Monday, April 24, 2006

What’s For Pud?...Summer!!

What a wonderful day we’ve had yesterday! We’ve gone straight from winter into summer up here in Scotland so the only fitting English dessert to make for What’s For Pud was Summer pudding. This was my first attempt at any kind of bread pudding as I have a great dislike of soggy and I was pleasantly surprised. It was very easy to assemble just boiling the fruit, sugar and water, lining the mould with bread and putting the fruit mixture in there, then leaving it in the fridge over night. The taste was really good, the juices sweetened the bread and even though the bread was slightly wet, it wasn’t soggy and the fruit inside was still intact. We had our first barbeque of the year and had the pudding for dessert. Thanks to Becks&Posh and Jamfaced for organizing this, it made me discover a great dessert and I’ll definitely make this more often, specially once it gets to picking season and you can pick your own berries at the farms around.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Liquor used at long last

This Sugar high Friday is hosted by Chandra at Lick The Spoon and she picked a drunken dessert, preferably not rum….so I had the perfect recipe for this that I’ve been meaning to use since I bought my very first silicon mould (sigh). It was a cold November Sunday, I’d spent the weekend in Edinburgh and was on my way home. The last few months I’d been reading more and more blogs and had been reading about this new baking product called a silicon mould. Everybody seemed over the moon with these moulds and they did sound good but I’d never spotted one in the Dundee shops.

So little unexpected me was wondering in and out shops on the way to the train station and suddenly found myself in the Jenners (it’s a bit like the Scottish Harrods, but not quite so grand and without the foodsection) cooking department where I was greeted by a table full of lovely baby-pink Fauchon silicon!! So I ages to decide but finally settled on a mould with nine small rectangles (very practical) as I figured buying the pink mini heart-shaped moulds would give him a hart attack.

When I finally sat down on the train, I unwrapped my lovely new mould (there’s nothing quite like getting something just for you wrapped as a present anyway) and found another bonus: there were two recipe cards included with the mould. One was for vegetable mini cakes and the other for miniature pear cakes. Both sounded appealing but I’m definitely sweets person so I started plotting this recipe. I wouldn’t be able to get pear liquor in Dundee I would have to make some and I had just the bottle for it.

My parents have this habit of giving us presents and then not remembering so giving them again. This way we’ve steadily been building up a collection of Corenwyn (only in Dutch I’m afraid). This is almost like a Dutch combination of vodka and whiskey, distilled from grains but matured in oak casts for three years it has a high alcohol percentage and a sharp taste and I’m not a big fan of it as a drink. But as the taste isn’t very pronounced it can easily be used for cooking.

So when I got off the train, I bought some pears, made the liquor using equal quantities of sugar, fruit and alcohol and left it in the cupboard to rest……for about 6 months! For all my initial excitement, I never actually got around to making the cakes until now so this was a great motivator. The batter was very straightforward to prepare although I could really have done with braising the pears earlier but I left everything till the last minute, so they weren’t quite cold when they got mixed into the batter (and still had quite a lot of juice with them). Another thing that worried me was that there was no use of rising agent but the dense consistency worked quite well once the cakes were soaked. Once cooled, the cakes were really nice and moist, the flavour of the alcohol wasn’t to overpowering but gave this subtle hint that there was a little more than just pears in there. It was great for dessert as it was still all warm but even better the next day when all the flavours mixed.

Miniature pear cakes (makes nine)
165g caster sugar
3 eggs
165g butter
2cl pear liquor/brandy
165g flour
165g diced pears
17g butter
33g honey
Pear punch:
40g sugar
6cl water
3cl pear liquor/brandy

Braise the diced pears in the honey and butter; cool and set aside in the fridge. In a bowl beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture forms soft peaks. Blend one third of the mix with the melted butter and brandy, add the flour to the other two thirds of the mixture. Then mix these two together. Fill each miniature cake tin with the mix and the diced pears. Bake at 160C for 35 min. Mix the sugar, water and pear liquor to make a pear punch and heat it for a few minutes. Leave the miniature cakes to cool for 3-4 min; then soak them in the hot pear punch for 30 sec.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter extravaganza

I am writing slouched on the couch as we’ve just had soooo much food this afternoon, I could not possibly sit up. But it was wonderful, we had lovely company, the weather was beautiful and allowed us to go out and sit in the sun, and after two days in the kitchen we had a true Easter feast. As this was the first time in about one and a half years since I’d had a big dinner party I went a bit overboard. So a big thanks to Barry for helping me out with everything and calming my panic attacks (we’re not gonna have enough food!!). Anyway, this is what we had but unfortunately I forgot to take pics of lots of the dishes so I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

We had spiced chickpeas to nibble on, then Nigella’s
ham in cola, which is always a great success. For the vegetarians there was an asparagus quiche, chickpea fritters with a tikka sauce and Jerusalem artichoke salad, both from the Crank’s cookbook I got for my birthday and hadn’t had a chance to cook from yet. Then our guests brought lovely salads, potato cakes and chocolates and we had lots of different homemade breads with rosemary, sun-blushed tomatoes and a butter lamb as well (the mould was another present).

For dessert we had chouquettes, a slightly adapted version of Gateau de Mamy with more almonds, less flour and pieces of dark chocolate, Pate brisee with Dulce de Leche instead of ganache, hot cross buns, as I’d never had any before and finally a Pavlova with a mascarpone lime cream topped with raspberries and strawberries from the Avoca cookbook.

So now…we just need to digest (which will take a while I think) and then have it all over again as we made way too much food! There was no need to panic after all….

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Chocolate balls turn into eggs

The first time I had these chocolate balls was over a year ago in Jaiselmer, India. We’d just come back from a two day camel trek in the dessert and were tired, sandy, smelly and incredibly sore. But after a shower we felt a bit more human and staggered into town (John Wayne style). We had a lovely sand-free italian dinner after 6 weeks of curry) in one of the hostels and as they had no tiramisu on the menu, we settled for chocolate balls. Not expecting very much, they were amazing...perhaps it was the 2 days in the desert, the motion of the camels or the lack of sleep but these balls were fabulous. After much persuasion, they let us come back the next day at lunchtime and showed us how to make them. What they claimed was a carefully guarded family secret turned out to be incredibly simple and easy!

The second time I tasted them was a few months later when I met up with one of the girls I travelled with and she had made some for old times sake. So we took a London bus tour and enjoyed our “balls” in the fresh air and sunshine whilst reminiscing of the camels and driving past Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and more.

So this is the third time I’ve had them and the first time I’ve made them myself but they were just as easy and tasted as good as I remembered...and instead of balls, I turned them into Easter eggs as it’s almost that time. They looked lovely next to my new decorations of eggs I blew out and wrapped in left-over bits of ribbon and I’m sure they’ll look great on the table, next to my newly knitted sheep egg warmers. I hope you all have a lovely Easter with lots of nice food and of course lots and lots of chocolate!

Indian chocolate balls
8 bourbon biscuits
2 heaped tsp of dissolving chocolate or cocoa
½ tsp of desiccated coconut (optional)
1 tsp butter
3 tbsp sweet and condensed milk

Crush the bourbons in a blender and when fine, add the rest of the ingredients. Mix till you get a mouldable paste and roll these into balls (or in this case, eggs). Sprinkle with coconut powder to serve.

I’m sure these would taste great with some crushed nuts, dried fruits or anything that takes your fancy instead of the coconut. And perhaps adding some rum, grand Marnier or other liqueur would be nice many options!

Sakura in Dundee

Last week a friend from Japan was visiting my work. We had a great time both in work and at ceilidhs and sessions. But he also brought some sweets from Japan including these Sakura cookies. Whilst I lived there last year I got really fascinated by all the food, especially the sweets so this was a lovely gift.

Sakura, the cherry blossom, is Japan's unofficial national flower. It has been celebrated for many centuries and takes a very prominent position in Japanese culture. When the blossom is blooming, there as special weather forecasts telling you where they are at their best and people go out to admire them at hanami. At Hanami festivals, people go out to celebrate the beauty of sakura, and for many, it is a chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful view. The city planting in Japan is very thought out so they have rows and rows of these trees in scenic spots. This way people can enjoy their free time admiring them, having a picnic there and having a good time.

The cookies were beautifully and thoughtfully packaged as everything in Japan is. Every detail matches perfectly like the stylized flours on the outside package, the two trays of cookies that fit perfectly into the outer container, one labeled with the leaves and one labeled with the flowers of the cherry tree as this is what’s in the cookies to the instructions on how to open a sachet. The cookies tasted lovely, very light and full of flavor with a hint of cherry blossom. I find myself wishing I was back in Japan to see the cherry blossom (as I missed it when I was working there from May-September) but for now, I’ll admire the few sakura trees that are randomly spread around Dundee while enjoying my cookies.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

All of the orange…..

...went into the cake. After weeks of eating citrus fruit we’ve finally managed to make it through the box of oranges we received. They tasted great and I really enjoyed the variety we got. Big oranges, small oranges, tangy oranges, sweet oranges and more. We ate them just as is, drizzled with honey and olive oil, had pears soaked in lemon juice, lemon sorbet and made limoncello, which is currently maturing.

But one of my favourite recipes was this Mediterranean orange cake, which comes originally from Delia Smith and was given to me by my mum who is a great source of tasty recipes. With this one, I really like the fact that it uses all the orange including the rind and this gives it a lovely bitter taste. As you put the whole orange in, it was great having organic ones and you don’t need to worry about nasties, wax and more. The dough is lovely and moist and as you use semolina flour it has a lovely grainy texture once finished. The cake is also soaked in a honey syrup, which makes it very moist and the icing of pistachios and Greek yogurt gives it a beautiful finish. Even though the list of ingredients is quite long, it is really easy to prepare but tastes great with the different flavours and textures really complimenting each other. Great for a dinner party, tea or just if you fancy some cake!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

EBBP4- Delices from O delices

With a bit of a delay both my parcel and post on EBBP4 has arrived! This was the first time Iíd taken part and I really liked the idea so I signed up with Andrew (Thank you so much for organising this!). I had a great time putting my parcel together for Anna and she wrote some lovely posts about it.

Then last Thursday I received my parcel from Marie-Laure at O delices. Odelices is not an actual blog but a website updated every week with a recipe. There are some really stunning pictures and food on it and it will be a good incentive to practice my French by cooking some of the food on there. I was also very taken by the gatherings they have where lots of people join, bring food and get to know each other/catch up. It seems to fit very well with the EBBP where I feel like Iíve already gotten to know two people by making and receiving parcels. But I think it would be nice meeting fellow bloggers in real life so if people in the area (Dundee/Scotland) are up for it I would be very happy to organize something?!

Anyway, so back to my French parcel: I was very chuffed with my goodies as Marie-Laure had made me two homebakes. First out of the box were some lovely mini orange and strawberry muffins, which were really nice, not too sweet and very moist. Closely behind were golden star shaped lemon and poppy seed biscuits. The stars were very pretty, firm and fresh with the nutty flavour of the poppy seeds breaking thought the sharpness of the lemons. And hooray, she included the recipe for these with some corn flour (very different from the corn flour we see here, I wonder if itís more like polenta??) and poppy seeds so I can make my own. There was another recipe for lemon snaps, which looks very tasty as well. Last but certainly not least was a bag of dried strawberries that just taste like summer and brought back lots of good memories.

The last time I ate these was when I was in Cambodia in February 2005, where I was travelling with two friends. Sharon and I were making a no-bake birthday cake for Lisa, which we topped with dried strawberries. By coincidence, Sharon, who I hadnít seen for a year was visiting as my EBBP parcel arrived, so we had fun reminiscing and cooking again.

I decided to take the pictures outside as it was such a beautiful sunny day, everything is so lush and green (I guess from all the rain!) and the bulbs in our garden have started to bloom. In some cases though, the food looked a bit funny next to the soil so guess weíll have to grow some more greens...peas and radishes are already planted!!