Bruadarach

Scottish Gaelic: Dreamer, Visionary

Month: September 2013

Mick Photo A Day

9678711011_ed521f2922_o When I did the Photo A Day challenges last November and in June, I found that everyone loved pictures of my husband Mick. I obviously knew how photogenic he was, but the reception was very positive. On top of that, I don’t have much experience taking photos of people other than snapshots of him in front of something. That’s why for September, I challenged myself to take all photo prompts with Mick in them. The fact that we spent most of September on holiday in Scotland helped of course. It would’ve been much harder taking a photo a day of him which fits the prompt if we were working and the only possibility would be to take pictures in the evening, mostly at home.

Three weeks in Scotland gave me plenty of opportunity to take fitting pictures of him, experiment with portrait photography, show off the stunning countryside and even leave me with a few photos to fill the rest of the month when we were back home in Vienna.

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After 30 days of photos from Mick, I’d say I’ve learned a lot about taking photos of people. It’s easiest with a willing model obviously and I’m very thankful that Mick was happy to go along, jump along, pose and do silly things to fit the different prompts. Making whoever you take photos of feel comfortable enough to do creative or weird things is the best way to get candid shots – even if the person is looking into the camera. You get the feeling they are just talking or gesturing to the person behind the camera, not thinking about the photo itself.

All of the shots were taken with natural light, which is quite easy with Scotland being one of those places where you get quickly changing lightning and most of it is fantastic. For now, I’m taking a break from the daily photo prompts, maybe getting back to it after a few months have passed. I hope you enjoy the photos I took of Mick around Scotland! 🙂

You can find all the photos in the Flickr Album “September Photo A Day“.

Cookbook Challenge 7 – Great British Pub Food

Going with the Brit- theme, I decided to make the whole meal out of or inspired by the same book. For the main course I went with a pork belly roast and pan haggerty. Since we had guests over, the amount was just about right…

 

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Pork Belly and Pan Haggerty

1 pork belly with rind
salt, pepper
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or pressed

600g firm, waxy potatoes
3 large onions
100g strong cheddar (i used strong Tyrolean mountain cheese. if you like cheese a lot, you might want to use more than that)
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
20g butter, melted
salt, pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 190C. Cut lines into the rind of the bork belly, first vertically then horizontally, about 1 cm apart. Pat the belly with kitchen cloth to make sure it’s dry. Put oil in a tray with garlic and put the belly in, rind up. Make sure no oil gets on the rind, if you want it crusty. Put a lot of salt on the rind – this draws out the water and makes a nice crackling. Put the pork belly into the oven, after 30 minutes reduce the heat to 170C and roast for another hour. I put more salt over the crust after about 45 min, to make sure it would be extra crackly.

The pork roast will take about 90 min in total in the oven, whereas the pan haggerty needs about 30. Make sure you can fit both in together, so you can serve both hot and fresh.

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Thinly slice the potatoes, grate the cheese and put it aside. Heat oil in a pan and sweat the onions for about 8 minutes, until they are soft. Put oil in a pan or oven form (I don’t have a pan that fits into the oven, so I just made it in an oven form), then put in a layer of potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, then put a layer of onions and a layer of cheese on top. The recipe suggests brushing the potatoes with melted butter, but I advise to go easy with it so that they won’t get too greasy. Put the layers on top of each other until you end up with a layer of cheese on top of the form.

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If you make it in a pan, put it over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes until the bottom layer is brown. Then transfer it into the oven. If you did it in an oven form, put it into the oven straight away. Bake them in the oven for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender. If the cheese isn’t golden brown, increase the heat for a few minutes or turn the grill on. 15 minutes before everything was done, I added peppers in the tray with the pork roast.

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Both dishes turned out super. I will use less or no butter in the potatoes next time, but it wasn’t really a bother. They tasted great and the cheese was nicely melted and crispy on top. The pork was fantastic. The crackling was firm and stayed like this even until we had the leftovers cold.

Cookbook Challenge 6 – Great British Pub Food

Once more, I go back to Blighty, with Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Pub Food cookbook. As always, I didn’t follow the recipe to the dot, so you’ll see what I actually did and how. One reason was that fresh sea fish is hard to come by in a landlocked country like Austria. For some reason, I was drawn to a Scottish recipe again. The challenge was alcohol in the recipe, which was a bit of a challenge for me since I don’t drink it and only seldom cook with it. But since I was drawn to a fish soup, a bit of white wine would go just fine in there.

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Cullen Skink

500g smoked haddock filets (I had to use frozen white fish for the lack of haddock)
500ml whole milk
bay leaves
20g butter
5 shallots, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
600g waxy potatoes
500ml chicken or fish stock
100ml double cream
100ml dry white wine
salt, pepper, olive oil, parsley leaves

 

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Put the fish in a big pan, cover it with milk and add the bay leaves. Heat the milk up to a simmer and cook the fish for about 5 minutes until it is firm. Take the pan off the heat and put it aside.

Sauté the shallots and the garlic in the melted butter. Cut the potatoes in small dices and add them to the pan. Pour the stock and the wine in, cook for about 10 minutes and stir until lightly golden.

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Take the fish out of the milk and flake the flesh. Make sure there are no skin and bones left. Pour the milk over the potatoes, and cook it on a simmer until the potatoes are soft.

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Add a quarter of the fish and the cream to the soup, then remove it from the heat. Blend it with a hand blender, then put it back onto the heat. Reheat it and add the rest of the fish. Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle olive oil and parsley over it and serve with dark crusty bread on the side.

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It is really a comforting, autumn or winter soup. For summer it’s a bit too warm and heavy. As soon as it gets cooler though, I’d happily make it. I like fish soup, and the potatoes and the milk just make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Cookbook Challenge 5 – Crèmes Brûlées

A cookbook full of crème brûlée recipes, straight out of Paris, that must be a winner. I was incredibly intrigued by the different flavours they suggested to put in. That being said, I’m usually rather conservative with my crème brûlée. I once had a lemongrass one, and it wasn’t my piece of cake. So I was going to make sure I’d make one that fits – at least in my head – better with the vanilla and caramel flavour of the original recipe.

The extra challenge was to change an ingredient – since I didn’t have vanilla extract at home, I just used vanilla sugar instead. I moved past the savoury crème brûlées – I wasn’t THAT adventurous – and settled on a coffee one.

 

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Crème Brûlée au Café

10 cl milk
30 cl liquid crème fraîche
1/2 tea spoon liquid vanilla (i used vanilla sugar, but fresh vanilla is possible too)
10 cl of strong, fresh coffe
3 eggs
3 egg whites
100 g of icing sugar
1 spoonful ground coffee
50 g castor sugar
80 g brown sugar

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Preheat the oven to 210C.

Heat up the milk, cream and vanilla sugar in a large pot and bring it to the boil. Then add the coffee and take it off the heat.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs with the icing sugar until it’s even and foamy.

Mix it into the pot with the milk.

Put the forms for the crème brûlée into a water bath and pour the mix in.

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The crème needs about 30-45 min in the oven, depending on the size. Turn down the heat after 10 minutes because the water from the water bath shouldn’t boil. With a toothpick you can test if the crème is ready – if you stick it in, there should be no soupy cream stuck to it anymore. The top usually ends up brown.

When it’s finished, take it out of the oven, let it cool down and then put it in the fridge for about two hours. It’s not an absolute necessity, but it helps the crème settle.

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For the crust, mix the castor sugar with the ground coffee and spread a layer on the crème brûlée. Afterwards, put a layer of brown sugar on top of it. Caramelise it under the grill for about 5 minutes or with a crème brûlée torch. The crust gets darker with the coffee grains in it, at first I thought it was a bit burnt.

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This is where my biggest criticism of the cookbook comes in – the time and temperature in the oven were completely off. According to the book, it would’ve been 45min at 110C. I lost track of time, and when I checked after 55min, it was still a caramel soup. Since I had put them in glass forms, it was clearly visible that there was still a lot of foam on top an it hadn’t settled at all. Then I went back to my La Bonne Grand Mère cookbook (one of my favourite ones, which I mentioned in the introduction), where it states actually 210C. So I turned the heat up and about 15min later they were finally ready. The quantities were spot-on, but the timings were off. Luckily, I had made crème brûlée already multiple times, I knew what to look for as far as consistency is concerned and how to check. I would use the cookbook again, but rely more on experience than their suggestions when it comes to the oven.

The crème brûlée itself was really nice with a subtle hint of coffee. The taste of coffee might get lost if you have it with a cup of coffee, so you might want to have it with something else. It can always taste more like coffee in my opinion, but that’s a thing of taste. Crème brûlée is one of my favourite desserts so I wouldn’t have gone too crazy with it. I certainly enjoyed it with the coffee flavour and would definitely make it again.

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