Along the Grapevine


17 Comments

Spicy Buckwheat Apple Cake with Sea Buckthorn Icing

DSC03246.JPGI have made more than a few recipes lately with the applesauce about which I wrote last week. All were good, but this one I particularly wanted to share as I thought it ideal for the fall season. It has the delicious, almost nutty flavour of buckwheat which makes it gluten free and is lightly sweetened and spiced. Once I was satisfied with the texture and flavour of this cake, I ‘tarted’ it up with an icing made from sea buckthorn berries, another ingredient I wrote about recently. Although I have made a few recipes with this superfood, this is the first where it was not necessary to cook the berries at all.

Rather than cooking before straining, I simply pressed them through a garlic press to extract the juice. You only need a small amount, so this is very easy to do. The flavour is perfect in an icing, tasting like a mixture of orange and lemon – but oranges and lemons don’t grow in my backyard so they don’t make it into very many of my recipes.

Spicy Buckwheat Apple Cake with Sea Buckthorn Icing

1/3 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 Tbsp ginger juice plus 1 tsp dried ginger (or if no fresh ginger is available, 2 tsp dried ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp soda

2 cups buckwheat flour

Cream the oil and add the sugar gradualy. Add the eggs, yogurt, applesauce and ginger juice. To make ginger juice, take about 1 sq. inch of fresh ginger, chop it and press it through a garlic press. Mix the dry spices, soda and flour  and add gradually to the wet mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F in a greased 9 inch square pan for 35 minutes.

Serve as is, or ice it once cool.

For the icing, soften 1/3 cup coconut oil or butter. Gradually add 1 cup icing sugar, and between additions add about 3 Tbsp sea buckthorn juice.

This recipe can be baked in different forms. I did some in small muffin tins, perfect for freezing for when emergency snacks are called for.dsc03223

Linked to Fiesta Friday #142, Foodbod, and O Blog Off


12 Comments

Cranberry and Sea Buckthorn Sauce

A delicious variation of the classic cranberry sauce, this recipe combines beautifully the tart fruity flavour of sea buckthorn with cranberries.

This Thanksgiving weekend in Canada I have been hearing lots of discussion on the topic of traditional dishes for this celebration. Among the things I have learned, cranberry sauce is a must, but few people actually like it. I suspect they are talking of the tinned variety, in which case the disdain is well earned, but cranberry sauce is arguably the easiest part of the menu, and making it with fresh berries is about as easy as boiling water. I usually just mix it with a little sugar or honey and water, and if available orange juice instead of water and some orange zest. It goes well not just with the turkey and dressing, but with any vegetarian alternative, with crackers and cheese, and best of all in sandwiches.

This year I decided to add some of my own garden produce – namely sea buckthorn which is now ripe and ready to be picked. If you are not familiar with this berry, please refer to this post. Although this berry is not native to here, it is making its way into markets as its nutritional benefits and sharp flavour are becoming recognized.DSC01282The best way to extract the juice from these berries is to cook them in a pot with a little water for a few minutes, then strain them. The less water you use, the better, but be sure to use enough the pot doesn’t boil dry.

For my cranberry sauce, I used 4 cups of fresh (or frozen) cranberries, 1/2 cup honey (or sugar) and 1 cup of strained sea buckthorn juice. Heat to a gentle boil until the berries start to pop and are all soft. Add more sugar or honey to  taste if you want a sweeter sauce.

DSC03235.JPGDon’t worry if it looks a little runny – it will thicken as it cools. Store any leftovers in a covered jar in the fridge where it will keep for at least 2 weeks. This recipe may even be the biggest hit of your festive dinner this year.

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #140, Hostess at Heart and Fabulous Fare Sisters.


28 Comments

Sponge Cakes with Crabapple and Sea-buckthorn Jelly

Someone who knew I wouldn’t let them go to waste gave me a few crabapples from her garden – small yellow ones about the size of cherries. There are so many ways I could have used them, but given the rich flavour and high pectin content of these mini fruits, I decided to make another jelly with them. Crabapple jelly is not worth writing about in itself, and it combines so well with other fruits and berries, I knew I could come up with an original recipe. I had been wanting to make sea-buckthorn jam or jelly too, and by using little crabapples I could do this without having to add any commercial pectin – or even make my own. If you are unfamiliar with this particular berry, please refer to this post. I also wanted to make a jelly with honey, since my Japanese quince honey paste was so successful.

DSC01435 DSC01441

For Angie’s Fiesta Friday #39, I wanted to showcase this gorgeous jelly in a way that would get her guests’ attention, but with a recipe that would fit into our household’s diet. We don’t consume much cake, but if it is something I can put part of in the freezer for an emergency, it takes away the guilt of either over-eating or over-wasting. So I decided to make a very plain Victorian sponge and jazz it up by filling it with my jelly. No rich icing, no butter or oil, just a light fluffy casing for the best jelly ever!

To make the jelly, I used 2 parts by volume of crabapples and 1 part sea-buckthorn. If you are curious as to what sea-buckthorn is, refer to this post.

DSC01442

No need to peel, core or even remove the stems from the apples. I simmered the apples keeping them well covered with water at all times. Once they were really soft, I added the berries and simmered just a couple of minutes longer. Other berries could be used with this same method.

I strained the mixture through a clean tea towel and let sit overnight. Do not press any of the pulp through. I measured the liquid and added an equal amount of honey. At this point, you should taste it for sweetness, and the amount of honey you need will vary depending on the sweetness of the fruit and berries. Don’t get carried away though, because too much sweetening tends to detract from the taste of the main ingredients.

Allow the mixture to simmer until it is jelled. To check, I put a small amount in a chilled saucer (or in my case egg cup) and let it sit a couple of minutes. When it has reached the right consistency, set to cool.

Instead of a murky orange mixture which I was expecting, it turned out deep red and very clear. You can taste all three ingredients, and they meld very well together. It has a stronger flavour than most fruit jellies I have tried, but no hint of bitterness at all.

You can use any sponge cake recipe, but I used gluten-free cornflour. To make this cake, you will need 3 whole eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 3/4 cup of cornflour, 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt. I also added a couple of cardamom seeds (optional), which I ground with the sugar for a super fine consistency.

Beat the eggs a lot, until they are really fluffy. Add the ground sugar gradually while still beating, making sure the sugar dissolves after each addition. Sift and fold in the dry ingredients. Fill 12  individual cake liners about three quarters full.  Drop a spoonful of jelly on top of each cake. The jelly will sink, so no need to cover them. Bake at 350 F for half an hour until crisp and golden on top.

Dust with a little icing sugar if you like just to make them a little prettier. If you want an entire cake, you could bake it in a cake tin, slice in two when cool and spread the jelly in the middle in a sandwich form. This would be a better way to preserve the integrity of the jelly, which when baked got partially absorbed into the spongy batter.

DSC01444

DSC01447


28 Comments

Sea Buckthorn leather: A Roll-up for Grown-ups!

DSC01282

Berries on female bush

This is my third post in a row using berries. The first were juicy sweet blue black nannyberries, the second sour red sumac, and this one is a bitter sweet bright orange sea-buckthorn, or hippophae rhamnoidas.

DSC01283

Male bush

This is a berry I began using when living in Russia and Central Asia, and one I thought I would miss when I returned home. Luckily by then (2007), the cultivation of this had finally arrived in the new world, and although it is far from common, I am sure you will begin finding it in good farmers’ markets before long if you haven’t already. And when you do, I hope my ideas will inspire you to give it a try. Since it can be grown in a cold climate like ours, perhaps people will realize we don’t always need exotic berries from other continents to enhance our diets. How nutritious is it? Just let me say that Ghengis Khan used it as nourishment for his army!

I first came across it at a garlic festival in Perth Ontario, and shortly after found some shrubs at a nursery in the east end of Ottawa. That was about 6 years ago. I have now had two harvests from my three surviving female bushes – I have only one male but he is doing his job well on his own.

I should clarify for those who are turned off the word buckthorn – a nasty, invasive plant that grows around here. This is not a buckthorn really, and have no idea why it has been given that off-putting name. As for the prefix sea, it is not because it grows near the sea. I don’t know for certain, but perhaps it is named so because when you see fields of it blowing in the wind, the delicate silver-green undersides of the leaves make the plants look like waves on the sea. That is just my humble thought.

DSC01286

Bushes blowing in the wind

You are most likely to find this berry as an ingredient in health and beauty products, and it is being touted by some as the greatest superfood out there. I prefer mine unprocessed, and eat it either fresh or steeped in hot water. The flavour is so intense, you can use the same bunch of berries for several infusions. If you find the flavour too strong, it could be mixed with sweet fruits, like apples, pears or peaches.

DSC01285

For this week’s Fiesta Friday, I decided to make a fruit leather. I have never made, or even bought or eaten fruit leather, but this seemed like a good time to start. I collected 6 cups of berries, then strained them through my apple sauce mill, but you could also use a blender or food processor and then strain. I mixed the juice with 3 Tbsp of liquid honey and poured it into a lightly greased, parchment lined cookie tin. I put it in the oven a 170 F for about three hours, at which time I noticed the carroty orange colour was getting darker, but it looked too runny for comfort. I therefore sprinkled evenly on top 3 Tbsp of chia seeds, hoping that would absorb the extra liquid. I returned it to the oven for another 9 hours, at which point the fruit could be peeled easily off the parchment, but it was still flexible and soft.

DSC01290

It has a soft and chewy texture a very intense flavour, tart like a lemon but caramelized. For a less intense flavour, I would mix it with a sweet fruit, or add just a little to any other fruit leather recipe.

A big thank you to Angie and her co-hosts Selma and Elaine. A little tardy this week, I am heading over there now to see what treats await me.


3 Comments

Sea Buckthorn

Sea buckthorn berries from Russia

Sea buckthorn berries from Russia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unless you live in North West Europe or Asia, you are not likely to come across this bush in your foraging expeditions, but luckily the plant has been introduced recently to the Americas and is gaining popularity for its health benefits, taken either internally or topically. Occasionally it can be found at farmers’ markets in the fall, and all kinds of beauty and medicinal products are appearing in pharmacies and on- line.

I was drawn to it long before I realized how healthful it is – it has a tart flavour and beautiful colour of leaves and berries, so I planted some in my garden five years ago and transplanted it when we moved one year later. The surviving four of the five original plants did not look promising, and I feared I maybe had bought all of the same gender (you need male and female plants). I was really excited when this year the three smaller plants produced an impressive quantity of fruit.

100_0680

If you are interested in reading more about this super plant, check out this site and this blog.

As it is not the easiest thing to pick, I harvested only about half, and so far have frozen some for further use, and used a few to make a Sea Buckthorn infused vinegar. This being my first attempt at using it, except as fresh berries, I wanted to keep it simple, and maximise the use of the few berries I managed to pick. The branches are thorny, and the berries grow so close to the branches that it was a bit of a challenge. Just remember when you see the high prices of the products made from these berries, that might be the reason.

To make the vinegar: Put a handful of berries into a clean mason jar. Cover with organic cider vinegar. Weigh the fruit down so none of the berries is floating on top and exposed to air. I used clean marbles wrapped in cheesecloth. One common method is to put water in a sealed plastic bag, but I did not want to submerge plastic into my pristine vinegar. Leave it in a cool dark place for a couple of weeks. This is particularly good on coleslaw. Sprinkle a few berries right into the salad.