Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lamb with apricots and sweet potatoes

This recipe comes from an Icelandic website of lamb recipes. It appears to be of Middle-Eastern or North-African extraction. I have never had success in cooking sweet potatoes, but this looks fool-proof, and it has lamb, which is my favourite meat.

Serves 4.

800 g lamb, fat trimmed off and cut into bite-size cubes
3 tbs flour
Freshly ground pepper
4 tbs olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp chili-pepper, or to taste
2 bay leaves
150 g apricots (presumably dried)
800 g sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Some parsley, chopped

Mix together flour, pepper and salt and coat the cubed meat in it (put everything together in a plastic bag and shake).

Heat the oil in a large thick-bottomed pot and sautée the meat at high temperature until browned. Remove and set aside.

Lower the temperature to medium and put the onions, celery and garlic in the pot and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the spices and simmer for 2-3 minutes more. Return the meat to the pot, add the bay leaves and apricots with enough water to barely cover the contents of the pot. Bring to the boil and simmer slowly, covered, for about 40 minutes.

Add the sweet potatoes and simmer for 20 minutes more.

Taste the gravy and adjust flavour as needed. If it is very thin, remove the lid and turn up the temperature for a few minutes at the end to reduce and thicken the sauce.

Garnish with chopped parsley.

Good served with couscous.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Recipe I would like to try: Smoked herring patê

Most of my recipe booklets live in folders and boxes that I rarely open, but most of them contain at least one recipe I would like to try. Here is one of them:

Patê brisée:
200 g flour
100 g butter
1 egg yolk
3 tbs water

200 g sour cream
100 g mayonnaise
4 tbs lemon juice
60 g chives
Salt and pepper

500 g kippered (salted and smoked) herring
100 g onions
1 egg white
Salt and pepper
A dash of vinegar

Brisée pastry:
Mix flour, sugar and butter until the mixture forms fine crumbs. Add water and egg yolk and knead into a solid smooth mass. Refriegerate for several hours. Roll out and line a patê dish or other deep oven-proof dish with it.

Mix mayonnaise and sour cream until smooth. add finely chopped chives and lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Grind together the herring and onion, either by running through a food grinder twice, or by processing on a food processor (use the blades). Mix in the egg white, spices and vinegar. Put into the brisée-clad dish and bake at 100°C for 60 to 90 minutes. Increase the temperature to 190°C for about 5-6 minutes at the end of the cooking time.

Taking a break

This week and the next are going to be very busy for me, so I am putting the cookbook of the week challenge on the back-burner until after the new year. I will try to post a recipe here every day, some of the tried and tested variety, others from my collection of recipe booklets and newspaper clippings.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Soft golden syrup spice cookies

This is an adaptation of a recipe for molasses cookies from The Silver Palate Cookbook. I tried it yesterday and the cookies are delicious, soft and chewy. Using golden syrup was an emergency measure, since I couldn’t get molasses anywhere (not even treacle, which is the same thing, only in British English), but it worked out fine. I will make them again when I manage to find some molasses/treacle and report on the difference. I think they would also be great made with honey.

170 g (12 tbs or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup or molasses/treacle
1 egg
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 175°C/350°F (165°C/330°F if you have a convection oven).

Melt the butter and add the sugar and molasses. Mix throughly. Lightly beat egg and add to butter mixture; blend well.

Sift the flour with the spices, salt and baking soda, and add to butter mixture mixture; mix. Batter will be wet.

Lay a sheet of foil or baking paper on a cookie sheet. Drop tablespoons of cookie batter on foil, leaving 3 inches between the cookies. They will spread during baking.

Bake until cookies start to darken, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven will still soft. Let cool on foil.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Recipe of the week from Cheap and Tasty: Spanish rice

I chose this dish as recipe of the week because I love rice and I like trying new rice dishes and there were none in my repertory that contain tomatoes.

To serve 4.
Prep and cooking time: 45 minutes

400 g meat (I used mutton, but beef could also be used)
1 1/2 tsp butter/margarine
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 green bell pepper (capsicum), sliced
1/2 tsp paprika powder
2 tsp salt
1 knife-tip (=small pinch) of saffron or turmeric (I used turmeric)
1 can (400 g) tomatoes
250 ml water
1/2 to 1 cube meat bouillon
200 ml rice

Cut the meat into cubes and brown in the butter/margarine. Add the onion, crushed garlic and bell pepper and let simmer together for a while. Add spices, salt, tomatoes, water, bouillon cube and rice. Cook, covered, for 18-25 minutes, depending on the type of rice. Make sure it doesn’t get too dry by adding a little water if needed.

Serve with iceberg salad leaves.

Review and notes:
I followed the recipe almost to the letter, except about halfway through the cooking process I added more garlic and then I ground about half a teaspoon of black pepper into it a few minutes before serving. While I did follow the instructions and serve iceberg lettuce with it, I think some wedges of fresh tomato and perhaps a piece of crusty bread would have been better.

The meat I used was soup grade mutton which imparted a nice flavour but was tough and would have needed about an hour and a half of slow stewing to become tender, so I spent quite some time after the meal picking it out of my teeth. If I had decided earlier that this was what I would be cooking, I would have let the meat tenderise in the refrigerator for 3-4 days beforehand.

The flavour of the dish is rich rather than strong, with paprika and tomato dominating and undertones of garlic, onion, green bell pepper and meat. I think beans would make a nice addition to the dish, and I can imagine it being even better made with beef than with mutton.

There are no photos this time because when cooked this is simply not a photogenic dish. It looks mushy and unattractive in the photos I took, so I decided against posting any.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sample recipe from: Cheap and tasty: Chinese stew

Judging from some of the ingredients this seems to be a sort of sweet-and-sour dish.

4 servings.
Time: 1 hour.

300 g hearts (presumably either sheep, pig or beef hearts are suitable)
2 tbs butter/margarine
1 1/2 tbs vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 cube meat bouillon
200 ml pineapple juice (from the can that’s lower down on the list) and water (if there isn’t enough juice)
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbs Chinese soy sauce
75 g celery stalk, chopped
1 can (400 g) bamboo shoots
1 can (225 g) pineapple in pineapple juice
1 tsp potato flour or cornstarch, optional

Cut the hearts onto strips and brown in the hot butter. Add vinegar, sugar, bouillon cube, water and pineapple juice and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.

Add the celery and continue cooking for 15 minutes.

Add the babboo shoots and pineapple pieces and heat through. If you want a thicker sauce, thicken it with potato flour*.

Serve with steamed rice.

*Take a little bit of sauce and stir the flour into it to make a smooth paste, then stir into the stew to thicken.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sample recipe from: Cheap and tasty: Julia’s fish au gratin

Serves 4.
Time: 40 minutes.

400 g fish fillets
1 slice (about 200 g) white cabbage)
1 onion
1 carrot
Salt and pepper
1 sachet bernaise-sauce powder
Grated cheese (optional)
Chopped parsley (optional)

Cut the fish into about 2 cm thick slices.

Wash and trim cabbage, onion and carrot and chop (or grate) very finely – the pieces should be no thicker than a toothpick. Sautée quickly in the butter – the veggies should not change colour. Put veggies into a greased oven-proof deep dish. Make a hole in the center of the veggies and put the fish pieces into it. Flavour with salt and pepper. Bake, covered, at 200°C until the fish is cooked through.

Make the bernaise sauce according to the instructions on the sachet and pour immediately over the fish and serve. Optionally, sprinkle the cheese over the wole thing, put back in the oven until the cheese is bubbly and golden, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sample recipe from: Cheap and tasty: Tasty fish soup

4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

1 leek
2 tbs butter or margarine
100 ml rice
1.2 litres fish stock
1/2 tsp thyme
300 g fish fillet or 1 can (300 g) fish balls in cooking liquid
100 ml chopped dill
400 ml deep-frozen peas

Wash and slice the leek.

Melt the butter in a cooking pot and sautée the leek slices and rice. Add the stock and thyme. Cook for about 15 minutes.

Cut the fish fillet into cubes, about 2 cm (1 inch) or if you’re using fish balls, quarter them. Add to the soup and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the peas and dill just before serving.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cookbook of the week #18: Ódýrt og gott (Cheap and tasty)

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Here is yet another of those Swedish cookbooks. This one is about how to cook on the cheap, with ingredients common in Scandinavian supermarkets, ca. the 1980s. This means it’s heavy on root vegetables, potatoes, herring and ground meat. There are a number of recipes in it that I would like to try.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Musings: Things to wrap in bacon

Have you noticed the variation of foods that taste great when wrapped in bacon?

Wieners in bacon are an old standby cocktail snack, but a lot of other foodstuffs can be treated in this way. Here are some samples. A couple are from previous posts on this blog, others from other cooking websites, and down at the bottom are some suggestions from me:

Devils on Horseback

Banana wraps; Cocktail sausage, mussel and sardine wraps

Parmesan-stuffed dates

Chicken livers


Wieners with a difference

Jalapeno peppers



More shrimp

Water chestnuts

Cherry tomatoes

Any kind of firm white fish


Dates again, this time stuffed with almonds



Smoked oysters

Over the weekend I tried several variations on this theme. The banana is something I would not try again, not because it was bad, but because it was so mushy that it squirted out of the bacon wrapping when I bit into it. I suppose it would be ok if made in bite-sized pieces. The mozarella cheese was a bit too chewy for this kind of food, and the dried apple was... interesting. The two best were dates filled with herbed cream cheese, which were very nice, but it was the dates filled with peanut butter that won the contest. They were excellent.

I think I’ll stop here – this is making me hungry.

Of course, you can make the merely delicious into something heavenly by using proscuitto di Parma or Jamón serrano. The classic filling is melon (cantaloupe or honeydew), but olives, asparagus, strong cheese or freshly baked bread are delicious too. And there is no need to cook anything.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Recipe of the week from Cookies: Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints

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Due to unforeseen circumstances I have been unable to test more than one recipe from the book as i had planned, so this stands as recipe of the week.

Prep time: 45 minutes
Chilling time: 60 minutes
Baking time: 14 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Makes about 42 cookies.

The cookies:
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup raspberry jam

The glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar, confectioner’s sugar)
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
2-3 tsp water

Beat butter, sugar and almond extract together in a large mixer bowl at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy (2-3 minutes). Reduce the speed to low and add the flour, beating until well mixed (2-3 minutes). Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Shape the dough into balls, about 2,5 cm (1 inch) across. Put the balls on ungreased cookies sheets, about 2 inches apart. Make an indentation in the centre of each cookies with your thumb (don’t worry if the edges of the indentations crack slightly). Fill each indentation with about 1/4 tsp of raspberry jam.

Bake for 14 to 18 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let stand for 1 minute, then place on a wire rack to cook. Let cool completely before glazing.

To glaze, stir together the glaze ingredients with a whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the cooled cookies.

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Notes and review:

These cookies (or pastries), even when only halfway well-made like mine, are real showstoppers because it is obvious how much work went into making them. In my case the glazing went a bit wild, and no wonder because I used a spoon to dribble it onto the cookies. Next time I will use my Wilton decorating bag and the tiniest piping tip I can find.

It is obvious to anyone who compares their own final product with the lovely perfection of the photo in the book that the jam was added to the cookies after they were baked – another secret of food photography revealed:

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I made the cookies as instructed in the book, even down to making the balls an inch across, but I still only got about 30 cookies out of the recipe. The only reason I can guess is that the flour I use must be different from what they use in the Land O‘Lakes test kitchen so the dough turned out denser, or perhaps I beat it for too long? It‘s hard to tell with shortbread, because it is so dense anyway.

The cookies are every bit as good as they look. They are dense and a bit crumbly and have a slightly sandy texture. The cookies themselves have only a mild almond flavour, but the glazing has a lot more that is prevented from becoming overbearing by the fruity flavour of the raspberry jam.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Sample recipe from Cookies: Butterscotch Crisps

This looks interesting. I will have to see if I can find the butterscotch-chips. I have seen them in some supermarket, but I can't remember which one.

Prep time: 45 minutes
Chilling time: 2 hours
Baking time: 5 minutes

Makes about 72 cookies.

1 cup butterscotch-flavoured baking chips
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped pecan nuts

Melt butterscotch chips in a 1 litre (1 quart) saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted (3-5 minutes).

Put the butterscotch mixture in a large mixer bowl and add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the pecans. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1-2 minutes). Fold in the pecans by hand.

Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a 20 by 3 cm (8 by 1 1/2 inch) roll. Wrap the roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm – at least 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Using a sharp knife, cut rolls into 3 mm (1/8 inch) slices and place on ungreased cookie sheets about 2,5 cm (1 inch) apart, and bake for 5-7 minutes or until set. Cool for 1 minute and remove cookies from the sheets.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Cookbook of the week #17: Cookies: Favorite recipes from the Land O’Lakes Test Kitchens, and a recipe for Cashew Butter Cookies

Following on from the recipe of the week, I decided to go for one of my two cookie books. Christmas is coming in just over three weeks, and one of the things Christmas means to me is cookies. My mother didn’t generally make cookies from scratch when I was growing up, being more of a cake person, but she always baked cookies for Christmas. When I was a child the staples she would make were cornflake mounds, air cookies, vanilla rings and vanilla sandwich cookies, crisp chocolate chip and nut cookies, coconut cookies, meringue drops, pepper cookies and gingersnap sandwich cookies, not to mention the experiments that were never repeated or that she made a for a few years and then stopped making, like oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies. (She would also make brown cake, dream cake and devil’s cake, but that’s another story).

The number of types of cookies has dropped down to four now, plus the one type I always make which are more like confections than cookies. My appetite for these lovely little nibbles has not diminished (although I have to be careful now how many I eat in one session), and therefore I am looking forward to testing some of the recipes in this book. I will probably make at least a couple of the sample recipes, perhaps more, and review them as I go along, rather than post one review at the end of the week.

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Land O’Lakes is a dairy company based in Minnesota in the USA and the book is a promotional publication to push their products, especially butter and sour cream. Neither is imported to Iceland, so I will be using Icelandic products instead. In addition to recipes, the book has plenty of useful advice about how to get the best results when making the various different kinds of cookies.

The first sample recipe is for Cashew Butter Cookies:

The recipe is supposed to make 54 cookies.

3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cup chopped salted cashew nuts

Salted cashew halves for decorating

Heat oven to 190°C (375°F).

Mix together the flour, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl.

Combine butter, sugar, honey and egg in a mixing bowl and beat at medium speed, scraping the bowl often, until creamy (2-3 minutes). Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture. beat until well mixed (1-2 minutes). Fold in the chopped cashew nuts by hand.

Using two teaspoons, drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough onto ungreased cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Top each cookie with a cashew half. Bake for 6-9 minutes or until golden brown.

Recipe of the week from The Big Ready Steady Cook Book: Snappy Ginger Biscuits

I had a very busy day yesterday and today is a let's-eat-leftovers day, so I decided to make something simple and easy: ginger biscuits (cookies to Americans).

Creator: Thane Prince
Found on page 177
Makes 20

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100 g (4 oz) unsalted butter
100 g (4 oz) caster sugar (I used regular)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
175 g (6 oz) self-raising flour ()
Juice of 1/2 orange

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Put butter, sugar, ginger and flour in a food processor and blend until crumbly. With the motor running, pour in enough orange juice to make a soft dough.

Put teaspoonfuls of the dough onto a baking sheet with about 5 cm (2 inches) between balls of dough. Wet a fork and flatted each ball with it. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

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Review and notes:

First of all: substitutions. I used regular sugar instead of caster sugar, and regular flour, baking powder and salt instead of self-rising flour (1 1/4 cup flour + 1 3/4 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt). It took the juice of one whole (admittedly rather small) orange to make the kind of dough needed, so if you make this recipe, keep more on hand just in case.

The cookies are quick, extremely easy to make and nice warm with cold milk. There is a slight bitter flavour to them that suggests I could safely cut down on the baking powder in my self-rising flour recipe. Another time I would use more ginger and perhaps a 1/4 tsp of orange essence to get a stronger flavour of both. as it is, the cookies are mild and nice with milk, and probably great with tea. They go hard around the edges but stay soft in the center when cooled.

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