Categories
Food General Recipes

Strawberry-Banana Yoghurt Smoothie

If you’ve already read a few of my blog posts, or you’re a friend of mine, you probably know that I am not thrilled by the prospect of eating fruits and vegetables. Usually, I only use fruit and vegetables (with the exception of spinach, tomatoes and butternut squash) on my skin and hair! In fact, if a serial-killer were to abduct me with the express intention of torturing me, his/her best bet would be to force me to eat some fruit, or worse veggies.

But, I am getting old and well, wrinkles and the prospect of some debilitating illness (in that order) are also beginning to cause me some concern. This has prompted me to consider eating some fruit.

I tried at first to eat berries, specifically, strawberries, blueberries and such, but found them to be too sour. So then I began coupling them with slices of cake, specifically, cheesecake, Nutella cake and such. This worked, except, I also got horrendously fat ( not quite horrendously, but I did put on some weight). I found I was eating more cake and less fruit; not only did this make me fat, it sort of defied the purpose of eating fruit, namely to try and be more healthy, if I ended up eating more sugars and fats along with the fruit, in order to be able to consume the fruit.

But finally, I might have a solution! I’ve begun making fruit smoothies every morning and they’re quite refreshing! I’ve been told they’re pretty good by some of my friends who’ve tried them. For me, as you know, all good food has to be spicy and buttery or in the alternative, chocolatey, so while it’s really difficult to even think about raw fruit as yummy, I will say this, this smoothie is quite a bit better than edible, which makes it one of the best fruit smoothies in the world, I assure you.

If you want to try making one, all you need are 6 medium strawberries, a banana, yoghurt, milk, and a food processor or blender. Start by culling the strawberries:

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If you don’t know how to do this, watch this video about how to cull strawberries fast:

Next, throw the berries and the banana (cut in half) into a processor or blender and process until smooth. Then add 2-4 tablespoons of yoghurt (depending on how tart you like your smoothie to be) and about 3 tablespoons of milk. Process some more until everything is blended and pour into a tall glass.

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Drink immediately, and give yourself a pat on the pat for doing something healthy πŸ™‚

Categories
Baking Chocolate Food General Recipes

The Hazelnuttiest Cake in the World

My very first post on this blog was about a Nutella cake. While baking that cake, I used a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book, ‘How to Be a Domestic Goddess’, as a guide. I really liked that cake, as is evident from my post about it, but there was one thing about it that bothered me. I didn’t like the fact that the cake called for Nutella, which is after all a processed food from the supermarket. I’d rather make a cake from scratch, or as close to from scratch as is possible for someone who lives in a little apartment in a big city. That way, I have a little more control over what goes into it. Last week, I tried making a more ‘wholesome’ and ‘homemade’ option as it were, based off a recipe from ‘Baking Illustrated’.

How did it turn out you ask? Well see for yourself:

Recipe for Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Truly, I liked the taste of this cake even better than my earlier attempt; the big bonus of this new recipe is that the cake turns out even more hazelnutty, which is GOOD, because hazelnuts are heavenly πŸ™‚

If you want to make this cake too, here’s what you will need:

Equipment:

A 23 cm or 9 inch spring-form pan, two large bowls, two smaller bowls, a hand-held or stand-alone mixer or a whisk, a food-processor or mortar and pestle, and a tea towel.

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

6 free range eggs (I insist on free-range after seeing some horrific videos of how chicks and hens are treated in “egg factories”.

A pinch of salt

1 stick of unsalted butter 

200 g hazelnuts

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

175 g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)

For the Icing:

150 ml heavy cream or whipping cream

150 g good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), chopped

2-3 Tablespoons fo Frangelico

A pinch of Salt

2 handfuls of hazelnuts 

A half cup or so of dark chocolate flakes (you can make these by using a paring knife or a vegetable peeler on some dark chocolate).

Preparing the Ingredients:

To begin with, I made sure to lay all the ingredients out on my dining table. When you’re baking, unless the recipe otherwise specifies, it is best to use all ingredients at room temperature. Next, I turned on the oven and preheated it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Preparing the hazelnuts: I toasted the nuts (both those you need for the cake and those you need for decorating the top of the cake) in the oven at 350 Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes, tossing them once or twice in-between. Once they were lightly browned and I could smell the delicious hazelnutty aroma, I took them out of the oven and let them cool for a bit. Then, I placed them in a tea-towel and rubbed the nuts against each other until their skins peeled off.

Next, I put 200 g of the toasted and skinned nuts in a food processor, along with 2 tablespoons of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar and processed them till fine (you could also use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle).

Preparing the chocolate: I melted the chocolate in a microwave, taking care to use a low heat setting, so as not to burn the chocolate.

Preparing the eggs: I separated the egg yolks from the whites, placing 5 egg whites in a large bowl and 6 egg yolks in a smaller bowl. (You can throw away the extra egg white or use it in a face or hair mask.)

Some people think separating the egg white and yolk and beating them separately is a waste of time, but it isn’t if your recipe does not call for baking powder/soda. This is because all the air in your cake will have to come from the egg whites, since there is no chemical raising agent added to the cake.

I was now ready to begin! What follows are step-by-step instructions to re-create the rich nutty cake I made today! Enjoy!

Method:

1. Place the butter in a large bowl and beat until fluffy. Next, add the remaining three-quarters of sugar, one-quarter at a time, until creamy and almost white. Now add the egg yolks two tablespoons at a time, beating well throughout. Next, add the melted chocolate (which would have cooled a bit by now) and beat the mixture until the chocolate is blended in. Then, gently stir in the hazelnut meal that you have already prepared in the food processor.

2. Now we beat the egg whites; this is the slightly tricky part of the recipe. Add a pinch of salt to the whites and then beat them until they are ‘stiff but not dry”. What this means is that you want to be able to make the foamy whites rise to a peak with your finger.

How to properly beat egg whites
Stiff egg-whites
Another way to test this is to take a clean dry egg and try to float it on top of the egg-white foam. If it sinks you’re not done. If it floats completely you’ve overdone it. If it sinks just a quarter of an inch, well you’re egg-whites are perfect then! Make sure the bowl and the whisk you use are perfectly clean, i.e. they are free from oil and water.

3. Once the egg whites are ready, add a dollop of the egg-white-foam to the mixture from step 1 and mix it in. Next, very gently and with a light hand, fold in the rest of the foam. This is important; don’t be rough at this stage; because we want to preserve the airy-ness and lightness of the foam. Here is a video that shows you how to do it:

4. When you’re done folding the foam in, pour the batter in a greased and floured 9 inch or 23 cm springform pan.

Delicious Hazelnut Cake

5. Slide the pan into the oven and set the timer for 50 minutes. I would go and check on the cake toward the tail-end of this period, say around 45 minutes in. The cake is done when you can insert a tooth-pick gently into the cake, about halfway between the centre and the edge of the cake, and it comes out clean when you pull it out.

6. When it’s done, take the cake out and cool it on a cooling rack. Once it has cooled remove the sides of the pan.

(At this stage of the process, I already noticed one thing that was better about this cake when compared to my earlier Gianduja cake. The surface of this cake was smoother; there were no cracks on this cake at all. Also, it was more evenly baked. (The small nick visible in the picture was made by me with a knife, it wasn’t a crack on the surface.)

Hazelnut cake

7. Now the cake is ready and it’s time to make the icing! Heat 150 ml of cream and 150 g of chopped chocolate in a saucepan over low heat. Once it’s melted, add a pinch of salt and the Frangelico. Mix and let the ganache sit on the counter and cool for a bit. In the meantime, take the 2 handfuls of hazelnuts you toasted earlier, and crush them in a mortar or pestle or processor. I like to crush them into small chunks, you can choose to crush them more finely, or coarsely, whatever works for you.

8. Once cooled a bit, pour the ganache over the cake and spread it evenly over it, using an icing spatula or a large, broad knife.

Icing a Hazelnut cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache
I couldn’t glaze the cake until the day after I baked it because I had errands to run. Mysteriously, more than a quarter of the cake just disappeared overnight, so I ended up glazing the left-over part of the cake πŸ˜›
Next, garnish the cake with crushed hazelnuts and dark chocolate flakes and serve with a shot of Frangelico πŸ™‚

Rich, hazelnut cake served with Frangelico
This rich hazelnut cake tastes best when served with Frangelico
Also, a little tip, if you’re going to store the cake for a while, make sure to heat it up quickly in the microwave when you take it out of the fridge. Just heat for 20-30 seconds on a low setting; both the cake and the icing taste waaay nicer that way.

Mmm this cake was utterly delicious, it’s totally worth the effort of baking it, I promise!

Chocolatey Hazelnut Cake
Eating my Delicious Hazelnut Cake πŸ™‚
Categories
Food General

How Every Dinner Party Should End

Last week, two old friends invited me over to their home for dinner. It was a lovely evening which ended with them bringing out this super pretty cake. On a side-note, the friend who baked this cake is so serious about baking that she is actually taking a cake-decoration class! Don’t you think it’s very intricately decorated?

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It looked so ornate and perfect that I almost couldn’t eat it. Almost.Β Needless to say, I ate more than I should, and brought a whole lot more home with me πŸ˜›

I think ALL evenings should end like this, with a beautiful, and perhaps as importantly, large cake, being shared amongst a few good friends πŸ™‚

Categories
Adventure Food General Reviews

Culinary Adventure in Toronto Part I (Or How to Eat like a Scheherazade)

Last week I was to meet an old friend for dinner. He said I could pick the restaurant and because I really wanted to try some place new, I spent hours researching restaurants in Toronto. I wanted to find a great place that served something unusual, something that was relatively new to me.

You see, I’ve been feeling more than a little restless lately; these past few months, I haven’t been traveling as much as I usually. One great way I’ve found to satisfy my wanderlust when I cannot afford to spend time traveling, is to try out a restaurant that serves food from some interesting part of the world. This ‘coping mechanism’ is particularly effective if the restaurant serves cuisine from a part of the world that I haven’t visited yet.

So I googled and yelped away and finally decided on a Persian restaurant called The Pomegranate. It is, oddly enough, situated in Little Italy. I rang the restaurant the next day and managed to get a dinner reservation for the same night.

The restaurant itself was cozy and the decor was somewhat cute. I have to be honest though, it wasn’t anywhere as nice as the review on blogto.com led me to believe. Some of the furnishings and fixtures were bordering on shabby and it wasn’t half as gorgeous or interesting as I expected it to be, given its Persian association. It reminded me a little bit of the scores of Indian restaurants I’ve seen, with kitschy Indian decor; in short it looked like it was trying far too hard to be what it thought westerners wanted it to be.

When the food arrived though, I forgot all about the decor. It was delicious! I should point out in no uncertain terms here, that I have never been to Iran, nor have I ever had ‘persian’ or Iranian food anywhere except in India. Also, I use the term ‘Persian’ to describe the food and the restaurant because this is how the restaurant owners have chosen to describe the place and the food. The term is fraught with political, cultural and historical connotations and tensions, but this post isn’t the place to go into all of this, and I am certainly not informed enough on the issues involved to wax eloquent on it, so I have decided to simply stick with the term that the restaurant owners have chosen.

Getting back to the food, I had the fesenjaan (they had a vegetarian version with mushrooms). It came with a generous serving of rice and salad (of course I didn’t touch the salad πŸ˜‰ )

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Described as a stew of walnuts and pomegranate syrup, the fesenjaan was flavouful and creamy with a detectable but subdued nutty flavour. One of the reviews of the restaurant I came across described this dish as syrupy (and the menu hinted at this by describing it as a stew of pomegranate syrup) and I must admit I almost didn’t order it because of this, but in fact it wasn’t syrupy. It was delicately sweet and in terms of texture and consistency resembled a typical mughlai sauce/gravy (which of course entirely makes sense as mughlai food was deeply influenced by Persian cuisine). So it was more like a sweetened shahi paneer or butter chicken than it was like a syrup.

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In conclusion, I recommend the place. It’s cute, the servers are friendly, the food is good and the decor is pleasant and cosy enough- it’s just not breathtaking or as unique as it could be.