Easy and delicious: sesame cookies

sesame cookiesOn a recent visit to London, my friend Jia showed me the new cookbook she bought because she thought I would like it. I took one look at it and immediately went out and bought it myself! As soon as I got home I had to try it, and I started of with these sesame cookies from the Okashi cookbook. They are really easy to make and as my colleagues can confirm: totally delicious too! Here’s how to make them:

Put 220 g plain flour in a bowl and put it in the freezer to chill (the recipe says to sift the flour, but I don’t bother, these days flour is fine enough already). Beat 100 g softened butter with 100 g icing sugar until soft and creamy. Add 2 egg yolks and mix well. Add the chilled flour and 100 g grilled sesame seeds (the recipe suggests using half white and half black sesame seeds, but I didn’t have that so I used all the same) and fold in with a spatula.

Divide the dough in half and transfer each to a piece of cling film. Shape into a 12 x 7 x 2.5 cm rectangle (just think “cookie size” – no need to get your ruler out). Wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 160 C. Slice the chilled dough into 5-7 mm think slices and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Bake for about 20 min until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Will easily keep for a week in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Signs of autumn: dried cherry and pistachio biscotti

cherry and pistachio biscottiI absolutely love winter and I think autumn is a great prelude. Although these past days have been very nice, it’s been too warm and sunny for me. I love seeing the wind through the trees and hearing the rain on the roof, nothing like a good thunderstorm to make me sleep like a baby! Autumn also means you can start putting lots of hearty stuff on the menu: the first tajine is already tasted, fish pies, mashed potatoes, meat loaf… are all still to come. And for tea no more ice cream or frilly bits but something with a good bite, like these biscotti. I found the recipe in my Kitchen Aid cookbook (it came with the machine – yes, I finally got one!) but you can easily make it even if you don’t have one. Here’s how to make it:

Heat the oven to 160 C. In a bowl, mix 300 g plain flour with 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder, 150 g sugar and 1 tsp szichuan pepper (if you don’t have this, you can just leave it out or replace it by a grind of black pepper and some lemon zest – I opted for mixed spice, but only half a teaspoon as the cinnamon in it can be quite overpowering). Add 3 eggs and mix to a soft dough (it will be slightly sticky). Add 75 g dried cherries and 75 g pistachios (unsalted and shells removed) and mix again until incorporated (you can do all this by hand as well).

Divide the dough in 2 parts and roll each to a diameter of 4 to 5 cm.  Place on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment and bake for 20 min until the sides are starting to brown. Remove from the oven (leave the oven on, you are baking them twice – hence the name, “bis-cotti”) and leave to set for 10 min. Then cut in 1 cm slices and place on the baking sheet again. Another 10 min in the oven and some cooling on a wire-rack and you are ready to dip them in your coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Enjoy!

Use up left-over dried cherries in cherry and chocolate cookies.

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!

Sweet and tart: chocolate and cherry cookies

chocolate and cherry cookiesPart of having your birthday is taking treats to work for your colleagues. As we both work in big offices, that means lots of colleagues, and cookies are always a great option in that case. These are the cookies my boyfriend chose to take for his birthday. The recipe is from my trusted Les cookies de Laura Todd book (the basic recipe is always the same, so you can add whatever you want). I made a huge batch (hoping to have some left for the weekend) but not a single cookie returned… the dried cherries needed for this recipe are now a big hit in my household, some end up in granola, others just go “missing”. Here’s how to make them:

Preheat the oven to 140 C and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Mix 250 g softened butter (you can use margarine as well) with 350 g soft brown sugar until fluffy and soft. Add 1 egg and beat well until incorporated. In two batches, add 375 g self-raising flour (or use regular flour and add 1 tsp baking powder as well), a pinch of vanilla powder (I used a small bag of vanilla sugar, you could use 1/2 tsp vanilla extract of the seeds of half a vanilla pod as well) and a pinch of salt and mix well. Now add 150 g dried cherries (chopped if they are too large) and 250 g dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate.

Roll small balls of dough with your hands, put them on a baking sheet and flatten it lightly with the back of your hand. Space the cookies well apart as they will spread. Put in the oven for 15-20 min. Enjoy!

Simple and comforting: apple and blueberry cake

Apple and blueberry cakeSummer in Belgium seems to be well ad truly over… it’s often raining, it’s still dark when we get up in the morning (but then we do already get up at six, which we can’t seem to get used to anymore after a short week of relaxing by the pool in Tuscany) and it gets dark earlier and earlier at night. In addition, it’s the final weeks of strawberries (said the vendor to me) and we’re getting lots of apples know. As we tend to sometimes forget we even bought apples, I’m always looking for recipes to use them, and this is a really simple one by Donna Hay. Here’s how to make it:

Preheat the oven tot 160 C. Place 225 g self-raising flour, 165 g sugar, 125 g softened butter (just pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds if it comes straight from the fridge), 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 eggs and 125 ml milk in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until just combined. Spoon into a greased 22 cm springform tin lined with baking paper (my tin is 20 cm, which worked just as well, just use a bit less apple in that case). Thinly slice 1 apple and use it to top the cake, together with 110 g blueberries (can be fresh or frozen – no need to defrost). Sprinkle with 2 tbsp sugar and bake for 45 min or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 min before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

PS: Donna Hay suggests to serve it with ice-cream! It’s best eaten on the day or the day after when the top is still crunchy, as soon as you start storing it, the crunch will get softer. Use up the rest of your fruit in bread pudding or go for the best ever blueberry muffins.

Almost the end of summer: goosberry and orange drizzle cake

Gooseberry and orange drizzle cakeI really love gooseberries, but they are quite hard to find. A lot of people have or used to have them in the garden so supermarkets don’t stock them very often. But last week I was lucky: I noticed the supermarket had some gooseberries and I immediatly bought some! Then I had to figure out what to do with them. A friend was coming over for dinner so I decided a gooseberry cake would be perfect. I wanted to test a recipe from my Polish cookbook, but then I noticed it had proofing in it and would take too long, I wanted the quick and easy type, so I turned to my trusted GoodFood recipes and found this one. It turned out to be really delicious! Here’s how to make it:

 

Heat oven to 160 C. Butter and line a 20 x 30cm traybake tin with baking parchment (I didn’t have one, so I used my round tin).

Put 225 g butter (softened, just microwave it for 20-30 sec if it comes from the fridge), 225 g sugar, 225 g self-raising flour, 4 eggs and the zest of 1 orange (you’ll need the juice for the frosting) in a bowl. Beat thoroughly with an electric whisk until creamy and smooth. Stir in 225 g gooseberries, then spoon into the tin and level the surface. Bake for 35 mins until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

While the cake is in the oven, stir the orange juice and 140 g sugar together, spoon over the surface of the warm cake and leave to cool and set. 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.

Rhubarb mania part 5: rhubarb and custard pie with butter crumble

rhubarb custard and crumble pieI thought I was all out of rhubarb for the rest of the season, but a nice colleague of mine had loads in her garden and after handing out most of it to her family, she still had some left for me! It was totally delicious, you could just dip it in some sugar and eat it (I tried, so good) but I opted for this pie instead. Lately I’ve become a big fan of small individual portions, but you can of course make a big one in a 24 cm tin. This is of course one of my trusted GoodFood recipes that I will definitely be making again. Here’s how to make them:

Cut 350 g rhubarb into bite-size pieces, then put them in a frying pan with 50 g sugar and warm through just until the sugar dissolves. Immediately tip the rhubarb into a bowl with the juices and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 160 C. Roll out 350 g sweet short crust pastry quite thinly and use to line your tin. Line with greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake for about 20 min until the pastry is pale golden and no longer raw.

Beat together 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 50 g sugar and 1 tbsp flour. Gradually whisk in 285 ml cream with any juice from the rhubarb (you should have a tablespoonful or two). Now spoon the rhubarb into the prepared pastry case and pour the cream mixture over. Turn the oven temperature up to 180 C and bake for about 20 min, or until the custard is very lightly set and there is a thin skin on the top. If you have any rhubarb and custard left, you can spoon it in ovenproof dishes and put it in the oven together with the pie, it makes for an excellent dessert without the pastry as well! Or use it for a rhubarb and custard cake.

Mix together 50 g melted butter, 50 g light brown sugar, 50 g porridge oats and 1/2 tsp ground ginger.  Spoon evenly over the pie. Return it to the oven for a further 15 min or until the crumble is golden and the custard set with just a little wobble. The top of the pie may have risen and cracked when you take it from the oven but don’t worry as it will settle back again on cooling. Enjoy while still warm.

Use up left-over rhubarb in a rhubarb and date chutney, rhubarb and vodka jellies or rhubarb crumble muffins.  If you have pastry left, you can freeze it or go for strawberry tarts.

Dairy-free and gluten-free: blueberry and coconut cake

dairy-free and gluten-free blueberry and coconut cakeThis weekend my in-laws came to visit but despite of the heat, we managed to keep our cool. My sister-in-law is on a dairy-free and gluten-free diet since a few months, so that was a new challenge for me. But I like a good challenge, and I went in search for a nice cake recipe. I found this one on the GoodFood website as a dairy-free recipe and it was easily adapted to make it gluten-free as well. It went down a treat and my sister-in-law went home with the few left-overs! Here’s how to make it:

Heat the oven to 160C and grease a 22 cm Bundt or ring tin with vegetable oil (I used sunflower). Whisk 250 ml sunflower oil, 3 eggs, 225 g sugar and 2 tsp vanilla extract in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine 300 g gluten-free flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (or use self-raising flour) and 50 g desiccated coconut. Alternately, fold the flour mix and 175 ml soya milk into the wet ingredients, in 2-3 batches, starting and ending with the flour.

Spoon a quarter into the tin. Fold 140 g blueberries (they can be fresh or frozen, I prefer frozen as they break up more and give a blue colour and more flavour to the cake) into the remaining batter, then spoon into the tin. Bake for 1 h or until a skewer comes out clean (cover the cake with tin foil if it browns too quickly).

Cool in tin for 10 min, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Dust with icing sugar to serve. Enjoy!

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!