Sunday, August 19, 2007

Quick treats

Time is of essence now that I'm in the finish of studying for exams, so there has been not much cooking or baking for me recently. However, one needs to have a little break sometimes, especially when you're feeling like your brain was starting to explode when squeezing in some new fact. Now that is definately a time when you need: treats!

I guess everyone has a few treats that they enjoy making and return to in times of need. So here are a few of mine, interestingly a breakfast, main course and dessert :) Not made on the same day, though.

Porridge is not something we have a tradition of eating in Hungary. Actually, it took me quite long to dare attempt making a porridge because it somehow seemed odd: rolled oats soaked in water and/or milk, what on earth could that taste like?? Well, I must say, they taste awesome! Real comfort food. And it's healthy! Now I only feel sorry that quick porridge is not available here, because with the original method it takes too long to prepare on a work day - at least I'm too lazy to get up earlier to make this, no matter how good, I'm simply not a morning type of person: I guess Bill would drive me crazy with his morning "chirping" as he calls it LOL

The first time I made porridge I used Bill's recipe in Open Kitchen, and since it turned out lovely, I use this again and again.

Five-grain porridge with brown sugar peaches
(Serves 4)

250g mixed grains
600ml boiling water
600ml milk
3 peaches, quartered
80g brown sugar

Caramelize the peaches in hot oven with the sugar (about 15 min). Since I usually prepare 1 portion, I do this in a pan, not in the oven. Not the same, I know, but I feel it'd be too extravagant to turn on the oven to caramelize 1 peach LOL
Mix the grains with the water in a pan and leave for 10 minutes. Then add the milk and slowly bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10 min, stirring often.

Serve with the peach quarters and some brown sugar sprinkled over, and warm milk (is that compulsory for a porridge, I wonder, because I leave that out and it doesn't seem to be missing). A great way to start the day especially if you have some brain work to do ;)

For the quick main course I turned to Bill again. His Warm tomato and ricotta pasta salad is my favourite pasta dish ever. I have changed it a bit, the greatest difference is that I use balsamic vinegar instead of the red wine vinegar, because it complements and highlights the sweetness of the tomatoes much more nicely and I don't always use ricotta, I find the crumblier and coarser curd cheese or the sharp, salty feta a nicer complement to this. And I sometimes leave out the bread crumbles.
This time I used wholemeal penne, feta and cherry tomatoes from my Grandma's garden, mmm. Oh, and I added some green olives, because I had a jar open.

Here's the original recipe, though:

Warm tomato and ricotta pasta salad
Serves 4
500 g (2 baskets) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
80 ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil
60 ml (14 cup) red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 thick slices wholemeal or sourdough bread
1 garlic clove, sliced in half
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, extra
500 g (1 Ib 2 oz) rigatoni
60 g (1 cup) finely shredded basil leaves
250 g (9 oz) fresh ricotta cheese

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Place the tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and sugar in a large bowl and stir to combine.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cover and leave to marinate while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Rub the bread on both sides with the cut side of the garlic.
Brush with the extra olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
Put the bread on a baking tray and place in the oven.
Cook for 20 minutes, or until crisp.
Remove from the oven and crumble into coarse breadcrumbs with your hands.
Set aside.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente.
Drain well, then add to the tomatoes.
Add the basil and toss to combine.

Divide the pasta between four serving plates, or put it on one large serving dish, crumble over the ricotta cheese and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

So, after a breakfast and a main course, what else does a girl want? Chocolate of course. And if she's as mad about baking as me, she has to do "something" with it, not simply get a bar of good quality chocolate. Especially if the following cupcake is the favourite of her husband ;)
The recipe is a marriage of Nigella's Night and day cupcake recipe from HTBADG and
the icing recipe for her Chocolate fudge cake from NB. The idea for using this icing comes from a fellow foodie, Jane in France, the swirling is my addition. It's a really complex recipe, you see LOL

Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate swirl icing

2 scant tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons boiling water
75g sugar
50g dark brown sugar
125g self-rising cake flour
2 large eggs
125g very soft unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk

1. Preheat the oven to 200. Mix the cocoa to a paste with the boiling water and set aside while you make the cupcake mixture.2. This couldn't be easier: Just put the sugars, flour, eggs, and butter and vanilla in the processor and blitz to combine smoothly.3. Scrape the mixture from the sides and then pulse while you add the cocoa paste and milk down the funnel. You should have a batter with a soft dropping consistency: If not, add a little more milk.4. Dollop into the paper baking cups in the pan and bake for 20 minutes, until an inserted cake tester comes out clean.5. Leave in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove, in the paper baking cups, to a wire rack.

For the fudge icing:
90g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
125g unsalted butter, softened
120-140g icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp vanilla extract

To make the icing, melt the chocolate in the microwave - 2-3 minutes on medium should do it -or in a bowl sitting over a pan of simmering water, and let cool slightly. In another bowl, beat the butter until it's soft and creamy and then add the sieved icing sugar and beat again until everything's light and fluffy. Then gently add the vanilla and chocolate and mix together until everything is glossy and smooth.