halva & roasted strawberry mille feuille

halva strawberry mille feuille
I got an idea stuck in my head a few months back, when my Instagram discovery feed exploded with posts about halva. Now I don’t remember searching for halva, since all I knew up to that point, was that I thought it was one of the items on a Haft Seen table, displayed at nowruz, the persian new year. While I cannot find definite proof that the dish, called samanu, I thought was halva, is actually a kind of halva, it didn’t exactly incite me to go and buy one of the many halva boxes on display at my local grocer. The samanu was a disturbing hue of brown and sickeningly sweet.

Back on my phone, instagramming it up, I was bombarded with all sorts of sweet goodness, making me salivate until I read the description – halva chocolate chip cookies, halva brownie, halva cheesecake. I was disconcerted. Nonetheless, halva started sprouting in my parietal part of the brain (the part responsible for, among other, the processing of taste information). You smart that way, Instagram, you very smart!

I went back to the grocer with an excuse to cultivate my already well cultivated spice drawer. I was slowly making my way to the aisle with the neon boxes. That’s how I knew I had arrived. Apparently halva needs to come with a display otherworldly, for it is not very high screaming in appearance, and, as I later found out, its texture rather.. blah. I chose a plain sesame based halva as opposed to the indian varieties on account that all these boxes didn’t let me peek into its interior. And samanu in mind, I didn’t want to open a box only to find the false promises of delicious sweets of my childhood.

roasted strawberries

The taste, when I finally got the courage to try it, was rather enjoyable. A grown up kind of sweet. A bit bitter as sesame can be, but with more depth that mellows into a sugary candy floss like quality. However, texture-wise, I was not sold. At first crumbly and dry, it then hardens and sticks to the roof of ones mouth. For now, I only have space in my life for one mouth-roof-hugger (peanut butter), so I knew I had to do something about that. I found it blends beautifully into a, well yes, peanut butter consistency. Which then mixes beautifully into whipped cream. I then started experimenting with what uses this halva cream could be utilized (a lot I would imagine), and tried a few designs that made the cream stand out rather bland. Until I realized that simple pleasures like whipped cream goes well with other simple pleasures like, say, puff pastry. Please do yourself the favor of making (deceivingly easy) homemade puff pastry. Not only is it pretty ego-boosting to hear people’s gasps when you tell them that, “yes of course I made it myself, don’t we all do that on lazy Sundays?”, but the flavor of a butter puff pastry is akin to very fresh and delicate caramel. Please don’t skimp on such a simple dessert where all elements are easily dissected. This recipe is great!

Finally, out of a feeling of guilt for shaming a central part of iranian culture, and quite possibly million of people’s taste buds, I decided to pair the halva with, what to me is essential persian, rose-water and the sweetest late-season strawberries. The result is this elegant summer indulgence.

halva strawberry mille feuille

HALVA & ROASTED STRAWBERRY MILLE FEUILLE

Makes 6
400g/14 oz strawberries, hulled
1 tbsp rose water
1 tsp vanilla paste
A quantity homemade puff pastry / 300g/10 oz all butter pastry
100g/3,5 oz plain halva
250ml/1 cup heavy cream
2-3 tbsp icing sugar + some for dusting

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
If necessary halve the larger strawberries, and keep the smaller ones intact. The important thing is to get an even size. In a large bowl, mix the rose-water and vanilla paste. Gently toss in the strawberries until everything is coated. Turn the strawberries onto the lined baking sheet, and arrange into one layer. Bake in the lowest part of the oven for 10 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through. The strawberries should be soft, but not total mush. Remove from oven. Cool completely. Keep the oven turned on. Drain

While the strawberries are roasting, roll out your puff pastry to a rectangle of 26x45cm. With a sharp knife cut into 5x13cm rectangles. That would make 18 rectangles for a total of 6 mille feuille. Prick pastry all over with a fork. Transfer the puff pastry to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover the pastry with another layer of parchment paper. Put a baking sheet on top, to make sure the puff pastry doesn’t rise unevenly. Bake in the middle of the 200°C/400°F hot oven for 15 minutes. Remove the top baking sheet and parchment paper and bake for 5 minutes more, or until browned and crisp. Remove from oven and cool the puff pastry completely on a wire rack.

In a small food processor, process the halva until the consistency of peanut butter. About 2-3 minutes. In a bowl, whip the cream together with the icing sugar, until semi stiff peaks are formed. Gently fold in the halva. Streaks are fine. Keep cool.

To assemble: Lay out six puff pastries, pipe half the halva cream on these six. Arrange half the (somewhat well drained) strawberries on top. Top with a layer of puff pastry and repeat. Lay the third layer of puff pastry on top and dust with icing sugar. Serve immediately.

Fried egg on chickpea pancake with baked tomatoes + feta

I’ve had the most amazing weekend, thank you very much. My beautiful friend E. got married in a beautiful garden-wedding with beautiful weather and beautiful guests. It was a perfect wedding, and I think it was that, as a result of the couple’s laid back attitude towards the usual traditions. Also a tiki-bar and barbecue buffet didn’t hurt. Not to mention the masterpiece of a wedding cake made by the bride’s aunt. It is the single most impressive cake I have ever seen. In my whole life I can say, with absolute certainty, I have never had a carrot cake so completely fulfilling. Seriously. My other friend C., who also attended the wedding, told me every bite was like a piece of heaven and I heard murmurs all around the garden stating the same. Therefore it is a fact!

The recipe of this post has come about because of the wedding. It’s an edible homage of sorts. Let me explain:

First of all, the day before the wedding C. and I helped by making some salads for the buffet. Hers was a brilliant slaw with edamame, mint and cucumber. Mine, a green basil salad featuring baked feta and tomatoes.

Secondly, the morning of the wedding, I was on a tight schedule (because painting my nails throws off my timing – and I never learn), and knew I needed to get something sturdy for breakfast to last until the after the wedding ceremony. In those situations, you are always out of everything. I know this to be true – it’s a law of life. That meant I had to be creative at a non-creative-inviting-time. I made a chickpea pancake topped it with a fried egg. It was fine. Filling, however not fulfilling. Two days later (one day incapacitated by a previous night of wedding fun) I find myself in the same exact position, breakfast wise.

This time however, I combined my salad and the chickpea/fried egg pancake. It makes for a fresh, filling and very fulfilling breakfast/lunch/brunch item. It also serves, for me, as a reminder of a beautiful wedding that is every bit deserved by my beautiful friend and her great husband. I wish them all the joy and happiness in the world. And to myself: I wish many more breakfasts like this one.

fried egg chickpea pancake

FRIED EGG ON CHICKPEA PANCAKE WITH BAKED TOMATOES + FETA
Serves 4

200g/7 oz cherry tomatoes
100g/3.5 oz feta
100g/3.5 oz greek yoghurt
1 tbsp mayo
4 eggs
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1 tsp sumac (optional)
1/2 cup water
A small handful of basil
Salt + pepper
Oil

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oven to 200°C/390 Fahrenheit. Halve the cherry tomatoes and cut the feta into bit-sized squares, then place both on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the edges of the feta is browned and the tomatoes are soft and start to char. Let cool slightly.

While the tomatoes and feta are baking, mix together the yoghurt and mayo with some salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a non-stick pan with a little oil over medium heat. When hot add the eggs and fry as you desire.

While the eggs are frying push two-thirds of the baked tomatoes (save the rest for topping) through a sieve into the yoghurt/mayo and combine. Season to taste. In a small bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour, sumac (if using) and water, until combined and no lumps are present. The batter should be like a thin pancake batter. Add water while making the pancakes, if the batter starts to thicken.

When the eggs are done, remove from pan and set aside. Add a little more oil to the pan, still over medium heat.
Depending on the size of your skillet make 1 or more pancakes at a time. Pour a fourth of batter into the pan, and swirl to make round. The pancakes should be a little bigger than the eggs, and fairly thin to get crisp. Cook until browned and crisp (2-4 minutes), then flip over and cook on the other side until browned (1-3 minutes). Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Top each pancake with a dollop of tomato yoghurt/mayo, place a fried egg on top. Top with the baked tomatoes, crumble over some baked feta and sprinkle with the basil leaves. Serve and enjoy.

miso and bottarga linguine

miso bottarga linguineThis right here is severely more-ish. It’s one of those dishes, that shows off the true genius of pasta. It is simple in terms of both ingredients and preparation, while giving a result that is complex in flavour and is comforting the way only carbs are comforting. Though I love a great kitchen project spanning a few hours to week-long waits, I am always mind blown when 15 minutes is the time it takes to satisfy every craving. Because of that, this dish is my new go-to for (almost) instant satisfaction.

Both miso and bottarga are umami packed and together with the crème fraîche for acidity and melted butter for fattiness, the sauce will become thick and almost take on an aged cheese quality. Most of the time I will choose white pasta, but in this dish, using whole wheat pasta will add more chew and a denser flavour that will pair well with the miso.

miso bottarga linguine


MISO AND BOTTARGA LINGUINE
(inspired by this recipe)
Serves 2 

250g / ½lbs whole-wheat linguine
60g butter
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
3 tbsp red/dark miso paste
4 tbsp crème fraîche
1-2 tbsp grated bottarga
Pepper
Lemon juice
For garnish: spring onions, sliced 

INSTRUCTIONS

Cook the linguine in salted water until aldente. 

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter is starting to melt, add the garlic to infuse, but not brown. When all the butter is melted and bubbly, but not brown, add in the miso and crème fraîche and whisk to combine. Remove from heat and add in the grated bottarga to taste. 

Drain the pasta, reserving some pasta water for possible thinning of sauce. Add the sauce to the pasta and cook over medium heat until the sauce is well distributed around the pasta. If the sauce is too thick add some reserved pasta water.  Season with pepper, and adjust to taste. It should be salty already, but if not add some.

Plate the pasta and squeeze over some lemon juice and sprinkle with sliced spring onions.

Gin & Tonic Cheesecake

gin and tonic cheesecakeHere, the cherry blossom trees have peaked – full bloom is over and they are shedding their flowers, making for a flowery sweet and heady scent when stepped on. It kind of reminds me of spring, which of course it is. I know. It’s just oh so cold and gloomy some days. I am pardoned for this bickering, however; living in Denmark you have to complain no matter the weather. It’s a national pastime.

While I wait for the real spring (equivalent to 1 week of no weather-whining) to arrive I’m dreaming of swinging in a hammock, drinking G+T, reading ‘Peyton Place’. Which reminds me of Twin Peaks, which reminds me of the return of one of the most defining cultural impacts to me. So while we aaaaall wait for both spring and the return of Twin Peaks, I will urge you to make something sweet and grown up to feel in control. Of course, back looping back to the cherry blossom trees and ending in a David Lynchian universe, I should make a Cherry Pie. However depending on the weather, I have to wait a few months still. Damn you nordic atmosphere. So G+T it is. No complaining about that though.

This cheesecake is inspired by Gin and Tonic, with the flavor profiles to match: Ginger, Fennel, Lime, Juniper and the gin in its pure state. I have added blackberries which have a slight bitter and citrus-y taste which goes hand in hand with Gin and Tonic. Try adding frozen blackberries to your next G+T. Just saying.

Also if you do not secretly want to eat the ginger-fennel crust as a giant cookie, I don’t know what to believe anymoregin and tonic cheesecake


GIN & TONIC CHEESECAKE
Makes 1 25cm/10inch cheesecake

FOR THE CRUST
250g ginger biscuits
125g butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp ground fennel seeds

FOR THE CHEESE FILLING
½ tbsp whole juniper
250ml heavy cream
500g cream cheese
125g powdered sugar
Lime zest from 2 limes
4 sheets of gelatine (1,7-2g pr sheet)

FOR THE GIN GELÉE
8 sheets of gelatin (1,7-2g pr. sheet)
200ml water
200g caster sugar

Juice of 2 limes
100ml good quality gin

150g blackberries, sliced

INSTRUCTONS

FOR THE CRUST: Heat the oven to 175oC/350 Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of a 25cm/10inch cake tin with parchment paper. Finely crush or blend the biscuits. Mix in melted butter and ground fennel. Press the crust into the cake tin, making sure it is even. Bake in the oven for 12 min or until golden. Let cool completely.

FOR THE CHEESE FILLING: With the back of a knife or in a mortar, crush open the juniper berries. In a small pot over low-medium heat combine the heavy cream and juniper berries. Stir often. When the cream comes to a near boil remove from heat and let the mixture cool and the juniper berries infuse for 30-40 minutes. The cream will likely clump, that is fine. Strain and press out as much liquid from the juniper berries, as possible.

In a small bowl, completely cover the gelatin sheets with water. Let bloom for 10 minutes.

In the same small pot as before, combine the bloomed gelatin sheets (no need to squeeze out all the water) and the cream over low heat, until the gelatine is dissolved completely. Cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, powdered sugar and lime zest. While still whisking, slowly, and in a thin stream, pour the slightly cooled cream-gelatine mixture into the cream cheese. When all is incorporated, pour the cheese filling into the cooled crust. Even it out if necessary. Cover with cling film and let the cheese cake set until firm in the refrigerator. A couple of hours.

FOR THE GIN GELÉE and FINAL ASSEMBLY : In a medium bowl, completely cover the gelatin sheets with water. Let bloom for 15 minutes. In a small pot over medium heat combine the water, sugar and lime. When the sugar has dissolved pour in the gin and remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the bloomed gelatin sheets until completely dissolved. Cool the gelée keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t set.

Arrange the sliced blackberries on the set cheesecake.

When the gelée has cooled and thickened, but is still pourable, pour carefully and slowly over the cheesecake. The blackberries will float, but will stay in the same pattern when taking care.

Cover with cling film and let the cake set until firm in the refrigerator.
Serve and enjoy.

Notes: • Here I have made an almost 1:1 ratio of cream cheese filling to gelée. For a less boozy version, simply half the gelée recipe. It will still be great. • I’m using grams because nothing else really makes sense when baking. Soooorrry 🙂 

 

smørrebrød no. 1: potato with chives mayo & quick pickled red onion

This right here is what I am looking forward to every weekend. A simple lunch of rugbrødsmadder or a fancier word: smørrebrød. A Danish sour dough rye bread topped with all sorts of goodies. Because of my love for smørrebrød I will make a little series on this topic, starting with my all time favorite: potato smørrebrød.

I believe I have loved this little piece of heaven for as long as I have lived, however my boyfriend claims he was the one who made me fall in love with potato on rye. But in the end, none of us can take credit for making mayo and potato taste so damn good together. All I can try, is elevate it a little, taking something that works, and make it run like a smooth operator (other than being a really good song, it is also a method to leave out noise from data – I looked it up).

A traditional (this is dangerous territory, and if anyone has a degree in smørrebrød, please correct me) potato on rye consists of, besides the rye, boiled potato slices topped with mayonnaise and chives. Very simple, yet very satisfying. The sweet and earthy potato, the sour rye bread, the fatty mayonnaise and the sharpness of the chives. It just works!

My rendition of potato on rye is not very different from the traditional one. I use the same ingredients, but I integrate the chives into the mayo for a more well-rounded fatty-to-sharp ratio. I then add quick pickled red onions for texture and extra acidity. 

One extra note. Rye bread. Sour dough rye bread. Rugbrød in Danish. It is my understanding, that outside Denmark the rye bread I am talking about is not very typical and/or accessible. If you can get it, great. Otherwise it is easy to make yourself – this recipe is good. Just don’t skimp on the sour dough rye bread, it really is half of the smørrebrød.

potato on rye bread with pickled onions and chive mayo


SMØRREBRØD: POTATO ON RYE WITH CHIVES MAYO & QUICK PICKLED RED ONION
Makes 6-8 servings

8-10 new small potatoes

FOR THE CHIVES MAYO:
100 ml (1/2 cup) neutral vegetable oil
A small bunch of chives, finely chopped
1 egg yolk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
A pinch of salt
FOR THE QUICK PICKLED RED ONION:
1 medium red onion
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp granulated sugar
A pinch of salt
3 tbsp boiling water

6-8 slices of Danish style sour dough rye bread
Salt + pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Clean and scrub the potatoes, leaving the skin on. Put into a pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Boil the potatoes until they are done – about 10-15 minutes depending on size and age. Check with a knife, to see if done. Drain, rinse with cold water and leave to cool completely.
  2. FOR THE CHIVES MAYO: In a small saucepan heat the vegetable oil over low heat. When it feels a little warm, but not hot, stir in the chopped chives and remove from the heat. Let it cool off a little.
  3. Blend the oil and chives well, strain in a fine meshed sieve into a small bowl. Leave to cool completely. Make quick pickled red onion now (step 5).
  4. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Then pour in the now cooled chives oil while whisking vigorously. Slowly at first, then pouring more steadily at the end. The mayo should have a, well, mayo consistency, but not the store-bought jelly hard like consistency. Add more vegetable oil if mayo is too thin.
  5. FOR THE QUICK PICKLED RED ONION: Slice the onion very thin. Add to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine and let sit until ready to use, but at least 20 minutes.
  6. TO SERVE: Slice the potatoes, lay slices onto the sour dough rye bread. Season with salt and pepper. Top with a dollop of chives mayo and some pickled onions. Sprinkle a bit of chopped chives, if you like. Enjoy!