31 December 2018

Kadayif

I've been casting my eyes onto the packets of kadayif in the Turkish shop, every time we've visited Lundulph's parents and since we're doing New Year in the UK, I decided to follow a tradition and make kadayif.

Actually the tradition is baklava, however kadayif is filo pastry which has been finely shredded and is done in pretty much the same way - one layer of pastry at the bottom, chopped nuts and cinnamon in the middle and a second layer of pastry on top.

Ingredients

125 g unsalted butter + some for buttering the dish
400 g kadayif pastry
200 g mixed chopped nuts
1 tsp ground cinnamon
800 g granulated sugar
1 litre water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 dl dried rose petals
zest from one lemon

Method

  1. Melt the butter on low-medium heat. Butter a large oven-proof and deep dish and pre-heat the oven to 150 °C (not fan!)
  2. Dampen a piece of baking paper or clean kitchen towel.
  3. Open the packet of kadayif and divide into two equal parts. Wrap one with the damp paper/towel and spread the other in the baking dish, making sure the pastry is evenly distributed.
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  4. Mix the nuts and the cinnamon well, then sprinkle over the bottom level of the kadayif, making sure it's as even as possible.
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  5. Unwrap the second half of the kadayif and spread over the nuts, again pressing down and making sure it's as even as possible.
  6. Drizzle the melted butter over the kadayif
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    and bake in the oven for about 2 h, until it goes pale golden brown on top.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down.
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  8. Place the granulated sugar, water, lemon juice, rose petals and lemon zest in a large saucepan and slowly bring to the boil, then let simmer for 20 minutes to form a thick-ish syrup.
  9. Pour the syrup over the kadayif through a sieve to remove the rose petals and zest, then press down gently so that all the pastry can soak in the syrup.
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  10. Leave to cool down, then cover with cling film and chill for 24 h before serving.

The kadayif pastry I bought had been folded up a couple of times the way it came out from the shredder, so each strand was neatly lined up. Based on vague memories of what my Mum's kadayif used to look like many years ago, and what I personally find quite attractive is that it's all jumbled up in the baking tray. So this is what I did this time and this resulted in the kadayif increasing dramatically in volume, so that I had to swap to a bigger baking dish, and even that one just barely fitted everything in. Don't get fooled if it looks like a small packet.

Another thing to keep in mind is that just like filo pastry, this dries out very quickly, which is why I wrapped it up in a damp sheet of baking paper. It requires some good planning and swift work, so all ingredients should be ready measured up/chopped/melted/whatever, so that the kadayif can be put together as quickly as possible.

I did some brief searching on the web - most basic recipes are a variation of the above. Most seemed to use a lot more butter than I did and less syrup, but I like the kadayif to be sweet and moist. I'd like to try a couple of more rounds and experiment with different ways of shaping. I think trying to make like tubes filled with nuts would be good. Definitely less syrup here though.

I also think a spray contraption for the butter would work better and get the kadayif pastry more evenly "buttered". In fact the recipe on the packet recommended dipping the whole lot in 250 g melted butter, then dividing in two and sprinkling the nuts in the middle. Perhaps also breaking/cutting up the kadayif into shorter lengths might make it easier to work with.

The original recipe I followed only listed walnuts, but I did equal parts walnuts, hazelnuts and pistachios and would have used others as well, if I had any, but since Lundulph developed a sensitivity to nuts, I'm not buying the copious amounts I used to in the past.

This amount was massive, and took a while to get through, since we didn't manage to get the whole clan together this year, so if I try this again, I'll halve everything.

30 December 2018

Pickled Aubergine

Since my Sister's regular escapades into the vegan lifestyle, my Mum has actively tried to accommodate this into the various seasonal celebrations. A Swedish tradition at both Christmas and Midsummer is to have marinated herring of various varieties. So a vegan version would be swapping the herring for aubergine. Last year, Mum made a Swedish recipe and to be honest I didn't like it much at all. This year, my Mum made the vego-herring once more and I was reluctant to try, but they turned out to be very tasty. So what was the difference? This year, it was a Bulgarian recipe, which I jotted down before we flew back to the UK. And I bought some aubergines straight away and spent most of last evening making these.

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Ingredients

~1 kg aubergines, about 4
salt
oil for frying
1 dl cider vinegar
1 dl water
peeled cloves of garlic, about a head and a half
sprigs of parsley (optional)

Method

  1. Trim off the stalks and wash the aubergines. Then slice into circles,about 1 cm thick.
  2. Sprinke each circle with salt on both sides and stack slightly overlapping on a baking tray or a roasting rack over a baking tray.
  3. Lean the tray at one end so the liquid of the aubergines drains into the tray easier. Leave for a couple of hours.
  4. Peel the garlic and wash the parsley and shake off excess water. Prepare a 1 litre jar and several sheets of kitchen tissue.
  5. Heat up a little oil in a deep saucepan on high and mix together the cider vinegar and water in a bowl.
  6. Carefully squeeze out each aubergine circle of liquid, then pat dry on a sheet of kitchen tissue and fry for a couple of minutes on each side, so they get a little colour.
  7. Transfer to the bowl of vinegar/water mixture, while putting the next batch in to fry.
  8. After a couple of minutes move the aubergines from the vinegar/water mixture to the jar, layering as densely as possible and add a couple of cloves of garlic and a few sprigs of parsley between each layer.
  9. Continue with the remaining aubergines, adding oil to the frying saucepan as required, but not too much.
  10. Any left-over vinegar/water mixture can be poured into the jar. Press down on the aubergines as much as possible to squeeze out any air.
  11. Close the jar and leave to cool down to room temperature. Then store in the fridge, however the aubergines are pretty much ready to eat.

My Mum takes the time to cut the aubergines into strips to make it look like herring fillets, but I did circles, as this was the instruction of the original recipe. However, I think strips would be easier to pack in the jar, I ended up with quite a few gaps between each layer, but I did my best to press down.

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Amazing how much liquid they contain!

Update 12th January:
These turned out spot on and were super tasty, we got through them alarmingly quickly.

So I immediately bought double the amount and used my mandolin to slice the aubergines length-wise. The mandolin cut them a bit thinner than I'd intended and what I did manually during the first run, but there is no way I'd risk cutting off my fingers attempting to cut an aubergine lengthwise with a knife.

There were so many of them, I had to make these over two days and even then I had to bake them in several batches, the slices lined next to each other onto a roasting rack and brushed lightly with grapeseed oil.

Because I'd doubled the amount, I also needed to double the pickling mixture and I still ran out and had to do a further half of the above amount. I also used a large spoon to press them down in the jar and used a metal skewer to remove all the bubbles I could see.

Initially the flavour was a bit different and I thought it was down to baking rather than frying, but in hindsight, I think they just needed a bit longer in the jar before starting to eat them and possibly using more of the pickling mixture to start with. But they were just as nice and I discovered they worked a treat between to toasted slices of bread, no need for butter or anything like that. And they do last long too.

A word of warning on the garlic - it is very tasty, but also very strong in flavour and your breath will smell for days. So I recommend using in stews and soups instead of fresh garlic.

18 November 2018

Italian Meringue Buttercream

Recently I spotted some really cute cakes disguised to look like pumpkins for Halloween. These came from Preppy Kitchen and I ended up watching several other videos, even though I found the presentation style somewhat annoying. What really struck my fancy was the Italian Meringue Buttercream.

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This is not really news to me, I've come across this before, but never really fancied trying my hand at Italian meringue in the first place, let alone then shoving in loads of butter. A long time it may be, but I still shudder at the word "buttercream" from memories of Bulgarian patisseries in the early 1980-s where they had dispensed with the whisking the butter up with sugar and just piped pure butter onto the cakes. Disgusting!

But I know my friends Dr Cutie and Patsy both are practised hands at making Italian meringue, so I though I should give it a go as well. Add to that the fact that I managed to get hold of large quantities of unsalted butter from France - had to be done. I prepared each part separately, not like in the video, I don't feel confident when making caramel, so wanted to be able to focus entirely on the caramel. In fact I even bought a stainless steel saucepan for this purpose. All my other saucepans are non-stick and almost back in colour and this makes it impossible to tell the colour of the caramel. Stainless still is better.

Ingredients

4 large egg whites
1 ml salt
¼ tsp cream of tartar
200 g + 67 g granulated sugar
80 ml water
5 ml vanilla extract
454 g unsalted butter at room temperature and diced

Method

  1. Place the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar in a large metal or glass bowl and using an stand electric whisk, beat to soft peaks, while slowly adding 67 g of the sugar.
  2. Place the remaining sugar in a small saucepan along with the water and place on medium-low heat and stir until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture becomes clear.
  3. Up the heat a little and put a sugar thermometer into the mixture, then bring up to 115 °C.
  4. Start beating the egg whites again and slowly drizzle the caramel into the foamy mixture.
  5. The caramel will cook the egg whites, so keep beating until the mixture has cooled down completely to room temperature. This can take up to 20 minutes or so. To speed up the cooling, place a bag of frozen peas up against the side of the mixing bowl and keep beating.
  6. If there is a paddle attachment, switch to it, then add the diced butter, a few cubes at a time. Do not despair, there is a lot of butter and the mixture will only go nice and smooth once all of it is in.
  7. Add the vanilla extract and beat until the mixture is really silky smooth.

The butter cream will hold reasonably well for a few minutes, but for longer, it might need "rejuvenation" by a quick whisk-up. It's really good for piping, so I did just this on my rhubarb muffins. The piping held well throughout the whole day, even though I had to drag it through a train journey of over an hour to get it to the office the following day.

Lundulph's verdict was heaven light as air. My colleagues concurred and several came back for seconds and even thirds.

14 January 2018

Poaching Eggs

Some time ago, I came across this website, which seemed to have a rather scientific approach on how to cook eggs in different ways and this appealed to me enormously.

On our trip to Australia last Summer, we had the pleasure of eating poached eggs at the lovely Jimmy's On The Mall in Brisbane and Lundulph commented that I've never poached eggs at home.

So back in October/November time, I set to work, after trawling through all my bookmarks to find the egg website. I also watched Heston Blumenthal's video, which uses the same technique. And success...

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...to some extent.

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The reasons - different age of the eggs, but also the slotted spoon I used had just to large gashes for drainage and was silicone coated, so the white stuck to it as I was trying to turn the egg. Also, I did one egg at a time and didn't use a timer, so it took ages and I ended up cheating and taking the last egg out too early.

But watching Heston Blumenthal's video once again, I might try these again and this time, I have the right type of slotted spoon too. The tricky bit would be to find sufficiently fresh eggs, I have no chicken farm near my house and I'm not prepared to feed to neighbourhood foxes by keeping chickens in the garden.

4 November 2017

Vegan Meringues

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Since Bip and I made Gingersnap nuts with chilli and came across the ingredient aquafaba, I've been wanting to try and make vegan meringues. At one point I saved some of the kidney bean liquid when I was making Chilli Con Carne and just tried whisking it into stiff peaks. It took ages, as I had quite a lot of it and it was reddish in colour, but eventually I got there, which was very promising. It was also reasonably late in the evening, so I binned it and went to bed.

But when Lundulph asked me to make him some hummus, I dug out the cans with no salt and saved the liquid and also found a recipe to follow and got to work.

I adjusted the recipe amounts to what fit with what I got out of one of the tins.

Ingredients

140 ml liquid from canned chick peas, unsalted
¼ tsp cream of tartar
170 g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract<

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 100 °C and line a couple of sheets with baking paper.
  2. Place the liquid in a large glass or metal bowl and whisk. Add the cream of tartar and with an electric whisk, whip until it reaches soft peak stage.
  3. Slowly add the caster sugar, while still whisking until reaching the stiff peak stage, finally adding the vanilla extract.
  4. Place the meringue in a piping bag and pipe meringues onto the baking paper.
  5. Depending on the size, bake for 90 min - 2 h until they come away from the baking parchment easily.
  6. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack and allow to cool down completely.

I also used this opportunity to try out a technique for creating really colourful meringues by painting stripes on the inside of the piping bag before placing the meringue into it. I didn't have brushes, so I used the flat handles of my desert spoons and my collection of gel food colours. The result was really good and I was surprised that it worked so well.

The meringues took 2 h to bake fully, double that of egg white based meringues. They were also harder than regular ones and tasted a bit different, though this could have been my food colours, I did use a lot in the piping bag. The vegan meringues did hold quite well and tasted better on the second day, while still being a bit harder than what I'd expect from a regular meringue, so would be good for more structural pieces.

I stored the meringues in an airtight box and they didn't get soggy at all for the whole week they lasted.

8 October 2017

Green Fig Jam

After many years of looking rather miserable, our little fig shrub finally produced a reasonable number of figs this year and I was looking forward to trying my hand at fig jam. I counted 33 tiny figs.

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Of course the Summers aren't sufficiently long and hot for the fruit to ripen, so I searched for what one could do with unripened figs and found a Bulgarian recipe that seemed compelling. The original article is here and is in Bulgarian and very random in the amounts of the recipe, so no wonder it didn't work out at all. I don't want to throw it away though and I've no idea how to use it up either, so it'll remain in the fridge for now.

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I can't remember what goes for picking ripe figs, but when it comes to green/unripe ones, they need to be cut and they release a lot of white substance, which is said to be quite an irritant to the skin and difficult to wash off. So I used gloves to harvest them. That milky substance was sticky.

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Because the jam recipe was so poor, I'm not going to even attempt to write it up with corrections, but I want to mention the bit that I really liked about this recipe - the addition of whole almonds, pushed into each fig, "à la grecque" or Greek style. This is a really nice idea for when making jam with whole fruit and when I find a good recipe for that, I'll give it a try again.

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5 October 2017

Steamed Salmon Parcels

As per usual when I get a bit bored, I browse the internet for inspiration and as I've been knitting and crocheting a lot this year, I've spent a lot of time on youtube, where I came across this set of interesting ideas. It comes in two parts and shows additional ways of using rice paper. Here is part 1 and here is part 2.

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Now watching these were a bit tough, I find the presentation style rather annoying, but some of the ideas seemed rather good, so I worked my way through both parts of the video. I particularly liked the steamed salmon parcels. I normally bake salmon in the oven, wrapped in aluminium foil and I tend to worry about this way of cooking because I wonder how environmentally unsound it is. I do put the foil in the recycling bin, but it can't be that good overall. So the idea of using rice paper was really appealing, both to keep everything together and then just eat everything. Also steaming is a bit quicker than baking in the oven, so I hope this means using less energy to cook.

My first attempt with these didn't work out too well, the reason being I used the steam inset that I use for steaming vegetables and although I brushed it with oil, the rice paper did stick to it very well and what I had to scrape off looked like some sort of snot. It tasted like rice, but visually was very un-appealing and of course Lundulph didn't like it.

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Thus I did some searching on Amazon and found a different kind of steam inset, which was mostly gaps and very little metal, clearly designed for steaming larger items. I measured my pots, but still the item that arrived was somewhat too large, so I had to fiddle around with getting a workable set-up, involving an inverted pan as a lid, very much like in the video. But it worked so much better. Lundulph still felt the texture of the rice paper didn't work for him, but I disagree, it did hold well enough to be removed from the steamer and placed on a plate. The texture is soft and feels a bit like the rice dough used for dumplings, which gives me even more ideas on making these with rice paper instead of making the dumpling dough.