Saffron buns

 Hello guys! It’s not a secret that I love to bake! And I have to say even more – I’m addicted to pies! :D Every time when I stumble upon a new and interesting pie or cake recipe I’m anxious to prepare it! What does attract you in a recipe? An ingredient, a photo or may be a story behind it? For me an every part is captivating and intriguing! As I’ve already said I love to bake whatever it is, whether it’s a vegetarian or sweet thing, like comforting cabbage bake with farmer cheese or beautiful apple pie with semolina. A long time ago I was browsing the Internet and found one lovely recipe of saffron buns, but time has passed anf it got out of my mind until I bought saffron last week. I was glad to discover the story about these buns, because the story is truly magical and wintry.
Every year on the 13th of December people of Scandinavia countries (Norway, Denmark and Sweden) are celebrating the Day of St.Lucia. It’s believed she brings the light into the longest night of the year. Celebration include a procession of young girls in white dresses and red sashes carrying candles. One girl represented as Lucia – she wear a crown of candles on her head. Girls sing traditional and Christmas songs.
By another Sweden custom at home the eldest daughter arising early in the morning, wearing the Lucia’s costume, awaking the family and serving them coffee and saffron buns.*
St.Lucia buns
 After reading about Scandinavian traditions and stories I decided to make those delicious buns! and by coincidence I baked them exactly on the 13th. I made some research and finally created my own recipe. Buns turned out very fluffy, nicely buttery, with amazing aroma of saffron and not very sweet.
Saffron buns

Saffron buns

  • Servings: 8 buns
  • Time: 3-4hr
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Ingredients St.Lucia saffron buns
120ml full-fat milk
1/2-1/3 tsp saffron threads
45-50g butter, room temperature
250-300g plain flour
4g instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt
30-35g sugar
2-3 cardamom pods, ground, optional
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, optional
1 large egg
60ml sour cream
Preparation method
  • Heat milk with saffron (don’t boil) in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. The temperature of milk should  be not over 40C/104F or should be able to easily hold a finger in it. Add butter, stir to combine.
  • In a mixing bowl sift the flour (250g, then add more if needed), add yeast, salt, sugar and spices if using. Mix.
  • Add lukewarm milk mixture to the flour. Stir to combine.
  • Add egg and sour cream. Mix ingredients until well incorporated.
  • Now on a flat surface knead the dough by hand (or use a hook of your standing mixer) for 10 minutes, until smooth and a little sticky to the touch.
  • Cover the dough and leave it to rise for 1 hour at room temperature or until it’s puffy. You can make the dough the day before, in which case after rising gently deflate the dough, cover and leave in the fridge overnight. Take out an hour or two before shaping, let it gets warm and rise again.
  • Gently deflate the dough, and divide into 8 equal sizes; each piece weight about 70g.
  • Roll each piece of dough at a time into a 38-40cm rope, then shape each rope into S-shape.
  • Place buns on the lined baking tray. Tuck in raisins. Cover with a towel and leave to prove for 30 minutes.
  • Brush with egg wash and in preheated 190C/375F for 15-20 minutes or until they’re golden brown.
  • Take buns from oven and let cool for 4-5 minutes before serving.
  • Serve warm with a glass of milk or tea.

Enjoy the winter season!

St.Lucia saffron buns

Herring under a fur coat or Russian Shuba Salad

 It sounds funny and may be a little weird, but that’s how we called a very popular salad in Russia. Exactly under a fur coat, not in. :) I can’t imagine Russian New Year celebration without this salad. Another nickname or short name of the salad is ‘shuba’, that means fur coat in Russian.
The main ingredients are beets, potatoes and lightly salted herring; the salad is composed of vegetable layers coated with mayonnaise. Nowadays, ‘shuba’ has undergone a number of changes, one add hard-boiled eggs, another omit onions or add  an apple. But the one thing is still constant – the salad is incredibly favoured and beloved by many Russians!
Shuba Salad
 A legend says that such salad was created by a merchant Anastas Bogomilov, who was an owner of the popular tavern and restaurant chain in Moscow at the beginning of the 20th century. It was a time of The Civil War and Revolution in Russia, and taverns’ visitors discussed the Russian future with patriotic fervour, so they became furious and began to fight. And of course, they broke some furniture and smashed plates during their drunken brawls. To avoid it, a merchant devised a stratagem – to make a well-nourishing zakuska (a starter) and a symbol of the public union in one dish. Thus, one of his cooks – Aristarkh Prokopcev prepared and served a new salad ‘shuba’ at the New 1918 Year eve, where red color of beetroots symbolized the red flag, and potatoes were the food of workers and peasants. Shuba was an abbreviation, first letters of a slogan; Sh for Chauvinism, U for Decay, B for Boycott, A for Anathema. Visitors and guests liked this salad and began to order it often. As the salad were fatty, guests couldn’t got drunk very fast, thus scuffles happened rarely and furniture was left untouched.
 Long after, people forgot the origins of the salad, but it became an integral part of the festive new year table.
Russian layered salad - Shuba
Here is my version of the ‘herring under a fur coat’. For the dressing, I usually use only sour cream (it’s healthier), but you can substitute it with mayonnaise, or make it 50/50. Also I add an grated apple – the salad gets freshness, but for someone an apple is unnecessary here. The choice is up to you.

Herring under a fur coat or Russian Shuba Salad

  • Servings: 5-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients
200-300g herring fillet, lightly salted
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 large potatoes, skin on and boiled
2 large beetroot, skin on, boiled or roasted
1 medium carrot, skin on and boiled
1-2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped or grated, optional
1 juicy and sour apple (granny smith is great), coarsely grated, optional
Dressing
100-150ml (15-20% fat) sour cream, or as much as you like
2-3 Tbsp mayonnaise, optional
1 tsp dijon mustard, optional
salt, pepper to taste
Garnish
dill, parsley or chives, optional
Preparation method
  1. For the dressing, mix all ingredients and season to taste, or use only sour cream. You can spread the dressing with a tablespoon, or use a piping bag.
  2. Cover chopped onion with hot water and soak for 5-10 minutes, it helps to remove the bitterness. Then drain water.
  3. Drain any liquid from herring. Cut herring fillet into small cubes. Make the first layer – arrange herring on a serving plate. Spread onion on herring.
  4. Peel vegetables and coarsely grate or finely chop.
  5. Arrange a layer of potatoes. Cover with dressing. Also you can make potatoes the very first layer, if desired.
  6. Spread eggs, if using, and lightly cover with dressing. Also you can top finished salad with eggs.
  7. Arrange a layer of carrot. Cover with dressing.
  8. Arrange a layer of apple. Lightly cover with dressing.
  9. Finish with a layer of beet. You can only top with grated beetroot, or complitely cover the salad. Spread evenly some dressing.
  10. Garnish with chopped dill or chives, if desired.

The salad becomes much better if you refrigerate it overnight (cover the salad with a foil) or for a few hours.

Enjoy!
Herring under a fur coat
I’m linking this wonderful, tasty and festive salad to Fiesta Friday.

Stuffed chicken with beans

 Hello, folks! December just started and I’ve already seen a glorious amount of mouth-watering cookies and holiday cakes! And may be now you are sipping a huge cup of hot chocolate and browsing through the internet, searching for inspiration, new ideas for the Christmas eve, or probably watching snowflakes settle on trees and ground. I can see how it falls only on some websites and photos, so far. :D
 Besides making and baking numerous amount of cookies, we need to cook a normal food as well, or at least order a pizza. You will always have something quick and tasty to eat for dinner with a chicken breast on hand! It is versatile, quick-cooking, protein-rich and low in fat, does it sound tempting? Delicious skinless and boneless chicken breasts stuffed with parsley and cream cheese, covered with breadcrumbs and baked on a bed of beans. This flavorful chicken dish is perfect for any day of the week or dinner occasion.
Stuffed Chicken with flageolet beans
I’m bringing this tasty dish to all beautiful and lovely people, who has been parting at Fiesta Friday (Oh my #45 already), enjoy the dish and the weekend!

Stuffed chicken with beans

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from “one pot meals/hamlyn”
Ingredients
For the filling
90g Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
1 Tbsp finely grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, optional
25g butter, room temperature
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 tsp dried
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/3 tsp freshly ground white pepper
For the stuffed chicken breasts
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 can X 530g (drained weight) flageolet beans
70-80ml chicken or vegetable stock, homemade preferable
70-80ml dry white wine
3 Tbsp coarse breadcrumbs, homemade preferable
1 sprig of fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried
2 Tbsp olive oil+ 1 Tbsp butter, for frying
sea salt, white or black pepper, to taste
Preparation Method
  1. For the filling. In a small bowl, beat cheeses, butter, garlic, herbs and seasoning. Using a small knife, make a horizontal cut in each chicken breast. Divide the filling and pack it into breasts, secure with toothpicks. Season the chicken breasts outside with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil with butter in the casserole and fry chicken breasts on both sides until lightly browned. Set aside.
  3. Put drained beans into casserole, add stock, wine and thyme, season to taste. Arrange the chicken breasts on top. Cover and place in preheated 190C/375C oven for 15-16 minutes.
  4. Put breadcrumbs in a small frying pan with some olive oil and heat until breadcrumbs begin to brown. Set aside.
  5. Remove the casserole lid, spread breadcrumbs over the chicken breasts. Return to the oven for 5-7 minutes.
  6. Transfer the chicken to serving plates, put beans alongside.
Enjoy with a glass of white wine or as is!

Vanillekipferl

 Winter holidays is my favorite time of the year (after birthday)! It seems like people smiling more often, and enjoying cold weather and upcoming festival! We putting up the Christmas tree and decorating it with beautiful toys, buying and wrapping gifts. It’s the right time to plan the holiday menu, whether to roast chicken or prepare the fish pie, make cherry strudel or chocolate cake..
The December would be incomplete without baking! Nothing says it’s holidays quite like Xmas cookies! There is something special about a tray filled with delicious vanilla or cinnamon-flavored cookies.
Baking cookies is such a fun and wonderful event! You can even organize a cookie party, call your kids or friends to help you, to share a holiday mood, and of course to enjoy eating all those treats you’ve made.
I bet you’ve seen crescent-shaped cookies somewhere or may be tried it. These biscuits are very popular in Europe, and especially in Germany, where they’re traditionally baked for Christmas, even though they originate from Vienna, Austria.

Make this season merry and delightful with irresistible vanilla biscuits, that just melt in your mouth! :)
German Vanillekipferl

Vanillekipferl - German Christmas Biscuits

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy to moderate
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Ingredients
200g butter, cold and cut into small cubes
60g icing sugar
a pinch of salt
seeds from 1 vanilla bean, or 1 tsp vanilla extract, or vanilla sugar
1 large egg yolk
100g ground almonds
270g plain flour
+vanilla icing sugar*, for dusting
Preparation
  • *First, prepare your own vanilla icing sugar. Split vanilla pod lengthwise into two halves, and put it in a jar with icing sugar, close tightly. After 1-2 days you will get amazing naturally-flavoured vanilla icing sugar!
  • For the dough quickly mix butter with sugar, salt and vanilla. Mix in egg yolk. Sift flour and add it to the dough along with almonds. Qucikly knead the smooth dough. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  • Divide the dough and form rolls 1.5-2.5cm in diameter. Cut each roll into 5-6cm length slices, and form the crescent shape biscuits.
  • Put biscuits on a baking tray lined with parchment. Bake in preheated 200C oven for 10-15 minutes.
  • Put vanilla icing sugar in a plate, and roll still warm biscuits in it.
  • Let the biscuits cool on a rack.

Enjoy!

German vanilla biscuits

Vegetable bake with mozzarella and bacon

This simple, good-looking and so-delicious bake is a time-saving dish for busy week days, or when you’re tired but still want to prepare homey food. I love one-pot recipes, whether its made on a hob or in the oven, they are always comforting, full of flavor and tasty!
For this bake I used young potatoes, that can be substitute with regular, but make sure to slice it very thinly. Want better and quicker? Use boiled or roast potatoes! For the vegetarian option – omit the bacon.
Also the bake can be great and tasty work lunch, you can see it’s not difficult or time-intensive task. Homemade lunches are definitely healthier than any fast food, you know every single ingredient in it, also you can make it balanced, nutritious and satisfying. Beyond that, such home-packed meals is one of the simplest ways to trim your budget.Vegetable Bake with mozzarella and bacon

Vegetable bake with mozzarella and bacon

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients
6-7 small potatoes
1 leek, chopped
1-2 capsicum
3-4 bacon slices, smoked
70-100g mozzarella, or as much as you wish, cut into cubes
40-50g pecorino or parmesan cheese, grated
1 spring of fresh rosemary, or 1 tsp dried
1/3 tsp paprika
1/3 tsp turmeric
5-7 mix peppercorns (black, white, pink), crushed
fresh basil, few leaves, for garnish, optional
sea salt, to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Grease a baking dish with olive oil.
  2. Slice and fry bacon (without any oil). Transfer to paper towel to absorb exsess fat. Set aside.
  3. While the frying pan is still hot, add leek to it and saute on a medium heat for few minutes. Do not let it brown.
  4. Throughly wash and rub potatoes, thinly slice. Roughly chop capsicums. Put vegetables in a bowl, add 1 Tbsp olive oil, spices, season with salt and stir well.
  5. Spread leek on the baking dish. Add vegetables.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add bacon, mozzarella and pecorino/parmesan, and bake for 5-10 minutes more. If you have grill, put the baking dish under the grill for 5 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle with basil and extra pecorino/parmesan, if desired.
  8. Serve with green salad.

Enjoy!

Potato bake with mozzarella and bacon