December 31, 2015
Much like the recipes for Kalte Schnauze and shortbread, this was one of the required Christmas baking items of my childhood. They are a quintessential Canadian treat named after the city of Nanaimo ("Nan-EYE-mo") on Vancouver Island, and these days are available year round in bakeries across Canada (sometimes in disconcertingly large serving sizes). You can get them with non-traditional flavours added to the filling - orange or mint or caramel, for example - but I've always preferred the standard version.
For the pan, I always use my 7x11" Pyrex glass baking dish, but I note that the original recipe called for a 9x9" pan, so either would do. Of course, the area of a 7x11" pan is 4 inches smaller, so the bars will be a tiny bit thicker. We always used a 7x11" pan, and I don't think I ever noticed that it was technically the wrong pan size.
Did I mention that these are no-bake? You do need a stove top, but not an oven.
Makes a 7x11" pan
Prepare your pan. For easy removal, a strip of parchment paper works well. Grease the sides with a thin skim of butter.
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups graham wafer crumbs*
1 cup unsweetened, dried shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Put the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and beaten egg in a bowl (or the top of a double-boiler), and set the bowl over hot water, stirring until the butter has melted and the mixture resembles a thick custard. If your butter is very cold, chop it into small bits to facilitate the process.
Remove from the heat, and add the crumbs, coconut, and walnuts. Stir rapidly and thoroughly (I find a fork is the best tool here), to incorporate all of these dry additions into the mixture, until it becomes a damp, crumbly mixture without any dry spots. Turn it out into your prepared pan, spread it evenly across the bottom, and then pack it down tightly with your hand (as evenly as possible). Don't be afraid to press firmly - that will help it hold together later, when you're slicing it. Set aside, and make the filling.
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups (500 grams) icing sugar
2 tablespoons custard powder (We always used Bird's Custard Powder)
3 tablespoons whole milk
Put all of the filling ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, and mix until smooth. A hand mixer is really the easiest tool for this, and if your icing sugar is really old and clumpy, you might want to sift it first, for best results.
The result should be a thick, stiff butter icing, slightly yellow from the custard powder. Dollop the icing onto the chocolatey base, and spread and smooth it until it evenly covers the base layer.
Let the filling harden for at least 15 minutes at normal room temperature, 30 minutes is better (gives you time to clean a few dishes, or make a whole different recipe).
200 grams dark/bittersweet chocolate (75%)
1 3/4 tablespoons butter
Melt the chocolate and the butter together, stirring until smooth. You can use the double boiler, a pan directly on the stove over low heat, or the microwave, however you prefer to melt chocolate. Just don't burn it. I just use a small pan directly on the stove.
When the butter and chocolate is melted and smoothly combined, pour it evenly over the surface of the filling layer, using a spoon or a spatula to spread the chocolate quickly and evenly over the whole surface, before it begins to set. I always pour the chocolate so that it falls onto the spoon, held right above the filling layer, so it sort of floods over the edges of the spoon and doesn't hit the filling from a height. That's possibly an unnecessary precaution, but that's my method.
Now the difficult part: The whole thing needs to set, preferably at cool room temperature (pantry, root cellar, that sort of thing) before you can slice and serve. Once it has cooled completely to room temperature, we normally slip a plastic bag over it to keep dust etc. off, and put it aside at least overnight. Far better if you can bring yourself to wait an extra day or two (my mother would try to hide it in the pantry for a couple of weeks when we were small). We've never kept it in the fridge -- it usually disappears far too fast to worry about it getting stale anyway.
When you're ready to serve it, run a sharp knife along the un-papered edges, and then lift the parchment ends straight up to lift the whole thing out at once. Transfer to a cutting board, paper and all, and slice as you wish. I find that quite tiny squares, the size of large truffles, are perfect, although as a child I always wanted much more than that. You can also leave them in the pan, and just slice and lift squares as you go, but I'd usually rather free up the pan.
Below is our family's original recipe, in my mother's handwriting. You will note a couple of differences - mostly in the somewhat expanded directions, and a thicker layer of chocolate for the top layer (which makes it easier to spread evenly over the surface). Of course, you could make it the more frugal way with only 4 ounces/114 grams chocolate and one tablespoon of butter, but that does result in a very thin layer of chocolate on the top. I note that the adjustment from 2 cups to 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs was my mother's correction to prevent the base layer from being too dry and crumbly.
*Living in Germany, it was a challenge to find an appropriate substitute for graham crackers - crumbs or otherwise. I eventually settled on Leibniz Vollkorn Kekse, and used my chef's knife to finely crumble them. It turned out really well, and I would use that substitution again.
November 22, 2015
It's that time of year again. Canadians have already had Thanksgiving, Americans are just revving their KitchenAid™ motors and/or checking travel schedules.
Cranberry sauce has a place on many of our holiday tables. In North America, wherever there is a roast turkey, cranberry sauce must not be far behind. For some folks, it's as easy as opening a can and upending the contents into a bowl, and for others, it takes a little more time, but really not by much. Plus, you can make it ahead. Freeze it, if you're really super organized (labeled, of course) or just store it in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days before the big event.
This version is made with a bit of orange juice instead of water, and a splash of sherry (optional) at the end. It takes about fifteen minutes to make. If you like your cranberry sauce sweet, go with the full amount of sugar. If you prefer it tart, use the lesser amount. If you're not sure...well, you can always add more sugar later.
Cranberry Sauce with Orange & Sherry
340 grams fresh or frozen whole cranberries
3/4 cup - 1 cup sugar
3/4 cup orange juice
1 cinnamon stick
zest of one clementine, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dry sherry (optional)
If you are using fresh cranberries, rinse them in cold water, and discard any that are overripe (discoloured, already squishy), and pick out any bits of stem, if necessary. Drain.
In a large saucepan (do not be fooled into using a small one! You want high sides to keep hot sugar from splashing and burning you) over medium heat, dump the cranberries (fresh, frozen, or defrosted), sugar, cinnamon stick and orange juice into the pan. Using a long-handled wooden spoon, stir it about and let it come up to a simmer. Add the zest, stir through, and let the mixture bubble and spit for about ten minutes, until all of the cranberries have swollen up and split open, and then about five minutes longer, stirring periodically. Taste the mixture carefully, by spooning some onto a cold spoon, letting it cool down, and then tasting. If you want to add a bit more sugar, by now you should be able to tell. If you want more sugar, add it and cook for another five minutes, until fully dissolved.
Take the pan off the heat, and stir in the sherry. Let the mixture cool (it will thicken up a lot as it cools, and the natural pectin in the cranberries has a chance to set). When it has cooled down to your satisfaction, put it in a serving bowl and cover with plastic or a sealable fridge/freezer container, and store in the fridge until ready to serve (or ready to transfer to the freezer). It will set up very firmly, so you may wish to stir it about before serving.
If you prefer your cranberry sauce warm, you can reheat in a saucepan it over low heat, or in the microwave (in the appropriate kind of dish, partially covered, so rogue cranberries don't explode all over the interior).
There you have it: a glistening jewel on your holiday table, and absolutely fantastic on turkey sandwiches the next day.
November 17, 2015
This delicious stew is built using my base model for meat stew: brown the meat well on at least two sides, braise the meat with onions for a good long time, add vegetables and cook until tender, season to taste.
We had this bread the first night with thick slices of rye bread from our bakery, but just about any kind of bread would be good with this. The remaining half-batch of stew was put into a freezer container to be pulled out later in the month when we're feeling particularly in need of an effortless, homemade meal. Depending on my energy level at the time, I might, or might not, decide to make biscuits or dumplings to go along with the stew.
In Germany, the supermarkets and farmers' markets have a pretty wonderful concept: Suppengrün. Literally translated, it means "Soup greens" and consists of a single bundle containing at least a wedge of celeriac, a few carrots, a section of leek, and some parsley. Some of them will have part carrots and part parsnips, and some of them will add a whole bundle of fresh herbs instead of just the parsley, but that's dependent on the individual character of the vendor. The basic version is always available, and is nicely sized for one pot of soup or stew. This is not only perfectly sized for small German fridges, but also helps keep food waste to a minimum. One package of Suppengrün just exactly what you need for a recipe without having to buy a whole bag of carrots, for example, or an enormous celery root or bunch that you might not be able to use up in time before it gets squishy in the vegetable drawer. It takes care of the crisper portion of the mirepoix in one item, and even the fancier ones are well priced. I hope this idea catches on worldwide.
Lamb & Guinness Stew
Serves 4 - 6, depending on sides
900 grams cubed lamb shoulder, lightly salted
1 tablespoon peanut oil (or other oil for frying)
1 large yellow onion, diced medium
1 small leek, white part only, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced celeriac or 2 stalks of celery, diced
3 large carrots (or a mixture of carrots and parsnips)
2 large waxy potatoes
1 can or bottle of Guinness
2 cups lamb or beef broth or stock
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon white pepper, ground
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat, and when hot, add the oil. When the oil is also hot, add a sparse layer of lamb cubes, and allow to sear on one side, before turning to sear on a second side. Remove the lamb from the pan to a holding plate, and repeat until all of the lamb cubes are seared on two sides. Add the diced onion, the leek, the bay leaves, and the minced garlic to the fond in the empty pot, and add a little splash of water if necessary to prevent scorching. If you are using stalk celery instead of celeriac, add that now, too. Stir and scrape up the brown fond in the bottom of the pot, until the onions are starting to turn translucent. Add the tomato paste, and stir through again, being careful not to let it burn. Add the Worcestershire sauce, the mustard seeds, and the ground white pepper, and stir through.
Then, add the Guinness, and stir through, making sure to scrape up the bottom of the pot very thoroughly. Add the lamb or beef broth or stock (it's okay to use a good quality concentrate that you like the flavour of), and return the seared lamb to the pot. Simmer, covered at a low temperature for 1.5 hours, for meltingly tender lamb.
While the lamb simmers, prepare the remaining vegetables. Peel the carrots and cut them into large bite-sized chunks. Same for the potatoes. The celery root should be heavily peeled, and diced fairly small.
When the lamb is tender, combine the flour and the half cup of water in a small, sealable container, and shake vigorously (holding it shut the whole time) to make a smooth slurry. Pour it into the dutch oven and stir it through. It will not look very appealing, at first, and it won't do much to thicken the stew until it comes up to a full simmer, but it needs to go in now because it takes about a half-hour to cook out the raw taste of the flour.
Add the prepared vegetables, stir through, and bring up to a simmer again (the slurry and the cold vegetables will bring the temperature down very quickly). Turn the heat back down, cover the pot, and simmer for another 30 - 45 minutes (testing larger chunks of carrots for doneness seems to work well). Alternatively, you can put it (covered) in the oven at 350 F for the same amount of time.
Serve with a fat slice of bread, or a bun, or biscuits, or dumplings. Leftovers, should you be so lucky, keep nicely in a sealed container in the freezer for up to a month without loss of quality. Be sure to cool the stew thoroughly before freezing, for best textural results. I like to leave it in the fridge overnight, and then transfer it to the freezer in the morning.
October 24, 2015
I've always enjoyed making breads - pancakes, biscuits, tortillas, pizza crusts, sandwich loaves, challah, pita with self-forming pockets, crisp coiled flatbreads full of green onions...and of course, recently, bagels. I probably won't ever run out of new ones to try. The world is full of amazing bread.
This is the first time I've ever made crumpets, though. They are a quintessentially English bread that is cooked on a griddle or skillet rather than in the oven, and I can't find them easily in Germany. So, of course I decided to make my own, especially as they've been on my list for quite a while, now. There is, however, a surprising number of recipes to be had. I read a lot of them online, and combed through my cookbook collection for good measure. I wanted something that was easy, didn't take too long, and yet had the true characteristics of a ideal crumpet - airy, with a nice holey structure throughout and a tender middle. I ended up hybridizing several recipes to create the one below, with a hat-tip to the Tesco website for providing the starting point for the ratios.
You will need crumpet rings, or egg-poaching rings, or some other food-safe way of corralling your batter in the pan. The standard size is about 3 inches or 7 3/4 centimetres diameter.
Makes 8 - 10
1 teaspoon canola oil
225 grams (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour (Type 505 in Germany)
150 ml whole milk
150 ml water plus extra as needed
1 teaspoon dried yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
50 ml warm water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Warm the milk and 150 ml water together until just pleasantly warm but not hot. While it heats, in a mixing bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt, and stir together well with a whisk to integrate and aerate the ingredients. Make a well in the centre, and pour in the warm milk-water mixture. Stir briskly with a whisk to get a smooth batter. It should be about the consistency of pancake batter, so if it is too thick, add another tablespoon or two of water to loosen it up.
Scrape down the sides and cover the mixing bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and put it someplace warm to rise. I use my oven, which I had turned on for a minute or two to warm up, and then shut off before using. Let the batter rise for 45 minutes.
Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spritz it with canola oil, or use a pastry brush to brush on a thin coating. Brush your crumpet rings lightly with oil, too.
While the pan is warming up, mix the warm water and baking soda together, then stir it quickly but thoroughly through the crumpet batter. The batter is kind of stretchy at this point.
When the pan is ready, add about three tablespoons of batter to each crumpet ring (I use a small ladle to scoop the batter), turn the heat down, and set your timer for 5 minutes. It might take as long as six or seven minutes, depending on how thick your batter and hot your pan is, so you need to watch them. Bubbles will start to form quite quickly, but you want to wait until they burst and become holes that stay visible, before removing the rings (using tongs or a glove, because they are hot!), and flipping the crumpets over.
Let the crumpets cook for about one minute on the second side, and then flip them over again and remove to a rack to cool.
Bag them and store them in the fridge once cooled.
They toast up beautifully for breakfast or afternoon tea - top them with a little butter, with or without jam, or a slice of good sharp cheese. You could also use them as a base for poached or fried eggs, of course. Perhaps even some sort of unholy breakfast sandwich. It's up to you.
October 13, 2015
Pumpkin pie represents such a beloved combination of flavours in North America that we're apparently even happy to consume it as a latte (okay, maybe not all of us), or (better still) beer.
It is also a staple long associated with harvest season feasts such as Thanksgiving and Hallowe'en - eminently sensible, since this is when pumpkins are ready for cooking. There's a lot of great options for pumpkin desserts - everything from flan to mousse, and that's not even counting the muffins, quick breads, and scones. My sister makes a fantastic pumpkin cheesecake, with a baked on sour cream topping, but that's a lot more advanced than this simple pie, which is just a single bottom crust and a filling that could best be described as mix-and-pour.
Somehow, though, pie remains the classic pumpkin dessert. This one is a little bit tangy from the crème fraîche, sweet (but not breathtakingly so), and not too dense. If you prefer mild spices, reduce the cinnamon to 1 teaspoon and the ginger to half a teaspoon. You can substitute ground cloves for the allspice, if you like.
Makes 1 pie
1 single pie-crust, unbaked
425 grams pumpkin puree (unsweetened, unseasoned)
3 large eggs
1/3 cup raw sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
200 grams crème fraîche
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
Make your favourite single pie crusts recipe (or try the one shown here), and line a standard 23 cm pie-plate, folding and crimping the edges under if you like, or even simply pressing them gently with a fork against the top edge of the plate, if you want to go super simple.
Once the crust is in the pan, preheat your oven to 425 F / 225 C.
In a medium-large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until smooth (I use a whisk, but you could also use a food processor). Remove a tablespoon or two into a separate ramekin dish and set aside. Add the sugars to the mixing bowl, and beat until smooth. Dissolve the cornstarch in the rum, and add to the eggs and sugar, and stir through. Add the pureed pumpkin, the salt, and the spices, and stir until smooth. Finally, stir in the crème fraîche and mix until thoroughly combined. It will be a very pale orange at this stage, but it will darken up nicely as it cooks.
Put the pie pan on a baking sheet (or pizza pan) for easier handling. Use a pastry brush to paint the top edges of the crust with the reserved beaten egg. Pour any leftover egg into the pie filling, and stir it through.
Pour the thick pumpkin mixture into the unbaked pie shell, and give the pan a little jiggle to settle it evenly.
Move the pie (on its baking sheet) to a rack in the middle of the oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 F / 180 C, and bake for another 45 minutes. The pie filling should look kind of rounded, glossy, darker than it was, and still a touch wet in the middle. The middle might even still jiggle a bit, which is okay - this pie must cool for a couple of hours before being cut, and it will continue to cook as it cools, and it will set up very nicely during that time.
Remove the pie from the oven and place on a cooling rack. As the pie cools, the surface will flatten out, losing the slightly domed look for a completely flat surface. Sometimes cracks will appear in the surface, but that's fine - doesn't change the flavour (and you can always fill them with whipped cream if you like).
Wait a minimum of two hours before slicing and serving. Excellent with a cup of coffee, or a glass of bourbon. If you like, feel free to add a little whipped cream (or a lot).
Cover leftovers well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to three days.
September 20, 2015
Bagels always sounded like a lot of work. First you have to make the dough, then let it rise, shape, boil (!), and finally bake. And then there's the lye water, which is a separate sort of anxiety on its own. Lye is caustic and requires careful, safety-forward handling, which raises a additional barrier to being motivated enough to begin.
Happily, although there are lengthy-process recipes out there, you can absolutely make delicious bagels in only a couple of hours. I started these after breakfast, and we ate them for lunch.
I scoured around the internet for recipes, and finally hybridized the likely-looking ones into the recipe below. These are made partially with high-gluten flour, but you could as easily use only white bread flour instead. The extra gluten in bread flour helps these bagels develop their trade-mark chewiness.
These are somewhere between the aesthetics of New York style bagels and Montreal style. I make no claims to authenticity, so if you're a style hard-liner, this recipe may not be for you. If you happily eat any kind of bagel you encounter, I hope you'll give this one a try.
Lye Water Bagels
Makes 8 medium-large bagels
300 mL water, heated to wrist-warm
1/2 tablespoon honey
20 grams raw sugar
7 grams active dry yeast
10 grams salt
200 grams high-gluten or bread flour (such as German flour type 1050)
200 - 300 grams all purpose flour
1 tablespoon lye water* (I get mine from an Asian supermarket)
12 cups water
Cornmeal as needed
egg wash (optional)
This dough will be a very firm one, and I caution you not to all all of the flour at once, lest you make it too firm. I was a little careless myself, and added a bit more flour than I should have. The end result was that I had a tough time shaping my bagels, and one of the hand-looped ones came apart during boiling (it was still delicious).
Pre-warm the oven so that the dough will have a nice warm place to rise.
Into a large mixing bowl, dissolve the honey and sugar in the warm water. If the water is a bit hot, let it cool until it's pleasantly warm but not hot against the wrist. Sprinkle the yeast over the sweet water, and wait until it proves itself by foaming up and smelling yeasty.
Add the 200 grams of high-gluten (or bread flour) and the salt, and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until it is nice and smooth. Add 200 grams of the all-purpose flour, and stir it in, turning it out onto the work surface eventually, to knead it all in. If needed, add the remaining 100 grams flour a little at a time until you have a stiff dough.
Knead the stiff dough for 10 minutes, either by hand or with a very sturdy stand-mixer. If you are kneading by hand and are having a tough time, clean your hands thoroughly and oil them before continuing to knead. After ten minutes, smooth the dough into a compact ball and return it to the mixing bowl, which you have cleaned and lightly oiled. Roll the dough around in the bowl so that the surface of the dough picks up some of the oil. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap, and let sit until the dough has doubled in size - about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 Fahrenheit, with a rack in the middle slot.
In a large pot (I used my Dutch oven) on the stove, heat the 12 cups of water until boiling, and then add the lye water just before you add the bagels.
While the water is heating, shape your bagels. Squeeze the excess air out of the dough, and then divide into 8 equally sized (more or less) pieces. You can shape your bagels by making a dough rope (or "snake") and looping it into a ring by wrapping it around your hand, pressing the ends together very firmly, or by making a smooth ball of dough and then forcing your thumb through the centre, gradually expanding the hole until the desired doughnut-shape is achieved. I tried both, but found the second method a bit easier than the first.
Prepare a plate or wooden cutting board with a thin layer of cornmeal. Also prepare a baking sheet with a thin layer of cornmeal for the oven stage.
When the water is boiling, add the lye water, and then immediately add 2 or 3 bagels, carefully, by hand, and time them for one minute. After the minute, turn the bagels over, and boil for one more minute. Use a spider-tool to remove the bagels from the water, onto the cornmeal-covered cutting board. Add the next bagels into the water and start the timer again.
If you want toppings on your bagels - poppy seeds, or sesame seeds, or whatever - now is the time. Brush the tops of the just-boiled bagels with an egg wash, and press them upside-down into a plate of seeds/toppings. Place the bagels topping-side-up on the baking sheet.
Move all the boiled bagels onto the baking sheet, cornmeal-side down. Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Allow to cool for at least 15-20 minutes before eating.
We had ours with cream cheese, of course, and a heavy grinding of black pepper.
Once completely cool, bag up and store as you would any freshly baked bread.
*I should note that I may use more lye water next time, as I couldn't find a reliable guide to how much lye water to add to my boiling water. Most instructions assume you will be using a dry form of lye, which is more concentrated. A higher concentration of lye should make for a somewhat darker colour on the finished bagel.
September 13, 2015
Late summer through fall is chanterelle season here in Germany. You will see market stalls piled high with Pfifferlinge, as they are called here, and you will see specials on the chalkboard of almost every restaurant: chanterelles with dumplings (especially a variety called Serviettenknödel), chanterelles with pasta, creamed chanterelles on toast, and of course, chanterelle risotto.
The secret to a nice mushroom risotto is not to overcook the mushrooms. I like to fry a few decorative ones in butter to set aside to use as a garnish, and then sauté the rest for the main risotto itself. By sautéing the mushrooms first, before anything else goes in the pot, it's easy to remove the lightly sautéed mushrooms to a plate to add back in later, so that they don't get that wrung-out squidgy quality that happens with overcooked mushrooms.
As always, everything that is not a feature ingredient in a risotto should be so finely chopped as to not exceed the size of a cooked grain of arborio.
300 grams fresh chanterelle mushrooms
4 tablespoons salted butter, divided
2 shallots, finely minced (or small onions)
2 cloves of garlic, pressed or microplaned
220 grams risotto rice (I'm using Baldo here, but arborio is fine)
1/2 cup dry white vermouth (or dry white wine)
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or Kosher salt
4 cups warm vegetable stock/broth (or mushroom stock)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Clean your mushrooms and set aside the ones you want to use for garnish. Remove hard stem-ends from the rest, and roughly chop. Finely chop your shallots and press your garlic. Measure out everything else and have it standing at the ready.
In a large pot, such as a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and quickly fry the chanterelles reserved for garnish. Set aside, and then add the rest of the mushrooms to the pot. Sauté briefly, then set aside in a bowl until the risotto is almost finished.
In the same pot, add one more tablespoon of butter, and then add the shallots and garlic. Stir and sauté until slightly translucent, and then add the rice, stirring well to make sure none of the grains stick and burn. When the grains of rice are all coated with the butter and they start to catch at the bottom of the pan and a little golden colour starts creeping in to the bottom of the pan, add the vermouth (or white wine), all at once. Stir vigorously to make sure everything is scraped up from the bottom. Add the salt, and stir through.
The vermouth will disappear pretty quickly, so be prepared to start ladling stock into the rice. Use a small amount at first, just adding a little at a time, stirring well over medium heat, and waiting until most of the liquid has been absorbed before adding more.
When you are halfway through your stock, stir in the lemon juice. Continue to stir and add stock until you have no more liquid to add, and then return the reserved chopped mushrooms to the pot and gently stir through. Add the final tablespoon of butter, and stir through. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let stand for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the parmesan cheese. Spoon into shallow bowls and top with the reserved fried mushrooms, and maybe a little extra sprinkle of parmesan.
August 26, 2015
There are a lot of origin stories about Chicken Tikka Masala, and a lot of claims to ownership. As far as I can tell, there's no way to even verify which country the dish originated in, let alone the specific claimant.
Some folks will tell you that this is not a proper curry, but that is quite ridiculous. It may not be a historical dish, but it's in no way illegitimate because of that. It's delicious and acceptable and popular. At it's heart, it is derived from an Indian tandoori dish called Chicken Tikka - marinated chicken cooked in a tandoor (Indian clay oven), although according to Wikipedia, the Punjabi version is simply cooked over coals. The chicken is usually marinated in yoghurt and spices, and is typically cut into chunks and cooked on skewers. Where the masala bit comes in, is when you take a perfectly good (or maybe a little dry?) Chicken Tikka, and simmer it gently in a spiced tomato sauce, enriched with yoghurt at the end. There are, of course, many iterations, including one of the origin stories, which claims that an undiluted can of Campbell's Tomato Soup was the base of the sauce.
There is likely no place on earth where Chicken Tikka Masala is more popular than the UK, where it appears to be fast approaching (or even edging out) the traditional Sunday roast as most beloved national dish. You can get Chicken Tikka Masala pre-packaged sandwiches in the Tesco, which gives you an idea of the market penetration of the dish.
Versions of Chicken Tikka Masala that are made using commercial Tandoori paste often have a pink tone to the gravy and the outer surface of the chicken itself. Since that is derived using a food colouring that I don't usually have in my kitchen, I skipped it and simply went with a turmeric-forward spice mixture that is often used for Chicken Tikka. If yours must be pink, skips the spices listed below in favour of the commercial paste, and slather the chicken pieces liberally with it.
I don't have a tandoor oven, which is probably no surprise, nor do I have a kitchen set-up conducive to cooking with coals. This is my home kitchen version, adapted from many different sources, but this one from Palachinkablog in particular.
Chicken Tikka Masala
2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil, divided
400 grams boneless chicken, in chunks
2 tablespoons turmeric
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large onion, grated
4-5 cloves garlic, pressed
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
500 mL tomato passata (or unseasoned tomato purée)
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 cup full-fat plain yoghurt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
As always with Indian food, prep your mise en place completely before you start cooking. Put your basmati rice on to soak in its cooking water, too. Start to cook the rice just before you start to cook the chicken (unless you are using a rice cooker, in which case, time it to be ready when the chicken is done - about a 35 minute total cook time).
Combine all of the dry spices except the salt, and toss the chicken pieces in the mixture until they are all nicely coated. Set aside. You can do this in the morning, or at any point during the day, but bring back up to room temperature before cooking.
In a large skillet or a dutch oven, heat half the oil or ghee very hot and sear the chicken in batches, without cooking through, and remove the chicken to a holding plate as you go. When all the chicken is seared, add the rest of the oil and the grated onion, pressed garlic, and grated ginger, and any accumulated juices therefrom. Stir and scrape the pan, add the salt, and continue sautéing the onion mixture for about 5 minutes or so until just tender. Turn down the heat to medium-low and add the passata, and stir and scrape to ensure that the bottom is free of any stuck-on bits. After a couple of minutes, taste the sauce. If it is a little bitter from the tomato addition, add the sugar. If not, just proceed.
Add the seared chicken (and any residual spices) into the sauce, and turn the heat to its lowest setting. Let the chicken simmer very gently for 15 - 20 minutes. Take the pan off the heat. Combine the yoghurt and cornstarch and stir until smooth. Add a bit of the tomato sauce to the yoghurt, and stir it in, before adding all of the yoghurt mixture into the dutch oven. Stir through, watching to colour lighten and turn orangey. Cover and let the residual heat cook the cornstarch for about five minutes - just enough time to fry up some Indian-spiced Cabbage on the side, or make a fresh chutney or maybe a grated carrot salad, since your grater is already out. Your rice should also be done (and waiting patiently). If you happen to have some cilantro on hand, that would make a very nice garnish.
August 03, 2015
It has been a long time since I last made Southern Spoon Bread, which is an egregious oversight. This is one of the few recipes that I still have from my teen years, handwritten on a 3x5" index card, from when I realized that I should make my own copies of all of my favourite recipes. After making it today, I'm reminded how much I like it, and what an interesting option it can make to round out a dinner. Or a breakfast. Or a snack.
Southern Spoon Bread is a kind of cornbread, or a kind of baked polenta, or maybe a kind of soufflé; maybe it's all of these things.
It is leavened solely with beaten egg*, which gives it a moist, wobbly, delicate texture when it first comes out of the oven, as well as a soufflé's tendency to deflate almost immediately. Made without wheat flour, it is naturally gluten free (check your own cornmeal supply to verify, of course, if that's a concern), and it is so tender and soft that you need a big spoon to serve it up -- it won't hold its structural integrity well enough to slice in a more conventional manner.
Southern Spoon Bread
Serves 4 - 6
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons butter
1 cup milk
2 eggs, separated, whites beaten to soft peaks
Preheat your oven (rack in the middle slot) to 375 F / 180 C. Butter a 2 quart capacity shallow baking dish - I used a 7x11" Pyrex dish.
Separate your eggs, putting the whites into a large-enough bowl that you can use a whisk or mixer to beat them until they are soft peaks, and setting the yolks aside into a separate small bowl.
In a medium saucepan or cooking pot, heat the water over medium heat until just simmering. Add the cornmeal in a steady stream, whisking constantly, until smooth. Add the salt and continue to whisk and cook until the mixture becomes stiff and thick. Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter and roughly half of the milk, and continue to whisk until smooth.
Add the remaining milk to the egg yolks, and whisk until smooth, and then add the yolk/milk mixture to the cornmeal mixture, and whisk it in until the mixture is completely smooth and everything is integrated.
Add the beaten egg whites to the cornmeal mixture, and fold the mixture gently with a wide spatula until the egg whites are thoroughly incorporated without any clumps. Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes, or until puffed up and golden on top.
Serve immediately, spooning the bread onto individual plates.
If you have any leftover spoon bread, once it cools and sets more firmly you can slice it and fry it up in a skillet. You can serve it for breakfast (with or without syrup) or dinner alongside your main course.
*My original recipe is hardcore Southern-style, and does not call for the eggs to be separated, simply beaten well. If you choose this method, you might want to bump your oven temperature up to 400 F/200 C to ensure it puffs up nicely.
July 18, 2015
We're well into salad season. Every thought of actually cooking something when the temperature keeps spiking outside is accompanied by a shudder, and a look around for alternatives. Alternatives such as letting someone else do the cooking, perhaps, or maybe just preparing something that doesn't require heat.
This simple salad works really well as a dinner salad, or as a take-to-work/school lunch, takes very little time to prepare, and lets me continue my love affair with tahini unabated.
You could, of course, cook the chickpeas yourself, in which case do that however you like best. In the interests of a no-heat meal, however, this recipe is made with canned chickpeas (or, if you've got some home-cooked ones stashed in the freezer, by all means use those instead).
Chickpea & Carrot Salad with Tahini Dressing
1 400 gram can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
50 grams of grated carrot (about 1 medium)
1 green onion, finely sliced
1 cup loose-packed cilantro, washed and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons tahini (stirred well)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of half a lemon
1 clove garlic, pressed or pureed
1 tablespoon olive oil
cold water, if necessary, to made a thick salad-dressing consistency
This should all be pretty self-explanatory. In a large bowl, combine the salad ingredients (I hold the cilantro to the very end, though, and add it after the dressing).
In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients, mixing well with a fork (or one of those mini-whisks, if that's what you like). I didn't need to add water, here, but if you find your dressing is too thick or is clagging up (as often happens if you're down at the bottom of the tahini jar), add a little cold water, a tablespoon at a time, and stir until it becomes creamy again.
Add the dressing to the chickpeas, carrots, and green onion, and stir through. Add the cilantro, and stir through again. Serve immediately, or transfer to a sealable container and chill until you're ready to eat.
If you happen to live near a Turkish bakery, or are feeling extra industrious and unafraid of baking during the heat, I highly recommend picking up a nice cheese or spinach gözleme (soft flatbread with baked-in filling) to have alongside this.
July 12, 2015
I always associated plov with Russian cuisine -- partly because it has been adopted as the pilaf of choice for much of the former USSR, and partly because there were very few restaurants in my hometown (or, later, the city of Vancouver) featuring cuisine from Eastern Europe or Central Asia. Russian, you might be able to find in the city (or more likely, a blend of Russian and Ukrainian dishes), but not much luck trying to find restaurants featuring Georgian, Kyrgyz, or Uzbek food.
Plov, as it turns out, is ultimately a traditional Uzbek dish. By any other name, it might be palov, polov, or pilav, or perhaps more recognisably pilau, pulau, polow, pilaf, or almost any other spelling imaginable. It is considered a manly sort of dish to cook, the making of which can take on similar cultural overtones (sometimes similarly proprietary) to the idea of the masculine art of barbecue in North America. Traditional Uzbek plov is made with lamb (or mutton), which necessitates a long simmering time before the rice is added, to ensure that the lamb is tender and the connective tissues have all melted into an unctuous, satisfying texture. However, you can also make it with beef, and increasingly it is being made with chicken, whose speedy cooking time means the dish is on the table much, much faster. It is also easy and delicious, which are the only reasons that you need, to decide to make it.
400 grams boneless skinless chicken
1 head garlic plus 2 cloves
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 large or 2 medium carrots, grated
2-3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
pinch ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon duck fat (or more olive oil)
200 grams long grain rice
2 cups (500 ml) heated chicken broth or stock
1 - 2 tablespoons vodka
Finely chop the onion and 2 cloves of garlic. Slice the chicken (thigh is best, breast is also fine) into bite-sized chunks. Peel (if necessary) and grate the carrot coarsely. You could julienne the carrot if you prefer. Remove the outer layers of paper from the head of garlic, leaving the head whole, but the cloves still encased in one layer of skin. Use a very sharp knife to slice off the tip of the head of garlic, and set the whole head aside (tips can be added to the onions and chopped garlic).
In a medium-large pot or wok (the one I used is probably a little too big for this amount of food, and would have been perfect for a double recipe), heat the olive oil over a medium heat until just shimmering. Add a third of the chicken in a single layer, and let sizzle for 30 seconds or so before you stir through once, push the cooked pieces to the outside edge, and add the next third of the chicken. Continue until all the chicken has been lightly seared on at least one side, and remove to a holding plate.
Into the emptied pot, add the duck fat, the onions and minced garlic, and the salt (if your broth or stock is quite salty, you might want to omit the salt). Sauté until the onions start to change colour, and then add the carrots. Continue to sauté, and add the bay leaves, turmeric, white pepper, ground cumin and coriander. Stir and cook for a few minutes, until the carrots are wilting down nicely. Deglaze by adding the vodka to the pot, and scraping up any flavourful bits that might be stuck to the bottom.
Return the chicken to the pot, along with any juices that have accumulated on the holding plate. Pour the uncooked rice evenly over the chicken, smoothing it flat, and then gently pour the hot broth/stock/water over the rice, being careful not to disrupt the surface any more than is necessary. Smooth the rice a little again, if you need to.
Take the prepared head of garlic and plunge it cut-side down into the rice, leaving the root-end sticking up just a little. As soon as the liquid is starting to bubble a little, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, turn the heat to the lowest possible setting, and let cook undisturbed (no peeking!) for 17 minutes. When 17 minutes is up, still without lifting the lid/peeking, turn the heat off completely, and remove the pot to a resting place (a pot holder, or an unheated burner) for another 17 minutes. This time, when the 17 minutes is up, you are ready to serve.
You can upend it onto a fancy platter, or you can simply stir it through and spoon it into shallow bowls.It should be moist and fragrant, but not overly wet. Remove the garlic first, and squeeze the tender, fragrant cloves of garlic out of their skins by putting pressure around the base, scattering the cloves over the rice or dividing them amongst serving dishes. Some preparations call for a whole head of garlic per person being served, but I'll leave that up to your discretion. I've served it here with Ukrainian pickled tomatoes.
Leftovers reheat beautifully.
June 25, 2015
Breakfast muffins and breakfast biscuits have become a very dependable item for casual and fast food restaurants, and I know a surprising number of people who make them at home. Me, for example. It's a pretty easy breakfast that one can make with a minimum of fuss, although items such as bacon will of course add to the dirty dish count. Sometimes, however, you might want the convenience of a homemade biscuit without the need for actually cooking anything right at that minute. If you have a stash of these charming, bite-sized scones - where the bacon and egg and already incorporated right into the dough - you're just that much closer to the grab-and-go breakfast of your dreams.
Okay, okay. These do not fully replace the kinds of biscuits (or English muffins) stuffed with freshly-fried or scrambled egg (plus cheese and/or bacon), which of course have a different character than these scones. But they're quite satisfying, and a nice change from sweet, fruit-studded scones if that's your usual fare.
These are adapted from the Australian Women's Weekly Home Library publication "Muffins, Scones & Breads". As with the Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes, the heavy lifting here was done by my friend James, while I stuck to my moderately autocratic, slightly bossy, kitchen maven routine.
Bacon, Egg, and Mustard Scones
Adapted from Australian Women's Weekly
Makes 16 - 20
4 rashers bacon, fried, drained and crumbled
335 grams cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
90 grams butter
2 hardboiled eggs, finely chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan, plus 2 tablespoons extra
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon wholegrain Dijon mustard
1 cup (250 mL) whole milk
We made these in a cast iron skillet, which is pretty old school.
Preheat the oven to 450 F / 220 C. Warm your cast iron pan gently on the stovetop to take the chill of it (it should be a little warm, but not hot.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender (or a fork, or two knives, as you see fit), until the bits of butter are no larger than the size of a small-ish green pea. Add the bacon, egg, Dijon, chives, and 1/4 cup of parmesan, and stir through with a fork, making sure everything is evenly distributed.
Make a well in the centre, and pour the milk in. Stir very rapidly with a fork until it all comes together. If it is too wet, add a bit more flour until it's not quite so sticky (a little bit sticky is okay). Turn it out onto the counter. Mix with your hands, until you can gently massage it into a thick, flat dough.
Use a biscuit cutter to cut out the individual pieces (do not twist the cutter, or you will inhibit the rise of the scone as it bakes - straight up and down is the way to go). Use a knife if necessary to loosen them from the counter so you can move them into the skillet, arranging them so that they're close to each other but not quite touching. You might need to do two batches, depending on the size of your skillet.
Brush the tops of the biscuits with a little milk (or cream - not listed above), and sprinkle with the remaining bits of grated parmesan. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until tall and golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Because these have meat in them, store them in the refrigerator (in a sealable bag or airtight container) after they've cooled completely. They're not a good item to hold at room temperature for long.
If you prefer them warm, pop a cooled one in the microwave for about 15 seconds.
June 15, 2015
Traditional recipes for Imam Bayīldi involve stuffing hollowed out eggplants (or halved eggplants) with onions and spices, and braising them in a surfeit of best quality olive oil until tender. I've made some serious versions in the past, but they've always felt like a lot of work for something that is primarily a side dish to me (although I acknowledge that it makes a terrific main course for lunch). So, naturally, I was very excited to see this streamlined casserole version from Feed Me Phoebe.
The slightly scandalous name, which translates "The Priest Fainted" has entertaining stories as to why exactly, the Imam keeled over - everything from swooning at the deliciousness to fainting at the cost (or sheer amount) of the olive oil. Various other versions abound in the Eastern Mediterranean, varying the spices, or in some cases the vegetables. I assume that there are versions of this that date back to considerably before the introduction of the tomato, but it seems that the tomato-and-onion version is one of the most popular.
2 small (but not baby) eggplants
Kosher or coarse sea salt
Olive oil (about a third of a cup, total)
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/4 teaspoon chile pepper flakes
Dash of cinnamon
Dash ground white pepper
400 mL canned diced tomatoes, with juices
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley, divided
Prepare the eggplants by removing the cap and slicing lengthwise into 1/2 centimetre thick slabs. If you cut them into coins, it's much harder to get even coverage of the pan without gaps, so lengthwise is by far the better way to go for this dish. Dissolve a generous tablespoon of salt in hot water, and then add cold water until you have about six cups in a large bowl. Add the eggplant slices and allow them to brine for 10 minutes, or up to 8 hours. Drain, rinse, and press the slices firmly with paper towels or fresh linen towels to dry them out.
In a medium skillet (this one is a 24 centimetre steel skillet), heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until it just shimmers. Tilt the pan to ensure the bottom of the pan is well coated. Have a receiving plate standing by. Fry the dried-off eggplant slices, in batches, with a little extra olive oil added between each batch, just until golden on each side - about one or two minutes per side. Remove them to the nearby plate as they finish to make room for the next pieces.
Preheat your oven to 180 C (350 F) with a rack in the middle.
When all the eggplant has been fried, start building the sauce in the same (now emptied) skillet. Start by adding a little more olive oil (this is the last addition of olive oil), and then add the onions and garlic. Add a pinch of salt (not much, especially if your canned tomatoes are salty) the chile flakes, the cinnamon, the white pepper, and half of the parsley. Sauté until translucent and tender, and then add the diced tomatoes and their juices, and the tomato paste. Cook altogether until it starts to resemble a sauce, about four or five more minutes. Then remove about 2/3 to 3/4 of the sauce to a nearby bowl, wipe down the edges of the skillet, and start layering the eggplant into the skillet, on top of the bit of sauce that should nicely coat the bottom of the pan. Alternate the layers of eggplant with the layers of tomato sauce, and try to stack the eggplant slices in so they cover the surface of the pan in a neat, jigsaw like fashion. Make sure the top layer is sauce (ideally a thin layer of sauce so you can admire the prettiness of the eggplant slices), and place it, covered, in the preheated oven. If I use small eggplants, I only get two layers from them, but that works nicely with the amount of sauce.
Bake covered for 25 minutes, and then remove the cover and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool somewhat before serving. Garnish with remaining parsley.
This dish is often served at room temperature or even chilled, so it makes a surprisingly good picnic dish (or take to work dish). Paired with a nice chickpea salad, it's a beautiful, satisfying lunch.
June 08, 2015
Although there is a version of this dish called Ayam Goreng Asam, Sour Fried Chicken, where the chicken is first fried in oil before the sauce is added to the pan, this one has zero added fat. This suggests to me that I can pair it with a richer side dish without the overall meal feeling heavy, but in this case I was in a hurry to use up some cauliflower, so I just roasted that with some curry powder (and a bit of oil) instead.
The butchers and supermarkets here don't offer boneless chicken thigh, for some reason, and it turns out I'm too lazy to bone them out myself, so I've made this with breast. Thigh would be juicier, of course, so if you can get it, go for it.
While this dish is essentially just a meat-and-gravy dish, I think that a bit of Asian eggplant would go beautifully with the other flavours here, so I may try that next time.
Ayam Pedas Asam
500 grams boneless chicken thigh or breast
2 lemongrass stalks
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup tamarind concentrate (soaked, pulp squeezed & pureed, or prepared)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon palm sugar (or date sugar, or raw sugar)
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 star anise stars
3 Makrut lime leaves (fresh or frozen)
1-2 hot red chiles (such as Thai bird chiles), sliced or minced (or sambal oelek to taste)
Cut the chicken into large chunks, and set aside in a stain proof, non-reactive bowl.
Trim the ends of the lemongrass, and remove the outer tough layers. Slice one into thirds, and cut a vertical slit down to the core along their whole lengths,. Chop the other lemongrass up fairly finely, and put it in your blender or mortar.
If you are using a blender, add the garlic, salt, water, and sugar to the lemongrass, and blend until as smooth as possible. If you are using a mortar, grind the lemongrass with the salt. When mostly smooth, add the garlic, and continue until you have a smooth paste.
In a bowl, mix the lemongrass/garlic paste with the tamarind concentrate, coriander, turmeric, white pepper, chile(s), and anise stars. Scrape the mixture over the chicken, and stir well to thoroughly coat each piece. If you used the mortar method, add the water and sugar at this stage, too.
Let the chicken marinate for 20-30 minutes, or overnight, covered, in the fridge.
Place the chicken and marinade into a large skillet over medium heat, and add the lime leaves. Continue to heat until the liquid is quite bubbly, and then reduce the heat and let cook very gently, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, until cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.
If you still have a lot of liquid in the pan, remove the chicken pieces to a plate, and vigorously boil the sauce until it has thickened and reduced. Add the chicken pieces (and any accumulated liquid) back into the pan, turn the heat off, and gently stir around so that the thicker sauce now nicely coats each piece of chicken.
Serve over scented rice or basmati, with the vegetable side dish of your choice.
May 27, 2015
Blintzes, either sweet or savoury are ultimately a particular handling of the ever-so-versatile crêpe. They are a bit decadent and a little fiddly to make, but can be prepared a day in advance (or frozen, if you have the freezer space for it), and a wonderful item to look forward to - especially for breakfast or dessert. Their origin appears to be central and eastern European, with the Russians, Hungarians, and Poles (and maybe more) all laying claim (and infinite regional variations). They were popularized in North America by the Jewish population, where they are a holiday favourite (particularly for Shavuot) and are also a Shrove Tuesday classic for Christians.
Because this is meant to be a luxurious, festive dish, I am using my recipe for the egg-rich French-style crêpes, but after consulting a lot of references, I decided to go with what appears to be the standard method, namely cooking the crêpe itself only on one side until the top becomes somewhat dry, and using that as the inside surface of the wrapped blintz.
Living in Germany, quark is the natural cheese of choice for the filling, although ricotta would also work nicely. These are sweet, with both sugar and orange marmalade in the filling, but not too sweet. I've topped them with fresh strawberries that have been warmed in melted marmalade, but you do run the risk of the strawberry flavour dominating. The solution for that would be to use peeled mandarin slices instead of strawberries, so that the orange flavour stays consistent. We were pretty happy with the combination of flavours, although the orange was a little overwhelmed.
Orange Blintzes with Warm Strawberry Sauce
Makes 6 Blintzes
1/2 recipe egg-rich crêpes
butter for frying finished blintzes
250 grams quark
3 tablespoons cream cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1/2 egg, beaten
zest of one orange (optional)
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
2 tablespoons water (or one tablespoon water, one tablespoon lemon juice)
6-8 fresh strawberries, sliced
First thing: I have not lost my mind when I call for half an egg in the filling. A half-recipe of the crêpes calls for one and a half eggs, and the filling calls for half an egg. I simply beat two eggs until smooth, and then remove 2 tablespoons of beaten egg to use in the filling, reserving the remaining 1 1/2 eggs for the crêpe batter. Easy. Of course, if you decide to double the recipe, you can operate in terms of whole eggs.
You can make the filling ahead and store it in the fridge while the batter for the crêpes rests, and then cook all of the crêpes before you start filling them. You do want to make sure the crêpes have cooled at least to room temperature before filling, though, or the filling will start to melt and slide around, and the rolled-up blintz will be super floppy and hard to transfer to a plate or skillet; I know this from curse-laden experience. Let your crêpes cool! Spread them on a cooling rack until they're all cooked, and then start with the oldest to fill them. By the time you get to the last crêpe, it should be cool enough to handle without melting everything.
Cook the crêpes according to the recipe in the link, but only cooking on one side. As soon as the top of the crêpe is dry looking, remove the crêpe to a cooling rack and start the next one. The dry "top" side of the crêpe will be the inside of the finished blintz.
Fill the blintzes by piling a couple of tablespoons' worth of filling on the lower third of the cooled crêpe. Fold the bottom up just to cover the filling, and fold the sides in, envelope (or burrito) style. Continue to roll up until the blintz is a tidy package. It may take a few tries to get the shape the pleases you most - longer and thinner, or shorter and squarer. Your choice.
Move the filled blintzes to a tray or plate, cover with plastic wrap, and chill up to one day. At that point you could move the tray to the freezer until they are frozen solid, and then pile them carefully into a bag for longer-term storage. Or, you could fry them up right away.
You can make the sauce ahead, too, but it is best made just before you fry the blintzes. Melt the marmalade and water together and stir until smooth. Add the sliced strawberries (or orange segments) and stir gently until glossy and coated with the glaze. Turn off the heat.
Blintzes should be fried in butter, for the best flavour. They don't take very long, so make sure your attention is not needed elsewhere. If you're also making other items, or you're making a double batch, you can make the blintzes and keep them hot in a warm oven until you're ready to serve.
Heat a knob of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has foamed out, start laying your blintzes in a single layer in the pan. I find my 12-inch skillet works very nicely for 6 blintzes at a time. As soon as the blintzes are golden and starting to crisp on the underside, carefully turn them over using a spatula or flipper - don't try to use tongs, because they are far too delicate. When both sides have browned nicely, transfer to the tray in the pre-warmed oven, or serve immediately.
Just like with crêpes, there are many ways to finish blintzes. If you've made the strawberry sauce, go ahead and spoon that over the plated blintzes, but you could also go with powdered sugar with-or-without a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, or a pile of mixed fruit on the side, for example. A few curls of orange zest would be beautiful on these - I would have absolutely done that, if I had had a fresh orange on hand.
May 22, 2015
There used to be a restaurant called "Latin Quarter" on Vancouver's Commercial Drive. In its heyday it was renowned as a place with great live music (and dancing on Fridays and Saturdays), cheap pitchers of sangria, and a tasty latin and latin-fusion menu. We became familiar with it really only in its dying days, but there are a few menu items that we ordered over and over because they were so good.
There were three quesadillas on that menu: Shrimp & Cheese (I cannot precisely remember what kind of cheese, but it was a creamy white melting cheese, perhaps Edam), Brie & Mango, and Camembert & Papaya. They were all good, although the fruit ones were my favourites. They came served with a fresh tomato salsa, and while I was happy to eat them plain, the salsa did add a surprisingly nice dimension.
This recipe is so simple that it's really more of a serving suggestion. Realistically, you could just look at the title and decide to make it. The only tip that might not be intuitive is that the papaya should, ideally, be sliced into large, thin half-moons, to ensure it doesn't slide out of the quesadilla while you're trying to slice (or eat) it. I've tried it both ways, and this works best.
We served this with pan-seared cumin and ancho chicken breast alongside, but it could easily have been accompanied by some thick beans and guacamole for a vegetarian option. Or on its own, as a snack or appetizer.
Since the flour tortillas that I have found here in Germany have been the terrible pre-packaged kind with a shelf life of six months, I now make my own. Generally I plan to make a batch of 9 at some point during the weekend, and then use them as needed throughout the week (all at once for enchiladas, of course). Having the tortillas on hand already made this dinner a super fast weeknight option.
Camembert & Papaya Quesadillas
2 6-inch flour tortillas
4-6 thin half-moon slices of papaya (enough to completely cover a tortilla)
4 thick slices of Camembert
a little cilantro (optional)
Preheat your oven to 180 C / 350 F (especially if you need to make these in batches) with a baking sheet warming in the oven.
Preheat a heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal) over medium-high heat.
Brush the tortillas very lightly with oil on one side each. If you are doing multiple quesadillas, only brush them with oil just before you're going to cook each one, so they don't get soggy.
Place the first tortilla oil-side-down on the hot skillet. Let it crisp a little, and get golden spots on the underside, and remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat with the second tortilla, but after it has been in the pan for long enough to get a bit warm, lay out the slices of Camembert across the tortilla. When the cheese starts to melt, add the layer of papaya. If you're feeling cheese-crazy, you can add more cheese on top of the papaya. Peek at the bottom of the tortilla by slipping a spatula under the edge, and if it is nicely golden, add the first tortilla back as a "lid" (golden side up) and transfer the quesadilla to the tray in the warm oven. The cheese will continue to melt and the papaya will warm a little as you prepare the next quesadilla.
To serve, remove the quesadilla to a cutting board, and cross-chop into quarters. Serve with fresh salsa (if you have it) or hot sauce on the side. Cilantro garnish is totally optional, but does go nicely.
May 13, 2015
This was inspired by Nigella Lawson's recipe for Risotto Bolognese from her book Kitchen, but to be honest, I didn't really follow it. I skimmed the ingredient list and directions and decided that it was more about the idea, the fact of combining two normally discrete dishes into a delicious juxtaposition, and then I just ran with that. Consequently, my ingredients, ratios and even my method ended up being quite different from hers.
The shortest possible version of this recipe goes something like this: Build a bolognese sauce, and then use that as a base to build a risotto on top of. That of course depends on the cook knowing what normally goes into both of those things, and otherwise being willing to take the rest on faith. Fortunately, that's me. This is a true skillet dinner, without the need to remove anything to a separate plate or pan at any point during the cooking process.
I won't claim that this is a really serious Bolognese (note the use of "Easy Weeknight" as a modifier), but it's a meaningful nod in the general direction, and for this dish, that's good enough for me. Although, if you happen to have some genuine Bolognese tucked away in your freezer that you want to use instead, go for it. It's not a lightning-fast dish to make - risotto takes time, after all, but it's very straight forward, and if you use a chop-and-drop method, it all comes together surprisingly quickly.
Easy Weeknight Risotto Bolognese
4 thin (or 2 thick) slices of bacon, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, very finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
400 grams minced beef/pork blend (or meatloaf mix)
2 teaspoons beef stock paste (such as Better Than Bouillon or Alnatura Rinderbrühe)
pinch dried oregano
big pinch dried basil
big pinch ground white pepper
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vermouth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 400 gram can of finely chopped tomatoes
1 cup arborio (or other suitable risotto rice)
4 cups hot water from a recently boiled kettle
Fresh basil, for finishing and garnish
Freshly grated parmesan
In a large heavy skillet, over medium-high heat, fry up the bacon until it is a bit crispy and releases its fat into the pan. Add the olive oil and stir through. Add the onion and garlic, and stir through. Stir and cook until the onion is thoroughly softened and translucent. Add the grated carrot, and stir through, cooking for about five minutes until wilted and starting to become tender, and the excess liquid has evaporated.
Add the minced meat and stir, breaking it up with a big wooden spoon as you go. Fry and stir until the meat is a little browned, and then add the stock paste, oregano, dried basil, white pepper, and the vermouth. Stir and scrape up the bottom of the skillet while until the vermouth has evaporated. Add the milk in two stages, stirring until mostly evaporated in each case. Add the tomato paste, and stir through. Add the chopped tomatoes and their juices and stir through.
Let the mixture get completely hot and bubbly, and then stir the rice in. Reduce the heat to medium. Add a bit of water from the kettle, and stir until the extra water is absorbed by the rice. Basically, at this stage you just keep repeating that, adding the water a bit at a time, stirring between additions until the water is mostly absorbed, until you've either used all the water, or the rice is cooked to your liking. The rice will slowly absorb not only the water but the juices from the sauce itself, the grains swelling to full size and taking on a creamy appearance. The combination of the carrots and the tomatoes will give the finished dish a uniquely orange-red tone, quite different from most meat/tomato based sauces, but it coats the rice grains beautifully.
When all of the water is absorbed and the rice grains are cooked to your satisfaction, spoon into shallow bowls and garnish with basil and freshly grated cheese. And maybe some garlic bread.
If you have leftovers of this, it reheats very nicely in a covered casserole in the oven (you will want to add in a bit of water, and poke some holes to allow speedier reheating), and I imagine it would reheat well in a microwave, too. If you must reheat it on the stovetop, try not to over-stir it. While it's stirred to death during the making, after it is fully cooked, cooled, and reheated again, it can get a bit mushy if you stir it too vigourously.
May 07, 2015
This recipe is one component of the intriguing multi-step Vampire Slayer Ramen-Express recipe by the wonderful Lady and Pups.
While I wasn't quite prepared to make the entire ramen recipe as written, the pork belly on its own seemed worth trying immediately, and that was exactly correct. It will make your house smell insanely good, and is definitely worth the long wait after it goes into the oven. I note that the original recipe calls for 30 cloves of garlic (and there's another 14 in the rest of her finished dish), but I felt that 20 was plenty given that the ones I was working with were giant mutant German garlic cloves.
Because pork belly is a bit tricky to slice when freshly cooked, it's a great idea to make this ahead, and then simply slice and gently reheat it to serve.
We had this the first night with veggie yakisoba made from homemade ramen noodles (which I completely forgot to photograph, once cooked) and reheated the leftover pork belly to serve over rice with carrot kinpira, a few nights later, to make the donburi above.
The original recipe recommended a cooking vessel just barely big enough to fit the pork, which is what I did. It did mean that I had to be quite careful later on, not to smash to paste the fragile braised garlic cloves. My piece of pork belly fit perfectly into the oval dutch oven when raw, although once it had been seared on all sides, it drew itself up, becoming narrower and taller. I would probably cut it into two chunks next time, for ease of handling and more surface-contact with the braising liquid.
Garlic-Braised Pork Belly
minimally adapted from Lady and Pups
4 whole dried shitake mushrooms (or 16 small ones) + 1/2 cup hot water
400 grams skin-on pork belly
20 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup sake
2 tablespoons less-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon mirin
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 tablespoon peanut oil
Trim any excessive stems from the shiitake, clean them well with a damp cloth, and let them soak in the hot water for 20-30 minutes. Peel the garlic cloves, but leave them whole. Combine the sake, soy sauce, mirin, salt, and white pepper in a small bowl and set aside. Now remove the mushrooms from their soaking liquid, retaining both separately.
Preheat your oven to 330 F/ 165 C.
In a heavy (preferably cast iron) pan that's not too big for your piece of pork, heat the peanut oil and then carefully sear the pork belly on all sides (start skin-side-down). The pork skin should be nicely blistered and a little freaky-looking, if you're not used to that sort of thing. Remove the pork (browned on all sides, now) and add the whole garlic cloves to the pan. Give them a quick stir about and then scoot them to the sides to make space, and put the pork back in the pan. Add the mushroom soaking liquid (pour it in carefully, and don't let any sludge in the bottom go into the pan) and the sake mixture to the pan, and then tuck the mushrooms in around the pork, submerged where possible.
Cover the pan with its lid, or cover tightly with foil if there's no lid, and put the pan in the preheated oven. Allow it to braise for 2 1/2 hours, turning the pork belly over every 30 minutes, carefully not smashing up the garlic too badly.
Remove the finished pork belly from the dregs of the braising liquid, and let cool. If you are making it ahead, once it is cold you can wrap it up tightly and put it in the fridge. If making ahead is not an option and you want to serve it right away, you will need to be okay with the fact that the slices will be rather messy-looking.
I used the remaining braising liquid and the mushrooms to make yakisoba, with a few of the garlic cloves thrown in for good measure. The slices were a mess, because I sliced it warm from the oven, but the rest was packaged up to make the donburi that you see above, and the slices are much, much neater.
In order to reheat the pork belly, I first sliced it, and then lay the slices in a small skillet with a quarter-scaled version of the braising liquid (minus the mushroom liquid). I then reheated it, slowly, covered, over very low heat on the stovetop. A couple of times I gently swirled the pan to make sure the liquid had contact with the cut surfaces of the pork belly slices.
This is without a doubt the best pork belly dish that I've made yet. I can't wait to make it again.
April 30, 2015
These little darlings were adapted (extremely minimally) from Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake. I must confess, 99% of the work that went into making these was my friend James, and I mostly provided the kitchen space, air traffic control, some washing up, and (she said optimistically) engaging banter. Well, and the butter icing recipe. And some bossiness, which was part of the package deal, because I cannot shut up in the kitchen, it turns out.
The cupcakes themselves turned out very nicely, with a good texture - tender, with a nice even crumb and a desirable bit of springiness - and the recipe is quite generous, which meant we got 24 cupcakes out of a recipe originally for a single 10-inch springform pan. And, of course, a shorter baking time.
The icing in the original recipe is a cream cheese version, which I really don't care for at all (despite being a fan, generally, of both cream cheese and icing). There is literally no instance of cream cheese frosting that I think wouldn't be better served by a butter icing, and that includes carrot cake (if you must), red velvet cake, and cinnamon buns. Further, James had brought a bottle of Orange Truffle Bailey's specifically to use in the icing, and so it made much more sense to use an icing recipe whose flavours are conducive to such switch-outs.
Since James had already purchased the Union Jack muffin-tin liners, we went ahead and used those instead of my usual habit of not using liners at all in favour of butter (or canola spritz). This of course made cupcake removal from the tin a much speedier process, which helps when you are making two batches even if you have two tins. One of the cupcakes got a doubled liner, and so the flag didn't darken quite as much under the influence of the dark, wet batter, so that one was extra patriotic, I guess. Certainly a touch more photogenic.
Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Orange Truffle Bailey's Icing
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake from Feast
250 ml Guinness (or stout of your choice)
250 grams unsalted butter
75 grams cocoa powder
400 grams plain granulated sugar
142 ml sour cream
2 large eggs, beaten well
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
275 grams cake flour (405 flour, in Germany)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Orange Truffle Bailey's Icing
This recipe can be halved for smaller batches of cupcakes
500 grams (4 cups) icing sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
125 ml Orange Truffle Bailey's Irish Cream (or regular Bailey's, or ordinary dairy cream with a splash of vanilla, if you prefer)
Obviously, you need a good digital scale to take on this recipe. Start with a large saucepan, because otherwise you will need to transfer to a larger bowl mid-mix, as we did. Learn from our mistake!
Preheat your oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Place liners in the muffin wells of your 12-cup tin, or, grease the tin thoroughly if you are not using liners.
Warm the Guinness in a large saucepan, and slowly add the butter until it is all melted. Remove from the heat.
To the warm Guinness/butter mixture, whisk in the cocoa powder and the sugar, and whisk until smooth. It's a lot of sugar, but don't be scared: it's making 24 cupcakes.
Separately, mix the eggs and sour cream together until smooth, and then add the vanilla extract and beat that in well, too. Yes, it's a lot of vanilla extract - it has to stand up to some pretty intense flavours, so just go with it.
Also separately, combine the flour and baking soda, and whisk together. There's no salt in this recipe, and it doesn't appear to need it. This seems weird to me, but it turned out just fine.
To the Guinness/butter mixture, add the eggs/sour cream/vanilla mixture, and stir until just combined. Then add the flour and baking soda mixture, and carefully whisk that in until just combined, preferably using a folding motion to minimize any unnecessary gluten development. When there are no longer any streaks of flour (the mixture will be a bit bubbly from the combination of stout and baking soda, but don't worry about it), spoon the batter into the waiting liners. Don't fill them completely to the top, just about 3/4 full is perfect. You should only get half way through your batter for the first batch. If you have a second muffin tin, you can prepare it while the first tin is in the oven. If not, you'll have to wait until the first batch comes out and the cupcakes are removed before you can proceed to get the remaining batter spooned out.
Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes. If your oven is a bit slow, they might need a smidge more - you can always test them for doneness with a strand of spaghetti or a toothpick. Or, you know, a cake skewer. If they are ready, pull them out of the oven, and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, remove them from the tin and place them on a cooling rack.
When all the cupcakes are cooked, and all have cooled to room temperature, it's time to make the butter icing.
In a medium mixing bowl, place the icing sugar, the butter, and the Bailey's (or cream and vanilla). If you have an electric mixer, use it on high until the mixture becomes a thick, spreadable icing. If you are using manpower, as we were, we found using a wooden spoon far better than a whisk for thoroughly combining everything. If the icing is too stiff, you can add a bit more liquid of your choice - more Bailey's, or more cream, until it reaches the desired consistency.
When the cupcakes are cool, cover the tops with frosting in whatever manner you like. I don't currently have a piping bag, so we simply used table knives to sort of spackle the icing onto the top of each cupcake. We probably could have added more Bailey's and made the icing a little smoother and swirlier, but these were going to be transported, and a stiffer icing seems to hold up better under those circumstances, I feel.
April 25, 2015
As you can see, I'm still very much enjoying the Jerusalem cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi. This is, in fact, one of the recipes that leaped out at me while I was still leafing through the book in the store, so it's no surprise that it should make it onto the table as one of the first few recipes tried. We had this with the Kofta B'siniyah from the previous post on the first day, but the leftovers were reheated on their own for a nice vegetarian dinner with a green and leafy side salad to add a bit of fresh crunch.
Barley is a very hearty grain, which is to say that it is quite filling, and it usually takes about 40 minutes to cook (as does risotto, generally). It is not a true risotto, of course, as the liquid is added all at once, but the net effect is very similar.
I decided to use a seasoned Turkish cheese that I can easily get locally in place of the feta, and it went very nicely as a garnish. We had a slightly larger amount of cheese on the leftovers, since it was a main course at that point. It also meant that I could leave out the caraway from the original marinated cheese recipe, which I felt would be too strong for my tastes.
As an editorial comment, I think it could use much less passata next time - maybe 100 ml tops, but I've written the recipe here as we made it, with 300 ml. In that case, with less liquid going in, I would definitely keep an eye on the cooking process to make sure it didn't burn (and might give an extra 100 ml water at the start).
Barley & Tomato Risotto with Marinated Cheese
Adapted from Jerusalem
200 grams pearl barley
30 grams butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 stalks celery, finely diced
2 small shallots, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaf (or a few sprigs of fresh)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 wide strips lime rind (the original calls for lemon)
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
400 grams diced tomatoes
700 ml vegetables stock or broth
300 ml passata
200 grams seasoned feta-type cheese, crumbled
fresh oregano leaves (optional)
Rinse the barley well, and drain thoroughly.
In a large saucepan or dutch oven, melt the butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil together over medium heat until hot. Add the celery, shallots, and garlic, and sauté until tender. Add the barley and stir about well until the barley grains are glistening, and then add the rest of the ingredients, except the cheese, the fresh oregano leaves, and the remaining olive oil. Everything else, though, in the pot.
Bring it up to a gentle simmer, lower the heat, and cook for 40 - 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid is mostly absorbed except for a bit of sauciness, and the barley is tender.
While the barley is cooking, add the remaining olive oil to the cheese, and stir gently to combine.
Serve it up in a shallow bowl with a dollop of cheese (with the oil!) on top, and finish with a few fresh oregano leaves if you are using them.
Don't remove the citrus rind before serving - try to get one into each bowl. After the long cooking time, they become tender, aromatic, and delicious.
April 17, 2015
This is another fantastic recipe from the Jerusalem cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi. I do wish that my serving platter were a bit bigger, because they're a little crowded-looking here, but this was a spectacular dish that we're very keen to make again as soon as possible.
Do not hesitate to include the tahini sauce that provides the bed for the kofta to lie upon - it goes so beautifully with the kofta that you'll probably find yourself dabbing each bite into a little more sauce.
You can find the original recipe here on The Telegraph's website.
adapted from Jerusalem
Makes 10 Kofta
300 grams minced lamb
300 grams minced beef
1 small red onion, very finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
50 grams toasted pine nuts, divided, half roughly chopped
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 large hot red chile pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 tablespoons tahini paste, well stirred
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons butter, browned
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Toasted pine nuts (the whole ones, from above)
sweet paprika, to garnish (or you could use sumac instead)
If your pine nuts aren't toasted, do that first, in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden and fragrant. Then prepare your mise en place - mince the onions, crush the garlic, mince the parsley and the chile, prep the seasonings - everything but the oil.
If you can buy the meat from the butcher already combined, that will ensure the greatest level of integration of the beef and lamb, but not to worry if you buy them separately. Into a large mixing bowl, break up the meat with your fingers - pinching a little bit off the packet at a time and dropping it into the mixing bowl - so that when it has all been pinched out, you have a fluffy, aerated pile of ground meat(s). Add the prepared mise ingredients for the kofta and mix together lightly with your hands to distribute all of the "bits" evenly throughout the meat. The smaller your onion pieces the better they will integrate (although don't crush them to mush in a food processor, or you will make the mixture too wet).
Divide the meat mixture into ten pieces, and shape each one into an oval or "torpedo" shape.
Heat the canola oil in a large skillet, and, working in batches if necessary to not crowd the pan, fry the kofta over medium heat until browned on all sides.
If you want to be doubly sure that they are cooked through, you can pop the pan into a hot oven for five minutes or so after they're well fried, but if you have good quality meat from the butcher, a little rare in the middle is delicious.
While the kofta are frying, stir together the ingredients for the sauce, and separately brown the butter.
Spread the sauce onto a serving platter, and arrange the kofta evenly over the surface. Scatter parsley and pine nuts over top, and dust with a pinch of paprika or sumac. Spoon a little of the browned butter over each kofta, and serve.