Sunday, September 30, 2007

Cookbook of the week #9: Step-by-step Moroccan Cooking

My forays into Moroccan cookery have not always been successful. The last attempt not from the featured book was a disaster. The recipe was for a tagine of lamb with prunes and cinnamon, from a reputable cooking magazine where it was praised to the skies as a wonderful recipe taught to the cooks who are trained to work in Moroccan embassy kitchens. I followed the recipe to the letter and got a gooey, slimy, lumpy concoction resembling nothing as much as badly mixed cinnamon-scented wallpaper glue. Either I went wrong somewhere (the likeliest reason), there was an error in the recipe, or there are some areas of Moroccan cookery I should stay away from.

I discovered Moroccan cuisine back when I was in college. There was a Moroccan restaurant in Reykjavík at the time and I went there several times and loved everything I tasted. Unfortunately it didn't survive for long and was replaced by a steak-house, and it was a long time until I tasted Moroccan food again. A friend who knew I loved Middle-Eastern and North-African cooking gave me this little book and I have used several recipes from it.

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This little book or booklet was published by Murdoch Books in 1992. It's part of a series of small recipe books, a mixture of cuisines and themes. These step-by-step books are very useful for beginners, as they show the main steps of each recipe in photographs that are accompanied by clear and simple instructions.

The recipes I have already tried from this book are:
Preserved lemons. These looked lovely to begin with but unfortunately the pickling jar I used didn't seal itself properly and some of the pickling liquid evaporated and the lemons went bad, so I never got to taste them. I will definitely make them again some day.
Tagine of mixed vegetables. This has a mild but distinctive flavour and is quite good if you like cumin.
Roast lamb with spices. Very good indeed.
Moroccan rice and meat balls. I have made these several times and loved them every time.

Choosing a recipe from this book is a bit of a challenge, as some of the ingredients are difficult to get in Iceland, like veal (seems to be by special order only), quinces and pumpkin. I am vacillating between:

Eggplant purée
Moroccan Cigars: Filo pastry rolls filled with spicy minced meat.
Vegetable Couscous: In which case I'll have to either leave out the pumpkin or wait until pumpkins arrive in the shops (they are sometimes available, sometimes not);
Moroccan-style fish with dates
B'stilla: A pie, properly made with pigeon or squab, here adapted to chicken.
Lentil Soup
Cucumber Salad with Mint
Khobz (wholemeal flat bread)
Whole Baked Fish
Chicken and Olives
Barbecued Lamb with Chermoula
Almond Macaroons

Recipe of the week from Chocolate: Petits Madeleines au Chocolat

Originally posted on September 25th, 2007, as a sample recipe from the book.

A chocolate variation of the little cakes that sent Proust into raptures.

200 g flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
240 g sugar
100 g Síríus Konsúm chocolate or dark, sweet-bitter baking chocolate
finely grated rind of one orange
4 eggs
200 g sweet butter, melted
1 tbs baking cocoa

Mix all the ingredients except the melted butter until you have a smooth mass. Gently stir in the butter. Put one heaping teaspoon of dough into each shell of a Madeleine pan, smooth down and bake at 180°C for 10-12 minutes (less if you're using a pan with really tiny shells).

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Not very nice looking, but they taste heavenly!


The Madeleine tin I have is for making miniatures, meaning that a whole recipe would be many times too much, so I made half a recipe. Half a recipe was still too much, but because the baking time is so short (10-12 minutes) I decided I could probably use up the dough before the baking powder stopped working. I was right: I baked three rounds of 20 cakes each, and each round lifted beautifully. I could have baked two more rounds from that half recipe, but I didn’t feel like continuing. I must admit I did eat some of the raw dough, which is yummy and has the flavour and consistency of soft orange-chocolate fudge.

Since I have not made or even eaten Madeleines before, I can not say if these are like the genuine article, but they didn’t turn out looking like the picture in the book, or indeed any of the photos I found by googling. I spite of generous greasing of the tin and the cakes sliding out of it when I turned the tin over and shook it, the cakes did not have the distinct shell-like fluting of the sample in the photo. The colour was right, though. The cakes are spongy, airy, light and fluffy, like good sponge cakes should be, but the shell pattern is indistinct. If anyone has a suggestion as to why they tuned out looking like this, I would appreciate a comment.

The flavour is heavenly: chocolate with a hint of vanilla (the chocolate contains vanilla) and orange, and not too sweet. I get the feeling they would be lovely dipped in vanilla sauce. I think the recipe would make a nice cake, topped with fresh strawberries and Zabaglione or whipped cream.

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You can just barely see some fluting at the edges, otherwise it's just an oblong lump.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Recipe from Chocolate: Winter Sun

This is an ice cream cake that I would like to try, for example as a dessert after Easter dinner.

Meringue layer:
2 egg whites
80 g sugar
1/3 tsp vinegar
About 50 g almonds, chopped
70 g Síríus Konsúm chocolate, finely chopped

Whip the egg whites until stiff, add the sugar and vinegar and whip until the sugar has melted. Fold in the almonds and chocolate. Line a deep spring mold with baking paper, smooth the meringue into the bottom and bake at 110°C for about 40 minutes. Cool.

Ice cream:
2 egg yolks
1 egg
50 g sugar
250 ml cream, whipped
1 tsp vanilla essence
200 g Síríus milk chocolate with hazelnuts (use Cadbury's with hazelnuts as a substitute), chopped

Whip together the eggs and sugar and fold in the whipped cream and vanilla. Then fold in the chocolate. Pour custard on top of the meringue, smooth the top and freeze, preferably overnight.

1 tbs golden syrup
100 g Síríus Konsúm chocolate
100 g Síríus milk chocolate
300 ml cream

Heat the cream in saucepan over low heat, add the chocolate with the syrup and melt well together. Simmer gently for about 3 minutes. Serve with the cake.

This ice cream cake can be stored for a long time in the freezer. Remove from the freezer and let it stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before it is to be served.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Recipe from Chocolate: Gourmet Oven-pan

This is a kind of brownie, with pecan nuts and caramel sauce. The name could have been more original.

8-9 tbs butter
250 g Síríus Konsúm chocolate, chopped
3 eggs
300 ml sugar
150 ml flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
100 ml brown sugar
2 tbs cream
150 ml pecan nuts, coarsely chopped

Belt 100 g of the chocolate and 4-5 tbs of butter together in a Bain Marie. Whip the eggs until thick and frothy, add the sugar and mix well. Add the flour and salt, then the melted chocolate and the vanilla. Pour into a brownie pan (about 25 cm in diameter) or a small oven pan and bake at 175°C for 15 minutes.

To make caramel, put 4 tbs of butter and the brown sugar into a saucepan and heat to boiling. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool a little before adding the cream.

Sprinkle the pecan nuts over the half-baked cake and pour the caramel over it. Bake for 15 minutes more. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the hot cake. Cool and cut into small pieces.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Recipe update: Kan’s Walnut Chicken from The Diner’s Club Cookbook

Originally posted on September 13, 2007, as part of the lead-up to the recipe of the week from The Diner's Club Cookbook.

It reads yummy, and very simple.

To serve 4-6:

2 cups walnut halves
1 1/2 cups peanut or salad oil
1 tbs cornstarch
2 tbs water
2 tsp soy sauce
3 raw chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tsp salt
2 tsp Accent (MSG) [allergy sufferers should leave this out]

Fry the walnuts in hot oil until their colour just begins to change, but do not let them brown. Drain, reserve the oil.

Mix together the cornstarch, water and soy.

Place 3 tbs of the hot oil in a skillet and sautée the chicken until browned. Add the broth, cover and cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the salt, Accent and cornstarch mixture until thickened and add the walnuts. Serve immediately, with rice.

From Kan's Chinese Restaurant, San Francisco, California.

Edit, September 26, 2007:

I made this dish for dinner tonight, using chicken wings instead of breasts, but otherwise unchanged except I made only half a recipe. It is mild and all right to eat - just a little too salty for my taste - but nothing special, and I don’t think I will make it again. With the combination of MSG, soy sauce and all that salt, I can only imagine my blood pressure must be rather high right now.

Recipe from Chocolate: Caramel Bomb

The Icelandic slang word bomba is derived from the English word 'bomb', and coincidentally it is also the Italian word for the same thing. As well as referring to a sexy woman, a small bomb and a shocking piece of news, it also refers to any dessert with a high calorie count, possibly because of its ability to keep people eating until they feel like exploding.

Cake layers:
5 eggs
400 ml sugar
400 ml corn flakes, crushed
300 ml almonds, chopped
250 g Síríus Konsúm chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Whip together eggs and sugar until smooth and light. Fold in the dry ingredients (I suggest mixing them all together first). Divide between three medium sized (20-22 cm in diameter) round cake tins at 175°-200°C for 20-30 minutes.

250 ml cream
150 ml sugar
3 tbs golden syrup
2 tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
400 ml cream for whipping

Put the 250 ml cream, sugar and syrup in a saucepan and simmer until the mixture thickens and takes on a light golden colour (20-30 minutes). Stir occasionally. Stir in the butter and vanilla. Cool (stick the bottom of the pan into a cold water-bath). Whip the cream.
Pour 1/3 of the caramel on top of one cake layer and top with half the whipped cream. Put another cake layer on top and repeat. Put the third cake layer on top and pour the rest of the caramel over it and allow it to dribble down the sides of the cake.

The cake in the accompanying photo in the book is garnished with blueberries and physalis (Cape Gooseberries).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Recipe update: Orange Cake from The Silver Palate Cookbook

Originally posted September 6, 2007, as part of the lead-up to the Silver Palate Cookbook recipe of the week.

If this is the cake I think it is, it is absolutely delicious. Even if it isn't, it's probably delicious anyway.

8 tbs (1 stick) sweet (unsalted) butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, separated
Grated zest of 2 oranges
1 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh orange juice

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease a 25-cm (10-inch) Bundt pan.

Cream the butter and gradually add the sugar, beating until light. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, and the orange zest.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to the batter little by little, alternating with the orange juice.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the batter.

Pour batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the sides of the cake shrink away from the edges of the pan and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then unmold onto a rack and drizzle with orange glaze while warm. Cool before serving.

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Orange glaze:
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Put sugar and juice together in a small saucepan and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until a light syrup forms.

Edit, September 25, 2007:

I made the cake yesterday. It is the cake I thought it was. Someone once brought one to work and I loved it then and love it still. This recipe is going in my blue notebook where I write down my keeper recipes.

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There are quite a lot of steps in making it: zest and squeeze the oranges, separate the eggs, beat the butter, beat in the egg yolks, mix dry ingredients together and mix in little by little with the orange juice, whip the whites and fold in, bake. But it is worth it!

The only Bundt pan I have is a miniature, so I used a small spring pan instead and baked it a little longer than the recipe calls for. The orange juice was rather weak, so I added a dash of Grand Marnier to the syrup to make the orange flavour stronger. The cake is very light and the orange taste is mild and lovely, and it is not too sweet. Probably not a cake to serve to kids, but the members of my, um, handicrafts club would love it.

Another time I would probably:
a) use a little more zest to get a stronger orange flavour,
b) make two smaller cakes in round molds, and
c) double the amount of syrup so there was enough for both cakes.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Recipe from Chocolate: Baileys truffles

Many of the recipes in the book contain Icelandic sweets that I don't know any good international substitutions for, so I ended up choosing recipes with ingredients where substitutes could be found. This means mostly Síríus Konsúm and Síríus milk chocolate.

These looked promising:

350 g Síríus Konsúm (semi-sweet dark chocolate with a hint of vanilla)
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup Baileys Irish Cream liqueur
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tbs butter
100 ml icing sugar

Put the chocolate, cream and Baileys in a saucepan and melt together over low heat. Add the egg yolks, one at a time and whisk well between. (I suggest beating the yolks beforehand and then pouring approximately half of the mixture into the chocolate mixture at a time). Remove from heat, stir the butter into the mixture and cool well. Form into balls and roll in icing sugar.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Cookbook of the week #8: Súkkulaði: Það besta frá Nóa-Síríus (Chocolate: The best from Nói-Síríus)

You might be surprised to discover that Icelandic chocolate is considered very good, and is in fact preferred by some over both Swiss and Belgian chocolates (and I am not just talking about Icelanders). The Nói-Síríus candy company came into being with the union of two candy companies, Síríus and Nói, and is probably the biggest candy producer in Iceland. Among the stuff they make is the country's most popular chocolate, Konsúm, which is the basis of many recipes in this delicious book. They also make the most popular packaged confectionery selection and the top selling variety of Easter eggs, in addition to many kinds of non-chocolate candies.

For more than 10 years the company has published a new recipe booklet each year, which has been sold cheaply as a way of promoting the company's products, and this book contains a selection of the best recipes from those booklets, intermingled with new recipes.

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This is a thoroughly modern cook book, equal parts recipes and gorgeous food photography that definietly falls under what some have called "food porn".

The recipes use the following chocolates, which I will try to describe well enough so good substitutes can be found:

Síríus Konsúm dark chocolate, which has a 45% cacao content and a sweet, slightly bitter taste with a hint of vanilla. It is suited for eating, making drinking chocolate, confectionery or baking.

Síríus 56%. This is similar to Konsúm, but with a higher cacao content and less sugar, but only slightly more bitter to the taste.

Síríus 70%. It has 70% cacao content and less than 30% sugar and a rich, bitter chocolate taste.

Síríus rjómasúkkulaði. Smooth milk chocolate with a sweet, rich flavour.

Additionally, a few recipes use other chocolate candies made by Nói-Síríus, such as chocolate-covered liqorice.

There are chapters on confections; cakes; cookies, muffins and bars; oven-pan cakes (including muffins); and desserts.

I will choose one recipe from each chapter as a sample and will try to choose recipes I have neither made or tasted before. Although I have not made many recipes from the book, I have made and/or tasted many of the booklet recipes, and several variations of recipes from the book are part of my kitchen repertoire, such as Sarah Bernhardt cookies and hot chocolate made with Konsúm.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Meal of the week from Quick Dishes: Beef patties with onions served with Saffron mashed potatoes

When I was growing up my family went camping together every summer. Mine and my brother's favourite camping treat was canned beef patties in brown sauce with instant mashed potatoes. My mother could do magic with these humble dishes, or so it seemed, because after I moved away from home I once bought the same brand of beef patties in brown sauce and heated them for dinner, but they didn't taste the same. Some questioning on my behalf revealed that she would add some spices and other ingredients to the sauce to make it better. I already knew she completely disregarded the instructions on the instant mashed potato package and did it her way, which included using milk or cream instead of water, and some other little touches that improved it immensely.

In memory of many evenings sitting outside a tent, eating beef patties with mashed potatoes, I decided to choose the two dishes below. While the patties, which Icelanders call hakkabuff, are made from scratch, the mashed potatoes are supposed to be instant.

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Just look at all those onions!

While I have included the serving suggestions from the book, I of course served the two together, with the addition of this fresh tomato and cucumber salad which my mother sometimes serves with fried fish and crumbed fried lamb cutlets:

1 medium tomato
1/4 cucumber
mayonnaise, to taste

Cut the tomato into thin slices, cut slices into strips and halve the strips. Do the same with the cucumber. Stir into the mayonnaise and chill for 20 minutes or so. Serve with fried meat or fish.

I have fleshed out the instructions a bit. As usual, any recipe alterations are shown below the recipes.

Beef patties with onions

Prep time: 30 minutes
1-2 servings

2 onions
225 g minced beef
1 egg
75 ml water or cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tbs butter

Slice the onions into rings and fry over low heat until they are soft and golden. Remove from pan.

Mix together the minced beef, egg, water or cream, salt and pepper. Form into 2 large, flat, oblong patties. Melt the butter and fry the patties for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and keep warm. Deglaze the pan with a little water and pour the gravy over the patties. Finally, warm up the onion rings in the pan and top the patties with them.

Serve with poached potatoes and corncobs or a fresh salad.

Saffron mashed potatoes

Prep time: 10 minutes
1-2 servings

2 portions dry mashed potato flakes
As needed, water or milk
As needed, butter or margarine
1/2 sachet saffron (0,25 g)

Make the mashed potatoes according to the instructions on the packaging and add saffron. Serve warm with cooked vegetables, e.g. broccoli or peas, fried meat, and fried or poached fish.

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Alterations to the recipes:
I made the beef patties pretty much according to the recipe, except I only used one onion and added a bit of garlic. I also fried the patties a bit longer than what the recipe calls for, to get them cooked all the way through. While I prefer my steak still pink in the middle, the only mince I will ever eat raw or pink is mince I have made myself, especially if eggs are also involved as in this case. Although there has not been a public case of food poisoning caused by either eggs or minced meat here for as long as can remember, I'm not taking any risks. Having once had serious food poisoning, I do not relish getting it again.

To make the mashed potatoes, I started by heating up some milk in a saucepan, took it off the heat and added a healthy pinch of saffron strands, which I let soak in the milk for about 10 minutes. Then I added the fragrant, bright yellow milk to the mashed potatoes.

As to those, I could not bring myself to use instant mashed potatoes when I had the fixings to make some from scratch, so I made mashed potatoes with fresh potatoes instead of flakes. At least that was the plan. Actually, what happened was that when I started mashing the potatoes it turned out they were too gummy to make good mash, meaning the mash would be dense and heavy and stick to the roof of my mouth. Therefore I used an old trick I have used before when I needed to stretch mashed potatoes and had no time to run to the supermarket for more: I took some dry potato flakes (a kitchen staple useful for other things beside making mash) and added them to the mash (sorry, no measurements are available, as only experience can tell you how much to use), along with some more milk, and whisked the two gently together, adding more milk as the flakes expanded and soaked it up. I ended up with mashed potatoes that were lighter than what I would have got had I used the potatoes alone, but which still had the flavour of the made-from-scratch product. The saffron turned the mashed potatoes a bright, lovely yellow and they smelled heavenly.

This was a good, very greasy and extremely oniony everyday sort of meal. In fact, my whole apartment smells like fried onions, and it's lucky I haven't got a date tonight, because I ate every morsel of that onion. The beef was juicy and I got the spices just right, and the saffron mashed potatoes were delicious, although another time I would use only half the saffron. In the original recipe the saffron strands are meant to be added straight to the mashed potatoes and would not have time to release as much flavour as they do when they are soaked first, so to save on saffron, use less and soak it first. You will also get stronger colour that way.

250 g. of beef is enough for two regular eaters or one big eater. I finished one patty and half the mashed potatoes. The rest I will have for dinner, along with half an onion I plan to fry up to eat with it.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Recipe from Quick Dishes: Grapefruit with brown sugar and nuts

Prep time: 10 minutes
1-2 servings

1/2 – 1 grapefruit (I recommend pink grapefruit)
8-10 hazelnuts or almonds
1/2 tbs brown sugar

Set oven temperature at 250°C (480°F). Cut the grapefruit in half crosswise. Loosen the grape meat from the membranes with a grape knife or grape spoon. Coarsely chop the nuts. Sprinkle nuts and brown sugar over the fruit halves. Bake in the oven for a few minutes until the surface begins to brown.

Having tried two different varieties of baked grapefruit last weekend (both with meringue), I recommend removing all the flesh from the fruit, removing and discarding the membranes, mixing the flesh with the nuts and sugar and putting it back in the halves. It may not look as good, but makes less of a mess when you eat it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Additions to the cookbook collection

Since I started this blog, I have unearthed some more cookbooks and one foodie book with recipes, received a couple through BookMooch and bought a couple more, plus I got some from my great aunt who recently moved into a nursing home. That's more cookbooks than I acquired in the last five years put together.

My aim in reading the cookbooks and testing recipes from them is not just to justify owning them, but also an effort to cull the uninteresting ones in favour of buying books that
a) are really interesting, and/or
b) fill a gap in my cookbook collection.

My collection as it is now is heavy on Scandinavian, ingredient (e.g. chicken or chocolate), type (e.g. desserts) and general cookery books, with a noticeable gap where the books on specific ethnic and national cuisines should be.

A search uncovered a French regional cookbook languishing unused amongst my mysteries and I ordered another one, but I still don't have an Italian or Spanish cookbook, nor one on Jewish, Japanese, Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Turkish, Lebanese, sub-Saharan, Caribbean or South-American cookery, all of which interest me (update: I now have Spanish, Italian and Thai cookbooks). I am making an effort to change that, while keeping my collection at about the same size, because I only have limited space for books.

I'm not just looking for cookbooks for those cuisines, but books that will tell me something about the cuisines, about regional differences, ingredients and the historical background of the recipes. I am also interested in the classics, simply because there is usually a good reason why a cookbook gains that status.

Therefore my wishlist also includes the Italian classic The Silver Spoon, the French classic Larousse Gastronomique and the American classic The Joy of Cooking, not to mention a number of classic food writing volumes, for example just about anything by M.F.K. Fisher. If you have a classic or a good ethnic cookery book you would like to recommend, please leave a comment.

The list:
Yesterday I received from Amazon a volume of three classic cookery books: Mediterranean Food, French Country Cooking and Summer Cooking by Elizabeth David. I am very much looking forward to browsing through it and trying some of the recipes.

As for the rest:
At home in Provence by Patricia Wells, with photos by Robert Fréson. This book won the James Beard Award for the Best European Cookbook in 1997, so it should be good.
Cookies from the Land O'Lakes Test Kitchens, edited by Susan Bonne.
Kökur Margrétar by Margrét Jónsdóttir. These are cake recipes, some by the author, some translated from a Danish cookbook.
Matargerð er list: Ábætisréttir (original German: Desserts), edited by Annette Wolter with photographs by Rolf Feuz & Karin Mersserli. Desserts.
Matargerð er list: Brauðbakstur (original German: Brot und herzhaftes Gebäck) edited by Annette Wolter with gorgeous photographs by Rolf Feuz & Karin Mersserli. Bread making.
Matargerð er list: Smákökur og sælgæti (origian German: Plätzches und Konfekt), edited by Annette Wolter, with photos by Susi & Pete A. Eising. Cookies and confectionery.
The Book of Thai Cooking, by Hilaire Walden, photos by David Gill. (In Icelandic: Thailensk matargerð).
Top 100 Mediterranean Dishes by Diane Seed. This is an Icelandic translation (100 góðir réttir frá Miðjarðarhafslöndum) of a beautifully decorated (by Sarah Hocombe) cookbook that features dishes from the Mediterranean region. I bought it a couple of years ago on sale, intending it as a gift, but then discovered that the person I intended it for already had a copy, so I decided to keep it for myself.

The foodie book:
Aphrodite: A memoir of the senses by Isabel Allende, with drawings by Robert Shekter and recipes by Panchita Llona. It's strange that I should have forgotten this one when I made the original list, as I had already started reading it then.

I have added the books to the list on the sidebar.

Recipe from Quick Dishes: Chicken amadine au gratin

This looks like a good recipe to use up chicken leftovers.

Prep time: 40 minutes
4 servings.

1 whole grilled chicken or equal in chicken pieces, cold
50-100 ml (1/5 to 2/5 cup) almonds
1 can (14 oz) peaches

200 ml (3/4 cup + 1 tbs) meat broth
200 ml (3/4 cup + 1 tbs) sour cream
2 tbs Chinese soy sauce
50 ml (1 tbs + 1 tsp) peach liquid
2 tbs sauce thickener (e.g. cornflour)

100 ml (2/5 cup) cheese (I recommend a mixture of Cheddar and Mozzarella)

Cut the chicken into serving pieces and arrange in a casserole dish. Chop the almonds and sprinkle them over the chicken. Drain the peaches, reserving the liquid.

Heat together the broth, sour cream, soy, peach liquid and sauce thickener and mix well. Pour over the chicken. Cover with aluminium foil and bake at about 175°C (350°F) for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Arrange the peaches on top of the chicken and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bring oven temperature to 250°C (480°F) and bake the dish until the cheese is golden and bubbling.

Serving suggestion from me:
Serve with a fresh salad and rice or fresh crusty bread on the side.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Recipe from Quick Dishes: Herring à la Maison

This is a typical Scandinavian herring dish.

Prep time: 15 minutes.
Makes 4 servings.

1 large red onion
1 bunch dill
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
3 tbs wine vinegar
2-3 tbs sugar
1 tbs oil
400 g marinated herring

Peel and chop the onion very finely. Mix with chopped dill, pepper, vinegar, sugar and oil. Cut the herring into bite-size pieces (you can also buy it already in pieces). Arrange on a serving dish. Pour the sauce over the herring. Let stand while you cook some potatoes to serve with the dish.

Serving suggestion from me:
Serve as part of a Scandinavian-style cold buffet (smörgåsbord) with other cold dishes, such as Russian style herring salad, smoked salmon, gravlax, ham, and other cold delicacies.

Most, if not all herring dishes are delicious as a topping for rye bread.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Recipe from Quick Dishes: Fish soup with mushrooms

Preparation time: 25 minutes.
Serves 1-2.

140 g fresh haddock fillets (= one small fillet)
1/2 can mushroom soup (I am assuming they mean Campbell's or at least the same size of can)
100 ml water
1/2 can tomatoes (I assume this means a standard can)
100 g arctic shrimp, unshelled
White pepper
1/4 tsp lemon pepper
1/4 bunch fresh dill
1 cube fish stock, optional

Put the soup in a saucepan with water and tomatoes and heat to the boiling point. If you want a more flavourful soup, add the stock cube. Cut the fish into bite-size pieces and add to the soup and cook for 5 minutes. Shell the shrimps. Adjust taste with white pepper and lemon pepper. Add the shrimps and finely chopped dill and simmer gently for a few minutes more. Be careful not to boil the soup at this point, as the shrimps will become tough if you do (they need gentle poaching). Serve immediately.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cookbook of the week #7: Quick Dishes

This book comes from a cookbook series that my mother bought through her book-club to give me. I have the whole series (I think), a total of 11 books, but I have never made so much as a single recipe from any of them, so I guess it is about time I did.

The focus is on Scandinavian cookery, with a touch of the international. There are photos of every dish, and you can tell that a lot of work went into making the books look appealing.

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The theme of this volume is dishes that can be made quickly by using only a few ingredients in each dish. To this end convenience foods feature in many recipes, like canned soup, frozen vegetables, potato flakes, etc., in other words, foods that most home cooks use but you don't often see in recipe books because it's fashionable to make everything from scratch. Although I do use stuff like frozen veggies and canned beans and I usually buy frozen puff pastry rather than make it, there are still recipes in this book that turn my stomach, e.g. the canned asparagus soup with canned fish loaf, but I did promise I would try one recipe from each book, didn't I?

Here are a few recipes that I like the look of, translated using my best kitchen English with a smattering of restaurant French:

Fish soup with mushrooms. This uses fresh fish but the soup comes from a can.
Gourmet cauliflower. Baked cauliflower with spinach and Hollandaise sauce.
Saffron mashed potatoes. Saffron and potato flakes? Interesting combination.
Herring á la maison
Stuffed herring fillets
Beef patties with onions
Chicken amadine au gratin
Grapefruit with brown sugar and nuts

Baked grapefruit

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the recipe

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Recipe of the week from The Diner's Club Cookbook: Kzartma (shank of baby lamb)

An Internet search revealed that the restaurant this recipe came from is Armenian, so I assume the recipe is too. The cookery of that region is full of delicious recipes for lamb and mutton.

To serve 6-8 persons:

6 lamb shanks
3/4 cup chopped onions (about 3/4 of a medium onion)
2 tbs butter
1 tbs salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon oregano
2 tbs paprika
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup + 2 tbs tomato sauce
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 cup dry sherry

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Soak the shanks in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain, dry and remove excess fat. Arrange in a shallow casserole or deep skillet with oven-proof handle.

Sauté the onions in the butter and add to the lamb with the remaining ingredients*. Cover and bake at 175°C (350°F) for 90 minutes, basting occasionally. Remove cover and continue baking at 125°C (250°F) until lamb browns and is tender, about 45 minutes. Baste frequently. Serve with cracked wheat or rice.

*I mixed everything together in the pan and poured it over the shanks.

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Alterations and substitutions:
I used half the number of lamb shanks the recipe calls for, but made a full recipe of sauce. I don't know if the shanks in the recipe are meant to be back shanks or front shanks, which is rather inexact, as front shanks, at least the way that cut is sold here, have only half the meat on them that back shanks do. 6 back shanks would feed the stated 6-8 persons, but 6 front shanks would only feed four persons, so I guess it is back shanks the recipe requires (I used front shanks, BTW).

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I had no tomato sauce and was not sure if the phrase referred to ketchup or the milder stuff, so taking my cue from a couple of recipes I found on the Internet, I puréed some canned tomatoes to use instead.

I was out of sherry, so I used Marsala instead.

I used less salt than the recipe calls for, maybe about 1 tsp, counting what I put in the sauce and what was in the butter (I was out of sweet butter, and the neighbourhood supermarket didn't have any).

Instead of using a regular casserole dish, I used a Römertopf, a clay dish which is soaked in water for about 15 minutes and then put in a cold oven with the food and allowed to heat up with the oven. The food gets steamed inside the dish and comes out very tender and juicy. Of course, this was the first time I have used it and the first time I have made the dish, so I really have no way of knowing if that claim is true.

As apparently food cooked in a Römertopf browns faster than meat baked or braised in the regular way, I cooked the meat 20 minutes longer in the closed dish, and only gave it 20 minutes to brown, which turned out to be about right, as the sauce was in danger of burning had I browned it for longer.

Lamb shanks need long, slow cooking so they will not turn out tough, and wet cooking to keep them from drying out, so slow cooking them in sauce is ideal.

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These shanks were a little short of melting off the bone, but still tender and juicy. With a coating of sauce, they had a rich taste of paprika and tomatoes that reminded me of goulash.

The sauce was reduced by about 2/3 and turned out thick and slightly bitter. I didn't taste the bitterness so much when eating it with the meat, but when eaten alone or with rice, it was noticeable. The bitterness was probably due to the canned tomatoes and Marsala. I find that when reduced, Marsala will impart a slight bitterness to a sauce, and whenever I use canned tomatoes in a sauce, I usually also add a bit of sugar to counteract their slight bitterness, which I didn't do here.

This is definitely something I would make for company, but I think I might use water instead of sherry/marsala if I make it again, and fresh tomatoes instead of puréed tomatoes or tomato sauce.

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I think this recipe would be well suited to make a stew. I would still use shanks, as they are so flavourful, but I would cut them into bite-size pieces, sauté the onions and then the meat in the butter, add the remaining ingredients, and then either cook the stew in the saucepan on the stove or in a casserole dish in the oven. Then I would serve the stew either with cous cous, rice or flat bread, such as naan or chappatis.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Recipe from The Diner's Club Cookbook: Fluffy cheese cake

While I have made no-bake cheese cakes several times, I have never tried making a baked one. This recipe sounds nice. Maybe I'll try it the next time it's my turn to treat my workmates for Friday breakfast.

To serve 8-10 persons:

16 Graham crackers, crushed fine
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbs butter

1 kg (2 lbs) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 tbs lemon juice
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
4 egg whites

Heat oven to 175°C (350°F).

To make crust:
Mix together the cracker crumbs, cinnamon and sugar. Butter the bottom and sides of a 22 cm (9-inch) spring form and sift half the crumbs over it.

The filling:
Beat the cream cheese until soft and then add the cup of sugar, the salt, egg yolks, lemon juice and rind, and the vanilla. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold into the cheese mixture lightly but thoroughly. Turn into the prepared pan. Sift the remaining cracker crumbs over the top of the batter.

Bake 1 hour until set. Turn off the heat and let stand 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a cake rack, away from drafts.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Recipe from The Diner's Club Cookbook: Cheese soup

This reads like a wonderfully warming and filling winter soup. I'll have to try it when it gets colder.

To serve 6-8:

4 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
4 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup finely diced cheddar cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped onions
1/3 cup diced carrots
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp Ac´cent (Europeans can substitute Knorr Aromat seasoning). Ac´cent or Accent is a brand name for MSG. If you object to its use or are allergic to it, leave it out.
1/8 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup light or cooking cream

Melt 2 tbs butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour until browned. Gradually add the broth, stirring steadily until it reaches the boiling point. Blend in the cheese and let it melt.

Sauté the onions, carrots and celery in the remaining 2 tbs of butter for 10 minutes. Add to the soup with the pepper, Ac´cent and Worcestershire sauce. Just before serving, add the cream.

Adjust the seasoning to taste.

From Bretton's Restaurant, Kansas City, Missouri.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Recipe from The Diner's Club Cookbook: Chopped beef à la Lindstrom

Chopped beef à la Lindstrom or Biff à la Lindström is a Swedish dish with Russian influences. It is thought to have been brought to Sweden in the mid-1800s by one Hendrik Lindström, who may have invented it or learned to make it in Russia. From Sweden it has spread all over the world.

To serve 4:
500 g (1 lb) ground beef
1/2 cup minced onions
1/2 cup cooked or canned beets, diced
1/3 cup capers
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup ice water
3 tbs butter

Mix together all ingredients but the 3 tbs butter.

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Shape into 4 patties. Melt the 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet and sauté the beef in it until it has reached your preferred stage of doneness.

Fry 4 eggs and serve the patties with the eggs on top.

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From the Stockholm Restaurant, Worcester, Massachusetts.

A note on ground beef:
I always cook ground beef through unless I have done the buying and grinding myself. If you are using supermarket ground beef or beef not prepared by your local butcher from a cut you chose, it is safer to cook it through.

I made some for dinner. The beef I used was not finely ground enough for patties, so they fell apart and I ended up with something resembling dog food, which, however, tasted all right. It was remarkably mild considering the amount of onions and capers. I think another time I would use more beets and onions and less capers.

Aloo gobi: Indian potatoes and cauliflower – mild version

Aloo gobi

I arrived at this recipe after some experimentation with different recipes for this classic Indian dish. In reality, I never measure for it, but this is close enough to the aloo gobi that I make. I generally don't put chilli peppers in it unless I have a cold, chilli being an excellent way of unclogging a stuffed nose.

Serves one as a main dish, two as a starter, three to four as a side dish.

2 medium potatoes, cubed
equal amount of cauliflower, divided into florets
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 cm piece of ginger root, grated or very finely chopped
1 tsp yellow mustard seed
1 tsp cummin (or to taste)
2 tsp coriander (or to taste)
1 tsp turmeric
garlic to taste
1/2 cup water
1 tbs cooking oil (2 tbs if you are not using a non-stick pan)

For hot version, add as much fresh, chopped chili pepper as you can stand and remember to serve the raita – it's cooling.

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan. When hot, add the mustard seeds and put a lid on the pan. Allow seeds to pop for about 20 seconds, lower the heat and add cummin, coriander, turmeric, garlic, ginger and onion, mix well and fry gently until the onion begins to turn transparent. Take care not to burn. Add the cauliflower and potato pieces and mix to coat with spices. Fry for a couple of minutes, then add the water and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the potato pieces are cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Serve as a side dish with meat, or as a main course with chappatis or naan and a raita (yogurt salad).

1/2 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
1/2 tsp cummin seeds
1/2 tsp ground cummin
1/2 cucumber, finely chopped
dash of salt

Stir salt, spices and cucumber into yogurt and serve chilled. Very good with spicy dishes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Recipe from The Diner's Club Cookbook: Potaje de Garbanzas (Spanish bean soup)

I tasted a marvellous bean soup during a seminar I attended in Salamanca in Spain several years ago, and the ingredients I could identify are all in this soup. However, I will probably have to delay making it, since I am not sure I can get any soup bones here in Reykjavík – although I should probably ask at a Nóatún store before I make any such claims. (Nóatún offers the widest selection of meat products of any Icelandic supermarket).

The recipe:
To serve 6-8:

500 g (1 lb) dried chick peas
1 beef bone*
1 ham bone*
2 1/2 liters/quarts water
125 g (1/4 pound) bacon, chopped
2 onions, chopped
3 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tbs salt
1/8 tsp saffron
2 Spanish sausages*, sliced thin

Soak the chick peas in salted water overnight. Drain. Combine the peas with the beef and ham bones and the water. Bring to the boil and cook over low heat for 45 minutes.

Sautée the bacon and onions together for 10 minutes, drain. Add the bacon, onions, potatoes, salt and saffron to the bean mixture. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Add the sausages and cook 5 minutes longer.

From Las Novedades restaurant, Tampa, Florida.
*I hate inexactness in cookbooks. How large are the bones supposed to be? Do you break them? And, there are literally hundreds of different types of Spanish sausages. Is it supposed to be smoked? Raw? Salted? Peppery? Sweet? I guess it doesn't really matter, since all I can get is chorizo.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cookbook of the week #6: The Diner's Club Cookbook: Great recipes from great restaurants

Author: Myra Waldo
Published in 1959.

Most of the recipes in this book came from restaurants and were adapted for home cooking by the author.

This book dates back to the time when curry powder was a perfectly respectable, even exotic, ingredient in cookbook recipes, whereas now it has become rather gauche and you hardly see it except in recipe collections by exceptionally honest authors who are willing to admit to using it. The difference is that now the author will tell you which specific curry powder (e.g. X-brand red curry paste, Madras-style curry, Thai green curry, etc.) they have in mind, whereas back then "curry powder" meant the mild western version.

Most Icelanders of my generation and older remember that curry and I am sure many people of my age group in other western countries remember it too. The brand may have differed from country to country, but the taste not so much. If there was any chilli in it, it was in miniscule amounts. The powder was always a very evil looking yellow (indicating a lot of turmeric) and it was often used more as a colouring than a condiment. There are a number of recipes in this book that call for this curry powder, and I have avoided them as best I could, having developed a hearty dislike of it as a child (although I must admit that poached lamb with curry-flavoured bécahmel sauce does bring up some nostalgic feelings for me…)

Apart from the curry powder many of the recipes in this nearly 50 year old cookbook might be found in a modern cookbook. Since they come from various restaurants all over the USA, the recipes are quite diverse and cover a number of different cuisines, and the book is bristling with bookmarks where I have marked interesting recipes. Here are some of the ones I would like to try:

Scalzo's Grundbeif de Calabrei. Sounds imposing, but theses are actually Italian meatballs.
Chicken Gumbo. I would love to try making gumbo, but I doubt I'll be able to make it authentic, as okra is not widely available here. (I have hopes of finding it at one Asian market)
Potaje De Garbanzas (Spanish chick-pea soup).
Delices de Sole L'Ecu de France. (Fillet of sole with mushroom-Hollandaise sauce)
Jamaican style curried chicken with rice. Ok, so there is curry powder in this one, but I happen to know where I can get Jamiacan-style curry powder.
Kan's walnut chicken.
Murgi Ka Korma. (Chicken korma). The "curry" here is made from scratch, which is perhaps no surprise, since the recipe came from an Indian restaurant.
Chopped beef à La Lindstrom.
Ranch kitchen chili and beans.
Kzartma (Shank of baby lamb).
Armenian shish kabob.
Hawaiian Chinese spareribs.
Osso buco Livornese.
Cassoulet Toulousain (French bean casserole).
Baked eggplant à la Armand.
Chinese blintzes.
Baba au rum. What! Only one dessert recipe?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Recipe of the week: Pasta Carbonara

The recipe of the week is for a simple and delicious Italian dish that I have eaten in restaurants but have only ever made once myself. In that recipe, like in the Silver Palate recipe below, pancetta (Italian bacon) was replaced by regular bacon. I was unhappy with that recipe and decided to try the Silver Palate version.

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The recipe:

Serves 4-6.

500 g (1 lb) thick-sliced bacon, diced
2 tbs salt (I am inclined to think this is an error and it must be 2 tsp)
500 g (1 lb) spaghetti or linguine
3 eggs
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Sautée the bacon in a skillet until crisp. Remove and drain well on paper towels

Bring 4 liters (4 quarts) of water to the boil in a large soup pot. Add the salt and drop in the pasta. Stir to separate the strands. Cook until al dente (tender but not mushy) according to instructions on packaging (if you make it yourself, you will know best yourself when it is cooked).

While the pasta cooks, beat the eggs well in a serving bowl large enough to take the cooked pasta and other ingredients. Have the bacon and parsley at hand.

When the pasta is cooked, drain quickly in a colander and shake briefly to get rid of excess water.

Pour the drained hot spaghetti into the bowl of eggs and immediately begin tossing it. Toss until the pasta is coated with egg and the heat of the pasta has cooked the eggs.

Add the bacon and parsley, toss again to mix and serve immediately. Grated Parmesan is delicious with this dish, freshly ground black pepper is essential.

My alterations and substitutions:

The book mentions that in the original authentic dish pancetta or proscuitto would be used, and I decided to try it with Proscuitto di Parma: dry-cured ham from Parma. Knowing that Parma ham is both saltier and more flavourful than the local bacon, I used less of it than I would have of bacon. Additionally, I was unable to get Italian parsley, and had to use curly parsley instead. I used a lot less salt than the recipe calls for, since I knew the ham would add to the saltiness of the dish.

Since there were only two of us, my mother and myself, I made half a recipe. The final recipe I used looked like this:

160 g Parma ham, thin slices cut into small squares and sautéed until cooked through but not crisp (about 1 minute)
1/2 tsp salt
250 g spaghetti
2 small eggs
About 1 1/2 tbs curly parsley
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (as you can see in the photo, I had not added the pepper when it was taken – in fact we had started eating when I remembered the pepper and added it, and we agreed that the pepper was a good but not necessary addition)
Grated Parmesan cheese (we tried it, but decided the dish was better without it)

The instructions are the same as for the above version.

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Magnifico! This is such a simple dish, and it is so good. I like it with bacon, but with proscuitto it it is simply delicious.

The halved amount of proscuitto was just right. If I had used more the dish would have been too salty. The rich, salty flavour of proscuitto, the freshness of the parsley and the mild flavour of pasta and eggs combine beautifully and deliciously and this dish will definitely be going in my recipe notebook for further use.

My mother is already "threatening" to make me cook it for her again.

More information about carbonara
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Friday, September 7, 2007

Yesterday's dinner

One of my favorite sandwiches:

20 cm of baguette
2 slices good quality ham
2 slices Gouda cheese
6 rashers of smoked bacon, fried
4 slices of tomato
2 large button mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in butter

Split baguette along the middle, allowing it to hang together by the crust. Open up and smear a thin layer of mayonnaise on both slices. Top with ham, cheese, tomato slices, bacon and mushrooms. By now there is so much stuff in the sandwich that you either need sandwich paper to wrap around it to hold everything in place while you eat it, or you simply serve it as an open-faced sandwich and eat it with a knife and fork.

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To turn this into a Dagwood sandwich, use 6 slices of white bread, smear one side of every slice with mayonnaise and then alternate layers of bread and toppings. Don't forget the olive on top!

Sample The Silver Palate Cookbook (links)

Here are links to some more Silver Palate recipes. I don’t know if all of them were in the original cookbook - I haven't looked them up. Some may have come from subsequent Silver Palate cookbooks or books by the same authors, but all have the Silver Palate stamp.

Of course, nothing beats actually owning the book.

Roast Lamb with Peppercorn Crust
Blueberry Lemon Tart
Sweet Buttery Tart Crust
Mayonnaise Niçoise
Raspberry Chicken
French Toast
Chicken Marbella

This one comes from Simply Delicious by Sheila Lukins, but was used at the Silver Palate: Sour cream apple pie

and finally, The Silver Palate online store. There are some recipes here, most if not all using products sold at the store.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook: Zabaglione

Makes 6 portions.

8 egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup Marsala wine

Mix ingredients together in the top part of a double boiler* and cook over rapidly boiling water, whisking constantly until mixture doubles in bulk and thickens.

Remove from heat and continue whisking for about a minute.

Pour mixture warm over fresh berries, serve by itself in tall glasses, or chill and use as a sauce for berries.

*If you haven't got a double boiler, do what I do: use a bowl that fits tightly into the mouth of a cooking pot so that little or no steam can escape, and hold it tight with an oven mitt-clad hand while whisking with the other hand.

If I make this, how can I use the egg whites, besides making a ton of meringue?
Suggestions welcome.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook: Salmon Mousse

1 envelope (7 g) unflavoured gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup Hellman's mayonnaise
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs finely grated onion
Dash of Tabasco-sauce
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp salt
2 tbs finely chopped dill
2 cups finely flaked poached fresh salmon or canned salmon, skin and bones removed
1 cup heavy cream

Put the cold water in a large bowl and soak the gelatin in it until softened. Stir in the boiling water and whisk the mixture slowly until the gelatin dissolves. Cool to room temperature.

Whisk in the mayonnaise, lemon juice, chopped onion, Tabasco, paprika, salt and dill. Stir to blend completely and refrigerate for about 20 minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken slightly. (An icy water-bath hastens the process).

Fold in the flaked salmon. Whip the cream until it is fluffy and forms peaks and fold gently into the salmon mixture. Put the mixture into a decorative bowl or mold, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Serve on toast, black bread or crackers, or slice and serve as a first course, garnished with watercress.

(I love salmon mousse served with a simple sauce made from sour cream, garlic and a dash of salt).

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This mold is nice if you plan on having your guests help themselves.

If served in slices, I recommend a loaf mold or a plain circular mold.

Cookbook of the week #5: The Silver Palate Cookbook: Delicious recipes, menus, tips, lore from Manhattan's celebrated gourmet food shop

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Authors: Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins with Michael McLaughlin. Illustrations by Sheila Lukins.

I have the first edition of this (justly) famous cookbook that was first published in 1982. It was a lucky charity shop find for me, at only 200 krónur (about 3$). It has just been republished in a 25th anniversary edition, with colour photographs in addition to the original drawings and I urge anyone who is seriously interested in cooking and good food to go out and buy it.

This is one of the few cookbooks I have that I actually use (I also read it for fun), but there are still many, many recipes in it that I have never tried. By the look of it the previous owner did not use it much, although they did leave a slip-on bookmark on one of the pages, at the exact same place where the spine had been broken, so I suppose they used at least one recipe (Chili for a crowd, p. 130).

The book is lovingly illustrated by Lukins and is among of the prettiest of my cookbooks.

Instead of listing the recipes I'm most interested in, I will simply pick one I like the look of for each day.


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The table is set

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Top row: Deep-fried prawns with garlic sauce
Second row: Gravlax with herb butter, topped with an olive slice and dill
Third row: Turkey ham and Camembert with red onion and black pepper
Fourth row: Choriso, feta and sun-dried tomatoes with red onion

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Top row: Deep-fried prawns with garlic sauce
Second row: Turkey ham and Camembert with red onion and black pepper
Third row: Ham with herbed cream cheese, bell pepper slices and Parmesan
Fourth row: Gravlax with herb butter, topped with an olive slice and dill

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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Recipe of the week: Strawberries Romanoff (liqueur-marinated strawberries)

Named for the Russian royal family, so it is at least 90+ years old, quite a bit older if this website has the story right (check out the variations they give).

This is a classic dessert dish that can be found in a number of different variations and seems to be quite popular – at least considering that I got more than 50 thousand hits when I googled it.

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Original recipe: (as it is in the book – I make no claims to its being the authentic original recipe)

Serves: 4 persons.
Prep time: Under 15 minutes.
Standing time: 30-40 minutes.

1/2 kg (1 lb) fresh strawberries
2 tbs sugar
200 ml (approx. 4/5 cup) freshly pressed orange juice
3-4 tbs Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur (e.g. Cointreau or Curaçao)
100-200 ml (2/5-4/5 cups) whipping cream

Wash the strawberries and reserve 4 large ones. Hull the rest. Cut the hulled berries into slices, sprinkle with sugar and divide between four tall dessert glasses or highball glasses.

Mix together orange juice and liqueur and pour over the strawberries. Cover and refrigerate for 30-40 minutes.

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Whip the cream until it is thickened but not stiff and top the dessert with it. Decorate with the whole berries and serve.

I only made 1/4 recipe, which was enough for two small dessert glasses.

After 1 hour and 30 minutes, which is about triple the marinating time given in the recipe, the tastes of Grand Marnier, orange juice and strawberries had not blended well. There was a strong, almost raw taste of cognac that didn't at all go with the rest of the ingredients. I also thought the dessert could do with a touch more sweetness, so I added a teaspoon of sugar to the other glass, lightly bruising the strawberry slices when I stirred in the sugar. Then I gave it an hour more to marinate.

After the extra hour the taste at first seemed the same, but when I stirred up the mixture and tasted it again, it became evident that the cause of the overly strong cognac taste was that it had begin to separate and the Grand Marnier had floated to the top while the orange juice sank to the bottom. Stirring melded the flavours and the result was quite good: not too strong a cognac flavour like the previous serving, and a little sweeter. Quite good, in fact. There did seem to be an awful lot of marinating liquid left in the glass when I had finished the strawberries – another time I would reduce the liquid.

Alterations that suit my tastebuds:
Increase the sugar to 3 tbs (for a whole recipe), or reduce the liquid by 1/4. Marinate for 2 hours minimum. Stir up the mixture before adding the cream and then serve immediately.

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Here's another good recipe that pairs strawberries and Grand Marnier: Drunken Strawberries:
Inject whole strawberries with Grand Marnier or other liqueur of your choice (go in under the hull so the hole will not be seen), dip in melted chocolate and cool for at least 2 hours before serving. Will keep for up to 24 hours.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Recipe from Summer Food: Rhubarb tart

Prep time: about 20 minutes.
Baking time: about 15 minutes.
Oven temperature: 225°C, centre of the oven.

2-3 plates deep-frozen puff pastry
500 g rhubarb
75-100 ml sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tbs cornstarch
2 egg whites
100 g icing sugar

Let the puff pastry thaw in the refrigerator. Wash the rhubarb and cut into small pieces.

Put the rhubarb into a round cake pan or pie dish and sprinkle with sugar. Put the dish in an oven and turn the oven up to 225°C and let the dish stand in the oven until the oven has reached full heat, or until the rhubarb is soft. Drain the rhubarb, KEEPING THE LIQUID. Wash the dish. Keep the oven hot.

Arrange the cold puff pastry pieces in a roughly round shape, overlapping them slightly. Reserve a strip of pastry to line the sides of the pie. Roll out into a round shape, about the size of the pie dish/cake pan, and line the bottom of the pan with it. Line the sides of the pan with the remaining pastry.

To make the meringue, whip the egg whites until stiff and whip in the icing sugar. Brush some egg yolk onto the pastry. Put the rhubarb into the dish. Stir the corn-flour into the rhubarb juice and drizzle over the rhubarb. Smooth the meringue over the top of the rhubarb, but not completely to the edges (allow about 5 cm of rhubarb to show along the edge). Bake as indicated above.

Serve warm with whipped cream.