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.