martes, 13 de noviembre de 2012

The woman in Red

Monarchies have changed a lot since the past. They now marry journalists, lawyers and writers, including handball players that eventually become frogs.  Fascination about kings and queens in the past can be compared to some of the singers and actors today. Now the Kings are human, they make mistakes, they go on an elephant hunting trip and then apologize.
After a busy summer working on the Olympic and Paralympic Games and living a unique experience,  I am ready to resume my posts, and I will try to publish a bit  more often than before, so, let's get back to the subject of today's post. The London Borough of Greenwich was declared Royal in a small ceremony that took place last February, apart from the beauty  of the area the Royals showed once again their preference for this lovely borough with a great maritime and historical past. Here's where the body of  Admiral Horatio Nelson rested, here is where  Henry VIII was born, and this was where he and Anne Boleyn used to meet, right there on the slopes of Greenwich Park, before she lost her head. And many, many years later, another monarch made her royal  appearance in the neighborhood, this time to inaugurate the most awaited new  Cutty Sark, the vessel which used to carry tea from Asia to Europe. After it caught fire back in 2007, it has taken a multimillion pound renovation. The Duke of Edinburgh is  the official Patron of the Society for the Preservation of the Cutty Sark and both he and his distinguished wife profess a special love for this beautiful borough. 

The Queen showed up that day, with her husband. The weather was not nice at all, rainy and cold. But since nothing depends on the weather the Official act went ahead so, I decided to stay, you don;t get to see the Queen of England every day. It carried on raining when  the escort arrived, we all heard the trumpets announcing Her arrival and Her royal head appeared under a red hat, matching Her coat. People cheered, children screamed and clapped and then it stopped raining! The woman in red stopped the traffic and the rain in Greenwich. Gifts  were given and the curtain was opened by her royal hands to  officially inaugurate the new Cutty Sark. The queen went back to her palace and I went back  to my house for a nice cuppa.

And all this takes us to  the present and today's  recipe. I don't know if her Majesty likes  Middle Eastern cuisine, but  I do love it. Dolmades and Fatayer, two representatives from the delicious  food of the  Middle Eastern. The dolmades are vine leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables, cooked in a pan with patience. They can be found in the cuisines of Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Lebanon and  Russia and even in some areas of Southeast Asia. Fatayer are like the middle eastern empanadas, typical of the area and can be filled with spinach, ground beef or cheese and they are delicious as a snack or as a starter, they can be eaten either hot or cold. Very easy to make and eat and difficult to forget. Sumac is a berry that grows in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, before the arrival of the lemons, the Romans used sumac acid agent for their meals. It has a nice purple color and a unique flavor, lemon juice can used as a substitute.Here are the recipes ...

For the Dolmades (Anissa Helou's recipe)

A package of vine leaves (in middle eastern shops)
140g short grain rice
300g diced tomatoes
1/2 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
100g chopped parsley
50g chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons sumac or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
150 ml extra virgin olive oil
A medium potato, peeled and sliced
A large tomato sliced

Wash the rice until the water runs clear and drain. Place in a large bowl. Add chopped tomatoes, onions, parsley and mint, followed by sumac or lemon juice, olive oil and spices. Mix well.
Spread leaves on work surface and put a bit of the filling. Roll up like a spring roll. Place the potato and tomato in layers covering the base of a  casserole dish or a wide pot, then place the  rolled vine leaves with the loose ends down . When the bowl of the filling is empty, add some water and swirl it around so it takes the rest of the filling, and pour this water over the leaves, almost covering them. Add salt and pepper, and cover with a heat proof plate.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cook for one hour. After this time it better to try one of the sheets to see if the rice is cooked. If so, turn off heat and let stand a few minutes.
Plate and serve accompanied by lemon wedges. The potato slices and tomato are completely optional.

Ingredients (serves 4-6):
For the dough
300 g organic plain flour, plus extra for kneading and shaping
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ cup extra virgin oil
For the filling:
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
Fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sumac
400 g spinach, cut in very thin strips
2 tablespoons pine nuts
juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Mix the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the oil to the well and with the tip of your fingers, work into the flour until well incorporated.
Gradually add 125 ml warm water and mix until you have a rough dough. Remove the dough onto your lightly floured work surface. Knead for 2-3 minutes, then roll into a ball. Invert the bowl over the dough and let sit for 15 minutes. Knead for a few more minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Divide in two equal pieces. Shape into balls. Cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let rest while you make the filling.

Put the chopped onion in a small mixing bowl. Add a little salt, the pepper and sumac and, with your fingers, rub the seasonings into the onion to soften it.
Put the chopped spinach in a mixing bowl, sprinkle with a little salt and rub the salt in with your fingers until the spinach is wilted. Squeeze the spinach very dry. Transfer to a clean mixing bowl. Separate the leaves.

Add the onion to the spinach, together with the pine nuts, lemon juice and olive oil. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary -- the filling should be quite strongly flavoured to offset the rather bland dough. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Roll out one ball of dough as thinly as you can, just under 1/10 inch thin. With a pastry cutter, cut out 3 inch disks. Place 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons filling in the middle of each disk. Lift 2 sides of the disk, each about one third of the diametre, and pinch together to start forming a triangle. Lift the bottom third and pinch with the loose ends to form an inverted Y. Like this:

Transfer to an oiled baking sheet and brush the triangles with oil. Knead the cut-outs together and let rest while you roll out the other ball of dough and make more triangles. Transfer to the baking sheet and brush with oil. Use the cut-outs to make the remaining triangles. Brush with oil.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 15-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

jueves, 2 de agosto de 2012

I'm working here!

        No posts for the moment. I'm working as a chef in the Olimpic Stadium. An unforgettable experience.

                                  Pity in the kitchen, an Olimpic chef. Will I get a medal?

sábado, 14 de abril de 2012

A night to remember

It was a clear night.. One could hear from the deck,the laughter of the passengers enjoying a quiet evening, music was in the air. Many already slept. It was 11:40 and the name of the ship was about to become eternal and world famous. On the fifth night of its maiden voyage the Titanic ceased to be just a ship and became immortal.

What is it about Titanic that gets so much fascination? Maybe for the fact that her first trip became the last, or because of all the souls that went down with her, or because of the many legends, like the orchestra playing in one of the decks as passengers ran from one side to another trying to find a place in the few lifeboats, the courage of many, the cowardice of a few, and the ladies with their hats and dresses in the fashion of the early twentieth century, leaving their husbands behind, many were already widows without knowing it. It was a clear night, and it was the end of Titanic.

On the night of April 14th 1912, the dinner in the first class dining room consisted of a ten-course menu. Oysters, soup, vegetables, fillet mignon, lamb, carrots, asparagus vinaigrette, salmon, duck, veal, chicken, pigeon and several desserts. This post t recreates some of the menu, my version of two of the dishes last night of the Titanic:

Chicken lyonnaise with vegetables

Chocolate and vanilla eclairs
Waldorf pudding

Chicken Lyonnaise

Ingredients for two:
A boneless chicken breast with skin
Four tablespoons of fresh thyme
Two onions finely chopped
A clove of garlic
One tablespoon of tomato puree
100 g flour
Salt and pepper
Two tablespoons of olive oil
A cup of chicken stock
Half cup of white wine
A pinch of sugar

Fry the onion in a frying pan with olive oil, until it begins to brown, then add garlic, a little thyme, cook a few minutes over a high heat and add wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to prevent paste, reduce for a minute and add tomato puree, stock and sugar, cook for two minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken. At this point you can add the sliced ​​chicken or plate it with the sauce all over.

Spread chicken skin on a board and open the breast so that it covers the skin, spread the meat, if necessary flatten it a bit, season the meat and sprinkle half the thyme. Roll up and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate half an hour .. In a bowl mix the flour with more thyme, salt and pepper, remove chicken from refrigerator and cut into slices. Roll in flour and fry in oil. Leave in the oven at medium-low heat while preparing the sauce.

The vegetables:
Salt and pepper
Place the fennel in a saucepan and cover with water, season and boil until the water begins to evaporate, at this point add a tablespoon of butter and cook until browned. Keep aside.
For the carrots, follow the same procedure as with the fennel, but adding the cumin together with the butter.

Waldorf pudding

A golden apple, peeled and diced
200g sponge crumbs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup milk
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a saucepan mix the apple, lemon, and butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar and cook until the apples begin to caramelize.
In another saucepan combine the milk with the remaining sugar and vanilla, when it starts to bubble,in another bowl mix four or five tablespoons of the milk with the yolks, then add this mixture to the milk and vanilla and stir constantly with a spoon stick until it begins to thicken slightly.

At this point, you can do two things:

Spread the apple mixture in a oven safe bowl or in individual ramekins and cover with the cream, top with the crums and bake at 180 degrees on a Bain Marie for 30 to 40 minutes or until the custard is set. Cool 5 minutes, run a knife around the edges, invert on a serving plate and serve.

In individual ramekins alternate layers of apple, cream and the crumbs. Refrigerate.

Chocolate and vanilla eclairs

Choux pastry:
1/4 litre of water
100g butter
150 g sifted plain flour
5 eggs
15 g sugar
3 g salt

For the pastry cream:
1/2 litre of milk
4 egg yolks
45g cornflour
100g sugar
A vanilla pod split open
the rind of half a lemon
For the ganache:
200 g dark chocolate
Single cream 50 dl
For the vanilla glace:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 or 3 tablespoons water

Method for the eclairs:
Put water, butter, salt and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and add the flour stirring, cook for a few minutes. Remove from heat and add eggs, one by one. Form eclairs with a piping bag in a greased baking tray. Cookfor about 15 minutes at 180, then another 5 with the oven door ajar. Cool on wire rack.

The pastry cream:
Mix the cornstarch with half a cup of the milk and the egg yolks in a separate bowl. Bring the remaining milk to a boil with the sugar, lemon peel and vanilla .. When it boils, mix the egg yolk mixture and cornstarch,place back in the saucepan and keep stirring with a wooden spoon .. Remove from heat when it begins to thicken , remove the skin of the lemon and vanilla. (vanilla is washed under running water and dried, and can be used to make vanilla sugar). Cover with plastic film to prevent the formation of the skin layer. Once at room temperature, refrigerate.
For the ganache:
In a saucepan heat the cream and mix the chocolate until is completely melted. Cool.
For the vanilla frosting:
Sift the icing sugar and mix with the vanilla extract and water until it forms a paste ..
Filling and icing:
Once the custard is cooled, fill the eclairs using a pastry bag, and coat them with the warm ganache.
Fill the chocolate eclairs with the cold ganache and coat with the vanilla glaze.

miércoles, 22 de febrero de 2012

Brotherhood of Men

The Golden Globes, the Baftas, and now the Oscars are coming! I'm so excited, always been so interested in cinema, and I love watching the nominated movies of the year(if Ican) so in the night of the event I know what are they talking about. I have only managed to watch three of the nominated ones this year: The Artist, and my favorite, a sublime ode dedicated to the golden Hollywood era, a delicious comedy filled with good sense of humour and tenderness at the same time. You get out of the cinema with a smile in your face, and in love with Jean Dujardin, the handsome Frenchman, owner of one of the most captivating smiles in actual cinema. His charming melts the screen and you as well. Get ready...He has already won the Golden Globe, the Bafta, and fingers crossed, we'll see what happens next Sunday at the Oscars. The other movie is Midnight in Paris, a wonderful chronicle about Paris and travel in time, this one is Woody Allen at his best and those of you who love him will love this movie. The third movie I have watched was The descendants, and after all the noise about it, well, nah. You know, it;s George Clooney, a good actor, we all know that, his role surely saves the whole movie, which lacks strength and motivation. Good sense of humour though. Well done George.

So, good luck to all the nominees, (go get it Jean Dujardin!), Brad Pitt, (I'm not very fond of sport movies, though I think this one is quite good) His mate George, the talented Gary Oldman, and of course, Demián Bichir, the first Mexican to be nominated as a best actor. About the women, Meryl Streep of course, who can forget her shoe affair with Colin Firth when she got her Bafta. The Iron lady and The king who needed speech therapy.

Today my post is a cheesecake, not an ordinary one, but a one called The Brotherhood of Men, because it suits it, and because I like it. The round biscuits hugging each other gives it a dramatic touch. The topping is made with marshmallows and it´s sticky and velvety. I wish this hug made out of biscuits would set an example to forget all the violence and bad mood.

Brotherhood of Men Cheesecake

for the base: one packet of digestives or rich tea biscuits
100grs softened butter
for the first layer:
3 or 4 tubs of Philadelphia (depending on how thick you want it)
4 big medium eggs or 3 big ones
the juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
The base is the same as every cheesecake, crush the biscuits and mix them with the softened butter, and coat this mixture over a 24cms cake tin. Keep in the fridge whilst you prepare the filling.
For the filling, mix all the ingredients and pour over the biscuits mixture. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for 40 minutes, or until the cake is set. Cool.

For the topping:

2 cups mini marshmallows or large marshmallows cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream


Mix marshmallows and milk in a saucepan over low heat until marshmallows are melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. Cool marshmallow mixture to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Add sour cream to marshmallow mixture; fold gently just to blend. Pour topping over cheesecake and spread evenly, leaving 1/2 inch uncovered around edges. Chill to set topping, at least 1 hour. Cheesecake can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

For the biscuits

225g unsalted butter at room temperature
225g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
450g plain flour, sifted plus extra for dusting
Mix the butter and the sugar until creamy and white. Add the salt, the vanilla and the beaten egg. Mix well.
Add the flour little by little until everything is incorporated, form into a disc and cover with cling film. Rest in the fridge for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut with the chosen biscuit cutter. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes. Leave to cool in the trays and then transfer to a cooling rack.
Finally, place the biscuits all around the edge of the cheesecake, use a bit of egg white if it helps.