Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chocolate and hazelnut muffins

I love to bake but find it terribly hard to control myself when I keep baked goods in the house, it is as if I cant walk by the kitchen without having another little sample. Lucky I have a job where I get to bake most days and that way get it all out of my system before I come home.
I do however still bake a lot at home, mainly before having guests, or if I am going to someone I can bring some fresh pastries. That way I can nearly pretend I am working and don't have to eat it all myself.
The other night though I just had a craving for something sweet to go with a cup of tea. After a look around in my cupboard I found some ground hazelnuts and decided to make some muffins. Hazelnuts are so delicious when toasted and added to cakes or muffins and goes really well with chocolate. So there it was; chocolate and hazelnut muffins. This make 8 normal sized muffins.

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

Melt butter and put aside to cool down. Combine flour, cocoa powder, hazelnuts 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. Fill muffin cups to 2/3 and bake on 175C for 20min or until a skewer comes out dry. Let cool down.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Slow roast tomatoes

In the shops this time of the year the fruit and vegetable section is full of fantastic surprises; berries of all kind (locally sourced), green leafy vegetables, melons of all kinds and of course tomatoes. This really is the time for this humble fruit (yep, not a veggie) to shine and I eat tomatoes nearly every day in some form. The other day I got a packet of mixed baby tomatoes, some were round, others were yellow and another few were kind of oval shaped. They all got halved and put in the oven with some olive oil and garlic and were left to sit there for a few hours on a low heat. Out came the most delicious little dried up tomatoes, still a bit juicy but just all the good flavour capsuled in one tiny tomato half. Tonight I will put a few into a chickpea and chorizo stew, tomorrow I think they will be great on some bruschetta with mozzarella cheese...there is plenty of things to do with these tomatoes.

250 grams mixed baby tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
olive oil, salt, black pepper and a sprinkle of caster sugar

Half the tomatoes and put on a baking tray with the flesh side up. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle a little bit of caster sugar on top and place 3 crushed garlic cloves in the tray. Bake for 3-4 hours on 100C.

Raspberry and yogurt sorbet

Even though July has not been so very summery as one could wish for, the summer generally is a good reason enough to make sorbet. A week ago I made the most incredible lemon yogurt sorbet with a good splash of was creamy, tart and refreshing in the same time. Inspired by that lemony goodness I decided to make sorbet again, still with yogurt because it really takes this otherwise quite icy dessert to a different level, this time with raspberries though.
I use liquid glucose in my sorbets and ice creams, it stops it from freezing rock hard and makes it more smooth and creamy. The addition of some sort of alcohol will also prevent it from freezing too hard. Liquid glucose can be replaced with white corn syrup and of course you can leave the booze out if there will be children eating the dessert.
I have an ice cream maker at home but for this small amount of sorbet I just make it by hand with the help of a plastic container and a freezer.
This recipe will make 6 good sized portions.

200 grams raspberries (fresh or defrosted)
200ml water
140 grams caster sugar
40 grams glucose
200ml yogurt
20ml limoncello

Combine water, raspberries and sugar in a pot. Bring to boil and let simmer for 10min. Strain through a fine sieve and add glucose, stir until melted and let cool down. Stir in yogurt and limoncello to the raspberry mix and freeze in a plastic container. Keep stirring the mix every 20min or so until the mix is frozen but not solid.

Monday, July 18, 2011

About soufflé...

Usually I do not put up posts on my blog unless I have a picture to present with the recipe. This post is different though, this is just me not being able to help myself from going on about the most wonderful dessert I had last night. I want to tell everyone about my success in making a souffle. But no, there is no recipe, and no picture. That will all come when I decide to make this again.

It all started with Martin deciding to cook us dinner, a real treat for me since I do most of the cooking in this house. So there he was cooking up a lovely Vietnamese stir fry that has become his signature dish, it is really tasty but still quite light so after dinner we were both looking for a little sweet or something to round up our meal with. I was happy to come up with something yummy for dessert and I decided to go for something I have been wanting to make for a good while now.

Here is the part when I confess something I am not proud of; until yesterday I had never tasted a soufflé. Ok, more precise, I have cooked soufflés in places I worked in, I have had a tiny bite but no, I have not ever ordered this fluffy, light dessert in a restaurant or made it at home and actually savoured the whole delight. Yesterday it all happened, I made it from scratch, cooked it (lying on the floor looking into the oven to make sure it was rising the way it should), I even took it out and was able to leave it for a couple of minutes before digging straight into it and oh!! There it was, a perfectly, not sinking, light raspberry dream with tiny chocolate pieces coming through it.

I made them quite big and was worried we might not be able to finish them, I even told Martin he could leave some if he was not enjoying it. That was before we tasted it, because when we did the room went quiet and we scraped the dishes in the end to get the most out of it. It was unlike anything else we ever ate. It was just melting on the tongue and I kept wanting more and more after each bite.

Now some of you might think I'm crazy, because you all know how to make souffles with your hands tied back and just don't understand all the fuzz I have created around this subject. Some of you might just be terrified of the whole procedure of making something that involves buttering ramekins, folding egg whites and for gods sake no opening of the oven unless you know for sure the dessert is ready to take out! I feel for both parts here because I am a somewhat mix between both opinions, I used to feel it was a lot of hassle and too many moments to pay attention to. But I can also safely say that it is not rocket science, just a little bit of common sense and a lot of attention paid to the recipe.

So go on, find a flavour that you like, find a soufflé recipe with this flavour and go ahead and make them. You will get standing ovations, or at least very pleased and impressed guests.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Almond and cardamom biscotti

As a chef it is important to find basic recipes that always works. Once you have one you can play around a little and create all sorts of taste sensations. Remember not to move too far from the original recipe though when it comes to baking, there is a lot of chemistry involved in getting the right amounts of flour, sugar, eggs and butter to come together and turn out to be the perfect pastry, cake or biscuit.
This biscotti recipe is more or less foolproof, I have never failed when making them and I still return to the recipe on a regular basis. The only thing that changes is the flavour. One day I use hazelnuts and chocolate, like here. Another day I might not use nuts at all but throw in some dried fruit and spices. Another day I just keep it simple and use almonds like the original recipe calls for and then just spice it up a little with some freshly ground cardamom. Like here:

220 grams plain flour
220 grams sugar
110 grams almonds
2tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1tsp ground cardamom

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the eggs and quickly bring together to a loose dough. Divide into 3 pieces and roll out to the length of the baking tray you are using. You need a good bit of flour on the surface you are working on to prevent the dough from sticking. Bake for 12-15min on 220C. Cut into biscuits about 2cm thick. Put back into the oven and turn the heat down to 50C and let dry out(takes roughly an hour). Keep the biscotti in an air tight jar. Serve with tea or coffee, great for dunking.

Spinach and feta cheese pasty

Despite being quite damp and rainy, Ireland still seems to be the perfect climate for growing some fruits and vegetables. Blackberries, strawberries, cabbage and potatoes are just a few to be mentioned. I can only call myself lucky for having a boyfriend who's dad grows all sorts of vegetables, fruits and berries in his garden. Last week I was given a big bag of Swiss chard, a green leafy vegetable similar to spinach. What to do with this one might wonder, but I already knew... a whole wheat flour dough, a piece of feta cheese, some garlic and nutmeg and there they were; Pasties. Basically it is like a savoury pastry that it perfect to eat for lunch with a side salad, or maybe have it for dinner together with a bowl of soup.
There are plenty of yummy fillings to choose from but I have to say that the spinach and feta cheese one is a really good combination. It is vegetarian but filled with iron, vitamins and protein. So go ahead, make some pasties, freeze them individually and you will always have a quick meal ready to just defrost and heat up.
This recipe makes 8 pasties.

250ml milk
7 grams dried yeast
25ml olive oil
1tsp salt
1tsp honey
200 grams plain flour
140 grams whole wheat flour.

Bring the milk to 45C in a pot. Dissolve the yeast in the milk and add honey, olive oil and salt. Stir in the whole wheat flour. Add most of the plain flour, you might not need all of it. Knead the dough for a few minutes until elastic and neither too wet or dry. Let rest for about and or or until it has doubled in size. Meanwhile make the filling.

Feta and spinach filling
500 grams spinach or Swiss chard
75-100 grams feta cheese
2 cloves of garlic
2tbsp olive oil
nutmeg, salt, pepper

Wash and rinse the spinach, remove any big stalks. Finely dice the garlic. Heat up olive oil in a frying pan, add the garlic and sweat for 30 seconds, add the spinach and cook until it is wilted. Drain in a sieve. Let cool down and chop roughly. Crumble the feta cheese and mix with the spinach, add a good sprinkle of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

Tip the dough onto a floured surface. Divide the dough into 8 pieces, roll each piece into a ball. Roll out the dough balls to flat rounds with a rolling pin, the rounds needs to be about 15cm across. Divide the filling onto the dough rounds, place it on one half of the dough, fold the other dough over the filling. Use a fork to seal the edges. Brush with a little milk or an egg yolk. Bake for 15-20min on 200C.

Strawberry, lemon and mascarpone tart

It has been quiet on the blog lately, apologies, but my time has been dedicated to put myself out of my non employed misery and get a job. Success; I am now the proud employee of a well known Italian/Irish company with a good few restaurants in Dublin. I can not explain the relief of getting back into a professional kitchen and do some hard work. Half time I will be working on pastry (yes I am one lucky girl with a job that also is my hobby) and the rest of the time will be spent cooking lovely Italian food.
It is stressful trying to get a job though, it takes a lot of time and energy. But I am still cooking and baking away at home. On Friday afternoon when I passed by a lovely fruit and vegetable shop in Rathmines on my way home from work the rain started pouring down. I took that as a sign to stop and seek shelter, also I wanted to see what this shop had to offer. Lucky me was in for a real treat, I left the shop with 3 punnets of Irish strawberries for only 5euro. They were absolutely amazing. I know, it was only strawberries but one can not wish for better strawberries than the ones I bought that day. They were small in size, glossy, juicy and perfectly sweet.
I decided to make the most of those strawberries and baked a pie crust with brown sugar and oat flakes (a crumbly and crusty melt-in-the-mouth story), filled it with lemon flavoured mascarpone and topped it with 2 punnets of strawberries and a lemon glaze. Oh I do not know where to start to try and describe this dessert, it was just delicious and a true pleasure to eat.
This recipe makes 8 portions.

Pie crust
75 grams butter
50 grams oat flakes
60 grams plain flour
20 grams brown sugar
2 squares dark chocolate

Combine all dry ingredients, rub the butter into the dry mix and bring together to a crumbly dough. Press the crumbles into a greased pie tin. Chill for an hour before pricking with fork and baking for 20min on 180C. Grate the chocolate on top of the pie crust when still warm. Let cool down.

Mascarpone filling
200 grams mascarpone cheese
20 grams caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon, juice of 1/2 lemon

Beat mascarpone, sugar, zest and juice together until smooth. Fill the pie crust with the mascarpone. Top with 400 grams of halved strawberries.

Lemon glaze
3 tbsp lemon marmalade
3 tbsp water

Melt the marmalade in the water on a low heat. Strain through a fine sieve, to remove any lemon peel, let cool down to room temperature before spreading over the strawberries on the tart.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


With the summer here there is always more things happening, week days and weekends. My favourite part of the summer must be the BBQ's, what a perfect way to cook food. A good quality piece of meat and some nice salads, dips and bread is all it takes to create the perfect summer meal. With all the fresh fruit and vegetables in season that is easy to achieve. Depending on what meat you decide to put on your BBQ there is plenty of options when it comes to the sides, but this Greek yogurt and cucumber dip seems to go well with pretty much anything. Personally I like it best with pork steak or chicken. In Greece they serve it with fresh, crusty bread and that is yummy too.

200 grams Greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber
1 clove of garlic
fresh herbs: oregano, mint or dill (I prefer oregano)
salt, pepper, olive oil

Cut the cucumber in half length ways and take the seeds out. Grate quite coarse and sprinkle with salt, let rest in a bowl for 30min,. Squeeze the juice out from the cucumber through a fine sieve. Chop garlic finely and add to the yogurt together with the cucumber and herbs. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, drizzle with olive oil.