Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas and more excitement

So I had a whole series of posts planned but the last few weeks have just flown and not it’s boxing day! And in an hour we’ll be getting onto a bus to get to a plane and another one and another one and then in about 26 hours we’ll be landing in Melbourne to start our 4 week holiday! I’m so excited! Good friends of both Barry and me are getting married in Tasmania in January and we decided it was a great opportunity to catch up with them, see them on their special day, meet other friends who are attending and spend some time on what promises to be a fabulous island. So there won’t be so much posting done although I'll definitely be enjoying lots of nice food and wine. I hope you all have a fabulous New Years Eve and see you in 2008!

ps...a fab tip I found in one of my cookbooks, if you have any mulled wine left over, freeze it and serve it as a sophisticated granita

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A wintery pizza

Another brief post as this week we are in Ireland visiting Barry's family. We're getting all are family visits sorted now as we won't see them for Christmas. The reason?? We're going on a 4 week holiday to Melbourne and Tasmania! I'm so excited as we haven't had a holiday all year and we've been saving days for this one! Anyway, more about that in a later post.

With all the traveling, socializing and getting presents organized, the cooking has been somewhat limited recently but I still wanted to share this recipe with you. Its another one from my friend Simone who is a source of great recipes that are often easy but totally delicious! For this one we were lazy and bought a ball of pizza dough at the local store, which here is as good as home made, topped it with thinly sliced potato and Taleggio cheese. After baking it in the oven for about 20 min at 220°C on a pizza stone the cheese was melted and golden. Topped with some truffle oil to give it a nutty earthy smell, it was an incredibly tasty dinner that we'll be making much more this winter. I also think my little bottle of truffle oil won't last very long (even though a little goes a long way) as we've already been using it on this pasta and I think it would work well on something like a mushroom bruchetta.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

In a pickle...

...that's what happened to these baby onions, herbs and spices using this recipe. I've made this recipe for the last several years and they are great! so much better than the store bought ones. They make a lovely present or are great to keep and eat with fondue, raclette or meat. I normally make half the liquid suggested in the recipe or use twice as much onions...whatever you fancy. This is my entry for A Spoonful of Christmas hosted by Zlamushka I know it's a bit short but am in the Netherlands up to my ears in Sinterklaas poems and surprises.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On Snow, Parsnips and SHF

How fitting that my 100th post is about one of the most perfect days I've had in a long time! Last Sunday I went to the mountains in my friends new camper van. After an early start we arrived in Lauterbrunnen, took the gondela up and walked to Mürren. This is why I moved to Switzerland!

The weather was perfect, sunshine, blue skies and the most amazing snow I've ever seen! About 70 cm deep and covered with a layer of crystals several cm big, they were like little Christmas trees. We made a beautiful walk, played in the snow, built mini snowmen and ate lunch in the sunshine.

When it comes to walking food, I'm just not one for sandwiches. I always find that by the time you get to eat it its squashed, cold and often tasteless. Therefore, I prefer home baked lunches, preferably with nuts and cheese for lots of flavour and energy. For this walk I used parsnips as they are back in season! I developed quite a liking for this root vegetable whilst living in Scotland. Before that I'd never even seen a parsnip as they are very hard to come by. However, this year the local supermarket has started selling them as an "ancient vegetable" so we'll hopefully be eating a lot more of them. I know parsnips mostly as a savoury vegetable but they also go well with sweet (think honey roasted) flavours and I'd heard that they can also be used in cakes, like carrots, but that this somehow fell out of fashion after the WWII.

I adapted this recipe (a firm favourite for summer walks) as I wanted to make a savoury and a sweet version to take along and use some of the walnuts from my parents garden. They were a great success. For the savoury I used gruyere, walnuts and fresh herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme), whereas the sweet ones had raisins, nuts, nutmeg and ginger. Both yummy and with lots of energy to keep me going on the walk, hopefully the season will be good, there will be many trips and I can make them loads. This post my entry for this months sugar high friday - The Beta Carotene Harvest - hosted by Definitely not Martha

Sweet or Savoury Parsnip Muffins (makes 6)

1 cup flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 eggs
2 parsnip - grated
1 tbsp creme fraiche
1/2 cup vegetable oil

60g raisins
60g walnuts - chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger

60g gruyere - grated
60g walnuts - chopped
2 tbsp fresh herbs
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the over to 180°C, in a large bowl, mix the creme fraiche, oil and eggs. Then stir in the flour and grated parsnip. Finally, add the extra fillings and the spices. Or at this point you can divide the mix in two and make both (make sure to halve the amounts given above). Pour the mixture into buttered molds and top with either raisins or walnuts. Cook for 30 min or until a needle comes out clean. Leave to cool and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Nigella's express mousse

I'm not sure if you've been watching the most recent Nigella Lawson series? Titled Nigella Express she promises you ideas to make good food fast with her usual "fantabulous" style. Don't get me wrong, I watched every episode but can't help feeling a bit cheated after every show. Yes, the recipes she shows are fast and no doubt tasty but a lot if somehow pre-made or bought and for me it takes the joy out of cooking a bit. Plus all the hair-flicking, flirting with the camera and vocabulary seems a little out of place to me.

Not that I want to slave over a hot stove every time but when having a dinner party, it's nice to make a bit of effort. But I appreciate that I can be a bit of a masochist when it comes to these things and she definitely has some nice ideas. I've become pretty addicted to her bean mash and when she made her no worries chocolate mousse, I knew I had to try it as I had the perfect occasion/audience.

A friend of mine has been organizing girlie weekend get-togethers in the Lake District for the last 4 years. They are weekends to catch up with her friends (and mine both from before and through this) and they are always fabulous. How often do you get the chance to spend a weekend with up to 20 women your own ages from all backgrounds, nationalities, professions in a wonderful setting?! Most make it every year and we chat lots, walk, have been known to treasure hunt and eat and drink lots of nice things. On Friday night it's casual pizza but on Saturday night all the stops are pulled out for a pot luck dinner. Everyone always makes a real effort and there is always to much food.

And this year was no exception, as I was traveling from Switzerland this year, I didn't want to make something very complicated but still wanted it to shine and I figured these would do the trick. And indeed they are a breeze to make (although I was a bit worries about pouring the hot chocolate mix into the beaten cream which totally deflated of course), set very fast and tasted lovely although it was incredibly rich and perhaps a bit too much after a 4 course meal! I paired them with some wafers inspired by the Essence cookbook I bought recently (fantastic! a definite recommendation and will blog about it soon!). These are very easy to make and look spectacular. The perfect dessert for another perfect weekend, I already look forward to the next one.

Rice paper and cocoa nib tuiles
50 g sugar
50 ml water
rice paper (from Asian supermarket;the white ones for making fresh spring rolls)
handful of broken cocoa nibs (or anything you want to use)

Boil the water and sugar together to make a syrup, then leave to cool. In the mean time line a baking tray with parchment paper, cut the rice paper into pieces and dip one into the syrup. Place it on the tray and sprinkle with some cocoa nibs. Repeat this process till you run out of rice paper. Dry these tuiles in the oven at 80°C for 3-4 hours, they will keep in an airtight container so are easy to make in advance.

And for the people who wanted the flat bread recipe:
Flatbreads (±15)
2 tsp dried yeast (or 30g fresh)
450-475 ml water
750 g strong white flour
2tsp fine sea salt
black pepper freshly ground
50 ml olive oil
extra flour for rolling

Start about 2-3 hours before required and you need quite a bit of space to make these. First mix the flour, salt, pepper and olive oil then add in the yeast and mix well. Finally stir in the water bit by bit to make a soft dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean. Knead for about 10 min till elastic - you can do this by hand or with a mixer, whatever you prefer - cover the bowl with a lid/moist towel and leave to rise in a warm place. to speed things up you can partially fill the sink with lukewarm water and place the bowl in there. Alternatively, heat the oven to 50°C, turn it off and place the bowl inside. When the dough has doubled in quantity, knock it back and divide in to 15 pieces. Roll each piece out on a floured surface shaped like a large pita bread. Cover loosely and leave to rest for 3 min. Barbecue over fresh hot coals for 1-2 min each side (the bubbles that pop up are great!). You can also try making them in the oven as it's not really barbecue weather, I would guess at 225°C for 4 min each side. If you can use a pizza stone that will make them puff up nicely.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Preserving summer....

We're well in to autumn here with the Basler herbstmesse (autumn fair) starting last weekend, most of the leaves on the ground and chilling temperatures at night. So here are a few of the things I made this summer an just haven't gotten around to post about and as they're mostly preserves I can still enjoy the summer flavours a bit longer.

First up is this lovely gooseberry curd recipe that was in last years delicious. magazine. I'm not a fan of gooseberries at all, I've always found them to bitter but Barry is a huge fan so I decided to make it for him. I found these dark red/pink ones here that seem to be just as common as the green ones. It gave the curd a lovely pink/salmony colour and I was pleasantly surprised by the taste. It was creamy and sweet but with a nice tart contrast making it much more palatable and I have to admit that with the help of a few jars of this, I'm even craving gooseberry curds now!

Second, is this elderflower curd I made from heads I picked on one of our walks in the Jura. Elder flower is something I learned you could eat whilst living in Scotland. I really enjoy the fresh "green" taste of it both on bread or in desserts. For this recipe, I basically soaked the cleaned heads in apple juice overnight and then boiled this the next day with pectin sugar.

Third up are mirabelles, these are little plums that are only in season for 3-4 weeks in August. We've always had a tree in our garden so their taste is very sentimental but it's hard to resist these sweet little fruits anyway. As the season is so short, I try to make the most of them. We eat them in clafoutis, tarte tatins or just on its own or with some yoghurt for breakfast. To preserve the flavours for the rest of the year I also made jam (800g sugar per kilo of cleaned fruit) and liqueur (equal weights fruit, cleaned fruit and alcohol-I tend to use vodka as it doesn't have a strong flavour).

Last but not least are these flatbreads. I picked up the recipe in a free leaflets from Harvey Nics when I was in London in May. Incredibly easy to make they definitely gain something special by being cooked on the BBQ. Yummy with kebabs, salad, burgers or just on its own. So that's it, I'm all up to date and will blog about some more autumnal food next

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pumpkins and apples

A very brief and quick entry as I'm off to Paris for my fellowship interview tomorrow!! There is still so much to prepare but I just need a break as I feel my head will explode with science! I'm also very excited about Halloween and Stephanies Blogpary this month. Although it's not one of the traditions of the Netherlands, I think it's a fab holiday. Dressing up, trick-or -treating, lots of candy, scrummy food and a spooky atmosphere make for a perfect party I think. On top of that I can't get enough of pumpkins at the moment - Barry jokingly says I will turn into one soon, but who cares! They're tasty and healthy and lovely I think, and my friend Simone agrees which is why we have a whole Halloween pumpkin dinner planned for next week complete with pumpkin soup, bread and ice cream! However, first I have to get tomorrow out of the way and then I can focus on the kitchen again.

Anyway, back to the treats for this week: I made these little biscuits I discovered here (the beauty of online translaters) on Sunday as was very taken by them. First, they are easy to make. Second, they look beautiful and third, they have a lovely texture, crunchy without being hard or dry. I added some cinnamon and ginger for a more autumn taste which was nice and complemented the subtle pumpkin flavor. A perfect treat served along some hot mulled apple juice (put apple juice in a pan with some cinnamon, cloves and star anis, heat for about 5-10 min to let the flavors infuse) and to keep the brain going till tomorrow.

Little Sweet Pumpkins
(makes 12)
30g cooked/roasted pumpkin
30g butter
25g sugar
pinch Salt
60g soft flour
2g cornstarch
pumpkin seeds

Cream butter and sugar together, when this is light and fluffy, add the salt and pumpkin. Mix well again and finally incorporate the flour and cornstarch. You should have a dough that is relatively firm but does not crack and leaves the bowl clean. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge. Divide the dough into 12 parts, roll each of them into a small ball, flatten slightly to give a pumpkin shape. apply marks to the side with a toothpick and insert a pumpkin seed as the stem. Bake 17-20 min at 170°C.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Boozy apple upside down cake

A hasty post for SHF as I'm in the middle of studying for a fellowship interview on Thursday (yaikes!) in Paris (yeah!). So our flat is sparkling clean, my bills have been organized, I've been for a run, met a friend for coffee and cooked lots of yummy food this weekend. But still, the slides for the presentation are not finished and I've read much less than I should have! Part of it is that I always overestimate what I can do but, as you can tell, a big part of it is that I get incredibly distracted when I have very important deadlines and will do anything but that!

So SHF was another great distraction and as Andrew from SpittoonExtra picked such a fabulous theme it would have been rude not to partake. I wanted to use my newest weird ingredient, these long peppers I bought on my holiday in Paris three weeks ago. I had read about them in an article on pepper varieties in Saveurs (food magazine) a while ago and had been on the look out for them ever since. So when I saw the bottle, I knew it was mine...when I opened it, I was greeted by a sweet spicy vanilla smell so my first association was to use it in dessert although I've later read they are used more in savory recipes.

As I was a bit short on time, I decided to alter a recipe I used before. Instead of the honey syrup I made a syrup of sugar, water, brandy and long pepper and I substituted the oranges for apples (about 6). I grated 2/3 into the batter and cut 1/3 into slices to layer in the bottom of the tin with sugar, butter and some grated long pepper. Unfortunately, we only had Boskoop at home and they cooked to mush so I didn't get the nice French apple tart top I was going for but the taste was still great. The semolina made it nice and crunchy whilst the batter was moist from the fruit and syrup. The pepper gave it a hot cinnamon-like taste (so you can substitute with some ground cinnamon and chili powder)and the brandy made you feel nice and warm inside. A perfect autumn dessert!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Prickly pears!

With a name like that, don't you have to try some?! When I moved here (one year ago already and I've never blogged about them) I was fascinated with these prickly pink, yellow and/or green beauties. I suspected they were cactus fruits and after a bit of browsing on the web I discovered I was right but that their alternative name is prickly pear or opuntia, which is so much more fun. So I bought some, tried some different recipes and was hooked. I love the light fruity taste of them that you can use both in savory or sweet dishes. Last night, we ate some with grilled tofu and a variety of grains (wheat, buckwheat and quinoa, emptying all the left over packages!). To make the sauce simply fry a chopped onion in some olive oil until soft, then add 4 chopped tomatoes and 3 peeled and chopped prickly pears (I'd recommend wearing washing up gloves as I was picking needles out of my finger for the rest of the night - sometimes this doesn't happen but some pears are more prickly than others). Fry for another 5 min till you have a nice sauce, add chopped parsley, season with salt and pepper and enjoy. The pears do contain a lot of seeds but I think you can easily eat around them (think pomegranate or passion fruit). I think it would also be really nice to use in a cold tomato soup, as a sweet jelly or in baking.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Poppy overload!

A quick one as I'm off to the lake district tomorrow for a girly weekend with friends from Dundee! I'm looking forward to it very much as there will be lots of chatting, walking, relaxing and nice food. But I'll blog about that next time. The post now is one I promised to my brother who was visiting last week with his girlfriend. It was so nice to see both of them (last time was in March) and spend some quality time both in Basel and the Alps. Tuesday night was their last evening in Basel and so we cooked the first fondue of the season. For dessert I wanted to make something special and decided to open one of the jars of poppy jelly I made in July.

I was intrigued from the first moment I saw this recipe and knew I had to make it. So I set out one afternoon, gathered way too many leaves and spent hours cleaning all the pollen off (it pays off to be a bit more careful in the picking, then you'll have a lot less work). I made three jars of beautiful red jelly that then disappeared into the cupboard and came out again last Tuesday night. The taste of the jelly was strange but nice, not very strong but also not like anything I'd ever tasted. I decided to pair it with a panna cotta and to prevent it from all being too jelly-like (and stick with the theme) I added poppy seeds which collected at the bottom (=top after inversion) of the mold. They formed a nice contrast both in colour and in texture to the creamy panna cotta. I just thinned out the jelly (2 tbsp with one tbsp water) by heating it and drizzled some over/around the pudding.

Poppy Panna Cotta (serves 4)
200ml Double cream*
200ml Single cream*
60g sugar
1/2 vanilla pod
2 tbsp poppy seeds
level 1/2 tsp agar-agar**

Mix cream, sugar, poppy seeds and agar-agar in a pan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod into the cream and throw the pod in. Gently bring to the boil and cook for 1-2 min. Leave to cool slightly, then pour into individual molds. Leave to set in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

* This was just what was in the fridge but you could use double cream and milk or all single cream or whatever you feel like.
** I find it easier to just have this at home for when vegetarian friends come for dinner, you could also use gelatine in which case you need 1 1/2 sheets.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Busy, busy

So much for my plan to try and blog more regularly! We had a fantastic time in Paris, despite the tragic Ireland loss. It was compensated by so much nice food, shopping and sightseeing. We came back Monday morning and work has been manic since with presentations and deadlines. Now my brother is visiting so we're off to the Alps this afternoon. Hopefully, I'll manage to squeeze a post in next week.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hay Hay it's Donna Day #15

A last minute assembly tart for this months edition of Hay Hay it's Donna Day hosted by Sarini from Trinigrourmet. We're about to leave for a long weekend in Paris to see some rugby, take in some culture, do a bit of shopping and eat lots of nice food.

I've been using a lot of chickpea flour lately but mainly in savoury dishes but wanted to try a sweet version as well. So along with the half pomegranate at the back of the fridge I thought they would make the great basis for an Arabic/Mediterranean inspired tart. I made a simple dough using chickpea flour (200g), butter (75g), sugar (2 tbsp), ground green cardamom (1 tsp) and a bit of water. The dough does not "come together" as there is no gluten in this flour so I just divided it over 4 buttered mini pastry cases. These were baked 15 minutes at 180°C and in the mean time, I diluted some Membrillo with a bit of water to make it into a softer paste. I spread this on top of the case, then applied a thin layer of ricotta, dusted this with more ground cardamom and finally sprinkled pomegranate seeds on top. All done in 25 minutes.

The tart was beautiful to look at and the taste pleasantly surprised me. I know you can't go far wrong using all good ingredients but still, it turned out better then expected. The nutty crust combined perfectly with the sticky sweet quince paste and the creamy ricotta whereas the pomegranate seeds provided a nice tart and fresh contrast. Definitely worth a repeat performance.

Update: the round up has now been posted....what a fabulous collection of tarts! A lot of inspiration/yummy things there to try out soon

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Waiter! There's something in my... savoury preserve!

When Johanna announced the theme of savoury preserve for this month's WTSIM I just knew I wanted to take part. I didn't really grow up with savoury preserves as it's not very much of a Dutch thing. So apart from shop bought gherkins and onions the only preserve we ate was green tomato chutney. This recipe had come from an English friend of my parents before we were born and somehow it stuck in my mums repertoire. Every year she would grow tomato plants to harvest the unripe green ones (as they're hard/impossible to buy) and make this chutney. Strangely, we only ate it with Nasi Goreng but I always loved it!

Moving to the UK opened a whole new preserving world for me and I still enjoy making and eating lots of different ones. However, this one will always stay my favourite and I've now reached the point of growing my own green tomatoes to be able to make it each year.

PS. the roundup has now been posted and I'm already planning some serious preserving as there's so much stuff I want to try!

Green Tomato Chutney makes 6 400g jars
2.5 kg green tomatoes, sliced
50g onions, chopped
150g yellow raisins
150g black raisins
500g sugar
1 liter wine vinegar
30g salt
15 g peppercorns

Put the tomatoes, onions, salt and peppercorns in a large bowl and leave overnight. The next day, bring the sugar and vinegar to the boil in a large non-reactive pan. Add the raisins and simmer for 5 min before adding the tomato mix. Simmer everything on low heat until the mixture starts to thicken (45 min) and divide the chutney over some well cleaned pots that have been sterilized in the oven for 10 min at 110°C. Cover, leave to cool and store in a dark and cool place.

Monday, September 24, 2007

SHF #35 - The Beautiful fig

A very last minute entry for this month's SHF but when Ivonne announced the theme for Sugar High Friday as "The Beautiful Fig" I just knew I wanted to take part. Lack of time due to too much work and the breaking of our camera have cramped the blogging a lot lately (it's amazing how less nice the blog looks without pictures). But this seemed a worthwhile entry and I even managed to take a crappy mobile phone camera picture!

I was never a big fan of figs, for years, my mother tried to tempt me with fruits from the tree in our garden but something in the texture put me off. Then I moved to the UK and somehow developed a taste for them (still not quite sure where) but there they were hard to find. So moving here has been a fig paradise!

Basel has been swamped the last few weeks with yummy (and beautiful) figs from France and Italy and I've been eating my fair share. In my yoghurt for breakfast, as part of a chicken stew or in a fancy tart, they always taste delicious. But one of my favourite ways (that works very well with figs that are not quite ripe yet) is to just fill a small frying pan with figs, drizzle a bit of honey over them, a few tbsp of water and add some crushed green cardamom seeds. Leave this to simmer for 10-15 min till the figs are nice and soft and the liquid has gone syrupy. Enjoy this with yoghurt, quark or some ice cream.

(The roundup can be found here)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

SHF #34 - going local!

Moving to a new country can be quite a shock to the system. You have to deal with a new language, culture and customs whilst settling in, looking for an apartment and finding which isle has what in the supermarket. Lucky for me when I moved here, I spent the first two weeks living with a colleague (and now close friend) of mine who helped Barry and me settle in so much here in Basel.

She made me feel really at home in her apartment, translated house adds, helped me to make viewing appointments (my German is ok but I often struggle with Swiss-German), introduced us to Fastnacht and fed us our first cheese fondue in Basel. We also spent evenings baking Christmas biscuits together and made many nice walks in the Jura. Without her it would have taken us a lot longer to settle in and we forged a great friendship in those two weeks (and since then). I think it helped a lot that we share a love for the outdoors and great food and I'm learning lots of Swiss recipes from her. One of them is this red berry meringue tart that is her signature dish. The recipe came from her mother and before that I don't know. I thought it a very fitting entry for this months SHF hosted by Johanna as for me it will always remind me of Basel and settling in here.

You can only make it for a few months in summer as in Switzerland the produce is extremely seasonal (and even regional!) but it is delicious. A buttery nutty crust filled with a mix of tart red berries and a fluffy sweet meringue. Its very fresh and looks beautiful (although unfortunately no pictures due to death of digital camera). This year, I will also try to make it in winter by freezing some red berries to use and perhaps substituting them for cranberries.

Simone’s red berry meringue tart
Fort he crust
-200g butter
-100g sugar
-300g flour
-1 egg
-2tbsp ground almonds

For the filling
-3 egg whites
-130g sugar
-1 Tbsp ground almonds
-500g red berries
Mix the ingredients for the crust together, roll it out and place into a buttered tart dish.Bake this blind for 15 min 190°C. In the mean time, whisk the egg white till thick and add the sugar slowly. Then stir the in ground almonds and berries. Pour the mixture into the base, first bake 10 min at 190°C. Then reduce the oven temperature to 160°C and bake for a further 20-25 min.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hay hay it's a very pink Donna Day

One of my favourite colours at the moment is bright fushia pink! I don't know why, perhaps it’s due to the lack of a full blown summer which I somehow associate it with, but it just cheers me up. And cheering up is what I needed a lot of lately. With a paper needing revision and two fellowship deadlines within one week I was at the end of my tether. So I was in need of some comfort, especially in my dinners! Normally, when I get stressed, I actually like to cook something more elaborate as it relaxes me somehow but I didn’t even have time for that. So this recipe comes from one of my favourite books at the moment and it was the perfect dinner solution. Not so time consuming but still resulting in a great sense of achievement and as I made loads of them, I was sorted for several meals. By coincidence gnocchi were also the theme for HHDD #14 hosted by Cafe Lynnylu. This is an event I always wanted to take part in but kept missing the deadline so I am really pleased I finally made it.

The gnocchi tasted great, I had some trouble getting the dough to come together as I added too much beetroot (2 pureed small ones) and so needed a lot more flour than the recipe stated. I guess next time I would leave out the egg. I finally gave up and the dough was still pretty sticky when I made the gnocchi but I didn’t want to add more flour as the recipe warned they would become too stiff. That’s why the shape is a bit funky but the texture was perfect, light and fluffy with an earthy hint of beetroot. They were so much better then anything store bought! We ate them with mushrooms fried with onion, garlic and parsley topped with parmesan which complemented the earthy flavor very well. I also had them for lunch with Baerlauch pesto, roasted aubergine or just with some goats cheese melted on top. It definitely was a quiet and comforting point in my days to sit down with a bowl of these little pink beauties. The picture unfortunately doesn't do them justice as my camera decided it doesn't like to be turned on anymore so I'm relying on Barry's phone's camera.

Now everything is submitted and after some glasses of Cremant D'Alsace to celebrate I can put the gnocchi recipe away....but not for too long as I will make these much more, even for non-stressful days.

Basic gnocchi recipe

1 kg potatoes
1 egg
200 g flour
2 tsp salt

Peel the potatoes and cut into small chunks to steam (this is meant to make the end result lighter). When soft, mash them to a fine paste and stir in egg, flour and salt into the potatoes (this is where I added the beetroot, I would suggest adding less and perhaps leaving out the egg). Work everything to a soft dough, on a floured surface roll out into a long sausage and cut off little pieces (impossible with my dough). If you feel like it you can decorate these with a fork, then pop them into a pan of boiling salted water until they float up, you'll need to do this in batches. Enjoy with your topping/sauce of choice.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Minty Goodness

Another blog party, another great theme! For this edition Stephanie chose minty goodness which was very timely as the mint on my balcony is growing madly. I'm going through a bit of an Middle Eastern food phase at the moment and mint seemed to fit into that seamlessly. For the snack, I threw together these little chickpea, aubergine and pomegranate fritters topped with minty quark. Easy to make, easy to bake and very tasty with the warm nutty flavors of the chick pea flour, aubergine and zatar contrasted by the fresh and zingy mint and garlic. I also like the grainy texture of the quark which is very sturdy so stays well on top of the fritters. To accompany these, I mixed some little Arabic G&Ts by adding mint syrup (made with some leftover sugar from this recipe) and pomegranate molasses (my new favorite cooking ingredient).

For the fritters (makes 25-30)
Mix 200g chickpea flower, 1 1/2 tbsp oil, 1 grated medium aubergine, 1 tbsp zatar and seeds from 1 pomegranate (keep a few aside for garnish and the drink). The dough should be a little bit sticky but not too thin. Heat some oil in a pan and dollop little balls in there. Fry for a few minutes either side. In the mean time combine 4 tbsp quark, 1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh mint and 1-2 chopped garlic cloves. Put a little bit on each fritter

For the drink
Melt 50 g of sugar with 25 ml water. Use either mint sugar or add some twigs whilst simmering the syrup. Leave to cool, then mix with equal quantities Hendricks Gin, tonic and pomegranate molasses. Pour into small glasses and add some pomegranate seeds and small mint leaves as garnish.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Brownie Babe Nr. 3

After my disappointing brownie last time, I decided not the divert from the tried and trusted recipe anymore. For the third edition of browniebabe hosted by Myriam I have made this recipe as long as I can remember, I would bring these to school for every birthday or special occasion and know the proportions off by heart. But even though they're great, I felt they needed to be jazzed up a little bit for this event and this is where it all started to go horribly wrong...

You know when you have (what you think is) a brilliant idea and you're so chuffed with yourself for having it that you fire straight ahead without giving it another thought....and then in hindsight you can't believe how stupid you were...well that's kind of what happened to me. I somehow decided it would be great to make honeycomb brownies. I saw someone making the stuff recently on television where it looked really easy and fast plus I love the stuff. Off I went, melted sugar, golden syrup and once caramelising added the bicarbonate problem...let it cool, chopped it up and put it in the batter....easy peasy....put it in the oven and went away. After 30 min I suddenly smelt this terrible burning, the whole flat was cloudy, so what had happened?! Of course it had kept rising as it had so much bicarb in there...duh!! So it rose higher and higher, flooded over the tin and onto the heating element at the bottom of the oven...damn! Still can't believe I didn't think of that!

Anyway, lesson learned so for the second batch I was a bit more conservative. I'd bought some Kumquats so added these as you can't really go wrong with the chocolate orange combination. To enhance the citrus flavor I also added some Yuzu juice and powder that I picked up when I was in London in May. I love the taste of this Japanese fruit which is a bit more bitter and tart than an orange but not as harsh as a lemon. I also simmered some left over kumquats with honey and Yuzu juice to drizzle on top. The brownies turned out perfect and were squidgy and moist as usual with bits of kumquats for a change of texture and taste. They're a bit bitter/tart, as was the Yuzu but this was nicely complemented by the sweet honeycomb I'd sprinkled on top.

Kumquat and Yuzu Brownies
175g butter
450g sugar
50g good quality cocoa powder
4 eggs
250g flour
1 tsp baking powder
ping of salt
24 kumquats
1 tbsp Yuzu juice*
1 tsp Yuzu powder*

Melt the butter in a large pan, add sugar and cocoa and mix well. Then stir in the eggs and sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Finally add in the kumquats and pour into a bog baking tin. Bake 30-45 min at 175°C and take out once a knife comes out clean.

Leave the brownies to cool and in the mean time make the honeycomb using this recipe (I halved the amount) and the syrup by combining 2 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp Yuzu juice 15-20 chopped kumquats. Leave to simmer for about 5 min, cool slightly and drizzle over the still warm brownies.

* optional as not very easy to obtain, try Japanese supermarkets for it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

8 secrets MeMe

So I got tagged by The Swiss Job ages ago for this meme to reveal 8 secrets no one else knows about me. It took me a while to think us some stuff no one knows and is still interesting so this is what I've come up with....

1) When I was 5, a girl in our town broke her leg and got loads of pressies and attention from everyone. I got (a bit) jealous and decided I wanted attention to so for about a week, I tried to break my leg by jumping off a wall that was about 70 cm high. I guess I had no concept of what it meant to break a bone and all the pain involved and am grateful I didn't succeed.

2) Another jumping story: about a year later, we were playing in kindergarden by jumping off a box that was again about 70 cm high. I don't know what happened but somehow I was not going fast enough according to the guy behind me so he pushed me. I fell and in the shock I managed to bite my tongue in half between my molars. My dad had to come get me and said it was a horrible sight with blood everywhere. The only thing I remember is that I wasn't allowed to talk for a few days (very difficult!) and had to have this horribly bitter disinfectant stuff put on the cut every day but was allowed a spoonful of sugar afterwards.

3) I love pickles, so much so that I used to secretly drink sips of vinegar but I was very selective, only gressie essig herb vinegar please! available at selected Coops near you.

4) The final year of my PhD, I sent a request to the Nobel Conference in Stockholm if I could please attend even though I was 2 weeks past registration deadline. Instead of rejecting me, they invited me to give a seminar as they realized they should have invited my boss! So I had 2 weeks to prepare a seminar to talk in between the greats in the field....very very terrifying but a great honor as well.

5) I've played the harp since I was 8 years old. It all started when we went on a trip in kindergarten to a rehearsal of the Geneva orchestra. I saw a lady with a harp and was determined I wanted to play this instrument. In Geneva there were no teachers (that we could find and I was still very young) but when we moved back to the Netherlands we found someone. My parents tried to deter me with a trial piano lesson first but with no success and so I ended up playing the harp. With all the moving the last few years I haven't played much but hopefully this will come again soon.

6) I'm terrified of needles and injections, just the thought of them makes me shiver, roll down my sleeves and start feeling queazy. So much so that when I stood in a cocktail stick when I was 11, I pretended I was fine so I didn't have to have surgery. My parents began to suspect something was wrong when I couldn't walk anymore 5 week later! I also got the mould for my crown fitted (copper bent around your tooth) without anastetic as the first injection didn't work but I pretended to be OK (very silly).

7) The first outdoor climb I did was called the Inaccessible Pinnacle. Pretty impressive if I do say so myself. So much so it took about 45 min of talking/shouting to get me off it as I was terrified of the drop!

8) The grossest thing I ever ate were fermented quid intestine whilst living in Japan. I was told it was a delicacy but it was pretty smelly, slimy and the taste was just not nice. So at least I can say I've tried but also...never again!

So that's it not very terribly shocking I would say. I'm not tagging anyone but feel free to complete it if you want :-)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Blogging by Mail

The best way to cheer up a rainy Wednesday afternoon? Receiving my Blogging by mail package (kindly organized by Stephanie!) from the sunny state of Texas! I love these event where you not only get the excitement of a package....full of goodies (!) but you also get to know some other people out there in the blogging world that you haven't come across yet. My blogging partner was Jerry although, unfortunately, she forgot to include her blog in the package!?

I managed to hold off opening it till after I cycled home which was good, cause after being drenched down to my underwear (!Monday was still 30°C!) it was a great pleasure to open this box. The first thing I noticed was the lovely smell of honey! Jerry sent me a bottle of Texas's best honey and it had leaked ever so slightly tempting me with it sweetness but leaving lots in the bottle to enjoy. The other goodies were equally great from 3 different flavors coffee, orange pecan zest granola, Texas chewie pecan praline (they didn't last very long!) and the Austin spice company smoky hill mild salsa. This last one I had to beat Barry away from with a stick as I had plans last night and I wasn't gonna let him eat it! Finally, as she couldn't send me any peaches, Jerry also included a recipe for a grilled peaches Sundae which sounds absolutely fab and luckily we have a good supply of fresh peaches here so will make that this weekend. So this morning, whilst it was still raining, I enjoyed my cup of Venezuela estate coffee along with my granola ad feel ready to brave the rain again!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

First camping trip of the year

Last weekend we finally went on our first camping trip :-) I'd been dying to get away for ages but work has been mayhem recently, however last weekend we finally got the chance. After some advise from a friend, we headed to Luzern which is only 1 hour and 10 min on the train and situated at the Vierwaldstattersee. It was beautiful, the campsite (though very very busy) was right by the lake. We took a boat to Weggis where we got a gondola and train up to the top of the Rigi Klum from where we had beautiful views. We then walked down which was stunning. Sunday we swam in the lake and explored the beautiful city. So what did we eat?? When it comes to camping/walking I like things simple but tasty and the food needs to be durable (i.e. travel well).

For breakfast we got Gipfili (croissant) from the campsite shop and ate them with some cherry jam. For lunch I had made these muffins and this bananabread (both traveled great and were very tasty) and we supplemented with some aged Alpkäse to we bought from a local farmershop.

In the evening, after some local beers and a few nibbles, we had a one pot dinner of fresh pasta with mozzarella, tomato and baerlauch pesto which came together within 10 min. Just bring water to the boil, add pasta and cook 2-3 min. In the mean time chop the rest of the ingredients. Drain pasta, add the rest and leave in the warm pan for a few minutes. Best shared from the pan with a fork!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

BreadBakingDay #2

In the nick of time for the second edition of baking bread hosted by Columbus foodie...I've been very excited about baking bread since last January. Before that, I'd been baking bread, but somehow it always seemed very time consuming, which I don't mind if the result is great but it never turn out as good as expected. Then, a friend and I went on a half day bread baking course at Migros. This is not only one of the main supermarkets in Switzerland, but they also run many courses on a wide variety of topics at their ClubSchule.

The course was in German (good practice for me) but our teacher also spoke good English and she was happy to explain again or answer any of my questions when my German knowledge fell short. It was a great set up with some theory but also lots of practice and tasting and by the end of the day, I felt very confident and I took a few essential tips home which have made the baking fantastic since then!
1) Make sure to mix sugar/salt and fat well with the flour before adding the yeast (as the little yeasties like it in diluted form but not pure)
2) You can use dry and fresh yeast interchangeable and there is no need to pre-start it as long as you kneed well.
2) The batter needs to be quite wet and just not sticking to your fingers, but when you poke it, a little bit should stick temporarily (I used to make mine way too dry!)
3) To speed up rising, either put your bowl in a sink of lukewarm water or heat the oven up to 50°C, turn it off and place the dough in there.

So for the bread with fruit, I chose to make a variation on a recipe for Schiacciata. This is a flat bread from Tuscany that can be made savory or sweet. I used some little Italian pears that have been on sale here that are quite hard (good for baking)but full of flavor. I wanted to eat these breads with some pear preserve I made and as that had some tonquin bean (or tonca; a fragrant black nutlike South American bean, you can substitute with vanilla) in it I also grated some through the batter to echo the flavors. They turned out really well, crunchy thin crust on the outside and soft and airy on the inside. They were great for breakfast with the preserve that just enhanced their flavors and for lunch with some goat cheese.

Schiacciata with pears and tonquin
250 g strong white flour
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
20g butter
10g fresh yeast (or 1 1/2 tsp dried)
±300 ml water
1 tonquin bean
oil for brushing

First, mix flour, sugar and salt, then add butter and mix again. Second crumble the fresh yeast into the flour and mix again. Finally add the water till everything comes together. Kneed for 10 min, leave to rest for 1 h (or use fast rising tips above), knock back, divide into 6 balls that you flatten and brush with oil. Leave to rise until puffy, then dimple the dough with your fingers. Brush again with oil and top with slices of pear. Bake at 200°C for 15 min till golden and crisp.

Pear and Tonquin preserve
450g pears
30g honey
225g sugar
1 grated tonquin bean
40 ml vinegar

Clean the pears and cut them into small pieces. Bring sugar, honey and vinegar to the boil, add the pears and grated bean then simmer for 1 hour. Place into clear, sterilized jars and store in a dark place.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Apricot and Pistachio Datschi

So, I found myself with another excess of fruit...not as"bad" this time but still a few kilos of apricots to deal with. I really fancied an apricot tart, had a look trough my books and made one where you make a pâte brisée sprinkle it with ground hazelnuts and layer the fruit on top. It was nice, but not what I wanted as I felt something more soft and spongy would be better. So I tried a recipe my mum sent me a while ago for and zwetschen datschi. Very easy and very tasty! I decided to add an Arabic hint with some rosewater and pistachios which worked well although the rosewater was very subtle. Also, I might add some ground cardamom next time. Baking really brings out the sweetness of the apricots that were nicely enveloped by the airy dough and the lemon rind added a nice freshness.I took it to a friends barbecue where it didn't last long and was enjoyed with fab food, Prosecco, some Rhine swimming and a stunning view of the Munster

Apricot ad Pistachio Datschi
125g butter
75g + 3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rose water
1 egg
pinch of salt
rind of 1 lemon
1 tbsp sour cream
200g flour
1 tsp baking powder
500g apricots
50 pistachios

Wash the fruit, cut them in half and set aside. Roughly chop/grind the pistachios with 3 tbsp sugar. Melt the butter and mix with the sugar, rosewater, egg, salt, lemon rind and sour cream, then sieve in the flour and baking powder. Mix well and spread over the bottom of a baking tray, layer the fruit on top and finally sprinkle with the nut/sugar mixture. Bake 30-40 min at 200°C.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Waiter, there's something in my....sauce!

Another round of WTSIM and this time Andrew chose the theme of sauce. I had just the recipe for it that I bookmarked a while ago in the April/May issue of Saveurs. They had a feature on alternative pasta sauces and one of them was bright green, made with frozen peas and rucola (rocket). I made a few alterations as I didn't see the point of using chicken stock in a vegetable sauce and I also didn't really fancy the half liter of cream they suggested (perhaps a typo??). So instead, I used vegetable stock and a much smaller amount of sour cream. It was really easy to throw together and apart from a few green spots on the wall from slightly fanatic bending left us with little to wash up. We ate it with fresh pasta and the taste was mild, creamy yet fresh from the rucola. It tasted great with fresh pasta and I'm sure would be nice with some grilled chicken or fish. In any case, I definitely got my vitamins today :-)

Green Pea and Rucola sauce (serves 4 royally)
1 onion
300g frozen peas
400ml vegetable stock
150g rucola
4 tbsp soured cream
pepper and salt

heat a bit of olive oil in a pan, fry the onion till soft. Add half of the peas and leave 2-3 min, then add the stock. Boil for 5 min, add the rucola and when this has wilted blend everything to a chunky consistency. Add the cream, rest of the peas and season with salt and pepper.

Note: depending on the consistency you want, you can always add less stock at the beginning, then increase the volume if you prefer it thinner

Sunday, July 22, 2007

More dumplings

Johanna definitely started something with her dumpling challenge! At the time, I was sure which ones I wanted to make and they were great, but ever since then I've started to crave more. One of the first other recipes I tried was one I saw ages ago on the first blog I ever read. I was living/working in Tokyo at the time and totally obsessed with anything to do with Japanese food. So whilst looking for recipes I came across a blog. Not quite sure what they were yet but became sucked in quickly by the beautiful pictures and variety of recipes and started reading on a regular basis. Then one day, this post appeared and I really wanted to try it but was in the middle of moving continents, looking for apartments and trying to settle into Scottish life again. Also, it didn't help that original recipe the was in Japanese! Over the years, it disappeared from my mind but when making the dumplings last month, I suddenly remembered it again. So with help of an online translator and some guidance from a similar recipe I figured it all out. Some things are still a bit of a puzzle, for example the ear lobe texture description ended up in a feel and compare action but apart from that, they were easy to make.

The dumplings were great, stoggy with a nutty center thanks to the black sesame seed (available from most asian supermarkets) paste but in total still fresh thanks to the lime juice syrup. Perfect for the weather that is not summer nor spring/autumn.

Black sesame dumplings with lime syrup makes 8-10
For the syrup:
40 ml sparkling white wine
100 g sugar
juice of 1 lime
top up to 100 ml with water

For the dumpling:
120g glutinous rice flour
100g water
50g black sesame seeds
22g unsalted butter
28g sugar
pinch of salt

Grind the black sesame to a rough paste in a mortar or blender, then add the butter, sugar and salt and mix thoroughly. Put this into the freezer to harden so it's easier to make balls for the filling. In the mean time, combine water and sugar for the syrup, heat to melt the sugar and leave to cool, then add sparkling wine and lime juice. Make the dough by mixing flour and adding water gradually until it has the tenderness of the ear lobe (I love this sentence!). Divide into balls and roll out. Place some of the filling on top and close the ball. Boil in almost boiling water until they float then serve warm covered with the syrup.

Note: I ended up with less liquid than on the pictures of both recipes, it was ok but a little more would have been nice so next time I think I'll make 1.5-2x as much

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Summer snacks

A quick and short post for this months blog party which is not very social, I know. Specially not as it's the 2 year anniversary!! But life is terribly busy at the moment with grant writing for work and some other stuff in the pipeline too. So my entry is short but sweet: this watermelon refresher based on this recipe but spiced up a bit with some sparkling white wine and mint. To go with it there are little squigly squids (with legs for me, without for Barry) coated in flour with a bit of chili and stuffed with stirfried onion, chili, fish sauce, sugar and thai sweet basil (this is added at the end). Very very tasty and for me they capture the spritit of summer perfectly! And with the drop in temperature predicted (again!) I'm desperately holding on to that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Celebrating summer

Summer's finally here but for how long nobody knows, so we made the most of it by having a barbeque on our balcony on Saturday. I felt like having Eastern Mediterranean food so made lamb koftes by spicing lamb mince with a mix of harissa, chili, cinnamon,ground ginger, nutmeg and fresh coriander then binding it together with a beaten egg and some flour. To accompany this was a roasted garlic tzatziki where you mix the classic grated cucumber, yoghurt and mint with a few cloves of roasted garlic and a grilled aubergine, pomegranate and tahini salad. This is based on a Claudia Roden recipe from a newspaper article that I couldn't find anymore. I roasted the aubergine, let them cool and cut them into chunks, they were then mixed with pomegranate seeds, tahini, pomegranate molasses and some za'tar spice mix.

But the star are these new flatbreads that you bake on the BBQ. I got the recipe from a free Harvey Nic's magazine when I was in London last May and they are so easy, all you need is a bit of time, but if you start this before you make all the other bbq stuff it should be plenty of time. They are absolutely delicious and you can vary the topings/contents endlessly to make them go with whatever you're having. So far, we've used sea salt, rosemary and a mix of nigella (black onion) and cumin seeds and I've been thinking about sweet toppings or perhaps even fillings like in the Peshwari naans.

Flatbreads (about 16)
2 tsp dried yeast
450 ml water (luke warm)
750g strong white flour
2 tsp salt
black pepper
50 ml olive oil

Dissolve the dried yeast in 50 ml of the water. Put the dry ingredients and oil in a bowl and mix well. Add the dissolved yeast and then the rest of the water and kneed this for about 10 min, either with dough hooks but I prefer doing it with my hand. Cover the bowl and leave to rise for about 1-2 hours, if you want to speed up this process, you can fill the sink with lukewarm water and place the bowl in there. When fully risen, knock it back and divide into 16 balls. Roll them out on into thin pita shapes. Leave to rise for another 30 minutes then bbq on coals for about 1-2 min each side till brown.

To add flavours, either kneed what you want to add into the dough or wet the dough just after rolling it out, sprinkle over the topping and press it into the surface.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Courgette heaven and hell

When the courgette plants on my balcony started blooming at the end of May I got terribly excited with visions of a big crop! However, as the weeks passed and I saw one after the other little courgette shriveling up I was getting pretty depressed. I tried everything, lots of water, little water even pollinating the flowers myself but there were no fruits developing. So instead we've started eating the flowers to make the most of these plants after all (although they have been very pretty and that in itself is a good enough reason to grow them). They are very tasty coated in a batter of egg, flour and milk then fried in some olive oil. But they become even tastier when they are stuffed with some mozzarella cheese and half an anchovy fillet before coating and fried. I also made a variation by adding parmesan cheese to the batter and stir fried them for a pasta bowl with union and tuna. So lots of enjoyment from these plants in the end and perhaps I won't wait so long next year before eating the flower.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Everything's peachy!

I know I know but I just couldn't resist the pun, just like I couldn't resist the huge box of peaches at Migros last Thursday. 3 kg for 4.90 chf (=£2.20;=€3)!!! now I couldn't walk past that. once home though I realized they needed to be eaten fast so we've had peaches for breakfast, lunch and dinner the last 5 days. Here are a few of the things we've enjoyed apart from just eating them as they are, sweet and juicy...

These little snacks were inspired on a dish Barry's mum served us for breakfast recently. A very unusual combination but I really like it. I topped a potato scones (or any type of bread) with cottage cheese and peaches that have been tossed with some white balsamic vinegar and basil. Very fresh and creamy.

Spicy poached peaches from the last issue of Marie Claire Idées (I love being able to just cycle to France to pick it up!). Very simply just boil some red wine with sugar, rosemary, vanilla and pepper for a few minutes. In the mean time peel the peaches and add them to the liquid for 10 min (if you want to peel them neatly you can put them into boiling water for a few minutes). Leave the peaches to cool in the liquid, then take them out and reduce the liquid to about half. Add a good glug of Crème de Cassis and pour over the peaches to serve.

Roasted peaches with lavender and lime mascarpone. Based on a recipe from the first Avoca cookbook, slice peaches in half, remove the stone and string the peaches onto some lavender (or rosemary) twigs. Then sprinkle with cane sugar and cognac and bake 15-20 min at 180°C. In the mean time, mix some mascarpone, lime zest and lavender sugar and spoon this into the hole from the stone.

And finally something we will enjoy in a few months a peach and ginger pickle from The perfect pickle book. Very simple to make with ginger, garlic, mustard seeds and red chilies but I'm sure it will taste great with a curry.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Who says men can't bake?!

I know, a bit of a sweeping statement, and if you look at the blogs out there it's definitely not true. But when I was growing up, my friends were always very surprised that my dad would regularly cook or even bake. He has a limited repertoire of his personal favourites that he makes extremely well so you always know (roughly) what you'll get but also always that it will be very good.

So what brought this post on? After Myriam's recent post about Amsterdam, we were discussing Dutch apple pie and I said my dad had a very nice recipe and I could share it with her. When I came back home to look for it, I realized I'd never written it down!! I know I attempted it several times when visiting home but of course always last minute before leaving to the airport and so was promised an email that never came ;-) To sort this out I phoned my dad last Monday and he promised to send it and a photograph as well. When he couldn't find this he decided to bake one for the occasion and take pictures "blog style"! I thought this was very sweet and definitely deserved a guest appearance here. Enjoy!

Henk's Dutch apple pie
-For the dough
250g flour
175g butter
80g sugar
2 eggs
-For the filling
about 750g apples (Boskop, Elstar or something firmish)
100g sugar
100g raisins/sultanas
30g shaved almonds
rind of 1 lemon

Mix butter, flour, sugar and 1 1/2 eggs to a firm dough. Leave to rest in the fridge 30 min. In the mean time, peel the apples, cut into chunks and mix them with the rest of the ingredients for the filling.

Roll out the dough, grease a high walled tin (10 inch/25 cm diameter) and cover it with the dough, cut off the overhanging bits and re-roll to use them later for the decoration on top. Fill the pastry with the apple mix, Add the lattice work (optional) and coat this with the leftover egg. Bake at 180°C for 60 min. Leave to cool slightly and serve with whipped cream.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The old reliable....

Last Wednesday we flew to Dublin for a wedding of two close friends of ours, but before this kicked off in Trinity chapel on Thursday afternoon, we sampled a few of the restaurants in town. I'd been looking forward to our dinner at about trying out RhodesD7, Gary Rhodes new restaurant. We'd heard good things about it but I have to say, I was slightly disappointed. Though located in a beautiful space, I found the service pushy and the food very mixed. Some things were lovely, like the carpaccio of beef and whitebait but then the risotto was still raw in the middle and the scallops overcooked and rubbery. The same was the case for the main courses. The sea bream was lovely but the steak overdone. Dessert was satisfying but I couldn't help feeling a bit short changed by the whole dinner. I feel the menu had great potential but it just didn't quite deliver and it's not the hardest food to cook.

So the next day, in stead of trying something new, we went back to my favorite breakfast/lunch/shopping place in Dublin....Avoca. I fell in love with this shop the first time I visited 5 years ago. From it's foodstuffs and cookbooks in the basement, via it's colorful soft rugs and pretty clothes, funny children's stuff and house accessories to the restaurant on to. It;s a lovely place to spend a few hours browsing, buying and eating. We had a great lunch packed with flavor, the staff was friendly as usual (offering the bread with my salad before I'd even thought of it), and the desserts were beautiful. Plus, if you really like the food (as I do), you can just buy the cookbooks and recreate it all at home (as I do)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Another day, another blog!

You might have noticed a small change on the blog, the crafty links on the righthand side have disappeared and there is a new link to my craft blog. I decided to start another blog to put some of the things I've been making recently and hopefully in the future. But as I didn't want to mix with the food posts, its over on The Crafty Shrimp. I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Finding Nemo, cocktail in hand...

So Blog party 23 hosted by Stephanie has the theme of Sci-Fi mixology. The inspiration I chose for this is perhaps not directly what you think about but somehow I couldn't get this image out of my head that I saw on a poster the other week. So my entry is based ona classic "science fiction" novel: twenty thousand leagues under the sea. Of course the famous captain Nemo was then reimmortalized by Disney a few years ago in the Finding Nemo movie.

So I use a pate brisee as a base, some egg whites flavored with lavender sugar (1 egg white-30g sugar put in a water bath at 100C in the oven for about 30 min) to make the ball and cut little fishes out of slices off peach. They were very easy to assemble and very pretty, if I do say so myself, although I think sweet finger food is perhaps not the best, they were more like petit fours.

The cocktail was based on this recipe made with homemade limoncello, sparkling white wine in stead of rose and I again used lavender sugar in stead of normal. This was really nice and I think, if the weather picks up we will be making this one a lot this summer.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A herby Irish breakfast

As I went a bit overboard with planting seeds this year, we have a huge excess of fresh herbs (I know...not a problem) so we've been eating lots of tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil salads, Thai basil stir fries and Japanese sisho with lots of stuff. At the same time we're clearing out our freezer and there was a huge supply of Clonakilty Blackpudding in there (what can you do with an Irish boyfriend but I've grown to love the stuff too). So on Saturday when the weather was looking decidly dreary we had herby potato pancakes with blackpudding for breakfast in preparation for our trip to the green isle next week.

I love potato pancakes! I'd never had them before I moved to Scotland but by the time I left I was totally addicted. Potato cakes with bacon and maple syrup, with sausages, with jam or just with plain old butter. They are all that is stodgy and wonderful in the world and make you feel all warm and happy inside.

Just take your left over potatoes (or often I boil some specially) add salt and pepper and in this case a large handful of fresh rosemary, thyme, sage and chives. Then add flour until it all holds together and if you're really indulging some sour cream or creme fraiche. Fry in a medium hot pan for about 5 min each side and you're in comfort breakfast heaven!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Waiter, there's something in my...Dumpling!

I was so excited when Johanna announced the theme for Waiter there's something in my....dumpling!! I've always loved them but never made them much. So I was contemplating which way to go and on our trip to Prague at the start of the month, I found my inspiration. Just off the Old town square we saw a string with some funny looking rolls around it and as we were in desperate need of a drink and snack after seeing all the beautiful architecture we sat down. They were called Staroceske Trdlo and are made of sweet yeasty dough, rolled around a metal ring and into a mix of ground almonds and sugar. This is then roasted over gas and eaten warm. They were so yummy, and we had quite a few over the weekend to keep the energy up with all the sight seeing.

So I decided to make a dumpling covered in this mixture, but to make it a little bit more special I filled it with half an apricot, a bit of sugar, almonds and ginger (inspired by these tarts that I've made lots). They were a breeze to put together although I was a bit surprised how big they became and we ended up eating way too much but tasted great. I liked the little hint of ginger, the freshness of the apricot and the caramely sugar on the outside. I think I'll be embarking on a dumpling filled summer after this!

Apricot, ginger and almond dumpling (makes 8 fairly big ones)

For the dough
400 g flour
50 gr fresh yeast or 1 sachet dried
1 tsp sugar
about 200 ml milk
pinch of salt

For the filling:
4 apricots
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp roughly ground almonds
1 tsp ground ginger

For the outside:
a mix of 2 part sugar, 1 part ground almonds

Put the flour into a bowl, mix the sugar and salt in and crumble the yeast into it. Add the fluid and work till you have a nice soft, springy dough. Cover and leave to rise for about 1 hour (if in a rush, fill the sink with lukewarm water and leave the dough in that for 30 min) then divide into 8 pieces and roll them out into a circle. Cut the apricots in half and mix the sugar, ground almonds and ginger together. Put half an apricot onto each piece of dough and fill the place of the stone with the ginger mixture. Roll into the dough and leave to rest for 5-10 min. In this time, bring a big pan of water to the bowl. Add the dumplings and boil for about 8-10 min, lift out and roll in the sugar-almond mix. Enjoy whilst still warm.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Yeah, my EBBP package finally arrived!! I came home on Tuesday and waiting on the table was this box full of lovely food. Tommy assembled a great variety of British sweets which was a lovely reminder of the UK for us. Barry pretty much devoured the liquorice all sorts and pink wafers and I'm enjoying a lime boiled sweet with a chocolate centre every day after lunch. The crisps also didn't last long as they were a great variation from the usual natural or paprika you get here (I never thought I'd miss the weird and wacky UK flavours). Tomorrow we'll have a BBQ so we can try out the fancy ketchup which looks very good. Another great edition of EBBP hosted by Johanna. I look forward to the next one :-)

Monday, June 18, 2007

London eats and summer noodles

Ok, it's been a while ago but at the end of May I went to London to meet up with two close friends, we had traveled together through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and India two years ago but hadn't seen each other for ages. It only took about 2 min and we were back to our normal chatting, tea and cake routine! We had a great weekend full of shopping food and musea starting on Friday with Portobello road, books for cooks and the spice shop (a true treasure trove). Books for cooks was amazing, first we had lunch in their cafe part, then I spent about 2 hours browsing (whist the girls were chatting) and they had to stop me from buying too much as I had to carry it all back in the handluggage. On the way back, we stopped for afternoon tea (we were in britain after all) at the Tea Palace. It was amazing, I had lovely kuchicha tea with an almond and blood syrup cake with Chai Masala ice cream. It was lovely, moist from the syrup and crumbly from the almonds. The ice cream was rich, creamy but not too sweet. After this, we went back to Sharon's flat where she cooked us our favourtite dinner, potstickers and buddah's delight.

On Saterday we went to Borough market, again the buying had to be stopped due to weight restrictions but we did sample lots of nice things. Then we walked along the Thames to the Tate modern, spent a few hours in there and visited the Japan centre where I stocked up on lots of foodstuffs that I just can't get here. In the evening we reminised about our travels over a great Vietnamese meal at Cay Tre (301 Old Street, London). We had many old favourites, fresh spring rolls, Bun Cha and Fish in Caramel sauce that came complete with flaming plate!

Sunday morning, we said hello to the dinosaur at thenatural history museum, visited the V&A where we saw the Kylie exhibition. This was great fun, lots of dancy happy music, nice costumes and more, which was just what we needed as we were getting a bit tired with all the trips. Had lunch in their beautiful cafe, walked past Harrods, Harvey Nicks and met up with other friends at a great wine bar. Finally we had a quiet night in and went to bed early as we had to get up at 5 to catch our planes. All in all a great weeked and I came back with lots of nice foodies to eat. One of them were these beautiful pink somen noodles. The first time I had these was when I was living in Japan taking a cooking class with Elisabeth Andoh in Tokyo. It was a focus on cold noodles for the hot summer and these were one of them. As the weather picked up drasticaly this weekend it was the perfect opportunity to make them. The dipping sauce is very easy to make, keeps well and can be used for all sorts of things. We enjoyed them on the balcony with their dipping accompaniments (the shiso were the first harvest from the balcony)...but as i was telling Barry, now that they're finished I just might have to go back to London to get some more :-)

Thin noodles on Ice serves 4

For the sauce
3 tbsp seasoned soy concentrate (see below) thinned with 1/2 cup dashi (also see below)
200g thin noodles
Ice cubes
For the condiments:
1 tsp peeled and grated ginger
4-5 shiso leaves, finely shredded
2 tbsp freshly toasted white sesame seeds, coarsly ground

Bring a large pan of water to the boil but leave room for more. When boiling, add a cup of water and repeat this step. Test if the noodles are cooked. Drain and rinse them under cold water. Place ice cubes in a bowl. Put the noodles on top and add water till they are barely floating. Divide the sauce over 4 small, deep bowls and add condiments to your liking. Lift noodles out of the ice water, then dunk them briefly in the condiments and sauce mix before slurping them.

Seasoned soy concentrate makes about 2/3 cup

5-6 large iriko (dried small sardines)
8-10 square inches kombu (preferably a high glutamate variety)
1 dried shiitake mushroom or stems from 3-4 mushrooms
1/4 cup dried thick bonito flakes or 1/2 cup tightly packed katsuo-bushi (fine bonito flakes)
2/3 cup soy
1/3 cup sake
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp mirin

Remove the black internal organs of the fish. Place iriko, kombu shiitake, kombu, bonito (only think ones, if using fine ones add later) and sake in a small deep saucepan and leave to infuse for 1-24 hours. Add the sugar, water, mirin to the pan and place over low heat. When the liquid begins to boil, reduce the heat to keep it from boiling too vigorously. As the sauce simmers, it becomes quite foamy, rising in the saucepan. Keep from overflowing and reduce by about 1/4 till it becomes syrupy. Remove from the heat and if using the fine bonito flakes scatter them into the pan now. Wait 2-3 min for them to sink, thin strain the liquid through a paper lined strainer. Reserve the solids and leave the concentrate to cool naturally, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month. Put the soy-drenched bits of kombu, fish and mushroom into a pan with 2-3 cups of cold water, bring rapidly to the boil, strain immediately and discard the solids. This will make the dashi.