Archive for April, 2009

Avocado Soup

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Ingredients:

1 avocado
1/3 of the white part of a leek
1 glass of fresh orange juice
1 glass of water
juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander
some coriander branches and 2 tomatoes to serve

Materials: electric mixer

Prep. time: 10 minutes

Serves 6 as an appetizer.

Put all the ingredients in a mixer and pulse until you get a smooth soup, cool it down in the fridge. Serve in small portions with some fresh coriander and tomato slices.

Apple and Banana Puff Tart

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Say pufffff: Love me not for my looks

You know what they say: “Don’t judge a man by his clothes”. As much as I tried to make a great photo right after this tart was baked, I do not think I quite succeeded. The heavenly smell of it just drove my hands off the camera and to a knife. My cup of tea was already waiting so the pressure was unbearable. And I have to admit, mushy feelings like that are not very photogenic. But the second you put it in your mouth it all becomes unimportant. You close your eyes and you just cannot wait to put the second piece into your month. I know because I have just seen my husband doing that. And this sight is the greatest compliment I can get.

So, this little tart is rich with flavors, simple and quick! And look at the short list of ingredients. There is just nothing that can go wrong (well, unless you decide to make your own puff pastry of course) and you can in no time enjoy it as a dessert after dinner or lunch. My oven warms up in about 10 minutes to 180°C. And that is about the time you need for the preparations. And remember to enjoy it warm! Although I do not thing you could resist waiting for it to cool down.

Ingredients:

1 banana
½ apple
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp sliced almonds
juice of ½ lime
1 roll of puff pastry (thawed if you bought it in a shop,
just out of the fridge if you made it yourself)

Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 25 minutes

Serves 4 (only if you are very modest).

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a rectangular baking tray (25cm x 10cm) with butter or use a small round baking tray.

Cut the banana in circles and apples in small wedges. Melt the butter and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat, add vanilla essence, banana, apple and lime juice. Stir for a moment and remove from the heat. Roll out the puff pastry to the shape of your baking tray. Place the apple-banana mixture into the baking tray, sprinkle with almonds and cover it with the dough. Roll the edges in and put into the oven for 25 minutes. When ready, take the tart out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Turn it over on a serving plate and make sure your tea is ready!

Caramelized Red Onions, Pears and Blue Cheese Tartelettes

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

A surprise for your birthday party

We have all been in a situation when we have invited many guests for a birthday party. We would like to surprise them with tasty and original dishes without having to spend many hours in the kitchen. My solution is to make a big pan of some tasty soup to start with. My birthday is in October, so soup as a starter fits great with somewhat cooler weather. Pumpkin soup is a really good option. With its many variations there is always one just perfect for You. Most of the variations are light, smooth and very aromatic. Their inviting smell spreads throughout the house and even leaks through to the staircase. Believe me, no one will refuse to try it when they come in. My all times favourite is Pumpkin Soup with Green Apple and Rosemary.

The soup is then accompanied by a couple of quiches with different fillings to satisfy both meat eaters and vegetarians (the winners are Onion, Carrot and Banana Quiche and Sauerkraut Tartelettes with Dates). And of course you do not want to miss out on some fresh veggies, so a couple of salads should complet the menu. A very easy and “autumny” option is Carrot Salad with Garlic and Raisins. Another “quick chopper” is Mango and Red Paprika Salad. And while you could just take some of these ideas (or all of them) and implement them during your next birthday party, here is a recipe that takes you a step further. And please do not get discouraged by the preparation times! The little tartelettes can be prepared long in advance and kept in a airtight container until ready to use. The caramelization of onions does take some time but you can also prepare them in advance and keep in the fridge. There are not so many recipes that allow their preparation 2-3 days in advance! And on the day itself it just means you will have to assemble the tartelletes, which takes about 5 minutes, bake them in the oven for 5 minutes and you are ready to delight your guests! So my suggestion is: keep the Sauerkraut Tartelettes and replace the other quiche with this recipe (make a double or a triple portion, depending on the number of guests, make sure you use a large frying pan for caramelizing the onions then). And hey, they are both vegetarian now so imagine the joy of your vegetarian friends! Actually I have just realized that the whole dinner is vegetarian, but its rainbow of flavours will make all-eaters forget they did not get any animals to feast on.

Ingredients:

For the filling:

2 big red onions
5 Tbsp red wine
5 Tbsp red balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp butter
1 ripe pear
about 100g blue cheese (Castello blue)
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts

For the dough:

75 g butter, at room temperature
175 g plain flour

Materials: 8 tartellete forms

Prep. time pastry: 10 minutes, 20 minutes cooling down time; baking time: 15-20 minutes
Prep. time filling: 5 minutes; cooking time: 40 minutes
Final assembling time: 10 minutes

Serves 8.

To make pastry, cut the butter into pieces and mix it with flour using your fingers on a table or in a flat plate. Add just enough water to make smooth dough. (You will really need just a little bit of water so be careful while pouring in the first splash). Cover the dough in plastic and leave it rest for 20 minutes in the fridge.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it on the table until it is about 2cm thick. Using a cup or a mug that is a bit larger in diameter than your tartellete forms cut 8 circles out of the dough. If you do not manage to get 8 circles the first time, roll the remaining dough one more time. Carefully move the circles in the tartellete forms greased with butter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked through but not coloured. Take tartelletes out of the oven, let them rest a bit and carefully turn them over on a flat surface to separate the tartelletes from the forms.

To make the filling, cut the onions in half circles. Melt the butter in a heavy pan and fry the onions over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add half of the sugar, 3 Tbsp of each wine and vinegar. Continue stirring frequently. After about 15 minutes add remaining sugar, wine and vinegar plus salt and pepper. Mix well and taste the onions. You should taste distinctively sweet and sour flavours. You might need a bit more sugar or vinegar. Continue stirring for another 20 minutes. The onions are ready when they become soft and chewy. Be careful not to overcook them, dry and crispy is not what we are aiming for! When ready, set aside to cool down.

To assemble the tartelletes (just before service), pre-heat the oven or grill to 180°C. Fill the tartelletes for the half with the caramelized onions. Put a couple of thin pear slices on top (cut in any shape you like), cover with a slice of the blue cheese and sprinkle with some chopped walnuts. I prefer not to cover the onion surface completely with pear and cheese so that you can see all the beautiful colors of the filling. Bake for 5 minutes until the cheese melts. Cool down just slightly and serve.

Orange and Leek Risotto

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

IMG_1185.JPG

Ingredients:

400 g Arborio risotto rice
2 leeks
250 ml fresh orange juice
400 ml vegetable stock
150 ml white wine
zest of ½ orange
5 slices of bacon
rasped parmesan cheese to taste
extra-virgin olive oil

Leave out the bacon if you prefer the vegetarian option, it will be just as delicious!

Prep. time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20-30 minutes

Serves 4 as a main course and 6 as a starter.

Wash the leeks thoroughly, cut the white part in half then slice it in half-circles. Cut the bacon slices in cubes. Pre-heat a large saucepan with an anti-burn layer and fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan.

Add the leeks to the pan and stir-fry until soften over a moderate heat, remove from the pan. Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil and stir-fry the rice until it becomes partially translucent. Add the leeks and stir in half of the wine and the orange zest. Cover with the lid for 1 minute.

Remove the lid and add 100ml of the vegetable stock. Mix well until all the stock in absorbed. Continue the procedure until half of the stock is absorbed. Then keep adding orange juice and the rest of the white wine in portions of about 100ml. When all the wine and the juice are absorbed, try the rice to check whether additional seasoning is required (this will depend on how salty your stock is). Add some freshly ground pepper (preferably a mixture of black, green and rose peppers). Continue stirring and adding the rest of the vegetable stock. Depending on the rice you use and on your taste you might need a bit more or a bit less of the total amount of stock. Stop cooking the risotto when the rice is al dente, meaning the rice is tender and rice grains stick to each other but still keep their slight firmness.

Stir in bacon and parmesan and serve immediately.