Friday, December 30, 2011

Easy peasy Cinnamon scrolls (yeast free!)

As you might know by reading this blog, I LOVE to cook.  I have no problems making things from scratch, taking the long way round so to speak, but sometimes, when there's an easier and faster way to get things into people's bellies and it works just as well, I don't mind taking that option!

These cinnamon scrolls are a case in point :)  Delicious, buttery goodness that leave the most amazing smell in your kitchen when making.  I was preparing them for Christmas brunch with friends and i wanted to have as many things ready to go straight from fridge to oven to hungry friends bellies in as quick a time as possible.  

When trawling the net, I discovered that the vast majority of the recipes involved yeast. In fact, I had no idea you could really make them without it.  But then I stumbled upon a recipe that used a soda bread/scone type dough, and suddenly my mind was filled with the soft, warm, buttery goodness that i love about scones, in a scroll form filled to the brim with cinnamon sugar and the decision was made!  

I must say, I actually prefer these to the ones using yeast.  They really are something you eat straight out of the oven, just like you would with scones.  The yeast ones are something I would make to eat straight away and then also have leftover to munch on when cold.  But I knew these wouldn't last, if I know myself and my friends! heheheh :D Additionally, unless i've been baking all day, my kitchen is quite cool, so the yeast would have taken a bit longer to rise... and i'm impatient! :D

Photo by a friend Sarah :) taken about 2 seconds before half of these were already down people's gullets :D
Anyway, they were really lovely!  I'll definitely be making this recipe again!! 
Ingredients for 12 mini ones, or 6 larger ones:
For the dough:
2 cups cake "00" flour (plain flour is fine too!) ***
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
100g butter, unsalted, chopped
2/3 cup of milk

**If you have self-raising flour, use that, and omit the baking powder, and use only a pinch of salt.

For the filling:
120g butter, softened
4 tablespoons lightly packed soft brown sugar (i used light, but dark would be find too!)
1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 190 degrees 

First, make the filling:
Put all ingredients into a small bowl and beat with a hand held electric mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy :)  Set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt in to a large bowl, then add the chunks of butter, rubbing it into the flour with your fingertips.  Keep doing this until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. 

Make a well in the centre of this mix and add most of the milk (leave a couple of tablespoons).  Mix lightly using a flat bladed knife (i used my cake icing spatula) until it comes together to a soft, light, slightly sticky dough (add the rest of the milk if necessary).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly and briefly until the dough is smooth.  

Roll out the dough into a rectangle, 25cm wide and as long as it comes (around 40cm in my case).  Roll it to around 1/2 cm thick.  

Using a long flat blade knife (like a cake icing spatula or a butterknife if you don't have), spread the mixture evenly over the dough, making sure you go right up to the edges.  

Roll up the dough (from the long side) to make a long sausage.  Wrap in cling and put it in the fridge to cool for about 20 minutes (this isn't necessary, but it makes cutting easier and more even).  You can also store it like this for up to a few days, ready to be whipped out, baked and served!

Take out of the fridge, and slice the sausage into 2-3cm slices (or simply slice into 6 equal slices for 6 larger ones). 

Place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, cut side up.  Leave some space for them to spread and rise, they grow quite considerably in the oven!

Bake for 12-15 minutes (a little longer for the large ones) until they have risen well and are lightly golden.

If you want, you can also make an icing glaze, but to be honest, when just out of the oven, there is really no need! 

For a cinnamon icing glaze, mix 1 cup of sifted icing sugar, 1 scant teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of boiling water until smooth.  Drizzle this over the scrolls with a teaspoon.  

Unlike the yeast ones, I don't think these would be great the next day.   But seriously, the are so morish that this won't be an issue.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Garlic mushrooms

This is a very simple dish.  This is the side that matches so many things, as well as being a meal on its own when served on some lovely buttered sourdough toast.  I use these mushrooms with breakfast, as a filling for omelettes, I serve them as a side to meat/veg dishes, use it as a base to make a mushroom pasta sauce.  It's my "standard" mushroom dish, and I'm surprised I haven't posted it before!  I cook all mushrooms like this at some point.
You can make it with any mushrooms, but normally I just use regular white mushrooms (either in button or cap form).  Today, I made them with chestnut mushrooms, which are meatier and stronger than regular cap mushrooms.  Regardless of the type of mushroom, choose the heaviest, firmest ones you can find.  If they feel light as air and spongy, they aren't fresh.

I usually just wipe mushrooms with a kitchen towel to remove any dirt.  I don't wash unless i'm preparing for a pregnant lady like my lovely sis.

Garlic sautéed mushrooms

Mushrooms (around 400 grams) sliced into .5cm slices
olive oil
A few cloves of garlic
freshly ground pepper

Prepare all the ingredients before starting to cook :) Super Mario mushroom joins his friends :P
Heat  some butter and olive oil in a frypan or wok until the butter is melted and has started bubbling.  Grind plenty of pepper into the oil.

Add mushrooms and toss them in the butter.  Keep stir-frying on a pretty high heat.  Continue until the mushrooms are all squeaking and sizzling, add the garlic, and keep stir-frying until there's a little bit of water coming out of the mushrooms.  Add some salt to pan, this will draw out the moisture.

If you are making pasta, this is the time to add the cream or wine or whatever you want to add to it to make it all lovely and saucy (see a recipe for gnocchi with mushrooms cooked in this way here)

To have them as a side dish, just keep stir-frying until the water has mostly evaporated, taste and season if necessary, and serve piping hot :)
aaand they're done!
Also lovely with a squeeze of lemon, and/or chopped herbs, or add a tiny amount of white wine (make sure it evaporates mostly!) when you add the salt for a lovely tang :)


Roast Chicken with sage/onion stuffing

I love a roast chicken! :)  It's pretty easy to make, and makes the house smell so delicious :)  Ate a lovely roast chicken made by my brother in law, who adds plenty of good butter, and lovingly bastes it with juices all throughout the cooking time. Thought I'd try and recreate the juiciness in my own roast chicken, and it was a success!

I also found sage, so thought i'd try making my own stuffing.  Not a fan of meat in stuffing, but thought a sage/onion/breadcrumb stuffing without adding the bacon/pork meat would be nice :) I'd never tried this, but would like to think that it'll absorb all the inner chicken juices, and keep everything nice and moist while adding the lovely flavour of sage to the chicken :)

Here goes:

One free range chicken (i got a 1.6kg one, make sure you keep a note of how much it weighs for cooking time!)
2 large onions
garlic, chopped
a bunch of sage, chopped finely
butter (i used salted President butter)
a couple of slices of white bread (stale or dried in the oven then whizzed into crumbs)
salt and pepper
1 free range egg
optional: a teaspoon of mustard (i used English), a couple of teaspoons of redcurrant jam
a dash of white wine

Preheat the oven to 180C and place the top rack right in the middle of the oven.  you can use the bottom rack right at the bottom to make veggies (or simply chuck them in the roasting pan with the chicken if you want)

To make the stuffing:
Dice one of the onions, and fry gently with the garlic in some butter until golden.  Once ready, add to a medium size mixing bowl.  Add sage, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, mustard and jam (if using), mix well, then add egg and mix again.

Chicken roasting:
Slice the other onion thinly, and place on the bottom of the dish you'll be using to roast the chicken.
Loosen the skin on the breast of the chicken, enough to be able to put your hand in.  place thin slices of butter in between the skin and the breast.  This will make for lovely moist white meat if cooked well (and by well i don't mean over done, but just the right time).
Stuff the chicken cavity with the mixture (don't over stuff, if theres any stuffing leftover, shape into balls and place them alongside the chicken, and place breast up into the dish. brush lightly with oil.
add a tiny dash of white wine to the dish.
Chuck in oven.
Cook for 20 minutes per 500 grams, plus 20 minutes.
It's important to baste the chicken every now and then.  Makes all the difference !
Every 20 minutes or so, baste the chicken by spooning the juices over it.

Once you think it's done, prick into the thickest part of the thigh, if the juices run clear, it's cooked.  If not, pop into the oven for another 10 minutes and try again.

Once it's done, take it out of the oven,  cover loosely with foil and rest for about 20-30 minutes.  You could ignore this step, and eat it right away, but apart from burning your tongue and finding it hard to carve, the meat will be dryer and less tender.  It really does make a huge difference, resting allows the meat to reabsorb juices into the centre, and relax. 

Mobile phone photo, the only one that got all the roast and stuffing :)


Roast butternut and potatoes

This is a perfect side dish for roast meats.  also a perfect weekday dinner if you just add some other veggies into the mix :)

I've discovered that the smaller the butter nut, the better it is for roasting.  It keeps its shape, and is lovely and soft, sweet and nutty on the inside.  The larger it is, the stringier it gets (so I would keep the larger ones for soups).  Also, I always like to make a little extra, to use in salads or just to nibble on the next day, or if there's lots, it's great to make roast pumpkin soup!.  so delicious!

Honey Roasted Pumpkin soup with Indian Spices

So a lovely friend of mine works as a flight attendant, meaning she's a super jet-setter. She gets to go to all these interesting places for a few days :)  Last time she flew to Mumbai, and asked if i wanted some nice fresh Indian spices.  Sure enough, I was excited to get a couple of spices, but not as excited as I was when i actually saw what she brought, which was a whole bag of stuff!!!

Now that the weather has cooled enough for me to handle being in the kitchen, I decided that it was butter-nut pumpkin soup time!  The reason i use butter-nut is because frankly, i prefer it.  It's easier to cut, it keeps its shape when roasting, melts smoothly into soups without going stringy, and the taste - so sweet, nutty, delicious!

1 medium butternut (i would say about 1-1.5kg) peeled, seeded, chopped into smallish cubes (1.5-2cm)
1 large onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
one potato, peeled, diced. 
If in malta, some "karfus" (aka Maltese celery). If overseas, a celery stem, chopped finely.
some chicken stock (probably about a litre?) (Use veg stock if you please, and to make this dish completely vegetarian)
Goda Masala (or some curry powder, or some cumin, or whatever spice mix you would like to use.  I normally use just cumin, but this time, i decided on the Goda Masala, having never used it, but it said it goes really well with veggie curries, in fact, specifically, pumpkin curry!) More info below
Salt, pepper.
Vegetable oil
Fresh cream (or coconut cream if you want it to be vegan!), to serve

Spread chopped pumpkin in a baking dish, toss with oil, drizzle some honey, salt and pepper and cover tightly with foil.  Place in hot oven until the pumpkin is cooked (about 30 minutes).  Remove foil, toss a little, and return to oven to get some nice burnt bits going.  Burnt bits = more caramelly nutty flavour in soup :)

In the meantime, place onion, carrot and celery into pot with a little oil, and sweat for a few minutes (sautee with lid on).  Add spices (i used about 2 teaspoons goda masala, and about a teaspoon of turmeric), stir in chopped potato, add some stock - not too much, 2 or 3 cups should be fine, simmer until potato is cooked and kitchen is smelling of spicy goodness.

Once the pumpkin is done, throw it in the pot, simmer for 5 minutes and turn off the heat.  Let cool a little before blending.**

Blend until completely, velvety smooth.  Add cream to taste, and season if necessary.  Stir around with the ladle until the cream is completely blended in. 

Serve with an extra dollop of cream, and some freshly chopped spring onions/chives if you have any at hand. 

I like to serve this into a giant mug,  sipping and spooning it into my mouth, while siting by the heater  watching Christmas cooking shows :)

**I have learned the hard way why soups that require blending always have the "allow to cool a little" thing  before blending the hard way.  when blending, it releases lots of steam.  in a blender, this means a little explosion of burning hot liquid from the top.  In the pot, this means that IF some splashes on you, you be BURNED! ehe. 

Goda Masala is a dark powder spice mix - it's got a smoky and sweet aroma, and makes things spicy without being hot.  I've never seen it anywhere before, so i have no idea if you can get it.  I would try Indian foodshops if you have access to them.  More info here:
However, the actual spices in this soup isn't the important thing, as long as you have something on hand.  I've made it with just a bit of curry powder, or even just cumin and turmeric, with some freshly grated ginger added in.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween cupcakes!

Ok so a friend of mine loves Halloween.  In fact, it's by far her favourite "feast" occasion, much more than Christmas etc :D  Her and her partner hold a Halloween event every year (even before they met, they individually used to have a Halloween party.. awwwww)

Anyway this year I made cupcakes!  of course, they had to have a Halloween theme, so I decided to make Red Velvet cupcakes (mm blood red!) and some kind of black cake, which this time was Guinness Chocolate cake with a small amount of black food colouring for extra um.. blackness.

For the recipes of the cakes, click here:

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Chocolate Guinness cupcakes

As we were planning on decorating them, I decided on making a regular buttercream frosting, and separating the mix and colouring each part.

I made the following colours - plain white, pinkish/grey, orange and green.

As for decorations,  i bought sweets in the shape of vampire fangs, skulls, bones and Sarah provided some chocolate eyeballs and pumpkins :) 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chocolate Guinness Cake

If you want a dark, moist chocolate cake, this is the one for you.  I was looking for a dark chocolate cake for Halloween - we had red velvet cakes, and I was thinking about making black velvet but a friend noticed this recipe in the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book, and since I happened to have a can of Guinness, it was the perfect time to try!

The recipe is for a single cake, however I've found that Hummingbird bakery cakes always work out well as cupcakes too! 
  • Some notes about this cake mix:  It will be MUCH runnier than many cake mixes. 
  • At first, it smells kinda beery.  Then once it's all mixed in together, life is good :) 
  • Before I took it out, i touched it lightly and the cake sprung back anyway, however please note that even though it did this, it still didn't actually look cooked.  This is fine.
  • This particular time,  I used regular butter-cream as I was making millions of little cupcakes, however I believe it would probably taste even better with the cream cheese frosting
  • I made regular cupcakes, mini muffin, and also mini cupcake size.  I adjusted the cooking time by sight, I figured about 10 minutes for the tiny ones, 12-14 for the medium size.  If you are making a whole cake, it should take about 45 minutes, until the top is springy (bounces back when touched lightly) and a skewer comes out clean when put through the middle of the cake.
(for 24 large cupcakes, approx 40 fairy cakes, about 50-60 mini cupcakes)
For the cake/s
250ml Guinness
250g unsalted butter
80g good quality cocoa powder
400g caster sugar
2 eggs (at room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
140ml buttermilk (if you can't find buttermilk, use runny plain unsweetened yoghurt)
280g cake ("OO") flour, sifted
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
For the frosting
50g unsalted butter, softened
300g  icing sugar
125g full fat Philadelphia cheese
Cocoa powder, for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170°C, then line 2 x 12 muffin pan thingie with muffin liners (fairy cake liners are too small) 
Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarb together into a large bowl. 
Pour the Guinness into a small saucepan, add the butter and gently heat until it has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the cocoa powder and sugar into the warm liquid. 
Mix together the eggs, vanilla essence and buttermilk by hand in a jug or bowl, and then add this to the mixture in the pan.
Add the liquids to the bowl containing the flour, and whisk on a low speed until incorporated, making sure you scrape down the sides and get it all well mixed.
Spoon the batter into the cake liners until 2/3 full.  If there is any extra, put it to the side, you can cook it in another batch after the first batch is done.  
Bake for approximately 15-18 minutes or until the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed.
Leave cool in the tin for about 5-10 minutes, then remove them from pan and cook on a wire rack.  
Make sure the cakes are completely cold before frosting. 

To make frosting: 
Sift the icing sugar into a bowl (the bowl of free standing mixer if you're using). 
Chop the butter into small cubes, and if it's not soft, put in the microwave in 5 second intervals until it's soft and pliable. 

Work the butter into the icing sugar with the back of a spoon.  This is my method of preventing the whole kitchen becoming a cloud of icing sugar, as whilst it does smell quite nice, it's also horrible and messy.  

Once you've worked the butter in, using the electric whisk (or freestanding mixer with paddle attachment) mix the butter and icing sugar together until there are no large lumps of butter and it is fully combined with the sugar in a sandy mixture.   You can choose to cover your freestanding mixer with a clean teatowel at this point, to make sure the clouds of icing sugar don't puff out. but if you've worked in the butter, this shouldn't happen.  Having the butter at room temperature REALLY helps for this!

Add the cream cheese and mix in a low speed (I "pulse" it in until it's combined then increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.  Be careful not to overbeat the cream cheese frosting, as it can go from voluminous and fluffy to runny in a surprisingly short amount of time.  You can beat the hell out of it for a couple of minutes though!  it DOES need to be nice and fluffy!
Place the cooled cake on to a plate or cake card and top generously with the cream cheese frosting. The cake can be decorated with a light dusting of cocoa powder.

As I used buttercream, I piped the frosting on.  The frosting above should just be spread on using a palette knife :)  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Poached eggs! Finally!

I love poached eggs.  Every time I go out for breakfast in Melbourne, I would get excite about the prospect of a wobbly white "mozzarella-looking" egg, that explodes with liquid gold yolk at the slightest poke, so tasty, and such a pleasure to look at too. Naturally, I would try making them at home.  Watching my friend Jossie (a chef) making them at home seemed so easy!  Throw some water in a pan, add a tiny amount of vinegar, and they would be presented to me, beautiful and perfect.  Seems so easy right?  Well, apparently not.  I always ended up with a yolk, surrounded by strings of egg-white, looking more like a stringy stracciatella than a poached egg. BOO!

Until today.  Today, I managed! I was inspired by Miss Lolly, a fellow food blogger in Brisbane, who posted recently that she had never managed to make a proper one until recently.
I'm so proud of these eggs.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Platters - low carb style :)

Inspired by Mona and her Food book , a few weeks ago, i embarked on a low carb diet.  The main aim of course was to lose weight, but also, it seems to be a diet that really suited me, and didn't go against my philosophy as most diets do.  Essentially i don't like eating artificial stuff, nothing that's come out of a lab.  This includes things like the over processed margarines, stuff like high fructose corn syrup (and the myriad of corn derivatives), basically anything with an ingredient list full of numbers and complicated names, rather than simple things that I could technically buy individually at a shop.  This diet, once I was reading into it, didn't sound like too much of a sacrifice at all!  Sure, i'd be giving up the almighty hobz biz- zejt and my favourite dish, PASTA!  but at least I could "console" myself with cheese, olive oil, nuts, ensuring that i wouldn't go hungry and just have to nibble on a peach which would essentially leave me hungrier than before!

One of the easiest and quickest ways to satisfy both the carb and non-carb eaters of this world together, is to have a massive platter full of delicious goodies.  I find I have no issue at all not replacing carbohydrates, as long as i have some kind of vegetable. Most of the time, at this time of year, it's tomatoes.  they feature very heavily, being my substitute fruit between meals, as well as being a great implement to throw some olive dip on, or eat with a piece of meat or cheese :)  I also like to add some kind of leaf.  This time it was Maltese rocket (aka insalata)For the carb eaters, I normally provide a small loaf of bread, or some galletti.

Here are some pictures of a couple of platters I've made in the past few weeks :)

Platter one: 

Aubergine/Eggplant Parmigiana

This is one of the dishes that has a confusing origin, people (including myself) thought that the name suggested that it's from Parma, but in fact wiki suggests it's Sicily and Campania that lay claims to it, which makes sense considering the ingredients! :)
layering the ingredients

I have no idea if my version is traditional, in fact I'm sure it's not, but the point is that it tastes good no?  And is made with healthy, fresh ingredients?  AND as a special bonus - this dish is VERY low carb! :D  here we go! :)

Parma ham, Avocado, Gorgonzola salad

As you may or may not know, i'm currently on a low carb diet.
One of the things that i'm enjoying doing is making giant salads and eating them all up!  I am not on a low fat diet, just low carbs, so olive oil, cheeses, hams, avocados, and so many things that are very restricted when on a low calorie diet are back on the menu!  It's the carbohydrates that i'm trying to avoid, whether they be in simple sugar form (sweets, fruits, all those crazy corn derivatives), or complex carbohydrates (starch - some beans, potatoes, wheat, corn)

This one was thrown together in a jiffy.. and my tastebuds were very very happy! :D

Marinade for pork - revisited

I love marinading pork for the BBQ.  And Maltese pork is fantastic.  I buy it from Prime butchers (found in all the GS/Tower supermarkets), or the few select good butchers around malta, like Charles butcher in Naxxar, or the guys at Arkadia. 

I made 2 this week, and they were both really tasty! 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Salsa Cruda - a.k.a bloody simple pasta sauce!

Salsa Cruda literally means "raw sauce", as this sauce requires no cooking at all.  There are so many variations of this, but essentially there are a few things in common with all of them: fresh tomatoes, olive oil, a summery herb, all at room temperature.  The pasta is added steaming hot, making a lovely contrast with the cool sauce. Drizzle with some extra Extra Virgin Olive oil just before serving :)

Everything about this sauce screams summer - invokes the feelings of al fresco dining, relaxation, possibly with a frosty glass of white wine :)

The most important thing in this sauce is that you buy the right quality ingredients.   I adore tomatoes for example, but I will not buy them unless they are EXACTLY the quality I want.  Same goes with everything else in this sauce.  Except the basil, because that's growing in pots all over our coutyard in an attempt to finally have enough basil to see us through summer (I swear we're all basil addicts here, I even use it on toast with a tiny drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of seasoning in the morning, it's not my fault, I walk past 2 basil plants on the way to the kitchen, I can't help but pick a leaf or 2!) 

simple, quick, easy, fresh.  :D

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Raspberry White Chocolate Muffins

Totally not a fan of white chocolate under normal circumstances, but i feel that the tart flavour of a raspberry is totally complimented by the creamy sweetness white chocolate gives :)  These muffins are also a result of trying to use what's in the cupboard - white chocolate was left over from Christmas-time, raspberries were in the freezer :)

An unwrapped muffin, mmm look at that raspberry gooey goodness :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Marinade for Pork (bbq)

So - first of all, choose a piece of pork that is likely to be extra tasty on bbq.  The chops are great, although sometimes they tend to be a little dry on a bbq. 

I used Collar (in the picture), it's the pork version of Scotch fillet on a cow.  Tasty with a minimal amount of fat going through it, enough to keep it moist on the barbie :)  So juicy and delicious, and is still very ok when slightly over-cooked, as it just keeps getting more tender whilst the fat crisps up and caramelises.

What you will need:
Soy Sauce
Oyster sauce
Tabasco (the chipotle one is amazing, esp for bbq's!)
Ginger, fresh (dried is ok if not)

Place the pork in a container (ideally sealable, so that you just have to shake it around every now and then)

Sprinkle the marinade ingredients over, there is no need to put too much, you don't want it to be swimming in it!!!, just very well coated.  I find that this makes for more tender meat, if you chuck it in a pool of marinade, i feel that the juices of the meat seeps out and you will end up with a drier finished product.

Marinade for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.

Cook on bbq until just about cooked through.  :) 

If i buy my pork from a reputable butcher, i don't have any issues eating it at medium-well done, rather than completely well done.  it's SO much nicer in taste and texture that way :)  but yeah.. make sure you trust the butcher before doing so.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lemon curd cupcakes

Mmmmm!!!  These cupcakes are amazing.  I am in total awe of the person who actually decided to put together this recipe, for they are just... wow.  

These cakes are for serious lemon lovers... they have the amazing combination of tart, sweet, creamy, textures, everything.  They are... just... wow.  so SO good! 

The curd is so deliciously lemony and creamy, the cake is soft, light, also lemony, and the frosting (which contains some of the lemon curd, as well as cream cheese and whipped cream) brings it all together to a lovely, lemony delight!  

Poor little cupcake, sitting on a plate, it was eaten only a few moments after this was taken
I really felt like trying something lemony, as we suddenly ended up with quite a few lemons from friends' and colleagues' trees, we were going over to my aunt's for tea to celebrate mother's day with Nanna, so thought it was the perfect opportunity to try something delicious and lemony!  These are a winner I think!! 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Carrot Cupcakes - Hummingbird bakery stylez

I adapted this recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook.  I've never actually been to the shop in London, but my sister swears by this recipe, and everyone I know who's been to the shop have adored the food there :)  The recipe was for cake, but this was adapted for cupcakes.  
funny hat wearing cupcakes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cheesy vegetable Lasagne

We stuff ourselves silly on Xmas day.  It's ridiculous.  And now that the "kids" have become foodies, we have added, not reduced the amount of courses served at this mammoth, 8 hour lunch.  Every time one of the "traditional" family dishes is threatened, half the family go up-in-arms about it, so it's a bit of a risk to change the staples.  In our family these staples are meat lasagne, and a dessert we call "coffee mousse", which I'm yet to attempt.

I did the daring and changed the meat lasagne into a vegetarian version, in an attempt to at least make one of the courses somewhat easier to digest with all the other foods there.  As not to scare the carnivores, we named it "cheesy vegetable lasagne", with an emphasis on the cheese.  And it seemed to work! 

Cheesy vegetable lasagne

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chicken Broth - (Brodu tat-Tigieg)

"Brodu" is so much more than a simple chicken stock in Malta.  It's a hearty meal, with 2 courses,  a delicious brothy soup, and then the chicken itself, served with steamed/boiled vegetables, potatoes and crusty bread. 

When I used to make this soup in Melbourne with my best mate and her partner, we'd eat soup on one day, have chicken pie the next with the leftover chicken, and any leftover soup would be used as a broth to make risotto the day after.  This is a fantastic way of getting all you can out of one chicken.  And so tasty!
Just ready.

Shortbread (Gill's mum's)

Gotta love a delicious golden biscuit!  This is a recipe that family friend passed on to us (Gill, she actually hand-wrote a beautiful little recipe book for my mum, and added pictures of Australia and friends as a goodbye present when my family left Malta).  This is her mum's recipe :)

This dough is fantastic to keep rolled into a sausage, and tightly wrapped with cling wrap in the fridge, especially at the Christmas/winter season, ready to be whipped out, sliced, and thrown in the oven for freshly baked shortbread biscuits at any time!

Shortbread (the background ones were wrapped as gifts.

Scandinavian Spicy cookies

I know.  This was meant to be a Christmas Post.  Terrible of me really.

These are delicious - buttery cinnamon and spice flavoured cookies, and they literally bring home the smell of Xmas into the kitchen and all around the house.  it's awesome!

I've seen so many differing recipes for these cookies, but the one I liked best was from an issue of Taste (Issue 7, winter 2005), a Maltese magazine that comes out with the Independent.  They had an article about a Danish and a Swedish person living in Malta, and they gave this recipe for "brown cookies".  I had just been to Sweden and tasted these awesome biscuits so thought i'd make them.  and they were delicious! And so much fun to make!

With shortbread in a plate...

Vanilla... beans, extract, paste, essence..

My rant about the availability of Vanilla in Malta.  I need to make this clear, vanilla essence and vanilla extract are NOT the same thing.  Vanilla essence is completely sans vanilla, completely artificial.  It is also the reason I thought i never liked vanilla!  It's something i never thought of until i tasted real vanilla, and loved it!  If i was rich, i would always use vanilla pods, but seeing as they cost about 4 euros PER POD, the cost is a little prohibitive.  In Australia, I started using vanilla paste, which is a thick vanilla extract with extra vanilla seeds added.  This is by far the best non pod vanilla product to use.

Now: I cannot find anything but either real pods or essence in Malta. (EDIT!!! I have found  Natural Vanilla extract in supermarkets now.  Not all of them, but at least a few.  Also try baking shops!)  I tried to use essence but even though everyone was like "yummy cupcakes la" all i could taste was this horrible artificial taste, even though i put half the amount of essence.  Artificial taste, and the extra level that vanilla gives - nowhere! :(   I was so disappointed because it was the essence, and there's nothing I could have done.  Anyway, I searched far and wide.  to no avail, so when i made the shortbread this Xmas, i used a mix of essence and vanilla pods, which was somewhat better.  I'll tell you, the ones that had JUST seeds (no essence) in them were better.  so so much better.  And i love those little black dots!  Anyway i don't have to worry now, as luckily my lovely sister brought me some Taylor's Collection Vanilla Bean Paste from the UK :)  YAY!!!

AMERICANS BEWARE!!!  please note that extract and essence are different for you, as apparently in the US essence is actually just strong vanilla extract.  Gah!  way to confuse things! 
Vanilla beans (cured)

I guess that sometimes I think we're getting too used to the artificial taste of things, and what scares me most is that I think people are starting to prefer it!  The real thing tastes natural, and is what caused them to make the essences in the first place.  Surely that means it's superior in taste?   Otherwise why try replicate it?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Roast Potatoes - Hasselback stylez

Cooking potatoes in this way is a real win/win situation.  They take less time to cook than just placing a whole potato in the oven, and they also look really, really pretty!  Plus you get a little bit of the soft delicious inside, and a crunchy layer on every bite!

They are great served with something saucy, or really, whenever you feel like a roasted potato without waiting for ages!  Hasselbacks are not a hassle at all hehee :) 

There are heaps of variations, you can put various herbs, or even a little bit of grated parmesan to add extra crunch, or simply seasalt and ground pepper... it's great!

Hasslback potatoes with coq au vin

Regarding the type of potatoes, I like to use a waxy one, as they will keep their shape, yet remain lovely and creamy on the inside.  I find that using Charlotte,king edward or nicola is great, but in Malta, they don't come by "name" so just get the ones with the pink eyes, or the ones that are longish (rather than round) and yellow, not white on the inside. 
Ingredients for 4 people
  • 8-12 medium sized roasting potatoes
  • Chunky and fine sea salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • Rosemary, thyme, or herbes de Provence
  • Olive oil
  • Cold butter (optional)
  • A head of garlic, separated into cloves but left unpeeled and whole

Preheat oven to 200 celcius (i think that's about 450 fahrenheit)
Wash and scrub potatoes, removing all the little eyes and bad bits.

Grab a potato, place it on the flattish side down (there is always a flatter side on a potato).  Start slicing with a VERY sharp and thin knife to about 2/3 - 3/4 of the way down. Make about 15 of these slices into the potato.  Be really careful not to go all the way down, but don't freak out if it happens once or twice.  We're not perfect!  Repeat with all the potatoes.  

Put in a mixing bowl, and pour some olive oil over the potatoes, and toss until they are all covered.  Don't be scared to use your hands at this point.  Just make sure that you have all the other ingredients at hand first, otherwise there will be oily cupboards and jars to deal with!

Place the potatoes on a shallow baking tray (i use baking paper also).

One by one, gently and ever so slightly pry the slices open and try and sprinkle some chunky salt in there. This will keep the slices ever so slightly open also, and will help the herbs, pepper etc get into each slice.

Sprinkle with pepper, herbs, some more fine salt (it's very hard to put too much salt on a potato!), and if you want, place a teenzy slice of butter in one of the middle slices.
In the oven...
Put in oven, and leave for about 30-45 minutes, uncovered until they are cooked through and all browned and crispy on the top. 

Leave for about 5-10 min before tucking in, because they will be REALLY hot! :D  luckily you can "open them up" a little with your fork to let them cool faster :D  
They go very well with coq au vin gravy over them too :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Coq au Vin

Ah.... this is one of my favourite dishes, to make, to serve and to eat.  Like the Maltese fenkata, this is a dish best served with loved ones!! :) I've adapted it to use things I can find in a regular butcher/supermarket/greengrocer.
It really makes a difference to cook this the night before, so try to do that if possible as the flavour really develops.  Plus it's way easier if you're entertaining anyway!  If not, try and make it as early on in the day as possible, and leave to sit for a couple of hours before reheating and serving!
Really good served with some kind of roast potatoes (i made hasselbacks, recipe to follow) and/or some fresh beautiful loaf of bread (luckily there's no short supply of that in Malta!)

Delicious and nutritious comfort food :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

i promise

That i will not abandon you forever and I will update you with the collection of photos and recipes i've collected since the start of December!


just please have some patience!