Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - November 23rd

Today is Dining with the Bloggers day. Today is Wednesday, also - so who better to cook with than The Wednesday Chef?

Luisa started her blog just a couple of months ago. She had this great idea of wanting to tell people how the recipes in the papers REALLY come out - when do they suck and when do they shine? Where do you have to watch your steps, and when is it as easy as pie? I don't get the newspapers she does, but I know exactly what it's like not having anyone to ask about a certain recipe - and I know about having too many clippings laying around too - so I love this approach to food blogging. She's focusing on LA and NY Times, but dashes of to other recipes every now and again. Some I'd love to try would be Regan Daley's Poached Quinces or Marcella Hassan's Sicilian Pesto - or, turning back to LA times, the I-can-almost-smell-it-from-here Garlicky Braised Cauliflower with Capers - this I GOTTA try!

This time though, because lately ALL of my DwB posts has been featuring something sweet, and because I like sweet things so much, I found this: Marian Burros' Plum Torte was what I'd noticed and what I was going to make. Luisa hadn't been totally convinced about the torte, and I can understand, seeing what she's grown up with (yeah, you'll have to check her post for that one!) but she wanted to know if anyone else had better experience with it. A lot of her commenters sure did, her friends loved it, and well - I'm a convert too!

Juicy plums on top of a simple butter-sugar-eggs-flour batter, that ends up with a texture (and to me taste too) somewhat like marzipan. I'd be tempted to substitute a bit of the flour with almond flour or ground almonds next time. Oh yes, and I might try making it with the plums underneath the batter - that was suggested in the comments. I really liked the simplicity of this cake, as well as how easy it was to do. Served with a bit of thick creme fraiche on the side - or just as a nice big slab standing over the sink, as I did - it is all bliss...

Now what HAVE Cathy been up to??

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Confessions from a Kitchen

I am no art connoisseur. I wouldn't be able to tell my Gauguin from my van Gogh, or my Picasso from my Miró. Okay, maybe Picasso. People that can spend hour after hour in a museum, walking up and down aisles, standing still in front of a painting for ages, slightly tilting their head to get the best lighting on the object in front of them amaze me. How do they do it? How do they keep seeing new things, new angles, new colors and brush strokes? And why oh why wont it jump out at me?

Is it a patience thing? Or is it maybe just because my family, or someone else for that matter, never taught me? Is it something you have to learn, or is it naturally there? I don't know, but whatever it is, it's not something I posses.

Or maybe... maybe I'm just not looking at it the right way.

I know a couple of chefs. A couple of them are women, but let's admit, most of them are men, at least in my neck of the woods. They're craftsmen, but some might call them artists. They have big, butchy man hands, they throw around pots the size of a baby's bathtub and wrestle stock bones and boxes of produce. They cook and bake and stand there in awful heat, day in and day out, sweating, clenching teeth and plating - and they make teeny tiny works of art. A kind of art I can actually understand.

You see, food. There's something I understand. I mean, it's there, everyday, all the time. It's just a matter of opening your eyes. You can dress it up, or dress it down, but it's still just - food. It is colors, textures, tastes - it's temperamental, it's alive. It's - pretty.

I love that. That is where I see the beauty, that is where my kind of art is defined. I like food at it's best when it's simple, when it's played down, served on a big, white plate, no frills, not too many distracting objects. The art starts with the produce itself, and then goes on from there. But when the vegetable, fruit, dairy, meat and fish hit the counter - that's when I tilt my head and look really close... And reach for the camera.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - November 16th

Short and sweet is this week's Dining with the Bloggers - just as sweet as the featured blog, Bunny Pie. Kept by Debbie from Chicago, boasting pictures that are out of this world - and of course - recipes, of which she has yet to post one I don't want to try. And then she writes great sentences, like "don't fear the sticky dough" and "when you bite into a bittersweet chocolate chunk, it is like a slap on the butt (the sexy kind)" - heh!;-)

Actually, her latest post, on Alsatian Potato Pie was what had me drooling this week, but time is precious these days, and lo and behold, of course there was a recipe to fit my tight schedule (but I actually think the potato pie isn't too time consuming...)

Apple scones. I've become a sucker for scones, and Debbie's are nice, moist, and reminds me of apple pie. Mmm, apple pie. Halved the recipe, worked great, and as I'm the kind of girl that always does as she's told, I had it with a cup of earl grey and - okay, a lot of butter! Lovely!

Is it Christmas that's taking all our time already? Might be, still, Cathy managed to try out a recipe this week too!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Entertain MeMe - All Those Sparkles...

Sometimes, I don't feel like sharing my food. I mean, I'm all for unpretentious serving on big platters and putting pots straight on the table, here, serve yourselves. But. Sometimes, I want something that's mine, and noone elses. My bowl, my plate, my jar - Mine, and mine alone.

Maybe it's all those years in the restaurant business. Maybe it's seeing all of those individually plated dishes going out from the kitchen, and explaining every little detail on the plate to customer after customer. Maybe I like it when there's attention to detail. Or maybe, just maybe - I just like a little showing off.

I have a lot of glasses. Lots. In all sorts af shapes and sizes and designs. And they're not your regular drinking glasses. Well, some of them are, but that's not what they're used for - drinking. I use mine for serving - for entertaining. For making sure that every person, at least at some point in the meal have something that is his or hers - and ONLY his or hers. 'Cause that's how I like it myself!

So naturally, when Jennifer from Taste Everything Once asked us all to join her "Entertain MeMe" this week, there was no doubt in my mind - it had to be a highlighting of the mighty glass!

Of course, your little cups and ramekins doesn't necessarily
have to be made of glass - believe me, I have quite a bunch of porcelain ones too - but glasses are often cheaper, they're seethrough (I like knowing what's on the bottom of what I'm going to eat!) and well - I like the sparkles.

I like how everything shimmers when you put down a tray of shot glasses in the candle light, or when you serve a trifle on a hot summer day, the sunlight flickers off of the rim of the glass.
Martini glasses aren't meant for martinis only - serve a piped out chocolate mousse in a glass like that and you have a perfect dessert that needs little less for decoration. Use them as little bowls for individual condiments, sitting by each persons plate, so everyone can double dip the spring roll into the sweet chili sauce without feeling bad about it - or use glasses for dips and spreads with a larger glass for cruditées for a pre-dinner snack. You can play it up with tall, streamlined glasses, or go for bulky tumblers for that rustic chic look.

I bought mine in all sorts of weird places: dollar shops - the supermarket - the cute shop with way too many things I'd like to own - gift shops - so I'm pretty sure you'd be able to get something like 'em at Williams-Sonoma too!

And I have to say, the shot glasses come in handy for a boozy night too!;-)

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Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - November 9th.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been bombarded with cupcakes. No, not like that, silly - I wasn't covered in them, they were just all over Santos' blog. New color, new style - cupcakes, cupcakes, CUPCAKES! I was going MAD! I needed cupcakes, and I needed cupcakes NOW! Dining with the Bloggers? Dining with a cupcake!

But. I've already dined with Santos. Luckily, in one of her posts, Santos linked to a Cupcake-themed blog, Cupcake Bakery, written by Chockylit. If you check out Chockylit's other site, you'll find that her real name is Cheryl, and that she actually sells the delicacies she bakes - but on her blog, you'll get absolutely GORGEOUS looking cupcakes, complete with recipes. There are all sorts of interesting flavor combinations and, for lack of a better word, "themed" cupcakes. Churros and Chocolate Cupcake anyone? Thai Ice Tea Cupcake? Or do you just want plain and decadent Melt in your mouth Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Cream? Chockylit's the way to go!

Me? I chose to go down the Red Velvet Cupcake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting lane. Why? When Chockylit actually warned that the thing that was most exciting about this cupcake was the frosting, and the novelty of the color? Ummm - any excuse to eat cream cheese frosting perhaps? The fact that red and white are the colors of the Danish Flag?The fact that both Nic and Lori had tempted me about these? Probably. I just knew I had to try them.

I must agree with Cheryl. They do look stunning, and they're okay tastewise - and the vanilla bean cream cheese frosting is good, as suspected - but they're not something I think I'd make again. Just not interesting enough, particularly not when the rest of her blog is FULL of recipes that are just crying out to you, wanting to be made! And, another thing I love: Cheryl's a bit of a geek - check out her experimenting with different mixes of baking powder/baking soda/cream of tartar in the Red Velvet post - I love that kind of thing! Yup, I'm a geek too!

Btw, I made 2/3 of the recipe, and substituted one tablespoon of the flour and the cocoa with 1/4 cup of cocoa in total - and used baking powder and baking soda. The Cake Club Girls agreed the cupcakes were magnificent, so maybe it's just me... And I mean - look at them - would you pass up on one of these?

Cathy's been busy busy this week, but of course knocked something up for DwB!

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - November 2nd.

One treat leads to another - I just HAD to do one more thing with yeast for Dining with the Bloggers this week!

Who would become my victim? There are so many accomplished bakers out there, that really, it's only a matter of picking one. But if you find someone who does MAGNIFICENT cakes and muffins and cupcakes in just the category you like (that would be homey and comfy and lovely looking!) which is also the category in which you would like to classify your own baking - you just KNOW you found the right person and the right blog. That is: Lori from dessertfirst.

Lori is a food writer from Manila, Philipines. Not just a food-blogger, but a food writer. Scared yet? No, and really, you shouldn't be. Not even though she just ran her first 10 kilometer run. I mean, she's human - she bakes! And each and every one of her homebaked entries I could just lick off the screen. Seriously. Lori has a seperate page on her blog for recipes, and a word of warning: if you're just remotely sweet treat-hungry, do NOT check it out. Your keyboard will be ruined before you have a chance of catching the saliva.

So why go for the little, somewhat anonymous recipe for Pretzels. Because I'd never tried eating Pretzels before. I've heard of them, but I never tried them. And Lori's just looked SO good. Her suggestion of dipping them in melted butter and cinnamon-sugar made it clear to me that they really had to be tasted and tested. Butter? Sugar? I'm there.

Pretzels themselves are simple to do, except of course for the assembly - Lori's instructions are actually pretty clear, but I'd just scribbled the recipe down, with instructions somewhat like: shape into pretzels. There's a little more technique to it than that, but really, as long as the taste is good, who cares about their appearence?

As always, I substituted the dry yeast for fresh (about 12 grams) and well - my kitchen isn't exactly as hot as Lori's, so the dough rested and rose for a little longer - that's just how it is with those yeast-beasts. Fortunately, they were all done and ready for when my Mom arrived for tea, and with the little bowls of melted butter and cinnamon sugar set out, there was no stopping us. Bready and salty, combined with a dip (and a double-dip!) of butter and sugar. Yummo!

Cathy's done the most awesome looking thing this week - go have a look!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - October 26th

Surely, there is no stopping me this week! It's Dining with the Blogger's time and for once: I've planned ahead. Usually, I'm running around on Tuesday night (admittedly, sometimes on Wednesday mornings) trying to figure out which one of the oh-so-many bookmarked food blogger recipes I'm to try. This week though - no problemo.

Last Wednesday, Fanny from Food Beam had this wonderfully looking picture (complete with recipe) up of a Pissaladiere. Um, and a-whatta? Pissaladiere. Go see Fanny's post, she'll tell you where it comes from. I never had it before, but it looked so good, and it had been a while since I'd done anything with yeast. I just couldn't get it of my mind. Sweet onions, savory anchovies, salty olives, doughy cushions of bread? Hello! If that doesn't speak heaven to you, well... But when would I have the time to make it?

It turned out I unexpectedly got Friday night off. And is there a better way to spend Friday night than with dough and onions? Dropped by the grocer and bought myself a big bag of organic onions and some yeast, and went home and started the dough. I only made half of Fanny's recipe, afterall it was only me eating. Used about 5 grams of fresh yeast, and dumped everything in the KitchenAid and let that do the work for me. Meanwhile, I chopped and sauteed the onions, ever so slowly, for that meltingly, caramelly texture. I chopped up and mashed a couple of anchovies to use as my paste - I don't know why, but you can get all sorts of brands of anchovies here, rolled around capers and bell peppers, but no paste. I can make it myself then!

As soon as the dough was ready, I divided it in two and assembled the pissaladieres and put them in the oven. When they came out, all golden and lovely, it was all I could do to restrain myself from biting right into one. But I paced myself, not wanting to risk burning the roof of my mouth and not beeing able to taste anything at all.

Pure, savory bliss. The sweet onions, contrasted with the salty and pungent anchovies and olives is just that. Bliss. I would have had a green salad, or maybe a tomato salad on the side, but there was no wasting time, there was just eating. Yum. Simple, yet so good.

Fanny's been working on an alphabet of ingredients, taking beautiful photos of the ingredient, and then doing a recipe with it - a great idea that I'm very sad I didn't come up with!:-) And, well - I knew I should have made something for dessert also...

I reheated the second one the next day, so there's nothing left to send to Cathy - the poor girl has had nothing but reheated beans and things from the freezer this week, and didn't even get to make something delish for DwB...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

(Belated) IMBB#20: Has My Blog Fallen? Comté Cheese and Marjoram Soufflé - or a story of how a lot of things went awry, yet the soufflé still rose!

This morning sucked. They're changing the water heater in our building, so from 8.30 am this morning until Thursday around noon, we'll have no hot water. I therefore had to get up at 8 am to take a shower, even though I didn't have to go to school until 4 hours later. I like sleeping. I don't like getting up at 8 o'clock unless there's something more important than a shower for me to get up for.

But heck, then I was awake. What better to spend the time doing than check out what my industrious friends, the food bloggers, had all been up to? And behold: as you all know, there has just been a weekend chock-full of events: both SHF and IMBB! I participated in SHF, but had to see IMBB#20 run by me - I mean, there's only so much food I can eat in one weekend, and with birthday parties to attend to and work to be done, there was no fallen blogs for me.

Or so I thought. Turned out, Kitchen Chick allowed anyone that could sneak an entry in before she had done the last of her wrap-up to enter on a belated note, and still be a part of the event. Yipee! That's me! I haven't participated in IMBB for a while, but I loved this theme, so off my mind went and off my body went to school.

I returned a couple of hours later, when the light was quickly fading outside. Oh no wait, that's not true. It had been raining - POURING - down all day, so there never was any light. Damp, cold - ugh. But I had something good coming - a soufflé!

As I couldn't really be bothered to go out again and get some ingredients, I decided to use whatever I had in the fridge. A large block of comté cheese (geez, a cheese soufflé Zarah? Could you be any more original?), a couple stalks of fresh marjoram. Some leftover mascarpone, just on the verge of hopping out of the fridge itself, right down into the trash. Eggs - luckily! Now, for finding a recipe.

Delia. Oh Delia, to the rescue. Sounded easy enough, and surely I could add mascarpone somewhere here... The intro to the recipe said: The one and only secret of success in making this soufflé is to whisk the egg whites properly. Sure thing, I know that, I've listened! I've made soufflés before. Once. I'm not feeling intimidated. Yet.

I grated the cheese. I buttered the soufflé dish (slightly too large, but eh!) I melted butter for the roux...

I seperated the eggs. One eg... NO! The yolks are NOT supposed to end up in the same bowl as the whites! Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Poured out the one egg. Stood there with the dirty Kitchen Aid bowl and contemplated washing it, then remembered: no hot water. Heck, I'll just whisk 'em by hand.

Here we go again: one egg - two eggs - three eg... Sweet mama, not again!! In with the other two whites lay the third AND two lovely splotches of yolk. Hm.

No more eggs. And the rain was very much still there. What does a wise woman do? Pull out a longhandled spoon, and dig out the ill-fated yolk-splotches. Remembering her Dad saying: you'll NEVER get stiff whites if there's ANY sign of yolks in there - and the just-read paragraph. Well.

The butter had melted. I added flour, then milk. Took it of the heat. Grated in some nutmeg - and dropped the entire nut into the white sauce. Along with the grater. Really. Fingered it out, fingers covered in sauce. Oh yes, and still no warm water.

Dumped the cheese and herb into the white sauce, gave it a good stir, then added the egg yolks. Then started whipping the egg whites. It seemed okay. They got pretty stiff, with nice little peaks. I'll show them. Folded them into the cheese mixture, then hurry-hurry, transfered the lot to the soufflé dish and into the oven. Phew. Turned around to see the mustard, that I'd contemplated putting into the mixture, standing there on the counter, unused.

Thought I could just manage to do the dishes while the soufflé was in the oven - you know, old school style, with a kettle of boiled water. Started by emptying my tea sieve. Onto the floor. Missed the garbage bin by a mile or so. Doh.

I know. Things could have burned. I could have scolded myself with the warm water. I could have dropped the soufflé dish on the floor. I actually took the picture of it while it was still in the oven. At this point, I was sure that if I where to handle it at all, it would surely jump onto the floor, and disintegrate completely.

But it didn't. It had risen to a perfect height. It was golden and creamy and tall, and smelled wonderful. I took it out. I dug in - and it wasn't done yet. Close, but no cigar. I didn't care. I plated myself a spoonful, then bunged it back in the oven. Ate that one portion, then came back for seconds. And thirds. And wozza - none was left. Savory cheese, eggy-ness and a sort of (unexpected, but welcomed) peppery kick from the marjoram. Mmm.

I don't know. Maybe there's something in the air? Maybe it was all karma from reading this very funny post, to which I relate so much, this morning. Maybe it was just a tiny bit of Hybris. But most importantly, the soufflé was just the thing to soothe my day. And it rose. Beautifully. HA-HA!:-P

Comté Cheese and Marjoram Soufflé - a bastardized version of a Delia Smith Recipe from Vegetarian Collection

3 large eggs, separated
3 oz. (75 g.) Comté. grated
1 large tablespoonful mascarpone
5 fl. oz. (150 ml) milk
1 oz. (25 g) butter
1 oz. (25 g) plain flour
a little freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground pepper
marjoram, a couple stalks, leaves torn off

Soufflé dish (850 ml, or 13 cm diameter, 7,5 cm tall)

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees celsius.

Make a roux by melting the butter over a low heat, then add the flour and whisk well. Gradually add the milk, incorporating it well. It will look like it's curdling, but just keep adding milk, little bu little, and in the end, it will come together. Leave to simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and let cool for a couple of minutes. Add salt, pepper and a grate or three of fresh nutmeg. Stir in the grated cheese, mascarpone and marjoram. Stir in the egg yolks.

Beat the egg whites until you get a glossy mixture that stands in stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites in with the cheese mixture, starting with one tablespoonful that you incorporate fairly thoroughly, then carefully fold in the rest. Transfer to the soufflé dish, and put in the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes (I gave mine 30 in a soufflé dish slightly larger than stipulated - I'd do 35 next time)

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PS: I just went down to finish doing the dishes. And came this close to dropping the dish-gunk (you know, the stuff that always float around near the drain after you've done the dishes) on the floor. It must be something in the air. SIGH...

Friday, October 21, 2005

SHF#13: The Dark Side - Dark Chocolate Caramel

Shhh. Don't tell anyone. I'm gonna let you in on a secret. You know when I bake something with chocolate in it, I usually excuse myself with something like: "I substituted the dark chocolate for milk chocolate, because that's how Martin wants his cakes/cookies/desserts"? It's not entirely true. I mean, it is sort of true - that is how Martin wants it. But, admittedly - it's probably also how I like it best. Just throw your chocolate wrappers at me - I like my chocolate creamy, sweet and vanilla-y, without the hint of bitterness I sometimes find in the dark variety. And I have tried the more expensive ones, the cheap ones, the in between ones. Really, I've tried. It's chocolate after all, how come I can't turn around and like it??

Then again. That's also only partly the truth. You see, I tend to fare better if the dark chocolate has been melted, and then incorporated into the sweet. And, as I'm slowly getting older, there are certain items where there is just no way I'd substitute milk chocolate for the dark one. There are certain dark chocolates I'd happily eat, like the Kehlet chocolates with a mint cream filling my Dad used to buy me when I was a kid - or Skildpadder, one of my vices - a turtle-shaped dark chocolate exterior, filled with a rum and caramel filling. It's good I'm telling you. So I wasn't completely lost when Kelli from Lovescool - For The Love of Desserts announced the 13th. edition of SHF with the theme: The Dark Side.

Oh, and by the way - happy birthday SHF! A whole year of wonderful desserts, sweets, cakes and other goodies - may there be many more! Guess I was a wee bit fast on the congratulations in my last entry - the first ever SHF was held on October 1st., with a theme of White Chocolate - I was SO there, and wouldn't want to miss this edition, making something with dark chocolate. In fact, making something from the exact same author as for my 1st. SHF. This time, it's Dark Chocolate Caramels. I told you, it had to be melted, didn't it? There's just something about larger pieces of solid dark chocolate that doesn't go well with me.

And it's easy as pie to do.

Dark Chocolate Caramels - from Morten Heiberg: Heiberg's Chokolade

200 g. dark chocolate (70% - I used Lindt Ecuador)
100 ml. whipping cream
125 g. sugar
100 g. glucose
(And I added a pinch of salt)

Prepare a baking sheet - either line it with silpat or brush it lightly with a neutral vegetable oil (I used almond oil) I used a brownie pan because I wanted the caramels to come out thick (cube sized almost), but do as you please. If you leave them thin, they're probably easier to cut up later on.

Finely chop the chocolate. In a medium saucepan, combine cream, sugar and glucose. Bring to the boil. As it starts boiling, turn it down, then add the chocolate, stirring to make it melt. Let it simmer while constantly stirring - the mixture has to reach a temperature of 120 degrees celsius - use a sugar thermometer for checking the temperature. When it's hot enough, quickly pour it out onto the prepared baking sheet.

Leave to cool for 12 hours - preferably not in the fridge, as that's too cold and will probably make for a grey appearance of the chocolate.

When you're confident the caramel is all set, cut it up, using a serrated knife or, if you've made it thin enough, with a pair of scissors. Keep somewhere cool in an airtight jar.

I have to admit, I really like these. They are a bit more bitter than what I'd usually like, but the chocolate I used have a hint of coffee to it, so I'm thinking coffee rather than just bitterness. Chewy and wonderfully dark in taste. Probably not fit for kids - and probably not for Martin either. But that just means more for me, heh!

Thanks for making me challenge my palate with a great theme Kelli!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - October 19th.

Sorry for the delay - as Cathy was kind enough to explain, the internet connection is back, but the stove was temporarily out of order. But here it is, Dining with the Bloggers!

I hope you're not all thinking that the only time I eat (or in this case, drink) at the moment is when I have to do something for Dining with the Bloggers. But I guess I can understand why you'd think so - as it turns out, my only posts within the last two weeks has been DwB entries. It's sorta like homework, only the good kind of homework (if there is such a thing?) and I like how I can, for a couple of hours (okay, in some cases more like half an hour!) forget about painting walls, washing floors and wiggly doorknobs, an just concentrate on the food.

It's getting more and more chilly outside as the days pass, and I was in the mood for something warm and comforting. And, I just organized all of my spices, so spicy and warm was to be keywords for the entry this week. That's when I remembered: a while ago, Melissa from The Travelers's Lunchbox had a confession-post up. On her spice bowl. Now, I know it, and you know it - we all have one of those. It might be a bowl, or a cupboard, or a drawer, it doesn't matter. There are up til the point of insane amounts of spices in it!! And we love it - we thrive in the colors, the smells, the abundance - don't mess with my spices, and certainly, don't tell me I have to stop buying them. It's just not gonna happen.

Melissa is what I would call an adventurous cook - Moroccan-spiced Poussin, Duck Legs with Orange-Chocolate sauce and a classic turned thrillingly around: Prosciutto e Melone (look at that picture - it's so gorgeous!) A dedicated scientist, Melissa's gone through three different recipes for chocolate gelato, just to find out which one is the best - and like any good scientists, she shares her results with us. If that isn't dedication to the subject, I don't know what is. She writes superbly, and I only wish I will one day have the guts to play around with ingredients like she does. Maybe I should start out with Roasted Sweetpotatoes with Spicy Feta-Olive salad? Or the Dragon's Breath Caesar Salad?

No. I had to start out with the original. With the Spice Bowl (or in my case, spice drawer). With Masala Chai. That would certainly be both warm and spicy - and quick - I like quick at the moment. Means more time for painting and cleaning. Doh!

Melissa's recipe has you boiling the spices and tea WITH the milk. The recipes I've tried before has you doing the blend of spices and tea, then cool this mixture, strain it, add milk and reheat. So I was curious as to whether I'd find this different, texture- and tastewise. I used an Assam tea, and added a little mace to the ingredients stipulated. After I tasted it first, I also added a little honey - so I have a sweet tooth, you should know that by now!

It is richer, both in texture and taste, than what I've made before, but that's okay - it's winter and we all need to get a little more insulation on our bodies!:-) You're not going to drink cup after cup in one sitting, although I did manage one and a half glass first time around. What you are going to do though, is sit, hands cupped around the steaming glass and enjoy the lovely scent of spices and warm milk and tea wafting from the glass. You take a sip, and as the warmth spreads through your body, you'll send Melissa a thankful thought - and thank yourself for actually stocking up on all of those spices so you could whip this up in no-time!

Mind you, the cup of hot chocolate she's just posted about looks like something I'd love to lay my frost-bitten fingers on too...

Cathy's done a little spicy thing too this week...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - October 12th.

We-hey! An internet connection! Not my own, but that doesn't matter - it's fit for doing this weeks version of Dining with the Bloggers and that's what matters.

Coming to you straight from the brand new kitchen is my version of a recipe found at Anne's Food, written by fellow Scandinavian blogger, Anne. She writes her blog from Sweden, to be more exact from Stockholm, and tells us that she's completely obsessed with food and cooking. And also adds in her "about" text that she's a wee bit obsessed about cats. And who wouldn't be if they had cats as gorgeous as hers??

I actually first met Anne at Nigella's Kitchen - an awesome on-line forum for Nigella-fans, and just, you know, food fans in general. I might be wrong, but I could be lead to believe that one of Anne's other obsessions (just like it is mine) is baking and cakes. Especially out of Nigella's books (just like me - again). She also does plenty of savory dishes I'd love to try (and elderflower cordial, yum!), but my new kitchen needed baking goods, and when I stumbled upon Cappucino Cupcakes, there was no looking back.

Anne suggested making them smaller in size, and also wrote that he recipe yielded a LARGE amount, so she halved it herself. I halved it too, and halved the recipe for the frosting, and it fit perfectly - it made 15 small muffins, and 5 medium ones. And they are super rich, just like Anne warned - but super lovely! A hint of coffee in the taste, chocolate and butter and cocoa - mmm-mmm-mmm. Mine are a bit darker than Anne's, but I suppose I just used another brand of cocoa powder. There's still a couple left, and Anne's idea of making them small are probably good, if you concider the richness of them - the bad part about making them small is that they fit perfectly into your mouth, so everytime I pass the plate, I eat one! I'll just have to learn to live with that, don't I?

Be sure to stop by Cathy's to see what she's done this week!

Thursday, October 6, 2005


Lyrics adapted from Lionel Richie's: Hello

Is it DwB you're looking for?
I know I should have done the post
I know I should have blogged right here
But my house is full of boxes
And my head is spinning 'round
Because there's just so much to do
And I just can't do it all
But I want to tell you so much
I miss you!

Sorry 'bout that weird little intro - just felt like I had to make some sort of effort after having neglected everyone and everything around the Food Blogging World for more than a week. And you know, this is the sort of stuff you'll come up with when your head's been in and out of moving boxes and you're sniffing cleaning products for a couple of hours a day. Just imagine what will happen when we start painting, LOL! Anyways, things are good, apart from the missing internet connection - the new place is amazing, it's huge and bright and we're loving it! Even the little guy took the move pretty well - he got his very own basket to travel in, too! He knows how to make himself comfortable...

I'll hopefully be back in full-time blogging mode soon - and I will definitely be on the wagon for next weeks Dining with the Bloggers. Meanwhile, Cathy's pointing you straight to one of the best foodblogs around this week - go check her post out.

(and oh dear - I'm a couple meme's behind. I've been tagged for both 23/5 and a Kitchen meme - I'll be playing along as soon as possible!)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - September 28th.

As I told you just yesterday, I'm moving. Which means, and I guess that's just the way these things go, that all - or at least, a lot - of my kitchen gadgets and crockery is all put away in big, brown moving boxes. They don't like being down there, but I've told them it's only for a short while, so so far they've stayed.

Anyhow, that did kind of limit my choices for todays Dining with the Bloggers. Anything using a blender? No. Semi-large pot? No, only have a small one. Oven? Yes, oven I can do, even though we're bringing it. It's still plugged in. But cake tin, muffin cups, loaf pan? Nu-uh.

So I checked my list of bookmarked recipes. And found Mock Deepfried Chickpeas from At Our Table. It's been around, and it's gotten rave reviews! In fact, it was one of the recipes Cathy featured on her first ever Dining with the Bloggers. You haven't tried it yet? What are you waiting for??

Linda's blog was one of the first food blogs I got to know, and one I've been reading ever since. There's cooking, blogging and dinning coming from Chicago to be found here. There's also stories of Lima Bean, Linda's daughter. And to all you mom's out here (or dads): I'm not even a mom (yet) but my heart melted when I read this story! This one's quite cute too! And, back to the food, for a time when all my gear is back in the cupboards, I have that Peach Marmalade (Linda's contribution for IMBB#14) on my to-do-list also.

Anyways, this time, I could manage the Mock Deepfried Chickpeas - or, put the nicer way: Baked Chickpeas with Herbs. Ahem. For some people - for me, not so many herbs. Packed and ready to go, remember? But Linda made a couple of suggestions for other spices, and one of the ones I could fairly easily find was smoked paprika. Not one she'd suggested, but I took some liberty with it. I love smoked paprika.

They're super nice. The chickpeas are easy to do, and hits that crunch-salty-spicy spot right in the bulls eye. And here they are - no, 'course I haven't packed away the camera!

Cathy was faster than me and tried a recipe I've bookmarked too this week!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My Little Kitchen

(I hope it's okay I borrow your blog-name Cathy - I couldn't come up with a better title!)

I think I mentioned a while back that I had this series of pictures from my kitchen, already uploaded and ready for a post. Well, now it's about time I use them, because this Saturday, October 1st. - we're moving! Which naturally implies getting a new kitchen - not much larger, but new it will be.

And you know what? I'm getting just a tiny bit nostalgic about it.

So it's small. But I always knew exactly where everything was. Flour? Reach up, it's in that big jar on the top shelf over the counter. Extra salt? Well, do you need Maldon or regular? And how much? There are small jars on the small shelf over the stove - extra Maldon over the sink, regular in the cupboard over the counter next to the sink. Big knife, small knife? Choose. Cake tins and loaf pans? Cupboard down on your left.

We never installed a real garbage bin. We never got those higher counter tops. The exhaustion had a weird sound - sometimes. The floors - hm. And there were just too many things in there. Couldn't have been my fault, nooooo siree!;-)

This is where I made many a bread, cake, risotto and salad. This was the kitchen in which I was re-introduced to the joy of meat. This is were I've done many a meal, whether catering, or just preparing a feast for my friends or family.

Here is where I enjoyed the suns rays shining through my tea-glass as it awaited me taking out the steeping leaves, standing next to the sink.

My Mom says it's a joy to see me working in that kitchen. She'd pull one of the chairs from the living room and put it in the door opening, and sit there and chat to me while I prepared our dinner. She said my motions were always so calm, not a wasted move anywhere. I was concentrated, yet talkative, stirring pots, cleaning salad, kneading bread. I blame it all on habit. That and well - it was my kitchen.

Many a time, I was sitting in my "office" (well, a small room we made into my office), studying, while Martin made dinner. I could hear him chopping, bacon sizzling, and suddenly, he'd be in the door opening: can you taste this mayo for me? Does it need more salt? Or sometimes, just giving me a kiss, then returning to his chores in the kitchen.

And we made dinner together there. Sometimes talking, sometimes in silence. The good kind of silence. You know, the kind were you know what the person next to you is going to say, or do. You don't really have to speak to each other, but it turns out he's started the dressing while you turned your back because you wanted to wash the leaves for the salad.

This is the place form where Food & Thoughts was born, and has been nurtured for the last year. But you know what? Even though I'm a bit sappy about it now (maybe it's the moving boxes stacked up around me that does it?) I'm pretty sure there's plenty of adventures for me in the new one. But Thank You, old Kitchen - you were a blast!

And PS: We're SO bringing that stove!

Friday, September 23, 2005

[DANSK] Jomfruhummere and my Dad

I love my Dad. I know, every little girl (and the not-so-small ones, too) love their Dads. But my Dad is special.

I think I've mentioned before that I've never lived with my Dad. My Mom and him split up shortly after I was born. When I was little, I always hoped that they'd one day get back together - I imagine all children of split-up'ped parents do that? - but on the other hand, I think I knew, deep down inside, that the arrangement was probably better for everyone like this. Because, you see, this way, there was never any anger. They were never mad at each other, there was never any arguing, never any shouting. Not that I knew of anyways. They stayed friends, and to this day, have a profound respect for each other.

While I grew up, my Christmas Eve's were always spend with the two of them together. Me, my Dad, my older sister, her Dad - and then the rest of the bunch. The rest of the bunch - well, some years that consisted of my Mom's best friend and her family - some years my older sister's Dad's new family joined the party too. When my Dad met my stepmom, C, and my Mom married again, the two new additions was welcomed with open arms to the "mad house". It wasn't until I turned 8 or 9 I learned that not all families have it like that. To me it was just all natural.

Growing up (that is, until I turned 13 or 14 or thereabouts) I spent every other weekend with my Dad. He lived in Copenhagen (I grew up in a suburb, about 30 minutes from the city) in a large apartment where I had a huge room, complete with bunk beds and all. He'd pick me up from school on Friday afternoons, we'd drive into the city and go shopping for dinner. It'd usually involve chicken, one way or the other. I don't remember myself as being a picky eater as a kid, but I supposed I just liked things that was familiar. Roast chicken with rice and curry. Or mushroom sauce. Mmm.

My Dad is the gourmet in the family. He's taken cooking lessons. He and a couple of his bachelor friends (back in the days) ruled the classes. They loved cooking for an entire day, buy lovely bottles of wine, then sit down to dinner in the evening, enjoying the fruits of their labor. Playing some opera while bustling around in the kitchen. I particularly remember gule ærter - a stew-type dish, made with split peas and a lot of pork. A whole, steamed fish, complete with eyes and all - which was of course put in front of me, slimy eyes staring in my direction. That really wasn't fair.

He was the one that taught me how to set a table. At my Mom's I could usually dodge doing it, one way or the other. At my Dad's, it was just a given - I set the table, and there was no way around it. He was the one that taught me to pay attention to the details on a table. We're not talking flower decorations here, c'mon, they were bachelors! But the little things. To put the fork and knife at a straight angle with the edge of the table, not just flying around. To put soup spoons next to the knife, not at the top of the plate ('cause that way you'd think you were having dessert, and it would just be rude to lead people on like that if there was no dessert) How to fold a napkin. Not a paper napkin, no siree - real linen. Real table cloths. Use smaller plates for bread, placed on the right-hand side of the plate and cutlery.

And in the kitchen. The importance of keeping plates and sauce jugs warm. To keep your counter top clean and clear of clutter (I still struggle with the last one) To poke your meat to see if it's done. To make a white sauce. And plain simply, to taste what you're cooking. If you asked my Dad: how long time does this need in the oven/on the stove/in the boiling water? there's no doubt (and it's still an ongoing joke when my sister and I cook together) his answer would be: until it's done.

There's no doubt in my mind that my Dad has had an enourmous influence on both my cooking style and my palate. My Dad had two rules when we ate: if it's too hot and you're burning your mouth, spit it out!! and: Taste. Always taste the food. It's okay you say you don't like it, but you have to try it. No bending that last one either. I had to try that staring fish...

As I got older, and he married C, the cooking became less frequent (and my visits also less frequent). A new wife and two adorable new kids, my younger brother and sister, and for me, boyfriends entering my life and high school - everyday life - will do that to you. And that's the way it's supposed to be. We still had fantastic meals, only not as many as them as we both would have liked. But there was a lot of grilling outside. Spaghetti Bolognese. Big, red slabs of meat and my Dad's sauce made with homemade stock he'd boil on late nights. Fresh peas. Fantastic Christmas Eve's dinners. And now, as the young'uns are getting older, we're starting to pick up the pace again. The settings are different from what I remember them from the large bachelor-pad. Now, it's family around the table. Uncles, aunts, cousins, boyfriends and girlfriends, siblings, grandparents. But it's equally good. No wait. It's better.

For my last birthday, my Dad invited me, C and Martin to Noma, a fantastic restaurant serving food made from Scandinavian ingredients, but using techniques from all over the world. We had a fantastic evening, the food was out of this world, the wines unparalleled. And being with just my Dad and C and no siblings was something that hadn't happened in a while I suddenly realized. And I treasured that moment. Luckily, we are to have many more of those. I love the slow summer evenings of which we've had a couple this season, were we just sit and chat until it goes dark outside - and then chat for a couple hours more.

One of the dishes we had at the restaurant was with Norwegian lobsters. Up until that day, I'd only seen them dead and frozen, but at Noma, they picked them out of the basin they had in the middle of the restaurant, showed them to you, then went into the kitchen and cooked them. They told us they'd gotten the Norwegian lobsters from the Faroe Islands. I know, silly, Norwegian, from The Faroe Islands - but that's just the way it is. I didn't name them, I just eat 'em. With great big pleasure. And I know, they might not be technically Danish, but they're something I very much associate with Denmark and [DANSK].

A couple of months after the restaurant-visit, my Dad had to go to the Faroe Islands for business. And clever man that he is, he managed to bring back a whole box full of little wriggly lobsters. He called me when he was driving home from the airport, his trunk full of the styrofoam box. "Can you and Martin come for dinner tonight? I've brought home something special." I knew exactly what he was talking about.

I rushed up to my Dad's and helped him organize them. My Dad is quite the organizer. We usually just put a little parsley-garlic-olive oil on
them and then give them a short while in the oven ('bout 10 minutes - or, you know, till they're done!) leaving them still soft, the meat melting just from you looking at them. Serve with crusty bread, maybe a green salad or some other salad. If you have enough Norwegian lobsters, you'll eat just those. And remember a side order (but make it a large one) of good company and great conversation. You really can't ask for much more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - September 21st.

Do you know how to make broccoli look good?

Molly from Spice Tart does! Broccoli's not the only vegetable she makes look good - in fact, she's not even the only one in her family that can make vegetables look good. Her sister has done these wonderful paintings that are up at Molly's site, you have to have a look at those - the first one I saw (the onion) I actually thought was a macro'ed out close-up of an actual onion. Nah, it's paint!

When we started doing Dining with the Bloggers last season, I went around a lot of the blogs, perusing their indexes and archives, to see if there was anything I'd like to try. Nowadays, Ialso get inspiration from my BlogLine Feed, and I'm telling you, the list is growing like a baby on steroids! This was also how I spotted Molly's recipe for making the easiest, yet tastiest broccoli. I eat way too little vegetables - I pride myself on being oh so healthy (to make up for all those cakes, you know?) but when push comes to shove, there's no doubt I do not eat the 5 portions of vegetables a day I'm supposed to.

Except maybe for yesterday, when I got up from the keyboard and cooked that broccoli. I ate an entire bunch! Munch, munch, munch - and then there was no left! I just ate it as it was - I'm very big on the: just make the side dish my main course - but a piece of crusty bread on the side would have been lovely. Go easy on the salt - the anchovies are quite salty themselves. Now go. Make it. Say hi to Molly, and don't forget to wish her well - she's getting married!

(Sorry for the lack of picture this time - Martin had kidnapped the camera, and as I said, I ate it all so there wasn't even any leftovers to take a picture of!)

Now what has Cathy been up to this week??

Friday, September 16, 2005

SHF#12: Cooking Up Custard - Mocha Eclairs

Do you have a pan especially for making custard? I do! Sort of, anyways. I mean, I can cook other things in it, I'm sure -

- but it's PERFECT for custards. Which is one of the reasons why I was thrilled, when Elise of Simply Recipes announced this months SHF-theme: Cooking up Custard. How can one not adore that velvety smooth, sweet and lovely scented creamy dessert? I for one love it!

Which brings me to a little ah-em. I'm not sure what I made would fit the classic category of custard. I mean, sure, it's got egg yolks, sugar, milk and cream - but it's also got corn starch. Actually, I'm pretty sure what I made would be classified as a creme patisserie. But heck - In Elise's mind, custard had something to do with egg yolks, sugar and milk/cream - she even said using custard powder was okay, so what harm might a little corn starch do??;-) Otherwise, I have a couple other suggestions for custardy desserts you can have a look here and here.

On to the project I took on for the 12th. edition of SHF (and btw - congratulations to my favorite on-line event! A whole year! May there be many more of them!!) Mocca Eclairs. My Stepmom taught me to eat these. I think I was 13 or 14 when she first introduced me to them, in a small patisserie somewhere in France. Coffee was not something I drank at that time, nor something I ever wished to learn how to drink - I thought the smell alone was bordering on vile - but these, OMG. Squidgy and soft in the middle, with a crispy and flaky exterior, topped with a tooth-achingly sweet layer of icing on top - it was love at first bite.

While it would have been only natural to make these for the last SHF, at that time, it just didn't spring to mind. So thank you Elise, for giving me an excuse to try making these myself!

Mocca Eclairs - adapted from Camilla Plum

For the Choux Pastry:

100 g. butter
300 ml. water
pinch of salt
1 tsp. sugar
100 g. all purpose flour
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 200 C. (Not fan-oven, these are little light creatures so they'll just whizz around in the oven if the fan is on!)

In a pan, bring butter, water, salt and sugar to the boil. Whisk in the flour - you'll have a sorta gummy-textured batter in the pan. Cook it thoroughly for a couple of minutes, while beating with a wooden spoon. Leave to cool.

Beat together the two eggs. Once the batter has cooled, add the egg, little by little, incorporating each splash before adding the next. It takes a lot of beating, but it will incorporate. You have to end up with a smooth, but not runny batter. I only used the equivalent of 1½ egg.

Transfer the batter to a piping bag, and pipe neat little rows of choux pastries out on baking sheets. Be sure to space them well apart, as they'll rise quite much when baking. I got about 14 (but lost a couple, see later)

Place in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Take one out, and see if it deflates (this is the part where your choux's might go down in number - I think I tried 2 or 3 like this). If it does deflate, give them another 5 minutes, then try with a new one. I ended up giving mine a total of at least 35 minutes - maybe my oven is not as warm as it prides itself of being! I like mine to be a little on the wet side when I take them out. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the coffee-infused custard:

4 egg yolks
85 g. sugar
small handful of (not-ground!) coffee beans
330 ml full-fat milk
25 g. corn starch
250 ml. whipping cream

In your pan, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar. Add the coffee beans. In a bowl, whisk the cornstarch with a little of the milk, then add this and the rest of the milk to the egg yolk-mixture, whisking again.

Bring to the boil, while continuously whisking. Boil for about 5 minutes, until you have the desired thickness. Leave to cool.

When the creme is cooled, pick out the coffee beans. You could probably sieve it without problems, but I was afraid it might thin it more than I wanted, so I picked out each one, sticking my fat little fingers into the custard - which was quite a joy in itself! ;-)

Whip the whipping cream until a little harder than soft peaks form. Fold together the whipping cream and the custard. Transfer to a piping bag.

Now, for the assembly:

Pipe the custard into the cut-open choux pastries, using a piping bag (or if you have a nozzle that willl fit snugly into the pastry without you cutting it open, try filling them this way) Put back on the "lid", then drizzle with a mocca frosting, made by stirring a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar together with 2 or 3 teaspoons made coffee - voila!

They we're lovely! I brought them for our Friday Cake Club - a couple of girls at school and I have decided to jazz up our very long Fridays with a little cake, taking turns to bring something. The cream had a tinge of coffee, and the icing too - obviously. You could probably use a larger amount of coffee beans for infusing the custard - when I first tried it, without having added the whipped cream, I was afraid it might have too much coffee in it. Then after adding the whipped cream, I thought it might have been good had it been a little stronger. You could also add a little powder coffee to it, I suppose, but I didn't have any, so I left it as it was. I made the custard and the pastries on Thursday night, then folded in the cream and assembled the cakes Friday morning. Worked a charm and there was a lot of ooh-ing and ahh-ing.

I can't wait to see all of the custardy, smooth dreamy confections conjured up by all of you! Luckily, Elise has already started the round-up! Mmmmm, cream....

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - September 14th.

I've been wanting to try a recipe from Niki's in quite a while. She keeps up her fantastic blog, Esurientes - The Comfort Zone - from (from me) far, far away Melbourne, Australia. Only problem - if you can call it that - was that a lot of the recipes I've bookmarked from her site turned out to be cakes. Now how could that have happened? ;-) It's probably all natural - Niki's a great baker, and her tastes in cakes correspond very well with mine! And did you know she has an entire index page exclusively with CHOCOLATE recipes??

The problem was (or is) - and you might think it silly - that I need to make more everyday recipes. It's seldom a problem for me to figure out what I want to bake, but ask me what I'm making for dinner tomorrow night and I'm sure all you'll get from me is a face looking like a question mark! No problemo though, 'cause there was plenty of bookmarks for savory dishes too, one of those being something she just made recently: Eggplant Rollatini. Just look at that picture - if it doesn't make you drool, I don't know what will!

So on a busy Tuesday night, I ran through the supermarket, getting the needed ingredients for making them. At home, I turned on the tv, and in between watching an episode of The Simpsons, I prepared the eggplants and the filling, then in the commercial break, rolled things up, covered it all with passata, and put it in the oven. A breeze. 15 minutes later, I had a nice, warm and filling dinner.

The recipe makes enough food for 8 persons(!) I reduced all amounts "by feel" to make it fit the slices made from one eggplant. I had it with some crusty bread to mop up the sauce, which, as Niki mentions, will of course be of another caliber, should you choose to make it yourself. I did like the convenience of the passata though. The crusty topping and olives Niki has on her version looks good too, and would provide some nice textural contrast (my breadcrumbs had gone stale, hence the lack in my version) I know I'll be making this dish again during winter - it's warm and comforting, but still has a summery feel to it. Yum.

And PS: You could have this for dinner, and then with good conscience try one of her cakes too - just to make up for lost calories, you know ;-)

Don't forget to check out what Cathy's been up to this week!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Tell me...

Is it just me or does that look like a cannabis leaf to you too??;-)

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - September 7th.

That's right, Cathy and I are back with tried and tasted recipes from our favorite source: YOU BLOGGERS YOU! I can't believe (again, I think I've mentioned this before) the amount of new blogs that just springs up all over - it's amazing, and I love it!

One of the not-so-new-anymore blogs, that I bookmarked the first time I had seen it, Taste Everything Once, is coming to us from Spokane. It's written by Jennifer, who I just recently realized has a knack for Norwegian language and an opinion on croutons with which I wholeheartedly agree! As if that's not enough, she's got projects going on: one trying to tell us all about the restaurant scene in Spokane, the other one introducing us to coffee place after coffee place. She's got the cutest dog, and oh yes - she makes gorgeous food!

That's still not it. She's also got the best recipe for pizza dough I have yet to come across. It's easy to prepare, you can freeze any you don't use - and it rolls out as thin as you could wish for - now that's a great feature in a pizza dough. I've usually resolved to only making thick crust pizzas at home, because I simply couldn't roll it thin enough. Now, my troubles are over.

My sister had invited herself over for dinner, and I served Jennifer's pizzacrust with a topping of tomato sauce, spinach, grated cheese and a couple dots of mascarpone. 'Twas good. I made sure to have the oven heated on HIGHEST, popped the rolled out and topped up dough on pre-heated baking sheets, and got results that was better than my Italian pizzaman down the street. Seriously. I substituted about one cup of the flour with coarse durumwheat flour, just because I had it and needed to use it, and got 3 medium sized pizzas, and one portion for the freezer. I haven't used the one in the freezer, but I like the idea of lying there, all ready to be used!

Cathy's gone abroad this time, trying out Indian dishes - be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

A Neat Little Package

Couple of weeks ago, I made these - I think, personally - very scrumptious-looking muffins. Loads of almonds, milk chocolate chips and Daim chocolate. TONS I tell you! 56 kr. worth! (about $9!)

So how come the result just wasn't good?? I mean they were okay, but they weren't as delish as the ingredients promised. Too much of a good thing, you say? Really? I don't buy it, I'm sorry I just don't. People, we're talking CHOCOLATE here!

Maybe it was the shortening? I've never used shortening in my muffins before, I never have it at home, so I just substitute with (more) butter. Maybe I overworked the batter? Maybe... I can't say. They were a bit on the dry side, a bit crumbly. Maybe it was because I accidently started the oven out a little too cold, so I had to bake them for longer?

Anyhoo - there is one thing I was very pleased with about these muffin. The packaging. I can never seem to find paper cases that fit my muffin cups - they're either too small in diameter or too low for me to fill the cups all the way. So I decided to try and take matters into my own hands.

Allow me to present: the homemade paper case!

I can hardly take the credit for this invention myself - I've seen it both in How to Be a Domestic Goddess and one of the Donna Hay books, and had it like this once at a café. I like the idea - your muffins can go all tall! (and that means you're still only eating one muffin, but there's lots more to it - heh!)

I used a couple of pieces of baking parchment, crumbled it up a bit, to make it easier to fold and thereby fit the (buttered) muffin cup. I think it's important to butter the muffin cup as it makes it so much easier to get the muffin in it's liner out when it's cooled a bit.

Make sure to make as few folds in the parchment as possible - the more folds, the bigger the risk of your batter getting stuck in the folds, then having them spread everywhere when you "release" the muffin from the case. I've seen it happen, oh yes I have!

So there you go - no recipe, but a neat little idea!

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Childhood Food Memories - A Meme

No, the picture has absolutely nothing to do with what's in this post - but it was such a pretty picture I had to use it somewhere, didn't I?

AY-AY-AY! I seem to be making promises I can't keep! I promised I'd return, then left you for a WHOLE WEEK, without a word of notice! Promises, promises, promises - which will, eventually, just as sun comes after rain, night after day, be followed by excuses, excuses, excuses. No changing the ways of the world this time either: Seems I sometime, about two weeks ago, caught a bugger of a throat virus that I'm still struggling with. The bastard makes my entire throat swell, my voice going weirdo and makes eating - not a pleasure. Kinda the worst part about it, not being able to eat! Drink cold, don't lie down, eat cold - ARGH! I want warm tea! The mere thought of eating (or drinking for that matter) has put me quite cold over the last couple of days - hence the absence.

Anyways - enough of the apologies! I've promised to do the Childhood Food Memories - twice! - and by God, I'll do it! If you haven't heard of it yet, it's pretty simple: what do you miss from your childhood? In the foodblogger-world, that of course means "What food-related things do you miss from your childhood?" Easing me gently back into the foodie-sphere, here they are: my five favorite memories:

Breakfast in Bed and Mom's Tea
When I was little, my Mom used to bring me breakfast in bed. We had this large tray with a picture of a pitcher of beer and two glasses, some boats in the background. Every morning, that tray would be planted on my lap, as I sat in bed, listening to the radio. On it would be a bowl of oatmeal with milk and sugar or sometimes a piece of toast with chokoladepålæg or cheese, maybe a piece of fruit. And always, but always, there'd be Mom's tea. Earl grey with milk and sugar. At that time, she actually used a sweetener - up until I was 16 or something, I couldn't take the taste of real sugar in my tea, I was so used to the sweetener. Now it's the other way around - go figure! The breakfast in bed stopped somewhere around the time when I got old enough to decide I just couldn't stomach anything in the morning. But the tea continued, in my own personal lemon-shaped cup.
It still just spells out morning to me. Morning, or maybe Mom. Whenever we're having tea and she's around, she has to make it for me - there's just the right proportions of tea to milk to sugar, that no matter what I do, it just doesn't taste the same when I do it myself. And I don't think it has to.

Cucumber "sandwiches"
My Grandmother, on my Dad's side, used to watch me every now and again when I was at my Dad's, as I was every other weekend when I was little. For lunch, she'd make me the appropriate, and filling, rye bread sandwiches that every little girl and boy eats here in Denmark, with leverpostej and spegepølse. A small sprinkle of salt and pepper, a couple of slices of cucumber on top. But the real treat was the "sandwich on the side" - two thick slices of cucumber, one with a slice of spegepølse on top, the other with a smearing of leverpostej. Those were fantastic! Always saved for last, and I could usually persuade her to double the portion. When lunch was at it's best, she'd sit with me and tell stories from when she was little, while I ate. I think I've tried recreating them after she passed away, but you know - there are some things only Grandmothers are supposed to do...

Afternoon Toasts
Becoming a teenager had it's own advances, one of them being able to go home after school, bringing your friends for a little feast in the kitchen. We'd take out the toaster and just do toast after toast after toast until everyone had ham, cheese and white plastic bread coming out of their ears, sitting at the little table in the kitchen, the smell of slightly burned cheese permeating the air. Lots of giggling and chatting going on, probably about boys, boys and then more boys! On special occasions, we'd make pancakes and eat them with whipped cream (the canned stuff) and drink hot chocolate, heating the milk in the microoven, then stirring in cocoa-powder, adding (more) canned whipped cream for the finishing touch. It's been a looong time since I had that kind of toast - these days, we've moved on to the more sophisticated Croque Monsieur - but I have to say, the grilled toast might be in for a renaissance...

Soft Boiled Eggs
I know no one that can make a soft boiled egg with the same perfection my Dad can. No runny whites, no smidgen of hard yolk. Just perfection. I suppose there have been times when they were in fact less than perfect, but you know - these are memories, and in the old days, everything was bigger, better and more perfect. Every Saturday morning (sometimes Sundays, too) when I was spending the weekend at his place, he'd make each of us two soft boiled eggs (two soft boiled eggs for my friend too, if I'd have one sleep over). We had them with rye bread with a thick layer of salted butter, and for each bite you took of the egg, your chubby little fingers had to crush a little bit of salt on top, so that it was ready to make the next mouthful just as savory a delight as the previous one. When I'd finish my egg, the ritual was to turn it up-side down and present it to my Dad, saying "Oh I just can't eat both of them!" He'd take his spoon resolutely in hand and knock the egg to make the shell crack, which of course resulted in the (already eaten egg's) empty shell shattering in a 1000 pieces - and lots of laughter! He'd do it to me too, and it was always hilariously funny, even though everyone of course knew exactly what was going to happen. I also remember he had these egg cosies - you know, like people have a tea cosy for keeping their teapot warm? These were smaller in size naturally, for keeping the eggs warm in their little egg cup. Neat. I have a picture of me, my Dad and a friend of mine, the three of us with tea cosies on our heads, and me and my friend's dolls with the, for them, more appropriately sized egg cosies on their heads. Yup, you're right - we're very normal! I actually read somewhere, that if a person is in a room where a tea cosy is present, that person will feel a (very natural) urge to put said tea cosy on their head. I don't know why that is, but I know it's true for me!;-)

Late night Romkugler
So, a bit of explanation here: romkugler is (I think anyways) a very Danish thing - a kitchy/trashy made-from-leftover-Danish-pastry type of - sweet? Not cake, consistency-wise a bit like a chocolate truffle, though not anywhere near as smooth in texture, and definitely not posh at all. I'll admit it - it's trash - or maybe, the step just before trash. And I loved them. I used to work in a bakery, and we got to take cakes and bread with us home every now and again - I loved to bring home romkugler, especially if I knew I was going to have a night out with my best friend, J. Having spend an entire night out on the town, dancing, drinking - well, we all know that will inevitably, bring on the munchies. There's no way around it. Our way of finishing a stellar night would be, after we'd removed our make-up, to sneak out to the fridge and pop out a couple of cold, cold romkugler and a large glass of milk each, then jump back to bed, eat our romkugler and chat about what had happened that night. We always slept over at each others. I miss the whole romkugle-affair, but I actually think I miss the sleeping over part even more. We very seldom do that anymore. Only natural I guess, but I do miss ending a great night by chatting away until I fall asleep, a bit of romkugle still left at the corner of my mouth...

I was tagged by both Barbara and Julie, but seeing I am so darn late, I don't think anyone has been able to dodge the meme - therefore I'll just put up both of the lists of links here, for you to click away on:

From Barbara's branch:

1) Farmgirl Fare
2) Becks & Posh
3) The Cooks Cottage
4) Tigers & Strawberries
5) Food & Thoughts

From Julie's branch:

1) Tasca da Elvira
2) Cuisine et Compagnie
3) Chocolate & Zucchini
4) A Finger in Every Pie
5) Food & Thoughts

Hmm, wait - I think I've thought of a couple of people - I'll update if they'd like to join!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

IMBB#18: Summer's Flying, Let's get Frying! Spring Rolls

Let's start with the appropriate apology for the slightly fuzzy picture - but I just couldn't bear not entering this month's IMBB?, hosted by Linda from At Our Table, so I used an old picture. Eh, the picture can be old, as long as what it shows is good, no?

The theme is "Summer's Flying, Let's Get Frying!". I'd initially planned to make My Stepdad's Beignets - but SOMEONE decided school had to start tomorrow, so there was all of a sudden things I had to take care of, instead of enjoying myself in front of the deep fat fryer. But bite-sized, homemade spring rolls - who could say no? And I haven't really coaxed that recipe from him... yet... but I will, and then you shall know all about 'em!

I love me a nice springroll. Crispy, preferably made with some sort of pork, but I'd never be shy of a veggie one either. These was made with minced pork, fried with chili, garlic, onion, soy sauce, fish sauce and a bit of sugar to taste. Again, with the guideline, no recipe, but this is how I make them - a bit of this, a bit of that!

Let the meat cool off, then put a teaspoonful or two on the spring roll paper, a bit of julienned carrot, bell pepper - you could use white cabbage, or whatever you fancy - roll up, using lots of beaten egg to make the paper stick. Regarding the rolling business - there's usually an instruction on the packet, just follow that. I've tried re-working that instruction - ahem. Let's just say they know what they're doing, and the spitter-spatter of a roll that breaks - not funny.

I like making the rolls small, just two or three bites worth each, and so of course, the 1-2 teaspoonsful apply to such a size. You can make them as large as you like. For the smaller size I find that 1 kg. of meat makes 50 rolls. I can't claim these are traditional - but they're easy to do, except for a bit of fiddly roling! I'm actually a really bad "Asian Cuisine" student - hmm, maybe I should start doing something about that??

You can do all of these steps in advance, just making sure you space the rolled rolls a bit apart, or they might stick together. Just before you want to serve 'em, fry em up - deep fry, or just a good layer of oil (1 cm's worth) in the bottom of a trusty pan, then pan fry. Serve warm and crispy, with sweet chili sauce and soy sauce on the side. Mmmm.

Thanks for hosting Linda! Now I'll go count calories...;-)