Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cinnamon Braid Bread a.k.a. Estonian Kringle


"I was never really insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched." 

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
1 tbsp sugar
15 g fresh yeast 
30 g melted butter
1 egg yolk
Filling
50 g softened butter
5 tbsp sugar
3 tsp cinnamon

3 tsp grounded almonds, optional

Method
1. In a medium bowl stir fresh yeast with sugar until it liquefies. Stir in the lukewarm milk and then add the egg yolk and melted butter.
2. In a large bowl whisk together flour and salt. Pour the milk mixture over the dry ingredients and start kneading it until it pulls away from the edges of the bowl. Give the dough the shape of a ball. Sprinkle oil onto a clean bowl, place the dough and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rest for about 1 hour at room temperature until doubled in size.
3. While the dough rises, whisk together the butter with sugar and cinnamon for the filling. Set aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 200 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. On a floured surface, using a rolling pin roll the dough to a rectangle of about 45x30 cm. 
6. Keep about 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon filling for the end and spoon the rest over top, spreading evenly. Leave a clean 1.5 cm border around the edges. 
7. Sprinkle the almonds over the cinnamon filling.
8. Roll up the dough and using a sharp knife, cut the log in half lengthwise leaving one edge uncut for about 1,5 cm.
9. Start braiding the two pieces, trying to keep the open layers exposed so the cut ends remain on top. Pinch the ends together and form a wreath.
10. Transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the wreath with the left cinnamon filling.
11. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. For the last 10 minutes you can reduce the oven temperature to 180 C. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Madımak with Chicken and Pine Nuts



“Alice came to a fork in the road. 'Which road do I take?' she asked.
'Where do you want to go?' responded the Cheshire Cat.
'I don't know,' Alice answered.
'Then,' said the Cat, 'it doesn't matter.” 

Ingredients
1 big chicken leg
6-8 cups water
250-300 grams dried madimak
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove of garlic
1 medium onion
25-30 grams pine nuts
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 small lemon, sliced
salt and pepper 
additional boiling water


Method
1. Put the chicken leg in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer slowly for at least 45 minutes. Skim the white residue off the top every now and again. Remove the chicken leg from the pan. It should be perfectly cooked and ready for tearing into slivers.
2. Strain the broth and set aside.
3. Tear the cooked chicken into chunks and set aside.
4. Rinse the madimak leaves and set aside.
5. Chop the garlic and onion finely and set aside. 
6. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, lidded skillet or casserole and add the minced garlic. Cook, stirring, until it begins to sizzle and smell fragrant, about 30 seconds.
7. Stir in the chopped onion and pine nuts and cook, stirring often, for about 5 to 10 minutes, until the onions have turned translucent. 
8. Add in the chicken chunks and tomato paste. Stir in another 2-3 minutes until all mixed.
9. Add in the madimak leaves, lemon slices, salt and pepper and broth and bring to a simmer. 
10. Simmer for another 25 minutes and add boiling water once the broth has reduced. 
11. Once the madimak is tender, remove from heat and serve warm.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Polygonum Cognatum a.k.a. Madımak


  • Madımak is a weedy creeping plant and seen as an invasive troublemaker by the farmers. 
  • Poly means 'many' and qonu means 'knee' in Greek. It's fun to find out the reference: The plant has a swollen jointed stem. 
  • Madımak is native to Turkey, Georgia, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the plant appears in dense clusters with pink, white or greenish flowers with the arrival of spring.
  • Madımak was classified in the polygonum family in London after samples were shipped to the experts there in 1949.

  • It's not known how exactly madimak has made it to the Turkish cuisine but I guess the knowledge that madımak is edible was carried into the Central Anatolia along with the Turks upon their arrivals in the region from Asia long time ago. 
  • Even in Turkey, madımak isn't widely consumed despite the recent 'Keep calm & Eat local' trend. It's picked by the local people in a few towns - Sivas, Yozgat and Tokat basically. 
  • However, madımak is a legend in the region and has a long history of usage. The local people have come up with several recipes using madımak varying from madımak with bulgur to steak stuffed with madımak, apricots and nuts. 
  • It's easier to find madımak at the farmers markets in big cities, both fresh and dried. 
  • Madımak has even inspired the local musicians to some well-known songs in Turkey. Cool, isn't it? 

Well, I haven't come across any studies or research involving the health benefits of madımak, however, it's been claimed that 
  • madımak can help reduce the symptoms of diabetes and kidney stones. The tea made with the dried knots of the plant is known as effective in treating stomach and intestine disorders and used as an antiseptic against dysentery. 



Polygonum cognatum herbarium specimen from Kew, VC17 Surrey in 1877.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Carrot Cake: The Best One Ever



“Alice:How long is forever? White Rabbit:Sometimes, just one second."

Carrot Cake

Ingredients
6 cups finely grated carrots
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1 cup chopped walnuts


Method
1. In a medium bowl, combine grated carrots and brown sugar. Set aside for 60 minutes, then stir in raisins.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 10 inch cake pans.
3. In a large bowl, beat eggs until light. Gradually beat in the white sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir in the pineapple. 
4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
5. Combine the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until absorbed. 
6. Finally stir in the carrot mixture and the walnuts. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.
7. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes in the preheated oven, until cake tests done with a toothpick.
8. Cool completely before removing from pan. 
9. When completely cooled, frost with cream cheese frosting.

*The recipe makes two 10 inch round layers.

Cream Cheese Icing
Ingredients
150g unsalted butter, softened
240g full-fat cream cheese
840g icing sugar, sifted


Method
1. Mix butter and cream cheese using an electric mixer on high speed for 2-3 minutes.
2. Add in the sugar and mix for another 2-3 minutes.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Lamingtons a.k.a. Čupavci



“Coincidences are spiritual puns.” 


Australian icon 'Lamingtons' are known as 'Čupavci' here in Bosnia. The Bosnian version looks the same, however, the recipe requires additional sugar, milk and butter or oil for the cake. Similarly, the chocolate coating requires unsweetened chocolate, sugar, milk and lots of butter. So, the dessert becomes much richer and that's why a small square of it would be more than enough as an accompaniment to the afternoon tea or coffee. However, for the original Australian Lamingtons, you make a simple and light sponge cake and coat the squares with a much lighter icing which basically uses cocoa powder and icing sugar. These little differences make the Australian version much lighter and softer as a result. And the recipe below is for traditional Australian Lamingtons. 



Ingredients

For the Sponge Cake
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup plain flour
1/3 cup self-raising flour
4 x 60 g eggs
2/3 cup caster sugar

For Coating
2 cups icing sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup softened butter
1 tbls hot water (add extra if needed)
2 cups desiccated or shredded coconut to roll in

Directions

for the sponge cake
1. Sift the flour in a medium bowl. Repeat the process three times. 
2. In a separate bowl, crack the eggs and add in the sugar. Mix on high for 6 minutes. The mixture will triple in volume and become smooth and creamy. 
3.  Gradually add the sifted flour into the egg-sugar mixture. Use a spatula and gently fold it through the egg-sugar mixture. Once it's folded through, put in the extra flour and keep repeating the same process until all the flour is gone.
4. Pour the mixture into a rectangular or square baking pan lined with baking paper. 
5. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 25-30 minutes. 
6. Once cooked, leave the cake to cool completely. 

for the chocolate icing
1. In a bowl, add the icing sugar, softened butter, cocoa powder and boiling water.
2. Mix until glossy and smooth using an electric mixer.

for coating

1. Cut up the sponge cake into cubes.


2.Dip the cubes into the chocolate icing.




3. Roll the coated cubes in desiccated or shredded coconut. 


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Revani: Turkish Semolina Cake Soaked in Syrup




“Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book which ever is before our eyes -- I mean the universe -- but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written. The book is written in mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without whose help it is impossible to comprehend a single word of it; without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.” 



Different versions of 'revani' exist in many cuisines  under several names throughout the eastern Mediterranean, including Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan to name a few. The recipe below is an easy one that anybody can make at home. Feel free to add any flavour other than vanilla - lemon or orange zest, coconut, etc. 

Ingredients

For the cake
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch of salt
115 ml milk 
115 ml vegetable oil
1 cup fine semolina
1 cup flour
1 pouch of baking powder (14 g)
1 tsp vanilla extract
butter to grease the baking pan
shredded coconut to garnish

For the syrup
3 cups sugar
3.5 cups water
juice of 1/2 lemon




Method

1. Prepare the syrup first.

  • Add in a saucepan the sugar, water and lemon juice.
  • Boil for about 5-10 minutes over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has slightly thickened. 
  • Remove the pan from the stove and set aside to cool down to the room temperature. 


2.  Make the cake.

  • Preheat the oven to 185 degrees.
  • Grease a preferably square or rectangular baking pan with butter and dust it with a little flour all around.   
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar first with a pinch of salt to a  fluffy and foamy light yellow cream. Use a hand blender and mix well for 5-6 minutes. 
  • Add in the milk , oil and the vanilla extract and mix for another 1 minute. 
  • Mix the flour, semolina and baking powder together in a medium bowl.
  • Stir in the flour mixture and mix until you get a smooth batter. Do not over-mix. 
  • Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake for about 25 minutes at 180-185 degrees until the top gets golden brown or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

3. Soak the cake in the syrup.

  • Once you remove the pan from the oven, drizzle the cool syrup all over the cake slowly using a large spoon slowly and let it soak in.
  • When you've used up all the syrup, cover the cake with foil and let it cool down to the room temperature. 
  • Garnish with shredded coconut, ground pistachio, walnuts, or almonds before serving.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bosnian Doughnuts a.k.a. Krofne


“I can resist anything except temptation.”

It all started when I noticed a new brand of fine-textured flour in the local grocery shop. The label read 'krofne'. I knew what they were but I didn't know that labels could tempt me so easily. I bought it right away, came back home, watched the video recipe below and made 'krofne'. Excellent! Later on, I learnt - after a few clicks - that the word krofne' comes from German 'Krapfen', and it is a variation of the Central European pastry, known as 'Berliner'. Well, the name and the recipe have slightly varied in the Balkans. Take a look at the names: 'krofne' in Bosnian and Serbian, 'krafne' or 'pokladnice' in Croatian and 'krof' in Slovenian. The video has no subtitles in English, but I translated almost everything in the ingredients and directions. 



Ingredients
2 cups milk
50 ml vegetable oil
40 g fresh active yeast
3 whole eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pinch of salt
5 cups flour
100 g powdered sugar for topping
10 g vanilla sugar for topping 
Oil for frying 
plum jam (or the filling of your choice)



Directions
1. In a large bowl, crumble the yeast and add in the warm milk, sugar, salt, eggs and oil respectively.
2. Whisk well until the yeast is completely dissolved and all ingredients are mixed.
3. Add in the flour and mix with a spoon until you get a soft and sticky dough.
4. Cover the bowl and set aside to rise in a preferably warm place for at least 30 minutes. The dough should double in size.
5. Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and sprinkle some more flour over the dough.
6. Knead for a minute to get a soft ball. Sprinkle the surface and the dough with flour again.
7. Roll the dough out until it’s approximately 1 cm thick, a bit thinner.
8. Take a cup and use it to cut out the doughnuts. Once you’ve cut them out, leave them to rise further for 15-20 minutes. Remember to cover them.
9.  Fill a saucepan with enough oil for the doughnuts to float and be flipped.
10. Over medium heat, place a few doughnuts in the hot oil but do not crowd them.
11. When the doughnuts get golden brown on the bottom, flip them using a fork or spoon.
12. When both sides are done, (with a light ring running through the centre), transfer them into a container. You can also place them on paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

At this point, you are free to continue in several ways. The two most common ones are:
1. Mix the powdered sugar and vanilla sugar in a plate. Roll the warm doughnuts in the mixture. 
2. Using a piping bag, fill the doughnuts with jam, vanilla cream or any other filling you desire. Then, mix the powdered sugar and vanilla sugar and sprinkle the doughnuts with this mixture. 


Monday, July 14, 2014

Penne Pasta with Pesto Sauce, Turkey Ham Cubes and Fried Eggplant Strips



My father never used to eat the same dish twice. It's a habit you can't easily change, I know. Nobody can claim that it causes waste either. On the contrary, with such a person in the house, you learn to cook for the exact number of people in your family which in return saves time and money. My mother has been obviously doing such an excellent job for years in the kitchen. 

I've also got into a similar habit of cooking for the exact number of people at home. I don't like seeing leftovers in storage boxes in different sizes whenever I open the fridge. Mine is mostly because of the desire to cook something new, I guess. I cook, we eat up and then I cook something new the next day, all fresh. I feel that's how it should be in every kitchen. 

However, whenever Jamie Oliver posts a recipe which uses leftovers, for example, I regret that I don't have any leftovers in the fridge. Then, a couple of days ago, I had the perfect chance to create my own leftover recipe. I had slices of deep-fried eggplant, some turkey ham and half a jar of organic pesto sauce. It took a minute or so to decide how to combine them in a perfect dish for dinner: 
Penne Pasta with pesto sauce, sautéed turkey ham and fried eggplant. 






Ingredients



500 grams penne pasta

water, salt, olive oil to cook the pasta

5 tablespoons pesto sauce

turkey ham

butter, oregano, rosemary and ground red pepper

1 eggplant

salt, pepper, garlic powder, flour, 1 large egg, vegetable oil to fry




Directions for the pasta

1. In a large saucepan cook pasta according to package directions in lightly salted boiling water. Drain pasta and transfer to a very large bowl.



2. Add in the pesto sauce and mix until the pasta turn green in colour. 



Directions for the turkey ham cubes

1. Cut 4 or 5 thick slices off the ham. Cube the ham slices. 

2. Put a small frying pan on a low heat and let it get it hot. Add a small knob of butter. when the butter has melted and is bubbling, add your ham cubes and saute them until they get light brown. 

3. Sprinkle over oregano, rosemary and ground red pepper. Stir for a few minutes more until the ham cubes are covered in spices. Remove from heat. 

Directions for fried eggplant slices

1. Peel away its tough outer skin. Cut it into lengthwise slices. 

2. Salt the slices generously and lay them flat over a few layers of paper towels.* 

3. Let the salted eggplant sit for at least 1/2 hour or up to 1 1/2 hours. Rinse the eggplant under cold water to remove the excess salt. Then press the eggplant between clean kitchen towels or paper towels to extract as much liquid as possible. 
4. Whisk the egg in one container and place flour in another. Add in salt, pepper and garlic powder to the flour. Coat the eggplant slices in flour, then coat with egg. 

    5. Heat oil in a frying pan. Cook the coated eggplant slices until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate with paper towels to cool. When cool enough to handle, cut 1 cm strips.

Assembling the dish
Transfer the pasta into a big serving dish. Add in the ham cubes and top with strips of eggplant. 


      
* Salt will help to draw the bitter liquid out from the eggplant while simultaneously seasoning the eggplant from the inside out. It also helps the eggplant pieces stay more shapely and become tender during cooking instead of becoming water-logged and soggy.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lamb's Lettuce & Dried Cranberries Salad

... One day, the woman stood at the window and looked down into the witch's garden. She saw a bed filled with the most beautiful rapunzel, and it looked so fresh and green that she craved it; she had the most burning desire to eat of it. Her desire increased every day, but since she knew that she could not have any, she grew pale and ill.
This greatly alarmed her husband, who asked her 'what ails you, dear wife?'
'Oh', she replied, 'if I cannot eat some of the rapunzel from that garden, I must surely die.'...

- from Rapunzel, collected in the Grimm's Fairy Tales

When I came across the information that the word 'rapunzel' is used for the plant 'lamb's lettuce' and the passage from this version of the tale, I started to smile around happily. I was happy because I came to realise that all those years, I'd been reading, telling and listening to this fairy tale without knowing what the name 'Rapunzel' actually means or why the name is picked for the main character. I had simply skipped this version of the fairy tale.

This unexpected realisation is the main source of my happiness today and it naturally made me search for the lamb's lettuce on the Net and soon I ended up with a fact file about the plant. You'll find it quite helpful if you haven't heard of this wonderful vegetable before.

  • It's a member of the valerian family.
  • 'Rapunzel' is one of the German terms for this plant.
  • Known also as corn salad, fetticus, feldsalat, nut lettuce and mâche in French.
  • It has smooth, spoon-shaped, dark green leaves arranged in rosettes. 
  • It has a tangy and nutty flavour.
  • It only grows once a year and then dies off. 
  • It could be found growing wild among the crops or in meadows.
  • It is prized as one of few fresh vegetables available in the winter and early spring.
  • It is very low in calories.
  • It has three times as much vitamin C as lettuce, plenty of vitamins E, B6 and B9 (folic acid), potassium, beta carotene, and more iron than any other leafy green vegetable except parsley.
  • It is hard to find outside Europe.
  • It is rather pricey because it has to be hand-picked.
  • It is easy to grow and window boxes are enough to grow it.
  • The plant is delicate and should be eaten as soon as possible.
  • It can be very sandy. Wash it carefully.
  • It is used like spinach in omelettes and soups, or added to sandwiches, lamb's lettuce really comes into its own as a salad.
  • Two handfuls of it makes an adult portion. 

Lamb's Lettuce & Dried Cranberries Salad


Ingredients
lamb's lettuce (two handfuls of it per adult)
yogurt
salt
olive oil 
chopped garlic
dried cranberries

Directions

1. Rinse and pick over the lamb's lettuce, separating the leaves. Leave them to drain or use a salad spinner.
2. In a small bowl mix the yogurt, oil, salt and garlic beating them together.
3. Place the lamb's lettuce in a big bowl and add in the cranberries.
4. Season the lamb's lettuce with the yogurt sauce.
5. Sprinkle with more cranberries before you serve.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Baked Fish with Lemon and Fresh Wild Mint Leaves


I am the only fish lover in the family which makes things even more complicated in the kitchen. I feel the need to eat fish from time to time, but nobody else does. What is more, with such a background like mine, it is not possible to cook fish for only one. The reason is quite simple. I've been taught that food is for sharing and so when you cook, you cook for at least two. If there is no one else around to eat the fish you cook, then you assume that it's not worth it and you soon quit the idea. This is at least how it goes with me. 

Right at this level, I used a little common sense and chose to cook fish in a variety of ways to please the others too. Some worked, some didn't and the definite favourite by everyone has proved to be the fried fish. By the way, here is the last one I tried using the on-hand ingredients: baked trouts with lemon and fresh wild mint leaves.

Well... I came to believe that there is no way and need to try to persuade somebody else to eat something they do not feel like! Fish is the one in our kitchen history and I think it's high time that I let it go! It seems that even common sense and its creative practice won't work in this case especially after Finding Nemo has become a recent favourite movie by the family. 



Ingredients
trouts
breadcrumbs
cornmeal
salt
pepper
garlic powder
olive oil
lemons
fresh mint leaves

 

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. 
2. Rinse fish well, pat dry with paper towels. 
3. In a bowl, mix breadcrumbs, cornmeal, salt, pepper and garlic powder. 
4. Line a baking pan with parchment and oil it.  
5. Season the cavity of each fish with garlic powder and salt. 
6. Season the fish with olive oil on both sides and then coat each fish with enough breadcrumbs-cornmeal-spices mixture, pressing firmly to adhere. 
6. Arrange fish on the pan and lay slices of lemon and fresh mint leaves on top. Drizzle oil lightly over fish.
7. Bake for about 30 minutes until fish is golden on top.