Chocolate Sponge with Peaches and Pistachio

This recipe was born after craving for chocolate and peaches. I just thought it should go nice together and I didn’t want anything heavy. So I took a classic sponge recipe, substitute some of the flour with the coco powder. Then I decide to go for simple Chantilly cream and pistachio for decoration. Next time, I might try it with Mascarpone icing and toasted almonds instead.

CHOCOLATE SPONGE WITH PEACHES AND PISTACHIO

Ingredients:

225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

225g caster sugar

4 eggs

220g self-raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

50g cocoa powder

300ml double cream

2 tablespoons icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3-4 tablespoons of apricot jam

6 fresh apricots, ripen but not mushy

50g pistachio, chopped )or toasted almonds)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan. Lightly butter two loose-bottomed 20cm sandwich tins and line the bases with baking paper.

  2. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and cocoa in a large bowl and beat with the mixer for 2 minutes, or until just blended.
  3. Divide the mixture evenly between the tins. Level the surface using a spatula or the back of a spoon.

  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes. The tops of the cakes should spring back when pressed lightly with a finger. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 5 minutes. Run a small palette knife around the edge of the tins, then carefully turn the cakes out onto a wire rack. Peel off the paper and leave to cool completely.

  5. While the cakes are cooling, put the jam in a little pan with 2 teaspoons of water and heat it up until it’s melted, set aside to cool slightly.
  6. Then make a Chantilly cream. Pour the cream into a large mixing bowl then whisk until soft peaks form. Add in the icing sugar and vanilla extract and mix in gently until well incorporated.
  7. To assemble the cake, spread with the jam and half of the cream over the first cake, put the other one on top (top upwards), spread with the remaining of the cream, decorate with fresh peaches and pistachio. To go one step further, you can glaze the peaches with some of the melted apricot jam, to give this extra shine to the cake.

 

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Meatballs in a creamy sauce with buckwheat

There is no limit to variations of the meatballs and its accompanying options. This is one of them and it happened to be one of my favourites. It just reminds me of my childhood food. Back then we were not exposed to spices or exotic flavours, food was very straight forward, but never tasteless or plain. I always was amazed how with only few ingredients on hand our Mums and Grandmas managed to come up with accomplished dishes. One of the keys is seasoning. No matter what you are seasoning with, just season and taste, season and taste, until you reach the desired flavour.

I chose to serve it with the buckwheat, just because I love it for its nutty flavour and health properties, but it goes well with pasta, rice or mashed potato.

MEATBALLS IN A CREAMY SAUCE WITH THE BUCKWHEAT

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

500g of your preferred mince (I like to use half & half beef & pork or just turkey)

1 white bread roll or 2 slices of bread

150ml milk

1 big onion, grated

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons plain flour

2 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup of soured cream

1 teaspoon paprika (sweet, hot, smoked)

salt and pepper to taste

fresh dill or parsley to garnish

Method:

  1. Begin by soaking a bread roll in milk, but crumbling the bread in a small bowl and pouring over with milk. Press the bread with the fork, helping to soak up all the milk until it becomes mushy. Leave it to soak for a few minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  3. Then in a big bowl mix all ingredients for the meatballs, including the milky bread, and form the balls, any size you like.
  4. Place the meatballs into oven proof baking dish or a tray and bake for about 20-30 minutes, depends on a size of your meatballs, or until they are cooked through.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Take any heavy-bottom pan, add the butter and when it’s melted, add the flour. Keep stirring until the butter absorbs the flour, but do not allow it to burn. Then add the chicken stock, continue constantly stirring, to avoid lumps. When it thickens, add the soured cream and paprika, salt and pepper, mix well and cook for a few more minutes. Season, taste, adjust seasoning if required.
  6. When the meatballs are ready, simply add them to the pan with the sauce or serve it separately, pouring sauce over. Garnish with the fresh dill or parsley.

It also goes well with some pickles on a side, gherkins in particular.

Baklava Loaf

This loaf is just as indulgent as Baklava, but a little bit easier on calories and the amount of sweetness. I love that it’s buttermilk based and full of crunch and texture.

BAKLAVA LOAF

(Adapted from Good Things magazine)

Ingredients:

For the filling:

200g mix of pistachios and walnuts, chopped

100ml runny honey

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 orange, zest only

 

For the Cake Mixture:

225g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

50g sugar

1 large egg

50g butter, melted

250ml buttermilk

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Mix all the filling ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. For the cake mixture, combine the flour, baking powder and sugar in a bowl. Put the egg, melted butter and buttermilk in a separate bowl and mix well. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing well, but taking care not to overwork.
  3. Lightly butter a lot tin, pour in the cake mixture and spoon over the filling. Repeat twice, ending with the layer of the nut mixture.
  4. Bake it for 20-25 minutes or until the cake is golden-brown and springs back when pressed. Allow to cool before serving.

 

Potato and Spinach Bake

I saw this recipe on Pinch of Yum site and immediately wanted to try it. The suggestion was that it’s a breakfast/bruch casserole dish, but I think it’s great at any time of day on its own with some nice crispy salad or as a side dish perhaps. I’ve slightly adapted this to match my taste, but you can check out the original recipe here. It’s a lovely site, by the way, if you haven’t heard about it.

POTATO AND SPINACH BAKE

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 any preferred good quality sausages

2 teaspoons chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 handfuls of fresh spinach, roughly chopped

2 large eggs

1/3 cup of milk

1 cup of grated raw potatoes

1/2 cup of grated mozzarella cheese

salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat up the oven to 200C. Grease the medium oven proof dish and set aside.
  2. Heat up the flying pan over medium heat with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add the chopped onions and sauté it until it becomes soft and translucent.
  3. Take the sausages, peel off their outer skin by gently cutting the skin in the middle and peeling it off with your fingers. Then crumble the sausage meat in rough chunks over the onion. Then add chilli powder and onion powder. Mix well and continue cooking until it brown and fully cooked. Transfer this mixture to the prepared oven dish, distribute evenly on the bottom.
  4. Add the rest of the olive oil to the frying pan, add the garlic and gently cook t for a few minutes, do not allow it to burn. Add the spinach and stir until whilted for a few more minutes. Then scatter over the sausage mixture.
  5. In a mixing bowl, using fork, mix together the eggs, milk, mozzarella cheese, raw potatoes, salt and pepper. Pour over the sausage and spinach mixture.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown or until it springs back when touched.

Cottage Cheese Mini Doughnuts

These are highly addictive, once you’ve tried it, you won’t be able to stop eating them. Covered with a crispy exterior, they have a really soft inside, due to cottage cheese, and remain soft for a long time. And because they are not very sweet, you can indulge them even for breakfast.

I made this batch just plain, but you can add some extras in a dough like raisins, dried chopped apricots or other berries, or use any favourite syrup instead of the icing powder before serving.

COTTAGE CHEESE MINI DOUGHNUTS

Ingredients:

250g cottage cheese/farmer’s cheese

2 eggs

4 tablespoons caster sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups plain flour (you might need to add just a bit more if the dough will be too wet)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

vegetable oil for frying (approx 250ml)

icing sugar for decoration

Method:

  1. In a big bowl start by beating the eggs with sugar, using a wooden spoon.
  2. Then add the cottage cheese and mix well with egg mixture.
  3. Then add the flour, baking powder and vanilla extract, mix well until combined (you might need to add a bit more flour at this stage, if the dough is too wet, but it should be sticky anyway).
  4. In a small pan heat up the vegetable oil until the small bubble start to appear, then turn the heat down to the medium.
  5. When the oil is ready, damp the palms of your hands with a little bit oil, then form a little dough balls (approx. size of the walnut, they will expand while frying) and place them one by one in a hot oil. Fry each ball around 2-3 minutes or until it’s golden brown, turning them around.
  6. Drain ready doughnuts onto the paper towel and dust them with the icing sugar.

Apple, Carrot and Chia seed Muffins

Maybe they are not quite a ‘looker’, but they are super easy to make and super healthy to eat. Enjoy your cake for breakfast and feel good about it.

APPLE, CARROT AND CHIA SEED MUFFINS

(Adapted from Tesco Real Food)

Ingredients:

100g apples, coarsely grated

75g carrots, finely grated

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 lemon, finely zested

3 tbsp chia seeds

100g light brown sugar

75ml mild olive oil or vegetable oil

2 eggs

120g self-raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

2 teaspoons brown sugar (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases. (However, I have to point out, I never managed to get 12 muffins out of it, only 9 maximum.)
  2. In a large bowl, mix the grated apple and carrot, cinnamon, lemon zest, chia seeds, sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, oil and eggs, until combined.
  3. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or until the chia seeds have expanded a little. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a separate bowl.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the carrot mixture, mix well to form a batter. Divide evenly between the muffin cases, and then scatter over the brown sugar, if using it. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until risen and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to sit for 5 minutes, before removing the muffins on a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Easy Vegetable Tray Bake with Halloumi and Pesto

Simple and delicious one-pan of your ‘5 a day’ supper. Easy adaptable to whatever is in season, but this Mediterranean selection works very well with Halloumi. Perfect addition for the BBQ or a picnic. Of course, it is even better with home-made pesto, but on this occasion I used shop-bought, which is also just fine. You also can use Feta cheese instead of Halloumi.

EASY VEGETABLE TRAY BAKE WITH HALLOUMI & PESTO

(Originally seen in ‘Red’ magazine)

Ingredients:

500g new potatoes, halved lengthways

3 Mixed Peppers, seeds removed, sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tablespoons good quality pesto

zest of ½ lemon, plus squeeze of juice

125g cherry tomatoes, halved

250g pack Halloumi cheese, thickly sliced

black olives (optional)

salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cook the potatoes in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain, then tip into a large, shallow roasting tin and scatter over sliced peppers. Drizzle over with the olive oil, salt, mix well, bake for about 20 minute.
  2. Meanwhile in a little bowl, mix together pesto, zest and lemon juice, plus 1 tablespoon of water, if the paste is too thick. Set aside.
  3. Turn up the heat to 220°C. Add the halved tomatoes, olives, sprinkle half of the pesto mixture and sliced halloumi on top. Roast for a further 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Remove from the oven, drizzle over the rest of the pesto and serve straightaway.