Archive | snack RSS feed for this section

knäckebrot, or cinema crackers

16 Apr

What do chefs eat after work? David Lebovitz says it is popcorn and tortilla chips. When I worked at a bakery, I took home the leftovers, ate half a raspberry-chocolate mousse cake and fell asleep at 8pm.

Now I tend to go for: the beef satay pho from the place on the corner, which can have it ready in four minutes flat. Or: spaghetti with miso and butter. Or: frozen gyoza and frozen edamame reheated in the time it takes to boil a kettle.

Or if I am lucky, my past self filled up the tin of seeded crackers and I can eat those with Comté and sliced fennel. They taste like the really expensive crackers in the organic food aisle – not like the dry, diet ones that are basically cardboard. Good with cheese of course, or with jam for breakfast, or crumbled over savoury dishes for extra crackle.

Best of all, the crackers only take two minutes to mix up, and an hour to bake. They are mostly seeds, held together with a bit of flour and some oats. There is no rolling involved, so it doesn’t feel like work. And they can last forever, or for a fortnight, depending on how many you made and if your flatmate looks in the tin.

Or, since at the end of a long day I don’t always want to cook, talk to anyone or think about anything: I go to the movies by myself, with a paper bag of these seeded crackers, and eat them during the noisy parts.

~~

Knäckebrot, or cinema crackers

recipe from my aunt Patricia

The quantity below is enough for one standard oven tray of 40x25cm – I recommend making as many trays as will fit in the oven at once as the crackers keep for months (ha) but disappear much fast than that. (See the spreadsheet version underneath.) Use a mix of whatever seeds you have around, and up to 10% of spices, like caraway, cumin or fennel.

50g rye flour (T130) or wholewheat flour (T150)

50g rolled oats

85g mixed seeds (any of sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, flax, nigella – and up to 10% spices like caraway, cumin, fennel seeds)

2.5g / 1/2 tsp salt

175g water

5g / 1 tsp olive oil

Heat oven to 130C. Mix everything in a large bowl for a texture like porridge. Line your oven trays with paper or silpats, and weigh 360g onto each. Spread out with a spatula over the whole tray, as thinly and evenly as possible. Pop trays in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove trays one by one and carefully cut the now set mixture into squares, or whatever you want your crackers to look like. Put back in the oven for 1 hour. If they are still a little soft, turn the oven off and leave them inside to dry out. Store in a tin.

Spreadsheet version, all in grams:

[Rye flour recipe, number 1 out of 3]

Advertisements

plum and hazelnut financiers

27 Oct

autumn gourmet desserts

Working on recipes over the summer holidays, I made what was possibly the ugliest dessert of all time. It didn’t taste terrible but it looked a mess. It reminded me of being an apprentice, trying to cut corners to go faster and having to start again entirely. Short cuts take twice as long, I learned. And I could feel the ghost of our strict French chef breathing over my shoulder as I attempted to pipe this monstrosity.

My friend was polite about it: I’ll save half for breakfast! No, it was nice, honestly. But she was betrayed by her comparative enthusiasm for the second thing we made that day, these simple, little plum and hazelnut cakes. We made them in cupcake pans with sliced plums on top, and in little moulds the size of corks that we ate hot as soon as they came out of the oven, not even a mouthful.

The financier is a cousin to the madeleine, and a superior cousin at that (though I share a name with the latter). (I’m also the oldest cousin in my English family, so.) Both are little buttery snack-cakes, but financiers are made with browned butter, what the French call beurre noisette, so they already have a toasty aroma that is only enhanced by the ground nuts, in this case hazelnuts. They stay fresh for a few days too, unlike madeleines which are best eaten on the first day. Plums are a perfect autumn accompaniment, the thin slices turning jammy in the oven, with a few halved hazelnuts on top for crunch.

Apart from browning the butter, the preparation is pretty easy. Stir, chill, bake. Ideally the mixture should rest in the fridge for a few hours to properly chill for the perfect texture. It will keep for a few days refrigerated, so if you have more mixture than tins, you can make a second batch later on.

Plum and hazelnut financiers

adapted from Hugues Pouget in Fou de Pâtisserie 12. It is an easily customisable recipe – substitute almonds or walnuts; add spices, citrus zest, vanilla or even finely ground tea for different effects; use seasonal fruits like raspberries, apples, pears…

makes 20-24

80g plain flour

120g ground hazelnuts

200g caster sugar

200g butter

20g honey

215g egg whites (about 7-8)

grated nutmeg

pinch of salt

3-4 ripe plums

whole hazelnuts for decoration

Sift flour, hazelnuts and sugar into a large bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and keep going until it starts to foam and sizzle, then subside. After a couple of minutes, you should smell the milk solids in the butter toasting, similar to hazelnuts. This is easiest in a light coloured pan, as you can see them turn brown (but not black!). If you have a thermometer, cook the butter to 145C. Remove from the heat, add honey and allow to cool. Mix egg whites into flour/nuts/sugar, then stir in the cooled butter, nutmeg and pinch of salt. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to several days).

Grease cupcake moulds or line with papers. Fill each mould about 3/4 full. Finely slice plums and halve hazelnuts and arrange 2-3 slices of plum and 2-3 hazelnut halves on each financier. (This step can be done straightaway if preferred and then refrigerated in the pans).

Preheat oven to 170C and bake for 12-15 minutes. They should be golden all over and brown around the edges. Will keep for 2-3 days in airtight tin.

greek caper-potato spread

19 Jul

greek potato caper dip, devilled eggs, carrot salad

C-O-P-C-M … Copka-mmm? Carrots, olives, potatoes, capers, what was the m? Mustard?

Little cousin and I were trying to make a mnemonic to recall the shopping list we were too lazy to write down. The greengrocer had everything, capers, olives, even the mustard. We almost forgot the bulgur wheat though, since we missed the second B in B-B-O-W-T – blueberries, bulgur, oats, walnuts, tomatoes – an essential ingredient in the grape leaf parcels the dinner was themed around.

The Grape Leaves Club was celebrating more than a year of cooking evenings (ravioli, sashimi, paupiettes de poulet….) with a summer fiesta, vaguely Mediterranean themed. A bit of Spanish-French-Italo-American-Greek (SFIAG?): ajo blanco, white almond soup and soubressade spicy sausage from Marie; oeufs mimosa, devilled eggs with homemade mayonnaise  from Jen, with her own foccacia; and grape leaves with lemon and mint, of course. Peeling carrots as the other two rolled up the leaves, talking and then not talking, listening to my little cousin hanging bunting in the other room in fits of laughter, I realised once again that the party preparation is my favourite moment. Inviting people over was a necessary (pleasant) function of liking to cook together, producing too much to eat on our own, as a three.

I was inspired by the ‘Mostly Vegetarian Greek Feast’ eaten at the Oxford Symposium* the other week: long tables lined with tarama, pita, black-eyed bean salad with tomatoes and crispy crumbs. My favourite dishes were a kind of caper spread, with the soft fluffy texture of mashed potatoes; and a carrot and olive salad, the carrot discs just cooked, crunchy, lemony, with pops of salt from the olives. The architect of the feast, Aglaia Kremezi, explained how important the right spices are for (mostly) vegetarian food. And as simple as the main ingredients were, it was the best meal of the weekend, because everything was so well-seasoned, spiced, balanced.

I haven’t bought the book (yet) but really wanted to try the caper-potato combination at home. Even though I don’t normally like capers, something about the squeaky texture. But blended with parsley and swirled into potatoes with olive oil, the sum was so much more than the (four!) parts. Tangy, salty, fresh. It is thicker than a dip, more like mashed potatoes, and could be served as a side dish, a snack, a spread. If everything else on our table hadn’t been so delectable, I would’ve just eaten it by the spoonful. Because she is a genius, Marie suggested piling it into crisp brick pastry with an egg, and frying the parcel until golden and the egg yolk is still runny.

Seriously, try it. This will be your easiest and best summer dish to take to picnics, or to eat absentmindedly from the fridge late at night, when the city finally cools down.

~~~

*The Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking left me with pages of notes I haven’t yet written up: on the Gourmet in popular Japanese manga, on tattoos in the kitchen, on banquet scenes in medieval paintings. I will, soon. I loved pretending to be a student in lectures again, this time surrounded by people as obsessively keen as I am about food. And quite a few recipe ideas, including Greek spoon-sweets: preserved orange rind in syrup, offered to us by a pair of artists that collected the fruit from trees in different neighbourhoods of Athens.

~~~

Greek potato-caper spread

inspired by Aglaia Kremezi’s Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts – obviously you can be creative, add garlic, lemon, other herbs as well, but it is pretty amazing with just these four ingredients. 

makes a generous bowlful but still not enough!

600g potatoes

125g capers

generous handful of fresh parsley

a couple of glugs olive oil

Peel, boil and mash the potatoes. Drain the capers (reserve the brine) and blend with parsley and olive oil to make a rough paste. Mash the caper mix into the potatoes by hand: do not put potatoes in the blender or they will turn gluey. Add more olive oil and some of the brine to achieve required consistency – like loose mashed potatoes. Serve with more olive oil and chopped parsley on top.

 

chocolate-sesame truffles

10 Jun

chocolate sesame truffles

Pictured, two of my flatmate’s favourite things: healthy, ‘bio’ (organic) German products – nuts, seeds, muesli that she brings back from Berlin – and chocolate. Preferably the 74% cacao from our local supermarket. We have a never-ending supply of the bright green packets. Her desk normally consists of a laptop, papers, pens, books … chocolate. After a meal, dessert, coffee, she likes to eat one square of it. This intrigues me: I have never been a one-square kind of person. All, or none. But I am learning from her. In fact, when the chocolate is so dark and bitter, a little piece is just enough. Especially with an espresso, the perfect balance. These truffles made me think of her: tahini and sesame oil stand in for the butter in a classic ganache, giving them a seriously punchy flavour. I try to have one at a time.

(I am making my way through The Pastry Department recipe archive, one by one.)

~~~

Chocolate sesame truffles

from the pastry department – makes 30-50, depending on size

180g dark chocolate (65-75% cacao)

120g heavy / whipping cream (30-35% fat)

2g salt (a big pinch)

20g tahini

10g sesame oil

Chop the chocolate finely (can be done in a food processor). Heat the cream and salt until it starts to boil, then pour over the chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap, so that it is touching the surface of the mixture, and let stand for 3 minutes. This will allow the chocolate to melt gently without losing any liquid to evaporation. Remove plastic, squeezing out any remaining cream. Stir gently with a whisk until smooth then add the tahini and sesame oil. If it looks like it is starting to split, whisk in 1-2 tsp hot water, a teaspoon at a time.

To make the truffles you can pipe blobs of mixture onto a tray, refrigerate, and then roll them round; or pipe into small silicone candy moulds – mine are demi-spheres. Or you can pour the mixture into a flat, square, lightly greased tupperware.

Chill until fully set, then roll into balls, release from the silicone, or cut into squares, respectively. Toss in cocoa to coat. Keep refrigerated but allow them a few minutes to come to room temperature before eating. Should last for a week or so in the fridge. If you are not too greedy.

leftovers (07.02.2015)

7 Feb

croissants

Eating: leftover mashed pumpkin served on buckwheat galettes, with onion jam and a fried egg.

Baking: the sourdough croissants from the first Tartine, beautifully puffed up and with a complex flavour.

Just finished reading Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl’s story of disguise and intrigue and truffles. (About her time as the NY TImes food critic!)

Watching the Science of cookies, whimsically animated.

Ogling this Lucky Peach cover.

Testing and writing about the best hot drinks (not coffee) in north Paris.

Waving HELLO to all the people that have visited my corner of the internet since being Freshly Pressed. HI WELCOME THANK-YOU!

…where I discovered these urban sketches of San Francisco.

Speaking of which, I am off to San Francisco for a long holiday, with a list of bakeries and pastries to try – any recommendations?

leftovers (08.12.2014)

8 Dec

octopus lisbon

Recent leftovers include:

Too many roast potatoes turned into soup with a whole roasted bulb of garlic and lots of coriander.

Tartines of onion jam, goat’s cheese and caramelised fennel at 5 o’clock in the morning. Perfect midnight feast food.

Thumbprint cookies made of scraps of buttery tart pastry from the salted caramel pecan tart, rolled into balls and covered in coconut. Pressed each ball firmly with a thumb, indent filled with raspberry-tangerine jam. Baked until golden.

Recently reading/writing:

Since Paris seems to be enjoying a second wave of japonisme I am  re-reading the first few chapters of The Hare with the Amber Eyes.

Both David Lebovitz and Tim Hayward in the FT magazine (free registration necessary to read) have been talking about travelling and the fine balance between wanting to find the “undiscovered” away from any other tourists, and of course, needing a guide. Which I thought about when I went to Lisbon last month with a friend: some places live up to the hype, are worth repeating, worth the queue. (The pasteis de Belem really were fantastic, although now I know the Paris version comes a pretty close second.) Some, selfishly, I did not want to spoil by sharing, like the fantastic octopus at Jeronimo.

This weekend I am off to Madrid. I will be packing an Everyman/Cartoville guide: my favouite guidebooks (apart from my own of course!) since they are simple and condensed with fold out maps for each area. This article about Hemingway’s Madrid. And a new sketchbook – I have been playing with watercolour, trying to do more rough sketches to capture the feel of a city, like the lovely Sketchbook from Southern France.

And totally un-related to food, for a diversion from work on a Friday afternoon, I look forward to Ann Friedman’s newsletter in my inbox. Full of links for recent funny, thought-provoking words around the web.

Bonne semaine!

raspberry tangerine jam

5 Dec

raspberry tangerine jam

In Perugia, I lived in an apartment with big windows and cold floors. My flatmates would force slippers onto me when I walked around barefoot in the morning. Then they would make me coffee, and in the evening, spaghetti. Sometimes pasta twice a day. Around this time of year, November December, we might just have roast chestnuts and vino novello for supper.

One of them – I can’t remember which one – used to leave the skin of tangerines, peeled in one long strip, on top of the radiator. So that the house would smell like citrus. Which reminded me of the passage below, from M.F.K. Fisher.

(I have a recipe for raspberry tangerine jam, which is a delightful combination. Perfect with toast or porridge, or in buttery cookies. You should make it on a December afternoon to warm up the house.)

But Fisher tells such a good story, I will leave her the last word. Enjoy. From Serve it Forth:

I discovered little dried sections of tangerine. My pleasure in them is subtle and voluptuous and quite inexplicable. I can only write how they are prepared.

In the morning, in the soft sultry chamber, sit in the window peeling tangerines, three or four. Peel them gently; do not bruise them, as you watch soldiers pour past and past the corner and over the canal towards the watched Rhine. Separate each plump little pregnant crescent. If you find the Kiss, the secret section, save it for Al.

Listen to the chambermaid thumping up the pillows, and murmur encouragement to her thick Alsatian tales ofl’intérieure. That is Paris, the interior, Paris or anywhere west of Strasbourg or maybe the Vosges. While she mutters of seduction and French bicyclists who ride more than wheels, tear delicately from the soft pile of sections each velvet string. You know those white pulpy strings that hold tangerines into their skins? Tear them off. Be careful.

Take yesterday’s paper (when we were in Strasbourg L’Ami du Peuple was best, because when it got hot the ink stayed on it) and spread it on top of the radiator. The maid has gone, of course – it might be hard to ignore her belligerent Alsatian glare of astonishment.

After you have put the pieces of tangerine on the paper on the hot radiator, it is best to forget about them. Al comes home, you go to a long noon dinner in the brown dining-room, afterwards maybe you have a little nip of quetsch from the bottle on the armoire. Finally he goes. You are sorry, but –

On the radiator the sections of tangerines have grown even plumper, hot and full. You carry them to the window, pull it open, and leave them for a few minutes on the packed snow of the sill. They are ready.

All afternoon you can sit, then, looking down on the corner. Afternoon papers are delivered to the kiosk. Children come home from school just as three lovely whores mince smartly into the pension’s chic tearoom. A basketful of Dutch tulips stations itself by the tram-stop, ready to tempt tired clerks at six o’clock. Finally the soldiers stump back from the Rhine. It is dark.

The sections of the tangerine are gone, and I cannot tell you why they are so magical. Perhaps it is that little shell, thin as one layer of enamel on a Chinese bowl, that crackles so tinily, so ultimately under your teeth. Or the rush of cold pulp just after it. Or the perfume. I cannot tell.

– M.F.K. Fisher

Raspberry Tangerine Jam

We often used frozen raspberries in the bakery, especially when they are going to be cooked down to make puree. They still have a lot of flavour. The first time I made this I used the whole peel but because of all the pectin in it, the results were quite stiff. Just use half, put the other half on the radiator.

makes 1 large or 2 small jars

400g frozen raspberries

1 tangerine,  preferably seedless

250g jam sugar

Sterilise your jars. (Since I don’t have a dishwasher, I fill them with boiling water.) Put some spoons in the freezer for testing.

It is a small quantity of jam, so it can be made either on the stove or in a microwave. If you try the latter, keep an eye on it as it sets quickly. Heat the raspberries gently to defrost. Blend half the tangerine peel and all of the pulp (remove seeds first) with a spoonful of the sugar to make a puree.

When the raspberries have softened and started to liquefy, add the tangerine puree and the rest of the sugar. Bring to the boil and let it bubble for about 5 minutes. The bubbles should sound a tone deeper, the mixture more syrupy than before. When you drag the wooden spoon across the bottom, it should take a second for the liquid red sea to come back together. If in doubt, test the consistency on a frozen spoon: when the jam is at room temperature it should hold its shape instead of sliding quickly over the spoon, it should form a slight skin that will wrinkle slightly when you push it. You will see the jam sticking around the edges of the pan and on the wooden spoon too.* Carefully pour into jars, to the brim, close and turn upside down to cool.

*Plagiarising self from last post about jam.

for starters

28 Nov

starter

It doesn’t look like much. A pot of flour and water. But soon it will be alive! (Insert evil laugh.) I’m making my own sourdough starter… watch this space.

Actually, in the meantime, since it takes a while to grow a sourdough baby, have a look at the photos over on The Perfect Loaf.

leftovers

21 Sep

008

Sunday afternoon, 5pm.

Cold mashed potatoes, salami, roast red peppers. Half a smoked mackerel. Tzatziki. One last Danish meatball with mushroom sauce. Toasted Ethiopian sourdough bread. Various combinations of all the above with a mug of green tea: a mash-up of cultures, perfect Sunday food.

There is a vase of fresh mint on the table, a jar of salt and several abandoned water glasses. I am listening to David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster” read in his languid, serious tones.

~~~

Lately:

I planted herbs on my balcony: rosemary, verbena, oregano. With which I made: A simple chicken liver pate: 100g chicken livers, seared in a little oil, then blitzed with shallots, oregano, salt and pepper until smooth. And lemon verbena religieuses, with a lemon curd glaze, one green leaf on top.

I poached organic chicken breast for my new (spoiled) kitten, Edith. She accepted it with a haughty, disdainful air.

I made fig jam with the Grape Leaf Club, a select few culinary nerds, while baking Toulouse sausages with the extra figs, red onions and tomatoes for our late supper.

I tried the twisted crown of a pesto pinwheel bread from the British Bake Off with radish-leaf and almond pesto.

I marked my Franceversary (four years!) with a cheese-party at my apartment: every guest brought their favourite cheese; I made bread, bought apples, grapes, chutney. And celebrated Ethiopian New Year with generous platters of food at a local restaurant. (Melkam Addis Amet!)

And in between, I have been eating a lot of boiled eggs. I like to draw faces on them with felt-tip pens, so they don’t get mixed up with the raw ones.

~~~

strawberry vodka ice-lollies

13 Jul

 

DSCF1239

The extraordinarily nice French flatmate left for a sojourn in Argentina, so for now I am living with a wise-cracking American. We have frequent arguments about pronunciation (thorough, amenities, flaw) and lexicon (ice-lolly/popsicle.) If I risk winning, she plays the ace up her sleeve. The British are terrible because colonialism. My trump card is normally, I cook for you.

Besides that, we have a nice system going on: a box of grocery money that we top up each month. We go the market for exorbitant amounts of fruit and veg. I make packed lunches for our respective workplaces and she does the washing up. From our market haul last week we had tabbouleh full of fresh herbs; roast vegetables and coriander hummus; spicy lime chicken; and cauliflower soup and boiled eggs with faces drawn on them in felt-tip pen.

The strawberries though, at three punnets for one euro, unsurprisingly started going bad about half an hour after we brought them home. Beware a bargain. So the next day I bought a litre of vodka for my favourite summer drink, having finally run out of the stash in the freezer. Hulled and halved the berries, throwing away the mouldy ones. The rescued strawberries bobbed in their alcohol bath at the back of the fridge.

A few days later, we strained it, tested the pale pink liqueur (glorious) and wondered what to do with the remaining, pale and boozy berries. Seemed a shame to waste them…

Strawberry vodka ice lollies

inspired by Smitten Kitchen‘s strawberry-tequila popsicles – can also be frozen in ice-cube trays then blended to make more cocktails

1 litre vodka

500g strawberries, ripe

130g sugar

juice of 1/4 lemon

1/4 tsp black pepper

Hull the strawberries, remove any bad bits and halve any large berries. In a large plastic container, leave strawberries and vodka to steep for 3-5 days in the fridge. Strain the liquid into jars and keep in the freezer.

Heat the remaining berries with sugar, lemon and pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Cool, then blend. Pour into ice-lolly moulds or for a DIY version, half-fill plastic cups with the liquid then when half-frozen, push in the wooden lolly sticks. Or freeze in ice cube trays. Either add toothpicks later for mini lollies or blend into new and delicious summer cocktails.

%d bloggers like this: