Sunday, 26 April 2015

Auberginies with spicy yogurt lemon sauce

I love aubergines. And not, this is not a side effect of any of Ottolengi’s books. 

It probably has something to do with the 10 years I lived in Mallorca. Aubergines are a central product in Majorcan food. In the middle of the Mediterranean, so closed to Middle Eastern influences because of their proximity, but also because historically Balearics were a mixing pot of cultures, you can find a very large amount of traditional recipes with aubergines in there. 

Today’s dish is a mix of traditional aubergines with a different sauce. This is a really good version for when you are craving a fresh, full with vegetables and nutritious meal, with a quick and easy sauce to put on top. 

Directions are simple, you will not need a lot of ingredients, and satisfaction is guaranteed. 

So, for those of you, who are - like me- in love with this vegetable in any possible way, just enjoy:

Auberginies with spicy yogurt sauce

2 large auberginies
2 garlic gloves
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
A good handful of parsley
125 ml greek natural yogur
Juice of half a lemon
1 fresh chili pepper
Sea salt. 

Wash the auberginies and open them in the middle, longwise. Make some cuts in the pulp with the point of a knife. Add a bit of salt, and put them with the skin up, for about an hour, on a large colander, so that they loose that first water.
In a large saucepan, put 3 tablespoons of olive oil and heat. Add the auberginies, with the pulp touching the saucepan. Let them cook at medium-low heat, for about half an hour. Once their are tender, put them in an oven proof  dish, with the pulp facing up, add some drops of olive oil, and the finelly chopped garlic and the parsley. Put under the grill for 10 to 15 minutes.
Prepare the sauce mixing the yogurt, with one chopped garlic clove and the finely chopped chili pepper. Add salt and black pepper, and the lemon juice. Serve with a bit of chopped parsley and some drops of olive oil on top.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Chocolate cookies shaped as gingerbread men which should have been a house

Lately I can hardly find time to blog. Not that I do not like it anymore. In fact, I even have a few recipes prepared for posting, but it seems that there is a general conspiracy against me so that I am continuously asked to focus, my attention, and my energy and my time into everything but this.

 On the good side I would say I have been cooking quite a lot lately. And that, whether or not is to be published on the blog, makes me happy and brings happiness to those around me. And I have so many other things in which to put my energy that I often have to remind myself that the blog is still here. 

Among the things I've prepared lately there two Roscones de reyes. (This is the traditional baking for the Epiphany in Spain, which closes our Christmas celebrations and all the feasting on the 6th of January). I made them with the same recipe as always, as it is still the best I’ve found so far. In Belfast, however, I have yet to find where to buy fresh yeast, so I have to bake with the lyophilized stuff. The first attempt was good as for the flavour, but more the texture was more compact than it should be. The second, on time for the 6th of January, when we were back here, was just perfect. Therefore, I had to freeze it in portions or we'd eaten all at once. Yes, on the 6th, my daughters returned to school, being probably the happiest children at school, as they had rosc√≥n for breakfast. 

 And then I've done crazy things that have nothing to do with me, like trying to make a gingerbread house before Christmas, just because I came across this magazine and my daughters begged me to make it a weekend before our holiday trip. So, much to my regret, as intrincate decorations and crafts are my kryptonite in the kitchen, but maybe full of a Christmas spirit, I printed the shopping list, bought the long list of ingredients, and I prepared for a weekend of playing to build a house and decorate it with my daughters.

 And then I made a rookie mistake. I do not know if it was all the Christmas sugary emotion in the air or just the rush and the thousands of other things I was doing at the same time, but for some reason, I did not read the whole recipe. And something as basic as that, something I always recommend everyone, that was simply foolish. Because by the time I had a table full of everything you can imagine and a little more, when I had printed templates for different pieces and parts of the house and I was mentally prepared with loads of patience for what was about to come, then I kept on reading the recipe and realized the amounts needed for the dough –well, there is much to build I said to myself, being a beginner on this myself-. There was also enough dead time to wait between dough preparation and the time to use it, which when working with children is a no-no , as their patience is something that simply does not exist. But with butter cookies it is similar, I said again to myself –by the I should have realised it was my hopeful Christmas spirit talking-. 

The problem came when I discovered that it took several days to build the house. I could not believe. It's faster to build a real prefabricated house that to bake all that thing. Not to mention the half kitchen needed to let the pieces still while drying. Who has time / desire / site / patience and stomach to do something and then eat it? For me this was too much. So as the dough was resting in the fridge, I decided that the plan had changed and pulled out the little ginger men cookies cutter, and in a moment my kitchen was full with an army of chocolate mini men. One, two, three trays were filled in what was beginning to look like a cookie factory. There is still another thing I would suggest you never do, especially when you're baking cookies: never leave your oven unattended. Anyway, when I had just put the last tray in the oven, J. asked me something. I went upstairs, we started talking and kept talking, and when you live with someone you really enjoy talking to, chances are you engage in an interesting conversation. Needless to say, when I returned to the kitchen a smell of burnt cookie was already filling the last corner of the house. 

Conclusion: even when you've spent years cooking you keep doing, occasionally, all those things you know you should not do. The good side of this all (it has one, for sure), is that the cookies were spectacular. They are only suitable for chocolate lovers, because they are as chocolate loaded as they could be. It's like a butter cookie but with all the goodness of dark, velvety chocolate: a real bomb. And also on the positive side is that what my daughters wanted to do with the house was playing with the icing and doing all the decorations. The taste of royal icing on a cookie is too much sugary for them not. So we prepare a couple of coloured icings and they decorated the burnt cookies. I then gave some to some friends as a gift, because at home they started to quickly disappear from the tray, and we were more than capable to eat them all at once.

So, even though you might still feel fill up after all the Christmas overeating, I just wanted to post this recipe because I am sure I will repeat it at some point (probably just half of the original amount will be enough). At the end of the day, the blog is perfect for keeping this all together.

Chocolate cookies shaped as gingerbread men which should have been a house. 

100g Belgian dark chocolate
400g soft unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
100g golden syrup
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
700g plain flour
100g cocoa 

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Set aside to cool a little. In a large bowl (or using the bowl of a stand mixer), cream the butter and sugar together until well combined.
Beat in the melted chocolate and golden syrup. Mix in the eggs until well combined and sift in the flour and cocoa. Mix until it forms a cohesive dough. Chill for 45 minutes.
Lay a sheet of baking paper on the worktop and place a quarter of the dough on top. Put a sheet of baking paper on top and roll out the dough to about 35cm x 25cm, roughly the thickness of a £1 coin. Repeat with the other quarters of dough to create 4 pieces. Carefully stack the pieces of dough in their baking paper on a chopping board or baking tray; rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Cut out the dough in the form you prefer -I used a gingerbread men cookie cutter- and  put them into trays covered with baking paper. Chill again for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C, fan 170°C, gas 5. Bake the cookies, in batches, for about 10 to 12 minutes. Leave to cool completely on the trays. The cooled cookies should be firm to the touch. If still a bit soft, bake for a little longer, taking care not to burn the edges.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

St Lucia saffron buns

There is something in the Scadinavian bakery that makes me love it every time. It is so honest, so truthful, so made for confort that you simply cannot beat it. I particularly love their sweet breads. This buns, to celebrate St Lucia on 13th December are simply a bread dough enriched with butter and egg. But you will need the time and the star ingredient, saffron, to make them the right way. Once you have tried them, you will repeat, as they are simply delicious. 

I would only warn you about the saffron. It will add a gorgeous colour to the buns, but it is a really powerful spice, so you'd like to be caoutious with it, or its flavour will overpower all the other flavorus in these buns. Once you adjust the exact quantity, you will have these beauties once and again. They are simply perfect, for St Lucia, or any other day in the year.

St Lucia Saffron Buns

300ml whole milk
3 or 4  saffron threads
75g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
500g strong white bread flour
100g golden caster sugar
7g sachet fast-action yeast
A teaspoon of salt
1 large egg, beaten, plus extra for egg wash
A little oil, for greasing


Put the milk in a small pan and gently heat until it’s steaming. Use a pestle and mortar to grind the saffron into a powder. Add this to the pan of milk along with the butter. Swirl to melt the butter, then set aside until lukewarm. 
In a large bowl, mix the flour, caster sugar, 1 tsp salt and the yeast together, and make a well in the middle of the bowl. Pour in the milk mixture along with the egg. Mix together to form a sticky dough, then turn out onto the work surface and knead until smooth and elastic (this will take about 10 mins). Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film. Set the bowl in a warm part of the house and allow to rise for about 1 hr until doubled in size. 
Knock back the dough and divide into 12 equal portions. Cover the pieces with the oiled cling film while you make the rolls – this will stop the dough from drying out. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll out into a 30cm-long strand. Roll up one end into the middle, turn over and roll the other end into the middle, forming the dough into an S-shape. Place the buns on a large (or 2 smaller) parchment-lined baking tray. Once all the buns are made, lightly cover with oiled cling film and prove until almost doubled in size (if making ahead, keep the dough in the fridge overnight and bake in the morning). While the buns prove, heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. 
When ready to bake, brush the buns with beaten egg and press a currant into the centre of each spiral. Put the trays in the oven and bake for around 15 mins. Allow to cool before serving. These are best eaten on the day they are made but will keep for a couple of days.