26 Apr 2012

From Leftovers to Feast: Pungent Potato Cake with Mixed Onions and Goat Cheese

This is a perfect way to use leftovers from the weekend. It its not a rare event that I boil too many potatoes, and it always such a waste to throw away food. Recipes like this one come in handy when such is the case. I once read that in the UK almost a third of all bought food ends in the bin, and in the US, something like half the food goes to waste. This is obviously staggering and unjustifiably wasteful - and I am often dumbfounded by my own wastefulness when I take out the trash - how much food is thrown away - though we try to make use of the food we buy as much as possible. But, one can always improve and do better!

Tant Elsa goat's cheese is a beautiful thing
I bought the cheese late-summer when my parents were over for a visit. As we often do with guests, we took them on a road trip around Scania and made our way to Österlen in the southeastern part of Scania (The Province of Scania), where agriculture is blooming and where you can also find a few independent cheese makers. We visited Vilhelmsdals gårdsmejeri which specializes in goat cheese, and bought a whole bunch of lovely cheeses to take with us back home. Despite our best efforts, we didn't finish all of them, and early in the spring I found this goat cheese in the fridge, still in the wraps (and still delicious). So, of course since this had become a question of salvaging food, I just had to include it in the dish.

From Leftovers to Feast: Pungent Potato Cake with Mixed Onions and Goat Cheese

Some humble vegetables cut down

Cooking doesn't get simpler than this. The potatoes, which had already been boiled, were cut into slices and placed in a bowl. I chopped one red onion, rather thinly, 3-4 gloves of garlic, 2-3 fresh spring onions and a handful of fresh parsley, and mixed everything together. Seasoned with salt and pepper.

You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs

Whisked 6-7 eggs in a bowl with a splash of cream and then poured over the potatoes and mixed until everything was nicely infused.

To be placed in the oven

Next, I poured a bit of oil on a pan over medium heat, spooned the potato-amalgamation carefully into it, and distributed it evenly over the pan. Fried for just about 10 minutes.

Bubbling away

The goat cheese is then cut into slices and layered on top of the potatoes. The pan is placed into a pre-heated oven, at around 200 degrees, and baked for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Put it under the grill for the remaining few moments, just long enough for the cheese to develop that beautiful golden crunch.

Served with a simple salad and a loaf of bread.

It was served hot - but the cold cut the day after was even more delightful!

Bon appetit!

P.s. The potato cake is also tasty served cold the day after (leftovers of leftovers!) - the dish had settled and the ingredients comfortably consolidated into a thicker mass - and it looked even more appealing and delicious!

P.s.s If you like my site - don't be afraid to join me on Facebook! There I'll try to share some information, interesting quotes about food and exciting links from other websites. Welcome!

22 Apr 2012

New Toy: Römertopf! Baked Whole Chicken with Delicious Root Vegetables

A brand new Römertopf

These are busy times, and there is plenty that needs to be done! Loads to do at work, in my research and studies! And then there are the hobbies to boot, which all demand their share of time. Next month I am supposed to present the preliminary conclusions of my doctoral project; I am researching the epidemiology of Lupus over a certain area here in Scania. We have followed a group of patients in a longitudinal study for over three decades, which is close to unique. It is extremely interesting to observe the development of this disease over the years. And I sincerely hope that my research will add something substantial - but that remains to be seen. Enough about work!

I received this clay pot as a birthday present from my brother. And I sincerely thank him for this gift. I have for long been eyeing these Römertopf pots in various stores, and always wanted to buy one - but for some reason never got round to it. Well, now I don't really have to ponder about that anymore!

Römertopf clay pots are from Germany and have been produced there since 1967. But the design is based on an age old Roman method ('Römertopf' basically  means 'Roman pot' in German). The general idea is that you leave the pot soaking in water for 10-15 minutes before you fill it with ingredients and place it in the oven, and in that way you steam cook the food. The producers maintain that this procedure conserves the healthiness of the food so you can get away with using less (or even no) fat in the meal! Whatever the case - it is a beautiful addition to the kitchen. And the dish worked out wonderfully!

New Toy: Römertopf! Baked Whole Chicken with Delicious Root Vegetables 

Some aromatic vegetables

This is not complicated cooking - and neither did it take all that long to make. I of course cleaned the clay pot according to the instructions and allowed it to soak in cold water for 15 minutes while I prepared the ingredients. I peeled a few potatoes and cut into rather large pieces, I also had half of a butternut squash which received the same treatment, sliced a couple of red onions and a bit of celery. I brushed the bottom of the pot with garlic oil before placing the vegetables in and mixing them together.

Snugly fit in the Römertopf

Next, I placed the chicken into the pot so it could rest on the bed of vegetables. I rubbed the chicken thoroughly with good quality olive oil, salt and pepper and of course paprika spice and thyme.

The kitchen is coated with seasoning

Two whole bulbs of garlic were placed snugly with the chicken. They will bake in their own paper and turn soft and sweet. Some white wine, maybe 2 dl, where poured in the bottom of the dish.

In the oven

The Römertopf is placed in the cold oven - which is important, as the clay pot needs to heat up slowly. The oven is turned on and the temprature set to 220 degrees. The meal is ready in about 1 and a half hours.

We drank some white wine with our tasty meal. This time we chose Rosemount Chardonnay 2009, which is a wine from Australia. It is a lovely sip of wine. With scents of light fruits, pears and oak. The taste is filling, fruity and buttery. The aftertaste is slighty oaky and balanced. The wine paired well with our savory chicken.

Ready to serve

A wonderful sunday meal!

Bon appetit!

15 Apr 2012

Grilled Polenta with Parmesan Cheese and Simple Salad - Another Leftover Feast!

I recently cooked lamb shanks with gorgonzola infused polenta - and it was delicious. But, once again we made too much of the sides which seems to be a chronic problem in my kitchen! It is nothing new that my portions are a bit too generous, but I try my absolute best to be thrifty with the food so that nothing needlessly ends in the bin.

And sometimes I actually manage to turn the leftovers into a something completely different - and sometimes an exciting new dish is created in the process! I used to have a subscription to the American food magazine Bon Appetit and with the recipes they would often feature various ideas on how to use the leftovers - how to create something new from the old. Very nifty.

In any case, this is a micro-blog - I felt I had to write about this, the tastiness of the dish demands being shared with the public! And given that we had this for lunch the following day we could even use the salad from the evening before, as a side of course.

Grilled Polenta with Parmesan Cheese and Simple Salad - Another Leftover Feast!
Cold Polenta

Polenta is ground cornmeal which expands considerably when boiled in water. Through the boiling it releases  starch which gives it a lovely silky texture once it is properly warm. When it has cooled it thickens and takes on a form similar to that of bread. 

I had the good sense of stretching it out on a cutting board before it cooled and I kept it in the fridge over night. Of course, this requires no grand culinary techniques, just cut the polenta into triangles (this was probably the most complicated procedure). The polenta had been mingled with a rather liberal amount of gorgonzola so it was packed with a deep flavor of blue cheese! Few things exceed the flavor of strong cheese!

Fried on a scoulding griddle pan

Heat the pan until it is close to smoking. Brush every slice with a little bit of olive oil and then grill on each side for 1-2 minutes, just so it develops a streaked surface and is heated through. 

Transfer to a plate and decorate with some salad - and don't be afraid of being generous with the parmesan cheese. This was an incredible lunch!

Just grate over some parmiganio cheese

Bon appetit.

9 Apr 2012

Incredible Indian Lamb Shanks with Rice Pilaf, BBQ Naan Bread, Caramelized Carrots and Icelandic Beer

Lovely lemons and limes

This dish was almost entirely my brother's making. The roles were reversed this time and I proudly assumed the position of sue chef and was ready at hand for cutting down the ingredients, grilling the naan bread and cooking the carrots. The result of was so exquisite that I felt compelled to share it here on the blog.
Pungent mint and koriander

This would perhaps usually be prepared using a whole leg of lamb, but this would ultimately be a waste of the delicious and crunchy marinade. So instead, the lamb shanks offer themselves as a better choice for a couple of reasons, namely, you can prepare and serve one shank per person which will be generously coated with the morish almond crust, which ultimately makes for an inviting presentation; the shanks resting on a bed of brightly colored rice. And take note: for full effect, the lamb requires overnight stay in the marinade, so the flavors can fully permeate the lamb.

A blend of Indian spices; cumin, turmeric, chilli powder, paprika & ground koriander

Incredible Indian Lamb Shanks with Rice Pilaf, BBQ Naan Bread, Caramelized Carrots and Icelandic Beer

The lambshanks in their fragrant marinade

We picked up the lamb shanks from Saluhallen the day before, because as mentioned before, the meat needs a 24 hours marinade. Begin by piercing small incisions into the lamb all over with a sharp skewer or a knife so the marinade will easily penetrate the muscle. The marinade is made as follows: 3 teaspoons cardamon seeds, 2 onions, 8 cloves of garlic, 4 cm piece of fresh ginger, 3-5 green chilies, 6 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons cloves, 2 tablespoon lemon juice and 400 ml of good unflavored yogurt. Pour everything into a food processor or a mortel and mix into an aromatic paste. Coat the lamb shanks vigorously with half of the marinade, the remaining marinade is covered and placed in the fridge to be used the day after (yes, you heard right - it is double marinaded). The next day, remove the marinade from the fridge and add a pack of almonds, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and 150 ml of yogurt - back into the blender for an even thicker paste. Coat the lamb shanks again and place into an oven pot, and pour any remaining marinade over them so as nothing goes to waste. Baked on low temperature, 160 degrees for 4 hours.

During the baking the shanks develop a crust

With the lamb we served mint sauce - which is an extremely refreshing sauce and compliments the flavors of the lamb perfectly. Two bundles of fresh coriander and two of mint, 1 de-seeded green apple, 1 green chilly, 2 tablespoons of yogurt, one onion, salt, pepper, a splash of lemon juice and a bit of maple syrup are put into a food processor and mixed until you have a lustrous and bright green sauce - almost neon green.

Homemade simple Naan bread
Next is the naan. Pour 500-600 ml of flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoon of oil. Dissolve 3 teaspoons of sugar in lukewarm milk and then add and awaken the yeast in the milk. When the yeast has begun to froth on the surface of the milk, pour into the flour and mix well. Then add around 200 ml of yogurt (it can even be flavored yogurt, it doesn't go amiss to use for example fruit flavored yogurt - which will give the naan a slight hint of fruit). Knead the dough until it is satiny, soft and elastic and doesn't stick to your fingers and allow it to rise for at least an hour. When it is ready, pinch small pieces off the dough and flatten  into a thin teardrop shape. Brush well with garlic oil and sprinkle with Maldon salt, before transferring them to the fiery hot grill (or a tandoori oven if you are lucky enough to be in possession of one of those). 

Candied Carrots

We also made this fragrant and beautiful carrot dish. Peel 5-6 big carrots and cut into bite size pieces and boil them until soft in salted water - perhaps for 15 minutes. The water is drained away and the carrots are allowed to cool down for a few moments. Meanwhile, cook up caramel on a pan. Half a cup of sugar along with a tablespoon of water are poured onto a pan over medium heat. The sugar will quickly dissolve and slightly brown - make sure it doesn't burn. Next, add a teaspoon of dried ginger, the same amount of ground cumin and stir into the caramel. Throw in the carrots and brown in the sugary mixture. When the carrots are thoroughly coated and sticky, transfer them to a bowl and sprinkle with a little fresh parsley.

Simple tomato&onion salad

We served a very simple tomato and onion salad with the lamb - which we often have with rich curries and Indian food in general. Tomatoes and onions are sliced thinly and layered on a plate - splash of olive oil and sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper.

We also made a brightly colored rice pilaf that worked as a nice contrast with the earthy tones of the lamb shanks. Melt a knob of butter on a pan, and fry 3 thinly sliced gloves of garlic until glistening. Add 2 tablespoons of turmeric, 1 teaspoon of byriani and 4 cups of boiled basmati rice - fry until heated through and season with salt and pepper.

Icelandic Indian Pale Ale

Indian food is spicy enough as it is - sometimes a glass of cold beer works better then a fragrant wine! So this time we drank some excellent Icelandic beer with the meal called Úlfur (Wolf) from the microbrewery Borg. It is an Indian Pale Ale, which I think goes well with Indian food. The beer is brewed from "pale" malt and was first brewed in England in the seventeenth century, close to a harbor where a ships travelling from India docked. It was often transported to India and considered perfect for the long travels over the seas, and was even improved through the journey - hence the name. Úlfur is a powerful beer which stands firmly next to a pungent Indian meal. Dry, flavorful and even bitter - with tones of fruit.

Lambshanks resting on rice pilaf & candied Carrots

Bon appetit!

3 Apr 2012

Fried Pork Chops With Chevre Chaud, New Asparagus and Perfect Roast Potatoes

The Eiffel Tower

Last summer, my wife and I finally let and old dream come true and eloped to Paris for a romantic weekend trip. We had long planned to go to "La Ville-Lumière" - the city of lights. We stayed at this lovely little hotel right by the Eiffel Tower, on the banks of Signa, and spent five magnificent days enjoying everything Paris has to offer for connoisseurs of life such as ourselves.

Stephané Reynaud's Pork&Sons

To heat up for the trip I cooked a France-inspired dish the weekend before. As I probably mentioned before, I have vigorously studied the cook books of Stephané Reynaud, who is a popular French chef. His first book, Pork and Sons, was published 2007 and became quite popular. And since then he has authored a few cook books which are all particularly tasteful. Although, in my opinion, the first is the best of the bunch. Pork and Sons is comprised only of pork recipes and is in a way an ode to Pigs. The introduction to the book where he explains the butchering process, sets the tone for the recipes which are exceptionally appetizing. After repeatedly browsing through the book - the following recipe came into being.
Meaty porkchops with a large rind

It was also a lot of fun going into town and shopping for this dish. We cycled down to Saluhallen (the market   hall where my favorite butcher is located) and bought a few pork chops from my friends in Holmgrens. I just had to buy one slice with the bone still attached to it. I then strolled over to the cheese-stall and purchased a few slices of goat cheese - chevre. Goat cheese is of course not for everyone but I really like it, especially when it has been cooked - chevre chaud.

The spring and early summer is of course the season of Asparagus here in the north. At that time asparagus is at it's very tastiest, and there are many farmers that grow asparagus close to Lund. You can cycle to their farms and purchase freshly grown asparagus straight from the farmer - brand spanking new! It is easy to learn to recognize fresh asparagus - the stem of the asparagus is still fresh and hasn't hardened like on the ones you get over the winter time.

New Asparagus from a farm near my house

Fried Pork Chops With Chevre Chaud, New Asparagus and Perfect Roast Potatoes

I began by putting the pork chops in brine for 2-3 hours. This is done both to add flavor to the meat but also to re-introduce liquid into it that it might have lost - in order for the meat to remain nice and tender. Brine is simple to prepare - 3 liters of water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup salt and then herbs of your own choice. I added herbs that I think are perfectly well suited for pork; freshly ground fennel seeds, bay leaves, sage and a few peppercorns. Place the meat into the brine and allow it to rest in the fridge for a couple of hours.

The pork chops were placed in the brine

The pork chops are then removed from the brine and thoroughly dried with paper towels. I cut slightly into the fat before I fried them in order to hasten the cooking process. Many would remove the fat entirely. I believe though that it is better to cook the meat with the fat to prevent the meat from drying, and then you can personally choose to cut it away once it is on the plate. Fried pork fat is of course (arguably) damn good food, so to humor the sinful hedonists it is wise to allow it to linger.

Next melt a little butter/oil in a pan and fry the pork chops on medium temperature for a short while or until they are lightly browned on each side. Then I transferred the meat to an ovenproof dish and placed into a 180 degree hot oven for 15-20 minutes.

The next step was to grill the asparagus on a griddle. Moments before I had tossed the asparagus in a tiny bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and then placed them on the hot griddle. Once done, transfer to a plate and sprinkle Parmesan cheese over.

Served with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil & parmigiano cheese

We made the infamous perfect roast potatoes, the recipe for which you can locate The Perfect Roast Potato. We used new potatoes that we bought from Båstad, and the result: the potatoes were even more perfect - nothing beats a fresh harvest!

My brother peeling some potatoes

When the pork chops are close to being ready, it is time to fry the chevre cheese. The cheese I bought was simply traditional French goat cheese. "Chaud" means that you serve it hot - this time fried on a pan! I sliced it into generous slices and placed on a dry pan. The cheese is quite fatty so it melts easily and hence there is no need of adding fat to to the pan to aid the cooking process.

Chevre  chaud cheese and fried sage

I also fried a few leaves of sage in a dash of oil, just for a brief moment, they pop slightly and become crispy in a matter of seconds. The food was then stacked in an attempt to create a beautiful presentation. First the pork, then a slice of chevre, and finally a few leaves of crackling sage - asparagus and potatoes on the side. These flavors - pork, chevre and sage are an orchestra of taste - a match made in heaven!

With the food we of course enjoyed some French wine. This time we had a bottle which I have had kicking around since we traveled to France a couple of years ago. Chateau Teyssier Grand Cru from 2006. It is a wine from St. Emillion in the Bordeaux region which lies in the South-West part of France. We didn't pass through that region this time, but that is no reason fro not grabbing a few bottles of that delicious wine. The wine, which is mostly made from Merlot grapes and then mingled with a little bit of Cabernet Franc, is indeed very tasty. Dark wine, aroma of matured fruit and oak and the same is perfectly transferred to the flavor.

Dinner is served!

Bon appetit!

1 Apr 2012

Lovely 7 Hour Leg of Lamb with Proper Sauce and Oozing Cheese Gratin.

Preparation for meal

Recently I read one of Michael Pollan's books, In Defense of Food, which criticizes how we in the West treat our food. His polemic is directed toward the very way food is produced; how we treat the animals that we consume, how we grow our vegetables, how the produce is handled, which chemicals are mingled with it, and last but not least, how and where we eat food. It is a very interesting and thought provoking read - it is much in the vein of his The Omnivore's Dilemma that I read last summer and is also considerable food for thought. We discuss these issues a lot in our household. My daughter, Valdís, who is 11 years old, is greatly interested in cooking and the way in which we treat our animals. We watched the film Food Inc together in few installments and have been pondering how things develop in the world of food - from seed to french fry. From egg to roasted chicken. There is a lot of discussion which surrounds the butchering of animals - how vegetables are grown on the other hand awakens fewer questions - but maybe they will arise in due time.

One of the things he mentions in the introduction of the book - in the Manifesto - hits the mark with me; you are supposed to eat food! Pollan also argues that you should of course watch how much you eat and that you should also place a rich emphasis on eating vegetables. I have to admit that sometimes I have troubles controlling the amount of food I eat, but I think that real food is served on my table - cooked from scratch and made from quality ingredients - and loads of vegetables. What Mr. Pollan has in mind when he speaks of real food really boils down to real produce, real ingredients, not some additive infested food that contains chemicals that no one understand and only god knows what look like! It is very interesting to observe the growth of the discourse surrounding food in Iceland; the increased call for organic produce and a general awakening concerning how chickens and pigs are "produced".

Getting all into the pot!

Alright, lets move on to the recipe of the day. It's as real as it gets! Real Icelandic leg of lamb, which one can nearly be consider as wild game as it roams the Icelandic tundra undisturbed for a large part of the year. Being let out into the mountains in early spring to be caught again and taken back to its farm.

On page 162 in Stéphane Reynaud's 365 Good Reasons to Sit Down to Eat, can be found a wonderful recipe, namely, the seven hour leg of lamb! I own a few books by this French chef; Rotis and Ripalles, both of which are tremendously appetizing books, but my favorite has to be Pork & Sons - devoted solely to pork. A great cook book!

Lovely 7 Hour Leg of Lamb with Proper Sauce and Oozing Cheese Gratin.

Rub with plenty of salt&pepper
The methodology for this recipe is as simple as it gets. What matters most is an early start. Leisurely stroll into the kitchen at noon and turn on the oven. Set it to 100 degrees. Then it's simply a question of assembling the ingredients. Peel a few carrots and cut them into rough pieces along with two onions, two bulbs of garlic and a few sticks of celery. Pour into an oven pot. The lamb is scrupulously rubbed with oil, salt and pepper and then placed on top of the vegetables. Throw in a few peppercorns and 4-5 bay leaves. Then pour 600-700 ml of water into the bottom of the pot, and scatter a few sprigs of rosemary over the whole shebang. Lid on top of the pot, slide it into the oven, and wait for 7 hours.

Slice down the potatoes

After five and half hours it is time to consider the gratin. Peel a few potatoes, slice them thinly, and layer into an ovenproof dish which has been brushed with garlic oil. In between layers you scatter strong cheese, maybe a bit of cheddar, possibly blue cheese. When you have enough layers, pour cream over the lot, add a rich dose of salt and pepper, and then of course top with grated cheese, like cheddar or Edam, or any cheese that easily melts.

Cheese - anyone not loving Brie?

When the lamb is ready, let it rest for a few minutes while the sauce is prepared. Pour the broth through a sieve and allow to stand a cool down for a minute or two. The fat will rise to the surface which can then be easily removed. Next i made roux in a pot, 30 gr of butter, equal amount of flour. First you melt the butter and then you dust in the flour and it cooked for a few minutes as to minimize the flavor of the flour (it is good to remember that the longer you cook the roux the less it will work to thicken your sauce). When the roux is ready, pour the broth carefully into the pot - and stir vigorously. Nothing remains but to balance the sauce; a splash of cream, salt, pepper, and perhaps a nip of jam.

The lamb was put on a serving platter

Awaken the lamb from its stoic rest by sliding it under a piping hot grill for a few moments - so it will be crispy and appealing on the outside.

We drank the following delicious red wine with the meal: 2007 Peter Lehmann Futures Shiraz. I have been a fan of the wine from this producer for quite some time. I am still working my way through the wine we bought on our way back from Austria, where we acquired a number of bottles of this fine wine. Dark color, even thick. Aroma of plums, oak. Invigorating taste, dark fruit and oaky wine with a satisfying aftertaste.

I encourage you all to try out this recipe. It is a meal of superlatives - the flavor of the lamb is glorious - and the meat completely melts in your mouth. An unforgettable meal!

The meat was so succulent and tender that it fell off the bone!

Bon appetit!


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