24 February 2013

Baba ganoush

Recently I've had several Lebanese dishes and have become keen to explore this cuisine further. I've already tried hummus, which seems to be a staple.


Another staple seems to be the aubergine dip baba ganoush. Oddly enough, the one I had in a restaurant seems to be quite different from the recipes I found on the internet - it contained green pepper, red onion and tomato, all very finely diced. The result is that the dip is both creamy from the roasted aubergines and has a fresh crunchiness to it from the green pepper. Thus I decided to try and replicate this.

6 largish aubergines
1 medium sized green pepper
2 large tomatoes
1 medium sized red onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice
1.5 tbsp tahini paste
salt and pepper to taste
fresh finely cut coriander


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 240 degrees C. Wash the aubergines and trim the green bits around their "handles".
    Pierce each aubergine through with a skewer all around, then place on a rack in a pan and let bake in the oven until they go dark and soft, let the skin turn to charcoal even. This will take some 45 minutes - 1 h and the aubergines may need to be turned a couple of times.
  2. Take out the aubergines and set aside to cool. In the mean time, wash the pepper and tomatoes and peel the onion and garlic. Cut the pepper and tomatoes in half, then remove the stalks. Dice them finely along with the onion. I recommend using a mandolin or an alligator cutter.
  3. When the aubergines have cooled enough to handle (they will sink in a bit), carefully hold each by its "handle" and peel off the skin, removing any charcoal pieces as far as possible. When all aubergines are peeled, cut off the "handles" and place in a deep large bowl together with the garlic, lemon juice, tahini, salt and pepper and mash with a blender.
  4. Add the finely diced vegetables and coriander and stir in well. Let stand in the fridge for a couple of hours, check the seasoning and adjust if needed.

I'd only bought three aubergines and would normally have roasted them in my pepper roaster, however I was curious to see how it would work in the oven. The pepper roaster is faster I think and also creates the charcoaled skins, I wasn't able to achieve this in my oven. Perhaps putting the aubergines under the grill towards the end might have worked better. What is absolutely vital is to pierce the aubergines before the roasting/baking. Very, very important, otherwise they will explode as the internal juices start boiling and the rest of the day will have to be spent cleaning the oven. So pierce! This also goes for the pepper roaster and it's even harder to clean.

I also opted to dice the aubergines, so I didn't achieve the creaminess I was after and I forgot the coriander completely, which probably explains why it didn't taste like the stuff in the restaurant. Possibly some more lemon juice and tahini wouldn't hurt either. However, after resting this dish in the fridge for a couple of hours, it tasted quite nice anyway. And the only fat in it was from the tahini, so rather healthy.

Lundulph and I had another "myskväll" on Friday evening, with sticks of carrot, cucumber and colourful peppers, pita breads, hummus and this baba ganoush. I'd flavoured some of the hummous as before and again we ate quite a bit more than intended. So moreish!

23 February 2013

A new spice mixture

While watching the Danish Great Bake Off - Den store Bagedyst, one of the savoury breads was called manaish and had a spice mixture called zaarta, which looked intriguing.

After some googling, I found several synonyms for this, but no clear information on what the mixture contains. Luckily I was able to get hold of some the other day, under the name of za'atar. It's green and has sesame seeds in it and smells really nice.

As it was time to make bread, I decided to try out my new spice mixture. I still haven't worked out a routine for my sourdough starter and am still struggling to reduce the amount, but today I think I may have sussed it.

As usual, I began by feeding the starter. I had just over 300 g of starter into which I added 200 g water and then 150 g flour. A few hours later, it had doubled, so I transferred 200 g of it back to its jar and put the rest in the bowl of the kitchen machine.

I switched it on and started adding flour, a little at a time and when it came together, I checked for stickiness. When it was barely sticky and the gluten was almost fully developed, I manually incorporated about half a decilitre of olive oil and let it rise, a bit too long than I should have, but I was busy making the beef sarma.


Still, I rolled out the dough, brushed with more olive oil, then sprinkled za'atar all over the surface and rolled it up like a Swiss roll. Then placed the roll into the loaf tin and let it proof for another hour before baking it at 240 degrees C for 20 minutes, covering with aluminium foil, reducing to 200 degrees C and baking for a further 30 minutes.


The bread looked really pretty and smelt very nice. I had some toasted with butter. The za'atar mixture tasted a lot milder than I expected. Perhaps I should be even more generous with it, though I thought I'd sprinkled quite a lot on the bread to begin with.

22 February 2013

Marinated mushrooms

In my recent tidying up of my recipe collection, I came across a torn off page from one of my Mum's magazines from the Autumn 2009. It has three recipes on mushrooms and one of them was particularly appealing, so the other day I bought a lot of mushrooms and got to work.


The recipe comments that these are good as a side dish with meat or fish, but also on their own as part of a buffé.

850 g baby chestnut and/or button mushrooms
a couple of pinches sea salt flakes
1 dl grapeseed oil
0.5 dl Malay kicap manis (soy sauce)
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 fresh kaffir lime leaves
1 large clove of garlic
1 dl finely chopped coriander
1 tsp dried crushed chillies
freshly milled black pepper


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C and brush the mushrooms clean.
  2. Place the mushrooms in a deep pan, sprinkle some salt flakes over them and stir around, then bake in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mushrooms need to release some of their liquid and cook through and soften, but not dry out.
  3. In the mean time, prepare the marinade by mixing together the grapeseed oil, kikap manis and the sesame oil in a large bowl.
  4. Toast the sesame seeds for a couple of minutes until they go glossy and start sticking together, then stir into the marinade.
  5. Wash the lime leaves and divide each in two and add to the marinade. Peel the garlic and press into the mixture as well.
  6. Add the coriander, chillies and pepper and stir through to combine, then let stand until the mushrooms are ready.
  7. Transfer the mushrooms to the marinade, pour over their liquid as well, then stir through to coat them well. Leave to cool completely, then taste and adjust the salt if necessary.
  8. The mushrooms are now ready to eat, but can be transferred to a jar and kept in the fridge. The flavours should develop more with time.

The original recipe called for 1 kg of mushrooms, but the ones in the shop had a lot of mud on them and I opted to reduce the amount to save myself some time in cleaning them. I think larger mushrooms can be used, but should be cut into chunks. Visually I think baby mushrooms are better.

I also started wondering what is the difference between a pickle and a marinade and wasn't really able to find a definitive answer. From what I could work out, marinade is a way to tenderise meat (mainly) before cooking, whereas pickling is a method of preserving food.

The above recipe is definitely a marinade, there is not enough sourness to preserve, so I suspect the mushrooms will last about a week.

One big substitution I made was on the soy sauce - the original recipe called for Japanese soy, but I couldn't find it in the supermarket and decided to go for the Indonesian version. I've used ketjap benteng many years ago in a nasi goreng dish and although I don't remember the exact flavour, I do remember it was very nice, so that's my reasoning behind the swap. The kicap manis was a lot thicker than I expected, very much like tomato ketchup (according to Wikipedia the word "ketchup" originates from "kicap"/"ketjap").

Overall the flavours came together very nicely and I should have bought the full kilogram of mushrooms, there was enough marinade for that. The cleverness of this recipe is the baking of the mushrooms before marinating - they are ready to eat after cooling down and have a nicer overall texture. I have had similarly prepared mushrooms in restaurants, but there they had been made with uncooked mushrooms, so require a couple of days at least for the marinade to go through them and soften them up. This is also nice, but requires vinegar. Also, if serving the mushrooms too early, they are still fairly raw inside and it doesn't work for me. I think adding some nice balsamic vinegar to the mixture should lower the pH value and reduce bacterial growth to some extent.

We had some of these lovely mushrooms with our salad yesterday, very yummy. I don't think there is any risk for them remaining too long in the fridge. I might reduce the amount of grapeseed oil a little for next time, though.

21 February 2013

Beef sarma

After a few weeks of focusing on baking, I thought it is time to do some cooking. Some time ago, I purchased a large jar of sour cabbage leaves from a Turkish shop in London and with Winter on its way out (fingers crossed!), I thought it would be good to make a hearty Winter dish.

Originally I was planning to make the sarma entirely vegetarian, but as Lundulph needs meat, I decided to make a beef mixture filling. I also thought some iron boost might be good, so I decided to also add some liver. According to Lundulph, "beef" liver is the best one nutritionally. I think he spent some time researching this on the internet last year, while I was in Sweden. It's good for B12 vitamin.Of course there is no such thing as beef liver, but calf liver or ox liver. I opted for the former and wandered to our butcher's. As many times before, they seem to anticipate what I will ask for and had 300 g portions nicely vacuum packed and appealingly presented in the window display.
There was also a bottle of Faustino I from 1994. A precious bottle we'd saved through various house moves, to drink at a special occasion, only to find it corked. As always, I don't like to throw things away, so I put a wine saver on it and pumped out the air and put the bottle in the larder for a cooking opportunity.
0.5 dl grapeseed oil
2 onions
2 - 3 carrots
2 cloves of garlic
130 g calf liver
500 g lean beef mince
150 g pearl barley
7 dl red wine
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried rosemary
1.5 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried dill
2 tsp dried savory
2 tsp dried mint
salt and black pepper to taste
1 tbsp granulated sugar
150 g parboiled girolles
350 g canned sliced button mushrooms
10 - 12 soured cabbage leaves
Bechemel sauce
1 dl grapeseed oil
1 dl plain flour
1 tsp salt
0.5 tsp black pepper
0.5 tsp grated nutmeg
5 dl milk
the liquid from the canned mushrooms
the liquid from the sarma
more milk or water if necessary
  1. Peel and dice the onions and carrots. Peel the garlic and pre-heat the oil in a large deep frying pan.
  2. Add the onion and carrots to the oil and press in the garlic and let fry for a few minutes until they go soft. Stir occasionally.
  3. In the mean time, dice the liver as finely as possible, then add to the onions and carrots, followed by the mince. Stir vigorously to prevent lumps.
  4. Rinse the pearl barley and once the meat has browned, add it to the pan and stir in, then add the wine and all the herbs.
  5. Season with salt and black pepper, but careful with the salt as soured cabbage tends to be quite salty.
  6. Stir in the sugar, then cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  7. Check the filling and taste the pearl barley for readiness. If it looks dry, add some more water and let simmer for a further 15 minutes.
  8. Prepare the soured cabbage leaves on a plate. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  9. Just before taking the filling off the heat, stir in the mushrooms.
  10. Take some of the filling and place in the middle of a soured cabbage leaf, then fold the leaf around to make a packet and place it in an oven-proof dish with a lid. Place the packet so the cabbage folds are at the bottom, so that it doesn't unfold.
  11. Bake for at least an hour.
  12. When the sarma are ready, make the bechemel sauce by heating up the oil in a saucepan.
  13. Mix together flour, salt, black pepper and nutmeg, then add the flour and fry with the oil for a few minutes, stirring constantly.
  14. Pour in the milk, a little at a time, while continuing to stir. It will lump together and look like a dough, but will get runnier as more liquid is added. Once the initial 5 dl of milk have been added, continue with the mushroom liquid and also carefully pour in the liquid from the sarma.
  15. If the sauce still looks thick, add more milk or water to reach the desired consistency.
I don't often use liver and I've only had calf liver once to my knowledge - many years ago when I was maybe 14 and my Gran made me eat it. Lundulph did warn me that it has a stronger flavour than liver from other animals and he was right, it smelt quite strongly of liver while I was dicing it. I had planned to use more than 130 g, but it was very spongy to the touch, hard to cut and I didn't like the smell much - because I was forced to eat it all those years ago. I have similar issues with camomile.
However, the filling turned out rather nice, the liver contributed to the mixture of flavours, rather than overpowering everything. Lundulph was quite pleased with it too.
I actually didn't have enough soured cabbage leaves and used up only about two-thirds of the mixture. I froze the remainder to use as pie filling in the future. And I'm happy to have used up the corked wine. It had started to turn into vinegar a little, but was perfectly fine in the sarma.

6 February 2013

Almond biscuits with raspberry jam

The other day we visited Lundulph's parents as we haven't seen them since Christmas and I really wanted to bring them something baked.


I had originally planned to bake bread, but didn't plan ahead and was short on time, so skipped it and went for the lovely almond biscuits with jam instead. This recipe is from the third week of Den Store Bagedyst, the Danish version of The Great British Bake Off.

Makes around 24, depending on size

200 g plain flour
75 g ground almonds/almond flour
50 g caster sugar
0.5 tsp almond extract
150 g unsalted butter at room temperature
icing sugar for dusting
smooth dark coloured jam


  1. In a large bowl, blend together the flour, the ground almonds, the sugar and the almond extract.
  2. Cut the butter into 1 cm dice and add to the dry mixture, then using only the fingers of one hand, gently incorporate the butter. It is important that the dough is not over-worked.
  3. Once the mixture is homogeneous and looks a little like wet sawdust, use the whole hand to bring the dough together to one ball.
  4. Wrap in cling film or put in a plastic bag and place in the fridge for an hour.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Prepare baking paper for the baking sheets.
  6. Place a piece of baking paper on the work surface, take half of the dough, form to a flat patty and place on the baking paper. Place a large piece of cling film on top and roll out over the baking sheet.
  7. When the dough is about 3 - 4 mm thick, remove the cling film and cut out biscuit shapes of your choice. Make an even number of biscuits and cut out holes in the middle of half of them. Leave at least half a cm between the biscuits.
  8. Remove all surplus dough around the biscuits, then bake for 15 - 20 minutes until golden brown.
  9. Repeat until all the dough has been used up.
  10. Once a baking tray is done, very carefully remove the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.
  11. When all biscuits are baked and cooled down, leave the ones with holes on the wire rack and move the others to one side.
  12. Dust the biscuits on the wire rack with icing sugar using a sieve.
  13. Warm up the jam for 10 - 15 seconds on half power in the microwave oven and stir it around.
  14. Place about a tsp of jam on each of the whole biscuits, then carefully spread it around evenly over each biscuit.
  15. Very carefully place an iced biscuit over each of the jam biscuits, press very gently in place.

The biscuits are very brittle and really melt in the mouth. This is why it is so important to be very careful when mixing the dough and only using the fingers and very gently squeezing the butter into the dry mixture. If kneading with the whole hand, I think gluten starts developing and makes the end result tough and chewy rather than melt in the mouth.

I made 16 biscuits and had about a quarter of the dough left over. I froze it and will try it out in a couple of weeks. I used a cutter that was about 6 cm diameter and made the holes using a metal cap from a wine bottle. I also rolled the dough to 5 mm, so overall the biscuits were a bit too big and too thick. Because of being so brittle, I think a 4 cm cutter would be better and also roll them slightly thinner too, so that a biscuit can be eaten in one bite.

I also cut them out a bit too close to each other. There is no leavening agent in the dough, but they still swell a little. Also it would be easier to remove the surplus dough. I had to use a toothpick.

I also didn't have any smooth jam, but used some of my raspberry jam, which had quite a lot of pips in it. The original recipe calls for blackcurrant jam ("solbær" in Danish, literally "sun berries"). I think raspberry worked quite nicely, but any dark coloured and tangy jam will do. However, it should definitely be smooth.

I think these are the fiddliest biscuits I've done to date, but they were well worth it and actually they didn't take too long to make. I'm very pleased with the dough and the texture I managed to achieve. Lundulph is still in awe of the angel food cupcakes, so his praise was subdued, but commented that they would be nice with strawberry jam. I'm not sure, but we'll see.

3 February 2013

Angel Food Cupcakes

After making egg yolk ravioli the other day, I had six egg whites to use up and I've been wanting to try my hand at angel food cake for a while.


Not to be confused with the British angel cake, this is an American type of sponge cake which contains only egg whites. In my search for a recipe, I was lucky to come across this one, which I chose to make. However, I only had six egg whites, so I halved the recipe and also decided to make cupcakes rather than a big cake.

Makes 12

63 g plain flour
150 g caster sugar
180 ml egg whites
0.5 tsp cream of tartar
0.25 tsp salt
0.5 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
0.25 tsp almond extract


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cases.
  2. Sift together the flour and 75 g of the caster sugar.
  3. Whisk the egg whites until they go foamy, then add the cream of tartar, salt and lemon juice.
  4. Continue whisking to soft peak stage, then add the remaining 75 g caster sugar, a little at a time while beating to the stiff peak stage. Add the vanilla and almond extracts towards the end.
  5. Now sift the flour-sugar mixture into the meringues, a quarter at a time, and fold in quickly but carefully.
  6. Equally carefully transfer the batter into a piping bag and pipe into the muffin cases. Level the top of the muffins with the back of a spoon.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes, check for readiness with a toothpick, it should come out clean. Take the muffins out of the muffin tin and let cool down on a wire rack. Once completely cooled, they can be decorated into cupcakes.

I did measure the egg whites I had, they were from medium sized eggs and they worked out to a little more than 180 ml, maybe 185 ml, I put them all in.


In other recipe instructions, it usually says to only fill the muffin cases about three-quarters. My muffin tin takes 12 cases, so I distributed all of the batter because I didn't fancy baking a second muffin tin with just one case in it. This meant that the cases were a little over-filled and I had some concerns about them running over during baking, they certainly ballooned very nicely.

The original recipe said to let the cake cool upside-down so that it doesn't sink back in and I was wondering how I could do this with the much smaller muffins. In the end I just let them stand on the wire rack. They did sink back and went almost level. My thinking was that a larger cake has more soft interior relative to the baked surface, so would be more prone to collapsing.


I hadn't planned to glaze the muffins, but we had guests in the afternoon and I thought it would be nice to have them glazed. I had some lemon curd in the fridge and I heated it up in a bain marie and spread a dollop on each muffin. Not too pretty, but combined rather well, flavour-wise.


The muffins were very pale inside, but of course there were no yolks or butter to add colour. The crumb was very fine, I didn't think it would be, I had a feeling I still managed to trap some air bubbles while piping into the muffin cases. They did crack on the surface though, I think just one of the 12 didn't. Perhaps baking at a lower temperature might avoid this, but the risk is that they would end up with thicker crust. They were also very light and fluffy and one could easily think they're less unhealthy than regular muffins, hi, hi. Lundulph had three in a row, "just to make sure" as he said.

So on the whole, this is a fabulous recipe I think and the amounts above are good. What I was a bit surprised about was that the cakes were rather sticky to the touch, once the paper cases were peeled off, I didn't expect that. But the original recipe instructions said not to over-bake or the cake would go chewy and I didn't want that.

There was also a casualty - my sieve broke, which is a bit annoying, it was a good one, but without it's handle, I will need an extra arm to hold it while using it.


Update 21 September 2014:
To celebrate reaching a milestone at work, I decided to bake these for work. However, I decided to flavour them with orange instead of lemon. So instead of lemon juice, I used ½ tsp of orange extract. Now, the one I got from the shop is based on rape oil, so needs to be added at the end of mixing the meringue. I also used orange curd for the glazing on top.

1 February 2013

Chicken Bourguignon of sorts

The other day Lundulph commented that he fancied Boeuf Bourguignon. However not with beef, but with chicken and not with wine, but with cider. In fact he wanted Delia Smith's recipe in particular, apparently he'd cooked it on a number of occasions when he was at uni.


Very well, I checked the recipe in the book (Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course, Classic Edition 2001), decided to add carrots and went shopping for the ingredients.

And yesterday before I started cooking, I also checked the corresponding recipe on the website. There are tiny differences, but nothing extreme.

In addition to using chicken instead of beef, I also decided to only make half the amount for the simple reason that I only had just over 600 g chicken breast.

The trickiest part was finding the dry cider - there were several different brands in the shop, but most of them were medium or medium dry. Some were only listed as "oak aged" and I couldn't work out if they would do or not, but one bottle stated clearly that it was "dry cyder", so I bought it.

4 - 5 portions

630 g chicken breasts
3 - 4 tbsp olive oil
8 - 9 shallots
2 medium carrots
1 clove of garlic
6 rashers of smoked bacon
1 tbsp plain flour
300 g small chestnut mushrooms
250 ml dry cider
salt and pepper
0.5 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 dl quinoa


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C. As I'm using my gyuvetch, I placed in the oven and gradually heated it up.
  2. Remove any fat and sinews from the chicken and cut into small bite-size pieces.
  3. Peel shallots, carrots and garlic and brush the mushrooms clean. Slice the carrots to about 5 mm thickness.
  4. Heat up half of the olive oil and brown the chicken in batches and remove to the gyuvetch as they get ready.Stir now and then.
  5. If needed add a little more olive oil to the pan, then fry the shallots and carrots and also press in the garlic. Stir occasionally.
  6. In the mean time, trim away the fatty rind from the bacon for a healthier option and dice it.
  7. When the shallots have browned here and there and the carrots have softened a little, transfer to the gyuvetch, then sprinkle the flour and stir in well before replacing the gyuvetch in the oven.
  8. Next fry the pieces of bacon and transfer to the gyuvetch.
  9. If needed add a little more olive oil to the pan and fry off the mushrooms. Sprinkle a little salt to encourage release of liquid. When they start to soften, transfer to the gyuvetch, but don't replace in the oven this time.
  10. Pour the cider into the pan to deglaze it and heat up the cider. Stir in salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf into the gyuvetch, quickly followed by the cider. Give it one more stir, cover and place in the oven to bake.
  11. After about an hour, rinse the quinoa and stir into the gyuvetch, cover and let bake for 30 more minutes.

Unfortunately I got distracted and let the stew continue baking for an hour after I added the quinoa, so not only had all the liquid been soaked up, it had started to burn slightly and overall was a bit on the dry side.

But on the whole it was rather tasty. I'll use pearl barley next time, I think the texture will be better suited to stew.

As accompaniment, I had the remainder of the cider. I didn't like the taste much and as I was putting the bottle into the recycling bin, I noticed that it is 7% alcohol. Oops. But I'm sure it boiled off in the oven. The cider made the stew feel a lot lighter than with wine, so a good combination with chicken.

Now as it ended up a bit on the dry side, I will try to spruce it up a little with some chicken stock for our next meal.