I posted a recipe about a loaf of bread a few days ago, mentioning that it’s the perfect bread to have with those early autumn stews. Well, it turns out I’m not yet ready for those early autumn stews. I still, inexplicably, long for strawberries, cold watermelon, summery salads & even more summery barbecues. I also wish I could turn back the time & have that missed summer holiday at a small, distant greek island… and mostly, I long for the sea. The closer I got to my longings this summer was a dip in a swimming pool here in London, when I was 9 months pregnant (it was wonderful, but when it’s the aegean you’re longing for, a swimming pool in North London simply won’t cut it).
So here I am again posting another summer recipe, taken from Tessa Kiros’ mouthwatering book ‘Falling cloudberries’. Kiros describes this as a finish cake… but I think it’s suitable for a summer celebration (or, ok, an early-autumn-wishing-it-were-summer celebration) anywhere in the world. It’s a delicious, delicate & light cake. It’s also easy to make. Highly recommended!
Sipi’s strawberry cake (from Tessa Kiros’ Falling cloudberries: A world of family recipes’)
- 220 gr (1 3/4 cups) cake flour or plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 180 gr (3/4 cup) sugar
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 180 gr butter, melted
- 185 ml (3/4 cup) warm milk
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 800 gr strawberries
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons icing sugar
- 750 ml (3 cups) thick double cream
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (gas mark 4)
- grease & flour a 22 cm springform cake tin, or a bundt pan
- put the flour & sugar in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of the baking powder
- Mix in the butter & then stir in the milk
- Add the egg yolks & vanilla & beat in well
- Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, incorporating the rest of the baking powder when the eggs have started fluffing up
- Fold the whites into the cake mixture
- Pour the batter into the cake tin & bake for about 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean & the top is deep golden & crisp
- Remove from the oven & leave to cool a bit before turning out onto a rack
- When cool, slice the cake in half horizontally & put the bottom half on a large serving plate
- Clean the strawberries& hull them (leave a few unhulled, if you prefer to see them that way on the top of the cake)
- Dice about half the strawberries & sprinkle with a little lemon juice & 1 tablespoon of the icing sugar
- Whip the cream into stiff peaks with the remaining icing sugar
- Mix the diced strawberries with about a third of the whipped cream & spoon over the bottom of the cake
- Put the other half of the cake on top & thickly spoon the remaining cream over the top & side, then decorate with the rest of the strawberries.
- This is best eaten immediately. Any remains will keep for a day in the fridge.
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A few days ago a friend was telling me that, from what he’s noticed, there are two desserts that women consistently love & men consistently dislike (or even hate). One of them is carrot cake. The other, cheesecake. So in his opinion there are clear gender differences in food preferences. Interesting thought. He did say that he makes an exception for this cheesecake. It’s a chocolate cheesecake, and so I don’t know if cheesecake fanatics would consider it a ‘true’ cheesecake. However, it’s delicious & makes for a good summer dessert, as it’s not too heavy (taste-wise, because calorie wise is another story!) And since it’s very chocolatey it appeals to those men who scoff at classic white cheesecakes.
Chocolate cheesecake (from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a domestic goddess’)
- 125 gr. digestive biscuits
- 50g unsalted butter, very soft or melted
- 500g cream cheese
- 150g caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 3 large egg yolks
- 175ml sour cream
- 1/2-1 teaspoon lime juice (to taste)
- 150 gr. dark chocolate, melted
- Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180C
- Put the kettle on to boil
- Melt the chocolate either in a microwave or double boiler, and set aside to cool slightly.
- Process the biscuits & melted butter together & press in the bottom of a 20 cm springform tin, then put it in the fridge until the filling is ready
- Beat the cream cheese to soften it, then mix in the sugar
- Add the eggs & yolks, one by one, beating in after each addition
- Pour in the sour cream & the lime juice & beat until smooth & creamy (if you want it a bit sourer, add a bit more lime juice)
- Gently fold in the melted chocolate, you want the cheesecake marbled with dark chocolate, so don’t combine fully
- Take the springform pan out of the fridge and line the outside of the pan with a good layer of strong foil, and then another layer over that. This will protect it from the water bath
- Sit the springform pan in a roasting pan and pour in the cheesecake filling. Fill the roasting pan with recently-boiled water from the kettle to come about halfway up the cake pan, and bake in the over for about an hour. The top of the cheesecake should be set, but underneath should still have a wobble to it
- Peel away the foil and sit the cheesecake in its pan on a rack to cool. Put in the fridge once it’s no longer hot, and leave to set until you want to unmould it. Let it lose its chill before unspringing to serve
If you want to try any other chocolate cheesecake recipes, here are a few possibilities:
PS- I’m still waiting for my baby to arrive, so no news from my side of things. It’s getting a bit tiring at this point, I really want him to hurry up & appear! Enough with being pregnant (especially in this unusual London heat).
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As you may know if you’ve been following this blog for a while, I’ve been trying to make more use of my large cookbook collection (as part of goal 153). However, I mostly end up using the same cookbooks again & again; not because I necessarily consider them the best ones in my collection… but just out of habit. As we get used to the characteristics & idiosyncrasies of partners & good friends, in much the same way, I think, we get used to certain cookbook writers. It doesn’t mean they’re the ‘best’ food writers; it just means they’re the ones we’ve become more familiar with.
So, as you may have guessed, here comes yet another recipe from Nigella Lawson, this time from her book ‘Forever summer’. So: why is it that Nigella Lawson has become the food writer I draw from more? Who knows… it’s one of those mysteries, I suppose like trying to answer ‘why did I choose my partner’ or ‘why do I feel so close with this particular friend’. However much I try, I can never find fully satisfactory answers to these questions!
Griddled involtini with feta, mint & chilli (from Nigella Lawson’s ‘Forever summer’)
- 2 large aubergines, each cut thinly, lengthwise, into about 10 slices
- about 4 tablespoons olive oil (basically use as much as you need)
- 250 gr. feta cheese
- 1 red chile, finely chopped, seeded or not, depending on how much heat you want
- A large bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped, with some saved for sprinkling over at the end if you want
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Black pepper
- Preheat the barbecue or griddle to high heat
- Brush both sides of the aubergine slices with oil
- Cook them for about 2 minutes each side, until golden and tender (it actually took me a bit more time, for some reason, so just make sure they’re nicely golden when you take them out)
- Crumble the feta into a bowl and stir in the chile, mint and lemon juice and grind in some pepper
- Pile the end third of each warm aubergine slice with a heaping teasspoon of the feta mixture and roll each slice up as you go to form a soft, stuffed bundle
- Place seam-side down on a plate, and sprinkle with a little more mint if you want (I didn’t bother with this)
Lovely to take with you to a barbecue at a friend’s, that’s what I did; they keep well sitting outside for a few hours.
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Those of you who have been following this blog from its beginning (which was very very recently, after all!) must know by now about my obsession with Nigella Lawson recipes. Here’s why I like them: they work (most of the time); and they’re fun to read about, before actually cooking them. After all, cooking is as much about imagining & thinking & planning, as it is about actually getting round to doing it.
This is one of Nigella’s cakes that I’ve been meaning to try for ages, but never dared! It always seemed far too indulgent & sugar-loaded to me… and it is! The perfect opportunity presented itself during a weekend with two friends where we did loads of indulgent things: loads of cooking (& eating!), long chats until the early hours of the morning, and watching sex & the city at the cinema. At some point we decided we wanted to make the most chocolatey of chocolate cakes that we could find… & we chose this. It lived up to its promise.
Chocolate Fudge cake (from ‘Nigella Bites’. Nigella herself adapted it from Tish Boyle’s ‘Diner desserts’)
For the cake:
- 400g plain flour
- 250g golden caster sugar
- 100g light muscovado sugar
- 50g best quality cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- 142ml/small tub sour cream
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 175g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 125ml corn oil
- 300ml chilled water
For the fudge icing:
- 175g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
- 250g unsalted butter, softened
- 275g icing sugar, sifted
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
- Butter and line the bottom of two 20cm sandwich tins.
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugars, cocoa, baking powder, bicarb and salt.
- In another bowl or wide-necked measuring jug whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla until blended.
- Using a freestanding or handheld electric mixer, beat together the melted butter and corn oil until just blended (you’ll need another large bowl for this if using the hand whisk; the freestanding mixer comes with its own bowl), then beat in the water. (We did this by hand, a mixer- handheld or freestanding- is not really needed).
- Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix together on a slow speed.
- Add the egg mixture, and mix again until everything is blended and then pour into the prepared tins.
- Bake the cakes for 50-55 minutes, or until a cake-tester comes out clean.
- Cool the cakes in their tins on a wire rack for 15 minutes, and then turn the cakes out onto the rack to cool completely.
- To make the icing, melt the chocolate in the microwave – 2-3 minutes on medium should do it – or in a bowl sitting over a pan of simmering water, and let cool slightly.
- In another bowl, beat the butter until it’s soft and creamy (we used a hand held mixer for this) and then add the sieved icing sugar and beat again until everything’s light and fluffy.
- As Nigella says: ‘I know sieving is a pain, the one job in the kitchen I really hate, but you have to do it or the icing will be unsoothingly lumpy’ (so make sure you do sieve the icing sugar!).
- Then gently add the vanilla and chocolate and mix together until everything is glossy and smooth.
- Sandwich the middle of the cake with about a quarter of the icing, and then ice the top and sides, too, spreading and smoothing with a rubber spatula.
…And then you eat this. Preferably with no distractions like starter or main course. Just go straight to the dessert. Is lovely with vanilla ice-cream or unsweetened whipped cream.
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One of the reasons I started this blog was so that it would give me an opportunity (or an excuse) to start using my cookbooks more often. So one of my goals (goal 153) involves trying out a new recipe each week from a cookbook I own. My choice this week was a simple fishcake recipe from Nigella Lawson’s ‘Feast’. I halved the recipe, since Nigella’s quantities would normally serve 8-10 people; even with half quantities, this was still quite a big meal for just two of us.
Double Haddock Fischcakes (adapted from Nigella Lawson’s ‘Feast’)
- about 750 gr. floury potatoes
- 500 gr. skinless haddock fillet
- about 350-370 gr. smoked haddock fillet (skinned if possible)
- 250 ml milk
- some parsley stalks
- some very finely chopped parsley (I used half of one of those supermarket little packets of parsley)
- 1 hard boiled egg
- 2 tablespoons English mustard
- zest of a lemon
- a bit of lemon juice (about 1/2 tablespoon)
- half a packet (100 gr.) Ritz crackers
- Peel & roughly chop the potatoes, boil them in salted water until tender & then mash them in a bowl
- Put the fish (with the smoked fish underneath) in a large pan with the milk, parsley stalks & some pepper
- Bring the pan to a simmer & cook for about 5-8 mins, turning if necessary
- Take the fish out of the pan, drain the liquid, flake the fish into a bowl & add the chopped parsley
- Finely chop the hard-boiled egg & add that with the mustard, lemon zest & lemon juice
- Turn the flaked fish mixture into the slightly cooled mashed potato & mix thoroughly
- Add salt & pepper as needed
- Crush the Ritz crackers, by putting them in a freezer bag, bashing & rolling them (e.g. with a rolling pin) until they’re crumbs. Put these crumbs into the roasting pan you’ll be using, preferably a large one because these quantities make quite a lot of fishcakes
- Shape the mixture into fishcakes; choose their size depending on what you want, but I would say make them slightly large
- After you’ve shaped each one, press it on both sides into the Ritz crumbs, trying to make sure the crumbs have ‘stuck’ all around. This step is not as easy as it sounds, because the Ritz crumbs frustratingly keep falling away, so try to make sure they’re well coated
- Cook them in a preheated oven at 200 degrees celcius for about 20 minutes or so
These are delicious; we ate them with gherkins & some sauce tartare, & added lemon juice. They were very filling, too.
If you’re interested in trying different fishcake recipes, here are some choices from other blogs:
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My blog was created as an attempt to conquer new cooking ‘territories’… i.e. to try out recipes or techniques which scare the shit out of me!! One such technique is making pastry. I’ve always loved eating tarts (both sweet and savoury) but as much as I love them, I’ve always had a inexplicable fear of making pastry at home, from scratch. So this is it, I’m now on a mission to conquer my fear and try making pastry…
I thought I’d try out a simple, classic quiche lorraine recipe as a first step. I also thought this would be a good opportunity to participate in Susan’s ‘beautiful bones’ event over at Food Blogga. Osteoporosis and its prevention is a cause close to my heart, not only because my father always used to go on about how much attention women- in particular- need to pay to it. But also because pregnancy (and I myself am now in the 8th month of pregnancy) is a very sensitive and crucial period in a woman’s life for the later development of osteoporosis. It’s well known, nowadays, that pregnant women need to take special care of their calcium intake, in order to prevent the later breaking down of bones which could lead, potentially, to osteoporosis. It also matters because babies have an increased need for calcium. And if you’re not taking in enough, they’re not going to be left starving! They will ‘leach’ it off your bones, including your teeth (which is why pregnant women are advised to visit their dentists often for check-ups and clean-ups, and general advice). My quiche lorraine contains milk, cream and cheese, so it makes for a good calcium-rich light supper.
Back then to my quiche lorraine effort… I kind of cheated in this first attempt, by buying some good quality, ready-made shortcrust pastry & just concentrating on rolling it out. There are two things that I discovered:
1) there needs to be adequate flour sprinkled on the surface you’re rolling the pastry on
2) the pastry needs to be cool enough, but at the same time soft & pliable
3) the rolling out is not hard at all! So I suppose half of my fear has now evaporated (I’ll have to try making my own pastry next time)…
Quiche Lorraine (adapted from the Great Cooking Classics cookbook).
- 1 portion ready-made shortcrust pastry (or if you want to make your own, see here).
- 1 medium onion, chopped finely
- 3-4 bacon rashers, chopped in small pieces
- 3 eggs
- 300 ml double cream
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) milk
- 120 gr. (more or less) mixed parmesan & cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 180-200 degrees celsius (the recipe in the book calls for a ‘moderately hot oven’ so judge according to your own oven!)
- Roll pastry so that it’s large enough to line a 23-cm loose-base flan tin (or a similar sized ceramic pie dish)
- If the weather is hot & the pastry is difficult to handle, roll it between 2 pieces of greaseproof paper
- Lift the pastry- CAREFULLY!- into the flan tin & then trim the edges of the pastry neatly (well… this step I didn’t manage to do so well, but hopefully with time I’ll learn)
- Cover your pastry with tin foil, and fill the pastry tin with old dried beans or specially made ceramic baking beans
- Bake the pastry for about 10′ or until golden brown. Cool to room temperature. Carefully remove the beans and foil
- In the meantime, while your pastry’s cooking, cook the onion & chopped bacon in a lightly oiled small frying pan
- Spread them, after cooling a bit, into the cooked pastry case
- Whisk the 3 eggs, cream, cheese & milk & pour into the pastry case
- Bake in a 180-200 degrees oven for about 30 mins, or until filling is set & brownish. You have to rely a bit on your judgment for when you’ll take the quiche out. When it’s ready it’ll be puffed up and appetizingly brown/yellow.
- Stand the quiche for 5-10 mins before removing it from the tin (or, as in my case, if it’s made in a ceramic dish, then just leave it there)
- Eat, preferably at lukewarm temperature, perhaps with a nice big salad.
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Goal 153 is a useful one. Not just because it’s a good reminder to try out new recipes for my cookbook collection each week. But also because, as it turns out, it’s a good way to help me clear out my cookbook collection & donate or sell some of the books I don’t use much!
It may be completely my fault, or it may be the particular cookbook’s fault… but in a word, this recipe was a disaster! It’s ‘spinach and chick peas in spiced yoghurt’, served over rice or other grains… and it’s from ‘On rice’ by Rick Rodgers, a book that’s been sitting on my bookcase for years untouched, untried, unread. It’s a good-enough idea, I suppose. A cookbook dedicated to toppings for rice. I’m a fanatic rice- eater (my mother used to joke that I should be named a honorary Chinese) which is why I bought this book. However, none of the recipes have really appealed to me, or at least not enough to drag me to the kitchen. So I decided to try out a simple dish for lunch. As I said, it may be my mistake, because I made too many changes to the recipe, but it just wasn’t great. Also, the sauce/topping looked nothing like the picture in the book. So much did I not like it, that I immediately added this book to my ‘give-away-or-sell’ pile. So satisfying to add books to that pile, especially these days when we’re trying desperately and urgently to declutter and free up space in preparation for our baby (expected to be born in the summer). Here’s the recipe, including my changes. Try it at your own risk! I take full responsibility for my sloppiness & mistakes in making the recipe, but not for the recipe itself.
Spinach & chick peas in spiced yoghurt
- Steamed rice (I used cous-cous because that’s what I had sitting around)
- 2 pounds (about 1 kilo) tender fresh spinach, well rinsed (I used frozen spinach, all right, sue me!)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil (I used garlic oil instead)
- 2 large onions, cut into thick half moons
- 2 tbsps minced fresh ginger
- 3 garlic cloves, minced (I ommited this, because of using the garlic oil)
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 can chick-peas, drained & rinsed
- 1/2 tsp salt, or more as needed
- 1/4 tsp red pepper, or more as needed
- 1 cup plain lowfat yoghurt (I used 0% greek yoghurt)
- 1 tsp cornflour
- Prepare the spinach leaves (coarsely chop the leaves, and set aside separately from the stems). I ommited this whole step because of using frozen spinach
- In a large non-stick skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat
- Add the onions & cover. Cook until onions are very soft, about 10′
- Uncover & increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until onions are golden-brown, about 5′ (note: careful not to burn the onions!! so be careful with the timings)
- Add the ginger & garlic (if using) & cook for one more minute
- Add the spinach stems (if using fresh spinach) & the garam masala
- Stir until the stems are softened, about 1′
- In batches, stir in the spinach leaves, allowing 1 batch to wilt before adding the next
- Stir in the chick-peas, salt & hot pepper
- Cover & cook until the spinach leaves are tender, about 5′
- Reduce the heat to low
- In a small bowl, stir together the yoghurt & cornflour
- Pour into the skillet & stir until the yoghurt is heated through, about 1′ (more or less)
- Taste & season with more salt & pepper, if needed
If anyone is interested to cook this & see how it turns out, I’d be interested to find out how it went…
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