Sunday, January 29, 2006

Cappuccino Cupcakes

This recipe was prepared as a joint venture with my lovely friend Sue. I often make my recipes on my own and I just loved the opportunity of getting something done with someone else. Sue is a big fan of Nigella Lawson and has treated me with the book Feast on Christmas the year before last. She got me converted.

The first time I saw Nigella Lawson on TV it was on a programme on literature, Booked if I am not mistaken, presented by David Aaranovich. I used to be mesmerized by her – the way she spoke, the way she commented on different works.and the way she took part in discussions. There she was, this really gorgeous woman, terribly well spoken and very educated. When I first saw her doing her cooking ‘thing’ I did not took much notice. For no special reason. I am, however, forever indebted to Sue for making me take notice of this other side of Nigella.

This cupcake recipe is fabulous. Awfully easy to prepare as we just chuck al the cupcake ingredients in the food processor. The more laborious bit is the icing. I felt like a naughty girl indulging in all the sugar, all the white chocolate. And loads of fun. First solid cappuccino I had. The coffee sponge is beautiful, a bite was enough to win my heart and stomach. I had one before adding the icing.

Just one thing before I share the recipe with the ones of you who might not have it, the icing is a tad too sweet in my opinion. I sort of blame it on the white chocolate. I do not plan on making up your mind about it before hand but thought it best to give you this warning. Even though the sour cream gives a good balance to the sweetness it still prevails.

For the cupcake:

125g self-raising flour

125g soft unsalted butter, softened

125g golden caster sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking powder

1 heaped tablespoon instant espresso

2-3 tbsp milk

For the icing:

160g white chocolate

60g butter

120g sour cream

260g icing sugar, sieved

Scant teaspoon cocoa powder

12-bun muffin tin with pepper cases

Pre-heat the oven to 200oC/fan oven 180oC/gas mark 6.

Put all the cupcake ingredients except for the milk into the food processor and blitz to combine. Pulse again, adding milk down the funnel to form a batter with a soft, dropping consistency. Spoon into the papers in their tin and put in the oven to cook for about 20 minutes. When ready, remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

When they’re completely cold, get on with the icing. Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave or in a double boiler, and after it’s cooled a little, stir in the sour cream. Gradually beat in the sieved icing sugar. And if the consistency isn’t right for icing, add either hot water to thin or more sieved icing sugar to thicken. Spread roughly and generously over the top of each cupcake, and then dust sparingly with cocoa, by pressing a little through a tea strainer, so that they look like little cups of chocolate-dusted cappuccino.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Cheat's Porcini Risotto

As a good Brazilian I am a rice lover. To the ones of you who don’t know rice is a must at every Brazilian table. It was brought to us by the Portuguese. Oops..I am not here to write about Brazilians eating habits. I just wanted to say that being a typical rice-loving Brazilian risotto is a dish that really appeals to me. Up to coming across this recipe I had only eaten it prepared the traditional way, standing by the stove and doing all the stiring whilst the heat comes up to our faces. It was the charm of it. Or wasn’t it?! Bill Granger came up with this ‘cheat’s’ ristotto recipe and I got really sceptical.
I decided to give it a go. I do confess that I expected it to go very weird and pre-emptied the ‘I-don’t-like-it’ feeling. Well, I was wrong. Very wrong. As much as I tried I really did like the final result.Even ended up having a second go. It was rather creamy, velvety, tasty. Perhaps The only change I made was to halve the parmesan amount – half of it was mixed with the risotto and the other half was sprinkled on the dishes. I just felt that 50g of parmesan cheese plus more sprinkled on the dishes would have been a tad too much. However, this is a matter of taste.

Cheat’s Porcini Risotto

10g (1/4 oz) packet of dried porcini mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 white onion, finely chopped

sea salt

25g (1 oz) butter

250g (9oz) Arborio rice

500ml (17fl oz) chicken stock

50g grated parmesan cheese

freshly ground black pepper

To serve:

3 tablespoons shredded fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

First reconstitute the porcini mushrooms by soaking them in 500ml (17 fl oz) of luke-warm water for 30 minutes.

Heat a large heavy-based saucepan and add the oil, onion and half the butter. Cook over low heat until the onion is translucent but not browned, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes until the grains are glistening. Increase the heat to high and add the salt, porcini mushrooms, soaking water and chicken stock and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan, remaining of butter and black pepper. Serve sprinkled with parsley and parmesan.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Spaghetti with roasted cherry tomatoes, oregano, capers and mozzarela

This is a great, low profile recipe that I have done over and over again. The original recipe asks for capers and mozzarella which I do not always use. Capers are sometimes left out because some people cannot stand them so I always decide on whether adding them or not according to the guest(s). As for the mozzarella, I do not always have it in the fridge plus I am not often in the mood to drive all the way down to my local supermarket if all I have on my shopping list is cheese. I sometimes replace it for feta. Or just leave mozzarella and capers out altogether. Reason being that this pasta is yummy in itself so sometimes less is more.

The smell that permeates your kitchen when you take the tomatoes out of the oven is intoxicating.

The recipe is from an issue of a magazine I subscribe called Delicious, issue Sept 2004. This food editor called Rose Lloyd wrote this gorgeous section about tomatoes, ‘Seeing Red’. All the recipes are pretty good but this one is the best in my opinion. You have all the juices of the tomatoes, combined with a few other ingredients to add a bit more flavour. It’s important that you respect the marinade time. Worst case scenario leave it for at least one hour so that the flavours can infuse. If you plan on making this dish for lunch just get the marinade ready first thing in the morning and get on with your own stuff. This is the longest bit of the recipe. The rest will be ready in no time.

750g cherry tomatoes, washed and dried

½ tsp dried red chilli flakes (optional)

3 garlic cloves, halved

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

3 heaped tbsp chopped fresh oregano

500g dried spaghetti or linguine

3 tbsp salted capers, washed and dried or capers in brine, drained

2 x 125g balls buffalo mozzarella, drained and diced, or bocconcini (small mozzarella balls)

Put the tomatoes in a bowl wit the chilli, garlic, oil and 1 tbsp of oregano. Season and mix together. Leave to marinade for 2-3 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 200oC/fan oven 180oC/gas 6. Tip the contents of the bowl into a shallow ovenproof dish and cook in the oven for 20 minutes until tomatoes start to burst.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling water until al dente. Drain and put in a large serving bowl, then toss in the remaining oregano, the capers and diced mozzarella or bocconcini.

Take the tomatoes out of the oven and tip the tomatoes and all their juices on to the spaghetti and toss to serve.

If you have some slices of bread have them ready as you might need to use them to mop up the juices.

Drunken Potatoes

I am a big fan of Jill Dupleix and her no-nonsense style. Her recipes are about simple food using very clever tricks as it says in one of her books. I always go for her books when I want food that looks and tastes special but at the same time I don't want to spend hours cooking. One of my latest discoveries is 'the drunken potato'recipe. The poor things are oven cooked soaked in wine. And how wonderful they taste. The recipe is in her book 'very simple food'- she is modest too. I served these potatoes with grilled beef and loved the combination.

3 large long potatoes around 750g
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
250ml dry white wine
1 tbsp thyme sprigs

Heat the oven to 200oC/fan oven 180oC /Gas 5. Peel the potatoes and finely slice crosswise.I used a mandolin for that as I couldn't achieve the same result only with a knife. Must improve the knife cutting techinique. Toss the potato slices in a bowl with the olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Lightly oil a baking tray or oven proof dish and scatter the potatoes loosely over the base. It is vital that you choose a dish that is large enough so that your potato slices don't get crammed. Pour over the white wine and scatter with the thyme.

Bake for 30 minutes, during which time the wine will boil and bubble away, and the potatoes will crisp to a beautiful golden crunch. Keep an eye on them during the last few minutes after the wine has evaporated, as they can over-crisp.The slices in the corners might get scorched, but it's worth the sacrifice - indeed.

Pour a lovely glass of wine and enjoy your meal.