Egypt- An ancient bread, kofta and pistachio dukkah

EGYPT –

Aish Baladi, Lamb Kofta and Pistachio Dukkah.

Ah Egypt! Who has not heard of this most fabled land? – cradle of civilization and still a place of mystery and wonder.  A tourist destination for centuries, even the ancient Greeks and imperial Romans marveled at its monuments and it has lost none of its amazing allure today.

ras-mohammed-national-park-1600

Ras Mohammed N.Park

From the seething ancient/modern cities of Cairo and Alexandria, the famed Great Pyramids of Giza and  the Valley of Kings, the magnificent ruins of Karnak, Abydos and Luxor. The Suez canal, the medieval Ottoman  town of Al-Qasr, cruising the picturesque Nile itself, palm fringed oasis where you can bathe in natural hot springs in Cleopatra’s Bath  and the stark beauty of the White Desert National Park, Sahra al-Beida….the Aladdin’s Cave of Cairo’s teeming markets, and everywhere you go in Egypt is stepping back in time into myth and legend.

egypt_western_desert_dune_patterns_2 - Copy - Copy

Dunes in Western Egypt

 

The Food

How extraordinary to make food that was eaten by ancient Egyptian workers building the pyramids! In fact the pyramid builders were paid with bread and onions!

Making any kind of bread I always think is a very atavistic process, there is something so elemental and satisfying about making bread, especially yeast risen breads,  which is a little bit of alchemy – a mysterious magic trick. The food of Egypt is based around breads, most commonly the pita bread aish baladi, whose very name means life or sustenance. Made from emmer wheat (hulled, as is the now popular spelt wheat )  it’s baked at very high temperatures so the bread puffs up to form a pocket, which is then used as a utensil to scoop up dips and vegetables and wrap around chunks of food like  kebab, dolma and falafel.

spices

Egyptian Spices & Dry Goods

The other great staple of the Egyptian diet is beans and lentils, in particular ful (fava beans or broad beans)  and brown lentils, these are some of the oldest known foods and have been found in Egyptian tombs. Still popular after centuries are such vegetables as eggplant, onions and garlic(used extensively) celery and squashes and leafy greens like lettuces, mallow and jute. A wide range of grains are the starchy staples, millet which is easily grown in dry conditions, barley also used to make the ubiquitous beer which together with bread and spring onions (scallions)  formed the basic diet.

Traditionally beef, lamb and goat was supplied from domestic animals along with game such as pigeon, duck and rabbit. Especially prized is brains and liver. Fish both fresh water and ocean and a wide range of seafood is very popular. The culinary heritage has been influenced by the robust Moroccan cuisine and of course the cuisines of the Eastern Mediterranean. Most noticeable in desserts which are very sweet and feature nuts, fruits like figs, dates, and melons, with honey, filo pastry and spices such as cinnamon.

Ancient Foods

Serving food on Temple 

Recently dukkah has been very popular (here in Aussie at least) and has found its way onto many trendy menus, especially on eggs, vegetable salads, and flat breads and in many different varieties including hazelnut and pistachio as well as the more common almond. My favourite brunch dish at the moment is a poached egg on sour-dough toast with avocado, diced tomato, showered with my own spicy dukkah. I really recommend this delicious condiment and it’s super easy to make with a spice grinder or food processor, if you try it, you’ll fall in love with it too!

The Recipes

Egyptian Flatbread – Aish Baladi

This recipe was taken from http://www.saveur.com and changed a little to suit home cooking better.When I made it, for some reason I cooked it in a fry pan on the stove top – which didn’t work very well! I suggest you follow the recipe and bake it in a very hot oven on a hot oven tray.

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
    1 tsp sugar
    1¼ cups warm water
    2½ cups wholemeal flour, plus extra for dusting, or can use wheat germ/bran
    1 tsp salt
    1 tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
Method
  1. Dissolve sugar in water, in bowl of mixer if you have one. Mix in yeast and let stand until foamy, 10 minutes.
  2. Add rest of ingredients and mix with dough hook or by hand, knead 10 minutes, cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
  3. Let stand until doubled in size, about 1 12 hours.
  4. Place a baking stone on a rack in the oven and heat the oven to 500° for 30 minutes, or use a heavy oven tray and heat 15 minutes. Meanwhile, punch the dough down and divide into 8 equal pieces.
  5. Roll each piece into a ball and then flatten/roll into a 5-inch circle. Lightly sprinkle the bran or more flour and loosely cover with a kitchen towel.
  6. Let stand until slightly puffed, about 30 minutes
  7. Working in batches, place the dough circles on the hot baking stone, spaced 2 inches apart, and bake until puffed and lightly charred in spots, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool before serving.
Our Egyptian Meal

Egyptian Meal

Lamb Kefta

Ingredients
  •  500 gm lamb mince
  • 1/2 bunch finely chopped parsley
  • 1 finely chopped small onion
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tb chopped oregano
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Mix the onion and garlic with the spices and let it stand for 15 minutes
  2. Add the meat and rest of ingredients to the onion and mix well.  Shape the meat into kofta shapes.(long oval fingers)
  3. Lightly oil large heavy fry pan, heat the pan over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the koftas and pan fry on all sides.
  4.  Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook for 5 minutes.  Then uncover the pan and let any liquid evaporate.

These kefteh need some sort of sauce to go with them, some hummus, baba ganoush, tzatziki, bean dip, a spicy tomato sauce or even greek  yogurt will all work and add moisture to an otherwise dry dish.

dukkah

Pistachio Dukkah

Pistachio Dukkah

Ingredients

  • 40g (1/4 cup) sesame seeds
  • 75g (1/2 cup) pistachio kernels, finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method

  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small dry pan, stirring until golden. Put aside to cool

  2. Toast pistachios for 1 minutes. Put aside in another bowl, then toast coriander, cumin and pepper for 1 minute or until aromatic. Stir in the salt and set aside to cool. Grind to fine powder

  3. Process nuts until very finely chopped. Mix in nuts and sesame seeds and mix well

  4. Store dukkah in an airtight container or jar, in a cool, dry place for up to 2 months.

This is a delicious sprinkle to add a flavourful punch to lots of things from steamed or roasted vegetables, poached eggs, grilled chicken, fish or dips like hummus. If you try nothing else – do try this – it’ll become your latest favourite thing!

Tasting notes: this meal was very similar to meals we often eat , the bread was a bit heavy – sadly I wasn’t able top get it to puff up to form a proper pocket. The kefteh were ok, we have had better – these were rather plain for our tastes…….but we loved the dukkah which lifted them into something quite special.

Overall Score: 7/10 for the whole meal,  9/10 for the dukkah on its own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samoan coconut buns

Week 21 – Samoa

Two main islands and eight small islets house pristine beaches with luscious green rainforests coming right down to the sand and in certain places spectacular rocky cliffs. With hundreds of scenic hiking trails you can traverse the country side enjoying waterfalls, secret grottos and wildlife galore. A strong proud culture with many traditions such as their ‘ava ceremony and siva (dancing) live here, welcome to Samoa.

Traditional ‘ava ceremony

Samoa is located in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean it is halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii. The main islands are Upolu and Savai’i with Upolu home to 3/4 of the country’s population. All of the islands of Samoa have been produced by volcanoes, with Savai’i home to 3 active volcanoes (the last eruption was in the early 1900’s).

Samoa’s capital city and largest city is Apia which is situated on a natural harbour on the island of Upolu. The city’s clock tower which is also a war memorial is cited as the center of the city. Scattered there is still some early, wooden, colonial buildings most notably the old courthouse amongst other new infrastructure. Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson who wrote famous books such as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde resided on the outskirts of town for his last four years of life and he was buried on top of the close mountain Mt. Vaea. The city’s harbour was also the location of a naval standoff in 1889. Seven ships from Germany, the US, and Britain refused to leave the harbor while a typhoon was approaching, all of the ships ended up sinking except one.

Historic old courthouse originally built in 1906 in Historism and Art Deco style.

Historic old courthouse originally built in 1906 in Historism and Art Deco style.

Samoan Cuisine

Samoa’s cuisine very heavily based on fresh produce normally catch or collected that day. Produce such as taro, bananas, papaya, coconut (freshly made coconut cream or milk is an ingredient in an multitude of recipes), fish and other seafood are the basis of most dishes. Most Samoan kitchens are outside and use a umu (earth oven of hot stones) to cook all food. No oil is used in any of their cooking as they wrap their meat or seafood in banana leaves and cook it straight over the hot stones. Some of the most loved dishes include palusami (young taro leaves baked in coconut cream) and oka, (raw fish in coconut cream).

Typical meal

Typical meal

What I Made

I decided to go sweet and chose Panipopo’s (sweet coconut buns) these buns are sold in bakeries all over Samoa. I sourced my recipe from → www.samoafood.com check it out for amazing Samoan recipes!

Recipe

Serves: 12

Ingredients

For Bread Dough:

  • 1 package (2 & ¼ teaspoon) of active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 ½ – 3 cups all purpose flour or bread flour

For Coconut Sauce:

  • ½ can (200ml) canned or freah coconut milk
  • 200ml water
  • ½ sugar

 Method

  1. Put yeast and water in a large bowl and cover, leave for 10 minutes,  your yeast should be frothy at the end of the time.
  2. Add the rest of the dough ingredients and mix to form a soft dough, this can be done with a wooden spoon or any type of automatic mixer.
  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 to 20 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and leave to double in size, about 1 hour depending on your kitchen’s temperature.
  5. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into buns and place in an ungreased baking tin. Cover and leave to rise until almost doubled.
  6. While the buns are rising preheat oven  to 190°C/ 375°F. Make your coconut sauce by combing all ingredients and mixing well.
  7. When buns have doubled in size, pour the sauce over them. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until nicely golden. (wait half an hour till cutting them, as it gives time for the sauce to thicken)

The buns were not the most amazing thing I’ve ever had but they sweet and gooey so they hit the spot. I think it was it bread that let them down a bit, the bread seemed a little to savoury for the sweet sauce, I’d suggest finding a sweet bread recipe that you know good and swapping that one for this one. They were nice with a large cup of black tea and a good book. Score 6/10.

My coconut buns!

My coconut buns!

The Best Dutch Apple Pie you will ever eat!!

WEEK 20 – The Netherlands

Known for windmills, tulips, clogs, bicycles, Van Gogh, canals and croquettes. It was voted the fourth happiest country in the world. With a name meaning ‘Low Countries’ because over 50% would be underwater without the help of huge dykes, its the place to be, The Netherlands.

Vincent Van Gogh - Wheat Field with Crows (1890)

Vincent Van Gogh – Wheat Field with Crows (1890)

The Netherlands has 12 provinces on its mainland and various islands located in the Caribbean and being great sea farers it used to rule over 30 different colonies all over the world, including modern day Indonesia, New York, Senegal, Burma and Taiwan.

Its capital city, Amsterdam, is located in the west of the country in the province of North Holland. Amsterdam originated as a small fishing village in the 12th century.  Its name comes from Amstelredamme which describes it as a dam of the river Amstel. It contains 2 UNESCO World Heritage Listed places, the 17th-century canals throughout Amsterdam and the 19–20th century Defence Line of Amsterdam.  The Defence Line is a 135 km long ring of 42 forts around Amsterdam, the line took 40 years to complete and almost right its completion they were discarded as a tool because of the introduction of tanks and aeroplanes.

Amsterdam from above

Amsterdam from above

DUTCH CUISINE

Dutch cuisine is simple and rustic. Traditionally breakfast and lunch are very similar, you would have bread with toppings (cold cuts, cheeses and sweet toppings; such as hagelslag, vlokken, muisjes, chocolate spread, treacle and peanut butter) and for dinner meat, potatoes and seasonal vegetables. In terms of cuisines The Netherlands’ are often divided 3 regions:

An advertisement for a quick snack

An advertisement for a quick snack

Northeastern; Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe, Overijssel and North Gelderland: Dominated by meat and meat products, the region is famous for their dried metworst sausages and succulent smoked rookworst sausages, sausages are eaten with other popular side dishes or as a snack food. The region is also fond of their sweets and pastries. 

Western;  North Holland, South Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht and the Gelderlandic region of Betuwe: This region is on the foodie map for its dairy products, particularly for their cheeses; Gouda, Leyden and Edam. Whereas the district of Zaanstreek in North Holland are known for their mayonnaise and mustards. Fish and seafood are popular with raw herring being a favourite as well as mussels, eel, oysters, shrimp and Kibbeling (battered white fish).

Southern;  North-Brabant and Limburg and the Flemish Region in Belgium: Also known as Burgudian, this region’s cuisine is characterised by soups, stews and rich pastries and represents the traditional Dutch cuisine. It is the only region that has developed a haute cuisine which is evident in their restaurants.

A Bossche Bol from Brabant (Southern region)

A Bossche Bol from Brabant (Southern region)

WHAT I MADE

Dutch apple pie comes in two styles either with a crumb topping (appelkruimeltaart) or a lattice style pie (appeltaart). I decided on appeltaart since this is the one I’ve grown up eating and my personal favourite. The origin of apple pie in The Netherlands dates back to the Dutch Golden Age and can be seen in a painting from 1626 also an almost identical recipe to the modern one was first used in a cookbook from the late medieval era (around 1514). I sourced my recipe from → mylittleexpatkitchen which they adapted from Dutch Cooking.

RECIPE

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients

For  Filling:

  • 1 kg tart apples, like Goudrenet (if you can get) or Granny Smith (which I used)
  • Juice of 1 medium-sized lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 70 g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50 g raisins (I used sultanas)

For Dough:

  • 175 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 175 g all-purpose flour
  • 175 g self-raising flour
  • 175 g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp lemon zest, freshly grated
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • Pinch of salt

 

  • 1 Tbsp dried breadcrumbs

For Glaze

  • 70 g apricot jam
  • 30 ml (2 Tbsp) rum (or water)

To Serve

  • Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving
  • Ground cinnamon for sprinkling over the top

Method

Preparation
Put the raisins in a small bowl along with a cup of hot water and let them soak for 15 minutes.

Prepare the filling
In the meantime, in a large bowl, add the lemon juice. Start peeling, coring and cutting the apples into small pieces, placing them in the bowl as you go. Stir them around in the lemon juice every once in a while, so that they don’t discolor.
Drain the raisins, squeeze them with your hands and add them to the bowl along with the sugar and cinnamon. Mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula. Set bowl aside.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 22 cm spring-form pan (7 cm deep), generously. Preheat your oven to 180-185 degrees Celsius.

Prepare the dough
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl), beat the butter on medium speed with the paddle attachment (or with your hand-held mixer), until softened and creamy, for 1-2 minutes. Sift all-purpose and self-raising flour directly into the bowl and add the sugar, salt, lemon zest, water and the egg. Mix all the ingredients with your hands and knead until you have a smooth, shiny, soft yet pliable dough that’s not sticking to your hands. It will come together very quickly and easily. If it’s too dry, add a teaspoon of water and if it’s sticky, add a little bit of all-purpose flour.

Cut off a third of the dough and leave it aside.
Take the rest of the dough, shape it into a ball and place it in the middle of the spring-form pan. Using the back of your hand, press the dough over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. The dough should come up to 2/3 of the height of the pan. Try to spread the dough as evenly as possible.

Sprinkle the base of the pastry case with the dried breadcrumbs, which are used to soak up the juices from the apples, so that the base doesn’t become soggy.ix the filling once more with a spoon or spatula and empty it into the pan. It should fill the whole pastry case.

Take the piece of dough you left aside and divide it into smaller pieces. Roll each piece into long, thin round strips and use them to decorate the tart, lattice style. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the crust takes on a golden-brown color.

Prepare apricot glaze
Ten minutes before the pie is ready, prepare the glaze by putting the apricot jam and the rum (or water) in a small saucepan. Heat the jam over medium heat, until it comes to the boil and then immediately remove from the heat.

When the apple pie is ready, take it out of the oven and immediately glaze it, using a pastry brush. Allow the pie to slightly cool inside the pan and then remove the sides of the pan. Allow to cool completely and if you want, move the pie onto a platter or cake stand.

The pie is eaten either warm or at room temperature. Serve with a dollop or two of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and sprinkled with a little ground cinnamon. It is best eaten the day you make it, as well as the following day. It can be kept at room temperature, covered, for 2 days (3 tops) but as the days pass, the crust will become softer and more cake-like.

The photos on My Little Expat Kitchen were detailed and really helped me in making my appeltaart so I have provided them below.

Preparing the filling

Preparing the filling

Making the dough

Making the dough

Constructing the taart and once its cooked

Constructing the taart and once its cooked

This recipe made the best appeltaart I have ever ever had! It was delicious, the dough was buttery and sweet , the appel filling had just the right amount of spice and  lemon and with a large dollop of freshly whipped cream it was straight from heaven! I highly recommend trying this recipe and also checking out other recipes from My Little Expat Kitchen. Here’s what my appeltaart looked like, I must say I was pretty proud! Score 10/10

DSCN9480

A big slice with whipped cream is the right way to end an evening

DSCN9472

 

 

Canadian National favourite – The Nanaimo Bar

WEEK 19 – Canada

A long history with various European colonies, second-biggest country in the world has an endless variety in landscapes. Sky-high mountains, ancient glaciers, lush rainforests, tens of thousands of freshwater lakes and the longest coastline on earth, all spread across six times zones, Canada

Hungabee Lake, Opabin Highland, Yoho National Park, British Colombia

Hungabee Lake, Opabin Highland, Yoho National Park, British Colombia

Canada is safe to say one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Its landscapes are so vast and wild it just makes you want to explore and have adventures. Boasting over 40 national parks and reserves Canada is a natural wonderland. Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, is often overlooked as it is not as widely known about as other Canadian cities.  It is situated on the south side of the Ottawa River in the south-eastern Ontario. The city also contains a UNSECO World Heritage Site, The Rideau Canal, it was built between two cities, Ottawa & Kensington in 1832 as a precaution in case of war.

The other major cities in Canada include Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton & Calgary, all these with over 1 million residents.

Rideau Canal, Ottawa

Rideau Canal, Ottawa

CANADIAN CUISINE

National favourites include: Poutine, a dish consisting of potato chips topped with curd cheese and gravy, Maple syrup,  Canada produces about 80 percent of the world’s maple syrup, Montreal- style bagels, Nanaimo bar, Bannock, ketchup flavoured chips, Tim Hortons doughnuts and Kraft Dinner ( instant macaroni & cheese)

With a total of 10 provinces and 3 territories in Canada the cuisine varies from each area, with local produce and flavours.

  • British Columbia: Traditionally influenced by British cuisine, the province produces a wide variety a seafood & fruit and vegetables from The Okanagan Valley which also is renowned for their world class wineries.

 

  • Alberta: World famous for it’s succulent grain-fed beef, with over 60% of the beef in Canada being from this region, its is a significant part of Alberta’s food industry. Other products include;  honey made from clover and alfalfa nectar, wild berries and nuts. Alberta’s has famous cocktail as well The Caesar.
The Caesar or Bloody Caesar. It typically contains vodka, Clamato (a proprietary blend of tomato juice and clam broth), hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, and is served with ice in a large, celery salt-rimmed glass, typically garnished with a stalk of celery and wedge of lime. It was invented in Calgary, Alberta in 1969 by restaurant manager Walter Chell of the Calgary Inn (today the Westin Hotel) to celebrate the opening of a new Italian restaurant in the city.

The Caesar or Bloody Caesar. It typically contains vodka, Clamato (a proprietary blend of tomato juice and clam broth), hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, and is served with ice in a large, celery salt-rimmed glass, typically garnished with a stalk of celery and wedge of lime. It was invented in Calgary, Alberta in 1969 by restaurant manager Walter Chell of the Calgary Inn (today the Westin Hotel) to celebrate the opening of a new Italian restaurant in the city.

 

  • Ontario: Also was heavily influenced by Britain’s cuisine from the early days, Ontario now boasts a very multicultural cuisine especially in the main cities. Some specialities include; Beavertails – a doughnut flavoured with the maple syrup locally made, deep filled apple pies and huge pancakes, also just outside Ottawa large orchards and wineries produce fruit, vegetables and wine.

beavertails-1-728

 

  • Quebec:  Food in Quebec is strongly influenced by French, Irish and traditional native foods. Quebec is the world’s largest maple syrup producer, and is used in various desserts and breakfasts. Many of their famous dishes are in a French style of cookery.

 

  • Saskatchewan: Origins in Europeans cuisines, you can find very typical European dishes and products in Saskatchewan. Local products include;  bison, Bannock (a fried flat bread) and wild berries such as Saskatoon berries, chokecherries and blueberries, these are all used in traditional meals.
saskatoon-berries

Saskatoon berries. With a sweet, nutty taste, the fruits have long been eaten by Canada’s aboriginal people, fresh or dried. They are well known as an ingredient in pemmican, a preparation of dried meat to which saskatoon berries are added as flavour and preservative

 

  • Northern Canada;  Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut:  All three territories predominately eat Inuit foods, which are prepared using traditional methods. A typical foods eaten are; wild game, caribou, squirrel, hare, fish, wild plant greens and berries. Specialities include boiled seal, frozen raw Arctic char and whale.
  • Maritime Regions; New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador: Famous for their seafood; lobster, scallops and mussels, salmon and cod they are world wide exporters.  Also fiddlehead greens (fern-like) and dulse, which is a kind of seaweed, are widely eaten. In New Brunswick their famous dish is poutine râpée, in Nova Scotia their Annapolis Valley is famous for apples, in Prince Edward Island their famous for oysters, mussels, potatoes and delicious icecream and in Newfoundland and Labrador their famous for beer, water and spirits made from the charcoal-filtered and triple-distilled water of iceberg growlers and bergy bits.

WHAT I MADE

The Nanaimo Bar is a bar dessert which requires no baking and is named after the west coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia. The earliest copy of a recipe using the name “Nanaimo Bars” appears in the Edith Adams’ cookbook from 1953. Nanaimo bars can also be found in Australian coffee shops in large cities, although I’ve never seen them! The bar has three layers, the bottom layer is coconutty and chocolaty, the second layer is smooth and slightly vanilla custard flavoured and the top layer is a sweet melted chocolate. I source my recipe from → cookingclassy/nanaimo-bars which adapted lightly from Joy of Baking

RECIPE

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Makes: 16 Servings

Ingredients

Bottom Layer:

  • 1/2 cup salted butter, diced into pieces
  • 1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or almonds

Filling

  • 1/3 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp custard powder or vanilla/white chocolate instant pudding mix
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Top Layer

  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp salted butter

 

Method

  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat, add in brown sugar and cocoa powder and whisk until well combine. While whisking vigorously, slowly pour in beaten egg. Return mixture to heat and cook for 1 – 2 minutes until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Add in graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and pecans and toss until evenly coated. Press mixture into a buttered 8 by 8-inch or 9 by 9-inch baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap, place in freezer for 20 minutes or refrigerate for 40 minutes.
  2. In a mixing bowl, using and electric hand mixer set on medium speed, whip together butter, heavy cream and custard powder until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stir in powdered sugar and blend until mixture is smooth and creamy, about 1 minute (mixture may seem dry at first but should start to come together). Spread mixture into an even layer over chilled graham cracker base. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Melt semi-sweet chocolate along with butter in a heat proof bowl, set over a pot of simmering water. Spread mixture into an even layer over filling layer, cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 10 minutes until chocolate has set. Cut into squares, store in an airtight container.

 

The bars didn’t go as well as planned when I made them, in the recipe it calls for 2 cups of powdered sugar in the filling, so I made it and it was so hard it was like a rock to mix and I couldn’t spread that over the base so I added heaps more cream, probably not wise either as the filling then did not set. So I’m not a 100% what would have made it better probably less sugar, looking at the original recipe on Joy Of Baking it uses different quantities so if you wan to make these I might suggest using the Joy Of Baking recipe or using this recipe but JOB’s filling recipe!

Apart from the lack of setting in the fillings behalf, the bars were quite nice they were very very sweet, chocolaty and had a bit of crunch from the almonds in the base. I would have them again but with a few major changes! Score 5/10

These sadly are not what mine ended looking like. Because the filling didn't set it didn't make for the most appealing picture. So this wonderful picture is sourced from http://bakeeatrepeat.ca/

These sadly are not what mine ended looking like. Because the filling didn’t set it didn’t make for the most appealing picture. So this wonderful picture is sourced from http://bakeeatrepeat.ca/

Bulgarian sweet apple banitzas

WEEK 17 – BULGARIA

From tree lined mountain ranges housing isolated villages and thousand year old monasteries to eccentric modern cities and  beautiful beaches lining the Black Sea coast, Bulgaria.

Varna, the largest coastal town in Bulgaria

Varna, the largest coastal town in Bulgaria

Located in south-eastern Europe, Bulgaria is quite a mountainous country with seven mountain ranges criss-crossing the country. It’s capital city, Sofia is located at the foot of Vitosha Mountain in the western part of the country. It is the 14th largest city in Europe, with a population of 1.3 million people. Sofia is full of churches with over 50 in the city limits. A church which brings tourists from everywhere to see is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the center of the city.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

With such a long and fierce history, Bulgaria houses many ancient ruins strewn all across the country, they’re windows into the past of,  ancient peoples and civilisations that have risen, fallen, conquered and passed through this land.

Dyavolski bridge, a relic from the when the Ottomans ruled

Dyavolski bridge, a relic from the when the Ottomans ruled

BULGARIAN CUISINE

Bulgarian food has a lot common with other Balkans cuisines, it also shares a number of dishes with Greek, Middle Eastern, and Italian cuisines. Salads are often appetizers and main courses are typically water-based stews, deep-fried foods are not popular whereas grilling, especially sausages  is very common. Pork is the most widely eaten meat and is often mixed with beef or lamb. Bulgarians eat a lot of dairy products particular yoghurt, and they have been since 300 BC.

Traditional Bulgarian feast often eaten around Christmas time

This is what a traditional Bulgarian feast often eaten around Christmas time typically looks like

WHAT I MADE

So I decided to make a Bulgarian dessert. After quite a lot of deliberating on what I should make, I settled on sweet apple-walnut banitzas. I sourced the recipe from here → bulgariandesserts/applebanitza

RECIPE

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time : 40 minutes

Ingredients

½ cup finely chopped walnuts

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

18 sheets filo dough, thawed

150g butter, melted

4 apples, peeled, cored and grated

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 2oo degrees. Mix walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, bread crumbs and set aside
  2. Place one sheet filo dough on a tea towel or kitchen paper. Brush lightly with butter. Repeat 2 more times so there are 3 layers of filo.
  3. Portion out 1/5th of the walnut mixture on the entire surface of the filo. Then, place 1/5th of the apples in a 1/2-inch-wide strip along the short edge and 1/2 inch away from the sides. Fold up bottom edge first, then sides, and then roll away from yourself, using the towel/paper to help, until you have a tight cylinder. Brush lightly with more melted butter and sprinkle with extra sugar, if desired.
  4. Repeat with remaining filo dough. Place banitzi on a parchment-lined pan and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Serve warm or at room temperature.
My apple banitzas

My apple banitzas

 

So having made these I found them very enjoyable, sweet and crispy and delicious. Score = 7/10

Amazing Hot Cross Bun recipe (for all of those people who don’t like raisins and sultanas, like me)

Happy Easter everybody hope your having a great day with your families! I thought I’d take some time out of my Easter Sunday to share with you the Hot Cross Bun recipe I made today because let me say one thing they were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Mimsey even said they were the best ones she’s ever had or made herself!

A hot cross bun is a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins and marked with a cross on the top, traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, United States, India, and Canada. I guess I was a little late making them.

THE TRADITION

In many historically Christian countries, plain buns made without dairy products are traditionally eaten hot or toasted during Lent, beginning with the evening of Shrove Tuesday  to midday Good Friday. But saying that the Ancient Greeks also made cakes marked with crosses. And through the ages people like Elizabeth I of England and James I of England/James VI of Scotland have banned hot cross buns except for certain days of the year.

An 1884 advertisement announcing the sale of hot cross buns for Good Friday in a Hawaiian newspaper.

A 1884 advertisement announcing the sale of hot cross buns for Good Friday in a Hawaiian newspaper.

There are also many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. Such as if you hang a hot cross bun in your kitchen will protect against fires and ensure all the bread you make will be perfect. Another one says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or grow mouldy during the coming year. One superstition even thinks the hot cross buns are to be used for medicinal purposes. A piece of it given to someone ill is said to help them recover.

hot-cross-buns

A poem about Hot Cross Buns

Sharing a hot cross bun with friend is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if “Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be” is said at the time. One of the most out the most peculiar superstitions is that if taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck.

Hot Cross Bun Seller in 18th century London

Hot Cross Bun Seller in 18th century London

THE FLAVOURS

Around the world new flavours of hot cross buns have been popping up for the last 10 years including: chocolate, choc chip, apple & cinnamon, orange & cranberry, coffee, toffee, sticky date, caramel, fruitless and many many more.

Most recently Heston Blumenthal has created a range for both Coles here in Australia and a range for England’s Waitrose with flavours including: Lemon Myrtle, Earl Grey and Mandarin, Ginger and Acacia Honey.

Heston-For-Coles-Lemon-Myrtle-Hot-Cross-Buns-Lifestyle12            LN_463904_BP_11

APRICOT,CRANBERRY & CARDAMOM HOT CROSS BUNS

I found this recipe online searching for alternate hot cross buns. Recipe is from fellow blogger at The Culinary Life her website is here  → www.theculinarylife.com  and the link to the recipe for the hot cross buns is here → hot-cross-buns-recipe

RECIPE

Total Time: 2hr 15min       Makes: 12 buns

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup spelt flour (or use another cup of all purpose flour)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 cup warm water, divided
  • 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup golden cranberries (I just used normal cranberries)
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 teaspoons apricot jam
  • Additional cardamom for wash
Instructions
  1. Combine all purpose flour, spelt flour, cinnamon, and cardamom in a bowl and mix well. Add water, milk, yeast, salt, sugar, beating just until combined. Add egg and butter, mixing until the dough is sticky. Add the cranberries, apricots and lemon zest. Knead dough until smooth – feel free to use a stand mixer or good, old fashioned elbow grease. Cover the bowl of dough loosely with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm area until doubled in size, between 60 and 70 minutes.
  2. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Divide each half in half, and then each lump of dough into thirds. You should have 12 equally-sized buns. Dust your hands with flour and lightly roll each bun into a ball. Set on a floured piece of parchment and cover loosely with a kitchen towel. Allow to double in size again, about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how warm your kitchen is. While the buns are rising, preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  3. Once the buns have risen, arrange them on a parchment-covered baking sheet, leaving 3-inches of space between then. Gently make a 1/4-inch deep cross-shaped indentation in each bun with the back of a butter knife, making sure not to cut the surface of the dough.
  4. Make the icing for crosses: mix the pastry flour, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and water in a small bowl, then slowly trickle in the vegetable oil while beating quickly. You should have a spreadable but not runny consistency. Scoop the icing into a pastry bag and, using a flat, 1/4-inch wide tip, make a cross-shape on each bun, piping into the indentation you created with the butter knife. Wipe up any icing that falls on the parchment, where it will smoke and burn.
  5. Slide the baking sheet into the oven, baking the buns for 15 minutes. While they are baking, combine the apricot jam with an equal amount of very hot water and a pinch of cardamom, mixing until you have a thin wash. When the buns are done take them out of the oven and using a pastry brush, lightly brush a small amount of thinned jam onto the top of each bun while they are still hot, making sure not to smear the icing. Be judicious! No one likes soggy buns. Transfer buns to a cooling rack. Serve warm with butter and more jam, if you like.
Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

My hot cross buns! Think I did pretty good

My hot cross buns! Think I did pretty good

The Hot Cross buns were so yummy! I can’t believe how good they were; light and fluffy and full of fruit and spicy flavours. What more could you want from a Hot Cross bun.

A pie to die for – Timpana, like lasagna in pastry!

Week 16 – Malta

Timpana  – A Rustic Pasta Pie

How can you go wrong with a pie? Everyone loves pies! In this rustic but decorative version, pasta is baked with Bolognese style sauce further enriched with chicken livers and eggs, in a golden, flakey puff pastry case. Filling and tasty, it’s like lasagna in a pie!

 

Valetta

Malta  – the place

The Republic of Malta is several islands, part of a ridge once running from Africa to Europe, it’s closest to Sicily. Waves of invaders from the Phoenicians, The Romans, the Knights of St John, the Moors and more, have left it with a unique and varied history. Its strategic position has given it an importance much greater than it’s tiny 316km² size. In fact Malta is one of the worlds smallest and most densely populated countries and has the smallest capital in the European Union.

Despite it’s tiny size, it boasts nine UNESCO world heritage sites. Valetta, the ancient capital called The Fortress City, “a city built by a gentleman for gentlemen” named after it’s founder a Grand Master of the Order of St John with the magnificent Grand Harbour dating from Roman times, it’s one of the worlds most concentrated historic cities.

Other places include an underground temple or necropolis called the Hypogeum in Paola and 7 Megalithic structures which are among the oldest in the world, and plenty of really impressive cathedrals. Plus possibly the worlds best diving site, there are natural features of the stunning Blue Lagoon and Azure Window, an impressive limestone arch on the coast.

During the Second World War, Malta was besieged and endured the heaviest and most sustained bombardment in the entire war. Over 15,000 tons of bombs were dropped from over 3,500 unrelenting raids continuing every day for 154 days and nights. After the war, King George VI acknowledged this debt, awarding to the people of Malta collectively, the George Cross, Britain’s highest award for civilian bravery – “to bear witness to ……..(their) heroism”

Malta – the food

As expected there are many strong influences in Maltese cuisine, notably Sicily and Britain, as well as Spanish and Provençal. Traditionally the food is a hearty peasant style typical of the Mediterranean. Making the most of local seasonal produce, such as olives, cheeses, sausage, breads, seafood and rabbit, fresh vegetables especially tomatoes and garlic, with wild herbs like mint, thyme and oregano.

Sweets are often very sweet with Arabic influences in pastries and sweetmeats like nougat, macaroons and nut and especially citrus flavoured delicacies. Other desserts are more Italian such as Cassata, granita  or Kannoli. English classics like bread and butter pudding, trifle and apple pie are made with interesting versions and there is a huge range of biscuits to nibble on.

Locally produced wines from the limestone soils are robust reds and crisp dry whites and beer has been brewed here for centuries. Unusual liqueurs like Prickly Pear, Almond, Honey, Carob and Blood Orange are made and very popular too.

This recipe is adapted from http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/timpana Thanks SBS – we love you!

Timpana

Timpana – Pasta Pie                                Serves 8 -10

Ingredients

  • 3  tb butter
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 150 g bacon, finely diced
  • 150 g minced pork
  • 150 g minced beef
  • 150 g chicken livers, diced, (optional:substitute with 100g mushrooms sliced + 50g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in boiling water 15min, then strained, keeping juice)
  • 250 ml chicken/ beef stock
  • 1x 4400g can tomatoes/400ml tomato puree
  • 2 tb tomato paste
  • 300 g macaroni or penne
  • 75 g parmesan, grated
  • 75 g tasty cheese, grated
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • salt and pepper
  •  3 x puff pastry sheets approx. 26cm²
  • 1 egg, beaten to glaze

Ingredients

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F. Heat the butter in a large saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the bacon and pork, stirring well to separate, then add the beef and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring every so often.
  2. Add the chicken livers if using and cook for 5 minutes. (If using mushrooms, add them and juice from porcini now).
  3. Add the stock, the tomato paste and puree, and season. Simmer 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Sauce needs to be quite thin and liquid as pasta will absorb a lot more liquid while cooking.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until little undercooked. Drain, then mix through the sauce. Stir in the cheeses and egg and check seasoning.
  5.  Line a buttered baking dish with the pastry, extending it up the sides. Spoon in the pasta and cover with another layer of pastry. Prick the timpana all over with a knife to let steam escape. Cut strips of extra pastry to decorate the top.
  6. Beat the egg and brush it over the timpana. Bake for 1–1¼ hours.
  7. Serve with a nice green salad to balance out the richness, some crusty bread and a glass or two of red! And as they say on Malta – L-Ikla it-tajba!