Thursday, 30 December 2010

Christmas Impressions

I hope you had/are having a fab time!
I'm having some motivation-issues with everything other than food that I don't have to cook, scary amounts of exercise, really bad TV (I'm not even going to tell you what series I'm catching up on...), and sleep at the moment so you'll have to wait for the next recipe a bit longer.
But, I thought I'd share some impressions of the last week with you :)

If I had to choose one dish to have for the rest of my life this would be one of the serious contenders. It's lamb (and don't ask me about the translation for 'Lammlachs' the lovely people at thyme supperclub suggest 'eye of loin' but they're just as unsure about this translation as I am).
Anyhow, it's with a ewe's cheese sauce and it's based on Hanna Saliba's recipe from the book Salibas Welt.

A Christmassy version of the chestnut and pumpkin pie I made for Thanksgiving.

Chillies and pasta.....soo good :)

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Getting Ready For Christmas

I am still on a baking break (I'm sure it will pass sooner rather than later) so I thought I could share some winter impressions with you.
The following photos are what made the last couple of months really special to me....

© Kathleen Dowling

© Kathleen Dowling

Monday, 20 December 2010

Carrot, Coriander, and Chicken Soup

I hope you're getting ready for Christmas at the moment and I am keeping my fingers crossed that those of you who are stranded at the moment will make it home to your families in time!
I must admit I haven't touched a pot or an oven since Wednesday (and that was a simple dish of bavettine with a tomato sauce).
We went to Paris and had some amazing food. How often do you get macarons at a conference?!?
But as much as I enjoyed the food I was craving something slightly more on the healthy side of things by the time I made it home, so forgive me if I refuse to give you another sweet recipe for one or two posts.
I made this soup a while back and it's pretty much the Carrot and Coriander Soup I wrote about earlier this year with some chicken added but it really does turn a simple, warming soup into a full meal.

Carrot, Coriander, and Chicken Soup
1kg Carrots, peeled and sliced
1 Onion, diced
2 Garlic cloves, diced
2-3 tsp Red curry paste
1 tbsp Vegetable oil
2 Chicken Breasts (without the skin), cut into chunks
A handful of Desiccated Coconut 
1 Vegetable stock cube
1tsp Marmite
1/2 l Hot water
50g Fresh coriander

Heat the oil in a large pot and brown the chicken. Once the chicken is done, take it out of the pot but leave the remaining oil in the pot, add the red curry paste and watch it bubble away for around 30 seconds. Add the onion and the garlic, stir and give it a couple of minutes, stirring more or less continuously.
Add the chicken and the carrots, then add enough water to cover everything.
Add the stock cube and the marmite and the coconut and simmer until the carrots are tender.
If the carrots are just about done, turn down the heat, find your trusty friend the hand blender thing and blend away :) 
I got a bit carried away with the blender but I think it would be the nicest texture-wise if you could still identify some of the chicken as actual chicken.
Chop the coriander, stir it into the soup and enjoy the soup with some yoghurt and a slice of rye bread.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Favourite Cookbooks - 2010

I had a moment of panic this morning when I realized that I could have gone on a holiday if I wasn't buying cookbooks all the time (then again, I think I enjoyed looking at those pictures more than I would have going on a holiday).
But I'm really not getting to the point today :)
I decided to jump the bandwagon with my very own favourites list (if you really couldn't care less, go and look at pretty pictures of food instead) - my favourite cookbooks that made their way onto the shelve on top of our fridge this year:

Oh, and I've added links to Amazon not, because I think you should buy your books there but because they  have that 'look inside' thing. And I'm not imposing an order here because cookbooks are like children ;)

-Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce
I stumbled across this book at the Wholefoods on Kensington High-Street and I haven't looked back since. Kim's recipes are amazing and whenever I am looking for something to bake this is one of the first books I turn to.
My quince pancakes were inspired by Kim's buckwheat pancakes, the sand-dollar cookies are a spin off some cookies in there, and don't get me started on the waffles...

-My Nepenthe by Romney Steele
I had wanted a copy of this book for quite a while but I never got around to getting one. Luckily I never did because now I have a copy that I bought when I stopped for lunch and some writing at Nepenthe. This amazing afternoon makes having a copy of this book so much more special.

-The Geometry of Pasta by Caz Hildebrand & Jacob Kenedy
This book is just amazing! If you are into cookbooks that are a piece of art in themselves this is one for you. It starts with the feel of the dust-cover which is folded in itself (and if you unfold it you can see black and white outlines of pasta shapes, continues with the gorgeous illustrations in the book and is made even better by the recipes (which are to die for) and the beautiful writing.

-At Elizabeth David's Table
Gorgeous photographs of amazing recipes. This is the newest addition to the top of my fridge :) so far I have only tried some of the soups and they were stunning in their simplicity. This is mediterranean food at its best.

-Lucid Food by Louisa Shafia
This is a gem. Filled with seasonal recipes you keep stumbling over something you have to try every time you open this book.
The steamed quince in this salad were based on Louisa's recipe.

-delicious days by Nicole Stich
OK, I'm cheating a bit, I got that one for Christmas last year, but it's sooo nice, and I'm soo excited that Nicole's new book should come out at some point in February.
Nicole's blog is gorgeous and definitely worth a visit!

-Williams-Sonoma Cooking at Home
I FINALLY got my own copy of this amazingly amazing cookbook when I went to Austin in November :) I've been wanting to have one for a while for the in my opinion fool-proof recipes for what I would call classic American dishes (you're more than welcome to disagree with me on this one, I know this is the opinion of someone observing American cooking from the outside).

Monday, 13 December 2010

Sand-Dollar Cookies

How many batches of cookies have you gone through so far? Are you sick of them yet?
I thought I had reached that stage on Saturday when I was sitting in Katie's living room with that blank state of mind you get to when you've eaten waaay too much sugar...
Anyhow, it's been two days since then so I thought I'd give you another cookie recipe :)
I made these cookies because was in the need of something not too Christmassy, something sweet but not too sweet, and above all, something that would be easy to prepare. Which is exactly what this recipe is :)

This recipe is a spin on Kim Boyce's Sand Cookies and you should have most of the ingredients in your cupboard. If you are wondering whether they are the same thing as 'Heidesand', the answer is no.
These cookies are just sheer amazingness. The sugar at the bottom caramelizes and turns them into a sandy-chewy-caramelly thing of beauty (ok, that doesn't sound as amazing as it did in my head).
If you are looking for a grown-up take on cookies, these are the ones for you :) and the fact that they look a bit like sand-dollars makes me think of the seaside in the summer (how more awesome could a cookie be?!?!?)

Sand-Dollar Cookies
2 cups Kamut Flour
1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar
1 tsp Salt
6 oz Butter

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees.
Mix the dry ingredients, then rub the butter into them until the crumbly mixture you get at the beginning turns into a coherent dough.
Roll pieces of about 1tbsp of dough into balls and then press them flat until they're about just over half a cm thick.
Put the cookies onto a baking sheet and bake them for 18 to 20 minutes. They will be darker than your average Christmas Cookie but be patient, you we be rewarded :)
Allow them to cool before you take them off the baking sheet (I wasn't planning of eating the edge of the cookie in the picture above, it came off when I tried to move them and then I obviously had to eat it...) but they definitely taste better on the day you make them.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Cinnamon Cookies

© Sandra Reisinger

Making these cookies is one of my worst nightmares. You have to prepare the dough in advance, you have to chill it, it goes all crumbly when you're trying to roll it out, it takes forever to cut out the you want me to continue? ;)
BUT, once you've had one of these you'll understand why I still make them.
If you like cinnamon, these are your best friends!
Don't tell anyone, but when Sandra made them the first time I ate every single one that she left at my place within the next 12 hours (and there was a lot of self-restraint involved in getting to that time-span...) this time I did a bit better but that might have been because I hid them under tin-foil so I couldn't see them..
Anyhow, they are well worth the effort, so give them a try!

Cinnamon Cookies
250g Flour
75g Sugar
1 pack Vanilla Sugar (if you can't get hold of that, use 1tsp vanilla essence instead)
1 tbsp Rum
1 tbsp Cinnamon
1 Egg, separated
A pinch of Salt
125g Butter (cold, cut into cubes)
2 tbsp Cinnamon-Sugar (mix 2 tbsp sugar with 1/2 tsp cinnamon)
Ice cold water

Mix the butter, sugar, salt, and flour until you have something that resembles breadcrumbs.
Quickly add the egg-yolk, rum and vanilla essence (if you're using any).
If this mix doesn't stick yet add a teaspoon of water at a time until you have a dough that holds together. You'll want to work quickly, so the butter doesn't start melting.
Form into a ball or disk, cover with cling-film and let it chill in the fridge for an hour or two (you could also make the dough the night before, perhaps I should try that the next time).
Preheat your oven to 175 degrees.
Beat the egg-white until soft peaks form (I love writing this), then mix in the cinnamon sugar (DON'T overdo it here, just mix it in and then move the whisk away from the egg-white :) )
Take the dough out of the fridge, cut off a chunk and roll it out on a floured surface (I am told that using very little pressure on the dough stops it from breaking, but I guess I don't have enough patience for that) and have fun with your cookie cutters :)
Lay the cookies on a cookie-sheet that has baking parchment on it, spread some of the egg-white mixture on the cookies and then bake them until they look done (depending on your oven that should be 10-15 minutes.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Sesame Wafers

Ok, I'm blatantly procrastinating :)
But you're getting a recipe out of it, so no complaining ;)
I got today's recipe from Luisa's post on The Wednesday Chef. After reading her rave about them I obviously had to include them in Saturday's shenanigans and we weren't disappointed...quite the opposite...

Here are some reasons I like them
- you only need one bowl
-you only need 7 ingredients, most of which you'll have in your pantry
-no cookie cutters required
-they only take 7 minutes to bake
-they are super yummy :)

So get out your mixing bowl and get going!

Sesame Wafers
11/2 tbsp Butter
1 cup Light Muscovado Sugar
1 Egg
2 tbsp Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup Sesame Seeds

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees.
Cream the butter and the sugar, then mix in the egg. Now mix in all the other ingredients.
Put some baking parchment onto a cookie sheet and, using a teaspoon, drop the dough onto the parchment.
These cookies will expand quite a bit so give them space.
Dip a knife into cold water and flatten the dough drops out a bit.
Bake the wafers for 7 minutes, then give them about the same amount of time to cool down a bit (still on the parchment but off the cookie sheet) before you peel them off the baking parchment.
Luisa suggests they keep for two weeks if you put them into a airtight container (like a pretty cookie tin) but the way ours are going you won't have to worry about them going off :)

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Christmas Ninjas

I don't like Christmas Cookies.
Here, I said it.

I can't stand standing at a work surface that was clearly designed for tiny people, I can't stand having to make the dough a gazillion hours in advance so it can chill, I can't stand crumbly, chilled cookie dough, and most of all, I can't stand how long it takes to cut out the cookies.

What I do love, however, is spending an afternoon with friends with the oven on for the entire time, a competition for who has the worst iTunes collection, a glass of nice desert wine to go with the cookies once they're done (or to stop me from swearing when yet another angel loses it's wings or another dinosaur looses it's head) so as much as I hate the cookies themselves, I love everything that goes with making them.

This year I have another reason for disliking them slightly less - ninjas :)

I found the most amazing ninja cookie-cutters in Austin. They are awesome! And beat even the dinosaurs, the lobsters, Tigger, and the one-legged pirate (Christmas-Lobsters are so 2003 anyway...). 
So yesterday we spent the afternoon making Christmas Ninjas (and some squirrels, pirates, and stars).
The recipe today is an adaptation of Jenna's gingerbread cookies which are an adaptation of a Gourmet recipe, and let me tell you - they are absolutely lovely!

Gingerbread Ninjas
33/4 cups White Spelt Flour
1tbsp Ground Ginger
1/2 tbsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ground Pepper
1/2 tsp Salt
2 sticks Butter, cubed
2/3 cup Molasses
2/3 cup Muscovado Sugar
2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 Egg, slightly beaten.

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees.
Then get out a large, heavy bottomed sauce-pan and mix the spices, sugar and molasses in it. Bring the mixture to a boil (personally this is where I got a bit scared because I really don't like boiling sugar, but it's worth it, just be aware that boiling sugar is a lot hotter than boiling water and if you get it onto your skin it will stay on there (and yes, let me tell you, all the amazingness of what you can do with hot sugar is not worth that trip to the ER on a weekend) so proceed with caution) and keep it there for about 3 minutes.
Take the pot off the heat and stir in the bicarb. This was one of the most amazing sights I had baking in a while, the bicarb turns the molasses and sugar into a very hot bubbly mousse thing.
Stir in the butter and once it's mixed in add the egg as well.
Now add the flour and salt and once that's properly incorporated you are ready to go.
The dough will still be warm but as long as you're not burning your fingers, start rolling it out on a floured surface and attacking it with cookie cutters :)
The cookies take about 12 minutes and as I mentioned before, they go amazingly well with a glass of desert wine...

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