Tag Archives: Kitchen

Food Revolution Day 2013

frd-Tagline-graphic-a5-horizontal-bg“I am so busy, I don’t have time to cook.” I have been the first to admit to that, especially after a long and stressful day. And guess what? It’s OK. (We all have been through it.) As long as we don’t order takeaways everyday!

Listen up. Cooking can be a joy, so let’s support Jamie Oliver and Food Revolution on May 17. Cook with your friends and family. Anything. Recreate your favourite recipe or bake something completely new to you. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Simple is good. The most important thing is to enjoy the food and the company. Be aware of what you eat and where your ingredients are coming from. Spread the word and your love of cooking. Don’t be too bossy though!

Cook it! Share it! Live it!

Chocolate and Banana Muffins

Chocolate-and-Banana-Muffins-(6355)

Making muffins (when I get the hang of it) is one of the most enjoyable things. You see, I find that they give me more excuses to bake…well, not that I *need* many of those. When they’re done well (and I’m not necessarily referring to myself here) they are little parcels of joy, perfect for an afternoon treat for you and for friends. I also have a thing for muffin cases. (Ask J about it – he’ll go on forever!)

Some time ago I received a lovely message from one of my readers asking me for this recipe when I posted a picture of these baked goodies on my Facebook page. I made these chocolate and banana muffins, (adapted from Nigella’s Kitchen) a bunch of times and they always turn out great…and the more I make them, the more I love them. Perhaps it’s because they are so simple and take minutes to prepare, with no fancy gadgetry; bowl, fork, whisk, spoon and muffin tin and you’re set. You can prepare the batter while chatting to your friends or listening to music – that’s how I do it anyway, and it’s a perfect way to spend an afternoon. You will need:

  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • one 12 muffin tin, lined with muffin cases or parchment paper cut in squares
  1. Preheat the oven to 175ºC and prep the muffin tin.
  2. Mash the bananas in a medium-sized bowl with a fork or even with your clean hands. Take a whisk and beat the vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla extract and sugar with the bananas. Now take a wooden spoon (to avoid over-beating) and slowly add and mix the flour, sifted cocoa powder and baking powder. Your mixture should be lumpy.
  3. Tip each muffin case with some of the batter, dividing it into 12, and bake for around 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them to avoid burning. (I always take extra care when making muffins, I use to burn muffins a little bit more than I liked! But I’m getting there!) They should be done when their surface bounces back to the touch but insert a skewer in one of them to be sure.
  4. When the muffins have cooled for a little while in the tin, just take them out onto a rack, ready to cover in buttercream if you like.

Enjoy and as always Happy Baking!

Rob x

Easy Brownies

Everyday-Brownies-(6359)

I have to say that the following recipe has nothing to do with Christmas. This year, unfortunately or not, I didn’t really bother much with the preparations, especially when it comes to food. I left everything to the last minute, because I can afford it since I won’t have lots of guests. But I’ll be making some mince pies and a traditional Maltese Christmas log during the weekend (which is simpler than the one they make here. I plan to post something about these in the coming days, with photos of course).

However there’s nothing to stop you from making these beautiful babies for the kids or indeed for a cocktail party, when you want something sweet and dare I say it, easy to eat when your guests are standing up. I promise you that whoever has a taste of these brownies will never guess you made them with ordinary newsagent chocolate. They are really good and not expensive to make, which is indeed useful during the festive season. You need:

  • 150g unsalted butter,
  • 300g light brown sugar
  • 75g cocoa powder, sifted
  • 150g plain or all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150 milk chocolate, chopped into chunks
  • icing sugar, for dusting
  1. Grease and line a square tin (23 to 25cm; which ever you have) with baking parchment and preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  2. Melt the butter very gently in a medium pan to avoid burning and stir in the sugar. Allow the sugar to melt into the butter.
  3. In a bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add these in the pan with the butter mixture and stir. You will have a very dry mixture here but do not worry. Now remove the pan from the heat.
  4. In a jug (or indeed in the now empty bowl you used for sifting the dry ingredients) whisk the eggs and vanilla extract together, and add these to the pan with the other ingredients.
  5. Stir in the chopped chunks of chocolate and use a spatula to scrape and spread the brownie mixture into your prepared square tin. Bake for around 25 minutes, till the brownies are dry on top but still squidgy in the middle. They will continue to cook for a little while outside of the oven anyway so don’t leave them in too long, even though you will be tempted to. A skewer or knife should *not* come out clean here.
  6. Let them cool and then cut them into 12 to 16 large pieces, but that’s totally up to you. Sprinkle some icing sugar on the top, imagining it was snow if you like. I left mine bare, but I shouldn’t have really!

Enjoy and Happy Holidays! I wish you all the best!

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home, Chatto & Windus, 2010.)

Reviews and Recipes: Nigellissima.

Italian-Banana-Breakfast-Cake-(6334)

Writing a review about a book I really love is one thing, but doing so for one I have mixed feelings about is another. There is no need to say how much I like Nigella Lawson and her style of cooking. There are reviews out there saying something like: What is this? Another BBC series to accompany the book? I, on the other hand can say that I am enjoying the show. And yet, I still have my doubts. (This is *such* a hard thing to say!)

Tiramisu-(6327)

I have purchased Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration myself, for various reasons; one, because I like her, and two, for the sake of completing the set (until the publication of the next book, of course.) Nigellissima is very different than all the others; this is not a bad thing in itself. I like the toned-down appearance of it, including the fact that there are more photos of the food than of Nigella herself. Though, to be honest, I miss her encyclopaedic style of writing. I miss the chunky in-your-face book, but there again, there can be only one How to Eat, Feast or book number eight, Kitchen. I always try to read cookbooks from cover to cover whenever I can, especially for reviews. I read this too. In a day. We don’t need a book as big as the Bible to convey the beauty and the simplicity of Italian food. Do we? Anna Del Conte has done it; so has Giorgio Locatelli. Perhaps I am totally missing the point. Nigellissima is the lovely lady’s take on Italian fare and that’s that. (Mentioning Anna Del Conte, the classic must-have is *not* Cooking with Coco as Nigella insists – perhaps a bit too much – but Gastronomy of Italy. More like it.) As far as ingredients go, I don’t understand the continuing emphasis on the so-called banana shallot. My Maltese readers are definitely familiar with the kind of onion we use for pickling. It is also found all over the south of France.

Tiramisu-(6329)

Please allow me to say something negative, and then I promise you it’s all positive from then on. I am not convinced of the savoury recipes – they left me a bit wanting. (And there endeth the negative ranting.) But hey, the sweet things are fantastically easy and tasty. I have been trying some of the recipes all week and boy, have they been a hit! The Tiramisini (page 162), a scaled-down version of the Tiramisù, is to die for. Please note that I am not a fan of Tiramisù. During a recent visit to Frascati (by all means not the home of this dessert) I had no choice but to have a taste. It was good of course, but nothing to write home about. However Nigella’s version is something else. Individual portions made it all the more easier to serve. Just get a glass or ramekin out and you’re done. It just needed an extra Savoiardi though to absorb more of the coffee mixture. But it is fine, even as is. You can find the recipe on Nigella’s website here. Try it and you will be a convert.

Yesterday, while the house was one big mess and J was working from home, I wanted to take a break: I needed a moment for baking. I decided to try the Italian Breakfast Banana Bread (on page 188). Good decision. In 10 minutes flat the cake was in the oven. There isn’t much Italian to be found in a banana bread, let’s face it, even if coffee is added to the mixture, and I like the recipe more for it’s fast preparation than for anything else, but it worked. And it was what I needed at that moment. This weekend it’s all about Nutella cheesecake. (I also made the Instant Chocolate Orange Mousse. The one from Express was quick and gloriously rich, but this one is better.)

Even though I would give Nigellissima a 3.5 on 5, there’s still a significant space for it in my bookshelf and in my kitchen. Taking baby steps for now, but it’s getting there.

Rob x

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Chocolate-Chunk-Cookies-(4553)

Cookies are not very difficult to make. It’s easy to bake a good quality batch at home, but I guess they can turn out bad if not made with care. As with almost all sweet things that need chocolate, it’s important to have a cool environment. I make these cookies regularly throughout the year but in the summer I just freeze the chocolate chunks or chips beforehand just to make sure that they won’t melt while I handle them. That did happen once and although they were good, the chocolate just melted in the mixture. Another thing which helps is to use chunks instead of chips. I can’t find decent sized chocolate chips here so I make my own. I place one or two 100g bars of the stuff into a plastic bag and bash it with a rolling pin until I get small chocolate cubes. I must admit they still end up being large-ish but the larger the chunk, the larger the cookie, so who’s in?

I tried and liked many chocolate chip cookie recipes, so what I will give you is the most recent one I came across and made. This is taken from Nigella’s Kitchen with minor changes. They are a treat. I managed to make a batch of 18 large cookies out of this. You’ll need:

  • 150g soft unsalted butter
  • 125g soft brown sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, cold from the fridge
  • 300g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 300g chocolate chunks
  1. Preheat your oven to 170ºC/Gas Mark 3 and line a couple of baking trays with baking paper or silicone sheets.
  2. Melt the butter either on the stove or in the microwave in short blasts. Be careful not to burn it. Put both sugars in a bowl with the cooled melted butter and whisk.
  3. Beat in the vanilla extract and the eggs till the mixture is creamy. Slowly mix in the flour and the baking powder and gently mix everything again. Now is the time to fold in the chocolate chunks.
  4. Using a small ice-cream scoop or a US ¼ cup measure (or your hands if you like and if they’re not too warm), drop the cookie mixture down onto your lined baking trays. Make sure you place them around 6-8cm apart because they will expand in the oven. Try to keep the cookie dough bowl in the fridge to keep it cool in between batches.
  5. Bake for around 17-18 minutes. Keep an eye on them and take them out as soon as their edges turn a little golden. Leave to cool for a while before turning them on a wire rack. Do not over-bake.

Note: Uncooked cookie dough will keep for 3 months in the freezer in an airtight container or sandwich bags. What I do is this: set aside a small batch of formed cookies on a tray and insert these in the freezer. When set, take them out and transfer them into a large sandwich bag. When needed put them back on a lined baking tray and bake into a preheated oven for around 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

Rob x