Monthly Archives: April 2010

Proof is in the Pudding

Blueberry Scone Pudding

I really enjoy baking and I always end up making excessive amounts for my teeny tiny household of two. Ordinarily, I would give the extra treats away, but this time I thought I’d  transform them into another delicious dessert. In honor of a visit by two dear friends, (he’s British and she’s Italian American) and a handy basket of ripe blueberries in the fridge,  I baked a batch of Blueberry Scones.

The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Breakfast, Lunch and Tea by the Rose Bakery. (If you are ever in Paris, Montmarte to be exact, be sure to drop by… DIVINE!!!) Curious about how simple I found it was to bake scones, I asked my friends if it was a common thing to do in England. I was also wondering what people normally did with the extras. Scones, as I have experienced a day later, have lost much of their pizazz. However, I often feel guilty about throwing them out.  My friends pointed out that most people purchased scones from a bakery, hardly bake them at home and therefore it was quite rare to have any left overs. HMMM…

Following the Rose Bakery recipe I ended up with 15 blueberry scones. My husband and I each enjoyed one and our two friends consumed a total of 4.  All together that made 6. Now take that away from 15 and we are left with 9. Nine scones leftover for the very next day. But scones, as mentioned a day later taste a bit flat. Well… what to do? What to do?

As we were tidying up the kitchen, I turned to my friend and said “Don’t you think these would be good as a bread pudding?”

She nodded in agreement. Therefore two days later this is what I came up with.

Leftover Scone Pudding

About 2 cups of stale scones (in this case we used 9 blueberry ones)

1 cup milk

1 cup cream

1/2 cup sugar (add 1/4 more if you like it sweeter)

1 tsp vanilla

4 eggs, beaten

Optional: If working with plain scones, add raisins or currents and 1 tsp of cinnamon if you like.

Heat oven to 180/350 degrees.

Using a 8 inch square pan, grease -if not using a silicone one, crumble the leftover scones around the pan. (If your scone recipe doesn’t use much butter, drizzle about 2 to 3 melted tablespoons over the scones. In this step, you can also mix in the raisins with the bread if you are planning to use them.)

In another bowl, combine the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla extract (cinnamon as well, if using).

Beat the eggs separately and then add to the liquid mixture. Mix well.

Then pour the mixture over the pieces of scones. Press bread down into the liquid mixture to make sure that they are well covered and soaked.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. The top should look brown like toast.

Enjoy!

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Ham it Up: Filipino Style!

Filipino Hamon donning the essentials: sliced pineapple rings, maraschino cherries and a few sprigs of parsley

Uzená šunka s kostí is Czech for Smoked Ham with Bone. During the seasons of Christmas and Easter, one can easily find and track the scent of ham being roasted out on a grill in the streets of Prague. However, when I buy a chunk of  uzená šunka s kostí from my neighborhood butcher, I take it home and transform it into a Filipino Hamon. I guess that’s as fusion as I can get lately.

It’s an old family recipe. Coincidentally, this dish also happens to make a bi-annual appearance on our table during the Christmas and Easter holidays. Before preparing all the necessary ingredients, I would often give Pops a ring for a quick recipe review. As soon as I asked my father to repeat the steps on his hamon recipe, the excitement and delight in his voice was immediately transmitted over the phone as he coached me through his familiar routine. Nowadays with the help of Skype, I can even show him the piece I bring home from the butcher. Luckily, he always approves and can sleep well knowing that just because we don’t live close to one another, we can still indulge in some “Holiday Hamon” while living abroad.  This tasty, yet uncomplicated recipe provides you with a ham that is tender in texture and deliciously sweet in flavor. When you see the ingredients, you might be slightly turned off, but trust me, the results are absolutely divine!

Filipino Hamon as dictated by my father (prepare the night before serving)

1 Cured Pork Butt on the bone, with or without skin, it is up to you, so are the grams and kilos)

1 bottle of beer

1/2 container of pineapple juice

1 liter bottle of  7/up or Sprite

2 bay leaves

1/2 -1 cup of brown sugar (depends on how large your ham is)

Sliced pineapple rings

Maraschino cherries

Parsley

In a large pot, add all the liquid ingredients, ham and 2 bay leaves.

Let the marinade come to a boil and then turn the heat down.

Let the ham simmer for 30 minutes.

Then let it sit overnight. Be sure to rotate it at some point.

For the next day…

Heat oven to 200 celsius or 400 fahrenheit.

Place ham in a large baking pan.

Take a brush and glaze the ham with the liquid marinade.

Then rub the ham with brown sugar. Make sure it is evenly coated.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Garnish with sliced pineapple rings, maraschino cherries and parsley.

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Where the Red Kitchen Shops…

Prague’s Mosaic of Specialty Stores

Are you interested in diversifying the items in your pantry and creating dishes from countries you have visited or want to reconnect with those flavors from abroad? Fortunately, Prague’s melting pot continues to expand and as Anthony Bourdain once said, “People come with their food.” If you are looking for a few specific regions, here is a list of shops to buy the ingredients that are missing in the international aisle at your local Tesco, Albert or Bila.  To my fellow Prague People, feel free to add-on to the list!

Asian:

Korea Mart You’ll find fresh blocks of tofu, dried sweet potato noodles to make a plate of Jap Chae or some of those spicy grilling sauces to go with your next Korean BBQ. Just one block away from the metro and tram stops. Gorazdova 356, Prague 2, Mon.-Fri. 10-20:00, Sat. 10-20:00, Sun. 12-18:00

Arirang Korejské and Japonské potraviny Is your stir-fry missing something? This grocery store sells a variety of cooking sauces, such as hoisin, hot and sour and fish sauce. A good Pad Thai needs fish sauce! If you need to spice up your plate, fresh kim-chi should do the trick. The frozen section offers a variety of fish and seafood, as well as frozen eggrolls and mochi cakes.  Korunní 47, Prague 2 Open Mon.–Fri. 9–18:00, Sat. 9–16:00

Japa You’ve conquered rolling the bamboo mat; here is just the place to get all your ingredients to throw a sushi party. Wait, there is more. They also sell frozen dumplings, udon noodles and delicious Japanese rice crackers for a healthy snack.  Puškinovo nám. 10, Prague 6, Tel. 233 320 629. Wed.–Fri. 11–19:00, Sat.–Sun. 10–18:00

Shalamar Attempting to cook some Mataar Paneer and you’ve just realized that you don’t have methi or curry leaves in your pantry closet? You’ll find that, along with spices such as garam masala and cumin, as well as fresh vegetables like okra, hot peppers and baby eggplants being sold here. Also, if you just want to cheat, they sell prepared packets of dishes like Butter Chicken or Korma that you can whip up in an instant. You’ll find what you need for Pakistani and Indian cooking right here. If you’re hungry, be sure to visit the Pakistani restaurant right next door! Lipanská 3, Prague 3 Open Mon.–Fri. 6 a.m.–20:00,  Sat. noon–20:00

African & Middle Eastern

AfroAfrik Don’t be fooled by the African art, textiles or even the supply of hair products. This place also sells groceries; they are just located down the stairs on the bottom floor. You’ll find boxes of Fufu, flour made from plantains, frozen goat meat and fish, some vegetables such as yam and okra, bags of fried plantain chips and more. Stepanska pasaz 36, Prague 1 Tel. 777 324 928,

Farah Oriental Market As soon as you step foot into this shop, you will quickly encounter barrels and barrels filled with grains, legumes and fresh spices. They also have a deli counter where you can purchase olives, dried fruits or fresh meat. In their dairy section, there is a selection of halloumi and goat cheese. Their frozen section sells yufka (phyllo) dough so you can make some homemade borek. There is also a huge selection of Middle Eastern canned goods and breads for sale. Myslikova, 5 Prague 2, Mon.-Fri. 9-19:00, Sat. 9-17:00

Mediterranean

Nostos This Greek delicatessen reminds me of the ones I grew up with in Astoria, NY. The shelves are stacked with various bottles of Olive Oil, packets of dried olives and marinated olives for sale. The refrigerated counter is displays a wide selection for a mezze dinner, such as Taramosalata (fish roe spread), Melitzanosalata (eggplant spread) and marinated seafood. You’ll also find blocks of sweet halva, baklava, feta cheese and Greek yogurt, which you can use to whip up some tzatsiki at home. You can also purchase it ready made as well! Skolska, 32 Praha 1 Tel.775 282 952, Mon. – Fri. 10- 20:00, Sat. 10-15:00

Aromi La Bottega Don’t have time to make your own fresh pasta or some pesto? No worries, Aromi La Bottega has it ready for you. You will also find a good variety of Italian cheeses, cured meats, glass jars of marinated vegetables, such as roasted peppers, some spreads as well as bottles of Italian wine and olive oil. Manesova 83, Prague 2 ,Tel. 222 725 514
Mon. – Fri. 12- 20:00 Saturday 15- 20:00

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The One and Only: La Tortilla de Patata

la tortilla de patata

I didn’t fall in love with my husband for his cooking, but fortunately he does make one delicious tortilla de patata. This is a dish that he grew up with and although my Spanish mother-in-law is an excellent cook, he is the big winner in this category. This is something she can’t truly accept. Especially after finding out that he doesn’t cook it in a similar manner.  The tortilla de patata is basically an omelette intermixed with fried potatoes and onions. It is usually served as a tapa with a slice of bread and this basic and simple, yet hearty dish is ubiquitously found and enjoyed all over Spain.

What my mother-in-law can’t seem to believe is the way her son cooks the tortilla. During one of her visits to Prague, she was shockingly surprised to witness how he fried the onions and the potatoes together!  In her eyes, he had committed a sin.

In fact, there are many such opinions about how to cook tortilla and why it tastes better if made according to a specific way or technique. This is an endless topic of conversation among Spaniards and they can go on debating for hours around what we might think is a simple potato, onion and egg fare.  There are several factors that some people believe that heavily influence the tortilla’s outcome, from the right frying pan, to the oil, to the type of potatoes, to how one should cook the onions and potatoes separately, to the plate or technique used to invert it and well, the list could go on and on. According to my father in law, cooking with high quality olive oil is the secret to a tasty tortilla. Heeding his advice we traveled back one summer, from Spain, with 15 liters of olive oil in the trunk of our car. We even purchased a special non-stick frying pan so that our tortilla would simply slip out when it came time to invert it.

Luckily, my husband’s tortilla de patata is consistent in texture, flavor and looks.  He never ceases to satisfy me and our guests with this straightforward meal. This is what he had to say about his “technique”…

“Some people are going to say this is wrong because they like to put the potatoes and onions in the egg before it goes in the pan. I developed this system because I didn’t want to get more bowls dirty. It was out of economy. Soon enough, I discovered that this completely enhanced the marriage. It’s the egg. The egg is the traveler. The onions and potatoes are fine at home. Not a half-cooked meal traveling to a raw egg” J.A.

And this is how you cook it…

Tortilla de patata (a juicy version)

1 kilo of potatoes: peeled and chopped into quarters

1 large white onion: chopped

4 eggs

1/2 cup of very good olive oil (spanish preferred of course)

salt

Heat the olive oil in the pan.

When hot, lower the flame and add the onions.

A few minutes later, add the potatoes.

The heat should be low so the onions and potatoes don’t burn.

Sprinkle salt on top (to taste)

Don’t be lenient, it really adds to the flavor.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and throw in a dash or two of salt.

When the potatoes have softened up, (this takes about 15-20 min) , drain the excess oil out into a glass bowl. (Vegetables should stay in the pan, it’s a tricky one and will take some practice.)

Then add the eggs to the onion and potatoes frying in the pan.

When the top looks almost cooked, place a sturdy flat plate on top.

Carry the pan and plate over to your sink.

Flip the omelette on to the plate and slide it back into the pan.

It should only need a few more minutes to cook.

Enjoy warm or cold with some fine bread and a tomato salad on the side.

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“I confess, I smuggle cans of evaporated milk.”

Leche Flan

The two main dishes that I must pull out during the holidays are my parents glazed ham and my mother’s leche flan. This main course and dessert were regulars at our family’s table on Christmas and Easter. I don’t really celebrate these holidays in the religious way, but I do like getting my friends and family in Prague around the table for some eating marathons. On this Easter Sunday, I called a pot luck in honor of a friend’s birthday so this day was a special double bill. My contribution to the feast was Filipino Hamon (Glazed Ham) and Leche Flan.

When I travel home to NY or visit another place, a mandatory visit to the  grocery store is scheduled into our itinerary. One of the things I am often searching for are cans of evaporated milk. Yes, this is a treasured item in my pantry. On my last trip home, I managed to pack 6 cans in my suitcase and on a recent trip to London brought 2 cans back with me. A good friend even carried a few cans back with her on a recent trip to California. I think that would be the last time she would ask if she could bring me back anything back from the States.

Can you see how much it means to me? I can not live without my mom’s caramel vanilla soft custard that just melts in your mouth. I am aware of the many types of flan recipes out there and many do not call for evaporated milk. However, my mother’s does and hers is the one that I grew up with and nothing can compare. I guess I am just a little old-fashioned when it comes to flan. Leche means milk, therefore, to get that state of perfection I never worry about the excess baggage weight my few cans of evaporated milk could cause. I do, however, hold my breath when I wheel my suitcases pass the custom guards at Prague airport. Then again, would they really take away my beloved  containers of evaporated milk? Honestly, I don’t ever want to find out.

Just in case I did have a shortage of these precious cans of milk, I have researched the web for ways to substitute it, and found that it is possible to make at home. However, that would require some extra work and one of the things I love about making this dessert is that it is very effortless and uncomplicated. You only need a few ingredients, then there are a couple of quick steps and an easy clean up. Aside from it being one of the simplest desserts to whip up, it never fails to delight the taste buds.

Then one day Tesco comes to the rescue! This is the name of the mega supermarket in my neighborhood. During one of our grocery runs, as I was looking for some cream for a quiche, I noticed there were some new products in the dairy aisle and what do you think I found there? Yes! EVAPORATED MILK! I have lived in Prague for five years and evaporated milk has just come into the market, there is a god! But, hold on. How good is this type over the ones I have hauled back from different parts of the world? I would have to test it out…

Leche Flan

1/4 to 1/2  cup of Sugar

8 egg yolks

1 1/4 cups of Condensed Milk

1 1/2 cups of Evaporated Milk

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 tsp Grated Lime Zest (optional)

-Heat oven to 180 or 325 degrees

– Pour sugar in a 8” round baking tin: silicone or aluminum works fine

-Over a low flame, hold the pan over the heat and let the sugar caramelize. This can take a few minutes. This is the trickiest part of the recipe. You don’t want to burn any fingers and you don’t want the sugar to burn.  As the sugar is melting, swirl the pan around so that the bottom and the edges are evenly coated. Put aside when done.

-In a bowl, combine the egg yolks, condensed and evaporated milks, along with the grated lime zest and vanilla. Stir and mix all ingredients well.

-Pour into the baking pan. Cover pan with foil.

-Using a larger baking pan that can hold the flan, place it in the oven filled halfway with water.

-Then place the flan inside the steam bath.

-Bake for 1 hour.

-When done, let cool and refrigerate  for at least 2 hours until ready to serve. (I always make this dessert the night before)

-When you are ready to serve it, be sure to carefully flip the flan over to display the beautiful caramelized top and let the syrup fall along the sides. I usually slide a knife along the rim to loosen it and then take the platter where it will be served, place it on top and flip it over as quickly as possible.  Garnish with mint or berries.

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