Monday, 22 December 2014

Peppermint Snowflakes {easily vegan adaption}

Heya, Merry Christmas everyone! Back in Germany we've got this saying according to which we've already celebrated Christmas before xy happens - in other words it takes a freaking long time until xy happens.. and that's how I feel about my posting frequency since November, oh no it actually was October, gasp! Time flies! 

And I've hardly had any quality time in the kitchen since: my weeka usually consist of looking after the kids, looking after the kids, meeting friends somewhere between breakfast, sport and meeting other friends, eating and sleeping plus the regular UK/London exploring on the weekend aaand: I'M LOVING IT!! The city, the vibrancy, the language (still working hard on that british accent ;-) if anyone fancies offering me some help, feel free to do so) the whole state about having a whole year or at least six months left to live in this dream-come-true environment - it is just magic! 

Okay, enough spoiling for now, one fact remains: I am hardly in the kitchen, like ever! Which is a shame with all the available produce and influences from around the world here but even though I do miss it terribly I'm so occupied during the day that it mainly slips to the back of my mind.. But when I have time to whip something up I'm always reminded about how goood cooking and baking feels: like an artist working on his picture, but instead of brush and colours you use ingredients of different textures, tastes, scents and origins. 

Okay my interior philosophist is coming through again - I've already written three paragraphs without a single word about todays recipe - so sorry for that!! As you can see I've got some cookies in today's backpack. I'm in full-on Christmas mood now - it has taken almost the whole of December for me to feel that way: I was partly shocked about how commercial it is here in the UK - like seriously I as a kid was happy to write my wishlist for Santa, unwrap an Advent calender personally done by my mom and enjoy unwrapping a few precious personal gifts on Christmas Eve plus maybe having an occasional pinch of snow outside! But when you walk through the city now its all like buy, buy, buy oh and buy! Hmm.. I think I'll always rather go back to a calm Christmas with the closest family and friends, cherishing each other instead of the newest smartphone or electronic toy, even though that's just the way it is..

Ups, another paragraph finished, so back to the cookies: I won't have snow this year thanks to brilliant rainy, 10 degrees Celsius London weather so if it doesn't come to me, I have to help it a little alias: baking cookies as fragile and melt-in-your-mouth kind of textured like snowflakes plus they had to be kind of frost-y which calls for one main ingredient: peppermint!

They can be made within 20 minutes start to finish, no waiting time included plus they make a great homemade gift, providing an unexpected twist to the usual cookie plate. They are fine and buttery, but the surprising peppermint taste is what makes these exceptional. Rolled in caster sugar post baking they also sparkle like fresh snow in the sun. So even without snow: Happy and Merry Christmas everyone!!

Peppermint Snowflakes
- makes about three dozen cookies
- 250g butter {substitute for a vegan spread or even coconut oil for a vegan option}
- 100g powdered sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 100g all purpose flour
- 250g corn starch
- 1 and 1/2 tsp peppermint flavouring
- 150g caster sugar for rolling

1. Preheat your oven to 160 °C.
2. Carefully mix the butter with the powdered sugar until roughly mixed before you start beating the two together until pale, for about two minutes.
3. Mix the flour and starch and add it to the butter together with the salt and peppermint flavouring. Quickly need together a slightly sticky dough. Roll out into a snake, about 1/2 inch in diameter and cut into small pieces.
4. Roll the pieces between your palms into small balls and assemble onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Dig a fork into flour and press it onto the cookies to flatten them a bit while imprinting the forks pattern on top.
5. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until they have only slightly darkened but not turned brown yet. Remove and let cool for a few minutes before carefully rolling each cookie in the remaining caster sugar. Let cool completely before you assemble them in boxes or serve. They will keep for at least 2 weeks in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Bulgur Salad

Yay, the sun is back in London!! After two weeks of almost constant rain I couldn't have been more excited in the past couple of days - the warm light dancing around your nose while you shuffle through miles and miles of piles and piles of leaves in gold-orange-brown tones - quintessentials of autumn!
Most times I actually took off my jacket while sitting in the sun - it almost felt like summer.

And summer reminds me of this:

A slightly tangy, slightly sweet, light and bursting in flavour Bulgur Salad with green bean, tomatoes, olives, bell peppers, onion and lime. I had it for lunch for a week straight once and planned on bringing it to a bunch of get-togethers: picnics and bbqs during the whole past summer months, well in the end those plans got cancelled by the german summer weather but I can assure you that this recipe can easily be transformed into an autumn one: it comforts you when you sit on the couch and eat it with a spoon straight from the bowl (and no, I definitely did not do that.. or maybe I did but you won't tell anyone, right!?). And if you can why not incorporate some roasted pumpkin or carrots? Adding a little autumn-y orange and even more flavour for a vitamin-packed-flu killer salad - 'cause that's another one who seems to have settled in in London for now.. Have a great and hopefully flu-free autumn everyone!

Bulgur Salad
- makes 6 generous (main course) servings
- 1 and 1/2 cup bulgur
- 2 cups/300g green beans, cooked
- 1/2 a cucumber
- 1 onion
- 1 tomato
- 1 bell pepper (I used a green one)
- 4 Tbsp of black pitted olives
- juice of 1 lime
- 5 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 Tbsp white vinegar
- handful of chopped parsley
- salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the bulgur in water according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile chop the vegetables: cooked beans, cucumber, tomato, bell pepper and olives into small cubes/pieces. Then slice the onion into rings.
3. Mix the cooked bulgur with the chopped vegetables.
4. Prepare the dressing: Mix the oil and vinegar with the limejuice, parsley and salt and pepper.Pour over the prepared salad and mix well. Let it sit in the refrigerator preferably at least 2 hours or overnight before serving to allow for the flavours to sink in. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Pear & Double Almond Upside Down Cake {One year blogiversary}

Okay, so a year ago today I spontaneously decided to finally listen to my mom's advice  (yes, there's a lot of truth behind that saying suggesting that moms are always right, even when that can be hard to accept sometimes... Just kiddin' - love you mom!) and finally started a food blog. Random site note: I did this a day before an important exam, yep that's right, should have been studying, nevertheless got that really good grade in the end - take time for what you love, happiness is key, lesson learned! Last year's third of october was a moody rainy day in Germany - perfect for this loaf shaped Zebra cake! During the year you might have noticed my love for streusel/crumbs and upside down cakes (an addiction that I just got to through blogging) - if you're a first time visitor then feel free to take a glance at the blog's recipe index and you'll possibly agree with me! I decided to stick to the tradition and the essentials so today there's a cinnamon spiced pear upside down cake with a whole lot of caramellized almonds on top - all those autumn flavours packed into one piece of cake!

But back to the story, because birthdays make me nostalgic - I basically spent the whole day working on that blog design, layout etc. to have it up and running within a couple of hours (screw those characterisations and stuff that should've got in my head..) Going for color or black and white in the design seemed like the most important question to be answered :-P. In the end I settled for a colorful one - which got changed from orange/yellow to blue/grey/yellow during the last 365 days! 

Oh and what an adventure those have been! My personal life got turned complitely upside down: graduating high school, a lot of adventurous travels and now I'm sitting in my bed in the big capital of the UK, ready to fill up the next 365 days of blogging with trumendous stories from my Au pair year and of course: food. All the food - 'cause that's why you are here for! Summary: happy Birthday A Spoonful of Photography - thanks for being my creative outlet and thanks to/for all those amazing people that i was able to meet online through you during this year, the ones who support me and the ones who i would call a friend already! Cheers or moreover happy cake devouring!

Pear & Double Almond Upside Down Cake with caramellized Honey Almonds
-makes one regular loaf sized cake
- For the Pear layer:
- 2 medium sized pears
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon

- For the crumbs:
- 60g butter
- 120g flour
- 35g sugar

- For the cake
- 100g butter
- 80g brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3 Tbsp honey (may be substituted with three heaping Tbsp of white sugar)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 200g flour (I used Whole wheat)
- 170g ground almonds
- up to 100 ml milk
- 1 Tbsp white vinegar

For the caramellized honey almond topping:
- 80g whole almonds, blanched if you prefer that
- 30g brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp honey
- optional (even though highly recommended!): 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 175/350.
2. Prepare the pear layer: melt the butter and grease a regular sized loaf tin with it. Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon and dust the bottom and sides of the pan.
3. Wash and slice two pears as thinly as possible (you should be almost able to look through them) layer the slices upside down in the pan so they'll be right side up again once the cake get's inverted.
4. Prepare the crumbs: work together the butter, sugar and flour until a dough starts to come together, loose it with a fork into fine crumbs and set aside.
5.Prepare the cake batter: In a medium sized bowl beat together the  butter and brown sugar for about 2 minutes until creamy.  Seperate one egg. Add in the remaining egg, plus the egg yolk to the butter-sugar mixture and beat throughoutly.
6. In a seperate bowl mix the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Divide the butter mixture into three equal parts, briefly lift in the flour mixture into two of the butter parts, do the same with the ground almonds and the remaining butter part. Divide the milk amongst the two batters, you might need a little more until you've got a rather thick consistency which is supposed to ribbon off the spatula. Beat the egg white until stiff peaks form and fold it into the almond dough.
7. Pour half of the flour batter on top of the prepared pears. Press down the middle a bit and fill it with the almond batter, then cover it with the remaining flour batter. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until a skewer or cake tester inserted cones out clean.
8. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then carefully run a knife arount the edges to loosen the cake (use a sharp and thin blade to not destroy the pears). Invert on to a plate and remove the pan. Let cool for a further 15-20 minutes.
9. After the further cooling prepare the honey almond topping: put the whole almonds into a pan and roast them for 2-3 minutes on medium high heat until slightly browned. Then add in the sugar and honey, reduce stirring to a minimum until the sugar has caramellized (this will take about 3 minutes on medium high heat), in the last second stir in the cinnamon. Pour on top of the cake, carefully seperate the almonds with a fork, to allow for easier cake cutting later. Let sit for 5 minutes, then either serve immediately or keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days wrapped in aluminium foil. Enjoy!