Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nigella's Baklava

OMG this stuff is delicious. And evil. But delicious. And oh-so-evil. It's also very easy to make, but a little time consuming - but so worth it!

I made it as part of a Greek-themed feast I was having with Kaz and Chocolate Crackle. Kaz made really yummy bougatsa for dessert as well - it was filo heaven!

Make the syrup first and the pop into the fridge while you make the pastry part.

Nigella's Baklava

For the syrup
300ml water
500g caster sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon rosewater
1 tablespoon orange-flower water
NB: you can get rose water and orange flower water from the chemist.

For the pastry:
325g pistachios, chopped in a processor until medium–fine
125g melted unsalted butter
400g filo pastry

Use a 23 x 23 tin for this -I'd advise not to use your favourite baking tin as you need to slice through the pastry while still in the tin. A foil disposable one from the supermarket is probably best, or even silicon (but be careful not to slice right through!).

Add water, sugar and lemon juice to a pot and bring to the boil. Keep it at boiling point for 5 minutes. Add the rosewater and flower water and then remove it from the heat. Pour it into a jug, let it cool and then chill it in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 180Âșc.

Brush the tin with butter and then begin to layer the filo pastry sheets, brushing each layer with butter (tip: make sure you cover your filo with a damp tea towel so it doesn't dry out).
Use approx 20 sheets (1/2 packet) for the bottom layer, placing them in the tin evenly as you can. Then, spread the pistachios evenly over the filo sheets.

You can tell already this is going to be good...

Then carry on with the rest of the pastry in the same way. The last sheet on top should also be buttered well and then with a sharp knife trim around the top edge of the tin to give a neat finish. Cut parallel lines 4–5cm apart to form diamond shapes, making sure you cut the baklava right through to the bottom of the tin (not through the bottom of the tin though!).

Before cutting

Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, by which time the filo will have puffed up and become golden-brown.

Awaiting its drenching in sweet nectar

As soon as it comes out of the oven, pour over half the cold syrup. Leave it a few minutes to soak in and then pour over the rest.

Buttery, pistachio-ey, rose scented bliss!! It doesn't get much better than this - and it was even better the next day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Citrus Yoghurt Muffins

These yummy muffins come from the 500 Cupcakes cookbook. I had a heap of Greek yoghurt I needed to use and am a sucker for anything citrus flavoured, so this was perfect. The combination of citrus flavours was really nice but you could try different variatiosn if you wanted.

Citrus Yoghurt Muffins

200g plain four
175g caster sugar
1tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp grated orange zest
1 tbsp grated lime zest
1 tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
255ml fat-free plain yoghurt
115ml sunflower oil
1 lightly beaten egg

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan.

In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, sugar, lemon, orange & lime zest, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the yoghurt, oil and egg until well blended. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, stirring until just combined. Don't overmix!

Spoon the batter into the pan and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, then remove muffins from the pan.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

These were quite a hit in my house, and a healthy treat for little Miss J.

Chicken Scallopine

This is a really yummy and fast dinner idea that can also be made relatively healthily. I usually wing this, so feel free to play with the quantities of stock and cream to get a sauce consistency you are happy with . It does thicken quite a bit, so I'd add more stock than you think you might need.

Chicken Scallopine

2-3 chicken breast fillets, sliced into schnizels
Plain flour - enough for coating the chicken
Mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
Olive oil
A lemon

Put the flour into a flat container/tray/plate and season with salt and pepper. Then prepare the chicken by slicing into thin pieces (escalopes) and bash with the meat hammer to flatten a bit if you need to. Coat each piece of chicken with the seasoned flour, tapping off any excess.

Heat some olive oil to the pan and fry chicken on both sides until golden brown. Cook in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan.

Low fat tip: To make this a bit healthier, omit the flour and fry the chicken using cooking spray in a non-stick pan, or bake or grill the chicken in the oven.

Once all the chicken has been cooked and removed from the pan, add the mushrooms to the pan making sure to scrape up all the nice brown bits the chicken has left behind. Add the stock, wine and cream to the mushrooms as well as a good squeeze of lemon. Cook down until its a nice rich brown colour. Add salt and pepper to taste. The sauce will thicken, so you may need to add more liquid (stock or wine) to ensure you have a good sauce-to-chicken ratio for serving

Low fat tip: You can use just stock instead of wine an stock and instead of cream, I use the same quantity of evaporated milk which worked really well.

Once its just about ready, add the chicken back to the pan to coat in the sauce and heat up. Serve the chicken with a generous spoonful of sauce. I usually serve with smashed potatoes and green beans.

Cookies and Cream Cheesecake (non baked)

In my younger days, I was unfamiliar with the concept of a baked cheesecake and the chilled /set variety were all I ever knew. It's nice sometimes to go back to those days and enjoy the delicious taste of tangy cream cheese in a lighter form.

I have a scrapbook at home with recipes I clip out of old magazines and newspapers and this recipe is in there. I dream one day of catching up with the clippings and cooking each and every recipe. I suspect this one is from an Old Better Homes and Garden magazine and the best thing is the most cooking you'll do is some melting of butter and chocolate and boiling of water. Have I mentioned yet how delicious this cheesecake is? Because its really, REALLY good.

Cookies and Cream Cheesecake

250g plain chocolate biscuits
150g melted butter
2 teaspoons gelatine
1/4 cup water
375g cream cheese (softened)
300ml thickened cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup caster sugar
180g white chocolate, melted (use good stuff like Dream or Milky Bar)
150g cream filled chocolate bisctuits (aka OREOS) - quartered
50g dark chocolate, melted (optional)

Line the base of a 23cm spring form tin with baking paper.

Process the plain chocolate biscuits until they resemble breadcrumbs. Add the melted butter and process until just combined. Use your hands to press the biscuit mixture evenly over the base and 3cm up the sides of the tin. Cover and refrigerate for 20 mins.

Sprinkle the gelatine over the water in a small heatproof jug, then stand the jug in a small saucepan of simmering water and stir until the gelatine dissolves. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Beat the cream cheese, cream, vanilla extract and sugar until smooth. Stir in gelatine mixture and white chocolate, then fold in the quatered biscuits. Pour the cheesecake mixture over the biscuit base and cover and refrigerate for about 3 hours or until set.

Drizzle with dark chocolate to serve (optional)