18 December 2011

Leek Cream Soup with Salmon Cubes


I first came across a version of this recipe, which uses carrots and some orange juice and zest, in a cookbook by one of Switzerland’s leading chefs, Oskar Marti, now retired. I was at his restaurant a couple of times and he likes to talk to people; somehow we hit it off, we ended up talking food and cooking, surprise surprise, and he gave me a few hints about the recipes in that book (he was about to present me a copy, but, obviously, I already had one); he wrote a very nice dedication into it when I sent it to him  a few days later, something I’m very happy about because he confirmed so many of my thoughts and beliefs concerning healthy, ecological and seasonal cooking.
Anyway, I had friends over the other day and realised I did not have enough carrots but loads of leeks, so I did this instead.
The advantage of this dish is that it can be prepared in advance and finished when the guests turn up.

What you need

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cm fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 knob butter for frying
  • 1 tablesp Madras curry powder
  • 4 medium-sized leeks (the white bits), finely chopped
  • 1-2 small (or 1 medium) potatoes, diced
  • 100 ml dry sherry
  • 1 tblsp vegetable broth powder/concentrate/cube
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 200-300 gr very (!) fresh salmon, cut into 1 cm cubes.
  • 250 ml fresh cream, whipped, if you like, for a fluffier texture; alternatively use double cream

What you do

  1. In a sauteuse melt the butter and add the onions, the garlic, the ginger and the curry powder. Stir without letting the onions, etc. take on any other colour than the yellow of the curry powder.
  2. Add the leek and stir till it has gone limp, then add the potatoes and the veggie broth concentrate / cube.
  3. Pour in the sherry and reduce to about half.
  4. Cover with water and simmer until the potatoes are soft.
  5. Liquidise the mixture adding water to get the desired thickness and season to taste with salt and pepper. (You may want to strain the soup but I like tiny bits in it.) At this stage you can let it cool or keep it in the fridge till needed…
  6. Preheat the soup bowls (better than plates), then distribute the salmon cubes and pour in the fresh cream.
  7. Pour in the reheated, piping hot soup and serve; the salmon poaches itself on the way from the kitchen to the table. (See picture above.)

09 December 2011

Curried Omlette



This may look a bit daunting because of the long list of ingredients, which is mainly the spices. If you prefer not to bother with the individual ones, just use a curry mix that you like, e.g. Madras Curry or a commercially available curry paste.  Even if you use your own spices, this is a quick and easy Indian meal, which allows for a lot of flexibility, depending on what you have in the fridge and the larder and on what is in season. The ingredients below reflect that it is December, but in summer you can substitute tomatoes (which are actually really nice in this dish!) and courgettes for some of the root vegetables. Potatoes are a standard ingredient, though.  

What you need

  • 2 potatoes, diced and steamed or boiled
  • ½ celeriac, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced or thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cm finely ginger chopped or pressed
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 leek, halved and cut into thin strips
  • 4-6 eggs, depending on their size, beaten
  • 1 tblsp turmeric
  • 1 tblsp jeera powder (ground cumin seed)
  • 1 tsp (+) cayenne pepper
  • 1 tblsp ground coriander seeds
  • a dash of tamarind juice (or vinegar)
  • 1 chilli pepper finely cut
  • oil for frying
  • salt (and pepper) to taste
optionally:
  • 1-2 medium tomatoes diced
  • ½ capsicum pepper, diced
  • grated cheese
  • 1 handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • for garnish a green chilli in fine slices

What you do

  1. Fry the spices (including the chillies) in a wide frying pan until they begin to go dark.
  2. Add the onions, garlic and ginger (and the leek, if using) stirring to prevent them from going brown.
  3. Add the other vegetables, stiring from time to time, and fry it all for about 5 minutes. The vegetables should still be crunchy. 
  4. Add the beaten eggs and the coriander leaves/cilantro  to taste. (If you find there is not enough egg for the vegetables, beat one or two more and add them too)Fy gently until the eggs are no longer runny.  
  5. If using, sprinkle with grated cheese to taste before the eggs have set completely.  
  6. Either turn with a large plate and fry on the other side as well or put under the grill until the top of the omelette is browned.
    Add caption
Optionally garnish with some fresh coriander leaves and the sliced green chillies.

Remarks

Indian spice mixes can be checked out here. What is important is that the ingredients are usually dry-roasted (without fat) in a skillet or a frying pan, then cooled down and ground in a mortar or a specially designated spice mill (cheap coffee grinder used exclusively for this purpose). The list above obviates this need because all the spices are already ground and then fried before use.

29 November 2011

Mixed Vegetable and Quince Roesti

I recently saw in an upmarket restaurant in Britain that roesti, this quintessential Swiss poor people’s dinner, a way to use up left-over potatoes from the day before, was on the menu as something rather exotic and special. Unusual makes for exotic and special, it seems. Still, here is a variant of this dish, which is relatively quick and easy, if you don’t count the time needed for the slow and gentle frying that gives this dish the lovely crust and makes it so tasty.
It is also rather difficult to work out exact amounts and it depends on what you have that you want to use (up), so this will be a bit imprecise. But the upside is that you can add any other root vegetables you fancy.
The addition of quince was a last-minute thought, but apples would work too. Quinces have the advantage of being less sweet and more crunchy.

What you need

  • 4 to 5 waxy potatoes (you can use raw ones, I usually do)
  • 1 large carrot each, yellow, orange and purple
  • 1 small celeriac
  • 1 large quince
  • 1 (Chioggia) beetroot
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped (optional)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, pressed (optional)
  • 100-200 g bacon cubes (optional)
  • 50 gr butter for frying (slightly more if using an uncoated steel pan – as I do)
  • 200 g flavoursome cheese (Mont Vully) in thin slices
  • Optionally 1 fried egg per person

What you do

  1. Peel and grate the potatoes, the quince and the vegetables, squeeze out excess liquid, if there is any, and mix the potatoes etc. evenly.
  2. Melt the butter but do not let it colour in two frying pans.
  3. Mix all the ingredients (except the cheese and the eggs, of course) evenly and distribute into the two frying pans, making sure the overall thickness of the layer of veggies does not exceed about 4 cm.
  4. Fry slowly over a low heat until the vegetable on the top no longer look raw (about 15-20 min). By now the vegetables and potato at the bottom will be crisp and golden brown.
  5. Season with a bit of salt and pepper, then turn over into a large plate.
  6. Once again, melt some butter and slide the roesti back into the pans and fry on the other side.
  7. Season the top and distribute the cheese slices over the surface. While the roesti browns on the other side, the cheese will melt.
  8. Serve, if you want to, with a fried egg over each helping.




What goes nicely with this is a salad with walnuts and a dressing with aceto balsamico and pumpkin seed oil. 

22 November 2011

Chanterelle-Cream Sauce with Fresh Pasta


Normally I would make my own pasta, which makes this a much less fast meal. If you can get good fresh pasta, this takes no longer than for the pasta water to boil and the pasta becoming al dente. 

Homemade Pasta

Making your own pasta sounds a lot more daunting than it is. You usually reckon a multiple of about
  • 1 egg,
  • 100 g of flour or semolina,
  • a pinch of salt and
  • a teaspoon of olive oil optionally to keep the dough smooth
(Three times this amount makes about enough for four resonable eaters.)
Mix all the ingredients and knead until you get a dry dough. If you have time, allow it to sit for about 30 minutes, perhaps overnight in the fridge, making sure it does not dry out. This allows the flour and the egg to mix and create the best texture (I’m told it’s got something to do with the gluten in the flour and the protein molecules in the egg but I’m not really au fait with the science behind all this). Roll out the dough, as thinly as you can with a rolling pin; a pasta machine setting of about 5 out of 6 is great, cut into strips of the desired width, noodles to the uninitiated, dust with flour to prevent sticking and form nests. These can be left to dry, frozen or used straight away. I have a pasta tree to dry them on, but that is more than a casual pasta maker will want to bother with.

Chanterelle and Cream Sauce

You can make this will the pasta water is coming to the boil.

What you need

 

  • 150 g chanterelles, cut into slices with the tougher stems finely chopped
  • 2 tblsp Olive oil or butter, perhaps half and half
  • 12 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 or more cloves of garlic
  • 100 to 150  ml white Port, Madeira or Marsala (I prefer the first even though in the pictures madeira is used)
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 100 ml crème fraîche
  • 150 ml of fresh cream
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
  • Cajun Spice (see here), and if needed salt and pepper to taste

What you do

Clean the chanterelles, ideally with a brush as washing them under the tap makes them soggy
Cut the tougher stems and chop them finely.
Heat the olive oil and/or butter.
When it is hot, add the chanterelle stems, the onions and last the garlic and stir fry. Make sure neither onions nor garlic colour.
Add the sliced chanterelles and fry until the onions are golden.
Sprinkle a goodly pinch of Cajun Spice over the mixture.
Add the Madeira and the vegetable stock cubes and reduce to about half the volume.
Now stir in the crème fraîche, again allow to bubble vigorously.
Add the fresh cream and the herbs and reduce until the sauce has thickened. (No flour needed! See earlier postings.)
Finally season to taste with more Cajun spice salt and pepper.
Pour over the fresh pasta cooked al dente (which with fresh pasta is a matter of a couple of minutes!)

Remarks

Serve immediately: the eaters wait for the dish, not the other way round! If this is a problem, prepare the sauce to the point before you add the liquids and the water is boiling (to reheat it if you don't have to wait too long is no big deal).
Crème fraîche can be quite acidic, which is part of the appeal of this sauce. This is counterbalanced by the sweetness of the white Port (apparently in Asian and molecular cooking the idea is to combine as many tastes as the tongue is capable of detecting; what is missing here is a bitter flavour…). If the sauce tastes too sour, which should not be the case if you get a good crème fraîche, you can add a bit of Madeira at the end, making sure the sauce only simmers to preserve the taste.

15 November 2011

Mushroom Cream Soup


Another soup recipe, quick, tasty, really easy and great on a chilly autumn day. 
It also optionally uses roasted walnuts, still part of our glut this year. 

 

 

What you need

  • 1 tblsp butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 300 g sliced fresh mushrooms (substitute in parts with other fungi)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 100 ml Madeira (alternatively Marsala or Sherry; the cheaper option would be white wine)
  • 200-250 ml double cream (single cream if you prefer something a bit less filling – and tasty)
  • salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  • optionally a handful of freshly cracked, coarsely chopped, roasted walnuts.

What you do

  1. Melt the butter in a casserole, add the onions and sauté until they are golden.
  2. Add the mushrooms (and other fungi if you use them) and sauté till they are slightly browned and getting soft.
  3. Season with garlic and a bit of salt and cayenne pepper (you may need more after having added the cream).
  4. Add the stock cubes and the Madeira and reduce the liquid a bit.
  5. The cover with water and simmer for about 10 minutes till the mushrooms are quite soft.
  6. Liquidise the soup until it is quite smooth.
  7. Add the double cream and stir, warming the soup up again.
  8. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper (see above).
  9. Serve with a sprinkling of the walnut (dry-roasted in an iron frying pan until there is that lovely smell of walnuts).

Remarks

To make this a slightly cheaper meal, although one that is not as concentratedly mushroomy, add a finely cubed medium-sized potato after step 3 and boil until the potato is soft (may take a little longer).
For vegans and for people needing to watch their weight, leave out the cream, obviously, which makes the soup quite a bit more concentrated but also less smooth. Soja cream may make a subsitute but I have never tried that. As a binding agent, which is also a role cream plays, I think, the above-mentioned potato may help to cut out the dairy stuff.
You could also roast the walnuts a bit more, then grind them and add them to the soup as a substitute for cream.

09 November 2011

Sloe Gin


This is not just the name of a truly great Joe Bonnamassa album (and song) but also of a great drink, sweet, deeply read and very, very alcoholic.
Sloes or blackthorn berries are a relative of the plum. They are impossibly tart to eat, but create the most beautifully deep red liqueur, which in northern Germany is made with Korn (or vodka), in Britain traditionally with gin. One of my uncles used to make this drink in October or early November, to be ready to drink for Christmas. The interesting thing is that even people who don’t like gin, which includes Caroline and me, will testify that the typical gin taste is gone completely by the time this viscous and deceptively sweet concoction is ready for careful and moderate consumption.
We have several blackthorns bushes in our garden, most of the fruit we leave to be eaten by the birds. They love this source of food late in autumn. Actually, it is said that the tiny plums should not be picked and used until after the first frost because, allegedly, the ice pierces their skin. An alternative suggestion is that the skin be pierced with a needle before being dropped into the gin. As both these techniques are unnecessary because irrelevant for the osmosis that passes on the juice to the gin, I think the real reason for the delayed harvest mentioned first is that the sloes must be really ripe, which they are, of course, this late in the year.

What you need

  • 400-500 g sloes
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 1 l gin
  • 2 months (at least)

What you do


In a 2 litre sealable glass jar mix the sloes, with pierced skin if you like, and the sugar. Cover and leave for 2 to 3 days, shaking every now and then.
Add the gin and store the jar in a cool dark place. 

Shake about every second day for a week, then once a week for two months.



After two months or more strain the gin through a muslin cloth and bottle the resulting liqueur.

 You could, but need not, add distilled water to reduce the punch. But you will also dilute the rich flavour…

05 November 2011

My Great-Grandmothers Fruitbake (with Quinces)


My great-grandmother lived near the station of Switzerland’s train hub, Olten, was widowed relatively early, her husband having been a train driver, and clearly wasn’t rolling in money, but loved cooking and enjoyed her food; sometimes when her Grandmother got hungry in the evening, my mum tells me, she had to go to the restaurant next door to buy a litre of “montagner”, the cheapest red wine, to accompany a late night snack of cheese and bread.
The following recipe, which reflects the make-do spirit as well as the love of good food, has been in our family for as long as I can remember, and I have fond memories of coming home, finding this dish on the table, usually for supper, steaming once the crust was broken, but also with the promise of a lovely snack, cold, sometime in the following days, if indeed it survived that long.
The use of steamed fruit of any kind, rhubarb in early summer, plums, apricots and peach a bit later on, apples, pears and quince in autumn, make this a seasonally adaptable dish. In earlier times, steamed fruit would have been preserved in large glass jars and kept for later; we can of course use the fruit we freeze seasonally for later in the year.

What you need

  • Steamed fruit (I used quince as we have masses of the this year) to cover the bottom of a ceramic baking dish
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 200 g sugar
  • 250 g ground almonds (optionally substitute a portion of walnuts, I did because we have loads this year)
  • 4 egg whites, whisked
  • rind of 1 (organic) lemon
  • sugar (brown) to sprinkle over the top

What you do

  1. Cut the fruit into bite-sized slices or junks, add a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning and sugar to taste, add some water (not enough to cover the fruit) and simmer in a lidded pan until it is still firm, but not hard.
  2. Pour a layer of fruit into a buttered baking dish, making sure it is not too watery. (the excess liquid, reduced with a bit of white wine and perhaps additional sugar, makes a good accompanying sauce.
  3. Beat the egg yolks and the sugar until they are quite frothy, then add the ground almonds.
  4. Grate the rind of one organic lemon over the mixture.
  5. Fold in the whisked egg whites, making sure that the mixture remains as light and “fluffy” as possible.
  6. Pour the mixture over the steamed fruit and sprinkle lightly with a bit of sugar (I didn't, as you can see, have brown sugar).
  7. Bake in the oven at 200° for 35 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Remarks

I had a little Vin Santo, a sweetish Italian wine left, which I poured over the quinces together with the water and the sugar. Once I had taken the fruit out I added the peels, cores and the pips and boiled the syrup for a little longer as these act like a setting agent, making the liquid slightly jelly-like.
 To serve,  heat up the surplus liquid from the steamed fruit to pour over the helpings.
This dish freezes very well, so if you make twice what you need you can easily put another portion in the oven to warm up at a later stage.