29 September 2012

Strawberry Almond Cake


As most people know, many Americans in North Africa have faced terrible protests this month. In Algeria, we are very lucky, as a strong police presence and general desire for calm in the city have kept things quiet here. In fact, the only recent protest was a large protest against the management of the ruling FLN party. So, on one of these recent tense days, I'm at the fruit and vegetable stand and my bill is about twice what it usually is (all, you know, 5 euros). But before I could wonder if I was paying the new foreigner tax, the vendor, who is always very kind to me, explained that the strawberries in my basket were imported from Spain, and thus very expensive.

With my treasured out-of season strawberries at home, we snacked on a few, but I knew I had to use them up quickly before they went bad. I remembered a blueberry cake recipe I'd seen online, and thought I could tweak it to go with strawberries. The result is a really tender wonderfully scented cake. The addition of almond and amaranth flours makes for a soft moist crumb, and the almonds and sugar on top add crunch to the strawberries.

** Update: We recently made this with chopped pears (I sauteed the pears in a hot pan to soften them and draw out some of their moisture first) and it came out great.


Strawberry Almond Cake

1 cup flour
1/4 cup almond meal (ground almonds)
3 tablespoons amaranth flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 dash vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
1 handful (about 1/3 cup) slivered almonds
1 tablespoon sugar, for sprinkling on top

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease an 8 inch square baking pan.
2. Mix the flours, almond meal, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, until the mixture is ribbony, then add in the vanilla. Fold in half of the flour mixture, then add in the milk, then fold in the remaining flour mixture until combined. Fold in half of the strawberries.
3. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Arrange the remaining strawberries on top. Scatter the almonds and the 1 tablespoon sugar over the top. Bake 40-45 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Let cool on a rack. Serve with whipped cream.

22 September 2012

Provencal-style Veal Shortribs


I usually like to test recipes twice before they make it onto this site, though only once if I think something was truly fantastic the first time. So, a bit unusually, I am posting this recipe despite the fact that it didn't come out as perfectly as I liked in our kitchen. You see, there is a nice very big grocery store in Algiers that's all the way out by the airport. Because it's so far away we only go out there about once a month, which means I can go a little crazy when we're there. Loaves of brioche! And my favorite flat bread! A whole salmon! A properly cleaned chicken! Veal shortribs! Frozen brussel sprouts! No kidding I bought all of these items and more last time I was there.

So, excited about my veal shortribs, I was searching around for something to make with them. (After grilling the whole salmon of course.) The recipe I came up with was sort of an amalgam of several different recipes for provencal-style shortribs, since provencal ingredients are easily found here. I also liked that the recipe called specifically for veal shortribs, not just generic beef.

First of all, this dish smeels amazing when you cook it, I'd almost say that's reason enough to make it. The aromatics of orange peels, wine, and herbes de provence simmer for hours, filling the house with a delicious smell. Overall, the meat, tomatoes, olives, and herbs make for a wonderful dish. My only qualm about this was that our shortribs themselves, despite stewing for over 3 hours, just were not as melting tender as I wanted them to be. However, I am almost positive that any failings in our meat were due to the meat itself, as buying halal veal shortribs in Algeria is a bit of a stretch to begin with. So I urge you to try this recipe on your own, serve it over egg noodles, and hope your meat is as meltingly tender as can be.


Provencal-style Veal Shortribs
The olives don't have to be pitted, it's a rustic dish so just put a plate on the table for the pits. If you want to go all out you can try using fresh herbs (marjoram, rosemary, thyme, lavendar) in place of the dried.

3 pounds veal (or beef) short ribs
1 1/2 cup beef or chicken stock
1 cup white wine
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
2 carrots, chopped  1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 long strips of orange peel
1 tablespoon dried herbes de provence
3 flat anchovy filets, chopped up
1 bay leaf
1 handful oil cured olives (we used green, but black are preferred)
3 cups chopped tomatoes
ground white pepper, to taste
  1. In your casserole over medium high heat add the olive oil to coat the bottom.Brown the veal ribs on all sides, then remove to a plate.
  2. Add the anchovies and give a quick stir. Add the white wine and let it deglaze the pan. Add the tomatoes, the bay leaf, the olives, orange peel and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Add the veal back in and the stock, stirring to mix. Cover and bring to a simmer. A simmer is not a slow boil; it’s really just some bubbles that find their way to the surface. With the cover slightly ajar cook in this way for about three hours or until the meat is meltingly tender.
  3. Remove the bay leaf and serve over noodles, rice, mashed potatoes, etc.

09 September 2012

Swedish Cinnamon Cardamom Buns: A Photo Essay

Still no home internet - we're going on month two now, so we're borrowing a friend's internet to do a little emailing, uploading, and downloading. Unfortunately that means not much time to write here - so I'll leave you with a recipe inspired by our recent trip to Stockholm.


Swedish Cinnamon Cardamom Buns

1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
50 g fresh yeast or 1 package yeast
2/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
150 grams butter (5.2 ounces, 10 tablespoons), room temperature
1 egg
5 cups flour
filling: 200 grams (7 ounces) butter, scant 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 tbl cardamom, 3/4 tbl cinnamon
1 egg for brushing over dough

1. The dough: Mix the cardamom with milk and heat until scalding. Let cool to just warm. Crumble the yeast into a bowl and pour the milk over and stir until the yeast bubbles. Mix in sugar, salt, butter and eggs. Add a little flour at a time and work until you have a smooth dough. Let rise about 50 minutes under a kitchen towel.
2. Filling: Mix butter, sugar, cardamom and cinnamon.
3. Divide the dough in half and roll out half at a time to a rectangular shape. Spread half of the dough with half the butter cream (it will be thick). Fold the long sides together and cut into 4 cm wide long rectangles. Make a lengthwise slice up the rectangle, but don't cut all the way through the top end (basically you have two "legs" connected at the top.
Spin the "legs" in opposite directions until they're very twisty. Tie the legs into a knot, as prettily as you can manage. Hide the ends under the bun.
4. Place the buns on papered sheet and let rise another 40 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 C). Brush the buns with beaten egg and bake them for about 15-18 minutes until golden brown.