Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Ricotta and chocolate mini-muffins with lemon syrup


I had a pot of ricotta that is expiring today and I was just contemplating making this pasta recipe, when I stumbled on The Curvy Carrot's blog and this recipe. I made a few small changes, and substituted the blueberries for dark chocolate (can't live without it, sorry) and drizzled them with lemon syrup to make them a bit more lemony. They taste great, the ricotta makes them feel light and the lemon syrup gives them a bit of tang and sweetness that goes well with the dark chocolate. The size of the mini-muffins is just perfect for grazing :)

Ricotta and chocolate mini-muffins with lemon syrup
makes about 16 mini-muffins (using cupcake molds)
Ingredients:
- 1 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup wholemeal flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup semi-skimmed milk
- 113gr (8 tablespoons or1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large eggs
- zest of 2 lemons plus juice of half (the other half will go into the syrup)
- a small handful of dark chocolate chips or chocolate cut into small pieces (about 30-40grams)
for the lemon syrup:
- juice of half a lemon
- 25gr or 1/8cup sugar
- 50ml water (little less than 1/8cup)

Preparation:
- Preheat the oven to 200C (400F)  degrees.
- Line a muffin tin with desired paper liners, or spray with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt, mixing well.
- In another bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, milk, and butter at low-speed with a handheld mixer.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Add the lemon zest and then the lemon juice, mixing well.
- On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, until just combined.
- Fold in the chocolate and make sure its combined well so all cupcakes get a bit :)
-  Evenly divide the batter between your tins, and bake until golden brown on top, about 25 minutes.
- While the mini-muffins are baking, combine the half lemon's juice with the sugar and 50ml water in a small saucepan.
- Bring to the boil. Boil until reduced by half or has a syrup consistency.
- When the muffins are done, with a spoon, pour over a spoonful of the syrup to each muffin and put on a rack so the excess syrup (if any) comes out, although this shoul;d not make a mess or ruin the paper cups!
- Leave to cool and enjoy!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Cold noodle salad and tempura veggies

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com

This noodle salad makes a tasty and quick lunch with millions of options to make it a bit different every time. It’s the first time I make a cold noodle salad, but definitely not the last! We had it for a quick weekend lunch and it was a huge hit. I have kept this version simple with just the basic ingredients.

Quick cold noodle salad:
Ingredients:
- dry or fresh noodles, prepared as per packaging instructions and cooled by rinsing with cold water a few times
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 2-3 spring onions thinly sliced
- 1 red chilli chopped
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 small bunch of coriander chopped
- a small handful of toasted and chopped cashews (optional)

Preparation:
- Mix well all ingredients except for noodles, coriander and cashews.
- Combine sauce with noodles and right before serving add nuts and coriander and mix well.

Tempura: (aaargh!!! I am working off a dongle and now I have temporarily given up on uploading pics, so sorry, this will have to come later)
Recipes courtesy of pink bites and itsy bitsy foodies Serves 4
Ingredients:
- 1 egg yolk from a large egg
- 1 cup (240 ml) iced water
- ½ cup  (70 gm) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
- ½ cup (70 gm) cornflour a.k.a cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- vegetable oil, for deep frying
- ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)
- very cold vegetables and seafood of your choice, I used aubergines/eggplants cut into strips, carrots thinly sliced and prawns

Preparation:
- Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and
seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.
- Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.
- Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
- Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
- Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Healthy Houmous


I love houmous. Simple as that. But all houmous are not created equal: sometimes they just taste of tahini or of garlic, or they are too thick or too dry. I found an recipe where you add taste with sesame oil and soy sauce instead of tahini in The Food Doctor Everyday Diet Cookbook that is easy to make, is as light and healthy as can be and tasted lovely. The only change I made is that I baked the garlic cloves instead of using them raw to give it a smoother garlicky taste.


Healthy Houmous:
Ingredients:
- 400gr (13oz) can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 garlic cloves, baked in the oven until soft but not burned
- 3 tbsp very good quality olive oil
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- freshly ground black pepper, salt, and chilli flakes
- extra oil to drizzle on top

Preparation:
- Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smoothish or as you like it.
- Taste and season
- When you serve it, drizzle with a bit more olive oil and sprinkle with chilli flakes.

Chocolate pudding pots



Its funny that in the country where pudding is the word used for dessert, the pudding as we know it does not really exist. I have been having a real craving for those lovely pots of chocolate pudding, dark and semi-sweet, with a thin but intense skin on, so I decided to investigate how to make these at home.
I found quite a few recipes here and there, and ended up using as inspiration the recipe from smitten kitchen combined with the recipe in the book Pure Desserts (hence the cups instead of grams). I came up with a third version because I find that using chocolate for baking and cooking gives me the flavour of the choc bar I use, and so a lot of the recipes just end up tasting the same. So I substituted chocolate for cocoa powder combined with oil and I also used skimmed milk instead of full fat.
The pudding pots were beautiful and gone in an instant and so easy to make, that I think they are going into my best-of notebook. Now I just need to come up with a good vanilla version and layer the 2 J

Chocolate pudding pots (serves 4 or just one big choc-lover:):
Ingredients:
- ¼ cup corn flour a.k.a cornstarch
- ½ cup sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 3 cups of skimmed milk
- ½ a vanilla pod
- 8 tbsp cocoa powder
- 2,5 tbsp vegetable oil

Preparation:
-  In a medium sized bowl, combine the corn flour with the sugar and salt.
- Slowly whisk in the milk and add the vanilla beans scraped out of the pod as well as the pod and place the bowl over gently simmering water (just like you would when you want to gently melt chocolate).
- Heat and stir occasionally for about 15-20minutes, until it begins to thicken.
- Mix together the cocoa and the oil, just as much as you can.
- From your milky mixture, take out the vanilla pod and whisk in the cocoa and oil mixture, making sure it dissolves completely.
- Continue stirring for another 5-6 minutes until the mixture gets even thicker.
- Remove from the heat and divide into your serving cups and chill (then eat them all!!).

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