Monday, January 29, 2007

Pork Mole

Mole is a sauce that I had read about before, the main reason that I was interested in it, is that it contains chocolate. The traditional mole sauce, made in many places in Mexico, each region with their own list of 27, or sometimes 29, ingredients, including spices, tomatoes, onions, raisins, almonds, and especially chilies. And a little bit of chocolate, an underlying sweetness to balance the heat. The traditional meat that is used in this dish is the Mexican turkey, though more often people use chicken. This recipe is not really traditional, it uses pork, as well it uses cocoa powder instead of chocolate, and there are no chilies, well, chili sauce. It's easy to make, and tastes pretty good, though I think it looks kind of weird, not the normal thing I would put on noodles, a brown sauce.

Pork Mole
2 Tbsp sunflower oil, divided
1 lb lean pork, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp Chili with Garlic Sauce
2/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup chicken broth or water
1/4 cup hazelnuts or sliced almonds
4 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
pinch of each: cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg
sea salt to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil in large skillet. Sauté the pork over medium heat, turning often until browned on all sides. Remove to a plate and set aside. Using the same skillet heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Sauté the onion for 5 minutes. Place the onion in a blender with tomatoes, chili sauce, raisins, broth, almonds, cocoa powder, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Pulverize until almost smooth. Return pork to the skillet and top with blended sauce. Simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve over your favourite noodles.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Le Petit Ecolier Extra Dark

I came across France's No. 1 Biscuit Brand, Lu, who make their chocolate covered butter biscuits called Le Petit Ecolier, in the local supermarket. They have three other kinds of this Little Schoolboy biscuit, Dark Chocolate (with 45% cacoa content), Hazelnut Milk Chocolate and Milk Chocolate. The Extra Dark Chocolate pictured here has 70% cacao content and the chocolate is made of cocoa mass and cocoa butter, sugar, butter and soy lecithin. Not had tasting, though a little too dry for my tastes, the biscuits were not that buttery either. I will at least attempt to seek out their Hazelnut Milk Chocolate version.

Kowa China Puerh Tea

Pu-erh tea comes from China, it's also known as "Red Tea" and is one of the distinct types of tea, the others being Black, Green, White and Oolong. They all come from the same plant, the difference being in how they are prepared, the end result too is a different taste for each. Black and Pu-erh teas are both fermented, the Pu-erh becomes a coppery red. Quite an interesting flavour, more earthy than the others. This box comes from Kowa Coffee and Tea Company.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bahlsen Gingerbread Trees

Here is another example of the chocolate covered gingerbread cookies popular at Christmas. These are made by the German company Bahlsen. These particular ones are covered with dark chocolate, rather than milk chocolate, a trend that many companies are following, far more products are appearing that incorporate dark chocolate, a trend that I heartily approve of.

Tamarind Juice

Tamarind is popular in many ways, I have often eaten the tamarind sweets, both the sugared and the spiced varieties, that come from the Caribbean, too tamarind paste is used in many Asian and Indian dishes. When I came across this tamarind juice in the Chinese supermarket, I just had to try it. Well, it tasted not too bad, though it was really quite weak, more water and sugar than tamarind, I must say I was a little disappointed. The product comes from Thailand, it looks like they produce a number of fruit juices, including guava and coconut.

Origin 64

I came across this chocolate box in Walmart, of all places, Lily O'Brien's is the first Irish chocolatier that I have come across. These dark chocolate pieces have a cacao content of 64%, the cocoa beans coming exclusively from Costa Rica, the Trinitario varietal. According to the info in the box, this chocolate boasts a delicate woody bouquet enhanced by a bittersweet cocoa aroma. I can certainly say that they taste really good, melt in your mouth easily, snap apart satisfyingly, all around a great chocolate. They make a number of different chocolates, some filled, some just pure chocolate. They recommend, too, eating these alone, with the curtains drawn and the lights turned down, and to not tell anybody the reason for such, to 'keep them in the dark'.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lemon Syrup Cake

One of the cookbooks I got from my sister-in-law the other week is called Chocolate and Baking, which features a large number of recipes that contain, well, you guessed it, chocolate. Of course, the first recipe I tried, perhaps you could see it coming, does not contain chocolate. I do, however, like other things than chocolate, and one of them is lemon, and this looked good. It smells good too, coming out of the oven, all lemony, even more so when you brush the lemon syrup on top of the hot cake. Mmmmm... lemon...

Lemon Syrup Cake
From Chocolate and Baking
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup superfine sugar
4 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
grated rind 1 large lemon
4 Tbsp lemon juice
2/3 cup sunflower oil
For syrup:
4 Tbsp confectioners' sugar
3 Tbsp lemon juice

Lightly grease an 8-inch loose-bottomed round cake pan with butter and line the base with parchment paper.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl; stir in the sugar.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sour cream, lemon rind, lemon juice and oil together.

Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients; mix well until evenly combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F for about 45-60 minutes, until risen and golden brown.

Meanwhile, to make the syrup, mix together the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Stir over a low heat until the mixture starts to bubble and turn syrupy.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, prick the surface with a knife, then brush the syrup over the top. Let the cake cool completely in the pan before turning out and serving.

Serves 8.

Weiche Herzen

One of the cookies that we buy at Christmas time usually involves gingerbread covered with chocolate, in the shape of hearts. My Dad bought these for me on the weekend. How nice and thoughtful.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Every culture seems to have their own unique version of sandwich, the gyro pita in Greece, the wrap or sub in North America, the samosa in India, calzones in Italy, empanadas for Spanish cultures; for the Chinese it could be the steamed bun, or baozi, a steamed meat and/or vegetable filled dough popularly sold on many streets in China. Too, I have a liking for the Chinese sweet red bean paste found in many snacks, my brother-in-law wanted to make some for me, as I had been unsuccessful in finding any of these kind of baozi at the local Chinese supermarket (well, once, but I had forgot to bring my wallet). Not having an exact recipe for these, we decided to improvise. He could make the sweet red bean paste, and did so, he used a pressure cooker to speed the process, really it is just cooking adzuki or red beans, adding some sugar, till they become a paste. Next we needed a dough, and for this, I suggested we use the dough from the Purity Rolls I described earlier. Each 'roll' we rolled out flat, then dolloped a good amount of sweet red bean paste in the centre, then wrap the dough to make a round package, twisting to seal the bun.

Once these are all done, we filled a large wok with water, heating the wok over high heat till the water began to boil. Place a rack over the steaming water, and place the baozi on the rack. Steam the baozi for 10-12 minutes, depending on size.

Remove the baozi, let cool for a couple of minutes, and enjoy.

Winter red berries

We had a light sprinkling of snow on the weekend, these red berries looked quite good with their dusting.

Hearty Meat Lasagna

My sister wanted to make lasagna again, earlier we had made one using a meat recipe from Jamie Oliver, called Amazing Slow Cooked Meat, it was quite good. We were looking for a more traditional recipe, and so I suggested this one from the excellent book, The New Best Recipe, which contains lots of recipes, and also lots of information as to why each recipe is 'the best recipe'. Quite good for beginning cooks and advanced alike. The lasagna was quite tasty, and easy to make. I have read that the best combination of ground meat for making meatloafs or burgers or meat sauces, is 50% ground beef, and 25% each of ground veal and pork, though you could use any ground meat in this dish, even ground chicken or turkey. We used whole wheat lasagna noodles, use them if you can get them.

Hearty Meat Lasagna
From The New Best Recipe
Serves 6 to 8
Tomato-Meat Sauce:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
combination making up one pound of ground beef chuck, ground veal and/or ground pork (or 1/2 lb. ground beef and 1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
28 oz. can pureed tomatoes
28 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
Ricotta, Mozarella and Pasta Layers:
15 oz. whole milk or part-skim ricotta cheese (1-3/4 cups)
2-1/2 oz. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (1-1/4 cups)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
1 lb. whole milk mozarella cheese, shredded (4 cups)

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 190C/375F.

Heat the oil, over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high and add the ground meat, salt and pepper; cook, breaking the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon until the meat has lost its raw colour but has not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates and only the fat remains, about 4 minutes. Add the pureed and drained diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low and simmer slowly until the flavours are blended, about 3 minutes; set the sauce aside.

Mix the ricotta, 1 cup of the Parmesan, the basil, egg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl with a fork until well combined and creamy; set aside.

Smear the entire bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish with 1/4 cup of the meat sauce (avoiding large chunks). Place 3 noodles in the baking dish to create the first layer. Drop 3 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture down the centre of each noodle and level it with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the layer evenly with 1 cup of the shredded mozarella. Spoon 1-1/2 cups of the meat sauce evenly over the cheese. Repeat the layer of noodles, ricotta, mozarella and sauce two more times. Place the remaining 3 noodles on top of the sauce, sprinkle with the remaining mozarella, then with the remaining Parmesan. Lightly oil one side of a large sheet of foil and cover the lasagna.

Bake 15 minutes, then remove the foil, taking care that the cheese does not pull off. Return the lasagna to the oven and continue to bake until the cheese is beginning to brown and the sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes. Cool the lasagna for 10 minutes before cutting into pieces and serving.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Club Teilchen

Club-Teilchen, or Party Buns, are made from the same cheese-oil dough recipe that I have used before in several other recipes. Normally it uses the European cheese quark, but I had some extra ricotta that also works well with this kind of recipe, and needed to be used up. I used wild blueberry-concord grape jam, and seedless raspberry, both of the type that has more fruit, and less sugar. Quite good.

Club Teilchen
150 g Quark Cheese, liquid removed (or Ricotta, or pressed Cottage Cheese)
6 tbsp Milk
6 tbsp Oil
75 g Sugar
3 tsp Vanilla Sugar
pinch salt
300 g Flour, sifted
3 tsp Baking Powder
2-3 Tbsp. jam
To brush on:
condensed milk

Remove most of the liquid from the cheese (Note: weight of cheese is without liquid). Combine cheese, milk, oil, sugars and salt. Stir until smooth.

Combine flour and baking powder. Add half the flour mixture by tablespoonfuls to the cheese mixture. Knead in the rest of the flour mixture.

Roll out the dough to 1/2 cm thick and cut into squares. Add the jam to the centre of the square, then fold over into triangles or rectangles. Brush condensed milk onto the top and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Poulain Ultime Noir

The next chocolate bar I tried is also from a French chocolatier, Poulain, owned by Cadbury. They have been in existence since 1848, hence the line of special chocolate bars called 1848. This selection, containing 86% cocoa content, is called Ultime Noir, or Ultimate Dark. Its ingredients listing is short, just dark chocolate (made of unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, cocoa powder, sugar, soy lecithin and natural flavour). There is no indication as to the origin of the cacao beans. The chocolate snaps or breaks fairly well, it melts in your mouth fairly well, and actually has a less dry taste in the mouth than the previous French chocolate I ate. The taste is good, though I would not quite class this as the ultimate.

Ricotta and Fennel Meatballs

I have been an admirer for a few months of Donna Hay and her recipes, I've bought several of her magazines, but have never, until now, made one of her recipes. This one, in her latest issue, looked quite tasty, and so I endeavoured to make it. Unfortunately, I could not get veal, so I substituted ground lamb. Too, I substituted some limoncella for the chicken stock I had discovered past its date in my larder. Neither substitution impacted the wonderfully rich taste of these meatballs, though it popped into my head that perhaps I would have been better served to put mint leaves instead of the oregano, as that pairs better with the lamb. Serve over your favourite pasta.

Ricotta and Fennel Meatballs
From a recipe from Donna Hay Entertaining
2 slices bread
1/2 cup milk
250 g ground pork
250 g ground veal
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1 garlic clove, crushed and roughly chopped
100 g ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 Tbsp olive oil
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt and cracked black pepper

Place the bread and milk in a large bowl and allow to stand for 2 minutes or until the bread has absorbed the milk. Add the ground pork, ground veal, oregano, basil, fennel seeds, garlic, ricotta and egg, and mix until well combined. Roll into small balls, about a tablespoonful each.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the oil and cook the meatballs in batches for 2-3 minutes or until browned. Return all the meatballs to the frying pan.

Place the tomatoes, stock, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix to combine.

Pour the tomato mixture over the meatballs and simmer over low heat for 20-25 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened.

Water Chestnuts

Most North Americans are familiar with water chestnuts, usually found sliced in various Chinese dishes, or sliced in a can, but my brother-in-law bought some fresh water chestnuts, still in their shell, and boiled them. The hardest part was getting the thin shell off, but once you did, the flesh inside was sweet and crunchy.

Monbana Dark

The latest chocolate bar I tried was from a French chocolatier called Monbana, they have been in business since 1934. This dark chocolate bar boasts 70% cocoa content, and the ingredient listing is small, a good sign, just cocoa mass, sugar and soya lecithin (as an emulsifier). It does not say where the cacao beans come from. The chocolate tastes good, it snaps apart well, it melts fairly easily in the mouth, the best way to eat dark chocolate, though it seems a little dry if you chew it, likely because of the high cacao content.

Christmas Chocolates

A traditional gift to all the children at Christmas is chocolate.

This hollow milk chocolate Santa comes from Germany.

This cute milk chocolate ladybug also is a German traditional gift for luck.

Christmas Gummis

Every year my aunt and uncle from Germany send me a package or two of gummibears, this year they sent some natural gummis, made from better ingredients than most North American made gummis. The one package of gummis is sweetened with real black currant, raspberry, lemon, apple, pineapple and orange juices. The smaller package looks to be similarly flavoured. They seem to be fresh too, nice and soft like good gummis should be.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Dr. Oetker Measuring Cup

We've had one of these old-style measuring cups in our cupboard for years, I can't even say how long, it's even starting to rust, so I was pleased to see that it is still available in Germany. My dear aunt sent me one for Christmas. Within, it has ways to measure cocoa, rice, flour, raisins, sugar, salt, peas or beans or lentils, and liquid measures, but it also has the old-fashioned way of measuring butter, which is to fill the container with water to a certain level, then add butter till it achieves the level you want; this will give you the desired weight of butter that you need according to the recipe. It's much easier now, with scales and measurements on the butter chart, I know, but I find it interesting the way that people figured out how to do this.

Spaghetti Squash

The season for squash is fall, and I had been meaning to make this particular kind of squash, so named because, once cooked to make it soft, its flesh resembles long strands of spaghetti. It's easy to cook as well, all you need to do, is to slice it in half, scoop out the pumpkin-looking seeds, then bake, cut-side down, for 45 minutes at 350F. Take out of the oven and check to see if it is tender enough, if not, return to the oven cut-side up, and bake in 5 minute intervals until tender enough. If it is tender, you should be able to separate the long strands easily with a fork. Now, add your favourite spaghetti toppings, it goes well with white sauce, spaghetti sauce, parmesan, bacon bits, or other spices. What I used, is a recipe I found in The Accidental Foodie, provided by Nigel Slater. This lemon and basil sauce called for linguine, but it almost went well with the squash, despite spaghetti squash already tasting, and looking like it should, a little bit like lemon without sauce. I definitely think that I would pair it with tomato sauce next time. Quite good, though, and nutritious.

Lemon and Basil Dressing
Adapted from a recipe of Nigel Slater
juice of 1 large lemon
80 mL (1/3 cup) olive oil
75 g (3/4 cup) grated parmesan
large handful of basil leaves

Put the lemon juice, olive oil and grated parmesan in a warm bowl (warmed under a running tap, then dried) and beat briefly with a small whisk until thick and grainy. Tear up the basil and stir in with a grinding of black pepper.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Swedish Krullers

I wanted to make this German recipe, called Schurzkuchen for New Year's Eve, it's kind of a tradition to make it then, but unfortunately I forgot the recipe at my home. I did, however, find this similar recipe in this Swedish cookbook that I had recently got. The difference between the two, is that the German recipes use the whole egg, some ground blanched almonds, and some milk, in larger quantity, rather than the cognac. These did turn out to taste about the same as the schurzkuchen, everyone said so, though I had the oil too hot at first, and lost the first three. Lesson learned. I also did not add the grated lemon rind or the cognac when I made these.

Swedish Krullers
4 egg yolks
50 g (1/4 cup) sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cognac
grated rind of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp softened butter
100 g (1 cup) flour
oil, for frying
sugar, for garnish

Stir together the egg yolks, sugar, salt, cognac and lemon rind. Add the butter and flour; quickly work the dough together. Chill for 2 hours.

Roll out the dough on lightly floured surface to little more than 3 mm thickness. Use a ruler and cut the dough with pastry wheel into strips, 3x10 cm, with slanted edges. Cut a 3 cm slit in center of each strip and pull one end through the slit.

Heat the oil in heavy-bottomed pan to 175C. The fat should go about 8 cm deep. Cook a few crullers at a time until golden, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towel for a minute, then dip both sides in sugar.

Makes about 30.

Baghdad Eggs

I bought this book called 'The Accidental Foodie', in which this fellow interviews several famous chefs, who then each provide a few recipes. I was intrigued by this simple recipe, basically fried eggs with garlic and lemon, seasoned with cumin and mint. I served it on flatbread. Quite delicious.

Baghdad Eggs
recipe by Stephanie Alexander
20 g butter
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs
freshly ground cumin seeds
1 slice hot toast or flatbread
freshly ground pepper
a few shredded mint leaves

Melt the butter over medium-low heat and, when it starts to foam, drop in the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, until just starting to change colour. Add the lemon juice and eggs and fry gently until set.

Sprinkle over a good pinch of cumin and serve over toast or flatbread. Season with salt, pepper and mint.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Purity Basic Rolls

I made this recipe for several reasons. I got this new cookbook from my sister-in-law, who was giving away a lot of books for charity, one of them was called The New Purity Cook Book: The Complete Guide to Canadian Cooking, and so I snatched it, and several other cookbooks she pointed out. Purity brand flour was made by Maple Leaf Mills Ltd.; my sister-in-law has the earlier version of the cookbook, and leafing through it, it seems to have a number of recipes that look good. The second reason, is that we were to bring some bread to the Boxing Day meal at my brother's as one of our contributions. Lastly, we wanted to make bao zi, Chinese steamed buns with sweet red bean paste, and we needed some dough for the bun. This recipe turned out pretty good, the buns were good and tasty, and the dough worked fairly well with the bao zi.

Purity Basic Rolls
1-1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup shortening
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup lukewarm water (100F)
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 egg, beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 to 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
melted butter, for brushing

Scald milk. Pour scalded milk into a large bowl and add sugar, salt and shortening, stirring until shortening dissolves. Cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, dissolve one teaspoon sugar in lukewarm water. Sprinkle yeast over this. Let stand for 10 minutes. Stir briskly with a fork.

Add softened yeast to lukewarm milk mixture, then add beaten egg, stirring to combine.

Beat in three cups of flour vigorously by hand or with electric mixer.

Then gradually beat in with a spoon the additional flour. Work in last of flour with a rotating motion of the hand.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead 8 to 10 minutes. Shape into a smooth ball and place in a greased bowl, rotating dough to grease surface. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1-1/2 hours).

Punch down and divide in 4. Shape each piece into a cylinder about 1-1/2" in diameter. Cut each cylinder into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a ball. Place 16 balls, almost touching in a greased 8 or 9-inch square pan. Brush with melted butter. Cover with greased wax paper and a damp cloth and let rise until doubled (about 3/4 hour). Bake at 375F for 25 to 30 minutes.