Thursday, September 29, 2011

Flax Seed Oat Crackers Recipe

This is the first time that I made these crackers and I halved the recipe. That was a mistake, in hindsight I wish I made the whole batch, or even doubled it. The crackers are absolutely delicious, nutritious and really addictive. Rolled oats and flaxseeds are really good for you so you can eat them guilt free. The crackers are great on its own or with any spread of your choice. You can also have it in place of taco chips.

These crackers are made with oil and water, not butter unlike many crackers.

I don’t remember where I saw the recipe but the recipe used rolled oats only. I modified it by adding flax seeds. You can add other seeds, crushed nuts, herbs or spices. The recipe is quite versatile. I have tried with cumin powder and it was nice, the cumin flavour was subtle. Whole cumin seeds might produce a better result.

The dough will be a bit crumbly and difficult to work with. However the crackers hold together pretty well once baked. I used my hands to flatten the dough as much as possible and then a rolling pin to flatten it evenly. An easier method is to place small balls of dough on a baking tray and flatten it with the palm of your hands (or other device!). You will end up with round crackers. The crackers may stick to the tray but after they bake it separates. I didn't grease my baking tray.

You can either use the rolled oats as it is or use your food processor to process it to the desired consistency. I used my hands to crush it roughly. If you use your hands, make sure wash it first and then dry it well!

Cumin Flaxseed Oatmeal Crackers

2½ cups rolled oats (left whole or processed to desired consistency)
½ cup flax seed
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon oil or melted butter (I used canola oil, olive oil or other oils will be fine also)
½ cup almost boiling water (you may need slightly less)

1. Mix oats, flax seeds, salt and baking soda.  
2. Add oil or melted butter and mix well
3. Add enough water until the dough comes together.
4. Roll the dough to about ¼ centimeter thickness and cut into desired shapes
5. Bake at 180 degrees celsius until the crackers start turning brown, about 20 minutes. Rolled oats are already brown, I cannot describe it accurately. Perhaps just wait for 20 minutes, or earlier if they start turning dark brown.

Flaxseed Oatmeal Crackers

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Easy French onion soup with cheesy croutons recipe

French onion soup
When I think of French  onion soup, I get an image of soup topped with lots of cheese and soggy bread. In reality, and fortunately, it is not like that. My mental image of the soup is incorrect. The croutons are crispy, it is not loaded with cheese and the soup is really delicious. It is really creamy, but without any cream.

And for some strange reason I always thought French onion soup was tedious to make, hence I have been avoiding it. I just discovered, on the contrary, it is quite easy to make and requires just a few basic ingredients. However it is time consuming with total cooking time of about an hour and 15 minutes. It is well worth the wait and I certainly will be making this again.

The recipe comes from Wholesome Cook who in turn got it from  Little Kitchen, Around the World by Sabrina Parrini. The book is aimed at 8-12 year olds (and some adults!).

For the soup:
1kg brown onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
50g butter, oil or a mixture of both
2 thyme sprigs, leaves only
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 litre stock (I used chicken stock)
1 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

For the croutons:
8 slices of baguette
¾ cup grated cheese (cheddar or any other cheese that you prefer)

1. In a large saucepan, add butter and sauté onions and thyme over medium heat until onions soften, stirring frequently
2. Cover the saucepan and cook until the onions have caramelized, about 45 minutes. Stir frequently. Do not let the onions burn
3. Add flour, stir well and cook for a further 2 minutes
4. Add stock, sugar and mustard and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then lower heat, cover partially and cook for a further 30 minutes.
5. To make the cheesy croutons, heat broiler to 180 degrees calcium. Place cheese on top of baguette slices, place on baking tray and broil until cheese has melted.

French onion soup

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Swedish Beetroot Herring Salad Recipe

Swedish Beetroot Herring Salad 
I tried beetroot and herring salad sometime ago, it was one of those prepared salads sold at the supermarket. I was blown away, I wondered how something so simple could be so delicious. The salad is a very happy marriage between sweet beet, salty herring and creamy dressing, a blissful marriage. Of course this works well in the salad world, it cannot work so well in our world. Polygamy is frowned upon in many cultures and a criminal offence in many countries!

Back to the salad, the one from the supermarket was dressed in mayonnaise and sour cream. These were not present in my refrigerator, I used thick cultured milk instead and it worked great. The supermarket salad was well dressed, slightly overdressed I would say, mine on the other hand was scantily clad. That’s how I prefer it. To finish off, a few drops of hot sauce helped liven up the party. Sweet, salty, creamy, hot, delicious and nutritious, and very easy to prepare. 

This salad is usually eaten during Christmas but there is no reason why you cannot eat it the rest of the year!

Recipe adopted from Scandinavia Food

4 boiled Beetroots
2 pickled herring fillets (or more or less, depending on your perference)
2 apples with pips removed
½ red onion
1 tablespoon capers
1 cup crème fraîche (or sour cream)
2 tbs mayonnaise
½ tsp horseradish or wasabi paste (or hot sauce)
½ tbs lemon juice (or vinegar)
½ tbs olive oil

1. Peel and dice the apple and beetroots. Finely chop the red onion.
2. Mix all the ingredients and let cool for at least 3 hours.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chocolate ANZAC / Coconut Oat Oreo Cookies Recipe

Chocolate ANZAC / Coconut Oat Oreo Cookies
I love ANZAC cookies in its original form and have been hesitant to make drastic changes since the original cookies are great. If it ain't broken don't fix it! I finally decided to give chocolate ANZAC cookies a try.  The cookies ended up being quite different from ANZAC cookies, probably because I used a lot of cocoa powder. They didn’t remind me of ANZAC cookies at all, they actually reminded me more of Oreo cookies, a coconut oat version. They are wonderful to say the least.

These cookies are really delicate, you need to handle them with more care than a new born baby!

Here you can find the recipe for ANZAC cookies and other variations that I have tried.

Chocolate ANZAC / Coconut Oat Oreo Cookies

125g butter
½ cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup desiccated coconut
½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon (20ml) golden syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 (20ml) tablespoons boiling water

1. Heat the oven to 180C
2. Melt butter and golden syrup in a large saucepan
3. Add bicarbonate of soda mixed with boiling water
4. Combine all dry ingredients then add melted mixture and mix well
5. Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls, place on baking tray and flatten slightly
6. Bake for about 12 minutes. The cookies will still be slightly soft in the middle

Chocolate ANZAC / Coconut Oat Oreo Cookies

Monday, September 19, 2011

Semolina Chocolate Yogurt Cake with Sticky Plum Glaze Recipe

Semolina Chocolate Yogurt Cake with Sticky Plum Glaze
Semolina, chocolate, plum and yogurt sounds like too many contrasting flavours and textures in a cake but it all worked. The cake is sweet and tart, moist and dry, light and slightly heavy, silky and grainy, and delicious and delicious.

The cake is not overly sweet, the tartness from the plums provides a nice balance. You can quite easily finish a few slices, or even the whole cake.

Semolina adds a slightly grainy texture, as well as slight dryness to cakes, though not in a bad way. This cake is slightly dry, but also moist because of the sticky plum glaze. The grainy dryness that semolina brings to the party is perhaps a bit of an acquired taste, if you are not a big fan you can replace semolina with flour. I didn’t try this but it should work well.

For the sticky glaze I used plum jam which was very mildly sweetened. Adding golden syrup made the jam stickier. If the jam you are using is already sweet and made with pectin, you can skip the golden syrup otherwise the glaze will become too sweet. Keep in mind that plums seem to be get tart if you cook them.

Instead of using a cake tin I used a loaf tin. The cake was still delicious, the shape of the tin did not seem to affect the taste!

75 g butter, margarine or vegetable oil
100ml cup white sugar
2 eggs
100 ml semolina
100ml flour, sifted
50ml cocoa
1½ teaspoons baking powder
50ml yogurt
6 -8 plums

For the sticky glaze:
2 tablespoons plum jam mixed with 1 teaspoon golden syrup

1. Heat oven to 175 degrees celcius. Grease a round 24 cm baking tin.
2. Mix sugar and butter until light and creamy, add eggs, one at a time, and mix well
3. In a separate bowl mix semolina, flour, cocoa and baking powder
4. Add the flour mixture and yogurt to the butter mixture and mix until incorporated, do not overmix
5. Place the cake mix in the baking tin and top with slices of plum
6. Place in the middle of the oven
7. After 15 minutes spread plum jam on top (optional) and continue baking until the cake is done. Total baking time will be about 30 minutes

Semolina Chocolate Yogurt Cake with Sticky Plum Glaze

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Red wine chocolate coconut cookies recipe

Red wine chocolate coconut cookies

Red wine + coconut + chocolate in a cookie is unusual but delicious. You have just to take my word for it, or try it yourself. 

The cookies are light and crispy, not very sweet and have a complex flavor.  

The aroma from combining red wine and cocoa or chocolate is absolutely divine. I cannot explain in words the aroma but it reminds me of high quality Mexican vanilla beans. Unfortunately some of the aroma disappears once the cookies are baked but I guess you can’t have everything. 

The cookie dough is unlike regular cookie dough, instead it is more like bread dough. As such it is quite workable and easy to form into shapes.

Adopted from an earlier recipe I made for red wine coconut cookies

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup desiccated coconut
¼ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup full-bodied red wine

1. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, coconut and salt into a large bowl
2. Stir in the sugar, oil, and wine to form a stiff dough
3. Shape the dough and place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet
4. Bake at 360 F (180 C) for 20 minutes.

Red wine chocolate coconut cookies

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Easy Baked Potato Pancake / Rösti Recipe

Easy Baked Potato Pancake
Potato pancakes are quite popular in many cuisines and they go by a variety of names such as draniki (Belarus), Kartoffelpuffer (Germany), rösti (Switzerland), placki ziemniaczane (Poland) and deruny (Ukraine). There are many more names but a full list will not be particularly useful to you!

What makes these pancakes different? Generally potato pancakes are shallow-fried and contain eggs. There is nothing wrong with shallow frying and using eggs but I wanted to find an easier recipe that required less ingredients and attention during cooking. And I found a solution - easy baked pancakes. They are really easy to prepare, require just a few ingredients and they taste delicious. 

Using meat is optional. I used presunto da Pá Fumado (Portugese smoked ham). As a result the pancakes were salty with a strong smoky flavour. I think I used too much ham but that cannot be a bad thing.

I have also tried substituting potato with parsnip and the result was surprisingly good. However since no eggs are used parsnip rösti does not hold together as well as potato rösti. I added polenta and it helped. So if you decide to use parsnip and are not using eggs, add about 1-2 tablespoons of fine polenta.

Fish fingers with parsnip rösti

1 potato (finely shredded/grated)
¼ - ½ onion, finely sliced
1 tablespoon oil
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
Meat, finely chopped (optional, such as ham, bacon, salami etc)
½ teaspoon spices (optional, such as curry powder, cumin, taco seasoning, mix spice, mixed dried herbs)
Salt to taste

1. Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix well
2. Placed heaps on a greased baking tray and flatten to about 1cm thickness
3. Bake at 220 degrees until the potatoes are golden and cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. You can place the cooked pancakes under a broiler for 1-2 minutes to brown the top.

Savoury Semolina Recipe

If you add water or any hot liquid (other than fat) to semolina it normally turns soft and mushy, a bit like polenta. The recipe below is to have semolina behaving like couscous, where it is fluffy and grainy, not mushy.

 I have only tried it once and it worked well. I will be testing the recipe again and adjusting if necessary.

Boiling water (or stock) (1½ - 2 times the amount of semolina)
Butter or oil (optional)
Salt to taste

1. Toast the semolina in a saucepan until it turns golden. Stir frequently to ensure even browning
2. Remove from heat, add water or stock and salt and cover. The semolina should be ready to eat in a few minutes.
3. Add butter or oil and stir with a fork until the grains separate

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dulce De Leche Lava Cake Recipe

Dulce De Leche Lava Cake
If you love dulce de leche and lava cake I am sure you will love dulce de leche lava cake. And if you don’t love either of them then I feel sorry for you!

Lava cakes are generally chocolate based but for this lava cake I wanted dulce de leche to be the shining star, to get full attention without any interference from chocolate. So chocolate was completely left out of the party. Dulce de leche on its own did amazingly well. This lava cake is delicious, just the way it should be, and it behaved appropriately too As I fondled its sides with my spoon the ‘volcano erupted’, spewing out gooey liquid gold.
Dulce De Leche Lava Cake - before the 'volcano erupted'
At this point I was reminded how challenging food photography is, even though I am certainly not a professional food photographer. It may seem easy and fun to point your camera and click but when there is a luscious dessert sitting lonely and waiting for attention it is extremely challenging to pick up the camera instead of the spoon, or keep your fingers off. And this is what happened when I photographed the dulce de leche lava cake. I had never tried dulce de leche lava cake, actually I have never heard of it either, I was absolutely dying to taste it. It was like torture, taking photos when I could smell and almost taste the cake. However as I am writing this the plate has already been licked clean. There is not even a trace left.
Since this is an egg free version the amount of flour and milk used is higher than in regular lava cake. As a result there is a very slight ‘floury’ taste. It was almost negligible and I did not mind but if you are fussy you can always include eggs in the recipe and reduce the milk and flour content. If you use eggs the lava cake will be even more richer and luscious. I didn’t try the version with eggs so unfortunately I cannot give the amounts. You will have to experiment.

You may need more or less flour than suggested in the recipe. The amount of flour depends on the consistency of the dulce de leche. I’ve made dulce de leche many times and the consistency differs. If the consistency is thicker you will need less flour, and vice versa. Just add enough flour until the dough has the same consistency as thick cream.

½ cup butter (diced, room temperature)
200ml milk
½ cup sugar
1 cup flour, sifted (you may need more or less)
2 teaspoons baking powder
Vanilla extract (optional) 

1. In a bowl mix flour, baking powder
2. In another bowl mix dulce de leche, butter, milk, sugar and vanilla extract
3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix
4. Pour the batter into well greased ramekins
5. Bake at 180 degrees until the outer part of the cake is set and the middle is still slightly wobbly. It would take about 10 - 12 minutes
Dulce De Leche Lava Cake

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Red Wine Coconut Cookies (Biscotti al Vino) Recipe

Red Wine Coconut Cookies
About 2 weeks ago I thought of combining red wine and chocolate in a cake. I thought this was quite unique and did a search on the internet. Guess what, few others had already thought of this before me and created red wine chocolate cakes. Since I had leftover wine that needed to be used I thought why not make red wine cookies. I have never seen or heard of this before. And guess what, the Italians had already thought of this and created Biscotti al Vino. Those Italians quashed my dreams of being the first to create red wine cookies.

With all respect to the Italians and their creativity the recipe can be refined and upgraded quite a lot, and that’s exactly what I did by introducing coconut. I am sure the Italians already thought of adding other ingredients which they are familiar with such as tomatoes but they had not thought of coconut. 

Red wine and coconut is a pairing that I have never come across. Red wine is not normally served with Thai red curry and other coconut based dishes. I wonder why? Will the tannins from the wine conflict with the nuttiness from the coconut? Will the sweetness from the wine conflict with the fattiness from the coconut? I guess we can discuss the merits of a red wine and coconut pairing until the cows come home but there is one thing I know for sure – red wine coconut cookies are delicious. You just have to take my word for it.

The cookies are light and crispy, not very sweet and have a complex flavor.

Adopted from Italian Food

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup desiccated coconut
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup full-bodied red wine

1. Mix the flour, baking powder, coconut and salt into a large bowl
2. Stir in the sugar, oil, and wine to form a stiff dough
3. Shape the dough and place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet
4. Bake at 360 F (180 C) for 20 minutes.

Red Wine Coconut Cookies

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