Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Cottage Cooking Club - January Recipes

The month of January marks the twenty-first month of our international online cooking group, The Cottage Cooking Club. As a group, recipe by recipe, we are cooking and learning our way through a wonderful vegetable cookbook written in 2011 by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, entitled „River Cottage Everyday Veg".

One of the declared aims of our cooking group is to make a decided effort to use as much regional, organic and seasonal produce as is reasonably possible.

This month I prepared eight of the ten designated recipes, plus one extra. I will write about each dish in the order in which I prepared them.

My first recipe for this Januray post is the colorful Chickpeas with cumin and spinach (page 246) from the chapter "Store-Cupboard Suppers“.

Once you have all the ingredients in place, this is a quick dish to put together. An onion gets sautéed with garlic, chili, cumin, and lemon zest. Then you add tomatoes, either freshly grated or good-quality chopped tomatoes from a can. After a gentle simmer for a few minutes, get ready to add the roughly chopped spinach (we still get good fresh spinach from Italy these days) – stir until wilted and then add the chickpeas and warm gently.

What a lovely side dish, with lots of color and flavor and different textures and with just enough cupboard ingredients to make this one easy dish to cook after a busy day.

The second recipe I prepared was a take on one of my favorite and most beloved recipes from the book. The Flat onion bhajis (page 318) from the chapter „Mezze & Tapas“ is a variation of the „Cauliflower pakoras with tamarind raita“ that we made back in September 2014.

The batter for this intriguing appetizer consists of gram flour, baking powder, ground cumin, corinander, turmeric and cayenne pepper, plus some fine sea salt.  It has the most delightful warm color. It is true what they say about gram flour varying greatly. I used some organic one which I have used for pancakes before. I know from experience that it seems to need more liquid than the regular gram flour available around here – so I ended up adding more water to the batter than the recipe called for – I just went by the description of the batter having to have a consistency of „double cream“.

When making a battter like this, I always add sparkling water to it instead of regular water – that ensures that the batter is light, airy and renders crispy fried veg in the end.

Thinly sliced and crunched-up onion slices, coated and fried with this very tasty batter and served warm with a cool mango chutney raita – this is a true crowd pleaser indeed. As I could not find the tamarind paste, I went with the optional mango chutney - a cool, tangy yet slighty sweet dip - wonderful alongside the warm, spicy fried piles of onion.

The third recipe that I made this month was the Curried red lentil soup (page 166) from the chapter of "Hefty Dishes“, a variation of the Curried sweet potato soup that we made back in December 2014. This wonderful warming winter soup is cooked with onions, garlic, carrots, celery, grated fresh ginger, red chilies, garam masala, curry powder, red lentils, and vegetable stock (page 130).

After the soup is puréed, you add coconut milk, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste - finish with some lovely Greek yogurt and fresh coriander (I opted for beetroot, alfalfa and leek sprouts instead).

This is such a fabulous recipe. The soup is rich and creamy, with just the right kick from the spices, and just the right amout of sweetness from the red lentils and the coconut milk - all counter-balanced by the tang from the lime juice and the Greek yoghurt. A must try, no doubt!

The fourth recipe I made in January was the Moroccan spiced couscous (page 231), from the chapter „Store-cupboard suppers“. This recipe is a variation of the Quick couscous salad with peppers and feta that we made back in August 2014, and the Tomato and olive couscous that we prepared in June 2015.

The couscous is easy enough to prepare according tot he package instructions – make sure though to add the spices that Hugh´s recipe calls for, namely cumin and coriander as well as cinnamon. Once cooked, fork the couscous with some olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then add chickpeas, chopped apricots (I opted for gloden raisins instead), toasted chopped almonds and pistachios ans finely chopped herbs – I used parsley and chives as well as a bit of lemon thyme from the garden. A different kind of couscous with lots of different flavors and textures - definitely worth a try.

The fifth recipe this month was the amazing Seared chicory with blue cheese (page 343) from the chapter of „Roast, Grill & Barbecue“ – my personal favorite this month.

Just make sure to serve some lovely crunchy, grilled multi-grain Crostini (page 178 ) alongside and you will be in for a treat.

What an explosion of flavors – this bitterness from the chicory, the smokiness from the BBQ, the saltiness from the Roquefort – truly a dish that you will adore if you enjoy those flavor components. And we did.

The sixth recipe that caught my attention this month was the Squash stuffed with leeks (page 40) from the chapter „Comfort Food & Feasts“. Squash season is coming to an end around here and the choice of squash available is rather limited but my favorite squash to cook and bake with, the butternut squash, is still available – so butternut squash it was for this recipe.

I did veer from the original recipe a bit though – since the squash were so long, I opted for the „open-faced“ version instead of filling the entire squash with the leek mixture. The creamy leek filling is made with leeks, English mustard (available at your favorite British shop), crème fraîche, finely grated Gruyère, sea salt, black pepper, and fresh thyme.

I halved the squash, de-seeded the halves, placed them on a baking sheet and baked the halves for a good 20 minutes. Then filled the squash halves with the leek mixture and baked for another 20 minutes -  utterly delightful way to enjoy squash. I will make sure to rememeber this recipe in fall when different kinds of (smaller) squash will be readily available.

The seventh recipe I made was the more than lovely Brussels sprouts, apple and cheddar (page 108) from the chapter of „Raw Assemblies“ that we made back in December 2014. Who would have thought that raw Brussels sprouts were this delicious - I should add that these purple ones were very mild tasting, very reminiscent of red cabbage. We loved the preparation of this dish. Other than thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, you will need a crisp eating apple, nuts (I used hazelnuts) and cheese (I used shaved Parmigiano Reggiano). For the dressing it was lemon juice, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Such a fresh, beautiful salad with a great balance of flavors - lots of delightful crunchiness from the sprouts, sweetness from the apple and saltiness from the cheese. Always a delight and worth making again and again.

Recipe number eigth was another squash recipe – this time Squash and walnut toastie (page 204) from the chapter of „Bready Things“. A more than lovely mixture of leftover cubed butternut squash, freshly cracked walnuts, thyme, goat´s cheese, some runny honey, salt, pepper and a couple of sprigs of thyme. What a delight!

Instead of spreading the mixture on rustic bread, I chose some split potato rolls instead and we really liked the results. What a fabulous recipe for that leftover squash. Just make sure to enjoy the "toasties" right away, while still warm – maybe with a glass of cold cider.

Last but not least, there was the one dish I was really curious about, the Swede with onion and sage (page 382) from the chapter of „Side Dishes“. Also known as rutabaga, swede is a root vegetable similar to the turnip. Purplish on the outside, it has sweet-tasting yellow or white flesh and can be cooked in much the same way as other root vegetables such as potatoes. It can also be eaten raw in salads. The swede or rutabaga seems to be a highly underrated vegetable around here – we loved the taste of swede cooked in butter and shallots with some lovely fresh sage from our garden – a wonderful side dish and a great way to get the kids to enjoy this „old-fashioned“ veg.

In summary, another month full of wonderful vegetable dishes – this month we were delighted to enjoy a few new as well as some much beloved recipes, main courses as well as side dishes or appetizer for lunch and dinner.

Please note, that for copyright reasons, we do NOT publish the recipes. If you enjoy the recipes in our series, hopefully, the wonderfully talented and enthusiastic members of The Cottage Cooking Club and their wonderful posts can convince you to get a copy of this lovely book. Better yet, do make sure to join us in this cooking adventure.

To see how wonderful all the dishes from my fellow Cottage Cooking Club members turned out this month, please visit here. They would all appreciate a visit!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Savory Pretzel Gugelhupf (Brezel-Gugelhupf)

As The Cottage Cooking Club gears up to finish the last three months worth of recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s amazing vegetable cookbook „River Cottage Everyday Veg“, the next project for this international online cooking group is already well on its way. On 1st May, 2016, we will continue our cooking adventure together - with two books from the same author. The first book is called "River Cottage Every Day". In this book Hugh "brings his trademark wit and infectious exuberance for locally grown and raised foods to a wide-ranging selection of appealing, everyday dishes from healthy breakfasts, hearty breads, and quick lunches to all manner of weeknight dinners and enticing desserts". The second book is called "Love Your Leftovers" - in this cookbook Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall offers "nifty and creative ideas to transform leftovers into irresistible meals".

Some of the most satisfying meals of my life have been created, seemingly, from almost nothing,” writes Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his new book, Love Your Leftovers. „It’s those seat-of-the-pants, spur-of-the-moment dishes, rustled up from odds and ends loitering in the fridge or cupboards, that often bring me the greatest pleasure.” (THE TIMES Magazine, 26 Sep., 2015)

In the spirit of „loving my leftovers“ and to convince my trusted taste testers that this is a worthwhile and tasty project, I prepared a Savory Pretzel Gugelhupf (Brezel-Gugelhupf) on the weekend. This recipe calls for four leftover, day-old, Pretzels. Around here, Pretzel or "Brezel" as we call them in German, are readily available at just about every bakery. But you can also easily make them at home and put aside four of them the day before you plan on making this particular dish. It is worth it, trust us. Since I am known to be unable to resist freshly baked Pretzels on display at my favorite bakery, or to bake way more than we can eat in one day, this recipe came in very handy yesterday and will be repeated many times in the future.

Savory Pretzel Gugelhupf (Brezel-Gugelhupf)

  • 4 day-old Pretzel (preferably homemade but the ones from your favorite bakery are perfectly fine)
  • 150 ml milk (3.5%), warm to the touch
  • 250 grams mild white onion, finely diced (about 4 smallish onions)
  • 80 grams butter, unsalted plus a bit to butter your mold or baking pan
  • 3 tbsps Italian parsley, washed, dried and finely chopped
  • 1 tsps chives, washed, dried and finely chopped
  • 4 eggs (M), organic or free range, separated
  • some fine sea salt
  • some black pepper, freshly ground
  • some nutmeg, freshly ground
  • some breadcrumbs or flour for the mold or baking pan (use whichever one you prefer)

In addition
  • one smallish Gugelhupf or Bundt pan or pudding mold (for steamed pudding) with a 1 (one ) liter capacity

  1. On a wooden cutting board, using a serrated knife, cut the Pretzel into slices or small cubes. Place in a medium bowl and add the warm milk to the bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan heat the butter, add the finely minced onions and fry on medium heat until the onions are light golden (about 10 to 15 minutes). Take the pan off the heat, add the parsley and chives and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  3. Add the egg yolks and the onion mixture to the soaked Pretzel mixture. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir well. Let sit on your kitchen counter for about 10 minutes (for all the ingredients to soften).
  4. Pre-heat your oven to 175° C (345° F).
  5. Using your hand-held mixer, whip the egg whites until stiff and then fold them into them into the softed Pretzel mixture.
  6. Butter and flour your mold well, shake off any excess - NOTE:  I prefer to use breadcrumbs here, as I do not mind the extra "crunchiness" that the baked breadcrumbs might add to the outside of this baked dish
  7. Add the Pretzel mixture to your mold and bang the mold on your work surface a few times to get rid of any air bubbles that might be in the mixture.
  8. Place your filled Bundt, Gugelhupf or pudding mold in a baking pan (with high sides) and add hot water to your pan until it reaches 2/3 up the sides of your mold (like a bain marie).
  9. Bake in the oven for about 45 to 50 minutes.
  10. Carefully take the Gugelhupf out of the water bath, dry off the outside of the mold with a kitchen towel. Once the Gugelhupf is cool enough to handle, turn it upside down and release the baked Pretzel Gugelhupf onto a nice serving platter and serve straight away (while still nice and warm). NOTE: to serve, you should cut it into nice hefty slices using a serrated knife.

This recipe is meant as an in spiration to all of you out there looking for some delicious things to prepare with your leftovers. It is truly a wonderful recipe that is rather tasty on its own or served with a bit of leftover warm gravy. The taste of the Savory Pretzel Gugelhupf (Brezel Gugelhupf) is reminiscent of Bavarian Bread Dumplings, a true treat.

So go ahead "Love Your Leftovers"and get creative with them and better yet, join us in this cooking adventure starting on 1st May, 2016 - for more information, refer to the The Cottage Cooking Club site (here) or feel free to contact me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Three Kings Day (Epiphany) - Dreikönigstag

Today, on Januray 6th, is the Three Kings Day, also referred to as the Festival of Epiphany. On this day, which has a very special meaning to our family, it is a time-honored tradition at our house to bake a Galette des Rois (Three Kings Cake).

There are so many cake recipes out there for Three Kings Cake, but, as far as I can tell from my personal research, there is no special German recipe for a similar cake. For many years now, we have developed a real passion for this delightful classic French 'Galette des Rois'.
Heute, am 6. Januar, ist Dreikönigstag und dieser Tag hat eine ganz besondere Bedeutung für mich und unsere Familie. Ich wurde in Köln geboren, sozusagen einen Steinwurf vom Schrein der Heiligen Drei Könige entfernt. Deshalb backe ich seit Jahren immer eine Galette des Rois (Dreikönigskuchen).
Es gibt zwar unzählige Rezepte für diesen besonderen Kuchen, leider jedoch kein traditionelles deutsches Rezept. Über die Jahre haben wir deshalb ein echtes Faible für den reizenden französischen Dreikönigskuchen entwickelt.

Epiphany is widely celebrated in Europe. The French celebration (especially in the North of France) include serving a Galette des Rois at home. This special cake originated in the tiny village of Pithiviers, about eighty kilometers south of Paris, and was brought to the city by Marie Antoine Carême (1784-1833) who to this day is considered to be the founder of the haute cuisine concept. Today the Galette des Rois is also popular in Belgium as well as in Romandy (the French speaking part of Switzerland).

Hidden in the pillow of puff pastry is a delightfully moist almond cream (frangipane). And much to the delight of our children and guests, hidden inside the almond cream, there is a small trinket, a porcelain figurine - traditionally that was a fève (bean).
Der Dreikönigstag wird in vielen Ländern Europas gefeiert. In Nordfrankreich, Belgien und der Westschweiz wird an diesem Tag gerne Galettes des Rois gegessen. Dieser traditionelle Dreikönigskuchen stammt aus einem Dorf namens Pitviers, welches ungefähr 80 Kilometer von Paris enfernt ist. Der berühmte Koch Marie Antoine Carême (1784-1833) hat seinerzeit das Rezept für diesen Kuchen nach Paris gebracht.

Es handelt sich um einen Blätterteigkuchen, der mit einer Mandelcreme (Frangipane) gefüllt ist. Zur großen Freude unserer Kinder und Gäste wird - und das ist das Besondere an diesem Kuchen - in der Füllung eine kleine Figur aus Porzellan, versteckt - früher war es eine Bohne (fève).

Calling Cologne my hometown and having named three of our children after the Three Wise Men, on this special day, we always enjoy this lovely cake but also make sure to pay a visit to the Cologne Cathedral to once again marvel at the golden Shrine of the Three Kings (created by the goldsmith Nikolaus von Verdun, 1190-1125).

The Shrine is a reliquary said to contain the bones of the Three Wise Men (also referred to as The Magi). The relics of the Three Wise Men were brought from Milan to Cologne on July, 23, 1164. The shrine is a large gilded and decorated triple sarcophagus placed above and behind the high altar of the Cologne Cathedral. It is considered the high point of Mosan art and the largest reliquary in the western world.

Epiphany is still celebrated as a religious holiday in the City of Cologne. On this day, visitors flock to the Cologne Cathedral to honor the Three Wise Men that are so closely connected with the city - if you take a look at the Coat of Arms of Cologne, you will notice three distinctive crowns symbolizing the Three Wise Men.
Drei unserer Kinder haben wir nach den Heiligen Drei Königen benannt, weshalb an diesem besonderen Tag nicht nur ein oder zwei Dreikönigskuchen gebacken werden, sondern wir besuchen an diesem Tag auch immer den Dreikönigsschrein im Kölner Dom.

Der Dreikönigsschrein im Kölner Dom ist ein Reliquiar, welches der Aufbewahrung der Gebeine dient, die Erzbischof Rainald von Dassel am 23. Juni 1164 von Mailand nach Köln brachte und die in der römisch-katholischen Kirche als die Reliquien der Heiligen Drei Könige verehrt werden. Dieser Schrein gilt als das größte und künstlerisch anspruchsvollste Reliquiar, das aus dem Mittelalter erhalten ist. Er wurde zwischen 1190 und 1225 durch den Goldschmied Nikolaus von Verdun gefertigt.

Der Dreikönigstag ist in vielen Ländern Europas noch heute ein Feiertag. Auch in der Stadt Köln, die so eng mit den Heiligen Drei Königen verbunden ist, wird der drei Weisen aus dem Morgenland mit speziellen Gottesdiensten und Feierlichkeiten gedacht.

"When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." (Matthew 2:10-11)
"Als sie den Stern sahen, wurden sie hocherfreut und gingen in das Haus und fanden das Kindlein mit Maria, seiner Mutter, und fielen nieder und beteten es an und taten ihre Schätze auf und schenkten ihm Gold, Weihrauch und Myrrhe." (MT 2:10-11)

Galette des Rois
(Three Kings Cake)

  • 500 grams (17 1/2 ounces) good quality store-bought puff pastry (of course, feel free to make your own puff pastry)
Ingredients for the Filling
  • 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) superfine (caster) sugar
  • 2 tsps pure vanilla sugar (homemade or store bought)
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 egg yolk (L), organic or free range
  • 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) ground natural almonds 
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 30 grams (1 ounce) AP (plain) flour
  • some egg wash (egg mixed with a bit of water)
Optional Addition to the Filling
  • Small porcelain figurine/whole almond/bean or coin wrapped tightly in a small piece of aluminium foil
Ingredients for the Glaze
  • some apricot jam (strained)
  • 60 grams (2 ounces) flaked almonds
Galette des Rois
(frz. Dreikönigskuchen)

  • 500 Gramm fertigen Blätterteig (man kann natürlich auch Blätterteig selbst herstellen)
Zutaten für die Füllung
  • 100 Gramm ungesalzene Butter, Zimmertemperatur
  • 100 feinster Backzucker
  • 2 TL Bourbon Vanille-Zucker (selbstgemacht oder gekauft)
  • eine Prise feines Meersalz
  • 1 Eigelb (L), Bio- oder Freiland
  • 100 Gramm Mandeln, gemahlen
  • 1/2 TL gemahlener Zimt
  • 30 Gramm Weizenmehl
  • etwas Eierstreiche (ein Ei mit etwas Wasser verquirlt)
  • eine kleine Porzellanfigur oder eine ganze Mandel oder eine kleine Münze, die man in Alufolie gewickelt hat
Zutaten für die Glasur
  • etwas Aprikosenmarmelade (durch ein Sieb gestrichen)
  • 60 Gramm Mandelblättchen

Preparation of the Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Roll out the pastry and cut two 26 to 28 cm (10 to 11 inches) circles. Chill the pastry while preparing the filling.
  4. For the almond filling, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla sugar and salt until creamy, light and fluffy.
  5. Add the egg yolk and beat for 3 more minutes.
  6. In a medium bowl whisk together the ground almonds, the cinnamon, and the flour.
  7. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until well combined.
  8. Place one of the pastry circles on the prepared baking sheet and brush a 4 cm (1 1/2 inch) border of egg wash around the edge of the pastry circle.
  9. Place the filling in the center, as evenly as possible and keeping it inside the egg wash border. NOTE: If you would like to add a figurine, nut, bean or coin, do it now by gently pushing it into the filling and procced with the recipe.
  10. Top with the second pastry circle.
  11. Crimp around the edge with your fingertips or use the tines of a fork.
  12. Use the dull side of a knife to lightly mark lines on top of the pastry.
  13. Brush with beaten egg wash.
  14. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until both base and top are baked and transfer to a wire rack.
  15. OPTIONAL: While the Galette is still warm, brush top and sides with apricot glaze and sprinkle sides/border with flaked almonds.
Zubereitung der Galette
  1. Den Ofen auf 180 Grad Celsius vorheizen.
  2. Ein Backblech mit Backpapier auslegen.
  3. Auf einer bemehlten Fläche den Blätterteig dünn ausrollen und zwei Kreise  (26-28 cm) ausschneiden. In den Kühlschrank stellen.
  4. Für die Mandelfüllung die Butter, den Zucker, Vanillezucker und Salz schaumig schlagen.
  5. Das Eigelb hinzufügen und zirka drei Minuten weiter schlagen.
  6. Die gemahlenen Mandeln mit Dem Zimt und dem Mehl mischen.
  7. Die Mehlmischung zu der Buttermischung geben, gut verrühren.
  8. Einen Blätterteigkreis auf das mit Backpapier belegte Backblech legen, dabei einen Rand von ca. 4 cm mit dem verquirlten Ei bestreichen.
  9. Darauf gleichmäßig die Mandelfüllung verstreichen, dabei rundherum den 4 cm Rand frei lassen. TIPP: Wenn man einen Glücksbringer in die Füllung stecken möchte, sollte man das jetzt machen, dabei die gewünschte Figur oder Nuss ein wenig in die weiche Mandelmasse drücken.
  10. Mit der zweiten Hälfte des Blätterteigs den Kuchen bedecken.
  11. Den Teig an den Rändern andrücken. Es soll eine Art Kuppel entstehen, überschüssigen Teig abschneiden.
  12. Mit der stumpfen Seite eines Messers den Teigdeckel verzieren, dabei den Teig nicht einschneiden.
  13. Die Galette mit dem restlichen verquirlten Ei bestreichen,
  14. Den Kuchen ca. 40 bis 45 Minuten backen, auf einem Kuchenrost etwas erkalten lassen.
  15. WAHLWEISE: Die noch warme Galette aprikotieren und mit Mandelblättchen bestreuen.

Of course, the person who finds the small porcelain figurine in his or her piece of cake gets to wear the golden paper crown that is placed on top of the cake after it has cooled and been glazed with some apricot jam (optional). The person who finds the trinket the becomes King or Queen for the day!
Derjenige, der die kleine fève oder santon in seinem Stück Kuchen findet, wird für diesen Tag zum König oder Königin ernannt. Deswegen bekommt man in Frankreich vom Bäcker fast immer eine goldene Papierkrone, wenn man eine Galette des Rois kauft.

The above traditional recipe for the Galette des Rois (Three Kings Cake) was inspired by a recipe that was given to me by one of my very best friends many, many years ago - may I add, after much begging on my part.
Mein Rezept für die traditionelle Galette des Rois (frz. Dreikönigskuchen) wurde von einem Rezept inspiriert, das mir eine Freundin vor vielen Jahren und erst nach langem Betteln meinerseits gegeben hat.