Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Geeky Stats Cooking - Aruba

I'm back on my culinary tour of some of the lesser visited countries in the world - more specifically I'm trying to cook something from every country that I've not had a blog visitor from (assessed via the ever insightful Google Analytics).

So far I've ticked off  Gibraltar, Georgia, the Isle of Man and Monaco. Now it's Aruba.

I made Pan Bati which are a traditional side dish of cornmeal pancakes flavoured with vanilla. Apparently they are often served with fish as a main course accompaniment, but we had them cut into fingers and dipped in fruity custard for pudding - a very untraditional (but toddler friendly) approach!

The recipe I found here was a little vague... so I'm posting my own version here which are also dairy free. As well as pinning down a quantity for the sugar, I made the executive decision to use fine polenta: the recipe specified cornflour but from the picture I reckoned it actually meant cornmeal, rather than the white powdery stuff we call cornflour in the UK.

I cooked half of the mixture using the quantities of flour and liquid specified in the recipe, but it was pretty sticky and even over a fairly low heat seemed very prone to burning long before the middles were cooked. There are three possible causes I can think of... 1) the addition of cornmeal, since I've never had this happen with regular pancakes 2) I used hazelnut milk, which I don't think I've tried to cook with in anything fried before or 3) the thermostat on the hob is wonky, so even though the dial was set to medium low, I was actually cooking on 'super heated'. I think (hope) that it's probably a combination of the first two!

Halfway through cooking the mix, I decided to add some liquid - I went with about 1/4 cup extra of water which made a huge difference. They still burned easily, but cooked super quickly and were done in the middle at the same time as the outside.

The taste of the pancakes is lovely and they are a little bit more dense than regular ones. I'm not sure I'd want to eat them with fish or other savoury dishes, but perhaps if there was only a smidge of sugar they'd be perfect. They would certainly mop up juices or gravy well!

Aruban Pan Bati (Makes 12-18)

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup fine polenta
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water (optional)

Beat all of the ingredients together well until smooth, adding the extra water if it seems a bit too sticky.
Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan, grease it lightly, and drop in spoonfuls of the mixture.
Fry for a couple of minutes until small bubbles start to rise to the surface, then flip over and give them another minute or two on the other side.
Cool on wire rack in a tea-towel to stop them drying out.

Enjoy as you will - toasted and buttered for breakfast, dipped in custard (a la Mini-M), or if you're feeling brave, as a side to an Aruban main course (whatever that may be!).

And in case you're wondering... Aruba is an island in the Caribbean 17 miles north of Venezuela and 81 miles east of Colombia.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Going Dutch with the Daring Bakers: Gevulde Speculaas

I'm feeling proud of myself that I have a) made the challenge b) remembered to post it on the right day this month for the Daring Bakers. Woop - hopefully that's me starting the New Year as I plan to continue (although probably it's mainly luck and a reasonably easy recipe!).

Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers' Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!

I made the cake and let Mini-M decorate it, so needless to say the end result we produced doesn't have quite the same understated elegance as the traditional version. Instead it's been randomly pebble dashed with almonds, cashews and macadamias, since Mini-M got a bit excited looking for nuts in the cupboard. But at least we managed to avoid sprinkles...

Getting the all important napkin properly place on the floor...
Crouching on said napkin, whilst sprinkling nuts
Unable to resist finding out what happens when you push an almond all the way in - sticky fingers!
One more (non traditional) cashew to finish it off
I altered the recipe a little from the original - firstly to make it dairy free, and secondly because I didn't actually have all of the right spices to make up the speculaas mix. I'm not sure how that is possible, since my spice rack is pack to the gunnels, however I was missing mace, cardamon, anise and coriander. I didn't think that cumin, fennugreek, kafir lime leaves, dill or garlic (among others) would make particularly amazing substitutions (and in fact would most likely be fairly disgusting) so I just went with what I had.

Unhelpful spice rack!
So here's my recipe for dairy free Gevulde Speculaas with a rather pared down spice mix!

Gevulde Speculaas (Makes 1 9" cake)

Spice mix
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • Equal weight of ground cinnamon
Mix together the first 4 ingredients of the spice mix, and weigh them, then add the same weight of cinnamon

Almond Paste
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
Mix all the ingredients apart from the lemon juice together. You're looking for the consistency of slightly too wet marzipan. My egg wasn't that big, and the mixture was quite dry, so I added a tbsp of lemon juice to loosen it up a little. Once mixed, cover with clingfilm and chill until ready.

Spice mix and almond paste ready to go
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 50g demerara sugar
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp of the spice mix above (i.e. pretty much all of it)
  • 150g dairy free margarine (If you're using butter, up the quantity to 175g)
  • 2 tbsp almond milk
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugars, spices, baking powder and salt.
Cut the margarine into small pieces and rub in - it will become crumbly and then a dough will start to form.
Add 1 tbsp of almond milk, and work it in - if the dough still doesn't seem coherent add another.
Wrap in clingfilm and chill - ideally in the fridge for 2hrs but I went with 15mins in the freezer!

  • Prepared Dough as above
  • Prepared Almond Paste as above
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Nuts for decoration
Preheat the oven to 180C (160 fan).
Grease a 9" round flan dish.
Flour a work surface and rolling pin.
Divide the dough in two, roll out half and put into the bottom of the prepared dish.
Spread over 1/3 of the beaten egg.
Next roll out the almond paste and put on top of the bottom dough, then spread another 1/3 of the beaten egg on top of that.
Roll out the remaining 1/2 of the dough and cover with the remaining 1/2 of the beaten egg.
Decorate with nuts.
Bake for around 40mins until slightly risen, and glossy brown on top.
Allow to cool completely in the tin before cutting.

Enjoy with a cuppa!

Just out of the oven - cool in the tin!
Thanks for a lovely challenge Francijn - and as always I'm looking forward to seeing what next month has in store.

Chopped in half to show off the almond paste layer

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Looking back: Savoury goodness from out veg box

I posted last week that we had to cancel our veg box because some unscrupulous person has been helping themselves. In that post I rounded up some of the sweet treats I've cooked up with the fruit (and occasionally veg!) we've received over the past couple of years.

Now it's time for the savoury roundup. Not all of these recipes are entirely vegetarian, although many are. Similarly there are a couple from the dim and distant past that aren't dairy free. But they were all tasty, and all feature some of the fantastic East Coast Organics veg at least as their co-star if not the headlining role!

So here we go, in reverse chronological order from the dim and distant days of 2010 to now...

Broccoli Mango and Ginger Soup
Lentil Dhal Pasties with Radish Salad
Parsnip Risotto with Balsamic Syrup
Cucumber Mango and Tomato Salsa
Lentil and Vegetable Filo Pie
Raw carrot and walnut pesto sandwiches
Beetroot Soup with Stuffed Mushroom Dumplings
Broccoli and Red Wine Pasta
Vegetarian Scotch Eggs
Roasted Carrot and Cumin Dip
Hearty Leek Bacon and Pasta Soup
Spicy Squash and Split Pea Soup
Brussel Sprout Pakoras
Big Fat Flying Saucer Potato Cheese and Leek Pie
Spicy Tomato Soup
Roasted Cauliflower Salad
Cauliflower Croquettes with Balsamic Dipping Sauce
Mushroom, Tarragon and Brandy Cannelloni
Hearty Squirrel Chilli with Dumplings
Polenta Veggie Pizza
Veggie Paella
Veggie Haggis, Sweet Chilli Carrots and Potato Pie
No more veg box deliveries for the time being - but probably still a fair few off the wall recipes in the future!!!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Looking back: Sweet Treats from our veg box

Sad times - today I had to cancel our veg box because someone local to our house stole half of the fruit and our eggs last week, and most likely our eggs the week before. Since they know when it gets delivered and where, it's fairly likely to keep happening, so we took the sad decision to cancel it. For the past 2.5yrs we've enjoyed a fantastic selection of organic vegetables and fruit, delivered direct to our door every week by East Coast Organics. If you're in/around Edinburgh and thinking veg-boxy thoughts then definitely recommend it!

It's certainly encouraged me to cook more creatively to use the ingredients we received each week, and has broadened my culinary horizons. So I thought I'd mark the occasion with a coupe of roundups - the first one tonight of sweet treats that I've made with the contents of our fruit (and sometimes veg!).

So here we go, in reverse chronological order...

Parsnip and Caraway Cake
Baby cuisine - more than just mashed bananas!

Pear and Marzipan Phyllo Crisp
Bramble Pear & Hazelnut Crumb Cake
Baby baked apples
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana No-Bake Cookies (aka Chocolate Hippy Biscuits)
Yeasted Banana Bread
Upside Down Pear and Chocolate Cake
Beetroot Poppyseed and Lime Muffins
Orange carrot jelly
Super Crumble
And finally...
Apple Nachos
I'll miss having to think up creative ways to use pears that never quite ripen! They started off as one of my least favourite fruit box items, but eventually became my favourite - because they cook fantastically, and pear crumble is delicious! 

And of course, all the recipes are dairy free.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Great Grapes

We had snow today! Completely unrelated to the main subject of the post but nevertheless, snow! Enough to go sledging - even at sea level in Leith! So we did - and Mini-M was really non-plussed, however Mr E and I had fun so we're calling it a success. 

But back to the point of this post - grapes! I should add that this post should have been written in October... but somehow it wasn't, so it's no longer seasonal, but grapes still rock! Back in the autumn my sister, the lovely Auntie L moved house and in doing so inherited a grape vine literally groaning with grapes. I happily took several kilos of them off her hands (probably about 5kg and that was only a fraction of the bounty) and got creative with some grape recipes.

Some of the bounty
I'm no gardener, so I have no idea what variety they are. The best I can do is that they are a) black grapes b) sweet and good for eating c) have pips in them.

At the time I had plans to write up the recipes of what I'd made, but I've long since forgotten - oops! I think I can probably just remember what the dishes were though, so here goes:

Soon-to-be brandied grapes: Washed, slashed, sugared then brandied and left to mature
Spiced pickled grapes immediately before sealing
Grape, chicken and hummus galette 
Roasted grape and pistachio salad (and in behind, some chocolate and grape brownies) 
And my undoubted favourite - brandy and grape sorbet - it's AMAZING!


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