Friday, December 23, 2011

Fresh and Light Side Dishes

(Written on December 18- hence the lag in dates!!) I am finally getting back to normal routine after working for the Dubai International Film Festival for the past two weeks. It was an insanely busy time since I was sort of working full time and studying full time. I'm really glad that I  chose to have all my classes on three days of the week this semester so that left me with Monday and Wednesday mornings to catch up on studying.

This was my sixth year at DIFF and the first time that I worked on the red carpet. My first two years I was a volunteer and did everything from working at the standby queue to ushering and checking tickets. The year after that I became staff and managed the Green Room which was quite interesting. I was basically babysitting any VIP talent  or film talent until the screening began. I got to see quite a few "celebrities".. I've never really been interested in them or their lives and so none of them impressed me so much... apart from Gerard Butler. Who is the most charming and witty person. Who I might have fallen in love with had I managed to spend more time with him. Hahaha.

And last year, I managed the 1400-seater theater. That was a lot of fun, very challenging, dynamic, perfect if you're OCD about organization like me. But this year, I finally got to see all the energy of opening night as it happens. I was on the red carpet with the guests, invitees, security, press, and fans. And opening night was great since Mission Impossible 4 was premiering and the amount of worldwide press and fans we had was insane. Tom Cruise himself spent almost 2.5 hours on the red carpet speaking to every single fan and reporter. He was beyond nice. Except that a couple of times I kept on sarcastically wishing he was a snob like other celebrities so that he would just glide through and ignore most of the fans. I had to wait for him that entire time to do my job and got very impatient. But no, he was really nice and I am very impressed at how down to earth he was.

Now that DIFF is over, I am experiencing withdrawal symptoms as I(and every other staff member) experience ever year. All of us staff are such a close-knit group that we're almost like family- family that gets to reunite once a year. I've made some great friends through DIFF, people who I consider to be closest to me.

But enough about that, and onto the recipes. These are two side dishes I always make because they require very little effort and taste amazing. They're quite filling and make a very adequate meal in themselves.

The first is an arugula and olive salad.

3 cups arugula leaves, washed and patted dry
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp sliced olives
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp crumbled feta cheese.

Combine everything together and serve immediately.

The next dish is a wonderful meal in itself: roasted capsicums stuffed with feta cheese, olives, basil, and pine nuts.

3 red capsicums, halved and deseeded
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup olives
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tbsp french dressing
1 tbsp basil pesto

Roast the capsicums, skin side up in a 200C oven until the skin is blistered and black- around 30 minutes.
Place the capsicums in a sandwich bag and seal well so that the steam loosens the skin. Allow to cool for around 15 minutes before peeling off the skin.
In a bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients with a splash of balsamic vinegar, if desired.
Take two to three teaspoons of the feta cheese mixture and place in the middle of each capsicum slice.
Roll up and secure with a toothpick.
Mix together the basil pesto and french dressing and pour over the tops of each capsicum.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cucumber Sandwiches for an Elegant Tea Party


Last week, I had a small tea party- that's why I made those macarons. It was a wonderful gathering where I got to catch up with many friends whom I had not seen in a while.

Sometimes life get so busy that you have no time to do the things you want to do most. I always ponder about how much we're slaves to a capitalist way of life. Work, studying, errands, extracirriculars, projects, businesses, and then- what happens to relaxing? Soaking up the atmosphere? Taking a leisurely stroll? Doing what you really want when you want to do it.

I, for one, love catching up with friends in a relaxed atmosphere, I love cooking and baking, and I love organizing events- it's such a creative process. And so I put all those things together last weekend and threw a party.

So the menu was made up of mini sandwiches in rectangular and triangular shapes, scones with homemade clotted cream, and mini cakes and tarts. The table was set with carnations and roses and pink-lined china.
I also had a "tea bar" with a teapot full of hot water, sugar cubes, and milk next to tiny bowls holding various types of teabags- each bowl labeled with damask paper- all on lacey linen. I wish I remembered to take photos of the tea bar!

These mini cucumber sandwiches are adorable to look at and VERY easy to make. I usually make them when I want a quick snack or when I feel like something solid with my soup dinners. They work really well with a roasted capsicum soup- the recipe of which I must share with you sometime soon- now that it's "winter".

12 slices wholegrain bread
40g Philadelphia cheese
12 olive slices
24 cucumber slices
12 mint leaves

With a 3cm round cookie cutter, cut out two rounds from each slice of bread. If the slice of bread is a bit small for cutting out two rounds, use a pastry roller to flatten the slice out a little.
Toast both sides of the rounds on a heated grill plate for around 1-2 minutes.

Spread Philadelphia cheese on one side of each round.
On half of the rounds, place a cucumber and a mint leaf.
With the other half of rounds, cover the cucumber-rounds.
Now that the rounds are sandwiched, top each with a cucumber slice and olive oil.
Serve (almost) immediately because the water from the cucumber tends to make the toasted bread soggy after an hour or so.
How can you have a tea party without tiered stands, right? Haha. Here are some of the pastries and mini chocolate and vanilla cupcakes. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Treatise on the Macaron

I can say with a lot of confidence that upon reading the word "macaron" you thought of Paris and its wonderful pastries. Maybe you're really imaginative and you pictured a rainy day on the Place de la Concorde, with the Eiffel Tower in distant view and cars driving around the cobbled streets. Maybe (if you're a woman) you were wearing a wonderful trench coat in a sublime shade of raspberry, and maybe you were nibbling on a macaron that you had just picked up from Pierre Herme, Laduree, Gerard Mulot, or some other amazing bakery.

But apart from that, I can also predict fairly certainly that if you're one of those people who have tried making macarons or who have wanted to your heart skipped a beat or you made an inward groan upon reading its name.

Macarons, wonderfully indulgent as they may be, are also notorious little devils. I've lost count of the numerous blog posts or articles I've read about the art of macaron-making, and how disastrous it can be.

I for one, tried macarons once in late 2009/early 2010. It ended up looking like soup. Admittedly, the recipe was a very basic one which didn't talk about technique or anything at all. Then, I took a macaron making class at Ateliers des Chefs Dubai in May 2010. Then, I tried making them in September of that year and they turned out pretty good! The next two tries were a disaster. And then two months ago, I researched, and researched, and researched.

The nerd in me came up with a sheet full of notes I had gathered from various books, different websites, talking to other people, and pure trial and error. I studied that sheet so religiously and then began making my macarons *drumroll*

The entire process I was extremely nervous- constantly checking to see if my macarons had developed feet or if they were smooth-topped. The entire process took me three hours and drained me. I made raspberry macarons that day and they turned out reaaally good.

Last night, I decided to attempt to try them again- I thought that maybe it would take less time but it took three hours again. I manage to get about 60 shells or 30 macarons from the batch that I make which is pretty good!

I'm posting the version of a macaron recipe I'm most comfortable with below and I'm going to follow that up with a list of explanations.

Note: I prefer using Italian meringue instead of French meringue as I find it makes the shell a lot smoother and the texture better. The recipe below uses Italian meringue.

How to make classic macarons! 
200g ground almonds (plus extra to make up for residue- around 100g)
200g icing sugar
180g caster sugar
55ml water
130g egg white
Gel food coloring of your choice
-for the buttercream filling
40g butter
150g icing sugar
2 tbsp milk

-With a bottlecap, draw circles on three sheets of baking paper spacing them around 1.5 inches apart. Turn the baking paper over and place each on one baking sheet. Make sure that the side that you drew on is on the underside.
-Process together the ground almonds and the icing sugar until fine and well combined. Then sift the mixture into a large bowl. You will end up with residue of the ground almonds- pieces that are too coarse or too big to be sifted. Weigh them out and then sift the same quantity of new ground almonds. Repeat the process until you have made up for all the ground almond residue.
-In a saucepan over low heat, place the water and sugar and allow for the mixture to boil. Make sure the temperature doesn't go above 115C.
-Meanwhile, whisk 50g of the egg whites till soft peaks form. Then, slowly pour in the hot sugar mixture and beat on high speed for 15 minutes or until the mixture is stiff and forms a beak like shape on the tip of the whisk.
-Take the remaining egg white and with a rubber spatula, mix together the egg white with the almond and icing sugar mixture. At this stage, also add your coloring.
-Take four tablespoons of the egg white mixture and mix into the almond mixture. Then add the rest of the egg whites and start the macaronage process by incorporating them with an alternating cutting and folding motion.
-Once all the egg white has been incorporated, lift your spatula with some of the macaron mixture and analyze how it falls from the spatula. You want the mixture to fall into the bowl in a smooth ribbon-like motion.
-Preheat the oven to 150C and place the macaron mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 2-3cm round tip. Pipe circles onto the already drawn rounds.
-Lightly tap the baking sheet on the surface of a counter and allow to form a crust for around 30 minutes.
-Place in an oven for around 20 minutes.
-Remove and allow to cool before spreading with buttercream.
-For the buttercream, mix everything together and whisk really well until mixture is as white as possible.

Macaron Cheat Sheet:
-age the egg whites by keeping them at room temperature for 6 hours prior to using.
-make sure that your kitchen is well ventilated. If it has a door that leads directly outside, keep that door shut. If your kitchen has air conditioning of any sort then switch that on!
-do NOT underestimate the importance of EXACT measurements. Even one or two grams here or there might alter your final result. 
-If you don't have a candy thermometer (like me), then take tiny teaspoons of the water and caster sugar mixture (while it's boiling) and place in a bowl of cold water. Quickly attempt to touch the sugar mixture with your fingers. The mixture is done boiling if the tiny sample you put in the water forms a pliable round structure in your fingers. 
-it is crucial that you get the macaronage process correct. Keep checking every few seconds to see whether the mixture is falling in a ribbon like form or not. 
-while incorporating the egg whites, and macaronaging, use firm, steady motions with a flexible spatula. 
- it is very, very important to allow your macarons to form a crust. They should not be sticky when you touch them before putting them in the oven. 
-it's better to bake macarons in a low-heated oven for a longer period of time than in a hot oven for a shorter period of time and risk spoiling it.
-that's why: temperatures above 150C (non fan forced) might be dangerous
- once you've piped the macarons, tap the tray to break up the air- this reduces the risk of air pockets in macarons.
- when baking, make sure that the top of the baking sheet reaches the middle of the oven. 
-open the oven door every two minutes to let the humidity of the oven out. 
- right before removing the macarons from the oven, spray a countertop with water and as soon as the sheet is out, pull out the baking paper with the macarons on it and immediately place over the damp countertop. This makes it easier to remove the macarons. 
-do not eat the macarons on the same day that they're made. store in the fridge for 24 hours in order for the flavors to develop.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Almond Butter Loaves

Just one more week left to take part in my giveaway: click here for details!

So it was Sunday evening, and I was having a supposedly therapeutic baking session. I wanted to make a cinnamon teacake and frost it with rainbow sprinkles and baby pink icing. I forgot to add the egg to the mixture until the very end but figured that the little glitch wouldn't have an effect.

BUT IT DID. The cake didn't come out of the tin.. only the top half did, leaving a crater in the cake tin the size of the moon. I'm guessing that was because of the adding-egg-at-the-end-thing but maybe it wasn't. Either way. I turned the cake into dark chocolate cinnamon cake pops and decided to make something else which would turn out successful. So I decided to make almond butter loaves. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Except that the recipe called for 250g of butter and I only had 220g out and softened. I decided to take the big leap and halve the quantities to make a cake of half the size. I had done that once before, in my early baking years, and it had turned out disastrous. Nevertheless, I attempted to try it once more.

So I creamed half the required butter with half the required sugar and then guess what? I added all the eggs. All four of them. I only realized what I had done when my mixture had the consistency of water. After some frustration, I decided to add everything together. And make the entire quantity of cake.. except for the 30g of butter... I made it.. without expecting the cake to be anything spectacular but it turned out WONDERFUL.

Melt in your mouth, buttery, cakey goodness.

Here's my tweaked recipe:

220g unsalted butter, softened and cubed
1 tsp almond extract
220g granulated sugar
4 eggs
150g self-raising flour
75g plain flour
90g ground almonds
10g unsalted butter, softened
100g icing sugar, sifted
2 tsp milk
25g dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and flour six mini loaf tins or a 19cm square or round cake tin.
Cream the butter, extract, and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly.
Sift the flours and ground almonds directly onto the egg mixture and beat through until just combined.
Spoon into tin(s) and bake for 30 minutes at 180C. Then, reduce the heat to 160C and bake for another 30 minutes or until baked through.
Remove from the oven and allow cake to cool in tins for 10 minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool thoroughly.
Simmer water in a small saucepan and in a heatproof bowl that fits above, stir together the butter and icing sugar till a paste forms. Add the milk and stir until the glaze is smooth.
Drizzle over the cake and allow to set.
Then, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over the same pan of simmering water. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, place in a sandwich bag and make a VERY, VERY small incision at the base of the sandwich bag.
Drizzle the melted chocolate over the glaze diagonally.
Serve these cut into slices and with a cup of tea- it's perfect! 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Eid Mubarak! & a Spiced Caramel Cake recipe!

Have you taken part in my giveaway yet?! Closing date is November 23!

My centerpiece

Eid Mubarak everyone!!
Yesterday was the first day of Eid al Adha here in the UAE.
Eid is a major religious holiday just like Christmas and Diwali except that we have it twice a year. The first Eid for this year was in early September and the second one was yesterday. It runs for three days each.
Eid's dates on the solar calendar change according to the moon so next year Eid Al Fitr (the first eid) will be in mid August and the second one will be in late October.
I love Eid and all the preparations that go along with it. With any event, I think half the fun is in preparing for it.

For Eid, Muslims are religiously obligated to shop for a new outfit (amazing, huh!) or wear the best outfit that they have. Women obviously take this shopping task much more seriously than men and there is a lot of talk on what outfits each person has bought, where to find the best ones, and what colours they're wearing.

I, for one, designed my own outfit this Eid. It was somewhat Grecian inspired and had a creamy jersey bodice with a tight gold, silk, and high-waisted skirt. Everyone thought I had bought it from somewhere, so I gather that it was a success then! I personally really liked it.

Eid is all about reconnecting with one's friends and family. It is an occasion to take time off from your daily routine and catch up on everyone you haven't seen in a while. Eid is also a time to pamper children where instead of receiving gifts, they receive money which they can then use to buy whatever they want. So during Eid, you have people visiting you and then you visiting other people. And with all that visiting comes lots and lots of eating. Eating sweet things, to be precise.

The Eidiya for the neighborhood children

I had a dessert overdose yesterday and I think it's going to take 26 hours of running to burn it all of.

Each family has their own Eid routine and ours go something like this:

I start baking for Eid two days before it starts. A whole mix of biscuits and cookies and everything of the sort. I always have a few "classics" that I make every Eid, these mainly being lemon cake, vanilla cupcakes, chocolate shortbread drops, and vanilla and chocolate cookies among many other things. This time though, I decided to go on a complete revamp and the only "classic" thing I stuck to were the chocolate shortbread drops.

This time, I made vanilla biscuits, chocolate shortbread drops, spiced Belgian biscuits with raspberry jam, maple syrup butter whirls, vanilla kisses, cherry and almond loaf, spiced caramel cake (which I am sharing today!), marble cake, mini triple chocolate cakes, and lavender cupcakes.

Bread for breakfast!

The night before Eid, I package them in cute boxes and send them to some relatives and friends. The rest I keep for Eid breakfast at our place.

I love planning for Eid breakfast at our place because that's when I get to be all creative with a table setting and give out presents to family members and friends who come over. Our breakfast also includes doorbell rings from neighborhood children asking for Eidiya (eid money that you give children). We package these in cute little pouches with candy and hand it out to them.

At Eid, women also get elaborate henna designs done and the henna salons are packed with hundreds of people the nights leading up to Eid. Sometimes you have a wait of 8 hours (yikes! I know!) They hand out numbered coupons like counter tickets and if I'm getting henna done at a salon I pick up a ticket at 1PM and return at 9PM (which is inevitably when my number is called!). Most times, I have a henna lady come over to the house. It's so much better that way since I prepare for bed, wear my pyjamas and then get Henna done. It takes a while to dry and if you wash your hands soon after it dries off, chances are the color won't turn out as deep as it could. That's why I prefer getting Henna done at the end of the day and at home. It also gives me a chance to prepare for breakfast until the last possible minute.

Here's the recipe for the spiced caramel cake which is extremely easy and quick to make!

125g butter, chopped
200g dark brown soft sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp golden syrup
225g self raising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
125ml milk
240g sifted icing sugar
30g softened butter
2 tbsp milk
50g dark chocolate, chopped 

Grease deep 20cm round cake pan, cover base and side with baking paper.
Combine all ingredients in medium bowl of electric mixer, beat on low speed until ingredients are combined. Then, beat on medium speed until mixture is just smooth and changed in color; do not overbeat. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Bake in moderate oven about 55 minutes. Stand 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool.
Mix together the icing sugar, butter and milk until fluffy, smooth, and spreadable. Spread over the cake.
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and spoon into a sandwich bag.
Make a tiny incision at the base of the sandwich bag and draw lines over the cake with the melted chocolate. First draw vertical lines, then horizontal ones, then diagonal ones.
Eat and enjoy!

spiced caramel cake

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Random Recipe: Orange and Ginger Stained Glass Biscuits

Have you taken part in my blog giveaway yet?

Dom's random recipe challenge for this month was awesome! We were partnered up with another blog who randomly chose a recipe for us from one of our books after we numbered them! My partner was Manu at

Manu randomly chose a recipe  for me called "orange and ginger stained glass biscuits" in BBC Food's 101 Cupcakes and Small Bakes.

The picture with the recipe was so cute since the heart shaped biscuits had ribbons tied to them and were hung from branches of a Christmas tree.

I made mine round but it was a total fail as they didn't come off the tray! :( apart from one. Which I abused excessively for pictures.

The recipe quite simple and I think to get it right you should add parchment paper to the already greased baking tray.

Here's the recipe:

175g plain flour
zest of one orange
1 tsp ground ginger
100g cold butter, cut into chunks
50g muscovado sugar
1tbsp milk
12 fruit flavored boiled sweets, crushed

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease two non stick baking sheets with oil. Whiz together flour, ginger, orange zest, and butter in a food processor. Pulse in the sugar and milk and turn out and knead briefly until smooth.
Wrap, then chill for 30 minutes.
Roll out to the dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut shapes with 7cm cutters and use 4cm to cut out the middle.
Put the crushed sweets in the middle of each biscuit and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until middles have melted and edges golden brown.
Leave to harden then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Nasi Goreng- 2nd Blog Birthday and a GIVEAWAY!

It's been exactly two years since I started food blogging and like everything else, it seems as if it was just yesterday.

Looking back, I realize how much as I've grown as a person who enjoys cooking and baking (dare I say chef?). I've discovered a wealth of new information, met amazing people (both online and in real life!), and read some amazing posts. I've tried to harness my interest in photography by focusing on food (but admittedly, not as much as I'd like to) and what's the best part is that having a blog has been a catalyst for my increased passion and interest in the world of food.

Here's the first food related post I wrote on this blog (exactly two years ago) "Autumn- the season for rich colors and gorgeous comfort food". This post was dedicated to butternut pumpkin which has grown to become one of my favourite vegetables along with capsicums. It contains two soup recipes and one vegetarian stew recipe. And yes, there aren't any photographs in that post.

And exactly one year ago: I posted a restaurant review of one of my favourite restaurants: Saladicious in Jumeirah.

To mark this auspicious event, I'm having a giveaway! One lucky winner is going to receive this lovely little book called "200 Delicious Desserts". The publisher is Hamlyn and what I love about this series is that the pictures are gorgeous, the recipes easy to read, and the results fabulous. The choice of recipes in this book is wonderful and includes a pear and almond tart, coffee and hazelnut choc ices, double chocolate puddings (YUM!), and strawberry choux puffs (to name just a few!- there are 200 as the title indicates!)

What you have to do in order to win is really simple!
1. Like "Spontaneous Euphoria Food Blog" on facebook
2. Follow @Spontiphoria on twitter
3. Leave a comment on this post saying that you did the above two and mention which of your recipes on this blog is your favourite and why!

The winner will be chosen by a friend of mine through picking a name out of a hat (fun, eh?)
The deadline to enter is exactly a month from today November 23, 2011

Now on to today's recipe:

Nasi goreng. Nice spicy rice with prawn crackers and fried egg and chicken satay skewers with peanut sauce. MMMMM.. but this is a vegetarian option (with the eggs, though- but you can easily omit it!)

I made this a month ago, and have made it four times since already. It's THAT good.
And it's so simple!

3 tbsp peanut or sunflower oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 onion, finely chopped
2 birds-eye chilies, finely chopped and deseeded
2 garlic cloves, crushed
5cm ginger, grated
1 cup button mushrooms, chopped
200g baby corn, chopped
1 red capiscum, chopped
1 yellow capsicum, chopped
1 green capsicum, chopped
3 cups brown rice, cooked
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 spring onion, finely sliced
80g brussel sprouts

- Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a wok and add the eggs. Swirl to coat the base of the pan. Cook until set and then remove from wok and slice into thin strips.
- Heat the remaining oil and cook the onion, chili, garlic, and ginger until fragrant and soft, around 5 minutes.
- Add the button mushrooms, baby corn, and capsicums stirring for around 10 minutes until mushroom and corn has softened.
- Next, add the rice and stir to coat. Then add the sauces, spring onion, and brussel sprouts and stir again until everything is well combined.
- Transfer to a serving dish and arrange the strips of omelette on top of the rice.
- Serve immediately.

It's THAT simple and takes around half an hour to make! It's indulgent for a simple dinner at home in front of the TV and glamorous enough (if presented nicely) for when you have guests!

Enjoy! And don't forget to take part in the giveaway contest!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How the Aztecs did it..

Have you taken part in my blog giveaway yet? Details here!

Choclette is hosting this month's We Should Cocoa challenge with the wonderfully exotic theme of chili and chocolate. It's my second time participating after I made a triple chocolate party cake for last month's challenge.

I love chili with chocolate but have only ever had it in chocolate soups (as I did at Hotel Chocolat in London) and or hot chocolate shots (In Dubai's Vintage Chocolate Bar) and I wondered what it would taste like in ice-cream.

I could sort of imagine the play of the flavours and textures. Velvety chocolate ice cream that cools the throat but has a strong chili aftertaste after you've swallowed it. Seemed so heavenly to me. And so I tweaked a normal chocolate ice-cream and added some thinly sliced red birds-eye chilies.

120g chopped dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
2 tablespoons single cream
300ml double cream
2 tbsp milk
50g icing sugar, sifted
2 red birds-eye chilies, thinly sliced
80g chopped dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, extra
2 tsp single cream, extra

In a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, melt the chopped chocolate and single cream until mixture is smooth and incorporated. Allow to cool.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the double cream and the milk until soft peaks form. Stir in the icing sugar and chilies.
Add the first batch of melted chocolate and beat until combined. Place the mixture in an ice-cream maker and churn for around 20-25 minutes.
While ice cream is churning, melt the extra dark chocolate and single cream in a bowl over simmering water.
Spoon the ice-cream in a small airtight container.
With a teaspoon, drizzle the extra melted chocolate over the ice cream.

Place the lid on the container and refrigerate it to firm up for at least 90 minutes before serving.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Blueberry and Mascarpone Biscuit Bites

Lemon and blueberry... one of those classic combinations where you can't go wrong, just like raspberry and white chocolate.

I found a recipe in a book called "Lemon and Blueberry Cakes with a Cheesecake Topping"... the picture was adorable, there were these mini cakes topped with a second, equally thick and really white layer of cheesecake  topping. The whole thing was topped with some tiny blueberries. The picture did not correspond to the recipe... in the sense that the procedure in no way would end up making cakes that looked like that!

Anyhow, I tried it. And my suspicions were correct. I ended up with very moist muffins. Disheartened with this result, I decided to play around the concept and come up with something quite similar but not exactly.


So I made these blueberry and mascarpone biscuit bites. The base is a biscuit layer (cooked in a mini cupcake tray). The topping is simply some piped mascarpone cheese and blueberries.

I took these to Devina's potluck this Friday and they were a big success. And they're very, very simple to make!

oil or butter for greasing
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup self raising flour
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Generously grease the cupcake tray.
Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined.
Add the sifted flours and fold in.
Mix in the vanilla extract and make sure everything is well combined.
Take teaspoons of the dough and press into each hole in the tin. Make sure they're 3/4 full.
Bake at 180C in a preheated oven for around 20 minutes until relatively cooked but soft.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely in tin, around one hour.
Once cooled, spoon the mascarpone cheese into a piping bag with a small star tip.
Pipe from the center out and place two to three blueberries on top.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Random Recipe: Mozzarella, Mushroom, Basil, and Tomato Sandwiches

University has begun. Although I think I've mentioned this before.

And so with university having begun, the first signs of stress, sleepless nights, and reams and reams of paper start to appear.. (not to mention the ghosts of all those trees we seem to have killed while printing...)

And naturally, there is less time to do the things you really wish to do.. those include one's nails, watching a movie, spending hours in the kitchen, and cuddling up in bed with a book..

But sometimes, feeding oneself takes prominence over all other tasks and duties, and that is when you try and make something that you know you'll really enjoy eating.

I was so excited when I read about Dom's challenge for this month. It was to pick a random recipe from all your food related magazines and clippings and the like.. I have a little section on my bookshelf devoted to recipe related magazine clippings/magazines but to be honest with you, I've never made a recipe from any of them. That's why I was so glad when I read about this month's challenge because then I'd be able to explore something new out of all these recipes I had never tried.

The magazine I randomly picked was called "Soups and Sandwiches" by Fine Cooking. I bought it at JFK airport this April so that I could have some light reading/entertainment on the fifteen hour return flight (although traveling with 18 twenty year olds was much fun in itself.)

I like the idea of soups and sandwiches for dinner. It's light yet filling and hearty and is very convenient to eat. Since I've recently gone vegetarian (since the beginning of this month actually) I tried picking a random recipe from the vegetarian section of the magazine which was towards the end. I ended up with mozzarella, mushroom, basil, and tomato sandwiches which are very quick to prepare.

4 sandwich rolls/buns
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp crushed garlic clove
basil leaves
1 cup button mushrooms, cooked
1 tomato, sliced
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Combine the mayo, cheese, and garlic in a bowl and evenly spread over both sides of cut sandwich rolls.
On the bottom half, layer mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, and tomato.
On the top half, place the basil leaves.
Sandwich together and lightly heat on a heated grill plate for 4-5 minutes until bread is lightly toasted.
Serve warm.

I had these with some tomato and capsicum soup.. the combination was amazing!

I hope I'm not past the posting deadline for this! >_< sorry if I am, Dom! :(

In other news, I just realized that this was my first savoury post of the month (and it's the end of the month!)
But I have made some nasi goreng, pasta, and grilled fish a few times.. all really good.. hoping to post up some of those recipes soon!

I also made macarons after doing much research on techniques. I now have two A4 pages full of tips and techniques that I've gathered while reading blogposts, watching videos, and reading cookbooks. Should I have a post on my macarons? "Dissecting the Macaron" as I'd like to call it..

Sorry about the picture quality! I didn't have a proper camera with me and these were about to be gobbled up in a second.. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Triple Chocolate Party Cake

You know when you walk past a restaurant that seems really nice and you think "I'm definitely going to try this some day" or when you see a book you really want to read and say to yourself: "I'm going to start reading this as soon as work slows down a bit"? Inevitably, you don't manage to eat at that restaurant or read that book for a VERY long time, no matter how much you want to. That was the case with me and the We Should Cocoa Blog Challenge. Every month, the challenges seemed so interesting and mouth-watering. And every month, either I had papers to write, exams to study for, work to go, events to manage, or some odd amalgamation of all of the previous (which was most likely what happened). Anyways, I never got to participate in the We Should Cocoa blog challenges even though I really, really, really wanted to but this month, I did. This month's challenge is hosted by the lovely Chele of the The Chocolate Pot.

I think what really pushed me to make this was that the theme was "chocolate masterpiece".
"Masterpiece!" I thought. Oooh yess, time to spin toffee and melt fondant and create a wonderful chocolate swan in a stainless steel kitchen with my chef's hat and whites. I got all sorts of ideas (I always do). Alas, attempting to be creative is what drives me more often than not.

And a masterpiece automatically means that it has to be presented with some pomp and show does it not? Masterpieces, after all, fit in perfectly with celebrations. And so, I decided to make a chocolate 'masterpiece' cake for the first birthday of our food bloggers group.

Famished in Arabia, or TableTalk as it is now known, was formed a year ago by Arwa @ I Live in a Frying Pan and Sally @ My Custard Pie . They decided to collaborate and form a UAE-based food bloggers group.  The group has now grown to over 60 members and is such a wonderful network between all of us who love to love to share our love of food. I have made some wonderful friends this past year thanks to our group and have created some lovely memories. We constantly share our posts with one another and always have one fun event or another coming up. I'll always remember when we made gingerbread biscuits at Sally's, or had a picnic in the park, or Iftar at Sukaina's, or took a Thai cooking class, or had a mini chocolate fest at my place. And now I'll remember our epic first birthday celebration.

We raided the first floor of the wonderful Tea Junction today and had our cake-a-thon celebrating our first birthday. Each one of us was supposed to bring a cake (which resulted in some two dozen cakes!). And so, quite aptly, I decided to make this triple chocolate cake. Another reason I made this cake is because I wanted to tie a bow around it this time. I made a similar cake two weeks ago (topped with berries instead) as a birthday cake for a friend who absolutely refused that I add a ribbon. But I had to have my ribbon. And so I made this cake again albeit slightly differently.

The last one was a 9" double layered chocolate cake with milk chocolate finger biscuits around it. The topping was a mixture of heavy cream and whipping cream and was topped with berries. This one, in contrast was a 5" single-layered chocolate cake, with chocolate buttercream, milk and dark chocolate fingers, and semisweet chocolate chips.

I am not joking when I tell you that the decoration part of this cake took exactly 10 minutes. It is SO much easier than simply coating a cake with frosting. SO MUCH EASIER!

I started making the cake at 1PM and by 3PM everything was ready (and yes, I did other stuff in those two hours!)

100g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
140g caster sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
40g butter
1 egg
120ml milk
0.5 tsp vanilla essence
1 packet Cadbury Milk Chocolate Fingers
1 packet Cadbury Dark Chocolate Fingers
Semisweet chocolate chips
300g icing sugar, sifted
40g cocoa powder, sifted
100g butter
40ml milk
1 yard satin ribbon, color of your choice


Preheat the oven to 170C and grease and base-line a 5" cake tin.
Place together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and butter in a large bowl. Mix until well combined. In a small jug, beat together the egg, milk, and vanilla extract. Pour half of the milk mixture into the flour mixture and mix until well combined. Add the other half and beat for two minutes until all mixed together.
Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool.
Meanwhile make the frosting by mixing together the icing sugar, cocoa powder, and butter until it reaches a sandy consistency. Gradually add the milk and beat for 5 minutes until buttercream is fluffy.
Place the cake on an icing turntable and with a spatula, apply frosting only around the sides of the cake. Apply just enough so that the fingers can stick on comfortably. Once the sides of the cake have been coated with the buttercream, carefully place the chocolate fingers all around alternating between the milk and dark chocolate fingers.
Once that's complete, place the remaining chocolate frosting in a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 98 nozzle and pipe around the edges of the inside of the cake. Complete by filling the middle of the cake with the piped frosting. The best way to achieve this look is by arbitrarily piping across the center of the cake. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the semisweet chocolate chips. Refrigerate the cake for 20 minutes until relatively hardened before tying the bow across the cake. Try to make the bow look neater than mine.