Books I love
  • Short and Sweet
    Short and Sweet
  • The Flavour Thesaurus
    The Flavour Thesaurus
  • Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots
    Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots
  • Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon
    Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon
  • Macarons
    Macarons
  • Mich Turner's Cake Masterclass: The Ultimate Step-by-step Guide to Cake Decorating Perfection
    Mich Turner's Cake Masterclass: The Ultimate Step-by-step Guide to Cake Decorating Perfection
  • The Professional Pastry Chef: Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry
    The Professional Pastry Chef: Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry
  • Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
    Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
  • The Home Guide to Cake Decorating
    The Home Guide to Cake Decorating
  • The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious--And Perplexing--City
    The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious--And Perplexing--City
  • Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling
    Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling
  • Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3
    Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3
  • Rose's Heavenly Cakes
    Rose's Heavenly Cakes

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Wednesday
Feb262014

Roasted aubergine curry (Bhagare baigan)

My mum who happens to be 3,850 miles away, was advising me over the phone on how to cook mild curries to introduce Pakistani food to the bland palate of my 6 year old. Little did she know, that Chicken curry is at the top of his favourite foods list. But I didn't tell her the whole truth. That curry comes from a Lloyd Grossman's mild korma curry jar. Some secrets should really go with you to your grave, and this one certainly would, unless I wish to be burnt live at the stake.

I am a bit impartial to cooking curries at home; even when I have spent most part of my life in Pakistan, cooking all kinds of curries and rice under the watchful eyes of my mother. Learning to cook is pretty much a part of growing up in our culture as a girl. No sooner than you are 10, it's time to get started with over-cooked and unsalted rice or misshapen chappatis (flat-breads) which are compared to maps of various countries at the dinner table.

After moving here some 12 years ago, being jobless, I ended up watching a lot of day time television and evening soaps, as you do!  I once heard one of the characters in one of the dramas mentioning her Indian friend, saying she is nice and that her house does not smell of curries like they normally do. Shock and horror! I have been obsessed with this concept ever since and try and avoid this eventuality at all costs. Though I must admit, it is harder to achieve in houses and flats built for winter, where exhausts hardly function properly compared to large open houses with open doors and windows, and exhaust fans loud enough to render you deaf and powerful enough to  power a boat.

Anyways, I think that is just a lame excuse. Cooking for me is all about sharing and with a busy lifestyle it is much easier to resort to jacket potatoes, soups and pasta for my dinner. That is- if it's not left over fish fingers and onion rings. On some weekends, nothing gives me more pleasure than to temper spices, whilst keeping my kitchen door closed and the window open, and sharing it with friends. Alternatively, there is always that jar of Lloyd Grossman's curry and my little monster to share it with.

Aubergine or Brinjal (baigan in Urdu/Hindi)

This fruit, which is used as a vegetable, originated in India and you can find many different varieties there, including smaller green, white or stripy round shapes which resemble an egg and hence the more popular American name-eggplant.

Traditionally they are salted to get rid of the bitterness but this is not necessary with the varieties available in the UK. The aubergines are spongy in texture and notorious for soaking up oil. There is a famous Arabic dish by the name of Imam Bayildi (the priest fainted) and the rumour has it that he fainted when he heard how much oil his wife had used for the recipe. Or was it because it was so delicious?

One of my most favourite dishes featuring this humble vegetable is Baba Ghanoush (smoked aubergine with garlic, tahini, lemon, parsley and yoghurt). I think it is the whole experience of charring aubergine, peeling the burnt skin which can be very messy that makes the whole experience so enjoyable.

IMG_6655

Roasted Aubergine Curry (serves 6)

Being home sick, the only connection, left to my homeland was food. I had come here with a journal of recipes which provided comfort in many dark cold winters. Bhagare Baigan was one of them. This recipe originates in Hyderabad, India and is traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to Biryani. My mum loved cooking and was always on the hunt for new recipes. If it wasn't the many cookery shows on the satellite channels, it was through friends that she introduced us to all sorts of international and new recipes. She came home with this recipe from work one day and set to grinding and roasting all the spices and we instantly fell in love with it.

You wouldn't find this recipe in your typical take away as it is quite time consuming and a unique blend of spices. After my research, I have pretty much stuck to my mom's recipe with some additional spices for tempering. The recipe usually calls for frying the aubergines twice in buckets of oil but I have opted to roast the aubergines, rather than fry them to make it a little healthy.

IMG_6752

Ingredients:

  • Aubergine (small tubular or round) 8-10
  • Sunflower oil 1 tsp
For tempering:
  • Mustard seeds: 1/4 tsp
  • Cumin seeds: 1/4 tsp
  • Fenugreek seeds : 1/4 tsp
  • Nigella seeds: 1/4 tsp
  • Curry leaves: 4-6
  • Sunflower oil 2 tbsp

For curry paste:

  • Poppy seeds 1tbsp
  • Dessicated coconut 2tbsp
  • Raw peanuts 2tbsp
  • Sesame seeds 2tbsp
  • Tamarind paste 1tbsp
  • Chopped Onion 2 medium
  • Sunflower oil 2tbsp
  • Chilli powder 1tsp
  • Cumin powder 1tsp
  • Turmeric powder 1tsp
  • Coriander powder 1tsp
  • Garlic paste 1tsp
  • Ginger paste 1tsp
  • Water 250ml
  • Green chillies 2
  • Salt 1tsp

Garnish:

  • Chopped fresh green coriander 2tsp
  • Dry (or fresh) red chillies 2

roasted aubergine curry1

 Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C fan assisted (200C).
  • Wash and then slit the aubergines in half lengthwise whilst leaving the stalks on.
  • Coat them with a teaspoon of oil and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. 

roasted aubergine curry3

  •  Dry roast the peanuts, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and coconut till it is light brown in colour.
  • Constantly keep stirring when doing this otherwise it will brown unevenly as evident from the picture at the bottom.

roasted aubergine curry2

  • Fry the onion in the oil till they are translucent and brown.
  • Mix all the dry roasted ingredients with fried onions and tamarind paste and grind to a paste.

roasted aubergine curry4

  • Temper the curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, mustard seeds till they start crackling.
  • Add the green chillies and fry for one minute.
  • Add all the dry spices along with ginger and garlic paste.
  • Add little water if necessary to prevent them from sticking to the pan or burning. Fry for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the paste and fry till it becomes dry and then add one cup of water.
  • When it starts to boil, add the aubergines and simmer with the pan covered for 10 minutes.

roasted aubergine curry5

Garnish with green coriander and serve with rice or naan. 

IMG_6766

 

Sunday
Feb092014

Make-ahead Chocolate fondant and Bruges (Chocoholic's pudding and travels)

“There are all kinds of addicts, I guess. We all have pain. And we all look for ways to make the pain go away.”
Sherman Alexie

Hi! My name is Sadia and I am an addict. I am addicted to dark chocolate. If there was a CC (concealed chocoholics), then no doubt, I'd be an active member.

There has been a lot of talk in the papers recently on the addiction to sugar and how to fix the problem. I never really liked the sweeter versions of chocolates, or shall I say candy bars, but I wonder if there is anything such as addiction to pure chocolate. And if you were potentially addicted to it; where would you go to get your fix? What strength would satisfy your cravings? And what pudding will hit the spot and give you that high?

I personally would go to Belgium and for pudding I would pay anything for a good melt in the middle chocolate fondant for that kick.You should have seen the twinkle in my eyes after the first taste of 100% chocolate. It is an acquired taste like Marmite and there is no way in the world you can eat a whole 100g bar in one attempt. A small one inch square is all you would need.

BRUGES

I visited Bruges recently and fell in love with it instantly, as most people do. The best way I found to discover this city was to get lost in it. The first evening I got there, whilst lost, I dragged my suitcase on its cobble-stoned road, looking like a typical tourist with an umbrella, out of control maps and puzzled looks. Thankfully a few helpful locals, who spoke fluent English, came to my rescue. They walked me to my hotel and that too through the most scenic route. These are a few things I have learnt about the city and its dwellers.

They seem to like repetition:

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Have grand windmills and city gates at the outskirts of the city:

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They know a thing or two about architecture:

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 IMG_7262

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Everything is made out of chocolate:

 IMG_7283

IMG_7287

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They have freitas (fries) with everything, if not on its own:

 IMG_7138

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They live up to their words as confirmed by this man crying tears of happiness as he leaves after having hot chocolate in this gorgeous little tea-room. The DIY hot chocolate was the best experience ever where I could actually eat a cup made out of chocolate.

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 IMG_7293

They make great waffles:

 IMG_7295

As everywhere else, they succumb to the commercialism of Valentine's day:

 IMG_7277

 IMG_7270

Their doctors work easier hours than GPs here:

IMG_7241

They love their bikes:

 IMG_7223

They have winding stairs and 366 of them:

 IMG_7174

They have breath taking canals, bridges and buildings filled with splendour and history:

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IMG_7236

 IMG_7193

 IMG_7136

They know how to create ambience at night

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 IMG_6980

 IMG_6996

They have a good sense of humour:

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and can be philosophical:

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 and of course they cater a thing or two for tourist which includes bus tours and horse cart rides:

IMG_7119

 

HOT CHOCOLATE FONDANT (serves the two of you)

 IMG_7385

OK, this recipe has got nothing to do with Valentine's day. I am fed up with this constant bombardment of advertisements through media or emails about how this is the ultimate expression of love. Unless you send a dozen roses or arrange a candle-lit dinner like an automaton, you are not a romantic person. I guess as a single person I do not really have the right to moan about it much, hence I will shut up now.

If I have a problem with it, doesn't mean that you have to agree with me or avoid baking something as gorgeous as this for your loved one. At least it will be something different.

I first had this pudding from M&S and carefully contemplated eating it for some time, having read the calorie content of it. Once, I have been spoon fed this pudding in my deepest darkest hour and it has brought me the utmost comfort and joy, not only for the company I had at the time but also because of the richness, texture and warmth of this moreish dessert.

It couldn't be easier to make if you time it well and keep a close watch towards the end of the baking time for that slightest wobble. Though I admit that the first time I made it for a dinner party, I timed it all wrong and an extra 3 minutes turned it into a chocolate sponge instead which I served with some chocolate sauce. This is an adaption of Gordon Ramsay's recipe from BBC Good Food Magazine. The best bit- once ready you can refrigerate or freeze it, ready to pop it in the oven at the last minute.

Ingredients:

Dark chocolate (70% minimum) 50gm

Caster sugar 50gm

Plain flour 50gm

Butter (unsalted) 50gm + 1tsp extra for ramekins

1 medium egg

1 egg yolk

Cocoa powder 1 tbsp

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C (fan assisted 160C).
  • Coat two large ramekins (10cm in diameter) with extra butter and cocoa powder.
  • Melt butter and chocolate together in a microwave ( I do it on medium setting for 20 seconds at a time) or over a bowl of simmering water until smooth. 

fondant 

  • Whisk the egg, egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is light and the whisk leaves a trail when lifted.
  • Mix in the melted chocolate until well combined.
  • Fold in the flour with a metal spoon. (You can freeze/refrigerate the batter at this stage.)
  • Bake for 12-14 minutes, until just set. (Add 2 minutes for refrigerated and 5 minutes for frozen batter.)

fondant1

Tap the ramekin gently on a serving plate and serve with some ice-cream. 

Enjoy!

 IMG_7345

Related posts:

Guardian's Felicity Cloake's attempts in search for that perfect recipe.

A link to video with tips from Ramsay himself.

Links:

I am adding this post to Karen's Lavendar and Lovage tea time treats challenge which is hosted by Janie from The Hedgecombers. The theme this month is Chocolate of course!

Lavender and Lovage
Sunday
Jan262014

Pomegranate macarons with rosewater butter cream

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.
Truman Capote

So many people are surprised to know that I have not seen the last two series of The Great British Bake Off. I generally lose interest in repetition of the same series, year after year. So whether it was the X-factor (yes, I shamefully admit) or Strictly Come Dancing or Dancing on Ice, no matter how interesting the judges or the contestants get, I would not watch them past the first series. Besides, by the time the second or third series is aired- things generally turn nasty as there is certainly not much left to be said about the main format of the programmes. How else can something as frivolous as a baking show generate such hatred.

My main reason for not watching it was the fact that they are all amateur bakers, and even when I think I can bake and bake well, they make me feel inadequate. There was a time in not so distant past when my therapist asked me, "You were not a good wife, you are not a good friend, you are not a good mother, you are not good at your job. What are you good at?" My reply, "Baking!" Hence watching such a programme would only have meant feeling bad about the only thing I thought was good in my life. Thankfully depression is not ruling my mind as much as it would like to, and I consider myself to be adequate at a lot of other things, specially baking- enough to critique my own results without caring or clinging on to any negative feedback and the ability to share my failures in the process.

Pomegranate

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I've only known one way to use  pomegranates and that is to eat it in a fruit salad. Fruit chaat is a popular snack in Pakistan. What could be better than eating the fruits cut up mixed up with a lot of sugar, juices and spices! I truly hated it but I think I hated peeling, shredding and laboriously picking each pomegranate seed (making sure not a single speck of the utterly bitter white pith didn't escape into the fruit bowl) more. Now my 6 year old rates pomegranate as his favourite fruit along with water melon and we love buying it whole, cutting it in quarters and smacking it with a rolling pin to get the seeds out.

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There is a reference to this wonderfully exotic fruit in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The health benefits of the anti-oxidants are currently being researched.

Pomegranate and rose water macarons

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I wanted to make something with a seasonal ingredient and I have been toying with the idea of making fruit jelly with this wondrous 100% pomegranate juice. I got this idea of having a fruit jelly in the middle of macaron from Pierre Hermé book Macarons. The next step was to turn to the Flavour Thesaurus to see what flavours would go well with, but alas there is no reference of this fruit in the book. Considering the affinity of rosewater and pomegranate in Middle eastern cookery, I opted for this combination. I think vanilla might work well too. 

Pomegranate jelly:

Ingredients:

Pomegranate juice 200ml

1 packet of powdered gelatin (equivalent of 4 leaf gelatine)

Method:

  • Mix the powder in 100ml of the cold juice then pour over the warm juice and mix till completely dissolved.
  • Line a tin with cling film and let the jelly set.
  • When ready cut it into 1-1.5cm squares.

pomegranate macarons

Rose water butter-cream

I have always heard the fellow bloggers rave about this Italian meringue butter cream and wondered what all the fuss was about. Mixing butter and sugar is so much simpler than slaving over a bowl of sugar and egg whites stirring till your arm falls off, as you fear about killing everyone who consumes it with salmonella. Having said that, I am not a big fan of the grainy and super sweet simple butter cream. The result using this method was a really smooth and silky cream and an arm ache. Here is a great post which de-mystifies the whole process.

Ingredients:

Caster sugar 120gm

Egg whites 2

Butter (softened) 180gm

Rose water 1/2 tsp

Method:

  • Mix egg whites with sugar in a heat-proof bowl. Place it over a bowl of simmering water and stir till the temperature reached 60C.
  • Transfer the mixture to your mixer and beat for about 8-10 minutes until soft peaks form and the mixture appears cooler.
  • Add butter one tablespoon at a time mixing well after each addition. Curdling is a normal part of the process. Keep stirring and it will all come together.

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Macarons:

I have used the same recipe and method as the Pistachio Macarons.

The added step involved putting a block of pomegranate jelly in the middle and then sealing the whole thing with another small dollop of the icing on the top shell of macaron. Rest the whole thing for at least 24 hours. Let them come back to room temperature (approximately 2 hours) before serving. But if I am honest, I have had four today even when the texture is not quite nice, the taste makes up for it.

 Collages2

Below is an example of failure with these finicky things. I think there were a few reasons for it. The skin on the surface hadn't formed properly and the oven temperature was too high and I was paying more attention to the biryani cooking on the stove at the time.

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So there you have it. I have learnt something new and I am still amazed as to how much there is to learn and master in baking. I hope you will enjoy tagging along this journey as I share my successes and failures. IMG_6950

Sunday
Jan052014

No pre-heating required: Chicken tagine with green olives and preserved lemons

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
Woody Allen

And boy did he laugh! 

I've always wanted to travel to Morocco to visit Jema-el-fena and enjoy the cuisine that I have fallen in love with lately. Of course, warmer weather, friendly people, culture and mint tea were other major players in my choice of this city.

Just before travelling, I spotted a post by Urvashi of The Botanical Baker and was all set to master my tagine with Faim d'Epices cookery school and cook a delicious beef tagine with pears and candied oranges.

I would love to travel but suffer from a bit of aerophobia; though having been in a plane when I was 7 and the lightning struck the plane, the pilot asking us to say our final prayers, might have something to do with it. So whenever I fly now, I am convinced that I am not coming back so I try to be a little bit nicer, and make sure my house is clean. One thing I don't want people to talk about when I die, is how messy I was. Something that I have perhaps subconsciously learnt from my mum and her cleaning rituals before our annual plane trips to visit the family in Pakistan stating that she wants to return to a sparkling clean house.

After a lot of nudging by my friends, I finally plucked up the courage to fly but God (or river Mole) had other plans. Amidst the chaos that followed after the flooding at Gatwick airport I was unable to fly. I don't believe in divine interventions or signs so much, so I am in the process of re-booking the same holiday again. Until then, you will have to wait to learn about the dadas, tea ceremonies and Moroccan spices.

Preserved Lemons

My introduction to this special ingredient has been through Claudia Roden and her cook books.  These impart dishes with a citrus scent and a tangy undertone.

Preserving lemons at home couldn't be easier  but I am opting for a shop bought version this time as it requires patience (you have to wait for at least a month for them to mature) which is a virtue that I lack.

 

Chicken tagine with green olives and preserved lemons

I am planning to do something different with the blog this year. For starters it involves blogging more, which is not easy as a single mother with a full time job, so I'll see how it goes.

I fear bread when it comes to eating it and also when it comes to baking it. I plan to change that with some bread baking and courses.

I will keep main focus on baking and ingredients but once in a while I plan to post recipes which I love and prepare often that don't involve baking under the bracket- no pre-heating required.

This tagine recipe is one of them. It is a crowd pleaser and easy to make as well. It is very mildly spiced and the main flavours come from the preserved lemons and olives. This is adapted from The food of Morocco which is an excellent read for food lovers detailing Moroccon food history, influences and recipes.

IMG_4538

Ingredients:

Preserved lemon 1

Olive oil 3 tbsp

Chicken (jointed) 1-1.5kg

Onion (white) chopped: 2 medium

Garlic cloves, chopped 2

Salt 1tsp

Black pepper 1/2 tsp

Ground ginger 1/2 tsp

Ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp

A pinch of saffron threads

water 300ml

Green olives 100gm

Green coriander for garnish

Method:

  •  Rinse the preserved lemon, discard the pulp and cut in long thin strips.
  • Chop the onions and use a heavy based pan or tagine to fry them in the olive oil until soft.
  • Add garlic, ginger and saffron and fry for a minute.

tagine and maple cake

  • Place the chicken in the pan with salt and pepper and pour in the water. Continue cooking on medium heat and turning the pieces occasionally for about 30 minutes.
  • Stir in the olives and lemon peel and cook for another 10 minutes till the sauce thickens.
  • tagine and maple cake1

    Serve it with chopped coriander as garnish with couscous.

    Sunday
    Nov172013

    Clementine syrup cake 

    There are things which as parents you secretly dread, but you know your child will say or do at some point. Swearing or saying "I hate you" were the two at the top of my list.  Now if like me, you are a self taught parent, and have at least three child psychology and behaviour management books, you would know the best reaction is to acknowledge their feelings, teach them how to best express it, stick to your guns and not take it personally. Easier said than done.

    I will very conveniently skip the swearing in public incident and admit that he has hated me many times over the short 6 years of his life but this weekend he came out with,"You are making my life horrible!" And all I could do was burst into laughter. Of course later I went in with the whole routine as outlined above and by the end of this episode we were both laughing our heads off. Now I always expected it to be something about not buying him his favourite toy - another Star Wars character replica or whatever merchandise they come out with. But no, it was because I wouldn't let him eat a clementine before lunch.

    It was all to do with setting boundaries around no snacks before lunch, but perhaps subconciously it was the fear of being short on clementines for this wonderful recipe I stumbled upon in the Guardian.

    Clementine Syrup cake

    It's cold out there. The start of winter in a coastal city of Karachi was heralded by two things for me. One was the street vendors who used to do rounds in the cold with their carts and a distinct bell - which could easily be confused for Santa's sleigh. Each cart had a coal or wood fire with sand which was used to roast unshelled peanuts and almonds. Just going out of your front door to buy things from a cart filled with various nuts and dried fruits, whilst standing next to a warm fire was quite an experience. Later we used to sit around watching TV, wrapped up in our shwals and duvets whilst shelling peanuts, eating dry fruit mixes and sipping tea or Ovaltine. The taste of warm freshly toasted peanuts, fresh out of the shell was really something else.

    The second was the orange jewels like clementines. The street vendors would sell them in dozens and each one of them was carefully checked by my mum to make sure they were not rotten. Then there was that ritual of dipping them in salt if the fruit was too sour and eating no less than 3 at a time.

    IMG_6637

    This cake is supposed to knock your socks off as per the recipe in  the Guardian and it does exactly just that. You might worry pouring 120ml of syrup wondering where on earth will it go but it's well worth it. The cake is really moist, fragrant, not too almondy and with a touch of tanginess that comes from the lemon and the freshness that comes from the use of zest.

    I just don't know how something so simple can taste so very exquisite. Maybe it is the nostalgia that I associated with this recipe but surely I can not take all the credit away from Yotam and the success of his book Jerusalem.

    The picture is perhaps the worst example of white balance and exposure. I am refreshing my theoretical knowledge of white balance, aperture, exposure, ISO, shutter speed and RAW to hopefully do justice to a recipe like this.

    Sunday
    Oct272013

    Chocolate and Pecan biscotti

    “There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” 
    Linda Grayson

    Well I am blessed to have such friends who not only have exquisite taste in chocolate, but also the knowledge about everything chocolate. This time last year I was writing all about the chocolate week and chocolate cupcakes with caramel ganache. This year, a dear friend of mine introduced me to Le Salon du Chocolat and The Chocolate Museum in Brixton. All she had to do was mention a chocolate fashion show and I was hooked. Alas, I do not have the A list status to have been invited to the live cat walk show but I was able to admire all the dresses on display.

    2013-10-271

    I tasted samples ranging from some of the best chocolatiers including Artisan du Chocolat, Rococo, Hotel Chocolat, Paul Wayne Gregory, Marc Demarquette, Divine, Prestat, Lindt, Valrhona, Pralus and Bonnat. I learnt a whole lot about the different textures and concepts in chocolate making like water ganache, bean to bar and raw chocolate.

    There is of course a flip side to attending these kind of events, which in this case was a huge stash of chocolate I am currently going through like there is no tomorrow. I had to come up with a recipe and fast! The trouble with this plan was the fact that I haven't baked for a while and hence was very short on supplies. A quick rummage through the drawers and I could only bake something with very little butter, dark chocolate, pecan nuts and brown sugar!

    IMG_6551

    Chocolate and Pecan biscotti

    I am currently trying to get a grasp with this whole mindfulness thing. Anybody who has ever tried it would be well aware of the constant chatter in their minds which sometimes runs amok and is so hard to tame. I find my mind constantly planning and thinking ahead. It does have its benefits at times and I find that allowing my thoughts to run haywire helps me create recipes with alterations which I might not have thought otherwise.

    The end of British summer time, a storm prediction and an urge for an espresso was calling out for a biscotti. After a quick trowl through the internet and my dusty baking books I found a perfect and easy recipe in Lisa Faulkner's book. I have adapted  it to include dark chocolate and pecan nuts.

    Biscotti, which means twice baked, have an undisputed Italian origin. Like bagels, which have a hole in it for a purpose, these biscuits were twice baked to last longer and prevent mould formation specially for the provision for sailors and apparently Christopher Columbus took them along on his long voyages.

    IMG_6583

    Ingredients:

    Self raising flour 110g

    Butter 50g

    Light brown sugar 75g

    Pecan nuts (roughly chopped) 50g

    Dark chocolate (roughly chopped) 25g

    Vanilla extract 1 tsp

    Egg white 1

    Method:

    • Pre-heat the oven to 180C (160C fan-assited).
    • Grease a baking tray with oil.
    • Pulse butter, sugar and flour in a food processer until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
    • Add nuts, chocolate, egg and vanilla and combine into a dough
    • Roll the dough gently into a log and place on the tray
    • Bake for 30 minutes.

    2013-10-27

    • Once out of the oven, let it rest for 15 minutes and then slice it with a serrated knife into 1cm thick pieces.
    • Lie them flat on the tray and bake again for 10 minutes till crunchy and golden.

    Collages1

    Enjoy!

    IMG_6585

    Sunday
    Aug112013

    Food processor Raspberry and almond cake

    "The first thing I learned that day was this: what you think you know about a person is only a fraction of the story"

    The Universe versus Alex Woods- Gavin Extence

    I visited my friend yesterday with a plan to take my son swimming. Little did I expect her to have an allotment at a stone's throw from her house, or us three picking and cooking the seasonal produce later that evening.

    My vision of allotment has always been a graveyard of over-growing marrows, weeds of all kind, and corn along with neglected scare crows. This perhaps stems from a certain corner in East London, where I used to walk past a land which matched the above description. Well, safe to say, that image has been wiped from my brain forever and replaced with beautiful courgette flowers, raspberry bushes and beautiful cut flowers.

    I have never seen my son so interested in eating his greens, though my child minder might tell you a completely different story of a little angel who eats everything that is plated for him. This was education and fun at the same time. We dug up potatoes, picked lots of raspberries, green beans, courgettes and lovely gladiola flowers which complemented the sunshine beautifully today.

     IMG_6495

     Raspberries

    This beautiful fruit has summer written all over it. Rich in anti-oxidants and low GI makes it a very healthy summer snack. The only trouble is that you can have a heart attack whilst you pay the hefty amount.

    IMG_6485

    Food processor Raspberry and Almond cake

    This recipe was my gentle re-introduction to baking a few years back. My sisters' still joke about the times I used to bribe them to eat my baking disasters as I feared my mother's wrath on wasting the expensive baking ingredients. The oven was usually used to store, unused pans and trays and as I risked getting burnt to lit a very old fashioned, un-regulated gas oven with no thermostat, it was instantly a recipe for disaster. It was either that, or my choice of recipes. I recall trying profiterolos and apple upside down cake as my first two attempts. Always aim high, is the motto I was brought up with!

    This food processor recipe along with the Great British Bake Off fever set me on a path to find something that I felt I was good at. I've made this recipe a few times now. It is dead easy to make and it never fails to please the crowd. There is something magical about the bakewell like combination of tangy raspberries, ground almonds and the usual cake ingredients.

    The recipe is by Barney Desmazery from Good Food Magazine.

    IMG_6497

    Ingredients:

    Ground almonds 140g

    Self-raising flour 140g

    Golden caster sugar 140g

    Butter (at room temp.) 140g

    Eggs (large) 2

    Vanilla extract 1tsp

    Raspberries 250gm

    Toasted flaked almonds 2 tbsp

    Icing sugar for dusting

    bakewell cake

    Method:

    • Pre-heat the oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted).
    • Line the base of 20cm (8inch) tin with baking paper.
    • Combine butter, sugar, flour, ground almonds, eggs and vanilla extract in a food processor until well combined. I normally do this for 2 minutes.
    • Spread half the mixture at the base of the tin. Top with all of the raspberries.
    • Spread the remaining half of the batter on top of the raspberries.
    • Top with flaked almonds.
    • Bake for 45-50minutes until the skewer comes out just clean.
    • Sprinkle with icing sugar just before serving. 

    Having attended the recent photography session at the Food Bloggers Connect, I can tell you that the picture below had to fight really hard to be featured with this post. It was not easy with a child making monkey faces trying to get into the frame with the cake. I really needed to show what the cake looks from inside and if I took one thing away from the meeting, it was: show your imperfections.  If you so wish please ignore and head over to the BBC website for a more aesthetic picture.

    IMG_6501

    Sunday
    Jun232013

    Strawberry anise Macaroon tart

    One year later, I'm glad to be able to write this post. I thought about doing a post explaining my long absence but thought against it. Let's just say: Stephen Fry is brave and honest enough to talk about how depression affects so many of us, whilst I am not.

    My son is in Reception and now able to read. It is a very exciting time for his proud mum but it comes with its drawbacks. Yesterday at the local garden centre, I insisted that we only buy one punnet of strawberries. He very innocently suggested that as they were only two for three pounds it would be better if we bought two. Now I have these 2 boxes of strawberries and I scour around the kitchen to look at my ingredients and then open all the books backwards to look at the indexes for strawberry recipes.

    Fennel and Anise seeds

    What could be better than blogging again with something seasonal and versatile. I decided to experiment with a few unique flavours as well. Flavour thesaurus is my go-to book when it comes to experimenting with unusual combinations or give that oomph to a staple ingredient. The combination of strawberry and fennel seemed interesting and inviting.

    IMG_6386

    The primary flavour compound in anise seed and fennel seeds is anthenol and it is aromatic with a distinct liquorice like sweet flavour. It is widely used in both savoury and sweets in Indian subcontinent. You would know the distinct smell and flavour of this spice in the pulao rice from your local Indian takeaway. In fact, it is also eaten as a post meal snack for it aromatic and digestive properties. It other uses include flavouring for drinks like raki, arrack, pastis and ouzu. It is also used in baking bread and spice for roasts.

    Strawberry anise macaroon tart

    This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts book. This combines a crunchy macaroon base, with lashings of strawberry jam and macerated strawberries. The key here is to let the tart rest after spreading the strawberries to let the juices ooze into the base.

    I've marinated the strawberries in balsamic vinegar but you can go for kirsch or any other fruity wine, should you prefer. I've added aniseed as a flavour enhancer for the strawberries but you can also try mint, vanilla or coconut.

    IMG_6388

    Ingredients:

    Egg whites 3

    Ground almonds 160gm

    Granulated sugar 160gm

    Zest of one lemon

    Strawberries 400gm

    Anise seed 1/2 tsp

    Balsamic vinegar 1tsp

    Strawberry jam 3tbsp

    Method: 

    • First prepare the strawberries. Cut about 8-10 strawberries lengthwise to go around the edges of the tart. Keep the stalks attached. Slice the remaining strawberries lengthwise in 4-5 pieces. Add the strawberries to a bowl with aniseed, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Leave it for at least 30 minutes. 

    RAW

    • Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a loose base flan tin with baking paper.
    • Whisk the egg whites till soft peaks form. Add the lemon zest and continue whisking as you add the sugar. Whisk for about 5 minutes and they look glossy.
    • Fold in the ground almonds gently.
    • Spread the mixture in your prepared tin. Bake for about 10 minutes with the oven door slightly ajar. Reduce the temperature to 150C and bake for another 25 minutes till it appears set and golden.
    • Let it cool and then spread with the strawberry jam followed by strawberries. Spread the halves at the edges and start spreading the slices for outside working towards the centre, keeping the edges pointed outwards.

    Collages

    Tips:

    • Try these different fennel recipes from the Guardian. The roast is my favourite.

    Enjoy!

    IMG_6396

    Sunday
    Jun172012

    Lamb filo cigars

    I am sitting in this small and friendly Moroccan cafe in Central London with very intimate and small seating area with all Moroccan furniture. Everyone who orders anything, asks for the bowl of chilli to be passed on to them. One bowl of chilli exchanged 4 tables as I sat there tucking into my falafel salad with this chilli sauce. The heat of the chilli and the spices made everything taste so much better.

    The chilli sauce was infact Harissa. I have fallen in love with this fiery sauce since then and have so far tried it in  burgers and as a rub on fish. This sauce is not native to Morocco, but was introduced to this region by the neighbouring Tunisia and Algeria. It is a hot dried chilli paste with added flavours of garlic, cumin and coriander. I am trying to find some African dried chillies and then will aim to post the recipe of home-made Harissa paste soon.

    Lamb filo cigars

    This recipe is adapted from The Food of Morocco featuring a good dose of Moroccan food history and beautiful pictures. The recipes are very authentic as well. Three things attracted me to this recipe; the use of harissa, incorporating a raw egg in the mince filling and the addition of saffron.

    filo cigars

    Ingredients:

    Olive oil 1tbsp

    Onion 1 (small and finely chopped)

    Minced lamb 350gm

    Garlic paste 1tsp

    Ground cumin 1tsp

    Ground ginger 1/2tsp

    Paprika 1/2tsp

    Salt 1/2tsp

    Ground cinnamon 1/2tsp

    Saffron thread 1 pinch (soaked in a little warm water)

    Harissa paste 1tsp

    Green coriander (chopped) 2tbsp

    Mint (chopped) 1tbsp

    Egg 1

    Filo sheets 8-12

    Butter (melted) 90gm

    Sesame seeds 1tbsp (optional)

    Method:

    •  Let's first make the filling. Fry the onion in the olive oil until translucent and soft.
    • Add the lamb with garlic and cook till it is nicely browned breaking any lumps. This takes about 5-7 minutes. 
    • Next add all the spices, saffron, salt and stir it for about 3 minutes, followed by the coriander and mint. Cook for one minute and leave to cool. 
    • When the mixture has cooled, break the egg and mix well. Leave aside.
      making of filo cigars

    • You will need 8-12 sheets of filo and how you cut them depends on the size of your sheets. For each cigar you need one sheet of filo pastry measuring about 14cm wide and 30cm long. I had to cut my filo sheet in half lengthways to get that size.
    • Place a strip of filo on the work surface with the narrow end facing you and brush with melted butter.
    • Spread the filling making sure you leave atleast 1cm from the edges of the pastry. I used about 1tbsp of filling each.
    • First fold the narrow end over the filing, then fold in the sides and roll into a thin and tight cigar shape.
    • Place the rolls seam side down on the baking tray. Brush with some more butter and sprinkle with some sesame seeds (optional).
    • Bake in a pre-heated oven 180C (160C fan) for about 20-30 minutes till light brown.
      making of filo cigars

     Tips

    • Cover filo pastry with a moist kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out.
    • Try different fillings. A vegetarian option would be a mixture of feta, mint and spinach. 

    Related posts

    • Are you brave enough to attempt filo pastry from scratch? Have a look at lovely Lauren's post here.
    • Vegetarian version of filo cigars. And something seasonal with asparagus.
    • Or why not try a sweeter version. 

    Enjoy!

    filo cigars

    Saturday
    Jun092012

    Chocolate,caramel and pistachio tartlets

    Sometimes I find recipes for the ingredients I buy, rather than the other way round. I have always been disappointed with the caramel sauces available to buy until I read Rebecca's tweet (author of 366 recipe challenge) about the Confiture de Caramel. I just couldn't resist ordering it.

    I would think this is the same as Dulce de Leche or Confiture de Lait, but I am quite challenged in linguistics department, specially when it comes to French, so please correct me if I am wrong. This caramel sauce (or jam) is slightly salted as well so it is in keeping with the latest salted caramel craze. Remember that Nigella's picture covered in this lovely stuff which caused quite a stir.

    Now I had to come up with a recipe quick to stop my self and specially my other half from polishing the whole jar, with nothing but a teaspoon. Something that I used to do quite often with peanut butter as a child.

    Chocolate, caramel and pistachio tartlets

    The recipe I've chosen is an alteration from Martha Stewart's book Pies and Tarts. This book is  another one of my favourites by her, but it is not featured as much on the blog as I don't really trust my cup measuring skills, and I am afraid that unless I measure every thing meticulously in grams and mil litres,the recipe might turn out to be a disaster for anyone who tries it. Here I have tried to measure everything before using it but I bet there is an easier and more reliable way to do this conversion business. 

    chocolate caramel tart

    I've used pistachios here as it is goes well with chocolate besides the usual almonds and hazelnuts but you can try this recipe with either of these. 

    Recipe: (makes 12)

    For chocolate pastry:

    Plain flour 150gm

    Cocoa powder (Dutch processed) 25gm

    Caster sugar 50gm

    Butter 60gm

    Egg (large) 1

    Fleur de sel 1/4tsp

    Filling:

    Confiture de caramel (dulce de leche) 125gm

    Dark chocolate (chopped) 50gm

    Double cream 1/2 cup (120ml)

    Butter (soft) 2 tbsp

    Pistachios (roasted and chopped) 100gm

    Fleur de sel (for sprinkling)

    Method:

    Let's make the pastry first as it needs chilling for an hour to make this sticky pastry a bit easy to roll.

    Combine all the dry ingredients. Add in the butter and rub it in till the whole mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.

    Add the egg and mix enough till the mixture just comes together. Resist the temptation of over kneading.

    Wrap it in cling film and rest the dough in the fridge for atleast one hour. 

    chocolate pastry

    Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Ideally I could have rolled it thinner to a about 1/2cm thick, but I was a bit apprehensive of working with the sticky chocolate pastry for the first time, hence stopped at 3/4cm.

    I used a mini tartlet pan and a cutter which was slightly bigger than the diameter of the tartlet cases.

    Cut out the pastry and fit it in the tartlet cases. Put this in the freezer for another half an hour. This will stop the sides from shrinking.

    Pre-heat the oven to 180C (160C-fan). Pierce the shells all over with the fork and bake for about 12 minutes. Leave to cool.

    chocolate pastry

    Roast the pistachios gently in a pan or in the oven and then chop them in a food processor.

    Sieve the chopped nuts so that you have both fine and coarse types. I used  the well processed layer to line the tart cases and the coarse nuts on the top. You can easily avoid this complication and just use coarse nuts at the bottom for a slight more texture.

    Melt butter and then add chocolate and stir till melted. Add in cream, a gentle stir and let it cool slightly before adding in the caramel.

    salted caramel filling

    Use a teaspoon of finely chopped pistachios to line the cases. Spoon the filling and sprinkle with the coarsely chopped pistachios and a fleur de sel.

    chocolate tarts filling

    Refrigerate for as long as you can resist. Ideally, 3 hours.

    Enjoy!

    chocolate caramel tart

    Related posts:

    How to make your own dulce de leche 5 ways!

    David Lebovitz's ducle de leche Brownies

    The recipe girl's Pumpkin toffee pie 

    Maison's cupcakes Dime bar dulce de leche cupcakes