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.