Friday, 17 April 2015

Chocolate Pomegranate Bars

Chocolate Pomegranate Bars

Beautiful Granddaughter dreamed up this recipe.  It’s delicious, simple, and she tossed it together in about twenty minutes (she’s ten years old) and let it chill in the freezer for about two hours.  It made a couple of inch thick bars, about five by seven inches.  We sliced the bars to serve in sensible portions.

Ingredients are simple enough:

Pot boiling water, with an empty pot to be placed above

1 cup chocolate chips
½ cup nutella
½ cup whole milk (could be full fat cream)
Pomegranate seeds (she ran out of patience after about ¼ cup)
Shredded coconut or sparkly sugar

Once the water is boiling, place the empty pot above it, being sure that the top pot doesn’t touch the water.  Add chocolate chips and nutella.  Use a spatula to stir from time to time, till chocolate chips are melted.  Once they smoothly mix, add the milk or cream.  Stir to combine into a smooth mix.

Fold in pomegranate seeds, then pour into moulds.  We happened to have silicone moulds, about three inches by seven inches.  

At this point BG would have liked to have sprinkled shredded coconut on top, but alas, the cupboard was bare.  We did have some fancy, iridescent sugar crystals, so she decorated the chocolate bars with that. Pop into freezer to chill about two hours.

Just before serving, slice with a sharp knife.  The result is ganache like, but studded with tangy morsels of pomegranate.  

These were just the dessert.  For dinner she made us Looee's Spaghetti with Meat Sauce.  It is wonderful to have a granddaughter after my own heart…

These slice easily, but don't be too greedy.  They're very rich.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Thai Coconut Chicken with Rice

Thai Coconut Chicken with Rice

A Thai curry has a very different set of flavours than an Indian curry, and it makes a nice change once in a while.  It has a sweeter taste, more fragrant and floral.  I should warn you that the Thai green curry paste is firecracker hot, so if you’re the mild type, add less than what I’ve described, and maybe leave out the Serrano pepper.  

Beside the fabulous flavours, a good reason for making this recipe is the easiness and speed of it.  Your dinner for four can be ready in about forty-five minutes.

Go carefully if you haven't used this before.  It's hot!
The chicken
1 tablespoon coconut oil             
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 stalk lemongrass
1” length of ginger or galangal, sliced into matchsticks
1 lime, juice and zest
1 red onion, sliced into 1” pieces
10 mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon green Thai curry paste
12 chicken thighs, skinned and boned
¼ cup coconut milk powder
10 asparagus stalks, cut into 2” lengths
1 Serrano pepper, sliced
1 sweet red pepper, sliced into 1” pieces
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper  

The Rice
1 ½ cups white rice, basmati or jasmine
3 cups water
½  teaspoon salt (or more if you’re a salt hound)
2 tablespoons coconut milk powder

In a large frying pan, heat the oil to medium high.  Add the mustard seed, cinnamon, ginger or galangal and lemongrass. (I will confess I didn’t have lemongrass, but wished I did.  More on what else I wished I had, later.)  

Let cook a few moments, till the mustard seed splutters and turns grey.  Add the onion, and turn to medium.  Cook for about ten minutes, till some of the onion is golden.  Add the mushrooms, and cook till some get a bit golden.  This dish doesn’t need to get dark, so don’t worry too much about caramelizing the onion or mushrooms, just a bit of browning is good for flavour.

Onion pieces can be quite large.
Stir in the curry paste and chicken thighs.  Sprinkle in the lime zest, but set the juice aside for now. Crank the heat up to high, and watch carefully.  Stir the chicken around as it gets a bit golden here and there.  It doesn’t need to get dark, though.  Stir in the coconut milk powder and cover with a tight fitting lid.  Continue to cook on medium low heat till you’re almost ready to serve it.

I like the powder over canned coconut milk because it’s easier to control the liquid.  The chicken and mushrooms will release a fair bit of water.  The coconut powder will make a nice gravy.  If it gets too thick, add a bit of water.  If it gets too thin, add more coconut powder.  This wonderful stuff puts you in charge.  If you added canned coconut milk, you’d lose control and the recipe would get soupy. 

Meanwhile, put on the rice.  Add rice (basmati or jasmine) to a pot with a good lid.  Add water, salt and coconut powder. Put on high heat till it begins to boil, then cover and put on low heat.  Let cook twenty minutes, which is when the chicken will be cooked and tender.

Five minutes of cooking these vegetables will keep them bright.
In the last ten minutes of cooking time, add the asparagus stems. (Not the tips.)  In the last five minutes of cooking time, add the sliced peppers and asparagus tips.  Just before plating, remove from heat and stir some of the lime juice into the chicken and taste.  Add salt, pepper and more lime juice if you like.  Remove the cinnamon and lemongrass. 

If I had Thai basil on hand, I would surely stir in the chopped leaves at the same time as the lime juice, but alas, I didn’t think far enough ahead to acquire it.  If I had organic flower blossoms lying around, I’d embellish this dish with some of those.  If I’d had jasmine rice, I might have used that, but I do love the basmati, so there you go.  This recipe is delicious, even the stripped down version made with the ingredients I happened to have on hand.  Please try it and let me know what you think.

All it needs is an organic orchid flower, right?  

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Maple Cream Panna Cotta

Maple Cream Panna Cotta

This luscious dessert can be made in the time it takes to escape the commercials interrupting a soap opera.  Seriously.  Chilling time is a few hours though, so do plan ahead.  

This recipe would serve ample servings to four people, though I brought it for a bookclub pot luck, and about fifteen women had spoonfuls only, since we had a ton of other desserts.

This tastes like a dream, but is silly easy to make. Better still, gelatin has health benefits you should know about.  According to WebMD: “Gelatin is used for weight loss and for treating osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritus, and brittle bones (osteoporosis). Some people also use it for strengthening bones, joints, and fingernails. Gelatin is also used for improving hair quality and to shorten recovery after exercise and sports-related injury.” 

1 package (one tablespoon) unflavoured gelatin powder
¼ cup boiling water
¾ cup hot milk
1 cup heavy cream (33% approximately)
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or to taste)

Sprinkle gelatin powder over boiling water, and stir.  Try to let it dissolve as much as possible.  Stir into the hot milk, continuing to aim for all the gelatin to dissolve.  Stir in the heavy cream.  Add one tablespoon of the best maple syrup you can find, and taste.  Add the next tablespoon a little at a time, and keep tasting.  You might want to go with a bit more, it’s up to you.

Strain into a pretty container, and chill for several hours.  Just before serving, dribble a little more syrup over the panna cotta.  Alas, I mistakenly deleted most of the pictures of this luscious concoction, but trust me, it’s a beauty!

So rich a mere spoonful is a treat!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Almond Panna Cotta with Lychees, Mandarins and Honeydew

Almond Panna Cotta with Lychees, Mandarins and Honeydew

This exotic dessert is simple and easy to make.  We made it for our Tai Chi New Year’s banquet for 130 people, and luckily I got to take some leftovers home.  Beautiful Granddaughter gave it her stamp of approval, and she’ll take a little in her lunch tomorrow.  The flavours are floral, sweet and creamy.  Silly easy too!

If you like the texture of egg custard, you’ll like this.  The amounts are somewhat peculiar, as this recipe is adapted from banquet cooking, but I’ve been thinking of what to do with an extra ingredient, which I’ll explain at the bottom of this recipe.  The panna cotta can be made in a pretty serving bowl, or in a cake pan if you want to slice it into cubes and then serve it in small bowls.  This recipe serves ten people, and preparation time is about fifteen minutes with at least three hours of chilling and setting time.

2 ½ packets Knox gelatin
¾ cup boiling water
2 ½ more cups boiling water*
¾ cup sweetened condensed milk*
1 teaspoon pure almond extract (or to taste)

1 can lychees, quartered
1 ten ounce can mandarin orange segments
½ small honeydew lemon, finely sliced
½ teaspoon fresh lime zest
1 teaspoon dried rose petals (available in Indian groceries)

For the banquet, I made huge amounts of this in industrial pans, and we measured and sliced the dessert into cubes that were served in tureens, family style.  At home, I make this in one pretty serving bowl.

Put the first amount of boiling water into a serving bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it.  Let soften for a few minutes and stir.  Add the rest of the boiling water, stirring to make sure all of the gelatin is well dissolved.  (If you like, you can substitute some of the juice in the canned fruit for boiling water, but be sure you have enough hot liquid to dissolve that gel.)

Sweetened condensed milk is sticky stuff.  Use a spatula to get it into a measuring cup.  You could use the whole can, but be warned it might get overly sweet.  Taste the mixture as you go.

If you do use all the can, you can add an extra half cup of boiling water, and the entire third pack of gelatin, if like me, you can't bear waste.  Whatever you do, don’t throw the extra condensed milk out, more on that later*.  

Stir the sweet sticky milk into the hot gel mixture, being very careful to smoothly mix it in.  Once it’s well combined, stir in the almond extract.  A little almond extract goes a long way, so add it in small amounts, tasting it.  You can add a little extra, but be careful because you can’t make it go away if you’ve added too much.

 Let cool and cover with plastic wrap.  In the meantime, combine the fruit, juices, lime zest and rose petals in a separate container.  Cover the fruit mixture and then chill both the panna cotta and the fruit for at least three hours, till the gel has set in the middle.  When serving, pour the fruit mixture and juice over the panna cotta and enjoy.  So tasty and so pretty!

The next time I make this at home I'll have time to take pics of the process.

*Leftover sweetened condensed milk can be greedily licked out of the can, like Kip did in The English Patient, or you could put the opened nearly empty can into an oven while you’re cooking something else.  Peek at it from time to time, and when the milk turns golden, use oven gloves to take it out and put it somewhere safe to cool.  You will have made a few tablespoons of dulce de leche which you will appreciate later, I am sure. 

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Apple Ginger Muffins

Apple Ginger Muffins

Winter lingers on, mornings are late and evenings are early, and only something hearty and comforting will lift my soul.  Warmly baked apples spiked with cinnamon and a whack of ginger, nestled into sweet muffins are the answer.  Whole wheat, bran and walnuts ensure they’re way more healthy than commercial muffins, and avocado oil makes them even better.

This recipe makes two dozen cheerful muffins, takes about thirty minutes to eating time, and cooks at 425 F.
Slice thinly then chop.

2 large ambrosia apples
1 cup walnuts
4 to 6 pieces candied ginger

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups bran
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground dried ginger 

1 egg
2 cups yogurt
2 tablespoons avocado oil
½ cup molasses

Preheat oven to 425 F and line muffin tins with paper cups.  (I’ve recently found that parchment paper cups work better than plain.  Muffins easily slide away from the parchment so you’re not obliged to scrape your teeth against paper, frantic to consume every last crumb.)

Quarter and core the apples, then thinly slice, then chop into pieces.  Chop walnuts.  Set apples and walnuts aside.  You can use commercial candied ginger, or make your own.  Home made candied ginger is the bomb!  Place candied ginger into blender and reduce to small bits, mostly powder.  You need about three tablespoons worth, once powdered.  Set aside.

My bowl was a little too small eventually.
In a large bowl, combine flour, bran, salt, soda, cinnamon, powdered ginger and powdered candied ginger.  Mix well with a large slotted spoon.  Add apples and walnuts and combine again. 

In a smaller bowl, beat egg.  Add yogurt.  Pour oil into a half cup measure, then add to egg and yogurt.  Pour molasses into the measure and it will smoothly pour into the egg mix.  Combine well.
Adapted from 1971 "New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook"

Stir the wet mix into the dry as briefly as possible.  Spoon into muffin cups.  Bake approximately fifteen to twenty minutes, till they smell great and are no longer shiny or wet looking. 

Cool a few minutes, then place on racks to cool.  You can eat these while they’re still warm.  If you’ve used parchment cups, you can enjoy them more easily, but if you used plain paper, they will glue themselves to the paper till they’ve completely cooled.  I am regretting my cheapskate ways this morning…

These muffins are healthy and delicious.  If you adore ginger like I do, you could double the ginger amounts, and be even happier! 

I've never had too much ginger, have you?

Parchment would have made eating these easier!