Dienstag, 24. Dezember 2013

Merry Christmas

Yes, today is the day and I am preparing christmas dinner since early morning. First thing I did was cooking the ragout for the ragout fin, next thing I did was preparing the dessert.
There is nothing much to do right now so at least I will let you have a peek view at the dessert.

Tata... Bouche de noel.
Chocolate sponge cake, marron cream, whipped cream with a little brandy, covered with chocolate and cocoa.
Have a nice Christmas!

Montag, 23. Dezember 2013

Soft old-fashioned toffee candies

Yesterday I prepared candies made from butter, cream and sugar. I still remember my mother telling a story from her childhood when she and her sisters tried to make candies all alone at home. It happened a few years after world war II ended. Butter and sugar were still very expensive and there were no candies for the children available - only on special occasions. So the girls thought it would be a good idea to make some candies on their own, using margarine and sugar they found in a cup board. It ended in a destroyed sauce pan, heavy smoke filled kitchen and some burned fingers followed by some serious scolding and spanking after grandmother returned. It went very wrong but they are still telling the story always giggling a lot.
So I went and made candies, using a recipe and some more knowledge as those elementary school girls.

For the shape: I cut the toffee simply into rectangles but some of the toffee I pressed into a small flower shaped mould: fancy ones to be used as presents. The mould is about 2,5 cm in diameter.

flower shaped candy

They are chewy but not that sticky and the taste is directed towards grown-ups: tonka-bean-sea salt.

150 ml cream (cream for whipped cream)
200 g butter, diced
1 big tablespoon evaporated milk (sweet and thick)
150 g brown sugar
125 g golden caramel sirupe
Good pinch grated Tonka bean

Let simmer on low heat until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved (6 minutes)

Caramel base:
150 g sugar
2 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes

Let sugar and water simmer in a heavy sauce pan until the sugar is liquid and turns amber (medium low heat). This is quite tricky: whenever the sugar becomes crumbly solid again just continue stirring until melted again, watch out for the color (use a wooden or silicone spatule to make sure to scrape the pan bottom while stirring)! Once it turns amber stop and quickly add the hot butter-cream-sugar mix but keep some distance because it will bubble and splatter and boil vividly, keep stirring.
Stick in a sugar thermometer. Sorry but there is no way it will turn out any good without...
Once the heat will reach 121 degrees Celsius (~10 minutes) turn of the heat, stir in sea salt and quickly fill the toffee into an already prepared oiled metal tray of baking mould.
Let cool down for some hours at room temperature.
Cut the toffee into the shapes you like (heavy knife recommended). The toffee is medium firm but elastic and only slightly sticky. It is quite easy to press small amounts of toffee into a mould. First I covered the mould with cling film, then I added a piece of toffee, covered it with another piece of cling film and smoothed it into the mold using some thump pressure. Afterwards I just removed the cling film and wrapped the toffee into cellophane.

Mittwoch, 18. Dezember 2013

Civet coffee

Today, for the first time in my life, I had civet coffee, brewed using the typical german drip method. And I was so surprised, I never had a coffee with such a deep (mocha - toffee- chocolate???) flavour - while smelling like incense, before. The brew was strong, mild and super tasty. A totally strange and different coffee experience. I must confess, first I hesitated. As you may know (or not) the coffee beans have to be fermented by a rather unusual method: they just have to make their way through a palm civet (looks like a big weasel). The crap will be collected, the beans are washed and roasted afterwards.
 We joked quite a lot wether I should feed my cats green coffee beans too, but I think they would not be amused. We also thought, for mass production it is way better to use elefants instead of palm civets. This coffee is really very good and a rare delicacy (the production methods are sometimes cruel too) I am never going to buy some though.

Dienstag, 10. Dezember 2013

Indonesian style noodles

During weekdays most of the time I am a lazy cook. Therefore I am a huge fan of asian dishes because the only things you need is a big pan and a pot for rice or noodles and a fridge containing some vegetables... As long as everything can be chopped and stir-fried in a wok or pan, it is only a question of minutes and you may eat to your hearts content.
Today I prepared Mie (chinese noodles) with some colourful vegetables, ham and omelette stripes - I had some sort of Bami-goreng in mind.

The spices I used are a mix of thai and chinese.
For 3 persons:
  • 150 g ham (lean), sliced into strips
  • 3 eggs (had to use the up)
  • 2 red bell peppers sliced
  • 1/2 cup small green peas (frozen, heated up in the microwave)
  • 1 bunch slender spring onions, trimmed, sliced
  • 1 garlic glove, minced
  • 1 knob ginger root minced
  • 1 tablespoon red Thai curry-paste (for real Bami goreng it should be Sambal oelek - but I like Thai curry paste better)
  • 1 tablespoon crunchy peanut butter
  • salt
  • a few dashes oyster sauce (may be subsituted with soy sauce)
  • sesame oil
  • oil

First I heated up the big pan with a little oil/sesame oil mix. I stir-fried the spring onions and bell peppers together with ginger and garlic and a tablespoon Thai curry paste until it became fragrant, reduced the heat and let the vegetables get a little softer - at this point I stirred in peanut butter.
Meanwhile I prepared a thick and fluffy omlette using 3 eggs and a dash water, salt and sliced the omlette into thicker strips.
I tossed the omelette and ham with the vegetables, seasoned with salt, oystersauce (it is very important to not overcook the ham and omelette so just mix them into the hot vegetables but don't stir-fry any longer).
I cooked the mie in salted water until chewy soft and tossed them (drained but still a little wet) with the rest. Finished.

Samstag, 7. Dezember 2013

German Wurstsalat - salad made of sausage

I promised to post a recipe. Here we are:

This is a typical southern german dish, often sold in inns - note: not in high class restaurants. I have seen it in every tourist trap in Munich too.
The main ingredient is a sausage, not a small Wiener but some sort of boiled sausage, sold in rings called Lyoner. Wurstsalat using the sister called Fleischwurst (looks the same) doesn't taste the same. It has to be a Lyoner. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wurstsalat
Or a 50:50 mix of Lyoner and Blutwurst (firm black pudding), did not had any Blutwurst in storage.

I made a salad for 1-2 persons (it has tons of calories so for me half the amount is ok, I could have easily eat all of it on my own but I shared...):
Cut 100g Lyoner into slender strips. Cut 2 german style vinegar pickled cucumber (gherkins) into slender strips, slice 1 small mild onion on a mandoline.
For dressing:
  • 1/4+ teaspoon salt (good pinch)
  • 1 small pinch sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mild (red or wite wine) vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cucumber pickling brine
  • 2 teaspoons oil (canola, sunflower)
  • 3/4 teaspoon mustard (coarse would be fine)
  • 1 small pinch dried majoram
  • pepper, freshly ground

Stir dressing, add sausage, cucumbers, onion and toss well. Let sit for 30 minutes. It is served with bread.

Freitag, 6. Dezember 2013

Dried fruit pies - mince pies

Today I baked very small pies, the size of a medium cookie, filled with minced dried fruits (mince meat).
These pies are not that sweet at all:

For filling:
  • 1 handful soft dried damaszene plums,
  • 1 handful dried figs
  • 1 handful dried dates
  • 1 handful toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons dried currants
  • 1 big apple, grated
  • 1 tablespoon ginger root, grated
  • 1 lime, zestes and juice
  • 1 tangerine, juice
  • 1 pinch dried orange peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1/3+ cup bourbon - the bourbon lazed around in the kitchen because husband forgot to put the bottle away, so I used it, brandy would be fine too.
  • icing sugar
(I only used half of the filling, for more sweetness honey or brown sugar may be added)

For dough:
  • 200 g flour
  • 100 g cold butter, diced
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 pinch salt

The day before:
Chop the dried fruits roughly, mix with the other ingredients (except almonds) and simmer covered, on low heat for 25 minutes. Add  more bourbon if there is not enough liquid. Stir from time to time to prevent burning. Let cool down, mix in almonds and keep it in the fridge. The filling can be kept for quite a while so I made a good amount.

Pie crust:

Rub flour with butter, salt until coarsely crumbled, add water and knead a dough, let sit, wrapped into cling film, in the fridge for 30 min.

Put the pies together:
Divide dough into two parts. Roll out one part - thin a possible und cut cookie sized circles for the pie crust bottom (I always roll out the dough between two sheets of cling film using a marble rolling pin - no sticking, no additional flour in need). Place "cookies" into small moulds (I used a silicone one containing 15 small round moulds). Make sure the dough lines the moulds from bottom to top.
Pinch the bottoms with a fork, fill 1 teaspoon dried fruit mix into each and make it eaven.
Roll out second part of the dough, cut cookie sized circles, use a very small cookie cutter (I used a star shaped) and cut out the middle parts.
Place each circle on top of the filling and lightly press the edges to the pie crust.
Bake at 175 C for 25 minutes.
Unmould and dust with icing sugar - lots of icing sugar for the sweet tooth.
After one bite:

Mittwoch, 4. Dezember 2013

Spicy something related to mapo dofu

Yesterday was fridge-cleaning day and I just had to use some leftover vegetables and tofu. The only ingredient I bought, was the ground meat.
Doesn't look special but it was very lovely together with fragrant basmati rice, just something yummy to warm up the innards on a nasty winters day and it serves for 2-3 days:

 I used
  • 2 carrots cut into sticks
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced
  • 1 handful okras, ends trimmed, rubbed with salt and rinsed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small red bellpepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger root
  • 200 g firm tofu, cut into bigger chunks
  • 400 g ground pork
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sichzuan pepper corns
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon fermented black soy bean sauce (Sichzuan style) - hot!!! maybe try less if you are not used to hot spices
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 cup water
  • roasted sesame oil

I seared the meat and sichzuan pepper corns (prickling ash) in sesame oil  until the meat was lightly browned and crumbled, added the vegetables and stir-fried some more time until the onions were translucent/roasted. Added mirin, soy sauce, black bean sauce, water and a little salt and pepper and simmered, covered, until the vegetables were nearly done with some bite left. I added the tofu, stirred and let it sit, covered for 5 minutes. Served with rice.

Sonntag, 1. Dezember 2013

Shokupan japanese milk loaf

Because I did not buy enough bread I had to bake some - it is sunday and the bakeries are closed. I was intrigued of the idea to bake a bread similiar to the bread I often had in Tokyo, a very spongy soft white bread. I would like to prepare some egg-salad sandwiches for my office lunch break tomorrow and I had this kind of bread in mind.
So I did it. I think it is near - maybe I will try some adjustments next time, but it near.
nice spongy soft texture with small bubbles

Most recipes call for milk powder - milk powder is something I usually don't have in storage, so I used plain milk and a little butter.

For one loaf:
  • 400 g wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons potato starch
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 300 ml milk
  • 50 g butter, diced
  • 1 bag instant yeast
I stirred the flour and starch with sugar, salt, yeast and heated up the milk with the butter until the butter melted. I let the milk sit for a bit but poured it still hot (but not boiling hot) over the flour and started the machine. The flour will soak up the heated milk in a very short time and the dough will come together really quickly. Let the machine run for 10 minutes on medium speed.

I lshaped the dough into a ball, covered the bowl with clingfilm and let the dough rise until doubled - in fact it will rise quickly but give it one hour at least.
On a baking board I squeezed the ball into a rectangle and folded the dough from each side one time and formed a roll. I cut the roll into 7 thick slices and formed a ball from each slice as in making dumplings. The balls were placed in the baking tin each next to another and basted the surface with a little milk. I let the loaf rise again for 45 minutes (until nearly doubled ):

The tin was covered with clingfilm and the dough rose a bit too much so the clingfilm clinged to the dough, ruined a perfect smooth crust..
First I baked the loaf for 10 minutes at 200 C and afterwards for 30 minutes at 175 C. 
I am very satisfied with the result concerning taste and texture but the bread lacks a little bit moisture. Next time I will try a hot flour mix (for humidity, before adding yeast), add more milk. Definitely less baking temperature at the beginning and maybe I will give the dough some other turns while shaping to form a swirly texture. I still don't think I will have to buy some milk powder.

Typical german christmas market in a very small rural village

During christmas season there are always small christmas markets for just one day. These markets are planned by village peoples: often the fire brigade, the sport community, church and so on. This year we visited a small market because a friend ran a food booth selling sausage in spicy sauce called Currywurst and hot cocktails and we promised to visit. This is a typical rural surrounding for our area:
Old red brick stone houses with wooden framework:

Some village people..
Christmas market (part of) in the church yard near an small castle, surrounded by old farm houses:
There was a small booth selling wooden handcrafted christmas decorations (there where some more selling honey and honey soap, beewax candles, cookies, old fashioned candies, crepes - had one, fish, grilled sausage, mulled wine, cakes, woolen puppets and toy animals, advent wreaths..)

Hot cocktail booth:
Hot cocktail (Zombie) - I felt a little bit dizzy afterwards:
Another booth selling grilled or smoked salmon:

 This is how the salmon was grilled - attached to wooden boards near the fire:

The grilled salmon was delicious
The sausage in spicy sauce too..