Wednesday, 28 November 2007

This photo is a Winner!

The "Droolworthy Blogger" Award must have been a good omen. When entering the CLICK photo competition with this "floating noodles" picture, I was really excited about it but simply hoped for the best. After all, over 70 people had submitted their photos to this month's installment. Little did I know that this photo would be such a winner!

It not only scored second place in the "best photo" categorie but got also elected as most original capture and even won the reader's choice award!

First of all, I would like to thank Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi for hosting the competition, all the judges, and last but not least all the readers who voted for my floating noodles.

Knowing that there are so many talented photographers out there, I can't help but to still perceive myself as a learner. However, this kind of recognition is a wonderful reward and it gives me the feeling that I've learned a thing or two in the meantime!

Please check out all the other winners and have a look for next month's CLICK competition at jugalbandi!

PS: Thank you, T, for helping me decide which photo to submit! I couldn't make up my mind between the one above and this one...

Monday, 26 November 2007

My first "Daring Bakers" Challenge: Tender Potato Bread

Everyone who is as addicted to food blogs as I am, must have noticed a new group showing up, many months ago. As the word spread across the food blogging universe, the group began to grow and I secretly started wondering if it were possible to join in. It took a little while but finally Nora from Life's Smorgasbord convinced me that we definitely should become part of The Daring Bakers - and a quick look at their official blogroll proved that they are always happy about new members! While starting off with Yvonne and Lis as the founding members about a year ago, the group now has more than 300 members.

In short: Each month, one member chooses a particular recipe (for its beauty, difficulty or both) and the others have to bake it, too, without changing anything so they can compare and discuss their results afterwards. This is not for the ones who can't leave a recipe alone, I'm afraid. So there are some rules to it but in turn you'll get to extend your baking knowledge plus the wonderful support from all the other bakers. Which is not a small thing considering the elaborateness of some challenges like this or that or have a look at this extravaganza!

This month's challenge was not quite as involved (it can be accomplished in one day) and luckily not as calorie-laden (I'm trying to be good, these days): Our host Tanna had chosen Tender Potato Bread. Having baked my fair share of breads in the last two years, I tackled this challenge with some confidence and everything worked out pretty well. Usually, I'm only baking for two people so I halved the recipe as I didn't want to end up with bread going stale (I hope that's not against the rules??). Apart from that, I behaved like a good girl and followed the recipe to the t. In contrast to other challenges this recipe had some room for improvisation, though. The amounts of mashed potato and flour were flexible and I ended up using 290g of potatoe (weighed before cooking) and a little bit less than 500g of bread flour (including the flour for kneading).

In between the kneading phase of ten minutes I decided to give the dough a little rest of 15 minutes so the gluten strands could relax and after that, I didn't have any trouble with the formerly rather sticky dough. "Unleashing my inner baker" I made potato bread pockets with a spinach and feta filling for dinner, and the remaining dough simply got baked in a loaf pan. There's no exact recipe for the filling (I'm so daring...), I just sauteed onions and garlic until translucent, stirred in some spinach, added a splash of milk, and some salt/pepper/nutmeg. Once the filling was cooked, I stirred in a few spoons of sour cream and a leftover eggwhite (hoping that it would solidify the filling but I'm not sure if it really made a difference). I topped the filling with feta chunks - and that's about it!

I really enjoyed this challenge and already look forward to participating next month!

Friday, 23 November 2007

Food Photography - an award and a competition

There's something I've been wanting to tell you, dear readers, for a long time. It's a little bit embarrassing that I didn't do so straight away. No, it's no embarrassing secret, rather an unexpected honour: Dear Nora from Life's Smorgasbord has kindly given me an award! The "Droolworthy Blogger" Award, to be precise. And to be even more precise, she did it, well, ages ago... Since then, I've been pondering about the ultimate picture to use for a post that would praise my photography skills. If you get caught bragging about yourself, you might want to rise to the occasion, right? Well, to tell you the truth, none of the pictures of the following weeks quite lived up to my own expectations (wrong focus, bad lighting, too simple setting and other things to complain about) and I kept delaying this post until today. Luckily, Nora is still friends with me...

So, in an attempt to come up with something that's at least very fitting (even if not mind-boggling), I decided to blog some photos picturing homemade lemon curd because the respective lemons were given to me by Nora! They were so juicy and fragrant that even T who's not into sweet spreads at all, happily devoured everything. And finally, I'm proudly displaying this wonderful badge on my blog (and on my sidebar once I've figured out how to do this):

This award is to be passed on to five other food bloggers with outstanding food photography. With so many talented photographers out there, this is not an easy task. Although I have a few all time favourites, I thought it might be more appropriate to give it to some food bloggers who are probably not quite as loaded with awards and public recognition but have lovely photos nonetheless. In no particular order:

Kate of Aapplemint

Deinin of Cloudberry Quark

Anh of Food Lover's Journey

Maci of Macikonyha

Rose of 64 Ft Sq Kitchen

Congratulations to all of you!

Last but not least, a couple of days ago, Zorra of 1x1 umruehren bitte who is the host of this month's DoesMyBlogLookGoodInThis (DMBLGIT) Event, asked me if I liked to act as a judge alongside her, Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, Hedonistin of Low Budget Cooking, and Sandra from Un tocco di zenzero. I happily accepted and really look forward to being a judge! Please check out all the wonderful entries in the DMBLGIT gallery and, if possible, enter the competition yourself. You still have time to do so until 30 November!

PS: The bread is Dan Lepard's Wheat Germ Bread - very hearty and very healthy!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Playing around with Light and Shadow ...and Noodles

When reading about Anh's quest for the perfect photo picturing noodles, I thought I better hurry or this food photo competition will finish without me... Having not much time left, there was no way I could create a beautiful and elaborate dish as Anh did. Not that I don't eat noodles all the time but so far I could never get these sloppy little bastards to really look good... Or maybe was I just too hungry and started shoveling in straight away? Well, let's not get into details, right?

So I had to come up with something different. Luckily, I had been reading the food photography lessons Nika and Curt are currently putting together - thanks so much for all your effort, guys! In lesson #2 Nika had shown a wonderful picture of a tomatilla plant on a black background. I used her technique: the noodles dangle from a coat hanger on strings that were later stamped out in Photoshop. Playing around with this set-up was great fun, however, I now think that Nika's green plant is more suited to this play with light and shadow than noodles. Nonetheless, I like this picture and I hope that some of the people looking at the click gallery will like it, too!

PS: One of the links was wrong, now you'll find lesson #2!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

A little Tart and another Anniversary

What do you do when you realize that you have never ever celebrated the anniversaries of your own relationship? After all, this is about being with the One And Only, right? There should be something to celebrate, right? Well, I am growing older, ahem, and I tend to forget a little bit here and there. Haven't I said that before..;-) Luckily, my boyfriend is no different in that respect. Not that he keeps forgetting things (big difference between us as he likes to point out) but when it comes to anniversaries he's just your average bloke who doesn't care much about these things. However, when approaching our - gasp - fourth anniversary, I decided that things finally had to take a turn for the better.

So off we went to Sydney's Observatory Hill that overlooks the harbour including Harbour Bridge, lots of boats, lots of lights, and other things necessary for some romantic atmosphere. After eating our way through crispy chicken pieces, Greek salad, foccacia, brie cheese, and hummous, there was almost no room left for dessert. However, who could say no to a creamy coffee chocolate ganache in an almond hazelnut crust? We certainly didn't!

To make the pastry cases I only had to defrost some leftover shortcrust pastry. For the filling, I had been keen for a while to try these tempting little tarts. However, after fully baking my tart shells, I didn't dare baking them again with the filling inside. I figured that halving the dairy components and not using any eggs might give me a creamy consistency that's still sufficiently stiff. With just a little cream and milk, I only used a quarter of the original amount of coffee. This way, the coffee flavour was nice but already very subtle on the second day. Next time, I might go back to only halving the amount of coffee.

These Vietnamese coffee chocolate tarts made for a fabulous ending of our anniversary picnic and will always remind me not to ever forget it again...

PS: I didn't want to prove this particular point any more but I have to add something I ... forgot ...: This tart is my entry for WTSIM#11 "Waiter, there's something in my...topless tart!" hosted by Cooksister!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Happy Birthday!

Have you ever forgotten your own birthday? Whilst this has happened to me with other people's special days - luckily not too often - so far I was at least able to remember mine. However, it almost happened to this dear blog. Just by chance, I asked myself yesterday when its first anniversary would be. I quickly checked here and - oh my gosh - only one more day to go!

After one year, it's almost hard to believe that there was a life without food blogging. Not that I create something blog-worthy everyday - but all this thinking about food, making food, and photographing food turned out to be much more than a mere hobby. For some people, it might not look like a creative outburst having to wait for dinner whilst I'm busy taking pictures from all angles. However, it gives me an unexpected sense of inner satisfaction when one of my creations not only tastes good but also photographs well. And the best part? Lots of nice people, completely unknown to me, stop by, have a look around and sometimes even drop me a line. This thrill I get when I read new comments, still hasn't worn off. Whenever I'm feeling moody, all I have to do is looking at my stats and smiling at the idea that someone from the Maldives or Ghana or some other very remote place payed my little blog a visit... Nora, I'll always feel indebted to you for introducing me to this new world!

But back to the birthday - there has to be a cake, right? Being only one day ahead of time, I couldn't possibly make a layer cake, try my hands on macarons or do any other fancy stuff. However, I still wanted to do something I'd never made before. One idea popped up in my head that had been lurking somewhere for quite some time: financiers. They're quick to make but still have something mysterious about them. At least for me because in German cookbooks you would never see a cake that doesn't contain any egg yolks, almost no flour (let alone baking powder) but lots of butter, sugar, and almond flour instead. I was a little bit suspicious how such a cake should rise and brown nicely. However, I decided to go with a recipe I had found at Feeding my Enthusiasms - it's originally from David Lebovitz so I figured you can't go wrong with that.

And all my worries proved absolutely unnecessary. After very little work, these tiny cakes began to fill the kitchen with their almond perfume - and they looked so cute with their golden brown tops peeking out of the paper garments. They even made my boyfriend utter an appreciating "hmmmm"...

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Exploring Pappa Al Pomodoro

Okay, this one won't be loved for its looks. It's used to be seen as just some leftovers - thrown together into a pot and forgotten on the stove. Stale bread soaked in tomatoes. Peasants' food.

I've always wondered if there's something worth knowing about Pappa Al Pomodoro. After all, it's still around, and not only in Tuscany. So, when leafing through "Jamie's Italy", I always went back to the page with this tomato and bread stew. No matter how many other (more) beautiful dishes were pictured in this lovely book, it was time to finally find out about Pappa Al Pomodoro.

And I'm pleased to say that Jamie didn't promise too much: The oven-roasted tomatoes provided sweetness and concentrated flavour, the bread made for a smooth and silky texture, and the garlic gave it that little extra kick. Instead of the usual basil, flat-leaf parsley had to stand in and did a pretty good job.

For this recipe it's crucial to use good bread, in my case it was the "Heart of Wheat" Bread by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I left the crust on in order to retain some texture - otherwise this stew could easily turn into baby food. I had to add a little more liquid, it was still not quite as soupy as Jamie's version but never mind. Jamie stresses the importance of using good olive oil for this dish. Whilst I'm not using anything fancy or overly expensive, mine has a nice fruity smell to it that certainly contributed to the overall flavour.

It might not have the looks but this dish has a lot going for it.

Pappa Al Pomodoro

The ingredients

500g ripe tomatoes, preferably cherry tomatoes (cut into pieces if using bigger ones)
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, stalks and leaves chopped (or use basil instead)
2 cans of whole peeled tomatoes (400g each)
500g of stale bread, crust on, torn into pieces
salt and freshly ground pepper
olive oil

In a roasting tray, toss tomatoes with some olive oil, the slices of one clove of garlic and a quarter of the herb leaves. Season with salt and pepper and prick tomatoes all over. Roast in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius (or 150 degrees fan-baked) for 20 minutes.
Note: I covered the herbs and the garlic with the tomatoes to keep them moist during the bake.

In a big pot, saute the parsley stalks and the remaining garlic in some olive oil until soft but not coloured. Add the canned tomatoes. Fill both cans with water and add it, too. Let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Tear the bread into bite-sized pieces and add to the pot. Mix and season to taste. Add the remaining parsley leaves (reserving a little for garnish) and let stand on very low heat for up to ten minutes.

Remove the roasted tomato mixture from the oven and add to the pot, scraping everything off the tray. Stir thoroughly and add some more water if necessary (depending on how soupy you like it).

Check the seasoning, stir in some olive oil (Jamie suggests 6-7 tablespoons but this seemed too much for me) and serve sprinkled with herbs.

The source
Adapted from Jamie Oliver: "Jamie's Italy"