My super-non-food-related Final Major Project is rendering these posts fewer and further between, but it does mean that I get to pack more into each one. Today I bring you photographic documentation of a 5-day cycle trip, Windward bananas mashed into oaty energy bars, and collection of freshly laid Lake District eggs to cook over our campfire—with all of that AND the reincarnated Jesus, I can’t think of a better way to transition into the month of April. A very happy holiday indeed!
Preheat oven to 175ºC/350ºF.
Mash wet ingredients together. The chia seeds should start gelling after a few minutes.
Stir dry ingredients together, then in with the wet until thoroughly combined and sticky.
Spoon into a tray lined with parchment paper and press down into a flat slab.
Bake about 25-35 minutes (depending on the size of the pan and thickness of the bars) until firm and slightly golden on the edges.
Cool for 10 minutes. Slice and carefully transfer onto a wire rack to cool for 10 more minutes.
Only a handful of posts into 2015 and it’s already mid-March; the end of my final undergraduate year is no doubt leaving less time to chase the sunshine with my camera and elaborately garnish every bowl of soup. Regardless, there is always time for a birthday cake.
Wandercrush only just turned 1 in 2014 and, much to my astonishment, the first week of March marked its 2nd anniversary. Goodness, it’ll be a toddler running around the house before I know it.
I’m one to stubbornly shy away from celebrating my own birthday with cake (and managed to run away for some candle-free birthday camping last summer), but even I can’t avoid making a cake when it’s a food blog’s birthday being celebrating.
Staying true to the seasonality behind every Wandercrush recipe, I figure the March birthday will call for blood-orange-infused variations as long as I’m still in the UK. Last year it was tiramisu mille crêpes, and this year it’s gotta be cake-ified baklava. The dense cake layer is inspired by the flourless Jewish passover recipe, using an entire blood orange that’s boiled until pulpy. The peel and pith’s all there, but all the bitterness is boiled away, just leaving you with citrusy perfume.
As was last year’s tiramisu, baklava (باقلوا) is undoubtedly one of my favourite desserts. Hailing from the former Ottoman Empire, it’s now common in cuisines throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. Luckily, I can get my fixes from the Turkish grocer around the corner. I should have done this the proper Greek way with 33 layers of phyllo—one for each year of Christ’s life—but phyllo dough tends to come in packs of convenient dozens… next time.
• 300ml (~1⅓ cup) water
• 100g (~½ cup) sugar
• 175g (~½ cup) honey
• 1 blood orange, zest and juice
• 1 cinnamon stick
Wash oranges and place in a deep saucepan to cover with water. Boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Drain, cover with fresh cold water, and chop roughly when cool enough to handle. Remove any seeds before blending into a smooth pulp.
Preheat oven to 170ºC / 340ºF.
Whisk eggs and honey before adding the orange, almond meal, and baking powder. Fold together without overmixing and pour into a greased, round baking dish. Depending on the size of your orange, you may need to adjust the amount of almond meal slightly for a thick but pourable consistency.
Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove carefully from the tin and set aside on a wire rack to cool.
Blend the nuts and spices, setting aside in a bowl.
Preheat the oven to 175ºC / 350ºF.
Remove phyllo pastry from the refrigerator, but make sure everything is set up and ready so that they don’t dry out and become difficult to work with.
With all the phyllo flat on a cutting board, place the bottom of your baking tin on top and trace around the inside with a knife, cutting all the phyllo into circles of roughly the same size. Grease the baking tin and set to the side.
For the phyllo base of the cake, simply layer one sheet of phyllo and brush with oil/butter mixture before laying another sheet directly on top. Stack 12 sheets in this fashion.
For the upper phyllo layers, use the same layering method with the addition of nuts. Before placing the next layer down, sprinkle a generous handful of the prepared nut mixture, spreading to the very edges. In this process, it’s easier to spread the oil/butter on the phyllo sheet before placing it on the stack, as the nuts underneath will make it more difficult to smooth over. Repeat until all the phyllo sheets are used up. Using the ragged edges left over from the circle tracing, garnish the top.
Cut ¾ of the way down into this nutty top stack into 6 slices, which will make post-baking cutting much less messy and difficult.
Place both into the oven side-by-side, baking for about an hour and rotating the tray at halfway point for even browning.
Meanwhile, make the syrup. Simply boil the mixture of water, sugar, honey, and blood orange juice in a saucepan for about 3-5 minutes until thick and clear. Add orange zest and cinnamon stick, setting aside to cool.
When the phyllo is browned, crispy, and cool enough to handle, carefully stack all 3 layers back into the round cake dish: nutless phyllo at the bottom, blood orange cake in the middle, and nutty phyllo on top. This takes some manoeuvring, but a spatula makes things much easier. Between stacking, generously pour some syrup to soak through each layer. Over the very top, drizzle the remaining syrup evenly and between all the cracks. The longer you can stand to let the syrup settle in and soak the phyllo, the less crumbly your top layer will be… but for instant gratification, garnish with a final sprinkle of chopped pistachios and a fan of thinly sliced blood orange.
Before I starting this blog, I always imagined food bloggers whipping up daily feasts and hosting frequent dinner parties, sending off leftovers to all the neighbours and family friends, feeding the nation with their overflowing kitchens. Alas, real life is chaotic and last-minute; often, even my own flatmates are out of the house when I have a free day to make a proper meal.
But a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of cooking for twelve people. It was a fun challenge and despite inexperience in delegating amounts of meat, each person ended up with exactly two parmesan-stuffed meatballs in their bowl.
My memories of Italian Wedding Soup are connected to homeliness and comfort, but aren’t glamorous in the least. We kept a seemingly self-regenerating pyramid of “Campbell’s Select” soup tins in the pantry, for the times Mom was fast asleep around midnight and I craved something other than Cheez-Its.
Incredibly, I don’t recall having ever tasted a fresh version before. I only dared to make a batch for this occasion because I figured anything tasting that good in a tin would taste even better out of a cast-iron pot with February turkey. It’s no wonder the Italians christened it “wedding soup”—not after matrimonial ceremonies, but after the beautiful “marriage” of ingredients and flavours. Turns out the coupling works just as well when kale replaces escarole, when big butter beans replace the pearly pasta balls called acini de pepe. Keeping the hungry crowd in mind, I also beefed this one up with potatoes, enriching the stock with parmesan rind.
All in all, it’s a crowd-pleaser that’s perfect for late February. London’s getting warmer by the week, and I’ve even dared to cycle without gloves. Still at the tail-end of winter, my premature longing for summer translates to this hearty soup—with a broth rich but clear, warm but bright—whispering of springtime.
Italian Wedding Soup
1kg minced turkey
1 small onion, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
¾ cup fresh bread crumbs
½ cup parmesan, freshly grated
handful fresh parsley, chopped
1 t dried oregano
1 t black pepper
1 ½ t salt
2 onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
parmesan rind, washed
300g butter beans, dried
500g potatoes, chopped
300g kale, chopped roughly
3 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup parmesan, freshly grated
salt & pepper
Soak butter beans overnight, covering with at least a few centimetres of water.
Preheat oven to 175ºC / 350ºF.
Combine ground meat, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, parmesan, egg, and herbs/spices. Mix thoroughly with hands, forming into meatballs of desired size. With each the size of a golfball, you’ll have about 24. Place on lightly greased sheets and bake for 20-30 minutes, alternating racks at the halfway mark so both get equal heat distribution.
Heat up some oil in a deep saucepan and sauté onions, celery, and garlic until tender and fragrant. Add the chicken stock along with the rind of your parmesan, which will add a wonderful dimension to the broth. Put in the potatoes and drained beans. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes until beans are tender but not falling apart.
Add the kale and meatballs, covering to simmer another 10 minutes until the greens are wilted.
Slowly stream in the beaten mixture of egg and parmesan, stirring constantly for another minute until egg is set in ribbons. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with chopped parsley and multigrain bread.
It’s one thing to take liberties with something as unfamiliar to the Western world as ndolé or zemlovka, but tacos have been the brunt of fusion cuisine. I’ve therefore always hesitated when it comes to Tex-Mex on the blog, for fear of half-heartedly singing an overplayed tune. But some melodies are overplayed for a good reason, and who am I to deny my love for Tex-Mex when burritos sustained me as a hungover Floridian university student?
How many variations of the vegetarian taco are out there now? The best and worst thing about the taco interpretation is how receptive it is to any and all fillings. I’m not a fan of the anaemic iceberg lettuce, but add-ins are unprejudiced toward more tomatoes, more avocado, more coriander, more lime.
But riced cauliflower, cauliflower rice! When it was in season this time last year, I used it for texture in this chili and found it to be a lovely canvas for flavours like cumin, chilli powder, smoked paprika, that whole section of the spice rack. I manipulated it again here, this time spreading over a baking sheet and roasting with taco seasoning until golden.
I won’t try to tie these suspiciously cuban black beans or avocado lime cream drizzle back to the indigenous Mexicans, but these soft corn tortillas are perhaps the most accurate representation of what the taco once was—they’re simply masa harina (flour made from lime-treated maize) mixed with water, pressed into discs, and dry-cooked on the skillet until toasty.
Vegetarian Tacos with Riced Cauliflower, Black Beans, & Avocado Cream
250g black beans, dried
2 cloves garlic, whole
2 leeks, sliced
1 t cumin
1 t smoked paprika
1 t chilli powder
dash of white wine vinegar
1 head cauliflower, grated
2 cloves garlic, whole
1 T chilli powder
¼ t garlic powder
¼ t onion powder
¼ t red pepper flakes
¼ t dried oregano
½ t paprika
1 t cumin
1 t sea salt
1 t black pepper
3 T greek yogurt
1 lime, juice of
2 cups masa harina
1 ½ cups warm water
cherry tomatoes, halved
fresh coriander/cilantro, chopped
lime, juice of
Soak the beans overnight.
In the morning, pour out the soaking water and put into a heavy pot, filling up with fresh water to a few centimetres above the beans. Add two whole cloves of garlic and a bay leaf, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer to cook for at least 1 hour, checking to top up water if necessary.
Once the beans are simmering, begin caramelising the leeks in a dash of oil and a pinch of salt, cooking slowly over low heat to coax out the sweetness. Whenever they begin sticking or drying out, deglaze the pan with some vegetable stock and stir until they’re a golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 175ºC / 350ºF. Grate cauliflower roughly into rice-like particles. Toss lightly in a tablespoon of neutral oil before adding in the spice mix and combining well. Bake with a couple cloves of garlic for 30-45 minutes, stirring around occasionally and removing when nice and golden. Set aside to let the them cool off on the tray, then transfer them to a deep bowl and set aside.
Once the beans are creamy and tender and most of the water is gone, mix in a large bowl with the leeks along with the cumin, smoked paprika, chilli powder, and vinegar. Remove the bay leaf, but not the garlic. With the side of the bowl with a wooden spoon, smashing some black bean to create a thicker cohesive texture. Season to taste, cover, and set aside.
For the corn tortillas, combine masa harina with warm water and let it sit for a few minutes before working the dough together by hand. Working with sections the size slightly larger than a golf ball, roll flat into about 16-18 discs.
Heat up a skillet over medium heat and let each tortilla cook for less than a minute on each side, flipping when pockets of air appear on the surface and each side looks toasted. Stack up and wrap in a tea towel to keep warm as the process is repeated with remaining balls of dough. If refrigerating and reheating later, re-heat with a sprinkle of water to keep them moist.
Combine avocado, yogurt, and lime in a blender or processor, adding just a dash of water if it needs to be thinned out. Season to taste.
Load up the fresh and warm tortillas with the black bean mixture, the roasted cauliflower, and a drizzle of the avocado lime sauce. Top with halved cherry tomatoes, fresh coriander, and more lime juice as desired.
Happy 2015! I would add ‘belated’, but it seems that 2015 lasts all year. Considering graduation is only six months away and the heavily design-devoted time that will be necessary up until then (and long after), I’m drafting up a new approach for the purpose and identity of Wandercrush. It’s already developed and morphed naturally over the course of two years, but circumstances call for a reconfiguration into something that more fully encompasses my aspirations and fascinations. Of course this will always include food and travel, but I’ve come to realise how paradoxically separate from the rest of my identity these things can become when framed in an exclusively dedicated blog.
Anyway, more on that in the upcoming months.
Forgive me for the lack of recipe commentary, but I handed in my undergraduate dissertation yesterday (This can also explain the January absence!) and have just about been wrung dry of words.
Anyway, beetroot can speak for itself—confidently, at that.
Essentially, this is a nested reply to India’s answer for breakfast carbs: the aloo paratha. Just added a bit of grated beetroot and paired it with a fresh apple chutney of sorts. I shamefully under-celebrated the glorious UK apple season this year, so it’s a last-minute tribute.
Beetroot Stuffed Parathas & Apple Chutney
(yields about 10)
350g (~3 cups) whole wheat flour
generous pinch of salt
1 t neutral oil
150g beetroot, peeled and chopped
250g potato, peeled and chopped
1 t neutral oil
1 t cumin seeds
1 small onion, minced
1 green chilli, minced
½ t red chilli powder
½ t garam masala
½ t cumin powder
¼ t tumeric powder
handful fresh coriander/cilantro, chopped
salt, to taste
2 organic apples, peeled and grated
1 t fresh ginger, grated
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 t red chilli flakes
½ t garam masala
salt, to taste
Combine flour with salt and oil. In increments, add just enough water whilst kneading to form a smooth dough. Cover and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes and beetroot pieces until very tender. Drain and let cool before mashing the potatoes and grating the beetroot finely. Before combining the two together, squeeze as much liquid out of the grated beetroot as possible. It may be helpful to use cheesecloth for this.
Heat up oil and add cumin seeds. When they begin popping, add the onions and green chillies, sautéing for a few minutes. Add in the ground spices, fresh coriander, and mashed potato mixture. Mix over low heat for another minute, mashing all together and seasoning with salt to taste.
Take off the heat and divide into ten smaller portions.
Knead the dough again and divide into golfball-sized portions, about 10.
Flatten one ball of dough on a clean surface, placing a ball of potato beetroot stuffing in the centre. Pinch up the edges of the dough, folding them up and around the stuffing. Pinch to seal the dough from the top like a pocket or dumpling, then roll out gently into a flat circle without applying excessive amounts of pressure, dusting the work surface with more flour as needed. This can take some practice!
Repeat for remaining parathas.
Heat up a taw or flat sauté pan with large surface diameter on medium flame. Place a paratha in it, waiting until heat makes bubbles appear on the surface. Spread some oil over the top and flip over, pressing lightly with a spatula. When brown spots appear on the bottom, spread some oil over the top and flip again to cook until covered with charred brown spots.
Repeat for remaining parathas.
To make the chutney, heat up a dash of oil in a small saucepan over medium heat and add the ginger, frying for a minute. Add in the grated apple, vinegar, and spices. Simmer uncovered on low heat until the contents are thick and the the apples are completely softened—at least 15 minutes. If it gets too dry at any point, add a splash of apple juice.
Serve alongside parathas on a bed of dressed beet greens, dressed with some light vinaigrette or olive oil.