Affogato – a ridiculously simple yet sophisticated dessert

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Affogato is a sophisticated and grown up Italian dessert that also happens to be ridiculously simple and quick.  Affogato, meaning ‘drowned’, is just vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso poured over it.  I topped mine with toasted almonds to give it extra flavour and texture, and it was gorgeous.

You need to eat the affogato straight away before the espresso melts the ice cream.  To slightly delay the melting you can scoop the ice cream in to a shallow glass or cup and put it in the freezer for a few hours before adding the espresso.  Genius!

If you can’t make ‘proper’ espressos at home, just dissolve a tbsp of instant coffee in a little hot water instead.

Affogato (serves 1)

2 scoops vanilla ice cream, in a shallow glass/cup (freeze the ice cream in the cup for a few hours to get it all really cold)

1 shot of espresso (make this with instant coffee as above if you need to)

A sprinkle of toasted, flaked almonds (to toast them yourself dry fry them in a pan for 30-60 seconds, until lightly browned, shaking regularly)

Make the espresso.  Take the ice cream in it’s glass out of the freezer and pour over the espresso so it covers just half the ice cream.  Quickly sprinkle over the warm toasted almonds.  Eat instantly!

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Cooking With Kids – Baked Whole Fish with Tasty Roast Veg

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A fillet of fish in a packet bears no resemblance to the animal it used to be.  So I feel really strongly that if children are going to eat fish or meat they should find out where it came from.  I’d always assumed that cooking a whole fish would be technical and awkward, but actually if you buy it gutted and descaled then all you have to do is stuff it with lemon and herbs, shake over some salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and bake it until flaky .  My kids love the spectacle of peeling the cooked skin off and using a fork to serve themselves.  They really enjoy the texture and flavour of the fish and then seeing and touching the bones, head and eyes left at the end.  They don’t hold back, so having wipes nearby is a must!

My kids are young so I just get them to do little tasks when I am cooking.  In this case they chopped the olives in half with a blunt knife (next time it will be a proper knife!) and stuffed the fish (seabass) with the herbs and lemon slices.  The fish is baked on top of sliced potatoes, onions, the olives and sundried tomatoes, which become sweet and chard, along with the subtle flavour of the lemon juice.  Other vegetables such as sweet potato, broccoli, pepper, tomatoes and asparagus would also work well.  Sainsbury’s do a pack of ‘British sea vegetables’ which you can fry in minutes, and make a great accompaniment (not according to the kids though, who stuck to their peas!)

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The whole dish is fun to eat as you can put it in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves.

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Baked Whole Fish With Tasty Roast Veg (serves 2-4 depending on appetite)

2 large potatoes sliced

1 onion, sliced

12 olives, chopped in half

6 sundried tomatoes, chopped small

2 whole sea bass or other similar sized whole fish, descaled and gutted

Handful of parsley

2 lemons, sliced

Olive oil (or any other cooking oil)

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.

Spread the sliced potatoes, onion, olives and sundried tomatoes out on a baking tray or large casserole dish to make a sort of bed for the fish, and pour over some oil.  Lay on the descaled and gutted whole fish and stuff them with the parsley and lemon slices (don’t worry if they come out the side a bit).  Finally drizzle the fish with a little oil and shake over some salt and pepper.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the fish is flaky and cooked, taking out the fish briefly to turn over the veg halfway through cooking.   Let everyone serve themselves and the kids explore the fish as much as they like.  Watch this video from 37 seconds in for how to eat your cooked fish – it is simpler than you think!

 

 

 

Katie’s Caponata

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Caponata is an incredibly flavoursome Sicilian aubergine stew and really, really worth a try!  Sicilian food is a mixture of traditional Italian and North African influences, and in this dish the aubergine, tomatoes, capers, raisins and white wine vinegar create a dish that is rich, sweet and sour all at the same time.   My boyfriend (a man who is not over the top with compliments) loved it too.  It’s delicious on it’s own, on some crunchy toasted bread, with pasta or couscous.  It also works well hot or cold and will last a couple of days in the fridge!

I did quite a bit of research to keep the Caponata recipe authentic but without a long list of ingredients, and am confident this is a winner.   Hope you like it : )

Katie’s Caponata (serves approx 2)

Olive oil

1 medium to large aubergine, cut in to small cubes

1 onion, chopped small (white or red onion is fine)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Small shake of dried mixed herbs or small handful of chopped fresh basil or parsley (depending on what you have at home or what you fancy)

Tin of chopped tomatoes

2 heaped tsp capers

1 heaped tbsp raisins

Optional – large handful of pine nuts

1-2 tbsp white or red wine vinegar, depending on your taste

Optional – grated parmesan cheese, to sprinkle on top

To avoid having to cook the aubergine in lots of oil, firstly place it in a colander or sieve, lightly salt it (ensuring the salt is mixed in) and leave it for at least 30 minutes over the sink.  This will draw out the aubergine’s natural juices, which will drip a little in to the sink.

Heat some oil in a pan and add the aubergine.  Fry it for 10-15 minutes, until softening, then add the onion, garlic and whatever herbs you have chosen.  Fry for another 5 minutes, until the onion is softened, then add the tin of tomatoes, capers, raisins, pine nuts (if using) and vinegar.  Leave it to simmer for at least 20 minutes, until the tomatoes have reduced down and you are left with a sticky, rich, tasty sauce.  Add salt, pepper and a wee bit more vinegar if you think it needs it (the other flavours might be plenty!)

Serve the caponata with a little olive oil drizzled on top.  Enjoy it on it’s own, on toasted bread, with pasta or couscous.  Grate over some parmesan if you fancy!

 

 

Orange Blossom Cake

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This very special Orange Blossom cake, from the wonderful Palestine On A Plate cookery book, is ‘filled with exotic aromas and a wonderful crumbly texture, yet quick and certainly not fussy’.  It is made with whole oranges and fragranced with orange blossom water, which is popular in the Middle East (and luckily available in supermarkets in the UK).    It also contains olive oil, which is lovingly revered in Palestine.

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The subtle flavour of the cake is complemented by the sweet syrup, which you pour all over the cake after pricking it, so it soaks up the aroma and moistness.  The whole thing is unique and delicious and comes highly recommended!  Allow about 40 minutes to prepare the cake, an hours baking, then another ten minutes to add the syrup.

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Thank you to Xeinab for buying me the Palestine On A Plate cookbook.  It is full of more recipes that I cannot wait to try, particularly the falafels, stuffed vegetables, sweet potato kubbeh, sesame breakfast bread and orange blossom rice pudding.  For more information about the lovely Xeinab, her family and their life in food check out my article on page 14 of the local newspaper:  http://walthamforestecho.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Echo-24.pdf.  It will definitely make you hungry!

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Orange Blossom Cake (serves 10)

For the cake

2 large oranges (or 5 seedless mandarins if you prefer)

150g caster sugar

180ml olive oil

1 tsp orange blossom water

5 eggs

320g fine semolina

4 tsp baking powder

Optional – edible dried rose buds to finish (I couldnt find any!)

For the syrup

150g caster sugar

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tsp orange blossom water

180ml water

Wash the oranges, place them in a saucepan of boiling water and let them simmer for around 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6 and line either a large loaf tin or around 23cm (9 inch) cake tin with baking paper.

Drain the oranges, leave them to cool then blitz them in a food processor/blender.  Add the sugar, olive oil, 1 tsp orange blossom water and eggs.  Blitz until smooth.  Add the semolina and baking powder and mix with a spoon until you have a smooth batter.  Pour the batter in to the prepared tin and bake for 45-60 mins, or until a knife inserted in comes out clean.  Leave to cool.

While the cake is cooking make the syrup.  Place all the ingredients in a saucepan over a high heat and simmer for around 5 minutes.  Set aside.

Carefully remove the cake from the tin by lifting it up by the baking paper.  Prick the surface of the cake all over with a skewer or something similar, then carefully spoon the syrup all over the top so it can run down in to the holes (and probably over the sides a little!)  Stud with the edible rose buds, if you have them.  The cake will keep for 2 days in a container.

Family-Friendly Couscous with Fried Halloumi

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This is a delicious, fresh tasting summer dish.  Couscous (it doesn’t even need cooking!) is mixed with courgettes, sundried tomatoes, chickpeas, spring onion, pine nuts (optional), mint, parsley, garlic and lemon juice, and topped with slightly charred and naturally salty halloumi cheese.  Super satisfying!  My kids generally turn their nose up at more adventurous cheeses like brie or goats cheese, but love halloumi.

You could vary or scale down what ingredients you use, to make it appeal to your family specifically.  I think mint, garlic and lemon juice are essential flavours though.  Veg wise peppers, fresh tomatoes, soya beans, red onion, green beans and asparagus would also work well.  And feta cheese would make a great substitute for halloumi.  Allow about 15 minutes to make everything.  If you have a griddle pan then use that to fry the halloumi, otherwise a regular non-stick frying pan is fine.

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Summer Couscous with Fried Halloumi (serves 4)

200g couscous

1 small courgette, chopped small

4 sundried tomatoes, chopped very small

Can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Large handful of mint (add more if you want a really fresh flavour!)

Small handful of parsley

6 spring onions, chopped small

Optional – pine nuts, toasted (do this by frying them in a hot dry pan until slightly browned for about a minute, shaking regularly to avoid them burning)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 vegetable stock cube, crumbled

1-2 tbsp oil from the sundried tomato jar (or any oil)

1 block halloumi cheese, sliced

Make the couscous as per the pack instructions (normally only takes 5 minutes).  Meanwhile, fry the courgette in a little oil for 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, mint, parsley, spring onions, pine nuts (if using), garlic, lemon, vegetable stock and  oil.  Heat for another minute or two until warmed through.  Taste and add salt and pepper and extra mint if you think it needs it.

Griddle or fry the halloumi on each side, until golden and slightly crispy (1-2 minutes each side).  Spoon the couscous salad in to bowls and top with a few slices of halloumi and a sprig of mint.  Eat!

Eton Mess in 5 mins

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Ah, Eton Mess. The creamy and delicious summer dessert combination of strawberries, crushed meringues and cream.

Eton Mess is believed to have originated from Eton School, who served it during cricket matches. One theory of how the recipe came to be is that the ingredients were accidentally mixed together when they were dropped on the floor, hence it being called ‘Eton Mess’! Another theory is that a cheeky labrador dog sat on a picnic basket containing the ingredients during a picnic, crushing them together. Either way, the dessert really is wonderful with a sprig of mint on top and a little vanilla added to the cream.

Eton Mess can be made in 5 minutes if you buy the meringues from the shop.  Or if you want a challenge you could make them from scratch. I tried it for the first time when making this and it was really straightforward. I used an electric whisk but if you put some welly in to it then a regular whisk is fine.  Whatever meringues you use, the kids might enjoy helping crush them up.

Although Eton Mess is traditionally made with strawberries you could try other fruit too, such as raspberries, blackberries or mango. There is even a similar dessert made with bananas called Lancing Mess. Lemon zest, liquor, elderflower cordial or ginger would work well as alternative flavours in the cream.

Eton Mess (serves 4)
400ml double cream, whisked until thick
1 tsp vanilla essence

8 ready made meringues, crushed

20 strawberries, hulled and cut smallish
Sprigs of mint, for decoration

Add the vanilla essence to the cream and mix.  Mix in most of the strawberries and the crushed meringues.  Spoon equal amounts of the mixture in to four glasses (any are fine) or glass ramekins.  Serve garnished with the remaining strawberries and a sprig of mint.

 

Noodle Salad with Asian Pesto

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I spotted this Noodle Salad With Asian Pesto recipe in the Itsu cookbook, and really fancied trying a different take on traditionally Italian pesto.  This pesto is made from unmistakably Asian ingredients – coriander, mint, ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce.  The pesto is mixed with noodles, avocado and topped with fresh chilli and toasted seeds, and I have added some soya beans too.  This is a really unusual and warming dish!

Toasting seeds is really simple – you just briefly dry fry them in a non-stick frying pan, shaking regularly.   I buy frozen soya/edamame beans lots, and you don’t even need to cook them, they just need to defrost.  They are great for adding to salads, as a snack or with scrambled eggs, and make a nice alternative to peas.

My kids were a bit sceptical when I served up this meal, as they adore regular pesto, but they ate most of it in the end.  We had just watched a beautiful and insane Japanese family film called Spirited Away so were able to link the food to the film!

Noodle Salad With Asian Pesto (serves 4 and takes around 20 minutes)

For the Asian Pesto

50g coriander, roughly chopped

1 tbsp mint leaves

Thumb sized piece of ginger, grated tiny

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp lemon or lime juice

1 tbsp honey

For the salad

320g noodles (any is fine)

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 ripe avocados, chopped

2 tbsp soya/edamame beans, defrosted or fresh (no need to cook them)

2 tbsp sunflower seeds

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

1 red chilli, topped tiny

To make the pesto, put all the pesto ingredients (leaving a little coriander for serving) in a blender/food processor and blitz until it is a smooth sauce.

Cook the noodles as per the pack instructions, drain and toss with the sesame oil.  Add the chopped avocados and defrosted/fresh soya beans.  Toast the sunflower and pumpkin seeds by heating them in a dry non-stick frying pan for 30-60 seconds, shaking regularly so they don’t burn.

Add the pesto, avocados and soya beans to the noodles and put in to bowls.  Top the mixture with the toasted seeds, chilli and remaining coriander leaves and eat!