Saturday, 31 March 2012

Sachertorte (THE traditional Viennese Chocolate Cake)



There’s a country on this globe where in the beginning of the 20th century, a war has broken out; only a legal war, alright, but with fights and battles that lasted until the early 60s. The reason for this fierce war was – a cake. I’m talking about my home-country Austria, and the cake in question is the famous Sachertorte. 'Tis one of the trademarks of Austrian culture that any Austrian will quote along with Mozart, the Lipizzan horses, Saint Stephen’s Cathedral and the Strauss-waltzes…

This cake was invented in 1832 by a sixteen-year-old apprentice to the Prince von Metternich’s cook in Vienna, Franz Sacher. His son Eduard carried on his father’s culinary legacy, working at first with the Royal and Imperial Pastry Chef at the Demel bakery (which still exists today), then going on to establish the Hotel Sacher in 1876 (the hotel and its restaurant and bakery still exist, too). The Sachertorten-War waging between the Demel bakery and the Hotel Sacher was finally settled in 1963 by an agreement that only the Hotel Sacher would henceforth have the right to dub its products “Original Sacher Torte” whereas the Demel bakery won the name “Eduard-Sacher-Torte”.

Given this prestigious history full of battles and struggles, I was a bit anxious to prepare a Sachertorte myself. Moreover, my mother is one of the best bakers of the Sachertorte ever so I knew I was facing a real Flabbergast-your-Mom-challenge. Now let’s look at how I proceeded, shall we?

What you need: 
  • 140 g of butter 
  • 140 g of dark chocolate 
  • 200 g of sugar (+ 60 g of sugar for the stiff egg whites) 
  • A pinch of salt 
  • 7 eggs 
  • 140 g of flour 
  • Apricot jam 
For the icing: 
  • 300 g of sugar 
  • 250 g of dark chocolate 
  • 1/8 l of water 
How to proceed: 
  • Make sure you take the butter out of the fridge in time; it has to be soft and mellow. 
  • Mix the egg whites with 60 g of sugar until stiff. 
  • Delicately melt the 140 g of chocolate with a little bit of water. 
  • Mix the butter, the melted chocolate, the sugar and a pinch of salt. 
  • By and by, mix in the egg yolks. 
  • Delicately blend in the stiff egg whites. 
  • Finally, add the flour. 
  • Fill into a round cake dish and bake for 60-65 minutes at 170°C. 
  • Unmold the cake and let it cool off. 
  • Once the cake has cooled, cut it in two halves horizontally. 
  • Coat the lower half with a thin layer of apricot jam. 
  • Put the cake together again. 
  • I added a thin layer of jam on top of the cake, too (this is NOT in the original recipe but hell, one’s allowed to improvise, no?). 
  • Prepare the icing: Heat the water with the sugar and the chocolate. 
  • Cook and stir for 10 minutes. 
  • Take off the heat and let cool down a bit; the icing should be thick. 
  • Cover the top and the sides of your cake with that chocolate icing (my kitchen was a mess but know what? There was no shortage of eager fingers rubbing off that chocolate icing from the surfaces!). 
  • When the icing has hardened, the cake is ready to be eaten. 
You can serve a slice of this cake with some whipped cream (almost a legal obligation in Austria) and a nice, strong cup of coffee. Not only is the Sachertorte a real treat but you can keep it for two weeks (in a dry and cool place of course) without the cake losing any of its extraordinary flavour, not too sweet, not too dry, not too chocolatty. My mom, to whom I showed my result on Skype, was simply flabbergasted!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Oven-baked Chili



Blogging is chiefly a narcissistic business. The pursue of those 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol has prophesied a quarter of a century ago and that internet has made possible. Of course, we’ll argue that we’re blogging solely in order to share, to exchange, to meet people. That does sound much nicer, I admit. But honestly: blogs are spaces of pure self-exposure. We exhibit our work, our meals, our writings, our philosophies, our thoughts and obsessions and pains. Because we want to tell the whole world what we think, write, cook etc. in order to get some nice comments assuring us that the world likes (and shares) what we think, write, cook. We wanna be loved, in short. A food & cooking blog is no exception. We want to show the world that we can prepare delicious meals.

When we stop by other people’s blogs, we often leave comments gushing how delicious their meals look and how we’d like to have a piece of that cake, a slice of that bread… And deep in our souls, we’re hoping they might stop by our blogs and, forced by the unwritten rules of netiquette, will leave a comment in turn. Just ask yourself this question: How often do we really pick up that wonderful recipe we’re going all nuts about in our comments, then cook it ourselves and present the result on our blogs? Be honest! Well, I wanted to change that. I confess there are recipes that look delish but contain ingredients I don’t really dig all that much (I’m not on overt fan of too much meat for example). Then, there are others that look just too complicated. And there are those that make me really want to dash into the kitchen and start cooking at once. That was the case of this one here.

FYI, I regularly read my friend Catherine’s blog over at Living The Gourmet. She’s a helluva fabulous cook, that woman, believe me! Almost chain-cooking (and posting) delish recipes (I wonder does she sleep from time to time?). Well, I have decided to thank her for her unfaltering friendship by trying to copy one of her recipes (with her permission, of course): the Baked Chili (original post here). There have been some minor problems though. Catherine living in the USA, she uses some ingredients I just couldn’t find here in France. Bisquick, for instance. Simply not available! Yet one of her main ingredients. With all my humblest apologies, I’ve decided to replace it by a simple béchamel-sauce. And jalapeños – I had to improvise by buying hot chili peppers from the French Antilles instead (more about that one later). So there we go; I hope I’m as fabulous as you, Catherine (seriously doubting it, but lemme tell you it was delicious – a treat!).

What you need: 
For the chili: 
  • 500 g of minced beef 
  • 2 onions 
  • 4 garlic cloves 
  • A bunch of fresh parsley 
  • ½ a little, hot chili pepper from the French Antilles 
  • A can of kidney beans 
  • A small can of sweet corn 
  • A can of tomatoes 
  • Salt, pepper 
  • Olive oil 
  • Paprika 
  • Mexican Spice Mix 
  • Oregano 
  • Grated cheese 
For the béchamel-sauce:
  • 40 g of butter 
  • 40 g of flour 
  • ½ l of milk 
  • A drizzle of cream 
  • Salt, pepper 
  • Ground nutmeg 
  • Some more grated cheese 
How to proceed: 
Jalapeños (top) vs. hot chili peppers
from the French Antilles (below)
  • Chop your onions, garlic and hot chili pepper (or jalapeño). Just a question: is japaleño very very spicy-hot? Because the little chili peppers I found in the supermarket were – my goodness, they were! I bought two of them, mainly because they were so small and because I saw that guy shoving them into his shopping basket by the dozens. I should have talked to him though: he was obviously from the French Antilles, where they are used to eating very very spicy meals. Now a tip for you if you want to make sure your meal containing hot chili peppers will please even fragile palates: cut the pepper in two and touch the edge with your finger, then lick the finger. If your mouth is in flames, uhm, don’t use too much of those peppers. That’s what I’ve decided after having cut my tiny, tiny green chili from the Antilles. Jeez, was that spicy and hot! Yet very very tasty, too. I loved it! 
  • Chop the fresh parsley. 
  • Heat a drizzle of oil in a big pan. 
  • Stir-fry the onions, the garlic and the peppers (or jalapeño) until the onions are transparent. 
  • Add the minced beef. 
  • Add salt and pepper, then a good spoonful of paprika. 
  • Stir-fry, then add the parsley, a good spoonful or two of Mexican Spice Mix and some oregano. 
  • When the meat is cooked, add the sliced, canned tomatoes. 
  • Let it simmer for approx. 30 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle. 
  • Add the kidney beans and the sweet corn. 
  • Let it simmer for another 20 minutes. 
  • In the meantime, you can prepare the béchamel-sauce. Melt 40 g of butter in a little pan. 
  • When the butter is melted, stir in the flour. 
  • Add the milk, lower the heat. 
  • Let it simmer for 10 minutes; you have to stir all the while in order to avoid lumps. 
  • Preheat your oven, 200-230°C. 
  • The sauce will have thickened now. Take it off the heat, add salt, pepper and ground nutmeg as well as a drizzle of cream. 
  • Add some grated cheese, stir well. 
  • Fill the chilli in a casserole. 
  • Pour the béchamel-sauce on top. 
  • Cover with loads of grated cheese. 
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes at 200-230°C (check on it from time to time). 
  • When the cheese has melted and browned, you can serve with a side-helping of salad. 
I just love chili, which I normally prepare without the oregano and the parsley. But they added an extra-flavour I very much appreciated. And to bake the chili with that yummy béchamel-sauce and the cheese – outright divine! Thanks a lot, Catherine, for sharing this fabulous idea with us! I have thoroughly enjoyed this meal, and so has Seb. It has entered by now my list of recipes I'll prepare again and again, that's for certain. And I hope you will enjoy it too!  

Bon appétit and don’t forget to check out Catherine’s blog for more recipes (you’ll get as addicted as I, I’m sure)! 

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Tarragon-and-Cream Chicken Breasts



One of the basic recipes I’ve been cooking since I turned 20 is this one. Easy to prepare, tasty and not too expensive. Perfect for a weekday when you come home late from work and don’t want to simply nibble again; one of those evenings when take-away pizza is just not an option, either, because you crave for something a bit more, well, let’s say noble.

What you need: 
  • Chicken breasts (one per person) 
  • A bunch of fresh tarragon 
  • 1 onion 
  • 1 shallot 
  • A glass or two of a dry white wine 
  • Some Garlic powder 
  • Some allspice (spice mixture containing ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) 
  • Salt, pepper 
  • 40 cl of cream 
  • A drizzle of olive oil 
How to proceed: 
  1. Chop your onion and shallot. 
  2. Chop the tarragon. 
  3. Heat a drizzle of oil in a pan. 
  4. When hot, fry your chicken breasts. 
  5. While frying, sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder and allspice. 
  6. When the chicken is golden-brown, take it out and keep it warm (in the oven at low heat, for instance). 
  7. Add another drizzle of olive oil, then fry the onion and shallot while scraping with a spatula to retrieve all the juices from the pan. 
  8. When the onion is transparent, pour the dry white wine. 
  9. Let it simmer for at least 10 minutes; the wine has to reduce, and the alcohol has to evaporate, leaving only the taste of the wine behind. 
  10. Now, add the cream and the chopped tarragon. 
  11. Stir and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes; the flavours have to mingle and the sauce has to get a bit thicker. 
  12. If you want the chicken breasts to be perfectly tender, you can add them 5 minutes before serving. They will give off a bit of their spice crust so don’t forget to stir from time to time. 
Serve the chicken breasts with rice or, even better, with pasta. I opted for Tricolori, three-coloured pasta that not only looked nicer on the plates but tasted better (because of the natural colouring: red was tomatoes, green was spinach-and-basil). Really, really yummy, said my tummy!  
Bon appétit!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Almond-Cheesecake



I tried another of my Viennese baking recipes that I found in my “Wiener Backbuch” (more than 400 pages) and was astounded by several things: a) how little sugar and butter was needed (as Austrian cake recipes go, you put on 1 kilo by only reading it!); and b) how easy this one turned out – and how fluffy and delicious! It’s basically just a cheesecake but with additional ground almonds which make it a bit more “compact”. In fact, I guess you could use this cake as a base for more elaborate cakes; you could add fruits on top, or a fluffier curd cream. I will try other variants and keep you posted. For now, let’s get started.

What you need: 
  • 100 g of butter 
  • 8 g of vanilla sugar 
  • 100 g of sugar 
  • 6 eggs 
  • 140 g of curd (20% of fat) 
  • 100 g of ground almonds 
  • 1 tablespoonful of flour 
  • Some baking powder 
How to proceed: 
  • Preheat your oven, medium temperature (I love those precise indications in this book! I mean, I’m not a star-reader nor a fortune-teller!), which will be 180-200°C I gather. 
  • First of all, take the butter out of your fridge some time before starting the cake. I insist because I’m so proud of me: I remembered this time! Took it out even before I went to the supermarket so, once I started preparing, the butter was perfectly mellow. 
  • Mix the butter until foamy. 
  • Sift your vanilla sugar with the sugar and mix it in. 
  • By and by, you add the 6 egg yolks, then the curd. 
  • At last, you delicately add the stiff egg whites, the ground almonds, the tablespoonful of flour and a little bit of baking powder. The Austrian recipe says “the tip of a knife full”, which means you take a knife, use it like a spoon, and only add as much as stays on its tip. Which means, well, a little bit. 
  • You butter your cake dish and fill in the mixture. 
  • Bake the cake for 40 minutes. 
  • Before you serve it, add some sugar dust in top of your cake. 
Simply delicious and not too sweet, so you can add some whipped cream too without having a bad conscience. Prepare yourself a nice cup of coffee and enjoy this nice, unpretentious yet light and yummy cake.  
Bon appétit! 

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Cottage Pie



Sorry, I haven’t posted for a whole week, for the simple reason that I haven’t cooked anything. It has been a very busy week for both Seb and me, and in the evenings, we only had some cheese or pâté. Yet, come Saturday, I felt a certain twitching and itching in my fingers, like a drug addict who has run out of heroine. I needed my “kitchen high”. So I googled around a bit, until I found what I wanted to prepare. Wrote down my shopping list, and off to the supermarket I dashed.

Now, just one thing: if you’re hungry, like I was when I was preparing dinner, and if you like mashed potatoes as much as I do, have some nibbles before! Because I nearly finished off the plate of mashed potatoes before my dish was finished! “Yum, looks nice,” I said, “gotta taste if there’s enough salt.” And swallowed a forkful. Then, while I was grating the cheese, I went, “How do the potatoes taste with the cheese?” And another big forkful disappeared. Luckily, I had bought a big chunk of cheddar because, well, it tasted heavenly, and I had to try again and again… Suffice it to say that I had thought I had boiled too many potatoes but it turned out I hadn’t after all; it was just enough.

What you need (for 5-6 persons): 
  • 9 potatoes 
  • 500 g of minced beef 
  • 2 carrots 
  • 1-2 cups peas (frozen) 
  • 250 g of mushrooms 
  • 1 onion 
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic 
  • ½ l of broth 
  • 1-2 tablespoonfuls of Worcestershire Sauce 
  • Some flour 
  • Olive oil (or butter if you prefer) 
  • Salt, pepper, ground nutmeg 
  • 20 cl cream 
  • Some milk (optional) 
  • 200 g of cheddar cheese (be generous) 
How to proceed: 
  • First, you’ll have to prepare your potatoes. Peel them and cut them into quarters. 
  • Boil them until they’re tender (prick with a knife; if the knife cuts through them smoothly, they’re ready). 
  • Drain them and mash them. 
  • Add salt, pepper and some ground nutmeg. 
  • Add the cream and some milk, if you want. 
  • Chop the onion, garlic and carrots. 
  • Cut the mushrooms. 
  • Now, heat a drizzle of oil or a chunk of butter till the latter has melted. 
  • Stir-fry the mushrooms (they hold a lot of water, so make sure you stir-fry them long enough; your pan should be dry at the end). 
  • Add the minced beef with a pinch of salt and some pepper. 
  • Stir-fry until the meat is golden-brown. 
  • Add the onion, carrots, frozen peas and garlic. 
  • Stir-fry until the onion becomes transparent. 
  • Pour the broth. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. 
  • Preheat the oven, 150-200°C. 
  • The sauce has to be thick. We’re going to add some flour, spoonful by spoonful, while always stirring, until we get the right consistency. If you move the meat and veggies aside in the pan, it should take some time before the sauce runs back. 
  • Add 1-2 spoonfuls of Worcestershire Sauce and give some last stirs. 
  • Now, fill a casserole with the meat and sauce. 
  • Cover with the mashed potatoes. 
  • Grate cheddar cheese on top of the potatoes; don’t be shy, be generous. 
  • Put the casserole in the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes or until the cheddar cheese has melted and turns a nice golden-brown orange. 
You can serve this traditional dish with a side-helping of salad. After a week of ham and cheese and baguette, I can’t tell you with words how delicious I found this Cottage Pie! And the good thing is: as there’s only the two of us, we’ll have some more during the week without having to cook!  
Bon appétit my dear readers!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Cannelés (Typical Bordeaux Cakes)


My first boyfriend here in France was half from Bordeaux (his mom) and half from Lyon (his dad, or the other way round, who cares?). I think it’s quite easy to guess that we didn’t drink water very often. Anyway, he bought me my first cannelé, a typical, little Bordeaux-cake. And one of the best desserts France has to offer.

Copper vs. silicone -
a question of bucks...
Last weekend, I have prepared my first home-made cannelés. It’s not too complicated. But you have to buy the right cannelés-dish. I wanted the traditional copper plates and even found it in the supermarket. But honestly, at more than 9 euros apiece (!!!!), they can go milk a cow! So I bought some silicone-plates instead. Less nice to look at, but they did their job for much less money. Without further ado, here’s the recipe.

What you need: 
  • ½ l of milk 
  • 1 pinch of salt 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 2 supplementary egg yolks 
  • 1 vanilla pod 
  • 1 tablespoonful of rum 
  • 100 g of flour 
  • 250 g of sugar 
  • 50 g of butter 
  • Some more butter for the plates 
How to proceed: 
  • Boil milk with butter and the vanilla pod. In order to get all the flavour out of your vanilla pod, scrape it into the milk, then put in the scraped pod (you’ll have to take it out afterwards, okay?). 
  • Mix your flour and sugar. 
  • Mix in the eggs. 
  • Pour the boiling milk (do not forget to take out your vanilla pod!). 
  • Stir delicately until the batter is fluid. 
  • Let it cool down before adding the rum. 
  • Put in the fridge for 1 hour. 
  • Preheat your oven, 270°C. 
  • Butter your cannelés-plates (butter them good, butter them well). 
  • Pour the batter (don’t fill the plates to the brim). 
  • Put the cannelés in the oven at 270°C for 5 minutes, then lower heat to 180°C. 
  • Let them bake for 1 hour. 
  • The cannelé must be crusty-brown on the outside but fondant (mellow) inside. 
  • Turn out the cannelés while hot. 
You’ll experience a moment of pure pleasure and palate-orgasm! I made some twenty cannelés and they didn’t last more than a day. Yum-yum! 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Louisiana Jambalaya à la Babette


Today’s recipe has been inspired by the French TV-cook, restaurant-owner and recipe-book-writer Babette de Rozières. How many times I’ve watched this warm-hearted, Guadeloupe-born woman prepare her delicious meals during the show “C à vous” (literally “It’s for you”) which is aired daily from 7-8 p.m! The show takes place in a huge flat where the show-hostess Alessandra Sublet and her staff of journalists receive their guests (singers, actors, writers, politicians) in a cosy atmosphere for an interview cum dinner. In the background, there’s this big kitchen-space; and more often than not, it’s a smiling Babette who prepares the meal for everybody. I used to watch the show in my tiny tiny flat while preparing my own dinner. And from time to time, when the recipe was just too irresistibly yummy, I downloaded it and stored it in my recipe-folder. Ever since I’ve started watching the “True Blood”-series (one of my favourites), I’ve wanted to cook a special, Southern meal. And how perfect for me that Babette provided me with a recipe! So I did it. A really rich and tasty and colourful Louisiana Jambalaya with which I could’ve fed an entire army!

What you need: 
  • 300 g of rice 
  • 1 can of peeled tomatoes 
  • 2-5 slices of pineapple (canned if you want) 
  • 300 g of chorizo (a spicy Spanish sausage; any spicy hot sausage will do, I gather) 
  • 2 smoked sausages 
  • 2 onions 
  • 3 shallots 
  • 2 red peppers 
  • 1 green pepper 
  • 2 fresh tomatoes 
  • 2 carrots 
  • 3 dried chilli peppers (optional, only if you like spicy hot food) 
  • 2 celeries 
  • 2 sprigs of thyme 
  • 2 sprigs of parsley 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • ½ tablespoonful of that yummy Cajun spice mix (FYI, it consists of: thyme, onion, garlic, paprika, oregano, pepper, mustard seeds, hot chilli pepper and caraway
  • 12 cloves 
  • 2 cloves of garlic 
  • 1 l of water 
  • 3 cubes of chicken stock 
  • Some olive oil 
  • Salt, pepper 
  • If you want: 400 g of peeled prawns and 200 g of cooked ham 
How to proceed: 
  • Chop the onions, shallots, garlic, parsley and celeries. 
  • Slice the chorizo and the smoked sausages. 
  • Chop the canned tomatoes; do not discard the juice! 
  • Cut the carrots, the pineapple slices and the fresh tomatoes into cubes. 
  • Cut the green and red peppers into strips. 
  • Grind the cloves to powder. If you choose to use the dried chilli peppers, grind them together with the cloves. 
  • Heat the water and dissolve the 3 cubes of chicken stock in it. 
  • Choose a huge pot; heat some olive oil and stir-fry the celeries, parsley, onions, shallots and garlic at medium heat. 
  • Add the chorizo and the smoked sausages; stir-fry for 3 minutes. 
  • Add the peppers and carrots; stir-fry for another 3 minutes. 
  • Add the fresh tomatoes, the pineapples and the rice. Stir well. 
  • Add the can of peeled and chopped tomatoes with their juice. 
  • Add the Cajun spice mix, the clove powder (or clove-and-chilli pepper powder if you’ve opted for the spiced-up version), thyme and bay leaves. Stir for 3 minutes (at low heat now) until the rice swells. 
  • Add your chicken broth, some salt and pepper. 
  • Let the Jambalaya simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice is perfectly cooked at your taste (al dente for those who prefer their rice al dente; less crisp for those who like it less crisp). 
  • Optional: This was in Babette’s recipe but, to be honest, what with the slicing, cutting and chopping which takes quite a while, I was rather fed up by the time I reached this (optional) state of our recipe. And one look into the simmering meal (about a ton of food for me and Seb) was enough for me to take the decision not to add anything more! But if you’re really very hungry, or if your whole family of ten has been invited, here’s the rest. Peel the prawns, cut the cooked ham into cubes. Stir-fry them for 5 minutes with some olive oil, in a pan and at low heat. Add them to the rest before serving. 
We had a wonderful dinner with the prawn-and-ham-less version of this Jambalaya à la Babette. The spicy chorizo together with the chilli peppers and the Cajun spice mix titillated our palates; the tomatoes and cloves sweetened the meal; the pineapple added some acidity; and the peppers and smoked sausages and celeries rounded up the whole. A real voyage right into the bayou, and there’s enough food for at least 8 persons! 
Bon appétit!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Striezel (Austrian Yeast Braid)


I’ve tried it once, and the result was an utter, uneatable disaster. Now, I’m not an overtly ambitious person. But my sister (my sister!) sent me a photo of HER Striezel, which was perfectly shaped, golden brown and just looked as fluffy as it should (and surely was) that I couldn’t bear the (personal) shame and humiliation. So I tried it once again. And behold, dear readers! I did it! I baked a wonderful, traditional Allerheiligenstriezel (literally All Saints Striezel) that not only could have been prepared by a professional but also tasted as yummy as can be.

Now, for your information, in the Southern regions of German-speaking countries (Austria, parts of Switzerland and Southern Germany), we call Striezel a sweet Yeast Bread that is either shaped like a braid (this is also called “Hefezopf” or Yeast Braid) or like a wreath (“Hefekranz” or Yeast Wreath). This bread was traditionnally prepared for All Saints Day and given to one’s godchildren; it was a token of good luck. Today, we often buy a Striezel for our Saturday and Sunday breakfasts.

What you need: 
  • 500 g of wheat flour 
  • 7 g of salt 
  • 60 g of granulated sugar 
  • 60 g of smooth, warm butter 
  • 8 g of vanilla sugar 
  • 2 packets of dry yeast 
  • 1 egg yolk 
  • 1-2 teaspoons of rum (I’d suggest dark rum) 
  • 1 lemon (or orange) 
  • 270 g of warm milk 
  • Some milk and an egg 
  • Decorating sugar or almond slivers 
How to proceed: 
  • Sift the flour. 
  • Wash your lemon (or orange). That means do not only rinse it with clear water; no, use a brush and scrub it good. Today, too many chemicals are used in agriculture and you have to make sure the lemon peal is really clean. 
  • Make sure butter and milk are warm but not warmer than body temperature (again, we will use yeast, so keep in mind ingredients that are too hot will destroy the yeast cells). 
  • Mix the flour, salt, vanilla sugar and sugar with the lemon (or orange) zest, butter, milk, 1 egg yolk, yeast and rum. Use a paddle and mix for 7-8 minutes until the dough is smooth. 
  • Cover with a clean dishcloth and let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes, in a dry and warm place. If you leave it longer, that’s even better (last time, I cleaned my flat in the meantime, but you can do something else; go and walk your dog, write an opera, call your mom for instance). 
  • When you uncover the dough, you should discover that it has doubled in size. 
  • Try to cut it into 3 equally sized chunks. 
  • Form a long “cord” with each chunk. 
  • Put them on a sheet of baking paper upon which you will have spread some flour beforehand. 
  • Weave the three “cords” into a nice braid. 
  • Let it rest for another 10 minutes. 
  • Preheat your oven (160°C). 
  • Whip up an egg and some milk. 
  • Coat your yeast braid with the entire egg-milk-mixture (“All of it, George!”, as John Malovich would say). 
  • Spread decorating sugar or almond slivers on your Striezel
  • Bake it for 40 minutes at 160°C. 
This is just absolutely divine! Cut a thick slice for breakfast (or whenever you feel a craving for something sweet and delicious), butter it good, add some jam, and you will be in (breakfast or craving) heaven! 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Green Tart with Prawns



Alright, the carnival’s over and Lent has come upon us once again. Not that I fast during Lent, I’m a totally un-inhibited and unreligious person. But to prepare a nice, light ‘n’ tasty Lent recipe for you is always a pleasure. That’s why I’ve decided to show you how to make a Green Tart with Prawns. If you don’t like vegetables, do not worry: the tart will be green because we’ll use lots of herbs. You can use deep-frozen herbs.

Let’s start with the first step of our recipe: the shortcrust pastry. You can either buy it ready-to-use or prepare it yourself (it’s not too difficult). Here’s how:

What you need: 
  • 300 g of flour 
  • 150 g of softened butter 
  • ½ teaspoonful of salt 
  • 8 cl of warm water 
How to proceed: 
  • Attention: The butter must be soft but not melted! Thus do not forget to take it out of the fridge at least 3 hours before you start cooking (or put in it the microwave-oven for 1 minute at minimum power). 
  • Mix flour and salt. 
  • Add butter and knead it in. 
  • Within 2-3 minutes, you should have something that looks like semolina. 
  • Knead in the water, which should help your dough to form a nice, smooth ball. 
  • Spread it out on a sheet of baking paper. This will make it easier to put it in the pie dish. 
  • Don’t keep this pastry in your fridge because it will get hard very fast. 
Now the second step: the Tart

What you need: 
  • A shortcrust pastry 
  • 400 g of pealed prawns 
  • 500 g of cottage cheese or curd cheese 
  • 5 eggs 
  • 2 shallots 
  • 1 spoonful of chopped dill 
  • 1 spoonful of chopped chive 
  • 1 spoonful of chopped tarragon 
  • 1 spoonful of chopped parsley 
  • Salt, pepper 
  • Ground nutmeg (optional) 
  • A drizzle of olive oil 
How to proceed: 
  • Make sure you dry off excess water from your prawns, otherwise the tart might come out of the oven in a slightly sloppy-soppy state! 
  • Spread the pastry in a pie dish, prick it with a fork. 
  • Chop your shallots. 
  • Deep-fry them with some drops of olive oil until golden. 
  • Let them cool down. Do not forget them (I did, just remembered them the second before I put the tart in the oven. That’s why I added them on the tart instead of putting them in the tart. And yes, mine were reddish, so that’s the red colour spots on top of the tart: forgotten red shallots).
  • Preheat your oven, 200-210°C. 
  • In two bowls, separate yolks from whites. 
  • Beat the yolks, add salt and pepper. 
  • Beat the whites until stiff. 
  • Mix the cottage cheese or curd cheese into the yolks. 
  • Add dill, chive, tarragon and parsley and the shallots you’ve just fried. Yeah, remember them darn shallots, okay?
  • Delicately mix in your stiff whites. 
  • You can add some ground nutmeg if you want (don’t add too much as you will want to taste all those fabulous herbs, after all). 
  • Spread the pealed prawns on the pastry. 
  • Pour the preparation egg-cheese-herbs over them. 
  • Put in the oven, bake for 20 minutes. 
You can serve this tart with a nice little salad; if you have bought fresh herbs, why not add some chive and parsley to your Sauce Vinaigrette, too? Anyway, this dish is absolutely delicious, fresh and yummy and hardly contains a single calorie (well, I’m perhaps a little bit exaggerating, but only a little bit). If you love herbs the way I do, you can add more of each to the mixture than indicated; yet the taste of tarragon will tend to “override” that of the other herbs so be careful not to add too much! 
Bon appétit!

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