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!