Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Camouflage goes purple for eggs

It's funny how there's this long, this really long line of recipes waiting outside the kitchen door, but despite that fact a new one sometimes knocks off that door with no particular reason and elbow's its way straight onto dinner table. Well, yes, I admit, it has happened once again. Last week I stumbled over a picture of pickled eggs and got a bit too curious. After reading several recipes I decided to make my own the next day. Stumbling ain't bad. Not bad at all.

As it was yet a test, I only took three eggs (for what reason? for what?). I put them into marinade on Saturday and kind of felt like eating them three days later, although I had planned to do it after 5-6 days as some recipes suggested. But three days was just fine to have enough taste and a fabulous purple colour. You can adjust the quantity of eggs and marinade for your own needs. The amount of beets doesn't necessarily have to be big.

Pickled eggs with beets

3 eggs
1 boiled beet
1 small onion
2 dl beet juice
0.3 dl balsamic vinegar
0.3 dl soft brown sugar
some basil leaves or dried basil

1. Prepare hard boiled eggs and shell them.
2. Cut the beet and onion into slices, place them into a bowl together with the eggs.
3. Bring the beet juice to a boil
4. Add the balsamic vinegar, sugar, basil and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar has dissolved.
5. Pour the marinade over the eggs and cover. Let the bowl stand in the refigerator for three days.

The eggs look really dark on the outside and have a dramatic effect. The inside is not gummy as you might think, it's rather soft and silky. The taste is not acidic, it's truly beety and with a nice sweet accent. I really like the beets too, the thin slices have this nice caramel taste. The marinade that's left over in the end could be used as a sauce for meat after reducing it a bit.

I ate the eggs with cottage cheese and some rye bread. It would be just perfect to serve them sliced to guests, herring as the classical companion. 10 points for camouflage.

The recipe also takes part in the event Food Fight #1, whose host is Allen from Eating Out Loud

Update 1.1007 : The photo takes part in the event Click: the photo event, which is a wonderful new food photographing event that concentrates on a different theme every month.

Monday, 26 February 2007

Melting lime cream tartelettes

Summer it was. Long-long days, generous amounts of sunlight and light salads that were just dying to be followed by something sweet. That was the moment for fetching a cool lime cream tartelette. Just to discover, after having begun eating it by small bites, that one crumbly half of it has to be swallen by whole. And as these bites were starting to become an addiction, I decided to send the recipe to the Estonian food magazine Oma Maitse. Voila! I got a prize for it in October. Why are the tartelettes 'melting'? As I unfortunately discovered, it's mission impossible to take them to friends in summer - gelatin tends to do nasty tricks (Although the taste won't be damaged for the bravest of friends). But with the kind of weather we're having now - ready! set! go!

The picture featured in the magazine didn't however have such bright yellow cream, probably because the cooking team didn't use the eggs of happy home-grown hens (that's the reason why every Estonian should have a homestead).

Using the same recipe, it's possible to make tiny one-bite sweets or bigger tartelettes. The smaller, the better, I'd say: more flavour in every bite and room in the belly for more:) It's really easy to use ready-made tartelettes, or bake your own in a muffin pan or in metallic moulds. For filling 300 g ready-made tartelettes I used about 2/3 of the creme.

Lime cream tartelettes

3 eggs
3 yolks
200 g butter
180 g sugar
1 dl lime juice
sour juice (i.e. redcurrant)
tartelettes (cooled if made at home)

1. Melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in sugar, lime juice, eggs, yolks and vanilla. Whisk over medium heat until the cream thickens (about 10 minutes).
2. Pour the warm cream into tartelettes and let them cool for at least an hour.
3. Now the jelly. You can add water to the juice if you like (I don't - the more taste, the better). Soak a proper amount of gelatin in it, heat the juice to dissolve it and let it cool a bit.
4. Place some berries onto the cream and pour the juice onto the tartelettes. Let cool.

Sour-sweet-crumbly-creamy-juicy tartelettes are often even better to eat with a cup of tea than a slice of cake. It's a simple pleasure, enjoying them while they're slowly crumbling between your fingers.
It's quite odd that when I went to fetch my prize (vegetable oil-juices-margarines) in the rather end of October, some of the margarines had already reached their expiry date. Fortunately it's the only bad thing I can say about the magazine. Still, it would have been polite to at least inform me of the need to receive them as soon as possible. Having won something, one doesn't want to whine, but something like that doesn't lighten the mood very much.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Vaquelin - how to meet the whole family's sweet needs using just one eggwhite

It's a known fact that it's possible to increase the volume of an eggwhite by beating it for...well, lots of times. According to Hervé This (a French scientist, the founder of molecular gastronomy) it can be increased even more by just adding liquid and some sugar to stabilise the foam and increase the viscosity of water.

I was inspired by a post from blog.khymos.org to make the following experiment.

1 eggwhite
1.5 dl liquid (I used dewberry juice)
2-3 tsp sugar

I considered a suggestion from a comment and first dissolved the sugar in the juice. Then I beated the eggwhites for some minutes with an electric mixer (instead of 5-10 minutes as I didn't use my manual whisk, the wires of which are rather thick and would've made the job too time-consuming). It's important to use a really clean and dry bowl. While still whisking, I started to add juice. Bit by bit. And the volume really did increase, resulting in a decent bowlful of foam.

But that's not it yet. To prepare a fine dessert of this foam, you should heat it up a bit in a microwave to make the proteins set. Some tablespoonfuls at a time is a good way to do it. Hervé This has named this dish Vaquelin after the French chemist Louis Nicholas Vaquelin. As the proteins set really quickly, it's important to heat the foam only during a very short time or it will collapse. That's why I tried it using the 500W setting for different times: 5, 7, 10 and 15 seconds.

It's visible that the structure of the foam doesn't change much after 5 seconds. Although, after 10 seconds it already begins to collapse from the bottom when a spoon is stabbed in. 15 seconds makes the foam collapse entirely.
It seemed to me that the volume kept increasing in the microwave for about 8 seconds, after that it lessened a bit. That's why I used 500w and 8 seconds of cooking time for the final results.

After adding some berries and cinnamon the dessert was ready. With a funny and light texture that melts in the mouth and surprisingly warm for the eaters when served immediately. Still, it's possible to serve it a bit later too, the vaquelin will gladly wait. The dessert is definitely innovative. A good perspective for university students with money problems? Or weight-watchers? It's also suggested to use orange or cranberry juice as the liquid or even red wine. Worth to try anyway!

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Marshmallows for my Valentine

It's this time of the year again and this year there had to be something better than muffins with burnt bottoms. Something sweet. Something pink. Something...marshmallow. I did adore these sweets when I was little and bought them in those lovely plastic cornets whenever I had the money and chance to do so. Although food colourings are put far away at our house, Valentine's day means time for some red paint on luscious sugar candies. Because there has to be a time for that every year.

Marshmallows with a hint of rum

5 dl sugar
2 1/2 dl water
1 dl water + 6 tsp gelatin
some liquid red food colouring
rum essence

for coating:
1 2/2 dl powdered sugar
4 tbsp starch

1. dissolve sugar in water
2. bring it slowly to a boil and boil, uncovered, for about 15 minutes
3. remove from heat and let cool a bit
4. soak gelatin in 1 dl water for some minutes and then warm it up (it's easiest to do it in the microwave, but you can use waterbath too). when the gelatin has dissolved let it cool a little.
5. mix together syrup, food coulouring, vanilla, rum essence and gelatin mixture. using an electric mixer, beat it up to form a thick mass (it took over 10 minutes for me).
6. pour the mixture into a baking dish (about 20 cm) that has been lined with film and let cool in the fridge.
7. when the mixture has jellied, cut it into pieces (put knife into hot water before cutting to make the process easier) and roll them in the mixture of powdered sugar and starch.

I'll take them to school with me along with Valentine's Day wishes. I would have never believed that marshmallows actually have almost nothing in them. Of course there is some really suspicious chemistry in the candies from these plastic scones, but...home-made...well-made. And marshmallows, especially home-made (and especially well-made) will hopefully catch smiles.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

More tosca, less cake

While eating tosca cake, haven't you ever wished for just more of that fabulous almond coating and less, well...cake? I certainly have. My favourite coating is from a recipe for tosca buns. This time I tried it with simple Digestive cookies. It was fast, simple and...know what? Had less cake!

Tosca cookies

50 g butter
1 dl sugar
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp milk
100 g sliced almonds

a bunch of Digestive cookies
(or any graham crackers)

1. melt the butter in a saucepan.
2. add flour, sugar and milk, bring the mixture to a boil.
3. stir in the sliced almonds.
4. spread the mixture over cookies
5. bake in the oven at 200C for about 7 minutes or until the almonds are golden brown.
6. let the cookies cool a bit before transfering them away from the griddle.

I was afraid the cookies would brown too much, but they didn't! It was child's play, it was so easy. The cookies would be perfect for surprise guests when you discover you've got nothing special to serve them. And whenever you feel like tosca cake...there's nothing more simple.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Having-it-all muffins

What if you had a muffin dream? No, really, let's imagine. What would the muffins be like? They should have every good thing in them, right? Starting with...honey. Definitely some berries. And I really like cheesecake, they should have cheesecake too. What about almonds? And cinnamon? Lime? After a day outside in the cold I was ready to take the challenge. What a lovely challenge it was. As a base recipe, I used a recipe for honey muffins.

Honey muffins with cheesecake and everything

Muffin batter:
100 g butter, at room temperature
150 g honey (liquid or melted)
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
2 eggs
4 dl flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon

Cheesecake mixture:
350 g cream cheese
2 eggs
1 dl sugar

some cherries
sliced almonds for coating

1. Prepare the cheesecake mixture. With an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, sugar, two eggs and vanilla.
2. Now the muffin batter. Beat together butter, honey, lime juice.
3. In another bowl, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and add to the mixture.
4. Mix flour with baking powder and cinnamon, add to the mixture and stir until just combined.
5. Now fill the muffin pan. Place a cherry or some on the bottom of each cup, then add muffin batter. Pour cheesecake mixture over it and cover with sliced almonds.
6. Bake at 200C for about 18 minutes.

The muffins taste overwhelmed by honey, teased by the scents of lime and cinnamon. Cherries add a sourish juiciness and complete the overall sweet taste. The mild cheesecake topping with crunchy almond slices...the muffins do have a nice combination of textures.

It's repeated often that too many flavourings should not be used together. Well this time I put everything together and it worked just fine. Or actually...these muffins are the best I have ever made. And together with some cold milk...the best I have ever eaten (although I admit I'm not a big muffin fan). Having a muffin dream would not be so bad after all.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

A sweet surprise of carrot truffles

Carrots do go with anything. Either slightly crunchy or attractively creamy, it's possible to smuggle them into most dishes. I smuggled them into chocolate. And no, I don't feel guilty.
I remember eating carrots in the garden when I was little. I pulled some out of the ground, threw the leaves just over my shoulder behind some bushes, rinsed the vegetables in some rainwater (gathered into an old bath) and champed them happily, possibly together with some soil. It's time for carrot eating to become elegant.

Carrot truffles

500 g carrots
200 g raisins
1 dl sugar
50 g butter
150 g sliced almonds
1/2 tsp ground cardamum
chocolate for coating

1. Shred the carrots and and put them together with the raisins into a pot, add water to only cover them.
2. Boil the mixture, uncovered, until the water has evaporated and remove from heat.
3. Add sugar, butter, almonds and cardamum to the mixture and puree it until almost smooth
4. Return to heat for some more time to reduce liquid content
5. Let the mixture cool, shape into balls and cover with chocolate

I actually wanted to use white chocolate but didn't have the chance, so I substituted it with a mixture of dark and milk chocolate. It worked as well, but I believe that the version with white chocolate could be much different. Some lime or orange peel could also be added for an extra twist. The original inspirational recipe actually called for figs instead of raisins (I do have a budget, you know).

No-one I offered the truffles to actually understood what was in them at the first place. Nifty, isn't it? The filling was soft and silky, the raisins somehow deepened the taste. Definitely a make-again.