Cranberry tart with white chocolate

St. Valentine’s Day is coming, and I’m sure that most of you are looking for something special to surprise your second halves with. Believe me, this tart is exactly what you’re looking for! Breathtakingly aromatic and irresistibly mouthwatering, light and energizing, with crunchy almond basis, sweet-sour spicy cranberry filling, and delicious soft as cloud white chocolate cream topping, it will get right to the heart of that very one! Besides, it’s nothing difficult to prepare and the risk of failure is really non-existent. In case of limited leisure time, it’s perfectly normal to cook this tart step-by-step in different days: to bake the tart base and prepare the cream base the day before, and do all the rest on that very day. And I’m sure that you’ll be amazed no less than your love! Go on, and love for everybody!

You’ll need:
100 g butter, chilled and diced
50 g sugar
1 egg
170 g flour
30 g starch
75 g almonds, slightly browned and cooled down
For cranberry filling:
600 g cranberry
50-80 g sugar
1 orange zest and juice
1 tsp Christmas spices
For cream:
150 g heavy whipping cream (no less than 30%)
150 g white chocolate

Preparation:

  1. Put the cream in a sauce pan with thick bottom, and warm it, constantly stirring, until it simmers. When the first bubbles begin to appear, add chocolate and remove the cream from heat.
  2. Stir the cream actively until all the chocolate dissolves. Let it cool down and put it in the fridge for 6-8 hours min.
  3. Put almonds, flour, and starch in a food processor and blend everything together until almost homogeneity.
  4. Add sugar and butter and mix everything until lumps begin to appear.
  5. Take the dough out of the food processor and use your hands to press it evenly into the bottom and sides of a springform cake tin. Put it in the fridge for 30 min.
  6. Pre-heat oven to 190oC.
  7. Take the dough in the tin from the fridge, cover it with parchment paper, and fill it with ceramic baking beans or just common dry beans or peas. Bake it all together for 10 min, then remove the parchment paper with ceramic beans, and bake for 10 min more. Let the tart base cool down.
  8. Meanwhile, prepare cranberry filling. Put cranberry, sugar, and orange juice in a sauce pan and bring it to a boil over low heat. Cook it until half of the berries pop, for approx. 15-20 min. Remove the cranberries from the heat, and add orange zest and spices. Mix thoroughly and let it cool down.
  9. Pour the berry filling in the tart base and level it out.
  10. Take the white chocolate cream out of the fridge and whip it at the highest speed of your mixer until it adds in volume and becomes airy and fluffy.
  11. Use a pastry bag and your favourite nozzle shape to decorate the tart with white chocolate cream. Use some spare cranberries and rosemary or mint to further decorate the tart and express your love.

Bon appetite!

P.S. Almond can be replaced with any other nuts; best browned in the oven. Regulate the amount of sugar in the filling depending on how sour your cranberry is. If you don’t have a special Christmas spices mixture, fell free to replace it with cinnamon, or mix cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom in equal proportions. And in case you don’t have a pastry bag, take any small but firm packet, cut off a tiny bit of one corner, and use it as a one-use pastry bag.

Brussel sprouts-orange salad

Common cabbage is one of the most traditional vegetables in Ukrainian kitchens with a wide variety of ways of cooking it known to each and every housewife. Yet, we often neglect other, sometimes much healthier, types of cabbage, like broccoli, cauliflower or Brussel sprouts, and our choice of recipes including these vegetables is quite limited. Today, I offer you an extremely healthy (really, it’s like a vitamin bomb), energizing, nutritious and truly delectable salad with raw uncooked Brussel sprouts (and yes, it’s perfectly OK to eat them fresh), completely devoid of any bitterness common to cooked Brussel sprouts. Combined with oranges and hazelnuts, these tiny greens will undoubtedly surprise you and will definitely win a place on your table as a side dish or even a main one if combined with some soft salty cheese or smoked meat. So, go on and experiment!

You’ll need:
400 g Brussel sprouts, top leaves removed, finely chopped
½ red onion, peeled, sliced into half-moons
1 orange zest
1 orange segments
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp oil (preferably olive oil)
40 g hazelnuts
Salt to taste

Preparation:

  1. Put the nuts in a pan and brown them slightly over small heat. Let them cool down, peel them, and divide them into halves.
  2. Put the chopped Brussel sprouts, onion, and orange zest in a deep bowl, salt them, and squash them a little bit. Let them rest for 5 min.
  3. Meanwhile, divide orange into segments and remove the skins.
  4. Add orange segments to the salad.
  5. Mix orange juice (what’s left in a bowl from the segments) with lemon juice and oil. Add it to the salad and mix thoroughly.
  6. Sprinkle the salad with hazelnuts and serve immediately.

Bon appetite!

P.S. Hazelnuts can be replaced with almonds, walnuts, or even poppy seeds.

Biscuits ‘Cheesy cushions’

The holidays have finished and it’s a high time we moved on in our culinary explorations and tried something new. These biscuits are just ideal for this purpose: incredibly easy and quick to make, made of simple enough ingredients, and yet mouth-wateringly delicious. Indulge yourself with these light and soft cottage cheese ‘cushions’ with delicate citrusy aroma and just a perfect amount of dark chocolate sprinkling that will make your winter days just a bit cozier.

You’ll need:
100 g butter, room temperature
200 g cottage cheese, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
120-150 g sugar
250 g flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp orange liquor (may be replaced with orange juice, rum or cognac)
1 orange zest, finely grated
1 lemon zest, finely grated
60 g dark chocolate

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180oC.
  2. Whip butter with sugar until whitened.
  3. Continuing whipping add orange and lemon zest, egg, liquor, and cottage cheese.
  4. Mix flour with baking powder, and add it to the butter-cheese mixture. Mix everything thoroughly.
  5. Cover a baking sheet with baking paper. Use two teaspoons to make biscuits and put them on the baking sheet keeping intervals.
  6. Bake the biscuits for 18-20 min until slightly browned and let them cool down.
  7. Melt chocolate over a Bain Marie. Be careful not to let the bowl with the chocolate touch the water surface.
  8. Put the chocolate in an icing bag or its analogue and decorate the biscuits.

Bon appetite!

Baked vegetables with sesame

The long string of winter holidays has finally come to an end and we’re more and more looking to something light and easily digestible, yet still delicious, to unload our stomachs. This recipe is just perfect for this purpose: potatoes, carrots, and Brussel sprouts baked gradually, step by step, to ideal texture, and sprinkled with sesame seeds and lemon zest for freshness, are perfectly light, dietetic, and truly delectable dish that can serve as a side dish for any meat or fish, or just be eaten alone as the main dish. And don’t you doubt about adding carrots – lots of people, me including, hate baked or boiled carrots, but not in this recipe! Added a bit later than potatoes and cooked for exactly the indicated time, it gets the ideal texture being moderately soft with the appetizing smell of fresh carrots. And seasoned with crunchy sesame seeds, even children wouldn’t resist stuffing these vegetables in their mouths!

You’ll need:
5 potatoes, peeled, roughly chopped
2 big carrots, peeled, chopped
400 g Brussel sprouts, remove top leaves
50 ml oil
3 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder (optional)
1 lemon zest
Salt to taste

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200oC.
  2. Put the potatoes in a big pot, cover them with water, bring them to a boil, and drain them.
  3. Put hot potatoes in a baking dish and sprinkle them with garlic and onion powder. Salt them to taste and sprinkle with half of oil. Mix thoroughly. Bake for 20-25 min until potatoes begin to brown.
  4. Add carrots, sprinkle them with ¼ of oil, mix once more and bake for 10 min more.
  5. Add Brussel sprouts sprinkling them with the rest of oil and adding salt, and bake them for 5-7 min more.
  6. Meanwhile, slightly brown sesame seeds in a dry pan.
  7. Take the vegetables out of the oven, sprinkle them with sesame seeds and lemon zest, and serve immediately!

Bon appetite!

P. S. Try adding soy sauce as well to give a slightly Asian hint to the dish.

Kalach

Ukraine is a country with probably the largest number of winter holidays, including two New Years and two Holy Eves; and the next week we’re going to celebrate the baptism of Jesus, preceding which is still another Holy Eve. It is traditional to celebrate the Holy Eves with twelve Lenten dishes, among which – at least in my family – is kalach, a traditional braided bread sprinkled with poppy seeds. My recipe of kalach is probably the tastiest one I’ve ever tried: soft, aromatic, tender, and literally melting in your mouth! It’s perfectly easy to cook and quite slow to get stale (my record after cooking double portion was one week, and that tiny bit that was left was still soft). To make it more varied, you can sprinkle it with almond flakes, add raisins or some spices to the dough (especially tasty is adding ½ tbsp cardamom pods), or even add jam to the braid! So, even if it isn’t a part of your traditions, I fervently recommend cooking it just to enjoy its softness or to make delicious toasts.

You’ll need:
15 g compressed yeast
125 ml lukewarm milk
¼ tsp salt
50 g sugar
1 egg
320-350 g flour
50 g butter, room temperature
Sugar and poppy seeds for sprinkling

Preparation:

  1. Put yeast and milk in a bowl and mix until yeast completely dissolves.
  2. Whip the egg until homogeneity.
  3. Add salt, sugar, and ¾ beaten egg to the yeast-milk mixture. Mix everything thoroughly.
  4. Add flour in parts and make soft, elastic dough.
  5. Add butter to the dough and knead for 8-10 min until the dough stops sticking to your hands.
  6. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rise for 1 hour until it doubles in size.
  7. Pre-heat oven to 200oC.
  8. Roughly knead the dough once more and divide it into 3 even parts. Roll those parts to make 3 thin long stripes (approx. 25 cm long). Put the stripes parallel to each other and join their ends at one side. Braid them and join their other ends, rolling them slightly inward.
  9. Put your braid on the baking sheet, cover it with a damp towel and let it rest for 30 min more.
  10. Smear the braid with the rest of the egg and sprinkle it with poppy seeds and sugar.
  11. Put your kalach in the oven and bake it for 25-30 min until it browns. Let it cool down for at least 30 min before eating it.

Bon appetite!

Christmas dinner traditions

‘Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright…’

Christmas is coming! And while you’re busy getting ready, buying all the necessary foods, and planning your holidays, I offer you today to learn something new… of course, about Christmas! In particular, about traditional Christmas dinner in main English-speaking countries. And while some details and traditions vary from district to district within even the same country (just think about the differences we have in Ukrainian traditional menus!), here are some classical dishes which are literally the symbols of winter holidays and Christmas in particular in those countries.

The UK
I believe there are few people who haven’t heard about famous Yorkshire pudding, a type of bakery made from a batter of eggs, milk and flour. It’s probably the most English dish ever, which is traditionally served at Christmas as a side dish. What is the main dish then, you may wonder? Turkey! Turkey served with stuffing of sage and onion, roast potatoes, and gravy (a kind of sauce made from drippings of the turkey when it is cooked, mixed with flour to make it thicker). Another extremely traditional English Christmas dish is called ‘pigs in blankets’, which is essentially small sausages wrapped in bacon, mmm…! Among vegetables, the most holiday-like are Brussel sprouts, which are normally served steamed or fried up with bacon, and parsnips. Another quintessentially British dish at Christmas table is cranberry sauce, which perfectly complements turkey, stuffing, and even pigs in blankets. Finally, after you’ve already stuffed your stomach with the main dishes, desserts are coming, the most Christmas-y ones being Christmas pudding (a dark, sticky fruitcake, made of mixed dried fruit, candied fruit peel, citrus zests, brandy, and a rich mixture of spices), usually served with brandy butter (sweet sauce made of beaten butter and sugar with brandy, rum, whiskey, vanilla or other flavourings), and mince pies (tiny pies filled with a mixture of dried fruit, nuts and spices). What’s better than to finish your meal with some spicy rich bakery along a cup of tea or even a glass of wine?

The USA
American Christmas traditions are, – as everything in the USA is, – a combination of different nations’ traditions, including Scandinavian, Italian, French, German, Spanish and others, with British ones predominating. That’s why the core of the American Christmas dinner clearly resembles the British one: turkey, ham, or goose as a main dish, stuffing, roasted root vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy. Further dishes are widely diverse and specific to certain states and regions, like oysters, ham pie, and fluffy biscuits in Virginia; Scandinavian lutefisk (dried fish in lye) and mashed turnip in Midwest; shrimps, Charlotte Russe (a dessert made of a fruit puree or custard in a mold lined with bread, cookies or sponge cake), pumpkin and pecan pies on the Gulf Coast; and others.

Canada
Canadian Christmas table, once more, closely resembles the British one: the same turkey with stuffing, roasted root vegetables, mashed potatoes, Brussel sprouts, gravy, and cranberry sauce. Traditional holiday drink in Canada, though, is eggnog: rich, sweet, milk-based punch, thickened with raw eggs and often infused with alcohol. Common Christmas desserts are Christmas cookies, shortbread (crumbling cookies made with lots of butter), Christmas pudding, pumpkin or apple pie, raisin pudding, fruitcake, and butter tarts (quintessentially Canadian tiny tart with a filling made of butter, sugar, syrup, and egg, and baked until semi-soft).

Australia
Australian Christmas looks completely different from the other countries’: while we associate Christmas with snow and frost and home hearth, in Australia it’s true summer! So, Australian Christmas dinner, although, again, similar to the British one, is still slightly varied: traditional turkey or ham is sometimes served cold, glazed with honey, maple or apricot, with lots of salads, fresh fruit and seafood (prawns, lobsters, oyster, crayfish), with barbecues providing a way to avoid intensifying summer heat with cooking in the kitchen. Unchanged remain cranberry sauce and roasted vegetables. Traditional Christmas desserts are Christmas pudding served with custard, pavlova (baked meringue topped with whipped cream, strawberries, kiwifruit and passionfruit), trifle (sponge cake and fruit with layers of custard, jelly, and cream), mince pies, gingerbread, and White Christmas (a mixture of raisins, sultanas, glace cherries, coconut, icing sugar, milk powder, and rice bubbles, with coconut oil as the binding ingredient).

So, if you’re looking for something new to diversify your Christmas dinner, maybe it’s time to borrow other countries’ traditions and make them yours?

What do you traditionally eat at Christmas table?
Which of the abovementioned dishes would you like to try?

Mulled wine

Mulled wine is a traditional winter drink enjoyed worldwide at various street markets, Christmas fairs, or simply at home. Also, it’s my favourite drink, and I’ve tried dozens of it to find out the ideal one, the one that I’m presenting today, with a festive mixture of spices and a strong aroma of mystery and joy. I’ve always associated mulled wine with a fireplace (although I have none 😊), warm socks (oh, those I have), a cozy blanket, and pristine snow (hope to come soon). Along with mandarins and Christmas tree, mulled wine is the spirit of the Christmas holidays for me. Besides, apart from getting you warm on a winter night and lifting your mood, a side effect of mulled wine is preventing flu and healing sore throat, so why not? What do you associate mulled wine with?

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Brussel sprouts with meatballs

I’m crazy about greenery: aside from being extremely beneficial for your health, it helps you to stay optimistic, energetic and concentrated throughout the week. Obviously, in winter we don’t have many green vegetables or fruit, but, luckily, we have Brussel sprouts! Many people avoid them because of their natural bitterness, yet with this recipe, you’ll doubtlessly fall in love with this precious vegetable! Stewed with carrots and covered with delicious meat sauce with meatballs, it makes for an excellent, filling yet energizing side dish or gravy. So, don’t miss this opportunity while it’s still time for Brussel sprouts!

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Pasta with baked cauliflower

I looove cauliflower; for me, it’s one of the tastiest vegetables ever, and when baked it becomes so deliciously appetizing that it’s impossible to resist! This dish is even more irresistible: just imagine, soft cauliflower baked with spicy garlic, aromatic parsley, creamy pasta, and golden pine nuts, all sprinkled with hard cheese, mmm! Being perfectly easy to cook, light, dietetic, and unquestionably tasty, this pasta is definitely my favourite choice for dinner. So, give it a try!

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November Salad

This vigorous salad is another one of my favourites: juicy, creamy, bright, and refreshing! I suppose you’ve already guessed the reason for its name, haven’t you? Right, these red and yellow peppers and orange carrot make it look like autumn leaves under our feet! And when combined with tender turkey and cheese, it becomes so invigorating, nourishing, and energizing that it can doubtlessly replace your dinner! So, what are you waiting for?

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