Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Lentil Cream

Heavenly healthy is my title for this vegetarian recipe that I have created more or less myself. I write more or less because it is inspired by the vegetarian sandwich spreads which you find in health food stores all over the world.
I have taken the flavours of the Greek lentil soup which I adore. This soup is dominated by tomatoes and oregano. Instead of preparing a soup however, I add just enough liquid to make a cream. 
You can serve this cream as a snack with crackers or bread. I like to stir in some red wine vinegar which adds a bit of tang. You can use the cream also to make healthy sandwiches, for example for your kids’ tiffin boxes. It is great topped with any kind of cheese.

Wishing you  happy cooking, always!

Kornelia Santoro with family

Lentil cream, heavenly healthy 

 
Ingredients
(for 4 big servings):
  • 2 cups lentils (masoor dal)
  • 2 packets tomato puree (200 ml each)
  • 3 big carrots
  • 1 medium size beetroot
  • 4 big onions
  • 4 big cloves garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Method:

Unlike other legumes lentils don’t need to be soaked overnight. You can use any type of lentils you like. I prefer brown masoor dal for this recipe because it has a round, earthy flavour. 

Wash the lentils and place them into a pressure cooker. You can prepare the lentil cream in a normal pot as well; it just takes a lot longer to cook. Peel the carrots, the beetroot the onions and the garlic and grate them. Add the vegetables to the lentils in the pot. Pour in the tomato puree, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 750 ml water into the pot and mix everything well. Add salt and pepper, the bay leaves and the oregano.

Close the pressure cooker, switch on the flame and boil the lentil cream for half an hour after the first whistle. In a normal pot you have to cook the lentils for at least one hour, stirring occasionally. The lentils should melt in your mouth. You might have to add some extra water also, but not much. At the end of the cooking time you should have a thick cream, not a soup.

When the lentils are cooked, open the pressure cooker. If there is any water left, you have to boil it some more minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and taste the cream. You might have to add some more salt and pepper. Take out the bay leaves and store the cream in airtight containers. You can keep it in the fridge for at least one week.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Avocado


The healthy kind of fat

The name avocado has its origin in the Aztec word ahuacatl. The avocado tree has been cultivated in Central and South America since 8.000 BCE. In the mid-1800s it spread through the Asian tropical regions. Indian cultivation started at the beginning of the 20th century with seeds from neighbouring Sri Lanka.


Although avocados have a lot of fat, they belong to the healthiest fruits of our planet. I own a book called 100 Best Health Foods, which features avocado on place 2. They should not miss in any healthy diet. 



Avocados contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that helps reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and lowers the risk of breast cancer. In addition, it offers a lot of lutein, a carotenoid which enables the body to absorb nutrition from other food sources. If you add some slices of avocados to your salad, your body can make greater use of the nutrients in the salad.

The large amount of vitamin E in avocados boosts the immune system, keeps the skin healthy and prevents heart disease. The list of nutrients in avocados includes magnesium, vitamin C and B6, folate, iron and potassium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Alligator Pasta


The other day I discovered a beautiful avocado in the market. Instead of preparing my usual guacamole, I wanted to combine this avocado with pasta. Inspired by my internet-research, I came up with the following recipe, which I call ‘alligator pasta’ because avocados are sometimes called alligator pear. I decided to mingle the avocado with feta, roasted garlic, cherry tomatoes, fresh thyme and yellow bell pepper.

“Nice, salad for dinner”, was my husband’s reaction when he saw me preparing this dish. He took it well that the salad turned out to be condiment for pasta. “It works astonishingly well with the feta, but I could do without the cherry tomatoes and the bell pepper”, was his response. I agree with him, but I also appreciate the extra vitamins, minerals and fibre from the added vegetables. By the way, I would be happy to read your comments. I would appreciate your effort.

Wishing you happy cooking, always!

Kornelia Santoro with family

 
Ingredients (for 4 servings):



  • 1 big, ripe avocado
  • 1 packet (200 grams) feta
  • 1 packet (500 grams) Italian pasta
  • 75 grams butter
  • 200 grams cherry tomatoes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • any fresh herb you like
  • 6 big cloves garlic
  • salt
  • pepper



Method:



Put a big pot with water on the fire to cook the pasta. Always salt the pasta water shortly before boiling. If you add the salt in the beginning, the water takes longer time to cook.



While the water is heating up, wash the cherry tomatoes and the bell pepper. Halve the tomatoes and cut the bell pepper into cubes. Wash and cut your herbs and place them together with the vegetables into a bowl. Salt and pepper the vegetables slightly and combine them well. Grate the feta cheese and keep aside.



Clean the garlic cloves and crush them. Melt the butter in a small pan and fry the crushed garlic until slightly brown. Be careful not to burn it.



When the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the packet. Drain the pasta, return it to the pot and mix it with the garlic butter. Add the grated feta cheese. Turn on the heat until the cheese melts. Keep a bit of feta aside for sprinkling over the top of the pasta.



Pour the pasta into the bowl with the vegetables and carefully blend it with the avocado-mix. You don’t want to end up with a mush. Sprinkle the rest of the feta over the pasta and serve immediately.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The history of Easter eggs


Easter eggs, celebrating life


My favourite Easter eggs were crafted in St. Petersburg, in the manufacture of Peter Carl Fabergé from 1885 to 1917. These precious jewels were designed mostly for the Russian Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II as annual Easter gifts for Tsarinas Maria and Alexandra. It is believed that a total of 66 eggs were produced. Each one was unique, with some opening to reveal marvellous miniatures and others functioning as clocks. Only 57 have survived to the present day. 

Unlike the Christmas tree, the Easter egg is part of traditions which spread over thousands of years. In almost all ancient cultures eggs had been held as an emblem of life. Already 2500 years ago the ancient Zoroastrians painted eggs for Nowrooz, their New Year celebration, which falls on the spring equinox. At the Jewish Passover Seder, hard-boiled eggs called Beitzah dipped in salt water symbolize the Qorban Chagigah or Hashlamim, the festival peace-offerings sacrificed at the Temple in Jerusalem.

For Christians the egg symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ: while being dormant it contains a new life sealed within it. However, the word Easter has a pagan origin. Historians have traced the origin of the word Easter to the Scandinavian word 'Ostra' and the Germanic 'Ostern' or 'Eastre'. All derive from the names of mythological goddesses of spring and fertility. 

Pagan origins did not stop the Roman Catholic Church to form legends connected with Easter eggs. One legend says hat Mary Magdalene was bringing cooked eggs to share with the other women at the tomb of Jesus, and the eggs in her basket miraculously turned brilliant red when she saw the risen Christ. The egg represents the boulder of the tomb of Jesus.


A different legend concerns Mary Magdalene's efforts to spread the Gospel. After the Ascension of Jesus, Mary went to the Emperor of Rome and greeted him with "Christ has risen," whereupon he pointed to an egg on his table and stated, "Christ has no more risen than that egg is red." It is said the egg immediately turned blood red.

In Europe the Easter egg tradition may have celebrated the end of the privations of Lent. During the strict Lenten fast of forty days no eggs were eaten. A notation in the household accounts of Edward I of England in the year 1307 showed an expenditure of eighteen pence for 450 eggs to be gold-leafed and coloured for Easter gifts. Nowadays, Easter eggs are decorated all over the world in many different ways.

The first chocolate Easter eggs were produced in Europe in the early 19th Century with France and Germany taking the lead in this new artistic confectionery. Today, chocolate eggs are available throughout the world. My favourite chocolate Easter eggs are made by the Swiss company Lindt.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Chocolate-Easter-Eggs



In a few days we celebrate Easter. This year I am organized, hurray: Well in advance I decided to create homemade chocolate eggs for my men. When I announced this plan my husband and my son lit up. Rarely do I get such a gratifying response. I went to work in the kitchen with the help of my little monster who can be quite enthusiastic when it comes to chocolate. Although we had some failures along the way, I am happy to present to you three different recipes for chocolate Easter eggs. To be honest, they are not fit to win a beauty contest as you can see in the picture. But the taste hits the spot!

In recent years I had bought chocolate Easter eggs from various outlets in Goa but I was never happy. This year, I finally found affordable aluminum moulds for eggs in a shop in Panjim. You can buy silicone egg moulds on ebay.in too, but they cost a fortune.

Melting and moulding the chocolate I fondly remembered the Easter egg hunts which my parents organised on every Easter Sunday morning. They made a nest for each of us children with tons of chocolate and coloured eggs, and then they hid it in the garden. We had to find it and we were allowed to indulge in the sweets. Good, old times, nobody thought about a sugar rush back then.

Wishing you wonderful Easter holidays and happy cooking, always!

Kornelia Santoro with family

Truffle Easter Eggs – pure pleasure

 

I make three different truffle recipes for Easter eggs, based on the recipes for chocolate truffles on my website. For every recipe you need moulds for egg halves. I use aluminium moulds which are 7 centimetres long and 5.5 centimetres wide. Each chocolate egg consists of 2 halves, glued together by melted chocolate.

For melting chocolate you absolutely need a double boiler! This is simply done by inserting a smaller into a bigger pot which contains some water. Chocolate should never experience direct heat. When you overheat chocolate you get a crumbly mess which does neither taste nor look good. You can melt chocolate in the microwave too. Just chop the chocolate and place it into a plastic mixing bowl, add the cream and butter and nuke it in one-minute intervals until it is melted.

When you create these chocolate delights, make sure you have enough space available in your freezer and your fridge. Before you can finish one egg, the mixture has to set. The quickest way to achieve this is putting the moulds in the freezer. I use semi-sweet chocolate which is sold in blocks of one kilogram in supermarkets. If you prefer, you can also use milk chocolate or dark chocolate.

These truffles need to be kept in the fridge. Because they contain so much cream and butter they soften very quickly at room temperature. They make lovely gifts for your near and dear ones. Wrap them into cling film and then into gift paper and present them on Easter Sunday.

Mocha Truffle

Ingredients (for 5 eggs):
  • 300 grams chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons cream
  • ½ cup sifted cocoa powder
  • 100 ml mocha coffee
  • Oil or butter for greasing the moulds

Method:
I make the coffee used in this recipe with a simple mocha machine, available everywhere in India: You put water in the base, insert the filter filled with coffee and screw on the top. You put the machine on the fire and wait that the mocha bubbles. Some people call this espresso. My Italian husband however insists that this kind of coffee is called mocha. If you don’t have a mocha machine, any kind of strong coffee will do.

Place the chocolate, the butter, the cream and the cocoa powder into the smaller pot of a double boiler (description see above please). Put some water into the bigger pot, insert the smaller pot and put on the fire. When the water starts to bubble, switch off the fire and wait for some minutes. Stir and check if all the chocolate is melted. If not, switch on the fire again.

While the chocolate is melting, prepare your egg moulds. Spread oil or butter evenly over the surface. That helps popping out the egg halves when they are set. I use cold pressed coconut oil because it spreads easier than butter. I just pour a tiny amount into every egg mould and spread it with my finger.

When the chocolate has completely melted, stir the coffee into the mix. Don’t do this at the beginning of the melting process because the chocolate might curdle. Combine everything well. You should have a shiny pool of dark chocolate. Fill the egg halves with the truffle mix and put them into the freezer. Make sure you keep a bit of melted chocolate to glue the egg halves together.

After one or two hours, the chocolate should be set. Popping them out of the moulds can be a tad tricky. Insert a sharp knife on one side between the mould and the chocolate and apply some pressure. Ideally, the egg half should come loose smoothly.

In case you have some problems, don’t despair. Try to put the chocolate back into the freezer for some time to set a bit harder. If your egg half deforms during the exit from the mould, let it rest a bit at room temperature. The truffle softens very quickly and you can smooth out uneven bits with your fingers. Keep the eggs in a closed container in the fridge. You can also wrap each single egg into cling film.

Almond Crunch

Ingredients (for five eggs):
  • 300 grams chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons cream
  • ½ cup sifted cocoa powder
  • 100 grams almonds
  • Oil or butter for greasing the moulds

Method:
Roast the almonds by spreading them over a cookie sheet and placing them in the oven at lowest temperature. Toss them around once in a while. They are ready when you smell their roasted aroma and they show brown marks on their skin. Be careful, they burn quickly. You can roast the almonds also in a non-stick pan. Let the roasted almonds cool down and chop them roughly.

Melt the chocolate with the butter, the cream and the cocoa powder in a double boiler as described in the recipe for Mocha truffle. Stir everything well until you have a smooth cream, then add the roasted almonds and combine everything.

Oil or butter your moulds, fill them with the chocolate-almond-mix and put them in the freezer. Make sure you keep some chocolate mix. When the halves are set, pop them out of the moulds and glue them together with the kept chocolate mix. Keep the finished eggs in the fridge.

Coconut truffles

Ingredients (for five eggs):
  • 200 grams desiccated coconut flakes
  • 100 ml sweetened, condensed milk
  • 5 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 200 grams dark chocolate
  • Oil or butter for greasing the moulds

Method:
Mix the desiccated coconut flakes with the condensed milk and the icing sugar in a bowl. Keep it in the fridge until firm. Prepare the moulds by greasing them with oil or butter.

Fill the egg halves with the coconut mix and place them into the freezer. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler like described in the recipe for mocha truffles. Pop the egg halves out of the moulds and glue them together with melted chocolate.

Then cover the eggs with chocolate. This is easier said then done. Prepare to have chocolate all over your fingers. I spread with a normal knife over one half of the egg. Then I put the egg in the fridge for a few minutes. When the chocolate is set, I cover the other half.  Keep the eggs in the fridge at all times.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Superfood flax seeds




Flax seeds: Tiny size, mighty content


Although small in size, flax seeds contain a huge amount of nutritious substances. Omega-3 fatty acids, a huge amount of fiber and vitamins and minerals make it a great addition for a healthy diet.

100 grams of flaxseeds provide 28 grams of fiber! For example, 100 grams of whole wheat flour, another good source of fiber, only have 10 grams of fiber. Nothing keeps your digestive system going like flaxseeds. 

When I was heavily pregnant, only flax seeds in combination with oats made my compressed bowels work. Always drink enough when you eat something prepared with flax seeds. The fibers need liquid to expand and push their way through the intestines, cleaning them at the same time. The high amount of fiber in flax seeds also stabilizes blood sugar levels and prevents colon cancer.

The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseeds belong to the group of fats our bodies need to function well. They keep bones healthy and reduce the formation of blood clots. They also lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. 

Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids keep cell membranes flexible. This is critical for persons with diabetes as flexible cell membranes respond easily to insulin and absorb glucose better than stiff membranes. Flax seeds also have a beneficial effect on persons with high blood pressure and asthma.

Experts call these tiny seeds super food due to the large amounts of B vitamins, folate, calcium, iron, potassium, selenium and zinc they contain.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Ultra high fibre crackers


High fibre crackers for easy weight loss

Ingredients (for 16 servings):

  • 5 cups diabetic or whole wheat flou
  • 1 cup oat bran
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil or cold pressed coconut oil 
  •  1 cup curd
  • 100 grams flax seeds
  •  100 grams sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • water


Method:

  • Put all the dry ingredients into a big bowl and mix them well with a spoon. Then add the oil, the curd and enough cold water to make smooth dough. Knead the dough well for at least 5 minutes, using your hands. Consider this exercise; kneading works out the muscles in your arms. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes before rolling it out. 
  • You can bake the crackers on a cookie sheet or in any pie form. I take big, stainless steel plates which I also use for making pizza.
  • Dust your work surface with flour. Take some dough and roll it out as thinly as possible in the shape you require. Put the dough on the cookie sheet, pie form or plate and score lines with a sharp knife. These lines help to break the crackers after baking. The above given amount is enough to cover 4 cookie sheets or 6 stainless steel plates with 30 cm (12 inches) diameter
  • Usually, I divide my round dough into eight pieces like a cake. If I make a rectangle for a cookie sheet, I divide the dough into triangles (as you can see in the picture).
  • Bake the crackers for 20 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius. They should be hard, dry and slightly browned. Let them cool down on a rack, and then break them into pieces. You can store the crackers in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
 

Spicy salsa dip


Ingredients (for 4 servings):
  •  4 big, red tomatoes
  •  1 red or yellow bell pepper
  •   4 fresh, green chilies 
  •    1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar 
  •     1 tablespoon olive oil
  •   ½ teaspoon sugar
  •   Salt
  •   freshly grated pepper
  •   any kind of herb you like

Method:

  •  It is important to use only fully ripened tomatoes for this recipe. Put the tomatoes for 1 minute into a pot of boiling water. Let them cool down, remove the skin, the seeds and any white pieces from the stalk.
  • Cut the flesh into small cubes and put them into a bowl.
  • Remove the stalk and the seeds from the bell peppers, cut the flesh into small cubes and add them to the bowl.
  • Slice the green chilies open and remove the seeds. Cut them into small pieces and add to the bowl.
  • Wash the herbs, chop finely and add to the bowl.   
  •  I use parsley and/or basil because my men don’t like fresh coriander. However, if you appreciate fresh coriander, don’t hesitate to use it in this recipe. It gives a lovely fragrance together with the punch of the chilies.
  • Add the sugar, the vinegar and the oil and salt and pepper according to your taste. Mix everything well. Let the salsa marinate at least one hour in the fridge before serving.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Green herbs

Go green with herbs

Green herbs are packed with nutrients. They do not only add taste to any dish, they also bless us with many health benefits. The humble parsley is as widely used in Europe as coriander is in Asia. The word parsley has it roots in the Greek word petroselīnon meaning rock celery. Native to Mediterranean Europe, it was first used as a medicine.
During the middle Ages, cooks started to season dishes with parsley. This herb contains vast amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A and folic acid. Parsley’s volatile oils help neutralise particular types of carcinogens (like the ben­zopyrenes that are part of cigarette smoke and charcoal grill smoke). According to scientific research, eating a lot of parsley helps keep your heart and cardiovascular system healthy and can prevent rheumatic arthritis.
Parsley
Mint is actually named after a nymph called Minthe. This delightful creature appeared in the Greek mythology as a female that attracted Pluto’s attention. His jealous wife Persephone changed Minthe into a plant. Sorrowful Pluto could not reverse the magic spell, but he gave her a sweet smell. From ancient times, mint is used all over the world. There are more than 25 different species of mint with slightly different aromas.
mint
Mint relieves cramps of the belly because it is able to relax muscles. It is a useful herb in case of indigestion, dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome. Animal studies have shown that the phytonutrient monoterpene in mint stops the growth of pancreatic, mammary and liver tumors and protects against caner in the colon, skin and lungs. However, there are no proper human studies yet.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Vanilla



Vanilla – royal spice from Mexico


Nothing equals real vanilla: These long, dark brown pods harbor a flavor which attracts men like moths. Aromatherapy tests have shown recently most men are aroused by smelling vanilla. However, it is not quite clear if the arousal was sexual or gastronomic in nature.

Few spices stimulate our gastric juices like vanilla. Its sweet smell announces joyful sensations to our taste buds. Thanks to modern chemists most sweets contain vanilla in one form or another today. 


Artificial extract from wood pulp

The first artificial vanilla extracts were synthesized in the late 19th century, based on pine bark and clove oil. Later vanilla flavor was extracted from wood pulp leftovers used by the paper industry. Today most artificial vanilla is made from petrochemical substances. These affordable flavors made vanilla accessible for common people.

However, imitation can never equal the real thing. The genuine vanilla pod offers nuances of flavors which make the synthetic vanilla look pale in comparison. If you want to make a sweet predominantly flavored by vanilla pods – for example vanilla ice cream or vanilla custard – please use real vanilla. 


Many years I was searching local markets in vain for the genuine article. Then the spice plantations in Goa started to grow vanilla. Now vanilla beans are sold in many shops. They are not cheap, but not outrageously expensive.

Like many other spices, vanilla has made its way around the world from South America. Cortez brought the vanilla plant from Mexico to Europe.  

Monopole: Vanilla from Mexico


Until the middle of the 19th century Mexico was the only producer of vanilla. The reason for this: Only a Mexican bee can pollinate the vanilla flower, an orchid, which produces the pod only after pollination. But in 1819 French entrepreneurs developed a method of hand pollinating the flowers which is still used today. With this discovery many tropical islands and regions started to produce vanilla.

Vanilla plants have both male and female organs - separated by am membrane to prevent self-pollination. Workers in spice plantations use a bamboo stick to fold back this membrane so the anther and the stigma (the male and female parts of the flower) can meet and pollen can be transferred.


The yellowish green orchid flower only blooms for a few hours. Inspecting every plant in the morning is crucial for successfully growing vanilla. The bean is left on the vine for 9 months to develop flavor. Only careful drying turns the vanilla pod into a precious spice.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Triple-Nut-Guglhupf


 

Guglhupf – a rotating sun for the emperor’s breakfast


A guglhupf was a common sight on our dining table: My grandfather could not get enough of his favorite cake. His guglhupf was made with yeast and a lot of eggs – light dough melting in the mouth, crowned by roasted almonds and dusted with icing sugar. My grandfather shared the habit of eating guglhupf with royal Europeans. According to legend around 1800 the Austrian Emperor discovered the guglhupf, making it his daily breakfast. Following Emperors like Franz Joseph and his wife Sissi could not imagine beginning the day without guglhupf.

The original guglhupf goes a long way back:  Archaeological excavations near Vienna show Romans used a mold for ring cake in the form of a rotating sun identical to the guglhupf.

Childhood memories came rushing back when I discovered a guglhupf mold recently in my favorite home appliance store. This one had nothing to do with the antique Italian copper molds decorating my kitchen here. It was made from high tech flexible silicon which can support high temperatures. It needs buttering only for the first use. Following the first use you just fill it with the batter, stuff it in the oven and wash it – very convenient. I had to have this fruit of modern technology which was made in Italy (an added bonus for me), although it carried a sizable price tag.

Back home I wondered which kind of guglhupf to make. I am not a big fan of yeast dough because it takes a long time for rising. Furthermore I like to use whole wheat flour. You cannot make a proper yeast cake with this flour. It just does not taste right. So I did some thinking and developed the recipe for a triple nut guglhupf. 

It combines three different kind of nuts (very healthy) with whole wheat flour, coconut oil, and eggs (very healthy, too). To balance this it also got some chocolate chips for my chocoholic men and of course sugar, but only a moderate amount. I have used a vanilla pod grown in Goa for this recipe. If you don’t want to spend the money for the vanilla pod, use vanilla extract. Experts say artificial vanilla leaves a bitter aftertaste, but I don’t share this opinion. I think real vanilla is only required for vanilla ice cream and custards. When vanilla only contributes to a lot of other ingredients, artificial vanilla extract is perfectly acceptable for me.


Ingredients:

  • 150 grams desiccated coconut
  • 100 grams roasted almonds
  • 100 grams roasted cashew nuts
  • 100 grams chocolate chips made from dark cooking chocolate
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup cold pressed coconut oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • butter for greasing the mold
  • icing sugar for dusting the guglhupf
 
Method:

Prepare your vessel: Spread butter carefully over the inside of your guglhupf mold. If you don’t have a guglhupf shape, you can take any round, big cake mold. A silicon mold needs greasing only the first time you use it.

Spread the almonds and the cashew nuts over a cookie sheet and roast them in the oven. Keep the flame low and pay attention: Nuts burn easily. They are done when the cashew nuts have turned golden brown and the almond skins show some dark brown spots. Let the nuts cool down and grind them finely. The easiest way to do this is using a blender. Take a piece of dark cooking chocolate, place it on a cutting board and shave off chocolate chips with the help of a big knife.

Place the eggs into a big whisking bowl. Slice open the vanilla pod and scrap out the insides. Add these aromatic bits and the sugar to the eggs. Beat everything with a hand mixer until you have a light colored, thick cream. Incorporate the coconut oil, the nuts and the coconut flakes into the mixture.

Combine the flour with the baking powder and stir it into the batter. Finally add the milk. Fill the batter immediately into the mold and bake it for 1 ¼ hour at lowest temperature in the oven. The guglhupf needs quite a lot of time for baking as it is a big cake. You can check if the cake is done with a toothpick. Stick it into the cake: If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Parmiggiano Reggiano and Grana di Padano


Parmigiano and Grana:

Often copied, never equaled

There are two Italian cheeses we simply cannot live without: Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana di Padano. When you serve pasta, normally you sprinkle it with freshly grated Parmigiano or Grana. Both cheeses taste pretty similar and are protected with the European seal of ‘Denominazione di OrigineControllata’ (name of controlled origin). That means it is forbidden to call any other cheese Parmigiano or Grana. 


Of course this does not keep dairies all over the world – many of them in India – to produce “Parmesan”. If you see this word stamped on a packet of cheese you know it is a copy. In the futile attempt to save money I have tried these cheeses – to no avail. They just don’t taste right.

Luckily nowadays in India many supermarkets offer both Grana and Parmigiano, imported from Italy. Although they are quite costly, one piece lasts for several pasta dinners. Just make sure your family does not dig into this cheese when they feel like a snack. (Sometimes I discover my husband with a guilty expression in front of the fridge, holding a piece of Parmigiano). Honestly, I cannot blame him. They taste delicious.


Parmigiano and Grana are made in Italy for at least 800 years. According to his biographers the French playwright Molière, reached a point where he used to eat exclusively this cheese.  Parmigiano, also called the king of cheeses, is produced in the provinces of Modena, Reggio Emilia, Parma and in some part of Bologna and Mantova. Grana di Padano refers to the valley Pianura Padana, which covers a much wider area than the Parmigiano region.

Both cheeses need at least 8 months to ripen and they can last up to 2 years under the right conditions. Although they are similar, the younger Grana cheeses are less crumbly and milder in flavor than their more famous longer-aged relative. Grana Padano is widely considered inferior in quality than Parmigiano-Reggiano. However, I don’t taste a big difference. Both go equally well with pasta.

16 liters of milk produce 1 kg of Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana. Their cylindrical wheels are branded with a fire iron. This indelible mark certifies and guarantees quality and origin. Like any hard cheese, Parmigiano and Grana offer plenty of calcium, phosphorus and proteins the human body can easily absorb. Nutritionists recommend them also for their various active lactobacillus cultures which help our digestive system.