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!

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. 

Chocolate Upright Pear Cake

The air is starting to be crisper, leaves turning into wonderful shades of red and brown. Truly, Fall is slowly creeping into my kitchen as well. I got a windfall of pears, and I have been itching to try out a recipe ever since I saw a picture of it in New Urban Farmer from Celia Brooks Brown.

Apart from its appearance, the cake is also unsusual in that chocolate cakes are normally made moist by the amount of oil in them. This is made moist by the pear juice. It looks really stunning in person and I can only recommend this cake.

Ingredients:

100 g all purpose flour, 1 packet baking powder, 50 g cocoa powder, 50 g ground almonds, 175 g softened salted butter, 175 g brown sugar, 3 eggs, 2 Tbsp. milk, 5 small pears or 4 big pears.

You need a 23 cm (9 inch) springform pan. Line it with parchment paper and grease the sides. Pre-heat the pan to 180°C.

Mix the dry ingredients together well. First the flour, cocoa and baking powder, then the ground almonds.

With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Mix in an egg, and add a tablespoon of the dry ingredients. Add the two other eggs, then the flour mixture with the milk. Pour this into the pan and spread it evenly with a spatula.

Slice off the bottom of the pears and place them in the batter. Make sure that the pears are at least an inch apart and an inch away from the border. Place in the oven for 45-60 minutes. (I followed the recipe but I ended up with a burned cake. I’d say 30-45 minutes. trust your instincts on this one!) Let cool and separate from the form. Could be served with whipped cream.

This Year’s Harvest

This year’s harvest is quite a disappointment. We had a long winter, then floods, then a very dry spell, all at the wrong times! The potatoes didn’t and couldn’t get water just when they needed them, and thus are quite small. My tomato plants in my balcony haven’t been generous either, though the ones in the garden are doing quite well.

The picture above is the first salad made from this year’s first tomato harvest from my balcony and the garden. Tomato mozzarella salad is a classic of German kitchens, and is normally seasoned with olive oil or balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and basil leaves. Since I couldn’t decide between vinegar or oil, I used both!

I also got zucchini and squash blossoms too, and with that the garden sponsored fried zucchini blossoms. Today’s Italian night was magnifico!

Nigella’s New Orleans Coleslaw

It’s really nice that this dinner with friends thing is turning into a regular happening. Last dinner’s theme was comfort food, which accidentally turned into a belated 4th of July party. A friend made fried chicken and Macaroni and cheese, and I made Nigella Lawson’s New Orleans Coleslaw.

A surprisingly easy recipe to make, with unanticipated substitutions. The recipe calls for either white or Savoy cabbage, known as Wirsing in Germany. I thought I wouldn’t be able to find it since it’s summer, but it was all there for the taking. I thought pecans wouldn’t be a problem, but I couldn’t find them even after scouring three supermarkets that I ended up substituting with walnuts.

Julienne-ing the cabbage was the fun part. Mixing them in a too small-bowl was trickier. Anyhoo, I got really good results and I would really recommend this recipe!

Cheese Risotto

When I am down, what I really like to do is sink myself into a good book, or lose myself in the kitchen. When I get into my introverted phases, I emerge more willing to engage and socialize. Some may not understand this, but sometimes, my wanting to withdraw and actually being alone is the best way to recharge my batteries.

My zucchini plant had started to flower, and I finally got to make an Italian recipe I’ve been dying to try since December of last year, so I called off all social engagements and got to work on my own personal Italian dinner.

The first thing I tried out was Nigella Lawson’s Cheddar Cheese Risotto recipe.(It seems that this blog is turning into Nigella Central. Maybe I should re-name it the Cathy/Nigella Project. But I digress.)

I had spinach broth sitting in my freezer, and it was a good way to rid myself of last year’s veggie broth. I also used Bärlauch Senf from Gaumenfreude, and it complemented the dish, since I was using leeks and chives.  It was relatively easy to cook. Letting it stand over the cold stove after cooking while I was preparing a second dish was actually a good way to let the rice absorb all the liquid and thoroughly cook the risotto. I have never been good with risotto, and the rice kernels end up with a hard center. Being Asian, I am used to cooking rice by steeping it over low temperatures, when the secret of risotto is actually setting the heat to medium-low to get the rice al dente. I think this is the first time I finally got risotto right!

It was a good vegetarian dish. The cheese with the risotto rice highlighted the creamy consistency of the dish.  But being a meat eater, the dish for me lacked a component that made me say hmm, that was filling. I guess that’s how eating only starches feels like. I ate this the next day with crispy bacon bits and all was right with the world again.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

There really is nothing like having dinner with great company and good food to lift somebody’s spirits. I was feeling really crappy last weekend, but I pulled myself together to spend time gossiping and cooking with friends. We had a wonderful fatty but low-carb dinner, without really thinking about the menu, and it was all topped off with a wonderful dessert!

My friend Caroline told me that sticky toffee pudding is pretty much as traditionally English as you can get. I only have terrible memories of my grand-uncle’s pudding made out of day-old bread, and toffee I only know as a sweet, and from my son’s favorite Thomas the Train book, Sticky Toffee Thomas. As Caroline emphasized, the horrible reputation of British cuisine is undeserved, and with cooks like Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, and Gordon Ramsey, I definitely agree, if the pudding is anything to go by. It was a pleasant surprise, as the dates really complemented the caramel flavor of the toffee.

Here’s the recipe, the only thing that changed was that Caroline used whipping cream since she wasn’t able to get double cream from the supermarket. The uncanny thing was that the sauce tasted exactly like Latik sauce from Suman sa Lihiya, but it had a completely different set of ingredients! Latik sauce is made from coconut milk and muscovado sugar, while toffee sauce has butter, cream, and muscovado sugar. Well, it is basically creamy fat mixed with sugar, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I have to try this recipe out one day, it is really sinfully delicious! Thanks Caroline!

My Japanese Week-end

Miso soup, Agedashi Tofu with radiccio & white raddish, and sushi rice with Salmon sashimi

I just love, love Japanese food! I’ve been a Japanophile since my cosplaying days, when my obsession with anime pulled me out of a funk (aka as depression) during my early 20s.

I would not really want to live in Japan, but it does seem like a nice place to visit, and I love its food! It’s so sad to realize that people only think of sushi when they think of Japanese food, but it is sooo much more than that! If I had a million dollars, I would go to Japan and eat at Jiro’s restaurant from the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the only 3-star Michelin sushi restaurant in the world. Eating 12 pieces of sushi for 300 euros isn’t exactly a bang for your buck deal, but it’s about the experience, baby! Then try everything my hosts would put in front of me.

I’ve been cooking Japanese for some time now, but when the urge really hits me, I always cook a four-course meal for me and a few other people and put up a Japanese-themed night.

Thursday last week. I was determined to cook Japanese since I’ve been jonesing for Tempura a few weeks now. That Japanese restaurants in Erfurt don’t serve Tempura even that one owned and operated by a Japanese person, boggles the mind.

One of the people invited was a friend who had spent two years in Japan working as an English teacher. I was so interested to watch her and hear how Japanese food is cooked and eaten in Japan.

We had: Miso soup, salad made with julienned zucchini, smoked salmon bits, red caviar and mayo, Zucchini and Mango Sushi, Agedashi Tofu, Salmon Teriyaki, Shrimp and Eggplant tempura, Sushi Rice, and white wine to facilitate girl talk.

On Mother’s day, my friend and I went to EGA Park, where they were having Japanese Appreciation Day. Tea ceremonies, Taiko Drums, Bonsai plants, a Tokyo Shock Boys-type show, and geisha-inspired make-up made up for the weather, which couldn’t make up its mind whether it wanted to rain. The free banana chocolate sushi roll was not so bad, either. Germans trying to be Japanese is a funny thing to behold.

With that, Japanese week-end was over. It certainly won’t be the last!

Eat Your Heart Out in Berlin!

Unlike my last few visits to Berlin, which could be described as pit stops rather than visits, I finally had more time to explore Berlin and visit places that I’ve been meaning to do for some time now. and That Queer Expatriate’s Adam was a very gracious host and toured me around the best eats in his ‘hood or Kiez.

One of the first things I did upon landing in Berlin was make a beeline for Pan, the only Filipino restaurant in Berlin. I ordered Sinigang, a traditional Philippine sour soup/stew that is eaten with rice. It can be filled with pork, fish, and shrimps. Although souring agents for sinigang nowadays comes from a packet, it is traditionally soured with unripe tomatoes, kamias, sampaloc (tamarind), or other sour fruits.

Ok, it was not exactly his turf, but Berlin was freezing, and I needed comfort food. Does it hit the spot? I dont’ know what to make of it. It smelled Pinoy, it looked Pinoy, but there was   something different about the texture of the veggies. It wasn’t cooked to death!

Saturday was jam-packed with activities. Adam and I woke up early to get to the Schöneberg Winterfeld Market. It was freezing cold in Berlin, I thought I was gonna freeze my toes off, despite my winter shoes. It didn’t stop us from eating this wonderful, luxuriously covered Tiramisu from an Italian street vendor.

I would’ve lingered over this tiramisu if it weren’t so damned cold out. It wasn’t cloyingly sweet, and the mild cherry amaretto wasn’t alcoholy-tasting at all! It really tasted like cherry.

I was looking for earrings, so Adam bought me food-themed ones (thanks Adam!) and then he went over to a stall to buy freshly-made spaghetti and other produce straight from Italy.

I would’ve bought a load of food from the stall if I hadn’t just come from Italy. Oh well, maybe next summer.

After a quick brunch at a Cafe, where Adam played around with his fancy new camera toy, I left to attend a conference. I already had planned to eat Ethiopian that evening, but the weather and Adam’s ketchup-stained shirt had other plans for us.

A trip to Berlin for me would never be complete without a stop at my favorite Asian supermarket in Berlin, which we did Saturday evening. Because Adam’s pants were too thin for the cold weather, we decided to eat at Chay Village, a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant in his Kiez.

Now, I’m skeptical of vegetarian Vietnamese dishes. Vietnamese food has a lot of vegetarian dishes, but I was in the mood for soup in a very cold winter day. I couldn’t imagine eating Pho without beef broth. I was pleasantly surprised by this restaurant. I was first baffled by the sauce they served us with the dimsum. I thought it looked like apple cider vinegar, but it wasn’t sour enough to be that. I thought it could be fish sauce, but it wasn’t salty enough to be that, either. It turned out to be home-made soy sauce!

And the Pho had fried Tofu, mushrooms, and scrambled egg strips in it. It tasted just like normal Pho. Yum!

After that we just stayed home and watched Magic Mike. Thoroughly enjoyable film.

I gorged myself full on Dunkin’ Donuts while waiting for the bus that would take me home.

I would like to thank Adam for so graciously hosting me!

Taboule Salad

Taboule salad is a great dish to bring to potluck parties. It can be served cold, it can be given to vegans. It is not gluten-free however, so be warned!

According to Wikipedia, Taboule is a Lebanese salad that is pretty popular in the Middle East, Armenia, and Haiti. This is a very popular Arabian dish, quick and easy to make, done in 30 minutes. There are hundreds of recipes for Taboule on the internet, and they are variations of the same ingredients.

When I make Taboule I use:

250 g Couscous, soaked in 200 ml salted water and 1 tablespoon extra vigin olive oil

5 chopped big tomatoes or 8 halved cherry tomatoes

Half a cucumber or zucchino, unpeeled.

1 and 1/2 tablespoon each of parsley, mint and coriander. Leave out the coriander to be sprinkled extra on the salad, since many people don’t like it. This baffles me because I love coriander. Mint is also optional, since I only have fresh mint leaves in the summer.

Juice of 1/2 of a lemon

1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped

1 stalk spring onion, finely chopped.

Approx. 6 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and pepper

In a salad bowl, season the couscous and pour the salted water in with the 1 tablespoon of    oil. Let it stand to absorb the water.

In the meantime, cube the tomatoes and the cucumber, and finely chop the onions and herbs. When you’re done, the couscous should have absorbed the water. Add in the herbs, tossing the couscous and adding seasonings after putting each ingredient in the bowl. Add the rest of the olive oil and the lemon juice, and continue mixing until it is well incorporated.

This is enough couscous to serve 8 people. If this is a side dish, 12. You can jazz it up by adding cubed feta cheese or olives. Enjoy!