Hjónabandssæla – Icelandic Happy Marriage cake

This is one treat that I always make sure to get a slice of when I travel to Iceland, and on my last trip I picked up a couple of jars of homemade rhubarb jam so I can make my own. I like to think of old folks having this cake for afternoon tea, reflecting on their long, blissful lives together as they watch the sheep graze in the fields and the birds wheeling overhead.

Hmmmmm… perhaps I tend to romanticise Iceland a wee bit?😉

Hjónabandssæla - Icelandic Happy Marriage cake

It may not be particularly beautiful to the eye, but this cake is just delicious. Rich and moist, it goes wonderfully with a cup of tea.

If you can’t get (or don’t like) rhubarb jam, you can use blueberry, which would be in keeping the wild fruit that grows in the Icelandic countryside in summer.

Makes 1 x 30cm (12″) cake
Note: a smaller diameter baking dish will yield a taller cake, but will take an extra few minutes to cook through
Preparation: 10 minutes
Baking: 25 minutes
Keeps for several days in an airtight container in the pantry

Ingredients

200g (2 cups) oatmeal
250g (2 cups, spooned and scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
1 tsp baking (bicarb) soda
pinch salt
225g (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
230g (3/4 cup) rhubarb jam

Directions

Preheat oven to 200°C / 390°F / Gas Mark 6, and butter a 30cm (12″) pie dish.

Whisk together the oatmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Add the butter bit by bit and use your fingers to mix it into the flour until well combined.

Stir in the egg and vanilla extract. It’s easiest to just keep using your fingers.

Press 2/3 of the dough firmly into the pie dish.

Spread the jam over the dough in the pan.

Take the remaining 1/3 of the dough and drop it in lumps all over the jam.

Bake in centre of oven for about 25 minutes, until golden.

Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool.

Serve on its own or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Posted in cake, dessert, sweet, tart&pie | 2 Comments

Sourdough Indian flatbread

Stovetop sourdough Indian flatbreads – easy to make, flavour-packed, light and soft – so much better than store-bought!

Sourdough Indian flatbread

Typically, Indian naan bread is baked, but pan cooking it gives it a crisp exterior and a moist, fluffy interior without the need for a tandoor clay oven. So good with a curry and a beer!

Makes 4 breads
Preparation: 10 minutes
Rising: 2 – 3 hours
Cooking: 30 minutes

Ingredients

250g (2 cups, spooned and scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 tsp fine salt
1 tsp baking (bicarb) soda
pinch garlic powder
100g (scant 1/2 cup) mature 100% hydration sourdough starter
150g (3/5 cup) natural (plain) yoghurt
1 Tbsp ghee
cumin seeds for sprinkling
additional ghee for cooking and brushing

Directions

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and garlic powder.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the sourdough starter, yoghurt and ghee, and mix into the flour with a dough hook or wooden spoon until all of the flour is incorporated and you have a shaggy dough.

Lightly flour a work surface and turn the dough out. Knead until it is smooth and soft, about 8 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 2 – 3 hours, until increased in size by at least half.

Cut dough into 4 pieces and roll into balls, place on a lightly floured surface and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Heat a (preferably cast iron) frying pan over medium heat and brush it with ghee.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the balls to ovals about 1/2cm (1/5″) thick.

Cook the breads one at a time for about 6 minutes each, turning halfway, until deep golden brown.

Brush with a little ghee, and sprinkle with cumin seeds. Keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining breads.

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Apricots poached in vanilla-orange syrup

These vanilla and orange poached apricots are a perfect balance of sweet and tart. Try them served just on their own with Greek yoghurt and perhaps a sprinkling of chopped nuts, spoon them over granola, or, better still, on a thick slice of pound cake with a big dollop of whipped cream.

Apricots poached in vanilla-orange syrup

Makes enough to fill a 1 litre (1 quart) jar
Can be stored in the refrigerator for a week

Ingredients

1kg (about 2 pounds) firm, ripe apricots
100g (1/2 cup, packed) brown (demerara) sugar
50g (2 1/2 Tbsp) honey
250ml (1 cup) water
freshly squeezed juice of a large orange
1 x 5cm (2″) long strip orange zest
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Directions

Halve and pit the apricots and set aside.

Combine the sugar, water, honey, orange juice and zest and the vanilla bean in a wide, heavy based saucepan, and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved.

Add the apricots, reduce the heat to low and cook for about 3 minutes, just until the apricots start to soften.

Remove the apricots with a slotted spoon and place carefully in a clean jar.

Bring the syrup to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes, until thickened and reduced by about half. Remove the zest and vanilla bean and pour it into the jar over the apricots.

Seal the jar and allow to cool before serving or refrigerating for up to a week.

Posted in breakfast, dessert, preserves, sweet | Leave a comment

Red berry parfait

A coulis of strawberries, raspberries and red currants is layered with creamy no-churn vanilla ice cream which is studded with chunks of chewy meringue in this gorgeous summer dessert.

red berry parfait

As this recipe makes 2 ice cream cakes, I decorated one for the family with additional coulis and candied mint leaves, and the second for guests with chocolate sauce and fresh red currants. Yummy!!!

And now I’m going on vacation for a couple of weeks… see you on the other side!

Makes: 2 x approx.  1 litre (2 pint) ice cream cakes, each serves 8 – 12
Active: 45 minutes
Chilling coulis: at least 1 hour (can be made a couple of days ahead)
Freezing: 8 hours or overnight
Keeps: 3 months in the freezer

Ingredients

700g (about 1 1/2 pounds) red berries of choice
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
500ml (2 cups) whole cream
1 x 397g (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk, chilled
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
about 10 small meringues – about 2 cups when crumbled

Directions

Remove stalks/stems from berries and combine them along with the sugar and lemon juice in a heavy based saucepan and heat on low until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer for about 10 minutes until the berries break down. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Strain the berry mixture through a mesh strainer into a glass or ceramic bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to chill.

Prepare 2 medium loaf pans or 1.2 litre (2 1/2 pint) plastic containers by lining completely with plastic wrap, leaving enough overhang to cover the top.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream on medium-high speed until thick and fluffy, but not quite to the texture of whipped cream, 3 – 4 minutes on medium. Be careful not to overbeat, otherwise your ice cream will have a buttery mouthfeel.

Add the condensed milk and vanilla paste or extract and beat just until very soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted – it should have a thick, mousse-like consistency.

Crumble the meringues roughly and fold the meringue pieces into the cream mixture.

Pour mixture into the lined loaf pans or containers, layering it with the red berry coulis (reserving a few tablespoons of coulis for serving, if desired), finishing with a layer of the cream mixture. Cover with the overhanging plastic and freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight.

To serve, uncover the top of the parfait, turn out onto a serving plate, remove plastic wrap and decorate as desired.

Candied mint leaves

1 sprig mint
1 egg white
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Carefully wash and dry the mint leaves. Moisten on both sides with egg white, then dip in sugar to coat. Place on a sheet of parchment to dry completely, at least 3 hours.

Chocolate sauce

75g (2 1/2 oz) dark chocolate, chopped
75g (2 1/2 oz) milk chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp powdered (confectioners’) sugar
80ml (1/3 cup) whole cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan containing a couple of centimetres (about an inch) of simmering water on low heat, or in a double boiler. Stir gently until the chocolate has completely melted and everything is well combined and smooth. Add a little additional cream if required, to make it thinner.

Allow to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Keeps well in the fridge and reheats easily (just add extra cream to thin it, if necessary).

Posted in cake, dessert, ice cream, sweet | 2 Comments

Grilled halloumi Greek salad

Grilled halloumi makes a nice change from the traditional feta – it’s not so salty and has a wonderfully chewy texture. This Greek salad pairs perfectly with some crusty sourdough bread and a glass of dry white wine.

Grilled halloumi Greek salad

Serves 2 as a main, 4 – 6 as an appetizer or side
Preparation: 20 minutes active
plus time for the halloumi to cool

Ingredients

250g (about 9oz) halloumi
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 a garden cucumber
1 large red onion
1 medium-large beef heart tomato
about a dozen pitted Kalamata olives

Dressing

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano

Directions

Slice the halloumi into slabs and drain on paper towel. Heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a grill pan, then fry halloumi until golden on both sides, a few minutes per side. Transfer to paper towel to drain and cool. Dice into bite sized pieces.

Split the cucumber lengthwise and slice into half moons.

Halve the onion and slice into half rings.

Cut the tomato into irregular chunks.

Toss together the salad ingredients, then whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Posted in appetizer, dressings&sauces, greek, lunch, middle eastern, salad | 2 Comments

Cherry pirozhki

Some luscious little cherry pirozhki – baked hand pies made with a soft and flaky sour cream pastry and filled with sweet, fresh macerated cherries – for a summer picnic treat.

Cherry pirozhki (hand pies)

June’s Daring Kitchen challenge from Sarah at Sassy Suppers was to make either fried or baked pirozhki. They are Russian pastry that have been enjoyed as a street food since Peter the Great’s time, filled with all sorts of things, classic versions being meat, mushrooms, cabbage, cheese, jam or fruit. I went for the baked version because I’m not a big fan of deep frying. The fried version uses a yeasted dough which I’ve yet to try, but this super soft and flaky sour cream pastry is a dream to work with. You can find the other pastry recipe (plus savoury filling recipes) here, if you’re keen to give it a go.

Makes: about 15
Preparation: 15 minutes
Resting: at least 1 hour
Filling: 15 minutes
Baking: 30 minutes
Note: these hand pies are not overly sweet – you can increase the sugar for macerating to half a cup if you want them sweeter

Filling

300g (about 10 oz) sweet cherries
a squeeze of lemon juice
1 Tbsp sugar

Halve and pit the cherries (quarter them if they are very big), place in a bowl, squeeze a little lemon juice over them, sprinkle with sugar, stir and allow to macerate for at least an hour. The aim is to draw a lot of the liquid out of them, so you don’t end up with soggy pirozhki.

Sour cream pastry

190g (1 1/2 cups, spooned & scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
2 tsp sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
100g (7 Tbsp) cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
80g (1/3 cup) sour cream

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.

Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. You can use your fingertips, but be careful not to break up the butter too much, otherwise you won’t get flaky pastry.

Mix the egg yolk and the sour cream together and then add it to the flour mixture. Use your hands or a spatula to combine.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough together very briefly, only about 30 seconds. Form dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour.

Filling and baking

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp milk for egg wash
2 tsp sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350ºF / Gas Mark 4. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Drain the cherries (you can reserve the liquid to add to drinks).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a thickness of 1/3cm or 1/8″.

With a 9 – 10cm or 3 1/2 – 4″ round cutter, cut out rounds from the dough, re-rolling and re-cutting until you have used it all up.

Place a spoonful of cherries in the middle of each circle of dough. Brush the edges with water or egg wash, fold the edges and press firmly to seal. Arrange on the baking sheet.

Brush the pirozhki with the egg wash, sprinkle with sugar and bake in the middle of the oven until golden brown, 30 – 35 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Serve at room temperature.

Posted in breakfast, daring kitchen, dessert, pastry, snack, sweet, tart&pie | Leave a comment

Chocolate hazelnut flourless torte

This flourless chocolate hazelnut torte is simply amazing! It’s quite like the Italian torta caprese, but it has no butter in it. Yes, you read that right. No butter. No oil, either. It is rich, soft, moist and incredibly light, especially for a nut-based cake!

Chocolate hazelnut flourless torte

I have been working on this recipe for far longer than I would care to admit. It started its life as a French Gâteau Bellevue, then the tweaking began. Swap out the flour, adjust the quantities, change the nuts, fiddle with the baking numbers… My family, naturally, have been very happy with this development process – they have consumed… I think it was 8 at last count… chocolate cakes over the course of several months. When this one came out of the oven and I did my little “I nailed it!” happy dance, there was a distinct air of disappointment from them – the chocolate cake train had come to an end. But I’m still happy dancing, because this cake is a winner!

Makes 1 x 22cm (8 – 9″) cake
Preparation: 15 minutes
Baking: 35 – 40 minutes
Cooling: about 1 hour
Note: you could substitute reduced fat cream or half-and-half, but the cake may not be as moist due to the lower fat content

Ingredients

125g (4 1/2 oz) good quality dark chocolate
125ml (1/2 metric cup; or 1/2 US cup + 1 tsp) fresh whole cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking (bicarb) soda
pinch salt
65g (1/2 cup) corn starch
100g (1 cup) ground hazelnuts
125g (1 cup unsifted) powdered (confectioners’ or icing) sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature

sunflower oil or baking spray for the pan
additional powdered sugar for dusting

Directions

Preheat oven to 180°C / 360°F / Gas mark 4 with a rack in the middle position. Prepare a 22cm (8 – 9″) springform cake pan by greasing with sunflower oil or baking spray.

In a double boiler or bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate together with the cream, stirring gently until smooth.

Once the chocolate has melted, remove from heat and transfer to a clean bowl and allow to cool a little, about 5 minutes.

Add the vanilla extract, baking (bicarb) soda, salt, corn starch, ground hazelnuts and powdered sugar, and combine well with a spatula.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until light and foamy.

Using a spatula, fold the beaten eggs into the chocolate mixture until just combined.

Pour the batter into the pan, put in the middle of the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove pan from oven, place on a wire rack and run a fine bladed knife or plastic spatula around the edge to loosen, then allow to cool for about 10 minutes before removing from the pan to cool completely.

Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Keeps for several days under a cake dome at room temperature.

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