Macaroon Bears

The bambinos asked if we could make biscuits today. So we made coconut macaroons with chocolate button bear faces. Obviously. 

Ingredients:

2 large egg whites

200g desiccated coconut

150g caster sugar

25g dark choc, melted

chocolate buttons (normal and giant sized)

white and dark chocolate chips

small, pink chocolate decorations - or pink icing

black writing icing

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (180 degrees fan).
  2. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.
  3. Combine the desiccated coconut and sugar and fold into the egg whites.
  4. Roll into balls and place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Flatten slightly with your fingers - they will also spread out a bit as they cook.
  5. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned.
  6. Once cool, decorate using the black writing icing, and using the melted chocolate to stick on the chocolate decorations, 

 

Cheesy Cloud Cakes

I am back from a dreamy holiday chomping my way around Italy. In Tuscany I ate tiramisu with strawberries, lasagna made by a real Italian Mama and I sprinkled my meals with fresh chives and their beautiful, edible purple flowers which the supermarkets here lop off before they sell them to us - why?? Then at the beach in Ardea, near Rome, I consumed my body weight in pistachio and coffee ice-cream (topped with whipped cream because, you know, calories), pizza rossa and spaghetti vongole. It was glorious. I have gathered a squillion new recipes and ideas which, over the next couple of weeks, I will try to whittle down to my favourites and share with you.

One very important discovery I must sound a klaxon about is the wonder ingredient that is ricotta; a soft, slightly grainy cheese with a rich but delicate flavour. I have eaten and cooked with it before but I hadn't realised how versatile it is. It can be used in sweet and savoury recipes; stirred through warm pasta, crumbled over salad, spread on toast, used as a pizza topping, combined with cooked spinach and used as a pie filling or stuffed into pancakes, used to make cheesecake, served with chocolate shavings or cinnamon as a simple dessert ... or eaten on its own straight from the tub with a large spoon while hiding behind the fridge door so that the bambinos don't notice and expect me to share.

We were given this lovely recipe for ricotta cakes by our neighbour on our holiday in Tuscany, who often makes them for her young children. It is a recipe that follows the classic Italian formula; use few and fresh ingredients and a simple process to produce something delicious. Essentially they are pancakes made with ricotta instead of milk, which makes them thicker and denser... and cheesier. My bambinos, who have renamed them 'Cheesey Cloud Cakes', like them drizzled with honey, but they also work well as a savoury dish served with salad and cold meats. For breakfast they would go perfectly with my favourite pancake topping of toasted coconut, sesame seeds, sugar and lime juice. Orrrrrr you could make mini canapé-sized ones with exciting toppings - creme-fraiche, slice of fig, drizzle of honey and toasted pine nuts? Or cream cheese, smoked salmon and dill? Or avocado, chopped tomatoes and a squeeze of lime? Or whipped cream and chocolate sauce, like a profiterole... or a 'ricottarole??. MAN ALIVE I'M HUNGRY.

I should leave before I drool anymore over the keyboard. Buon appetito!

Ingredients:

250g tub of ricotta

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons of flour

Generous handful of grated parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional extras:

Grated lemon zest and/or lemon/lime juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, paprika, fresh or dried herbs - so many possibilities! 

Method:

  1. Mix the ricotta and egg, then add the parmesan and finally the flour and seasoning and combine the ingredients well. You want a thick batter that will hold its shape when cooked. Add more flour to thicken (but not too much, to avoid them being stodgy) or add milk to thin. I like to cook a test cake first, then decide if the batter needs adjusting. 
  2. Heat a frying pan with oil, butter or a combination of both - whatever you like to fry with. Use a spoon to dollop the batter into the pan, into whatever sized cakes you like - spread the batter so that the cakes are about a centimetre thick. 
  3. Fry on each side for a few minutes until nice and brown and cooked in the middle.
  4. Eat warm with whatever adornments you fancy. 

 

Longanisa - Scrumptious Filipino Sausages

This post is a tribute to one of my favourite childhood meals and one that my own children love; sausages and rice. It's a simple meal but one that I regarded as a delicious treat as a child. It's a classic example of the sort of East meets West, 'Mix-Mix' food that I grew up on. My mother's Asian influence in the kitchen often manifested itself simply by replacing bread or potatoes with rice. So it was perfectly normal in our house to eat fish fingers with rice, burgers with rice, egg on rice, tuna mayonnaise and rice... you get the idea. I often wished we could ditch the rice for chips because that's what I believed 'normal' people ate (and because sausages and chips is an excellent thing), but the truth is that there are few foods that aren't improved with a side of fluffy white rice. Sausages and rice is a particularly good combo - the contrast between soft, mellow rice and salty, meaty sausages, and the way that the rice absorbs all the juices, is pure food heaven.

My ULTIMATE sausage is a Filipino sausage called 'Longanisa', which originates from Spain. The Philippines was part of the Spanish Empire for more than three hundred years, which heavily influenced the cuisine. Each region has its own recipe made using various spices combined with garlic and sugar, which gives them a distinctive, barbequey sweetness and makes them caramelise and turn sticky as they fry. Longanisa are dyed red with annatto seed powder to make them look more visually appealling - not the most obvious choice on the sausage colour chart, but Filipinos aren't known for being conventional. In the Philippines they are usually eaten for breakfast with rice and a fried egg. Unfortunately they're not easy to get hold of in the UK, but if you have a root around in the freezer of your local Asian supermarket you may be lucky enough to find some. Otherwise, chorizo sausages are the next best thing, or ordinary sausages with a bbq or 'Chinese-style' ready-made marinade - fry the sausages first before you add the sauce and then reduce it down to a sticky coating.

Or just cook any old sausages and plonk them on top of a pile of rice, and I guarantee your tastebuds will thank you for it. We eat ours with a blob of ketchup or cold baked beans - yup, we like them straight from the tin... I don't think that's a Filipino tradition though, just a family thing!

Bambinos ready to pounce.

10 Minute Pizza

In an ideal world I would make nutritious, wholesome, home-cooked dinners for my children every day, which the whole family would sit down to enjoy together while having a happy chat about our day and feeling like we're in a Bisto advert. In reality, sometimes you need to get something on the table FAST because it took half an hour to negotiate your toddler out of the Peppa Pig ride outside the supermarket. Then a large bottle of soy sauce fell out of your shopping bag and smashed on the floor, covering you and every, single item of your shopping in sticky, brown gloop, which took an entire pack of wet-wipes to clean up and left you with a bit of glass in your hand which, rather than bother with the faff of herding everyone back into the supermarket to ask for a nice sterile plaster for, you bandaged up with a used wet-wipe you found in the car door. Just an example, of course, but the point is you are running late, your children are hungry and you need to come up with a quick meal that they won't throw at your head because it's got visible vegetables in it. Something that you can make one-handed would also be handy because you still have glass in the other one. This recipe is for those such times.  Not only can it be thrown together in ten minutes but it uses just four ingredients (which I try to make sure I always have at home) and makes a really scrummy dinner - my bambinos see pizza as a real treat as well, bonus. 

Ingredients:

  • Tortilla wraps
  • Tomato passata
  • Ketchup
  • Grated mozarella
  1. Turn the oven on to 220 degrees. 
  2. Make some amazingly easy pizza sauce by squeezing some ketchup into some passata and mixing - I like just a bit of ketchup but use as much as you like depending on how sweet you want it. Obviously it is preferable to cook up a rich tomato sauce using lots of lovely vegetables, fresh herbs and seasoning, but this is not the time! 
  3. Place a tortilla on a baking tray, spoon some tomato sauce onto it and use the back of the spoon to spread it out evenly. Top with grated mozzarella. If you have any toppings handy in the fridge (ham, cooked sausage, veggies etc) you can chuck some of these on too. 
  4. Put it in the oven until it's nice and golden - takes about 8 mins in mine.

* we planned to cut stars out of our pizza but forgot and gobbled it up*

                                          Don't bother with plates and cutlery, just shove it on a board and go, go, go!

                                          Don't bother with plates and cutlery, just shove it on a board and go, go, go!