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Santolina and a Mediterranean bread

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Santolina 003

The other day I discovered a herb at a huge garden store in my neighbourhood. It looked like ray-grass but it was labelled: santolina. I have never heard of this herb before which of course made me curious. After arriving home I started to google in the internet but there was very little information of santolina. Luckily I have an Italian friend and next day when we met I’d got the information that the santolina vividis is a native herb to Mediterranean countries. -”It surprizes with its aroma of marinated olives.-esclaimed Gianluca with a great enthusiasm-” A delicacy you can add to Mediterranean pasta dishes, pizzas, pestos, leaf salads, antipastis such as tomato & mozzarella. Also ideal for marinating gherkins. And please try given santolina in sparkling wine. Simply put 5 cm long whole green santolina in sparkling wine glasses. It won’t be only decorative but it will have a delightful taste-finished Gianluca (winded) the praising of the santolina and at the same time he promised me to ask a recipe from his mother (with using santolina). Here it is:

M130-fougasse400editerranean bread with santolina

Ingredients: 1 tsp active dry yeast, 1 tsp sugar, 4½ cups flour, 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing loaves, 1 tsp kosher salt, cornmeal, for dusting ½ cup minced kalamata olives, ¼ cup minced green olives, 2 tbsp minced fresh parsley, 2 tbsp minced fresh thyme, 1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary, Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste


1. In a large bowl, stir together yeast, sugar, and 1⅓ cups water heated to 115°; let sit until foamy, 10 minutes. Stir in flour, oil, and salt and mix until a dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead for 6 minutes. Cover with a damp towel; let sit until doubled in size, 1½ hours. 2. Heat oven to 500°. Divide dough into 5 equal pieces. Working with one dough piece at a time, roll into a rough 8″ x 5″ triangle. Transfer rectangle to a cornmeal-dusted, parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut three lengthwise parallel slashes in middle of dough and one small slash below and parallel to middle large slash. Spread slashes apart with your fingers. Cover with a damp towel; let rest until puffed, about 30 minutes. Combine olives and herbs in a bowl. Lightly brush each dough piece with oil; sprinkle with olive mixture and season with salt and pepper. Bake, one at a time, until golden brown, about 15 minutes each.

The santolina is a perennial plant and hardy, it needs a very low maintenance. It likes sunny to semi-shaded location, small button shaped flowers appear from July onwards give organic fertilizer every 4 weeks.


Wild salmon filet with courgette in saffran-ginger flavored cream sauce

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Kloster stüberl 038 Ingredients:

100 gr wild salmon fillet per persons

2 twigs of thyme

1 tsp chili paprika

2 bay leaves

2 tbs butter

1 courgette

1 carrot

1 tbs lemon zest


For the sauce

2 teaspoons of sugar

3 tbs of lemon juice

200 ml   vegetable stock/bouillon

200 g cream

0.1 gr saffron

2 slices fresh ginger

1 clove of garlic

salt, lemon zest, chilli powder


Preheat the oven for 80°. Rub an oven proof pot with butter. Prepare the wild salmon fillets, extract the fish bones with a tweezers. Place them into the pot with their skin on the top. Toss thyme twigs, bay leaves, chilli, cover with alufolie and cook for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile clean and peel the vegetables, grate them. Prepare the sauce: caramelize the sugar, squeeze lemon juice on it, pour over vegetable soup and add cream as well. Toss grated vegetables, flavour with ginger slices, saffron, garlic, bayleaf and boil for 1 minute. Discard garlic and bayleaf. Cook until vegetables are tender for 3-4 minutes more. Then evaporate with adding 1 spoon of corn starch.

Take out fillets from the oven, get rid of the skin and scrape the gray layer under the skin. Melt some butter and soaté the salmon fillets in it, put some lemon zest aside and place them into the oven again. To serve: arrange filets in a deep plate, pour over sauce and eat with baguette.

An excellent light dish…

Swedish Cloudberry cake and the Eskimo ice cream

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French evening 002Last week I went to the IKEA in order to purchase some Easter decoration and when I finished the shopping around I stopped for a while at the food department. I have already tried some goodies from the IKEA and I was satisfied for instance with the Swedish bread. I made and excellent appetizer from it with salmon and with honeyed mustard and finelly chopped onion &  parsley scattered on the top. I have to confess I am a great fan of the wide range of the Swedish berry jams such as lingonberry, blackberry, black currant etc. At this time I discovered an unknown (at least it was unknown for me) amber-colored jar, it was labelled as: Hjortron jam and according to the picture it looked like as if it had made from some blackberry or raspberry but the colour and its consistence looked totally different. I took it. Coming home I checked in the internet what the heck is that Hjortron and I’d found out that it corresponds to the English word cloudberry (bakeapple (in Canada), Knotberry and Knoutberry (in England), Averin, Salmonberry in Alaska, and Evron (in Scotland).

Of course I had to open it and try it. When I tasted the golden-yellowish jam it was juicy and very sweet but it had an absolute distinctive tart taste. I read it later that in the Scandinavian countries it is very popular to add to yoghurt (in order to sweetened it) and from the berries they usually make jams, juices, tarts, and liqueurs. In Finland, the berries are eaten with heated “leipäjuusto” (a local cheese; the name translates to “bread-cheese”), as well as lots of cream and sugar. In Sweden, cloudberries and cloudberry jam are used as a topping for ice cream, pancakes, and waffles. In Norway, they are often mixed with whipped cream and sugar to be served as a dessert called “Multekrem” (Cloudberry cream), as a jam or as an ingredient in homemade ice cream. They may also be added to cakes that often contain marzipan.

In Atlantic Canada, cloudberries are used to make “Bakeapple Pie”. Canadians also use them for jam, but not on the same scale as Scandinavians. In Alaska and Northern Canada, the berries are mixed with seal oil, reindeer or caribou fat (which is diced up and made fluffy with the seal oil), and sugar to make “Eskimo Ice Cream” or Akutaq. The recipes vary by region. Along the Yukon and Kuskokwim River areas, white fish (pike, whitefish) along with shortening and sugar is used. The berries are an important resource for traditional foods to the Native tribes. Due to its high vitamin C content, the berry is valued both by Nordic seafarers and by the Inuit as protection against scurvy. Its benzoic acid content acts as a natural preservative. Tea made from cloudberry leaves was used in ancient Scandinavian herbal medicine to cure urinary tract infections. A cloudberry liqueur’s name is Lakkalikööri.  It has a strong taste and a high sugar content. Cloudberry has also served as a spice for akvavit.

I found an excellent recipe and I made it:

Ingredients for the Cloudberry white chocolate mascarpone cake:

8 oz stork – or butter,  8 oz caster sugar (or less because the jam is very sweet), 4 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla essence, 8 oz self raising flour, 100g cloudberry jam

For the cream cheese filling: 150g Cream cheese, 50g Butter – softened, 1 tsp vanilla essence, 50g Icing sugar

For the topping: 200g white chocolate, Extra jam and passionate fruit – for decoration

Directions: Preheat the oven to 170’C

Grease and line 2 x 8” cake tins

Beat together the stork and the sugar until pale and creamy

Stir in the vanilla and 1 at a time beat in the eggs

Fold in the flour mixture, being careful not to stir it too much and then fold in the cloudberry jam

Divide the mixture between the 2 tins and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes

Test the cake is done by pressing it in the middle; it should bounce back to you and not sink. It should also come away from the sides and be golden brown on top

Once cooked leave to cook in the tins slightly before tipping out to cool completely on a wire rack

While the cake is cooling beat together the mixture for the cream cheese filling until smooth and creamy

Once the cake has cooled, sandwich together the sponges with the cream cheese frosting in the middle

Melt the chocolate either in the microwave for 1 minute or in a blow over some gently simmering water

Pour the chocolate on top of the cake and spread evenly

Decorate with the cloudberry jam and passionate fruit and then leave for the chocolate to harden before slicing and serving – although I have to admit it was pretty yummy when the chocolate was still runny, just make sure you have napkins to hand.


French evening 004

April’s fool day and the Swiss spaghetti harvest

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DK+843+Romige+spaghetti+met+prei,+kruidenkaas+en+gerookte+zalmThe spaghetti-tree hoax was a three-minute hoax report broadcast on April Fools’ Day in 1957 by the BBC current-affairs programme Panorama, purportedly showing a family in southern Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from the family “spaghetti tree”. At the time spaghetti was relatively little-known in the UK, so that many Britons were unaware that spaghetti is made from wheat flour and water; a number of viewers afterwards contacted the BBC for advice on growing their own spaghetti trees. Decades later CNN called this broadcast “the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled.

Panorama cameraman Charles de Jaeger dreamed up the story after remembering how teachers at his school in Austria teased his classmates for being so stupid that if they were told that spaghetti grew on trees, they would believe it. The report was produced as an April Fools’ Day joke in 1957, showing a family in the canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland as they gathered a bumper spaghetti harvest after a mild winter and “virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil”. Footage of a traditional “Harvest Festival” was aired along with a discussion of the breeding necessary to develop a strain to produce the perfect length. Some scenes were filmed at the (now closed) Pasta Foods factory on London Road, St Albans in Hertfordshire and at a hotel in Castagnola, Switzerland. The report was made more believable through its voiceover by respected broadcaster Richard Dimbleby. Pasta was not an everyday food in 1950s Britain, known mainly from tinned spaghetti in tomato sauce and considered by many to be an exotic delicacy.

At the time, seven million of the 15.8 million homes in Britain had television sets. An estimated eight million people watched the programme on 1 April and hundreds phoned in the following day to question the authenticity of the story or ask for more information about spaghetti cultivation and how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. The BBC reportedly told them to “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

untitledSpaghetti all around the world

Pasta in the West may first have been worked to long, thin forms in Sicily around the 12th century, as the Tabula Rogeriana of Muhammad al-Idrisi attested, reporting some traditions about the Sicilian kingdom. The popularity of pasta spread to the whole of Italy after the establishment of pasta factories in the 19th century, enabling the mass production of pasta for the Italian market.

In the United States around the end of the 19th century, spaghetti was offered in restaurants as Spaghetti Italienne (which likely consisted of noodles cooked past al dente, and a mild tomato sauce flavored with easily found spices and vegetables such as cloves, bay leaves, and garlic) and it wasn’t until decades later that it came to be commonly prepared with oregano or basil. Canned spaghetti, kits for making spaghetti and spaghetti with meatballs became popular, and the dish has become a staple in the U.S.

Nowadays spaghetti is an emblem of Italian cuisine and it is frequently served with tomato sauce, which may contain various herbs (especially oregano and basil), olive oil, meat, or vegetables. Other spaghetti preparations include using Bolognese sauce, alfredo and carbonara. Grated hard cheeses, such as Pecorino Romano, Parmesan and Grana Padano, are often added. It is also sometimes served with chili.

Poisson Avril, happy April fool’s day!

Barack Obama in Belgium and the ginger cake

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10003250_597929490281608_145232086_n Couples of days before the arrival of the American president a satirical images of Obama and his wife, Michelle, (digitally altered picture to make them look like apes) appeared in a Belgian newspaper but have immediatelly vanished from its website. Yves Desmet, editor in chief of De Morgen, the left-leaning Flemish daily that published the photos, offered new apologies on Wednesday, the latest in a series of expressions of regret in print and on television, on Twitter and Facebook, acknowledging that the images had crossed the boundaries between humor and racism.

“There are some things too touchy to joke about,” Mr. Desmet said in a telephone interview. “We have apologized a hundred times. What more can we do? We screwed up.”

“It’s rather ironic,” he added, “that this has happened to a newspaper that has the strongest antiracist image of Belgium.

White House officials in Belgium, where President Obama met Wednesday with NATO leaders as part of his European visit, declined to comment. But the episode is a reminder of how often in Europe images and coded symbols of apes seep into rough political discourse about black politicians, not only in Belgium but also recently in France and Italy.

In the Belgian case, the pictures were part of a feature, labeled a satire, that imagined that the doctored photographs had been sent by the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. There was also a second photograph characterizing President Obama as a drug dealer.

“What’s happening is the normalization of hate,” said Shannon Pfohman, deputy director for policy in Brussels at the European Network Against Racism. “It seems that people no longer feel shocked by it anymore, and I attribute it to the anonymity of the Internet and social networks.”

A newspaper in Montpellier, France, reported on Monday that a candidate in a municipal election in southern France had shared a photograph of a baby gorilla on her Facebook page this month. The image was clearly intended to represent the French justice minister, Christiane Taubira, who is black and is entangled in a political tussle about whether she authorized telephone wiretaps of the former president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Above the photo were the words, “I am a minister and I am a fat liar. I am, I am. …”

The candidate, Lina Delnott, a member of Mr. Sarkozy’s center-right party, the Union for a Popular Movement, was later reproached by the mayor of La Grande-Motte, where she was seeking election, and the photo was quickly deleted. She was nonetheless elected to the City Council.

In Italy, the political rise of Cécile Kyenge, an eye surgeon who is the nation’s first black national official, has been marked by frequent episodes involving racial slurs, often led by anti-immigrant political parties.

Ms. Kyenge, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and moved to Italy at 19, received so many death threats after her nomination as minister of integration last year that she received additional security. She was likened to an orangutan by a former government minister, and bananas were thrown at her during a political rally.

More recently, in January, Gianluca Buonanno, a lawmaker from the Northern League, a populist party known for anti-immigrant speech, smeared his face with black greasepaint while addressing the lower house of Italy’s Parliament. He was protesting the benefits given to immigrants and said that white Italians must “become a bit darker” to qualify.

In Belgium, the international backlash to De Morgen’s attempt at satire has prompted soul-searching. The photos were published in a regular section of the newspaper, called The Daily Herald, that pokes fun at everyone, including the editor in chief, whom it has compared to Gollum from “The Lord of the Rings.” -“It is a satirical page that often is very rough and borders on the tasteless, and is recognized as such by readers,” Mr. Desmet said. The problem, he said, is that the images spread across the Internet, devoid of context, and the editors rapidly realized it was no joking matter.

Mr. Desmet said more controls and oversight would be introduced at the paper. “We saw the sensitivity,” he said. “On race and gender-related issues it’s much more difficult to make jokes.”

An excellent baker from Essen (Antwerp) has created a life-size Obama in speculoos for his up coming visit to compensate the malheur…

borrowed partly from Doreen Carjaval

Cinnamon butter cream matzos cake and matzos dumpling chicken soup

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Belgium 2013 june 305 - CopyFor me matzos is related to Easter, maybe because my grandma always prepared matzo dumpling chicken soup with estragon during Easter.

So that I have known from my childhood that the matzo is an unleavened bread and traditionally eaten by Jews during the week-long Passover holiday. And I read that there are numerous explanations behind the symbolism of matzah. One is historical: Passover is a commemoration of the exodus from Egypt. The biblical narrative relates that the Israelites left Egypt in such haste they could not wait for their bread dough to rise; the bread, when baked, was matzah. The other reason for eating matza is symbolic: On the one hand, matza symbolizes redemption and freedom, but it is also lechem oni, “poor man’s bread”. Thus it serves as a reminder to be humble, and to not forget what life was like in servitude. Also, leaven symbolizes corruption and pride as leaven “puffs up”. Eating the “bread of affliction” is both a lesson in humility and an act that enhances the appreciation of freedom.

However according to Western Christian belief, matzah was the bread used by Jesus in the Last Supper as there he was celebrating Passover; Communion wafers used by Roman Catholics (as well as in some Protestant traditions) for the Eucharist are flat. All Byzantine Rite Churches use leavened bread for the Eucharist as this symbolizes the risen Christ.

Anyway the matzo bread seems to me a very healthy stuff since it doesn’t contain any “killer-life shortening” ingredients such as salt, fett, sugar instead there are only water and flour in it, thus everybody can consume it. According to my Jewish friend Rachel, in Israel it is a habit to eat matzos for breakfast so to smear it with some nutella cream. Evenings matzos can make an excellent low fat bread “greased” evenly with some aubergine cream, and serve with fresh tomato slices. And then there is my favorite variant the above mentioned Matzo soup dumpling which is also very popular staple food on Passover in Hungary! It is made from a mixture of matzah meal, eggs, water, and a fat, such as oil, margarine, or chicken fat then matzah balls are traditionally served in chicken soup with peas and estragon.

But the fact that matzo is an excellent ingredient for cake I didn’t know until I went to Antwerp. When I crossed the zebra in the Jewish quarter I arrived at a coffee house where a creamy cake reflected through the glass. With some Belgian chocolate not to mention the cinnamon flavor the cake made my day so that I asked for the recipe from the owner:

Matzos cake with cinnamon butter cream

Ingredients: 6 eggs

120 gr sugar

100 gr flour

50 gr matzos

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

For the cake:

30 dkg vaj

200 grs powder sugar

20 gr cacao

1 egg yolk

0.5 dl lemon juice

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Method: Mix the 2/3 amounts of sugar with the egg yolks. Whisk the egg whites with the leftover 1/3 parts of sugar until stiff. In an other bowl mix flour seconds matzos and cinnamon. Stir egg white mousse into egg and finally add everything to the flour mixture. Pour this into a cake form and bake for 45 minutes on 160-180 grades. When it is baked wait until cooled. Then cut the cake in three in horizontal.

For the butter cream: whip butter until creamy with adding the sugar, cacao powder, 1 egg yolk, lemon juice and cinnamon. Smear evenly this cream on each layers, cover the top and the side of the round cake as well. Before serving bestrew with roughly grounded, pecan, walnut or matzos. Decorate with butter cream roses.

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My grandma’s matzos ball soups

Ingredients: 200 grams of chicken breast, 250 grs peas, 1 carrot, 1 parnsnip, half onion, 1 chicken stock, salt, pepper, estragon, oil

for 6 big matzo dumplings: 250 grs matzos, 5 eggs, 100 gr butter 2 tbs parsley, salt and pepper to taste

First mix all matzo ingredients together. Keep in the fridge for half an hour. Then make dumplings with your two hands.

Clean the vegetables chop them finelly. Wash the chicken and cut into 1 cm pieces. Heat the oil in a pan add chopped chicken meat and soaté for 2-to 3 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of flour and pour over water. Add chopped vegetables, chicken stock, salt and pepper and estragon. Cook for 15 minutes then add matzo dumplings and cook for 15 more minutes.

Green asparagus and salmon with quail eggs

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March 18 041I ate this heavenly dish yesterday on St Joseph’s day and it was really divine.

Ingredients: 4 quail eggs

1 ripe avocado, 1 pinch of Fleur de Sel

150 ml lime juice

1 tbs of crème fraîche or yoghurt, salt and pepper to taste

for the salmon: 4 salmon filets, soya sauce, 100 gr fresh ginger, 1 pinch of sugar, 1 tbs rice vinegar, oil for cooking

for the asparagus: salt, pepper, 1 tbs Mirin (sweet rice vinegar), 1 bunch of asparagus (250 grs), 1-2 tbs sesame oil, 1 tbs sesame seeds, 100 ml water, 1 tbs soya lecithin

1. For the avocado mousse:

Wash and peel the avocado and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, or slice the avocado into segments. Put into a blender flavor with salt and pepper stir in the mayonnaise and crème fraîche or Greek yoghurt.

2. Cook the quail’s eggs for 2 1/2 minutes in a small pan. When time is up place the pan in the sink and run cold water into eggs continuously for 2 minutes.

Gently peel the shells away from the eggs – it may help to have a pot of water next to you do dip the eggs into if you need to clean them of little bits of shell.

3. Prepare marinade for the salmon slices: mix soya sauce, grated ginger, 1 pinch of sugar or honey and the rice vinegar. Let it soak for at least twenty minutes. Then melt butter or heat oil and soaté the salmon filets for 3-to 5 mimutes. Preheat oven auf 60 °C and cook for 15 minutes.

4. For the asparagus: peel them and cut into two, then cook in sesame oil with the pinch of sugar and the 2 tbs of Mirin. Salt and bestrew with sesame seeds.

5. For the lime mousse: mix water and lemon juice together then add soya Lecithin, stir everything well. After 2 minutes incubation the mousse achieves the desired density. Garnish with Nori, watercress and Tobiko. You can flavor the eggs with wasabi on the top.