Tiramisu (Pure Italian Indulgence)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tiramisu is an outrageously gorgeous and creamy Italian dessert, traditionally made using eggs, mascarpone cheese and biscuits soaked in coffee (and sometimes alcohol too).  This is my boyfriend’s colleague, Amandine Gutierrez’s, recipe.  She made it for everyone at work and he hasn’t stopped talking about it!  He has a seriously sweet tooth so you know if he particularly likes something then it is going to be an indulgent treat.

Although the recipe looks a bit intimidating it is actually pretty straightforward to make, particularly if you use an electric whisk for the egg.  Allow at least 6 hours for the Tiramisu to set in the fridge before you delve in!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tiramisu (impossible to say how many it serves – 4 greedy people/more less greedy people)

3 eggs

50g granulated sugar

250g mascarpone cheese

Pinch of salt

Coffee (instant is fine)

Cocoa powder

Pack of Lotus Biscoff biscuits (or sponge finger biscuits)

Prepare 3 espresso-sized cups of coffee and pour it in to a dish where you will dip the biscuits.  Let it cool while you prepare everything else.

Separate the egg whites from the yolks in two different bowls.  In the bowl with the egg yolks, add the sugar and mix well.  Add the mascarpone cheese, little by little and keep on whisking until it is smooth.  Try to remove any lumps by whisking energetically.

In the bowl with the egg whites, add a pinch of salt and beat them by hand or with an electric whisk until they are firm (you should be able to hold the bowl upside down without the whites falling – normally takes a few minutes).  Add the beaten egg whites very slowly (bit by bit) to your egg yolk mixture, mixing slowly with a spatula, so you don’t break the beaten egg whites.

Once the mixture is smooth, it’s time to dip your biscuits in to the coffee.  Dip each side fairly quickly so they soak up with coffee without falling apart and make a first layer of biscuits in the bottom of the container you will use to make the Tiramisu (there will be two layers in total).  Pour over a little more coffee if it needs it, so the biscuits are well soaked but not swimming in coffee, and there is enough coffee left for the second layer of biscuits.  Once done add 1/2 the eggs mixture on top, then do another layer of coffee dipped biscuits.  Finish with a final layer of the eggs mixture.  Finish it all off by carefully shaking a little cocoa powder over it all using a sieve.

Put the Tiramisu in the fridge for atleast 6 hours to set, or until the next day.  Eat!

 

Veggie Tortilla Soup (20 mins)

We love this Veggie Tortilla Soup!  It is hearty, tasty and perfect to slurp on a cold day.  The soup is Mexican and traditionally made with chicken but there is plenty of flavour and texture without it, plus a hit of protein in the black beans.  Allow 20 minutes to make it.

If you are making this for kids too then you could leave out the chilli in the cooking and have it on the table instead.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Veggie Tortilla Soup (serves 2)

1 tortilla, cut in to thick strips

Oil

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1/2 green or red chilli, chopped small

1/2 red onion, sliced

Can of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp cumin seeds/ground cumin

Tin of black beans, drained

Salt and pepper

2 lime quarters

1/2 avocado, sliced

1/3 block of feta, to crumble

Small handful of coriander

Heat the oven to 20 degrees/gas mark 6.  Put the tortilla strips on to a baking tray and bake them for a few minutes on each side, until golden and crispy.

Separately heat some oil in a saucepan and add the garlic, chilli and red onion and fry for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft.  Add the canned tomatoes, cumin, black beans and a little salt and pepper.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spoon the mixture in to bowls then top each bowl with a lime quarter, avocado, feta, the coriander and the tortilla strips.  Slurp!

Autumn Platter with Aji Green Dip

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is an unusual and grown up sharing platter of roast autumn vegetables, prawns and tortillas with Aji Green Dip – a Peruvian sauce which is full of flavour and kick.  The dip is super easy and can be made in minutes in a food processor.  If you use ‘lighter than light’ mayonnaise then the dip is also officially low fat!

The whole platter is lovely to share with someone else for dinner, or with several others as a starter.  As an alternative you could use the dip as a sauce by spooning it over roast veg or meat or swirling it in to soups.

Autumn Platter with Aji Green Dip (serves 2 as a main or 4/5 as a starter)

For the things to dip

1 tortilla, cut in to triangles (or a small bag of plain tortilla crisps)

Small pack of king prawns, dry fried for a few minutes (you can use cooked prawns straight from the packet but they are nicer warm)

3 parsnips/2 potatoes/2 carrots – chopped in to thin wedges

Tbsp oil e.g. olive or vegetable oil

For the dip

Small pack fresh coriander
1 green chilli, chopped in to 3
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 lime
4 tbsp mayonnaise (if you use ‘lighter than light’ mayo the dip will be officially low fat!)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.

First put the vegetables in an oven tray and drizzle over the oil, until everything is lightly coated.  Roast the vegetables for half an hour or so, turning a few times, until browned and cooked through (the exact time will depend a bit on the oven).  Ten minutes before the veg are done, arrange the cut tortilla in an oven tray and cook each side for about 4 minutes, or until lightly browned and crunchy.

For the dip, put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz for about 20 seconds, until smooth.  Serve in a bowl with the vegetables, tortillas and prawns placed around it for dipping!

Fun Family Turkish Breakfast

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A few months ago my boyfriend and our two boys went out for a Turkish breakfast at a local restaurant.  It was such a unique and delicious experience that we decided to recreate it at home!

This basically involved laying the table with lovely shop-bought bits for everyone to help themselves.  Help-yourself meals are always popular in our house, and there is zero pressure on the kids to eat everything (obviously I am secretly willing them to, but they often just choose two or three things).  We laid out: falafel (I like the Cauldron range); fried halloumi cheese; bread and honey; olives; cucumber; yoghurt and fruit; and rocket and tomato salad.  If you wanted to be really authentic you could also include sucuk (spicy and seriously tasty Turkish sausages), eggs, and muska boregi (Turkish pastries filled with feta cheese and herbs – if you can find them!)  For the adults we had builders tea Turkish style (black and with sugar!) and the kids had juice.  All in all a lovely experience,  a chance for the kids to try something different and a reminder that breakfast can be special too!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For more ideas about help-yourself meals check out this previous post: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/help-yourself-lunch/

Radiant Ratatouille (20 mins prep/50 mins baking)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have always had a soft spot for ratatouille, a wonderfully flavoursome and colourful vegetable stew from the south of France.  My mum used to make a really tasty one and I have been known to eat canned ratatouille with a spoon when no one is looking.  Also, if you have ever seen the Pixar film Ratatouille, there is a beautiful scene where a mean and cynical food critic eats a forkful of ratatouille and the experience takes him back to his childhood and turns him in to a nice person..!

This recipe, from ASDA magazine, is simpler than many ratatouille recipes as you simply cover a dish with a can of tomatoes, garlic, dried herbs, basil and vinegar then chop the vegetables and layer them on top (allow about 20 minutes for this).  Bake for around an hour until all the flavours have mingled with each other and then eat it sprinkled with feta cheese alongside some rice.  Just gorgeous.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Radiant Ratatouille (serves 4 with rice)

Tin chopped tomatoes

Large clove of garlic, crushed

Small handful of basil, torn or roughly chopped

Shake of dried mixed herbs

Dessert spoon of balsamic, white or red wine vinegar

Tbsp oil

1 aubergine, sliced

1 courgette, sliced

Approx 4 medium tomatoes, sliced

2 red onions, sliced

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees.  Pour the tin of chopped tomatoes straight in to your casserole dish, add the garlic, basil, mixed herbs, vinegar and oil and mix well.

Arrange the vegetable slices in neat rows with alternating colours e.g. slice of aubergine/courgette/tomato/onion, and keep repeating this until you have filled the dish (as per the picture above).  Press the vegetables down in to the tomato mixture.  Brush or spray the top of the vegetables with a little oil, to encourage them to turn golden as they bake (this is not essential).

Bake the dish for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the sauce is bubbling hot and the vegetables are tender.  Serve sprinkled with a little feta or goats cheese alongside some rice or bread.

 

 

 

Katie’s Caponata

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

Noodle Salad with Asian Pesto

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

Chicken (or Veggie) Chow Mein

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This delicious Chicken (or Veggie) Chow Mein recipe comes courtesy of Judy and Andy Mus, a couple who run excellent ‘Saturday Cooking Club’ family cooking classes in Walthamstow, East London. Judy says this is the most popular dish at their cooking club, with many people commenting that it tastes better than a take away!  Even many fussy eaters have enjoyed it.   I have added fresh coriander to the recipe, as I can’t get enough of it and it is nice to sprinkle on some fresh herbs.

You can use chicken, prawns, tofu or quorn chunks along with the veg.  Allow about 25 minutes to prepare and cook it all.   The kids could help with all aspects of the dish – here is a guide to cooking with kids, in particular a video about knife skills: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/guide-cookery-skills-age.  I had never let my kids cut with a sharp knife until I attended the cooking club!  It was a little scary, but my 6 year old did really well and still has all his fingers.
If you are local to Walthamstow then check out E17 Pop Up Kitchens on Facebook for info about upcoming cooking sessions. It costs £15 per family, is fun and relaxed, and there is no minimum age.

Chicken (or Veggie) Chow Mein (serves approx 4)

3 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
Small thumb ginger, peeled and grated or chopped very small
1 clove garlic, crushed or chopped very small
Any oil, for cooking
2 chicken breasts, cut in to small chunks OR chopped smoked tofu OR quorn chicken chunks OR prawns
1 pepper, cut in to thin strips
5 spring onions, chopped
200g beansprouts

200g noodles (any is fine – I used medium egg noodles)

Optional – roughly chopped coriander

Mix the ketchup, oyster sauce, soy sauce, ginger and garlic together and set aside.

Heat some oil in a frying pan on a medium heat and add the chicken (or tofu, quorn chunks or prawns), stirring regularly for about 10 minutes, until it is white and cooked through.

Meanwhile cook the noodles as per the pack instructions and set aside.  To the chicken add the pepper and stir fry for another 2 minutes. Pour in the sauce and stir well until bubbling. Add the noodles, beansprouts and spring onions and mix well for another 2 minutes.  Eat, sprinkled with coriander if you wish.