Thursday, 14 July 2016

Best way to start your day...

Breakfast is something we all have in common to start our day. I have to admit that having a breakfast home every day is not possible for us, we usually will have our breakfast at work or kindergarten. However at the weekends and days free of work, I love preparing a nice big breakfast for my boys, which we all will celebrate with no rush and lot´s of joy.

Today however two breakfast recipes for rather quick breakfast to go. Something different as just a cup of coffee and small sandwich or muffin. Both recipes are done within couple of minutes, won´t take too much of your precious time in the morning and will definitely enrich the start of your day, I promise! It is a good variety to the standard breakfast, it´s delicious and very nutritious. Omelette with spinach and feta cheese and ricotta with berries and roasted hazelnuts.
I love both recipes because they are so easy and quick to make, they are light, but still very filling and will provide you enough energy till lunch. On top you can make different variation, depending on what you are feeling for or your refrigerator is offering. 
For the omelette the spinach can be easily changed with fresh tomatoes, bell paprika, steamed courgette or sauted champions. Feta cheese can be replaced by ricotta cheese, grated cheddar or mozzarella. Add some finally chopped fresh herbs to the eggs mixture and you will get even more flavors to your omelette. This omelette is great for breakfast, but I love making it at any time of the day and depending of the variation and the ingredients I am adding to it, it can be served as light or more solid breakfast, lunch or dinner dish.
As for the ricotta with berries, depending on the season the berries can be replaced by fresh fruits (apricots, nectarines, kiwis, bananas etc.). Hazelnuts can be exchanged with walnuts, pecans, almonds or pine nuts . If you do not like honey use maple syrup instead or leave it out completely. And if you would like to make your ricotta cup even more solid add 1-2 tablespoons of homemade granola to it.
Omelette with spinach and feta cheese
(one serving)
  • 2 eggs
  • hand full of fresh spinach leaves
  • some feta cheese
  • salt, pepper and olive oil
Beat the eggs with some salt (not too much as feta cheese is plenty salty) and pepper. Steam the spinach with some salt and pepper, put it aside. Pour some olive oil into the frying pan and let it get hot. Pour in the beaten eggs and slightly move the pan back and force, so the eggs are getting all distributed over the pan and are moved while they are cooking. It will take about 20-30 seconds till the omelette is ready. Put off the heat, distribute the spinach on top and crumble some of the feta cheese. Now take one end of the omelette and fold it to the center, proceed the same way with the other end. Serve with some freshly squeezed orange juice.
Ricotta with fresh berries and roasted hazelnuts
(one serving)
Place the ricotta cheese in the middle of a serving plate or breakfast bowl. Top it with fresh berries, roughly chopped hazelnuts. Drizzle some of the honey and serve.
For more breakfast recipes, check the recipe index for "breakfast & brunch" section.


Friday, 8 July 2016

...because sometimes it has to be chocolate...

There was no special occasion nor any assignment, what drove me to make a chocolate cake... just pure desire for chocolate. I know we are in the middle of the "hot hot" summer and chocolate cake might not be seen as a perfect choice these days (and I tell you, it was bit of a challenge with the buttercream frosting), anyhow I woke up yesterday with the biggest cravings for classical buttercream chocolate cake and I could not convince myself to make something else, something light or fruity. Chocolate gives me (us all I believe) a certain comfort and this is exactly what I needed.
It is a classical recipe for the chocolate sponge and buttercream frosting, a cake we might remember from our grandmothers or mothers... usually done for a special occasion. One piece of this delicious cake will be enough to satisfy your chocolate cravings for some time, well at least it does work for me. I do admit that chocolate cake with buttercream frosting is not done very often in our house, but when I do feel like chocolate, than this is definitely the cake I am going for... rich in chocolate and calories, delicious, comforting and special.

I also tried something new. A video on how I did frost the cake, the frosting technique is classical too, it is definitely not neat, but rather messy, which makes the cake even more lovable. It doesn´t have to be neat all the time, wouldn´t you agree? A perfect cake to be frosted with kids, just think about all the fun the minis would have... I can vividly see their happy faces covered with chocolate in front of me.

You will see that I was struggling with the heat, as the buttercream frosting started to run in one point. Well my first video.. somehow I did imagine the "making" process a bit easier and quicker, but anyhow I had a lot of fun and I think this won´t be my last video for sure. Next time maybe even with some instruction comments. Enjoy the video and let me know what do you think! 

Classical buttercream chocolate cake
  • 300 g flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 200 g sugar
  • 160 ml vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 160 ml whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon of apple vinegar
  • small coffee cup of hot plain coffee
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease either 2 individual cake pans (15cm  or 18 cm) or one 15 cm cake pan with butter and line the bottom with baking paper. In a big bowl sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder. Whisk the sugar, oil, eggs, milk vanilla extract and apple vinegar in a separate bowl and add the mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix with a hand whisk till all combined (make sure to not to over mix). Finally add the hot coffee and mix again. Pour the batter into the baking pan/s and bake for about 60-70 minutes if you are using one pan and about 30-40 if you are using 2 pans. Make the wooden stick test, if the stick comes out clean the cake is ready. Let the pans cool down for about 10 minutes before taking the cake sponges out. Let the sponge cool completely. If you used 1 cake pan, then cut the sponge in 3 layers. If you used 2 pans, the just level both sponges and frost.
  • 250 g butter room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 180 g powdered sugar
  • 180 g melted dark chocolate
Melt the chocolate and let is cool down. Beat the butter till light in the color and add the egg yolk, beat for additional couple of minutes. Sift the powder sugar and whisk till all well combined. Pour in the cooled melted chocolate and combine everything till all well combined and shiny. 
I used some jam and berries sugar glace on first and second sponge layer, to add some fruitiness to the cake, this is completely optional, as only with chocolate buttercream the cake would taste great too.


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Gordon Ramsay´s "cooking the chef" challenge

Today two recipes from Gordon Ramsay, the chef for this month on the Cooking the chef challenge. We all know him from Hell´s Kitchen, Ramsay´s Kitchen Nightmare, MasterChef and many other TV cooking series. On top being a chef and a TV personality he also owns couple of restaurants and Michelin stars. I have couple of  his cook books home and the recipes I am going to share today are from his "Ramsay´s best menus" cook book, which I got as a present from my husband couple of years ago. The pages are divided in 3 sections: starters, main courses and desserts, so you can mix your own three course menu or stick to the given suggestions. I picked two summer recipes for the dinner last night a spinach tart and white chocolate mousse and have earned many compliments from my boys. Both recipes are pretty easy to make and perfect for the hot summer nights we are having right now in Spain. To the tart I served cooled sparkling white wine, which went perfect with the lightness of the crust and the creaminess of the filling.
I changed the original recipe a bit, by adding some fresh chard which I saw in the shop and needed to take with me. Original recipe yells for spinach only, I did a mix of both and it was very delicious too.

Creamy spinach and chard tart
  • 225 g flour
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 140 g chilled butter, diced
  • 4-5 tablespoons ice-cold water
Sift the flour and salt  into the food processor, add butter and whiz for 10 seconds. Put the mixture into the bowl and add some ice-cold water, bring the dough together (add more water if dough appears to be dry). Cover the dough with clean foil and chill it for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 180C. Roll out the pastry and line 23cm tart tin. Bake the pastry for 15 minutes, then brush the base with some eggwash and bake for another 5 minutes. Let it cool.
  • hand full baby spinach
  • hand fill chard, stalks removed
  • 2 eggs, plus 2 extra egg yolk
  • 100 ml milk
  • 300 g creme fraiche
  • sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Cook the spinach and chard in some water, until just witted. Drain and set aside to cool. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, milk, creme fraiche, good pinch of salt, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the spinach and chard. Pour the mixture into the prebaked pie crust and bake for 25-30 minutes, till golden brown. Let it cool down for 10 minutes and serve with some chilled white wine.

I also slightly changed the original recipe for the dessert, where the cherries needed to be cooked in a 50g sugar, 50ml kirsch and 50 ml water mixture. Instead I served them fresh.

White chocolate mousse with fresh cherries
  • 100 ripe cherries, pitted
  • 200 g white chocolate
  • 350 ml chilled double cream
  • dark chocolate for grating
Put some of the cherries aside for a decoration in the later step, divide the rest of them between 4 individual glasses. Heat third of the double cream in a saucepan till just starting to boil, take it from the heat and add chopped white chocolate to it. Keep stirring until all the chocolate has melted, set aside to cool. Whip the remaining cream till it starts to thicken, fold in the cooled chocolate cream. Keep whisking to stiff peaks, if the combined mixture is not thick enough. Spoon the mousse on top of the cherries and decorate with remaining cherries, grated dark chocolate and some mint leaves.


Saturday, 2 July 2016

Let´s talk Ricotta cheese...

Do you like cheese? If so, then you would like this post. I am a cheese person, if this kind of term is existing. Ricotta is one of my favourites, there is something about the texture and the mild almost transparent taste of it, which makes me fall in love with it every time I cook it.  It is very diverse and can be used for sweet and savoury dishes. It goes perfect with herbs, almost all kind of spices (I have been trying in my kitchen),  leave salad, honey, chocolate,berries etc... to make long story short, this is my kind of cheese because I can invent new combination by adding any other ingredient (s) I like and always end up with something delicious.

There was just one dilemma about this cheese when we came to Spain, it seems not to be that popular here, which means you won´t get it everywere. Usually you would need to search for it in special shops, where you will pay great deal of money. And so I was searching for a recipes to make this cheese myself. It appears to be the most simple things to do, I stopped looking for ricotta in the shops and started to prepare it home every time I needed it. I find it does taste better than the store bought ricotta.. not sure why, maybe because it is freshly made or maybe because it was done by me, it is kind of cool thing to say I made this cheese myself... people get excited every time I mention this fact. OK enough of talking and bragging, here is the recipe and I really really urge you to try it out.

Ricotta cheese
  • 1 l fresh whole milk
  • 500 ml whipped cream (you can also use cooking cream)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
You would need a big bowl to catch the liquid and a sieve lined with cheese cloth or wet paper towel. Mix the milk and the cream in a big pot and put it on medium-high heat. Bring the milk to boil, mix in the salt and lemon juice and take it from the heat. Let it stay for 10 minutes, till the curds start to form, the milk will separate. Strain mixture over the sieve with the cheese towel and let the liquid drain for about 20 min.

Now since you know how to make ricotta and will definitely make it yourself, I am going to share two recipes where ricotta cheese can be used. 
Spinach salad with fresh ricotta and crispy bacon, definitely one of my favourite salads. Not only that every nutrition is urging us to eat spinach raw and not cooked, but also because the combination of spinach, bacon and honey-mustard dressing is simple divine... and if you add some homemade ricotta to it, you won´t eat any other salad again.
Pasta shells filled with ricotta cheese filling baked in tomato sauce. Delicious vegetarian alternative, which will melt every pasta fan heart. Perfect family comfy food dish in my opinion. I am usually not a big fan of frozen meals, this recipe however is perfect to be frozen. It will taste as good as freshly done and is perfect dish for times where we all are getting busy and need something quick and delicious to be thrown into the oven. Do it in advance the day before and place it in the refrigerator and you will have a perfect lunch or dinner, with no bigger efforts.
Spinach leave salad with Ricotta and crispy bacon
  • fresh spinach leaves
  • 3-4 slices of bacon
  • ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • half teaspoon salt
  • some fresh grounded pepper
  • 1,5 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon french mustard
In a small bowl mix together olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, honey and mustard. Fry the bacon and cut it in chunks. Place the spinach leaves in a bowl and drizzle 2/3 of the dressing over it, toss it quickly. Sprinkle bacon chunks and ricotta over it and drizzle the rest of the dressing.

Cheese filling pasta shells in tomato sauce

  • big pasta shells
  • tomato sauce in jar
  • ricotta cheese 
  • 2 eggs
  • grated cheddar cheese
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • grated mozzarella cheese
  • salt, pepper
Cook the pasta shells till almost done, set aside. Preheat the oven to 180C. Mix ricotta, eggs, hand full of cheddar, hand full of parmesan, salt and pepper till all well combined. Take your gratin dish and add some tablespoons of the tomato sauce on the bottom, distribute till all covered. Fill the pasta shells with ricotta filling and place them seam down till all gratin dish is filled. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over it, make sure all pasta shells are covered and sprinkle some of the mozzarella and cheddar cheese on top. Cook for about 30 minutes.


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