Monday, July 6, 2009

Really Rich Chocolate Torte

I've made this cake twice now and each time it's gotten rave reviews. It's relatively easy to make and the cake come out gooey and extremely chocolatey. The recipe makes a 9 inch cake but since it's so rich you can easily serves 12-14 people with a little slice for each. This recipe can be made gluten free using any gluten free flour.

Really Rich Chocolate Torte

200g Dark Chocolate (85% cocoa)
200g unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 double espresso or 1/2 cup of brandy (optional)
6 eggs separated
1/3 cup rice flour, whole wheat flour, or buckwheat flour

Line a 9 inch spring form pan with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.

In a double boiler melt the chocolate and butter. Stir in the coffee (if using) and sugar. Taste the chocolate mixture to see if it is sweet enough for your tastes, feel free to add more sugar to get the taste desired.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. In a separate bowl mix the egg yolks with the flour. Slowly pour the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks and mix thoroughly. Mix the the egg whites into the egg yolks.

Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a knife inserted into the cake come out clean.

Cook time: 25 minutes
Prep time: 20 minutes
Serves: 12

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rustic Pesto Chicken

This is such an incredibly easy main course that takes only minutes to prepare and uses very few ingredients. It has a wonderful taste of summer and makes great leftovers (if there are any!) This recipe can easily be doubled and other vegetables such as courgettes, mushrooms or peas could be added to the tomatoes in the dish.

Rustic Pesto Chicken

1 small package chicken mini fillets (or 2 chicken breasts cut into slices)
3 teaspoons of pesto sauce
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (a few handfuls)
15 cherry tomatoes

Coat the chicken fillets in pesto sauce and roll in breadcrumbs. Place in a shallow baking tray. Add the cherry tomatoes to the baking dish. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes at 200 degrees C

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15-20 minutes

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Really Simple Pita Breads

Last weekend I had my neighbor over for dinner and decided to try out my culinary skills. I found a recipe for mini garlic bread pizzas and spent ages trying to get it out work out correctly. After 3 batches of hard little cracker-like lumps, I decided to just throw some of the dough in the oven without any sauce on it. I was completely amazed to find that without the sauce, the dough rose wonderfully into pita breads. This weekend I decided to try it again and the result was far better than the first set of pizzas!

Really Simple Pita Breads
2 cups of white flour (250 grams)
2 cups of wholewheat flour (250 grams)
1 sachet of fast acting yeast (2.25 teaspoons)
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1.25 cups warm water (300 ml)

Combine all the dry ingredients then pour olive oil and water over them. Mix well. Kneed dough for about 5 minutes until all flour has been absorbed by the dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise for between 30 minutes and 2 hours (the dough doesn't need to double just rise a bit) after it rises, punch the dough down and separate into 30 small balls. On a floured surface and using a rolling pin, roll out each ball the the size desired.

Bake the pitas in a fan oven at 220 (475) degrees for about 5 minutes or until they turn golden

Yield: 30 6inch diameter pitas
Prep time: 20 minutes plus rising time
Cook time: 5 minutes a batch

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Beetroot and Barley Risotto

My parents were over visiting last week, which meant that I stocked my fridge and made a few meals. Now that they are gone I found that I have quite a few left overs which have to be taken care of. I spent yesterday making chicken stock with leftover roast chicken and then figured I would make a risotto out of it. Originally the plan was to make a mushroom risotto but then I found 1 cooked beetroot in the fridge and decided I'd see if I could make a risotto with that. I found a couple recipes online and added my own touch and here is the result---3 servings of pink risotto! This risotto has a very earthy flavor because of the beetroot and barley. It is also very hearty and packed full of good nutrients and fiber from the beetroot.

Beetroot and Barley Risotto
1/2 onion diced
2 tsp of butter
1 cup of pearl barley
approximately 4 cups of chicken stock (vegetable or cubed stock could be used also)
1/2 cup of white wine
1 cooked beetroot cut into small cubes
Parmesan cheese to top

In a large pot saute the onion in the butter about 2 minutes. Add the pearl barley and saute a minute longer. Pour in the white wine and half of the chicken stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the beetroot and about 1 cup of chicken stock. Stir occasionally over low heat until the liquid is absorbed (another 10 minutes or so). At this point the barley should be cooked or almost cooked. If it needs to cook longer add extra stock until the barley has cooked. Top with Parmesan cheese to taste.

Cook time: 45 minutes
Active time: 15 minutes
Serves: 3-4

Friday, April 17, 2009

7 Minute Peanut-Lime Noodles

I made this recipe for lunch today. It was so quick to cook that the longest part was bringing the water to boil and cooking the noodles. Depending on the type of noodles you are using you could probably cook the whole meal in less than 7 minutes.
Another fantastic thing about this recipe is that it is pretty much "no measure." As long as you get the ingredients in roughly the right quantities it will work well. If you want the sauce slightly thicker don't add as much water, if you want it thinner do the exact opposite. Realistically it's pretty hard to go wrong on this one!

7 Minute Peanut-Lime Noodles
2 teaspoon peanut oil, divided
1 clove garlic
1 chili pepper
1 cm (about a 1/4 inch) piece of fresh ginger
2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime
250 ml (1 cup) water
250 grams (8 oz) noodles (soba, udon, whole wheat linguine, etc)
chopped vegetables (peppers, mange tout, bok choy, broccoli, mushrooms etc.)
pinch of sesame seeds
1 spring onion chopped

In a large pot, boil enough water to cook the noodles. Cook the noodles for the time listed on the package. Drain the noodles and run cold water over them.
While the noodles are cooking, dice the garlic, pepper and ginger. In a small pot saute the garlic, pepper and ginger in 1 teaspoon of peanut oil for 2 minutes. Add the peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice and water and stir until everything has blended. Bring sauce to a boil and then turn off heat.

Chop the vegetables into bite sized pieces. Using the same pot the noodles cooked in, heat a bit of peanut oil and saute the vegetables for 2-3 minutes. Pour the peanut sauce and noodles into the vegetables and heat through.

Serve with sesame seeds and spring onions

Serves: 2
Cooking time: 5-10 minutes
Prep time: 2 minutes

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rainy Weekend Cinnamon Rolls

These cinnamon rolls are decadent but you need loads of time to make them. Like any yeast based recipe they need to rise for a few hours before they can be baked so make sure you have set aside 3-4 hours before you're planning on serving them. I made these last week and served half the following day and put half in the freezer. The there is only 1 left of the "freezer stash" and the ones I served were gone in a matter of minutes!

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls
1 package of yeast
1/2 teaspoon of white sugar
1/8 cup (25 ml) warm water (slightly warmer than body temperature)
1 cup(250 ml) low fat or fat free milk
1/4 cup (50g) white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups (300g)whole wheat flour
1.5 cups (200g) all purpose flour

Cinnamon filling
3/4 (150 g) cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup (55 g) of butter -melted
1 teaspoon milk
2-3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4-1/2 cup of chopped pecans
1/4-1/2 cup of raisins

Combine the yeast, water and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add liquid ingredients into the yeast mixture, then add the 2 types of flour. Kneed for 5-10 minutes to ensure that everything is fully mixed and that the dough has a nice elastic feeling. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a cloth. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it has double. Tip: Turn your oven on to the lowest temperature for about 2-3 minutes. Turn the oven off and then put the bowl in. This guarantees a warm place where the dough will rise well.

After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and let rise again in a warm place until doubled.

Punch the dough down a third time and roll out into at least a 12 x 16 inch (30x40) rectangle. Combine the butter, sugar, milk and cinnamon in a bowl. Spread this mixture onto the dough rectangle. Sprinkle the chopped nuts and raisins on top of the dough. Roll the dough along the short side. Cut into 12-15 pieces and place in a greased tray (I used 2 trays, one round and one rectangular) Let rise for about 10 minutes

Bake at 180 C (375F) for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Polenta Farmer's Eggs (Huevos Rancheros)

I love brunch. It's so nice to start a Sunday by having a nice hearty meal with your friends or family. Unfortunately most brunch meals require spending the whole morning in front of a stove cooking and very little time actually enjoying the meal and the company.

This recipe is a variation of huevos rancheros that can be baked, allowing more time to enjoy the morning. Huevos rancheros is a popular breakfast in Mexico and the US meaning "eggs ranch-style" or "eggs country-style". The dish traditionally was served for on rural farms for a mid-day meal.

In Mexico, huevos rancheros is made with corn tortillas, vegetables and eggs. In Europe, corn tortillas can be hard to find so I've made this with polenta and added large quantities of vegetables to make a wonderful healthy brunch.

Polenta Farmer's Eggs (Huevos Rancheros)
3/4 cup (125 grams) of polenta
1.5 cups (375 ml) of water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 tsp olive oil
1 green pepper diced
1 onion diced
1 can of diced tomatoes (drained)
6 eggs

  1. Combine the polenta, salt and water in a pot and bring to a rolling boil. As soon as it boils, turn the heat off and let the polenta cool slightly and absorb all the water.
  2. Spread the polenta on the bottom of a greased 9x12 baking tray.
  3. Crush the coriander and cumin seeds in either a blender or a mortar and pestle (you can substitute powdered spices but the flavor will be milder)
  4. Saute the onions and peppers in the olive oil for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the spices and drained tomatoes and cook another 2-3 minutes.
  6. Spoon the mixture on top of the polenta. Using a spoon make 6 indents in the vegetables where the eggs will go.
  7. Crack the eggs into the indentations.
  8. Cover the dish and cook at 180 degrees until the eggs have set. Approximately 20-25 minutes.

This recipe can be partially made the night before. Simply put the dish in the refrigerator after step 6 and finish in the morning.
Serves 3-6 people

Cooking time: 45 minutes
Active time: 15 minutes

Friday, March 6, 2009

Grandma's Tomato Sauce

Whenever I make this tomato sauce I'm reminded of my grandmother. She was a fantastic cook that could make almost any Italian dish without a recipe. She also was amazingly good at making food appear out of nothing. She would just look at what dried, frozen or canned ingredients she had in the house and somehow make a really nice meal from them. One thing that she always had frozen in the house were Italian fennel sausages. They were usually broken into pieces and mixed with beef mince in her lasagna. Occasionally she would make a rich tomato sauce out of the sausages serve it with a steaming bowl of spaghetti.

I now serve it with wholewheat pasta or spelt pasta because my tastes have matured a bit, but on the whole this is a recipe that Grandma would be proud of.

Grandma's Tomato Sauce
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil (for those of you who don't like to measure, a good glug)
1/2 an Onion or the white part of1 leek, diced
a large pinch of fennel seeds
1/4 of a red pepper, diced
4 Quigliano's Sausages (Italian Sausages)
2 Cans of diced tomatoes
Salt to taste
a pinch of hot pepper flakes

Heat the olive oil in a pot and fry the onion, fennel seeds and yellow pepper for 2 minutes. Remove the sausage meat from the casing and break into small pieces. Add the sausage pot and continue cooking for 5 minutes or until the sausages are browned. Add the two cans of diced tomatoes and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and hot pepper flakes as needed. Let simmer for at least another 10 minutes. This sauce can be served immediately but is best if left to sit overnight before serving.

You can also add minced vegetables such as courgettes, spinach, mushrooms or white beans to this sauce. Add the vegetables a few minutes before you serve the sauce so that they don't get over cooked.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 27 minutes

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sausage, Pears and Onions

One of the foods that reminds me so much of baseball games and Boston is "sausage, peppers and onions". Well it's been years since I've lived in Boston and it's not quite baseball season yet, so I decided it was time to make this dish a bit more winter and a bit more London.

The great thing about british pork sausages is that you can find really high quality, lean pork sausages of all different flavors. I'd suggest using either plain sausages or pork and apple sausages for this recipe. Pears are one of the few fruits grown in Britain that can still be found in February and red onions bring a bit of color to this dish

Sausage, Pears and Onions
1 tsp olive oil
6 lean pork sausages
1 red onion chopped into 1/4 moons
2 pears cored and sliced

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 F) In a roasting dish or large frying pan heat the olive oil and fry the sausages until they are brown on each side (about 5-10 minutes) Add the onion and pears to the pan and place the whole pan into the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and stir the contents of the pan and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

Friday, February 20, 2009

Indian Spiced Lentil Soup

I recently bought a container of coconut oil at my local health food store. Originally I thought I would use it for baking only; cookies, cakes and the like, but as it turns out the coconut oil seems to have been used for everything but baking! I've used it to make hand cream after reading that it was very good for moisturizing the skin overnight. I've used it to make Thai curries and in hot chocolate. Yesterday I used the coconut oil to fry onions in for a lentil soup with a bit of an Indian twang. I love the very slight hint of coconut that this soup has, but if coconut isn't you thing or you can't find the oil, butter will work well too, and the spices are so strong that you won't miss the coconut.

Indian Spiced Lentil Soup
1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter
1 onion minced
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup split red lentils
4 cups of water
1/3-1/2 yellow pepper minced

In a large pot heat the oil and saute the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the turmeric, cumin and chili powder to the mixture and stir until the spices are mixed into the oil. Add the lentils and water and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes. Add the pepper and cook for another 5 minutes. Blend the soup well. If needed add more water to the soup to thin it.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nutmeg and Chili Chocolate Souffle

In the spirit of Valentine's day I've decided to make something rather sinful, which apparently boasts aphrodisiac qualities.

This souffle has 3 distinct tastes. Nutmeg which is tasted first, has been though of as an aphrodisiac for centuries. It's believed in Eastern cultures that nutmeg increases both sex drive and fertility. Chocolate, the strongest flavor in this dessert, is a stimulant that mimics endorphins, giving an overall sense of well being and excitement. Chili, the last flavour undertone, is thought to release endorphins giving the body a natural high.

Nutmeg and Chili Chocolate Souffle
50 grams (half a regular sized chocolate bar) dark chocolate. Do not use bakers chocolate.
1/2 chili pepper
3 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
unsalted butter to coat ramekins

Preheat fan oven to 180 degrees C (200 degrees C if conventional oven.) Butter 2 large ramekins or 4 small ramekins. In a food processor pulse the dark chocolate and the chili until a course powder forms. Melt the chocolate mixture in a double boiler or in the microwave. Separate the eggs. Put the whites in a large bowl and the yolk of the egg back into the food processor. Whisk the egg whites until they form a soft peak (about 5 minutes using an electric egg beater) Add the sugar to the egg whites and whisk a further 2-3 minutes. Mix the melted chocolate with the egg yolks in the food processor. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg white. Add a pinch of nutmeg to the mixture and pour into the buttered ramekins. Bake for 15 minutes.

Serves 2
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lemon Chicken with Chickpeas and Artichokes

When I talk with my dad about the food he ate growing up he always mentions that there wasn't much food to go around, and yet he probably had the healthiest diet of his life in those "lean" years.

Since money was always in short supply in his family, family dinners weren't heavy on meat --it was just too expensive. My father's mother often supplemented other sources of protein such as beans into the meal to "stretch" the meat.

This dish is made in the spirit of my father's family dinners. It is an incredibly simple one pot meal which combines different protein sources, is quick to make and full of flavor.

Lemon Chicken with Chickpeas and Artichokes
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion finely sliced
2-3 chicken breast cut into cubes
1/4 tsp cumin
1 can of chickpeas drained
1 can of artichokes in brine
1/2 lemon cut into thin slices

In a non stick pot, heat olive oil and saute onion and chicken for 5 minutes until the chicken is lightly browned. Add the chickpeas, brine from the artichokes, cumin and lemon to the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil then turn down the heat to low. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the artichokes to the pot and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the artichokes are heated through. Serve with rice and vegetables

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Butternut Squash, Lentil and Chickpea Salad

Yesterday a butternut squash caught my eye at the green grocers. I admit I bought it completely on a whim without a clue what to do with it. I knew I didn't want to just plain roast or mash the squash, but I really wasn't sure how to mix the sweetness of the squash with other ingredients I had in the house. After looking through a lot of recipes I finally decided that I could make a warm salad out of chickpeas, lentils and squash. Most of the recipes I saw leaned towards Indian or Moroccan spices, but I just wasn't into it and wanted something more, well, general. I opted for a lemony flavor and I'm so happy I did! This salad is fantastically light in flavor but filling enough to make a meal out of it. Using the seeds of the butternut squash adds a nice texture as well as making the salad super nutritious.

This recipe takes a while to cook but most of the time is inactive so you can make it while doing something else. The salad is good both hot and cold so if you don't have 40 minutes in a row, make the squash and squash seeds first and then combine it with the chickpea and lentil mixture when you are able.

Butternut Squash, Lentil and Chickpea Salad
1 Butternut Squash
1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 cup cooked chickpeas (Rinse well if using canned)
1/2 cup split red lentils
Juice and Zest of 1 lemon
1.5 cups water
Salt to taste
Dash of chili powder
1 bay leaf

The Squash
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350F)
  2. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seed. Rinse the seeds and reserve for later. Prick the squash a few times with a fork.
  3. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the squash on the foil, cut side down. Bake for approximately 40 minutes

The Seeds

  1. Thinly spread the squash seeds into a pan and bake at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes

The Lentils and Chickpeas

  1. In a large pot saute the garlic, onion and olive oil until onion is lightly browned
  2. Add the chickpeas, lentils, lemon juice, lemon zest, bay leaf, water, salt and chili powder to the pot.
  3. Cover and bring to a boil
  4. Reduce the heat to low and cook for approximately 20 minutes or until the water has been absorbed.

Making the Salad

  1. Allow the butternut squash to cool for 15 minutes
  2. Peel the skin from the butternut squash (now that the squash is cooked you can do this with your fingers or a butter knife)
  3. Cut the butternut squash into 1/2 inch cubes
  4. Combine the squash and lentil mixture.
  5. Top with squash seeds

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total Cook Time: 40-45 minutes

Total active time: 15 minutes

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chicken, Mushroom and Leek Quiche

For the past few weeks I've been on a comfort food kick and have been dying for some rich food. Last week I happened to pick up a cookbook loaded with comfort foods which had a beautiful picture of a chicken and leek quiche. Unfortunately, the recipe had about 20 ingredients and a ridiculously long prep time so I decided I would take matters into my own hands and come up with an easier recipe that required little effort and yet still fit into the comfort food category.

Chicken, Mushroom and Leek Quiche
1 tbs olive oil
1 leek cut into 1/4 inch semi circles
12 mushrooms sliced
2 chicken breasts cut into 1/4 inch cubes
4 eggs
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup (low sodium is best)
a splash of white wine (optional)
1 shortcrust pastry shell

Heat the olive oil and saute the leek and mushrooms for about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture into a bowl. In the same pan brown the chicken for about 5 minutes (it doesn't need to cook through but should be browned on the edges) Add the chicken to the vegetable mixture and mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the pie shell. Beat the 4 eggs thoroughly using a whisk. Add the can of soup and wine to the egg mixture and whisk until fully blended. Pour the mixture on top of the chicken mixture. Bake the pie at 180 degrees C (350 F) until the top is golden brown (about 40 minutes)
Prep time: about 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thai Curried Chicken Salad

It's January so if you're anything like me you've decided its time to eat healthy and save some money. One of the easiest ways to do both of those at once is to bring a packed lunch to work. Not all offices have microwaves (or at least not microwaves you'd actually want to use) so the lunch possibilities are often limited to things that can be eaten cold, like salads and sandwiches. I must admit I get a bit bored with both so I came up with a recipe that's a bit different, a bit spicy and remains healthy at the same time. This Thai Curried Chicken Salad can be eaten either as a sandwich filling or, if your feeling very virtuous, on top of a salad.

Thai Curried Chicken Salad
3 cooked chicken breast (you can use left overs, store bought or just boil the chicken breasts until they are cooked through)
5 spring onions finely diced
1 tsp Thai red curry paste
3-4 heaping Tablespoons of thick set (or Greek) plain yogurt
1/2 red pepper finely diced
Juice of 1 lime
7 sprigs of coriander finely chopped

Chop the chicken into small bite sized pieces and mix with all other ingredients. For best taste let sit a few hours or overnight before serving.

Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes

Friday, January 9, 2009

Spicy Vegetable Soup

The holiday season is over, and I'm now feeling really guilty about all the excesses of the past few months. The problem is that after eating rich food for weeks my body just doesn't want to be healthy. The old standbys that were always my healthy options just aren't cutting it lately. My palate craves something with a kick, so I've had to find ways of tricking my tongue that what it's eating is rich and full of bad stuff when actually it's really quite healthy. This soup is completely healthy but added chilies give it heat and loads of flavor. This soup can any combination of vegetables as long as the main ingredients stay the same so be adventurous or use what every you have in the fridge. I tend to also add a starch like potatoes or buckwheat which reduces the heat a bit and makes it more filling.

Spicy Vegetable Soup

1 leek
1 portion of chili or capiscum pepper (start with about 1/4 of a pepper and add more if needed)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups of chopped mixed vegetables (Carrots, celery, peas, beans, mushrooms, corn etc)
1/4 cup of buckwheat (or rice, pasta, chopped potatoes, chickpeas, etc)
1 vegetable stock cube
1 can of artichokes in brine
1 can of chopped tomatoes

Roughly chop the leek, the pepper and any vegetables you are using. In a large pot saute the leek and pepper in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables, the stock cube, the buckwheat and enough water to cover everything in the pot and bring to a boil. Add the can of tomatoes and the brine (liquid) from the canned artichokes. Turn heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Cut the artichokes into quarters. When the vegetables are cooked add the artichokes and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Cooking time: 20 minutes
Prep time: 15 minutes

Serves 6-8