Tuesday, June 28, 2005

[DANSK] Fjordrejer

So this is one of the hard-core Danish delicatessen - there's no way I could escape posting about what is synonymous with Danish spring and summer for me - fjordrejer. It does feel just a tiny bit stupid though, seeing unless you come here, you're probably never going to have it. Then again, it might convince you to come here!

They come like this - you ALWAYS buy them alive and kicking (and they will jump out of the bowl if it's not deep enough!)

Then you boil them in a large pot of water, to which you've added salt, sugar, maybe some stalks of dill. Bring the water to the boil, add the shrimps, and let the water come back to the boil. Turn of the heat and drain. Then you have:

As the (Swedish) kitchen chef at my job proclaimed the other day: only Danes would be daft enough to feel they should do the tedious task of peeling these little buggers when they're this size, instead of waiting until they grow a bit bigger. Small they are:

That's a size AA battery, measuring about 5 cm. I think. Yes, small. Foolish Danes!

The thing is, it's not that bad peeling them when you know what's ahead of you, food-wise. And you know, with a cold glass of riesling on one side and your Stepmom (or other good company!) in front of you, peeling away like you are, it makes for quite an enjoyful event.

And it's ALL in the technique. Long fingernails will make things a little easier, but it's actually not that hard:

Release the back shield -

- release it all the way -

- when you peel it of, grab the head on the way -

- voila! -

- Gently squeeze the tail -

Hey PRESTO! (Uh-oh - isn't there some tv chef that uses that expression??)

You can serve them just straight up on a nice piece of white bread with butter

- add mayo, maybe a squeeze of lemon if you feel so inclined. Some people would call that sacrilege - "The taste is so delicate, you shouldn't mask it with mayo or any other thing!" Well, as my Stepmom use to say, if that's the way you like it, why on earth shouldn't you eat them like that, even though other people think it's weird? (Suppose that goes for all kinds of eating!) Always, but always, freshly ground black pepper though. And you know, if you are as lucky as we were, you'll have an aunt and an uncle that just returned from Samsø, carrying with them 3 kilos of freshly dug white asparagus and you could choose to eat the fjordrejer with those, like in the first picture. But I know, not all people can be that lucky... ;-)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

IMBB # 16: Eggs! Hard boiled eggs with Dukkah

It's funny how I think that when I finally have a vacation, I'll post ALL the time - when reality is, I post a lot less! There are just so many things to do, sun to enjoy and friends to see - you know how it is! But - today is IMBB # 16, and seeing I missed the last jellied IMBB due to lack of time, I thought no way I'm gonna miss this one! Hosted by the Seattle Bon Vivant Viv, the theme is EGGS! But you already knew that, didn't ya?;-)

We always have eggs in the fridge. I love eggs - scrambled, boil, in a frittatta - yolks used alone in a curd or custard, whites alone in meringue - added to breads, in tarts - I use eggs a lot. This time though, I've chosen a slightly deviant way of using eggs. It is the star of the "dish", only it's actually just - a boiled egg. A boiled egg served with a spice mix that accents the taste and texture of the egg itself. Hey, Viv said it could be as simple (or as spectacular) as you wanted it to be!

Dukkah is a spice mix, traditionally made with cumin, coriander, sesame seeds, salt, pepper - maybe hazelnuts or chickpeas. I first encountered it in one of Melissa's favorite books, Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons and had to try it. I bought the book because I wanted to do a Middle Eastern inspired birthday party dinner, and I served the dukkah with hard boiled quail's eggs, cucumber sticks and pitta bread with dipping oil as an appetizer. I loved it immediately. No quails egg around today, but it's equally good with hard boiled hens' eggs!

My mixture is made with
2 tablespoons hazelnuts, lightly toasted and cooled
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted and cooled
1 teaspoon cumin, lightly toasted and cooled
2 teaspoons salt

I whizz hazelnuts, sesame seeds and cumin in the food processor, then mix that with the salt. Serve in small dipping bowls with boiled eggs - and maybe another small bowl of good olive oil and some bread, for dipping in first the oil, then the dukkah.

I've already seen a couple of contributions for this IMBB and I'm EGG-STATIC!! (okay, so I had to work in here somewhere, didn't I?:-)) You people are amazingly inventive!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Meme again! The Cook Next Door

Alright alright already! The Cook Next Door is hitting the food blogging world like a tornado on a rampage! And I, honored as I was being chosen by Nicky of Delicious Days, the inventor herself, am taking AGES to get my behind into gear. Fear not though, here it is!

What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?
I think it must have been around 4th or 5th grade. We had this teacher that used to live in Africa, who taught us how to make these little fried dough balls - and I mean DEEP fried dough! Me and one of my friends came back to my place after having done them at school and decided to try making them again. Everything went without a hitch, but when my Mom came home and saw all of that oil in the pan, realizing we'd deep fried stuff - okay, my Mom never went ballistic, but if there was ever a time in my life she'd been close to it, this was it! She didn't yell at us or anything, after all, we had no idea what we did could have turned out catastrophically - but she did let us know that we could never EVER make stuff like that again unless there was an adult around.

Oh, and then there was the chocolate cake I used to make - the cake was great, but the most spectacular part about making it was probably that we always did the dishes in the bathtub... Oh, those kids!

Who had the most influence on your cooking?
Hard one. I think most people would answer "someone in my family" to this one - or do I just think that because that's not my answer? I've told you before, my Mom wasn't quite the wizard in the kitchen - she cooked, yes, but I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have, if it wasn't because she thought her children really had to have a warm meal each day. In fact I know she wouldn't!

My Dad was the "French Cuisine" wizard, took cooking lessons and everything, boils his own stock and all that jazz. My Dad might have taught me a thing or two about cooking, but... I wouldn't say he has had the most influence.

Which brings me to those that probably have:

The chefs at the places I used to work. Working as a waitress for 4 years - working in what? 6-8 different places (no long time hiring for me, noooo ;-)), I've seen a bit here and there. Two guys, Andreas and Paul, are probably the ones that has influenced me the most - cooking in very different styles, but with a respect for the ingredient, and the particular taste each one possesses. It's not like they ever sat down and said: Zarah, listen here - this is what you do - I think I just learned from observing what they did.

Books, of course. And the fact that noone ever told me I couldn't do this thing or the other - it said in the text what I had to do, so I did it, and never even thought about the fact that the mayonnaise might split, the risotto might burn... I just did it.

Last, but definitely not least, I think my boyfriend taught me a lot, too. Our cooking styles are very different, but we're good at cutting down dishes together: this is the sweet part, this is the salty part, the sour etc. - and from that, compose something we really enjoy. We can talk and talk on food for hours, and dissect a dish into pieces. Talking about food is something he taught me.

Do you have an old photo as evidence of an early exposure to the culinary world and would you like to share it?

I have one I remember - me peeling potatoes for a potato salad. I think I'm about 12, and I DO NOT look pleased! I only have it as a paper photo, so you'll have to just make do with this one:

Me making dessert for my 24th. birthday - and no, that's not my kitchen, unfortunately. It's my Dad's...

Mageiricophobia - do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?

Custards. It's my Nemesis. Pouring custard, custard for ice cream, for creme brulée. I hate it. That is, I hate making it, I love eating them! But I'm always so nervous they'll split on me, that I have, more than once, cooked it too little, so it never firmed up. Ugh. But I'm learning.

Flambéeing and deep frying. I'm REALLY afraid of flames. Ironically, we have a gas stove, and that's no problem for me. But I really can't take the flames IN the pan, or the idea of there might being flames in the pan. Hmm, maybe I was scarred by that first experience?

And oh, cooking meat. Up until recently, I was a semi-vegetarian - I ate fish, but no meat. Now, I've totally forgotten how to cook it, so it always ends up tasteless and boring, and perhaps, slightly rubbery. Or maybe that's just what meat is?;-) Nah, I know other people make it taste good - I'm just out of touch with it!

What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest letdown?

The most valued: I'm going to go very traditional on this one and say: my knives. I have 6 different Global knives, and they're a daily pleasure for me - they did cost a fortune, but they've been gathered for several years, so it doesn't feel as such a big investment. Unfortunately, I'm really bad at keeping them sharp - but I'm learning, slowly...

Biggest letdown: I have the most stupid little gadget-thingy's - a set of tongs for picking olives out of a jar (now what's WRONG with a spoon, Zarah?! I even convinced my Mom I had to have it! Sorry Mom!), little gizmos for making julienne... And I have a lot of things I've bought, but that is seldomly used (ice cream machine, fancy blender - I always use the cheap one anyways!) BUT - one of the things I bought that I thought I was going to use ALL the time is a wicker basket for proving bread. And - well, I just can't make the darn thing work! So it's languishing in the back of the cupboard...

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like - and probably no one else!
Hmm... Oh! No... Hmm... Well, the peanutbutter and jelly is sort of a weird combo around here, but I really like it! Rye bread with cheese (Havarti, preferably) and spegepølse (type of salami) - I loooove that for breakfast with a soft boiled egg on the side! Is that weird enough for ya?

What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don?t want to live without?
Bread. Asparagus. Fresh green peas. Ha, no sweets there!

Any question you missed in this meme, that you would have loved to answer? Well then, feel free to add one!

Three quickies:
Your favorite ice-cream?
Cookies'n'cream and Nutella

You will probably never eat?
um... brains?

Your own signature dish?
Grilled Asparagus with Sauce Gribiche

Question added by Zarah: On average, how many times a week would you cook something to satisfy your sweet tooth?
(I just couldn't help myself asking!) Three times... probably even more in the winter!

And, last but not least:

Tag three people!

Gemma of Part-Time Pro Bono Baker - because a woman with that kind of taste in bread must have had some strong influences!

Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness (who's already put hers up! Is she fast or what?!?) - and I'd like to see Stephanie's answers because she cooks meat for her husband, even though she's a strict vegetarian. Now THAT'S dedication and LUUUUV, people!

And last, but definitely not least: Cathy of My Little Kitchen - because I feel like I know lots of stuff about Cathy, but not the answers to these questions!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Cookbook Meme!

I was tagged by Barbara from Tigers & Strawberries a while ago - so better late than never, and with no further ado: my answers to the COOKBOOKS meme!

There they are - taking up an entire bookcase in the living room! I'm out of space, as you might notice, so I can't buy anymore... YOU REALLY THINK THAT WILL STOP ME?!?! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha! Then you don't know me very well!

I have them sorta categorized, so we have:

top left

- cake/sweet stuff and bread cookbooks

top middle

- restaurant cookbooks

top right

- vegetarian cookbooks

bottom left

- Danish cookbooks - and no, that's not really space there, that's two books missing. My Stepmom borrowed them!

bottom middle

- more Danish, some odds and ends

bottom right

- British cookbooks

Roughly, anyways... A tiny bit of them is not legally mine, but seeing I'm the one that actually uses them, I think I have the right to claim them. In the top right quadrant you'll notice my notebooks too:

Underneath the bookcase is all of my clippings from newspapers and magazines. Oh, and then I have the equivalent of en entire square filled with food magazines too... But of course! :-)

Total number of (cook) books I?ve owned:

110 - to be upped in the very near future!

Last (cook) book I bought:

Uh-oh... It's been a while - it's been TOO LONG! I had to check my amazon account! It was Thomas Keller's Bouchon a gorgeous book I just HAD to have. I love(d) The French Laundry - not because I've cooked so much from it, but the writing and the musings in French Laundry are plain wonderful, and fits right with my way of cooking. Haven't had the chance to look through that much of Bouchon yet, but judging from what I have seen, it wont disappoint me.

Last food book I read:

Women who eat: A new generation on the Glory of Food - bought this one because Santos had a teaser up for it on her blog. I liked it - okay, if it hadn't been because I had to go back to my textbooks, I'd have devoured it right then and there, before the delivery guy had left. Short stories from, well - women who eat. Funny stories, sad stories, disgusting stories (Eiuw, the one about the placenta!) - great stories.

Five (cook) books that mean a lot to me:

Linda Collister: The Bread Book - when I moved to London, there was no where I could get good bread at a price I could justify paying on a regular basis. So with all the time I had on my hands, I decided, heck, I can do this myself. I wasn't an entire novice, but I still see Linda Collister as the woman that taught me how to make sourdoughs, rolls, white bread and, first and foremost, to have a sense of what's going on within the dough - that it's a living and breathing thing, and that no two breads are the same. I still use it - everytime I'm trying out some new kind of bread, I'll check and see if there's a recipe for it in The Bread Book, and more often than not, I'll end up using that recipe rather than the one I originally stumbled across. The recipes haven't failed me - EVER!

Adriana Rabinovich: The Little Red Barn Baking Book - Another one I bought in London. Written by an expat American in England, that just NEEDED her cakes and cookies. It's a funny little book with old pictures and little skiing men, stars and hearts all over in the layout - but the recipes are to die for. Adriana Rabinovich's Brownie is the one to which I measure all others!

Camilla Plum: Mors Mad - As you might be able to tell, a Danish book. I had a hard time choosing which one of Camilla's book to choose, she's made 8 and I love each and everyone of them - this one is probably just the most versatile. Mrs. Plum is a sturdy woman with a lot of opinions, on all of the food-related things that matter (to me, anyways) - and then she cooks traditional Danish food, following the seasons. No discriminating though, she also adds Asian, Italian and all other stuff - thing is, she cooks like most of us cooks: one day it's traditional, the next day a curry, the day after that a gigantic salad with prawns and crusty bread on the side. I like women with an opinion, especially the ones that aren't afraid to speak them out loud, and do it eloquently - she's my version of a Danish Nigella, only even more strong willed - and she'd hate me for saying so!

Nigella Lawson: How to be a Domestic Goddess - I know, I know, everybody mentions this one. But it's true, it's a fantastic book, and I've tried so many recipes from it, I think I might consider it my most used cookbook. I like her other books too, but this really is THE ONE.

Thomas Keller: The French Laundry - working our way from the most used to one of the least used - so how come this is in my top five? I bought this one mostly because all of the chefs I worked with kept mentioning it, referring to it as the bible, more or less. I had to see what all the fuss was about. And it totally changed my view as to what a cookbook might be able to encapsulate. Not just recipes for food, a teaspoon of this, a gallon of that - but that they could actually explain to you WHY you do the things you do (don't boil a stock to death, only thing you'll do is release all the dirt that'll end up messing with the taste of it) and apply some sort of rationale to the entire process. When Keller explains, or plain tells a story, I listen - I feel like I'm a little girl getting her first lesson in the kitchen from her dad.

Which 5 people would you most like to see fill this out in their blog?

Is there ANYONE out there that hasn't been tagged yet?!?!

Friday, June 17, 2005

SHF # 9: Tantalizing Titilating Tempting Tarts! A Linse

I will NOT do it - I simply refuse to miss this months Sugar High Friday, hosted by Jarrett of Life in Flow, that besides from hosting, also gives us all the couldn't-live-without-it fantabulous food porn watch. The theme is Tantalizing Titillating Tempting Tarts!

Just recently, I got bitten by the tart bug meself, but it had been a while since I'd done a sweet tart - the last one really wasn't a success. While I love a nice fruit tart, that just wasn't what I wanted either. And then I started thinking alternatively: well what if you use shortcrust pastry... and a tart dish - would you? - could you? - would I dare call it a tart then?

I decided yes! That is why my contribution to today's Sugar High Friday had to be none other than a Danish classic ""patisserie cake": a linse. Loosely translated, that would be lentil. Don't ask me why!? What it is, is, as promised, short crust pastry, baked blind, then filled with a creme patisserie, assembled with a lid, baked again. And that's kinda it. It's smooth and vanilla-y, with a nice crunchy contrast from the pastry case. I used to work in a bakery and this was one of my all-time favorite cakes. My best friend J, loved to eat them fridge cold after we'd been out on the town - nothing beats coming home with the munchies after one too many beers, and gobbling down one of these babies!

As for the recipe - well... See, I'd actually found a recipe in one of my favorite Danish cookbooks by Camilla Plum - but... I hadn't read the recipe very thoroughly, and when I started, I realized that there was ingredients in the ingredients list, which was never used in the actual recipe... So I had to wing it! And it turned out okay, but you know - I don't think it actually spot-lighted the linse as it ought to be spot-lighted. Still, I'm gonna give you the directions I followed, if you really feel like trying it, you can always try dabbling it around - at least you'll have a starting of point!

Shortcrust pastry

125 g. butter, fridge cold
170 g. flour
1 egg, beaten
40 g. icing sugar

I used my food processor - combine all of the ingredients, except the egg, in a bowl of a food processor. Process until you have a sandy texture. Leave the machine running, then add the egg a little by little - as always, try and work as fast as possible, as leaving the machine running for too long will result in a more doughy crust, rather than the flaky one you're after. Once the dough has formed, pat it into a flat disc, then leave in the fridge to rest for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 150 C

When the pastry has rested, roll it out as thin as possible. Remember you need pastry for both bottom and top. Line small tart dishes with the bottom part, and bake blind, about 10 minutes. Take out the beans/rice or whatever you've used for baking blind, then stick them back in the oven for 5 minutes, having cranked up the oven to 175 C. Leave to cool, before filling them with creme patisserie. The top part of the linse is put on top of the creme, then stuck to the bottom pie pressing a fork all along the rim of the tart dish.

My notes: The pastry got a bit too sticky I think, and you have to roll it really thin for it to encase the creme patisserie in the right way - you don't want a big hunk of crust here! I couldn't do that with this pastry, but if you have a favorite sweet pastry recipe, try that!

Creme Patisserie
20 g. corn starch
250 ml cream
250 ml milk
125 vanilla infused sugar
1 vanilla pod
6 egg yolks

Dissolve the cornstarch in a bit of the milk. In a medium pan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and the seed of the vanilla pod. Whisk in milk/corn starch mixture, then the rest of the cream and milk. Bring to the boil, while you keep whisking. Still whisking, let boil for about 5 minutes. It will thicken a bit. When you think it's thick enough (it will thicken additionally upon cooling) take of the heat, transfer to a bowl and leave to cool, giving it a stir every now and then to avoid a skin from forming.

My notes: I think it got just a wee bit grainy. Next time, I'll give it a whirl with my immersion blender, just to smooth it out properly.

I'm afraid I don't know (yet!) how many the recipe will make - it's a work in progress, I just made two to start. But I'd think around 12...

Served the classy way - no, I didn't eat all of them standing in front of the fridge!

Even though I wasn't quite pleased while making them, they still worked very well. In fact, they were better than I remember them from the bakery I used to work at. But that just goes to show - home made is well made, ain't it?;-)

Now, off into the very nice weather we have here today! I'll check out all of your tarty contributions later!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Well, tag me happy!

I've been tagged - twice! For different memes, and I promise, I'll get them up as soon as I possibly can! I'm such a slacker...

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Guinea Pig says...

"Zarah's quite busy with her exam at the moment, so come back after Tuesday... Meanwhile it'll just be me nosy-ing around here..."

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - June 8th

This week it is snack-time - and nothing could suit me better, I seem to be living of snacks at the moment. Being at home most of the time, frustrated paging through my textbooks, I need a little munching here and there.

And even though I am at home, last night, I just couldn't be bothered to cook a real meal - what I could be bothered to do though, was whip us up a sweet snack to follow the make-shift dinner we had (ryebread open faced sandwiches - I boiled eggs, c'mon, that's ALMOST cooking dinner!;-)) Coincidentally, Cathy also found a little something for that sweet snacking tooth this week!

So I needed sweet, I needed fast - I needed Strawberry Scones that Caryn of Delicious! Delicious! had served for Mr. R - and I needed to just hurry and write down the recipe or I would get caught up in reading the fascinating food-blog/soap-opera she's got going on! If you're not already an addict, be careful following that link - she'll have you hooked in no-time!

I substituted frozen, but defrosted, raspberries for the strawberries - not cooking, and not grocery shopping either, am I? M convinced me they needed white chocolate in them too, so in it went. If you choose to use raspberries only, I might suggest adding another spoonful or two of sugar, seeing they are more tart than the strawberries. And umm... if you go for the raspberries, add them at the very end - I ended up with a somewhat weirdly colored pink-ish dough, because I added them before the yoghurt. But heck, I'm not one that is shy of weirdly colored foods!

They are moist, yet flaky, as a proper scone should be - I'll have to try the original version with strawberries too, but if you don't have them handy, I'm positive the batter will lend itself to any berry combination - Caryn herself suggest blueberries, peaches... Maybe a blueberry AND peach combo? Also, another thing that speaks for this recipe is the fact that they're made in a matter of 25 minutes - and that includes baking AND washing the bowl you made it in!

Dining with the Bloggers is on hiatus for the summer, but we'll back to your regularly scheduled program in September!

(Updated with picture)

Saturday, June 4, 2005

Pasta Mania?

I mean, really: who NEEDS 9 different kinds of pasta?

UH, ME, ME!! WO-HOO! Over here! *waving like crazy*! I DO!!

Just in case you wanted to know, they are, from left to right, top to bottom:

Penne Rigate - Galletti - Fusili - Tortiglioni

Spaghetti - Tripoline - Puntalette (the little bag on top) - Fusili Longhi Bucati - Lasagna Larga Doppia Riccia

- as if that's not enough, I've actually got several bags of some of the varieties - enough to bring me to the grand total of 15 WHOLE bags! And two half full bags... and a jar... And it's not like it's just the pasta - there's also these - remember? I just can't help myself with all those shiny bags, bottles and jars at the supermarket, in the specialist shop, at the green grocers...

"My name is Zarah. I'm a stockpiling-oholic." There, I said it, it's out in the open. Whew!;-)

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - June 1st

A little confusion this week, my apologies for posting too late - I thought the theme was Indian this week, and it turned out - it wasn't! Nah, healthy/low fat/light it was, so be sure to check out what Cathy's tried. I stuck to what I'd already done, and I'm not sure I can totally justify calling this low fat... Healthy maybe? Yes, we could call it healthy!:-)

A couple of months ago, Barbara of Tigers & Strawberries had a post up, titled One Potato, Two potato, Red potato, Blue potato. Blue Potato? I got blue potatoes once in my organic drop-off box, but I hadn't seen them anywhere else - well yes, in Jamie Oliver's cookbooks, but not in the hands of REAL people, you know. Barbara had included a recipe for the prettiest looking Saag Aloo I've ever seen. Admittedly, I've never seen Saag Aloo before, but it really is gorgeous! Unfortunately, I hadn't seen blue potatoes this winter at all, so I grieved for a while, but bookmarked the recipe thinking I could always just try it with regular potatoes.

I love the scene in Bridget Jones' Diary where she cooks soup using some sort of blue string - the soup ends up all blue, and when it's served, one of her friends go: "well, there is just way too little blue food out there anyways!"

Really, there is. And come on - could YOU resist these?
Actually, go have a look at Barbara's picture - her's look purple, which mine did too, before I cooked them.

Imagine my joy then, when a couple of weeks after bookmarking the recipe, the organic box had the last of this years crop of blue potatoes tucked snugly in between crunchy parsnips and cabbage!

And the saag aloo, well, that was divine. Lots and lots of different spices - nothing better than cracking out all those dusty jars - I know, I know, I shouldn't have them waiting around in jars, but they have to be stored somewhere! It's heavenly scented, creamy (but that's because of yoghurt, not cream) and filling - c'mon, humor me - it's healthy!

And it's hard to keep your eyes of it... Now I don't usually post pictures for DwtB, but I really had to show you this:

Ain't it PRETTY? A little creamy looking, compared to Barbara's - I used a Greek yoghurt, 'cause that's what I had handy, and substituted vegetable oil for the ghee. Other than that, I followed her instructions to the letter... I suppose I was a bit liberal with the yoghurt too... So I like creamy, ok?;-)

Next week, the last of Dining with the Bloggers before summer...