Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hidden curry

I have developed in the last couple of years a real obsession with curry. Every once in a while I cannot resist and I buy another curry mixture to try. Maybe is just to much influence from my Indian and Pakistani colleagues.
I think pumpkin goes very well with spices and why not with curry also. I did it with bulgur, but I think it will taste wonderfully with rice and maybe even with chicken instead of shrimps. Again it´s all a matter of what your´re in the mood for (or whatever is available in you fridge).

Pumpkin and shrimp curry


1 small hokkaido pumpkin per person (or make it a bigger one for 2, for example)
1 cup of bulgur
2 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of spinach
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup of tomato in small pieces (can be canned)
1 cup of shrimps (no skins, can be precooked)
your favorite curry powder to taste
oil, salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of bread crumbs per pumpkin

Cut the pumpkin above middle in order to make a sort of bowl and lid. Remove all seeds, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and cook in the oven until the inside of the pumpkin is soft. Let it cool down and scrape the inside of the pumpkin, trying not to make any holes on the "shell". Chop the pumpkin "meat" in smaller pieces and reserve.
In a pan soften the chopped onion and garlic until slightly brown. Add the curry powder letting it toast for a couple of minutes. Fold in the bulgur mixing it well to get all the spices involved. Add the chopped tomato and pumpkin, and the broth letting it cook until the the bulgur is soft and most liquid evaporated. Add in the spinach and the shrimps cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes. Distribute the mixture in the pumpkin(s) and top with bread crumbs and a sprinkle with coriander or other herb to taste. Take to the over for a couple of minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden. Serve with the pumpkin "lid" on.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Marzipan people

Dead or live, they are delicious.

I used a honey marzipan, which is not actually as sweet as the normal one. As a result the cookies are not extremely sweet, and have a light honey note to it.

Marzipan cookies
(recipe from Rapunzel website)

200 g flour
40 g of brown sugar
100 g cold butter
100 g of marzipan
1 egg yolk

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until the dough is consistent. If it is too dry and not holding together, add a bit of cold water (1 or 2 tablespoons). Refrigerate for at least one hour before shaping and cooking. When refrigerated, roll out the though thinly and use the cookie cutter of your choice. Bake the cookies at 180°C until golden (less than 10 minutes). Let them cool down before decorating if you wish.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Apple and almond pie for a special guest

Yesterday we had the best Mainz photographer, J.B. over our house for some coffee and cake, with a lot of chatting and photos on the side.

Nothing better than choosing the season products like some nice apples.

Apple and almond pie
(adapted from the magazine "Meine Familie & Ich")

For the shortcrust pastry
50 g sugar
100 g butter
150 g flour
1 egg yellow
2 tablespoons of cold water

Mix all the ingredients until you have a hard dough (if its too soft or to crumbly add more flour or water respectively). Place it in the fridge for 30 min or more.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Roll the shortcrust pastry until its quite tin and place it in a pie form (I used a 26 cm diameter). Cook the shortcrust pastry for about 15 minutes, covered with some aluminum foil (it should be quite pale and not brown).

For the apples
4 apples pealed and without core, cutted in quarters or smaller
2 tablespoons of honey
juice and peal of 1 lemon
1 package of vanilla sugar (or vanilla essence to taste)

Place the apples in a pan and cover them with enough water. Add the sugar, honey and juice and peals of the lemon. Bring to a boil, and let cook for around 5 minutes, just until the apples are soft but not overcooked. Drain the liquid (you can use it for something else later) and let it cool down slightly.

For the filling
240 g grated almonds
100 g of powder sugar
100 g of butter
2 eggs
a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons of flour

With a mixer mix all the ingredients together until you have a thick dough. Spread the almond dough over the shortcrust pastry and place the apples around, pressing them slightly inside of the dough.
Cook at 160°C for around 40 minutes. Let it cool down before removing from the pie form, and sprinkle with powder sugar.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Truffles in Croatia

Last week I was in Croatia, as usual in this time of the year due to working reasons. Every year the nice people from the Institute Ruder Boscovic in Rovinj, try to arrange some trips for us visitors to discover a bit more of Istria. This year we were visiting a family business dedicated to truffles.

The Karlić family has been dedicated to the truffles for some generations. They train their own dogs to sniff the truffles in the nearby Motovun forest in Paladini. In the small visit we made them, we were shown how the dogs were searching for the truffles (not very lucky though, we found only one) and of course the stock of white and black truffles they had for sale, as well as many other related products.

To finish things up, we were served some truffle cheese and smoked sausage, and truffle omelet (made with fresh eggs from the farmer down the road) . Devine! All served with home made wine.

It was a really nice familiar environment, reminded me of these small traditional places in Portugal that are becoming more and more rare.

I advise everyone to visit Croatia, in particular the area of Istria. Rovinj a harbor city, has a special meaning for me, but around it you find a lot of other towns and villages with a lot of history, good food and wonderful people.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Coconut and mandarine cake

My birthday was on the end of July, and usually where I work, we always take a cake for the colleagues when there is this type of celebration. Happens that in my working place I have a lot of colleagues which demanded for at least 2 huge cakes.

Here is one of them, a very fresh cake good for the summer (or for the lucky ones who happen to have summer where they live, because here it´s something virtual).

The recipe was adapted from Dr. Oetker.

Coconut and mandarine cake

Bottom cake dough
60 g butter
75 g of sugar (I used brown sugar)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (I used homemade one)
2 eggs
100 g cake flour
1 tablespoon of backing powder
25 g of maizena

Cream mixture
150 g of pealed and skinned mandarine pieces (can be canned also)
250 g of creme fraiche
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
50 g of maizena
80 g of sugar
(in the recipe it asked for a package powder for vanilla pudding, I opted to use the maizena and vanilla extract)

Coconut topping
100 g of grated coconut
50 g of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tablespoon of milk


Start by pre-heating the oven to 180°C and put some butter and flour in the springform.
For the bottom cake dough, mix the butter with the sugar until creamy. Add the eggs one by one mixing each egg before adding the next one. Slowly add the flour, maizena, backing powder and vanilla extract mixing it well. Place the dough in the backing form and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. After this time take it from the oven and let it cool slightly while you prepare the cream mixture.
For the cream mixture, mix the creme fraiche with the vanilla extract, sugar and maizena until well mixed. Distribute the mandarine pieces on the top of the previously baked cake dough and then add the creme fraiche mixture on the top. Bake again for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare the coconut topping by mixing all the ingredients together. Spread it trough the top the baked cream cake and bake it one last time for 20 minutes, until the coconut topping is slightly brown.
Let it cool down completely and release from the springform.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Making your own wild yeast starter

Since I moved to my actual apartment (meaning, since I have a decent oven), I started baking bread regularly. Usually once a week, on the weekends when i have a bit more time. I always loved bread, but since I came to Germany I think I started appreciating all the different types of grains and flours they use so much here. In Portugal I have the feeling the white and rye bread are the staples, not varying much from there.
Anyways, since I started learning a bit more about making bread, I become curious about the different ways to bring more taste to it. I personally love rustic breads, specially with rye, and for me the normal bakers yeast was not working. So I read about the wonders of "cultivating" your own yeast, by making a starter, and the wonderful flavor that it brings to the bread. Basically what you do is just add some flour and water, leave it at room temperature renewing the ingredients every day, until you start seeing some "bubbling", meaning that your culture became active and you managed to trap the wild yeasts that are present in the flour.
In a wild yeast culture there is actually not only yeast but also bacteria. The bacteria metabolize sugars converting them to lactic acid or acetic acid, which brings up the sour flavor common in sourdough breads. The yeast produces carbon dioxide and alcohol which will help raise the bread, making it fluffy. The resulting flavor that the starter brings depends greatly on the different species of bacteria present, and that differs from place to place, with clima, etc. So my starter might have a very different taste from the one of someone else.

There are many different ways of making a starter (check the links in the end of the post). I based myself slightly in Peter Reinhart´s suggestions, but I prefer to make a 100% hydration starter, which means that I always feed it with it´s own weight in flour and water.

How I did it, in simple steps:

Day 1 - weight 100 gr of rye flour and 100 gr of water, mixed them well and place in a glass container covered but not tighten (to allow the excess gases to come out). Leave at room temperature for 24h.

Day 2 - Weight half of the previous mixture (should be 50 gr) and add the same weight of rye flour and water, mix and leave again until the next day.

Day 3 and so on - Repeat the same procedure, until you start seeing some bubbling in your culture, around 2 to 4 hours after "feeding it".

From now on you can either repeat everyday the same procedure (you can also increase the amount of flour and water so you have a bigger volume of starter to use) and leave it at room temperature, or you can place the culture in the fridge and reduce the feeding for once a week (less work, for the lazy people). Usually the longer you leave it in the fridge without feeding the more sour the taste will become, so you can play around with it to achieve your favorite flavors. Also you can use different flours to begin with starter. I personally found that with rye it was easier.

By the way, my starter´s name is Schrödinger. I never know if he is dead or alive until I "open the box".

And then finally you can bake you first sourdough bread. The easiest recipe for bread with starter is using the 1:2:3 ratio. 1 time starter, 2 times water and 3 times flour. In this case I chose a spelt flour bread.

Sourdough spelt bread:

100 gr of 100% hydration starter
200 gr of water
150 gr of bread flour
150 gr of  whole grain spelt flour
5 gr of salt
10 gr of sugar or 1 tablespoon of honey

Mix the different flours with the salt and sugar (if using honey, add it to the water first). Mix the water with the starter and add to the flour mixture. Using a mixer, mix the ingredients until they are well blended. Let the dough rest 30 minutes, and then knead it until elastic (you might need to add a bit more flour to work around the dough). Let it raise until double the size, about 1 hour (depending on the strength of your starter might take more or less time). Shape the dough to your liking (I usually place it in a rectangular bread form) and let it raise again for about 30 minutes. Bake at 200°C for the first 20 minutes and then reduce to 170°C for another 20-30 minutes.


For more information:

Thursday, 7 April 2011


For sure everyone already ate soya sprouts at least in a chinese restaurant. Actually you can sprout virtually any seed (some might be more or less suitable for eating of course) and it´s a fast and easy way of having some sort of fresh "vegetable" at the table. Besides if you like growing things, and also if you have kids at home I think this is quite an interesting little "project".

You can use the resulting sprouts in many different dishes. Either raw in salads to give it a bit of crunch, in soups, or as a side dish sautéed like I suggest below.

You don´t need much for sprouting. First gather some seeds. In natural foods stores you can find for sale a huge assortment of seeds or also pre-made mixtures specially for sprouting. Then you can use a normal glass jar and just cover it with some muslin, so that you can wash the seeds/sprouts and drain the water easily.

You can find a lot of information in the web about it, as well as different methods, containers, types of seeds and so on. You can check here, here and here for more detailed information and set up.

In this case I am using a mixture of fenugreek, green linseeds and radish. They make a nice combination of sweet and spicy. Usually 1 tablespoon of seeds results in 4 tablespoons of sprouts, of course it always depends on the kind of seed you are using and for how long you let them grow. I left the seeds soaking in water overnight (8 to 12h is ok), then you just have to wash/rinse them everyday with water (I do it twice a day, morning and evening for example), place the jar upside down to drain the water and in about 3 to 4 days you get sprouts like this ones:

I like to let them grow until I get the first small leaves, but you can do it for less or more time according to your taste (some do taste slightly different in different growth stages).

After you "harvest" the sprouts you can keep them in the fridge for some days until use.

In this case I used them to make a nice side dish (main dish for me actually) of brown and wild rice:

Brown and wild rice with sprouts and ginger


1 cup of brown/wild rice mixture
1 cup of fresh mixed sprouts
1 garlic clove, minced
fresh grated ginger to taste (I used 2 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons of butter
salt, pepper
soya sauce to taste

Cook the brown rice in enough water with salt (depending on the type of rice it can take more or less time), and drain after cooking.
Brown the garlic and the ginger in the butter. When slightly golden add the sprouts. Mixed them for a couple of minutes until soften. Add the rice and let fry slightly. Season with salt, pepper and soya sauce to taste.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Blueberry and orange cake

There is a cake recipe that never fails, the yoghurt cake. I think, at least in Portugal, everyone knows this recipe because most likely it was the first cake you baked, being so easy only having to mix up everything and bake.

The trick is to use the yoghurt container as the measuring cup for the other ingredients, so you really don´t need a lot of kitchen supplies for this, and the equation is quite simple: 1x yoghurt, 2x times sugar, 3x flour, 1x oil (or other fat). The original recipe asks for 3x sugar, but for me that is way too much! So usually I use either 2x or even less 1,5x like in this case. Also I tend to reduce a bit on the oil... By know you must have noticed I cannot sick to a recipe.... yeah I´m like that.

I do a lot of variations on the basic recipe, either by using different types of yoghurt, by adding fruits, or just some flavoring like vanilla or lemon zest.

Here I used some nice big blueberries with some orange juice/zest, which proved to be a really nice combination!

Blueberry and orange cake


(use the yoghurt cup as the measuring cup)

4 eggs
1 plain yoghurt (good quality, with no sugar or flavors added)
1 and 1/2 measuring cups of sugar
3 measuring cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 a measuring cup of oil or butter
zest of one orange
juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon of triple sec (or other orange liqueur)
blueberries to taste (I used more or less 1 measuring cup)

Beat the eggs with the sugar until you get a creamy mixture. Add the flour (with the baking powder mixed in) and the yoghurt mixing well between each addition. Mix in the lemon zest, juice and triple sec and incorporate well. Add the blueberries mixing carefully. Bake at 180°C for 40 minutes (might take less might take more depending on the baking form and the oven).


Sunday, 27 February 2011

Daring Bakers Feb. 2011 - Panna Cotta with florentine cookies

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

I chose to make a vanilla panna cotta with layers of apple and banana puree, wish I did just by pureeing the fruits with a bit of honey and adding a bit of gelatin to be more consistent as suggested in the recipe. The layers in my panna cotta didn´t come out perfect, but it was delicious.
i was checking the other peoples pictures in the Daring Kitchen forums, and almost everyone turned out with giant florentine cookies. Mine actually came out in a decent size. I just decorated them with dark chocolate instead of making the cookie sandwiches. 

You can check out the base recipes here.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Homemade butter is pure physics

Milk is a wonderful, complex thing. It is basically an emulsion of proteins, lipids (fats), vitamins and some ions like calcium. And what is an emulsion? Well in short is a stable mixture of immiscible components, lets say like the water and the fat in the milk. We all know that water and fat don´t like mixing (just pour some olive oil in water), so what´s the trick here? The fat in the milk is dispersed in small globules that are stabilized by phospholipids. Phospholipids are bipolar compounds that have hydrophilic (likes water) and hydrophobic (hates water) parts. So they can form little pockets to stabilize the fat in the water of the milk, hence forming the nice white emulsion in your caffe latte.

So to make butter you have to separate the butter from the milk (or cream), meaning, you have to break the small pockets holding the fat globules and let them aggregate and separate from the water part of the milk.

For that we have to use a bit of force...
In this case I used a high fat cream. Cream is easier to use than milk for making butter, because the cream is already a step ahead in separation of fat from the milk. So choose something with at least 35% fat.

Then all you have to do is beat the cream like you would do for making whipping cream (but don´t add the sugar...). First you will see a nice whipped cream, then it will start curdling a bit and if you keep going you will see a separation of the fat aggregate and a white turbid solution.

This watery solution is buttermilk. Save it and use it to do, for example, a nice soda bread.
Now all you have to do is wash the butter with cold water (but discard this washing water), until the washing water comes out more or less clean.

You can also season the butter with salt, or even some herbs. In this example I used around 400 ml of 35% fresh cream, and in the end I got 200 ml of buttermilk and around 150 gr of butter. Half of it I just seasoned with a bit of salt, and the other half i added a mixture of herbs, pepper and salt.
With the buttermilk I am doing some nice muffins.... you´ll see them later.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


When I was in Palermo some weeks ago, I tried this wonderful fennel and orange risotto that I didn´t rest until I tried to replicate it at home. It turned out really good, but I was not fast enough for taking pictures... so I will leave the recipe sometime later when I do it again.

Anyways, there were some leftovers. Honestly risotto is the type of thing that doesn´t taste the same reheated, at least to me. So I remembered of another typical Sicilian recipe which is the Arancini. These are fried risotto balls with either some cheese or meat inside. Here I show the simplest way of making them, which I got inspiration from in this nice book I bought while in Sicily.

Warning: close your eyes if you are on a diet...

Arancini with cheese

adapted from the book "Treasures of Sicilian cuisine"


Leftovers of risotto (in this case around 4 tablespoons)
1 egg
cheese in little cubes (to taste)
oil to fry

Mix the risotto with the beaten egg. If you see that the mixture is too liquid add some breadcrumbs to thicken a bit. For each arancini use more or less 1 tablespoon of the mixture. Shape it into a ball and in the middle add 1 or 2 cubes of cheese. Round it up, and pass it through the breadcrumbs until it is well covered. Fry it in hot oil until golden.


Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Soda bread pizza and Chemistry lesson #1

For those of you who didn´t notice, this year is the International Year of Chemistry and a lot of activities about it are taking place along the year all over the world. Besides, Mainz is the City of Science (Stadt der Wissenschaft) this year in Germany. So I guess a little celebration or contribution is in order.

Along this year (let´s see if after 1 month I still remember this...) I will occasionally post something related either with chemistry in our daily lives or more specifically with chemistry in the kitchen. And believe me there is a lot to tell! Basically every meal you cook is a small experiment, where without knowing (or maybe you do) you are applying very basic chemical and physical concepts.

So to start Chemistry 101 we have a Soda Bread recipe.

I personally prefer 1000 times yeasted bread. There is a complexity of flavors that you cannot achieve other way than with the help of the little yeast cells (but that will be in another lesson).
But if you are a lazy busy person, then maybe you would like to have a fast solution for a tasty homemade bread.
The Soda Bread is fast done, with no need for proofing time. And why? Because instead of enslaving the yeast cells to produce carbon dioxide for you, you will use the reaction between the sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and the acid from the buttermilk.
Buttermilk is very rich in lactic acid (CH3CH(OH)COOH) when this comes in contact with the sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) they react forming a lot of carbon dioxide (CO2) which being a gas, is what makes your bread fluffy.
This is a textbook example of a acid-base reaction. So your overall reaction would be something like this:

   base      +               acid                →                salt                 + water + CO2

there is actually a really nice kitchen experiment that you can do to demonstrate this concept, just go ahead and mix a bit of baking powder with vinegar...

But moving on to the recipe, I made this little pizzas with a mixture of white and wholemeal flour. But you can also use any other flour variation you want, and even add some grains to it for a more healthy version.

Soda Bread mini-pizza

Ingredients for bread:

120 gr of white flour
120 gr of wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of baking powder
200 mL of buttermilk

Homemade tomato sauce
grilled red peppers
chopped mushrooms
feta cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C.
In a bowl mix the flours, salt and baking powder. Add the buttermilk and mix all ingredients well until the flour is fully hydrated. If you feel the dough is too humid and hard to shape, incorporate a bit more of flour until it has the right consistency.
Roll the dough to the shape you want (wither a big pizza, or 2 to 3 mini pizzas), spread the tomato sauce and place the other ingredients on top.
Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges are starting to get golden.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Daring Bakers Jan. 2011 - Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

Not so easy, mine came out a bit faded actually. But the taste was wonderful! The print was suposed to be just simple diagonal stripes.
Inside I used a mango mousse and a coconut mousse. In the top and for decoration I just used some simple fresh mango stripes.

The recipe and indications to do the Biscuit Jaconde, you can find here.

For the Mango mousse:

200 gr of mango puree
1 tablespoon of sugar (my mangos where quite sweet so I just added a bit of sugar to beat the cream. Adjust accordingly)
100 mL of cream
3 gr of white gelatin powder

Hydrate the gelatin powder with enough cold water (2 or 3 tablespoons), and let it stand until swollen.
Heat the mango puree until it starts softly simmering. Dissolve the gelatin in the puree and let it cool down to room temperature.
eat the cream with 1 tablespoon of sugar until it starts forming peaks. Add the cream to the mango mixture until it is well mixed.
Pour it into the Entremet forms and place in the fridge to stiffen.

For the coconut mousse:

200 mL of coconut milk
1 egg yolk
2 + 1 tablespoons of brown sugar
100 mL of cream
3 gr of white gelatin powder.

Hydrate the gelatin powder with enough cold water (2 or 3 tablespoons), and let it stand until swollen.
Mix the coconut milk with the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of sugar, place in a small pan and bring to heat whisking frequently until it thickens. Take from heat and mix in the hydrated gelatin, dissolving well. Let it stand to cool down to room temperature.
Beat the cream with 1 tablespoon of sugar until it starts forming peaks. When the coconut mixture cools down, mix in the cream until everything is well incorporated. Pour the coconut mousse on the top of the mango mousse (once the later has stiffen) and place in the fridge.

The ideal is to leave the Entremet in the fridge overnight. When serving decorate with some fresh mango.

PS: Got a new 50 mm lens that I tried out in this pictures. :)

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Lemon and green tea swirl cookies and some news

Hope everyone had a wonderful start of 2011! My first week was somewhat stressy revolving around preparations for a trip to Palermo, Sicily, next week. Not vacations though... but hopefully I will have some spare time to visit the wonders of the city.

On another note, to explore my recent love for photography, I created an account on Flickr. If any of you out there also use it feel free to add me as a contact.

On the side bar of the blog I also updated with a link to the Flickr photostream, and to my Twitter account, which honestly I do not "tweet" so much I mostly read my timeline.

And finally, a recipe of some cookies I did still during Christmas time. These are another take on the well known "black and white" cookies, which are usually with chocolate and vanilla. In this case I used lemon and matcha, the green tea powder which nowadays you can easily find in the "international" section in bigger supermarkets.

I adapted the recipe from a "black and white" swirls recipe, in a cookies book from IKEA (Plätzchen backen). I bought it in 2009, not sure if you can still find it there.

Lemon and Green Tea Swirls

ingredients (around 45 cookies)

250 gr Flour
1 teaspoon of backing powder
125 gr powder sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
a pinch of salt
1 egg
125 gr butter
2 teaspoons of green tea powder (matcha)
1 spoon of milk
2 egg whites
extra flour for handling the dough

In a bowl mix the flour, backing powder, powder sugar and salt. Add the butter in pieces and mix in the dough until it appears like sand. Add the egg and mix the dough to incorporate all the ingredients.
Divide the dough in two similar sized pieces. In one add the lemon zest, and in the other add the matcha powder and the milk. Mix in well until the matcha powder is well spread throughout the dough. Mold both pieces of dough in to squares and placed them in the fridge for at least one hour.
Spread both pieces of dough in similar size squares with around half a centimeter high. Place one of the pieces in the bottom, spread some egg white on the top and place above the second piece of dough, spreading also some egg white on the top. Roll the assembled doughs in a cylinder, tightening it up as you roll. Take again to the fridge for 1 hour, to make it easier to cut. Cut it in slices of around half cm, and bake at 180°C until the edges start to look golden (around 15 minutes).