24/03/2014

Tahini Cake

Yes, that’s right. Tahini cake.

Tahini isn’t just for savoury things. It also makes the most delicious sweet things. After all, you can have sesame ice cream in Japan, and mochi rice sweets with a sesame filling, yes?

Sesame is one of those things, like cinnamon, which is neither sweet nor savoury, despite the thought that one is sweet, and one is savoury. Both are, in actuality, neutral, but lend themselves extremely well to both, and can be used either way.

I use cinnamon in beef stews, and crushed with garlic and butter to put under and over the skin of a roast chicken. Cinnamon goes in my Bolognese sauce, and my chilli con carne. It’s an undertone mostly, just that hint of something, unless I make stifado, in which case it’s a full on hit, combined with rich, red wine, beef and onions.

Sesame paste is a wondrous thing. I grew up with it in houmous, but my most favourite thing was a coiled cake called tahinopita. Oh how I loved those sticky pastries. I still do.

Tahini cake is an easier way to get that taste, without all the fiddle. If you do not like tahini – and I am aware it can be an acquired taste – then you can use smooth peanut butter. Just warn people in the kitchen about which one you are using, because when as ex of mine took a joyful spoonful of tahini before I could stop him…let’s just say that he was not a happy boy.

I will also admit that tahini can be a bit hit and miss. Sometimes it can be so bitter that it’s just too overpowering, but at other times, it can be so silky smooth that I could eat it all on its own, just with some warm bread.

My favourite one so far has been from The Turkish Deli in Borough Market. It hasn’t let me down yet.

And so. The cake.

The recipe is taken from my very old Greek cookery book, The Best Book of Greek Cookery, from around 1976 or so. My original one lost the back few pages, and the cover, but oh joy of joys, I found a reprint.

3 cups plain flour, sieved

2 tsp baking powder and 1 of bicarb

1 tsp salt

1 cup tahini mixed together with 1 cup orange juice and 1/2 cup water

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup each of chopped walnuts, sultanas and candied peel if wished

1/2 tsp cinnamon extract or 1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

Icing sugar

Whisk the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt together.

Pour in the tahini/orange/water mixture. (Add the extracts to this if using)

Stir very well. It will be very stiff, more like a dough.

Pour – well, gloop – into an oiled tin 13” x 9 x 1” deep.

Bake in a moderate oven (oh Greek measurements! I set the oven at 170C fan) and bake for 45 minutes.

Sprinkle with icing sugar if you like, but I added cinnamon sugar to the top before baking.

For a cake with no eggs, and no oil, it’s pretty light!

Flour and oranges

Finished cake

Cinnamon sugar surface

Enjoy! I know I will.

Turkish Breakfast Rolls - acma

I love bread. Almost all bread. But there is a special place in my heart for sweet, tender, yeasted doughs that yield to the knife with just the merest hint of resistance and accept the butter graciously.

Turkish breakfast rolls are one such bread. I love them, I wanted to make them, and I found a very easy recipe which proved to be not only easy, but fairly quick, and a great success too.

This is very important to me because I am not a confident baker at all, especially when it comes to yeasted doughs. I always desperately want it to work, and it’s never quite how I want it to be.

THIS WAS.

Here is the original recipe, all thanks to Christi at the excellent Honey and Butter blog. Christi is married to a Turkish chap, and has the most brilliant recipes, and stunning photos on her site.

Acma (Rich Turkish Breakfast Rolls)

1 1/2 cups hot milk
1/2 cup olive oil (I used extra virgin because that’s what I always have)
1 medium egg, separated
3 tbs sugar (I used golden caster)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs yeast (1 7g sachet of dried)
500g strong white bread flour

Separate the egg yolk. That is for glazing the rolls later.

Beat the egg white a little and mix with the milk, oil, sugar, salt, yeast and flour. I mixed it all in with a dinner knife, and then kneaded it for a couple of minutes, just to bring it together.

Set aside, covered,  to rise for 1 hour. I left it for 4 hours, and it was still fine.

Divide the dough into egg sized pieces. This made 12 rolls, each was about 78g. Yes, I weighed them. Smile

Shape each into a rope and twist. I DID NOT DO THIS.

Bring the ends together and seal. OR THIS.

I just shaped them into balls using this method by Richard Bertinet (from 12.15 minutes though I could watch him for hours.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOjSp5_YiF0

The dough is incredibly well behaved, and lets you shape and roll with no sticky problems.

Place the rolls on a baking sheet. I use a non-stick silicone liner because they are so useful and truly non-stick.

Brush with the reserved egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds.

Let rise for 30 minutes. Squeak excitedly when they actually rise.

Bake at 375/Fan 170C for 15 minutes. USE A TIMER.

Squeak again when they attain oven spring.

Remove, and let cool on a rack.

TELL TWITTER AND FACEBOOK ALL ABOUT IT  EXCITEDLY!

Egg yolk

Milk and yeast dough first mix

Risen

Shaped and seeded

After 30 minutes

Oven spring

Finished rolls

The finished article. Slightly sweet, rich but not too much. Fluffy and light but substantial enough for sandwich fillings.

Finished roll

Next time I could fill these with cheese and parsley, or a sweetened tahini filling – the possibilities are endless.

Thank you Christi!

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07.05.2014 UPDATE

This bread has been on my mind since the last time I made it, so today I baked it as a loaf, in the hope that I could get it out of the forefront of my cooking brain.

It worked extremely well as a loaf. Soft and airy, almost brioche-like in texture, but without all the butter and eggs. I baked it for 18 minutes at 170C fan.

Here, have some photos, before I eat the whole thing.

Acma shaped loaf

Finished loaf

Close up

Crumb

Torn section

Easy Hollandaise with Wild Garlic

Every so often I get to London Bridge very early before work, and I simply can’t resist heading in to explore Borough Market before getting the bus to Aldwych. It starts the day off nicely, and I also get to catch up with some of the traders.

I am honestly never happier than when I am wandering through a food market. Recipes and combinations sleet through my brain pretty much non-stop, and it can be tiring, sometimes a little frustrating because there’s no kitchen there that I can run to, but oh it’s so much fun.

It does lead to a few fixations every now and again. When I saw fresh bunches of spinach? That resulted in the spinach cake. Artichokes? Well, that ended in a whole globe artichoke and Hollandaise with wild garlic.

Wild garlic goes a long way. A LONG way. Pungent could sum it up nicely.

One very small bag of it did the Hollandaise for Friday lunch, lamb burgers for Friday night dinner, and then a slow steeped oil to marinate baked chicken on Sunday.

Now. Hollandaise. One of the proverbial Kitchen Nightmares, yes?

No. Not if you use a recipe by the lady TiAn, here:

http://www.unrulybliss.com/recipe/easy-hollandaise-sauce/#comment-1297711757

I did exactly as she said to do. More or less. These are her words, my changes are in italics.

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter {melted and hot}
3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch cayenne pepper (I didn’t add this.)

Directions

Blender / Food Processor Method

Pour the egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and salt into a food processor and blend everything for 20 to 30 seconds.
Slowly drizzle the butter into the processor until all of the butter is incorporated.  Keep blending until the hollandaise sauce is thick and creamy.

Hand Whisk Method  {My husband makes the sauce this way and it’s delicious and amazing!} (I used an electric hand whisk, much easier on the forearms.)

Pour the egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and salt into a medium sized bowl and whisk everything together for 1 to 2 full minutes {whisk as fast as your arm allows}.

Slowly drizzle the butter into the bowl in batches.  Pour butter, then whisk for a bit.  Pour more butter, then whisk for a bit.  Keep repeating until the butter is gone.  Continue to whisk the mixture until it becomes thick, creamy, and frothy {approximately 3 to 4 minutes}.

(I added the butter in one long, slow trickle, whilst whisking. It didn’t split!)

I had some wild garlic, and I really wanted to use it, but not too much, so I added 2 tbs finely chopped leaves to the Hollandaise once it was done, and just stirred them in. The garlic will get stronger the longer it sits in the sauce. The next day it is powerful, so be warned!

The finished, lovely article.

Finished sauce

And the uses thereof:

Artichoke whole

Artichoke with sauce

Baby 'chokes

Chokes and lemon

Olive oil and chokes

Roasted baby chokes and hollandaise

23/03/2014

Turkish Spinach Cake

Yes. Spinach. Now, before you go “Ugh!” or roll your eyes, just remember back to when carrot cake was seen as something weird and possibly icky.

Cakes made with vegetables are really not new, and they can be incredibly tasty. Chocolate and beetroot, parsnip and walnut, courgette bread, sweet potato brownies and, of course, the carrot cake.

For many ideas, it’s worth while buying Harry Eastwood’s book Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache. Lovingly written, and with excellent recipes. Her butternut squash, chocolate and peanut muffins were fabulous.

People are always wondering  how to get more veggies into people who allegedly hate them, and so cake is a grand idea. Plus, if they don’t like it, then you have more cake. Win win, right?

I admit, I’m not a great fan of spinach, unless it’s mixed with either feta or paneer, so when I first tasted spinach cake at the fabulous Tas (warning: site has music when it opens) in Waterloo, I was incredulous. This sweet, light, lovely cake, made from spinach? I had to find the recipe.

Then I promptly forgot all about it.

This week, I found a recipe online at the fabulous Binnur’s Kitchen. My mum lives in Turkish Cyprus now, and when she lived in the UK she dated a Turkish Cypriot man who owned a restaurant, and so I have sampled the cuisine a lot. Turkish and Cypriot cuisines have a lot in common (yes, really, get over it) and I’m always on the lookout for new recipes to try and recreate at home.

http://www.turkishcookbook.com/2007/01/spinach-cake.php

I gave it a go.

500g of spinach leaves is a lot. It’s about three bunches of the broad leafed variety, stalks cut off. It also takes a long time to properly clean it. The bunches from the Turkish grocers always have a lot of sand on them, but it is worth it. I far prefer it to the smaller leaf variety that we generally get in the shops here.

Leaves

So. After a mammoth washing of spinach, into the food processor it went. Halfway through the blending,  the lid of the processor cracked! It was well over 25 years old, but seriously Braun, timing?

Cue a pause in cake making as we went off to buy a new one.

Once we got the new one set up, and I had stopped being scared of it*, I decanted the spinach and tried again.

500g spinach, pureed

3 medium eggs

1/2 cup olive oil (I’m tempted to use lemon olive oil next time)

1 1/2 cups caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbs lemon juice**

2 1/2 cups plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

I whisked the eggs, sugar and vanilla together by hand, then mixed in the flour, spinach and baking powder.

It smelled lovely, and what a colour!

Batter

Poured it into a tin lined with non stick foil (oh I do love that stuff) and baked for 30 minutes at Fan 170C.

Eh voila! Cake.

Cake

I turned it out, and let it cool. It does sink a little, and it does discolour a little too.

It is a very dense cake. I suspect that there was too much olive oil, and possibly too much water from the washing.

It is, however, very tasty. It reminds me of matcha green tea ice cream. Next time, BUY LEMONS! I think I might add more vanilla and some nutmeg too.

Cake pieces

* This is the first new electrical kitchen gadget I’ve bought in years. I’m used to knowing how everything in my kitchen works, and this new shiny thing threw me a loop.

**The recipe asked for lemon juice but *HORROR* I had no lemons! I added 2 tbs lemon olive oil to the spinach, to see if that would work.

01/03/2014

A First - Plain Scone Round

DISCLAIMER: It’s MY scone, so I do it MY way. Jam or cream, they go on the way that I see fit. Ner. You all can argue about the right and wrong, I’ll be eating my scone.

Anyway.

I’ve never made scones. There. I’ve said it. I hate rubbing the fat into the flour, as it makes my hands hurt almost instantly. Any recipe that says to do that gets done in the food processor.

Today though…I had found some Rodda’s clotted cream, and wanted scones. I wasn’t going to buy them, as the shop bought ones usually have way too much bicarbonate of soda in, and I really do not like the taste of that, so the only way was to make them myself and adjust the quantities. I wondered if the processor would work the dough too much, so I just pulsed the butter and flour, then did the rest by hand.

I found a Delia recipe online for the basics, and then off I went.

http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/european/english/plain-scones.html

225g plain flour (that was all I had.)

1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 level tsp cream of tartar

pinch salt

40 g cold butter

110 ml milk

1 tsp vanilla

1.5 tbs caster sugar

Beaten egg to glaze the top if you want

I pulsed the butter, flour, salt, bicarb and cream of tartar in the food processor until it looked like fine breadcrumbs, then pulsed in the sugar.

Tipped the lot into a bowl and added the milk and vanilla then brought it together with a table knife.

Once it was almost together, I tipped it out onto the work surface and kneaded it lightly until all the flour was incorporated, then patted it out gently into a round, then just decided to bake it as a piece. Fewer items to wash up, and the dough wasn’t overworked.

Put it onto a lined baking tray then baked it at 220C for 10 minutes, then put on an egg wash, then baked for another 5.

I was most surprised that it worked!

It made for a lovely afternoon tea, and the Rodda’s did not disappoint in any way. Clean tasting, beautifully smooth cream, and perfect with the strawberry jam. I love St Dalfour jams, as they are all about the fruit, not the sugar.

First Ever Scone Round

Teatime

Roddas

Close up scaled

French-ish Onion Soup with Cheese Sprinkles

Lordy I just have to write this recipe down before I forget it.

I wanted soup. I’d baked a lot today, and didn't want anything heavy for dinner so soup seemed ideal.

I just seem to have a thing lately for clear, hot stocks. Nothing claggy, no roux, just stock with interesting things in. This was so simple, I will definitely be doing it again. You could do this with only white onions, and use a chicken stock, perhaps add some fresh herbs.

1 small red onion, peeled and sliced into half rings

1 small white onion, peeled and sliced into half rings

1 extra rich beef Knorr stock pot

Balsamic vinegar

Butter

Olive oil

Grated cheese

Melt a good amount of butter in a pan, about two tablespoons, along with a tablespoon of olive oil.

Add the onions, coat well and cook on a very low heat until soft. This takes at least 20 minutes, possibly more depending on the onions.

Add 2 tsp balsamic vinegar, turn the heat up to medium, and sauté until the edges start to caramelise. Ten or so minutes, but watch it.

Then turn the heat right down, and leave to continue cooking until the whole lot is a dark, uniform colour and completely soft.

Add as much water as you want soup, I used around 600 ml, then add in the stock pot.

Bring to the boil, then leave to simmer.

I had made a cheese scone earlier in the day, so I split a piece and topped that with the grated cheddar that I had left over from the scone and grilled it for ten minutes. It became the scone equivalent of the cheese crouton you get in proper French Onion Soup. Plus the excess cheese made the sprinkles!

If you don’t have bread or a scone, then just spread the grated cheese on a LINED baking tray, and grill on medium until melted and spread out, and golden at the edges. Leave to cool on the tray.

Serve the soup with the cheese broken up and sprinkled on top.

Scone and Soup

Soup