Orange and date salad with orange flower and cinnamon syrup

orange pomagrante dates spices

… and this was what we had for dessert. Recipe is here, but without the spices it won’t work.


Chocolate chunk meringue cake

meringue chocolate pistachio

Believe it or not, this was a last minute dessert. It looks spectacular, it tastes scrumptious and is a fool proof recipe. Home cooking doesn’t get much better than this…

Chocolate chunk meringue cake (adapted from Bill Granger‘s Easy)

Ingredients 

  • 6 egg whites
  • 220g golden caster sugar
  • 200g dark chocolate roughly chopped
  • 100g pistachio nuts,roughly chopped plus extra to decorate
  • 3oo mL double cream (or whipped cream)

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 160C.

In a sheet large enough to cover a baking tray draw a circle with 26cm diameter

Turn the paper around and put it on the tray

Whist the egg whites with an electric mixer until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar, one spoon of a time, whisking between every addition until all the sugar is well incorporated.

Fold in the chocolate and the sugar.

Transfer to the baking tray and spread  out, keeping the mixture roughly inside the circle.

Put in the oven for about 1h or until cooked through.

Beat the cream to soft peaks, spread over the meringue  once it is evenly cool. Scatter with extra pistachios.


Quince poached in pomegranate juice and clotted cream

quitten pomegranatte clotted cream 

I can remember those cooking marathons my Mother used to endure around Christmas time, when all the cooking would be put to an halt to produce countless pots of marmelada. Do not confuse with marmalada... Marmelada is a very sugary quincy purée, which is a staple in every Portuguese kitchen. It seems to be something the Romans learnt from the Greeks, and which staid with us  until today,wikipedia dixit.

In any case, I would have thought to use the actual fruits for a dessert until I saw this recipe. And, I am glad I have tried it. Once you start with it, you just want to come back for more.

Quince poached in pomegranate juice (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s column in The Guardian)

Ingredients 

  • 2 large quinces, peeled and quartered
  • 800ml pomegranate juice
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, cut in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
  • The shaved peel of 1 large orange, plus 50ml juice
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 65g pomegranate seeds
  • 120g clotted cream
  • 2 tsp fresh mint leaves (optional)

Method

Core the eight quince quarters. Discard four cores and tie the others into a bundle with an old tea towel or muslin. Put the cored quince quarters into a heavy-based pan and add the wrapped-up cores, pomegranate juice, sugar, vanilla pod and seeds, orange peel and juice, and star anise. Bring to a boil, turn down to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 15-25 minutes, until the quince is soft.

Remove the quince quarters with a slotted spoon and set aside. Simmer the sauce for 20 minutes or so, until it’s thick, syrupy and reduced to about 75ml. Just before serving, squeeze all the thick juices out of the core bundle into the sauce, then discard along with the orange peel, star anise and vanilla. Return the quince to the syrup and gently warm through. Place two quarters of quince on each plate, pour over some syrup and serve with clotted cream and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and shredded mint (if using)


Chocolate and beetroot brownies

beetroot brownies

In the aftermath of #beetrootgate, beetroot brownies… A slightly less guilty pleasure, with a rich and velvety texture. Truth to be said, I like this version better than the 100% chocolaty thing.

Chocolate and beetroot brownies (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall ‘s River Cottage Everyday)

Ingredients 

  • 250g of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), broken into pieces
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 150g whole meal flower
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder (or according to instructions in the package)
  • 250g of beetroot, boiled until tender then peeled and grated.

Method

Set the oven to 180oC

Grease a baking tray, and cover the bottom with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate and the butter in a bain marie. If you don’t have a proper double boiler (I don’t), just  fit a metal bowl over a small saucepan filed with a few centimeter  of water, making sure the bowl isn’t touching the water. Let the water boil, while mixing the butter and the chocolate until the mixture is well combined and glossy.

Whisk the eggs and the sugar until well combined. Then beat in the chocolate and butter  until smooth.

Combine the flour with salt and baking powder. Sift them over the chocolate mix. Gently fold in with a wooden spoon.

Finally, fold in the grated beetroot, and keep on folding gently. Be careful not to over mix – otherwise you will get though brownies

Put the mixture in a tin and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for 20-25min, or until a knife insert into the center come out slightly moisten or with a few crumbs attached.

Let it cool until you cut the squares.


Coconut cake

 

Not my birthday cake, but close enough… G. and I share the same birthday, and it has become sort of a tradition to have a dinner party around this time of the year. After agonizing for a couple of days what I would be baking for the occasion, I ended up seeing this one on Thomas Keller‘s Ad hoc at home.  It was just not the flavors which caught my attention – there was also a very nice story attached to it. And, having read this was a very dear cake to him, I decided to go for it in less than heartbeat. Let me warn you, it is not an easy dish. But, it is so rich and velvety you end up forget all the cooking efforts once you start eating it.

In case you were wondering what sort extravaganza cake I baked this year, the answer is not 42…  I actually let myself be (very) spoiled my dear Zurich friends. All I can say is that it was chocolate, it was rich and it was dense. Very dense… which is always a good thing when it comes to chocolate.

Coconut cake (adapted from Thomas Keller‘s Ad hoc at home)

Ingredients 

  • 500mL of coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 380g of flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking power
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt
  • The whites of 6 large eggs
  • 400 granulated sugar
  • 180g of unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups of drie shredded coconut
  • Sugar syrup (3 parts of water to 1 part of sugar).

Method

1.Pre heat the oven to 180oC (=350oF).  Coat a baking tray with baking spray (or butter and flour).

2.Prepare the coconut-vanilla mixture. Put the coconut milk a small pan and whisk to blend. Bring to a gentle simmer, keeping on whisking until most the water has evaporated. You should have the equivalent of 1 cup. Remove from the heat and let it cool down. When the coconut is at room temperature, add the vanilla extract and mix well.

3. Prepare the dry ingredients mix. Sift the cake flour and the baking powder. Stir in the salt and put aside.

4. Prepare the white egg sugar mixture. Whip the whites with a whisker until they begin to froth. Slowly add 150g of sugar and whisk you see medium peak forming. (the whisker should be put to slow when you start adding the sugar, and then put to medium-high). Put aside.

5. Prepare the butter and sugar mix. Put the butter on a bowl and mix with a paddle at medium-low speed until it starts to soften.  Add the remaining sugar. Mix until it is light yellow and fluffy.

6. Mix the dry ingredients, the butter and coconut mix. It is not important not to over mix the batter. Each addition doesn’t have to be completely incorporated before you add the next. Add half the dry ingredients and mix; then add half the coconut mix and incorporate it. Start all over again: half of the remaining dry ingredients, then the coconut milk. Repeat with what is left. Make sure you mix the bottom of the bowl.

7. Gently fold in the egg whites (1/3 of it at a time).

8.Put batter in the  baking tray and gently smooth the type. Put in the oven for about 30min, and check with the skewer if it done. When the skewer comes out of cake dry, take the cake and let it cool down for about 10min before you remove it from the baking tray. Let it cool completely.

9. Meanwhile spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast lightly – about 6 to 8min. Let it cool down.

10. Start working on the sugar syrup.  In a sauce pan, mix the sugar with the cold water and put to boil. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves completely and the mixture is clear (app 3min).

11. Once the cake is cool, brush all the surfaces with the sugar syrup. Sprinkle with the roasted coconut.


Almond cake

This was supposed to be a Tarta de Santiago [St James’ cake]. A bad kitchen day and a less than good execution converted it into a simple almond cake. But, not everything was lost… I found back a childhood flavor. Actually, something which resembled to what used to be my mother’s favorite cake. I can still remember the nanny doing it year after year for her birthday with super sweet ovos moles [soft eggs] filling. And on  the side, an ongoing polite fight between my mother and the nanny, where mother would ask the nanny for the recipe and the nanny would say she had promised never to give it away. The nanny eventually retired and all we got was a close enough version scribbled in a piece of paper. Or, maybe even the right recipe, but no one could bake it like her…

Almond cake (adapted from Ferran Adrià’s The Family Meal)

Ingredients 

  • Baking spray or butter and flour as required
  • 3 large eggs (70g)
  • 150g of sugar
  • Ground almonds 150g (fail of the day – if you want the St James cake, they must be peeled. The mix I used was not peeled and instead of getting an yellow-ish cake, I got a browned one with a bit more bite than it should)
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • Icing sugar as required

Method

1.Preheat the oven to 180C. Coat a baking tray with baking spray (or butter and flour) (Ferran Adrià recommends a 30*50cm; I used a 30 cm round one

2. In a large bowl, beat the whole eggs and the sugar until you have a pale yellow foamy mixture

3. Add the the ground almond and the cinnamon to the egg mixture. Fold it slowly in the same direction with a wooden spoon, until you obtain a fluffy and airy mixture.

4. Pour the mixture in the tray (second fail of the day – if you want the St James cake, it must be about 1.5cm deep. My cake almost doubled it).

5. Put in the oven for about 20min, or until golden brown. Make sure it doesn’t stick to the sides of tray when you take it out of the tray.

6. Sprinkle icing sugar on top of it before serving.


Pain perdu with raspberries and ricotta

Pain perdu literally means “lost bread” in French. As in the bread which you cannot eat while french and becomes stale. Probably during Roman times, a resourceful cook realized that if the bread was softened by dipping it in milk and/or  eggs and then fried, it could be converted it into a delicious dish apt for all tastes. I grew up in Portugal eating it, as fatias douradas [golden slices] over Christmas, generously sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. When I moved to Spain, I learnt their name was in fact torrijas and it would make its appearance later down the year during Lent. I am pretty sure if I bring this topic up in the office,  Swiss and the Germans would claim to have their own variety of the dish. But, that belongs to another post…  To close the debate, it might be worthwhile mentioning there is a considerable difference between fatias douradas, torrijas and pain perdu. The iberian varieties are deep fried, while the French opt for browning them with butter.

In any case, when I found an ancient  panettone in the back of the cupboard, I remembered this recipe I had seen ages ago in a Gordon Ramsay’s book. It also had been a while ever since I used this book, and in fact, I even had a perfect group of [s]suffering guests[/s] testers coming home for brunch. Perfect occasion, perfect ingredients, perfect guests…  As every Gordon’s recipe, if you follow the instructions to the letter, you will get exactly what you are supposed to get. Probably due to the differences in the ingredients,  the raspberry mix got a bit messy, but nothing a pair of experienced hands couldn’t fix to the right consistency and taste. All in all, in almost less time than it took to cook it, not only I managed to get rid of old panettone but also had a very happy and satisfied crowd. Definitely calories worthwhile taking.

Pain perdu with raspberries and ricotta (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food: Recipes from The F Word)

Ingredients

  • 125g ricotta cheese drained
  • 125g mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 200g raspberries
  • 25g butter
  • 4 slices of panettone 
  • 3 large eggs beaten

Method

1. Put the ricotta, mascarpone, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix until it is smooth. Fold half the raspberries and mix softly.

2. Put 1 slice of panettone in the egg mix and let it soak for a couple of minutes.

3. Fry the slice on both sides until golden brown (about a couple of minutes). Take it out of the pan and put it in a serving plate.

4. Repeat (2-4).

5. Put a generous spoon of the raspberry mix on top of the warm slices of fried panettone, and finish with the remaining raspberries.

6. Serve.

2. Melt the butter in a non stick pan until it begins to foam.


Bananas with lime and rum

Cheap, cheerful and (almost) universally liked by grown ups and kiddies. The kind of thing you can prepare on the fly a few hours in advance and let rest in the fridge. It won’t let you down, as long as you  make sure the version for kiddies is rum-less.

Bananas with lime and rum (adapted from  Ferran Adrià’s The Family Meal)

Ingredients

  • 80g sugar
  • 100 mL rum
  • 50 mL water
  • 6 bananas, peeled and finely sliced
  • The zest and juice of 2 limes.

Method

Poor the water into a pan and mix the rum and sugar. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring all times. When the sugar has solved, allow to cool. Then, mix in the lime zest and juice. Finally, put the banana slices into the sirup. Leave to marinade in the fridge for a few hours.


Almond soup with Caramelita ice cream

When I saw this dish on  Ferran Adrià’s The Family Meal, I decided to try it on a heart beat. All in all, it was an emotional decision driven by gluttony, which could have be a serious contestant to the Darwin Awards of cooks. As I was plating, I realized that M., the poor suffering tester, is allergic to almonds. Needless should be to add (once again) that  am lactose-intolerant. Would a dessert made of ressuspended almonds and milk-derivatives be a good idea given these combined food challenges? Really, no need to answer. It is already bad enough the question needs to be made. Fortunately, G. showed up for a coffee the day after, and volunteered to help with the full platted dish. He said it was good, and asked for more…

About the dish itself – making the almond soup is actually a bit more laborious than I expected. Filtering the almond suspension can ended in a bit of a mess. In case you wonder why I am cooking for 6: Adrià justifiably says this is the minimum you should do, as it takes some critical mass to get the almond soup right. And, really, go for the Marcona almonds if you can source them. Anything less than that, and you won’t taste its flavor. In the absence of nougat ice cream, I tried Caramelita. It is a good combination, but apparently a bit too sweet (probably true – Moevenpick ice creams tend to be on the sugary side of life).

Food intolerances apart, this is actually a lovely dish for a dinner party. You can do the soup in advance and then plate when you need it.  It is an elegant combination of flavours and textures, which won’t disappoint the hard core foodies.

Almond soup with Caramelita ice cream

Ingredients (for 6)

  • 240g of Marcona almonds
  • 600mL water
  • 80g sugar
  • whole caramelised almonds to tastes
  • Caramelita ice cream to taste (original recipe called for nougat ice cream, which I was not able to find).

Method

Put the almonds in a food processor and roughly chop

Tip them into a large bowl, then add the water

Leave to soak for 12 hours in the fridge

Use a hand held blender or food processor to blend the almonds and water until smooth and creamy

Carefully strain through a fine meshed metal sieve, using the back of a ladle  to help the soup pass through the sieve.

Add the sugar and whisk until it dissolves

To serve, put a triangle of three caramelised almonds in the bottom of a bowl. Place a scoop of ice-cream in the centre of the triangle

Poor the almond soup around the ice-cream.


Pear and almond tart, take 2

A Food&Travel dish I found on tram 11, back by popular demand.  And, again, many happy testers….

As I was in a bit of a hurry, I used  pre-made pastry.

Pear and almond tart

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 table spoons caster sugar
  • 100g cold unsalted butter cut into pieces
  • a pinch of salt

For the almond cream

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 2 table spoons flour
  • 3-4 ripe pears

Method

To make the pastry, put the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a food processor, and, using the pulse button, process until the butter is broken down (about 5-10 pulses). Add 3 tablespoons of cold water, and pulse just until the dough forms coarse crumbs; add one more tablespoon of water if necessary, but do not do more than 10 pulses. Transfer the pastry to a sheet of backing parchment, form into a ball and flatten to a disk. Wrap in the paper and let stand for 30-60 minutes.

Roll out the pastry to the diameter of the baking tin (a tarte tatin or other round flame proof baking dish). Turn the tin upside down and on the rolled out pastry and press down and trace around the edge with a sharp knife.

Alternatively, just use pre made pastry. It might not be so good, but it does the trick.

Preheat the oven the 200oC. Prick the pastry all over, line with baking parchment, and fill with baking weights. Bake for 15min, then remove the paper and weights (I used beans), and bake for 10-15min more, until just golden. Let the tart shell cool slightly before filling.

To make the almond cream, put the butter and sugar in a bowl and mix with the electric mixer, until fluffy and lemon coloured (it takes some time and patience. I start with melted butter). Beat in the eggs one at a time. Using a spatula, fold in the almonds and flour until well mixed.

Preheat the oven to 190oC. Spread the almond cream evenly in the tart shell. Peel and core the pears, and slice into 8-12 pieces, depending on the size of the fruit. Arrange the pear slices on top of the almond cream. Bake for about 20-30min, until puff and golden. Serve warm.