HAPPY BIRTDHAY to a very special man in my life, who has supported me since day 1, no matter how difficult I’ve been in the past 25 years (yes, these type of men do exist). Thank you!
I don’t know if you recall the birthday craze two years ago where I baked 5 cakes for one celebration. And there weren’t even many leftovers! Lucky for me, after a certain age, big birthdays only come once every 5 or 10 years (depending how excited the birthday child gets). This year, having reduced the guestlist from roughly 50 to an intimate family affair, one cake fed all. Not just any cake, but my grandma’s famous chocolatey, flourless, moist, gluten free, almondy heaven. It was praised by all tasters. One even demanded I post the recipe online. So here you go, try and recreate, let me know how it goes, invite me to taste and judge, but most importantly – enjoy.
Grandma’s Chocolate Cake
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL! I cannot believe another year has already passed – and boy what a crazy one it was…. so many fantastic moments, a few not so fun times, yet somehow I feel no different to December 2014 (apart from the odd new wrinkle or two). I also don’t really feel like the holiday season has properly started – let me blame that on the lack of snow. WHERE ARE YOU?
Nonetheless, it is truly a wonderful time of the year filled with family traditions, games, mulled wine, presents and exorbitant amounts of food. I’m pretty sure you all have either a lunch or dinner invitation/duty on the 25th. For those of you out there who haven’t had a chance to bake christmas cookies, but promised to bring something homemade along on Christmas day, these hazelnut bites are perfect – unique, nutty, spicy, gluten-free, lactose-free (sadly not vegan – haha) and delicious. Berner Lebkuchen is a special sort of “gingerbread” from my home town – a.k.a. the capital city of Switzerland. Traditionally it comes decorated with the cantons coat of arms – a rude bear sticking its tongue out. Personally I prefer the bite size finish – one doesn’t feel so bad about eating more than two ;-).
Berner Lebkuchen Bites
adapted from Wildeisen
Time for a post. Time for dessert. Using possibly the best fruit of the winter season – blood oranges. NOMNOMNOM.
My new favourite city: New York. Even better: New York before Christmas. Not Thanksgiving though – because oh my is Black Friday crazy (I tell you – stay away from the shops or practice boxing before going in..). Anyways, NYC in the holiday season is truly magical – beautiful Christmas lights, ice rinks in central and bryant park, Christmas music playing in all cafe’s, millions of holiday markets, the Rockettes (hahahahahahaha), waaaay too much good food – what’s not to like? Ok, you Londoners are probably thinking – their Subway is disgusting – true that, true that, in comparison your Tube could almost be mistaken for Swiss public transport;-). One of the best experiences I had while meandering about the city was up north in Harlem. My mother would be proud – I went to church on Sunday – a Baptist church – WOW. Breathtaking. Amazing. If you love gospel music, don’t mind putting on your Sunday’s best and dare yourself to travel above 120th street it is worth the trip. It was something kind of like this: Enjoy. And if church doesn’t quite fulfil your expectations, why not head to the Red Rooster for a gospel brunch.
Blood Orange Mousse with Almond Brittle
adapted from greatbritishchefs
The last time I had a few days off after nights I decided to visit Stockholm with a friend, who also randomly had some days of compensation (the one plus about working as a doctor – you get random days off to compensate for your ridiculous hours = free holidays!). One thing the Swedish know how to do well is the so called “Fika“, or coffee break with lots and lots of pastry. It belongs to the daily routine apparently, like breakfast, lunch and dinner. Genius. The pastries the Swedish are most famous for are, correct me if I’m wrong, cinnamon bullar (buns), cardamom bullar, cardamom cake and also saffron bullar. When I read cardamom bullar for the first time, I must admit, I was a tad sceptical as I immediately associated it with curry (ew…. curry pastry… not what I had in mind for my tea break). Retrospectively, I can proudly call myself an Idiot. Ground cardamom is the new cinnamon! Every pastry with cardamom was amazing – indescribable! I have even started adding it to my morning muesli instead of the good old cinnamon…. it seems to go with everything.
Anyways, with this newly revealed secret ingredient, being responsible for the sweet side of a Christmas family gathering, I decided to attempt to recreate something from my trip – a Swedish cardamom cake. It went down extremely well. You should try it!
Swedish Cardamom Cake
adapted from a random cookbook, unknown name and author, read in Stockholm airport.
Essential British Experiences:
- Afternoon tea – nothing beats fresh scones
- Sunday roast – but not on the same day as afternoon tea….that would make you vomit
- Spending a weekend in the country in wellies and barbour jackets
- Queueing half naked for a club in the middle of winter
- Horse riding
- For all you Londoners: Secret Cinema is a must!
- Clay pigeon shooting – be sure to rest the gun correctly on your shoulder, otherwise you may end up with painful bruises… not that I’m speaking from my own experience
- Sunday brunch – one of my favourite things about the brits – eggs benedict, royale, pancakes, bacon, sausages… you need to try them all!
- Stand up comedy
- Watch a musical – a must see for everyone: Book of Mormon
- Have a drink at Aqua Shard – the view is priceless
- Renting a barclays boris bike and trying to look all cool while removing it from the docking station as an attempt not to look like a tourist…. I clearly failed at this
- Running/walking for charity
- Up your drinking to british level for one week and see how your liver responds
- Watching a Premier League football game – if you’re lucky you might learn a new word or two if you’re sat next to intellectuals with a rather broad vocabulary of swear words…highly entertaining.
- Acting all upperclass and watching a horse-race, merely as an excuse to dress up in one of those fancy hats
- Watch the Oxford-Cambridge boat race
- Picnic on Primrose Hill with strawberries and Pimm’s
- Renting a pedalo in Hyde Park after having wandered around Kensington Gardens
- Hunting with horses and hounds
- Experiencing a tube strike…. London just wouldn’t be the same without one of these fun days
- I’m not even going to start on art, restaurant, bar and drinking experiences… the list would be miles long… but the above should keep nouveau brits busy for a while
This recipe ties in perfectly with the above as, in my eyes, it is an english classic. No dessert is simpler or better than a good old crumble with custard. It is hearty, warming and a perfect finish for any menu. Funnily enough, just as I served this crumble, my mother called me. I told her I had made crumble with custard for some guests….. I have never had anyone with so much food envy and excitement on the other side of the phone: she was ecstatic about the custard. At least I now know what dessert I shall be making when she comes to visit ;-).
Apple Crumble with Cinnamon Custard
Today’s post is a tad more medical; I could not let this recent news simply slip away without informing you. Rumour has it that polio (poliomyelitis – a highly contagious potentially permanently paralysing virus transmitted through contaminated food/water) is making a comeback after having been almost eradicated for the past 25 years (with a 99% decrease in case numbers since 1988). Prevention through surveillance and multiple vaccinations (live oral polio vaccine or inactivated poliovirus vaccine) are the only way to fight this virus, as no cure is available, and has proven to be successful in eradicating the disease until recently. With newly reported infections in 10 countries (previously only Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan were classified as endemic), the WHO declared it a public health emergency earlier this week. So, I urge you to check your vaccinations and those of your children (or children in your surroundings)!!!, especially if you are travelling to a known polio-infected country – inform yourself and update your vaccinations as soon as possible, not only for your own protection but also in aid of the global eradication efforts!
Anyways… moving from the serious medical world to the world of baking: I present you with yet another cake baked for the March birthday celebrations. This is also an old family recipe created by none other than Martha, my previously mentioned grandmothers former housekeeper. It is a traditional yeast Gugelhupf with raisins. As a child I used to always pick the raisins out before indulging in this cake…. I could hit myself for that, a Gugelhupf without raisins is only half as good. So if you don’t like raisins in cake, don’t even try baking this one. And the rumour of these yeast cakes being dry is a lie, if you have only had dry Gugelhupf so far, your choice of bakery must be revised ;-).
You are probably familiar with those extremely lazy Sundays after a night out, the greater part entailing lounging around in bed with a constantly grumbling stomach and a craving for greasy food, but absolutely zero motivation or energy to do something about it? That probably describes most of your Sundays doesn’t it ;-)?
The most recent of such Sundays came with a rather interesting craving, but one that had to be fulfilled. After having gone through some emotionally draining turmoil (why can’t we be 5 years old again and play all day long?) in the past few weeks, my partner in crime and I longed for a soothing taste of home. Making proper butter croissants from scratch would have been excessive (although totally worth it if you ever have, let’s say, 6 hours to spare), so we opted for a low effort (and low-fat) version to satisfy our needs!