Samstag, 28. April 2012

Gardening duties on a warm spring day

Finally I was able to plant something. During the last weeks it was too rainy, or too cold, or I had too much work related issues. Now we had a lovely day with 23 degree Celsius in the shadow and much more in the sun. If it could stay like this ongoing it would be pretty perfect.
Today I planted my pelagorniums into my window boxes, put out some salad seeds and radish seeds, replaced and planted some herbs which did not survive -20 C as rosemary and I took my datura outside. I also planted some lilly bulbs and my much beloved Crocosmia named Lucifer. Since I visited a garden in Cornwall (Helligans lost gardens) this is one of my all time favorites and I had to plant some more.
Husband planted his tomato seedlings in the green house.
Tomorrow there are some more bulbs and roots waiting for me as dahlias and cannas. Lucky most of my roses and shrubs survived the latest harsh winter. Now they begin to get some leaves. Even my japanese tea hydrangea shows some greens. I planted two new hydrangeas one called peppermint (flowers white and pink) and one cream coloured hydrangea paniculata.

Why did this snail climb on the Nashi tree - I gave it a free lift down...

After so many gardenig tasks we had a nice BBQ just some pork belly slices, steak and two spicy french sausages.
After that I watch the first hedgehog of the year and fed it some cat food and I found a may beetle ( yeah, blessed). It flew around the garden making some noise - so cute, such a wonderful day.

We will visit a Hanami tomorrow, managed by the german japanese friendship society at the Hiroshima commemoration grove   (Hiroshima Gedächtnishain ), lots of cherry trees, food stables, have some tea ceremony, watch kendo pratice, calligraphers, cute crossplay by the manga club girls and so on.  I wonder if there are much cherry blossoms left - it is way too hot but it is a chance to have some small talk in japanese language.  Starting to think about the o-bentos. 
Monday I will have to face some tooth surgery and I hope the first of may will not be that bad. But right now I am going to eat and drink to my fullest who knows when I will be able to chew something....


Sonntag, 22. April 2012

First Asparagus of the year with Sauce hollandaise and Schnitzel

Today I cooked asparagus with Sauce hollandaise. It is one of my favorite spring  dishes.  
Most people are afraid of preparing Sauce hollandaise. It is just a simple composition using egg yolks, butter and a little white wine but you have to take care while preparing, or it will go straight to the garbage bin - the eggs can turn too firm aka scrambled eggs and the butter separate. If this happens, there is no helping, it is ruined.
Doing it following the rules there is no need to buy the sauce from stores. Freshly made Sauce hollandaise is quite something heavenly, so give it a try. The store bought doesn’t taste that good and it is loaded with ingredients where there is no need for – stabilizers and such, nasty with a stingy aftertaste.
For Schnitzel I decided against the breaded and fried version, Hollandaise is loaded enough.

pretty perfect golden Hollandaise

For Asparagus
  • 1 kg asparagus white and green (more traditional white only), peeled: the green half way up only
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 lean thin  pork back slices
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Crema di balsamico
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  •  oil
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 120 g butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 squeeze lemon juice
  • 1 small pinch salt
  • pepper to taste

First I peeled some small potatoes and started to boil them in salted water covered by a lid. I rubbed and marinated the pork with the ingredients above except the flour.
I heated up the butter in a large pan and fried the white asparagus together with the sugar until it starts to caramelize and the asparagus showed some golden roasting marks, I added the green asparagus and fried it a little more and finally deglazed with the water and sprinkled salt. I covered the asparagus and steamed it on medium heat just for a few minutes.  Set it aside and kept it warm – the asparagus should be rather firm at this time and soften a little while kept warm.
I dusted the pork slices with flour and roasted them on high heat 1minute from each side and afterwards wrapped them in tin foil to keep them warm until ready to be served.
I dropped the 3 egg yolks in a round metal bowl and whisked in the wine and sugar. I melted the butter until it was really runny.
I put the bowl over the pot with the potatoes (still simmering on lower heat) and whisked the egg yolks with a balloon whisk ongoing. I added the butter when the eggs began to thicken little by little (spoon by spoon) whisking, whisking, lemon juice, whisking, whisking, whisking until the sauce was finished – texture like a creamy hot vanilla pudding. At least I sprinkled a little salt and pepper. 
You have to keep a sharp eye on the sides of the bowl – if there appears a firmer egg cover it is way too hot. Remove the bowl and let it cool for a few seconds and lower the heat of the simmering water bath, don’t stop whisking and allways make sure to whisk and scrape the bowl sides while whisking.
Usually you would make the sauce over hot water  using a separate pot for the water bath,  but the bowl and the potato pot fit perfectly so this is very convenient method and economic too.
Meanwhile the potatoes where finished - timing is everything because the Sauce hollandaise can not be reheated!

Samstag, 21. April 2012

Chocolate poppy seed cake with pineapple spread

Sorry I don't have much time these days. In fact I did not cook anything since last weekend (I made 50 Gyoza but had no time to post something because I was departing to my next destination). Right now I made lots of journeys and there will be some more. I lived on restaurant food. Not that bad but I am quite exhausted. I am so glad it is weekend, I am home and I may ruin my own kitchen to my hearts content. A chocolate cake is perfect for a kitchen workout.

Right after the end of the easter holidays one does not like to eat leftover chocolate easter bunnies and eggs anymore. There are always some chocolates which did not taste as good as they should after eating them on and on for days.  Most of the time I make good use out of them baking a cake – no wonder there also exists a family tradition about after x-mas chocolate cakes.
3-layered cake

The tradition developed since my kid hated to eat chocolate (and still does) quite a lot but insisted on receiving chocolate easter bunnies, eggs and chocolate Santas as his friends. Don’t ask. Kids, whatever makes them happy.
My husband is still addicted to chocolate so I prepared a huge easter nest for him with all different kinds of chocolate candies and a big golden easter bunny.  As usually there were some leftovers.

Slaughtered easter chocolates and cuverture:

  •  250 g chocolate (dark prefered)
  • 250 g poppy seed paste (store bought; some kind of sticky steamed poppy seeds, processed with sugar)
  • 100 g butter, diced
  • 6 egg yolks – beaten until soft peaks form
  • 6 egg whites
  • 150 g flour
  • 12 g baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 shots rum
  • 150 g fresh pineapple chopped
  • 150 g jam sugar
  • 1 small orange, juice and 1 teaspoon zest
  • 2 tablespoons jam (apricot jelly jam)
  • 250 g chocolate (too much, half will do)
  • 70 g butter (too much, half will do)

Melt butter and chocolate at 36 degree C in a double boiler.
Mix egg yolks and poppy seed paste until fluffy and smooth add the melted chocolate and rum. Mix and add flour sieved together with baking powder, mix only a short time. Gently fold in the egg whites until somewhat combined. I did not use any additional sugar, the poppy seed paste is terrible sweet and the chocolate too.
Fill into a greased spring form (I took one made of silicone) and bake 35-40 min at 180 degree C or until a toothpick probe comes out nearly clean.
Let cool down on a rack. Cut into 3 layers. For cutting I used a thread not a knife! The cake is very tender and soft so a thin thread will do a better job than a knife.
Meanwhile blend pineapple chunks with a blender. Stir in orange juice, zests and jam sugar and boil for 3 minutes.  We need a rather thickly jam, if the cold jam is too runny boil a few minutes longer.
Spread half of  jam  over the first layer, cover with the second layer, spread the rest of the jam, cover with the third layer. Heat the jelly in the microwave and brush top and sides of the cake with the liquid.
Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler on very low heat: Chocolate temperature 36 degree C max. Cover the cake from all sides and the top with the glaze (let cool the chocolate down and reheat once before!)

I prepared  too much glaze, so I made some chocolate candies - just an adult ganache in a small foil form

To nearly ½ of glaze (leftover)  I added:
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 1 shot plum brandy
  • 6 soft damszene plums, chopped (soaked in the shot above)
  • 1 handful almond cookies (Amarettini) crumbled
Stir and fill in forms.
Mix 1 pinch brown sugar with 1 small pinch cinnamon and sprinkle in the middle. Set a small slice of damaszene plum on top.

Sonntag, 8. April 2012

Easter sunday roast - leg of lamb

This years easter dinner was leg of lamb, what else. It is tradition.

Roast slices with sauce, potatoe and vegetables, additional salsa verde
This is lamb for garlic lovers only, but garlic is the perfect addition to the natural rather "wild" lamb flavor. Due to the cooking time the garlic will become much softer in taste, so don't be afraid.

Leg of lamb
  • 1.8 kg leg of lamb (with bone)
  • 1 bigger twig rosemary, leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic bulb, gloves peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 1 dried chilli pepper, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 1 carrot, sliced in thicker slices
  • 3 onions, in wedges
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 parsley twigs
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 400 ml chicken stock (unsalted)
Rub lamb with salt, rosemary, spices, chillies. Using a very sharp small knife make every  3 cm an incision into the bigger outer part of the leg and push halved garlic gloves into the openings.
Marinated leg of lamb - look at the garlic gloves
Put leg into a plastic freezer bag and fill in oil, give it a quick massage and let rest in the fridge over night.
Heat up a pan, roast leg of lamb from all sides until nicely browned, add vegetables and a little oil and roast the vegetables until they show nice roast marks, add tomato paste and roast a little more. Set leg aside, deglace the pan with sherry and cook until the sherry is gone, add 200 ml chicken stock (unsalted) and cook until nearly gone, add chicken stock again, add the leg, parsley, cover leg with lemon slices and let the leg roast in oven for 2 hours at 175 C.
Leg of lamb covered with lemon - I fixed the slices with tooth sticks
From time to time ladle a little roasting liquid/juice over the lamb. When there is nearly none left, add a cup of hot water to the roasting pan. After two hours measure the internal meat temperature - at 65 C wrap leg in tin foil (lemon slices removed) and let it sit on the rack in the oven by 75 C for another hour. Meanwhile sieve the roasting liquid, remove lots of the fat, add a little more sherry and water, reduce until the sauce is as flavorful as can be, adjust seasonings to your liking.
The lamb was very soft and tender and done. Husband does not like to eat bloody (rare) leg of lamb as many french and english recipes recommend. But the meat has to be soft and juicy so I am in a pinch (laugh). There is no guarantee wether this will work out with your lamb. It absolutely depends on the oven and the meat quality. Meat temperature mesurements are necessary. Don't stick the thermometer to the bone, stick it into the thick part of the meat.

In addition to the sauce there was another I like to have with lamb so I made a little for me:
Chimichurri sauce - salsa verde
  • 1 handful parsley finely chopped
  • 3 garlic gloves, crushed
  • 1/2 pointed red bell pepper, diced finely
  • 1  spring onion, white part only, finely chopped
  • 1 pinch dried oregano
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • 1 pinch hot chilli powder
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper
Rub crushed garlic and salt with the side of the knife. Stir together with all the other ingredients, give it one pulse with the immersion blender, but not a single pulse more. Don't puree all of it. This little pulse is to add more substance only.
Serve leg of lamb with vegetables (we had steamed green beans, buttery peas and glazed carrots), potatoes, both types of sauce.

Easter breakfast egg salad and rolled egg

For Easter breakfast, besides all other spreads and  toppings as home made jams, different kinds of bacon, smoked fish, cheese, I made an egg salad: Very convenient because there are always lots of hard boiled eggs lazing around on an easter sunday.
Egg salad for 2 decorated with chinese tea egg

For a small amount of egg salad just dice 1 hard boiled egg in small dices. Stir 1 tablespoon mayonnaise with 1 tablespoon yoghurt, 1/3 teaspoon mustard, 1 tablespoon cress sprouts, 1 teaspoon salt preserved capers (roughly chopped) and black pepper.
Fill in a small bowl, decorate with another egg, quartered (I took one of my chinese tea eggs) and a tablespoon cress sprouts.
Due to the saltiness of the capers there is no need for additional salt for me, but that depends.

As second egg dish I made some sort of rolled egg. 卵焼き

Rolled egg fascinates me since long ago. It is a japanese dish but I arranged some easter settings (herbs) to this version:
  • 2 eggs beaten with a fork, without foaming
  • 1 tablespoon chopped spring herbs as chervil, chive, cress
  • 1 pinch instant dashi powder
  • a few drops soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water, hot

Stir dashi powder in hot water, let cool. Stir with soy sauce to the eggs.
Heat a non stick pan with a little oil. I don't have a rectangle shaped japanese pan 巻き焼き鍋 only a common round shaped pan. So this will be a little tricky.
Add 1/4 of the eggs in the upper half of the pan, try to fix it to a long and thin shape. Let sit on medium high heat, sprinkle with 1/4 of herbs. With a spatule push the egg (think omlette) to the middle of the pan (without destroying it) add another 1/4 of eggs directly near this first part - spreading to the pan side (upper half of the pan)- sprinkle with herbs, flap the first part over this. Push egg roll to the middle, add another 1/4 of eggs near this up to side of the pan, sprinkle with herbs, flap the now first part over and so on.
Don't overcook the eggs. It is ok to flap when they are still looking a little bit wet. At least let the roll slide on a bamboo mat and roll the mat around. Wrap in tin foil and let sit for 10 minutes.
This may not be the perfect method but it works somehow.

Samstag, 7. April 2012

Easter lamb - sign bread

This is a very traditional german easter cake.

lamb shaped cake

It fits in the line of so called sign breads. These figural breads were offered on high holidays instead of the real thing: men, animals. In former times we had some interesting traditions as burning lots of people in one giant cage made of willow branches formed as one big human figure as offering for the gods (southern germany celts) or they used to strangle people and dump them in swamps (northern germans) so this little men shaped sign breads are much nicer: / (only in german language available but with some pictures).
Because the christian religious cults have been influenced by  former local cults  and traditions it is not easy to tell the true origins of sign breads.  Eastertime was a high time for babarian germans way before christianity came around (as in many cultures they celebrated the spring) but the lamb, easter egg and easter hare are based on christian religious sign culture: egg stands for the end and beginning, hare for trinity. The lamb is the picture of the agnus dei  (lamb of god, Jesus), the highest offering.
I baked it because my mother baked it and so did my grandmother and so on, just as family tradition. It is for our easter breakfast tomorrow.
You need a special mold (3-D!) made from two parts which will be connected by metal clambs. The batter has to be piped in the mold and baked. After baking the metal clambs will be removed and the cake released.
Rather new mold with cake
This type of mold is known since many centuries. Found some from 18th century for 120+ Euro on ebay (but did not buy it) You may buy cheaper and younger on flea markets or buy a new one. They were made from cast iron, pottery clay, copper, nowadays tin. The molds are still in production.
Most of the time a fluffy sponge cake dough is in use, but pound cake dough will do too. I made the cake after a recipe from Verpoorten Advocaat (again, it is nearly the same dough as for the little cakes before) but made with butter and starch and less Advocaat.
  • 125 g sugar
  • 75 g corn starch
  • 100 g flour
  • 125 g butter
  • 2 eggs (I added one additional yolk too)
  • 50 ml Advocaat (can be substituted with milk)
  • pinch vanilla pod seeds
  • pinch lemon zests
  • pinch salt
  • 8 g baking powder
  • icing sugar for dusting
Beat soft butter with sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, yolk and Advocaat, spices. Add flour- starch- baking powder mixture (sieved) in a few batches and beat until well combined. Fill in the mold which has to be buttered and powdered with flour before or some parts of the cake will stick and break. If you watch carefully you may find the crack at the neck of my lamb - yes I messed it up. I will hide the crack with a ribbon later on.
The cake can be baked in a pound cake mold too if there is no easter lamb mold available. Bake at 160 C for 40 minutes. Dust with icing sugar.
Nobody was harmed and now it sits between the easter eggs (just hard boiled eggs wrapped in foil). I am going to transfer it to an easter nest tomorrow morning.

Freitag, 6. April 2012

Tiny egg liqueur cakes

Yesterday I made 6 small cakes (think muffin) using a new silicon baking mould I bought for very little money (1.99 Euro) some time ago. I did not expect much but was surprised afterwards - actually this mould is pretty good. It has 6 tiny moulds for 6 small cakes with a floral pattern.
Cake in sunflower shape

Cake recipe:
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Advocaat
1/4 cup oil
1 pinch vanilla
1 egg,
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon baking powder (1/2 bag)
butter/oil for moulds
For glaze:
1 teaspoon Advocaat
2 tablespoons icing sugar

Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.
Whisk sugar with eggs until creamy, add Advocaat and oil (little by little) while whisking. Stir in flour mixed with baking powder - don't overdoe.
Fill in 6 buttered moulds. Bake at 180 C about 25 minutes. Let cakes cool on a rack. Decorate with a glaze made from Advocaat and icing sugar (just stir together until smooth, for more thickness use more icing sugar).

The cakes came of the moulds easy, no sticking and the shapes were very nice.

Dienstag, 3. April 2012

Fried rice with egg

Today I made just a little supper with leftovers. No time to prepare something funky.
stir fried rice with eggs
It does not look brilliant but it is yummy and filling.

3 cups cooked cold rice
2 big eggs
2 spring onions, sliced
1 handful cooked okras, diced in small pieces (or green peas or bellpepper cubes and mushrooms what ever)
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil (roasted) + more for serving
2 handfuls baby rocket leaves
Sweet Thai chilli sauce

Heat most of the oils in a wok or pan, roast rice while stirring until hot, add vegetables and stir fry a bit more, push rice to one side of wok or pan, we need some free space for the eggs. Add a little more oil - depends on the pan. Stir eggs with a pinch of salt and add to the pan or wok. Let eggs sit a bit until big bubbles form up from the ground, quickly scramble with a spatule and mix with rice.

Serve rice with soysauce, Thai chillisauce, sesame oil for selfservice and rocket leaves.

Montag, 2. April 2012

Lovely spring flower

Oh I like those flowers very much: Fritillaria meleagris called "Schachbrettblume = chess board flower" due to the checkered pattern

a poisonous beauty

Need to have lots and lots more in my garden. I am happy that they decided to come back each and every year. I also have the white variety but the purple is so much prettier. Wednesday we will have some snowy rain. No need for this while the peach and the nashi are blossoming. The plum finished blossoming a few days ago - lucky. I was a little adventurous and put two cucumber plants (variety of baby salad cucumber) in my foil green house. Better to bring them in again. But we had so many warm days already.

Tea eggs

Due to the upcoming easter holidays, and in regard of Hiroyukis multiple egg recipes, I was thinking about Tea eggs - eggs coloured in the inside and on the outer shell .
Tea egg (chicken egg simmered in tea spice brine)

Peeled Tea egg
This is a southern chinese recipe, calling for lots of spices, which will add a wonderful flavour to the eggs. There will be no need for additional seasoning!

Spice mixture:
  • 2 chillies
  • 3 small star anise
  • 4 gloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoons sezchuan pepper corns
  • 1 tablespoon strong black tea leaves (Assam tea)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • long stripe pomelo peel - only the thinnly yellow part, nothing white attached!!!
  • 3/4 cup soysauce

In a small pot I boiled 5 eggs well covered by water for 3 minutes and spooned them out of the pot. I cracked the shells by rolling each egg carefully over a marble cutting board. The more cracks the merrier. Let the eggs rest a bit. The eggs are still very soft, so they do need a more loving touch or they will be destroyed easily, or you could loose some parts of the shell what would desturb the egg pattern later on.
I added the spice and tea mixture, soysauce and sugar to the (still hot) water, heated it up and added the eggs again. Lowering the heat to the lowest simmering point I let the eggs simmer for 40 minutes and let them sit in the liquid for 2 days: after cooling down I placed the eggs (still steeping in the brine) in the fridge. The egg yolks will show a greyish/green rim, this is typical for long boiled eggs. Usually I try to avoid this by using a much shorter cooking time for hard boiled eggs. My grandmother used to call such an "overcooked" egg "devils egg" and as a child I did not eat them at all - I was too scared thinking about devils (grandmothers sometimes have some weired stories to tell for sure). But for this kind of eggs it is a must.

Just peeling and eating, that is all.

Sonntag, 1. April 2012

Bulgogi - using up the kimchi

Today I made Bulgogi. This is something I like to eat at korean restaurants very much. Due to the weather, rather cold, cloudy and windy, there was no way to use a charcoal grill. I decided to make bulgogi in big a castiron pan.
meat, kimchi, daikon, okra and carrot

I took
  • 350 g beef (entrecote part), sliced in very thin slices
  • For the marinade (all stired together)
  • 2 tablespoons Soysauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 big garlic glove, crushed
  • pinch black pepper
  • small pinch chilli flakes

some different vegetables:
  • okras, cleaned, rubbed with salt, rinsed, halved lengthwise, blanched in dashi stock, spiced with Ponzu sauce made from lemon juice, sesame oil, soysauce
  • carrot, cut in thicker sticks, blanched in dashi stock, spiced with ground sesame-salt
  • daikon, cut in thicker rounds, slow simmered in dashi, soysauce, sugar, sake with seagrass stripes
  • spring onion,  sliced
  • Kimchi

I marinated the meat 45 minutes, meanwhile I prepared the side dishes (vegetables) starting with the daikon. Sorry I did not measure the ingredients for slow simmered daikon properly. I just tossed everything together right from the bottles. I rubbed the pan with oil. Heated it up and put in a few slices meat only, turning them after a few seconds (roast colour will appear quick) - ready to be eaten.  I also stir fried the kimchi. It tastes so much better heated up.
Meat is served with a little kimchi and spring onion and can be eaten wrapped up in a salad leaf together with some glas noodles. But we ate it together with side dishes and rice.  After the first batch was finished I made another batch and so on.