Saturday, April 19, 2014

A cacophony of cakes and a Brazillian buffet - Happy Birthday Daisey!

Cake stand

When I told you about The Jimbo Cake a little while ago, I also told you that I did (quite!) a bit of baking for my friend Daisey's birthday party. She knows I love to bake, so asked if I'd be happy to bake some cakes and desserts whilst a Brazillian chef friend of hers made savouries for the party. It was a no brainer - of course!

The night before, I baked and prepared all of the cakes, with the intention of assembling them at the party. So, in addition to the forty-eight Jimbo cupcakes, there was...

A pavlova - always delicious, good for coeliacs, easy, and cheap (even though Daisey paid for the ingredients, I always have loads of egg whites in the freezer so any excuse to use them is welcome!). I'm getting better at pavlovas, this time it was almost perfectly round and the sides were nice and high. (The cracks and dents in the top eventually get filled with cream, so no need to be too precious about those).

Pavlova shell

I also made Nigella's Nutella Cake, from How to be a Domestic Goddess - also good for coeliacs (there was at least one on the guest list), and most people I know like Nutella! The batter for this smelled so good - just like the inside of a Ferrero Rocher. Mmm...

Nigella's torta alla gianduia

And here it is topped with ganache and toasted hazelnuts.

Nigella's torta alla gianduia

Also on the list was a caramel slice (recipe on the back of the tin of condensed milk)! 

Caramel slice

... and some lemon slice.

Lemon slice

All packed up and ready to go!

So, on the morning of the party, I packed everything away carefully, put it in the car and started to drive to the train station... only for my car to break down! Argh!! Disaster! We had to call roadside assist, wait ages for them to arrive, only for them to tell me they couldn't fix my car there and then, and it would have towed back home. It was another thirty minute wait for the tow truck, and then we got my car safely parked, then finally called a cab... and the driver had no idea how to get to the destination, drove incredibly slowly and even stopped at green lights. Green lights! Needless to say, my stress levels were through the roof!

We arrived at the party two hours late, but luckily all the food was fine and no-one seemed to mind that the cakes were a bit late. I definitely needed one (or three) of these! Phew!

Caipirinhas made with aged cachaça

Let's have a look at the yummy food that Brazilian chef Claus made! I didn't get a picture of these, but totally loved the pão de queijo (cheese bread) he made. Think little cheese puffs - super addictive!

Here's a plate of bobó de camarão - a prawn stew with tomatoes, manioc (cassava) flour, coconut milk and tomato. So delicious!

Bobó de Camarão - prawn stew with cassava meal, tomato and coconut milk

He also made these fab crunchy cassava pancakes. You grate cassava into a dry pan and it magically cooks and melts into a big crispy pancake. I think you can put whatever you want in them - mine had prosciutto, cream cheese and tomato - yum.

Cassava pancake with prosciutto, tomato, cream cheese

Bobó de camarão and cassava pancake

And finally, there were these great bolinhos. Bolinho just means "ball" (hehe). I've made salt cod bolinhos de bacalau before - fabulous. These ones were made with cassava dough, and filled with either minced beef or cheese and olives.


 Bolinhos - some filled with minced beef, some filled with olives and cheese

My work wasn't quite done - I still had to decorate the pavlova and slice the cakes!

(Messily) decorate pavlova

And while we're here, I thought I might show you some innard shots. First up - fluffy pavlova...


... and dense squidgy nutella cake.

Nutella Cake

Happy birthday Daisey! 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Orecchiette with broad beans and lemon ricotta

Orecchiette with broad beans and lemon ricotta

So, end of daylight savings. I have to say, I haven't minded it too much so far. I loved the extra hour of sleep we got last weekend, and the extra light in the mornings is a total bonus. (Although we all know that's not hanging around for too long - winter, amirite?!) And even though it gets dark quickly in the evenings, at the moment I'm often tricked into thinking it's quite late and then realising, gratefully, that it's only six thirty, and I still have time to watch Judge Judy, knock up dinner, clean the flat and whatever else I feel like doing of an evening.

This pasta dish feels very spring time, but is primarily made with storecupboard and frozen ingredients. The perfect way to bring some sunshine into your kitchen on a gloomy evening. I got the idea of combining broad beans, orecchiette and ricotta from an old Nigel Slater column in The Guardian, but made it with frozen broad beans, added lemon for a zingy freshness, and really just made the method up as I went along, not following his recipe too strictly.

Broad beans. I think they're my favourite vegetable right now. (Or are they a legume?) Whatever, they taste good. I always keep a packet of frozen broad beans in my freezer. I've tried fresh before, but I've found that, similar to peas, they're only nice if you get them freshly picked, and if you prepare them straight away. Otherwise, they get all starchy and mealy. The frozen ones are picked and frozen at the height of freshness, so they're all nice and sweet and bouncy and fresh once you cook them.

I defrost them by pouring boiling water over them, then squeeze them out of their little shells. It's a bit of a pain to do, but the results are so worth it.

Shelling the broad beans

See how fresh and vibrantly green the little beans are?

Broad beans

So for this recipe, I cook orecchiette, adding the broad beans for the last five minutes of cooking. Once drained, I add butter (you could use extra virgin olive oil, but I love the milky richness of butter), salt, pepper, grated parmesan and chopped herbs. (I used chives and oregano, because I had them in the fridge and I love chives, but fresh mint would be nice too).

Adding butter

Incidentally, I've recently found good quality orecchiette at my local supermarket, in the home brand. I've noticed lately that supermarkets are starting to produce and sell upmarket home brand products, like pastas, jams, creams, preserves and whatever, and even increasing their range of non home-brand "gourmet" products, which I appreciate as a customer. (I remember majorly struggling in 2005-2006, during my Sarah Discovers How to Eat days, to try and find all those fancy ingredients Nigella used, like crème fraîche, Maldon salt, muscovado sugar, tinned chestnuts and so on). As much as I love slow specialty shopping in little stores and markets, despite my best intentions I always find that my precious weekend time gets away from me and I only manage to indulge once every month or so.

But back to the pasta! The addition of lemony ricotta really increases the freshness. I just got some ricotta and stirred through chopped herbs and lemon-infused olive oil (another impulse buy at the supermarket when I saw that they started selling Cobram Estate olive oil, which once upon a time was only available at snooty expensive stores). But I think plain extra-virgin olive oil (whichever brand you prefer) and a little lemon zest would work equally well for this purpose.

Lemon ricotta

And that's it! It's easy, it's fresh, it's quick, it uses pretty much all store-cupboard ingredients, and all the ingredients are available at a supermarket (but of course go specialty shopping if it makes you feel better). Enjoy!

Orecchiette with broad beans and lemon ricotta

Orecchiette with Broad Beans and Lemon Ricotta
Adapted (liberally) from Nigel Slater in The Guardian

400 grams frozen broad beans
250 grams orecchiette
1 tablespoon butter
Small sprig fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used chives and oregano)
200 grams ricotta
1 tablespoon lemon-infused olive oil (substitute 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and the zest of half a lemon)
Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Place the broad beans in a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water (from a recently boiled kettle) over the beans and leave to a minute to start to defrost. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, squeeze the beans out of their skins. Set the beans aside and discard the skins.
Place a large pot of salted water over a high heat. Once it has come to the boil, add the orecchiette. Once you are five minutes away from the pasta being cooked (check the packet for timing), add the broad beans and cook for a further five minutes.
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the lemon ricotta. Stir together the ricotta, lemon-infused olive oil and half the chopped herbs. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Drain the pasta and beans, then tip back into the pot. Add the butter, remaining chopped herbs and a generous grating of parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until it the butter is melted and evenly distributed through the pasta.
Distribute the pasta into serving bowls and spoon the lemon ricotta over to serve.
Serves 2-3

Monday, April 07, 2014

Coconut Flour Pancakes

Coconut flour pancakes, berries, maple, chemex coffee, icing sugar

Pancake time! I've made these coconut flour pancakes a zillion times before, and I love them as an indulgent, but still health-conscious, weekend breakfast. They take a bit of time to make, so aren't exactly weekday material, but I have found that leftovers reheat well if you feel like a nice little mid-week treat. (Incidentally, this is also a good recipe to try if you've bought some coconut flour and don't know what to do with it!) I guess it's a bit strange to be posting a weekend breakfast recipe on a Monday night... but this will give y'all time to go out and find some coconut flour before the weekend!

I found the recipe on the Nourishing Days blog and had really good results. The only thing to note is that they're quite hard to flip, much more so than wheat-flour pancakes. (You'll see in the pictures, lots of my pancakes have jagged little edges where they got smooshed up as I tried to flip them before they were ready). I've found that the best way to deal with this is to cook the pancakes slowly over a low heat, and only attempt to flip them once bottoms are totally sealed and golden brown, and the tops are almost cooked through. Patience is your friend.

Coconut flour pancakes

As I've told you before, coconut flour is much lower in carbs and higher in fibre than regular wheat flour. (It's also gluten free, if that's a health concern for you). Apart from nutritional benefits, this means they're quite a bit more filling than wheat-flour pancakes, and I find that four pikelet-sized pancakes make a very hearty weekend breakfast. (On weekdays, when I'm awake much earlier and usually in a rush, I find two is plenty). They're also a bit denser than your typical pancakes, so I always serve them with fresh fruit and maple syrup. (And sometimes some Greek yogurt).


Coconut flour pancakes with mango and maple

Coconut flour pancakes with berries, yogurt and maple syrup

Coconut flour pancakes with berries, yogurt and maple syrup

Coconut Flour Pancakes
Recipe adapted from Nourishing Days

1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.5 teaspoons honey, maple syrup or sweet syrup of your choosing
Coconut oil, butter or oil for frying

Preheat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat.
Meanwhile, whisk together the coconut flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
In a measuring jug, whisk the eggs, followed by the milk and vanilla extract.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Allow to sit for a minute or so or until the coconut flour absorbs the liquid and the mixture thickens.
Melt a teaspoon of coconut oil in your frying pan. Drop two-tablespoon of batter into the pan for each pancake and spread out gently with the back of a spoon. Allow to cook for a few minutes or until the bottom side is golden brown and the tops are almost cooked. Very gently flip over and cook for another minute or so or until golden brown. Keep cooked pancakes warm in a low oven or tented under foil while you cook the rest of the pancakes.
Serve with maple syrup, sliced mango, yogurt, berries, powdered sugar
Makes approximately 10 pancakes, serves 2-3