29 October 2006

Spinach and Chickpea salad

I had a Moroccan salad at a friend's party a while ago and I didn't manage to get the recipe, so I tried to put it together from what I remembered. This one is quite nice and refreshing and makes a bit of a difference to regular salads.

1 can (400 g) chickpeas
2 small green peppers
fresh baby spinach leaves
lemon juice
olive oil
dill, salt

  1. Drain the chickpeas and rinse, then place in the salad bowl.
  2. Remove the seeds from the peppers, then cut in small pieces, about the same size as the chickpeas, and put them in.
  3. Add a couple of handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves. If you think the leaves are a bit big, cut them carefully into smaller pieces. Carefully because the spinach tends to go soggy if you chop it.
  4. Add some lemon juice, olive oil, dill and salt and stir well. Again be careful, if the spinach leaves have been cut.
This works both with fresh and dried dill.

28 October 2006

Halloween

When I saw the large crate of pumpkins last week, I just had to buy a couple. I'm not obsessed with pumpkins, but they are amazing vegetables and I always feel happy when I see a big bunch of them. The pimply faced youth at the till cracked that I was the first one to buy pumpkins from him.


So yesterday, I decided it was time to have a little Halloween celebration and picked up some colourful dried Indian corn on the cob and small ornamental gourds and got to work.

So here are my hot tips:

  • Draw a circle around the pumpkin handle to mark out the lid, then cut carefully with a large knife. Scoop out the seeds and stringy goo with your hands, then use a tablespoon to remove any leftovers from the walls of the pumpkin.
  • Save the seeds if they are large, remove as much as possible from the pumpkin bits, wash and then you can roast them according to the roasted nuts recipe, but they need to be roasted for about twice the time, as they are fresh to begin with.
  • I first drew the pattern with a permanent marker, then I used a small serrated vegetable knife to cut it out. The trick is to carefully insert the knife until it goes through the flesh, then carefully wiggle it along the drawn pattern.
  • Because the pumpkin was fairly large, I used 4 tea lights in it. To make sure that there is enough air for the candles, rotate the pumpkin lid when putting it back on, it won't fit as well, but that will allow air in.

Quince Jam

A couple of weeks ago, Lundulph and I went to an apple tasting event. We're looking to replace our old apple tree that had to be cut down this year and want to get a variety or two that aren't available in the shops.

We tasted quite a few and made a shortlist of 6. Luckily some farmers were selling some of these apples as well, so we bought loads, for further evaluation. In one crate on the side I spotted the biggest quinces I've ever seen, so I bought a couple.

Together with the fruit from our flowering quince I decided to make quince jam, one of my favourites. Thanks to the two bird feeders I put up in the spring, the bluetits left the pretty red flowers of our quince in peace. So there was lots of fruit there, just about the size of golf balls.

So last night, I sat down to peel the quinces. Now quinces are very hard, even when they go off, and they are tricky to peel too. The flowering quinces were too small, the ones I bought were too big for my hand. So I peeled the two large ones and picked out the biggest of our home grown ones and binned the rest. My hands are still sore.

Then I discovered that they are very hard to cut as well, so I ended up hacking off as much of the fruit flesh as I could. I did make a poor choice when I used the small vegetable knife for this, a large meat cleaver would probably have been easier. But the quinces were so fragrant, they smell a bit like physalis (Cape goosberry). We tried them, at first bite the aroma is there in the flavour, but very quickly you feel the tartness and your mouth goes all dry. At this point it was bedtime, so I covered them up and put them in the fridge.

What you need for quince jam:

1 kg quinces ready for jam
1 kg granulated sugar
4 dl water
1 tbsp lemmon juice

  1. Make a syrup from the sugar and water, i. e. put them in a casserole dish with a thick bottom. Place on low heat and leave until the sugar has dissolved completely and is clear.
  2. Add the quinces and stir in well. The fruit should be cut in small bits or grated coarseley, I recommend the latter, the bits are taking a long time to set.
  3. Leave to simmer until the jam sets. The ways to test this are many, the one I find easiest is to let the stirring spoon release a droplet of the jam liquid onto a plate. If the droplet keeps it shape for a second before it runs, it's done.
  4. A few minutes before it is ready, add the lemmon juice and stir it in well.
  5. The jam in the photo below took about 30 minutes of simmering, once the fruit was in.
  6. Pour into jars, close tightly and turn upside-down and leave to cool.
Now quinces are full of pectine, so much that the jam will be like a rather solid jelly, so regular sugar is recommended, not jamming or preserving sugar. Also, during cooking, the jam goes bright orange or even red, it'll almost look like you've put food colouring in it. The fruit bits go soft and translucent.

As you can see, once it's cooled, it's rock solid. I had to give it a good shake, to make it go down to the bottom of the jar again.

The recipe also applies to apple jam, but I've never eaten that and have a feeling that it might not be too good an idea. Apples should be either raw or in a pie or crumble.

18 October 2006

Cold Smoked Salmon with Hasselback Potatoes and Dill and Mustard Sauce

It's rather traditional in Sweden to serve thinly sliced salmon with boiled new potatoes and dill and mustartd sauce. This is a variation on the theme - I fancied making Hasselback potatoes.

The easiest is to buy ready sliced salmon - either cold smoked or gravad. This is a Swedish word meaning "to bury" the fish. This is the old method of curing for preservation where pieces of fish (or meat) were rubbed in with salt, sugar and salpeter and was then buried in the ground. Not sure if this particular method is still followed, when curing, but that's what it is. Cold smoked has a similar texture. Personally I prefer hot smoked, which is not very spread outside Scandinavia, at least I have trouble finding it in the UK and it was nowhere to be found in Germany. It's texture is a bit different, more like tuna, and it can't be sliced.

The dill and mustard sauce I have not yet tried to make, as there is a very nice one they sell in Sainsbury's where they call it just Dill sauce. And do go for the Sainsbury's own, sometimes there is a different brand which costs more and doesn't taste like it should.

Finally boil some potatoes or make Hasselback potatoes:

Roasting potatoes, e. g. King Edward, enough for everyone. The potatoes should be medium or large sized.

  1. Peel the potatoes and wash.
  2. Take a skewer and pierce through a potato along it's flattest side, but about 1 cm into it.
  3. With a knife, cut thin (2-3 mm) strips so that the knife stops at the skewer. This will make the potato look a bit like a toast rack.
  4. Pre-heat the oven at 220 degrees C / gas mark 7.
  5. Place on a deep-ish baking tin with the cut side up and pour a little grapeseed oil on top of each potato. With a brush, spread the oil so that the potatoes are well covered.
  6. Place in the middle of the oven and bake until the potatoes are ready and have a nice golden brown colour. About 1 h and 15 minutes for medium sized potatoes.
  7. During baking, take out and brush with the oil two or three times, when they start to look a bit dry. The potatoes will start opening where they have been cut, so just dip the brush in the oil in the pan and dab the potatoes.
This is pretty much regular roast potatoes without the blanching. The partial slicing helps get them baked through and also I think they look a bit more festive than regular roast potatoes. In addition, the oil used is a lot less than regular roasting.

14 October 2006

Dress Rehearsal

In preparation for Christmas, today I made Swedish "pepparkakor", what is called ginger snaps in English speaking countries. The Germans call it "Lebkuchen".

In the English ginger snaps, there is only ginger, whereas in the German and Swedish, there is also cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and possibly some other oriental spices as well. The Swedish name translates to pepper biscuits and from the brief search on the internet, I found out that the "pepper" although meaning black pepper, actually was used as a collective name for a mixture of a number of spices - ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg... And yes, at some point during the middle ages it seems that people also put black pepper in the mixture, but not any more.

Certainly these are ancient biscuits and there are records from the days of the Renaissance of them and they haven't changed that much today.

Pepparkakor are readily available in Sweden and the number of people still bothering to bake their own may well be dwindling. The German ones are more like cakes, i. e. softer and sometimes dipped in chocolate. IKEA spreads them all over the world and up to last Christmas, I'd regularly buy a couple of tins for nibbling through December, along with a ready made gingerbread house (pepparkakshus). Ready for putting together, that is, so just gluing together with melted sugar and decorating.

But now I have a brand new oven, which calls for baking my own. And having not made any for about 20 years, I thought a dress rehearsal would be in order, particularly since I've never made the dough before, they sell dough in Sweden too. I remember my Mum made the dough the first year in Sweden, but it was a struggle and so we moved onto the ready made dough. And I think in later years, we'd only make large hearts for decorating the windows, we'd buy the small ones.

So here is the recipe I tried and I have already lots of ideas for next year. One word of warning - I wasn't able to find ground cardamom in the shops in the UK and perhaps I should have gone to an Asian store, but decided to grind my own. When doing this, the flavour is a lot stronger, I didn't compensate for this, so the biscuits are a bit on the cardamom-y side. The other spices are available ready ground and I think are sufficiently flavoursome. I have adapted the amount of cardamom in the recipe below to accound for grinding it at home. If you do find ready ground, then use 1 tbsp.


250 g unsalted butter or margarine
2 dl light syrup
2 dl water
4 dl caster sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2.5 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
13 dl plain flour
  1. Melt the butter and syrup on very low heat.
  2. Add the water stir well, then leave to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the sugar and the spices. If you have a kitchen assistant machine or a food processor, this would be a good place for this, not that the amount is quite large.
  4. Pour in the liquid into the sugar mix and stir well.
  5. In another bowl, measure up the flour and stir in the soda very well.
  6. Stir in the flour mixture into the liquid, a little at a time and work it in until a loose dough forms.
  7. Place in the fridge for at least 24 h. After that, the dough can be frozen, if there's too much of it.
  8. The next day, spread some flour on a flat baking sheet, take a grapefruit sized chunk of the dough, knead it in your hands to make it soft and place on the baking sheet.
  9. Preheat the oven at 175 degrees C or gas mark 3.
  10. Spread some more flour on top of the dough, then roll with a rolling pin until a thickness of 2-3 mm is reached for small biscuits, or 3-4 for larger or house parts.
  11. Cut out the shapes, remove the excess dough around them and bake in the middle of the oven, one sheet at a time for about 10-15 minutes. The biscuits will swell and then sink back in as they also get some colour. Keep an eye on them, as they burn easily.
  12. Take out the baking sheet and with a knife carefully loosen them and place on a clean and dry chopping board to cool further.
I have memories of rolling the dough being a nightmare and I know now why - first we rolled it on the work surface in the kitchen, cut out the shapes, then had to prise them off and place them on the baking sheets. This pretty much results in mis-shapen biscuits. Second, the dough from the shop was not loose enough. So very important to roll straight onto the baking sheet if they are non-stick coated. If not, use greaseproof paper. And don't be tempted to add more flour - when the dough is first mixed up, it should be like a very thick sponge cake mix. It'll be OK after a day in the fridge.

The hot tip is to roll a bit thicker if large shapes are being made. A favourite is to make hearts large enough to just fit one on a baking sheet. Make a hole in it, so it can be hung in a red ribbon.

Now for decoration, icing:

1 - 2 dl sifted icing sugar
0.5 egg white
2 drops of white vinegar or lemon juice
food colourings (optional)

Mix all ingredients well, put in a plastic food bag, cut off a tiny bit off one of the corners and decorate away. If you want, use different food colourings. Also sticking on smarties is a good idea.

The gingerbread women were the first to go in the oven and I didn't bake them long enough, so I'm not including them here. But the two photos show the amount I made with one third of the dough as listed above. The rest I put in the freezer for December.

13 October 2006

Counter

Today I've added a counter to this blog from Sitemeter. Let's see if it works.

12 October 2006

Thai {insert colour here} curry

When I go to Thai restaurants, I always have the red curry, I just love it - the wonderful aroma of the coconut and the heat of the chillies just at the threshold of pain. And so, since I found a Thai food shop nearby, where they sell ready made pastes of all colours, I've started making these at home. I went with the red paste and the curries turn out very well, although the red colour isn't really there, so I guess they put food colouring in the restaurants.
But a friend recommended to use the yellow paste instead and today I tried it out. It has lots of turmeric in it, which gives the colour and also, it seems, peanuts, because at one point during the cooking it smelt of satay sauce throughout the house. Also, as usual, I add a lot more vegetables than prescribed in the recipe, it just doesn't work for me otherwise. You have to have loads of veggies.
I also bought a green curry paste and I'll try that out at the next opportunity.

2 cans (400 ml) light coconut milk (i. e. reduced fat)
3 tbsp curry paste - red or yellow, I have yet to try green, but I don't see why not.
500 g chicken or turkey breast cut into very thin strips - 1 cm thick
2 tbsp fish sauce (this is evil stuff, so I'm very stingy with it)
3 tbsp caster sugar or 4 tbsp granulated sugar for added sweetness
vegetables
10 dried kaffir lime leaves
1 dl fresh Thai basil leaves, coarsely cut
3 tbsp fresh coriander, cut in smallish bits (optional)
  1. Heat half the coconut milk in a large non-stick pan, wok shaped is recommended.
  2. Add the curry paste of your choise and stir it in well and let boil for 2 - 3 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken/turkey and let boil for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the fish sauce, sugar and vegetables and bring to the boil and let cook for 5 - 10 minutes (depending on the vegetables, cook until they are almost done).
  5. Add the remaining ingredients - the rest of the coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil leaves. Bring to the boil once more and let cook for 1 - 2 minutes.
Serve with Thai jasmine rice.
  1. Measure up the amount of rice, usually I do 1 dl per person and that's rather generous.
  2. Rinse through a couple of times.
  3. Put in a pot, add twice the amount of water, cover and bring to the boil. Cool until all liquid has been taken up, about 10 - 13 minutes.
  4. Take the rice off the hob, remove the lid and cover with a tea towel, this absorbs the steam coming out of the rice, but doesn't make the top layer go dry.
  5. This is a very sticky rice, so if you have a dishwasher, make sure every grain is removed from the pots and plates before putting them in, or you'll kill your dishwasher.
Now suggestions to vegetables.

Aubergines, courgettes cut in thin strips. I think I like regular purple aubergine better than the plum sized Thai ones, they tend to be rather tough.
Baby corn, cut in four along it's length.
Mangetout
Peas, canned regular sweetcorn.
Beansprouts - either fresh or canned from the shop, or make your own - though this requires advance planning - they take 4-5 days to make.
Broccoli - cut in bite-sized pieces.
Peppers, carrots again in thin strips.
Potatoes would work too, and then there's no need for rice.
Bamboo shoots.
Water chestnuts - sliced.
Whole canned button mushrooms, or sliced fresh mushrooms.
Onion, leek or spring onion in slices.

If you are using canned vegetables, drain them, the curry has quite a lot of liquid in it anyway and any fresh vegetables will release more as well.

So just pick a few of the list and use them in the curry - it won't perhaps be strictly traditional, but it's very yummy and that's what counts in the end. To bear in mind that hard vegetables like carrots take a bit longer to cook, so if you want them cooked, they should probably either go in with the chicken or be grated coarsely rather than cut into strips. Or if you don't mind them a bit crunchy, they can go in with the rest of the vegetables in strip shape.

Update on 6 November 2006:

Even with just 3 tbsp curry paste, the curry had quite a kick to it and I had a coughing fit (as I tend to every time I eat hot food, it's really embarrassing, as I can handle the heat, I just have trouble starting). I also made some adjustments to other quantities - 4 tbsps of granulated sugar makes it sweeter. And since I had some fresh coriander, I put it in as well. The choice of vebegables was 200 g mangetout, 150 g babycorn and 300 g diced mushrooms. Instead of the Thai Jasmine rice, I served with "pilau" rice as recommended by my Mum.

9 October 2006

Roast Poussin with Rosemary and Garlic Potato Wedges


Since Lundulph keeps asking for roasted animals, I thought I'd make something more special. Well, there was also a special offer in Sainsbury's.

So I got two poussins, ready for roasting.

Roast poussins

2 small onions
2 large cloves of garlic
a bunch of fresh thyme
dried sage
2 handfuls of grape seed oil

  1. Turn on the oven at 190 degrees C/gas mark 3.
  2. Peel and chop the onion coarsely.
  3. Peel and crush the garlic, what I did was just squash it with the side of the kitchen knife.
  4. Stuff each poussin with an onion, garlic, thyme and sage.
  5. For each bird, pour a small amout of oil into your hand, then rub in the bird all over. I left the skin on, even if it had some hairs and feathers still left on it.
  6. Place on a roasting grill and place in the oven to cook for 50 minutes.
When I got the birds out, the skin was very crispy and the feathers and hairs seemed to have disappeared. Also they were very juicy, so careful when carving. But then I covered them with aluminium foil, while the rest of the dinner was getting ready and this was a mistake - the skins went soggy, so the birds shouldn't be left to stand after they are done. Well, unless there is a trick to make the skin remain crispy. I don't like the skin, so I don't mind, but I think Lundulph was a bit disappointed.

Also the onions weren't cooked, but were rather crunchy, I guess this is due to the short baking time of he poussins.

Rosemary and garlic potato wedges

1.5 kg potatoes with firm waxy flesh
water
1.5 dl grape seed oil
3 tbsp dried rosemary
3 large cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
  1. Wash the potatoes well, peel if the skin is thick, then cut into wedges, where the thickest part is no more than 1 cm wide.
  2. Place in a pot and boil for about 7-10 minutes.
  3. In the mean time, pour the oil in a bowl and add the spices, press in the garlic and let infuse until the potatoes are ready.
  4. When the potatoes have cooked for 7-10 minutes, drain well, then turn over onto a deepish baking tray.
  5. Distribute the infused oil, then stir the wedges around so all get well coated with the oil.
  6. Bake until ready, about 40 minutes, e. g. together with the poussins, in which case place then under the birds.
In addition to that, I did Yorkshire puddings (Delia Smith's recipe from her Complete Cookery Course book), steamed some broccoli and made Bisto chicken gravy - 6 heaped tsp to 280 ml.

Note: I used a mix of potatoes, since I had some left over from earlier: King Edward, Vivaldi and Anya. Both King Edward and Vivaldi were great, but the Anya were a bit too hard, so don't use for baking/roasting.

7 October 2006

Bread and Butter Pudding


I haven't tried this very English dish yet, I've seen it made on telly and have had certain doubts about it, but some time ago I saw a variant with an Italian twist - use panettone instead of bread - and that just clicked. So today I have made Panettone Bread and Butter pudding.

The original recipe is here.

As usual, I have made small changes.

The main one is that the panettone I managed to find at the end of September (not easy, believe me!) was absolutely enormous. So I increased the amount of custard with about two thirds. I should have doubled it really, but I think I can just about get away with this amount.

Next I got Jersey gold top milk which has 5.2% fat as opposed to regular full milk, which I think is around 3.5%.

Also, buttering panettone is pretty impossible, so I'm sure I used way too much - about 180 g I think, so we'll need to eat a little at a time.

Finally, I didn't have grappa for soaking the sultanas, so instead I used Bulgarian rakia, which is pretty much the same thing - a type of brandy. But it has quite a sharp taste, so maybe grappa is better.

Unfortunately, the recipe doesn't say how long to cook it if it's being done in a large dish, which I did, since I don't have little ramekins yet. Memo to self, put little ramekins on kitchen shopping list. So I baked the pudding for about 25 minutes.

Also I'd forgotten to get cream for it, but that was just as well, as it was very rich to say the least. Definitely reduce the amount of butter next time. And probably just do half a panettone. Otherwise, it was very tasty and some strength of character was needed not to take seconds.

Now since I have so much of it, I'll try to freeze some, to see how it'll cope with that.

Update 6th December 2013:
Going through my paper recipes in preparation for our Christmas Dinner, I notice that I haven't included the recipe, so here goes.

Ingredients 1 traditional panettone
1 litre milk
275 ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
4 eggs
160 g caster sugar
very cold butter for spreading on the slice of panettone
sultanas soaked in grappa

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220 °C and place a deep pan half-filled with water in it. Cut the panettone into 2 cm thick slices.
  2. Mix together milk and cream in a saucepan. Cut the vanilla pod in half, scrape off the seeds and add to the mixture along with the pods halves, then bring slowly to the boil.
  3. Whisk eggs and sugar to a fluffy pale foam.
  4. Using a cheese slicer, cut thin strips of butter and place on the panettone slices. Then cut the slices into cubes.
  5. When the milk has boiled, remove the pod halves from the mixture. Slowly pour the hot mixture into the egg/sugar mixture, while whisking constantly.
  6. Place the panettone cubes in an oven-proof dish or in small ramekins. Pour the egg mixture over and sprinkle sultanas on top.
  7. Carefully place in the water bath in the oven and bake until golden brown on top and the custard has cooked.

4 October 2006

Smoothies

I was introduced to smoothies when I was in the US in 97. I visited a friend in Monterey in California and there was a smoothie bar there. I haven't seen anything like it in Europe, but I think it was a brilliant idea.

A few years later, I started making my own. Here is my regular recipe.

3 bananas, not too green
1 large ripe mango
400 g strawberries
2 -3 dl orange juice

  1. Peel and break up the bananas in bits.
  2. Cut up the mango on both sides of the large stone, then with the knife point cut squares into each of the side pieces and wring them out, so that it looks like a hedgehog. Then cut the bits off as close to the skin as possible. Finally trim off as much fruit flesh off the stone as you can. This is a messy job and the method of cutting is sometimes illustrated on the sticker label of the mango itself. It works well for me.
  3. Wash the strawberries, then remove the green bits. Cut large ones in smaller pieces.
  4. Now I have a smoothie maker, which is a blender with a tap. So I put all the fruit in there, add the juice and blend untill it goes nice and smooth. But it works just as well to put everything in a jug and use a hand blender.
  5. Enjoy. This should be enough for 4 x 330 ml glasses. It can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days, but may separate and change colour. After that it starts fermenting.
I have tried substituting the strawberries for blackberries, this is quite nice too.
When there are no strawberries around, I add an extra banana.
Also, I bought a bottle of rose petal syrup from an arabic shop. This is also excellent to put in, say 2-3 tbsp, gives nice pink colour and a nice fragrance to it. Though mangoes tend to overpower the flavour of the rose petals. It's also add sweetness since it has a lot of sugar in it.

The juice can be substitued for milk or yogurt. Hot tips from Instant Karma are the Sainsbury's Be Good To Yourself fruit yogurt with semi-skimmed milk. And also the use of Guest Fruits like grapes, kiwi and blueberries. He has also issued a warning not to use apples as they make the smoothie texture gritty, like it has sand in it. Top tip!

Here's my trial with grapes instead of strawberries.

Verdict - tasty, but the skins of the grapes were not smoothed, so drinking was a bit of a challenge. That could be because I tend to over-fill the blender.

Student Food

When I was at uni, occasionally I'd cook noodles. The cheapest available were the dried ones, pre-packed with a small sachet of spices and another one with some orange coloured fatty stuff. The noodles required you to pour boiling water on them and leave for 3 minutes and stir in the spices and fat. It's really good and warming, but oh so boring and although I didn't try this myself, I do know at least one person who has survived on these a lot longer than anyone thought possible.

There is a better way to do these.

Get some nice pork fillet and slice in thin strips and place in a bowl.
Pour some light and dark soy sauce and leave to marinate for about 10 minutes.
In the mean time cut some vegetables into thin strips - carrots, peppers, onion, mushrooms.

Make the noodles as per the instructions on the packet, but use more water - up to double the amount.

In a deep non-stick pan, heat up some grape seed oil and stir fry the meat and vegetables. No need to drain the marinade, put it in as well. Don't fry until everything is ready, just to get it browned. Then add the noodle soup, bring to the boil and let boil for 5-10 minutes.

Whisk an egg, then pour it slowly into the soup, while stirring all the time.

Ready to eat!

3 October 2006

Lazy Apple Cake

1 dl sugar + 2-3 tbsp for the apples
1 dl plain flour
1 dl semolina
1 tsp baking powder
1 kg grated Granny Smith apples
1 dl chopped hazel nuts
unsalted butter, cinnamon
  1. Mix apples, sugar, hazel nuts and cinnamon.
  2. Mix sugar, flour, semolina and baking powder.
  3. Grease a cake tin with butter. If you have one with a removable bottom plate, the better it is.
  4. Place a third of the apples in the cake tin, then cover with a third of the flour mix.
  5. Continue with the next third of apples and flour mix, and then another layer with the final thirds of apples and flour mix.
  6. Cut thin slices of butter and place on top of the last layer of flour mix. In fact, if you have a cheese slicer, this is perfect to get thin slices.
  7. Bake in the oven at 200 degrees C or gas mark 6 for about 30 minutes, until the cake surace turns golden brown.
  8. Leave to cool a bit before taking the cake out of the tin, by turning it upside-down. Serve with custard or whipped cream.

The story behind this cake is that when I was a toddler, I'd watched my Mum baking in the kitchen and I'd seen her mix ingredients in a bowl into a dough, that she'd pour out of the bowl onto the work surface, then knead into something. So one day, she'd done this mix and I'd sneaked in, determined to help her. The result of pouring the mix onto the work surface was a kitchen filled with flour dust. I have no memory of this, but I do remember that she'd never let me help her out later on.

Also I've been having a discussion with Lundulph about cooking apples. This is a new concept to me. There are only dessert apples in Sweden, Germany and Bulgaria. In order to settle things, we've decided to make two lots of some sort of apple cake, one with dessert apples, one with cooking apples and see how they taste. Granny Smith apples are defined as both dessert and cooking apples, I think, so it's a way of getting around this. As this is a Bulgarian recipe, I suspect a different variety of apples would be used. So I can only suggest that you experiment.

Bavarian potato salad

I picked this up when I was in Munich some 10 years ago, however, I've changed the recipe to be something like a potato soup.

5 - 6 medium sized potatoes
1 medium sized red or regular onion
1 clove of garlic
5 - 6 fresh mushrooms
1 dl vegetable stock (e. g. Oxo or Maggi)
pepper
light and dark soy sauce
balsamic vinegar

  1. Wash, peel and dice the potatoes, then steam them.
  2. In the mean time, peel and dice the onion coarsely.
  3. Peel and slice the mushrooms thinly. Place along with the onion in a deep bowl.
  4. Add the soy sauces and balsamic vinegar and let them stand for a few minutes in the marinade.
  5. When the potatoes are ready, transfer them to the bowl as well, pour over the vegetable stock and stir well.
  6. Serve warm.
The original recipe didn't have mushrooms in it and no marinade was made. Also I think 3 tbsp vegetable stock was used for the potato salad.

I think at some points, I'd put 2-3 dl stock and I'd get a soup that's a bit on the sour vinegary side, which I quite like.

My Special Pizza

Lundulph doesn't like cheese, in fact he strongly disapproves of the whole concept. He says it's milk that's gone off. Actually that would be yogurt. Cheese would be a step beyond that.

I like pizza, I really do. So how combine the two? Besides tasting nice, if you put the chese on top of the pizza, it acts as a lid, getting everything else cooked and moist underneath. Posh restaurants put the cheese at the bottom, so the lid effect is a bit lost.

Still, here is my recipe, that I have developed.

Base

4 dl plain flour
1 dl wholemeal flour
2.5 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp salt
2 tbsp grape seed oil
1.75 dl water

Topping suggestions

1-2 cans of tuna in sunflower or olive oil
or
200-300 g sliced pepperoni
or
thinly sliced chicken

1 can chopped tomatoes or passata
mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 can of sweet corn
1-2 red peppers, thinly sliced
caper buds in vinegar
artichoke hearts in oil
1 onion, finely chopped or sliced
olives
basil
oregano
thyme
salt
pepper
chrushed chillies or hot pickled chillies
  1. Mix all base ingredients into a dough. The dough can be frozen.
  2. Grease a deep baking tin, preferably the non-stick type.
  3. Roll out to just under 0.5 cm thickness and place on a non-stick deep baking tin. This is a tricky one, the dough tends to be quite unwilling to stretch, so roll it to be a bit bigger than the baking tin, as it'll shrink when you lift it up.
  4. Brush the dough lightly with grape seed oil, then put on your choice of toppings. Cover with aluminium foil. And if you do like cheese, put that on last and skip the foil.
  5. Bake at 225 degrees C or gas mark 7.
When baking in an electric oven, it's quite OK to use a sheet of greaseproof paper on the baking tin and put the pizza on that, but I've noticed that gas ovens are different and make the dough stick to the paper and it's impossible to get it off, so keep away from the easy paper alternative if you are using a gas oven.

Update 27.10.2006: I tried the pizza dough recipe from my bread machine, a Panasonic SD-253, it was very nice too.

Update 10.02.2007: Today I actually took the time to make a tomato sauce, rather than just use liquidised tomatoes. It is definitely worth doing this, it was a lot tastier.

A Stray Hot Day

This year, it has been such a strange weather - some people are still picking tomatoes. And it's October and mornings are getting darker.

If there is a really hot day with lovely sunny weather, I recommend cooling down with this starter. It's another traditional Bulgarian recipe, a variety of it is known as Greek tzatziki. As usual the quantities are approximate, I've never measured them.

Tarator

Ingredients

1 l Greek style yogurt (or home made)
1 medium sized cucumber, peeled and finely diced
1 bunch of dill
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
salt
water
chopped walnuts (optional)

Method
  1. Place the yogurt in a deep bowl and add the cucumber.
  2. Use scissors to chop the dill into the bowl.
  3. Add the oil, chop or press the garlic and add as well.
  4. Add some water, salt and walnuts if you want.
  5. Stir well. If it seems too thick, add more water. It should have the consistency of a soup.
If you have been to Bulgaria on Summer holiday, you have probably had this as a starter. Unfortunately, restaurants are stingy and use mostly water. They also grate the cucumber, which just makes the tarator more watery and tasteless. Diced cucumber gives something crunchy in the soup and keeps it's flavour.

If you don't like garlic, reduce the amount or completely skip it. And careful with the walnuts, they might not be to everyone's taste, better place them on the side so that whoever wants them, can just add them later.

This is a really good way to rehydrate. And in order to get the flavour out, make this a few hours in advance and keep in the fridge. Alternatively, if you don't have time, add some ice cubes when serving.

I tend to live on this and salad in the Summer.

Autumn Decoration

If you are going out for a walk, collect colourful leaves. Place them between newspaper sheets and then place the sheets under a thick book and leave for about a week.

Get a bunch of old candle stumps (not too strong colours), place in a regular pan and melt on low heat. Remove any bits of the wick.

When the candles have melted completely, take out the leaves and dip them in, one at a time, and make sure each gets completely covered, then shake of excess and place on a greaseproof piece of paper. Each dip takes only seconds and it takes about a minute or two for the leaf to dry.

This will preserve the leaves and their beautiful Autumn colour and they can be used for decoration around the house. If you have the time, you can make a pretty wreath, or like I did a couple of years ago - just spread them on the mantle piece.

It is very important that the leaves are completely dry when you start. If they are "fresh", it's likely they'll go brown or worse - rot underneath the candle wax.

Pumpkin Cream

Mainly for Halloween, this is a nice and light dessert.

1 butternut squash
water
sugar
cinnamon
walnuts
creme fraiche, mascarpone or whipped cream

  1. Cut the squash in the middle between the narrow and rounded part. Then cut the rounded part in half and scoop out the seeds, but don't throw them away.
  2. Cut up the bits into smaller chunks, then peel them with a vegetable knife as the skin is too tough for potato peelers.
  3. Boil the pumpkin chunks, only put enough water so that only the bottom half of the chunks are under water. Boil until soft. Alternatively the chunks can be steamed, but you'll need to add water for the cream.
  4. Blend with the water until smooth. A thick cream like custard should result.
  5. Add sugar and cinnamon to taste, then pour into portion sized glasses. Chopped walnuts can also be added.
  6. Decorate with creme fraiche/mascarpone or whipped cream and top with chopped walnuts.
  7. Cool in the fridge for at least a 3 hours.

If you are doing a Halloween dinner party, here's a serving suggestion. Get mini-pumpkins, one for each guest. Cut off the tops and scoop out both seeds and flesh, then back fill with the pumpkin cream and put the tops back on, slightly on the side.

2 October 2006

Brown Nutty Scones

I watched on telly when Rachel Allen did these and scribbled down the ingredients some time ago, in the hopes of trying them out once the cooker was installed.

Well, last night I made them, but wasn't too sure of my scribblings, so invented as I went along. Today I found her recipe, she's made some changes to it as well.

I used rye flour instead of the wholemeal (coarse brown flour in the TV show). Then I used porridge oats and sunflower seeds, but not linseed (as in the TV show). Also I wasn't sure about the raising agent, so I used 5 tsp of baking powder instead. The buttermilk was swapped for Jersey gold top milk of 5.2% fat (it smelt of butter).

I used up all the liquid and the dough was extremely sticky. I spread some seeds on top of it and pressed them in, but they didn't stick, so next time I need to remember to save some liquid for that.

Also, 5 tsp baking powder made the dough very salty, so must try using 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda instead.

As for baking, it took longer than she said on telly - some 30 minutes, of which the first 15 were on 230 degrees (gas mark 8), then the last 15 were on 200 degrees (gas mark 5).

Lundulph was very surprised, he expected regular scones, to be eaten with clotted cream and jam, but these are more like the American "biscuits" - savoury. Should be good with soup, I think. I just had a small nibble last night, but will try a whole one today.

6 October 2006 update:

Despite using far too much baking powder, they didn't rise much and are actually quite heavy. So I'll have try with wholemeal or brown flour next time. But the good news is that they can be frozen and are quite tasty afterwards as well. Their heaviness means that they don't soak up liquids very well, so if you like dipping, it's not ideal.

Personally I think that only babies and old people who have lost their teeth are OK to dip. I've had my share of bread dipped in tea or soup and I really don't like the soggy texture, which is why don't approve of dipping.

1 October 2006

Roasted nuts

As long as I can remember, my Dad has roasted almonds and peanuts in the oven. On very special occasions, he's done walnuts too. He tends to make them salty, I just like them au naturel and they are so very nice when they are hot out of the oven. Here's how to make them.

Raw nuts of some sort are required, almonds, peanuts, walnuts, whatever.

Place in a single layer on a shallow baking tin. Shallow meaning about 1.5 - 2 cm deep.

Put under the tap, so the nuts get wet, but don't leave them to soak. Drain as much as possible of the water, then season with salt, stirring to spread it through.

Place in a pre-heated oven at 160 - 170 degrees C. Stir every 5 minutes and taste as well. It should take about 15-20 minutes. The trick is to take the tin out before the nuts are ready as they keep their heat well and continue "roasting" afterwards too. If you let them get ready in the oven, they'll go burnt and bitter afterwards.

At this point, I start eating them as soon as I can manage to touch them without getting burnt, I like the chewiness they have. But the nuts are quite nice cold as well, so once cooled completely, they can be stored in a plastic box.

An idea that just struck me, if you skip the salt at the beginning, but just roast them, then you can make caramel or toffee and quickly stir the nuts in, halfway through roasting, that should be quite nice too.