Sunday, 26 June 2011

Strawberry picking!!

This weekend was something I was really looking forward to. As much as a little kid looks forward to going to the funfair.. as much as a shopaholic looks forward to going to the mall..or maybe more?
We were going strawberry picking!!!!
I have never gone strawberry picking before and was really really excited. I've already professed my intense love for strawberries in a previous post and I wasn't exaggerating!! In anticipation, I googled strawberry picking and looked at the pictures of the rows of little plants hiding the gorgeous red fruit underneath their leaves- so so exciting!!! 
I have picked fruit myself when I was little- back in Africa, but never strawberries. I had picked 'Zambarau'- a small, intensely purple fruit that tastes sweet but then leaves a bitter aftertaste- from the tree outside school. I had picked bananas from the banana trees outside our home, Loquats (a sweet, orange coloured- plum like fruit) from the tree in our garden, guavas from another tree in our garden and even a mango!! I say 'A' mango because it was the lone mango that our mango tree bore before it had to be chopped off! :-(

Before I actually googled strawberry picking, I had visions of tall trees bearing the fruit, but no..the little plants are so tiny and make the strawberries so readily available for us to pick!!
Anyway, on Friday evening we got into the car and drove to the farm where there were hundreds of rows of strawberry plants. After choosing the biggest basket available, we made our way to the biggest rows of plants and began picking. The fruits had such a beautiful, fragrant aroma, that after being given the go ahead from the owners of the farm, we were so glad to be able to taste the intensely sweet and flavoursome strawberries just as we were picking them!!...I have never tasted strawberries so sweet and fresh before!!! Soon it was a pick one strawberry for the basket and pick another for me to eat situation!!!






Finally, when we had heaped up our basket of strawberries, we had to make our way back. I was so filled up, I looked at the basket and thought that there's no way we would be able to eat any more!!!
With my fingers stained red with strawberry juice, I sat in the car on the ride back home, clutching the loaded basket of berries with a big grin on my face.
I know I said I couldn't possibly eat any more- but seeing them there..all red and juicy and smelling gorgeous..I had to pick one and eat it...
and another..
and another..
until we reached home :-)
I WAS planning on making something with these strawberries...muffins perhaps?? cheesecake?? A strawberry crumble?
It's too late now, the basket is practically empty.

This calls for another trip to the farm I think!!!

Apparently the season's almost out folks, if you can..go strawberry picking before that!!! its totally worth it :-)


-S

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Peanut butter and Snickers muffins

Caution: You have to be a peanut lover for this one :-)

Snickers is without a doubt one of the best non-cadbury chocolates that's ever existed.

When I was little, whenever we were told to pick a bar of chocolate from the store, my little hands reached out to the Snickers bar.
Theres something about the chunky peanuts in caramel and yummy nougat that I simply adored.
I used to take home my chocolate bar and gobble it up greedily. That was always what I chose as my treat.
That's until I reached my mid-teens and started to get aware of calories and fat content. I remember the first time I looked at the back of the wrapper and my eyes popping out when I saw numbers. 
Heartbroken. Devastated. Mortified!!!!
NOOOOO!!! my precious snickers bars were actually pretty evil. I think since it was one of the first things that I ever checked the labels of, I became highly traumatised and since then, I don't remember ever eating an entire bar on my own. 
Yes, its a sad sad story.

Make no mistake that ONE day, I shall have one all by myself. I don't know when, but it will happen!!

Anyway, I recently saw a recipe of Peanut butter and Snickers muffins by Nigella and knew I had to try it out. The ingredients speak for themselves but I think these are bound to be delightful and definitely worth the treat. 
The recipe calls for a load of crunchy peanut butter and chopped up snickers bars. The crunchy peanut butter fills the cake with bits of chopped up peanuts and the saltiness makes sure the muffins aren't too sickly sweet.

Its one of those excessively indulgent recipes that comes up with the seriously good results that majority will love- not to mention, the house smells amazing when these are in the oven!!






Ingredients: (Makes 12)

250g plain flour
6 tbsp (85g) golden caster sugar
1 1/2 tbsps baking powder
Pinch of salt
6 tbsps (160g) crunchy peanut butter
60g soft butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
175ml milk
3 Snickers bars (65g each), chopped

You will need a 12 bun muffin tin with paper cases

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200c/400f

Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the peanut butter and mix until you have a bowl of course crumbs.
Add the melted butter and egg to the milk, and then stir this gently into the bowl.
Mix in the Snickers pieces and dollop into the muffin cases
Cook for 20-25 minutes, when the tops should be risen, golden and firm to the (light) touch.

Sit the tin on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes before taking out each muffin in its case and leaving them on the wire rack to cool.

Happy Baking :-)
-S

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Cappuccino cake

I've really been wanting to bake something for the past few days. It was one of those urges that needed to be satisfied, but I needed to find a good recipe that everyone would like to taste. There's no point making something that the folks at home wouldn't be interested in.
Usually, most of the things that I bake have an element of chocolate in them...chocolate orange cake, chocolate desserts, brownies..you get the idea..
So after searching for something that was flavoured differently, I came across the perfect recipe for Cappuccino cake.
I have made coffee cake in the past, but this one was entirely different and after looking at the ingredients which included yoghurt, I knew it would be really really moist- which is quite dangerous because that means I would eat a lot of it :-/

Anyway, the recipe is really simple. Its one of those cakes which you throw all the ingredients in to a bowl and whisk them together. Easy. No mess. Yummy results.
The frosting was made out of cream cheese, which gives the perfect balance to the cake. Almost like Tiramisu but I don't think as rich.
I found the recipe in the BBC Good Food magazine.Try giving it a go, you'll love it! I'm looking forward to having people over so I can bake it again :-)



Pure Yumminess :-)

Ingredients:

250 grams softened butter/margarine plus extra for greasing
280 grams self-raising flour
250 grams golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
150ml natural yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cocoa powder
100ml strong coffee (made with 2 tbsp coffee granules)

Icing:
140 grams icing sugar
350 grams soft cream cheese or mascarpone
chocolate shavings or chocolate covered coffee beans

Method:
Heat the oven to 160C/ gas 4.
Grease a 20x30cm baking tin and line it with baking parchment

In a large bowl, beat the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, yogurt, vanilla, cocoa and half of the coffee for the sponge batter.
Whisk it with an electric hand-held mixer.

Pour it into the baking tin and bake for about 35-40 minutes until its risen and a skewer poked in comes out clean.

As soon as its out of the oven, evenly pour out the rest of the coffee on to the cake.

Cool in the tin while making the Icing.
Just mix together the icing sugar and the cheese and then spread on to the cooled cake.
You could dust it with a little cocoa powder or use chocolate shavings or scatter with chocolate coated coffee beans.

Its really easy and the whole cake can be done in just under an hour.
Well worth the little effort put in to it.

-S

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Black forest gateau


Whenever my mum used to make Black Forest gateau when I was a kid, there was a buzz of excitement around us siblings.

Just the thought of the light, fluffy chocolate cake with slathers of whipped cream and loaded with strawberries and shavings of chocolate made us jump with excitement!...we would stand next to mum in the kitchen when she made the beautiful creation, gazing at her assembling the cake, our mouths watering. 
Once it was ready and put in to the fridge for chilling, we used to sneakily open the refrigerator door just so that we could get the aroma of strawberries and chocolate and cream.
When it was finally ready for us to dig into, I remember savouring each and every bite of the cake set before me.
The joy was really something else.
Once we moved out of Africa, we never had Black Forest again for atleast 8 years, but the memories were intact. 
I don't really know why that happened, we all loved it, but for some reason, it never occurred to us to make it again.
A couple of years ago, I decided its high time we experienced the magic of it again. Also, the Taste Tester had to taste my 'favouritest thing in the world'. Thats when my mum and I decided to try making it again. I was SO excited. We made the batter and stuck the cake into the oven.

Thats the time when I finally understood the saying 'A watched kettle never boils'. I waited impatiently for the cake to bake.  I wanted it NOW!!!!
Finally, when it was ready, we let it cool in the fridge (so that the cream wouldn't melt when it was being iced) for a little while and then assembled the scrumptious creation. 
Without waiting for it to be chilled before digging in, I cut out a big chunk of the cake and greedily gobbled it. It tasted amazing even when it wasn't cold!

Anyway, a big thing happened that day. A major, momentous, life altering thing.
(Drum roll)
The Taste Tester tasted THE Black Forest Gateau for the first time.

Yes. This was actually life changing, because after THAT fateful day, I haven't actually ever made something before as many times as I have made this cake.
He wanted it. He LOVED it. He never got tired of it. 

Seriously- when I say he NEVER gets tired of it, I mean it!!

I know that the typical Black Forest Gateau has cherries on top and in the filling- and I don't really know why we use strawberries.

Maybe cos we're from Africa? 
or Maybe because Strawberries are without a doubt the best, most delicious, amazing fruits ever created.
No exaggeration here from me. I have strawberries with EVERYTHING.
On my cereal every morning, on my toast, with pancakes, with ANY dessert that I make, I have them for my lunch with bananas, and I would even have them for dinner if I had to. No problemo!!

Anyway, back to the cake.
The sponge is really really easy to make, and the rest is a piece of cake :-P (lame I know, but I had to put that in!)

I actually made Black Forest the day before yesterday- at night.
I was planning to write a blog entry about it, and was looking at the pictures that I had taken of it from the last time I made it, when I felt the Taste Tester hovering behind me.
I knew it was coming.

"I feel like having some of that".
I could have waited, but I love this cake too, and any opportunity to bake it should be grabbed.
I quickly went down to my kitchen and began baking.

There's really very little of that cake left in the fridge. I mean really, really little.
It is VERY good.
Try it.




Just cos I love Strawberries <3



Ingredients for the cake:

6 oz sugar
4 oz plain flour
2 oz cocoa
2tbsp baking powder
6 eggs

The rest of the ingredients:

1 carton 375ml double cream
Grated chocolate/ flake chocolate crumbled
Strawberries (The more, the better)
Sugar for macerating

Method:

All you have to do is mix sugar and eggs with a hand held electric mixer till the mixture is white and fluffy and then add in flour, baking powder and cocoa and fold in the mixture with a spoon until just combined. Don't use an electric whisk for this because you don't want to lose any of the air in the mixture.

Bake it on 180 for anywhere between 25-35 minutes until it is JUST done. Be very careful not to over bake it as the sponge needs to be light and soft and fluffy for best results! As soon as a skewer pierced in to the cake comes out clean, it is ready.

In the mean time, chop up some strawberries (around a quarter of your quantity) and sprinkle some sugar over them. Leave them to macerate. The longer, the better. The more juice it produces, the better the result because theres nothing better than the strawberry syrup soaking in to the chocolate sponge!!

When the cake is done, slice it in the middle while it is still warm (like a sandwich) and pour the macerated strawberries and syrup and spread them out on the bottom half. 

Whip some Double cream till it reaches firm peaks and spread it out on top of the strawberries. Sprinkle lots of chocolate on top to make it chocolatier :-)

Place the top layer of the cake onto the cream and spread lots whipped cream around it generously, covering the entire cake.

Sprinkle lots of grated chocolate on top and cover the entire cake with strawberries.

Let it chill in fridge for about an hour before you serve. (That is- if you can wait that long :-) )


-S

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Apple pie

I've never understood people who don't like apple pie.
That, or anything that has cooked apple in it. 
I love it!!..I've always loved it and will always love it!
I never actually ever made home made apple pie...and only used to buy the boxed ones whenever I really felt like a treat. I had to think loong and hard before buying it cos the Taste Tester has never been too keen on cooked apple, so that mean I have to finish the entire thing on my own..!!
Anyway, the parents had some guests over from Tanzania who came over after a trip elsewhere in the UK. With them came a big bag of apples that they had picked from an apple orchard. Something had to be done with these apples and this was my chance! My chance to build up my courage and use them for Apple pie!!
Anyway..after searching the internet for a simple recipe for the filling...I finally made a pie. (Using bought pastry- I have yet to build up my courage to make home made short pastry from scratch!!)
My friend was home that day, so together we chopped and baked and had an awesome time! It's always more fun when you have company in the kitchen :-) 
The pie turned out good...although quite messy. But with some vanilla ice cream it tasted great! 
I'm glad I can finally make pie at home :-)

I have edited the recipe..after making apple pie quite a few times..so that it tastes the way I like it. Its so basic and tastes great.
Try it. If you like apple pie, you'll love this!!
p.s Try to use baking apples..I did try it with normal apples once and it was runny and too sweet!!- But hey, it was still apple pie!! :-P






For the filling:

Peel and chop up Bramley Apples into little cubes (equal sized pieces so they cook evenly)
Mix them with a small cup of sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder (adjust it to your preference)
A little lemon juice if you like.

Toss the apples and the ingredients together until they're all evenly covered in the mixture.

That's it!! :-) As easy as that.
Make a base for your apple pie after rolling out some shortcrust pastry. Fill it up with the apple mixture and cover with some more rolled out pastry..you can make a lattice crust or any you like.
Brush the pastry on top with milk to give it a shiny surface when its baked.

Stick it in the oven for about 20 minutes. Depends mainly on how your oven is.
Remove it. Cut it. Eat it. Enjoy it.

-S

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Cinnabuns...and other things

Around ten years ago, when I was living in Mombasa, I learnt how to make home made bounty chocolate at school. It was amazing. The first thing I ever learnt how to 'cook'.
I was so excited, I came home clutching my tin of hand made chocolate covered coconut bars with a huge smile on my face. It was so exciting!! Whether they liked it or not, everyone at home was pretty much forced to have some and everyone HAD to praise it.
Yes!!! This was it. I was going to spend the rest of my life making the yummiest bounty chocolate and would sell them and make a fortune!!!
That was all that was going through my mind.
As soon as I saw the box of chocolates empty, I ran into the kitchen and made some more.
Everyone had to eat it again. And again. And again. And again.

I must admit, soon I was too sick of bounty chocolate to even think about making it again (to everyones relief).
That was the end.

A few years later after we had moved to the UK, I was going through my mums recipe book and came across a recipe for flapjacks. So easy and so yummy.
Yay!! I made a batch and they turned out fantastic...and history repeated itself. Although this time, I'm pretty sure the family appreciated it the first few times around. 
Then we all got fed up of it. That was probably after I made it for the 20th time.
Story over. I learnt my lesson. Make something, let everyone appreciate it...and then don't make it for a long time until people really want it again.

Nevertheless, I recently came across a recipe for Cinnabuns. I love these.
Actually, I love anything cinnamony. Everytime I walk past a Cinnabon, I can just shut my eyes and feel myself float off the ground and glide towards the direction of this gorgeous aroma.
It was actually a scary task, to make these at home. Why? It needs a dough ofcourse- and like I've mentioned earlier, dough gives me too much grief.
It turns out too hard or too sticky. It never rises and just the thought of wrestling with it makes me exhausted.
But I had to try it. Luckily, the recipe calls for an exact measurement of milk at the beginning, so I couldn't put too much or too little of the ingredient even if I wanted to.

After making the dough, I left it for a couple of hours, expecting it to take forever to double in size, or not rise at all.
To my surprise, I went downstairs to my kitchen two hours later to see it tripled in size. The lid of the bowl that I had put it in had come off the top and was floating on top of the big mound of dough. I was so happy, I grabbed my phone and called the Taste Tester to tell him the news.
Not so exciting for anyone who doesn't know how rubbish I am at making any sort of bread!

Anyway, the rest of the process is very easy. I rolled out the dough, spread butter on it and added raisins to the cinnamon and brown sugar mix that you are supposed to spread on to it. (you can add anything you like to the filling including nuts).
After cutting the rolls, they took just 10 minutes in a preheated oven. 
If you're making these, make sure you taste them as soon as they come out of the oven...they're divine!!
There's a recipe of a lovely cheese frosting that you spread on top of the buns which make them taste EVEN better.

I've already made them four times. Nobody is tired of them yet. They're THAT good!! :-)





Ingredients:
1 (1/4 ounce) package dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup margarine
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
4 cups flour

Filling:
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/3 cup margarine, softened ( i used butter. If you're going to have the calories, might as well enjoy it!!)

Icing:
(I halved the recipe and it was still more than enough)
8 tablespoons margarine
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. For the rolls, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl.
2. Add sugar, margarine salt, eggs, and flour, mix well.
3. Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands dusted lightly with flour.
4. Put in a bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
5. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, until it is approx 21 inches long by 16 inches wide.
6. It should be approx 1/4 thick.
7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
8. To make filling, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.
9. Spread the softened margarine over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon evenly over the surface.
10. Working carefully, from the long edge, roll the dough down to the bottom edge.
11. Cut the dough into 1 3/4 inch slices, and place in a lightly greased baking pan.
12. Bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown.
13. While the rolls are baking combine the icing ingredients.
14. Beat well with an electric mixer until fluffy.
15. When the rolls are done, spread generously with icing.

Sounds like a lot of work, but it really doesn't take that long and is well well worth the effort.
Enjoy :-)

I got the recipe from here


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Childhood memories and 'Kokotendes' :-)

Eid at my Nursery school in Nairobi was a very special event. Other than having the day off, we used to have a whole day in the week to just celebrate and enjoy.
I remember my little 5 year old self feasting on crispy orange 'jelebis' (an indian sweet treat that is made by deep frying a batter and then soaking it in sweet syrup), shakkarparay (a fried doughy sweet)  chocolates, strawberry flavoured milkshake with a dollop of icecream floating in it and my ultimate favourite...Kokotende!!!

What is kokotende???.. well its a traditional African sweet made out of dough that is shaped in to cute little shells, deep fried and then coated in a sugar syrup. These are Divine!..especially when they're made extra browned and extra crispy (my personal preference!!)
The original name was Kokwa Za Tende, which is a swahili name that means date-seeds, but due to mispronounciation by the 'Wahindi' (local indians), it got shortened to Kokotende..and that's what its known as until today.

Anyway, my mum <3 and I have a very similar taste in foods and when I mentioned it to her that I want to give it a go and make some of these she encouraged me. I was a bit skeptical because I'm not one who fries a lot in my kitchen and I'm usually into baking or desserts.

I had the perfect recipe handy thanks to my friend/aunt Fauzia from Fauzia's kitchen fun. Her recipes never ever fail me and I know that she's tried and tested everything so its safe to give her recipes a shot. I will post a link to her Facebook page at the bottom of this entry.

The recipe was surprisingly easy, even though it involved making a dough (which is one of the things that has caused me grief in the kitchen). It was simple and straightforward and managed to come together in only a couple of minutes. I then had to roll up little balls of the dough and used a fork to roll out little shell-like shapes.
After frying them until they turned a golden brown, I coated them in a sugar syrup that hardened.

That was it. All done!!..with brilliant results.
I quickly hopped in to the car and couriered some to my parents place. Seeing my mummy taste them and say that they were delicious was all that I needed :-)
Whats more, I got a seal of approval from the Taste Tester when he got home from work. YAY!!

I would definitely recommend giving these a go.

I'm looking forward to Eid now, because now I can have my kokotendes :-)





Here's the recipe (courtesy of Fauzia)

2 cups flour
4 tbsp fine semolina
1 tsp baking powder
half tsp cardamon powder
2 tbsp melted butter
milk/water or coconut milk 3/4 to 1 cup
egg white (optional)
pinch of salt

Knead together the ingredients to a dough, not too soft not too hard. Form tiny balls n shape using a fork, by pressing the tiny ball of dough on the back of a fork and rolling it away to give a perfect sea-shell shape. Then fry on low heat until golden n crispy. If you fry on too high heat, they will be soft on the inside, and you want these super crisp. So once the oil is hot enough, put them in and then immediately lower the heat and keep stirring, let them gradually colour up to a lovely golden brown. Drain and set aside then make the sugar coating:

Sugar coating

1 cup sugar
half cup water
drop of vanilla
pinch of cardamon

Boil until thick n sticky, add the fried kokwas n toss, then spread out on a pan to dry. Store in airtight container!

Check out Fauzia's kitchen fun here

Take care everyone :-)

-S