Feb 26, 2015

brown butter choc chip cookies

i'm still - and might be forever so - on the hunt for the perfect cookie. one that's slightly chewy and soft, not too sweet, not too thin, with a nice, buttery flavor. i'm still not sure if the lack of the perfect home made cookie in my life is due to my lack in cookie baking skills (might be, in all honesty) or due to the actual lack of the perfect recipe. either way, i miss a good chocolate chip cookie, from time to time. these are probably my favorite so far, closely followed by these - but they're both based on white chocolate. different story.

the one positive thing about the hunt is, that i'm forever and always on the lookout and open to new cookie recipes and secrets. here's another one i tried along the way. and though it's not the perfect cookie (for me), it's still worth sharing.

brown butter cookies
recipe adapted from tutti dolci (where they looked more than mouthwatering)

yields about 18 cookies

1/2 cup / 2 sticks / 125 g of butter
1 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp. corn starch
1 tsp. baking powder
1 pinch salt
3/4 cups dark brown (muscovado) sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup / 100 g dark lindt chocolate chips (cubed)

for garnish: 
1/4 cup / 50 g dark lindt chocolate chips (cubed)
sea salt

melt the butter in a pan and slowly let it turn brown. pour into a little bowl and let come to room temperature and let solidify, for about 1-2 hours.

in a bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, corn starch, baking soda and salt. cream together the butter and sugar, then add the egg and vanilla. sieve in the flower mix bit by bit and combine until homogenous. fold in the chocolate chips. refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

after that, remove the dough from the fridge and let come to room temperature, letting it stand for 30 minutes or so. don't panic if the dough looks reeeeally hard - it will eventually be shapeable. preheat the oven to 180 c / 350 f and line a baking sheet with parchment. shape into little balls, flatten a little and press in a couple of chocolate chips. sprinkle with a little sea salt. bake for 8 to 10 minutes. let cool and store in an airtight container.

Feb 21, 2015

roasted peppers mashed potatoes

i'm not the biggest fan of mash - though my better half definitely is. he likes everything mashed or pureed, from potato mash to celery mash and pumpkin and everything in between. so, occasionally, i'll venture into mash land, and this particular time, we came up with a fantastic combination, that even won me over. mash can not possibly get any better. the creamy potatoes are married with the smokey, spicy peppers, and suddenly, you've got an middle eastern inspired, lush vegetarian dish, that's anything but boring (inspite of the missing meat). vegetarian how i like it.

roasted pepper mashed potatoes
a new favorite

3-4 large floury potatoes, peeled and in large pieces
1/2 l milk
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tbsp. butter
nutmeg, salt, pepper

2 red peppers, in fourth and deseeded
1 green, longish pepper (from the turkish shop), in fourth and deseeded
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
50 g black olives, finely chopped
1 handful parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. paprika flakes (spicy)
1/2 tsp. tomato puree
1/2 tsp. maldon sea salt
parsley for garnish

cook the potatoes in salted water until tender, drain and put back in the pan. let them sit there to evaporate, without the lid covered. heat milk in a separate pan, add garlic, salt, pepper and musk. when hot, stir in the butter. now either put the potatoes into the hot milk and mash with a potato masher or work through a passe-vite. stir well to combine, the mash should be fluffy. adjust seasoning with nutmeg, salt and pepper and keep warm.

in the meantime, prepare the smokey peppers. quarter and deseed them and bake - skin sides up - on a baking sheet lined with parchment at maximum top heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the skin is black and blisters. remove from oven and cover the peppers with a humid kitchen towel. let cool a litle, then remove the skin from the peppers. finely cut them. 

heat butter and olive oil in a pan. sweat the garlic in it, then add the chopped, roasted peppers, olives and finely chopped parsley. add the tomato puree (for a litle red kick) and the pepper flakes. the butter should now be red, hot and spicy and smell smokey and divine! season with salt and pepper. 

to serve, combine the potato mash with the pepper mix, garnish with a parsley leaf and serve immediately. 

Feb 17, 2015

oat lace cookies & maca almond milk hot chocolate

today, it's healthy desserts day again. because i'm knee-deep into this very interesting and fun project, where i get to research - and cook up - what feels like a hundred healthy dishes. ask me anything about superfoods - chances are, i'll come up with a wikipedia-worthy reply in a whiff! still lazy as fuck on some days, i admit, but when dessert is healthy, tasty and fast - like this one here - i'd say a recipe is a winner, huh?

oat lace cookies & maca almond milk hot chocolate

250 g oats, rolled
250 g butter, melted
200 g sugar
2 tbsp. honey
1 egg
1 egg yolk

combine the oats with the melted butter, sugar and honey in a bowl. cover and let sit overnight (or at least for a couple of hours) at room temperature. add the eggs and stir to combine with a handmixer. ladle about 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture onto a baking sheet line with parchment. bake at 200 c / 400 for 3-4 minutes or until golden and crispy. let cool completely before removing from the pan. store on a plate and not in a tin or tupper wear, as the cookies might turn mushy. 

Feb 13, 2015

veggie wonton miso soup

i made my own soup before i even knew how to spell it. at my montessory kindergarten, there was a proper oven and stove, one that really worked and heated up nicely. i was totally fond of the thing and volunteered in making soup for all of the kids, on every occasion.

some 30 (cough) years later, i still like making (and slurping) soups. when i know i should incorporate something healthy, for example, i'm always relying on soups to do the trick. you can pack in as many nutrient rich greens and vegs as you want and it will still taste hearty, without being to heavy. 

granted, my knowledge about the asian cuisine is pretty superficial. yet, i find it pretty intuitive to combine things (while i'm sure that's probably not "comme il faut"...). so i combine wontons in a miso broth, naturally, making it a chinese-japanese fusion (of sorts). as is my tea china. ahem. it's probably the same as comparing switzerland to sweden (we've been there) but hey, at least they're both in europe, right?

when it comes to folding your dumplins correctly, i admit i'm a sucker for online tutorials. there are so many and you can get lost in the 1001 ways to fold a dumpling! it's a pretty nerdy pastime, but then again, a passion i'm forever proud of. serving up a home made bowl of goodness with neatly folded dumplings - surely, nothings beats that?

veggie wonton miso soup
serves two

ingredients for the wontons:
1 pack gyoza or wonton skins - from the asian shop
300 g organic shiitake, chopped
300 g baby spinach leafs, washed
1 piece (2 cm) ginger, peeled and grated
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sriracha hot sauce or other chili sauce

ingredients for the miso soup:
1 liter vegetable broth and/or miso broth (i used a combination of both)
1 large piece ginger, peeled and julienned
3-5 (depending on size) dried shiitake
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 bok choi
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 (asian) spring onions, finely sliced

sriracha hot sauce, chili powder, soy sauce, sesame, vinegar and other condiments - to taste
other additions, like ramen noodles, extra shiitake, carrots (julienned), spinach leaves or snap peas

for the dumplings, defrost the wonton or gyoza skins. for the filling prepare the spinach first. wash the leaves, pick over and put in a bowl. pour over boiling water (from the tea pot) and let wilt for 1-2 minutes. drain, squeeze out to remove any excess water and pat dry. chop very finely and put in a bowl. add the finely chopped shiitake, garlic, ginger and spring onions. season with soy sauce and sriracha. the filling shouldn't be too moist, but the soy sauce adds a lovely taste to the filling. 

for the wontons, keep the skins hidden under a moist kitchen towel while producing them, so they don't dry out. take one skin at a time and place a teaspoon full of the shiitake filling in the middle. brush the rim of the skin with a wet finger, then fold the dumpling to a half moon shape, removing any excess air from the inside out as you go. take the dumpling in your hands and fold in little "pleats" now (they add extra stability - besides looking neat). per person, you might want to make around 6 to 10 dumplings (depending on what other additions - like ramen or vegs - you plan on adding to your soup). spread the finished dumplings on a clean kitchen towel and refrigerate until used - or freeze, at this point, for later usage.

for the miso broth firstly start by julienning the ginger. add it to a large pot together with the vegetable broth and/or miso powder (i used about half and half of each) and the dried shiitake (that you can remove after cooking - they're just for the lovely taste). bring to a boil. this is the basis for the soup that you can now refine - to taste - with soy sauce (for saltiness), sriracha sauce or chili powder (for spiciness) etc. keep the bok choi, julienned carrots and sliced spring onions at the ready as soup additions.

to finish the soup, quickly blanch (in simmering - not boiling water) the wontons in batches (just the ones you will need for your first serving of soup). they're ready when they float on the top, which takes about 2-3 minutes. carefully remove them with a sieve and keep ready on a wooden board (careful, they are quite sticky when blanched) - or already divide between the bowls. shortly before serving add the bok choi and carrots to the broth and heat through, just a few seconds. ladle the broth into the bowls, adding bok choi and carrots, place the dumplings on top (some might drown, others float on the top, neatly) and sprinkle with spring onions. serve hot and with love.

i always serve the condiments aside for my guests to custom make and refine their soup according to their taste. the things that are essentials for a good asian (chinese-japanese fusion, if you want) broth according to me are: soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sriracha hot chili sauce, chili powders (i have it in various heats and colours, even a black one that is very fancy and evil looking, harr), sesame, miso powders and maybe even pickled ginger. you can even put bowls of scallions, sprouts, blanched edamame, shiso sprouts or herbs (cilantro is nice) on the table for the guests to pick their favorites.

for a different - and particularly hearty - version, add some noodles to the dumplings soup! i like rice noodles, udon or soba, on some nights, but my favorites are the rumpled and nest-like ramen (egg noodles), that you might know form one-pot ready meals. you can pick them up at a well stocked delicatessen or an asian shop. they're usually ready in a couple of minutes. my go to noodles for everything that's not italian pasta.

Feb 10, 2015

vanilla dream cake

at sprüngli, the local confiseur, one of my favorite products is a vanilla bean coated truffle. it's not a vanilla yellow, but a vanilla black, so much vanilla is incorporated into it. so much so, that i inofficially dubbed it "the vanilla bomb". strangely, they're a seasonal produce though, so i am not able to indulge in my vanilla craving whenever i feel like it. so i had to make my own cake. one that could take it up with the vanilla bombs from sprünglig. it had to be a very intense vanilla one. this cake here did the job: a double vanilla cake, that's infused with a heavy vanilly flavoured syrup. vanilla squared, so to say. and really just so good you have to name it "the vanilla dream cake". i think i'll just stick to this for my vanilla addiction until, one fine day, the bombs are back at sprüngli.

vanilla dream cake
for one round 17-20 cm cake pan

300 g soft butter, room temperature
300 g extra fine cane sugar 
6 eggs, broken up
410 g flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 pinch salt
6 tbsp. milk
3 tbsp. vanilla bean paste

for the syrup: 
150 ml water
115 g extra fine cane sugar
2 tbsp. vanilla bean paste
1 vanilla bean, slitted lengthwise & extracted

preheat the oven to 160 c / 320 f. grease a round spring pan with butter, then line the sides of the pan with a sleeve of baking paper, so that the cake can rise to double the height of the cake, approximately. cream the butter with a hand mixer, add sugar and stir some more until fluffy and light. add eggs little by little. sieve in flour and baking powder, add salt and stir to combine. carefully fold in milk and vanilla bean paste. fill into the pan and bake for 1.5 hours on the lowest level. insert a needle to see if the cake is done: when it comes out clean you're good to go.

for the syrup, heat water, sugar, vanilla bean paste and vanilla bean in a small pan, until sugar has dissolved. remove from the heat. 

as soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pierce with a long needle or skewer, all the way through to the bottom of the cake. spoon by spoon, baste the cake with the vanilla syrup. you can do this while it's still in the pan and hot. make sure the cake soaks up the liquid nicely. let cool completely, then remove from the pan. can be served for up to 5 days, as the syrup makes it really moist inside.

Feb 6, 2015

home made fries & lamb kebabs

life according to my nephews would involve a serious serving of fries and chicken nuggets, all day, every day of their lives. i find it easy to pass down the nuggets (as long as they're not made of real gold) - but i'm partial to fries. they're my favorite guilty pleasure and one i indulge in as often as possible (or justifiable). so i found it only fair to be able to make my own; and not just the ofen fries kinda ones. these here are deep-fried, but they don't require a deep fryer or chip pan. a simply pan will do.

home made fries
serves 2

3-4 large, waxy potatoes, peeled
1/2 l sunflower or peanut oil
good salt
some curry powder and paprika powder

wash and peel the potatoes, then cut them into equally sized sticks. put them in cold water until you process them further, so the starch comes out. heat a large pot of water. blanch the potato sticks in it for about 3 minutes, drain and pat dry thoroughly. heat the oil in a small saucepan - it's ready when a bread crumb inserted dances around in it - then fry for the first time for a couple of minutes. remove with a sieve spoon and put on kitchen paper to soak up excess grease. let cool then fry again for the second time: this time around, fry until the fries turn golden and crispy. drain onto kitchen paper and season with a spice mix made of salt, curry powder and paprika powder. serve hot.

lamb kebabs & aubergines with mint oil
serves 2

300 g lamm filets oder steaks, cubed
1 aubergine, sliced
4 tbsp. olive oil + more for frying
1 bunch mint, finely chopped
1 mild peperoncino, finely chopped
1 garlic, minced
1 organic lemon, zest grated
salt, pepper

slice the lamb and thread it onto two skewers. brush the aubergine slices and the lamb kebabs with some olive oil, put on the grill. in the meantime, make a mint oil: combine oil, mint, peperoncino, garlic and lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper. when the meat and the aubergines are ready, brush them with the mint oil and serve, alongside the fries.