Monday, October 6, 2014

Simple Cupcake Frosting - Ganache

Cupcakes are awesome. Who doesn't like a good old cupcake with a cuppa whatever. With Halloween coming around, you might want to bake some cupcakes and well, stuff your face with it. Holidays are here for a reason right? I absolutely abhor butter cream on cakes. But that's just me, I tend to be weird. If you like butter cream on your cupcakes, knock yourself out. If you like ganache like me, this is the recipe for you.



The ganache recipe
I've learnt to make ganache when I was in my pre-teens. This goes to show how simple this recipe is. I was always a lazy baker; trying to find ways around those seemingly complicated and time-consuming recipes. I wanted to make something that tastes great with minimal effort and in no time (who doesn't dream about that). I found the recipe in one of those 80s food magazine and decided to give it a try. Ganache is the perfect glaze for a rich chocolate cake but it can also marvelously top a plain vanilla cake. Let's crack on with the recipe, shall we?

Ingredients:

  • 200g of dark cooking chocolate or at least 70% of cocoa content
  • 200ml of cream 
  • 1 teaspoon of butter
  • Icing sugar (Optional - to taste)


Method

  • Heat the cream in a pan and bring to a boil
  • Dice the chocolate and reserve in a bowl
  • Add the hot cream over the chocolate cubes and let that rest for about 3-4 minutes
  • By then the hot cream would have melted the chocolate
  • Stir the cream and chocolate mixture to combine
  • Add in the butter and sugar
  • Let the ganache cool before glazing your cake


Pretty simple recipe. You can add a layer of ganache on your cupcake and do the classic spiderweb design with some melted white chocolate.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Crunchy banana smoothie

Who doesn't love a good smoothie? When bananas are abundant, I love to make this one. The thing about banana smoothies is that they give you a boost right before you get into your workout. I've heard that 2 bananas are enough to give you the right level of energy to sustain a 2-hour workout. Well, that certainly works for me. Or maybe its the amount of calories I had ingested during the day?



Anyway, what you need to know about this recipe is that it is not shy on calories. If you are looking for a light fat-free smoothie, this is not it. It combines the unctuosity of cream to the smoothness of bananas. All this would have been incomplete without the crunchiness of the almond flakes. I've used almonds here but you can use just about any nuts. Knock yourself out really. It's your smoothie but be sure to work that out or it will all land on your hips. Unless your aim is to gain some hips, in which case just sit down and enjoy your smoothie you lucky brat!

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4
Equipment required: Blender

Ingredients:
1 cup (225g) of milk, chilled
1 cup (250ml) of heavy cream
8 bananas
2 tbsp (43g) of honey
½ cup (60g) of whole almonds
10 ice-cubes
1 tsp of almond flakes (optional)

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until everything is smooth.

Serving and decoration:
Pour the smoothies into tall glasses and decorate with the almond flakes.




Monday, September 22, 2014

Roasted vegetables

We used to love eating at an Italian place that had a marvelous vegetarian pizza rightly named "vegetariana". That pizza was fairly simple and yet packed full of flavour. That's what made it one of our favourites, I guess. We love simple yet surprising recipes. The pizza was topped with a classic tomato sauce, lots of grilled and olive oil-marinated peppers and zucchini and just the right amount of mozzarella and oregano. And so that place stopped making that pizza and that was one of the reasons we don't go there so often. 

But that did not stop us from trying to make our own roasted vegetables to be stocked in jars, ready for use anytime! The wonderful thing about this recipe is that it gives way to your imagination, you can pop in almost any vegetable depending on your liking. It's no rocket science, it's just some grilled vegetables.

Ingredients: (Serves 4)
2 bell peppers
1 zucchini
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
salt and pepper
2 tablespoon of olive oil

Optional ingredients:
Mushroom
Tomatoes

Method:

  • Pre-heat your over at 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Slice the vegetables thickly and place in a baking tray, making sure they don't overlap each other.
  • Toss in the peeled whole garlic cloves
  • Sprinkle the dried oregano, salt and pepper on the vegetables
  • Drizzle with olive oil, making sure each vegetable element gets a good dropping.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables feel soft and well-tanned. 
You can use this recipe as a pizza topping, or as a salad served with feta or a burrata. I had served this with spaghetti and a classic tomato sauce and some parmesan and it was delicious!




Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pizza Dough Recipe

This pizza dough recipe was taken from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home. The initial recipe yields 6 to 8 medium-sized thin pizza crusts and even if that amount might be too much for your planned use, I would honestly recommend that you make the whole amount of dough and then freeze it or chill it for later use. For me, who is constantly looking for shortcuts and quick ways round the kitchen, having pre-made pizza dough is a blessing. Yes! I am lazy and impatient. What I love about this dough is that it's quite versatile. You might use it for bread-making and use your imagination to add some ingredients such as sundried tomatoes, olives or herbs to the dough to yield some fancy breads! 

Let's move on with the ingredients, shall we?

Ingredients:
1 kg white bread flour 
200g finely ground semolina flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 x 7 g dried yeast sachets
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
650 ml lukewarm water

Method:
- Mix the yeast, sugar, olive oil and lukewarm water in a bowl and let that react for a bit. Yeast loves to "feed on" sugar and along with the warm water, this will activate the yeast.
- Sieve the white flour and add the semolina flour and salt, mix well and make a well in the centre of the dry mixture.
- Pour the yeast mixture in the flour well and gradually incorporate the flour to the wet mixture until you obtain a rough dough consistency.
- Work the dough by kneading it until you obtain a smooth and springy ball.
- Place the dough ball into a floured bowl and dust the top of the dough with some flour. Cover the bowl with either cling film or a damp cloth and let that prove in a warm place for about an hour.
- The dough should have doubled in size by the end of the proving.
- Now take out the dough and place it on a flour-dusted surface. Work the dough by knocking some of the air out. 
- The dough is ready to be used straight away or you can now chill it for later use. Cover the dough in clingfilm for chilling to prevent it from drying down in the fridge.
- When rolling out your dough, use some ground semolina flour for dusting. This gives a nice crispness to the pizza crust. 


Now you only have to top your dough with your favourite cheese and toppings and you're ready to go! The dough part is the toughest really. 


Total time required: 20 mins for the preparation, 1 hour proving time max.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

About pasta and fast food

We don't see many outlets proposing fast pasta dishes around where we live. Restaurants are different. I'm talking about fast food outlets. The other day, we were at a food court, stuffing our face with some great belgian waffles topped with cream and ice cream, with a very hot coffee (sigh!) and we were having a look around us, at the other food outlets. There used to be an outlet selling pasta in this food court. The place did not live long. I had once tried their pasta. If I remember well, it was on one of our various Top Gear nights and I wanted to eat pasta. Pasta goes well with just about any occasion; deal with it. And so, before embarking on our Top Gear night, we went to that place and I ordered a tagliatelle with red sauce and chicken. It was OK. The sauce was creamy when hot and it beautifully tangled with the tagliatelle to give it just the right amount of slip. And then things got cold. I ended up with a sticky, dry tagliatelle with some residue of red sauce on it and some chicken. Everything fell apart. It's like the sauce and chicken and tagliatelle were in a beautiful relationship at first, when things were hot and then suddenly everyone has decided to go their way. The tagliatelle had absorbed the life out of the sauce and the chicken was playing solo. Well, that's how I felt anyway. Am I too passionate about pasta?

So yes, coming back to our issue. Why is it so hard to deliver good pasta dishes when you're a fast food outlet?

If you are one of those people who often make pasta dishes (and I know you are) you would know that making pasta is a very time-compelling task. You might look cozy doing it but in your head you are not. You are thinking about the exact moment to put your pasta to boil and how much time to cook your sauce so that the sauce is ready at the exact time when your pasta is boiled al dente so that you can blend the two together and create a miracle. You have to think about your family, you have to start shrieking at them to get ready to eat, to come and fetch their plate. To eat that damn pasta as if it were a nuclear time bomb. But in fact it is a nuclear time bomb. A very vicious one at it. If your sauce is not liquid enough, it would absorb that darn thing in less time that it takes to say "bon appetit".

Now let's transpose this situation to a fast food outlet. You see where the problem lies? Add to that the fact that customers will wander around and come fetch their food much much later after it was prepared. You can't just compel your customers to eat their pasta right away. Appropriate containers to hold the sauce are sparse. You might serve the sauce and pasta separately but both elements would cool much faster - a larger volume takes less time to cool. Pre-boiled pasta is a crime against Italy. You might bank on pasta salads solely. But really, who would like to eat pasta salad so much? Am I biased here? Think about the unctuous velvety texture of some tomato sauce and cream on a fresh boiled pasta and this served hot with a touch of basil and some parmesan. Heaven.

So yeah, if you are looking for a good pasta, either make it at home or go to a good restaurant.