St. Lucia Saffron Buns (Lussebullar)

Here’s a quickie for the last of 2015!

I’m in Taiwan awaiting a red-eye flight home, watching the Chinese version of David Attenborough with my mum and grandma. Landing in Taipei on the 25th, the only mention of Christmas was from our cheerful Dutch cabin crew upon announcing local temperatures and baggage claim numbers; literally overnight, everything’s gone from mulled wine and ice skating to the same ol’ Taiwan. Of course, come February, Chinese New Year festivities will have transformed the streets into something I’ve never known in all my summertime childhood visits.

With each year eroding the relative stability and predictability of childhood, I gladly soak up holiday vibes wherever they may crop up. Among this year’s opportunistic festivities was baking saffron buns with my dearest Swede Louise, whom I happily visited two summers ago. In her exceedingly adult lifestyle, dough rises higher and there are multiple rolls of wrapping paper and ribbon to choose from. (Just when I think I’m all grown up, I realise that I still recycle my screen-printing scraps and the twine from fancy jam jars when wrapping gifts.)

Wandercrush St. Lucia Saffron Buns

Wandercrush St. Lucia Saffron Buns

The tradition of baking St. Lucia buns seems to overlap Scandinavia and England—in Cornwall, they are rather adorably called ‘tea treat buns’ or ‘revel buns’. Their namesake Saint Lucy is said to have brought food to the Christians hiding in catacombs via candle-lit wreath. Nowadays many commercial buns will use food colouring in place of luxurious saffron, but count the precious strands (along with the indulgent amounts of dairy and white flour, for instance!) as annual treats to be enjoyed wholly.

Wandercrush St. Lucia Saffron Buns

Wandercrush St. Lucia Saffron Buns

Wandercrush St. Lucia Saffron Buns

St. Lucia Saffron Buns (Lussebullar)
(yields 32 buns)

  • 200g butter or ghee
  • 500ml (~2 cups) milk
  • 1g saffron + 1 T sugar
  • 50g fresh yeast
  • 200g (~1 cup) sugar
  • 3 T warm water
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ~2 kg bread flour
  • 150g (~1 cup) raisins, optional
  • 1 egg, beaten for brushing

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, then add the milk and sugar until warm to the touch. Smash the strands of saffron with a mortar/pestle, using some sugar to help grind it up. Tip into the warm milk mixture.

In a very large bowl, crumble the fresh fresh yeast and combine with warm water and sugar. Once the yeast begins releasing bubbles, mix in salt, eggs, and the warm milk mixture. Add the flour in cup by cup, stirring gradually to form a lump of rich yellow dough. Knead by hand until very smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed to reach the right consistency. Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a moist tea towel, and leave in a warm moist place to rest for one or two hours. It should be about doubled in size at the end of the rising time.

Preheat the oven to 260ºC/500ºF. Scatter some flour on a clean work surface and divide the dough into half, then quarter each half. Quarter each remaining piece again so that you have 32 dough balls of equal size. To form the traditional bun shape, roll into a long rope and spiral each end inwards in opposite directions to make an ‘S’-shape. Let these shapes rise again on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes, then brush generously with some beaten egg. Bake each batch in the oven for about 8 minutes. Make sure to cover each finished batch with a towel while cooling to ensure that they stay moist.

Wandercrush St. Lucia Saffron Buns

Wandercrush St. Lucia Saffron Buns

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Posted in Baked Goods, Breakfast, Collaboration, Denmark, England, Finger Food, Norway, Scandinavian/Nordic, Sweden, Sweets | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Autumn Romesco Roast & Visa Limbo

Since the beginning of October—and for ‘up to’ eight more weeks—my Tier 2 visa application has been sitting somewhere in the Home Office, slotted into a stack of bureaucratic paperwork. Aside from the weekly sign-in required of international students (mostly inconvenient, slightly demeaning, and eventually repealed), I never felt like my existence in London was dangling on a thin thread of government regulation… until the looming landmark of graduation somehow drifted past, revealing a visa expiration date on the horizon. Now that day has also come, gone, and left me floating around as a legal overstayer in Southeast London.

Wandercrush Romesco Roasted Pumpkin Leek & Kamut Wandercrush Romesco Roasted Pumpkin Leek & Kamut

There’s an exciting but conditional job offer, which I can only accept if/when a new visa is granted; I can’t sign a lease to settle into a new flat, but neither can I legally leave the country and escape uncertainties by killing time overseas. Days are marked by the number of espresso shots required to maintain a healthy café ‘freelancing’ routine; weeks are marked by couch-hopping to avoid sapping hospitality; months trickle by with every conversation (business or leisure, family or stranger) ending in “Sorry, I can let you know more as soon as I do! It should just be another week or so…”

Although life-limbo has been exhausting in ways, I find myself deeply grateful for a forcibly cleared slate. It’s terrifying and relieving to shed the all-consuming illusion of control—the hubris that would have us book early-bird concert tickets, rearrange lunch plans, and then assume we have any sort of authority over the future. Productivity and responsibility are not omniscience. Micromanagement is not orchestration—and hey, I love management on all scales. But stripped of housing, paid work, and mobility, there’s not much left to distract from the bare bones of human existence. So. If you fancy being thrust into a constant state of existential self-examination and spiritual calibration, have a chat with the Home Office!

That being said, I realise an American citizen’s struggle to obtain a UK visa is rather laughable and crass when contextualised. In the height of my own anxieties, I read horrific accounts of Syrian refugees dying on desperate journeys into Europe. I listened to this podcast episode about a Somali refugee in Kenya winning the US visa lottery, literally. Abdi and countless others that face police raids and capsizing boats on their way to asylum have every right to scoff at my privileged existential crisis. Even the worst I’ve endured (thumb-twiddling, free-loading, and career path flip-flopping) is luxurious.

Wandercrush Romesco Roasted Pumpkin Leek & KamutWandercrush Romesco Roasted Pumpkin Leek & KamutWandercrush Romesco Roasted Pumpkin Leek & Kamut

In the meantime, Autumn is happening quickly. All the signs say so, besides the start of new school year (sob). Everyone started wearing scarves again. Overseas enthusiasm for Halloween is on the incline, but I still managed to half-heartedly bodge a costume and disappoint everyone who touts me as ‘their creative friend’. The John Lewis Christmas advert divided opinions, and Bonfire Night has come and gone; I still haven’t properly burned an effigy. It seems like yesterday I was surprised by the season’s first fallen leaves crunching underfoot, yet today every tree along Camberwell Grove is skeletal and bare.

You’d be right to assume that all the above life-limbo has put limitations on leisurely cooking and photography, so here’s the last dish from that beloved nest I vacated exactly one month ago. Romesco sauce is something I’ve always wanted to experience in context of a big calçotade. During the Catalonian spring onion harvest, calçots are charred over open flame and the tender stems are dipped straight into the smokey romesco. This version with whole roasted leeks and jar-of-kamut-that-needs-to-be-consumed-before-moving-out is a notch less rustic, but still a wonderful way to remember the joys of (quite literally) making a home on Copleston Road. Here’s to sandpaper, uncertainty, and smoked paprika.

Wandercrush Romesco Roasted Pumpkin Leek & KamutWandercrush Romesco Roasted Pumpkin Leek & Kamut

Romesco-Roasted Pumpkin, Leek, & Kamut
(inspired by Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Eat)

  • 2 whole leeks, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 sugar pumpkin (substitute other winter squash), sliced into crescents
  • 2 T homemade romesco (see recipe below!)
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • kosher salt & black pepper
  • 200g (~1 cup) kamut (substitute any chewy grain)
  • ~700g (~3 cups) vegetable stock
  • 2 T romesco, to toss
  • handful of watercress
  • squeeze of lemon

Preheat oven to 200ºC / 395ºF. Toss leeks and pumpkins in romesco, arranging on a few baking sheets as necessary without overcrowding. Drizzle with a little of olive oil and salt/pepper and roast for 30-45 minutes, until pumpkin in cooked through and leeks are charred on outer edges. Rotate baking sheets in the oven halfway through.

Meanwhile, cook the kamut on the stovetop with a roughly 1:3 ratio to vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cover. When all the liquid is absorbed and the grains have a toothsome chew, toss with romesco sauce.

When the vegetables are roasted and come out of the oven, tip them and the cooked grains into deep baking sheet and toss all together. Pop back into the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

Top with some fresh watercress, drizzling with a final spoonful of romesco and squeeze of lemon.

Wandercrush Romesco Roasted Pumpkin Leek & Kamut Wandercrush Romesco Roasted Pumpkin Leek & Kamut

Romesco Sauce

  • 3 medium vine tomatoes, halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
  • 50g almonds, slivered
  • 30g hazelnuts
  • 2 medium red bell peppers
  • 1 dried ancho pepper, soaked in hot water
  • 1 slice stale artisan bread, cubed
  • 2 T white wine vinegar
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • olive oil

Preheat oven to 175ºC / 350ºF. Place tomatoes and unpeeled garlic cloves onto a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and put into the oven. In a separate baking sheet, scatter nuts to roast at a lower shelf. The nuts should be done in about 10 minutes, but watch closely to remove when golden and fragrant. The tomatoes and garlic will take closer to 30 minutes, until very softened and edges are browned.

Meanwhile, toast the fresh peppers and dried ancho in a skillet, broiler, or open flame until skins are blackened and charred. Pop the fresh peppers into a brown paper bag and set aside. When cool enough to handle, peel off the charred skin, deseed, and slice up.

Place all the roasted and toasted ingredients into a processor/blender with bread, vinegar, and seasonings, blitzing and drizzling in olive oil as necessary.

When storing in a refrigerated jar, cover the surface in a layer of oil.

Wandercrush Romesco Roasted Pumpkin Leek & Kamut Wandercrush Romesco Roasted Pumpkin Leek & KamutWandercrush Romesco Roasted Pumpkin Leek & Kamut

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Posted in Baked Goods, England, Main, Personal, Salad, Sauce, Side, Spain, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cycling Stories & Forged Apples

Some notable food-related bits have occurred in the past month; here’s a loosely curated deposit including magazine spreads and food cooked on a Blacksmith’s 1200ºC forge.

Wandercrush Cornwall Project Forged Apple Wandercrush Cornwall Project Forged AppleWandercrush Root+Bone Issue 07

A spread from my chicken-and-storm-filled cycling trip appeared in Issue 07 of Root+Bone. The original recipe for the Banana Oat Energy Bars was on Wandercrush in April, but I scraped some new words together for the feature:

“You could say that touring the hilly Lake District atop a gearless bike was a terrible idea, and my legs and lungs would agree. My stomach, however, would quickly add that our meals made up for—and even benefited from—each gruelling ascent. Food just tastes better when your body needs rewarding (i.e. an apology), which is why you enthusiastically devour a boring sandwich after skipping breakfast and how a simple bowl of stew tastes heavenly after a long commute home in the wintertime. Hence, the bullets of hail pelting us all the way around Coniston Water didn’t feel so punishing after our third free refill of strong black coffee at the local lakeside cafe; it was only a distant memory after digesting a Cumberland sausage baguette and soup of the day. As we shared a generous slice of carrot cake, our dripping gloves and waterlogged shoes laid forgotten, optimistically scattered around the wood burner. Appropriately festive for the Easter holidays, we groped around a friend’s Cumbrian chicken coop to collect 28 freshly laid eggs. A handy issue of Root+Bone (fantastic tent-time reading) doubled as kindling when we cracked a handful of those eggs over our campfire the next morning. Their flame-licked yolks were enough sunshine to fuel us up for an overcast cycle through beautiful Grizedale Forest. After managing a few hours’ sleep inside what felt like a plastic bag caught in a tornado, it was time to dismantle the tents and load up our panniers. When we wheeled our bikes onto the road towards Kendal station, there was a loud crack as the wind snapped a tree in half. Given these omens, we weren’t too surprised to hear that the ferry crossing was closed due to unfavourable weather conditions. The detour through Ambleside didn’t leave any time for Cumberland sausages, but we each had a homemade banana-oat energy bar left to get us through the storm—quite literally—and onto a train home.

In older bike-related publication news, my friend Harriet submitted a piece to Boneshaker to document last year’s trip from London to Bournemouth. I only accompanied them to Brighton with my little plastic Oktomat camera, but somehow occupied half a page with my bum up a tree.

Wandercrush Boneshaker

Wandercrush Boneshaker

Wandercrush Boneshaker

More recently, I experienced this incredible meal from The Cornwall Project, each course cooked on a blazing forge that the guys at Blenheim Forge use to make beautiful knives of layered Damascus steel. I say ‘experienced’ because half the enjoyment was in witnessing a hunk of cornish beef combust into flames and hearing a collective cheer as the white-hot poker seared its way clean through a Bramley apple. The other half, naturally, was in the eating.

Transcending the (justified) argument against badly designed and ineffectual electric stoves, there’s just something undeniably honest about cooking with naked flame. Without becoming entangled in Richard Wrangham’s theory for human evolution, I do think it’s safe to say that the very earliest civilisations featured fire—in one form or another—at the heart of every meal.

Its full range was harnessed masterfully on the night; the relentlessly charred crust of beef rump revealed a pink-centred cross section like that of delicately seared ahi tuna, while the gently hot-smoked mackerel appeared untouched but tasted distinctly of lingering fire. All said and consumed, I wholly agree with Francis Mallman, badass Argentinian chef known for incredible live-fire cooking: “Whether you’re cooking in the streets of Paris, under the Brooklyn Bridge, or deep in the Andes, fire always has a magic way of slowing things down and bringing people together.”

Wandercrush Cornwall Project Forged Apple

Wandercrush Cornwall Project Forged Apple

Wandercrush Cornwall Project Forged Apple

I don’t believe the ‘super seared’ meat could be recreated with a gas stove on high heat, but chef Michael Harrison has kindly adjusted the dessert course recipe for those without a blacksmith’s forge at home.

“Originally we heated a steel rod until it was white hot (around 1200ºC) and used it to force the core out of a cooking apple. This not only removed the core and roasted it from the inside out but the extreme temperature charred the fruit in a very unique way. It was unlike any apple I had eaten before.”

Wandercrush Cornwall Project Forged Apple

Wandercrush Cornwall Project Forged Apple

Wandercrush Cornwall Project Forged Apple

Wandercrush Cornwall Project Forged Apple

Forged Apples w/ Cardamom Custard, Raspberry, & Rosemary
Recipe by Michael Harrison of The Cornwall Project
(serves 4)

  • 4 egg yolks
  • caster sugar
  • milk
  • double cream
  • 10 whole cardamom pods
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • sea salt
  • 2 large bramley apples
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 200g slightly sour raspberries

This recipe will make more custard than required for the recipe, but it is very hard to make less. Put the egg yolks into a small glass or measuring jug and mark their volume. Measure the same amount of caster sugar, twice the amount of milk, and twice the amount of double cream.
Deseed the vanilla pods and crush the cardamom pods. Place all pods and seeds in a saucepan with the milk and cream. Heat to just below a simmer and hold there for 15 minutes.
Beat the egg yolks, the caster sugar and a pinch of sea salt together until a smooth, pale consistency is achieved. The mix should also increase in volume.
Take the milk and cream mix off the heat, rest for 1 minute and pour 1/3 of it into the egg yolk mix whisking constantly until fully incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and cream mix whisking the same way.
Transfer the whole mixture into a clean, heavy bottomed saucepan over a very low heat or a bowl over a Bain Marie and stir with a spoon until the mixture significantly thickens (enough to coat the back of the spoon). If you can see lumps forming, it is ready.
Strain the custard through a fine sieve into a bowl set in ice water and stir until cool. Refrigerate.

Clean the raspberries as necessary and mince the rosemary leaves as finely as possible.
Preheat your oven to maximum. If you have a corer, core the apples and roast until they just start to soften. You are looking for an al dente texture. In the absence of a corer, slice apples in half vertically and remove the core.
Mix the custard, raspberries and rosemary by gently folding them without over incorporating. Stuff the apples with as much of the mix as possible. If using cored apples slice vertically once stuffed.

Wandercrush Cornwall Project Forged Apple

Wandercrush Cornwall Project Forged Apple

Wandercrush Cornwall Project Forged Apple

Wandercrush Cornwall Project Forged Apple

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Posted in Art/Design, Baked Goods, Collaboration, Kitchen Science, Personal, Sweets, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment