Preserved Lemon, Cannellini Beans & Chickpea Pasta with Parsley Pesto

Apologies for the lack of posts and also the lack of photos in this post! I didn’t have my camera to hand as I made this recipe, but it was so delicious I had to share. So wishing everyone a very Happy New Year and lots of happiness and success for 2013! Did you have a nice Christmas/holiday period?

I have to say, I really enjoyed my Christmas this year. A big family Christmas with lots of eating, drinking and merriment. It does seem to fly by all too quickly though doesn’t it! Which reminds me, time is ticking by, so I really must start working on some of my 101 Things to do before I’m 30 list!! I still have 94 things to do…..eeek!

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!

This recipe is so so good. My mum recently bought me a large jar of preserved lemons. I’ve never used them in cooking before and wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. After much searching on the internet and through various blogs, I found this fantastic recipe from The Year in Food. It was such an incredibly easy recipe. I made a couple changes to the recipe, in that I added cannellini beans, chorizo and prawns to the recipe.

Preserved Lemon, Cannellini Beans, Chickpea pasta with Parsley Pesto (Serves 4)

  • 300g pasta (I used linguine)
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, separated
  • 400g can of chickpeas, drained
  • 400g tin cannellini beans, drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh parsley, coarsley chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  •  2 quarters preserved lemon, chopped (equal to 1/2 lemon; substitute zest + 1 tbsp lemon juice if no preserved lemons on hand)
  • 1/3 cup reserved pasta water
  • Chorizo
  • Prawns
  • sea salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste

Firstly, bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add a little drizzle of olive oil and some sea salt. Many people believe the oil is used to prevent the pasta from sticking together, but on the contrary it is used to prevent the water from foaming and overflowing. As for the salt, an old Italian saying says to salt to pot not the pasta. If you cook the pasta without salt, no matter how tasty the sauce afterwards, the pasta will still taste bland. Cook your pasta and when cooked, reserve about 1/3 cup of the cooking water and then drain. Set aside and keep warm.

While pasta is cooking, heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Add two tsp olive oil. Add one clove of the minced garlic and stir for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the chickpeas and cannellini beans. Saute for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

At the same time, prepare your chorizo sausage and prawns in an oven proof dish. Cook for 12 – 15 minutes at 180C (350F). The oils from the chorizo will coat the prawns in cooking, so there is no need for oil when baking. Leave aside and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the pesto. My parents have a huge parsley plant at home, which is taking over the herb patch, so I took a great big chunk of this for the pesto sauce. Here we need to combine the remaining clove of garlic with the 1/3 cup of olive oil, the parsley and the almonds. Puree in a food processor until a coarse paste has formed. Easy peasy.

Toss the warm pasta with the pesto, chickpeas, chorizo, cannellini beans, prawns and preserved lemons. Gently toss. If a little dry, add some of the reserved pasta water for creaminess. (This is a great tip for cooking all pasta dishes. Always reserve some of the pasta water to add some more creaminess to a dish.)

Taste to see if the preserved lemons provide enough salt. Season to taste with sea salt if desired, along with freshly cracked black pepper. Best served immediately.

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Mandeln….Roast Sugared Almonds

It’s Christmas time! 🙂 I absolutely LOVE this time of year! The run-up is almost more enjoyable than the actually day….seeing the Coco Cola advert on TV, watching the Late Late Toy Show (it’s an Irish thing 😉 ), wandering through the Saturday market stocking up on goodies, carol singers, the Christmas lights in the city, mulled wine, mince pies and decorating the house! 🙂

We’re going to put our tree up tomorrow evening, so I’ve been busy making lots of treats for a Christmassy evening decorating the house. I plan on making a few batches of mince pies this evening, recipe to follow. There’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked mince pies to get you into the Christmas spirit.

I spent a year in Germany a couple years back. Absolutely loved my time there. My favourite time of the year was the Weihnachsmarkt in the run up to Christmas. Mulled wine and crepes. And Mandeln. Mandeln are roasted sugared almonds and are so delicious and  addictive – as well as easy to make.

Ingredients:

1 cup whole almonds

2 tbsp butter

1/2 cup caster sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

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Butter a roasting pan and set aside.

Place the almonds, sugar and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the almonds are toasted. This process should take about 10 minutes.

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Once the mixture starts to become sticky and caramelized  stir in the vanilla extract. Immediately pour the mixture onto your buttered baking sheet. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt for extra flavour. Leave to cool for approximately half an hour.

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This is such an easy recipe and is a nice snack alternative to crisps or sweets. It’s homemade and the kitchen smells so deliciously sweet and Christmassy afterwards! 🙂
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I’ll be baking my mince pies this evening so I’ll share a couple more recipes over the next couple days…..as we countdown to Christmas! 🙂

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Rolo Cupcakes

I got into a bit of a cupcake craze over the summer, trying various recipes and flavours. I follow quite a number of cupcake bakeries on Facebook and Twitter and they do such a variety of wonderful flavours, it got me wanting to experiment a little. I quite like rolo’s and love caramel, so I decided to try the Rolo Caramel Cupcakes.
I have to admit the recipe had quite a few stages to it and took some time putting all together, but it was worth it in the end, cos these babies tasted like rolo’s in cupcake format! These went down a treat for a friend’s birthday party: chocolate cupcake, topped with chocolate frosting, a caramel buttercream frosting and a rolo. YUM!
This recipe makes about 15 decent sized cupcakes. The original recipe was gluten free, I didn’t have any to hand, but to make a gluten free version for yourself, just substitute with gluten-free flour.
Cupcake Ingredients:
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 56 g chocolate, chopped
  • 8 tbsp butter
  • ⅔ cup plain yogurt, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup caramel sauce
  • 1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 extra-large egg + extra-large egg white, beaten

Chocolate Frosting Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp butter, softened
  • 5 tbsp vegetable shortening (I searched high and low in a few supermarkets around and couldn’t source any, so substituted with butter instead)
  • 70 g chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1¾ cup icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup

Salted Caramel Frosting Ingredients:

  • 4 tbspbutter, softened
  • 5 tbsp vegetable shortening (Again, I substituted with butter)
  • 1½ cups icing sugar
  • ½ cup caramel sauce, at room temperature, salted to taste with salt
  • Rolos, for decoration

(Salted) Caramel Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon sea salt
I started with the caramel sauce, to allow it cool in sufficient time. Add sugar and water to a saucepan. Stir and cook over a low heat for 5 – 10 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Using a wet pastry brush, brush down any sugar crystals that have made their way onto the side of the saucepan.
Attach a sugar thermometer to the side of the saucepan and increase the heat to medium. Do not stir the mixture at this stage. You should shake/swirl the saucepan gently just to ensure the mixture doesn’t burn. We have to wait for the mixture to reach 160 C, which takes about 5 minutes. You will notice the mixture firstly turns a light brown colour, then about 30 – 90 seconds later if turns a dark brown colour and almost looks burned.
Remove from the heat immediately. Whisk in your cream. Once you add the cream, the mixture will bubble violently, so be careful at this stage. Stir in your salt at this stage – season to taste. The caramel will last in the fridge, once covered tightly, for up to two weeks.
Now for the cupcakes! Preheat the oven to 165 C. Line your muffin tin and set aside. Place the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and caster sugar in a bowl and whisk well to combine. Melt the chopped chocolate with 8 tbsp butter until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool briefly.
Add the yoghurt, caramel sauce, vanilla and eggs to the dry mixture and beat well. Add the chocolate mixture and combine well. The batter will be quite thick. Fill the muffin wells to about 3/4 full and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cupcakes are cooling, you can make your frostings. For the chocolate frosting: Use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer and beat the butter until light and fluffy, add the icing sugar and mix until well combined. Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie until smooth. Add the vanilla to the melted chocolate and stir to combine. Pour the chocolate mixture into the mixer and beat well to combine. With the mixer on low speed, add the corn syrup and mix until light and fluffy. The frosting should be thick, but not too stiff.
For the salted caramel frosting: Beat the butter (with the paddle attachment) until light and fluffy. Add the icing sugar and mix until well-combined. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the 1/2 cup of salted caramel sauce and mix until light and fluffy.

Rolo Cupcake

To assemble the cupcakes, fill a piping bag with chocolate frosting and another bag with the salted caramel frosting. Pipe a thin layer of chocolate frosting on top of each cooled cupcake. Allow the chocolate frosting to set for a few minutes, then pipe a thick swirl of salted caramel frosting on top of the chocolate frosting. Top each cupcake with a Rolo. Set aside to set.

Apologies I don’t have more photos of the process…as I mentioned there are quite a few messy stages to these cupcakes, but they certainly have the wow factor for any party or upcoming event!

Red Velvet Cake

I’ve tried making red velvet cake (or variations – cupcakes) on a couple of occasions in the past. Something always went wrong – I didn’t add enough food colouring on one occasion, over beat the egg whites for the Swiss buttercream so it turned to marshmallow on another occasion. But never mind, one lives and learn and you always learn something for the better through these little mistakes.

This time however, the process was relatively simple and the cake was made and baked within about 40 minutes. Couldn’t have been easier. The recipe I used was as follows:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp red food coloring
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter and flour 2 9 inch cake pans.

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder). In another large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla.

Using a mixer, pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.

Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Place the pans in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen them from the sides of the pans. Allow the cakes to completely cool in the cake pans.

Red Velvet Cake

Swiss Buttercream Frosting:

This is where I hit a little bit of trouble, but with a little bit of googling, I managed to get myself out of a curdling situation.

  • 1 cup egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups butter, softened

Directions

Beat the sugar and egg whites together on a bain marie until the temperature reaches 120F, on a sugar thermometer, and the sugar is fully dissolved. Transfer to the bowl of a mixer and beat until there are soft peaks. Then begin to add the butter slowly, until fully incorporated and fluffy. I let the mixture beat a little too long once the butter had been added and the mixture started to curdle and separate. It looked almost like a sloppy scrambled egg at this stage. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of this mess in my panic at the time, but if this happens to you, you will know what I mean.

Luckily enough, I came across someone who had this same problem on google. She advised to take 1/4 of the mixture and heat it in the microwave for 10 – 15 seconds. Remove it from the microwave and add it to the mixture once again and beat. Magically, the mixture started to come together once again into a fluffy creamy buttercream.

Once all this is done, simply frost your cake. I topped with a little bit of cocoa powder and serve.

 

Mocha Cake

I had a request for a coffee cake recently. I’m not a big fan of coffee cake myself, so I wanted to make a coffee cake with a twist. I found this recipe for a Mocha Cake which was really simple to make. However, there wasn’t so much of a coffee flavour from the cake, my mistake. The recipe calls for very strong coffee, I used three tsps of instant coffee to 60 ml of water, but I think it would need a tsp or two more to bring out that coffee flavour.

Ingredients

  • 175 g flour
  • 50 g cocoa powder
  • 225 g soft light brown sugar (I used demerara sugar here)
  • 175 g butter, melted
  • 4 medium eggs, seperated
  • 60 ml very strong coffee, cooled (I used 2 heaped teaspoons of Nescafe Gold coffee)
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 x quantity coffee butter icing
  • Chocolate curls to decorate

For the chocolate icing:

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 200g icing sugar, sifted (I used 100g icing sugar here, because it tends to get too sweet otherwise. I just spread the icing between the cut cake and not on top as in Rachel Allen’s recipe)
  • 25 g cocoa powder
  • 1 heaped tbsp mascarpone cheese

Preheat oven to 190 deg C. Oil and line a loaf tin (5 x 9in) with parchment paper.

Flour, cocoa powder and brown sugar

Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Stir in the brown sugar to combine.

Using a wooden spoon, beat in the melted butter, egg yolks, coffee and water until smooth. The mixture is not very smooth at this point, because of the sugar, so ensure to beat enough so as there are no lumps.

Beat wet ingredients into dry

Whisk the egg whites in a large clean bowl until fairly stiff peaks form, then gently fold into the cake mixture in three batches making sure there are no lumps of egg white left.

Fold egg whites into the mixture in three parts

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf or cake tin and smooth the surface. Give the tin a tap to remove air bubbles. Bake in the oven for 35 mins, then reduce the oven temperature to 160 C for the last 20 mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Tap the tray before placing in the oven to remove any air bubbles

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 mins then lift out by the parchment paper (if loaf tin used) onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For the icing:
-Place the butter in a large bowl and beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon until it is very soft.

-Add the sifted icing sugar and cocoa powder. Beat slightly, then add the mascarpone. Beat until you have a thick creamy icing.

Layer icing inside the cake

When the cake is cold, remove the parchment paper. Using a bread knife, split the cake horizontally and spread about a third of the icing on the lower half with a butter knife. Place the other half of the cake back on the top and spread the rest of the icing over it.

Mocha Cake

Tip- The original recipe called for baking time of 35 mins plus 20 mins, however I found the cake was becoming very dry on the sides at about 30 mins into baking. So I’d recommend keep checking the cake during baking or the sides may become dry or burned.  As you can see with mine, it is slightly dry around the top, but once it was iced it was tasty. But we live and learn and hopefully next time will be perfect! 🙂

My unsteady hand ‘halved’ the cake slightly crooked! 😉