Monday, 29 December 2014

Boiled Fruit Cake

As time goes by, my Christmas baking leisure, is going with it!  Time is my most rare commodity so I try to find short cuts and cheats to overcome this annoying problem.  Boiling process saved me from long hours waiting for dried fruit to steep in alcohol.  Adding butter while the mixture is still warm saved me from creaming it with sugar and I used the same pan!.  Texture came out just as good and I cannot tell you if it keeps long or not as it has already disappeared! I gave this cake the dundee finish of almond topping for that little bit of crunch.

500g dried mixed fruit
250g glaced cherries
100g chopped dried prunes
250g dark muscovado sugar
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
1/4tsp ground cloves
1/4tsp ground allspice
Juice and rind of 1 clementine
Juice and rind of 1 orange
1 cup whiskey
225g butter
300g self raising flour
3 eggs
2tbsp honey
2tbsp cocoa powder
200g almonds

Add mixed fruit, cherries, prunes, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, alspice, rind and juice of clementine and orange and whiskey to a medium pan.  Bring to a boil and simmer for just 5 minutes stirring so that sugar dissolves.  Turn off heat and cover with lid till mixture cools down to medium warm.
Pre heat oven to 165c. Line a 10inch cake tin with baking paper. 
Chop butter into small cubes and add to fruit mixture and stir till it melts into the mixture.  Add eggs, flour, cocoa and honey and stir till all is incorporated into the fruit mixture and form a nice cake mix. Do not overmix.
Pour mixture in prepared baking tin, arrange almonds on top and bake for approximately 1 hour.  Test with skewer in the centre, and when this comes out clean remove from oven and let it cool in the tin.

Artichoke and Ricotta Ravioli with Hazelnut and Radicchio dressing

I bought the Ravioli freshley made from l'Italiano -, you can do them yourself  by following my recipe but as filling use 200g fresh ricotta, 1 egg, 2 tbsp pecorino cheese, 4 preserved artichokes, and some grated nutmeg.  Radicchio is the star in this recipe and with some clementine juice and hazelnut it taste divine!! 
500g fresh ravioli
1 small radicchio
2 tablespoons crushed roasted hazelnuts
Juice of 1 clementine
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
Salt and Pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to boil.  Boil ravioli for just 3 minutes drain.  Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid.  In a large frying pan heat 1 tbsp olive oil, add clementine juice, wine, honey salt and pepper.  Boil till mixture reduce by half.  Add back ravioli, cooking liquid and toss.  Add radicchio and give few more turns. Do not overcook.  Add crushed hazelnuts and serve.

Celery and Jerusalem Artichoke Shot

This concentrated soup is ideal to be served in shot glasses before any meal.  Serves as a winter warmer and a great appetizer! Enough to fill 10 shots

3 celery sticks
1 medium Jerusalem Artichoke
1 small potato
2 spring onions
Small sprig of Rosemary
1/4 tsp Grated Lemon Rind
2 cloves garlic
Salt & Pepper
2 tbsp Clotted Cream
30g butter

Peel and Roughly chop potato and Jerusalem Artichoke. Chop celery sticks, spring onions and crush the garlic.  Add all vegetables to medium saucepan with enough water to cover.  Bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes.  Using a hand blender blend to a smooth soup.  Add finely chopped rosemary, lemon rind and season with salt and pepper stir and simmer for further 15 minutes.  Right before serving whisk in the chopped butter.  Serve in shot glasses and add small teaspoon of clotted cream on top.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Mince Pies

Mince Pies brings the smell of Christmas and it keeps lingering in your kitchen for quite a while.  Cinnamon and grated clementines are magical.  I used vegetable suet as the proper beef suet is not available on this island!  Came out just right and somehow the indulging guilt is slightly less...
Recipe makes about 24 small mince pies.

Mince Filling
250g Sultanas
100g Dried Cranberries
100g dried blueberries
100g candied peel
50g chopped almonds
100g vegetable suet
75g sugar
1/2 cup whisky
grated clementine rind
juice of 1 clementine
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice

Food Processor Short Pastry
300g plain flour
75g butter
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
pinch salt
2 eggs
2 tbsp cold water

Put sultanas, dried cranberries, blueberries, candied peel in a glass bowl.  Heat whiskey, clementine juice, cinnamon sugar, ground cloves and ground allspice in a small saucepan. Stir until sugar dissolves and when mixture boils pour over the dried fruit.  Give a quick stir, cover with cling film and leave to stand over night.  
The following day return the fruit to a saucepan, add the vegetable suet and stir over medium heat till suet melts and the fruit plump up.  Remove from heat and add the chopped almonds. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile prepare the short pastry by adding plain flour, baking powder, butter and sugar to food processor and mix till butter crumbs in flour.  Add lightly beaten eggs and give few pulses to mix.  Add two table spoons of cold water giving few more pulses.  Remove pastry from food processor, bind together with your hands to form a ball, cover with cling film and chill for few minutes in a refrigeraor.
Heat oven to 180c.  Roll out pastry and using proper round cutter cut rounds that fit in a 12 whole mince pie tin.  Spoon mince filling and top with a pastry star.  Brush with a little beaten egg and bake for about 30 minutes till golden.  Dust with some icing sugar.  
Mince pies keep well for over a week, but they can be frozen and thawed 30 minutes before serving.

Fresh Pasta with Aubergine and Chorizo Salsa

Recipe is enough for four main portions

600g Fresh Pasta
1 medium Aubergine
250ml chopped tomatoes
100g sliced Chorizo sausage
2 cloves garlic
chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Cook pasta for 3 minutes in boiling salted water, leave it al dente.  Drain and reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
In the same pan heat olive oil, add cubed aubergine, crushed garlic and fry gently for about 6 minutes.  Add chorizo and continue to stir for about two more minutes.  Add fresh chopped tomatoes honey and seasonings and cook till aubergines are just soft.  
Add pasta to pan with sauce togethe wih the reserved pasta water. Stir till sauce thickens around pasta.  Add chopped fresh basil and serve.  Grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese make a wonderful topping.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Rainbow in Forest Cake

This is my rainbow idea!  I'm sure rainbows do not appear in dense forests but I decided to make my indigo with forest berries!  I brushed each layer with amaretto icing and the taste will develop after few hours.  You can change the amaretto to limoncello and give it the sunshine taste!  This recipe makes about 12 slices.

Make two batches of sponge mixture and divide each mixture into three separate bowls.  The sponge ingredients are for 1 batch

4 eggs
2/3 cup castor sugar
1/3 cup corn flour
1 cup Self raising Flour
30g melted butter
3 different colours

Amaretto Ice (enough for all layers)
3 tablespoons Amaretto
300g Icing Sugar
1/2 cup water

300g frozen berries
100g sugar
Juice of 1 lime

Shavings of white chocolate to decorate

Line three baking sheets size 25cm x 40cm with baking paper.  Pre heat oven 175c.
Beat eggs and sugar together till stiff peaks form.  Meanwhile sift the flours together then fold in the mixture using a metal spoon.  Fold in melted butter and divide mixture into three separate bowls.  Add drops of food colouring, choose from orange, yellow, red, blue, green and violet. Mix the colours taking care not to remove too much air from the sponge mix. Pour into the baking trays and level with spatula.  Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks without removing the baking paper.
Meanwhile prepare the Amaretto icing by adding all ingredients in a food mixer and mix for 2 minutes to get a smooth runny icing.
Heat the frozen berries, add sugar and stir.  Bubble for five minutes till sugar dissolves but the berries remain whole.  Cool mixture and chill till it is needed.
Repeat the process for the remaining three layers of cake. Cake can be frozen at this stage.
Place the red layer on a clean tray.  Brush with amaretto ice then take the orange layer and place it on top.  Remove the baking paper and brush the orange layer with amaretto icing again.  Continue with the remaining layers.  
Trim the sides then divide the cake into twelve or sixteen portions and place each portion on a serving plate.  spoon over the berry mix then decorate with chocolate shavings.  Vanilla ice cream or custard is the ideal company! 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Summer Cups

This is a quick and easy fix dessert. Recipe is for 6 tea size cups

250ml Mascarpone Cheese
250ml Fresh Cream
2 tbsp Runny honey
1 tbsp sugar
seed from vanilla pod
12 sponge fingers or 
Small sponge cake
1 400ml can Strawberries in syrup
1 packet frozen berries
Icing sugar and basil leaves to decorate

In a bowl, cream the mascarpone cheese and honey.  Add seeds from vanilla pod, then slowly add the fresh crea.  Whisk the mixture by hand till soft peaks form.
Place preserved strawberry in the bottom of each cup, add piece of sponge, and spoon some strawberry syrup over sponge. Layer with two tablespoons of cream mixture then repeat the process by adding few preserved strawberries, then sponge then syrup and finally the cream.  Make sure that the cups are filled to the top.  
Arrange over each cup the frozen berries and immediately dust with icing sugar. Decorate with micro basil leaves.  Chill for at least two hours then serve and watch them disappear!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Chocolate Mousse and Strawberry Dessert

I used Oreo biscuit as a base to these individual desserts, they give an extra edge to your chocolate mousse layer.  This recipe makes 1 x 24cm flan or 12 x 7cm portions.

Biscuit Base
300g Oreo Biscuits
60g melted butter

Chocolate Mousse
200g dark Chocolate
1 espresso coffee
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cocoa
300ml milk
4 gelatin leaves
500ml Fresh Cream

2 punnet Strawberries
100g dark or milk chocolate
1 tbsp icing sugar

In a food processor, crush the biscuits to fine sand, add melted butter and pulse till combined.  Press evenly the  biscuit mixture in  a 24cm cheese cake spring form tin and refrigerate to cool.  
Put gelatin leaves in cold water for 10 minutes, then remove from water and squeeze lightly.  Put the leaves in a small bowl add three tablespoons of hot water and stir to melt them down. Set aside.
Heat milk add, cocoa, sugar and espresso coffee.  When the mixture boils, turn off heat and add the chocolate.  Stir till chocolate melts down.  Cool mixture over a bowl with iced water.
Meanwhile, beat cream till soft peaks form,  add two tablespoons of cream to cooled chocolate mixture and stir, then add the chocolate mixture to cream and fold.  Whisk in  the melted gelatin until just combined.  Pour mixture over the biscuit base and refrigerate for 2 hours till almost set.  
Melt the remaining chocolate over baine marie, dip strawberries and let them set over a grease proof paper.
Top the flan, with chocolate dipped strawberries, and chill for further 10 hours.  Remove from tin and just before serving dust with icing sugar.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Cake and Almond Tarts

When you have a cake, that is past it's freshness or comes out from the oven not as expected, crumb it, freeze it, then use it in this recipe as filling! I guarantee that everyone will ask you for the recipe. I managed 24 7cm tarts or buns whatever you may choose to call them! In this recipe I used leftovers from Date and Walnut cake which I crumbed using a food processor.

1 quantity Sweet Short Pastry Recipe

500g pure ground almonds
200g ground peanuts
500g cake crumbs
6 eggs
300g sugar
few drops almond essence
2 tbsp amaretto

12 cherries
72 blanched almonds

Put all filling ingredients except, cherries and whole almonds,  in a large bowl, add eggs and using a wooden spoon stir till all combined and form a thick paste.

Pre heat oven to 165c

Roll out pastry and cut into rounds to line 2x 12 hole bun tin.  ( I prefer non stick tin so that I do not have to butter it)
Using two spoons spoon mixture into each tart right till the top.  Arrange on each tart half a cherry and three almonds, and bake for 45 mins or until cooked and slightly browned.

Creamed Salmon and Mussel Pie

This recipe is enough to feed four.

800g Salmon Fillets
1kg Mussels
3 hard boiled eggs
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 celery stick
150ml fresh cream
300ml milk
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp mustard
1/2 glass white wine
2 bay leaves
Sprig of thyme
Salt & pepper

1 kg potatoes
1 tbsp butter
1 egg

Chop onions and celery and crush the garlic.  Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan, add onions celery and garlic and fry gently till onions are translucent.  Add cleaned mussels and wine, cover and cook for 3 minutes till mussels are opened.  Remove from heat strain mussel juice through a sieve and reserve for later,  leave mussels to cool. 
Heat butter in a saucepan and when it melts add flour stir and cook roux for about 1 minute stirring continuously.  Add milk and using a whisk, stir to get a smooth thick mixture.  Add reserved mussel juice bay leaves and cream and continue to stir till mixture thickens and bubbles.  Cut salmon into bite size, add to mixture and lower heat down.  Cook for just 2 minutes.  Turn off heat, add mustard, shelled mussels and season with salt & pepper. Pour mixture in a shallow oven proof dish, roughly chop the hard boiled eggs and scatter around.
Pre heat oven 200c
Peel and boil potatoes till soft, drain leaving some of the liquid.  Mash with butter then add salt to taste. Finally add egg and beat with wooden spoon to get a smooth mixture.  Arrange mash evenly over the fish stew sprinkle with thyme leaves and bake in a 200c oven for 20 minutes till mash is golden.  Serve piping hot

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Home Made Garibaldi Fingers

Garibaldi Crackers are thin crackers filled with fig mixture, well, mine are more rustic and I filled them with dried juicy Prunes which I bought from Annecy.... Delisce!!  Make these biscuits with remaining short pastry when making flans and they freeze well when cooked and completely cold.

200g short Crust Pastry Recipe
300g pitted prunes
2 tbsp sugar

Process prunes to a fine mixture.
Pre heat oven to 175c

Roll pastry to long oblong.  Spoon mixture in the centre then fold over pastry.  Overlap slightly to seal properly. Using a rolling pin, press gently over the prune roll and roll to flatten out as much as possible.  Using a pizza cutter, cut into fingers and place on a baking tray.  Sprinkle sugar on top and bake for 30 minutes till golden.

Pecorino and Zucchini, Ditaloni Bake

This is a quick one pot wonder.  Recipe is enough to feed hungry four and takes just 1 hour to serve including baking and preparation. 
500g Ditaloni Pasta
200g Grated Pecorino cheese
4 eggs
200g Pancetta Cubes
300g Zucchini Cut into Cubes
250ml Fresh Cream
Salt & Pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to boil add pasta and cook for just 10 minutes till pasta is al dente. Meanwhile pre heat oven 200c.  Just before the last minute of cooking, add pancetta and zucchini then drain pasta and the other ingredients reserving 1 cup of liquid.  Return pasta to pan, add reserved cooking liquid,  beaten eggs, fresh cream and grated pecorino. Mix with a wooden spoon then transfer pasta mixture to a baking dish.  Season with fresh ground pepper and bake for 30 minutes till top is golden and crunchy.  Serve hot!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Butternut Squash and Goat cheese Lasanga

This is a perfect starter when you have guests over for dinner.  It can be prepared in advance and takes only 20 minutes to cook.  It takes a bit longer to prepare compared to a large dish lasagna, but it is much easier and quicker to serve.  You can prepare serving portions in an individual oven proof dishes or use a large dish and place portions next to each other.  I divided ingredients into three sections, one for fresh pasta, one for filling and one for bottom layer and topping. Recipe makes 8 portions

200g durum wheat
100g strong plain flour
3 eggs
pinch salt

600g butternut squash
300g beef mince
200g chicken mince
1 lage onion
3 clove garlic
2 tsp mild curry powder
1 tbsp flour
30g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
sprig of thyme
Salt & Pepper
250ml Fresh Cream
8 fresh goat cheeselets (gbejna)
1 tbsp finely chopped parsely

100ml double cream
50g grated pecorino cheese
600g chopped fresh tomato
1 tsp sugar
Salt and Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil to drizzle on top

In a food processor add flours , eggs and salt and pulse till pasta forms into a ball. Remove and knead lightly with hands, then cover with cling film and chill.
Heat butter and 1 tbsp oil in large frying pan, add finely chopped onions and crushed garlic and cook till translucent. Add curry and cook for further one minute stirring continuously. Add chicken and beef mince and continue to cook. Chop butfternut squash into small squares,  and add to mixture.  Add thyme and flour and mix well.  Cook thoroughly till butternut squash is softened. Stir in cream, season with salt and pepper and cook till cream is reduced and filling holds together.
Using pasta machine, divide pasta into two portions, take one portion and pass through machine about 20 times till sheet is smooth. Continue to roll it through machine till it is about 1 mm thick and 15cm wide.  Repeat with the remaining pasta. Using  12cm round cutter, cut 24 circles.
Heat a large pan of water, add  1 tsp salt and bring to boil. Add pasta circles and cook for just one minute.  Using a slotted spoon lift pasta and transfer to a clean plate. I suggest you cook pasta in three batches.
Take a large baking dish, drizzle bottom generously with olive oil, scatter chopped tomatoes and sprinkle with sugar.  Season with salt and pepper. Arrange one layer of  round pasta shapes on tomato layer, spoon with mince filling then layer another sheet of pasta on top. Spoon over another heaped tablespoon of filling.  cover with  another sheet of pasta then slice fresh goat cheese and arrange on top.  Cover with last layer of pasta and drizzle over some olive oil.  You may cover dish with cling film and chill at this stage.  
Heat oven to 180c, Add 1 tbsp double cream on top of each portion sprinkle over with grated pecorino cheese and add final drizzle of oil. Crack some black pepper over, and bake for just 20minutes or until tops are golden.


Thursday, 15 May 2014

Honeycomb Chocolate Cookies

These are marvellous multipurpose wonders.  They serve their purpose at tea, in a snack break or joined with a scoop of ice cream for a delicious dessert.  Recipe makes about 20 depending how big your spoonfuls are!  They keep well for up to one week in an air tight cookie jar.
200g unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
3 eggs
3 honeycomb bars (crunchie)
100g chocolate chips
300g self raising flour
80g cocoa 
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
chilli flakes or sea salt - optional

Heat oven 180c.  In a food mixer, beat butter and sugar till pale and creamy.  Add, vanilla then the eggs one at a time.  Remove K attachment and add sifted flour, cocoa and  baking powder and using a wooden spoon, stir till ingredients are combined. Do not over mix.  Roughly chop the honeycomb bars and add to the mixture with chocolate chips.  Give few stirs to achieve an even mixture then using two spoons, drop spoonfuls of cookie batter on a buttered baking tray.  Leave enough space from one to another as they spread during cooking time. If you wish, sprinkle with a touch of chilli flakes, or small pinch of sea salt for that additional kick!  Bake for about 20 minutes.  Remove and let them cool in tray.  Store in an air tight container.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Baked Ricotta Puffs

This is a quick fix lunch or as an item to Wine Party. Baked Ricotta is a Sicilian tradition, together with puff pastry, tomatoes and pancetta it completes the treat!!! Recipe Makes 12

1 Puff Pastry sheet 40x30cm
6 cherry tomatoes
150g Ricotta 
12 Slices Pancetta
1 tbsp Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Chives to garnish

Heat oven 190c.  Cut Pastry into 12 equal portions size 10cmx10cm to line 12 hole bun tin. Divide ricotta into twelve portions and place one portion in each pastry case. Twist pancetta slices and press down next to the ricotta. Cut in half each cherry tomato and arrange on top. Season lightly with salt and pepper and bake for 20-30 minutes untill pastry puffs and turn golden.  Arrange on a serving plate, drizzle some olive oil on top  and garnish with chive sticks.  Serve with a cool crisp chardonnay.


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Maltese Chocolate bread pudding - Pudina

Mum makes best pudding and I can still taste the juicy sultanas mingled with crunchy nutty topping. This is my interpretation which I admit is very close to my childhood memory. Pudina is good served either warm with a cup of tea or cold with a chilled glass of milk.  Keeps well for about 1 week.

200g butter
250g sugar
3 eggs
200g plain flour
400g day old bread
600ml milk
200g raisins
100g ground nuts
50g cocoa
100g packet chocolate custard powder
100g ground almonds
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Few drops vanilla extract
2tbsp Tia Maria

2 tbsp chopped nuts
2tbsp desiccated coconut
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp brown sugar

Pre heat oven to 180c. Roughly chop bread in a bowl and pour milk on top allow few minutes to soak. In a food mixer cream butter with sugar, then add eggs one at a time, then add ground nuts, cocoa, mixed spice, cinnamon, custard powder, vanilla extract and soaked bread and mix for about 3 minutes till bread is well incorporated in the mixture.  Then add Tia Maria and flour and give few turns till flour gets into mixture. Then add raisins and give a final mix.  Do not over mix at this stage.  Butter a 9x12inch dish and pour over mixture. Even out with spatula, then sprinkle with nuts and brown sugar then dust with cinnamon.  Bake for 45 minutes till skewer comes clean when tested.  Cut into squares and serve. Pudding keeps well for a week in an air tight container in a cool place.

Strawberry Custard Tarts

Deliscious for an afternoon Tea Party!

1 Quantity Rich Short Pastry
3 eggs
2 yolks
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod
100g sugar
300ml cream
200ml milk

Fresh Strawberries
Icing Sugar

Heat oven to 170c. Roll pastry to 5mm thickness, cut into 12cm rounds and line 12 hole non stick muffin tin.  Put in the fridge to cool slightly, meanwhile prepare the custard.  In a jug pour milk and cream, add eggs and yolks and vanilla seeds, whisk till eggs are well combined into mixture. Take pastry lined muffin tin out from fridge and pour custard over pastry leaving just 5mm from brim.  Carefully place in the oven and bake for about 30minutes or until tops are slightly coloured but still wobbly when shaked.  Leave to cool in tray then carefully remove from tin and arrange on a serving tray. Refrigerate when completely cooled. Right before serving, top with chopped fresh strawberries and dust with icing sugar. (Good non stick muffin tin do not need to be buttered)