Sunday, October 28, 2007

Favourite kitchen items

I've been really uninspired foodwise lately so I thought I'd invite you to have a look around my kitchen until my mojo comes back.
I've chosen my favourite items in my tiny kitchen (non-electric gadgets only), all of which are special for me for different reasons.

The item I love most is this cheerful, striped pot I bought a couple of years ago. Morning grumpiness just doesn't have a chance to linger around too long when tea is served from such a colourful, freshening sight :) A pity I didn't buy the accompanying mugs and cereal bowls back then.

The second item is my mug pretty in pink. I have a thing for mugs and have a huge variety of them but this is the "one". I love pink, I love mugs and this is such a delicate piece.

I also have an obsession for storing tins and have got a great amount of them, small and large, square and cylinder shaped, for pasta, tea, coffee, sugar, cookies, you name it! I must admit I often buy food items just for the tin they get sold in LOL This design is my favourite and I've got a couple of other shapes with the same pattern but this cookie tin is the prettiest one.

The fourth item is this gorgeous tea towel I got from the lovely Anna. It's so pretty but I must admit I don't use it too often because I'm terrible at removing stains and I would hate to see it end up like most of my tea towels. So this a special occasion towel ;)

I love fridge magnets but I haven't got too many of them because hubby hates them and would be happy to remove all of them but hey, the kitchen is my "castle", hands off the fridge! My favourite item doesn't need much comment, does it? LOL

And last but not least, here's my gorgeous red Peugeot pepper grinder which is almost exactly the same shade as my KA, Beauty. I would not normally spend that much on a pepper grinder but this was irresistable. And Beauty surely deserves such an extravagant companion, doesn't she?

Now I wonder if any of my fellow bloggers would like to join in the game and show us their favourite kitchen items... I'd be more than happy to have a sneaky peek :)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

One dough, two ways

It is not too strange that one dough can be prepared in several ways to give you different results, but if I say that you get one savoury and one sweet snack from the exact same dough, that's not too usual, is it? However, it is the case with this potato dough, whose recipe comes from my Granny. The recipe yields either savoury potato cakes, or sweet dumplings (and "nudli"). I grew up with both of these dishes, they were real treats offered by her to her grandchildren and were quite frequent "visitors" on the kitchen table, especially the dumplings. My grandma's so good at making them, that neither of her two daughters learned how to make the dumplings, instead, they would just pick up the phone and order a big batch of these for the "kids" - all of them grown-up now, but willing to travel any time to Granny's place to have some of these :))

Although both my Mum and Aunt are great cooks, they're not too keen bakers, so just like with cakes, it was my - happily undertaken - job to learn the tricks of preparing dumplings. After all, Nana won't be here forever as much as we'd like her to, but traditions must go on. True, you can get it completely wrong and you need practice to get the right consistency if you don't want to end up with inedible and indigestible stone-hard "pebbles". But when made properly, you can hardly stop eating these.

Potato dumplings with jam (aka Bohemian dumplings)

1/2 kilo potato (never new, they don’t work here)
150-170g flour (or more if the potato is not too floury)
1 egg
20g margarine or a tablespoon oil
hard jam/jelly, best is plum, mixed red fruit or apricot (preferably baking-proof which cannot ooze out)
80g butter
100g dried breadcrumbs

Peel and cook the potatoes in lightly salted water. Let them cool a bit then push through a potato ricer (or mash very carefully so that there are no big pieces left).
Mix with the rest of the ingredients adding more flour if necessary or a little margarine/oil if it’s too hard. (You can cook a small piece of the dough in boiling water –if it’s not sticky, neither too hard, it’s OK. )

Roll out the dough on a surface dusted with flour until about ½ cm thick. Cut it into 5x5cm squares, put a scant teaspoon of jam on each, pinch the four corners of each square together and roll it between your palms to make a ball.

Cook the dumplings in lightly salted boiling water, stirring carefully with a wooden spoon once to avoid sticking together. When the dumplings come to the surface, cook them 2-3 minutes longer. Test one to see if they are cooked well and remove them with a strainer on a plate.

Fry the breadcrumbs in butter (my grandma adds a little water as well, it will be less dry) and roll the dumplings in it.

Serve with sifted icing sugar.


If you’re lazy, make "nudli" (noodles) from half of the batch. Just cut the dough in 1x4 cm sticks then cook and roll in breadcrumbs as the dumplings. Serve with icing sugar. You can serve the noodles with ground poppy-seed and sifted icing sugar as well (my hubby's favourite).

In summer/autumn you can substitute jam with plum. For this you need as many smaller plums as many squares you’ve got. Remove the seeds and add a scant teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of cinnamon in the place of the seeds. Put one on each square and proceed as above.
It even gets better on the next day (if there's any left). If you make noodles, mix them with some oil after cooking, so that they don't stick together.
They freeze very well, but only cooked (without rolling them in breadcrumbs).

As for the savoury potato cakes, I cannot imagine a better comfort food on a rainy day, eaten right from the frying pan, as you go on frying the rest - there's never many left to go cold ;)

Savoury potato cakes

1 batch of potato dough

Roll the dough 1/2 cm thick and cut out 7-8cm circles. Roll these out very thinly (about 1-2 mm thick), prick with a fork a few times. Knead and roll out the leftover and cut out smaller (3cm) circles. Fill a big frying pan up to 1 cm with sunflower oil and fry the cakes on both sides until nice golden (1-2 minutes). Serve hot as it is, or with some sour cream.

The grown up cupcake

Since we liked the cappuccino cupcakes from HTBADG so much, I decided to make a cappuccino cake along the same lines. I searched for appealing recipes in vain so decided to create my own version. I chose Nigella's buttermilk birthday cake for a base (also from HTBADG) but altered it by replacing the buttermilk by coffee, milk and joghurt. For the icing I used the white chocolate icing for the cappuccino cupcakes.

Cappucino cake

For the cake

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup strong coffee
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup soft butter -- unsalted
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs

For the icing
see recipe and instructions here

Preheat oven to 180C. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Pour the yogurt, milk and coffee into a measuring cup and stir in the vanilla. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed if using the mixer and add the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds between additions. Add portions of the flour mixture and the vanilla-buttermilk alternately, blending well after each addition; this should take 3-5 minutes. Pour the mixture in a buttered and floured 20cm round tin, and bake for about 50 minutes until the cake is beginning to shrink away from the sides and a cake tester comes out clean.

After cooling you can decide whether you want to cut the cake in two layers, I chose not to, and iced it as it was (there was enough icing left to fill the cake, too!)

Much as I love coffee flavoured things and the cappuccino cupcakes, I found the icing two overwhelming on this cake. Or perhaps it has to do with my changed eating habits due to a new medicine I need to take to stabilize my insulin levels, but I didn't eat more than one slice of this, I felt so sick of all the butter and sugar. But hubby ate about a quarter of the cake himself, and declared it was a gorgeous cake, so I don't care :P My waistline will be grateful for the "flop", I'm sure :)