Monday, 29 February 2016
You just got home from school and as you walk through the door you get hit by the sweet smell of your mom’s peach cobbler (or insert favourite sweet thing in there). School bag is thrown on the floor, a spoon is fetched and we are ready to go! We all have fond memories like that and mine certainly contains a peach cobbler and melting ice-cream. It is a great family dessert, it is extremely simple to make and it has very few ingredients. Because you turn it upside down once it is cool it can look very impressive if you have spared lots of time arranging the fruit in a pretty pattern so it is great for a dinner party too.
4 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp flour
50 grams butter
1 tsp good quality vanilla extract - It MUST be extract NOT essence!
2 cans of peaches
1. Melt the butter and put in baking tray - let it cool until it hardens.
2. Drain the beaches and dry as best as you can, make sure any thick pieces are cut in half so they are all roughly the same thickness. Arrange the peach pieces on top of the hardened butter.
3. Separate the 4 egg yolks from the egg whites, carefully. There must be no yolk in the whites.
4. Beat the egg whites into stiff peaks adding 2 tablespoons sugar.
5. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until it turns a light colour and has gained some extra volume.
7. Still using the metal spool sift the flour into the egg mixture. You need to try and keep as much air in the mixture as possible
8. Now gently pour the batter on top of the peaches covering it equally
9. Bake the mixture in a moderate oven (about 180C Fan - 200C' if no fan) for about 20 minutes - until the top is a golden colour and a toothpick comes out clean with no batter on it.
Leave to cool completely before you turn it over, you can serve with ice cream, whipped cream or just on its own. You can also change the fruit to mangos pineapple, plums, or any other soft fruit. I would imagine halved cherries would be amazing but a little bit on the expensive side.
I would also like to give a heads up on the cooking time. I find that 20 minutes works for me in most ovens I have however found that sometimes that has been not quite enough. so keep an eye on it while it cooks. Usually though the smell will let you know when it is ready and when it is starting to burn.
Monday, 22 February 2016
I along with every Bulgarian grew up with a staple go to meal when I was hungry, Banica with mutenica. That translates to a filo pastry pie filled with a feta cheese and egg mixture and a glass of cold yogurt that has been watered down and has a pinch of salt in it. It was peasant food back home in the same way that pizza was peasant food in Italy. These days it can be a street food snack or if grandma/mom makes it it can be the best comfort food you will ever have. The cold yogurt drink adds a savoury richness to the meal, but to be honest a glass of cold beer with it goes just as well. There are many variations, you can add leek, chard, nettles or spinach for example. The last essentially turning it into a version of the Greek spanakopita, which to me only goes to highlight the ancient history of the Balkans and the many links and similarities between the people and culture.
Banica can be eaten hot or cold. Once cooled down it is easy to carry in a box, can be reheated and makes for a great lunch. my favorite version is the one with leek hence why the recipe below calls for it, but please be as inventive as you like!
|Step 9 - Dollops of the Spinach version.|
5 medium eggs
5 tbsp of yogurt
400gm feta cheese
1/3 tsp bicarb
350gm melted butter
1 medium leek
1 packet filo pastry
- As always we start with preheating the oven to 200C’ (180C Fan).
- Oil a large deep pie dish, I use a stoneware pie dish. Anything that you may make a giant sheppards pie in will do.
- Melt your butter and leave to cool down a little
- Chop up the leek as fine or as chunky as you like it, I like mine quite chunky.
- Cook the leek down until softened in a little bit of oil or butter and let cool a bit before use, if you add it to the mix while hot it will cook the eggs.
- In a large bowl put the eggs, yogurt crumble the feta cheese into medium chunks, add the cooked leeks and melted butter - hold back a spoonfull of butter to brush the pie with before putting in the oven. Now mix it all together. Leave to one side.
- On a clean surface open up your filo pastry and with dry hands spread it out. Be gentle its very fragile.
- To the mix above add your 1/3 tsp of bicarb. this will give the pie a nice bit of volume You are doing the need to work fast now as the bicarb starts to act immediately.
- Dot dollops of the mixture on the top sheet of filo pastry quite randomly. I put about the equivalent of 4 tablespoons. Pick up this and the next sheet of filo and roll it into a cigar. I find that if I use a single sheet of the filo pastry it is too thin, it breaks and you do not get the right ration of pastry to filling. You need your baking dish nearby for the next step.
- Take your cigar over to the baking dish and roll it into a snail in the centre. Repeat the above process wrapping the filo cigars around each other to make what looks like a giant snail shell until you have used up either all the mix, all the filo or your dish is full and you cannot fit any more in.
- If you have mix left you can dollop it on top of the pie, brush the pie with the remaining melted butter and put in the oven for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.
I buy my filo pastry from Tesco and find that with their particular brand I tend to have 1 or 2 sheets left with the above mix ratio. So as not to waste those I tend to brush with butter sprinkle sugar and cinnemon and bake in the oven until crispy and lightly golden. Its little crisps of sweet cinnemon goodness!
Now the above might sound a bit complex and a hassle but actually from beginning to oven it takes about 15 minutes to make, and that is mainly because you are waiting for the leeks and butter to cool down so you don’t end up with scrambled egg. Also if you don’t feel like rolling it up you can just layer it, two sheets of filo, thin spread of mix two sheets of fillo thin spread of mix until one runs out. Make sure you finish with filo though, it’s nicer that way.
One of the attractive things to the recipe for me is that the measurements above are more guidelines than exact measures. Put as much or as little filling as you want, play around with it, add the stuff that you want, like nutmeg with the spinach, or sundried tomatos with the leek. It may not be authentic but if you love the taste of it that is all that matters. Food is to be enjoyed and shared!
Sunday, 14 February 2016
Carrot cake is beloved the world over, with icing, with frosting or simply on its own we consume vast quantities of it. This marvelously humble cake is so easy to make, and can have so many variations to it. I add raisins as do many, but due to my loathing of orange and lemon peel I do not put any in, and yet many often do. One other gorgeously sumptions variation of the carrot cake is beetroot.
Beetroot!? In a cake?! You must be mad?! No, not mad at all, just madly delicious. the beetroot just like the carrot gives the cake a sweet moisture, but also adds extra depth with its slight earthiness.
I do not remember where I got the recipe I use from, I have been making this for a good 10 years and it has not failed me once. It turns out perfect moist cake after perfect moist cake. It is a favourite amongst my friends and colleagues and the cream cheese icing is luxurious and decadent.
300gm plain flour
|Tell me that is not one BRIGHT cake!|
2 tsp cinnamon
1tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g soft brown sugar
200gm grated carrots or beatroot
the peel of 1 grated orange or lemon - optional
For the Icing
150gm icing sugar
175ml double cream
300gm cream cheese
Preheat the oven to 150C’ - grease either a 10 inch round tin or a loaf tin depending on the shape you want. I prefer to make mine in the loaf tin only because I find it easier to take out.
Beat the 4 eggs with the sugar, add the oil. Combine all the dry ingredients, make sure you sift the baking powder and the soda to avoid lumps. Add the dry mix into the egg oil and sugar mix, add the grated carrots/beetroot and raisins and mix in well. The beetroot turns the mix a most splendid shade of fuchsia!
Bake for an hour and twenty minutes. Leave to cool completely before you put any icing on top.
For the icing, put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until you have a nice thick icing. Be warned it is excruciatingly yummy and you may want to make extra, it never seems to be enough.
Sunday, 7 February 2016
Bulgarian Scones - Kazanlushki Korabii - Казанлъшки корабии
These lovely bready balls of goodness are one of my favourite snacks. As a little bit of background Kazanlak is a city in Stara Zagora province in Bulgaria, Situated in the centre of Kazanlak Valley, it has some of the most beautiful countryside in Europe. The valley is also known as the Rose Valley, supplying 80% of the world’s rose oil. Surrounded by the Balkan mountain range and carrying a rich history dating back to Thracian times.
But enough of history, let us get back to these lovely golden soft spheres. I did some research and I don’t really know why they carry their name, what I do know is that they are super simple to make and it will take you about half an hour to have a batch done from mixing to baking. Now purists will probably yell at me for I am about to suggest but I don’t care care. The Kazanlak Scone (yes I am renaming it) actually can be very versatile as an afternoon snack. They are amazing with butter and jam, just butter, just jam, clotted cream and jam, or yogurt. They accompany tea, coffee and hot chocolate like a trooper. You can sprinkle crushed walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts on top. You can add dried fruit such as raisins to the mix before baking. With no further adue here is the recipe:
1 cup of yogurt
1 cup of icing sugar
½ cup melted butter
3 eggs - 1 is for egg wash
vanilla or the zest of half a lemon
1tsp Bicarbonate Soda
1kg flour - some for dusting
Vegetable oil for shaping the scones
Sugar/nuts for sprinkling on top
Pre-heat your oven to 200C’ fan pr 220 no fan.
In a large bowl mix the yogurt and the soda. Add 2 of the eggs - keep the 3rd one for egg washing - icing sugar and vanilla and mix. Start introducing the flour, a bit at a time, when it starts forming a dough get your hands in and mix well. You are looking for a relatively soft and sticky dough, it needs to be just firm enough to hold its’ shape when you make it into a ball.
Line a baking tray with baking parchment and use some oil spray just because you don’t want paper on your scones. I find that otherwise the parchment sticks to mine.
Oil your hands with the vegetable oil. Pull a walnut sized piece from the dough, roll in your hands to make a ball and place on the baking tray. Leave about 2cm between each ball. Egg wash and then sprinkle with the sugar or nuts, put in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Do watch them once they change colour they burn quite quickly. You want them to be a deep golden brown. When they come out they would have grown and will end up touching. Leave them to cool before you take them off the tray. They will last for about a week if you keep them in a sealed box. They will get harder the longer they sit, but that is when you can actually turn them into a stupendously good bread and butter pudding if you have had a giant batch left over.