Banana Bread

Banana Bread

Banana bread is a staple in our household. Growing up in the Philippines, it was an excellent way to use leftover bananas, since the recipe needs overripe bananas.

The great thing about this recipe is that you could tweak it to make it lactose free or whole wheat without affecting the taste. The only thing I would insist on is to use soft brown sugar or muscovado sugar, because it gives the bread a great brown color. If you like nuts, feel free to add pecans or walnuts.

Ingredients:

2-4 overripe bananas, 1/3 cup melted butter or margarine, 1 cup muscovado sugar, 1 beaten egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon baking soda, a pinch of salt, and 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour. 1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely cut (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 175° C. Peel bananas and place in a large bowl, and cut up/mash with a wooden spoon or a potato masher. Mix in sugar, egg, and vanilla. Mix the flour with the baking soda and salt in the measuring cup, and mix it into the wet ingredients. Add the nuts, if using. Pour into a 4×8 inch silicone loaf pan, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown and a stick tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack, remove from the pan and slice.

The Sharing Economy

Chicken a la King

Something really cool happened to me last month.

I had leftover broccoli and a few potatoes and tomatoes from dinner the night before, so I decided to make an improvised Chicken a la King. I still had leftover whipping cream in the fridge that needed using, and some canned button mushrooms in the cupboard. I went to the supermarket and bought a 250 g pack of chicken breast, which I diced and boiled in three cups of salted water.

I melted three tablespoons of butter/clarified butter in a pan, added the vegetables. Drained the mushrooms, tossed them in. Added three tablespoons of flour and made a roux. Poured in the cream little by little, alternating with the chicken broth from the diced chicken. Added in the chicken pieces and let it simmer uncovered for five minutes. Then seasoned it with pepper and fish sauce (trust me, it tastes better).

It’s hard cooking in what is practically a single-person household. So here comes the best part. I posted the leftover of the leftover dinner on a food sharing Facebook group. A lady with a kid took the leftovers from my hands. And had a great dinner with her kid.

It felt so good that I ended up not eating the same thing three days in a row. Even better was that I got to help out another mom. I might be posting on that group more often!

David Lebovitz’s Dulce de Leche Tart

I would like to thank my friend in Berlin for sending me the recipe for this delicious tart. I am sorry that I didn’t do such a good job with the photos, but it tasted really good! I pinky swear it!

The fact that you can now buy cheap, ready made Dulce de Leche from Rewe was the reason I decided to make this tart for my birthday. And I wanted to test my brand new mixer 😀  Since I didn’t have a pie dish with a detachable bottom, I had to make peace with the fact that I wasn’t gonna lift perfect slices, despite oiling the pie dish very heavily.

If you don’t have pie weights, you could use dried beans, like chickpea. I used mung beans, which you could in turn make into guinataang munggo (remind me to share you the recipe one day).

The recipe was published in David’s book My Paris Kitchen. This is how I made this tart

For the Crust: 6 Tablespoons/ 85 g butter (preferably salted) at room temperature or softer, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 large egg yolk, 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1/4 tsp. flaky sea salt, and 1 Tablespoon water (optional)

Filling: 230 g chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, 2 large eggs, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 cup (240 g) dulce de leche, and flaky sea salt for sprinkling.

Make the crust before the filling. Using a stand or hand-held mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter with the powdered sugar at low speed, until smooth. Mix in the yolk, occasionally stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl.

In another bowl, whisk the flour and the cocoa powder together, and add to the butter mixture until the dough comes together. If it looks dry, add a tablespoon of water (which I did). Roll into a ball. Pull a plate- sized (about 15 inches by 15 inches) portion of saran wrap (cling film) on a flat surface, place the dough ball on it, flatten a bit with the heel of your hand and wrap the dough in the film.  Set aside for 30 minutes. You can also use a clean plastic bag, it is probably easier.

After 30 minutes, roll the dough relatively flat in the bag or unwrap the dough, place another sheet of cling film over it, and roll with a rolling pin. When the dough is wide enough to cover a 9 inch (23 cm) pie or tart ring with a removable bottom, remove the top sheet, place the dough in the tart ring by flipping it in using the plastic film for stability, and try to evenly cover the walls of the dish by pressing your fingers at the dough located at the bottom and sides of the dish and pushing the dough up the walls, until the rim. Sprinkle the sea salt over the dough and press it into the pastry. Cover the tart ring with the wrap you used to roll it in, and freeze for 30 minutes. Colder temperatures means that I could just open the balcony door and let it rest outside.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Once the 30 minutes are up, line the dough with aluminum foil and cover the bottom with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and the weights, and bake for 5 more minutes, until the shell feels set. Take the shell out of the oven and reduce the heat to 150°C.

During the waiting/baking period you can get cracking on the filling. Melt the chocolate in a bain-Marie, remove the bowl from heat once melted, and set a strainer on top.

Whisk the eggs into a bowl. Heat the milk in a saucepan until just warm, and whisk the milk into the eggs. Not too warm, we don’t want the eggs to scramble! Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or a wire whisk, until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Pour the custard through the strainer into the chocolate, and add the vanilla, stirring until smooth.

Carefully spread the Dulce de Leche over the hot tart shell in an even layer. It helps to let the Dulce sit for 30 seconds before spreading, the warmth of the tart bottom will soften the cream enough, making it easier to spread. Set the tart sheet on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, then carefully pur the chocolate custard over the dulce de leche. Smooth the top, and sprinkle with more salt.

Bake the tart for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the tart with the door closed for 25 minutes more.

You can remove it from the oven and let cool before serving. I just let the tart in the oven overnight and served it to my guests the day after.

David recommends serving it with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, but the tart is so filling, I don’t think you will need more sweet! The crust tastes a lot like Oreo cookies, so it was really addictive.

Lord Hell’s Plum Cake

 Plum season is almost over, but I still get to enjoy them thanks to the three sheets of plum cakes I have managed to bake this season.

My go-to cake recipe comes from the coolest handle nameI’ve ever heard, Lord Hell, the pseudonym of a Chefkoch.de member who struck gold at the death metal name generator. According to Lord Hell, this is her (?) Oma’s recipe, and is glad that she could share it so that it wouldn’t die out. Judging from the rating this cake has, it definitely won’t!

Germans are big into dry cakes, or what is also called coffee cakes. As long as you can get used to the idea that Germans like their cake to taste like bread, you are good to go.

For the base:

500 grams flour, 30 grams fresh yeast or 10 grams dry yeast, 250 ml lukewarm milk, 75 grams sugar, and 100 grams butter.

For the toppings, a kilo and a half of plums is definitely more than enough to cover a 37 cm by 42 cm baking sheet.

Pre-heat the oven to 220° C. Dump the flour into a big mixing bowl and create a depression in the middle. Place the cut-up butter, and strew about 60 grams of the sugar, and a pinch of salt along the edges of the crater, making sure that it wouldn’t fall into ist. Break up the yeast and dump it in the hollow, adding the rest of the sugar and the milk. You can either leave it as is or mix it up, if you like. Let it rest under a kitchen towel for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes are up, knead the mixture into a dough, and proof for 30 minutes.

While waiting for the dough to rise, you could either halve or quarter the plums lengthwise, removing the stones. Place the cut-up fruit in a separate bowl.

When the 30 minutes are up, knead the dough again, and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You can either roll the dough out with a pin or using your fingertips, massage the mixture to fan out on the sheet until the whole thing is covered with the dough. Pierce the base with a fork in several places (I prefer making a Union Jack pattern). If the plums are an especially juicy or watery variety, you could sprinkle the base with either breadcrumbs or powdered cinnamon.

 Place the plums with the skins down on the base in a row until the whole base is covered. Leave about three centimeters of lip around the edges if you like. You could also add streusel on top by mixing 200 grams soft butter with 200 grams salt, 300 grams flour, ½ teaspoons of powdered cinnamon and a pinch of salt. After mixing the ingredients together, take a big hunk of the mixture in your hand and pinch off small pieces and strew it randomly over the plums. Place in the oven and it should be done by 20 to 30 minutes. You need to watch the streusel because it burns easily. As soon as the plums smell fragrant it should be done!

It is quite easy to make and it is a very traditional German dish. Thank you LordHell for allowing me to share your recipe!

Challah for Schabbos

I am a person that is generally fond of religious rituals. I like the steady, practiced rythym of their execution, the prayers passed down through centuries. So I was really excited to finally participate in this year’s Yiddish Summer Weimar, a yearly series of musical events to celebrate Yiddish culture and language, after work commitments kept me busy the past years.

And I was even more excited to participate in a Yiddish cooking class. Since yesterday was a Friday, the class prepared meals for Schabbos or Schabes, which is Yiddish for the Sabbath. I didn’t really do much except practice my onion-cutting skills, but it was interesting to learn different cooking techniques and ways to prepare food.

We Gentiles learned that baking Challah is an essential part of the Schabbos. Challah is basically a sweet braided loaf of bread, without milk and butter. And they need to bake at least two loaves. I’m so impressed with our multilingual instructor Paulette Bielasiak who gave instructions in French, German, Yiddish, and English without missing a beat! This is her recipe.

Dissolve a packet (42 g) of active dry yeast in 360 ml of lukewarm water, and add into a kilogram of flour. Mix thoroughly either by hand or bread machine, and add two eggs, 100 ml oil (something neutral-tasting, like sunflower or canola), and 100 grams of sugar (can be less, this is a matter of taste). Add half a tablespoon of salt, and knead until it forms a coherent ball. Add flour if needed. Cover the bowl and let it rise in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in bulk (about 45 minutes to an hour. This process will be faster if using fresh yeast.)

After proofing the bread, divide into six equal parts, and roll them until they are about an inch thick and a foot long. Take three ropes, press them together at one end, tuck it under, and proceed to braid. Press the ends of the braid again together and tuck underneath the loaf. Let the loaves rise again for thirty minutes by leaving them in a warm (50°C) oven.

When they have risen sufficiently, take them out of the oven. Turn the heat up to 170° C. Beat an egg with a tablespoon of sugar and glaze the loaves with a brush, and bake for 25 minutes.

We also had Latkes, Choulent, Gefilte Fish, and a salad comprised of mashed hard-boiled eggs mixed with spring onions. The kilo and a half of onion that I chopped went into a side dish that involved caramelizing an onion in some oil and a knob (about a tablespoon) of butter for thirty minutes, then adding five beaten eggs into the pot. I don’t know what it’s called, but it was really tasty.

Yiddish food is really heavy, I guess it has to be if one can’t cook for a whole day!

Cherry Cupcakes!

Another recipe from North & South are these fabulous cherry cupcakes that you really just have to try!

240 g unsalted butter                                   210 g self-raising flour

200 g caster sugar                                      90 g plain flour

3 large eggs                                                 36 or more fresh cherries, stoned, halved and                                                                        de-stemmed

Zest of half an orange                                  12 fresh cherries, stoned, with stems intact

 

Line a muffin tray with cupcake inserts. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until white and fluffy. Add eggs and orange zest, mix well. Fold in the flours gently, then add the cherries. DO NOT OVERSTIR! It’s ok if there are still patches of flour here and there, overmixing will make your cupcakes dry!

Divide the mixture  among the hollows in the cupcake tray, placing a cherry on top of each cupcake just before baking. Bake at 200°C or 180°C on fan bake for about 10-15 minutes or until a skewer comes clean. Allow to cool and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

While the recipe says it is enough for 12 cupcakes, I was able to bake 16 cupcakes total. The cupcakes do not keep well, so consume within 48 hours. I haven’t tried refrigerating them but the article warned against it. 

Necessity is the Mother of Invention: Cherry Salsa/Chutney

 I had never really thought of cherries as a savory food, but after harvesting a bucket full of cherries and already filled three and a half jars full of jam, I was kind of under pressure be creative.

The thing is that cherries tend to attract insects and their offspring while on the tree. While swallowing a maggot or two never harmed anybody, I didn’t fancy getting a belly full of maggots. That, and cherries tend to mold quickly so that you had a three day time window to consume them. The secret is to not wash the cherries until just about the point that you are to consume or use them!

I spotted a recipe from a colleague’s North & South, a monthly magazine from New Zealand, in their February 2008 issue.  It featured a family’s cherry farm, and also shared some recipes of their own, which included a cherry salsa

All you need to do is to mix together 36 stoned and diced fresh cherries, ½ diced red onion, 174 handful flat-leaf parsley, Zest of half a lemon, 100 ml olive oil, 25 ml vincotta, Sea salt, and cracked pepper.

Because I didn’t have vincotta, a sauce made from sticky grape extract, I decided to play around this recipe a bit and made a chutney instead, using the pan drippings from the accompanying beef steak that night.

So I sautéed the onions in low heat, added the cherries, added all the seasonings and sprinkled the parsley just before serving. It tasted great and was a good contrast to the salty beef steak. A great way to use cherries!

Salisbury Bistek a la Burnt Lumpia

I always have ground meat in the fridge because it is versatile, and I am sure that my boy would eat it. Problem is, I cannot only eat Spaghetti Bolognese and Hamburgers. A solution must be found!

That solution came after searching the web and came upon this recipe from Burnt Lumpia, one of my favorite Filipino Food blogs on the net. I added some breadcrumbs to  extend  the meat, since I only bought 250 g.

The results were great. I should have followed the recipe more closely because I overcooked the steak, for fear of eating raw meat. I should not have worried so much and followed the recipe to a T.

And because it is kid-approved,  this will be in dinnertime rotation!

 

 

A Hankering for Home–Arroz Caldo

We have had a spell of cold weather lately, which kinda sucks because it was already so warm! I always want a bit of home when I get the blues, so I made Arroz Caldo. It is basically the Filipino version of Congee, that much-beloved Chinese rice porrige. It is normally served during cold days, for breakfast, or when one is having a meh day.

It is quite easy to make, the only thing that you need to look out for is the kind of rice that you are using. Filipinos normally use a mixture of normal and sticky rice, but risotto rice or German Milchreis is also an acceptable variety.

First, finely mince three cloves of garlic and dice an onion finely. Chop about an inch’s length of ginger into matchsticks. In a large, deep casserole, sauté the onion and garlic in about four tablespoons of oil, then add half of the ginger and about three to four pieces of chicken in the pot and slightly brown them. When the chicken pieces are slightly brown, throw in a small amount of water (about fourth of a cup) into the pot and let the juices seep out of the chicken (this is a technique I picked up from Burnt Lumpia), about 10 minutes. Season the chicken with salt or fish sauce and soy sauce for some color and pepper, then wait another five minutes to let all the juices seep out because of the salt. Then I add enough water to fully submerge the chicken, and wait until the water comes to a boil. 

When the water starts boiling, add a cup or two of rice and the rest of the ginger and lower the heat. Cover the pot. Stir occasionally to check if the rice is done, about 30-40 minutes. Boil a little longer if it is too watery, or conversely, add more water if the porridge is too thick. Season with salt or fish sauce and pepper, and garnish with chopped chives, safflower, and a sliced hard-boiled egg. Sprinkle the porridge with a touch of calamansi (lemons and limes are acceptable substitutes) and more fish sauce, and you have the Filipino comfort food in a bowl!

And there are many different variations to this basic recipe. If you take out the chicken pieces from the stock before adding the rice, and omit the soy sauce and fish sauce, you are making lugaw, which is what we feed babies, the elderly, and the sick. Use pig or cow intestines instead of chicken, it’s called tripa, because of well…tripe. The local version of Blutwurst can also be used as a garnishing.

As for me, I prefer eating one-day old re-heated Arroz Caldo.

 

Salmon Bärlauch Bordelaise

Have you ever tried the recipes from boxes and can labels? I once had a collection of those as a child,. After buying a slab of frozen salmon, I spied a recipe on the box flap that suggested a good use of the ramsons I had purchsed from the farmer’s market.

I am a big fan of frozen fish a la bordelaise, so this was something  similar to that. In absence of ramsons, Chives would be a good substitute.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Defrost a 200 gram slab of salmon. Wash, pat dry, then finely chop a handful of ramsons, and grate the peel of half a lemon (or about 4-5 calamansi). Halve 300 g of cherry tomatoes, and chop three shallots or one small white, sweet onion into four.

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a shallow pot, and sauté the ramsons, 30 g panko crumbs, grated lemon rind and 30 g pine nuts (roasted sesame seeds are a good substitute). 

In a small baking dish, spread the tomatoes and onions evenly on the bottom and drizzle generously with olive oil. Season the salmon with salt and pepper, place it on the veggies, then evenly spread the ramson mixture on top. Bake for 20 minutes.

So I spent 40 minutes total from start to finish. Not bad! The outcome was surprisingly good and I’ve committed the recipe to my print-out book.