Friday, January 31, 2014

Lemon and thyme cake, another TV show and being wrong about things

Lemon and thyme cake / Bolo de limão siciliano e tomilho

I thought it would take me a long time to get addicted to a TV show again after Breaking Bad, but the quality of a few drama series was so high I immediately got hooked. I enjoyed Rectify enormously, but with only six episodes I finished watching it in no time. Then there was a pause for some of this year’s Oscar nominated films, and then I started watching Masters of Sex – when I was in NYC last September there were billboards all over the city of three shows: The Blacklist, Masters of Sex and Mom – that got me curious. Both the husband and I enjoyed Raymond Reddington’s saga but I found Mom poorly written and offensive – I must be getting old because I can’t find the idea of a pregnant teenager funny at all.

Therefore, I moved on to Masters of Sex and found out that it is one of the best TV shows ever made, with writing and acting on a very high level and an interesting subject to boot. I already knew that Michael Sheen is a really fine actor – and that is again confirmed with the show – but the surprise to me was Lizzy Kaplan: I’d seen her on Hot Tub Time Machine – which is no big deal – so I was amazed by her acting skills (not to mention how drop dead gorgeous she is).

I usually shy away from cakes made with herbs – especially rosemary, which I find too overpowering – but when I saw Nigel Slater make this cake I decided to give it a go: the morning after I watched his show I was in the kitchen, baking his recipe and perfuming the whole apartment with lemon and thyme. It turned out delicious and moist and the thyme adds another dimension to the lemon flavor without tasting herby.

I don’t mind being wrong about things when the result is good: it took me almost no time at all to survive the end of Breaking Bad, and I want to bake Nigel’s lemon and thyme cake every weekend. :)

Lemon and thyme cake
slightly adapted from the always fantastic Nigel Slater

100g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
100g ground almonds
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, packed
200g granulated sugar
200g unsalted butter, softened
finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
4 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons granulated sugar
juice of the 2 lemons used in the cake batter
½ teaspoon thyme leaves, packed

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 900g/2lb loaf pan, line it with baking paper and butter the paper as well.
Cake: in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then stir in the almond meal. Set aside. Using a pestle and mortar, crush the thyme leaves with the some of the sugar until the leaves are finely ground and the sugar turns green and perfumed. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, the thyme sugar, remaining sugar and lemon zest until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the vanilla. On low speed, gradually mix in the dry ingredients.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

When the cake is almost baked, make the syrup: in a small saucepan, combine the sugar and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, add the thyme and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
As soon as the cake is out of the oven, prick it all over with a toothpick or skewer and gradually pour the syrup, waiting for the cake to absorb it. Cool completely before unmolding and serving.

Serves 6-8

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Baked moussaka eggplants and understanding references

Baked moussaka eggplants / Barquinhas de moussaka

I was listening to an FM radio station weeks ago and when they started playing Katy Perry’s “Roar” it suddenly hit me: her teenage fans don’t understand the references on her song, do they? I don’t think they do because they’re not old enough for that.

I don’t mean to be cranky - I don’t get tons of references either (and it’s pure joy when I do get them). :) It’s just that sometimes we might let something nice go unnoticed because of our lack of reference, which is such a pity. I guess that because of the blog and all these years of reading and being curious about food I immediately felt like making this recipe when I saw it – otherwise I would probably not pay much attention to a dish called “moussaka”.

These stuffed eggplants were a hit at home – my husband and I loved them, and a plus is that they’re easy to make. I replaced the passata called for in the recipe for tomato sauce I’d made the night before (using canned tomatoes and lots of fresh basil, thyme and oregano) and I think that made the dish even tastier.

Baked moussaka eggplants
slightly adapted from the delicious Taste Magazine (I got a digital subscription through

2 small (about 500g total) eggplants, halved lengthways
1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
1 fat garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons dried oregano
250g beef mince
¼ cup red wine
½ cup tomato passata*
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
50g sourdough, chopped – better if stale
50g grated fresh mozzarella
30g feta, crumbled or grated
basil leaves, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a roasting pan (large enough to hold the 4 eggplant halves side by side) with foil.
Using a sharp knife and a spoon, scoop out the eggplant flesh leaving a 1cm border. Finely chop the flesh. Place the shells on the prepared pan, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes or until it starts to soften.
In a large saucepan, heat ½ tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for2 minutes or until soft. Stir in the chopped eggplant and cook for 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in the garlic, cook until fragrant, then stir in the cinnamon and half the oregano. Transfer to a bowl.
Heat 1 teaspoon of the remaining olive oil in the same saucepan. Add the beef and cook until brown. Return onion mixture to the saucepan, stir in wine and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the passata and vinegar, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes or until thickened. Divide the mixture among the eggplant shells, cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. In the meantime, place the bread, cheeses, remaining oregano and olive oil in a small bowl and mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove the foil, spread the cheese mixture over the eggplant and bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until topping is golden. Sprinkle with the basil and serve.

* I’d made tomato sauce (using canned tomatoes and lots of fresh basil, thyme and oregano) the day before and used it instead of the passata

Serves 2

Monday, January 27, 2014

Nectarine, plum and brown butter shortbread bars and feeling lucky

Nectarine, plum and brown butter shortbread bars / Barrinhas amanteigadas de manteiga queimada, nectarina e ameixa

Amazon showers me with emails filled with cookbook offers every week, and since I’m a cookbook junkie it is hard to resist them, so I just take a quick look and delete them (most of the times). :) However, there was a cookbook on the email I received yesterday that made me smile, and then I immediately placed it in my cart – it was Jack Monroe’s cookbook.

I discovered her blog months ago and many tears later I became a fan. Despite being from a family that had a tight budget back in the day, we always had plenty of good food around, and I grew up eating all the fresh veggies and fruit I wanted – I can’t imagine what Jack and her son went through, not even close. It is great to see her now with a cookbook deal, writing for newspapers and such, and I wish her all the success in the world.

It is because of Jack and her lovely little boy that I felt like sharing this recipe with you today: these delicious bars were made with the fruit I had left from Christmas dinner – beautiful nectarines and plums that I was too stuffed to eat. I could afford to have more fruit than I would actually eat – that is just too great to be taken for granted.

I have food on my table every day, sometimes more than enough, and I feel very lucky for it.

Nectarine, plum and brown butter shortbread bars
slightly adapted from here

1 cup (226g/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 ½ cups (350g) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
2 juicy, ripe but slightly firm nectarines, pitted and thinly sliced*
2 juicy, ripe but slightly firm plums, pitted and thinly sliced

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. The melted butter will foam, then become clear golden, and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom. Watch the butter carefully at the end, as it turns brown quickly. Transfer to a shallow, small container and cool to room temperature, then chill in the freezer until solid but not completely frozen, about 30 minutes.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 190°C/375°F. Lightly butter a 32.5x22.5cm (9x13in) baking pan, line it with foil and butter the foil as well.
In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, baking powder, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Using a pastry blender or 2 table knives, blend the solidified brown butter and the egg into the dry ingredients (I used the Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment on medium-low speed). The brown butter mixture will be crumbly. Pat ¾ of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing firmly. Arrange the nectarine and plum slices on top in a single layer. Crumble the remaining brown butter mixture evenly over the fruit.
Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut into squares.

* if your plums and nectarines are very large, you might need just one of each

Makes about 24 – I made the exact recipe above using a 20x30cm (12x8in) pan

Friday, January 24, 2014

Corn fritters with tomato salsa and a TV show you can't miss

Corn fritters with tomato salsa / Panquequinhas de milho com salada de tomate

With Hannibal still more than a month away and the ages Sony has been taking to air the last two episodes of The Blacklist I started watching another TV series, a very short one – six episodes only for the first season – but immense when it comes to quality: Rectify was a fantastic surprise, and I got to it thanks to the lovely Amanda (thanks, dear).

The show is about Daniel Holden – portrayed beautifully by Aden Young –, a man who spent 19 years on death row and is released because of DNA evidence. Definitely not an easy subject and one that could easily be treated in a foolish and/or corny way, but not here; the writing is superb and so is the cast, and the great news is that there will be a second season, with four more episodes. \0/

Some more great news is that the once picky eater Mr. Scarpin continues to gladly try new dishes (thank heavens it was not something ephemeral linked to the trips to China and NY), and he loved these corn fritters, even though corn isn’t one of this favorite veggies. The idea was to serve the fritters with an avocado salsa just like the magazine suggested but the avocado I’d bought never got ripe, so a simple tomato salsa it was – and it tasted delicious.

Corn fritters with tomato salsa
slightly adapted from the always mouthwatering Delicious Australia

3 ripe tomatoes, seeds removed, diced
1 large onion, finely diced
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper

150g all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
½ cup (120ml) whole milk, room temperature
2 eggs
2 large corn cobs, kernels removed
½ small onion, finely chopped
1 red chili, deseeded if too hot, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
canola oil, for frying

Salsa: place the tomatoes and onion in a medium bowl, add the lemon juice and olive oil, season with salt and pepper and mix to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the fritters.

Fritters: sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and the eggs. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add the corn, onion, chili, parsley and cilantro, season with black pepper and fold to combine.
Heat a drizzle of canola oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add 2 tablespoonfuls of batter for each fritter and cook for 1-2 minutes or until golden. Flip each fritter and cook until golden on the other side and cooked through. Keep them warm while you fry the remaining batter.
Serve the fritters immediately with the salsa on the side

Serves 4

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hazelnut, almond and cranberry biscotti, and when competition is fair

Hazelnut, almond and cranberry biscotti / Biscotti de amêndoa, avelã e cranberry

I have always found the Golden Globes much more fun than the Oscars, and a lot fairer, too, since they separate comedy from drama. Fair is not a word I often associate with movie and TV awards since there are always the lobbied performances that get nominated (and win) while talented people are left behind.

However, this year, as Paula Patton and Aaron Eckhart announced the nominees for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama, I told my husband: “this is unusual: each and every one of them deserve the award”. The Globe ended up in Bryan Cranston’s hands – much to my delight – but it would have been completely fair had Paula announced any other of the four nominees, and I would have liked it anyway. I think that deep down inside all four of them – and any other actor in a major TV drama - are celebrating the fact that, next year, Bryan Cranston is out of the competition. :D

My Bryan Cranston of biscotti recipes, Alice Medrich’s almond biscotti, has, after a good while, found some serious competition: these WS biscotti are just as delicious, and the soft, dried cranberries are a nice contrast to the crunch of the nuts. Don’t even think of omitting or replacing the orange zest: it really makes these biscotti.

Hazelnut, almond and cranberry biscotti
from the delicious Williams-Sonoma Collection: Cookies

250g all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
80g hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and coarsely chopped
80g almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
½ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped if large
finely grated zest of 1 orange

Preheat an oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated. Stir in the hazelnuts, almonds, cranberries and orange zest until evenly distributed. The batter should be very soft.

Turn the batter out onto a generously floured work surface and divide in half. With well-floured hands, transfer one-half onto the prepared baking sheet and shape into a log about 30cm (12in) long and 3.75cm (1½in) in diameter. Place on one side of the sheet. Repeat with the remaining batter, leaving 10cm (4in) the logs. (They will spread as they bake.)
Bake the logs until the edges are golden, 25-30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the logs cool for 10 minutes. Slide the logs still attached to the paper from the sheet and line it again with baking paper. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into slices 1.25cm (½in) wide. Carefully place the slices on their sides on the baking sheet and return them to the oven. Bake until the edges are golden, about 10 minutes more. Let the biscotti cool completely on the sheets on wire racks. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 4 dozen biscotti – I got 32

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tiny cherry and almond tea cakes - another recipe with cherries

Tiny cherry and almond tea cakes / Bolinhos de cereja e amêndoa

Another recipe with cherries, another cake, but this time in teeny-tiny form, and the reason why I didn’t make these adorable mini cakes years before was that I didn’t own a mini muffin pan.
I’m not really sure why it took me so long to buy a mini muffin pan – I guess that every time I saw it at the store I found something I needed more, or I wasn’t in the mood for spending money on another kitchen gadget – oh, wait, that can’t be it. :D

Months ago I finally bought the pan, but then had to wait till December for cherry season, and at the end it was worth it – the cakes turned out flavorsome, with a nice, chewy texture (think financiers), not to mention super cute. <3

Just make sure everyone eating them knows the cherries aren’t pitted, please – these delicate darlings call for delicate bites. :D

Tiny cherry and almond tea cakes
slightly adapted from Martha

110g all-purpose flour
1 cup (100g) almond meal
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
4 large egg whites
3 teaspoons Amaretto (or Kirsch)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
24 sweet (Bing) cherries

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Brush a 24-cup mini muffin pan with butter, and dust lightly with flour.
Whisk together flour, ground almonds, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add egg whites, and whisk until smooth. Stir in Amaretto and vanilla. Pour in butter and whisk to combine. Let stand for 20 minutes.
Fill each muffin cup with about 1 tablespoon batter, filling about halfway. Push a cherry into each, keeping stem end up. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean and cakes are golden brown, 12-15 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then unmold and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cakes can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature overnight.

Makes 24

Friday, January 17, 2014

Banana raspberry muffins, Cate Blanchett and switching sides

Banana raspberry muffins / Muffins de banana e framboesa

The Oscar nominees were announced yesterday and several of my favorites are part of the list: Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, Martin Scorsese, Judi Dench, Alfonso Cuarón, Amy Adams... I don’t trust the award but it is a joy to see talented people being recognized for their work.

After watching Gravity a couple of months ago – and being pretty much blown away by it – I wanted, with all my heart, to see Sandra Bullock walk up the Kodak Theater stairs (without tripping, of course) to receive the Best Actress in a Leading Role award: she’s amazing as Ryan Stone, a performance that to be honest I wasn’t expecting from her – I adore Sandra, but had no idea she could stretch her acting like that. It was a nice surprise and I wanted her to be recognized by it. However, I watched Blue Jasmine yesterday and Cate Blanchett accomplished what I would call sheer perfection on that film – up to this moment I cannot stop thinking about her as Jasmine, the way she builds the character and express her emotions, with no vanity whatsoever, completely available for what the script and the director wanted from her. I’ve been a fan of Cate’s for years and thought I’d seen the best of her acting in Elizabeth, but apparently I was wrong – Blue Jasmine is the peak of a career packed with amazingly crafted and portrayed characters.

I am sorry, Sandra, but I am switching sides. ;)

And since I am being very fickle today, I’ll no longer say that my favorite add in to a banana muffin are blueberries – yes, they’re great paired with banana, but the slightly sour flavor of raspberries are even better mixed in the tender, delicious muffins.

Banana raspberry muffins
slightly adapted from the wonderful Olive magazine

250g all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
50g light brown sugar
50g granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 large very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk*
75g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 heaping cup frozen raspberries, unthawed

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugars and salt. In another bowl, mix the bananas, eggs, buttermilk, butter and vanilla. Pour them over the dry ingredients and mix lightly with a fork – the batter will look lumpy and it’s OK, don’t overmix or your muffins will be tough.
Divide the batter equally among the paper cases and top with the raspberries, pressing them gently into the batter. Bake for about 20 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully unmold, transfer to the rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

* homemade buttermilk: to make 1 cup buttermilk place 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a 240ml-capacity measuring cup and complete with whole milk (room temperature). Wait 10 minutes for it to thicken slightly, then use the whole mixture in your recipe

Makes 12

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Indian spiced potatoes with fried egg

Indian spiced potatoes with fried egg / Batatas com especiarias e ovo frito

Those of you around here for a while now know about my love for all things sweet, but I like savory dishes, too, and I’m always searching for tasty lunch or dinner ideas.

As a kid, our family lived in a tight budget – especially after my mom got cancer – but food was always something important: she made sure we had fresh veggies and fruits every day, and fish once a week, and would always bake a cake so my father and I would have something to snack on at work and at school, respectively. Eggs were an important staple at home and mom (and years later, my grandmother) would cook them in different ways for our meals – I especially loved her omelets and fried eggs, and those are dishes I still adore eating – to be honest, except for raw I’ll eat eggs in any way possible (I bet that reminds you of something). ;)

That is why this dish, a recipe from this lovely cookbook, caught my eye: the spiced potatoes looked yummy already, but topping them with the fried egg won my heart over. After I made this dish I saw Bill Granger cooking a similar version on TV in which he chopped the potatoes in slightly larger pieces – I’ll be trying that next time.

Indian spiced potatoes with fried egg
slightly adapted from the beautiful and delicious Bill Granger Easy (I bought mine here)

800g Desiree potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
4 tablespoons canola oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon freshly ground Sichuan pepper
25g unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful parsley leaves, chopped
4 large eggs

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil over high heat. Add the potatoes, reduce to a simmer and cook for 13 minutes, or until just tender. Drain in a colander and leave to cool for a few minutes.
Place a non-stick frying pan over medium–high heat. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil, add the garlic, curry powder, turmeric and Sichuan pepper and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
Drop the butter into the pan and as soon as it has melted, add another tablespoon of oil and the potatoes. Fry for 5 minutes, turning often. Scatter the salt and black pepper over the potatoes and toss together for a minute more. Remove from the heat, add the parsley and toss to combine. Divide the potatoes among warmed plates.

In a clean large non-stick frying pan, add another tablespoon of oil and place over medium–high heat. Once hot, fry the eggs for 2–3 minutes until cooked. Place the fried eggs on top of the potatoes and serve.

Serves 4

Monday, January 13, 2014

Cherry, pistachio and marzipan cake, and things worth waiting for

Cherry, pistachio and marzipan cake / Bolo de marzipã, pistache e cereja

Every time I see something delicious made with cherries I mentally file the recipe to make it by the end of the year, when the fruit is abundant, sweet and not as expensive as during the winter. The problem is there are always many recipes to be made and cherry season is, unfortunately, too short.

One of the recipes I’d been meaning to make for a while was this cake from Delicious Australia, which combines two passions of mine: cherries and marzipan. The cake turned out moist and flavorsome, perfumed with orange blossom water, which is something I love, but if you’re not into it just replace it with vanilla extract. I found the pistachios on the top of the cake to be a bit too much and, as much as I love these nuts I don’t think they’re an interesting addition here – I liked the cake better without them.

It certainly paid off to wait months to prepare this wonderful cake, as much as it paid off to go to sleep at 2 a.m. to see the brilliant Leonard DiCaprio receive a Golden Globe. :)

Cherry, pistachio and marzipan cake / Bolo de marzipã, pistache e cereja

Cherry, pistachio and marzipan cake
slightly adapted from the stunning Delicious Australia

300g cherries, pitted, finely chopped
150g marzipan, chopped into 1cm pieces – I used homemade
150g all-purpose flour + 1 tablespoon, extra, for dusting the cherries
200g unsalted butter, softened
185g granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
100g almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
50g unsalted pistachio kernels, lightly toasted, chopped
icing sugar, for dusting

juice of the orange zested for the cake
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Butter a 20cm (8in) springform cake pan (I used a pan with a removable bottom), line the bottom with a circle of baking paper, then wrap the outside with foil (this will prevent batter from leaking).
Toss cherries and marzipan in the extra 1 tablespoon of flour and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter, granulated sugar and orange zest with an electric mixer for 3-5 minutes until thick and pale, then beat in orange blossom water and the vanilla.
Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt, then stir through half the marzipan and cherries. Spread mixture into pan, sprinkle over remaining marzipan and cherries, then gently press into the batter, making sure they’re just covered.
Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce oven to 160°C and bake for a further 50-60 minutes until light golden and cooked through.
Meanwhile, for the syrup: place all the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, then cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until sugar has dissolved. Increase heat to medium and cook for a further 1-2 minutes until thick and syrupy.
Pierce cake all over with a skewer, then drizzle over warm syrup. Sprinkle with pistachios and dust with icing sugar. Cool slightly, then remove cake from the pan and cool completely before serving.

Serves 6-8 – I made the exact recipe above, but baked the cake at 180°C/350°F the entire time (total of 60 minutes)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Baked sausages with tomatoes, peppers and onions, a movie, many tears and a wish

Baked sausages with tomatoes, peppers and onions / Linguiça assada com tomate, pimentão e cebola

The subject of traveling in time has produced a handful of movies, some interesting, some hideous. Last night I watched another movie about it, by far the most beautiful one: a movie that made me cry like a baby (there were so many tears I had to dry them on my cardigan sleeve), that made me think of many things in life and that made me wish I could, too, go back in time.

I kept thinking of how incredible it would be to go back to my past and started imagining my mother and I in our kitchen – with the table where I used to do my homework while she did the dishes after lunch – and pictured us both cooking: I was chopping some onions, she was grilling a steak. And the funny thing is that in my head I wasn’t a kid: I was a 35-year-old adult, as I am today, standing next to her, who looked like she did when I was five. And another funny thing is that I don’t know why I thought of her grilling a steak since I hated it as a child – I usually ate my steak stone cold after seating on the table for hours, forbidden to leave as long as there was food on my plate. :)

Because Richard Curtis made me think of my mom a lot more than I already do every day, I decided to share this delicious recipe with you today: as a good German descendant, she loved pork (and cabbage – boy, she just loved the stuff) and I am sure she would go crazy for sausages cooked this way – the meat portions get golden and crispy on the outside, while tender and juicy within, and the thyme adds a wonderful touch.

Baked sausages with tomatoes, peppers and onions
from Bill Granger’s TV show “Bill’s Notting Hill Kitchen”

2 onions, peeled, halved, and each half cut into 4 pieces
1 large red pepper, seeds removed, cut into chunks
6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
200g cherry tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 sausages
5-6 fresh thyme sprigs
handful black olives

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Place the onions, pepper, garlic and tomatoes in a medium roasting pan or ovenproof dish, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix to coat. Remove the sausage from their skins in portions (about the size of a meatball) and place over the vegetables. Scatter with the thyme sprigs, drizzle with a little more oil and bake for about 1 hour, turning the sausage halfway through cooking time so the pieces are golden all over. Remove from the oven, scatter with the black olives and serve.

Serves 2 generously

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Plum and amaretti crumble - 33°C and all

Plum and amaretti crumble / Crumble de ameixa e amaretti

One resolution I’m keeping in 2014 is to continue using the inventory idea (thank you, Martha!) – it’s worked fine so far and avoided lots of waste. However, I’m not perfect (the Internet seems to make us all look very neat and tidy and put together all the time, doesn’t it? I don’t like that at all) and I do deviate from my plan now and then, and that is what happened when I bought a small bag of amaretti for my Christmas rocky road and ended up using Turkish delight instead.

Stone fruits are in season here right now and I’ve been enjoying cherries, plums and peaches like there’s no tomorrow – I would love to bake with them, too, but the problem is I usually eat them all before turning the oven on (which has been hard to do lately here because of the awful heat). Days ago, 33°C (91°F) and all, I decided to make Nigella’s plum crumble, that way using some of the amaretti left from the Christmas baking. It was really delicious: the flavor of the cookies paired beautifully with the ripe, juicy plums, and a small jug of very cold cream helped bring down the temperature a little (that and a cold shower right after dessert). :D

Plum and amaretti crumble
slightly adapted from the super delicious Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration

35g amaretti biscuits (crunchy, not morbidi) - I used these
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
250g ripe red plums, quartered if large, halved if small, stones removed
½ tablespoon granulated sugar
finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon

Crumble topping:
50g all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
30g cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Have ready a 1 ½ cup (360ml) capacity ovenproof dish. Crush the amaretti with your hands and set aside.
Fruit: melt the butter in a small saucepan (that has a lid), add the plums, sprinkle in the sugar, add the lemon zest and juice and shake the pan over the heat, cooking for two minutes without a lid and two further minutes with the lid on. Transfer the plums to the dish and sprinkle with half the crushed amaretti.

Topping: put the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a small bowl and mix to combine. Add the butter and rub the ingredients with your fingertips until you get a mixture that resembles coarse crumbs. With a fork, mix in the remaining amaretti crumbs. Spread mixture over plums, then bake for about 20 minutes or until topping is golden and fruit is bubbling around the edges. Set aside for 10 minutes, then serve with cream or ice cream.

Serves 1

Monday, January 6, 2014

Roscón de Reyes (King Cake)

Roscón de Reyes / Bolo de Reis

My favorite time of the year is coming to an end, and later on today I’ll put away all my Christmas decorations – it’s such a pity, I love seeing them throughout the house.

The sixth of January is also the day to celebrate the Three Kings, and to do so I bring you this delicious recipe, a sort of brioche topped with a lemon glaze – unlike the King Cake I’d seen on this book, Gourmet Traveller’s version is a lot prettier, with no plastic baby hidden inside: just tender sweet bread with almonds, ginger and cranberries.

Who said atheists can’t enjoy some of the Catholic traditions? ;)

Roscón de Reyes (King Cake)
slightly adapted from the always gorgeous Gourmet Traveller

110ml whole milk
2 ½ teaspoons dried yeast
60g granulated sugar
500g all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
55ml olive oil
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
finely grated zest of 1 orange
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g unsalted butter, coarsely chopped and softened
glacé ginger, halved glacé cherries and blanched almonds, for decoration – I used dried cranberries instead of cherries

Lemon glaze:
100g confectioners’ sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Warm milk and 100ml water in a small saucepan over low heat until lukewarm, add yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and set aside in a warm place until foaming (4-5 minutes). Combine flour, salt, oil, citrus zest and remaining sugar in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, gradually add milk mixture, beat for 5 minutes, add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine. Beating continuously, gradually add butter and beat until a soft dough forms (3-4 minutes). Cover and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size (1-1½ hours).
Knock back dough, cover and set aside to rest (10 minutes). Lightly butter a 10-cup capacity Bundt pan.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface, roll into a 30cmx50cm rectangle, then roll into a long cylinder, pinch edge to seal firmly, then bring ends together to form a ring and pinch to seal. Place seam-side down in prepared pan. Cover with greased plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until nearly doubled in size (30-40 minutes). In the meantime, preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
Bake the bread for 25-30 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully unmold onto rack. Cool completely.

Lemon glaze: sift the icing sugar into a small bowl and gradually add the lemon juice, stirring until drizzling thick drizzling consistency. Drizzle roscón with glaze, set aside until icing is almost set, then top the glaze with ginger, cherries and almonds and serve.

Serves 8-10

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Quinoa fritters with harissa mayo - starting 2014 in a healthy way

Quinoa fritters with harissa mayo / Bolinhos de quinua com maionese de harissa

Happy New Year everyone! :)

I hope you all had an amazing holiday period, full of great food and great people. The husband and I indulged a little – or should I be honest and say a lot? :) – during the holidays, and now it’s time to start eating properly again: less alcohol, more healthy grains and greens. These quinoa fritters are super easy to make and they’re good for you, while the harissa mayo gives them a bit of a kick – I’ve become addicted to this spiced mayo since it tastes delicious with other things, too (it turns a regular burger into a mean one, for example).

Thank you for your comments and emails, I’ll be answering them soon. xx

Quinoa fritters with harissa mayo
slightly adapted from Bill Granger (fritters) and Nigella (mayo)

100g quinoa (I used red quinoa)
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
30g freshly grated parmesan
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
finely grated zest of ½ lemon
1 large egg
canola oil, for frying

Harissa mayo:
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon harissa paste (or to taste)
1 teaspoon lemon juice

arugula leaves and extra-virgin olive oil, to serve

Fritters: place the quinoa and 200ml water in a small saucepan, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for about 12 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Cool. In a medium bowl, combine the quinoa, spring onion, parsley, oregano and parmesan. Add flour, salt and pepper, lemon zest and egg. Stir well to combine.
Heat a drizzle of oil in a large, nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat and 2 tablespoons of mixture per fritter (cook them in batches). Cook for 2-3 minutes each side, or until browned. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
Mayo: place all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix to combine.

To serve, top each fritter with a dollop of mayo, arugula leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.

Makes about 10

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