24 April 2009


A few days ago, this word cropped up in my mind. Raggmunk. I've no idea what set it off, but there it was floating around and I had to look it up to work out what it was. Shortly after, I put it straight on my list of things to cook this year.


Raggmunk translates to "shaggy monk". Though mind you, the word "munk" is also used for "doughnut", but given the difference between a raggmunk and a doughnut, I root for the first meaning - monk.

Now this is Winter comfort food and one of the recipes specifically stated not to use new potatoes, but you can't always get what you want.

I chose this recipe (in Swedish), only because it required 2 eggs, most others called only for one and I still have some left over from Easter.


about 600 g potatoes
2 large eggs
2 dl plain flour
5 dl semi-skimmed milk
salt and pepper
butter or ground nut oil for frying
400 g unsmoked cured gammon or bacon
lingonberries stirred with sugar

  1. Peel and finely grate the potatoes. Then squeeze out all excess liquid to end up with about 200 g

  2. Whisk together eggs, flour and milk to a fairly thin batter and season to taste.

  3. Add the potatoes and stir in well, so there are no lumps in the batter.

  4. IMG_4217
  5. Fry the gammon on medium high heat and put in the oven on the slow cook setting to keep warm.

  6. Put some butter or oil in the same pan and allow to heat up well. Then using a ladle, spoon into the pan, spread a bit and fry until golden brown, turning half way through.

  7. Serve with the gammon and the lingonberries

Now, lingonberries are not available in England, as far as I know and certainly not at this time of the year. So we made do with the excellent lingonberry jam that my Mum has given me. I also forgot to season the batter, but adding it on afterwards worked OK too. I also had some sprouting broccoli left, which I steamed.

Overall, I think more potatoes in the batter next time, they were barely noticeable and the raggmunkar (that's the plural) tasted very much like regular pancakes.

I got 9 pieces out of the above amount of batter and please note the fat is essential. I had very little butter left and used it sparingly on the first three raggmunkar, which I struggled to scrape off of the pan. When the butter ran out, I moved onto ground nut oil and was a bit more generous with it, which made all the difference in the world and the remaining raggmunkar turned out very nicely indeed.

An idea is to repeat this when there are fresh cranberries in the shops, they are fairly close to the lingonberries, so would perhaps be a good substitute. Another thing that might be nice is some sort of onion chutney or jam, that would work well too.

21 April 2009


We went to our local farm shop the other day and besides getting a bunch of the first asparagus of the year, we wandered in to the little annex where a big man in a white coat sells fresh fish.

This is a new thing Lundulph keeps talking about - eating fish a few times a week. As a non-fish-eater, I find this difficult to swallow, literally, but I'm learing and developing my palette. So we bought two large mackerels. I do eat smoked mackerel with garlic, so thought I'd be able to eat this too.

We got them cleaned out and ready to cook too, which was both good as it saved a lot of time in preparations, but also bad, because it gives me a bit of a nostalgic trip back to my school days when we dissected various animals.

Anyway, I had a fairly clear idea about what I wanted to do, but ran it through with my Mum, who loves fish and seafood. She recommended barbecue as the best method for mackerel and not to bother with anything but salt and pepper. Now despite the apparent heatwave we're having in the UK, we weren't in any way ready for a barbecue, so I decided to go with my original plan and bake in the oven. I quickly checked on Delia Smith's web site to find out temperature and duration of the baking, well, she pretty much had what I had in mind but I want to point out I thought of it on my own accord.

Since there were two mackerels to play with, I decided to try my Mum's recommendation on one of them and my idea on the other.

I washed the mackerels and dried them with kitchen tissue. Then I placed them onto the grid of the grill pan and pre-heated the grill on medium. Then I opened up both of the mackerels and sprinkled salt and pepper onto both. I drizzled olive oil on the smaller one, then closed it and cut slashes through the skin on both sides like in Delia's photo.

For the second and slightly larger mackerel, I also sprinkled crushed dried chili, put in 6-7 peeled cloves of garlic inside along with a few sprigs of thyme, before drizzling olive oil again and cutting slashesh through the skin. It was tricky to get the garlics to stay in, they kept popping out.

Then into the oven for about 20 minutes, where the fish pretty much opened up and went whitish.

As an accompaniment, I boiled potatoes, but I only had roasting floury ones, so decided to crush them. At the last minute I got the idea to mix some mustard in for a bit of oomph, sadly once again I turned my back at the pan and it boiled dry and added a nasty tinge of burnt to the tatties. Lundulph didn't like them at all, he's not too keen on mustard and combined with the burned flavour, he just refused to eat it. I thought it was sort of OK, would have been better with just the mustard of course. A least I didn't have to scrape the pot too much, it was black, but not too bad.

Finally I steamed the asparagus for precisely 5 minutes and it turned out beautiful, I've got the hang of asparagus cooking these days, the special pot was well worth it. This asparagus was grown only a couple of miles from where we live and it tasted a bit sweeter than the stuff we get in the supermarket. It was a bit bland though, but I guess it depends on the variety. In a few weeks time, the farm will start their Pick-your-own activity and I'll get to pick asparagus myself.

So overall, it was an OK-ish meal (or would have been, if I hadn't messed up the potatoes). The fish wasn't too fishy and the texture was mostly good, but it was a bit on the slimey side. When Lundulph had it later on and re-heated in the microwave oven, he said the texture improved. I didn't have any of the leftovers at all. One thing is that I should have taken some time to remove as much of the bones as possible. One thing about mackerel is that it's quite full of bones, so getting a large specimen means the bones are a bit bigger and once cooked, they come out fairly easily. But we were hungry that day, so everything was a bit rushed.


Still Lundulph thinks it's encouraging and wants to continue experimenting. The photo looks better than it tasted. Next time I'll tie them, so they don't open up during baking.

11 April 2009

A Special Dessert

One of the blogs I read regularly is Rice and Wheat and just over a month ago, Angi had written an entry about a Baumkuchen or a tree cake. Her photos were so beautiful and the whole method of making was so different from what I've come across so far, it went straight to my list of things to cook in 2009.


Her lovely version can be found here.

And the Easter week-end was this opportunity. Angi also kindly allowed me to publish her recipe, albeit in metric.


2.5 dl flour, sifted
2.5 dl cornstarch, sifted
1 ml salt
0.75 dl ground almonds
227 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened at room temperature
1.77 dl sugar
8 eggs, separated
2 tbsp dark rum
zest of 1 lemon
1.18 dl apricot jam

Chocolate Icing

114 g unsalted butter
170 g dark chocolate
3 tbsp light maple syrup
3 tbsp dark rum

I don't have a broiler in my oven, but I've guessed that this corresponds to the English grill - so I pre-heated it on medium-high. I only have an 8" cake tin and a 12" one, so I opted for the smaller one and I greased it with butter. I think this is one cake where a springform really makes sense, by the way.

I also have not been able to find corn flour and from what I remember from my readings it's quite popular in making confectionery since it prevents other sugars from crystallising. I made the choice of swapping this for maple syrup, without any scientific basis.

I followed Angi's instructions on the batter, but I think I should have sifted the flours first and then measured them, as my batter was a lot thicker than I expected. That's a problem when you measure by volume - sifting incorporates air into it and the same volume will weigh a lot less and thus result in a thinner, runnier batter. The whole mixing took me just under an hour and a half, so in hindsight, I should have started pre-heating the grill in the last 20 minutes or so.

Even after folding in the egg whites, it was fairly stiff, so when I tried to brush the first layer of the cake, most of it stayed on the brush.


So from layer two onwards, I used a ladle and a dough scraper. Half-way through the layers, I began to worry that dropping half an inch in cake tin size relative to Angi's recipe would result in leftover cake mix. But somehow it all went in, just about. Here is the last layer, nr 12.


I did get hold of some wonderful apricot jam. I only bought it because it seemed to be the smoothest one on the shelf, the other brands seemed to go for chunky style. And I was surprised that there were quite few options on apricot jam, I've always thought it's a staple alongside of strawberry and raspberry jams. What also seemed good about this one that it claimed to be made with no added sugar, but with some sort of concentrated fruit juice. I don't know, but it was very tasty. It's called St Dalfour Fruit Spread Thick Apricot.

It melted nicely, at which point I worried that it wouldn't stay on the cake, but I let it cool a bit and it just about stayed on.


Obviously the layers should have been a lot thinner, but these 12 layers took also an hour and a half in total.

And now comes the difficult part - the icing. I've never had any success with mixing chocolate and butter - it keeps separating. Admittedly this time wasn't as disastrous as the icing for the eclair challenge from The Daring Bakers. I spread it over the cake despite everything. The sides were particularly difficult. And I put the candied violet flowers on top. They started soaking up some of the fat, so I put the whole cake in the fridge overnight. The next day, the whole looked well set and dull with small areas of yellowy fat. I tried scraping them off, which didn't really work. But luckily, with the given amount of icing, I'd only used half the amount and was able to remove most of the fat from the leftover icing, stirred it round a bit and put a second layer on the cake, after removing the violets. This worked better, so my new chocolate - butter theory is that if there's too much butter, it'll separate out, i e there's so much fat chocolate will take. To be on the safe side, I don't intend to try experimenting further, chocolate is too precious for that.

I served the cake as dessert and it was impressive.


Though Lundulph's first reaction was to comment that it needs cream. And he's right - the cake was very dry indeed, so some sort of moisturising exercise is definitely in order. And as I said before - sift before measure for a runnier cake mix and thinner layers. Angi said she finds the brushing on of the layers relaxing and I suspect it is, once you've got the hang of it.

Many thanks Angi for this interesting recipe.

10 April 2009

Kneadless Bread Experiment

The much loved bread machine is gathering dust in the far corner of the cupboard, I can't remember the last time I took it out, I've been making the fabulous kneadless bread every week, ever since my second attempt, when I sussed it.

And the last few times, I've become confident enough to start experimenting. Generally I quite like seeds in bread, so I've been doing that, but last week I swapped 1 dl of the flour for rye flour. I added half a teaspoon of vitamin C powder. This is something recommended in the recipe collection for the bread machine and the reason for this is because rye doesn't develop gluten and so doesn't rise and the vitamin C is supposed to help as a rising agent. It turned out very nice, though I couldn't tell much difference to the non-rye breads.

Today I made fairly drastic changes - not only did I swap 1 dl of the wheat flour for wholemeal, I used fresh yeast - about 20 g, which looked like 2 tsp. At least according the sachets of quick yeast, they weigh 7 g and correspond to 15 g fresh yeast. True 1 tsp of quick yeast is about half a packet, so my calculations were well off. But the yeast was a bit old and dry at the edges, so I didn't think there would be too much life in it.
Well there was...


This was after less than 3 h. I let some of the gas out that was pushing the cast iron lid up, but an hour later, I was forced to move the whole goo to the big salad bowl and keep it there. That did the trick.

But after I set it to rise, I decided that there's no way it would fit back into the usual casserole I bake it in, so I went for my deep ovenproof frying pan. This doesn't have a lid, so my next improvisation was from my Focaccia escapade the other week (which I didn't follow at the time). Place a small dish at the bottom of the oven and let it heat up at the same time as the main bread dish. Then immediately after putting the bread in, pour a cup of cold water into this heated up dish, thus creating a lot of steam, which is crucial for a good crunchy crust.

Well, the bread baked, it's bigger, but flatter. It did make the right crackling noises when it started to cool.

We'll try it tomorrow for breakfast. I think it worked.

One thing that has started happening is that despite being ridiculously generous with flour and polenta on the towels where I put the dough to rise etc, it still manages to seep through and sticks to the towel and makes things quite messy. Maybe I need to reduce the liquid a bit. Today, after I mixed the standard recipe, it looked almost as dry as my very first attempt, so I added a further half a decilitre of water, it's tricky.

Lundulph came over to inspect the situation too and called it porridge bread. It really did look like porridge.

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday and it's been raining almost non-stop since early morning. Due to an administrative error we got up as early as for work and got to see a beautiful sunrise. After that, the dark clouds moved in and are still here.

As has become a bit of a tradition, Lundulph's family come over on Easter Sunday and we do all sorts of Easter activities then. Unfortunately my nieces Lou and Falbala won't be able to make it this year and I was going to skip the egg painting. But then again...

Eggs in box

These are the candidates. Some will be used on Sunday as a starter, the others will be given a make-over they'll never forget.

First of all, I made small holes at the bottom end of each. I have a special drill that came with an egg blowing kit I bought from a hobby shop, but any darning needle will do. The idea is to prevent the eggs from cracking when they are boiled. I'm not sure if it makes any difference, but I thought I'd do it just in case.

Then I lined my pressure cooker pot with a tea towel and placed the eggs in it. Topped up with lukewarm water and put on the hob on fairly low heat, so that they would heat up slowly - also to prevent cracking. I left them to simmer for some 30 minutes - hard boiled definitely. Then allowed them to cool in the pot, as I was already working on my next project. A way to speed up the cooling is to put pot, eggs and water under the cold water tap and let it run and thus cool the eggs fairly quickly, but it's wasteful on water, so I only do that in emergencies. Only one out of 18 had cracked! Result! And the stamps disappear during the boiling too.

Eggs in pot

Once cool, I set aside 7 for Sunday and prepared the paints. These are small packets with 4 colours each that my Mum gave me years ago. She'd bought them in Bulgaria, where everyone pains eggs for Easter. They are powdered food colourings, so quite safe to use. The instructions were to dissolve each colour in 100 ml warm water, add two tablespoons vinegar and start painting. Well, dying more like it really. Lundulph joined in to help on this one. The vinegar in the paint made the eggs produce bubbles, so we didn't keep the eggs in for too long, but the colours came out OK, given the brown shells. It's these brown shells that are my main annoyance around Easter. It's not possible to get hold of white shelled eggs. There are of course Bantam eggs, but they are tiny. There are also some blue shelled ones from the Old Cotsworld Legbar, but they don't give good enough colours either. I complain about this every year and Lundulph explains that when he was young, there were only white eggs and then someone introduced brown ones and for some reason people started believing that these are better and healthier etc. Of course there's no difference between white and brown eggs, apart from the shell colour. Bah! And unfortunately we don't have the facilities to get hold of a couple of hens that do lay white eggs, I'd do it otherwise. So the colours are a bit dodgy.

Close up eggs with paint

Of course any food colourings will do the job. In previous years, I've used the standard ones they sell in the baking section of the supermarket, dilute in a little water and add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar. But as you can see in the photo above, the colour of the liquid needs to be a lot "stronger", remember the egg will soak up some of the paint, so if it's too weak, there won't be much to soak up.
I also have friends that use textile paints, these give fantastic colors, but are not edible and since the shell of an egg is porous, I don't think they should be eaten. I've polished the eggs with a bit of cooking oil, it makes quite a difference - dab a bit of oil on one piece of tissue and use that to transfer onto the egg. Then use another clean tissue to rub it off.

Eggs with chicks

These cute chicks and bunnies are the latest collaboration between my Gran and my Mum. They've produced hundreds of them over the past weeks and they are basically tiny egg cosies. We got 6 in a small package a few days ago and I suspect they've sent sets to all their friends.

Egg with bunny vest

6 April 2009

Moroccan-spiced pork with bean mash

This is the second in the Ye Olde Recipe Collection series, again Lundulph's choice.

The recipe can be found here.

I had originally intended to make it for our fancy Sunday dinner, but what with baking, computer games and various end of the week activities, it got too late by the time I was ready to start cooking and so we postponed to tonight.

I'd prepared the spice mixture on Saturday. The recipe calls for "Ras el hanout" - a spice mixture that can be done at home and since I already had all the ingredients I made my own blend:

1 tsp each of
ground coriander
ground cardamom seeds
ground allspice - had to grind these myself
grated nutmeg - too big to fit into the grinder
ground dried chillies - extremely hot crushed chillies bought at our local farm shop, put through the coffee grinder
ground cloves

I put everything in a jar, closed the lid and shook well.

I used two whole pork fillets adding up to just over 1 kg. There was very little need to trim too, I just rinsed them and patted dry before rubbing in salt and all of the above spice mixture.

For the browning, I did that on quite high temperature and also allowed the fat go smokey hot. Now putting the fillets with all the strong spices resulted in the whole kitchen going smoggy and set off the fire alarm, so I had to open the door out into the garden and stand with a tea towel and flap around for a bit to calm it down. This browned the fillets a bit too much on one side, I was careful with the rest of them.

Inhaling the spice mixture was dangerous before it went in the pan, but it was equally bad afterwards. Not sure how that can be worked around.

When they were ready, I turned them to have the brownest side up and put in the oven and baked for 30 minutes. I stuck my meat thermometer in the thickest part and let it reach 75 degrees.

I also didn't bother with getting cannellini beans, I had some black eye beans that I used instead and skipped the celery stalk altogether. I've said it before and I'll say it again - celery, just say no! I replaced it by doubling the amount of onions.

When the bean and onion mixture was ready, I had a bit of a predicament in that I don't have a potato masher, so I tried my best with the wooden spoon. It was tiresome and I stopped fairly quickly. But who needs a potato masher when you have a potato press? Though the beans and onions wouldn't have gone through that, not without some brute force.

As greens, I steamed asparagus again. A couple of the stalks had started to go off and ended up yellowish, but overall, I did it again - successfully steaming them to the point where they are done, but at the same time are still bright green.

Overall, I'm very proud of the result.


And assuming the spice mixture is ready, this is a very quick meal, perfect for a work day evening, yet nicely festive at the same time.

Definitely a keeper this one.

Easter Preparations

Yesterday it was time to make kozunak once more in preparation of Easter next week. I used my Mum's old trusty recipe, but with a couple of modifications, now that I've been to baking masterclass and also have read up on what the different ingredients do.

First of all, I used fresh yeast - 30 g.

Second, I held off the butter completely until after the dough had formed gluten.

Third, I also added half a deciliter of sugar for the poolish, in addition to the listed 2 dl sugar.

And fourth, I only used 900 g of strong flour.

I left the Kitchen Assistent to knead for about 10 minutes at which point the gluten seemed to have developed almost completely.

So I poured in the melted butter and grape seed oil mixture. Of course, the dough wouldn't just soak the fat up and the machine ended up just spinning. So I had to incorporate the fat by hand. That took another 10 minutes, but worked a treat and I didn't get too tired either.

The kitchen was a bit cool and so I left the dough to rise for 2.5 h. Actually I was playing a new computer game and forgot the time. Ahem.

The dough was ever so nice and soft and I divided it into two equal parts. From one half I made two plaits that I took in to work today. This turned out to be very popular indeed.

The other half I made a braid with five strands, which I've never done before so wanted to try out. There are plenty of videos on how to do that on youtube.


I barely managed to keep Lundulph away from it. It's now in the freezer to keep fresh for Easter Sunday when the rest of the family will come to visit.

A few further things that still require adjustment - try to reduce the mount of flour further and use more yeast, 50 g next time and also try adding the fat slowly, to see if the machine can incorporate it, rather than have to do it manually. Though of course if you're angry, kneading is a very good way to get rid of aggressions.