Sunday, December 14, 2014

Layali Lebnan (Nights of Lebanon)

Layali Lebnan (Nights of Lebanon)
This is provably the second Arabic/Lebanese dessert that I ever tried to make :) (Being d custard lover that I am) I fell in love with this rose/orange blossom scented semolina (eggless) custard!

Ah d joys of living in d Middle East! :)

My aunt-in-law (d in-law part eventually one day..) gave me d recipe, both including eggs, and d eggless version. (I personally like this eggless so nothing takes away from d Arabic scents :) ).

As with any Arabic dessert, this is not for d faint-hearted (will likely put you on sugar-coma)! but is it Oh so delicious! and custardy-like :)

Ingredients for d custard:
- 7 glass Milk
- 5 Tbsp Sugar
- 8 Tbsp Semolina
- 1.5 Tbsp Vanilla extract
- 3 Tbsp Rose water
- 3 Tbsp Orange blossom water

Additional ingredients/toppings:
- Bananas (ripe; sliced)
- Almonds (slivered)
- Pistachio (slivered)
- Walnuts (whole halves)

- Aatar (Arabic sugar syrup) **recipe below**

Place all custard ingredients over medium heat (4/6) and stirr constantly (I use a coated whisk) until it starts boiling (bubbling). Then lower the heat (3/6) and keep stirring for 4 minutes until the consistency is more thick/firm.

Remove from heat and pour into a glass bowl/tefal/containers. Let cool down.
(If you cooked it long enough the surface should not crack when cold).

In the meantime, you can prepare some Aatar (sugar syrup). Note that Aatar keeps for weeks up to a month in the fridge easily :)

- 2 cups Sugar
- 1 1/4 cups Water
- 1 Tbsp Lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp Rose water
- 1 Tbsp Orange blossom water
Place sugar & water on a pan over medium heat. Whisk until the sugar disolves, then let come to a boil.

Once boiling do not stirr!!, add the lemon juice, and lower the heat to let it simmer for 12 minutes.
Then add the rose & orange blossom water and let boil for additional 30 seconds.

Remove from the heat, and let cool down completly. Then place into a container, and keep in the fridge until use.

So, you have your custard, you have your sugar syrup; now let's put it together.

Serve your custard on the individual plates, and then you can place some whipped cream (if you want) and then sliced bananas, slivered pistachios, almonds, and walnuts... aaand drizle some Aatar syrup on top :) (I told you, this is not for the faint hearted!!)

Voila! a beautifuly scented, custard-like dessert with Arabic touch :) Enjoy!

PS: if you are keeping the custard in the fridge, make sure you cover the top with transparent film, or place a hermetic lid if you have over it, so it wont crack & dry out on the top.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Strawberry condensed milk mousse

Strawberry condensed milk mousse
Ah d joys of homesickness! :)

I actually almost forgot that my mum does this delicious, fresh mousse so well (if you have been on this blog before, you are provably aware that she's a pretty terrible cook.. except for crepes & flans.. and this mousse Lol).

She actually got the recipe off a Nestle condensed milk wrapping some years ago, and does it her way (without gelatin) slightly changing the proportions. I am not a fan of gelatin (or cuajada) textures, so I prefer the mousse this way, even if its a little runny.

*If you actually want something more 'composed' I would suggest you soak-up 2 gelatin sheets in cold water, drain them, and add them to the mix (prior to blending d whole thing).

This mousse is very light/flowy & kind of feels like a digestive dessert :) It is ridiculously easy to make with only 4 ingredients! (you can see the minimal-cooking family gene here..! Lol)

Ingredient steps - then blend
- 500 gr Strawberries (fresh; chopped)
- 125 gr Yogurt (natural)
- 1 can Condensed milk (396 gr)
- 200 mL Whipping cream (cold)

Wash & dice the strawberries, and place in a large bowl.

Add the yogurt, condensed milk & whipping cream. With a blender wand blend everything together (you should let bubbles/air come into the mix to help it 'mousse-up' a bit).

Pour into little yogurt glasses & refridgerate at least 2-3 hours. Serve cold!

I actually like to top it with a little crunch from a Lotus/Speculoos cookie :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Pumpkin cheesecake (swirled)

Pumpkin cheesecake
 I am on a baking spree! Maybe its the uncertainty of 2015, or being away from home this Xmass.. (Can you believe? the ONE year I don't fly 7'500 km to be home they have a 10 year highschool reunion!! How unfair Lol 'nerd outcast rebirth' for me xD oh well, maybe in d 15 year reunion then Lol)

This cheesecake was so sunctuous and delicious that it barely survived 5 minutes in d office!!

It ranked top #1 (along with d carrot cake)!! so it is definitely a winner!

*Disclaimer: my cheesecake cracked a bit, so I have included some detailed steps to avoid craking :) 
Preparing base ingredients
- 225 gr Speculoos cookies (powdered)
- 75 gr Pecan (powdered)
- 60 gr Butter (melted)

Cheesecake filling:
- 680 gr Philadelphia cheese (room temperature)
- 200 gr White sugar (caster)
- 2 Tbsp Cornstarch (or AP flour)
- 2 tsp Vanilla extract
- 4 Eggs (large; whole)
- 215 gr Pumpkin puree
- 2 tsp Cinammon (powder)
- 1 tsp Nutmeg (powder)

Butter a 9 or 10 inch round pan (all inside).
Pre-heat oven to 170 C (top & bottom), place a rack in the middle.

Making the cookie/pecan base
 To make the crust, in a blender powder the cookies & pecan together. 

Melt the butter in the microwave.

Then mix butter & cookie powder well together, and introduce into the greased baking pan. Press onto the bottom (and a little on d sides), and place into the oven to bake fo 6 minutes.

Once the 6 minutes are over remove from the oven and let cool down to room temperature (or place in the fridge to cool - of course over a heat-proof surface).

In the meantime, you can prepare the cheesecake filling:

Making d plain cheesecake

In a large bowl, place the Philadelphia cheese (room temperature!), white sugar, cornstarch and vanilla extract. Beat together until well creamed (2-3 min).

NOW, add the eggs and incorporate well with the lowest amount of beating/mixing possible.
The more you beat it, the more chances that your cheesecake will crack!!

Once it is well mixed, place 200-220 gr of the mix into a smaller bowl. To the small bowl, add the cinnamon, nutmeg and 215 gr of Pumpkin puree. AGAIN, incorporate with minimal amount of beating/mixing.

Split cheesecake, prepare pumpkin cheesecake mix

Remove the cold cookie crust from the fridge, and place half of the pumpkin mix onto the mold. Then, place the entire (plain) cheesecake mix on top. With a knife, swirl around a bit (without cutting into your cookie base).

Then, add the remaining pumpkin mix in spoonfuls over the top; and swirl with a knife. (See the picture for the swirling outcome).
Now you are ready to bake!

*So about craking:

A cheesecake cracks when the center reaches 65 Celsius.

The best way to bake the cheesecake is to do it "Bain Marie" (a.k.a. in a water bath). Unfortunately as you see I do not have a large enough pan to contain my 9 inch cake-pan.. Also if you line the tin with foil it will aid the no-cracking.

Filling pan by layering, and swirling

While baking do NOT open the oven.

So, after all that disclaimer :) ,, place the cake in the center of your middle oven rack, and bake for 55-60 min.

Once done, remove from the oven, wait a couple of minutes & pass a thin knife along the borders of the pan (to make sure it doesn't stick & crack while cooling down). Then, cover (not too tightly) with foil to let it cool down to room temperature.

Once at room temperature, place into the fridge and let refridgerate for a couple of hours.

After it refridgerated you can remove from the pan and serve as desired :)

.. a nice way would be with some Dulce de Leche drizzle & whipped cream :D

Pumpkin cheesecake - longside cut
Pumpkin cheesecake (slightly craked..)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Batata harra (Lebanese potatoes with garlic and coriander)

Batata harra - Lebanese
Can you feel the Holidays approaching?! I guess this year theres no way for me to contain my excitement :) 17 days to be on vacation, in Lebanon.

So in d spirit of Lebanese food, here is a simple mezze, crowd pleaser, apt for vegetarians & potato lovers :) (like the man of the house!)

- 500 gr Potato* (diced medium)
- 1 handful Coriander (fresh; largely chopped)
- 6 Garlic cloves (diced small)

*First of all, let us talk potatoes. You want to get potatoes to use for "French fries" (yes, there are different potato kinds). You want your potatoes crispy outside (not soggy..). In Doha I have learnt to get the young/hard frying potatoes, light yellow color, smooth skin (they should be hard to the touch).*

So, once that is out of the way :)

Fried potato dices

Peel and dice your potatoes; rinse them with water and drain them.

Olive oil & chopped garlic

Set a platter with kitchen napkin (to soak off the excess oil - after frying).
Heat generous vegetable oil on a pan (at highest heat) and once hot, deep fry until golden. Remove from pan and place into platter to soak off some oil. Salt them.

On the same pan, heat some Olive oil (2-3 Tbsp), add the chopped garlic, and fry until it starts turning slightly yellow/golden. Then add the coarsely chopped coriander and fry until soft (just a minute or two).

If you fry it for too long it will turn brownish (you don't want that).

Once soft, add in the fried potato dices and toss/incorporate well.

Serve hot :)

For those that like spicy/hot food, you can add some chopped chilly peppers, or 1/4 tsp of Cayenne pepper (I would suggest, since you're going the Middle Eastern route, to add some Harissa paste to give it some hotness :) (just make sure you are aware how spicy Harissa paste really is.. )