28 April 2019

Rhubarb Compote

The second thing I made with the first rhubarb harvest this year is a rhubarb compote from Delia Smith. The simplicity of the recipe is what drew me to it. Lundulph had asked for a spicy chutney, but I didn't have all the ingredients, so that'll have to wait until I've been grocery shopping.

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Ingredients

700 g rhubarb stalks, trimmed and washed
75 g caster sugar

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C (160 ° fan).
  2. Cut the rhubarbs into 2 cm chunks and arrange on a shallow baking tray.
  3. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over them and bake for 30 minutes until they are soft.
  4. Remove from the oven and let cool down somewhat, then carefully transfer to a glass jar and let cool down completely and store in the fridge.

This turns out very nice, sweet and sour at the same time. Possibly I baked the rhubarbs a bit too long, because they wouldn't keep their shape in the transfer to the jar. I think combined with custard, mascarpone or pannacotta would be really tasty and sprinkled with some crushed up ginger nut biscuits for a bit of crunch.

I made two batches because I had rhubarbs to spare and the 1 litre jar I transferred the compote to was only half-full after the first batch. As it happened, I couldn't quite fit everything into the jar, so had a few of the chunks with some raspberry liqueur jelly for dessert. Yummy!

I think a little maple syrup would also be quite nice to drizzle over the rhubarb before serving.

Rhubarb Cordial

About 3 weeks ago, I managed to sprain my ankle and have been almost entirely housebound since. Very annoying as I had the days before Easter off in order to do some serious gardening. One thing I did do yesterday was to very carefully make my way up the garden to the rhubarb patch to harvest them, as they have gone rather large once more and I think in fact we have a record on the thickness of the stems this year. I pulled out the thickest ones, and left the really thin ones to hopefully grow fatter in the coming weeks.

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But what to do with them? There are still bags of last year's harvest in the freezer. Then I remembered that my good friend Dr Cutie makes rhubarb cordial, which is extremely popular in her family. So a quick search on the internet gave a few relatively easy recipes and I opted for the one that had the highest reader rating. The original is here (in Swedish). Otherwise they all followed the same principle, the difference was in the quantities of each ingredient.

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Ingredients

1 kg rhubarb stalks, trimmed and washed
3 dl water
4 dl granulated sugar per litre of juice

Method

  1. Slice the rhubarbs into ½ cm wide chunks.
  2. Place in a large saucepan and add the water.
  3. Put the lid on, bring to the boil, then turn down and let simmer until the rhubarb pieces disintegrate. Stir occasionally to make sure everything cooks evenly.
  4. Place two layers of cheese cloth over a colander, then place the colander over a large bowl, so that it is well away from the bottom.
  5. Carefully transfer the cooked rhubarb into the cheese cloth and leave to filter through for an hour or so. At the end, twist the cheese cloth around the rhubarb to squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to its highest setting (mine goes to 200 °C on fan). Measure up the amount of juice and calculate how much sugar you will need. Prepare clean glass bottles for the juice, then place in the oven to heat up and sterilise for 20 minutes at least.
  7. Place the juice in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then stir in the sugar and bring to the boil again and simmer until the sugar has dissolved, this shouldn't take too long. Switch off the heat and skim off the foam on the surface.
  8. Transfer the cordial to a jug and carefully pour into the hot bottles. Leave to cool, then close and keep in the fridge.
  9. The cordial can be frozen as well.

From the comments under the recipe, dilute 1/6 or 1/7. I had 1.1 kg of rhubarb this time, so I increased the amount of water for boiling to correspond. After draining the stalks, I ended up with 9 dl of juice, so the amount of sugar I used was 3.6 dl, again in proportion to the given amounts. This filled up 2 half-litre bottles.

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I also didn't have the heart to throw away the remaining stalks, but scraped off as much as I could from the cheese cloths and put in a plastic bag in the freezer, this came to 360 g and will be used as cake filling.

18 April 2019

Osterpinze - Austrian Easter Bread

I have a lovely colleague, who is originally from Austria and last year she told me about the traditional Easter bread they have. She compared it to a brioche, but less sweet. Looking at photos it is clearly related to the Bulgarian kozunak, however, it seems it's eaten as a breakfast bread with savoury things like ham and hard-boiled eggs.

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So this year, I asked her about recipes she'd used and she sent me one she said was rather good. But then she also mentioned a version with white wine, and I was way too intrigued and asked for that recipe as well. It is here in German. I've lately started to refresh my German language skills in a more targeted way and this recipe adds the extra dimension of having several new words, so will be a learning experience as well.

Ingredients

Makes 6

250 ml white wine
2 tsp anise seeds
1 dl dark rum
1 dl raisins
1 kg strong white flour
250 g milk
140 g granulated sugar
2 x 7 g sachets quick yeast
2 large eggs
5 large egg yolks
6 g salt
zest from a large lemon
250 g soft unsalted butter
6 tsp nib sugar
1 egg for egg wash

Method

  1. Heat up the white wine and stir in the anise seeds, then set aside for 3 h, then sieve to remove the seeds.
  2. Heat up the rum and add the raisins, then set aside for 2 h.
  3. Sift the flour.
  4. In a large glass bowl make the poolish/pre-ferment. Warm up the milk with 30 g of the sugar to about 30 °C and stir in the yeast until it's fully dissolved.
  5. Add 80 g of the flour and stir to get a batter. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes in a warm place to activate the yeast. It should increase in size significantly. This i
  6. In the bowl of the dough mixing machine, whisk together the 2 large eggs, the egg yolks, salt, lemon zest and remaining sugar for about 5 minutes until it goes really pale and fluffy.
  7. Add the remaining flour, the poolish, white wine, raisins along with the rum they were soaked in and mix to a soft dough.
  8. Finally add the butter in chunks and get it well incorporated into the dough.
  9. Remove the mixing attachments from the dough, cover the bowl and leave to rise for an hour.
  10. Break the egg for the egg wash and whisk it to mix the yolk and white. Leave to stand and keep stirring every now and then.
  11. Turn out the dough, fold and turn it a few times, then let rise for a further hour.
  12. Line three baking sheets with baking paper and have the nib sugar ready in a small bowl along with the egg wash.
  13. Weigh the dough, then divide into 6 equal parts.
  14. Shape each into a round tight ball. Place two on each baking sheet on a diagonal, so that they don't stick together as they proof, and brush well with the egg wash and leave to proof for about 30 minutes.
  15. Pre-heat the oven to 170 °C.
  16. Just before baking each sheet, brush a second time with the egg wash, then sprinkle with nib sugar and using scissors, make three cuts centred in the middle.
  17. Bake each sheet for 30 minutes until the breads go golden brown.
  18. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool down completely.

I made these the day before Lundulph's family arrived for Easter. I served them to our guests as a mid-morning snack and they were wonderfully fluffy and disappeared alarmingly quickly. It was lighter than the kozunak and stayed soft surprisingly long - it was fine for breakfast 2 days after baking and only on day 3 did we need to whizz it in the microwave to restore the fluffiness and softness. I had intended to save one and give to my colleague as thanks for sharing this recipe, but to be honest, these breads were just way too tasty to want to share.

A note on the white wine - the recipe didn't really specify what to use, so I thought a dessert wine would be best and I bought a fancy muscat wine, Domaine Tailhades Muscat St Jean de Minervois. It was pricey and came in a half bottle and I had to hide it from Lundulph, who fancied using it as a dessert wine. I have some left over, so I'll make a single batch of the Osterpinze once we get through all the chocolate we acquired.

A note on the anise seed - I wasn't able to get hold of these, but I had star anise in my spice collection, so I used that instead, but it was barely noticeable, I didn't use enough of it. I quite like the anise flavour, so I would have preferred to have more of it. The original recipe stated that 2 tsp of anise seed would be around 2 g, so I measured the star anise to 2 g. Perhaps this was the issue, I should just have put in a few more of the beautiful stars.

I don't know if it was down to the wine or something else, I was very surprised that these breads stayed soft for so long. Hopefully it wasn't just pot luck.

17 April 2019

Student Potato Salad

Three years ago, I revived a long-forgotten recipe from my student days, when a quick potato salad was called for and it turned out to be a hit and when I now searched through my recipes, it seems I forgot to write it up at the time. I don't have any photos, potato salad tends not to look too pretty.

Ingredients

300 ml full fat crème fraîche
4 - 5 tbsp full fat mayonnaise
1 small Granny Smith apple
⅓ dl brined caper buds
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1 kg waxy potatoes

Method

  1. Wash and cut the parsley finely.
  2. Peel and dice the apple.
  3. Drain the capers well, then chop finely.
  4. Mix together the crème fraîche, mayonnaise, apple, capers, parsley, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Cover and chill in the fridge.
  5. Peel and dice the potatoes, then boil until soft.
  6. When the potatoes are ready, transfer to a colander and rinse under cold water for a minute, then shake off excess water as much as possible.
  7. Take the bowl out of the fridge and slowly stir in the warm potatoes into the mixture. It should go a bit soft, but shouldn't melt.
  8. It's nice when it's still a bit warm, so if it's made well in advance, it should be brought to room temperature and carefully warmed up in the microwave oven.

It's very important that the apple is of Granny Smith type - it should add some sourness as well as a little hint of sweetness. It must also be small or there'll be too much crunch in the salad. I made the mistake of doubling the recipe and putting in 3 small apples and Lundulph thought that it was partially frozen.

Also important the warming up - straight from the fridge, it will be grainy and the flavours will be dulled and it'll taste like some sort of wallpaper glue (I'm guessing).

I also think fresh tarragon or dill would work instead of parsley as well.