Analogue Madrid & Baked Sea Bream (Besugo a la Madrileña)

June has come and gone along with the first half of 2015, it seems. The degree show has been curated, painstakingly built up (and all-t00-easily taken back down), my wonderful Mother came to visit, and tomorrow I start at my first full-time job in London. I wonder what to do with Wandercrush, which was started and maintained over two years of relatively stable and predictable circumstances. For now, it makes sense to tie each whirlwind month together with food, because that’s what food does best.

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

Last month, I had a premature taste of summer when I hopped briefly across the Channel to visit my childhood friend, a Floridian neighbour for years and currently teaching English in Madrid. Their cuisine is crammed with potatoes and seafood—how perfect to adapt their baked sea bream dish to local Jersey Royals (also great in salads) and summery Isle of Wight tomatoes, now that the UK has finally caught up in temperature. I made this for my mum and a handful of good friends on the last evening of her trip. This little bream didn’t last long, but the conversation drifted well into the 9pm sunset.

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

Madrid-Style Baked Sea Bream (Besugo a la Madrileña)

  • 1 whole sea bream, scaled and gutted
  • ½ unwaxed lemon, sliced into rounds
  • kosher salt / freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced into rounds
  • 300g Jersey Royal new potatoes, sliced into discs
  • 200g Isle of Wight cherry tomatoes
  • kosher salt / freshly ground pepper
  • 3 dried chilli peppers
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • handful fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350ºF / 175ºC.

Toss the sliced potatoes and onions with the olive oil and more salt/pepper. Line the bottom of a wide oven-proof dish with these and pop into the oven first for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make three deep slashes on one side of the fish, inserting a slice of lemon into each. Rub the whole fish in salt and pepper and place atop the semi-roasted veg. Scatter the cherry tomatoes around and drizzle everything with olive oil before returning the dish to the oven for another 25-30 minutes until completely cooked.

Just before the fish comes out of the oven, gently fry the garlic and chilli in a few tablespoons of oil. Right after removing everything from the oven, pour the hot oil over the fish. Finish with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

Even in the heat of FMP deadlines and Spanish climate, I went through 3 rolls of film on Dad’s old Nikon film camera when I was in Madrid for a few days. Although I was eyeballs-deep into Adobe Suite even as barhopping backpackers stumbled back into the 10-bunk hostel room at 4am, it was easy to see how beautiful the city was.

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea BreamWandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

In other other news (a packed post, though all surprisingly relevant to sea bream!), my friend Alex Whiting came over to shoot me shooting food. She’s also my coursemate, and her Final Major Project exists online as a beautiful website called This Place; my interview is just one of the many she conducted with creators in their creative environments. Below are a few screenshots and her film photography, but visit the site—best viewed on Chrome—to learn many embarrassing things, including how I eat my Weetabix and why I hated brushing my teeth as a kid.

Wandercrush This Place Alex Whiting Irina Wang

 

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

Wandercrush This Place Alex Whiting Irina Wang

Wandercrush Madrid and Baked Sea Bream

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Posted in Art/Design, Baked Goods, Collaboration, Fish & Game, Main, Personal, Spain, Travel, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Almond-Encrusted Cauliflower & Creamed Spinach

HELLO ALL. The past two months have been absolutely consumed by my Final Major Project on endangered language education in Bangladesh (more to come in a future post). Particularly in the two weeks leading up to hand-in, my entire lifestyle changed to accommodate the workload and constant fluctuation between a state of panic and of exhaustion. I must admit I’ve consumed more coffee than vegetables, but in this window of faux-freedom before we start building our degree show exhibition, I am so excited to eat dinner before 10pm.

Cauliflower-Steak-Creamed-Spinach-8

I’ve had this recipe ready for posting since April, but just haven’t had the time to click all the buttons. It’s suitably packed with all the vegetables I’ve been neglecting recently—classic example of ‘eat as I say but not as I eat’!

A famous case of the veggies-hidden-in-fatty-goodness-until-all-the-health-benefits-are-outweighted phenomenon: creamed spinach. It’s a classic side to order at the steakhouse, just to make sure you make that 16oz ribeye a balanced meal. My whole family loves it, but it can get a bit heavy after a spoonful or so. This version with almond milk is just as silky with enough green-kissed creaminess to transform a heap of mashed potatoes.

Cauliflower-Steak-Creamed-Spinach-3

cauliflower-creamed-spinach-vert2

Instead of destroying cauliflower’s form to play with its versatility (guilty, guilty, & guilty), it’s just sliced into hefty slabs, breaded, and baked. No need to pretend it replaces a cut of filet mignon, but it is wonderful in its own right.

Wandercrush Almond Baked Cauliflower Creamed Spinach

I’d be the last one to decry the miracle that is yeast-risen bread, but an almond does pack more nutrients and healthy fats than a kernel of wheat—wholemeal or not. Wheat flour is often used by default in recipes that require its texture more than specifically harnessing the elasticity of its gluten or its bready taste. Crunchy batters, crumbled toppings, thickening roux, for example, take well to substitutes. This thick cross-section of cauliflower is encrusted with spices in a base of course-ground almonds, baked until crisp and golden. The creamed spinach is made dairy free with almond milk, thickened with arrowroot powder, and crowned with a sprinkle of crunchy almond flakes. It browns beautifully, tastes bangin’, and doesn’t trigger widespread cultural outrage the way gluten seems to.

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Cauliflower-Steak-Creamed-Spinach-6

Creamed Spinach & Almond-Encrusted Cauliflower Steaks

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ cup almond flour
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1 t chili powder
  • 1 t granulated onion
  • 1 t granulated garlic
  • 1 t dried parsley
  • 1 t dried thyme
  • 1 t dried rosemary
  • salt & pepper
  • 500g fresh spinach
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 T arrowroot powder (or other thickener)
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • ¾ cup course almond flour
  • salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 425ºF / 220ºC.
Fill a saucepan with a few centimetres of boiling water, adding spinach a bit at a time until all of it is wilted. Drain and press out as much water as possible.
Add oil and onions to the dried saucepan, cooking until soft and fragrant. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the arrowroot powder with a splash of almond milk until there are no clumps. Stream into the pan slowly. Add the rest of the almond milk, stirring and simmering for a few minutes until thick.
Stir in the nutmeg, grated cheese, and spinach. Give it a final stir with salt and pepper before spooning into a baking dish.
Toss the almond flour in some coconut oil before sprinkling over the spinach. Bake for about 25 minutes, carefully watching so that the layer of almond flour becomes golden but not burnt.

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Posted in America, Art/Design, Baked Goods, Collaboration, Lebanon, Main, Personal, Russia/Ukraine, Side, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Banana Oat Bars & Easter Bike Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Happy, happy Easter Sunday.

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!

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Windward Banana Oat Bars

  • 2 windward bananas, ripe and mashed
  • 90g (~¼ cup) honey
  • 1 T chia seeds + 3 T water
  • ½ t vanilla extract
  • 100g (~1 cup) rolled oats
  • 100g (~1 cup) porridge oats
  • 65g (~½ cup) walnuts
  • 50g (~⅓ cup) raisins/sultanas
  • 60g (~⅓ cup) chopped dates
  • 30g (~¼ cup) mixed seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower)
  • ½ t sea salt

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.

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District TouringWandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

Wandercrush Banana Oat Bars Lake District Touring

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Posted in America, Baked Goods, Breakfast, England, Finger Food, Foraged, Personal, Sweets, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Blood Orange Baklava Cake & 2 Years of Wandercrushing

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 Blood Orange Baklava Cake

Wandercrush Blood Orange Baklava 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.

Wandercrush Blood Orange Baklava Cake

Wandercrush Blood Orange Baklava Cake

Wandercrush Blood Orange Baklava Cake

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.

Wandercrush Blood Orange Baklava Cake

Wandercrush Blood Orange Baklava Cake

Wandercrush Blood Orange Baklava Cake

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.

Wandercrush Blood Orange Baklava Cake

Wandercrush Blood Orange Baklava Cake

Blood Orange Baklava Birthday Cake

• 1 blood orange, whole
• 1 organic egg, beaten
• 115g (~⅓ cup) honey
• 150g–170g (~1½ cup) almond meal
• ½ t baking powder

• 120g (~1 cup)walnuts, chopped finely
• 75g (~¾ cup) pistachios, chopped finely
• ½ t cinnamon, ground
• ½ t cloves, ground

• 24 sheets phyllo dough
• 150g neutral oil / melted butter

• 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.

Wandercrush Blood Orange Baklava Cake

Wandercrush Blood Orange Baklava Cake

Wandercrush Blood Orange Baklava Cake

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Posted in Algeria, America, Baked Goods, Blog News, Greece, Israel, Jewish, Lebanon, Levant, Libya, Morocco, North Africa, Personal, Sweets, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Italian Wedding Soup

Wandercrush Italian Wedding Soup Wandercrush Italian Wedding Soup

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.

Wandercrush Italian Wedding Soup

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.

Wandercrush Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup
(serves 12)

  • 1kg minced turkey
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • ¾ cup fresh bread crumbs
  • ½ cup parmesan, freshly grated
  • 1 egg
  • 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
  • chicken stock
  • 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.

Wandercrush Italian Wedding Soup Wandercrush Italian Wedding Soup

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Posted in Fish & Game, Italy, Main, Soup | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments