Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Chocolate, hazelnut and crushed meringue ice cream terrine

Sometimes, you want a dessert that’s rich, smooth, chocolaty, nutty, creamy, luscious and crunchy all at the same time.

You want a frozen dessert that’s more than ice cream; that’s far easier than regular ice cream; that’s more decadent yet lighter than ice cream.

A no-churn ice cream that’s flavored with coffee liqueur and vanilla, that includes crushed meringues, with finely ground hazelnuts folded in the mixture and layers of melted dark chocolate swirled through it, and drizzled with a dark chocolate magic shell that hardens when it hits the ice cream and becomes so very irresistible.

Enter the ice cream terrine, which actually reminds me a bit of Viennetta. It’s luscious, with a smooth flavor and creamy texture, almost like a semifreddo or a parfait but far lighter as it doesn’t contain any eggs.

The coffee liqueur and the vanilla bring their wonderful aroma and taste, while the finely ground hazelnuts and crushed meringues add crunchiness and their unique flavor notes. The melted dark chocolate that’s swirled through the mixture creates layers that have the texture of a soft biscuit or brownie that’s incredible and makes for a delicious surprise when you bite into the terrine.

The magic shell that’s poured on top adds a crispy texture and gives even more chocolate flavor —which you can never have enough of in my book— and the berries served on the side bring freshness and lighten up the dessert which, admittedly, is quite rich, but if eaten in thin slices is just perfect.

Chocolate, hazelnut and crushed meringue ice cream terrine

Use meringues of the crispy kind, not the chewy ones.
You could use flavored meringues instead of plain ones if you’d like; I would suggest mocha, coffee or caramel as they work great with the rest of the ingredients.

Yield: 12 slices

100 g good quality dark chocolate (55-60%), chopped
400 ml cream, full-fat (35%), cold
85-100 g ready-made, crispy meringues, crushed but leave some smaller pieces to add texture
1 Tbsp coffee liqueur
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
60 g finely ground blanched hazelnuts
Pinch of fine sea salt

for the magic shell
50 g good quality dark chocolate (55-60%), chopped
25 g extra virgin coconut oil

Fresh berries or cherries (depending on the season you’re making this in), to decorate

Special equipment: hand-held electric mixer, loaf pan (23 x 9 x 8 cm), plastic wrap

Take your loaf pan and line the bottom and sides with plastic wrap. There needs to be an overhang on all four sides as you’ll have to cover the ice cream terrine completely with it.

Put the chocolate in a small bowl and melt it in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (bain-marie) or in the microwave, being careful not to burn it. Then leave to cool to room temperature, stirring from time to time.

In a large bowl, add the cold cream and beat on medium-high speed until thick but still fluffy and soft. Add the crushed meringues, finely chopped hazelnuts, coffee liqueur, vanilla extract and salt and fold them in the whipped cream with a soft spatula, being careful not to deflate it.

Add half of this mixture to the prepared loaf pan and use the spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth the top. Pour half of the melted and cooled chocolate along the center and use a skewer or the handle of a spoon to swirl it in. Don’t overdo it but make sure to cover the whole surface of the mixture so there’s chocolate all over, not only at the center of the ice cream terrine.

Then, add on top the rest of the whipped cream mixture and smooth the top. Pour the rest of the chocolate and swirl it in again.

Then, smooth the top and cover with the overhanging plastic wrap, tapping it gently onto the ice cream to get a proper seal but without squeezing the mixture.
Wrap the loaf pan all around with more plastic wrap and place it in your freezer for at least 8 hours but preferably overnight.

for the magic shell
Place the chocolate and coconut oil in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (bain-marie) and melt, stirring often. Alternatively, you can melt them in the microwave. Allow to cool slightly before drizzling over the ice cream. It takes 30-50 seconds to harden once it hits the ice cream.

The next day, before you want to serve it, remove the ice cream from the loaf pan by lifting it up from the plastic wrap. Unwrap it and invert it onto a plate. Drizzle with the magic shell and decorate with fresh berries, cherries etc.
You may want to leave it for about 20 minutes in order to soften a bit before you cut it.
Serve sliced with berries on the side.

You can keep it in your freezer, wrapped with the plastic wrap for 4-5 days.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Persian herb omelette (Kuku sabzi) with feta

I’ve always appreciated the magical qualities of eggs; their ability to turn into fluffy meringue, to create a thick and rich crème anglaise and of course add volume to cakes of any kind.

Eggs are one of the few foods I would gladly eat every single day. They are so versatile: poached, on top of avocado toast; scrambled into silky ribbons and gently placed over toasted sourdough or mixed with freshly grated tomatoes thus creating the incredibly delicious Greek strapatsada/kagianas; fried in extra virgin olive oil, sunny side up, yolks oozing golden liquid, whites all lacy and crispy; soft boiled and burst open onto a bowlful of chicken fried rice. The possibilities are endless, and exciting, much like this omelette. A Persian herb omelette with feta. An omelette unlike any other, because let’s face it, the Iranians know how to eat.

It is called Kuku sabzi and I have found many interpretations of this dish around. This one is my favorite. It’s a dish that’s traditionally served on the Persian New Year and it involves copious amounts of herbs being held together by eggs, because that’s what this is, herbs with eggs rather than eggs with herbs.

There’s walnuts, turmeric and dried fenugreek in there, and also barberries, a very traditional Iranian dried fruit that’s acidic, quite tart and a tiny bit sweet. There’s also feta which is not traditional but I am Greek and a feta-fiend so of course I had to add it, and it bulked up the omelette as well, making it even more filling and satisfying. I served it with Greek yoghurt sprinkled with some more fresh herbs and it was the best meal ever.

The herbs I used in this dish are parsley, dill, mint and chives. Coriander is usually added as well but I am categorically opposed to adding this herb in my food, so I omitted it. It’s a very easy dish to make and the only thing that’s tricky is flipping the omelette. Υou’ll surely need a nonstick pan that you trust, otherwise I would suggest you finish the omelette in the oven for a couple of minutes so you don’t run the risk of it breaking up.

It’s a delicious and savory omelette. The aromatic herbs are very fresh and vibrant, the walnuts give their crunchy texture and earthy flavor, and there’s a gentle spiciness from the turmeric and the fenugreek which is absolutely essential in this dish as it makes it incredibly fragrant. The fruity burst of tangy flavor, acidity and sourness of the barberries blends well with the rest of the ingredients, and the soft feta adds creaminess and saltiness.

As it cooks, the omelette creates a nice thin crust around and at the bottom, yet it remains slightly soft, juicy and creamy in the middle. It is like an herby, fluffy cloud that would be a crime to overcook. It is such a treat and a special dish to serve for brunch, lunch or light supper with some good bread. Hope you enjoy it!

Persian herb omelette (Kuku sabzi) with feta

If you can’t find barberries, you can substitute with dried sour cherries or cranberries; however, they’re not the same.

The size of the pan makes a difference as to how many minutes the omelette needs cooking and how thick/thin it will be. My pan has a 24 cm in diameter bottom and I would suggest you use the same sized frying pan. Also, use a frying pan that has curved wide edges, not straight edges, because you will need to slide the omelette onto a plate in order to invert it.

Fresh, young spinach leaves can also be added in this dish so feel free to experiment.

Yield: 8 pieces (enough for 4 people)

6 large eggs
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (if your feta is very salty, use ¾ tsp salt)
Freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp fenugreek powder (ground dried fenugreek seeds)
1 cup (20 g) fresh, flat-leaf parsley leaves and thin stalks, finely chopped
1 cup (25 g) fresh chives, finely chopped
1 cup (10 g) dill leaves and thin stalks, finely chopped
Fresh mint leaves picked from 3-4 stalks, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 large garlic clove, mashed
1/3 cup (35 g) walnut halves (preferably toasted), chopped coarsely
2 Tbsp (12 g) dried barberries
120 g feta, crumbled
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

A few extra chopped herbs, to scatter over the top
Edible dried rose petals, to scatter over the top

Greek yoghurt, for serving (optional)

Special equipment: wide, non-stick frying pan (if it a light pan, it’s even better, because you can easily maneuver it), heatproof soft rubber/silicone spatula

In a medium-sized bowl, add the eggs and whisk them lightly. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, turmeric and fenugreek, and whisk well to dissolve and incorporate them in the eggs. Then add all the chopped herbs, spring onions and garlic to the egg mixture followed by the walnuts, the barberries and the crumbled feta, and mix lightly with the whisk to combine.

In a frying pan (see specifications above) add the olive oil and heat over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the egg mixture, spread it evenly with a heatproof, soft rubber/silicone spatula, shaking the pan at the same time. Turn heat down to medium and cook for 4 minutes, then turn heat down to low and cook for a further 6 minutes until the omelette has set at the bottom and around the edges, and when you shake the pan, it moves, which means that it is not stuck to the bottom of the pan (it should have a very thin crust on the bottom). It should have set on top a bit as well.

Note: While the omelette is cooking, run the spatula a few times around the outside of the omelette as this will give it a nice round edge and will prevent it from sticking to the pan.

Now you need to invert the omelette. To do this, first remove the pan from the heat. Then slide the cooked side of the omelette carefully onto a large and wide enough plate that will fit it all in. Then invert the pan, placing it over the omelette, and with one swift and smooth move, invert the plate so that the omelette falls back into the pan, with the cooked side now up. Return the pan on the heat and cook over a low heat for a 2-3 more minutes. It should be cooked through but remain moist and soft in the center, not dried out. It is a fluffy omelette.

Note: If you’re worried that your omelette will break up if you try to invert it, you can certainly just put the omelette in the oven to finish cooking without having to invert it. Just preheat your oven to 180°C and after the initial cooking based on the instructions above, instead of inverting it, place it on the top rack for 2-3 minutes or until set to cook the top part.

Slide the cooked omelette onto a serving plate or invert it onto the plate, depending on which side looks better (if that matters to you).
You can serve it hot, warm or col, cut into wedges, like a pizza, sprinkled with some more fresh herbs and a few dried rose petals.
Accompany it with some Greek yoghurt and fresh bread or whatever else you wish.