Friday, August 31, 2012

Puff Pastry

So after finally making the meat pies that I was craving I found myself quite dissatisfied with the shortcrust pastry that I had used. I decided that I needed to learn how to make better pastry. I looked and looked and finally settled on a recipe that looked simple and perfectly flaky. Now, my first attempt at the pastry was only half successful so I will have to update this soon enough, but even though my pastry seemed far too soft and buttery it still cooked up just fine. This time around I made beef pasties but next time I'll be making some sort of chicken pie, and hopefully for that one I will be able to show you some perfect, golden puff pastry. For now, though, here is a photo of the one perfect pasty and the recipe. And don't forget to set aside about 2 hours for making the pastry, because there's a lot of rolling and folding and waiting to be done.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First Ever Homemade Sushi

It turns out that sushi is really not so hard to make yourself, and just as delicious as the brought stuff (if not more so, because you can put whatever you like into it). I will definitely be making it again and again. On this particular occasion the fillings ranged from just vegetables, to vegetables, tuna and sweet chilli sauce, to peanut-satay chicken and vegetables. That one was probably my favourite. However, putting in pieces of fresh chilli was not such a good idea - those tiny little chunks of green packed a really strong punch. I also completely avoided the wasabi, it's really not my thing. I'd rather stick to the predominant taste of the sweet, tangy sushi rice. The hardest part about sushi is collecting up the ingredients, and that's not at all hard as all big supermarkets have foreign food sections in them now. Even here in Galway, where the supermarkets are often bereft of the most obvious ingredients. There are loads of sushi tutorials out there on the internet and now I am adding to them, with my own, that says nothing original, but for once has lots of step-by-step pictures. And writing this now is making me hungry for more sushi so perhaps I'll have to try it again this weekend.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Healthy Chocolate Mousse (in pie form)

I was scrolling through recipes the other day, looking for a yummy dessert that would satisfy my need for chocolate while not being terribly bad for me. There is a food magazine back home, the Healthy Food Guide, that is great to turn to when you need some ideas. They like to take old favourites and make them a bit healthier, so when I found a recipe for chocolate mousse on their website I had to try it! The first time I followed the recipe closely and it worked perfectly, but it was a very, very rich dessert. Which is perhaps why it is supposed to be portioned out as several quite small servings. However, it was too dark for my liking so I have altered the recipe somewhat. My first attempt to change the recipe failed completely - I think I left the gelatine for too long before adding it to everything else and it solidified on it's own, so my mousse was actually thick chocolate milk with gross lumps of gelatine! But, as they say, third time's a charm! Only mousse on it's own suddenly seemed a bit boring for a dinner party and a friend requested apple crumple, so I compromised with a biscuit base, apple filling and white chocolate mousse on top.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fresh Spring Rolls

These were amazingly easy and quick to make and really delicious. When I decided to make spring rolls for an evening of good food with my friends, I knew that I wanted to make the sort that are not deep fried and full of cabbage, but I wasn't quite sure what they would be like because I don't think I had ever eaten them before. Anyway, there are loads of tutorials on the internet and the end product tasted really good. Plus they've got to be pretty healthy and good for you, considering that all they consist of is rice and vegetables. They are made with something called rice paper, that you can get from your local asian food store. It is hard and sort of plasticy, but then when you dip it into warm water it gets bendy, then becomes soft and pliable, sort of rubbery. It's sticks to itself too, so the rolls stay all wrapped up. The noodles that you fill them with are made with the same sort of stuff - they are called rice noodles and you just dip them in hot water for a few minutes.  I would really recommend these as a quick, healthy evening meal, especially for a hot day, or for taking on a picnic, or serving up as an appetiser to impress your guests.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cranberries, Macadamias and White Chocolate

Today's cookie recipe is an idea that I've been meaning to try for awhile, and it is not overly original but definitely a winning combination. The recipe is based on my new favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe, which makes me feel sort of like I'm betraying my old go-to chocolate chip recipe, but this new one really is good. I think it might be the addition of rolled oats. I will have to make both recipes alongside each other one day and really figure out what is the difference, and if I like one better. For now though, this particular cookie adaptation was a big hit, with at least one recipient insisting that these were her favourite cookie so far. Plus you could try to tell people that they are healthy, what with the oats, cranberries and macadamia nuts. You can ignore all the sugar and butter.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Another Quick Pasta Meal

Once again a day came along where I got home late, starving hungry after an hour on the climbing wall and needing sustenance to keep me awake at the cinema. Yet there was very little food in my cupboards. What to do? Make pasta of course! I had onion, a couple of slightly wrinkly peppers, butter and parmesan. Twenty minutes later and I had a delicious, relatively healthy meal (sure, it was full of butter, but peppers and onion are both vegetables, right?). Unfortunately I didn't write down the details of that meal immediately so here is an approximate recipe to make your life easier at the end of a long day.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Improvising with Peppers and Tomatoes

After making an amazing cheesecake for this month's crazy cooking challenge I was so sad to find out that it was the last one, and that the crazy cooking challenge was only a year long thing. But luckily, the improv cooking challenge seems to be a more permanent thing. This month's ingredients were tomato and peppers, and I nearly did not enter because the days have just been slipping away from me! At the start of the week I realised that I had to make something quick if I wanted to join in, and I immediately tried to think of how I could bake with peppers and tomatoes, because I really do like baking more, and I already have so many soup and pasta recipes featuring these two ingredients. I'm not sure if you can actually bake anything sweet with these ingredients and I didn't have time to try, so I'm looking forward to seeing the other entries. My entry is muffins - delicious savoury muffins to have for lunch or alongside soup.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Double Chocolate Orange Tofu Pie

What do you make for dessert when all of the evening's food has an asian theme? What began as a sushi night turned into a general asian food night, with spring rolls and satay chicken and all sorts of dipping sauces (there will be more on this in a couple of days). My plan was to make fresh spring rolls, and I saw one example on the internet that had tofu in them. However, the tofu that I bought was silken tofu and not right for frying or anything like that. So then I thought, what can I do with it? I was going to make it into a creamy sauce to combine all of the ingredients for the spring rolls, but then I found a dessert idea and there was no going back. I really, highly recommend this, it was absolutely amazing, far better than a custard-based chocolate pie.

Of course, I had heard of tofu-based desserts before, but it's just not an ingredient that I generally have lying around, so I never bothered with it. I always intended to though. There is a dessert blog that I follow that is dedicated to healthy desserts, but that chocolate pie was too healthy. I needed one with real chocolate in it, and a biscuit base. I adapted mine from two different recipes and whipped out my brand new hand blender to mix it up (I had to get a new one because the old one was really crappy and when I tried to fix it I cut my thumb to bits - not literally though, it was just cut a little). Anyway, to get back to the point, which is chocolate upon chocolate, after filling my chocolate biscuit base with chocolate-orange tofu filling I thought that it needed just a little something more, and I had some leftover cinema candy that I kept nibbling at and just had to get rid of. So I scattered it over the pie so that some mouthfuls will have a bit of crunch to them!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Spinach & Tomato Spaghetti

Sometimes, when you are really hungry, you just can't wait for a proper meal to cook, so if you can't make something quick you end up filling up on chocolate and junk food and then you are not hungry for real food when it is finally ready. But it's not really enough so then in the middle of the night you wake up hungry. It's not a good way to go about having a healthy diet. Yet it is a way of life that I am prone to slipping into, thus in order to have a healthy diet I really on quick meals or leftovers from the weekend for most week-day evenings. That's why you will find an unproportionate number of quick and easy pasta meals on this blog - pasta is my go-to when I am in a hurry, because I know that I can throw together whatever I have and make something yummy, with very little risk that it will turn out awful. So today's quick and easy pasta meal is spaghetti with fresh cherry tomatoes and spinach.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Couscous Tuna Salad

I invented this recipe on the spot to fit in with my flatmates attempt at a detox diet and it was so delicious that I had make a record of it for future attempts. This is the sort of simple meal that can be thrown together with everything that's just sitting around in the cupboard or fridge, and can be adapted in about a million different ways. It uses canned tuna and sweetcorn, to make it even faster, but I've found that some of the cheap brands really don't taste so good if they're not doused in sauces and flavourings, so watch out for that. This is mostly designed as a lunch meal but if you are a poor student like me you will find it makes a decent enough evening meal too!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Irish Car Bomb Cheesecake

Cooking challenge time again! I have had this recipe for months and been waiting for an excuse to use it, so I was very excited when this month's challenge turned out to be cheesecake! Recipes like this one were floating around the blog hops for St Paddie's this year but I have had no excuse to make such a decadent treat until now, with not only the cooking challenge to motivate me but a 30th birthday party too! This dessert is layers of richness, starting with a very heavy, chocolatey guinness brownie, covered with a thick layer of baileys cheesecake and topped with whiskey chocolate ganache. I had never heard of an Irish car bomb before (the cocktail I mean) but I've since been told that it's more an American thing and quite un-PC here - enough so that you should definitely not ask for one in a bar, especially up north. Not that I would ask for one anyway, it sounds awful! A mixture of guinness, baileys and whiskey? Bleugh. Don't let that put you off though, because in cheesecake form it's amazing! You can't taste the guinness in the brownie, I used biscotti-flavoured baileys and changed the recipe around a bit to make an unbaked cheesecake and instead of pouring the whiskey chocolate ganache over the top I swirled it through - and very glad that I did because it turned out to be incredibly rich.

Irish Car Bomb Cheesecake
Adapted from Triple Irish Cheesecake 

Guinness Brownie Base
1/2 cup stout (guinness)
70 grams bittersweet dark chocolate
90 grams butter
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and prepare a 9 inch round cake tin.

In the microwave or on the stove, melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring until the mixture is smooth. Let it cool slightly, then whisk in the sugar and the egg.

Stir the guinness (or other stout) into the mixture, then fold in the flour and the cocoa powder. Pour the batter carefully into the prepared tin, and bake for 30 minutes. Let the brownie cool completely before continuing.

Whiskey Chocolate Glaze
85 grams bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon whiskey
1/2 cup heavy cream

Melt the chocolate and cream together in the microwave or on the stove, being careful that the chocolate does not overcook and burn. Then stir in the whiskey and set it aside.

Baileys Cheesecake
250 gram packet cream cheese
1/4 cup baileys
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 sachet gelatine (however much is supposed to set 500 mL) in 3/4 cup boiling water

Prepare the gelatine by whisking into the boiling water, then place in fridge until it is sort of thick, but not fully set.

Meanwhile, beat the cream until it is thick, then in a separate bowl beat the cream cheese with the caster sugar until the sugar has dissolved.

Fold the cream, the baileys and the gelatine into the cream cheese. If the mixture is still quite thick after this, you can immediately spread it on top of the brownie. However, if the mixture is very liquidy, like mine was, place it in them fridge for half an hour or so, until it is not runny any more, before spreading it over the brownie base.

Take the cooled chocolate sauce and drizzle it over the cheesecake filling, then use a knife or fork to swirl it around.

Let the cheesecake set in the refrigerator overnight (24 hours is best).



Monday, August 6, 2012

Lighter Bolognaise

Now, by lighter I don't mean lower in fat, I just mean that it tastes lighter, on account of this bolognaise being based on poultry and not red meat. I made it because turkey mince was on sale and I thought I would give it a go, only in the recipe below I have specified chicken mince because I like chicken better. It turned out to make a very different meal to the usual bolognaise; instead of being very rich and meaty and savoury it was - well, the only word that I currently have in my head to describe it is lighter. And chicken-y. Sort of like crossing chicken soup with spaghetti bolognaise. I served it with seasoned, breaded courgette and discovered another way that I can enjoy this particular vegetable that I have never liked much.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Eggplant Soup

Do you ever have the problem of wanting to eat lots of vegetables but not actually liking all of them so much? I have that problem quite a lot. I really like the idea of eating eggplant, and it's such a pretty colour, but I just don't like it much. I don't like the texture and I don't like the taste, but I also don't want to give up on having a lot of variety in my diet. So what is the answer? The answer to making all vegetables delicious is always soup! After turning too many courgettes into a really delicious courgette soup I saw a recipe for eggplant and tomato soup, so I just had to give eggplants another chance. However, the recipe title was for roasted eggplant and tomato soup and there was no roasting involved in the recipe, so I went back to the blogger's source, which was a blog all about soup! It is called Seriously Soupy and the website appears to have been upgraded, which for some reason means that the author's multitude of soup recipes are know very difficult to find, and when I finally did find an index list of all the recipes, this particular one was not on it! So that was weird. But I had a good browse of other soup recipes and then made the soup by my own method, simply by roasting everything first, and I gotta say that eggplant is very edible in soup form. So for any other people out there who love the look of this vegetable but not the taste, you should turn it into soup.