Thursday, May 12, 2011

Banana pockets

I think you recognise the picture of half brown, sort of sweet smelling bananas in the fruit basket staring at you, begging you to use them. Banana cake is not an option, there has been way too many of them lately in my kitchen and even though I do like banana cake it can be a bit much sometimes....
Two years ago I worked in an Italian/Irish restaurant in Dublin, sort of modern European cuisine. As a pastry chef at the time I was, together with the head chef, working on the dessert menu. Banoffie Pie is a classic dessert here in Ireland and we wanted to use the flavours of it but take them to a new dimension, put a real twist on it. The result; a smooth toffee flavoured parfait served with a hot, crispy banana and almond pastry. That is a dessert I still dream about, it was just so perfect.
Someone asked me the other day to make something sweet suitable for diabetics, specially children suffering from not being able to eat the same yummy desserts/sweets like their friends. It is tricky with things that has to be sweet but without sugar, personally I do not use artificial sweeteners and even though honey is better than sugar I was on a mission to make something as natural as possible without any type of sweetener/sugar. Having over ripe bananas at home and thinking of that toffee and banana dessert an idea started to take place in my mind. And that is how it happened that I created a little snack or dessert without any sugar, but oh so tasty. Little spring roll pastry pockets filled with banana, served with crunchy almonds and maybe a drizzle of honey.

4 sheets of spring roll pastry
2 bananas
almonds, toasted

Cut each sheet into 4 squares. Put 2 and two together and place on a dry, clean surface. Cut each banana into 4 pieces, slice each piece into 4 slices. Place 4 slices of banana on each pastry sheet. Roll together like spring rolls and seal with a little water. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake on 200C for 15 min or until crisp and golden. Serve hot with honey and almonds.


My home town has a big population of people from the Middle East, and as a result of that there is a lot of small shops selling all sorts of, for us Europeans, new and different ingredients. One of those shops is located not far from my parents house and I recall going there as a child with my mum to buy the best feta cheese, pickled chillies, pistachio nuts and olives. The shop is tiny but sacks full of all types of nuts, seeds and grains are stacked on the floor, and the walls covered in shelves up to the ceiling filled with boxes, bags and containers of all sorts of ingredients. Most things are bought by weight and it makes so much more sense than buying pre-packed, boxed ingredients in the super market. The owner of the shop was called Jakob, an old man with a big heart. He always filled the bag with a little bit extra, but still only charged for the weight you had asked for.
Cous cous and Bulgur is becoming more and more popular here in Ireland but I have had it for more than ten years i think. Personally I eat it instead of rice or potatoes with meat, or even just with vegetables as a salad. One typical dish with bulgur is tabbouleh; finely chopped parsley, tomatoes and onion dressed with lemon juice and olive oil is a tangy side dish to any BBQ and must be tried!

60 grams bulgur
120ml vegetable stock
30 grams flat parsley
1 tomato
1/4 white onion
1 small clove of garlic
1/2 lemon, juice
olive oil, salt, pepper

Bring the vegetable stock to boil and add bulgur. Turn down heat to very low and let simmer under a lid for 15-20 min. Fluff up with a fork and let cool down.
Chop parsley very fine. Cut the tomato in to quarters, take the seeds out, chop into small cubes. Chop the onion and garlic finely. Combine bulgur, tomato, onion and garlic and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper, drizzle some olive oil on top.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chcolate sponge with mocha frosting

I have blogged about this recipe before but that time as Mocha Muffins. Traditionally it is made in a large tray and then cut into squares/bars, but this time I still did not stick to that but made it as a cake. It is so tasty when fresh but it does keep pretty well for a couple of days since the frosting on top will protect the sponge cake from drying out. I made a small cake, still enough to feed 8 people, and used one sandwich tin to bake it in. If you double the recipe and use two sandwich tins you could fill it with layer of frosting in the middle and spread over the top as well, that would make a great birthday cake.

1 egg
75 grams butter
130 grams caster sugar
130 grams plain flour
1.5tsp baking powder
75ml milk
1 1/2tsp cocoa powder

Melt butter and put aside to cool down. Combine flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Whisk egg and sugar until very fluffy and pale, add butter and stir until smooth. Add the dry ingredients through a sieve and fold in, last add milk and stir until all is well blended. Pour into a greased sandwich tin and bake for 30-40min. Let cool down while making the frosting.


50 grams butter
1tbsp cocoa powder
3tbsp coffee
100 grams icing sugar

dessicated coconut or hundreds and thousands

Melt the butter and add coffee, sugar and cocoa powder. Stir until well combined and spread over the cake. Sprinkle with coconut or hundreds and thousands.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Herb bread

Having homemade herb oil left over in the fridge I decided to make a savory bread. Honestly I had no high expectations but it turned out absolutely delicious; crusty edges with a light, fluffy center with streaks of herbs going through it. A couple of days old I had it grilled, rubbed with garlic and served with a caprese salad covered in pesto on top. Do I have to tell you it was delicious? My herb oil had only basil in it but of course you could put any other soft fresh herbs in as well.

500ml water, luke warm
600 grams strong, white flour
7 grams dries yeast
1 1/2tbsp salt

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add salt and about 500 grams of the flour. Work the dough with a wooden spoon in a bowl, if it looks too wet ad a little more flour before turning out on a floured surface. Knead for 5min by hand. Let prove for 40min while making the herb oil.

50ml olive oil
1 clove of garlic
2 hand fulls of basil
1/2 lemon, juice

Blend basil, garlic and lemon juice until pureed, add oil bit by bit and mix until smooth.

Roll out the dough to one large flat rectangular shape. Spread the herb oil on the top and roll together as a "Swiss roll". Divide into 2 pieces, fold in the edges under each roll before placing in loaf tins. Let prove to double size. bake for 30-35min on 225C.