Souvenirs of our beloved Crete
This year we had been blessed with a lot fruits from the garden and now the plums (European plums or prunes) are just ripe enough.
I decided to create a side dish, which goes with meat (for example roasted pork, chicken or game), but now I think that this (perhaps with less salt, and adapting the spices to your taste) would be lovely as a dessert with vanilla ice cream, Greek plain yogurt or over your morning muesli (or cereals) . Next time…
For the preparation, I used allspice, finely crushed coriander and pepper, but other combinations would work as well. Alternatives could be cinnamon, cardamom, ground ginger, cloves, grated orange zest, garam masala and so on.
Juicy Prune Compote with Spices
- 12 prunes
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 pinch pepper
- ½ teaspoon finely crushed coriander seeds
- 1 pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoon brandy (or grappa, whisky, …)
- 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
- Wash the prunes, cut into halves and remove the pits.
- In a small bowl combine sugar spices, salt, water and brandy
- In a non-sticky frying pan, heat the butter at medium heat and fry the prunes on the skin side for a few minutes until you see that the skin begins to brown.
- Pour the mixture over the prunes and turn the prunes cut side down.
- Cook until the juice reduces to a thick medium thick sauce and the cut side of the prunes begins to turn brown. Don’t let burn the sugar!
- Immediately remove from the skillet and place in a serving plate.
A tagine is such a wonderful way to prepare and serve a complete meal at once.
The combination of meat, vegetable and carbs makes this possible and super easy!
The special spice mix, which I call “Moroccan Spice Mix”, is a wonderful very versatile balanced combination of flavours; I use this in many different ways, mostly spontaneously according to the ingredients I have on hand at home.
In the recipe below, I added some honey from our own production; this made the plate really really delicious!
Chicken Tagine with Chickpeas
Moroccan Spice Mix:
- 2 teaspoon ras el hanout spice mix, if available, optional
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 500 g chicken skinned, cut into big pieces (if you prefer deboned)
- 2 medium onions, peeled and cut into quarters (wedges)
- 1/2 lemon with peel, cut vertically in wedges (skin on)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and chopped
- 6 teaspoons Moroccan Spices Mix (see above)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 4 Roma tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken or vegetal broth
- 1 can chickpeas, about 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- ½ lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon honey
- 3 tablespoon raisins (+ some for decoration)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parsley for decoration
- Prepare in advance the ingredients taking care to prepare the tomatoes. To peel the tomatoes dip them in boiling water for two minutes, place in cold water and remove the skin. Cut into half and with your fingers remove the seed, cut into 1-2 cm pieces.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet (provided of lid) and fry chicken for 2 minutes, add onion and lemon wedges and fry for other 3 minutes.
- Add garlic, ginger and spices. Stir fry shortly until fragrant.
- Add tomatoes and sauté for 1-2 more minutes. Set aside a few pieces tomatoes, one lemon and one onion wedge for decoration.
- Add the broth and stir well-
- Add chickpeas, lemon juice, honey and raisins.
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover and let simmer covered for about 30 minutes or better one until the chicken results tender. Stir and add little water from time to time as it should not result dry.
- Just before serving top with the reserved lemon and onion wedges, the pieces of tomatoes, a few raisins. Cover for a few seconds.
- Top with parsley and serve with a smile!
Spring, sun, flowers, herbs and missing Crete!
During my walk through the garden I noticed that the fist wine leaves were almost big enough to be used for one of my favourite Greek dishes: dolmadakias (diminutives of dolmades)! Now in early spring the leaves are very light, tender and even if even still small, I decided to try to make this without meat (lamb or beef
As the same times I had some asparagus on hand, I decided to prepare also the egg-lemons sauce, which is perfect for both preparations!
Usually for this recipe, we use pine nuts, but as did not have such of them just now at home, I decided to uses some previously roasted pumpkin seeds; and WOW! This was real great!
I collected only about 30 leaves about 10-12 cm wide (yes real small, but tender!) and these made 3-4 cm sized dolamadakias.
Note: this dish often served lukewarm and the lemon leaves would taste even better the next day.
- 30 young tender fresh grape leaves (double the filling and the sauce if you have big leaves), washed and stem removed
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion
- ½ cup rice
- 1 cup vegetal broth (or simply the hot water you used to prepare the leaves + salt)
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, copped
- 2 tablespoons, chopped roasted pine nuts (or roasted pumpkin seeds)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg
- 1 lemon, juice of
- 1/2 lemon, grated peel of
- 1 cup water (I used drained liquid form the stuffed leaves + the blanching water for the leaves)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Additional lemon juice
- Bring about 1 liter of water to boil and place the leaves in hot water. Drain the leaves after 3 minutes (preserve one cup of water). Set aside and don’t discard the water.
- Fry the onion in the oil just until translucent, add the rice and the broth. Reduce to simmer.
- Add the herbs and seed, cook until the water is adsorbed for about 6-8 minutes, the rice will not be cooked through, but this just fine. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Place a small amount of this filling (about 1 teaspoon or more if the leaves are big) on the backside of the leaf near the stem and then close it. For this step, I first fold the left and right side of the leaf toward the center and I roll it up starting from the side of the stem (like the spring rolls).
- Place one tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of you pot, and then place the stuffed leaves one by one, near each other, opening side down so that they don’t move. If you have more leaves you some leaves to cover the bottom of the pot or (even better) a few thin sliced potatoes (addition to your meal)!
- Try to make two layers of the leaves in the pot (size depends on the leaves and the pot!)
- Grate le lemon zest, set aside; juice the lemon and set this aside as well.
- Place parts of the peel or additional lemon slices over the stuffed leaves, cover with the water (add to the water previously salt to taste), add about 1 third of the lemon juice as well.
- Cover with a small plate the stuffed leaves, so that they don’t move while cooking. Cover with the lid and simmer for about 40 minutes (adding some more water if needed). Drain out the liquid and use it for the sauce.
- If you have rice leftovers, cook them in a small saucepot with water as a risotto until done.
- For the egg-lemon sauce blend together the egg, the lemon juice the lemon zest, the drained liquid from the stuffed leaves, the cornstarch and the olive oil.
- Very slowly heat the sauce in a small saucepot until it thickens (do not let it boil but add more water if needed). Adjust salt and pepper. If you need add more lemon juice to taste.
- Serve the stuffed leaves with this sauce.
Today I do not pretend to bring you a completely new recipe. Once again as in the…. I will bring a variation using a different kind of flour: an Italian flour blend of mixed grain.
The proportion are similar: ½ cup starter + 1 cup water + 3 cups flour and salt.
Take care to refresh your sourdough starter with white flour as usual!
Enjoy this beautiful crunchy bread!
Mixed Grain Sourdough Bread
- 1/2 cup starter
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup flour
- 2 cups flour mixed grain flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Flour fort he working surface and to coat the bread
- The evening before or early in the morning combine all the ingredients for the first rising into a bowl, cover and let sit.
- After 2-8 hours (2 hours by 30°C – 8 or more hours by normal room temperature), add the mixed grain flour and the salt. Knead shortly and let lit it sit until you see that it begins to rise.
- Knead well again, cut into two pieces and shape each of them to a ball (boule) giving strengths to the walls.
- Dust well with flour and place them on the well-floured tray where you bake them.
- Make 3 long incisions: about 1 cm deep and crossing in the center of the bread.
- Last proof depends on the temperature. When the breads are at least doubled, preheat the oven to 220°C.
- Bake in at 220°C for about 20 minutes or until well browned, this takes about 30 minutes
- Remove from the oven and let cool down on a grid.
A stunning presentation for a special event!
You may prepare the chocolate cups in advance, fill them with the mousse and freeze until needed. Just before serving arrange on single plates and voilà a wonderful dessert is ready!
It was fun to prepare the cups and I will prepare these again!
Amaretto Mousse in Chocolate Cups
Chocolate Cups (pieces)
- 15 g white chocolate (optional), chopped
- 120-150 g dark chocolate, more if needed
- Silicon molds for muffins or other shapes (each for about 100 ml content)
- 2 egg yolks
- 60 g sugar
- 4 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
- 4 egg whites or 1/2 cup heavy cream
Serving suggestion (to taste)
- Shaved chocolate (white or dark chocolate)
- 250 g strawberries
- Amaretto liqueur to taste
- Heavy cream (whipped) to taste
- Place the chopped white chocolate in a small plastic bag and close it tightly with a knot.
- Hold the bag over the knot and dip the part with the chocolate for 2 seconds in hot water. Take out and knead the bag with the chocolate with your fingers, dip very shortly again and knead. Repeat until completely dissolved.
- Drizzle the white chocolate on the sides of the molds. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Melt dark chocolate in a bowl over a pot of hot water stirring constantly until dissolved. Remove from the heat. Brush the sides and the bottom of the mold using a food-safe paintbrush with the dark chocolate taking care not to damage the white chocolate decoration. If needed prepare more melted dark chocolate to make the cups walls thicker.
- Place in the fridge to cool down and to set completely.
- Gently remove the cups from the molds and place them in chilled place
- Beat egg yolk in a heatproof bowl with about 40 g of sugar until fluffy.
- Add the amaretto and place the bowl over a pot of boiling water; take care that only the steam and not water gets in contact with the bowl.
- As soon as the zabaglione begins to rise place the bowl over in vessel with cold water and stir from time to time until cooled down. Place in the fridge
- As soon as the zabaglione is cold, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks (or the heavy cream) add the sugar and beat until glossy. If using the heavy cream do not overbeat!
- Gently fold the beaten egg whites (or heavy cream) under the zabaglione.
- Fill the mousse in the chocolate cups and refrigerate (for a chilled mousse) or freeze for at least 2 hours (for ice-cream mousse) or until needed. Best use the same day.
- Prepare shaved chocolate
- Arrange sliced strawberries in single plates, spoons some amaretto over them.
- Place the filled chocolate cups in the plate near the strawberries.
- Decorate with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.
Our delicious oranges from Crete (the best I know!) inspired me to prepare homemade candied orange zest and since then I am using them for different recipes.
Just before Easter, I prepare my “Colomba” again (Easter Italian Dove Cake) and this week these easier version perfect for breakfast and for giveaway!
In recipe I mentioned the soft candied orange zest; I made it at home boiling the cleaned orange peels (after easting the orange first) in water, throwing away most of the liquid and adding the sugar (same weight as the zest). I’ve boiled until the water was evaporated and the zest quite dry but still soft. I spread it on a baking tray and the next day I sliced it and placed it in small jars. In order to prevent mold, I placed the closed jars in a pot with boiling water (covering half of the height of the jars) and after simmering for at least 30 minutes, switched of the heat and waited until cooled down in the pot. This is not the conventional way to prepare the zest, but it’s easy for me and I love to have this wonderful ingredient ready to be used.
If you don’t make the candied orange zest yourself, I suggest soften it for a few hours in little hot water prior use.
We know that not everybody has his culture of sourdough, for this reason a placed the alternative directly in the ingredients!
Sourdough Brioches with Orange
- 1/2 cup sourdough starter (100% hydration), alternative: 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup flour + 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup flour
- 1 orange grated zest
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup melted butter (for the dough)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3 cups flour
- 1/2 cup of soft candied orange zest (best if made at home)
- Additional flour for rolling out
- 6 tablespoons melted butter for brushing
- 3 tablespoons hot water
- 3 tablespoons sugar for clear glaze
- Combine in a big bowl the sourdough starter, stir well, add the first cup of flour and stir well again. Cover and place in a war warm place to rise (I use the oven with only light on). The best temperature is around 26-27°C.
- When the mixture is foaming add the orange zest, salt, the first 1/4 cup of butter, the sugar, and the egg. Stir well. Mix together 3 cups of four with the orange zest and add them to the dough. Stir and knead until well combined. You may stir/knead with the dough spatula in the bowl or use the kneading machine. The dough should result wet but not too sticky. If necessary, add some more flour.
- Cover and let rise until doubled in a warm place (see above).
- Divide the dough into two portions. Roll out the first portion onto a floured surface to the size of about 50 to 40 cm. Brush with 3 tablespoons of melted butter and roll the dough form the longer side. Now you have cylinder about 50 cm long. Cut the cylinder into 2.5 cm slices and place each one in a prepared muffin mold (I use silicone ones so I don’t need to prepare the surface). Repeat the same with the second part of the dough.
- Place a heat-resistant bowl of warm water into the oven and place the molds in the oven to rise. Depending on your yeast/sourdough and the temperature, this takes 1 hour to a few hours!
- Let rise until they rise (I let them rise until three fold volume!) and preheat the oven to 170°C (let the bowl in the oven.
- For the glaze combine the hot water with the sugar and stir until the sugar almost completely melted. Gently brush the risen brioches.
- Bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown!