Category Archives: Dairy

In time for Valentine’s Day: Chocolate Pasta with Pecans and Caramel Sauce

Chocolate Pasta (8841)

You might have noticed by now that I don’t really give much attention to any particular feast days or special occasions, except for Christmas on this blog. I have been asked so many times about it over the past few months but I have never given an answer. Perhaps it’s because I really don’t have one. What I know is that I am not into trends, but this week I will give in. I won’t bore you with the notion that love should be celebrated every day of the year. Let’s leave it at that! I made this recipe some weeks ago and I loved it, and I thought it would be a great Valentine’s Day post. It’s got chocolate and cream, and the pecans come as a bonus. I still find my liking this kind of dish a bit of a shock, especially because the nature of Nigella’s latest book somewhat perplexes me. I thought I would warm up to it, but I really didn’t like it as much as her other titles. However I found myself wanting to make this. You wouldn’t feed this to an Italian, but I’m not an Italian anyway. Chocolate pasta, which in my case are penne, just because those were the only kind I found in the shops, are a bit hard to come by. Luckily for me I managed to find them at one of my local stores, although online was the way to go on this one.

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Chocolate Pasta (8827)

But beware – this is rich. I would say that with these quantities, which I changed a little, will give you 2 substantial portions. You will need a glass or two of water to drink, apart from a little bubbly if you want to. At first it will not taste that sweet, but you’ll see as you go along that the sweetness will catch up with you. It’s all good mind you, as long as you don’t eat this everyday! And I know you will not! And you won’t need any dessert – this is an all-in-one meal and takes minutes to prepare.

  • 250g cocoa pasta
  • pinch salt, for the pasta water
  • 60g unsalted pecans, roughly chopped
  • 60g unsalted butter, softened
  • 60g soft light brown sugar
  • 100ml double cream, plus around 3 tablespoons for serving

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Chocolate Pasta (8829)

Boil the water for the pasta, add some salt to the water and cook according to packet instructions, preferably al dente.

In a pan (non-stick will make your life easier but stainless will work fine, at least it did for me), toast the pecans. When they’re ready, put them in a small container and set aside.

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In the same pan, over medium heat add the softened butter and brown sugar, and gently stir. Let everything bubble up and when it turns into a lovely toffee colour, stir in the cream. Add the toasted pecans and take it off the heat.

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Reserve some of the water from the pasta, and drain. Add the cocoa pasta to the caramel and pecan sauce and mix well. If needed, add one to two tablespoons of the reserved water, and give the pasta another stir until every bit of it is coated with the sauce.

Serve immediately with a little cream on top.

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Enjoy!

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from Nigellissima, Chatto & Windus, 2012.)

This is *not* a sponsored post.

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Churros

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This recipe is as recent as it gets: we finally made churros at home. This week. It was messy, the kitchen has never seen such chaos I think, and even though I will not attempt this again very soon, I can say that every minute was worth both the long wait (I’ve been wanting to try this ever since Ms. Lawson signed my book) as well as the mess. The company was great too – we asked our lovely neighbour to come over for a taste and we gobbled everything up in one sitting. That’s the way it should be. Good food is meant to be shared and after a busy few days we needed a pick-me-up.

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January was such a boring month. There was a sort-of-sweet-ban in this house for a few weeks, mainly due to the overeating done during Christmas. This month, and hopefully the rest of the year, will be about balance. I hope, that is. What a way to start the month, I hear you say! And you may be right, but this recipe is too good to let it percolate for long in my folder. Try this, at least once…(yeah, right.)

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Before I go on though, make sure you are not distracted when you cook with these quantities of oil. Concentrate and you will be safe. And take any photos at your own risk – I did and boy it was hard!

For the coating:

  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

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For the chocolate dipping sauce:

  • 100g good quality dark chocolate, cut into chunks
  • 30g milk chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) golden syrup
  • 150ml double cream

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For the dough:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) olive oil
  • approx. 210ml freshly boiled water

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For the oil quantities:

  • This really depends on what you’re using. For a fryer, we used around 3 litres of vegetable/rapeseed oil. If you are using a pan, aim for around 500ml to a litre, depending on the size. J was in charge of this, thank goodness.

*You will also need a bowl or plate with some kitchen towels on it, to drain the churros.*

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Mix the caster sugar and ground cinnamon together in a small bowl, and place these in a shallow dish or plate. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate ingredients in a small bowl over simmering water. (I prefer this method over using the microwave or heating directly in a pan on the stove.) When everything has just melted, remove from the heat and set aside in a warm place. Give it a stir once in a while. Don’t worry. It will not harden again.

For the dough, place the plain flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil. Now pour the boiling water slowly onto the flour. Don’t pour the whole amount at once; you risk the dough turning into a soup. Once you have a thick-ish, warm, sticky mixture. Leave it to rest for around 10 to 15 minutes.

In a heavy-based saucepan, or a deep-fat fryer, pour and heat the oil to 170C. Use a thermometer if using a pan. **Always pay the utmost attention when cooking with oil.** In the meantime pour the sticky dough into a piping bag with a large nozzle attached to the bottom of it. Spoon the sticky dough in the bag and slowly push the dough into the pan. Cut the dough into any length you want. We tried long ones and short stubby shapes. Both were good!

As each piece of dough turns golden brown, use tongs to take it out of the oil and place it on some kitchen towels. When drained, place the churros on the sugar and cinnamon plate. Shake and/or sprinkle the sugary mixture on the churros. Coat them well.

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Churros (8929)

Serve with the chocolate dipping sauce. Delicious.

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Enjoy! These are messy, as you can see from the photos, but as this is not a fancy cookbook, I took the pics as everything was. I do bother with neatness most of the time, but this was not one of those moments.

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen, Chatto & Windus, 2010.)

**This is NOT a sponsored post.**

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry-Muffins-(6541)A very good friend of mine always asks me for more muffin recipes. I get this. Unlike cakes, my personal preference if I were to choose (I don’t think so), muffins are charming little things. Even though I may have a muffin with my coffee when out running errands, I prefer homemade ones. Somehow shop-bought ones seem too big, too out there if you know what I mean.

Sometime ago I was invited to a YSL event at a local store. In one corner the ladies prepared a spread of pretty little cupcakes, which seem to be all the rage nowadays. To me they looked more inviting than all the expensive stuff in the shop. They were good, a bit on the small side, but good nonetheless. One would argue that you cannot look sophisticated while devouring a large chunk of cake! I went home and I wanted to bake something in between.

Homebaked muffins will be smaller than the huge things you might get at the store but don’t let that deter you. You can make the mixture in five minutes flat and they are so convenient when you have people round for afternoon tea. All you need is coffee! Blueberries are great here, but you can use whatever you want…strawberries, raspberries, or perhaps a mixture of both. Makes 12.

  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 120g unsalted butter, softened almost melted
  • 120g golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100ml milk, preferably full-fat
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 180g blueberries

Line a 12-hole muffin tray with muffin cases and preheat the oven to 190ºC.

In a large bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.

In another bowl, beat the butter together with the sugar, eggs, milk, lemon zest and juice till everything is just combined.

Fold in the flour mixture gently into the wet ingredients preferably with a spatula. Tip in the blueberries, and don’t overmix. A lumpy batter is exactly what you want here!

Using an ice-cream scoop, distribute the mixture evenly in the tray and bake for approximately 15 to 18 minutes. They should be ready by then but always check by inserting a skewer in the middle of one muffin just to be sure.

Place them on a cookie rack to cool, and eat them when they are slightly warm on the same day. They should keep in an airtight container until the next day – good excuse to invite a good friend for tea. Enjoy!

Rob x

(Adapted from River Cottage Handbook No. 8: Cakes, Pam Corbin, Bloomsbury, 2011.)

Chocolate Chip Cookies once again…

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Last week I got a very kind message from a friend about a large batch of cookies he made for 40 people. I never made such a big quantity all at once because thank goodness I never had to feed such a large group. (I admire anyone who is able to cook in this way without hitting the panic button.) I cannot believe that I wrote about this recipe almost two years ago today, on the 27th May to be exact! Nigella’s book Kitchen was only a few months old then. Must be a weird coincidence. Since then I made these chocolate chip beauties countless times and they are loved.

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Recently I went ahead and bought a small ice-cream scoop which turns out to be very convenient for all kinds of cookies and muffins. Sometimes the right tools make the job easier, and an extra ice-cream scoop hasn’t done anyone any harm yet! (It was also a good excuse to run to the catering shop which is only a ten minute walk away from here. Happy days!) This quantity yielded me 24 smallish cookies.

  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g soft light brown sugar
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, cold from the fridge
  • 300g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 300g dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees C (fan) and line a couple of baking trays with baking greaseproof paper.

Melt the butter. The easier method is in the microwave using short blasts. Set aside to cool a little.

Put both sugars in a large bowl. Pour in the melted butter and whisk vigorously.

Then beat in the vanilla extract and the eggs until the mixture is light and creamy. Slowly mix in the plain flour and the baking powder and gently mix again.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Using a small ice-cream scoop, drop the cookie mixture down onto your lined baking trays. Make sure to keep them around 6 cm apart because they will expand while baking. Keep the cookie dough bown in the fridge to keep it cool in between the batches.

Bake for approximately 17 minutes, while keeping an eye on them. Take them out of the oven as soon as their edges turn a little golden. Leave them to cool for a while on the trays before turning them out on a wire rack. Remember you want a soft cookie on the inside so don’t overbake them.

At the risk of sounding boring, I do love making these. And there’s always some in my bag when I have a day full of errands! Enjoy! R xx

(Adapted from Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home by Nigella Lawson, Chatto & Windus, 2010.)

Yogurt Pot Cake

Lemon and Yoghurt Cake (6556)

During a recent visit to Malta, I went through an old recipe file, still in storage. I wanted to find the very first cake I have ever baked. I flipped through the many sheets of neatly printed papers and there it was. Found it. You see, back in the days when I started to feel at home in the kitchen I was extremely methodical about keeping notes, writing and printing almost every recipe I tried. I had so much time on my hands, enough to feel really lonely…it was unbelievable. (My only regret is that I had no interest in blogging back then.) Alas, things have changed during the past few years and I have not been that good about organizing my notebooks. J came up with a strategy: there is a simple solution to all this, but to me it’s sounding more of a battle plan. So I am postponing what I should have done ages ago. Not good.

I digress so back to the cake. The precious paper (no rings here) contains a recipe for a “Yoghurt Cake”.  It has been ages since I made it so I won’t include it here; I might try it next week and take some pics. Right now I want to tell you about a similar bake, found in Nigellissima for another yogurt cake. Now I don’t know about you, but more often than not I tend to have a big pot of plain yogurt on the go in my fridge. I always get a 500g pot at the start of the week with the most basic, or rather, idealistic premise of a healthy breakfast. Of course, this plan goes completely awry by Wednesday, but not to worry: what remains of the pot goes into this cake. Well, 150 grams of it anyway!

When I bought Nigellissima, this was one of the recipes that caught my eye, and admittedly I thought that the savarin mould was irreplaceable. So this recipe was confined more towards the end of my list. However Nigella suggests using a 22/23cm springform pan, which I have; I just don’t like using it. So I used a normal non-stick round tin instead, which I still greased, and it worked well. (I always butter and flour non-stick pans when not using parchment paper.) A couple of weeks ago, I did get a savarin mould and I cannot wait to try it. I definitely will…very very soon…before my Maltese lemons run out. I’d better hurry! (If the lemons you have are not unwaxed, then don’t fret. Just rinse them with cold water, scrubbing them lightly as you go.*)

  • 150g plain yogurt
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 250 golden caster sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • zest of ½ an unwaxed lemon*
  • 175g plain flour
  • 75g cornflour (or cornstarch)
  • 1 teaspoon icing sugar, for sprinkling on top of the cake before serving

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/gas mark 4 and grease the savarin mould or the tin of your choosing.

Whisk the egg whites till you get firm peaks and set aside.

In another bowl, tip in the egg yolks and add the yogurt and sugar, and whisk these well until airy.

Now, slowly add the vegetable oil while mixing the yogurt mixture; then add the lemon zest and vanilla extract.

Fold in the flour and the cornstarch in two or three batches, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. When you have no lumps, stop mixing.

Gently fold the egg whites into the flour mixture. Keep it light. (It’s a bit like flicking and swishing a wand, if you’re a lovable show-off like Hermione.)

Tip the mixture into the greased cake tin or mould and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Place it on a rack to cool. I would wait for another 15 to 20 minutes to remove it from the mould. Serve after sprinkling it with the icing sugar.

Enjoy! R xx

(This recipe is adapted from Nigellissima, Chatto & Windus, London, 2012.)

Nigella’s Holiday Hot Cake

Holiday-Hot-Cake-with-Cream-(6611)

I live in a Victorian building. It’s not insulated well and even though we do have heating, it still gets cold in the evening. Last week temperatures were almost unbearable, and everyone was rightly complaining. Main reason: the snow. We’re still using the oven almost everyday. Baking pizzas, cakes and the likes helps to warm up my tiny kitchen. Yep – that’s the excuse you see!

One of my favourite things is the Holiday Hot Cake from Nigella Express. It’s easy and you don’t need any fancy equipment to make it. It doesn’t look good on photos either but it *is* good. I don’t like advocat too much so I don’t add anything with the whipped cream. I make it during Christmas, but this year it has made a very special appearance during the Easter break. No one minded.

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You can find the recipe on Nigella’s website here. Enjoy!

Rob x

Cornbread

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My only regret while living in the US is the fact that we didn’t travel much. There was no logical reason for this but hey, that’s life sometimes. Having said that, we did enjoy the few places that we went to. We moved straight to Michigan for the first two years of our marriage, and after settling down in campus, we took a trip to Seattle and then Washington DC. I immediately took to Seattle. It only rained once during that week (honest) and we had the most gorgeous view of the mighty Mt. Rainier from our charming B&B. For the first time in ages I didn’t miss my family; being in a foreign country and getting used to married life proved much tougher than I imagined. But I felt relaxed and rested and I couldn’t wait to explore the city.

We ate simply – there was no eating in fancy restaurants during those years but I didn’t mind it that much. Also, since I was just a few months into my culinary journey I didn’t care much for (or rather, I did not yet discover) spices. I was raised in an environment where seasoning meant adding salt and pepper. That. Is. It. Well, perhaps a bit of curry powder or mixed spice. A bit meaning “ponta ta’ kuċċarina” loosely translated as “the tip of a teaspoon”. Do you, the 30-somethings from my little Mediterranean rock, know what I mean? I have a feeling that you do. But that’s another story. All I can say is this: luckily the tables are turning…

My imaginary love of bland food ended pretty quickly right after that trip. While staying with some friends in Washington DC, I discovered the wonderful world of Mexican food. I asked J why we never tried it before. The answer he gave me was something on the lines of I-did-not-know-you-would-like-it-so-much. A good answer…

I am *not* a food expert though and I haven’t done sufficient research on authentic Mexican grub but I like to think I make a good cornbread. It’s one of J’s favourite things and it’s really easy to prepare. We had a Mexican night at home very recently (minus Tequila, *sigh* ha!). It was so much fun – we really should do it more often. Here’s our take on cornbread. It’s great with guacamole or tomato salsa, or both!

Just a note before we start: preferably you would need a cast iron tin for this recipe, but don’t fret if you don’t have one. A good thing to try is to put a non-stick loaf tin in the oven while it is preheating.* When the oven preheats and the batter ready, take the pan out of the oven and tip the mixture in it. Be careful how to do this – the tin will obviously be very hot. You will need:

  • 190g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 230g plain flour
  • 95g yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 200ml milk
  • 120ml corn oil or vegetable oil
  • 10ml orange juice (with the pulp removed)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.*
  2. Place the sugar,salt, flour, cornmeal and baking powder in a large bowl and mix them well together using a whisk.
  3. In another mixing bowl or a large measuring jug tip in the beaten egg, milk, oil and orange juice.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix well. You need some elbow grease for this one but I use a whisk. There’s no need for any electric mixers.
  5. Take the loaf tin out of the preheated oven and spray the very hot tin with non-stick baking spray. Tip the cornbread mixture into the cake tin and bake for around 1hour. As always, keep an eye on it and when it turns golden insert a knife or skewer in the middle. Let it cool slightly in the tin, then take it out and serve warm.

It will keep for two days in foil, but you could also freeze it for up to a month.

For more Mexican recipes (or Mexican-inspired) there’s a list for you here. There will be more recipes from my Mexican fiesta to come. Enjoy!

Rob x