Char-grilled pears with gebrannte Mandeln cream

This is a very Christmassy pudding that I came up with for our Boxing Day dinner. It’s combining the fruit and cream components of a classic British pudding with the traditional flavour of a German Christmas market – Gebrannte Mandeln (candied almonds). Best of both worlds, even if I say so myself.

  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • About 50ml water
  • A pinch of ground cinnamon
  • A good handful of almonds, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 ripe but firm pears
  • 125g mascarpone
  • A bit of milk

Start by making the candied almonds. Heat the butter, sugar and a bit of water in a small frying pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Keep on heating and stirring until the water is mostly evaporated and the sugar starts to visibly get browner. Stir in the almonds and the cinnamon. Take off the heat after about a minute, and keep stirring until the sugar starts to harden. You want it to be in rather small pieces rather than large lumps of caramel. Once they’re set, they become nigh impossible to break. Set aside.

Next cut the pears into slices about 5mm thick, and cut out the seed area and the flower. Get a griddle to smoking hot, lightly oil it and sear the pear slices on both sides (possibly in batches). Set aside to cool.

To serve, stir the mascarpone with a bit of milk so it becomes softer. Then stir in half of the candied almonds. Spread the pear slices on 4 plates, put a good dollop of the mascarpone mix in the middle of each and sprinkle over the rest of the almonds.

Open source bread (reprise): Rosemary Loaf

This is a bread we used to make a lot in the olden days in a standard bread maker when we had a huge rosemary bush in the garden of our rented flat. Now that the new rosemary has taken hold, I have adapted the recipe to make a loaf in a tin.

The dough works very similar to a simple white loaf, but has some extra olive oil and milk – and of course rosemary.

500g strong white bread flour

200g water

70g milk

10g fresh yeast

20g olive oil

10g salt

15g finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Mix the ingredients and work into an elastic dough (takes about 20 minutes). Form into a tight ball on a lightly floured worktop, and rest for one hour in a covered bowl. Form into a ball again, then shape into an oblong that fits in your greased bread tin (I use olive oil for this bread).

Cover and let prove for another hour in a warm place. Preheat oven to 250°C, just quickly, then slide in the tin. Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce temperature to 220°C and bake for another 25 minutes. Take the bread out of the tin and let cool on a wire rack.

Tastes great with cheese or with soup, or also surprisingly nice with honey.

More open source bread

Over half term, we visited family in southern Germany, and as it was close, we took the girls to a ski resort in Austria to learn a bit of skiing. One day on the way to our accommodation, we stopped at the MPreis supermarket in Haldensee, Austria, and at the bakery there I bought a loaf of bread – a seeded wholemeal sourdough loaf baked in a square tin as is very typical for German or Austrian bread. This turned out to be so nice that my daughters declared this to be their favourite bread, even winning against the previous favourite, my own Armadillo Bread. Of course, I couldn’t give in that easily to a super market bakery in rural Austria, so I tried to come up with my own version of a similar bread

2017-02-24-08-13-05

So, here we go with the recipe – whether I succeeded in capturing the top spot will be decided today after school…

400g rye sourdough starter
150g wholemeal rye flour
150g shredded rye kernels
500g strong wholemeal bread flour
100g sunflower seeds
20g salt
565g water
Some wholemeal bread flour for dusting

Loads of sunflower and pumpkin seeds for coating

Add the sourdough starter, the flours and the rye kernels to a bowl, add the water and start mixing. This dough is initially very wet and sticky, so might be worthwhile working in a bowl. After a while, add the salt and the sunflower seeds, and keep working the dough. Once it’s been worked to be a proper dough, roll into a ball on a work surface dusted with wholemeal flour, put in the bowl and rest fot 1h covered with a cloth.

After 1h, put back on the dusted work surface again and work into a ball again. The rye kernels will have started to soften and make the dough less wet and sticky by now. Rest for another hour.

After that, work into a ball again, then split into two even parts (about 900g-920g each). Form into short and fat logs. Roll these in a mix of sunflower and pumpkin seeds to cover thickly all around (the amount of seeds sticking to the bread is amazing, you probably need several hundred grams of seeds). Place in two rectangular bread tins that  have been slightly greased.

Then the bread needs to prove for about 12-14h in a cool, draught free place (I use the under-stair storage). Then bake in an oven preheated to 250ºC for 5 minutes, before reducing the temperature to 220ºC and baking for another 35 minutes. The seeds on the top should be clearly browned, but not burned.

Then remove from the oven and tip out of the tins onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool completly before eating, even if the smell is very tempting.

Quick African vegetable curry

This is a tasty dinner for a school night, using African peanut curry sauce from Bim’s Kitchen as a base, cutting down cooking time by an hour or so. It still takes a little bit of time, but not much effort. Serves two very hungry people or 3-4 at a stretch.

image

Half an onion, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1 fresh green chili, chopped (optional, for chili addicts like me)
4 carrots, peeled and chopped in 1cm dice
2 courgettes, chopped into pieces
3 large mushrooms, chopped into pieces
1 glass of African Peanut Curry Sauce
4 eggs

Heat a bit of oil in a large pan, add the onions, garlic and chili and fry for a minute or so, without browning them. Add the chopped vegetables, and sauté for 10 minutes on a high heat, covered while stirring regularly. Add a pinch of salt at this stage. Add the curry sauce and a bit of water, cover again and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Crack open the eggs and gently slide then into the sauce. Cover and poach in the curry for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper, serve with rice.
Actually, any West African side dish like fufu, TZ or banku would go nicely with it, but if you go through the effort of making those, you might as well cook groundnut soup from scratch…