A Moroccan Supper

Moroccan Supper

It has been cold in Lisbon for the last month or so. I get cranky when skies are gray and temperatures get to one digit, and student papers seem to grow from my desk! Although I like wintertime, I'm not happy with rain every other day, cold feet and a running nose. There's just one way to get my mood right when that happens: hot spicy soup! For the record, I'm yet to make it to Morocco. No idea why I haven't really since it's just around the corner... The smells and flavours of ras-el-hanout couldn't be more perfect to cheer me up!

Moroccan Chickpea Soup
Adapted from Rachel's Food for Friends

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion (125g), chopped
2 stalks celery (100g) chopped
salt and pepper
2 ½ tsp freshly ground cumin
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
a pinch of sugar (for the tomatoes)
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
600ml vegetable stock
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp coriander leaves and stalks, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onions and celery, and season. Cook with the lid on until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the ground cumin and stir. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the pinch of sugar, the chickpeas and vegetable stock. Allow to simmer for a few minutes before adding the lemon juice and chopped fresh coriander. Season to taste.

Moroccan Supper

Vegetarian brick crispy bags

4 small potatoes, cubed
200g frozen peas
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic glove, finely chopped
½ green pepper, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil + 2, to brush
1 tbsp ras-el-hanout
½ tsp sweet paprika
½ cup chopped fresh coriander
8 sheets pastry brick
lemon pieces, to serve

Boil peas and the potatoes in separate pots in salted water. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan. Add onion, garlic and green pepper. Cook for 3 minutes or until soft. Add spices and stir. Drain peas and potatoes. Add to the saucepan. Season to taste and set aside.

To make triangular pastry pockets, fold like this. Add a spoonful of the veggie mixture. Brush with olive oil, both sides. Preheat a heavy bottomed saucepan. Place the little bags on the hot saucepan, 2 minutes each side. Serve hot with the soup and a piece of lemon.


Daring Bakers - Welcome to Canada!

Nanaimo Bars

I have a thing for cookbooks. You too? Good. I hate to be alone with my addictions. In my kitchen there are dozens of cookbooks with thousands of recipes (mainly in Portuguese, English and French) that I'm yet to read, not to mention try. Sometimes I grab one and pass my hand on the cover as if I could feel all the vibes... The shelves on top of my sink hold my Marabout collection of small books like this Trish Deseine ode to chocolate. The book features Nanaimo Bars on the cover. I couldn't tell how many times I've grabbed it, and felt compelled to look at those bars. Thanks Lauren for the challenge!

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

Nanaimo Bars / Gluten Free Graham Wafers

Gluten-Free Graham Wafers

1 cup (138 g) Sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour)
3/4 cup (100 g) Tapioca Starch/Flour
1/2 cup (65 g) Sorghum Flour
1 cup (200 g) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL) Kosher Salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) Unsalted Butter (Cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover.
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole Milk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure Vanilla Extract

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with sweet rice flour and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.

Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.
Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.
Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Might take less, and the starting location of each sheet may determine its required time. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster.
When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziplock bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup (50 g) Granulated Sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
1/2 cup (55 g) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

Middle Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder
2 cups (254 g) Icing Sugar

Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) Unsalted Butter

For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.

For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.

For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.

My thoughts on the challenge:

- I've halved the recipes (Graham Wafers and Nanaimo layers) and didn't have any problem with that, except maybe a little for the middle layer, as it's not so easy to cream small quantities of butter.
- I was thrilled to try Gluten Free baking! Sorghum Flour was a pain to get. I used soya flour and it worked just fine. Will definitely try Gluten Free more often!
- The Graham Wafers on their own are too sweet for me. I'll reduce the sugar a bit next time I make them.
- My bars are hazelnut flavoured. Instead of almonds I've used hazelnut meal - actually the only change I did to the original recipe.


Welcome 2010!

Coq au Vin

That I love French Cuisine is no secret... Is there a better way to start the new year than to cook Coq au vin for the first meal of 2010? I thought so! We had a family meeting to celebrate and welcome a brand new year, and share our best wishes and resolutions. It was a slightly french meal -- the perfect theme to use the new Le Creuset pan I got for Christmas. For dessert, there was Pumpkin Pudding with Almonds... moist, sweet, and nutty. What else could I have asked for? Happy 2010!

Coq au vin

Serves 4

1,2 Kg free-range chicken, cut into large pieces (or 8 thighs + legs)
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter, separated
1 onion, chopped
1 glove garlic, chopped
150 ml dry white wine*
1 bay leaf
½ tsp dried thyme
200 gr wild mushrooms
parsley, to serve

Wash each piece and dry with paper towels. Place flour in a plate and rub the chicken, until covered. In a heavy pan, heat 1 tbsp butter. Working in batches, sauté the chicken for 3-4 minutes, each side. Set aside. Pour a little chicken stock (or water) into the pan, and remove any brown pieces from the pan walls and bottom. Add onion and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Return the browned chicken to the pan. Season with salt and ground black pepper and dried thyme. Add half the wine, let it steam and mix. Add the remaining wine, and cook, covered for 35-40 minutes. Stir occasionally. If it's dry, add some chicken stock or water.

Whilst the chicken cooks, prepare the mushrooms. Preheat a large saucepan. Add 1 tbsp butter, the garlic and half the mushrooms, sliced. Be careful the saucepan is not too crowded. Season with salt, and cook for 4-5 minutes. Set aside in a heated plate, and repeat.

To serve, add the mushrooms to the pan, garnish with parsley and serve with boiled potatoes and a green salad (optional).

* Coq au vin is traditionally made with red wine, mas there are all kind of versions with different wines. My choice for this recipe is a dry white wine.

New Year Lunch

Pumpkin Pudding with Almonds

250 gr baked pumpkin, smashed with a fork
100 gr dark muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
150 ml cream
1 tsp quatre-épices*
2 tbsp raisins
caramel for the mould
2 tbsp slivered almonds, toasted

Mix pumpkin, eggs, spices and sugar. Beat until combined. Add cream and raisins. Mix well. Cover a ring mould with caramel. Pour the batter and cover with a lid. Place the mould into an ovenproof dish and fill with hot water to cover half the wall of the mould. Cook in a preheated oven 180ºC, for 30 minutes. Remove to a serving plate when completely cooled. Garnish with toasted almonds.

*quatre-épices is a spice mix. You may use half cinnamon and equal parts of ground ginger, ground gloves and ground nutmeg.

New Year Lunch