Saturday, 30 April 2011

Things that make me happy

I'm in Atlanta at the moment spending the weekend with my lovely friend Kelsey and even though I'm not a big fan of the jetlag right now, I have been feeling rather happy lately (so rather than keep it to myself I thought I'd share it with you, because you're part of the reason).

-I had fried pickles at dinner last night. I hadn't thought that discovering a new dish could make someone this happy.

- As of this morning/night you have visited my blog nearly 1,500 times this month. This is the first time we've gone over 1,000. Watching the numbers this month has been amazing. I mean I'd probably still write if nobody was reading this but hearing your comments about recipes I posted and just having you visit the blog makes me incredibly happy.

- Even though I haven't been able to cook much lately several of you have taken me in over the last few weeks, have cooked for me, and stopped me from turning into a grumpy old lady. I'm not sure how the last couple of weeks would have gone without you.

-Oh, and did I mention that the fried pickles made me very happy?

Anyhow, I hope you had a fab day off if you're living in royal-wedding territory, otherwise I hope you are having a fabulous weekend right now!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Toast Hawaii

I'm sorry I haven't written in a while but I've been too busy feeling sorry for myself and getting ready for my trip to the States (I'll have lots to write about for the next three weeks), oh, and the whole cooking thing hasn't really been happening...

Verena took pity on me the other day and we made Toast Hawaii.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, this is like the best invention since sliced bread, for those of you who know what I'm talking about, don't you dare laugh at me - I'm trying to cook with one hand...and turning on the grill just about works...getting the baking tray in and out of the oven is already interesting...
And since we are giving you such a hardcore recipe today we thought we should take a step back and and give you proper step by step instructions with our best 1970s style photo skillz :)

 © Verena Kersken

First of all you need pineapples (and two hands to open the stupid can)
While you're prancing around the kitchen turn on the grill in your oven (or if you have one of those retro toaster ovens, can you please invite me over for dinner?)

© Verena Kersken

Then pour the  juice from the pineapple into a glass so someone like me can drink it while someone like Verena looks at them with a look that ranges from amusement to disgust and doesn't leave anything out between.

© Verena Kersken

Oh yeah, and you also need some bread.
Then you need some ham. Verena is of the opinion that you should use cheap ham because...actually I've forgotten why we had to use cheap ham...I'm gonna skip that photo...pretend we used nice ham and buy nice ham...I had nightmares of what cheap ham looks like up close...
But if you cover the cheap ham in lots of stuff you can pretend it's not there :)

© Verena Kersken

And it's even better when you cover it in cheese and grill it for a few minutes

© Verena Kersken

And now the most important bit:

© Verena Kersken

One smiley cyclops toast hawaii :)

© Verena Kersken

I'm not sure how the whole cooking thing is going to continue, you might be getting a few more photo-centered posts in the near future but I promise as soon as my hand is better I will be getting back to baking and cooking!
You just wait, we'll be stuffing strawberries in no time ;)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Semolina Soup

I made some soup for dinner.
Now, you might ask why I was telling you about this soup when I was writing about foods that are nice when you're ill. This was my grandpa's favourite soup when I was little and for me it's not just the soup itself but also the way your kitchen smells when you are roasting the  semolina.
Oh, and the taste makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
I made a really simple version of this soup today - you normally chop some vegetables and put them in before you add the stock - but if you have seen me try to navigate a spoon to my mouth with my right hand you will agree that me wielding a sharp knife right now is a very scary thought...very scary indeed...
So, let's make some soup :)

Semolina Soup
30g Butter
35g Semolina
750ml Stock
Some vegetables such as leek, celeriac, and carrot if you feel like it

Heat the butter in a pot, then add the semolina. Cook (or fry or whatever you call this) the semolina for about 10 minutes on a low heat until it has become a golden yellow (you are basically making a roux just with semolina instead of flour, so keep stirring).
If you are using vegetables, chop them finely and add them now.
Keep cooking the mix until the semolina has turned a dark yellow, then add the stock, turn the heat down as low as it will go, cover the pot and find something to do for an hour (may I recommend crappy TV).
Serve on it's own or with some chives on top. Oh, and the Charlie and Lola bowl is obviously vital for your enjoyment of the soup :)

Food for when you're feeling sorry for yourself

You know the feeling when you're sick and all you want is your mum's chicken soup or fettuccine alfredo (or whatever else you crave when you are sick)?

I've been having a couple of days like that lately and while I was feeling rather sorry for myself last night I had this idea (see, at least something good came from all the self-pitty).

While most of us won't be able to fly in our mums when we're feeling sick we could start a collection of our favourite 'good for the soul' kinda foods from our childhood.

I would love to hear about the food that makes you feel better when everything else is just all horrible (and we don't discriminate, this includes both man-flu and proper flu :) )

I shall attempt to make a semolina soup with my good hand tonight to start us off, but do comment or send me an email with your tales!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Ham and Stuff Quiche

© Verena Kersken

Before I tell you about today's recipe, yes, I am slightly obsessed with my new flan dish. So we are expanding on the shortcrust pastry, filling and custard (sweet or savoury) theme a bit.
Louise and I wanted to make a quiche and while I had a general idea of what I wanted to go for I decided to do some procrastination and do some more research :)
I came across this recipe for what they call Quiche Lorraine by the Hairy Bikers (though, I know this is a bit petty, in my opinion adding Gryere to your quiche moves it distinctly away from the Lorraine region and more into the realms of a Quiche Vosgienne - is that me being too picky? What do you think?).
Anyhow, while I wasn't sold by the name, I fell in love with their pastry. They add parmesan and thyme to a classic shortcrust pastry and it turns out as amazingly amazing as it sounds. Think cheese crackers as a base for your quiche.

Ham and Stuff Quiche
150g Flour
50g Parmesan Cheese, grated finely
1 tbsp Thyme Leaves for pastry +1 for the filling
90g Salted Butter
5 tbsp Cold Water (you might need slightly more or less)
2 Eggs
100g Ham (if you can only get it in the supermarket cry a bit and then get a wafer-thin cut one that looks like it might actually  have come from an animal at some point)
1/2 Onion
100ml Cream
150ml Milk (I know, I'm a wimp)
100g Cheese, coarsely grated (I used mature cheddar but go for whatever you like)
Salt, Pepper & Nutmeg

Mix the flour, parmesan, and thyme, then rub in the butter. Use the water to make a stiff dough. Let the dough rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes (though half an hour is probably better).
While you wait for the dough, dice the onion and cut the ham into slices.
Preheat your oven to 190 ˚C.
Grease a flan dish (mine is a 24cm one by the way), then roll out the pastry and line the flan dish with the pastry. Now blind bake the pastry for about 10 minutes. Baking beans are great for this but it will work just as well if you don't have any (might not be as pretty so if you are trying his/her parents invest in some ;) ).
While the pastry is blind baking whisk the eggs, cream and milk together, season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Then add the onion, ham and cheese and stir everything together.
Once the pastry has finished blind baking, pour the filling in and stick it back into the oven. Bake until the filling has set - 20 minutes should do the job.
Enjoy with lots and lots of green salad.
All right, I am a bit sick of this whole typing-with-one-hand business so I'll stop for today :)
I hope you have a lovely rest of the day!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

No more Ovaltine Spread...

I finished my Ovaltine Spread yesterday...

It made me rather sad...

...but then I had this amazing idea....

I hope you're all having a fabulous Sunday!

Saturday, 16 April 2011


I thought we could make a proper Swabian dish today.
Like the kind that gives you enough energy to run a marathon or plough a field the next morning (or whatever else you can think of).
Linsen (lentils) were traditionally grown in the region my family is from until the 1950s when people decided that the effort that had to go into growing and cleaning them was slightly outweighed by the small amounts of lentils that you actually got to harvest.
The nice thing about lentils is that they contain loads of easily digestible protein that, when combined with wheat protein, give you all essential amino acids (lentils themselves are missing two) so you can go back to ploughing that field the next day :)
Anyhow, the picture above is of a pack of lentils my mum gave me the last time I was home.
I think the idea behind these lentils is simply super cool.
In the 80s a group of Bioland farmers in the Schwäbische Alb region decided that they wanted to cultivate lentils again but since nobody had properly grown lentils in like 30 years and you couldn't get the old seeds anymore they started looking for types of lentils that would thrive in the climate of the area.
It turns out that puy lentils really like the ground there so that is what they've been growing.
In 2006 (this is the bit where I got really excited about these lentils:) some guy discovered some old seeds that were the type that used to grow in the region in a collection in St Petersburg so now they have started planting these. In a couple of years time they will be able to start selling the same lentils that people were growing in the region at the beginning of the last century.
Anyhow, I'm gonna stop boring you with stories about food and we can get to the cooking bit :)
You could add some vegetables to this (like carrots or potatoes) but I felt this would distract from the delicate flavour of the puy lentils.
Also, my dad is of the opinion that it's not proper lentils if you don't add some bacon (I don't share that opinion but if you like bacon, add some).

250-300g Lentils (there were 4 of us)
1/2 Onion
Vegetable Stock
Salt & Pepper
If you want to go authentic you'll need some flour as well.

If you are using puy or beluga lentils then you can just start, if you are using larger green lentils then I would soak them for a couple of hours before starting.
Finely dice the onion and sauté it in the butter in a heavy-bottomed dish.
Once the onion is starting to look all lovely and glassy, add the lentils and give it a quick stir. Cover with vegetable stock and cook on a medium heat until the lentils are tender. With puy lentils this will take around 15-20 minutes, if you are using a different type of lentils this may differ.
When the lentils are nearly done, melt some butter in a heavy bottomed pan, then add some flour and make a roux. You are aiming for quite a brown end result so keep the temperature fairly low and give it some time. Set the roux aside until the lentils are cooked.
I prefer my lentils slightly overcooked if I have them with Spätzle (see picture below) because then they stick to the pasta waaay better. Anyhow, there shouldn't be crazy amounts of liquid left in the pot now.
Mix in the roux (if things get too thick too quickly add some more stock, but keep in mind that you don't want lentil soup).
Add some vinegar (trust me, this will transform them from good to amazing) and season with some salt and pepper.
Serve the lentils with some Spätzle or if you aren't going for a traditional thing, they are also really nice with some humous and penne (I think my grandma is gonna disown me now....but it's actually really nice).
Anyhow, I hope you have a lovely rest of your weekend!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Have you ever had sweet potato fries?
Ever since I tried some in Atlanta last year I have been in love with the flavour.
But since I don't own a deep-fryer I never made any and kept suppressing the memories :)
Until Anna and I decided to make a fancy fish supper.
We made some steamed salmon and then cut some sweet potatoes into really thin slices and while they didn't taste exactly like the ones I had last year, they came incredibly close.

© Anna Blanch

The problem is this is starting to turn into an addiction not just for me but also for several people around me which means I might have had some on 3 occasions this weekend and while I think sweet potatoes are a perfectly healthy food-choice this is starting to get out of hand...if tesco's run out of sweet potatoes, you know who's to blame.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, they are also really nice if you make them with some normal potato slices thrown in.
Anyhow, let's make some sweet potato fries!

Sweet Potato Fries
1 Sweet Potato per person
Olive Oil

Preheat your oven to 220˚C.
Cut the sweet potatoes into fairly thin slices (the thickness of a 1 pound coin is a good one to go for), then toss them in some olive oil (alternatively you could drizzle them with the olive oil after you have spread them out on a baking tray but either way, you don't need crazy amounts 1 tsp per sweet potato is more than enough). Sprinkle them with some salt (I like to put it on at the beginning because I tend to forget everything once the baked lovelies are staring at me).
Once your oven is hot enough bake them for around 20 minutes. Rotate the baking tray halfway through the cooking time.
Stop yourself from eating them straight off the baking tray but pretend you're all grown up and put them on a plate before you have them either all grown up with some steamed salmon or with some horseradish mayo, cucumber raita or whatever else you like to have with sweet potato fries.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Rhubarb Tart

The weather here is wonderful at the moment. It seems we have skipped spring and the weather reminds me more of early summer than of anything else.
So today I put on my most summery pair of jeans and headed out to the garden to cut some rhubarb.
I don't know about you but for me a fruit tart is what makes summer summery. What screams lazy Sunday afternoon like a tart you didn't have to do anything for other than make a quick shortcrust pastry and a simple custard?
I use a 24cm flan dish if you're wondering about sizes.

Rhubarb Tart
200g Flour
90g Butter
Cold Water
150g Rhubarb
80g Sugar
1 Egg
50ml Single Cream
50ml Milk
6cm piece of Vanilla Pod

Mix the flour and a pinch of salt. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Then use just enough water to get a stiff dough. In my case I used 5 tablespoons but you might need more or less depending on your flour and the temperature etc.
Cover the dough in cling film and refrigerate it for 15 minutes or so.
Heat your oven to 190 ˚C.
Cut the rhubarb into 1.5 -2cm pieces. Sprinkle the rhubarb with half the sugar and set aside.
Grease your flan dish, roll out the pastry and line the flan dish with it.
Now, I like to partially blind-bake my shortcrust pastry but I've had spectacular tarts and pies that weren't blind baked so go for whichever approach you prefer.
Whisk the egg, remaining sugar, cream, milk vanilla (scrape the seeds into the mix) and nutmeg together.
If you are blind baking your pastry give it 5 minutes or so, otherwise just start filling :)
Spread out the rhubarb pieces evenly in the pastry, then pour the egg mix over the rhubarb.
Bake your tart for approximately 25 minutes or until the rhubarb is nice and soft.
Wait for 10 minutes or so until the tart has cooled down enough so you wont burn your fingers and enjoy it with some freshly whipped cream and some good coffee while feeling the sun on your skin.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Prawn Pasta

You know the feeling when you are standing in front of your fridge and there isn't really anything in there that you want to eat?
I've been having that a lot lately. So earlier this week I decided to go back to basics and make a quick and simple pasta dish.
It's bursting with flavours and is simply perfect for a quick spring dinner (or so I think). You can throw it together in 15 minutes (10 if you're going for really thin pasta) and concentrate on your guests rather than the cooking part of the whole thing.
It's also a perfect comfort food for when all you want to do is watch some crappy TV in your favourite pair of sweats (wanna guess which of the two options I went for? :) )

Prawn Pasta
1 handfull Freshwater Prawns per person
1 tsp Lemon Zest per person
Olive Oil
Lemon Juice
Dried Pasta

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, then cook the pasta until it's done.
While the pasta is bubbling away, drain the prawns if they came in some brine. Grate the lemon zest if you haven't done so already.
Drain the pasta, pour it into a bowl, mix in some lemon juice and some olive oil. Then toss in the prawns.
Season with salt and pepper, then add the lemon zest.
Serve in a pretty bowl and let the flavours and colours make you feel better.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Oven Steamed Salmon

I thought I should talk to you about this obsession of mine (this is really the only way of describing it).
You know, I grew up nearly 700 km away from the sea (and since we're talking about European standards here, that is quite a lot) and while I like fish, I never really knew what to do with it.
Until an ex-boyfriend's mum showed me how to steam fish in baking parchment a few years back.
And I was completely sold.
Lately I've started steaming the fish in an ovenproof dish because it makes adding different liquids a bit easier (my baking parchment parcel wrapping skills aren't that great I must admit) so, without further ado...
Let me introduce you to my favourite dish these days :)

Oven Steamed Salmon
100g piece of Salmon (I'm not saying that is how much you should eat, but that's the weight I go for so you might have to adjust the cooking time)
Some Orange Juice
1/2 fresh Lemon (wash it in really hot water before you use it)

Preheat your oven to 220˚C.
Sit your salmon into an ovenproof dish, then pour some orange juice around the fish (you don't want to drown it but at the same time this will also be what the fish is steaming in so go for a healthy medium).
Cut the lemon into slices and stick them into the dish as well (I normally don't arrange them as neatly as I did for the photo, I did that just for you :)).
Cover the dish with tinfoil and stick it into the oven.
Give it about 20 minutes, then check whether the salmon is done.
This works fabulously with the leeks I told you about a couple of weeks ago, but it's also quite spectacular with some sweet potato fries (you'll get the recipe for those in a couple of days).
Oh, and it's also nice with lime juice, or tomatoes, or....I haven't tried a combination that I haven't liked...

Monday, 4 April 2011

Tomato & Bread Salad

Here's another idea for your lunchbox that shouldn't take you more than 5 or 10 minutes.
I know it's not really tomato-season yet (ok, not even remotely) but I had one of those 'I don't care, I want something summery' days. So let me tell you that it's nice in the spring but if you make this in the summer it will blow your mind (if you can get really nice heirloom tomatoes go for those).
Anyhow, you don't really need a recipe here but let me give you the following advice:

-I'm lazy so I don't remove the skin from the tomatoes. It's really nice though. Put the tomatoes into boiling water for a few seconds, then transfer them to a bowl of ice-water, then you can peel the skin off without any issues.
-When you cut the tomatoes, take the squishy seed stuff out but don't throw it away, if you put it into the dressing it will give you a really nice flavour.
-Use nice olive oil :)
-It's ok if the bread you're using (sourdough is really nice for this purpose) is stale. I wouldn't go for rock-solid but if it's been sitting in your bread tin for a couple of days it will be perfect because it won't go too soggy.
-It's also really nice with some onions and some capers and grilled peppers, but if I'm just making some for my lunchbox, the ingredients below are what I go for.

Allright, so what do you actually need?

Some tomatoes (2 medium ones per person is a good start)
Some bread
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Cut the tomatoes into pieces and keep the seeds (just put them into a small bowl or so). Break or cut the bread into pieces that are a bit bigger than the tomato pieces. Mix the tomato seeds with some salt and pepper and balsamic vinegar.
Now you're ready to 'assemble' your salad :)
Put the tomatoes and the bread into a bowl, spoon over some vinegar-tomato mix (don't drown the bread but be generous at the same time - if that makes sense), then drizzle everything with some olive oil.
This salad is a bit boring just after you have made it, so take it to work with you and enjoy it in a few hours or over lunch.

Friday, 1 April 2011

What I've been up to

I know, I haven't given you any recipes in a while, and I promise we'll be back to more or less normal post-intervals soon.
To make the wait less boring :) (or if you are just wanting to procrastinate a bit) here's what I've been up to

I got a cake that I expected and that was awesomely chocolatey

I got a cake that I really didn't expect and that was just incredibly lovely and yummy

And then there were some super beautiful flowers

And then there was a whole group of very lovely people who made this entire week super fun!
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