One Year Later

Mohnkuchen with Nutmeg & Crème Fraîche Ice Cream


One year ago today, I woke up with an unusually steely resolve for what I was going to accomplish that day: I was going to start a foodblog. It had only been a short time since I had stumbled upon this mysterious universe – a slow day at work and a sudden curiosity about the cuisine of the Seychelles had dumped me unceremoniously in the archives of Chocolate and Zucchini – but my induction had been thorough. I had read my way, feverishly, around the food blogosphere, awed at the effort and talent that people were putting into these online food journals, and absolutely over the moon that there were apparently so many people out there, who like me, couldn’t spend a day without thinking about food. Although it’s very uncharacteristic for me to take any potentially life-altering plunge without thoroughly considering the ramifications  – I am a Libra, after all – this one didn’t require even five minutes of debate. I had just found a community of people all talking about my favorite topic, and what I wanted more than anything was to join in.

I had, at that point, no clear idea of what I was going to write about or how long I would keep going – I just figured I’d write about whatever, whenever, as long as it had to do with food. Somehow that has managed to span everything from hot chocolate to whiskey; haggis to squash blossoms; weddings to breakups; homecomings to home-leavings to family secrets; humorous personal disasters to gut-wrenching faraway catastrophes. Along the way I’ve probably just about managed to circumnavigate the globe in recipes. Reading, interacting, cooking and writing this way have proven to be more than just an ongoing culinary education for me – it’s been an education in culture, in history, and in people.

Just as amazing have been the unexpected and delightful ways in which the consequences of starting this website have spilled over and affected my ‘real life’. The friends I’ve made, both in the flesh and virtually, the countless positive interactions I’ve had with people through emails and comments, and even the professional opportunities that have come my way, have made each and every day of the past year a little bit brighter. Who would have thought that a little food blog could do all that?

And today, 365 days and 86 posts later, the journey still feels like it has barely begun. My passion for food is as great – if not greater – than ever before, and I’m constantly thrilled to discover how many more avenues there are to explore. So to all of you who have taken time out of your busy lives to drop by here and share your thoughts, your knowledge and your experiences with me, and to all my wonderful fellow foodbloggers, who make this community so dynamic, so supportive, and so mouth-wateringly delicious: thank you. You have all helped to make this one decision I have never regretted even for an instant.

And as promised, the recipes:

Mohnkuchen (Flourless Austrian Poppyseed Cake)
Serves: 8
Source: Rick Rodgers’ Kaffeehaus
Notes: This unusual cake caught my eye the first time I leafed through Rick Rodgers’ Kaffeehaus, a gorgeous exploration of the pastry-making traditions of Central Europe. Unlike most poppyseed cakes I’m familiar with, this one contains no flour, instead relying on ground poppyseeds to provide both flavor and bulk. The result is something both visually striking – the color is almost blue-black – and delicious, as the cake is deeply imbued with the poppyseeds’ uniquely nutty, floral fragrance. If you grind them coarsely, you’ll have a lovely crunch as well. Just make sure to purchase your seeds from a place with high turnover (such as a bulk source, or an Eastern European market), as they go rancid and bitter all too quickly. Also note that I’ve suggested some optional flavorings for the cake – while the poppyseeds are good on their own as the original recipe presents them, I think they’re even better with a hint of vanilla, almond or citrus in a supporting role.

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks/150g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 cup (225g) sugar
1 3/4 cups (9oz/275g) poppy seeds, coarsely ground in a coffee grinder or mini food processor
1/2 cup (125ml) heavy cream
flavoring (optional): 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract, and/or the grated rind of 1 orange or lemon
nutmeg & crème fraîche ice cream (below) or lightly sweetened whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Lightly butter an 11×8-inch baking dish (I used a 9-inch/23cm springform pan).

Beat the butter with a hand-held mixer until smooth, about 1 minute. One at a time, beat in the egg yolks and continue beating for another 2 minutes. Beat in the sugar. Using clean beaters, beat the egg whites in another bowl until they form soft peaks. Stir about 1/4 of the beaten egg whites into the butter mixture, then fold in the remainder, stopping before all the whites are completely incorporated. Fold in the poppy seeds, then the cream and optional flavoring. Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Bake until the top of the cake is puffed and lightly browned, about 40-45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before serving.

Nutmeg & Crème Fraîche Ice Cream
Yield: about 1 quart
Notes: I concocted this ice cream on the spot, imagining that the slightly acidic crème fraîche and spicy nutmeg would compliment the mohnkuchen well, especially as I had used orange peel to scent the cake and thought this would make a lovely flavor trinity. It did in fact, and I was also happy to find the ice cream equally good on its own (though I am a nutmeg lover – Manuel, on the other hand, couldn’t get the thought of frozen béchamel sauce out of his head…).

1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
1 cup (225g) sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
6 large egg yolks
2 cups (500ml) crème fraîche (sour cream will do in a pinch)

In heavy saucepan combine cream, milk, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and nutmeg and bring just to a boil. Remove pan fro
m heat, cover, and allow to infuse for 30 minutes. in a bowl whisk together egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar and hot cream and milk mixture in a stream, whisking. Return custard to pan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until it thickens and registers 170°F on a candy thermometer.

Remove pan from heat. Stir crème fraîche into custard until combined well and strain through a fine sieve into a bowl. Chill custard until cold and freeze in an ice-cream maker according to its instructions. Alternatively, freeze in a covered container, stirring vigorously to break up the ice crystals every couple of hours.