Vanilla cardamom pear pie

pear pie and lovely spring flowers

I’v never made a pear pie before. Actually, have I ever made anything of pears before? Didn’t think so. How strange is that? I mean, how many apple pies and cakes haven’t I made throughout the years? Not once did I think of doing that to pears. That’s unfair. I’ve totally neglected them, it didn’t even occur to me to involve pears in baking until now. And why now, you might ask? Well, I normally don’t eat pears either, because they soften too easily and I like them real hard and crunchy. But a few weeks ago, I was given a really good pear, and I remembered how tasteful it can be. Since then I’ve bought more and more, as they seem to be in season somewhere in the world. But I don’t have practice in storing them, (in the fridge, maybe?) so some of them turned soft and mellow, and that seemed like an invitation for me to finally let the pears enter baking. So after some surfing on the net I came across a cute blog called milkeggsandchocolate with a nice pear pie recipe I wanted to try. It was even sugar free!

Ingredients: (serves 4 pie lovers)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
100 g butter
8 tablespoons (or more) ice water
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar – or plain apple juice

3 pears
1/3 cup of agave nectar (or apple/pear juice)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp cardamom
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Blend the flour, salt and butter until coarse meal forms. Add the water and vinegar/juice, until the dough moistens and you can shape it. Add more if it seems too dry. Gather it together and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. When the dough has chilled, roll out the crust on lightly floured surface and transfer to 25 cm/9-inch-diameter pie dish. Combine 1 soft pear, cardamom, agave nectar/apple juice, vanilla seeds, vanilla extract and flour in large bowl. Blend well in a food processor, and pour into the pie crust. Slice the rest of the pears thinly and lay them prettily onto the vanilla-cardamom filling. And if you feel the urge – sprinkle with just a little sugar… Bake at 200 degrees C, for 40 minutes. And it turns out something like this.

almost sugarfree pear pie

I made some adjustments to the original recipe: I tried to make the recipe smaller, since there are only two of us, and without the top crust. I also substituted the vinegar with apple juice, the same with agave nectar. I don’t even know what that is! And I mashed one of the pears into the filling, and sliced the rest thinly and laid them on top. And ok. I added sugar. What can I say, I have a sweet tooth! But only a couple of teaspoons. So I still consider this to be quite healthy. And quite yummy too, it turned out! The flavours of cardamom, vanilla and pear blended together so wonderfully, nothing else was needed. I was a little afraid it wasn’t going to be sweet enough, but it was plenty sweet. I could easily have left out the sugar, but it looks cute with a drizzle of sugar on top anyway. I’ll definetely start experimenting more with pears. Let this be a lesson kids! Don’t forget the pears!

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Chicken with coriander and almonds

chicken with coriander and almonds

I don’t always plan what to cook and shop thereafter. I usually do, because I love planning and making lists, and besides it’s so easy to do all the shopping on monday, and then you know what to make for dinner the rest of the week. And if you are really good, and have remembered everything, you can go straight home after work and start cooking the entire week! Higly recommended! But sometimes I buy things, simply because they are so appealing, because it’s season or for no reason whatsoever. That was the thing with the large pack of cilantro I bought a week ago. “Cilantro is good!” I thought, and picked it up. And it is, it just wasn’t part of my schedule this week, (I’m weird, I know) but since the weekend-dinners weren’t planned, yesterday I found out I could use it to make one of my favourite Indian dishes. Chicken with coriander and almonds, from the book “the food of INDIA” from murdoch books. It’s really tasty and uncomplicated to make. This dish more or less makes itself. But first you have to help it getting started.

Ingredients:
1,5 kg chicken or chicken pieces
50 g almonds
2 onions
4 garlic cloves
2 green chillies
5 cm piece of ginger
7 tablespoons oil
1,5 tablespoons ground coriander
1tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 tablespoon chilli powder
1/4 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons coriander leaves
170 ml single cream

Serves 4

If using a whole chicken, cut into eight pieces. That’s too much work for me, so I use the thighs, and also because that’s by far the best part.

Grind the almonds in a food processor, or chop with a knife as finely or rougly as you want. I like to have some bigger pieces, something to chew on, so I chop them more roughly.

Blend the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger in a good processor until finely chopped, but not puréed.

Heat the oil in a casserole over medium heat, add the onion mixture and stir until lightly browned. Add the chicken, and fry, turning constantly for 10 minutes or until golden.
Add the coriander, cumin, chilli powder, paprika salt and pepper to the pan, and stir for 3 minutes until well absorbed into the meat. Add 100 ml water, stirring the chicken for another 5 minutes over medium heat. The water will have reduced to a rich thick sauce. Add another 200 ml water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add three-quarters of the coriander and stir.

If the chicken is cooked through at this point, blend the almonds with 140 ml of the cream in a blender to form a smooth paste. Or don’t – I don’t always bother, it’ll be mixed anyway. Add to the chicken, stir well and cook until heated through. Stir in the remaining cream before serving, to create a creamy even sauce. You can also add raisins, if that’s your thing. It’s mine. I love the sweet soft raisins to contrast the spicy sauce and the crunch of the almonds. Almonds and raisins are regulars in all my Indian dishes. Sprinkle with lots of coriander, and serve with rice and chosen bread.

Brigadeiros

brigadeiros

When I was in Brazil, one of the first things I learned was: se não tem brigadeiros, não tem festa! If there’s a party there has to be brigadeiros. If there’s no brigadeiros, there’s no party. Easy as that. Once I tasted these scrumptious sweets, I understood and adapted that rule, and brought it home to Norway. Brigadeiros are brazilian “docinhos” or sweets. A candy made of sweetened condensed milk, butter and chocolate or chocolate powder. They are very easy to make, and very easy to eat too. So whenever I’m throwing a party – birthday, Christmas – whatever, I’m excused and finally allowed to eat brigadeiros again!

This weekend I was hosting a bachelorette-party, and that definetely called for brigadeiros. First of all, that’s a real party-excuse, and besides, brigadeiros tend to be very popular among the girls… I can say I was right! And they look like you’ve really made an effort, while they’re actually super-easy to make.
So if you want raise some praises, and try out these brazilian chocolate-balls, this is what you do:

You need:
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (400 g)
1 ts butter
1 ts nesquick (or a little chocolate)

Put everything in a heavy saucepan, mix and stir. Keep stirring constantly over low heat until the mixture holds together as a soft mass and you can see the bottom of the pan. Stir for another couple of minutes, and remove from heat. Allow to cool, and store in the fridge until it’s cold and firm enough to form little balls. It usually takes a few hours. If it’s very sticky, butter your hands to form the little balls. For a traditional look, roll in brown sprinkles and put in small paper cups. Or you can roll them in cocoa powder, icing sugar or coloured jimmies if you want to make them look different. Either way, they are delicious! But if you’re not making them for a party, but for your own pleasure you can do as the brazilians do: Simply eat it with a spoon straight out of the pan! If you’re like me, you know all food tastes better eaten that way…

Mushroom risotto

mushroom risotto

I’ve been really into risotto lately, and it doesn’t seem to end any time soon. I just love that creamy, soft rice together with mushrooms or whatever it is that you put into it. But I must say, mushrooms are a great companion with arborio. I bought a can of – canned mushrooms the other day, and once I saw it there in the shelves, I thought of risotto. Just one of those moments when two apparedely separate things come together as one. I could picture this risotto right there, in the isles of the supermarket. I picked it up. It was meant to be.

When I got home, I put it away with the rest of my canned food, and I forgot about it. But yesterday I rediscovered it. I was looking for something to make for dinner when I found it, and it all came very clear. I was making mushroom risotto. And that’s exactly what I did.

Ingredients for 2:
1 can of mixed mushrooms
2 fresh champignongs
2 dl arborio
2 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
2 dl white wine
parmesan
butter

First you make the broth. Whether it’s with real fresh vegetables or a boullion. (I like to use some fresh leak or onion anyway, to get some more taste to it. This time I also used the water from the canned mushrooms as well, it gave a sweet mushroomy smell.) Bring to the boil.
Cut the fresh mushrooms, and fry they until they turn soft and golden. Remove from pan.
Slice the garlic and onion into small pieces, and fry for about five minutes. Reduce the heat. Add the rice, and stir until you see the ricegrains turn transparent. Keep stirring all the time, because they can burn quite easily. This should only take a minute or so. This is where you should add the wine (or vermut can be used), and stir until all is absorbed and all the alcohol is steamed off, but I didn’t have any white wine, so I skipped to the next post. Which is start adding the boiling broth. One spoon at a time. Start with the heat on a medium level, and eventually turn it up after some time.

Let all the broth be absorbed before adding a new. And stir. And with one hand add another spoon of broth, and with the other hand, stir. Repeat this until the rice absorbs enough fluid to become soft, but with a slight chewy center.

Have you come this far, you’re almost done. Add the fresh and canned mushrooms.
Add a knob of butter, how much is up to you, but is should be at least 30 grams, and freshly grated parmesan. Stir this in rapidly, almost whipping it into the rice to make it velvety and creamy. Add more cheese or butter if you feel it needs more. Taste with salt and pepper. Serve once it’s finished with some freshly grated parmesan. And that’s it. That’s the story of a can with mushrooms.

Attempt to make baklava

baklava

I tried baklava for the first time last summer, on a trip to Kefalonia in Greece. I had already read about this dish in advance, (I always do some food research) it sounded so good, and it did not disappoint. I had it for dessert about every other day there. Baklava is a delicious phyllo pastry popular in Middle Eastern countries, but it’s also served in Greek and Lebanese restaurants. Baklava has layers of crisp phyllo dough and is filled with a sugary spiced nut mixture, and the whole thing is then soaked in fragrant sweet syrup made with honey, lemon and cinnamon. It a rich and decadent treat, which had a sweet tooth like me by the first bite.

So, when I got back I started thinking about making it at home. And it took some time, but a family dinner this easter seemed like a nice opportunity to try it out. I already had the recipe ready from a greek cookbook. So this is what I did.

Ingredients:
115 g almonds
115 g walnuts
55 g pistachionuts
55 g muscovadosugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon crushed cloves
55 g melted butter
12 layers phyllodough

Syrup:
125 g sugar
100 g honey
1,5 dl water
1 ts lemonjuice
1 ts rosewater

Directions:
First of all, make the syrup. Heat the sugar, water, honey, lemon and rosewater in a pan over low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, and boil for another five minutes, or until the mixture reaches a sirupy-feel. Remove pan from heat, and cool completely.

Chop a third of the nuts finely in a grinder, or by hand, and coarsly chop the rest of the nuts. Pour all the nuts in a bowl, and add cinnamon, sugar and cloves. Stir it together. Lightly grease a pan with butter, and set the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. I used a 30×40 cm which turned out to be far too big, I’m guessing half the size would be better. Unless you want embarresingly flat baklavas like mine, but you don’t, trust me.
Place a sheet of phyllo dough into the pan. Brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter. Repeat until it is 6 sheets thick, or more if you want an even thicker layer, each sheet covered in butter.

Pour in the nut mixture, and spread it evenly over the buttery phyllo-sheets. Repeat the same operation with the phyllo dough, one sheet at a time, each brushed with butter. The top layer should at least be 6 layers thick. Using a sharp knife, cut through the top layers of phyllo into equally sized squares. My pan gave 24 pieces, but I’d rather have 12 bigger ones… Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown with crispy edges. Once out of the oven, pour the cool syrup over the hot baklava, and allow to cool for a couple of hours. When it’s ready to serve, cut through the marked squares, and serve the baklava with a scoop of ice cream. I found out that the cool smooth feel of vanilla ice cream perfectly complements the spicy, crispy and nutty baklava. When I first ordered a baklava in Greece, they brought me the baklava as it was, plain. I thought some ice cream on the side would do, and asked the waiter if I could get a scoop of ice cream. I had a feeling he misunderstood, and quite right, there he was bringing me a vanilla sundae with whipped cream and a little pink umbrella. Suddenly I had two desserts. Well, this was definetely too much, but it was really good! From there on, I was sold.

And that leads us to today. The baklava didn’t turn out quite as nicely as I had hoped. First of all, the pan was too big which resulted in flat unappealing baklavas. Secondly, it was almost impossible to cut. The phyllo crumbled to pieces by the slightest touch, and the nuts and sugar had caramelized making it really hard to cut through. Maybe I just need a new knife. Or work out more. Or maybe I just have to make it again. But I have a feeling this was too sticky and hard. But it tasted good! I’m just not sure if it tasted good enough. Not when I know how tasty it can be. I guess some things are better enjoyed seaside in a greek taverna.