Tag Archives: recipe

Spongy, spicy, dried-fruit-and-rum cake

Last Sunday, I was itching to bake something. A few days earlier I’d made Jamie Oliver’s hot toddy from the latest number of delicious. magazine and the rum-soaked raisins tasted like more, so I figured I’d do something with dried fruit and rum (how can you ever go wrong with something that’s soaked in rum?). I ended up tweaking another delicious. recipe from a piece they did on Surinamese food in February 2011. In the article, the cake is called keksi and made with Dutch gin (jenever) and amaretto. Since I had neither of these, I used rum instead. In addition to raisins, I added dried abricots and dates. I also split the recipe in half, since it was originally for 20 servings and there’s just two of us. As a last addition, I substituted the regular sugar for coarse cane sugar (in the spirit of Jamie Oliver’s fantastic toddy).

The result was very nice. The cake is very fluffy, sponge-like even. To reach this effect, it’s important to use many eggs and beat them long enough, as instructed. The earthy spices, rum and dried fruit make it a very autumn-worthy cake. Since the recipe was still fit for 10 servings, we both took some to share at work, where it disappeared quickly.

This is the recipe I ended up using:

125 grams of butter (+ extra for buttering the cake tin)

125 grams of regular flour (+ extra for the cake tin)

6 large eggs

150 grams of cane sugar

1 tbsp of ground cinnamon

1/2 tbsp of ground nutmeg (I didn’t split the cinnamon and nutmeg in half, in fact I always use more spices than indicated in a recipe)

2 tbsp of vanilla aroma (I’ve been making my own using vodka and vanilla beans – easy and way cheaper)

1 tbsp of almond aroma (I used a few drops of almond essence instead)

200 grams of mixed dried fruits such as raisons, abricots and dates, larger fruits cut into smaller pieces

100 ml of brown rum + more for the cake

 

Start in advance by soaking the dried fruit in rum: put the fruit in a bowl and top with rum until it is entirely covered. Let it soak for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Grease a 21 cm cake tin with butter, sprinkle with flour. In the original recipe they recommend not using a springform pan (the kind that’s in two pieces) because the batter is very liquid and it might run. I ignored this advice since I had no other useful tin and it worked fine, you just have to be a bit more careful. Don’t use if you know in advance that yours is leaky.

Clarify the butter by heating it slowly in a saucepan. When it has completely melted, you will notice that there are some white things floating on top and some white stuff on the bottom. This is the protein that’s in the butter. Using a spoon or a slotted spoon, carefully skim the white parts off. When this is done, pour over the liquid butter into a bowl, being careful to withhold the bottom white protein parts. Don’t throw this away, it can be kept in the fridge and it’s a tasteful addition to mashed potatoes, for example.

Mix the eggs in a clean, large bowl with a hand mixer or in a kitchen robot. Add in the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and almond aromas (this is where I discovered I have no special grater for nutmeg and had to use my coarse cheese grater – whoops). Keep on mixing for at least 10 minutes, until the mixture runs from a spoon like a ribbon and has grown a lot bigger and airier. Slow the mixer down and add in the flour little by little, add a pinch of salt. Mix shortly until the flour is blended in and pour the batter into the tin.

Using a big spoon, drizzle in all but 3 tbsp of the clarified butter and blend it shortly with a spatula. Try not to lose the airiness of the batter. Lastly, put the soaked dried fruit through a sieve above a bowl (keep the rum in the bowl for later) then distribute it over the batter. I just dropped it in, which made it go straight to the bottom. Therefore, what later became the upside of my cake was covered with a dried fruit layer. If you want them spread throughout the cake, roll them in flour first and they won’t sink all the way to the bottom.

Bake the cake in the oven for 35 minutes. Then, cover the cake with the 3 extra tablespoons of clarified butter and put it back in the oven for 5 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Take the cake out of the oven and flip it upside down on a plate, take the cake tin off. You don’t have to flip it necessarily, but if your fruit has sunken to the bottom this has a nice effect. Drizzle with the leftover rum from the fruit and some extra to taste. Enjoy!

 

 

Fall menu: Blackened salmon with pumpkin fries and mango sauce

I love salmon. Smoked, poached, baked, grilled, in papillotte…  I wouldn’t know which way to choose. And while preparing salmon is pretty easy, it’s not always easy to decide what to serve it with. That’s my experience, at least. Sure, I love smoked salmon quiche with broccoli and goat cheese, and there’s plenty of classical salmon recipes, but every once in a while, we want something different, no? So I revisited one of my favorite ways to prepare salmon, which is blackened salmon. It’s a recipe that originated in Cajun cooking, in which the salmon is rubbed in a thick layer of spices and then baked, creating a ‘blackened’ spicy crust. Mmmm, I could hardly wait for dinner time once I decided I would make this.

But what to serve with it? There’s the problem. I once ate blackened tuna with mango sauce in Cactus Taverna, a great restaurant in Salisbury. But good fresh tuna is hard and expensive to find in Belgium, and I try to avoid tuna since it’s going extinct due to overfishing.  I decided to go for blackened salmon with mango sauce, and be bold and try out pumpkin and sweet potato as vegetable sides to balance the spicyness. Exciting! As it was kind of an experiment, I looked up a few ways to make blackened tuna, mango sauce and sweet potato baked fries on Tastespotting (always a great source of inspiration, if just for the wonderful pictures).

The result was delicious. There’s the spicy, slightly crunchy salmon, balanced by the sweet and mild mango. The earthy but flavorful pumpkin and sweet potato chips, also slightly spicy, make for a great balance. I have yet to perfect an elegant way to serve the plate, but the taste was surprisingly complementary. Do try at home!

Blackened salmon spices

Making the mango sauce

 

Fall vegetables

Pumpkin and sweet potato fries

 

Coating the salmon with spices

Baking the blackened salmon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The result: blackened salmon with pumpkin fries and mango sauce

 

Recipe for four people:

For the blackened salmon:

-four pieces of fresh salmon, preferably bio/organic

-spices: black and white pepper, salt, paprika, thyme, basil, rosemary, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, ground dry chili flakes or spicy chily powder, cayenne pepper (you’re free to improvise according to your own pantry here)

-butter

For the mango sauce:

-Two very ripe mangos

-Juice of one lime

For the pumpkin and sweet potato fries:

-Half of a small, flavorful pumpkin (I used a chestnut pumpkin)

-2-3 sweet potatoes (I actually didn’t have real sweet potatoes but some kind of in-between Turkish long potato I picked up at the local store)

-olive oil

-salt and pepper, dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary, basil, some spicy chili powder

Start cooking!

Start with the pumpkin and sweet potato as they will take the longest. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (about 400 F). Peel the pumpkin and potatoes and cut into long fry-shaped wedges. Put them on a metal oven-proof platter covered with a sheet of parchment paper. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and spices, toss carefully so everything is covered. Put in the oven and let bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the fries are soft but still have bite (this depends on the kind of vegetables, your oven…)

While the vegetables are in the oven, start with the mango sauce. Peel the mangoes and cut them into cubes. Put in a mixer bowl with the freshly squeezed lime juice. Mix until you have a thick, fluid sauce. Keep the sauce ready in a saucepan to heat before you’re serving.

Cut the salmon into the desired amount of pieces if necessary. Mix all the spices. I don’t use an exact formula but I tend to start with the first listed in the largest quantities, then move down to smaller quantities, depending on how spicy you like the crust to be. When the mixture is ready, heat up a pan (a grill pan is also possible, try to use one that conducts heat well, like a cast iron) and let some of the butter melt at a low temperature. Take the salmon and sweep it through the butter on both sides, then through the spice mixture.  Put a little more butter into the pan (you don’t need to smother the salmon, just so the crust won’t burn) and heat it up. When the butter is hot and melted, put the wedges of salmon into the pan and bake on both sides until the insides are done (not overdone, it really is a shame to ruin salmon by letting it get too dry, so check regularly on the inside of it’s still rosy).

Put the salmon on a (warm) plate, arrange the fries around it or underneath and top with some hot mango sauce. Yum!

The First Post: three uses for tortilla wraps.

So, I guess this will be my first post. Very exciting! Why am I starting a blog, you might ask. I ask myself the same question as well: I don’t exactly have a history of sticking to blogs. I abandoned my last blog, the one I started when studying in Spain (in 2008), after about one post (in fact, I don’t even recall the blog’s name – shame!). Even though my life might have been mildly adventurous even now and then, I was never really compelled to keep a diary after the age of 11. And every time I buy a very pretty journal, promising myself to use it for meetings or notes, I tend to fill 20-ish pages before it ends up in my library on a shelf, for the sake of prettiness.

So far, history doesn’t predict good things about this blog. But perhaps this time will be different. This time, the intention to start something has been itching at me for quite a while. I don’t want to have a blog about myself: it is gonna be about food – in Brussels. Last year, I started a catering course in Leuven. In July of this year, we moved to Brussels and I’m continuing my cooking lessons in a new city. The more I am immersed in the language and ways of food, the more I become interested by it. I wouldn’t say I really am a foodie – but I’m definitely aspiring to be one! Moreover, I’m very eager to start exploring Brussels and its culinary opportunities. Therefore, this blog will be about food, about Brussels, and about food in Brussels.

Time to stop blabbing, and start a first post about food! My favorite magazine, delicious., has dedicated itself to ‘no waste’ this month. Personally, I hate wasting food but like most busy people, I tend to find some milk that has gone bad, or cheese that has started sprouting hairs, or very interesting ingredients purchased for one special dish and then left behind to grow mouldy in the back of my fridge every once in a while. Therefore, I love recipes that constitute more or less the same ingredients, but do something differently with them, or use up leftovers. Over the past two weeks, I worked my way through a few packages of tortilla wraps (the very common supermarket kind).

your average supermarket-tortilla wraps, the kind that I used (available at Colruyt)

It started with my housewarming party, where I served a whole array of hors d’oeuvres/amuses (are they not the best course? I sure think so), including my standard hot tomato salsa. Since I have a habit of munching down those lovely-but-greasy store-bought tortilla chips, I looked for a healthier alternative. Of course, Martha Stewart was there to help me out. In her Hors d’Oeuvres cookbook (or, my Bible, you could say), she explains how to make tortilla chips from (old) tortilla wraps, as is actually done in the original recipe in Mexico.

How to make healthier tortilla chips from wraps:

-take some tortilla wraps and cut them in long strips (2cm width) or triangular shapes. Brush with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with a little coarse salt. Put them on a baking sheet in a preheated oven at 175 degrees Celsius (around 375 Fahrenheit) for 5 to 10 minutes, until they start to get brown and crispy-looking. Take them out and serve with tomato salsa, guacamole, humus or whatever dip you can lay your hands on.

Of course, since the party got busier and busier, I got lazier and lazier concerning healthy tortilla chips and ended up tearing open a bag of store-bought ones when all the healthy ones were eaten. So I was stuck with some leftover wraps. After a few days in the fridge, I found an opportunity for a pre-Belgian soccer game-dinner (that sounds a bit strange – I just mean a dinner before heading off to the Belgium-Kazachstan soccer game). The oven is turned on as hot as possible (220 degrees Celsius in my case, or about 400 Fahrenheit) and the wraps become pizza crusts!

-How to make pizzas from leftover wraps:

Take the wraps (it’s actually good when they’ve been in the fridge for some days and have started getting a little hard) and put some tomato sauce (this can be anything from just plain passata to herb-pasta sauce, which I happened to have around) on them.  Not too much, or the pizza will get soggy. Add your favorite toppings! In my case: eggplant, tomato, bell pepper, anchovies, mozzarella cheese, feta cheese… The anchovies were replaced by bacon for my not-so-vegetarian boyfriend (I don’t eat meat, but anchovies are definitely a weak spot). Put on a tray in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the oven’s strength, until the cheese has melted and it looks like a pizza. Enjoy!

Pizzas made from wraps. Top: the one with bacon, bottom: the one with anchovies

Since we were joined for dinner by some soccer-loving friends (before heading off to the game), I ended up opening a new package of tortilla wraps. Um, okay, so there I was, stuck with a new open package. Time to make a third recipe: an all-time favorite. This one comes from a Weight Watchers cookbook (the one about oven dishes). The tortillas get a whole different twist as a Mexican oven-baked wrap. Once again, a favorite at home! And even better: you can reuse a whole bunch of the ingredients from the pizzas!

Oops, this one was so tasty I didn't manage to take a picture before one wrap had disappeared! It looks a bit strange but definitely yummy... also great for non-vegetarians (you might add some ground meat, but not really necessary)

Weight Watchers tortilla wraps for two persons:

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit). Take a can of red beans and a can of corn and  drain them. Cut 30 grams of feta cheese into small cubes. Cut up an onion, garlic (very fine) and two red or yellow bell peppers into small cubes. Heat a bit of olive oil in a non-stick pan and fry the vegetables for a few minutes, until slightly tender. Spice with pepper, salt and cumin (this dish made me discover that cumin is a very Mexican spice! Your kitchen will immediately smell like a Tex Mex restaurant, but healthier). Add the beans, corn and feta cheese to the mixture in the pan. Take two or more wraps and fill them with the mixture. Roll them tightly (not necessary to tuck in the ends), put the rest of the mixture into an oven-proof dish and  put them into the dish. You might have to keep them closed with some toothpicks. Pour tomato sauce (passata or whatever you have around) over the wraps and sprinkle with oregano and some more feta cheese. Put the dish into the oven for about 25 minutes. Et voila, there is your healthy, vegetarian, Mexican oven-baked wrap! For me, this recipe is a great reason to eat some beans once in a while, since I don’t eat them very often, even though I’m a vegetarian.

All right, that’s enough for one post. Let me know what you think, or if you’ve tried one of these recipes!