Month: March 2013

Chocolate: never enough!

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Sending mail just got delicious because Belgium’s postal service has introduced stamps that taste like chocolate!

More than 500,000 stamps are being printed on special paper with a cocoa-scented varnish and glue that tastes like chocolate.

The stamps come in five limited editions, showcasing images of chocolate in various forms: sprinkles, chocolate, Nutella, rough pieces and chocolate bars.

“I think it’s the first time in Belgium they issue it with taste, chocolate taste. Pure Belgium,”- said Olana, a Dutch tourist visiting Brussels.

“I did not find that they tasted of much, less than the French stamps from 2009. But they smelled good!”

Belgian stamps collector Marie-Claire Verstichel added:

“The idea came because we did already stamps with flavor a couple of years ago and we had a lot of success.

“And this year we wanted to promote the chocolate and we used the system again and we have now, instead of having only the flavor, we have also the taste” -said Pierre Leempoel, manager of stamps production in Belgium.

Traditional postal mail may soon be a thing of the past. In the U.S., the national postal service just decided to cut Saturday delivery beginning in August. However, the Belgian post office is hoping to stay the trend with the new stamps.

German choco torte with raspberry cream filling

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German choco torte with raspberry cream filling

Germans love cakes because the cakes in Germany are excellent!  My favorite one is this choco raspberry cream torte. I discovered it in the Küstermann’s café house and whenever I’m in the neighbourhood in spite of the huge portion I can’t resist to order one!

The cake is  a “fancy” cake with multiple layers. Between each cake layer is usually a filling made of cream and fruits. It is not necessary to decorate with whipped cream, because of the rich cream filling but you can top with some decorative items such as fruits, nuts, marzipan, and chocolate fondant. It would be an excellent dessert for Easter!

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Yield: 16 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1-1/2 cups 2% milk
  • Chocolate frosting:
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 4-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Raspberry fillin:
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup red raspberry preserves
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon raspberry liqueur
  • Chocolate drizzle:
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Chocolate curls and fresh raspberries

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Directions

  • Line three 9-in. round baking pans with waxed paper; grease and flour the pans and paper. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and baking powder; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.
  • Transfer to prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  • For frosting, in a small heavy saucepan, melt chips and butter over low heat. Transfer to a large bowl; cool for 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth.
  • For filling, in a small bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add the preserves, sugar and liqueur; beat until stiff peaks form.
  • Cut each cake horizontally into two layers. Place bottom layer on a serving plate; spread with 1/2 cup filling. Top with another cake layer and spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Repeat layers. Top with another cake layer, 1/2 cup filling and remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.
  • For drizzle, place chips and butter in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream just to a boil. Pour over chocolate; whisk until smooth. Place mixture in a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag; cut a small hole in a corner of bag. Pipe a lattice design over top of cake, allowing some drizzle to drape down the sides. Decorate with chocolate curls and raspberries as desired. Refrigerate leftovers.

To Make Ahead: Bake and assemble the torte 1 day in advance. Garnish just before serving.

Nutritional Facts: 1 slice (calculated without chocolate curls and raspberries) equals 656 calories but sooo good!! 

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Happy Easter for everybody!

Good Friday’s fish plate

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salmon 006The today’s Friday fish plate is going to be very special because according to the calendar today is Good Friday, here is the recipe

Salmon in asparagus sauce alongside with wasabi potato purée

This elegant, creamy asparagus sauce would be equally good over any fillet of fish, whether pan-fried, baked or grilled.

The sauce can be made up to a day ahead (without adding the cream) and refrigerated; reheat on low heat add cream and serve.

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1/2 lb. asparagus, woody ends snapped off, then broken in half
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. salt and freshly cracked black pepper, each
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup(s) Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup(s) half and half
  • 3 tbsp. chicken or vegetable stock
  • 100 ml cream

Fish

  • 1 1/2 lb. salmon fillet
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tbsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. mirin vinegar

 Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat grill to medium.
  2. Whisk soy sauce, pepper and vegetable oil together. Brush mixture all over salmon and let rest about 30 minutes.
  3. Brush grill with oil to prevent sticking and put salmon onto preheated grill.  Cook about 7 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Pour over mirin vinegar. When done, pull salmon from grill and tent with foil.

Sauce

  1. While the salmon cooks, prepare the sauce.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat butter and oil until bubbling. Add asparagus, garlic and seasonings. Move around pan to sauté for about 5 to 7 minutes or until asparagus is very tender. Remove from heat
  3. Transfer asparagus mixture to a food processor and purée. (Keep the sauté pan out.) Add Parmesan cheese and lemon juice to the mixture and blend thoroughly.
  4. Add cream and chicken stock to sauté pan and warm over low heat.
  5. Transfer asparagus mixture to warm cream and whisk together. Taste for seasoning and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Spoon warm sauce over salmon.
 Potato purée
  • 6 large potatoes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 to 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons wasabi
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives

Directions

Wash and scrub potatoes well. Peel and cut them into same-size pieces so they cook evenly. Put them into a medium-sized pot and add the garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper, to taste. Cover with the cream and milk and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes. When cooked, drain potatoes, reserving the cooking liquid. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher using 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid; use more if necessary. Alternately, run the potatoes through a ricer or a food mill over a bowl and ladle in some of the cream mixture so they become creamy. Stir in the wasabi cream and chopped chives and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Japanese chlorophyll bomb

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Here in Europe everybody is frustrated by the nasty weather, we’d need the sunshine, for the chlorophyll but there is no sign of spring not a thiny bud and what is more it has been snowing for 2 days and the weather forecast is not so optimistic for Easter as well!
We will be for lots of rain and the temperature will remain bellow zero (during the nights) which is not normal for the time of the season.
But anyway….to fulfil my hunger for green this delicate green tea matcha layer cake occured to me what I ate last time in Japan and loved it very much. Here it is the recipe from my Japanese sister- in-law:

 
Green tea layer cake

Ingredients: 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 4 teaspoons powdered green tea, 1 1/4 cups white sugar, 1 cup vegetable oli, 3 eggs, 1 cup plain joghurt, 11/2 teaspoon of vanilla extractm 11/4 cups confectioners sugar, 2 teaspoons of powdered green tea, 2 knobs butter, softened, 1 package cream cheese, softened, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 11/2 teaspoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 degrees) Grease and flour 2-9 inch round pans.

Sift together the all purpose flour, cake flour, baking soda, salt, green tea powder, set aside. In a large bowl beat together sugar, oil, and eggs until smooth.

Stir in 11/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Beat in the flour mixture alternatively with the joghurt, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of the cake comes put clean. Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes before turning out of the pans.

539128_10150673692139219_685199218_9515336_1836667882_nTo make the green tea frosting: sift together confectioner sugar and green tea powder. In a medium bowl, combine tea powder mixture with butter, cream cheese, vanilla, milk. If it necessary beat ingredients with an electric mixeruntil smooth. to assemble the cakes: when the cakes are completely cooled put one layer on a flat serving plate. Spread a thin layer of frosting over it. Place the other layer of cake on top, and spread frosting to cover the top and sides of cake. Dust with green tea powder if desired. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Other version for the icing: sift the powdered suger with the green tea powder in a bowl. In a second bowl mix the sugar with butter, cream cheese or joghurt, vanilla extract and milk. Beat until smooth with an electric mixer. Spread icing on the cooled cakes, distributing evenly. To enhance the appearance you could sprinkle small amount of the green tea powder on top.

Hungarian poppy-apple strudel for Easter

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2045_grEaster is knocking at the door so for the this year festive treatment I decided to serve a Hungarian poppy-apple-raisinstrudel, which is in Hungary known as rétes.

More precisely rétes is a type of layered pastry with a— most often sweet—filling. It is also often served in warm with cream or vanilla custard. It became popular in Hungary in the 18th century through the Habsburg Empire so that it is most often associated with Austrian cuisine but is also a traditional pastry in the whole area of the former Austro-Hungarian empire.

The oldest Strudel recipe (a millirahmstrudel) is originated from 1696, in a handwritten recipe at the Viennese City Library. The pastry descends from similar Near Eastern pastries (see baklava and Turkish cuisine).

Kirándulás 018The best-known strudels however are the German Apfelstrudel (German for apple strudel) and Topfenstrudel (with sweet soft quark cheese, in German Topfen cheese), followed by the Millirahmstrudel (Milk-cream strudel, Milchrahmstrudel).

In Slovenia, cottage cheese is used instead of quark ( I also love that filling). In Hungary according to the fillings there are lots of strudel types include sour cherry (Weichselstrudel), sweet cherry, nut filled (Nussstrudel), Apricot Strudel, Plum Strudel, Poppy seed strudel (Mohnstrudel), and raisin strudel. There are also savory strudels incorporating spinach, cabbage, pumpkin, and sauerkraut and versions containing meat fillings like the (Lungenstrudel) or (Fleischstrudel).

Cseresznyes suti 001Good to know about the strudel

Traditional Austrian, Hungarian and Czech Strudel pastry is different from strudels elsewhere, which are often made from puff pastry because the dough is very elastic. It is made from flour with a high gluten content, egg, water, and butter with no sugar added. The dough is worked vigorously, rested, and then rolled out and stretched by hand very thinly with the help of a clean linen tea towel or kitchen paper. Purists say that it should be so thin that you can read a newspaper through it. A legend has it that the Austrian Emperor’s perfectionist cook decreed that it should be possible to read a love letter through it. The thin dough is still laid out on a tea towel, and the filling is spread on it. The dough with the filling on top is rolled up carefully with the help of the tea towel and baked in the oven.

My  Hungarian poppy-apple or cherry raisin-“rétes

 Instead of dealing with the difficult streching process I decided to buy a philo pastry then I made the poppy-apple filling.

poppyIngredients:

  • 1 phyllo pastry
  • 1 tbs oil and
  • 60 g raisins
  • 2 tbs rum
  • 1,5 kg apples
  • 4 tbs lemon juice
  • grated lemon zest
  • 50 g butter
  • 250 g ground poppy cooked in milk and sugar or just mixed with sugar and a bit of sour cream, milk or cream
  • 50 g bread crumble
  • 100 g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

directions:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/380 F. Combine the rum and raisins in a small bowl and let them sit for 15 minutes.

In a saucepan, combine the apples, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the apples soften and breakdown. Set aside and let cool. Combine the cinnamon, granulated sugar, and nuts together. Add to apples.

Prepare the ground poppy, add sugar and raisin and vanilla sugar and grated lemon zest to it. Add sour cream or cream but be careful do not overdo. Mix poppy and apples together.  

Melt 2 to 4 tablespoons butter. Lay out a phyllo pastry sheet, brush with melted butter, sprinkle with nut sugar mixture or bread crumbes, and put another sheet on top. Repeat this process until all 7 sheets are used up.

On the last buttered sheet, put stewed apple poppy mixture in a line across the sheet horizontally, leaving 1- inch on each side.

Carefully roll the pastry away from you to resemble a log.

Close the ends with your fingers, brush the top with butter, and sprinkle extra brown sugar on top. Bake in the oven until lightly browned and crisp on top, 35 to 40 minutes.  Let it cool, then sprinkle with castor sugar and serve in 2-inch slices with whipped cream.

As mad as a March hare

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FFB market 051With the coming Easter children usually put up us, by the way the logical question, that why the rabbit brings the chocolate eggs and not the hen?
To find the correct answer we have to go back to the ancient Greece where hares, like rabbits and eggs, were fertility symbols. Since birds lay eggs and rabbits and hares give birth to large litters in the early spring, these became symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the March Equinox. Rabbits and hares are both prolific breeders. Female hares can conceive a second litter of offspring while still pregnant with the first. This phenomenon is known as superfetation. Lagomorphs mature sexually at an early age and can give birth to several litters a year (hence the saying, “to breed like bunnies”). 
Thus knowing all these facts it is not surprising that rabbits and hares should become fertility symbols, or that their springtime mating antics should enter into Easter folklore.

 
But another animals bring their successors into the world at Easter time as well, so why the hell is the sex maniac hare has become the symbol of the fertility? The answer is very simple: because in the ancient folk the birth of the rabbit litters meant for people the end of winter, the rebirth, rejuvenation etc. There is one more question to answer: why the rabbit became the responsible of the distribution of the red egg and not the fox, hen or the stork as they give birth to their litters in March as well? Probably because the rabbits lived near to the man, and they were always liked as a domestic animal, unlike the fox or the hen.

Finishing the thoughts of the Easter rabbit, the essence is, that the children believe it, that like Santa Claus, the rabbit brings a gift secretly to them.FFB market 044

The egg-laying rabbit and the egg painting

The precise origin of the ancient custom of decorating eggs  is not known, although evidently the blooming of many flowers in spring coincides with the use of the fertility symbol of eggs—and eggs boiled with some flowers change their color, bringing the spring into the homes. Many Christians of the Eastern Orthodox Church to this day typically dye their Easter eggs red, the color of blood, in recognition of the blood of the sacrificed Christ (and, of the renewal of life in springtime). Some also use the color green, in honor of the new foliage emerging after the long dead time of winter.

German Protestants wanted to retain the Catholic custom of eating colored eggs for Easter, but did not want to introduce their children to the Catholic rite of fasting. Eggs were forbidden to Catholics during the fast of Lent, which was the reason for the abundance of eggs at Easter time.

The idea of an egg-laying bunny came to the U.S. in the 18th century. German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area told their children about the “Osterhase” (sometimes spelled “Oschter Haws.Hase” means “hare”, not rabbit, and in Northwest European folklore the “Easter Bunny” indeed is a hare, not a rabbit. According to the legend, only good children received gifts of colored eggs in the nests that they made in their caps and bonnets before Easter. In 1835, Jakob Grimm wrote of long-standing similar myths in Germany itself. Grimm suggested that these derived from legends of the reconstructed continental Germanic goddess *Ostara.

In Britain, the hare was associated with the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre and whose pagan attributes were appropriated into the Christian tradition as the Easter Bunny. The hare also appears in English folklore in the saying “as mad as a March hare” and in the legend of the White Hare that alternatively tells of a witch who takes the form of a white hare and goes out looking for prey at night or of the spirit of a broken-hearted maiden who cannot rest and who haunts her unfaithful lover.

In Irish folklore, the hare is often associated with Sidh (Fairy) or other pagan elements. In these stories, characters who harm hares often suffer dreadful consequences.

However the Easter rabbit does not bring eggs in France and Belgium, but rather the Easter bells (cloches but Pâques) drop the eggs from the sky.
In England, America on the other hand adults hide eggs in the garden and the children need to hunt them.

Many cultures, including the Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican, see a hare in the pattern of dark patches in the moon; this tradition forms the basis of the Angelo Branduardi song “The Hare in the Moon”.

Decoration 008The hare was a popular motif in medieval church art. In ancient times it was widely believed that the hare was a hermaphrodite. The idea that a hare could reproduce without loss of virginity led to an association with the Virgin Mary, with hares sometimes occurring in Northern European paintings of the Virgin and Christ Child.

The hare was regarded as an animal sacred to Aphrodite and Eros because of its high libido. Live hares were often presented as a gift of love.

Wild salmon with sorrel créme fraiche

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It’s Friday it’s fish day again!

Provence 242The today recipe has a historical background, this combination of flavors, salmon and sorrel, was brought to Belgium in the late 1970’s by the Troisgros brothers, based at Les Fréres Troisgros restaurant in Roanne, France. The three Michelin starred chefs produced simple dish of gently panfried, thinly sliced salmon sitting on herbed sorrel cream sauce, and a new classic was born!

For me the beauty of this dish is that it will see you through the spring (and summer) months as both ingredients are readily available.

Wild salmon is with us from early spring to late summer (early autumn?). If you find the wild salmon hard to come by, then simply replace it with the regular salmon or trout.

Young sorrel leaves are at their best from early March, the herb itself carrying a natural lemon flavor which can be helped along with a squeeze of the fruit itself. Instead of frying the fish, the thin slices will be plated cold, ready to be oiled and then quickly warmed under a hot grill. The plates can be dressed with the fish well in advance!

Serves for four as a starter: 450 g wild salmon filets, pin-boned, knob of butter, 1 dessertspoon of groundnut oil, coarse sea salt, twist of black pepper

For the sauce: 100 ml dry vermouth, 150 ml salmon stock, fish stock, 2 tbs double cream, 25 g sorrel leaves, 25-50 g butter diced squeeze of lemon juice

Provence 243Directions: Slice the salmon thinly, 3-4 mm thick. Place an open 15-18 cm flan ring on the centre of each heatproof serving plate and carefully arrange the fillet slices to cover the space, creating a circle inside the ringe. Remove rings, cover the fish lightly with cling film and refrigerate until needed.

To make the sauce, boil together vermouth and fish stock until reduced in volume by half to two thirds. Add the cream and return to simmer. Add the créme fraiche and whisk with the stock (It will be in loose, not over-creamy)

Preheat oven and grill. Gently wash and pick the stalks from the sorrel leaves. Shred these, just before serving.

Melt the knob of butter in a frying pan with the groundnut oil. Remove the cling film from the fish plates and brush each portion with the buttery oil. The plates can now be placed in turn under the preheated grill for just a minute or two to warm the tops of the slices. To continue this process, place the warmed plates on a lower shelf of the oven to retain the heat. While warming the wild salmon, reheat the sauce, season with salt and pepper and whisk the butter (if using). Just 30 seconds before serving, add the shredded sorrel leaves and squeeze of lemon juice to enhance the rich lemon herb flavor. To serve, brush the wild salmon again lightly with the buttery oil (if needed) to leave a shiny finish…Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and a twist of black pepper, and then spoon the sauce around the salmon!

(I have tried this dish with sea trout and it worked very well!!)

Mustard brushed flounder

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FFB market 052Flounder poor man’s plaice-is available from March to early winter. This flat fish, much the same shape as plaice, dab or lemon sole, is best eaten within the first two months of its season. Being a fairly well-travelled fish, its quality can deteriorate after too many journeys. If you do manage to find this fish during March and April, though do take advantage of its availability. To enhance and set off what flounder has to offer, this recipe, which I first came across in the USA, works very well. It involves mustard brushed over the fillets before grilling. The leek lift the fish with their oniony bite, and in the month of March are just ending a more than successful season. I added chive and tarragon to fish. Both flavours well with mustard and leeks.

Ingredients: 1 lb leeks, knob of butter, plus more for greasing, salt and pepper, 4x 350 g flounders, filleted and skinned, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 2 tbs mayonnaise, squeeze of lemon juice, 4-6 tbs of chive and tarragon

Remove the bases of the leeks and split each leek into lenghtwise. Remove the tough outside layer, then shred the leeks finely, including the maximum quantity possible of the green tops. Wash well and leave to drain in a colander.

to cook the leeks, met the knob of butter in a large saucepan. Add the leeks and cook on a fairly high heat. in just 2-3 minutes they will be tender. Once cooked season with salt and pepper. Season the flounder fillets with salt and pepper. Butter a large baking tray and place the fillets on it. Mix the mustard into the mayonnaise and finish with a squeeze or two lemon juice. Brush this liberally over each of the fillets. Place the fillets under a preheated grill and cook for just 2-3 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. The fillets can now be arranged on plates, followed by the leeks. To finish drizzle with chive and tarragon oil.

Let’s paint the town green on St Patrick’s day!

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Tomorrow is St Patrick’s day in Münich!

Munich is one of Europe’s most pulsating cities. There is always something going on, from the world renowned October Beerfest, multiple city
and street festivals, music for all tastes, theatre and not to mention the Continental Europe’s biggest St Patricks Day’s Parade..

Since I’ve been living here I try to participate on the events every year.

Apropos by St Patrick’s day here are some little thoughts:

Patrick (before he was not yet a saint) is said to have originated from England, came to Ireland as a slave and was the first writer in history to pen eye-witness accounts condemning slavery. There are many legends and stories associated with St. Patrick. The legend goes that during his wanderings through Ireland he came to Dublin – no more than a village at that time, poor and mean. Before entering the village, he climbed a hill, gazed out over the landscape and said, “One day, this little village will flourish as a great, important city, growing ever wealthier, and one day it will house the seat of the kingdom.”

In 1776, during the American War of Independence, St. Patrick’s influence is even said to have helped the Americans to victory over the British. General George Washington’s army was besieging the city which would later bear his name, and at the time was defended by the British army. Washington chose the password “St. Patrick” as a mark of respect to the many Irish in his ranks. And so it happened that on March 17th, the feast-day of St. Patrick, the British surrendered – without a struggle. As they left the city, an American band struck up the lively melody “St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning”. The tune has been played in Washington on every St. Patrick’s Day since that time.

In “The Truth About the Irish ” (St. Martin’s) Terry Eagleton sums up the story of St. Patrick like this:

“As a patron saint, he has quite a few disadvantages:

  • We don’t actually know who he was.
  • We don’t actually know where he came from.
  • He was not the first Christian missionary in Ireland.
  • There may have been two of him.
  • He may not have existed at all!

Apart from that, he’s a fantastic patron saint.” I couldn’t agree more.

Long live St. Patrick – however you decide to celebrate him! I’ll go to see the parade in Münich tomorrow for sure!

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Sweet spring dreams with rhubarb

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Heide Volm 002Spring begins with more fresh fruit offers in the market and the rhubarb is among them with the home-grown delicate pink to ruby red of champagne version. I say fruit because the rhubarb is generally regarded as a fruit (the stalk is eaten and there is no actual fruit), although botanically it is a vegetable. The fruitiness has probably become established because the acidic tartness of the vegetable needs the sweetness of sugar to balance it, and so it is popularly cooked in pies. This common use has led to the slang term for rhubarb, “pie plant“, by which name it was more commonly known in the United States in the late 19th century. In her novella The First Four Years, American author Laura Ingalls Wilder refers to rhubarb as “pie plant”. In former days, it was a common and affordable sweet for children in parts of the United Kingdom and Sweden was a tender stick of rhubarb, dipped in sugar. It is still eaten this way in western Finland and Norway, Iceland and some other parts of the world, including rural eastern Ontario. However in Chile the Chilean rhubarb is sold on the street with salt or dried chile pepper, not with sugar.

The popularity of the rhubarb in Great Britain and Germany

The rhubarb natives to Asia and it was known in the western world as a medicine long before it was recognized that the stems were edible (the leaves contain oxalic acid). Although rhubarb reached British shores by the 16th century, it wasn’t until the 19th that it began to appear on cookery books. Later on its popularity grew so much that by the end of the century it became the star of the afternoon tea time’s. Thus it spread from England first to Germany then to the rest of Europe (but it became popular only in Poland).

Recipes

Rhubarb is a herbaceous perenniel plant which means it dies down each autumn and winter, only to grow again vigorously in the spring and summer. The prime season is late spring, but the plants are now forced to produce earlier crops of succulent, more tender stalks, often known as champagne rhubarb. The word champagne refers to the actual variety of rhubarb to be used. Commonly, it is stewed with sugar or used in pies and desserts, but it can also be put into savory dishes or pickled. Rhubarb can be dehydrated and infused with fruit juice. In most cases, it is infused with strawberry juice to mimic the popular strawberry rhubarb pie. Rhubarb root produces a rich brown dye similar to walnut husks. It is used in northern regions where walnut trees do not survive.

For cooking, the stalks are often cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces and stewed (boil in water); it is necessary only to barely cover the stalks with water because rhubarb stalks contain a great deal of water on their own; 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar is added for each pound of rhubarb. Spices such as cinnamon, ginger and/or nutmeg can be added to taste. Sometimes a tablespoon of lime juice or lemon juice is added. The sliced stalks are boiled until soft. An alternative method is to simmer slowly without adding water, letting the rhubarb cook in its own juice. At this stage, either alone or cooked with strawberries or apples as a sweetener, or with stem or root ginger, rhubarb can be used to make jam. Other fruits, with the addition of pectin (or using sugar with pectin already added), can be added to rhubarb to make a variety of jams.

A sauce (to which dried fruit could be added near the end) can be made by cooking further, until the sauce is mostly smooth and the remaining discrete stalks can easily be pierced with a fork, yielding a smooth tart-sweet sauce with a flavor similar to sweet and sour sauce. This sauce, rhubarb sauce, is analogous to applesauce. Like applesauce, this sauce is usually stored in the refrigerator and eaten cold. The sauce, after cornstarch mixed with water has been added to thicken it, may be used as filling for rhubarb pie, tarts, and crumbles. Sometimes stewed strawberries are mixed with the rhubarb to make strawberry-rhubarb pie. It can also be used to make a fruit wine.

Rhubarb cake with advocat liqueur

Ingredient for the crunchy dough: 140 gr sugar, 50 g almond, ground, 5 eggs, 1 pinch of salt, 100 gr flour

for the rhubarb & advocat liqueuer cream: 500 gr rhubarb, 300 ml rhubarb juice, 1 vanilla pudding, 120 gr sugar, 5 gelatine leaves, 200 ml advocat liqueur, 150 gr mascarpone, 500 gr cream

yields 50 minutes, before serving keep for 3 hours in the fridge

1. Caramelize 40 g sugar in 2 tbs of water, add the ground almond, then spread it evenly on the parchment paper. Wait until it gets cold. Split eggs, whisk egg white with 1 tbs water and salt until stiff. Add 100 g sugar to the egg yolks and mix with the flour. When the batter is ready spread it into the baking sheet and bake it on 180 grades for 20 minutes.

2. Wash and clean the rhubarb, cut into 2.5 cm slices, add 5 tbs juice to it, the pudding powder and 70 gr sugar. Mix ingredients together.

Heat the rest of the juice and cook for three minutes. Stir pudding mixture into the juice, pour over baked cake.

3. Soak the gelatin leaves into lukewarm water, press the water from them after 5 minutes. Pour the liqueur on mascarpone, and sweeten with 50 g sugar. First stir 2 tbs cream in then add the rest of the cream to cheese. Whisk cream until stiff. Add to cream mixture too. When the cream is ready spread over cake and place into the fridge for at least 2 hours. Decorate with strawberry and rhubarb.

imagesCAZ867C5Rhubarb curd pie with marzipan

Ingredients for the dough: 140 gr butter, 1 pinch of salt, 90 g sugar, 1 egg, 1 egg white, 230 gr flour, 40 gr almond

for the compote, cream and garnitur: 150 ml apple juice, 70 gr sugar, 1 pack vanilla sugar, 2 egg yolks, 50 g marzipan massa, 1 tbs rum, 50 gr butter, 800 gr rhubarb, 80 g caster sugar, 2 gelatine leaves

In a stainless steel bowl, placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla sugar and apple juice until blended. Cook, whisking or stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes pale in color and quite thick (like a hollandaise sauce or sour cream, 160 degrees F or 71 degrees C on a thermometer). This will take about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming, and let cool to room temperature before filling the pastry crust. Can be made and stored in the refrigerator for about a week.

Sweet Pastry Crust: In a separate bowl, whisk the flour with the salt. Place the butter in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, and beat until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball. Flatten the pastry into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes or just until firm (can place in freezer for about 10-15 minutes.)

Meanwhile wash and peel 500 g rhubarb, cut into 2.5 cms slices, add sugar. Preheat the oven for 160 grades, steam the rhubarb with 20 g caster sugar on parchment paper in the oven for 15 minutes.

Pastry crust

Lightly butter and flour, or spray with a non-stick vegetable/flour cooking spray, an 8 – 9 inch (20 – 23 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom. Once the pastry has chilled sufficiently, evenly pat onto the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Lightly prick bottom of pastry crust with the tines of a fork (this will prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes). Place tart pan on a larger baking pan and bake crust for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and continue to bake the crust for about 15 minutes or until crust is dry and lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Once the pastry shell has cooled, evenly fill with the rhubarb curd. 

Add butter and rum to marzipan, roll it evenly and cover the curd tart with it.

The tart can be served immediately or covered and placed in the refrigerator until serving time. Serve plain or with softly whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

Rhubarb with orange mascarpone cream

Orange and rhubarb are lovely combinations and if Grand Marnier is available, the two are lifted even higher.

Ingredients: 350 gr 12 oz of rhubarb, cut into 1 and half cm, 2 tbs of caster sugar

for the mascarpone cream: 3 egg yolks, 75 gr caster sugar, 5 tbs orange juice, 1 heaped tbs orange marmalade, 175 gr mascarpone cheese, 3 tbs Grand Marnier, 150 ml double or whipping cream

Place the rhubarb and sugar in a large saucepan with 3 tbs water. Cook on low heat, allowing to simmer gently for 6-8 minutes. max 10 minutes. If the rhubarb is too syrupy once cooked, drain in a sieve and reboil the juices until reduced its volume and thickened. leave to cool. Once cooled the softened rhubarb can be spooned into glasses. Coctail glasses are very attractive.

To make the mascarpone cream, place the egg yolk, sugar and 3 tbs of the orange juice in a bowl. Sit this over a pan of simmering water and whisk vigorously until at least double in volume. Remove from the heat and continue whisking until cold.

Warm the remaining 2 tbs of ornge juice with the marmalade, then strain through a sieve or tea strainer. Beat the mascarpone until smooth, mixing in the softened marmalade and Grand Marnier if using. This can be foded into the cold egg sabayon. Whip the cream until thickened but not firm. Fold into the mascarpone and sabayon mix, and spoon on top of the soften rhubarb.