Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Brownie sandwich cookies with salted caramel cream filling

No calories. No butter. No sugar. No real chocolate. No pleasure.

When it comes to brownies I don't compromise. I rather not to bake any than go half way. These are so rich that you probably will get a diabetes only by reading the recipe.

Recipe was found in "Donna Hay" magazine (Spring 2011 issue), but they used peanut butter for the filling. I have to say I was pretty tempted, but as much as I love natural peanut butter I prefer salted caramel when it comes to chocolate cakes combos. If you like it too please check out my chocolate fondant with salted caramel sauce

I reduced sugar in the recipe and changed some other quantities as well as method (bain marie is safer than melting chocolate in a pan on the hob).

If you don't like to compromise when it comes to chocolate I am sure you will enjoy these.

Makes about 16

For salted caramel:

¾ cup sugar
5 tbsp water
4 tbsp butter 
¼ cup double cream
½tsp salt

For cookies:

350g plain chocolate, finely chopped (I used 70% cocoa solids)
3 tbsp butter
3 small eggs
½ cup of sugar
1tsp real vanilla extract
 ¼ cup of plain flour
¼ tsp baking powder

For the cream filling:

250g butter, unsalted
1½ cup icing sugar
salted caramel

First prepare salted caramel. Place sugar and water in a pan, keep over medium heat and stir until sugar has dissolved, bring to the boil and as from now do not stir! If any crystals form on the side of the pan brush them with a wet silicone spatula. You can move the mixture from time to time by shaking the pan using handle, but remember - no stirring at this point. after few minutes the mixture will start to change the colour from a light to dark amber. This is the moment when you should take it off the heat and mix salt, cream and butter in. Stir thoroughly, be careful as it bubbles a lot. Set aside to cool down and prepare the cookies.

Place 200g of chocolate in a bowl together with a butter and place onto a pan with boiling water, making sure the bowl does not touch the hot water. Basically melt the chocolate with the butter in bain marie. When melted set aside to cool down and heat the oven to 180C.

Beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and fluffy with a mixer. Add sieved flour, baking powder, mix and then add melted chocolate with butter and the remaining 150g of chopped chocolate. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Line a baking tray with some baking paper and spoon one tbsp of chocolate mixture onto it saving some space, between them, as they will expand little bit.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, not longer! don't be tempted to bake it longer even if you think cookies look too soft. They will continue to cook even outside the oven for little while, so if you bake them for longer than 10 minutes you will end up with hard rock unpleasant cookies. We want soft with melted chocolate bits in. When they are cooling down prepare the filling.

Using a mixer beat the butter with icing sugar until fluffy and then add cool salted caramel. Have to admit - mine was little bit too hard, so I heated it and it was too warm for the butter. It melted the butter when I was mixing it, but I managed to rescue it with placing the mixing bowl in the fridge and mixing every few minutes. The butter incorporated into the caramel eventually.

To assemble the cookies spread a generous amount of cream filling onto one cookie and cover with another one.

Bon appetite!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Tuna & chickpea burgers + Thai inspired salad dressing

Perhaps you have made your homemade sweet chilli sauce and fancy something that will go well with it. Recently I had it with some chickpea and tuna burgers. I have made them based upon what we had in a fridge, freezer and cupboards. I wanted to cook a dinner that firstly will not require additional shopping and secondly will comfort mine appetite, that recently is so not into meat and also will not live my dear meat eater hungry. So this is improvisation and have to say it was very successful.

makes about 12 

about  200g dry chickpea
2 x 175g tins of tuna (in oil)
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 small red chilli, chopped
handful of fresh coriander (I used frozen, as I have some in the freezer)
2 small eggs, beaten
2 level tbsp of ground cumin
juice of half lemon
freshly ground black pepper
some gram flour
oil for frying (I used sunflower)
lime wedges for serving (optional)

Soak the chickpea in a water overnight, then drain, cover with fresh water, add some salt and cook over a low heat until tender. Then drain and let it cool down.

Fry the onion in little oil over a low heat - it should be softened but not browned. Just before you finish frying the onion add the chilli and garlic and fry for about 1 minute. Remove from a heat and leave it to cool down.

Place the chickpea on a food processor and whiz until coarse in consistency - it should not be smooth, but it still should keep some of its texture. Place in a bowl.

Flake a tuna using a fork and place in the bowl. I did not drain mine, as it was in very little oil. Then add the fried onion, chilli, garlic, coriander, eggs, lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly with your hands.

Next wet your hands and form small burgers, then dip them in a gram flour and place onto a chopping board.

Heat a decent amount of oil in a frying pan _ you don't want to deep fry the burgers, but they should be dipped in a fat about half way. Fry on both sides until golden, remove from a pan and sit aside on a paper kitchen roll to drain the excess of oil.

I served these burgers with roast potato wadges, lime wedges, sweet chilli sauce and some iceberg salad with Thai inspired dressing.

Thai inspired salad dressing 

2 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tsp honey
1 tsp fish sauce (nam pla)
juice of half lime
pinch of chilli powder

Place all of the ingredients in a jar, seal and shake until mixed. Wash and chop the salad, place in a bowl, add dressing just before serving, mix well and divide between plates. Sprinkle with some dry roasted cumin seeds.

Bon appetite!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Vegan sweet chilli sauce

I have confession to make.  I am absolutely crazy about certain sauce. I like it with chips, to dunk a tofu in, I hardly can imagine fishcakes without it, and just recently I baked crispy chicken strips and had them with this sauce. When I add it to basic hummus it gives it a new dimension, it can be served with thick Greek yogurt as a dip for vegetables. I use it with some stir fries, and recently I served it as a dip for mini tortillas with sorrel and it worked surprisingly well.

Is is sweet chilli sauce available in most supermarkets. However making you own takes about 20 minutes and you can be absolutely sure that there are no nonsense ingredients, such as glucose syrup or preservatives. I used it quite a lot so for me it is important to have something with possibly natural and fresh ingredients only.   Also it is quite handy to decide if you want less hot sauce by removing the seeds from the chillies. My version is vegan. Traditionally this sauce can contain nam pla (fish sauce), I use some lime. Also I use some starch to thicken this up, but the traditional sauce is being cooked until reduced and thick. 

This is one of my favourite condiments. Stay tuned as I will post a recipe for lovely burgers that go really well with sweet chilli sauce.

makes about 200ml 

3 cred chillies, one with seeds, two deseeded 
3 garlic cloves, peeled
juice of half lime
zest of whole lime
¼ cup of rice vinegar 
½ cup of sugar
¾ cup of water
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp cornflour dissolved in 2 tbsp water (optional)

Chop chillies, garlic very finely using knife or food processor. 

To a small pan add the sugar, water, lime juice and zest, vinegar and salt together with chopped chillies and garlic. Bring to the boil and lower the heat, then simmer for about 15 minutes until slightly reduced. Net add cornflour dissolved in water, stir, bring to the boil and immediately remove from the heat. Leave it to cool down.

Place in a jar, seal and keep refrigerated. Difficult to say for how long you can store this, with us it always disappears within 10 days or so. However you should be able to keep it for longer if you pasteurize it.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Spelt with peas & grilled halloumi

I bought my first spelt grain by mistake. It was my last day of holiday in Poland, I was shopping in a rush and picked something from a shelf that I thought was a spelt bread flour. This was a whole grain to be used in bread making, however I cooked it instead of adding this to a bread dough and since then I am completely in love with it.

Spelt is very healthy, rich in vitamins, minerals, it contains gluten that is very tolerable by people with gluten intolerance. In Roman times it was gladiators' food. I absolutely love it and use it in sweet and savoury recipes.

Today's recipe also features one of my favourite cheeses - halloumi. It is perfect for grilling as it keeps its shape in high temperatures. I hope you'll enjoy it.

Serves 2

about 500ml spelt grain
200g halloumi 
about  250ml peas (fresh or defrosted)
half red onion, peeled and sliced
juice of half lemon
1 lime
small handful of fresh mint
2-3 springs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
few tbsps of cold pressed rapeseed oil 
few pinches of chilli flakes
freshly ground black pepper

Place the spelt in a pan, cover with water and soak for about 10 hours. Drain, cover with fresh water, add some salt and bring to the boil. Simmer over the low heat until al dente.

While you cooking the spelt prepare the onion - marinate it in lemon and half lime juice.

Cut the halloumi in about 1cm slices, drizzle with some oil, sprinkle with chilli flakes, some salt and pepper and grill on very hot cast iron frying pan.

When spelt is nearly cooked add the peas and cook for about 3 minutes, then drain and return to the pan. Drizzle with little oil, add juices from marinating the onion and chopped mint and thyme. Stir well.

Place the spelt with peas onto two plates, top with marinated onion, grilles halloumi, drizzle with little oil and serve immediately with lime wedges.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

My blog on Pinterest

I decided to join it and please feel welcome to have a look at some of my inspirations - food, travel and my crush on shoes and some other things. ;)  Please click here to see my blog on Pinterest.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Roast garlic & tomatoes risotto with parmesan crisps

Top: Parmesan piles, bottom: Parmesan crisps

Ingredients for this dish are quite similar to those used in my linguine alla trapanese, but today I am serving rice instead of a pasta. Based on the popularity of trapanese recipe I reckon I don't have to introduce all these lovely summer ingredients again.  This is one of our favourite summer dishes and it is a shame that here in Yorkshire we don't have summer at all this year whilst my friends in Poland are complaining about the heat. At least I have my bowl of summer risotto that I can comfort myself with in this rainy and rather cold weather. 

Serves 2-4

250g arborio rice (or some other risoto rice)
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
two handfuls of baby tomatoes 
2-3 springs of fresh thyme
4-6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 łtbsp balsamic vinegar (supermarket bought will do)
half tsp brown sugar (I used dark muscovado)
about 1.2 l vegetable stock, hot (preferably homemade)
175ml dry white wine
2 tbsp butter
6 tbsp freshly grated parmesan (or vegetarian option)
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 180 C. 

Line a baking tray with some kitchen foil and place tomatoes, garlic on it. Drizzle with tbsp of olive oil. Then drizzle tomatoes only with the vinagar, sprinkle with sugar and little salt and add thyme springs. Place in the oven.

On another baking tray lined with some baking paper pour 2-4 heaping tablespoons (according to the number of servings) of parmesan and lightly pat down. Bake until cheese is melted and golden. Remove from the oven and leave it to cool down slightly. When cooled down using large knife gently lift them from a baking tray.

Fry the shallot in 2 remaining tbsp of olive oil in a deep pan until slightly softened but not browned. Add the rice, and fry stirring until it starts to turn translucent. Next add the wine and cook, stirring until wine is absorbed. Next add a ladle of hot stock and stir. and turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladles of stock, stirring – you will notice a creamy starch from the rice. This is why you have to allow each ladle to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes, until the rice is cooked. Season with salt and pepper.

In the meantime tomatoes should be roasted and ready. Remove from the oven, take the thyme springs and pick some of the leaves from the springs - add to the risotto. Squeeze the roast garlic out of its skins and roughly chop then add to the rice. Stir and remove from the heat.

Add the remaining parmesan, butter and stir well and allow to rest for about 2-3 minutes. Please bear in mind when I took this photograph it rested in a hot bowl so it lost some of its creaminess.

Place in serving bowls, top with roast tomatoes, some fresh thyme leaves if you have any left and with parmesan crisp. Serve immediately.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Linguine alla trapanese

Imagine fresh sun ripened tomatoes - sweet and juicy. Basil that smells like heaven when you shake it slightly. Best olive oil you ever tasted, produced in small village in the Italian mountainside - rich, with very distinctive notes of artichokes. Add nutty almonds and Parmigiano Reggiano and you have the best summer combo for pasta. You can obviously make pesto of these, but according to me these are so gorgeous that it would be a shame just to smash them into a smooth paste. Enjoy every bite of this. Jamie was right in "Jamie's Italy" (by the way one of my favourite cook books) - since I saw this recipe few years ago it became my new favourite and yes Tigers - I hope you are going to like it too.  (the recipe comes from his book, but I have change the quantities). Have a lovely weekend (Tigers)! 

Serves 2 

200g dried pasta (I used linguine) 
200g fresh baby tomatoes 
handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
100g almonds, skinned 
a generous splash of good extra virgin olive oil (I used the one from Ginestra
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped   
4 tbsp freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
some salt 
some freshly ground black pepper 

Cook your pasta in salted boiling water according to the packet instructions. 

While the pasta is cooking place tomatoes in a large bowl and really scrunch them with you hands, they will release a lot of lovely juices. 

Dry fry  the almonds in a pan, until just slightly coloured and then smash them up in a pestle and mortar or use a food processor until you have a coarse powder consistency. Really what you looking for are small pieces of almonds so they give you this extra crunch. Put them into a bowl. Add the garlic, basil, Parmesan,  a generous glug of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Loosen with a little extra water from the boiled pasta and toss with your hot drained pasta. 

Adjust the seasoning, divide on to two plates, and spoon any sauce that remains in the pan over the top. You can finish off with some little grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

My subjective guide to culinary books, part 3

I can hardly believe that I waited so long to write about the book that certainly is one of the most interesting I have ever seen and for sure - the most beautiful in my collection. Funnily enough I did not use a single recipe from this book and I would still strongly recommend it to anybody who likes beautiful cook books. This is "The Vintage Tea Party Book" by Angel Adoree (who you may recognise from TV series "Dragon's Den"), the owner of Vintage Patisserie .

Let me just say that I am huge fan of vintage style and if only I had more money and opportunities I would definitely collect authentic vintage clothes and accessories and dress like this on a regular basis. So for me this book is like a very stylish journey back in time, I can totally relax flicking trough it and find myself in a lovely vintage scenery, having a tea party in style. This book is a visual feast, never a dull moment, one of the most beautiful photographs of food I have ever seen.

But what makes this book even more amazing is that it has a whole vintage package for anybody who would like to host a vintage tea party. Not only recipes, but lots of other ideas such as how to make invitations and thank you cards, decorations, how to pick the right clothing, how to make iconic hair victory rolls, tips on flower arranging or 40's make up and applying false lashes.

This is an absolute must have for anybody who is into vintage. This book is also very British and this is why I love it even more. Angel says she is proud of being British, in this book you can find several portraits of Queen Elizabeth or history of British flag. Let me say this again - very stylish, extremely beautiful, what a woman and what a book! 

How about the recipes? Have to say I was so pleasantly surprised by some ideas and will definitely try them some time in the future. I am sure they will work, Vintage Pattiserie have been a success, so I totally trust the recipes here, but simply did not have a chance to try them yet. How do you like the sound of some:

Kipper Paté on Oatcakes with Whisky Marmalade
Tall Filo Baskets with Stilton, Pear & Walnuts
Chicken Liver Parfait in a Filo Pastry Basket
Gingerbread Pudding with Eggnog Cream
Rose Pannacotta
Wild Hibiscus Champagne

along some traditional recipes such as easy fish pie, crown of lamb, scones or strawberry jam? I absolutely love them! To be completely honest - even if I never get round to make any of these (although I doubt this will happen) this book is so delightful to read, that I can spend hours in the armchair and forget all my worries. This is little bit like going to the other side of the mirror and even some of the gorgeous illustrations remind me "Alice in Wonderland" slightly.    

I recommend this book to anybody who likes beautiful things - this is pure and endless pleasure to look at. 

"The Vintage Tea Party Book" by Angel Adoree

Publisher: Mitchell Beazley (1 Aug 2011)

Hardcover, 304 pages