Thai-ish salmon soup (serves 4):
Sunday, 24 February 2013
Thai-ish salmon soup (serves 4):
Monday, 18 February 2013
|This is my kind of math!|
For a while, the jar was just sitting there on the shelf, as I wasn't sure which of the hundreds of Biscoff recipes I should use it for. So I decided, maybe I'll just taste it, just a little bit, to see what it's like. Maybe that would help. So I dipped in my spoon, and had a lick. Oh my god! My taste buds had an orgasm. So I scooped a bit more into my mouth. And a bit more. What the heck, half a jar would be enough for baking, so I just kept spooning the spread into my mouth. Then I quickly closed the lid and put the jar back in the fridge. Only to be back in a few minutes for another taste. I pushed the jar all the way to the back of the fridge. Over the next few days, I had a spoonful here and there, thinking I could still bake something from the last quarter of a jar. However, very soon there was only a sad little spoonful left at the bottom of the jar. So I took pity on that little leftover dollop, and ate it too. And, as I had no upcoming trips across the pond, I thought that was the end of my very short, but ever so passionate love story with Biscoff.
That is until a few weeks ago, when I read Marie's post. Lotus spread is available at Waitrose. I did a little happy dance! I live a bit away from the nearest Waitrose. Last Friday, I decided not to get my regular bus home from work, but to get on the bus which would drop me off right next to Waitrose. And I marched in there, and got me two jars of the heavenly goo. And happily walked the 45 minute walk home, thinking of all the amazing things I would bake with my little treasures. However, as soon as I got home, it looked like the jars would suffer a similar fate to my first ever Biscoff. Luckily today, when I was browsing the food blogs I follow, and had a look at this lovely Gooey Butter Cake from Brown Eyed Baker. The little section featuring the "Today a year ago" recipe was for no-bake Biscoff cookies. And obviously, I couldn't resist. I thought maybe I'll make them in the weekend? But then again, why wait. I was going to clean my apartment today, and finally wash the piles of dishes that someone keeps leaving all around. Filthy little bugger... But no, instead I decided to make a batch of cookies. And after I tasted them, I realised I have to immediately share this little gem with you.
So if you have never stumbled upon this amazing product, what you need to know is that is a spread made out of cookies. It might sound a bit weird, it sure did to me, but don't knock it until you try it. Biscoff is often compared to peanut butter. Why, I have no idea, as it has nothing to do with peanuts. The texture is pretty close, I guess that's why. Other than that, it's made of Lotus cookies, a cinnamon spicy type of cookie, which apparently is often served on airplanes. The recipe for the no-bake cookies is by Brown Eyed Baker, but it was featured as a guest post on Sugarcrafter. I used it without any modification, except I halved the recipe, because somehow eating half a batch of cookies doesn't sound quite as horrible as eating a whole batch of cookies. Tomorrow, I'm going running. Pinky swear.
No bake Biscoff/Lotus/Speculoos cookies from Sugarcrafter/Brown Eyed Baker (makes about 10 cookies):
3/4 cups caster sugar
1/4 cup milk
56 g (1/4 cup) butter
a pinch of salt
1/3 cup Lotus spread
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup oats
Measure the sugar, milk, butter and salt in a pan, bring to a boil, and let boil for one minute. Take the pan off the heat, and add the spread and vanilla. Fold in the oats. Dollop onto parchment paper or a silicone mat to form cookies the size you like. I spooned the dough into cookie cutters to make shapes out of my cookies. Let cool until set, for the impatient cookie monsters out there, this can be expedited by placing the cookies in the fridge.
Ooh my!! These no bake cookies are super decadent. The sugar-butter-milk mixture together with the spread combines perfectly into a fudge like matrix which hold the chewy oats in place. The spicy flavour of the Lotus spread comes through very well (and ever better once the cookies have cooled completely, a state which only about half of my cookies managed to achieve...). The super rich sweetness is held in check by the dry and chevy oats. These cookies are not only ridiculously good, they are also really quick to prepare, and perfect for that late night sugar craving.
Friday, 15 February 2013
I was writing up a post about soft pretzels, and fear not, it's still coming. But after getting halfway through writing that post, for some obscure reason I decided to finally get back to tweeting again. That turned out to be a bit of a project, as I had to have my password reset for my twitter account. My last tweet was from June last year, you can't expect me to remember what my password could have been. When I finally figured out my twitter username (@pinkunicornfood by the way, please feel free to stop by and say hi, I feel so lonely out there in twitterspace), I realised I had connected that account to a really old email I no longer use. So I tried to swap it to my unicornmail, but Twitter told me that email was already linked to another account. Which I thought was odd, since my other twitter account is linked to my main email account. After a bit of detective work I figured out that my unicornmail was actually linked up to a third twitter account, a really ancient one I set up ages ago when I first tried out twitter. I haven't used it for a few years at least. So I realised I have three twitter accounts (but a total of six or so tweets between all of the accounts...) and three emails. I needed to swap the emails around, but because twitter won't let you make up a fake email address, I actually had to go and create a fourth email for myself so that I could switch the really old twitter account to that new email address which I have no intention of ever using. Then I was finally able to swap my food twitter account over to my unicornmail. This whole thing is getting slightly ridiculous, with so many accounts and passwords to remember. And on top of that there are all the gazillions of passwords to remember for work. I'm all for some sort of fingerprint or retinal scan or DNA based identification method to grant access to all the electronic devices and accounts we use. That way we wouldn't have to remember a thing. That would just be so convenient. Do you have some great tips how to remember your various passwords?
Cheese puff pastry wheels:
500 g puff pastry
250 g grated cheddar or other cheese of choice
2 tbsp garlic pachadi, or you could substitute by finely chopping 1-2 cloves of garlic and mixing with 2 tbsp of olive oil
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Roll out puff pastry to a rectangle. If you roll it out really thin the puffs get more flaky and crunchy, whereas a slightly thicker pastry stays softer (the way I like it, just a bit gooey in the centre) Spread cheese and pachadi (or garlic oil) on top. Roll together like a swiss roll, and cut into chunks. Brush with egg wash or milk and bake until golden on top and cheese is bubbling, about 20-25 minutes.
What is there to say. Wonderfully flaky puff pastry and cheese. Make sure you buy the good, all butter puff pastry because it makes a huge difference. The cheese puffs look so tiny and innocent, but you can't walk past without popping one into your mouth. Then another when you walk past again. And then you are making up excuses to walk past them some more. And then magically they are all just gone.
These are great to serve as an appetizer or late night snack with some wine and grapes. Endless opportunities for variation by using blue cheese, goat's cheese, feta or whichever cheese strikes your fancy. Best friend made some really tasty cheesy wheels using a strong cheddar with ground black pepper, and they were really tasty.
Wednesday, 13 February 2013
However, I made the strategic error of going into HobbyCraft a few weeks ago. I just love all sorts of crafts, back in the day when I still had a real life and a home, I used to make fusion glass jewellery, like the ones in the picture below. I also love to knit. And in HobbyCraft, I got that crazy overwhelming feeling that I really want to be creative again. What better to create than Valentine's cards. Back home, Valentine's day is not branded quite as strongly as a lovers day, but more of a Friendship day, you give Valentine's cards to your friends and actually the Finnish word for Valentine's day is Friendship day. In theory I like that thought much more than the whole lovers day it is in the UK and US. Obviously I realise that ultimately, it's just a day for selling us cards, chocolates and roses we neither need or can afford. But I decided instead of buying stupid ready made cards, I'll make my own! Never mind the fact that it probably ended up costing me at least twice the price of ready made cards, but I really enjoyed getting to do something with my hands. Obviously, the cards didn't turn out quite as elegant and sophisticated as they were in my head. To be quite honest, my cards looked like they were made by a three year old. But when it comes to anything hand made, be it cards, confectionary or cakes, it's always the thought that counts. That's what I keep telling myself. So I'm very proud of my cards and I sent off some to my family the other day, hoping they will arrive in time.
|Some fusion glass jewellery I made a long time ago.|
Two ingredient easiest fudge ever (from Cookies & Cups):
1 jar (16 ounce, 450 g) strawberry frosting
12 ounces (340 g) white chocolate
heart shaped or any other sprinkles
Melt chocolate either in the microwave or in a water bath. Mix with strawberry frosting. Spread in an oiled or clingfilm lined pan and allow to set in the fridge (anything from half an hour to over night). Cut using a cookie cutter or knife. Give away in a pretty box, along with a note of why you think the recipient is lovely!
If there ever was a recipe that can't fail, this is it. Well, as long as you are patient and don't melt the chocolate too fast so that it burns. I have to admit, this was the first time in my life I bought ready made frosting, and I can't say I found it all too appealing. But once mixed with the white chocolate, it turned into a nice fudge to my surprise. The fudge is really sweet though, so if you are not a world class carboholic, consider yourself warned. One of the nice things about this recipe is or course that you can easily adapt it by replacing strawberry frosting with vanilla or chocolate frosting to make different flavoured fudge very easily.
Monday, 11 February 2013
|Street food at it's best.|
Originally I wasn't quite convinced the Canary Islands would make a very interesting holiday, as to me they have always just been a tourist trap full of drunk Brits and Finns and lobster red Gemans. So me and the Culinary Consultant decided to aim our holiday to the estern side of Tenerife, which according to the guide books is the least touristy part of the island. We stayed in Santa Cruz, the capital, which was refreshingly low on tourists, and big enough to have a very nice selection of bars, restaurants and shops. It was also a nice base for exploring the northern and eastern parts of the island as bus connections were very good (and running very exactly on time, I was pleased to discover).
Canarian food is different from mainland Spanish food, with Latin American and Arabic influences introducing more spices to the food. The main animal protein is goat, and potatoes (called papas) are very common. Obviously, also sea food is eaten a lot. It turned out that finding real authentic Canarian food was not always very easy, as a lot of restaurants are Spanish style with tapas similar to mainland Spain. Not saying there is anything wrong with that, I love tapas, but I was hell bent on finding me some goat, and that took a few days.
So, lets start with the tapas. I love being able to eat a little bit of everything, and I could eat tapas every day. We arrived in Santa Cruz tired and hungry, late in the evening. We decided to head right to Tasca Tagoro (Rambla de Santa Cruz, right opposite Plaza de Toros), a tiny restaurant recommended by the hotel staff. We were greeted by a very friendly water who spoke very little English (something I consider a very good sign). He recommended we get the mixed tapas for two for €12. I thought that was €12 each, but turns out that was actually the price for the whole deal, including two beers! And the food was exquisite. The starter was a small slice of Spanish omelette, followed by a selection of deep fried prawns, seafood filled peppers, two different cheese tapas and a green soup type of thing which I think was made out of peas and a Parmesan type of cheese. The absolute highlight was a deep-fried small parcel of cheese, served with what I think was date syrup or sauce. I would have loved to just lick the sauce out of the bowl and the worship the empty bowl for the rest of my life.
The other really good tapas place in Santa Cruz that we stumbled upon more or less by mistake was called Taberna el Cambullón (on Calle Alfonso Bethencourt, right off the Plaza de España). The lovely, hand written menu was in Spanish, so we ended up ordering random stuff as neither of us speaks a word of Spanish. Nothing like combining good food with the element of surprise. We started off with some cheesy croquettes, which were nice, and went on to have something called Morcilla de Burgos which I had no idea what it was and only ordered because the word caramelizada was on there. It turned out it was black pudding with rice and a crispy, caramelised top. It was absolutely delicious, possibly one of the most exquisite things I ate on the whole trip. When the little black bundles were brought out I was extremely suspicious, but any doubt I had about the choice of dish disappeared as soon as I had my first mouthful. It was a combination of not having any idea of what it was I was eating, together with the experience of eating something absolutely heavenly and very different from what I am used to that really elevated that gastronomic experience to new hights. I can't recommend the place enough. The service was also extremely friendly, and the other tapas we had were very good as well. Our meal, including very good bread, a glass of wine, a beer and four different tapas (of which one was whole meat) was just under €50 with tips.
|The lovely Taberna el Cambullon.|
|The heavenly caramelised Morcilla de Burgos.|
|Papas arrugadas with mojo at Tapas Arcon in Puerto de la Cruz.|
|Amazing king prawns with garlic at Mi Jardin.|
|Goat stew. It took a few days to find, but it was worth the wait.|
|Local cheese and the cool little tubes of mojo and pâtés.|
|Ox, cooked to perfection.|
|This is what you get if you mix prickly pear juice and liquid nitrogen.|
|The end result, prickly pear sorbet.|
|Churros and chocolate.|
Talking about dulce de leche, I have to mention leche y leche, coffee the Canarian way. A shot of espresso with a small splash of regular milk, and then a good helping of sweetened, condensed milk. Oh my god! I have never been a coffee drinker, but I have finally discovered how I like my coffee. Short and sweet. In my future home, which I will buy as soon as I win the lottery, there will be an espresso machine making those tiny shots of strong, bitter coffee, and a jar of condensed milk next to said espresso machine.
|Pasteleria Diaz and a small fraction of their cakes.|
|Hazelnut and chocolate cake at Panderia Paraiso.|
|Crepes and ice cream at Romana.|
|Ice cream flower from Latte.|
I can't believe you are still reading. But thanks for sticking with me to the end. There is no doubt touristy destinations are full of bad, overpriced food. But with a little bit of research as well as some luck, you will find absolutely divine food at reasonable prices, served with a smile. I think I have a much more positive picture of the Canary Islands after visiting than I used to have. Goes to show you should never judge anything before you have tried it.
|Instant tapas. Meat and garlic filled olives, enjoy in the sun.|
Friday, 8 February 2013
It should have become quite obvious that I love me a good old breakfast. Proteins, fibre and at least one or two of your five a day. And this works just as well as vegetarian lunch, its quite hearty. The recipe is stolen from Epicurious, and only modified minimally.
Oven poached eggs with chickpeas (serves 2):
1 clove of garlic
1 medium chili
piece of fresh ginger root
1 tbsp dried cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can chickpeas
chopped flatleaf parsley
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Chop onion, garlic, chilli and ginger root and saute in the oil. When the onion is starting to get soft, add spices and fry for another minute or so. Add tomatoes, chickpeas and herbs, and let cook for 10 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken a bit. Transfer to a oven proof dish, make indentations in the tomato sauce, and break the eggs in them. Sprinkle feta on top, and bake in the oven until yolks are the consistency you like (about 6 minutes for runny yolks).
According to my estimate, which was dine using MyFitnessPal, one serving contains 513kcal (25g fat, 30g carbs of which 6.7g sugars, 22g protein).
Friday, 1 February 2013
The Finnish pancake (sometimes I've also seen it referred to as a Dutch pancake in recipes, what's up with that?!?) is very different from the US pancakes. The Finnish pancake has less flour and more eggs, it's not fluffy at all but more dense and a bit gooey (and I'm using the term gooey very lovingly here). And it's much less high maintenance compared to its American cousin, as it's baked in the oven and doesn't require anyone to slave at the stove flipping pancakes while watching the rest of the people eat them faster than you can get them off the pan opand onto a plate.
I know this is entirely a matter of taste and preference, both which are heavily influenced by what you have gotten used to and grown up with. But as much as I love a good stack of American pancakes (with butter and maple syrup) the Finnish pancake just has that special place in my heart which is only reserved for things which make me remember happy moments of my childhood.
When we were kids, me and my sister always spent Tuesday evenings at the stables, as that was the day of our riding lessons. Or maybe it was Wednesday... Anyways, it was the best day of the week, no doubt. My sister had her riding lesson first, and me and my friends had ours after that. And obviously we would sit out there in the riding hall to watch each other's lessons. Which in the winter got really cold, as there was no heating. As long as you were on horseback you were ok (riding really is a physical sport which gives you a good work out, just take my word for it if you haven't had any hands (or legs) on experience). And I still remember that penetrating cold, your thighs would start to tingle and you lost all feeling in fingers and toes. And still it was really sad when my mum or dad would come and pick us up from the stables, as that meant it would be another week before we would get to spend time with the horses again. But when we got home, the sauna was hot for us to warm up our frozen limbs. The fingers and toes would tingle when you had a warm shower before entering the sauna, and then warmth would slowly start spreading over your body until after sitting there for a while, it just got too hot and you had to slip back out to take a cool shower. I still love that feeling of anticipation when you are really cold, but know that soon you will be warm again. Unfortunately I don't get to enjoy that often enough these days, especially as the sauna at the gym is a disgrace and nowhere near warm enough to get to that blissful state of overheating. What has this all to do with pancake you ask? Well, obviously that was what my mum had cooked for me and Sis for supper after the sauna. It was always baked in a large black oven sheet, and the best bits were the edges which were drier and crispier than the gooey middle. It was usually enjoyed with berries and my mum's home made strawberry jam (well it wasn't proper jam, it was more like mashed up strawberries frozen with a bit of sugar, and it was so much better than jam because it tasted more of strawberries and less of sugar). Every time I have Finnish pancake, that is the memory it brings to my mind. And that is why it will always taste better to me than any other pancakes.
Because the crispy edges of the pancake are much better than the middle, I though the idea of making mini pancakes in muffin tins or moulds was a genius one. This gives a perfect ratio of crispy edge and soft centre. I saw this pin on Pinterest, and it immediately went in the 'has to be tried' pile. And now I had the perfect excuse as I needed some practical take away brekkie for a morning on the go. I decided to reduce the amount of sugar a bit, and add some berries for extra flavour and vitamis. These pancakes only take a minute or two to prep, and can be baked the previous day for a grab and go in the morning. The are nice to eat cold, but I think pancake is best if eaten fresh, not hot out of the oven, but still warm after letting it cool for a while.
Mini pancakes (makes 6-8):
1/2 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
15 g sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
100 g frozen mixed berries
According to my estimate (made using MyFitnessPal) one pancake (1/6 of the recipe) contains 90 kcal (2.9 g fat, 12 g carbs of which 3.5g sugar and 5.2 g protein).
Preheat oven to 200 deges C. Mix flour, sugar and salt. Add milk and eggs and mix with a fork or wooden spoon. Distribute batter in individual muffin moulds (or pour in an oven proof tin to make one big pancake). Sprinkle frozen berries on top. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.
I loved them. Loved, loved loved. Also the culinary consultant seemed to enjoy them enough to have two, although he found them a bit tart. I don't think the whole wheat flour made them taste any healthier than regular all purpose flour would as the main flavour comes from the berries, but of course you are free to use any flour you want. I think I will experiment with using some other flours as well, maybe quinoa or spelt, why not even rice flour or some other gluten free variety. And you could add any flavouring you wanted, blueberries, cranberries, chocolate chips, raisins, pineapple, or whatever your heart desires. The traditional Finnish pancake doesn't have any topping at all, and it's really tasty on it's own as well, although for that I would probably add some more sugar. Overall, add more sugar if you find my variation with unsweetened mixed berries too tart, or leave it out completely (or replace by maple syrup or agave) if that's your preference. Or mashed ripe banana would also work perfectly to bring some flavour and sweetness. Ooh, that's my next attempt. Banana and chocolate chip pancake.
I baked my pancakes in my flower cupcake silicon mould. In the picture I turned two of the pancakes with the pretty flower side up, and left the other two upside down so you can see the berries and the puffy golden brown edges of the pancakes.