SWEET TREATS: CHOCOLATE CREPE CAKE

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Recently I have become a great fan of pancakes and crepes. When I was a child we would always make sweet crepes for Fridays or as Saturday snack. My mum never liked making them as it takes ages. So I was usually the lucky one to spent at least an hour watching golden crepes and perfecting my ‘flipping’ technique. But somehow I enjoyed it, and it has it’s perks of eating hot pancakes when no-one is watching. After all I love a fresh hot crepe on it’s own.

So this year on Pancake day I decided to make a chocolate crepe cake. There are so many ways on how to make them thought. But I settled for a simple recipe from my mum. Because obviously she knows best! Chocolate make it really hard to guess if the pancake is cooked and when it starts to burn. So it took me about 5 pancakes to figure out when I need to turn and not to leave the second side on for too long.

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Chocolate Crepe Cake
(serves 6-80)
Ingredients
1 l milk
440 g plain flour
4 eggs
50 g cocoa powder

700 ml whipped cream
70 g raspberry jam
150 g dark chocolate
150 ml double cream

Sieve the flour and cocoa to break all the lumps and them mix well with milk and eggs. Leave the batter to stand ideally for an hour or 2 in the fridge. Heat up a small frying pan with a few drops of oil. Pour one ladle of batter and spread evenly over the surface of the pan. Turn the crepe over once the edges are coming away from the pan. Each pancake takes about 2 minutes to take but be careful not to burn as batter is dark already. Leave each pancake to cool before putting on top of each other so that you don’t trap too much moisture between them. Once all pancakes are done you are ready to whip the cream.

Spread the cream over each pancake and spread jam after every 5 pancakes. Once all pancakes are stacked up, spread the rest of the cream over the sides. Place a plate on top and leave in a fridge for a few hours or overnight.

For chocolate ganache, bring double cream to boil and then pour over dark chocolate. Leave it to melt and mix well together to dissolve all the lump. Spread the chocolate over the cake and leave to set for about an hour.

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by Maria
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MUSHROOMS ON TOAST WITH RED WINE & THYME

 

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Mushrooms have not always been my favourite. As a small child growing up in a countryside I was obviously surrounded by forests full of delicious and also fatally poisonous mushrooms. I still remember the joy of finding little ‘hats’  hidden at the bases of trees. But back then I was not so keen on eating them. Of course there was that fascination with the knowledge of the pickers on which ones are good and which ones you mustn’t touch.

We used to have a large loft in our house and it was perfect for drying sliced mushrooms. The aroma would fill the house for a few weeks and I used to love it. My mother was very puzzled by my obsession with the smell but my absolute disgust when it came to eating mushrooms. I think I started appreciating mushrooms only recently. It was mushroom risotto that completely changed my mind. But I am also slowly learning how limited they are in the usual supermarkets. Thank goodness some of us are lucky with a local deli that offers a selection of random and glorious mushrooms. So I have decided to experiment with some mushrooms, red wine and thyme. What could possibly go wrong?

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Mushrooms on Toast with Red Wine and Thyme

(serves 1-2)

Ingredients
6 small portobello mushrooms
dash of olive oil
4-5 slices of sourdough or multi-seeded bread
3 cloves of garlic
a dash of red wine
4-5 springs of thyme

Sprinkle small pan with a little bit of olive oil and place sliced bread once hot enough. Turn the bread once it starts to warm up and brown a bit. When both sides are toasted, place on a serving plate. Add more olive oil and fry pressed garlic. Add a splash of red wine and leave to simmer to cook the alcohol away. Add the thyme so that the sauce starts to take the flavour in. if you have mushroom stock then add a tiny bit in. Once the sauce is thickened add sliced mushrooms and leave to cook for a few minutes. When mushrooms are cooked and the sauce is thickened place on each toast. And there you! A quick snack is ready for you to enjoy plus kitchen smells heavenly too.
by Maria

Sweet Treats: Scotch Pancakes with Pomegranate

Recently I was not able to bake or cook as I had my laser eye surgery. So looking into the hot oven was definitely not an option. And even though reading seems to be a bit of a challenge, my vision is slowly coming back and improving.

However having all this time off work also allowed me to have a more relaxing breakfast once everybody has left. I am a huge fan of fry up and that is probably my ideal weekend treat. This time I didn’t feel like heavy fried bacon and sausages. I was craving something warm but this time I was thinking of a sweet breakfast. Quick look on the internet and there they were pancakes! There is hundreds ways of how to have your pancakes but I decided to make Scotch ones with lots of delicious pomegranate and a bit of dark chocolate.

I must admit that I always loved making crepes and having them with cream and fruits was my absolute signature dessert, when I was a teenager. But having thick and fluffy scotch pancakes for a breakfast is another perfect of spoiling myself and a few other lucky ones.

Scotch Pancakes with Pomegranate

100 g plain flour
50 g caster sugar
splash of milk
1 egg

Sift the flour with sugar. Add beaten egg and mix well together with a whisk. At this stage, your mixture will be lumpy and floury. Slowly add milk allowing the batter to become thick and more liquid (similar to thickness of usual double cream).

Grease the frying pan with oil, only a drop or so is enough. Heat the pan with until it is hot. Then pour the first ladle of batter. Pancakes are usually ready to be turned when bubbles develop on the surface. Cook each side for about 2 minutes until golden.

Once all pancakes are done, spread yoghurt over the pancakes and stack as many as you like on top of each other. Pour more yoghurt and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Top with shavings of dark chocolate or honey.

by Maria

 

Sweet Treats: Banoffee Pie in a Glass

A few days ago I had a real craving for a banoffee pie. Unfortunately I had no time to make a proper one in a tin and I certainly did not have enough ingredients. So I decided to make just an experimental one in a glass. Well actually, in two glasses. I was not so sure if it will be any good but my flatmate certainly enjoyed it. Even though I ruined her diet as usual.

Word banoffee is a combination of a word banana and toffee. They are my favourite things I am therefore very much in love with this new ‘recipe/invention’. I must admit that it is very simple and does not take longer than 10 minutes to make. However if you fancy something creamy and delicious, I think you might enjoy it too. In comparison to my macaron procedure, it seems rather straight forward. No oven needed or fancy equipment, hardly any waiting time and certainly no piping involved.

I have used dark chocolate on the top as I find milk chocolate far too sweet with caramel. However you can also skip it if you don’t have a fancy grater which I save from my Christmas cracker a couple of years ago. It is impossibly small but incredibly handy when I use chocolate shavings. There is hardly ever any risk of cutting my fingers.

I have struggled to take decent pictures of this dessert though. Due to the shape of the glass and also light was not in my favour on the day. But I guess in the end couple of pictures seemed fairly good.

Sweet treats: Banoffee Pie in a Glass (serves 2)


2 small bananas (cut into chunks or circles)
150 ml double cream
6-8 digestive biscuits (with or without chocolate)
1 tin of carnation caramel
20 g dark chocolate

Break digestive biscuits in a plastic bag and then roll over the bag with a rolling pin to create fine breadcrumb texture. It is fully up to you if you prefer larger chunks of biscuits or fine sandy like texture. Then transfer to a glass to create a base. Scatter chunks of banana over the base and pour caramel. Top the glass with whipped cream and if you wish shavings of dark chocolate.

by Maria

Vegetarian impromptu: avocado amuse-bouche and warm potato peperonata

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A sunny Sunday in London is a gift, particularly for an Italian guy. And sun makes you want to eat simple, colourful food. The kitchen was pretty much empty, so this happened. The avocado helped keeping the stomach busy while I was preparing the potato peperonata for main course.

First, I cut in half an avocado and dressed with salt, oil, and three drops of balsamic vinegar. I like to eat it off its skin with a spoon–apologies to Pixar’s Wall-e fans, no robot was harmed in feeding this human…

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This simplest amuse-bouche gave me time and energy to see what else could be done with the few ingredients left in the kitchen. I found a few new potatoes and three red peppers, a couple of almond flakes (leftovers from the courgette pesto risotto), and I always have some Parmigiano-Reggiano in my fridge. Enough to prepare a lighter version of peperonata.

Originally, this Sicilian dish was a simple sauté mix of peppers cooked with onions and tomato sauce, something you would have had with bread pretty much, and nothing else. It is a dish that then started to be used on the side of meat and even as a pasta sauce, but its humble origins confirm it was meant to be eaten alone, till you were stuffed. This version is stripped of the heavier base and finds potatoes as a good substitute for the bread. I cooked it in the oven in a little more than half hour.

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Potato peperonata (serves 2)

500 g new potatoes
3 red peppers
20 g Parmigiano-Reggiano
a few almond flakes
2 tbsp oil

Start washing, drying, and cutting the peppers. Lay the pepper slices on an over tray lined with foil, add some salt on the peppers, and leave in hot oven on grill (240°C/gas 9) for about 6-7 minutes. They will lose some water and get a little firmer.

Meanwhile, wash, dry, and cut potatoes. Lay them cut-face up and add a pinch of salt. Take the peppers out of the oven, add the potatoes, and mix all together with the oil.

Place the tray in hot oven at 220°C/gas 7 for about 30 minutes. You can give the vegetables a quick toss during their cooking, but keep the oven closed and hot all the time.

Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and flaked almonds. Eat it hot, warm, or even cold. And remember to enjoy the sun!

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by Max

Parmesan cheese lollipops

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This is an easy, fast recipe for a tasty snack. All you need is the king of cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Dealing with royals is simple: there is no obligatory code of behaviour, they say, but it is much better to stick to tradition. And this is all Parmigiano-Reggiano is about. In their way, producers respect the Consorzio’s etiquette: they honour the oldest tradition of food production standards–even older than Champagne or Bavarian beers, and actually stricter than those. To make it, you are allowed to use only cow’s milk, salt, and rennet (a natural enzyme). Nothing else. The milk has to be milked on the same day, it has to come from the local healthy cows, who have eaten only local grass. That’s it. Strictly local, strictly natural, pure breed.

You need 14 litres of milk to make 1 kilo of cheese, which adds up to about 550 litres for each wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano. That is 15% of all Italian milk. But most of the final product remains at home, only 1/3 leaves Italy. Minimum aging is 12 months, reaching 30 months at max.

Now that you know what making the king of cheese is like, picture yourself there. Imagine a green lowland dotted of yellows and browns, with a few soft hill towards the southwest, warm, quiet. Everything moves with its own time, not too fast, not too slow. You’ve got to wait for at least twelve months, anyway. And that’s only when the first official control comes. This is the coolest job: the analytical protocol examiner smells the cheese, looks at each wheel’s colour, roundness, and internal structure, and gets to gently ‘play’ it like a drum with a cool little rubber mallet. It can only sound right, there is no falsetto, out of tune, or wrong note. Otherwise, it is not royal. So, when you cook with Parmigiano-Reggiano, you become part of something special, ancestral, essentially flawless: enjoy it!

Pamigiano-Reggiano lollipops (4 of them)

60 g Parmigiano-Reggiano (I usually prefer 24 or 30-month-old)
4 skewers

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Preheat the oven at 220°/200° fan/mark 7. Meanwhile, line an oven tray with some parchment paper and a little bit of butter. Grate the cheese and place it on the oven tray in small discs, less than half a centimetre high. Place the skewers on top of the cheese discs and cover with a little more grated cheese. You can mix the grated cheese with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, tyme leaves, or other herbs–see the picture on the right.

Lower the oven at 180°/160°/mark 4 and place the tray in the middle of the oven. Leave for 5 to 10 minutes, according to the thickness of your lollipops.
Take out of the oven when the cheese is golden and starting to make bubbles. Let the lollipops cool down completely(!) and only then remove from the parchment paper.
by Max