Monday, 10 August 2015

Recipe CXXIV: Home-Made Spicy Tomato Soup

Cooking on a Sunday is one of life's pleasures, and this weekend was one of those. As our guests were bringing the dessert, I decided to make a starter. This one is one of the finest things you can do in a kitchen, and it really is so, so simple.

2 kg fresh tomatoes
1 green chili pepper
1 red chili pepper - keep some of the seeds, depending on how spicy you want it
1 sweet red pepper
1 large onion
4-6 cloves of garlic 
All of the above chopped into pieces

Three-quarters of a bottle of red wine
A teaspoonful of a red spice (cayenne pepper or even tandoori masala)
5 teaspoonfuls of Worcestershire sauce
3 thick slices of white bread
A fresh basil plant from a reputable supermarket, leaves broken 
50 g butter
Salt to taste

Put a lot of butter in a large, heavy non-stick frying pan or saucepan. While it is melting, add the onions and a pinch of salt, and fry gently for a few minutes - you don't want the onions to burn and crisp up. Add the peppers and garlic. Let them slowly sweat until soft. Then add the red wine and Worcestershire sauce.
(To give it your own personal touch, you could always use a variation - just use your imagination - something like Tabasco sauce, or red wine vinegar, soy sauce or even balsamic vinegar, but make sure whatever you use, the flavours fit!)

Let the red wine and Worcestershire sauce reduce by about half until it turns into something less liquid and more gloopy.

You are now ready to add the tomatoes. Put a lid on top, turn the heat right down to a gentle simmer and let the tomatoes soften until they are easily crushed.

Once they are really soft, add the basil, bread and red spices. Let the contents of the pan mingle for 10 minutes or so, while the bread soaks up some of the liquid.

Pass the contents of the pan through a blender and pour into a serving bowl.

Serve with a nice bottle of red wine. We chose Louis Ch├Ęze Caroline Saint-Joseph 2011, a fantastic wine that really highlights the spiciness of the soup.


Sunday, 26 July 2015

Recipe CXXIII - Norwegian Suksessterte

Having recently returned from the northern paradise that is Norway, both brimming with new ideas and aching with nostalgia for the serenity, advanced civilisation and heart-breakingly beautiful scenery, I came across a little gem of a recipe. Norwegians are big on food: lots come out of cans, as only a country half inside the Arctic Circle should, but when it comes to their recipes, the flavours are so different. They could be an acquired taste to some, but once you are used to them, they are a breath of fresh air.

I would like to introduce you to the Suksessterte, or Success Tart, in English. I was invited to the house of a splendid family for coffee (a Norwegian religion) and cake, and this one was there on the table, inviting and succulent-looking, so I cut myself a slice. It was so good, I had to get the recipe. Here is my effort, slightly changed from the one I got there, to reflect the proportions I used, and the ingredients on offer in Germany.


5 egg yolks:
100 ml double cream (I had to use mascarpone and some ordinary cream, because heavy cream/double cream and the like don't exist in Germany)
100 g ordinary sugar
150 g cold butter, sliced into cubes

Almond meringue:
5 egg whites
250 g ground almonds
225 g icing sugar

Grated dark chocolate

Instructions for the cream:
Place the egg yolks, cream and sugar (NOT THE BUTTER) in a saucepan, put on a very low heat and stir until all the ingredients have melted into each other and it has become thicker. Use a spatula or a flat whisk to stir it - this should take about 15 to 20 minutes.

The mixture should not be allowed to boil or you will end up with bits of curdled egg in your mixture, and nobody wants to have that.

When it's all blended, take it off the heat, and add the butter piece-by-piece. Then get an electric mixer and whisk it for a good 5 to 10 minutes before placing it in the fridge until you have made the almond meringue.

Instructions for the almond meringue:
Put the oven on 160°C and take a square or round baking tray lined with baking paper.

Firstly, give the almonds a good pounding in the processor, to make the pieces extra small. Add the icing sugar and keep the food processor going until both ingredients have successfully mixed with each other.

With the egg whites, whisk them until they form the usual stiff peaks and then fold the almond-sugar mix into the egg white. 

Once homogeneous, transfer the mixture to the baking tray and put it in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. In hindsight, I would not have used the baking paper, and just taken a chance with the baking tray's non-stick bottom. I will try this next time.

Once out of the oven, turn it upside-down onto a cake grid without the paper and let it cool.

Put your cake base on a clean cake tray, get the topping out of the fridge and start icing the cake with a spatula. Once you have covered it with the topping, grate chocolate on top.

Serve with copious amounts of coffee and invite your favourite visitors - vel bekomme!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Recipe CXXII - Honey Roast Lamb Shank

I went to France a couple of days ago, to go food shopping. There is a wider selection of vegetables and meat cuts I recognise. My problem with German butchers is when you ask for a particular cut of meat, they just slice the next available piece off, no style or grace, no thinking about the direction of the muscles or anything. But the one thing that I came for, more than all the other pieces I bought, was lamb shank (souris d'agneau). It is the best piece of meat in the universe, and I really love preparing it. Although it needs 24 hours, it is very simple.

4 lamb shanks
1 bottle of red wine
4 large-ish shallots, cut in half
5 cloves of garlic, halved
Some cuts of fresh thyme
100 black peppercorns, crushed with a pestle and mortar

Cover the lamb in salt, and then in a deep oven-proof dish with a lid, place them so there are gaps between each. Cover them in pepper, put 2 of the halved shallots in there, add the garlic, and cover the meat in the crushed pepper.

Put on the lid and marinate overnight in a cool place. An hour or two in a hurry should do, but overnight gives the best results. Turn them over at some point, so the lamb has a full bath in the red wine.

The next day, or whenever you wish to cook, turn the oven on to about 180°C. While it's warming up, put the oven-proof dish on the cooker to heat the contents. Then when the oven is fully hot, put it in there for an hour, covered.

Uncover it for a further 45 minutes so the wine reduces and then remove them from the dish. Put them in another baking tray, cover them with honey and then pour the rest of the juice in.

Put them back in for 20-30 minutes - this is how they should look when you remove them.

We ate them with roast potatoes and braised carrots, cabbage and fennel.