Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Time Spread

Happy Spring everyone! After emerging from this long long winter we're all happy to see a little sunshine (except today when it actually snowed!!) 

With Easter around the corner here is a fun tasting menu that I've prepared, just a little fun spread that could inspire you for your next dinner. 

With spring lamb being a favourite choice around Easter I went with a rack of lamb which I would turn into lamb chops.

The recipe kind of evolved into another recipe as it did not turn out as I wished.  There were a few unexpected bumps along the way when I discovered a couple of minutes before opting to cook my original lamb that it had gone completely rotten.  Thank God for a quick replacement and being able to put out the spread and finish up the photo shoot.

So what's on the menu you ask?
Herb crusted lamb chops

Zucchini fritters - courtesy of Joanna from Stylushlife blog 

(fresh Salad)

Raspberry lemon Tiramisu

Challah with homemade butter

Raspberry Lemon Tiramisu (coffee free) 

Tiramisu is the perfect cake free dessert, it tastes like there is cake in there but you didn't have to slave over it.  I use soft wider lady finger cookies that have gone hard and stale on me but use anything that you have.

Just like the hazelnut chocolate one I made around the holidays we're doing a coffee free version and begin by making the custard with the basic recipe here 

1 basic custard recipe (varied by adding lemon zest to the pot towards the end before straining it into a bowl and adding the butter- prepare the custard the night in advance and kept chilling in the fridge)

Raspberry syrup (homemade version below)
1 carton raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
juice of half a lemon

1 tub mascarpone cheese
2 cartons raspberry 
1 lemon (for zesting) 

To make the syrup simply dump the raspberries into a pot with the sugar and add the lemon juice, then add a splash of water and cook on medium high until the raspberries break apart. You can use a spoon to smoosh them further. You want a night flavourful syrup/juice and once they've released enough flavour remove from the heat and allow them to infuse until almost cool.
Strain off any seed and extra fruits and set aside the juice.

Before making the tiramisu you will need to heat up the juice just so it's warm to the touch. 

For the Crema part, add the mascarpone cheese to a bowl or kitchen aid mixer bowl and whisk until it's smooth, add the cooled custard in and incorporate it. If it's mildly lumpy it's ok as you can strain it through a fine metal sieve using a spatula to push it all through.

Warm up your raspberry syrup and begin dipping the cookies in. Add a layer of cream into your bowl and then stack the soaked and drained cookies over top, then another layer of cream and so forth ending with the cream. Set in the fridge and decorate with more fresh raspberries on top before serving and a zesting of lemon peel.

Butter: We're covered homemade butter in my Thanksgiving inspired menu a couple of years ago, and it's all very simple to make way in advance.
All you do is add your heavy 35% cream into a mason jar (filled half way up) and cover with a tight and secure lid then shake it away nice and gently, nice to do while watching tv.
It goes through all stages of getting frothy, then whipped cream and finally when you begin to hear a lot of splashing water and a lump formed inside you know your fat solids have come together.
Rinse off the creamy liquid (reserve it for baking or drinking!)  and add your lump of butter into a bath of icy water washing several times to only collect the buttery fatty parts and remove as much creamy liquid as possible.  You may need to set it on a board and squish it using the back of a wooden spoon. Finally add a sprinkling of salt and fold it in then store it away in the fridge (or freezer for a later date)

For the Challah (about 5 hours in advance) 

Mix together 2 tsp instant yeast
1 cup warm water
5 eggy olks
2 tbsp oil (I used olive)
4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

3 2/3 cups AP or Bread flour

Knead well until it all comes together and for about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until it doubles in size.

Now divide the dough in two and knead each piece about 3-5 minutes.  Divide each ball into six.  Starting with one of the lumps of dough first and rolling into a log and dividing into 3 and then each piece in 2.

Now you can learn to master your 6 strand challah braid (which I hope you practiced in advance! Youtube video Here ) and recipe courtesy of Bea's cookbook

Let rise one more time on the tray after shaping and brush with beaten egg before baking on 350 for about 30 minutes (checking it from time to time)

You should yield two loves but I stacked them on top and made a big round turban like design.

On the day of your party prepare the zucchini fritters and lamb close to your presentation time

Herb Crusted Lamb Chops

This lamb is meant to be a seared and baked lamb then sliced into as you see here 
There was an issue with my first rack having been completely rotten (from the store) and the second one was not cooked through so I sliced and seared them off in the pan. 

Follow Gordon Ramsay's Herb crusted lamb recipe here 


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Crab, Avocado and Grapefruit Salad


5 leaves of boston lettuce or butter lettuce

1 container of real crab meat (you'll find it in your local seafood section) 

1 Avocado, removed pit and skin and slice into wedges

1 grapefruit, segmented to remove the flesh.

1 tbsp chives


Grape fruit juice
1 tbsp olive oil
Vinegar or lemon juice
Salt & black pepper

Lay out the lettuce leaves on a serving plate. Arrange the avocado slices and grapefruit pieces.

Add the crab meat, distributing throughout and then sprinkle with chives.
Drizzle dressing and enjoy! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools!

Kitty litter cake!

So much fun to make and more fun to eat... pranking people with it is also rather amusing

The recipe I'm using today is inspired by the "Better than Sex Cake" recipe which is wildly famous (so it seems!) and it's quite tasty. Here's my spin on it.
Cake:  2 X the following recipe

Hershey's Black Magic Cake
(I baked this recipe twice and it yielded 2 long rectangular pans)

1/2 cup oil  (I used butter flavoured EVOO From Olive That!) or grape seed oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (Or mix yogurt with water to a nice thick liquid creamy consistency) 

1 cup strong black coffee OR 2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee plus 1 cup boiling water (or just plain boiling water) 

Dry ingredients:
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Cocoa Powder 
2 cups sugar

1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk, warm slightly in the microwave for a couple of seconds so it's easy to pour. 


1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Lay a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch rectangular baking pan.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (Batter will be thin). Pour batter evenly into prepared pan.

3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes for rectangular pan or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen cake from side of pan and remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

For the second cake I removed from the oven and poked it all over with a skewer (not all the way through to the bottom) and then I poured some condensed milk (1/3 cup) by gently spooning some over the top and spreading it for the warm cake to absorb.

Set both cakes aside.

Salted Caramel Sauce: Recipe adapted slightly from Strawberry Chocolate Concoction 


1 cup granulated sugar

3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut in three squares from the stick 
(should but firm - from the fridge is fine, but not melty)

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/4 tsp sea salt (fleur de sel is best)

You can use raw cane sugar, which is a light brown color, which is why my caramel is a bit darker than if you were to start with white sugar

Heat sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula.
Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a deep, golden-brown, amber-colored viscous liquid. At all times, be careful not to burn!
Once the sugar is all melted, immediately add the butter. The mixture will bubble, so do watch out. Stir until the butter has completely melted and is mixed well into the sugar.
Slowly pour in the heavy cream. Due to the reaction between the cold cream and hot sugar mixture, the final mixture will bubble vigorously. Allow the mixture to boil/bubble for 30 seconds. It will rise in the pan as it does so. Once again, watch that it's not burning!
Remove from heat and stir in salt.. Allow to cool.

Store in a tightly-capped jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Warm slightly before using again.

(You may have some leftover, which is ok) 

Whipping cream:

2 (500 ml) small cartons of heavy (35%) cream
3 heaping tbsp powder sugar
1 tbsp vanilla

(Whip all together in the blender or kitchen aid until it is fluffy but not too whipped, just softer peaks.)


Prepare your food safe tub or container that resembles a kitty litter. Place a piece of parchment at the bottom and then set your first cake inside (the one without the sweetened condensed milk!)

Layer with half the whipped cream and drizzle caramel next.  

The next layer of cake may have to be sliced horizontally into 2 layers if your container isn't a perfect square, otherwise there will be gaps as in my case where the tub got wider at the top and more narrow at the bottom.

I sliced the cake horizontally in a diagonal angle downwards from the middle and out to the side and was able to gently slide that piece over to cover the gap.  In the end it will look and taste delicious so no worries.

Another layer of whipped cream and more caramel.

At the very end and before serving sprinkle the entire top with toffee bits (skor?) and make sure no gaps are visible.  It will look exactly like kitty litter (more precisely the type I use which is corn litter by World's best cat litter)

Treat as a trifle and scoop pieces out.  It's absolutely delicious!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Winter moments 2013-2014

A couple of sweet moments that made this winter bearable!