October 20, 2013

seriously the best ever triple chocolate chip cookies

with just a tiny little healthy twist... naturally... i ve got to be able to give myself an excuse for indulging in these babies

as autumn was suddenly right on our doorstep, there was no way i could deny my urge to bake these cookies, and chocolate definitely had to be the main ingredient.

i do have a little recipe i always turn to, but this time i wanted a double whammy, chocolate cookie dough AND chocolate chips... ofcourse there s dozens of recipes out there, but this one jumped out at me screaming (not quite Halloween yet, but still, it was screaming) to be tested. whose better then to try out than Ms Nigella Lawson s big cookies.

so that s exactly what i did:

and they came out as she promised, but there was something a little overpowering about them, pure chocolate in the dough, pure chocolate chips (and loads of them) mixed in, you really need a huge glass of cold milk or a good mug of something hot and sweet to counterbalance that.

then i thought i might just want to add a little bit more sweetness, not by adding sugar, but using the bittersweet chocolate only in the dough, and exchanging white and milk chocolate chips for the pure ones, then adding pine-nuts and dried cranberries for the 'health' kick... plus an extra soon-to-be-not-so-secret ingredient...

wow, if i may say so myself, these turned out to be the best ever chocolate chips cookies i d ever made (i probably need to have a go at a few other recipes before i should be saying this, but hey, when a cookie is good, a cookie is good)

here s my recipe:


125 grams dark chocolate
150 grams plain flour
30 grams cocoa powder, sieved (not the drinking chocolate kind thingy)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
125 grams unsalted butter, softened
125 grams light brown sugar
1 medium sized egg
1 heaped tablespoon full-fat cream cheese (yes, the secret ingredient)
45 grams milk chocolate chips, or a bar cut into little chunks
125 grams white chocolate chips, or a bar cut into little chunks
100 grams dried cranberries
80 grams pine-nuts


1. preheat the oven to 170°C
2. melt the 125 grams of dark chocolate au-bain-Marie
3. mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl
4. cream the butter and sugar in another bowl
5. add the slightly cooled melted chocolate to the creamed butter and sugar, and mix well
6. beat in the egg and the cream cheese
7. mix in the dry ingredients and lastly add the chocolate chips, cranberries and pine-nuts, and mix to distribute all ingredients evenly
8. using an icecream scoop, place equal mounds of the dough on a lined baking sheet. do not flatten the mounds and leave enough space in-between because they will spread a little. i scooped 6 per tray and got 21 cookies out of the one recipe, although Nigella says she gets only 12 cookies; she must have a huge icecream scoop! bake for 17 minutes.
9. once baked, leave to cool slightly and then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before storing in airtight container, or gobble up one or two immediately

ok... yumm....

September 12, 2013

tofu & mince little pillows of flavor

4 months?

really... has it been 4 months?


after that long cold winter, and spring that just didn t seem to happen, all of a sudden we had hot hot days of summer, which somehow passed in a blur, and now we re back into that normal rhythm of life again.

so i m back, with a little recipe that ll make your heart sing, well, it did mine, because this is a recipe you can play around with, but i stuck to the Chinese flavorings just to keep it simple.

inspired by a picture i saw on Facebook, i just thought i d have a go, and came up with this combo:



300 gr silken firm tofu
300 gr fine grind pork mince
1 tablespoon of dried shrimp, soaked (if you don t have dried shrimp, not to worry, it s not essential)
10 French string beans, finely chopped into rings
2 spring onions, finely chopped into rings
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce (that s a Thai chili sauce, hot hot hot, but you could use 1 tablespoon of really very finely chopped fresh red chili)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablepoon mirin
1 tablespoon of xiao hsing rice wine
1 clove garlic, grated
1 thumbsize piece of ginger, grated
a seriously good grinding of black pepper
vegetable oil, for frying


1. in a bowl, mix all the ingredients together except the string beans, spring onions and cornflour until it is almost a smooth paste
2. mix in the string beans and spring onions and combine well
3. if it seems too wet, add cornflour until it holds together and you think you ll be able to make quenelles out of them
4. heat up about a centimeter of the oil in a thick-bottomed frying pan
5. shape your quenelles and drop them gently in the hot oil
6. don t move the quenelles around! be patient, wait until they release from the bottom of the pan, you ll feel that after about 4 minutes they will have a golden crust and you know you ll be able to turn them so you can fry the other side... be gentle, they are very fragile
7. also, don t crowd the pan! take your time, they don t need to be hot, you can serve them warm

i served these with rice and some stir-fried pak-choi, but should you decide to change the flavoring, i m sure you could go for a Thai vibe by adding some green or red Thai curry paste instead of the sesame oil and the rice wine, or go Moroccan with some lemon tagine paste perhaps?

happy eating!

May 20, 2013

roasted spiced chickpeas... cuz we need some heat

ok, so i was wrong, the sun did peek thru the clouds a few times, and flowers have been stubbornly blooming, but where s the warmth?

guess we just have to make some ourselves, so here s what i did (and yes, i do admit it, the power of the internet showed me some inspiring ideas via Pinterest etc...)

so here goes, i m making it simple now:

take 400 gr of cooked chickpeas (canned is fine), wash and drain:

and now have some fun choosing your own spices; i use 1 tablespoon of this Chili Explosion mix from the Santa Maria brand because it makes life easier (but feel free to make any spice mix you like... cayenne pepper, ground chili, ground black pepper, ground cumin, garam masala, a touch of salt... the combinations are endless) mixed with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then toss the drained chickpeas into this spicy oil until well coated.

roast the chickpeas on a lined baking tray in a hot oven (200°C / 400°F) until crispy, that is between 30-40 minutes.

watch out, once you start (and they re great still hot from the oven) it s hard to stop munching on these babies...

May 3, 2013

spring... finally

where to start...

it has been a long long long winter, but i believe that finally the sun is getting the upper hand and the winter gods have given up in this part of the world.

and just when the nights were warming up little by little, our waterheater decided to blow its last breath... so, there were a few nervous moments trying to find a good plumber (actually pretty hard even tho there s so many around) who also had the time to come as soon as possible to install a brand new heater (i can take a bit of cold, but not going without hot water for too long)!
however, as i write this, they re here... banging away, and hopefully by this evening, i ll be able to have a long hot bath!

meanwhile, food-wise, spring means new young fresh vegetables and lighter dishes.

whereas during the dark months i d happily go for musky woolly mushrooms in a risotto, this time i just had to go for the season s white asparagus combined with little sweet peas.

and when you need some time to clear your head and just contemplate the cooking process, making a risotto can be meditative and relaxing.



500 gr white asparagus, stalks peeled and cut into 3 cm pieces, then steamed lightly
280 gr arborio or carnaroli rice
250 gr green peas (thawed if from frozen)
2 banana shallots, finely chopped
1500 ml light chicken stock, kept warm
20 gr unsalted butter
100 ml double cream
70 ml Noilly Prat vermouth
rapeseed oil
salt and pepper
Pecorino Romano cheese for grating


1. using a heavy based casserole, start by gently sweating the chopped shallots in some rapeseed oil
2. add the rice and toast for about 5 minutes
3. add the Noilly Prat and stir until it has been absorbed
4. then keep adding the stock, ladle by ladle, waiting and stirring in between until the stock too has been absorbed
5. add the steamed asparagus pieces halfway through the cooking process
6. at the end of cooking (it will take about half an hour to 40 minutes, working gently) add the thawed peas and warm through
7. finally add the butter and cream and let it all melt in, then season to taste with salt and pepper and a grating of nutmeg (which is unusual but somehow works really well)
8. serve all'onda, meaning slightly loose, with a grating of the Pecorino Romano.

a soft and gentle risotto.

i m ready for those brighter days, bring it on!

January 1, 2013

sweet things to start with... 2013

Happy New Year of the Snake everybody!

this year should be a good one, at least, if my horoscope is to be believed, this year of the snake, my Chinese (or should i say Japanese) sign is supposed to bring me luck.

well, i hope so, i could use some. after all the little mishaps we ve had thrown at us at the end of last year... and it has not stopped raining, but there are openings in the clouds and there is some blue sky visible now! a-HA!

to kick off this 'lucky' year, i ve been asked to post two recipes of sweet things my mom-in-law made for Christmas 2012. one s a doddle to make, the other requires a little bit more work, but both were delish! i m telling you, at 77, my mom-in-law is still going strong and loves to bake up a storm! she s an inspiration.

so here they are, a quick lemon cheesecake and a chocolate bûche de Noël:

(inspired by Mary Berry in the BBC GOOD FOOD MAGAZINE February 2004)


for the biscuit base:
75 gr digestive biscuits
40 gr butter
25 gr demerara sugar

for the cheesecake filling:
200 gr low-fat cream cheese (Philadelphia light is a good one)
397 gr condensed milk
150 ml double cream
the grated zest and juice of 3 lemons


1. crush the biscuits; using a freezer bag and a rolling pin is a good idea
2. melt the butter, add the sugar and biscuits crumbs and mix well
3. using the back of a spoon, push the biscuit mixture evenly into a 20cm loose-bottomed non-stick cake tin and put in the fridge to set
4. soften the cream cheese in a bowl and beat in the condensed milk until smooth
5. stir in the cream
6. mix in the zest and the juice of the lemons
7. pour on top of the biscuit base and smooth out
8. chill in the fridge, preferably overnight
9. to serve, slide a palette knife along the side to loosen the cake, lift up the bottom and slide the cake out of the tin onto a flat dish. decorate with sugared lemon slices or any fruit in season.

you d think the condensed milk might be too sweet, but the lemon juice counteracts this and there s a very good balance between sweet and tart... scrumptious!

now for the bûche...



for the Swiss roll:
5 eggs
140 gr light muscovado sugar
100 gr self-raising flour
25 gr pure cocoa-powder

for the chocolate ganache:
80 gr evaporated milk
120 gr pure (bittersweet) chocolate pieces


1. pre-heat the oven to 190°C
2. butter the base and side of a 30x35 cm Swiss roll tin and line the base with baking parchment
3. separate the eggs
4. whisk the egg yolks with 2 tablespoons of water and the sugar for about five minutes until light and creamy 5. sift in the flour and the cocoa powder and gently fold in until just blended (so as to keep it light and airy) and no lumps remain
6. beat the egg-whites until stiff and add to the cake mixture in three batches, folding in gently every time, again so as not to lose any airiness)
7. pour the mixture into the prepared tin, bake for 10-12 minutes until just firm to the touch
8. leave to cool before turning out onto a tea-towel which has been dusted with icing sugar... then follow Mary Berry s technique for rolling it up: (the recipe she uses here is a bit different because it uses no flour, but the rolling up is the same)

Great British Bake Off - masterclass

9. for the ganache, simply melt the chocolate pieces into warmed evaporated milk until thickened... it may turn out quite thick when cool, but can always be re-heated until malleable for spreading out onto the cake and for decorating the roulade later.
10. to make the Yule log, cut off a piece of the roulade at an angle and place against the main roll, then spread over the ganache and use a fork to shape the 'bark'... decorate with icing sugar 'snow' and eventually some Christmassy ornaments.

for the filling you could use whipped cream instead, or add crushed nuts and dried red fruit, but surprisingly, the chocolate ganache is not too heavy and does work.

and you don t need to make it into a log (because that s pretty typical for Christmas). whipped cream and strawberries, for example, make it a pretty good dessert for early summer too...

so, here you go, two sweet recipes to start off this 2013. hope the year brings all you may wish for.