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!