Autumn Simples

I love the in-between seasons – spring and autumn are my all-time favourites. New seasons equals new foods, new recipes and new ideas. Autumn is particularly abundant in beautiful colourful foods, and the recipes are equally pleasant. I love this season because it means that the oven is no longer off-limits, and I can once again start baking.

With work and a family to take care of, I can not prepare complicated recipes. With Bettina now crawling all over the place and having just discovered the wonders the inside of a fridge has to offer, I have to be quick in the kitchen because otherwise it’s having her grab the insides of my knees and following me around, begging me to give her a piece of whatever I’m cooking. Girl loves her tummy.

So my recipes have to be quick, uncomplicated but as tasty as can be.

Through Facebook and several cooking groups, I’ve discovered several recipes which I have tried out and am so happy to share with you because they’re not fussy at all, and the result suggests otherwise.

I’m cooking this Chicken in Sweet and Sour Sauce every week now. I was promised a restaurant-like plate and I have to say, it is true! The oven-baking gives it a great effect, and if I have to suggest one small thing, it would be do use less sugar than said. I found the chicken to cook more tenderly with less sugar to caramelize the whole dish. You can add pineapple bits which I think fit in just perfectly! I added some jasmine rice cooked in cloves and cardamom seeds with some peas to give it some colour and it came out just right.. As always, it’s all about preferences 🙂

Pasta is always a winner in our house, and in fall I love the combination of pumpkin, sage and walnuts, or pancetta, mushrooms and herbs. I love combining the sweet with the salty, fruits with vegetables and meats. One pasta dish which is my fall-upon dish whenever I’m totally stuck is an easy plate pasta with red sauce, red wine, black olives, anchovies, some chili, raisins, and topped up with toasted breadcrumbs and pine nuts. Divine!

When I lived in England, I discovered a pork recipe which I love, if only for the sweet scent that fills up the kitchen whilst cooking it. I often hold myself back with the dates and apricots here, because it can come a bit too sweet for a dinner dish.  I’ve recently discovered a grain mix, just right to substitute rice – spelt, barley, durum wheat, rice and oats all come together for a great nutty taste, and it goes just right with this dish!

I can’t mention cooking with giving you a cake recipe. I found myself with extra apples the other day, and together with figs and walnuts I baked this cake, which is simply perfect for winter. The only problem I found with this cake was that I could not stop eating it. So be aware that this cake is seriously addictive. If you’re counting your calories, I don’t recommend this. You won’t be able to stick with one small piece.

So roll those sleeves and start cooking 😉

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Oven-Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken. Photo doesn’t do it justice, I promise!

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Apples, walnuts and brandied figs about to go in the cake mixture!

Back to Baking

Because of the insufferable heat the islands offer in summer, I had to pause my baking activities and took a two-month break. Using an oven in the middle of a Maltese summer is the equivalent of adding Tabasco to a chilli burger and then complaining it’s too hot and spicy. My hands were itching (quite literally!) and I was drooling over recipes I was searching for and going through in my cooking books and magazines.

Then last week, the weather cooled down a bit.

And so I baked!

And as I always do, I get over-excited. There is something about a lit oven with a baking cake inside that makes me happy. Be it the warm heat, the delicious scent coming out of the oven or the bubbly excitement when finding out how the cake actually tastes!  We had friends over for one night and family the next, so the occasions called for two cakes.  The first one was quite straightforward – it was an Almond and Apricot cake, whilst the second one – a Mojito Genoise, required that bit more work and effort, but the results were simply yummy!

(In my excitement I forgot to take any photos, but I can assure you, you won’t mind the appearance of the cakes because you’ll be too busy devouring them!!)

I’ll give you the online link of the Mojito Genoise cake only because the other cake is easy to find. One minor tweek I’d recommend is decreasing the amount of sugar used in the Mojito syrup because it comes a bit too sweet when using the recommended amount. The rest is as good as it’ll ever get 😉

The Mojito Genoise cake

I did not cover the whole cake with buttercream only because I did not have the time to do so. This cake may require some extra effort, but it'll definitely be appreciated by your guests!!

I did not cover the whole cake with buttercream only because I did not have the time to do so and I did not want to over-sweeten the cake. This cake may require some extra effort, but it’ll definitely be appreciated by your guests!!

The Hot One!

It was quite a relief last night waking up to the sound of the wind blowing through our bedroom blinds. The past couple of days were exhaustingly hot and utterly draining. My energy levels were rock-bottom and every chore required that bit extra effort to do. Thankfully it’s cooler today but the sun is no less hotter.

This weekend I baked a pistachio and ricotta cake which came out really, really good! I made some strawberry ice-cream and today I made Cesca’s birthday cake. The decoration of the latter will be left to more capable hands than my own. As you may know by now, I’m good when it comes to flavour, not so much when it comes to decoration…

The cake which took a whole afternoon to make was gobbled up in record time! Good sign ;)

The cake which took a whole afternoon to make was gobbled up in record time! (Recipe coming in following post!)

 

Almond cakes!

Almond cakes!

Cesca’s been spending all afternoons in her inflatable pool. She throws in all of her toys and spends hours at end playing and splashing around!

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Lethargy is hitting her hard poor thing – she has to get used to this heat! In the meantime, her naps have extended to three-hour ones!

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I hope your weekend was a great one and that you’re coping much better than I am with these temperatures. I need my body to start readjusting to the severe weather-change going on!

Have a great week 😉

White Chocolate and Raspberry Cake

I hadn’t baked for a couple of weeks and yesterday seemed the perfect day to do so. I had the car to myself and was able to go and buy the necessary ingredients, the weather was (and still is) crap and was screaming “BAKE” to me, and I had to use the packet of raspberries I had in my fridge before it went off.

So I found Nigella Lawson’s recipe for this cake, and it came out great. A bit too sweet for my taste but then again, no cake can be too sweet, can it?

Ingredients:

150g softened unsealed butter
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
150g self-raising flour
100g white chocolate, melted
A pinch of salt
50g ground almonds
200g raspberries
200g golden icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and base-line and butter a deep 18cm cake tin. Melt the chocolate over a pan of hot water. Beat the butter and caster sugar until fluffy then stir in the eggs one by one. Fold in the flour, salt and the almonds, then once thoroughly combined, stir in most of the melted chocolate (you need to leave about 1 tablespoon to drizzle).

Tip into the prepared tin. Take 100g raspberries and poke these into the surface all over. Very gently smooth over with a spatula so the batter almost covers the berries. Do not worry if some poke out.

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, covering loosely with foil for the last 10 minutes. Test for readiness by inserting a wooden cocktail stick; it should come out clean.

Invert on to a wire rack to cool. Purée the remaining raspberries then push them through a sieve to eliminate the pips. Beat in the icing sugar until smooth. Once the cake is cool, spread the icing over the top. Re-melt the chocolate if necessary then drizzle over top in zigzags or straight lines.

I added some vanilla essence to the mix and did not use the ground almonds because I was convinced I had at home, but only had normal ones instead. If you are a sweet-lover, do try this one out. but mind you, it’s a super-duper sweet one!

Enjoy!!

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