Monday, 29 August 2011

Lemon and Poppyseed Cheesecake

I think I just finished my dissertation! Yay! But I still have another essay to write, so I can't really kick back and relax yet. What I can do, however, is spare a little break with a cup of tea and a slice of this lemon and poppyseed cheesecake.  The cheesecake is made from ricotta cheese rather than cream cheese so the texture is different, lighter actually, but nonetheless scrumptious.

I also made delicious strawberry and rosewater syrup to drizzle on the cheesecake. I love rosewater. However, I completely forgot about it when I took the picture. By the time I remembered, the cheesecake was halfway gone. I could cut another slice, drizzle the sauce and take another picture but that means I must eat that slice. I really could but I know I shouldn't. It's not right to have another slice at this time. You know, I keep telling you that I have no self-control, but perhaps I don't give myself enough credit (I hope I don't speak too soon).

Lemon and Poppyseed Cheesecake
Recipe by Simon Rimmer
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Jumbo Chilli Sauce

I find it very difficult to study at the library. Every body looks so serious and it's just too silent for my liking (Michael, it's a library not a night club, what do you expect... duh!). I like listening to music whilst studying. At home I can connect my ipod to the speakers and I put it on shuffle. Sometimes, when the song is good, I do my chair dance, you know, the one when you're sitting and just concentrating on upper body movements, neck, shoulder, hands. But in the moment of stress, I get up and do a proper dance. I can't really do that at the library. I tried, but my moves were not welcomed. Some said it's too raunchy. Just kidding. Maybe actually because it's horrible. I dance better after at least a couple of drinks.

But here's another problem: no food or drinks allowed at the library. This is one very strict rule and not just frowned upon I've been told. That's my biggest problem. I must have snacks... fruits, protein bars, cheesecake, jug of butter, etc. Today I thought I treat myself to this dangerously addictive jumbo chilli sauce. It's so easy, all done in a food processor. I have made this sauce several times before and though I can't handle spicy things, strangely, the dip seems to get hotter and hotter every time I make it and I cannot get enough of it! Great for dipping with tortilla crisps, but I must say it is delicious with cold chicken or prawns.

Dissertation is nearly done! Yay! Maybe I'll do a little dance now.

Jumbo Chilli Sauce
Recipe by Nigella Lawson

1 x 290 g jar roasted peppers (190 g drained weight)
3 red chillies
1 small garlic clove, peeled
zest of 1 lime, plus 1 tablespoon lime juice
80 g bunch fresh coriander (cilantro)
2 - 3 teaspoons sea salt flakes or to taste
125 ml ground nut oil or any flavourless oil

Drain the jar of roasted peppers and put them into the bowl of a food processor. Take the stalks off the chillies and add to the processor (de-seed them if you don't want the sauce really hot). Tip in the garlic clove, lime zest and juice. Cut the stalks of the coriander and add these too. Blend until paste-like.

Add the coriander leaves and salt and blend again. The gradually pour the oil down the funnel of the processor as the motor is running. It will come together as a sauce, runnier than salsa but is still soft and spoonable (rather than a pouring sauce).

Monday, 22 August 2011

I've been tagged... Seven Links

So, there's a game going around the blogging world called Seven Links. Basically there are seven questions that you must answer using your previous posts. My friend Elisabeth of Food and Thrift Finds tagged me, so here are my answers:

1. The most beautiful post

I must say, presentation is not a natural thing for me. I'm not very good with fancy plating or food origami and added to that my impatience and very amateur photography skill. But I do try from time to time and I just happen to really like the look of this Baked Cherry Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla Cream and Fresh Cherries that I baked for my friend Kelly for her farewell dinner. Runner Ups: French Fruit Tart, French Apple Tart, French Epiphany Pastry... Is it just me or you're also sensing a re-occurring theme here?

2. The most popular post

Thank you to the 'stats' thingy on blogger, I can check the most popular post on this blog and the title goes to these Sweet and Salty Crunchy Nut Bars. They are very addictive, so be very careful. Second in this category is the Fully Loaded Potato Skins. These potatoes are topped with crispy bacon. Enough said I think. Followed by Middle-Eastern inspired Sticky Semolina Cake. Also, very delicious.

3. The most controversial post

I must say this is a difficult one. I never posted anything controversial. Should I? Instead I'm going to tell you a controversial story about myself... errrr.... but I don't have one either *sigh... Perhaps a not so recent non-accidental, much needed public exposure at a well-known... wait, nobody wants to read about that... Next!

4. The most helpful post

Few months ago, on Red Nose Day, to raise money for a very good cause, my friends and I hosted a bake sale at work and this Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake was on offer and they were very popular. To this day, people at work still talk about it. I think it's actually a not-so-subtle-hint for me to bake this again and bring them to the office. Also on offer that day: Chocolate Guinness Cake and Clementine Cake.

5. Post that's surprisingly successful

Chocolate Beetroot Cake. Sounds weird but seriously, you have got to try it. Strangely, you won't really taste the beetroot, but they just blend beautifully with the cocoa and they keep the cake wonderfully moist.

6. Post that did not get attention it deserved

I absolutely love this Pear Tarte Tatin & Apple Ice Cream and I know you will too.

7. Post you are most proud of

This overnight slow-roasted pork is the last recipe from my "cook with Jamie" project almost a year ago. I really wanted to become a better cook and so I cooked my way through Jamie Oliver's My Guide to Making You a Better Cook - cookbook. I had a great time cooking, baking and tasting all 164 dishes in that book. I learned how to make fresh pasta, prepare live lobsters and crabs, oh, it was such fun looking back now. On the last day of the project, I invited some friends over for dinner and this pork was the star of the evening. It was so meltingly tender after about 8 hours of cooking and the crackling, oh the crackling... utterly delicious! Served with some greens, borlotti beans and few bottles of rose :)

I am actually rather surprised that some of the most searched posts in this blog are mainly desserts/baking posts. How interesting. Thank you again Elisabeth for the tag. I had fun compiling the answers. Now, as part of the game, I must tag 5 other bloggers, they are:

Angela at The Good Soup
Jenn at Jenn's Food Journey
Joanie at The Artist Chef
Maya at Foodiva's Kitchen
Pierre at Little Hungry Heart

I won't be offended if you decided not to play, but I'll probably like you less. Just kidding.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Omelette with Caramelised Red Onion and Mexican Cheddar

I really fancy an omelette for lunch earlier, possibly because I was watching Saturday Kitchen Live on the BBC with its weekly omelette challenge. Whilst watching the show I picked up Julia Child's book, a staple on my coffee table, and I perused through the eggs chapter in the book for some delicious inspiration. I am actually not that fussed, I quite like a 'plain' omelette, you know, eggs, salt, pepper and butter. But since it's the weekend, why not make it a special one.

As I was reading, I found a rather interesting technique for making l'omelette roulée:

Grasp the handle of the pan with both hands, thumbs on top, and immediately begin jerking the pan vigorously and roughly toward you at an eve, 20-degree angle over the heat, one jerk per second. It is the sharp pull of the pan toward you which throws the eggs against the far lip of the pan, then back over the bottom surface. You must have the courage to be rough or the eggs will not loosen themselves from the bottom of the pan. After several jerks, the eggs will begin to thicken.

Is it really just me? Are you thinking what I'm thinking? No? OK, maybe it's just me. I am easily amused. Sorry...

Anyway, when I finally managed to move myself from the sofa to the kitchen, I found a sad-looking leftover red onion in the fridge and a small piece of Mexican cheddar with bits of jalapeños and red pepper from last night's bean and cheese burrito. I sautéed the roughly diced red onions in some butter until translucent, letting the edges brown a bit. Then I added a little more butter, followed by a couple of eggs, salt and pepper, letting them settle until just starting to set before scattering the grated cheese. Working quickly, because I like my omelette slightly oozing, I folded the omelette gently with a spatula and it's time to eat.

It was so good or maybe I'm just greedy, I had to make myself another one. Who am I kidding.

Enjoy your weekend everyone.

Update: I did not upload a photo to go along with the post yesterday because I didn't think it's good enough. But since some of you asked for it, there you go :)

Saturday, 13 August 2011

French Apple Tart

I'm counting days now to my dissertation due date and not too worry, I think at the moment I have it under control... though I have a feeling, a last minute meltdown might be coming sometime closer to the hand-in date. Again, not to worry, you'll know about it sooner or later. But until that day comes, I'm gonna stay focus.

Now, to this delicious and beautiful French apple tart.

After several fun twists, this month's Random Recipe challenge goes "back to basics". Strict instructions from Dom, the master of this challenge:

...line up ALL your cookbooks
...give them a shuffle
...close your eyes and pick one book randomly
...close your eyes again and open the book at a random page
...cook that exact dish

The book I picked at random is, Barefoot Contessa - Back To Basics by Ina Garten. It's a coincidence, I swear.

For a really fast apple tart, you can use store bought frozen puff pastry, but just to show that I am not a cheater - well, sometimes I do cheat, but not this time - I made my own pastry.

French Apple Tart
Recipe by Ina Garten
Serves 6

For the pastry
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup ice water

For the apples
4 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small diced
1/2 cup apricot jelly or warm sieved apricot jam
2 tablespoons Calvados, rum or water

For the pastry, place the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits, the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. I use one of those reusable non-stick silicone baking mat. Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 x 14 inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a knife and melon baller. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4 inch thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. Sprinkle with the sugar and dot with the butter.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the pastry starts to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. Don't worry! The apple juice will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine! When the tart's done, heat the apricot jelly together with the Calvados and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee or anything you fancy.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, 8 August 2011

Mozzarella and Slow-cooked Tomatoes

It's been rather gloomy here the past few days, and I thought why not bring the summer inside. So, I cooked this simple mozzarella and slow cooked tomatoes. OK, the tomatoes take 3 hours to cook, but in the meantime, you could be doing other things. For me it's house chores or just about anything but the actual work I should be doing.

To serve this "summer on a plate", grill slices of country bread, then rub one side of each bread with garlic and drizzle with good olive oil. Pour yourself a well-chilled drinks and enjoy.

Mozzarella and Slow-cooked Tomatoes
Recipe by Stéphane Reynaud
Serves 6

12 heirloom tomatoes
8 garlic cloves
80 ml olive oil
fleur de sel
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
6 balls buffalo mozzarella
1 bunch basil, leaves picked

Preheat the oven to 100 C. Place the tomatoes in a roasting tin. Peel and chop the garlic, scatter the garlic over the tomatoes, add the olive oil, the fleur de sel and the herbes de Provence. Bake for 3 hours.

To serve, place 1 ball of mozzarella and 2 lukewarm tomatoes in each serving bowl and add some cooking juices and basil leaves.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Buttermilk Scones and Easy Strawberry Jam

My friend from work, Janet, recently announced that she is expecting her second child. Another colleague, Deanna and I thought it'll be nice to surprise her with a little congratulations party at work. So today we had some lovely treats to go with our afternoon tea or coffee.

Deanna baked some delicious red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting topped with edible red glitter. She also prepared some fruit kebabs made of strawberries, grapes and kiwis. Janet currently has cravings for salty food like pretzels and crisps, so we made sure there's plenty of that.

I cannot have afternoon tea/coffee without scones, so I baked a batch of Nigella's buttermilk scones. This is such an easy recipe. I measured out the dry ingredients last night and in the morning I just need to rub some butter and vegetable shortening, and mix in a tub of buttermilk to form a dough. Cut out into scones with fluted cutter and 12 minutes in hot oven... done, freshly baked scones.

With the scones, it's only right to have Cornish clotted cream and though I prefer a generous drizzle of golden syrup on top, today I went for a more traditional route and had strawberry jam... home-made strawberry jam.

It's true, you can buy perfectly decent strawberry jam from the store and it's quicker and cheaper, but you know, this feeling of smugness... is priceless. Nobody needs to know that it's so easy to make this jam.

Easy Strawberry Jam
Recipe by Ina Garten

3 pints fresh strawberries
3 cups superfine sugar (or use caster sugar)
2 tablespoons orange flavoured liqueur
1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and small-diced
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Place strawberries in a colander and rinse them under cold running water. Drain and hull the strawberries. Cut the larger berries in half or quarters and leave the small berries whole. Place the strawberries in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot (I use le creuset) and toss them with the sugar and the orange flavoured liqueur.

Bring the berry mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Add the apple and blueberries and continue to keep the the mixture at a rolling boil, stirring occasionally for about 25 to 35 minutes. Skim and discard any foam that rises to the top. Allow the mixture to room temperature and then store covered in the fridge. It will keep for at least 2 weeks. To keep the jam longer, pack and seal in sterilised jars.  

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Eating in Medan: Barbecued Pork Karonese Style

So, next in my eating adventure isn't actually in Medan, but not too far from there. Situated in the cool and pleasant highlands, is a beautiful little town called Berastagi, home to the expressive Batak Karo people. Berastagi is the about 2 hours drive from Medan and is a popular weekend getaway destination.

Beyond the town and green fields, Berastagi is also dominated by two volcanoes worth trekking: Gunung Sibayak and Gunung Sinabung. I believe they're both active volcanoes. But if that doesn't tickle your fancy, you can also visit the uber relaxing natural hot springs or the beautiful waterfalls.

One place my family and I love visiting is the farmers market which offers varieties of fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers all grown locally. Berastagi is famous for its passion fruits and oranges.

Outside the market, you can find many street stalls selling fresh sugar cane juice and steamed or grilled corn on the cob; also souvenirs shops and even pets... just look at these two adorable little bunnies.

Now, let's talk about the local food here. Batak people are mainly Christians, so they are not restricted to halal food. For pork lovers, you've got to try the BPK, an acronym for Babi Panggang Karo, meaning barbecued pork Karonese style which is adored by locals and has become nationally famous.

BPK consists of grilled pork slices with a couple of must-have accompaniments: a bowl of broth made from the essence of boiled pig's bones and a saucer of tongue-numbingly hot chilli sauce. Grab a plate, scoop in the rice and eat with your hands the way the locals do - you may find yourself asking for second. Did I have second? Don't be silly, of course I did.

We also had some tender grilled ribs. They're beautifully seasoned, sweet and sticky from the lovely coating of sweetened soy sauce marinade.

And because it's always good to have something green on the plate, cassava leaves. They are popular throughout Indonesia. I'm not sure what's exactly in this cassava leaves dish, but all I know is it's delicious.

The eating continues...