Sonntag, 27. Oktober 2013

Duck breast with mushrooms

Today I prepared some quick dishs because I was buisy, so no big sunday roast or even a cake,  just duck breast, mushroom sauce and pasta:

Duck breast in mushroom sauce
First I seared the breast in the duck fat until well roasted and pink inside. I placed the breast in aluminium foil and made the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/4 cup sake
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 3 small spring onions, sliced
  • 1 bigger knob ginger root, minced
  • 1 garlic glove, minced
  • 2 handful mushrooms, I only know the german name Stockschwaemmchen (Kuehneromyces) - they look a lot like Shimeji
I heated up the liquids with garlic and ginger root in a pot and simmered until reduced to half. I added the mushrooms and simmered until they were done. Sliced the duck breast and tossed it into the sauce together with the spring onions. I served this dish with fresh pasta (very thin italian linguine) and a vegetable sidedish (carrots and lotus root in a sesame sauce)

Today was a very buisy day because:
There was the garden I had to take care of, especially the small pond. Next to the pond there is a huge magnolia tree who decided to let go heaps of leaves and all at once. I had to fish them out of the pond - nasty task. Than I picked up 20 kg quinces, because the quince tree decided it was high time to get rid of them. (I prepared 2 liters steamed quince juice, a good method to use up 6 kg quinces and prepared oven baked quinces). And I had to remove leaves from the yard too.

It was high time to take care about my journey to Tokyo as I am going to stay there for two weeks in one week so this kept me really occupied too: Searching and selecting points of interest, look out for maps and subway connections, planning some strolls. I copied and pasted the information into files and printed them out. Now I have a day to day plan on what to do and how to get there, transportation costs included (I am going to buy a Pasmo card at a vending machine in Narita airport and it is quite good to know how much money I should place on the card beforehand). I will store the information about my sight-seeing trips on my i-Pad too but just in case it will fail/get lost, I have a paper bound back-up. To be honest, I feel a little bit chicken-hearted about visiting such a big city without proper language skills - ok I can ask for directions and order food and tell a doctor where it hurts, just simple sentences but probably no discussion skills. I visited lots of capital cities in Europe but never such a big one (London and Paris are big too but not that big) and I feel much more comfortable with my planning the trips beforehand.
I read an article about the really bad behaviour of japanese men against foreign women and that really got me Japan no safe country for foreign women . I don't think I am in the scope of such guys because I am not blond, no longer young enough and I look a little bit asian too (thanks to chinese ancestors) so this may help a bit, but  I feel a little uneasy. I am foreign so just in case I am so not going to visit Roppongi after dark and try to avoid jam packed trains during the buisy hours(..). What shocked me the most is the lack of police in action (who cares about bloody foreigners) - just in case I am going to take the phone number and address of the german embassy with me. At least I have a native speaker at hand and nearby in Tokyo. She will have a look at my plans too and give recommendations, but I don't want to trouble her much.
But than again I know of places around  here and elsewhere I would not dare to visit after dark or all alone so I will just behave the same way.

So my day was full of other tasks and cooking took only a small part.

Dienstag, 15. Oktober 2013

Quince compote

Harvest time and I have to deal with lots of quinces again. Last year I made many liters of quince juice and prepared jelly (jam). I still have some jelly leftover. I may prepare juice again, but first I made some preserves: compote. Quince-compote is very delicious but very troublesome to prepare.

500 ml jar, fruits and syrup

Quinces are rather firm fruits and therefore not easy to peel and core. They may look like apples or pears but they are not the same.
 For 3 big jars of compote I picked about 10 quinces and after washing the fruits and rubbing their hairy skin with a paper towel, I tried to peel and decore them as clean and nice as possible.
First I was planning to make compote using halved fruits only (because it looks nicer) and to use a core cutter but they were too firm for the poor cutting tool, so I took my big and heavy chef's knife to cut the quinces into quarters and to cut out the core remains. I know some who chop quinces with an smaller and well honed axe, no joke, my mom does it all the time whenever she is preparing quince jelly. (This year she has tons of quinces too and she started to ship them to all relatives while I am going to share them at my office as usual).

I simmered the peels and cores in 1 liter apple-nashi juice which I had prepared beforehand together will half of a vanilla pod.
Because I do own an electronic juicer, it is very easy for me to have some fresh juice. I just had to cut the washed fruits into bigger wedges and put them into the juicer, skin and stems on, cores in, does not matter. The only thing left to do afterwards, was to strain the fresh juice through a cloth or fine mashed metal strainer because I wanted the juice to be absolutely clear. 1 liter store-bought apple juice would have been perfect too but I still had some nashis and apples left and fresh juice tastes simply the best.

The quince peels and cores have to simmer about 45 minutes in the juice. This will add an tremendous amount of quince fragrance to the compote later on. Afterwards I strained the juice again to get rid off the peels and such, put the quince quarters into a 3.5 l sauce pan, added the clear juice and enough water to keep the fruits covered. 350 g sugar were stirred in. I boiled the compote up and let it simmer uncovered until the quinces were soft enough. They are soft enough when a tooth-pick or fork can be pinched deeper into the quarters but they should not break and fall apart: about 8 minutes. Meanwhile the cooking liquid / juice was turned into a thinnly syrup.

First I filled the fruitsquaters into jars and afterwards I covered the fruits with the boiling hot syrup (I boiled it up one more time without the fruits) and closed the jars with lits. It is important to turn the jars over and let them sit on their lits for 10 minutes at least. This will help to keep the jars firmly closed. During this time the quince quarters will simmer some more because the syrup is really hot which is good for peserving issues but bad if the quarters were to soft to begin with... Usually the compote will keep up to a few month if you work with sterialized jars while using piping hot syrup.

There was some syrup leftover which tastes very good mixed with sparkling water or sparkling wine.

I will make some more compote and trade it for deer meat (laugh).

Sonntag, 13. Oktober 2013

Korean-style pickled Shiso (Kkaennip kimchi)

The winter is near and before the first deep-freeze will kill all the soft leaved perential plants I am trying to preserve some of their goodness.
There is still a big perilla doing her best, full of leaves and today I took cake of them:


I plugged all bigger and flawless leaves and washed them carefully, afterwards I let them drain in a big sieve. Maybe I gethered about 40 leaves, I did not count them - just two bigger stacks.
I started to make the pickling base:
  • 1 small carrot, cut into match-sticks
  • 2 small green mild peppers, cut into thin slices
  • 1 big garlic glove, crushed and minced roughly (not enough garlic to korean tastes)
  • 1 bunch garlic chives, chopped (therefore the garlic chives instead of spring onion and more garlic)
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger root
  • 1 cup soysauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated  nashi (pear)
  • 1 tablespoon fishsauce
  • 1 pinch salt (because the soysauce was not very salty)
  • 2 tablespoons hot chili flakes (I did not have much chili flakes in storage so I simply ground a handful bigger dried red Thai-Chili) - this is really less chili koreans would use
I stirred everything together in a bowl.
Then I stacked the kimchi:
I dipped one leaf into the brine and placed it in the container, put a little of the vegetables on top, dipped the next leaf into the sauce and placed it on top of the first leaf, added a little vegetable and so on.
I made two stackes., filled in leftover brine and covered the container with an air-tied lid. I will let this sit in the fridge until this evening, thenn I will flip the stackes over. The kimchi will be ready in a few days.

Samstag, 12. Oktober 2013

Donuts - nearly as good a dunkin donuts donut...

This morning I was a little bit bored. I planned to do some gardening but it is raining cats and dogs.
I decided to bake some donuts because we will meet with friends later on today and I know they are huge fans of donuts (and of almost any kind of unhealthy food coming from the USA). Therefore I will pack a bag for them - I am sure they will be delighted.
There are two different kinds of donuts available: cake batter donuts and donuts made with yeast dough. Cake batter donuts are much more unhealthy. So this is what I made: 

Cake batter donuts
Recently there is a hype about cronuts, donuts made off puff-pastry filled with fatty cream. This is something like frying fat in fat and fill with fat. I am not going to prepare something related because it is just heart attack on a plate.

The donuts I prepare are crisp outside and soft inside. I covered them with royal icing (for pink glaze I mixed  the icing with black currant syrup and sprinkled with coloured sugar, for the white I used lemon juice and sprinkled with coconut flakes).

For batter:
180 g flour
70 g starch
100 g sugar
100 ml milk
75 g butter
1 large egg
1 bag baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
a good pinch nutmeg


First I sieved the flour, starch and baking powder. I simmered the butter in a small pot until it turned into so called nut butter (amber coloured butter) and strained it to a fine mashed metal strainer.

I beat the egg, sugar and the butter (cooled down a little) and added the milk, spices, salt. Afterwards I whisked in  the flour until the batter was just smooth.

Meanwhile I heated up 600 ml oil in a wok at about 170 C. The wok has no temperature control  os I always use this method to check the heat: Whenever lots of small bubbles are starting to rise vividly along a bamboo skrewer, dipped into the oil, the temperature is high enough.

The batter is not firm enough to be rolled out, piping with the help of a piping bag is the only way to form donut rings. Therefore the donuts will stay really soft inside and I like the piping because it is a much more clean work.
I piped four rings (thickness of a finger) on small sheets of parchment paper and let the papers slide into the wok. After a short time I removed the papers and fried the donuts until one side was done, flipped them over and fried unil the other side was golden brown too.
I removed the donuts with a slotted spoon and let them sit on a rack to let the fat drip off. Meanwhile I prepared the next batch.

Afterwards I glazed the donuts with runny royal icing.










Dienstag, 8. Oktober 2013

Special cake to celebrate a wedding

I did it. I promised to prepare a cake for all colleagues to celebrate the wedding of one of them. Our dear colleague (the pretty one) married in Spain and we could not come to visit.
We decorated her workspace and had a cake and coffee break together with her, after her return.

This is a 3-layered sponge cake, filled with vanilla buttercream, black currant jam, Creme de Cassis.



The sponge layers are so called Vienna Sponges. I covered the cake with a buttercream crumb crust and home made fondant. For decoration I created some fantasy gum paste flowers and a center piece with two pigeons modelled with fondant and gumpaste mix (50:50). The piece is also made from model paste and covered with coloured royal icing glaze.
All in all the cake feed 20 people. Note: I did not use any ready made fondant or butter cream or gum paste or icing. I simply whipped everything together from scratch. The reason: the budget was very low. We did not want to spend so much money on cake and office decoration, because we put a limit on our office piggy bank beforehand. For birthdays and such 15 Euro for a gift, for special occasions as in child birth, wedding, furneral 30 Euro max. So it was decided on a big cake  as a gift to share with all and the decoration all in all for 30 Euro.

1. Plain cake - the edges are still in need to be trimmed before crumb crusting. The scraps are good to prepare cake pops, but Husband ate all of them.



2. Crumb crust finished - as you can see, I used a turn table for cake decoration


3. Covered with Fondant and decorated with gum paste flowers, birds and center piece with best wishes.


I am not that good in writing using royal icing and a piping bag (laugh) but I like to model flowers and little figurines ( I did lots of pottery in my former life as a student in the Art club). Thanks to all the pink and flowers my husband calls me now my little cake fairy, how cute is this. It is so not me..

So here is a little "how to":

First plan ahead - it is a project.

1# day
Prepare the fondant. Fodant needs 24 h to get ready to use.
Basic Fondant:
800 g powder sugar + 100 g for kneading, rolling
10 g/ 1 tablespoon glycerine (99.5%, edible made from plants)
5 g / 1 teaspoon salt
180 ml golden caramel syrup better use glucose syrup but caramel syrup is cheaper and is available in every store. Syrup should not be runny but thick and slow running. I don't know what you can buy in other countries but for my cake this caramel syrup works best: Grafschafter Karamell. The fondant will not become snow white but ivory coloured.
1 bag powdered gelatin (9 g, enough to bind 500 ml liquid)
60 ml water
some white coconut fat for lightly greasing your hands and tools.

1 teaspoon citric acid for a better taste you may use some lemon oil flavor too.

Stir gelatin and let soak into water, afterwards heat it up in a pot or microwave (as usual)
Mix the liquid gelatin with glycerin, golden sirup and stir into 600 g powder sugar. Let this be done by a kitchen engine - a strong one, or you will ruin your machinery. This has to run until well combined. Afterwards knead the fondant for 10 minutes or more by hand while adding more powder sugar until well formed, glossy and slightly elastic. This is incredible sticky work! Plan to clean the kitchen right after. To prevent glueing your hands and everything else to the fondant wipe hands and bowls and workspace with a little fat.
Needless to say you and your workspace has to be spick and span. The fondant will catch every limp, each and every dust corn or hair.. Wear an apron and a cotton shirt, tye back the hair and no wooly sweaters or such nearby.
Put fondant formed into a ball into a plastic bag, seal, put this in an air-tied container and let it sit in the fridge until next day. For rolling out, the cold and firm fondant has to be knead again until smooth. Dust rolling pin and workspace with a little powder sugar and go for it. Keep on rolling, dust with powder sugar,  lift and move the plate each time after rolling so it will not be ableto glue to the board. Yes it is not easy to make a big plate of fondant, it is some kind of sport. Roll fondant around your rolling pin, lift it and cover the cake, beginning at the end of one side of the cake.

For flower gum paste:

1 egg white (40 ml)
220 g powder sugar
4 teaspoons Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) In Germany you buy CMC at the pharmacy or drugstore.
 It is the powdered glue to glue your 3rd teeth to your gum, absolutely hygienic and edible.
1 sprinkle salt

Whisk egg white with salt until soft peaks form, add sugar (leave some for kneading) and let run until glossy peaks form, add CMC and whip it again for a minute. Now knead it by hand (grease hands with coconut fat), form 4 balls and store each ball wrapped in cling film in an air-tied container. Store overnight.

This paste will dry up quickly. For to model flowers use only small amounts, cover your cuttings with cling film until done with modelling. Add food colouring as you wish but don't use liquid colours. Knead until the colour is well incorporated. Dust hands and workspace with small amounts of starch to prevent the sticking. It is glue...
With the right amount of dusting it is a perfectly smooth modelling paste. Roll out to paper thinness, cut flower shapes and model to your liking. I used some wooden pottery tools and a ball tool.
Work on soft and flexible surfaces. I used two different kinds of kitchen sponge mats. Worked out nicely no need to buy special mats (they sell flower paste kits, cutters, tools wire, silicon mats but I am not going to become a pastry chef so there is no need for special tools..). The flowers have to dry -I layered them on kitchen paper towels.
For modelling pigeons I used fondant and flowerpaste 50:50 knead until well combined, form birds, let dry.  I did not use bird molds (yes the sell all this too). Everything is done by hand: budget...

2# day
For sponge cake every sponge cake will do. I diceded on a sponge which will keep nicely fresh and flexible: Vienna style.
Basic cake batter: 6 eggs, 100 g sugar, 150 g flour, 1 tablespoon matcha tea, 30 g starch, 1 pinch salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 50 g butter.
Whisk eggs over a hot water bath until thickly creamy and warmed up. Add into a mixing bowl and whip in the sugar until soft peaks form. Add the sieved flours, spices and fold in. Add the warmed up and liquid butter and fold in.
Fill into a cake pan - I used a square pan. I made 1 1/2 of this amount of batter and baked one cake for two layers and 1 cake for single layer. 45 minutes, 25 minutes at 190 C.

Bake on parchment paper but don't use parchment paper at the rims. Cut cake out of the pan, flip it over on a rack, put a damp tea towel on top of the parchment paper. After 10 minutes remove paper. Cut the layers after a few hours of resting.

 Meanwhile prepare butter cream. I whipped up a very easy german type of butter cream, just milk, starch, sugar, salt and butter and vanilla essence. For 1 filling:
250 g butter
250 ml skimmed milk
1 tablespoon starch
5 tablespoons sugar.
1 pinch salt
a few drops vanilla essence
Heat up milk and sugar, salt, vanilla essence, stir starch into a little milk until runny and smooth, add to the boiling milk while whisking, stop heating, stir. Cover with cling film. The cling film should rest directly upon the surface of the sticky cream. Let cool down to room temperature, whisk soft butter until fluffy and creamy, whisk in the milk cream, spoon for spoon until doubled and super fluffy and dreamy creamy. Ready.

Filling:
Spread jam (300 ml) on each layer but not on top of the third layer. Sprinkle a few spoons Creme de Cassis (black currant gin). Spread a little buttercream on top of the jam, cover with a layer. Do it again. Cover with a third layer (best to stack the layers using the caking pan).
Let the cake sit in the fridge until next day
This cake should be prepared one day before final decoration.

3# day
Prepare another round of butter cream 
Trim the edges of the cake, the top layer should be even.
Spread buttercream on top and cover the cake and the sides with a thin layer.
Store cake in fridge for a few hours.
Roll out the fondant and cover the cake, beginning at the top, afterwards move your hands down at the cake sides with a whiping move but only 2 -3 cm deep and no pressing firmly. Tug the fondant as in arranging a skirt. Your hands should follow down the sides of the cake for the next centimeters, whipe and tug until the fondant stays where it belongs going all around the cake. Use a cake shaper to smooth the fondant on top and sides as last finishing move - air bubbles in fondant should be pinchend with a needle. Cut off exess fondant at the bottom of the cake sides. Done.
Can be done a day before serving but cake has to be cooled.
At the day of serving glue decoration with royal icing. Leftovers should be stored in the fridge. The flowers will be ok as long as the air in the fridge is not too humid. The cake should be served rather quickly because no one likes runny buttercream. For a more stiff and firm buttercream there are different recipes available but we are not that fond of overwhelmingly sweet cakes as in the US. So decorate it quickly, keep it cooled until serving and eat it up.

Note: I did not fuzz about the cake bottom. The fondant was cut very clean and nicely with a damp chefs knife but I did not pipe a royal icing pearl boarder or such. I put the cake on a board made of folded thick card board, covered with a nice pink paper and a thick clear plastic wrap. Glued some flowers and a gift wrap too. The cake shall be cut on this board and afterwards the board can be tossed away.
I was very happy to get the chance to prepare such kind of cake because there are not much occasions where such a cake is in need. I wish I hade more young colleagues or more children. I have seen tons of videos on gum paste modelling before but actually never made any.

Fondant and gum paste flower recipes are taken from Sally's bunte Tortenwelt. Sally has a nice blog/webside and she shows the fondant preparation on Youtube (german language only)

Mittwoch, 2. Oktober 2013

Chard roll

We will have to face very cold nights and the tree leaves are dropping really fast. I stayed at the North sea the last days and we had really stormy autumn weather: cold, but sunny with heavy winds. I thought the storm is trying to send me flying from the embankment.

Now I am back and at the moment there is lots of work to do in the garden: Harvest, preparing for winter, cutting bushes. After wrestling with the Wisteria (still trying to eat the garage), today I picked chard leaves (the chard is still doing well in the raised beds) and made some crisp rolls.
I used a fresh dough called Filo - nearly the same dough as for spring rolls. The only thing left to do after buying some Filo is to wrap things up.

Chard roll
For filling I cut the chard leaves (without stems, about 700 g) into bigger pieces, chopped 1 onion and minced 1 garlic glove. Those went into a pan with a little dark sesame oil and were stir-fried until the chard leaves went limp and lost their liquid.
I added a little salt, some chili flakes, pepper and 150 g crumbled greek Feta (white sheep milk cheese) and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds stirred and ready to go.

I put about 2 tablespoons filling on a triangled sheet of filo and wrapped it up into spring roll shape (ends tugged in) and set the roll on a baking sheet (brushed with oil)
I also brushed the rolls with a little oil and baked the rolls for about 20 minutes at 200 C.
They taste the best when still hot and crisp, right from the oven, but even cooled down (leftovers) are pretty tasty.

We had them together with some spicy curry made with green lentils, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots and bellpeppers. I simply cooked small lentils in broth until soft, diced the vegetables in smaller cubes and fried the dices in a little oil until a little roasted, added javanese curry powder, chili and the lentils with broth (just enough broth left to cover everything) and simmered until the vegetables were soft too. Spiced to taste with some soy sauce and worcester sauce too.

Afterwards I made a "milk shake" out of 3 nashis, peeled and cut into small slices and 1 banana, 1 small plain yoghurt and a little milk. I just purred the lot in a blender and sprinkled a little french 4-spice for serving.
I still have so many nashis, it is not that easy to eat them in time. Next week I hope my collegues will help me to get rid of them.