Tuesday, January 31

'Cullen Skink' or Smoked fish chowder

About a week ago, after few days of frenzic reading of cookbooks' reviews, I settled on my first choice - twins: Leith's Cookery Bible and Leith's Technique's Bible. ( I always do that! I choose something straight-away that I know I like, but give it few days to settle and see whether I find something better. Then I go back to my first choice. I should know better by now and just buy it right-away!)
I quickly ordered them from Amazon whilst they were still in sale and was waiting for my 2-5 days super saver free delivery. (have I gone mad? did I really go for 2-5 days delivery? never again!) On my surprise, it arrived the next day!! I carefully opened the box and pulled out two brand new, shiny thick books, full of useful information and recipes.
The reason I decided on these 2 'bibles' was that I wanted to look at my ingredients in the fridge and then look them up in the book's index to give me a collection of recipes to choose from.
Well, that is exactly what I did to try the books out! I had a smoked haddock, looked it up and the suggestion was 'Cullen Skink' (must admit, it did not sound appetizing from the title) , a simple thick soup with a potato base.
When following the recipe: poaching the cod in milk with (only?) nutmeg spice - sauteeing 2 cubed potatoes with finely chopped onion - pouring the strained milk from the fish onto the potatoes, still cooking -blitzing the cooked potatoes with the milk - adding bite-size fish pieces (free of any bones) to the blitzed soup - pouring the soup into small earthenware dishes - finishing with fresh chopped tomatoes, parsley and ground pepper. I could not imagine how this simple looking soup could be so special. Then, after trying it, I admitted my defeat over my hesitations to keep the books and was fully convinced that the recipes in these books have been, just as the authors say, over 100x tried, tested and only the most liked recipes kept.
As for the name:
'Cullen Skink' - is a thick soup of Scottish origin with smoked haddock, potatoes and other vegetables.
'Chowder' - is a thick soup with fish and/or vegetables but having usually corn in it too.
Read about 'Cullen': http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/cullen/cullen/

Monday, January 30

White chocolate truffle dream

Over the weekend, I made these lovely truffles.
My new flavour: white chocolate ganache with lemon extract, ginger and a bit of Cointreau came out delicious. All coated in bitter cocoa powder.

Sunday, January 29

Noodle IMBB#22 (Sweet noodles and 4 toppings)

This month has struck me with 3 blogging events that I managed to write up within the last week. This one - IMBB#22 is all about noodles, presented to us by Amy at Cooking with Amy.

I am glad that I can introduce you to few popular dishes of Slovak quisine - noodles with sweet poppyseed topping/sweet breadcrumb topping/sweet cabbage topping/ sweet quark topping and all finished with hot oozing jam.

These meals are usually served as a main course but feel free to use them in smaller portions as a dessert.

Sweet poppyseed topping - is used in a variety of cakes (strudel, little roll crescents, yeasty cakes, etc.). It appears in Slovak, Czech, Hungarian and Austrian quisine as a favourite cake filling. Pour about a cupful of poppyseeds with 2-3 tbsp of icing sugar into a whizzer/grinder and whizz until you see the colour change to a nice poppyseed grey. You can adjust the sweetness by adding more sugar to the grinder and whizz again. Heat a lump of butter and either mix into the noodles together with ground sugary poppyseeds or top the noodles with the poppyseed and then pour butter over it. Top up with hot jam.
(You could also add rum and lemon zest into the poppyseed mixture together with melted butter.)

Sweet breadcrumb topping - whizz fresh white or wholemeal bread in a grinder/mixer until you have nice breadcrumbs. Heat a lump of butter in a pan and add fresh breadcrumbs with some icing sugar. Fry until the mixture is heated through and a bit crispy. Again, either mix into the cooked noodles or top the noodles with the mix and finish with hot jam.

Sweet cabbage topping - shred a white cabbage finely and stir-fry in a pan in a little butter, just so that it coats it. Cover with a lid and steam, occasionally stir, so it does not burn. Cook until soft. Mix into the cooked noodles or top the noodles and finish with creme freshe and crushed walnuts.

Quark topping - 1 tub of quark and 1 egg yolk, icing sugar are mixed together. Then add whipped egg white, fold in. Add lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon. Rasins are optional. Leave to stand if you use rasins, so that they can plump up in the quark.

All these dishes are very traditional and we call them 'rezance' [rhey-zun-tsa](slovak).

If anybody tries them, please let me know whether you liked it or not.

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Saturday, January 28

"Cooking Challenges of 2006" MEME

I have been tagged by Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice ( I want to say, I love the name and design and recipes in Ivonne's blog!) to write up my cooking challenges for 2006.
I wish I did not find it difficult - I would then own a huge catering business! :)

So, here I go:
1. Very recently, I have gone a little mad and started to read about every possible quisine in the world. I could not decide which one to take on as first, so I ended up with a collection (hungarian, french and morrocan). Thus, my challenge is to have in my cooking repertoire few dishes from every quisine I stumble across. (a bit too challenging, maybe, but it keeps my interest and ispiration up)
2. Spun sugar and caramel - it fascinates me what you can make out of sugar. Caramel is one of the tastes I love and it is so versatile - think of fudge, or banoffee pie, tart tatin, caramel ice-cream, 'pizzelle' - click, etc.) As for spun sugar, it means mastering caramel, for me. It looks impressive with desserts to give them that 'wow' factor. (maybe sad, :) but true!)
3. Croquembouch or a huge celebration cake with sugar piping. The basis for Croquenbouch is 'choux pastry' which fortunately, I am ok with. So, now, it is only to make lots of 'the balls', fill them with pastry cream(3 flavours), build them into a tower/pyramid and drizzle all over with caramel and spun sugar. Hmmmm! I shall be making this next week for my sister-in-law's 40. birthday party.
4. Inventive vegetarian meals - this is something, my hubby and I, are trying to do more. Eat healthily, meaning eat more vegetarian meals. So, my challenge is to be able to cook up huge variety of veggie meals.
5. Once a week dinner for friends and family.
This is something I always wanted to do often. Have done it few times but have still little things to improve like getting everything out hot and pretty quickly. So that's the challenge!
6. Last (and probably not least) is my challenge to produce truffles in larger quantities and sell them to people. I would love to hear the feedback from them as to what flavours they prefer. It would be very interesting!

Phew! That's my challenges for this year written. Now, I only have to keep them up. I'll keep you posted.

I would like to hear about the cooking challenges from following people:
Nicky and Oliver from Delicious Days, Ana from Pumpking Pie Bungalow and Keiko from Nordljus.

Friday, January 27

SHF#15 - Tangy Clementine Upside Down Cake

This time round, Becks and Posh came up with an excellent idea for Sugar High Fridays#15(of which Jennifer is the creator) and asked for a permission to start Sugar Low Fridays.

My contribution is this delicious 'warm comfort pudding for cold winter days' that I adopted from 'Waitrose' supermarket recipe leaflets.

http://www.waitrose.com/wfi/ - is their super monthly magazine if you want to have a peek.

This lovely moist cake has very little fat and has a detailed calorie description:

It serves 6 people and 1 serving has:

199kcal/3.6 g fat/2.4% fat per serving

You could use oranges or grapefruit too as a variation and 'Waitrose' suggests an alternative for orange marmalade to use stem ginger syrup and few chopped pieces of ginger which I know would taste absolutely marvellous as the syrup is sugary!


4 clementines (2 large oranges)

3 tbsp orange marmalade(sugar-free)

2 medium eggs

75 dark brown sugar (I used 2 large tbsp. of honey)

grated zest and juice of 1 clementine

75 g self-raising flower, sifted

250g low-fat fromage frais + 1/2 tsp ground ginger - use as an accompaniment

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Peel 4 clementines and slice into 5 circles each. Prepare a non-stick cake tin, 20cm in diameter and only 4cm high. Lay the slices, starting in the middle and working your way out, overlapping them slightly.
Warm the marmalade (you can make your own, if you like, using only orange segments, the orange peel and honey) and pour it over the clementine slices in the cake tin.
In a bowl, beat the eggs with honey with an electric mixer. Add the zest and juice of 1 clementine. Add the flour and mix in. Pour the mixture over the clementines and bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden and firm on top.
The marmalade might be bubbling on the side of the cake which is ok.
Once the cake is cooked, take out of the oven, put a large plate upside-down on top of the tin and turn it all upside down. Take the tin off and voila! Beautiful moist cake.

I would like to add, the cake tastes nice. I like them exceptionally georgeous. This one tastes healthy, is suitable if you fancy a hot pud and is done in about half hour. I would prefer to eat it with a delicious ginger ice-cream and a mint leaf on top!!! That would make it that little more exceptional.

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Sunday, January 22

'Pate sucree' or 'pate sablee' and the easiest tart filling

As I mentioned in my previous post, I decided it is a high time to give my full attention to traditional French art of pattiserie.
For that, I chose to follow The Roux Brothers on Pattiserie book which I found in the local library.

Although, it gives you a complete guide to pastry making, I am now a little sceptical about the 'up-to-date' -ness of the actual desserts. Because I wanted a book that would include classics like 'Lemon tart', 'Orange tart' or 'Apple Clafoutis' and hopefully, many other irresistable desserts to sit on my bookshelf, I went with the first one I found (1986).
I was hugely impressed with the technical side of the recipes. So I persuaded myself to devote my Sunday afternoon to baking. All excited, the decision fell on 'Hazelnut tart' (having 2 packets of hazelnuts in the cupboard).
I started to read the recipe with anticipation and find out what the tart filling was going to be. It only used eggs, cream, honey and 2tbsp of brown sugar. To a silly-billy - me, I could not think what that would give me in a baked form. Or let's just say, being short of time, I was NOT thinking!
Anyway. I started to make this beautiful pastry - 'pate sablee' which was very similar, almost identical to 'pate sucree'. Then, after comparing both in detail, I realized that 'pate sablee'(having ground almonds or hazelnuts) is finer, softer and harder to work with than 'pate sucree' (easier to roll and lay).
'Pate sablee' had a very delicate soft bite to it with a hint of lemon essence.

And now, raise the curtains for the tart filling!
Mix together - 4 eggs, 2 tbsp. of brown sugar, honey and 250ml of cream and pour into the half-baked pastry. After 15 minutes add the hazelnut halves and bake another 5 minutes.
E voila!
Custart tart with hazelnuts on top!

My dissapointment was evident. I don't think it was right as I did want to learn all about the classic tarts and this is one of them. However, I would have preferred something more, I don't know, to our modern tastes - something with a twist. So, maybe, I will just study this book, but purchase a more current one with 'tarts de resistance'.

Friday, January 20

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Wednesday, January 18

Croissants and french pattiserie

About a week ago, I was browsing through cookery books in the local library and I came across this phenomenal guide on traditional pattiserie by the Roux brothers. The book is slightly old (1986) but has all the techniques on how to make perfect croissants, brioches, tarts, creams and sauces, etc. I was always thinking how nice it would be to wake up at the weekend and bake some home-made croissants. I must be a little mad to get excited over things which involve quite a large amount of work, but my eyes lit up when I started to read 2 full pages of dough preparation, followed by 2 pages of pictures - on the recipe procedure. This is what I call a serious cookbook. It is not short of any hints and tips either, like for example, how to get a durable glaze for puff pastry dessert with icing sugar. I must admit, I have become a fan of the old school, together with their french vocab. It makes the whole process of baking and my status as an amateur chef more serious if you say you are making 'Feulletage minute'(quick puff pastry) or 'Creme Anglaise'(custard cream). It all sounds so elegant! Aaaaah! (sad, I know, but I can't help it).

So, this is how I starting my new adventure - on french quisine.

Sunday, January 15

The 'Sacher torte' - the pride of Austrian coffeehouses

This rich and simple Viennese chocolate cake filled with apricot jam is one of the most celebrated and famous cakes in history. It dates back to 1832 when Prince Clemens Lothar Wensel Metternich (1773-1859) of Austria ordered his chefs to create a new dessert for his fancy friends. At the time, the head chef was ill and unavailable, so the kitchen cooks got in a panic not knowing what to do. Suddenly in a haste, a 16-year-old apprentice Franz Sacher came up with this simple and elegant idea for a cake which afterwards ensured him a flourishing career, followed by his son Eduard who opened up a hotel in Vienna in Philharmonikerstra3e. Nowadays, you can enjoy staying in this hotel packed with history also in Salzburg and treat yourself to the original torte and other pastries in 'Cafe Sacher' (Wien, Salzburg, Graz, Innsbruck).

If you want to be one of the 500-800 people ordering this historical cake in a day , you can buy it
here in the 'Sacher shop' which makes it available for people all around the world, packaged in nice wooden boxes, just like in the old times. They come in 4 different sizes and you can complement them with other presents from the shop like porcelain, souvenirs - i.e.original old-fashioned news-paper holder( cute!I am a big fan of the old coffehouse style).

I made my own version of this fabulous cake which has surely been tried by many:(original recipe borrowed from 'Chocolate the definitive guide' by Sarah Jayne-Stanes)
-beatifully moist chocolate almond sponge, raspberry jam, chocolate mirror icing

-125g dark chocolate (melted)
-125g sugar
-125g butter(low-fat margarine)
-125g ground almonds
- 6 eggs(separated)
- pinch of salt

200g dark chocolate(melted)
55g butter
100g icing sugar
100ml water

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Melt chocolate in a microwave, watching and stirring every 20-30 seconds until smooth.

In a bowl, mix butter and sugar with an el.mixer until smooth. Add egg yolks and mix them in. Add cooled down chocolate and fold in using a spatula. Add ground almonds and mix in until combined.

Ina separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Fold in little by little into the chocolate mixture, breaking up the thick mixture slowly.

Bake in a spring-form cake tin for about 20 min. until firm to touch.

Whilst cooling down, make the icing. Put the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to boil. Quickly add melted chocolate and whisk it in off the heat until smooth. Put back on the heat and bring to boil and take off quickly. Whisk and leave on the side to cool a little.

Cut the chocolate cake in half horizontally and spread the jam in the middle. Put the top back on and pour the icing on top in the middle. Take a spoon and with a circular movement from the middle, slowly spread the icing over the top to the sides. It will be setting in few minutes as it is already cooled down a little, so it won't run.

Keep a little choc. icing back and with a piping bag, write 'Sacher' on the top of the cake.

Sunday, January 1

Happy New Year

I wish everybody very happy new year, so that all the things we plan or wish for come out just right.
Lots of people do new year's resolutions which I have never done myself before until now!
I started my blog last year during which many important things happened and I missed about 2 months of writing and reading.
Therefore, this year comes with my first resolution, to keep up my food blog and to be more adventurous and creative.
It is one of the things I enjoy and find inspiring, so thank you all for writing and sharing your posts. It is always an enjoyment to read them all.

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