Hello readers , I know it has been a very long time between posts , so much has happened , so many travels to far flung corners of the world. However , we are home now and ensconced in everything that a new school year brings.
As I was preparing dinner last night , the phone rang and I was asked " are you home, I have something for you ?" ... of course said I ........ minutes later there was a knock on the door and I was greeted with this spectacular pizza bianca delivered in rustic fashion , enveloped in a beautiful tea towel.
My eyes needed time to digest everything , as they started to absorb this vision of perfectly cooked dough with hills and dales and little pools of olive oil and sprinkles of rosemary , it was sheer politeness that stopped me from tearing into this pizza , immediately.
Over the summer my friend Lara was privileged to receive lessons from a good friend of hers on bread making and all its facets, from making this pizza, to no-knead bread etc. Where was I ??? ...... not in that kitchen silently taking in the moment and enjoying the experience of working with flour, water and yeast .
When the whole family gathered for dinner, it was with a flush I presented the pizza at the dinner table , after fighting off hubby ( who also wanted to tear right into it upon his arrival from work) ....... lets just say when everyone started eating some if this pizza - silence befell the dinner table.
Friday, February 25, 2011
For many that know me well , know that I am not a baker. I enjoy cooking , everyone says I cook well ( thank you) - however "baking" mortifies me .
Being an aquarian , there is a free spirit within us that does not like to be sequestered. Rules are made to be broken and does it really matter if I put in one teaspoon of this or half a teaspoon of the same thing.
In the world of baking it does.You see baking is a precise science, it involves accuracy , it involves good chemical reactions between baking soda and buttermilk which produce the fluffiest cakes , and precise ratios of liquids that help a cake rise and impress.
However , I have started to overcome my phobia of baking, by tackling baking recipes that involve mixing together wet and dry ingredients. How difficult can that be ? I ask myself. Not difficult at all , to me a marriage made in baking heaven . There is room for a little extra of this and smidge of that .
So, I now welcome you to the world of Ina Garten , one of the cooks I idolise , whose recipes never fail me, but always impress . She is famous for starting all cake recipes with a pound of butter and in an effort to lighten things up she makes this delicious Lemon Yogurt cake - which is so mind boggling simple I don't know why I did not make this sooner.
The other day I adapted her recipe and turned it into a Lemon- Blueberry Cake - yummy.
Then I was eating one of my favourite oranges, the Cara-Cara orange. So deliciously sweet and juicy , I thought I would try and adapt her recipe and make it with oranges , and for an over the top finale, decorate the top of the cake with glazed orange segments . The inspiration for this came from watching Jamie Oliver's new cooking show ( travelling around europe) where he made a Honey and Pistachio Cake during his trip to Greece.
So, with yoghurt at hand, I used low fat , 2 sturdy mixing bowls , and quite literally 5 minutes of your time ( it takes longer for the oven to reach temperature) - you will make a cake that will impress everyone and give Top Pastry Chefs a run for their money.
This morning I enjoyed sharing this cake with my wonderful neighbour Lisa - goes perfectly with a nice cup of coffee and wonderful conversation.
Cara-Cara Orange Yoghurt Cake with Glazed Oranges
adapted from an Ina Garten recipe and inspired in part by Jamie Oliver
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup low-fat yoghurt ***
1 cup sugar
3 extra large organic eggs at room temperature ( very important)
zest of one cara-cara orange
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
the juice of half an orange
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed cara-cara orange juice
Glazed Orange Segments
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
half a cara-cara orange thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 350F and spray a non-stick loaf pan with some canola oil and dust with flour - guaranteed not to stick .
In one bowl measure out the all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt, place to the side.
In another bowl place the yoghurt, 1 cup sugar, room temperature eggs, orange zest, vanilla extract and the juice of half an orange. Whisk until well combined .
Pour the batter in to the floured loaf pan and place in oven, bake for 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean .
Meanwhile, make the Glazed Orange Segments. Place the water and sugar and water in a saucepan and add the orange slices . Bring to boil then immediately turn down to a simmer , you want the syrup to thicken slowly and cook and soften the orange slices in the meantime. Keep an eye on this step , if it looks like the water is evaporating too quickly , add a splash of hot boiling water and stir gently and continue to cook for approximately 15 minutes.
Once the syrup has been almost absorbed by the oranges turn off the beat and allow to cool . Should the orange glaze become hard and stuck to the saucepan, gently reheat to loosen up the sugar syrup , then place on top of the cake for decoration after you placed the glaze and it has set slightly.
While the orange segments are been cooked make a thin glaze for the cake, Mix 2 tablespoons orange juice into 1 cup confectioners sugar and mix well until you have a nice runny consistency. Pour over the cake once it has been removed from the loaf pan and cooled.
*** I use the Mountain High brand Low-fat yoghurt. It is best to use a thick style greek style yoghurt , and there are plenty easily available in the supermarkets. A lot of low-fat yoghurt tends to be a little runny and this will ruin the consistency of the batter .
NOTE: you can also make this cake with regular oranges , just not too sure if they will be as sweet as the cara-cara oranges.
Monday, February 21, 2011
In an attempt to make eating fish a lot more fun , I started to make fish burgers. I enjoy nothing more than baking tipalia in the oven , simply dressed with olive oil , a sqeeze of fresh lemon, sprinkled with salt and pepper and herbs de provenance ..... hhmmmm .
However, once I placed the fish it on the dinner table, I could swear I heard a silent collective groan of "fish again ????" . So when I put on my deceptive mummy cook hat on, I started to think of more interesting ways of serving fish . With some leftover tilapia fillets one day , I played around with interesting and fresh ideas to make a more healthy and interesting burger.
You can add whatever you like to this mixture , it is not caste in stone. You can also use whatever fish fillet your family enjoys. I selected tilapia because it is readily available and is generally a mild fish , be careful if you are using cod as it has a very strong taste and may over power all the other ingredients. Look a this recipe as a guide. The mixture should look colourful and with a nice balance of fish and vegetable ingredients.
Monday, February 7, 2011
The snow is piling up outside , we endured the blizzard of 2011 last wednesday ,it is now monday and mother nature has felt the urge to continue to dazzle us with "dancing snowflakes" .... read ..... more snow !!!! read .... more shovelling ...... read " how soon is spring coming ????"
At this point in winter I start to crave freshness in my everyday food. Not that I can walk out onto my patio and pick fresh herbs or pluck a fresh tomato from the vine. Somehow fresh tomato and fresh basil screams summer - fresh tomato with feta cheese and olives etc has a more heartier feel and this screams winter - and the view from the window is definetly winter.
So, what to do with some grape tomatoes that needed to eaten, feta cheese that also needed to be eaten ...... and a jar of kalamata olives , staring me in the face everytime I open the fridge - fresh pasta sauce !!!
Yesterday was Superbowl Sunday , a lazy day in our household . For reasons I cannot explain we were not hooked on the Super Bowl, our team did not make it - therefore, my big gourmet was non plussed about watching the game .
Dinner was therefore lazy and quick , spaghetti with a basic prepared tomato basil sauce for those who wanted that and spaghetti topped with my tomato and feta sauce for those that wanted something a little different. I did not have any capers in the pantry , or else they would also have been a nice touch.
This sauce is gutsy and bold, the flavours will develop the more it sits . It was a heavenly aroma that hit me as soon as the sauce and its beautiful oil marinade hit the hot pasta . For me it did not require any more cheese , the taste was heavenly and filling. In summer you could use the same concept and use tomato, fresh bocconcini, and fresh basil for the penultimate fresh summer sauce.
So for now give this a go and enjoy it with your family .
Fresh Tomato and Feta Pasta Sauce.
a gg original recipe
1 packet grape tomatoes
handful of feta cheese roughly cubed
handful of Kalamata olive - without the stone
freshly ground pepper
a pinch of Maldon sea salt or fleur de sel
good quality extra virgin olive oil
splash of white Balsamic Vinegar
a pinch of good quality Greek dried oregano
tablespoon of capers (optional)
Chop up the tomatoes in a bowl , then add the rest of the ingredients .
Toss to combine and taste. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes .
Meanwhile prepare spaghetti of your choice according to packet directions, drain well , drizzle with a splash of olive oil so it does not stick then serve in individual bowls with the fresh sauce and a spoonful of the delicious marinade that has developed.
This recipe quantity can be adjusted according to the ingredients you have on hand . Be generous with the olive oil - as this becomes the glue that hold the whole dish together.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Not too sure if you can possibly have a sense from the photo of what this tart tastes like?
Exotic ...... incredible ..... delicious ......sophisticated ..... mmmmmm
Just before Christmas last year, I had a get together with my expatriate friends and we cooked up another storm. I enjoy these sessions because they allow us to forge a friendship and enjoy each others company and try something new - be it directly form each others culture or what ever we fancy.
Rose-Anne brought along this little treat in a really beautiful pie plate holder/carrier ( which I regret not photographing) and we enjoyed this with some coffee and good laughs, just before the arduous task of cooking for fun began.
It is a play on the classic french dessert tart aux pomme . It does not require a heavy cast iron pan , it was made in a ceramic quiche dish . You could easily substitute any type of pan dish . The combination of pears and cardamom is exotic and intoxicating and by using prepared store bought puff pastry - putting it together is easy. I loved its rustic look but was completely blown away by its silent sophistication. I especially loved the delicious syrup it basted itself in. If you were to take this dessert to any dinner party, believe me when I tell you - you will be elevated to Dessert Goddess status in a heartbeat.
Please make this tomorrow, pears are in season and are often overlooked for desserts. Here, they can outshine all other fruits used in baked desserts.
Long live Regina Pear !!!!
Caramelised Pear and Cardamon Tart
from a collection of recipes from expats
1/4 cup softened but not melted butter
1/4 cup caster sugar - or fine granulated sugar
seeds from 10 cardamon pods or 1/2 teaspoon cardamon powder
8 oz puff pastry
5 ripe pears recommend using Bosc or Bartlett pears ( make sure they are ripe)
Preheat oven to 400F.
Distribute the butter evenly on the bottom of your tart tin, sprinkle with the sugar and cardamon pods - I would recommend the use of cardamon pods over using ground cardamon powder. Place in the oven so that the sugar caramelises a little ( be careful not to let it burn).
Peel the pears , cut them in half and arrange the pears round side down. Place the softened puff pastry on top then fold down in a rustic manner around the pears.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Cool the tart in the pan for 5 minutes . Place a larger platter on top of the tart pan then carefully invert onto platter.
Serve on its own hot or at room temperature and or with fresh cream . Some good quality vanilla ice cream will also be a good accompaniment.
You could substitute ground cinnamon or vanilla extract for the cardamon.