Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pasta with Saffron, Celery, Capers and Raisins

I have bookmarked this recipe quite a while ago. The combination of ingredients seemed intriguing to me. I can imagine that this dish is not everyone's cup of tea, but I liked it a lot. It's an interesting combination of sweet, salty and sour flavours. It's easy to make and good both hot or cold, as a pasta salad. I like it served with pecorino cheese.

(from: here)

6 stalks celery (around 180g)
90ml olive oil
30g pine nuts
40g capers, plus 2 tbsp of their brine
10 large green olives (40g), pitted and cut into 1cm dice
1 good pinch saffron, mixed with 1 tbsp hot water
1½ tsp white-wine vinegar
100g raisins, soaked in water
250g pasta
30g chopped parsley
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grated parmesan (or pecorino), optional

Trim any leaves from the celery (save them for later) and cut the stalks into 1cm dices. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the diced celery and pine nuts. Over high heat, fry, stirring all the while, for a minute or two until the nuts begin to brown (take care as they can easily burn). Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the capers and their brine, the olives, saffron and its water, the vinegar and the drained raisins. Set aside.

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain into a colander and shake well. Tip the pasta into the pan, place over medium high heat and, stirring gently, quickly heat through. Once hot, stir in the parsley, lemon zest, garlic and lots of black pepper. Taste and add salt if needed.

Transfer to serving plates or bowls, scatter the reserved celery leaves on top and finish with a little cheese, if you like.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chocolate Ricotta Pound Cake with Lime

Last Friday, when I went outside for lunch, I noticed it: Spring is on the way! Can you feel it, too? Maybe that's why I had the spontaneous idea to add some lime to this chocolate ricotta pound cake I had planned for the weekend - something green :-) And that is one delicious cake, let me tell you! The ricotta gives it a wonderful density, and the lime adds a fresh and juicy touch.

(slightly adapted from: Poires au Chocolat)

3 tbsp cocoa powder
2.5 tbsp boiling water
2 eggs
1 tsp vanila extract
145g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
130g soft butter
200g ricotta
140g caster sugar
2 limes
icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 20cm diameter springform pan with parchment paper.

Mix together the cocoa powder and boiling water and let cool. When it is cool, whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract and put aside. Sift the flour and baking powder into another bowl. Cream the butter, ricotta and sugar together with a hand mixer at medium speed until it is light and fluffy (3-4 minutes). Add zest of one lime and the juice of half a lime. Add 1/3 of the chocolate mixture, beat to combine, then add a 1/3 of the flour. Repeat this until all is combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and bake for about 30-40 minutes. A skewer should come out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes before turning out.

For the icing mix together about 100g icing sugar with as much lime juice as you need until you have a creamy mixture that you can spread over your cake. Scatter grated zest of one lime on your cake.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Oatmeal Cookies with Salted Chocolate

At the moment, these are my favourite cookies! I made them last weekend and I'm even thinking of making them again today. They're from Trish's I love Cake. Turns out that every single recipe from that book is a hit. These are made with salted butter and since I like the combination of salt and chocolate a lot, I decided to decorate these cookies with salted dark chocolate instead of plain chocolate. The decorating-part is much fun by the way, a bit like painting!

(From: Trish Deseine - I love Cake)

100g icing sugar
210g salted butter, softened
220g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
50g rolled oats
50g milk chocolate
50g dark chocolate  
(I just used 100g salted dark chocolate instead of 50g milk chocolate and 50g dark chocolate)

Beat butter and icing sugar until foamy. Add flour, baking powder and rolled oats all at once. Work it with your fingers until you have a firm dough. Form the dough into a roll of about 10cm diameter (mine was less then 10cm). Put in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (I left mine overnight).

Preheat the oven to 150°C.

Take out of the refrigerator and cut the roll into slices (about 0.5cm thick). Place onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until they begin to get golden brown. Take out of the oven, let cool on the tray for a few minutes. Then, let cool on a wire rack.

When the cookies are cooled completely, melt the chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Take a teaspoon and just spread the chocolate over the cookies.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Peanut Butter Blondies with Milk Chocolate Chips

Brown or blond, I gave Sarah and Anina the choice on our ladies' evening this week. As much as I like the brownies from last weekend... I'm totally fond of these peanut butter blondies, but you guys didn't expect anything else, did you? They're loaded with sugar and peanut butter... chewy, gooey, sinful... The addict's new favourite ;-)

(slightly adapted from: Joy the Baker)

140g butter
400g dark brown sugar
250g smooth peanut butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
0.5 teaspoon salt
250g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g milk chocolate, chopped into pieces

Preheat oven to 160°C.  Line a 23x33cm brownie tin with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and sugar together until the butter is just melted. Remove from the plate and let cool for about 5 minutes, then add the peanut butter.  Stir until incorporated. Let cool for another 5 minutes, then whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. The sugar, butter and peanut butter mixture should be cool enough so that the eggs won’t begin to cook when they’re added. Add milk chocolate chips.

Mix salt, flour and baking powder.  Add dry ingredients all at once to the wet ingredients.  Stir until just incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out. The batter will be pretty thick.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the blondies comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool. Joy makes these with a milk chocolate frosting which, I bet, is delicious, too!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chocolate and Orange Muffins

Yesterday's family day was great! We had a lot of fun and I think, I haven't laughed so much in weeks :-) My dad has developed a passion for cooking as well over the past few years and he cooked a delicious meal for us! Baking is not so much his thing, so, as I said, that was my part. I did not only bring along brownies. Though the brownies were the big hit, those muffins were pretty popular, too. I used Leila Lindholm's basic muffin recipe which I like very much. The orange zest and the dark chocolate are a great combination.

(slightly adapted from: Leila Lindholm - Piece of Cake)

100g butter
200ml milk
Grated zest of one lemon
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract/vanilla sugar
240g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
Grated zest of two oranges
200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a muffin tray with 12 moulds with paper cups.

Melt butter in a little saucepan, let cool slightly. Then, add lemon zest and milk. In a bowl, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla until foamy. Add the lukewarm butter-milk-mixture. Add orange zest. Then, sift in flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until well combined. Add about 3/4 of the chocolate and mix well.

Fill the dough into your prepared paper cups. Top with the remaining chocolate pieces. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Macademia and White Chocolate Brownies

Lately, I've been telling people that they should bake brownies for their beloved... and suddenly, I realised that I haven't baked brownies in ages. I'm visiting my dad tomorrow - I haven't seen him in a long time and I'm looking forward to a big family get-together! Of course, dessert is my part! Brownies... brownies are the right choice for this.

This recipe is from one of my dearest cookbooks. I got it as a present about a year ago and it's about time I start trying out more recipes from it! So here we go... Get ready for loads of chocolate, butter, sugar and nuts... If you want to eat healthy, you should probably better try Ottolenghi's fabulous salads... but we're not talking about salad now, we're talking brownies!

(from Ottolenghi - The Cookbook)

200g macademia nuts
200g butter
280g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
300g dark chocolate (I used 70%)
2 eggs
230g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract, or vanilla sugar
2 tsp instant coffee
200g white chocolate, broken into pieces (I used 100g only)

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Pour the nuts onto a baking tray and roast them in the oven for about 5 minutes. Then, remove them from the oven. Line a 22cm square tin (I used my usual brownie tin) with parchment paper.

Put butter and dark chocolate (broken into pieces) in a saucepan and melt slowly over low heat. As soon as it all has melted, remove from the stove. Let cool slightly. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla extract. Add instant coffee. When this has just combined, fold in the melted chocolate and then sift in the flour. Fold in white chocolate and half of the nuts.

Pour your mixture into the prepared tin and top with the remaining nuts. Bake for about 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then remove from the tin and cut into pieces. The brownies keep for about 5 days, if stored in an airtight container.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

There's nothing like the smell of brown butter... Here, it is combined with nutmeg, rolled oats and dried cherries... These cookies have a wonderful consistency... chewy, yet crisp... and what a fantastic combination of flavours... My oh my these cookies! 

(slightly adapted from the lovely Poires au Chocolat)

115g butter
85g flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
120g brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
135g rolled oats
100g dried cherries (cranberries or raisins work, too)

Melt the butter in a wide pan. Keep heating and let it foam up. When the foam starts to reside, rusty brown flecks appear and it starts smelling fantastic, scrape the butter into a bowl to cool.

In another bowl, whisk the sugar, egg and vanilla together until smooth. In another bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together. Once the brown butter is down to body temperature, whisk into the egg mix. Stir in the flour mixture until everything is combined. Then, add the oats and cherries. Cover the bowl and put into the fridge to chill for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Scoop out tablespoonfuls of dough onto a sheet - leave a few inches gap between them. Place into the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. They should be golden and crisp on the outside. Cool on a rack.

(You can also freeze the cookies, scoop tablespoonfuls of dough onto a sheet and freeze, then put into a bag the next day. If you bake them from the freezer, bake them for about 12 minutes.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Zucchini Cake with Macademias and Chocolate

This zucchini cake from Miriam's fabulous blog Once Upon A Cakestand is just great! The smell of the spices is pretty strong, but I like that a lot. If you don't want the spices to come through so strongly, slightly reduce the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg. You can also substitute the macademias with other nuts, or use raisins or dried cranberries instead of the chocolate chunks. Miriam suggests that "if you want to be really kinky, pour over some chocolate glaze". Well, talk to me about kinky! Since the recipe yields two loaves, I decided to cover one with cream cheese frosting and the other with my favourite chocolate glaze! One for this weekend's afternoon tea and the other for my office mates tomorrow.

(slightly adapted from Once Upon A Cakestand)

3 eggs
250ml olive or vegetable oil
160g sugar
about 280g grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
330g flour
4 teaspoons cinnamon
a generous pinch nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
100g chopped macademia nuts
100g chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line two 25cm loaf pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat eggs with a whisk. Add oil and sugar, then zucchini and vanilla. Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and salt, as well as macademias and chocolate chips. Add this to the egg mixture. Divide the batter into prepared pans. Bake the loaves for about 60 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, with my cakes, it took about 50 minutes.

Chocolate glaze: Get the recipe here.

Cream Cheese Icing: With an electric mixer, combine 200g cream cheese (room temperature), 250g icing sugar and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Or, instead of the vanilla extract, you could also use 1 tablespoon lemon juice and grated zest of one lemon. Mix until smooth and spread over your cake.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Carrot Peanut Butter Soup

Need something to get you through the cold winter days? I've got just the right thing for you! The warming flavour of carrots with a hint of spicy cayenne pepper combined with peanut butter... I haven't ever thought about using peanut butter for soups, but I was totally intrigued when Andrea told me about this recipe. Let me just say that I liked it very much! A soup with substance :-)

(adapted from an unknown source)

600g carrots, peeled and chopped into about 1.5cm pieces
1 onion, chopped
7dl vegetable stock
olive oil
3-5 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (I used 4)
about 0.5dl cream (25% fat), the original recipe calls for coconut milk
a piece of ginger (2cm), I had none at home so I used powdered ginger
1 chilli, chopped, had none at home so I used cayenne pepper
I added: runny honey

Pour olive oil into a mid-size saucepan. Put the heat on and put in the chopped onion first, sauté for a minute or so, add the carrot pieces and sauté for about 4 minutes. (If you got ginger and chilli, add at this point). Pour in the vegetable stock and let cook for about 20 minutes until carrots are soft. Add peanut butter and purée with an immersion blender. The soup will get pretty thick. I used about 0.5dl cream and some water to get the consistency I wished for, that's up to you. Add some honey (I used runny acacia honey) and spices. This is also something which depends on personal taste, try and see how much ginger, chilli and salt you like. I think the soup gets better after a day or so.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Banana, Cherry and White-Chocolate Muffins

The banana coconut cake unexpectedly turned into a big hit last week! It's funny that, most of the time, the simplest cakes are people's favourites. So here comes another easy recipe with bananas, since everyone seemed to like this flavour so much. Again, it is a recipe where you can change some of the ingredients according to your taste... how about milk or dark chocolate? Or, for those who liked the combination of bananas and coconut, why don't you try and substitute the sour cream with coconut milk?! I guess that should work. You could add chopped nuts... just go with your intuition!

(slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson - How to be a Domestic Goddess)

125g butter
200g brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ripe mid-sized bananas (I had 2 more bananas and decided to use them for decoration)
60ml sour cream (had none at home so I used about 6 tablespoons of heavy cream)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
300g plain flour
40g dried cherries, chopped
50g white chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Prepare your muffin tin with paper cases.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Mash the bananas with a fork. In a bowl, mix melted butter with sugar, vanilla extract and bananas. Stir in sour cream and eggs and beat with a ladle. Add baking soda and baking powder. Then, add flour, cherries and chocolate.

Fill the mixture into the muffin cases. Cut the remaining bananas into thin slices and place three of them onto each muffin. Bake for about 20 minutes until the muffins are golden brown and springy on top. Then, take out of the oven, leave in the tin for about 10 minutes, then, cool on a wire rack.

I got 17 muffins.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Lemon Cake with Sugar Crust

Many people I know have caught a cold over the last few days. Sarah, on our weekly "dinner date", told me that she thought she was about to get sick – which for her was a reason to buy lemon cake for dessert. “We need some vitamin C right?!”, she said. Good excuse to have cake ;-) “Bring the vitamin C on!”, I thought and made a lemon cake myself yesterday. This cake here is soaked with lemon juice. I love the sugar crust… it looks about as icy as our streets at the moment... 

(from Trish Deseine - I love Cake)

100g soft, salted butter
175g sugar
175g flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
1 lemon, grated zest

for the glaze:
125g sugar
2 lemons, juice

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 20cm diameter springform pan with parchment paper and grease the rim with butter.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl with the electric hand mixer for about 2 minutes until you got a creamy dough. Pour into your prepared srpingform pan and bake for about 35 minutes. That's almost it... now how easy is that?! 

Take the cake out of the oven. Mix the lemon juice with the sugar and pour over the cake immediately, it is important that the cake is still very hot. Then, let cool and take out of the springform pan.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Ricotta stuffed Conchiglioni

It's awfully cold outside... Time for some warming comfort food. I love these baked pasta dishes! This one here is simple and still, it's something else than the usual lasagna because of the conchiglioni. I think they look cute. The tomato sauce is super - easy-peasy to make and absolutely delicious! I don't have to say anything about the ricotta filling - you guys know that I love ricotta ;-) I like to make this dish for guests because you can prepare most of it a bit in advance. Later on, you only have to put it in the oven which leaves you time to talk to your guests and enjoy an appetizer. You can also variate the ricotta filling just the way you like it. I, for instance, used dried tomatoes instead of the porcinis.

(from the lovely Once Upon A Cakestand)

about 16 conchiglioni (large pasta shells) - I usually make a bit more, of course then you need a bit more filling as well.

200g ricotta
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 rashers of streaky bacon, cut in small strips
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
a good hand full dried porcinis, soaked in hot water and chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper

Tomato sauce:
1 medium red onion, diced finely
1 carrot, diced finely
1 tablespoon of tomato purée
2 cans diced tomatoes
some flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated parmesan cheese

For the tomato sauce heat some olive oil in a deep sided pan, add onion, carrot and tomato purée - mix and let sauté for a bit until it softens and caramelises. Then, add the canned tomatoes and increase heat. Season with salt and pepper and let it cook until the sauce has thickened. Add chopped parsley and remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Cook the pasta shells in salted water for about 8 minutes until they are soft but still have a bite and are firm enough to be filled. Drain and allow to cool.

For the filling, place ricotta, grated parmigiano, thyme, chopped porcinis, bacon, a little salt and freshly ground pepper into a bowl and mix. Fill the pasta shells with the ricotta mixture and place in an ovenproof dish.

Spoon a little of the tomato sauce over the stuffed shells (if you don't use all of your sauce you can safe it for another pasta dish). Generously sprinkle with grated parmigiano cheese.

(I usually make the tomato sauce well in advance. I cook the pasta shells and prepare the filling. Then, I fill the cooled pasta shells with it, place them in my ovenproof dish and put that in the refridgerator. Just before baking, I spoon the tomato sauce over it.)

Bake for about 20 minutes in the middle of the oven. Add some freshly grated parmigiano cheese before serving. I usually serve this together with a salad. It serves 3-4 people.

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