Category: day-to-day

Baking Bagels

Baking Bagels

This weekend was a true bagel baking weekend. Two recipes, one success 🙂

I have added the recipe to my baking page.

Here are a couple more photos of the bagel adventure – including comparison of a successful and a failed bagel 😉 but then failures lead to successes, also with bagels, it seems:

 

 

Pasta in different shapes and forms

Pasta in different shapes and forms

Recently Alex and myself have been exploring the exciting world of pasta in different shapes and forms. We have now made Taglietelle, Ravioli, Tortellini, Cavatelli as well as Chinese Wontons. I thought i would share the results of our experimentation with you. Please be patient, as upto now we have just experimented with different dough, filling and wrapping techniques. Also, we have only tried a limited number of filling types so far. As we experiment more, we will add more specific recipes here.

For Taglietelle, Ravioli and Tortellini, we always use the same dough recipe. It is an egg based dough and you can find the recipe we use here.

In the above linked recipe, it says you should place the heap of flour on the work surface, make a well and then place the eggs in the middle. Then you are meant to gradually incorporate the flour into the egg while mixing with your fingers. I did it the first few times I made this dough and it does work nicely. It helps to create the smooth dough, although you have to be careful you don’t break the flour barrier, ending up with the egg flowing out all over the worksurface and onto the floor 😉 I must admit, I have also made this dough in the standard way in a stand mixer and it was a less messy and more straight forward. The result was the same really for us. Therefore, please don’t get discouraged by the messy option and do it however you find it easiest. 

The key rather is to knead it for a long time. I usually knead for minimum 15 minutes as it says, or even longer. You should knead it until you can stretch the dough very thinly with your fingers without breaking through it. Really, it is worth it!

Once you have made the dough, you can have fun and make it into Spaghetti, Taglietelle, Lasagne, Ravioli, Tortellini….just have some fun 🙂 We do recommend to get a past rolling machine as the past dough is rather elastic and difficult to hand roll.

For Taglietelle:

  • Take pieces of the pasta dough and roll out into sheets using the pasta roller.  You need to start with the thickest setting and then keep rolling the dough sheet through, each time using a thinner setting until you reach the desired thickness of your pasta (we have 7 thickness settings on our pasta maker and usually go to setting 4 for Taglietelle – roll it to whatever thickness you like though).
  • Then, use the Taglietelle cutting portion of the pasta roller to cut your Taglietelle.
  • After cutting, we usually hang the Taglietelle on a clothes horse to allow them to dry. This is better than laying them out on the surface, as then they don’t stick and you also save some space.

For Taglietelle, we usually make a really simple tomato based seafood sauce. For this, we buy some prawns (ideally uncooked prawns) in their shells and use the shells to make a lovely intense seafood stock:

  • Shell the prawns, keeping the shells. You can place the shelled prawns in the fridge while preparing the sauce.
  • Place the shells in a baking tray and roast in the oven at 220 degrees C for around 15 minutes – this really intensifies the flavours.
  • Afterwards, place the roasted prawn shells in a saucepan and cover with hot water. We usually also then add a pinch of saffron, some salt and pepper, the green fluffy ends of a fennel bulb, a bit of a celery stalk, bay leaf.
  • Leave the prawn stock to simmer gently for about 1 hour. Then you can remove the shells and boil the stock to reduce it to a small volume. It should be very intense.
  • Then, use the stock to prepare your sauce. We make a tomato based sauce with onions, garlic, tinned tomatoes, prawn stock (add however much you like to get the desired prawn flavour in your sauce – we usally like quite an intense flavour but some people may like it more subtle. The prawn stock can also be frozen, so don’t worry about not using up all).
  • Once the sauce is ready, you can place the fresh Taglietelle in boiling water and cook for around 5 minutes. Test the pasta while it is cooking as you may prefer it more or less al dente. We tend to always prefer our pasta more al dente.
  • While the past is cooking, fry the prawns on a hot pan with some butter, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and a little salt for seasoning.
  • To serve, place the Taglietelle on a pre-heated plate and top with the sauce and prawns. Finish off with shavings of parmesan!

For Ravioli

  • Same as for Taglietelle, you need to roll the pasta dough into sheets. The sheets need to be thinner than ones you roll when you are making Taglietelle (we usually roll the sheets to setting 5 on our pasta roller which has a total of 7 thickness settings – you can test the rolling with one small dough piece and then take it from there. Just remember you will be folding the pasta in half to make tortellini and using two sheets on top of eachother to make raviolli – so do roll the dough thin enough).
  • Once you have rolled out the dough sheets:
    1. Place the sheet of pasta on a well floured surface and place small portions of whatever filling you are using at regular intervals along the whole sheet of dough, leaving at last 1 cm space around the edge. 
    2. Note: You want to make sure your filling is not too wet. So far, we particularly liked Ravioli filled with caramelized red onion and Gruyere cheese. Very easy to make just by chopping onions finely and caramelizing them on medium in a saucepan with some brown sugar and balsamic vinegar for around 30 minutes until nicely browned. Then just add copious amounts of Gruyere cheese 🙂 or goats cheese would work well too.
    3. Depending on how wide your pasta sheet is, you may be able to portion out the filling over two rows on the same pasta sheet. 
    4. Finish by gently placing another same sized pasta sheet on top, pressing down in between to seal in the filling portions.
    5. Make sure to press out the air before sealing the filling completely, otherwise the Ravioli may expand and burst when cooking. 
    6. Once you have done this, you can cut out squares or circles with a cookie cutter around the enclosed filling to end up with square or circular Ravioli. Just make sure the edges are pressed together nicely once you have cut them, so the filling doesn’t spill out.
    7. For cooking, just boil some water with salt in a pan. Once boiling, tip in the ravioli and cook for 4-6 minutes, depending on how al dente you like them. You just need to test one during the cooking to see when they are ready.
    8. We just ate our Ravioli with some chopped rocket leaves, cheese shavings and a glug of nice olive oil. And yes, of course some parmesan shavings!

For Tortellini:

  • We roll the dough to setting 5 on our pasta maker.
  • Cut circles out with a cookie cutter. We usually cut circles of around 9cm in diameter.
  • Place portions of filling in the middle (again, don’t use too wet a filling: I must admit, again we just stuck to a very simple filling of caramelized onion and cheese…such as Emmental or Gruyere…can’t go wrong there. Although I think I will try a pumpin based filling next).
  • Once you have placed the filling in the centre of each dough circle, fold each dough circle in half, encasing the filling, and press the edges together; making sure to press out all air prior to sealing completely.
  • Once you have your half moon shaped filled pasta, take the two corners, bring them together and press together to finish your tortellinis.
  • Don’t use water to try and wet the dough to help it to stick. That doesn’t work and just ends up with sticky mess. Rather press the dough corners together very firmly. You can fold the dough corners over eachother a little as well and keep pressing. You will see, it will work.
  • We cook the Tortellini around 4-6 minutes until al dente and then top with a glug of olive oil, some chopped herbs (e.g. parsly, rocket, red beetroot leaves…) and finished with shavings of parmesan. Just simple. 

For Wontons

  • I used this recipe to make the Wonton dough.
  • Compared to what it says in the above recipe, I used the pasta roller to roll the Wonton dough – this was so much easier than hand rolling the dough to the thin sheet required! I just kept using thinner and thinner settings on the pasta roller. I went to setting 5/6 on our pasta roller. You will see how it goes while rolling and easily identify when you can’t roll it any thinner without making holes in it. It does need to be thin however, so don’t be tempted to leave them too thick.
  • As said in the above recipe, use corn starch instead of flour on your worksurface when rolling the dough and making the Wontons. This will prevent the dough from sticking but will not make the dough tough.
  • For the Wonton filling, as well as the broth and chilli oil to go with the wontons, I used this recipe here but used about double amount of ginger and also added a tablespoon of sake and a tablespoon of sesame oil. You can basically experiment and add flavours as you enjoy them. I particularly like the sesame oil flavour.
  • For folding the Wontons, I just did the same as I do for making tortellini. I know this is not the traditional way but upto now that is what I did and they were delicious. Next time I will take a look at proper Wonton wrapping techniques and try them out.

For Cavatelli

For shaped pasta like Cavatelli, it is common to use a semolina based flour to give it more texture and make the pasta easier to shape. I looked around a little for recipes and found that generally, the following is the consensus for ingredients:

200 grams semolina
25 grams regular flour
pinch of salt
125 grams warm water

Just mix the ingredients together and knead until you have a really smooth, springy dough. At the beginning, the dough was rather inflexible and kept breaking. The more you knead it, the more it stretches nicely. I kneaded for around 20 minutes. Still I was not certain then whether the dough was right as it still wouldn’t stretch that easily without breaking. However, I just carried on and placed it into the fridge to rest for an hour. You can leave it for longer as well if you like.

Then, Alex found this very mesmerizing video on how to make different pasta shapes…it is rather addictive to watch! The first shape the guy talks about is Cavatelli. Have a look and try. It was quite simple. Just need to get the right pressure on the dough piece and foward moving motion to get the Cavatelli shapes right. And the dough was perfect, springy and smooth. So the kneading before had worked fine!

We ate our Cavatelli with a tomato based ragu with some goat sausage.

 

All about brioches

All about brioches

This weekend I revisited an older recipe, adapted from a Tom Kitchin recipe (Michelin star chef in Edinburgh): brioche buns with olive and sun dried tomato filling. Tom Kitchin’s recipe uses mushrooms but we prefer the olive and sun dried tomato filling. The brioche dough is so buttery, the buns end up incredibly soft, fluffy and melt in the mouth….mmmmm 😉 See here the recipe I posted a few years ago already (5th recipe as you scroll down on the this page:

Today I made these buns once more and Alex suggested I could also try making them with a cinnamon filling.  I used approximately 1/4 of the brioche dough as described in the recipe above. I made up the filling myself so can not completely precisely specify the quantities but it was approximately as follows:

  • 7 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 4 large knobs of butter
  • 5 heaped teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons dark muscavado sugar

Place all the above ingredients into a small saucepan and heat until melted and well combined. If the mixture is too thick, add some more syrup and butter. The consistency should be quite runny and as it cools down it will become more sticky and thick. Follow the savoury brioche recipe above to assemble the brioche rolls, using around 2/3 of the cinnamon mixture as the filling. Be aware that you need to spread the cinnamon mixture on the brioche dough while the mixture is still warm as otherwise it is really thick and difficult to spread. After 15 minutes baking in a muffin tray, place them into a small oven proof dish, tightly next to eachother and spread the remainig cinnamon syrup mixture on top, baking again until hot and sticky. Perfect eaten with a cup of coffee for afternoon tea 🙂

Spring is in the air

Spring is in the air

Spring has definitely arrived – the sunshine, the crisp cool air, the sprouting plants….this tempted us out onto the balcony to tidy it up for the 2019 growing season. Pots needed to be filled, others topped up and some first plants planted….and of course the grilling season had to be initiated with the first BBQ in the 19 degree March sunshine 🙂

Apart from tidying the balcony, we also started sowing seeds. See below an overview of what we have decided to grow. Seeds already germinating are indicated by an asterisk:

After many years of trying out our luck with different varieties of tomatoes and cucumbers we are focusing this year on the ones which gave us the largest crops in the past:

  • Tomato Red Berry*
  • Cucumber F1 Louisa*

A few years ago we had a bumper year of growing a large variety of chillies. It was exciting, colourful and spicy 😉 Last year we had some troubles with young chilli plants being destroyed by green flies (aphids). This year we decided to try again and will take extra care of our chilli plants to try and obtain as large a crop as few years ago. We are trying out a variety of chillies with colourful flowers and fruits:

  • Serrano Purple*, a Mexican chilli variety with stunning purple flowers and chillies ripening from green to purpe to red…apparently good flavour and gentle heat
  • Royal Black* for its intriguing dark purple/black  foliage and hot chillies
  • Chinese Hangijao 5* and Hangijao 8, so called ‘space chillies’ as they apparently originate from seeds shot into space, which caused gene mutations leading to extra large chillies. I’m not sure at the moment how true this is – will need to try and find some scientific literature before I believe it 😉
  • Scotch Bonnet Tabago, flavoursome and can be spicy, depending on the environmental conditions during growth.
  • Mushroom Yellow* with bright yellow chillies
  • 7 Pot Brainstrain Red* with funky brain like appearance
  • Habanero Chocolate, which we grew a few years ago, producing very spicy chillies. Watch out! 😉
  • Numex Centennial with purple and red chillies
  • Bolivian Rainbow with multicoloured chillies leading to rainbow like plants

Then we are also sowing some aubergine seeds – these are new vareities we haven’t tried in the past:

  • Aubergine Farmers Long*
  • Aubergine Ping Tung

…and a plant hugely successful on our balcony last year will also have a space on our balcony this year:

  • Red Malabar Spinach, a stunning vine with succulent spinach like leaves. If grown in full sun, the leaves are small, tender and sweet. If grown in shade it produces bigger more succulent leaves. Excellent in salads and also wilted down.

New to our balcony this year will be a large variety of edible leaves. Salads can just be wonderful with a mixture of different leaves and herbs. People often dismiss salad. It is boring and tasteless they say…not true! Just putting in a little effort with a mix of leaves and a nice dressing and some cheese on top makes just the difference. Just be inspired:

  • Mizuna F1 Red Empire, an oriental green with dark red leaves
  • Celery Leaf Red Soup, a red celery variety
  • Herb Coriander Calypso, the first cut and come-again, slow bolting coriander originating bred in the UK
  • Herb Coriander Confetti, carrot-like foliage with a sweet coriander taste
  • Mustard Red Carpet, baby leaf mustard with striking red colour
  • Herb Ice Plant, for adding texture to salads
  • Sweetcorn Shoots F1 Royalty which, germinated and grown in the dark, are sweet and tender
  • Komatsuna F1 Comred, baby leaves with green stems and red leaves

 

 

Indian food adventure

Indian food adventure

It is high time for me to write a post. Not much is going on yet on the balcony this year, but we have been very busy in the kitchen over the last months. We have mostly been perfecting the Indian curry feast. Make all the below and you are bound to have the most amazing flavour experience:

We had made curries before, however, recently Alex has really perfected them… with one key trick: blending the curry sauce at the end makes the most beautiful silky curry sauce. Blending the sauce also produces a much more consistent flavour throughout the curry. Thanks go to the author (Nagi) of another website who led us to our curry making breakthrough. Thank you! We attempted Nagi’s Chicken Tikka Masala and it was just excellent. The only adaptation we made was to slow cook the chicken longer in the blended sauce – leading to very tender chicken. I have listed this recipe (with reference to Nagi as the author) on the mains page of my website for our own records. We usethis recipe now as basis for any curry we make, just changing the spices to make different curries also with different meats. We have now also made Lamb Rogan Josh and Chicken Korma. I will put the spice combinations for these curries on my website as well in due course. Just watch out on the mains page.

To go with the curry, we make home made naan breads – there are many different naan bread recipes on line but the best so far in our opinion is this one. We make the naans almost entirely according to this recipe, just increasing the dough rising time (around 3 h until the dough has trippled in size). This of course depends on the yeast type and also the room temperature. Also, instead of garlic, we usually spread plain butter on the naans and sprinkle them with course sea salt and dry coriander. Perfect accompaniment to the curry above. I have listed this recipe on the baking page of my website for our own records and to include the steps we have adapted.

We have also had fun making Paneer cheese recently. Can’t quite believe how easy it is and much much better tasting than shop bough paneer cheese. One example where the effort to make it yourself definitely pays off! I can’t really reference one single source for this recipe as there are many very similar ones online. Very simple with just milk, lemon juice and salt as ingredients! The difference between recipes online is just the exact amount of lemon juice and salt.  I have listed the quantities, steps and tricks we use on the mains page of my website. We usually use the paneer cheese to make our version of Saag Paneer: paneer cheese marinated in spices and cooked with spinach.

Jungle in June :)

Jungle in June :)

I’m not going to write much. Just pop some photos up so you can appreciate what spring can bring on a balcony! I go out in the morning and in the evening and it is just a beautiful place to sit and relax.

Apart from encouraging whoever has time and a little outside space to grow the standard things (tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines) this year I hope to be able to give you some insight into growing some new tropical plants:

Tomatillo

Cucumis Anguria Gherkin

Coccinia Grandis Ivy Gourd

Let’s see, but for now here are some photos:

The ‘Straussenwirtschaft’

The ‘Straussenwirtschaft’

It is about time to introduce something very popular for locals and tourists in our area of Germany.

The so called ‘Straussenwirtschaften’ (Strauße, Straußior you may also hear people calling them ‘Besenwirstchaften’ are pop up restaurants (often in a barn, a living room or any other make-shift restaurant area) in Spring as well as in Autumn, serving their own wine and local food. The word ‘Strauße’ comes from the fact that in old times people would tidy up their living room and then hang out a bouquet or a wreath to signal to people the opening of the pop up restaurant.

Straußen‘ do not count as a proper gastronomic businesses, meaning they do not need a licence nor pay extra tax. However, they are subject to some regulation. One has to say though that different regions in Germany have slightly different laws regarding the Straußen. The most common laws are:

  • They are only allowed to open 4 months per year
  • They are only allowed to have a maximum of 40 sitting places. This is somewhat interesting though because there is no law to say how many people are allowed to squeeze on one bench or stand around on the premises 😉 therefore feel free to loiter around on the premises of a Strauße, without sitting down ;).
  • The third main rule is that the Straußen have to sell mostly their own produce (wine and food). One owner of a Strauße told us 50% of what they sell has to be their own produce (this is mostly the wine and the also vegetables, cheese and sausage).

We really got into visiting a lot of these restaurants this Spring.  It is a way to enjoy local wine and food in a relaxed atmosphere.  The food served is simple (for example Flammkuchen, asparagus, cheese and meat platters, sausages) but most often very well prepared. Often there are sitting places outside, set amid vines. Could not be a better way to enjoy the warm Spring evenings!

We have found three Straußen in our area which we have been going to many times now and would recommend to people:

Berner’s Strausse, Mauchen

Weingut Wiesler, Staufen

Probst’s Strausse, Staufen (however, it must be said, this is the oldest Strausse in the Markgräflerland which has by now turned into an actual restaurant)

Therefore, if you ever come to the black forest area of Germany in Spring or Autumn, enjoy the countryside, wine and food by doing a tour of these pop up restaurants 🙂

 

New recipe!

New recipe!

Last week I was inspired by my mum’s baking and decided to make a cardamom and nutmeg 8-strand plaited bread. I am pretty pleased how it turned out and think anyone who reads this should attempt it too! 🙂

You can find the recipe here at the top of the baking page.

 

Enjoy!

Spring

Spring

Here, a few photographic impressions of our balcony:

Easy, scrumptious recipes

Easy, scrumptious recipes

I have had some time now to put up some recipes I have been meaning to share for a while. This selection of recipes really shows how exciting foods from different countries can be….also how easy it can be to create something amazingly tasty and good looking. The recipes include: 

Parsnip Soda Bread  on my ‘baking’ page

German Laugen Rolls, on my ‘baking’ page.

Roasted Aubergine Slices, topped with artichokes, anchovies and mint, on my ‘starters’ page.

Moroccan Chicken, Cinnamon and Almond Pastilla, on my ‘mains’ page.

Caramelized red onion, apricot and lemon couscous, on my ‘mains’ page

Hope some of you may enjoy these! More to follow for sure 🙂