Thursday, April 19, 2007

British breakfast buns are best!!

I was very excited when I saw Sam would be hosting Fish and Quips to promote British food! I strongly believe the British Isles are totally underrated when it comes to food and defend them on many occasions, my boss even calls me a food Anglophile!! Having lived there for 5 years and now living with an Irishman (whose mother is an amazing cook!), I've had my fair share of great British cuisine.

One of my big loves are the breakfasts. And I'm not even talking about a proper fry with eggs, bacon, sausages, beans and more. This is very nice occasionally but gets very heavy, no I'm talking about the splendid selection of breakfast buns that can definitely compete with the Swiss Gipfeli (croissants etc). Give me a crumpet, english muffin or potato scone for breakfast any day. They are lovely just toasted with some butter or if you feel like it with jam or more.

One of my first encounters with these buns were crumpets. I had them at a friends house in highschool (they were English). They had gotten them from the Marks and Spencers store in Amsterdam (now sadly closed) and I was fairly sceptical about this holey pancake like "thing", but once I had bitten into the first toasted one with butter, I was hooked! I love the combination of the spongy top with the crisp bottom and all the holes are a great place to collect whatever you're speading on it. Living here now, they are not so easy to get but I've discovered with the help of Delia that they are very easy (and lots of fun) to make. I love watching them intently and being surprised by dozens of bubbles popping through the surface, just as you thought it wasn't going to happen.

Crumpets makes about 12

275 ml milk
55 ml water
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp dried or 20g fresh yeast
225 g flour
1 tsp salt

Let all the ingredients come to room temperature. Put the flour in a bowl, then add the salt and sugar and mix well. Crumble/add the yeast (depending on the kind you're using) into this and again mix well. Then stir in the liquid gradually until you have a nice smooth batter. Cover with a tea towel and leave to stand for about 1 hour. If you're in a rush, fill the sink with lukewarm water and leave it in there for 30 min. To cook the crumpets, use egg rings that are well greased. When the pan is hot, pour about 1 tbsp of the mix in each ring, let them cook for 4-5 min until bubbles start appearing on the surface. These will then burst into the traditional holes. Now lift the ring off and turn the crumpet over and cook for about 1 min on the second side. Repeat this with the rest of the batter.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A foraging trip in the Jura

Last Sunday we went on a walk in the Jura. We took the train to Delémont, which is about 30 minutes from Basel, and followed a path through beautiful valleys and over cols to Laufen. Partially, to get out of Basel, partially because it was such a glorious day but also because this is the season for Baerlauch.

Also known as wild garlic, this plant grows rampant in the forests around here. The first time I'd read about it was in last years Delicious where they had an article about young spring greens. At that point I realised that this is what you used to smell when you went walking along the river in Balmarino, near Dundee, but somehow I never made it back during the season. Then suddenly I saw some in our local Bio shop but I really wanted to pick our own. I thought it would be hard to find but we ran into it within the first 15 minutes. It was amazing how much there was and Barry had to stop me from picking too much.

In the end, I picked about 400g which was tonnes, so the whole week we've been eating garlicy. My poor collegues! It started with some garlic mashed potato with our roast chicken dinner by just adding some chopped leaves at the end. Then I mixed a few leaves in with my lunchtime salad for several days. I managed to make 2 jars of wild garlic pesto using equal weights of leaves, pine nuts, parmagiano and twice as much olive oil. We had this with pasta and on brushetta and it's very nice although slightly more potent than the basil stuff. We also made this recipe for ravioli stuffed with wild garlic and ricotta. To some I added some chopped walnuts for a change in texture and taste. The nuttiness contrasted very well with the sharp taste of the garlic and the creamy ricotta. Then tonight, we finally finished the last of the leaves by making a recipe from this isusue of Delicious. It's a stirfry with clams, peas shoots and wild garlic. As I couldn't find pea shoots, I substituted with some nice lettuce and mangetous. I was surprised to find these clams in Basel, but Manor sold them, although I had to swallow briefly at the price! 27chf for a kilo. But they were well worth it!

Clams with peas and wild garlic
serves 4 as starter or 2 as main
1kg fresh clams
1/2 tbsp oil
1 large spring onion
leaves from 2-3 thyme sprigs
100g frsh or frozen garden peas
1/2 tbsp rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
125ml vegetable stock, hot
handful of mangetouts
handful of wild garlic leaves trimmed and roughly chopped

Wash the clams under cold running water, discarding any open or broken ones. Heat oil in a large pan or wok and when hot, add chopped spring onion, thyme and garden peas. Stirfry for 1 min, then add all the liquid and the clams. Cover with a lid and leave to steam for 3-4 min, or until all the shells are open. Discard any clams that haven't opened. Uncover, add the mangetouts and wild garlic and leave till wilted. Check for seasoning and add salt if necessary. We ate this with pasta as a main course.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Waiter, there's something in my ... Easter basket!

When we were younger, we always knew Easter was coming when a big beautiful chocolate egg like this one appeared at home. These would come from my dad's latest trip to Geneva. Luckily for us, he had to go there a few times a year for work resulting in a steady supply of great chocolate! The bottom half of the egg would be made out of solid chocolate and the top was covered in parlines and truffels. The total was topped off with a huge bow, which my brother and I claimed/argued owership over . Now I've grown up and I know it's a pretty commercial event (especially here, with aisles of decorations) but still I can't help but get excited about the huge display of chocolate that the shops have put on.

And as Johanna is hosting this months rendition of Waiter, there's something in my ... Easter basket it only seems fitting that the first item will be chocolate. But as this isn't very exciting - to prepare that is - I also include two more Swiss traditional Easter customs/dishes. The first one is Osterfladli, a creamy custardy tart containing golden sultanas encased in a crunchy puff pastry that is eaten specially around this time. We'd had it a few times over the last few weeks in the bakeries and I was interested to make one myself. I used a recipe from my Swiss cookbook and was surprised to find that it's made using old bread. I also didn't realize it was a slightly more complex then a normal custard. But it's well worth the little bit of extra effort both for the taste and the texture. My only problem with the recipe was that I couldn't figure out how long to bake the tart for. My recipe called for a "sic" or 5 quarters of an hour?? I figured this would be 75 min? But after 1 hour the top of my tarts were very brown instead of a golden easter yellow I've seen in the shops so I took them out. They still tasted fine and weren't burnt but still. I'm not sure if this is a problem with my oven but just keep an eye on them. I was also sceptical about not baking the puff pastry blind but the long baking time made this really nice and crunchy. I just dusted the top with a little bit of sugar to hide the brown. The end result was scrummy anyway, with the occasional raisin popping up for a texture/taste change. They were even better the next day and I prefer these to the shop ones.

The second is dyed eggs. The Swiss love their eggs, on their Rosti or just as is. The whole year round you can buy boiled, dyed eggs but the last few weeks, the piles of trays have been getting bigger and more prominent in the shops, there are lots of kits for sale to paint or dye them. In addition, in the local pubs (the traditional Swiss ones) you can find little trays of them on the table that you can help yourself from and pay when you leave. This is where I first saw eggs dyed the old fashioned way. beautiful brown coloured eggs with patterns of grasses and flowers on them. So I decided to dye mine this way too. I saved some onion skins and picked some flowers. I wasn't quiet sure what to tie mine up with so I used an orange net, which gave a nice added effect in the pattern (but I guess for a clean finish some linen would be better. Then boiled them like they were normal eggs. I was quite pleased with how they turned out, although they were a bit more blurry than expected but I guess this will come with practice....and they tasted great on our walking/foraging trip today (but more about that some other time)!

Easter tart, makes 6 small ones
25g White bread (without crust)
1 egg, separated
65g coarsly chopped almonds
65g sugar
25g golden sultanas
175 ml cream
125g puff pastry

Heat the over to 180°C. Crumble up the bread and soak this in milk. Pour off the excess liquid and mix in a large bowl with sugar, almonds and egg yolk. Add the dried fruit to the mix. Whip the cream into soft peaks and in a seperate bowl, beat the egg whites till stiff. Fold the cream into the mixture and finally the egg whites. Roll the pastry out thinly and line 6 buttered mini quiche pans. Pour the mixture and bake for 1 hour (keep an eye on this, might need longer/shorter).