Friday, August 25, 2006

SHF#22: Can You Can? Rhubarb Cordial

Way back when I used to do a regularly scheduled blog, I ALWAYS took part in this brainchild of Jennifer, The Domestic Goddess - The Sugar High Fridays. Then stuff happened, I didn't blog much for a while and well, no SHF for me. Now I am blogging somewhat regularly - so what better way to celebrate that I've been doing more than one post in the past three weeks than to take part in Nicky & Oliver of Delicious Days' version of SHF: Can You Can?

And in fact, yes, I can can, (I can even do the cancan, but that's a whole other thing!) so this time, I chose to bottle instead. Hey, Nicky and Oliver said it was okay - at least that's how I interpreted the rules (there's a "bottle" in there somewhere, isn't there?)

Hence, I give to you: homemade rhubarb cordial. During the warm (wait, make that darn hot, as they have been here this year!) months, I drink a lot of water, as I'm told to do. I like flavoring it with cordial, and usually go for elderflower or the classic Ribena. I've never tried doing cordial myself because faced with the demand of buying sieving-contraptions and a lot of boiling when it's already hot outside, my head starts spinning. But this one was easy. No hoity-toity equipment needed, just a brief boil, a bit of sieving and a drain through some cloth, and you've got a nice, big bottle of homemade good stuff.

Rhubarb Cordial - from Camilla Plum
makes about 1,5 liters

1 kg. rhubarb, cleansed and cut into chunks
600 g. sugar (I'll try cutting it down slightly the next time - this one was very sweet)
1 l. water

Bring everything to a boil in a non-reactive pot. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes, then turn of the heat and leave to infuse for an hour. Sieve. Drain again through a cloth, to make a nice, non-cloudy cordial. You can use the leftover rhubarb in a rhubarb trifli for instance - the compote is a little more liquid than what I usually make, but I hate wasting things, so used it will be!

Pour into CLEAN jars - keeps for up to two weeks (mine has so far anyways) in the fridge.

When I want to drink it, I usually thin it 1:4 cordial to water, but if you like it stronger or weaker, be my guest. You could use sparkling water for thinning. I also like to spritz a little lime in it - it is a very sweet adventure, this, and the lime gives it a little oomph.

What did you can? Or did you just cancan?:-)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dining with the Bloggers - August 23rd.

This might be kind of silly - I mean why draw your attention to a blog that I'm almost a 100 % sure you already know? Because - well, because as soon as I saw what I tried for this post, I knew I had to try it. So bear with me - it might not be an unknown blog, but it's a good blog. (and there is, btw, noone telling me what I can or cannot do - so of course I can focus on a well known blog - heh!)

So: we're talking a guy that's writing cookbooks. Wait, let me re-phrase that - no just any old kind of cookbook. No, this man writes books on desserts. People - how could I not love this guy?

Yes, yes, it's him - it's David Lebovitz and his blog that I've put my clammy hands on this Wednesday. Ever since I first read his blog, I've been rolling around on the floor laughing - I love his sense of humour, and the man is downright FUNNY! Even honest, too (seriously - if you haven't read his confessions-post, you have to hurry up and do it - it's hilarious! It even spurred off a lot of other bloggers doing the same thing - in fact, I think I need to do one myself). And, where was I? Yes. He lives in Paris, and he gives out tips on how to survive there, be it as a tourist or as an American, without all those things you just can't live - or bake - without ('cause even though it is Paris, there are things even she can't provide! Like AC.) And he does dozen upon dozen of things with chocolate (and real food, too), all of which I'd love to eat. So no wonder he's marrying some of my favorite girls (yes, that's supposed to be plural) - and I think he might have his eyes set on one more - they sure seem like they're having a lot of fun!:-)

Anywho, what I want is his Dulce de Leche Brownies. Oh dear. When I saw these, I couldn't get them of my mind again. Chocolate and dulce de leche, in the same treat? Gaaaaaaah! Easy pick!

When reading the recipe, I did think to myself: hmm... adding eggs to the (somewhat warm) mixture of butter and chocolate - wouldn't that make the chocolate curdle ? And oh the horror! Maybe not taste so good either?? And I was right. I did leave the chocolate-butter mixture to cool for a little while, but even so, adding the first egg, the batter looked a little funky. Maybe it gets better when I add the rest, I thought. Not so. Even worse. 'So okay, adding the sugar, that will help.' Ah-ah. Drats. 'I mean, really, who is this guy, anyway?? Some chocolate-baking book professionel, who's effing up a brownie?? C'mon! What's up with that? Yeah so he's done books, he's baked for ages and ages, probably from even before I was born, and...' ooooops! While grumbling away, I'd added the flour and suddenly - suddenly it all looked like it should. Like a real brownie batter. Glossy and shiny. 'Okay, okay, I take it all back! 'Cause this looks mighty fine!' I dolloped batter and dulce de leche in the brownie pan...

and I baked it - and I LOVED it!

Make sure you do use a whole can of dulce de leche - I cut the amount a little, because I was afraid it was going to overpower the brownie, but ended up getting pieces of brownie sans dulce de leche, which was kind of not the point. I learned my lesson - twice! - from now on, I'll trust David anytime!:-)

I usually make my dulce de leche by boiling the can of condensed milk covered with a couple inches water - David is a sissy (tee-hee!) and has a no-boiling-can recipe here, should you need it.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

I've Created a Monster!

Or actually, that should be, WE, the natural yeasts in the air and I, have created a monster. I can't wait to see what we can breed from it!:-)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Return of the Dead: Dining with the Bloggers!

Yes, that's right! :-)

Dining with the Bloggers was - or actually, that should be is - a project Cathy of My Little Kitchen laid out for herself in January last year: she wanted to try out some of all the recipes she kept bookmarking, and not just have them withering around on her computer. I joined her, and we spend a couple of months doing little posts on the recipe we tried and the blog from which it was chosen, every Wednesday.

We stopped in November 2005, after nearly a year of fun-to-do posts and trying out recipes - swamped with that ever-present real work and exams. Luckily, we got a real-life installment when Martin and I joined Cathy for a week during our recent trip to the States. I even had the great fortune to do Dining with the Bloggers, The Real-life Versions! with Stephanie, Julie, Luisa and Jen as well! Yes, you can call me lucky!

And while a virtual DwB is a poor excuse for the real thing, my list is growing like cucmbers in a hothouse during a particularly warm summer. And I've GOT to try some of all these recipes, and not just dream about them - hence, I'm reviving Dining with the Bloggers. I might do a little theme-ing, I might try out some different concepts - I might even only do it every other Wednesday - but I'm looking forward to it. Keep and eye on this space, Wednesdays to come...

In case you want to check out what I've done before on DwB, here's a couple of links for you - each post should have a link to Cathy's post for the same week.

Monday, August 14, 2006

I'm telling you, the French will bring their dogs anywhere...


From the market in Cap Ferret (France), where we had a beautiful vacation with the Family this July...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Counting My Blessings

The family bathing in Vesterhavet...

I think I was 13 when I first met C, my Dad's wife. When writing about her here, I often refer to her as my Stepmom, but really, that title has a bit much Cinderella-"Where's my dress!? Clean my room!"-ring to it - so how about a bonus-Mom then? I think we'll call her that. Because that really sums up what she means to me better.

Anyways. 13. My Dad and I had recently returned from a trip to Burgundy - a trip where the driving back (which, I might point out is just short of 2000 kilometers) was done by my Dad in one stretch, in a little less than 24 hours. He obviously wanted to get home, and I was oblivious as to the possibility of there being such a thing as love involved in his determination to get back so fast. I was just happy to go back to all of my friends at home!

A week or two after we'd returned home, I spend the weekend at my Dad's, as I used to do every other weekend back in the days. My Dad, the lawyer, had a little errand to run, so we took the car to go have a look at a clients house - something about some gravel running into places it shouldn't after a great big rainfall.

And there she was. Standing at the top of the gravel-y mess, on the terasse of a huge, cubistic house, waving. Looking like Sigourney Weaver (which, to this day, she loves me for saying!), dark curly hair and a big smile. My Dad - blushing, was he?? I still had no idea they knew each other other than professionally, but looking back (and because in retrospect, everything is always more clear) I guess I did pick up on something. This wasn't just a client.

I forget how long it took for Dad to admit they were seeing each other, other than at the office. You see, not only was she a client of his - she was one of his employees. That just isn't so comme-il-faut. And she was younger - a LOT younger - like almost 20 years younger. My Dad, the stud!:-)

Eventually, I got to meet her, other than when she was perched at the top of her house. There was a lot of parties, with tons of my Dad and C's friends. There were sleep-overs at her house. And somewhere along the way, I realized that these two - they might actually stick it out. There had been girlfriends of Dad's before, but not like this one. I don't know what exactly set this one apart from the others, but she was special.

From the restaurant at Svinkløv Badehotel...

And sure enough. Marriage. Siblings - two, even! And aunts, grandparents, cousins, from C's side of the family, to boot - not to mention all of her friends and their families.

C has a magical way around people. It's hard to define, but you just know it when you meet a person that's like this. I guess my Dad has the same thing, but it never really occured to me before they moved in together. I guess before he met C, it was mostly his bachelor friends and their hangarounds that benefitted from it. But C and Dad's house is the kind of house where you always feel at home. You trust these people, you confide in them. You can plonk yourself down on the sofa and relax, and not talk, if that's what you want to. Serve yourself - there are always cold beer and soda in the fridge, there's always food to be had, and a bed to sleep in. But most importantly, there's always good company. The house is always brimming with people - even when it's empty. Their house is a place I can't help but call home, even though I've never actually lived there. And it's just like the home I hope I'll have myself one day.

And then there's the food. I already told you about my Dad probably being one of the biggest influences in my food-"life", when we're talking the family's influence. But come to think of it, C probably ranks pretty high up there, too.

She was the one that brought into my conscious recollection stuff like freshly picked and still warm from the sun strawberries and peas in their pods. The peas, preferably eaten in the car, straight out of the brown paper bag we bought them in by the farm door. She taught me, just as I guess her mother taught her, to leave an up-turned plate in the bottom of the bowl where yu put your washed and hulled strawberries, so that the water from the draining strawberries wont turn the bottom ones into mush. She taught me how to use a salad spinner for drying lettuce, and consenquently, it was one of the first things I HAD to acquire when I got my own place. Her Mom and her taught me how to make Mormorsalat. We peel fjordrejer together, sitting on each side of their big kitchen table, papers scattered everywhere to catch the debris, and us, talking happily. She loves soups - any kind, pureed, clear broths - but hold the "fillings", she just wants the "water". I don't think I ever had a proper chicken soup until she made it, all from scratch, over the course of a day. I think she's probably the first to, without me knowing it, teach me to respect the ingredient, and the unique flavor each one posses. Not because she told me, but because she cooked me food that was honest and down-to-earth.

She's always been a friend, more than she has a mom. I remember when she lost her mom, a couple years back. I was travelling at the time, and yes, I felt terrible that my (bonus-)grandmom was dying, but the thing that got me the most was not being able to be there for C. Not being able to share her pain, or her worries, or do whatever she needed me to do. Not being able to help her get through it. Not being able to just sit down and talk, like we used to. We talk a lot. About boys. About my Dad, that I got to know in a whole new way, once C entered our lives. We talk about my siblings. Relationships. Family. How to bring up children. And we talk about food. And despite everything she's taught me about food, she still calls me for help with recipes, ingredient-substituitions and general cooking advice.

Her newest thing is a greenhouse. She grows tomatoes, cucumbers, chilis and a load of herbs, and looks like a small child beaming over her Christmas presents every time she talks about them. And she takes your hand and drags you out there to have a look at what's growing now.

She's starting traditions: for the last three years, we've been baking Christmas cookies. For my birthday the last 5 or 6 years, where I cook for my entire family at Dad and C's house, she's always there, helping me out in the kitchen, getting excited about making little tarts or plucking parsley or whatever I need her to do. She sets the table. Every year, for my brother and sister's birthday, she graciously allows me to make layer cakes for her children. C's mom used to do it, but after she passed away, for some reason C thought I was the person to take over that tradition. One I'm proud of continuing.

Another tradition that runs in her family, is the trip to the north of Jylland every summer. If everything comes together, I'm get to go, too. And when we're really lucky, we go to Svinkløv Badehotel.

It's a pretty, little hotel just off the beach. Every room has it's own pastel color with matching furniture and paintings. It's family run and it's just so cute and quaint you have to go there and see it. Go for a walk in the wind on the beach, then go back and have a cup of tea and a piece of their walnut layer cake. Not that I've ever tried it, but it sure looks decadent. And if you're really, REALLY lucky, you'll have fantastic company with you. Like a family, that even though it's very non-traditional in it's set-up, is perfect for me. It might not be easy to explain to people how we're related, but I love it - Bonus-Mom, Bonus-Granddad, -aunts, -cousins and all!

As I mentioned, I haven't tried their walnut layer cake, but I have the recipe in a cookbook they released a couple of years ago. In that book, there's also a recipe for a wonderful bread. It's probably the one bread I've made most times in my life. I can't help but think of the place and all of the memories related to it whenever I make it.

Svinkløvbrød - Bread from Svinkløv - from "Svinkløv Badehotel" by Mikael Christensen

- makes 2 medium loaves
25 g. fresh yeast
300 ml. water, cold
25 g. salt
10 g. sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil, or melted butter
400 ml. buttermilk
600 g. wheat flour
300 g. durum wheat flour
100 g. grahamflour (coarse wheat)

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add salt, sugar and olive oil/butter. Add buttermilk and flour, and knead thouroughly. I start out using my KitchenAid, but usually do the last bit by hand. Put the dough back in a greased and clingfilm-covered bowl, and put in the fridge for at least 6 hours. You could choose to leave the dough to rise on the kitchen counter (draft-free and all that), in which case you should probably count on a 2 hour-ish rise.

When the rise is over, punch back the dough and shape into 2 round loaves. Leave to prove, covered with a damp dish towel. I think I usually let them rise for about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius. Brush the loaves with water, then bake for 25-30 minutes. Check for doneness by tapping the loaf underneith - if it sounds hollow, it's done. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

[DANSK] Sommersalat

(still on a blog-cleaning trip - see what I found!:-) It might be a while since I took the picture, but it's still good... In fact, I might have to make this again soon...)

As it reads in the introduction to the recipe for this, rygeost (litteraly smoked cheese) is probably one of the things us Danes have all to ourselves. And no, it's not because it's bad, people, it's just - well, I don't know - just because? To some extent, that does make it pretty silly to give you a recipe for a piece of smørrebrød where the main ingredient wont be one you can just go out and get - but eh, you can't win them all, and look at it this way: if you're ever around here, you'll know what to look for! (and who knows, there might be some Danish people peeking at this blog out there, too!)

Rygeost is a soft type of cheese, consistency-wise like a fresh goats cheese. It's made of cows milk though, and often a lowfat type milk. Why someone came up with the idea of smoking it, and adding just a touch of caraway seeds to it, beats me. But it works - I didn't care much for it when I was a kid, but I've grown into really liking it. The salty, smoky flavor hits the tastebuds in the same way smoked fish and (dare I compare it to this?) bacon does. Put it up there with anchovies, capers, blue cheese and olives, and I guess you know what I'm talking about - it's and acquired taste, and one you can't get enough of once you've turned to it.

In sommersalat (translates into summer salad, but you'd figured that out already, hadn't you?), you mellow out the rygeost a bit with crème fraiche and a heavy dose of tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, chives and new potatoes. Serve it all up on toasted rye bread, and you've got yourself a meal fit for a beautiful summer day...

Sommersalat - from Camilla Plum: Umoderne Mad
- enough for 4 generous smørrebrød:

200 g. rygeost
100 ml. crème fraiche 38%
Thinly sliced radishes - loads!
500 g. tomatoes, sliced
1 thinly sliced cucumber
300 g. boiled small new potatoes, sliced
Chives, finely chopped
salt, pepper and sugar
4 thick-ish slices of rye bread

Whip together rygeost and crème fraiche until smooth. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar - it's not supposed to be sweet, it's just to cut the flavors a bit.

Serve like this: layer all of the vegetables on the toasted rye bread. Top of with the sommersalat and garnish with a generous amount of chives. Oh yes - you could add a bit of smoked heering or mackerel underneith... yay smoked stuff!:-)

Saturday, August 5, 2006

One for the memory...

And because I'm trying to do a little blog "cleaning" these days, which include going over a lot of old, up-loaded photos - so I found this one.

Panna cotta with mandarin jelly on top, made for New Years Eve 2005/2006. Eh, so I'm late. But it was good. The panna cotta itself not so very different from this one, but I need to put down in print how to make the jelly on top ('cause I remember having to do it with an apple jelly just a couple months after I did this one, and my memory was BLANK!)

So, for the panna cotta

0,75 L whipping cream
3 gelatin sheets (soaked)
150 ml sugar (1,5 dl)
Seeds of 3 vanilla beans

Whisk together the cream, sugar and vanilla bean seeds in a pan. Bring to the boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Leave to cool for a bit. Gently wring the water from the gelatin leaves, then dissolve them in the hot cream. Strain the cream through a sieve into the tumblers. Put in the fridge for a couple of hours, to set.

For the jelly
-should make enough for covering the amount of panna cottas made in the recipe above, maybe with a bit to spare. I usually make ½ cm. layers, but if you want them thicker, make more jelly - easy, isn't it?;-)

200 ml. of your chosen juice, mixed with a simple sugar syrup if you want it to be sweet
- I don't usually do this, but get the sweet element from the panna cotta itself, or from a cookie served on the side. Besides, I like something a little acidic, to cut the fattiness of the panna cotta. Oh yes, do think about the color contrast as well. And, um - pineapple juice, don't go there. There's something about an enzyme in pineapple that will ruin the setting capabilities of the gelatine...
For each 100 ml. of juice, one sheet of gelatin, soaked (so that would make two sheets in this case)

Gently dissolve the gelatine in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water (a waterbath) with the water clinging to it from the soaking. If you feel more comfortable dissolving it in more liquid, add a bit of the juice. You could also choose to heat the juice, and then dissolve the gelatine sheet directly in the warm juice, but I like the freshness from freshly squezed juice, and don't want to risk loosing that by heating it.
Anywho, leave the dissolved gelatine to cool for a couple of minutes, then stir into your chosen juice. Gently pour mixture on top of the set panna cotta, and put back in the fridge to set.

That's it. Now I know where to look for it the next time...