Wednesday 29 July 2015

Smoked fish smørrebrød

Mostly for lunch I eat leftovers. But for the weeks in which I'm not doing a lot of cooking, I  rely on a loaf of sliced rye in the freezer. In Copenhagen last year, I fell in love with smørrebrød - traditional Danish open-face sandwiches on dark rye bread. Every deli or bakery, café or restaurant sold some variation of this lunch-time staple. You can make a smørrebrød out of anything, but a typically Scandinavian topping will include something pickled or smoked. Probably the favourite smørrebrød of my stay came from a deli near the Botanical Gardens (Aamanns, if anyone is visiting) which featured a thick slab of blue cheese (as long and wide as the rye it perched on) sprinkled with hazelnuts and pickled sultanas, something I've since tried to recreate at home with limited success. This smoked fish topping, however, has been much more successful. Probably because it contains only a handful of ingredients - smoked fish, red onion, dill, lemon juice and sour cream - and comes together in minutes by mashing everything together with a fork. Its cold, salty creaminess contrasts nicely with the crispness of the toasted rye, which ably supports a nice thick trowelling of topping. Any leftover topping works well as an emergency pasta sauce, as I recently discovered after coming home late from a long day. Just wind through cooked pasta on the stovetop for one minute, just long enough to heat through.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Ginger cake with lemon and pistachio icing

Ginger is a flavour I've only recently come to appreciate in baking. Perhaps because in childhood it was associated most strongly with gingerbread, which in turn was associated most strongly with Hansel and Gretel, who were punished for nibbling on a house made of it by being almost cooked alive by a witch.

This isn't a gingerbread though - it's lighter, and more light-hearted than that, containing as it does, a whacking big amount of golden syrup and a rich, buttery frosting. This is cake, make no mistake -  sticky and squidgy, sweet and indulgent... There's something quite wonderful about the fusion of adult flavours (ginger, lemon, cloves, pistachios) with those of childhood (golden syrup, icing sugar, cinnamon). A bit like having your cake and eating it too. With no fear of witches.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

The New York Times had a pretty bad week. I am not here to defend peas in guacamole, but their cooking section generally, which is right more often than it is wrong. For a few months now, I've had bookmarked Melissa Clark's recipe for St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, for the name alone. Apparently, the original dates back to the 1930s, when a baker miscalculated the quantity of butter in a coffee cake. Rather than throw it out, he carved it up, sold it by the square and Missouri was never the same again. 

It's a mashup of two very different cakes: an elegant, yeasted bottom layer - as refined and establishment as a twinset and pearls - and an over the top, brassy, bottle blonde bombshell up above. Unlikely friends but they complement each other beautifully, coming together in a single cake that is, as advertised, gooey and buttery... oozy and sweet and utterly moreish. The edges are particularly good - chewy and crisp. Grab a corner if you can.

Wednesday 1 July 2015


Is it possible for a cookie to be seasonal? After making speculaas last weekend I'd be inclined to argue yes. When it's cold outside, you can't do much better than brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. There's something warming about all of those things, especially when baked into a sweet with an unpronouceable name (your best chance at getting it right is by trying to say it while eating one) and served with your hot beverage of choice.

The darkness comes from the brown sugar and spices (as much mixed spice as cinnamon) and is bolstered by rye flour and almond meal. This is a cookie for blissful hibernation. A winter warmer, designed for dunking.