Thursday, 28 October 2010

Bailey's Cheese Cake

I heart any sort of cheese cakes, of which there exist endless variations around the world, and this is one of the best I ever tried. Because I also heart the irish creme flavour. The topping part is really an optional (sour cream glaze and shaved white chocolate) if you are in a lazy mood, it tastes good enough without... but highly recommended!!

150g digestive biscuits
60g butter (room temperature)

500g mascarpone (room temperature)
160g sugar
2 large eggs, separated (room temperature)
50ml Baileys, or any high quality Irish Creme liqueur
a few drops of vanilla extract
1/3 cup flour
pinch of salt

200ml sour cream
powdered sugar
80g shaved white chocolate

Finely grind the biscuits in a processor. Add the butter, cut in small cubes and blend to make a bread crumb-like mixture.
Press the mixture onto the bottom of the 25-27cm spring pie form.
Chill in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Preheat the oven to 160°C.
In a large bowl whip together mascarpone and sugar until smooth.
Add the egg yolks and continue to whip.
Add the baileys and vanilla and whip further.
Add the flour and salt, more whipping--until the texture is completely smooth.
Whip the egg white until it peaks, then gently fold it into the mascarpone mixture.
Pour the batter into the pie form lined with the biscuit mixture.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the surface slightly colours and puffs up, and the centre is set.
Cool on a rack

whip together sour cream and powdered sugar until attain a desired consistency and smooth

When the cake is completely chilled spread the sour cream mixture on the surface.
Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Decorate the surface with shaved white chocolate.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Mango Lassi

Lassi is a traditional Indian, yogurt based, non-alcoholic beverage. It is lightly sweetened (or in some flavour variety also savoury), rich yet refreshing. It is very simple to prepare and will make a great beverage to offer to accompany your special dinner, especially for teatotalers as a substitute to wine or beer. It is also rich enough to make a light dessert option, or can be enjoyed any time when you are in the mood! :-)

Mango Lassi

300ml plain yogurt
200ml milk
2 fresh mangoes
2-3 tablespoon of sugar (to start with, add as needed.)
pinch of freshly ground cardamom

Peel, pit and slice up the mangoes
Put all the ingredients into a blender/food processor, blend thoroughly until smooth. (Check the sweetness and if needed add some more sugar to your preference)
Chill in the fridge 1-2 hour.
Give it another whip on a blender before serving.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Carrot-Nut Cake

Ever since I made a disaster with a carrot cake recipe about 6 years ago (the batter remained a complete goo with the surface burnt), I became very wary and reluctant to try and make another. No, I am not a very persistent type. However my partner accidentaly bought 2 packages of carrots and we are stuck with more carrots than we know what to do within a reasonable time frame, I finally decided to give another go at a cake. This idea is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe which has been slightly modified, and it came out perfect, to my surprise. As always, I can count on this bloke :-)

• 250g butter, softened
• 250g brown sugar
• 5 large eggs, separated
• zest and juice of 1 orange
• 200g flour, sifted
• 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 80g chopped almonds (or hazelnuts)
• 80g walnuts, chopped
• 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 250g carrots, coarsely grated
• pinch of salt

for the icing:
• 250g mascarpone
• 85g icing sugar, or as much as it needed to attain a smooth consistency
• a few drops of vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Generously butter a 22cm square or round cake form.
Beat the butter and sugar together until it becomes frothy.
Beat in the egg yolks.
Add the orange zest and juice.
Stir in the flour, baking powder and baking soda.
Add the nuts, spices and grated carrot and mix together well.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff, then gently fold into the cake mix.
Scoop the mixture into the prepared cake form and cook in the preheated oven for about 50 minutes until golden and risen.
(toothpick check recommended, and make sure the toothpick comes out clean)
Leave the cake to cool in the form for 10 minutes, then turn it out on to a rack and leave for at least an hour.

Mix the icing ingredients together until smooth, and spread generously over the cake.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Padella alla Licia

I invented this recipe while I was hard pressed to come up with an attractive "reduced calorie" recipe as my partner has been on a diet. It can NOT be classified either as risotto or paella, as the result is clearly different -- thus I decided to call this "padella" (which also means "skillet" in Italian). It skips the sautè process which will cut down significant amount of oil, however by toasting the garlic separately and adding it at the end with the drizzle of raw olive oil, it boosts the lively flavour to a satisfying level!

Ingredients (for 3-4)
200g basmati rice
300g-400g peeled prawns (decent sized-I used frozen), precooked
3 shallots, thinly sliced
3 spring onions, chopped
1-2 large cloves of garlic (depending on how much you love garlic :-p)
100-150g frozen green peas
2 smallish courgettes, sliced thin (about 1mm)
1/2 cup white wine
vegetable bouillon (granulated, powdered or cube)
1-2 bayleaf
1 packet of saffran
good quality extra virgine olive oil

- Chop the garlic finely, toast in a small skillet with a few drops of olive oil (just enough to cover them), until golden, taking care not to burn them.

-Place the rice, shallots, peas, rice, wine and bayleaf in a large skillet or shallow, flat based pot, add the water just enough to cover the rice, season with the bouillon (amount according to the direction--the amount of the total liquid should be slightly over 1 cup)

-Bring to boil, turn down the heat to the minimum, cover and continue to simmer for 6-7 minutes

-add the courgette, distributing evenly (not dumping all in one pile), add a small amount of hot water if needed, re-cover and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, or the courgette becomes thoroughly heated. (until they take on a slightly transparentish look while maintaining the colour)

-remove the cover, add the prawns*, spring onions, saffran, the toasted garlic and the olive oil, toss thoroughly and vigorously over the heat.

Serve immediately.

*I have used frozen, precooked prawns so I first boiled them just to defrost quickly. If you use a fresh prawn add them with the courgette, after thoroughly cleaning them. It should be even better this way as the flavour of the prawn will integrate itself more to other ingredients!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Tortei di Patate

Tortei di Patate (Trentino - Alto Adige)

I became permanently addicted to tortei di patate while we were on our holiday in Trentino this summer. It is a recipe quite similar to the Jewish Latke or German Rosti, but this is prepared simply with grated potatoes and a bit of flour and salt, no other additives.
It may sound strange but this dish is delicious served with blueberry or cranberry comport. Trying is believing! Applesauce is equally good as well. To make it an all out alpine fair, serve with marinated cabbage and bean salad, sliced speck and assorted cheese, preferably on a round wooden plate cum cutting board!

for 2-4 ppl (depending on the accompaniments)
500g potatoes
about 2tbsp flour
butter or olive oil to cook

-Peel the potatoes, grate them roughly to the size of shoestring potatoes.
-Add a pinch (or as desired) of salt, mix well.
-Put the grated potatoes in a collander and place it on a bowl. Cover the surface with a plate, let it sit for about an hour to drain the excess liquid.
-Squeeze the potatoes and put in a bowl mix thoroughly with the flour.
-In a large skillet (I use two simultaneously) and heat the butter/oil thoroughly.
-Scoop out a generous table spoon full of the mixture, place it on the skillet and press it flat immediately with a spatula. Repeat the procedure, cook about 3-4 at a time in one skillet. When the bottom is nicely golden brown flip them and cook the other side, about 10 minutes.
-Place them on an absorbing paper/paper towel and repeat the procedure.
-Add some more butter/oil if needed during the procedure.
Serve immediately, hot.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Empanadas de Argentina

Empanadas are enjoyed in many countries, majority of latin america as well as Spain and Portugal where the origin of the reicpe seems to lie, and recipes vary enormously. This version of Empanadas was introduced to me by a friend who lived for some years in Buenos Aires, and typically Argentinean. There are great many Italian immigrants in Argentina, and the subtle use of sultanas and olives suggest a touch of Italian influence. You can also make a bite size empanadas for a buffet, or potluck, it will surely disappear pretty quickly!

600-700g puff pastry dough
500g pork mince
1 onion, chopped
1 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 tbsp sultanas, chopped
10-15 green olives, deseeded and chopped
1 tsp powdered cumin
1 tbsp paprika
salt and pepper
extra virgine olive oil
1 egg

Immerse the sultanas in lukewarm water, leave for about half an hour
Prepare a flat surface to work on and dust with some flour.
Roll out the pastry dough about 3mm thick, cut out discs of about 15cm.
Keep them in the fridge, with a sheet of wax paper in between layers.
In a skillet sautè the onion and mince and thoroughly brown them, in just enough olive oil.
Add the sultanas, olives, spices and just enough salt and pepper, toss well.
Remove from heat and let it cool to the room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
On the same surface where you worked the dough, assemble the empanadas.*
*you may want to take out the doughs in a few batches as you work, the dough is easier to work with when it is cold.
Place a spoonful of sautèed mixture at the centre of each discs.**
**take care NOT to overstuff it, you should be able to comfortably fold the disc in half and enough room to fold over the edge without struggle.
Fold the disc in half, and fold over the outer edge (up to 1cm) and secure it by pressing, using a fork.
Place the formed empanadas on a baking sheet (or on a few of them), bake them for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
They are equally good hot/warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Risotto with garden vegetables

This variety was invented quite nonchalantly while I was cleaning out the leftovers in the fridge. I just threw in the odd vegetables remaining in the fridge and it came out fabulously. It's highly flavourful, and also came in handy while I had to come up with some low-cal repartoire for my partner who has been on a diet, I reduced the amount of rice and loaded with the vegetables, the result was equally satisfying. I can only dream how this dish would taste if I had a garden of my own to pick the veggies from!!

For 2-3 people
-1 cup of carnaroli rice (if you can't find it arborio is fine, but carnaroli is the ideal type for making risotto)
-One big onion
-2 cloves of garlic
-1 large carrot
-1 large bell pepper (red or yellow)
-2 ripe tomatoes
-50g (or more if needed) butter
-1 bayleaf
-150ml red wine (or white, if you prefer)
-500ml of hot good quality broth
-freshly ground parmigiano

Chop the vegetables except tomatoes and garlic in a food processor. (Vegetable should be in small pieces, not "pureed")
In a large skillet sautè the vegetables with butter over middle heat, until the vegs soften. Add the rice and continue to cook, stirring thoroughly, until rice becomes semi-transparent.
In the meantime whip the tomatoes in the same food processor into a semi-liquid form.
Add the bayleaf and the tomatoes, raise the heat level and bring to boil.
Add the wine, continue to cook until boiling.
When the wine is almost absorbed, start adding the broth one ladleful at a time, adding another ladleful when the previous batch of broth is well absorbed (but the rice should still remain wet), stirring constantly to keep the bottom from burning.
Keep the broth hot by keeping it in a saucepan on a low heat, or microwaving from time to time.
Repeat the procesure until the rice are cooked "al dente" (firm, not crunchy not mushy)... it should take about somewhere between 20-25minutes more or less.
Serve hot with plenty of parmigiano to sprinkle upon.