Pecan Coconut Cream Cake

Pecan Cake

I sat and counted the number of friends I have today. Not Facebook friends, but real friends. I came up with two. It has always been like this. It’s not like a, now I’m older, in a foreign country, therefore somewhat handicapped, kind of thing. No, it’s always been like this. I grew up cautious and suspicious of people. It takes me years to build and develop a friendship. No instantaneous friendships for me in today’s instant gratification world. And, just as I find it hard to make friends at the drop of a hat, most people don’t have the time to wait around for me to be their friend either. Result, I have two friends. I’m okay with that. I’m just not that spontaneous with friend making. I am fascinated with people who literally say one sentence to one another and boom they are suddenly friends. It’s a great talent that, I just don’t own that pair of skills. Maybe because I am shy or maybe it has something to do with mom telling me all through growing up not to talk about myself or divulge too much for fear of it being used against me. Whatever it is I am an unable to talk about myself. I have been accused of being a snob, of being secretive and generally unfriendly. I’m neither, I don’t think. I am just insanely private. And there is that very big part of me that doesn’t want to share myself with anyone that doesn’t value what I might have to say.

I am often told that I will be lonely when I grow old. I can’t imagine being any lonelier than the way my sister and I grew up. Dad was away defending the country in some form or manner and it was just mom raising me and sis. There was no one else. No cousins, no aunts and no uncles. No grandparents. And barely any friends. It was just the three of us.

Actually I don’t know what loneliness is. Maybe its my closest friend, someone or something so close to me that its like my own skin. It breathes with me and is a part of me. And that’s what best friends are anyway right? They are a part of you.

I made this cake for my best friend today though he doesn’t know it. When I cook I always cook with someone in mind. He loves coconut as do I. He likes nuts too though I think I could please him more with almonds. This is an incredibly light cake and the coconut is delightfully refreshing. I never ever did think of coconut with pecans. I will be using this combo definitely again. So should you…

Pecan Cake

Pecan Cake

Pecan Cake

Pecan Cake

adapted ever so slightly from here

for the cake
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus 8 tbsp
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
5 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut + 1/2 cup for assembly
1 cup finely chopped pecans

for the frosting
200 grams cream cheese, softened
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup roughly chopped pecans, toasted

to prepare
For the cake.
Heat oven to 350°F/175°C. Butter and flour three 8″ cake pans (or as in my case I have only one. I just divided the batter and baked three times). Set aside. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk buttermilk and vanilla in another bowl. Cream butter, and sugar in a bowl until fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, alternately add dry ingredients in 3 batches and wet ingredients in 2 batches. Increase speed to high, and beat until batter is smooth, 5–10 seconds. Whip egg whites in a bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites, coconut, and pecans into batter. Divide batter into prepared pans and smooth top with a rubber spatula; drop pans lightly on a counter to expel large air bubbles. Bake cakes until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, 20–22 minutes. Let cakes cool for 20 minutes in pans; invert onto wire racks and let cool completely.

For the frosting.
Using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth.

To assemble, place one cake layer on a cake stand and spread with 1/3 cup frosting, sprinkle a generous amount of coconut; top with another layer and spread with 1/3 cup frosting and the coconut. Top with remaining layer. Pour on top the remaining frosting and sprinkle with pecans; chill cake 1 hour until frosting is firm.

Spicy Indian Chickpeas with Spinach Chips, Topped with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Ginger Pickle

spicy chickpeas

I’ve been meaning to do this post all of last week. Just have not got around to it for one excuse or the other. It’s not that I am so super busy that I don’t get the time, but I really did take procrastination to a new level. I had all the ingredients, all lined up but just that initial move to actually do it proved like a herculean task. I frustrate myself beyond compare when I am stuck in such limbo. I feel like I weigh a ton, just painfully dragging my body around. I mean it’s spring, so what am I complaining about?

So I’m going to quit complaining and dive head first into this dish. I mean this is a pretty awesome looking dish. AND so very nutritious. I had originally intended to do kale chips but since that’s not available I decided to try spinach. And boy am I glad I did. So extremely simple to make and so light. They just kind of melt in your mouth. I paired it off with my favorite chickpeas and my most favoritist (not a word I know!) ginger pickle. This is a great meal choice because of how light it is and actually how cheap too to make.

spicy chickpeas

spicy chickpeas

spicy chickpeas

for the ginger pickle
5-6 inches of ginger, cut into strips
2-3 tsp vinegar
juice of 5-6 limes
salt to taste

to prepare
Peel and cut ginger in strips. In a jar, add all the ingredients and shake jar well. Put in refrigerator for 4-5 days.

for the spinach chips
4 cups wild spinach
4 cloves garlic, sliced
4 tbsps olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

to prepare
Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Wash and pat dry the spinach. In a bowl toss the spinach with the olive oil and the salt and pepper.

On a baking tray lined with baking paper, line the leaves up. Do not overlap. Place the sliced garlic alongside the spinach. Bake for 12-15 minutes and place in a bowl to rest and crisp up. (Also put the cherry tomatoes in with the spinach and just leave them in longer. Around 10-15 minutes more.)

for the chickpeas
1 tin chickpeas
1 inch ginger, sliced in strips
1 medium red onion, chopped fine
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 green chilli, de-seeded and cut into strips
1 tsp garam masala (optional)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt to taste

to prepare
In a pan or wok, heat oil. Place the onions and the chilli and ginger and fry for about 3 minutes or till the onions turn translucent. Add the cumin seeds and the coriander powder and chilli powder. Fry for another 5-10 minutes on medium heat.

Drain and wash the chickpeas from the tin. Transfer to the onion mixture in your pan. Cook for 15 minutes or till the chickpeas begin to char a little. Do not forget to stir frequently. Set aside.

to put together
On a plate, place the spinach chips and the garlic forming a bed. Scoop the chickpeas on top of the chips. Place the cherry tomatoes and the ginger pickle strips on top to complete the look. Serve immediately so you can enjoy the crunchiness of the spinach chips!

 

Blood Orange Cheese Sandwich with Grilled Bell Pepper and Kale Pesto

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For years now I have heard about Kale. The superhero of vegetables. For whatever reason I haven’t gotten to it till now. And then suddenly I had all these ideas of what to do with it. And, if you know me you also know I get really excited about discovering a new food. And if I can’t get to it right away, you’ll also know and see (!) me grunting and growling quite fiercely!

Which is exactly what happened in the case of kale. and hey! I do know why I never got to kale before. It’s because its called boerenkool here in Holland. And the name boerenkool brings forth all sorts of dishes that are far from appealing to me. Now, I am told it can be quite delicious the way they prepare it here and I’ll take your word for it. But, in my opinion food should look pretty, and not like processed baby food! Not trying to offend anyone but I’m just saying…

So where was I? Ah, kale and my pursuit of it. So it seems that I just missed kale season. Which meant no, absolutely no sign of kale anywhere! However, you can find it cut and sealed in bags. Huh??? If you can cut it why the heck can’t you sell it uncut? I looked high and low yesterday but I got exactly the same answer everywhere. Come back in September. Argh! Now, I am an extremely patient person. Uh, in some things anyway. When I decide I want something wild horses usually cannot keep me away. I’ll just stamp my feet and hold my ground. In this case of course, the stamping of feet had absolutely no effect!

After several hours of futile searching I finally did buy the bagged version and decided to turn it into pesto, at least to begin with. But be warned, I will be back with many more kale recipes as soon as I can get my hands on some whole kale leaves!

This sandwich is such a surprise in your mouth, you wouldn’t believe it. Fresh tangy creamy spunky. Try it today because you can’t get healthier than this…

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kale pesto
40 grams kale
40 grams pine nuts
40 grams parmesan cheese
juice of one lime
50 ml olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

to prepare
Blitz all ingredients to a paste. I like it a little chunky. Gives it that extra rustic appeal, but you could totally make it real fine. Set aside.

for the sandwich (makes one)
2 slices bread (I used a rustic whole grain bread with seeds)
1 blood orange, peeled and sliced
4 slices gouda cheese
1 bell pepper, grilled with a tbsp of thyme
2 tbsps kale pesto
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

to prepare
Heat a grill pan to high heat. Cut the pepper into 4-5 pieces and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and thyme. Cook on each side until the pepper is soft and tender and slightly blackened. This will give it a nice smoky flavor, about 5 minutes on each side. Pull off the pan and set aside.

Slather all 2 slices of bread with the kale pesto, and then pile the sliced blood oranges and peppers onto one side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add the gouda cheese and top the sandwiches with the second piece of bread.

Add a generous amount of olive oil to the pan and cook the sandwich over medium-high heat until golden and crispy on both sides with the cheese melted.

Slice in half and serve hot!

 

 

Apple Rum Triangles

apple triangles

We had one day of spring here, last week. Just a peak into how wonderful its going to be soon. The flowers are blooming everywhere. I have already started wearing my summer shirts only to get a shock when I step outside to, well uh, slightly cold weather. It’s that one damn day that has gotten my brain all confused. So, before spring fever hits at full speed, I decided to make these one last time.

I make these for my baby girl nearly every weekend because they are so damn easy. And so damn delicious! They are called ‘appelflappen’ in dutch and are pretty ubiquitous here. And, I can safely say a pretty big favorite amongst young and old. They look so impressive and one would not imagine how extremely easy these are to put together.

I made a grownup version to this classic dutch treat. I just added a splash of rum! Oooh and was it good. I got just a little bit tipsy in the middle of the afternoon. But then again I don’t need much to get tipsy, so, don’t worry there isn’t that much rum in there to get you drunk like me! Hehe.

apple triangles

apple triangles

apple triangles

makes 6
puff pastry (I used 5″ squares)
1 large apple, sliced into small pieces (I used elstar, but you could use any sort)
3 tbsps brown sugar (more if you like it sweeter)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp lemon juice
30 grams walnuts (roughly chopped)
2 tbsps rum (optional)

1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp milk (for the egg wash)
3-4 tbsps  crystal sugar

to prepare
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.

Defrost the puff pastry and set the squares on a baking tray lines with baking paper.

Toss the sliced apples with all the other ingredients. Spoon a bit in the middle of each square and then holding one corner fold over sealing onto the opposite square, forming a triangle. Press the edges down with a fork. Use a little bit of water to seal if necessary.

In a bowl whisk the egg yolk with the milk. Brush all the triangles with the egg mixture. Sprinkle the triangles generously with the crystal sugar and bake for 20 minutes or till golden brown.

Let cool and serve with a scoop of ice cream or with a yummy cup of tea.

 

Ricotta and Olive Oil Orange Cake

Olive Oil Ricotta Cake

I have a confession to make. I have a guilty pleasure. It’s not something I’d readily admit just like that. I sometimes watch what they call the most popular soap on daytime TV. And I’m not even a TV person. I can safely and honestly say that I barely watch any TV. (I’m getting all defensive already!) But it is something about this soap that I can just blank out to. It is so relaxing, watching people behave in the most ludicrous fashion. :) And then there are the days when I cannot bring myself to watch it or can’t watch it for whatever reason, but when I eventually come back to it, I usually haven’t missed a thing! I love that. It’s like graphic design. I love designing books that are text heavy or only text. Any graphic designer will tell you that they love doing those sort of projects between the heavy design work. It is hugely cathartic. To just give your brain a rest. And God knows mine needs a rest. So this soap is my go to place for a breather…

And when you watch TV however silly the show may be you also do sometimes learn a few things. It is the ‘after the soap’ show that really tickled my brain. It is a very funny cooking show called “Bitchin Kitchen”. It’s this irreverent, funny, tattoo sporting girl, tying in all sorts of improbable things to her cooking. I like that. I usually never really get to watch the whole show but I did a few weeks ago. This is her recipe and its delicious. It’s a simple recipe and the cake is sooo light. The molten pieces of chocolate that sit in the middle of this cake are the best!

Olive Oil Ricotta Cake

Olive Oil Ricotta CakeOlive Oil Ricotta Cake

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups cane sugar
1/3 cup Italian extra-virgin olive oil
zest of 1 orange
1 vanilla bean, scraped
3 eggs
100 grams orange flavored chocolate bar, chopped

to prepare
Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C. Butter a cake tin and sprinkle with flour.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Whip together the butter, the ricotta, sugar, olive oil, orange zest and vanilla bean seeds in a separate bowl, with an electric mixer on low speed. Add the dry ingredients and continue to beat until light and airy, about 3 minutes. Drop the eggs into the mix, one at a time. Drop in the chocolate bits and stir with a spatula until they are evenly spread throughout the batter.

Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool fully.

Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry with Sesame Seeds

Chicken stir fry

I love Asian food. Like Indian food it has so much flavor. And, is so deliciously spicy. Complex flavors that get to work with each other as they get layered one on top of the other. It is also an extremely vegetarian friendly cuisine. The basic dishes are always vegetable based. Or at least that is the impression I have. I am such a fussy eater but stir fries are my favorite. In India we have the Indian-Chinese dishes. And, this particular dish reminds of the times I had Chinese food in India. Most Chinese dishes in India will not contain egg or fish sauces because of the many many vegetarians who also (like me) don’t eat egg, unless of course its in a cake!

This is a very simple recipe and so incredibly healthy and fresh. AND it is cheap and soooo quick! Preparation time is no more than 15 minutes and if you have everything cut and chopped before dinner, you could literally put this on the table within ten minutes! What’s not to love, right?

Chicken stir fry

Chicken stir fry

1 pack chinese wok noodles
300 grams chicken, cuts in strips
4 tbsps cooking oil
1 inch ginger, cut fine in strips
5-6 cloves garlic, sliced fine
2 red onion, sliced in half circles
5-6 baby corn
1/2 red bell pepper, cut in thin strips
2-3 spring onions, cut diagonally in 1 inch strips
100 grams sugar snaps
2 tbsps sesame oil
2 tbsps soya sauce
2 tbsps oyster sauce (optional for vegetarians)
2 tbsps sesame seeds, toasted on the fire for 2-3 minutes
1 tbsps chili paste
handful of cashew nuts (optional)

to prepare
Heat a wok and add 2 tbsps of oil. Stir fry the chicken till it is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Set aside and season with salt and pepper.

Cook the wok noodles as per instructions and let drain in a colander.

Add another 2 tbsps of oil to the wok and make sure the oil is hot. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for about a minute. Add the red onion and stir fry for another one minute. Next add the pepper, sugar snaps, baby corn and cashew nuts. Fry for 2 minutes. Add the oyster sauce and continue to stir frequently. After a minute or two add the chicken strips and the spring onions. Lastly add the soya sauce and the chili paste. Stir for a minute and take off the fire. (Do not fry for too long, you want the vegetables still slightly crunchy).

Drizzle with the sesame oil and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Serve with the noodles mixed in or on the side.

Broccoli Spinach Tart with Cashew Nuts & Red Onion

Brocolli Spinach Tart

I’ve always been scared of savory tarts. Not because I don’t like savory. To the contrary, I prefer it. It’s the egg in it that bothers me. It’s such a weird thing. I grew up loving, absolutely loving soft boiled eggs. In fact Charlize only eats it that way, and when I prepare it for her I can still remember how much I loved my eggs this way.

And then I remember mom telling me how the nasty smell of egg can send her running a mile away. That’s when it happened. My relationship with the egg was forever soiled. From then on I smelled every plate, glass, spoon I ate or drank from. If it has that smell, I run too! Strangely enough if I don’t smell it, I’m okay. So cakes are okay as long as that smell has been doused with a healthy splash of vanilla essence. The tiramisu is more than okay since I can’t smell the egg in it at all.

So, it is with a lot of trepidation that I decided to try my hand at this stunning tart. Let me tell you it was hard. I was so scared of biting into it. I served it with a salad full of more red onion and cucumber and a spicy mustard dressing. Anything to perhaps dilute its taste! :)

The majority of you reading this are probably laughing or scratching your head in bewilderment. But, honest, experimenting with food is equivalent to walking on fire for me. I not only tried it but enjoyed every bite. It did not smell of egg, it was creamy and so healthy! I immediately felt so silly and so proud of myself! I did my little dance of jubilation. :)

Brocolli Spinach Tart

Brocolli Spinach Tart

Brocolli Spinach Tart

puff pastry sheets (I used 4, for my 9″ tart form)
150 grams spinach
100 grams broccoli, cut into small florets
2 eggs
100 ml heavy cream
100 grams grated cheese (I used a young Dutch cheese)
1 small red onion, sliced thin in rings
handful of cashew nuts

to prepare
Preheat oven to 355°F/180°C.

Line your tart form with the puff pastry and prick the bottom with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes and then set aside.

Meanwhile boil a pan of hot water. Drop in the spinach and take out immediately. Set in a sieve and drain out as much water as you can. In the same pan cook the broccoli for 2 minutes. Drain out in a colander and let cool under cold water.

Distribute the broccoli and the spinach evenly in your tart form and sprinkle with the red onion rings and cashew nuts.

Whisk the heavy cream with the eggs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Now pour this over the vegetables in your tart form. Finally cover with the grated cheese.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. This tart is great cold or warm!