Archive for April, 2013

Custard Shortbreads

 
Custard Shortbreads

When my last tin of Bird’s Custard Powder was nearing its use-by date, I scoured the internet looking for different ways to use it up quickly, which is how I found these custard shortbreads.

I’m so glad I found them, they’re quick and easy to make, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, now I’m kind of sad I ran out of custard powder – I need an excuse to get another tin, because I want to make these over and over again.

Custard Shortbreads Custard Shortbreads
Custard Shortbreads Custard Shortbreads

I recently made a batch for my friend K’s dad to take on his flight back home to the UK, he loved them so much (or appreciated the gesture), he’s promised me a large tin of custard powder when he’s coming back this summer.

The cookies are similar to these Christmas time cookies, with custard powder instead of almond meal, the texture is a little bit more airy and delicate, and the taste is lighter.

They make the perfect snack-time treat, and I’m in love with their bright yellow colour.

Custard Shortbreads Custard Shortbreads

Custard Shortbread Custard Shortbreads

Tea and Chickpea Cakes

Tea and Chickpea Cakes Tea and Chickpea Cakes

I think it was my dad who helped nurture my love for tea, and although it took me years to become a ‘real tea drinker’, I always had a revering fascination with tea.

My dad spoke wistfully of tea back when we couldn’t afford it, and when we could, he ordered it from the special duty-free catalogue we received each year.

He called it the tea of the Czars; it may have been Kusmi tea, not that I remember. For all his faults, my dad was never a boastful man; he was humble to a point of self-deprecation, yet he talked about his tea with such pride and passion, I knew it was something special.

We had it on special occasions only, on its own or with nuts or savoury pastries – that’s how he preferred his tea.

I have a deeper appreciation for tea now, its healing and calming properties; most of what I know about tea I learned from François-Xavier Delmas’ blog Discovering Tea, and his excellent tea shops.

Tea and Chickpea Cakes
Tea and Chickpea Cakes Tea and Chickpea Cakes

I’m not a daily tea drinker, just because I like a little ceremony to go with my tea; I do tea and chickpea cakes often, the savoury (chickpea cakes) and soothing (tea) pairing makes me a little nostalgic and comforted.

The cakes are a little spicy, they melt in your mouth and the tea is cooling, it’s a deliciously unique and complimenting combination.

These chickpea cakes are my favourite teatime snack; the thing I love most about them is their versatility; an assortment of vegetables can be baked into them – onions, carrots, peas (pictured), cauliflower, bell pepper, cabbage, potatoes… etc and it always turns out wonderful.

It’s best enjoyed right out of the oven, when it’s still hot and crispy on the outside, and it’s perfect for tea anytime.

Tea and Chickpea Cakes

Tea and Chickpea Cakes Tea and Chickpea Cakes

Tomato, Basil and Cashew Sauce

 
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I’ve been feeling a little unmotivated lately; or perhaps lazy would be appropriate, but that’s such a four letter word…
Something must have happened to me in New York because I don’t think I’ve been myself since I got home.

I’m still struggling to finish unpacking from that little trip, and all I seem to be doing lately besides going to work, is staying in bed and reading – because, you know…“literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life”

Tomato, Basil and Cashew Sauce Tomato, Basil and Cashew Sauce
Tomato, Basil and Cashew Sauce Tomato, Basil and Cashew Sauce

Admittedly, the few times I forced myself to go out were actually nice, like the afternoon I went grocery shopping for this tomato, basil and cashew sauce – it was a bright sunny day.

This sauce is bright too; I love it for its simple fresh ingredients; it’s a little creamy from rich-tasting cashews and has a smooth tangy flavour from the tomatoes and basil.

I make a big batch, usually doubling the recipe and freeze some for later use; of course, it’s good tossed with pasta, but I use it in a few other dishes as well – on toast, sandwiches and flatbread, or tossed with roasted vegetables.

Tomato, Basil and Cashew Sauce Tomato, Basil and Cashew Sauce

It’s technically a ‘summer sauce’, but occasionally I’ll come across some good looking hothouse tomatoes and the perfect bunch of basil and cave, also because it’s one of those easy no-brainer sauces that one makes when one is feeling unmotivated.

Like I said, I made a big batch… just in case it takes me a while to get out of this funk I find myself – it makes dinner interesting without too much work.

A little note on when making this sauce; depending on how you prefer your sauces, feel free to add another 1/4 – 1/2 cup of wine or water to the sauce while it simmers, if you feel it’s too thick.

Tomato Basil Cream Sauce
Tomato, Basil and Cashew Sauce ITomato, Basil and Cashew Sauce

Tomato, Basil and Cashew Sauce

Tomato, Basil and Cashew Sauce Tomato, Basil and Cashew Sauce

Sunday Breakfast: Finger Millet Porridge

 
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I grew up with Rwanda in the news when it was synonymous with genocide; but I always suspected that this beautiful Eastern African country ‘adorned with hills, lakes and volcanoes’ was so much more than its horrid and unimaginably painful past.

These days Rwanda is becoming known for premium coffee grown on small hilly farms many metres above sea level.

The coffee I brew at home is from Rwanda and I get it from a lovely coffee shop, and it’s really, really good coffee.

Then there’s the millet flour I get from the little African store on Kingsway, it too is from Rwanda – it’s ground from unhulled African finger millet they call uburo.

This flour is a little grittier and the flavour is nuttier than the much popular pearl millet.

When I use this flour to make the traditional Ghanaian spiced porridge (Hausa koko), it’s darker and bolder – a little full-bodied, if you may.

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I make this porridge quite often on weekends, alternating between this flour and the pearl millet variety, which is lighter with a smoother taste.

I prefer this finger millet porridge; it’s a little more complex and the spices give it a luxurious depth, I make it with lots of coconut milk and nuts and a warm bowl of this porridge on Sunday mornings is deliciously heartwarming.

The recipe for this porridge can be found here; finger millet flour is in Indian grocery stores too as Ragi flour, and there’s a similar porridge from India called Ragi Malt.

Finger Millet Flour Porridge IMG_7065

Spiced Strawberry Pie with Crumble Topping

 
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There are certain movies that stay with you long after you’ve watched them, they aren’t necessarily the best, or your typical Oscar-worthy movies; sometimes it’s just because the themes in the movies are relatable.

I watched Higher Ground last year, a 2011 movie starring Vera Farmiga as a woman who suffers a crisis of faith in her tight-knit born-again Christian community.

Coming from an insanely religious culture, I connected with the heroine’s struggle with religion, faith, identity and doubt – I’ve been where she’s been, and basically came to the same realizations.
Every once in a while, something happens that makes me think back on this movie.

There’s also the song from which the movie gets its title, which brings back so many memories… there was a version sung in Twi that my dad played all the time, I can almost hear the singer’s raspy voice hauntingly sing of longing for a ‘higher ground’ – a far better place than she’s found; it made me dream then.

The reason why I’m bringing up the movie is because there’s a scene in it where the women gather for bible study, one of the ‘sisters’ is very excited that someone brought home-made carob-chip cookies to share.

Corrine, our heroine asks her friend; “Do you know what carob tastes like?”
“Chocolate?” her friend asks
“Disappointment” Corrine answers.

I thought about that scene when I started looking into making pie crust without the traditional animal fats (butter, lard) or vegetable shortening that contain trans fat.
I googled ‘vegan pie crust’ and coconut oil came up as an alternative. The challenge was to make a buttery and flaky crust that didn’t taste like disappointment, using coconut oil.

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I love coconut oil, I use it in everything – from soups to conditioning my hair, and I’ve used it for baking with great results. Coconut oil stays solid at certain temperatures (76 degrees F. melting point) and can be cut into flour in its solid state just like conventional shortening.

I chill mine in the fridge for a few minutes, cut it into pieces and whirl it with my flour and salt in the food processor for a few seconds, add apple cider vinegar and a few tablespoons of water.

The dough comes together much like any other pie dough, bakes flawlessly and tastes… buttery and flaky.

I made apple hand pies for work using the coconut oil dough, it got high praise, and no one could tell it had coconut oil in it.

This strawberry pie is what I do with the strawberries that are just coming in from California; I wish I knew how to resist them – they’re pretty tempting but not as tasty as BC strawberries in the summer.

There are so many delicious facets to this pie; the crust, perfect textured crumble topping, and the strawberry filling generously spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cardamom for a rustic and flavourful taste – the warm spices and strawberries are perfect together; delightfully so, I love it especially during this time when we’re transitioning into warmer temperatures.

IMG_5197 Spiced Strawberry Pie

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