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

 

 

An ancient bread : Injera from Eritrea and Zigni

ERITREA : Wholemeal Flatbread with Spicy Beef Stew

“Oh no” my son groaned – “not more African food!” Not much can be done about it, there just are an awful lot of African countries! So in our quest to cook from every country in the world, African food will feature a lot obviously.  However this meal was a surprise, very spicy (which we like) and the bread was delicious.

History

Eritrea wasn’t on the maps when I was growing up, then it was part of Ethiopia (which my mum called Abyssinia) but became a separate country in 1993. The modern name comes from early Greek meaning Red Sea, once part of the fabled Land of Punt in the horn of Africa. That’s the hook that sticks out into the Red Sea opposite Arabia.

Known as the cradle of (human) life, many ancient kingdoms have risen and fallen in and around this area. After 1869 and ‘the scramble for Africa’ Italy claimed this territory and it became Italian Eritrea in 1880.  A legacy of that time is the wonderful Italianate architecture in the capital city Asmara.

Danakil Depression Dallol

Now sadly Eritrea is a little visited place, due to on-going hostilities with Ethiopia (who may possibly want some of their coastline back)  and Djibouti. Eritrea has a long coastline, and in a world first in 2006, made the entire length an environmental protected zone.  Wildlife is protected and is rich and varied, with lots of large animals like lions, leopards, elephants, wild ass, oryx, jackals, gazelles and baboons.

Landscapes

Keren

Eritrea is a volcanic hot-spot, where three tectonic plates meet, giving the dramatic Martian landscapes of the Dankalia region with psychedelic sulphurous pools, and the impressive Danakil Depression, one of the hottest and lowest places on earth, with virtually no rain, Never-the-less it was where ‘Lucy’ the 3.2 million year old hominid the earliest ever. was discovered.

Sharing part of the Great Rift, there are awesome mountains in the south, and thick tropical jungle in the cooler fertile highlands.

Dahlak Islands

Coral Reef off Dahlak Islands

Cuisine

Obviously the traditional food of Eritrea is very similar to Ethiopia and Somalia, using lots of spices and tomatoes but less butter. A huge favourite is the herb and spice paste Berbere, which is eaten with just about everything. Basic foods are flat-breads (injera)  made from teff, sorghum, barley or wheat, and grains cooked like porridge (akelet) .

Legumes especially lentils and fava beans and vegetables are also key staples and the meats are beef, goat, lamb and near the coast, fish. Milk products like yogurt and fresh cheeses also feature and  spicy meat and vegetable stews known as sebhi are the main type of dish.

Drinks are a beer  brewed from corn and barley and flavoured with wild buckthorn (sowa) and mies a sweet wine made from  honey. Coffee preparation and serving has a very important ceremony and is drunk in enormous quantities.

Injera

INJERA

Ingredients

  • 125 gm wholemeal flour and 125 gm white flour
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 pinch baking soda
  • 2 cups warm water
  • ½ teaspoon of salt

Preparation

  1. Process all ingredients except salt for 1 minute
  2. Add salt and whizz again for 15 seconds.
  3. Let mix stand covered for 30 minutes in warm, or in fridge for 48 hours if possible to ferment slightly.
  4. Heat a nonstick frypan or griddle on medium high, add a dribble of oil. Pour a small ladle of batter for each injera and swirl mixture quickly with the back of a spoon to spread it out.
  5. Cook on one side for 1 minute 30 seconds to 2 minutes, turn to brown other side. Keep warm

Mimsey’s Zigni with Injera

ZIGNI: Spicy Beef Stew

Ingredients

  • 500 gm beef mince
  • 1 x 400 gm tin diced tomatoes in juice, not drained
  • 3 spring onions/scallions sliced
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves,  chopped
  • 4 tablespoons berbere (recipe below)
  • 1 bunch coriander/cilantro, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons oil
  • Salt
  1. Heat oil in medium frypan or saute pan over medium-high heat. add the beef mince and brown.
  2. Add the onions, garlic and cook till softened. Add capsicum and cook 2 minutes.
  3. Add the berbere and mix well and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Adding the tomatoes and their juice, season lightly, reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
  5. Five minutes before serving,mix in the chopped coriander.
Berbere

Berbere Spices

BERBERE

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 ½ tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 8 cardamom seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of white pepper
  • 2 cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon

Method

  1. In a small heavy frypan, toast the whole spices on low for 2 minutes till fragrant.
  2. Allow to cool, grind to a fine powder
  3. In the pan, put all the ground spices and salt and toast on low heat for 1 minute.
  4. Add garlic, onion, salt and water, gradually, stirring constantly. Mix well.
  5. Add the ground spice mixture, stir thoroughly and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes, then blend to a smooth paste.

All this took quite a while to make, so my advice is to make the Berbere spice paste one day and the Injera dough if you want, and then make the beef stew the next day and cook the injera too. We were surprised how spicy this dish was, and it was very tasty, particularly with the flatbread which really was delicious. We liked it enough to have it again, a rare accolade indeed. 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.

Serbian Apricot Torte

WEEK 12 – SERBIA

Apricot Layer Cake

Torta Praska – Apricot Layer Cake

Hi everyone it’s Roma here, so last week I got Serbia out of the box.

Country Information:

Serbia is a land-locked country in south-east Europe. It’s got expansive mountains which are spread through-out the nation. Belgrade is its capital city and over 2 million people live there. Serbia has produced some very famous people such as Nikola Tesla who contributed to the invention of modern electricity and Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, and Novak Djokovic who are all world-renowned tennis players.

It is well-known for its beautiful Orthodox monasteries around the mountain Fruska Gora, in the north of the country. Also it is one of the ten countries in which the Danube River (Europe’s longest river known as an International Waterway) runs through, which crosses the top half of the country.tur-fruska-gora

 

Cuisine:

Serbia has a diverse cuisine taking influences from a number of other countries cooking techniques and styles such as; Mediterranean, Central European (especially Hungarian and Austrian) and Turkish. Food is important in all social and family gatherings or celebrations such as Christmas and Easter.

Bread is a staple food like many other European countries along with milk, cheese, fruit, vegetables and meat. Serbia has made quite a name for its self with an alcoholic drink – Slivovitz, a plum brandy and also claims it’s the birthplace of Rakia, a highly alcoholic beverage primarily distilled from fruit.slivovitz_white

What I made:

I chose to make a dessert this week for a change, and I found a delicious sounding recipe for an Apricot Torte. The cake has three layers of a soft buttery dough, then crunchy cinnamon sugar and nuts, the second layer is spread with freshly made apricot puree and then topped off with a nutty baked meringue. This cake was a good choice to make as this is apricot season here in Australia. I found the recipe here apricot-torte

Apricot Puree

I changed the recipe by making my own apricot mixture for in the cake. I did this by cutting up 7 fresh apricots and put them in medium saucepan with a few tablespoons of water and a tablespoon of sugar and cooked that mixture for 15-20 minutes until the apricots were soft and had thickened. I also changed the quantities in the recipe, as it made a huge cake serving 12!

And we found that on the day we didn’t have enough walnuts so I used some flaked almonds instead. This cake takes quite a long time to make but it was worth it, it was especially good when served warm with whipped cream. This cake scored 9/10.

Apricot Torte

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  •  ⅛ cup warm water
  • 165gm softened butter
  • 1¾ cups plain flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup finely chopped walnuts/slivered almonds
  • ½ rounded cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup of apricot jam or fresh apricot puree (see above)
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ cup castor sugar
  • ¼ cup flaked almonds/finely chopped walnuts

Method 

  1. Dissolve yeast in ¼ cup warm water in a small bowl and set aside. Grease a cake tin 26cm x 16 cm x 3.5cm deep. Heat oven to 180 °C.
  2. In a processor or mixer, blend the butter and flour. Mix the egg yolks, sour cream and add to the yeast. Add to flour mixture and blend until a ball of dough forms. Do not knead.
  3. Divide dough into 3 equal parts. On a lightly floured board, roll 1 part into rectangle and place in prepared pan.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix the chopped nuts, sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over dough in pan. Roll out second piece of dough and place on top.
  5. Spread with apricot filling or jam. Roll out remaining piece of dough and place on top. Bake 45-50 minutes or until top is golden brown and is cooked.
  6. Just before ready, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Add castor sugar gradually, beating until stiff peaks form. Remove torte from oven and spread meringue over top. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup nuts.
  7. Bake until meringue is golden. Remove from oven and cool a little, serve warm.

 

 

 

 

 

A Swiss cheese experiment, two breads and a surprise from Somalia

                   Week 4 Switzerland and Georgia 

SWITZERLAND – CHEESE FONDUE & POTATO ROSTI

‘My daughter was excited to have picked Switzerland as her country this week, and despite the recommendations of both parents, Bunny was eager to make a Cheese Fondue. What is the appeal of fondue? Why do people think it sounds so yummy? An iconic dinner party dish from the 70’s,  I always loved those cute little fondue sets with their wooden fork handles each a different colour. I never bought a set though, because having had cheese fondue once, and disliked it – I never wanted to have one again! And yes, we have had it out at a Swiss restaurant and we still didn’t like it at all.

The Mystery of the Fondue

Let’s face it, you can only be fond of fondue …….if you’re Swiss. It’s the kind of very plain subsistence (one could say peasant) type food that is born out of harsh necessity. Developed during long, cold winters in Switzerland when the food started to run out, cheese fondue is an exemplary example of making a warm and filling dish out of scraps, in this case  – hardened old cheese, stale bread and a splash of wine.

I’m sure fondue is dear to so many Swiss hearts because they grew up with it. And like so many dishes you grow up with,  it’s comfort food. It becomes very nostalgic and isn’t just a dish, but your childhood and all the happy memories associated with it.  For those of us non-Swiss peoples, it remains a culinary  siren,  sounds so alluring but in the end you wish you hadn’t.

Not all Recipes are Created Equal – A Sad Fact but True

Undeterred Bunny went to enormous lengths to obtain the correct cheeses to make her fondue, and used vast quantities of bacon making the accompanying Potato Rosti. Using a recipe from the internet, Bunny spent a very long time making this dish. Now my daughter is only a young teenager, and while she loves cooking, is still only learning. One lesson she finds very hard to accept is that just because a recipe is online or even published in a book, doesn’t mean it’s a good recipe or that it will work! Also being methodical, Bunny likes to follow a recipe to the letter, which is normally good practice –  but she lacks the experience to tell when a recipe is badly written, and needs to be adjusted.

Sadly this was the case in our Swiss experiment, the fondue made with vast amounts of expensive cheese was really ghastly – so strong and so overly cheesy that we could hardly eat it.  I gamely ploughed on eating because she had gone to so much trouble- but Hubby and son gave up quickly. And the Potato & Bacon Rosti, exactly following the recipe,  was really greasy and had way too much bacon – and I love bacon! What a shame! All that hard work, not to mention the cost of the ingredients, wasted on a meal we could hardly eat.

How to Choose Good Recipes

My advice to all you cooks out there, be careful in choosing your recipes. Use well-known cookbooks that have been properly tested, preferably three times. On the Internet, use recipes from sources such as magazine websites, TV shows or food companies where the recipes have been professionally developed and tasted. Use your own common sense, analyse the recipe – does it sound yummy? are the ingredients in proportion? does the method make sense? If in doubt, make small quantities as a test batch. And finally don’t stop experimenting – just be prepared for a few failures!

I found this recipe on another lovely local site – http://www.georgianrecipes.net. One thing about this around the world cooking thing we are doing, is that only a few years ago, before the Internet ( yes there was life before the Internet kids!! Hard as that may be to believe! ) this would have been almost impossible to do. It amazes me that no matter how remote and little known some of these countries are (half the people I asked had never heard of a country called Georgia, or Comoros or knew where Somalia was )  there is a web-site dedicated to the food and culture of these places! OMG the world is getting smaller all the time.

GEORGIA – KUBDARI – MEAT FILLED BREAD                             (Makes 4) 

 

OK, so Georgia. Hands up those who knew it’s part of the former Soviet Union?  Tbilisi is the capital city, and the whole country has had waves of foreign conquerors from the Romans, Persians, Ottomans, Mongols and finally the Russian Empire.  The infamous Joseph Stalin was born in Georgia and it was once called Colchis and Iberia. Colchis is famed as the place at the end of the world where Jason and his Argonauts travelled to steal the Golden Fleece.

Now it’s more well known for the Krubera Cave – the deepest in the world,  over 600 glaciers in the Caucasus Mountains, many hot springs and 4 World Heritage sites including the medieval monastery complex at Gelati. And of course food – Georgians take their food very seriously and have a special traditional Feast called a Supra, which is led by a Toastmaster.

This national dish, Kubdari is a delicious meat-filled pasty, very much like a Cornish Pasty. Ideal to take on picnics, it’s robust enough to stand up to carrying around and I imagine it made a hearty meal for hungry peasants toiling in the fields all day.

Georgia

Ingredients (filling): 500 grams of pork, 500 grams  beef, 1 medium sized onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 third tsp of ground caraway, 1 quarter tsp of finely chopped dill, 1 level tsp of ground coriander, 1/2 tsp of ground fenugreek, 1 tsp of paprika and salt to taste

Ingredients (dough): 900 grams of flour, 400 ml of warm water, 1 level tbs of yeast, 1 tsp of sugar, 1 tsp of salt, 1 egg (optional) and 200 grams of all-purpose flour for dusting and kneading. Butter for glazing.

Preparation (filling): Finely cube the beef and pork and add to a mixing bowl.

Finely chop the onion and garlic and add to the mixing bowl, together with 1 third tsp of powdered caraway, 1 quarter tsp of powdered dill, 1 level tsp of dried coriander, 1/2 tsp of blue fenugreek, 1 tsp of red pepper, and salt (amount dependent upon individual preference).

Use your hands to thoroughly mix and squash the ingredients. This helps to ensure that the pasty is juicy and the spices blend with the meat.

Preparation (dough): Kubdari requires a robust pastry.  To make it, add 400 ml of water (heated to 35 C) to a bowl and stir in the yeast.

Add 900 grams of flour to a mixing bowl and make a depression in the flour. Add the yeast water and a raw egg (optional). If you want the pastry to have a golden colour, add 1 tsp of sugar. The dough should be formed into a soft ball.

Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in a warm place for 2 hours for the dough to rise. Once the dough has risen, add 150 grams of flour and firmly knead the dough.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Shape into balls and the cover with cling film and leave for 10 minutes.

Roll out each ball  into large round, add 1/4 of the filling. Gather the dough together, pinching the top to seal it

Carefully roll the filled dough into a circular shape that is less than 20 cm diameter. Don’t flatten it too much. Bake on a flour dusted baking tray at 200 C until the dough becomes golden brown. The meat will cook inside in its own juices.

Serving: Brush each Kubdari with butter and serve hot.

With these pasties,  I served Georgian style red cabbage and buttered boiled potatoes with fresh herbs. My family all love pasties and pastries and this savoury stuffed Georgian bread was a hit. Simple but tasty, filling and moreish, definitely would make it again as it was quite easy to do and well worth it.

 

Week 5 Somalia and Belize

I was a little dismayed to have selected Somalia – wasn’t this an arid  war-torn and famine ridden country of little resources? What on earth do they eat in Somalia, that is, when there is any food available to eat? I imagined this could be another one of those countries where there is NO CUISINE just Food (if they’re lucky.)

The capital city is Mogadishu and Somalia is often thought to be the location of the fabled Land of Punt written about by ancient Egyptians. Famed for it’s gold, ebony and ivory, wild animals and the highly prized frankincense and myrrh so treasured by the Egyptians, it had a ‘golden age’ in the Middle Ages.

Map of Somalia

 

SOMALIA – LAMB SURBIYAAN with SOMALI FLATBREAD    (Serves 4)

I was greatly surprised by this traditional dish from Somalia, not that it was so delicious, but that it was so similar to the more familiar Biryani’s or Pilafs from India or the Middle-East. Given where Somalia is located, in the Horn of Africa just across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen, I guess that shouldn’t have been unexpected.

The spicing was more subtle than the rich Biryani’s I’m used to, but it was equally delicious. I enjoyed making these Somali dishes, the soft spongy pancake –  like bread, Lahooh,  was fun to make and eat and the shredded vegetables were sort of like a cooked coleslaw. I found all these recipes on a very informative site called http://www.mysomalifood.com.  We ranked this meal highly and put it on our – ‘Would make again’ list.

Ingredients

1/4 cup oil                                                1 onion, sliced,

1/3 cup raisins                                         1 teaspoon saffron threads

1/4 cup boiling water                              2 cups basmati rice

2 1/2 cups water                                       1 kg lamb leg or shoulder steak, cubed

1 small onion, chopped                            2 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped                           2 tablespoons coriander/cilantro leaves chopped

2 tsp coriander powder                           2 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp paprika                                               1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

5 cardamom pods cracked                       2 cinnamon sticks

2 tablespoons lemon juice                       1 tsp salt, black pepper

Method

  1. Heat 2 tb. oil over medium heat, add the onion and a pinch of salt, fry until golden brown. Add the raisins and cook until they puff up. Drain on kitchen paper.
  2. In a small bowl, soak the saffron in boiling water for 10-15minutes.

  3. Rinse the rice,  place in medium saucepan with the water & pinch salt. Bring to boil & cover, turn down heat & simmer on low 4 minutes till half cooked. Cool.
  4. Heat rest of oil in a large saute pan or frypan, saute the lamb until brown. Add onions saute until brown, then add the spices.  Stir 1 minute.
  5. Add lemon juice, garlic, tomatoes, and coriander. Mix this together then add 1/2 cup of water & cook for 3 minutes until fragrant.  Bring to the boil then let it simmer while covered on a low-medium heat for 15-20 min.
  6. Add the par-boiled rice,  flatten top, pour over the saffron & soaking liquid. Top with the caramelised onion and raisins.
  7. Cover, bring to boil again, reduce heat to low and simmer until  – take care NOT to BURN the bottom as all the liquid will be absorbed.  The rice should be fluffy and the meat tender.
Somalia

Somalia

 

LAHOOH – QUICK SOMALI FLATBREAD

1 cup plain flour                                   1/2 cup wholemeal flour

1/2 cup cornflour                                 2 cups milk

3 tsp baking powder                            1 tb sugar

1 egg                                                        1/2 tsp salt

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend to a smooth batter, add little water if necessary.
  2. Heat a heavy frypan on medium,  then heat a few drops of oil,  pour in 1/4 cup of batter starting from centre and s spiralling out to evenly cover base.
  3. Cook till golden brown, can cover pancake to set top if you like.
  4. Keep warm on a covered plate while making the rest. Serve warm.

Traditionally these are eaten in Somalia for breakfast with honey, and I can see this would be delicious. They remind me of a Dosa, also a delicious pancake type flatbread.

BELIZE

My daughter Bunny had picked Belize out of the box, another country we knew little about, other than it was in Central America. It’s famous for the Blue Hole – a fantastic natural  wonder made famous by Jacques Cousteau, the second biggest Coral Reef in the world and it’s stunning biodiversity. Over 60% forest, Belize is home to rich array of flora and fauna, including a Jaguar reserve.

Once the epicentre of the Mayan world, it has their spectacular ruins. Formally a British colony, it’s still a Constitutional Monarchy, and English is the state language.

After a bit of research she came up with a typical Belize meal that sounded nice, a stewed chicken, rice and beans dish. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get the Recado or spiced Annatto paste that gives this dish it’s distinctive rich red colour and probably a lot more flavour. So it ended up OK, but nothing to write home about. I think it was a bit bland for us, we all like big strong flavours and this pleasant, mild dish just didn’t do it for us.

Oh well,  onward – next week another country, and another chance to try something new and exciting!

 

 

 

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