Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tiramisu with hints of bourbon and orange.

Yesterday was the third time I have made tiramisu in a month and each time has been sumptuously satisfying. I have added a few little twists to the traditional recipes but one of my most traditional Italian friends even said that they were an enhancement.

It is sin on a plate, so just accept that before you start, go with it knowing that you don’t do this every day. It really will end off any special occasion meal with little sighs of contented delight. It is rich and velvety, and I feel that my addition of a little bourbon and orange cut the richness just enough to justify eating a few more mouthfuls straight from the bowl after you are done with your first helping.

Tiramisu with whisky and orange
Serves 6 - 8

100g of your preferred strength of dark chocolate, broken up
1/8 tsp of salt
175g Ladies fingers (boudoir biscuits) or more if you like
1 cup of hot strong coffee, sweetened to taste
A few splashes of whisky, I used Makers Mark whisky
4 large eggs
100g of castor sugar
750g of mascarpone cheese
2 oranges
Coco powder or dark chocolate to cover the top of the dessert

Pour the hot sweetened coffee over the chocolate in a bowl long and wide enough for you to soak the ladies fingers in (you can do it in batches too). Allow the chocolate to melt. Pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds at a time if it needs a bit of extra heat. Stir it lightly with a whisk to combine. Add a splash of whisky (or two if you’re feeling it) and the juice and zest of one of the oranges.

Separate the eggs into two bowls. Whites in one, yolks in the other. Add the sugar tothe yolks with a splash of whisky and beat until the sugar has dissolved and themixture is pale and creamy. Mix in the mascarpone and the zest of one of the oranges.

Whisk the whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks. Add the whites to the yolk mixture and gently fold it in with a spoon until well combined.

Lay the ladies fingers in the chocolate and coffee mixture and allow them to soak up the mixture for a few minutes, turning them if needed to get even coverage.

You can prepare this in portion sized bowls or a medium sized casserole dish. I like to get two layers going in a deeper dish but a single layer in a larger dish is also fine.

Start by spooning a thin layer of the mascarpone into the dish, lay the soaked biscuits across this layer, then top again with mascarpone mixture and again with biscuits and end off with a thick layer of mascarpone mixture.

Allow this to settle in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Before serving, dust with a thick layer of coco powder or grated chocolate.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Quick dinner for friends

Last week Adam and I managed to arrange two dinners which clashed with each other, so I was going to be out for dinner on the night he had invited friend around. He was also going to be working late that night, so wouldn't have time to cook without stressing for the guests he was getting at our place. 

So, I earned myself a few brownie points by cooking his dinner for him before leaving for mine! It really wasn't that hectic as I chose my fool proof mushroom risotto and a light and colorful summer salad to go with it. I had some of my oat and nut bars left over which they had for dessert. I had a happy husband and he had happy guests! 

My dinner out was fabulous, but I sadly didn't take any photos. The recipes were all first attempts of mine and will most certainly be recreated for your benefit!   

Mushroom (and Bacon) Risotto
Serves four main course portions

30 g of dried chantarelle, porcini or shitake mushrooms, soaked in a cup of boiling water
3 Tbsp olive oil
500g button or portobello mushrooms
250g of streaky back bacon, chopped (totally optional)
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp of cumin
½ tsp of coriander
½ tsp of mixed spice
1 Tbsp of soya sauce
½ tsp of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp of salt
750ml of vegetable stock
1 ½ cup of Arborio rice
1 tsp of freshly chopped herbs, like thyme, sage, oregano, basil etc. 
125ml of cream
1 cup of grated parmesan

Get your dried mushrooms soaking in boiling water. Heat the oil in a medium size heavy bottomed pot and add the mushrooms and bacon allow them to fry for 5 minutes before adding the onions and garlic. Fry this on medium heat until the mushrooms have reduced to half their size. Add the spices and soya sauce and fry until the mushrooms start to colour in the pan a little.

Add the stock, porcini and the water it was soaking in and stir until the flavours from the mushrooms have combined nicely with the stock. Add the rice and allow it to cook on a light simmer for about 7 – 10 minutes. Only stirring every now and again so as to ensure that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

The dish is ready to remove from the heat when the rice is about 90% cooked. It must still have a little bite in it, as it will carry on cooking with the retained heat of the pot and rice. Add the herbs, cheese and cream, stir lightly to combine and allow this to stand with the lid on for a further 10 minutes before serving.

Seasonal salad with lemon pesto dressing
Side salad for 4 people

For the dressing
½ clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
1 tsp of sugar
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp basil pesto
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the salad
½ salad pack of your favourite salad

½ a bell pepper, julienne and/or 
¼ cucumber, shaved into ribbons and/or
1 large carrot, shaved into ribbons and/or
12 blanched green asparagus spears and/or
½ a cup of edamame beans, blanched and/or
250g of exotic mushrooms, pan fried and/or
8 baby corn, quartered lengthways and/or
125g of baby tomatoes, quartered and/or
125g of broccoli stems, blanched and/or
1 avo, peeled and cut into slices and/or

½ a cup of toasted seeds and or raw almonds, lightly roasted with spices and a drop of oil

Shavings of Parmesan

Combine dressing ingredients and chill until ready for use.

Assemble salad ingredients on a platter and drizzle with dressing just before serving. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Super quick cereal bars

This morning a friend of mine sent me a link to a recipe for cereal bars. The recipes was so simple and I had all the ingredients at home, so I whipped up a batch immediately! Naturally I adjusted it here and there to suit my needs and tastes, but essentially it's almost the same!

My only regret is that I have now eaten 8 squares and am not hungry for my very healthy lunch which is waiting for me... I totally deserve these thighs of mine!

So with my over eaters remorse I started packaging them into cute gift packs. I feel much better now!

Cereal bars
Makes about 40 – 3cm x 3cm x 2cm squares (I’m guessing I didn’t measure them ;-))

½ a cup of nut butter (peanut, almond – I used cashew)
½ a cup of honey (use golden syrup for a cheaper option)
½ a cup of chopped nuts (use your favourite, I used raw almonds), roasted
½ a cup of omega mix seeds (sesame, sunflower, flax, pumpkin etc.), roasted
1 cup of oats (rolled or plain jungle oats), roasted
1 cup of rice crispies
¾ cup of dried cranberries (raisins, or your favourite dried fruit chopped up are also fine)
1 tsp of vanilla essence
1 pinch of salt

In a pan on medium heat dry roast the nuts, seeds and oats – keep a sharp eye on these as they can burn easily. Melt the honey and nut butter together and combine until smooth. Mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Pour into a small greased (or lined) cookie pan. Flatten and compact the mixture with two slightly wet spatulas (you can use your moistened fingers too). If your pan is too big for the mixture (as mine was) don't use the whole pan for the mixture, create a rectangle the right depth (about 2 cm) pulling the mixture together with the spatulas and straightening out the sides.

Place in the freezer for half an hour until set and cooled. Turn out onto a board and cut into the desired sizes. Store in an airtight container.

Great for snacks, treats and lunch boxes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Keeping it simple.

I am all for the simple things in life. Sometimes the simplest things can truly be the most rewarding. The lunch I made yesterday was just like that. I marinated some chicken pieces, baked them for half an hour, tossed together a salad and there was lunch. Succulent and tasty. Naturally, one should have a few good tricks up one's sleeve, but the bottom line is keep it simple.

My chicken marinade was based on one I learned from a Muslim client of mine. The base of the marinade is yoghurt, to that you add garlic, ginger and chilli and then the seasoning of your choice. I added tikka masala; marinated the chicken pieces for a few hours and then baked them in a preheated oven at 200C˚ for 30 minutes (if the chicken isn't cooked through drop the heat to 180C˚ and bake for a further 10 - 20 minutes - if the chicken is browning too much cover it with foil).

The salad is a recipe from my German grandmother - butter lettuce tossed in a garlicy sour cream dressing and topped with chopped chives. It really is heavenly. You start by making the dressing in the bowl you are going to toss the leaves in. Start with a few spoons of sour cream (about 1 Tbsp per person eating) then add some lemon juice, pressed garlic, salt and black pepper (a pinch of sugar if desired). Mix it up and toss the leaves through it. Top this with chopped chives. So simple but way more delicious than you can imagine. You can substitute the sour cream with yoghurt, but it really just isn't the same.

Adding gravy kind of diverged from the simplicity of the meal and really wasn't necessary. So I'm going to leave it at that.

If anyone is devastated that there isn't an exact recipe for the above, mail me and I'll write one for you.