Monday, 17 January 2011

Apricot and meringue cake

Today it was my turn to bake for the cake club at work. We take turns bringing in cakes, it's an easy way of making a boring Monday slightly better. Belonging to a cake club makes me feel a bit... old? It's not very rebellious at least. Maybe it is time to admit that I'm 35, and the most exciting thing happening on Monday is not a cool gig anymore, it is being treated to a piece of cake.

Whatever reason you've got to make a cake, you should make this golden cake. It's got a light sponge, filled with apricot compote, and topped with meringue. It was best at the day of making it, as the meringue was still a bit crunchy. It was still good today at the cake club, but then the meringue was more like a soft marshmallow fluff.

The apricot compote is also great spread on toast or with a croissant. Or maybe on porridge or in yoghurt if you want to be a bit more healthy. But in that case, maybe you shouldn't be reading cake recipes :)

Apricot and meringue cake
5 egg yolks
175 g butter
2 dl sugar
2 cm fresh ginger, grated
zest from 1 lemon
1.5 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp milk
1.5 dl flour

5 egg whites
2 dl sugar
2 tbsp ground almond
1 dl chopped blanched almonds (or use flaked almond, I was going to but forgot to buy it and therefore used chopped almonds instead)

Apricot compote
250 g dried apricots
juice from 1 lemon
1 dl water

Preheat the oven to 175C.

Butter and bread a 30 x 20 cm rectangular cake tin, or a 24 cm round cake tin.

Stir sugar and butter together until smooth, then add the egg yolks one at the time

Stir in lemon zest, ginger, baking powder and milk.

Finally add the flour and stir until you've got a smooth batter

Pour the batter into the cake tin.

Make the meringue by first beating the egg whites until stiff.

Then add the sugar and whisk for a couple more minutes

Cover the cake batter with the meringue topping. You might not need all of the meringue, you want around a 3 cm uneven layer

Sprinkle the cake with ground almond and chopped almonds

Bake for 20-30C, or until the meringue has settled and the cake is done.

Leave the cake to cool.

While the cake is baking, make the apricot compote.

Add apricots, lemon juice and water to a pot.

Simmer whilst stirring on low heat until you have a smooth glossy compote (takes around 10-15 min). If necessary add more water if the compote starts to get dry while you cook it.

Let the compote cool.

Divide the cake into two halves

Cover the bottom one with the apricot compote and then sandwich the two together

Rhubarb mousse

I'm not a big dessert person, I usually prefer salty and savoury dishes. I think that's why I love rhubarb, that fresh tartness make dessert and cakes less sweet. Another reason to love rhubarb is that it is one of the first signs that spring is on it is way, and that early forced rhubarb also has an amazing pink colour.

I was so happy when I found rhubarb at Borough market last Saturday. I love classics like rhubarb crumble, or rhubarb cake with almonds, but with this young and pink rhubarb I wanted to do a light dessert that kept the beautiful colour.

Rhubarb mousse (4 portions)
5 thin stalks of rhubarb (around 500 g), chopped
1 dl sugar
2 cm fresh ginger, grated
1 lemon, zest and juice
1-2 tsp honey
2 dl creme fraiche
1 dl whipping cream, whipped
6-8 shortbread biscuits, broken into crumbs (I used my favourite lemon shortbread biscuits made by Duchy)

Add the rhubarb, sugar, ginger and lemon juice to a pot and cook on medium heat for 5 min, stirring occasionally

Simmer for a couple of more minutes until you've got a nice smooth compote. Leave to chill.

Whip the cream, add the creme fraiche, honey and lemon zest, and whip until smooth.

Fold in the rhubarb compote until you got a luscious light and pink mousse.

Divide the mousse into bowls or glasses and leave to set in the fridge until serving.

Break the biscuits into crumbs. This is easiest done by putting the biscuits in a small plastic bag and bash it with a rolling pin.

Sprinkle the biscuits crumbs on top of the mousse before serving.

Fried herring (strömmingsflundror) with potato mash and fennel salad

Fried herring (strömmingsflundror) with potato mash is one of my favourite traditional Swedish dishes. Herring is called strömming or sill in Swedish. The difference is that strömming is fished in the Baltic sea on the east coast of Sweden and sill on the west coast. In my mind strömming is also usually smaller than sill, don't know if that's actually true. If you have small herrings, when you fillet the fish you keep the two fillets connected and don't divide them along the backbone, this is what makes it a strömmingsflundra.

Herring is eaten in many different forms in Sweden, fried, pickled, cured and fermented. I like some pickled herring at Christmas, Easter or midsummer, but otherwise my favourite is having it fried or fermented. The fermented one is not for everyone, when you open a can you can smell it a mile away. But eaten outdoors in August, with almond potatoes, crispbread, onions, and washed down with an ice-cold schnapps, it is a real treat.

Although herring is fished around the UK, I've never seen it in any of the usual supermarkets (except as roll mops or smoked), so on Saturday I went to Borough market. I love food markets, and although Borough market can get really crowded, at 10 in the morning it was fairly empty. One of the fish stands had herrings, albeit quite a bit larger than I would have liked. Once the main ingredient was sorted and I picked up some veg, bread, cheese, and beautiful pink forced rhubarb for dessert, it was time to indulge by downing a couple of oysters and having a couple of fried scallops. Heavenly.

I served the herrings with potato mash (recipe not included, I'm sure you already know how to make a potato mash) and a fennel salad with ruby grapefruit. As the herrings are quite a rich fish (and even more so with buttery mash and a little clarified butter at serving), I like something with a bit of acidity and bite to complement it.

Fried herring with potato mash and fennel salad (4 portions)
24 small herrings or 0.8 kg herring fillets
bread crumbs or oat meal
1 bunch of fresh dill, finely chopped
1 bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
120 g butter
salt and pepper
butter or oil

Get your fishmonger to fillet the fish unless you got a good sharp knife (I regrettably don't have a very good one anymore). If you have small herrings, it's not a problem that a lot of the small bones is still there when you eat it, but as I found out this time, if you have larger herrings you might want to try to remove more of the bones prior to cooking them or you'll spend the entire meal picking out the bones.

Dip the skin side of the herrings in breadcrumbs or oatmeal, and place on a tray. Sprinkle the meat side with salt and pepper.

Mix the finely chopped herbs with butter, and cover the meat side of half of the herrings. Add another herring fillet with the meat side down on top (like you're making a fish sandwich with the herb butter in the middle)

Fry the herrings on medium heat in butter or oil in a frying pan until golden on both sides and the fish is cooked.

Serve with potato mash, a little additional melted and clarified butter to pour over, lemon wedges and fennel salad

Fennel and grapefruit salad (4 portions)
2 ruby grapefruit, peeled and segmented
1 head of fennel, very thinly sliced
0.5 red onion, finely chopped
200 g salad leaves like spinach
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp coarse mustard
1 tsp honey
1 tsp olive oil
pinch of salt
pinch of black pepper

First make the salad dressing by mixing lemon juice, mustard, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper

Add grapefruit, fennel, red onion and salad leaves to a bowl. Dress the salad.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Chicken stew with wild mushrooms and herb roasted potato wedges

Growing up I hated to go out picking mushrooms and berries in the forest. I couldn't think of anything more boring. The fact that I would usually get lost as well didn't help. Still, to have a freezer full of treasures like chanterelles is an amazing thing. When I came back from Sweden after Christmas I got lots of chanterelles from my mum. My grandmother makes an amazing chicken stew with chanterelles and morels that inspired this recipe.

If you're not lucky enough to have a mum giving you wild mushrooms, you can find canned and dried wild mushrooms in well-stocked grocery stores and delicatessen. The great cafe/store Scandinavian kitchen on Great Titchfield street usually also have canned chanterelles. If you haven't been there, I really recommend it. They've got the sweetest staff, and always have lots of tasty Scandinavian sandwiches and cakes. I have to admit though that I mostly go there to feed my addiction to salty liquorice...

Chicken stew with wild mushrooms and herb roasted potato wedges (4 portions)
400 g chicken fillets, cut in 2 x 2 cubes
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200 g smoked bacon, finely chopped
200 g frozen black chanterelles (thanks mum!)
200 g chanterelles, canned
200 g morels, canned
5 juniper berries, crushed
1 tbsp blackcurrant jelly or jam
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 dl half-fat creme fraiche
2 dl milk
olive oil
salt and pepper

Herb roasted potato wedges
1 kg potatoes, peeled and cut in wedges
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp coarse salt
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tsp black pepper
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200-225C.

Add the potato wedges to a large oven tray, drizzle with olive oil.

Add the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and mix so that the wedges are covered by oil and spices.

Roast in the oven for 20-30 min. After 10 -15 min, turn the potato wedges to make sure they'll get nice and golden on all sides.

While the potatoes are roasting, make the chicken stew.

Add the chicken to a frying pan, add salt and pepper and brown the chicken

Saute onions, garlic and bacon for a couple of minutes in a large pot.

Add the mushrooms and fry for a couple of more minutes before adding all the other ingredients including the chicken.

Cook on medium heat for 15-20 min.

Add soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste.

Broccoli soup with chili omelette

This is a very easy soup, with a beautiful light green colour that almost feel a bit like spring. I made this soup after a long walk on Hampstead heath in glorious sunshine. There are times I really question why I moved to London, but then there are days like this past Sunday, when it's 10C and sunshine and green grass in January, and you can walk up to Parliament hill and see the amazing view of one of the greatest cities in the world, when I really remember why I love London so much.

Anyhow, the combination of broccoli, garlic and nutmeg in this soup is a classic, and it's lovely with an addition of a strong cheese like Stilton or Parmesan, but I wanted to give a bit of a twist. If you're a chili fiend like me, you want to add that kick to almost everything, here I added into an omelette topping and also sprinkled a little extra on top.

Broccoli soup with chili omelette (4-5 portions)
2 heads of broccoli, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cubes of chicken or vegetable stock
1 dl half-fat creme fraiche
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper

Saute the onions and garlic for a couple of minutes in large pot on medium heat. Add the broccoli and barely cover the vegetables with water and add the stock.

Cook for 10-15 min until the broccoli just become soft. Pour of half of the water into a container

Blend the soup, and add the creme fraiche. If necessary add more of the reserved cooking water.

Add grated nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. I think I added around 0.5 tsp nutmeg, how much to add is really a question on your view on nutmeg. My dad hates it, but I quite like it.

Chili omelette
4 eggs
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1-2 red chillies, finely chopped
5 spring onions, finely chopped
oil or butter

Beat the eggs with the water and soy sauce.

Fry the spring onions and chili for a couple of minutes in a frying pan on high heat.

Add the eggs and cook the omelette until golden on both sides.

Cut the omelette in strips and add to the soup.

If you like, sprinkle some additional chili and spring onions onto the soup.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Corn and blueberry pancakes/fritters with bacon

I had a great start to the weekend, first I went for a run at my new gym (yeah, exercise is another new years resolution...) and then I made these corn and blueberry fritters for brunch whilst watching my favourite weekend TV show, Saturday kitchen live. These fritters/pancakes were inspired by a visit to Providores , a fantastic tapas and brunch restaurant in Marylebone. After reading lots of reviews raving about their brunch, I went there together with my sister and brother-in-law last year. We went there early, and that was lucky because 5 min after they've opened the door, the place was crammed. Anyhow, there I had a similar dish and I loved it. I already do make quite a lot of corn fritters (usually for lunch or dinner, with chili and spring onions added to the batter instead of blueberries), I love sweet corn in most forms. The exception is probably in ice cream. I tried it in Vietnam, where another popular flavour is new/green rice, and to me it was a bit weird.

I had the corn and blueberry pancakes with crispy smoked bacon and some watercress, spinach and rocket salad, and a raspberry smoothie. Bliss.

Have a great weekend everyone, and if you read and enjoy the blog, please leave a comment. I had a look at the blog stats, and was happily surprised to see that there are people from all over the world that have visited the blog, and a lot more views than I expected. So don't be shy, say hi, and let me know what you think of the recipes.

Corn and blueberry pancakes/fritters with bacon (4 portions)
300 g corn (I used canned corn, but you can use fresh and boil the kernels before use)
2 dl flour
0.5 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 dl sour cream
300 g fresh or frozen blueberries (I used the fresh ones, if you use frozen the fritters will become more blue in colour as the frozen berries tend to bleed more juices into the mix)

Blend the corn into a coarse mash

Stir flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the eggs and sour cream and stir together

Add the corn mash to the batter and stir until smooth.

Add the blueberries and carefully fold them into the batter.

Melt butter in a large frying pan and drop large spoonfuls of batter into the pan. Fry the fritters until golden on both sides.

Serve with crispy bacon and salad. A mango salsa with fresh mango, tomatoes and spring onions would be nice too.

Raspberry smoothie (2 glasses)
1 dl frozen or fresh raspberries
2 oranges, juiced
1 red grapefruit, juiced

Blend the fruit juices with the raspberries. This smoothie is a bit sour and bitter, if you got a sweet tooth, use just oranges.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Salmon fish cakes with beetroot salad

I had a food production day the other day. I try to bring in lunch every day at work, and I don't really have the time and energy to cook something new every night for my lunch, so I do mass production instead. To not get bored with eating the same thing for weeks, I try to make a couple of different dishes, preferably food that can be easily varied. I do a lot of different fish cakes, and chicken or lamb burgers, because then I can freeze them in portions and eat with different types of salads, roasted vegetables, in bread, with pasta...

As almost everyone I know, I have vowed to try to be healthier this year (no more pizza for me...). One thing that is very healthy, easy to make, tasty, and dirt cheap, is salads with grated root vegetables. This type of salad is one of my staple foods during the winter, and is easy to vary by additions of nuts, chili, herbs, and fruits. A larger batch will survive for 2-3 days in the fridge. The addition of fruit juices keeps it nice and moist, and makes it unnecessary to add any sauce to the fish cakes. The only negative thing is doing all the grating, I recommend investing in a food processor. It saves time and your knuckles.

Salmon fish cakes (4-5 portions)
400 g salmon, skin and boneless
0.5 dl salt
0.5 dl sugar
2 potatoes, boiled and mashed
0.5 red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp grainy mustard
1-2 tbsp capers
l lemon, juice and zest
salt and pepper

I like to first cure the salmon for 20-30 min, I think it improves the texture and taste. Rub in the mixture of salt and sugar on both sides of the fish and let it rest for 20-30 min in room temperature or in the fridge.

Fry the fish in a hot pan and let it cool.

Mash up the fish and mix together with potatoes, onion, capers, mustard and lemon. Taste, and add pepper and salt.

Form small fish cakes and fry on both sides in a hot pan until golden.

Grated beetroot salad (2 large portions)
4 medium-sized carrots, grated
2 large beetroots, grated
2 apples, grated
3 spring onions, finely chopped,
1 orange, juice
1 lime, zest and juice
1 chili, finely chopped
1 tsp honey
salt and pepper, a pinch of each

Mix everything together and let stand for 10-15 min before serving to let the flavours blend.

Curried parsnip soup with apples and chickpeas

I know that is not that long ago since I posted a recipe for parsnip soup, but I love parsnips so here is different one. That parsnips are very cheap at the moment is also a bonus if you like me need to save a bit of money.

Curried parsnip soup with apples and chickpeas (4 portions)
1 kg parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 large leek, white part finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried marjoram
0.5 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp mild curry
1 tbsp honey
a pinch of chili flakes
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cubes of chicken or vegetable stock
1-2 dl of half-fat creme fraiche or single cream
olive oil
salt and pepper

2 apples, chopped
1 can of chickpeas
1/2 large leek, green part finely chopped
2 tsp mild curry powder
juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper

Saute the yellow onion, white part of the leek and garlic on medium heat together with the spices for a couple of minutes.

Add the parsnips, vinegar and honey and saute for a couple of more minutes.

Add stock cubes and cover with water. Cook for around 15 min until the parsnips are soft.

Blend the soup until smooth and add creme fraiche or cream. Also add more water if necessary.

Add salt and pepper to taste. The soup should be mild and delicate.

Drain the chickpeas and fry together with apples, the sliced green part of the leek and curry for a couple of minutes in a little oil. Squeeze over lemon and add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Serve the soup topped with the curried apples, chickpeas and leeks.

Happy new year!

Above is a picture of one of the fantastic courses served at my sister's husband's birthday/their wedding. This is by far one of the most memorable meals from 2010, for many reasons, gorgeous food, family, fun, it can't get much better. I hope that 2011 will bring even more fantastic meals and occasions.

So sorry for the lack of posts during December, I've been ill. busy at work, and when I've been cooking it hasn't been very successful. Never have I burnt so much in our oven as during the past month... Luckily I managed to get home to Sweden for Christmas and gorge myself on all my favourite Swedish food like sour milk (instead of yoghurt for breakfast), Swedish cheeses, deer and reindeer, and of course my beloved salty liquorice, for a week. I also managed to eat this:

Swedish pizza!!! Yeah, I know, might sound weird to be excited by pizza in Sweden as it's not exactly a Swedish dish.... There is a lot of immigrants from former Yugoslavia in Sweden, and for some reason many opened pizza restaurants. There is lot of crazy combinations (peanuts and banana anyone?), and you can find a pizzeria almost everywhere you go. I always have to have at least one when I go home, the one above is one of my favourites with prawns, ham, peppers and curry. Truth be told I don't love just Swedish pizza, I love almost all pizza. What a brilliant idea, take thin bread, add everything nice and cover with cheese, it can't get much better!

Anyhow, as we've now started a new year, I think it is appropriate for me to give a couple of food blogging new years resolution.

First, I will cook more and try to update the blog twice a week.

Secondly, I will try to also write about the food I eat when I go out. There are so many great places to eat in London, and I really should try more. The greatest problem is usually trying to remember to take a picture of the food before I eat it..., a difficult task when you're hungry and greedy :)

Finally, have a happy 2011 and hope you all will have time to enjoy more meals with great company!