Pastry with young garlic, Chicken Cacciatore and Chocolate covered Physalis fruit

DSC_0274

I didn’t cook with “young garlic” often before moving to Switzerland, the main reason is that it was not easy to find. It has a slightly milder taste than regular garlic, and you only eat its leaves, either raw or cooked (in soups, salads, pesto or to spice dishes). Young garlic is available only in the spring, and it grows in woodlands, and in moist , shaded areas. When you walk in wooded areas here in Switzerland you get overwhelmed by the garlic scent filling the-air.

DSC_0430

In one of the recipes added it to a cheese pastry called Burek. Burek is made of filo, a paper-thin pastry commonly used in Turkey, but also popular in the Balkans and in Northern Africa. Filo is available in stores in the refrigerated pastry section. If you have access to Turkish stores you can buy it under name Yufka.

For the main course I prepared Chicken Cacciatore, and for dessert Physalis-fruit dipped in chocolate. Chicken Cacciatore is a light Italian chicken dish with tomato sauce: (you can also add to it mushrooms or peppers and serve it with either rice or paste. Physalis is a small orange fruit with a slightly acidic taste, it is delicious when paired with chocolate: it helps bring a light-end to the meal. If Physalis is not available you can use other fruits such as: strawberries, banana or pineapple.

 

Pastry with young garlic and feta

serves 4

DSC_0294

  • 6 sheets of filo pastry (yufka)
  • 140g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons creme fresh
  • 2 tablespoons young garlic, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda )
  • oil for brushing

 

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Lightly oil, and then line cake tin (about 15cm – 5.1/2 in wide ) with baking paper.

In a small bowl mix feta cheese, creme fresh, egg, baking soda, and half of the young garlic.

Remove 6 filo sheets, filo dries quickly so you have to cover them with a kitchen towel. Moisten other kitchen towel and put over first one.

Place one sheet of filo on work surface, then brush with oil.

DSC_0544

Place other sheet on top and brush with oil again.

Spoon about 5 tablespoons of filling toward one end, leaving sides clear.

Fold sides in, then fold end of pastry over filling.

Keep rolling up.

Roll sheets into tube and tuck sides underneath.

DSC_0448

Place into cake tin seam – side down.

Repeat with other four sheets. You will have three tubes filing the cake tin.

Brush with the oil and sprinkle with the rest of chopped young garlic.

Place in the middle shelf and bake for about 30-35 minute, or until golden brown.

Let it stand in a tin for about 5 minute, then take out of the tin and let it cool.

 

 

Chicken Cacciatore

DSC_0591

serves 4

  • 8 chicken tights (or 4 drumsticks and 4 tights)
  • 2 cans (400g each) of peeled tomatoes, diced and juices saved
  • 100g mushrooms (preferably different varieties), chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • one small carrot finely chopped
  • 2 gloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 spring of fresh thyme
  • 1 spring of fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pepper
  • four tablespoons of oil
  • 140ml / 1/2 cup white wine
  • 80ml / 1/3 cup chicken stock

 

Heat one and a half tablespoon of oil in a small pan. Add chopped onion and carrot and saute on a low heat for 15-20 minute, or until soft, but not browned.

Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the mushroom and cook for extra five minutes.

Until the onion is cooked, brown the meat. In a large casserole dish heat one tablespoon of oil. Dust each piece of chicken with salt and pepper and brown (skin side only) on medium-high heat. Browning helps to enhance the flavor of meat. Don’t overcrowd pieces. Brown in batches.

Tip-of all the fat, and then return all chicken peace’s to casserole.

Pour over onion-mushroom mixture. Add wine, chicken stock then thyme, oregano and salt.

Add chopped tomatoes with their juice. Cover casserole with the lid, bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low simmer and cook about 45 minutes, or until chicken is completely cooked ( when testing a piece of chicken the juices should run clear).

Discard the thyme and oregano springs. Lift out chicken pieces and keep warm. Bring the sauce to boil and cook until reduced, and gets thicker.

Adjust seasoning if necessary. Arrange chicken peaces on a plate and spoon sauce over. You can serve with rice or pasta, or a slice of crunchy bread.

 

 

Chocolate dipped Physalis fruit

DSC_0753

serves 4

  • 20 Physalis fruit
  • 100g dark chocolate, finally chopped

 

Lift dry leafs and wash the fruit. Let them dry.

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

Stir occasionally until chocolate melts completely. Remove from heat.

Dip each fruit into the chocolate, let the excess drip. Place them on baking paper, and let them sit at room temperature.

 

Advertisements

Healthy – light lunch with stuffed zucchini flowers, salmon, and yogurt panna cotta

DSC_0132

Zucchini flowers appeared in stores last mounth. I wish that certain foods were available all year round, and they are one of them. Unfortunately, they are only available for a short period of time, so I try to eat them often and prepare them different ways.

For this menu I stuffed zucchini flowers with ricotta cheese and little bit of toasted pine nuts. You can also dip them in flour and egg and deep-fry, or chop them, saute with onions and use in quesadillas. I think they are a great appetizer or snack.

The flowers are very delicate so you have to work carefully. Most of the time they come squeezed in a plastic package so you need a little patience when handling them.

For the main course I made salmon en-papilotte (baked in parchment paper) with layers of vegetables, and for a dessert, a light and easy to make yogurt panna cotta. I placed the panna cotta into a half-sphere metal moulds, but you can use any moulds you want.

Staffed zucchini flowers

serves 4

DSC_0038

  • 8 zucchini/courgette flowers
  •  140g ricotta cheese/ about 8 tablespoons
  • one teaspoon toasted pine nuts
  • two lemons
  • 2 eggs, separated
  •  1/4 cup – 30g, flour
  • salt
  • oil for frying

DSC_0320

In a small skillet lightly toast pie nuts.

Mix ricotta until soft. Add toasted pine nuts and salt to taste.

Squeeze little bit of lemon juice.

Fill the piping bag with a mixture.

Remove the  green leafy bits from the base of the flower (sepals).

Rinse quickly and shake the excess water.

Carefully separate the leafs and using piping bag fill each flower with about a tablespoon of ricotta mixture.

Close leafs and lightly twist so that ricotta doesn’t come out when frying.

Heat two tablespoons of oil.

Beat the egg whites until stiff.

Gradually add yolks to egg whites beating all the time.

Dust each stuffed zucchini flower with the flour, then dip in beaten egg mixture.

Carefully lower each flower into the hot oil.

Reduce the heat and fry about one minute per side or until golden.

Drain on paper towels.

Divide courgette flowers between plates and serve immediately with a slice of lemon.

DSC_0391

Salmon en papilote with potato, mushrooms and spinach

Serves 4

DSC_0192

  • 500g salmon fillet, pinboned and skinned, cut in four even slices
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 120g spinach, cleaned and cut the stalks
  • 200g mushrooms, lightly cleaned with wet kitchen towel and cut into slices
  • lemon, slices
  • oil for frying
  • salt

DSC_0065

Pre-heat the oven to 180C /350F.

Put the potato slices in a bowl. Cover them in oil and season. Mix well.

Spread potato on lightly oiled roasting tin, then put in the oven and roast until golden, about 25 minutes.

Keep them warm.

Adjust the oven to 220C /425F.

Cut out 4 heart shapes from greaseproof  paper, big enough to enclose the fish plus a border.

Place the fish on one side of each paper heart, lightly oil and season. Place on top slices of lemon.

Fold the other half of the paper over the top, and pleat the edges tightly to seal, twisting the end.

Put on the baking sheet and place in the oven on medium shelf for 10 minutes.

In a mean time prepare the spinach and mushrooms.

In a small pot heat one and a half tablespoon of oil.

Add the mushrooms, reduce a heat and cook for about 5-10 minutes, until soft.

In a big skillet heat little bit of batter then saute the spinach. Squeeze before serving.

Place a pastry cutter (or a mould) about 71/2 cm wide and 3cm height.

Firs place the layer of potatoes in the cutter, then layer of mushrooms. Add some of the spinach and finish with piece of salmon.

Repeat with the rest.

Panna cotta with berries sauce

serves 4

DSC_1106

  •  175ml / 3/4 cup whipping cream or double cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 3 tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 (3g) sheet of gelatin
  • 250g / 1 cup full fat yogurt
  • 250g / 2 cups berries
  • 85 g  granulated sugar / 1/3 cup
  • 80ml sweet wine / 1/3 cup

DSC_0502

Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and with a knife scrape the seeds.

Place the cream, vanilla bean and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to scalding point (when cream starts to steam and when small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan over low heat).

Remove the pot from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes for flavors to infuse.

Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water for five minutes, until they have softened.

Sieve the cream mixture then add the softened gelatin and mix until completely dissolved.

Pour in the yogurt and mix well.

Divide the mixture into the metal half-sphere moulds.

Put into the refrigerator overnight.

To prepare the sauce put the berries, sugar and wine in a small pan.

Simmer gently, stirring carefully until the sugar dissolves and fruit softens, for about 10-15 minutes.

Cool.

To unmould the panna cotta dip the mould in hot water. Put them gently onto individual plates, and serve with the sauce.

Morning entartaining

DSC_0428

This menu is for late morning entertaining (like busy mothers meting friends in between school runs), but you can use the same menu for an afternoon coffee or tea. It looks pretty, it is easy to make and it is light. It combines a teacake with small salmon filo cups and chicken sandwiches. The cake is moist, not too sweet and can be made the night before. You can be creative with the cake’s design. I was eager to use a new ceramic mold I bought the last week in the flea market. It seems I can find endless cake mold designs here in Switzerland. In one occasion I used small tins as molds and served them individually.

The little sandwiches are made of white sandwich bread which is first flattened with a rolling-pin and then rolled around 2cm thick cylinder molds (like the ones used to make cannoli). The internet is also a great supplier of creative kitchen utensils.

Little cups are made of my favorite kitchen pastry, filo. Filo is a paper-thin pastry and because it has a tendency to dry you have to work quickly. These cups are light and crisp.

 

 

Cake with  cream and raisins

serves 6

DSC_0047

  • 250g flour / 1/3 cup
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 120g butter/room temperature plus extra for lining a tin
  • 2 eggs/ room temperature
  • 180ml cream, about 25% fat (in Switzerland use 25% Rahm)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 70g raisins
  • 3 tablespoons Rum
  • powder/icing sugar for decoration

DSC_0141

Soak the raisins in the Rum preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F. Place the shelf in the middle of the oven.

Prepare cake tin (about 6 1/2 inch tube pan). Cover inside with a thin layer of butter then dust with thin layer of flour.

Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, and set aside.

In a bowl or standard mixer mix the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.

Add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Add raisins with its soaking liquid.

Fold in some of dry ingredients, alternating with cream. Make sure you add dry ingredients last.

Pour dough into prepared tin: it will fill 3/4 of tin. Bake for about an hour, or until golden brown in color.

Let it cool for 10min, and then turn to wire rack, take out of the mold to cool completely.

Sprinkle with the powder sugar.

 

 

Chicken and avocado sandwiches

10 sandwiches

DSC_0279

  • 5 thin slices of white bread
  • 50g of butter/melted
  • about 5 thin slices of chicken or turkey breast
  • handful of salad of your choice
  • one avocado
  •  one tablespoon of creme fresh
  •  one teaspoon of lemon juice
  • pinch of salt

DSC_0185

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Place the shelf in the middle of the oven.

Cut the avocado in half and take the pit out. Scoop out the flesh and blend with a bit of creme fresh. Add a little bit of lemon juice and salt until desired consistency and taste.

Put into refrigerator.

Trim the crusts from the bread.

Flatten each slice of bread with a rolling-pin, and then slice each slice in half.

With a pastry brush, brush one side of bread with thin layer of melted butter.

Wrap buttered side around a mold and tie with a piece of kitchen string.

Put the prepared moulds on the baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes to toast lightly. Take them out. Carefully slide the sandwich rolls out of the mold. Cool and carefully take the strings out.

Take the prepared avocado cream out of the refrigerator. Fill the piping bag with the cream.

Roll pieces of salad with small pieces of meat and stuff them into toasted bread tubes.

Pipe in a little bit of avocado cream.

 

 

Smoked salmon cups

makes 12

DSC_0328

  • 3 sheets of the filo pastry, thawed if frozen
  • 30g butter / 2 tablespoons, melted
  • 100g creme fresh or sour cream
  • one cucumber
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 50g of smoked salmon

DSC_0218

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Place the shelf in the middle of the oven.

Use a little bit of melted butter to grease mini muffin pan.

Lay one sheet of pastry onto your work surface. Cover the rest with a kitchen towel to prevent drying.

Brush the filo sheet with thin layer of butter.

Cut large enough squares to line the muffin tin holes with, and have some overhanging. Repeat the process with another sheet.

Line the holes with 3 filo pastry squares, pushing them down and on the sides.

Bake for about 10 minutes, until golden brown.

Let them cool in the tray. Carefully take them out of tray.

Cut the smoked salmon onto strips.

Make the filling. In a small bowl mix the creme fresh and lemon zest. Peel the cucumber, then using a canella knife (also known as citrus zester) make thin strings.

Fill each cup with teaspoon of cream and pieces of smocked salmon. Decorate with strings of cucumber and a little bit of lemon zest.

Recipes from Alsace

Alsace is a small region in northeastern France bordering Germany and Switzerland. My main draw to it has been Alsatians passion for food as well their white wine, Gewutsraminer.

Their wine route goes through well preserved medieval villages with houses painted in pretty pale colours and windows filled with flowers.

Its proximity to Germany has influenced  ingredients in the dishes and their taste. Their food is very rich and pork is very often used as an ingredient. Tarts are  an important part of their sweet specialities.

I will write about other recipes from this region, but for this menu I chose Baeckeoffe, potato and meat casserole (picture doesn’t do justice to this dish, it is one of those recipes that tastes better than it looks). Baeckeoffe often includes pig feet(which adds the gelatinous consistency) but you can skip that ingredient.To complete the menu I prepared an onion soup, and a sweet plum tart, considering that plum season is in a full swing. I made pate sucre as the base of the tart. Pate sucre is a pastry that is used mainly to make tart cases or flans.

I served onion soup in small bowls.The key to a great tasting onion soup is to cook the onions really slow, until they become very soft and light brown in colour.

Baeckeoffe

serves 6

  • 500g lamb shoulder
  • 500g pork shoulder
  • 500g beef shoulder /chuck
  • 1kg /2 lb potato
  • 1leek (white part only)
  • 200g carrots
  • 1 big onion
  • 1 clove of garlic, lightly crushed
  • salt
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 1 bouquet garni (spring of fresh thyme, parsley stalk, one bay leaf and celery stalk 5 cm long)
  • 1/2 bottle of Riesling

  1. Make bouquet garni(classic herb combination for stews and soups). Tie the spring of thyme, bay leaf and few parsley stalks in the groove of 5 cm/2 in of celery stalk with a kitchen string.
  2. Finely slice onions, garlic and leek into small rounds. Peel the carrot and slice into rounds.
  3. Cut the meat into 4cm / 1-1/2 in squares.
  4. Put the meat with leek, onion, garlic and bouquet garni into a plastic container or zip log bag.
  5. Add pinch of salt, peppercorns and  half of the wine.
  6. Refrigerate for  12 hours.
  7. The next day preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
  8. Peel the potatoes and slice into rounds.
  9. Remove the marinade from the refrigerator.
  10. Strain the marinade over a bowl ( don’t discard the liquid).
  11. Put half of potatoes into casserole dish.
  12. Add the strained content and finish with a layer of sliced potatoes and  some carrots. Pour over  marinade liquid from the bowl 2cm below the top layer of potatoes. Add more wine or water if needed. Cover with a lid and sealit with a thick layer of aluminum foil made into rope and shape around the casserole dish and lid.
  13. Original method calls for a seal made of  flour paste. Mix 140g /1 cup of flour with enough water to make a paste. Roll it into a rope long enough to wrap around the casserole.Press against the join between the lid and the dish.
  14. Bake for 3 hours.

Serve it with a simple green salad and the slice of bread. Casserole always tastes better the next day.

Onion soup

serves 4

  • 500g onions (about 4 medium)
  • 5og butter
  • 1 litres brown stock / 4 cups
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 4 slices of bread
  • Gruyere cheese

Slice onions into rounds.

Melt the butter in a pan and add the onions. Using a wooden spoon stir them to coat them with the butter. Reduce heat to low and slowly simmer untill very soft and golden brown. It can take 60 min, or longer.

Add the stock, pinch of salt and stir. Bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.

Cut the  bread into small slices, cover them with grated cheese and put in  oven until bread is toasted and cheese melts.To serve  pour the soup into small balls and arrange the toasted slices of bead with melted cheese .

Plum tart

20cm tart tin

Pate sucre:

  • 150g flour
  • 75g butter (room temperature)
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 2 yolks (room temperature)
  • salt
  • 2-3 drops of vanilla essence

Filling:

  • 300g dark plums, just ripe but still firm
  • 70g granulated sugar
  • 140ml water
  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds

Glase:

  • 160 g appricot jam
  • 2 teaspoon water

All ingredients have to be at room temperature.

Sift the flour and salt.

In a food processor with a paddle attachment mix the butter, sugar and vanilla extract.

Add the beaten eggs and mix until incorporated.

Add the sifted flour in stages and as soon as dough detaches from the bowl stop (it will make clumps ).

Press clumps together and form a ball.

If using two smaller tins split the pastry in two parts.

Wrap it into cling film and leave in refrigerator for one hour.

Place the flan tin on a baking sheet.

Take the pastry out of the refrigerator and  let it stand at room temperature for 10-15min to soften.

On a lightly floured surface roll pastry in-between two sheets of clingfilm or parchment paper.

Roll in one direction until 3 mm thick and 5 cm larger than the tin. If you use bigger tin roll the pastry slightly thicker.

Transferring the pastry to the tin can be a little tricky but with practice it will become easier.

Wrap the pastry loosely around the rolling pin. Carefully unroll the pastry allowing it to settle easily into the tin. Don’t pull the pastry or it will break. Press the pastry against the side  and base of the tin. If you need to patch it press the tears with your fingers.

Roll the rolling pin over the tin. Rolling pin will cut the excess dough. You can use the excess and roll it in a bowl and cover with a cling film. Put it into freezer and use later to make smaller tarts.

Put the pastry case into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.

Take the pastry out of the refrigerator. Line the pastry case with the baking parchment. Fill it with baking beans. You can also use dried beans.

Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 10 minutes, until the pastry is dry and lightly golden in colour. Carefully take the baking beans and the paper out of the tart case and lower the temperature to 180C. Return pastry to the oven for another 5 minutes watching that the pastry doesn’t turn brown.

Leave to cool on the rack.

Wash and cut the plums into quarters.

Make the light sugar syrup. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and on low heat dissolve the sugar. Bring to boil and continue boiling for about 3-4 minutes until it thickens slightly; put the plumsand let it cool.

Sprinkle ground almonds into a tart case. This will prevent pastry from becoming soggy. Then arrange the plums over it.

Bake on 180C for about 30 minutes or until fruit softens.

To make a glaze place the jam with the water in a pan and melt over low heat. Sieve. Using a pastry brash dab it over the tart.

Orecchiette-light pasta lunch

Orecchiette is a pasta that resembles a little ear or little hat; it has its origin in Puglia, in the southern part of Italy. Food in Puglia is simple, but tastes great. Orecchiette with broccoli rabe is one of the regions signature dishes (orecchiette con cime di rapa).

This pasta is a bit tricky to shape if made on your own and because it is time-consuming I recommend you buy it. More and more supermarkets carry it. Otherwise you can find it in specialized Italian markets.

I experimented with different ingredients and the recipe with ricotta and roasted black cherry tomatoes is my favorite. I briefly cook the tomatoes in olive oil and garlic so they become sweeter and lose their acidity. Black cherry tomatoes are tastier and less acidic than the regular bright red ones found in supermarkets.

As a side dish I included a colorful cucumber and peppers salad mixed with pie nuts and a light vinaigrette.

We are in the peak of  the peach season so I finished the menu with a poached doughnut peach and sponge cake dessert. Doughnut peaches are full of flavour and sweeter than regular peaches.

Orecchiette with black cherry tomatoes and ricotta

serves 4

  • 450g orecchiette
  • 350g black cherry tomatoes, or regular cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (no extra virgin)
  • 12 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • pepper
  • salt

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and reduce to medium heat. Cook for 13-15 min, or until al dente.

Exact time is marked on the package.

Halve the tomatoes. Mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the tomatoes.

Add a pinch or two of salt and minced garlic. When tomatoes get softer add the shredded basil and cook for another minute.

Drain the pasta in colander.

Blend the ricotta cheese until smooth.

Evenly divide the pasta on the plates, add 3 tablespoons of ricotta cheese to each dish. Pour over the tomato sauce and extra olive oil if desired.

Bell pepper and cucumber salad

serves 4

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 cucumber ( not  long English)
  • pinch of of salt ( or to your taste)
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Halve the cucumber. With a teaspoon take the seeds out.

Turn the cucumber onto its curved side and slice into batons.

Cut batons into dices. Put on a side.

Cut the 2 or 3 lobes from each pepper and remove the seeds, membrane and stalk. Block off each lobe so that you can have regular shape.

Slice each lobe into strips, then into small squares. Put on a side.

Mix cut vegetables in a bowl. Add salt, pine nuts and basil.

Mix well.

Make the vinaigrette, mixing the sunflower oil and balsamic vinegar. Add to the salad.

Peach cake 

makes 4

  • 8 medium size honey peaches, or 4 regular peaches
  • sponge cake, home-made or store-bought
  • 4 tablespoon orange liquor
  • 120g granulated sugar
  • 240ml water
  • 2  tablespoon pistachio, crushed
  • 150ml whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon icing sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

On a very low heat dissolve sugar in water. Bring to the boil then put the sliced peaches in (in baches) and reduce to a simmer. Simmer  for one minute. Take the peaches out and peel the skin.

Bring syrup to gentle boil until slightly reduced and slightly thickened.

With a big cookie cutter cut the sponge cake to fit the bottom of the dish in which you will serve the desert.

I cut mine into 10cm / 4 inch circles to fit the bottom of my porcelain dish.

Sprinkle the bottom of each dish with orange liquid.

Put the sliced peaches on top  and pour sugar syrup over it.

Sprinkle crushed pistachio on top.

In a bowl beat cold whipping cream, vanilla and icing sugar. Serve with peach desert.

Here is a recipe if you like to make your own sponge cake.

  •  3 eggs, room temperature
  • 85g flower, sifted
  • 85g caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190C / 375F.

Brush the bottom and sides of a shallow tin with a little oil, then line with a baking parchment. Brush it again lightly with oil.

Put sugar and eggs in a heat proof bowl.

Place the bowl over a bain-marie (pan of simmering water), making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

Whisk until the mixture becomes pale and thick.

Fold carefully sifted flour into the egg mixture with a big spoon. Don’t overfold or the cake will not rise well.

Pour into a prepared tin.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 min or until golden and springs back when touched lightly.

Cool slightly in the tin, then turn out on the wire rack, lined with a baking parchment.

Peel of the lining paper. Cut into desired shapes.

Middle Eastern lunch

Image

In Switzerland, were I live, fresh humus or pita bread are not easy to find. Commercially made pita bread usually comes in plastic bags and probably contains a good amount of preservatives and additives, but most of all, it will never beat the great aroma and warmth of the bread you can bake at home in your own oven.

Pita bread may seem challenging to make, but after making it couple of times and after following some simple rules for bread making it is pretty easy. Bake your own bread and you will get of “points” from family and friends for being a great cook.

After visiting Jelmoli, a gourmet store in Zurich and spotting tahini I decided to make my own little Middle Eastern feast.

My menu consisted of homemade humus, pita bread, kaftas, cucumber soup and simple tomato salad. This refreshing cucumber soup goes great with grilled meat as well as tomatoes and adds more colour to the prevailing earthy tones of the other dishes.

Kafta

  • 500g minced lamb / 1.1lb
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1 egg
  1. Soak the wooden skewers for one hour.
  2. Mix meat, onion, herbs and seasoning. Don’t add all the onion if you think it is too much.
  3. Add little bit of egg. This will help binding as well as make shaping easier.
  4. Incorporate well by hand. Put for some time, around 30 min in the refrigerator to improve the taste  and make shaping easier.
  5. Preheat a griddle pan and lightly oil it. Take a piece of prepared meat and fry. Cool it and taste to see is your seasoning correct.
  6. Form small sausage shapes and tread onto skewers.
  7. Cook, turn until brown, but still slightly pink inside. Cook in batches. Serve warm.
Image

Humus

150g dried chick peas (garbanzos)

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1/2 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

80ml tahini

juice of one lemon

olive oil

ground paprika (optional)

  1. Soak dried chick peas in water overnight with baking soda.
  2. Rinse well.
  3. Put chick peas in a saucepan and cover with double the volume of water.
  4. Bring to boil, then simmer gently for an hour, or until they are very soft.
  5. Drain the chick peas, but retain the cooking liquid.
  6. Put the beans in food processor and add the reserved liquid, tahini, garlic, some lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Process.
  7. You have to keep tasting it and adjusting lemon juice, reserved liquid and salt to taste. You should have soft pure.
  8. Spread over a platter. Pour some olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.
Image

Cucumber soup

  • 1 cucumber
  • 350g / 1 1/2cup plain yogurt
  • 100ml /1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
  • salt
  • white pepper
  • 1/2 minced garlic
  • pinch of ground cumin (optional)
  1. Wash the cucumber, peel and half lengthwise.
  2. Scoop out and discard seeds.
  3. Grate the cucumber, transfer into a bow, add yogurt, garlic and mint.
  4. Add cold water, but make sure soup is not too thin.
  5. Add pinch of salt, pinch of white pepper and pinch of cumin.
  6. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning.
  7. Refrigerate. Serve cold garnished with mint leaves.
Image
Tomato salad
  • 4 medium sized tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt, pepper
  1. Mix olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper.
  2. Slice tomatoes and arrange on a plate.
  3. Pour dressing over tomatoes.

Pita bread

  • 500g white flour / 3.5 cups
  • 5g dry instant yeast / 1teaspoon
  • lukewarm water 350ml / 1cup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt.
  1. Sift flour and salt into a bowl.
  2. In a cup put the yeast and 100 ml lukewarm water and leave for 10-15min.
  3. Make a well in a flour, pour the yeast mixture and the rest of water. Pour everything at once and mix until you have formed soft dough. Add one tablespoon of oil.
  4. If your dough is too dry add a little bit more water.
  5. Put little bit of flour on a table and kneed for about 10min. At first dough will stick. With time will become less sticky. Kneed until elastic.
  6. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with a lightly oiled cling film.
  7. Leave dough to rice in a worm place until double in size, around one hour. It is important to mention that too high temperature is not good for rise.
  8. Transfer it out on lightly floured surface.
  9. Press the dough with your fingers, term used for it is”knock it back”.
  10. Turn your oven to 220C.
  11. Divide your dough as even as you can. Use a scale for it.
  12. Shape into balls and let them rest, covered with cling film for 10 min.
  13. With a rolling pin make a little disk about 10cm / 4 in. Keep the rest covered with a dishtowel, don’t let them dry.
  14. Let dough rest again for about 30min covered with lightly oiled cling film. This stage is called”proving”.
  15. Put two disks on a baking sheet and place them on the low shelf in the oven.
  16. Bake for 5-6 min. They will puff and form little pockets.

Image

Image

Image