Cured Ocean Trout with lemon creme fraiche and coriander

We produce, serve and eat. We share as often as possible but most of the time it’s just us, the family of three conquering a dinner table. Because of that, updating this blog just with sweets as much as we love them, was starting to be too sweet for all of us. So occasionally I am going for the other option like this one for example. A treat for sure and a mighty one! Cured ocean trout!

I believe that most of the time our productivity depends on either how keen we are to do something or how trained or informed on the subject we are. That applies to producing food as well. If one is not well informed or lacks in technique, but is keen to do it, they can do it, for sure. I thought that this technique would be a daunting one until I found the courage to do it. Now I am thinking how I should never let my fear stand between me and any task in the future. My mission is accomplished, let me know – how did you go?

What you need for this job is a bit of patience to start with, a good piece of ocean trout, some spices and herbs. Also the a good baguette and creme fraiche for serving and if you add a glass of wine to it you are well off for a great brunch or lunch. Over time I’ve tried a different versions and the one I am sharing today is my most favourite one.

Cured Ocean Trout with lemon creme fraiche and coriander

500 gr ocean trout

200 gr sugar

200 gr salt

1 star anise

3 coriander seeds

2 whole black pepper

1/4 bunch of coriander

For serving:

1 baguette

100 ml creme fraiche

zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon capers

1 shallot – sliced thinly

coriander for decoration

Clean and wash the piece of ocean trout. Dry with a cloth to remove any extra water.

Grind the spices in a mortal and pestle. Mix the salt and sugar, add the spices and mix all until combined.

Place clear wrap on the working bench (it needs to be long enough to wrap the whole piece of fish) and cover the middle of the glad wrap with half of the sugar and salt mixture. Place the fish on it and sprinkle lemon zest and coriander on the top. Pour the other half of the sugar and salt mixture on the top and wrap tightly with clear wrap. You need to do it three times, so the fish is nicely tucked in the sugar and salt mixture. The first layer will be the hardest one to wrap, but you’ll have to manage somehow if you want to finish the job. On the second layer it’s easier to tighten the clear wrap around the ocean trout, which is necessary if you want the fish to be cured. Thus it’s very important that trout is also equally covered with sugar and salt mixture.

Leave in the fridge for 48 hours but you have to turn it over after 24 hours so it’s cured evenly.

When it’s done take it from the fridge and wash thoroughly. Dry with the clean kitchen towel and place in an airtight container, whole or sliced. You can keep it in the fridge for several days.

Add lemon zest to creme fraiche and stir until all lemon zest is nicely incorporated into the creme fraiche.

To assemble: spread creme fraiche on a slice of the baguette. Place one thin piece of ocean trout on the top and sprinkle capers, shallots and coriander.

I say nothing can beat that colour to start with but the taste – well you have to try it yourself!

Carob cake

Many years ago we moved to New Zealand, looking for new and bright adventures. A new start included everything being new to us. New country to explore, new people to meet, new jobs to start, and new life experiences! Perfect you would say! Except, there was one thing quite old and ruined in this perfect new world of ours, and that was the first house we decided to buy. The house we laid our yes on was neglected and unloved but we were young and enthusiastic back then and thus we thought it should be ours! We thought to fix it and live happily in it for many years to come.

We started with a rather impressive group of builders, but once some walls were removed, French door opened and bathroom and kitchen nicely done, we thought that it was a good time for us to move in! We knew that the walls needed to be done, and a few more jobs on top of that, but thought that we could do it! And we did! The house looked magnificent, at least to us, but peeling five layers of wall paper and a few other jobs were more than we could handle. After just a few weeks of living in the unfinished house we experienced such changes with our health that I had no other choice but to react the only way I knew – we changed our diet completely! All delicatessens and as you can imagine a lot of processed food was thrown in the bin and a new batch of greens (fresh and organic), found its way to our kitchen. So at least we had  healthy food on the menu every day and long walks along the beach (in-between house needing to be finished).

Now when I think about it, I am partially thankful to that experience as eating well is always a good choice. At the same time we could have done without the stress of poisoning our bodies I guess. As I said in the beginning of this story, being young and enthusiastic…can do more damage than good sometimes.

It took us almost a year to finish renovating the house. We lived another two years in it before moving across the world –  again.

While learning about healthy choices, by reading, talking to practitioners and friends, I came across carob as a new ingredient. I loved it from the very start and as carob was another way of having chocolate (that is how I saw it) I had to come up with a cake recipe. At this time we didn’t have a strong network of bloggers and finding recipes was sometimes a struggle. One would rely on books or, if you were lucky as I was, a dear friend could give you a recipe that you would adore. It stayed all these years in my recipe book, waiting for this moment to shine! It’s a wonderfully moist and comforting cake. Carob has magical ways to make you feel healthy and at the same time to be part of this sweet and delicious cake. It’s a Mediterranean tree and although it grows mostly along the Adriatic sea (I am referring to my background otherwise you’ll find carob in many other countries) if you go for a walk in one of Belgrade’s park called Topcider you will be pleasantly surprised by many carob trees! The park ground is literally covered with carob legumes at the  beginning of May, which is also a spring season.

According to some previous knowledge and recent google research – carob is rich with proteins, magnesium, calcium, iron and a whole list of vitamins like, A,B, B2, B3 and D. It found its way to the medicine as well, so as I told you – healthy and sweet. It has 40% of sugar! So let’s get back to the cake!

Carob cake

200 gr unsalted butter at room temperature

250 gr sugar

3 eggs at room temperature

100 ml milk at room temperature

200 gr oat flour

50 gr plain flour

100 gr carob powder

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

pinch of sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

100 gr jam of your choice for filling (I used strawberry jam as this is the most popular in our household, plus I believe that it’s matches this cake perfectly).

 

Whisk the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (hand or stand mixer will do the same job). In a different bowl whisk lightly the eggs and add milk into it. Reduce the speed on your mixer while adding the egg and milk mixture. Once all is well combined add carob and on the end add flours and baking powder, spoon by spoon. Keep the speed of your mixer on low. Mix just until combined and poor into a lined 6″ baking tin.

Bake on 180C for an hour or until done (sometimes I find that I need more time to bake this cake, additional 10 minutes or so). Use the cake tester to make sure the cake is done.

Cool the cake on a cooling rack before cutting in two layers. Spread the jam onto the first layer and cover with the second layer. I never keep this cake in a fridge (but it can be done). It just changes taste a bit and I prefer when it’s nice and soft and on room temperature. The good thing in our case is that it never last for too long so room temperature is ok. Dust with icing sugar and slice into thin pieces as it is a very rich cake.

Like delights in like and peculiar thumbprints

A few years ago, I believe it was about New Year’s time, one of our friends a practical and a well organised woman, made a statement regarding the presents. She implied that she liked handmade, unique, artistic and above all beautiful plates and all other bits and bobs that could come along. It was a pure, simple and clear statement, which made our lives much easier regarding any future present for her. Since then I’ve been truly enjoying buying presents for her as I too love the same bits and bobs and nothing gives me more pleasure. Strangely enough it never occurred to me that I might become a recipient of such beautiful presents myself, which brings us to the million dollar question – How do you see yourself (or how do other people see you)? What is it that you like and what is it that other people think you like? A totally different kind of theme, I know, but if one wants to make a connection between a plate, a cookie and a friendship – one can right?

If I started with “similis simili gaudet” that should have explained everything about the above few lines. But let’s not made just an explanatory short version today, let’s add – a beautiful plate found a beautiful Russian tea cookie and they made a perfect connection. This is obviously a statement for the food blog.

On a different subject, regarding a different theme blog, I’d say – a beautiful plate travelled trough Europe and Asia and patiently waited in airbnb apartments and hotel rooms for weeks and weeks just to land in my kitchen. Because a dear friend found another friend, and a dear friend recognised another friend’s needs, and nothing could stop her, not even the fragility of a tiny plate and the zillion miles between the two destinations to make a friend smile… So the story pretty much goes this way – they lived happily ever after indulging themselves with small and precious presents from time to time; And that is unique, artistic and above all the most beautiful present a person can get. A friend!

Lets not forget the gorgeous Russian tea cookies nicely placed on an equally gorgeous handmade plate.

Walnut thumbprints with pink filling

300 gr flour

50 gr ground walnuts

1 teaspoon sea salt

250 gr powdered sugar

230 gr butter

zest of 1 lemon

2 cherries (I used frozen)

 

Beat butter with 120 gr of  sugar in a stand mixer until pale and fluffy.

(Hand mixer will equally do the trick it’s just that I recently got a present and I have to say I love it. You guessed – it’s a new stand mixer! The very first one in my life. Until now I thought that stand mixers were overrated and I always followed my mother’s easy and simple approach to baking which included a hand mixer, a wooden spoon, and lots of mixing by hand. I am not abandoning that at all but I am gladly adding stand mixer to the lot).

Add flour (previously mixed with salt) and reduce the speed on your mixer so it combines nice and slowly. Add walnuts and lemon zest at the end.

Take the bowl, cover it with clear wrap and leave it in the fridge to rest for an hour.

Once ready take it out of the fridge and roll into 22 gr (if you are as precise as I like to be) or just roll into similar sizes balls. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, making sure there is enough room in between and bake for 10 minutes on 170C. Take the tray out of the oven and press each cookie with a wooden spoon in the middle to make the desired shape. Bake again for another 15min or until golden brown.

Once baked, leave them for 5 minute or more to cool down before transferring them onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

In the meantime make pink filling by mixing the rest of the powdered sugar with one spoon of lemon juice and one frozen cherry, and then decide if you need to adjust the thickness of the filling by adding more sugar or the colour by adding another cherry. Using a teaspoon fill in every cookie with nice pink filling.

Recipe inspired by Martha’s Stewart pink lemonade thumbprints.

Sourdough and caramelised plums as a perfect union

Many years ago we went to a Paco de Lucia concert. We were well prepared as we knew that he was a magician more than a musician, but what followed was more than we expected. The concert started with an exquisite group of musicians and it sounded like the Earth stopped so we could all listen just the music and nothing else. I was enchanted from the first note that travelled through the concert hall. The magic started instantly. I could not have imagined that any music could sound better than that. It became immediately one of the best performances ever!

Then, while we were all spellbound by the music that was presented to us – something truly magical happened. In the beginning I wasn’t sure what it was. It didn’t really sound like music – it was so much more! It was like all the universe stopped so we could hear only that and nothing else. That was Paco de Lucia performing! I could see a person playing a guitar but it was like my eyes were not compatible with my ears, and what I could see didn’t match what I could hear! Truly a single person with a guitar cannot give us as much pleasure. I was wrong, that was exactly what happened.

Now, even though you might be used to me telling a story that has nothing to do with food, and then somehow making a connection, I have to say that I was quite surprised when all these memories flashed back the moment I had a bite of the sourdough bread I bought for the first time just a few weeks ago. The time frame is important as I live just a few meters down the road from one of the shops where this bread is delivered every morning. All these years I didn’t know that this sourdough existed.

I might have continued to be ignorant of this fact if one of our friends didn’t came over one day with a granola that tasted so much more than granola! I instantly checked the label on the bag and that’s how I was introduced to the Irrewarra sourdough family business that bakes one of the most delicious breads ever! (Just to make things clear, this is not a sponsored post, this is just me being madly in love with this bread, and sharing this new knowledge with you, so you don’t waist your time as I did!)

This bread is now present in our household all the time. For some reason I’ve decided this time to add to its glory the caramelised damson plums from a local market (another hunt of mine as those you cannot find in supermarkets). Together they taste so good that the Earth stops every time I make it –  so that I can indulge myself without thinking about anything else.

Caramelised plums on sourdough  

500gr of preferable plums

50 gr butter

2 tablespoon sugar

1 star anise

1 vanilla bean split open (1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste)

1 lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ginger spice

The reality is that you can modify this recipe and make your own preferred version. This one is just the one I make regularly at our place now. I have to say though that sometimes I replace butter with orange juice as it’s easier on the cholesterol level, and it makes me feel healthier .

Wash and dry plums, split in half and remove the pit. Melt butter with sugar in a pot on a medium heat. Caramelised doesn’t mean burnt, which is what is going to happen if you overheat your pot and that is not a pleasant thing to do as the smell and waste of ingredients will make you sad.

Once sugar is dissolved add star anise, cardamom, vanilla bean and ginger. If you want to intensify the aroma of spices then start with adding them first in a hot pot and then add butter and sugar.

Cook for a minute, then add the plums. Cook all together for about 2-3 minutes just to soften and caramelise the plums (that will depend on how ripe the fruit is).

Toast the slice of bread before arranging the caramelised plums, and then drench the bread with the aromatised juice in which the plums were cooked.

Enjoy!

A shortbread soaked into a lovely syrup aka hurmasice

We host  dinner parties at our place – quite often. Actually if I want to be honest that is the most common way of socialising lately (and by lately I mean for the last 5 years). It’s easy to make the decision between hiring a babysitter and leaving the house to see friends or staying home, cooking a wonderful dinner and having lots of fun. Staying home wins most of the time, which is absolutely fine if you are a such a keen cook and you have lots of help of course. My husband is more than happy to take care of supplies and the young one beside being a sous chef is into waitering/serving lately. He would even make a menu to look at – hilarious but also time consuming while dinner is getting cold. I guess at times like those we just have to remember that home entertaining dinner time is all about having fun and that applies to all of us!

The very best part of organising a dinner party especially for the friends who are great bakers themselves is that you might get a chance to be indulged with a wonderful present, like I did the other night. A wonderful treat like hurmasice (pronounced hoor-mashi-tseh if you really want to go that way) for example. A lovely dessert from, I would say the shortbread family, enriched with a nice syrup to make it less healthy but much more tasty. So much more tasty!

So, we can call this a guest post as I am about to share a friend’s recipe, who is a gluten free lady and she had to make this traditional recipe from Bosnia into a gluten free version –  because you just have to have recipe like this in your recipe book. I am so lucky to have a friend like this one, aren’t I?

I struggled with translating the name for this dessert. If you are not from the same region, you might never have heard of this one and frankly I still don’t have a clue how to make this easier for you. You might have to think of the name yourself or simply remember them as hurmasice (hoor-mashi-tseh). As I mentioned the dessert is originally from Bosnia, this actual recipe for sure! Then, if you go a little bit to the East the same dessert would be called Urmasice and just a bit further to the South you’ll be struggling with the name again as in Greece the same dessert is called Melomakarona. The only difference is that butter is replaced with olive oil and sugar with honey – which I applaud! I might be making that one – next.

Hurmasice – gluten free

300 gr rice flour

100 gr sorghum flour

250 gr butter (room temperature)

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 1/2 tablespoons sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

100 gr walnuts

For the syrup:

400 gr caster sugar

400 ml water

pinch of nutmeg

1/2 lemon

The only unusual equipment for this dessert is a grater, which is going to be used only to decorate the shortbread before baking.

Heat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

In a medium sized bowl mix the flours with the xanthan gum and leave aside.

In a different bowl mix the butter with the egg and  yolk until it’s creamy, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer if that is easier for you. Add the sour cream at the end and whisk all together.

Fold the flours into the wet ingredients using a spatula and finish it with your hands. The dough should be easy to handle.

Form the balls 2.5 cm in diameter or approximately 40 gr in weight until you have used all the dough. Place half of the walnut in the middle and press/flatten the balls onto the smallest wades to leave a mark.

Arrange the shortbread onto a baking tray leaving the marked size up and bake for 25 minutes or until you get a golden colour.

While the shortbread is in the oven baking you will have time to make the syrup. Pour water into a sauce pan, add the sugar, lemon rind and nutmeg. Cook on a low heat until the sugar dissolves and the syrup becomes a bit thicker. This will take approximately 10 minutes. (Cool the syrup for a few minutes before using. I find it quite stressful for the hot dough to be poured with the hot syrup).

Once the shortbreads are baked, take them from the oven and pour half of the syrup over them. The other half cook for another 10 minutes or so, until it becomes thicker. Pour the rest of the syrup over the shortbread and enjoy them after an hour or so. They do improve over time – keep that in mind as well.

Gingerbread and ricotta cake

Purely by accident, while making gingerbread cookies with a 6 year old boy I decided on a whim to save some of the dough. I simply knew something would pop up but I newer anticipated that it would become such a delight. It took me few days to play with the idea and ricotta was there from day one as a main base for the filling. Then I realised that chocolate can never fail you (of course if you are a chocolate lover) and a gingerbread base seemed to be a good choice for this combination.

I baked the base a few days before I decided on a filling. Being a gingerbread dough that actually helped and it just improved the cake’s richness altogether. Plus the stress of making a whole cake in one day practically disappeared. Both base and filling are easy to make and you need just minutes to do it. I would’ve said that this is a winning combination if I didn’t known better. Since I do, I would say – this is a life time keeper!

The first one I made was a tiny one, just for tasting. The family gets to taste it first and my husband’s first words (after a long mouthful silence were) – “I can’t wait for the real one”- referring to the size mainly. I kept the size small though as I knew that we were not going to resist it easily, so between the two of us, one small cake is just enough! The little one still lives in a kid’s world with a strong preference for sweets. We take advantage of that for now, as we know things will change – for sure.

This cake can be served for a gala dinner or a less formal one. Also it’s very nice for morning tea or as a sweet snack after lunch. On the first day the cake was crunchy from the outside and creamy and soft inside. The next day (if it lasts that long) the crust becomes softer as the moisture from the filling  does its job. I love this little treat! The gingerbread reminds me of childhood and brings memories that way and the filling tells me how adventurous cake-making can be. All together it’s a cake embroidered with past and future with divine presentation.

Gingerbread crust cheese tart

1/3 of gingerbread dough (I highly suggest to make a whole batch and use the rest for gingerbread men)

500 gr ricotta

150 gr butter

100 gr powdered sugar

100 gr grated chocolate

50 gr chocolate for decorating (I used a block of chocolate scraped with a knife)

I used 15 cm round mould for this cake.

Spray the mould with oil before assembling the dough.

Roll the dough to a 3-4 millimetre thick sheet and cut the round shape using the actual mould/cake tin as a size helper. You’ll need another long strip for assembling the cake. Measure your mould if using a different one or if using the same size baking tin you’ll need a 45 cm long strip. The width of the strip should be approximately  the height of your mould.

Place the round part to the bottom of the mould first and add the long strip, “gluing” them together and to the sides of the baking tin. The dough is quite forgivable and if you brake some parts it’s ok as you can easily glue them back together.

Bake for 18-20 minutes on 180C. Once baked leave in the baking tin for a few minutes before taking the cake/crust out. Leave on the cooling rack to cool completely.

For the filling it’s quite important to use room temperature butter. Since I don’t use microwave, I have to think ahead and take the butter out of the fridge to soften at least an hour before I need it. In a large bowl whisk the butter and the sugar until creamy. Add the ricotta and mix until all well combined. Add the chopped chocolate and mix with a spatula.

Fill in the crust with the ricotta filling and sprinkle with extra chocolate for decoration.

The cake is ready to be served!

When you are in love… homemade Nutella and diverse Brioche

When you are in love, well you are in love! This sentence made me smile. You can certainly try and distract yourself by doing something else, preferably exciting like – baking, cooking, reading, singing, sewing, knitting, paragliding or dieting but at the end there is one thing you cannot stop doing and that is – thinking about the object of your love. So, I’ve been trying to ignore this object of my love for quite some time now. What is the reason for such a drastic measure, you might ask? Well, you see I actually don’t like Nutella – there I said it.

The reverse side of this story is that I fell in love with the idea of making a homemade Nutella as a revolt to the ones from the supermarket shelves. I liked the idea of mixing hazelnuts with some chocolate, milk etc. and that way providing the ultimate success. The ones I could buy in the stores, no matter how organic or super artisan they are – well I would just pass by those…

The second object of my love (I bet you didn’t see this coming) well, the second object of my devoted love is one and only – brioche. Even before I knew the name I was already in love. Growing up in former Yugoslavia, a communist country open to many western fashionable things, including delicacies, plus due to the Middle East’s strong influence, I always had the pleasure of being indulged with diverse and delicious food. So  brioche or a very similar version to it was always present, just under a different name. I won’t be stressing you with the Serbian name plus to be honest I can’t even recall any special one. It was always called simple – enriched bread (in translation) which is miles away from glamorous  – brioche, so lets stick to the famous cousin. Except I’d like to add one more thing, not in order to confuse you, but on the contrary, to make sense of it – Viennoiserie ! Another name for brioche, straight from French people, referring to any enriched bread from Vienna. Austrian food (due to Austro Hungarian Empire) had a big influence in the region in which I grew up so there you go – food travels and then stays and changes slightly and makes us want to experiment even more.

Now, to shorten a long story I had this secret plan to combine homemade Nutella with above mentioned brioche and see what would happen.

Done! The result? Shockingly good!

Home made Nutella

200 gr roasted hazelnuts

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Preheat oven to 170C. Place hazelnuts in a baking tin, spreading evenly so you have only one layer of hazelnuts and roast for 10-12 minutes.

Take it out of the oven, place onto kitchen towel, roll around using your hands. That will remove most of the skin. In case you want to do a better job – sprinkle a tin layer of sea salt on your kitchen towel before adding the hazelnuts. The sharpness of the sea salt will help a lot with removing the skin. This is not necessary in this recipe as slight imperfections are permitted but I guess it’s good to know for the future.

Place “clean” hazelnuts in your blender and pulse for a few minutes, until you get a very creamy/buttery version of your roasted hazelnuts.

(Did you know that on average nuts are 60% fat? That is a lot but the good news is, it’s the good fats we are talking about here. They’re actually even better/healthier if not roasted but in this case we are creating a dessert and a little “cheating” is allowed).

Add cocoa powder, maple syrup, coconut oil and blend until all combined.

Transfer to a clean jar and store at room temperature.

 

Brioche buns

450 gr flour 00 grade or strong plain flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons dry yeast

280 gr butter room temperature

4 large eggs

45 ml milk

Mix flour with sugar, salt, dry yeast and leave aside. In a different bowl mix the eggs with a fork and add to the flour mixture. Mix slightly with a wooden spatula, before adding butter to it. Work with your hands until you get nice and smooth dough. Just to warn you this dough is a very soft one. Handle carefully and add flour to your working surface if you have to you.

Leave in a clean bowl to rise for at least an hour. It should double in size before handling again.

Take out to the working bench and roll into a log 25 cm long. Divide equally into 10 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Place every ball into a muffin mould and leave to rise for another hour.

Brush with egg wash (mixture of 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of milk) and bake for 25-30 minutes on 175C.

Leave to cool slightly before serving.

I’ve served these with a splash of raspberry jam and Nutella. It’s messy, sweet and sour and urges you to dig in – as any indulgence should be. The crunchy, buttery and slightly salty brioche with a touch of raspberry jam freshness and strong hazelnut/chocolate Nutella flavour combination – divine!

Cherry bundt cake

Does simplicity strike you as something that can be so beautiful and irresistible that you simply have to have it or make it? I struggle with temptations like this all the time. I suppose that I don’t have to point out that cakes have a leading role in this weakness of mine. I call it a weakness because it can occur even when I am not ready for it, or have no time. I remember a whole dinner could suffer for that matter and had to be made in a very short time. That means that we might have a simple pasta meal for dinner today. This cake took advantage of me and my time but lets be honest – who can resist it.

But I know that this is not the case in some households. Strictly hypothetically speaking if you were in my in-laws neighbourhood and you decided to visit, you would be nicely welcomed and served not just with a delicious meal but cakes would be included as well. Never ever have we visited them and not been served with the little treats that would miraculously appear at the end of the meal. The most likely one would be Lenja pita or  literally translated  Lazy apple or cherry pie; Which happens to be one of my favouritesThis treat originally made with lard, switched to butter or similar due to lack of good quality lard. Or that is what I like to believe. This is one of the sweet treats in the Balkans with history of being different/unique in every household and of course all recipes are perfect despite their slight difference.

So, this sweet inspired me to make a cake that will help us remember gathering and sharing food with our families; A time when we would forget about all our troubles and enjoy good company and good food. That is what this cake is all about to me.

This cake is made with three different sources of fat but that makes it to taste like soft pieces of pure beauty, melting slowly in your mouth. Take it in moderation and it’ll be easy on your stomach as well – that is if you can!

Cherry bundt cake 

200 gr white Spelt flour

125 gr unsalted butter

150 gr sugar

1/2 teaspoon aluminium free baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 eggs

125 gr yoghurt

50 ml vegetable oil

200 gr cherries (I used frozen one)

1 lemon zest

Mix cherry with lemon zest an hour before you start mixing the cake.

Heat the oven to 175 C and grease a baking tin – I used a medium size bundt mould.

Separate egg yolks from egg whites. Mix flour, salt and baking powder and leave aside. In a large bowl beat the butter, sugar and egg yolks until pale and fluffy. Add half of the oil, mix well, then add half of the yoghurt and mix again. Repeat the process with the rest of the oil and yoghurt. Add flour mixture and mix gently with wooden spoon or spatula.

In another large bowl beat the egg whites until soft peak form. Again, using a spatula mix gently into a flour batter. Pour 1/2 of the batter into a baking tin, place cherries on top and finish by adding the rest of the batter. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until you get a golden colour, the smell from the oven is irresistible or the cake tester comes out clean.

After baked, leave for a few minutes in the baking tin. Transfer to a cooling rack and dust with powdered sugar. Can be served with whipped cream or creme fraiche which nicely combines with cherry syrup.

Gingerbread art for rainy days

These days surprisingly we have been rewarded with a few warm days after a very long and cold winter. I thought I’d ever say these words here in Melbourne as I always compare this winter with the one in Europe just to conclude that they are nothing alike.

This winter though, was something different. Long and very cold, making us unwell all the time. When finally the weather changed its course and spring offered us different colours, followed by a different fragrance in the air and everything seems to be falling into a good place, Maksim got sick – again. Thankfully good treatment worked perfectly and he was much better after just a few days. Still, it was highly suggested to us to keep him away from a big crowd (like a classroom) for a couple of weeks. I am not used to seeing my child being so sick and I followed advice without asking additional questions. We are going to stay out of school but since he is  feeling better we need a home schooling program or at least  an organised fun time, otherwise we will end up with a bored child (and we all know what that looks like) and a screaming mother!

On the first day that Maksim felt like doing something exiting we ended up – baking! He wanted to make gingerbread and more importantly to decorate them, because that would be the funniest part. I had no objection to that as I know that art finds its mysterious ways – everywhere. Let me just add, they are very tasty too! Although cookies don’t match my idea of healthy eating and recovering from the nasty bacteria, we ate most of them in no time.

While this might seem just like a fun time to you, I assure you that it was not. Even better, I’ll give you the inside of our fun baking time.

We had a chance to talk about numbers and letters, while writing a recipe. We talked about different geometric shapes while comparing different baking tins. The oven could be dangerous while it’s hot, so we talked about high temperatures which ultimately led us to the Sun and Solar system…different colours of different planets gave us ideas for the colours he used for colouring the cookies. We talked about healthy eating and we even managed to keep honey in this recipe, which is a small milestone as honey was always a big NO to this little guy. We counted cookies and divided them between two baking tins. Then we summed them up again so we knew what the total number was – because math is fun! I decorated one heart and he did the other and we dedicated one to each other. We talked about love, how to be together and how to separate (while Maksim mostly talked about us being baker kings as he was so proud of our work). Again the major lesson on family stability, support and trust. We ate them while doing different artwork and we agreed that they are super yummy and well deserved to be shared… and that is how we had a sweet day baking, exercising our brains and recognising our emotions at the same time.

Of course we watched loads of movies, played with Lego and cooked other meals but a little project like this one made a difference to our staying at home days.

Gingerbread 

250 gr plain flour

130 gr rye flour

150 gr butter

50 gr brown sugar

4 tablespoons honey

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ginger

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 lemon zest

Icing:

500 gr powdered sugar

food colours of your choice

1/2 lemon juice

a few drops of water

Melt the butter and sugar over low heat, until the sugar dissolves. Leave aside to cool for a few minutes. Add  honey and stir until honey is melted.

In a medium sized bowl mix all dry ingredients, flours, spices, baking powder, baking soda and lemon zest.

In a smaller bowl mix the egg with a whisker until fluffy. Pour butter mix over the egg, making sure that the butter is not too hot as the egg will curdle/cook in that case.

Add all wet ingredients to the flour mix and knead until all combined. Wrap into a clear wrap and leave into the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.

Once ready to use, take the dough out of the fridge, leave for 15 minutes to rest on the work surface. Roll over between two baking papers into a 4-5 millimetre thick dough. Cut out the gingerbread dough using a  cutter and place onto a baking tray, previously lined with baking paper.

Bake for 12-14 minutes on 180C. Once baked leave on the cooling rack to cool completely before decorating.

For decoration use an icing mix of powdered sugar, lemon juice and a few drops of water if needed. The icing needs to be very thick but be careful as you have to be able to squeeze it through a piping bag. Use food colours for your colour choice. We ended up using an icing set bought at the market as that was easier for little hands. That’s fine too.

Scrambled eggs with ajvar

Imagine a perfect life that naturally includes a perfect start to a perfect day. What would your first thought be early in the morning? Breakfast? But of course! Mine too. I’ve been thinking about that kind of arrangement a lot lately as you usually do when you are so busy that the morning routine becomes a race against time and stress starts to build from 7 am. Most, if not all of us live a life like that, well at least a few days per week. The days that mum has to work and her mind is way to busy with organising her day that any other effort in the morning is too much for her. Those are the days for strawberry jam on toast, pancakes (if the batter was made the night before) and boiled eggs and soldiers, if the little one pulls the mighty weapon – “Pleeease mum!”

I don’t like days like that. Stress and fast breakfast doesn’t do any of us any good. You leave your house with a busy head and a full tummy, which doesn’t actually communicate with your brain and somehow those good ingredients slow you down and start to build around your waist…….. have I said enough?

I like having all the time in the world just for breakfast. I like baking for breakfast and waiting for the dish to cool down and having time for freshly squeezed juice and a chat either through Skype (inevitability if you live continents away from your family) or in real life as the little one defines reality and the present. Imagine days like those, a perfect start to a perfect day. The breakfast that will last until lunch.

On days like those I think of this dish – A perfect start to a day or if this is too much for you in the morning and you prefer fruit for breakfast and a decent lunch, this is the solution for you.

Scrambled Eggs with Ajvar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons ajvar

1 tablespoon olive oil

pinch of sea salt

crumbled goat cheese for serving

lemon zest

pinch of thyme

2 slices wholemeal bread, toasted

Add two very full spoons of ajar in a heated pan with olive oil. Stir-fry for two minutes, just to start the process of heating/frying.

In a separate bowl mix eggs with salt. Add eggs into a frying pan with ajar and stir quickly to avoid burning and reduce the heat if needed. Once eggs are done, your perfect breakfast or brunch is ready to be served. I love serving it on the toasted bread with crumbled goat cheese on the top and lemon zest and thyme just to enrich the taste.

The recipe for Ajvar can be found here.