29 December 2010

Croquembouche

For my parents' 40th wedding anniversary the other day, I'd decided to make a croquembouche. What I've managed to find out is that this fantastic creation is traditional in French weddings, so it would be very suitable for a ruby wedding. I did toy with the idea of a dress rehearsal, but decided against it, after all, I'd have to blog about it in advance and also living at my parents' place at the moment, that would really spoil the surprise.

To get an idea what a croquembouche is, google images gives a good clue.

But I did kick off preparations in the evening before by making half a batch of the recipe in my Cordon Bleu book, where I first discovered the croquembouche. The recipe said to make 100 choux buns, but counting the buns used in the picture, they seem to have used about 66, so I thought half a batch would suffice.

And it did, I got 60 buns out of it. The recipe is slightly different to what I did a couple of years ago for the Daring Bakers. However, I swapped out the water for milk.

Ingredients

2.4 dl milk
120 g unsalted butter
0.5 tsp salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2.4 dl flour
5 large eggs

Method
  1. Bring the milk and butter to the boil on medium-low heat.

  2. In the mean time, sift together salt, sugar and flour.

  3. In a separate bowl, break 4 of the eggs and whisk lightly.

  4. In a glass, break the fifth egg, add a pinch of salt and whisk together. This will be used for the glaze.

  5. When the liquid is boiling, remove from the heat and whisk in the flour mixture. I found a wooden spoon worked better than the electric whisk.

  6. When the dough has come together, put on the hob again, stirring to get it to dry out a bit and become smooth.

  7. Remove from the heat once more and slowly add the whisked up four eggs, a little at the time and making sure they are completely incorporated before adding more. 4 or 5 installments should do.

  8. Place some baking paper onto a couple of baking sheets and pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C (I used the fan function, so baked at 185 degrees C).

  9. Pipe with a straight wide nozzle onto the baking paper, blobs about the size of walnuts. Leave quite a bit of space in between, because they will swell do double size.

  10. Glaze with the fifth egg and a brush, then dip a fork in the remaining egg wash and flatten the choux buns.

  11. Bake for 20 minutes, until the buns are golden brown and have puffed up. Swap or turn the baking trays if they are baking unevenly and don't worry if they seem to collapse from this treatment.

  12. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack, then use or store in an airtight box (they will go a bit soft then).


For the cream filling, I couldn't be bothered to do the suggested mousseline cream, so used one of my Mum's pudding powder packets. This is basically corn flour with some flavourings and one packet resulted in almost 1 litre of pudding. I opted for the vanilla flavoured one and it was to be stirred into 100 ml of cold milk, while another 600 ml milk and 1.5 dl sugar were brought to the boil. After that the dissolved powder was to be whisked into the boiling milk and the whole lot be allowed to heat up until it bubbled again and began to thicken. After this, I kept stirring it to cool it down a little bit, then added the remainder of the egg wash as well and whisked it in. To prevent skin forming, I covered the surface with cling film and allowed it to cool down completely.

On the day of the celebrations, I made a hole in at the bottom of each choux bun and by this time they had all gone soft. I then whisked up the pudding cream to loosen it up and remove any lumps and using a fine straight nozzle, I piped it into the hole of each choux. Most did have a hole in the middle and it was great to see how they filled up. A few didn't, but I tried to get in at least a little of the cream.

Then I moved onto the caramel - I melted 5 dl of granulated sugar with 1 dl of water. This was fine. I then should have added 1 dl of glucose, but I didn't have that so used light syrup instead. This is the Swedish artificially made syrup which is pretty close to glucose. But using the light one, this tinted everything a bit so I wasn't too sure when it had reached the caramel temperature.

For the mould, I decided to go for the option of constructing the croquembouche on the inside of it as I'd seen recommended on youtube and twisted together a plastic place mat into a funnel and lined it with aluminium foil. The book recommends lining a cone on the outside with foil and then building the pyramid on the outside.

I removed the melted sugar off the heat and started dipping the choux and gluing them together inside the funnel. This step worked pretty well and I didn't burn myself on the melted sugar. I'd used 35 buns when the funnel was full, so I thought that'll do and put it in the fridge to firm up a bit.

With the remaining 25 buns, I dipped the tops into the melted sugar and dipped in either pearl sugar, daim bits or edible pink hearts which I'd purchased especially along with edible gold dust to decorate the croquembouche.

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I couldn't resist eating one at this point and this is also when I realised that after all these years of cooking, I still can't make caramel. Ho hum, let's hope the thing in the fridge firms up anyway.

So we had dinner, Dad opened a nice wine and there was much merriment and then time came to the dessert. The sparkling wine was opened, I took out the croquembouche mould out of the fridge and saw that it had collapsed inside already. Oh, dear! Further unravelling of the funnel resulted in this:

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But as Lundulph said on the phone, the good thing is that even if the croquembouche doesn't work out, it'll still be a very tasty mess. And it was. Despite eating a decent dinner beforehand, we still managed to put away most of the little choux. I think there were about 15 left.

The pudding cream was far too much as well, I had about 4 dl left, which I transferred to some nice glasses and sprinkled some daim bits on. My Dad likes pudding, so I'm pretty sure they'll be gone by the time I go back to Sweden.

I showed the photo in the book to everyone. My Mum suggested we try the croquembouche again for her birthday in a few weeks. She'll help then and I'll make sure to get both glucose and a sugar thermometer.

Besides I got to use two of my Mum's paper doilies, they've been at the bottom of the cupboard since the mid-eighties at the very least. The price tag indicated a ridiculously low price from a shop that hasn't existed for a very long time.

25 December 2010

I'll Have A Blue Christmas...

...without Lundulph.

Sadly due to the severe weather that has been raging all over Europe, Lundulph was unable to join me in Stockholm for the Christmas holidays, instead we're each celebrating with our respective families.

Thus the lack of a new Christmas Bird with all the trimmings.

We aim to try and catch up over New Year next week, but it won't be quite the same and so this year's well-laid plans are pushed on to next year.

4 December 2010

Pork Bourguignon

To celebrate my Gran's 90th birthday, I decided to make Boeuf Bourguignon, after recently having watched the Julie & Julia movie.

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As I started to put together a shopping list, Mum volunteered a large piece of meat, which I accepted, along with a novelty wine from Italy that she'd bought because the bottle was in the shape of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. As it turned out, the piece of meat was pork and the wine was a Sicilian wine "typical for the region". Yeah, definitely for cooking.

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I also went a bit lazy and didn't get shallots, but opted for regular onions and used canned button mushrooms instead of fresh ones.

Further changes were that I had to transfer things between a casserole dish that could go on the hob and a gyuvetch (crockery pot) that goes in the oven. This palaver due to not having a pot that does both. I also prepared the dish up to the slow cooking point last night and finished it this morning.

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Ingredients

1.2 kg blade pork/spare rib roast
170 g smoked and diced bacon
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium sized carrots
1 largeish onion
1 tsp salt
0.25 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp flour
750 ml red wine
2 - 3 dl beef stock
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 cloves of garlic
0.5 tsp dried thyme
1 crumbled bay leaf

1 can of whole button mushrooms (400 g) along with the liquid
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 largeish onions
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil
salt and pepper to taste
a bouquet garni made of 4 sprigs parsley, 0.5 bay leaf and 0.25 tsp dried thyme tied in a double layer of cheese cloth
225 g of parboiled girolles
sprigs of parsley for decoration

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Method
  1. Pre-heat the oven along with the gyuvetch, so that it doesn't crack from a sudden temperature change. This is done slowly and in increments up to 230 degrees C.

  2. In the mean time, trim off the fat from the pork as much as possible and cut into 5 cm chunks. Then dry each piece with a paper towel.

  3. Peel the carrots and onion and slice them.

  4. Then heat up the vegetable oil in a deep frying pan on medium and sauté the bacon for 3 - 4 minutes, then remove from the pan and place in the guyvetch in the oven.

  5. Turn up the heat until it starts smoking, then brown the pork pieces all around. Do this in several batches, making sure they aren't crowded in the pan. Remove each batch to the guyvetch.

  6. Turn down the heat a little, then add the carrots and onion and brown them for a few minutes until the onions go soft and translucent. Stir so nothing sticks and burns. Finally take the guyvetch out of the oven and transfer the carrots and onion there as well.

  7. Then season and sprinkle the flour all over, stir around to get the meat coated and place the guyvetch in the oven for 4 - 5 minutes uncovered. Then take out, stir again and return for a further 4 - 5 minutes. This will brown the flour a bit.

  8. Turn down the oven to 165 degrees C, take out the guyvetch and transfer it's contents back to the deep frying pan. Replace the guyvetch in the oven to keep it warm for later.

  9. Pour the wine over the meat and top up with beef stock, so that the liquid barely covers it.

  10. Add the tomato paste, peel and press in the garlic, sprinkle the thyme and crumble the bay leaf. Stir well and bring to a simmer on the hob.

  11. Return everything to the gyuvetch, cover and let simmer in the oven for 2 h. Check that the meat is done by piercing it with a fork.

  12. While the casserole is baking, drain the canned mushrooms, but save the liquid.

  13. Heat up the butter and oil to the point when the bubbles begin to subside, then add the mushrooms and sauté them for a couple of minutes until they get lightly browned. Again do this in batches so they don't over-crowd. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

  14. Peel and cut the onions into 2 - 3 cm chunks. Then add to the fat from the mushrooms and sauté for about 10 minutes, while stirring carefully so they don't disintegrate.

  15. Add about 1.2 dl of the mushroom liquid and the bouquet garni, cover and let simmer for 35 - 40 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.

  16. Discard the bouquet garni and set aside until needed.

  17. When the 2 h are up, check the meat, if it's tender, add the sautéed mushrooms and onions. Also add any left-over mushroom liquid and the parboiled girolles and stir through to make the ingredients mix, then give the stew another 15 - 20 minutes, or if not serving straight away, turn down to about 80 degrees to keep warm.

  18. Serve with boiled or mashed potatoes and decorate with sprigs of parsley.


It does sound like a lot of effort, but that's mainly due to having to switch between casserole dishes.

But thinking about my random results for guyvetch stew, I think drying the meat before browning it and also coating with flour and baking to brown it might make a difference and I must remember that next time. Along with pre-frying the vegetables as well.

In hindsight, I should have got shallots, they look so much more attractive than chunks of regular onion. Sautéing the mushrooms and onions like that was interesting as well and according to Julia Child, they can be served as is.

I did manage to burn the onions a bit during the sauté, but not too bad.

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Since my Mum mentioned that she doesn't do mashed potatoes, I opted for that, rather than just boiling them. Besides, Delia's perfect mashed potatoes are just too tasty.

We had a great dinner, the stew smelt and tasted wonderful, the meat was tender, the sauce was of perfect thickness and everyone had seconds. Lundulph could sadly not participate in the birthday celebrations, his flight got cancelled due to the severe weather that's hit the UK over the past couple of days, so I'll have to do this dish for him especially sometime soon. And then with shallots and fresh button mushrooms.

A note on the meat. A quick search on wikipedia reveals that pork is cut differently in the UK and Sweden. The piece I used was called "karré" and there is no direct cut that corresponds to it. Google translates it as loin, but that's not entirely correct, the loin is towards the back of the animal, whereas the "karré" seems to correspond to the shoulder, which was termed as the spare rib steak and blade.

Of course being a birthday celebration, we finished off with a lovely cake, made by my Mum.

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Though we skipped the candles, and as my Gran said, 90 candles would have blown it up.

29 November 2010

Yoghurt Bread

On my latest flying visit home, it was time to resuscitate Monty, my sourdough starter. However, from the last time I did that, I had loads of starter already, I'd even frozen some of it and still the jar where it lives was two-thirds full.

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So I decided to do something drastic and not feed the starter in preparation of making bread. Instead I measured up 360 g, leaving a little for next time. Then I added 260 g of strong white flour and 140 g of granary flour (in effect what was left in the packets) and ran it in the Kitchen Assistent. This resulted in something very crumbly, since the starter itself was pretty stiff for some reason.

I didn't really fancy adding water, so had a look in the fridge for something else and spotted half a tub of creamy yoghurt. That was about 225 g, which I added to the dough and it came together pretty well.

I mixed it for 5 minutes, then gave it 30 minutes of autolysing, then another 5 minutes of mixing before adding 15 g salt.

I then let it rise for 2.5 h with folds at 50 and 100 minutes. During this time I didn't notice it rising much. It also seemed a fairly soft dough, but felt more like cold modelling clay or putty rather than elastic dough.

I shaped it into one big loaf, placed it in the loaf tin and put it in a very cold room (about 15 degrees C) and went out for the evening. When we got home, I had a peek at it and it hadn't changed noticeably, so I returned it to the kitchen where it was a little warmer (about 18 degrees C). When I got up the next morning, it had doubled in size and looked very nice.

I pre-heated the oven to 230 degrees and slashed the loaf. This is the first time it slashed well, without sticking and dragging along with the razor blade. Then quickly into the oven before it changed its mind and collapsed. I baked it for 50 minutes, turning down the heat to 200 after 25 minutes.

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I got great oven spring and when it had cooled, I sliced it to discover a brilliant crumb texture and a strong sour smell. It tasted very nice too, strongly sour, despite the yogurt really not being sour at all, but perhaps keeping it out of the fridge while the dough was developing increased the sourness. I hope Lundulph likes it too, but certainly this was a very interesting dough, easy to handle and rather tasty too. When I've baked previously, my breads haven't really been very sour at all. This also is a new way of resolving starter surplus. I think next time I do this, I'll add anise or perhaps lingonberry jam to enhance the flavours.

22 November 2010

Руло Стефани

The title above reads Rulo Stephanie and is what Bulgarians call meatloaf.

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After catching the end of a Nigella Express episode a couple of weeks ago, where she made meatloaf, Lundulph expressed a hankering for it and I thought I'd make one for him when he came to visit this week-end.

The Nigella vesion only had eggs in it, but was covered with bacon, which I found intriguing and after discussing with my Mum, we decided to have a crack at adding bacon to our regular recipe.

So this one is a collaboration between me and my Mum, which was great fun. I also found out that the vine leaves were her invention to begin with, inspired by a gyuvetch made by a friend many, many years ago.

The mince we had for the meatloaf was home made, thus extremely lean, as my Mum removes every trace of fat and sinews before grinding the meat, so bacon would definitely be needed to stop it going dry.

And having spotted a photo of woven streaky bacon on a turkey, I thought I'd try that as well and make things extra festive.

Sadly my Mum never really bothers with amounts for ingredients there days, so the below may be well off the mark.

Ingredients

Mince mixture
1.5 kg minced meat
300 g bread
water for soaking
4 medium onions
5 eggs
salt, pepper, dried savoury and fresh parsley

Filling mixture
3 medium onions
1 can of mushrooms (400 g)
3 large carrots
3 tbsp vegetable oil
7 hard boiled eggs
salt and pepper


about 30 preserved vine leaves

560 g smoked thinly sliced streaky bacon


Garlic and paprika potatoes
7 jacket potatoes
4 - 5 tbsp garlic granules
2 tbsp paprika
salt
margarine

Béchamel sauce
5 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp flour
6 dl full milk
2 dl whipping cream
juices from the meatloaf

Method
  1. Start by making the mince mixture on the evening before, so that flavours have time to develop. First soak the bread for a few minutes, then squeeze out and mix in with the other ingredients. If it feels too wet, add some breadcrumbs.

  2. Next prepare the filling. Peel and chop the onions. Peel and dice the carrots finely, drain and dice the mushrooms.

  3. Heat up the fat and fry onions, carrots and mushrooms for a few minutes.

  4. Peel and dice the eggs, then mix in with the other vegetables, season to taste and let cool.

  5. To make the meatloaf, first line two or three loaf tins with the vine leaves.
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  6. Then on a piece of baking parchment, weave the bacon strips.
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  7. Spread half of the mince (if using two loaf tins) over the bacon and then beyond onto the baking paper at one end. Pat it into a rectangle and fairly thinly, so that it can be rolled.
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  8. Spread some of the filling in a thin layer, leaving 2 - 3 cm free on each of the two short sides of the mince rectangle.
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  9. With the help of the baking paper, start rolling the part that's outside the bacon. Make sure the paper doesn't get trapped inside the roll. The idea is to have the bacon part cover the meat loaf on the outside only.

  10. Tuck in at the edges, then transfer to the loaf tin making sure the seam side is down.
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  11. Cover with more vine leaves and bake in a pre-heated oven at 165 degrees C for about an hour and a half. It depends on how thick the loaf is.

  12. After the first 30 minutes, add a little water to each loaf tin.

  13. While the meatloaves are baking, peel and cut the potatoes into wedges, then parboil by covering them in cold water and just bring to the boil, then turn off the heat and let them cool for a few minutes.

  14. Grease up a deep oven tray and transfer the potatoes to it. Sprinkle garlic granules, paprika and salt and stir around to spread the spices.

  15. Distribute some margarine over the potatoes and bake in the oven at 225 degrees until they are soft inside and crisp up on the surface and have a nice golden colour. It works well to have the potatoes at the top of the oven and the meatloaves at the bottom, they should both have the required baking temperatures. It's a good idea to stir through the potatoes a couple of times during baking to make sure they all cook through evenly. If they look too dry, add a bit more margarine.

  16. For the sauce, heat up the oil, then add the flour and fry for about a minute, stirring vigorously.

  17. Start adding the milk a little at a time and still stirring constantly. It'll clump together to begin with, so just keep adding more milk and eventually the cream.

  18. When it has the thickness you want, let it simmer for a couple of minutes (still stirring) and then remove from the hob.

  19. When the meatloaves are done, carefully drain the liquid from them and add some of it to the sauce. Save some for later servings, as the sauce will go pretty thick when it cools down completely and this is a way to spruce it up a bit.


This was very successful, we served it with steamed and sautéed broccoli. It all combined very well, though we didn't use up all of the mince mixture, but had to remove about 200 g of it in the end. I wanted to freeze it and use to make a few Bulgarian meatballs at a later date, but my Mum mixed it up with some of the leftover filling and made a third mini-meatloaf.

Lundulph thought adding some chilli next time might make it even more interesting and add further depth to the flavour. I was thinking of perhaps adding red pepper or tomato to the filling to increase the contrast and make the roll shape more obvious when serving.

It was certainly great fun to make and to cook together with my Mum.

Brioche Roulée

In order to treat Lundulph and my parents to a special breakfast, I decided to finally try out Lenôtre's recipe for Brioche Roulée.

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His dough recipe is a bit different from Richard Bertinet's one, that I've been successful with, so I was a bit nervous, especially due to some of the instructions that didn't quite make sense in my head.

Besides, I've had trouble baking and cooking things in my Mum's kitchen for some reason. It's just not the same as at home, I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it's because my Mum is there and historically she's been the one to cook for the family, not me, whereas at home, I'm the one that does the cooking. Who knows. But I was determined to give this a try.

The original recipe is called Brioche Rulée aux Fruits Confits and is translated to Rolled Brioche with Candied Fruit. It would have almond or vanilla cream in it, along with candied fruit and raisins soaked in rum and be decorated with a sugar glaze. Problem nr 1: My Dad doesn't like dried fruit in yeasty breads. Now I had some mousseline cream left over, which I thought I'd use up. As it turned out, I had to throw it away, since it had fermented. I guess 3 weeks in the fridge is just really pushing my luck. That makes Problem nr 2. What were the alternatives? Well, there are 5 jars of jam in the fridge and by far the most popular is bilberry, so I decided to use that instead. Thus also the issue with the fruit was resolved and I decided to add some chopped walnuts for a bit of crunchiness.

I also decided to actually do the brioche properly, i. e. prepare it the night before and let it rest in the fridge, I generally skip that bit. The recommendation was to make in small amounts, rather than big. The roulée was supposed to be made from 400 g dough in a 20 cm cake tin. I didn't weigh my dough, but I knew it would be more than the required amount. This worked out OK, since my Mum's cake tin is 23 cm.

Brioche dough ingredients

9 g fresh yeast
1 tsp warm water
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp full milk
250 g strong white flour
3 eggs
225 g unsalted butter at room temperature

Brioche dough method
  1. In a small bowl, crumble the yeast into the water and stir to make a runny paste.
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  2. Combine the salt and sugar in the bowl where the dough will be mixed and add 1 tbsp of milk to it and stir to dissolve as much as possible.
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  3. Add the flour to the salt/sugar mixture, then add the yeast paste on top and mix to combine.

  4. Add 2 of the eggs and continue to mix the dough until it is firm and smooth and evenly blended. If it seems a bit dry, add the remaining tablespoon of milk.

  5. Add the remaining egg, then continue to knead for some 10 - 15 minutes (if using a machine, possibly longer if by hand). The dough should become light and soft, but not too sticky.

  6. Now divide up the butter into ice cube sized chunks and add to the dough and incorporate well, but don't over-work the dough.

  7. Cover the dough with a cloth and set aside in a warm place and let rise to double volume, about 2 h.

  8. Punch it down, fold a couple of times, then let rise a second time to double volume, another 2 h or so, then cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge overnight.


The bits I was wondering about was the almost ridiculously small amounts of water and milk in order to dissolve the dry-ish ingredients. But having done them, I realise that the point is to make it easier to blend them into the dough, rather than add liquid to it. Brioche dough generally only gets liquid from the eggs, so this is a very neat trick to incorporate yeast, salt and sugar and get them well distributed throughout.

From the instructions I got the impression that the dough would be soft, but not sticky. I didn't end up with anything near that. The eggs I used were on the small side and the overall amounts were a bit too small for the Kitchen Assistent, so I ended up kneading by hand and also adding the extra tbsp of milk in order to get it to come together.

The most disturbing thing was the amount of butter, I think I might have got it wrong, because it was way too much and the final dough that I put in the fridge was more of a very thick batter, than a dough. I just about managed to incorporate it all. I certainly struggled to punch it down and fold it between the two rises.

Roulée ingredients

unsalted butter
1.5 dl granulated sugar
1 dl water
2 dl jam
1 dl chopped walnuts
1 egg

Roulée method
  1. Butter a round cake tin.

  2. Take the brioche dough out of the fridge and take about a third of it and roll out to a circle, large enough to cover the bottom and walls of the cake tin. Then place it in the tin and spread some of the jam on the bottom of it. It must be a thin layer.

  3. Roll the remaining dough into a rectangle, about 60 x 20 cm and spread the remainder of the jam on it. Sprinkle the walnuts over the jam, then roll up to a 50 cm long sausage.

  4. Cut the roll into 12 pieces 5 cm thick and arrange in the cake tin, making sure they don't touch each other or the dough at the edge. Cover and let proof until the pieces begin to touch, about an hour.
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  5. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.

  6. In the mean time bring the sugar and water to the boil to make a simple syrup. Let simmer for a couple of minutes, then set aside to cool.

  7. Just before putting the roulée in the oven, whisk up the egg and brush the surface well. Bake the roulée for about 35 minutes, until golden brown.
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  8. Remove from the oven and immediately brush or drizzle the syrup over the roulée until it's all absorbed.

  9. Allow to cool a bit, then serve warm.


The night in the fridge did wonderous things for the brioche dough, it was very much like modelling clay than dough, but most definitely not like batter.

I tried to work as quickly as possible, and used copious amounts of flour when rolling.

I also baked it at 185 degrees and used the hot air fan. This mainly to save a few minutes on waiting for the oven to heat up, rather than anything else.

The result was fabulous, albeit on the greasy side. I also put in too thick a layer of jam at the bottom under the rolls. This is mainly due to the bilberries being whole in the jam, I should have prepared it and blended it beforehand.

On the whole, it was an interesting experience, but I think I'll stick to my original brioche recipe next time, it seems a bit less hassle.

I also suspect other types of jam would work just as nicely.

Everyone liked it and there's only a small piece left over. Dad and Lundulph even had seconds. So I'm happy too.

7 November 2010

Halloween Dessert

As for the dessert, I had inspiration from Dick Strawbridge's work during the last stages of Celebrity MasterChef.

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He made little cups out of filo pastry, which he filled with sweet things, I can't remember exactly what. I thought the cups were brilliant and so made some for my dessert.

The filo pastry I had was a bit on the dry side and I had to revive it with water from the spray bottle. This worked a treat though and with care I managed to unroll them with very few tears.

Unfortunately I did not have muffin tins and decided to use aluminium cups normally used for mazarines.

So I melted 40 g of unsalted butter on very low heat and cut squares from the filo, two or each cup.

For each cup, I brushed the first filo square with the melted butter and placed it over a cup with the butter side up and away from the cup itself. I then brushed the second filo square and placed on top of the first square, but turned it 45 degrees, thus ending up with an 8 point star. I centered the cup and carefully pushed the filo into it, folding where necessary and making sure the edges formed some sort of a petal and didn't stick out too much. And I also realised that shaping these in a muffin tin would have been so much more difficult.

I preheated the oven to 200 degrees C and baked and went to check my emails and burned the whole bunch.

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After some swearing, I cut another batch of filo squares and repeated the process, but I also lowered the heat to 180 degrees C. And kept watching. I think it took bout 5 minutes and I moved them around during the baking, to make sure all got baked evenly.

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With a much better result. Quickly out of the oven and left to cool down, on the baking sheet, which perhaps provided a few extra seconds of baking. Once cooled, I removed the aluminium cups very carefully, then placed the filo cups in boxes well padded with kitchen paper and closed the lids tightly to keep crisp. I used them the next day and staleness had just begun to do its work, so I don't think they would have lasted a further day.

I then turned my attention to the pumpkin. Off with it's lid and out with the seeds and stringy bits in the middle. Then I drew a simple face on the front and cut it out. Once that was done, with the help of the melon ball scoop, I carved out about 50 pumpkin balls, which I steamed until they began to go soft.

I then heated up about 175 g medium maple syrup until it started bubbling (on medium heat) and added the pumpkin balls, sprinkled over cinnamon and basted them in the syrup to get them nicely caramelised/infused. Then out onto a baking parchment and allowed to cool down.

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I tasted one while it was hot and it was fantastic, once cooled though, the sweetness went away a bit, or I managed to get the one that had soaked up most of the sweetness. I should have stewed them a bit longer in the maple syrup perhaps.

So, to serve, I placed a filo cup on a plate, placed 5 pumpkin balls inside it and added a teaspoon of mascarpone.

It was my intention to drizzle more maple syrup over them, but had another of many brain skips and completely forgot that.

Thus the wow factor that I was aiming for got lost, however it was still pretty tasty.

5 November 2010

Moose Wallenbergers

Actually Wallenbergare, this is a type of a burger, named after Marcus Wallenberg, a distinguished member of the Wallenberg family.

Normally it's made of beef mince, but during hunting season, moose mince is also used. I've never done this before, but I had it many years ago at the Stockholm Arlanda airport and it was delicious.

So the main course for the dinner party was to be a moose Wallenberger accompanied by the Dauphinoise potatoes, the mushroom fricassée, Madeira sauce and a blob of lingonberry jam.

I researched quite a few recipes and this one seemed the most interesting, though I decided to add a splash of cognac as suggested in another recipe.

And in case you haven't figured it out yet, I have moose on the brain at the moment.

Ingredients

1.5 kg moose mince
3 eggs
2 dl double cream
1 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp ground pepper
1.5 tbsp Dijon mustard
0.5 tbsp stock concentrate of beef or game
3 tbsp cognac
finely ground breadcrumbs
butter for frying

Method

  1. Mix together everything except the breadcrumbs and the butter.

  2. Take a small piece and fry and taste. If needed, adjust the seasoning, then leave for a few hours in the fridge, so flavours develop.

  3. Make large burgers, about 200 g, but they shouldn't be more than 2 cm thick.
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  4. Turn in the bread crumbs, then fry for 3 - 4 minutes on each side and finish off in the oven at 120 - 130 degrees C.


Now I wasn't entirely sure what the stock concentrate is, but I found some in a bottle in a shop and used it. It tasted pretty much like a stock cube, but in liquid form. I guess a cube can be mashed up into fine powder and mixed in and it should work in a similar way. Or perhaps dissolve in the cream.

As I was speaking with my Mum later in the evening, I realised I'd completely forgotten to add the eggs, so had a rush to add and incorporate them.

During frying, I switched my brain off for a bit and burned the surface on several, as the pan was hotter in the middle than towards the edges and the frying was uneven. I did correct this, by turning the burgers a quarter of a circle every now and then. Sometimes I wonder why I bother reading scientific cookery books, if I'm not going to follow the advice in them.

It turned out the "finish off in the oven" bit is not that simple and I wasn't sure that they would cook properly, so I played it safe and did the finish at 175 degrees and I left them in for quite some time, along with the Dauphinois potatoes, mushroom fricassée and the Madeira sauce to keep everything hot. So the burgers were a bit over-done.

At serving, the burgers also felt a bit dense, I might add some bread next time to make them a bit fluffier. But they were still pretty tasty and were quite easy to shape too, I hadn't expected that.

As for the Madeira sauce, this time I had messmör and incorporated it. Contrary to what I thought would happen, its flavour was barely noticeable next to the Madeira, but it added a very nice richness to the sauce and took off the sharpness of the wine itself. I think créme fraîche would be a better substitute than double cream. I wonder if the messmör would generally always behave like this in gravies, must experiment.

And so how was it overall? Well, I think I had far too many flavours, all pretty strong and screaming for attention and although fairly tasty, I should try and keep things a bit simpler. The guests seemed to like it, though they felt that the portions were way too big.

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This is a photo of my portion, which was a bit smaller and perhaps what I should have aimed at in the first place.

Dauphinoise Potatoes

For the carbs part of the dinner party, I decided to make Dauphonoise potatoes. I've had it in restaurants and it's always been wonderfully tasty and I've always thought I really should try making it at home.

Well, despite its simplicity, this dish is fiddly. And I didn't have the proportions, having noted down the definition from Larousse Gastronomique.

Ingredients

6 large jacket potatoes
750 ml single cream
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper

Method

  1. Peel and slice the potatoes thinly. Best use a food processor for this.

  2. Butter a deep oven-proof dish.

  3. Place the cream in a bowl, peel and press in the garlic, then season so that it's a bit on the salty side.

  4. Lay one layer of the potato slices to cover the bottom of the dish completely. Then drizzle a bit of the cream mixture.
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  5. Lay another single layer of potatoes and drizzle with cream, then continue until the potatoes are slightly above the edge of the baking dish. If there's any cream left, distribute it over the potatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

  6. Cover the dish with cling film and place something heavy on top to press down the potatoes. Keep an eye out, because it might overflow. A few minutes of the pressure is enough.

  7. Place in the oven and bake for 2.5 h, or until the potatoes are cooked through. If the top layer starts burning, cover with aluminium foil.


The slicer attachment of the Kitchen Assistent machine made a very easy job of this and as it turned out, the potatoes filled the baking dish perfectly, but I didn't keep watch during the pressurising and so I ended up with a big cream puddle under it.

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I think I fitted about 8 or 9 layers in total, I didn't count, but they were many. And so, it took a long time to bake even though the potatoes were quite thin. A gorgeous smell of garlic spread through the kitchen and I briefly did toy with the idea of having a nibble, but no, this was for the dinner party.

Mushroom Fricassée by Raymond Blanc

After watching Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets, I noted down way too many recipes (as usual, one might say) and they're all on my to try out list.

As the girolle season is coming to a close, I just had to squeeze in a dish with this gold of the forest.

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Chef Blanc's recipe is for 4 portions, so I scaled it up to fit 10. I also only had girolles, that's what grows in the woods behind my parents' house.

Originally reading through the recipe, I didn't see where the tomatoes should be added, so I thought it was some sort of typo and crossed them out from my notes. But they should be there. Also I thought the dish would taste in a particular way. It didn't, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I also couldn't get hold of chervil, so increased the tarragon instead.

Ingredients

1 kg fresh girolles
2 small onions
2 cloves of garlic
40 g unsalted butter
10 g chopped parsley
3 sprigs tarragon
1.25 dl fruity white wine
1 tbsp lemon juice
200 g tomatoes
1.5 tbsp cornflour (optional)
salt and pepper

Method

  1. Brush off the girolles and cut into pieces, do not wash.

  2. Peel and finely dice the onions, peel and press the garlic.

  3. Heat up the butter on medium heat in a large shallow pan until it bubbles.

  4. Add the onion and garlic and fry for a few minutes until they go translucent.

  5. Increase the heat to high and add the mushrooms and fry until they've released some of their liquid, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

  6. In the mean time, chop the parsley and the leaves of the tarragon.

  7. Add the herbs, white wine and lemon juice to the pan and stir through.

  8. De-seed the tomatoes and dice finely, then add to the mushroom mix.

  9. Let simmer for a further 5 - 6 minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste, then sprinkle over the cornflour and stir in well to thicken the sauce.


The original recipe can be found here. The above is what I actually did.

I served this as a side dish, but it would work wonderfully in an omelet I think.

Salmon Roll Starter

Wanting to keep the Saturday dinner party Autumnal, I decided to so something with Caviar of Kalix. This is a delicacy called löjrom in Swedish and is produced in the region of Kalix in the far North of Sweden.

And searching for interesting recipes, I stumbled across this one. It is a roll made of gravlax and the caviar is placed on the side. Seemed pretty nice and could also be made up to 3 days in advance, so that would be one thing less to do on the day.

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The recipe claims to be for 12 people, but it's nearer 15 portions, so the number of slices may need to be adjusted.

Ingredients

3 leaves gelatine
450 g thinly sliced gravad lax
3 dl créme fraîche
300 g strained Greek yoghurt
3 tbsp grated horseradish
3 tbsp chopped chives
4 tbsp chopped dill
salt and pepper
12 slices bread
60 g rocket salad
15 g chives
dill for decoration
250 g Caviar of Kalix

Method
  1. Soak the gelatine in some water.

  2. Place a long (70 cm) piece of cling film onto the work surface, then lay the slices of salmon so that they cover a rectangle of 20 x 50 cm. Make sure there's a good amount of overlap so everything holds together.

  3. In a bowl, whisk together the créme fraîche, yoghurt, horseradish, herbs, salt and pepper.

  4. Squeeze out the gelatine and melt it on low heat, then stir into the herb mixture.

  5. Spread the herb mixture over the salmon, leaving a cm uncovered along one of the 50 cm edges.

  6. Now pick up the cling film from the other side and roll it up like a Swiss roll, so you end up with a 50 cm long sausage. It'll be fairly runny, so try to roll as tightly as possible.

  7. Place in the fridge to set.

  8. When ready to serve, toast the bread and cut out circles of about the same diameter as the salmon roll.

  9. Chop together the rocket and chives

  10. Place a toast circle on each plate, then cut up the salmon sausage about 5 cm thick and place on top of the toast. Decorate around it with the rocket mixture and the caviar and add a small sprig of dill on top and serve.


I had massive trouble rolling things up and then it sort of kept going flat, so I ended up rolling baking paper around it in the hopes of giving some stability. It did, but not much.

I also ended up using 400 g of the salmon, so during rolling the filling came through here and there, so the remainder was used for patching up just before serving. The roll didn't set very hard, so could be re-shaped during plating. Or so I thought. I could just about slice the roll, but a lot of the cream mixture just kept coming out and all I could do was just about place it on my pieces of toast. Which I couldn't cut into circles, as I didn't have a cutter, so they became triangular instead.

So, once again I botched up gelatine work, I should have used a lot more. See, the original recipe states ricotta cheese, which perhaps is stiff enough so that 3 leaves of gelatine are enough, but as Lundulph won't eat cheese, I swapped it for strained Greek yoghurt and so I should have adjusted the gelatine. Perhaps I should have used mascarpone instead, which is pretty stiff and is acceptable to Lundulph as he doesn't believe it really is cheese.

When it comes to rolling, a cm should be left free of the mixture along both long sides of the salmon rectangle. One of them should then be folded over the mixture and then the whole lot should be rolled. This way, you won't end up with lots of mixture in the middle of the roll and lots of salmon on the outside and it'll look esthetically more pleasing, like a real roll.

Now I tried some of the caviar on it's own and although it didn't feel too fishy for me, it was still not something I'd eat, but combined with the salmon and the creamy mixture and the toast, this was a perfect flavour match, most likely made in heaven.

As you can see from the photo, my plating leaves a lot to be desired, I ended up with some sort of sad/angry clown face, very far from what the picture in the original recipe looked like.

One of my guests doesn't actually eat fish and so I decided to fry some halloumi cheese for her on a bed of rocket, pea shoots and colourful cherry tomatoes. When I spotted them in the shop, they made me smile.

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I realise just now that I completely forgot to dress her salad and it must have been terribly dry to eat, she was so very polite not to complain. I'm ashamed, there is no excuse for such forgetfulness.

4 November 2010

Nut-free Macarons

In preparation for an Autumn dinner party, I decided to make macarons to go with the coffee at the end of the meal. And of course get the opportunity to make meringues in my Mum's new oven, obviously.

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However two of the guests - my Sister Bip and Doctor Cutie - are allergic to nuts and the like and so I set about finding a substitute for the almonds once again. Mostly the replacement is coconut, which sounds really nice. But that won't do. Doctor Cutie can do coconut, but Bip can't. What else then? Well, seeds.

As it happens both can deal with sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, so either of these would have to be used. There were some sunflower seeds already in the house, so the choice was easy.

My Mum keeps them in the fridge, so straight out of there, nicely chilled and straight into the processor resulted in something that was pretty close to ground and with the benefit of not going oily, which I worried about.

Following the same recipe as I've done before, I added the icing sugar and the cocoa powder and blitzed for a couple of more minutes, but it didn't go finer than before.

I also made sure not to over-whisk the egg whites, most definitely kept them at soft peaks stage and wasn't too careful when I folded in the seed mixture either, so I ended up with a somewhat runny macaron mix. I let it rest in the bowl for 30 minutes, then piped as prettily as I could (not pretty at all, in other words), then did the tray dropping exercise, they did settle a little bit, but not as much as I'd hoped.

I then let them rest for a further 30 minutes after which time they'd settled down more. At this point I'd also spotted a jar of Daim sprinkles and decided to decorate some of the macarons with them.

And now I switched off my brain and pre-heated the oven to 140 degrees C. Not taking into account that I'd be using the fan to bake the meringues, thus requiring a lower temperature. And so the majority of the macarons went volcano. I had just about 20 left to make one macaron for each guest. Bah! And some of the Daim pieces had melted.

But they were tasty, I made a sample for my Dad and he then asked where I'd hidden the box with the others. He said he wasn't bothered about the cream bit. Needless to say the "spare" ones disappeared off very quickly.

At least I made proper mousseline cream, though it ended up a bit loose, but is good enough. And the macarons were wonderfully crunchy and with a very distinctive chewiness in the middle, so nice that I'm getting there. I think sesame seeds and perhaps honey or maple syrup would be a good combo to try out.

26 October 2010

Roast Moose

Ah, where to begin. The last few days have been extremely stressful, and as a treat to both me and Lundulph I made roast moose. As in roast beef, but with moose instead.

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After all it is hunting season in Sweden and there's game in every shop and I picked up a lovely piece of moose roast, just over a kilo.

And of course it is mushroom season, as I've mentioned earlier. So my treasure box of frozen girolles had to be included.

We also had quite a bit of luck in that the first frost hit us at the end of last week. I'd been wondering how long it would be, because I've grown Jerusalem artichokes this year and read somewhere that they shouldn't be harvested until after the first frost, as that's when they develop their sweetness. Thus last Saturday I dragged Lundulph out of his cave and into the garden to witness the first harvesting of these lovely roots. And I barely scraped the surface and there were loads of them and a good size they were too.

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Given the preciousness of the moose, I did quite a bit of research on recipes and decided on this one. It's in Swedish and I had to make some changes to it, as I didn't have time to go to the Scandinavian shop and get the required messmör. According to wikipedia, this translates to soft whey butter. I've never been a fan of it myself, but I haven't tried it for many years and this was to be used in cooking, which tends to change things.

Anyway, on with the recipe. On a side note, they claim this is for 4 people, though I'd say 6 portions is more likely.

Ingredients
The Roast
1.2 kg moose roast
salt and pepper
butter for browning
1 whole head of garlic

Roasting Liquid
1 tbsp juniper berries
1 largish onion, about 120 g
3 dl water
0.5 dl white wine vinegar
1 cube of mushroom stock

Side Dish
450 g Jerusalem artichokes
550 g potatoes
50 g butter
3 dl double cream
0.5 dl milk
300 g parboiled girolles
salt and pepper

Madeira sauce
1 largish onion, about 120 g
30 g butter
1 tsp dried thyme
3 dl Madeira
1 tbsp corn flour
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp double cream


Method
  1. Pre-heat the oven at 145 degrees C.

  2. Pat the roast dry, then season and brown off in butter on all sides. Then place in a roasting tin and set aside.

  3. Peel the garlic cloves, then fry in the same pan as the meat until the cloves just start getting a bit of colour. Then remove from the pan and chop finely.

  4. Make 5 - 6 cuts in the roast, then stuff all the garlic into the cuts. Then stick a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat.
    IMG_1056

  5. Crush the juniper berries and put in a saucepan.

  6. Dice the onion and add it to the berries, then add water, vinegar and the stock cube and bring to the boil.

  7. Pour into the roasting tin, then place it in the middle of the oven and let roast until the inner temperature has reached 55 degrees C. This will take about 75 - 80 minutes.

  8. Wash and peel the Jerusalem artichokes and cut into pieces. Wash and peel the potatoes and slice thinly, about 3 mm thick.

  9. Fry the potatoes in the butter, stirring regularly.

  10. In the mean time, bring the cream, milk and Jerusalem artichokes to a boil in a saucepan and simmer until the artichokes are soft, about 15 minutes.

  11. As the potatoes start to soften, add the girolles and fry for a further 5 minutes or so.

  12. When the artichokes are done, pour them along with the cream into the pan with potatoes and mushrooms. Stir well and season, then let simmer for a few more minutes.

  13. When the potatoes are done, transfer to an oven-safe dish and place in the oven to keep hot until serving time.

  14. When the meat is almost ready, finely dice the onion for the Madeira sauce, then fry together with the thyme in butter for a few minutes until it goes translucent.

  15. Pour in the Madeira and simmer until it is reduced by half.

  16. When the meat is ready, take out of the oven and strain the roasting liquid into the Madeira sauce. Set the meat aside and cover with aluminium foil and let rest. Make sure to turn the meat once or twice to allow the juices to distribute.

  17. Bring the Madeira sauce to the boil and simmer for another couple of minutes. In the mean time stir the corn flour into the water, then add to the sauce to thicken it. Then finally add the cream and stir through.

  18. When ready to serve, cut the meat into as thin slices as possible. It should be very pink in the middle. Serve with the creamy side dish and the Madeira sauce.


The changes I made are thus the swap out of the messmör and the use of a mushroom stock cube. I think I got it from Bulgaria, the original recipe calls for a beef stock cube. And the piece of moose I had was 1.2 kg, where the recipe called for 1.5 kg. It also recommended rowan berry jelly, which I didn't have. I should also have steamed some green vegetables like French beans or broccoli, if only to make it more esthetically pleasing.

The roast turned out very well, though next time I'll make sure to cut it lengthwise for the stuffing, so that every slice gets a little garlic.

The sauce turned out very sweet, I didn't realise that Madeira is such a sweet wine and I reduced it a bit too much perhaps, so that I added the remaining couple of tablespoons from the bottle (37.5 ml size). When I crushed the juniper berries, their smell was so strong I really worried that they'd dominate everything, but they mellowed out nicely. There was of course quite a sharpness to it as well, thanks to the vinegar. I suspect that using the messmör rather than regular cream would take off some of the sweetness as well. I do believe messmör is salty on the whole. On it's own the sauce generally felt wrong for the food, however combined with the meat and the side dish, everything balanced out quite nicely.

The best thing for me was the side dish (I don't really know what to call it). I was worried that the potatoes wouldn't cook through and the artichokes would collapse. As it happened I ended up keeping the side dish in the oven for about 20 minutes, so if there were any half-done potatoes to begin with, they certainly finished cooking in the oven. Besides, since I discovered Jerusalem artichokes a couple of years back, I've only used them in my Bulgarian lentil soup, where they work fabulously, but I really like the flavour and it was a wonderful surprise to discover how well they combine with the girolles and I could happily have eaten just this side dish and for a whole week at that. I'm well pleased that my first attempt at growing Jerusalem artichokes had such tasty results.

Lundulph liked this meal as well, though with his sensitive tummy, he wasn't able to enjoy the side dish as much, the artichokes are a bit strong for him. Still, after having had this combo twice, I sliced up the remaining 600 g of moose, divided into 3 portions and froze. Lundulph froze the remainder of the sauce, which by the way was not enough for all the meat and the side dish, which there was still a lot of. Though we both suspect the side dish won't freeze well.

12 October 2010

Inauguration

Today my Mum's new cooker arrived. It was very expensive I thought, but was well overdue, the old one was only half-working after 22 years of quite intensive usage.

This new one is very flash and I decided to give it a try by making macarons. This will be interesting in many ways. We gave the oven a quick try to see that it heats up, but didn't let it hit its top temperature, so there is potential that there will be the "new oven smell" as noted in the instruction manual.

Then my macarons needed to be adapted for the whole family - my Sister Bip has developed an allergy to almonds and hazelnuts, thus walnuts had to be used an I ran them in the little processor. This resulted in a rather course beginning to a walnut marzipan, rather than the fine flour that is actually required. Don't even mention peeling the nuts.

Then, like never before, I succeeded with my French meringue - it was rock solid! And of all times it's not supposed to be, this isn't one.

For the cream, I originally intended to make mousseline cream, but decided to bail out and whipped together one of my Mum's pudding powder packets. I also wanted my macarons to be very brightly coloured so I could try out my beetroot powder. That worked well, the pudding cream already had some extract from beetroot, also known as E162, so adding a bit more worked as I'd expected it to work.

For the meringues, I wanted them bright saffron yellow. Obviously saffron is very expensive and I thought I'd substitute with turmeric. Well, the stuff in my Mum's jar was very strongly flavoured and I didn't really get much colour out of it.

And I forgot to add vanilla essence, that might have made the meringue runny, as would have adding some yellow food colouring. Oh well.

The final straw was that my Mum doesn't have a piping bag. So a food bag with one of it's corners cut would have to do. This resulted in quenelle shaped meringues, very stiff and not budging one bit when I tried to get them to settle by dropping the trays on the able. In hindsight, I should probably have used baking parchment and made a cone, it couldn't possibly have given worse results. And they were knobbly and spotty from the walnuts.

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Though I'm sure they'll be edible one way or another. They are baking now on the fan programme. And I do like this new cooker, you turn it on and set the temperature you want. It then starts pre-heating and displays what temperature it has reached. Once it's reached the pre-set temperature, it beeps to let you know. It was fast too. With a fan blowing hot air around, I'm hoping to bake both trays together.

Oh yes, the timer bleeped after 15 minutes, and the hot air has dried the meringues nicely. Some have cracked and all have spiky tops on them, so no question of them standing up when put together. And when I opened the oven door, I was hit by a combination of turmeric and something else, which I assume is the new oven smell. I've left them in the oven to cool down a few more minutes, probably to after dinner.

But I must get a piping kit, I won't be able to manage with bags.

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Anyway, for the record, here is the recipe that needs massive refining

Ingredients

110 g sifted icing sugar
50 g finely chopped walnuts
1.5 tsp turmeric
2 medium sized egg whites
60 g granulated sugar

Method
  1. Mix together the icing sugar, walnuts and turmeric.

  2. Ensure the egg whites are at room temperature and beat them to stiff peaks, then slowly add the granulated sugar, while beating constantly.

  3. Once all the sugar has been incorporated, add the nut mixture and fold in carefully.

  4. Pipe round meringues on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Leave a little space between them to expand, though they can be piped fairly close together.

  5. Lift the baking sheets a few cm from the table and drop a few times to get the meringues to settle down and flatten even more.

  6. Let the meringues rest for 30 minutes and dry out a bit on the surface. In the mean time pre-heat the oven to 130 degrees on hot air fan.

  7. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn off the cooker and allow the meringues to cool down in the oven.

  8. Take out and prise them off carefully. Store in an airtight box and only put together the macarons shortly before serving them.


Well, they didn't taste particularly nice, though my parents said they were great, but they would, wouldn't they? Still, they're not too offensive, so we'll get through them one way or another. One cannot cheat on the filling cream, so I will start earlier next time and make proper mousseline cream. And I'll stay well away from turmeric as a colouring agent, it's really not worth it. But I think the walnut meringues worked quite nicely

I had loads of the pudding cream left over, so I made impromptu tiramisu. That is, I cut up ladyfinger biscuits into cocktail glasses, drizzled a little Cointreau over them and poured some of the pudding cream over. I bet they're nicer as the cream is nice on its own, just isn't firm enough to hold the meringues together.

But I love the new oven, it just did its job so wonderfully well.

6 October 2010

Vegetarian Lasagne

Last Sunday, I wandered out into the nearby woods with my Mum as she promised rich mushroom pickings.

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And she wasn't kidding one bit - we picked a whole kilogram of beautiful girolles in just over an hour and we barely strayed from the main path either. And I thought last year was good.

In fact, every time we spotted a small group of the little beauties, it turned out that there was another group a few centimetres away, and another and another and you ended up feeling that you're picking up a trail of crumbs someone has sneakily left for you to make you go into a trap.

Of course it took us both over two ours to clean them up. And the big giant in the photo is a type of cep called tegelröd björksopp and translates to orange birch bolete according to Wikipedia. It was a nice find, they normally come out in August.

My Dad kept talking about doing some sort of mince based food, so I suggested I make lasagne, entirely home made. And I did, following my recipe from last year, but making two batches - on with minced pork, the other with the girolles we'd picked. And with lots of cheese on both, this time.

My Mum parboiled the mushrooms after we'd cleaned them. Mainly to get some of the liquid out of them, rather than anything else. They all went into a saucepan and onto a medium hob and soon started releasing their juices. She stirred them every now and then and simmered them for about 10 minutes. Once removed from the hob, she stirred in a piece of butter and that was it.

The batches below refer to the amounts in my original recipe.

Method

1 batch of pasta dough
1 batch of Béchamel sauce
1 dl grapeseed oil
200 g chopped onions
250 g diced carrots
1 kg girolles
200 g green peas
200 g diced cauliflower
1 can of crushed tomatoes (400 g)
1 tbsp tomato purée
dried basil
dried oregano
dried thyme
salt and pepper
fresh dill
fresh parsley
oil or butter for the baking tin
cheese of your choice

Method
  1. Make the dough and while it's resting, make the Béchamel sauce and parboil the mushrooms.

  2. Roll out the dough to four lasagne sheets and set aside to dry a bit.

  3. Heat up the oil on high and fry the onions for a few minutes until the go translucent.

  4. Add the carrots and the mushrooms and stir for another couple of minutes, until the carrots begin to soften.

  5. Add the peas, cauliflower, canned tomatoes, tomato purée and dried herbs, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Let simmer for about 10 minutes, then add the fresh herbs, stir through and remove from the heat.Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  7. Grease a deep baking dish, then line with one pasta sheet. Cover with a quarter of the Béchamel sauce and a third of the mushroom filling. Then sprinkle a little cheese, before covering with the next pasta sheet.

  8. Repeat with the remaining parts, ending with a pasta sheet, covered with the last quarter of the Béchamel sauce, then sprinkle generously with grated cheese and bake for about an hour.

  9. If it looks like the cheese is browning too much, cover with a sheet of aluminium foil. Let the lasagne rest for 5 minutes after taking it out of the oven and before serving it.


The peas and cauliflower were my Mum's idea and she also suggested courgettes and aubergines, but she didn't have either of them. We also managed to fill the baking dish to the brim and it overflowed a bit, since the lasagne will expand a bit during baking. The Béchamel sauce was made with lactose free milk and it worked just as well as with regular milk. Since we used fresh mushrooms, there was no liquid from any cans to add to the sauce, so it was milk all the way through, which made it even creamier I think.

As for the cheeses, we used several - a spicy chilli cheddar in the bottom layer, followed by two layers of parmesan and finally topped with a Swedish grated cheese, possibly Herrgårds, but I'm not sure.

And it was extremely yummy, my Mum even had seconds. I think the meat version was also quite good, my Sister asked for some to take home afterwards.

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We finished off with the remaining four glasses of panna cotta and bilberry jam. So a full blown Italian meal, practically.

4 October 2010

Lactose Free Panna Cotta With Bilberry Jam

My Sister Bip has developed a bit of an obsession with panna cotta, just like Lundulph and so I promised to make her some.

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This is the recipe I did before, but with lactose free whipping cream (35% fat) and lactose free mild yoghurt.

There was also a bit of an incident with the vanilla - last Christmas I gave my Mum a bottle of vanilla essence and was counting on it for the panna cotta. However my Mum wasn't able to find it among all her spices, we both searched through high and low three times. Then decided to resort to vanilla sugar. Well, lo and behold, we couldn't find that either. Then my Mum remembered she had half a vanilla pod left, so I started scraping it off and putting the little seeds in the mixture. At which point she wondered aloud if she might have put the vanilla essence in the fridge. Oh yes, she had, so I ended up using one teaspoon of the essence to the quarter of a vanilla pod that I'd scraped.

Of course this resulted in small black dots all over the panna cotta, but it tasted very nice. Though the bilberry jam was my Mum's usual recipe, which isn't very sweet at all and gave a bit of bland experience with the mildness of the panna cotta. So should perhaps have put more sugar into the panna cotta to begin with, or use sweeter jam.

Still, the family liked it, Mum even licked the glass clean, before rushing off to work. And it was decided not to put the glasses away, because I'm bound to make more soon.

I think regular Greek yoghurt is better, as it has a slight sour aftertaste, which I found very appealing. This was barely noticeable this time.

Kanelbullens Dag

Yes, the 4th of October is Cinnamon Bun Day in Sweden. I'd completely forgotten about it, but my Mum kindly reminded me and so we made cinnamon buns the other day in preparation.

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All the newspapers had published what they claimed to be the ultimate recipe, some more outrageous than others and my Mum had chosen one for us to try.

Ingredients

Dough
14 g instant yeast
13 dl strong white flour
1.5 tsp ground cardamom
5 dl lactose free semi-skimmed milk at 40 degrees C
1.5 dl white sugar syrup or glucose
150 g butter at room temperature

Filling
150 g butter at room temperature
1.5 dl granulated sugar
0.5 dl brown sugar
1.5 tbsp ground cinnamon
chopped walnuts (optional)

Topping
2 eggs
1 pinch salt
nib sugar

Method
  1. Stir in the yeast into the flour along with the cardamom. Then add the syrup and milk and mix together into a dough, preferably in a machine and let knead until the dough is shiny but soft, about 7 - 10 minutes. You may need to vary the amount of flour.

  2. Now add the butter in small pieces and incorporate well. Then cover and set aside to rise to double the volume.

  3. In the mean time, mix together the butter, sugars and cinnamon to a smooth brown paste and set aside. Then lay out cup cakes on baking sheets, or butter deep baking pans. Finally whisk the eggs with the salt and set aside for later.

  4. When the dough is ready, take out of the bowl and divide into two equal parts, then roll out one into a rectangle - about 0.5 cm if you want smaller buns, thicker if you want more bready ones.

  5. Spread half of the filling over the rolled out dough, all the way out to the edges, then sprinkle with walnuts and roll it up into a sausage along it's longer side.

  6. Cut the dough sausage like a Swiss roll and place the twirls into the cupcakes or the buttered pan, then allow to proof until double in size. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.

  7. When the buns have risen, brush with the egg wash and sprinkle some nib sugar on top and bake for 15 - 18 minutes, until they go golden brown.

  8. Take out and cover with a towel and allow to cool completely.


The recipe said it would give 40 buns, but I rolled out the dough very thin, so I ended up with 88 smallish ones. The brown sugar and walnuts gave it a very nice complexity to the flavour, the buns themselves were not too sweet. But I think if I do this recipe again, I won't roll so thinly and make them bigger, like they do in cafés. I'll probably use 50 g of fresh yeast instead of the two sachets of instant, I think it gives better results.

The interesting bit for me was using lactose free milk. This is because my Sister Bip has developed a sensitivity to lactose and has cut it out altogether from her diet. The milk behaved pretty much like regular milk and I certainly didn't notice any difference in flavour, but then I don't have a very sensitive tongue.

The down side of this is that now we have this massive amount of cinnamon buns, I won't be able to bake any other buns for a while, which is a bit annoying, I had some plans, which now have to be postponed for a few weeks.

20 September 2010

Great British Bake-Off 2

Well, watching the contestants make Cornish Pasties made me keen to give this dish a go.

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When I proposed it to Lundulph, his eyes started to sparkle.

And so, since I felt in a very good mood today, I looked up Paul Hollywood's Classic Cornish Pasty recipe for ingredients and went off to the shops. Nothing called "suet" on the shelves, so I bought "vegetable spread" which was listed as "perfect for pastries".

I also wandered down to the butcher's to get beef skirt, sadly they were closed. I even walked in to town for the other butcher, but they were closed as well, so in desperation I asked at the meat desk in Waitrose. "We don't sell beef skirt" was the answer and the chap recommended butterfly steak. And wasn't it just my lucky day - there was one packet left and it was precisely the amount I needed, yay! As an extra bonus it was already cut very thinly, better still!

The recipe stated kneading by hand. So I did, entirely uncertain if I was doing it correctly. Plus I should have used a bigger bowl, I ended up pouring everything out while it was still floury and sticky. But it did come together eventually and looked rather nice. Into the fridge it went and as I was running very late in my schedule, it only got just over 30 minutes rest, instead of the planned 60.

I peeled and diced all the vegetables and the meat and again put them all in a too small a bowl and ended up spilling half on the work surface while trying to mix things together. And the meat kept sticking together in clumps, so not uniform at all. I was surprised at the smell from the swede, it reminded me of mooli, but its texture was much denser, drier and harder.

And so, the fridge rest was over, I divided everything into 4 and set to work rolling out the pasty dough. That worked quite nicely, no stickiness to the dough, no shrinking back etc.

I then piled on the allotted amount of filling and as feared, it was a bit too much perhaps. But I pressed together the edges and made a feeble attempt at crimping. Actually I wouldn't call it crimping, I'm not sure what it is and it sort of did the job but it wasn't pretty. I watched the instructional video afterwards, should have done that first, it shows very well how to do crimping.

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And of course the oven was playing up again and I struggled to reach the 170 degrees required for the baking. So my pasties had to bake for 15 minutes longer than the recipe says, but they came out lovely. Lundulph ate one whole one, I just about managed a third. They are big.

I'm now waiting for the other two to cool down, so I can cut them and freeze them. Lundulph said that the pasty continued expanding in his tummy and one whole pasty of this size was perhaps a bit too much for a meal.

But it was great, I particularly liked the pastry, it had a very good texture. There was a clear sweetness coming through from the swede. The filling had cooked well, perhaps the meat was still a touch on the chewy side and I was surprised at the amount of flavour there was, given that it was only seasoned with salt and pepper.

I'm keen to experiment next time, perhaps with fresh herbs in the filling and perhaps also try a vegetarian version.

Great British Bake-Off 1

Well, I've been following the Great British Bake-Off in the past few weeks and have taken copious notes and saved recipes to try out. It's a great show and I hope it won't be a one-off.

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In fact when I spotted the first episode, I was a bit annoyed I'd not found out about it earlier, I would have signed up for it. However, having seen five of the six episodes, I'm glad I didn't. I'd have failed miserably. Although I bake, I don't really have something that I'd call my signature bake, I always try new things and make changes to old stuff I've done before.

But I've learned a lot and had even more ideas based on what I've seen, so my baking list has just grown immensely.

I had two egg whites left over from the rabbit fricassée I made the other day and thought meringues is just what I should do with them. And bearing in mind that Lundulph has been obsessing about passion fruit for some time, I decided to try out the Mango and Passion Fruit Meringues.

So, I wandered down to the shops to get canned mango, passion fruit and lime and then set to work.

I still have no confidence in making French meringue, but opted for my usual Swiss variant instead and piped small bowls, which I baked for 2 h, as they ended up a bit thicker than I'd intended. For some reason they bled through and had bubbles come out here and there. I suspect I didn't whisk the mixture long enough for the caster sugar to dissolve completely and bubbled through here and there. I made 18 from the mixture and if I make them thinner next time, I'll get even more.

I also put both passion fruits into the fruit purée and it was really tasty. As Lundulph said, mango and passion fruit do complement each other very well. I saved the syrup from the mango, it was very tasty and I think would be great for moisturising cakes.

So, Lundulph and I had two each with our afternoon tea yesterday and two after dinner. It's absolutely yummy! Though again, making the meringues thinner would allow more space for the fruit purée and the overall balance will be better. They were also a bit too big to eat in one bite, so perhaps reduce the size ever so slightly.

18 September 2010

Celeriac Crisps

I deliberately chose the smallest celeriac root in the shop, because I don't really like the taste and didn't want to have too much left over from the rabbit fricassée.

But I still had about two-thirds of it left and just couldn't bring myself to putting it on the compost heap.

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And so, while the Friday dinner was cooking, I peeled the remaining root and carefully sliced it as thinly as I could, about 2 mm.

I then laid all the slices out on two thin baking sheets that had been lined with baking paper.

I carefully brushed melted butter on the upper side of each and sprinkled a little salt over them and baked in the oven on about 110 degrees C for over an hour.

The pieces shrank massively, got a golden edge to them and curled up. And also were very much like the posh vegetable crisps they sell in the shops. Of course the celery taste came through with a slight delay, so it's not something Lundulph and I will sit and nibble on, but it would work as decoration on dishes or as part of a variety of vegetable crisps. Lundulph suggested I try beetroot next, I'm leaning towards carrot and parsnip (which Lundulph also doesn't like). I have grown Jerusalem artichokes this year, they might work too, but I won't be able to try them out until the first frost, when they can be harvested. Like parsnips, they develop sweetness then.

Bulgarian Rabbit Fricassée

When I cooked rabbit two years ago, my Mum sent me a whole batch of rabbit recipes from one of her Bulgarian cook books. In the end, I did a slow cooked stew, but when I spotted rabbits in our local butcher's, I decided to go through them again and give one a try.

I'd frozen the rabbit, which I found out is a bad idea, as it makes it go rather dry when cooking. Oh, well.

I read through all the recipes and the most appealing one seemed to be the rabbit fricassée. Almost all the recipes called for the rabbit to be marinated for 24 h and they had provided the marinade recipe for it as well.

I also intended to make sure that no small bones ruined the experience by providing an unnecessary crunch.

I defrosted the rabbit and made the marinade.

Marinade Ingredients
2 l water
0.5 l wine
2.5 dl vinegar
1 large carrot
1 medium sized onion
2 bay leaves
20 pepper corn
2 cloves

Marinade Method
  1. Mix the water, wine and vinegar in a large saucepan.

  2. Peel and wash the carrot and onion, then cut in large chunks and add to the liquid along with the bay leaves, pepper corns and cloves.

  3. Bring to the boil and let simmer with the lid on for 15 - 20 minutes, then cool completely before using.


This marinade is for game generally, not just for rabbit. Also wine and vinegar were not specified, so I chose a red Zinfandel wine. For the vinegar, I thought I'd use a stronger one - malt vinegar, but I only had 2 dl of that, so I topped up with 0.5 dl of sherry vinegar.

It was while the marinade was cooling in the sink that my cooker lid exploded.

The instructions said to pour the marinade over the rabbit, then turn it every couple of hours, but my saucepan was big enough for the rabbit to fit in nicely. So in it went and the whole lot in the fridge to marinade for 24 h or so.

Then yesterday I researched on how to joint a rabbit and found these two videos mostly useful and instructive. Part 1 and part 2.

I also sharpened my big chef's knife and took the rabbit out of the marinade. It had soaked up well and had turned purple. OK, never mind. The marinade itself smelt of Swedish mulled wine. Must have been the cloves.

Watching the first video twice, I proceeded to cutting my purple rabbit into chunks. I think my rabbit had a slightly different anatomy to the one in the video, because I encountered some extra bones here and there, but on the whole, I think I was quite successful.

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I then watched the second video and ended up with this:

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I know the rabbit is a pretty small animal, but the useful bits are very few. But it came with its liver and kidneys, so I decided to add them to the good bits. The rest of the rabbit was to be used for the stock.

Ingredients
1 marinated jointed rabbit
1 large onion
2 large carrots
1 slice of celeriac, about 100 g
2 bay leaves
20 pepper corns
water
salt to taste

100 g butter
4 tbsp plain flour
2.5 dl milk
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp lemon juice
fresh chopped parsley

Method
  1. Dice the edible pieces of the rabbit, place in a cheese cloth and tie into a bundle. Place the bundle and the rest of the rabbit in a large saucepan.

  2. Peel and wash the carrots, onion and celeriac and cut into a few pieces and add to the saucepan.

  3. Add the bay leaves and the pepper corns and cover with water.

  4. Bring to the boil, then season well and simmer for about 1 h. Check occasionally and remove any foam that forms in order to get a clear stock.

  5. Remove the bundle and place its contents into an oven-proof dish and keep warm in the oven.

  6. Strain the stock and discard the rabbit carcass and vegetables.

  7. Melt the butter on medium heat. When it bubbles, add the flour and stir vigorously for a couple of minutes.

  8. Slowly add the milk, while stirring briskly. It'll lump together a the beginning, but as more milk is added it will turn liquid again.

  9. Once all the milk has been added, continue with the stock until you reach a thick gravy consistence.

  10. Cover the sauce and let it bubble slowly for 10 minutes.

  11. Take off the heat and stir in the two egg yolks and the lemon juice, then pour the sauce over the rabbit, sprinkle the parsley and serve.


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The recipe recommended that this dish be served with mashed potatoes, so I made Delia's Perfect Mashed Potato, which I've done on many occasions and it has never disappointed.

I had also picked what is probably the last runner beans of the season and I cut them in pieces and steamed, then stirred through with knob of butter at the end.

Given all the effort, this was a bit of a disappointment. The recipe didn't actually specify the amount of water to use, I got almost 2 l stock in the end. It also didn't specify how long to cook for, it just said until it goes soft. Well, it was soft when it was raw and when I checked it after an hour it was quite solid. I wanted to be on the really safe side and gave it another 30 minutes and the meat was very dry, so no more than an hour. And I suspect the freezing contributed a lot to the dryness as well.

The liver and kidneys were very strongly flavoured and I think I'll save them next time and make pate from them, rather than add to the rabbit dish.

I used about 6 dl of the stock for the sauce and it made up way too much for the handful of meat, but the sauce very good and might work with white meat of chicken and turkey, as it had quite a nice aroma. And I have over a litre of stock left, which I will freeze in portions, it is also quite good.

In all, the marinade was good and I'd like to try it on other meat. The sauce would be well worth using elsewhere. I'm glad and proud that I managed to joint the rabbit on my own and I now need to buy a slightly smaller, but much sharper knife than I currently have. And I'll repeat the slow cooked recipe next time, it was so much tastier.

And stay away from runner beans after July. The ones I served last night were so very stringy, it was practically impossible to eat, I ended up splitting them in half and just scraping off the inner-most bits.

Lundulph said the dinner was OK, but it's not one we should repeat. Though perhaps the liver and kidney put him off for the rest of the fricassée. Once you'd eaten a bite from them, the flavour remained in the mouth and it was impossible to taste the actual rabbit.

Explosion!

Well, I've been having evil thoughts about my cooker lately, mainly to do with the fact that it doesn't have a fan in the oven, thus resulting in bread with almost white underside, as not enough heat ends up underneath.

Multi-zone cooking it's called and is probably really good for a roast dinner, where you need to cook several things at different temperatures, but for bread, you want heat both above and under.

And perhaps the cooker picked up bad vibes from this and decided to explode its lid last Thursday. Luckily at the time, I was in the living room, sorting my recipes. That's when I heard a large bang from the kitchen and was almost afraid to go in and see what might have caused it.

But that was just a moment's hesitation. I carefully opened the door to a floor covered with small dark glass pieces and wondered what on earth they were - all glasses I have are clear. Then I noticed that the two bread tins I'd placed on the cooker were sitting at a slightly odd angle and realised that the toughened glass lid was no more. I rushed in and removed them, thinking I might have left a hob on and closed the lid and that would have caused this disaster.

I then spent the better part of the evening cleaning up, while trying not to imagine how shredded I would have been if I'd been in the kitchen at the time of the explosion. Well, the kitchen was in need of a good clean anyway.

I then had a long talk with my parents and my sister on the phone, thus completely forgetting about my two loaves and they almost tried to escape from the tins after over 6 h of proofing, when I'd originally intended to do only 3. This was not detrimental in any way, in fact I might have stumbled upon something good.

I also did some search on the internet about this. I've only had the cooker for barely 4 years. But it seems that this is nothing new. And there are lots of theories about it. The one that appealed to me is the placing very hot or very cold things on the lid, thus weakening the glass and causing it to shatter in a highly dangerous way. I do place frozen things on the lid to defrost. And I do put things that I've taken out of the oven on the lid as well, though not at the same time as the frozen things. And I do close the lid very soon after using the hobs, without letting things cool down first. Still, this shouldn't happen. Why don't they use the same stuff they use on ceramic hobs? That seems to be able to take a bit more beating.

Mainly though, it seems that the glass of the oven lid is the one to explode in such a dangerous fashion. Well, I have a double oven, that makes it 2 more chances of this happening, though on a slightly smaller scale.

I was mostly worried that I'd forgotten to switch off a hob before closing the lid, this terrified me immensely. But as I taped up the metal bar at the back, which held the glass lid to the cooker and had a lot of sharp bits sticking out of it, I noticed that it kept pushing a small metal piece, as the lid opened and closed and I realised that this was the gas cut-out, should one indeed close the lid when hob is on. Puh! Even if I had forgotten it, it wouldn't have continued to burn.

So, now I have a maimed looking cooker and am seriously thinking of replacing it. With one that has a fan in the oven, so I can get a more even temperature when I bake my breads. Sadly there wasn't much available on the market, only one oven in fact.

There were also no cookers that had a metal lid instead of a glass one. It would probably buckle, but that won't fly through my kitchen and pierce me.

I baked my breads at nearly Midnight, when I finally remembered them and they turned out absolutely lovely.

As for the cooker, I'll live with this one for a bit longer, hopefully new models will come out that do the things I need them to do. And are easier to clean.

16 September 2010

Rhubarb Jam Second Batch

Well I'm not sure what I did right this year, but the rhubarbs sprouted new leaves after I picked them earlier this year. Enough for a second batch of jam.

Looking at my entries before, I didn't write down details on what I did, so will do that now.

Ingredients
750 g trimmed rhubarb stalks
800 g jam sugar
8 g pectin (1 sachet)
2 dl water
1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tbsp lemon juice
20 g unsalted butter
2 tbsp punsch

Method
  1. Place the jars in the oven on just over 100 degrees C.

  2. Wash and dice the rhubarb and place in a large saucepan with a thick bottom.

  3. Add the sugar, pectin, water and vanilla essence and stir round, then heat up on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.

  4. Boil until the rhubarb is soft and starts disintegrating and the setting point is reached, about 15 - 20 minutes.

  5. Add the lemon juice, butter and punsch and stir in well, then remove from the heat.

  6. Distribute into the hot jars, close the lids tightly and allow to cool.


Of course the punsch can be exchanged for a different liqueur or omitted altogether, like in the first batch. I actually used 0.5 dl and it was a bit over-powering, so I've reduced the amount. It's still very tasty though.

11 September 2010

Rump Steak With Pepper Salsa

It is once again time for Ye Olde Recipe Collection, I did say I'd picked out two cards at the beginning of the week.

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This was originally planned for last night, however, due to my DIY-ing, I ran out of time, and so postponed to today.

In addition I had a bit of a baking day today. The main thing I did was the strawberry mousse cake, which will be for Lundulph's birthday celebrations tomorrow. Lundulph agreed that I would do the same cake a second time, in order to get the gelatin amounts right. Fingers crossed that it works, I botched up folding the strawberry purée into the whipped cream and it went all runny, but I definitely used the right amount of gelatin. I think.

Then I decided to make a large batch of bread and once and for all reduce the amount of sourdough in the jar in the fridge. I fed the starter in the evening before and ended up using 500 g of it on a 1:2:3 formula, where the liquid was 500 g water and 500 g Guinness. This was very interesting, as the 1500 g flour was far from enough, I ended up with a thick batter instead of dough, so I ended up adding a further 200 g flour. And this time I went through the process properly with two stretches and folds during the rising and properly shaping the loaves and tucking in to get the surface tension and got a fantastic oven spring. Also, despite using white flour, thanks to the Guinness, the breads ended up looking rather brown, almost like rye bread. They are gifts to the family for tomorrow, so I've no idea what they taste like, I hope it's good.

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Then finally I got onto the evening meal. The recipe is from Waitrose again. The card doesn't actually make any recommendations as to how to serve as a complete meal, so after conferring with Lundulph, we settled on potatoes, as being the best carb accompaniment to a steak. Then I spotted some nice looking curly kale in the shop and decided to give it a go. I've had it once before at a dinner at our neighbours a few years back and remember it was nice.

The salsa part seemed a bit on the not enough side, so I decided to double it. I also thought that a plum tomato wouldn't work grilled and de-seeded, so I went for a beef tomato instead.

Ingredients
Salsa
2 large red peppers
1 large beef tomato
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 hot red chilli
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

2 beef rump steaks
crushed black pepper

new baby potatoes
sliced curly kale

Method
  1. Pre-heat the grill on medium high. Wash the peppers, tomato, oregano and chilli.

  2. Quarter the peppers and remove the seeds. Halve the tomato and remove the woody stalk part.

  3. Grill the peppers skin side up for about 10 minutes, adding the tomato halves skin side up after 3 minutes.

  4. In the mean time, chop the oregano and chilli and mix together with the olive oil and vinegar in bowl.

  5. Steam the potatoes and the curly kale according to instructions on the packet.

  6. Once the peppers and tomato are done, their skin should be blackened. Place in a plastic bag or a saucepan with a lid and let stand for a few minutes. Then peel the skins, de-seed the tomatoes and dice both finely and stir in with the oregano, chilli, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

  7. Sprinkle crushed black pepper on the steaks and fry them to the required doneness, then serve with the potatoes, curly kale and salsa.


Well, the two beef rump steaks I got were good, but one was rather thick and frying them together proved a challenge. Besides I was a bit distracted with the potatoes and curly kale, thus I didn't cook the steaks long enough and didn't turn them quickly enough, thus the thicker steak seemed almost charcoaled on the outside and was way too rare in the middle. I had to fry it for another couple of minutes. The thinner steak was good for me, I like it medium rare or well done, so it was fine, but felt a bit on the grisly side. So if I'm to do this again, I won't go for rump steak, but for something fancier.

The curly kale wasn't as nice as I remember it. What mostly put me off was the texture, it felt a bit like paper. Lundulph seemed to like it though.

The salsa was a really nice surprise, I hadn't made any thoughts about it, but it turned out really well. Of course, grilling peppers isn't quite the same as roasting them in a pepper roaster, in the 10 minutes, they didn't cook through like they do in the pepper roaster, but I think this actually was an advantage for the salsa. The beef tomatoes were quite fleshy and didn't go too mushy under the grill. I generally don't like grilled or fried tomatoes, unless blended, so this worked well.

On the whole a bit fiddlier than expected, but was a nice meal. The salsa was the best, I thought, and I'm glad I made a double amount.