps on a tray and if you have 8 - 9 of them, you won't make it, but if there are just 4, then there's time, especially of making tubes. I left the oat snaps flat, and I placed the coconut snaps over my rolling pin and food rings to make them look a bit like pringles.

These snaps turned out to be the most popular bake I've taken to work, I think and word spread and loads of people came round my desk for a taste. Luckily I did leave some at home for Lundulph and for his parents when they came to visit us a couple of days later. All summed up in one work - moreish, almost impossible to stop once you've started.

2 April 2016

Lemon and Pistachio Easter Cake

I'm visiting my parents this week and I grabbed a few recipe cards to try out, since my Mum declared that she'd bought unsalted butter for me to play with.

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The first thing I decided to do was continue the Easter theme and made the lemon and pistachio Easter cake from one of my many Waitrose recipe cards. It's from March 2015, but I wasn't able to find it on the website.

Ingredients

Pistachio marzipan
100 g peeled unsalted pistachios
50 g ground almonds
75 g granulated sugar
75 g icing sugar
1 egg white (save the yolk for the sponge)

Sponge cake
340 g plain flour
2 tbsp baking powder
265 g unsalted butter at room temperature
265 g granulated sugar
finely grated zest from 3 large lemons
4 large eggs + the yolk
4.5 tbsp lemon juice


Butter icing
75 g unsalted butter at room temperature
75 g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

Decoration
icing sugar for dusting
a few copped pistachios

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C and line a 20 cm round tin with baking paper at the bottom and grease the sides.
  2. For the marzipan, place the pistachios in a processor together with the ground almonds, granulated and icing sugars and whizz as fine as possible.
  3. Remove from the processor into a bowl, then stir in some of the egg white, a little at a time to make a thick marzipan paste.
  4. Divide into two equal parts and roll each one to a circle between two pieces of cling film. It should be slightly less than the diameter of the cake and be about 1 cm thick. Make sure the two circles are wrapped air tight and set aside.
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  5. For the sponge, mix together the flour and the baking powder together well.
  6. Put the flour mixture, the butter, the sugar, the lemon zest and the eggs, including any left-over from the marzipan white and whisk together into a batter.
  7. Finally add the lemon juice and incorporate well.
  8. Pour a quarter of the batter into the baking tin<,
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    then peel off the cling film from one side of one of the marzipan circles and carefully place it in the baking tin over the batter, making sure it's as centered as possible.
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  9. Cover the marzipan with another quarter of the batter,
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    then bake in the oven for about 30 - 35 minutes, until it goes golden brown on top and the sides come away from the tin.
  10. Remove from the oven, and transfer onto a wire rack covered with more baking paper, remove the paper circle and leave to cool down completely.
  11. Leave the tin to cool as well, then repeat by replacing the paper circle in the bottom and greasing the sides, then use the third and fourth quarter of the batter to cover the second marzipan circle and bake.
  12. While waiting for the two sponge cakes to cool, make the butter icing, by whisking together the butter and icing sugar white and fluffy, then adding the lemon juice and beating until fully incorporated.
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  13. Once the sponges have cooled, place one of them on a serving plate. Spread the butter icing evenly over the top and place the second sponge on top.
  14. Dust with icing sugar and sprinkle a few pistachios. Ready to serve

In the original recipe, the batter wasn't quite enough for two sponge cakes, though admittedly I didn't divide it up evenly either,
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so I've adjusted the amounts to one and a half times that in the ingredients list. The original recipe also stated to use self-raising flour, but this is not available in Sweden, so I used regular flour with the adjustment of 2 tsp baking powder to 150 g flour.

I foolishly added the egg white to the food processor and it point blank refused to work, as the paste was very thick. This resulted in a very crunchy paste, with clear pieces of pistachio, however, this wasn't a bad thing actually.

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And my Sister Bip came round to have a taste and liked it, as did my Mum and Dad. My Dad grumbled about it being "too sweet", however this didn't stop him from having seconds, so I think he's complaining out of principle rather than anything else. I rushed the first serving a bit and the second sponge hadn't quite cooled completely, so everything was very soft when I cut the first slices and the internal design was lost a bit, but it was better on the following day. So although the recipe card said serve in the same day, I think it needs to stand for a few hours at least to set a bit.
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But it was a fairly easy recipe and a little different to what I normally make - first with pistachios and second a sandwich cake, which I've never made before. But otherwise, the concept was very similar to Lundulph's birthday cake of a couple of years ago.

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25 March 2016

Russian Easter Egg Hors D'Oeuvres

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This is yet another recipe that I've come across thanks to Lundulph watching shows that I wouldn't normally watch. This time it was Mary Berry's Easter Feast. What caught his eye was a fish dish cooked by a lovely lady from the West Indies, which Lundulph thought looked very pretty. I went back and watched the whole episode and I'm not sure I want to try it out, not being a fan of fish and seafood in general, but I persisted in watching the whole episode, because Mary Berry was visiting people from different cultures with different Easter traditions and that was very interesting to me. One of the people she visited was from the large Russian community in London and they cooked something wonderfully eye-catching: hard-boiled egg, pickled with beetroots and "deviled", i. e. the yolks scooped out and blended with other things then piped back in.

So the episode barely over, I was tapping away on the computer to find the recipe on the BBC website, sadly it wasn't published, so I watched that segment a couple of times and jotted down what they said and what I saw and here is the result, which I made for the traditional family Easter gathering at our house. The result was very good.

Ingredients

12 eggs, hard-boiled, cooled down and peeled

For the marinade/pickling liquid

3 beet roots, slightly larger than an egg each
4 shallots
3 cloves of garlic
10 corns of allspice
20 black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
5 cm stick of cinnamon
1 pinch of chilli flakes
1 tbsp clear honey
5 dl water
2.5 dl white wine vinegar

For the filling

12 hard-boiled yolks from the eggs
2 tbsp chives
1 tbsp dill
1 tsp Dijon mustard
8 tbsp crème fraîche
salt and pepper
yellow food colouring (optional)

Method

  1. Trim, peel and rinse the beet roots and use gloves to avoid getting your fingers stained. Cut into chunks of around 2 cm and place in a large saucepan with a lid.
  2. Peel the shallots, halve or quarter if large and add to the saucepan.
  3. Peel the garlic and cut in half, then add to the saucepan and follow with the allspice, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and chilli flakes.
  4. Drizzle over the honey, add the water and vinegar and stir. Then bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.
  5. Remove from the hob and sieve into a glass bowl, which is large enough for the 12 eggs and the marinating liquid. If it looks a bit transparent you can add the pieces of beet root back in, but it's not necessary.
  6. Leave the liquid to cool completely, and cut out a circle of baking paper to fit the top of the glass bowl.
  7. When the liquid has cooled, add the whole peeled eggs in, making sure they are fully covered. Place the baking paper on top to make sure the eggs stay under and cover with cling film. Place in the fridge overnight for about 12 h.
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  8. Remove the eggs from the marinade and pat dry, then cut in half lengthwise and carefully scoop out the yolks with a small spoon. Set the now bright pink whites aside, cover and put back in the fridge.
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  9. Put the yolks in a food processor and add the other filling ingredients, then blend until as smooth as possible. If the mixture looks a bit pale, add some yellow food colouring.
  10. When ready to serve, place in a piping bag with a round nozzle. Line up the whites with the flat sides up on your serving dish, then pipe some of the filling into each hole where the yolk used to be. At this point they are ready to serve, but you can decorate with e. g. small pieces of salmon, ham or brightly coloured peppers.
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As the family turned up on Good Friday, I spent the evenings of the week before preparing all the food and I made these on the Tuesday already. This was fine, but I discovered that the beet root colouring continues to move inwards into the egg white as time passes. So the whites looked like I wanted them to look on Tuesday when I cut them, but were almost completely pink through and through by Friday when I was ready to serve them. So the effect of pink outside and white inside was a bit lost. But the beet root flavour did come through, which was rather nice I thought.

I also put some lettuce leaves around the eggs on the plate, mainly to make sure they were stable and didn't glide around and topple over. My idea of having each egg on a spoon for everyone to grab one didn't quite work out the way I'd imagined it, which was like a flower, but I didn't have time to go to the local restaurant supply shop to look for suitable spoons for this purpose.

But the eggs were very tasty and very visually appealing. I had some left-over filling mixture and it was a bit on the runny side, so could only be piped with a round nozzle. I think the amount of crème fraîche could be reduced to make a stiffer mixture for a star nozzle. But as I put some cold smoked salmon pieces on top, it didn't really matter much.

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20 March 2016

Chocolate Stamped Cookies

Since I got my cookie stamp, it appears that my Mum has had a bit of a revival on hers as well, because she's making stamped cookies every other week it seems. Though she's going for savoury versions and experimenting with new recipes and colours.

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I thought I'd make some chocolate ones and again opted to use one of the recipes in the booklet that came with the cookie press. I halved the amount, as I thought 12 dozen was over the top, small as they may be. But the recipe was not quite right to begin with, I had to tweak it in order to be able to stamp the cookies in the first place.

Ingredients

makes around 70

250 g plain flour
30 g cocoa powder
170 g unsalted butter 125 g caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla essence
1 large egg

Royal icing for decoration

2 dl icing sugar
1 egg white

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190 ° C and place 3 baking trays in the freezer to chill. Then sift together the flour and cocoa powder.
  2. Cream together the butter, sugar and salt in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla and egg and incorporate well.
  4. Slowly add the flour/cocoa mixture and keep whisking until it's formed a soft dough.
  5. Take some of the dough, form into a sausage and place in the cookie press, closing with the pattern disk of choice.
  6. Take one baking tray out of the freezer and stamp directly onto it, no baking paper, no greasing.
  7. When the baking tray is full, bake the cookies for 8 - 10 minutes. Then remove onto a cooling rack and put the baking tray back in the freezer.
  8. Repeat until all the dough has been used up.
  9. Once all the cookies have cooled down, they can be iced. Stir egg white into thee icing sugar, a little at a time until the consistency is easy enough to pipe, but thick enough to keep its shape. Place in a piping bag, cut a tiny hole and pipe away.

It seems that for this particular recipe, there is no need to reduce the amount of flour, just because you're adding cocoa powder. I originally did that and had something not quite keeping together as a dough, but not a batter either.
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Couldn't be stamped at all!
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So I added more flour and at the point I hit the amount for the non-chocolate version, it just about came together to be stampable. Not all the shapes worked though. Still quite pleased with the end result, even if Lundulph grumbled that they were too small.

When the rest of the family turned up for Easter, they disappeared very quickly indeed, always nice.