29 December 2011

I need a camera to my eye

Remember me always nagging about my old Sony Cybershot camera and wishing for a better one? Maybe for Christmas?
Now Christmas is over and just you see what Santa left me under the tree:

Eeeeeee! I'm so happy!
Now it finally is time to get reacquainted to working with aperture, shutter speed and manual focus, and finally producing some more than decent pictures. I've had the camera literally attached to my eye from morning till night for the last few days and have been taking pictures of everything that moves (and everything that doesn't move, for that matter). I was really afraid that it would take me weeks to get back into the groove of photographing with a SLR but, lucky for me and my surroundings, it seems to be coming back quite quickly.

So, that was it. The last picture taken with the old Sony Cybershot. Thank you, my dear, for your loyal services!

25 December 2011

Risotto, risotto, risotto!

When I made this dish, I didn't really expect it to turn out as good as it did because the combination of ingredients is somewhat unusual. I mean, have you ever tried spinach with cranberries? No? See.
But just as white is the new black and frugal is the new decadent (or was it the other way round?), mixing flavours that normally don't go together seems to be the new traditional cooking. And because I'm the Ghost of Christmas Present and up to the minute I decided to follow that trend. 
Or, to be really honest: the ingredients all turn up in what is propably the best piece of Christmas-related telly on this planet, and I was really, really bored that day and didn't come up with a better idea than throwing all of them together and making them into a supper.
I won't keep you in suspense any longer: The mystery dish is basically a porcini mushroom risotto with some cranberries and spinach added to it. Originally, I wanted to use water spinach and goji berries but as I couldn't find them anywhere (and goji berries would've been far too expensive, anyway) I substituted normal spinach and dried cranberries. Works just as well. And it tastes far better than it looks (well, risotto ALWAYS looks quite boring if you ask me...)

This recipe is especially for you, Ziska. And for everyone else who's in on the joke.

As I said, it turned out much, much, much better than I expected: There's a wonderful earthy basis from the porcini mushrooms that contrasts perfectly with the sweet fruitiness of the cranberries. Couldn't taste much of the spinach, though, except for a very faint note. Might need to add a little more next time.
However, I LOVE cooking spinach. It's always fun to put that huge heap of fresh leaves into the pot and watch it shrink to the tiniest fraction of its original size. And the smell...! Yum!

As far as ingredients go, it's very important that you use porcini mushrooms, fresh or dried, and not a wee tin of the button variety because they've not got the same zip ...!


Ith gu leòir and Happy Christmas!

Christmas risotto

200 g/1 cup rice (I prefer brown)
125-250 g/4-8 cups spinach
Half an onion
1 small clove of garlic
25 g/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
0.25-0.5 l/1-2 cup white wine
2 stock cubes
Olive oil
50 g/0.3 cups dried cranberries
50 g/0.5 cups parmesan
Some cardamon (optional) 
A pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper

First, soak the mushrooms in 1l/4 cups lukewarm water for about 20 minutes, then drain them and cut into bite-sized pieces. DON'T pour away the lovely soaking water, you'll need it later.

In a large pan or medium pot, heat some olive oil. Wash the spinach, remove the stalks and throw the leaves into the pan. Cook until they're reduced to a small, sad-looking heap, then transfer to a blender and puree. Put aside.

Heat some olive oil in a large pot. Dice the onion and finely chop the garlic, then add both to the oil and sweat until translucent. Add some more oil and then the rice, and fry until that's translucent, too. Don't forget to stir, you don't want it to burn. Turn down the heat.

Cut the dried cranberries into halves.

Heat the mushroom water, add 2 stock cubes and stir until dissolved. Add some of the stock and the wine to the rice, stir until the rice absorbed it all, then add 40 g of the cranberries and some more stock and wine.

Keep adding stock and wine until the rice has absorbed all of it and is nice and creamy. Remove from the heat, add the spinach and combine. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add a generous pinch of cardamon if you're feeling adventurous. Leave it out if you don't.

Serve with a lot of grated parmesan and dried cranberries on top. 

Well, that was it for now. The Ghost of Christmas Present is just about ready for bed after another exhausting day's haunting. (And if you're really curious about what this risotto was inspired by, then click here)

21 December 2011

Christmas biscuits

Seeing as it's nearly Christmas and as I haven't and won't have the time to post the recipes for all the other Christmas biscuits I made, I decided to at least share some pictures with you:

Happy Christmas and merry eating! (Or the other way round, whatever you like best...)

19 December 2011

German gingerbread, part two

Well, can't keep it from you no longer. Here it goes:

German gingerbread, part two (for part one, see here)

Unwrap the dough and knead it for some minutes. If it's too hard, put the dough into the oven at a low temperature for about five minutes, it will soften.

Roll out the dough (until 0.5 cm/0.2 inches thick), then cut out biscuits (we used hearts, moons, trees, angels and santa clauses). Put them on a baking tray and let them rest for another 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 190° C/375° F. Bake the biscuits for about 20 minutes, checking every 5 minutes or so. They mustn't blacken or they'll taste very bitter.

Remove the biscuits from the oven and let cool. If you want, you can decorate them with chocolate, almonds or whatever you want. I think, they are best when they're pure (and I'm also too lazy to decorate). They'll be quite hard at first but should soften after a few days. If they don't, store them with half a fresh apple. Leave them alone for a few days, they get even better with time.

14 December 2011

Xantner Brocken

Xantner Brocken are a speciality from the German town of Xanten. They're real calorie bombs and honestly the best Christmas biscuits I ever tasted. Gingerbread + chocolate + nougat + brittle = heaven.


Actually, they're not really biscuits. They're more something like pralines or petit fours. Or whatever. 
They're delicious, and that's what counts.

Nougat and cream, how could this possibly get any better?


Well, by smearing it on gingerbread!

Xantner Brocken
(Recipe adapted from Brigitte 12/97 (I think))

50 ml/1.75 oz double cream
150 g nougat
0.5 Tbsp rum

125 g/0.4 cups honey
60 g/0.25 cup sugar
60 g/0.25 cup coconut oil
250 g/2.5 cups flour
0.5 Tbsp cocoa
0.5 tsp cinnamon
1-2 tsp rose water
2 tsp salt of tartar/potassium carbonate
1 egg yolk
300 g/12 cups bitter couverture, grated
Some hazelnut brittle to sprinkle on top

You need to prepare the filling one day in advance: Pour the cream into a pan, heat it up, add the nougat and stir until it has melted. Cover the pan with a lid or plate, then leave over night in a dry, cool place.

In a medium pan, heat up the honey, sugar and coconut oil, and stir until combined. Remove from heat and let cool. Add flour, cinnamon, cocoa and the egg yolk, and combine. Dissolve the potassium in 1-2 tsp of rose water, then add that to the dough, too. Knead into a smooth dough, wrap it in cling film and refridgerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 200° C/390° F. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out until it's about 3 mm/0.1 inch thick. Transfer it to a baking tray, put it in the oven and bake for 7 minutes. Then immediately cut it into squares (2.5 cm/1 inch wide and long).

Now take out the nougat cream you made the night before, add the rum, and beat the mixture with an electric mixer until soft and creamy.

Spread nougat cream on every other gingerbread square, then put another square on top.

In a small pot, melt the chocolate. Coat all the gingerbread parcels in chocolate (it works best if you put them on a fork and pour over the chocolate with a spoon), then sprinkle some hazelnut brittle on top and let the chocolate harden.

And now (I know, it's very hard): Put them away. Let them rest for a couple of days. Trust me. The longer they rest the better they get.

09 December 2011

Almond and marzipan breads, and a little story

One of my alltime favourites. Unfortunately, the dough only makes for about 35 pieces. Christmas six years ago, we had to make this recipe three times because the biscuits were gone so quickly.

Fresh out of the oven. They're a marvel. Filled with a marzipan cointreau mixture, then rolled up, glazed with egg yolk and decorated with almonds. Uhhh, how I love Christmas!

Oh, and I have quite a funny story to tell of the evening we made them: We had just carried a couple of biscuits onto the balcony to make them cool more quickly when we discovered a butterfly sitting on the curtain of the living room window. A butterfly. In December. Inside the house.
It just kept sitting here, not opening its wings, not moving, nothing. I tried to tempt it with a flower but it wasn't interested. Or just scared shitless. Finally, I smeared a bit of the marzipan cointreau stuff on my finger and held it up to the butterfly. And it walked onto my hand and started to eat. It stayed on my hand even when it had finished eating, eventually even opening its beautiful wings. It was a peacock butterfly. The most beautiful ever. I fed it some sugary water later that evening and carried it around the flat until bedtime because it just wouldn't leave my hand. I decided it was a boy and named him Fridolin. Fridolin, the butterfly. I finally got him to leave my hand and to spend the night on a lily but he immediately crawled back on my hand when I checked up on him the next morning. In the afternoon, we finally put him in a box und took him to a sheltered hay shed where he could hibernate.

Stunning animals, butterflies, aren't they? He was actually a whole lot prettier, incredibly luminous colours... I hope he's well. Happy hibernating, Fridolin! Maybe we'll meet again next spring.

Almond and marzipan breads
(Recipe adapted from Backen im Advent)

280 g/1.75 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
100 g/0.5 cups sugar
100 g/0.5 cups butter
1 egg
2 egg whites
250 g/1 cup marzipan
20 ml/0.5-1 oz cointreau
1 sachet vanilla sugar
1 egg yolk
100 g/1.3 cups flaked almonds

Mix flour, baking powder and sugar in a large, shallow bowl. Add the butter and the egg, and knead into a smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and refridgerate for at least half an hour.

Beat the egg whites until stiff, then grate in the marzipan. Add the cointreau and the vanilla sugar, and combine.
Preheat the oven to 200° C/390° F.

On a smooth surface, roll out the dough (about 3 mm/0.1-0.2 inches thick) and cut into squares of about 5-6 cm/2 inches in length and width. Put a spoonfull of the marzipan mixture on each square, then roll them up and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Glaze the breads with the egg yolk and sprinkle the flaked almonds on top. Pop the baking tray into the oven and bake for around 20 minutes.

Let cool and bon appétit!

29 November 2011

Nougat cranberry moons

I know, I know. I promised and I didn't deliver. Sorry.
It's been quite crazy around here for the last two weeks. I think we are all quite familiar with Christmas stress. Baking biscuits, buying presents, rushing to choir practice, drinking mulled wine (ok, not so stressful I admit), making advent calenders, buying sweets for St Nicolaus Day etc. Add to that the usual everyday crazyness and, well, there you are.
I spent last weekend at my mum's place and we made 7 different types of biscuits. Will definitely try to post most of them. But for now: Babysteps. Here's the recipe for some delicious nougat cranberry moons, a nice twist on the good old vanilla moons.


It's not an extremly quick recipe as the dough needs to rest in the fridge for some time but it's not a complicated one either. You could just go on and watch a film while the dough is resting. We watched "Eclipse", the third part of the Twilight saga, and mocked it mercilessly. Lots of fun. Though the amount of fun we had was propably mostly due to the bottles of Christmas beer we had opened earlier that evening.


We were huge fans. Obviously.

When they came out of the oven, the moons were dipped in icing sugar, a process during which some of them mysteriously found their way into our mouths.

And that was when the Christmas magic started for real. Foodfoodfoodfoodfood.

Nougat cranberry moons
(Recipe adapted from Living at home, November 2006)

50 g/0.3 cups dried cranberries
50 g/0.25 cups nougat
75 g/0.3 cups butter, soft
170 g/1.7 cups flour
130 g/1 cup icing sugar
60 g/0.5 cups ground almonds
1 egg
1 vanilla pod

In a large bowl, combine the nougat and the butter. Finely chop the cranberries (I put them in the blender), then add them, the flour, salt, almonds, egg, and 30 g of the icing sugar to the nougat butter cream. Knead into a smooth dough, form into two rolls (about 2.5 cm/1 inch in diameter), wrap them in cling film and refridgerate for at least two hours.

Preheat the oven to 180° C/355° F. Take the dough out of the fridge, unwrap and cut it into slices (about 1 cm/0.5 inches thick). Form the slices into moons and put them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Pop them in the oven and bake for 12-14 minutes.

Cut open the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and combine them with the remaining icing sugar. 

When the moons are done, let them cool for a few minutes, then cover them with the sugar vanilla mixture (dipping works best) and leave to cool.

And don't throw away the empty vanilla pod but cook it for a few minutes with some milk, then add some cinnamon, a pinch of sugar and some pepper. Remove the pod before pouring the mixture into a cup. Drink. It's amazing.

28 November 2011

Blair Waldorf Must Pie!

Before we get to all the christmas-y stuff I still have one recipe to post that is connected with a holiday that's not Christmas, but ... Thanksgiving! If you haven't spent all your life in a cave, you know that Thanksgiving always falls on the fourth Thursday in November, and that was last week. We don't really celebrate Thanksgiving in Germany but I'll be damned if I pass up on a holiday that gives me an excuse to bake something as delicious as Pumpkin Pie.

This year's pie is even better than last year's, and that's saying something...!

 Pumpkin Pie
(Recipe by flour and butter)

170 g/1.5 cups flour
0.5 tsp salt
0.5 cups butter
60-120 ml/0.25-0.5 cups cold water
450 g/2 cups pumpkin puree
150 g/0.75 cups brown sugar
1.25 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
0.5 tsp salt
0.5 tsp cardamon
1 pinch nutmeg
0.25 tsp ground cloves
4 eggs
360 ml/1.5 cups single/light cream

Cut up the butter. Mix flour and salt in a medium bowl, then add the butter. Add a little of the cold water and knead until you have a slightly sticky dough, adding more water or flour if necessary. Wrap up the dough and put in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200° C/400° F, then take the dough out of the fridge, roll it out and put it in a pie tin. (If you're as lazy as me you can skip the rolling out, just put the dough in the pie tin and squish it around until the tin is lined.) Line with aluminium foil and pre-bake for about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt, cardamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a large bowl. Add eggs and beat lightly for a few minutes, then add the cream and combine.

Take the pie tin with the pre-baked crust out of the oven, remove the foil, and pour in the filling. Then cover the tin with foil again and put it back into the oven. Be careful, the filling is very, very thin. I had some filling left over which I poured into a smaller tin and baked with the pie. Served hot, it makes a delicious pudding!

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 25-35 minutes. It's done when a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Let it cool, then cut into slices and eat, preferably while watching the Thanksgiving episode from the first series of Gossip Girl.

27 November 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

After months and months, weeks and weeks, days and days of waiting, it' finally and officially Christmas time. Finallyfinallyfinally. I'm a bit of a Christmas fanatic, you know.
I already plastered the flat with Christmas decorations last weekend, there's hearts, stars, moons, candles, snow men, rocking horses, holly, ivy and fir literally everywhere. We even have a little white owl sitting on the doorhandle of the pantry door. Her name is Hedwig, of course (the owl's, not the door handle's). There's fairy lights around my mirror and my little deer has a Santa hat.

Isn't it adorable?
And of course there's an Advent wreath, too. I made it myself and I think it's quite pretty, don't you agree? (I'll turn you into a frog if you don't, so you better do.)

The Absinthe Robette card in the background isn't very christmas-y but we just don't have any other place to put it (except for 'away' but we won't do that).
Christmas food isn't missing either, you can expect quite a few recipes over the coming weeks starting tomorrow at the very latest. The first Christmas biscuits have already been made and photographed, I just have to find the time to photoshop the pictures.

Off to have biscuits and mulled wine, and listen to Christmas music with my flatmate.
Have a holly jolly first Advent!

20 November 2011

Eggs Louisienne

At the age of almost 24, I think it's about high time that I had a dish named after me. Not that I'm cocky or anything.
And eggs seem to be just perfect for that purpose, after all, people get egg dishes named after them all the time, don't they? Just think of Benedict, Florentine, or Arnold Bennett. Now it's my turn.

My dish would have to be fancy but simple, healthy but a bit decadent. So: Rocket, mushrooms, lemon, curry, mayonnaise, and an egg. Poached, of course. Only problem: I had never poached an egg in my entire life. But if you want a dish to bear your name you have to take some risks. So I risked my self-esteem and the cleanliness of my kitchen and poached an egg for the first time in my life. And I'm happy to be able to say that it went very well. Even though I haven't really got "round, neat and tidy" thing down. Not yet, anyway. Practice makes perfect.

I poached another egg for supper that day and another one for tea today. The second one was better in texture but not exactly pretty. It looked more like a wobbly ghost. But the third one, oh, it was perfect:

Don't you agree?
I think I'm kind of obsessed with poached eggs now. Much to my flatmate's dismay, she hates eggs...

Eggs Louisienne

Serves 1

1 fresh egg
Half a small onion
4-5 mushrooms
A handful fresh rocket
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
Juice of half a lemon
1 generous pinch of curry powder
Freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 small or 1 large slice of pumpkin bread

Wash the rocket, peel and chop the mushrooms, dice the onion.

In a small pan, heat the olive oil and fry the onions until translucent. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt.

Break the egg into a small cup, then bring a pot of water to the boil. When the water is boiling rapidly, stir fast with a wooden spoon until a vortex forms, then pour the egg into the centre of the vortex and, using the spoon, form it into a ball before the egg white sets. Turn down the heat and poach for 1-2 minutes. Unfortunately, I left mine in too long, so even the egg yolk had already set.

Add the rocket to the mushrooms and fry for 2 more minutes, then place your bread on a plate and top it with the veggies and the egg.

Combine lemon juice, mayonnaise, curry powder and pepper, and pour the sauce over the eggs.

Put your plate and a cup of Yorkshire on a tray and take it back to bed. Or, even better, stay in bed and have someone else make this delightful breakfast dish for you. And don't forget: Eggs Louisienne. Named after me.

The perfect autumn bread

Go on, have a guess. The perfect autumn bread, what could that be?

YESSS! It's pumpkin bread. Now, please don't skip this post. I know, it feels like the billionth pumpkin recipe on this blog but it really is the most perfect autum bread and you will love it. Absolutely delicious. Trust me on this. Please.

And it's pretty, too.

Pumpkin bread
(adapted from Feines Gemuese)

Makes for 1 loaf

250 g/1 cup pumpkin puree
500 g/4 cups all-purpose flour
40 g/0.4 cups pumpkin and sunflower seeds
125 ml/4.5 oz water
20 g fresh yeast 
2 tsp oil (canola or pumpkin seed would be perfect)
1 tsp salt
1 generous pinch nutmeg
In a searing hot pan, toast the seeds. Without any oil, you should know that by now.
Mix the flour, the toasted seeds and the pumpkin puree. Heat the water until lukewarm, dissolve the yeast in it and add the mixture to the dough. Combine, then add the oil, salt and nutmeg, and knead until you have a non-sticky, smooth dough. Add a little more flour or lukewarm water, if necessary.

Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rise in a warm, non-draughty place until it has almost doubled in volume (about one hour).

Take the dough out of the bowl, form it into a round loaf and place it on a baking tray (greased or covered with baking paper). Flatten the loaf slightly and, using two fingers, make a deep hole in the middle. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rise for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 220° C/420° F.

Take a sharp knife and make starlike cuts on the top side of the loaf, then pop it into the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 200° C/390° F. Bake for another 35-45 minutes. If you're not sure whether the bread is done, turn it over and tap the base. If it makes a hollow sound, you're good to go.

19 November 2011

Pumpkin brown butter cupcakes

Having someone staying for a visit always is a perfect excuse for baking something. Not that I really needed an excuse but it's always nice to have one that you can shove into your conscience's mouth when it starts nagging.
And yes, it's yet another pumpkin recipe. You'll just have to live with it. The pumpkin madness will only continue for a few more days because next weekend it's the first Advent and that means the beginning of christmas biscuit time. Lots and lots of baking. Can't wait.

Back to the recipe. I've been wanting to make pumpkin cupcakes since September but never found a recipe I really liked. This one is adapted from Bake Me Blush and has just the perfect balance of moisture, spices, sweetness and pumpkin taste. Unfortunately, it contains an awful lot of butter and sugar... But it's totally worth it, trust me.

Fresh from the oven, iced and sprinkled. I don't really like those extremely sugary sweet icings, so I substituted maple syrup for half of the icing sugar. The sprinkles were my flatmate's idea, though. Credit where credit is due.


I (or my camera) didn't manage to capture the fabulous colour, they look much more intensly orange on the inside. Well, I should say, "they looked". They're already gone.

Pumpkin brown butter cupcakes
(adapted from Bake Me Blush)
Makes for 14 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
165 g/0.75 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for tins
165 g/1.6 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
225 g/1 cup pumpkin puree
200 g/1 cup packed brown sugar
115 g/0.5 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
For the filling:
55 g/0.25 cup unsalted butter
60 g/0.5 cup sifted icing sugar (I was out of icing sugar and used normal caster sugar which worked out OK, but I'd still recommend using icing sugar.)
120 ml/0.5 cup maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp milk, plus more if needed

Preheat oven to 180° C/325° F. Grease your muffin tins or insert baking cases.
In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook until butter turns golden brown, stir from time to time. Remove from the heat and let cool. 
Mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In another bowl, mix pumpkin puree, both sugars, eggs, and brown butter mixture. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
Pour the batter into the muffin tins, filling each almost to the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean, about 30 minutes. 
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and cook until brown. Remove from the heat, add icing sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon milk, and combine. 
Ice the cupcakes while still warm and put some sprinkles on top if you feel like it.
Eat. Warning: They're addictive.

18 November 2011

Rainbow stir-fry with prawns

I made this dish the first night of my dad's visit last week and it was a huge hit. For me, it made a nice change from the rich coconutty curries I usually make when cooking Asian food. And my dad liked it so much, it even inspired him to try cooking himself. At least he said so. Well, let's see what comes of that...


It was my first time cooking with soba noodles and it definitely won't be my last. They are a wonderful alternative to white rice as they're healthier, not as nauseatingly filling, and have got a lovely taste of their own.

Rainbow stir-fry with prawns

Serves 3

150 g/6 oz soba noodles
100 g/0.25 cup prawns
25 g/0.25 cup fresh ginger
Quarter a red and a yellow (bell) pepper
150 g/1 cup snow peas
100 g/1 cup cabbage
250 ml/0.5 cup vegetable stock
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Chinese chili garlic sauce
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp Worcester sauce
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp sesame seeds

Cook the soba noodles according to packet instructions, drain and put aside.

Toast the sesame seeds in a small pan without any fat or oil until goldish brown, then put aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the cornstarch, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce and Worcester sauce, add the prawns, combine and put aside.

Diagonally slice the snow peas, and cut the cabbage and the (bell) peppers into thin slices. Peel and finely chop the ginger, then heat the sesame oil in a large, non-stick pan and sweat the ginger for a few minutes. Add the cabbage. After 5-10 minutes, add the (bell) peppers and, after another 10 minutes, the snowpeas. Pour in a bit of the stock and cook until the vegetables are tender, then pour them into a bowl and put aside.

Take the prawns out of the marinade and fry them in the now empty pan for a few minutes (you might need to add a bit more sesame oil). Add the vegetables and the noodles and fry for about five minutes.

Combine the vegetable stock and the marinade, and pour the mixture into the stir-fry. Cook for another few minutes, then serve with the sesame seeds on top.

10 November 2011

Brown rice risotto with pumpkin and sage

Finally a little time for blogging.
I made this recipe about three weeks ago and didn't manage to post it until now. This was not due to any lack of enthusiasm but rather to a lack of time and energy. There was so much going on with work and classes and homework and, well, life. Choir rehearsals started again (I'm the choirmaster this year. Huge responsibility.), work opportunities popped up (yay!), and then last week's huge, amazing, totally consuming blur of work, people, films, food, parties, sleep deprivation and (too much) white wine which I miss very, very, very much (everything, not just the wine).


This is a risotto that would make every risotto purist either balk or bang on his coffin as I neither used white wine nor Arborio rice but substituted more stock and the plain old, nutritious brown rice. I have to admit, though, that I never use Arborio for risotto, I just can't seem to be able to remember to buy it when I go shopping, so I always end up using other kinds of rice for my risottos. Once I even made a savoury risotto using pudding rice. The result wasn't too bad.
Everything else about this risotto is very traditional, though, and sage adds that little extra warmth we all need so bittely now that winter finally started (whohoooo!).

And yes, I know, another pumpkin recipe. Are you bored yet? No? Good. Because I still got three  squash in the pantry. Speaking of squash: I tend to get confused with the difference between pumpkin and squash that is made in English, so please forgive me any mistakes I might make (like calling a pumpkin "squash", or, rather more likely, a squash "pumpkin"). In German, all squash are called pumpkin, too, why can't it be that simple in English? I mean: Is pumpkin more different from butternut squash than butternut squash is from onion squash? I don't think so. See?

Brown rice risotto with pumpkin and sage
(adapted from Sophie Dahl's Voluptuous Delights with a few modifications by me)

Serves 2

Half an onion
Half a clove of garlic
200 g/1 cup brown rice
750-1000 ml/3-4 cups vegetable stock
Quarter a medium-sized onion squash, baked/cooked and pureed (see here) (Sophie's recipe asks for 125 g/0.5 cup pumpkin puree, I think my quarter onion squash amounted to a teensy bit more)
1 Tbsp fresh sage (you can also use dried, but then you'll maybe need a little bit more)
Some pumpkin seeds
Olive oil
As much parmesan as you want

Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Heat some olive oil in a medium-sized pot, and sweat the garlic and onion for a few minutes. Then add the rice and stir, making sure that every grain is coated in oil.
Add some stock and stir until it is absorbed. Keep doing that until all the stock is gone, never adding more than 1 cup at a time. The rice should be done when you added all the stock. If it isn't, add more.

In a small, searing hot pan, toast the pumpkin seeds (without any oil!) for a couple of minutes until they make loud popping sounds (like popcorn). Be careful to stir  from time to time so they don't burn. Chop the sage.

When the rice is done, add the pumpkin/squash puree, the parmesan, the sage, and the toasted pumpkin seeds, season to taste and serve.

Is it November?

It actually is.
Sorry for not having posted anything in the last 10 days, I've been away working at a festival, and yesterday my dad arrived and is staying for a week-long visit, so there hasn't been and won't be much time for blogging.
Will be back with some delicious recipes next week at the very latest.

Take care!

30 October 2011

Double, double toil and trouble, Chocolate Chip Cookies this way come!

Every time I'm ill, I get cravings like a pregnant woman. Friday night, it was herring in dill remoulade, today it's chocolate chip cookies.
After hours of searching, I finally found the perfect recipe on A Full Measure of Happiness. Lauren calls them "Double Trouble Chocolate Chip Cookies" which immediately reminded me of Macbeth and, first and foremost, of the fabulous "Double Trouble" song in the film version of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (the song was in fact inspired by the witches' scene from Macbeth). The last time I listened to it, it got stuck in my ear for several weeks. Am expecting a similar effect this time (not that this is a bad thing, it's an awesome song, after all. And it goes really well with the upcoming Halloween).

I know that bustling around in the kitchen making chocolate cookies is not exactly the best thing to do when you're ill. But those cookies are done in a flash, and I was back in bed within 45 minutes, eating cookies, drinking milk and actually being ... ... cheery! That's got to be a good thing.

No, they are not healthy and I don't even want to know the calorie amount. But: They're chocolatey (white AND bittersweet chocolate chips) and walnutty and fudgy, and they make you really happy. Even when you're lying in bed with a fever.

 Yes, that bowl next to the cookies is a huge cup of milk. Yum!


Aaaah, delicious beyond imagining..!

They were gone pretty quickly.

Double Trouble Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes for around 25 cookies

115 g/1 stick butter
170 g/0.75 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
40 g/0.3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 large or 2 small eggs
125 g/1 cup flour
0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
180 g/1 cup chocolate chips (I used a mixture of bitter and white chocolate)
120 g/1 cup walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180° C/350° F and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Mix the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, cocoa powder, and eggs together until combined. Then add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, chocolate chips, and nuts.

Put tablespoon-sized dollops of the dough on the baking tray and smoothe them down. Be careful to leave enough space in between, the cookies will expand quite a bit.

Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes. They will still be a bit gooey. Leave them in the oven for another 5 minutes if you like them crispy.

Let them cool for 15 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.

Eat with a large cup of milk.

And now all together:

Double, double, toil and trouble.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Double, double, toil and trouble.
Something wicked this way comes!

Eye of newt and toe of frog,
wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
lizard's leg and owlet's wing.

Double, double, toil and trouble.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Double, double, toil and trouble.
Something wicked this way comes!

In the cauldron boil and bake,
fillet of a fenny snake,
scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
witches mummy, maw and gulf.

Double, double, toil and trouble.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Double, double, toil and trouble.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Double, double, toil and trouble.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Something wicked this way comes! 

Apple and Camembert tart or "Pass the butter, please!"

I know, the combination sounds quite weird but this is an a-ma-zing dish. Really. Very. Incredibly. Good. 

When I stumbled across it on Tastespotting, it was a Brie and Pear tart. My mum went into fits of laughter when I told her the story of me making this recipe (hello, mummy!) as I started with "I found this brilliant recipe for a Pear and Brie tart!" and then started listing all the things I changed about it which was basically everything (I kept the sugar, the oven temperature and the baking time, though): I couldn't find any organic brie so I bought camembert (experts, please don't hit me, but is there any difference between brie and camembert besides the region of origin and the size? They're both the same to me...), I didn't have any pears left so I substituted apples (holstein cox, to be precise. I didn't know that variety before but now that I know them, I've decided that they are the best apples in the entire universe. They taste like sherbet. Fabulous.) and I was too lazy and too stingy to buy pear schnapps so I ended up using cherry brandy (there was some left over from the gingerbread project a few weeks ago). And I didn't really like the sweet almond pie crust, so I made a different, more neutral one.

Sorry for the picture. There's no natural light in our kitchen, so almost all the pictures I take in there turn out absolutely awful. (And the tart just smelt so good, I didn't have the patience to bustle around for minutes, trying to get a remotely good shot.)

The whole thing tastes very french. The apples, the camembert, the crust. Oh my, the crust! It's very buttery, but in the best of ways. Come to think of it: Is there even a bad way of being buttery? Or to put it this way: "Is there anything better than butter? Think it over. Every time you taste something that's delicious beyond imagining, and you say, What is in this?, the answer is always going to be butter. The day there's a meteorite heading toward the earth and we have 30 days to live, I am going to spend it eating butter. Here's my final word on the subject: You can never have too much butter." Absolutely never. I have to agree with Julie Powell here. (The quote's from the Julie & Julia film. You don't know it? Go watch it! Chop chop!)

Where was I? Oh yes, butter! And where do we find the most buttery, tasty, delicious, wonderful dishes? In France, of course. Buttery pastry always tastes like France. Always. I'm not a francophile. I would like to be but I'm not. I love the music, the food (the menus, the pastry!), the wine, and the landscapes and towns, but I don't get along with the people. Shame. Well, at least I can have the music, the wine and the food without going to France. I'm babbling, sorry. Back to the tart.

It looks amazing, it smells amazing, it tastes amazing. The only thing I couldn't decide on is what kind of dish this tart actually is, or rather when to eat it. Is it something you can have for supper? Is it a pudding? Or a kind of cake you can have for tea? If you ask me, it's neither. But it is absolutely delicious, so just make it and eat a slice (or two or three, if you're a glutton like me) whenever the whim takes you.

Apple and Camembert tart
(inspired by A spicy perspective, recipe for crust adapted from Simply recipes)
Makes for 1 tart

For the crust: 
150 g/1.25 cups all-purpose flour
115 g/0.5 cup unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1 cm/1/2 inch cubes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 to 4 Tbsp ice water

For the filling:
200 g camembert
3-4 apples
50 g/0.25 cup sugar
1.5 Tbsp calvados (is certainly better than my cherry brandy)

Preheat the oven to 200 °C/400° F.

Combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter and mix until you've got a crumbly substance resembling oatmeal. Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, checking after each addition if the dough holds together. If it doesn't, add a little more water. Put in the fridge for at least an hour (recipe says. I didn't do it).

Grease a tart form. Now you have two options: You can roll out the dough into a disk and then line the tart form with it, or you can just put the lump of dough in the form and press and squish and push it around until the form is lined. I always go for the latter option because it's less work and I'm lazy.

Put it in the oven to prebake the crust.

In the meantime, core the apples and cut them and the camembert into very, very thin slices.

In a small bowl, combine the calvados and the sugar.

Remove the tart form from the oven. Cover the bottom of the tart with camembert (it doesn't matter if it starts to melt). Cover the camembert with a layer of overlapping apple slices, then spread the calvados sugar mixture on top and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 30-40 minutes (the cheese should bubble up and the crust should be a brownish gold), then let it cool for 10 or so minutes. 

Eat with a cup of strong black coffee or a glass of wine while listening to George Brassens.

I have no idea how long it keeps since I ate it within two days (almost on my own).

29 October 2011

Pasta with squash, pear and pomegranate

Actually, I was supposed to spend this weekend in Norway's beautiful capital to visit my friend who has been living there for more than a year. My week was very busy and stressful, nevertheless I was very much looking forward to this trip. Fate, however, had other plans and so I'm currently tucked in my bed with a fever and aching limbs. Fuck. (Sorry.)
There are only a few reasons which make me see this development in a slightly positive light: I finally have a good excuse to spend several days in a row in bed. I have time to watch my favourite films and tv programmes, and to read. And I have time to post some delicious recipes I made over the past week.
Apart from that I'm still a bit grumpy and would much rather be in Oslo than here. Tough luck.

Pasta with squash, pear and pomegranate
Serves 1

As much pasta as you want (wholewheat for me, please)
250 g/0.5 cup pumpkin puree (alternatively raw butternut or onion squash)
Half a red onion
Half a firm pear
Half a pomegranate
About 100 ml/0.5 cups water (or cream or white wine)
0.5 tsp cinnamon
1 generous pinch of cardamon
Some olive oil

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box.

Dice the pear and the onion. If you don't use pumpkin puree, grate the squash.

Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan and sweat the onions until translucent. Add the pear and the squash (if you use grated squash and not the puree). Season with salt and pepper, and fry for another few minutes.

Add the pumpkin puree (if you didn't choose the grated squash) and the water, and stir. If you feel fancy-schmancy and decadent, you can substitute white wine or cream (or a mixture of both) for the water. I was ill when I made this and felt like neither.

Season with cinnamon and cardamon, and cook for about 5 minutes. Scoop out the pomegranate's pulp and add it to the sauce. Stir a few times, then add to the pasta and combine.

Pour the pasta and sauce into a bowl and eat it on your bed, watching Black Books.

25 October 2011

Soda bread

I know lots of people who love to cook, bake cakes, cupcakes, biscuits, cookies. Only very few bake their own bread, though. Baking bread still seems to have the aura of something complicated, mysterious, I've never really understood why. It's not hard (well, it's a bit hard when you use sourdough, but that's not really the object here), it's not dangerous, it's not expensive. Still people always think that baking your own bread is a huge deal.
This post is here to convince you of the opposite.

The bread I'd like to introduce you to is certainly the most simple bread ever to have walked (or rather have been eaten on) this earth. Soda bread. It only requires four ingredients that are assembled in absolutely no time, and 40 minutes later you can pull the most perfect soft, crispy-crusted, heavenly smelling loaf out of the oven. Who said anything about complicated?

There are countless recipes for Soda bread on the web and they all vary slightly (though they're all equally simple). I stuck with Sophie's recipe and was very, very happy with it, but feel free to try another one and tell me about the result.

Soda bread
(Recipe by Sophie Dahl (2011): From Season to Season - A Year in Recipes. - London: HarperCollins.)
Makes for 1 loaf

400 g/3 cups flour (you can use buckwheat, wholewheat, rye, spelt, it all works. I normally use half wheat and half spelt)
350 ml/1.3 cups buttermilk
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 200° C/390° F
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Create a small well in the middle, pour in the buttermilk and mix. Don't meddle around with the dough for too long, stop when everything is only just combined.

Dust the dough with flour and form into a ball, then place on a baking tray and cut a deep cross across the top.

Bake for 40 minutes. The bread should make a hollow sound when tapped on the base.

Cut off several slices immediately, spread clotted cream and jam on top and eat.

Store in a paper bag (don't use an airtight container/plastic bag as it would make the bread develop a very strong pretzel-y smell). Consume within a week.

23 October 2011

Pumpkin/Squash gnocchi in a lemon sage butter sauce

Every autumn, I'm so afraid for pumpkin season to end before I've tried out all the pumpkin recipes I wanted to. And every autumn, exactly that happens. This was a great deal easier when I was a teenager and the only pumpkin recipe I was acquainted with was pumpkin soup. I was never and will propably never be a big fan of pumpkin soup. It's O.K., but nothing more. But ever since I found out about pumpkin pies, pop tarts, gnocchi, risotto, waffles, pancakes, syrup etc, pumpkin season always seems to go by in a flash. Well, not this year. I promised myself that this year would be different. So, when I went to the supermarket last monday to do my weekly grocery shopping and they had a special offer on onion squash, I bought... ...two! Despite my still having half a pumpkin in the fridge.
Let the pumpkin series continue. There's still a lot more on the menu.


I discovered this recipe about one year ago on Homemade deliciousness, one of my favourite food blogs, and have already made it countless times since then. It seems to virtually scream of effort but it's actually pretty easy. Of course, it's even easier and also a lot quicker if you can get your hands on tinned pumpkin puree. For those who can't: You can also prepare some pumpkin puree in advance, that way you won't have to make everything in one go. Just peel the pumpkin or squash (not necessary if you have one with an edible skin, e.g. onion squash or butternut), deseed and slice it. Put the slices onto a baking tray and bake for around 25 minutes at 200° C/390° F. Transfer the slices to a bowl and puree with a handheld blender. Store the puree in an airtight container. It will keep in the fridge for about 5 days. 

Pumpkin gnocchi in a lemon sage butter sauce
(Recipe adapted from Homemade deliciousness)

Serves 2 (or 1 for two suppers)

300 g/1.25 cups pumpkin puree (use tinned or make it yourself: see above for instructions)
150 g/1.25 cups flour
1-2 Tbsp polenta
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

A handful of fresh sage leaves (dried will do as well)
50-70 g/0.25-0.3 cups butter
Juice from half a lemon
As much parmesan as your heart desires

Mix together the pumpkin puree and the polenta, salt and nutmeg. Add the flour. The dough should only be slightly sticky (you may need to add more flour). Cut the dough into two equally large halves.

On a floured surface, form each half into a roll (about 2.5 cm/1 inch in diameter) and press it down a little. Then cut it into smallish pieces (2.5 cm/1 inch long).

Fill a large pot with water and bring to the boil. Put in the gnocchi and cook them for around 5 minutes or until they all swim on the surface.

In the meantime, chop the sage. When the gnocchi are done, strain them and put them aside. Heat the butter in a small frying pan. When it has melted, add the sage and the lemon juice. After a minute or so, add the gnocchi and fry for another 3 minutes, stirring all the time.

Serve with the parmesan on top.