Friday, October 31, 2014

Fish kibbeh - a delicious and healthy way of cooking fish

Fish kibbeh / Quibes de peixe

A couple of posts ago I told you that in my opinion there are days for chocolate, cream and all things sweet and I firmly believe in that, but even I can’t eat that sort of food every single day: I crave salads, vegetables, fish and grains everyday and I feel really good when I eat them.

I am always interested in new ways of cooking fish other than the way my mom cooked at home when I was little: dusted with corn flour (not corn starch) and deep fried, which is absolutely delicious but not very healthy (I do avoid deep frying like the plague around here, and not only for health reasons).

My husband loves the corn flour dusted fish as well, but he’s willing to try fish prepared in other ways and last weekend I prepared one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes in which the fish is coated with spices like paprika and cumin and cooked with peas – it was a hit. Weeks before I’d made these fish kibbehs and they were a huge success, too: me being me I tweaked the recipe just a bit, adding more lime zest, using almonds instead of walnuts and shaping the mixture into small kibbehs instead of baking it pressed into a baking dish.

Both my husband and my sister loved the kibbeh and I thought it was a wonderful way of eating fish.

Fish kibbeh
slightly adapted from the gorgeous Brazilian chef Rita Lobo

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small onions, finely sliced in half moons
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of sugar
1 cup cracked wheat (fine bulgur)
500g white fish fillets
handful parsley leaves
finely grated zest of 2 limes
1/3 cup flaked almonds, finely chopped
1/3 cup (80ml) water
¼ teaspoon baharat
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
lime wedges, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and brush it with olive oil.
In a nonstick frying pan over low heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and add the onions. Sprinkle with salt and the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Cool.
Line a colander with a clean kitchen towel and place the cracked wheat on the towel. Rinse it with cold water, then squeeze it well to remove all excess water.
In a food processor, process the fish and parsley until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl, add the onions, the wheat, lime zest, almonds, water and stir to combine. Season with the baharat, salt and black pepper.
Using 1 ½ leveled tablespoons of mixture per kibbeh, roll into a football shape. Place onto prepared sheet 5cm (2in) apart. Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and cooked through, turning them halfway the cooking time. Serve immediately with lime wedges.

Makes about 20

Monday, October 27, 2014

Vanilla milk cake and goodbye, Linden and Holder

Vanilla milk cake / Bolo de leite e baunilha

Days ago, I finished watching the last season of The Killing and I felt happy and sad at the same time: glad because the quality I’d seen throughout the show ever since the beginning wasn’t put aside at any moment of those last six episodes, the ending was a thing of beauty that made me shed loads of tears, and sad because now two of my favorite characters are gone for good – no more of Sarah’s beautiful red hair, no more Holderisms.

I know that TV shows cannot last forever and that it is better to finish with top notch episodes than to end with no quality whatsoever, but The Killing never really had a chance: if it wasn’t for Netflix there wouldn’t even be a fourth season, there would be no closure. Such a beautifully written, acted and directed show should have been on air for longer, but I’ve complained about that already.

As I prepared myself to say goodbye to Linder and Holder, I decided that a slice of cake would fit the occasion perfectly – I needed something sweet to calm my nerves down (after watching the episodes I knew it had been a smart decision, what a wonderful yet nerve-wracking season, my goodness). This simple cake, while delicious on its own with a cup of tea or coffee, was turned into a flavorsome dessert served with whipped cream and strawberries – I highly recommend it either way.

Vanilla milk cake
slightly from the beautiful and oh, so delicious Baking Style: Art Craft Recipes

1 ½ cups (210g) all purpose flour
3 tablespoons (30g) corn starch
¼ teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
½ cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, chopped
1 cup (240ml) whole milk
4 large eggs
1 ¾ cups (350g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup (140g) icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons whole milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Generously butter a 10-cup Bundt pan, dust it with flour and remove the excess.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, corn starch, and salt. Stir in the poppy seeds.
Place butter and milk in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture begins to boil. In the meantime, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs at medium speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar, beating until a light mixture forms. Beat in the vanilla extract.
On low speed, add the dry ingredients in two additions, beating just until incorporated. With the mixer still on low speed, add the hot milk mixture gradually, then beat until completely incorporated (scrape the sides of the bowl). Immediately add the baking powder and mix it in.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 20 minutes, then carefully unmold onto the rack and cool completely.

Glaze: sift the icing sugar into a small bowl. Add the milk and stir until you get a drizzable consistency (add more milk if necessary). Drizzle over cooled cake. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Serves 10-12

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pasta e fagioli (pasta and bean soup)

Pasta e fagiole

I made this soup weeks ago – twice, actually – and it was so delicious I could not have enough of it, but since then we’ve been having such hot days here in Sao Paulo I could not bring myself to publish the recipe here on the blog: it is really hard to even think of hot soup when it’s 35°C (95°F) outside. :S

Now that the temperatures are more reasonable, I gladly bring you Antonio Carluccio’s pasta e fagiole – I am sure my friends in the Northern Hemisphere will appreciate a good soup recipe right now. :)

This recipe has become one of my favorite soups, so easy to make – especially if you have cooked beans stashed in your freezer, which is something I highly recommend everyone to do –, so comforting and tasty, and it tastes even better the next day: what I did differently from the recipe below the second time around was to cook the pasta separately and add it to the bowls right before serving the soup, that way avoiding the pasta to swell too much.

Pasta e fagioli
slightly adapted from the delicious and beautiful Pasta: The Essential New Collection from the Master of Italian Cookery

400g dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
100g bacon, in small cubes
½ onion, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
100g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 liter vegetable stock
150g short dried pasta
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped
finely grated pecorino or parmesan, to serve

Drain the beans, place them into a medium saucepan and cover with cold water (don’t add salt). Cook for about 1 ½ hours or until soft. Drain and process half the beans into a paste using a food processor.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Add the onion and carrot and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes and the cherry tomatoes, the stock and bring to the boil. Add the beans (both crushed and whole) and the pasta and cook for about 10 minutes or until pasta is tender. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley.
Divide the soup among bowls and serve with freshly grated cheese.

Serves 4

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lemon blackberry cake - perfect for spring

Lemon blackberry cake / Bolo de limão siciliano e amora

If it is a problem for me to make banana cakes, I could never say the same about lemon cakes, right? ;)

It is very rare for me to not have lemons around, especially because I use them for many things other than cakes, and I love them so much that my husband brings a couple of lemons home every time he goes grocery shopping.

Adding frozen berries to cakes is a great idea as we’ve seen here on the blog lately, and in this case the blackberries give a whole new dimension to a simple lemon drizzle cake – a moist, tangy cake as easy to eat as it is easy to make (mine was gone pretty fast). :)

Lemon blackberry cake
slightly adapted from the stunning and delicious Indulgent Cakes

¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
125g unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (150g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
½ cup (50g) almond meal
125g sour cream*
150g frozen blackberries, unthawed

3 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
½ tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 21.5x11.5cm (8.5x4.5in) loaf pan (6-cup capacity), line it with baking paper and lightly butter the paper as well.

In a large bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest and rub with your fingertips until sugar is fragrant. Add butter and using an electric mixer, cream the ingredients together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla. Fold in the flour, baking powder, salt, almond meal and sour cream. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with half the berries. Cover with the remaining batter, smooth the surface then sprinkle with the remaining berries. Tap pan over surface to settle the mixture.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Set aside for 10 minutes and in the meantime make the drizzle: combine lemon juice, water and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 2 minutes.
Pour the hot syrup over the cake, then cool completely in the pan. Carefully unmold, peel off the paper and serve.

Serves 8

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dark chocolate and dulce de leche puddings

Dark chocolate and dulce de leche puddings / Potinhos de chocolate e doce de leite

By your comments and emails I think you’ve been enjoying the healthier recipes I’ve been posting here in the past few months, and that makes me really glad – I believe that eating better food has increasingly become important to many people, even to young people like my sister.

However, I’m sure I’m not alone here when I say that certain situations call for decadent sweets: a celebration, friends coming over for dinner, a broken heart – these are not the time to think of nutritional values, these are the times for butter, cream, chocolate, or all of them together.

You can go ahead and add dulce de leche to that mix, too – why not? :D

All those ingredients are combined in these puddings, and they are delicious, but very, very rich, so be warned; they also work well for entertaining because they can be assembled in advance and be placed in the refrigerator – when you want to serve them, pop them in the oven, they are ready in no time at all.

Dark chocolate and dulce de leche puddings
slightly adapted from the always amazing Donna Hay magazine

1 can (380g) dulce de leche
1/3 cup (80ml) heavy cream
200g dark chocolate, chopped
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter
3 eggs
½ cup (88g) brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (50g) almond meal
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Place the dulce de leche in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the cream and mix well to combine. Divide the mixture among eight 1 cup (240ml) capacity ovenproof cups or ramekins.

Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Cool slightly. Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 8–10 minutes or until doubled in size. Fold the chocolate mixture, almond meal and salt through the egg mixture. Divide between the cups, on top of the dulce de leche. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until risen and the centers are soft – do not overbake or the mixture might overflow.
Stand for 5 minutes, then serve.

Serves 8

Monday, October 13, 2014

Banana waffles with chocolate sauce

Banana waffles with chocolate sauce / Waffles de banana com calda de chocolate

My sister came over the other day for lunch and she spent the afternoon here with me, but this time, instead of playing Super Mario, I suggested we watched Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, for she had never watched the original version – I’m really biased here for this is one of my all time favorite movies and I cannot conceive the idea of a Willy Wonka other than Gene Wilder (sorry, Johnny, but you really sucked at playing that part). :)

She loved the movie – which was no surprise to me – but at some point she told me it wasn’t easy watching it without having something to snack on: all that chocolate made my sister crave something sweet, and since we’d had such a light lunch I thought that waffles would make our afternoon even nicer.

I used a recipe from a Brazilian blog I adore but instead of adding chocolate chips to the batter as my friend Richie did, I made a chocolate glaze to pour over the waffles – Willy Wonka would be proud. ;)

Banana waffles with chocolate sauce
slightly adapted from a beautiful Brazilian blog

1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
200ml whole milk, room temperature
1 medium banana, mashed
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate sauce:
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons milk

Waffles: place ingredients in a large mixing bowl and combine until well blended and smooth. Let batter sit for 5 minutes before using.
Heat the waffle maker until very hot; lightly coat with nonstick spray. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter into the machine, close and cook until cooked through and golden.

Make the chocolate sauce: mix all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over high heat, whisking, until it comes to a boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, whisking, until thickened.
Remove from heat and let it stand for 5 minutes before pouring it over the waffles

Serves 4

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Banana, ginger and honey cake

Banana, ginger and honey cake / Bolo de banana, gengibre e mel

As much as I love banana cakes, sometimes months go by without me baking any – my husband and I are crazy for the fruit and end up eating all the bananas before they go brown and I get a chance to do anything with them.

No one has muscle cramps here, I can assure you. :D

Last week I bought a huge bunch of bananas, and even though we ate a lot of them there were still two by the end of the week, very freckled and turning brownish, perfect for baking. A banana cake from Rachel Allen’s latest cookbook was the perfect way to use those wonderful bananas, but I’ve adapted it a little to use honey instead of golden syrup (explanation here).

The cake is delicious fresh out of the oven, so tender, but I have got to tell you that toasting the slices and slathering them with butter is something almost mandatory. :)

Banana, ginger and honey cake
slightly adapted from the delicious All Things Sweet

110g unsalted butter, softened
½ cup (44g) light brown sugar, packed
100g honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g all purpose flour
50g whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
pinch of salt
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 5 ½ cup-capacity loaf pan, line it with baking paper and lightly butter the paper as well.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream butter until soft. Beat in the sugar and honey, then beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time (mixture might look curdled, carry on anyway). Beat in the vanilla. Sift flours, baking powder, ginger and salt over mixture and fold to combine. Fold in the bananas, mixing until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 25 minutes, then carefully unmold and transfer to the rack to cool completely. Peel off the paper and serve.

Serves 8

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Chocolate oaties

Chocolate oaties / Biscoitos de aveia com chocolate

I’ve loved oats ever since I was a teenager and my favorite way of having the ingredients was sprinkled over mashed banana and a drizzle of honey for a sweet and healthy treat, not to mention how wonderful oats are for those of us in the need of iron or with cholesterol problems.

Besides mashed bananas, cookies made with oats have a special place in my heart (a quick look at the blog recipe list and will see I’m not lying). :D That is why I’m always interested in trying new recipes, and the one I bring you today is perfect for when you’re in a hurry and have no time to wait for the butter to soften up.

If you’re pressed for time as I was, you can bake the cookies one day, keep them in an airtight container and brush them with chocolate later on – I thought of sandwiching the cookies with some ganache, but did not want to go out just to buy cream.

I’ll leave you with that suggestion. ;)

Chocolate oaties
slightly adapted from Good Housekeeping magazine

150g all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
125g light brown sugar
125g rolled oats
125g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon runny honey
70g dark chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and oats. In a small saucepan, melt together the butter and honey over medium heat. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
Roll 1 leveled tablespoon of dough per cookie into balls and place 5cm (2in) apart onto prepared sheets. Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden around the edges and slightly firm. Slide the paper with the cookies onto a rack and cool completely.
Using a pastry brush, paint half of each biscuit with chocolate. Transfer to a rack and set aside until set.

Makes about 30

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sweet pea salmon pie - turning a piece of fish into something delicious

Sweet pea salmon pie / Torta de salmão e ervilha

Talking to my husband the other day about food, we once again came to the conclusion that we don’t eat fish as often as we should, which is such a shame.

I did not make any promises, for breaking them makes me frustrated and that is something I really don’t need right now – instead, I decided to make roasted salmon for lunch: seasoned with lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper, baked over a layer of sliced leeks – very simple yet very delicious.

I did have left about 200g of salmon, and I did not want to eat it cooked in the same way, so I used it to make Jamie Oliver’s fish pie – he uses a combination of white fish, shrimp and salmon, but I made it with salmon only for it was what I had around. I also reduced the recipe considerably for the original serves 8 people.

It was my first fish pie ever and as I placed it in the oven it looked and smelled really good. My husband was at work, so I texted my sister and asked what she felt about having fish pie for lunch – I know she’d never had fish pie before, so I described the dish for her, and her reply was: “I have never have that, but I love everything in it – I’m coming over!”. :D

The pie tasted delicious and despite the mashed potatoes on top it is such a light dish – we devoured it but it never felt like we’d eaten a lot.

Sweet pea salmon pie
slightly adapted from the delicious Save with Jamie: Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less

250g potatoes
½ lemon
10g unsalted butter
100g frozen peas
1 small carrot
½ onions
olive oil
1 cup (240ml) whole milk
200g salmon
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
25g frozen spinach
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Peel the potatoes and cut into small chunks, then put them into a small saucepan of boiling salted water for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. Drain and mash with a pinch of salt and pepper, the zest from the lemon and the butter.
Place the frozen peas in a colander, pour over some boiling water to defrost them, then drain well and pulse a few times in a food processor. Fold them through the mashed potato to create a rippled effect, then leave to one side.

Peel and chop the carrot and onion and cook them in a wide 2 ½ cup-capacity ovenproof dish with a drizzle of oil for 15 minutes, or until softened but not colored, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan on a medium heat. Once simmering, add the salmon and cook for around 10 minutes, or until cooked through, then use a slotted spoon to remove them to a plate, taking the pan off the heat. Remove the skin from the salmon.

Stir the flour into the carrots and onions, then gradually add half the milk, a tablespoon at a time, stirring continuously (discard the remaining milk). Stir in the spinach until broken down, then season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Flake in the salmon and the juice from ¼ of the lemon and stir gently to combine.

Top with the pea-spiked mash and smooth out, scuffing it up slightly with a fork or a spoon to give it great texture. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden and the filling is bubbling.

Serves 2

Friday, October 3, 2014

Carrot pancakes (with chickpea flour)

Carrot pancakes (with chickpea flour) / Bolinhos de cenoura (com farinha de grão de bico)

I find fritters a wonderful way to add more veggies and grains to our meals: they’re delicious served on their own as an appetizer, or with a salad as a light lunch. To me, carrots are a sort of a universal vegetable: I feel that even those people who aren’t into veggies will eat carrots, for they are so sweet. Therefore, carrot fritters (or pancakes) make all the sense in the world. :)

This is a recipe I got from Bon Appétit magazine and I loved the fact that it called for chickpea flour, for it makes the fritters very healthy: nothing better than food that tastes great and is good for you, right?

I served the pancakes with arugula salad drizzled with a simple vinaigrette: I intended to make the salted yogurt from the original recipe, but when I opened the fridge I didn’t have any yogurt around. Next time, then. :)

Carrot pancakes (with chickpea flour)
from the always delicious Bon Appétit magazine

2 large eggs, beaten to blend
250g carrots, peeled, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup chickpea flour*
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Mix eggs, carrots, cilantro, and chickpea flour in a large bowl (mixture will be loose); season with salt and pepper.

Heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Scoop two tablespoons of mixture per pancakes and place onto the pan, pressing each to 1cm (½ in) thickness. Cook for 3 minutes each side or until golden.

* even though I halved the recipe, I used the whole amount of chickpea flour for the batter was much too liquid

Makes 6

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