Dark Chocolate and Mango cake

Back in my childhood years there were two undeniable facts that were present in all family celebrations. One was my absolute dislike of birthdays. I can remember being in the kitchen surrounded by people singing happily a birthday song while I, strange as I was, covered my ears with both hands. There was even one time in which I hid underneath the kitchen table hoping that all that crazy people stopped their “chant”. Yes, I was a weird little one.

It is funny how some situations in our childhood establish a pattern in our heads and it stays there forever. To this day (and I turnt 40 in february) I am totally unable to sing ” Happy Birthday” to anyone except to my son. For the rest of human kind I pretend to sing moving my lips while others sing along cheerfully. Yep….weird.

The other all time classic in family celebrations was my mom’s strawberry cake.

She has never had any interest in baking, and cooking for her has always been somewhat a chore she did without much amusement. Maybe being married to a Chef had something to do with it. Still that strawberry cake was “some kind of wonderful”.

She would buy the sponge already baked, from a german brand at a local store. The following task was the filling and decoration of it, a perfect choreography that she had mastered over the years.

First it was time for the strawberries. She would wash them and cut them evenly setting them aside. Then she would place the different layers on the counter and cover each one with strawberry jam. As years passed she changed it to raspberry because as she said, it would cut the sweetness a bit.

With the cake built and the layers one over the other it was time for placing the strawberries on top. That was my favourite part! She would prepare strawberry jelly and let it sit in the fridge enough time so it was not too hard not too runny. It was sometimes my task to check the jelly which I would do with a spoon … which ended up in my mouth half of those times. What a precious moment!

The final step was placing the strawberries on top over a jam layer and cover them with the jelly. The sides of the cake were usually hidden with sliced or grained almonds.

How could that be possible? How could something be so delighfully delicious? Simple, no baking, no fuss. Just strawberries, jam and jelly….HEAVEN.

To my mom, the strongest and most caring woman I have and will ever know, this recipe “revisited”.

Mango and chocolate Cake

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Sponge

3 eggs

125 g yogurt (plain or pineapple)

125 g olive oil

250 g sugar

100 g flour

30 g cocoa (bitter kind)

1 table spoon of baking powder

1 pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients with an electric whisk or mixer until well combined.

Grease and flour a baking pan of aprox. 20-22 centimetres and fill with the sponge preparation. Bake in a heated oven at 180°C for 45 minutes or until fully baked.

Let it cool and cut in two or three layers lengthwise. This would depend on how much your sponge has raised.

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Peel and slice a big mango (aprox 800-1000g) in thin slices and set the fruit aside covered with the juice of half a lemon for decorating the top layer.

Syrup

1 cup of water

1 mango stone

50 g mango

1 cup of sugar

The juice of half lemon

Place in a tall saucepan all the ingredients bringing it to a boil. Maintain the temperature until the water has been reduced in half. Take out the stone and scrub the mango meat around it with a spoon and add it to the syrup.

Let it cool for 10 minutes before blending it with an electric blender.

Place one layer of the sponge and brush it with the syrup evenly. You might want to use a silicon brush as it will be easier to clean afterwards. Place some slices of mango on the layer but just about 6-8 slices, repeat the procedure with the next layer.

Prepare the top layer by brushing it with the syrup and cover it all with the remaining mango. Brush lighly with the syrup just to add some shine to the fruit.

Refrigerate for half an hour.

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Thanks for reading 🙂

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A South Indian Delight – Masala Dosa

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I have to admit I was hesitant about Indian food. The spices, the flavours…specially since I am not too fond of highly flavoured dishes. It is not that I like my food bland, but an upset stomach was not included in my idea of a romantic getaway.

I approached my first meal in Bangalore with a bit of fear but the day went through without much of a culinary shock ( french toast and coffee for breakfast, chicken and rice for lunch, and I cannot really remember dinner aside from the fact that there was some salad involved ).

The next morning I decided to make S. a little happy by trying a local speciality that was being cooked beautifully in one of the show cooking stations at the breakfast buffet: Masala Dosa with Sambhar.

He warned me about the sambhar but I decided to still try and BUM! Love at first bite!

The crispness of the dosa stuffed with creamy masala potatoes was spectacularly combined with the right amount of spice, the perfect kick given by the sambhar.

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They served it with different types of chutney, but my absolutely favourite was the coconut chutney, a bit sweet and a bit spicy. In a word AMAZING. I could eat it every day, all the time. I could eat buckets and buckets of it. What an extraordinary and surprising flavour.

My guy was so worried that I did not like the food, that I got sick in such a protective yet sweet and romantic way, that he was quite shocked of my last breakfast in the city. Oh well, I know I over ate but what can I say, it was the very last breakfast, might as well make it count! My plate consisted in two delicious dosas with lots of coconut chutney and a small bowl of sambhar to go with it…and guess it? There was still chutney on the plate so I absolutely had to have some poori to finish it up.

I leaned back on my chair trying to memorize the whole flavour combination, wanting to lock it inside my brain forever as I had done with every moment I lived there.

That night, as the plane took off in the middle of the cloudy sky I admitted to myself, that India had not only captivated my heart, but also my palate.

Thanks for reading 🙂

And the crumble was born.

Right back in 1940 the world was immersed in the World War II. The British population, though with enough goods “traveling” their way to the shores, had to face reality. The crude reality of German submarines knocking down the cargo ships to weaken the enemy and starve civilians. With that situation in its hands the Ministry of Food decided to apply the rationing system which would make sure that the few goods arriving were able to suffice the population in the long years of fight. It did not happen all at once. First the rationing applied to bacon, butter and sugar. Then tea, jam, cheese and eggs were put on ration. One year later, the rice, and the list went on as the years went by.

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With this system baking was almost an impossible matter…or it wasn’t? In fact that is exactly how crumble was born.

I can almost picture some clever woman behind this idea. Looking at her ration book and thinking how to make it through the week. Specially with little Timmy’s (John, Christine, Laura or Andrew) day coming.

Yes I know, this is war time and is quite superficial to consider birthday or any other celebration in such a moment, but aren’t the small happy things in everyday life the ones that help us get through in the toughest situations?

It helps me to imagine her. To think that during such terrible times there was still someone with a “go” attitude among all the pain and desperation. And that makes her a hero in my eyes.

Berries Crumble

200 g mixed berries

30 g oats

20 g hazelnuts (chopped)

20 g pecans (chopped)

70 g brown sugar

100 g flour

50 g softened butter

Mix the berries with 20g of brown sugar. Set aside.

Mix flour, the rest of the sugar, butter, oats, hazelnuts and pecans. Place the berries inside a baking pan, cover with the mixture and bake for 25 minutes at 200°C.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

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Thanks for reading 🙂

Rediscovering the Classics – Michel Roux

“All my life I have faced a dilemma that the French sum up as being ‘between the hammer and the anvil’, a sort of ‘between-the-devil-and-the-deep-blue-sea’ situation. In my case, the two poles of this dilemma are savoury and sweet.   I refuse to allow the more celebrated savoury cuisine to be considered in any way superior because, for me, with my beginnings in pâtisserie, desserts are an affair of the heart .”

Michel Roux – Excerpt from his Autobiography Life is a Menu (Reminiscences and Recipes from a Master Chef)

Constable – London – 2000

Oh what a beautiful sentence to describe desserts! “An affair of the heart”!  That is exactly how it should be. Pâtisserie is so exact, so precise but yet so imaginative and indulgent.

When I first attended baking classes in a local Culinary School that’s exactly what I expected to find, the technique of course, but with a pinch of madness and creativity. Instead I found a Head Baker who had not a single inch of passion in himself or in what he was doing.

What does it make you almost moan when you have a bite of a well executed dessert? In my opinion is the amount of passion and feeling the chef can express while doing it, because let’s face it, anybody who can follow directions can cook a mousse au chocolat, a sponge cake or (like in this post) a clafoutis. But it takes real talent and devotion to be able to make the WOW factor be present. Mr. Roux has that ability.

To him, a french classic revisited.

Ripe-cherries

Clafoutis (French Baked Cherry Dessert)

  • 4 eggs
  • 160 g flour
  • 160 g butter (for the batch)
  • 300 ml milk
  • 120 g caster sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods
  • 60 g butter (for the baking process)
  • 400 g  ripe cherries, stoned ( stalk removed )
  • A pinch of sugar

Preheat the oven to 200°C

Beat the eggs in a bowl with a fork without overbeating just slightly, then lightly beat in the flour.

Melt the butter (for the batch) in the meantime (either in the microwave or stove) and let it cool aside.

Whisk in the melted butter, and slowly whisk in the milk and the sugar.

Cut the vanilla pods lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the vanilla to the previous mixture.

Take 20g of the butter (for the baking process) into small pieces and set aside. Use the remaining 40g to grease an ovenproof dish, about 20 cm of diameter. You can also bake smaller size clafoutis by using the same batch and filling smaller dishes.

Spread the cherries evenly over the base of the dish, then pour the batter mixture over them.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 200ºC. Lower the oven setting to 180°C, and cook for a further 25 minutes.

Top the clafoutis with the reserved butter pieces and bake for another 5 minutes, or until set.

To check if it is fully cooked insert a sharp knife or a baking “needle” in the middle, if it comes out clean, the clafoutis is cooked.

Sprinkle with sugar and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve it warm, from the baking dish, on its own or accompanied by whipped cream or Crème Anglaise.

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Thanks for reading 🙂

The best pancakes in the world (according to my son)

Once upon a time I visited a pancake spot in NYC. I was shocked yet attracted by the combination described as apple and bacon pancakes with maple syrup. The result though initially shocking to me was absolutely delicious.

Back home in Spain I tried many pancake recipes that for one reason or another did not end up tasting the same, or with a similar texture to those delicious ones I had in NYC.

I finally came across with the perfect one which I re-adjusted with little changes.

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Apple Pancakes

1 + 1/2 cups of flour

3 + 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon of sugar

1 + 1/4 cup of whole milk

1 egg (medium size)

3 tablespoons of olive oil

(you can use butter too, but olive oil is healthier)

1 apple (pink lady or granny smith)

Mix together the dry ingredients (baking powder, flour,sugar) until well combined.

Add the milk and whisk with energy.

Add the egg and olive oil until the mixture gets smooth and silky.

Shred the apple and mix in the dough with a wooden spoon.

Your pancakes are ready for the pan!!!!

My son prefers them with melted nutella on top, but I rather go for the butter and cinnamon.

Hope you enjoyed

Thanks for reading 🙂

Jet lag of a heart

IMG_20151005_141111Here I am still recovering from jet lag of my very first trip to India. Seems my body cannot get enough sleep and I doze off once in a while. Missing my boyfriend whom I left behind in the amazing yet busy-crazy city of Bangalore does not help either, and I still wonder if we will finally make this work in the real world, with no hotels, nice restaurants and touristic locations.

When all you have is a week every 6-4 months things get a bit surreal. You want them to be special and romantic and passionate (oh yes!) and real. The first day or two are basically “readjusting” to be face to face again, and then the passionate days come, the days in which you cannot have enough of him and you find yourself looking at him while he is (fill in whatever you want here from tooth brushing to reading the paper) and you think to yourself “how can he be so damn sexy?” while you reach for him yet again even though your body is still recovering from a very wild sex session that just happened.

And just when the normal/everyday feeling is setting in, the pre-goodbye moment comes. It usually hits me two to three days before we actually say goodbye. And most of the times at night, while he is asleep (recovering too, poor one) and I realise in X number of days I am not gonna feel him near again for I dont know how long. You get by because you are still together and you postpone that sadness and try to enjoy the days you have left together to the fullest.

But the dreaded goodbye moment comes. I sobbed this time while packing up, wipped my tears so he would not see me. I wondered how I was going to go through the following days, weeks, months without the beautiful feeling of his hand on mine, his touch on my skin, his passion inside… And you say goodbye and it hurts like some part of your heart has been ripped off and the rest is still beating intensifying the pain.

And you go on…making plans for the future, for the next trip and you start counting the days again. People in the meantime feel the need to let you know their opinion (have I ever cared or asked? Hell no!) of long distance relationships and how difficult they are and how you are kind of waisting your time in an alternative world of fantasy.

As for myself…fantasy or not, difficult or not I will still go for that amazing feeling of having found the man of my dreams, and that, is worth the fight.

Thanks for reading 🙂