Sunday, November 23, 2014

Eggplant mull and mood swings

Eggplant mull / Mull de berinjela

Choosing what to cook is not always an easy task around here: I want to cook lots of things, which is not feasible at all (not to mention expensive), so I have to refrain myself and be reasonable. Sometimes I’m tired and want something simple that doesn’t get me standing on my feet too long – those are the days when decision making is a lot quicker.

There is, however, something that changes every now and then: my mood.

There are days when I flip through certain cookbooks for hours and find absolutely nothing that appeals to me – I start wondering why I bought the book in the first place, that it was a waste of money, and so forth (hello, PMS). Then, weeks later, maybe even days, I grab the same cookbook and I want to eat each and every recipe on it – everything looks delicious.

No, I’m not completely mad, guys, I promise. :D

A while ago I had Maria Elia’s cookbook on my lap as I had a cup of tea and as I turned each page of the book I kept trying to remember why I’d bought it because I did not feel like eating any of those recipes. None. A week later I got the book again and it made my mouth water so hard I couldn’t decide what to cook – everything looked so tasty! I went for the eggplant mull because I had everything in my fridge and it was such a lovely meal it has become a favorite – it’s a great weekday meal.

The paprika I used was on the hot side and I’ve toned it down a little after that first time, using half of the amount called for in the recipe below – that is very personal so I suggest you adapt it to make it to your liking.

Eggplant mull
slightly adapted from the delicious Full of Flavor: How to Create Like a Chef

1 large eggplant, cut in halve lengthwise, then into 5mm slices
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 plum tomatoes, deseeded and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
juice of half a lemon
handful of chopped parsley
3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and brush it generously with olive oil. Lay the eggplant slices on top of the foil, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven.

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and spices and cook for 5 minutes or until tomatoes soften. Stir in the eggplant and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and herbs and serve.

Serves 2

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cranberry oatmeal cookies with coconut and a good TV show

Cranberry oatmeal cookies with coconut / Cookies de aveia, coco e cranberry

Many times I sit in front of the computer eager to share something delicious with you but I don’t feel like I have much else to say, so I postpone the post, sometimes for quite a while. Then, when I’m doing something else completely and can’t reach the computer at the moment loads of things come to my mind, things I would love to share with you other than food, but it all happens so quickly that when I’m once again sitting here my mind goes blank.

How frustrating is that? :S

Months ago I accidentally discovered a British TV show called Dates and I loved the pilot so much I pretty much devoured the whole nine episodes in two days or so. It was smart, sexy, fun, sad at times, the actors were spot on – everything a good TV show should be/have.

Unfortunately I haven’t read anything about a second season, but I still hope it happens. In the meantime, I’ll keep listening to the beautiful theme song Chloe, especially when I’m in the kitchen making tasty treats such as these cookies: I had no idea (or did not remember) that coconut and cranberries were so good together, and they make these oatmeal cookies extra special.

Cranberry oatmeal cookies with coconut
slightly adapted from the delicious The Seasonal Baker: Easy Recipes from My Home Kitchen to Make Year-Round

¾ cup (105g) all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon table salt
½ cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (88g) light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups (135g) rolled oats
½ cup (50g) unsweetened desiccated coconut
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars together until light and creamy. Beat in the egg, and scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla.
On low speed, beat in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Stir in the oats, the coconut and the cranberries.

Using 2 leveled tablespoons of dough for each cookie, drop batter onto prepared sheets 5cm (2in) apart. Bake cookies until the edges are golden brown and the centers are still slightly soft, 12-14 minutes.
Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then slide the paper with the cookies onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Makes about 25 cookies

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sticky toffee squares

Sticky toffee squares / Quadradinhos de caramelo

I have a sweet tooth and that’s not a secret, but there are sweets and desserts that have a special place in my heart for something other than their taste: they remind me of certain periods of my life, certain days and occasions, and that makes them extra special.

When I was a kid my grandmother would make dulce de leche at home every now and then, and it was one of my favorite things: it was delicious on its own, by the spoonful, spread on sliced of bread, with cheese… The thought of it makes my mouth water already – grandma used to make a big pot of dulce de leche at a time, but it never lasted long. :)

I still love dulce de leche, but I have never tried making it at home the way my grandmother used to – so far I’ve only made it by cooking a can of sweetened condensed milk in the pressure cooker, but nowadays it’s so easy to find Argentinean dulce de leche around here I don’t even do that anymore – all I do is open up a jar, and to stop myself from eating it all by myself I bake with it, too, making yummy things like these squares. :)

Sticky toffee squares
slightly adapted from the delicious Olive magazine

175g all purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons ground almonds
175g unsalted butter, softened
150g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs

2/3 cup dulce de leche
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20cm (8in) square baking pan, line the bottom with a square of baking paper and butter it as well.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and almond meal. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla.
Beat the flour mixture into the sugar and butter in 3 batches, adding an egg each time. Beat the mixture until smooth and then spoon it into the pan and level the top. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then carefully unmold, peel off the paper and invert onto the rack to cool completely.

Icing: place dulce de leche and cream in a small bowl and mix to combine. Spread over the cooled cake. Cut into squares to serve.

Makes 16

Friday, November 14, 2014

Orange rosemary shortbread - becoming friends with rosemary

Orange rosemary shortbread / Amanteigados de laranja e alecrim

I have to start this text by confessing that it took me months (a quick look at Amazon shows me that I purchased the book in January, so almost a year) to make these cookies, all because I was a coward: I was afraid that all that rosemary in the dough would make the cookies taste weird.

I am thirty-five six years old and rosemary scares the bejeesus out of me: I always think that the food will end up tasting like soap. :S

I love cooking with herbs and will gladly add thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram, parsley, even cilantro to recipes without too much thought about it, for they make everything so much more delicious, but when it comes to rosemary I just can’t do it, and every time I watch Jamie Oliver adding tons of rosemary to his recipes I feel sort of desperate, my brain screams “it’s too much, too much!”. :)

I decided it was time to stop this nonsense and bought a small vase of rosemary to gradually start using the herb in my cooking, and these cookies were my first attempt at getting to know the rosemary better: they turned out delicious, the herb flavor perfectly complimented by the orange.

I feel a lot braver now. ;)

Orange rosemary shortbread
slightly adapted from the beautiful and delicious National Trust Simply Baking

½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
finely grated zest of 2 oranges
1 cup (225g/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
340g all purpose flour
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

Put the sugar and rosemary in a food processor and whiz until the rosemary is very finely chopped. Transfer sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer, add the orange zest and rub them together with your fingertips until sugar is fragrant. Add the butter and vanilla and beat with the mixer until pale and creamy. On low speed, beat in flour and salt. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Roll out dough between two sheets of baking paper until 3mm thick. Use a 4cm (1½in) cookie cutter to cut out cookies – if the dough gets too soft, place it in the freezer for 5 minutes. Place cookies onto prepared sheets 2,5cm (1in) apart and prick them with a fork. Bake until lightly golden on the edges, 10-12 minutes.
Cool completely on the sheets over a wire rack. Remove carefully from the paper.

Makes about 60

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Chocolate, coconut and banana cake

Chocolate, coconut and banana cake / Bolo de chocolate, banana e coco

I love trying new things and I am sure I am not alone: when movies are concerned, for instance, writers and actors become directors, directors work as actors or make cameo appearances, and so forth. Change is good; variety is the spice of life.

While some are very successful working in different areas – I think Antonio Banderas should focus on directing more after I watched Crazy in Alabama, and let us not forget that Quentin Tarantino was a writer before working behind the cameras – I can’t say the same about others: I started watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut the other day, but the movie was so awful I changed the channel after fifteen minutes of it. Poor Joseph, go back to acting, will you? :)

As I said, change is good – maybe except for JGL? ;) – not only in the movies but also in the kitchen: this moist and delicious cake, very chocolaty, is made without eggs and yet the result was really, really good, as the banana not only acts as the egg replacer but also adds a wonderful flavor to the cake.

I have no intention of giving up on eggs – I just love them too much – and that was not even the reason why I baked this cake: I just got hypnotized by the beautiful photo I had to make it, especially because the recipe comes from a cookbook that the more I cook from, the more I love it.

Chocolate, coconut and banana cake
cake slightly adapted from the marvelous A Modern Way to Eat: Over 200 Satisfying, Everyday Vegetarian Recipes (That Will Make You Feel Amazing), glaze from the wonderful Annie Bell's Baking Bible

¾ cup (105g) all purpose flour
1 ½ cups (150g) almond meal
1 cup (95g) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
125g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
150ml maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
150ml coconut milk
50ml whole milk, room temperature
1 large ripe banana, mashed

100g dark chocolate – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
25g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons whole milk, room temperature

Cake: preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20x7cm (8x3in) round cake pan with a removable bottom, line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and butter the paper as well.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, almond meal, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the melted butter, maple syrup, vanilla, coconut milk, milk and banana. Mix well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 35–40 minutes, until it feels firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean. Don't worry if the cake has cracked on the top, as this will all get covered by the chocolate glaze.
Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Carefully unmold, peel off the paper and transfer to a serving plate.

Glaze: place chocolate and butter in a small heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until melted. Remove from the heat and whisk in the milk. Set aside for 5 minutes, then spread over the cooled cake.

Serves 8

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pea pancakes

Pea pancakes / Panquequinhas de ervilha

I’ve realized that I’ve been craving vegetables more and more each day, instead of meat: the more I eat vegetables, the more I want to eat them, in all sorts of ways – every time I see a great vegetarian recipe around I want to try it immediately.

(That said, I’ll cook Jamie Oliver’s roast beef tomorrow for lunch. :D My husband saw a bit of the show days ago while I was watching it and has been craving that dish ever since, with all the trimmings, including the Yorkshire puddings – I have made Jamie’s yorkies and they’re oh, so good).

Back to the vegetables, I saw these pea pancakes on Valli Little’s stunning cookbook and right away thought that they would be great for a snack – I had everything in my fridge and pantry to make them, and on top of it all it would take me moments to put them together, even making the ricotta from scratch, which is super easy and I highly recommend you try – I doubt you’ll ever buy ricotta again.

The pancakes turned out delicious, light and fluffy, and I ate them with sweet chili sauce, as per the author’s suggestion – she also suggests the pancakes to be served with bacon, but even though I’m crazy about it I don’t think it was necessary here.

Pea pancakes
slightly adapted from the über beautiful Delicious. Love to Cook

120g frozen peas
2 eggs
200g fresh ricotta – I highly recommend using homemade
¼ cup finely grated parmesan
1 teaspoon olive oil + more for frying the pancakes
¼ cup (45g) all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 spring onions, white part only, finely chopped

Cook the peas in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, drain and refresh under cold water. Drain well and set aside.
Place eggs, parmesan, ricotta, 1 teaspoon olive oil, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Stir in the peas and spring onions, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Scoop two tablespoons of mixture per pancakes and place onto the pan, pressing each to 1cm (½ in) thickness. Cook for 3 minutes each side or until golden.
Serve immediately.

Makes 6

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lemon and coconut Bakewell bars and wondering about my food

Lemon and coconut Bakewell bars / Barrinhas de limão siciliano e coco

Sometimes I wonder what my cooking would be like if it wasn’t for the Internet: my food would certainly be different, I would not have this blog and I would not probably own all the cookbooks and food magazines I own today.

I have learned a lot about cooking and baking by reading all sorts of materials (maybe someday I’ll have the time and money to actually study the wonderful world of food), and I’ve come across many things I’d never heard of and those were things I doubt I would know today if it weren’t for all the reading.

For instance, before I had a blog I had no idea of what fruit curds were, and now they are such favorites of mine, lemon curd being #1 (though passion fruit curd easily gives lemon a run for its money). If the Internet did not exist, I would probably not know about curds and how delicious they are.

That sounds very silly, and I am probably in a very silly mood right now giving curds such huge importance; all I know is that they are yummy and the lemon one goes incredibly good with coconut, like in these irresistible Bakewell bars.

Lemon and coconut Bakewell bars / Barrinhas de limão siciliano e coco

Lemon and coconut Bakewell bars
adapted from the wonderful Feast: Food to Celebrate Life, inspired by the delicious John Whaite Bakes: Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood

145g all purpose flour
30g icing sugar
pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter, cold and chopped

100g unsalted butter
2 eggs
100g granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
100g unsweetened coconut
2/3 cup lemon curd

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a square 20cm (8in) baking pan, line with foil, leaving an overhang in two opposite sides. Butter the foil as well.

Start with the base: put the flour, icing sugar and salt into a food processor and blitz to combine and remove any lumps. Add the butter and process again to get a crumbly mixture that’s beginning to come together. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan and press into the base of the pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden.

Make the topping: melt the butter and set aside. Put the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and coconut into the bowl of the food processor. Process until smooth.

When the base is cooked, remove it from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Spread the curd evenly over the base. With the processor motor running, pour the slightly cooled melted butter down the funnel into the other ingredients and process until smooth. Pour it over the curd layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan, over a wire rack. Cut into slices to serve – it’s best warm, but it tastes delicious at room temperature as well.

Makes 16

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Red curry and coconut bread - the most unusual bread I have ever made

Red curry and coconut bread / Pão de pasta de curry vermelha e coco

Months ago I purchased a very interesting cookbook filled with recipes of bread and soups, two things I deeply love. I patiently and eagerly waited for the cold days of winter to show up around here, but unfortunately this year they were a handful only – it’s been hot for so long it feels like summer never ended.

For that reason, I postponed the plan of making the delicious soups I saw on the book and decided to focus on the bread instead: the recipes looked equally flavorsome.

I started with the one I found the most unusual bread, a loaf made with red curry paste and coconut – I had some paste in the fridge and could not wait to discover how it would flavor the bread. The loaf turned out very unusual, indeed, and I’ll admit it: it’s not everyone’s cup of tea – one has to like spicy food to enjoy the bread.

I thought it tasted great with a simple vegetable soup (the temperature dropped a day after I baked the bread, go figure), but I found that the killer way of having this bread was turning it into grilled cheese – it was delicious beyond words.

Red curry and coconut bread
slightly adapted from the delicious The Soup & Bread Cookbook: More Than 100 Seasonal Pairings for Simple, Satisfying Meals

scant ½ tablespoon dried yeast
½ tablespoon granulated sugar
100ml warm water
1/3 cup (80ml) unsweetened coconut milk
1 ½ tablespoons red curry paste
½ teaspoon table salt
2 cups (280g) all purpose flour

Place yeast, sugar and water in a large bowl and stir to combine. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, curry paste, salt and flour and mix until a dough starts to form. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes.

Knead for about 10 minutes (or 5 using an electric mixer) or until smooth and elastic. Place onto a large lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in volume.

Butter a 21.5x11.5cm (8.5x4.5in) loaf pan (6-cup capacity). Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it into a 20x30cm (8x12in) rectangle. Roll it tight to form a cylinder, then place onto prepared pan. Cover and set aside again for 45 minutes – in the meantime, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.

Bake the bread until golden and loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 5 minutes, carefully unmold and transfer to rack to cool completely.

Makes 1 loaf

Friday, October 31, 2014

Fish kibbeh - a delicious and healthy way of cooking fish

Fish kibbeh / Quibes de peixe

A couple of posts ago I told you that in my opinion there are days for chocolate, cream and all things sweet and I firmly believe in that, but even I can’t eat that sort of food every single day: I crave salads, vegetables, fish and grains everyday and I feel really good when I eat them.

I am always interested in new ways of cooking fish other than the way my mom cooked at home when I was little: dusted with corn flour (not corn starch) and deep fried, which is absolutely delicious but not very healthy (I do avoid deep frying like the plague around here, and not only for health reasons).

My husband loves the corn flour dusted fish as well, but he’s willing to try fish prepared in other ways and last weekend I prepared one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes in which the fish is coated with spices like paprika and cumin and cooked with peas – it was a hit. Weeks before I’d made these fish kibbehs and they were a huge success, too: me being me I tweaked the recipe just a bit, adding more lime zest, using almonds instead of walnuts and shaping the mixture into small kibbehs instead of baking it pressed into a baking dish.

Both my husband and my sister loved the kibbeh and I thought it was a wonderful way of eating fish.

Fish kibbeh
slightly adapted from the gorgeous Brazilian chef Rita Lobo

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small onions, finely sliced in half moons
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of sugar
1 cup cracked wheat (fine bulgur)
500g white fish fillets
handful parsley leaves
finely grated zest of 2 limes
1/3 cup flaked almonds, finely chopped
1/3 cup (80ml) water
¼ teaspoon baharat
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
lime wedges, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and brush it with olive oil.
In a nonstick frying pan over low heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and add the onions. Sprinkle with salt and the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Cool.
Line a colander with a clean kitchen towel and place the cracked wheat on the towel. Rinse it with cold water, then squeeze it well to remove all excess water.
In a food processor, process the fish and parsley until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl, add the onions, the wheat, lime zest, almonds, water and stir to combine. Season with the baharat, salt and black pepper.
Using 1 ½ leveled tablespoons of mixture per kibbeh, roll into a football shape. Place onto prepared sheet 5cm (2in) apart. Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and cooked through, turning them halfway the cooking time. Serve immediately with lime wedges.

Makes about 20

Monday, October 27, 2014

Vanilla milk cake and goodbye, Linden and Holder

Vanilla milk cake / Bolo de leite e baunilha

Days ago, I finished watching the last season of The Killing and I felt happy and sad at the same time: glad because the quality I’d seen throughout the show ever since the beginning wasn’t put aside at any moment of those last six episodes, the ending was a thing of beauty that made me shed loads of tears, and sad because now two of my favorite characters are gone for good – no more of Sarah’s beautiful red hair, no more Holderisms.

I know that TV shows cannot last forever and that it is better to finish with top notch episodes than to end with no quality whatsoever, but The Killing never really had a chance: if it wasn’t for Netflix there wouldn’t even be a fourth season, there would be no closure. Such a beautifully written, acted and directed show should have been on air for longer, but I’ve complained about that already.

As I prepared myself to say goodbye to Linder and Holder, I decided that a slice of cake would fit the occasion perfectly – I needed something sweet to calm my nerves down (after watching the episodes I knew it had been a smart decision, what a wonderful yet nerve-wracking season, my goodness). This simple cake, while delicious on its own with a cup of tea or coffee, was turned into a flavorsome dessert served with whipped cream and strawberries – I highly recommend it either way.

Vanilla milk cake
slightly from the beautiful and oh, so delicious Baking Style: Art Craft Recipes

1 ½ cups (210g) all purpose flour
3 tablespoons (30g) corn starch
¼ teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
½ cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, chopped
1 cup (240ml) whole milk
4 large eggs
1 ¾ cups (350g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup (140g) icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons whole milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Generously butter a 10-cup Bundt pan, dust it with flour and remove the excess.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, corn starch, and salt. Stir in the poppy seeds.
Place butter and milk in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture begins to boil. In the meantime, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs at medium speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar, beating until a light mixture forms. Beat in the vanilla extract.
On low speed, add the dry ingredients in two additions, beating just until incorporated. With the mixer still on low speed, add the hot milk mixture gradually, then beat until completely incorporated (scrape the sides of the bowl). Immediately add the baking powder and mix it in.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 20 minutes, then carefully unmold onto the rack and cool completely.

Glaze: sift the icing sugar into a small bowl. Add the milk and stir until you get a drizzable consistency (add more milk if necessary). Drizzle over cooled cake. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Serves 10-12

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pasta e fagioli (pasta and bean soup)

Pasta e fagiole

I made this soup weeks ago – twice, actually – and it was so delicious I could not have enough of it, but since then we’ve been having such hot days here in Sao Paulo I could not bring myself to publish the recipe here on the blog: it is really hard to even think of hot soup when it’s 35°C (95°F) outside. :S

Now that the temperatures are more reasonable, I gladly bring you Antonio Carluccio’s pasta e fagiole – I am sure my friends in the Northern Hemisphere will appreciate a good soup recipe right now. :)

This recipe has become one of my favorite soups, so easy to make – especially if you have cooked beans stashed in your freezer, which is something I highly recommend everyone to do –, so comforting and tasty, and it tastes even better the next day: what I did differently from the recipe below the second time around was to cook the pasta separately and add it to the bowls right before serving the soup, that way avoiding the pasta to swell too much.

Pasta e fagioli
slightly adapted from the delicious and beautiful Pasta: The Essential New Collection from the Master of Italian Cookery

400g dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
100g bacon, in small cubes
½ onion, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
100g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 liter vegetable stock
150g short dried pasta
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped
finely grated pecorino or parmesan, to serve

Drain the beans, place them into a medium saucepan and cover with cold water (don’t add salt). Cook for about 1 ½ hours or until soft. Drain and process half the beans into a paste using a food processor.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Add the onion and carrot and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes and the cherry tomatoes, the stock and bring to the boil. Add the beans (both crushed and whole) and the pasta and cook for about 10 minutes or until pasta is tender. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley.
Divide the soup among bowls and serve with freshly grated cheese.

Serves 4

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lemon blackberry cake - perfect for spring

Lemon blackberry cake / Bolo de limão siciliano e amora

If it is a problem for me to make banana cakes, I could never say the same about lemon cakes, right? ;)

It is very rare for me to not have lemons around, especially because I use them for many things other than cakes, and I love them so much that my husband brings a couple of lemons home every time he goes grocery shopping.

Adding frozen berries to cakes is a great idea as we’ve seen here on the blog lately, and in this case the blackberries give a whole new dimension to a simple lemon drizzle cake – a moist, tangy cake as easy to eat as it is easy to make (mine was gone pretty fast). :)

Lemon blackberry cake
slightly adapted from the stunning and delicious Indulgent Cakes

¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
125g unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (150g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
½ cup (50g) almond meal
125g sour cream*
150g frozen blackberries, unthawed

3 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
½ tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 21.5x11.5cm (8.5x4.5in) loaf pan (6-cup capacity), line it with baking paper and lightly butter the paper as well.

In a large bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest and rub with your fingertips until sugar is fragrant. Add butter and using an electric mixer, cream the ingredients together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla. Fold in the flour, baking powder, salt, almond meal and sour cream. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with half the berries. Cover with the remaining batter, smooth the surface then sprinkle with the remaining berries. Tap pan over surface to settle the mixture.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Set aside for 10 minutes and in the meantime make the drizzle: combine lemon juice, water and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 2 minutes.
Pour the hot syrup over the cake, then cool completely in the pan. Carefully unmold, peel off the paper and serve.

Serves 8

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dark chocolate and dulce de leche puddings

Dark chocolate and dulce de leche puddings / Potinhos de chocolate e doce de leite

By your comments and emails I think you’ve been enjoying the healthier recipes I’ve been posting here in the past few months, and that makes me really glad – I believe that eating better food has increasingly become important to many people, even to young people like my sister.

However, I’m sure I’m not alone here when I say that certain situations call for decadent sweets: a celebration, friends coming over for dinner, a broken heart – these are not the time to think of nutritional values, these are the times for butter, cream, chocolate, or all of them together.

You can go ahead and add dulce de leche to that mix, too – why not? :D

All those ingredients are combined in these puddings, and they are delicious, but very, very rich, so be warned; they also work well for entertaining because they can be assembled in advance and be placed in the refrigerator – when you want to serve them, pop them in the oven, they are ready in no time at all.

Dark chocolate and dulce de leche puddings
slightly adapted from the always amazing Donna Hay magazine

1 can (380g) dulce de leche
1/3 cup (80ml) heavy cream
200g dark chocolate, chopped
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter
3 eggs
½ cup (88g) brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (50g) almond meal
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Place the dulce de leche in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the cream and mix well to combine. Divide the mixture among eight 1 cup (240ml) capacity ovenproof cups or ramekins.

Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Cool slightly. Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 8–10 minutes or until doubled in size. Fold the chocolate mixture, almond meal and salt through the egg mixture. Divide between the cups, on top of the dulce de leche. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until risen and the centers are soft – do not overbake or the mixture might overflow.
Stand for 5 minutes, then serve.

Serves 8

Monday, October 13, 2014

Banana waffles with chocolate sauce

Banana waffles with chocolate sauce / Waffles de banana com calda de chocolate

My sister came over the other day for lunch and she spent the afternoon here with me, but this time, instead of playing Super Mario, I suggested we watched Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, for she had never watched the original version – I’m really biased here for this is one of my all time favorite movies and I cannot conceive the idea of a Willy Wonka other than Gene Wilder (sorry, Johnny, but you really sucked at playing that part). :)

She loved the movie – which was no surprise to me – but at some point she told me it wasn’t easy watching it without having something to snack on: all that chocolate made my sister crave something sweet, and since we’d had such a light lunch I thought that waffles would make our afternoon even nicer.

I used a recipe from a Brazilian blog I adore but instead of adding chocolate chips to the batter as my friend Richie did, I made a chocolate glaze to pour over the waffles – Willy Wonka would be proud. ;)

Banana waffles with chocolate sauce
slightly adapted from a beautiful Brazilian blog

1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
200ml whole milk, room temperature
1 medium banana, mashed
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate sauce:
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons milk

Waffles: place ingredients in a large mixing bowl and combine until well blended and smooth. Let batter sit for 5 minutes before using.
Heat the waffle maker until very hot; lightly coat with nonstick spray. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter into the machine, close and cook until cooked through and golden.

Make the chocolate sauce: mix all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over high heat, whisking, until it comes to a boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, whisking, until thickened.
Remove from heat and let it stand for 5 minutes before pouring it over the waffles

Serves 4

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Banana, ginger and honey cake

Banana, ginger and honey cake / Bolo de banana, gengibre e mel

As much as I love banana cakes, sometimes months go by without me baking any – my husband and I are crazy for the fruit and end up eating all the bananas before they go brown and I get a chance to do anything with them.

No one has muscle cramps here, I can assure you. :D

Last week I bought a huge bunch of bananas, and even though we ate a lot of them there were still two by the end of the week, very freckled and turning brownish, perfect for baking. A banana cake from Rachel Allen’s latest cookbook was the perfect way to use those wonderful bananas, but I’ve adapted it a little to use honey instead of golden syrup (explanation here).

The cake is delicious fresh out of the oven, so tender, but I have got to tell you that toasting the slices and slathering them with butter is something almost mandatory. :)

Banana, ginger and honey cake
slightly adapted from the delicious All Things Sweet

110g unsalted butter, softened
½ cup (44g) light brown sugar, packed
100g honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g all purpose flour
50g whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
pinch of salt
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 5 ½ cup-capacity loaf pan, line it with baking paper and lightly butter the paper as well.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream butter until soft. Beat in the sugar and honey, then beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time (mixture might look curdled, carry on anyway). Beat in the vanilla. Sift flours, baking powder, ginger and salt over mixture and fold to combine. Fold in the bananas, mixing until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 25 minutes, then carefully unmold and transfer to the rack to cool completely. Peel off the paper and serve.

Serves 8

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Chocolate oaties

Chocolate oaties / Biscoitos de aveia com chocolate

I’ve loved oats ever since I was a teenager and my favorite way of having the ingredients was sprinkled over mashed banana and a drizzle of honey for a sweet and healthy treat, not to mention how wonderful oats are for those of us in the need of iron or with cholesterol problems.

Besides mashed bananas, cookies made with oats have a special place in my heart (a quick look at the blog recipe list and will see I’m not lying). :D That is why I’m always interested in trying new recipes, and the one I bring you today is perfect for when you’re in a hurry and have no time to wait for the butter to soften up.

If you’re pressed for time as I was, you can bake the cookies one day, keep them in an airtight container and brush them with chocolate later on – I thought of sandwiching the cookies with some ganache, but did not want to go out just to buy cream.

I’ll leave you with that suggestion. ;)

Chocolate oaties
slightly adapted from Good Housekeeping magazine

150g all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
125g light brown sugar
125g rolled oats
125g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon runny honey
70g dark chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and oats. In a small saucepan, melt together the butter and honey over medium heat. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
Roll 1 leveled tablespoon of dough per cookie into balls and place 5cm (2in) apart onto prepared sheets. Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden around the edges and slightly firm. Slide the paper with the cookies onto a rack and cool completely.
Using a pastry brush, paint half of each biscuit with chocolate. Transfer to a rack and set aside until set.

Makes about 30

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sweet pea salmon pie - turning a piece of fish into something delicious

Sweet pea salmon pie / Torta de salmão e ervilha

Talking to my husband the other day about food, we once again came to the conclusion that we don’t eat fish as often as we should, which is such a shame.

I did not make any promises, for breaking them makes me frustrated and that is something I really don’t need right now – instead, I decided to make roasted salmon for lunch: seasoned with lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper, baked over a layer of sliced leeks – very simple yet very delicious.

I did have left about 200g of salmon, and I did not want to eat it cooked in the same way, so I used it to make Jamie Oliver’s fish pie – he uses a combination of white fish, shrimp and salmon, but I made it with salmon only for it was what I had around. I also reduced the recipe considerably for the original serves 8 people.

It was my first fish pie ever and as I placed it in the oven it looked and smelled really good. My husband was at work, so I texted my sister and asked what she felt about having fish pie for lunch – I know she’d never had fish pie before, so I described the dish for her, and her reply was: “I have never have that, but I love everything in it – I’m coming over!”. :D

The pie tasted delicious and despite the mashed potatoes on top it is such a light dish – we devoured it but it never felt like we’d eaten a lot.

Sweet pea salmon pie
slightly adapted from the delicious Save with Jamie: Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less

250g potatoes
½ lemon
10g unsalted butter
100g frozen peas
1 small carrot
½ onions
olive oil
1 cup (240ml) whole milk
200g salmon
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
25g frozen spinach
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Peel the potatoes and cut into small chunks, then put them into a small saucepan of boiling salted water for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. Drain and mash with a pinch of salt and pepper, the zest from the lemon and the butter.
Place the frozen peas in a colander, pour over some boiling water to defrost them, then drain well and pulse a few times in a food processor. Fold them through the mashed potato to create a rippled effect, then leave to one side.

Peel and chop the carrot and onion and cook them in a wide 2 ½ cup-capacity ovenproof dish with a drizzle of oil for 15 minutes, or until softened but not colored, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan on a medium heat. Once simmering, add the salmon and cook for around 10 minutes, or until cooked through, then use a slotted spoon to remove them to a plate, taking the pan off the heat. Remove the skin from the salmon.

Stir the flour into the carrots and onions, then gradually add half the milk, a tablespoon at a time, stirring continuously (discard the remaining milk). Stir in the spinach until broken down, then season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Flake in the salmon and the juice from ¼ of the lemon and stir gently to combine.

Top with the pea-spiked mash and smooth out, scuffing it up slightly with a fork or a spoon to give it great texture. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden and the filling is bubbling.

Serves 2

Friday, October 3, 2014

Carrot pancakes (with chickpea flour)

Carrot pancakes (with chickpea flour) / Bolinhos de cenoura (com farinha de grão de bico)

I find fritters a wonderful way to add more veggies and grains to our meals: they’re delicious served on their own as an appetizer, or with a salad as a light lunch. To me, carrots are a sort of a universal vegetable: I feel that even those people who aren’t into veggies will eat carrots, for they are so sweet. Therefore, carrot fritters (or pancakes) make all the sense in the world. :)

This is a recipe I got from Bon Appétit magazine and I loved the fact that it called for chickpea flour, for it makes the fritters very healthy: nothing better than food that tastes great and is good for you, right?

I served the pancakes with arugula salad drizzled with a simple vinaigrette: I intended to make the salted yogurt from the original recipe, but when I opened the fridge I didn’t have any yogurt around. Next time, then. :)

Carrot pancakes (with chickpea flour)
from the always delicious Bon Appétit magazine

2 large eggs, beaten to blend
250g carrots, peeled, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup chickpea flour*
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Mix eggs, carrots, cilantro, and chickpea flour in a large bowl (mixture will be loose); season with salt and pepper.

Heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Scoop two tablespoons of mixture per pancakes and place onto the pan, pressing each to 1cm (½ in) thickness. Cook for 3 minutes each side or until golden.

* even though I halved the recipe, I used the whole amount of chickpea flour for the batter was much too liquid

Makes 6

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