Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Roasted tomatoes pasta

I am definitely enjoying my garden this year. We have been blessed with nice weather so far and thanks to that everything is growing and flowering like mad.

My tomatoes have just started to form, I have to give them couple more weeks.

Well, I was craving tomato pasta right now so I got inspired by beautiful Sophie Dahl. I used her Roasted tomato soup as base for sauce and shop-bought cherry tomatoes.
No measurements this time, just feel free to add everything according to your taste.
Put cherry tomatoes into ovenproof dish. Add unpeeled gloves of garlic, a few springs of thyme, rosemary, oregano and season with freshly ground pepper and salt. Add good splash of olive oil and roast in oven for 175 C degrees for at least 30-40 minutes or until tomatoes start bursting.
Meanwhile cook the pasta (I used tagliatelle).
Take the tomatoes out of the oven. Fish out springs of herbs (leave leaves in sauce). Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and mash everything slightly with fork. Add the cooked pasta. Crumble over some feta cheese (mozzarella would work very well too, but I didn't have any) and scatter some basil leaves. Enjoy with glass of wine.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Peach jelly cake

This cake reminds me of my childhood. It was probably the very first one that I made myself when I was about 7 years old, without any help from my mum or granny. And many times after that... It is really easy to make and there is no need for special ingredients, everything is usually in the cupboard.
As the time progressed I learnt a lot of new recipes and improved my cooking and baking skills, and I forgot about this one. But recently I have been in nostalgic mood, so I decided to make old school peach jelly cake.
For cake you need:
175g caster sugar
175g soft unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
100ml buttermilk or thin yogurt
200g self-rising flour
Beat sugar and butter until smooth, then add eggs, one by one and beat. Add vanilla extract, buttermilk and flour and mix. Pour into lightly greased baking tin and bake in preheated oven for 175 C degrees for about 25-30 minutes. Let it cool.
For jelly you can use any suitable fruit in syrup (in tin). The best is peach, apricot or blueberry.
Take the fruit out of tin, slice and arrange onto the baked cake. Pour the syrup from tin into a measuring jug and top up with water so you have 500ml of liquid altogether. Pour the liquid in pan with 3 tbsp of caster sugar and bring it to boil. In the meantime dissolve 40g of custard powder in 100ml of water. When the liquid in pan is boiling, add the custard mixture. The jelly will thicken and become translucent. Take it from the heat and let it cool slightly. Don't forget to mix it from time to time to keep the texture smooth. Then pour onto cake with fruit and let it set for couple of hours. Little bit of whipped cream on the top compliments the flavours very well.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Herbs in early spring

Spring is such a delightful time of year. Particularly for those who - like me - love gardening. First edible results of your hard work are ready to be picked.
Rocket - strong peppery flavour is exceptionally good in salads, with pasta and last year I even made a batch of rocket and walnut pesto.
Chives - this is probably my favourite herb. It is always first to come, fine oniony flavour complements many savoury dishes. And its lovely flowers are very attractive for bee, too. That's what we want - to attract wild live to the garden to help pollinate.
Lemon balm - in my opinion very undervalued herb. Tea infusion made from it is very refreshing. It is also great in mixtures - with sage to calm sore through and with mint to help digestion. It can be dried and stored for months.

Spinach - well, no need to remind of this little fella. Its baby leaves are delicious in salads and bigger ones in stews, with pasta, in omeletes... Possibilities are endless.

Radish - that is such a nice thing to bite into. Its crunchiness and sharp flavour make nice addition to salads. I have planted 3 different varieties, this long one is my winner.
Everything in my garden is blooming, bees are busy and I can look forward to tomatoes, courgettes and peppers.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Garden in early spring

Gardening became my new passion. I grew up as a city girl, the best way how to get fresh fruit and veg was to go to the farmers market. When we were looking for The House to buy for ourselves here in Ireland, the size and orientation of the garden was a major issue. Finally we managed to find good size South West facing garden.
This is the third spring in our house. During the first two years we tried to figure out what plant where, which plant can survive a lot of rain and perhaps a lack of sunshine. I adopted very simple approach: if something could grow in my grandmother's garden in North of Slovakia, it will surely grow in the middle of Ireland. Summers are just about the same and winters are much warmer with almost no snow or frost.

This is our apple tree - must-have in the garden. The tree itself is barely taller than me, but it produces fruits right from the beginning. Well, first year we only had 2 apples out of it, but last year 26! This year it looks pretty good too.

Gooseberry bush. We only planted it a year ago with no luck for fruit so far. Maybe this time.

Redcurrant bush. Oh yes, I really do love them and I hope no birds munching on my currant this year!

Last, but not least - black currant bush. We only had a handful last year, so this time hope for best.

One more fruit is planted in our garden - of course, strawberries. They don't look particularly interesting at the moment, so no picture ;-)

Next time: vegetable and herbs.

Friday, March 26, 2010

What to eat in Zurich

In short: chocolate, macaroons and cheese. And if you have more time, get some fondue, roesti, sauerkraft, sausages or visit Michelin star restaurant.
Last week I spent 4 days in Zurich using hospitality of my brother and his wife. As many of my trips, this one was food orientated as well. Oh yes, we went to Luzerne and Rigi (one of Alp's mountains) and explored Zurich's surroundings a bit. But most of all we just wanted to enjoy each others company - with such a distance between us it doesn't happen so often.
So I had fondue in my brother's place, sausages with sauerkraft and roesti (potato pancake) in lovely gastropub just off Bahnhofstrasse and amazing experience in Michelin star restaurant mesa. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures in mesa Restaurant - I was far too busy admiring the food and guessing which cutlery to use for each dish ;-)
As usually the important part came - what to bring home. If you are like me - love chocolate too much - you would be spoilt for choice in Zurich. I am sure I've seen at least 1000 different types of Easter Bunnies, I've never seen so many of them in my life. 5 of them found the way to my house too.
The most famous chocolate place in Zurich is probably Sprungli. And I can see why. I was feeling like a kid in candy shop, literally and it took me a while to choose some gifts. Beside Easter Bunny and box of pralines it was box of macaroons which are called Luxemburgerli here.

They are still looking wonderful in this picture, bearing in mind they had traveled 1000 km.

There was a note saying "best enjoy as soon as possible" So I did. My favourites were bourbon vanilla, caramel fler de sol and cappuccino.

This is another important thing that I was looking forward to. Fresh chocolate Laderach sold by weight. I had to lock it in the cupboard to prevent from getting eaten before Easter.

Well, Zurich is really place for chocolate lovers!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Stracciatella torte

So far not everything has been going on as I planned this year. I planned to be very active, to post more often on my blog, to loose some weight, to make more bead earrings, to try more recipes, to finish knitting my red jumper... After bad weather in January, I got really bad tonsillitis in February and all my great plans were long gone. I did not feel like eating or moving, let alone trying something new and do some stuff! When I eventually got a bit better I did try something new - in this case biscotti, which I will post later about.
As my husband is working away for a while, we did not have a chance for Valentine dinner in time. He gave me very nice present - CDs and DVD of my favourite group Nerez. This music brings back the memories of my years at college... I was listening to it when I was preparing our belated Valentine dinner: prawn and rocket salad for starter, smoked salmon risotto for main and stracciatella torte as desert.
It is the best way to prepare the sponge the day before and fill it after it has rested for good few hours.
125g caster sugar
3 eggs
80g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa
Cream eggs and caster sugar in electric mixer until the mixture is pale and thick. Then sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa and mix. Pour into buttered 20cm baking tin and bake in preheated oven for 175 C for about 25-35 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean. Remove and leave to rest, preferably overnight.
Cut horizontally in 3 and get the filling ready.
Mix 250g ricotta, 50g icing sugar, 1 tbsp vanilla extract and 10g finely grated dark chocolate.
Now you can assemble the cake. Put the first layer on the cake stand and moisten with few drops of liqueur. I used Creme de Cassis, but amaretto or some fruit liqueur would be nice too. Spread half of ricotta mixture over, cover with the second part of sponge, moisten with liqueur again, spread the rest of ricotta mixture and cover with the remaining sponge part.
Then whip 250ml of whipping cream with 2-3 tbsp vanilla sugar (to your taste). Spread whipped cream on top and sides of torte and smooth it slightly. Grate dark chocolate over the whole cake. It is best to do it from about 30cm above cake as the chocolate distributes evenly. I used sugar coated chocolate balls for final decoration, but you can use any chocolate chips or omit this altogether.
Goes very well with cup of espresso.

Monday, January 18, 2010

White chocolate chips cookies

On Saturday I went to see my friend Martina and her partner Jan. They have the best news - just moved to a new house and are having a baby in 10 days time. Tiny Martina is getting pretty big and she can't be as active as she used to be. And she loves white chocolate. So when I was thinking about edible present for her, I decided to go for Sultana and white chocolate chips cookies.

100g golden caster sugar
100g butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp golden syrup
200g plain flour + 1/2 tsp baking powder
100g white chocolate chips (or chopped bar)
50g sultanas

Cream first 5 ingredients, then add flour with baking powder and finally chocolate and sultanas. Use ice-cream scoop to drop the mixture onto buttered baking sheet well apart. Bake in preheated oven for 175 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Leave to cool on wire rack.