Rhubarb crumble with coconut and almonds


I consider rhubarb the wronged child in the fruit family. Announcing my crumble making plans to my housemate, he frowned, ‘Rhubarb, really?’ then started fantasising out loud about alternative crumble contenders. ‘Raspberries… blueberries? Apples! Come on,’ he tried, a panicked look on his face as if lives, not crumbles, were at stake. Disgruntled, I was now determined to defend the honour and good name of rhubarb.

I suppose it is the acidity that turns people off rhubarb, but to me that is exactly what gives rhubarb an advantage over sweet (dull) fruits. That tangy bite cuts through meringue and custard and cream like a Japanese sushi knife. If there ever was a fruit destined for puddings, this is the one.

All it takes is a little stewing and stirring. It fascinates me to watch the firm stems disintegrate to a bundle of silky threads, like a culinary magic trick.

Add a crunchy almond topping for texture, and coconut for sweetness, and I’m delighted to admit that aforementioned housemate and I polished off the whole tray in one sitting (other housemates, I’m sorry).

He says he still prefers apple crumble. I don’t believe him.

Serves 4:
400 g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1 cm cubes
100-200 g sugar, to taste
a tablespoon water

150 g plain flour
100 g soft butter
50 plain white sugar
50 g dark muscovado sugar
50 g oats
50 g almonds, chopped
coconut flakes

extra butter for greasing

1.  Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius (180 degrees fan-forced).

2. Stew rhubarb with sugar and water over a gentle heat for about 15 minutes or until the fruit has softened. Pour into a greased dish.

3. Rub flour and cubes of butter with your fingers until the butter is fully incorporated in the flour. You’re aiming for a look similar to grated parmesan cheese. Now add the sugar and almonds, mixing everything together with your hands.

4. Spread on top of the rhubarb and add coconut flakes, then bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown on top.

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Spanish-style stuffed aubergines

DSC_0685Having lived in and out of hostels these past many months I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to have your own kitchen. And here I am; with quality utensils, a reliable oven, and charmingly chipped second-hand china. What joy it is to have these things back – and to realise that today I am appreciative of what was taken for granted only six months ago.

I had an impulse to cook, and my mind was naturally turned to Akaroa and those punch-packed Spanish flavours I enjoyed at the cookery school (read all about it here).
When I remember that day I taste chorizo, parsley and lemon, so I incorporated this holy trinity into a heart-warming, autumnal comforter (yes, it is autumn here in the Southern hemisphere, and I’m still struggling to get my head round it).

Whether you are enjoying spring or autumn at the moment, this makes a lovely transitional dish; spicy chorizo and sharp nutty parmesan help seasonal vegetables look their very best.

Serves 2:
2 large aubergines
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cooking chorizo sausage
parsley, finely chopped
juice of ½ lemon
parmesan, grated
olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius (fan-forced). Slice the aubergines in half lengthways, then scoop out the flesh, leaving a border inside each aubergine about 1 cm thick. Brush the shells with olive oil then bake them for about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, chop the aubergine flesh that was removed. Slice chorizo thinly and fry over a medium-high heat for a few minutes until it starts releasing its oil, then add the aubergine flesh, red pepper, and garlic. Sauté for about ten minutes until the peppers and aubergine have softened.

3. Add a small handful of chopped parsley and lemon juice to taste, and season.

4. Remove the tender aubergine shells from the oven and pile stuffing into them. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan and return to the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melting and the breadcrumbs are golden. Serve with a green salad.

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Foodie’s guide to New Zealand: Akaroa cooking school


I laughed, I cried, I cooked. I marvelled at this mountain and that waterfall. I indulged in conversations with strangers. I packed and unpacked, always on the move, living from day to day with no sense of time. And suddenly I notice: the leaves are golden, temperatures are dropping, tourists are fewer. Oh. New Zealand has seasons, too. It’s autumn and I’ve been in this country for three months. And that’s when it occurred to me that I should probably write down what’s happened over the course of the last month before my memory fails me. I’m going to start with a place that I recollect very affectionately and which my fingers have been itching to write about.

The signature Akaroa lighthouse. 

Do you ever fantasise about going to cooking school in some exotic setting? If you do then the Akaroa cooking school is just your ticket. Set in the tranquil historic fishing village of Akaroa, an hour and a half from Christchurch, a more scenic location for a cooking school could hardly be imagined. The school runs themed classes every week spanning world cuisines, from Thailand to France. In March I attended a one-day course dedicated to Spanish tapas.

Lou cooking a thousand things and cracking jokes.

Owners Lou and Ant Bentley used to be investment bankers in London. However their passion for everything related to good food and wine ultimately led them to quit their jobs and start a cooking school – and where else than beautiful Akaroa?

Against my expectation I was not required to do any actual cooking, as classes are demonstration only.  Instead I was to sit back, have a drink, chat to my fellow coursemates and watch Lou and Ant cook up a storm.

The rooms have a light, inviting interior – Scandinavian minimalism, but with enough quirky personal touches to give it a cosy homely flair. A reflection of Lou and Ant, who are savvy businesspeople with a great sense of fun –during class, the banter was flowing while plates of food assembled like clockwork.

Coursemates getting to know one another over tapas and wine.

I was disappointed with the fact that I went to cooking school yet did not do any cooking at all. But if you are willing to accept the ‘cooking theatre’ concept then there is nothing to stop you from having an enjoyable day and a good laugh. I was pampered from the moment I walked through the door at 10 AM. As the twelve course attendants made their introductions freshly baked pastries were served. Then, Lou went to work and produced five beautiful tapas. We each had a hard copy of the recipe in our hands so we took notes diligently, like students at a lecture (although less diligently as the day progressed and wine consumption increased).

In front: Prawn and chorizo skewers with aioli. Behind: Grilled bread-crumbed mussels, and beyond, fried squid with harissa

Around noon the tapas were served, buffet style, accompanied by freshly made sangria and/or sparkling wine. The prawn and chorizo skewers with aioli were my favourite. As such, they’re a perfect testament to Lou and Ant’s philosophy: start with good quality ingredients, know how to combine them, and then do as little as possible to them. That’s it. Taste their food and you wouldn’t know how to disagree.

DSC_0060Lunch time. Ant tops up the ladies’ wine.

Next, the centrepiece of the day, a paella with chicken, chorizo and aioli, simmered expectantly while we went out to draw fresh air. Back at the school we went to sit down at a beautifully laid table and enjoy our main course accompanied by red or white wine.

Beautiful paella.

And finally, churros were made to order and served with a dark chocolate chili sauce. ‘Churros?’ I remember saying to my coursemates. ‘That’s the kind of thing you pick up at the fairground – it’s certainly not what I would think of as a gourmet dessert!’. And then I ate about a ton of them. Because of course, homemade churros are a whole world apart from the fairground variety. And the chili chocolate sauce was divine. I was so preoccuppied I didn’t even think to take a picture.

Akaroa on a cloudy day.

I left the Akaroa cooking school very happy, and full, recipe folder in hand, the immaculate sheets of paper tainted with my illegible hand writing. I admire Lou and Ant for their food philosophy – they endorse high quality ingredients without ever falling on the side of the pretentious. Even without tying my apron I did pick up a few tricks from watching the cooking demo; basic things that I had no idea I had been doing wrong all along. And I had so much fun.

I’d do it again in a heartbeat. That is, if I didn’t have to pay a whopping $220. I guess for New Zealand standards this is a fair price to pay for a one-day cookery course; for the gourmet food, the wine (which was handed out very generously), and for Lou and Ant’s time. But for me the Akaroa cooking school is probably going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. How I’ll cherish the memory.

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Foodie’s guide to New Zealand: Wellington

DSC_0457The cable car – A Wellington icon

Welcome to Wellington, known affectionately as ‘Welly’ or ‘the coolest little capital in the world’. This is a place where the wind always blows ruthlessly and yet you will see locals running and cycling unfazed. Where you can walk down the street in the craziest outfit and yet only receive smiles, and where you can almost hear the manic buzz of creative minds coming together.

I have to admit I didn’t take to Wellington immediately. On the surface it resembles any other New Zealand town: anonymous-looking buildings and squares that have none of the soul or charm of their European counterparts. Of course, compared to Europe, New Zealand’s cities are without history, so what exactly did I expect?

The waterfront.

However, as I started to grasp the crazy energy and the passion of local entrepreneurs, I had to change my outlook on the city. Wellington is indeed cool. That’s the one adjective that best describes this little capital.

Having spent a good 10 days here I can confidently say that Wellington is not only the official capital but very much the foodie capital of New Zealand: it has more cafés and restaurants per capita than Paris. For Wellingtonians, good food made with wholesome ingredients is an important part of ‘the good life’. Businesses specialising in high-quality artisan products thrive here. Whether it’s coffee or chocolate or peanut butter, local entrepeneurs approach their selected niche with the zest of a nerd and are duly rewarded for it.

The waterfront with those characteristic Welly hills behind it.

My introduction to Wellington was on a Sunday morning in the inner-city suburb of Aro Valley. At Aro Coffee I expected the usual conservative café breakfast menu and was pleased to find on their menu a novel item: Rice pudding with rhubarb and strawberry. In my memory, rice puddings are sickly-sweet things that I only tolerate once a year around Christmas time, and I almost regretted my choice, but then this zesty fruity thing arrived at my table and I was so glad to have been proven wrong. The pairing of rhubarb and rice pudding is pure genius.

Rice pudding, anyone?

Every Sunday there is a big market at the waterfront which caters to all your needs, whether it be a bag of fresh fruit or a quick lunch from one of the dozen food trucks serving up delicious street food from all over the world. These guys were busy at the BBQ and yet they happily posed for my camera.

The Sunday market.

If you’re a coffee nerd then you’ll have a great time at Flight Coffee. This is the kind of place where you select your brew from a ‘tasting notebook’ and give your order to a moustached hipster. When your filter coffee arrives at your table it comes with a little card which describes the key flavour notes, as on a bottle of wine.

Staff are very passionate about coffee, if not religious. My friend ordered a batch of filter coffee and when she asked for milk, the waiter shot her a disgusted look and a remark along the lines of ‘we don’t like to do that here’ . Eventually he did bring some out, but I find this kind of snobbery very off-putting. Which is a shame, because I have to hand it to them, their coffee is pretty good and so is their food. For breakfast I had a poached egg on sourdough bread with harissa, ‘avocado smash’ and feta. Simple and tasty, it just works.

DSC_0505Breakfast at Flight Coffee.

Though equally infiltrated by hipsters, Café Floriditas has an entirely different vibe. Spacious, bright and friendly, the decor is tastefully old-school – an antique clock there, a boudoir lamp there. The simple menu is sourced from seasonal and fresh ingredients and changes almost daily. For lunch I had spaghetti with tarragon, radishes, mint, feta and fresh pea shoots. It was effortlessly elegant.


Floriditas is renowned for its in-house bakery. Cakes are temptingly lined up on the counter and my friend Sara and I decided to sample a few. The orange ‘jaffa cake’ had sufficient chocolatey intensity to please any die hard-choc fan, but it was the caramel-ginger loaf that nearly killed me (in a good way). A light sponge with a ginger kick and topped caramel so velvety it felt unreal – this has got to be one of the best cakes I’ve tried, ever.

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Oh those cakes! Left: Ginger-caramel loaf, Right: Orange Jaffa Cake.

Floriditas became an instant favourite and I’d love to come back – the only thing I can fault is the slightly steep prices.

Another product that Wellington does incredibly well is ice cream. Gelissimo, a little gelateria on the waterfront, lays claim to the best gelato in New Zealand. Having tried a dozen of their gelatos I find myself in no position to refute it.

Graham hands out the good stuff.

This award-winning ice cream is hand-made in a tiny backroom of the shop. Owner Graham Joe is a kid in an adult’s body – he’ll experiment tirelessly and come up with any number of whacky flavour combinations – when I stopped by he was developing a cucumber-mint gelato. He’s even made savoury dishes work in gelato form. Being a conservative gelato consumer, my personal favourite was the damson plum sorbet – it had just the right amount of tangy and fruity.

Plum and mango sorbet.

I could go on raving about Wellington’s restaurants and markets but I have no intention of turning this blog post into a book, so I’ll leave it for now. It’s been a while since I made my way over the fierce Cook Strait and down to sunny Nelson, which – surprise surprise – I am also falling in love with. So long for now – I can’t wait to share more fantastic food experiences with you.

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Foodie’s guide to New Zealand: Rotorua and Napier

Kauaeranga Valley.

Kia Ora! from New Zealand, where I have been rambling around these past three weeks. Starting from Auckland I am journeying south at a leisurely pace, dividing my time between sightseeing and WWOOFing (doing work exchange on organic farms).

This is the first time I have travelled outside of Europe. In fact, from a Danish/British perspective this is as far away as you get. I have arrived at the end of the world – and I’m loving it. The majestic, rugged landscapes that take your breath away, and the disarmingly friendly Kiwis warmed me to NZ immediately, and I haven’t even mentioned the food yet!

Best apricots in the whole wide world.

Being part of the daily life on a farm offers a unique look into food production in New Zealand. In Kauaeranga Valley, in the Coromandel, I helped out at a place which is primarily a garden and plant nursery but also has an orchard bursting with ripe plums, apricots, and oranges. Those apricots are the best in the whole wide world. We would sell them by the roadside. One afternoon we were just depositing some fresh ones at the stall when I heard someone exclaiming ‘Oh my God!’. I peeped round the hedge and saw a customer eating her first apricot as she was settling back into her car.

Mind you, apricots are only the beginning. New Zealand has an abundance of produce, from seafood to lamb and wine. All this potential and yet, up until recently, Kiwi cuisine was pretty much synonymous with British cuisine – Sunday roasts and fish&chips. Out of all cultural domains, food is perhaps where the British heritage is most acutely felt.
There is something bizarre about enjoying a cuppa and a Sunday roast on the veranda with a backdrop of bush and palm trees, and to a chorus of screeching tropical birds.

Night market in Rotorua.

Luckily, over the last decade or so, Kiwis have started rethinking their cuisine to make the most of their gorgeous produce. Contemporary Kiwis are very foodcentric, judging by the amount of farmer’s markets and food magazines on offer. It makes me feel right at home.

Kiwis do love a market, in fact I have yet to visit a town without one. On the day of my arrival in Rotorua, geothermal wonderland and hub of Maori culture, the weekly ‘night market’ was being held. In the middle of the pots and pans and lights and laughter a band was playing, and people were having a great time. I picked up a delicious pita bread with venison, couscous, harissa and aioli – something to try out at home.

Venison pita.

For my birthday my new friend Sara took me out to a cute ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ themed restaurant in Rotorua’s trendy Eat Streat. The al fresco dining area was a neat little garden, complete with potted plants and a bird cage which contained the menu. Servings are tapas-sized so we were encouraged to order lots of items to share between us.

A highlight of the evening was the cocktails: I had ‘Scout Sangria’ with vodka, red berries, orange juice, lemon and rosé. Sangrias are sickly-sweet at their worst, but this one struck just the right balance between punchy, fruity and refreshing.

‘Scout Sangria’. Peach Calpurnia in the background.

Another highlight was the prawn tostada: crispy tortillas with yoghurt, lime and coriander and, in Sara’s words, ‘the best prawns ever’.

Prawn tostada.

For dessert we shared a ‘chocolate trio’ – mousse, ice cream and crumble, with sweet cherries – decorated with festive candles! A chocoholic’s dream of a dessert and the perfect end to the evening. Fun, tapas-style food paired with a laid-back atmosphere and easily the best service I ever had at a restaurant, Atticus Finch comes highly recommended.

Happy Birthday!


A few days later we moved on down to Napier, the central town of Hawke’s Bay on the east coast. Napier suffered a great trauma in 1931 when an earthquake killed 251 and reduced the town to a pile of rubble. It was rebuilt entirely in the style of Art Deco which was the fashion of the 1930’s.

In February, Deco-lovers from all over the world gather for the annual Art Deco-festival. For one weekend people dress, drive, dance and dine 1930’s style. Regretfully I arrived just too early for the festival but I did get to check out their amazing secondhand shops, which are second to none.

DSC_0345 DSC_0346
Secondhand shopping in Napier.

In between shopping Sara and I made a pitstop at café/restaurant Mister D to sample their famous doughnuts. Now I’m not a massive fan of doughnuts but anyone would be a fan of these doughnuts. Infinitely light vanilla-flecked gorgeousness, adorned with powdery cinnamon-sugar. I’m tempted to come back for more.

Famous doughnut at Mister D. Sweet brioche in the background.

Meanwhile our gaze is directed south towards Wellington and the south Island. No looking back. I’m excited to see what else NZ has in store for us.

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Hungry in Istanbul


If you’re looking for a destination that will satisfy culture vultures and foodies alike, Istanbul is the place to go. I just spent a week in the city where east meets west and am very excited to report (and relive) some gastronomic highlights.

Istanbul is a city of intoxicating beauty whose sensuous impressions stay with you long after you have left. Right now I vividly recall: the smell of sea and of fish being prepared along the Bosphorus strait. The beep-beep of travelcards being swiped in the ferry/tram/metro terminals mixing with prayers from Minarets and the cries of seagulls. Bold colours, from dazzling Ottoman-style lamps to a rainbow of Turkish delight. Most of all though, I recall the kindness and generosity of the locals, not least that of the Altuntas family who welcomed me with such warmth they made me feel like one of the family.

Carpet vendor at Grand Bazaar.

Of course part of the kindredness I feel with the Turkish derives from our shared appreciation of good food.
These guys take their food seriously. I have never eaten so much and so well as I did that week in Istanbul. Take a look at the heading of this post and let me tell you, it is a lie. I was fed so insistently and round the clock that, in fact, in Istanbul I was never hungry. Too much good food around. Now let me take you through the Turkish metropolis, bite by bite.

View of the Blue Mosque from the ferry.

A Turkish-style breakfast is an elaborate affair, a spread consisting of bread, various cheeses, olives, honey, jam, and perhaps a boiled egg. Washed down with plenty of cay, Turkish black tea. Mind you this is not an indulgence reserved for a lazy Sunday, this is everyday breakfast.

Lamps at Grand Bazaar.

On my first day Öykü took me to the Grand Bazaar where we haggled with vendors and marvelled over intricate Turkish carpets and decadent jewellery. To Öykü’s amusement I didn’t buy anything at all, instead we enjoyed sahlep, a hot milky drink sprinkled with cinnamon and deliciously creamy. A perfect winter-time treat.


Blue Mosque.

Before heading to the Blue Mosque we ate köfte, Turkish meatballs, at a nearby eatery favoured by locals. And by celebrities, as dozens of framed pictures on the walls testified to.  The buzz is justified: these spiced meatballs which are often dry and unremarkable were juicy and moreish. They came with a spicy sauce, a crisp bean-salad, and bread (everything comes with bread – even pasta dishes). Also Ayran, a salty yoghurt drink which may be an acquired taste but is refreshing nevertheless, and perfect with köfte.


The next day we stayed on the Anatolian side of the city which is the less touristy one. For lunch we headed to Sahan, a chain of restaurants noted for their kebabs. It was a virtual snow blizzard outside and locals stayed indoors, as a result we enter an empty restaurant and are greeted heartily by five idle waiters. Needless to say, the service was perfect. We try lahmacun, a Turkish pizza variant with mincemeat and fresh herbs, parsley mainly. Delicious. Then comes the mixed grill with tender lamb kebab, döner kebab, and two types of köfte. Served with bread, obviously, and a side salad of tomatoes, peppers and walnuts which was absolutely outstanding – these guys sure know how to pull together a salad! I suspect it was the pomegranate dressing that made it stand out.

Mixed kebab.

THAT salad.

Finally, near the magnificent Aya Sofia we ate gözleme, a Turkish savoury pancake filled with various toppings – ours had spinach and white cheese. This was the dish that made me exclaim ’Oh my God. Oh.. My.. God!’ in the manner of overexcited American tourist. Such a humble dish, such sensational flavours. Of all the delicacies I have sampled this is probably my favourite. The pancakes were made to order by scarf-clad women sat at the front of the shop, cooking non-stop while gossiping idly.

I’m so lucky to have Öykü, my Istanbul born-and-bred friend, who could and wanted to introduce me to all these local gems.

Oh. My. God.

Aya Sofia.

Tesekkürler, Öykü, the Altuntas family, and Turkey – I miss you already and hope that we will soon be together again!


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Pistachio cardamom cake with pomegranate


I hope you all had a lovely Christmas with a ton of delicious food and perhaps even a touch of snow? In Denmark the white stuff appeared, as if on cue, just around the 24th. And then vanished as gently as it had fallen. Terrific timing.

Luckily, although Christmas is over the festivities continue. In some ways I’m more excited about New Year’s Eve than Christmas just because you’re allowed to be more innovative food-wise. At least in my family the traditional Christmas menu is sacred, reserving the culinary fireworks (!) for the final meal of the year. This recipe from Pip&LittleBlue is perfect for the occasion: extravagant and exotic, it is big on colour and flavour. It is the kind of cake that instantly grabs everyone’s attention and then leaves them smiling fondly when they discover it tastes as good as it looks.

The recipe is slightly altered, mainly because pistachios are extremely expensive in Denmark. So instead of 350 g in the batter I used 200 g and added flour and extra sugar. I also made one cake instead of sandwiching two cakes together between a layer of cream – for ease and because I don’t like having too much cream with cake (I know some of you will be gasping with disapproval now!).

I wish you all a fun-filled festive New Year’s Eve! See you again in 2015.

Serves 8:
50 g unsalted butter
5 eggs
300 g sugar
200 g shelled (salted) pistachios, ground
75 g plain flour
1 tsp ground cardamom
1½ tsps baking powder
zest and juice of ½ lemon

For the topping:
juice and seeds of ½ pomegranate
150 ml double cream
zest and juice of ½ lemon
40 g shelled (salted) pistachios, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius or 175 degrees fan-forced. Line a 20 cm round tin with baking parchment.

2. Melt butter in the microwave and set aside to cool.

3. In a large bowl, whisk sugar and eggs until pale and light. Gradually fold in the ground pistachios, cardamom, baking powder, melted butter, lemon zest and juice – gently so as not to take the air out of the batter.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Tip: if the cake is browning too quickly on top, pop some foil on top.

5. Remove the seeds from half a pomegranate. Tip: this is dirty work so do it in the sink! Keep a bowl under your hands to catch the juice pouring from the fruit. By the time you have removed the seeds there should be at least a couple tablespoons of juice. Alternatively crush a handful of the seeds.

6. Whisk the cream until thick and stir in the pomegranate juice, lemon zest and juice. Spread unto the cooled cake and decorate with pomegranate seeds and pistachios.

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Lucia brød (Advent saffron buns)


One more recipe before Christmas – a treat that is a holiday essential in my family. I’ve saved the best for last.

Danish ‘Lucia brød’, known to Swedes as ‘Lussekatte’, is a traditional Swedish bun baked in celebration of Saint Lucia, a Christian woman who was persecuted  and killed because of her religion. On ‘Saint Lucia day’ on December 13 a procession of young girls dressed in white and holding candles sing a song for Saint Lucia. This tradition, originally from Sweden, has been commonplace in Denmark since WW2.

A perfect example of the intertwinement of Nordic cultures which has given us a rich common heritage, baking being no exception. I’m especially happy with the import of the Lucia bun – a really quite simple sweet bun with just that pinch of saffron, and that spike of raisin, that makes it quietly extraordinary. And extremely moreish.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Makes 10-12 buns:
250 ml whole milk
25 g fresh yeast or 2 tsps dried yeast
¼ tsp saffron threads
100 g butter
500 g plain flour
4 tbsps sugar
½ tsp salt
1 beaten egg

1 egg, for glazing
raisins, for decoration

1. In the microwave, melt butter with milk and heat the mixture until tepid.

2. Now add the yeast and stir until it has dissolved completely.  Add saffron, sugar and the beaten egg.

3. Gradually add flour (save some for later) and knead until you have a firm and elastic dough. Hold back on the flour as much as you can – you might not need all of it. Too much flour in the dough and you end up with stodgy buns. At this point you’d rather have your dough a bit wet than a bit too dry – you can always add more flour later.

4. Put in a bowl, cover with cling film or a tea towel and allow it to prove for 30-45 minutes until doubled in size – ideally in a warm, moist, draught-free place.

5. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees celsius or 200 degrees fan-forced.

6. Once the dough has doubled in size, tip it unto a flour-dusted worktop and knead, adding more flour as you see fit. Divide the dough into 10-12 portions. Roll out each portion and shape into an ‘S’, then place each bun on a baking tray covered with baking parchment. Stud with raisins and leave to prove (again!) for 15 minutes.

7. Glaze with egg wash and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until risen and golden.

Adapted from http://www.dk-kogebogen.dk/opskrift2/visopskrift.php?id=7566 

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Homemade Christmas gifts: Winter marmalade


Christmas is one week away, and whether you are the type who has all your presents sorted weeks ahead or the one who goes into panic mode at the very last minute, Christmas is expensive. Especially on a student budget. If, like singer Paolo Nutini  you are ‘short on money but long on time’ here is an alternative that will instantly get you into the Christmas cheer.

Earlier this year I discovered just how easy it is to make your own jam. As I cannot think of a single person among my family and friends who does not like jam/marmelade, the idea of taking a day out to produce an industrial amount of marmelade to then give away as presents was irresistable. Instead of faffing about in the shops seeking out expensive and impersonal items (it should be noted I have absolutely no talent for buying presents) – I would be in the calm of my kitchen making something that people might actually enjoy. Hurrah! Christmas is saved.

As for the content of the jam, options are endless – what you can’t get fresh you can get frozen – leaving you with plenty of space to get creative. In the end I opted for a citrus variety with indulgent vanilla and Grand Marnier for a warming winter number. You want to aim for something that is to everyone’s taste but with a twist. How my gifts will be received I have little idea – I’ll have to be a patient girl and wait and wait until Christmas Eve.

Makes 4-6 jars:
1½ kg sugar
1½ kg citrus fruits (unwaxed), such as oranges, clementines, lemons and limes
1 tbsp Grand Marnier
1 vanilla pod, sliced open lengthways
pectin, optional (see step 5)

1. Put fruits in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about an hour.

2. Remove fruits from the saucepan and leave them to cool. Slice them into quarters and discard any seeds.

3. Put in a blender – blend until you have smooth paste with small bits of pulp and skin.

4. Put fruit and sugar in a large saucepan with a sliced vanilla pod and Grand Marnier. Bring to a rolling boil, then simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Test to see if the marmalade has set: spoon a little onto a cold plate, leave for a minute and then push the jam with your finger. If the marmalade crinkles and separates without flooding back, setting point has been reached. NB: If your marmalade doesn’t set at this point you may have to use a little pectin to help things along. (Although technically, if you use pectin you’re making jam not marmelade!)

  1. Leave for 15 minutes or until cool and pour into sterilised jars.

Tip: you can customise and print your own labels from this website (in Danish so you’ll learn a little, too…)

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Pancakes with caramel and blackberry compote


As winter tightens its grip and days get darker and chillier, even the littlest repository of summer berries is treasure. Recently, on a particularly grim day, my last portion of blackberries was summoned from the icy depths of the freezer to bring a little cheer to this pancake party. Starting with a basic American pancake recipe from Nigella Lawson the fireworks are in the toppings: rich, sticky-sweet caramel is balanced perfectly against ripe, acidic blackberries bursting with flavour. It is a combination so simple yet so powerful – I have to admit I haven’t been this excited about a recipe for a while!

You can add a seasonal touch very easily by mixing spices such as cinnamon and cardamom into the compote. A swig of brandy wouldn’t go amiss either…

Makes 16 pancakes:
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
225 g plain flour
a pinch of salt
2 eggs
30 g butter (melted and cooled)
300 ml milk
1 tsp ground cardamom
butter for frying

blackberry compote:

200 g blackberries, frozen or fresh
75 g sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

caramel spread, such as dulche de leche, to serve

1. To make the compote, put all ingredients in a saucepan and leave to simmer over a low-to-medium heat while you prepare the pancake batter.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix cooled melted butter with eggs and milk. Add cardamom. Then pour the egg-mix into the dry ingredients and whisk well, stirring out any lumps.

3. Return to your gently bubbling compote; mash most of the berries with a spatula but leave some whole. Take off the heat and cool at room temperature.

4. In a large frying pan, melt a knob of butter and pour little circles of batter – no more than 2 inches in diameter. When the batter on top of the pancake is blistering and bubbling flip it over and cook the other side for about a minute.

5. Serve with lashings of caramel and blackberry compote.

Adapted from a recipe from Nigella Lawson: http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/american-breakfast-pancakes-141

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