Istanbul Yoghurt Treat

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There was always yoghurt, tahini and honeycomb, amongst many other things, in our hotel in Istanbul for breakfast. One morning, I had an idea to combine them, and so I did. It was delicious! I loved it, and had it with my breakfast every day while we were there.

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I am not claiming this is an authentic Istanbuli treat. I have no idea, and so I wouldn’t even try. But I do know it’s absolutely delicious. Do try it! The bitterness of tahini added interest and nuttiness to sweet honeycomb, which in turn provided an interesting texture to nibble on. All this enveloped in delicious creamy, Turkish yoghurt.

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It really makes a stunning treat. At home, I use honey, as I don’t usually have honeycomb, but it’s still delicious. Just take a bowl of yoghurt and swirl some honey and tahini over it, and there you go!

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The Cake

The cake

For many years now, this cake has accompanied every celebration in my family home. A sponge cake, one half made with ground walnuts, the other left plain, with a filling of rum, vanilla and lemon. It is only fit that it follows my third blogiversary. 🙂 I’m sure my mum would approve.

Sorry about the atrocious photos. They were taken with very little light coming from a very weak tungsten bulb, handheld.

Mum's torte

Mum’s Walnut

Cake

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SOURCE:  Mum, recipe adapted from the one she got off a family friend

PREPARATION TIME: about 1 h

COOKING TIME: about 30 min for the filling, and 1 h for baking

CUISINE: Croatian

SERVES: A crowd!

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INGREDIENTS:

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PLAIN SPONGE

6 medium eggs

6 tbsp of sugar, heaped

10 g vanilla sugar, or 1 tsp of good quality vanilla extract

6 tbsp plain flour, heaped

6.5 g baking powder

a pinch of bicarbonate soda

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WALNUT SPONGE:

6 medium eggs

6 tbsp of sugar, heaped

10 g vanilla sugar, or 1 tsp of good quality vanilla extract

7 tbsp finely ground walnuts, heaped

2 tbsp plain flour, heaped

6.5 g baking powder

a pinch of bicarbonate soda

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FILLING:

7 dl milk (full fat, or semi-skimmed)

3 tbsp corn flour, heaped

3 tbsp flour, heaped

250 g butter, at room temperature

300 g icing sugar

20 g vanilla sugar, or 2 tsp of good quality vanilla extract

Juice of 2 lemons

2 tbsp rum, or to taste

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TO DECORATE:

About 20 – 30 whole walnut halves

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METHOD:

Note: It’s a good idea to start with the filling, so it has time to cool while you prepare the sponge cake.

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I. FILLING

1. Stir in the corn flour and plain flour into the milk, until smooth, and with no lumps.

2. Put the milk to boil, stirring constantly, avoiding lumps to form. When it thickens, leave to cool. (It’s supposed to be fairly thick, barely leaving the spoon when you tap it.)

3. Meanwhile, beat the icing sugar, butter, vanilla and lemon with an electric whisk until smooth. Add rum to taste, and possibly more lemon if you like it more lemony.

4. Combine the butter and milk mixtures, and mix well together.

5. Leave to cool again. (Mum says this makes it easier to spread later on.)

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II. SPONGE

Note: both the walnut and the plain sponge are made in the same way. Ground walnuts are added at the same time as the flour.

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1. Preheat the oven to 180 C, and grease and flour a 25 cm tin, or two. Sift the flour and baking powder and bicarbonate soda together.

2. Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla into a mixing bowl, and beat with an electric whisk until the volume doubles in size, and when you lift the mixer out of the bowl, the egg mixture that drops from it traces a ribbon on its surface.

3. Add the flour to make the plain sponge, or flour and walnuts for the walnut sponge. Fold in with the mixer turned off, and then switch the mixer back on and mix briefly, until combined.

4. Pour the mixture in to the prepared baking tin, and bake until the cake is risen, and a toothpick or skewer inserted inside it come out clean. This should take about 20 – 30 min.

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Repeat the process to make the walnut sponge, using flour and walnuts in place of flour only.

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III. ASSEMBLING THE TORTE

1. When the sponge cakes have cooled, cut them both in half, and then spread the filling on top, alternating the the brown and yellow cakes. Decorate with the remaining walnut halves, and chill.

This cake gets better with keeping, and can ‘survive’ in the fridge for about 4 – 5 days, provided it’s not eaten before that!

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Notes:

Instead of walnuts, you could use almonds or hazelnuts, but we usually use walnuts. I think the original cake might have had 1 chocolate layer, 1 walnut, one hazelnut and one plain.

The cake

Photos updated 7 May 2014.

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More sweet Croatian recipes on this blog:

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Tahini and Blood Oranges Brownies on International Women’s Day

Firstly, I would like to wish you a happy International Women’s Day! I must admit I felt a sense of joy this morning, as I was exchanging text message greetings with my friends in Croatia. A feeling of sisterhood, if you like! 🙂

This day used to be widely celebrated in Croatia, in the days of communism, so yes, probably all over the former Yugoslavia. The 8 of March. Everybody knew the date, everybody knew what it was. I remember there being shows put on for mums in my primary school, and I remember shopping for presents for my mum and gifting her. One year when I was 7, I had to dress as a peacock and perform in my primary school, in front of all the mums, teachers and other kids. The costume painstakingly sown together by my mum, of course.

The fact that the day was widely celebrated doesn’t, unfortunately, mean there is no discrimination of women in my home country. Croatia is still in large parts a patriarchal society, it pains me to say. Now that we’re a Catholic country, we no longer celebrate the 8th of March. There’s Mother’s Day (in May?), but Women’s Day is not celebrated in the same way.

I remember a particular scene from Ugo Betti’s poignant play ‘Il delitto all’isola delle capre’ (‘The Crime on the Goats’ Island’) where a daughter tells her mother how perfect she thought she was, how strong, standing there proud and tall, with the sun rays in her hair. (It sounds much better in Italian, I promise, though I can’t remember the exact quote now.) And the mother responds by asking whether she ever wondered how she really felt, what she really thought, standing there, proud and tall, with the sun rays in her hair. Mothers are women, too, no? People. Humans. Not defined by this one thing only.

So happy Women’s Day! And if you’re a woman, don’t let anyone anywhere ever tell you that you are inferior to a man because you’re a woman.

Tahini brownies

As soon as I saw tahini brownies over at Joumana’s, I just had to make them! And I did, within minutes of seeing the recipe. This is probably the fastest I’ve ever made a recipe after seeing it! Seen, made, eaten, photographed. A personal record. 😀

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While photographing these brownies, I discovered that my under cupboard lights are perfect for food photography, soft and warm. It was like having a mini-studio! These were also the first food photos I shot in the fully manual mode, so a little milestone for me! Previously, I used aperture priority control, but this is much better! That’s my red splash back that you can see in the background in the photo below.

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And what were they like? Perfect! Fudgy and crumbly, with a haunting nutty sesame flavour. The recipe calls for orange juice, and I used the juice of blood oranges, which have an ever-so slightly bitter, berry like flavour, less acidic than regular oranges. It worked a treat, and the end result had a fairly complex, bewitching flavour and gorgeously soft and fudgy texture. And did you know they are vegan?!

 

Tahini & Blood Orange Brownies

 

SOURCE: Maryline via Joumana

PREPARATION TIME: about 10 – 15 min

COOKING TIME: 20 min

CUISINE: Unknown

SERVES: 6 – 8

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 100 g of good quality dark chocolate, preferably 70% cocoa
  • 150 g of tahini (don’t forget to stir the jar before pouring)
  • 150 g of plain flour
  • 1 heaped tsp of baking powder
  • 120 – 150 g of icing sugar (150 makes it fairly sweet, it’s up to you!)
  • 150 g of freshly squeezed juice of blood oranges, around 3 medium but juicy oranges. (Joumana says you can also use a combination of rum and orange juice)
  • Pinch of salt (optional, but I like adding it to cakes)
  • Baking parchment for lining the tin (Joumana recommends it, and I agree. The brownies are very sticky!)

 

METHOD:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 C, cut the baking parchment to fit your tin. I used a round, 25 cm tin.
  2. Break the chocolate into small, even pieces and put it in a large pyrex bow. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, or over a bowl  of hot water. Either way, use low heat.
  3. Mix in the tahini and orange juice, add the icing sugar, and combine thoroughly.
  4. Sift in the flour and baking powder over the mixture and fold thoroughly.
  5. Line your baking tin with parchment, and pour the batter, spreading it as evenly as possible with a spatula. Bake the brownies for 20 min. Serve warm or cold, and enjoy!

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NOTES: They are gorgeous! Possibly even better than my previous Spedilicious Brownies!

Next time, I’ll use less sugar, as 150 g was a bit too sweet for me. Also, I’ll try using different nut butters. Almond springs to mind! Hey, we can even try using white chocolate instead! How about white chocolate, almond butter and lemon juice (diluted with water), with pistachios? The creative possibilities are endless!

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I know there’s not much difference between the these two photos, but I just couldn’t decide which one I prefer. What you think?

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Melting Chocolate Puddings with Cherry Brandy

 

I’d like to share with you one of my favourite chocolate desserts of all time: a soft chocolate pudding with a warm and melting chocolate centre that oozes out as you put a spoon through it. It’s warm, it’s gooey, and incredibly chocolatey. In short, all that a good, nay perfect, chocolate dessert must be! (At least for me, of course.) When this is paired with some boozy cherry, life can only get better. Serve with some chilled single cream and enjoy!

Not only is this dessert wonderful in itself, but it also works well as a basis for other flavourings. This time I added the cherry brandy that my mum brought over from Croatia. You can add any brandy or liquor that you think would go well with chocolate. Cinnamon would also work, and I’ve been meaning to add cardamom powder, too.

I find I need to two things to get the melting effect. 1) Take it out of the oven earlier than what Delia says. This for me is after 10 min, she says 12. I have a Siemens fan oven, and did use 200C. 2) Don’t let it stand around for too long after baking because it continues cooking in the middle.

You may find that your oven works differently. Basically, if you don’t get the melting effect, try and reduce your baking time, e.g. try baking it in 9 or 10 min. You’ll just get more gooey stuff (which I personally love)! If you find it too goey, give it another minute or two in the oven.  Practice. All that can happen is that you get a tasty chocolate cake instead of the melting pudding, so no loss either way!

One other thing. It’s worth mentioning that these little dark beauties freeze well, so you can whip up some in advance and cook them after you serve your main course. Dinner party perfection!

 Melting Chocolate pudding

Melting Chocolate Puddings with

Cherry Brandy and Cream

 

SOURCE:  Galton Blackiston at Morston Hall Hotel in Norfolk, via Delia Smith. I got the recipe from her How to Cook Book Two, and adapted it.

PREPARATION TIME: about 10 – 20 min

COOKING TIME: 10 min

CUISINE: British

SERVES: 4

INGREDIENTS:

100 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces

100 g butter, diced

2 tbsp cherry brandy

55 g caster sugar

2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

30 g plain flour

Single cream, to serve

 

EQUIPMENT NOTE:  You will also need 4 mini pudding basins or ramekins, each with a capacity of 6 fl oz (175 ml), generously brushed with melted butter.

METHOD:

1. Melt the chocolate, either in the microwave or by placing it in a large heatproof bowl, which should be sitting over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. I put it on for 1 min 30 s on 360 W, then another min, after which I added the butter and cherry brandy, and gave it another 1 min 30 s. Anyway you do it, it’s important to allow the chocolate and butter to melt slowly. When it’s done, give it a good stir until it’s smooth and glossy.

2. In the meanwhile, place the sugar, whole eggs, yolks and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl (“place it on a tea towel to steady it,” says Delia, but I find I don’t need to), then whisk on a high speed with an electric hand whisk until the mixture has doubled in volume and became paler  – this will take between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the power of your whisk. What you need to end up with is a thick, mousse-like mixture that, when you stop the motor and lift the whisk, leaves a trail like a piece of ribbon.

3. Now pour the chocolate mixture around the edge of the bowl (“it’s easier to fold it in from the edges”, says Delia) and then sift the flour over the mixture. Using a large metal spoon, carefully but thoroughly fold everything together. Again, Delia says: “Patience is needed here; don’t be tempted to hurry it, as careful folding and cutting movements are needed, and this will take 3-4 minutes.”

4. Now divide the mixture between the pudding basins or ramekins, filling them just below the top, and place them on a baking tray. The puddings can be made in advance, in which case you can cover them with clingfilm and keep in the fridge or freezer until you need them ( I often do this, as I find they freeze well).

5. When you’re ready to bake the puddings, pre-heat the oven to 200°C (gas mark 6, 400°F). Bake the puddings on the centre shelf of the oven for 13 minutes if they have been chilled first, but only 10 if not. After that time the puddings should have risen and feel slightly firm to the touch, although the insides will still be melting. (Delia gives her puddings 12 minutes, but I find 10 or 11 works well for me.) Remember they keep on cooking in their own heat, and the heat of the container, so don’t let them stand around too much otherwise you’ll loose all the gooey goodness which makes them so special. (Yes, I learnt the hard way.) If you’re cooking these puddings from frozen, give them about 15 minutes’ cooking time and allow them to stand for 2 minutes before turning out.

6. You can serve the puddings in the ramekins if that’s what you used, or invert them onto the plate. If you’re doing the latter, leave to stand for 1 minute before sliding a palette knife around each pudding and turning out on to individual serving plates. Serve absolutely immediately, with some chilled single cream to pour over. Enjoy!

 

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