Sunday, April 29, 2007

Chocolate Crepe Cake

Align Rightorangelogo
Bri, I am sorry but after loads of torn crepes, a lot of swearing and many more disasters I've hang my boots.

Congratulations to all the other Daring Bakers who have successfully wore their badges and posted the most amazing cakes. Please visit all the other daring bakers posts - their blog addresses can be found on the side bar on the right hand side.

Valentina - not so daring a baker.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Brazilian cheesebread

waitertheressomethingWhen I learnt about Waiter Waiter There is Something in my Bread, the event organized by Spitton Extra I thought of so many different recipes. I read various different books that I have but without being able to make up my mind. It was only with the help of my dear friend Pat that I ended up deciding to post this recipe here which is so close to my heart.

Brazilian cheese bread is such a popular recipe in Brazil. It spans all the five regions in which the country is divided and no matter your background or where you come from you are very likely to be fond of it. Obviously there will be some who don’t.

There are many different recipes and I personally baked using a different one for a very long time until last year when I came across this recipe with potato in the dough. It fascinated me.

The main flour for cheese bread is tapioca flour (or potato starch in some countries). There are two types of tapioca flour in Brazil: a) the sweet or fresh starch, and b) the sour starch. The latter has a more acid taste than the former. It has all to do with the fermentation process of the cassava juice. In some parts of Brazil you only find one of the types. Luckily in London I find both of them and sometimes I have halfof the tapioca flour amount of the sweet one and the other half with the sour flour. I personaly believe that the sour flour gives a nice crust. Where the sweet one is odourless, the sour one is rather 'acid'( slightly smelly).

Melissa from The Traveller’s lunch box wrote a very good article about our national treasure – as a Brazilian I was marvelled by her accuracy of the facts.

The recipe below can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days but it cannot be frozen. I tend to keep it in a sealed container. And bake medium portions at a time. The time in the oven tends to be around 15 minutes at least. The cheese bread will be nice and round(ish). If they are not left in the oven for the correct amount of time they will deflate as you remove them.

You can read more about it in an article I published at my Tapiocaflour blog. Please note that the cup measures in that article are for a 200ml equivalent cup – it applies to milk and vegetable oil amount.

Brazilian cheesebread - another variation

Approximately 30 units

140g tapioca flour ( tapioca starch)

300g cooked and mashed potato

100g grated parmesan cheese ( I tend to add a wee bit more)

1 tablespoon butter ( approx 15g)

1 egg

Put the tapioca flour and the mashed potato in a bowl and mix with your hands. Then add the milk and do the same. The next step will be to add the oil. The cheese is added after the oil is well incorporated into the mixture. Finally, bet the eggs lightly and then add them to the bowl. Here I prefer to mix everything with a woden spoon first, and then use my hands towards the end to ensure that the mixture is even. The mixture will be ready when it no longer stick to your fingers.

Make small balls and put then on a baking tray – no need to grease the tray. You can also freeze some of the recipe and bake the cheesebread from frozen.

Preheat the oven to medium temperature – 180oC , for about 15min and bake the cheesebread rolls until they become golden.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

llittle daisy cakes


Since the first time I saw these cakes in one of the Waitrose publications I fell in love with them. They had this wonderful spring feel. Appealing to the eye, and hopefully to the taste too.

I had never worked with marzipan before – believe me, that was true then, but I decided to give it a go. I even got the nasty glace cherries. I completely loathe them. I always wonder how something as wonderful and delicious as cherries can be turned into this ghastly tasting thing. However, I decided to pretend not to care about them and get my cakes done. After all they had a role to play. The whole cake doesn’t take very long to prepare. They look so cute when ready to go into the oven that I couldn’t wait to see the final result. Once ready I couldn’t wait to prepare my cup of tea and enjoy the first bite. They are lovely cakes. The sort of thing you want in the middle of the afternoon, when a nice cup of tea is asking for company.

Sugar High Friday held by Monisha, seemed a perfect occasion to post them over here. A perfect celebration of what is to me one of the most wonderful seasons – spring. After all the dark, cold wet days of winter there comes this fabulous time of the year when colours are everywhere, we feel rejuvenated, ready to do loads of things. What most wonderful than little daisies?

Little Daisy cakes

200g butter, softened – plus a bit extra to grease the tins

200g white marzipan at room temperature

75g caster sugar

275g self-raising flour

5 eggs, beaten

2 tbsp milk

1 tsp almond extract

200g glace cherries

200g sultanas

25g flaked almonds

Preheat the oven – 150oC, gas mark 2. Generously grease 20 holes of muffin tins.

Cut the butter and marzipan into cubes and place in a large mixing bowl with the caster sugar. Beat with an electric whisk until pale, fluffy and completely combined. Sieve the flour into the marzipan mixture, add the eggs and beat together. Stir in the milk and almond extract. The cake mixture should have a soft dropping consistency.

Wash the syrup from the cherries, pat dry with kitchen roll, and then cut in half. Reserve 20 of the halves and stir the remaining cherries together with the sultanas, into the cake mixture. Spoon the mixture evenly into the 20 holes in the muffin tins. Arrange the flaked almonds on top of each cake and place one of the reserved cherry halves in the centre to make a flower pattern. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the cakes are light golden, and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre.

Confit leeks, tomatoes and mushrooms with arak and almonds


I have already told you about this wonderful book Saha. This wonderful recipe was in the section entitled vegetable mezze. It was really hard to pick a recipe up amongst so many. I really liked the idea of stewing the vegetables in such wonderful broth – with the arak (or a substitute in my case) At first I got a bit worried about the fennel – ‘is it going to work well with all these vegetables?’’ I didn’t want anything too sweet. I did not have the arak, in fact I had no idea what it was. After reading about it in the introductory note to the chapter I decided to use Pernod instead as it was the only thing I had at home. Arak to the ones of you, who don’t know, is an aniseed-flavoured spirit like so many others which are popular around the Mediterranean. The only difference seems to be that Ouzo, Raki, Sambucca and Pastis all are very sweet. Arak is set apart by the fact that it is pure, only containing two ingredients: grapes and the aniseed. Its flavour seems to be a great cleanser to the palate. I will most certainly check it out one day.

I found this dish to be a delicious and elegant mezze. I had it with toasted bread and it just proved delicious. There were some leftovers the next day and it tasted even more delicious than I remembered.

I though that it would be a wonderful contribution to this week’s WHB that is being held by Sher at What did you eat?

Confit leeks, tomatoes and mushrooms with arak and almonds

3 leeks, white part only, cut into 4cm rounds

8 shallots, peeled

4 cloves garlic, peeled

2 bay leaves

Few sprigs of thyme

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed

Juice of 5 lemons

400ml dry white whine

500ml water

400ml extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

8 medium Portobello mushrooms, trimmed

6 small vine-ripened tomatoes

80ml arak or another aniseed liqueur

Freshly ground sea salt to taste

Extra-virgin olive oil

60g flaked almonds, fried golden brown

Put the leeks, shallots, garlic, herbs and spices into a large, heavy-based non-reactive saucepan. Pour on the lemon juice, wine, water and olive oil and stir in the salt.

Cut a circle of baking paper to fit the saucepan and sit it on top of the vegetables. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cook at a very gentle simmer for 20 minutes. Lift up the paper and slip the mushrooms and tomatoes in amongst the vegetables. Replace the paper and simmer gently for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the arak. Leave the vegetables to cool slightly in the liquid.

When ready to serve, lift the vegetables out of the stewing liquor into a serving dish, season with a little salt, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with flaked almonds.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Beijos de Dama - Lady's Kisses

I don’t mean to cheat. These biscuits were made in December when I was visiting my family in Brazil. As at that time I was pretty slack with the English version of my blog the recipe is only being added now. I need to put it (plus many more) in my other English language blog, Tapioca, but I shall walk with baby steps.

There is an Italian biscuit called Bacci di Dona that if translated in Portuguese would be called just like the one I am posting here - however, the ingredients are not exactly the same. Beijos de dama is originally from north Brazil where Brazil nuts are abundant. I am not too sure whether they are cheaper there then elsewhere in the country, but they are indeed terribly popular. My mum in fact has a wonderful recipe of Brazil nut biscuits that melts in the mouth – the recipe is very similar to this one and the only difference lies in the ingredients. I vaguely remember having this conversation with her when I was home. Her recipe has corn starch and no egg yolk.

These biscuits that I am telling you about, Beijos de Dama, smell and taste great. Nuts have a beautiful smell once they are roasted slightly. Burnt nuts are not very attractive.

I have to add something about the ingredients: mum has always cooked an awful lot and her kitchen always had all sorts of gadgets. The first stop of my holiday was Sao Paulo and whilst there I wanted to bake some bread for a friend and ended up buying a scale for her as she had nothing like that in her kitchen. As I left to go to Brasilia she told me to take the scale with me and I replied that there was no need as my mum had everything in her kitchen. To my surprise once I got home I found out that mum’s scale was on loan and I never saw it during the whole three weeks I spent there. I used a measuring cup to get my ingredients sorted – never without complaining incessantly. Can you imagine what they had to endure for 3 weeks? It would have been less painful to buy a scale but at the time I decided that complaining was the way to go. What is it with us and our families? I feel forever the 17-year-old who left to go to university. Anyway, back to measuring: these measuring cups have equivalents to all the ingredients and the cup of flour reads 150g, 1 cup of sugar reads 200g. For the butter I used 200g.As for the 1 ½ cup of Brazil nuts, I put the nuts in the measuring cup and filled it up to the 1 ½ flour. Very unorthodox, I know. You basically put the ingredient required in the cup until it is levelled with the mark that corresponds to the desired quantity. If I had prepared the recipe with a scale I would have used the equivalent in grams that I wrote down below as they correspond to the standards I adopt. For all my Brazilian recipes, unless specified in the recipe itself, I go for 1 cup of flour equals 125g, 1 cup of sugar is 180g, a cup of butter is 200g..and so on and so forth. I will leave it to you to decide what you would like to do in case you feel tempted to preparing them as well.

I had loads of fun cooking with my mum. I remember that the first biscuits that I tried to ‘decorate’ with chocolate stripes were not too pretty. I got very frustrated and felt terribly inapt. Mum took over that role. At first we got big splodges of chocolate and ended up laughing about it – mum kept saying that it was modern art. In end I loved the way they all turned out

Beijos de Dama – Lady’s kisses

1 cup of sugar (180g)

1 ½ cups Brazil nuts, toasted and ground

2 cups flour (250g)

1 cup butter (200g) room temperature

1 egg yolk


100g dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven – 180C – medium temperature. Grease and flour a baking sheet – 40cm x 32cm.

Prepare the dough: sieve the sugar in a bowl, add the Brazil nut, the flour and the butter. User your fingers to mix it all together until it resembles crumbs. Add the egg yolk and use the tip of your fingers to mix it all until you get uniform dough.

Make little balls with the dough – around 2cm each. Arrange them on the baking sheet keeping them a bit apart. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or when it is golden brown. Transfer it to a rack to cool.

For the icing: put the chocolate on a bowl over a pan boiling water and let it melt – do not let the bowl touch the water. When melted, remove it from the heat and use the thongs of a fork to draw lines over the biscuit.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Chocolate & Chestnut mousse

HHDH Mousse Event:

I have been looking for a mousse recipe for this event for a while now. I wanted to find one that was truly special. After visiting Helene’s blog – Tartellete, over and over again, I keep seeing these wonderful posts she makes. She pushed the bar way up there.

I knew that I need something that was not common. The other week I made a recipe I had been thinking about using for the event: chocolate with chilli mousse. That turned out to be a bit of a saga: first I wanted to find an egg substitute for the recipe and read a bit about it. In the end I decided to give vinegar a try as replacement because I had read somewhere that it would do the job. Well, what it didn’t specify, and me being so eager didn’t use my head, was that it was probably good but not for stuff like mousse. When I tried the mousse I could tell straight away that there was something wrong with it. The texture didn’t look right, and the taste...well, it was as if the ingredients had not really gelled together. I was terribly disappointed. I ended up making the recipe again, this time to the letter. I then decided to serve it to my guests without telling them about the chilli ingredient first. I wanted to see if they would notice it. The chilli was noticeable without being overpowering. My guests liked it – they even said that had they known about the chilli they wouldn’t have tried it, but they were glad they hadn’t been told in advance. That was a very successful try in the end.

However, I was still looking for THE recipe, and I read books, magazines, marked pages…However, today I decided that I would have to pick one and stop with all the fuss. After all I might have ended up missing the event all together.

I ended up choosing a chocolate and chestnut mousse by Mary Cadogan, an amazing British food editor who is spending some time in France at the moment and keep posting these great recipes and a lovely diary.

The recipe asks for chestnut purée so I dashed to my local supermarket to get some. I had to prepare the recipe before changing my mind again. I also decided to buy some cooked chestnuts as well as I cannot find them al natural at this time of the year – it would be nice to have some sliced on top of the mousse. At in the end I was glad that I decided to do that as it looked quite pretty – click on the picture to enlarge it.

I was just not so impressed with the final result though. Don’t take me wrong, it was rather lovely, but in a way it just tasted like any other chocolate mousse. I kept trying to find the chestnut flavour in it and I honestly did not. I think that the role of the purée might have been to play with the texture – I did find creamy in a special way.

That’s what you need for the mousse:

Chocolate & Chestnut mousse

200g bar dark chocolate

200g sweetened chestnut purée

5 eggs, separated

4 tbsp brandy or Cognac

284 mil carton whipping cream

1. First of all take 25g of the dark chocolate and use a vegetable peeler to make chocolate curls. Set the curls aside until you need them.

2. Break up the remaining chocolate, then put it in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water until melted (you know the drill – don’t let the bowl touch the water). Remove from the hit then stir in the chestnut purée until smooth. Stir in the egg yolks and brandy. It might look as if it will not all blend together, but it will. Have faith.

3. Whisk the egg whites in a large, clean bowl until stiff, stir a quarter into the chocolate mix to soften it, and then fold in the remainder until well mixed. Divide the mixture between your bowls/cups... whatever you might want to use for your mousse. Put it in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

4. When it take them out of the fridge to serve up, quickly whip the cream and spoon it over the mousse. I then added slices of the cooked chestnut and to finish it off I sprinkled it all with the chocolate curls.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Miss Bessie’s Cornbread

I have been given a most beautiful book about the American South, Larissa's Breadbook - Baking Bread & Telling Tales with Women of the American South. It is a book with ten remarkable women and their stories and recipes.
This recipe here is by Miss Bessie, from Snowhill, Norh Carolina. It is one of most lovely cornbread recipes I have ever prepared. A delicious treat at the breakfast table, or for an afternoon tea session. I had it with butter as well as with jam and aproved both choices. You can prepare it , put it in the oven and get on with setting the breakfast table. By the time you finish the bread will be ready and your house will have the most wonderful and comforting smell of baked bread.

Let me share it with you:

Miss Bessie’s Cornbread

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour

1 ½ tablespoons sugar

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup yellow cornmeal

2 eggs

1 ½ cups buttermilk

¼ cup melted butter

Preheat the oven – 425oF. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Add cornmeal. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together eggs, buttermilk, and butter. Add flour mixture. Mix just enough to moisten. Pour into a greased 8-inch square baking pan or a 12-muffin tin. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (15 to 20 minutes for muffins) or until golden and firm to the touch in the center. If using a square pan, cut cornbread into squares.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ricotta and tomato tart


Ricotta and tomato tart

I had already seen this recipe in Bill Granger’s ‘bills Sydney food’ but only recently I got an opportunity to prepare it. I love the beautiful colours that go together: tomato-red, parsley-green, ricotta-white...from the moment you look at it you start devouring it with your eyes. Great dish for a spring or summer day. Let’s use up all these beautiful tomatoes that are so abundant at this time of the year.

The Weekend Herb Blogging event which is being hosted by Haalo this week just seemed the right occasion to present you with the recipe. It has tomatoes, spinach/rocket, and parsley. The original recipe asked for a puff pastry base but I decided to use something a bit lighter and I made this fabulous cornmeal pastry base which was prepared by Ana who is the owner of the blog Kitchen Space. This base is delicious and nicer than puff pastry in my opinion – perfect with the filling. One thing I like doing when I bake pastry is to season the tin with salt and black pepper before I put the pastry in. I find that it works beautifully well.

We all approved it at home and I served it with watercress and rocket salad. Just a great and light meal.

Here’s what you need for the filling:

2 ripe tomatoes, finely sliced

Sea salt

2 cups ricotta

2 eggs, lightly beaten

50ml cream

¼ cup finely grated Parmesan (I added ½ cup)

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup shredded rocket/baby spinach

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Place tomatoes in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain. Place ricotta, eggs, cream, Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Add rocket/baby spinach and stir to combine. Cover and put it in the fridge until you need it.

For the cornmeal pastry base as copied from Ana’s blog:

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup whole-grain pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons water

For the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine cornmeal, pastry flour, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to incorporate. Add butter and oil and pulse about 20 times, until mixture resembles small pebbles. Add water and pulse until mixture forms loose dough. Remove dough from processor and press into bottom and about 1/8-inch up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a detachable rim. Press aluminium foil into the bottom and sides of the pan on top of the dough and weigh down with uncooked rice or pie weights. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and remove rice and foil. The only thing I (Valentina) made different was to beat one egg and brush the pie crust with it – it seals the pastry really well. Return to oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until no longer shiny and wet. Remove from oven and let cool.

Whilst the base is cooling remove the filling from the fridge. Once the base has cooled off spread the filling on it and arrange the tomato slices over the top of the filling. Bake in the oven for at least 35 minutes or until golden. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Balila Hummus with crushed chickpeas, pine nuts and cumin

I have bought a wonderful book called Saha – A chef’s journey through Lebanon and Syria. It is by Greg and Lucy Malouf. After reading about when Greg and Lucy came to London for the book launch at Nordljus I could not resist purchasing the book. And God knows how glad I am that I have bought it. I have already prepared quite a few dishes from the book, and this one here is one of them. The book is so beautiful that it moved me. Greg Malouf is Australian born to Lebanese parents and the journey that is shown in the book is a beautiful one not only in terms of showing the cuisine of Lebanon and Syria but also one where he gets in touch with his roots. If you enter a bookshop which has the book on sale I beg you to flick through it. It is lovely.

I picked this recipe because a) I love hummus and b) it was hummus with a twist. When I heard about the Arabian nights that Meeta has organized. I thought that it would be great to share it here as well – I posted it in my Portuguese blog first. I couldn’t stop eating it. I love the creamy chickpea paste and the crunch pie nuts and lemon tang.Ingredients:

250g dried chickpeas (or 400g cooked)

2 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda

1 small clove of garlic, crushed with 1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon ground cumin

Juice of 1 ½ lemons

50ml olive oil


50ml olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely sliced

50g pine nuts

Juice of ½ lemon

Soak the chickpeas overnight in twice their volume of cold water and the bicarbonate. The next day, rinse the chickpeas thoroughly. Place them in a large pan of fresh water and bring it to the boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 1-2 hours, until the chickpeas are tender – the timing will depend on how old they are. Don’t cook them to a mush, but you should be able to squish them easily between your fingers. When cool enough to handle, swish them around to loosen the skins, and remove as many as you can. The more skins you can remove, the better.

Drain the chickpeas, and reserve ½ cup to garnish Tip the rest into a food processor with the garlic paste, cumin, lemon juice and oil. While still warm, blitz to a smooth purée.

To prepare the garnish, heat the oil in a small pan and fry the garlic and pine nut until they start to colour. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Tip onto the hummus and add with the reserved chickpeas. Squeeze on the lemon juice. Serve immediately with plenty of Arabic or pita bread.

I dare you not to over eat!

Monday, April 09, 2007

pumpking and pancetta risotto


Pumpking and pancetta risotto

My organic box still brought me some sweet mama squash. Probably the last of the lot."Goobye! See you in about 9-month’s-time". Looking for what to do with my last squash of the lot I came across this delicious pumpkin and pancetta risotto in a Gordon Ramsey book – Gordon Ramsey A Chef for all Seasons. I once had a friend make me an utterly delicious pumpkin risotto and I had never dared preparing one after that.She is such a wonderful cook!! However, today I changed my mind as I thought that I could also take part in the Weekend Herb Blogging with it. This week's event is hosted by Anh. How delicious the risotto came out! And the colour is also soo beautiful. I am very happy to have used the last of my pumpkin in style and have killed two birds with one stone. Thanks for reminding me Pat!

Sweet mama squash is related to buttercup squash and has a lovely sweet flavour once they are cooked. It worked really well with the pancetta in the recipe. The mascarpone added a beautiful creaminess plus the wonderful taste of the parmesan. Would you like some? I would recommend that you visited this site to find out about all the different types of squash.

The amount below would serves 4 as a starter and 2 as a main dish.

40g pancetta, chopped
500-600ml light chicken stock ( I always tend to add a bit more - just in case I need it)
2 large shallots, chopped
500 pumpkin flesh cut into very small cubes - not bigger than 1 cm
3 tablespoons of olive oil
200g risotto rice (a 240ml cup)
240ml dry white wine ( Gordon says 100ml)
2 tablespoons mascarpone
25g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • heat a dry non-stick frying pan and, when hot, fry the pancetta until browned and crisp. Drain and set aside. Heat the stock to a gentle simmer in a saucepan.
  • in a large saucepan, gently sauté the shallots and pumpkin in the oil for about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook for another 2 minutes to toast the grains. Pour in the wineand cook until reduced right down.
  • now pour in a quarter of the stock and stir well. Cook gently until the liquid has been absorbed, then stir in another ladleful of stock. Continue cooking and stirring, gradually adding the stock, until the rice grains are just tender.
  • about roughly 2 minutes before the end of cooking stir in the pancetta, mascarpone and half the parmesan. check the seasoning, then serve in warmed bowls, sprinkled with the remaining parmesan.
It's sinful!!

Avocado Pear with wasabi sauce

It was no special occasion rather than to try this recipe which had been tickling my senses. I first read about it last week on the Wednesday edition of The Guardian. Wednesday was the first day of a new cookery show, Neneh & Andi Dish it up. I vaguely remember Neneh Cherry and I definitely do not know Andi. Had never heard of her – excuse my musical ignorance. They were famous in the 80s I believe.

However, it does not matter here. The show will have them entertaining friends and family. The two are famous for cooking together, and always for family and friends. I would have loved to have got home in time for the show but when I arrived the credits were already coming up on the screen. I did, however, made the avocado pear with wasabi sauce as the idea of the wasabi with the avocado was terribly appealing. I foresaw a fabulous union: soft, creamy avocado dressed up in wasabi sauce. And I am so glad that I gave it a go as the result to my eyes is a fabulous marriage. I can see it going really well with grilled meat. I had it on its own because I wanted to try it first of all. I adapted the recipe to one avocado pear, and then had to prepare another one – couldn’t stop picking on it.

It is dead simple and with the nice weather coming up (not that it would matter to me) it is a serious container for all the garden meals I will have. By the way, you can see all the recipes of the show in the BBC Food website.

The quantities here are for 4 to 5 avocado pears, cored, peeled and sliced.

1 bunch of spring onions finely chopped


2 teaspoons wasabi

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of one lime

Black pepper

Mix all the sauce ingredients in a bowl.

Arrange the avocado slices on a serving dish, sprinkle with the spring onions and dress them with the sauce. I dare you to stop picking on it.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Cardamon sour-cream cake

When I saw this recipe I thought to myself: I have to make that. One of the reasons was that I really like cardamom. The other reason was that I had never had a cardamom cake in my whole life. According to Rachel Allen’s notes this was meant to be one of the most delicious cakes ever. Enough for me to give it a go.

I had no ground cardamom in the house but I decided to use my cardamom pods and grind them in my coffee grinder. Great. It was all sorted. Whilst grinding the cardamom and getting the batter ready I could always smell the cardamom – that beautiful smell. I expected that once I took the cake from the oven the whole kitchen would be invaded by its wonderful aroma. I have to admit that I did get disappointed smell wise as the cake came out of the oven and I did not feel inebriated at all. It made me doubt the cake immediately. After all it had ‘let me down’ (in my mind).

Despite that I decided that I should finish it off as I would have in case I wanted to eat it – even though I did not anymore. I used a hexagonal cutter and cut the cake into little hexagonal cakes. I did regret not having baked it into a square tin as it would have facilitated my cutting. I prepared the icing and ‘dressed’ it pretty. I used a wee bit (and I really mean tiny, tiny) of ground cardamom just so that the icing didn’t look bare. I then decided that I had to have a bite since I had baked it. The moment I had my bite I realized that I had been wrong about the cake, my doubts were unfounded. The cake tasted very elegant. The cardamom flavour was just right but certainly noticeable. I so loved it. If you like cardamom I recommend this cake. It is lovely!!


1 egg

200ml tub sour cream or crème fraiche ( reserve 1 tbsp for icing)

175g caster sugar

225g plain flour, sifted

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

1tsp ground cardamom seeds

For the icing:

125g icing sugar, sifted

1 tbsp sour cream or crème fraîche

Preheat the oven to 180oC (gas mark 4 – 350oF). Grease the sides of a 20cm (8in)round cake tin and dust with flour;line the base with greaseproof paper.

Whisk the egg in a large bowl. Add all but 1 tablespoon of the sour cream or crème fraîche and the sugar and whisk to combine. Add the sifted flour and bicarbonate of soda, then the salt and the ground cardamom. Fold the mixture to combine, do not over-mix. Transfer into the tin and place in the oven. Cook for about 35 minutes until the top of the cake just feels firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and transferring it to a cooling rack.

Make the icing just by mixing all the ingredients listed above and pouring it over the cake once it has cooled.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Squidgy pineapple and allspice cakes

The Waitrose has a bi-monthly magazine called Seasons which is free. I picked the March/April one up and saw so many opportunities for some of the recipes. This is a good thing about Easter in my opinion. Bakers have a really good excuse – not that we need one, to go mad and bake loads.

One of the temptations was this recipe of ‘Squidgy pineapple and allspice cakes’. They looked so cute, mini-loaves shaped. I took a look at some of the ingredients and decided straight away that it was going to the top of the list. Have you seen anything more delicious than pineapples? Well, in fact I have, but they are awesome after undergoing some heat. They are only behind bananas (all time favourite) and apples.

The cakes are ever so easy to prepare. The only thing I would tell you to be careful about is the melting of butter together with treacle and sugar. The temperature has to be really low and it has to be done really gently. Otherwise, if it gets too hot when you add the egg you will end up with scrambled eggs. Yes, it did happen to me. I had to prepare another batch. Ah, nearly forgot: the original recipe calls for slightly salted butter. First of all I don’t remember seeing ‘slightly salted’ butter anywhere where I shop so I decided to use unsalted butter. Very pleased that I did so.

This recipe yields 8 cakes – using 150ml mini-loaf tins.

All you need is:

75g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

250g of pineapple cut into little pieces

200g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground allspice

100g caster sugar

100g black treacke

6 tablespoons milk in room temperature

1 egg, lightly beaten

Now just follow these easy steps:

  1. pre-heat the oven – 180oC ( 160oC if fan assisted) and grease & line the baking tins. It will facilitate the removal of the cakes later as they will be terribly soft. Reserve.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and allspice into a bowl,. Reserve. Put the sugar, treacle & butter in a saucepan and heat ever so gently until the sugar is dissolved and butter has melted. Remove form the heat and pour milk into it, followed by the egg. Mix well.
  3. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir until well mixed. Add nearly ¾ pineapples to the batter and mix it all. Divide equally amongst the tins and scatter the surface of the cakes with the remaining pineapple pieces.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes until the cakes have risen and are just firm to touch. Remove from the oven and gently lift them from the tins, and leave them to cool on a rack.
  5. Drizze the cakes with the icing below. Let it to dry and serve. Oh, it will be hard to eat only one. Trust me.


100g icing sugar + 2 tablespoon water for icing . Mix it together and drizzle the little cakes with it when ready

Passion fruit yoghurt cake with passion fruit syrup

I have been a very big fan of Julie Le Clerk since I made the first recipe from one of her books. Well, truth is that the book made me a big fan of hers. As I walked my way through it – believe me, I baked/cooked an awful lot from that publication, I just consolidated my admiration. One day browsing through Amazon I learnt that she had a book on small cakes. I LOVE small cakes so I ordered that. The other week I decided to bake this little cake recipe with passion fruit yoghurt in it. Boy, I had a hard time looking for passion fruit in the supermarkets. No idea why that was so. Up to a month ago – or at least that‘s how I remember it, I could find passion fruit yoghurt all the time. Now what I can find is a mixture of passion fruit and peach. Across all brands I come across. Do these people sign some sort of agreement where it says what flavours they should all go for? Like a Daring Bakers of the yoghurt world?

I finally found some passion fruit yoghurt and went to bake this pretty little treat.Sorry? Why didn’t I change the yoghurt to a different flavour? Well, I love passion fruit you see. And I really wanted to use that. Obviously I would have used a different flavour had I struggled for a few more days. I was so pleased that I chose to stick to the original flavour in the end. The final cake all soaked in syrup is just deliciously tangy, and tastes heaps nicer the following day. I baked them for a friend and I shall be baking some more soon. I might try strawberries next time. I don’t think that I will be exciting with a non-tangy fruit as peach – as much as peach is delicious.

1 cup (240ml) canola oil (I tend to use groundnut oil)
1 ½ cups sugar (I measure 180g per cup)
2 eggs – large
1 cup (the same 240ml one as above) passion fruit yoghurt
Juice and rind of 2 lemons
2 cups (I measure 125g per cup) self-raising flour or 2 cups normal flour plus 2 teaspoons baking flour

Heat the oven to 160oC – 140oC if fan assisted. Grease 12 muffin tins or one 20cm round baking pan.

Beat the sugar and oil until well mixed. Low the speed and add the eggs, one at a time, then beat until creamy. Add the yoghurt, lemon juice and rind and mix it all with a wooden spoon. Incorporate the sieved flour taking care not to over mix it – unless you like heavy and stodgy cakes, in which case go ahead. Divide the mixture between the cases and bake for approximately 20 min. When ready let it cool in the tin for approximately 5 minutes before transferring it to a rack. Prepare the syrup and pour it over the little cakes whilst still hot.

½ cup lemon juice
½ cup water
1 cup sugar (180g)
½ cup of passion fruit pulp with seeds and all

Put all the ingredients in a small pan and heat it up until the sugar is completely dissolved. Never stop stirring – boring but worth it in the end.