Monday, 29 March 2010

Sin-namon Buns

It's been more than 10 years since I last had a cinnamon bun. I remember perfectly when I tried to make them. For some reason they didn't rise (I suspect that the yeast was from the back of my cupboard). As a result they were small, hard stones. I think I even managed to burn them to top it off. So I did a bit research to find out how to make the perfect cinnamon bun, and found most people agreed that a recipe from a well-known Danish cookery book was pretty awesome. So I tried it and this is the result:
2 dl milk
1 satchet of dried yeast
100 g of soft butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp ground cadamom
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp coarse salt
9 dl flour
150g very soft butter
1/2 dl white sugar
1/2 dl brown sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon

Start by heating the milk and butter up in the microwave oven until it's luke warm. Add the yeast. Stir and leave it for 10 minutes.
Add the sugar, salt and the ground cardamom.
Add the two eggs and mix well.

Add the flour. Mix it well and transfer it to a well-floured table. Knead it for some 10 minuts.

The dough should be so sticky that is sticks to the table, but at the same time you should be able to pull it clean off. Add too much flour and the dough will be heavy and dry.

Cover with a humid tea towel and leave to dry in warm place until the dough has doubled in size. I like to turn on the oven for a few minutes, then turn it off again and leave the dough there. After about 30-45 minutes, punch the dough down and let it rise a second time until double.

Meanwhile, mix the sugars with the cinnamon. Make sure your butter is rather soft.

Cut the dough in two. On a well-floured table, roll one half out to a square about 2/3 of a cm thick. Spread the butter over the surface (easiest done with a clean hand). Go all the way out to the edges. Sprinkle the suggars and cinnamon over the butter. Roll it into a sausage.

Cut the sausage into about 12-15 pieces.

Take the end and fold it in under the bun like the two buns on the right. Otherwise they might start undoing themselves while they bake. Press them down a bit.

Brush with egg wash (egg mixed with little water). Bake for about 12-15 minutes at 200ºC. Meanwhile, repeat the process with the second half of the dough.

I took them out when they still look sligtly undercooked. Put them on a cooling rack. If you like them a litte darker leave them a bit longer. But this way I can freeze them and defrost a couple, put them in the oven for a few minutes and have ready-made cinnamon buns whenever I fell like it.

To serve, I've made a simple sugar icing. Definitely worth waiting ten years for.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Dal, dhal, daal whichever way you want them

Once again I've dipped into my newly acquired Indian cookbook and tried out this recipe for dal, or lentil soup. Albeit a bit on the spicy side, it was very tasty so feel free to add a bit less chili:
225g red split lentils, washed
2 cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
4 black pepper corn
1 l. water
2.5 cm fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp butter
2 onions
3 tomatoes
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp hot chili powder (or less)
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp salt to taste
Fresh cilantro
Prep the ingredients.

Start by rinsing the lentils very carefully to get rid of any dirt and dust. Add them to a pot with the cinnamon, cloves and pepper corn. Bring it to a boil.

Once boiling, cut a cross at one end of your tomatoes and put them in the boiling water for 10 seconds. This will help you peel the skin off. Remove any foam on the lentils with a spoon. Cook partially covered for 25-30 minutes until soft but not yet falling apart.

Melt the butter. Add the mustard seed. When they start crackling, add the cumin seeds.

Fry the onion in the butter until golden brown.

While the onions are frying, finely chop or grate the garlic and ginger. Blend them with the tomatoes.

When the onions get some colour, add the tumeric, chili and garam masala. Fry for about a minute.

Pour in the tomatoes. Cook for a couple of minutes.

Then pour the tomatoes into the cooked lentils. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add a handful of fresh, chopped coriander. Serve with some naan bread or chapaties.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Simplest of Recipes - Fried Pineapple

Recently, BBC had an article on the rise of lazy food. Basically it's about the increase in sales of prepared vegetables such as peeled potatoes, diced onions or mixed salad in a bag. After reading it I thought about why people would make such short cuts. One part is probably because they have arthritis or similar limitation in their use of their hands. This group is pardoned, of course, but I doubt that illness alone counts for the 17-40% sales increase in a year. The argument is that peole don't have time to cook. Yet, the time spent at Internet or watching television at home is ridicolously high. Priorities, I say... And peeling a potato doesn't really take that long, now does it? Which leads me to why I think people are being lazy: I think they simply don't like getting their hands dirty. After all, when peeling a potato you might get soil under your nails, yuk! Or even worse, you'll get sticky fruit juice on your fingers, or god forbid, you'll have to wash a knife and cutting board. Seriously, if you can't prepare your own vegetables, what has the world come to. But for those few poor souls out there, for whom cooking is an ordeal, I offer my service with this simplest of simplest dessert. I've seen you can buy chunks of pineapple (although I sinned and bought a real one, with sticky leaves and all), and apart from that you just need Malibu (lazy cooks are probably drunks anyway) and a dollop of ice cream (again, sorry I made my own).

Fry your chunks of pineapple in a bit of butter on high heat. This can also be done on the grill, in which case you should probably use a whole slice.

Turn the pieces when golden brown. Fry for another minutes then add some Malibu or normal rum. Let it evaporate.

Serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Red Snapper with Rice

I love Indian cooking, there's no way around. The combinations of spices, sauces and generally healthy dishses (take-away not included) just seems to hit all the right notes. So almost a month ago, I ordered Gordon Ramsay's Great Escapes (click link to see/order it on Amazon), but it somehow got lost in the post and was delayed for a couple of weeks. Now it's finally here, and I can't wait to work and eat my way through it. I'll post this recipe here as a teaser and recommend you to check out the book if you are interested in Indian cooking. Although there is a recipe for lamb korma and butter chicken, the focus of the book is more on the traditional Indian cuisine rather than the standard take away. The first recipe that came to my attention was this grilled red snapper dish which I combined with another recipe in the book for aromatic rice.
Red snapper:
4 red snapper fillets (or any other firm white fish)
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp paprika
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp neutral veg. oil
300g basmati rice
2 tbsp butter
3 g raw cashew nuts
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
4 black pepper corn
1 cinnamon sick
3 cloves
1 onion, chopped
400 ml water
1 tsp salt

Prepare two red snappers by removing, scales, fins. the head and spine, but leave the skin on. Alternatively you can get your fishmonger to do it. This should leave you 4 nice fillets. Set aside for the moment.

For the rice, melt the butter and slowly toast the cashew nuts in it until lightly brown. Remove and reserve.

In the same pot, add the cumin seeds, bay leaves, black pepper corn, cinnamon sick (broken in two) and the cloves. Slowly toast it until it starts smelling all wonderful.

Add the chopped onion and fry for a few minutes until translucent.

Wash the basmati well and add them to the onion. Stir and fry the rice. This will make them more aromatic. I use a similar technique when making risotto or paella. Careful they don't stick or burn.

Pour in the water and add salt to taste. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes under lid. Then turn off heat and let it stand for 5 minutes.

Fluff up the rice with a forl and add the cashew nuts. It's ready to serve.

For the red snapper, start by slowly roasting the cumin seeds, cilantro seeds and fennel seeds on a dry pan. Keep stirring now and again so it doesn't burn. It's ready when they start giving off a wonderful smell.

Meanwhile, mix the sugar, garlic powder, paprika and salt.

Add the lemon juice and oil. Mix well to combine to a paste.

Add the dry roasted spices. Stir.

Brush the colourful paste onto the fish fillets on both sides.

Now, the original recipe calls for 5 minutes under the grill skin side up, but my grill is broken so I went ahead and fried them for 2 1/2 mintes per side in a bit of oil, just until the fish was done.

Finally, I served the red snappers with some lemon, the rice and a nan bread on the side.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Flan - Crème Caramel

Two Spanish desserts in a day. This is the flan, a slowly heated egg custard with a caramel sauce. It's really simple to make. Just remember, don't burn the caramel and don't pour all the hot milk into the eggs at once. the rest is child play.
Ingredients (4 flans):
1.5 dl sugar
1 dl water
300 ml whole milk
2 eggs + 1 yolk
60ml sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the sugar and water. Slowly heat it until it starts bubbling.

The second it turns light brown, remove it from the heat and stir it lightly while the residual heat will finish it off. Pour it into 4 ramekins. Be careful, it's burning hot.

Mix the sugar, milk and vanilla. Slowly heat it to a light simmer. Remove from heat.

Beat the eggs together.

Pour just a little of the warm milk into the eggs while stirring constantly. This will adjust the eggs to the warmth slowly so they don't coagulate and make scrambled eggs. Once you've added about a third of the milk, pour the eggs into the rest of the milk.Yes, back again while stirring.

Sift the custard in case some egg has coagulated.

pur the custard on top of the carame sauce. Don't worry if the caramel seem too hard at this stage.

Place the ramekins in bain-marie, that is boiling water up to just below the top of the custard (not the ramekin). Put them in a pre-heated 175º oven for 25 minutes.

Check the flans are done by inserting a knife between th centre and the edge. It should come out clean. Cut around the edges to losen the flan. Place a plate on top.

Turn it round and the flan should come out. Otherwise tap the whole thing lightly against table. There it is, flan...