Poppy Seeds Cake with White Chocolate


From the culinary standpoint this is a very interesting cake – an impressive list of ingredients; it isn’t always clear why all of them are necessary but the result is absolutely astonishing – a soft, fragrant cake with a very rich flavor: white chocolate and poppy as a base, citrus background notes …

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Ingredients:

Cake:

40 g. butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
90 g. brown sugar,
90 gr. “Demerara” sugar
1 tbsp honey
Zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg
1 egg yolk
70 g. poppy seeds (ground)
90 gr. flour
5 g. (1/2 bag) baking powder
60 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
100 grams. sour cream
50 grams of apple puree and some rum

Glazing:

40 gr. white chocolate
20 gr. butter
A bit of lemon zest

Process:

Pre-heat the oven to 160C.

Mix butter, vegetable oil, sugar, honey, lemon zest and vanilla essence. Using blender “beat” it into a light cream. Then add the egg and blend further until a uniform mass is obtained. Then add the additional yolk, and again, “beat” into a uniform mass.

Sift in the flour with the baking powder, add poppy seeds and mix (manually, not using the blender). Add the remaining ingredients (chocolate, rum, sour cream and apple puree) and again mix into a uniform mass.

Using a baking form for English cakes, bake for 40-45 minutes.

Glazing – melt chocolate and butter together on a steam (using bain-marie construction) add the zest, mix and chill slightly. Pour on the cake (when its slightly chilled as well) and let the mass solidify.

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Wine Marmalade


Very fragrant and unusual marmalade. You’d never guess the main ingredient, as there are no traces of alcohol whatsoever in the resulting product. Done practically within minutes and doesn’t require any usual hard marmalade-making work. One important boundary that can’t be crossed – pectin is an absolute must.

The original recipe was using grape juice with a small comment that using wine is also an option. This has triggered my curiosity and this marmalade was created as a side for a pate.

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In order to achieve this attractive pink color I took some figs and blanched them in dry white wine. Then I took the figs out (to prepare a cake) and used the resulting colored wine for the marmalade.

Ingredients:

250 ml. dry white wine
200+50 gr. sugar
30 ml. lemon juice
1.5 tbsp. pectin
3 cloves (optionally)

Process:

Start with mixing 50 grams of sugar with pectin. Then bring the wine and the remaining 200 grams of sugar to boiling in a small pan. First add the lemon juice, bring to boiling again and then stir in the sugar-pectin mixture. After quick stir turn off the heat and let it chill. Actually, that’s all – the mixture will become a marmalade when it cools down. If you are looking for a more liquid result use less pectin.

Important note: if you happen to stir in the pectin without pre-mixing it with sugar, it will create lumps that you won’t be able to dissolve. Sugar helps it dissolve uniformly. Stirring in using a whisk contributes to the same cause – a uniform substance. 

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 Try this marmalade with one of the below cakes:

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Buns with Fried Onions and Poppy Seeds


What I like about these buns is the very unusual combination of ingredients – I haven’t seen any use of poppy seeds in non-sweet bakery before (except for some basic bread recipes). I have to confess that I simply love the sensation created by the poppy seeds when eating these buns – the crunchy sense and sound. In this recipe, the dough is a bit unusual as well, slightly resembling that of a pancake.

So, the result is somewhat related to both pancakes and muffins with a sweetish crispy filling. Very very nice 🙂

Lire en Francais

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Ingredients:

(For a baking form of 12 muffins)

Filling:

30 gr. butter
3 small or medium-sized onions (can be red/purple)
1/4 glass poppy seeds (whole or crushed)

Dough:

210 gr. flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mustard powder
300 ml. milk or sour milk
3 eggs
1 tsp salt

Oil for spraying the baking form

Process:

Clean the onions, cut them first into halves and then further into thin half-rings. Fry them “on” oil in the frying pan, till the point when they become transparent. Very important to stop at this point, as the onions will continue their preparation in the oven.

Mix all the ingredients for the dough into a smooth mixture and leave for 10 minutes – the dough turns liquid.

Preheat the oven to oven to 210C and warm the muffin-shaped baking form inside. Spray oil on the baking form very generously. Fill each muffin-shape in the form with the dough – one way of doing it is with a ladle, spreading on top a spoonful of onion and a teaspoon of poppy seeds. Bake for 30 minutes. During the baking, some of the onion and poppy seeks will sink into the dough, and the dough itself will “rise” almost doubling its original size.

The buns are best served when they are still warm, straight of the oven!

Check out similar and related recipes:

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Phyllo “Cigars” with Beef and Lamb


This is a very famous oriental (middle-eastern, I guess) dish made with Phyllo dough. The original ones are usually deep-fried in oil and, therefore, become very fatty. In my version, I sprinkled the cigars with oil and then baked them. The result is very crispy and much less fatty. The only downside 🙂 is the fact that rolling them is still a lot of work.

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Ingredients (for 20-25 units):

600 gr. meat (lamb mixed with beef)
1 large onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp crushed coriander seeds
1/3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
12 sheets Phyllo

Salt and Pepper, as well as 1/4 glass of olive oil

The Process:

If your Phyllo dough is frozen (it is sold that way) – put in the fridge beforehand. Onion should be cut into small cubes.

In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and fry the onions until they become transparent. Add beef and cook over high heat, stirring and breaking up the pieces of meat with a fork into gravel-like form.

When all the beef completely change color – add spices, salt, pepper; mix everything again and remove from heat.

Cool to the mixture to room temperature. Cut the Phyllo dough into quarters. It’s best to cut all the sheets at once (first cut into two rectangular halves, fold and stack these rectangles, then cut in half again into two squares). Beware, the dough is drying very fast, so while you wait for “rolling” the cut pieces of dough should be stacked and covered.

Now to the rolling itself:

Take one piece (quarter) of dough, and brush some oil on it. Do it lightly, being careful not to put too much oil and not to tear the “page” of dough. Then cover it with another square piece and brush it with oil as well.

Spread approximately 1/2 tablespoon of the meat mixture near one and and start rolling the cigar in the sequence shown below – first cover the part with the stuffing, then fold the sizes and roll into a tube.

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Resulting rolls should be laid on a baking for covered with baking paper laid baking paper. Sprinkle some oil, preferably for a pressurized container (I used olive oil) and then bake in pre-heated oven for 30 minutes at 200C, until the exterior of the cigars turns golden brown. Serve hot – when they cool, the dough gathers moisture and looses the desired texture.

Bon Appetit!

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Roast Chicken with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Olives


This is a “festive” version of the daily oven-roasted chicken. Yesterday all my cooking was very impulsive, and this dish has actually began as a plan for a fried chicken. But while I was doing other things, the day was almost over, and the main dish was still missing. So, I quickly grabbed “literally” first things that came into my mind from the refrigerator, mixed them all together and “threw” them into the oven. The result was, actually, quite awesome….

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Ingredients:

6 chicken “quarters”
Some cherry tomatoes
750 gr. Mushroom
10 large black olives (Kalamata olives or Thassos olives)*
2 rosemary branches
Salt
2 tbsp Olive oil

The process:

The chicken portions could be cut into further halves, if needed. Cherry tomatoes need to be washed thoroughly. Mushrooms can be just wiped with a damp cloth and cut into halves. Remove leaves from rosemary branches.

The reasons why I insist on Kalamata or Thassos olives is a very special spicy and sour flavor they add to the dish. This is exactly the “twist” we’re looking for here to turn an otherwise “everyday” dish into something more unique and memorable.

In case you can’t get these kinds of olives anywhere, try to pour some lemon juice over the chicken and add some chili. You will get a slightly different twist, but still you will get a memorable experience.

Put the chicken parts into the baking form, add cherry tomatoes, olives and mushrooms on top,  “sprinkle” with rosemary, salt and pour some olive oil.

Tightly cover with foil and bake for 1 hour at the highest temperature. Then remove the foil and shake the form lightly to cover the upper part of the meat with the “juice”. Bake 20 more minutes on the grill until golden brown.

Optionally, you can add some potato slices, putting them below the chicken portions, and then get the both the main dish and the garnish with minimal effort.

Before serving, “sprinkle” with green leaves previously removed from the rosemary branches and you’re done!

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Marinated Cherry Tomatoes


As far as I can remember into my childhood, in the summer it was hot in the kitchen – not because of the temperature outside, but because of the stove that was always on. Mom was always steaming, cooking, boiling, picking and one had to be extra careful in our large kitchen in order to avoid bumping into large cans spread everywhere

Then, in the winter, the storage room was filled with various pickles (salads, vegetables), fruit purees, jams, marmalade, etc… Seeing such a variety was always a great pleasure.

Nowadays, with the modern agriculture, fruit and vegetables are available all-year-round, and the need to preserve vegetables is now more of a culinary practice than a necessity.

Still, my mother’s marinated tomatoes is a taste that I remember from the distant childhood….

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Per liter of water:
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
Celery branch
2-3 garlic cloves
Optional: a few branches of parsley, hot pepper

Put the tomatoes in a jar and top with water. Then remove the water into a pan and measure the volume. Add salt, sugar, celery (parsley and pepper), according to the volume of the water and boil.

Make a small hole in the tomatoes with a toothpick (if doing it near the connection point of the branch, the tomatoes will not “explode” later) 🙂 Peel the garlic cloves, cut each into small pieces and put into jars. Pour boiling water into the jars. Cover (not tightly) with a lid and leave in a cool place for a couple of days before the fermentation starts. Once the water is turbid – put the jar into the refrigerator.

Periodically taste if ready – small sherry tomatoes are ready after 5 days. They can be left in the marinade for a couple of weeks for extra taste.

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A couple of small comments from the recipe author – my mother:

  • It isn’t necessary to pour the water into the jar when boiling
  • Dill as alternative to parsley can give a slightly different taste variation

If you liked this recipe – try out the following ones, they really work well together:

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Banana Bread


We just started enjoying the short cold and rainy season when sunny weather came back. Maybe the winter will still appear. In the meantime, I’d like to offer this Banana Bread (or, actually, a Banana Cake). It is very simple, and structurally reminds of a bread. Naturally, it is a sweet bread.

It is ideal to try a slice of this bread with a glass of warm milk (or a cup of tea), sitting near the window on a rainy day.

Ingredients:

3 ripe bananas (mashed into a puree)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
100 gr. sugar
100 gr. melted butter
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp quicklime soda
100 gr. pecans, raisins (dark or light) or a handful of chocolate chips (or all together)

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Use a form for English cakes (approximately 25cm in diameter)

The process:

The bananas need to be very ripe (maybe even over-ripe, covered with small black dots). Mash them into a puree, and then “stir in” the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence. Mixing this again to get a uniform mash.

Then add the butter, sift in the flour and the baking soda, and again, mix all together to a uniform mash.

In the final stage, add raisins/pecans/chocolate chips and mix the mash to ensure equal distribution of all ingredients.

Spray the baking pan with some oil and pour in the mash. Bake it for 1 hour at 190C, then cool for about 20 minutes before taking off the baking form.

If you liked our banana bread cake, why not check out our Poppy Seeds and White Chocolate Cake or our Sweet Pumpkin Pie?

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Boiled Octopus


This Friday we visited my favorite fresh (and imported) fish store. And while I was waiting for the ordered fish I suddenly remembered that I long wanted to make a salad of octopus. There were no fresh ones in the store – the “season” was only about to begin, but imported frozen ones were available. The one I ended up buying weighted about 4 kg (8.8 pounds) and looked quite fearsome – I would not want to face this beast alive 🙂 It ended up being a good thing that we bought a frozen octopus meat, since the flesh of grown-up octopus can be a bit harsh and will require softening (or freezing) before cooking anyway. In case of baby-octopus, you don’t need to cut them at all, they are usually used in salads in whole.

While the shop owner was cutting the octopus into 4 equal portions (the original was too big to fit in the regular home freezer as a whole) some people started asking me how to prepare it. Below you can find a very simple and tasty way of cooking octopus.

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Ingredients:

1 kg peeled* octopus
1 bay leaf
2 peas allspice
Freshly squeezed lemon juice from half of a regular-sized lemon
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
7.8 fresh parsley branches

* Peeled octopus (make sure to remove the head)

The process:

Put the octopus into a cooking pot, cover with a lid and start cooking. Do not add any water. Within a very short time you will see that the octopus’ natural liquids get extracted and start the boiling/cooking process. Reduce the heat, add the pepper and the bay leaf and cook until tender. In our case, it took almost half an our of cooking to bring it to the desired condition, thanks to the fact that the meat was frozen. Fresh octopus would require significantly longer time, whereas baby octopus would require less. Try probing it with a knife – the flesh should be soft. Cool and drain the juice – it can be frozen and used as a basis for soup or sauce for pasta dishes.

Now you need to peel the skin. There is no need to go crazy about it, the main goal is to remove the coarse large pieces near the basis of the tentacles. Cut into rings, approximately 1.5 cms (1/2 inch) wide.

Peel the leaves from the parsley branches chop finely. Mix the parsley with lemon juice, vinegar and oil, and pour the resulting sauce over the octopus. Leave the resulting dish approximately half an hour to soak the taste and become uniform. Adding salt is not necessary – it is already quite salty.

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Although a matter of personal taste, but we eat it as it comes out of the refrigerator, below room temperature.

Sweet Pumpkin Pie


This pie was originally conceived in September 2010. When working on it, the filling was actually prepared by our (then) 2.5 years-old daughter.

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Ingredients for the pie base:

270 gr. flour
150 gr. cold butter
25 gr. sugar powder
A pinch of salt
6 tablespoons of ice-cold water (*)

Ingredients for the filling:

400 gr. pumpkin puree
10 gr. (small pack) of vanilla sugar (or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence)
7-8 tbsp sugar
4 eggs
1 full spoon of  starch
Juice of half a lemon
Orange peel from two oranges

Pie baking form – 28cm is diameter.

Pie Base:

Sift flour with salt and sugar powder. Cut the butter into small cubes. Mix them all together and with a knife create a formation similar to bread crumbs (this can be done inside a food processor using a blade attachment). Put the resulting crumbs into a bowl, add the water and stir the eventual dough (quickly). For the dough into a ball shape, wrap with kitchen cellophane wrap and put into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

The Filling:

I did not weigh the pumpkin, therefore I can only talk about the amount of the resulting mash.

Cut the pumpkin into small pieces and cook in a covered pot over low heat until tender, about 30 minutes (without salt or sugar, you can add a tablespoon of water). Turn the resulting tender mass into a puree with a blender until smooth. Let the puree rest until it reaches room temperature.

Add all the remaining ingredients stirring them in until the sugar is dissolved completely and a uniform mass is obtained.

Splash the pie baking form with a bit of oil. Roll the dough to the size of the form, put in shape and cut off the edges. In order to avoid the possibility of liquids from the mash soaking into the basis, I baked the basis for 20 minutes (under weight) at 200C (392F).

Pour the filling at the baked foundation and cook for 30 additional minutes at 180C (356F). In the end, the filling should be have an “elastic” touch (you can see my fingerprint in the photo below, as I checked it ahead of time – be careful).

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Leave in the refrigerator for a night before consumption. Make an effort not to eat it all at once 🙂

*My way of making ice-cold water: pour room-temperature water into a cup and add some ice cubes from the freezer.