Thursday, 26 January 2017

Beef biltong stew for Mr Matekoni (Precious and Grace by A.McCall Smith)

Mma Ramotswe's recipes, African recipes

Precious and Grace is the seventeenth novel from the much loved series No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. I have read all the books in the series, and always look forward to a new book.
There is not much of a mystery involved in this installment, but there is a usual dose of kindness and philosophical thoughts on life, humanity and forgiveness.
Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi help a Canadian woman find her past. She spent her childhood in Botswana 30 years earlier, and wants to re-discover her past.
The case, though simple enough, is threatening to shake Precious and Grace's friendship. Will they fall out over the case?
Then there is a pyramid scheme, in which Mr Polopetsi is involved, a lost dog who wants to be loved, Mma Potokwani with her delightful fruit cake and much more.
There is a certain idealism in all the No 1 Agency novels. In Precious we see a symbol of Mother Africa, traditionally built, kind, wise and patient. She always finds good in people.

Reading Precious and Grace, I came across a detailed description of one of the meals Mma Ramotswe cooks lovingly for her husband. I was intrigued, and tried to google it.
I couldn't find any exact recipe. There is plenty of recipes for beef biltong stew, but none of beef AND biltong stew, so I had to "invent" it. This recipe is based on the authentic biltong stew recipes, but cooked with beef too, so it's a mix of several different variations of the stew. I hope Mma Ramotswe would approve.

"Mr J.L.B.Matekoni sniffed at the air. There was no doubt about it - Mma Ramtoswe was making his favourite stew. The aroma, detected even as he set foot on the stoep, was unmistakable...
Onions were the key to that: the recipe, developed specially for him by Mma Ramotswe, advised by Mma Potokwani, involved onions chosen for their smallness and sweetness - "not these football-sized onions they try to sell us", warned Mma Potokwani. These were gently softened in sunflower oil flavoured with a pinch of chilli flakes, and then the beef, fine Botswana grass-fed beef... was added in small pieces. this was then sealed before the addition of stock and a small quantity of chopped ostrich biltong, the dried and salted meat that people considered such a delicacy."

Mma Ramotswe's recipes

Beef biltong stew
3tbsp mild olive oil
1tbsp chilli olive oil (optional)
5 shallots, finely chopped (about 150g)
450g beef, cubed
1tsp plain flour
1tsp ginger, grated
2tbsp tomato puree
2tbsp peanut butter
a mug of beef stock
1 tin of plum tomatoes (Cirio)
35g biltong (a pack of King's biltong)

In a deep frying pan heat 2tbsp of olive oil.
Finely slice the shallots and cook in the frying pan until translucent, stirring regularly. Once cooked put the fried onion in a big pan or pot where you're going to cook your stew.
Add more olive oil to the frying pan, and brown the beef cubes (dust them with flour before cooking). Season with salt, but not too much, as the stock has added salt. Put all the ingredients in the pot - chilli oil, grated ginger, tomato puree, beef stock and tinned tomatoes.
I used Waitrose Cooks' Ingredients beef stock. Place the pot in the oven preheated to 200C. Cook for 5 minutes, then lower the heat to 180C, and cook for an hour+, occasionally stirring.
You might need to get a bit more water if the stew becomes too thick. Add the biltong in the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Serve hot.
Biltong adds an interesting strong flavour to the stew, and more chewy texture. Mma Ramotswe used ostrich biltong. I couldn't source it locally, but even if it were available, I don't think I am very keen to try ostrich.

Mma Ramotswe's recipes

In this recipe I used two products from Cirio - tomato puree and plum tomatoes - which work perfectly in this rich flavoured stew.
I used chilli flavoured olive oil, but if you don't have it, a teaspoon of chilli paste or flakes would be a good substitute.

Itsu Crispy Seaweed Thins and Miso

Dry January, Veganuary, any other new year's resolution, you name it, I haven't joined in.
While it makes sense for many people to begin a new year with a series of resolutions, I'm in the grumpy old women's club, thinking January is miserable enough without giving up nice food and drink.
I looked today at a row of healthy kale and chia seeds smoothies at Waitrose, and found them very depressing. For me that would be like a punishment.
I'm all for healthy food, but it has to taste good.
When you are feeling peckish, it is not easy to resist temptation, and reach for the tin of biscuits or a box of chocolates, open a bag of crisps or salted nuts.

Itsu Crispy Seaweed Thins are my latest addiction. I have first come across them last July, when there were a couple of seaweed thins in Degustabox food box. Since then, I've been buying them regularly (found in Waitrose, Sainbury's, Tesco etc) .
They are tasty, and they are healthy. Hallelujah! I'm happy to eat them any time of the year, not just January when people are encouraged to eat healthy meals and snacks.

Itsu Crispy Seaweed Thins which come in three flavours - sea salt, sweet soy & sea salt and wasabi - are new vegetable crisps. One pack provides 22-24 kcal which makes it an ideal snack for anyone on a diet.

healthy snacks

Seaweed is set to be the superfood of 2017. As Jamie Oliver says, seaweed is "like dynamite - fibre, nutrients, all the minerals, aids digestion - unbelievable!"
While I'm not sure about the dynamite reference, I'm a big fan of seaweed. When I was a child, my Mum used to buy tinned seaweed salad, and I loved it. I have never been able to find anything like that in the UK.

Seaweed, the green superfood is naturally packed with nutrients, zinc, iron and B vitamins. It's a great source of iodine. The seaweed for this snack is harvested from the crystal clear seas around South Korea.
The thins melt on the tongue, leaving a flavour of the sea in your mouth.
These snacks are low calorie (22-24), so basically guilt-free. And they are highly addictive. I can easily eat the whole packet of 3 mini boxes in one go, so have to limit my intake at one 5g packet per day.

I have tried all three flavours, and sea salt is my top favourite.

healthy snacks

Nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed helped to create an Eat Beautiful Report for itsu. According to the report, 31% of the UK's new year's resolutions in 2017 will be eat healthier.
"Japanese life expectancy is currently one of the longest in the world and their dietary habits are often heralded as part of the reaso for this long lifespan", says Charlotte.
The traditional Japanese diet features plenty of nutrient-dense foods particularly seaweed and miso.

diet meals, healthy soup

Itsu miso soup is an instant miso made from soya paste with seaweed and soy sauce. It contains 42-44 calories per serving.

Miso soup is a great lunch option. Itsu miso soups come in convenient pouches. All you need is squeeze the paste in a mug and pour boiling hot water, stir it and the soup is ready.
Miso soup is a fermented food and a great boost of protein (especially important for people on vegetarian and vegan diets).
 Charlotte says: "Many people are unaware that although low in calories and fat, miso soup is also high in protein, which is important for muscle and bone health. As well as containing protein, soya beans are a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals".

I do enjoy miso in a mug, though I am not going to swap a cup of coffee for miso. When I want a coffee, I want a coffee, and miso soup is not a substitute. As a lunch meal, it's perfectly fine.

miso soup, low calorie meals

Itsu miso is a paste rather than powder (like some other brands of miso soup), which gives it a much fuller flavour and lovely texture. I love the seaweed pieces floating in the soup. Add a little bit of shrimps which are naturally low in calories, some shredded Chinese leaf or Savoy cabbage, and you get quite a substantial meal.

Two years ago, when I was on a 5:2 diet, I often had miso soup for lunch, with shredded cabbage and chopped quorn sausages and a sprinkling of chopped spring onions. Add a rice cake (28kcal), and the total lunch would be less than 150kcal.

5:2 diet lunch
Miso soup with shredded Chinese leaf

You can also use these pouches of miso soup as ingredients for cooking.
Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews has recently cooked a stir-fried miso turkey breast with bok choi. It is a healthy and tasty recipe. Inspired by Cheryl, I am going to cook chicken stir fry with miso tonight.

Miso chicken stir fry with Chinese leaf and rice noodles

To learn more about the itsu range, visit Itsugrocery.

Disclosure: I received a selection of itsu products for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are my own.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Sing (review)

"Best film ever!", enthused my 6-year-old, as the closing credits were rolling to the catchy tune.
And Sing was jam-packed with songs. I've just had a quick look at the number of soundtracks, and was amazed to find out that there were 64 of them, some appearing as just a few lines, some in full.

children's films
Image credits: Universal

We've seen the trailer of this animation several months ago in the cinema, and since then Eddie has been asking me when we would go to see it. Well, finally this most anticipated film of the season has been released in UK cinemas.
Directed by Garth Jennings and produced by Chris Melendandri and Janet Healy, it stars Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C Reilly, Taron Egerton and Tori Kelly. The film is produced by Illumination, the corporation behind Despicable Me and Minions.

films for children
Image credits: Universal

The story is set in the antropomorphic animal world where the animals behave like humans. The animation is pretty impressive, the story, though not too complicated, is sweet and amusing.

Buster Moon (McConaughey) is a dapper koala who owns a theatre which has known better days. By now, both the building and its owner don't make any profit. Delusional Buster comes up with an idea of a singing competition, along the lines of American Idol, X-factor and Britain's Got Talent, inviting the contestants from all walks of life.
Buster's dedicated to his theatre, but he is not a businessman. Thanks to a mistake done by Buster's secretary iguana with one glass eye, the award money prize is advertised as $100,000 while in fact Buster could just about offer $1,000.
And so the crowds arrive for the auditions, with gems like "Oh my gosh, look at her butt!" (which my son found absolutely hysterical)... Some of the songs are immediately recognisable, some less so, but they match the characters performing them perfectly.

Image credits: Universal

Buster chooses a group of lead contestants - Mike, a crooner-con-artist mouse (MacFarlane), shy teenage elephant Meena (Kelly), Mum of 25 piglets Rosita (Witherspoon) and her "Piggy Power" stage partner Gunther (Kroll), young gangster gorilla Johnny (Egerton) and porcupine postpunk-rocker Ash (Johansson)

Image credits: Universal

With so many hit songs performed, the competition story is more like a background for a jukebox. The film has plenty of lovable characters.
I'm a bit embarrassed to confess that my eyes have welled up in one of the scenes. OK, I didn't really cry, but sniffled a bit, when the knackered Piggy Mummy Rosita started her dancing routine to the sound of Bamboleo in an empty supermarket. She made me think of us all, unappreciated stay at home Mums, who are taken for granted. So, I could totally relate to Rosita.

The film is lighthearted and sweet, a perfect family film.
This flamboyant musical production will appeal to children and grown-ups alike.

Image credits: Universal
Many thanks to WayToBlue for helping to source the images for my blog post!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Italian baked meatballs with mozzarella

Italian recipes, meatballs in tomato sauce

The recipe for Italian baked meatballs appeared a year ago in January 2016 edition of Delicious magazine. I don't buy every issue of Delicious, as my house is overflowing with cooking magazines as it is.
If anything, I need to declutter, and I have started to mercilessly recycle dozens of magazines, just leaving a few cutting from each issue, as we are running out of space. I have to be ruthless, though I am keeping some of the older issues of BBC Good Food and I am definitely keeping all Taste Italia magazines, as they are just too good to be recycled.

Delicious magazine runs a regular competition Cook the cover. Last year I did take part about 3 times, and a few times the year before, but have never been lucky. I am not even sure they see all the entries, as when you post a photo on Instagram with a hashtag, they don't seem to acknowledge it at all. Sainsbury's magazine runs a similar competition, where you need to post a photo of the dish from the current issue on Twitter, and they usually either like the photo to show you that they have seen it, or even tweet back to you.

Italian baked meatballs was the cover recipe a year ago, and this post has been in my draft since then. I have adapted the recipe to suit my list of ingredients, but if you fancy reading the original recipe, just follow the link above.
It is a proper Italian comfort food, perfect for cold weather, though also quite high in calories, so perhaps not for people on a diet. You could use leaner beef mince and skip mozzarella to make it less calorific, and use the oil spray.

Italian recipes, meatballs in tomato sauce

Italian Baked Meatballs with Mozzarella
For the tomato sauce:
4tbsp olive oil + more for frying the meatballs
2 anchovies (optional)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely crushed
2 tins of peeled plum tomatoes (Cirio tinned tomatoes are highly recommended)
a pinch of dried thyme
1tbsp ketchup
a pinch of brown sugar

For the meatballs:
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1tsp dried basil
500g beef mince
125g fresh mozzarella
zest of 1/2 lemon

First prepare the tomato sauce - heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan, add the anchovies, onion and garlic and fry over the gentle heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tinned tomatoes, thyme, ketchup and sugar. Bring to boil, then lower the heat and cook for half an hour, stirring often.
Make the meatballs by mixing all the ingredients except the mozzarella cheese together.
Using hands, roll the meatballs the size of walnuts.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the meatballs, and cook on all sides until well browned. Transfer the meatballs in a deep baking dish, pour the tomato sauce over them. Tear the mozzarella into pieces and scatter over the meatballs and sauce. Bake for 10 minutes at 180c until the cheese has melted.
Serve with a nice crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

The original recipe suggested cooking a garlic baguette, but I think there were robust flavours going on without the garlic bread.

As always, when you cook tomato-based sauces, source the best tinned tomatoes, for example, Cirio, which are well known for high quality and flavour.

meatballs in tomato sauce, comfort food, Italian recipes

Have you ever taken part in Cook the cover competition? Were you a lucky winner?

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Amish Sugar Cookies (#ReadCookEat)

Sense and Sensibility by Sarah Price, Jane Austen's spin-off

There is a whole sub-genre of spin-offs of Jane Austen's works - sequels, prequels, adaptations of the classic stories as retold by different protagonists. Most of it is mediocre. Some of these books are amusing, and are a decent homage to the genius of Jane Austen.
Sense and Sensibility by Sarah Price is an Amish retelling of Jane Austen's classic. I have found this book in a charity shop, and just had to buy it. I have read a couple of books by Sarah Price in the past, so I was familiar with the Amish romance genre.
If you assume that's a bit of an improbable setting, think of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which gained lots of fans...

The Dashwoods - Elinor, Marianne and Margaret - become Eleanor, Mary Ann and Maggie Detweiler. Three sisters and their mother are forced out of their family home by their step-brother John and his unbearable wife Fanny. Their distant cousin offers them a chance to move to a run-down cottage on his land.
Eleanor, practical and sensible, falls in love with Fanny's brother, Edwin Fischer. Mary Ann, impulsive and immature, becomes infatuated with handsome Willis who is set to inherit his aunt's farm. She is the opposite of her older sister, as she is not able to hide her emotions.
As in Austen's novel, sisters' lives go through heartache before they manage to find their happy end. The relationships in the book are pretty close to the original, but the setting is very different.
Sarah Price has skillfully transferred Austen's story to blend with the Amish way of life.

I tend to read novels, looking for food descriptions and references, and this book didn't disappoint. I had quite a choice of quotes to pick from the novel, deciding which recipe to recreate.

"Perhaps, Eleanor said, you would like to come inside. Maem prepared some fresh meadow tea and sugar cookies for your arrival". She said the last part directly to Henry, a smile still on her face...

While the rest of the family enjoyed the fried chicken, corn salad, and sliced tomatoes, fresh off the vine, Eleanor had merely picked at her food...

Shortly after Saturday's supper, a simple fare of fresh bread, pasta salad, tomatoes and meatloaf, Mary Ann stood by the open kitchen window, her face turned to the breeze...

She tried to focus on baking chocolate chip cookies and double fudge brownies to donate to the local firehouse for their fund-raiser.

Sense and Sensibility by Sarah Price, Jane Austen's spin-off

I started looking up Amish sugar cookies recipes, but they all seem to be catering for big families or events. They also seem to differ from author to author: some use butter, some oil, or a mix of oil and butter.
Then I remembered that I have downloaded The Best Amish Baking Recipes book by Jamie Smith a while ago, when it appeared as a freebie on amazon.
I halved the amount of every ingredient, and even then I got over 40 cookies. All the amounts are converted from cups into grams. I had to add more flour, as simply halving the original recipe made for a very runny batter, not suitable for cookies.

Amish baking recipes

Amish Sugar Cookies
280g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
180ml vegetable oil
250ml buttermilk
2tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt
2tsp vanilla extract
1/2tsp cinnamon, ground
500g self-raising flour

In a big mixing bowl beat the eggs with caster sugar. Add the oil and buttermilk, baking soda, salt, vanilla and cinnamon and sift in the flour. Mix well.
You will need to bake these cookies in batches. Place the foil over the cookie trays, and place spoonfuls of the cookie dough on the tray, leaving about 4-5cm space between the cookies because they expand quite a bit. Sprinkle brown sugar on top of each cookie and flatten it a bit with a glass.
Bake at 180 for about 12+ minutes until golden in colour. They will still be very soft when you take the trays out. Once cooled a bit, carefully place cookies on the cooling rack, and later in a cookie tin.
These cookies are soft and chewy, and lovely with a cup of tea.
They will keep well for a few days in a closed container.

In this recipe I used two types of Tate & Lyle sugar - caster sugar and brown sugar with stevia (which is made from the natural extract of the stevia plant. 1 tsp provides approximately the same sweetness as 2tsp of sugar). If you are using just the brown sugar in the recipe, halve the amount of sugar for the cookie dough.

Have you read a book recently which inspired you to run to the kitchen and cook to your heart's content?

I hope you are inspired by books to join in the #ReadCookEat challenge.

The idea is to choose a book, either a world classic or modern fiction, or even memoirs and pick up a dish mentioned or described in that book and then recreate it in a recipe. Please say a few lines about your chosen book, and maybe even do a quote from the book.

If you decide to take part, please add the badge to your post and link up back to me, and either use a link-up tool or add the url of your post as a comment. Alternatively, email me with the link to your post (my email is sasha1703 at yahoo dot com).

I promise to Pin all blogs posts taking part in this challenge, as well as RT and Google+

Garden Vistas no.2 - Summer breeze 500pc jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

I find jigsaw puzzles very therapeutic and relaxing. When I'm feeling stressed, puzzles help me to unwind. And if I also have a cup of tea and some chocolates to go with my hobby, I am on cloud nine.
Garden Vistas no.2 - Summer Breeze 500pc jigsaw puzzle is the second in the series of garden scenes, created by British artist Anne Searle.

jigsaw puzzles,

It depicts a wonderfully vibrant garden scene, a real paradise of blooms and flowers. The garden is glorious - with lavender, roses, pinks and lilies adding enticing aromas. Then there are colourful hollyhocks, poppies, irises, foxgloves, clematis and Sweet William. The path and the lawn lead to the rustic shed, which is framed by conifers. Imagine sitting in such a beautiful garden with a book and a cup of tea!
This jigsaw puzzle consists of 500 pieces. All cardboard pieces are made of high quality cardboard, and are easily slotted together. The cardboard has a linen finish print to minimise glare on puzzle image.
The puzzle is suitable for ages 10 years and up. It is quite compact in size - 49x36cm.

Ravensburger puzzles, garden scenes

I have a couple of friends who love puzzles as much as I do, and I often pass the puzzles to them, once I have finished assembling. They, in their turn, offer them to their friends. I like the idea that several people will enjoy those puzzles.
This beautiful puzzle will make a lovely gift for any puzzle fan or keen gardener. 

Disclosure: I received the puzzle for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Foil-baked feta with caper berries and Greek basil

feta recipes, baked cheese

I already have enough cook books to last me a lifetime, but could never resist a temptation of buying more. Especially when I find interesting cook books in charity shops, or if they are on good offer at Book People. A few months ago I was browsing a shelf or discarded library books, all hardbacks priced at £1, when I spotted Flavour: a world of beautiful food by Vicky Bhogal. This book is all about fusion cuisine.
I have bookmarked a few recipes including a delicious-looking foil-baked feta.

I have adapted the recipe, first of all by halving the weight of ingredients. I only cooked two blocks of feta (200g each), as my kids don't like the taste of feta cheese. Even that was quite a lot for two. A half of one block per person is plenty, especially if you have it with chunky bread.
Also I couldn't find fresh oregano, and used Greek basil instead. I have added big sized caper berries to the baked feta rather then small capers.

baked cheese

Foil-baked feta with caper berries and Greek basil
2 blocks of 200g feta cheese (I used Odysea sheep & goat's milk feta)
4tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
a good pinch of paprika
a handful of fresh Greek basil
2 medium tomatoes, skinned and chopped
a handful of caper berries

for an onion slaw:
1 big sized red onion, thinly sliced
1/2tsp paprika
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
1tsp brown sugar
a good squeeze of lemon juice
a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 200C. Make two foil pouches with biggish squares of foil.
Boil the water, and dip in two tomatoes in it for a minute, then rinse under the cold water and peel off the skin. Finely slice tomatoes, mix with chopped herbs, paprika, finely chopped garlic and olive oil.
Divide the mix in two, and spoon into two foil pouches. Dip the feta blocks in the tomato mix, put them on and spoon a bit of tomatoes on top. Loosely fold the pouches. Put them in the oven for 15 minutes.
Serve hot with fresh crusty bread.
It was absolutely delicious, and so easy to make too. Feta has mellowed and softened.

baked cheese

Vicky Bhogal also adds a finely sliced onion to the feta pouch.
I decided to make a red onion slaw separately. In fact, you will need to start first with the slaw, as it takes time to infuse. It is even better made overnight, but even one hour will do.
Slice one big red onion as thinly as you can. I used a mandolin. Then squeeze and scrunch the onion rings in a medium sized bowl, to soften them a bit. Add brown sugar, paprika and balsamic vinegar. Also add a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Let it infuse from 1 to 24 hours. I am personally happy to eat this slaw in any cheese sandwich or with any rice dishes. Of course, if you are going on a date, skip it.

onion side dish or appetiser

baked cheese, Greek style recipes

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Trolls 100pc jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

best puzzles for kids, gifts for kids, Trolls

After taking the big screens by storm last year, Trolls are everywhere these days - on birthday cakes for children, in toys shops, on bottles of shampoo etc. Trolls are new Minions, with millions of young fans all over the world. Since I try to avoid most of the children's animation with too much annoying enthusiastic singing (think Chipmunks etc), we didn't go to see the film in the cinema.
But as Eddie's been pestering me to buy him a Trolls DVD, I suppose I won't be able to avoid it altogether.
Recently Ravensburger has added a Trolls 100pc jigsaw puzzle to its extensive range of puzzles for kids. It is aimed at children aged 6+.

This bright colourful puzzle consists of 100 big chunky pieces, which are easy for young children to sort and hold. It measures 49x36cm.
As always with Ravensburger puzzles, the jigsaw pieces are made from high quality cardboard, fit together snugly and have a matt finish. They are strong and durable.
The puzzle features all the main characters from the animation.
Eddie's taking after me when it comes to jigsaw puzzles - we are both great lovers of this wonderful hobby.
He loved assembling Trolls puzzle. It took him about 20 minutes to finish it. That's my boy!

childrens' puzzles, Trolls

Once the puzzle is assembled, it is easy to put it back in the box until the next use.
Jigsaw puzzles are great on so many levels. I find them relaxing. For younger children they help with motor skills and brain.
This lovely jigsaw puzzle will make a great gift for any Trolls fan.

gifts for children aged 6+

It is worth following @RavensburgerPC on Twitter, as every Friday they host a new giveaway.

Disclosure: We received this jigsaw puzzle for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are our own.

gifts for children, puzzles for children, Trolls

Friday, 13 January 2017

Ricotta cheesecake (torta di ricotta)

Italian cakes, gluten free dessert, gluten free cheesecake

Every time we go to Italy, I return home, inspired by Italian recipes. An Italian cheesecake - torta di ricotta - is a lovely dessert. It is not as rich as, for example, New York cheesecake, because it doesn't have the crushed biscuit base and uses less sugar.
I haven't baked a cheesecake for ages, and wanted to cook it ever since we came back from our trip.

Ricotta cheesecake (serves 6-8)
zest of 1 lemon
150g caster sugar
75g softened butter
450g ricotta cheese (almost 2 tubs)
2 medium eggs
1tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla essence
3tbsp cornflour
75g sultanas
icing sugar, to sprinkle on the top

Depending on which sultanas you're using, you might want to soak them in hot water for quarter of an hour, if they look too dry. I still have some of sultanas left from before Christmas, when I bought a big bag to make mincemeat. They are quite plump, so I didn't think they need soaking.

Grate the lemon zest into a deep mixing bowl, add the caster sugar, softened butter and mix well. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the ricotta, baking powder, vanilla and cornflour. Finally add the sultanas and mix well.

Pour the cake mix into an oiled spring cake tin, place the tin into the oven preheated to 180C. Bake the cake for an hour. When you take the tin out, the cake might still look wobbly, but it should be cooked. Let it cool for 15 minutes before taking the cake out of the tin.

Italian cake recipe, gluten free cheesecake

Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.

Italian dessert recipes, gluten free desserts

Italian dessert, gluten free cake

Since I managed to use some of the sultanas (not finished yet the bag), I'm adding this recipe to #KitchenClearout linky run by Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Roast beef with brown sugar, rum & mustard glaze

best roast beef

The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on 7 January, following the old Julian calendar for religious events and holidays. While many celebrate Christmas on 25 December together with most of the western world, Russians are happy to use any excuse for a holiday with a feast.

A proper Russian Christmas eve is a day of fasting, when you would eat very simple fare like a dried mushroom soup or sochivo (a dish of wheat soaked with dried fruit and honey). The next day you eat to burst. The meal traditionally consists of 12 dishes to represent 12 disciples of Jesus.
As it happened, I didn't serve 12 dishes, but we had plenty of food and drink.

Last Saturday we invited friends over for dinner. I often tend to cook a roast chicken as a main meal, but this time fancied a different roast. The starter was a simple Russian dish of mushrooms baked in ramekins with lots of cream.
I cooked the beef with a glaze of brown sugar, rum and mustard, and it was a lovely combination of flavours.

Roast beef with brown sugar, rum & mustard glaze
1kg beef roasting joint
2tbsp mustard powder
1 and a half tbsp brown sugar
3tbsp rum
1tbsp olive oil + more for the veg at the bottom of the tray
1 and a half tsp sea salt with thyme
1 fennel bulb
1 medium carrot
+ more mustard to serve with (not powder)

Make a paste from mustard powder, brown sugar, rum, salt and olive oil, and rub it all over the beef joint. Let it marinade for at least 3 hours, or leave overnight, wrapped in cling film.
Take the beef out of the fridge at least half an hour before cooking. Preheat the oven to 200C.
Slice the fennel bulb and carrot into big chunks and put them into a deep roasting tray. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
Place the beef joint over the vegetables. Put the tray in the oven and cook the way you like it.
According to Delia, you give it 20 minutes at the start, afterwards lower the temperature to 190C and cook for 15 minutes per pound/450g for the rare beef. Add 15 minutes for medium rare, and 30 minutes for well done.
Baste the beef a few times during the cooking. Pour a dash of rum over the beef, as it cooks.
Once the beef is roasted to your liking, remove the tray out of the oven and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.
Serve with roast potatoes & other vegetables, gravy, or mustard or horseradish sauce.

In this recipe I used Tate & Lyle brown sugar with stevia (which is made from the natural extract of the stevia plant. 1 tsp provides approximately the same sweetness as 2tsp of sugar).

Since I managed to finish a little pot of mustard powder, as well as a bit of rum (a bottle which will last me ages, I guess), I'm adding this recipe to #KitchenClearout linky run by Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Roasted and Stuffed Butternut Squash with Brown Basmati, Quinoa & Goat's Cheese

gluten free recipes, vegetarian recipes

There are many reasons why people pick January to set up new resolutions. And then not stick to them, or stick for a little while to abandon later. I don't want to run with the crowd and have given up on taking resolutions a long time ago.
I do know it would be much better for me to cut down on caffeine, chocolate and generally reduce the calorie intake, but I also know that I won't stick to any particular plan. Ideally I'd love to lose some weight, so we'll see, but no resolutions...

If, however, you decided to eat healthier and get more fibre, you might have thought of alternative grains like quinoa. If you take brown rice, it houses more fibre than white rice, while quinoa wins with even higher content of fibre.
Quinoa has quite an acquired taste. While appreciating its health benefits, I am not that keen on pure quinoa. But if it is mixed with the other grains or rice, plus added vegetables, then the quinoa takes on their flavours.

Tilda rice has a selection of steamed basmati and quinoa like brown steamed basmati rice & quinoa, quinoa pumpkin & sunflower seeds steamed basmati rice as well as vegetables & quinoa.

Last week I have tried a wonderfully moreish recipe for Roasted and Stuffed Butternut Squash as created by Dr Sarah Schenker for the Tilda Genuine Goodness initiative. It was so delicious, that I am going to cook it again soon.

gluten free recipes, vegetarian recipes

Roasted and Stuffed Butternut Squash (recipe courtesy of Tilda rice)
Serves 4
Prep time 15 mins
Cooking time 1 hour 15 mins
1-2 pouches of Tilda TSB Wholegrain Roasted Vegetable or Wholegreain, Quinoa, Pumpkin & Sunflower
1 large butternut squash
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2tbsp butter
drizzle olive oil
75g walnut pieces, roughly chopped
200g goats cheese, diced or mashed
2tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or dried)
1tbsp honey

1. Preheat oven to 190C. Cut the squash in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds and soft fibres. Place on a baking tray, add the garlic and 1tbsp butter to each cavity. Drizzle with oil, season well and place in the oven. Bake for 60 minutes until the flesh is soft.
2. Scoop out some of the cooked flesh and juices into a large bowl, leaving a 1cm layer of squash attached to the skin so the squash keeps its shape.
3. Heat the rice according to pack instructions.
4. roughly mash the butternut, stir in the rice with the thyme, most of the walnuts and cheese, season with salt and pepper.
5. Spoon the filling back into the squash halves and scatter the remaining cheese and walnuts.
6. Drizzle with honey and bake for another 15 minutes.
Now that's how I cooked it. It's not very easy to cut a butternut squash, as it is pretty hard. The way I do it is wrap the squash in foil whole, and cook in the oven for half an hour at 180C. Take it out of the oven, let it cool and then cut in half and scoop the seeds and fibres. Much easier.
I then spread the minced garlic, olive oil and salt mix over the open halves, and put back in the oven to cook for another 25 minutes.
Take out of the oven, scoop the soft flesh into a bowl, leaving a 1cm rim around the squash, to make a container for squash and rice mix. Add the chopped walnuts, dried thyme, goats cheese and mix well. Ladle the contents back into the squash halves, back in the oven for 15 minutes. Drizzle with honey before serving.

vegetarian recipes, recipes with quinoa

The butternut squash I used was about 900g in weight, it wasn't big enough to use two pouches of Tilda rice. Depending on the size of the squash you choose and the number of people you are cooking, you might want to increase the amount of rice, or reduce it.

recipes with quinoa, vegetarian recipes

I used Tilda Brown Basmati & Quinoa which includes natural brown basmati rice, natural yellow and red quinoa, sunflower oil, vegetable stock powder (rice flour, salt, onions, parsnips, carrots, olive oil, turmeric, parsley). Like all Tilda products, it is free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. Quinoa adds a bit of crunch and nuttiness to the rice mix, but doesn't overpower it.

If quinoa doesn't rock your boat, any Tilda basmati rice would work in this recipe. We love the coconut flavoured basmati rice mixes from Tilda, and jasmine (dry rice, not steamed) is fabulous too.

steamed rice

You might have seen Tilda rice ads in the magazines recently. Just this weekend I spotted them in the Guardian and Observer magazines. They show brand new Genuine Goodness packaging, expressing all the goodness of naturally gluten-free, low GI basmati.
I like the new design of packaging, with stylised hands made of rice. The new designs are colourful and modern-looking.

For more hearty recipes and information on the Genuibe Goodness initiative, visit Tilda where you can download the Big Hearted cookbook, created by Sarah Schenker exclusively for Tilda.

Disclosure: I received a selection Of Tilda rice for the purposes of testing the recipe. All opinions are our own.