coconut infused chocolate cake with peach compote

When I made this, I could not believe how fuzz free this can be. This resulted as a brownie baking session. The brownie recipe – slighlty simplified – from Jamie O’s cookbooks. Brownies are nice to made: There is absolutely no way to mess up something that contains only chocolate, little bit of flour, butter ,eggs and sugar. There are combined the basics for a good brownie. There are then endless possibilities in terms of flavor: with custard, peanut butter, nuts, fruits, vanilla… you name it.

For a more fluffier version I added some baking soda, essentially, creating a chocolate cake like texture.

DSC_1633Two tablespoons fit well into  a glass, which I buttered and sprinkled with dessicated coconut ahead. I added some crushed walnuts at the top. chocolate with walnuts just are natural together.

Whilst baking, I cut a ripe peach into junks and simmer it at low heat with some honey over the hob until the texture is broken down. I set this aside to cool.

chocolate coconut bronwie

Once the bake is ready, i remove the glass from the oven and let it sit to cool as well. It should have well risen and spongy feel when touching it.

To serve, top the chocolate cake with the peach compote. Pour some coconut milk on top. This will run through the bake and make it more moist. This can be served warm right after the oven as well. (if you are really keen, give it a spin in the microwave).  This would probably work with the original recipe (without the the baking soda). I can imagine a moist rich chocolate au tarte version with fruity toppings. Next time then.

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Merry Berry Banana Chia Pod

This is seriously a 10 min fix against your monday morning blues.

Chia seeds are claimed to provide protein, vitamins and omega-3 fats. Combined  with  low fat yoghurt, oatmeal, fresh strawberries and coconut roasted bananas, this got me started with a vitamin boost. The natural sweetness of the fruits makes adding refined sugar redundant.

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Chia Seeds, Coconut and Almond flakes
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Oatmeal flakes and Strawberries

I sliced the strawberries and mixed them with the yoghurt, some oatmeal and the chia seeds into the glass and set them aside for the oatmeal to immerse with the yoghurt.

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Some cut up banana chunks are rolled in desiccated coconut and almond flakes before putting them in a hot pot with melted butter. This gives them a hint of butter and the heat unlocks the coconutty flavor.

The pod are topped with the banana chunks and finised off with some drops of maple syrup or honey (optional).

Now enjoy that with some good cup of coffee!

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Crispy banana on chia seed yoghurt pod

Vietnamese banana dessert Chè chuối

DSC_1712Chè are Vietnamese desserts. They come in a variety of tastes and flavors. Some have sweet potato, corn, tapioca, sesame and mungo or red beans. Selling them as delicisios treats to my local friends here earns rather skeptic looks and frowns, which is understandable compared to the cream/butter based treats we are used to over here. No one would eat potatoes or red bean with lots of sugar.  The majority of Chè involve also coconut milk – the cream substitute. So these are good desserts (and filling ones!) for lactose sensitive or intolerant peeps.

This chè is unbelievably quick and easy to do but tastes incredible. Only ripe bananas, coconut milk and sugar are needed for the basic version. It leaves a great impression with friends and family and proves that Asian desserts can be tasty as well.

The original chè chuối also has tapioca pearls (sago pearls),which gives it more a texture though being totally taste neutral. If you decide to have them with tapioca pearls, it is worth it to cook them separately and then adding them last. Tapioca overcooked can become easily a tasteless lump.

The bananas are sliced before putting in a pot with some sugar on low heat. I used Muscovado sugar for the natural more in depth flavor. Be careful not to overheat the sugar as it does not get burnt. Once the banana slices lose some texture and the sugar is brown.

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Pour the coconut milk over and simmer for a another two or three minutes. Fill in glasses and sprinkle with crushed peanuts or  toasted sesame seeds.  This tastes both cold and warm!

vietnamese desert

coconut milk buns sliders

Vegan buns coconut

On my one-week-trial of being vegan I went to the probably worst place to test my self challenge at the Dalsonist’s favorite food market.  Now try resisting in the presence of grilled beef burger patties, sweet marinated pork belly or melted grilled cheese. I refuse to settle for tacos guacamole or chips, hence, I came with up with my own street food offer: Steamed buns with veggie filling, served as a slider.

For the milk buns, combine flour , some coconut milk, dash of salt and some baking soda in a bowl and mix well. I used on c. 2 cups of flour, half a tsp of baking soda. Roll the dough into small balls  and place them on piece of parchment paper in a bamboo steamer.

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Now any vegetable works for the filling. I cut some white flesh sweet potato, onions and brown mushrooms and spread the pieces onto a baking tray. Drizzled with olive oil, salt, herb mix and chili flakes they are baked until crisp.

I put the buns and some cut up veggies and the steamer onto a pot of boiling water.

The sauce is key here now, which gives the entire thing the whohoo-vegan-tastes-good-experience. I combined some hoisin sauce (check the ingredients list!), with smoked paprika, regular paprika and chili powder in a bowl. Add some peanut butter (crunch or smooth) and stir well.

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Once the buns are done, half them, spread one side with the sauce and fill them with the grilled and steamed veggies. Add some cilantro, salad or pickles  for likings. Drizzle the rest of the sauce across the buns.

Vegan buns

Oven baked Cod with Indian spiced rice

Cod and rice

I believe that Cod can be cooked other than battered and fried. Cod is so simple in taste and can be so versatile. I stumbled across fresh cod fillets at the market. Ideal for a quick dinner with some rice and veg.

A oven proved clay pot can slow cook the cod and keeps it moist.

The cod fillets are layered on a pea and veg mix in the clay pot. Rub the cod fillet with olive oil, seasonal herbs, some salt and pepper.

cod in the oven

After the pot is put into the oven, I prepare the Indian rice. Cook some basmati rice according to instructions. Add in some crushed cardamon and some cloves and dissolved safran (or curcuma for just the color) into the simmering rice. A little bit of vegetable stock will give it the salt and additional flavor.

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If you like, dissolve some safran into a small amount of water before adding into the simmering rice

(alternatively, use curcuma, which imitates the orangey color).

Fried onions give the dish the necessary flavor kick without being too overpowering the subtle cod flavor.

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Cut some spring onions into thin slices for the fried onion topping. Stir-fry them in some oil until they become soft.

Once the cod is soft and glossy in texture it is done. Lastly, stir in some butter in the veg and serve it with rice and fried spring onions. Simple goodness as easy as that.

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Rhubarb Pear Compote with Vanilla Custard

Cold weather flavors in a jar: rhubarb pear compote
Cold weather flavors in a jar: rhubarb pear compote

Rhubarb is probably one of the most unpopular vegetable next to brussels sprouts due to its acidity and sharp taste. I like both. Rhubarb is versatile and can be used in savory dishes or desserts, such as cakes and muffins. But not prepared probably it can leave an odd gluey feeling on your tongue like a unripe banana. The easiest way to make it tasty I learned at home is to make jam or compote. It best fits with sweet soft apples.

After having bought them at the local farmer’s market I decided to make a compote, for which I first peeled and then cut them into bite size pieces. Instead of apples I used Red Anjou pears. Their bright maroon red color caught my attention. They are good on salads and have a hint of citrus. Though they are rather crisp pears, they would give my compote more texture in the end, which I prefer.

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I combined the rhubarb and pear pieces in a pot and let them soak in caster sugar for 20-30min. Put in a cinnamon stick and some water for additional liquid and let it come to a boil. I let it simmer until the pieces fall apart. Be careful not too overcook as the rhubarb can become very sour.

In the meanwhile, I prepare some vanilla custard which is a perfect partner to rhubarb coDSC_1291 (2)mpote like cherry on cream. For that I simply heat up a portion of milk (or cream) in a pot with sugar and vanilla extract. I then added two teaspoons of corn starch which I previously dissolved in cold milk. Let the custard come to a boil, keep stirring and check that custard has the desired consistency before turning of the heat.

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I serve my compote in the glass with a portion of custard. My (post) winter treat.

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Pasteis de nata

I have seen these before here in local London bakeries, the lemon custard tarts. A bigger and for me at least blander version I was familiar from home is called “Vanilleplunder” . However, that cannot be compared to the original lemon custard tart, the Portuguese claim to be their national sweet – Pastel de nata. Expecting a rather plump vanilla pudding with puff pastry would make this great export injustice. In Portugal every cafe or “pasteleria” serves this rather inexpensive sweet with a small type of espresso of “Café”.

Having tried multiple pasteis de nata in Porto (one of them being the appraised by locals) and Lisbon, I decided to drop by the best known (and most visited by tourists) traditional bakery in Lisbon for producing the pastel, known as Pastéis de Belém. This shop claims to exist since 1837. Given its history and resistance to at least 3 world economic crisis, their pasteis are worth a try. And indeed, they were the best I had so far. At a bargain, they come slightly warm and with sachets of cinnamon and sugar for your own likings. The vanilla filling resembled more a crème brûlée in puff pastry. Great stuff.

Inspired by this I tried them myself. There are small variations of recipes online. I decided to follow one based of simple ingredients. For this I used pre-made puff pastry from the store.

For the creme, I combined c. 200ml of whole fat milk, sugar and 2 tablespoons of flour over the hob. The flour binds the milk. Corn starch does the same job. Who likes it creamier can use single cream instead of whole fat milk here.  Add a splash of vanilla extract (or ideally fresh vanilla pod) into the mixture. Fresh lemon zest gives this the key flavor. Once cooled down the mixture should be slightly clumpy add then 2 egg yolks and one whole egg and whisk well.

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Lemon zest
Use organic lemon or if stored bought wash them thoroughly with boiling hot water
Pastel de Nata
Golden brown lemony creamy goodness

I rolled out the puff pastry sheets and cut it in small squares to fit one square in a pre greased muffin tray. The filling is then poured into each muffin hole. Bake at 220°C until golden brown. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Grab a coffee, ideally strong espresso, and enjoy a Portuguese treat.

By the way, this makes an easy to do good office treat as well.

(Don’t put them in an airtight container as the pastry will get soft)