Sunday, April 29, 2007


I'm not very good at using up leftovers. The reason might be that I can't really think ahead. Furthermore, I don't have a proper pantry and my freezer's not too big so my stocks of food are very limited. And I usually don't like to eat the same thing for days on end - another reason why a man comes handy at one's house LOL He doesn't mind doing that ;)

I buy a lot of food magazines and usually they are stuck with recipes recycling leftovers but I usually forget them the moment I read them. Not this time.
I saw these rolls in one of these magazines, made with bacon, right before Easter. Since I had some ham left over after Easter, I decided to use them up.

Ham rolls

a packet of puff pastry
leftover cooked ham
spring onions
Dijon mustard
seeds of your choice

I'm not giving exact amounts as I added these from scratch. I had some spring onions which I wanted to get rid of, some parsley and chucked these together with the ham, mustard and some pepper (the ham was salty enough) into the food processor for a quick blitz, then spread this mixture on the puff pastry, rolled it up and cut 1cm thick slices. I put the rolls on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, brushed the top with a beaten egg and sprinkled over some sunflower seeds. They were baked at 200C until golden.

A quick and delicious weekday supper.

Despite my saying I can't really plan ahead I must admit I had hidden intentions when I made so much milk loaf for Easter. I sliced the leftover and tucked them in the freezer to use them up later. I had Nigella' s orange scented brioche pudding in mind...

I took out the slices in the morning and by the time I got home from work, they thawed. I stuck two slices with a teaspoon of home made marmelade, lined them up in a pudding bowl and poured over a mixture of milk, cream eggs and egg yolks and sultanas soaked in orange juice. After letting it stand for 15 minutes I cooked the brioche pudding in a hot oven for 45 minutes. We got a lovely, yellow, melting pudding which took considerable efforts on my side to stop eating LOL

One thing I didn't like though were the sultanas. The recipe instructed to scatter them over the top but they got burnt and had a bitter aftertaste. So I'll either cover the whole dish with foil before they burn or will try to hide them among the slices next time. Or subsitute them with dark chocolate chips ;) YUM!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Chocolate cake and nostalgia

Ilana's recent post about pandiramerinos put me in a nostalgic mood. It reminded me how much I owe to a bunch of friends over on It made me think of the many occasions when someone would try a recipe and a random cookalong would result from it where everyone displayed their versions of the same recipe. I loved it. Pandiramerino was one of them but I could list quite a few more.

Anyway, from all these memories jumped out another recipe I've often made and which is from Maria, fellow-forummer, Queen of Cakes :) This is her mamma's recipe and even the name fills my heart with comfort and cosiness: Sjokoladeformkake. It is a very simple but seriously good chocolate loaf cake which I've made several times and it has slowly found its way in my steady repertoire. And it warms my heart that when I'm much older I'll have such fond memories attached to this recipe which I'll be able to relate to my children.

So here's the recipe, I hope Maria won't mind ;) I've made several variations of it, including ones with candied orange and orange juice and one with coffee and white chocolate chunks (I substituted 1/3 of the milk always). Either way, it is really good. And comforting.

Mamma's Sjokoladeformkake

4 tablespoons cocoa powder
150 ml full fat milk
150 ml sugar
110 grams (1 stick) butter
2 medium eggs
300 ml all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Loaf tin, approx. 23 x 13 cm, buttered and floured or with a paper insert.

Mix cocoa, milk and half of the sugar in a pan, bring to boil, leave to cool a bit.
Whisk butter and the rest of the sugar until it turns pale, add the eggs and vanilla and whisk again.
Pour in the chocolate mixture and stir.
Mix flour and baking powder, sieve it over the bowl and stir again.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin, and bake for about 45 minutes (or until cake tester comes out clean) in a 170C/350F oven.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lamb and potatoes

Sounds boring, huh? But if I tell you it's a rack of lamb with breadcrumbs, parsley and lemon á la Bill Granger (Open Kitchen) and the best potato dish I can imagine, it sounds different, doesn't it? :)

So, the lamb, true to Bill, is very easy to prepare. You need
slices of sourdough bread
1 garlic clove
zest of 1 lemon (I substituted lemon juice for this)
olive oil
salt & pepper

Toast the bread in the oven, then crumble it (easiest to do in the processor), add chopped parsley, sliced or grated garlic, lemon zest (or juice) and some olive oil to bind.
Then salt&pepper the rack of lamb and fry it for a few minutes in a pan, on some olive oil, then rub in 1-2 tsp Dijon mustard, and press on the breadcrumb mixture. Place it in a pre-heated 180C oven and cook for about 30-40 minutes for a pink meat.
Since I don't like pink meat, I cooked for almost an hour and the thicker part was still not completely done, which is a shame because there's nothing worse I can imagine than bloody (sorry, no cursing here LOL) meat.Otherwise, the combination of breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic and lemon is just great, and I will give it another try with a longer cooking time on another occasion.

As for the potatoes, I honestly believe this is the best that can happen to the first young potatoes of the season. This is always the first dish my mum prepares with them once they appear in the market and this is something the whole family looks forward to every year, me especially! So much so, that on Saturday, when we usually go round to my parents' house for dinner, my mum was sorry to inform me that she couldn't get any to make this dish with the Wiener Schnitzels she made. So I was even happier that I had found some young potatoes and huge bunches of parsley in the market that morning :)

My mum's parsley potatoes

1 kg young potatoes
olive oil and butter, 1-2 tbsp of each
a huge bunch of parsley, chopped

Melt the olive oil and butter in a big pan, then add the chopped parsley and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the peeled and chopped potatoes, add so much water that it doesn't cover the potatoes completely, bring to the boil, add some salt and let it simmer until the potatoes absorb all the juices and become tender. (It is important not to add too much water or they will go too mushy).
The result is soft, fragrant, jade-coloured potatoes which are a perfect accompaniment to any breadcrumbed meat and should be followed by something sour (pickled gherkins) or something sweet and tart, like Bill's cucumber relish (Open Kitchen). Though I don't even mind eating them as they are, snuggled on the sofa. My idea of comfort food...

Cucumber relish

Heat 1/2 cup sugar with 1/2 rice or white wine vinegar in a pan. Until it cools, quarter a short (Lebanese) cucumber and slice it thinly. Slice 2 shallots and a deseeded red chilli thinly, too. Put all these in a nice dish and pour over the sweet vinegar. I like to add 1/3 cup of water too, to make it less tart and this time I left out the chilli. Mmmmmmm.....

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter medley

Easter used to be so different when I was a child. In Hungary, there's a tradition of sprinkling girls and women on Easter Monday, so that they do not wither LOL No, actually this tradition can be traced back to fertility rituals. In my grandmother's days boys sprinkled the girls with buckets of cold water, there was no escaping them, no matter how hard they tried! In exchange of sprinkling the boys got Easter eggs painted by the girls themselves.
Later, buckets of water were substituted for eau de cologne, and the boys cited Easter rhymes (funny, coquetting little poems) and in exchange they got painted or chocolate eggs, or even some pocket money.

I grew up with this tradition. I was preparing painted eggs for the sprinklers, bought chocolate eggs and helped my mum with the preparations. On Easter Monday it was my father who sprinkled me first, later accompanied by my brother. The first guest to arrive was always my grandfather and then there was no stopping till late in the afternoon: relatives, neighbours, friends, old and young came along, spent a little time at our house chatting, eating and drinking. Even though we women all stank by the end of the day and couldn't wait to put our heads under the tap, these were lovely times, on looking back.

Unfortunately, in our modern world people don't seem to find time for traditions. Easter has become a bore, a chore and everyone's trying to get away from it. Some people take a mini-break, some just go on trips on Mondays.
It just doesn't feel right any more, it has ceased to be the cosy event it used to be, which is sad.

Foodwise, however, I try to keep up the tradition, even if I don't have many guests these days. Mornings are started with boiled ham and eggs, accompanied by various mayo salads: potato, sweetcorn, or "French". I made French salad this year, which is cooked peas, carrots, potatoes, parsnips and raw apples diced, covered in sauce tartare. Bread and/or milk loaf are also served along. In my family there is never a proper cooked meal on Easter Monday, we just have servings of this and that during the day. Honestly, I still cannot imagine anything better than ham and eggs all day at Easter!

29 years together

Easter Sunday coincided with my parents' 29th wedding anniversary this year. So even though I never make a proper cake for Easter, this time there was an excuse to make one :) And again thanks to Kelly-Jane I had these cute Cadbury choc eggs to use up, so I decided to make Nigella's Easter egg nest cake from Feast. I checked the recipe twice and even read the choc cloud cake recipe, which is basically the same I was told, but still went on sceptically preparing this flourless(!) cake. It is very easy to make, you just melt the chocolate with the butter, then beat the egg whites with sugar. After beating the yolks with sugar,too, you add the melted chocolate and carefully fold in the whites. It took me longer to bake than the stated 35-40 minutes because I used a 22cm pan, that was what I had.

Since several people told me it was quite a rich cake, I only used some cocoa powder in the whipped cream for colour instead of another bar of chocolate.

The result? Hmmm, not bad, but I'm afraid it was too dense for me even without the chocolate in the topping. Everyone else loved it though, so no problem with that ;)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Easter preparations

This Easter has arrived so quickly, I hardly noticed and hardly had the time to plan beforehand, so I was just going with the flow, not really having an idea what to bake (me, imagine!). But yesterday settled it and today I started my happy pottering in the kitchen.

Since the lovely Anna sent me a bottle of lemon oil, I have been searching for an occasion to try the lemon cupcakes from Forever Summer and I was craving something lemony this Easter! So cake No. 1 was quickly settled, as the muffins were a breeze to make in the processor. Since I can't get royal icing, which the recipe suggests using and my favourite frosting is cream cheese, I just whipped up a batch of those, using 125g cream cheese, 50g butter and about 4 tbsp icing sugar, and I added some of the lemon oil, a tbsp lemon juice and some zest as well. Mmmmm, so heavenly citrusy! Now I'm thinking of making it as "blondies" in a pan next time, with some lime juice and zest added and the same cream cheese topping. Drooling just at the thought of it...
(Cupcake cases courtesy of Kelly-Jane, aren't they cute? Thanks again!)

I was so desperate yesterday about not having ideas I turned to my hubby for help. Guess what his answer was at the question "What would you like to have?". If you read carefully so far, you'll know it by now: curd cheese. Actually he named this cake but I wasn't giving myself so easily (what about creativity?), so I chose his all time favourite cake, which I've only ever attempted once in our 10 years together: curd cheese squares Rákóczi style. The reason for my not making it is not because it's extremely difficult or fiddly to make. It is simply that I don't like it that much. Or much rather that I can't find a recipe which reminds me of my childhood memories of this cake: soft sponge divided by a thin layer of apricot jam, curd cheese and a huuuuge, sometimes over 7cm(!) layer of marshmallowy soft meringue, sprinkled with chocolate shavings. Mmmmmmmmmm! Whenever I went to the cake shop, I'd ask for this cake, it was made so brilliantly in my hometown.

This recipe doesn't come any close to the above mentioned taste memory either, it is the traditional and home-made version but it did turn out to be the best of the kind I've tasted so far.
I followed the recipe faithfully except that I made 1.5x amount of the dough because it seemed too little for me for my pan and I used 4 extra whites (from the freezer) and proportionately more sugar, because we like a thicker meringue on top. The result: a few hours after the cake has come out of the oven, half of it is missing already. And this time it's not me getting nearer to a broader waistline ;)

In fact, I'm still craving that familiar taste...

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Nigella's fresh gingerbread with lemon icing

I associate gingerbread with cold weather in general but somehow I tend to make it this time of the year, it seems, although this is only the second time I've made it LOL The first time was around March last year, simply because the black treacle I had bought months earlier was getting close to its expiry date. So far I know of only one single shop that stocks it, and that is almost 200km away so you can understand I was cherishing it :) Almost too long...

Anyway, I had to use it up and I didn't suspect what impact it would have on my life! If I was given the difficult task of choosing my favourite cake, this would be in the first three. Honestly, it is amazing. And you can imagine the odours filling your home when making this: treacle, golden syrup, fresh ginger and cinnamon... Mmmmmm! The lemon icing is really the icing on the cake: it counterbalances the chewy sweetness and velvety deep treacle aroma of the cake.

Since a friend of mine happened to visit the shop where treacle can be found and she bought me two tins(!) I had another long-awaited occasion to have a go at this recipe.

It is extremely easy to make as well. You just melt the butter, brown sugar, golden syrup, treacle, cinnamon and fresh ginger in a pan, then taking it off the heat add the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the flour and baking soda (dissolved in warm water), pour the mixture in a tray and bake for 3/4-1 hour.

The icing is made of icing sugar, lemon juice and hot water simply, though I find it always too little for the cake, you could easily double the amounts stated.

This is why I consider Nigella my baking queen: How to be a Domestic Goddess is full of these kinds of recipes which inevitably make you feel a Domestic Goddess yourself, with this little effort!