Tiramisù

My dear friend and neighbor Rania makes this beautiful tiramisù cake from three basic ingredients: Dream Whip topping mix,  Nestle sweetened condensed milk and Nestle ashta, which is clotted cream or Devonshire cream (photo below). She whips them all together to make her own equally yummy version of popular Italian dessert.

Before I start with the ingredients, I want to say that Rani has done and decorated the tiramisù in the photo above. Beatuiful presentation, eh?!

Tiramisù (serves 10, in a 30cmx20cm serving dish)

- 3 envelopes Dream Whip dessert topping mix

- 350ml Nestle cream (ashta or Devonshire cream, also known as clotted cream)

- 250ml Nestle sweetened condensed milk

- Ladyfingers

- 1 cup water, room temperature

- 2 Tbsp instant coffee

- Dark unsweetened cocoa

Method:

In a bowl and using an electric mixer, whip the first three ingredients on high speech continuously for 5 minutes. The mixture should thicken (like whipped cream). Let the mixture cool in the fridge while you prepare the ladyfingers.

Stir the coffee in the water and dip each ladyfinger in it until it absorbs coffee but remains stiff. Place the ladyfingers on a bottom of the serving dish to make one layer. Try not to leave any gaps. Now, take the cream that you prepared out of the fridge and spread it all over the ladyfingers. It should make a thick layer. The last step is to cover the cream with cocoa powder. With a small hand sieve, powder cocoa powder all over the cream to fully coat it. Thicken the layer as desired. Place the cake in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours before you enjoy with your 9 friends!


Piña Colada Layer Cake

If I were to bake a summer wedding cake, I’d choose something as juicy and refreshing as this cake. I loved the coconut and pineapple flavors together! It might not taste like what a piña colada drink would taste like, but I think that I can safely call my layer cake a Piña Colada Cake :)

Piña Colada Layer Cake (serves 6)

For two 20cmx20cm cakes, you need:

- 2 eggs

- 1/2 cup sugar

- 3/4 cup olive oil

- 1 cup yogurt

- 1 1/2 cup flour

- 1/2 cup coconut

- 2 tsp baking powder

- Vanilla

- 1 can of sliced pineapples, preserve the liquid

- Whipped cream for the coating

Method:

Heat the oven to 375F.

In a bowl, whisk the egg and the sugar. Add the oil and yogurt and whisk well until you get a creamy homogeneous mixture. Gradually, add the coconut, flour, baking powder and vanilla.

Pour the batter in two greased tins (or used parchment paper like I did) and bake together for 30 minutes or so. It is always safer to check with a toothpick before turning off the heat.

Allow the cakes to completely cool before you start coating it with the whipped cream.

To decorate:

- Turn the cake that you’ll use as the bottom layer upside down. Pour a few tablespoons of the pineapple liquid from the can to moisten the cake. The cake should absorb the liquid. Make sure not to over moisten the cake. Now, spread a layer of cream and then a layer of the sliced pineapples.

- Spread a layer of cream on the bottom part of the second cake, the cake that you’ll be using as the top cake. Now, place the top cake on the bottom cake and fully coat with the remaining whipped cream. Cool in the fridge before serving.

A cake you will NOT regret making, decorating and devouring.

Peggy’s Giant Cupcake

Now this is a cake worth trying, no?!

Peggy is my dear friend and neighbor who shares my passion for cooking and baking. She came up with the idea of baking this beautiful cake for simply no occasion at all! (I don’t think this colorful cute thing needs an occasion!)

This is what we did that yielded this mountain of sweetness: We baked a regular orange pound cake from a recipe that Peggy has from her mother and baked it in this cupcake cake mold. After cooling it on a wire rack, we smothered it with our homemade chocolate sauce that was the perfect coating for this delicious sponge cake.

Orange Pound Cake:

- 4 eggs

- Zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon

- 1 tsp vanilla

- 2 cups sugar

-1 cup orange juice

- 3/4 cup oil

- 3 cups flour, sifted

- 3 tsp baking powder

Homemade Chocolate Sauce:

- 2 cups milk

- 9 Tbsp sugar

- 1 Tbsp flour

- 1 Tbsp cornflour

- 1 Tbsp butter

- Dark unsweetened cocoa powder, according to taste

Method:

Preheat the oven to 360F.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add the vanilla, orange zest and lemon zest. Add the sugar. Whisk until dissolved. Add the orange juice. Whisk. Add the oil. Whisk well. Now add the dry ingredients cup by cup whisking all along. The batter should be yellow in color and very smooth and silky. If you’re using a giant cupcake mold,  butter both parts of the mold and pour half the batter in one part of the mold and the other half in the other part of the mold. If you’re using a regular bundt mold, simply butter the pan and pour all of the batter.

Bake for one hour. Test before taking out.

While the cake is baking, prepare the chocolate sauce. Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan. While continuously whisking, bring to boil. Turn off the heat when the sauce reaches the desired thickness. Let it cool before you coat your cake with it.

If using the giant cupcake mold: When the cake is ready and BEFORE turning it over, cut off the top of the cakes that have risen over the edge of the cake. You need both cakes to have a flat surface. Then, turn over both cakes and before you put them on top of each other to resemble a giant cupcake, spread a layer of chocolate sauce in between. When you have your cake assembled into a giant cupcake, spread the chocolate sauce all over. We chose to decorate it with the sugary little sprinkles that you can see in the photos.

If using a regular cake pan: When the cake completely cools down, slice it horizontally in half and spread a layer of chocolate sauce in the middle and then cover the whole cake with chocolate sauce. You can decorate it with the colorful sprinkles or with chocolate shavings.

Zucchini and Mushroom Casserole

My mom’s best friend: pasta!

Zucchini and Mushroom Casserole

Ingredients:

- 350g penne pasta

- 1 L water, salty like the sea

For the tomato sauce:

- 1 Tbsp olive oil

- 1 Tbsp butter

- 2 Tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped

- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

- 2 chili flakes, crushed

- 1 can peeled and chopped tomatoes

- 1 tsp tomato paste

- 1/8 cup water

- Sprinkle of salt and black pepper

- 1 tsp Italian seasoning

For the vegetables:

- 1 cup zucchini, sliced into disks

- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced

- 1 tsp olive oil

- 1 tsp butter

Topping: 3/4 cup of mixed grated cheese (I use Emmental and mozzarella)


Method:

Cook the pasta according to packet in the salty water.

To prepare the tomato sauce, fry the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes  in the oil and butter until the garlic is golden. Add the tomatoes from the can, the tomato paste, the water and season well. Bring the mixture to boil and then simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350F.

To cook the vegetables, heat the oil and butter and stir fry the mushroom and zucchini until they are soft.

When the pasta is cooked, add them over the tomato sauce and stir well. Add the vegetables. Stir and check the salt and seasoning.

Put the mixed pasta in a baking dish and cover with all the cheese. Place in the oven and cook until the cheese melts (15 minutes) and for a golden effect, broil for a few minutes.

 

Baba Ghannouj

For this beautiful plate of baba ghannouj, you need:

- 500 g eggplants

- 4 Tbsp tahini

- Juice of 1 and 1/2 lemons

- 1/2 heaped tsp salt

- Olive oil

- 1 garlic clove, crushed (optional)

Method:

- Place the eggplants in a baking tray in the oven. Broil for 30 minutes (or until the eggplants become very soft), turning the eggplants over half way.

- Take the eggplants out of the oven and carefully peel off the skin and cut off the top.

- Place the pulp of the eggplants in a colander to strain the water out of it. (10 minutes)

- Using a food processor or with a fork, mash the eggplants with the tahini, salt and lemon juice. Mix until until almost creamy.

- Place in a plate and generously pour extra virgin olive oil. Baba ghannouj is best served cold, so cool it in the fridge before having it with pita bread as a dip or as a side dish to a green salad.

 

 

Baked Blueberry Cheesecake

As many of you know, my mother is visiting me for a couple of weeks, and for this special occasion I am preparing all the delicious things that she wants. She said she likes cheesecake but hasn’t tried a baked cheesecake before, so I made this cheesecake from a recipe that I had found on Foodbuzz.

BAKED BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE

Ingredients:

For the crust:

- 2 and 1/2 cups digestive biscuits, finely crushed
- 1/4 cup butter, melted

For the filling:

- 900 grams cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 and 1/2 cup caster sugar (or just give the granulated sugar a quick buzz in a food processor)
- 1 Tbsp cornflour
- 1 and 1/3 cup double cream or whipping cream or creme fraiche
- 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup of white chocolate, melted
- 1 cup blueberries, dusted with a little flour

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Mix the crushed biscuits with the butter and press gently onto the base of a spring-form pan.

Mix all the ingredients for the filling together except the blueberries. You might have to beat the mixture with an electric beater for a minute.

To prepare, pour half the cheese mixture over the biscuits then throw in the blueberries scattered on top. Then, pour in the other half of the cheese mixture. Smooth the surface. Place in the oven for one hour and 15 minutes. Then, let it cool on your kitchen surface, and then refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

My mom loved this cake. She said that the citrus hint balances out the sweetness in the cheese filling. So, next time you are in the mood for some cheesecake, why not try this recipe?!

 

Shortbread Cookies with Fresh Strawberry Jelly

When you have a basket of fresh red blooming strawberries in your fridge, you have to think of all the delicious ways to use them that will bring out their flavor. Inspired by this love-charged month, I made heart-shaped shortbread cookies and smothered them (to the liking of R.) with my own homemade strawberry jelly. What a treat!

To make 20 cookies you need:

- 2 cups flour, sifted

- Pinch of salt

- 200g butter, room temperature

- 1/2 cup powdered sugar

- 1 tsp vanilla

For the strawberry jelly:

- 450g fresh strawberries

- 400g sugar

- 25 ml lemon juice

 

Method:

Beat the butter until it is creamy. Add the sugar and beat together into a smooth mixture. Add the vanilla. Gradually, add the flour and salt and mix well with the other ingredients. With your hands (that is what I did, but you can continue working with an electric mixer), form a ball out of the dough. Flatten it out into a disk and wrap it with a plastic bag or cling film. Refrigerate the dough while you prepare the strawberry jelly.

Preheat the oven to 350f/175C.

The jelly: In a bowl, mash the berries then transfer to a saucepan. Add the lemon juice and sugar and turn on the heat to medium. Stir well and bring to boil. Stir some more until the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and let the jelly cool down before using it.

Take the dough out of the fridge and on a floured surface roll it out (thickness 0.75cm). Using cookie cutters or with your knife, carve out the cookies. On a cookie tray lined with parchment paper, place the cookies 1 cm apart and bake for 10 minutes or until the sides are golden.

Cool the cookies before spreading the jelly on top. Perfect for a tea gathering!

Fresh Strawberry Tart

Happy Valentine’s Day!

What is more beautiful that a fresh bouquet of flowers? A bouquet of fresh strawberries!

And what better dessert to make with strawberries than strawberry tart?!

Fresh Strawberry Tart

For the crust:

- 100g butter, cold and cut into cubes

- 1/2 cup powdered sugar

- 1 1/4 cup flour

- 1 egg, whisked

- A pinch of salt

For the pastry cream filling:

- 300ml milk

- 1 egg yolk

- 1 tsp vanilla

- 3 Tbsp sugar

- 1 Tbsp flour

- 1.5 Tbsp cornstarch

Fresh sliced strawberries for the topping.

Method:

With your hands, crumble together the cold butter pieces with the sugar. Add the flour and keep mixing with your hands. Sprinkle a little salt and vanilla and add the whisked egg and mix again with your hands to form a ball with the dough. The dough shouldn’t be sticky. Add a little flour if needed.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Place it on a tart tray and cut off the extra dough. Make sure to leave  a one-centimeter edge all around.

Refrigerate the tray while you work with the filling.

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

Place all ingredients together in a saucepan and mix well. Place over medium heat and bring to boil. The cream should thicken. Make sure to whisk nonstop, otherwise it will form lumps. Keep it aside to cool down.

Take the tart tray out of the fridge and poke it all over with a fork. Place it in the oven on the middle rack and blind bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges are golden and the dough is dry. Take the tray out of the oven and spread the cream filling all over. Leave the tart for 15 minutes to cool down before you top it with fresh sliced strawberries.

And now let me end this post with a Kylie Minogue song that I like to dance to and sing along to and that reminds me of my best friend: Two Hearts

Two hearts are beating together

I’m in love, I’m in love

Nammoura

Nammoura is a Middle Eastern flour and semolina cake soaked in sugar syrup. In Egypt it is known as Basbousa, in Turkey and Greece it is referred to as Revani, but where I come from it is Nammoura. There are several different recipes for the same dessert, some are egg-less, others use almond flour… in my recipe there’s coconut. It is a sweet cake that it is usually a ‘best seller’ at Middle Eastern helwanjis (sweets shops). I took photos that show the grainy inside of the cake.

Ingredients (for a 25cmx30cm baking pan)

- 1 cup flour, sifted

- 1 cup shredded coconut

- 1 cup sugar

- 1 cup semolina (smeed in Arabic)

- 3 tsp baking powder

- 2 eggs, beaten

- A few drops of vanilla

- 1 cup plain yogurt

- 1 cup oil (I used Canola)

- 1 Tbsp rose water (optional)

- 1 Tbsp orange blossom (optional)

- Raw blanched almonds for decoration, sliced

For the sugar syrup  (Qater in Arabic):

- 1.5 cups sugar

- 1 cup water

- A squeeze of lemon

- A few drops of orange blossom and rose water

Method:

Start with the sugar syrup. Bring the ingredients to boil for a few minutes, until it slightly thickens. Set aside. You need it cooled down, not hot.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Mix the dry ingredients together. Add the yogurt. Mix together. Add the oil. Mix together. Add the eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add the orange blossom and rose water. Pour the batter in the baking tray. Decorate with almonds.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the edges are golden.

Remove the tray from the oven and immediately pour over it the cool sugar syrup. Let the cake cool before cutting it into small squares (not like you’d cut a pound cake) and serving it with a cup of black tea.

Super duper easy and incredibly fluffy and moist and sweet!

Rice with Broad Beans and Spices

Broad bean, also known as Fava bean, is native to North Africa and the Middle East. In my culture, it is usually eaten raw (just like you’d eat edamame), cooked with rice and meat, or stir-fried with coriander and garlic and then eaten with bread. What I prepared tonight is the rice and meat recipe but without the meat. Being the ex-vegetarians that we are, R. and I try to avoid meat and chicken when we can.

For this recipe, I used frozen broad beans because I couldn’t find fresh beans at my local grocery store. I didn’t find any difference in taste, froze or fresh, so use what you have available.

Ingredients (serve 4):

- 1 small onion, finely chopped

- 1 Tbsp Canola oil

- 1 cup frozen broad beans

- 1 cup Basmati rice

- - 2 cups water

- 1 tsp salt

- 1 tsp all spice

Method:

Fry the onions in the oil until translucent. (If using minced meat, fry it with the onions)

Add the beans. Stir and fry for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the rice (wash it under running water before), stir and then add the salt, spices and water.

Bring to boil. Turn down heat to the minimum and cover. I think it will take around 20 minutes or so to cook.

Uncover, give the rice a gentle mix and serve hot with a bowl of salty yogurt.

Hot Chocolate Chip Vanilla Mocha

Tonight, I did one right thing and one wrong thing. The right thing was making this hot mocha drink. The wrong thing? Drinking it at 11 pm on a working night! What was I thinking?! I totally forgot about the espresso shot that I put in there, hard to believe I know, considering that I was the one who prepared this drink, but really I totally forgot about it.

Anyway, this is what you need to make one cup of Hot Vanilla Chocolate Chip Mocha:

- 1 cup milk (I use low fat)

- 1 Tbsp dark cocoa powder

- 1 Tbsp brown sugar

- 1 hot espresso shot

- A few drops of vanilla

- A few chocolate chips

Method:

- Heat the milk. Add the cocoa powder and sugar. Stir well until the milk is hot enough but not boiling. Add the drops of vanilla and espresso shot and turn off the heat. Pour into a mug and then drop the chocolate chips in. The chocolate chips will not float, but you will enjoy them melting in your mouth when your drink is nearing its end!