Monday, February 25, 2013

Chocolate - maroon cake (a.k.a. hidden chocolate souffle)

When somebody asks me what kind of cake I want for my birthday? My answer is definitely going to be - chocolate cake with chocolate filling and with chocolate frosting. When we changed our diet into paleo diet, I loved the fact that the chocolate stayed. Of course it was minus sugar, but in my book chocolate is CHOCOLATE,  it doesn't matter what kind. We are very good (or at least we pretend to be, HA HA) with our minus sugar diet. But after our botched Valentines day, I decided to be a little bit naughty and skip our paleo diet for one day and treat ourselves to this amazing yummy miracle. Why miracle? Because this cake comes incredibly close to a chocolate souffle without all the mess of a chocolate souffle. (I am still trying to get over the fact that my man loves chocolate souffle more than me. His own words. If he should pick between me and chocolate souffle.... Yeah, you guessed right. But sometimes I ain't even mad. I mean - it's chocolate. And I'm lucky nobody asked ME what would I pick...)
Originally, it is recipe from Gordon Ramsay's cookbook but obviously it is not his recipe, but someone's named Hugh. Well, thank you Gordon, thank you Hugh, this is MY version of Chocolate-maroon cake.
Lets start.
1. Go for a run. Best choice would be interval running for about 5 km. To alleviate the guilt, of course.
2. Assemble the ingredients:

250 g of chocolate
250 g of butter
250 g of maroon (paste)
125 ml whole milk
125 ml cream
4 big eggs, separated into yolk and white
125 g white sugar
3. Preheat your oven to 170oC. Grease with butter and line cake pan with baking paper.
4. Prepare your hot water bath ,i.e. put a little bit of water into a pot and find a bigger nonmelting bowl to put it on the pot. Break chocolate into pieces. Wash your hands ruefully, because you realize that to start licking your hands at this stage of cooking would be just ridiculous. Add butter. Think to yourself - wow, that's a looot of butter. Slowly melt.

5. Put milk, cream and maroons  into another pot and melt. Thank your neighbors, the Hungarians, for providing this ready-made frozen maroon paste. Start thinking why there is obviously no Slovak producer of frozen maroons and if you should start a new business with producing frozen maroon paste.... Nah...Dismiss.
6. Separate your two home-produced eggs. In your mind, thank your parents for the eggs. Start wondering if their tomcat is doing better and if you should call them to find out. Wake up from your daydreaming and go back to cooking. Decide to exchange the remaining two store-bought eggs for the last two home-produced eggs, when you see how pathetic they look. Decide to have the store-bought ones for breakfast tomorrow rather than to screw up your chocolate heaven cake.
7. Weight the sugar. Realize that that is a looot of sugar. Remember the BBC Addicted to Pleasure series, part about Sugar. Recommend it to everyone. Add yolks and whip it together.

Yellow goodness!

8. Add maroon mixture. Go and find a bigger bowl. Wonder how is it possible that you finished university and have a successful business when you can't even predict the size of a bowl you'll need.
9. Add chocolate mixture (in your bigger bowl).
10. Whip your whites. Slowly and carefully mix into the batter. Ta da!

Sloooowly mixing together

11. Pour into the cake pan, put into oven and wait. Officially, it should take 30 minutes. 30 minutes, my ass! The last time, I cooked it for 90 minutes! So just be patient and watch it with your toothpick ready. This time it took only one hour. (Happy dance.)

Like Kalahari desert - if it had a toothpicky hole

12. Go and take that shower. HA HA. Just kidding.You already took shower ages ago. You wouldn't cook all smelly and sweaty.
13. Enjoy the chocolaty smell in the whole house. And taste. Add whipped cream. Or mascarpone. Or whatever floats your boat.

Chocolate heaven

Eat me! Eat me! Eat me!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Romantic weekend with my ... brother?

Few weeks ago my man arranged a romantic Valentines weekend getaway in the Tatry mountains. Three days of (not only) skiing, spa and great food. But, we have this saying in Slovakia: "Človek mieni, pán Boh mení" as in "We may make our plans, but God has the last word." and unfortunately, my boyfriend got stuck in Frankfurt because his dad is sick. Well, what to do? I was in no mood for romance without him. It was too late to cancel, most of my girlfriends are living out of town or are married or in a relationship. And then I remembered my brother. Recently single and heartbroken and brooding over his breakup. What better way to cheer him up? So I invited him along. We decided to spent two days without thinking about work and doing what we, the Slovaks, do best: drink, eat and relax at spa.

Lomnický peak at High Tatras
I got the short stick in our family

Doing nothing... my favorite

When we checked in with our IDs, I realized that with our same surname, it looked like we were married. LOL. And we had this waiting for us in the room:

How about NO?

But spa was amazing. Well, let's face, it was freezing outside, February is the start of my busiest season at work and I didn't have to work for one weekend and I've just had Pina Colada. Of course, I felt amazing. 

Spa... Oh yeah! Chipping away my reading list.

Later, we decided to check out the disco scene in Tatras. I absolutely adore Humno bar in Tatranska Lomnica. If you ever decide to go to High Tatras, you definitely have to check this place out. They have the best burgers ever! And they have this little weird thing going on - there is Cadillac Escalade hanging from the ceiling about the dance-floor. I have NO idea why. 

At Humno bar... with Cadillac Escalade hanging from the ceiling behind us.

Even though it looks like that it was just us, we had our fantastic friends with us - they weren't couple either, so at the end the romantic weekend was just a long party.
If you are ever in Slovakia for skiing or spa, you should check out Grandhotel in Stary Smokovec

Friday, February 15, 2013

Rome - the holy part

Like everyone else I have many dreams. But some of the dreams I didn't even knew I had, and when these kind of dreams become reality, it's more than amazing. In the wake of pope's resignation this week, I decided to go back into the past (ha! two months) and share my unknown dream that came true - in December I was in Vatican with my choir and on 2nd of December we were at General Audience of pope Benedict XVI. where he personally addressed us. And as I was standing there and the pope spoke directly to us in Slovak and then as I was signing Tu Es Petrus to him, I wondered - how did I get here? How did I, a person who is not even remotely religious, get here, in front of the pope and with this amazing group of people.

Official photo of Psallite Deo at General Audience - this is what pope saw...

...and this is what we saw
I would call myself a passive Roman Catholic. I know the Catholic church and I feel at home with the religion but I could hardly call myself a devout believer. But I am a devout lover of music AND choir music and, fortunately, a longtime friend of our choirmaster. And so I am in this choir of young people, some of them five or ten years younger than me, (ex)students of Catholic school and now my best friends for life.

This is us - Psallite Deo
Our choirmaster, or Maestro as we like to call him, studied Organ music in Rome for two years. This unassuming guy is incredibly talented musician and unbelievably awesome person. Thanks to him and his huge number of contacts in Rome and Vatican city, we had this once in a lifetime opportunity to sing at the aforementioned General Audience. BUT! That's not all. Being so talented and great choir ;) we sang the Sunday mass at 6pm in St Peter's Basilica and we had a concert at ...Ihavenoideawhatthenameofthechurchwas... kidding... kinda.... aha - Church of San Pantaleo. 

After Sunday mass at St Peter's Basilica
As Roman Catholics (plus me) we visited the most important and beautiful churches around Vatican and Rome. And as regular tourists we went to see the Sistine Chapel. What was out of the ordinary, when you know somebody who knows somebody and that somebody is pope's sacristan, you get to see Vatican city from a different point of view. And you may even go to the Sistine chapel alone, with nobody there but you. And  you may even have the chance to take few (riiiiight, few) pictures there, even though it's forbidden. And you may even have a chance to sing there. (You know that story you know your grandchildren will absolutely hate to hear because they will hear it million times? Well, THIS is going to be my story.)

Sistine chapel be continued

Monday, February 11, 2013

Packages... yay!!!

Is there something more exciting than receiving a package in the mail? Well, I am sure there are many more exciting things, but I just love getting packages. Today, I got two.

Aforementioned books. I just love these covers. Don't judge the book by its cover? Meh, I always do.

And then my big package from Gap. The best way to assuage my guilt from the purchase? I asked my mom if she doesn't want something too. MUA HA HA (evil laugh).

My gorgeous suede moccasins. I can't wait for the spring to come. And I can't wait for the trip to Italy in April, there are going to be my go to walking shoes. There are incredibly soft and comfy. And cute!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book Addict

I may have a little problem. I am a book addict - or is it a reading addict? Hm, I really don't know. What I do know, is that I read A LOT. I read every day, I read with every meal, I read after I wake up and before I go to sleep, I read while waiting for somebody or in line. I usually read three to four books in a week. (I counted it!) I will not step out of the house without a book.

yep, sums it up nicely

And thanks to the generation of smart phones I don't have to. I have this cute little reading app on my phone called Aldiko where in few years I managed to collect around 400 books. And that is the crux of the matter. I started to read only ebooks, and mostly romantic novels at that . But I happily continued purchasing "real" books, mostly classics. Mind you, I started to read them, but somehow I never really finished them.
But when my man started to joke around that the numbers of book I am currently reading is undoubtedly double-digit, I told myself - that's enough!
Other people have New Year's Resolution like: lose weight, save money, get a better job... My New Year's Resolution was simple: Read less. Or if you have to read, finish one of the many books you have purchased in the last years.
Since January 1st I finished these "real" books:

And I am currently reading these:

yay, for having books in Russian and Slovak there - pretty uncommon for me

I am still reading on my smart phone and since New Year's I have finished many more books. But I decided not to count the ebooks. ( Just last Sunday I finished three... what can I say, I was feeling pretty sick). I am still an addict, but I believe that I am on my way to recovery. And lets pretend that there is no package with 6 books waiting for me in the post office tomorrow.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Gordon Ramsay's Chicken with Peas Petit Pois a la francaise (Paleo)

Sometimes I am a real workaholic and sometimes I manage to waste a whole week. This week I was latter and I didn't even go to the office on Monday and Thursday! Of course I blamed the government for not issuing tax returns reports for 2012, yet and that I was unable to actually start with the returns. And thus when they DID issue them on Friday, I decided to change my lazy Saturday into working Saturday. And I needed something yummy to ease the pain of it.
So today (Saturday) I woke up pretty early and started cooking a delicious chicken dish according to Gordon Ramsay (and me).

4 large chicken legs or 1 jointed chicken
salt and pepper
olive oil
2 carrots, cut into cubes
2 celery sticks, cut into cubes
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
few sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
150 ml dry white wine
800-900 ml chicken stock
handful parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil
150 g small pearl onions or onions cut into quarters
few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
100 ml chicken stock
500 g peas
50 g butter
2 lettuces or 1 kale, shredded

In a large pot heat the olive oil, season your chicken legs with salt and pepper and fry on medium heat till golden brown. It should look something like this:

Remove the chicken. Add the carrots, onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaves to the pot. Stir and cook over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables are beginning to soften. Pour in the white wine, return the chicken into the pot, pour in chicken stock to cover it all and bring to boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes. 

While you wait, you can take a shower, have a quick paleo breakfast while reading your BBC History Magazine you finally got in the mail:

After 20 minutes remove your chicken, the last 10 minutes cook just the stock. Strain the stock through a fine sieve,  discard the vegetables and return the stock and chicken into the pot.

Meanwhile you can prepare your petit pois.

Heat the olive oil in another pot, add the onions, thyme and bay leaf and saute over a medium heat for 5 minutes. 

Tip: I have a little LIFE CHEAT for fresh herbs like thyme. Since I am horrible at gardening and I killed every basil, rosemary, thyme of mint plant I've ever had, I always buy fresh herbs, put them into zip-lock bag (you can see it in the picture) and stuck it into freezer. And then whenever I need fresh herbs, I just take it out. 
Add the stock, peas and some salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the butter and finally, mix through the lettuce and heat briefly until wilted. 

Serve the chicken with peas and a generous sprinkling of chopped parsley. Or in my case, take a picture, put it into plastic container and head for work.