Hearty and Warming Chanterelles Risotto

chanterelles-risotto

Let’s get the Health & Safety over with first: you are taking a risk when foraging for wild mushrooms (or anything that grows in the wild for that matter), but it would be a shame if we stopped eating them.

Please be very, very careful about what you collect! Many edible mushrooms are so surprisingly similar to toxic varieties that only an experienced professional can tell the difference. Yes, cooking does destroy some poisons, but rather learn how to identify a few edible species and pick only them. If you have the slightest doubt about what you are looking at, leave it alone!

And now with that out of the way: chanterelles.

Found from July through December, these yellow, funnel-shaped beauties with gill-like ridges emit a distinct fruity aroma and have a mild, slightly peppery taste. Chanterelles were notable for being served at the tables of nobility, and many chefs consider them on the same short list of gourmet fungi as truffles. No wonder the price they sell for…

Chanterelles are well-suited for drying and freezing so if you got lucky foraging, you can save some for later. I had a serving in my freezer from the last time my uncle called my father with the news there are basketfuls at one of his secret locations. I do consider myself lucky.

The most flavorful compounds in chanterelles are fat-soluble, making them good mushrooms to sauté in butter, or the key ingredient in a creamy sauce and so the dish I made truly does them justice: a warm, creamy, rich risotto going hard on the cream and the parmesan, topped with my chanterelles sautéed in butter.

Yup, if you’re on a low-on-everything diet, better leave now. I warned you!

Having the basic risotto recipe mastered and up your sleeve will give you so many opportunities when it comes to quick and tasty meals. You can top it with whatever is lying on the pantry shelf/withering away in the fridge, it’s a really versatile dish. The only mild frustration is you have to be present all the way through the roughly 25 minutes of cooking.

Chanterelles Risotto

  • Difficulty: medium
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Rich, creamy and satisfying risotto with fruity sautéed wild chanterelles. Serves 4.

Ingredients

For the sautéed mushrooms:

2 cups chanterelles

3 tbsp butter

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

For the risotto:

1 l (4 cups) simmering vegetable or chicken stock

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

280 g (about 1 1/2 cup) arborio or other risotto rice

150 ml (2/3 cup) dry white wine

3/4 cup grated Parmesan or Grans Padano

200 ml cooking cream (20%)

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Clean the mushrooms by gently rubbing the dirt off or rinsing them quickly under running water. Let dry on a paper towel.
  2. Bring stock to a slow simmer.
  3. Heat butter over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed pan big enough to accommodate the mushrooms in a single layer.
  4. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper, stir to evenly coat with butter. You should hear the mushrooms sizzling. In 1-2 minutes the mushrooms will start to release their moisture.
  5. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms start to turn darker, about 5-8 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle parsley over mushrooms, set aside.
  7. For the risotto, heat butter and olive oil in a deep heavy bottomed pan over medium heat.
  8. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and starting to turn golden. Add garlic and stir.
  9. Add rice and mix to coat in oil and butter. Cook, stirring, until grains are translucent, 2-3 min.
  10. Add the wine and cook for 1 min, until reduced.
  11. Reduce heat. Gradually add stock, a ladleful at a time. Stir constantly and add more liquid as the rice absorbs each addition. Liquid should be bubbling between additions.
  12. Continue cooking like this for 20 min, or until all the stock is absorbed and rice is creamy. Season to taste (note that stock might be quite salty).
  13. Remove from heat and add cream. Mix well.
  14. Add Parmesan, stirring until it melts.
  15. Put a scoop of risotto on each plate, add sautéed chanterelles on top. Garnish with more parsley and freshly ground pepper if desired. Serve at once. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

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Simple, Basic Coffee Cake with Hazelnut & Pear

pear hazelnut coffee cake

You blink once, and holiday lights are going up in the city. I love this festive time of the year: it makes me want to nestle in, slow down and make the house smell amazing by baking something every day.

In theory. The reality is my days are already bursting at the seams with work and commute and all the other stuff life throws at you, but heck, I’ll find the time to bake something on the weekend.

It’s gonna be a simple and easy coffee cake.

I like simple and I do simple often. More often than not, to be honest. It doesn’t always have to be something lifestyle magazine-worthy. Baking should be about bringing joy: to you during the process, and to those who you share the fruit of your work with. At the end of the day only the smiles count, no matter how simple or complicated the recipe was.

If you are a novice baker, I say you start with coffee cakes – success guaranteed, provided you measure the ingredients properly. Cups are great, but get a scale (Christmas wish list alert).

Coffee cake generally refers to a sweet cake intended to be enjoyed with coffee or tea so basically it can be any cake-like substance, but for me a proper coffee cake is always a variation on the plain yellow cake with the moist and tender crumb.

My go-to recipe was pirated from my granny’s hand-written recipe collection but don’t expect big surprises here, these dense cakes are made with pretty much uniform ingredients and techniques.

Once you have your basic recipe mastered, the sky is the limit for what you can stir or layer into the batter. Wherever you stand on glaze, streusel and fillings, it doesn’t really matter as long as you stay true to the roots, that is: easy and down-home delicious, the reason why coffee cakes are on major repeat in most kitchens.

What you need for this informal, everyday sweet treat is stuff you already have in your pantry, namely butter, sugar, flour and eggs. I love nuts, so I always add either ground hazelnuts or walnuts too (I reserve almonds for butter cookies). And to top the cake, my favorite fruit is pear. And apples. Or plums. Oh, the plums! Here’s the recipe before I get further carried away:

Hazelnut & Pear Coffee Cake

  • Difficulty: easy
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Simple, basic coffee cake with fruit and nuts.

Ingredients

for the cake:

200 g butter

200 g white sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

225 g AP flour

75 g hazelnut meal

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

for the topping:

2 medium pears

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp sugar

Directions

  1. Mix sugar with cinnamon for the topping in a small bowl.
  2. Wash, peel, core and slice pears.
  3. Preheat oven to 160°C / 320°F, grease and flour a 23 cm / 9” springform cake pan.
  4. Mix flour, ground hazelnut, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.
  5. Beat butter and sugar with a handheld electric mixer (or in the stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment) on medium until creamy.
  6. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
  7. Add flour mixture to butter mixture by tablespoons, beating on low until combined.
  8. Pour batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula.
  9. Arrange pear slices on top, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.
  10. Bake for 45 min. Cover loosely with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set.
  11. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes; remove sides of pan. Cool completely before slicing.

pear hazelnut coffee cake

Love,

Fruzsi

The Secret to Making the Best St. Martin’s Day Goose Legs

grey goose

On November 11 Saint Martin of Tours is celebrated throughout Christian parts of the world. Many customs are attached to the Roman soldier-turned-monk who is also a patron of my country. Some of these traditions are living part of our folklore to this day ever since medieval times, but the most popular of all is no doubt the Martin Day Feast.

The eating. Because of course.

This religious observance marks the end of the agrarian year and was the last chance to rejoice before the 40-day Advent Fast, so it is no surprise people shaped the festivities to be about eating, drinking and general merriment.

Legend has it that humble Martin hid in the goose pen trying to avoid being ordained bishop, but was betrayed by the cackling of the birds. This is how the goose became the symbol of the Saint. Anser anser domesticus is also the bird of the Roman god Mars and has even been worshipped, but that never stopped anyone from eating the poor things.

And indeed: domestic geese are fully grown and ready to be slaughtered precisely this time of the year, making them the star of the holiday table. A traditional Hungarian St. Martin’s Day menu is goose with braised red cabbage and mashed potatoes, a rich wintery dish followed by the new wines of the year. Which also happen to be ready now. Am I the only one sensing a conspiracy theory here? 🤔

We also have a saying that goes like this: those who do not eat goose on Martin’s will be starving throughout the next year. That’s serious sh*t, folks! I therefore believe it’s in public interest I share how to make the best leg of goose (pssst: duck is all right if you can’t get goose).

There is only one secret: confit.

Confit is an age-old process for preserving food, created as a matter of necessity before the days of refrigeration. The fancy French word (simply meaning to preserve) may be pure gibberish to my grandma, but she knows the how-to all right: pieces of pork not going to be cured (ham) or smoked (sausages) ended up in a big, heavy pot, cooked to melt-off-the-bone tender, and kept under their own fat for months to be thoroughly enjoyed.

How is this extended shelf life possible? By slow-cooking in a liquid (fat in this case) that is inhospitable to bacterial growth and then packed completely submerged in that liquid, creating an impenetrable, airtight barrier.

The difference between deep-frying and confit is in the temperature. Confit is a low and slow process – we’re talking hours here. During the course of cooking, the fat temperature will not rise above 95°C (200°F). It’s hot enough to break down tough connective tissue and tenderize the meat to perfection.

There’s no need to heavily flavor the goose: salt on its own is enough. Rub some freshly ground black pepper in the skin and pop a sprig of rosemary in the pot if you must, but no more.

What you will also need is rendered goose or duck fat, and quite a lot of it: enough to cover the legs completely. Here in Hungary, this liquid gold is available in most supermarkets, I hope you guys can buy it too.

And if you really want to make the most of your goose confit – and why wouldn’t you – try to find goose or duck skin with fat (it’s what you get by carefully removing all of the skin and fat from a whole bird, cutting close to, but avoiding the meat – also commercially available here). The tasty bonus is fritons, or goose cracklings, a highly addictive, crispy snack. After cooking, reserve the flavorful fat in the fridge for another use.

Goose Leg Confit

Fall-off-the-bone goose legs, the ultimate St. Martin’s dish.

Ingredients

4 goose legs

25 g salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)

1 sprig of rosemary (optional)

1 l goose or duck fat

500 g goose or duck fat with skin

Directions

  1. The day before making this dish, check goose legs for remaining feathers, wash them and pat dry with paper towels. Rub salt and pepper (if using) into the skin, cover and leave to cure in the fridge overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 120°C / 250°F.
  3. If using, cut fat with skin to uniform chunks, about 1″x1″.
  4. Arrange fat chunks on the bottom of a heavy pan or dutch oven in an even layer, place goose legs on top of it.
  5. Pour rendered fat and ½ cup of water over legs to cover completely. Add rosemary, if using.
  6. Cover dish with a lid or foil and place in the oven to cook for about 3 hours or until meat easily comes off the bone. The skin on the legs and the cracklings should be dark golden.
  7. To crisp up the skins before serving, remove legs from fat and pan fry skin side down over medium-high heat for 5 min. Turn the legs and transfer the pan to the oven for 20 min. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

‘Yellow-billed grey goose portrait on the farm’ photo by Csehák Szabolcs via Shutterstock

Banana Bread, As Healthy As It Gets

healthy banana bread

I am posting this all-American comfort food because somehow people (ok, me) always end up with a few very ripe, brown and spotty bananas just sitting on the counter.

Bananas that are too ripe to eat, but are just perfect for baking.

I make this classic treat quite often in the cold season, because that’s when I buy bananas (the other part of the year my parents’ garden supplies us all with plenty of fresh fruit). This time I felt dedicated to find inventive ways so I could have my cake – and eat it totally guilt free. That meant swapping a few ingredients for a lightened up, better-for-you banana bread that is not only just as delicious as the original, but also wholesome and nourishing.

I believe in tradition, but I also like altering classic recipes sometimes to make healthy treats. It’s all about smart changes. Flavor is super important but the result needs to be lower in calories, sugar and fat and at the same time, higher in fibre, protein and healthy oils.

This banana bread has all those redeeming qualities. It won’t send your blood sugar levels for a loop, not to mention that you can whip this up with just one bowl, a few measuring cups and some basic ingredients. The Husband approves too, so I can assure you: the loaf passed the taste test.

Moist and dense, delicious and filling. Perfect for breakfast and beyond, also freezable. The homey comfort of banana bread, updated to fit a more health-conscious life.

healthy banana bread

Some notes, if I may:

  • This recipe is dairy free.
  • You can make this recipe gluten-free by using a GF flour blend, or oat flour.
  • Bananas: the riper the better. They are super sweet! I actually made this recipe without any sweetening, and it was still totally enjoyable.
  • You can use any other kind of nut meal instead of walnuts, or omit nuts completely. In that case, increase the amount of flour to 1 cup.
  • Sweeten the batter with the natural sweetener of your choice. So far I tried it with birch sugar, honey and maple syrup, all working well.
  • Feel free to substitute the currants with blueberries, cranberries, raisins, or whatever floats your boat.
  • Banana bread keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days, or can be frozen for up to 3 months. It’s best if you slice before freezing to be able to thaw individual pieces.

healthy banana bread

Healthy Banana Bread

  • Difficulty: easy
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Classic banana bread recipe updated with better-for-you ingredients. Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients

3 very ripe bananas

2 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 tbsp natural sweetener of your choice

½ cup whole wheat flour

½ cup walnut meal

½ cup vanilla protein powder

½ cup fresh or frozen blackcurrants

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F), lightly grease a 9×5” loaf pan (or line with parchment paper).
  2. In a large bowl, mash bananas with a fork.
  3. Add eggs, salt and sweetener, whisk well.
  4. Add walnut meal, protein powder, flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stir to blend with a spoon or spatula, just until combined.
  5. Gently fold in fruits, if using.
  6. Pour batter in pan. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45-50 min.
  7. Let cool in the pan for 10 min before transferring to a wire rack for another 20 min before slicing. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

Expanding My Horizons: Savory Scones with Gouda and Chives

chives gouda scones

In an early summer post I’ve introduced you to pogácsa, the pastry above all else of my country. This time I’ve decided to leave my comfort zone and venture out into the world of flaky biscuits, exploring the scone kingdom. (Did not risk going all out though, as you’re about to see.)

Turns out these two are closer than I thought!

The origin of the scone is lost in the mists of the British Isles – read the clever title of one article I came across when I was doing research on the topic. They got their start as a Scottish quick bread, made with unleavened oats and baked on a griddle, then scored into 4 or 6 wedges to serve.

Today’s versions are made with wheat flour, butter and milk, leavened with baking powder and baked in the oven both in the traditional wedge form and in round, square or hexagonal shapes. They are widely available in bakeries, grocery stores and supermarkets just like pogácsa, except I’ve never seen our baby cut to triangles.

And that is what actually made me want to try scones! Shapes affect our subconscious mind, could you ever have imagined?

Another important similarity between the two contenders is that making them at home is often closely tied to heritage baking. Both tend to be made using family recipes rather than recipe books, since it’s always a family member who holds the best and most treasured recipe (hello, grandma!).

But, and here’s the catch – British scones are most often sweetened, while pogácsa is always savory. I simply couldn’t deny my roots, so the search for savory scones began. And strictly entre nous, but there seems to be life beyond lemon curd, jam and clotted cream!

In parts of the world where afternoon tea is not a thing, scones have joined muffins and croissants as breakfast and on-the-go snack alternatives anyway, the same way we like to enjoy commercial pogácsa.

I’ve read through quite a lot of recipes and after much consideration decided on a cheese and herb scone. It turned out rather well: rich and sturdy and compact. I could easily break off pieces to nibble on and stowed one in my bag the next day without worrying about it getting smooshed. I also put some leftovers in the freezer wrapped in plastic, and after a round in the toaster it was like they just came out of the oven.

Verdict: definitely going to make scones again. Maybe even try a sweet one! I’m not so terribly discriminating about my biscuits after all 🙂

I can’t really tell where this recipe is adapted from as I picked out and merged and tweaked it based on about a dozen different ones, so I shall be generous with myself and call it my own.

Two things I’ve learnt along the recipe testing: it’s important not to over-mix the dough to get tender and flaky scones, and it takes a little more time to bake them golden than was suggested.

I give you the result of my trial and error:

Gouda and Chives Savory Scones

  • Difficulty: easy
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Cheesy, savory scones flavored with the subtle taste of chives. Makes 8.

Ingredients

2 cups AP flour (or 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup AP)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp chives, dried (or 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh)

1 cup shredded gouda cheese

¾ cup buttermilk

115 g (1 stick) very cold butter, cut to small cubes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients, including cheese and chives.
  3. Work butter cubes in the dry ingredients using your fingers until texture resembles pea-sized crumbles. Work quickly so butter stays cold.
  4. Add buttermilk, and barely stir together. Just get the dough to hold together without kneading it smooth. Lumpy is fine!
  5. Slap it on the parchment lined baking sheet and form a disc about 2,5 cm (1”) thick, handling the dough as little as possible.
  6. Cut into 8 wedges and bake until golden, 30-35 min. Enjoy warm!

chives gouda scones

chives gouda scones

Love,

Fruzsi

Lovely Little Palmiers

palmiers

Colder days, warm beverages. A cup of steaming coffee, a pot of tea, some mulled cider warms my cold cold heart hands. Hmmm. When I have the time, I try to make it a ritual by drinking from pretty vintage porcelain cups and providing a bite-sized sweet treat too.

One such delicacy I particularly adore is Palmiers. These elegant French biscuits are made from rolled puff pastry and regular granulated sugar. Flaky, buttery layers, crispy caramelized crunch – they are literally melt-on-the-tongue goodness. Very fancy on a cookie tray yet despite their impressive nature, palmiers are super easy to put together.

Let me show you!

Admittedly, puff pastry is not easy to make. Or quick. That’s why I always keep store-bought, all-butter puff pastry in my freezer. The dough is the hard part and since we already got that covered, the rest is a cinch!

Although the name translates to palm tree, I prefer making them a wee bit different from the traditional shape and form delicate little hearts instead. Also, authentically they are filled with just sugar, but if you could think of a creative variant to fold into your palmiers (like cinnamon sugar, maybe?), go ahead. Just don’t tell the French I encouraged it. 🙂

First you need to thaw your puff pastry completely, which I do by transferring it from the freezer to the fridge and let it stay there overnight. Then, if you weren’t savvy enough to get the ready rolled, you roll out your puff pastry to a rectangle.

Now grab your sugar container and try shutting the part of your brain out that screams diabetes. Sprinkle the dough generously (very generously: remember, we want caramel!) with sugar and gently press into the dough to stick. Flip puff pastry sheet carefully and repeat on the other side as well.

Mark the center of the pastry sheet lengthwise (fold in half if you don’t trust your eye), and make 2 folds from each side leaving some space in the center. Roll one fold on top of the other to form a log.

To make the cuts clean and easy, refrigerate log for 30 min or pop it in the freezer for 10. Cut firmed up log to thin (0,5-1 cm) pieces. The thinner they are, the crispier they will be.

Before you place them on a baking sheet, be a love and roll them in more sugar. Well of course, both sides! To shape them into hearts, pull the two ends slightly away. Repeat with all your pastries and place them on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

shaping palmiers

Bake at 200°C (400°F) for 25-30 min, flipping them at the halfway mark to properly brown both sides. Watch these carefully, they are thin and can burn quickly with all that sugar. Be sure to cool them completely to give them a chance to fully crisp up (and to prevent third-degree lip burns).

Your palmiers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days, but… 1-2-3 gone! Quite hard to resist.

Palmiers

  • Difficulty: easy
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Perfect French Palmiers pastry. Makes about 30.

Ingredients

1 all-butter, ready rolled sheet of puff pastry, thawed

granulated white sugar

Directions

  1. Roll out puff pastry sheet and sprinkle generously with sugar. Press gently for sugar to stick to pastry.
  2. Flip pastry over, and repeat sprinkling and pressing.
  3. Mark center lengthwise. Make 2 folds from each side, leaving some space in the center.
  4. Roll one fold on top of the other to form a log.
  5. Refrigerate log for 30 min to firm up.
  6. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F), line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Cut dough to ½-1 cm thin pieces, roll both sides of cookies in sugar.
  8. Shape cookies by pulling two ends slightly away, place on baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 10-15 min, flip to bake evenly on both sides, than bake for another 10-15 min, watching pastries carefully.
  10. Cool before serving. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

Baked Beet Chips, a Healthy Swap

baked beet chipsYesterday, the Husband and I officially strated mulled wine season, but that’s not exactly what I’m here for today. I have a confession to make.

I don’t really know how to put this, but I don’t like potato chips. Yup, that’s right. There was a time in my life when I thought I did and I snacked on them like everyone else, but they gross me out now.

What’s wrong with her I hear you ask, but it’s what it is: the thought of that rancid, oily smell and overpowering artificial flavors of the commercial stuff got me to skip the greasy bag. When I want potatoes, I make them for myself.

Cravings don’t mess around though. Speaking of nibbling on crispy and crunchy, you must have seen the veggie chips trend. Carrots, kale, sweet potato, plantains, zucchini, radishes, even tomato. And beets. Don’t forget the beets!

I love beets, but that wasn’t always the case. As a kid, you encounter the dreary pickled variety in kindergarten, and that’s the point when most of us come to hate beets for the rest of our lives. (Mind you, pickled beets are really yum, just not those they serve at the cafeteria.)

Then you become a grown-ass adult, learn to admit when you’re wrong and revise your opinion on a bunch of matters. I did that with beets, among other things.

No, beets don’t taste like dirt. If you still think they do, you need to grow the eff up and learn to like them because beets are really amazing! Ok, they are unsightly and stain your hands, but also extremely healthy, crazy delicious, and more versatile than you ever could have imagined.

Let’s go over the health benefits of consuming beetroot real quick:

It may help reduce your blood pressure due to high nitrate levels, decrease the risk of diabetes thanks to a strong antioxidant and promote healthy digestion because of the fibers. Beets are also packed with vitamins and minerals and are anti inflammatory. Some people even call beets superfood!

They can be roasted, steamed, boiled, pickled, or just eaten raw. And flavoring them up is half the fun! You will feel so much better about crunching away on a delicious, real-food snack than reaching for that bag of chips. It’s so easy too!

baked beet chipsbaked beet chips

Baked Beet Chips

  • Difficulty: easy
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Healthy veggie chips bursting with flavor. Serves 2.

Ingredients

4-5 medium-sized beets

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and black pepper to taste

1 fresh sprig of rosemary finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried)

Directions

  1. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper, preheat oven to 175°C (350°F).
  2. Wash and peel beets (it’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves so they don’t stain your hands).
  3. Using a handheld slicer or mandoline, thinly slice beets.
  4. In a large bowl, toss beets with the oil, salt, black pepper and rosemary to coat evenly.
  5. Arrange beets in a single layer on the baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 20 min, flip beets over to bake evenly on both sides, and rotate baking trays as well.
  7. Bake until sides are dried out, curled up and beets are lighter in color, about an additional 20-25 min. They will crisp up as they cool. Enjoy fresh and warm!

Love,

Fruzsi