30.10.13

Flash Infused Goji Berry Vodka



Goji berries are all the rage with their 'superfood' status. You can find the dried version everywhere. But I personally have not seen them fresh for sale anywhere. So I got my own goji berry bush and now in its second year it has started producing fruit. One reason why you might not see them for sale in their fresh form is that they don't really taste like.. well anything really. The berries are not sweet but neither are they sour or aromatic. They remind me a bit of a bland non acidic sea buckthorn berry. They do have a slight bitter note that I thought might be a good match for a quick flash infusion of some vodka.

You can use your nitrous oxide powered whipped cream gun for much more than just whipped cream. In a literal minute you can infuse alcohol with a large variety of flavours. And if you don't have a whipped cream gun you can go the old fashioned route and put the ingredients in a mason jar in a dark cool place for a couple of days (or more).

Ingredients

  • 125 ml vodka 
  • handfull goji berries
  • peel of one lemon
  • teaspoon of chopped red chilli pepper


Step 1


Have the vodka at room temperature. Slice the goji berries in halve. I added lemon and chilli for some extra flavour and heat. Chop the chilli and peel the lemon (you only use the peel). Add them to the whipped cream gun container. 


Step 2

Now pressurize the container. If you have doubled the ingredient use 2. Keep the container pressurized for a minute and swirl the liquid around a little bit. Now release the pressure. Keep the container upright and cover the spout in case some liquid comes out. Swirl again.


Step 3


Now open it up and drain through a fine mesh strainer. It should be a gentle orange and slightly cloudy. Drink straight up or mixed with tonic, soda water or lemonade.

This method works with fruit, herbs, spices, you name it. And because you only use a little bit of vodka at a time you can experiment. Just mix the failed experiment with some pineapple juice and throw back.


27.10.13

Pancake Recipe Test




What better time to do a pancake recipe test than on a lazy Sunday morning. After the success of the deviled egg recipe test it was time for something sweet. Once again I went to Foodgawker.com, Tastespotting.com and Tasteologie.notcot.org for potential recipes. I was looking specifically for 'American' pancakes. Thick, small and stackable. I wanted something quite basic, so no complicated flavourings or fancy syrups. I ended up choosing three recipes that are different in the dairy that they use. One with milk, one with buttermilk and one with ricotta.


The Recipes

First up is a milk based pancake with blueberries from fatsointhekitchen.com. In the interest of fairness I made some of these with and some without the blueberries. 

Second is a pancake made with buttermilk from spicysouthernkitchen.com. A recipe from the book 'My Mother's Southern Kitchen: Recipes and Reminiscences. Again I also made this with and without blueberries.

Last up is a recipe made with ricotta from mydelicousmeals.com.  With and without blueberries.



The batter

The basis off all three are pretty much the same; flour, egg , a little sugar, a pinch of salt, and some baking powder. But the devil is in the details. 


The ricotta pancake batter is not so much a batter as a dough. It includes a large amount of ricotta and a little bit of vanilla for flavour. To get anything close to  a pancake you need to push the mixture down in the pan with a wet spatula or hand. It also uses the least raising agent.



The buttermilk batter is thick but still pourable. On top of the baking powder there is a little bit extra baking soda and it is enriched with some melted butter. 



The milk based batter is the thinnest of the three and also the most basic. You could whip these up any time without doing extra shopping. 



Baking


Now for some action in the pan. Using vegetable oil (butter burns to quickly) for all three pancakes. Easiest to bake correctly is without a doubt the milk pancake. Medium heat and flip when the top has dried. The only problem with the milk based pancakes is that the blueberries stick out so much that once you flip them it is difficult to get even colour on the bottom.

The buttermilk pancakes are a bit trickier. They are thick so if you wait for the top to dry the bottom will be burned. Temperature must go down and bottoms checked regularly. Blueberries go in like a dream.

Same goes for the ricotta pancake though those don't burn quite as quickly as the buttermilk ones. They get a slightly different tone of golden probably due to the ricotta cheese. No problem with the blueberries.


Tasting


First up the milk based blueberry pancakes. They are a bit on the thin side but taste quite good. They browned nicely and the edges provide a nice crispness. They are much, much better than the rubbery disks you can buy in the shop that call themselves 'American Pancakes'.  


The ricotta pancakes are thick and moist. But I fear I have been too careful with the vanilla, sugar and salt because they are also a little bit bland. They are also dense and very filling, 2 of these will get you through a big part of the day. The denseness might be due to the kind of ricotta I used because these are supposed to be fluffy.


Last up the Southern style buttermilk pancakes. They are thick but fluffy, light with a little bit of crunch on the end and the flavour is mindbogglingly delicious.  This is exactly what I wanted from my American pancake and I will be making these again... and again.


Winner




Do I even need to say it? Spicysouthernkitchen.com's buttermilk pancake is the undisputed winner of the pancake recipe test. With or without blueberries these are the absolute bomb. 




25.10.13

Tonkatsu Style Tuna




Nothing like a little bit of deep fried crunch to help break the smugness of having a healthy low fat sushi and edamame dinner. My sister and I can never resist ordering the fried tuna at our favourite little sushi place. The sauce on the side intrigued from the first taste and after eating it a couple of times we asked the owner what sauce it was that she served with the dish. Out came a bottle with a bulldog on it, tonkatsu sauce, traditionally eaten with fried pork (tonkatsu) but it works just as well with tuna. The tuna served at the sushi place is probably left over tuna, not fresh enough anymore to eat raw. So when making this at home, I've found this is the perfect time to use those normally inedible frozen tuna steaks.

Ingredients

  • 2 tuna steaks 
  • 2 eggs
  • handful flour
  • panko breadcrumbs
  • sesame seeds
  • salt and pepper
  • tonkatsu sauce
Step 1


Slice the tuna steaks in halve horizontally so you have 4 thin steaks. Season the flour with a generous amount of salt and pepper and add a good amount of sesame seeds. Now dust the tuna with this mixture. Dip the floured fish in the beaten eggs and then in the panko crumbs so they have a thick crust.


Step 2


Fry the tuna in medium hot oil (180c) until golden brown. Let it drain on some kitchen paper and serve with the tonkatsu sauce. 




22.10.13

Mini Mont Blanc Pies




A tiny take on the classic dessert. Here small sweet shortcrust shells are filled with a melon-ball sized scoop of vanilla ice cream and topped with sweet chestnut puree (with a little help from a very clean garlic mincer'.


Ingredients
For the Shortcrust via taste.com

  • 250 g flour
  • 125 g butter (cold)
  • 60 g sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tblsp ice cold water 


* This makes more than enough dough for quite some mont blancs, just freeze any leftover dough.







  • Vanilla ice-cream
  • Sweet chestnut puree
  • Icing sugar


Step 1


To ensure the pastry is nice and short make sure you don´t touch it too much, especially with warm hands. Which is why a food processor comes in handy. Put the flour,butter (cubed), sugar and a pinch of salt in the processor. Pulse a couple of times, until it is mixed and resembles moist sand. Now add the yolk and a spoon of cold water, pulse again. Check if the mixture sticks together, if it does not add another little bit of the ice cold water. Squeeze the mixture together still in the food-processor bowl, tip the dough directly onto a sheet of clingfilm and form a lump. Wrap in the cling and put into the refrigerator for 30 mins.


Once chilled you can roll out the dough. Again less is more so don´t roll it too long. I used a shotglass to cut out the circles. Place into the halve globe mould (if you don´t have one, just leave them as little round cookies).


They need 12-15 minutes in a 200 c oven. Once they start to go golden they are done. Turn them out onto a wire rack to cool.


Step 2


Use a melon-baller to get dainty little scoops of ice cream and place them into the shortcrust bowls. If you are making more than a couple, put them into the freezer so the ice scoops don't melt.



Step 3



Now it is time to add the sweet chestnut puree. If you can't find the little French pre-sweetened tins, you can add icing sugar and vanilla to plain chestnut puree. It helps to have the puree ice cold so it doesn't melt the ice cream. Put a teaspoon of puree and place in a squeaky clean garlic mincer. Press down so the puree comes out in spaghetti like strings. 


Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately, you can also keep them in the freezer.



20.10.13

Homemade Halloumi




After successfully making mock ricotta I got bitten by the cheese making bug. So I ordered a little cheesemaking set on Ebay which contains; a cheesecloth, bottle of rennet and a starter culture. I still need to make the starter culture (looks like making yogurt I guess). But I wanted to get started immediately so I went ahead and made some Halloumi. Halloumi is unusual in that you don't need a starter culture to make it, just milk and rennet. It also appears to be a perfect beginners cheese because it turned out really lovely even if I did sometimes had some trouble with my temperatures. I'm using a combination of two different recipes, this one from curd nerd, and this one from cheesemaking.com.

Ingredients


  • 5 l  (raw) milk
  • 3.5 ml  rennet (animal or veggie)
  • salt (without iodine)
  • dried mint (I used some Moroccan mint used for tea, as long as it is 100% mint you're good)


*  You are going to want to make ricotta with the left over whey (even more awesome than the pure milk ricotta). You will need another 1/2 l milk and either citric acid, lemon juice or white wine vinegar.



Step 1
First you need to heat the milk to 31 c. Which I did by placing the pan in the sink and filling it with hot water. This way there is no chance of it heating up to quickly. Dissolve the rennet in a little bit of cooled down boiled water and add to the milk, now stir it to mix in the rennet. I put the lid on the pan and moved the pan to the table and wrapped it in a blanket to keep it warm. 

Step 2
The rennet should do its job in about 40 minutes to an hour. You are looking for the fabled 'clear cut' which means so much as that if you slice the curds it breaks away clean.




Once the curds look good it is time to cut them into 1 cm (I accidentally went a bit large) squares. 





 After cutting the squares from the top let the curds rest for 5 minutes, then slice the curds horizontally with a ladle or spoon. Give them another 5 minutes.



Step 3
Now it is time to warm up the curds again. You want it to hit about 40 c. I could't believe how quickly that went and questioned my thermometer so I accidentally went to 44 but this didn't harm the cheese. Once it hit 40 you want to keep it there for a while, maybe 15 mins or so, stirring occasionally so the curds stay separate.


Step 4




Now it is time to transfer the curds. I don't have any fancy cheese baskets (yet...) so I just used a sieve lined with cheesecloth suspended above a container for the whey. I used a slotted spoon to lift out the curds. Once all the curds were transferred I folded the cloth over and put a plate on top stacked with these highly sophisticated cheese weights. I let the cheese settle for a little more than an hour, turning the cheese twice. (every 20 mins)



Step 5
While the cheese does its thing you can make some proper ricotta from your whey. Heat the whey to 65 c and add you acidifyer. Recipe stated 1 and a half teaspoon of citric acid but I ended up using 2 teaspoons and some emergency lemon juice later. Don't know why but I always end up using more acid than prescribed (except with Jamie Oliver's whole bottle of vinegar recipe).  Now go to 75 and add a good teaspoon of salt and the other half liter milk. Heat this to near boiling (90) and keep it there for a couple of minutes while stirring. Turn of the heat and let the ricotta rise to the service for 15 minutes. These were such fine curds that the slotted spoon wasn't very effective so I passed the whey through a fine sieve. And ended up with a little pot of incredibly soft creamy ricotta. Don't discard  the whey because you'll need it for the halloumi.





Step 6

Now it is time to cook the halloumi. My cheese looked like this after pressing. 



Soft but firm. Those aren't cracks by the way, just cheesecloth impressions.  My cheese just about fits into the whey pan but you could cut it at this point. Heat the whey to 95 c and carefully transfer the cheese into the hot whey. Keep a ladle in the pan to prevent the cheese sticking to the bottom. Now cook the cheese until it comes floating to the top. It took about 15 minutes in my case and I gave it another 5 just to be sure. Now transfer the cheese to a fancy cheese mat if you have it (I don't). A cooling rack covered with cheesecloth worked fine.



Step 7


Once the cheese has cooled down a little bit you sprinkle it with salt and the crumbled dried mint. Now flatten the disc slightly with your hands. Fold the disc over and let it rest for a bit with a weight on top. I let the cheese rest for 30 minutes before cutting it and putting it in a brine. The brine is made from 20 g salt in 1 l water.


You can cut of a little piece now and taste it. The brine will impart the saltiness so the cheese was a little bland (easily fixed with an extra sprinkle of salt) but really nice already. The mint is not at all toothpasty but imparts that characteristic halloumi flavour. It also has that typical halloumi squeak. As it is now it would be great in a salad. 

I took one piece out of the brine the next day and grilled it (as seen on the picture). The cheese is already delicious, but for optimum flavour and grilling it needs to loose a little bit more moisture to the brine and take up a little bit more salt. So while I might use some in a salad now I will wait another 3 - 4 days before making my beloved sesame crusted halloumi.

All in all I feel this first foray into cheese making has been a success and next time I'll try making some soft cheese with the cheese culture.



Easy cheese making kits are a great way to start with cheese making. I think I'll try mozzarella next.



17.10.13

Chouxnuts




Choux pastry is surprisingly easy and very satisfying to make. But why limit yourself to either eclairs or profiteroles when you can make all sorts of shapes. Here, along with two different method for profiteroles, I made doughnut shaped ones. AKA chouxnuts, or profitenuts, maybe even rollenuts. They are glazed with a very shiny chocolate glaze and filled with whipped cream. The choux pastry is from Patiserie! by  Christophe Felder, it is a slightly sweet dough so don't use it if you plan on making savoury choux buns.


Ingredients

For the choux dough:

  • 150 g flour
  • 150 g milk
  • 100 ml water
  • big pinch of salt
  • 1 tblsp sugar
  • 80 g butter
  • 4-5 eggs
Filling:




  • 250 ml whipping cream
  • 2 tsp sugar

Glaze:

  • 200 g dark sugar
  • 150 g sugar
  • 100 ml water



Step One


Add everything but the flour to the pan and bring to a boil. Shut down the heat and sift in the flour. The reason for taking it of the heat is that sifted flour + open flame = a giant flameball. Stir in the flour and put back on the heat. Recipes usually state to keep stirring and cooking until the dough forms a ball separate from the edges of the pan. My experience though is that this happens within seconds,so  just keep cooking the dough for a minute or two. 


Step Two


Transfer the dough into a mixing bowl. Now add the eggs, one by one. Make sure to incorporate one egg completely before adding the next. First the dough separates into weird blob like pieces but some elbow grease makes sure it quickly becomes consistent again. Depending on the size of your eggs you might only need 4 eggs. Add these 4 and loosen the 5th. Add only so much of the 5th egg that you need to make an elastic pipeable dough. About the consistency shown in the next GIF.





Step 3

Put the dough into a piping bag and pipe onto your baking sheet (parchment or silicone are both fine). They will rise and spread considerably so make sure to leave enough room. If you are making the donut shapes, make sure you leave enough room in the middle or the wholes will fill in during baking.



Push down the pointy ends with a wet finger so they don't burn. Besides the piped buns and the donuts I also just spooned some on the baking parchment. This makes for a more rough and ready profiterole.



Before baking


If you have a fan assisted oven, turn of the fan. Choux rises best without any air movement. So don't open the oven either to take a peak. The oven should be about 180c, and the buns will take around 20 minutes. Improve the rise even more by throwing a splash of hot water into the hot oven when you put the dough in, the steam will help with the rise.



Poke a hole in each bun before putting them on a cooling rack, this will help the steam escape. While they are cooling you can make the chocolate glaze by boiling the sugar an water until it forms a clear syrup. Take it off the heat and let it cool down slightly. Add the dark chocolate and stir until you have a glossy glaze. 

Fill the buns with whipped cream with either a whipped cream gun or a piping bag with a long nozzle. If the hole you poked isn't large enough, take a knife and cut a cross. The doughnut shapes will probably take two different cream entries, get the nozzle stuck in there and squirt while slowly pulling back. Finally dip the top of the buns in the glaze and serve. 


14.10.13

Deviled Eggs Recipe Test




A dozen eggs, three recipes plucked from the blogosphere and some hungry tasters. Which recipe will come out on top? There is something pleasing nostalgic or actually downright retro about the humble deviled egg. Lot of people have their own secret ingredients to spice up the eggs or other unusual twists. So I looked around on FoodGawker, Tastespotting and Tasteologie and picked three recipes I wanted to try out.

* Just a little note on the spelling, apparently you can use both devilled and deviled. I searched on devilled so my net was cast a little narrower than strictly necessary.


The Recipes

First up is Horseradish Deviled Eggs from theprimalist. Chosen because I love horseradish and I was curious how it would work with the egg. There is a little mayo in there, some butter and interestingly some vinegar (and mustard). Nice little garnish of chives and paprika, all looking good.

Second is a deviled egg with a tuna based filling from Sweet Potato Chronicles. Tuna is lovely and works great with eggs. Only concern is it will be a little bit too much like filling the eggs with tuna salad. This recipe has a lot more mayo than the horseradish one and some extra Greek yogurt to boot. 

Finally the dark horse, Thai Spiced Deviled Eggs by Yinmomyangmom. No mayo here, just coconut milk and lime juice to moisten the yolk. Spiced with Thai red curry and optional hot sauce. Will this work? I don't know but I sure am going to try. 



Get Cooking

Scaling down the recipes to work with 4 eggs each was slightly awkward (1/6 th of a cup, 1/8 th of a teaspoon) but ended up working out fine. Instead of regular peeling, I had my brother using this little internet trick where you make a small hole at the narrow end of the egg, a wide hole at the wide end and blow the egg out of its shell. Works best when the eggs are not extremely fresh.


A little bit of chopping, and a lot of mixing later all three fillings are ready to be piped into the eggs. Because of the sheer amount of mayo and yogurt the tuna filling ends up being much more in volume than the other two so I can fill the eggs very generously. The other two fillings, especially the Thai appear much much dryer and more scarce in contrast. But all of them piped pretty well (though you have no hope of that real 70's star piping with the tuna).



Tasting

After some finishing touches the deviled eggs were ready to taste. All three were very nice. The horseradish was interesting. It used only a millifraction of the amount of horseradish I like to plonk into my mackerel pate. But the combination of the white wine vinegar and the Dijon mustard amplified the horseradish very effectively. Refreshing is perhaps not a word intricately linked with a deviled egg but this egg would be perfect as a little palette cleanser. 

The tuna egg was a lovely surprise, the egg yolk makes sure the filling is a real deviled egg filling and not just something you spread on your sandwich. The shallots and garlic are subtle but flavour enhancing and the yogurt keeps the whole thing fresh and light. The only downside perhaps is that the grayish tuna colour isn't the most appetizing. 

The Thai egg was the most unusual but actually worked really well. The filling wasn't dry as I feared and the coconut and chilli were not overwhelming. Biggest plus of this egg was the peanut garnish which provided a very welcome and tasty crunch. 





The Winner



The unanimous winner according to everyone who tasted was .....drum-roll..... the tuna based deviled egg from Sweet Potato Chronicles!  Its just a really really tasty, moist, and generously filled egg that will be eaten within a heartbeat when served at a party. 

Shared second are the Thai deviled egg and the horseradish egg. Here the tasters were divided , some preferred the spiciness of the one and some the tangy fresh heat of the other. 



I quite like the idea of testing three related recipes from the blogosphere , weekly or biweekly. So if you don't mind having your recipe tested do connect with me via Facebook, twitter, tumblr, pinterest and the comments to see which recipe I'll be testing next. (I think it might be American pancakes.)