Mittwoch, 31. August 2011

Marron-Brandy-Cream Cake

A special someone is very much into chocolate. Every year I bake a different small chocolate cake for his birthday. We usually eat it at midnight - accompanied by a bottle of champagne. These cakes are for grown ups only because there is some / lots of booze involved.

Marron - brandy -cream
200 g cooked and peeled marrons
1 cup water (250 ml)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1 vanilla pod (split open, seeds scraped off)
250 ml whipping cream
1 bag cream stabilizer (optional - stabilizer=1 teaspoon modified starch )

Cook sugar and 1/2 cup water together with the vanilla pod and -seeds until sugar is dissolved. Add marrons and cook on medium heat until water is nearly evaporated and  the liquid turned light amber -  get rid of the vanilla pod.  Quickly puree marrons with an immersion blender (be careful, it is very hot).  Reheat the compact purree (if there are still some little marron pieces left, don't care) and roast on small heat while stirring for another 2 minutes  - don't burn it. It will stick to the pot so scrape the pot bottom occasionally.  Add 1/2 cup of water and the bourbon and stir while still heating until you get a smooth soft and hot paste. Fill in a small bowl. Cover with cling film and let cool.

Chocolate sponge cake layers
100 g dark chocolate
80 g butter, very soft
100 g flour
140 g sugar
4 extra large eggs (separeted in whites and yolks)
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons  bourbon

Chocolate sponge cake :
Chop chocolate into small chunks and melt over hot water.
Beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks  form. Set aside.
Beat yolks and sugar until a light and fluffy cream forms, add butter and melted lukewarm chocolate and beat until well mixed.
Fold in egg whites. Sift flour and baking powder and add in 4 batches. Fold in carefully.
Fill batter in a small (diameter 18 cm) springform tin and bake at 170 Celsius about 45 minutes. Check the cake after 40 minutes with a wooden tooth pick,  the tooth pick should come out clean, if not give it 5 more minutes and check again.  Unmold and let cool on a baking rack upside down.
Divide cake in 3 layers and sprinkle each layer with bourbon.

100 g quince jelly (or apricot marmelade or orange marmelade)
150 g dark chocolate glaze
Chocolate ornaments

Heat chocolate glaze over warm water until melted.
Whip 250 ml whipping cream while adding stabilizer until stiff. Mix  in the marron puree in 4 batches until the marron-brandy-cream is well blended.
Fill cream between the layers.  Therefor stack the layers in the springform rin.
Heat the marmelade or jelly and brush cake top and sides with the liquid. Let cool for  a few minutes.
Glaze with the chocolate glaze.
Decorate the cake with chocolate ornaments and keep in fridge until ready to be served.
This year I am not really happy with the ornaments. I thought the chocolate hearts would be a little smaller and prettier. But there was no time to buy other ones, because I was a little late.  Summer vacations are finished, the work load is piling up again and I have quite a few projects running. The last meeting took longer than planned and you should never answer the phone when you are on the run.  So I merely managed to bake a cake. And he got me. Usually I am finished with the cake before he arrives home. It was no surprise of cause.

Montag, 29. August 2011

Firework contest picknick

I am addicted to fireworks. Leave me some rockets, vulcanos, sparklers and a match stick and I am the happiest person. Next best to have your own firework is watching a really good professional performance.  Each and every year we have a world contest of fireworks at the Gardens of Herrenhausen. Several countries send their teams. Very convinient for firework junkies.
This is a nice performance from this year's contest (sweden)
We could hear the sound from our porch. But it is much better to visit the gardens and have a close look at it. The firework has to be well coordinated to the music and the garden assembly. This year we decided to visit the spanish contribution because rumour went they are one of the best fireworkers ever. The spanish decided on music with spanish themes. Best was the part of the firework accompanied by "hiejo de la luna" song by an opera singer: Golden water falls of sparklers, crysanthems and something looking like medusas floating through the night sky - it was gorgious, overwhelming beautiful, sending shivers down the spine.
Okay this is the commercial song, simply not the same quality:
The event started at 6 pm in the evening with comedians, street theatre, music, clowns, jugglers and flamenco performances. The firework took place at 10 pm. You could buy food and drinks there at different stations, but it is a good tradition to prepare your own picknick.
I decided on something japanese:
a few dishes

  • Maki rolls
  • Inarizushi
  • Daikon and cucumber salad
  • shredded cabbage salad
  • date tomatoes
  • meat balls nan ban zuke style
  • sweet pumpkin

Average preparation time 1 hour.

First I prepared sushi rice from 1 cup japanes rice still sticking to this method:
Wash rice 4 times. Let it sit in a strainer for about 30 min. Bring to boil with one cup of water and a piece of konbu (just a few centimeters). Let simmer on low heat about 15 min. Let rest for 10 minutes, heat turned of.  Meanwhile  1 1/2 tablespoons sugar with 2 tablespoons mirin, 2 tablespoons mild vinegar. Stir in rice but don't stir too much.  Fill rice in a big wooden bowl and fan until rice can be touched and formed by hand.
Meanwhile I prepared the filling for the makis: carrot match sticks of 1/3 carrot, 6 surimi sticks, half of an nice avocado in tall wedges, half of a small scallion (light parts only) in stripes, Wasabi. For wrapping 2 sheets of toasted nori.
And for inarizushi - yeah, yeah plain sushi rice is good but I am german; heat 1/3 carrot diced in small cubes with 3 tablespoons dashi stock about 2 minutes in microwave. Toss with 1/2 teaspoon black sesame seeds, pinch of chiliflakes, 1 teaspoon soy sauce,  1 tablespoon salmon flakes (cooked salmon) and some scallion rings and 1/3 of the sushi rice. Fill in prepared tofu skins (prepared as  8 tofu skin bags  already cooked in dashi, sake, sugar and soysauce, pat dry) .
For the salads: Use 1 baby cucumber sliced and 5 cm daikon sliced by mandoline. Salt with  lots of salt. After 1 hour  rinse with water and press out the liquids. Afterwards toss in salad sauce made of 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon sugar and a few drops sesame oil. Use same dressing for shredded cabbage (6 crunchy cabbage leaves finely sliced by hand or mandoline)
For the sweet pumpkin cut 1/2 small peeled and cored hokkaido pumpkin in bite size pieces, steam peaces in very little water until pumpkin is nearly tender with a small bite and water evaporated, add 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons sake and 1 teaspoon soy sauce, let sugar quickly cook into sirup state while tossing sometimes on high heat.
For the meat balls look here
I filled everything in stackable plastic containers (wasabi, gari and soyauce in very small containers), got some paper napkins, 2 plastic bowls, chop sticks, tooth picks (, added 2 small bottles of champagne and water and ready to go. We found a good place to watch the firework and snuggled up in our camping couch (double seated camping chair ) which we took along with our picknick. Very nice neighbours around and lots of talk and fun. Some looked a little bit curious as we started with the chop sticks and the maki rolls. There was a small boy next to us who looked from the big carrot in his little hand to our maki rolls and you could nearly hear his thoughts. But he told me his carrot was tasty so everything was fine.

Montag, 15. August 2011

Cherry plum marmelade

Yesterday I picked about 2.5 kg cherry plums during rain. Actually it rains since weeks/months and there was no time to pick some under dry conditions. I hated it a lot: wet plums on a wet tree, water running down from above, while standing in a big puddle.
These are cherry plums: look at the 1 Euro coin - same size!

Marmelade always tastes better made of some sort of "wild" fruit. High breed overgroomed industrial fruits lack some sort of flavour. So I could easily prepare even more "wild" cherry plum marmelade because friends and family always appreciate to get a few glasses (for free). But it is such a pain. I pitted these very small plums by cutting equatorial with a small sharp kitchen knife first, than I had to rotate the two halves against each other to set the seed loose. It took me nearly 1 hour - but there was nothing else to do on such an awful sunday without any glimpse of sun.

For 6 jars you need:
1.7 kg cherry plums  (pitted)
1.5 kg jam sugar (sugar with pectin)
1 pinch* dried ginger grounded
1 generous pinch star aniseed (grounded)
1 pinch gloves (grounded)
1 pinch dried bitter orange peel (grounded)
1 big pot (5 l volume)

*) nearly 1/4 teaspoon

Cook the pitted plums with sugar about 20 minutes until they are very soft. In the beginning stir often, than occasionally. Crash the soft plums with a masher (as in potatoe mash) - beware of the hot bubbles. Carefully take of the foam with a slotted spoon. There will always be some kind of guey foam while cooking marmelade and it is not bad, but we all want a rather clear and glossy marmelade so get rid of the foam. Check the marmelade by jelly testing: just drip some of the marmelade on a cold plate, if drops "run" to much cook a little longer until they get into an instant jelly state (but not to much wobbling jelly, soft nearly running jelly is needed).

Fill in very clean jars and close with a lid. Let jars sit on the lid until cooled down.
Tasted great with a little roasted bread and butter:

cherry plum marmelade

This year the plums did not recieve enough sunshine. There was no summer. After a hot and dry spring the weather turns to early autumn conditions. They are sour and this year I am not going to eat them raw. But the marmelade was just fine with a small lemony taste.

Samstag, 13. August 2011

Popcorn with soy sauce?

Today I've learned that you can buy microwave popcorn with butter and soy sauce flavour in japan. Thinking about my beloved rice crackers it is common sense there has to be something like popcorn with soy sauce flavour but I did not know until yet.
I decided to test a soy sauce toffee coating with butter:

You need:

1 big stainless steal pot (3 l volume with lid)
popcorn (just corn seeds for popcorn not the microwave corn)
canola oil
1 big tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce (japanese)
1 small piece of seaweed, shredded

Grind the sugar to powder and stir with the soy sauce. Set aside.
Cover the bottom of the pot with oil. Fill in corn seeds - the seeds should cover the bottom but they should not lay above each other - just 1 layer of corn is plenty enough. They are going to multiply their size soon.
 Heat the pot on high heat covered with a lid until corn starts to pop. Shake the pot a little and proceed heating and shaking until the popping sounds nearly end.
Fill the popcorn in a bowl and set aside.
Heat butter in the pot add the sugar-soy sauce mixture and stir until the liquid is gone and the sugar-soy sauce melted into a thick molasses. Add seaweed and popcorn and toss popcorn in the pot without heating (pot is hot enough, don't burn the sugar)
Coating reminds me of my beloved rice crackers: great. Next time I am going to add a little bit chilli flakes.
I don't know how the japanese popcorn tastes like and wether they use sugar or not but I will prepare this snack again.

Donnerstag, 4. August 2011

Something quick: sweet and hot prawns with pasta

Today it is hot and humid. I did'nt want to stay at the stove for more than a few minutes. So I decided to cook something easy.

You don't need much ingredients and it is done in a blink

5 small fruited tomatoes (just something from the garden)
1 garlic glove, peeled
1 knob ginger, peeled
6 thai basil leaves
1 green chilli
1 red chilli
1 small sweet red pepper
1 small red onion
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon soysauce (more to taste)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or another soft vinegar)
1 dash Nam Plah (Thai fish sauce)
400 g tiger prawns, precooked and peeled
salt to taste

Mince garlic and ginger. Dice red pepper in very small cubes, half or quarter tomatoes. Dice onion in very small cubes. Slice chillies in thin slices.
Heat a little oil in the pan and roast red pepper, garlic, ginger, onion, chillies until onions become translucent, add sugar and let the sugar melt and caramelize a bit.

Add vinegar, soysauce and tomatoes. Stir fry until tomatoes are soft.

Add the rinsed prawns and heat them - but only until they are warmed. Don't cook or they will become dry. Add nam plah and salt to taste or a little soysauce.
I used ready to eat extra large prawns, sold frozen, very convinient for a quick meal (defrost in microwave or a little hot water). If possible, use fresh, prawns and stir fry them first.

Toss with pasta (300 g dry Spaghetti cooked in salted water for 3 people).

Dienstag, 2. August 2011

Cherry plum-Crumble

Lucky, today is the first sunny and warm day since ages and I decided to skip afternoon work. Time for my garden. Some of the cherry plums are ready to be eaten. The good ones are growing at the highest branches in full sun. So I just picked the softest for dessert.

Todays dessert will be an english dish: crumble

I don't really trust english dishes since I lived there for quite a while during school days and I lost every inch of my puppy fat because I hated the english family meals that much (they did really terrible things to vegetables and sauces and meat). I lived in an english family together with a french student. She cried every day over her plate and cursed her fate, her parents and the english (guest) mother. Afterwards we often secretly sneaked out and bought fish and chips until we ran out of pocket money. I heard it changed a bit since than (Jamie Oliver and such). I visited England last year and found some really good "english" restaurants at the seaside but the fully fledged english breakfast at the hotel was as bad as suspected.

But crumbles are great:

500 g cherry plums
2 tablespoons sugar for the plums
1 pinch cinnamon

3 tablespoons butter, soft
3 tablespoons rolled fine oates
3 tablespoons almond flour
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons sugar,  some left for sprinkling
vey small pinch of salt

butter to grease the mold

Quick and easy:
Pit the plums, butter a small gratin mold, fill in the plums, sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. If you use blue plums or mirabelle plums instead, use less sugar. Cherry plums are very tart, they need much more sugar.
Kneat rolled oats with almond flour, flour, sugar, salt and butter (best to be done by hand). Dough should remind of cookie dough: slightly soft, crumbly but sticking together. If it is too soft and too sticky, just add more almond flour.  If too crumbly and dry, just add more butter.
Crumble dough into big soft crumbles over the plums. Sprinkle with a little sugar.  Bake at 180 Celsius in oven until crumbles are turning golden and the plums are soft and juicy (maybe 25 minutes).
Enjoy warm or cold with wipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Montag, 1. August 2011

Kung-pao Chicken

This is the dish my son loves the most. He could eat it nearly everyday. Maybe he does. I am not quite sure.
Kung-pao chicken
When I was visiting him in Beijing he ordered Kung-pao chicken as one small dish (next to others) for supper every evening.  So I quite knew it in different varieties  from different restaurants. I think my recipe assembles the one we did select as best during my stay. It is very hot and spicy and you will munch on lots of sichuan pepper corns. Make sure you do like sichuan pepper or better don't give it a try.

400 g chicken (breasts without skin and bones), cut in small cubes
12 scallions/green onions, white parts and light green parts cut in 1 cm slices
100 g peanuts, roasted
6 hot Chillies (dried) - more if you like a burning sensation
1 green milder Chilli (sliced)
2 tablespoons sichuan peppercorns
100 ml water
50 ml rice wine, chinese or Sake
1 tablespoon oil for frying

1 pinch chinese 5-spice powder
1 knob ginger, grinded
2 garlic gloves, minced
50 ml soysauce
60 ml vinegar (mild vinegar)
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon starch (corn starch or arrow root starch for a  more glossy result)

Mix ingredients for marinade and toss with meat. Let sit 30 minutes.

ckicken cubes in marinade

Heat pan and roast dried chillies and sichuan pepper in oil until they become fragant.

Add peanuts and roast a little bit longer. Fill in a bowl and set aside. Spoon chicken cubes to the hot pan and stirrfry  for 3 minutes - best to use a non stick pan because the marinade is quite sticky.  Add what is left from the marinade, water, rice wine and the peanut-spice-mix. Let cook and don't forget strirring until meat is nearly done (there will be not much sauce).  Add scallions and cook for another minute.

Enjoy with rice. And it has to be sweet and sour and spicy. For more sweetness take 3 tablespoons sugar.