Recipes

Recipe: Spooky Halloween eyeball tarts

A really easy Halloween recipe for delicious (and actually rather healthy) fruit tarts with a spooky twist.

Ingredients (makes 12):

  • 250g jarred balled pears or lychees
  • 1 tube of Smarties or similar colourful chocolate circles
  • 1 food-safe black cake decorating pen
  • 200g raspberries
  • Sugar to taste
  • 12 small cooked pie cakes or flan bases

Method:

  1. Using the food pen, draw black pupils on the Smarties. These will be the irises.
  2. With a knife or (if your kids are helping) spoon, gouge a Smartie-sized hole in the top of each pear ball/lychee
  3. Push the raspberries through a sieve to extract the juice. Add sugar (and a little of the pear or lychee juice) to taste.
  4. Put the pear balls/lychees in the pie cases
  5. Put one Smartie in each to make eyeballs
  6. Spoon the raspberry coulis into the space between the eyeballs.
  7. Enjoy!

Recipe: Beef tea OR chunky beef soup

Unfortunately Dove has been down with a cold this week. To ease her suffering, I cooked her this soup. You can stop halfway through to produce a delicious warming beef tea, or do both halves to produce a chunky stew-like soup.

Ingredients

For the stock

  • About 400g beef bones
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 leek
  • 2 bay leaves

For the stew (ignore if you’re only doing the beef tea)

  • About 500g stewing beef
  • 150g pearl barley
  • 250g mushrooms

Method

Roughly chop the onions and garlic and put them in a stock pot. If you’re doing a chunky soup, cut the green part of the leek and add to the pan – if you’re just doing beef tea, add the whole leek. Boil all the stock ingredients with about 1.5 l water for about 20-25 minutes. If a lot of water has boiled off, top it up. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Filter the stock through a sieve, and throw away the bones etc. This can now be drunk as a beef tea.

Otherwise, add the pearl barley and beef to the stock. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the leftover leek and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread!

Recipe: Broccoli and Stilton Soup

Piping hot soup

It’s been a while since we put a recipe up, but I managed to bring back a block of stilton cheese to Germany and this soup turned out too good not to share.

Ingredients

  • 1 large head or 2 medium heads of broccoli
  • 1 large onion or 2 medium onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 leek
  • Around 200 g (one wedge) stilton
  • Herbs (I used basil, thyme and tarragon)
  • Optional: cream to garnish

Equipment

  • 2 large pots
  • 1 sieve
  • 1 stick blender

Method

  1. Cut the florets off the broccoli (keep the stems!), slice the leek (keep the tips!) and chop up the onion (keep the ends!). Cut the stilton into reasonably small pieces (keep the rind!)
  2. Put the broccoli stems, leek leaves, onion off-cuts and stilton rind in a pot with 1.5 litre of boiling water to make a stock. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. In another large pot, sweat the chopped onions, leek and garlic with the herbs, pepper and salt on a low hear.
  4. Once the stock has simmered, take the broccoli stems out. Let them cool a bit, and then use a knife to cut off any small sprouts and leaves. Cut them into smallish pieces. Drain the stock through a sieve into the other pot. Discard the leek, onion and stilton cuttings.
  5. Add the broccoli florets and stems and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  6. Take the soup off the boil and blend it smooth.
  7. Put a little bit of stilton to one side for a garnish. Add the rest to the soup. Briefly blend to mix the soup through.
  8. If the soup seems too thick, dilute with a little cream. Taste – add more salt if necessary (it shouldn’t need much, since the cheese is also salty).
  9. Serve, crumbling the left over stilton on top as a garnish.

 

Recipe: Korean-style bitter orange and lime tea

No photos for this recipe, because I couldn’t find a way to make boiled citrus fruits photogenics.

This is based on the Korean yuja-cha (also known by its Japanese name yuzucha), and it’s effectively a marmalade you put in a jar and keep in the fridge. To make it up into tea, you just put a spoonful in a cup and fill it with boiling water. This recipe was mainly just something I did to use up the fruit from a bitter orange tree that I impulsively purchased, but it is really good.

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The periodic table of tastes, and how to cook with them

One of the more confusing bits of childhood science education is learning that there are only four or five tastes (textbooks have been slow to add the fifth taste, commonly called umami or savouriness, even thought it was discovered over a hundred years ago).* How can all the flavours, from chocolate to broccoli, be broken down into just five simple components – sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savoury?

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Recipe: Fig chutney

Cheese and fig chutney, yum

It’s been a while since I put a recipe up here, but this is something easy and (just about) seasonal. We’re at the end of the season for fresh figs, so supermarkets are selling off their slightly-squishy figs pretty cheap. This recipe turns those over-ripe figs into a sweet jam, halfway between Branston pickle and mango chutney, and should keep for ages.

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Chai masala recipe

It’s November, which means several things. First of all, it means everything has suddenly got very cold and the evenings have got very dark. Second of all, it means it’s NaNoWriMo time again and we need writing fuel. Finally, the shops are all selling mulled wine spices. And that means… CHAI MASALA.

I recently got a spice grinder (well, a coffee grinder, but it’s not like you can’t put spices in it) and to try it out I’ve been making chai masala every night, trying to fine-tune the recipe to my taste. This is what I have. Just to stress, this is based solely on my tastes, so it’s pepperier and anisier than a Starbucks chai latte. However, I think it’s too good not to share, so here it is. This makes a potful, or about three mugsworth.

  • 1 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 8 green cardamom pods
  • Half a stick of cinnamon
  • A teaspoon of aniseed
  • A bit of a nutmeg (about 10 seconds of grating)
  • 6 peppercorns
  • A smallish (say, 1 cm x 1 cm x 2cm) of fresh root ginger
  • About 5 teaspoons of sugar (to taste)
  • 700 ml water
  • 400 ml milk

Now, you can replace these spices with their powdered equivalent – you don’t have to be a pretentious nob like me! The only thing is that if you use powder, you can’t strain it out and your tea gets a bit gritty. The spice grinder makes the spices a bit rougher, so a decent tea strainer or fine sieve can catch them.

1 star anise, 8 cardamom pods, 6 peppercorns, half a cinnamon stick, a teaspoon of aniseed and six cloves in a spice grinder

The basic spice mix. You can scale this up to make a jar of masala that you can use any time

Grind together all the spices except the fresh ginger until you have something with roughly the appearance of ground coffee. Everything should be finely chopped, but don’t worry about the fibrous cardamom pods. The finished product should look a little bit like…

A fine reddish-brown powder, with some pale brown strands from the cardamoms

The masala!

Put the masala in a fine tea strainer (ideally, one that you can close) together with the finely chopped ginger (you don’t want to add the ginger before cooking because a) it’s a fresh vegetable, and will go off if you try to store it, and b) it makes the masala moist and clogs up your grinder). In a saucepan, mix the milk and water, add the spices in their strainer, and then heat on a very low temperature. The ideal temperature would be one that simmers the milk/water without quite boiling it, but my electric hob doesn’t give me that much control. A bit of a burnt milk taste is actually quite nice, but as the milk cooks, it gets stickier, and that can clog the strainer. (You can add the spices loose, and strain them at the end, but I find that most of the spices get stuck in the froth of the milk and you don’t get the flavour out)

Let it cook for about 15 minutes, and then add sugar. Keep tasting until the sweetness and the bitterness balance nicely. If it’s spicy enough, plonk in a teabag (Yorkshire Tea works well) and simmer for about 2 minutes. Because the milk has probably thickened a bit, you might need to squeeze the teabag to get the tea out. Taste it, and if all is well then take out the teabag and the tea strainer and pour into a pot.

A mug of chai

Yum

And that’s my chai.

Five curry recipes

Thanks to a series of other things, I only just got round to having my birthday party, and you know what that means: curry buffet!

Wow, don’t sound too excited.

But anyway, a couple of people have asked me for the recipes, so here they are. They’re adapted because a) it turned out that the party-day was the hottest day in the history of the state, so I tried to make the recipes as light as possible (no thick sauces, small juicy vegetables) and b) the gamut of guests’ tastes ran from “Even a homeopathic chilli pill would set my mouth on fire” to “I want experience true pain”, so the spiciness of these varies quite a bit. Enjoy!

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Google Search Q&A 2

A few months ago, Dove wrote a post for one poor hapless soul who ended up on our blog after searching for “is sparrow and dove same thing?” Since then, we’ve had people find our site using “is a sparrow an a dove the same” “difference between a sparrow and a dove” “are doves and sparrows compatible” “is dove sparrow” and “sparrows+doves+same+thing“. Clearly, we’ve struck a nerve, and found a whole tranche of people who until now were fruitlessly searching the internet in the vain hope that they could one day learn if sparrow and dove is indeed same thing. We’re providing a public service!

So, I’ve looked through our site stats and found a few more searches that led people to our site, but which we were so far unequipped to answer. Let’s get started with this one from the mailbag.

spugogi food in germony

This is a tricky one to answer, because 50% of the words in that search do not exist! In fact, until I click publish on this post, no-one on the entire internet has ever posted the letter combination “spugogi”. So, what can it be?

Google corrects this search to “bulgogi food in Germany“. That’s a pretty reasonable search, and as it happens, I know a couple of good Korean places in Germany (if by Germany you mean Frankfurt) that do a great bulgogi! If you’re in the town centre, there’s Coco on Große Eschenheimer Straße (the road between Hauptwache and Eschenheimer Turm), which is modern and a bit cramped, but does good food and has excellent service, or, if you feel like a bit of a walk, there’s Mr. Lee at 153 Gutleutstraße (just south of Hauptbahnhof), which is more traditional but no less delicious, and has a wider range of dishes.

But! If you search “spugogi” on its own, Google corrects it to “spuggy”, which as we all know, is North-Eastish for sparrow. So, perhaps they want to know where to get sparrow food in Germany?

Seeds are fairly widely available at health shops, although they’ll cost you a lot. Most DIY shops and garden centres will sell proper bird food though. To be honest though, if Frankfurt’s greedy, fearless sparrows are anything to go by, German sparrows really don’t need more food – they’ll already happily land on your table at restaurants and pinch your bread.

But… perhaps by “sparrow food”, they meant sparrows you can eat! (IT’S A COOKBOOK) Well, I can’t help you with that I’m afraid, but I did find this useful book of German old wives tales, which says

“If a pregnant woman eats sparrow meat and drinks wine, her child will be unchaste and shameless.”

Learn something new every day.

Intoducing the new country........... GERMONY

Finally, perhaps spugogi isn’t a typo at all! Perhaps this person really did want to find spugogi in Germony.

Well, the name suggests sparrow bulgogi, which isn’t as bad an idea as it may sound. Sparrow meat is very dry, and apparently tastes best heavily spiced, so marinading and quickly grilling it is probably a good way to serve it! Sadly, no-one on the internet has (yet) had the idea of making bulgogi with sparrows, but here’s a recipe with chicken, which is as close as I could find on the web. Good luck finding sparrow meat though…

Alternatively, perhaps it’s spaghetti bulgogi? That’s an interesting idea – Bulgogi can already be served with noodles, so spaghetti isn’t a million miles away. Something along the lines of spaghetti with steak strips? This calls for some experimenting…

Check back soon to find out if spaghetti bulgogi is delicious or awful!

Another day, another soup – Cream of Pepper

So apparently all the recipes I post are for soups? Well, whatever, soups are delicious and this is the perfect time of the year for them (incidentally, our max/min thermometer claims it’s been down as low as -16°C at night and it’s not been above freezing for a fortnight. Yay Frankfurt).

This is cream of pepper soup – delicious, spicy, adaptable and easy to make. In other words, pretty much the perfect soup.

Cream of Pepper soup (Paprikasuppe)

Serves 2-3 (Für 2-3 Portionen)

Ingredients

  • 2 to 4 peppers. Any colours in any combination works – I’ve tried the soup with red peppers, orange peppers and green peppers, and they’re all great. (2 bis 4 Paprikaschoten, alle Farben)
  • 1.3 litre of chicken or vegetable stock (1.3 l Hühner- oder Gemüsebrühe)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1 mittelgroße Zwiebel, gehackte)
  • 150 ml single cream (150 ml 30% Sahne)
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper (2 TL schwarze Pfeffer)
  • Paprika or cayenne pepper (Paprika oder Cayennepfeffer)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (1 EL Butter)

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onions and soften for 5 minutes. (Die Butter in einem großen Topf schmelzen, die Zwiebel hinzugeben und 5 Minuten erweichen.)

Chop and deseed the peppers. (Die Paprikaschoten hacken und entkernen.) Some recipes suggest peeling the peppers, but if you have a blender then this is a load of faff with no real point. Add the pot and fry for a couple of minutes. (Die Paprikaschoten in den Topf fügen, und 2 Minuten braten).

Add the stock and black pepper and simmer for about half an hour. (Die Brühe und den schwarzen Pfeffer dazugeben, und 30 Minuten leicht köcheln lassen.)

Add the half the cream and blend with a hand mixer. (Der Hälfte der Sahne geben und mit dem Stabmixer pürieren) Garnish with the rest of the cream and the paprika or cayenne pepper. (Mit dem Rest der Sahne und Paprika oder Cayennepfeffer garnieren.)