Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Glut of Plums? Cake!

The purple Italian prune plums are available in abundance right now, at least at the Middle Eastern groceries in my neighbourhood. Last weekend I bought a huge bag for €1.50 a kilo, which I think is incredibly well priced.

Coincidentally, the blogosphere is awash with recipes  for German yeasted plum cake (Pflaumkuchen). Who am I to resist?

I've tried several recipes, all good, although not equally successful. I've had trouble with getting the dough to rise, which I first attributed to old yeast, but have now concluded is due to using the wrong kind of flour. I only had cake flour (patent bloem, in Dutch) and it's low gluten content just doesn't work with yeast. When I used ordinary flour, success!

This cake is an amalgam of several recipes, producing a fresh, not-too-sweet cake that goes well with the morning coffee. I think you could serve it for brunch or as part of luxurious breakfast. It also freezes reasonably well.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Waldkorn Crispbread

When I was in Denmark recently with my sister and brother-in-law we stayed at a wonderful B&B (Dalsgaard B&B) on a small farm 20 minutes from Århus. The accommodation was in a separate building, with separate living room (including fireplace), and two bedrooms. There was no kitchenette or WiFi  but these inconveniences were completely compensated by the fabulous breakfasts featuring homemade bread rolls and preserves, lovely cheeses and sliced meats, and what our hostess Karin called Swedish crispbread (also homemade). These were seed-filled, nutty, crunchy and utterly satisfying.

She very generously gave me the recipe, and I made it almost as soon as we got home to Amsterdam.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

On Poached Eggs and Shakshuka

Have I ever mentioned how much I love eggs? I love eggs—poached, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, fried, in omelettes, egg salad, as accents in other salads, not to mention their essential use in baking.

I think my favourite egg dish is eggs benedict, but I always have trouble with the poaching. The egg white just drifts off and I can't get it to go around the yolk in that lovely oval nestling way that proper poached eggs should have. I have tried all kinds of techniques: creating a gentle vortex, adding vinegar in the water, precooking the egg in the shell fo 30 seconds first.

I think the biggest problem is that supermarket eggs are just not fresh enough. In Europe they believe that eggs should not be chilled, so that they are sold at room temperature, which does not help in keeping them fresh. They should read Harold McGee.

In my recent visit back home I picked up some silicon egg poachers that I hope will help me in my quest for better poached eggs. I have tried them once and they were OK, but I needed to peel the eggs out of them. Next time, I'll try a bit of oil spray.

But another variation on a poached egg is to simmer it in a sauce. So today I tried that Middle-eastern favourite, shakshuka, which are eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Charred Eggplant Soup

I have acquired new cookbooks! Both are by the London-based Israeli chef Yottam Ottolenghi, who is famous for his restaurants and catering shops in London. I've never been to one, but he's also well-known for his eclectic and original recipes, often featuring vegetables in the starring role.

So my first recipe to try was using one of my favourite vegies—eggplant. He has a number of recipes that call for burnt aubergine, which means cooking them over a gas flame until they are charred  on the outside and soft and smoky-tasting on the inside. One of them is a soup, so I tried it.