29 December 2015

Pepparkaka macarons

This one has been on the back of my mind since Doctor Cutie was such a sweetie and gave me a book on how to make macarons a few years ago and this year, I managed to get around to that, since we spent a record 10 days in Stockholm over Christmas. Mostly eating and sleeping, with a couple of breaks for bird watching, since it was the hottest Winter/December on record ever. Many thanks to my Sister Bip for navigating us to a great nature reserve she found a few months ago nearby.

In Sweden they sell ready made gingersnap spice mixture and I found this recipe that seemed good, so I followed it as far as the macarons went.

Ingredients

110 g finely ground almonds (almond flour)
170 g icing sugar
2 tsp gingersnap spice mixture
90 g egg whites (from 3 medium eggs)
2 tbsp granulated sugar

Method

  1. Weigh up a bit more of the ground almonds than required, then sift twice and weigh the end result - that should be 110 g.
  2. Place the almond flour in a large bowl and sift in the icing sugar and the gingersnap spice mixture. Stir through to incorporate well.
  3. In a separate bowl (ceramic, glass or metal), whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then gradually add the granulated sugar and keep whisking until they go glossy and stiff.
  4. Carefully fold in the dry mixture into the egg whites in three parts, make sure everything is well mixed. If it feels a bit stiff, continue to fold a few more times, it should loosen up.
  5. Prepare a couple of baking sheets with baking paper, then transfer the meringue mixture into a piping bag with a large round nozzle and pipe blobs onto the prepared sheets. The blobs should be about 2.5 cm diameter, flow out a bit and be fairly flat. They won't swell much during baking, so can be done fairly close to each other.
  6. Once a tray has been filled, lift 10 - 15 cm off the work top and drop onto it. Repeat a few times, this will make the macarons settle and any tops that had formed from piping should disappear. This can be a bit noisy, alternatively hold the baking sheet with one hand and tap underneath with the other.
  7. Leave the trays to rest for at least 30 minutes, more if the air is humid. A skin needs to form on the surface of the macarons to ensure they remain flat during the baking.
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 125 °C and bake for 12 - 15 minutes, watching so they don't start getting colour. If they do, turn down the temperature a bit.
  9. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. They should come off the baking paper easily, if not, bake for a bit longer.
  10. Once completely cooled, place in an airtight container and keep sealed until needed.

Filling
100 g unsalted butter at room temperature
100 g icing sugar
100 g marshmallow fluff
1 tsp vanilla extract
food colouring of choice (optional)

Method

  1. Stir the butter vigorously with a spoon to make it fluffy, then add the sugar and mix in well.
  2. Add the marshmallow fluff, vanilla extract and colouring and incorporate to get a homogenous mixture.
  3. Transfer to a piping bag, snip off the tip for a small hole (~5 mm) and pipe onto half of the macarons, placing the other half on top of them to form a sandwich.
  4. The above amounts make a lot more filling than the macarons. The filling can be kept in the fridge for a few days or frozen even for longer. It also works nicely on other biscuits or cupcakes. It keeps its shape fairly well and won't go solid over time.

The frosting recipe comes from this site and is for a much larger amount, but the key point is that each of the butter, sugar and marshmallow fluff are to be used in equal amounts per weight, so should be fairly easy to scale up or down as required. I used the basic vanilla flavouring and I didn't use any colouring, but I think I should have perhaps tried with yellow to make them more visually appealing, as the macarons were quite pale too. And don't get put off by the photo on the original website - I almost was and I know I'm pretty crap at taking attractive food photos myself, but this frosting is really good. My Sister Bip even tried it on pancakes and said it was absolutely yummy.

Sadly I went the lazy route (as I tend to for this delicacy) and skipped the sifting of the ground almonds, so my macarons were quite knobbly and seemed a bit crunchier than the fancy shop-bought ones. My Mum's oven is already madly uneven in baking, so most of the macarons ended up quite slopey, even though I turned the trays around half-way through baking.

I now also know that the ready gingersnap mixture is very heavy on the ginger, so this was quite dominating, too much for my liking, but this didn't prevent me from gobbling down a couple of macarons after each meal during the holidays. Lundulph also thought that there was a bit too much ginger, but said that they were quite a nice Christmas treat. I've also taken home the remainder of the gingersnap mixture and will try it out in next year's gingersnap batch, to see if it tastes differently in the cookies.

It also seems I forgot to take photos of my knobbly macarons. Oh well...

10 October 2015

Vegan paté

A couple of weeks back, my Mum sent me a new recipe that she and my Sister Bip had tried out, from Bip's ever growing collection of vegan recipes - a vegan paté which looks and tastes like the real thing. I put the idea forward to Lundulph and he seemed interested as he's always after a new healthy thing to eat and he's not too big a fan of regular paté. This recipe yields quite a lot, but it can be frozen in smaller portions for later use.

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Ingredients

2 tbsp vegetable oil
200 g finely chopped onion
5 - 6 cloves of garlic
100 g fresh chopped button or chestnut mushrooms
400 g canned chick peas
120 g chopped walnuts, can be roasted, but not necessary
1 tbsp soy sauce
1.5 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
2 tbsp fresh chopped sage
1 tsp ground black pepper
salt to taste

Method

  1. Heat up the vegetable oil and fry off the onions and garlic until soft.
  2. Add the chopped mushrooms and fry to soften them as well.
  3. Remove from the heat and transfer to a deep bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  4. Transfer to an air-tight container and chill in the fridge until needed.

The resulting paté has the texture of traditional fine liver paté and tastes similarly. The main flavours are the rosemary and sage and some experimentation may be required - I used too much rosemary and it dominated everything, so I have a lot of it now, frozen in chunks to use with something else. But it was very interesting that the flavour and texture matched a traditional pate so well.

5 October 2015

Breakfast variation

I've been quite happy with my new breakfast, but I've been wanting to have a seasonal variation on this. Even with an unusually warm Autumn and availability of strawberries, I want something to see me through the Winter and decided to give this one a try.

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As it turned out, this didn't work well at all, for me at least, there was very little flavour to it, though that could be down to the butternut squash, I don't know.

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash
350 ml water
2 roiboos chai teabags
3 tbsp coconut oil
4 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp honey

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C.
  2. Cut the butternut squash in two and scoop out the seeds. Then bake in the oven, cut side up for about 45 minutes until it has gone soft.
  3. Scrape out some 400 g of the baked squash and place in a large saucepan together with the water and the contents of the teabags and the coconut oil, then bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and set a side for a few minutes to cool a bit.
  4. Stir in the chia seeds and honey, making sure that there are no lumps.
  5. Leave for an hour at least to allow the chia seeds to swell a bit.
  6. Warm up before serving.

The amounts above were enough for 5 breakfasts for me and I might need to experiment a bit to get the flavour right - I think there was too much coconut oil and not enough sweetness. Unfortunately I don't know how to determine how sweet a butternut squash would be, so some adjustments for each batch would be required.

I also didn't see much point in the roiboos chai - I think some cinnamon should do the trick and I think maple syrup works really well with butternut squash, so I'd swap that out for some of the coconut oil.

The really good thing is that one batch was enough for the whole week and I only needed a quick whizz in the microwave to warm it up, no other effort required, meaning possibly a few extra minutes' sleep.

I served with flaked almonds and blueberries, which was OK, but still not enough to make this a meal to look forward to.

4 October 2015

Raspberry and Chia Pudding

As Autumn has been rolling in at a steady pace and the days have been getting shorter and shorter, both Lundulph and I have been hankering for "afters" in the evenings and so, I did some searching to find tasty, yet healthy options and from the trusty BBC web site, I found this. Which combined nicely with getting some of the last big British raspberries for the season.< br>
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I'd tried to pick out the punnets with the largest raspberries, as I also wanted to try out an idea I had a few years ago - raspberries filled with chocolate ganache. The ganache was equal parts of 55% dark chocolate and double cream. The cream was heated up to boiling point. The chocolate was broken up in small pieces and the hot cream was poured over it, then stirring until all the chocolate has melted, then left to cool down. After this, I picked out the largest raspberries for filling. I transferred the ganache into a piping bag and filled up the raspberries, then into the fridge to let them set completely.

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These can be made a couple of days in advance and stored in an airtight container with a piece of kitchen tissue inside it to take up the moisture. They are also nice to eat on their own. But are good as decorations too.

Ingredients

400 g crème fraîche
6 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp vanilla extract
4 tsp honey
300 g raspberries

Decoration sweetened whipped cream
ganache-filled raspberries
a handful of almond flakes

Method

  1. Blend together the crème fraîche, chia seeds, vanilla extract, honey and raspberries and spoon into serving bowls/glasses.
  2. Chill overnight, or at least 4 h before serving.
  3. Just before serving, pipe some sweetened whipped cream, add the ganache-filled raspberries on top and sprinkle almond flakes over.

The original recipe also recommends using liquid stevia to increase the sweetness, but I didn't use that and so the pudding was a bit on the bland side, but had a very nice texture. Possibly using mascarpone instead of crème fraîche might make it a little sweeter and perhaps more honey. I'm not a fan of sweeteners, so I'd rather not use any, if I can avoid it, tempting though it might be on occasion.

I also think chopped almonds might be nice in the pudding to add some crunch as well. The ganache-filled raspberries are very easy to make and very tasty, so I was really pleased with them. I've not been able to find them in the internet, though I don't think it's an original idea of mine. I think they can be also taken a step further and dipped in chocolate to make pralines, I'll give that a try once I've mastered the art of chocolate tempering.

26 September 2015

Cottage Pie

Goodness, I'm well behind my blogging, work has been so busy and stressful and I'm also doing a course in the evenings, there's not bee much inspiration at all in the past few weeks and the few new things I've tried were not a hit mostly. But today Lundulph has gone to a football match and I'm doing house chores, so might as well try to catch up.

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At the end of October, Lundulph expressed a hankering for pie and so we looked through the Hairy Bikers' Perfect Pie book and decided on a Cottage Pie. This is a pie that only has mashed potatoes as a topping, no dough involved at all. I had some minute steak and some braising chunks to use up, so was all in all a good match for all requirements.

On our trip to Dorset earlier this year, we had black garlic aioli at one of the restaurants. This was very tasty and rather curious, so when I saw that they were selling it in my local supermarket, I bought one to try out. How it's made is mentioned in Wikipedia. And I've subsequently seen it used in Swedish cuisine as well. So I swapped the garlic cloves for some of the black garlic in this pie recipe. Needless to say I also dropped the celery.

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Ingredients

1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
500 g beef in small chunks
187 ml (small bottle) red wine
2 tbsp plain flour
200 ml beef stock
a splash of chanterelle concentrate (optional)
200 ml water
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried mint
1 bay leaf
a splash of Worcestershire sauce
4 black garlic cloves
salt and pepper to taste

Potato topping

Delia Smith's perfect mashed potatoes

Method

  1. Heat up the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion and carrots for a few minutes until the onions go translucent and the carrots soften. Stir regularly so they don't burn.
  2. Add the beef and fry until browned all over, then add the wine and let simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.
  3. In the meantime, make the beef stock and stir in the chanterelle concentrate, water, tomato purée, the dried herbs and Worcestershire sauce. Mash in the black garlic and stir through.
  4. When the wine has reduced in the pan, sprinkle the flour and stir in well and let simmer for a further couple of minutes, before adding the stock mixture.
  5. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and leave to cook for some time, depending on the type of beef used.
  6. While the pie filling is cooking, prepare the mashed potatoes.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C and transfer the beef into a pie dish.
  8. Spoon or pipe the mashed potato over the beef, starting from the edge and working inwards.
  9. For extra crunch on the topping, rough up the surface of the potatoes with a fork, then bake for about 25 minutes until the potatoes have gone golden brown and the filling is bubbling.
  10. Ready to serve

The amount of filling was a tad too much for my pie dish and I should have made adjustments to the mash, to make it more solid. As it was, it was very runny and at the top of an overfilled pie dish, the result was that things dripped to the bottom of the oven. So a very hot tip is to place a larger baking tray under the pie dish, to save yourself the trouble of oven cleaning. The original recipe calls for cheese in the mash, but we don't do that in our household.

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I also didn't allow for the fact that braising steak comes from an older animal and thus requires significantly longer to cook, so I ended up with rather chewy pieces in the pie. Lundulph was very good about it, but frankly this was a very stupid mistake to make.

19 September 2015

Blackberry and White Chocolate Mousse Cake

It is the season for blackberries and it's also Lundulph's birthday once again. And so, it had to be a blackberry cake this year, from a recipe I received from my Mum. It looked really pretty in the photo, so without delay I got going. IMG_4851

Ingredients
Base
400 g marzipan at 38% almond content
2 large eggs
4 tbsp cocoa powder
zest from 1 lemon

Blackberry mousse
5 dl blackberries
1.5 sachet vegegel
3 large pasteurised yolks
1.5 dl granulated sugar
3 dl whipping cream

White Chocolate mousse
150 g white chocolate
2.5 dl whipping cream
2 yolks

Decorations
Extra large blackberries
Grated white chocolate

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C fan, then prepare a Springform cake tin of about 20 cm diameter by greasing and lining with baking paper. The edge of the paper should be a couple of cm above the edge of the Springform.
  2. Grate the marzipan into a large bowl. Break and lightly whisk the eggs in a side bowl, then add to the marzipan, a little at a time until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Stir in the cocoa and lemon zest, then spread into the cake tin and level it with a spatula, it should be around 2 cm thick.
  4. Bake the cake base for 12 - 15 minutes until it starts coming away from the edges and looks dry on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  5. Place the blackberries in a fine sieve over a bowl. Then using a spoon mash and press out as much juice as possible, about 2.5 dl.
  6. Whisk the pasteurised yolks with the sugar until light and fluffy. Whip the cream separately to stiff peaks.
  7. Stir in the vegegel into half of the blackberry juice, then pour into the remaining juice.
  8. Working quickly, pour the juice mixture into the egg mixture and fold in.
  9. Finally fold in the whipped cream into the egg mixture and pour over the cooled down cake base.
  10. Cover with cling film and chill until it sets.
  11. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl.
  12. Place 1 dl of the cream in a small pot along with the yolks and heat up until it bubbles, while stirring constantly.
  13. Remove from the heat when it begins to thicken and pour over the chopped chocolate.
  14. Stir until all the chocolate has melted and been incorporated into the mixture, which should have cooled down.
  15. Whip the remaining cream to stiff peaks, then fold into the chocolate mixture.
  16. Pour over the blackberry mousse, level and chill for at least 1 h until it has firmed up a little.
  17. Just before serving, carefully remove from the Springform cake tin and remove the lining paper.
  18. Arrange the extra large blackberries on top and sprinkle the grated white chocolate.

As happens with many recipes, this one was clearly not tested by the magazine that published it, nor was it reviewed by someone with baking experience, because I had to double the mixture for the cake base or I would not have been able to cover the base of the cake form. So the amounts above are about right.

The blackberry mousse was really nice, but again, the proportions were wrong once more, so I had to adjust on the fly and got lucky. The white chocolate mousse on the other hand seemed OK, however it tasted more of whipped cream than chocolate, so I'd say 200 g or even 250 g of white chocolate might be better. However the overall cake tasted nice as it is.

And as the family came to celebrate, this cake was much appreciated and very little remained from it at the end. Because of the grated chocolate, it's not a cake for candles. Lundulph wanted candles, otherwise it wouldn't be a birthday cake, so he had a couple on the side. And he was well happy about the marzipan base. It was nicely crunchy.

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15 September 2015

Chocolate Cookies With Toffee

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Back in July, my Sister Bip and I had a long talk about food and as she's doing a lot of cooking these days, she forwarded me a couple of recipes that seemed interesting. However, things were getting a bit busy around the house, so I sort of forgot about them until a couple of weeks ago, when I felt my colleagues needed a little reward for being so helpful to me and I dug one of the recipes out, this (in Swedish) one to be precise.

Ingredients

Makes about 50
200 g soft unsalted butter
2 dl granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ dl golden syrup
½ dl cocoa powder
4 dl plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
about ½ tsp of caramel/dolce de leche

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 °C and line a couple of baking tins with baking paper and cut up a couple of more pieces to fit.
  2. Whisk together the butter, sugar, vanilla and syrup into a smooth mixture.
  3. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl first, then stir into the butter mixture.
  4. As it gets thick, you'll need to knead it to make sure everything is well incorporated.
  5. Now take out walnut sized pieces, roll into balls and place on the baking tins and spare baking paper, making sure they are not too close together.
  6. Make a small well in each ball with your thumb and place a small blob of caramel into each.
  7. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the cookies have spread out, but watch so the caramel doesn't start burning.
  8. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Store in an air-tight container.

Now I made my own caramel from condensed milk in the past, but nowadays it's sold ready made in the shops, so might as well use that. I recommend stirring the caramel through until it's soft, if it has set, don't be tempted to use it if it's set, it won't run out over the cookie during the bake.

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Also, the original recipe says to divide up the dough into 24 pieces, but these were way too big, I ended up with huge cookies and as I didn't stir through the caramel, it stayed in a lump in the middle. But they were rather tasty, even if a couple burnt a bit. Very easy to do on the whole, I think, and not too sweet.

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26 August 2015

Birthday Kransekake

This year Lundulph's Mum (like my Mum earlier this year) is turning 70, so big celebrations are in the making, more on this later. But we also decided to have a small family get-together on the actual day and Lundulph kindly volunteered me to make a cake.
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Now times are busy at work at the moment, so I opted to work from home during the birthdays, as Lundulph's Dad also had his birthday a few days before his Mum. Thus we stayed at their place for a few days and while Lundulph was helping out with the party plans, I sat in the guest bedroom working.

This also meant that increasingly Lundulph got more and more nervous about the cake - he hadn't seen any signs of a cake, other than some odd looking biscuity rings that had been in the freezer and had meant he wasn't allowed to rummage around for food. This because I'd decided to make it a surprise for everyone and I was quite worried that Lundulph would get upset because I hadn't made a "real, traditional" cake. But I decided to plod on with my plan.

It all started of course when I went in to Lakeland for ideas and spotted a kransekake pan set. I couldn't resist it, it's as simple as that.

And while Lundulph was enjoying the Ashes for a couple of days, I used the opportunity to make the kransekake rings.

Ingredients

1 kg "50/50"-type marzipan
300 g icing sugar
80 g egg whites (2 eggs approximately)
50 g butter
2 dl ground almonds

Royal icing
2 dl icing sugar
1 egg white

Method

  1. Grate the marzipan coarsely into a large bowl.
  2. Add the icing sugar and stir together with your hand until the marzipan and sugar are mixed through.
  3. Whisk the egg whites lightly, then start adding to the marzipan mixture a little at a time, while kneading the marzipan.
  4. The mixture is ready when you can roll out a sausage of about 2 cm diameter and bend it into a circle without it cracking anywhere.
  5. Melt the butter and brush the moulds well, then sprinkle generously ground almonds and tap off the excess.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C and start rolling the marzipan mixture to about 2 cm diameter lengths.
  7. Gently lay onto each ring mould, splicing the two edges with diagonal cuts.
  8. There should be some marzipan mixture left over, use about a ping-pong ball sized piece and shape into a cone for the top of the kransekake.
  9. Bake all in the oven for about 10 minutes, keeping an eye on them and removing as soon as they start getting a bit of colour. Bake the top on an oven safe dish lined with baking paper.
  10. Leave to cool down complete on the moulds, before carefully removing the rings. If they've puffed up too much and stuck together, carefully first separate in the moulds with a knife.
  11. Place the rings on a large plate, with smaller rings inside the larger ones, perhaps 3 - 4 stacked. Place in plastic bags and freeze until the day before they're needed.
  12. The day before serving, remove from the freezer and let thaw in room temperature.
  13. A few hours before serving, make up royal icing by mixing about 2 dl icing sugar with some egg white. Add the egg white a little at a time into the icing sugar and keep stirring through before adding more. Continue until the consistency is such that it can be piped , but it won't drip or run.
  14. To put the kransekake together, start by stacking all the rings, with the largest at the bottom and the smallest at the top, to make sure you have the right order as it can be difficult to tell, the size difference between neighbouring rings is small. Then remove them one at a time and lay them out in order.
  15. Put the royal icing into a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle, then pipe four small blobs at the bottom of the largest ring and place it securely onto the serving plate.
  16. Pipe waves around the top of the large ring, always starting and ending in the inside of it, as this will get hidden with the next layer.
  17. Once the whole ring has completed, carefully place the next one on top, making sure it's centered and repeat the icing waves all around, before placing the next ring on top of that.
  18. Continue until the whole pyramid has completed - you may need to stand on a chair to reach the top layers. Finish with the little cone.
  19. The kransekake is eaten, by working your way down through the layers.
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And indeed it was a great success - it's simple, yet impressive as it's so tall once assembled. It was also very sweet, so I'll try to reduce this next time. The idea with the freezing is that it will make the kransekake crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle. What happened was that the 4 - 5 rings Lundulph and I took home with us, got chewier and chewier with every day they stayed in the larder. It was very nice to have a little nibble after lunch or dinner. And Lundulph was not at all upset, but how could he with all the marzipan to munch on.

Some will also melt dark chocolate and make fancy filigree decorations which are stuck in between the rings. It was my intention to do this as well, however I ran out of time and as I don't trust myself to be able to temper the chocolate, I thought I'd better not bother. Next time I will and I'll also try the alternative traditional shape - a cornucopia, with small petit fours or such spilling out of it. This, however, requires the rings to be glued together with caramel and looking at some professionally made ones, they even have special stands for support, like here from a Danish brand of marzipan, it's in Danish, but just look at the photos.

Key thing to keep in mind - there must be at least 18 rings and preferably more. At the Danish Bake-Off in 2012, the kransekake (Norwegian) or kransekage (Danish) was one of the technical challenges and had to have 20 rings. I highly recommend doing an image search on Google for ideas on how to decorate.

Finally a word on the "50/50"-type marzipan. The numbers indicate the proportions of ground almonds to icing sugar if you're making it yourself. Rather go for a 50% marzipan, which tends to be more expensive and is not as soft to work with, but that's how it should be. I actually baked my kransekake at 200° and thanks to the egg white, it puffed up. I think in my Swedish baking book, it's recommended to shape everything and then let stand for 24 h to form a dry crust, before baking. A bit tricky in the UK, especially when moving towards Autumn and there's lots of rain and moisture in the air. Might be worth a try.

21 August 2015

Cake pop success!

And so the long-planned birthday celebrations neared and I baked cake-pops and was quite successful this time, very pleased indeed and discovered new things too.

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Ingredients

Cream cheese frosting
160 g unsalted butter
80 g cream cheese
400 g icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Cake pop mixture
860 g leftover cake sponge
646 g cream cheese frosting

Decorations
3 x 340 g blue Wilton Candy Melts
vegetable shortening
icing lace from Lakeland's magic icing powder
paper lolly sticks
large piece of polystyrene, fixed to the work surface, to push the cake pop sticks in while they set

Method

  1. To make the frosting, cream together the butter and cream cheese, then gradually add the icing sugar and finally the vanilla.
  2. Beat until light and fluffy,
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    then cover and chill for 30 minutes at least.
  3. Make sure the cake crumbs are as fine as possible,
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    then add the cream cheese frosting a little at a time until the mixture texture is a bit like fudge.
  4. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least an hour.
  5. Make sure there is space in the fridge before starting the next step.
  6. Roll small balls, about the size of a walnut,
    IMG_4789
    place on a tray, cover with cling film and chill again for an hour until they are firm.
  7. Melt some of the candy melts in the microwave, 10 s at a time and stirring after each burst until completely melted.
  8. Take the cake balls out from the fridge, dip a lolly stick in the melted candy and carefully push into one of the balls, to reach the centre.
  9. With your finger, wipe the melted candy around the lolly stick and put back on the tray.
  10. Repeat with the other cake balls, then cover with cling film and chill in the fridge until they are quite firm.
  11. Melt a couple of tbsp of vegetable shortening in the microwave and allow to cool down a bit.
  12. Now place a whole packet of candy melts in a narrow, deep bowl and melt in the microwave, again at 10 s intervals and stirring in between.
  13. When the candy melts have melted completely, add the melted vegetable shortening and stir in well, this will make the mixture a bit thinner.
  14. Take the cake pops out of the fridge, a few at a time, then dip each in the melted candy and tap the lolly on the edge of the bowl, to remove the excess.
  15. While you tap, also rotate the cake pop. When the excess has mostly been removed, gently place a piece of icing lace and push the lolly into a piece of polystyrene that has been secured to the work surface.
  16. Proceed with the remaining cake pops, only taking a few out from the fridge at a time, so they don't go soft in room temperature and fall off the sticks when dipped.
  17. If the candy melt starts setting, whizz in the microwave for another 10 s burst and if necessary add more melted vegetable shortening.
  18. Once the cake pops have set, keep in the fridge.

The cream cheese frosting recipe comes from here, where there are step by step instructions on how to make the cake pops with very useful tips and tricks. I used Philadelphia cheese, which worked very nicely.

Some time ago, I also came across this website. It offers a wide selection on various online video courses, though it requires registration and there are several free courses as well, one of which is on cake pop basics. It's quite good for decoration ideas, though I think their "standard" cake pops were too large for my liking. The ones I made were more of what was termed "mini" cake pops. The above amounts resulted in 75 cake pops.

Now for the icing lace. There are several brands out there and YouTube has plenty of videos on the topic. I bought the ones in Lakeland, which are their own brand and consists of two silicone mats and a tub of "magic icing". The instructions for the icing mixture are on the silicone mat packaging, but I took the precaution of reading all the comments on the Lakeland website, where it seems about 50% of the buyers had failed miserably and were understandably upset, whereas the other half had had great success and some of them had also written what they'd done. Now the packet instructions didn't quite match the instructions in the comments, so I decided to follow the instructions on the packet as a first attempt. But I scaled up the amounts a bit, as I don't think my kitchen scales are sufficiently precise for the minuscule amounts suggested.

Magic icing for lace
50 g magic icing powder
45 g boiling water
silicone mould mat with suitable patterns
firm plastic dough scraper

  1. Stir well with a spoon, it'll go quite stretchy and gloopy, but keep at it until the mixture is even.
  2. Wrap tightly in double cling film and leave for a few hours before using.
  3. Place the silicone mat on the work surface, unwrap the magic icing, cut a piece off with the dough scraper, then cover up the magic icing again.
  4. Now firmly run the dough scraper with the piece of magic icing over the silicone mat, pressing down so the mixture gets into the lace mould. The mixture should feel a bit like silicone sealant - pliable, but sticky.
  5. Continue to fill the silicone mat. Any left-over magic icing can be wrapped in double cling film for later.
  6. Leave the mould to dry for about 12 h, then carefully prise off the pieces of lace and store in an air-tight container.

My original intention was to use the round laces to form petals with each cake pop being the middle of a flower. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make them stick to the cake pops and they kept falling off. So a quick adaptation was to cut out the middle of each piece of lace and stick on top of each cake pop. I did try a few cake pops with sprinkles, this worked quite well, but must be done before the candy coating sets.

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Needless to say that for 75 cake pops, I spent a lot of time in the days before the party, making icing laces. And as it took me a couple of silicone moulds to get the knack, I made well over 100 of the laces and there were quite a few left over.

One of the most interesting things the cake pops resulted in was that when Lundulph's Mum and Aunt tried them, there was a rush of childhood memories that came back to them - of a type of cake their Mother used to make. Some search on google came up with Russian Cake. I'm not sure how true the history of this is, but it's a very nifty way of using up scraps of sponge cake, however in this cake, jam is used as the binding agent, rather than cream cheese frosting. The texture is the same, and that's what triggered the memories.

As an aside I can also mention that Lundulph had no issues eating these either, even though there was cheese in them.

17 August 2015

Spiral Potatoes

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Sometime in July there was a food festival in our village and there was one stall I'd not seen before. They did one thing only - spiral potatoes and I just had to have one, despite Lundulph's tut-tuts.

Basically what it is, an oblong baking potato is run through a spiraliser and a bamboo skewer is stuck through the middle at the same time. It is then deep-fried. Finally, the hungry buyer gets to choose a sauce or spice mixture to sprinkle on top and off she goes.

Unfortunately until we buy a new and bigger house, a spiraliser is completely out of the question, so I bought a tiny little gadget which allegedly would do the same thing, albeit with a bit more elbow grease. I carefully selected narrow baking potatoes as well, since I don't have a deep fryer either, but would need to bake the potatoes. Sadly, the two parts of the little gizmo had been put together backwards, making it completely useless, so I had to throw it away, there was no way to fix it.

Instead, I searched YouTube and found several instructional videos on spiral potatoes and also on Hasselback potatoes, so was able to create the spirals and also use the baking instructions for Hasselback potatoes. Let's face it, they are in effect the same.

So, the skewer went in through the middle of the potatoes and then carefully with a small knife, I cut the spiral. It wasn't as thin as the spiraliser at the stall, but was thin enough.

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Once the full length of the potato has been spiralled, carefully stretch along the skewer. I used metal skewers with the thought that they would heat up in the oven and help bake the centre of the potatoes.

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While preparing the potatoes, pre-heat the oven along with a deep baking dish to 220 °C. The baking dish should be such that the skewers can be rested on it's edges, so the potato spirals are suspended.

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Brush the potatoes with a little oil when you put them in the oven and repeat a few times while they're baking. I also turned the skewers around, though I'm not sure that was actually necessary.

I don't remember how long it took to get them baked, but they were ever so tasty, I almost burnt my tongue trying to eat straight out of the oven. Lundulph was out that evening and got to try one the following night, reheated. This wasn't as good, so he wasn't very impressed, but they were looooovely!

6 August 2015

Wholemeal Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

In my search for a good muffin recipe, I came across this one, which seemed very appealing as it had wholemeal flour and coconut oil in it. How wrong I was...

Ingredients

Makes 12
245 g wholemeal flour
65 g caster sugar
25 g cocoa powder
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking powder
60 g melted coconut oil
1.6 dl semi-skimmed milk
1 large egg
0.6 dl chocolate chips

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C and line a muffin tin with paper cases.
  2. Stir together the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Mix in coconut oil, milk and egg.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips
  5. Divide up the mixture between the cases and bake for about 20 minutes.

What I got was a very stiff batter, so I used an ice cream scoop to distribute among the paper cases. This was great I thought, no dribbling or fiddling with piping bags and such. And baking worked pretty well, they achieved a very nice domed shape, another plus point for this recipe.

But then we tried them and the taste was horrible. I imagine it would taste like this if I'd used sawdust and wood chippings instead of wholemeal flour. The texture was fairly unpleasant too, they were very heavy, which is no wonder with only wholemeal and a tiny amount of baking powder.

Possibly it might work OK as a loaf, where the slices can be eaten with butter and jam, though I'm not sure it would hold together, there's no kneading to develop a gluten structure.

Lundulph obligingly ate his and half of mine, as I decided not to force it down. Lundulph's parents and his brother and partner and a neighbour also kindly agreed to try them, all of us with the same verdict - these were no good at all. And I don't think these are worth experimenting with either, there's too much that's wrong with them. Still, a useful experience.

28 July 2015

New Breakfast 2

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The second breakfast recipe I tried was for "fruit porridge" and there were a couple of things I decided to ignore from the outset - one of the ingredients was celery. Just say no, that's all I'm saying. The second one was to blend the fruit together into some sort of porridge consistency. Well, that would be fruit purée, and why do that, when it's nicer to have it diced and have some textures and colours as well? Not to mention that surely if the stomach has something to digest, it might prevent getting cravings a couple of hours later?

Of course diced fruit in a bowl is a fruit salad and that would take some time to do, not enough of that in the mornings, so I prepared it on the evening before. Lundulph came into the kitchen to see what I was up to and as he saw the kiwi fruit, he decided that he'd like to try this new breakfast as well, so I made a second portion for him too.

Ingredients

1 portion
1 apple
1 pear
1 large kiwi fruit
a handful of raspberries and blueberries
1 tbsp crushed linseed
1 peeled hard-boiled egg

Method

  1. Wash, peel and core the apple, then dice and place in a bowl.
  2. Wash, peel and core the pear, then dice and add to the bowl.
  3. Peel and dice the kiwi fruit and add to the bowl.
  4. Gently wash raspberries and blueberries and add to the bowl
  5. Finally sprinkle the crushed linseed over and stir through to get everything mixed and it's ready to eat along with the egg.

When I handed Lundulph his fruit salad, his only comment was that this is one big bowl of fruit, then he went off to the home office, where he tends to eat breakfast most of the time.

I had the fruit salad first and then ate the egg with a little salt. It was a bit of a struggle to eat everything and I felt rather stuffed afterwards. The idea is of course that the egg provides the protein and again, I got through up to lunch without experiencing any cravings at all.

I was telling my Mum about this too, as she's been having fruit salads with nuts for breakfast for years and she concurred that it's a very filling meal indeed.

But it is also a bit more effort than I have time for, so I only made it a couple of times. I think it would work as a dessert for two, just the fruit salad that is, minus the egg. Making it on the evening before and keeping wrapped with cling film in the fridge works quite well and if you're already cooking in the evening, this won't add too much effort.

And yes, the raspberries and blueberries were the replacement for the celery. The photo in the book actually had pomegranate pieces and I suspect that's rather nice too.

27 July 2015

New Breakfast 1

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Now, my new diet books have lovely recipes and I've tried to follow their concept of palm portions, but I have a bad feeling that's too much for me anyway, perhaps because I no longer feel hungry around elevenses. In the second book there were a couple of breakfast recipes that seemed very appealing and I tried both. Here is the first one, which I've ended up sticking to, as it's a little quicker to do.

Ingredients

1 portion
4 tbsp cottage cheese
½ banana
4 - 5 large strawberries
1 dl heaped with blueberries
1 tbsp flaked almonds
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp whole linseeds
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Method

  1. Scoop the cottage cheese into a bowl and slice the banana thinly over.
  2. Remove the stalks of the strawberries, wash and dice into the bowl.
  3. Wash the blueberries and add to the bowl as well.
  4. Finally add the almonds, sunflower seeds and linseeds and sprinkle the cinnamon on top.
  5. Stir to mix and eat.

Now, the palm portion concept states that the meal should consist of protein of about the size of one's palm (minus the fingers and thumb), then two fist-sized portions of veg or fruit and a fist-sized portion of carbs. This will help you keep your weight. If you want to lose weight, then swap the third fist-sized portion for veg or fruit as well. The book then provides loads of ideas for what to use in each of the food groups.

In this breakfast recipe, the cottage cheese provides the protein part and 4 tbsp are about the size of my palm. The ½ of banana counts as one fist-sized portion of fruit, the strawberries a second and the blueberries a third. I believe the nuts and seeds provide protein and some fat as well, not to mention that linseed tends to get the system going. The cinnamon is not necessary and I've forgotten it on some days, and it was still tasty. I will need to make it more seasonal, I'll have to do some research on what I can swap the strawberries and blueberries with, to make it more interesting. But it's a really nice and filling breakfast that keeps me going well up to lunchtime, no cravings at all.

Of course this takes a little longer to put together in the mornings than say müsli and milk or yoghurt, but not too bad and I think it's time well spent.

26 July 2015

Lemon and poppy seed cupcakes

This year has quite a few big birthdays in the family and next up is my Mother-in-Law. And I get the honour of making some of the desserts - cupcakes and cake pops. Lovely! So on my latest trip to my local Lakeland, I couldn't resist buying moulds for making lace out of icing. Of course it's not regular icing, it requires some special mixture to allow it to keep its shape.

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And as I'm doing more and more advanced things in my baking, I have to practice in advance and this is it - try out one of the many cup cake recipes I saved from the Danish Bake-off in 2012 and combine with icing lace. Note that the original recipe is in Danish.

Ingredients

125 g soft unsalted butter
100 g caster sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1 tbsp lemon juice
275 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 ml salt
2 tbsp black poppy seeds
¾ dl single cream

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C (160 ° C fan-assisted) and prepare some muffin cases.
  2. Whisk together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, and incorporate well. After the final egg, also stir in the vanilla extract, lemon zest and juice.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Add the poppy seeds and stir through to make sure they are well mixed.
  5. Add the flour mixture a little at a time and whisk incorporate into the butter mixture to form a thick batter. Add the cream when the batter becomes stiff and the electric whisk is struggling.
  6. Spoon or pipe into the muffin cases, filling about ⅔ of each case.
  7. Bake for 15 - 25 minutes (depending on size), test with a toothpick to see if they're ready, it should come out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool.

I bought slightly smaller muffin cases recently, they are much more manageable when eating and have a better balance between the cake part and the icing. So I used them and had 20 muffins from the above amounts. I should have placed them in my metal muffin tins even if they are smaller, that would have helped them keep their shape, but instead I squeezed them all into one tray and so some went rectangular as they bumped into their neighbours while baking.

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Now for the decorations, I first went for the recommended icing in the recipe, however it split and I couldn't sort it out, but it was very tasty, so I've frozen it into creamy ice lollies. I also was reluctant to flavour it - it was supposed to be divided in 2 equal parts and one to be flavoured with lemon juice and coloured yellow and the other part to be flavoured with orange juice and coloured orange. It seemed to be a lot of the two juices to be added and I thought it would end up being rather runny.

Ingredients for icing

90 g soft unsalted butter
75 g icing sugar
250 g mascarpone
1 tsp vanilla extract
yellow food colouring

Method
Whisk together everything until it's soft and fluffy. If it doesn't split, pipe onto the cooled down muffins. Otherwise freeze into ice lollies.

I tried to pipe the split icing with the hopes that it might force it to come together, but it started melting in my hands and I gave up. I put some giant raspberries on top, which tasted nice, but made the cupcakes so very top heavy they were not able to stand up on their own.

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The next thing was to try out the icing lace. The packet instructions were for industrial amounts, I made a fifth if them and still had a blob left over. The mixture was very rubbery from the start and it took me quite a while to work out the right level of pressure to use to get the lace moulds filled enough to form a lace and yet not accidentally scrape half of the filling off. I left them to dry naturally through the day and in the evening, I dug out some ready to roll blue icing, rolled it out and cut out circles, then put the icing lace on top and it looked very pretty.

The next day, the blue icing had bled into the muffins and also picked up lots of moisture from the air, as it is very rainy at the moment. The white icing lace kept well, but also succumbed to the strong blue colour of the rolled out icing on day 2. I'll need to make another batch of the icing lace, to make sure I have the knack for Mother-in-Law's birthday party. And I also need to work out a good recipe for the cupcakes.

I personally liked the poppy seeds, they give a very nice crunch, but Lundulph thought they were more of a savoury ingredient and we both were struggling to taste the lemon. I also thought the muffins were a bit on the dry side - the original recipe called for milk, but I think using single cream should make them a bit more moist. Lundulph suggested muffins with cardamom flavouring, like a cinnamon bun basically, so that'll be the next thing to try.

I also took some to work for some of my overworked colleagues. I've not heard anything from them, so my guess is these weren't quite a hit with them either. And not surprising, work has been hectic and stressful for weeks and I'm tired and have headaches, so my baking very much reflects this. I think I need to knead a dough by hand and get some of the built-up frustration out.

Everyday Beef Burgers with Veggie Mash

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Another recipe I picked from my new diet books, this time with beef. The original recipe is for 2 portions, but I scaled up to fit with the amount of mince I had to hand.

Ingredients

Veggie mash
300 g broccoli
300 g cauliflower
10 g chives
1 dl crème fraîche
salt and peppper

Burgers
240 g onions
95 g carrots
500 g beef mince
6 tbsp crème fraîche
4 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper
butter for frying

Method

  1. Start by making the mash - trim and wash the broccoli and cauliflower, then divide into florets.
  2. Steam until they go soft - each on its own, as they take different amount of time for this.
  3. Place in a large bowl and mash together, adding a little of the steaming liquid if needed.
  4. Cut the chives into the mixture, add the crème fraiche and season to taste.
  5. Peel and finely dice the onions, peel and grate the carrots finely.
  6. In a large bowl, mix together the onions, arrots, mince, crème fraîche, mustard, salt and pepper to combine well.
  7. Heat up a little butter in a frying pan, then drop handfuls of the mince mixture into it and use a spoon to shape into burgers.
  8. Fry for 4 minutes on each side.
  9. Serve with the veggie mash and mixed salad or carbs of your choice.

Sadly this was ages ago and I've forgotten if we liked it or not. I have vague memories that I wasn't too impressed with the veggie mash, but I also have a feeling I might have forgotten to add the crème fraîche. Though the burgers were really nice - the carrots did make them very juicy, though without bread and egg, they didn't really hold together very well, were quite far removed from the photo in the book, which was more of a Wallenbergare type of burger.

Luckily Lundulph remembers this dish well and commented that it was very tasty, so a repeat for sure.

18 July 2015

Baked Churros

While spending a number of evenings watching youtube recipes, I came across the wonderful channel of Ann Reardon of How to Cook That and one of the recipes was for churros, which I think of as the Spanish version of mekitzi.

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I've had churros a couple of times and really enjoyed them, but never really thought about making them at home and when I found the tutorial video, I decided to try them out.

The basic dough is very similar to the choux dough, but with fewer eggs and I was a little concerned that they would puff up, but they didn't and perhaps that's down to the smaller amount of eggs in the mixture.

Ingredients

Churros dough
250 ml water
115 g butter
160 g plain flour
3 large eggs
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cooking oil spray

Cinnamon sugar
54 g caster sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Nougat dipping sauce
1 part nougat
1 part semi-skimmed milk

Method

  1. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 200 °C.
  2. Put the water and butter in a saucepan and melt on the hob.
  3. Stir briskly in the flour and once the dough starts thickening and comes together into a ball, remove from the hear.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time and incorporate well in between.
  5. Finally stir in the sugar and vanilla and transfer to a piping bag with a fairly narrow star nozzle.
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  6. Pipe straight lines, a couple of cm apart onto the prepared trays and spray with a little cooking oil.
  7. Bake each tray until the churros go golden brown on the ridges.
  8. Stir together the caster sugar and ground cinnamon to mix well.
  9. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack and sprinkle immediately with the cinnamon sugar.
  10. Make the dipping sauce by dicing the nougat and placing in a heat proof bowl.
  11. Bring the milk to the boil, then pour over the nougat and stir until the nougat has melted and has become a homogeneous mixture.

I also used a nozzle that was too wide, so my churros were a bit on the thick side, but I wasn't sure if I'd be able to pipe the dough, it felt a bit thick and I didn't want to get a smaller nozzle clogged up. In the past I've mostly used too small nozzles and had tremendous problems with piping things well. This meant I had to bake my churros for 25 minutes and I also upped the temperature to 220 °C as they seemed to be taking forever to develop colour. I also had some cinnamon sugar left over, but that can be used when I make cinnamon buns next.

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But they were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and worked very nicely with the nougat sauce. In fact the reason I made it was that I didn't have any chocolate in the larder and thought I could make a "ganache" with the nougat, but rather than using cream, I used semi-skimmed milk. This resulted in the mixture not setting like a ganache would, even after being chilled in the fridge, so it's a good one for ice cream as well I think.

This was a surprise for Lundulph and a very tasty one too. We ate almost all of the churros for breakfast, so if I make this for more people, I definitely need to increase the recipe. Hopefully I'll remember to use a smaller nozzle next time too, that should shorten the baking time considerably. Lundulph liked that they weren't greasy like deep fried ones and of course you could tell the difference, but it wasn't a bad one at all.

13 July 2015

Chicken Burger with Beetroot Tzatziki

After two fish recipes, we decided to go for a chicken recipe from my new diet book.

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Also pleasing is that I get to try out sambal ulek - I've heard of this, but never cooked with it. It's an Indonesian chilli paste. The brand I bought wasn't as spicy as I expected and would have liked, but was still very nice.

Ingredients

Beetroot tzatziki
2 large beetroot
300 ml light crème fraîche
1 tbsp horseradish paste/sauce
salt and pepper

Burgers
500 g chicken breast
4 shallots
2 large eggs
4 tsp sambal oelek
2 tsp lime juice
2 tbsp cornflour
salt and pepper
oil for frying

Method

  1. Peel the beetroot and then grate it coarsely and place in a large bowl.
  2. Stir in the crème fraîche, the horseradish, salt and pepper.
  3. Next, trim the chicken breasts and chop finely - or whizz in a food processor, then place in a large bowl.
  4. Peel and finely dice the shallots and add to the chicken.
  5. Stir in the eggs, sambal oelek, lime juice cornflour, salt and pepper and mix to get well combined. It will not be possible to form into burgers, that's OK.
  6. Heat up some oil in a frying pan, then using a scoop spoon 2 - 3 patties into the frying pan and press down into burger shapes, making sure they don't touch.
  7. Fry for a few minutes, then flip over and fry for a few more minutes and the burgers are done.
  8. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. Serve with the beetroot tzatziki and steamed or sautéed potatoes.

The beetroot tzatziki is a bit misleading I think - tzatziki has fairly fixed ingredients, none of them being beetroot. But the mixture was very nice. The key thing is to wear protective clothing when peeling and grating the beetroot and it should be preferably red in colouring or you'll be sorry. The book recommends stir-frying the beetroot first and letting it cool down before making the mixture, if you want to tone down the beetroot flavour. To be honest, I think it was nice raw and I keep thinking we should try to eat more beetroot, but it is a bit of a hassle to prepare it as it can stain and also as it would discolour our food. My Sister Bip usually makes juice and she's promised to make some for us next time we go to Sweden.

As for carbs, I'd bought some lovely baby potatoes, which I first steamed and then fried in the left-over oil from the chicken burgers. If you do that, I strongly recommend that you warm up the oven to about 80 °C and keep the burgers warm. But of course burger buns would work just as well, maybe add some sliced tomato, red onion and a couple of salad leaves.

Finely chopping the chicken took a lot of effort, as the processor attachment on my handheld blender broke the other week and so I don't recommend doing this on a week-day. But it's well worth trying to dice finely, rather than mince as the burger texture was very good. I was also pleased that I didn't need to get my hands dirty forming patties and I'll try that when I make Bulgarian meatballs in the future. I used my ice cream scoop to plop 3 scoops into the frying pan and then gently pressed them down, leaving about a cm between them. But next time I'll add a spicier chilli paste.

Lundulph's verdict - nice texture, meatier than normal burgers, tasted nice and the beetroot and potatoes worked well with them.

5 July 2015

Trinidad Moruga Scorpion

Some time ago, my friend Electric Bob kindly gave me a small bag of chilli seeds labelled "Trinidad Moruga Scorpion" and with the comment that they are among the hottest type of chilli there is. A few months ago I finally got around to planting them and they all happily sprouted and grew and grew. I even gave a couple to brother-in-law Roger as he's a keen grower of unusual plants.

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And indeed in the Spring the first flowers appeared, I dug out a small brush and set to work pollinating them every morning and one set fruit. This fruit seemed mis-shapen from the start, but it grew and grew until it reached the size of a walnut and then stopped.

After our trip to Sweden in early June, we came home to this chilli as it had started blushing and within a couple of weeks it was bright red. Lundulph was quite pleased as it matched the colour of his favourite football team.

I left it on the plant for a bit longer and the other day I decided to make a curry with it, so I went for what is arguably my favourite curry - Chicken Do-Piaza.

I used some chilli powder and added Mr Scorpion at the end. I cut off his tail and sniffed it - not only did it smell wondefully, it was also noticeable that it was going to be spicy. Lundulph had a sniff too and concurred.

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As it turned out, it was indeed massively spicy hot - in addition to the 4 tbsp of yoghurt the original recipe states, I added at least 500 g more and still it was plenty hot. Lundulph reckoned that one chilli would have been enough for 10 more curries... It's a good thing I had also made a huge bowl of tarator, which we ended up having as dessert. That calmed down the taste buds.

Since then, there have been plenty more flowers, but only a couple of fruits and they are still tiny. But once they ripen, we'll be sorted out for the rest of the year at least.

We had the curry with teff and courgette spaghetti. Teff is an Ethiopian cereal. I need to do more research on how to cook it, the instructions on the packet didn't give a good result, it tasted more like semolina pudding. The courgette spaghetti was very nice though - courgette sliced lengthwise, then boiled for 5 minutes. Very nice and pretty.

Lundulph's verdict: the hottest chilli ever.

3 July 2015

Fish Burgers With Guacamole

With the success of the lovely teriyaki salmon skewers, I cracked on with the next recipe I'd marked up in my new diet cook book.

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However, Lundulph had made an impulse purchase of smoked herring and suggested I use it, rather than the suggested fish in the recipe, which was either salmon, haddock or hoki. The result was really not to my taste and frankly why would such a small fish need so many bones? Lundulph obligingly ate all of the burgers, apart from the one bite I tried. I think using one of the suggested fish would work better. The recipe actually calls for raw fish, not pre-cooked in any way. In fact they recommend frozen fish, that's been allowed to partially thaw, for easier handling.

Ingredients

Guacamole
1 small red onion
2 tomatoes
1 large avocado
2 tsp lemon juice
a few drops Tabasco
salt and pepper

Burgers 200 g smoked herring
2 boiled potatoes
1 egg
2 tbsp fresh chopped dill
salt and pepper
1 - 2 tbsp butter for frying

Method

  1. If the fish is frozen, take out to thaw.
  2. Starting with the guacamole, peel and dice the red onion finely and place in a bowl.
  3. Dice the tomato and add to the bowl. Peel the avocado, dice it and mash up with a fork, then add to the bowl.
  4. Stir through and add lemon juice, Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste, then cover with cling film and set aside.
  5. Chop the partially thawed fish finely and place on a piece of kitchen tissue to drain off.
  6. Peel and grate the potatoes, then stir together with the fish in a large bowl.
  7. Stir in the egg, dill, salt and pepper, then form into small flat patties.
  8. Heat up the butter and fry the patties until golden brown.

Serve with granary or rye bread and perhaps sliced tomato and lettuce. I didn't have any suitable bread, so I served with quinoa, stir-fried mixed veggies and alfalfa sprouts.

As I said, this really wasn't to my taste and spending most of the evening removing tiny bones from the herring didn't contribute to enjoying this meal.

The guacamole was OK, unfortunately the original recipe stated way too much lemon juice and I ended up adding a second avocado to neutralise the flavour. I had the left-overs for breakfast the next day on a slice of toast, which was very yummy.

30 June 2015

Teriyaki Salmon Skewers

For my birthday, my lovely Sister Bip bought me two cookery books from the itrim programme (in Swedish), which started a few years ago in Sweden and is now spreading across the world. I've mentioned them before and I must say the two books are looking very good with beautiful photos and relatively simple recipes that are quick to make.

I looked through the first book a few days ago and marked up recipes that seemed like both Lundulph and I would like and given that a heat wave had just kicked in, I decided on teriyaki salmon skewers, which also claims to be the simplest recipe in the book.

Ingredients

250 g salmon fillet
½ dl thick teriyaki sauce
a few chives for decoration
quinoa
stir-fry ready vegetables
oil for stir-frying soy sauce

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 ° C and check the salmon fillet for bones and remove them as well as the skin.
  2. Cut the fillet into cubes of about 2 - 3 cm and put on bamboo skewers.
  3. Drizzle the teriyaki sauce over the fish and use a brush to spread it all over the pieces, then leave on the side for a few minutes.
  4. If needed, rinse the quinoa and cook 1 part quinoa with 2 parts water for 15 minutes, then let stand to soak up any remaining water.
  5. Turn the salmon skewers around and brush to get more teriyaki sauce on them, then bake in the oven for about 10 minutes.
  6. Stir-fry the vegetables in a little oil for a few minutes. Sprinkle some soy sauce over.
  7. Plate up salmon, quinoa and vegetables, cut some chives over the salmon and serve.

Indeed a very simple recipe and extremely yummy and we finished it very quickly. Definitely a good alternative to meatballs, potatoes and "brun sås" as emergency food, when we come home late from work and are too tired to cook a proper meal.

28 June 2015

Coconut Flour Bickies

Earlier this year, I bought a huge packet of coconut flour as it sounded intriguing, not considering for a moment that I should perhaps start with a smaller amount and see if it works for me.

IMG_4729

So the first thing I did was to split it in two and take one half to Sweden and my sister Bip. I sincerely hope she's using it, because it's actually pretty good, even if the recipes I found after a quick google session didn't really inspire me. I've used it in my Arunachal curry instead of blending dessicated coconut. It changes the texture and taste a little, but works absolutely fine and saves some time on blending.

Since Friday I've been planning to make another batch of stamped cookies and wanted to use some of the coconut flour in the recipe as well. Due to administrative errors, I only managed to do them today, and as it's very hot, I've been moving the butter in and out of the fridge to stop it from melting, yet not going cold and hard either.

And as it was Gay Pride in London yesterday, I thought I'd play with my food colours and make them rainbow coloured. The recipe is the same I used back in January when I first got the cookie press.

Ingredients

170 g unsalted butter at room temperature
150 g caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 egg, preferably large
½ tsp vanilla extract
100 g coconut flour
150 g plain flour
6 food colours for a rainbow

Method

  1. Start a couple of hours early by placing at least 3 baking sheets in the freezer.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C (fan assisted).
  3. Cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy in a large bowl.
  4. Add the egg and the vanilla extract and incorporate well.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the coconut flour and the plain flour, then slowly add to the butter mixture until a fairly solid "dough" forms.
  6. Divide up into 6 equal parts and colour each one with a rainbow colour - purple, blue, green, red, orange and yellow.
  7. Starting from the purple, flatten to about ½ cm thickness and form into an oblong rectangle. Mine were a bit too thick and were about 3 x 15 cm.
    IMG_4728
  8. Repeat with the blue, then green, then red, then orange and finally yellow and stack them on top of the purple in that order.
  9. Using a large sharp knife, cut the stack along the middle, then carefully insert into the cookie press.
  10. Take out one of the frozen sheets and stamp the cookies with the press directly on it - no baking paper, no greasing.
  11. Bake the biscuits for 6 minutes, then remove, allow to cool a little on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Swapping part of the flour resulted in a somewhat crumblier dough I think, but still soft and workable and stamped better than my previous attempts. However on tasting the biscuits, Lundulph thought they could do with a bit more sugar and I agree, so I've increased the amount to 150 g. Lundulph suggested adding icing - in particular dipping the bases of them just a little, which would balance them better, so I'll do that later today. Or just drizzle over them, depending on how good my icing turns out.

IMG_4733

I also expected them to taste more strongly of coconut, but they didn't. Maybe reducing the vanilla might do the trick. Still the texture is nice, so I'm quite pleased with this variant, though I might not do them rainbow coloured next time, I'm not entirely pleased with the end effect. An option would be to stamp out different colours with the same pattern, then carefully take the pieces apart and re-combine with mixed colours. But I don't see this happening any time soon, I just feel tired thinking about the amount of fiddling this would require.

19 June 2015

Rhubarb Meringue Squares

On our recent trip to Sweden, I obtained a nice batch of recipes that my Mum had collected from various magazines as she thought I'd like them. One of them was themed on rhubarbs and as there are still a few stalks left, I decided to make this for Father's Day, as we were all getting together to celebrate at the large house of my Brother-in-law Roger.

The photos accompanying the recipe leaflet looked really pretty and it's a tray bake, so very good for a large crowd.

Ingredients

Short pastry
200 g unsalted butter, cold
4 dl plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 dl icing sugar
1 egg yolk
Butter for greasing

Filling
10 dl rhubarbs diced to 1 cm
1 tbsp potato flour

Meringue
5 egg whites at room temperature
2 ½ dl granulated sugar
2 dl ground almonds
¾ dl custard powder (not instant)

Decoration
almond flakes

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C (non-fan).
  2. Dice the butter. Mix together the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl.
  3. Place all pastry ingredients together and pinch together quickly into a smooth dough. Flatten it and wrap tightly in cling film, then chill for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Butter a deep baking pan of about 30 x 40 cm size.
  5. Roll the pastry to ½ cm thickness and place in the bottom of the pan, do not cover the sides.
  6. Blind bake the base for about 10 minutes until it goes pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 175 °C.
  7. Stir together the rhubarbs and potato flour to get them well coated.
  8. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then slowly add the sugar to form the meringue.
  9. In a separate bowl, stir together the ground almonds and custard powder together, then gently fold into the meringue.
  10. Spread the rhubarbs across the shortbread base, then cover with the almond meringue and sprinkle almond flakes on top.
  11. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the meringue and almonds get a nice colour, then remove and let cool a little in the tin.
  12. Cut into squares and serve on the same day.

The recipe was unfortunately mis-matched in the amounts of the different parts, and I made the mistake of following it, rather than using my sense. I really should trust my gut feeling more, mostly they're right. So I used a smaller sized baking tray and had a shortbread base that was way too thick. I also felt I could have had more rhubarbs for that size tray. The meringue was also quite a lot - perhaps using large eggs resulted in this. Still I had to bake the cake for 45 minutes, but it did look lovely when it was ready.

I covered the baking tray well with cling film, ready to take along to the family get-together and of course we forgot it, remembering only when we'd reached our destination. Very sad and even sadder to find the meringue had gone soggy the next day when we came home.

But it's a very nice combination, I just need to make sure that the base is thin and use more rhubarbs and perhaps use less meringue. I've tried to adjust the amounts in the ingredients' list above, but it is yet to be tried out.

16 June 2015

Raw Cake with Strawberries and Mango

This year my little sister Bip turns 30 and I wanted to surprise her with a very special cake to fit with her new lifestyle as a vegan. Well, an occasional one anyway, she's been going out a lot lately and has also fallen for the odd seafood temptation.

I saved this recipe when I watched the Danish bake-off (Den Store Bagedyst) last year, it was just so very perfect in every respect. The original recipe in Danish can be found here.

Now there is no actual baking taking place here, so strictly speaking it shouldn't perhaps have formed the technical challenge on a bake-off show. But there is complexity to bringing it all together, and I decided that a dress rehearsal was in order and made this as dessert for when we threw a dinner party for our neighbours. I weighed most of the ingredients, but not all of them unfortunately. The original recipe says to taste each part and adjust as necessary.

The cake has a base, two mousses and toppings and requires quite a lot of ingredients, which might be tricky to get hold of and a cake ring or spring form of 18 - 20 cm diameter is required. It should be some 8 - 10 cm tall too. And make sure there is room in the fridge as it requires chilling, preferably overnight.

Ingredients

Chocolate crunchy base
110 g (8 pcs) medjool/mozafati/bam dates without stone
3 tbsp coconut oil
75 g (1 dl) Brazil nuts
75 dl (1 dl) coconut flour
45 g (1 dl) raw cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ml salt
1 dl mulberries (white, dried) or raisins/sultanas

Strawberry mousse
385 g (6 dl) cashew nuts, soaked in water for at least 2 h
4 tbsp soft brown sugar
400 g (3 dl) strawberries
3 dl coconut oil
2 tbsp psyllium husks
1.5 dl water
Red food colouring
Runny honey or golden syrup to taste

Mango stars
1 firm, but ripe mango
small star cookie cutters, no more than 5 cm length

Mango mousse
2 dl fresh chopped mango
1 dl dried mango, soaked in water for 5 h
100 g (1 pc) ripe banana
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp psyllium husks
Yellow food colouring

Decorations
2 dl dessicated coconut
Red food colouring
Yellow food colouring
Large star cutter to match the small ones. It should be some 15 - 19 cm long

Method

  1. Make sure to soak things that require this - better too long than not long enough.
  2. Start with the chocolate crunchy base and combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a coarse "dough" forms.
  3. Grease the cake ring and place on a baking sheet which has been lined with greaseproof paper. Cut out strips of grease proof paper, that are 15 cm wide and line the cake ring sides, making sure they stick without any bubbles.
  4. Pour the crunchy base into the cake ring and level it out at the bottom, gently but firmly pressing down - use the flat bottom of a glass or such to get a level surface. Place in the fridge to firm up.
  5. Now make the strawberry mousse by draining and blending the cashew nuts together with the brown sugar, half the strawberries, coconut oil, psyllium husks and water until very smooth.
  6. Add red food colouring a little at a time to enhance the colour. Taste and if needed, add runny honey or golden syrup to taste, it should be on the sweet side. The sweetness sensation tends to feel less when the cake is ready and chilled.
  7. Dice the remaining strawberries and stir into the mousse.
  8. Take the cake base out of the fridge and pour in a little of the strawberry mousse, to form a 1 cm deep layer, then return the cake to the fridge.
  9. Next make the mango stars by washing the mango and cutting it into thin slices, just under ½ cm thick. I strongly recommend a mandolin cutter for this and make sure to keep the skin on for stability.
  10. With the small star cutter, cut out 12 - 13 stars and set the leftovers from the mango aside for later.
  11. Take the cake out of the fridge and carefully arrange the mango stars around the edge of the cake - stick them to the wall of the cake ring so that they rest on top of the thin layer of strawberry mousse.
  12. Pour in the remainder of the strawberry mousse and make sure all the stars are completely covered by the pink mousse. You may need to push the mousse towards the edges with a spatula for this. Then back in the fridge for chilling.
  13. Then make the mango mousse by dicing the remainder of the mango and measuring up 2 dl of it and placing in the blender.
  14. Drain and add the dried mango, the ripe banana, the coconut oil and the psyllium husks and blend smooth.
  15. Add some yellow food colouring to enhance the yellow of the mango. Take the cake out of the fridge and pour the mango mousse on top, it should be fairly runny and level itself.

    Now the cake can go into the fridge for the overnight chilling.
  16. Finally make the decorations by dividing the dessicated coconut in two equal parts and placing each part on a baking tray with edge and lined with baking paper.
  17. Add a some yellow food colouring to one part of the dessicated coconut and carefully rub together until all the flakes go yellow. Spread out on the tray and leave overnight to dry out.
  18. Repeat with the other part and the red food colouring, so it goes pink.
  19. About an hour before serving the cake, take it out of the fridge and carefully place the large star cutter on top. Pour in the yellow dessicated coconut inside the cutter and spread it evenly so the cake surface is completely covered.
  20. Carefully spread the pink dessicated coconut outside the cutter and spread so the cake surface is covered. Very carefully remove the large cutter and leave the cake out so it softens a little (unless it's a very hot day/room).
  21. Just before serving, carefully remove the cake ring and peel off the greaseproof strips of paper. If this is a birthday cake, not that you can't use candles on it, as all the dessicated coconut will fly off the cake when they are blown out. Also take care when serving, gently lay down the pieces, if you let them fall over, again the coconut will fly all over the place.

So there you have it - a raw and beautiful cake. Both times, I had to use the mini-blender that sometimes forms as part of a handheld blender set. These are a) not big enough and b) not powerful enough for making the base, but it can be done as long as it's done in parts - do the dry ingredients first, then do the dates with some of the dry ingredients and remove, then the mulberries/raisins/sultanas with some of the dry ingredients and remove. Finally stir/knead the whole thing through in a bowl, it should be coarse enough to give texture and crunch.

The mousses are wonderfully creamy and are well worth doing on their own, I think. The important thing is to remember to soak the dried mango for some 5 h, the pieces really need it. In my first trial, I forgot to soak the cashew nuts and rescued this by pouring boiling water over them and leaving them for about 30 minutes. However, I don't think this would work with the dried mango.

In my first attempt I also forgot to add the cashews to the strawberry mousse. So as I was blending the other ingredients, it looked horrible as the coconut oil and the water aren't really good friends and the strawberries were pretty juicy too, but I kept at it and ended up with a wonderful "mayonnaise"-like emulsion which was so very delicious in itself, I was almost sorry to add the cashews when I realised my mistake. I like cashews normally, not sure why I kept forgetting them. But I might explore what can be done with the strawberry mayo some time.

The colouring in of the dessicated coconut was interesting. I'd read about it, but never tried it before. In the general rehearsal, I used my new paste colours and they didn't work that well. The second time I used liquid colours and they were very much better, so for next time I must remember to dilute the paste colours before using them in this way. The original recipe called for beetroot crystals and turmeric, but having tried turmeric as colouring a few years ago and producing some very pale and horribly-tasting macarons, I'm not falling for that one again. I also found out that beetroot crystals are very expensive, when I searched for them.

I wasn't able to get hold of dried mulberries the first time round, so went for sultanas. They have more moisture than mulberries it seems and are heavier - I measured them to 75 g, but I didn't measure the mulberries when I made the cake for my Sister. I don't think there was too much difference in taste though.

The second time I made the cake, I'd had my parents drive around, hunting for all sorts of exotic ingredients weeks in advance and the plan was that Lundulph and I would arrive on the day before Bip's birthday and I'd make the cake and we'd surprise her. As it happened, she invited herself over to my parents' place after finishing work. Not ideal, but I got going on the cake and was lucky in that Bip turned up some 2 h later than she'd planned. I was half-way through and somehow, my Dad and Lundulph managed to keep her busy, so she didn't notice me and Mum finishing things off. Quite a miracle, the cake was chilling in the top shelf of the fridge and Bip had a good rummage around, but didn't notice it.

As I mentioned above, this is not a cake where you can stick candles in - you can't blow on it, so instead we put in some sparklers in the shape of letters, forming Bip's name. They sort of worked, more of a novelty really, but Bip seemed pleased. I also cut out "30" for the sides, rather than stars and any shapes will do really as long as they are about 5 cm across and if the top of the cake can match up to the shapes on. And don't be tempted to buy too many mangoes - one large one is quite enough if you cut the slices thinly. The slices require that the mango is firm, whereas the mousse that it is ripe, so take care when choosing a fruit - you may have to get two. When my parents first started gathering the ingredients, they thought the mangoes looked way too firm, hard even, so they bought one and kept it on the window sill in the apple basket. This softened it a bit, but it took a long time. Luckily my Mum bought two more mangoes just to be on the safe side and they turned out to be better.

On the whole this has been a very interesting and inspiring experience and well worth repeating. It was also very tasty and Lundulph had seconds on both cake occasions. I've frozen a couple of the left-over pieces from the first cake, I think it will survive this rather well. It's also very fresh tasting and can give a false sense that this is healthy. But there is a lot of coconut oil in it, especially in the strawberry mousse and even if it's the oil to eat these days, I think moderation or "lagom" as they say in Sweden is a key word here.