Monthly Archives: April 2011

Easter Joy and Homemade Orange Honey Butter


When I was little, Easter was one of my favorite holidays. It was one of the signs that spring was upon us, flowers and trees in bloom, and we were that much closer to summer! But, more than that, it was the joy of preparing for it, watching my mom colour the eggs, collecting little pieces of grass (more on this later), and of course, the game of trying to compete for most eggs! Back home in Bosnia, we didn’t have Easter egg hunts. Instead we played the game of trying to break each other’s egg. The person with the stronger egg wins the loser’s egg, and at the end of the day, the winner gets bragging rights! For us kids, this was huge! 🙂

My mom has always been a fan of doing things the natural way, and this also applied with colouring the eggs. Instead of using artificial colours and stickers, my mom gets way more creative than that 🙂 She collects skins from red onions all year long to have to use for Easter, and boils the eggs in onion skins, so that they get this rich burgundy colour that you see in the pictures. The patterns come from flowers or interesting-shaped pieces of grass/weeds that get affixed to the egg and secured with old stockings. The eggs are then boiled for a long time and at the end, stockings and flowers are removed to show the pattern. Incredible!

This Easter I also decided to make these berry scones, recipe developed by Tyler Lawrence. He calls them the Ultimate Berry Scones 🙂 And believe me, they are divine! The scones come with homemade orange honey butter. Yes, homemade! So, before trying this recipe I have never made my own butter, and actually had no idea that this is possible to do in my own kitchen! But, it’s actually, quite simple! You overwhip whipped cream! Eventually, the butter separates from the buttermilk. You squeeze out the buttermilk from the butter and refrigerate! Voila! Homemade butter. The recipe suggests doing it ‘the old fashioned way’ but putting the cream in a mason jar and shaking it, but I wouldn’t recommend this because it would take a very long time.  Also, the recipe uses the food processor a lot, but if you don’t have a food processor, whipping the cream with regular mixer works just as well, it just takes slightly longer.  The orange zest in this recipe really gives the butter an extra dimension of flavour.

The scones are actually quite easy to make, not many ingredients, and the freshly squeezed orange-honey buttermilk makes them very moist. Needless to say, they were quickly gone at breakfast :). 

For dessert, I decided to make a chocolate cake. The interesting thing about this cake was that the layers are mostly made from beaten eggs, very little flour is used. The one thing that I would advise is that it’s absolutely crucial to bake the two crusts at the same time. Because most of the batter comes from the beaten eggs, if they are left to sit for any period of time, they will deflate and you’ll have a very dense and flat crust 😦

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Click on each photo to view the high resolution images.

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RECIPES

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Orange Honey Butter:

  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • Pinch of salt

Berry Buttermilk Scones:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling scones
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh mixed berries (e.g. blueberries, raspberries, blackberries), washed and dried
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, (leftover from orange butter), plus more to brush scones
Directions
You can do this the old fashioned way and add ingredients to a mason jar, cover with the lid and shake vigorously for 10 minutes, or you can use the food processor.
 In a food processor bowl add all the ingredients and turn on high. The liquid will slosh, whip and then separate after about 4 minutes. When the mixture separates, (these are the butter solids and buttermilk), stop processing and strain out the buttermilk – there will be just under a cup. Reserve the buttermilk to make the scones. Strain out the butter and squeeze dry. Work the butter a couple of times to bring it together to form a nice ball. Refrigerate butter until ready to use.
 For the scones:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
 In a food processor bowl add flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add cold butter cubes and pulse until you have the texture of coarse bread crumbs. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, then add 3/4 cup of buttermilk and stir to combine. As it comes together add berries and fold dough to incorporate berries but not break them up too much.
 Drop spoonfuls of dough onto a parchment lined sheet pan.  Using a pastry brush, paint the tops of each scone lightly with buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar.
 Bake until golden brown, and nice and puffy, about 17 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack.
 Serve warm with the Orange Honey Butter.

© The Food Network

The Black and Tan Cake

  • 4 oz (125 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) butter
  • 8 eggs
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) salted roasted peanuts
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
2 tbsp (25 mL) cornstarch

Ganache

  • 2/3 cup (150 mL) whipping cream
  • 6 oz (175 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • Chopped salted roasted peanuts, for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
2. Line the bottom of two 9-inch (23-cm) cake pans with a circle of parchment paper. Set aside.
3. Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat; set aside. Place eggs (in shells) in a bowl and cover with warm water; let eggs warm to slightly above room temperature, refreshing with more warm water if it cools.
4. Pulse peanuts in a food processor until finely chopped (but not a paste). Add flour; pulse to combine. Set aside.
5. Drain water from eggs and crack into a large, straight-sided bowl. Add sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until very pale, tripled in volume and ribbons fall slowly from beater when lifted. Beat in vanilla. Sprinkle with peanut mixture in 2 additions, folding just until combined.
6. Pour half of batter into a separate bowl. Working with 1 bowl of batter, sift in cornstarch and gently fold just until blended. Pour into 1 prepared pan. Gently fold melted chocolate mixture into second bowl of batter. Pour into remaining pan.
7. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or just until a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let cool in pans on rack for 30 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cakes and invert onto rack. Peel off paper and let cool completely.
8. For ganache, heat cream in a saucepan over medium heat, just until bubbles form around the edge. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted and smooth. Let cool until slightly thickened but still fluid.
9. To assemble, place chocolate cake layer on a serving plate. Pour about ½ cup (125 mL) of the ganache in the centre of cake and spread almost to the edges. Top with peanut cake layer. Slowly pour remaining ganache in the centre of the cake, gently tilting as necessary to spread
ganache to the edges and letting drips flow down sides of cake. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes or until ganache is set or for up to 1 day. Cut into slices using a warm, serrated knife.
 
Serves 10 to 12
 
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Mauritian Biryani + BBC “My Country” Documentary = One Humbled Girl


So, it’s a funny thing, blogging. You never know what kind of reaction you’ll get from writing about your life and sharing your passions, you never know what kind of people will walk into your life as a result…and that is the beauty of it, in my opinion. And I’m thrilled that my little kitchen adventures have even reached the far corners of this world, (can you say, Paradise on Earth – Mauritius! And if you don’t believe me, just check these out: )! How cool is that??  So, as a result of a recipe exchange, I have been entrusted with a traditional Mauritian Biryani recipe, courtesy of my new friend Olivier.   He said “I’ve put the whole of Mauritian culture in your hands”…First, I want to say, thank you for the translation and second I hope I lived up to the expectation 🙂
Sidenote: Olivier is a great alternative music enthusiast and I would encourage you to check out his blog – Alternative Albumz also!

So, I think this recipe had the most ingredients in one dish I’ve ever seen…however, majority of the ingredients were spices…and trust me, well worth the effort to get them all. My kitchen smelled so exotic all day! I surprised myself how well the chicken part turned out, actually, seeing as I’ve never made biryani before 🙂 The part that scared me was the rice, because it’s so easy to screw up rice, and I don’t make it often to begin with. Well, it turns out, I DID screw up the rice…but only by making a WAY too much of it. Apparently, I was supposed to know that 1kg of rice means, 1 kg of cooked rice…which is only about 400-500 g of uncooked rice 🙂 🙂 🙂
So, now, I can start a food drive with the amount of rice that I have in my fridge 🙂

Yesterday was the perfect day to cook, although in the morning I was afraid that there won’t be enough good lighting, but by mid-day, the sunshine was out, which made it really easy. I think the preparation and cooktime was probably about 1.5 or 2 hours, which is not too bad at all, consdering how delicious it was, and the fact that I made so much, I can probably feed an entire army with it! 🙂
I also didn’t make my version as spicy as I could have…according to the recipe I should have put 4-5 chillies between the layers…but I was too scared to do this, so I did just one. I am too afraid of spicy 🙂

So, while I was uploading and editing the photos, I was lucky to catch this week’s BBC documentary “My Country”. This week, the focus was on China. More specifically, it talked about how domestic disputes are settled in very remote villages in China. They focused on 2 cases in the half-hour show – one of elderly abuse and one divorce. So, what happens is that, in the case of domestic disputes, the citizens of the village have a right to file a complaint with the courts. However, because the area is so remote, instead of people going to the court, the court comes to them. This makeshift court consists of, usually men, who are respected within their community, and are considered educated and wise, and they interpret and represent the law. For every dispute, they first come to the house to investigate, and many times, they can only get there on foot, because of the remoteness. Then, when the court date is set, the men come back and fashion a makeshift courtroom, either outside, or in some room, by bringing tables and chairs, their name tags, the big Chinese crest and court documents.
The reason that I couldn’t peel myself away from this program was just the sheer amazement at the people of this world, and how we are all so different but in the end we are all the same. Case in point, and the whole reason I’m sharing this story, is one of the court cases – the divorce. The man and the woman have been married for 12 years and have a 10 year old son. However, the man was in a car accident 6 years ago that left him paralyzed, so his wife now had to find a job to support the family and pay for his treatments and to take care of him and their son. I guess after 6 years, he realized that he couldn’t ask her to look after him anymore and he filed for divorce, for her sake. Divorce cases in China are extremely rare because marriage is seen as a sacred union and no matter how difficult it is, you are supposed to stick it out, which is what made this case even more interesting. The program filmed their last meal together as a family, and it happened to be the Chinese Moon Festival. “Get the good wine” he said “It’s the Moon Festival after all.” What ensued was him talking, with sadness, resolve and a glimmer of hope, and his wife quietly sobbing. “Tomorrow, our marriage will end. I have made you suffer for 6 years. For six years, you had to take care of me and our son, and I have been nothing but a burden to you. And really, I don’t even know how to begin to thank you. Our marriage is ending after 12 years, and you don’t have to look after me anymore. It’s the Moon Festival, and you never get to see your mom and dad on the Moon Festival because you always have to look after me. After today, you will be able to see your family. This is the worst thing that could have happened, but I don’t want you to suffer anymore. I Thank you…and I will fight to live. Now, let’s turn some music on, we are always sad on Moon Festival”
His wife was sobbing quietly and all she managed to say was “Drink and stop talking”

The next day, the couple was divorced. The court met in a yard in front of the local medical clinic, and the husband’s statement was read that outlined custody and money resolutions. I was just simply blown away. This man was so humbling and their story really touched me. His resolve to keep living and keep fighting, even when it seems that the future outlook is so bleak, and now with a conscious choice to dissolve his family…just really put things in perspective. His realization that he couldn’t put his wife through more suffering, and letting her go even though he loved and needed her was so selfless. I was moved.
So, a doubly humbling experience for little old me: being entrusted with a traditional recipe, and realizing there are so many happy and sad stories out there…

Happy cooking!
Cheers!

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Click on each photo to view the high resolution images.

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RECIPE

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Mauritian Biryani

  • 3/4 cup oil, divided
  • 3 large onions, sliced
  • 250 g tomatoes ,roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1 kg chicken pieces
  • 3 green cardamoms (take these out after cooking)
  • 1 large black cardamom (take out after cooking)
  • 5 cloves (take out after cooking – for flavour only)
  • 8 whole black pepper
  • 1 inch piece of cinnamon stick (take out after cooking)
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp red chillies powder
  • 2 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 10-12 dried plums
For rice :
  • 1 kg basmati rice (cooked rice – will need less uncooked rice)
  • 1 large cardamom
  • 1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 whole black pepper
  • salt
  • water (follow instructions on the bag for quantity of water)
For layers : 
  • 2 tomatoes, cut in round slices
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 2-3 tbsp ginger, julienne cut
  • 4-5 whole green chillies
  • orange food color
  • 1 tsp of water
Preparation:
  1. Heat 1/2 cup oil in a pan. Add onions and fry until brown. Remove from oil.
  2. Blend tomatoes, yogurt and browned onion to a fine paste in a blender.
  3. Add ginger garlic paste and chicken pieces to the oil.
    Cook on medium to high heat and fry the chicken until it changes its color.
  4. Add green cardamoms, large cardamom ,cloves, black pepper, cinnamon stick and cumin seeds.
  5. Pour the blended mixture and mix well. Add red chillies powder, coriander powder and salt. Add dried plums.
  6. Cook on medium heat until chicken is done and only a little gravy is left. Set aside.
  7. Soak rice for 30 minutes in enough water to cover; then drain.
    Boil water, add cardamom, cinnamon stick, cloves, black pepper and salt and boil rice till 2/3rd done.
  8. Drain the water off in a colander. Leave in the colander for a few minute, for all the water to drain out.
  9. Add half of the remaining 1/4 cup oil in the pan to coat the base.
  10. Spread 1/3 of the rice in a layer at the base of the pan. Now layer with 1/2 of the chicken.
  11. Next, layer with half of remaining rice. Place tomato slices, mint leaves, ginger and green chillies on top.
  12. Now spread remaining chicken as a layer.
  13. Finish with the remaining rice layered on top.
  14. Pour remaining oil and orange color dissolved in little water ( This will give you a few dark orange colored rice grains interspersed in the rest of the rice. It looks very nice when served ).
  15. Cook on a very low flame, with the lid tightly closed. This will take 20-30 minutes.
  16. Serve hot with fresh salad.