Sunday, 27 November 2011

Crema Catalana

So this has been on my to-do list for a while now. Ever since I got a blow torch I was dying to try my hands on a crème brûlée. I have made lemon curd before so I figured it shouldn't be too far out of my comfort zone. The original recipe for creme brûlée most likely originates from France and here in the UK it's known as burnt cream but essentially it's the same: custard flavoured with vanilla and a hard caramel on top, served cold. You don't have to stick to vanilla though. The Catalan version Crema Catalana incorporates cinnamon and lemon or orange zest. Then last week I got the Donna Hay subscription through and to my surprise I found a 'how to do custard' in there with tips and tricks. So then I really had to give it a go. And here is what happened. It is a lot more complicated and temperature is key. I miserably failed twice. First I tried a recipe where the egg-cream mixture is to set in a water bath in the oven. Maybe it was in there too long or the temperature still too hot, not sure, but it split and curdled. My next attempt was a version where you bring the egg-cream/milk-cornflour mixture back to the boil in a pot but I was a bit too eager and the temperature was too hot again and it separated again. There is no way to bring it back. In my last attempt on that day I tried to cheat with a store bought custard but the consistency was all wrong (too liquid so the sugar melted on the surface) and didn't get a crunchy caramel crust.
No to be defeated I revisited the second recipe again this weekend and paid more attention to the temperature and voilà, it worked. Silky custard with a hint of orange and cinnamon and a crunchy caramel top. The recipe is for 2 large or 3 small ramekins.


3 egg yolks
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
200ml double cream
100ml milk
2 tbsp cornflour
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
orange zest
sugar for the caramel

In a bowl whisk the egg yolks with the corn flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon until pale and fluffy. Meanwhile gently heat the cream, milk and add the orange zest to infuse. When it reaches 140°F take off the heat. Slowly pour into the egg mixture and whisk continuously. Place back on the heat and very slowly reheat again. When it starts to thicken take off the heat immediately and pour into ramekins and let cool completely. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar evenly over the custard and caramelise with a chefs' blow-torch.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Pumpkin soup with orange and coriander

I really love fall for the colours and when it comes to flavours all the variations of pumpkin and squash are amazing. Here is my hot-food-for-cold-days-recipe:


1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 red chili
500g pumpkin
400g sweet potato
bunch of coriander
2 oranges (zest and juice)
olive oil
800ml vegetable stock
pumpkin seeds
salt and pepper

In a large pot sweat the onion in some olive oil until golden, add garlic and chili. After 2 minutes add the orange zest and finely chopped coriander stalks. Chop the leaves as well but reserve for garnish later. Add the diced pumpkin and sweet potato to the pot as well as the stock and orange juice. Cover with a lid and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Puree with a blender, season with salt and pepper according to taste and serve with some cream, chopped coriander leaves and pumpkin seeds. Perfect for those cold days!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Frankfurter Kranz

Now this is a classic German cake recipe and a very regional one as well. My nan used to make it whenever there was an occasion and I would be looking forward to it all day. It is rich butter cream layers and red jam between a soft sponge in a ring shape, coated with more butter cream and hazelnut brittle ('Krokant' in German; you should be able to find it in German or Polish shops) for some added crunch. Finally decorated with butter cream swirls and cocktail cherries on top (sorry, in lack of such I substituted with Amarena cherries; taste great too but the colour is not quite right as it should be bright red but you will forgive me I hope). As the name suggests it's roots are in Frankfurt so not very far from where I grew up and 'kranz' means crown and it is definitely fit for a royal. I had been thinking about how to update this recipe but if it's not broken why fix it. It is one of those retro cakes that you just have to embrace. Plans for a tea party? Put you hair up and your apron on and happy baking!


4 eggs
4 tbsp cold water
pinch of salt
200g sugar
80g cornflour
120g self-raising flour
1 tbsp baking powder
250g butter
300g custard
Red jelly (cherry or red currant are good)
Krokant for decoration
Candied cherries

Pre-heat you oven to 180°C. Separate the egg whites and yolk. Whisk the egg whites with the water and salt, add the sugar slowly and beat until it forms stiff peaks. Gently add the egg yolks. Sift in cornflour, baking powder and flour and gently fold in with a spatula. Butter your baking tin (mine is 18cm/7") and dust with flour. Add the mixture and bake for about 25 minutes. Leave to cool completely, maybe overnight. Cut into 3 layers. Cream the butter until pale and fluffy, then add the custard. It is a lot easier to apply butter cream when the cake is cold so place the sponge layers in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes before you decorate the cake. Spread red jelly on the bottom and middle layer and some of the icing. Stack the cake and apply a thin layer on the the outside. Place in the fridge to chill before you apply the next layer. Then coat in hazelnut brittle (Krokant), pipe swirls and place the cherries on top.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Salted popcorn ice cream with toffee sauce

I know, it might feel a bit out of place to post about ice cream in November when it's getting cold outside but then you can make your ice cream winter proof by adding a warm sauce or fruit compote. In this case it's a toffee sauce that goes well with the popcorn flavour and adds some extra texture to it. And as I love salted caramel I figured I might as well do a salted popcorn flavour.
I have a really strong memory about salted popcorn. It wasn't very popular or even common when I grew up in Germany as we seemed to favor the sweet variety. I went to stay with a friend in Berlin when I was a teenager and we went to an ex G.I. cinema. Not sure what film we went to see but it was English with subtitles. Unusual in Germany where films are generally dubbed. So we went in and sat down and I tucked in to my popcorn and almost choked as I expected sweet and got salty. What a shock! Like when you expect water and get lemonade. Or wine and get vinegar. That kind of thing. Times have changed and I have grown up to like salted popcorn, so much so that I would chose it over sweet anytime now.


For the ice cream
300ml double cream
200ml semi-skimmed milk
couple of handfuls of popcorn
good punch of salt
4-5 tbsp sugar

Bring the milk and cream to the boil. Add the popcorn and simmer for about 5-10 minutes to infuse the milk-cream-mixture. Let stand to cool, strain with a sieve and chill the mixture in the fridge. Place in the ice cream maker for about 10-15 minutes or according to instructions for your machine.

For the toffee sauce
75g light brown sugar
50g butter
3tbsp double cream

In a pan heat all the ingredients and stir gently with a wooden spatula. When they are all blended to a sauce take off the heat and it's ready for serving.

* Heston Blumenthal had been doing a salted caramel popcorn ice cream on his 'feasts' show on Channel 4. It's available to buy ready-made in Waitrose so if you want to enjoy it on your comfortable couch without having to get up first to make it that's your best option.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

More urban foraging

We went foraging again a while ago and we harvested some more crab apples, little red apples and quince. With so much fruit to use up I sorted out my preserving jars and got on to making more jelly for those cold days that will be coming. I mixed the green apples and quince, cut them into little pieces and boiled them with just enough water to cover the pieces. When the fruit is all soft and mushy (about 1-2 hours) spoon in a sieve with a cheese cloth and place over a bowl to drain overnight. I did the same with the red apples and the crab apple and the juice has a fantastic rosy red colour.


600ml apple and quince juice
500g sugar

Mix the sugar with the pektin. Bring the juice with the sugar/pektin to the boil and keep boiling for 5-10 minutes. Check with a candy thermometer for it to reach setting point at 105°C and test by spooning a little amount of the liquid on to a plate and wait for it to cool down. Check after a minute if it has set. If so pour into sterilized jars and let cool down.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Rainy days in Barcelona but I love the colours of fall.