Saturday, 28 February 2009


Pancake Day celebrations took an international theme this year.
I ended up hosting a Pancake feast as the thought of not ceasing the opportunity to prepare, consume and be around so many pancakes was not an option.
There were coconut macaroon pancakes, Danish pancakes, frittelle,
Blueberry ricotta pancakes, chickpea flour pancakes, farinata Genovese and kaiserschmarrn, the latter being my contribution.
Besides breaking your teeth trying trying to pronounce the thing, it is genious.
How did I not know of this sooner? It makes perfect sense!
Similar to making pancakes, this is the quicker, immediate satisfaction version, and even MORE comforting!
The general idea is to prepare the batter, which includes separating the eggs and whipping the egg whites before folding it back in the mixture, and then pouring the lot in one go to a large pan. This results in quite a mess, hence the name (the literall translation is 'emperor's mess'). However, this is organized, controlled mess, with the extra benefit of foreseeing it, and thus enjoying it.
It's over before you know it and the schmarrn is ready to be devoured. This is a slightly modified recipe taken from The Illustrated Kitchen Bible by Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner.

serves 4
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
¼ - 2/3 cup whole milk
2 tbsp butter
¼ cup raisins (soaked in rum for an hour- optional)
For serving
Orange zest
Caster sugar

Whisk the flour, sugar, egg yolks and milk together in a bowl with a clean whisk until smooth.
Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into the batter.
Melt the butter in a 20cm nonstick frying pan over medium heat.

Pour in the batter and sprinkle with the raisins.
Cook until the underside is browned. At this point you need to turn the pancake, thus begins the tricky part as its going to get messy.
Try to relax and enjoy it. You don’t want to fuss too much around it or you'll end up with an omelet.

In order to make sure the batter is cooked through, cut the pieces to small bite size chunks with the spatula, until done.
Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with plenty of cinnamon, sugar and orange zest. That’s it.

Traditionally served with plum preserves or apple sauce on the side.
Alternatively, you may want to try it with ricotta (with added sugar and vanilla), sour cream, chocolate sauce to name but a few.
It also works great with other combinations such as banana and chocolate (naturally).

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Venice Experience

I have returned from a place that exceeds fantasy and is beyond time. Venice is real and timeless.
The narrow alleys, winding and intertwining, made walking with a map a useless attempt to restrain and control her. But she had bigger plans. so that idea was abandoned and soon enough we let the city lead us and show us the way.
The city is surprisingly quiet. It’s the sound of an old and wise city, one that has survived centuries of passers by and is unfathomed by the constant attention. She is beyond it. Other than the odd clip- clop sound of a random pedestrian, a peaceful silence dominates the air, while a displaced helicopter serves a reminder that I am here and now as opposed to anywhere else.
Its carnival weekend, and after a brief window shopping session we have our maschera, masks, and are ready to go about town.
The elaborate, well tailored ball gowns and periodical costumes magically transport Venice back in time and out of reality.
When our time in Venice drew to a close, Venice objected. I think she didn’t want us to leave. Not yet. In fact, she was pretty clear about her wishes and took an active role in ensuring she would get her way.
On Sunday night, we naively went to the train station. what we had encountered we should have foreseen… as if taken from a scene in a film on wartime hardship, the station was packed with visitors desperate to leave the island and return home, all wanting to get on our train!
Plan B. there is NO plan B.
so we stayed another night. If Venice insists, who am I to disagree?
The city had repossessed herself once again, with most of the tourists gone after yet another colorful festive carnival, and we were the lucky ones to stay and enjoy; A restaurant fully booked the night before greeted us with a smile, a sestiere we hadn’t ventured to was peaceful and inviting.
I wouldnt want to be anywhere else.
I am not a Venice virgin anymore.
Memorable dish (a haiku)
White polenta & black ink
squid. Literally.
Monochrome is not my plate

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Chocolate Tasting

You never think you can have too much chocolate, that is until you have a chocolate tasting class right after lunch (which consisted of dessert that was essentially pastry spread with a jar of Nutella and topped with some additional pastry).
The tasting was what one might call, eating a box of chocolate bonbons; a variety of 23 chocolates, including a 100% cocoa chocolate, a hazelnut praline, a cherry Grappa praline, Gianduja, extra virgin olive oil & salt praline, Szechuan pepper praline, balsamic vinegar praline and Habanero chilli praline to name a few.
I put on a brave face and did what I had to do.
I think I've had enough of chocolate for a while.
Then again, tomorrow is another day.
UPDATE: I woke up at 05.30am. This never happens to me.
I'm pretty sure it was the chocolate from within...

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Chocolate Rugelach

Its Carnevale in Italy; the two weeks celebration period that take place prior to Ash Wednesday and the somber lent period. A Valentines Day Latino Fiesta, for which I prepared the not so Latino Rugelach posed a challenge: carrying baked goods while simultaneously attempting to walk in high heels on the uneven, confetti clad, cobbled streets of Parma is not as easy at it sounds.
But I think I found the best way to celebrate this holiday; communally!

The communal celebration of love took place on a sunny, Saturday afternoon, sipping on rather strong Mojitos, while enjoying fried plantains, nachos, Torta de Patatas, hand made fajitas, Carnitas, guacamole and Frijoles (fried in pork lard, there is no escaping this stuff!!!), chocolate tart and pumpkin flan, celebrating love of, in and through food. The Latino connection to the Ashkenazi Jewish pastry may seem random, but had it not been for the discovery of the cocoa beans, this bundle of comfort and joy would not have reached its mythological stature. I prepared the traditional, chocolate filled, sugar glazed, moist and chewy version, like the ones I buy on a Friday morning, hoping they'd last the entire weekend this time, but instead are devoured while reading the weekend papers.
The Rugelach had translated better than I had expected. Outside of their permanent and fixed perception as boring, traditional pastry they were experienced by an unbiased audience for what they are: good!

Chocolate* Rugelach (Oren Giron's translated recipe)
(Makes about 50)

For the dough
500g Sifted White flour
1/2Tsp Salt
40g Fresh yeast
1/2 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
2/3 cup Luke warm milk
100g Butter at room temperature

For the filling
150g Butter
1 cup Fine cocoa powder
1 cup Demarera sugar
1 Tsp Cinnamon

For the glazing
1 1/2 cups Sugar
2/3 cups Water

In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Mix in the yeast. Mix in the sugar and eggs. Pour in the milk slowly allowing the flour to absorb the liquids. Knead for 5 minutes. Add the butter and knead for a further 3 minutes. The dough should be smooth, shiny and soft. Transfer into a large bowl, cover with cling film and put in the fridge overnight. This allows the dough to rise and expand slowly without drying out.

The next day

melt the butter. Mix in the cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon. Allow to cool until it hardens to a paste consistency, for easy application.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into quarters. Roll out and flatten one quarter of the dough to a 50x20cm rectangle.
Wrap and refrigerate the remaining quarters, as this dough is easier to manipulate when cold.
Spread a quarter of the filling on the dough rectangle. Cut into long and narrow triangles. Roll each triangle (not too tight), and place in a tray with the end tucked underneath, protecting it from opening during baking.
Leave to proof until double in size.
Bake for 12 minutes.
Repeat with the remaining 3/4 of the dough.

Once all of the Rugelach have cooled prepare the sugar glazing by bringing the sugar and water to a boil. Glaze the rugelach using a brush.
They are best eaten on the day of baking.
They will keep for several days in an airtight container, or cover with foil and freeze until ready to have with coffee.

* I suspect Nutella, chestnut puree or a winter spice mix would make good fillings, though I have yet attempted them.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Friday, 6 February 2009

Eating up Tuscany

Four days of food & wine in Tuscany is hard work.
Brunello di Montalcino wine, Cinta Sinese salumi, Pecorino cheese and espresso coffee are flowing in my blood stream, I am now soaked with the Tuscan terroir. Literally.
The trip consisted of constant and regular food and wine intake in the form of tasting sessions (in between the all important meal times) of the best in what the local produce has to offer, laced with the panoramic Tuscan landscape, medieval architecture and warm hospitality of wine, meat, cheese, olive oil and pasta producers.

And so I find myself waking up on the bus from a short nap on a Thursday afternoon, hungover from the Brunello di Montalcino wine I had at lunch and at the wine tasting prior to it. Looking out of the window Tuscany is wrapped around me; olive trees, vineyards and giant broccoli- esque trees cover the fertile hills. In the spirit of intensive farming we are groomed, fed and fattened, to be cured and consumed. Feeding sessions are not far apart, nor are the visits to wineries.
Eating and drinking all day requires stamina as well as a strong stomach.
From a wine tasting to lunch, to yet another wine, cheese and olive oil tasting before an aperitivo on the way to a seven course dinner, I have lost the sensation of hunger, or of fullness for that matter. It is only at the end of the third day that local vegetables are introduced to our menu, and in true gastronomic spirit, the lack of hunger or appetite is hardly an obstacle. Our eyes sparkle with excitement as we are served local delicacies. I must be in the right place.
My digestion system has had to work nonstop without pausing between feedings, and alcohol certainly has a soothing effect when a 7 course local medieval dinner is the case.
During the past four days approximately 4 liters of Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Grappa and Vin Santo wine were consumed by each of us individually during the visits to local wineries, restaurants and producers.
It is at times like this that I dream of rice and raw vegetables, and while this eating business proves hard at times, it is a constant reminder of how happy I am. If not really full.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Upside down (caramelized) banana chocolate cake

I had a wine tasting class on Friday. All day...
And so now I can say things like ''2001 was good year for Bordeaux wines'', and ''this is a full bodied, balanced wine with a wonderful bouquet...'' (Kind of…there's slightly more to it...)
Though I can't say drinking wine before noon is something I can see myself doing too often...
For a birthday party on Saturday I decided to bake a favorite; an upside down caramelized banana chocolate cake. Its rich and moist, crazy and gooey…
I cut it into bite sized cubes, creating a balanced sensation; the combination of crunchy chocolate and bananas, topped with one circular banana slice, glazed in caramel. naturally…

Upside down caramelized banana chocolate cake
(Approx 48 bite size squares)

For the caramel
3/4 cup Demerara sugar
1Tbs water
25g unsalted butter
1 Tbs. pure maple syrup
2-3 firm but ripe bananas

For the cake
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 egg yolk1
1/2 cups white flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
80g unsalted Butter
2-3 mashed bananas
100g Dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), coarsely cut
2 Tbs Frangelico liqueur (Optional)

To serve with
1 cup roasted coconut flakes mixed
with a lightly sweetened whipped cream

In the Tart Tatin pan over medium heat, add the sugar, and water. Heat the mixture until it begins to boil, reduce the heat and simmer 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the maple syrup and butter and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat. Arrange the discs of banana slices so that they cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla and egg yolks. Set aside.
Flour the chocolate pieces. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, sift together the flour, the sugar, the baking powder and salt. Add the remaining 6 butter and beat on medium-low speed until the butter forms pea-size pieces. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the milk mixture beat until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the banana mash and chocolate pieces and liqueur, and stir with a wooden spoon.
Spoon the batter over the bananas, spreading it evenly.

Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Run a small offset spatula or a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a flat serving plate upside down on top of the pan and invert the pan and plate together. Let stand for 5 minutes, and then lift off the pan.

Slice and serve warm with coconut whipped cream.
For a simpler, less festive version, omit the caramelized banana pat, and bake in a loaf pan.