Monday, July 24, 2006

Strawberry and Lime Cheesecake

I bought Sophie Grigson’s Country Kitchen a while ago. After seeing her on TV a few times – actually quite a lot, I decided to buy the book. For no special reason I only got to use it this weekend just gone. I fell in love with this strawberry cheesecake recipe and made sure that I got all the ingredients to try it over the weekend. I did consider using yogurt in order to make it a tad lighter but I had to drain it for a good eight hours and I didn’t organize myself enough. So in the end I decided to use the recipe as it is, and not to feel guilty about the extra calories. Instead I would enjoy every mouthful if it was worth it. It is one of those cheesecakes that don’t get cooked. You just need to let it set in the fridge. Lovely in a very hot day as nobody can stand the extra heat of the oven.

I loved the fact that we combine strawberry and lime as the two fruits seem to complement each other very well. I used a little bit more biscuit as I really love a crunchy base. In my opinion this cheesecake works well because it does not get too sweet – I did worry about it a bit. You can prepare a sauce to go with it but in my excitement to eat the cheesecake I confess to have forgotten all about it. Indulge.

For the base:

220g digestive biscuit/ tea biscuit

110g unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

3 leaves gelatine

150 ml single (pouring) cream

300 g cream cheese

125 g caster sugar

Finely grated zest and juice of 2 limes

300 g ripe strawberries, hulled and chopped

150 ml double cream, whipped

Crush the biscuits finely, either using a food processor or putting the biscuits in a bag and crushing them with a rolling pin. How thin you crush them depends on how you like them. Pour the butter over the crumbs and mix it all until the biscuit crumbs are covered. I prefer to do that using my hands as opposed to a spoon.

Put some water in a baking tin, enough to cover the gelatine, and throw the gelatine in. Leave to soak for 5 minutes. In the mean time bring the single cream to the boil and the remove it from the heat. Squeeze each gelatine leaf to remove the excess water and throw it in the pan with the cream, stirring one by one. They will dissolve instantly. Leave to cool for a few minutes.

Put the cream cheese in a bowl with the sugar, half the lime zest and all the lime juice. Beat together until smooth and creamy. Mix in the single cream mixture and then the chopped strawberries. Next fold in the whipped cream. Now pour the whole lot into the tart tin and smooth down lightly. . Chill until set, then sprinkle with the remaining lime zest.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Whole wheat, Oatmeal and Raisin Muffins

This is a delicious and very healthy breakfast muffin. There is so much goodness in one of these – loads of fibers, dried fruits, vitamin E, antioxidants. It is very filling as well. One of these plus my morning fruit and coffee keep me going for the morning.

Another great thing about it is that you can play with some of the ingredients. This time for instance I haven’t used dried cranberries as I had none. Instead I used dried figs. Did the same with the dates – used prunes instead. You can prepare the dried mixture the night before, in the morning put the oven on and whilst it heats up mix the wet ingredients with the dry ones. Leave the mixture for about 15 min – it allows the oats, wheat germ and bran flakes to soak up the liquid. I have made it without the resting time in the past and I did notice that the muffins weren’t as tender as they get when they rest.

If you use UK measuring cups it will be 240ml full cup, I used Australian size cups – 250 ml – greedy, I know.

1 cup whole wheat flour

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons untoasted wheat germ

2 tablespoons wheat bran

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups quick cooking oats

1/3 cup chopped pitted dates

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1 cup buttermilk

¼ cup groundnut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg, lightly beaten

½ cup boiling water

Combine the flour and next 7 ingredients (through salt) in a large a bowl. Next step is to stir in the oats, dates, raisins and cranberries.

In a separate bowl mix the buttermilk, oil, vanilla extract and egg. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add the wet ingredients to it. The boiling water is the last ingredient to be added. Let the batter stand for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190˚C/ 375˚/ gas mark 5. Spoon the batter into cooking oil coated muffin trays. Bake for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched. Remove the tin from the oven and get the muffins out of the tin immediately, moving them to a wire rack to cool.

Passion Fruit Ice Cream

I absolutely love passion fruit. In the summer I find that there is nothing more refreshing than passion fruit blended with water, loads of ice, a squeeze of lemon and a bit of sugar. Passion fruit ice cream is a luxurious refreshing treat.

I spent the whole week dreaming with this recipe. Couldn’t wait till my tiny freezer was empty enough to fit the ice cream maker. I finally managed to make room for it yesterday. I don’t consume ice cream only in the summer but it is much more welcome on a hot day. And it has been hot around here.

This ice cream is lovely, with a zesty touch to it. I used lime instead of lemon - no special reason other than the fact that I much prefer lime to lemon. Habit probably. And even though they cost 15p each I still buy more of them than the ordinary lemon.

The recipe can be found in Falling Cloudberries – A World of Family Recipes but I will also share it with you here. This book is full of wonderful recipes.

250 ml pouring cream (single cream)

250 ml milk

230g caster sugar (superfine)

Grated rind of 1 lemon

Juice of 2 small lemons

Pulp of 6 fresh passion fruit

Put the cream, milk and sugar in a bowl and stir until dissolved. Put the rest of the ingredients in and transfer it to the ice cream maker if you have one, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker don’t despair. After dissolving the sugar in the mixture of cream and milk cover the bowl and put it in the freezer. After an hour, remove the bowl from the freezer and give an energetic whisk with a hand or electric whisk, then return the bowl to the freezer. Whisk again after a couple of hours, this time adding the lemon juice and rind and passion fruit pulp. Return it to the freezer. When it is nearly firm, give one last whisk, transfer it to a suitable freezing container with a lid and let it set in the freezer until it is firm.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Corn Cake

I cannot remember how long it had been since I had last eaten sweetcorn cake. Just taking a bite brought all these wonderful memories back. Memories of the month of June and all the fabulous celebrations that we have all over Brazil. All the lovely cakes - farm style cakes. Cakes with no fuss. Just delicious. Sweetcorn cake says ‘cup of coffee’, farmhouse kitchen, sitting at the table in the afternoon and spinning a really good yarn.
The ingredients are so Brazilian – not in their origin necessarily, but in their usage. Yellow cornmeal is a favourite with Brazilians when it comes to good, honest, Brazilian cakes. They can be baked together with bits of guava paste, with coconut milk, fennel seeds... Coconut milk is an ingredient that in Brazil is used mostly in cakes and desserts. We have one or a couple of typical savoury dishes which take coconut milk. Apart from those, it is always associated with sweet goods. Then we also have condensed milk. You would not believe how popular condensed milk is amongst Brazilians. It is used in cakes, in cocktails, in desserts. We call it popularly ‘the milk lady’. The reason being that when Nestlé started selling their goods in Brazil back in 1890, the condensed milk can had the picture of a milk lady,’ Condensed Milk – Milkmaid Brand’. The ladies of those days who were the ones to do the shopping, asked for the tin with the milk lady on it – Leite Moça. If my memory doesn’t betray me the tins in Brazil still have the lady on it.
Going back to the recipe, I got it from Clarice, my friend who runs the blog Pecado da Gula. I will eventually publish it on m blog about Brazilian food and will endeavour to tell a bit more about it – if you fancy a visit.
Click here to see the recipe.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Courgette Flowers

Courgette flowers are not easy to find so even though I paid a small fortune for them I decided that it would be worth every penny - or so I hoped.These are from Holland. I bought them from a store at Borough Market in London. They are just so delicate and beautiful!!

Of all the recipes I came across I decided to use one by Australian chef Curtis Stone.


150ml balsamic vinegar
12 courgette flowers, attached to courgettes
groundnut oil, for deep frying

For the stuffing:
250g ricotta cheese
2 basil leaves, shredded
squeeze of lemon juice
50g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and fresh ground black pepper

For the batter:
100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
120ml fizzy mineral water


1. Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and boil for a few minutes until reduced to a syrupy consistency. Set aside.

Mix together the ricotta, shredded basil leaves, lemon juice and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Trim the courgette flowers from the courgettes and shake free of any insects. Slice the courgettes in half lengthways and set aside. Carefully open the flowers and filll them with the ricotta mix. Be gentle as they are very delicate. I ended up using my fingers as even the smalles spoon i had - a tiny coffee spoon from home, proved not to be the best tool.Perhaps experience makes it better. Twist the end of the flower to keep the stuffing in place. To make the batter pour the water into a shallow dish and gradually whisk the flour through a sieve, making sure there are no lumps. The batter should have the consistency of thick pouring cream.

Pour enough oil into a high-sided frying pan to come to a level of about 3cm. Heat until very hot but not smoking. Roll the stuffed flowers and courgette halves in flour. Working in small batches, quickly dip them in the batter, swirling to coat, and then into the pan. Deep-fry for 1-2 minutes until the batter is crisp and golden. Put them on a dish lined with kitchen towel to drain the excess fat - if any. Place in a warm serving dish, sprinkle with grated Parmesan and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar.

I also used some of them to prepare some halibut I had in the fridge.It is a very simple and quick dish. If you cannot find the flowers it is ok to use very finely cut courgette strips.

halibut or sea bass

courgette flowers

olive oil to drizzle

sal and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven - 200oC. Line a baking dish with greaseproof paper and set aside.

Cut the fish in small pieces, put salt and pepper, and roll each one of them with strips of courgette flowers. You might need to use a tooth pick to keep the strips well attached to the fish. Put the pieces on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for aproximately 5 minutes. Let them reset for a couple of minutes before serving.

Click here if you wish to read the post in Portuguese.

Chickpea and Pomegranate dip with pitta crisps

Chickpeas, grão de bico, garbanzo. God bless the greeks, romans and egipcians who use to cultivate it a long time ago. And double blessed are the Portuguese and Spanish for spreading it around the world back in the old days. Chickpeas are so full of goodness – well beyond their wonderful flavour. They lower cholesterol, are rich in fibers, have a high level of protein and are low in calorie. The Spanish use them quite a lot in their diet. Good on them. I am a very big fan, and confess to sometimes overdoing it on the ‘nibbling ‘ front. For this dip you can leave the chillies out if you are not into spicy food. It goes really well accompanied by a good yarn with friends and a glass of your favourite wine.

6-8 Pitta bread

100ml extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for the crisp

1kg 200g Chickpeas

1 Lemon, juiced

2 red chillies, seeded and chopped** optional

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan

1 small red onion, finely chopped

A small bunch mint or parsley, finely chopped

Pomegranate molasses thinned down with a bit of water

Heat the oven – 200oC/fan 180oC/gas 6. Cut the pitta into triangles and spread them on a baking sheet. Brush them with olive oil and bake for 7-8 minutes – until golden and crisp.

Put the chickpeas, 100ml olive oil, lemon juice, chilli and garlic in a food processor, season an pulse until crushed. Add the mint/parsley, red onion and cumin seed and pulse it some more. Adjust the seasoning. Drizzle with pomegranate syrup and serve with warm pitta crisps.

I also like having it with a leafy salad. I sometimes thin it down with a bit of olive oil.

Click here for the Portuguese version.

Tuna and Roasted Hazelnut Coleslaw

Traditional coleslaw is quite a lovely salad but it can become disgusting if people insist on adding loads of mayo to it. Because of that I very rarely eating the traditional thing unless I prepare it myself. What I really love about it is the crunchiness of the cabbage and the carrot which brings an additional sweetness to it. I do, however, love twists to old ‘favourites’ so this recipe was impossible to resist. Red onions add so much flavour to salads plus a beautiful shade of red/purple as well. I tend to buy good quality tuna for my salads where the tuna used is not fresh, and a brand I particularly like is Ortiz . Their tuna is delicious. I could never go back to the ordinary tuna from the supermarket once I tried this one. The roasted hazelnut add a nice nuttiness to the dish and goes very well indeed with the other ingredients. Toast some pitta bread to have it with.

4 tablespoons of mayonnaise

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt and black pepper

1 white cabbage

1 small red onion

Bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley , chopped

75g chopped roasted hazelnut

400g cans tuna steak in oil

Halve, core and finely shred 1 white cabbage, then put it in a salad bowl. Add 1 small red onion finely sliced the chopped fresh parsley and the chopped roasted hazelnuts. Toss everything. In a smaller bowl mix together the mayo and the lemon juice plus the seasoning. Throw it in the salad bowl and mix all the ingredients well. Drain the tuna steaks and add to the coleslaw, mixing gently. It is ready to be served.

Click here for the Portuguese Version