Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Torta di Mele

A lightly sweetened rustic Tuscan apple cake

Torta di Mele

4 apples
250 g flour
100 g butter
150 g sugar
2 eggs
125 ml milk
lemon  zest from 1 lemon
1 tsp baking powder

Heat the oven to 160 C.
In a bowl mix sugar with butter to make a creamy mix.
Add the eggs, flour, milk, the lemon zest, a pinch of salt and the baking powder. The mixture should be creamy but not thick, if it’s too thick just add small amounts of milk.
Peel the apples. Thinly slice 3 apples and cut 1 apple into small cubes.  Mix the chopped up apples into the creamy mixture.
Pour the mixture into a prepped round baking tin.
On the top of it, place the sliced apples. Sprinkle 2 spoons of sugar and cubes of butter.
Bake for 40-45 minutes.
Let the cake cool before slicing.
Buon appetito!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Crunchy Gnocchi in Basil and Rocket Pesto

Potato Gnocchi

4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1-1/4 cups flour
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a pot, place the potatoes and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, until tender. Drain.

Mash the potatoes onto a parchment-lined baking sheet in an even layer. Set aside to cool.

Transfer the cooled, mashed potatoes to a large bowl and gently mix in the flour, yolks, salt and pepper until just combined and a soft dough is formed. Don't over mix the dough or the gnocchi will be unpleasantly dense.
On a well-floured work surface, turn out the potato dough, and divide into 6 equal parts. With the palms of both hands gently roll each part into a "rope" 3/4-inch in diameter. Using a sharp knife cut each "rope" on an angle into 3/4-inch-long pieces.

To shape the gnocchi, hold a fork in one hand. In one gentle motion, quickly press and roll the dough along the tines.
Repeat with the remaining pieces and transfer to a lightly floured baking sheet pan. Store in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours before cooking.

To serve, heat olive in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the gnocchi and cook until golden on the outside, about 5 - 8 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the *pesto.
Garnish with some fresh baby rocket leaves.

* To make the fresh basil and rocket pesto:

a big handful of chopped basil and fresh rocket leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 garlic cloves, minced
salt and black pepper

Combine the basil, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until fine.
Add the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth.
Season with salt and pepper.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Chicken Rice Sichuan-Stylie

... made in a paella pan
Don't be
This is how I would normally cook my savoury rice.
Normal is relative.
I don't own a rice cooker.
Is that normal for an Asian?

Now, back to my Chinese-inspired Chicken rice.
It was a request from the man himself; the only male representative in this household
As usual,
he won't be getting the "normal" chicken rice

Chicken Rice Sichuan-Stylie

 For the chicken
6 pcs  chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
100g dried shiitake mushrooms
6 dried chillies

1 tbsp minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine (optional)
1 tsp sichuan peppercorns *
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade and the chicken pieces in a bowl, making sure the thighs are well coated. Leave them to marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours or longer.

While the chicken is marinating, reconstitute the dried shiitake mushrooms and chillies by soaking in hot water for about 30 minutes.

In a large saucepan, heat a little oil over medium heat.
Add the chicken thighs along with the marinade and cook for about 5 minutes. 
Add the dried mushrooms and chillies to the chicken.
Season with salt and freshly ground black, if desired.

For the rice
1 1/2 cup jasmine rice
2 cups chicken broth
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 garlic, finely chopped
1 small knob ginger, julienned
4 cloves
2 star anise
1 tsp black peppercorns

Heat a little oil or butter in a pan.
Add the cloves, star anise, black peppercorns, shallots, ginger and the garlic, and sauté on medium heat for three minutes, until light golden.
Add the rice and stir for a minute.
Add the chicken broth. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce the heat and leave to cook until most of the broth has been absorbed.
Place the cooked chicken thighs along with the marinade on top of the rice.
Cover with a tight lid.
Place it in a 100C oven for 25 minutes, then remove from the oven but keep covered.
When you are ready to serve, sprinkle with some fresh spring onions and some sesame oil.

 * When using sichuan peppercorn, it's best to dry toast them lightly before adding them to rest of the other ingredients.

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the peppercorns and dry fry for 1 minute or until fragrant.
Remove from heat and place in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
Add a pinch of salt and grind until it forms the consistency of finely cracked black pepper.
Set aside until needed.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Snowed In

'Twas a snow day today so I decided to spend a majority of the day in bed, because I could.
However, my parents (and Lolita) didn't exactly share the same idea.. they decided to spend their time outside - in the freezing cold.

Lolita: Uh oh... my mom's up to something. Must get out of her way fast!!!

Lolita: Told you, she's up to something... I should be safe here for now...

Lolita: All that time spent making that stupid looking critter when you could have fun doing stuff for me!!! Oh, the indignity of it all!!!

It's a SNOW BEAR!!!

Because snowmen are too mainstream for my mother. #hipster

Meet BooBoo the Snowbear

Bears can be fashionable too, just look at that.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Murtaba Roll

Just realised ...
I've been rolling a lot of my food lately
it's totally unintentional
as I said,
the cold weather is affecting my brain
perhaps subconsciously I wanted to stay in bed, swaddled in my thick duvet

Murtaba Roll

For the filling:
500g lean minced beef
3 carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp ras-el-hanout
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
a small handful chopped fresh coriander

6 filo sheets or a dozen of spring rolls
olive oil

and, yeah, you do need a long counter-top to be able to do this... don't say I didn't warn ya!

Preheat the oven to 160C.
Make the filling and set aside to cool.
Brush a shallow pan with some olive oil and put aside.

Lay the pastry sheets out on a CLEAN surface in a long line, overlapping them on each side.
As evenly as possible, spoon your filling in a long line along the long edge.
Carefully, starting at one end, fold the pastry over the filling.
Do this all the way along so the filling is covered.
Then gently roll it until you have one long sausage.
Tuck the ends in, then roll it into a large pinwheel.
Carefully, slide it into the baking pan.
Brush it with a little olive oil.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until crisp and golden.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Poached Chicken with Avocado Mango in MangoChiliLime Dressing

Sometimes the body craves for something light for dinner

Poached Chicken

3 skinless boneless chicken breast
1 tsp dried thyme
a dash of olive oil
salt and pepper

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients with the chicken pieces.

Roll out a plastic wrap.
Place 1 chicken breast in the middle and wrap tightly.
Repeat with the rest of the chicken pieces.

Bring a pot of water to a simmer.
Reduce the heat and drop the rolled-up chicken wrap into the simmering water.
Cover the pot and let it slowly simmer for 15 minutes.

Mango Chili Lime Dressing

1/2 mango (peeled and chopped)
2 red chillies (deseeded and finely chopped)
zest and juice from 1 lime
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
sugar and salt

Place all the ingredients into a blender and processed till smooth.

Monday, 14 January 2013


The snow came, as forecasted
It supposedly made its appearance during the weekend
but decided instead to fall on Monday morning
not far off,
as weather prediction goes

After half an hour of furious snowfall
the garden was blanketed with a fresh white duvet of snow

The front lawn and entrance

The neighbours

Views from our backyard

As much as I love looking at the snow
I would much prefer its stay to be short and sweet.
Once mixed with rain
they would turn into a muddy, mucky, slush... yucks!