Semlor or awesome cardamom-spiced, almond paste and cream filled Scandanavian Lent buns

Semlor (singular : semla) is the Swedish name for these delectable little (OK my version was little) buns. I first saw them on a friend’s Fascebook page more than two years ago. Her Scandanavian partner had produced these around Easter time and from her pictures, they looked delicious. I remember reading at the time that the buns were full of cardamom and that’s all I needed to know. Buns with cardamom, almond and cream sounded like something that would be right up my alley.

All my semlor-related knowledge came from Wikipedia and from this page which is also the source of my recipe (s). Traditionally, these buns are meant to be eaten on Mardi-gras or Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday – the day before the start of Lent. Apparently, in Sweden there are long queues at bakeries that specialise in making and selling semlor on Shrove Tuesday. Having made semlor once, I reckon they should be an all-year bun, not just Mardi-gras buns. Just make sure you don’t eat them like the old Swedish King Adolf Fredrik did. Fable says that he died after eating 14 servings of semla in hot milk.

With this post, I have provided links to the recipes I used and have demonstrated the methdolofy in pictures. Hope you find it useful and give it a try!

 

Whole cardamom pods in the background. In the foreground, from left to right (1) half-open pod (2) peels (3) seeds (4) ground cardamom

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2. Main: Twice-baked blue cheese soufflé with a creamy tomato sauce and apple, walnut, rocket salad

There are 3 parts to this recipe (a) the souffle (b) tomato sauce (c) salad

(a) The soufflé 

Source : http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=10556367

Changes:

1. I left out the parsley and I forgot to add salt and pepper but that’s OK, the cheese has enough flavour to make up for this.

2. I used thyme and sage as herbs to flavour the soufflé. To incorporate them, I heated the milk on the lowest setting with sage and thyme for 15-20 minutes allowing the flavours to infuse. It was this milk that I then used to make the white sauce.

3. I have included images of the process of soufflé making in the collage below. When I added the milk to the butter-flour mixture it went really thick and I panicked as I’d never made soufflé before. It got worse when I added the cheese and then the egg yolks (Pictures 5,6,7). However, the addition of soft peaked egg whites fixes it all up (Picture 9). Yay! Trust me when I say it tasted amazing – a very forgiving recipe I concluded!

4. Once the soufflés have cooled, they deflate (Picture 13). At this point, ease them out of their ramekins and place them in a larger baking dish upturned (Picture 14)

5. The recipe makes exactly enough batter for 2 soufflés so follow it to a tee if that’ s all you want. Most other recipes I found seemed to be for 6-8 servings which I wasn’t interested in.

(b) The tomato sauce

Source : Inspired by http://www.addictedtoveggies.com/2012/09/cherry-tomato-cream-sauce-nut-free.html

My partner and I are both not huge fans of cream and I thought I’d give the creamy sauce a bit more flavour before baking the soufflé for the second time. I got the idea from the recipe link above but my recipe was as follows.

Changes:

Ingredients:

1 punnet cherry tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic with skin

100 ml cream

2 tsp ground pepper

1/2 level tsp of salt

1 level tsp of sugar

Method:

1. Roast the tomatoes and garlic at 180ºC until the skins of the tomatoes crack and they start oozing out juices. Discard the garlic.

2. In a small saucepan, add the tomatoes, cream and spices and cook until the tomatoes go mushy and the flavours blend into the sauce. You want it to taste a bit sweet as the soufflé will be on the salty side.

3. Sprinkle freshly grated parmesan over the upturned and cooled soufflés and bake for 15-20 minutes at 150ºC until the tops are golden brown.

4. Serve with the apple and walnut salad (Pictures 15 & 16).

5. It is a rich and decadent main so take your time…..

 

(c) Apple, walnut and rocket salad

Source :  

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/10784/twicebaked-goats-cheese-souffls-with-apple-and-wal

Changes:

1. I used rocket leaves only

2. I used a golden delicious apple instead of a red apple

3. I toasted the walnuts slightly in a pan on dry heat

4. I tossed the apples in a bit of melted Manuka honey to give them a bit of flavour and to ensure that they didn’t turn brown.

5. I left out the chives.

6. I used balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar.

 

Blue cheese soufflé method

Blue cheese soufflé method

3. Dessert: Mousse de Maracuya or Passionfruit mousse (from Ecuador)

Not 100% vegetarian as contains gelatin !!! Could be substituted with vegetarian gelatine but I couldn’t get my hands on any.

Source: http://laylita.com/recipes/2009/06/13/maracuya-or-passion-fruit-mousse/

Changes:

1. I used passionfruit juice instead of passionfruit pulp/concentrate.

2. I made 2/3rds of the recipe ingredient quantities and still had about 8 mousses worth of mixture so maybe use 1/3rd of the ingredients for 4 servings. I used teacups as moulds (Picture 1 below).

3. I think I wasn’t very good at mixing the gelatin-y juice mixture with the cream and egg whites. As a result, I had two distinct layers as you can see below – the passion fruit jelly layer and then the passionfruit mousse layer below it (Pictures 2& 3).

4. Laylita has lovely step-by-step instructions on her website so do check it out.

5. Overall, the dessert was light and soft and delicious and we are still getting through extra portions (Picture 4)

Pictures:

Mousse de maracuya

Mousse de maracuya

Sanjeev Kapoor’s Navratan Korma or Nine-gem korma

As the name indicates, this recipe is from my North Indian food guru – Sanjeev Kapoor. It features in his book “How to Cook Indian”. This book is different from most of my cookbooks in that there are no pictures. It is nearly 600 pages of recipes – joy!

Before I give you the recipe for this korma, a little bit of background and history. “Navratan” is an amalgam of the words “Nav” meaning nine and “ratan” meaning gems or precious stones. My first introduction to this term was when we studied Indian history in school and we learnt about Mughal (Muslim) rulers. The Muslim rulers brought amazing architecture to India such as the Taj Mahal , art and of course, some of the richest and decadent food that India is still known for. The most famous of the Mughal rulers was Akbar the Great (grandfather of Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal). Despite being illeterate,  Akbar liked to be surrounded by intelligent and talented people. He appointed 9 such people who were also his advisers and friends and he called them “Navratan” or his nine gems.

This dish is named Navratan korma as it contains 9 different, pretty components. The gravy itself is pale so as to allow  “9 gems” to stand out. I have given you the original recipe which serves 4. The pictures show you almost 3 times the quantity as I made this dish for a dinner party with nearly 40 people. This wasn’t the only dish at the party so the quantity was just right. In fact, I managed to keep a bowl of it at home which served us for lunch the next day.

Hope you like it as much as we did ! Also, check out my mum’s South Indian vegetable kurma. Can you tell the difference ?

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Chocolate orange mousse or Jaffa mousse

I haven’t posted recently and that’s because the English summer FINALLY made an appearance, if only for a week. So rather than my usual pose on the sofa with the laptop on my lap, I chose to spend it outside. I went for rambles (walks) with my partner and his parents, had lunch in the sun and sat in a park and read my book – all to soak in some sunshine and warmth. It was just lovely.

But today, predictably, the English clouds have set in and it’s windy and the right weather to start whinging all over again.As a result, I’m back inside, with my laptop for company. I also think, it is about time I wrote another blog. I promised I’d give you the recipe for chocolate orange souffle last time and here it is.

Chocolate orange is a flavour combination I’ve come to love. Here in England, you get a “Jaffa cakes” and mini jaffas which are choc-orange covered biscuits/little sponge biscuits. My partner loves them and I will occasionally have an indulgent bite or two. I have posted an easy choc-orange souffle recipe before and this one is mousse version of these lovely flavours. I saw a recipe for Chocolate orange Pots in the book “New Bistro” by Fran Warde (http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Bistro-Fran-Warde/dp/1845333306). At the same time, I saw another book with a recipe for chocolate mousse. I thought to combine the two recipes to make Chocolate orange mousse.

Chocolate orange mousse in teacups

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Summer holiday series: 6. Quiche roquefort et poire (Pear and roquefort quiche)

On the fourth evening, I ventured out of the Donna Hay zone and into one called “New Bistro” by Fran Warde (http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Bistro-Fran-Warde/dp/1845333306). We had some pears in the fruit bowl and I knew the local supermarket had some roquefort so I thought – why not. The recipe was simple except for the making of the pastry that held the quiche (quiche shell). This was made even more difficult by the fact that the place we were staying in didn’t have a pie/tart dish. So I improvised with a frying pan and it worked out to my amazement.

The pear and roquefort  quiche had a crispy crust despite me overfilling it. The inside was soft, light, salty because of the cheese and sweet because of the pear. It might sound weird when described, but it was a taste sensation worth experiencing. I thought so despite not being a huge fan of blue-vein cheese. Do try it and tell me what you think!

To finish this meal off, we had some chocolate orange mousse which I will describe in my next recipe.

Pear roquefort tart with some local walnut bread

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