Saturday, August 25, 2018

Impressions from my Visit to the 'Gourmet Festival' in the City of Düsseldorf, Germany

Following are a few impressions from my Visit to the 'Gourmet Festival' in the City of Düsseldorf, Germany. Düsseldorf, often Dusseldorf in English sources, is the capital and, after 'Köln' (Cologne), second most populous city of the most populous German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, as well as the seventh most populous city in Germany.

The Düsseldorf Gormet Festival is described as "Europe’s biggest open air event for high-quality and sought after food, non-food and drinks". It takes place along the 'Königsallee', literally 'King's Avenue', an urban boulevard noted for both the landscaped canal that runs along its center, as well as for the fashion showrooms and luxury retail stores located along its sides. Lovingly nicknamed '' by the locals, the Königsallee is by far Germany's busiest, upscale shopping street.

It was certainly fun to taste and drink our happy way through a number of interesting and delicious foods, sweets, punch and ice creams. I especially liked the colorful food trucks and fun t-shirt wearing vendors and salespersons - very inspiring!

Hope you enjoyed my virtual visit - for more information about the food festival along the 'Königsallee', pls go here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

August Baking - Red Currant Summer Cake

This sweet, light and airy sponge cake recipe has a seasonal topping of juicy, tart red currants and is finished with just a dusting of icing sugar. Serve as is, with crème fraîche or lightly whipped cream and some extra red currants for a delightful summer dessert. August baking at its best.

Red Currant Summer Cake


For the Batter
  • 113g (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more to grease pan
  • 300g fresh red currants (with extra stalks for decoration)
  • 160g (1¼ cups) AP (plain) flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 100g (½ cup) superfine (caster) sugar
  • 1 tbsp Cognac or Brandy (you can substitute apple juice)
  • 4g (½ tsp) pure vanilla sugar
  • 1 egg (L), free range or organic
  • 120 ml (½ cup) milk, room temperature (I use 3.5 % or full fat milk)

For the Topping
  • 2 tbsp sugar, for sprinkling (you can either use coarse or fine sugar – if you choose coarse, you will get a crunchy top)
  • 4g (½ tsp) pure vanilla sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F) degrees.
  2. Grease a 23cmx33cm (9x13in) baking pan and line with baking parchment.
  3. To prepare the red currants, hold each stalk over a bowl, grip the stalk at one end and sweep a fork down its length, making sure that the stalk runs between the fork's tines - all the berries should pop off. Set aside for a moment.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour with the baking powder and salt.
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, Cognac or Brandy and vanilla sugar until light and fluffy.
  6. Add the egg and beat until thoroughly combined.
  7. Add half the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Pour in the milk and continue beating, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined.
  8. Scrape the dough into the pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.
  9. Scatter the red currants on top of the batter, in an even layer.
  10. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and vanilla sugar.
  11. Sprinkle the sugar mixture on top of the red currants.
  12. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is light golden brown.
  13. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely
  14. Unmold, transfer to serving platter, dust with icing sugar just before serving. Enjoy with crème fraîche or lightly whipped cream if you like.

Enjoy August seasonal baking with summer berries including red currants, raspberries and blackberries, when they are at their peak and bursting with sweet and tart flavor, it's definitely worth it!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Ricotta Tart with Baby Spinach & Garden Herbs

For the first day of August, just a quick post with an easy summer recipe for a colorful and delicous Ricotta Tart with Baby Spinach & Herbs. For this easy summertime recipe, you can either chose to make your own Shortcrust Pastry (for ease of reference I included a recipe in his post) or use a good quality store-bought one. You can either use homemade Ricotta (which is what I like to use) or use a quality Italian brand instead. It is summertime after all and the weather is hot. Spending a long time in the kitchen these days, is not always desirable. The tart will taste wonderful whichever option you chose.

Ricotta Tart with Baby Spinach & Garden Herbs

Ingredients for the Shortcrust Pastry
  • 250g plain (AP) flour
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 150g cold unsalted butter
  • 1 egg yolk (M), free range or organic
  • 2 tbsps cider vinegar

Ingredients for the Filling
  • 2 tbsps or more olive oil
  • 200g (7 ounces) red spring onions, washed, dried and sliced thinly - you can also use regular red onions, scallions, leeks, or ramps (in springtime) in their place
  • 1 fat garlic clove, finely minced (you can forgo the garlic if you prefer)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (you can also add a few Italian Peperoncini flakes here)
  • 4 eggs (M), free range or organic
  • a small bunch baby spinach, washed and dried (you can leave the small stems attached)
  • chives and Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, washed, dried and chopped OR use other seasonal, soft garden herbs
  • 500g (17.5 ounces) fresh ricotta (either homemade or store-bought)

Preparation of the Crust
  1. For the pastry, put the flour, salt, butter, egg yolk and vinegar into a food processor. Using the pulse button, process until the mix binds. Alternatively mix by hand or with a pastry cutter.
  2. Gather all the ingredients into a smooth ball. Wrap with food wrap. Place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  3. Uwrap the cold pastry and place onto a lightly floured work surface, then roll out as evenly as you can. 
  4. Line the base of a 23cm x 2.5cm (9in x 1in) loose-bottomed, fluted tart/quiche pan with baking parchment. Alternatively, you can use a springform pan here.
  5. Ease the rolled out pastry into the prepared tart pan, press the pastry into the flutes, trim the pastry edges, making sure to save the trimmings. The pastry should be slightly above the rim of the tart pan. Lightly prick the base with a fork, then chill again, this time for about 15 minutes or until the pastry case is cold and firm again.
  6. Put a baking sheet in the oven and heat oven to 200° C ( 395°F).
  7. Line the pastry case with crumpled-up baking parchment, fill with dry beans and bake on the hot sheet for 15 minutes - I like to place another sheet of baking parchment under the tart pan.
  8. Remove the parchment and beans and bake for about 5 minutes more until the pastry is pale golden. If you notice any small holes or cracks, now is the time to patch up with pastry trimmings. NOTE: You can prepare the pastry case up to this point a day ahead.
  9. Place the pre-baked pastry shell on a cooling rack while preparing the filling.

Preparation of the Filling
  1. In a medium skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the sliced onions and garlic (if using), season with a bit of salt and pepper, cook until tender and cooked through. Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in the fresh baby spinach leaves, stir and let cool to room temperature. NOTE: the spinach leaves will wilt with the residual heat from the onion mixture.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200° C (400°F).
  3. Separate 2 of the eggs, keep the egg yolks separate, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of sea salt until soft peaks form. Set aside for a moment.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta until reasonably smooth, then mix in the 2 egg yolks that you kept separate and the 2 whole eggs, add a bit more salt and pepper (and peperoncini if using) along with the onion/garlic/baby spinach mixture.
  5. Fold the chopped, fresh herbs into the ricotta mixture.
  6. Scrape the filling into the pre-baked tart shell and bake until just set and slightly-browned on top, 25 to 30 minutes or until it just feels set in the center.
  7. Let the tart cool briefly, then serve either warm or at room temperature. 
  8. Scatter fresh basil leaves and edible flowers (if using) over the top of the tart before serving - it is nice to serve a fresh tomato salad alongside.

Enjoy this delectable Tart either warm, fresh out of the oven or serve at room temperature. It also keeps well for a day or two - if you have any leftovers, maybe bring a slice to a summertime alfresco lunch or dinner....