Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Breakfast Bars

Since it's been a busy month so far with exams and university projects pilings up, the simple & quick recipes have been most appealing to me. And since I loved Nigella Lawson's Kitchen cookbook, I decided to go ahead and buy her other book Nigella Express; a book I've been flipping through quite a bit for the past 2 weeks.

My parents love granola bars so I decided to give this recipe a shot. It's not the healthiest recipe considering that the main binding ingredient is a whole 379g of condensed milk (I used the sweetened kind). Although I must say that it's delicious and lives up to its name for being best during breakfast.

So if you're in a hurry or as Nigella suggests, "If you're not a morning person," these will quickly become your best friends during the early hours of the day.

Breakfast Bars from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

1 x 379g can condensed milk
250g rolled oats (not instant)
75g shredded coconut
100g dried cranberries
125g mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)
125g natural unsalted peanuts

Red Panda's note: I omitted the coconut, cranberries, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and the unsalted peanuts since I didn't have any of those ingredients in my pantry. Instead, I added a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg to add a hint of spice and I substituted the cranberries with sultanas.

  • Preheat the oven to 130°C and oil 23 x 33 x 4cm baking tin, or use a throw-away foil one.
  • Warm the condensed milk in a large pan.
  • Meanwhile, mix together all the other ingredients and then add the warmed condensed milk, using a rubber spatula or wooden spatula to fold and distribute.
  • Spread the mixture into the tin and press down with the spatula or, better still, your hands (wearing disposable vinyl gloves to stop you sticking), to even the surface.
  • Bake for 1 hour, then remove from the oven and, after about 15 minutes, cut into four across and four down to make 16 chunky bars. Let cool completely.

Enjoy snacking on these at any time of the day, too.

Happy Baking!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Taste of Dubai 2011

My my my.. The minute I set foot onto the green grass and laid my eyes on the overwhelming crowds of people, I thought to myself, "Why is this my first time at Taste of Dubai?!" I instantly decided I'm going to love it. Talk about being really optimistic, huh?

I took my mom along with me because I knew that even though she was feeling a little reluctant to come along (she had a long week and wanted nothing more than to just relax on the sofa) she was going to enjoy the festival. I decided that we should waste no time standing around and begin with the eating!

First up came the Peking Duck from The China Club - Traditional Chinese. I'm a big fan of duck and particularly enjoy eating it this way especially because of the Hoisin Sauce that Chinese restaurants use. To my disappointment the pancake was undercooked, the duck not as tender as I would have hoped and the hoisin sauce almost non-existent.

Moving on to something slightly less disappointing and more on the sweet side of life is Al Hambra's churros with a side of chocolate ice cream and a light drizzling of chocolate sauce. Can you spell d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s? Seriously, I have nothing better to say about the doughnut-y goodness complimented by the cold, creamy and ever-so-chocolate-y ice cream. Mmmm-mmmm!

We continued to walk around and see all the many cool stalls/stands that were set up. A pretty cool stand-mixer like stall caught my eye. I thought it was a creative way for Kenwood to display themselves. Nothing fancy, just right to the point :)

And then I caught a glimpse of a stand with poles wrapped in hot pink tissue paper. It looked like a giant gift box, I couldn't resist not taking a closer look. To my delight, it was from a company called La Maison Du Macaron. Now, thanks to my friend Noreen, I have a new found love for macarons. Ever since she took me to Ladurée, they have sneaked into a little corner of my heart and stayed there. La Maison Du Macaron's macarons were.. A bit disappointing as well. My mom wanted to buy a box of six simply because she loved the box so much. The box was probably worth the money more than the macarons themselves; they had the almond powder after-taste which showed that they were neither ground all the way nor baked right. Not very pleasant, in my humble opinion. Nevertheless, they were pretty to look at. Plus, we get to keep the box! :)

We then sampled some of Gourmet Point's beautifully fragrant and pungent oils. My mom and I had fallen in love with the White Truffle Oil. Might order some for her soon, mother's day is coming up after all!

The highlight of my day was when I got to meet and greet with Suzanne Husseini. She had a post for book signing but since I still haven't bought her book, I decided to just speak to her AND get my picture taken with her. Wohoo!

She was wonderfully down-to-earth and super friendly. I noticed that she was wearing whisk earrings, which I've been looking for for a very long time. She said that she got her jewelry custom-made from a silver shop in Canada. Look at these rings that she was wearing which are actually a fork and a spoon that were bent to fit her size. Brilliant!

We continued walking around and taking in all the activity and excitement for food. Which is probably what I loved most about this event: we're all gathering, mingling, experimenting and enjoying simply because of our love for food. It doesn't get any better than that.

Taste of Dubai, an event which I'm now going to be attending every year. It's definitely worth your time and money. Don't miss it next year!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Swedish Summer Cake

Happy March!

Something about the beginning of a new month always gets me all excited. I find myself trapped in routine a lot so, to be able to turn the page to a new month is refreshing. March is looking like a pretty busy month so I'm looking forward to the chaos that I somehow seem to love so much. I know I'm going to regret this when I'm older.. But till then, let's keep baking!

Yet another recipe from the lovely Nigella Lawson. This is the wonderfully light Swedish Summer Cake from her cookbook Kitchen which has easily become a staple in our house. Why did I pick to bake this cake? It's a sponge cake with strawberries, whipped cream and vanilla flavored custard. How could I resist?

I barely use fresh vanilla beans since they're quite expensive. I had a few laying around in my pantry that I was meaning to use for a special recipe so I thought, why not use them for a big pop of flavor! And flavor it gave. I used one vanilla bean husk for the custard in this recipe.

Unfortunately, the first time I tried making this cake I didn't get enough batter. I guess the size of my pan was a lot wider than what was called for in the recipe. So all of the steps shown in this post are from what's originally called for in the recipe. I decided to bake it with a double dosage the next time and ended up with a three-layered cake! I was a happy red panda, yessir!

Sure, it was way shorter the first time but it tasted the same if not better. Simply loved this cake!

If you're not one for baking or maybe a little short on time, I'm taking orders! So please feel free to contact me at least 2 days in advance.

Swedish Summer Cake from Nigella Lawson's Kitchen

Vanilla Custard 

2 egg yolks
2 x 15ml tablespoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour or potato flour
250ml full-fat milk
½ vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • If using the vanilla pod, put everything in a pot over a low to medium heat, stirring non-stop, until it starts to thicken. Do not let it boil. If using the vanilla extract, put everything in except the extract and proceed as above.
  • When it starts to thicken - just over 3 minutes at medium heat, but just under 5 if you keep the flame cautiously low - take it off the heat. Remove the vanilla pod, if using.
  • Transfer to a cold bowl, mix in the vanilla extract, if using, and continue stirring until it is a little cooler, then cover with clingfilm - touching the surface of the custard - to stop the custard getting a skin when it's cold. Or wet a piece of baking parchment and place that right on top of the custard.
The Cake

3 eggs

250g caster sugar
90ml hot water from a recently boiled kettle
1½ teaspoons baking powder
150g plain flour
butter, for greasing

1 x 23cm spring-form or other round cake tin
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4 and line the bottom of the cake tin with baking parchment and butter the sides.
  • Whisk the eggs and sugar together briskly until pale and moussy and more than double in volume, then, still whisking but slightly more gently, add the hot water.
  • Mix the baking powder and flour in a separate bowl and gradually whisk these in, making sure there are no lumps. You may need to stop once or twice for a scrape-down.
  • Pour and scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until it is golden, well-risen and a cake tester comes out clean.
  • Let the cake stand in the tin on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes before - carefully - unmoulding and leaving it to cool on the rack.
To assemble the cake

750g strawberries
2-3 teaspoons caster sugar, depending on sweetness of berries
500ml double cream*
2 teaspoons vanilla extract*

*(If, like Red Panda, you prefer using the instant whipped cream sachets, skip these ingredients)
  • Put 250g strawberries to one side, and start preparing the remaining 500g. Hull these, halve the smaller berries and quarter the larger ones, dropping them into a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar - how much depends on how tart or sweet the berries - shake and leave until they glisten: 10 minutes will be just fine, though 1 hour would make them juicier and glossier.
  • Whisk the double cream and vanilla extract until it holds its peaked shape when the beaters are lifted out.
  • Fold a third of the whisked cream into the fully cooked vanilla custard you made earlier.
  • When the cake, too, is thoroughly cool, take out a bread knife and, courageously, slice the cake horizontally into 3 layers.
  • Put on cake layer on its serving platter or stand, and top with half the vanilla-custard-cream, then arrange half the macerating strawberries on top, concentrating more on the outer edges of the cake than the center. Top with the second layer of sponge and repeat as before with the rest of the custard-cream and cut berries.
  • Now set the third cake layer on top and cover with the waiting whipped cream, arranging the 250g reserved strawberries as desired: I hull most of them, and cut some, but like to have a few whole, unhulled berries lying plumply and decoratively here and there.

Red Panda's note: The first time I made this, I use the same proportions for the custard, cream and cake as mentioned above. But to get 3 nicely baked layers, I doubled all the proportions which gave me plenty of batter and custard to work with.

Happy Baking!