Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Spicy Chicken Curry

We've been experiencing some very cold weather here in Maine.  Finding something warm and comforting for dinner is my mission.  Some kind of curry dish will always satisfy me.  I've chosen an Indian curry for tonight's dinner, an aromatic coconut curry with lots of spice.  I had chicken legs and thighs in the freezer, but boneless chicken breast can also be used.  I served this curried chicken dish with rice, onion parathas and mango lassie.

A winter wonderland with highs in the teens and lows below 0.  Breathtaking in more ways than one!


Ginger Garlic Paste
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

Spice Powder
12 dried hot red chilies
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
2 cardamom pods  
3 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened dry coconut, reconstituted in a small bowl, barely covered with hot water.  Let sit for an hour.  

5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground termeric
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2- 2 1/2 pounds chicken,bone in, cut in serving size pieces, or 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken cut into 2 inch pieces.
3 medium sized tomatoes, diced
6-7 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

1.  To make the ginger and garlic paste, add chopped ginger and garlic to a small food processor or a blender along with 3 tablespoons of water.  Blend until a smooth paste is achieved.  Remove from blender and set aside.

 2.  To make the spice powder, mix together in a clean coffee grinder, the dried red chilies, cumin, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cardamom, cloves and salt.  Grind to a fine powder.  Put the spice powder into a blender and add the coconut along with the water.  Blend to a smooth paste.  Set aside.

 3.  Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet, over medium heat.  When hot, add sliced red onion.  Stir and fry for 4-5 minutes or until golden.  Add the garlic and ginger paste.  Stir once then add the turmeric and salt.  Stir around a couple more times and add the chicken pieces.  Stir and cook for 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat until the chicken is lightly browned.  Add the tomatoes to the chicken, stir and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the spice paste and cook for 3 more minutes.  Lastly, add 2 1/2 cups of water, stir together and allow to come to a simmer.  Turn the heat down and continue to simmer gently for about 30-40 minutes or until the sauce becomes thick and the chicken starts to pull away from the bone.

4.  While the chicken is simmering, in a small skillet, using the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, saute the sliced shallots slowly over medium heat, stirring frequently until nicely browned.  Spread on paper towels and set aside.  When the chicken is done and your ready to serve, sprinkle the fried shallots over the chicken and Enjoy!  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Spekkoek (Lapis Legit or Thousand Layer Cake)

I found this beautiful layered cake on the internet and was intrigued by the many layers.  The original recipe was found here but I used Emeril Legasse's
technique for baking the layers, using the broiler instead of the oven.
Lapis legit, thousand layer cake, was made by the Dutch people of Indonesia.  It's made by baking each layer individually using a combination of spices called Spekkoek.  This recipe looks daunting but once you try it you'll realize just how easy it is.  Plan on spending a couple of hours in the kitchen and don't be frightened by the ingredient amounts, this is probably only going to be a once a year event!  Spekkoek Layer Cake is well worth the time and expense, I hope you'll give it a try!


Use a 10 inch springform pan, buttered and the bottom lined with parchment paper.  

This will serve 20 or better, this is a very rich cake so small slices are recomended.  I made this recipe and cut the cake in half and brought it to a party.  The other half will be served at Christmas.  Wrapped in plastic wrap, this cake will hold well in the refrigerator for a week. 

16 eggs at room temperature, separated
750 g  unsalted butter, at room temperature 
400 g granulated sugar
200 g all purpose flour, sifted
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardomom
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg 
pinch of salt

Set your oven to broil.  Position your oven rack in the middle slot.

1.  In a mixing bowl, beat butter until very creamy and white colored.  Add egg yolks, a couple at a time, mixing well to combine.  Add sugar, mixing well, then add  flour in 3 parts.  Mix to completely combine.  Transfer this mixture to a very large bowl (you'll need this to fold the eggs and butter mixture together)


2.  Clean your mixing bowl well so there is absolutely no trace of butter left in the bowl and add the egg whites and salt.  Whisk together on medium speed until very frothy then raise the speed to high and whip the whites until stiff peaks form.

3.  With a large rubber spatula, scoop a dollop of the egg whites and add to the butter mixture.  Fold in to lighten the batter a bit.  Add remaining whites and fold them through until combined.  Your not going to blend this batter completely, so don't try.  Your egg whites may start to deflate and there may be a little liquid around the edges.  Don't worry, everything will be good.  Don't over do it, there still should be egg whites marbled through the butter mixture.

4.  Divide the batter equally between two bowls, I find that weighing the batter on a scale will give you a perfectly equal amount.  Add spice mixture to one of the bowls and fold in carefully. 

5.  Now that you have your two batters, one spice flavored, one not, you can begin the baking process.  Using a 1/2 cup measure, scoop out a slightly rounded amount of the spiced batter first.  Spread it evenly to the edges and around the entire bottom of the pan.  Carefully place the pan under the preheated broiler and cook for 3 minutes.  I find setting a timer is very helpful.  When your timer goes off, remove the cake from the oven, you will see that the first layer pulls away from the side of the pan, that's fine, the rest will fall into place nicely.  

Scoop your second layer of plain batter, same amount as the spiced and spread to the edges carefully and evenly around the bottom of the pan.  At this point the batter may start to melt over the previously baked layer, don't worry everything will be fine.  Get it under the broiler and set your timer again for 3 minutes, then repeat the whole process over, layering spiced batter alternately with plain batter until both batters are used up.  When you finely get to the end, you'll have about 18-20 layers and a beautifully executed cake! 


 6.  When all layers have been cooked, place the cake pan on a rack and carefully remove the ring, you may need to coax it a bit with a sharp knife around the rim to loosen.  Allow to cool completely.  Invert the cake onto a plate and remove disk and parchment paper, then reinvert onto a pretty cake plate.



Friday, December 6, 2013

Three Italian Christmas Cookie Recipes in One post!

I really needed to get this out well before Christmas, so that you could give these a try.  I make them well ahead and shape and freeze the dough, then when I need a quick last minute hostess gift, I can pop some shaped cookie dough on my baking sheet and bake fresh.  I love that!  The three cookie variety's I've chosen are delicious and completely different in taste and texture.  They range from extremely simple to make, to a little more involved, but don't let that scare you it just means there's a little chopping action  required.

The first of these Italian cookies are "Crumiri" a delicate horseshoe shaped cookie that comes from the Piedmont area.  They are a very tender cookie that get their taste from cornmeal.

  Ingredients for Crumiri

200 g (2 1/2 sticks plus 2 Tbs.) unsalted butter at room temperature
150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
240 g (1 3/4 cups) all purpose flour
pinch of salt
120 g (2/3 cup plus 1 Tbs.) fine yellow cornmeal

Preheat oven at 325° F.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

1.  Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl, until very light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Sift the dry ingredients together twice then add to butter mixture.  Mix together well until dough comes together and there are no longer any dry crumbs left in the bottom of the bowl.  

2.  Using a small scoop or a rounded tablespoon, scoop dough about the size of a walnut.  Roll the dough into about a 4 inch log and bend into a horseshoe shape.  (At this point, you can freeze your horseshoe shaped dough, well covered with plastic wrap in the freezer for up to a month if you like.)  Place the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, spaced 2 inches apart.

3.  Bake in the oven about 12 minutes, or until light golden in color.  Cool on wire racks.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 The next cookie is a butter cookie called "Baci di Dama" or Lady's kisses.  They are two button shaped cookies fused together with semi-sweet chocolate from Tortona in Piedmont.  The shape is reminiscent of lady's lips.

  Ingredients for Baci di Dama

125 g (1 cup minus 2 Tbs.) almond meal
125 g (1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs.) sugar
130 g (1 stick plus 1 Tbs.) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoons grated lemon zest
pinch of salt
125 g (scant cup) all purpose flour
115 g (4 oz.) semi sweet chocolate

Makes about 2 dozen cookies  Preheat oven to 350°F.

1.  Mix the almond meal, sugar, butter, vanilla and lemon zest in a mixing bowl and beat until very light and creamy, about 4-5 minutes, stopping to scrap down the bowl occasionally.  Sift the flour and salt together then add to the butter mixture and fold in by hand until well combined.  

2.  Breaking off pieces of dough about the size of fat cherries, roll between you hands into nice round balls.  (At this point, you may freeze the dough balls for future use.)  Place the dough balls on a parchment lined baking sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Flatten slightly to about 3/8 inch thick.

3.  Bake in oven for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  Remove from pan and cool on wire racks. 

4.  When cookies are cooled, melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water.  Spread a bit of melted chocolate on the bottom side of a cookie and sandwich a second cookie over that.  

                                 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 

Last but certainly not least, are Buccellati, these are fig and nut filled cookies from Sicily.  A sort of Fig Newton Sicilian style!

 Ingredients for Buccellati
For the dough...
300 g (2 1/4 cups) all purpose flour
100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
pinch of salt
200 g (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature 
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
For the filling...
50 g (1/3 cup) finely chopped dried figs
50 g ( scant 1/2 cup) finely chopped walnuts, toasted
50 g (scant 1/2 cup) finely chopped almonds, toasted
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Grated zest of 1/2 an orange
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
confectioners sugar
Makes about 16 cookies.  Preheat oven to 350°F
1.  To make the dough, combine the butter, granulated sugar and salt together in a mixing bowl and with a paddle attachment, cream together until pale and creamy.  Add the egg, yolk, vanilla and lemon juice and mix together until combined, scraping down bowl once or twice.  Add the flour and mix until the dough comes together.  Turn out onto a work table and gather together into a ball, then flatten into a disk and wrap in plactic wrap.  Refrigerate until needed.
 3.  To make the filling, combine the walnuts, almonds, figs, orange zest, cocoa, wine, honey and sugar in a sauce pan, stir to combine.  Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat to a dry paste.  Remove from heat and let cool.
4.   Pinch off a piece of dough, about the size of a walnut.  Flatten with your fingers into a circle and place a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the circle.  Bring the edges up over the filling, enclosing the filling completely.  Roll dough ball between your hands to form a nice round ball.

5.  Place fig and nut balls on a parchment lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart and bake for about 25 minutes, turning pan half way through baking time.  Bake until lightly browned.  Remove from oven transfer to a plate and sprinkle with confectioners sugar, place on a wire rack to cool completely.





Thursday, November 21, 2013

Spinach and Feta Galette

 A galette is a rustic tart, made with a flaky free form crust.  This galette is filled with feta, ricotta, spinach and a little parmesan cheese.  The crust is rich with butter, giving it a crunchy crispness.  This is one of my all time favorite pies, reminiscent of the Greek pastry, Spanakopita.  


1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch bits
6-7 tablespoons of ice water
5 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
5 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 bunch scallions, whites and greens, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 oz. spinach, steamed, drained and run under cold water.  Squeeze dry, and chop well.
salt and freshly ground black pepper 

For the crust..
1.  Combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.  Add butter and cut into flour until you have a course crumb with pea sized butter bits.  Add 4 tablespoons of the ice water and mix together with a fork adding more water one tablespoon at a time until dough starts to come together.  Form into a ball and flatten slightly.  Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface into a 14 inch circle.  Place on a large parchment lined sheet pan and place in the refrigerator.

2.  To make the filling, in a small skillet on medium heat, add olive oil and sliced green onion and saute until soft 4-5 minutes..  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

3.  Combine in a medium bowl, the ricotta, crumbled feta and grated parmesan cheese.  Add the chopped spinach, sauteed green onions and sour cream.  Season with black pepper and salt to taste.  Mix well.

4.  Preheat the oven to 375°F  Remove the pastry from the refrigerator.  Spread the cheese filling over the crust, leaving a 2 1/2 inch boarder around the edge uncovered.  Fold the uncovered edge over the filling, pleating to make it fit.  There will be an open hole in the center revealing the filling. 

Bake the galette on the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until golden brown.  Let cool for 5 minutes then slide the galette off the pan onto a serving plate.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Enjoy!