Friday, December 24, 2010

12 Days of Christmas Baking

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas
I undertook to bake . . .

twelve pecan tassies
eleven mincemeat pinwheels
ten cardamom buttons
nine molasses crinkles
eight oatmeal chewies
seven gingerbread trees
six cranberry loaves
five butter stars
four gingerbread houses
three dozen spritz
a double batch of sugar cookies
and a whole lot of Texas fruitcake!

The first day of Christmas doesn't actually start until the 25th,
but when it comes to Christmas baking, I'm pretty much done by that day. 
I might manage one more batch of mince pies, and maybe another batch of English toffee for my mother-in-law, but all of my baking efforts come in the run-up to the Christmas season.
For weeks now, my kitchen has resembled an amateur bakery . . . and feel free to call me crazy, because all of my friends (and my husband) do.

I suppose we all have our favourite Christmas traditions -- the ones that make us feel cosy, and put us into the seasonal spirit -- and for me, it is all about a warm kitchen and the alchemy of flour and sugar.  I'm sure it goes back to my childhood, when I spent many happy hours decorating sugar cookies and cutting out gingerbread men with my mother.  These days, some of my best moments come when I'm in the  company of my own children and we are chatting and laughing and listening to Christmas music -- whilst absorbed in our culinary tasks.  I know that I will treasure the memory of the snowy day when my teenaged daughter's social plans were ruined and so we spent a long afternoon making candy:  peanut brittle, English toffee, and a family favorite called "Oklahoma Brown" candy.

It's not that we don't sample the treats, but when it comes to Christmas baking, I definitely prefer to give . . . rather than to keep it all in the family.  I make cookies platters for friends and teachers, and no one can enter my house without me breaking out the fruitcake and making little gift bags to take home.

This year will go down as the "Fruitcake Christmas."  I dug up an old recipe that my grandparents used to love:  they called it Fort Worth fruitcake, and my mom told me that the recipe was an annual request in the Fort Worth, Texas newspaper.  I've made a few changes in the original recipe . . . you know that saying that necessity is the mother of invention? . . . and so I've called it Texas Fruitcake.  Unlike the English versions of fruitcake, it doesn't have raisins, currants or mixed peel.  Instead you get lots of moist dates and apricots, and plenty of pecans -- which are a major crop in Texas.  I've tested this recipe on ALL sorts of people this Christmas, and everyone seems to love it.  I've become a victim of my own success, though -- and I keep on having to make more of the stuff because I will insist on giving it away.  I've made at least 20 loaves of it, maybe more; I lost track a long time ago. 

Texas Fruitcake

1 pound of stoned and chopped dates
1/2 pound candied cherries
1/2 pound chopped apricots
1 pound of pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs


This recipe will make either one large angel food tube pan, two medium loaves, or four small loaves.  The cooking times are more or less the same for all of them -- two hours, taking away about ten minutes if you use the small loaf pans.  Prepare all of the pans by using a bit of butter or shortening and then lining with parchment paper.

Cut fruit and nuts into small pieces and put into a large bowl.  Note:  If you cut them by hand you will have more quality control, but you may also use the food processor -- except for the cherries which really need to be cut up by hand.  Be careful with the dates, too -- as they can easily turn to mush.
Sift the dry ingredients together and mix with the fruit and nuts -- using a wooden spoon. 
Beat the eggs and vanilla together and pour the liquid mixture over the fruit/four mix.
Mix very well -- with a wooden spoon, or even with your hands.
Pack the mixture into the prepared pans.
Bake at a very low oven -- 250 F/125 C for approximately two hours.
Cool the cake in the pan, and then remove and wrap well in cling film.

Some commentary:  When it is fresh out of the oven, this cake is absolutely delicious.  You may treat it like a traditional fruitcake though, and "feed" it with brandy (sherry, rum, whatever) for several months or weeks before eating.  It will get darker with age, and the flavour and texture will change -- but both versions are great.  Yesterday, we had friends over for mince pies and mulled wine and I cut into a loaf that I've been "steeping" for almost two months now.  (Sadly, there isn't a trace of it left now.) 
If forced to choose, though, I would probably opt for the non-alcoholic version -- which is great for afternoon tea or even breakfast-on-the-run.  At the beginning of the week, I had to catch an early train to London and I brought along several slices to share with a friend for our commuter breakfast.  She was begging me for the recipe . . . really, it's that good.
Although it may seem like it's a bit late for fruitcake season, you might as well treat yourself because we still have wintry January and February to get through.
This is really such an easy-peasy recipe, and did you notice?  No butter or other fat in it. 
Perfect for Christmas -- or the upcoming season of austerity.

Happy Christmas baking!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

bûche de nöel or how to look good this christmas

last year, about this time, i made a reference to nigella's fabulous bûche de nöel, without sharing the recipe with you. since i spent my morning making a double one to take to sabin's school play this evening and had a chance to photograph the process, i thought i'd share it with you now...just in time for you to look positively heroic this christmas. because this cake is a veritable masterpiece when it's done and it's dead easy. plus it doesn't contain any flour, so even those who live the gluten free life can partake.

as usual, i couldn't leave even the goddess-like perfection of nigella alone and i have made a teency weency adjustment to the recipe.

nigella's bûche de nöel a la julie

the cake:
6 eggs, separated
150g sugar
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3-5 teaspoons of powdered sugar to decorate

the icing:
175g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
250g powered sugar
225g butter
1 T vanilla extract

the extra julie touch:
1/2 liter of cream, whipped

preheat your oven to 180°C/375°F.

whisk the egg whites until they are thick and and beginning to peak, then add 50g of the sugar and keep whisking 'til stiff peaks form. if you're like me, you let your kitchenaid do this bit while you're working on the next part.

whisk the egg yolks and the rest of the sugar until they are a creamy pale yellow, add the vanilla, whisk a bit more, then sieve the cocoa powder in and mix it well.

put a big dollop of the egg white mixture into your chocolatey egg yolks, mixing well, then fold the chocolate mixture carefully into the rest of your egg whites, taking care not to lose too much air.

pour the mixture into a swiss roll tin lined with baking paper. a little trick to keep the baking parchment from rolling up on you while you're trying to pour (seriously, why isn't part of pregnancy the growing of a 3rd arm - wouldn't that be handy?), you can put a little dab of butter in each corner and stick the baking paper to it.

bake for about 20 minutes until it looks done. i realize this sounds vague, but trust me, you'll be able to see when it's done.  remove it from the oven and let it cool very briefly (and i do mean very briefly) before turning it onto a new piece of baking paper and peeling off the baking paper backing.

don't let it get too cool before you do this, or you'll have trouble getting the paper off without taking quite a lot of cake with it. trust me, i've made the mistake so you don't have to.

while it's cooling. melt your chocolate in a double boiler (or in a metal bowl over a pan of boiling water, like i do).

put the powdered sugar down in your food processor and whip it up to get rid of any lumps. then add your softened butter and let the food processor do the work for you. add the vanilla once the butter and sugar are well-mixed.  once the chocolate is melted and cooled down a little bit (so it doesn't melt your butter), add it to the butter/sugar mixture and again, let the food processor do the work for you.

while it's doing the work, let your kitchenaid whip up some cream for you - but do keep an eye on it, you're not making butter here (again, i've made the mistake so you don't have to).

put the cake on a good work surface and spread a thin layer of the chocolate icing on top. on top of that, spread a good layer of whipped cream. it hit me today, when i was a little concerned about not having enough of the chocolate icing (i was making two cakes and doubled the icing recipe, but it didn't look like enough), that you could use the hazelnut goodness of nutella here on the inside, just to add another note to the cake. i did, however, have plenty of icing, so i needn't have worried.

i found the cake too heavy and dense the first time i made it, without the whipped cream, tho' nigella's original recipe doesn't call for it. i find it makes it lighter and more sort of dreamy and delicious.

let the baking paper help you carefully roll the cake up. then carefully cut each end at an angle (strangely, i failed to photograph this bit), so you can place it beside your main "branch" as smaller "branches."

place the cut ends at angles against the main cake - my cake here is actually two cakes, so yours will be half the size of this. spread the remainder of the chocolate icing over the cake, covering and using extra bits to stick your branches on. use a spatula and a toothpick to make it look like the bark of a tree.

dust it with powdered sugar so it looks like new fallen snow and decorate around it with greens and pinecones gathered outdoors.

it may sound a bit fussy, but you'll be amazed how easy it really is.  and your friends and family will never know (unless you tell them). so you can act like you slaved all day and get people to fetch you glasses of wine while you relax.

Monday, December 13, 2010

lucia bread

december 13 is st. lucia day in sweden- that means beautiful blonde girls wearing angelic white robes and crowns of live candles and it also means the most lovely, golden, saffron and cardamon-scented buns. i made them for the first time this year (despite more than a decade married to an actual (half) swede.  the recipe comes from danish t.v. cook camilla plum's christmas cookbook - jul.

luciaboller (that's the danish version of it)

25 g yeast
4 dl warm milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. saffron
1 tsp. ground cardamon
1/3 C sugar
2 and a half C white flour (preferably organic)
100 g melted butter

1 egg, beaten, to brush on before baking.
mix the yeast and milk together while you grind the saffron with a spoon of sugar in a pestle and mortar, add the cardamon to the saffron mixture. add the remainder of the sugar to the milk and yeast mixture, then add the spices and begin to slowly add the flour. mix in the melted butter (taking care not to add it while it's too hot or you'll kill the yeast. the dough should be a bit sticky, so take care not to add too much flour.

allow it to rise for several hours in a warm place or overnight in a cooler place. form into rather pagan curly swirls, allow them to rise, brush them with the beaten egg and bake at 180°C/375°F for 20 or so minutes (my oven may be a bit fast, but let them get browned and lovely).  serve them with a pot of fresh tea. 

makes 18-24 buns (depending on how creative you get with your shapes/how much you let your 9-year-old help).

happy st. lucia day!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

nordic wintry goodness

i recently got my soul back from the devil and it has caused me to return to my (still horrible calamine-lotion-pink) kitchen. we've been buried in a glorious blanket of snow for several weeks already, tho' rain came overnight and most of it has disappeared and turned everything to a muddy muck outdoors. however, the mud hasn't dampened my spirits and i cooked up a warming winter dinner for us this evening.  a nordic tagine--of all things--combining sweetness and meat a la morocco, but with the nordic note of elderflower. it was a recipe inspired by earthy danish t.v. cook camilla plum's jul - a christmas cookbook. to accompany it, a hearty, simple brown rice and a wintry salad of red cabbage and pomegranate.

nordic tagine

1 beef roast - you can do with a cheaper cut, because you're going to slow cook it 'til it's falling apart
4-5 small red onions, sliced into small boats
1 head of garlic, peeled
1 whole red chili
juice and zest of one lemon
a moroccan-inspired rub for the meat consisting of coriander, cumin, cardamon, salt, pepper (you can buy them ready-made or throw things together in your mortar and pestle yourself)
1 750ml bottle of elderflower cordial.
1 generous splash of balsamic vinegar
4-5 T of olive oil

sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil, then brown the roast (into which you've rubbed the spice mixture). toss in the chili and then pour over the elderflower cordial, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. if it doesn't cover the roast, fill the remainder up with water, so the roast is covered, then put it into an oven-proof pot with a lid (my red le cruset was perfect) and pop it into a 150°C (325°F) oven to slow-simmer for 3 hours.

when there's about an hour to go, cook the brown rice in double the liquid to the amount of rice. i throw in a beef bouillon cube for flavor. it takes 30 or so minutes to cook. when it's nearly done, i throw in a generous hunk of butter. 

like most tagines, the meat dish is sweeter than our northern palates are accustomed to, but the aromatic richness is balanced by the heartiness of the rice and it seems just right on these cold, wintery days.

red cabbage & pomegranate salad

1 small red cabbage, shredded
1 tart apple, grated
1 pomegranate
3 T vanilla olive oil (worth searching for in high end grocery stores)
2 T balsamic vinegar

toss the cabbage and apple into a food processor.  cut the pomegranate in half and wack it over the bowl with a wooden spoon to spill all of the ruby gorgeousness of the pomegranate seeds over the cabbage and apple. if you can find the vanilla olive oil, it's definitely worth it. otherwise, throw a vanilla pod into a bottle of good quality olive oil and make your's fantastic with winter salads.

the crunch and sharpness of the cabbage salad is the perfect counterbalance to the fragrant sweetness of the tagine. 

* * *
coming lucia bread, just in time for the swedish celebration.

and it feels very good to be back.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Apples and Pears

For a host of climactic reasons, (which I won't pretend to understand), we've had a bumper crop of autumn fruit this year.  Just the other day, a friend of mine was complaining about her "glut of apples and pears."  Has GLUT become the collective noun for apples and pears in your house, too?

Unlike my friend, who has a small orchard, we only have one small and wizened apple tree.  But it still produced enough fruit to fill my freezer with cut-up apples, crowd my refrigerator with jars of applesauce -- and feed the litter of pigs at our next-door farm.  Sadly, we aren't as blessed with pears.  We do have one tree, but its fruit is inedible (and, rather conveniently, drops straight into our compost bins).  These gnarly little pears would probably make a decent chutney, if I were enterprising in that way, but my tastes lean more toward Pear Tarte Tatin.  If you are fortunate enough to have a glut of pears, you must try this classic French pudding.  It is absolutely scrumptious. 

This simple recipe has been adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. 

1 packet ready-roll all-butter puff pastry
6-8 pears, ripe but still firm
80 grams unsalted butter
80 grams caster sugar
Juice of half a lemon

(To these ingredients, I've added lemon zest and a large pinch of nutmeg and ginger.  Both versions are delicious . . . I've taste-tested them!)

You can use a ceramic tart/pie plate OR a cast iron skillet to make the tatin.  I used my cast iron skillet, which makes it a one-dish affair.

First, roll out the pastry quite thin.  It should be a large round, about a centimetre or two larger than the tin/skillet that you are using.  The puff pastry is 500 grams, but I discovered that about 400 grams is enough -- and gives a less doughy (and calorific) pastry crust.  Prick a few times with a fok and then refrigerate between greaseproof paper.

Next, peel, halve and core your pears.  Then cut them into thick wedges.  Unless your pears are really big, you will get four pieces from each pear.  The pears shrink quite a bit, so err on the side of more pear than less. 
Melt the butter with the sugar in your skillet -- or a heavy-based frying pan if you will be transferring the fruit to a tart/pie plate.  Add the lemon juice and pears (and spices and zest, if you want them) and cook over medium-high heat.  Turn the pears from time to time, being careful that they don't stick or burn.  (It's probably best not to attempt to make a risotto simultaneously, which is what I did the second time I made this.  Stirring both dishes at the same time was a bit awkward.) 
Cook for approximately 20 minutes -- or until the fruit is golden and you have a thick caramel-coloured sauce which coats the fruit. 

Then arrange your fruit, cut-side up, because of course you will be flipping the pan after it bakes.  Make sure the fruit is crammed together with no space between.  Now set aside to cool.

Drape the pastry over the pears, and tuck it in around the side of the pan to enclose the fruit.  Bake for 20-25 minutes in a hot oven (220 C) until it is golden brown.  Leave to cool for five minutes, and then run a knife around the sides and carefully invert the tart on to a plate.  Let it set for a few more minutes and then serve warm.  A scoop of ice cream isn't necessary, but it certainly doesn't detract.
Note:  The tarte tatin really should be served warm, but you can get the pear mixture and the pastry ready long beforehand -- and then just assemble and bake at the last minute.

From Pear to Tarte Tatin

Moving on to apples . . .
my problem is too much applesauce.  We burned out on the stuff weeks ago; now what to do with the excess?
Happily, I remembered a muffin recipe known, in our family, as Johnnie Applesauce Muffins.  My grandmother used to make these for my father when he was a little boy -- just a few years ago, you understand -- and I made them for my girls, too, when they were small.  But then I forgot about it; actually forgot about it for years.  It's one of those oldie-but-goodies that really does deserve a revival.

Johnnie Applesauce Muffins
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup applesauce
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 to 1 cup raisins
1/2 to 1 cup chopped walnuts

Cream together the butter and the sugar.  Add the eggs, one by one, until well-incorporated.  Add the applesauce.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Sift, or toss gently.  Add the raisins and walnuts if you are using them.  You can, of course, leave them out -- but I wouldn't advise it.  The original recipe doesn't call for them, but I think they boost the flavour -- not to mention the nutritional value.
Add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients -- and mix together gently with a wooden spoon.  Don't beat them or overmix them, as this makes for a "tough" muffin.  You will have a really thick mixture, which you will need to spoon into prepared muffin tins. (It's easier to use muffin papers, and it helps the muffins stay moist, too.) I like a good-sized muffin, so I fill them right to the top.  This recipe will make 12 muffins -- or 18, if you fill them 2/3rds full.

Like any muffin, these are best the day they are made.  If you don't eat them all on the first day, then freeze them immediately as they will defrost beautifully.

I went to a field hockey match this afternoon, and it was absolutely frigid.  Mitten weather, really; but I neglected to wear them.  Honestly, I deserved and needed a mug of Earl Grey tea and a warmed-up muffin for a late-afternoon snack.  These moist muffins, so plump with fruit and fall spices, have so many virtues:  They will use up unwanted applesauce, perfume your kitchen and are nutritious enough to serve as a "lazy" breakfast . . . if you, like me, are having trouble getting out of bed early on these dark mornings!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Toffee Apples

Sixteen years of hosting Halloween parties, and I just learned a new trick:  Toffee Apples.

Now that we live in a country where you can't get those Kraft circles of wrappable caramel, I've been making do without.   But despite there being absolutely no need or justification for more sweet stuff, I've really missed this Halloween treat.  And how else are you going to get a piece of fruit into a kid on October 31st?

As I get older, and wearier, I really appreciate that which is truly EASY.
Here is a classic four ingredient recipe:

8 apples, anything crisp and sweet
2 225 gram bags of toffees (I found mine at Waitrose)
2 1/2 tablespoons of water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Insert wooden sticks into your apples.  (I got lolly sticks from Lakeland.)
Combine the toffees, the water and the vanilla extract in a medium nonstick saucepan.  Stir over low heat until the toffees have melted and you have a thick, satiny mixture.
Swirl the apples in the toffee, OR smooth on with a wooden spoon.
They will harden at room temperature, but you can also refrigerate them.


And even though it may be too late to produce these for this year's Halloween, they would be the perfect dessert for upcoming Bonfire Night on November 5.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

autumn goodness

we ventured out on a sunday morning walk with friends and we hit the jackpot mushroom-wise. the forest was full of mushrooms of all kinds (you can see them here), but the most interesting were the rabarbar parasolhat (macrolepiota rachodes - known as the shaggy parasol in english)and the krystal-støvbold (lycoperdon perlatum - known as the common puffball in english). they were the most interesting because they were ones we could have for lunch.

i adore the idea of found food. something free provided by nature on a walk in the woods. there's just nothing more appealing than that, is there? but i am a cautious mushroomer. i grew up hunting morels and i know them well, but they are a spring mushroom and i don't really know my autumn mushrooms. therefore, i always go hunting with a knowledgeable friend. i've also invested in a good mushroom book and always compare carefully to it before frying up anything i bring home.

rabarbar parasolhat (macrolepiota rachodes - or the shaggy parasol)

krystal-støvbold (lycoperdon perlatum - or the common puffball)

the puffballs are very small, so we prepared them very simply. they were carefully cleaned and halved or quartered, depending on their size. then they were gently fried in butter with just a titch of garlic, salt and pepper. they have a gorgeous, earthy, mushroomy flavor and too much garlic quickly overpowers it. they should be fried 'til they have a crispy, golden crust but are still soft and gorgeous on the inside.

the shaggy parasols were cleaned and sliced and gently fried up in equal parts butter and olive oil. they can tolerate more garlic, so we used two good, fat cloves. once they were softened, we added a bit of cream. you could add some herbs - thyme would be nice - if you had them on hand, but the creamy, garlicky goodness is perfect on its own on a slice of ordinary toast with a glass of white wine.

mushroom tart
the mushroom theme continued last weekend when we visited family in sweden. my sister-in-law is a fantastic cook and i always get inspired when i'm at her table. this time was no exception. she made an absolutely gorgeous mushroom tart. the secret to it is grating the mushrooms. this seems to free their earthy goodness in a way i hadn't imagined possible. i had to make the tart myself this week, even tho' i had just eaten it on saturday. it was so good, i couldn't stop thinking about it. i used store-bought mushrooms, since my mushrooming friend wasn't around.

mushroom tart ala sinna

crust - you can make your favorite piecrust, or, like me, buy some frozen puff pastry (butterdej) and line a tart pan, then prebake it for 15-20 minutes.

1 leek, sliced and rinsed well
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
500 grams of mushrooms (i mixed portabellos and ordinary brown champignon)
250 grams organic creme fraiche (or sour cream)
chopped fresh herbs of your choice (thyme, parsley, sage)

soften the leek and garlic together in a pan with a big lump of butter and a glug of olive oil

in the meantime, grate two large packages of mushrooms - i used one package ordinary brown mushrooms (champignon) and one package of portabellos i suppose it's about 500 grams of mushrooms. grating the mushrooms is absolutely key. 

sauté the mushrooms together with the leeks - adding more butter/olive oil if necessary. add a glug of white wine, simmer until the liquid cooks away and the mixture is quite dry again.

throw in some chopped fresh herbs along the way if you have some (thyme, parsley, sage come to mind).

once the liquid has cooked off the mushroom mixture, stir in a cup of organic creme fraiche (or sour cream). then pour the mixture into the pre-baked crust and bake it another 20+ minutes in a 180°C (375°F) oven - until golden brown on top.

serve with a simple green salad and a crisp, cold south african chenin blanc.

and don't worry about leftovers, there won't be any.

* * *
i wasn't going to mention my long absence from this blog, but am feeling i must. since our move in may, i've been so depressed by my awful, old (pink!) kitchen, that i haven't felt inspired by cooking. that's not to say that i haven't been cooking, i have, i just haven't felt inspired. i'll write a separate post, sharing the horror of my kitchen with you very soon. i think it's been mildly depressing to move from my beautiful kitchen at the old house to this old, ugly and uninspiring space here at the new house. of course, i know it's temporary, but building projects take time, so i have to live with it for awhile now.  but anyway, that's why i haven't been here much. i'll try to remedy that.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Child's play

At the beginning of June it seems an impossibility, but by the time August rolls around you can pretty much guarantee that your children will utter that universal phrase of childhood: I’m bored. If you live in a hot climate, this boredom will probably coincide with a generalized ennui about swimming pools and other outdoor activities. Children who were desperate to play in the sun can now be found inside, lounging and listless. Maybe it’s just me, but August always seems like the burnt-out end of summer – when everything goes a bit a yellow and tired at the edges.

Since I’m no good at crafts, and quickly bore of games, I think of baking as a good indoor activity. There’s really no such thing as a surfeit of cookies, because there are always extra kids hanging around our house – and we seem to have houseguests more often than not. I like recipes that are easy (childproof, even) and give a small bored person something to do.

This summer I’ve been making that pecan-studded shortbread cookie that goes under many names: pecan sandies, Mexican wedding cookies, sand tarts. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love these cookies – and that includes a 13 year old boy who is firmly convinced that he doesn’t like nuts. Even better, they are super-easy . . . but everyone who eats them seems to be convinced that I’ve performed some minor miracle. Best of all, this cookie gives lots of scope for small hands: rolling the dough into balls, and later, dunking them into confectioner’s (icing) sugar.

Here is the recipe that I like: from The New Basics Cookbook.

8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Approximately 3 tablespoon’s confectioner’s (icing) sugar

Cream together the butter and sugars.
Stir in the vanilla and water – thoroughly blend.
Add the flour and pecans, mixing until the dough is thick and creamy.
Wrap the dough in waxed paper and chill it in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 325 F/170 C.
Shape the dough into balls the size of a rounded teaspoonful, and drop them onto baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Flatten them slightly with the tines of a fork. Bake until pale golden – 20 minutes. (This is the bit that children particularly like to do.)
Allow the cookies to cool slightly, and then roll them in the confectioner’s sugar.

When they are completely cool, they will develop their characteristic melt-in-the-mouth texture.
Truly, this is an easy cookie to make and it gives very consistent results.

Another cooking project that I love to do with kids is cream puffs . . . or éclairs, or profiteroles.

They have that “science project” element which fascinates children. How can those few ingredients – butter, flour, water and eggs – puff up the way they do? Non-cooks are always amazingly impressed with cream puffs, but really, they couldn’t be easier. Not only that, but you only need a saucepan and a wooden spoon to make them. I use the recipe that comes from my old, falling-apart copy of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

Cream Puffs (an easy recipe for choux pastry)

4 ounces butter
8 ounces water
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
¼ teaspoon salt
4 eggs

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter at low heat. Then add water and bring to a boil.
Add the flour and the salt all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until the mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate. This should just take a minute or two.
Remove from heat and allow to cool for about five minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until the mixture is smooth. It will have a thick, glossy texture.

Drop the batter by heaping tablespoonfuls about 3 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. You can also form the pastry into long éclair shapes using your spoon.

Preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C and bake for about 30 minutes – or until golden brown and puffy.
Cool on a baking rack.
When completely cool, split them in half and fill with your choice of: ice cream, whipped cream or custard. (I like a custard lightened with about a 1/2 cup of stiffly whipped cream).

Cream puffs are generally dusted with confectioner’s sugar while éclairs are iced with a thin chocolate frosting. I like to melt some really good dark chocolate and then drizzle that on the top.

So delicious and SO EASY! Child’s play, really.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Raspberry Almond Squares

When you see English raspberries or strawberries in June, you really understand the point of seasonal eating.  I wish that I could say that I got these from my own garden, but the first berries are just beginning to ripen on my raspberry canes.  I will confess that I bought these raspberries at M & S, but the sweet, slightly tart, richly perfumed flavor said that they had definitely been recently picked.  And within minutes of taking this picture, I started snacking on them!  In June, I gorge myself on raspberries and skip lunch.

When raspberries are perfect, there is really nothing better than eating them by the fresh handful.  It is the season of summer baked goods, though -- Sports Day, Summer Fete, Mother/Daughter Tennis Tournament -- and I need a sturdy, easy treat that will make a change from the usual brownies and flapjacks.  For several weeks now, I have been tinkering with a recipe that is a version of a blonde brownie.  On Sunday, I made a deliciously gooey batch and five of us "ate the lot" in less than an hour.  I wouldn't necessarily think of serving a glass of icy-cold chablis with something sweet, but in the hot garden, surrounded by blooming roses, it was a truly divine combination.

Yesterday I made another batch for a tennis tournament at my daughter's school, and this time I think I've gotten the proportions just right.  Unlike real brownies, they are just as good -- and deliciously squidgy and moist -- the next day.  Also, they have fruit in them . . . which makes them (nearly) a healthy food, don't you think?

I made the Raspberry Almond Square in my Edge Pan.  This was a Christmas present from my Mom, and we've used it a lot -- especially for brownies and banana bread.  It is nonstick, and helps cook baked goods really evenly . . . no more burnt edges and underdone middles.  I got the inspiration for my recipe from one of the "Edge" recipes, but I would like to think that I've made considerable improvement on the original.

Raspberry Almond Squares
6 oz unsalted butter, softened
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 2/3 cup plain flour
2/3 cup ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
grated lemon zest from one large unwaxed lemon
1 cup toasted, flaked almonds*
1 cup fresh raspberries*
** I didn't really measure the raspberries or the almonds, so this is a guesstimate.  Cover the surface of the batter generously is my motto!


Preheat the oven to 350F/170C.  Lightly spray or butter your non-stick pan.

Combine the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Add each of the eggs, one at a time, until well-incorporated.  Add the vanilla and almond extracts and lemon zest.  Then add the dry ingredients and beat just until combined.

Spread the batter (it will be quite thick) evenly into the pan.  Cover the batter with a layer of toasted, flaked almonds, and then adorn -- generously -- with fresh raspberries.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, mine needed 45, until the top is golden.  Cool in the pan and then cut into squares.

Note:  although they might not come out of the pan really cleanly, these are deliciously gooey when still warm.  A scoop of vanilla ice alongside would make an easy summer dessert.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tomato Panzanella Salad

I still remember, vividly, the first time I tasted a cherry tomato.
I was in my great-aunt's backyard in Texas, it was sultriest summer, and there it was . . . ripe for the picking.
More than the taste, I remember the smell and the texture.  How do you describe the smell of a tomato?  There is something peculiarly green about it . . . something immediately recognizable, and yet otherwise indescribable.  I also remember the slightly tough skin giving way, and then the juicy gush.  It made me shudder, in a not entirely pleasurable way.

Although I've always liked tomatoey things (sauce, and salsa, and even ketchup), I've had to cultivate a taste for the raw tomato.  Sometimes they are too mushy; sometimes they are too wet; sometimes (often) they lack flavor.  A few weeks ago, though, I ate the most deliciously tomatoey dish . . . and ever since, I've craved tomatoes. 

A tomato panzanella salad is a classic Italian dish; indeed, I noticed one on Jamie's Italian new summer menu last week.  It contains so many of the classic Italian ingredients (tomatoes, olive oil, basil, mozzarella, ciabatta) -- but how much more sublime they taste when soaked and tossed together.

This version of the dish comes from Vanessa Miller -- a friend of mine who runs her own catering company and teaches cooking classes at Treetops in Newbury, Berkshire.  Although Vanessa made several delicious and imaginative salads during a recent class, this tomato salad was the crowd favorite -- according to my informal straw poll, not to mention the running commentary of mmm's and ah's.  It's a really flavorful twist on the caprese (which can get a little tired), and I know it will be my favorite salad this summer . . . great with grilled meat or as a stand-alone light lunch or supper.

Red and Yellow Cherry Tomato Panzanella Salad with Basil, Olives and Mozzarella

500g red vine cherry tomatoes
500g yellow vine cherry tomatoes
1 garlic clove, cut in half
1 small red onion
30g mini capers
sprigs of basil -- Greek basil if you have it
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp caster sugar
100g Kalamata olives, pitted
250g baby buffalo mozzarella balls
400g plain crusty ciabatta or other coutnry bread, toasted, and cut into cubes
extra virgin olive oil
black pepper
red wine vinegar

Rub the inside of a large mixing bowl with the cut garlic and then add the ciabatta cubes and capers.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, reserving all of the juices, and place in the bowl.

Thinly slice the red onion, pit and cut the olives in half, and add both ingredients to the tomatoes.  Mix gently and season with the salt, sugar and pepper.  Add a good glug of olive oil and red wine vinegar.  Leave for about half an hour for the juices to run and be absorbed by the bread.

Before serving, roughly rip the mozzarella balls in half and add to the tomato mixture, gently mixing together.  Place the salad in a serving bowl and sprinkle generously with basil sprigs.

Note: This makes a "company" size bowl of salad.  For my family of four, I would halve this recipe . . . and still have enough left-overs to toss with pasta the next day.  (just remove the bread before you refrigerate)

No tomatoes yet . . . but the plants in my garden are coming along!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

when you begin to believe summer will come...

strawberries + blueberries make a summery snack in the garden
no strawberries are ready yet this far north - these came from italy and the blueberries from spain
yesterday was the first glorious sunny day of the late spring. it almost made us believe in summer. we took full advantage, spending the entire day outdoors in one form or another - from a lunchtime picnic on the lawn to hanging up a swing to getting out the iron garden "couch" and pillows and having a little afternoon snooze with birdsong accompaniment. an easy, springy fish dinner with new potatoes and white asparagus.
a summer picnic consisting of sandwiches with paté and some with tuna
homemade rhubarb syrup* mixed into a cool drink.
and a danish summer diary treat - koldskål with crunchy müsli ton top
although i bought my koldskål (literally translated: cold bowl) in the grocery store, it is possible to make it and it's wonderful when you do, but the organic one we can buy here in the store is so yummy i took the easy route.


1 liter (quart) buttermilk
1 C yogurt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (or one vanilla bean, scraped with a knife) for the pretty little black flecks)
1/2 C sugar
juice of half a lemon

whir it all up in a blender. you can add a handful of strawberries to the blender if you have some. otherwise, serve it with some sliced strawberries. what's traditional is little round, hard cookies called kammerjunker. but a homemade or store-bought müsli is just fine to sprinkle on the top. here we even have one that's specifically for koldskål
a light late spring almost summer dinner.
kuller (in the cod family) fish with homemade bread crumbs on top
new potatoes with butter
white asparagus on a bed of fresh spinach & the first of the garden onions

easy cod with homemade breadcrumbs

4-6 fish filets with the skin still on (any fish will do - ours was kuller, which is a member of the cod family)
5-6 slices of day-old, slightly hard bread (i used some of my homemade focaccia)
seasoning salt of your choice (i used a cajun one)
knob of cold butter

whir the bread, butter and seasoning together in your food processor on pulse until they are large, chunky crumbs, but not totally pulverized. dip the fish filet (just the fish side, not the skin side) in egg, then lay it, skin side down in an oven-ready dish that you've brushed with a little olive oil and sprinkle the bread crumbs on top. pop it in the oven for 20 or so minutes at 175°C/350°F. you can turn on the grill at the end to get the bread crumbs nice and toasty.

a bruschetta starter with tomatoes that are starting to taste of something again.
i served a little bruschetta starter - drizzling some of yesterday's focaccia with olive oil and a bit of prima donna (salty aged gouda) over the top and giving it a little toast in the oven. meanwhile, i diced some tomatoes, threw in a few mint leaves (it's what i had and gave a more spring-like tone than basil, but use what you have), a clove of garlic, salt, pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil.

the meal, all plated up - with a bit of creme fraiche dressing at twelve o'clock.
i know white asparagus is considered a real delicacy, but i'll admit to you that i prefer green any day. the fat little stems, intentionally starved for sun just don't do it for me, but it came in our box this week, so i decided to give it another chance. the skin on white asparagus is awfully tough, so you have to carefully peel it off with a vegetable peeler. i'd advise you to do it against a cutting board and not trying to hold it, as it will be less likely to break the asparagus that way. after it's peeled, it just needs 4-5 minutes of steaming and it's ready. i put it together with the following spinach dish and that made it better.

fresh spinach with onions & breadcrumbs

1 large bag of spinach - carefully rinsed and the big stems discarded
1 small onion, thinly sliced
handful of bread crumbs (i had some left from the fish)
knob of butter
olive oil
salt & pepper

melt the butter and olive oil together in a large pan - a wok is ideal, because the spinach seems like a LOT at the beginning (it wilts down to nothing quickly). throw in the onions and sauté them. these were fresh, spring ones (without being spring onions), so they didn't take long. add the bread crumbs and toast them a little bit before adding the rinsed spinach. keep stirring. the spinach will wilt and you'll be very surprised how little there is. when it was done, i placed it in a bowl and arranged the white asparagus on top with a little pat of butter on it. the spinach definitely made the asparagus more of a delicacy. 

served with simply boiled new potatoes and a creme fraiche to which i had added the cajun seasoning i was using completed this springy, almost summer meal.

* i'll be doing an all rhubarb post in the near future, but to tide you over, i've done a rhubarb cocktail over here and it tells how to make the syrup.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

simple meals for busy times

i've been a bit absent from this blog of late as we packed up nearly a decade of life in our home and moved across the country to new jobs and a new house on an old farm property. my new kitchen is a severe downgrade in comparison to the old one (we're going to remedy that, don't worry) and i'll admit to a mild depression over having to cook here amidst the pepto bismol pink color the last owner chose to paint the cupboards (seriously, who would think that color would look good in a kitchen?). since it's going to be about a year before we redo the kitchen, i'll be painting those cupboards in shades of teal leftover from my famous blue room over this coming long holiday weekend (ascension day makes for a four-day weekend in denmark).

one thing i found in the midst of the chaos that is a move is that our desire to eat was not lessened in proportion to how busy we now were. so i had to find ways to cook simple meals that required few dishes, as my selection of dishes, pots and pans got pared down as more and more of that stuff was packed down.

i came up with a couple of delicious solutions that were easy, but look deceptively like you slaved for hours. a pasta dish and veal parmesan. not necessarily to be eaten together, tho' you could if you were really hungry.

simple pasta with red pesto and zucchini ribbons
this pasta dish is super easy because you use those packages of fresh pasta you can buy in the refrigerated case in the supermarket, the best pesto you can find (also purchased from the supermarket and preferably from the refrigerated section not just a jar) and a single zucchini, sliced into thin ribbons using a potato peeler. it's super quick (the fresh pasta takes only 3 minutes). you simply toss the pasta, pesto and raw zucchini ribbons together in a big bowl and dig in. a very posh meal literally in minutes. i can see from my picture that i also tossed in a bit of asparagus that i cut into bite-sized pieces and threw in with my pasta for the last minute or so of the boil. just long enough that it's still green and brilliant. the zucchini cooks just enough from being tossed with the warm pasta, so you don't need to cook it at all.

the second easy dish i've made of late is a big pan of veal parmesan. on our last night in the old house, we invited our neighbors for dinner and i made this, making sure that i made enough for us to take a pan of it with us to the new house - it felt symbolically important to make food in the old house and bring it to the new one to eat the first day.

veal parmesan
you may be thinking that i'm crazy to say that veal parmesan is easy and you'd be right if i told you to spend six hours stirring up the perfect sauce from scratch, but that's not what i did, there simply wasn't time for that. i bought a jar of good quality tomato sauce - Dolmio classico organic to be exact.

veal parmesan

100 grams of very thinly-sliced veal weinerschnitzel per person - i have the butcher slice it for me as thin as he can (so thin he thinks i'm crazy)
1 jar good quality tomato (pasta) sauce
2-3 medium-sized onions
1 thinly-sliced eggplant (if you like it)
2 eggs
finely grated parmesan cheese

pound your veal with one of those meat-pounding thingies (mine came from ikea) - it's very therapeutic and relieves stress nicely. you want it to be super, super thin, like thin enough to read something through it if you laid it over a newspaper. 

mix the breadcrumbs and parmesan together and dip the veal in egg and your breadcrumbs. you can season the breadcrumbs with salt & pepper. i used Lawry's seasoning salt as well, but use whatever you like.

brown them up in a pan. while they're browning, slice the onions into small boats and put them in the bottom of an oven-safe dish. layer the veal on them as it gets done. put more onions between layers. if you like eggplant, layer browned eggplant slices together with the veal. cover the whole thing in the jar of tomato sauce and grate a bit of your favorite cheese over the top (we love prima donna at our house - it's an aged gouda with salt crystals in it). pop it into the oven at 175°C/350°F and bake for 30 minutes or so (depending how fast your oven is). serve it with some good bread and an arugula salad. it's very filling, so you don't need pasta with it, but you can serve pasta to soak up some of the good sauce.

make extra so you have some the next day. it's great cold put onto some good ciabatta bread as a sandwich, but it warms up very nicely again in the oven. we really thought it was the perfect meal on our first night in the new house, after a long day of driving and unpacking the truck. like most tomato-sauce dishes, it tastes even better the second day.

these are deceptively simple. make them the next time you want to look like a superwoman (or man). :-) and just pretend you slaved all day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

a burger is not just a burger

like most families, we love a good burger. and we do succumb to the occasional trip to the golden arches (tho' we always regret it afterwards, unless the only thing we got is one of those mcflurry with daim and extra caramel (but i digress)). but the best burgers are the ones we do ourselves at home.

i tend to make it as easy on myself as possible, because burgers are always something we do when we've had a busy day otherwise and we don't feel we have that much time, but want something yummy. i buy good quality organic ground beef, some kind of posh buns, a few ripe avocados for guacamole, a tub of greek yogurt for tzatziki, a jar of pickled jalapeños, some arugula, some ready-made indian pickles.

tonight, we also had a mango around, so i diced it, threw it together with a few green onions and tossed it in a ready-made goma (japanese sesame) dressing from a sushi place. i always make a big bowl of guacamole as well, as for us, no burger is complete without it. and yes, a mish-mash of styles - mexican, japanese, indian, is all right by us. this time, it was even more complicated, as i drizzled the ciabatta buns with truffle oil before i toasted them. it was a veritable international feast all one one plate.  but a burger holds up to that, doesn't it?

it's all very simple - in this case, i had strange long ciabatta buns strafed with cheese, so i shaped my hamburger accordingly. i seasoned it simply with salt and a sprinkle of the fajita seasoning i use in my guacamole - fiesta makes the best one in my humble opinion.

tho' none of this is actually complicated enough to warrant recipes, i'll show you how simple it is by sharing the guacamole and tzatziki recipes....


3-4 ripe avocados (depending on how many you are serving - i use approximately one per person, but we're big fans)
1/2 an onion, finely diced
1 small tomato, finely diced
handful of cilantro (this evening, i didn't have cilantro, but i did have those beautiful deep green garlicky ramsons (ramsløg) that can be found in the forests around us at the moment)
1 small chili, finely diced (i do leave this out when serving children, or make them their own bowl without it, but tend to serve it on the side for those who like it with a bit more kick)
fiesta fajita seasoning to taste
juice of a lime or half a lemon (whichever you have on hand)

scoop out the avocado into a bowl and mash it with a fork, add the diced onion, tomato, cilantro and chili and season with the fajita seasoning. if you lack fajita seasoning, a bit of salt and a garlic pepper will do. squeeze the lemon over it to keep it from discoloring. 


1 cup (250 grams) greek yogurt (i like the thickness it offers as opposed to ordinary yogurt)
1 6" section of cucumber, grated (grate into a sieve and squeeze out the excess liquid)
1 clove of garlic (or a handful of ramsons, finely chopped)

stir up and enjoy! 

think posh the next time you serve burgers. if you invest in good ground beef, why not splurge on other ingredients? a bit of truffle oil, fancier buns, a spicy indian pickle, some posh mizuna greens or peppery arugula, a fresh pesto...the possibilities are only as limited as your imagination. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

what to eat with a south african white wine

lovely whites from
late last year, via twitter, surely after i was tweeting on about chenin blanc, i was contacted by cyber cellar, an online south african wine seller. even before that, south african wines were my new world wine of choice. mostly because i had visited spier and delheim and a couple of other smaller wineries on my two business trips to south africa, so i felt i had more relationship to south african wines than any of the other new world wines. the wonderful folks at cyber cellar sent me enough bottles for two wine tastings. i had in mind a (then) upcoming christmas gathering and my january blog camp as occasions for those tastings. well, there was a lot of flu going around at christmas and so that occasion didn't happen. at blog camp, we tried a couple of the wines, but the focus was elsewhere and we didn't do a proper tasting.

i'll admit i felt ill equipped to talk authoritatively about the various wines cyber cellar had sent, as i had only what information i could glean from the quick blurb on their website and the wineries' own websites, so i never felt bold enough to advertise and hold a proper tasting. thus, i've been sitting with 8 bottles of wine (out of 12) left and a very guilty conscience, since i hadn't done a very good job of helping cyber cellars find some new customers. and thanks to our own chaos around here with moving and such, i haven't even ordered for myself yet, which i definitely want to do. so in all, i've been hanging my head a little bit in shame after they were so generous to me.

but on wednesday, it hit me, what i love most about wine (aside from drinking it on a daily basis) is pairing it with food. and food (despite my absence from this blog of late) i can do. so i went to see my wonderful fish man (i'm gonna miss him when we move) and i got a selection of things that would be lovely with the perdeberg chenin blanc and the cowlin chardonnay semillion i had left.

since it's spring and still the season for stenbiderrogn, which i wrote about previously, we started with that. the fresh brightness of the perdeberg chenin blanc was the perfect complement to the light, springy taste of the caviar. it cut nicely through the creaminess of the créme fraîche and let the pop of the eggs shine through.

since we wanted to try a variety of different fish with the two whites, we ate rather tapas-style, with several small dishes, rather than starting with an appetizer and moving onto a main dish. i stuffed two golden foreller (a kind of trout) with shallots, ginger and cilantro, drizzled them with golden, local cold-pressed rapeseed oil and poached them in some of the chardonnay semillion. while they were poaching in the little oven, i steamed some asparagus and did up a handful of scallops that had been marinated in the same flavors in the grill pan. a big loaf of our beloved focaccia bread came out of the big oven just as we were ready to sit down. (don't worry, all recipes will follow.) to make it a meal, i stirred up a golden garlicky aïoli mayonnaise to slather on the bread and eat with the big bowl of dill-poached crayfish that the child had requested (and which she ate most of singlehandedly). we can buy the crayfish frozen and already cooked in the dill, so all we do is thaw them, so i'm afraid i have no recipe for that bit.

the light was starting to go and not great for this picture in light of my reluctance to use flash, but you get the idea.
rounding off the deliciousness was some smoked cod egg (torskerogn) and a couple of delectable slices of smoked tuna, both of which were gorgeous with the homemade mayonnaise. they're pictured here on swedish flat bread from today's lunch, but we ate them with the homemade focaccia last night.

smoked cod egg on the left, smoked tuna on the right
the cowlin chardonnay-semillion was the perfect companion to the heavy oiliness of the smoked fish. it both lightened and brightened the heavy smoky taste of both - i think they were smoked in a similar way and both could have a tendency towards heaviness, but the chardonnay-semillion stood up to them nicely. the right wine really can make the meal.

and now for the recipes....

my favorite focaccia
adapted from jamie oliver

1 block organic yeast
pinch of flaky sea salt (i love maldon's best)
1 glug of good olive oil (a couple tablespoons?)
1 squeeze of runny honey
2 C (1/2 liter) lukewarm water
4-5 C of flour - i often mix 1/3 spelt flour and the rest good organic white flour, but use what you have around. the more rough your flour, the heavier the bread will be.

give the liquids and yeast and salt a whirl in your mixer with the dough hook in place and then let it sit until it begins to froth up a bit (about five minutes), then add the flour.

mix in your mixer with the dough hook until it comes together in a sticky knot on the dough hook. it will still be a little bit sticky. if it looks too sticky, add a bit more flour - in my experience flour varies a lot, even if you use the same brand, but especially if you're using speciality, stone-ground flours, which i like to do. it can be anywhere from 4-6 cups you need.

set the dough to rise under a tea towel in large bowl that you've dabbed with olive oil and a sprinkling of flour.  you can ignore it all day or let it rise only an hour or so, whatever fits your schedule.  once it's risen, spread it out flat on a baking pan that's lined with baking paper.  make some dimples with your fingers, then drizzle olive oil over it. sprinkle with a good pink of flaky salt crystals and whatever herbs you have at hand. i usually grate a bit of cheese over the top - my favorite is prima donna, a salty aged gouda, but i've been known to use parmesan or cheddar - i really use whatever i've got in the fridge.

let it rise again for 30-45 minutes if you have time. bake approx. 30 minutes at 180°C/375°F. my oven is faster than that, so keep an eye on it. it's done when you knock on it and it seems crispy. it shouldn't seem soft. and it will be quite flat still, not more than about 3cm high.

i make this bread several times a week and it always disappears immediately.

stuffed, poached trout

2 small-medium trout, which your fish monger has cleaned for you (e.g. the guts are gone and their belly is ready to fill with goodness)
1 big hunk of fresh ginger
1 medium shallot
rapeseed oil (it's a bright, beautiful yellow, but you can just as well use olive oil)
handful of fresh cilantro
good glug of white wine

chop the shallot and the ginger finely and mix them together in a bowl. drizzle with rapeseed oil and season with salt and pepper. place the trout in an oven-safe dish and stuff them with the shallot-ginger mix and as much cilantro as the trout can hold. pour over about a cup (250ml) or so of white wine and place them in the oven to poach at 150°C/350°F for 15-20 minutes (depending on how fat your trout are).

i served them with steamed asparagus that had melted butter and a squeeze of lemon over it.

i love that beautiful bright gold of the rapeseed oil
aïoli - garlic mayonnaise

2 cloves garlic, salted and crushed with a mortar and pestle
2 egg yolks
1 T vinegar
a good oil - i used a combination of rapeseed oil and olive oil, but it's up to you.

i have taken a long time to perfect making mayonnaise and i will admit it doesn't work for me every time - sometimes it's more of a runny sauce than an actual mayonnaise. the key is in adding the oil slowly enough. i've tried making it by hand and in a blender and with a hand mixer, but have found that it succeeds most often if i use my big food processor. first, i crush the garlic into a paste with a good pinch of salt in my mortar and pestle. i give the egg yolks a whirl with the vinegar in the meantime, then i add the garlic to them and begin very, very slowly to add the oil. i usually start with the lighter oil - in this case, the golden rapeseed oil because it is lighter than olive oil. the photo above is a HUGE stream in comparison to what it should be at first, it should be as thin as a hair at first. after about a minute or so at the very slow speed, you can begin to increase the amount or switch to olive oil if you want that rich, green flavor. this time, i made it only with the rapeseed oil because i wanted it to be really golden and i wanted to make it with ingredients produced in denmark. it made for a lighter mayonnaise than when you use olive oil. i actually think it's a bit easier to make it come together as a mayonnaise if you use the rapeseed oil rather than straight olive oil. but i'd love to hear from any of you who have mayonnaise-making experience. i think it can be a temperamental thing.

in all, this fish feast felt like a very springy, eastery thing to eat. and the lightness of the south african whites, both of them, were really the perfect complement to the food. if you're interested in these wines, you should definitely check out as they will ship just about anywhere! please do tell them i sent you, if only to ease my guilty conscience!

i'll present some wonderful south african reds and the food to go with them in a few days.


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