sábado, 25 de dezembro de 2010

Tonka bean pudding with last summer's best strawberries...

I wish December had 40 days because it seems that it will always be too short for all the things I have to do, deliver, send and prepare. I don't mean I am a Christmas or New year's celebrator-obsessive. No, not at all. Of course I walk around a lot to find the perfect gifts for the kids, they do deserve them but I am quite good at paying attention and finding what they need before they know. I wish December could come with some extra days just because it is a regularly busy month for the other sectors of life too and there are always a lot of stuff going on for me in December.

Besides, both our kids have their birthdays between beginning and end of December, so you guess, we have two birthday parties + holidays to sort out. We make birthdays our priorities as Per and I would rather ignore the holidays if it was not for the kids, honestly. It is amazing to have work free days, sure, to be at home doing nothing or maybe travel somewhere, but we totally ignore the big fuzz of traditions.

It would have been great to pack bags and leave Trondheim for a while, until the green come back and all this ice is gone. It's been extremely cold, the coldest winter in 150 years, too many degrees below zero "everysingleday" since October. Can you swallow it? And when life seems to be smiling at you with opportunities the weather outside reminds us of how bad life in the Northern part of the planet can be. Really, it is beautiful, it is calm, it is peaceful, it is silent, all of those are some how addicting but it is hell of a cold, or cold as hell as hell for me is definitely a very cold place.

To balance the traditional overdose of Moroccan and Spanish clementines and Brazilian melons we feasted on the most delicious strawberries we picked during summer. The strawberries were ripe and sweet and we filled our freezers with them and we picked them ourselves in the most fantastic strawberry farm around here, in our neighborhood, five minutes from our home. Last summer we eat strawberries until we were tired and we kept some 10kgs of the best strawberries, perfectly ripe for these sad December days.

The thawed strawberries release the most amazing and dense red juice, more like a sauce, one can get, and it is all natural. You don't need to cook or add anything if you have good quality strawberries. Just serve the totally thawed strawberries on their juice with cakes, pudding, yogurts and mousses and be happy. We love our ex-frozen strawberries more than ever... and they are so sweet. Add some sugar if you don't have sweet strawberries, it is December after all...

Tonka bean pudding with Thawed strawberries

1 liter milk
2 dl sugar
1 tonka bean a.k.a. Dipteryx odorata
6 eggs
300 grams of thawed strawberries with their juice


Warm oven to 180C/350F and boil 1 liter of water. Butter six to eight ramekins or any other type of glass or porcelain pots oven proof and set aside. In a heavy bottom saucepan over low heat cook milk and tonka bean until the infusion boils. Set aside and let it stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl and using a fouet whisk eggs and sugar until well blended and slightly increased volume. Transfer milk heat again and warm milk once more, when it boils remove from heat and discard the bean. Gradually and slowly start adding the milk infusion to the egg mixture and using a fouet whisk while you drop the milk, you have to keep transferring the milk and whisking, vigorously, until all the milk is transferred. Drain the mixture, remove some of the scum and divided the mixture into the prepared pots/ramekins. Set pots in a sheet cake pan and fill with boiled water up to 1/3 of the bottom of the pot.

Bake the pots for 25 to 30 minutes in bain marie (double bath). Remove from oven and let cool completely in the water bath, remove from watered pan and refrigerate. Serve cold with some spoonfuls of thawed strawberries on their juice.

quarta-feira, 20 de outubro de 2010

Coconut Quindim

Quindim is a classic and traditional Brazilian dessert, one of those you find in every little corner of my gigantic home country. It is so simple to make that you can always trust that you will find a good version in a local bakery anywhere you go. When I was living at home I never baked quindins since they were one of my favorites to order in bakeries and restaurants. As an expatriate quindins became one of the desserts I crave the most and once in a while I simply must bake them myself.

is a yolk only egg dessert with a dense and luscious texture and very easy to make. If properly baked it have a very sophisticated look once removed from pan. Besides you will need only three ingredients: yolks, sugar and coconut, can you believe it? You can use freshly grated coconut or dried coconut but it must definitely be unsweetened. When you look to a little dessert like this you can't imagine the simplicity behind it all.

Coconut Quindim

6 egg yolks (passed through a sieve)
6 tablespoons of sugar + to sprinkle on pans
6 tablespoons fresh grated coconut or desiccated unsweetened coconut
Butter for pans


Heat oven to 180C/350F. Generously butter 8 to 10 mini muffin pans, sprinkle generously some sugar on buttered pans and set them aside. Pass six yolks through a sieve into a bowl, add six tablespoons of sugar and using a wire whisk whisk well to incorporate. Add six tablespoons of unsweetened grated coconut and whisk some more. Divide mixture in prepared pans and bake the quindins in a bain marie or double bath for 30 minutes or until the top of the quindins are golden. Remove from oven and let the quindins cool slightly before removing from pan but they should not cool completely because it will be pretty difficult to remove once they have cooled.

Makes 8 to 10 quindins depending on the size of the mini muffin cup you use. You can also make a big size version but you might need 10 to 12 yolks instead.

sexta-feira, 15 de outubro de 2010

Orange and corn cake (gluten free)

I grew up eating a flour less coconut and corn cake made with fresh coconut flesh and coconut milk but recently I started to bake the same flourless cake using oranges instead of coconut, whole baked oranges. The idea to use oranges came a traditions sephardi Jew cake popularized by Claudia Roden an Egyptian chef living in the UK. Claudia Roden is the author of two excellent books A New Book of Middle Eastern Food and the Jewish Food Book.

My orange and corn cake is loosely influence by both the Sephardic orange-and-almond cake by Claudia Roden’s and my Mom's Coconut and corn cake. However, since oranges don't have the same fat content as coconut and since corn flour doesn't have the same fat content as almond flour I added some butter to my version of the recipe to make things right. The result is an amazing perfumed, dense and slightly creamy cake with the amazing texture of corn flour and the strong aroma of cooked oranges.

The batter of this cake is slightly liquid but it bakes perfectly well and you don't have to worry about adding any other type of flour or thickener to the mixture. I highly recommend that you use organic oranges and washe the oranges in warm water before cooking it. I found the most amazing ripe and sweet South African organic oranges at the market here and I was so glad I could make this cake for the weekend.

orange and corn cake (gluten free)

250 grams fine corn flour (or polenta flour)
250 grams sugar
6 medium eggs
2 medium organic oranges (rinsed in warm water)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
75 grams unsalted butter in room temperature
pinch of salt


In saucepan with enough water to cover the fruits, let the oranges boil over medium heat for 1h30 to 2 hours until very tender. Let the fruits to cool completely before using them. Once they are cool cut each fruit in four parts and remove seeds if there is any. 

Preheat oven to 180C and butter well a small round cake pan, use ring-shaped cake pan if you prefer and sprinkle some corn flour on the buttered pan and set aside. 

In the jar of a blender, or food processor, blend the oranges, the corn flour, the sugar and the eggs for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the baking powder and process a little more. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake cake for 45 minutes or until a stick comes out of the cake dry. Let it cool completely before removing from pan.

Serve with some low fat vanilla yogurt.

sábado, 4 de setembro de 2010

Organic Raspberry and Chocolate Jam

Since my visit to Niedermorschwihr and Les Relais des Trois Epis de Madame Ferber I've been obsessed with jams and I've been experimenting some new flavors and mixtures almost everyday. I must confess that sometimes, in face of some of the best jams I have ever made, I wish I had the guts to start a jam business. All natural and organic jam producer I would be. My jam dreams became the perfect pair to the fruits of our garden specially our organic raspberries. Raspberries are perfect to mix with other fruits and a small amount is sufficient to add color and the most amazing perfume and elevate the jam to another level. So far I have mixed raspberries (with and without seeds) to peaches, cloudberries, chocolate, rhubarb and apple.

Our raspberry harvest this summer was plenty and lasted wonderfully long even if everything around here was delayed for at least three weeks this year due to one of the worst winters of all times. But let's not talk about winter yet, let's talk raspberries and chocolate. Jars of this precious jams were available in Christine Ferber's relais and I could have bought one there but instead I preferred to buy other blends instead and tried to make my own raspberries and chocolate jam. Christine Ferber works with a chocolate with 64% of cocoa solids but I used an organic chocolate with 70% cocoa instead and according to her own recipe she uses a lot more sugar than I was willing to use. Besides I aimed at a 100% organic raspberry and chocolate jam so I decided to use whatever organic dark chocolate I could find. The higher content of cocoa certainly gave the jam a more intense chocolate flavor but it was perfect to me, might need some more sugar some might say. You can always add more sugar to this recipe but never remove it. One more point to Madame Ferber's score, she keeps a high score around here!

Organic raspberry and chocolate jam

(Inspired by recipe from Christine Ferber's Mes Confitures).

800 organic raspberries
1 1/2 cup of organic fair trade cane sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons of lime juice
100 grams organic fair trade chocolate with 70% cocoa solids


In a pan over medium heat cook the raspberries with sugar and lime juice until it starts boiling. Once it boils reduce heat and let it boil for five minutes. Remove from heat, let it cool slightly before passing the mixture through a metallic sieve. Press well mixture, with a spoon to get as much juice as possible and discard the seeds. Measure the sieved mixture and transfer it back to the pan. Add more sugar if you think it is necessary and let the mixture cook over medium heat until boils is slightly reduced, 5 and 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove from heat and add the bits of chocolate whisking with a wire whisk to incorporate the chocolate completely. Add 100grams of chocolate for each 500ml of jam. Transfer the jam to a sterilized jar and close the lid tight. Let it cool completely and refrigerate. Keep refrigerated.

1. I recommend to keep it refrigerated and consume in two weeks after the jar is open.
2. I have sieved the pulp through a not very tight metal sieve and some seeds pass through the net and I think it looks perfect, those little seeds are the trademark of the raspberry, right?

terça-feira, 31 de agosto de 2010

In a Cathedral state of mind

Nidaros Domen, Trondheim's majestic cathedral. All the Norwegian kings are crowned in Nidaros Domen.

Maybe it is because we live in a town which is marked by the monumental presence of one of Europe oldest medieval cathedral or, maybe, it is just some kind of unconscious way of expressing my appreciation of the religious environment. I must confess that consciously speaking I don't miss any of the religious rituals forced into my life by family traditions which I left behind as soon as I could. Even if I am an atheist, I love cathedrals, their majestic presence, provocative language and powerful symbolism. But I can see through their powerful provocative language, what speaks to me are the amazing strength behind the human beings who gave their lives to design and construct those temples. In the pictures Nidaros Domen, here in Trondheim and two amazing French cathedrals we visited this rainy summer: Notre Dame de Reims or Our Lady of Reims and another Notre Dame, the Strasbourg Cathedral or Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg.

Notre Dame de Reims, the old Cathedral de Saint Remi is a beautiful cathedral, World heritage, but I fell for the Notre Dame in Strasbourg...

I was astonished by the adoration of this old sister in front of the huge cathedral. She sat there, and sat, and sat, for hours observing the grandeur of the medieval architecture. We walked around, got some info from the tourist office and she was still there observing, trying to find some answers, maybe.

The Cathedral of Strasbourg was really beautiful and looked more dramatic during those gray and rainy days of July. The weather didn't help the pictures but the entire visit was really amazing.

quinta-feira, 5 de agosto de 2010

A place called Niedermorschwihr...

There is a small village in France with a very strange name, in South Alsace, the region of the Upper Rhine, located 6km from Colmar and 373km from Paris, which hides a little factory of the most special jams. In this very small French village with the German name Niedermorschwihr is located Au Relais des Trois Epis the jam epicenter of Christine Ferber, France's number one jam master.

Around a corner in the Rue des Trois Epis is located la Maison Ferber a small factory where Christine Ferber produces her famous jams. From Niedermorschwihr her creations win the world in small and medium sized jars, decorated with white and red polka dots fabric, filled with artisanal deliciousness and loaded with France's most profitable creation: terroir.

The flavors of Madame Ferber's jams mix local Alsace fruits, tropical fruits, flowers (most rose and violet), herbs, spices of all sorts, nuts and chocolate. The storeAu Relais des Trois Epis (the only one in the village of Niedermorschwihr by the time I was there) is a mixture of bakery, delicatessen, bookstore and grocery market and it offers a little bit of everything, to please both the tourist and the locals of Niedermorschwihr: fruits, cakes, tarts, biscuits, cheese, charcuterie d'Alsace, bien sur, fresh fruits, Ferber's entire book collection, Alsatian pottery pots, detergents and commercial soap. The large selection of jams which fills the shelves which take an entire wall of the small shop is the main attraction to foreign visitors who come from everywhere in the world.

At a certain distance from the place we could already feel the strong aromas of jam in the making in the air. Per was the first to notice it. How much I wish my house could smell that way and I really wished I could master the art of jam making, just like Pete and Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. OK, my jams are pretty good, I must admit without embarrassment, but I must learn to experiment more, I need to learn some more about the chemistry of preserving, to be more aware of the limits of sugar, acid juices and pectin in the fruit soup. For that reason I pushed my Per Niedermorschwihr to visit Madame Ferber's relais.

I was not planning to leave the place empty handed and it would not have been possible at all. We bought five jars of jam, some bread and some meringue. We bought two jars to offer as gifts to my in laws: a seedless Raspberry jam (Framboise d'Alsace) and Black Cherry (Cerises Noir d'Alsace). I picked two for me: Strawberry and Mango (Fraises d'Alsace et mangues) and Rapsberry, green apples and pistachio (Framboises d'Alsace, Pommer Verts et Pistaches) and Per picked a jar for him: Blackcurrant, apple and violet (Cassis, pommes et violette). It was pretty difficult to choose the flavors and up to the last minute I was changing the flavors. I could have bought more jars but what I was looking for was some inspiration to work and create with my the fruits from my own garden this year.

The Strawberry and mango jam (Fraises D'Alsace et mangue) should have been called Mango and Strawberry jam as the mango is the dominant not only in flavor but in texture of the jam is that of the mango pulp. The flavor is perfect, intense, mild, perfect amount of sugar, not acid at all and the perfect presence of the strawberry on the back of the mixture. No seed, no pieces, no strings nothing to distract the most amazing taste. I would never have made jam with mango and strawberries as in Brazil, where I grew up, the season for best mangoes doesn't coincide with that for the best strawberries, which is concentrated in winter months. It is a foreigner thing though, when one is dealing with imported fresh or frozen mangoes one is able to create perfect mixtures using these adorable fruits and create amazing jams. Oh, how much I wish I had bought two jars of this jam instead...

As soon as I am able to put my hands on some well ripen mangoes, I will try to make my own version of this jam to which I hope will be adding some amazingly perfect Norwegian strawberries. However, if you have access to some good and ripe mangoes make your own version of this jam now, you won't regret this mixture. Don't forget to add some terroir (from your mangoes or your strawberries or even your sugar) to you jam too, the origin of the produce is definitely part of the magical result, don't you think?

If one of these days you find yourself wandering around Alsace, try to find the way that takes you to Niedermorschwihr and the Au Relais des Trois Epis, you won't regret...

Christine Ferber's Au Relais des Trois Epis

18, Rue des Trois Epis
68230 Niedermorschwihr
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