Wednesday, 31 October 2007

The overwhelming taste of cashew nuts, with just a dash of rosewater

I haven't yet recovered from the rosewater virus. After rosewater lassi I made rosewater and black tea granita and the illness probably isn't going to stop after this fudge either...

This fudge is actually called Kajoo Barfi, it's an Indian dessert, rather a candy, that's especially popular in southwestern parts of the country.

Cashew nut fudge with rosewater (Kajoo Barfi)
(Julie Sahn's Classic Indian Cooking, Epicurious)

4 3/4 dl cashew nuts
1 3/4 dl sugar
1 tbsp butter
2 tsp rosewater

  1. Place cashew nuts in a bowl and pour boiling water over them, soak for 1 hour.
  2. Drain the nuts and grind them to a fine paste in a food processor or in a blender. Add sugar and turn your food processor/blender on once more to mix it with the paste.
  3. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the nut paste. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook the paste for 20 minutes, frequently stirring it and scraping the sides and bottom of the pan. The fudge has to become thick and sticky.
  4. Meanwhile prepare a surface for the fudge: a greased cookie sheet, a greased baking pan, foil or silicone mat. It has to be about 22 cm x 22 cm (9 inches)
  5. Mix in the butter and pour the fudge onto the prepared surface and spread it evenly. Let cool thoroughly.
  6. When cool, brush with rosewater
  7. Cut into squares or diamond-shaped pieces. The recipe suggests about 4 cm (1 1/2 inch) pieces, but I like smaller ones better.

I decided to brush only half of the fudge with rosewater (on the right in the picture on the right:)), worrying about what my family would say. I accidentally used all of it, though! The fudge took more time to dry, but the amount of rosewater was actually perfectly OK. The fudge itself is chewy and sweet, quite soft too, I'd say. An overwhelming taste of cashew nut must be one of the best tastes in the world - this is one good recipe for achieving it.

And this fudge is something I could eat...forever.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Warm sweet-savoury feta cheese

An impressive appetizer that's ready in 5 minutes.
OK, so you'll be washing the dishes afterwards, but that like...doesn't count. Let someone else do that.

It's a dish inspired by Cretan cuisine, both salty and sweet and can confuse your taste buds to the point where they stop analyzing and just start enjoying. As the flavour is quite intensive, I wouldn't serve as big portions as the original recipe suggests. I cut them in two - this wasn't all I was eating, OK? This is actually called an appetizer, not a Huge Main Dish. The aniseed's flavour - that's not less intensive. So if you're not too fond of it, add just a teeeny bit or skip and be proud of it.

Grilled feta with honey and aniseed
(Epicurious, serves 4-8)

400 g feta cheese, cut into pieces
4 tsp olive oil
3 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp whole aniseed
ground/crushed black pepper

  1. Preheat your oven's grill element
  2. Divide feta between 4-8 small baking dishes and brush or drizzle with oil
  3. Grill about 3 minutes, the cheese should turn golden (Mine didn't, but tasted good anyway)
  4. Meanwhile, combine honey and aniseed in a saucepan and heat until hot or do the same thing in a small bowl with the help of a microwave oven.
  5. Drizzle 1/2 - 1 tsp honey mixture (according to the size of the serving) onto every portion and sprinkle with ground/crushed black pepper.

The feta, salty as ever, doesn't get any milder in my opinion, but rather gets this strangely addictive extra nuance of good gooey sweetness. I like how the texture changes in the grilling process and the cheese is a bit grainy afterwards. If the dish is almost empty, there are still tiny pieces of feta that have been soaking in honey and have the richest taste. Aniseed, though voluntary for all the (silly) picky eaters, gives the cheese a very different flavour and is a must if you want to impress someone. Including yourself.

If served warm, I'd recommend serving the feta with crisp bread. I also imagine it over some green salad with just a drizzle of olive oil for the summer. When the dish has cooled, the cheese becomes firmer, but the good flavour remains. I Enjoyed the leftovers with some juicy oven-baked salmon this evening - a good combination.
Thank God I'm not a picky eater:)

Monday, 22 October 2007

Lime marmalade

A friend gave me four limes that she had but knew she wouldn't use, making me responsible of preparing something mouthwatering out of them that she'd love too. It's not easy to find recipes JUST for limes, but when I found a recipe for lime marmalade, I was Yes yes yes yes I'm going to make it.

To reduce bitterness, I planned to leave the white rim out of the marmalade. Doing this took more time, but was worth the effort. I didn't reboil the jars in a water bath, but if you want to preserve the marmalade for a longer period (let's say you already want to make Christmas gifts), do it. As it has a heap of sugar in it, I believe well-sealed jars should keep well without doing it too.

Lime marmalade
(adjusted from Food down under)

4 limes
3/4 l water water
about 8 1/2 dl sugar

  1. Wash limes very carefully. Remove the green zest (make sure you only remove the green part) and cut into thin strips.
  2. Remove the white layer and slice pulp into thin slices, discarding seeds.
  3. Place the slices and zest in a bowl, cover with the water and let the mixture soak overnight.
  4. Next day pour the mixture into a large pot and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.
  5. Measure the cooked mixture and add the same amount of sugar. I had 8 1/2 dl of the mixture, so I added 8 1/2 dl sugar to it.
  6. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves.
  7. Boil rapidly, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches the jell point. (I think that took me up to 40 minutes)
  8. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
  9. Pour into clean jars (I had enough for 3 little ones) and seal. (If you want to boil them in a water bath, leave a 2 cm space between the marmalade and the lid)
  10. Process in a water bath: place the jars into a big pot so that water covers them and boil for 10 minutes.
Although I left out the white layer under the zest, the marmalade is still a bit bitter, but that's not a bad thing as it's got the bitter taste of the zest itself. Even on a slice of bread the marmalade creates the effect of a lime bursting in the mouth. In a clean and nice way, of course. It's filled with strips of zest and looks good.

How to use it? Some of my marmalade is for sure waiting for a decent cake to crawl between its layers. Glazing some meat with it could be a good idea, too.

And my friend? She began screaming when she received a jar. And today she spent almost 5 minutes telling me how good the marmalade is and how her parents wanted her to call me and say thank you.
Oh, thank you:)

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

A rainbow of curd cheese

Now that is one wicked cake.
Not in a bad way, but in the best of ways.

I discovered the idea of a rainbow-coloured cheesecake at Slashfood, where there's a recipe for Tie-dyed red velvet cheesecake, a huge hit at Walt Disney's Pop Century Resort in Florida. That's some serious Disney dream food porn, I tell you.

So I took the idea and altered one of my favourite curd cheese cakes for my nephew's second birthday. It's really really fun for children to take part in making this cake - my three-year-old niece absolutely loved splashing mixtures of different colour onto the crust and basically never stopped saying 'that cake is so lovely', adding 'we never make this cake at home' from time to time...

Rainbow-coloured curd cheese cake
(moderated from Pirukaraamat, serves 8)

3 1/2 dl flour
4 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggyolks
2 tbsp lemon juice
2-3 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt

3 dl curd cheese
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp light cream
3 eggyolks
2 dl sugar
2 1/2 dl sour cream
1 tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla sugar
food colouring (5 different colours is good. So is less. So is more. You can also use one color in different amounts for different tones. Unsweetened cocoa powder serves as brown food colouring.)
(Chocolate streussels)
  1. Mix flour with baking powder.
  2. Add butter, yolks, sugar, salt and the mixture of lemon juice and water.
  3. Press the dough onto the bottom and edges of a greased 24 cm pie mold / springform pan.
  4. Mix together curd cheese, vanilla sugar, flour and light cream.
  5. Beat yolks with sugar using an electric mixer, add butter and then add the mixture of them to curd cheese.
  6. Divide the mixture between different bowls and add a different food colouring to each bowl.
  7. Now start adding colourful splashes or stripes or drops or patches of whatever shape and size you like onto the crust. Try not to mix up the colours - you don't want a weird brownish cake, really. You can make interesting shapes as the last layer, write something or even draw a picture if you happen to be a professional artist. If you want, sprinkle with some chocolate streussels.
  8. Bake at 175C for about 45 minutes
  9. Let the cake cool completely before serving and cut it with a sharp knife. If the sides of the slices don't retain clear colours, try holding the knife in hot water before cutting a slice.

The cake is very creamy from the yolks and sour cream. It's sweet, it's good. Unfortunately I didn't have very interesting colours, but the splashing game is worth playing even when there are only two colours - kids love making it and kids for sure point their fingers towards the 'colourful cake' when they're asked if they're still hungry.

There are - of course - certain aspects...

When I made the cake together with my niece, it definitely took more time and the colour spots kind of flattened - resulting in a not that wonderful cross section of a slice. I tried making a small cake with batter of about the same thickness a week before and got this - looks better?

And another thing - could this amount of food colouring be a problem? I'm not a chemistry expert, but this stuff is not natural... This scared me a little - red spots on the kids' faces caused by me - not good! Luckily no red spots have been discovered so far and no moms have yelled at me.
But that's the only problem I can think of.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Rosewater and black tea granita

There's somebody out there who thinks like me.


If the love for tea meets the love for rosewater then finding a recipe for Rosewater tea granita means that the actual dish may as well be in the fridge already.

The original recipe suggests to serve the granita with baklava. I believe it would make a good refreshing accompaniment to this nut and phyllo cake that's sticky from amounts of syrup, but on a weekday evening a refreshing dessert on its own is good enough already.

My recipe is approximated for the metric system, the instructions are made a bit easier. If you have a good bowl that you can use in the freezer as well, use it in the beginning already.

Rosewater and black tea granita

1 l pure water
1 1/2 dl sugar
1 tsp rosewater
5 teabags of black tea
1 1/2 dl light cream/ half and half
  1. Mix water, rosewater and sugar in a bowl/pitcher. Add teabags.
  2. Cover with foil and leave the bowl on a sunny windowsill for 3 hours.
  3. Discard teabags and add cream.
  4. Pour the mixture into a dish that you can use in the freezer. When the mixture has frozen by a couple of cm from the edge, break the ice cristals with a fork and mix the whole thing well. Do this after every 30-60 minutes until all of it has turned into nice cristals.
  5. Scrape granita from the bowl with a fork and serve immediately - that's the easy version. You can also break the ice cristals finer in a food processor and then serve or put the dessert back into the freezer for serving later.
The important thing in the making process is that you mix the granita thoroughly. Otherwise you'll have a watery upper layer. It is later great to discover from the bottom of the bowl that - oh - this stuff does have a taste, but discovering that is hardly the idea:) So - do mix it well. If you don't do so, you'll have to let the mixture melt and then start the freezing process again.

Tastes good! Imagine some outdoor event at winter where they serve people tea for free - it's always black tea and has a heap of sugar in it. The granita is sweet as well, but instead of being in the mittens the coldness is in your mouth and what's warm is not the tea, but rather the heart. Rosewater is not a taste in the foreground, so it's okay to add it even if you're not a fan - the taste of 'free tea' gets a nice 'expensive' nuance from it.
I once also tried mixing the granita with some flavoured yoghurt and got a good cool dessert.

For me the punch line right now is that an ice cream truck just drove past my house. Don't you just hate the tune?