26 April 2010

unexpectedly interesting

When my wife an I were on the island of Lanzarote this February, of course we stumbled on the occasional dish that was seriously, inspiringly good. And naturally, we took notes and pictures, trying to give us a chance to reproduce those dishes back at home.

Alas, you just can't really get good squid in the middle of Germany. And with seafood being so tricky, a good paella is a hard thing to make as well.
But have a look to that dish on the right - one of the many good dinners we had at the Taberna del Puerto at the Marina of Puerto Calero, where it was served as a starter.

Some papardelle, scampi, smoked salmon and oddly enough, fresh strawberries. I know it sounds like an unfortunate accident in the kitchen. Like one of these stories where the chef was drunk and just put everything into one bowl and served it.

But you know what? Even if it was an accident, it's pretty close to divine. I'm not necessarily one to eat anything that contains warm, smoked salmon, but I was positively dazzled by this one. The acidity of the strawberries go hand in hand with the soft smokiness of the salmon, making this dish an unexpectedly light and fresh and interesting like I haven't had one in years. And it's dead easy to prepare.

Below, you can see mhow the 'Pasta Puerto Calero' looks in my kitchen, and I am temped to say mine looks even a little better.
Have a try at this, it might just become your new summer evening favourite as well.

Pasta Puerto Calero
(Pasta with salmon, prawns and straberries)
(ingredients are given per portion)

50g - 75g broad pasta (Tagliatelle, Papardelle,...)
100g prawns, peeled
1 tablespoon butter
100g strawberries, washed and quartered
100g smoked salmon in slices

Cook the pasta according to instructions, keep warm.
Works perfectly with leftover pasta, so we plan in advance.

In a large pan, heat the butter until sizzling but not smoking. Fry the prawns on each side until just done, about two minutes.

Add the pasta and toss until the pasta is hot and covered with butter.

Season boldly with salt and pepper.
Don't skimp on the pepper, together with the strawberries this makes this dish so exciting.

Add the salmon and the strawberries, toss until combined and serve immediately.
If the salmon comes in large slices, shred them a little so they fit onto your fork. 
You don't want to heat the salmon and the strabwerries, just distribute them and maybe make them lose their chill. If you keep them on the stove too long, the salmon will get flaky and the strawberries soft (and ugly).

Enjoy with a light rosado (maybe like the one below) and good company. Sunshine is recommended but not required.

speaking of dormancy

This year, spring holds several unexpected surprises.

As you can see on the right, suddenly the snakeshead lilies (or checkered lilies) are blooming in our garden, after I had all but given up on them.

Windflowers have sprung up in many corners that I had thought they would never reach. It is once again lovely to see the garden coming back to life after having been dormant such a long time.

Speaking of dormancy - my bread making mode has been in full swing again this weekend, with several boules cooling in the sunlight on our garden table. I've really missed being able to go outside. Well, and there's hardly anything better than coming back in from the garden into a home that's filled with sunlight and smelling of freshly baked bread. At least, not in my book.

I also tried to make a ciabatta loave with chives, but that kinda turned out sticky and flat, for no reason I could figure out. But the chives are growing like mad anyway, so I'll just try again next weekend.

20 April 2010

these ought to be butter snails

This weekend, I made (even more) raisin snails.

And, as my wife asked me to, I added even more butter. 375g.
That is a fat-to-flour ratio of almost 40%. Is that what you call a high-butyrisation-dough? Whatever the name, it was quite a lot, and it made the dough noticeably harder to handle.

But, as you can see, this time I remembered to use the tea towel underneath the rolled-out dough, and it worked like a charm. And yes, those yellow puddles undeneath the raisins are even more butter.

Oh, and I sneakily soaked the raisins in unsweetened apple juice. Hardly noticeable to my discerning wife, but tremendously helpful in adding some acidity and (at least for me) very welcome complexity.

Needless to say, they turned out delicious. Kind of filling, too, which prompted my mother-in-law to state that if there was more butter than raisins in the snails, they ought to be called butter snails.

Very happy with the results, and definitely making these again.

19 April 2010

ad hoc springtime adventures

This has been a wondrously sunny, unexpectedly warm and summerly weekend. After a long and cold winter, spring has returned full force to Hessian Siberia.

The buttercups along our little (artificial) creek are flowering.

As are the muscarii.

Weather forecast hadn't been that good for sunday evening, but when everyone around us started firing up their grills, we couldn't resist.

On very short notice, my lovely wife and I scoured fridge, freezer and larder for anything you could put on a grill. We repurposed the porc cutlets that should have become 'Schnitzel' at some point this week, marinated and filled them. Some remaining leaves of wild garlic chopped and mixed with equally leftover ricotta turned into a surprisingly delicious dip.

In short - it took us about an hour to make a new plan for dinner and actually make it. And it was fun. I so love my wife right now for being able to join me in such ad hoc adventures and have as much fun as I did. Thanks for the wonderful weekend, love!

11 April 2010

ye good olde times

Apparently, everyone has this feeling that in 'the good olde times', everything was better.

For my wife and my mother, apparently, this is especially true for 'Rosinenschnecken', or raisin snails. (Think raisin swirls, just baked individually)

In the good olde times, the raisin snails were still moist, they were not that dark, not that sweet, had more raisins, less frosting, less 'stuff' and you could pull them apart like little springs. Short, they were better all around.

So as it is my solemn duty to make my wife happy, I started making raisin snails 'like they used to be'. At least, like they used to be in the memory of my wife.

I think the results are a little plain, but then again, sometimes that is exactly what is needed. I have found myself repeatedly at work during the 4-o'clock-sugar-craze, silently wishing I had though of taking one of these snails with me.

They're good stuff, the way they don't make them any more.

raisin snails 'like they used to make them'
(makes about 16 snails)

for the snails:
1kg all-purpose flour
0,5l milk, lukewarm
190g sugar
300g butter, softened
1 sachet vanilla sugar
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
1g salt (about a quarter of a teaspoon)

200g raisins (sultanas)
150ml water

100g butter
four tablespoons condensed milk

for the glaze:
200g confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon water

The day before baking, mix the flour with milk, butter, sugar, vanilla, salt and yeast until just combined and still shaggy. Leave to rest for about an hour as it is (autolyse).

After the dough has rested, knead one more time, just about a minute.
The dough will now be significantly smoother than just an hour ago and much easier to handle. 

In a jar, add the water to the raisins and leave to soak overnight.
Of course, you can always soak the raisins in rum or something like Cointreau, but then that would be very... modern. 

Transfer the dough to a large bowl. Pick one side of the dough, pull it up towards you and fold over, as if folding a towel. Turn the bowl around 90° and repeat with all four sides of the dough.
After the folds, the dough should already be very smooth and strong.

Cover and leave the dough to rest for another 30 minutes. After the rest, repeat the folds and cover tightly. Leave to proof overnight in a cool spot, even the refrigerator.

On the day of baking, melt the remaining butter and leave to cool a little.

Take the dough out of the bowl and roll out into a rectangle about 40 by 60cm.
Do not knead the dough. Just take it as it is and press it down until you can use your rolling pin.

Transfer the rolled dough onto a clean tea towel, this will make it easier to roll it up later.
I always forget this step, and could bite myself for doing so.

Brush the dough with the butter, using all of it. Leave a strip a few fingers wide at one of the small sides unbuttered. Brush the unbuttered section of the dough lightly with water.

Drain the raisins well, eventually even dabbing them with a paper towel. Put the raisins onto the buttered dough and distribute evenly.

Beginning with the side opposite the 'watered' section, start to roll up the dough, using the tea-towel as a handle. Put onto your working surface seam-side down.

Cut the rolled-up dough into slices about two fingers thick. Usually, that makes me come up with 16 snails.

Place each snail onto your working surface and press down until round and half their height. Cover lightly and leave to rest for 1,5 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen.
They won't rise much now, so don't worry.

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

When the dough has risen, transfer onto a baking sheet and brush with the condensed milk. Bake for about 20 minutes until they are nicely golden.

Put onto a rack an leave to cool.

In a small bowl, combine the confectioner's sugar with the lemon juice and the water. Add the water gradually, the glaze should be more like cream-cheese than like cream.

When the snails have cooled down to at least hand-warm, put the glaze into the microwave for a minute (or less if your's is especially powerful). Stir the hot glaze (which is very liquid now) and immediately drizzle over the snails.
The glaze will set almost instantly, so you might want to do this in batches.

The raisin snails are best enjoyed fresh, but freeze and thaw perfectly as well.

P.S.: And once more, this post wil be sent to the YeastSpotting section of Susan's formidable blog Wild Yeast, a home baker's resource I can hardly recommend too much.

05 April 2010

Easter Renewal

Easter monday seems to me quite a fitting date to get back to breathe new life into this place.

After one of the coldest, longest and snow-rich (is that even a word?) winters in the last 50 years, Germany has returned to a semblance of spring, which so far means it's raining instead of snowing.
But, crafty as we are, we can build our little spots of spring-time feeling right on top of our dining tables.

My absence from the web doesn't mean I haven't been busy in the kitchen, quite the contrary. I've been supplying the whole family with baked goods, becoming basically the sole boulanger we frequent.

Baking this much bread has justified the acquisition of a baking stone. A marvelous invention, and this little (heavy) thing really made baking a good loaf a lot easier. And of course, making pizza now is a pleasure.

Even my baguettes now start looking like baguettes. There's still a lot to learn in terms of shaping and scoring, but I think I am getting close.

One of the reasons I've been silent for so long is that my lovely wife and I took some time off of everything and left to Lanzarote for a while. We've been there a few times already, but this was the first time we rented a small house and a car. It was a lovely, lovely time and we've seen so much of this island we didn't know about before that it felt pretty much like our first visit.

Of course food played an important part - I finally learned how to make proper mojos! But moer about that later. Right now, I only want to say that if you go to Lanzarote, and you are looking for a great place to go out and eat - go to the marina of Puerto Calero. Not as sickeningly touristy as, say, everything else in that area, but sweet and charming and with a stunning bang-for-your-bucks ratio.

Especially the Taberna del Puerto managed to gather tons of good karma with their sometimes life-saving (or at least sanity-saving) food. Here's the rabbit in garlick sauce, which I still have to figure out how to make:

And my wife's daily ration of squid. How can a woman eat squid every day for weeks and still want more? But, on the other hand, a very reliable way to make her happy. ;-)

And, being in Spain, Paella, of course. Very varying in quality, though, but once again there were only pleasant surprises in the marina of Puerto Calero.

So, to all those still reading -  thanks and a happy Easter to all of you!