Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Sweet rolls cake

School is over. For the most part. What now remains is a long summer holiday, and the practical side of studying, the internship. The last few weeks flew by with some of the highlights detailed here. I am now in the process of preparing for yet another transition in life.
I attended gelato university for a day of proper ice cream education that left me with an over dose of, well, how should I put it, not the best of ice creams. Must have been all the stabilizers and combination of flavors that I would probably never bother to order.
I suspect that my own private research into good gelato across Italy, as well as the home made experiments have yielded ice cream that any industrial version would find hard to beat.
Its been 6 days since my last ice cream. And counting.
Then there was Bottura.
Massimo Bottura, Chef of Osteria La Francescana in Modena, rated 13th best in world, whatever that means.
Bottura came in for a day with a sous chef, and prepared 2 dishes from his repertoire, cooking what he calls ‘’food with a memory’’; Emilia Romana traditional cuisine with a contemporary twist that challenges the concept of locally found ingredients and the fixation with how they should be cooked, drenched in poetics.
Like the dish of Parmesan cheese prepared in 5 different ways, to a variety of textures and forms or the pleasant surprise of a melanzane alla Parmigiana merged with Thai soup, Tm Kha. An eggplant, basil, Stracciatella, lemongrass and smoked chillies never know how much they had in common.
The last dinner, the farewell party, the dinner of all dinners was the unintentional yet surprisingly themed ‘mostly vegetarian Mediterranean buffet’. It exemplified a Grande finale fit for a food themed year, it was good for us, good for the environment and good for the animals that got to see another day. The scarcity of meat was hardly noticed with an abundant table featuring multiple types of focaccia, breads, empanadas, salads of sorts, dips, and cakes.
The non Jewish cousins of Kneidlach, the knödel made an appearance. I don’t think many Jews are aware of this cousin’s existence. Must be the black sheep of the family. I prefer to think of them as atheist knodels.
Unlike the matzoh based Kneidlach, the Knodels are made with bread or pretzels and can be mixed with different herbs and vegetables, and meats such as sausage, bacon, liver or beef. There is also a sweet version with sugar, honey and cinnamon served with cooked fruit. They Knodels are amphibian creatures, and can also be served outside a broth.
This is truly a life changing revelation, and a symbolic one at this point in my life.
I am turning a page.

sweet yeast pastry rolls cake
The best thing about this cake is that it requires no slicing. The rolls can simply be pulled out of the cake.

Sweet yeast pastry(follow this recipe)
spread of your choice ( I used 100g chopped dark chocolate and Halva & Hazelnut spread)

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

prepare the dough.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into two. Roll out and flatten one half of the dough to a rectangle.
Wrap and refrigerate the remaining half, as this dough is easier to manipulate when cold.
Spread half of the filling on the dough rectangle. Cut into long and narrow strips. Roll each strip (not too tight), and place in a tray in a circular pattern.
Leave to proof until double in size.
Bake for 12 minutes.
Repeat with the remaining dough.

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

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Communal Cooking

Cooking alone is therapy, evoking both a linear and a horizontal thought process. This is when my mind finds peace and a clarity of thought. Like a pot of boiling water the gentle, quiet simmer of everything churning that keeps me up at night rises to the top, separating itself from everything else. Now that it is isolated, it becomes visible. It has a face, and a name, and most importantly, a place, no longer a floating nomad in limbo. It is a time for escapism, when nothing else exists outside of a 65 cm radius around me. It is the construction of a small-scale universe that comes with its own set of a small scale past, present and future tense. It has a beginning, middle and an end. Sometimes it all runs smoothly, at others it all goes wrong. There may be challenges ahead, but also conquers of doubts and fears manifested in an egg that’s hard to poach, a bread that wont rise or a sinking wreck of a cake.

Cooking alone is my commodity product.

The end of July is near, to translate from Italian this means everyone is wrapping up in preparation for shutting down the country in August. These are the final days of lectures, and a general the end is nigh atmosphere is in the air. Chef and owner of Bristol’s Bordeaux quay, Barney Haughton, was a visiting lecturer for a two-day seminar. Instead of frontal lectures we were given the task to prepare a vegetarian based group lunch. A single workstation was allocated for the 24 of us at the adjacent renowned Italian cookery school, sans air conditioning, during a typical, mosquito infested, scorching hot Parmesan July day. No meat, no fish, no space to work, no air conditioning, no time and no known budget, BUT love and passion to food in what turned out a surprisingly relaxed affair. Local and seasonal ingredients were transformed into a Technicolor display of dishes. Along with 9 bottles of wine.I will miss this.

Cooking together is a whole different experience.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Friday, 17 July 2009

Northern Exposure. Stockholm.

The height of summer brings me to a sweaty itchy edge. Coastal towns, resorts and islands provide a sanctuary from the turbo heat and tiger mosquitoes. I am in Stockholm to cool off. July sees Sweden in full bloom with an average of 20 degrees, long daylight hours and pitch dusk stands for night. Long sunlit days and a lack of darkness, I could feel a sense of relative elevation in relation to southern territories. Somehow, everything is a little different. Uncannily so.

Then there are the Swedes, high quality eye candy; blonde, tall and beautiful Viking descendants, strutting around in stylish summer clothes that are aired for several weeks of summer.

From this quick deviation and back to the subject of oral pleasures, I was pleasantly surprised to find the local Nordic cuisine fresh, colorful and vibrant with a world of dolci, pastries I relate to as well as Fresh seafood, cured fish, local greens and herbs, spices and butter yeast pastries, wholesome moist breads and robust Italian coffee.

Something would be missing without the supporting acts:


There is an appreciation for strong Italian coffee that goes very well with the bundled knot of sweet yeast pastry filled with cinnamon or cardamon. Perfect for a Fika.

Swedish rye bread

In Italy I buy the powder mix version of Swedish rye bread in Ikea in search for a wholesome, dark, explosion of seeds, nuts and grains. Swedish bread was education. With is a wide variety ranging from crisp dark bread to a molasses colored dense bread that’s all chewy, crunchy, sweet and moist. To enjoy with a good butter, and locally brewed Swedish beer (see below).

Swedish Beer

Sweden doesn’t make wine, its far too cold for that.

I had the pleasure of enjoying Nils Oscar God Lager and slottskallans.

In terms of other types of alcohol, that is if you can

a. find it

b. afford it

there's locally made schnapps and aquavit.


A slightly fermented milk that’s somewhere between milk and yogurt, it has the smoothness of cream, the tartness of yogurt and the consistency of butter milk. and no aftertaste. To have with cereal, dried fruit and nuts.

Everything in paste form

There seems to be a preference for the toothpaste packaging with an exceptionally large variety of food stuffs kept in paste form; mayonnaise, fish roe, salmon mousse, lobster & dill, and smoked bacon puree. See ‘Swedish rye bread’ for optional serving suggestions.

I haven’t mentioned dill, potatoes, the passion for mayonnaise, buffet eating (smargasbord), salmon and Swedish pancakes. But they too were there, for a demonstration of support.

A tough act to follow, next stop is the Bourgogne region in France. A Doppo.

Friday, 10 July 2009

The juggling tont

Nothing is more uplifting then a good picnic, as long as its good picnic. The sense of accomplishment in ceasing an entire sunny Sunday for the sake of pure fun is soon after replaced by a fast spreading fatigue, the result of a day well spent.

Now, that the end is in the horizon, we share a general feeling that every minute needs to count. Sunday was made into a Latino themed BBQ; a spot was conquered in the park, and we set up camp; bags were emptied, plastic containers were opened and the grill was lit. With 10 food and booze addicts in charge, it’s a surprisingly organized ordeal with the best in food on offer; margheritas, mojito, grilled meat, home made tortillas, salsas, guacamole, frijoles, rice, roasted potatoes and sesame chili corn bread.

I even baked a southern style pecan pie using US Pecans sold in the UK, brought over to Parma, and eaten by Americans. The world is round and everything comes full circle and Pecans are no exception.

Well equipped with beer, a Frisbee, a couple of swings, a blanket and enough bottles for a water fight, we settled down in the park until after dark.

I am now at home. I am full. I am tired. I am content.

I am in bed. And I am so glad I have had my shower. A thunderstorm is on its way to wash over the heat of day.