Apr
28
2009
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Black Currant Cake

Black Currants

Black Currants

As the black currant bushes around my town home and out on my island begin to sprout the first aromatic leaves, I realize that it is time to use up my frozen berries from last year’s harvest. Black currant is regarded by many nutritionists as a wonderfood due to its high antioxidant content (meaning that they offer protection against free radicals which can damage cells and cause disease). The only question is how can you use them aside from in the standard, albeit wonderful, jam pot? Black currants have a strong flavor and can be more difficult to figure out how to use in bakes, etc.

Recently I discovered a recipe for a black currant cake in one of my cookbooks, but I had to hesitate. Mounds of sugar, butter and white flour were required in order to produce this delicious-looking black currant creation. I summoned my courage and decided to make the cake with alterations. The result was divine and everyone liked it without exception.

Here we go:

Black Currant Cake

For the cake:

3 eggs
2.5 dl or 1 cup raw sugar
3 dl or 1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla sugar
For the topping:

4 dl or 1.5-2 cups black currants (frozen or fresh)
50 g or 2 oz butter cut into thin slabs
2 dl or 1 cup slivered almonds
0.5 dl or 1/4 cup raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 175 C or 347 F. Grease a regular-sized pie dish. Blend the eggs and sugar until creamy. Add the flour and remain cake base ingredients. Blend. Pour into the pie dish.

Scatter the black currants evenly across the top of the cake base. Follow with a layer of nuts. Scatter the sugar across the top and finally distribute the slabs of butter evenly.  Bake approximately 30-35 minutes. The cake should not be entirely firm and retain some moisture in the middle.

Allow to cool and enjoy in small pieces with tea or coffee. Remember that quantity and physical activity are key in being able to enjoy your desserts well!

Apr
23
2009
1

It’s Nettle Time

Nettles around my compost

Nettles around my compost

As I sauntered past my compost container yesterday, I noticed the first tender leaves of nettle forming small umbrellas over the rich soil.  Although it is a bit of work, this is the best time to clip away a liter (a quart) or two for preparing that iron and calcium boost you need this spring.  So, if you’ve got some nettles starting to grow in your vicinity, pull on the gardening gloves  and clip away as much as you can (no need to worry about it not growing back – it is a very determined plant!).

In Scandinavia, nettles are a main feature of spring cuisine. Every newspaper and magazine in April is running its own nettle soup and other prickly green recipes. I remember sitting in the offloading room of a major restaurant in Stockholm in April and gaping at a local who had just walked in with several crates of nettles. The man who had leather hands declared that he never picked with gloves on!

I’m starting with my favorite nettle recipe which isn’t the typical nettle soup (that’s next). If you haven’t got nettles you can use baby spinach leaves instead.

Spring Nettle Pie

Pie Crust:

3.5 dl or 1.5 cups whole wheat flour or Grahamsmjöl
1 tsp baking powder
100 g or 3.5 oz. butter
Pinch of salt
1 egg

Filling:

2 liters or quarts nettle leaves detached from the stem
Water for cooking the nettles
1 white onion, chopped finely
2 tbsps canola oil or extra virgin olive oil
150 g or or 5 oz. feta cheese or other goat cheese
2 eggs
3 dl or 1 cup creme fraiche
Salt & Pepper

Garnishing:

Red currant jelly or other favorite berry jelly

Preheat your oven to 200 C or 392 F. Mix the dough ingredients in a food processor until they clump together in a thick sausage shape. Roll out in between two sheets of baking paper (so as to avoid the dough sticking to the counter and the rolling pin). Scatter a bit of extra flour onto the bottom sheet of baking paper before rolling out to avoid stickiness. Remove the top sheet of baking paper and turn the dough into the pie dish, peeling away the other layer of baking paper once the dough is nice and flat in the pie dish (ca. 11 inches or 28 cm).  Cut away any extra dough that hangs over the edges. Sounds complicated but it’s actually very simple once you get the hang of it!

Place the pie crust in the oven and allow to bake for 7 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Now to the nettles. Brush off any soil. Pluck the leaves off the stems, place in a pan with just a few tablespoons of water and gently bring to boil. Let boil for only a minute or until you see the leaves wilting. Place in a collander and press all of the water out of the nettles. Roll into a ball and press more water out. Cut the nettle mass into fine strips. Saute the onion for two minutes over medium heat. Do not let them brown. Remove from heat and blend in the nettles.

Beat the eggs and blend with creme fraiche,  a pinch of salt and a turn of the pepper grinder.

Assemble the pie. Cover the base of the pie with the nettle and onion mixture. Crumble feta or other goat’s cheese on top. Pour the creme fraiche mixture over the contents of the pie and cover evenly using the back of a spoon. Ready for the oven!

Bake for 25 minutes or until the pie is lightly browned on top. Serve with red currant or other fruit jelly of your choice. If you are enjoying this as a main dish you can also serve it with some cold meats and almost any type of salad.

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