Archive | February, 2010

Tiramisu Time!

27 Feb

Busy busy today, almost forgot to post..almost! Got myself a fringe today and went to see a fantastic new exhibition in The Observatory It’s a project by the Blueleaf gallery and it is well worth a look. Ah..but back to the matter at hand…Daring Bakers time yet again!

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Mandatory elements of this challenge were that we must

make our own savoiardi / ladyfinger/boudoir  biscuits, mascarpone cheese, zabaglione and pastry cream with the given recipes.

Quite the challenge!! I chose to make a coffee one and not an alcoholic one although I did place a tsp of rum (Havana Club) in the zabaglione (which I would highly recommend also!). Thank you so much to both hosts; were it not for this challenge I would never ever have attempted to make every part of a tiramisu!

Let me warn you, if you’re going to make a tiramisu in its entirety give yourself plenty of time, I took a lovely day to myself and made it all at a leisurely pace. Everything rested in the fridge overnight and I put it all together the next morning. Himself also brewed fresh espresso to use in the zabaglione whilst I was making the mascarpone so a thank you goes out to him.  The only thing I would do different next time would be to leave the tiramisu in the fridge longer; I let it rest in the fridge for about 6 maybe 7 hours and I really feel it would have been better if it had been left over night.

There was one tiny piece the next day and it was bliss!!


From cream to cheese!

Home made Ladyfingers


(Recipe source: Carminantonio’s Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings
For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8″ by 8″ should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2″ to 3″ long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner’s sugar,


Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5″ long and 3/4″ wide strips leaving about 1″ space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner’s sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.


Happy Valentines!

15 Feb

Mini Chocolate Croissants fresh from the oven


14 Feb

My first Daring Cooks challenge was to make a Mezze. I couldn’t believe it; we absolutely adore this type of food! Particularly himself as he grew up in the Middle East. When I eventually contained my excitement we chose the extra dishes to make. The challenge stipulated that we must make the bread and the hummus according to  the given recipes exactly. Along with this I made taziki, chick pea, potato & tomato dish, courgette fritter, falafel and mint & lamb meatballs.

The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

The recipes were all easy to follow and very easy to make. The one thing I would recommend when cooking a mezze meal is to plan well; it’s a time-consuming task. I spent the majority of a Saturday preparing and cooking this meal and I have to say I actually thoroughly enjoyed every part of it, it was so rewarding when dish after dish turned at well.
The only thing I would alter again would be the hummous recipe. We found it had too much tahini in it which gave it an overpowering taste. We made a second version with less in it and more lemon juice than in the recipe.

You would also have to be a lover of garlic, it goes into everything!!

Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)

1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn’t puff up, don’t worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

The stages of the bread

The Bread

Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste

1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.


*Optional Recipe: Cucumber Raita – Recipe adapted from The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm
Prep time: Approximately 15 minutes

1 medium cucumber, peeled and most of the seeds removed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (.1 ounce/3 grams) OR use a small pinch of dried cumin—to taste
2 cups plain whole milk or Greek yogurt (17 ounces/473ml)
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
fresh coriander or mint, chopped, a couple pinches or more to taste
cayenne pepper or paprika, just a pinch to use as a garnish (optional)

1. Peel cucumber, de-seed, and dice. Blot off moisture with paper towels.
2. Toast cumin seeds for a few seconds in a small, heavy frying pan over high heat.
3. In a bowl, stir yogurt until it is smooth.
4. Mix it with the cumin, garlic and coriander or mint leaves (I used some grated radish instead).
5. Stir in the cucumber and sprinkle with cayenne or paprika, and chill before serving.

*Optional Recipe: Falafels – Recipe from Joan Nathan and
Prep Time: Overnight for dry beans and 1 hour to make Falafels

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight OR use well canned drained chickpeas (7 ounces/100 grams)
1/2 large onion (roughly chopped, about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped OR use a couple pinches of dried parsley (.2 ounces/5 grams)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped OR use a couple pinches of dried cilantro (.2 ounces/5 grams)
1 teaspoon table salt (.1 ounce/5 grams)
1 teaspoon dried hot red peppers (cayenne) (.1 ounce/2 grams)
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon cumin (.1 ounce/2 grams)
1 teaspoon baking powder (.13 ounces/4 grams)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (1 ounce/24 grams) (you may need a bit extra)
tasteless oil for frying (vegetable, canola, peanut, soybean, etc.), you will need enough so that the oil is three inches deep in whatever pan you are using for frying

1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, and then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.
2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed. If you don’t have a food processor, then feel free to mash this up as smooth as possible by hand.
3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts.
5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees (190C) in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
6. Drain on paper towels.

Note: I sometimes prefer to bake these so I can avoid the deep frying. I bake them on a nonstick pad (silpat or the like) at 325F (160C), just until they’re firm, about 20 minutes.

Chickpea, Potato & Tomato

Chickpea & Potato Cassoulet: serves 4/5

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

4 medium potatoes, sliced thickly (I use baby potatoes halved)

400g can of tomatoes

1tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp sugar

300ml water

300g chickpeas (you can use a can but be sure to check the drained weight)

tbsp finely chopped coriander

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion, garlic until soft. Add the spices and cook until fragrant. Stir in the potato and cook until lightly browned. Pour in the can of tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and water and gently simmer, covered for about 25 minutes or until your potatoes are tender. Add the (drained) chickpeas and coriander and stir until hot.

Courgette Fritters

Courgette (Zucchini) Fritters: makes about 6

2 courgettes, coarsely grated

half an onion, coarsely grated

30g flour

1 egg

1tbsp parsley

half  tbsp of mint

quarter tsp of black pepper

veg oil for shallow frying

Combine the courgette, onion, flour, egg, herbs and pepper in a bowl.

Heat oil in a deep frying pan, fry about quarter cup of the mixture in the hot oil until browned (you can make these into flat balls first if you like), flatten slightly and turn until browned on other side. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Lamb & Mint Meatballs

Lamb & Mint Meatballs: serves 4

1kg minced lamb

1 large onion chopped finely

quarter cup of chopped fresh mint leaves

2 tbsp chopped parsely (I left this out as I’m not crazy about it!)

2 tbsp finely grate lemon rind

1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp cracked black pepper

Using your hands combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Roll tsp sized balls from the mixture, place on a tray and cool in the fridge for 30 mins.

Cook the meatballs in batches on a heated oiled grill plan until browned and cooked through.

Lemon, Ginger & Lentil Soup

10 Feb

I am so glad I found this recipe. You can find the original recipe on the Irish Times website. It was my first attempt putting lentils in a soup and they give it a wonderful depth and texture. It has a deliciously refreshing taste and is jam packed with goodness. There is not fat in it aside from the four tablespoons of olive oil you sweat the veg in! I just feel better from having had it; and let me tell you, there’s eating and drinking in it! I’ve just finished a bowl of it and bloody hell am I full!!

You sweat the following chopped veg in olive oil: onion, garlic (claimed to help prevent heart disease), ginger (apparently good for colic, vomiting, spasms and other painful affections of the stomach), celery (rich in vitamin C), carrots (source of antioxidants). Stir in red lentils (high in protein, fibre and vitamin B) and yellow split peas (protein) along with 2 litres of vegetable stock. Blend it all when after about 40 minutes of simmering and squeeze in two lemons and a lot of freshly ground black pepper. You’ll feel great even making it!

Pot of Goodness

Working Lunch

Home Made Burgers

4 Feb

The before & after shot: Roast baby potatoes with rosemary & garlic

You really can’t beat a good burger. There’s nothing like sinking you teeth into one but recently myself and himself had burgers in a bar in town and I couldn’t finish mine. It was far too, oddly enough, meaty and left me feeling quite ill, the thoughts of it now still do.

These burgers which I made were nothing like that. They were so light to eat and not at all challenging. The texture was almost soft as they had been for the most part in the oven. I think a thick burger cooked in its entirety on a pan or under a grill gets tough and can almost be a chore to eat. Even if I were to bbq them I would, like these, seal them on the bbq and finish cooking them in the oven.

I have been so ridiculously tired this week and I can’t explain why. Well, not because I can’t, it’s just that I have no explanation for it! Yes, work is tiring but, for a change, that doesn’t explain it. Anyway, these burgers are so great to make when you’re not really in the mood for slaving in the kitchen. Simply come in from work and mix up you the pattie mix. Leave them to rest in the fridge for half an hour giving you the chance to change/put the washing out/have a cup of tea! Then once the oven is hot they take a mere 10-12 mins! Fantastic!

The recipe below made 4 decent sized burgers:

350g lean minced beef

25g breadcrumbs

25g grated cheese (I used a mature cheddar, parmesan would also be great)

1 dstp tomato ketchup (I used half this amount as I also through in about 4 chopped up sun dried tomatoes)

1 egg


*you can also add chopped onion(not a fan of this!) or garlic and add herbs (parsley or thyme would taste well).

Put the mince into a mixing bowl. To this mix in the breadcrumbs, cheese, ketchup, seasoning and anything else you want to add. Add the egg (helps to bind everything) and mash it all together with your hands. Divide the mixture into four and roll into burger shapes about 1/2 inch thick. You can use some flour to help shape them. Place these on a plate and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius. Heat your pan/grill pan. Brush the burgers lightly with oil and place on the hot pan, they only need a few second on each side to brown and seal. Remove from the pan and place in the oven for 10-12 minutes. When you remove them from the oven cut one in the centre to make sure it is fully cooked.

To accompany this I sliced some baby potatoes in half, tossed them in some olive oil, seasoned well with salt and pepper and placed them in a baking tray. To this I added about 3 crushed cloves of garlic and a good few stalks of rosemary. Once placed in the oven (180), they took about 20 minutes to cook. The smell in the kitchen was almost edible!!

Ready to rest in the fridge

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