Diary, day twenty-four

Dealing with taxes is stressful enough. Having to deal with the Greek tax office? Beyond stressful. You walk out of there after two hours of arguing, & you’ve accomplished nothing… except more paper work & the promise that you’ll be throwing away another two hours in the very near future.

What I’m trying to say, is, it can suck all the creativity out of a person.

I literally only made tuna salad for lunch… & that barely came together. Snacked on a 3 day old cinnamon roll, & treated myself to a blackberry & apple cider.

Yea. That happened.

Sorry this isn’t more eventful & entertaining.

Diary, day twenty-three

I’m finally seeing it. All this posting on a regular daily basis is pulling the creativity out of me. In the beginning I was struggling quite a bit. You all know how silent my blog has been the last two years… most of that time I was in a slump. Well, not in a slump, I mean, I still had genius ideas, they just weren’t coming out of me at any real speed or consistency. & worst of all, I kept using photography as an excuse not to publish anything. If I didn’t have a good picture, I wasn’t going to post. It was as simple as that.

Clearly, as you can see, I’ve decided to ease up on the photography side. Most of the pictures I’m posting are instagram snapshots that have way too many effects & filters over them. I don’t care. I mean, I do care, but I don’t care enough to prevent me from posting. The way I see it, if I just keep at it, eventually the photography will find me again & I’ll be producing images I’m proud of. For now, you get instagram & that’s ok.

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So back to the infusion of creativity that I’ve been receiving as of late. This little gem hit me the other day hanging laundry. A task that holds no real significance, except for the fact that I hang mine on the balcony, & my balcony just so happens to be in perfect alignment with the tops of two orange trees. So I’m sitting there, sorting through the pile of wet clothes & trying to match socks… & the intoxicating smell of orange blossoms keeps hitting my nose. Then something else hit me… these are edible! Ah yes, now we’re talking!

I kept fantasising about orange blossom ice-cream… but eventually my lack of patience won out & today I realised I couldn’t wait any more, I had to make something & it had to be done now. Right now. So really it was a question of what ingredients were lurking in my pantry… not much. Tomorrow is the laiki (vegetable market), which means today my cupboards & fridge are pretty barren & bare. Jam it is.

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This loot came out to about 90g (2 & 1/2 cups)… & took nearly 2 hours to collect! I would have gotten more, but I grabbed every open blossom within my reach… sometimes wondering if I was just going to topple off the balcony. Made me glad I live on the first floor. The strangest thing kept happening though, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the oranges that wouldn’t grow because I was thieving their flowers. I eventually got my mind off that trail of thought by telling myself no one eats these oranges any way… but then I managed to start thinking about the bees I was robbing of nectar. I mean seriously. I don’t know what sort of hippy high my mind was on, but those were the thoughts plaguing me. Clearly, I got over both issues, or you wouldn’t be looking at the bowl set before you.

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This is the fruit of my labour. I can’t figure out if I’m supposed to class it as a jelly (since I used the strained juice of the orange), or a preserve seeings as there are whole pieces of flower petal in there. Or is it a marmalade since it’s with orange? If anyone has the answer, I would greatly appreciate it. I’m also still in search of the long lost answer to why people strain the water from their soaking almonds & add new water to make almond milk. I mean, that just sounds counter productive. So if you have that answer, I’d appreciate it also.

Any way, back to this. The taste is good. Great. I think I miscalculated however. I’m used to bringing my jams & preserves up to 114C… for some reason, I’m now starting to think that a jelly should be cooked to a lower temperature. I’m going to need to do some research. Worse case scenario.. I just mix this into a bottle of gin & let it dissolve. NOW I’m talking!

Enough of my ranting. I’ll share the recipe when I answer the question to the conundrum I’ve just presented myself.

Diary, day twenty-two

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My first youtube video where instead of talking, I actually show you something…. (& not talking at all)

& I completely blew it.

I should have known it was going to go this way. The gods of baking were against me from the beginning. This morning just as I was ready & all set up, my laptop died (as you know, I use my laptop as my video camera), & of course, of COURSE, I couldn’t get it to charge. So precious time with perfect lighting was slowly ticking away… & my cinnamon roll dough was still rising.

Now of course, my next dilemma is I decided to pre-mix the filling… instead of what I usually do which is to spread the butter over the dough & the dust the surface with the cinnamon, sugar & xanthan (yes, I add it to keep the filling in place so it doesn’t ooze out)… & it turned into a thick glob. Guess who’s out of butter & can’t make any more filling!?!?! Yea, you guessed it. Me. I had to pipe it onto the dough instead (as you’ll see in the video & you’re probably going “WHY?!?!”)

Too late to back out now. So the lighting is off. The rolls don’t have a nice even spread. I couldn’t get them to cut into round shapes. I mean, my skills as a chef look as amateur as my ability to make a video.

I’m ashamed. My head is hung low. I’m determined to show you my failings though. Learn from my mistakes. Yada yada yada

Let’s not even get into a debate about my ability to use iMovie to piece it all together….

Any way, I’m putting it out there for the world to see. I’ve decided that it’s a learning experience. Here is the recipe shown in the video. I made some tweaks, such as using pistachios instead of almonds (which I list in the recipe), it makes the dough green which isn’t that visually appealing, but man does it take good.

Ingredients, dough: (makes 16)
– 50g sugar
– 250g raw, blanched almonds (or raw pistachios)
– 250g buttermilk
————–
– 1 tsp powdered gelatin
– 60ml cold water
————–
– 1 tbs instant yeast
– 110g oat flour
– 200g tapioca starch
– 125g potato starch
– 1 tsp xanthan gum
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp sodium bicarbonate
– 30g unsalted butter, melted
– 2 large egg whites
– 1 tsp vanilla

Directions, dough:
1. combine the sugar & pistachios in your blender or food processor & process until fine. Add the buttermilk & continue to process until it is a smooth paste. Set aside.
2. In a small, microwave safe bowl, place the gelatine & cold water & put it in the fridge. Allow it 10 minutes to bloom. Once bloomed, microwave in 10 second bursts until all the gelatine has dissolved. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add all the remaining ingredients as well as the gelatine mix & pistachio paste. Use a dough hook or a K beater & mix until thoroughly combined. Remove the beater & wrap the bowl tightly in clingfilm. Leave in a warm place & allow to rise for 12 to 24 hours.
4. Once risen, cut a pieces of parchment paper approx. 40cm x 50cm. Dust with oat flour & transfer your dough onto the parchment. Roll the dough out to the size of the parchment.

Ingredients, filling:
– 60g unsalted butter, melted
– 2 tbs ground cinnamon
– 50g brown sugar
– 1 tsp xanthan gum
– zest of 1 orange

Directions, filling:
1. pre-heat the oven to 50C
1. brush the rolled out dough with the butter until it has a nice even coating.
2. combine the cinnamon, brown sugar, orange zest & xanthan gum together & then sprinkle it evenly across the dough, on top of the butter.
3. pick up one edge of the dough (the length closest to you) & fold over about 1cm onto itself. Continue to lift the edge of the parchment to encourage the dough to roll into a long tube & then cut into 12 to 16 slices.
4. place your rolls in a large baking dish that has been lined with parchment paper. Wrap your baking dish tightly with cling film & place it in the oven on the centre rack. Place a pot of boiling water on the bottom of the oven & allow the rolls to rise for an hour. The steam from the water & the heat from the oven should be plenty.
5. remove the rolls from the oven when they are double in size & remove the cling film,  pre-heat the oven to 175C. Place the rolls back into the oven & bake for 16-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven.

Ingredients, glaze:
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 40g unsalted butter, melted
– 45ml buttermilk
– 250g icing sugar

Directions, glaze:
1. place all the ingredients in a bowl & beat with a mixer to combine. Drizzle over the cinnamon rolls as soon as they emerge from the oven. Allow them to cool slightly before eating!

Diary, days 18 to 21

We’re home!!!

Let’s be honest. Nothing about this post is going to be about food. I mean, not really any way. Yes, I ate to my hearts content. Even managed to fall into several food related comas… but I wasn’t about to sit there with my phone & photograph my meals before I ate them.

I also didn’t talk to the chefs to find out about their style & technique.

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When I take a holiday… that’s all it is. My mind isn’t back on work or fantasising about recipes. All I want to do is soak up the sun. Eat. Sleep. & enjoy every second.

& bike tours really are my favourite kind of holiday.

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Even freezing cold swims in the April sea are breathtakingly refreshing. Yes, I swam. Lasted a whole 10 minutes too before I had to get out & regain feeling in my limbs.

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Stopped to enjoy the Fireworks after church service on Saturday night…

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Got stranded at the port on Sunday morning & realised we were indeed going to be spending easter lunch on Spetses instead of taking off & finding a little tavern in a village near Portoheli.

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You don’t want to hear about that though. You’re here for the food… & I want to assure you that I will be back to my regular tips & tricks first thing tomorrow. Today? Today I just want to look at photos, continue with my eating spree, & take a nap. xxx

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Diary, day seventeen

This post really isn’t about food. Let’s be honest here. I’m on holiday… & so far, I haven’t even eaten at any swanky restaurants because I’m still sourcing on the gourmet picnik I packed. Seriously, there was a two day supply of food in that thing. It’s a good thing the hotel has a mini fridge because I made a LOT of roasted chicken & cauliflower. 

Thank you mini fridge. 

If you’re curious, I’m currently on a bike (motorcycle) trip. We’ve all driven from Athens, through to Galatas, down to Portoheli, & then taken the boat across to the island of Spetses. That last leg of the journey was just breath taking. This gorgeous, winding coastal road… & it was absolutely littered with purple & yellow trees in full bloom. Even stopped in an orchard for our picnic. 

Spetses is equally as beautiful. I’m not used to islands being this green. Then again, it’s not like I’ve been to very many islands. Not when you consider how many there actually are in this country. 

I’m getting off track. Or am I? All I wanted to saw was, I’m enjoying my easter weekend with great enthusiasm. It’s the only excuse I have for providing you with a post that really has naught to do with food. Sunday there will be food. Sunday there will be copious amounts of roasted lamb. Sunday will be dedicated to gluttony & full bellies. I don’t promise a good Sunday post, but I promise to enjoy every sinfully good morsel. 

Happy easter weekend!!!

Diary, day sixteen

You know you’re a chef, when the first thing you do to prepare for a bike (motorcycle) tour is pack a picnic.

Yes. It is exactly what it sounds like. This weekend is Easter weekend, at least for us Orthodox Greeks. We’ve decided to take off & take the scenic rout to head towards Spetses. I’ve never been there before. A quick google search assures me it’s really quite gorgeous.

I haven’t packed yet, inspire of the fact that we’re all supposed to be leaving at 07:00am. I have however roasted a chicken. Grilled cauliflower. Made a pot of red rice & some creamy gravy. Boiled half a dozen eggs. Made protein bars. Yes. Yes I have made a full on picnic for the journey. Still not packed a lick of clothing though.

I did pack my camera.

Priorities.

You may not know this about me, but I am a very happy person when I’m fed. Calm, mellow, easy going. I’m really quite a joy to be around. Hungry? No. I’m an asshole when I’m hungry. That’s really putting it rather lightly. I’m like a small monster that has been possessed by demons. Does that relate the severity of it to you?

That brings me to a rather important observation… how do people survive on diets all the time? Not all people of course. There are people out there who live in a constant state of fasting. I can’t comprehend it. It’s a good thing I’ve just eaten a big dinner otherwise I’d find the thought rather upsetting.

Let’s leave that there though. What I want to say is, I’m taking off for the weekend. I’ll try & be one of those people who photographs the food they’re served at restaurants & post it here to show you what a marvellous time I’m having.

I’d also like to wish everyone a happy Easter!!! Eat lots of chocolate. Roast a lamb in the garden. Fall into a food coma. Just have an all-round amazing time.

HAPPY EASTER!!!

Diary, day fifteen… & a how-to on easy almond flour

I’m back on youtube again. Not as relaxed & funny as I would like to be, but I have wisdom to impart.

I’m still coming across as amateur with my little home-made videos filmed using my laptop… but I think I have valuable information to share.

This week, it’s my explanation of DIY, quick & easy almond flour. This is kind of a must-share in the knowledge I posses, because as we all know, almond flour ain’t cheap! Well, at least not if you buy it ready made.

I don’t do that though. I like to be thrifty. I also don’t like the long drawn out process of making almond flour the traditional way at home… I’m lazy & like instant gratification. When I want cake, I want it NOW!

I explain it all in the video. I’m hoping I’ve articulated my thoughts well enough to follow, but if you have additional questions, just leave them on youtube or a comment on this post & I will answer them to the best of my ability.

If I come across as bossy (or worse yet, a know-it-all), please forgive me… it would appear that this is how I behave when I become a little uncomfortable. Which still happens then I’m trying to put my thought-process on tape.

Enjoy! & leave me feedback if you feel so compelled… I’d really like to know how I’m doing & hopefully improve.

Diary, day fourteen

I’ve spent a lot of time at home the last 9 months. Too much time. Enough time to have had moments where I’ve wondered whether or not I was about to permanently lose my sanity.

In that time, I’ve learnt that 80% of the time, home-made is by far better than store-bought. This could be crap… but honestly, it’s one of the things I’ve convinced myself is true probably because I’ve needed to stay occupied & entertained.

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Let’s go with peanut butter for example. Sure, the homemade stuff isn’t as smooth as the store-bought… but having complete control over what goes into it counts as a real winner in my books. You know… little things. I like my peanut butter slightly sweet, but I don’t want sugar or artificial sweeteners in it, so I put honey. I can decide how salty I want it. Or even if I want to give it a hint of chocolate flavour with some good quality cocoa.

I don’t recommend trying to make peanut butter from raw peanuts though. They are a legume & it’s a very acquired taste. Not one my tastebuds appreciated.

I did discover that you should let your peanuts cool down (assuming you’re roasting them yourself) before you add honey to them… then again, I knew honey had a low burning point & really should have made that connection sooner. In my defence, it was late & I was in a rush.

Now the biggest question is… how do I make half a kilo last more than a week?

Diary, day thirteen

I’m still a clogged up, sniffling mess. No one wants to see my red nose & puffy eyes on camera. I think Mondays are a poor choice for video uploads any way. Just hold on till Wednesday, I think that will be my day for new rants on youtube.

For today, I want to introduce you to a food blogger that I was turned towards by a friend. I can’t help myself. She’s kind of wonderful. Her name is Shannon & she’s the author of the blog Shannon’s Kitchen.

I have to be honest & prepare you though. She swears like a drunken sailor & loves dirty innuendo. I’m a little jealous, truth be told. I always try to watch my language & puns on the site because I don’t want to offend people. Maybe I should care a little less about offending others & just speak freely. After all, as long as I’m not insulting anyone or being an ass-hat, then I’m not doing any harm. Right?

Still. I can’t bring myself to just let go & free my dirty mouth. You should really go check her out though, she’s funny & brilliant… & I’m not ashamed to say I look forward to new posts.

That’s all I have to add for now.

Diary, day twelve & packaging design

There were profiteroles last night.

I have no evidence of this, except maybe a little hazelnut chocolate sauce left on my lips.

You see the thing is, I ended up making the little choux pastry shells last night. Then as they were sitting there on the counter, I decided that I wanted to go ahead & make the pastry cream too, after all, I had the motivation. Once the cream was made, the little shells were just calling me to be filled. Once filled, I got all anxious because I was worried the filling would make the little puffs soggy, so the only solution was to make the ganache & just eat them right there, on the spot.

I fell asleep on the couch with a very full belly & a smile plastered across my lips. They were so good that the plate was cleaned off & there was no photo op.

Clearly, the recipe went well. It needs some minor tweaks, of course, but minor really is the keyword here. The overall flavour & texture was pretty spot on. I can’t even remember the last time I ate a profiterole. I know I’ve eaten them, & I can clearly remember the satisfaction of pulling apart the mound & popping a whole little cream filled bite of heaven into my mouth… but no idea as to the date or location of last consumption. My mind is starting to go fuzzy in my ripe old ago of 29 (& a half).

There is an upside though. Not having photographed the blessed event means I’ll just have to make them all over again to perfect the recipe & photograph them. More happiness for my already content belly.

So for now, I sit here still sick… contented in my disarray & fullness, & attempt to design little packaging stickers for the protein bites I make. They’re slowly becoming a success & it’s important I look like a professional. Luckily for me, I don’t have to start from scratch. I’ve been blessed enough to have a friend take pity on me & design me the most beautiful logo for my charming little e-shop. He even designed me stickers with just the logo. It was taking apart those stickers that allowed me to come up with the perfect little labels. I’m thankful for my friends. For my friends, & for the inventor of profiteroles.

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