Berenjenas Fritas con Miel

My slightly less glamorous attempt

My slightly less glamorous attempt

The first time I tried this simple yet amazing spanish tapas creation was at Casa Marcos in Villaverde, Fuerteventura, at what is currently still my number one restaurant in all of Europe. The place was pure magic, in so many ways. Great food, decor, service, wine, prices, sizes, oh and did I mention? The food was amazing.IMG_5017 (480x640)

One of the items we ordered, on the recommendation of the waiter (who I think was also the owner) was ‘Berenjenas Fritas Con Miel’ – also known as fried eggplant with honey. More than just a mere “what do you recommend,” the whole service model was for the waiter to bring out a chalk board of their (continually changing) menu items, put it on a chair and talk you through each one. More than just translating what they were, it was a conversation about exactly what we felt like and what each meal was and very nearly a counselling session on our culinary hopes and dreams. You could imagine if it was a concept restaurant somewhere like L.A. he’d be wearing a name badge that said “Food Consultant.” Luckily for us we were on the very definition of a dessert island (there’s actually only sand on the beaches because it gradually blew over from Africa).

That's the look you get when you know you're about to have an amazing feed

That’s the look you get when you know you’re about to have an amazing feed

So we indulged in some delicious, slightly crispy, fried eggplant slices, drizzled with tasty local honey. Having never been the greatest fan of eggplants, I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty and yet simple it was.

I was reminded once again of this dish more recently at a tapas restuarant in Copenhagen called “El Porron.” The food was great, and is once again restoring my faith in Spanish food (until that restuarant in Fuerteventura I’d been rather quite disappointed in Spanish Cuisine). Equally tasty (and filling me with nostalgia for the extremely relaxing time I had in the Canary Islands), I decided that now that I have my own kitchen, the budget for experimental cooking and a stocked pantry for what feels like the first time in over a year I’d hunt down a recipe and try them out myself.

Actually my first attempt was “how hard can it be? Fry a slice of eggplant, put honey on it.” But alas, there is more skill required, as I ended up with a pile of eggplant-y mush covered in honey. As it turns out you have to get the moisture out of the eggplant slices, and put a little flour on them first. The trick to removing the moisture is to either just squeeze them out, or to sprinkle some salt over them and leave them for and hour on a paper towel (the salt draws the water out) and then squeeze them. Another recipe also suggested soaking them in milk to ‘remove the bitterness’ and then ringing out the slices.

Lucky for me one eggplant is about 3 portion sizes, so got two more chances to redeem myself. I tried the milk option next, which didn’t really work that much better I thought, and then the salt option. I learnt that you really should be careful to sprinkle as little salt as possible – I overshot the mark on one of the eggplant slices and felt like I’d bitten into the ocean when it was time to eat them. But as far as getting crispy eggplant slices, it was definitely the best method.

Next, dip them in flour (I used buckwheat flour to keep it gluten free, which worked fine) and then fry. I also used coconut oil, which I think works pretty well for the sweet/savoury combination. Finally, place on a paper towel to soak up excess oil, then drizzle with honey when you serve. Apart from waiting for the slices to dry out (which can be hurried along by just skipping the salt and ringing them out) it was quick, easy and super delicious. It seems the flour really is necessary, and perhaps wheat flour would have been more effective, but a gluten free alternative worked perfectly fine.

Verdict: Easy, novel and tasty. Nostalgia made it even more so.IMG_5021 (640x480) IMG_5019 (640x480)

299. Making Crepes on the Champs Elysee

After waiting for the longest time for the cyclists to arrive for the Tour de France, we realised just how long we had been ingnoring our stomachs, and that we were in dire need of something to prevent a full blown, hulk-esque, hangry explosion. We found the nearest food vendor we could, and paid probably 3 or more times more than anywhere else in Paris for some Crepes, but it didn’t matter. We needed food ASAP.

It seems we struck gold with the chosen food vendor, when I asked if I could take a photo (with eating crepes in France seeming like a sufficiently documentable bucket list item) she said “No no no, YOU must make it!” and pulled me round to have my own go. Needless to say, I completely botched it. There’s some serious technique inolved in making a giant crepe with those little stick things! But it was fun nonetheless!

Crepes

291. Halloween Catering Extravaganza

The family I am working for/living with had a halloween party where they invited a few other families over (complete with kids) which meant a great opportunity to unleash my inner Martha Stewart (one of my favourite activities) and do some halloween themed catering. The days leading up to and including the party were so much fun.

On the menu was:

Marshmallow Chocolate spiders

IMG_8385 (640x480)

Fingers, in the form of carrots in dip and hotdogsIMG_8400 IMG_8401 Mummy dogsIMG_8402 Bat wingsIMG_8403 Pizza hands and green worm spaghettiIMG_8404 Evil hamburgersIMG_8405The house decorations were also fairly elaborate:

IMG_8397 IMG_8395 IMG_8394 IMG_8392 IMG_8391As was my favourite (and the most gruesome) of the costumes:

IMG_8398Halloween doesn’t seem to be much of a tradition here – trick or treating is not very normal and has only recently started to grow in popularity – but the excuse for a theme party is definitely a popular one!

 

 

 

135. Glazed Ham Recipe

Working as an au pair has certainly been a fun experience, with a huge boost in cultural learnings. One particularly entertaining aspect has been whilst cooking for my family. My host mother does most of the grocery shopping, and we’ve been playing a little game I like to call “Can you make something with that?”

It’s where she presents me with something, e.g. a type of meat, and asks if I can use it to make something for dinner. Lucky for me the family is either very polite or very receptive to my imaginative cooking.

In Denmark, pork seems to be the most common dinner ingredient. One on such evening my host mum presented me with a big chunk of ham, for the next round of “Can you make something with that?”

I’ve only ever prepared ham insomuch as I have put a slice of it in a sandwich, but I have watched/assisted my domestic goddess of a mother make a delicious glazed leg of ham every boxing day to take away on holiday, so with a little google searching I found a glaze recipe and crossed my fingers it would work out on a smaller chunk of ham. The key ingredients are marmalade (which is actually the generic term for all types of jam in Denmark, so specifying orange marmalade can be important), mustard and cloves. Herbs and spices all have different names here and have become quite the guessing game between my host mother and I. Once we had established what cloves were, the only ones we had were actually mixed in to some loose leaf herbal tea. So a careful exercise to pull out a decent amount of them entailed. I was glad I did as they really make a noticeable difference, when you bite in to a piece of ham that has had a clove in it while it cooks.

All in all the recipe was a success, and looked extra gourmet as I used a chunky marmalade. I definitely recommend giving it a try!

Ingredients:

  • Whatever size of ham takes your fancy
  • 1/4 cup of orange marmalade, double it for a large piece/leg
  • 1 tablespoon of honey mustard (this can be a prepared honey mustard or a simple mix of equal parts of honey and mustard), again double it for a larger piece or a leg
  • Whole cloves

Method

Preheat oven to 140 degrees. Place the ham on the baking tray and using a knife cut/score 1-2 cm deep lines diagonally across the ham, in a criss-cross manner making a diamond pattern. Place a clove in the centre of each diamond. mix the marmalade and honey mustard in a bowl and brush/spread half of it over the ham. Bake for 15-20mins, then brush over the rest. Bake for another 15-20mins. (much longer for larger pieces/legs – check meat cooking times by weight online). Allow 10-15mins for the meat to cool before carving.

123. Suksesseterte

Suksesseterte is the name of (in my esteemed opinion) the best cake in the world. *That I have tried. And based on the amount of cake I’ve eaten lately I think I’m getting pretty well qualified to judge! I stumbled across this cake at a market in Tromsø. I’m fairly sure this stall was manned by the Real Housewives Of Tromsø. It was also the most overstaffed market stall I’ve ever seen! A casual stroll by and we were swamped with women offering samples, free fruit and coffee and looking very proud of their creations. One cake sample in particular was very delicious and the price for a whole one incredibly reasonable (compared to every other item of food in all of Norway). On reflection they were probably selling their goods below cost, not to mention the free fruit and coffee, but they seemed to be having the time of their lives and they were probably all married to rich engineers on norwegian oil rigs anyway.

After informing me he had “a bit of a sweet tooth” my travel buddy Ryan wolfed down half the thing in a very short space of time. I can’t fault him though, because it was amazing! Suksesseterte loosely translates to “Succsess Cake/Tart.” It seems to only feature on Norwegian sites too, and while they claim it is a morning tea staple, it doesn’t seem to have made it across any borders. Suksesseterte consists of a base made from almond/hazlenut meal, icing sugar and egg whites, and a topping made from a deliciously unhealthy amount of butter and egg yolks, giving it the yellow colour. It is therefore a relatively light cake, though unlike Ryan I still found it difficult to eat too much in one go.

I have tried to track down the origins of the name, but to no avail. Perhaps it comes from the success of getting it right, or that one is probably doing pretty well at life to be making cakes with expensive core ingredients like ground almonds. Or maybe it is used by housewives-to-be to succsessfully lure in a husband. My host family certainly seemed suitably impressed when I gave it a go at home!

I umm-ed and aaahhh-ed about sharing this recipe, thinking maybe it could be a closely guarded secret and I could whip it out as my party trick. But ultimately it was too good not to share, plus a quick google search and some translating provides a few recipe options to anyone else keen to make it. I also feel a bit bad about my exam-induced blog neglect, so here it is as a consolation prize. I thoroughly recommend giving it a go if you are out to impress! Also, it has the added bonus of being gluten free, so I now implore every single person who reads this and has a gluten intolerant friend to make it for them. They’ll love you forever! Plus I can guarantee they are well sick of the classic fallback Mediteranean Orange/Almond Cake.

My version was actually a Not-Quite-Success-Cake as I used margarine instead of butter so the topping didn’t quite set properly, so I don’t recommend that substitution. But it was still delicious and gives me a great excuse to try it again! I also mixed hazlenuts and almonds, instead of just almonds, to give it a but more of a chocolate-y taste. That one was a successful adaptation.

A slightly runny topping and decorated with cocoa instead of chocolate sauce, but not one bit less delicious!

Base:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 50g ground hazlenuts

Topping:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 125g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
  • 150g butter

Mix the icing sugar and ground nuts. Gently fold the egg whites into the mix. Pour into a 24 cm (diameter) mold, and bake at 160°C for 30-35 minutes. Leave to cool completely (otherwise the topping melts too much)

Stir together the egg yolks, cream, sugar and vanilla sugar. Warm over a low-medium heat until the ‘custard’ thickens. Cool and stir in the butter. Leave aside to cool until it solidifies.

Place the bottom on a serving dish and spread over ‘custard’. Garnish with chopped pistachio nuts or dust with cocoa powder. Alternatively you can make a pattern using chocolate sauce by making parallel lines with the sauce, then using the end/handle of the spoon make a line cutting across the lines one way, then back the other way. That’s probably a terrible explanation of how to make the decorations as used in the original one I tried, but I’m not sure how else to describe it!

96. Move to the Countryside

After a few financial scares kicking me in to action (a certain NZ government department that seems to have cut their monkey-training budget and just employs monkeys with NO idea messing with my student loan and even McDonald’s not considering me for employment) I decided to get a little creative with my job hunt. On the search for a babysitting job, I came across an Au Pair matching website and got talking to a lovely family that lives just outside of Aarhus. Next thing I’m living out in the country!

Some have critiqued such a choice, particularly moving in with a relatively unknown family. Certainly you have to approach these sorts of things with reason and caution, for example the single Dad with a baby advertising for an au pair and ‘personal assistant.’ Who knows, could have been a lovely guy but there were alarm bells there. Or the families who specify they only want someone from the Philippines so they can take advantage of the difficulties getting jobs and visas by overworking some poor girl. Anyway, I think I’ve struck gold with this particular family. So far it has proved to be an amazing way to truly immerse myself in the culture, learn a bunch of things I never would in a dorm, increase my Danish vocabulary, and most importantly they treat me like I am part of the family.
It has also provided a great opportunity to learn about Danish food and customs, try out recipes of things I have discovered on my travels and just generally enjoy having a proper kitchen! So expect a whole lot more cooking posts.

The downside is i am now about an hour out of town, but commuting has been pretty good for getting my readings done before class. And I only seem to have classes a couple of days a week most of the time so it isn’t too much of a tax!
Living out in the country provides for some beautiful views too, some of which are featured below. I feel awfully European when I cycle through the beautiful green fields to get to the bus stop. Any romantic illusions are, however, shattered by the fact that as we approach spring/summer, it is that time of year where farmers cover their fields with animal excrement…

79. Home Made Hot Cross Buns

I woke up this morning to a drizzly view out the window, and a fine realisation that it was Good Friday, everyone was home and I had absolutely no plans. And with that I suddenly had an overwhelming desire to make hot cross buns. I’ve never actually made them myself, but last time I was at home for Easter mum made a tonne of them, and the weather was exactly like today. A perfect day to stay inside all day, bake and be nostalgic!

The first hurdle, however, was whether or not we had all the ingredients in the cupboard for a somewhat ambitious impromptu baking session. After a few different translation attemps it was established we didn’t have any raisins in the house, and the look of horror on my host mother’s face at the thought of getting the kids to eat them lead to a quick change in plans. Inspired by good old Quality Bakers (even though home made hot cross buns are in a delicious league of their own) and I whipped up some child-friendly hot cross buns. So here’s my version of the traditional Good Friday treat. I must say, I felt awful grown up preferring raisins to chocolate, but although hot cross buns have had quite the contentious history themselves*, they’ve always been difficult to introduce to kids, so the compromise version was fine by me!

While some might consider the method laborious, I think it is ideal for a relaxing day off, and slowly making them over the course of the day is a great way to enjoy being inside with the family, or motivate myself to study with scheduled breaks in the hot cross bun process! Perhaps it was festivity and familiarity, but they smelled amazing, even the dough. also enjoyed the lovely baking soundtrack that was Hungry Kids of Hungary while I made them. So here’s my version of the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (240 ml) milk
  • 7 grams active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 500g all purpose flour
  • 55 grams light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 70 grams butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 C chopped dark chocolate

In a small saucepan, heat the milk using a very low heat until lukewarm. Add the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar and stir to combine. Set aside for about 10 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.

Combine the flour, sugar, spices, and salt. Once the yeast is foamy, gradually add to the flour mixture and beat until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the melted butter and egg and beat until incorporated. At this point I really would have liked to have had my mother’s Kenwood Cake mixer, which is older than me and wouldn’t surprise me if it had its own specific mention in the will, but alas, some intense elbow grease was applied.

Gradually add the chocolate peices and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Add more flour if it is sticky, until it makes a good dough-y consistency.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning the dough once, so the top is lightly greased. Cover with plastic wrap or a teatowell and place in a warm spot to rise until it has almost doubled in size (about 1 1/2 – 2 hours).

When the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down to release the air, and divide into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a small round ball and place on a tray lined with baking paper. The buns should be spaced so they have enough room to double in size. Brush with a glaze made of one beaten egg mixed with 1 tablesoon of milk. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot until they have almost doubled in size (about 60 minutes).

While they are rising, mix up the “crosses” by combining 1/2 cup plain flour and 4 to 5 tablespoons water. Pour in to either a piping bag, or snip the corner off a snaplock bag.

Preheat oven to 205 degrees C. Brush the tops of the buns with the glaze again cut a ‘cross’ in the top of each bun. Pipe a cross in to the gap on each bun and pop in to the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the buns are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.

Makes 12 delicious buns.

*Hot Cross buns were at one stage banned in Protestent England as they were thought to be propogating a few too many Catholic values, but Queen Elizabeth passed a specific law allowing bakeries to sell them at Easter and Christmas. Good to see deliciousness took precedence over politics.

57. A Classic Kiwi Meal

Those of us exchange students who are staying miles out of town at Skjoldhoj Kollegiet have started the International Food Series, where we each cook a typical meal from home. When my turn rolled around, or more accurately, when I was feeling a little homesick and felt like making some comfort food, I offered to cook for the team. The next dilemma, however, was deciding on what exactly constitutes a classic kiwi meal. The problem, you see, is that New Zealand is a young and very multicultural country and as far as food goes, we just eat everyone else’s food!

I asked for some suggestions on facebook of what would be considered a classic kiwi meal. My sister helpfully suggested a delicious New Zealand Lasagne or a Traditional Kiwi Stir Fry. The irony of these classic kiwi foreign meals was not at all lost on me. After a good chuckle I settled on roast lamb with kumara and potatoes. Whilst the meat-and-two-veg combination is pretty classic as far as New Zealand cuisine goes, I do feel it is more of an English innovation. However, the ingredients are what makes it truly kiwi.

I have been asked many times as I meet foreigners whether it really is true that there are more sheep than people in New Zealand. I like to point out that the ratio of sheep to humans is roughly 4:1 and pause a little to laugh at their faces while they imagine we each own 4 pet sheep, before pre-emptively (and ever so patronisingly) correcting them that they reside on farms and not in our living rooms. There’s actually this slightly sheepish (no pun intended. Actually it was totally intentional. Who ever says no pun intended and actually means it?!) look people give me as they lie through their teeth and say “Oh… I knew that…”

Thus lamb is a very traditional New Zealand meat to oven roast. In fact oven roasting a whole meal, I have been told by a Swede, is in fact a very New Zealand thing to do. As for the two veg, Kumara (or sweet potato if translated) is definitely a truly kiwi vegetable although both in New Zealand and elswhere, it is quite expensive. Perfect to water it down with some potatoes.

As for dessert, there is nothing more traditional and kiwi than a Pavlova. And don’t you dear let those plagiarising Australian’s tell you otherwise. Officially, it is still being disputed, but everyone knows the Pavlova is ours. With a deceitfully Russian sounding name, the Pavolva is a dessert invented in New Zealand in the 1920s, named after Anna Pavolva, a Russian Ballet Dancer who was touring New Zealand at the time. A pavlova is a large, white meringue cake, with the name no doubt influenced by the beautiful white tutu of a ballet dancer in that era.

This particular meal wasn’t my first lamb roast, but by gosh, I must say it was one of my best! The pavolva, on the other hand, was my first ever attempt at the dessert, and I made the fatal error of disobeying the strict cooking instructions of a somewhat difficult dessert. I didn’t make the most common of pavolva mistakes: opening the oven door while it was cooking; but instead I decided that using normal sugar would be fine. There are very clear instructions on every pavlova recipe to use castor sugar, but I couldn’t find it anywhere in Aarhus. I read somewhere that you should grind up normal sugar to create caster sugar rather than substitute a heavier kind, but I didn’t have anything suitable for the task in my ill-equipped student kitchen. I decided to take a chance, and while the dessert wasn’t a failure, it was a little more dense than usual. I also think the oven was a touch too hot, but it did taste pretty good! In true student form, I couldn’t bear to waste the egg yolks, so I also made some lemon curd to go on top, which tasted so much better than the traditional sliced kiwifruit/strawberries. Especially as fruit is like a whole different food group here, compared to the good stuff we have in New Zealand.

The roast lamb was delicious, though it was subject to one of the larger of my shopping miscommunication failures. I went to Bazaar Vest, the middle eastern market, which I had seen had a few large butchers, and had heard one of them has been voted the best one in Aarhus, not to mention one of the cheapest (Fun fact: the Danish word for butcher is ‘Slagter.’ How delightful). Unfortunately, in both Denmark and the Middle East, it seems a Lamb Roast to feed a large family in the way we make them back home is not something repeated here. Furthermore, I have bought meat from a butcher maybe twice in my life and had no idea what to even call the cut I was after, let alone in Danish. Usually, there would be a good size piece of boneless lamb already cut and packaged on the supermarket shelf. At the butcher I went to, my options where a giant leg, a tiny steak or mince. The butcher asked me in Danish if I would like any help. I replied in English that I would like some lamb, but did they have anything smaller than the legs. After some stilted conversation where the poor guy switched to English, his third language at the very least, he said ‘OK I’ll cut it for you.’ Here was I thinking I had been quite clear that the leg was too large and I wanted about half of the size. I was amazed to see the guy very proudly come back with the leg in small chunks. It was pretty reasonably priced, and I strongly doubted the poor guy would be happy with selling the other half of the small chunks of lamb leg. So I politely thanked him and took the whole leg cut in to small pieces. He’d been so nice and helpful after-all, and I could always freeze them and save the rest for other occasions. And on the bright side it would cook faster!

So I used the following method, inspired by Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and most importantly the amazing chef that is my mother.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Cut potatoes, onions, kumara in to bit sized chunks. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with fresh rosemary and a teaspoon of salt. Place in a roasting dish (I had to go buy those disposable foil ones) with some whole, unpeeled cloves of garlic, toss around to evenly distribute the oil, salt and rosemary and place on the bottom shelf of the oven. Place lamb, either a large cut or smaller cuts in a roasting dish. Poke a 1cm squared hole in the meat with a small knife and put a sprig of rosemary and a quarter or half of a peeled clove of garlic in the hole. Poke similar holes about an inch apart all over the lamb and repeat. Or if you accidentally have smaller pieces, 1-2 holes in each piece. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in the oven, in the tray above the vegetables. Cook the lamb for 40 minutes to an hour, depending on how well cooked you like your meat and how much/what size it is. Usually, if the juices run clear when you poke a hole in the meat and push down on it with your knife it will be well cooked. With red meat, a little bit undercooked will be fine.As for the vegetables, after about 25minutes, turn the vegetables over to ensure they cook evenly.

Take the lamb out (it will continue to cook a little as it slowly cools) and turn the oven up to 250 degrees. After a further 10 minutes turn the vegetables again. Continue to cook (and turn) until they are golden brown and crispy on the outside. Take the vegetables out and allow to cool. They should be ready between 15 minutes and 30 minutes after the meat is done, depending on how fast your oven heats up. This part requires a little bit of attention to ensure they cook well. You may want to add a touch more oil when you check them (even while the meat is cooking) if they look to be drying out.
Rosemary is my absolute favourite herb, and in my opinion, you just can’t get enough of it so feel free to through a hellova lot of it on to both your vegetables and your meat. If you don’t have fresh rosemary, dried is just as good as fresh, or if you prefer a mixed herbs/tuscan herbs/herbs de provence style combination (however your supermarket is selling a mix with a rosemary/oregano/thyme base combination) it will be almost as good.

Normally, in my household anyway, it would be served with some green veges (either steamed or oven roasted) on the side. Delicious and a great way to make it a more balanced meal. However, when catering for the masses on a student budget, the lamb, kumara and potatoes went down a treat.

I also made some mint sauce to go with. Not the traditional wierd jelly you can buy, but a home made version which was amazing. Never buying again! Do be warned though, it may make you want to drink mohitos. To make it, get two large handfuls of fresh mint and sprinkle with about a teaspoon of sugar. Chop it up as small as you can and then place in a small bowl. Juice a lemon or lime over the mint and stir vigorously until it is all mushy and sauce like. If you have a mortor and pestle it would probably achieve the desired effect far more efficiently. Other variations would suggest using white wine vineagar, but if you don’t already have it is a bit more of an investment than a lemon or lime. If it is too tangy add more sugar to taste. Don’t make it too early – it was delicious fresh!

I made some gravy too but it was a bit of a failure. Luckily it was superfluous with the mint sauce. Best I figure out where I went wrong before posting any recipes!

For the Pavlova and lemon curd, I used the following recipes:

Beat 4 egg whites with an electric mixer until they form soft white peaks. Gradually add one cup of caster sugar whilst contnuing to beat (alternatively if you can’t find any and have a very clean coffee grinder you can grind it into caster sugar, or if that is too difficult normal sugar will still make a pavlova). Add one teaspoon of lemon juice or vineagar and two teaspoons of sifted cornflour and beat for at least 10 minutes until it is glossy. Pile the meringue on to a baking tray lined with tin foil or baking paper, shaping it in a cake shape as much as possible, and leaving a bit of a dip in the centre. Bake at 130 degrees for about one and a half hours, until the outside is crispy and a sort of off-white/cream colour. Finally, whatever you do, don’t open the door until you are ready to take it out of the oven.

Put one teaspoon of cornflour, a quarter of a cup of sugar and three quarters of a cup of milk in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring constantly. Bring it to the boil, then pour a small amount in to a bowl with the two egg yolks and stir. Add this egg yolk mixture to the saucepan and stir constantly for a further minute. Remove from the head and add two tablespoons of lemon juice and one teaspoon of lemon rind. Allow to cool.

When the pavlova was ready I poured the lemon curd over it and added whipped cream on top. Delicious!

54. How To Make Rye Bread Delicious

Proper Danish rye bread – looks and tastes like a brick

In an effort to be more healthy I made the very incorrect assumption that because there is so much rye bread on offer in Scandinavia, with so many different varieties, that perhaps it was another type of food that gets absolutely butchered as it makes its way to the other side of the world. Everyone seems to be eating it, so they must make it better over here, right? Wrong. It tastes much the same as NZ rye bread – dry, dense and quite difficult to enjoy.

So I decided to work a little magic and make it more delicious by taking inspiration from the wonderful Nigella and covering the stuff with butter. Much better! Totally negated my attempt at making a healthy choice, but tasted damn good.

I also took inspiration from a trip to a cafe in Wellington, NZ by the name of Gotham, which makes an amazing american style grilled cheese. Or as I like to call it, a heart attack sandwich. I’m fairly sure they actually deep fry it, and probably have at least 250g of cheese in between those two giant slices of grease soaked bread. A ‘grilled cheese’ is also a good problem solver when you don’t have a toaster (they don’t seem to be a normal kitchen appliance here, or perhaps I haven’t been in enough Danish kitchens).

I felt it was important to pair a strong cheese with my interestingly flavoured rye and went with a blue cheese and mushroom grilled cheese. It was amazing! The heat softened the previously solid rye so it was a great deal more palatable, but don’t expect it to go crispy like normal/white bread (or Franskbrod, as in French Bread, as it is called here in Denmark). Some sauteed onions would probably be a nice touch too.

If you want to recreate it, I used the following method: slice mushrooms and sautee in butter, set aside. Spread each side of two slices of bread with butter and place in the frying pan. When the butter has all soaked in and it is at your desired level of golden brown toasted-ness, turn over and place slices of blue cheese on one piece of bread, then mushrooms. I also had a mushroom-cream-cheese dip concoction as a result of not understanding what the other dip flavours were at the supermarket (where’s reduced cream and onion soup when you need it) which went very well with my grilled cheese. Luckily not too much of a mushroom/dairy overload and it perfectly counteracted the (d)rye bread. I then put the lid on the sandwich and let the cheese melt. Delicious.

It was a wee while ago so I didn’t have a photo, but it looked something like the one above, found on google images and first seen here.

Also, I have since learned the trick to eating rye bread like a Dane. It is called smorrebrod and it consists of having your sandwich filling as a topping on just the one piece of dry, dense bread. It all makes sense to me now!

Danish Smorrebrod. Because eating two slices of the stuff is just too much!

52. Cake Buffet

I got a bit of a bollocking from a friend for sending the following text message: “Do you want to skip class this afternoon and go to a cake buffet?”

Apparently the answer is so obvious I shouldn’t have even asked! After a long day of classes and immense frustration at a certain NZ Government department, I was in a mood only copious amounts of cake could improve.

I had heard about the mystical, magical cake buffet in the middle of town, so after rounding up 3 other dessert enthusiasts we went on an adventure to find it.

At first impression, the buffet seemed rather limited – I was expecting a ridiculously large spread of various cakes, but in actual fact there was actually only one cake, by the strictest of definitions. Nonethless, the quality of the cakes, or desserts as they will be named hereafter, absolutely made up for the fact that there were really only four options: chocolate brownies, strawberry panna cotta, apple crumble and a Danish Layer Cake (Lagkage). I have seen this particular variation in a few places and I think it is officially called a Filbert Gateau. Sadly I didn’t take my camera to school that day (thinking I was just going to go to class like a good student) so I only have a cellphone picture (above).

The apple crumble was judged the winner of the day – it was made with real marzipan (i.e. almond meal) in the crumble and had the most amazing flavour. I also really enjoyed the panna cotta – you could see the seeds from the vanilla pods in it. Definitely some baking inspiration there!

The more delicious food I try here, the more I realise how much we butcher good meals and ingredients in NZ! Marzipan in particular has been a sickly sweet, overpowering bright white coloured paste in my previous experience. A little research proves we commonly use the cheap version: almond essence mixed with soy paste as opposed to actual ground up almonds and sugar or sugar syrup as the Europeans, particularly the french and germans, do. The biggest giveaway you are eating the good stuff is that it is the colour of the inside of an almond, as opposed to wedding-cake-white!

All in all quality won out over quantity. So much so, in fact, that I was disappointed at how little I could eat before I felt sick! Next time I’m starving myself for days first. The other bonus was that it was only 32kr for the buffet, which is about $7-$7.50 NZ and it wasn’t one of those sneaky places where you are also forced to buy a bottle of expensive wine or a meal to get the buffet at that price.

For anyone wanting to go, it is called Globen Flakket and the buffet is available 2:30-4:30pm weekdays and 3:00-4:30 on weekends.