Friday, October 30, 2009

Turkish Delights

This week I didn't make my sourdough bread because I'm still suffering from a stiff neck due to some strained muscle from kneading too much dough. I can't turn my neck to the left without feeling pain in a (pulled?) muscle in my neck connected to some muscle in my back/chest - so this really wasn't the best time to try making something I'd never made.

Thing is, the recipe seemed straight forward enough with a little corn flour and a little sugar, etc. I didn't think this little experiment would turn into something that would remind me of what they made Oscar Wilde do in prison!

Anyhow the recipe I used wasn't perfect as it failed to mention some crucial instructions (or omitted something) and if you didn't put the candy batter through a sieve (or so something that was unmentioned), you ended-up with solid lumps of corn starch inside your soft candy. I put some of mine through a makeshift sieve aka a tea strainer - but seriously it was so hard to do I gave-up after I'd done this with less than half of it.

The candy sat in these oil lined small containers with wrap in them overnight and then I cut them and dusted them with a mixture of corn starch & sugar the next day. After I tried some exactly the way they were supposed to be, I tried adding a small amount of green tea powder into the dusting mixture and this turned out to be a very nice thing to do, because it offset the somewhat cloying sweetness. For some reason, when you dust Turkish Delights (flavored with lemon and orange flower water) with green tea powder - the flavor of the green tea really comes alive - more so than if you painted some vanilla cookies with green tea frosting. It wasn't such a bad combination with the lemon and orange flower essence either.

Anyhow I'm not posting the recipe as I believe it was an incomplete recipe that needed some more details. For those of you who would like to try - I suggest you consult a Turkish friend who has a grandmother who still makes these at home!

Addendum: I found this recipe just now. This recipe tells you to boil the mixture until all the lumps are gone, and uses more water. I'm not sure this will work, but it does make sense as your mixture will be much more diluted so you'd be able to boil it more and let all the bits of starch dissolve.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Escapade Philippine à Paris

Recently I was invited to an event in Paris with my dear friend Victor Magsaysay cooking.

The venue was:

La Cuisine Paris
89 Boulevard Saint Michel
75005 Paris

He played with some provincial Filipino recipes and refined them to make some stunning presentations using all these lovely fresh ingredients purchased in the markets of Paris.

The execution was decidedly eastern, with a nice western polish to them.

What can I say? I'm sorry I missed this event because I was still waiting for my residency permit authorization to come in.

Read more about this event and Victor here.

Special thanks to Yusuke Kinaka for allowing me to use his photographs in my blog.


Inspirée d’authentiques marchés philippins


Beruyà ng Arayat
Papaye verte, taro et crevettes croquantes en beignets
vinaigre épicé de noix de coco


Pinakbet ni Paras
Papillote de légumes exotiques

Pusò ng Saging at Isdâ
Salade de fleurs de bananier rôties et rouget grillé

Bistek Tagalog
Carpaccio de boeuf sauce soja,
oignons confits et calamansi

Tous les plats sont servis avec du riz au jasmin
en papillotes de feuilles de bananier


"Dirty Ice Cream" et Confit Dàgani
Glace au lait de Chèvre avec jeunes noix de coco,
kombava et muscovado en confit

Monday, October 19, 2009

Spelt Flour Sourdough Bread

This is my attempt at incorporating spelt flour into my weekly sourdough baking.

I've been looking at incorporating different grains and seeds into my bread because when you have bread around the house all the time, it can get a bit boring to have the same bread week after week. A German friend had suggested using spelt flour and I happened to find 500g of it at a health food shop in Torremolinos so I snapped it up and it was there sitting in my cupboard waiting to be used.

It was a good thing I did some minor research before I embarked on this attempt as it seems spelt flour has different properties from regular wheat flour. Although it has a much higher protein content which is nice, it apparently has weaker gluten which means that you have to modify your bread baking a bit. Apparently you can overknead spelt whereas this isn't easy to do with wheat flour. I suggest you stop kneading the bread when you think the dough feels good rather than sticking to a fixed time or number of folds any recipe stipulates.

As usual I prepared my bread according to S. John Ross's recipe, but I also incorporated some elements from The Fresh Loaf. Shiao-Ping's baking is very precise and I'm sure that if you followed her instructions to a tee, your bread would be stellar, but I just pulled out easy to incorporate elements into my routine because following every detail was a bit too overwhleming for me.

The only modification I made to S. John Ross's recipe was that I let the bread rest and knead/folded it 3 times before I molded it into a loaf for the final proofing. I also wet my hands when I kneaded/folded the somewhat harder dough (due to the spelt?) to keep it from sticking to my hands. I did this alternately with dusting it with a bit of AP flour.

Anyhow, my spelt flour seemed to absorb water more readily than AP flour (even though spelt is supposed to be less absorbent), so I only added 1 cup AP flour and 1 cup spelt flour to the starter to form my dough this time. The type of spelt flour I used was organic and unbleached.

Further to this, I thought I'd try baking this loaf with a preheated oven and used Shiao-Ping's baking temperatures and times. This meant baking the bread with steam for 20 minutes at 230C and then baking it for another 25 minutes at 220-210C. Before the loaf went into the oven, I dusted it with a bit of AP flour.

The result?

The bread had a much thicker, crunchier crust with a lot of flavor.

However, as a result of introducing too many variables, I'm not sure whether it was the repeated kneading/folding, the preheated oven, the spelt flour or a combination of all of these that created this nice thick pleasantly crunchy crust.

Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Note: I feed my starter sometimes with whole wheat flour and sometimes with AP flour. Sometimes it's half and half. Because I fed my starter with 100% whole wheat flour last week, the starter itself was already pretty thick and dark when I started.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sweet Potato & Rucola Salad with Fresh Valencia Orange Juice & Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sweet potatoes are standard fare in Japan and some other parts of the world, but they are really not a favorite in Europe. They are difficult to come by in some countries and are compared with regular potatoes and snubbed at. I've heard people say:

"I prefer potatoes."

But hey, it's not like you're going to marry one of them so you can surely eat one without giving-up the other?

To me, potatoes and sweet potatoes are two different things that can be appreciated in different ways.

I'm quite happy roasting sweet potatoes with their skin on and eating them, but I came-up with this recipe because I thought there had to be other ways of enjoying this nice tuber.

Sweet potatoes are much more nutritious than regular potatoes and loaded with beta carotene and also contain a healthy dose of vitamin C, manganese, copper, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, potassium and iron. You can compare the nutritional value of sweet potatoes with potatoes here.

I used a Valencia orange but it's not really relevant where your oranges come from. Any nice juicy orange will do. The flavors marry very well and you'll notice that each flavor like notes in good music will come alive, enhancing each other to another level of goodness.

Sweet Potato & Rucola Salad with Fresh Valencia Orange Juice & Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Rucola aka Arugula or Rocket

1 Medium Sweet Potato - thinly sliced

Onion (Red Onion if you have any) - sliced thinly

30 g Manchego Cheese (or as much as you wish)

1/2 Valencia Orange

Black Pepper

Coarse Sea Salt

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sunflower Oil

Step 1: Thin the sweet potato very thinly and deep fry it in sunflower oil. Lay them on paper to remove excess oil.

Step 2: Wash the rucola and put them in your salad bowl, tossing in the sweet potato crisps.

Step 3: Toss the salad with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and the juice of 1/2 orange.

Step 4: Garnish with shavings of Manchego cheese and thinly sliced onions.

Note: I used white onions but if you have red onions, use these for more color.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How to Control Pesky Bugs in your Cupboard

I've been browsing the Internet for reliable sources on how to do this and finally found something here.

Some guides tell you to clean your cupboard with bleach or even use insecticides, but I didn't really think using poison in a place where you keep food was a good idea and had some serious doubts about bleach. The Department of Entomology of Iowa State University states that it's not a good idea to use insecticides in an area where you store food and that "washing shelves with detergent, bleach, ammonia or disinfectants will not have any effect on insect pests". They recommend "freezing for 1 week or heating in a 140 degree oven for 15 minutes" and vacuuming your cupboard and getting rid of the vacuum bag which could turn into another colony of insects. Store everything inside airtight containers.

For more detailed information, you might browse here.

Bugs in food freak out a lot of people (and to be honest they freak me out a bit too), but try to look at the bright side. If bugs can survive in your flour, dried fruit or herbs, it means your flour/dried fruit/herbs are not so pesticide laden that no larvae could possibly survive.

I've seen more bugs inside flour and other food, than I ever have since moving to Spain and guess what? It was really easy to make sourdough starter with the flour here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Swedish Cocoa Balls with Amaretto

I don't know if these are really Swedish but Ronny says so, and the part where they put oatmeal into the mix seemed Swedish enough to me.

The original recipe uses coffee and not Amaretto. It's something Swedish moms make with their kids and since the kids end-up eating most of it, and kids have this amazing ability to be able to binge on sweet things, they probably didn't want the kids to get too 'high' on both sugar and alcohol. After all, it's supposed to be healthier when you're eating stuff you made with your mom than when you just buy packaged junk food.

I'm sure people have different rules about alcohol in food for their kids, so I leave it to your discretion what you feed your own children, but for the sake of propriety, I'll say that this recipe is for adults because it has Amaretto in it.

When Ronny first made these (with coffee), I thought they were like 'Rum Balls'. My recipe was an American one but having talked to a German friend about these, it seems they make 'Rum Balls' in Germany too. He tells me the ingredients are rum, chocolate and sugar...woohoo! Anyhow I just had to remake these with some kind of alcohol in it because although I don't drink much I do love using alcohol as a ingredient in cooking.

Anyhow, here's my modified recipe for Swedish Cocoa Balls 'for Adults'. I loved the use of oatmeal as it's the only somewhat healthy ingredient in the mix. The rest is almost pure butter and sugar!


150 g Butter (at room temperature)

2 dl Sugar

3.5 dl Oatmeal

1 dl Dessicated Coconuts + some extra for coating the balls

1 1/2 Tsp Vanilla Sugar

4.5 Tbsp Cocoa Powder

2-3 Tbsps Amaretto (or Coffee if it's for kiddies)

Step 1: Set the butter in a bowl and let it melt down to room temperature. Mix in the sugar until you have this nice creamy sugar & butter mixture.

Step 2: Add the rest of the dry ingredients, then add in as much Amaretto as you think is necessary for the mixture to hold together. I used 2 Tbsps Amaretto.

Step 3: Roll the balls in dessicated coconut and coat them evenly. Put them inside a Tupperware in a neat row.

Step 4: Cool the Cocoa Balls in the freezer until they are firm. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Spicy New Potato & Green Bean Salad (Warm)

I guess this is a standard, but I've revised the basic recipe to suit my own taste buds. I wanted something with a crispy, crunchy texture and bursting with here it is:


20 Unpeeled New Red Potatoes (halve the bigger ones)

20 Green Beans (cut into bite size lengths)

Onion (a few very thin slices will do for flavoring)

1 - 2 Big Garlic Cloves (crushed)

2 Tsp Coarse Sweet Paprika Powder

1/2 Lemon (the juice of)

2 Tsp Parsley (chopped)


Parmesan Cheese

3 Tbsps Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you don't have to measure this, but you get the idea)

Chili Powder

Black Pepper

Coarse Sea Salt

Step 1: Preheat oven to 250C.

Step 2: While the oven is heating-up slice the bigger new potatoes into two. The smaller ones can be whole. The whole point of this is to make all your cute little potatoes uniform in size.

Step 3: Coat the potatoes in salt, pepper, rosemary, olive oil, chili powder and coarse sweet paprika. Put the crushed garlic into the casserole dish with the potatoes, and roast them in the oven for 60 minutes or until nice and crisp on the outside.

Step 4: Chop a handful of parsley and slice your onion. Use very little onion as you just want a touch of onion flavor and you don't want it to dominate.

Step 5: When you think your potatoes are almost ready, bring some salted water to boil and parboil your green beans. I put the beans into the water and when the water comes to a boil again, they're ready.

Step 5: Toss the roasted potatoes and green beans together with the rest of the ingredients. Grate some Parmesan cheese into the salad and squeeze some lemon juice.

You'll find that the tang of the lemon juice along with the flavor of roasted garlic, chili, sweet paprika, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil and salt will deliver that nice feeling of 'bursting with flavor' and be a perfect compliment to the crispy skin of the roasted potatoes and the crunchiness of the green beans!

If you have some fresh rucola, you might try garnishing the salad with them.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sourdough Bread with Nigella, White Sesame & Fennel Seeds

I bake bread once a week when I do 'starter' maintenance and this one was sprinkled with nigella seeds, white sesame seeds and fennel. I toasted everything separately prior to sprinkling the dampened loaf with the three types of seeds. I did this right before my loaf went into the oven.

The basic sourdough bread recipe I use is here. I, however used brown sugar instead of white sugar this time*, and put a casserole dish of boiling water in the oven for the first 15 minutes and then removed it. I baked the bread for a total of 50 minutes.

Looks nice doesn't it? The combination of the 3 types of seeds worked beautifully and I'd definitely make this again!

*I've been using honey as it imparts a more complex flavor to the bread than refined white sugar and this time I tried using brown sugar which works beautifully.