Monday, December 21, 2009

New one in the house!

This year Christmas came early for me. Our old coffee machine has been on strike for longer period of time, so we decided instead of having it repaired (again!) to go for new one. Frankly, decision has been made long time ago, we knew we wanted Kitchen Aid - sturdy and beautiful piece of appliance. Only price tag was putting us off, but I've done a bit of research on Internet and eventually found good e-shop with better price. So finally, we've got it!

This is the first ever espresso made in new coffe mashine and the first cappucino. Not bad for the first time, is it?

With nice cup of coffee it feels like home...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent time - apple gingerbread cake

Last Sunday in November was the first Advent Sunday. The weather was so unbelievably awful - rain and strong winds, floods in many parts of the country. I planned to go to woods to find some nice twigs, pine cones and dried berries in the morning. Instead I stayed at home until afternoon, only stepped outside the house to chop ivy, holly, lavender and some greens in our garden. Anyway, I managed to create nice enough advent wreath and light the first candle.

And with Christmas spirit in the air I made Apple gingerbread cake. Lovely smell of Christmas spices filled the house to get me in the right mood.

Apple gingerbread cake
300g self rising flour
2 eggs
225g light brown caster sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp ground mix spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamon)
80g butter
300g grated apples
In the bowl cream sugar, butter and eggs, add flour with cocoa and spices, then fold apples in. Transfer into a tin lined with baking paper and bake in preheated oven for 175 degrees for about 30-40 minutes.
Let it cool for a while and finish of with chocolate icing - place heatproof bowl over the pan with simmering water. In the bowl melt 100g chocolate with 40ml cream and stir. Spread evenly over cake and cut into squares.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Green jam

I know it is December, Christmas is coming and there should be some gingerbread recipe published now. Well, maybe next time. Today I am finally going to post my not so green jam made from green fruit.

Last year my brother gave me nice present from his holiday in France - green tomato, apple and orange jam made in one of the manor houses where he stayed. We had lots of green tomatoes from our garden - well, we did not have any greenhouse and Irish summer 2008 wasn't great. So inspired by the gift I made my own version of it and it turned out very well.
This year having greenhouse we actually had some red and yellow tomatoes, but still, some of them didn't have a time to ripe, so again the same question came up: what to do with them? I remembered this jam and the one we tasted in France - apple and kiwi. So I decided to try a combination: green tomato, apple and kiwi jam.
All the fruit was so beautifully green... Green is my favorite color, and that must be a reason why I like this green island so much...

Here is the easy recipe:
Chop 0.5kg of green tomatoes, 0.5kg of peeled and cored Bramley apples and 0.5kg peeled kiwis. Put them into a big pot together with 1kg of caster sugar and juice of one lemon and bring it to boil. Then let it simmer for good while. For testing if your jam is ready put one spoon of jam onto cold plate and run your finger through. If gap stays there and doesn't close, jam is ready.
Pour it into sterilised jars and screw the tops. Turn it upside down for few minutes just to seal. You can turn it back after short while.

Enjoy with nice bread or scone and cup of tea. And save some for later.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Northen Irish Delights

During October bank holiday weekend my mum came to see me. Weather wasn't so bad considering the time of year, so we decided to go for little trip up to the North. A bit of shopping, walking down the beaches (well, windy enough) and we ended up in lovely B&B in 200 years old building and dining pub right next to it. Mum ordered mussels (she never tried them before), but with strong doubts in her voice asked me: "Can we have something NORMAL as well - in case I don't like mussels?" Fish and chips with mushy peas was consider to be normal. Food was very, very nice, not quite like these pictures - flash doesn't do any good to food photos.

Next morning after tasty freshly cooked breakfast and more walking on beaches we went to Mount Steward Garden. The house was closed on Monday, but gardens (and cafe) were simply delightful. All the mature trees were showing off with colors - many shades of yellow, orange and bright red accompanied usual 40 shades of green. This is definitely the type of garden to visit in autumn. Unbelievable number of hydrangeas added to visual impact.

I believe this flower bed is usually planted with red flowering plants to form Red Right Hand - symbol of Ulster. And Harp cut out of hedge was good looking, too.

Some food goodies in the end - jams made by owner of B&B.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Linzer Torte

Some 2 years ago friend gave me interesting book Ein kulinarisches Rendezvous mit Baden -recipes and stories from the part of Germany where he lives. My German is very limited - consists of basic phrases and food vocabulary. This alows me to understand the list of ingrediences and some parts of method.
It is a bit odd to find Linzer Torte (Linz is Austrian city) in local German book, but this particular recipe works really well comparing to those I used before.

300g plain flour
250g sugar
150g grated hazelnuts (or almonds)
zest from 1 lemon
1 tsp grated cinnamon
200g cold butter
1 egg
good quality raspberry jam (of redcurrant jelly)
1 egg yolk for glazing

Put flour, hazelnuts, lemon zest, sugar and cinnamon into a bowl and stir. Add cold butter cut into cubes. Mix with your hand quickly until it resembles coarse crumbles, then add an egg and mix. Form the ball and leave it rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
Divide the ball into 2 parts. Roll the bigger part and place it in cake form - either round or oblong. Spread generous layer of jam over the pastry. Roll the smaller part, cut long stripes of pastry and arrange them on jam layer. Brush the pastry with egg yolk. Bake in preheated oven at 175 degrees for about one hour.
Here it is - and my recommendation: cut out a bit thinner stripes :-)

It tastes even better after 2 or 3 days and keeps very well in airtight container.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blackberry muffins

Here it is - real autumn. Last week we even experienced some grass frost, so I decided to move chillies from the greenhouse into the house. Tomatoes are doing better on windowsill and the only vegetable left in the garden is carrots, kale, broccoli and some lettuce in polytunnel.
On my way to Emo Court two weeks ago I tasted some blackberries in hedges and was pleasantly surprised with lovely real taste. So on Saturday I took plastic box with me for cycling and got home with my fingers black and sticky and box almost full of nice blackberries.

Off course, the first thing which came to my mind was blackberry muffin. I used slightly adapted recipe from my Kitchen Aid Mixer Cookbook.
200g blackberries
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
175g caster sugar
2 eggs
175ml thin yogurt (buttermilk or milk can be used)
115g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla essence
Put the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into the bowl. Make a well in the centre and add eggs, yogurt, melted butter and vanilla essence. Beat everything together being careful not to overmix. Gently fold in blackberries and spoon the mixture into prepared muffin tins. Bake in preheated oven to 190 C for 25 to 30 minutes until golden. Leave to cool on wire rack.

They are delicious of their own, but I quickly whipped simple cream cheese frosting:

50g mascarpone

70g cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla essence

5-7 tbsp vanilla sugar - according to taste (homemade is so easy - just pop vanilla beans into the jar of icing sugar and leave it for couple of weeks)

Have a bite of real autumn stuff!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Holiday eating highlights

When on holidays, one of the most important things for me is always food. I try to sample something new and indulge myself. Luckily, people around me are somehow the same. So when our friends came over from Australia, they were brave enough to sample Slovak nation meal "halusky s bryndzou" - gnocchi with special unpasteurized sheep cheese topped with bacon. Some people might find sheep cheese too strong, but it didn't bother Reedik who liked it!

Farmers market is one of my favourite things ever. Seeing all the fresh produce and homemade goodies just fulfills me with joy. This particular one not far from Bratislava city center used to be my local one - I lived just 10 minutes walk from there and often stock up my larder there. This time I saw some pickles that I have never seen before...

Popular outdoor Hungarian snack Langos - almost bread like dough fried and topped with garlic sauce, sour cream and grated cheese. Not really suitable for dinner party, but oh so tasty...

As it was September - the middle of harvesting season - we helped my father-in-law harvest grapes from his vineyard. Grapes were then pressed and left to rest before separating juices from fruit.

This suspiciously looking liquid is freshly pressed red grapes juice. Looks awful, taste divine... And in couple of month it will turn into wine. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Indian summer Sunday lunch

We had a lovely glimpse of Indian summer during last weekend. After chilly night and foggy morning sunny day followed.
I went cycling to Emo Court - my usual 14 km route - on both Saturday and Sunday and did a fair bit of gardening on Saturday. Come Sunday midday and I was so, so tired that wanted nothing more than nice, uncomplicated seasonal meal in the garden followed by fruity dessert.
Even cat was so hot that he slept inside - true Irish cat though, can't stand a bit of hot weather.

Lunch preparation was the easiest thing: I just threw most of our homegrown vegetables - such as potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes, red onions into baking dish, tossed in olive oil, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper and baked it in the oven for about 40 minutes. Served with pan-fried salmon steak.

Earlier in week I bought some nectarines which did not look exactly pretty by now. But there was nothing wrong with the taste, so I turned them into simple tiramisu-inspired pudding.
I put pieces of ladyfingers to the bottom of glass, added stewed nectarines (stew them with a bit of sugar and splash of amaretto) and topped with mascarpone cream (whipped cream with mascarpone, sugar and amaretto). Delicious!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Risotto with courgettes, parmesan and basil

Summer is definitely over. It rains even more often (as if it was possible) and the soil in our garden has gone all soggy. But luckily enough, my courgettes continue to provide me with beautiful produce. For past few weeks I have been enjoying creating different meals with lovely zucchini and anything else I could find in my garden - herbs, chillies, broccoli, fresh peas, runner beans, potatoes, onions and even tomatoes.

One of my favourite dishes is risotto - perfect comfort food for rainy evening. Nice and creamy, with a hint of interesting flavours. Basic risotto recipe is easy to follow and by adding one or two different ingredients you can create lots of tasty meals. Here is one I had yesterday:

Risotto with courgettes, Parmesan and basil

1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
150 g risotto rise
1 small glass of white wine
500 ml hot vegetable stock
2-3 courgettes, grated (if very small, sliced)
handful of grated Parmesan
basil leaves (purple basil looks particularly pretty)

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan. Add chopped onion and garlic and let sweat. When onion is soft, but not coloured, add rise and stir. When rise is all well coated with oil, add wine and let alcohol evaporate.
Then ladle vegetable stock, stirring continuously. Only add more stock when the liquid has been absorbed. Halfway through add courgettes. You may want to squeeze some water out of them before adding, but it is not necessary as the moisture will be absorbed by rice.
When the rice is cooked, season to taste with freshly grated pepper and salt and add half of Parmesan and half of basil.
Spoon to bowls and garnish with remaining Parmesan and basil.
Serves 2.

Welcome to Midlands Kitchen

I was wondering if world really needs another food blog with about one million others already out there. But I can't help it - there might be at least one reader who finds it interesting or tries the recipe. I will be happy to share with you my passion for food. like to eat, bake, cook, grow my own food, travel in search of good food, even buy food.

With my mixed background (Slovak, Hungarian, distant Russian), relatives and friends all over Europe and love of travelling I have plenty of inspiration for cooking and eating.

So welcome to my kitchen in small Midlands town in Ireland where I live with my husband and cat. This is going to be not just recipes, but also kitchen garden, self-indulgence, easy living and traveling. All aiming to one thing - THIS-IS-GOOD-FOR-ME state of mind.