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Lately my Google Reader has been full of posts about food – is it the season? I’m not a very interested cook, but I’m a committed foodie. Fortunately I found a fellow-foodie partner and a not insignificant amount of our family budget goes into trying new restaurants and bringing home local specialties (olive oil, honey, tea, wine) from our travels.
To follow the food blogging trend, I’d like to introduce The Brussels Food Club to the world. It’s the brain-child of my friend Inês, a talented amateur cook and professional graphic designer (check out her site at The Avenger Butterfly).
The idea was to challenge our group of friends to try new things and share established favorites with others. Each month we choose a theme, bring one or more dishes to that month’s host’s home, present them to the others, and then… we eat!
So far we’ve had four meetings:
The “Food From My Childhood” Edition
There were probably about 10 different nationalities in a group of about 15 people. So interesting to see the cultural differences. I made my mom’s chocolate salami.
The “Cookies, Cupcakes and Muffins” Edition
This was a special gathering because we all cooked together, divided into three groups (go Cookie Team!).
The “Out of Africa” Edition
My favorite Club so far for the sheer deliciousness of the food. The theme was dishes from Africa, any country. I brought two experiments and mint tea from Tunisia.
The “Exotic” Edition
Last weekend we got together to present our experiments with unusual ingredients. I used persimmons to make a tarte tatin.
Next month it’s the Christmas Edition and I might go to Nigella for some ideas. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Let me introduce you to another compulsory part of every Christmas side-table in Portugal: the Bolo Rei (King Cake). We eat it throughout the holiday season, until about Kings Day (6 January).
It’s doughnut-shaped, and full of dried fruit, inside and out. It symbolizes the crowns of the Three Wise Men: full of jewels! Apart from the fruit, there are two surprises inside: the feared fava bean and the “brinde” or gift. If you get the slice with the bean you must buy next year’s Bolo Rei, but the gift means good luck, although today they’re all but extinct.
When I was a kid, the gifts were tiny metal figurines that I religiously collected. Back then they were only wrapped in a piece of paper before being inserted in the cake dough, but now the world is a much more dangerous place.
Over the years food safety regulations increased to a point where some bakeries started giving the gift separately, so that you could put it in the cake at your own risk. Now gifts are completely outlawed.
Anywhoo, in my innocence I thought there was nothing more originally Portuguese than Bolo Rei, so you can imagine my surprise when my boyfriend, hearing of my plans for this post, tells me that it’s actually a French tradition. A bit of Googling confirms: it was probably invented during the reign of King Louis XIV, but was banned during the French Revolution, only to be back under a more revolution-appropriate name – gâteau des san-cullottes (cake of those without knee-breeches), the name for the radical militants of the lower classes.
The recipe was only brought to Portugal from Paris at the end of the 19th century.
So yes, the origin might be French, but surely we now took over as its symbolic owners, especially when so many cities across the country bake huge Bolo Rei for the whole community, and after the Guinness Book of Records awarded Matosinhos with the prize for biggest Bolo Rei in the world (2.500 Kg, 17 meters, thank you very much).
Recently there have been variations on the Bolo Rei (apricot, chocolate), but I’m a purist. Just because they’re shaped like a Bolo Rei, sold during the time of Bolo Rei and called Bolo Rei, it doesn’t make them a Bolo Rei!
Happy Holidays everyone!
(photo by Andre)
I’m not much of a cook, but once in a while I enjoy baking. I wish I was better at it so the Foodie Challenge: Whip up something new seemed a good place to start. The idea is to each month prepare at least one dish from a new recipe and blog about it.
My commitment is to increase the level of difficulty each month and hopefully by December I’ll be comfortable making profiteroles or a Pavlova. I decided to start with a family classic I’ve never done by myself: yogurt cake. I called my mom for the recipe and in the end I’m rather proud of myself. Just for fun I’ve added some lemon glazing on top. I turned out moist, with an acid-sweet tone, just like it.
And talking about sweet, I’ll post my thoughts on The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen shortly.
Simply Yogurt Cake
1 natural yogurt
3x the yogurt container of sugar
3x the yogurt container of flour
2/3 the yogurt container of vegetable oil
1 tea spoon of baking powder
Mix the egg yolks and sugar until the mix is a soft yellow, almost white. Add yogurt, then flour, baking powder and oil. Mix well. On a separate recipient beat the eggs white until they form and then gently incorporate them into the other mix.
Make sure you oil/butter the baking tray before pouring the final stuff. Bake for around 30m at 150C (pre-heat the over 10m before you put the cake in). You’ll know the cake is ready if you stick a toothpick into it and no bits come attached to it (does that make sense? It’s the first time I write a recipe in English…).
For the lemon glazing I just mixed sugar and lemon juice in a pot until I thought it looked good