27 July 2009

Fried Courgettes with Yogurt and Garlic

Yesterday I had a bit of a cooking day. Especially since Lundulph decided to challenge himself earlier in the week and bought random ingredients to see what he could make of them and me going for PYO early on Saturday and coming home with wonderful courgettes and plums. So I had to make the most of things yesterday, now that I no longer have a house husband.


Following on the wonderful weather we had on Saturday, I thought we could do a really Summery dish - fried courgettes with yogurt and garlic. This is a very popular dish in its own right in Bulgaria, very easy to make and perfect when it's hot and you don't have much of an appetite. And it works as a side dish or a starter.

500 ml Greek style yogurt, preferably strained
garlic, salt and dill to taste
1 kg courgettes
1 dl grape seed oil

  1. Put the yogurt in a bowl, peel and press in as much garlic as you fancy and season with salt and dill to taste. Stir in well and put in the fridge to chill.

  2. Wash the courgettes and trim off the stalks and the flower end, then slice thinly lengthwise, about 0.5 cm thick.

  3. Heat up the oil in a flat non-stick frying pan. It'll look like lots of oil and that's how it should be, almost like deep frying, but not quite.

  4. Fry each slice for a few minutes on each side, just so they get a bit of colour, don't keep them in too long, though, or they'll taste a bit burnt.

  5. Serve immediately with the cold yogurt sauce. If there are any left over, mix them in with the left over yogurt sauce, they work quite nicely this way too.

Actually Lundulph and I gobbled down the lot, there was no room or dessert even. Then we had an afternoon of happy feelings.

26 July 2009

Chocolate Cigars

This is an old favourite in Sweden. I found a Swedish web site with possibly hundreds of recipes for biscuits and of all of them, these had to be the first ones to do, I think.


It's surprisingly easy, given how very tasty it is and a colleague at work asked me for the recipe for his kids to make for school.

65 g hazelnuts
265 g plain flour
4 - 5 tbsp soft brown sugar
200 g unsalted butter

100 g dark sweet chocolate for decoration

  1. If the hazelnuts are whole, grind them in a food processor.

  2. Add the flour and the sugar - 4 tbsp makes them less sweet.

  3. Cut the butter into chunks and add as well, then whizz until the dough comes together. Alternatively mix by hand, it doesn't take very long.

  4. Place in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, to firm up.

  5. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking paper and pre-heat the oven at 175 degrees (gas mark 4).

  6. Take out the dough and shape into finger-thick pieces, about 5 cm long and line up on the baking sheets. They can go fairly closely together, as they won't rise much. I got 45 and fitted all on 2 baking sheets.

  7. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 - 20 minutes, until they just start getting a bit of colour. Then take out and let cool down.

  8. Break up the chocolate and melt over a water bath. Then dip one end of the biscuits and place back on the baking sheet to set.

My food processor is tiny, so I only ground the hazelnuts in it and mixed the dough by hand. The biscuits turned out very crumbly and delicate, but firmed up over the next couple of days. I also didn't have dark sweet chocolate, but 70% cocoa solids one, so mixed in quite a bit of milk chocolate. This worked, but the milk chocolate seems to melt easier in room temperature, so they never seemed to set properly. However, for baking, I think about 50% cocoa solids is to aim for.

And one final thing - you start by biting off the chocolate bit!

20 July 2009

Lundulph Made Roast Chicken

Not sure which one of us came up with the idea, but somehow a roast dinner sounded like a good plan.


Week before last Saturday I went and bought a tiny free range chicken for this purpose. I say tiny, because the butcher gave me a choice between that and a farmed one that was twice the size. Generally their free range stuff is good and also getting too big a chicken would be too much for the two of us. Sadly the chicken had to go in the freezer on Monday as we were so very busy throughout the whole week. But then came Friday and Lundulph started preparations.

One thing about making roast chicken as far away from Christmas as you can get is that there's no ready made stuffing in the house. I'm not particularly keen on mince meat within a chicken either, so we decided to try a Bulgarian style stuffing with rice, onions, mushrooms and herbs. This turned out very successful, so I'd like to share it. Lundulph was good and measured up everything and wrote it down.

170 g pudding rice
2 medium sized onions
1 tbsp grape seed oil
1 400g tin of button mushrooms
3 cubes Oxo chicken stock in 400 ml boiling water
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp dried savory
1 tbsp fresh thyme
0.5 tsp salt
0.5 tsp sugar

  1. Rinse the rice and drain.

  2. Peel and dice the onions. Drain the mushrooms and dice as well.

  3. Heat up the oil on medium heat and fry the onion until translucent.

  4. Add the rice and stir to get it coated with the oil. Fry for a couple of minutes. In the mean time make the stock.

  5. Add the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes as well.

  6. Add the stock and bring to a slow simmer. Then peel and press in the garlic.

  7. Add the herbs, salt and sugar and let simmer until the rice takes up all liquid.

  8. Stuff the chicken.

Lundulph forgot to add black pepper to the above, but it tasted very nice indeed. He'd also covered the chicken with bacon and made some lovely crunchy roast potatoes and steamed sugar snaps.

The whole chicken set-up had released enough juices to make a very good, thick gravy with bits of bacon in it too.

The chicken still lasted us three days, despite its tininess. The stuffing was wonderfully fragrant from the thyme and savory and would have been enough for a larger chicken for sure. And the fox family worked their way through the rubbish sack and had some of the bones, so they must have liked it as well, even though cooked bones shouldn't be given to wild animals as they tend to be brittle and might splinter inside their tummies and hurt them. But maybe they are used to it nowadays.

17 July 2009

Gooseberry Meringue Pie

Last week we finally had some time to visit our local PYO. That's Pick Your Own to the uninitiated. It's been there forever and I first discovered it when I looked into the veggie box thing, but so far we've been too busy to go and check it out. Also they were open Wednesdays and Saturdays only, so that really limited things.

But this year, they are open daily, even on Sundays! So Lundulph and I made our way there, through the lovely cafe they have next to their farm shop. Armed with a stack of punnets, we wandered into the fields along with a few other hard core PYO-ers. The weather was overcast and it drizzled a couple of times, so overall it was a fairly quiet day.

Soon we realised that we might have been overly enthusiastic on what we could actually carry, but still we persisted. In season were Loganberries, black currants and gooseberries, sugar snaps and mangetout. If I'd had a couple of spare hands I wouldn't have bothered picking the sugar snaps, they were so very tasty, I'd just have eaten them right there next to where I picked them.

I bought vanilla ice cream and mixed in the Loganberries. This didn't work at all, so I'll be needing some sort of jam related additive to get through that ice cream.

So what to do with a full punnet of gooseberries? Lundulph has been hankering for a crumble for ages, but that won't really work with gooseberries, I thought. But pie on the other hand would work just fine. OK, decision made - gooseberry pie. But what to cover it with? I really didn't fancy making pie lids. Hm, pie, slightly sour tasting fruit, some sort of lid contraption. Hang on, lemon meringue pie - slightly sour fruit with meringue on top. There it is - I'll make gooseberry meringue pie.

So off to our local supermarket to get butter to make the pastry and what do I see - ready made pie shells from sweet pastry. Waitrose's finest goes in the shopping basket. Then a whole bunch of eggs and off home.

But the gooseberries can't just go into the pie shell as they are - once the meringue goes on top, it'll have to be baked at low temperature. Think, think, think.

Ah yes! Cook the gooseberries with a bit of sugar, but not too much. So here goes:


1 ready made pie shell, about 25 cm diameter
1 kg fresh gooseberries
1 dl dark muscovado sugar
3 medium egg whites at room temperature
2 dl granulated sugar

  1. Place the pie shell onto a baking sheet, ready to be filled.

  2. Remove all the sticky out bits of the gooseberries - the little "crown" where the flower used to be and the stalk - and wash.

  3. Put the gooseberries in a saucepan on medium-low heat. Add the muscovado sugar and stir.

  4. Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved and some of the riper berries burst and spill out their juice. Don't deliberately break the berries, though.
  5. Simmer for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  6. Pre-heat the oven at gas mark 1 (140 degrees C).

  7. Drain the liquid from the gooseberries, but save it for use elsewhere. Then put the berries into the pie shell and spread out evenly.

  8. Place the egg whites in a glass or metal bowl, add the sugar and place over a bain marie on low heat. As the water heats up, whisk the whites with the sugar until a firm meringue has formed.

  9. Take off the heat and spread over the gooseberries in the pie shell. If you want, put some in a piping bag and pipe decorations.

  10. Bake in the oven for 1 h, then either serve nice and hot or leave to cool completely.

I finally also got to try out my new blow torch to singe the edges of meringue like I've seen in some really fancy photos. Well, that's not easy either and will require some practice.


So how was it then? Well, actually very tasty indeed, I was surprised, given it's been ages since I cooked. The gooseberries had kept their flavour and some of them didn't burst during the cooking. The meringue went nice and dry on top, but there was some gooey bits in the middle. The pie shell was quite good too, albeit a bit on the crumbly side, but it certainly didn't go soggy as I feared. I think I'll make my own pie shell next time. But on a Wednesday after work, it was sufficiently quick to do as described above.