White chocolate and limoncello pralines

white-chocolate-limoncello-pralinesI made these pralines for my birthday as a treat for my colleagues, and they made me promise to make them again for my final day in the office (I decided to take up a position much closer to home – more time for baking that is! Oh and for the kids too of course!). As usual, I didn’t have any leftovers … I found this recipe in “Sweets made simple”, by Miss Hope & Mr Greenwood. The book is really hilarious, even if you are never going to try anything, it’s still very funny to read. In addition (and contrary to other “simple” sweets recipe books I bought in the past), the recipes really are simple and easy, even for busy people! This one doesn’t take a lot of time and is foolproof, but you do need to start in advance as it takes 3 days to make them (all due to overnight freezing, don’t worry!). So here’s how to make about 18 of them (I usually double the recipe):

Day 1 – 20 min work:
Heat 5 cm of water in a pan and put a heatproof bowl in top (making sure it’s not touching the water – this is called a “bain marie” – no idea why Mary took her baths like this but already glad she took one :-)). Place 100 g white chocolate in the bowl with 2 tbsp double cream and heat gently to allow the chocolate to melt (in the mean time, you can prepare the other ingredients). Take the bowl of the heat and stir in the zest of 1/2 lemon, 1-2 tbsp limoncello (italian lemon liqueur), a pinch of salt and 50 g butter chopped into cubes. Wisk until the mixture resembles home-made lemon curd. If the butter is too cold, you may need to put it back on the heat for a few minutes to help it melt. Spoon into a sealable container, put a lid on and chill in the fridge overnight.

Day 2 – 15 min work:
Line a tray (that will fit in the freezer) with baking parchment. Scoop up small teaspoons of the mixture, roll into balls, put on the tray and freeze overnight.

Day 3 – 20 min work:
Temper 300 g white chocolate by popping it into the microwave on high for 30 seconds at the time, stirring in between, until the chocolate looks nearly melted but there are still a few bits bobbeld on top. Take it out of the microwave and stir the chocolate gently until smooth. Use 2 forks to dip each truffle ball into the chocolate, toss to coat and place back on the parchment, roughening the chocolate with a fork. Do this with all your truffles and then chill in the fridge to allow them to set (I usually chill them overnight, but they set quite quickly, so they should be ready after an hour or so).

Because white chocolate melts easily, it’s best to store them in the fridge. I can’t really advise on how long they will keep, they haven’t lasted long enough to test that… Enjoy!

Fast and gluten-free: raspberry brûlée pots

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Raspberry brûlée pots

Weekends are not as relaxing as they used to be… twin boys are always up early and they move so quickly now, you always need to keep an eye on them! The Sundays spending hours in the kitchen for a perfect bake are definitely over. Not that they ever really existed in my kitchen in the first place, but I like to think they did! In the mean time, I’m getting pretty good at whipping up something fast. Or at least in multiple stages. And this recipe fits the bill perfectly! Here’s how to make them:

Place 300 g frozen raspberries in a saucepan with 75 g sugar and simmer for 20 min until the mixture thickens. Divide over 4 ovenproof dishes (I can confirm that whisky glasses are not a valid alternative) and refrigerate until cold. You can easily do this a day ahead. Or if you don’t have time, use raspberry marmelade as an alternative, about 3 tbsp per pot will do.

Now whisk 250 g double cream until it starts to hold its shape (it doesn’t need to be completely stiff). Add 420 g Greek-style thick yoghurt, 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract and mix again. Spoon over the raspberry mixture and refrigerate until cold (at least 30 min).

When ready to serve, sprinkle with sugar and caramelise the sugar with a kitchen blow torch until golden. Enjoy!

Sunshine in a bowl: mango sorbet

mango sorbetSummer is well and truly over so what to do when you can’t find sunshine outside? Just get some on your plate! This was the perfect ending to a very successful thai cooking workshop (my kitchen was the backdrop, the chef a bubbly laotian colleague of mine and the food totally yummy!) and a great excuse to test my new pride and joy: our kitchen aid, including the ice cream maker. Finally, it’s another way to eat more cardamom, anything I can add that spice to just makes me happy. I looked on the internet to find a great recipe and in the end decided to go with my own blend. Here’s how to make it:

Cut 2 mangos in chunks, add 150 g icing sugar, the juice of 2 limes and the crushed seeds of 5 cardamom pods (optional of course, you can just leave them out or add any flavour you prefer with mango, such as mint leaves for example) and mix to make a smooth puree (you can also do this in a food processor of course).

Transfer to an ice cream maker and churn to freeze according to the instructions of the manufacturer (it only took 20 min in my kitchen aid bowl). Transfer to a container and put in the freezer until you are ready to eat it. That’s it!

Don’t have an ice cream maker or the patience to freeze this stuff for a couple of hours? You can also use a short cut: just buy frozen mango in the supermarket and take it out of the freezer 10-15 min before you want to eat your sorbet. Mix it and serve: you now have a 100% fruit sorbet that is good for you and your diet! If you want you can add some sugar, lime juice … but you will notice it doesn’t need it. This also works with any other type of frozen fruit, such as forest fruit or raspberries. Enjoy!

Summer treat for grown ups: margarita ice lollies

margarita ice lolliesredcurrant ice lollyThis year, we have an actual summer. It’s been going on for weeks and we can’t quite believe it! 22 degrees feels kind of chilly now. Days are getting shorter too, which just feels wrong when it’s so hot. Time for some proper cooling down with ice lollies! I couldn’t find my trusted molds (a side effect from moving a few months ago), so I had to improvise. I used a cake pop mold instead, topped with a cardboard with holes in it to put the sticks through. No one noticed and the lollies were a hit, for those who like margarita cocktails anyway! I’ll definitely try a mojito variation soon… Here’s how to make the margarita lolly:

Boil 200 ml water with 75 g sugar and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Add the grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, 2 tbsp tequila and 2 g salt (you really taste the salt, so stick to 1 g if you only want a subtle hint) an stir everything together. Transfer to ice lolly moulds and allow to freeze overnight. If you want, add some chopped mint to the mix for added freshness.

For the kids, you can make a redcurrant ice lolly as well (photo on the right). Just pop 100 g redcurrants in a blender with 100 ml water and 40 g icing sugar. Blend and pour into moulds (if you don’t have a blender, use a hand mixer instead).

To unmould, just hold it under lukewarm runny water and it will pop out. Enjoy!

To finish this post, I wanted to thank Sophie at Sophies Foodie Files for giving me the Liebster blog award! It comes with 10 questions for me to answer, so I’ll do my best:

1. Why did you start blogging?
I was always bringing left-over cookies and cakes to work and my colleagues said they looked very professional and I should start blogging about it, so I did.

2. What is your favourite food memory?
My mothers bavarois for my birthday.

3. What is your favourite food restaurant & why?
I like trying out different restaurants every now and then, and moving to a new city means lots of new addresses to try!

4. Who influenced your style of cooking?
Mainly my parents, although my brother, sister and I all ended up cooking very differently with the same upbringing. I’m a fan of Rick Stein and Donna Hay too.

5. What is your favourite food dish, on your blog or not & why?
My birthday dinner (the day I can totally choose what to eat) is always the same: spinach and mash fish pie followed by bavarois!

6. What is your favourite colour?
I love lots of colours… white (if that is a colour), blue, green and of course pink.

7. What do you prefer: cooking or baking?
Baking… could you tell?

8. What is the most lovely & cool cookie cutter you have in your possession?
I have a ampfelmann cookie cutter from Berlin, so cool!

9. What is your favourite food destination in the world & why?
Difficult choice between Thailand and India, but I’ll go for Thailand. I just love coriander and ginger.

10. On what kind of music do you cook on?
Party music! Nothing like shaking your bootie when cutting or stirring food.

Fresh and tasty: strawberry smoothie

Strawberry smoothieI’m a bit behind on my blogging but I had a very good reason: the weather was great! I promise, in Belgium that is a damn good reason and one we cannot use very often… On those days there is only one thing to do straight away: procrastinate! So that’s what I did all day long on Sunday (that and hanging in the park with some friends and a DJ in the background). Of course we needed some refreshments to accompany all that laziness, so I went for this strawberry smoothie. I got the recipe from a colleague who really is the soups and smoothies queen. I know this because I’m part of the happy few who can enjoy the leftovers! Here’s how to make it:

Cut about 250 g strawberries and put them in a blender with the juice of 2 limes, a small handful of fresh mint leaves and half a can of Canada Dry. Blend and pour into glasses (you’ll get 2-3 glasses from this). Do give it a try, the Canada Dry makes it really fresh and it becomes sort of a cross between a smoothie and a lemonade. Of course it’s best to do this with fruit that comes from the fridge for extra freshness. Enjoy!

Rhubarb mania part 2: rhubarb and vodka jellies

Rhubarb and vodka jelliesI’m back to my rhubarb mania after a few weeks of radio silence… not that I was waiting for the rhubarb to grow, but we were enjoying a few weeks of holidays, which were very well deserved I might add. But of course, in the meantime we have been eating a lot more rhubarb, so here is yet another idea of how to use it, again inspired by my trusted GoodFood. In this recipe, the rhubarb flavour is quite subtle, so ideal for those who say they don’t like it (we all know they don’t mean it… if they insist, just call it “pink jelly” and casually “forget” what you put in it). Jelly is so easy to make and very refreshing as a dessert too. Here’s how to make it:

Poach 500 g rhubarb in 400 ml water with 100 g sugar until soft (about 15 min). Meanwhile, soak 4 gelatine sheets in cold water to soften them.

Strain the rhubarb liquid off into a jug and keep some of the rhubarb for serving. Stir in the softened gelatine sheets and 4 tbsp vodka and pour into 4 glasses. Chill until set. Decorate with poached rhubarb. Enjoy!

Use up leftover rhubarb in rhubarb crumble muffins. Like jellies? Try some watermelon jellies as well.

Summery treat: watermelon jellies

watermelon jellyOk so for a few days they had us fooled: we really did think summer was finally here and it was here to stay. So bring on the smoothies, salads, bubbles and that large chunk of watermelon. A few days later however, it became clear that summer was definitely not here… and that we had completely forgotten about that chunk of watermelon in the fridge. As my mom was coming over for dinner I began to wonder about what to make for dessert. I didn’t have much time, so it needed to be something I could quickly make the night before. She absolutely loves jellies and I still had that watermelon, so I put two and two together, googled a bit and came up with this result! Here’s how to make it:

Soak 4 gelatine leaves in cold water. Chop a quarter of a watermelon in small chunks (removing the seeds) and put into a blender together with 50 g sugar and the juice of 2 limes. Blitz until completely cooled. Push the juice through a sieve into a measuring jug. Dissolve the soaked gelatine in a little hot water from the kettle and add to the watermelon juice. If you want to make a grown up version, add 2 tbsp wodka as well. Pour the juice into small moulds and leave to set overnight (serves about 4). Unmold and serve with some more watermelon chunks or some strawberries and a sprig of mint (give it a few good and firm shakes to unmould them, don’t be shy). Enjoy!

Tasty gift: white chocolate lollipops with dried cranberries

White chocolate lollipops with dried cranberries

When I saw this recipe in Lorraine Pascale‘s Fast, Fresh and Easy food I immediately thought this would be perfect for a girls night with tasty treats and chick flicks and indeed, it was a success! Not only do they look good, they taste great too and are so easy to make! Here’s how to make about 8:

Line a large tray or baking sheet with baking parchment so the paper is really flat. Lay 8 to 10 cocktail or lollipop sticks out on the sheet, spaced well apart.

Snap 100 g white chocolate up a bit into a medium bowl. Melt in the microwave in 30-second blasts, stirring between each addition, or set over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. As white chocolate is harder to melt than dark or milk, keep a close eye on it. As soon as it starts melting, stir for a few seconds and remove from the heat.

To make disc lollipops, place a spoonful of melted chocolate on top of one end of each of the sticks to give a 4cm disc. Finely chop 1 tbsp dried cranberries and scatter them over the chocolate to stick. Place them in the fridge for at least 15 minutes or until set. Very carefully peel the lollipops off the paper and serve. They will keep for up to a month in the fridge.

If you’re not a fan of white chocolate, you can of course go crazy with all kinds of variations: dark chocolate and pistachios, milk chocolate and raisins or nuts, … go crazy 🙂

Use up left-over white chocolate in a blondies, and use up both in white chocolate and cranberry cookies.

Easy and so delicious: lemon pudding

Lemon puddingMy parents came to dinner recently to discuss some plans for our apartment. As it was a last minute invitation, I needed something quick, easy and with a minimum of ingredients for dessert. So I turned to my trusted Fast, Fresh and Simple cookbook by Donna Hay where I found this lemon pudding. It already looked good on paper, but it turned out to be totally delicious! I will definitely make this again and again. Here’s how to make it:

Place 500 ml cream (single pouring cream) and 110 g sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Allow to simmer for 6 minutes or until the cream has reduced slightly (I usually don’t really have a clue when that is, also, I’m bad at simmering, I go from boiling to not boiling, to boiling again… that seemed to work too). Add 80 ml lemon juice (from about 4 lemons) and simmer for a further 2 minutes. Pour into cups, glasses or ramekins and refrigerate until set. If, like me, you have little time to allow them to set, you can soak 1 leave of gelatine in cold water for a few minutes, squeeze it very well and stir it into the hot creamy mixture before filling your cups.

Serve with fresh raspberries while listening to Lemonade by Alexandra Stan.

Use up left-over lemons in a light lemon drizzle cake, a lemon cake, a lemon and poppy seed loaf or a raspberry and lemon mess. You can use left-over cream in a bavarois, a mango and cardamom panna cotta or a basil panna cotta.

Sunshine on a plate: mango and cardamom panna cotta

Mango and cardamom panna cottaTo thank my sister and her boyfriend for their help in our apartment, I invited them for dinner. Of course, I needed a delicious dessert to go with it, and I didn’t find anything to my liking in my cookbooks. As summer seems to be finally over, I wanted to enjoy some last summer tastes before it’s too late, so I wanted to make something with mango. This seemed a great excuse to use cardamom as well, it’s one of my favourite spices and it goes really well with mango! So I decided to freewheel a bit and invent my own recipe for a mango and cardamom panna cotta. Here’s how I did it:

Put 5 leaves of gelatine in a bowl of cold water (they have to be fully covered) and set aside for 5 min. In the mean time, put 400 ml double cream or whipping cream (you need at least 30% fat contents) in a pan with 150 ml milk100 g caster sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract (or the seeds of a vanilla pod) and stir to combine. Gently heat the mixture while stirring occasionally until it’s almost boiling. In the mean time, peel 1 to 2 mangos at room temperature, cut into chunks and mix in a blender until smooth (1 mango gives a subtle taste, two will make it more pronounced). Add the hot cream to the blender and blend again until smooth. Check if the mixture is still quite hot, if not you can heat it through a bit. Add the crushed seeds of 5 cardamom pods (the flavour will come through very well, if you prefer it to be subtle, stick to 3 pods instead). Take of the heat and add the gelatine leaves one by one (squeeze out all the water first) and stir well. Pour the mixture into dariole moulds and put in the fridge to set for 2-3 hours or overnight.

To unmould the panna cotta, dip the bottom of the moulds in hot water for a few seconds to loosen them, then turn them upside down on a serving plate. They may need a few sharp jerks of the hand for them to come out. If this fails, run a small knife around the side of the mould to loosen slightly. Or just don’t bother taking them out of the moulds at all. I served the panna cotta on it’s own, but if you prefer you can add some raspberry coulis as well. Enoy while listening to Sunrise by Norah Jones.

Use up some cardamom in a cardamom loaf or a chocolate and cardamom mousse. If you got more mangos than you can handle, try a lime and mango cake.