Monday 19 February 2018

Kind of a Paris-Brest with smoked coffee buttercream.

Here I am, again. 
I didn't imagine to open this blog again. 
I decided to take a long pause and drop it forever. Well, you know, I couldn't. 

Not my fault. 😇 
It's MTC's fault. Greta's fault. Alessandra's fault and Ele's fault.
They know why. 😊

I can't stop smoking, now. I mean, this technique is amazing, I've tried a lot of things, I even made my Birthday cake with a smoked chocolate mousse, but this... this was much better than the cake. 
It's a kind of Paris-Brest but it's not. I don't know how to call it, actually, it's a cross between an éclair and a Paris-Brest, a new fashion treat among french pastry chefs. A trend, if you want. 
And what a trend!
I wanted to fill it up with a smoked cream. A smoked coffee cream. I tried several ways, and at the final attempt, I ended lightly smoking the butter, to achieve exactly what I wanted.
Just a few words on my choices and ingredients selection. I've worked with Sumatra coffee because of its full body and low acidity, characteristics that make it perfect in pastry. I've smoked with almond wood chips, because I wanted a light and nutty smoke flavour for my finished cream. This is the same reason why I cold smoked the butter, a very good quality one, indeed. The cocoa beans also give their boost to all the preparation. It's amazing what they can do when used to smoking. Just try. 
Also, I decided to hot smoking the coffee, using the same way we do for ice, because it's liquid and with my little experiments I learnt it's not easy to smoke a liquid in another way, keeping the smoked flavour, without let it evaporate... 

Hope you'll like it.

And thank you. Thank you MTC, and Greta and everybody for everything.
You all were so important to me during the last months. 

Ok, ok, the recipe...

it goes like this: 

For 12 pieces

60 ml water
200 g flour
100 g butter
1 pinch of salt
4 whole eggs

60 g flour
60 g brown sugar (cassonade)
50 g softened butter

Coffee flavored smoked buttercream
8 egg yolks, room temperature
250 g sugar
250 g softened smoked butter (I used high quality Normand butter)
60 ml water
60 ml strong, reduced and smoked Sumatra coffee

To smoke the butter
250 g almond wood chips
scant one handful cocoa beans

To smoke the coffee
250 g almond wood chips
scant one handful cocoa beans
Enough Sumatra coffee to soak the chips

The first day:

The coffee: Prepare the Sumatra coffee as you use to do. I did it in an Italian Moka coffee machine. Old fashioned. Prepare about 150 ml of coffee, the, pour it on a saucepan and make it reduce by the half. I proceeded this way because normally, you have to use a coffee essence, but I wanted to keep natural and be able to smoke it. When the coffee has reduced, let it cool and freeze it in ice cubes containers.
Soak the almond wood chips in another batch of Sumatra coffee, enough to cover the chips. Let stay 8 hours or overnight.

The butter: Cut the butter into cubes and put it in a bowl big enough to contain it in one only layer. Butter must to be as cold as possible. Make a small nest with aluminium foil, introduce in it the chips and the cocoa beans, place it on the bottom of a pan. Place the butter bowl in a steamer basket that matches perfectly with your pot. Now, put the pot with the chips on high fire and wait for the smoke. When you see the smoke, cover the pot and let it fill up by the smoke. Then, place the steaming basket on the pot and cover it. Turn the fire off and let the butter stay there. I tried several times, but 35 minutes was enough for the smoked scent I wanted: light, smooth, just an aftertaste. Set the butter aside, refrigerate it.

The craquelin: Stir together all the ingredients listed to form a dough. Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll the dough evenly at 1 mm thick, freeze until use.

The second day:

The coffee: Put the frozen coffee cubes in a bowl, and place the bowl in the steamer basket. Strain the chips and place them in a new aluminium foil nest, along with the cocoa beans. Put the smoking mix nest on the bottom of the pan (the same you used for smoking the butter) and bring it on hight fire. Wait for the smoke, cover and let the pan fill up by the smoke. Quickly, place the steaming basket on the top of the pan, cover it and slow the fire to the minimum you can. Smoke the coffee iced cubes until completely melted. It took about 90 minutes for me. I left them stay in the smoke 10 minutes more, after turning the fire off. Remove from the steamer, set aside.

The choux: Put water, butter and salt in a pan on medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from fire and pour the flour all in once. Stir together with a wooden spatula, being careful to not to leave lumps. You obtain a dough called "panade". Put the panade back on the fire, always stirring with a wooden spatula, to dry it. It will be enough dry when it won't stick anymore to the bottom and edges of the pan. Remove from fire and put the panade in a cold metal bowl to let it cool 5 minutes.
Incorporate the eggs one by one, with the wooden spatula. Don't add the following egg until the previous one is well incorporated.
Preheat your oven at 170°C
Now, bring the Craquelin out from the freezer. With a round 3 cm cutter, cut 24 circles.
On a buttered cookie sheet or a silicon pad, form the choux in an éclair shape, adjoining them, trying to not squeeze them too much. They have just to touch each other a bit. Form the choux two by two, or three by three, as you want. Form them about 3 cm diameter. Put on each choux a circle of craquelin and press lightly, just to make it stick.
Bake at 170°C in convection mode, about 20 to 25 minutes. Choux must to be nicely blown up, golden and dry. Remove from oven, let cool.

The buttercream: Mix the sugar with the water, bring to a boil until reach a temperature of 121°C. Put the egg yolks in a stand mixer and gradually, pour the cooked sugar syrup on the yolks, whisking constantly, pouring slowly, like a thread. It's important that the yolks are at room temperature, to avoid a thermic shock. You don't want to cook your eggs. Keep whisking and when the syrup is perfectly incorporated, keep whisking at maximum speed, to cool the mixture. When the mixture is cool enough, incorporate the softened butter, gradually, piece by piece. Keep whisking in order to obtain a cream with a smooth consistence. Then, add your smoked coffee, incorporate well to the cream.

Assembling: Cut your éclairs at the half widthwise, with a saw knife, and separate the two halves. Fill a pastry bag with a plain, 15 mm diameter, round tip, with the buttercream. Pipe the cream on the choux, forming some regular, smooth and harmonious balls on each choux. Cover with the half with the craquelin.
Keep in the refrigerator until serving.

Note: I am sorry to have only one picture to show. I did not mean to partecipate to the challenge with this recipe, so, I didn't make any picture of the making of. If I repeat, I will add them.

Thursday 20 April 2017

Springtime Vegetarian Rice Sartù

Honestly, I was pretty sure I couldn't make it this time, with MTC.

Passover finished only this Tuesday night, so no way to have breadcrumbs and even rice, at home. And to make matters worse, I've been very busy, overwhelmed if you want, in a delicate situation you don't want to know. 
But the truth is that I really didn't want to miss Marina's challenge.  Because of her, and also because I never heard about this dish before in all my life.
So, I wanted really try. I HAD to try. 😊

I've been started to think and writing notes on Sunday night in one of those rare moments of calm that I achieve to have. Thinking first in the main ingredients, to choose the others according to them.

I was sure that the common thread had to be Spring and that my Sartù should not contain any meat. 
a Springtime Vegetarian Sartù, in other words.

I'm sorry, but this time I mad all by eye and by heart and there are lot of ingredients that are not measured, or given very approximatively.

And sorry for the short post.

Anyway, here it goes:

Springtime vegetarian rice Sartù

For a Charlotte mold 18 large, 10 high

for the rice:

400 g Carnaroli rice
stock (scroll down for the recipe)
100 g parmesan cheese
4 eggs

I've cooked the rice like a risotto. First, I toasted the rice with any grease until it turned opaque and "pearl color". Then, I started adding the stock until it was 3/4 cooked. I stirred the butter and the parmesan in.
I did everything as it was suggested in this amazing article.
Once done, I left it cool. Then, added the eggs one by one.

for the non-meat balls

150 g zucchini, finely grated
2-3 tablespoons ricotta
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon basil, finely chopped
1 bread slice
extra virgin olive oil for frying

Soak the bread in some milk to make it soften.
Put the grated zucchini in a colander, sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Let drain for two hours, then, press them to eliminate all excess of water. Squeeze in your hands, then, put in a dry bowl.
Squeeze also the bread and add it to the zucchini.
Add the ricotta cheese, the yolk and the basil. Mix and form hazelnut sized balls.
Deep fry in hot extra virgin olive oil.

for the filling

2 asparagus bunches, (the spears only)
butter (maybe a tablespoon or two)
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
100 g green peas
some of the vegetable stock, maybe a cup (scroll down for the recipe)
1 handful basil
150 g buffalo mozzarella cheese
white pepper

Melt the butter in a skillet, add the onion and let soften. Add the asparagus spears, salt and a little pepper. Sauté the asparagus, the add the peas and pour some stock on it. Let cook the vegetables uncovered, then add the basil, at the end off cooking. Turn off. Set apart.

For the vegetable stock

Yelds 2 liters

1 white onion, halved
1 carrot, peeled cut into chunks
1 leek, the white part cut into chunks
the asparagus stalks, peeled, trimmed cut into chunks
some peppercorns
3 liters water
The peel of one lemon (NOT grated)

In a big pot, put all ingredients but lemon peel. Bring to boil then turn the heat down and let simmer  uncovered for 1 hour. It will reduce. Turn the flame off and add the lemon peel cut in big stripes. Cover and let infuse for one hour.
Strain and set apart.

for the velouté:

1 liter stock
50 g butter
50 g flour, sifted thrice
white pepper
juice of half lemon

Melt the butter, then add the flour. Mix until you have an homogeneous mix. Cook at low fire until the roux will turn light blond. Let it cool.
Heat the stock until starts to boil. Pour half of the boiling stock on the cooled roux and mix vigorously with a whisk. Pour the rest of the boiling stock bit by bit, do not stop whisking.
Texture must to be smooth with no lumps.
Season with salt and pepper.
Return the pot to the fire and bring to a boil, never stop whisking. Let the sauce reduce and thiken, at very slow fire, about 15-20 minutes. The velouté must reduce to 2/3 of its initial volume.
Turn the flame off and add the lemon juice. Whisk again.
Strain the sauce in the "chinois".

You also will need: butter and breadcrumbs.

Preheat the oven at 180°
Grease the mold with butter and breadcrumbs.
Form one cm of rice on the bottom and one cm on the mould walls. Pour half of the filling, a little velouté, half of the zucchini balls and half of the mozzarella cheese. Make another layer of one cm of rice, pour the rest of the filling, a little sauce, the rest of the zucchini balls and mozzarella. Cover with the rest of the rice. Sprinkle with more breadcrumbs.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the rice will start to separate from the mould walls.
Wait about 15 minutes and remove the sartù from the mould. (praying at the same time)

Serve the sartù with the sauce, both hot.

And Thank you Marina!

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Cristiana's Plums Far, for The Recipe-Tionist

The first step, was trying to understand Flavia's recipe-tionist rules.
Once I got it, I went to surf Cristiana's blog.

I've been surfing for hours.
I was looking for a recipe that was possible to make with the ingredients found here and that I could interpretate in kosher way, changing only one ingredient.
I was going to throw the towel when I ended up here.
The far. A french recipe. 
Intrigued by the use of fresh plums instead of dried, I continued reading.
I have to say that I am not a romantic person and I barely and rarely feel moved, but while I was reading, I saw my own grandmother.
I've found her light blue eyes, her tiny body moving in a small kitchen, her skills in the kitchen. Everything seemed easy looking at her.
I remembered her anger, "like a tiger" as Cristiana writes, when my sister Sarah died, so prematurely. The only difference is that my grandmother could not go on, she died of sorrow, two months later.
Unfortunately, she didn't left us a recipes notebook, she cooked by heart, I was only sixteen when she past away, not interested yet to learn about the kitchen mysteries. 

When I was measuring the milk for the far, I suddenly remembered the noise.

I could still hear the scrape of it. The long sound. Metal on metal.
Shrill like a scream, piercing the morning chill, and my dreams. Its sharp persistence disallowing silence and sleep. My grandmother emptying the porridge pot in the kitchen, cleaning carefully, edge to curved edge, with a spoon. The rule was: no waste.
I remembered the sullen complaints: my elder sister burrowing her head under the pillow and I pulling the covers over mine, in vain.
Every morning. My grandmother prepared porridge every morning, so we did not need an alarm clock in school time.
I have to admit now that all of a sudden, I miss that gray, gloopy mess.

But Cristiana's grandmother's far is much better:

 Fresh Plums Far

300 g fresh plums
200 g flour
150 g sugar
4 eggs
500 ml milk
1 tablespoon Armagnac
100 g butter
pinch of salt

Wash plums, cut in half and take out the bones. 
Warm the milk with the butter, until butter is melted. Allow to cool.
In a bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt. Add eggs and let the flour absorbing the eggs. 
Add the milk, working with an hand whisk in order to have a mix like the crêpes mix. Add the Armagnac. Set aside, for one hour.
Preheat oven at 180°.
Grease a 22 cm tick border tin and put the prunes on the bottom.
Cover with the dough and cook 45 minutes.
Serve cool.

Monday 13 March 2017

Lox Terrine, with Piccalilli and Mizeria

Lox terrine, with Piccalilli and Mizeria.

New Delhi, March 2017

What is half French, half British, with a Polish accent?
No, it's not the doctor, it's my terrine for  Giuliana and MTC. 😊

First of all, I have to warn you, it's a very long job. It took 4 days to do it, but it can worth all the time spent in the kitchen.
Second, This is a real Nomad recipe. It has some of France (the terrine itself), some of England (the piccalilli) and some from Poland (the Mizeria Salad).
The idea came quite quickly. The difficulty was finding some of the ingredients in New Delhi Jungle of markets and little stores. 
When I told Ele I wanted a wild salmon fillet, you can't imagine her face. But, as she always is optimist she told me that she would find it and maybe knew where. And finally she did.
The unexpected Odyssey was for the English Mustard powder. 
-India is the country of mustard-she said.
-Yes, but...  it's really not the same for the piccalilli.
I know, she has patience just because she loves me, otherwise...😉
Well, Imagine to traverse a 23 millions inhabitants city, from north to south, east to west, only to find a little, tiny, yellow box of mustard.
Unbelievable in an ancient British colony, but true.
We finally found it, by a friend of her in the British High Commission. I had al last all the ingredients to start the long process of this terrine.
In the first moment, I imagined it entirely covered of lox. While I was mixing the ingredients, I changed my mind as I thought that it would be nicer and lighter folded in cucumber slices.
The clarified butter gives a nice taste and a spreadable texture, in addition to keep the terrine together.

I hope you'll enjoy.

Slice detail, ready to serve, at room temperature

Lox (salt cured salmon)

Make your lox at least three days ahead.

1 big, whole wild salmon fillet, skin on (mine was about 1 kg)
300 g coarse salt
100 g sugar

Start washing your salmon and ensure all bones are removed. If they are not, just take a plier and pull the bones off. 
Mix salt and sugar in a bowl and cover the fish with this mixture. Be generous, because the fish will absorb part of the salt mixture during the curing process. Next, wrap the fish in plastic and put it on a shallow dish (can be a pyrex). Put in the fridge with a weight on top. I used a large heavy dish with two wine bottles on top.
Check the salmon every 12 hours and eliminate any excess of liquid.
After 48 hours, you can check if it's enough cured to your taste. Normally, I prefer it a little more salty and consistent, which I achieve after three days.
When you feel it's done, rinse it well and slice it thinly.

-Once you cover the fish with salt, you can also put some aromatic ingredients such dill (the most common), lemon zest, zaatar, onion, herbs, pepper, shallots.... I didn't this time just because I wanted a "pure" tasting lox.
-You can freeze your lox cut in slices, ONLY if you bought a fresh fillet. Do not freeze if you started with a frozen fish.
-Try with smoked salt for a smoked salmon taste ;)

Another view of the finished and plated dish


250 g cauliflower
1 little cucumber (mine was 150 g)
half white onion
2 shallots
30 g fennel
30 g courgette
1 liter water
25 g salt
200 ml white wine vinegar
75 ml cider vinegar
1 red chili
1 bay leaf
25 g sugar
1 pinch turmeric
25 g english mustard powder
1 g xanthan gum*

Cut cauliflower in tiny florets. Peel, deseed and cut the cucumber in small cubes. Peel onions and shallots and chop roughly. Cut fennel and courgette in small cubes. 
Mix all vegetables and soak in water and salt for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
Wash the vegetables and pat dry throughly.  It's very important that vegetables are dry before adding them in the mustard cream.
In a saucepan, mix the vinegars, the red chili and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes, strain, discard leaf and chili. 
Mix sugar, turmeric and mustard and add to the reduced vinegars. Mix well, cook for three minutes.
Allow cool, add the xanthan gum and make the mixture thicken with a stick blender.
Dip the vegetables and combine. Let macerate overnight.
Keep in a jar in de fridge until use.

*If you don't have xanthan gum, then mix 2 teaspoons cornstarch in the mustard mix before adding to reduced vinegars, and cook to thicken. I prefer xanthan just because it doesn't have any aftertaste.

Polish Mizeria Salad

300 g cucumber, peeled, deseeded, thiny sliced
150 g sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons dill, finely chopped

Slice the cucumber as thin as possible. Some people also use to grate the cucumber, do as you prefer.
Put the slices in a colander and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Let drain the liquid for about 30 minutes. In a bowl, mix cucumber slices with sour cream, vinegar and dill (you can save some dill for decoration). Put in the fridge for one hour. Season with more salt, if needed, and pepper to taste before serving.

Lox Terrine

(for a 1 liter terrine)

1 leek
100 g clarified butter
1 big potato
400 g lox
3 shallots, peeled and finely diced
100 g cornichons, finely sliced
65 g capers, finely chopped
20 g flat parsley, finely chopped
10 g chives, finely chopped
200 g clarified butter
200 g fresh cucumber, finely sliced

Trim the green part of the leek. Ensure to cut it to the same length of the terrine. Blanch the leek in salty water until tender, drain and set aside.
Peel the potato and slice 1 cm thick. Melt 100 g of clarified butter, poach the potato slices and cook at very low temperature until soft but not overdone. The grease must to entirely cover the slices.  Potato has not to fry, not to take color, just be "confit", slowly cooked in the grease. When done, take out from the butter and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Chop the lox as a very fine "tartare". In a bowl, mix lox with the chopped shallots, cornichons, capers, chives and parsley.
Using the melted clarified butter in which you cooked the potatoes, generously brush the bottom and sides of the terrine. Finely slice the fresh cucumber and brush one side of each slice and stick the slices on the bottom and sides of terrine, to line it completely. The starch released by the potatoes will help cucumber slices to stick.
Melt the rest of new, unused clarified butter.
Start to layer the terrine with a first layer of lox mixture. Pour some of the butter and press the lox down.
Put the leek on this first layer, pressing a bit down, then cover with a new lox mixture layer and some of the melted butter. Lay down the potato slices on the length of the terrine. I've cut the round edges to make them line up, like one single slice. Push delicately down, being careful to not to break them. Cover with the last layer of lox mixture, pour another little amount of clarified butter.
Cover nicely with thin cucumber slices and finish with a little butter to fix.
Put your terrine on the fridge with an appropriate weight on the top, to press it overnight.

The whole terrine, just out from the fridge

What I did, was to cut a customized piece of cardboard at the same size of my terrine container. I folded it with cling wrap, covered the terrine with it and finally put a bowl filled of river stones on it.
As the butter will harden in the fridge, take out your terrine on time to serve at room temperature.
Gently, scrap out the excess of butter from the top.
Slice the terrine when still hard, leaving the slices at room temperature.
Serve sliced, with piccalilli and Mizeria salad.

-If you have time, use homemade clarified butter. It has a better taste and texture.
-MY MISTAKE: I should had minced the lox mixture more finely for a more refined result. The texture I got it's maybe right for a "terrine de campagne", but not for an elegant lox or smoked salmon one. Just my opinion.

Lox Terrine, still a bit hard, enough to cut it

Monday 27 February 2017

Alsatian Schenkele or Lady's tights. Mardi Gras in Alsace.

Schenkele, the Alsatian almond and kirsch flavored fritters. Mardi Gras in Alsace.

New Delhi, February 2017

Mardi Gras in Strasbourg smells like Hanukkah in Jerusalem. 
The smell of frying food is everywhere. Especially sweet fried food.
Schenkele, also called Lady's tights, are a must in this period.

When I was pouring the clarified butter in the frying pan, my husband showed up in the Kitchen.

-Are you going to fry again?- the doctor asked
I looked at him, with my best big smile.
-You said frying is good for the liver (but not for memory, I'm afraid)
-No, I said it's not bad if you don't eat it often. You will end killing me.
(Don't tell him but it's exactly the goal I married him for)
-You're not forced to eat the Schenkele, my dear. I will make a fruit salad only for you.
(Big Deal. He won't eat my Schenkele. What a pitty. There will be more for us)

Now, guess who ate a lot and wanted more.
His Alsatian genes are stronger than his willpower. It's clear. 😃

You have to know that in Alsace we observe very closely every calendar's celebration. No matter if you're Jewish, Christian or Muslim, if you're Alsatian, any excuse is good to enjoy special foods.
Indeed, if the primary meaning of a religious celebration can sometimes be lost along the way, the greedy tradition remains, in turn, intact.
When Mardi Gras approaches, you can find thus fritters everywhere and in all the shapes in Alsace. In fact, "Boules de Berlin" (Sufganyoth, Kraphen, Donuts or Berliner Pfannkuchen), Roussettes de Strasbourg (kind of Angel wings), Apfelkiechle (apple fritters) and Schenkele are the best seller in all the region's pastry shops in this period.

Why this madness about donuts and fritters in February?
This tradition is typically the legacy from a Catholic religious practice that is non longer necessarily observed, but whose food rituals has endured.
Rituals, even if they loose their religious meaning, retain the power to gather people. No matter which is your faith, Mardi Gras is an excellent pretext for gorging on donuts and fritters without guilt!

So, I say, it would be so wrong to deprive yourself. Isn't it?
Anyway, if it's not your G-d who will hit you on your fingers for your excess of gluttony, then the scale, your cholesterol levels or your favorite skinny jeans will soon make you call to order.😇

Finally, the calendar festivals have the merit of putting a little order in what could be quickly become total anarchic. Just imagine if it was the period of cakes, candy apples, donuts, fritters, chocolate eggs, bredele and Christmas log all the year long!
No, it's better non to imagine all this considered. 

It must be admitted that seasonality makes all the charm of certain specialities. With no doubt, these Schenkele flavored with Kirsch, deliciously soft inside and so crispy outside, are more appreciated as their consumption is occasional but... I use to say, after all there are many pants sizes but only one life.

Don't you think?


Schenkele (Lady's tights)

I use to make this for Hanukkah Festival and eat it somewhere else in this period. But being in India, I missed the aroma of fried sweets flooding the streets so I decided to make and share it.
The particularity of these pastries is that, unlike other fritters, they keep crunchy for days. Some people use to roll the Schenkele in a mix of sugar and cinnamon just after frying when still hot. In my family we only use sugar for sprinkle. Modern variations include orange or lemon zest instead of kirsch, but honestly, I've never seen a citrus tree in Alsace.
Last, but not least, I've fried in clarified butter because I like most. You can use the grease you want.

For about 50-60 pieces

4 eggs
250 grams sugar
125 grams butter
2 tablespoons Kirsch
125 grams almond meal
pinch of salt
500 grams flour

grease for deep frying (I used clarified butter)
sugar, to sprinkle

Melt butter and stir in the kirsch. Let it cool slightly.
Whisk the eggs with sugar until light and fluffy. When eggs will be fluffy, add the melted butter and liquor, making sure it has cooled, or you will risk to "cook" the eggs. Add the almond meal and salt, as well. Combine.
Add the flour in several batches. You have to obtain a smooth but still sticky dough. Fold it in cling wrap and let in the fridge for 2 hours.
After this time, you will have an easy to work dough.
Flour your hands and take a small piece of dough (about 20 grams each), roll in your hands to make a cylinder shape (5 to 6 cm long and 2 to 3 wide) and press the ends in order to form points, as shown in the picture.

Lay your raw Schenkele on a floured surface.
When done, heat your frying grease at 160°C. Temperature is very important here, because if your oil is too hot, you will have a colored surface, but a raw inner. So, try to maintain a constant temperature while frying. What I did, was put my frying pan at high heat until it reached the ideal temperature, then I lowed the fire always keeping an eye on the thermometer.
Fry non more than 10 to 12 pieces at batch. They first tend to sink and stick on the bottom of the pan, then they will float; that's why you must turn very often to cook evenly.
If the temperature is the right one, it will take up to 10-20 minutes to cook your Schenkele until golden brown and perfectly cooked in the center.
They will crack during the cooking time. Don't worry, it's absolutely normal. They have to.
When done, transfer each batch to a plate lined with paper towel and sprinkle with sugar immediately, before they get warm.
Eat warm or cold with any moderation!
It's just for one day. 😊

Friday 24 February 2017

Almond Baklava. Grocery shopping in New Delhi: a real adventure.

Almond Baklava: grocery shopping in India is a real adventure. Or a Mission, I dare to say.

New Delhi, Febraury 2017

India: it's not a bed of roses, but what a bouquet of experiences... (read a sigh here)

New Delhi is not an easy place to be. 
It's a tentacular, complicated city. Dirty and polluted. Poor to make you cry.
I have not the same romantic idea of India as my niece and husband. I just can't.
According to them, India is amazing, colorful, beautiful, magic, meaningful, incredible, peaceful and safe. That is, the perfect place to be.
Yes, if you are a cow.

I'm not saying that I'm unhappy here, on the contrary. It's just that I can't see only all the good as they do. This city can be a nightmare, just only for that simple thing as grocery shopping is.

The thing I like the most here is spending time with mi niece. Only the both of us. I'm eager to make up for lost time, trying to spend as hours as possible with her, cooking, chatting, going out or simply in silence, looking into each other eyes, trying to find things in common. We already found a lot, beyond DNA matters and physical features.
One is that we both are passionate about markets. Food markets, firstly.
The first two times I've been here, she was severely ill, so she couldn't show me the city as she would want to do. Now she's recovering, always like a roller coaster, but there are days when she feels fully in shape and loaded with powerful, infecting energy. It's when I understand why my husband can't live without her and is totally fine only when she's around, since the day he met her.

-Let's go to INA Market- she suggested, one of those good days. -But you have to get yourself psychologically ready-she added.
I admit that I was afraid and worried in front of her proposition and the snigger in her face.

Before I continue my story, you have to know that there is not a supermarket in Delhi. Not even one. Every neighborhood has its own market and there are several specialized markets in the city. One for clothes, one for jewels, one for organic vegetables, and so on. If you need something specific, you have to move from one to another, otherwise you can find basic products just nearby. Things like season vegetables and fruits, milk and some other staples.
When I say market, don't immagine the European open air kind. Those markets are squares with little, dark shops all around. You can find jewelers, fashion boutiques, hairdressers, coffee bars and little basic groceries full of Indian stuff with unpronounceable names.
If you need to buy fish, meat or simple European food, like pasta for example, you have to take your car and have a nice time in Delhi's traffic jams.
It takes more than half an hour to cover 5 kilometers and reach this INA Market, but it seems to be worth it, judging by Michael and Ele's tales. I have to admit that I thought it was a bad jape, knowing them.

I was wrong. Kind of.
INA Market is a real Ali Baba's cave for foodies. You can find whatever you want from almost any country and if don't see it in your sight, they will find it for you. However, if you are a prissy person, this may not be the right place for you. It's always Delhi, it's always India: dirt, hawkers, homeless people and beggars jump immediately to the eye while you are concentrated doing the giant slalom through the stray dogs in the aisles.
A truly Indian experience.
This colorful, crowded indoor market is really exciting, with small shops full of packaged imported foods and local dry goods merchants. When you arrive at the parking, an army of coolies (porters) move close to you with a big smile, ready to carry your choices in a basket while you shop for few rupees. You have to choose among about fifteen guys: I chose the less intimidating one.

In a huge and multi-colored fruits and veg stall I saw some packages of Indian Buffalo Mozzarella in a fogged fridge and I asked for it.
-Don't- Ele said- Don't buy cheese here because you can't know how long it has been under the sun, before reaching that fridge.
-Right. So where do you buy cheese?
-In Meher Chand Market, just 4 kilometers from here
Great, another mission only to buy cheese. Ok, I can live with it.

After we got our fill of fruits and vegetables, always with the guy following us with his plastic basket, we had a random walk until reach the fishmongers side. Amazing. Less choice compared to the Tel Aviv fish markets, but much better and fresher compared to Strasbourg. Plus, fish are sold whole, so you can recognize what is kosher and what is not before they ask you if you want it in fillets. Since I have a retired surgeon at home, who wants fillets? He will make a better job than nobody else.

In a muddy lane in the back, you have the butchers. Mutton, goat, chicken and pork meats are available here. All the meat are halal and sellers are muslims, except for the pork, of course. The floor is wet, the odor is disgusting and a huge community of flies lives there, despite the fans and the electric fly zappers. Hygiene? Not available. 
At least, you know that meat is fresh. You have the option of choosing your live animal and they are so kind to kill and cut it just in front your eyes.

Now I understand why the majority of Indians are vegetarian.

-Tell me you never buy meat here.
She laughed.
-No. I buy kosher chicken from the Chabad Community and other Halal meats from a Japanese store which are...
-Let me guess...far and away?
Her laugh answered my question.
I can make it, I feel it. I will need to join her daily yoga class, but I will make it. Breath long and deep...

That day I bought a lot of almonds from Kashmir. They have a very pleasing aroma and a great texture. 
Yesterday, we all had a very bad day. Especially Ele. Then I wanted to try to cuddle her in some way.
I know for sure that her favorite sweet treat is Baklava.
The only problem is that I didn't know if phyllo pastry is available here. The homemade one is good, but sincerely, not the same.
I was afraid to ask

-Where can I find phyllo pastry?
-In the Modern Bazaar. 
Modern. Sounds so comfortable.
-And...where is it? 
-Just a few minutes from home


Long post, I hope you enjoyed my distress. But you maybe came here for the recipe...
Here it goes:

My Almond Baklava

There is not only one baklava recipe, there are thousands. The only thing they have in common is the dry fruits filling in a crunchy phyllo pastry shell, with a sticky flavorful syrup. This is my favorite one, with almonds only, orange blossom flavored.

for a 27x35 cm pan:

500 g almonds
4 tablespoons sugar
150 g butter
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
500 grams phyllo pastry

for the syrup:

500 g sugar
250 ml water
juice of 1 big lemon
about 2 tablespoons orange blossom water

If using frozen pastry, let it thaw completely before.
Preheat the oven at 180°.
In the meanwhile, chop the almonds. You can do it carefully in a food processor, but I like do it by hand, with a large knife, especially when I'm upset or angry, like I was. Those thinks work better than yoga for me.
Transfer the chopped almond in a bowl and mix with 4 tablespoons sugar.
Melt the butter along with the oil. Pour about 4 tablespoons of this mix on the almonds and mix well. Grease a the pan with oil or butter. Carefully, open and unfold the pastry sheets, place a dump cloth on them to prevent it from drying out.
Gently handle the phyllo dough sheets one by one, taking care to not to tear or damage it.
Place a sheet in the pan and brush it with the butter and oil mix. Place another sheet on the top of the first one and brush it, too. Do the same with the half of the package. You must to have a bottom of at least 10 phyllo sheets. Be careful to press the pastry on the edges and corners of the pan to make it adhering. Cut the pastry that pass over the edges of the pan. Scissors are the best tool for this task.
When you finish placing the half of the dough, place the almonds on it in an even layer. Make sure the almonds cover the entire pan.
Cover with the others phyllo sheets, greasing again one by one with the greasy mix. Brush the last one, too. Don't forget.
Normally and traditionally, at this point you have to cut the baklava in diamonds shapes. With a sharp knife, cut 6 rows across the long side. Then cut diagonal rows, first from a corner to the opposite one, then parallel to that row across the rest of the baclava.
Or you can do like me, I just cut in squares.
Bake for 1 hour or until golden and crisp. If after one hour it's not golden rise the temperature to 200° for some minutes, it will take the right tan.
During the baking time, make the syrup. Mix water, sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the orange blossom water. Let cool.
Take the baklava off the oven and let cool. When syrup and baklava are both cooled, drizzle the syrup all over the baklava. 
Refrigerate at least for 1 hour before serving.

Notes: I use to make baklava only with almonds because I like it more than other variations. You can also mix pistachio, walnuts and almonds or make it only with pistachio. Rose water water can be used instead of orange blossom one. Pistachio baklava with rose water is very common in Iran.
You can replace the sugar syrup with an honey or silan syrup and add spices like cinnamon or cardamom. For a Parve baklava, just substitute butter with more extra virgin olive oil. 

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Bulgur, orange and pomegranate salad with honey. Did you say honey?

New Delhi, February 2017

Anedoctes about a doctor, superfoods, and a salad for dinner. With Honey, of course.

Have you ever heard about the story of the nurse who got married with the handsome doctor?
What a commonplace, isn't it?
Simply put, it's our story.
In the autumn of our lives, we got finally married three weeks ago. The doctor and me. I still survive. 

The doctor knows a lot about food, more than anybody else I know. And is hard, very hard to please, as he has a very demanding palate. His favorite word is moderation: he can eat fried chicken thrice in a week to make cooking experiments, then keep vegetarian for an entire month and skip sugar for weeks.
He doesn't believe in superfoods. Superfoods are marketing gimmicks- he use to say,- it's just a buzzword created to make you think that certain foods have "magic" powers as curing cancer or dementia. A dangerous and life-threatening strategy.
The good approach is a balanced and varied diet, because even a "superfood" can cause harmful effects if eaten in large amounts. 
That's what he says, and i believe he's right. 

So, there’s no such thing as a superfood... but Honey!
Honey is the only real superfood on Earth.
He can skip sugar for weeks but not honey for a single day.
He can talk for hours about honey types, plants, bees breeds and the benefits of every and each sort of honey. I mean, really, for hours. Never ask him about honey if you don't have time to listen, I recommend you.
But believe me, with his "Leonard Cohen-like" voice, it's a real delight listening to him.
The privilege of an elite 😄

The doctor has an inestimable collection of honeys from all over the world that he allows me to use sometimes under his strict control. His Jaffa Orange blossom honey was perfect for this nomad recipe. A bit of Israel's sun and taste in the gray, polluted New Delhi.

Speaking of superfoods, my starting idea was making the salad with quinoa or millet. Then his crabby jewish side emerged: "Too expensive and flavorless. Besides, it's birds food" he claimed.
Right then, so be it.

It seems that pomegranate is one of those new superfoods. Here in India they are beautiful, bright red and taste wonderful; in addition, they are in peak season, as oranges, as well.

Superfoods or not, the doctor loved this salad. It's for the honey hint, maybe? ;)

Cut to the chase, without further ado, here is the recipe:

Bulgur, orange and pomegranate salad with honey

Serves 4 as side dish

100 g bulgur
500 ml vegetable stock
8 pitted Medjool dates, coarsely chopped
20-30 g parsley, finely chopped
20 g green onions, finely sliced
2 navel oranges peeled with wedges cut into chunks
the juice of 1 orange
the juice of 1 lime
1 handful pomegranate seeds
about 2 teaspoons cinamon
3 tablespoon orange blossom honey
extra virgin olive oil
salt, to taste

In a pan, bring the stock to a boil and add the bulgur and cook for 20 minutes. Here the bulgur is sold loose and not precooked. If you have a precooked one, then follow the package instructions.
When ready, fluff it with a fork or simply by hands. I know it's an inherited vice, I like to touch the food, but I always have clean hands, short nails and I use no polish on them.
In a large bowl, combine the dates, pomegranate, orange, parsley and green onion. Stir the cinnamon in. Add the cooked bulgur and stir again.
In a little bowl, mix the orange and lime juice, oil and honey. Whisk strongly until dressing is smooth. pour the dressing on the salad and combine.
Add more cinnamon if you desire and a dash of sea salt. Stir and serve.