Friday, August 26, 2011

A meal to impress ...

So here I am, back in Ireland, with my lovely kitchen, and my first post upon return is going to be a big one! Last night I made a big, pull out all the stops meal for a friend that went down an absolute treat so now I must of course share my recipes with the world (as in my small world of readers). There are sadly not photos of everything because we were slightly too busy eating. But I am sure that I will make the same again some time so in the future perhaps a photo will appear here? I cannot seem to resist my penchant for Italian food so this lovely meal was very influenced by that - it began with a snack, a starter, of my own take on bruschetta. Then for the main there was plain, simple risotto, sauteed green vegetables and stuffed chicken breasts. Finally, dessert, the most important bit! Dessert did not actually match the meal at all, not one bit, because you see I had missed a few birthday's while away so had to make up for it with cupcakes, and I have had this recipe that I have wanted to try for so long. So the group activity of the evening was to make delicious peanut-butter chocolate-fudge cupcakes! They may not have been the most appropriate dessert for that particular meal but they were so good! So all of these recipes are about to follow, but I often just throw things together so some of this is an estimate of what I did.

Bruschetta with Basil and Cream Cheese

1 baguette
10-15 cherry tomatoes (huge estimate, because for some reason I had huge cherry tomatoes and used only two. I reckon they were about at least twice the size of the cherry tomatoes that one normally buys though)
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 teaspoon basil paste (probably about a tablespoon or so of chopped fresh basil?)

This I actually prepared the night before. I chopped the tomatoes up really small and put them in a small bowl. I crushed the garlic and stirred that into the tomatoes along with the olive oil, then covered it and left it in the fridge overnight.

To serve, I sliced the baguette and toasted it in the oven. While it was toasting I mixed the cream cheese with the basil. I then simply spread the cheese onto the bread and topped with a spoonful of tomatoe mixture.

Just so that we are clear about this - hugely successful little starter. It was really yummy. And so easy! I have leftover tomatoes so I guess I will just have to have some more this evening ...

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

2 chicken breast fillets
4 slices wholegrain bread
A handful of baby spinach leaves
4 cherry tomatoes
25-50 grams parmesan, grated (sorry, another big estimate. I just used what was left in the fridge!)
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

First of all, the bread is for making breadcrumbs with so chuck it in a food processor and chop it as small as you can (or of course, just buy breadcrumbs, but this is nicer). Then put the breadcrumbs aside in a bowl and to the food processor add the tomatoes, spinach and parmesan. Give it a really good chop, make it as fine as you can.

Mix together the cream cheese with the oregano and tomato mixture, then add a handful of the breadcrumbs so that the mixture sort of holds its shape somewhat. Now comes the trickiest bit - stuffing the chicken breasts. I have read recipes for this sort of thing where you pound the chicken into schnitzel and roll it, but that to me sort of changes it from stuffed chicken breast to something completely different. I like it to still have the right shape. So what I did was slice a sort of pocket lengthwise into the fillets. The difficult but is to not cut right through the flesh at the top or bottom of your little 'pocket'.

So once you have your chicken ready to be stuffed, however you like it, place in a spoonful or so of your cheesy stuffing mixture. You don't want it to be over-full because it will just all fall out when you cook it. The next step, and final step actually before cooking is to coat the outside of the fillets in more breadcrumbs, and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, maybe a bit more parmesan. I did not use egg for this, just wet my hands under the tap and patted water onto each fillet, then carefully rolled in the breadcrumbs. I was then worried that all the stuffing would leak out so I placed them on the tray with the open side facing up.

These were baked at 180 degrees celsius and were ready after 20 minutes (they were quite small fillets) but I left them in 30 mintues just to be sure! In order to have everything sort of ready at the right time, I had prepared this early and then left it sitting until I was ready to cook it. I toasted the bruschetta first, so the oven was hot, and then popped these directly in.

Sauteed Green Vegetables

1 courgette/zuchinni
1/2 head of brocolli
Baby spinach leaves
1 carrot
2 tablespoons olive oil
25 grams butter
Black pepper to season

First, the courgette needs to be sliced quite thin, to slices no more than a half centimetre thick. The brocolli needs to be chopped into small florets, the carrot cut however you like and the spinach leaves shredded somewhat. Then you are ready to begin! This will take about 10 minutes or so - I began after everything else was pretty much ready to be served. It's really simple.

Heat your oil and butter in a large, flat-bottomed frying pan. When it is hot, throw in the vegetables and simply keep them moving somewhat, because to saute is essentially the same as to stir-fry really. Just keep it all moving around until everything is done to your like. Season with black pepper, and salt if you like. A bit of garlic would be nice, but I did not want to overdo it on the garlic so I left that out of the vegetables on this ocassion.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

200 grams butter
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
100 grams dark chocolate
3/4 cup sugar (I used half dark brown, half white caster)
1/2 cup sour cream (or normal cream would do)
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs

First of course you need to preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius and prepare your cupcake tin - this recipe was the perfect amount for 12 cupcakes.

In a saucepan on the stove melt together the butters, chocolate and sugar. When the mixture is smooth and well combined, pour into a large bowl and let it cool somewhat.

When cool, stir in the sour cream. Sift in the flour and cocoa and give this a good stir too.

Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the mixture, mixing just slightly to combine. Don't over mix here (though if you do, chances are that it won't really matter, maybe your cupcakes will just be a little denser). Spoon the mixture carefully into your cupcake tin, and you should find that it perfectly fills 12 cupcake holes about 3/4 of the way up - the perfect amount for a cupcake really.

Bake for 20 minutes and let them cool, trying to resist eating any before frosting them!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting

75 grams butter
75 grams smooth peanut butter
1 cup (250 grams) icing sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
About 4 tablespoons of milk

Cream together the butters and then sift in the sugar. Cream well, until the texture is like frosting!

Sift in the cocoa powder and continue to beat, adding the milk until the mixture is not too stiff (because you want it to be easy to spread or pipe).

This made the perfect amount for 12 cupcakes so I was quite pleased with that! I piped it on with a star nozzle for that fancy look, but you could just spread it. You could even top it with chopped nuts. I did find though that the frosting was a little salty on account of all the peanut butter so if this is not to your liking you may want to use unsalted normal butter, and maybe peanut butter that does not have added salt, and maybe more butter and less peanut butter. But I liked it the was it was!

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