Sunday, February 25, 2018

A Winter´s Salad

Grain salads are endlessly variable, meaning that if you have the basic composition down, you never need a recipe to put one together. So this is a non-recipe kind of post. This version of a grain salad refelects my personal taste as well as the contents of my pantry.

There are only a few guidelines you should keep in mind when putting together a Winter Grain Salad. First up, choose and cook your grains. You want separate, intact grains that hold their shape. Drain them thoroughly and lay them out to dry in a single layer, then transfer them to a salad bowl. I like to use wheatberries and sometimes brown rice, both prepared separately.

Secondly, choose your add-ins such as grilled vegetables. You are free to roast, sauté, or grill your vegetables, or go totally raw, but make sure anything you cook cools before combining it with your other ingredients. If you use raw veggeis, make sure they are dry before using. In winter time, I like to grill some earty aubergines (aka eggplants).

Third, be very liberal with those soft herbs. My personal preference lies with Italian parsley, chives, basil and dill.

And fourth, there is that protein, which, of course, is entirely optional, especially if you're serving your grain salad as a side. My favorite here are black beluga lentils and chickpeas but I also like to add black beans every so often. You can add chicken breasts or fish if serving this as a main dish. I should add that I like to warm my chickpeas with sliced spring onions and a bit of garlic before I cool and adding them to the salad.

After all your add-ins are prepped and dried, add them to your salad bowl with the grains.

Last but not least, make your dressing. Because grains have an earthy profile, balancing them with acid is important. Vinaigrettes and citrus-based dressings are best here (I like to use lemon juice), but within this framework you are free to go with your personal preferences. As for oil, if you're using olive oil, which is what I do, this is an occasion for your best bottle. If you want, add some Dijon mustard. Whatever your do, make your dressing is quite punchy, trust me, the grains can take it.

How much dressing you use depends on your salad's components. Keep in mind that the longer a grain salad sits, the more dressing it will absorb. Once your dressing is whisked together, pour it over your grains and vegetables and fold everything gently but thoroughly.

Stir some of your finishing ingredients through the salad, and leave a few to scatter over the top. Makes fro a photogenic finish. Alternately, you can stir every bit of these ingredients through and add a few more herbs for garnish, which is what I did here.

This Winter Grain Salad is a wonderful, versatile and healthy dish. Serve either as a main or as a side dish and let your taste and imagination, and, of course, the contents of your cupboard, be your guide!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Clementine Snack Cake with Chocolate Chuncks

Some days you find yourself staring at that huge fruit bowl in your dining room or on your kitchen counter, thinking that, your clementines seem to share the same fate as those bananas that are still good but somewhat overripe, the ones that everyone just seems to ignore. Well, if you find yourself in that situation, or if you just happen to want to bake a little afternoon snack cake, grab some of those lonely clementines and, together with just a few other tasty ingredients, turn them into a healthyish treat.

Healthyish, you ask, well, yes. In my baking, I like to use part oat flour, part spelt flour, especially when I bake with fruits. And I like to use dark chocolate, not milk chocolate. Also, there is freshly squeezed clementine juice in the cake batter and no frosting, just a light dusting of confectioners' sugar and maybe a few chopped natural pistachios. If you add a few freshly peeled clementine segments for fun/and taste, you'll all be in for a lovely afternoon/breakfast treat.

As an additional bonus, no frosting also means that the kids can put a square in their lunch boxes - no sticky mess - packed together with a fresh seasonal clementine, a piece of this cake makes for a great treat.

Clementine Snack Cake with Chocolate Chuncks

  • 4 to 6 clementines (depending on their size) – you need 125ml juice for the cake batter
  • 120g unsalted butter, room temperature, plus some for greasing the baking pan
  • 150g superfine (caster) sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla sugar
  • 2 eggs (M), free range or organic
  • 100g oat flour (either use oat flour usually available at health food stores OR make your own by first weighing out the amount of oats required in the recipe and then grinding your oats in a food processor until the texture resembles that of wheat flour. Note that old fashioned, steel cut, or quick-cooking oats all work
  • 120g white spelt flour (or use AP flour)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • a pinch fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon – I like to use Ceylon cinnamon
  • 100g dark chocolate (chopped) – I like to use Belgian chocolate (70%) but feel free to use your favorite chocolate here
  • Optional: confectioners' sugar and a few chopped, natural, unsalted pistachios OR almonds

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (356° F).
  2. Butter a 20cmx20cm (8inx8in) square baking pan, then line with baking paper and set aside.
  3. Juice enough clementines to get 125ml of juice. Strain. Set aside.
  4. With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar and vanilla sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined.
  6. In another bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  7. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture and clementine juice in alternating batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until just combined.
  8. Fold the chocolate chunks into the batter.
  9. Pour into prepared pan and bake until edges are golden brown and starting to pull away from sides of pan, about 30 minutes.
  10. Transfer to wire rack and cool for about 20 minutes.
  11. Remove cake from pan and return cake to wire rack to cool completely.
  12. Dust with confectioners` sugar, sprinkle with chopped pistachios and decorate with freshly peeled clementine segments.

NOTE: If you prefer, make a citrus icing instead of simply dusting the cake with confectioners` sugar. Mix confectioners` sugar with enough clementine juice to make a runny icing, then drizzle it over the top of the cake. Let the excess icing drip off the cake and wait a good 30 minutes for the icing to set before serving the cake.

TIP: If you are lucky enough to have untreated clementines, go ahead and add some zest to the batter.

Clementines have firm yet juicy sweet segments and they are thought to be a hybrid of a tangerine and a sweet orange, meaning they are perfect for adding a sweet, wonderful flavor as well as a lovely orange tinge to baked goods. And they are still in season until the end of this month - plenty of time then to try this recipe.

This cake is easy and moist and has lots lovely dark chocolate chunks. And lovely citrus notes. And it keeps well. Our kind of snack cake.

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Classic with a Twist - Vanilla Coconut Rice Pudding with Spiced Sour Cherries

Rice Pudding is a simple and very old recipe of uncertain origin that began to be common in many households around the beginning of the 18th century, and by the 20th century, it was omnipresent.

Many different countries have their own version of rice pudding. Spain, Portugal, Turkey, India, Thailand and Great Britain, to name but a few. There are two basic ways to make rice pudding - baking or boiling. The German version is called Milchreis (milk rice), made by cooking short-grain rice on the stovetop in milk with sugar and vanilla. German Milchreis is usually served as a sweet main dish with fruit or compote or simply with sugar and cinnamon on top.

So, having tried many a recipe and method for preparing Rice Pudding, I settled on the German basic version - boiling - added a bit of a twist by adding coconut milk to the milk and serving the pudding with Spiced Sour Cherries instead of just cinnamon sugar, my family´s traditional way. I also like to sprinkle a few chopped natural pistachios on top but coconut chips are also wonderful here.

Vanilla Coconut Rice Pudding with Spiced Sour Cherries


For the Rice Pudding
  • 125 g risotto/arborio or pudding rice* (no need to soak pudding rice before use)
  • 800 ml milk (I use full fat milk), plus extra if you like your rice pudding to be more creamy
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • 4 tbsps sugar or use runny honey
  • the sraped seeds from a vanilla pod (plus add the vanilla pod to the milk while cooking the rice, when the rice pudding is fully cooked, remove the pod)
*NOTE: this is not a specific type of rice, but a generic description for short-grained white rice used for making rice pudding.

For the Spiced Cherries
  • 250ml cherry juice OR red wine
  • 75g sugar
  • 8g vanilla sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise, whole
  • 250g sour cherries, stones removed (either fresh if in season, OR frozen OR from a jar)


Of the Rice Pudding
  1. Put the rice, milk, coconut milk, sugar or honey and the vanilla (seeds and pod) into a large pan.
  2. Stir well, then place the pan on a very low heat.
  3. Bring to a low boil. Then cover partially with a lid.
  4. Cook very gently for around 45 minutes, or until thick and creamy, stirring regularly (the time will depend on the rice used).
  5. Loosen the rice pudding with more milk or coconut milk before serving, if needed.
  6. Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately or let cool before serving (please note that the cooked rice pudding will be less creamy once cooled).
  7. Serve the rice pudding scattered with the Spiced Cherries on top.
  8. Scatter some pistachios over the cherries (optional). OR: serve with fresh fruit, as is, with cinnamon sugar, with demerera sugar, maple syrup or some runny honey.

Of the Spiced Cherries
  1. Place the cherry juice OR red wine, sugar, vanilla sugar and spices into a pan and bring to the boil.
  2. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until just syrupy.
  3. Remove the cinnamon stick and the star anise.
  4. Add the cherries to the pan and simmer for about 5 minutes OR until the cherries are tender.
  5. Alternatively, if you prefer your Spiced Cherries less „liquid“, you can use a bit of cornstarch dissolved in some more cherry juice or water, add that to the cooked spiced cherries, bring to the boil again (to activate the starch). Then serve.


You can easily change up the basic recipe by mixing in different spices such as nutmeg or cardamom, or add a dollop of jam or preserves, or dried fruits such as raisins, apricots or cranberries or a mix of several of these options.

While the Rice Pudding it is best eaten warm (which is what we do), both the pudding as well as the Spiced Sour Cherries keep well for a day or two in the fridge.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Almond Pistachio Cake with Fleur de Sel

Time for some blogging again – after having participated in the #cook90 challenge from Epicurious magazine (here) for the third time and having cooked and baked 90 meals and treats in 30 days, and after having taken a few deep breaths, I believe this is a good time to post a recipe again. A simple one. One that comes together in no time. Most importantly, with ingredients that most of us have on hand, well, maybe not the natural, unsalted pistachios, but then again, who knows. So, without further ado, let´s bake a nutty February teatime treat. A healthyish kind of teatime delight. And after a very dark month of December and January, let´s also hope that the sun will come again soon.

Almond Pistachio Cake with Fleur de Sel


For the Cake
  • 75g unsalted butter, plus some for greasing the baking pan
  • 110g superfine baking sugar
  • 110g light Muscovado sugar (OR your preferred soft brown sugar)
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar (OR use homemade vanilla sugar)
  • 3 eggs (M), free range or organic
  • 1 tbsp Amaretto or dark rum (OR use unfiltered apple juice)
  • 200g natural almonds, ground (OR use almond meal)
  • 80g light spelt flour (OR use AP/plain flour)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (preferably Ceylon cinnamon)
  • ½ tsp Natural Fine Sea Salt, such as  "Sel fin de Guérande"
  • ¼ to ½ tsp (according to your personal taste) Natural Flower Sea Salt, such as "Fleur de Sel de Guérande"

For the Topping
  • 80g natural unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped (you want to use the unsalted kind here and then add a good quality sea salt instead as that will let you control the amount of saltiness and taste in this recipe)
  • ¼ to ½ tsp (according to your personal taste) Natural Flower Sea Salt, such as "Fleur de Sel de Guérande"
  • 4g pure vanilla sugar
  • 1 tbsp superfine baking sugar

To serve (optional)
  • a few more chopped pistachios
  • dried rose petals (untreated)

In addition
  • springform pan 20cm (8 inches)
  • baking paper

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F).
  2. Grease a 20cm (8in) springform cake pan and line the bottom with baking paper.
  3. In a small bowl mix together all the ingredients for the topping. Set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat, take off the heat.
  5. Add the melted butter to a mixing bowl, then add the baking sugar, Muscovado sugar and vanilla sugar to the same bowl and mix all the ingredients together.
  6. Add the eggs, one after the other, making sure to stir the batter after each egg.
  7. Then add the Amaretto or dark rum (or apple juice) and stir again.
  8. In another mixing bowl, mix together the ground almonds, the spelt flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and the fine Fleur de Sel.
  9. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir everything together.
  10. Finally, add the batter to the prepared baking pan and top with the pistachio topping mix.
  11. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden-brown. The cake should have slightly shrunken from the sides.
  12. Leave it to cool in the baking pan on a wire rack.
  13. Just before serving, sprinkle with a few more chopped pistachios and dried rose petals. NOTE: While this cake is rather delicious the day it is made, because of the high nut ratio in the batter, it keeps very well for up to 3 days if wrapped well and kept in a cool place.

All you really need to remember when baking this cake is that you can make it easily by hand, no mixer needed, just a whisk and a wooden spoon. It is meant to taste a lot like nuts, that is almonds and pistachios, which, in my humble opinion, go very well together. It is also meant to taste pleasingly salty, from the addition of just the right amout of a good sea salt here. As I mentioned in the recipe above,  you want to use unsalted, good quality, fresh roasted pistachios here and then add a good quality sea salt instead of using pre-salted pistachios. That way you control the amount of good and balanced saltiness in this recipe. One more thing, I love using natural almonds with skins on in my recipe, but, by all means, if you prefer the skinned ones use those or use ready made almond meal.

And as the rose petals for that fancy final touch are concerned, they are optional, of course. But if you do use them, make sure to get organic and/or untreated ones.