Sunday, 10 June 2012

On strawberries, french toast, pinning and being a bit of a geek

I woke up at 5.45 yesterday, and thought that was bad. Before heading off to the gym at 9.30 I had already cleaned up my kitchen, including washing the dishes from pretty much all of last week (yes, I'm horrible at doing any cleaning during the week, and yes it's disgusting, but what can you do). Well, I was looking forward to sleeping in today. I woke up at around four am. I did manage to fall asleep again, but only slept in short intervals, and finally gave up and got out of bed at 7.30. It's almost midsummer, so it's as light as it gets, and the sunrise is around 4am, so I guess my body is just reacting to all the light. But I bet come Monday, I will sleep like a log when my alarm clock goes off at 5.45.

The good thing about getting up early is of course having ample time to prepare a great Sunday brunch. And today, I decided to try something I stumbled upon on Pinterest the other day. I'm totally obsessed with Pinterest these days. I haven't much used it before, but on my sick-day the other day I was browsing the Pinterest board of one of my favourite food bloggers, Annalise from Completely Delicious. And many many others as well, and got inspired to set up my own Pins as well. So now the Unicorn is on Pinterest too! It's still very much a work in progress, and I will update as I have time. The problem of course is not finding things to pin on there, it's just that I tend to get a bit overwhelmed when I start to browse baking blogs and pictures... I can spend hours and hours just browsing. I'm an incurable carboholic, and need help.

The point  of this rant was that I stumbled upon this amazing recipe for roasted strawberries on a great blog I've never seen before, called A Cosy Kitchen. And now, I did it again, I got totally distracted from writing this. I was supposed to just test that the link I added to the blog works. And of course I couldn't resist browsing a bit more on the blog. And I ran into yet another recipe I just have to try, avocado hummus. How genius is that, I love hummus, I love guacamole, and this kind of combines those two loves in what looks like a really great and delicious way. Good thing I have an avocado in the fridge, and was planning to make hummus for my afternoon snack on Tuesday anyways. Yay!

And again, after my distraction, back to today's brunch. So I found this recipe for roasted strawberries. And had to try it straight away. I would never have thought of making roasted strawberries myself. I just eat them fresh, right out of the box. At most, I toss them into my breakfast smoothie. But to cook them? The thought has never crossed my mind. Good thing I had strawberries at home. I actually have half a fridge full of strawberries, as they were really cheap this week when I went for my Friday evening grocery shopping trip (one of the highlights of my week, going grocery shopping. I know, my life is very, very sad). Another fact, that is almost too geeky to admit is that ever since the start of the year, I have kept an Excel sheet of all the food I buy from the grocery store. I was inspired to do this when I read that the average American buys over a thousand kilograms of food a year. To me that sounded crazy, so I had to see how I compare. I realize only keeping track of the food I buy from the grocery store will be a bit of an underestimation as it won't account for the times when I eat out. But I actually eat out very little, I prepare pretty much all of my food myself, so I think it will give a nice overview of what it is I'm eating. Anyways, the point I was making, is that the Excel sheet tells me that so far this year I've bought 11kg (!) of strawberries. And strawberry season is only just starting, so I will be increasing my consumption as prices drop. I just love strawberries. Love, love, love. Back home, I never used to eat strawberries in the winter, maybe some frozen ones from time to time, but the fresh ones were way too expensive. Here, although admittedly a bit pricy in the winter, I still buy a pack or two almost every week through the year, just because they are available and semi-affordable. The imported ones don't much resemble real strawberries taste wise, but even bad strawberries are better than no strawberries!

A while ago, I made some chocolate and rum raisin French toast bread pudding for breakfast, and still had one piece of it left in the freezer to enjoy with the strawberries. So after a long rant, this week's Sunday brunch is French toast bread pudding with roasted strawberries.

French toast pudding (serves 4):
4 hot cross buns (I used the chocolate and orange ones...) or some other bread
5 eggs
180ml (3/4 cup) milk
1tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking powder
1cup (2.5dl) raisins
dark rum
100g (1/2 cup) light muscovado sugar
1tbsp cinnamon
50g dark chocolate chips

The howto:
Start preparing the the french toast the evening before, or at least several hours ahead. Mix eggs, milk, baking powder and vanilla extract. Cut bread into slices or the buns in half. Pour mixture over bread, and let soak for a minimum of a few hours, preferably over night in the fridge. Turn over the bread over once while it's soaking. Also, pour a generous helping of rum over the raisins, and marinate over night in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 225 degrees C. Sprinkle chocolate chips, raisins, cinnamon and the muscovado sugar on the bottom of a greased oven proof dish, and add the bread on top. Cook for 20-25 minutes until golden brown, and let cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with butter, whipped cream, ice cream or the world's most amazing roasted strawberries. 

Roasted strawberries:
225g strawberries
2tbsp maple syrup
1tbsp olive oil (I used lemon infused rapeseed oil)
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (I used my fancy 12 year old pomegranate flavoured vinegar)
1/4tsp salt
1/4tsp black pepper

The howto:
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Hull strawberries and cut in half or quarters if big. Combine all the other ingredients, pour over berries and lightly toss to cover. Cook in the middle of the oven for about 40 minutes, until the juices have started to caramelise but not burn. While still warm, scrape berries and caramelised juices off the pan into a small bowl. If you can resist putting them straight into your mouth that is.

The verdict:
 The roasted strawberries come with a warning. And please, take this seriously. If you cook them, you will never view strawberries the same, ever again. It is without a doubt one of the most delicious things I have ever cooked. And I don't say that lightly, I mean I bake a lot of stuff and I say it's good, or really good (because it usually is). But this. I'm speechless. As soon as they came out of the oven, I could have just scraped it all off the pan and eaten in 10 seconds. Having to wait the one minute it took to heat up the French toast in the microwave was torture. Lessons to learn is that the single serving of the recipe is not nearly enough, next time I'm making it at least double. And that's only if I'm cooking for myself. Triple or quadruple if I'm serving for someone else as well. On my death bed I will dream of these strawberries. Oh and the French toast is nice too. But did I mention the strawberries?

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