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“Nest” Cupcakes

1 Feb

Like a lot of women people I know, I probably spend too much time on Pinterest. I waste a lot of time on there, just browsing and pinning things “for later”. In my defence, I have actually made quite a few things that I’ve pinned (cards, food, drinks) and I’ve used some of my pins for party-planning, so I feel that Pinterest can be very useful. When my best friend recently had her bird/nest-themed baby shower, I knew I could find inspiration on Pinterest…and that I did. These Martha Stewart-inspired cupcakes were just so cute that I had to make them.

I didn’t actually use Martha’s recipe until it got to the decorating instructions (the recipes for the cupcakes and frosting below are ones I’ve used many times before). Quite simply, all you are doing is putting some frosting on a cupcake, digging a little well into the frosting, covering the frosting in toasted coconut, and placing some of the eggs in the well. I found it easier than trying to frost cupcakes as people can’t see the mess you’ve made of the frosting with all that coconut on it!

The eggs are the mini Cadbury candy eggs, which you can buy in the stores all year round (I bought mine at London Drugs). If you are making these for a baby shower (really, I don’t when else you would want nest cupcakes) and if you know what sex the baby will be, you could theme it with pink or blue eggs. We didn’t know what sex the baby will be so I went with a mix of both, however, I think the blue ones look like Robin’s eggs so they were my favourite.

Vanilla Cupcakes – Makes over 24

250g unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
3 cups self-raising flour (using cake flour makes these extra fluffy)
1 cup milk

Method:
Preheat oven to 180C. Beat butter, sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat well after each addition.

Add ½ the sifted flour and ½ the milk and stir until combined, then add remaining flour and milk and stir until combined.

Line two 12-hole muffin tins with paper cake cases. Spoon 2 tablespoons of mixture into each paper case and bake for 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool cakes in tin.

Butter-cream Icing:

1 cup butter, softened
5 cups sifted icing sugar
½ cup whipping cream
½ tsp vanilla

Method:
In a large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Alternately beat in sugar and cream, making 2 additions of sugar. Beat in vanilla.

Final steps:
Once the cupcakes have cooled, frost the cupcakes generously and use your thumb to make a well in the middle of the cupcake. Dip the frosted cupcake into your toasted coconut flakes and fill the well with three mini eggs.

Scallop Pasta with Champagne Sauce

5 Jan

I have a habit of taking photos of enticing recipes whilst reading magazines in waiting-rooms. My intention is to cook whatever it is immediately but the reality is that the photo sits on my phone for months, even years, without me ever glancing at, let alone actually making the dish. This is just pure laziness on my behalf and I’d like to change that.

On New Years Eve, rather than going out to party, B and I stayed in and I attempted to make at least a few of the recipes that have been lying dormant on my phone. I knew that B and I would be sharing a bottle of bubbles to celebrate New Years Eve so this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to stop procrastinating and make the Scallop Pasta with Champagne Sauce recipe that I’ve been eyeing off for ages. This recipe comes from the Spring 2013 issue of “Taste” magazine, which you can pick up from BC Liquor.

Of course you don’t need to use actual Champagne for this recipe. A good sparkling wine or Prosecco will suffice (and it is much cheaper). Another substitute you may have to make is with the pasta. I had difficulties finding angel hair pasta so I opted for spaghettini instead – I don’t think it really makes much of a difference. I found this recipe to be quite simple, yet impressive enough that I’d recommend it for a date night, or if you are trying to impress some guests (it could be served as an appetizer in a smaller portion). Happy New Year!

Scallop Pasta with Champagne Sauce – Makes Serves 4

1 1/2 cups (375ml) of Champagne, or sparkling wine
4 shallots, minced
4 Tbsp (60ml) whipping cream
1/2 cup (125ml) cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 lb (500 grams) of angel hair pasta, or spaghettini
2 tsp (10ml) butter
1 tsp (5ml) olive oil
1 1/2 lb (750 grams) of quality scallops, hinge muscle removed
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 Tbsp (60ml) chives, chopped

Method
In a small saucepan, combine Champagne and shallots and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid has reduced to 1/2 cup (125ml), 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in whipping cream and cubed butter, a few cubes at a time. Return pan to low heat and continue whisking until all butter has been added. Remove from heat and reserve.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. When boiling, add salt and cook pasta to al dente. Drain and reserve pasta.

When sauce is ready, add pasta and stir to coat. In a heavy non-stick pan, heat 1 tsp (5ml) butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add scallops and sear until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange seared scallops on a nest of hot pasta and sprinkle with chopped chives.

Jamie Oliver’s Herb Salad on Tomato Bruschetta

29 Aug

Please don’t judge me too harshly on how basic this recipe is. I have been feeling less than enthusiastic about spending time in the kitchen this summer and this recipe shows just how lazy I’ve become over the past few months. I was going to hide behind the guise that this recipe is seasonal – tomatoes are in full swing here on the West Coast – and whilst that is part of the reason why I made this dish, the reality is that it took about 5 minutes from start to finish and that was the appeal.

If you are looking for a healthy, tasty snack or a light lunch, and you have some fresh tomatoes and a handful of assorted herbs, then give this recipe a go. Although it is extremely easy to make, this dish will only taste as good as your produce. If your tomatoes are out of season, then this dish will not pack the same punch as fresh off-the-vine tomatoes and herbs bursting with flavour. Get the best tomatoes you can and go nuts on the herbs!

I honestly hope to be a bit more thrilled about my return to the kitchen come fall, but for now, I’m going to continue enjoying the last breath of summer. Hope you are too!

Jamie Oliver’s Herb Salad on Tomato Bruschetta – Serves 4

3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, mixed colours, roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded and chopped (optional)
4 slices of ciabatta bread, about 1 inch thick
1 clove of garlic, unpeeled, cut in half
Juice of half a lemon
A small handful of arugula, washed and spun dry
A few sprigs of fresh tarragon, leaves picked
A few sprigs of fresh herby fennel tops
A few sprigs of fresh mint, leaves picked
2 good handfuls of other interesting fresh herbs, such as sorrel, basil, parsley, dill, or chive flowers

Method:
If you have a griddle pan, put it on the heat and get it nice and hot. If you don’t have one, you’ll be using your toaster in a minute instead.

Put your chopped tomatoes into a bowl with a glug of extra virgin olive oil and a swig of balsamic vinegar. Mix together and sprinkle with a little salt. If you are using chilli, add it at this point.

Toast the ciabatta slices in your hot griddle pan or a toaster for a minute or so on each side. Once the bread is nicely golden, rub each piece lightly with the cut side of the garlic.

Make a dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, three times as much extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Toss the arugula and herbs in the dressing.

Divide the ciabatta slices between four plates and top each one with a heap of chopped tomatoes. Press the tomatoes down into the bread and finish with a good pile of your herb and arugula salad.

Jamie Oliver’s Eggy Breakfast Crumpets

25 Jun

Crumpets are a delicious way to start a morning. We always used to have crumpets in my house when I was growing up and I ate them frequently as I considered them a more interesting alternative to regular toast. Thick, spongy, and porous they are perfect dripping with butter and covered in either honey, or a spread of Vegemite (for the Aussies amongst us).

Unfortunately, crumpets aren’t that easy to come by here in Vancouver but I have discovered them in the Whole Foods on Cambie Street. If you’ve not had a chance to try crumpets yet, this dish is a tasty, and slightly fancy, introduction. Essentially this dish is French Toast made with crumpets, rather than bread. The chilli adds a nice touch and isn’t too obvious, and as the crumpets are neither sweet nor savoury, you really can personalize it with your choice of topping.

My only tip with this recipe is that you may need three eggs instead of just two to make the egg mixture, depending on how quickly your crumpets absorb the eggs. Overall, this is a yummy, fast way to enjoy crumpets and breakfast.

Jamie Oliver’s Eggy Breakfast Crumpet – Serves 2

2 large organic eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground back pepper
1 fresh chilli, deseeded and very finely chopped
6 slices of good quality bacon
Olive oil
4 round crumpets
Brown sauce (HP sauce) or maple syrup, to serve

Method:
Crack your eggs into a bowl and give them a little whisk with a small pinch of salt and pepper and most of the chopped chilli. Then heat a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and fry the bacon in a tiny amount of olive oil. Let it crisp up on both sides.

Meanwhile, get your crumpets and really push them into the egg and chilli mixture. Turn them over a few times – they’ll soak it up like a sponge. Push the golden bacon to one side and tilt the pan so the fat runs into the middle. Add the crumpets to the pan and fry them for a few minutes until golden, then turn them over and fry them on the other side.

Serve the eggy crumpets topped with the crispy bacon, with a dollop of brown sauce or a drizzle of maple syrup. To finish, you can sprinkle over the extra chopped chilli (if desired).

Jamie Oliver’s Strawberry Salad with Speck & Halloumi

24 Jun

Strawberry Salad with Speck & Halloumi

Summer is officially here! To me, that means:

  • Enjoying warm, sunny days
  • Getting out into nature
  • Sun-kissed skin and sun-induced freckles
  • The sizzle of the BBQ grill
  • Colourful, heavily-scented flowers
  • Indulging in seasonal foods, like berries and stone fruits

Strawberries

Besides the fact that BC strawberries are unbelievably tempting at the moment, I decided to make this salad because I promised you some recipes that include halloumi, and because summer is the perfect time to experiment with salads.

Considering that frying the halloumi was the toughest part of the recipe, I think we can safely say that this is an easy dish to make. Although I wouldn’t rave about this salad, I did enjoy the textures of the crispy halloumi paired with the tender flesh of the strawberries. What I think is key with this salad (and a general rule when cooking) is to find the best ingredients you can. If you have the freshest, juiciest strawberries and a good quality meat (try Oyama if you are in Vancouver), then those ingredients will take this salad to the next level.

Jamie Oliver’s Strawberry Salad with Speck and Halloumi – Serves 4

12oz strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
Good-quality balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
A few sprigs of fresh basil, leaves picked
9 oz halloumi cheese, cut into 8 thin slices
A few sprigs of fresh mint, leaves picked
A handful of mixed salad leaves, washed and spun dry
8 slices of speck (you could also use a prosciutto)

Method:
In a bowl, drizzle the sliced strawberries with a good splash of balsamic vinegar, the lemon juice and some extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. This will draw out and flavour the lovely strawberry juices.

Preheat a large non-stick frying pan to medium hot and add a splash of olive oil. Press a basil leaf onto each slice of halloumi. Place the slices, leaf side down, in the frying pan and fry for a minute. Turn over carefully and fry for another minute until the halloumi is light golden and crisp.

Get yourself four plates and place a couple of pieces of the crispy halloumi on each. Put the mint, the rest of the basil leaves and the salad leaves into the bowl with the strawberries and toss together. Pile some of the strawberry mixture in the middle of each plate and drape the speck over the top. Finish with more salad leaves. To serve, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Recipe from Jamie at Home.

Inside-Out Scotch Eggs

12 May

As much as I love brunch, there are times when I crave something different to the usual brunch items of bacon and eggs, French toast, or bennies. But it can be difficult to find a dish that is “different”, yet still late morning/early afternoon appropriate. When I discovered this recipe in my April edition of delicious magazine, I knew that it was going to be a good one, and indeed, I was right. The idea is a simple one – simply squeeze out the filling from a sausage and cover it in breadcrumbs – but if you choose your sausages correctly (flavourful, fatty ones) then this will be an impressive dish. I cooked this at a recent brunch that I hosted and it was very well-received (even the kids loved it). Seriously, who could turn down a crunchy-coated sausage??

As with most of the recipes that I enjoy cooking, this one takes hardly any time to make and is not overly complicated. The only advice I need to give on this one is to make sure that you use the tastiest, juiciest sausages that you can get your mitts on (Vancouverites, think Oyama Sausage). Also, for a bit of extra crunch you could substitute panko crumbs for the breadcrumbs.

Inside-Out Scotch Eggs – Serves 4

500 grams thick pork and herb sausages (the best you can afford)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, or panko
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon white vinegar
4 eggs
Rocket (arugula) leaves, to serve

Method:
Squeeze sausage meat from the casings, then roll into 4 portions and flatten into patties. Coat patties in half the crumbs, then chill for 10 minutes to firm up.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a fry pan over medium heat. Fry patties, turning, for 8 to 10 minutes until golden, crisp and cooked through. Transfer to a plate to keep warm.

Return the pan to the heat and add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Fry remaining 1/2 cup crumbs for 3 to 4 minutes until golden, then toss with herbs and lemon zest. Set aside.

Fill a wide shallow saucepan with water, add vinegar and bring to a gentle simmer. One by one, crack the eggs into a teacup. Swirl the water using a spoon to create a whirlpool, then carefully slide the eggs into the water. Cook for 3 minutes or until poached but yolks are still soft. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and drain on a tea towel.

To serve, divide patties and eggs among 4 plates, top with crumbs, rocket and a drizzle of oil, then season well.

Recipe from April 2013 delicious magazine.

Frozen Banana “Ice Cream”

25 Apr

In a recent post, I promised to let you know if I found any other sneaky ways of getting more fruits and veggies into your diet. Well, I’m happy to say that I’ve found another recipe and this one is exciting to me for two reasons. 1/ It’s a healthy dessert, and 2/ It is exactly like a treat that I used to get when I was living in Australia (and hadn’t had for years until I made this).

There aren’t many things to do in my home town of Darwin but one thing I would do religiously was to visit the weekly (now bi-weekly) Mindil Beach Markets. Darwin has some kick-ass markets! One visit to this beach-side, night market and you would understand immediately where I get my love of South East Asian food from. The market is full of locals and tourists all there with one purpose – to get some delicious food from the almost 60 food stalls that are brimming with international cuisine, and to eat it whilst watching the sunset. It was one of my favourite things about growing up in Darwin and something that I still miss.

A Darwin sunset (photo taken by B)

One of my favourite ways to end my meal at the balmy markets was with a frozen banana ice cream, which was made with nothing but frozen fruit. The frozen fruit was churned through a fancy ice cream maker and the result was a cooling, tasty treat. I have yearned for that ice cream for years. I was recently reading Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet when I came across a recipe that sound suspiciously like that ice cream, except that you didn’t need a fancy ice cream maker, you just needed a simple food processor. Hallelujah!! I have one of those! And guess what? The ice cream tastes exactly the same as I remember it!!

So, not only is it cheap, but it is low in calories whilst also providing another serving of fruit into your diet. If all of this health talk is making you crazy, you could jazzy it up by adding some peanut butter (whilst you are whizzing), or by sprinkling some chocolate chips or nuts over the top for some crunch. I know what I’m going to be making copious amounts of this summer!

Frozen Banana “Ice Cream” – Serves 2

2 bananas, cut into thin rounds and frozen

Method:
Place frozen banana into a food processor and whiz for about 3 to 4 minutes until the banana is whipped like ice cream. You will need to constantly push the banana down whilst you are whizzing it in order for it to whip properly. Do not over whip or the ice cream will melt. Serve immediately.

*If the starchiness from the bananas is too much for you, add frozen blueberries or strawberries to cut the starch.

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