MY COOKBOOK

MY COOKBOOK
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14.12.17

RUM AND RAISIN LOAF

Jim has been eating rum and raisins under less than stellar circumstances. I couldn’t convince him to let me dump them. So when he saw there was a bowl of raisins on the counter he rightfully said “not another one!” How many of us looked at the promise of a recipe only to be disappointed? I keep marveling at the egg stingy loaves and cakes people insist on, but whatever! After several tries of promising delectable rum and raisin loaves I was beginning to think I lost my edge. So I reformulated one of my own recipes for rum and raisins. For sure we are rum and raisined out for now, but this one is a worthy addition to my loaf recipes.

And speaking of eggs… If you have time try to remember to set out the eggs on the counter along with the butter, because room temperature eggs beat up much fluffier than straight out of the fridge. The time that takes draining the plumped up raisins certainly helps. And one more thing! If you set aside 1/4 cup of sugar [from the recipe] for beating up the egg whites you can make a meringue which will be loftier than simply beating the egg whites into hard peaks. These small details will make your cakes’ texture that much lighter and more enjoyable.

Rum and Raisin Loaf

1 cup raisins
1-3/4 cups + 3 Tbsp flour 
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup rum
1/4 cup plain Greek yoghurt

Glaze: 
1 cup icing sugar 
3-4 Tbsp rum

  • Plum the raisins first. Place them in a small bowl, pour on 1 cup of boiling water and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain for an hour.
  • Meanwhile set out the remaining ingredients, starting with the eggs.
  • Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
  • When the raisins are fully drained and the eggs and the butter are at room temperature, preheat the oven to 375F. 
  • Whisk the flour, cornstarch and the baking soda together and set aside.
  • In a large bowl beat the egg whites, very slowly adding 1/4 cup of sugar and beating until stiff peaks form. Set it aside.
  • Cream the butter with 3/4 cups sugar.
  • Gradually add the egg yolks beating until fluffy. 
  • Reduce the speed and gradually add the flour mixture alternately with the yoghurt and the rum.
  • With a wooden spoon fold in the drained raisins.
  • Finally, fold in the egg whites being mindful not to crush it.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the inserted cake tester comes out clean. 
  • Let the cake cool in a pan over a wire rack. 
  • For the glaze, whisk together the ingredients to the desired consistency. 
  • Spread the glaze over the cooled cake. 

6.12.17

ESZTERHAZY TORTE - ESZTERHÁZY TORTA

I am going to criticize a national treasure. Don't get me wrong, it worked out just as it should. But as far as culinary indulgences go, I rate it... maybe a four? It makes sense why there are so many versions of it. I would make the Almond Custard Cream again for a buttery cake. For the almond dacquoise, I would add toasted nuts and candied fruits and bake it as a confection. Perhaps I could try a deconstruction... Though I will not make the torte again. A thin slice is nice. But truly worthy things you would want to repeat. And just because the Eszterházy Torte has an ostentatious history and requires skill to create, don't make it a great torte. To read about the Eszterházys and the history behind the torte, scroll down to the end of the recipe.*

Here is a chef preparing his interpretation of the Eszterházy Torte.

Eszterhazy Torte

Almond Dacquoise Layers:
10 egg whites
1-1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups whole unpeeled almonds

Almond Custard Cream:
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean
1-3/8 cups unsalted butter, soft
1/2 cup unpeeled almonds
1/8 cup rum

Decoration:
1/2 cup shaved almonds

Top:
6 oz good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream  

1/8 cup pure dark chocolate, finely chopped


  • Prepare everything you will require on the first day.
  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Next grind 2-1/2 cups of whole unpeeled almonds. Do not think of using almond meal.
  • Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
  • Spread the ground almonds around and roast them for 6 minutes in the preheated oven.
  • Remove the baking tray, turn over the almonds and bake for 5-6 minutes longer.
  • Remove and grind the toasted almonds once more. The second grinding will ensure a uniform texture, but not quite as fine as almond meal.
  • The bulk of the almonds will be used for the dacquoise.  However set aside 1/2 cup for the Almond Custard Cream. Let all the ground almonds cool to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile prepare the Almond Custard Cream.
  • Beat the egg yolks and the sugar until very creamy.
  • Place the milk in a saucepan and scrape the vanilla beans on top.
  • Place on medium heat and bring to almost a boil, but don’t let it boil.
  • Stir a ladleful of hot milk into the beaten egg yolks to temper it.
  • Scoop the egg mixture into the hot milk and stirring continually cook it until the mixture is 85C or 185F, [don’t mix it up].
  • Remove the custard from the heat, transfer to a mixing bowl and place it in the fridge to cool.
  • Next you bake the dacquoise layers.
  • If you have 2 oven racks, select various baking trays and pans that will accommodate 5 seven inch cake layers. If you only have one oven rack, you will have to assemble and bake the dacquoise layers in two batches.
  • Line the bottoms of the baking trays with parchment paper.
  • Draw five 7 inch circles on the parchment and with the pencil. Place the marked parchment papers back in the baking trays with the markings facing downward.
  • Spray the circles with flavourless cooking spray or with butter and set aside.
  • Next beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
  • Gradually add the sugar and the flour and beat until stiff peaks form.
  • With a wooden spoon gently stir in 2 cups from the ground toasted almonds.
  • Divide the dacquoise batter between the 5 circles, spreading it all the way to the markings.
  • Place in the preheated oven and bake at 350F for 6 minutes.
  • Move the baking pans from the top to the bottom and from the bottom to the top and bake for 6 more minutes.
  • Remove the pans from the oven.
  • Immediately trim the dacquoise layers cutting with a 7 inch cake ring, much like you would use a cookie cutter, or cutting around a 7 inch circular object. 
  • By now the custard has cooled down enough to complete the Almond Custard Cream.
  • Transfer the custard to the bowl of a standing beater.
  • Set the speed to medium and beat the custard, gradually adding the butter and beating until fluffy.
  • Add the remaining 1/2 cup of ground almonds and beat to combine.
  • Finally beat in the rum.
  • [You can fill the dacquoise layers inside a 7 inch cake ring or placed on a suitable plate, though the latter will be more difficult. The beauty of the cake ring is the dacquoise layers will shrink and the cream will be forced out to the space between the ring and the dacquoise layers thus evenly icing the sides of the cake.]
  • Divide the cream in four parts and spread it between 4 dacquoise layers, leaving the top layer bare.
  • Wrap the whole thing and place in the fridge for the night.
  • The following day remove the torte from the fridge and cut around the edge of the cake ring.
  • Lift off the cake ring.
  • In a nonstick fry pan toast the flaked almonds lightly. Let them cool down before using.
  • While the almond cool, the cream on the side of the tort will warm up a bit allowing the almond flakes to adhere.
  • To prepare the white chocolate ganache for the top, pour the heavy cream into a saucepan over medium heat and heat it until just boiling.
  • Remove from heat and add the chopped white chocolate.
  • Stir to blend.
  • Let cool for 15 minutes.
  • Pour on top of cake.
  • In a small bowl lightly melt the dark chocolate in the microwave. Some chocolate bits should remain.
  • Remove and stir until smooth.
  • Pour into a small zyploc bag.
  • Close the bag and push the chocolate toward one corner of the bag.
  • Clip the end and pipe strips of chocolate on the top.
  • With a sharp knife, score across the piped strips at intervals.
  • Change direction and repeat.
  • Cut thin slices, the cake is very rich. Best on the same day. 
*Many disparate claims have been made about the "true Eszterházy Torte", both by Hungarians and Austrians, but for one reason or another none are exactly like the original. One of the most common deviations is the use of walnuts instead of almonds. Joining all those who made the departure from the authentic Eszterházy, not being a fan of fondant and overly sweet things myself… I too went against the count’s vision… replacing the fondant with white chocolate ganache..

Eszterházy was an aristocratic Magyar family that produced scores of diplomats, army officers, and patrons of the arts. By the 18th century the Esterházys were the largest landowners in Hungary with a private fortune excelling their Habsburg emperors. The family continued to hold important governmental, ecclesiastical, diplomatic, and military positions well into the 20th century. The Esterházys were fierce patrons of the arts, the composer Joseph Haydn lived with them. The seat of power was in Kismarton, presently in Eisenstaedt, Austria. This wasn’t the only fabulous castle the family kept in Hungary. Just how far the Eszterházy influence reached, there is a town in Saskatchewan bearing the name of its founder Count Paul Otto Esterhazy. He must have been an illegitimate or renegade member of the family. His claim to nobility never received official recognition, though he possessed both the talent and the means to establish a thriving Hungarian farming colony in Canada.

One of the Esterházys was Paul, a gastronomer with a score of chefs and kitchen aids at his disposal. The two dishes attributed to him are the Eszterházy Steak and the Torte. The most controversial of course is the torte. According to the Eszterházy letters in Eisenstaedt, the Eszterházy Torte had five layers of almond meringue filled with a combination of vanilla bean infused custard, sweet butter and rum and then finished with poured fondant and thinly piped chocolate design on top. I would think you couldn’t possibly have a more authentic source than what remains in the Eszterházy archives. 

2.12.17

TRADITIONAL FRIED CHICKEN – HAGYOMÁNYOS RÁNTOTT CSIRKE

Grandma went to the Garai and bought home two struggling chickens. Their neck was cut and we had fried chicken for dinner. It was delicious.

Nowadays I have to look for happy chickens that ran freely and grew up without growth hormones and antibiotics. Most supermarket chickens come from factory farms and make poor friers. Check out Deboned Breaded Chicken. Numerous recipes advise soaking the chicken in ice water. It’s a bad idea. The meat will constrict and will be tough. Brining tenderizes the meat, cuts down on cooking time and makes the meat succulent. But it will not stop underdeveloped bones from bleeding. Brine if you like; just make sure the meat is brought to room temperature before cooking.

Traditional Fried Chicken 

organic, free range chicken breasts and legs with the bone in
oil for frying

Breading:
1-1/2 cups flour
2 eggs, well beaten with a fork
2 cups breadcrumbs

  • Cut both halves of the breast meat into three parts.
  • Divide the legs at the joint.
  • Remove all the skin and all the fatty bits.
  • Rinse the meat and pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Sprinkle with salt and set aside on the counter for 2-3 hours. Don’t chill.
  • For breading set out 3 plates, one with flour, one with beaten eggs, and one with fine breadcrumbs.
  • Roll one piece of chicken into the flour coating well.
  • Next, dip it into the well beaten eggs, coating well.
  • Finally, roll it in the breadcrumbs.
  • Press the crumbs onto the chicken to assure even coverage.
  • Repeat until every piece of chicken is coated with the breading.
  • Place 2-3 inches of oil in a heavy fry pan.
  • Heat up the oil slowly over medium heat. Wait it out, be patient, but don’t leave the heating oil unattended. The girls and I once danced our way to a kitchen fire. Long story.
  • When the oil is ready slide in one piece of chicken. It should start frying immediately.
  • From here on strive to maintain a steady frying temperature. If the oil is too hot, the crust will burn and the meat will remain uncooked. If the oil is not hot enough, the chicken will soak up the oil instead of frying. So the challenge is to get the oil to the right temperature and maintain it in an even, steady pace.
  • Wait a little before adding the next piece.
  • Leave lots of room for turning and not touching. It isn’t a time saver if you crowd the pan. A crowded pan in fact takes longer to fry.
  • Use two forks to flip over the meat. Avoid piercing it. At this stage the breading is too fragile for the kitchen thongs.
  • Never put a lid over frying chicken, it makes the breading soggy. Maintaining a steady heat fry up all of the pieces to golden brown.
  • By the time chicken fries to uniform golden brown crispness, it is done.
  • Transfer the pieces to a wire rack to drain. Don’t put hot breaded chicken on paper towels; this makes the breading soggy.  
  • Serve it immediately.
  • Reheating alters the flavour. Do not reheat. But do enjoy it cold, it will be delicious.


30.11.17

RUM CHERRY SLICE – RUMOS CSERESZNYE KOCKA

Remember those rum cherries you put away during cherry season? Of course you do. The jars have been taking up space in the fridge ever since. Maybe half a jar is gone, rum cherry in drink, rum cherry popped in the mouth while contemplating the Universe… there they are, still waiting. Tomorrow is December and party season is starting.

RUM CHERRY TIME!  

Should you have been less forward looking, you could drain and soak canned cherries in rum or in brandy for a couple of days or simply forget about the boozy deliciousness. Sure you can do that. Meanwhile my love and I are kicking off the season with several rum cherry recipes. Yes, more to come. Santa better hurry, soon there will be no rum cherry left.  Except DON’T EAT AND DRIVE!

I used an 11x16 inch baking tray which I think is the largest you can use. A 9x13 inch pan will work too. The layers will be thicker, the slices smaller...

Rum Cherry Slice

Pastry:
1/3 cup + 3 Tbsp butter, soft
2/3 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour

Filling:
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp butter
1-1/2 cups drained rum cherries

Meringue:
5 egg whites
1-1/2 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch

  • Preheat the oven 350F.
  • Make the filling next.
  • Drain the rum cherries, but keep the juice; it makes a pleasant little liquor.
  • To cook the filling, place the sugar, cornstarch and the water in a large pan and on medium heat bring to the boil.
  • Cook for 2 minutes until its thick.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and the lemon juice. Stir.
  • Add the drained rum cherries, stir and set aside to cool.
  • To make the pastry layer, set the standing beater to high speed and cream the soft butter and the sugar until fluffy.
  • Gradually add the egg yolks, beating after each addition.
  • Add the salt and the baking powder.
  • Reduce the speed and add the flour, half a cup at a time until coarse dough forms.
  • Cut the parchment paper to fit the baking tray and lay it on the counter.
  • Press the dough onto the parchment.
  • Roll the dough edge to edge, patching the corners until the dough covers the entire area.
  • Transfer the parchment with the dough attached to it to the baking tray.
  • Poke it all over with a fork and place in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the pastry from the oven and set aside.
  • Reduce the oven setting to 250F.
  • To make the meringue, place a pot with water on the stove and set a large mixing bowl on top. Make sure the water level is lower than the bottom of the pot.
  • Remove the bowl and bring the water to the boil.
  • Meanwhile beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
  • Lower the speed and gradually add the icing sugar and the cornstarch and beat until stiff peaks form.
  • Transfer the beaten egg whites to the large mixing bowl and place it over the boiling water.
  • Using a large balloon whisk or a handheld beater; continually beat the egg whites for 8 minutes.
  • Spread the meringue evenly over the cherry layer and return to the oven for 25 minutes longer.
  • Remove from the oven and let everything come to room temperature.
  • To slice, take the tray next to the sink and run hot water over a large knife before each and every cut.

28.11.17

DEBONED BREADED CHICKEN – KICSONTOZOTT RÁNTOTT CSIRKE

For Hungarian fried chicken, the holy order of breading is: flour, eggs and breadcrumbs. You remove the fat and the skins. If you don’t want a bloody chicken it is best to remove the bones. Most of the chicken sold today has underdeveloped bone structure. As you heat the meat the blood is released. The blood may pool at the joints or bleed onto the plate. You may have the money for a “happy chicken” but there is no guarantee the bird you brought home had a fit life roaming the countryside scratching for worms on the run from the rooster’s intentions. The organic industry is unreliable to say the least. Your free range bird may spent only two weeks in a tiny enclosure before the slaughterhouse. It may be a bit less stressed as a result, but a happy life… it did not have. Then again, if quickly processed and insufficiently bled it too can end up bleeding on your plate like the rest. However if you are certain you brought home the perfect organically grown free range chicken, go ahead and prepare it with the bone in as we used to before the factory farms.  

Deboned Breaded Chicken:

2 half chicken breast and two legs, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups flour
2 eggs, well beaten
2 cups breadcrumbs
oil for frying

  • If you start with a whole chicken cut it up first.
  • From here on you will prepare only the breast and the leg meat for breading and frying.
  • Separate the thighs from the drumsticks.
  • Remove the fat and the skin and debone each of the leg pieces. 
  • Remove the skin from the breast pieces.
  • Cut the meat away from the attached breastbone.
  • Trim the fat and chop the two half breasts in six pieces. This way they will correspond to the size of the leg pieces.
  • Wash and pat dry with paper towel.
  • Lightly salt each piece of chicken on both sides.
  • Cover and set them aside for a couple of hours. Do not refrigerate.
  • Do not discard the bones, skin, back pieces or the wings. These will make delicious chicken stock. If you can’t use them right of way it is perfectly safe to refreeze the meat scraps to use later.
  • Set out 3 plates, one each: flour, well beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs.
  • First, roll the chicken through the plate of flour.
  • Next, dip each piece into the well beaten eggs.
  • Finally, roll the pieces into the breadcrumbs.
  • Press the crumbs onto the chicken to assure full coverage.
  • In a large heavy fry pan add 2 inches of oil for frying.
  • Heat the oil slowly to medium heat.
  • When the oil is ready to fry, slide in a piece of chicken.
  • Wait a little before adding the next one.
  • Depending on the size of the pot, fry 2 or 3 chicken pieces at a time.
  • Leave lots of room for each piece for turning and not touching.
  • Turn with a pair of kitchen thongs. Do not pierce with a fork.
  • Maintaining a steady heat fry the chicken pieces to golden brown.
  • Drain on paper towel and serve immediately.

27.11.17

ZUCCHINI FRITTERS

Zucchini fritters can serve in place of meat for dinner or with a dipping sauce for snack. The majority of zucchini fritter recipes suggest grating the zucchini and squeezing out the juices. This is perfectly unnecessary and in my mind ruins the delicate texture of zucchini fritters, making them heavy and doughy. Jim was rather taken by how delicious these turned out to be.




Zucchini Fritters

1 small zucchini
1/8 cup diced red onion
1 egg
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
oil for frying

  • Trim the ends and coarsely chop the zucchini. Don’t grate it.
  • Dice the red onion.
  • Place the chopped zuccihini in a bowl with the diced onion, egg, flour and the seasoning.
  • Mix to combine. The consistency should be sloppy and wet.
  • Heat up a nonstick fry pan on medium heat.
  • Add just enough oil to coat the pan with about a quarter inch of oil.
  • Scoop up a heaping tablespoon of the zucchini mixture and drop it into the oil. Leave room to flip over, do not crowd the pan.
  • Once the first few are flipped over, you may add a couple of more fritters to the pan.
  • Fry the fritters to golden crispness and serve immediately.

26.11.17

SOY SAUCE MARINATED PORK STRIPS

Remarkably short time is required to marinate the pork strips in your favorite soya sauce and the result is a tasty melt in the mouth tender dish. I used red onions soaked in ice water that was left over from making the salad, but it would be also great with green onions or with steamed broccoli florets. Cut the pork across the grain into paper thin strips and marinate them for 15 minutes. Great with rice or Chinese noodles!    



Soy Sauce Marinated Pork Strips

2 partially frozen boneless pork chops

Sauce:
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 cloves garlic

3-4 thin slices of red onion
OR 4 green onions
OR broccoli florets for four servings
3 Tbsp oil

  • Trim the fat from the pork chops.
  • With your sharpest knife slice the chops paper thin across the grain.
  • Slice the garlic very thin.
  • Prepare the sauce next.
  • In a bowl combine the soy sauce, sugar and the corn starch.
  • Add the garlic slices and the pork strips.
  • Give it a good stir and let the strips marinate for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile cut paper thin slices of red onion. Separate into rings and place them in ice water for 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes drain the onion rings and place them on paper towels to dry.
  • If using green onions, simply slice into the green part and set them aside.
  • Or steam the broccoli florets and set them aside.
  • Place a non stick fry pan on medium heat.
  • When the pan is heated through add the oil and then the pork strips.
  • Sauté the pork strips for five minutes stirring.
  • Add the red onions to the pan and give it a stir and remove from the heat.
  • Transfer the strips with the onions to a heated serving bowl and serve.
  • If green onions or freshly steamed broccoli florets are used, don’t stir them into the strips; Simply add them to the serving bowl.


25.11.17

PURPLE CABBAGE SALAD


From mid summer on I am well supplied with purple cabbage. PURPLE. So far I resisted calling purple cabbage red. I gave in with the red onions even though they are purple too. Whoever named them must have been colour blind.  

I still have two purple cabbages from summer. It’s a remarkably hardy vegetable. I would only use a few slices in a mixed salad without pre treating it. On its own soaking it in ice water for 10 minutes is the best way to tame it without destroying its crispiness. If freshly cracked walnuts are not handy, omit them. Shelled walnuts from the store are seldom fresh. Cracking a few walnuts is not a huge chore though. There are many types of walnut crackers, some are better than others, but for the amount needed here all you really need is a woodblock and a hammer.  

Purple Cabbage Salad

1 wedge of a purple cabbage
1/4 of a small red onion
salt to taste
10-15 freshly cracked walnuts
1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • Slice a small wedge of purple cabbage extremely thin. You need much less than you think.
  • Slice part of a red onion into very thin rings. Almost transparent.
  • Place the cabbage and the onion ring in a bowl of ice water for ten minutes.
  • Drain well and transfer to a serving bowl.
  • Sprinkle with salt and with clean hands give it a toss.
  • Top with the freshly cracked walnuts
  • Drizzle red wine vinegar and olive oil on top and serve it immediately.




24.11.17

MARINATED PORK CHOPS

Cuts like butter... Flavorful, juicy and oh so tender! Lot’s of oil remains in the pan which can be used for a wide range of dishes. Drizzle it over potatoes… rice. This is one more way to cook loin chops with a loin on one side of the bone and tenderloin on the other. If you have a problem with dry, tough pork chops, you will love these! Marinating solves the problem of cooking a combination chop of loin and tenderloin. There is just one catch, you have to plan ahead. If you have to defrost the meat one night and marinate it on the next, the process could easily take up to two days. Though it will be well worth it in the end.

Marinated Pork Chops

2 to 4 pork steaks or bone in loin chops

Marinade:
1/2 cup light olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp mustard
2 tsp honey
5 drops of hot sauce
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp thyme
salt and black pepper

  • Wash the chops and pat them dry with paper towels.
  • Select a preferably glass baking dish that can hold all the chops in a single layer.
  • Combine the marinade ingredients in the baking dish.
  • Lay the chops in, turning them over a few times for even coating.
  • Wrap the dish and place it in the fridge for eight hours or up to two days, but no longer.
  • If you get a chance turn the chops over once or twice.
  • To cook the chops, slowly heat up a large non stick skillet on medium heat.
  • Add the chops and the marinade to the heated skillet.
  • Sear the chops on both sides for a couple of minutes, turning over once.
  • Cover the skillet and turn down the heat a notch and cook the chops for 5-6 minutes.
  • Remove lid and turn over the chops.
  • Replace the lid and cook for 4-5 minutes longer.
  • Transfer the chops to a heated plate and tent them with aluminum foil.
  • Let the chops relax for 5 minutes.
  • Serve the chops with some pan juices drizzled on top.
  • Most of the oil will remain in the pan. Drain it and use it in place of butter flavoring potatoes, rice, pasta or steamed vegetables.
  • Cold chops can be thinly sliced and make excellent sandwich meat.


22.11.17

HOMEMADE GRAHAM CRACKERS

  
After several years of Almond Roca deprivation this is the year, my old standby will reappear for Christmas. As usual, the solution was at my fingertips and yet I could not see it. After I gave up on the notion of finding graham flour, it isn’t available in every country, the next step was finding a substitution. As it turns out it is whole wheat flour. The only difference being that the components, wheat grain, bran, germ, and endosperm, are separated and ground separately.

It all started a few years back when our annual Christmas Almond Roca went horribly wrong. That is after the masters of corporate greed decided we wouldn’t be getting the same quality Graham Crackers anymore. I suppose if we ate Graham Crackers with some sort of regularity, the gradual changes of deteriorating quality may have gone unnoticed. But clearly we didn’t fit that category. Now if you want to waste good chocolate on substandard crackers, keep buying it. I on the other hand will take care of my Graham Cracker needs from now on. Thanks to Egg Rolls and Sauce, these are delicious!

Homemade Graham Crackers

1-1/4 cups flour
1-1/3 cups graham or whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup salted butter, soft
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp honey

  • In a bowl, whisk together flours and baking soda.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and honey until light and fluffy.
  • Reduce the speed and gradually incorporate the flour mixture to form a dough.
  • Line a 16x12 inch baking tray with parchment paper. This is a rather large baking tray, if yours is smaller, you will have to divide the dough between two smaller trays.
  • Press the dough out on the parchment paper, tacking, patching and rolling the dough into an even layer.
  • Place the baking tray in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Remove the baking tray from the freezer and with a large knife score the dough into squares and poke the squares with fork
  • Place in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and with a dough scraper cut through along the scored lines.  
  • The crackers will firm up as they cool.



21.11.17

CRANBERRY PEAR CRUMBLE BARS

Starting out as a crumble and taking a detour to the realm of pies, the inspiration came from Meats and Sweets. Pears and cranberries is always a good pairing and the addition of orange rinds adds another layer for the senses. Serve it with velvety vanilla ice cream or top it with a dollop of whipped cream… Not too sweet, not too tart, just right.  



Cranberry Pear Crumble Bars

Base and Crumble:
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, soft
1 egg, beaten

Filling:
2 cups peeled, cored and thinly sliced pears
sprinkle of Fruitfresh or the juice of half a lemon
2 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of ground ginger
rind of one orange, finely grated
1/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, slightly thawed
2 Tbsp butter

  • Peel, core and thinly slice the pears. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Fully line a small square baking pan with parchment paper leaving overhangs for easy removal.
  • In a large mixing bowl whisk together sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.  
  • Add the butter and rub into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal.
  • Mix in the beaten egg until dough forms. 
  • Press 2/3 of dough into the prepared pan. Reserve the rest for the top.  
  • Sprinkle the pears with Fruitfresh or the juice of half a lemon.
  • Add sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and grated orange rinds to the sliced pears.
  • Toss to coat.
  • Mix in the cranberries. 
  • Pour the fruit mixture over the crust.
  • Spread it out evenly.
  • Dot with the butter, as if you were making a pie.
  • Finally crumble the remaining dough on the top.
  • Bake for 40 minutes until top is golden.
  • Let the bar cool.
  • Grasp both parchment overhangs and move the bar to a cutting board.
  • Cut into squares and serve. 

20.11.17

HERBED OVEN PORK STEW

I always wanted an indoor herb garden, but all Jim grows inside are flowering plants. He rotates the plants between a downstairs room and our upstairs living room and we always, ALWAYS have a flowering plant on the side table next to his chair. Once the flowers are done he takes the plant downstairs and brings a different flowering plant up. How he does this I don’t know, but since I am a certified plant killer, it is better for me not to. Fresh herbs would have been nice for the stew but I like flowers too.

I got a large flat of loin chops that have a T-shaped bone with loin on one side and tenderloin on the other. These can be challenging to cook since both loin and tenderloin are present. They should be quickly sear-roasted and grilled or broiled or brined to keep the meat moist. What would be simpler than to make a gulyás, but I opted for an oven stew and seasoned with freshly dried herbs from the garden. If you think a few sprinkles of herbs will do the trick, ahem no. I grabbed handfuls of dried herbs and crushed them by hand. Fresh herbs would have been even better, but at the end of November in Canada this is the best anyone can do.


Herbed Oven Pork Stew

4 pork steaks or bone in loin chops
3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 red onions, chopped finely
salt to taste
2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 red peppers
2 Tbsp Hungarian paprika
1 handful of each herb:
parsley, tarragon, basil and marjoram, fresh or crushed if dry
water

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Wash the meat and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Cut into the layer of fat around the chops, so they won’t curl up during roasting.
  • Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pot on the stove and slide in the chops.
  • Sear both sides of the meat.
  • Turn the heat to medium and add the onions.
  • Sprinkle salt around the pot to taste.
  • Sauté the onions for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot.
  • Finally add water to just cover the meat.*
  • Cover the pot and place in the oven.
  • Bake until the meat is tender. This could take anywhere from one hour up to two and a half.      
* The amount of water will depend on the thickness of the chops and the size of your pot. I like a lot of juice, but if you want a thicker sauce, add less water. If you end up with too much broth, transfer it to a small pot and reduce it, but don’t use a thickener. I liked mine as it came out of the oven. This is a very satisfying stew with mashed potatoes.


18.11.17

DULCE DE LECHE SHORTBREAD BARS

I don’t know what possessed me, I picked up two cans of Dulce de Leche Caramels at the store, knowing full well homemade would be better. I used a discontinued Eagle Brand recipe but the bars turned out surprisingly well. Chill thoroughly. The shortbread base was nothing short of amazing; I made a mental note to use it again. It didn’t have the toughness of chilled shortbread and yet it was still… well… shortbread. Sadly, I forgot to dust the top with icing sugar, but that's just for looks. 
  

Dulce De Leche Shortbread Bars

Base:
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cake and pastry Flour
6 Tbsp icing sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened 

Filling:
2 eggs
1 can [300 ml] Eagle Brand Dulce de Leche Caramel
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 325F.
  • Fully line a small square baking pan with parchment paper, overlapping the sides for easy removal. 
  • Sift together the base ingredients, except the butter, in a medium bowl.
  • In a separate bowl beat the butter until creamy.
  • Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix to combine.
  • Gather into a ball.
  • Press firmly and evenly into bottom of pan.
  • Poke the dough with a fork. 
  • Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven.
  • Meanwhile combine the filling ingredients in a stand mixer.
  • Remove pan from the oven and pour the filling over the hot shortbread base.
  • Return to the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the middle is set.
  • Remove from the oven, cool completely on wire rack.
  • Chill overnight. 
  • Next day cut into squares. 
  • Dust the top with icing sugar. It's optional now. :-)


16.11.17

HUNGARIAN TARTAR SAUCE - TARTÁRMÁRTÁS

In general, tartar sauce serves as a piquant contrast to otherwise bland food. In Hungarian cuisine Tartar Sauce provides a base for salads, serves as filler, or as a dipping sauce for a wide variety of meat and vegetable dishes. Always mayonnaise based, but distinctly different.

The standard home recipe is 1 part commercial mayonnaise and 1 part sour cream with salt, ground pepper, sugar and lemon juice for flavouring. The authentic version is substantially refined, starting with the combination of freshly made mayonnaise, medium dry white wine, salt, sugar and ground white pepper. The final product is both tart and sweet and has a wide range of possibilities for complex flavouring. You can add diced green or red onions, capers, etc. The amounts listed are merely estimates; the final product will depend on the ingredients, and on personal preferences.

Hungarian Tartar Sauce

1/3 cup very thick freshly made mayonnaise
1/4 cup white wine
1-1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 Tbsp sugar

  • Combine the wine with the freshly made mayonnaise.
  • Gradually, bit by bit add some pepper, salt and sugar. At first add only a fraction of the suggested amount and taste it before you add more.
  • Dip the tip of a teaspoon into the sauce and taste. Adjust the seasoning. Rinse the teaspoon under hot running water*, dip and taste again. Continue until the flavour is just right.  
  • Make a note how much pepper, salt and sugar you used and make changes to the recipe accordingly.
  • Good tartar sauce could be pure luck, but often the result of repeated experimentation.
  • When not in use, keep the tartar sauce refrigerated. Shelf life, so to speak, is 4 days only.   

* Serious chefs have a line of clean utensils waiting for tasting. Never use a utensil once it has been in your mouth. Always rinse between tastings. It is not only unpleasant to think you are eating the cook’s saliva; the presence of saliva shortens the shelf life of food. Since digestion begins in the mouth, the enzymes present in human saliva start breaking the food down as soon as it enters the mouth. So be good to the people you feed and never eat into the food you are making. For more information check out Kitchen Hygiene.


14.11.17

PEAR TARTLETS

For convenience you can always use frozen tart shells and canned pears. But when I made the Almond PearTart there were pastry scraps and poached pears left over... those were the makings of my kind of convenience ingredients. The pears were poached in water and for people who have to live on a strict sugar free diet; I thought pie pastry with pears poached in water would be quite wonderful. But for the rest of us, pears poached in sugar syrup would be even better. The tartlets were so inviting, my love ate them up before he even looked at the Almond Pear Tart...  

Pear Tartlets

leftover pie pastry or 12 frozen tart shells
6 ripe, but firm to the touch small to medium sized pears
2 cups water
1/8 cup sugar

  • Wash, peel, cut in half and core the pears.
  • Add the water to a large skillet.
  • Stir in the sugar and bring it to simmer.
  • Slide the pears into the simmering water. 
  • Blanch the pears for 5-10 minutes, or until almost tender when pierced with a fork. They will continue to soften as they cool.
  • If the pears are somewhat unripe, blanching could take longer. Do not use overripe pears that are already soft to the touch.
  • Scoop the poached pears out with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a paper towel lined tray to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Make the pastry and roll out 12 large pastry circles to fit your muffin tins.
  • Press the pastry into the muffin tins.
  • Slice into the pear halves without cutting through.
  • Carefully place the pear halves inside the pastry.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until the pastry is lightly browned.

13.11.17

MAPLE GLAZED HAM STEAK

This really is a delicious way to cook ham. Ham steaks have a tendency to dry out, but prepare it this way and you will always get a tender, juicy ham steak. Even though you cook the ham with pears and maple syrup, this will not be a sweet dish, certainly not if you use real maple syrup. The thicker the ham steak, the longer the cooking time will be. However, keep an eye on it, the ham will be ready much sooner than you think. And please… use real maple syrup! 


Maple Glazed Ham Steak

thick ham steak
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp good quality mustard
1/8 cup real maple syrup
2 fresh pears, peeled, cored and sliced

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Add olive oil to an ovenproof fry pan.
  • Place the ham steak in the fry pan.
  • Spread the ham steak with mustard.
  • Turn it over several times until the mustard covers both sides.
  • Place the fry pan on medium-high heat.
  • Cook the ham for 5 minutes, turning once to sear both sides.
  • Remove from heat and pile the sliced pears on the top.
  • Drizzle with the real maple syrup.  
  • Place in the preheated oven and cook for 25 minutes or as long as the ham is tender. Actual time depends on how thick the ham steak is.
  • Remove from the oven and tent it for 10 minutes.
  • Find the direction of the grain and then slice the ham across the grain rather than parallel with it. 
  • Serve with the pear slices and spoon some pan juice over it.

12.11.17

3 FLAVORFUL OVEN FRIES

Three, I made three differently flavoured oven fries. I cut the potatoes uniform, on the slender side, so they would crisp up without burning.  Use one seasoning or all for a great snack with sour cream, or ketchup. The recipe is logically organized and easy to follow. Don’t make more than you will need because you end up picking at them while they last. These are a long way from the humble boiled potatoes or oil laden deep fries. Guszti my Godfather never ate potatoes, but then he never tasted mine.     


3 Flavorful Oven Fries

5 medium sized waxy new potatoes with unblemished skin
1 egg yolk 
1/8 cup cornstarch
3 cloves of garlic, mashed and diced
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste at serving*
  
Sesame Seasoning
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 Tbsp corn meal

Parmesan Seasoning
1/4 cup shaved or 1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil

Paprika Seasoning
1 tsp Hungarian paprika
1/4 tsp caraway seed, crushed

* Salt just before serving. Pre-salting interferes with the flavours.

  • Preheat the oven to 450F.
  • Line a large cookie tray with parchment paper.
  • Wash and dry the potatoes.
  • Cut them lengthwise into thin, uniform wedges. 
  • If the potatoes are older or starchy, peel them first.
  • Transfer them to an ovenproof bowl.
  • Add 1/2 cup of water and cover with a microwave dome.
  • Microwave for 10 minutes. In case the potatoes are pealed or starchy, cut the time in the microwave to 5 minutes. Aim for partially cooked potatoes that are still firm to the touch. 
  • Let them cool for 10 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile measure the seasoning ingredients into 3 separate bowls.
  • Transfer the potatoes to a large mixing bowl. 
  • Add the egg yolk and toss to coat.
  • Add the cornstarch and toss to coat.
  • Add the diced garlic and toss to coat.
  • Divide the potatoes into three groups.
  • Add the first seasoning to the first group of potatoes and toss to coat. Wash your hands and repeat with the second and so on.
  • Arrange the potatoes on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.
  • Sprinkle the top with the olive oil.
  • Place the tray in the preheated oven.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.
  • Arrange the potatoes on a platter and salt them to taste.
 Sesame Seasoning

 Parmesan Seasoning

Paprika Seasoning

11.11.17

CANDY BAR TASTY BITES

Back in the days when we used to have 125 kids ringing the bell on Halloween night my biggest problem was providing good quality bag of treats for every child. I buy a lot less now, but still end up with leftovers. Candy bars have no appeal for us beyond Halloween and then what do you do with them? Originally called blondies, these are more like crunchy, chewy tasty bites. The recipe makes a small amount so these go fast. Eat it up Jimre I have one more recipe to try. No, two.
 
Candy Bar Tasty Bites

1 cup flour 
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, slightly melted
1 Tbsp real vanilla extract
1 egg
1-1/2 cups assorted candy bars, chopped into tiny squares

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Line a square baking pan with parchment paper leaving overhangs.
  • Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
  • Beat the slightly melted butter, brown sugar, and vanilla.
  • Add the egg and beat for a couple of minutes.
  • Gradually add the flour mixture and stir to combine.
  • Fold in the chopped candy bars.
  • Spread, press the mixture into the prepared baking pan.
  • Bake for 25 minutes until lightly browned along the edges.
  • Cool the bar completely before cutting into small squares.

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It began with posting a few recipes on line for my family. "zsuzsa is in the kitchen" has more than 1000 Hungarian and International recipes. What started out as a private project turned into a well visited blog. The number of visitors long passed the two million mark. I organized my recipes into an on-line cookbook. On top of the page click on the cookbook to access the recipes. I am not profiting from my blog, so my visitors will not be harassed with advertising or flashy gadgets. Feel free to cut and paste my recipes for your own use. Publication is permitted as long as it is in your own words and with your own photographs. However, I would ask you for an acknowledgement and link-back to my blog. Happy cooking!

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