Monday, March 31, 2014

From dieting to candy-overdose...

Look! It's another month of Foodie Penpals! Time just keeps on flying! And I get no less nervous and excited about sending and receiving packages.

This time I got to send a package to the lovely lady over at Corpulent Capers. It was my first time sending a Foodie Penpals parcel to someone who didn't want sweets, so I was a bit nervous about how things would go. But turns out she totally loved the (black) Hawaiian salt I sent her! Can I please find a mountain again to scream something along the lines of how awesome I am? I mean: YES! There's no better feeling than sending someone something they like. It's become my monthly dose of self-confidence now!

Then there was a package full of goodies for my monthly dose of calories and foreign food! Christine sent me a parcel full of little things with little notes for me to try. Most of it was gone within a day or two. I mean, look at all that candy! How long would it last for you? I mean, gummy bears are like the best things ever! And I also mean you can never go wrong with caramels that taste like toffee and no words can explain crunchy caramelized almonds in a milka chocolate bar. As in I mean I'd kill to eat that chocolate all over again! (I'm a meaningful person it seems...)

I also got two different types of drinks: a hot and a cold one. I started with the iced tea drink and I was very surprised it worked. I wouldn't have thought putting a teabag in cold water would have much effect. I did put in lots of honey though, as my idea of iced tea has nothing to do with tea. Then, even though the weather is not at all implying we drink hot chocolate anymore, I sneakily had one last night. It's not as chocolaty as home-made hot chocolate, it's very creamy so I was enjoying every sip!

But there was more! These are all things I haven't tried yet though. I can't wait to try the aromas! I wonder if it gives a stronger flavour than the zest and essences I've been using. Oh yes, you can't see on the pictures but I also got a jar of fig jam! I've made quite a few of those last summer, but the one Christine sent me is so much softer than everything I made. I love it! I totally smashed the jar even before I could take a picture of it though. The little bit I managed to save is now sitting in my fridge!

Thank you so much Christine for all the things you sent me this month! And thank you Mrs. from Corpulent Capers for sending me all those lovely e-mails and pictures of socks!! I really enjoyed this month of Foodie Penpals again!

I hope you have a lovely and amazing week!

Anyone in Europe who wants to join this lovely project of sending random bloggers foodie presents? Check this link for more information. I could totally recommend it and I would love to see you there so I can shower you in whatever goodies I can think of!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jaje Dadar (Balinese coconut crêpes)

This weekend I was innocently strolling around the internet went suddenly *BAF* I found myself in the middle of Bali. Where we could be celebrating Nyepi on the 31st of March this year. Nyepi is the Balinese Day of Silence or the start of the Lunar Year of the Balinese calendar. This day, I found out, is truly a day of silence. Four Nyepi rituals are honored: amati geni (no lighting fires or lights), amati karya (no work), amati lelungan (no traveling), and amati lelanguan (no leisure activities). A whole day of fasting and rituals! Actually, Nyepi starts a few days before that with rituals and a parade of "ogoh ogoh" (demonic statues) and continues the day after with two rituals.

I couldn't explain what the festival is like. I have been to Bali, but it wasn't during Nyepi and it's so long ago I don't remember anything in the first place. But we could create a Balinese dish and meditate a bit? It's the closest thing I've got here!

As a Balinese dish I decided to make Jaje Dadar or Kueh Dadar or Kuih Ketayap. Regardless of the name, Jaje Dadar always consists of coconut, crêpes and pandan (leaves.. but don't worry I didn't have those either. There's a way around them!). The recipe possibly has Malaysian rather than Balinese roots, but that shouldn't stop you from making this. Eating these as snacks feels a lot healthier than cake, which I usually make and the coconut makes it tastes a lot fresher. The only thing I regret is not being able to use real 'gula melaka' or palm sugar.

Jaje Dadar
makes 12-15 - inspired by W&W

50 grams dark coconut or palm sugar*
100 grams grated coconut
2-5 tablespoons water

2 eggs
200 grams flour
425-475 ml coconut milk (and/or water or milk)
Few drops of pandan essence** 
pinch of salt and sugar
butter for greasing

1. Start by making the filling: put the sugar and water in a pan on medium fire until the sugar has dissolved. 
2. Add the coconut, stir until coated and keep cooking until the coconut turns dry(-ish) again. Set aside to cool while you make the crepes.
3. Then make the crêpes: add all ingredients together and mix. Press through a sieve to get rid of lumps if you have any. The crepe mix should be very runny.
4. Make crepes the way you would usually make crêpes or pancakes. Try to make them as thin as possible! Bake for a few minutes on each side until ready and leave to cool.
5. Now put them together! This part is fun to explain: place a spoon or 2-3 of coconut on a crêpe. Let's say, just below the middle. Fold 3 sides inside over the coconut (bottom first, then left and right), leaving one long side for rolling. Now roll.
6. Best eaten immediately! But can be stored in the fridge for several days. Just heat it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften the crêpe.

* Or light palm sugar. You might've noticed I cheated on this one!
** You can substitute with vanilla, but it won't taste the same. Like, far from, but it will still be pretty good!

So, what do you think? It's a lovely flower, right? Oh, you were busy reading the recipe? You got distracted by the overwhelming amount of (untraditionally white) coconut inside a crêpe? Or did you get stuck at my attempt to describe how to fold a crêpe? Perhaps this part needs another one of my amazing drawings to clear things up! 

Anyway, take care and till next time! Enjoy your week! (On a side note: someone please do my homework for me! It's too much to take! D:)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

All the things we're missing out on...

So a whole week has gone by and I'm pretty late with posting, but I have found a recipe to share! Along with 2 festivities we've been missing out on. Well, I have at least...

White Day (14 March) - Remember the Japanese Valentine's Day? Women give presents to their male family members, friends, colleagues and their lovers (occasionally to female friends). On White Day it's the men's turn to return these gifts. The rule is to give something 2-3 times the worth of the present they've gotten. Just like Valentine's day, this day started out purely as a commercial stunt. This time a Marshmallow company started the hype and to this day most of the presents given are white (white chocolate, white lingerie, white cookies, etc.), hence the name White Day. White Day started out in Japan (around 1977-1980!), but has now also spread out to surrounding countries such as Korea and China.

Saint Patrick's Day (17 March) - The day on which we commemorate the Irish Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick is credited for bringing Christianity to Ireland. Legend has it he used a shamrock to explain the holy trinity to the pagans, which is why to this day the shamrock is Ireland's national symbol. So St. Patrick's Day started out as a christian commemoration, but has now turned into a festival of drinking, eating and dressing up (in shamrock green!). It is celebrated no longer in only Ireland, but also in other parts of the world where Irish settlers settled down, such as Canada, Great Britain or New Zealand and has even spread to countries such as Japan and Korea (assumingly because the Irish people love spreading the... Guinness?).

The Librarians Recipe
serves 1 - Nanny Ogg's Cookbook

1 banana

1. "Ook" (Translation: Take one banana.)

If you're familiar with Terry Pratchett or the Discworld series, this recipe should sound somewhat familiar. If you're not, then 1) you're totally missing out! and 2) this recipe is a personal favourite of The Librarian of the Unseen University (where unfathomably wise wizards live who grow their beards long to keep their knees warm [that's wisdom for you right there]). The Librarian (not just a librarian, but The Librarian. Please note the caps.) is 'Certainly not a monkey'. It's best not to ask any questions beyond this. But if you need any information from books that bite or make you go mad on sight, he's your man!
Picture from Nanny Ogg's Cookbook, drawn by Master Paul Kidby
No, I'm not cheating! This is one of the best and easiest recipes and definitely super traditional. I'm sure this was a recipe before the word recipes was invented. It totally counts.

I hope everyone has a lovely week! Take care!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Furikake - Japanese rice sprinkles

Because anything that is called sprinkles is instantly fun. Furikake actually means "sprinkle on top". Which is exactly what the Japanese do with furikake. It's sprinkled on top of rice to give it more flavour.The stories goes a pharmacist invented furikake in the early 20th century. The Japanese lacked calcium in their diets, so mr. Yoshimaru invented something to compensate. He dried calcium-rich fish, ground them and added several other ingredients and created a Gohan no Tomo ("Rice's Friend").

Let's skip straight to the recipe. This is a Western-style Furikake mainly because I came up with it myself. (I wonder how much I'll be scolded if a Japanese person comes across this.) If you like the idea of seaweed and rice, you should totally make this recipe! It takes roughly 10 minutes to make and it's really easy! In fact, I made it extra hard for you by making you to roast the sesame seeds. It yields about half a cup of furikake, which is enough for 1-2 family meals depending on how seasoned you like your rice. (In the pictures I used furikake to season onigiri, japanese triangle-shaped rice balls.)

Western-style Furikake

4 tablespoons wakame (dried seaweed)*
1 sheet nori sheet (more seaweed)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon salt

1. Shred the nori into small pieces. Chop the wakame into small pieces if needed.
2. Roast the nori, wakame and sesame seeds in a nonstick pan. As soon as the sesame seeds are golden brown, take off the heat and all the salt.
3. Leave to cool and put in a fancy jar or add to cooked rice straight away. You can use it to sprinkle on top of rice or to mix into cooked rice.

*If you don't have one of the seaweeds in your (Asian) supermarket, you can substitute one for the other. If you don't have either, you can either give up or get awesomely creative and use some of the suggestions below.

This is a very plain furikake and the kind that will keep longest. There are furikake recipes that use soy sauce or mirin which look really delicious, but if you're not Asian and you don't eat rice a lot like I do, these recipes will give you too much furikake that will only last a week or two. I found this recipe to be a very nice alternative.

Ah yes, since it's so simple, please feel free to add any extra ingredients you like. I've seen recipes using chilli flakes, bonito flakes (fish), dried umeboshi (pickled plums), dried carrots, sunflower seeds, dried tuna or shrimps and, actually I could go on forever.. Since furikake simply means "sprinkle on top", there are endless variations. Most recipes will use anything dried you can imagine, but there are even some that will use fresh ingredients.

Personally, I was very surprised to hear furikake is quite a recent invention and it was originally made for medical purposes. Furikake is a Japanese standard addition to rice for both breakfast and dinner. Imagine finding out that salt was not originally a seasoning, but a medicine. Then again, I suppose the Dutch have the same problem with liquorice. We don't seem to be very bothered by the fact that our candy is used as medicine in most countries. Actually, didn't cola also start out as medicine?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Prajitura amandina

Lesson in Romanian: Prajitura means "cake" or "confection". Amandina is the name for this type of cake: a syrup-soaked, layered chocolate sponge cake. And all that for two different festivals you may or may not have missed this weekend: Mărțișor and Carnaval.

Carnaval - I don't think it's needed to explain what it is. But perhaps you don't know why we're celebrating: carnaval is celebrated directly before christian "lent": the 40 days of fasting before Easter. So before people started this fasting period, they had to get rid of all the food they had left. And what better way to use up all the food you're forbidden to eat for 40 days, by binge-eating everything in one go during one big party? Sounds very reasonable to me.

Mărțișor - if you're not Romanian, chances are you have no clue. Mărțișor is a traditional Romanian celebration on March the 1st. It marks the beginning of spring. It traditionally symbolizes the beginning of a new year, the continuation of life and fertility. During this celebration people give each other small talismans: a red and white string tied into a bow with a small token. The talismans would ward against evil spirits and give the wearer good luck, health and prosperity.

Amandine is actually not related to either Mărțișor or Carnaval. Neither festival seems to have some traditional food, so I decided to go with a tradtional Romanian cake in stead. Amandine is a variation of what we would probably call Chocolate truffle cake.

Makes a 20x30cm cake - adapted from grabielacuisine and roxyskitchen

Chocolate sponge cake
6 eggs
200 grams suga
40 ml (sunflower) oil
40 ml water
200 grams flour
3 tablespoons cocoa
200 ml water *  
5 tablespoons sugar  
1 tablespoon honey  
2 tablespoons instant coffee *
1 tablespoon rum (optional)

Butter-cream layer
270 grams butter
200 grams chocolate
5 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
Chocolate ganache glaze
200 grams chocolate
100-150 ml whipping cream or milk

Chocolate sponge cake
1. Seperate the egg yolks from the egg whites.
2. Beat the egg whites with the sugar until stiff. (In my opinion gradually adding the sugar to the beaten egg whites works best.)
3. Beat the egg yolk until light and creamy. Gradually adding the oil while beating.
4. Fold the egg yolk into the egg whites. Add the water and fold until you have an even mixture.
5. Sift the flour with the cocoa and fold gently into the egg mixture, while taking care not to over mix.
6. Bake in a preheated oven of 200 degrees Celsius or 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20-25 minutes until a skewer comes out dry.

Syrup **

1. Add all the ingredients, except for the rum, into a small pan. Put on high heat until everything is dissolved.
2. Add the rum while the syrup is cooling.

Butter-cream layer
- It is best to start making this layer when the cake has completely cooled down. At the very least, never put this cream in the fridge as the chocolate will set and it will become impossible to work with.
1. Melt the chocolate and leave to cool slightly.
2. Cream the butter, add the melted chocolate, and mix.
3. Sift the powdered sugar together with the cocoa and mix into the butter. Add more sugar to taste, if needed.

1. Once your chocolate sponge cake has cooled down completely, cut the cake in half (in a way that you can fill it with cream and not have it look rather odd). If needed, even the top by slicing any uneven cake off.
2. Soak the bottom and top cake layers with the syrup. There are two ways to go about doing this: a) sprinkle, b) soak to death so you can actually taste the syrup. As horrible as it might feel while making the cake, please opt for the last one.
3. Spread the cream evenly over the bottom layer. Leave a few millimeteres excess at the sides, as the cream will push to the sides when you add the top layer.
4. Put the top layer on top of the cream and push down gently.
(5. Cutting the cake before adding the glaze gives a nice effect, but is also a lot more work- your pick!)

Finishing touches: Chocolate ganache glaze
1. Melt the chocolate with the whipping cream or milk and pour over the cake.
2. Leave to set before cutting the cake (if you cut it already: it's practically ready to serve!).
3. Add whipped cream, sprinkle nuts, sift cocoa, decorate with chocolate figures or anything else to turn this layered chocolate desert into something fancy!

* Rather than using instant coffee and water, you could use freshly brewed coffee or cappucino. (stronger coffee flavour = better, and you know it!).
** The recipes I found use double the amount of syrup I mention. Since I was totally scared my cake would fall apart I used even less, but try to use at least this much!

This is definitely my longest recipe yet. Despite that, it doesn't take any longer to make than say, a Spanish apple cake. I take my time no matter what kind of recipe I'm conjuring.

On a 'small' side note: I'm loving the chocolateness of this cake, but think it can improve a lot. Like, rather than a light sponge, next time I want to go for a rich brownie cake. And then in stead of heavy butter-cream in the middle, I want to go for something lighter, perhaps adding sour cream for a bit of tang. Oh, and the whole thing needs more coffee flavour. If we're going to bother putting a coffee syrup in it, I want to be able to taste it! Of course, if I/you use all these suggestions, it will definitely not be an Amandine anymore. It might be more of a Chocolate-coffee-brownie-quadruple-layered-truffle-cake-dessert. I'm good at naming cakes, aren't I?

Another Romanian festival we've missed: Dragobete on the 24th of February. This is the Romanian version of Valentine's in which couples show their love for eachother, but is celebrated differently (although how exactly is hard to find, the customs seem to vary greatly depending on age and location). It's a pity I find out about these kind of celebrations only after they've happened. Anyone else knows a celebration I've missed in these first 2 months of the new year?