Sunday, November 13, 2016

Butternut squash gnocchi with roast garlic, burnt butter and crispy sage

A photo posted by Lara Beans (@beanslala) on

This was a really lovely easy recipe to make!  I’ve adapted it from Daniel Ottolenghi’srecipe for gnocchi in today’s guardian, using what I had at home to make the sauce plus my love of sage with butternut is no secret! 

I have a lot of butternut at the moment. And i mean a lot! I‘ve been cooking it in roasts and stews and salads, and still they keep on piling up.  I get at least 1 with every veggie delivery! I was looking for something new to make, and I’ve been thinking about gnocchi so when the recipe came up today, I thought, why not?

This recipe can be easily multiplied.  You can also make the gnocchi in batches ahead of time – simply freeze on the tray after shaping into individual gnocchi, then place in freezer bags in whatever size portion you want).  I’m definitely going to make a couple of night’s worth of portions, this recipe is easy enough as it is, but to have the veggies roasted and the gnocchi prepared beforehand means dinner could be on the table on a weeknight in the time it takes to make the burnt butter sauce! J  These little pillows of happiness are softer and definitely tastier than ready-made ones you get at the shops – and as an added bonus, you feel like a total “nonna” making these and pushing each one down on a fork!  I look forward to making these with my nieces, they will love it!

Butternut squash gnocchi with roast garlic, burnt butter and crispy sage

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Flapjacks - maple syryp, cacao nibs, nuts and choc chips

These flapjacks were a midnight baking moment, we'd been talking about flapjacks earlier today and I decided to have a look in the cupboard, and at some recipes online.  

The basics of flapjacks are usually the same; Oats, butter (or a similar non dairy fat like coconut oil), and more often than not, golden syrup.

I found a variety of things but hazelnuts, cacao nips and maple syrup stood out, then added walnuts just because i love them with maple syrup, which i'd decided was going to replace the golden syrup.  Anyway here's the recipe - however it's a basic idea which you can add to - I think replacing some of the butter/sugar mix with mashed dates, banana or apple puree would make this quite a bit healthier, as well as adding dried fruit and a variety of seeds and nuts - just make sure everything is mixed well before baking and you can't really go wrong :) As it has no eggs, you can taste as you go along too, and it's super easy to "veganise" ;) 

Maple, nut and chocolate flapjacks recipe, adapted from River Cottage flapjacks

Friday, October 14, 2016

Corn chowder with chorizo

A photo posted by Lara Beans (@beanslala) on

MMm this was tasty! :) I don't like huge unending pots of soup, I get sick of eating the same thing for days, and don't have much of a freezer at the moment.  This soup makes a perfect amount, enough for dinner for 3, or 2 and one extra for lunch the next day :) It's warming, colourful, and super easy! I made a quick soda bread to go with it and that only took a few minutes, and 20 in the oven.  


Soda bread

A photo posted by Lara Beans (@beanslala) on

This literally took 30 minutes to make from measuring the ingredients, to a golden loaf - yum! A completely different experience to what i'm used to baking, but really easy and wonderful!

Recipe for Soda bread

Monday, January 11, 2016

Slow Roast Lamb Shoulder

Roast Lamb - I just love it!  It's not massively popular in Malta (the local "haruf" available only for a very short time at the start of spring, the rest all imported), however it is an institution both in Australia and where i'm living now, UK (Sussex).  All of England, 50% of the total land in fact is used for pasture here in the UK, meaning that by far, the sheep and cow industry is the one that takes up the most space here.  I've seen sheep in the most unlikely places, right on top of Wales' tallest mountain, down the road from our house, randomly walking down the road with some ponies through country lanes.  This land is full of sheep!

Went to our local butcher, who happens to be a fantastic butcher who sells really good quality small stock farmed animals.  

The lamb he had that day was some local lamb that had just won a prize at the show.  YUM!  Bought half a shoulder with the mind to have delicious roast, and then make shepherd's pie with the leftovers. This is the kind of meal that you prepare  and kind of just forget about.  It's a perfect Saturday night dinner (esp if you've just brunch at lunchtime and are quite hungry!).  I like to make it on Saturday, and make a shepherd's pie on the Monday night - most of the hard work is already done! :) 

Just like most of my recipes, I always look to the internet and my cookbooks for inspiration.  When it comes to shoulder, low and slow is most definitely the way to go!! (Ah! the rhyming! it burns!) It's super simple and you will have fantastically flavoured, tender and juicy all the way through :) This recipe is a mix of one of Jamie Oliver's, Mary Berry's, James Martin and a few other tidbits around the web.  To be fair, they are all very similar recipes so just go with what you feel is best :) 

This feeds 4, or 2 plus leftovers for another meal.  For a larger piece of meat, you will need a longer cooking time, maybe up to around 4 hours?  But I've also cooked  whole shoulder for 2.5 hours like this and had it almost fork tender! :) 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Mid-week dinners - Teriyaki salmon with stir-fried vegetables

I don't have resolutions, but I do like to have new beginnings :)  I have completely abandoned this blog and would like to create inspiration for myself and others by getting back into it!

I'll start this year with a nice healthy mid week dinner that's absolutely delicious, and also REALLY easy and quick to make!

Teriyaki Salmon with Stir-fried Veggies and Brown steamed rice :) yum!  I don't really care whether it's authentic, more about whether it's tasty, quick, healthy and easy! :) This is why i used leeks rather than onions, less hassle to chop.  I know, I know, laziness incarnate!  but I LIKE leeks! they are sweet and soft and delicious! :)  I like boneless fish, it's easier and quicker during the week.  I like mangetout/Sugar-snaps - fresh veg with absolutely zero prep apart from a rinse! :)   I chose shiitake mushrooms, which was a great choice! they are so delicious but we warned, they pretty much melt into nothingness!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gyoza (Japanese dumplings)

Hi!  It's been a while :P  Anyway no matter, let's get on with it :) 

Gyoza - they were a love affair from day one - I love these little guys!  so tasty and moreish! There are very few dumplings I do not like, but I must say that these have a special place in my heart (belly) heheh :) 

my favourite dumpling of all :) 
Apparently, they are Chinese in origin (as all this kind of dumpling seem to be), and they are made all over Asia (and the world) with some variations.  These are Gyoza, the Japanese take on these lovely little dumplings :)

I looked at a few recipes and they all seemed quite similar.  I ended up using the Hairy Bikers recipe for the mix, mostly because I like them, and also because of their informative video on how to fold the dumplings (see their take on this here)

I also bought the ready rolled and cut gyoza wrappers from my local Asian grocer.  There were around 50 sheets in the pack, and I had leftover filling so I think next  time, I'll just make my own dough!  

I used Pork as the filling, but you can make them with a variety of fillings!  You can serve them as a dumpling feast, or freeze in sets of 12 or so to have them ready for the next gyoza craving.  Now that I've found out how easy (albeit a little time consuming to fill) they are, I'll be sure to make them again! 

Mocha Cupcakes

It was my birthday a week ago, and I was being asked what cake I wanted for my birthday - the deal was, that my boyfriend would make the cakes (he's also a really good baker! win!) and I would get to decorate them!  Seemed like a great deal! :D

Anyway, we decided on a MybakingAddiction's recipe for Mocha cupcakes.  The cake mix itself is very similar to the Chocolate Ganache and dulce de leche cake, and the peanut butter ganache cupcakes  but instead of water, you used brewed coffee- oh so good!  Additionally, Mybakingaddiction  is one of my turn to blogs when it comes to baking, I'm simply in love with the way Jamie (the blog owner) does things :)  

Link to her recipe here

We didn't get "proper" photos of the cakes, but we did get one mobile pic :) 

"Coffee and chocolate" is one of my favourite combinations of flavours :D

The only things we did differently were:

Changed everything into metric.

In the cake mix:
Replaced buttermilk with natural yoghurt (runny, not greek style)
We used 1 cup coffee made with 4 shots of espresso

In the frosting:
Doubled the coffee.
We used much more liquid (6 tablespoons cream, and an extra couple of milk) in the mix, but possibly because it was simply freezing and the butter wasn't softening properly.  

We found triple choc rice crispies and put them on the cake as decoration.  It worked really well :)  


Oops!  I've been meaning to post this for ages!! I made this a couple of months ago, but only remembered it the other day.  Didn't take any pics after i'd served it, or while I was preparing, and only got a phone shot of it coming out of the oven!  I'm sorry!  I'll do better next time I promise!  And there will be plenty of food to come!

I have never tasted the proper, South African dish by this name, but this is a version of it that i made by looking at various recipes on the net.  A friend of mine was talking about it at work, about how this was her favourite food when she went to visit South Africa.  It sounded so good that i HAD to make it!  It reminds me of a  Shepherd's pie in a way, and Shepherd's pie is one of my favourite dishes and this seems like a lower carb version! Ideal!!  Plus it's spicier!  What more could I ask for?

One of the main differences to the recipes I'd seen is that rather than adding a bit of cornflour at the end, all the traditional recipes ask you to soak 2 slices of bread, and then to squeeze liquid out and add them to the mix at the end.  I figure i'll use less carbs with just a tablespoon of cornflour to thicken the mix a bit :)

soft custardy egg layer on top, spicy savoury sweet beef underneath - perfect for a cold night! :D


Monday, November 12, 2012

Lemon & Olive oil Chiffon Cake

The lightest, moistest cloud of a lemon cake you'll ever try! 
This wasn't meant to be one of the softest, moistest clouds of a cake I've ever made.  This was an experiment - using extra virgin olive oil in a cake.  I did some research on the net and thought that Lemon would be the right flavour for this cake, nice mediterranean flavours I guess!  The thing is, normally, olive oil and lemon are something I would use to dress a nice piece of grilled fish, or a salad, possibly some chicken, but never in a sweet!

Anyway, the experiment was a success!  I sourced some lovely Pappa's Organic Liquid Gold Olive oil, a lovely fresh oil that some friends are importing from the South Peloponnese mountains in Greece.

This cake was a dream - definitely not the prettiest of cakes, as it cracks and sinks on the top, but the taste and texture is out of this world!  Delicate and soft, and very moist, with the distinct flavour of olive oil and lemon, brought together to make this lovely snack!!  

I admit, I had a conflict of the senses when the cake was being cooked, as it smelled more similar to a foccacia than a cake!  But I assure you, the cake is lovely!!! I highly recommend it if you are a fan of simple cakes full of flavour!

The oil I used is in the background, I really recommend it for this cake! Just the right amount of lightness and olive flavour!  Wow.  So yum!! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Chocolate Ganache and peanut butter frosting.

Oh yes.  You heard me right. Peanuts and chocolate!  Who doesn't like this combination?  Dead people, that's who! 

I was looking for an idea for chocolate and peanut in a cake, and was wondering.. should i make peanut cupcakes and chocolate frosting?  or the other way around?  then I found the perfect recipe, tried the cake base in another recipe this week, and thought this cake MUST be made, and it MUST be made into cupcakes! :)  
Peanut butter cream cheese frosting topping a dark moist cake.  wow.  wow! 
In the theme of the Ganesh cake I made last weekend, I feel that this one also deserves to be attached to some kind of deity. So I'm calling them "Holy Jesus peanut butter chocolate cupcakes".

I've had quite a chocolate week this week, i've already made one decadent chocolate celebration cake, but tonight's celebration (one of my dearest friends is leaving for a year to do his masters in the UK) also calls for an uber chocolate feast!  Apart from all the cakes, chocolate has made an appearance in savoury cooking this week as a friend of mine made us chicken cooked with port, sage and cocoa the other day, which was pretty amazing! :) I will definitely put my adaptation of this dish up when i finally get around to making it!

Anyway, the base of these cupcakes are the same as the Dulce de Leche cake posted previously. Only difference is that i did not add the coffee, which was actually totally an oversight.  ah well, for next time ;)  Honestly these cakes are so good that I don't think the coffee is even needed, especially not with the fact that these are filled with chocolate peanut ganache (yes.  i didn't even know this could be done.  my life will never be the same!) and then topped with cream cheese peanut butter frosting (this tastes infinitely better than it sounds, and i certainly would not have made it had Deb from smitten kitchen specifically mentioned that it's good!!)...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stop Chasing Ganesh! a.k.a. Chocolate cake with Dulce de Leche filling and Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Dulce de Leche Layer Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

I know, I know!! The title’s misleading!  There is no Indian elephant god Ganesh in this cake, however honestly if there was to be a cake that represented a god, this would be, at the very least, a contender!

The title comes from a line out of an episode of The Simpsons, where Homer dressed up as Ganesh and tries to stop Apu from getting married.  In turn, my lovely friend Joe always says “Ganesh” instead of “Ganache”, and frankly, that stuff is pretty godly so it does make sense in a way ;)

Anyway, I was looking for a cake that would fit perfectly with one of my best mates – she adores chocolate and toffee like substances, so what better cake for her than a moist dark chocolate cake, filled with lashings of dulce de leche, topped with smooth dark chocolate ganache??  YUM! 

This is definitely, no doubt about it, a celebration cake.  This isn’t something you do on a weekend to have something with tea.  This is a cake to be placed at the centre of attention, shared and enjoyed. 

I have accidentally also found one of the best chocolate cake recipes ever!  I will most definitely be using this when I make chocolate layer cakes.  It’s moist, dense, insanely dark (I don’t know what it is about an almost black chocolate cake that just excited me!), wonderfully chocolatey, and yet, somehow, it still manages to be delicately soft and light.… YUM!  For the Maltesers, what I was looking for essentially was a cake I can make from scratch that rivaled the old school Fontanella cake.  Unfortunately, I believe they have gone downhill over the last few years, hence the need to replace it with something! AND.. SUCCESS!!   I have finally found the right cake!  And to top it off, I know exactly what goes into it as I’ve made it myself (always a concern when ordering cakes from out) J

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Zoe's Blue cheese, honey and walnut salad

I love blue cheese.  I'm actually surprised that I only have one other recipe that involves blue cheese on this blog so far, and I assure you that I will make every effort to include more!

I have memories of tasting it for the first time many many moons ago, at a large family gathering (possibly Christmas or one of my many cousins' birthdays), the cheese platter would be presented and there would be all manners of cheesy goodness.  I remember one of my uncles explaining to me that the blue green veins were mould, and that the white velvety covering on a piece of brie was also mould.  It grossed me out, but also totally fascinated me that we would deliberately eat it!  So naturally, I tasted it, and that is where the love affair started!

My love for the blue veined cheeses grew when i discovered certain combinations of flavours.  My first love was blue cheese and cured meat - Salami and Parma ham in particular.  Then came blue cheese with walnuts! then came blue cheese with pears! and then finally, and i must say it was one of those epiphany moments, came the discovery (thanks to Warren, chef at Barracuda restaurant) of the foodgasm that is blue cheese and honey.

Blue cheese is one of those cheeses that I cannot NOT like.  I can not be in the mood for it, but I have loved every single type of blue cheese that has entered my mouth, whether it be pasteurised, cave ripened, sheeps, goats, cow's, speciality, cheapo grocery bought cheese.  I have almost as much love for cheap Danish blue than I have for an unpasteurised speciality Roquefort or a pot ripened Stilton soaked in port.  YUM!

I guess I've been somewhat of a foodie since I was weaned, and one of the main reasons was CHEESE!  I love cheese so much!  My (food) highlight of every family gathering is the cheese platter after dinner, sitting there sipping wine, nibbling on cheese and having the inevitable lively discussion, whether it be politics, religion, or some topic that will raise a few voices and possibly end in someone sulking :P (i adore the fact that we can do this and still have so much love for each other).

ANWAY, I am lucky to have found fellow foodie friends, amongst them my lovely half-Maltese, half-French friend Zoe :)  We bonded over how much we have in common all those years ago, and cemented it with cheese.  We are both obsessed with cheese!  It's so tasty! so delicious, and we have spent many a nights just having one more piece of cheese to finish the wine, or one more glass of wine to finish the cheese, repeat ad nauseum and/or drunken food coma :)

This salad is her creation!  Blue cheese, walnuts, prosciutto crudo, pears, dressed with  honey, served with masses of fresh baby salad leaves... perfection!  All these ingredients go so well with each other, it's only natural that we would bring them all together into one of my favourite salads on this planet!

Sorry about the bad quality camera pic! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Frosting - cream cheese and buttercream.

yumyum cakes!
Frosting is a little funny sometimes, it might work out perfectly one time, and another time it just ends up being a runny mess.  here are some pointers to help you get it right.  

At the bottom of the post, there are a bunch of pictures, including "successful" and "failure" frostings. 

First of all, the most important things - it seems like a stupidly long list, but really, once you've made it once successfully, you'll see it's actually not hard!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Wild Asparagus and Greens Pasta (Wild, Natural foods take 2)

Springtime is a great time for foraging in Malta.  There are plenty of delicious and healthy options to find just on your weekend walk in the countryside (and sometimes, even just walking around residential areas!)
Happy Spaghetti sauce :)