Monday, October 18, 2010

blue cheese and tomato soup

Super-fast in preparation, warm and comforting soup - that's all you need after hectic Monday. My boyfriend complained about the smell (well, he is not one of us, blue cheese lovers), but he apparently liked the taste (two bowls gone... so far).

to prepare 4 portions you will need:
400  g of canned tomatoes
  4  tbsp of concentrated tomato puree 
150  g of blue cheese
600  ml of chicken stock
  4  generous tbsp of creme fraiche or sour cream
  3  cloves of garlic
salt and black pepper

Well, no real recipe needed. Mix tomatoes, tomato puree, chopped blue cheese, cream and chicken stock. Add crushed garlic cloves and bring to boil. Allow to cook for 5 minutes and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper - up to taste. Just like that.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

tomato bread

This bread has a really intensive taste of tomatoes with a hint of fried onion. As you can see it also has a lovely color of the crumb and it's so easy to make. I pretend that it is a good way of smuggling some veggies into your diet as well. It has to be healthy and good for you if it contains tomatoes, doesn't it? And crust is amazing!

for one decently sized loaf of tomato bread you will need:

   1     can (400 g) of chopped tomatoes
   3     cups of plain flour
 0.5     cup of tepid milk
  14     g of dry yeasts
   1     tspn of salt
 handful of dry fried onion

No quantum physics in here. Mix milk with yeasts, add 1 cup of flour and leave in warm place for 15 - 30 min. After that time you should see yeasts actually starting to do their job: mixture should be rich in bubbles and slightly raised. Add the remaining ingredients and knead until you obtain rather loose but elastic dough. If you think dough is to loose, you can add more flour. Leave in the warm place until the mixture doubles its size (it took 45 minutes in my case).

Knead the dough for a while (lovely orange-reddish colour) and shape it into round loaf. Dust it generously with flour and place in the baking tin, (I used a regular cake baking tin). To ensure that the bread won't stick to the tin I lined it with a layer of flour as well.

Let the dough stand in warm place until it's well risen (at least doubles its size - I waited for slightly more than 1 hour). Bake for approx. 30 minutes in the oven preheated to 230 degrees C. Don't eat while warm or your belly will hurt!

Yummy sandwich with butter and Italian ham.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

salty caramel cheesecake

This is heaven! Salty caramel was on my mind for a long while as all contrasting flavor combinations are extremely appealing to me. I decided to give it a go in a form of this cheesecake and now I want more! Rich, creamy, smooth texture and such an intensive taste. Salty caramel is my new chocolate! No I am thinking: salty caramel ice creams. Any other suggestions?

for one small cheesecake you will need:
500  g of cream cheese (Tesco's full fat worked fine for me)
100  g butter
0.5  cup of brown sugar
0.5  cup of double cream
  2  eggs
0.35 cup caster sugar

(I used a mould of 22 cm diameter)

I went for base-free option, but if you don't prefer to have a base you need additional 40 g of butter and 1.5 cup of finely crushed digestive biscuits. 

To prepare a cheesecake base (optional!)melt the butter in a small saucepan on a low heat or just in microwave. Mix crushed biscuits with melted butter - the mixture should have a wet sand texture. Place the buttered crumbs in the mould and press it slighly to form a base. Put in the refrigerator to chill for 15-30 minutes.

To prepare the actual cheesecake filling take a small saucepan and melt brown sugar in it. Add butter and double cream. I know it may not look very attractive for a moment or two, but when you continue to boil the mixture on medium heat for another 10 minutes it will create a lovely, dense toffee sauce. Cool it a little bit (preferably to room temperature) and add cream cheese and caster sugar. Mix well. Time for tricky bit: salt. It is hard to tell how intensive saltiness your taste buds would prefer in this case so it is best if you add it pinch by pinch and try cheesecake mixture several times (it's pure pleasure anyway). All together I added 1.5 tsp of salt, but you may like to add more/less. After you added salt, add 2 eggs and mix. Pour into buttered mould or on the previously prepared base and bake for approximately 1 hour at 180 degrees C. To avoid burning the top, I covered my cheesecake with kitchen tin foil for 45 minutes and removed it only for last 15 minutes of baking.

For decoration, I melted 2 spoons of caster sugar on the non-stick pan, cooled it down a little bit and made this caramel pattern you can see on the pictures. Anyway, it still tastes better than it looks.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

chocolate pistachio cupcakes

Amazing! Crispy early autumn morning, cup of coffee in front of your house, lazy thinking about all nice things you can do on Sunday. I made 12 moist but not too heavy chocolate cupcakes topped with melted milk chocolate. Salted pistachio nuts on top sharpened up the taste. Smell of autumn leaves, bright sunshine, let's go for a walk.

to make 12 big cupcakes you will need:

     2  eggs
  0.75  cup brown sugar
     1  cup self-raising flour
   2/3  cup of milk
   1/3  cup of oil
     2  headed tbsp of unsweetened cocoa
     1  tsp of baking soda

 100  g milk chocolate
 handfull of pistachio nuts, chopped

Embarrassingly easy. Mix dry ingredients and add milk, oil and eggs. Fill cupcake cases up to 3/4 of their height, bake for approx. 20 minutes at 180 degree C. Allow to cool and cover with melted chocolate (I always melt it in the microwave set at low power). Sprinkle with nuts. Eat.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

chicken salad with pomegranate and gorgonzola dressing

This salad screams: summer can't be over. Refreshing combination of juicy pomegranate, chicken and gorgonzola. Not that I hate caesar salad - but it is so nice to try something new. Tip: if blue cheese with its lovely veins makes you sick - go ahead with finely grated mature white cheddar. Might be even better :)

to feed two people you will need:

    1       pomegranate
  200       g (or just one big) chicken breast fillet 
    2       beacon rashers
    3       tbsp oil oil
    2       handfuls of baby spinach leaves
    1       handful of rocket
    8       cocktail tomatoes

  50      g Gorgonzola cheese
 100      g natural, preferably greek yogurt 

ALSO: salt, pepper, sweet red pepper powder to season

Easy cheesy.
Cut chicken breast in thin slices, season with salt and red pepper powder and fry (I used grill pan) on olive oil together with the rashers.
In a meantime mix spinach leaves with rocket. Take two big plates. Place half of green stuff on each plate. Open pomegranate by scoring it with a knife and breaking it open. Separate the arils (red seed casings) from the peel and white membranes. Sprinkle plates with pomegranate arils. Cut the coctail tomatoes in halves and add them to the salad. Arrange the fried chicken pieces on top together with pieces of beacon rashers.

To prepare the dressing simply mix yogurt, cheese plus some salt and black pepper. I used blender but some chunky bits may be interesting as well.

Serve with toasted pita bread.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

raspberry-blueberry muffins

Damn good muffins. No other comments necessary! 

  To prepare 12 big muffins you will need:
  1      cup of frozen blueberries
  1      cup of frozen raspberries
  2      cups of self raising flour
 50      g melted butter
0.5      cup yogurt
0.5      cup brown sugar
0.5-0.75 cup of milk.
1        egg

Mix flour and sugar, add butter, egg, and yogurt. Mix briefly again and add from 0.5 milk. Muffin batter shouldn't be to fluid, but if it's really thick add the remaining milk. Add fruits (no need for defrosting!) and mix really briefly again. Fill muffin cases with batter and sprinkle top of each muffin with some brown sugar - delicious crust will develop. Bake for approx. 25 minutes in the oven preheated to 190 degrees C. 

Important: don't over-mix the batter, otherwise muffins will turn out dry!

Seriously, it can be the best muffin recipe I've  ever came out with!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

coconut pralines

OK, they do not exactly take minutes to prepare. However, even rows of ready chocolates on your kitchen table - this view is not the worst reward of your effort.

For 30 quite big pralines you will need:
50    g butter
0.25  cup of milk
0.25  cup icing sugar
100   g coconut flakes
125   g powdered milk
200   g milk chocolate

Also: tiny muffin/pralines cases (mine are from Dr.Oetker, you can find them for example in Dunnes Stores baking section)

Warm up (don't boil!)milk in a medium pot, add butter, wait until butter dissolves. Add sugar, coconut flakes and powdered milk. Mix carefully. Obtained pralines filling should be relatively soft but plastic enough to shape. If you think it is too dense, add some milk. If you consider it too loose, add more powdered milk. Cool mixture down in the fridge (1 hour is enough). 

After  chocolates' filling is cooled it is easy to form it into small balls. The only thing left to do is covering them in melted milk chocolate. I think that the easiest way of melting chocolate is using microwave set at low power option for several minutes rather than water bath (less messy!). Just keep on checking on your chocolate to ensure it is not getting too hot.
Place pralines in cases (do not worry if they do not look perfect or if you smear some melted chocolate on the cases - it is a homemade product after all), wait until chocolate sets and eat!

Monday, September 20, 2010

white wine onion soup

All food containing wine appeals to me quite intensively, including the wine itself. Perfect comfort food: if you had a bad day this soup will warm you up fast. Actually it's nice even if your day wasn't bad at all. Onion is healthy, let's eat onion! And then jump into pyjamas and stay cosy in bed.

To feed two hungry people you will need:

  4   medium sized peeled onions
750   ml of chicken stock 
 70   g of salted butter
  2   bay leaves 
0.5   cup of white wine
  6   generous tbsp of sour cream
0.5   tsp of ground black pepper 

  4   slices of white toast
      good splash of extra virgin olive oil

Chop onions and fry them with butter in big pot on medium heat until caramelized (gold and soft). Add all other ingredients, bring to boil and cook for 10-15 more minutes. Remove bay leaves and (optionally) blend until creamy.

Prepare the croutons (my fav soup garnish!) simply by frying toast bread cut into 1 x 1 cm squares on olive oil. The secret is: use really good quality olive oil - such as one from Aldi (which conveniently happens to be really cheap as well).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

grilled sweet potato chips

I am not a giant fan of regular chips, they're my strive only after few pints late at night. I would rarely go for them except the classic fish&chips combination. However, the creamy and rich texture of sweet potatoes under the crispy skin... 

For two people you will need:
4   big sweet potatoes 
8   tbsp of olive oil
1   tsp of chili powder
1   clove of garlic
pinch of salt

Thick-cut peeled potatoes and rub them with sliced garlic. Cover with olive oil and chili powder, sprinkle with salt. Fry on the grill pan for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally (if you do not own a grill pan, then move yourself to Dublin's Ikea and grab one for less than a tenner, you won't regret it, I promise). Serve with sweet chili sauce and sour cream.

simply nice scones

Super easy recipe - actually the more careless you are the better scones you bake. With really crunchy crust and soft, light crumble. Add jam, butter, creme fraiche, several cups of coffee, please don't let this Sunday morning to end.

For 8 medium sized scones you will need:
2.5  cup of self-raising flour
70   g of soft salted butter
0.5  cup of sugar
1    egg
0.5  cup of milk

Mix flour and sugar, add butter, egg and milk. Remember not to over knead! Flatten obtained dough on surface sprinkled with flour to 1.5 inch thick and cut out your scones with knife or alternatively, small glass/cup/biscuit cutter. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes, 200 degrees C. 

It is important not to overmix the scones dough because mixing builds up gluten, which makes the final product more of the stone rather than a nice, leavened scone.