Cheese and Cardamom Cocktail Puffs

Of all the nibbles I have offered to my guests over the years, this one, I think, has been the most asked-for recipe.  These, my dear readers, are the cheesiest, lightest, most gloriously flavorsome tiny cocktail savories that I have ever met!  If you love cheese, please, I urge you to make these – they are like all the flavor and richness of cheese but in a light as air and gently spiced puff shape that you pop into your mouth, and… reach for another, washing it down with whatever you happen to have in your drink hand!

Alongside all their culinary virtues, they are also one of the most ridiculously easy things to make, so the reward to effort ratio nears infinity here – my favorite sort!  The only excuse for not posting it here sooner has been the fact that these are usually gone before I have a chance to grab the camera and snap a few photos.

Well, today was different – I made them to take along to an informal dinner this evening, and so they were not ravenously devoured by the hungry horde before I could sneak the camera into the kitchen.  So I did, and now I am posting about them, and then I will pack them into a box, put on a pretty top and head out into the winter night in anticipation of excellent food and a good time, and the rest is history.  Or well, at least now I can just point all the “how do you make those cheese things…?” questions here, and you, too, can make your very own savory and spiced just as you like and oh-so-cheesy and fluffy and light cocktail snacks.

Disclaimer – when I say they are light, I mean it as in not a heavy mouthful of chewy stuff people – this is no diet food of any kind, nor will I make any health claims for it, other than the fact that they are likely still better for you than all their sugary cousins.  So there.

What do you need to make your own?

(This will make about 1.5 baking sheets worth of cookies, depending on how thin you roll the dough and how small you cut them)

  • 3-3.5dl plain flour
  • 3-3.5dl grated cheeses of your choice – I tend to use a mix of about 2/3 random aged cheese such as strong cheddar or brännvinsost (a Swedish cheese made with spiced vodka of a local variety), and about 1/3 of some hard cheese such as Parmesan, Grana Padano and the like.
  • 1/3 – 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 tsp salt
  • 1/5 tsp cardamom seeds (not pods), pounded in a mortar, or a large pinch of ground cardamom.  (Note:  It can probably easily stand up to 1/2 a teaspoon of those really, if you like cardamom!)  Or you can use a little of your favorite savory spice – fennel, rosemary, lavender, whatever floats your cheese!
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 125g unsalted butter (omit salt above if using salted), cut into small pieces

What you do:

  • Preheat oven to 170C (fan) or 180C (regular).  Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
  • Mix flour, salt, cardamom and baking powder.  Add butter and cut in till it is the size of small peas.
  • Mix in cheese and mix till fully incorporated.  Add egg yolk and mix with spatula for a while, then stick your hands in and start rubbing the crumbly stuff together till it comes together into a dough.
  • Wrap dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10-15 min while you clear the counters from the mixing clutter.
  • Flour your work surface and rolling pin thoroughly, roll the dough out to desired thickness (I go for about 5mm, approximately), and use a small cookie cutter to cut these out.  Generally 2.5-5cm is a good size for these.  The ones pictured were made on the small side.  Space cookies about 1cm apart on the baking sheet.
  • Place sheets in oven and bake for 5-10 minutes (depending on oven, thickness and size of puffs, use common sense people!) until puffed up and just barely beginning to turn golden.  You do not want them to brown much at all.
  • Cool on a rack, and place into a baking parchment lined airtight container (a tin box works really well).  Puffs will keep for 3-5 days (if they survive to keep that long!)  I have not tried to freeze them so I have no idea how well that would work, but I would hate for these to get soggy.

In my very biased view – and I am a cheese addict! – these work equally well with a glass of bubbly or a glass of a good red wine, or even a coffee if that is what you fancy.  Me, I will have it all, thank you very much!

The Cat That Got At The Canapes – Happy New Year! And, Bloggers Unplugged tag!

This blog has been quiet over the holiday season.

Ramses and The Salmon Snacks

This is why.  Because in between all the preparation, running around, baking, making tiny snacks, and two bazillion other things, this is, perhaps, the only photo of what we’ve eaten that got taken.  And, right alongside it is the fact that not only did I not have a chance to photograph the food, I didn’t want to be bothered with remembering.  After all, this blog is something I do for fun, and while I frankly enjoy the heck out of writing this, when I am entertaining or being entertained, it may not be the first thing on my mind – nor should it be.

So here, you get treated to a photo of the Cat That’s Got At The Salmon Snacks – and yes, both of them (he has an equally beautiful other half, who is even more pampered) are well-behaved gentlefelines, who do not stick their noses into the food – and they did get treated to both, salmon and snippets of silkily-pink entrecote (ribeye) roast that was served, and much happiness and prosecco (because I like it better than champagne) was had by all!  Belatedly, I also realised that since I was the one taking the photos, I do not have a single one of myself in my floor-length black dress, but fear not – both the dress and I survive, and the one for whom I put it on (other than the mirror!) got to see it, and that’s what matters.

The salmon snacks in question were my real-quick solution to “we need canapes and we need them an hour ago and I am not at home” – tiny crostini topped with bits of folded smoked salmon, dill leaves, a bit of fish roe (not beluga caviar, I’d not treat it so!), and sprinkled with lime juice.  Instant classy canapes!  No recipe needed, and feel free to add what you like – a dab of cream cheese under the salmon, sub lemon for lime or parsley for dill – the crostini is your canvas!

As to the several gorgeous roasted joints of meat we’ve eaten over the holidays – the rack of lamb over saffron rice, the tenderloin with horseradish, and the entrecote roast for New Year’s Eve … no photos.  I will just have to get another one (or several!) and photograph it before it gets eaten!

Oh and speaking about roasts – and gifts – I may not be very commercial-oriented but everyone loves gifts, especially thoughtful ones – I give people fudge.  They think it’s lovely and thoughtful.  Everyone loves fudge!  But, as it happens, I received two amazing foodie gifts from T’s parents – a butane kitchen torch (the pyro in me is hopping up and down like a crazed squirrel!!!  BUTANE TORCH!!!  And, it’s RED!), and Hugh Fearley-Whittingstall’s (aka The River Cottage dude’s) monumental Meat book.  A short browse told me I am as in love with this book as I thought I’d be, and there will be recipes cooked and posted from it, I promise you!  And, I totally need to figure out what to do with the torch.  I am not a fan of creme brulee, but we’ll figure something out!

And now, the other thing!  While I was off partying, cooking and eating and petting the cats, the illustrious deft-fingered Ping of Ping’s Pickings has tagged me in one of those Bloggers Unplugged answer-questions-about-blog things!  And, knowing myself, I do not want to get sidetracked with the eleventeen projects I have planned for after New Year’s (i.e. now), so here we go!

1. What, or who, inspired you to start a blog?

The who is easy – the veritable army of my friends who love eating my food and wanted recipes and all told me I should start “one of those food blogs with pictures and all” and that it’d be great.  They were right.  It is!

The what was slightly different – and it was wanting a place to say what I think about food, eating, food industry, food scams, and other things which outrage me professionally and personally and make me want to stomp my feet and throw things.  That, in combination with loving the idea of typing up my recipes with pictures and all (as suggested) is what resulted in this blog.  Thanks to all those who encouraged it!

2. Who is your foodie inspiration?

There are many.  Since I am entirely self-and-book taught, I do not have a foodie inspiration in my family (no offense, folks, I cook better than any of you!).  So, in no particular order – and at a risk of sounding cliche – of the well-known ones, I have Nigel Slater, Ina Garten, Nigella Lawson, Hugh Fearley-Whittingstall, Andreas Viestad and Marcus Samuelsson.  But, and I would say even more so, I would have to thank a host of other great but lesser-known (perhaps they are less photogenic, or just don’t have what it takes for TV fame, I do not know) cookbook writers such as Debra Mayhew, author of the Cook’s Encyclopedia of Soup, Michele Scicolone for Italian food, Joanna Farrow and Jacqueline Clark, and Louis P DeGouy, whose ancient (originally published in 1911!)  “The Soup Book” taught me what I needed to know years ago when I realised that I love soup and can’t, for the life of me, cook it.  In fact, I think I will have to write several blog posts about my favorite cookbooks and why the are such to do them all justice – watch this space!

3. Your greasiest, batter-splattered food/drink book is?

Mediterranean: A Taste of The Sun by Jacqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow.  With several runner-ups.

4. Tell us about the best thing you have eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?

Another country” to someone like me who’s lived in five different ones, is an interesting thought.  All right, thing I’ve eaten in a country where I haven’t lived – I’ve had the most amazing rock lobster tail broiled with lemon and garlic butter in Yucatan, Mexico.  The special thing about it was that it’d been fished the morning of the day I ate it – and nothing, nothing compares to shellfish when it is this fresh – nor does it need any more frills or trimmings to make it truly shine!

5. Another food blogger’s table you’d like to eat at?

Uuu… so many!  There’s Ping of course!  Though at her table, I might just stare at all the pretties she makes and be afraid to touch them!  There’s Zoe (tag coming your way, Zoe!), whose taste is a near mirror-image of mine (I’m sure I’d eat most anything found on her table at any time!), and there’s Gary whose passion for good meat and wine I share wholeheartedly!  There’s Rufus at whose table I would probably get spectacularly and gloriously drunk on beautiful cocktails and fall under said table happy.  I could go on but like Ping said, it’ll be one humongous table and that’s that – the only caveat I’d add is that I am not sticking any “huge” names on this list.  Why?  Because I suspect some of those people’s tables would be like a tasting menu – lots of frills and not much substance.  Call me eccentric, but I love having some food in front of me, not just a fancily folded napkin on a plate decorated with chocolate sauce and gold sprinkles!

6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?

I am greedy.  What I would like, is a larger kitchen, to be very honest, or a house with a yard where I can have a properly huge grill.  Barring that, I would love an Electrolux Assistent (Swedish answer to Kitchenaid Mixer), or another large stand mixer like it – I am tiny short (154cm in my socks!), and though really high heeled house slippers help (15cm and platform!), using a hand mixer over a bowl on a counter made for people 15-20cm taller than me is exhausting to the back.  That said, my original wish was for a dishwasher for same reason – handwashing dishes over a tall sink is painful! – but my amazing bf bought me one already.

7. Who taught you how to cook?

Self taught, entirely.  See #2.  As I don’t watch TV (haven’t owned one in years), it’s cookbooks all the way!

8. I’m coming to you for dinner, what is your signature dish?

A large piece of good beef, roasted medium-rare, with green salad and homemade sourdough bread.  Preceded by some sort of soup, and followed by either a cheese board with fruit, or a cake.  That said, I now have a new favorite signature dessert and that’s Margarita cookies!  Ye gads, and now I want to go make a batch of those again!  No!  Not till the happy pounds are off!  Only meat and fowl and seafood and greens and tons of butter and cheese till then!  :D  Don’t you just love my weight-loss habits?  The boyfriend does!

9. What is your guilty food pleasure?

Cola (coke or pepsi) light (sugarfree) and Twix™ Ice Cream Bars.  I did say diet because I can’t stand the sugar in the regular – but I still think that the drink is a vile commercial brew that I shouldn’t touch.  Yet when I am out and it’s hot and I need caffeine, there I go.  And the twix ice cream?  No words.  Just try the stuff, it’s dangerous!!!

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

Uhm… other than things that really don’t need to get mentioned on a food blog, I am not sure, actually!  I babble a lot about everything, and I tend to be really upfront about my origins, education, likes, dislikes, etc.  But… there was this one time that I got so distracted chatting over skype with my then freshly-new long-distance boyfriend (still my much-beloved boyfriend I live with now) that I burnt an entire potful of fudge.  Completely and irreversibly ruined.  The horror!  The sacrilege!  Yep, I was already that much in love!

I hope you enjoyed reading the ramblings and babblings, and didn’t fall asleep till we got to this point!  And now, for the last bit:

Zoe – tag, you’re it!

Mini-Pizzas – Canapes For The Hungry Guests (And Hosts)

Many holiday parties aren’t actually dinner parties – they are an invitation for drinks (of whatever description), and canapes (snacks, hors d’oeuvres, whatever you want to call them).

Tiny canapes are well and good, and I actually love eating them, and even making them (though perhaps not for a very large number of people at a time!), but for me, it goes against the grain to not give my guests (and myself!) something substantial to munch on, however, and these, found and adapted from my now-much-used holiday edition of a Swedish baking magazine, are one of the better solutions.  First, who doesn’t love pizza?  Ok, I’ve met one person who doesn’t, but she’s an exception – most people love pizza.  Second, they aren’t difficult (or expensive) to make, and third, they are delicious, with just the right combo of crunch and chewiness to the crust, and a savory bite of the toppings.

The dough is yeasted, but it only (really!) does take about an hour to rise, and it’s made with plain (non-high-protein) flour, which makes it very easy to work with.  And think of it this way – even if the dough rounds look a bit clumsy before raising and baking, they all puff up deliciously and look great afterwards!

What you need (makes ~20 palm-sized pizzas):


    • 1/4 packet dry yeast (about 1 heaping teaspoon)
    • 2.5 dl (1 cup+ 2 teaspoons) finger-warm water
    • A pinch of sea salt
    • 1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 7dl (3 cups) plain flour

Toppings (what I’ve used):

    • Extra-virgin olive oil and a pastry brush to brush it on
    • A handful of oil-packed sundried tomatoes, cut into thin strips crosswise
    • ~10 slices of spicy cured chorizo sausage (the large-cross-section salami sort – if you have a thinner cured one, slice it thinly and use as much as you need)
    • A couple of handfuls of shredded hard cheese (parmesan, romano, asiago, gran moravia or grana padano or whatever you like)
    • Dried oregano to sprinkle
    • Black pepper or chili flakes to taste
  • Other suggestions include:
    • Some pitted and halved olives of your favorite sort
    • Pine nuts
    • Chopped parsley leaves

What you do:

  • Mix all dry ingredients of dough together (including dry yeast) in a bowl.
  • Add the water and then the oil, and mix together.
  • Allow to stand 10 minutes, then knead (I use a handheld mixer with dough hooks but a stand mixer or your own hands would do) until smooth and elastic.  The dough will become “friendly” (stick to itself more than everything else) but will be quite soft.  If you must add flour, do so sparingly, you do not want to make the dough hard.
  • Place in an oiled bowl, turn, cover with cling film (plastic wrap), and a towel and place in a warm place to rise for 30 min to an hour or until doubled in size.
  • Preheat oven to 200°C  (Ovens vary.  Mine has the no-fan option which is what I use).  Cover two baking sheets with baking parchment.
  • Prepare your toppings – shred cheese, cut tomatoes, scizzor slices of chorizo or salami into 1cm square-ish bits.  Put in the fridge (mostly for sake of cheese here, so that it doesn’t get warm and soggy).
  • Punch down the dough, knead it lightly, and roll into a sausage.  Cut into halves, then again and then into ~5 pieces each to make 20.
  • Roll the bits into balls and allow to sit under a slightly-damp kitchen towel while you work (to prevent drying).
  • Take balls of dough one by one, and gently flatten them with your hands, then pull the edges gently to enlarge the circle until they are about 10cm on a side.  Place them on the baking sheets a few cm apart.
  • (This step is entirely optional – but helped me.) After you have finished all the rounds, it helps to start with the ones you did first as they had some resting time, and pick them up and stretch them a bit more if it looks they could use it.  The dough will be easier to handle at this point – do not tear.
  • Place the re-stretched pizza bases on the sheets (still spacing them out to allow for expansion), cover with cloth kitchen towels, and allow to rise for about 20 minutes.  They will puff up visibly.
  • Brush each round with a little bit of olive oil, leaving approximately 1-cm margin (this is roughly, if you splat oil around it’s not a problem of any sort), and then top with a few squares of salami or chorizo, and a couple of strips of sundried tomato.  Or whatever else you like.
  • Sprinkle with dried oregano and grind a little bit of black pepper on top.  Add a small heap of shredded hard cheese onto the middle of each pizza.
  • Place sheets in the oven.  I did this sequentially, but you could also up the temperature to 210°C and put both sheets in, and swap them top to bottom halfway through baking.  Bake for about 10 minutes, but watch the pizzas the entire time – as I’ve mentioned many times, ovens vary and I do not know yours!  The cheese can burn really quickly if you leave them in.
  • When pizzas are puffed up more, crust is golden and the cheese is melted and golden as well, take out and cool on a rack.  These are fine to serve warm or at room temperature – they get a wonderfully crunchy crust when they cool down just a little.

Enjoy!  And if a stray guest wanders in having not had dinner, then just hand him or her a few of these, and problem solved!