DB#17 or Let's Party!

There's this song by The Divine Comedy that has played in my head all month since the Daring Bakers March challenge was posted by our lovely hostess Morven.

Give me your love
And I'll give you the perfect lovesong
With a divine Beatles bassline
And a big old Beach Boys sound

The song goes on (check it out on the right bar if you're curious), very cheesy and full of (beaten) love sentences. After all every love song is suppose to be a bit silly or it's not real love!! But why would I remember that whilst reading the DBs challenge? Because it's the Perfect Party Cake by Dorie Greenspan! So give me your attention and I'll give your the perfect party cake recipe. ;)

My thoughts on the challenge:

- I love individual savoury pies, sweet tarts or little cakes. Even when a bake bread I always end up doing two loafs instead of one or a bunch of buns in place of a loaf... I don't have an explanation for this. It's easier for me to plan 3 dozen tarts than to bake a large cake! So with the excuse that I don't own a couple of large pans that match, I've baked 16 little cakes using my muffin tins.

- What type of flour to use was one of the discussions going on during the month. I used cake flour. The cakes didn't rise a lot but enough to create four-layer individual cakes that turned out lovely.

- I've used a couple of tablespoons of lavender to flavour the sugar I used for the cakes and the buttercream (1/2 recipe), discarded the lemon zest for the cakes and added only half the quantity of lemon juice to the buttercream. I also had the coconut with the lavender for some time before sprinkling the cakes.

- As I assembled the cakes in two different days, first I used chopped strawberries in a light lavender syrup with buttercream and shredded coconut and for the second 'batch', I used strawberry jam and fresh strawberries with whipped cream and mascarpone cheese. Both takes were very nice but I really loved the fresh fruit between the layers.

- I kept the cakes (without filling) in an airtight container for a couple of days.


Herb Couscous with Salmon

Salmon is a regular in my kitchen. It's healthy, versatile and tasty. The fish quality is crucial to the outcome - this (wonderful and pricey) fresh salmon was so much better than any other that I ever had that I immediately forgot how expensive it had been. My often trips to the market are usually completed by my mum in law's supplies from a brilliant fisherman across the street from her place. I never choose exactly what I want and he always knows what to send. When the fish arrived, I've planned to make the salmon fillets for lunch, simply sautee in a little olive oil with couscous. So I went fishing for a different couscous recipe to go along my fish. Jamie's Dinners (that didn't have my attention for a long time) had this salmon with couscous that looked delicious. But then I didn't have most of the ingredients: no courgette or asparagus... Oh well, I've done it my way with what was available. It was served with a rocket salad with a hint of balsamic vinegar.

Herb Couscous with Salmon

Serves 2

2 fresh salmon fillets, boneless (about 200 grs each)
2 Tbsp olive oil
100 grs couscous
3 riped tomatoes, cubed
1/2 lemon juice
1 tsp oregano
1 garlic glove, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, put the couscous and add enough boiling water to cover. Set aside. Allow to hydrate for 5 minutes. In a thick-bottom saucepan, heat oil. Sautee salmon fillets for 2-3 minutes, each side. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the pan to a heated plate. Add the tomatoes, the chopped garlic and the oregano, and let it sautee for a minute. Mix in the couscous (previously removed from the bowl with a fork), stirring to combine whilst adding the lemon juice. If necessary, add a pinch of salt. Remove from the heat, add chopped cilantro. Return salmon fillets to the saucepan, on top of the couscous. Cover for 2 minutes to allow flavours to seat together.

Related recipes
Stuffed Salmon Fillets


Spicy Soup or or Why I Love Wintertime

Mixed feelings about the weather is something every human being is familiar with. If it's winter, it's the rain (or the lack of it) and everybody dreams about sunny days. If it's summer, it's how hot it is and how cosy winter days can be... I complain about the weather, therefore I exist. As the spring arrives, I have cravings for salads and colorful fruits but the soup freak in me feels a little sorry for the hot weather. Before that happens I better share my own version of dahl, the Indian spicy soup that makes a winter day like today much brighter.


Serves 4

1 1/2 cups cup dried red lentils
1 medium onion, chopped
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large carrot, chopped
1 tsp turmeric (curcuma)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 large tomatoes (or 4 small), chopped
3 cups water or veg broth
salt to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Over medium-high heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a pot, add onions and saute for 2 minutes. Add the carrot and the turmeric and saute 2 more minutes. Add lentils and veg broth. Bring to a boil then lower the heat a bit and simmer for 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, heat remaining olive oil, toast the spices for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and stir carefully for 2 minutes. Mix in the tomatoes to the lentils mixture once tender and add a pinch of salt (or to taste). When about to serve, add chopped cilantro.

This is my entry for No Croutons Required, this month hosted by Holler from Tinned Tomatoes. No Croutons Required is a monthly food blogging event alternately hosted by Lisa's Kitchen and Tinned Tomatoes. The theme for March is spicy soups. The No Croutons Required challenge for March is to make a spicy soup that will tingle on the tongue. How fitting is that?? Thanks to Gretchen for bringing this event to my attention. :)


Saudade & God's Bread

There's nothing more Portuguese than saudade. The word doesn’t even have a direct translation into English, and the correspondent feeling - so many times sang by fado, the national song - couldn't say more about the Portuguese character. Saudade it's when you miss something. But it’s much deeper than that. It's the unattainable, the untouchable. Or just the feeling of nostalgia of past moments and good old days. I miss my grandma badly. And how I use to buy a Pão de Deus at the local bakery and have it in the street walking back home.

Portuguese bakery being a rich part of our cuisine, every local has a favourite cake. In fact, semi industrial bakery has a very strong tradition in Portugal. One portion cakes, more or less decadent, more or less sophisticated can be found a little everywhere from street cafes to fancy tea houses. So what is my favourite cake? I'm not much into cakes but I'm crazy about bread. Pão de Deus falls in between with a soft crumble, topped with coconut. Most people have it with cheese or ham but I love it simple, with my morning coffee. Pão de Deus means literally God's Bread. I don't really know where the name came from... It does reminds me of my childhood and it tastes like heaven!

Pão de Deus

Makes 10-12

3 large eggs
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup milk, warm
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved, seeds scraped
pinch of salt
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp dry baker's yeast

topping for 6 (if willing to top all cakes, double the quantities)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg

1 egg to brush
icing sugar to sprinkle

In a small bowl, use your fingers to rub the vanilla seeds and the bean with the sugar for the dough and for the topping. Set aside. Remove the bean before using the sugar for the dough and the coconut topping.

In a large bowl, mix in flour, yeast, and sugar. Make a hole in the middle, add eggs lightly beaten, warm milk and salt. Use a fork or your hands to combine into a manageable dough - if the dough is too sticky add a tablespoon of flour at a time until you can use your hands (slightly floured) to knead. Slowly incorporate the butter. Place dough onto a floured surface. Knead well for 10 minutes or until dough is elastic and shinny. It should be soft but less sticky at this point. Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, dry place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Prepare the topping by combining coconut and sugar with a lightly beaten egg in a bowl.

Divide dough into 10 or 12 equal parts. Use the palm of your hands to form round shaped cakes. Place the balls on parchment paper on a baking sheet, allowing enough space between every cake to rise. Cover with a tea towel and let rise again for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180ºC (360ºF).

Brush the cakes with beaten egg and top with a spoonful of coconut mixture. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove and allow to cool on a rack. Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.

This is my entry for Homegrown Gourmet, hosted by Michelle from Culinography. Michelle chose for the sixth Homegrown Gourmet challenge the theme Breakfast. I just happen to *love* breakfast! It's God's meal. ;)


One Clafoutis & a couple of Memes

Ages ago I've been tagged by Gretchen from Canela & Comino and Louise from Gato Azul. First, my apologies for taking sooooo long to reply. Hopefully, you all get to know a little about me with these memes, even being so late. :) Ok, on to some answers!

Gretchen's meme:

What were you doing 10 years ago?
I was about to start my first job, shortly after finishing university. I remember being both excited and scared!

What were you doing 1 year ago?
I was between carton boxes, packing 1000 books and 10 boxes of kitchen stuff! We moved in our new flat in the beginning of April.

Five snacks you enjoy?

Raspberries, toasts, brioche, walnuts, goat cheese with honey

Five songs that you know all the lyrics to?
Beautiful Day by U2 (I could easily list 5 U2 songs I know by heart)
Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk by Rufus Wainwright (I don't smoke and I don't drink chocolate milk but Rufus is always around)
Across the Universe by The Beatles (yep, my mum is such a fan I think I've started listening to those guys before I was even born!)
Numb by Linkin Park (I have the version feat. Jay-Z in my iPod - just great to get me going in the morning!)
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? version by Amy Winehouse (sorry, I had to choose a cheesy one!)

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire?
Make a lot of donations to valuable causes, start a hospital to abandoned cats and dogs, travel A LOT, ... (that's why I'm not a millionaire - I wouldn't know what to do with the money!!)

Five bad habits?
Not washing the dishes shortly after using them (I hate doing the washing up), never being able to keep my desk tidy, never doing things on time, spending too much money on printed paper, not responding right away to text messages.

Five things you like doing?
Following tennis, baking, reading, traveling, shoping.

Five things you would never wear again?
A perm (don't even ask!), leggings, uncomfortable high heels (I'm allergic to pain), over sized hearings, small useless purses.

Five favorite toys?

iPod, my cameras, my kitchen knifes (yes, I'm a dangerous girl), my mobile phone, my cat Matilde (ok, she's not a toy but I love playing with her)

Louise, who loves Portugal and writes the adorable blog Gato Azul, asked me to share five things about me. Like Louise, I'll give you 5 things I love.

- I love cherries, strawberries and all red fruits
- I love cheese, any cheese, every cheese!
- I love coffee (addict...)
- I love Lisbon's light in October by the river
- I love spending an entire day in my pajamas

And now another Clafoutis!

Courgette and Feta Clafoutis
Inspiration from Isabel Brancq-Lepage, Flans, fars et clafoutis, Marabout.

4 eggs
200 ml whipping cream
100 ml milk
100 g Feta cheese, crumbled
50 g flour, sifted
1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 courgettes, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add chopped courgettes, and stir until golden, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, whipping cream and crumbled feta cheese. Add in the sifted flour, mixing continuously. Pour in the milk, and whisk until combined. Mix in cooked courgettes. Add the chopped basil leaves. Season with pepper and a pinch of salt. Pour the bater into greased pie molds. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Serve immediately, as a side dish or with a salad.


A study in Yellow with a few notes of Passion

I clearly remember how difficult it was to draw 'J's and 'I's when I learned how to write, how the 'a's legs would curl and how my lines would - in a very annoying way - always go up... I remember learning how to write but I have no memory of learning how to read. No one taught me. I always knew how to put letters together and... well, read! Although there were lots of books at home whilst I grew up, my parents made no special encouragement regarding that matter. At least not more than to music or sports, in which I mostly suck. I became a compulsive reader by myself. There's no food, sleep or cold when I read. The world, really, doesn't matter anymore. It's me and my book. It's quite obsessive. With the years my love for the printed paper hasn't decreased but I've learned a book can't always replace food, sleep or a blanket... Not surprisingly, I'm addicted to cookbooks. And to cookbook editors like Marabout, my all time favourite. After my french parisian getaway, I've been cooking a lot from those books. I have madeleines and clafoutis to blog about for a long time. Let's get started with!

Curd Cheese Clafoutis with Cherry Tomatoes
Inspiration from Isabel Brancq-Lepage, Flans, fars et clafoutis, Marabout.

4 eggs
200 ml whipping cream
100 ml milk
100 g curd cheese, crumbled
50 g flour, sifted
1/4 cup chives, chopped
12 Cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, whipping cream and crumbled curd cheese. Add in the sifted flour, mixing continuously. Pour in the milk, and whisk until combined. Mix in the chopped chives. Season with pepper and a pinch of salt (depending on how salty the curd cheese you're using is). Place the tomatoes evenly into a greased heatproof plate. Pour the bater, carefully not to disturb the tomatoes. Bake for 25 minutes or until cook through. Serve immediately, as a side dish or with a green salad.

Just a little housekeeping: I was tagged twice by sweet Gretchen and lovely Louise. Promise I'll do it this week, girls! :) Marye at Baking Delights featured my hidden chocolate tarts at her blog. Thanks Marye! She's looking for a new tag line for Baking Delights, and holding a great contest. Do check it out!


HHDD#18 or The Hidden Chocolate Tart

I never miss a chance to say how less I care about chocolate - some people are weird in a weird way! It's not that I dislike, I just don't love it. But that has never prevented me from using chocolate. In fact, I was most thrilled when the Hay Hay, it's Donna Hay theme was announced at the brilliant Marita Says: Coconut Chocolate Tarts!

My idea from the beginning was to "hide" the chocolate and give it a twist with white chocolate and blackberries. Chocolate lovers will certainly roll their eyes - white chocolate is not exactly chocolate and in case I need some glasses (or to check my english) those are raspberries! No blackberries available anywhere when you need them. And as far as I'm concerned, white chocolate does apply as chocolate. But, no worries, I wouldn't leave dark chocolate out of this equation! Seek and you shall find!

Hidden Chocolate Coconut Tarts

Makes 8

For the shell:
2 egg whites
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups dessicated coconut

For the filling:
1 and 1/4 cups cream
50 grs dark chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped
200 grs good quality white chocolate, chopped

To assemble:
Icing Sugar, to sprinkle

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).

Mix the egg whites, coconut and sugar well. Scoop the mixture into muffin tins (I used paper cupcake forms) and with wetted hands (works best this way) press it out to create a base and sides for a cup. Put into the oven at bake for about 8-10 minutes (mine took about 9), or until it begins to lightly brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for one minute.

While this is happening, heat 1/4 cup of cream in a saucepan until almost boiling. Remove from heat and throw in the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted into the cream and you have a decadent and rich looking chocolate liquid. Do the same in another saucepan with the remaining cream and the white chocolate.

Spoon the dark chocolate mixture in the cups (divide equally to create a thin layer on the bottom). Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Carefully, fill each cup with the white chocolate mixture. Put the cups on a plate or tray in the freezer and leave it for 10 minutes or until set. (Best overnight)

To assemble, place 2 or 3 raspberries on top of each tart. Dust with a little icing sugar.

Original recipe can be found here.

My notes:

The shells are very fragile. Thanks to Bordeaux's suggestion, I used paper cupcake forms. So glad I did!! When I tried to remove the paper after an hour in the fridge, the tart shells cracked. I serve those in a bowl with raspberries and Valrhona dark chocolate sticks.

The remaining tarts that "survive" to see the light of the day after were perfect! The paper was very easy to remove - I'd suggest baking the day before and cool overnight.

Check the great roundup at Marita Says and vote for your favourite.


Cinnamon & Cocoa

I'm not a chocolate freak - I'm a cinnamon chick! My favourite combination of flavours when it comes to cinnamon is cocoa. There's this blend of bitter and spicy that makes it special. I just love it! This cinnamon and cocoa bread is a recipe I do pretty often. Although it may sound like a sweet bread, this is actually good both with jam and cheese but also nice with prosciutto and herbs (I'd suggest basil). It goes quite well with honey, curd cheese and walnuts like I had for breakfast this morning.

Cinnamon and Cocoa Bread

Makes 1 loaf

500 grs all-purpose flour (3 1/2 cups)
70 grs cocoa (1/2 cup), extra to dust
1 1/4 tsp dry yeast
3 Tbsp olive oil (low acidity), extra to brush
3 Tbsp light brown mascavado sugar
350 ml (1 1/2 cup) warm water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, the cocoa and the cinnamon with the yeast, make a hole in the middle. Add the warm water mixing with a fork (if using a stand mixer, pour the water slowly and steadily while mixing, with the hook attachment). Add the sugar and the salt, then add the olive oil. Work the dough for 10 minutes or until it's elastic and doesn't stick too much to your fingers (or to the bowl of the stand mixer). Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm, dry place for 1 hour or until it doubles in size. Turn the dough onto a surface lightly dusted with cocoa powder. Work the dough for another 5 minutes. Prepare a loaf pan, brush with olive oil and dust with cocoa powder. Put the dough in the loaf pan and cover. Let rise again for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Use a pizza stone or some bricks in the oven. To create some steam, carefully pour some boiling water over ice cubes in a large heatproof plate. Place it in the bottom of your oven. I like to add a cinnamon stick to the water. It smells wonderful and it will give a nice touch to the bread! Brush the bread with a little olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on a rack.

This is my entry for Master Baker #1, the food event created by Nikki of Crazy Delicious. The chosen ingredient for this first challenge was (surprise, surprise!) Cinnamon. Check out the roundup at the lovely Master Baker website.