December 20, 2009

White Chocolate, Cranberry & Orange Shortbread

Flour, sugar, butter and salt are ingredients that, in my opinion, produce the worlds tastiest biscuit. Shortbread. Simple and perfect. So why mess with the charming simplicity of this Scottish marvel by adding white chocolate, orange zest and cranberries? Well, because simplicity goes hand in hand with versatility, which is why shortbread is so special. Mixed fruits and herbs, such as dried Apricots, Lavender, Rosemary and Thyme are great additions to shortbread, as is Parmesan cheese.

There are dozens of combinations that take shortbread to a whole new level and this is one of them.

The idea came after making a variety of chocolate truffles that included a white chocolate, cranberry and shortbread combination. I quickly realized that these festive flavours would be delicious in biscuit form.

This shortbread would make a lovely addition to your Christmas dessert table. It would also be delightful on Christmas Eve with an ice cold glass of milk. Something I'm sure, a white bearded man in a big red suit could attest to!

For us, Christmas this year will be a large affair. We have friends and family coming from all over. We will also be doing some traveling here and there. So, if I don't see you again before the holiday, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Makes about 30 biscuits

2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
2/3 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar) sifted
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
Finely grated zest of 1 orange

No need to cream the butter and sugar and all that other faff. Just put the flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, salt and orange zest into a large mixing bowl and stir until well combined. I find it easier to use my hands. Be sure not to overwork the dough. Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Divide the dough in half and shape into two logs, each about 1 1/2-inch-diameter. Wrap in cling film (plastic wrap) and refrigerate until firm, about 1-2 hours. You can also chill the dough in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.

Once chilled, preheat oven to 350F. Slice the logs into 1/4 inch slices. You may have to pat each slice a little to secure any loose bits of chocolate. Place biscuit slices 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

Note: I found that the shortbread was ever so slightly over baked at 15 minutes, but this happens to be the way I like it. Just something to keep in mind.

December 10, 2009

March of the Goat's Cheese Penguins

Adorable, fun, and tasty is how I would describe this little army of penguins. Granted, they are time consuming to make but you have to agree that their cuteness is worth it! Make them at your next party and I assure you, they will not be forgotten!

Plus, if you ever want to see a child eat an olive...this is how!

These funny little fellows are made up of five simple ingredients. Cream cheese, goats cheese, carrot and black olives. I added goats cheese to the cream cheese for additional flavour, but if you prefer, you can use cream cheese alone. You could also add garlic or onion seasoning for a little extra zest.

If stored in an air tight container, penguins will live happily in your fridge for up to 24 hours.

Oh and did you know that Penguins mate for life!? So cute!

Makes approximately 2 dozen penguins
Inspired by All Recipes

1 can extra large black olives, drained
1 can small black olives, drained
1 small tub cream cheese ( I used low fat )
3-4 tbls goats cheese (optional)
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
Cocktail sticks

Mix the cream cheese and goats cheese together thoroughly. Make a slit down the side of each extra large olive. Carefully stuff each one with the cream cheese mixture. Cut a small triangle out of each carrot slice to resemble feet. Make penguin beaks out of each triangle and place into the little hole of each small olive. Place a penguin body onto each carrot slice followed by the head, secured with a cocktail stick. Penguins are best served at room temperature.

December 2, 2009

Festive Pomegranate Couscous

I could bore you to tears by telling you how much I adore couscous and its immense flexibility. I could also go into a dizzying amount of detail about the history and origin of these wonderful semolina grains. Or, I could save you (and me) the time by simply telling you that this salad tastes amazing and is absolutely worthy of your efforts! If you don't mind, I'll go with the latter.

The salty feta cheese in this recipe is complemented by the sweet pomegranate seeds. The pine nuts offer a subtle crunch and the red onion produces just the right amount of bite. The glorious vibrancy of the fresh coriander is the perfect finishing touch.

Finally, the Red, White and Green colours that make up this salad remind me of Christmas and Christmas is, well...fabulous!

Serves 4-6

1 cup couscous
Just over 1 cup boiling chicken or vegetable stock ( I always add a tiny bit more stock than couscous )
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (substitute dried cranberries if desired)
1/3 cup good quality crumbled feta cheese
1/2 small English cucumber, diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Large handful coriander (cilantro) roughly chopped

Tip couscous into a bowl, pour over the boiling stock and cover with a tight fitting lid. Leave for about ten minutes.

Fluff up couscous with a fork. Add all of the salad ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Enjoy with a glass of fruity Rosé.

November 25, 2009

Baked Brie

Looking for the perfect appetizer? Look no further! And be ready, because this may be the tastiest thing you will ever eat!

A wheel of Brie, topped with a sweet caramelized onion jam, baked in a crisp puff pastry until wonderfully soft and gooey!

Simple? Yes! Calorific? Maybe. Worth it? Absolutely!

Make it...

Bake it....

Eat it...

Love it!

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Serves about 8-10

450g thawed puff pastry, about two sheets
1 large wheel of Brie, about 1 lb in size (do not remove the rind)
Good quality caramelized onion jam (I recommend Stonewall Kitchen)
1 egg, beaten
Fruit and crackers to serve

Preheat oven to 375F
Unroll the pastry sheets and place the brie in the center of one piece. Cut a circle approximately 1 inch larger than the round of brie. Make another circle with the second piece of pastry, this time measuring 1 inch or so bigger than the last. Top the brie with about 4 tbls of caramelized onion jam and place the second circle on top, joining the edges of both pastry rounds together.
Decorate as you please with the remaining pastry and brush with the beaten egg. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Serve with apples, grapes and crackers.

November 21, 2009

Assorted Chocolate Truffles

Chocoholics beware! These little balls of decadence are dangerously addictive!

Featured today are two of my favorite chocolate truffles, coated with a variety of ingredients.

A rich white chocolate truffle with crumbled shortbread, dried cranberries and a hint of orange zest, finished with a light dusting of powdered sugar. And a smooth dark chocolate truffle with a touch of amaretto, alternately rolled in cocoa powder, hazelnuts or pistachios.

Each are delicious and can easily be adjusted to your liking. For example: You could always substitute the amaretto for some cream liqueur, rum or even espresso? Throw in some raisins or dried cherries? Or keep it simple by adding just a teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract.

This is the perfect time of year to make up an assorted batch of truffles as they make delightful holiday gifts or party favours.

They are also great for dinner parties. A selection of each chocolate served with freshly made coffee is the perfect end to any meal.

Truffles can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for up to one month.

Recipes adapted from Bbc Good Food.

Makes approximately 50-60 truffles.

For the Dark Chocolate Truffles:
14 oz/400g good quality chocolate (60% cacao), chopped
150 ml double cream (heavy cream)
2 tbls amaretto liqueur (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract (if you aren't using amaretto)
50g pistachios, shelled and chopped
50g toasted hazelnuts, chopped
Cocoa powder as needed

Melt chocolate and cream together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
Once the chocolate has almost melted, remove from the heat and stir in the amaretto or vanilla extract. Cool and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight. If you chill the mixture overnight, be sure to remove it from the fridge 40 minutes or so before molding. Using a teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out the chocolate and roll into balls.

Have three trays ready, each filled with the pistachios, hazelnuts and cocoa powder. Divide several truffles between each tray and shake to coat. Repeat with the remaining truffles. Chill until needed and bring to room temperature before serving.

For the White Chocolate Truffles:
14 oz good quality white chocolate, chopped
150 ml double cream (heavy cream)
2 tsp grated orange zest
3 walkers shortbread fingers, roughly crushed
1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
Powdered sugar as needed

Melt chocolate and cream together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once the chocolate has almost melted, remove from the heat and stir. Once cooled slightly, stir in the orange zest, shortbread and cranberries.
Once mixture has cooled, refrigerate until firm. Unlike the dark chocolate mixture, this one can be rolled into balls straight from the fridge after overnight refrigeration. Roll into balls using a teaspoon or melon baller and coat in powdered sugar. Chill until needed.

November 12, 2009

Caramel Apple Dumplings

Have you ever tasted Autumn? I have, and for me it is apples stuffed with cinnamon, pecans and caramel; baked until tender, in a light and buttery puff pastry!

This old fashioned dessert is simple, filling and tasty. The tart apples paired with the sweet caramel, offer just the right amount of sweetness, creating the perfect balance.

I know some people like to add some kind of sugar based sauce to their dumplings, but here, there simply is no need. The apples are stuffed with a rich caramel that produces a wonderfully creamy and slightly runny center, eliminating the need for any sauce. The only thing needed at this point is vanilla ice cream and an extra hour at the gym :)

The most time consuming part of this recipe is making the caramel (Dulce de leche). The rest is as simple as it gets. If you are short on time, you could always use a good quality store bought Dulce de leche. Stonewall Kitchen makes a good one.

For convenience and ease I have used ready made puff pastry. But if you prefer the painstaking process of making your own, I applaud you!

Makes 4 dumplings.

4 small granny smith apples
1/2 cup caramel
1/3 cup roughly chopped pecans
2 sheets puff pastry
1 tsp cinnamon
A few tbls of brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
Vanilla ice cream to serve

Preheat oven to 375F.

Thin pastry out a little and cut into 4 squares. Reserve scraps for decoration.

Starting from the bottom, carefully core the apples to within 3/4 inch of the top. The aim here is to leave the stem intact for some rustic charm. Next, peel the apples.

Mix together the caramel, pecans and cinnamon. Spoon mixture into the apple cavities. Sprinkle the pastry squares with a little brown sugar. Carefully place each apple (stem side up) onto the center of each square. Moisten the pastry edges with a bit of water. Bring the edges of the pastry together pinching to seal around the stem. Decorate with leaves using leftover pastry.

Place dumplings on a baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until pastry is golden and the apples are just tender. Insert a toothpick to be sure. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

November 4, 2009

Bloody Mary Shots with Avocado Toasts

The holiday season is creeping up on us. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, it's all just around the corner and I am ready! Well, ready in spirit at least.

For obvious reasons, I love this time of year. There is always so much going on and so much of it involves entertaining with good food. Dinner parties, work parties, family get togethers etc...

These Bloody Mary shots and accompanying toasts are perfect for the party season! They deliver the "wow" factor along with maximum taste, all with minimal effort. The avocado toasts are fabulous on their own. The two combined; however, compliment each other beautifully. The tangy tomato juice, with it's spicy zing, is cleverly balanced out by the rich and creamy avocado toasts.

Having said that; it is surprisingly easy to make a bad Bloody Mary, especially for beginners. So, until you're comfortable with your bartending abilities, here are a few tips:
Always use 100% Tomato juice. Do not use V-8.
Good quality vodka is a must!
Seasonings such as celery salt and black pepper are essential.
Experiment with other key ingredients such as Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce to get an idea of your preferred ratio (see below). And finally, try to chill the mixture for as long as possible (preferably overnight) to allow all the flavours to mingle.

There is no rule as to how much Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice you should use, it all comes down to personal taste. I never skimp on the Tabasco though, as I like my Bloody Mary's with a kick! You could always make up a batch with all the ingredients minus the Tabasco. This way your guests can add as much or as little as they please? For this recipe I have stated the quantities that suit my taste. Feel free to adjust.

You can always make your Bloody Mary a Virgin Bloody Mary if you want to skip the alcohol. I'm sure it will taste just as good!

Adapted from BBC Good Food

Serves approximately 4-6 (depending on the size of your glasses)

Bloody Mary Mix:
500 ml 100% Tomato Juice
1 tsp horseradish
4 tbls vodka
1 tbls Tabasco ( This is more like a punch and a kick, so less if you're not up for it )
1 tbls Worcestershire sauce
1 tbls lemon juice
1/4 tsp celery salt
Finely ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Avocado Toasts:
1 large avocado
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 small English cucumber, finely diced
1 tomato, diced
1/2 lemon
Olive oil
8-12 Slices of a long, skinny baguette

Mix all Bloody Mary ingredients together and chill until needed.
Half the avocado, carefully scoop out the flesh with a spoon and finely dice. Mix the cucumber, tomato, red onion and avocado together with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt. Rub each toasted bread slice with a little olive oil. Spoon avocado mixture evenly onto the bread slices. Serve two toasts with each shot of Bloody Mary. Garnish with cucumber spears and enjoy!

October 28, 2009

Roasted Squash, Beetroot & Goat's Cheese Salad

This winter salad is bursting with flavour. It is simple, colourful and satisfying.

I love butternut squash for its nutty flavour and its tremendous versatility in the kitchen. I have prepared it in a variety of ways, sweet and savory, but I find that it is particularly yummy when roasted. Roasting butternut squash intensifies its flavour producing a wonderfully sweet and nutty taste with a deliciously silky texture. Roasted butternut squash is great in warm salads with ingredients such as goats cheese, pine nuts and peppery arugula.

So, when I came across this recipe recently, I knew I was going to love it and that it was destined to live happily on this blog. I jazzed up the dressing a little bit, added a few ingredients here and there, and as a result, was very happy with the finished dish.

I had never roasted beetroot before so I was interested to see how it came out. I didn't bother to peel it as I heard that the skin was delicious. And it was!

Feta can be substituted for goats cheese if you prefer. And to make the dish vegetarian, simply leave out the pancetta.

This salad is a great accompaniment to roast chicken. It is also pretty fantastic served with nothing more than a big glass of red wine!


Serves 4

1 large butternut squash, washed and cut into wedges (no need to peel)
4 medium beetroot, trimmed, scrubbed and cut into wedges
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
4-6 fresh sage leaves
200g (7 oz) soft goats cheese, crumbled
50g pine nuts, lightly toasted
200g diced pancetta or bacon
6 oz mixture of Spinach and Arugula/Rocket leaves

3 tbls balsamic vinegar
2 tbls olive oil
1 garlic clove crushed
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sugar or splenda (less if you have a sweeter balsamic)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. Place beetroot and butternut squash with the sage and thyme on a large roasting tray. Toss with 1 tbls olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 40 - 50 minutes (depending on the size of the pieces), turning half way through. Roast until the beetroot is tender and the squash is soft and golden.

Mix dressing ingredients together thoroughly. Refrigerate until needed. Fry pancetta or bacon until crisp, set aside.

When squash and beetroot are done, remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.
Arrange mixed salad leaves onto a large platter. Place butternut squash and beetroot on top.
Spoon over the crumbled goat's cheese and scatter with the pancetta and toasted pine nuts.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad or serve along side. Serve salad immediately.

October 21, 2009

French Onion Soup

My Dad's visit has come to an end, he is safely back in England and I miss him dearly. The day he left and the few days following were miserable. We had such a fantastic time. Not only did he take with him some lovely memories, pictures, and souvenirs, he also took the weather! For his entire visit the weather was beautiful. Perfectly warm and sunny during the day as well as wonderfully crisp and chilly in the evening. However, the moment he left the weather took a turn for the worse! Rain and dreariness all around!

So, to make the most of the dreary weather and to alleviate my grey mood, I am turning to pure comfort food. Otherwise known as.. French Onion Soup!

Sweet caramelized onions simmered in a rich beef stock, topped with a thick slice of french bread that is covered with ridiculous amounts of melted, bubbly cheese...Delicious!

The secret to a good French Onion Soup is 'Patience'. Caramelizing the onions is time consuming but essential to this dish. You need approximately one hour or more of cooking time for the onions to slowly release their natural sugars and to become completely caramelized.

After the caramelization process, some add Cognac, Sherry, red or white wine to deglaze the pan and to add depth of flavour to the soup. In my opinion, sherry produces the most "authentic" taste.

Another tip is to simmer the soup slowly for as long as possible to ensure all of those wonderful ingredients have plenty of time to mingle.

The type of cheese that is traditionally used in French Onion Soup is 'Gruyere'. If this is not available you could substitute sharp Cheddar or any other good melting cheese.

Chopping all of those onions can be a daunting and tearful process, but whenever I am about to get up close and personal with a large amount of onions I am always armed with a newly sharpened chef knife and my onion goggles! They may look ridiculous, but I'm telling you, they work!

Serves 4-6

3 tbls butter
6 large yellow onions, halved and sliced ( This will seem like a very large amount of onions, but once caramelized they will reduce significantly in volume. )
8 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup medium-dry sherry
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen string
2 bay leaves
4-6 slices of day old french bread
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere

Over a medium heat, melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot (I used my 7 qt Le Creuset pot). Add sliced onions and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Note: Your pot will be full with onions, however, in time they will cook down.
Cook onions, stirring occasionally for about 45-50 minutes. At this point the onions should be golden and slightly sticky. Adjust heat if necessary. Add the garlic and continue cooking for a further 20-25 minutes or until the onions are brown, sticky and the bottom of the pan has accumulated a delicious dark brown glaze.

Increase heat and add sherry scraping up all the crispy bits. Once sherry has evaporated add the beef stock, thyme and bay leaves. Stir, bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer gently for two hours, stirring every now and then. Remove and discard herbs, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Note: This part can be made up to two days ahead. Just reheat before ladling into bowls and adding croutons.

10 minutes before serving, toast the french bread. Ladle soup into ovenproof bowls and top each one with a slice of toasted bread. Top with generous amounts of cheese and broil until the cheese is golden and bubbly.

Serve with a small glass of Sherry if desired.

October 4, 2009

My Dad is coming to town!

I am so excited about this, I just had to share it with the world!

My father is coming to visit for the first time since I came to America! Not only is it his first time visiting me (5 years Dad..tut-tut!), it is also his very first visit to the USA! He will be here for two whole weeks!

I plan to cram as much sightseeing, walking, talking, dining and hugging as I can into those 14 precious days! So, for the next few weeks I will not be making yummy food, I will however, be making wonderful memories.

I will be back soon with recipes, pictures and more...

September 27, 2009

Chorizo, Sweet Potato & Butterbean Soup with Feta & Thyme Toasts

The Summer has officially ended and the belly warming food season has begun! I thought I would kick things off with this deliciously warming soup.

This chunky soup (or stew if you like) is everything you could possibly want on a chilly Autumn night. Made mostly from store cupboard ingredients, it is simple, hearty, healthy, and full of flavour.

Chorizo and beans are made for each other, but by adding tomatoes, onions, and sweet potatoes as well as crispy feta toast to the dish, a mouth watering combination is created.

I love the addition of sweet potatoes in this soup. Their natural sweetness is a wonderful contrast to the somewhat spicy chorizo. Butternut squash would also be very good. For this recipe, I like to roast the sweet potatoes first and add them to the soup near the end. This way they don't break into a soggy mush. This may be OK for some recipes but here, the soup is already quite thick. You can even throw in some greens if you like. Maybe some Swiss chard or kale would be good?

Either way this soup is not to be ignored. So, get your comfy's on, pour yourself a glass of wine and get ready for some belly warming yumminess!

Serves 4

For the soup:

150g dry-cured Spanish chorizo, skinned and roughly chopped
1 14 oz can butter beans, rinsed and drained
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
60ml white wine
400ml chicken stock
1 large sweet potato
1 onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbls tomato paste
2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp sugar

For the feta and thyme toasts:

4-6 slices of ciabatta or french baguette about 1/2 inch thick
4 heaped tbls crumbled feta cheese
2 tbls olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 375F

Scrub sweet potatoes. (No need to peel). Cut into 1-2cm chunks and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes. Turn and cook for a further 15 minutes or until crisp and browned.

Heat 1 tbls olive oil in a large pan and fry chorizo until it starts to crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside onto a paper towel. Add onion to the pan and cook until just softened. Add the garlic and paprika and cook for a further 30 seconds or so. Add chorizo back to the pan followed by the white wine, scraping up any crispy bits . Once the wine has evaporated add the stock, tomato paste, tomatoes and sugar. Season and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Add butter beans and cook for a further 5- 10 minutes. Stir in the roasted sweet potatoes and serve.

About 10 minutes before the soup is completed, prepare the feta and thyme toasts. Mix together the olive oil, feta, garlic and thyme until creamy. Spread equal amounts onto each slice of bread. Place under a preheated grill or broiler for 2-3 minutes or until crisp and golden. Serve with the soup.

September 20, 2009

Goat's Cheese and Red Pesto Chicken

Chicken, prosciutto, pesto and goat's cheese. Need I say more? OK, maybe a little...

I make this deliciously simple dish over and over again. It is near effortless, healthy and satisfying. And in my mind, anything that delivers maximum satisfaction with minimum effort is worth sharing.

I have prepared this chicken at times using red, green, or walnut pesto as well as mixed olive tapenades, all of which are delicious! However, for today's recipe I have chosen red pesto. Out of all of my previous variations, this is my favorite. Enjoy!

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts
100g soft goat's cheese
2-3 tbls good quality red pesto
4 slices prosciutto

Preheat oven to 400F

Mix the goat's cheese and pesto together until well combined.

Cut a slit into the side of each chicken breast and fill with the goat's cheese pesto mixture. Wrap two slices of prosciutto around each chicken breast. Season and place onto a lightly greased baking tray. Cook for about 20-25 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with roasted vine tomatoes.

September 13, 2009

Mini Banoffee Pies

Banoffee pie, (a combination of the words"Banana" and "Toffee") is a true classic. It also happens to be one of the easiest desserts to make! A little bit of boiling, crushing, slicing, whipping and voila, you have yourself a culinary delight!

Sweetened condensed milk plays an essential role in the making of banoffee pie. After boiling it for several hours the milk caramelizes and turns into a wonderfully rich Dulce de leche. This is the yummy toffee like filling that banoffee pie is known for.

Boiling an unopened can of milk may alarm some people; however, I can tell you that this is a safe and normal part of the banoffee making procedure. Having said that, do use extreme care when doing this. Make sure you completely submerge the can of milk in water. Never let the water evaporate below the can of milk. And keep topping up with water when necessary.

As delicious as this popular pie is, it is known for its "rich" reputation. It's sweetness can be somewhat overpowering. A lot of the time I struggle just to finish a small piece. So, I decided to make baby banoffees! A crisp buttery base with a gooey caramel filling, sliced banana and fresh whipped cream... all in one bite! Perfect!

Try these babies with some freshly brewed coffee. Delicious!

Makes about 15 mini pies, with plenty of leftover caramel for ice cream!

200g Walkers shortbread or any other good quality shortbread
50g butter, melted
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1-2 bananas, sliced
Small carton of heavy whipping cream / Double cream
A good chunk of Cadburys milk chocolate, grated

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Peel the wrapper from the can of milk and add it (unopened) to the boiling water. Reduce heat slightly to a slow boil. Boil for 2 1/2 hours. Topping up with water when necessary.

Preheat oven to 325F
Crush the biscuits in a food processor into fine crumbs. Add butter and whiz again until well combined.
Press the biscuit mixture into greased mini muffin or tart pans. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes. Allow to cool and then chill until firm.

Whisk whipping cream until nice and thick and refrigerate until needed.

When the milk is ready, remove from the water and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, open and stir well.

Carefully remove tart shells from the muffin pan. Place a small spoonful of the caramelized milk into each tart shell. Top each one with a slice of banana.

Add a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with chocolate.
Serve immediately or chill for up to 24 hours.

September 6, 2009

Coconut Dhal

Dhal has to be one of my all time favorite Indian dishes. It is impossible for me not to order this popular dish when dining at an Indian restaurant.

Dhal can be eaten as a main dish served with rice or naan bread. It also makes a wonderful accompaniment to a wide variety of other Indian dishes, especially dryer dishes such as biryiani or pilaf.

Dhal is always a popular addition to my Indian feasts. Not only is it delicious and easy to make, it is also incredibly nutritious. Lentils are a great source of inexpensive protein and are high in soluble fiber and iron.

This recipe is a particular favorite as the addition of coconut milk makes an interesting digression from the more traditional versions of dhal.

The variety of spices added to dhal at the end of cooking is commonly known as "Tarka" or "Tadka." A variety of ingredients such as fresh or dried chilis, onions, garlic, cumin or mustard seeds are fried in a small amount of oil or ghee and then added to the dhal before serving to impart flavour.

Any leftover dhal is great for lunch the next day spread on pita bread topped with a tomato, cucumber and onion salad. Yum!

Makes 4 Servings

Dhal :
250g red lentils
400ml coconut milk ( light is fine)
300ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp tumeric
1tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

Put all the above ingredients in a pan. Stir well and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, stirring every now and then.

1 onion sliced
1 garlic clove sliced
Handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)
2 tsp black mustard seeds (optional)
3-4 tbls olive oil

Fry onion and garlic in oil until nice and crisp. Add the coriander and mustard seeds and cook for a further 30 seconds or so. Pour mixture over the lentils. Garnish with fresh coriander.

Recipe adapted from BBCGF.

August 30, 2009

Portobello Mushroom Burgers with Blue Cheese & Bacon

I am, by no means, a vegetarian but If I had to choose between a juicy beef burger or a juicy portobello
mushroom the mushroom would win hands down!

The fact is, I feel less guilty about tucking into the juicy goodness of a meaty mushroom and quite frankly, more satisfied. There is just something about the rich earthiness of portobellos that make me feel wonderfully sated.

The thing I like about this recipe is that it's deliciously tasty with or without the bacon. Satisfying vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

To experience the full potential that this burger has to offer, you must marinate the mushroom for as long as you can. I try to marinate mine for about 6-8 hours.

Once the portobello has been marinated you can pretty much do with it what you please. Adding bacon and blue cheese is my favorite variation but if you aren't a big fan of blue cheese, experiment with other cheeses such as feta, goat's or cheddar.

Whatever you decide this burger has everything going for it. So, go ahead, get marinating and start loving!

Serves 2

2 portobello mushrooms, stemmed
About 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
4 rashers lean bacon
Sliced tomato
Sliced red onion
Bread rolls of your choice


2 tbls balsamic vinegar
1-1/2 tbls olive oil
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper

Mix marinade ingredients together thoroughly.
Wipe mushrooms clean with a damp cloth or paper towel. Place in a flat dish, gill side up. Pour marinade over mushrooms and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Remove mushrooms from marinade and fill each one with a generous amount of blue cheese. Wrap two slices of bacon around each mushroom.

Place in a 425F preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Grill or broil for an additional 2 minutes to crisp the bacon and brown the cheese. Let the mushrooms cool for 5 minutes or so.

Place a slice of tomato onto your roll followed by a slice of red onion. Top with the mushroom and enjoy!

August 23, 2009

Crispy Gnocchi Salad

Have you heard about the pan-fried gnocchi sensation? I discovered it last summer and have had a slight obsession with it ever since. I have served this culinary marvel using a variety of methods; however, today's recipe has to be my absolute favorite way of presenting pan-fried gnocchi!

The crispy goodness works wonderfully in this salad with the creamy goat's cheese. In addition, the tangy goat's cheese compliments the intense fruitiness of the sunblush tomatoes. Furthermore the sausage adds that "extra something" that any good carnivore would appreciate. And finally the red onion creates just the right amount of sharpness that produces the perfect overall balance. It is, you could say, a combination made in heaven.

There is an added bonus: You can prepare most of the ingredients in advance. Up to 24 hours in advance if you wish!
I would; however, advise that you cook the gnocchi 10-20 minutes before serving. If you refrigerate it, the gnocchi will become chewy and lose its crispiness.

So here it is...My Crispy Gnocchi Salad..

Serves 4-6

1 pound fresh gnocchi
4 good quality sausages, sliced, (I like Aidells - Organic Sweet Basil and Roasted Garlic)
1/2 cup sunblush tomatoes
6 oz leafy salad greens
6 oz soft goat's cheese, crumbled or rolled into balls, time consuming, but pretty :)
Small red onion, thinly sliced


1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbls olive oil
1 tsp truffle oil ( optional, but highly recommended )
1 tbls dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt

Whisk the dressing ingredients together thoroughly until thick and refrigerate until ready to use.
Note: The quantity of each ingredient in this dressing is perfect for me; however, if you feel that it is too tangy for your taste, just add a little more salt or olive oil until you achieve your desired taste.

In a large skillet, over a medium high heat, saute sausage until nicely browned. Remove from skillet and set aside to cool. Wipe pan clean and heat a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add gnocchi and cook until golden and crisp all over. Between 3-5 minutes per side. Season with salt and set aside to cool. Once the sausage and gnocchi is at room temperature start preparing the salad.

On a large platter, place a layer of the salad greens. Top with the gnocchi, sausage, tomatoes, red onion and goat's cheese. Serve with the dressing on the side.

August 15, 2009

Halloumi Parcels with Lemon, Chili & Thyme

Halloumi is a magic cheese with a stubborn streak. When exposed to extreme temperatures it simply refuses to melt!

Instead, it retains its firm shape and develops a beautiful crisp exterior with just the right amount of internal gooeyness. Originating from Cyprus, this squeaky, tangy, somewhat salty cheese is made from a combination of sheep and goat's milk.
It is wonderfully versatile and can be grilled or fried within minutes, making it the ideal choice for an appetizer or quick snack. It also works well as a meat alternative and is a great accompaniment to a couscous or lentil salad. Delicious!

For something simple serve halloumi sliced and grilled with nothing more than some freshly squeezed lemon juice. For something fancy try today's dish inspired by a recipe from BBC Good Food. I changed the ingredients and cooking method slightly and found that the new variation of flavours complimented each other beautifully.

Makes 4 Parcels

200g block Halloumi cut into 4 slices
4 coloured peppers
4 18" pieces of kitchen string that have been soaked in water for 20 minutes

1 tbls olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbls) plus 1 tsp zest
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp crushed chili flakes
Black pepper

Mix the marinade ingredients together thoroughly and pour over the halloumi slices. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 24 hours.
Place peppers (whole) in a 450F preheated oven. Roast until just soft enough to wrap around the cheese. About 25-30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes or so. When cool enough to handle, make a cut down the side of each pepper to open it out. The skin can easily be removed at this point, if preferred.
Remove seeds and trim into neat strips. Place a slice of halloumi in the center of each strip then carefully wrap the pepper around it.

Tie each one with the kitchen string.
The parcels can now be refrigerated for up to 2 hours. When ready to serve, place parcels under a preheated broiler or grill for about 3-4 minutes per side or until the cheese begins to soften and brown at the ends. Serve immediately. Garnish with pretty herbs like mint or thyme.

Note: If you're short on time, skip the peppers and just grill the cheese on it's own, basting frequently with the marinade. You could always top with some roasted red peppers from a jar mixed with a few olives or herbs!

August 7, 2009

Chorizo Brunch Pots

Saturday is breakfast (or brunch) day at our house. Whether it be blueberry pancakes at our local diner, takeaway coffee and a muffin in the park or more often than not, something I create at home in the kitchen. Whatever it may be, it is always a pleasant and refreshing digression from the habitual weekday breakfast.

This dish is a particular favorite. Mainly because it is healthy (for the most part), easy, fast and deliciously satisfying.

For this recipe I use authentic dry-cured Spanish chorizo, available at most deli counters in specialty supermarkets. It is made from coarsely chopped pork that is seasoned with smoked paprika (sweet or hot), garlic, herbs and salt. Dry cured chorizo is ready to eat and may be served as part of a Tapas or Antipasti. It also lends an incredible depth of flavour to a variety of cooked dishes such as baked chicken or fish, bean soups or stews, paella, risottos, frittatas and more.

I typically use my Staub cocottes to make these lovely individual dishes but if you prefer, you can prepare this recipe in a medium sized baking dish, with one egg per person to be served, cracked on top.

Makes 4 individual portions

1 tbls olive oil
4 oz (125 g) chorizo, skinned and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 14 oz (400g) can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz can canellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbls tomato paste/puree
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp crushed chili flakes
4 eggs
salt and pepper

To skin the chorizo, carefully run the tip of your knife along it's length while applying gentle pressure. Starting with the slit at either end of the sausage, pull back the skin and discard. Thickly slice chorizo and chop into chunks.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.
Add chorizo and cook for 2 minutes or until just starting to crisp.
Remove chorizo from the pan, and drain on paper towel.
Add the onion to the chorizo oil in the pan. Cook for a few minutes, until softened but not browned.
Add the garlic, paprika and chili flakes and cook for another minute or so.
Add the chorizo back to the pan along with the tomato paste, chicken stock and tomatoes. Add a pinch of sugar and bring mixture to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Add the beans and season with salt and pepper.
Simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F

Divide tomato mixture between 4 8oz mini cocottes or ramekins.
With the back of a spoon, make a little indent in the middle of each dish.
Crack an egg into each one and bake for about 12-15 minutes or until egg whites are cooked and yolks are still runny.

Serve with warm crusty bread.

July 28, 2009

Lemon, Shortbread And Raspberry Dessert Shots

The inspiration for these dessert shots came to me after dining out on numerous occasions and wanting just a "taste" of something sweet after my meal. Unless I'm feeling voracious or plan on running for 5 miles the following day, the last thing I want in front of me is an oversized portion of double chocolate fudge brownies with vanilla ice cream and lashings of caramel sauce! As tempting as that sounds, unless there are two or three desirous bellies sitting with me at the table, I almost always resist.

I'm sure there are some restaurants out there that give you the pleasure of choosing between a shot of tequila or a shot of creme brulee? I have yet to come across one but if you know of any I would love to hear about them!

These shots are perfect for people that enjoy dessert in "smaller" quantities. They are particularly fun to serve at dinner parties, or any kind of party for that matter!

Oh, and did I mention that they were incredibly easy to make!

Makes approximately 10, depending on the size of your glasses. I used these.

1/2 cup (4 oz ) whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream, I used reduced fat
1/2 cup good quality lemon curd
6 oz raspberries, plus extra for garnishing
6 Walkers shortbread fingers, or any other good quality shortbread
Lemon slices to garnish

With an electric hand mixer, whisk whipping cream until thick and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. If you don't have an electric hand mixer, whisk until both arms start to ache :)
Add sour cream and whisk for another minute or so.
Add lemon curd and mix until thoroughly combined.

Rinse raspberries. Set aside 1 raspberry for every dessert shot you make. These will be your garnish.

Place the rest of the raspberries in a small bowl and crush lightly with the back of a spoon. Add enough sugar to take away the bitterness. I used 1/2 tsp for 6 0z.

Chill in the fridge along with the lemon cream for at least 2-3 hours. The longer the better.

Place the shortbread into a medium to large sized zip-lock bag. Using a rolling pin or meat pounder, crush the shortbread into coarse crumbs. Be sure to leave a few good chunks in there.

Note: All of the above can be done 24 hrs prior to serving.

Depending on how many shots you will be preparing and how fast you are, allow at least 15 minutes to prepare 10, as they can be a bit fiddly.

With a small spoon or piping bag, put a layer of the raspberry sauce into each glass.
Add a layer of lemon cream.
Then a layer of shortbread.
And then another layer of cream, etc..
Finish at the top with a layer of cream.
Garnish each glass with a raspberry and a small slice of lemon.