Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lemon polenta cake - gluten free

This cake was originally picked to take part in the Weekend Cookbook Challenge organized by Sara from I like to cook, this time round held by Ani from Foodie Chickie. The theme was cornmeal. Unfortunately I have been doing quite long hours and tiredeness got the best of me and I fell asleep before baking the cake to meet the deadline - I only found out about the event one day before the deadline. The ones of you who have visited my blog have read this before. I still have hopes that my work won’t have such impact on my life as it does. At least not by sending me too sleep just like that.
Back to the cake, as the recipe had already been selected I decided to go ahead with it. After all polenta/cornmeal cakes are such winners in my experience. Plus this one had such appeal with all the lemon juice and rind. Plus the fact that it is gluten free.
Looking back I am ever so happy that I didn’t give up on it. Shame that it didn’t manage to be included in the event. It is a very light and refreshing cake. I brought it to work - I am posting it from work, and it did not last long. Wonderful treat for an afternoon tea or even for a moment of hunger or pure indulgence. Plus all the people who need to have gluten free cake can eat this most yummy treat as well.

Lemon polenta cake – gluten free

280g butter, room temperature ( I only used 250g)
225g sugar
6 eggs separated
175g ground almonds
115g yellow cornmeal or polenta

Rind and juice of 4 lemons
Icing sugar to dust

Greased round baking tray – 25cm + line it with baking parchment

Preheat the oven – 180oC/fan assisted 160oC.

Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Approximately 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Then add the ground almonds, polenta/yellow cornmeal, lemon rind and juice. Mix well using a wooden spoon.
Beat the egg whites until it forms hard peaks. Using a metal spoon incorporate the egg whites to the mixture and bake for a good 50 minutes. Test inserting a skewer in the middle of it to check that the cake is cooked – it needs to come out clean. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the rack. Dust with icing sugar.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Couscous salad with chickpeas and goat’s cheese

This week’s Weekend Herb Blogging event, that great idea that Kalyn had, is being held by Karen from the beautiful and inspiring blog Rachel’s bite.

I have not prepared this recipe with the event in mind, In fact I did have another recipe that I really wanted to post. I just picked it out of a book on Moroccan dishes. However, when I tasted it I thought that it would be a mistake not to use t his recipe.It has so many Maroccan elements to it.

It is very seasonal in that it will go very well in a summer day, when one sometimes does not feel like standing the stove heat for long. You prepare it very quickly and it is a meal in itself. Plus it it full of goodness. And, nearly forgot that, looks great too. Golden sun colour because of the turmeric, plus the other beautiful reds, greens and white. Next time I prepare it I might add some diced dried dates.


Couscous salad with chickpeas and goat’s cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 ½ cups chicken stock ( or vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)

1 ½ cups couscous

420g chickpeas, cooked and peeled

150g goat’s cheese, crumbled

2 red peppers, seeds removed and roasted in the oven

Juice of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons each chopped mint and parsley

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 preserved lemon

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add onion and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes to light brown. Add crushed garlic, tumeric, and cinnamon, and cook for another 30 seconds, then add stock and bring to the boil

  1. Stir in the couscous, then remove pan from the heat, cover and leave to steam for 10 minutes to soften. Remove covering and fluff up couscous with a fork. Set it aside to cool

  1. Toss through the remaining salad ingredients, except preserved lemon, and season well with salt and pepper to taste

  1. Remove flesh from preserved lemon and discard. Rinse the rind with cold water. Finely slice rind and scatter over finished salad to garnish

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Beijinho de coco for Meeta

I wanted to bake something special for Meeta’s birthday, for her birthday mingle. Something Brazilian.

Me being me I left it till the last minute to bake this lovely Brazilian cake, Ant’s hill cake. It is a cake with coconut milk and little chocolate bits. Delicious. Mum used to make it for me. Unfortunately the cake sunk in the middle, to my total disappointment. It was then too late to bake something else.

However, as soon as I had some free time I went back to the task. I know that the mingle is well over so I am doing this isolated post.

I chose a sweet which is very common in children’s birthday parties – coconut kiss. If you ever go to a Brazilian birthday party – for children it is, you will find loads of little bite-size sweets similar to these. They will vary in the ingredients: chocolate, Cashew nut, strawberry, prunes..They are made by hundreds. The birthday table is nicely decorated with all those beautiful sweets, very well presented.

You might not know but Brazilians are very good and into making lovely bite-size sweets for birthday parties, weddings, christenings. We inherited that from the Portuguese who colonised us. They really liked sweets. Very sweet ones. That was inherited from the Moors who dominated the Iberian Peninsula for a very long time.

The Portuguese brought sugar cane from the Madeira Islands and planted them in Brazil. The Portuguese sweets tradition acquired many tropical characteristics.

The rich landowners’ wives and daughters used to prepare lovely little sweets to give as presents. They would be given to relatives, friends, even to loved ones. They would always be beautifully presented. We keep this tradition to this date. The names they take are quite often affectionate ones: ‘coconut kisses’, ‘little caresses’, and ‘kisses’.

This one sweet I chose is made out of condensed milk and desiccated coconut. Its preparation is very simple and the great appeal is in the way it is presented. As I am living abroad I cannot always put my hands on lovely cases and wrappings to truly demonstrate how we do that.

Coconut kiss

1 can condensed milk

1 tablespoon butter

4 tablespoons desiccated coconut


More desiccated coconut to coat the sweets

Put the condensed milk and butter in a pan over low fire. Keep stirring it until the mixture thickens and you can see the bottom of the pan. Approximate 10 minutes. The consistency you want is not too soft – or you can’t roll the little balls, nor too thick – or the little balls will be too hard. When you reach the right consistency remove it from the fire and throw the 4 tablespoons of desiccated coconut inside the pan. Mix it some more so that it is all incorporated. Pour the mixture on the plate and let it cool. When it is cool roll little balls with it, bite size, and roll them over the desiccated coconut. Stick a clove in the middle and put it in a little case. Repeat it until the whole mixture is dealt with.

If you wish you can make a little indentation in the middle and put ‘dulce the leche’ in it.

graviola flan

click to enlarge

Some of you or many even, might not be familiar with the fruit ‘Graviola’. I believe that in the Spanish speaking countries of the Americas it is know as guanabana.Graviola is how we know it in Brasil. Mind you, not all over Brasil because it is native to the north and in the rest of the country not everybody is familiar with it. Nowadays we also find it in central Brasil – I recently saw it in a market near Brasilia which is where my mum lives. I was fortunate enough to grow up drinking a lot of graviola juice. Brasilians as most latin americans that I know love their fruit juice. I am no longer in my twenties, let alone thirties, so that gives you an idea of how popular fruit juice has always been back in my home country. Ops, I have gone on a tangent. Sorry! Back to Graviola.

I was quite surprised myself to find some info about Graviola in a site about alternative cancer treatments. Read here if you would like to find out more.

Moving away from the medicinal side, I always loved it because it is so refreshing. I remember that one of my cousins always used to pick the ripe ones from her back garden and would prepare juice, desserts... When I was home last year I made a lovely flan with it. And boy it was refreshing.

As we can find it abroad in the form of frozen pulp I have decided to publish its recipe here as well. Any stores that sell Brasilian products, including frozen pulps, will have graviola pulp amongst the various flavours sold. Just ask. I also believe that in North America you might be able to find it in stores where they sell produce from Latin American countries as it is a fruit found in many other countries. I found this company from Ecuador for instance - look here.

The condensed milk ingredient makes it so Brasilian in the sense that we use condensed milk an awful lot in sweet dishes. As for the pulp, if you are lucky enough to find the fruit near where you live, you will need to blend it and push the contents through a sieve before adding it to your recipe. If you are using the pulp there is no need for that. It is a recipe put together very easily and lovely for the hot summer days.

Graviola flan

1 can of condensed milk

2 ¼ cups of graviola pulp

6 gelatine leaves or 1 packet of powder gelatine

1 starfruit cut into slices

A bit of Drambui liqueur

Hydrate the gelatine by putting it in cold water for five minutes. Then squeeze the excess water and dissolve it in Bain Marie. Put the condensed milk and the pulp in the blender and give it a good whiz. With the blender still on gradually add the dissolved gelatine. After that transfer the mixture to flan containers which would have been previously put in cold water. Sprinkle the poppy seeds before putting the containers in the fridge for a good 4 hours at least. Before serving prepare a nice sauce with Drambuí liqueur.

We just made it by putting equal measure of water and sugar in a pan. When the sugar dissolves lower the heat and continue stirring until it starts to thicken. Take it off the fire and add a splash of Drambuí liqueur.

Drizzle it over the flan and decorate it with the star fruit slices.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Linguine with clams and tomatoes

Pasta is such a great thing to cook.Very versatile - all the possible sauce combinations. I chose this dish to take part in Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights events. Check here for the details. I actually first emailed Ruth about a month ago or more saying that I really wanted to take part in these events. Only now I managed to get organized.

I love sea food and since the first time that I saw this recipe I decided that I had to prepare it - the lovely clams! With all the lovely and fresh ingredients this is such a fabulous dish. not too laborious, extremely delicious and gets ready in no time.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Linguine with clams and tomatoes

400g italian dried linguine

60ml extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, finely sliced

2 small fresh red chillies, finely chopped, or ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes

Sea salt

1 kg clams

125ml white wine

500g cherry tomatoes, cut into halves

3 tbspoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Freshly ground paper

Cook the linguine in a large saucepan. Whilst it is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic, chilli and sea salt for 1 minute. Add the clams, white wine and tomatoes. Cover the pan and cook for 3 minutes, or until the clams open. Remove from the heat.

Drain the pasta and add to the frying pan with the parsley. Gently toss to combine, then season with the salt and pepper.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Nana Maria canjica

My grandmother on my mother’s side, Dona Maria, was originally from the state of Paraíba, in the north east of Brazil. In that part of the country corn plays a very important part in people’s diet. It is done in various forms: raw corn that is grated and then cooked, Brazilian corn flour – which is very fine, pre-cooked corn flour. The list is long.

Nowadays we find corn in most parts of the country nearly all year round, but in my nana’s days and in her region it would be very abundant around Easter time. And she was famous for making canjica and pamonha - both are corn based dishes. You are probably saying to yourself: what the heck is she going on about. Canjica (known in the south of Brazil by the name of curau) is made using grated corn that is cooked with milk and sugar. It is sprinkled with cinnamon powder when ready and put in the fridge to cool. Pamonha is a bit more laborious: the corn is also grated, and then the kernels are scraped to extract any remaining bits as well as the juices; the pulp is seasoned , strained and it is used to fill the corn husks which will become little filled parcels; pamonhas can be sweet or savory. In the part of Brazil where I spent my adolescence and where I lived until I came to Europe, pamonha is nearly a religion. Back to my nana, she used to add coconut milk to her recipes. She would grate the coconut and then extract the milk to be used in her cooking.

Since we are now in the month of June, and all over Brasil a national festivity starts, lasting nearly the whole month – Festa Junina, and canjica ( curau) is eaten nearly everywhere, I have chosen to post my grandmother’s recipe here as a toast to the month of June. This is the nicest part of the Brasilian calendar year to me. There are loads of special foods that we eat specially at the festivities that happen everywhere. You can read a bit about this festivity here.


Nana Maria Canjica Recipe

4 medium-sized corns

½ cup milk

½ cup coconut milk

Sugar – to your taste

Cinnamon powder

Grate the corns and then push the pulp through a sieve. If you feel that the pulp is very coarse, before pushing it through the sieve put it in a blender with a bit of the ½ cup milk and give it a good whiz. You want it to be really mushy. Now push it through a sieve. Transfer the sieved corn to a heavy bottomed pan, adding the milk and some of the coconut milk. Put the pan on a medium heat and add sugar to the mixture so that it is to your taste. Stir the mixture until it thickens a bit, pouring the remaining coconut milk little by little – this is to avoid that your canjica is not too runny. When you reach the right consistency, like thickish porridge, remove the pan from the fire, transfer the mixture to various ramekins, or even to one big dish, sprinkle with the cinnamon and let it cool. Once cooled transfer it to the fridge for at least one hour so that it gets cool. Lovely on a summer day.

Please note that when you grate the corn, if you feel that the amount you have might not be enough to all the hungry mouths you will be feeding, just grate more corns. Depending on the size of the original corns, the amount might not be enough. As for the milk and sugar, just add more accordingly. It might sound complicated but it is dead easy. I promise.