Apple snacking spice cake from “Flour”

The name of this cake is straight out of Joanne Chang’s “Flour”. I am not really a fan of cakes because they end up too dry most of the time but the name made me curious. And after having tried a few recipes from her book, I trust her judgment. And after trying this cake I have to tell you, I am a big fan! Hopefully next year when I visit the USA I will be sure to swing by one of her bakeries.

Back to the cake, it wasn’t time-consuming at all and in fact most of the ingredients that go into this cake are to be found in the cupboard. Joanne uses Granny Smith apples but as I did not have enough of those I threw in 1 Braeburn. I made this cake Sunday night and brought some for my co-workers. Man, did I get some praise!!! They couldn’t stop talking about it. Now I get e-mails asking when I will make this again. I truly believe that this cake is for everyone, I gave it to about 7-8 different people and they all loved it, including me. Here’s what it looked like:

The cake was really moist and you could taste the spices( cinnamon, cloves, ginger) but it wasn’t overpowering. This cake will be definitely in my top 5 cakes. Enjoy!

 

Craving quiche from Flour by Joanne Chang

The last post I mentioned that I bought a new cookbook and I would post the first thing I tried. I bought Flour by Joanne Chang from Amazon.uk. Although I have Nick Malgieri’s “Bake”and some other random pastry cookbooks I was still looking for a specific desserts/sweets cookbook.  As it is I have too many cookbooks but I still manage to find something that I “need”.But in my defense I do use every single one of them so I don’t feel guilty. Anyways, back to the book. I stumbled upon the title when I was browsing on Amazon’s website and all the reviews were so convincing I ordered the book. And after browsing in it every single day for 2 weeks, I am glad I bought it.

       

The pictures are wonderful and really inviting. And what I really like about the book is that the author gives a short intro about how the recipe came about and there are tons of suggestions to play with the recipes. So, bottom line: good choice if you’re looking for a in-depth cake/sweets/pies cookbook and if you’re an amateur baker like me.

Yesterday I was in the  mood for quiche and the first thing that came to mind was: leeks. I love the oniony flavor of leeks and they work so well with gruyère and bacon. So I decided upon leek,gruyère, bacon quiche. I used the pâte brisée recipe from “Flour”. I made it yesterday and let it rest overnight. In the morning I spread it on a 9-inch pan and blind baked it. Normally you wouldn’t cook the filling but I think that you have to with leeks because it brings out the flavor really well. I sautéed the bacon first, took it out and sautéed the leeks in butter. I flavoured it with some sprigs of thyme, salt and pepper. While I blind baked the quiche shell I mixed the custard; 6 L egg yolks, 2 tbs. of flour, heavy cream, half-and half, nutmeg and the gruyère.

After baking the quiche shell I filled it with the leek bacon filling and poured the custard on top. See pic below.

After baking for 55 min in 350 F oven, it was ready!. I couldn’t wait and honestly, I didn’t. I picked some mache lettuce from the garden and greedily ate a quarter of the quiche along with it. The crust was incredibly buttery( not for dieters) and the oniony leeks with the salty bacon made for a wonderful lunch. Definitely a good recipe for hearty pies and I will be sure to try this recipe out again. Enjoy!

 

Freshly picked

Finally the weather has turned around and the sun is shining and the temperatures for the past week have remained steady at 18-24°C. I have a fondness for the summer, not only because of the fact that I can finally dress myself in only one layer of clothes but also because it seems that my little garden seems to come alive. All of the veggies and herbs seem to be growing much faster and I have my pick of salad leaves or spinach or radishes. This year I started growing radishes for the first time because I was curious. I read on Farmgirlfare about the ease of growing radishes and I believe in trying everything once so I sowed some seeds in April. And you know what, Farmgirl was right! After 4 weeks I could pull out some radishes and believe me they taste so much better when pulling them out of your own soil.

 The first radish I picked, I just rinsed it and took a bite. It was crunchy, sweet with a slight bitter after taste, YUM! But I had a few more radishes thus decided to try a salad. Mind you, a home-grown salad! Some picked salad leaves, baby spinach leaves and some sliced radish et voilà. The dressing consisted of crumbled goat cheese, yoghurt,garlic and black pepper.

And since the radishes were so yummy they were gone within a week. I could’ve planted another vegetable on that empty spot but I ‘d rather liked those spicy veggies to munch on so I guess I’ll be eating more radishes soon.

I recently ordered yet another cookbook and of course I need to try some recipes so next time I’ll be revealing what I bought and which recipe I tried.

Have a wonderfully lazy, sun-filled day!

Raquel

 

Cooking with spinach from the garden

Today was the perfect day to do spend some time in my (balcony) garden. The weather was kinda bad the past two weeks so I stayed indoors al that time. But the weather wasn’t too bad cause my veggies were growing like crazy. So far I have the usual herbs; basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary and I thought I’d try purple basil this year. I discovered it doesn’t grow as abundant as Genovese basil but the purple color sure makes any pasta dish look more vibrant.

All herbs aside, the veggie that has been growing so well this year is my spinach. I planted it in February and by the April it was ready to eat. Since I do love my pasta, I thought I’d just toss some spinach pasta and mushrooms together. I sautéed the spinach with some garlic first then I added some sliced mushrooms. I poured in a bit of cream and some black pepper and salt. Finally the pasta was added and YUM, YUM.

Spinach picking

Nothing beats sowing your own veggies, picking them and enjoying them at dinner. I’m excited to see what other veggies will be ready for eating and figuring out what to make with them.  I spotted some radishes that are ready for picking so my next post will probably be about radishes.

Enjoy!

Tis the season for mushrooms

I absolutely love all sorts mushrooms; shi takes, button, oysters and even the ones I haven’t yet tasted. I cannot imagine not loving every single type of mushroom. If you would’ve asked me a couple of years ago if I would ever consider eating a meal without meat I would have adamantly said “NO”. I did not know what I could eat without feeling that I replaced my precious meats. My thought is that it shouldn’t feel like a replacement but rather something equally yummy. And I am happy to report that I found something to fulfill this need; portobello mushrooms. I tried it the Nigella way, with lots of garlic butter in the oven which is also quite nice but I liked stuffing mine with garlic and pine nuts even more.

Portobello mushroom on a bed of bulgur

I started by scooping some flesh out of the mushroom. Then I sautéed the mushroom pieces with the spinach, garlic, pine nuts and put it aside. The portobello mushroom needed a sprinkle of olive oil, salt and pepper before filling it with the spinach etc. I made some bread crumbs out of a few slices of old bread and topped the mushroom with it. Then into the oven for about 15 min. In the meantime I stirred some bulgur with cranberries and raisins for a sweet bite.

Portobello mushroom with spinach, pine nut filling

Making the portobello mushroom like this did not make me miss meat one bit. Actually I wouldn’t mind eating this once a week, yum! The drawback I feel with mushrooms is that it doesn’t keep well for a couple of days. I usually prepare them the same day or next day otherwise they get slimy. With this new-found fondness of mushrooms I am curious to find more delicious ways to prepare them so that a meat lover like myself would not think about the absence of meat. I will keep you posted!

 

It’s spring on my balcony

I want to share all the wonderful veggies and herbs that are currently growing on my balcony due to this wonderful March weather. I am happy to report that everything is in full bloom. I started planting chillie, eggplant and pepper seeds sinds February and they have grown very well. They all have about 4 leaves right now. The eggplant that I sowed this year are Mini Violet Ruby and Violetta di Firenze. I love eggplants for moussaka, chinese pork belly hot pot and so many more dishes.

chillie seedlings

 

These seedlings are still kept in the propagator but in the morning I put them on my windowsill to get used to the sun. So far I have planted Jamaican red, Cayenne and Goat’s weed. Chillie plants do remarkably well in pots but I found that they are not as hot as they would be when growing in a warmer climate. But still I need my chillies.

Basil & tomato

I need lots of basil during spring and summer because I regularly eat pesto and all kinds of pasta. So I will be sowing basil seeds regularly. I am also trying out some purple basil just because it’s fun.

 The first time I tried this italian kale was last year and it didn’t disappoint. I loved it so much I impatiently waited for March to arrive so that I could sow. They are relatively easy to grow and taste like wild spinach in my opinion.

 I started sowing spinach seeds March 1st and they are growing like crazy. In the back I have some regular spinach and rocket and in the front some wild spinach. It seems like a lot but these will probably only provide me with 2 meals. Oh, well.

 These pea plants make me so proud and very greedy. See, I discovered fresh peas a couple of years back and instantly fell in love. So with that in mind I decided to grow them myself. I can only imagine picking the pods, shelling them and preparing them in some olive oil, salt and pepper, yum!

 I have started growing some sprouts on my window sill; daikon and cress. Whenever I fix myself and egg sandwich I grab some of each and enjoy. They just add a little extra to egg salad. Anyone can grow sprouts, within 2 days you notice the seeds have burst open and another 2 days( in full sun) you can already pick some.

 And these are my carrots (Parisian market). These will grow into small round carrots especially handy for growing in containers. They are ever so cute and also have a great taste.

In the following weeks/months I will be regularly posting how my veggies are doing. I will also be sowing some turnips, swiss chard, courgette and paksoy. So be sure to regularly check back!

Stale bread turned into cinnamon raisin bread and butter pudding

Last week I tried the cinnamon raisin bread recipe from R.L.Beranbaum’s bread bible. I love making and eating her breads so I decided to try her recipe. If you’re looking for an easy recipe, her recipe is not the one for you. It took me 2 whole days and by then I partially lost my appetite for cinnamon raisin bread. I did like the bread, it was soft and tasty but a bit more sugar would make it even tastier. But that is a note for next time.

So of course I could not finish the loaf by myself and I was stuck with half which wasn’t so fresh anymore. And because I hate wasting food I decided to make good use of it and turn it into bread and butter pudding. I loooove bread and butter pudding, it’s just the kind of winter pudding one needs to feel all warm and cozy when it’s cold outside. And the ingredients for this pudding are easy and it can be adjusted to your liking. It’s simply cream, milk, eggs, brown sugar and rum(optional). I cut the leftover bread into cubes and let them dry out overnight. The next day I soak them in the custard mixture and some chocolate bits for an hour. I make sure every cube is soaked into the mixture and top with some demerara sugar to make a crunchy topping. Then it goes into the oven for about 40 minutes on 180 degrees. Make sure to check it once in a while because every oven is a bit different. Just pull it out of the oven once you think it’s done. It should feel firm when you press it with a little bit of a spring to it.For me, tucking into this warm pudding with the custard and chocolate oozing out of it is heaven. It feels like being covered with a warm blanket on a cold night. See my yummy cinnamon raisin (chocolate)bread pudding!