Friday, 29 April 2011

Forever Nigella #4 and the Royal Wedding

I thought I wasn't really gonna be into this wedding event, but the fact that I've been watching (and enjoying) the TV coverage from the morning till now means that I'm actually kinda into it. I thought the ceremony was good and very British. All the hats the women were wearing are fascinating. I couldn't help but thinking, what would lady gaga wear if she was invited to the wedding...

Watching from the news I saw many places all around the country, hosting their own street party and I suppose the royal wedding is such a great excuse for people to get together for some food, drinks, royal romance and getting to know your neighbours.

I had my own party at home with some friends, and yes, I am well aware that having 10 people over at 10 am on a day I plan on doing absolutely nothing sounds completely outrageous. I don't do this all the time, but it's nice every now and then. Perhaps, next will be the Queen's diamond jubilee next year. That's what I call planning ahead.

Fitting nicely with this month's Forever Nigella challenge hosted by Sarah at Maison Cupcakes we had few selections of finger food all by none other, the one and only, the domestic goddess... Nigella Lawson. The great thing about all of the following recipes, they can be done ahead of time, meaning quite a lot to prep the night before, but nothing difficult and very little to do in the morning which is ideal.

Chips and dip are a must-have for me, especially for in front of the telly event. I have made this peanut butter hummus a couple of times and it's so delicious. It's like a thicker and creamier version of Thai or Indonesian peanut sauce. The peanut butter gives a slight sweetness, and works beautifully with the flavours of garlic and cumin. The hummus can be made the night before and then store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Chicken wings are a favourite amongst my friends. Nigella's salt and pepper wings are so delicious, they're gone within minutes out of the oven. The wings are marinated in a salty, lemony, garlicky paste with crushed pink peppercorns for overnight in the fridge. In the morning, roast for 40 minutes in a hot oven and they are done!

Pigs in blankets with mustard dipping sauce were also on offer. I assembled these little pigs the night before and in the morning glaze them with an egg, and for slight crunch, I sprinkled some with sesame seeds and some with nigella seeds.

As well as nibbles, I think it's rather nice to have something a little more substantial but still light, like turkey meatballs in tomato sauce. These meatballs can be cooked the night before, store in the fridge and then reheat the next day. Serve with chunks of crusty bread to soak up the sweet tomato sauce. I'm afraid the pictures of these meatballs are pretty horrific, sorry...

Last but not least, for something sweet to complete the afternoon of Britishness... lemon cupcakes baked appropriately in union jack cupcake cases and mini flags! I adapted Nigella's mini lemon bundt recipe from How to Be a Domestic Goddess and alter the icing slightly to make it creamier by adding butter, lemon zest for flavour and a drop of yellow food colouring for aesthetic purpose.

Overall it's been an enjoyable day and I wish the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge many happiness for years and years to come. So how's your Royal day?

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Easy Chocolate Tart with Pistachio

There are times I believe when only chocolate will do. I don't think that I am a chocoholic. I always have a chunk or two (or three) every now and then. Well, maybe I am soon to become one, but I'm still in the preparation phase of this wonderful addiction. No denying, that's the key I think.

Anyway, today I'm hanging out at my friend, Maranda's blog at Jolts & Jollies. Maranda has just recently moved from Missouri to Texas and I'm sure is pretty busy unpacking at the moment. So in the meantime, I am filling in for her which is really cool and very nice of her to ask me. So, thank you.

What I really like from reading Maranda's blog is there's this sense of familiarity and homeyness through her writing and recipes that are very comforting. Just like this easy chocolate tart with pistachio... It's my no-bake version of the good old chocolate tart. I do hope you pop over to read the rest of the post.

Have a great weekend! Yes, it's still Thursday, but if you're in the UK, we're, well at least I am off work tomorrow because of the Royal Wedding.  

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Spicy Chinese Five-Spice-Rubbed Chicken Wings with Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce

The rule for this month's Random Recipes Challenge cleverly created by Dom at Belleau Kitchen is to use your first ever cook book and select a recipe at random.

Growing up, one of my favourite cookbooks was my mom's French cookbook, a gift from her cousin, which title is completely out of my head now. The pictures in the book were beautiful and I still remember reading the book on the bed, drooling to sleep. One day, with my mom's supervision, I cooked the cream of broccoli soup from that book which involved white chocolate as one of the ingredients. Who knew cooking a pot of soup could take hours. The end result was delicious though. At nine years old, I had to give myself some credit...

When I was in high school, I purchased my first cook book: Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis. Unfortunately I left the book at my parents'. I am going to visit my parents in few weeks time and I'm taking the book back with me. In the meantime, what I have with me is my second ever cookbook. It's still in the Food Network territory, appropriately named Food Network Favorites: Recipes from Our All-Star Chefs. The all-star chefs include Emeril Lagasse, Tyler Florence, Michael Chiarello, Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Dave Lieberman, Giada de Laurentiis, Rachael Ray, Alton Brown and Paula Deen. I am somewhat shocked Ina Garten from Barefoot Contessa did not appear in this book.

The recipe I selected at random is this spicy Chinese five-spiced-rubbed chicken wings with creamy cilantro dipping sauce by the young & hungry, Dave Lieberman. Where is Dave these days? I don't know. I think he left the Food Network and I tried to open his web page, but it's no longer in use. Strange. I used to watch his TV show, Good Deal with Dave Lieberman and also his online show Dave Does. I made few recipes from both of his books and I really enjoy his honest approach to cooking. Many of his recipes are simple, but packed with flavours, just like these wings. The wings are spicy even though I used less cayenne pepper than instructed, but the creamy cilantro (coriander) dipping sauce cools them down nicely.

Apart from these wings, I've also tried few other recipes from this book, like Alton's pineapple upside-down cornmeal cake which I used to make a lot when I was a student, Giada's stuffed shells with arrabbiata sauce, Rachael's chili dog nachos, Tyler's fried crab wontons and Paula's is it really better than sex? cake... and if you really want to know, my verdict is still the same: I have had better... Sorry, Paula.

Spicy Chinese Five-Spice-Rubbed Chicken Wings with Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce
Recipe by Dave Lieberman

40 chicken wings pieces or 20 whole chicken wings
2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoons cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dipping sauce
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain yoghurt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 260 C. If you have whole chicken wings, cut off wing tips and cut the wings in half at the joint. Discard wing tips or freeze to make stock. Place the wings in a large bowl. Sprinkle five-spice powder and cayenne on the wings; and generous pinches of salt, and about 15 grinds of black pepper. Rub the mixture into all the wings until no more loose rub remains.

Line the wing pieces up on a baking sheet so the side of the wing that has the most skin is facing up. Roast until cooked through, browned, and crispy, about 25 minutes. Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

To make the dipping sauce, simply combine all sauce ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Egg Nest Cake

This Easter egg nest cake has been Nigella's Easter stalwart for years and after making and eating the cake, I immediately feel like this is going to be a new tradition. This chocolate cake is a  flourless one which makes it light, fluffy, absolutely divine and sinfully rich. But not to worry, all is forgiven today.

Happy Easter everyone... Have a blessed day.

Easter Egg Nest Cake
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Serves perhaps 8 in theory, but 4 in reality

For the cake
250 g best-quality dark chocolate, chopped
125g unsalted softened butter
6 eggs: 2 whole; 4 separated
175 g caster sugar: 75 g for the yolk mixture; 100g for the whites
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

For the topping
125 g best-quality dark chocolate, chopped
250 ml double cream
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
little Easter eggs, 1-2 packets as wished

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Line the bottom of a 23 cm springform cake tin with baking parchment, but do not grease the sides of the tin.

Melt the 250 g chocolate with the butter in either a double-boiler or microwave and then set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk the egg whites until firm, then gradually add the 100 g  of sugar and whisk until the whites are holding their shape and peak gleamingly - but not stiff.

In another bowl, whisk the 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 75 g of sugar and vanilla extract and then gently fold in the chocolate mixture. Lighten the mixture with some the egg whites and the fold in the rest.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until the cake is risen and cracked and the centre is no longer wobbly on the surface. Coll the cake in its tin on a wire rack; the middle will sink as it cools and the sides splinter. You want this to look like a cake with a crater in it, so do not panic with the vision of imperfection in front of you.

To finish the cake, carefully remove it from the tin and place it on a plate or cake stand. Melt the chocolate for the topping and let it cool a little. Whip the cream until it is firming up and aerated but still soft, and then add the vanilla and fold in the melted chocolate. Fill the crater of the cake with the chocolatey cream and then arrange the little Easter eggs on top.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Devil's Food Cake

After watching Scre4m last night I suddenly had this urge to bake. Don't ask. I cannot tell you why even if I wanted to. Apparently watching a film about serial killer brings out the 'domestic god' in me. Maybe if I force myself to watch Saw, I'll be tempted to bake more breads; or perhaps, even macaroons... but that's probably more of Paranormal Activity material.

Anyway, I got home, flicked through Nigella's Kitchen for an easy cake recipe and I found this devil's food cake. Within minutes later I was measuring ingredients, greasing and lining cake tins, creaming butter and sugar... as if I was possessed.

By the time I finished frosting the cake, it was passed midnight and cake eating time is over for me. I could have a tiny sliver, but I know I shouldn't. I went to bed and waited patiently. In the morning I brought the cake to the office to celebrate my friend, Mark's birthday and cakes are always welcome at the office.

The cake is dangerously easy to make and despite of its name, it is heavenly to eat. Just a quick note, the batter is thin and watery, but don't be alarmed, it'll be fine and it will result in such moist and tender cake. Have faith. Also, the luscious rich dark chocolate frosting needs time to set, so if you want, you can start by making the frosting.

Devil's Food Cake
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.
If you want to watch the video, click here.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Saffron Risotto

Saffron... one of the most expensive of all spices. But fortunately saffron only needs to be used in very small quantities. To be honest, I'm not too sure how to describe the flavour of saffron. Does it really have a taste? I think it's just a gorgeous (again, expensive) food dye. A little saffron threads will give a dish beautiful golden yellow colour.

The recipe below suppose to serves 2, but I managed to gulp it all. There are 3 possible reasons: maybe because I was starving or maybe because the risotto was super delicious or... maybe I'm just greedy. I'm almost sure it's the second one.

Saffron Risotto
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Serves 2 as a main course (with some left over) or 4 as a starter or side dish

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock, preferably organic
1 x 0.4 g packet saffron threads (about 1 teaspoon)
50 g butter, plus 1 tablespoon
1 x 15 ml tablespoon olive oil
50 g shallots, finely chopped or 1/2 onion, finely chopped
250 g risotto rice
125 ml dry marsala
4 x 15 ml tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the stock in a saucepan, add the saffron threads and put over the lowest heat just to keep it warm. Melt the butter with olive oil in a wide, shallow, heavy-based saucepan over a low to medium heat, add the chopped shallots (or onion) and cook for a couple of minutes or so, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until softened.

Add the risotto rice and keep stirring for a minute or so, then turn up the heat and add the marsala - which will bubble up excitedly - stirring until it is absorbed.

Start ladling in the hot, golden, saffron-infused stock, letting each ladleful become absorbed as you stir before adding the next. Stir and ladle until the rice is cooked with still a slight bite to it - about 18 minutes, maybe a little before - by which time you will probably have finished all your stock. However, if you find the rice is cooked to the texture you like before the stock's run out, do not finish it.

Turn off the heat, stirring still, and beat in the remaining tablespoon of butter and the Parmesan, then season to taste. Serve immediately with some grated Parmesan on the table.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

On a recent trip to Hummingbird Bakery, I had my second red velvet cupcakes in my life and it was delicious... moist crumbs, thick, creamy frosting... yum, proven by the pictures below. The first one was also from the same bakery about three years ago. After much convincing, last night I finally baked these cupcakes at home. The reason it took me so long is because I wasn't entirely sure of pouring an egregious amount of red food colouring, almost one small bottle, just to make 12 tiny cupcakes. Plus, I don't want to turn into a mutant. Actually, it'll be pretty cool to join the X-Men gang. I don't want to be the weird looking ones though... I wanna be the cool one with awesome power.



I'm really glad I baked these cupcakes. They're absolutely divine. I, again, substituted buttermilk with yoghurt and milk; and I used gluten-free flour so that everybody can enjoy it at the office. Nobody notice. Yeah, if I turn into a mutant/zombie/whatever I'm taking the whole lot with me.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Recipe from Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
Makes 12

60 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150 g caster sugar
1 egg
20 g cocoa powder
40 ml red food colouring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
120 ml buttermilk
150 g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 quantity cream cheese frosting, recipe follows

A 12-hole cupcake tray, lined with paper cases

Preheat the oven to 170 C. Put the butter and sugar in a free-standing electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a hand-held electric whisk) and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy and well mixed. Turn the mixer up to high speed, add the egg and beat until everything is well incorporated,

In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract to make a very thick, dark paste. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly. Turn the mixer down to low speed and slowly pour half of the buttermilk. Beat until well mixed, then add half of the flour, beating again. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Turn up the mixture to high speed and beat until you have a smooth, even mixture. Turn the mixer down to low and add the bicarb and vinegar.

Spoon the mixture into paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the cream cheese frosting on top. To make the icing, simply mix, I did this in a food processor, 300 g icing sugar, 50 g unsalted butter at room temperature and 125 g cold cream cheese. Do not over beat though, as it can quickly become runny.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Buttermilk Scones, well... sort of...

The original recipe calls for buttermilk, but I'm sure I've mentioned this before, buttermilk is nowhere to be found where I live. But luckily, Nigella provides two options for buttermilk substitutions. One, to make your own by adding lemon juice to semi-skimmed milk and letting it stand for five minutes; or two, by using runny natural yogurt and a bit of milk to loosen the mixture. I tried both options before and they worked! (Why would't they?! It's Nigella recommended. Silly me)

Today, I used the 'yogurt and a bit of milk' option to make these scones... and they're very easy to make. I finished another assignment earlier and these scones were my treat. They take less than 10 minutes to mix and cut out, and then 12 minutes in hot oven, and it was time for afternoon tea.

It's only right I think to serve the scones with clotted cream (Cornish clotted cream if you must know) and jam of your choice. My preference, however, and I believe Nigella approves of this, is generous spread of clotted cream, top with luscious golden syrup. To say 'yum' is perhaps an understatement as I had three scones. They're tiny scones though, so I don't feel that much guilty, plus, I did go to the gym afterwards.

Scones, clotted cream, jam, golden syrup and tea... feeling very British indeed...

Buttermilk Scones
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Spinach and Sweet Potato Curry, Yellow Basmati Rice and Tomato Sambal

I'm still recreating some of the dishes I had in London and one afternoon Michelle and I went for lunch at Mildreds in trendy Soho. I've never been to a restaurant that serves entirely vegetarian food and I was actually looking forward to this meal. Not just for the food, but also because I had arrange to meet the wonderful Alex from Dear Love Blog. I never met anyone in person from the food blogging community, so I was well-excited!

The restaurant is small, casual and the staff were friendly. Looking at the menu, I was well impressed with the wide range of  well-priced, hearty selections offered at the restaurant. It wasn't just "mushrooms". Not that there's anything wrong with mushrooms; I love mushrooms. But I feel like whenever I go to restaurants, the options for vegetarians are very limited to mushrooms this and mushrooms that...

Although I am a committed carnivore, choosing what to have for lunch wasn't easy. Everything sounds delicious on the menu, but at the end Michelle and I ordered the same dish especially after lurking the table next to us. We had the Sri Lankan sweet potato and cashew nut curry served with yellow basmati rice with peas and tomato sambal. Doesn't that sound delicious? Not that it's vegetarian, it's also wheat-free and gluten-free.

Because I am greedy, I also ordered the chargrilled roman style artichoke crostini with lemon aioli, not to share, just for me. I told you I am greedy. To drink, my favourite juice combo, apple and beetroot.

The curry was divine, mildly spiced with just the right amount of heat coming through. We had such lovely time. Alex recently completed her cookery diploma from Ashburton Cookery School and so I interrogated her with her experience and she's very inspiring.

The picture above is my at home version of the curry. I didn't follow any particular recipes. I just use my instinct and I almost forgot how much fun to cook without a recipe... very liberating. I added fresh spinach leaves and fresh coriander to the sweet potato curry, though I must confess my curry paste came from a jar. Please forgive me.

To make the yellow basmati rice, I start by softening finely chopped onions in butter and vegetable oil before adding cumin seeds, ground coriander, turmeric, cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Add the the well-rinsed basmati rice with some water and cook. Once cooked, fluff the rice fork and I added some toasted flaked almonds for some crunch.

The tomato sambal also starts with softened finely chopped onions with cumin seeds, ground coriander and ground ginger. I add slices of garlic, fresh chillies, harissa (North African chilli paste), tinned chopped tomato, pinch of sugar and let it simmer until nice and thick.

The chickpea salad with cumin is a recipe borrowed from Angie at Angie's Recipes. When I saw the recipe I knew I had to try it and this salad works so good with the curry. I love the smell and taste of cumin and the spicy, zing-y vinaigrette made with garlic, parsley, lemon juice, chilli powder and walnut oil brightens up the flavours a lot. Thank you Angie for sharing this recipe :)

Like many other curries, stews, soups, they taste better the next day after the flavours had time to mix together. I made the curries last night for dinner with some friends and was so pleased to have leftovers to enjoy for lunch earlier. yum.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Risotto with Broad Beans, Peas, Pecorino and White Truffle Oil

When I travel I always use food as reminders of the good times I had. Then at home, I try to recreate the dish to reminisce the wonderful times. Whilst the memory is still fresh, I'm gonna try to recreate some of the dishes I had in London.

On our first night in London last weekend, Michelle and I went to Skylon Restaurant, Grill and Bar at Royal Festival Hall for dinner. I'm not good at writing reviews, terrible actually, but I can tell you, dinner was good, but not the best. We were seated at the table by the window and had a spectacular view of London's skyline and the River Thames which was nice.

To start, Michelle had the chicken and ham hock terrine with some sort of creamy sauce and pumpernickel bread; and for me, lentil salad with spinach, roasted tomatoes, olives and feta with a dressing I just can't remember. This is probably why I am bad at writing reviews... I don't take notes. Michelle is allergic to gluten, so I had the pleasure of eating her pumpernickel bread :)

For our mains, Michelle ordered the confit duck leg with puy lentils and red wine jus. I am quite shocked that I managed to recall this. And I had the risotto with broad beans, peas, pecorino and black truffle which then became the inspiration for tonight's dinner. The risotto was wonderfully creamy and I love truffles, full stop. I'll talk more about the risotto later.

I really enjoyed my dessert of banana sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream. I could easily be bribed with sticky toffee pudding, just so you know; Michelle's vanilla rice pudding was good, but not as nice as my sticky toffee pudding.

Now, to business, the risotto with broad beans, peas, pecorino and white truffle oil... I kept most of the components from the original dish, but swapped the black truffle to white truffle oil. I can't afford to buy the real black truffles and I don't even know where to find them in Sunderland.

The risotto is pretty basic. I start by cooking finely chopped onions and garlic in olive oil and a little butter until softened, before adding the rice and lightly fry until slightly translucent. I then add a healthy amount of white wine, and when the wine has cooked into the rice, start adding, a ladleful at a time, the simmering stock and keep stirring to the desired consistency and keep tasting. I like my risotto to be creamy and oozy.

I then add the blanched peas and broad beans to the risotto, the grated pecorino cheese and the white truffle oil to taste. A little bit goes a long way, so use it sparingly. Taste again to correct the seasoning and then serve with shavings of pecorino and tiny drizzle of the truffle oil. May as well drink that wine that's already open.... right?  

Oh, after dinner at Skylon, we went to the OXO Tower for cocktails and I had the 'oriental chill', that is a cocktail made with crushed lychees, fresh lime juice, coconut syrup and ginger beer. yum. My at home version is not as fancy, but equally delicious, you can find it here.

Today has been the hottest and brightest day so far this year and it's was beautiful. Might be going to the beach tomorrow if the weather stays like this.

It's time to to-up my glass, have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Kappacasein's Raclette at Borough Market, my way...

I love going to Borough Market in London. Nothing gives me more pleasure than being surrounded by food and free samples. So, it makes sense that Borough Market was the first destination when me and my friend, Michelle were in London last weekend.

It was noon and we were ready for lunch. The options for a meal and a beverage were endless, from roasts to pies, curries to sandwiches, bubbly drinks to organic juices, they're all there!

After wondering around, checking out all the stalls and tasting bits and bobs, here and there, Michelle settled for the delicious chicken and seafood green Thai curry with rice and for me, I simply couldn't resist the raclette from Kappacasein stall. And boy, it was ridiculously delicious! 

The raclette and the curry

The raclette was simply melted, bubbling, gooey ooey Ogleshield cheese over new/Charlotte potatoes and served with pickled onions and baby cornichons. Yum!! The acid from the pickled onions and cornichons contrast beautifully with the rich, creamy cheesy potatoes.

Photo courtesy of serious eats

At the stand, they also make toasted cheese sandwiches with Montgomery cheddar, onions, garlic, leeks on Poilâne sourdough bread. There's always next time...

Anyway, all I can think about today was the raclette, so I attempted to make my own at home version and actually it was pretty darn good. I need to be more generous though with the cheese and make sure I go to the gym earlier on the day which I did. 

I parboil and roast some baby new potatoes and then top with a mixture of sharp mature English cheddar and creamy Swiss Gruyère before heating it under the grill for few minutes until the cheeses melt and turn slightly golden. Serve with piles of pickled silverskin onions and baby cornichons. To wash it all down, a pint of well-chilled cider I think which I also had at the market.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Cookies and Cream Fudge Brownies

And yet another chocolaty post. Yes, I've consumed a lot of chocolate this week for some reasons, not that I'm complaining. Chocolate is good, better that good. Chocolate is awesome!

Whoever came up with the idea of adding cookies to brownies is a genius. The cookies used here are Oreo cookies... my favourite. Yum! I suddenly realised I haven't made Oreo cookies ice-cream for a while... maybe next week.

Anyway, I really gotta go now. I'm spending a long weekend in London and I need to pack. What am I doing there? Eat and eat and drink and eat. I'm not kidding. The whole itinerary is based around food. It's so exciting. I cannot wait!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone. I know I will.

Cookies and Cream Fudge Brownies
Recipe by Lorraine Pascale
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.