Home Cornbread with Variations

This is one of my “memory” recipes – whenever I eat it, I remember scenes from my childhood when it was eaten – it’s the combination of taste and smell that brings them flooding back. A big plus is that it’s a delicious recipe! It can be eaten alongside hearty soups and stews, or simply drizzled with honey.  Enjoy!

cornbreadHome Cornbread

2 C. flour

2 C. cornflour *

1 tsp. salt

4 tsp. baking powder

4 Tbs. honey

3 eggs

4-6 Tbs. butter

2 C. milk+

Mix, pour into a buttered casserole or pie dish. Bake at 200°C (400°F) ~30 minutes.

* If you don’t have access to this, you can use either a mixture of 1 C. polenta and 1 C. flour, or 2 C. Masa Harina (corn flour used for tortillas).

Variations of additional options: Add:

Bacon bits or chopped ham

Grated cheese

Cream cheese

Whatever you add, compensate with either milk or flour, maintaining a viscose bread dough consistency.

Variation: Corn-Onion Shortcake

Shortbread recipe as above – pour batter into a casserole dish or deep baking pan; then:

butter (amount to taste, for sautéing)

1 can corn (average size)

1 C. sour cream or plain yogurt

1 large onions, thickly sliced into rings, separated

2 C. grated Cheddar cheese

Sauté onions in the butter. Mis the rest into the onions, and then spread over the cornbread dough. Bake at 180°C (350°F) for ~35 minutes. Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Quick & Easy Lentil, Chickpea, Coconut & Curry Stew/Dip

I was recently in the hospital for surgery, and as a result, our meals are mainly liquid (or at least smooth) at the moment as I can’t swallow anything more solid!  This situation has led to my discovering new ways to make soup tasty, healthy and keep it from getting boring.  The following recipe came out of my soup pan yesterday, so I thought I’d share it with you!

It turned out delicious, and is just as tasty cold as it is hot; in fact, this comes out so thick as a puree that it could be served as a dip with crackers or crudité.  As I keep both chopped frozen coriander & onions on hand, this literally took 3 minutes to toss together… quick & easy is my favourite method!

Lentil,Chickpea,Coconut Curry Stew & Dip

Lentil, Chickpea, Coconut & Curry Stew

1 tin lentils

1 large tin chickpeas (or 2 smaller tins)

1 tin coconut milk (2, if you want it soupier)

1 handful fresh or frozen coriander

1 onion, finely chopped

curry spice to taste

1 tsp. each of ginger paste, lemon grass paste, and garlic paste (or amount to taste in whichever form you have available)

Tumeric, salt and pepper to taste

 

Toss it all into a pan, bring to a boil.  For those who want it smooth, puree the mixture before serving.

Serve with bread or crackers, or Naan bread.  Serves 4-6.

OLD-FASHIONED CAULIFLOWER PIE with POTATO CRUST

Old-Fashioned Cauliflower Pie with Potato CrustI recently made this for dinner, and loved it!  It takes about an hour to pre-prepare, but the potato crust is well worth the effort.  I prepared it when I had time in the afternoon (you could do so the evening before as well), and then did the final baking before serving dinner.

POTATO CRUST

2 firmly packed C. of grated raw potatoes

½ tsp. salt

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 C. grated onion

2 green onions, thinly sliced

Vegetable oil (I use coconut oil)

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Spray a 9-inch pie pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place the raw potato strings in a colander. Add salt to the potatoes & let them set for 10 minutes, then, using your hand, squeeze out the excess water.

In a medium bowl, combine the potatoes, eggs, & the onions & stir to mix well.  Pat the potato mixture into the greased pie pan gently with the back of a spoon.   Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove the pie pan from the oven & let rest & cool a bit before adding the cauliflower mixture. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F (180°C).

 FILLING

½ tsp. salt

3 eggs, beaten

1/4 C. half & half cream

2-3 Tbs. Mascarpone (cream cheese)

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. paprika

Make the potato crust & bake it while you are preparing the pie mixture. In a small bowl, beat together the salt, eggs, half & half, pepper & paprika, then set aside.  You may be tempted to make more liquid than this, but believe me, this is enough!

3 Tbs. butter

½ C. onion, chopped

4 green onions, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

½ tsp. seasoned salt

1 tsp. savory

½ tsp. dried thyme

½ tsp. dried oregano

2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 large cauliflower, broken into small florets

In a frying pan over medium heat, sauté the onions, garlic & seasoned salt until the onions soften & the garlic just begins to colour.  Add the savory, thyme, oregano, parsley & cauliflower & cook, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.

1 C. grated Cheddar cheese

1 C. grated Swiss cheese

Paprika, for garnish

Optional:  Top with pretzels, coarsely crumbled, for a nice crunch

Layer the baked potato crust with half of the cheeses, then the cauliflower-herb mixture, then all the remaining cheese.

Pour the cream mixture over the top.  Bake 35-40 minutes at 180°C (350°F), until the pie is firm & set & the top is just beginning to brown up.  Remove the pan from the oven, let sit for 10 minutes to firm up, sprinkle with paprika & serve.

Savoury Curry Fruit & Vegetable Pie

Recipe No 302 with cream, egg mix & Amaranth toppingThis savoury pie may be a bit counter-intuitive as far as flavour combinations go, with apricots and curry, but the combination is delicious!  If you don’t have puffed Amaranth on hand, you can sprinkle the top with something else, such as breading mixture, or crumbled crackers or even crumbled pretzels.

Here’s an image of puffed Amaranth, with a lentil, for size comparison:

Amaranth, puffed & Lentil for size

puff pastry, enough for 1 regular pie plate
a little oil of choice (e.g. coconut oil)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 -2 tsp. of curry powder
2 medium sized potatoes, cubed quite small
3 medium carrots, cubed the same
about 10 dried apricots, chopped
1 apple, peeled then finely chopped
¼ C. vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

3 eggs, whisked
1/2 C. Cream

Amaranth, puffed

In a frying pan, fry the onion & garlic in the oil, then add the curry powder. Add the fruit & vegetables & pour over the wine or stock. Cook for a few minutes until everything is well combined & starting to soften.

Grease your pie plate, and lay the pastry into it, poking it with a fork a few times in the base. Pour in the pan vegetable mixture.

Either in the pan or in a separate container, mix together the eggs and cream; you can spice to taste if you’d like, but none is necessary at this point.

Pour across the pie mixture, and sprinkle puffed Amaranth over the top.

Bake at 200°C (400°F) for 20-30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

Swahili Mchuzi wa Biringani (Aubergine Curry)

Biringani is the Swahili word for “aubergine”, also known as Eggplant (North America), Guinea Squash, Garden Egg, or Brinjal (India).  Originally native to Asia, it’s been a long-time staple part of the diet in Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Africa.  This dish is a common dish along the eastern coast of Africa.

Swahili Mchuzi wa Biringani (Aubergine Curry)

Swahili Mchuzi wa Biringani - Aubergine Curry Watermarkedcooking oil (amount and kind to taste; I use virgin coconut oil)
1-2 onions, chopped
1-2 tsp. Curry powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. Grated ginger
1-2 hot chili peppers, cleaned and chopped (optional; if you don’t wish to handle fresh hot peppers, add your favourite substitute)
1-2 large aubergines, or several small ones; chopped, lightly salted, and squeezed to partially remove moisture
3-4 potatoes, chopped (these add a silky texture)
2-3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped (fresh & blanched, or tinned)
1-2 finger-lengths of tomato paste (optional)
salt, black pepper (to taste)
1 C. Milk, coconut milk, or yoghurt

Heat oil in a large pot. Sauté onions for a few minutes, then add curry powder, garlic, ginger, and chili pepper. Continue frying over high heat for a few more minutes, stirring continuously.

Add aubergine and potatoes. Stir and fry until the aubergine begins to brown. Reduce heat. Simmer for ten minutes.
Stir in tomatoes and tomato paste. Adjust seasoning. Simmer until sauce is thickened and everything is tender.
Stir in milk, coconut milk, or yoghurt just before serving.

Serve with Chapati or Rice.

Tea Bag Tatziki Sauce

Tzatziki SauceThis past week I made Chicken Masala (I won’t put a recipe here as I used a pre-made sauce; if I make it again from scratch, you’ll be the first to know!), and as a great side dish, a cool, refreshing bowl of Tatziki Sauce.  The secret to this sauce is a no-brainer:  1 bag of peppermint tea.  Just the contents, no water, no bag.  Most people don’t always have fresh mint on hand, though they might have mint tea bags; they are made of straight-up, dried mint leaves, they store well compared to the fresh product, and are the perfect spice for this dish, already crumbled as finely as any spice in your cabinet.  If you have fresh mint, adjust the amount to taste.  So without further ado:

 

Tatziki Sauce

1/4 cucumber, finely diced

2 C. plain yogurt (any kind will do; use Greek yogurt for a thicker sauce, or add a bit of stiff sour cream)

1 lemon’s juice

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 bag of mint tea – rip open and pour in the contents

a dash of two of dried dill, or 1/2 bunch of fresh dill, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced

For garnish:  Finely chopped greens from a spring onion

 

Prepare the ingredients as above, and mix all together except the garnish.  Chill until ready to serve, sprinkling the garnish atop the sauce.  This goes great with any spicy Indian or Middle Eastern dish.

Tip:

If your meal is a spicy one, have a few boiled eggs on hand for your guests; they’ll take the sting out !

Strawberry–Pretzel Delight

strawberry-pretzel dessertThe recipe last week reminded me of this dessert; this has a shock factor, as people don’t often associate pretzels with something as sweet as this concoction!  I made this for a dinner with my husband’s work team and their spouses, and it was a huge hit – the salty pretzels are a lovely contrast to the sweetness of the strawberries.  You could substitute any fruit you want, and I’m sure it would turn into a smash hit too!

Strawberry Pretzel Delight

2 C. Crushed pretzels
¾ C. Butter, melted
3 Tbs. Sugar
8 oz. (225 gr.) Mascarpone (or cream cheese), softened
¾ C. Sugar
8 oz. (225 ml.) whipped cream (sweetened [American] or unsweetened [the European way!])
6 oz. (170 gr.) strawberry Jello (or plain gelatin + 1 tsp. strawberry extract and part of the frozen strawberry juice)
2 C. Boiling water
2½ C. Strawberries (frozen and thawed, or fresh – the freezing brings out their juices when thawed)

A few fresh strawberries, prepared for a garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Stir together crushed pretzels, melted butter and 3 tablespoons white sugar; mix well and press mixture into bottom of 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Bake 8-10 minutes, until set; set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl cream together the Mascarpone and sugar. Fold in the whipped cream. Spread mixture onto cooled crust.
Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in (frozen) strawberries and allow to set briefly. When mixture is about the consistency of raw egg whites, pour and spread over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate until set.  Garnish, and serve with a smile.

Swiss Zitronenmöndli (Little Lemon Moon) Cookies

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Swiss Zitronenmöndli is one of the traditional Christmas cookies here (along with Spitzbuben and Mailänderli).  In High German they are called “Zitronenmöndchen” ; both the -li and -chen are diminutive forms for nouns in the two different dialects (at least in the dialect used around here, in the Zürich area).  These cookies, as their name suggests, are usually cut into the shapes of moons, and glazed with a simple lemon glaze; the finely-ground almonds replace the need for flour.  Sometimes you’ll see them decorated with chopped pistachio nuts, though that is a more modern addition to the traditional recipe; you could also sprinkle lightly-roasted almond slivers over the glaze.

Left to right: Mailänderli; Zitronenmöndli; Spitzbuben

Left to right: Mailänderli; Zitronenmöndli; Spitzbuben

Swiss Zitronenmöndli

350 gr. ground almonds (12 oz.)
200 gr. Sugar (7 oz.)
1 pinch salt
2–3 lemons, peeling grated
1½ fresh egg whites, lightly beaten

Stir all together gradually & thoroughly. On a bit of powdered sugar, roll the dough out to 7 mm thick (¼”). Cut out various sized moons, spread out onto a baking papered tray. Let sit 5–6 hours or overnight at room temperature, to dry out [This step is traditional, but unnecessary in my experience; if the dough is stiff enough to cut neatly, it should hold its shape in the oven fairly well].

Bake in the middle of a 325°F preheated oven, 8–10 minutes. To decorate, brush still–warm cookies with the lemon glaze, then sprinkle a bit of the grated lemon peeling over the top of the glaze while still moist.

Lemon Glaze:

~2 tsp. Lemon juice
150 gr. Powdered sugar (5 oz.)

Stir together until the glaze reaches a thick consistency. Go easy on the liquid, or you’ll need a ton of sugar to get the right consistency!

Swiss Wild Mushroom Fondue

Here in Switzerland, winter is cheese season – Raclette and cheese fondue are the most popular dishes; I stress “cheese” fondue (also known as Fondue Neuchateloise), because there are other varieties that have nothing to do with cheese, such as Fondue Bourguignonne (chunks of meat), Fondue Chinoise (thin slices of beef or pork cooked in bouillon), or Fondue Bacchus (thin slices of pork, veal or seafood cooked in white wine).  The earliest known recipe for modern cheese fondue comes from my neck of the woods, Zürich, Switzerland, in the year 1699, and we Swiss are wise enough to know that if it works, don’t change it!

 

This is the set we have.

This is the set we have.

Swiss Cheese Fondue

* You will need a fondue crock set.
Calculate 200 – 300 gr. cheese per person (see note below)

1 fresh clove garlic, whole

Kirsch

White Wine

cornstarch (start off with 1/2 Tbs. & increase as necessary)

A handful of mushrooms (see below)

Mouth-sized chunks of bread of your choice (we usually prefer a “brown” bread)

A variety of pickles (baby corn cobs, cucumbers, onions, garlic, etc.) as condiments

Chilled white wine, or hot tea as beverage (see warning below!)

 

  • Typical fondue cheeses are Gruyère, Appenzeller Rezent, or Tilsiter; if you can’t find those, you can substitute hard, sharp–tasting cheeses. Chop them into chunks, then throw them in the crock & melt it on the stove. [If you use gorgonzola, I would use ¼ to ½ gorgi, & ½ to ¾ harder cheeses.]

Take the crock, & rub the insides with either freshly sliced garlic, or a garlic paste; then chop the garlic, & add it to the cheese after it’s melted.

Once the cheese has begun to melt & is stirrable, pour in kirsch, & white wine (not too much, but enough to thin the cheese down).

You’ll need some kind of a sauce binder like cornstarch (that thickens sauces, neutral tasting); stir it in to the cheese well (I first mix a bit into kirsch, to dissolve it well).

At this stage you can add the garlic and mushrooms.

Morel (left), Porcini (right)

Morel (left), Porcini (right)

  • If the mushrooms you’re using are the dried varieties, soften in warm water and then slice into mouth-sized bites.  I use a combination of morel (Morchel) and porcini (Steinpilz) (I’ve put links to Wikipedia articles in case you are unfamiliar with the English or German names). Try to use aromatic mushrooms, and avoid using the bland button mushrooms!

While the cheese is still melting, prepare the rest of the ingredients (pickles, bread chunks, etc.); get it all ready to go, because once the cheese is on the table burner the meal is hectic for the first few minutes, trying to keep the cheese from burning on the bottom (by stirring a chunk of bread in it) and pouring the wine, etc.

I serve fondue with chunks of bread to dip, + side dishes of all kinds of mixed pickles, & chilled white wine.
We also serve one glass / bowl of kirsch, to dip the bread in prior to stirring in the cheese–it adds a nice bite to the bread.

  • If you don’t want alcohol, I would still recommend cooking wine in the stove stage; you can serve it with hot black tea. If you serve it with cold non–alcoholic beverages, the cheese tends to clump in the stomach, & can be uncomfortable!

En Guete!

Swiss Christmas “Samichlaus” Gift Bags

 

Swiss Samichlaus & Schmutzli

A Swiss Santa Claus and Schmutzli, in traditional costume.

Here in Switzerland, Santa has come and gone!  In Zürich alone, the Swiss Santas (“Samichlaus”) will make roughly 1,000 visits this year; within a few days around 6 December each year, just over 30 Santas, 50 Schmutzli and 50 drivers are underway.  Now I’m fairly certain most of my readers are familiar with Santa; but here in Switzerland, his helper is called Schmutzli.  Parents throughout the land book Samichlaus and his assistant, “Schmutzli”, and fill in a form for their children:  Names, ages, their favourite subject in school, and the most important questions:  What have the children improved in since the last visit by Samichlaus, and where do they need to improve?  Making their bed, cleaning their room, being nice to their siblings, or sharing more often?  The Samichlaus und his assistants (often two Schmutzli, who are the “coal” bearers, and often have blackened faces, and carry large baskets with some coal, a besom broom, and room for gifts given back to them by grateful parents!) go to the home at the appointed time, and sit down to speak with each child, reading from a great book they carry with them.  Each child is then given a “Samichlaus” bag, and perhaps a gift sponsored by the parents.

Thomas Fetz, local Schmutzli. Image Credit: Migrosmagazin

Thomas Fetz, local Schmutzli. Image Credit: Migrosmagazin

Since 6 December is the official Samichlaus Day, it is customary on that day to give “Samichlaussäckli” (Santa Claus Bags) to friends, family, neighbours and coworkers.  They are great winter gifts to take when visiting friends, and so I thought I would share it here with you, to spread Christmas cheer!

Swiss Samichlaus-Bag:Swiss Samichlaussäck

Peanuts in the shell (whole walnuts are also traditional, but optional)

Mandarin Oranges, apples

Individually wrapped chocolates

Homemade Christmas cookies, wrapped in clear plastic

Options:  Gingerbread men, marzipan fruits, or pralines

 

The traditional bag is made of burlap, though cloth or plastic will work well too.  Fill the bags, and put a note on them if you’re going to leave them at a neighbour’s door, or on a co-worker’s desk.  Enjoy the joy of giving!  And Merry Christmas!

Some bags I prepared for my husband's coworkers; the santa claus is a chocolate ornament hanging on our tree.

Some bags I prepared for my husband’s co-workers (mandarin oranges are hiding in there somewhere!); the Santa Claus is a chocolate ornament hanging on our tree.