Category: Gastronome


Orange Crème Brûlée


I have always believed that when you enter the kitchen, you lock all your worries and leave them out. Call me superstitious if you will, but I believe what you serve up on the dining table is a close reflection of your inner state. A credit note to Mum is due here. In spite of juggling raising two brats, a full-time job and the household chores, she always has had a sense of calm around her when she is in the kitchen. This somehow hasn’t propagated down the DNA sequence. What definitely has though, is that we are both fiercely territorial about our space in the kitchen. I like to call the shots in the kitchen, and even with a well-meaning kitchen hand at an arms distance I always feel claustrophobic. Oh! there’s another thing about me. I can be very fussy about ingredients. I have a strong belief (backed by scientific reason of course) that no two bars of chocolates behave the same when melted. One would most definitely burn before the other even when they are on the same flame.

When I was visiting home a couple of months ago, I browbeat a good friend of mine into inviting a few friends over for dinner to her place (sounds eerily familiar if you are my friend doesn’t it? ), with the promise that I’d fix up the dinner for all of us. I had had one too many sorry Penne in Pesto sauce, at apparently good Italian restaurants in Bangalore by now, so it had to be Pasta for the main course, and I thought I’d delight the chums with my favorite Choc molten lava cake for desserts. Now without delving into the tumultuous waves of emotions I was surfing on my visit home, I did exactly what I had strongly stood against. Cooked when I was firefighting a blaze internally. No prizes for guessing that the dinner was average at best and in spite of the friends giving me a pat on the back, I knew I could’ve done better. I am also a harsh critic of myself (closely followed by, you guessed it -Mum). I decided that I wouldn’t try a new recipe until I had put this uneasiness well and truly behind me.

One fine evening minus fine dinner.

One fine evening minus fine dinner.

Cut to Melbourne, two months later. Finally I was feeling ready. The spring in the step was back, I was ready to try something new. Then there was this abundance of Oranges lying around. As my mind usually does, It had wandered back in time to when I had visited Stanley in Tasmania. I wouldn’t mind going back time and again to Stanley Hotel for their stupendous crème brûlée. The one thing that stood out for me was the immaculate presentation and the even caramel coating on top of the crème brûlée. This exotic sounding dessert when literally translated into plain English reads – Burnt cream. Who would’ve guessed! I have made crème brûlée before and blow torched the hell out of caster sugar to make coating on top, but never got an even coat. I did some research on it and one option suggested, putting the creme brulee with generous dusting of caster sugar into the broiler of an oven for an evenly melted caramel. After wolfing down the crème brûlée at Stanley Hotel, I asked if I could have a word with the chef. After exchanging a few pleasantries, I asked him what was the secret behind the perfect coat of caramel? And when he said that they made the caramel on a pan and poured it into the ramekins for that even coat, I felt like a fool. Why hadn’t I thought about it! simple yet ingenuous.

In the end, orange infused crème brûlée served with candied oranges turned out to be a hit and somewhere deep within, I felt absolved of my Bangalore fiasco. So if I am ever serving up some supermarket bought pizzas, you’ll know well to keep me away from knives ;). Now here’s how to make some silky smooth Orange Crème Brûlée.

Orange Crème Brûlée

Orange Crème Brûlée

Ingredients:

  • zest of 4 oranges
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp orange liqueur

Method:

  • Zest your oranges, then run a knife through it and chop it up even finer. You want as much of the orange zest to infuse into the cream as possible.
  • Combine the chopped orange zest and the cream, and let it sit in the fridge for 2 hours.
  • The orange zest needs time to infuse into the cream since we will be straining the zest out later.
  • Preheat the oven to 150 degree Celsius.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix egg yolks, and 1/2 cup sugar together on low speed for 2 minutes.
  • Heat the cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat until scalded, bringing it almost to a boil, but not quite. An indication of scalding is lots of steam and bubbles forming on the sides.
  • With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the cream into the egg mixture.
  • Add the vanilla and orange liqueur, and once it’s all combined, pour the mixture through a fine meshed sieve to strain out the orange zest.
  • Pour the strained custard into ramekins until almost full.
  • Place the ramekins in a baking pan and pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the crème brûlées only jiggle slightly when shaken. Take the crème brûlées out of the water bath and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until they firm up.
  • When you’re ready to serve them, sprinkle over 1 tsp of sugar evenly on top of each crème brûlée, and either use a blowtorch or do it old school and use the broiler coils of your oven to caramelize the top (this process happens very quickly. Leave the door open as you broil and watch, don’t walk away from it).
  • Candy oranges separately on a pan and use to decorate.
Advertisements

My Red M&Ms Turn 3!


There are a few things that are dear to me, and I choose to refer to them with a moniker – ‘Red M&Ms’. Sport, Photography, Ria, Writing, Baking, April sit pretty on top of the list, not necessarily in that order of preference. Whilst Ria happens to a friends bub and the most amazing kid, April is my sweetheart, mobile boom box, adrenaline dose all rolled into one – My ride, a Mazda SP23.

Coming up to a friends kid’s third birthday and racking my brains for what would be an appropriate thing to take to the party, it dawned on me. April and Ria were Three too now! And the one thing that tied all of em’ together was the fact that they were all indeed my Red M&Ms. That was it. It had to be something to do with Red M&Ms! A party teeming with kids, Red M&M’s, I racked my brains some more.

Finally I was reminded of a colleagues suggestion for sweet treats for kiddies. Choc cars, with lil teddies on top decked with proper wheels and a steering wheel to boot. Now what kid wouldn’t want one of those? (Big ones like me included.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ingredients (serves 18)

  • 100g milk chocolate, melted
  • 1 bag Milky Way bars (usually 18 in a bag)
  • 1 box Tiny Teddy biscuits, honey flavour
  • 1 bag M&Ms (340g)

Method

  • Set out a tray or serving plate for the Teddies.
  • Sort the M&Ms into colours and cut 9 M&Ms in half with a sharp knife to use for steering wheels (keep in mind steering wheel colours need to match with wheel colours).
  • Remove the wrappers from the Milky Way bars.
  • Cut 18 Tiny Teddies in half at the belly button using a sharp knife.
  • Place the melted chocolate into a resealable bag and snip a tiny corner off. Squeeze out a few drops of chocolate to ‘glue’ 4 M&Ms ‘wheels’ on each car then place on the serving tray.
  • Place a few drops of chocolate on the top of each ‘car’ and sit the Teddy’s on. Place a drop of chocolate on the ‘car’ in the front of each Teddy and ‘glue’ on steering wheels.

Stawberry Flan


You don’t have to go far to tell of my love for all things Spanish – Read God must be Spanish.

A friend was hosting a get-together at his place and I suggested that there be a theme – Spanish food. I offered to put together a Menu for him and hold your breath – execute it and plate it up! This probably had to be my most daring challenge to date. That in a nutshell is me – Foolhardy. Throw down the gauntlet nonchalantly and then wonder why the hell did I do it? Well, now that the invites were on their way and there was an air of expectation, there was no backing out. Game on! I thought to myself.

After the usual recipe search on the net and pouring through cook books I settled on the three courses I would serve up:

1) Alioli Potatoe as Tapas
2) A Vegetarian Paella for the Main (I see a few raised eyebrows already, and I agree this is as bastardized as the original seafood paella can get.)
3) A Strawberry Flan for Dessert.

I shall deal with the first two courses of meal in another post, and talk about my favourite – Strawberry flan. As easy as it sounded to make this dessert, I’d never used a “bano Maria” or simply a water bath.
I was excited to give it a go and when I unmolded those beauties out of the ramekins, I was all smiles :).

Strawberry Flan

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 2 cups fresh, ripe strawberries
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 can (400 grams) can condensed milk
  • 6 eggs

caramelized sugar topping:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • mint leaves – optional garnish

Optional: Reserve about 4-5 diced fresh strawberries for garnish.

Method

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  • Put a heavy skillet or saucepan over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar.
  • With the back of a wooden spoon, keep sugar moving constantly in skillet until sugar is completely melted, and of a rich medium brown color (caramelized).
  • Pour caramelized sugar into each of the ramekins. Set aside.
  • Wash the strawberries and remove the stem.
  • Place the strawberries, sugar eggs and condensed milk in to a food processor or blender and blend until strawberries are minced and all ingredients are mixed thoroughly.
  •  Ladle the strawberry mixture into each ramekin. Cover each ramekin with aluminum foil.
  • Place each ramekin into a large open, oven-proof pan, such as a broiler pan. Add very hot water to the pan. The ramekins should be submerged approximately 3/4 in the water.
  • Carefully place the pan on to the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, carefully remove each ramekin from the water, uncover and to allow to cool.
  • Once cool, place in refrigerator to chill.
  • When you are ready to serve, run a paring knife around the outside of each ramekin to loosen the flan. Then, place the serving plate on top of each one and flip it over. It may be necessary to tap the ramekin to force the flan to fall out onto the plate.
  •  Garnish with fresh strawberries and mint.

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Banana.
Banana who?
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Banana.
Banana who?
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Orange.
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn’t say banana ?

I’ve done lamer versions of Knock knock, but this always seems to work.

We’ll jump straight into one of my stock cakes that I fall back on when I am in a hurry. Not so much a ‘Wham bam, thank you ma’am outcome when it comes to the end result.
This cake is just right on many counts. Fluffy, not overtly overpowering in flavours and leaves you with the nice warm feeling after you’ve tucked it away.

Spotted Orange Yogurt Cake

Ingredients ( serves 12 )
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) butter, softened
1¼ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons finely chopped or grated orange zest
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Optional syrup:
1/3 cup orange juice (strained if freshly squeezed)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Method


1. Heat the oven to 180°C.

2. Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and use a stand mixer to cream until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Add the eggs, vanilla, yogurt, orange juice, poppy seeds and orange zest and beat 1 minute.

4. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix well.

5. Pour the batter into a greased 9″  mold (I  used a bundt mold in this instance) and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Ovens vary, so start checking after about 45 minutes. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes and then carefully remove it from the pan.

6. If desired, combine the orange juice and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves, then spoon or brush it over the cake. Slice and serve! This cake will keep at room temperature for 3 days or can be frozen.


Strains of Marvin Gaye stream in the background.

Ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough, baby

One of those days when I felt like the Energizer bunny. It was a dear friends birthday and I had decided to fix her a treat. In preperation I had my ingredients list ready (One of those rare times I must admit.It usually is a two pitstop strategy to the supermarket to pick up an ingredient, that I had tucked away in a corner of my mind and forgotten conviniently the first time), The stand mixer was in the boot of the car and I rocked into work fairly early. I played out the steps for the recipe in my mind a couple of times and it was down to crunching some numbers at work. After I knocked off work, I whizzed down to the supermarket and after some snappy shopping, I was on my way to A & R’s place. After the surprise knock on the door and customary wishes, I set shop and got down to work. After a good two hours of toiling, out came the golden baby – a hint of cinnamon in the air, a crusty top and a soft moist center – Apple and Berry crumble cake!

Apple Berry Crumble Cake.

You're old enough now, no more pacifier.

Bubba time!

It tasted just as nice as it looked. Served as a perfect treat for A on her birthday and seemingly so Ria liked my dessert over R’s gift- A money plant 🙂

Ingredients ( serves 8 )

Apple and Berry Layer
3 medium Granny Smith apples
2 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
75g fresh or frozen blueberries, 75 g fresh or frozen raspberries

Crumble Topping
100g plain flour
80g cold butter, chopped (salted butter)
80g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cake
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g cold butter (salted butter)
180g caster sugar
100g self-raising flour
100g plain flour

Method

  • Peel apples. Cut apples into quarters and remove the cores. Slice each quarter lengthways into four or five pieces.
  •  Place apple in a medium saucepan. Add water and 1 tablespoon sugar to the saucepan.
  •  Cover saucepan with a lid. Place saucepan over high heat, and when the water boils, reduce heat so that the mixture simmers.
  • Cook apple for about 12-15 minutes, until tender (the point of a knife should pierce the apple easily).
  • Transfer apple mixture to a heatproof bowl and place in the fridge or freezer while preparing the other ingredients.
  • When assembling the slice, the apple needs to be cold or at room temperature. It will probably take about 40 minutes for the apple to cool in the fridge or 20 minutes in the freezer.
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Celsius fan-forced).
  • Move oven rack to the middle shelf position (not necessary for a fan-forced oven).
  • Grease an 18cm by 27.5cm (top inside measurement) slice pan that is at least 3cm deep.
  • Line with baking paper, extending the paper about 2cm above the sides of the pan. The excess paper can be used as handles to lift the slice out of the pan.
  • To make the crumble topping, place crumble ingredients in a stand mixer and process on medium speed until the ingredients are combined and the mixture starts to form clumps (about 20-40 seconds).
  • Tip crumble mixture into a bowl, cover and refrigerate while preparing the cake batter.
  • In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, eggs and vanilla.
  • Place butter, caster sugar and flours in the stand mixer and process on medium speed until no large pieces of butter remain (about 30 seconds). The mixture should look similar to almond meal.
  • Add sour cream mixture to the food processor and process on medium speed until combined into a thick batter (about 10 seconds).
  • Scrape down the side and base of the processor and process again for about 10 seconds.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, spread batter evenly over the base of the pan.
  • Place the cooled, cooked apple over the batter.
  • Sprinkle the berries over the apple.
  • Sprinkle crumble topping over the fruit.

Bake cake for about 50-55 minutes, or until a thin-bladed knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out without any batter attached. The cake should spring back when lightly pressed in the centre and the crumble should be lightly browned.

Serve cake warm or at room temperature, on its own or with cream and/or ice cream.

Here’s another time when I made the Apple Berry Crumble in ramekins.

Apple Berry Crumble.

Tantalising Tiramisu Cake


Ever since I started baking, and going out on the WWW in search of interesting recipes, I have more often than not settled on recipes out of blogs written by women. I wonder why? Perhaps, it is that extra bit of attention to detail, the pretty photographs, the detailed recipes and the steps involved that put them apart. Mine on the other hand, as you would have noticed, is a quick and nasty approach of documenting my experiments with the oven. On that note this post is dedicated to the women in my life that have have touched upon various facets at various points in my life.

Firstly Happy Birthday Mum, I am who I am, in big parts thanks to you. Your volumes of meticulously hand written recipes are an inspiration.

To my primary school chum – Sonya, who melts at the mention of the word Tiramisu, you have been the best find in years. After being classmates for the first four years of schooling life, Sonya left never to be seen or heard from again. Let me add at this point she was one of the model students (in all senses). Over the years, after Sonya left, I always wondered where would she be and what would have happened to her.
That answer came to me thanks to our friend Facebook. Imagine bumping into a grown up gorgeous doctor some 20 years later. I must say, neither was I surprised she had turned out to be gorgeous or the small matter that she was now a Doctor. I as much expected it. But what got me excited
was that I had found my long lost friend! Doc, thank you for re-connecting and thank you for just being there.

To the lady whose posts I read religiously, enviously every time and secretly aspire to emulate her presentation of food she dishes up in her kitchen – Shumaila, I doff my hat to you. I wish, I had half as much zest as you do, when it comes to baking/cooking. Also thanks for the kick in the back to spur me on with my posts.

To the woman I have never met, but continues to amaze me – The Pioneer Woman – Ree Drummond, thank you for inspiring me to enjoy the little joys of life.

Now onto the business end of things, the recipe for a Triamisu cake. I made this on the ocassion of a friends birthday recently and was quite
impressed myself.

Ingredients (serves 10)

For the cake

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks(10 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

For the Espresso Extract

  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water

For the Espresso Syrup

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto, kahlua or brandy (I used 3 tablespoons of kahlua)

For the filling and frosting

  • 250 gms  mascarpone
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1.5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon ameretto, kahlua or brandy (I used 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 60 gms  bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or about 1/2 cup store bought mini chocolate chips (or more, to cover the layer completely)
  • cocoa powder for dusting

Method

  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius. Butter two 9×2 inch round cake pans, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms of the pan with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on baking sheet.
  • Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Working with a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.
  • Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes.
  • Add the eggs, one by one, and then the yolk, beating for one minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
  • Don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients).
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
  • Bake for 28 to 30 minutes,rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean.
  • Transfer the cakes to a rack and cook for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

To make the extract:

  • Stir the espresso powder and boiling water together in a small cup until blended. Set aside.

To make the syrup:

  • Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Pour the syrup into a small heatproof bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the espresso extract and the liqueur or brandy. Set aside.

To make the filling and frosting:

  • Put the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk just until blended and smooth.

Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it holds form peaks. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch. Add the remaining 1 to 1.5 tablespoon of espresso extract into the mascarpone cream. Taste to decided how much extract you want to add.

To assemble the cake:

  • If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them.
  • Place one layer right side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected with strips of wax or parchment paper.
  • Using a pastry brush or a small spoon, soak the layer with about one third of the espresso syrup.
  • Smooth some of the mascarpone cream over the layer- use about 1 1/4 cups- and gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling.
  • Put the second cake later on the counter and soak the top of it with half the remaining espresso syrup, then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.

Use the remaining cream to frost the top of the cake. If the frosting looks as if it might be a little too soft to spread on the cake, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate it for 15 minutes or so. Refrigerate the cake too.

With a long metal icing spatula, smooth the frosting around the sides of the cake and over the top. Decorate with chocolate covered espresso beans.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours (or up to one day) before serving, so that the elements have enough time to meld.

Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with cocoa powder.

Taming the Macaron Monster.


After valiantly resisting the temptation of being sucked into the latest reality cooking show Masterchef Australia, I inadvertently walked into the trap, when I was over at a friend’s place for dinner and you guessed it, Masterchef was on air.

 After initially dismissing it as yet another reality show that had twists and turns to put a jalebi to shame, it slowly grew on me. The grab for TRP aspect apart, The show did have some worthy matter for an amateur chef. One such episode took the nation by storm. Macaron (or Macaroon if you may prefer) a sweet confectionary, was the word on everybody’s lips. It was the first time I ever heard of it. It suddenly mushroomed at every bakery overnight. Macarons threatened to take over the town.

Macarons in progress.

 After closely inspecting a recipe and reading that it was not child’s play making them, I took upon myself the challenge to slay the Macaron Monster. And boy what a battle it proved to be. The first batch of Macarons I baked never puffed up. While I sat next to the oven, peering through the glass waiting for the tell tale crow’s feet, the batch just fell flat and bled like a cutlet. Round one to the Macaron Monster.

Great minds at work.

 A quick change of strategy (working with egg whites is a science) and brandishing a new recipe, I started all over again. The second batch of Macarons turned out pretty good. Round two saw me punch slightly better. Pumped by the success, I threw in a few tiny tweaks and popped the third batch into the oven. When they came out, they looked Oh so good! While I let the Macaron shells cool, I set about making the Raspberry, Cream Cheese, Chocolate, Lemon curd and Coffee butter cream fillings. By the time I assembled the Macarons together, I was bushed! Final result – Your’s truly won the challenge on points (barely!).

Macaron tower.

Softies.

    I shall not even try going down the path of documenting the recipe here. Too much of an effort to bake this monster, me thinks. Nevertheless they sure are yum! The next time I crave one, I’ll just pop into the local baker’s. For those that do want to venture into the dark side, you can’t get it better than at www.tarteletteblog.com.


For someone who loves to bake, I seldom can go beyond two spoonfuls when it is plated up. It is easier to get away with it when it is your own creation, but I have had to endure being on sticky wickets when friends serve up a plateful and I have that sheepish look on my face. All that goes out the window for one dessert – Molten chocolate lava cake. I’d be more than happy to dig into this one with both my hands!

 This goes back some time. My first tryst with this decadent desert was at an Italian restaurant named Meli Melo in St Kilda. I fell hopelessly in love with it. The restaurant shut shop a year later, and although I hunted for a like for like all around the city, no one even came close.

 When I started baking, I looked all over the net for a good recipe. Either, I just wasn’t doing it right or the recipes just didn’t cut it. After some 4 vain attempts, I stumbled upon this recipe on an innocuous looking website. Nothing fancy, just a simple recipe. After tinkering around with the recipe for a couple of times, I hit the jackpot one late night at a friend’s place.

 There are two reasons I love going over to R & A’s place. R is an accomplished pastry chef by trade and I find it reassuring to have him by my side to hand me tips and tricks that a recipe off the net doesn’t. I must mention, that for somebody that makes a living out of baking, I have rarely seen R in action in the kitchen. The credit perhaps should go to A, for playing the super-mum, Which brings me to the more important reason – Ria. R & A’s two and a bit year old bundle of joy. I could spend hours together with her and not know of the time. Here’s a snap of the happy family.                                

R, A and Ria.

 

After a hard grind at putting together a Gingerbread house (I’ll save this for another time), I set about baking this evil delight at 11 PM. When it came out of the oven and onto the plates, I just couldn’t help but swoon. There were a few happy tummies and the sugar rush kept us awake into wee hours of the morning.

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 200g Semi-Sweet Baking chocolate
  • 170g Butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour

Method

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Liberally butter four individual ramekins.
  • Melt chocolate on very low flame in a double boiler.
  • Add diced butter; stir until melted.
  • In another bowl, beat eggs and sugar until it starts to whiten.
  • Stir in melted chocolate and then the flour (Ensure the molten chocolate isn’t as hot as to cook the eggs).
  • Pour into ramekins.
  • Bake for 10 -12 minutes (Take the ramekins out when the top starts to form a skin but still wobbly when you give the ramekins a shake).
  • Tip ramekins upside down onto dessert plates.
  • Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or some whipped cream.

Here’s a snap from another time of a happy customer!

Ojo gives a thumbs up for User Acceptance Testing.

Moroccan Delights.


 After repeatedly fending off  verbal barbs from a group of friends, that I upload pictures of food that I cook, onto my Facebook page, but never bother to invite them over to try some of it, I set about planning a weekend brunch. Now here’s a thing about me, close friends will tell you that if something catches my fancy, I’ll try my best to replicate it. Now was a good time for a good recipe to catch my eye. After a good hour of browsing for recipes, nothing really whet my appetite. Here’s another thing albeit a tad quirky about me. At times I give my thoughts a free rein, and go gamboling from one bubble to another, each connected to the previous by nothing more than a fine thread.

 I sat back, switched off and let my mind wander. It was drizzling out the window as I sat on my bed musing. It was the same sort of drizzle that blighted my first few months in Melbourne (About six years ago now. wow! time flies). Back then, being homesick, any sight of warm food with spices would get the stomach rumbling. One of the first few restaurants I went to in Melbourne was a Moroccan restaurant. Bingo! my eyes lit up. I knew what to look for now 🙂

 A few educated searches later, I finally had a rough idea of what I’d make for the weekend – Moroccan Pumpkin Soup and  Moroccan Stuffed Capsicum.

 I must throw in a note on my coterie of friends, here. Most of my road trips, travels around Australia has been in the company of these usual suspects – D, M, N. N the only non-vegetarian in the group has to bear being the minority for a change, loves his wine and is the philosopher. M who loves good music, also doubles up as an entertainment unit. If you want to master the hip and leg movements of Elvis, get M on high ground and get him to look below. D who also serves me admirably well as a lab rat for my baking experiments, has the most pronounced sweet tooth that I know of.

Here’s us walking the skies in Sydney on one of our trips.

View of the Coat hanger from Sydney Tower.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Atop Sydney Harbour Bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moroccan Pumpkin Soup

Moroccan Pumpkin Soup.
Ingredients (serves 6) 
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
  • 1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 red birdseye chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3cm piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 carrots, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 1.5kg butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeded (see note), cut into 3cm pieces
  • 1/3 cup (70g) yellow split peas
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Coriander sprigs and soup sprinkles, to serve
Method
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over low-medium heat and cook leek, garlic and 2 tsp salt, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until soft.
  • Add chilli, cinnamon, ginger and cumin and stir for 1 minute or until fragrant.
  • Add carrots, pumpkin and split peas. Stir to coat in onion mixture.
  • Add 1.5 litres water to saucepan and bring to the boil, then simmer for 50 minutes or until split peas are soft.
  • Remove and discard cinnamon stick from soup.
  • Add lemon juice then process or blend soup, in small batches, in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  • Return soup to pan and reheat over medium heat.
  • Serve topped with coriander sprigs and soup sprinkles.
Notes
Reserve 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds for soup sprinkles. Mix 1/2 Tbsp butter and pumpkin seeds and bake in the oven till golden brown.
 

Morrocan Stuffed Capsicum

 

Moroccan Stuffed Capsicum.

Ingredients (Serves 4)
Capsicum stuffing
  •  2 large red capsicums
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 vegetarian stock cube (alternatively use 1 cup stock)
  • 1/2 cup sultanas or chopped dried apricots
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 250g cubed or crumbled feta
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Moroccan spice blend (below)
Moroccan spice blend
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180 deg celsius
  • Mix the spices for the Moroccan spice blend and set aside.
  • Break up the cube into a measuring jug. Add boiling water and stir briefly till dissolved.
  • Add couscous and sultanas and cover jug. Set aside.
  • Wash, halve and clean the capsicums for stuffing, removing the stem and seeds.
  • Transfer couscous to a mixing bowl. Add walnuts, feta, garlic and parsley. Mix well.
  • Add Moroccan spice blend and mix to combine.
  • Fill capsicum halves with the couscous mixture.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and place the capsicums on an oiled tray.
  • Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until top is brown and crunchy.
 

Here is where it all began. Having recently been introduced to the joys of baking and fallen in love with a friend’s stand mixer, I ended up inviting myself to T & A’s place almost every fortnight to have a go at something new to bake. T & A happen to be one of my closest friends in town. Whilst A loves to serve up a sweet treat, T who has a prominent sweet tooth, doesn’t mind polishing it all off  before you know it. I should put up some snaps of us together.

T & A

T & A & I in Mumbai!

In hindsight I wonder if picking Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte or otherwise simply Blackforest cherry cake as my first go at baking was a good choice. The recipe was intimidating. It took forever to bake. A whole lot of effort went into the decorations. At the end of it all, it was well worth the effort and time spent. A couple of more hours in the fridge and it turned out to be one lip smacking dessert. A double thumbs up for the person that came up with the recipe.

Here are the bits and pieces that make up the final piece de resistance.

 

BLACK FOREST CAKE
Makes 9-inch three-layered cake

Cake layers

  • 3 9-inch cake pans
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp instant espresso or instant coffee
  • 10 tbsp (11/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease 3 9-inch round cake pan, then dust with cocoa powder and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the boiling water, chocolate, 1/2 cup of the cocoa powder, and instant espresso together until smooth.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla until incorporated.

Reduced the speed to low and beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of the chocolate mixture.

Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture and the remaining chocolate mixture. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just incorporated.

Give the batter the final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, smooth the tops, and gently tap the pans on the counter to settle the batter.

Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 15-20 minutes, rotating and switching the pans halfway thorough baking.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Runs a small knife around the edge of the cakes, then flip them out onto the wire racks. Peel off parchment paper, flip the cakes side up, let cool completely before frosting, about 2 hours.
 

Cherries and syrup: 

 

 

Cherries and syrup

  • 2 cups jarred sour cherries in light syrup, drained with 1 cup syrup reserved
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • 1/2 cup kirsch or other cherry flavored liqueur

Reserve 8 of the prettiest cherries for garnish in a small bowl.

Slice the remaining cherries in half and place in a medium bowl.

Simmer the reserved cherry syrup and sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until mixture is thickened and measure about 1/2 cup, 8 to 10 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the kirsch.

Toss 1 tbsp of the syrup with the cherries reserved for garnish.

Toss 3 tbsp more syrup with the halved cherries. Poke the top of the cake layers thoroughly with a wooden skewer and brush with the remaining syrup.
 

Whipped cream frosting:

  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk the sugar and the cornstarch together in a small saucepan and slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of the cream.

Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickened,2-3 minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, whip the remaining 2 1/2 cups cream and the vanilla together with an electric mixer on low speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue to whip the mixture until it begins to thickened, about 30 seconds.

Slowly add the cooled cornstarch mixture and continue to whip until the mixture forms soft peak, 1-3 minutes.

Line the edges of a cake platter with strip of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake.

Place one of the cake layers on the platter. Spread 1/2 cup of the whipped cream over the top, right to the edge of the cake, then cover with half of the sliced cherries.

Layering

Repeat with another cake layer, 1/2 cup more whipped cream, and the remaining sliced cherries.

Place the remaining cake layer on top and press lightly to adhere. Frost the cake with the remaining whipped cream.

Frosting

Choc shavings

Refrigerate the cake until it absorbs the soaking syrup, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. Before serving, let the cake sit at room temperature, 30-60 minutes, then gently press the chocolate shavings into the sides of the cake. Evenly space 8 small pile of chocolate shavings around the top of the cake and top each with a cherry. Remove the parchment strip from the platter before serving.
Voila!
Ria’s first birthday cake.
NOTE:  Be sure to buy jarred or canned cherries packed in syrup, not water. You will need about 200 grams of chocolate for the shavings to decorate the sides and top of the cake. Letting the cake to sit at least 2 hours before serving allows the soaking syrup to sink in and the flavors to meld;

PS: The above recipes are not my own creations. They have been sourced from various websites. All I can stake a claim for is that they work marvellously well!