Sunday, 30 September 2007

Yay! I'm a Daring Baker

For months before I started this blog, I had been following the adventures and escapades of a virtual group of like-minded baking enthusiasts called the Daring Bakers. Essentially, what happens every month is that a challenge recipe is selected and every member of the group is asked to make that recipe and post about it on the same day at the end of that month. Goodies that have been part of the challenge in the past include Gateau St Honore (hosted by Anita and Helene), Strawberry Mirror cake (hosted by Peabody), and Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart (hosted by Veronica and Patricia).

Every single month, when I've read the posts of the varied members of this group, I've literally found myself starting to drool. This month's challenge, hosted by Marce is no less drool-worthy. In fact, this month is a double treat of sorts since the chosen recipe for the month was Cinnamon and Sticky Buns using a recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice. What that means is that the one base recipe can be used to make either cinnamon or sticky buns and members were given a choice as to which they wanted to make, or if they couldn't choose, to make both!

For my first challenge, I decided to make the cinnamon buns since M loves his kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon buns). To try to recreate the taste of the buns found in Sweden, instead of just using cinnamon in the filling, I chose to use a mixture of cinnamon and cardamom - one of the allowed modifications for this month's challenge recipe.

To be honest, I was slightly nervous when commencing this recipe for a myriad of reasons but mostly because it was my debut challenge and I wanted to do a good job. Also, since I haven't worked all that much with yeasted doughs, I was worried as to how this would turn out. As it turns out, my fears were not completely unfounded. For one, I found that my dough was really really sticky and hard to roll out. I kept sprinkling flour on my surface and on top of the dough but was worried that this would make the buns hard and doughy. From what I've read, other members did not seem to have this problem so perhaps there was something in the way I whipped up the dough.

In any case, despite the slight executional challenges, the cinnamon buns were totally yummy and won M's approval even if they're not exactly the most picture perfect creations. Given how delicious these were, the sticky bun version will definitely go onto my must-try recipe list. To do justice to this fabulous recipe, please do check out other members' creations here.

PS: To commemorate my official joining of the Daring Baker's group, you'll find a new DB logo on my blog!

Cinnamon and Sticky Buns
The Bread Baker's Apprentice

Days to Make: One (1)

Active/Resting/Baking Time: 15 minutes to mix, 3 1/2 hours fermentation/shaping/proofing, 20 - 40 minutes to bake
Recipe Quantity: Eight(1) - twelve (12) large rolls or twelve (12) - sixteen (16) small rolls

Making the Dough


  • 6 1/2 tablespoons (3.25 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons (2.75 ounces) shortening or unsalted butter or margarine
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast*
  • 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature OR 3 tablespoons powdered milk (DMS) and 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (6 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or any other spices you want to use, cardamom, ginger, allspice, etc.)
  • White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns or caramel glaze for sticky buns (at the end of the recipe.)
  • Walnuts, pecans, or other nuts (for sticky buns.)
  • Raisins or other dried fruit, such as dried cranberries or dried cherries (for sticky buns, optional.)

*Instant yeast contains about 25% more living cells per spoonful than active dry yeast, regardless of the brand. Instant yeast is also called rapid-rise or fast-rising.

Step 1 - Making the Dough: Cream together the sugar, salt, and shortening or butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and mixing bowl and do it by hand).

Note: if you are using powdered milk, cream the milk with the sugar, and add the water with the flour and yeast.

Whip in the egg and lemon extract/zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Step 2 - Fermentation: Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Step 3 - Form the Buns: Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Proceed as shown in the photo below for shaping the buns.

(Text from the photot: (A) Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don´t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump. (B)Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and (C) roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 pieces each about 1 3/4 inches thick for larger buns, or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 1/4 inch thick for smaller buns.)

Step 4 - Prepare the Buns for Proofing:

  • For cinnamon buns: line 1 or more sheet pans with baking parchment. Place the buns approximately 1/2 inch apart so that they aren´t touching but are close to one another.
  • For sticky buns: coat the bottom of 1 or more baking dishes or baking pans with sides at least 1 1/2 inches high with a 1/4 inch layer of the caramel glaze. Sprinkle on the nuts and raisins (if you are using raisins or dried fruit.) You do not need a lot of nuts and raisins, only a sprinkling. Lay the pieces of dough on top of the caramel glaze, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag.

Step 5 - Proof the Buns: Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.

Step 6 - Bake the Buns:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with the oven rack in the middle shelf for cinnamon buns but on the lowest shelf for sticky buns.
  • Bake the cinnamon buns for 20 to 30 minutes or the sticky buns 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. If you are baking sticky buns, remember that they are really upside down (regular cinnamon buns are baked right side up), so the heat has to penetrate through the pan and into the glaze to caramelize it. The tops will become the bottoms, so they may appear dark and done, but the real key is whether the underside is fully baked. It takes practice to know just when to pull the buns out of the oven.

Step 8 - Cool the buns:

  • For cinnamon buns, cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the buns are warm but not too hot. Remove the buns from the pans and place them on a cooling rack. Wait for at least 20 minutes before serving.
  • For the sticky buns, cool the buns in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes and then remove them by flipping them over into another pan. Carefully scoop any run-off glaze back over the buns with a spatula. Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.

Toppings for the Buns:

White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns

Cinnamon buns are usually topped with a thick white glaze called fondant. There are many ways to make fondant glaze, but here is a delicious and simple version, enlivened by the addition of citrus flavor, either lemon or orange. You can also substitute vanilla extract or rum extract, or simply make the glaze without any flavorings.

Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and 6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.

When the buns have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops. Or, form the streaks by dipping your fingers in the glaze and letting it drip off as you wave them over the tops of the buns. (Remember to wear latex gloves.)

Caramel glaze for sticky buns

Caramel glaze is essentially some combination of sugar and fat, cooked until it caramelizes. The trick is catching it just when the sugar melts and lightly caramelizes to a golden amber. Then it will cool to a soft, creamy caramel. If you wait too long and the glaze turns dark brown, it will cool to a hard, crack-your-teeth consistency. Most sticky bun glazes contain other ingredients to influence flavor and texture, such as corn syrup to keep the sugar from crystallizing and flavor extracts or oils, such as vanilla or lemon. This version makes the best sticky bun glaze of any I´ve tried. It was developed by my wife, Susan, for Brother Juniper´s Cafe in Forestville, California.
NOTE: you can substitute the corn syrup for any neutral flavor syrup, like cane syrup or gold syrup.

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature.

2. Cream together for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add 1/2 cup corn syrup and 1 teaspoon lemon, orange or vanilla extract. Continue to cream for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

3. Use as much of this as you need to cover the bottom of the pan with a 1/4-inch layer. Refrigerate and save any excess for future use; it will keep for months in a sealed container.

Friday, 28 September 2007


I don't think I've ever been more thankful that it's Friday but after the hell-ish week I've had, I am really looking forward to the weekend. On top of that, I'm actually on vacation next week as I'm flying to Toronto to visit my sister! I've got some baking classes lined up for while I'm in Toronto so hopefully I'll be able to make up for my lack of posting this week with some new things I've learned. Also, I'm thinking of adding some new functionality to my blog if I can figure out all this html stuff.

Anyway, before I take off bright and early tomorrow morning, I thought I'd put up a quick post on a chicken fricassee that I made the other day. This particular recipe is one by Daniel Boulud whose namesake restaurant in NYC was one of the culinary highlights of my four years in New York. Since this recipe makes enough for 4, I stored some leftovers in the fridge and heated it up the next day. I have to say it was even better the second day than the first. I guess having the time to let the flavours mingle really does make a difference!

Chicken Grand-mere Francine
From Daniel Boulud

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
One 3-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 cippolini onions, peeled and trimmed
4 shallots, peeled and trimmed
2 heads garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
3 sprigs thyme
4 small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
2 small celery roots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
2 ounces slab bacon, cut into short, thin strips
12 small cremini or oyster mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed2 cups unsalted chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth

1. Working over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil in a 12-inch ovenproof sauté pan or skillet - choose one with high-sides and a cover. Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper, slip them into the pan, and cook until they are well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Take your time - you want a nice, deep color and you also want to cook the chickens three-quarters through at this point. When the chicken is deeply golden, transfer it to a platter and keep it in a warm place while you work on the vegetables.

2. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the cooking fat from the pan. Lower the heat to medium, add 2 tablespoons of the butter, the onions, shallots, garlic and thyme and cook and stir just until the vegetables start to take on a little color, about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes, celery root, and bacon and cook 1 to 2 minutes, just to start rendering the bacon fat. Cover the pan and cook another 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and return the chicken to the pan. Cook for 10 minutes, until the vegetables and chicken are completely cooked through. Spoon everything onto a warm serving platter or into an attractive casserole and keep warm while you finish the sauce.

4. Pour the chicken stock into the pan and bring it to a boil over medium heat, scraping up the bits of vegetable and chicken that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook the stock at a boil until it is reduced by half. Remove the pan from heat and swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

To Serve:
Strain the sauce over the chicken and vegetables, and serve immediately with plenty of pieces of crusty baguette to sop up the sauce and spread with the soft, caramely garlic that is easily squeezed out of its skin.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Cooking for one

M has been away this week - he's in the US of A on a work trip and will be gone for two weeks. That combined with the fact that I've been having a hellish week at work myself (think several 1 am nights in a row and you start to get the picture) means I haven't really had much time to cook or bake, much less blog about it.

Since I find cooking for one not much fun, I've been surviving on very simple dinners this week - salads, omelettes, and cereal even. Last night, I decided to whip out the pans and cook myself a very simple something with one of my favourite foods. Mushrooms.

I usually serve this as a side paired with something more substantial, such as a steak or a grilled fish. This time, I simply sauteed the mushrooms and put them on top of a bed of salad leaves. Simple and healthy. In fact, this dish is so simple that it doesn't really require a recipe. Simply heat some butter in a pan, throw in the sliced portobello mushrooms, toss in some Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar and voila! Ready to eat.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Salmon rilletes

The first time I ever tasted Salmon rillettes was for brunch at Bouchon in Las Vegas. At the time, I wasn't quite as into food and as I am now so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. When I enquired of the waiter what it was he described it to me as a salmon pate of sorts. Since I am a huge fan of pate, I decided to give it a try. In hindsight, I am really glad I did. If my memory serves me, the rillettes were served with a side of toasted croutons and I remember thinking that they were one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. It was a creamy spread containing chunks of steamed and smoked salmon and flavoured with Pernod.

When I came across this recipe in delicious., I knew I had to give it a go. As you'll see in this particular recipe, both salmon and trout are used. I'm sure you can substitute the smoked trout with smoked salmon if you prefer. I stayed true to the recipe and thought that it was as exquisite as I remember the Bouchon one being.

The rillettes were a big hit at brunch. Besides me, there were at least one or two others for whom this was their favourite dish. The recipe called for serving it with toasted bagel chips but I chose to serve to it with homemade whole wheat bread instead. If you've never had this before, I highly recommend it. Let me know how you like it if you do. As for myself, I belatedly realized that I also have the recipe for the Bouchon version. I'm definitely going to try that one when I get the chance and compare the two!

Salmon Rillettes
From delicious.

450g skinless salmon fillet, pin-boned
125g unsalted butter, softened
6 eschalots, very finely chopped
1 tbs creme fraiche
250g smoked trout fillet
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 egg yolks
2 tbs Pernod* (optional)
1 tbs chopped dill, plus a sprig to garnish
Clarified butter, to top (see Note)

Place the salmon fillet in a shallow dish and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sea salt. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning the salmon fillet once.

Line a steamer with baking paper, then steam the salmon fillet over a saucepan of simmering water for 8 minutes until just cooked but still a little opaque in the centre. Remove the salmon and allow to cool.

Melt 40g of the butter in a frypan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until soft. Add a pinch of salt, then cook for a further 2 minutes.

Place the remaining 85g of butter in a bowl and use hand beaters to beat until pale. Add the creme fraiche and beat in well. Break the steamed salmon and smoked trout into pieces and add to the bowl with the eschalots, lemon juice, oil, egg yolks, Pernod (if using) and dill. Beat gently until the mixture is combined but still coarse, then season well. Place in a glass bowl or clip-lock jar large enough to fit all the mixture and cover with a 1cm layer of cooled clarified butter (see Note, below). Top with the dill sprig, then cover with plastic wrap or the jar lid and and chill for at least 1 hour. (The rillettes will keep for 3 days in the fridge.)

Serves 6

Note: To make clarified butter, very gently melt 125g unsalted butter over low heat, skimming any foam off the top but not stirring. When the butter is melted, remove from the heat and leave to stand for 1 minute, so the milk solids settle to the bottom. Carefully pour off the golden clarified butter into a jug and discard the solids in the pan. Allow to cool before using.
* Pernod is an aniseed liqueur available from bottle shops.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

From my home to yours

Dorie Greenspan's latest book, From Baking: From my home to yours, is one my go-to books whenever I'm looking for something to bake. Her recipes have never failed me and some of my favourites from this book are the World Peace cookies and Devil's food white-out cake, the cake that is featured on the cover of this book. So, when looking for a sweet treat to serve at our brunch last week, I once again pulled this trusted book from my shelf. Eventually I settled on these Lemon poppy seed muffins.

I was tempted to leave out the icing on these muffins but I'm glad I didn't. As she says in the recipe, the icing really does help to give an extra irresistible burst of lemony flavour.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
From Baking: From my home to yours

2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp poppy seeds

For the icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of lemon strong. Whisky in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough - a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the poppy seeds. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold. Cool the muffins completely on the rack before icing them.

To make the icing:
Put the confectioner's sugar in a small bowl and add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Stir with a spoon to moisten the sugar, then add enough additional lemon juice, a dribble at a time, to get an icing that is thin enough to drizzle from the tip of the spoon. You can then drizzle lines of icing over the tops of the muffins or coat the tops entirely, the better to get an extra zap of lemon.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Fit for a prince

It’s M’s birthday today! Another year older and another year wiser, or so they say. I love birthdays even if its not my own. In fact, M was just commenting that it seems I am even more excited about his birthday than he is. I mean, what’s not to like? You get to eat cake, open presents, do whatever you like and have an excuse for it, and have people celebrate you just for a day. And did I mention eat cake?

Given how many baking books I have, trying to decide what birthday cake to make for M was tricky. I thought first about making him a Chocolate Praline Mousse cake by Alain Ducasse since M loves chocolate as much as I do, maybe more even! Then I thought about other cakes that I have made in the past that he has liked such as the Devil's Food White-out Cake by Dorie Greenspan. Then inspiration struck and I decided that I would make him a cake from his home country that I know he loves – Princess cake.

I have seen Princess cakes in Stockholm before whenever I’ve gone to visit but have never actually tried it until the wedding of a friend of M’s in July this year. I guess the reason I stayed away was that I was not a fan of marzipan (or so I thought) and the cake was a strange green colour. Since at the aforementioned wedding the Princess cake was the wedding cake, I thought it would be rude not to try.

In hindsight, I’m glad I did because I was pleasantly surprised! The marzipan didn’t have that sickly sweet flavour that I remembered it having as a child and the cake was surprisingly light – probably because of the oodles of whipped cream that gives the cake its characteristic dome shape. I went back for seconds, then thirds and I also ate some off M’s plate. All in all, I must have eaten enough to feed a family of 4 in some famine-stricken countries.

Once I got the idea in my head, I started looking for recipes and was thankfully able to locate one in a Swedish cookbook that M's mother had kindly given to me the first time I visited Stockholm. Given the many different components involved, I needed a game plan in order to make the cake at home without M discovering it. The schedule I came up with in the end was this: I baked the cake layers and created the green marzipan coating on Monday night before M came home from work. On Tuesday, I made the pastry cream. The plan was then to make the whipped cream and assemble the cake on Wednesday night but I was worried that M would get home before me. It was a stroke of luck therefore when M told me that he would be having a work dinner and would be coming home late that night.

Since it was my first time working with marzipan, I was a little apprehensive when it came time to roll it out. It turned out to be pretty easy however, especially if you work quickly before it starts to get sticky. If that happens though sprinkling icing sugar on it works pretty well. I have to confess that I didn’t quite have enough marzipan so after I draped it over the cake, I realized that I would have to patch up a hole at the back. Straightening out the folds in the cake was also a little tricky and I realized belatedly that I should probably have practiced before trying to make M’s birthday cake.

Despite the difficulty and the fact that the end product didn’t look picture perfect, I was still overall pretty happy with the way it came out. M certainly didn’t mind either when I woke him up with the cake and sang him Happy Birthday. We skipped dessert at dinner tonight in order to eat the birthday cake and it was definitely worth the wait. I think we’ll be having more tomorrow before we leave for Edinburgh where I’m taking him to watch the Rugby world cup match between New Zealand and Scotland for his birthday. No sense in letting good cake go to waste right?

Princess Cake
From Swedish Homecooking

Cake base:
4 eggs
1 2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup hot water
2 tsp baking powder
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Beat the eggs and sugar until fluffy. Heat the water and stir into the egg mixture.

Mix the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Fold into wet mixture. Pour the batter into a round 9 x 3 1/2 inch greased cake pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Cream filling:
1 1/4 cup whole milk
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 envelope gelatin
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

Pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Warm the mixture over medium low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens. Add the vanilla extract. Dissolve the gelatin in a little water and add it to the mixture. Set aside, stirring it from time to time as it cools.

Whip the heavy cream. Carefully blend into cooled filling mixture

14 oz marzipan
Green and yellow
Powdered sugar

Put the marzipan in a medium-sized plastic food storage bag. make a little indentation in the marzipan and add 3 drops of green food coloring and one drop of the yellow. Knead the marzipan in the plastic bag until it is evenly colored.

To assemble:
Let the cake cool and slice it into three layers. Spread raspberry jam or place fresh raspberries with a little sugar sprinkled on them on the bottom layer. The second layer gets covered with half the cream filling. Place the third layer on top and then spread the rest of the cream filling on top and down over the sides so the whole cake is covered.

Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and put the marzipan on it. Cut open a plastic food storage bag so that it is large enough to cover the marzipan, place over marzipan and roll out. This is a great way to avoid having the marzipan stick to the rolling pin.

Roll out marzipan into a thin, circular sheet large enough to drape over and cover the whole cake. Tip: trace the bottom of the cake pan onto paper, then measure the height of the cake and add it to the pan diameter to calculate the total diameter for your marzipan sheet. This way the marzipan is large enough to cover the whole cake.

Peel the plastic bag off the top of the marzipan sheet, then turn the marzipan so the plastic wrap is facing upward. Remove the plastic carefully. Pinch in the edges and trim away the excess marzipan.

Sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar.

Makes one 9-inch cake

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Roasted vegetable tart

As I promised in yesterday's post, here is another recipe from the brunch on Sunday - Roasted vegetable tart. While choosing what to make for brunch, I was debating between this and a torta caprese. What ultimately tipped the scale in favour of this was that I have recently discovered the pleasures of zucchini and aubergine. This tart seemed like a lovely way to showcase them.

I haven't included a recipe for shortcrust pastry since you can easily substitute your favourite recipe here. Also, although the recipe calls for low-fat ricotta cheese, I used regular ricotta. I figured the extra 30 minutes in the gym would be worth it.

Roasted vegetable tart
Adapted from delicious.

1 small aubergine
1 red pepper, halved, seeds removed
2 small courgettes
1 red onion
1 yellow pepper, halved, seeds removed
2 garlic cloves, crushed
100 ml olive oil
375g shortcrust pastry (use your favourite recipe)
300g low-fat ricotta cheese
2 eggs
50g grated parmesan
2 tsp chopped rosemary

Preheat oven to 190°C. Grease a 30 x 11cm loose-bottomed, rectangular tart pan.

Cut the eggplant, capsicum, zucchini, onion and sweet potato into 2cm chunks. Place in a bowl with the garlic and olive oil, and toss to coat in the oil. Tip the vegetables onto a large baking tray and spread out evenly. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until cooked through and slightly charred, then set aside.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface. Line the prepared pan with pastry, then line with baking paper. Fill with pastry weights or rice and blind bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat together ricotta, eggs, parmesan and rosemary. Fill pre-baked tart shell with ricotta mixture and place in oven for 15 minutes or until set. Top with roasted vegetables, then return to oven for 5 minutes to warm through. Garnish with extra rosemary, if desired.

Makes 1 30cm x 11cm rectangular tart

Sunday, 16 September 2007

That other favourite meal of the day

M and I hosted a brunch at our place yesterday for several of our friends. It was the first time that we've been entertaining properly in our new digs since it was only about 3 weeks ago that our new arm chairs arrived and completed our living room set up. It was also the first time that we've tested having 6 people around our dining room table and to our pleasant surprise, it worked quite well. It was cosy without being too crammed and in a city like London where space comes at a premium, that, in my opinion, counts as a small luxury.

As I alluded to in a previous post, brunch is one of my favourite meals of the day (that is if it truly counts as one meal, not two). When else can you get away with eating just sweets and count that as your balanced meal for the day? I'm thinking of favourites like French toast, pancakes and waffles... you get the picture. In addition, since there are so many recipes that I want to try and not enough people in this household to eat, it was also a perfect excuse to test out a few new recipes.

I spent a fair amount of time prepping for the brunch but it was well worth the effort to be able to share a nice meal with a group of great people. In fact, I hope to make the brunch a monthly event. All in all, we served:

Tomato and mozzarella salad with balsamic honey dressing

Salmon rillettes with home made wheat bread

Roasted vegetable tart

Oyster mushroom and bacon bit quiche

Fig pound cake and lemon poppy seed muffins

Altogether, I managed to test out a grand total of 4 new recipes! My favourite was the salmon rillettes and M's favourite was the oyster mushroom quiche. I plan to share all the new recipes with you but to start, here's the recipe for the quiche.

Oyster Mushroom and Bacon Bit Quiche
From Sweet and Savory Tarts

400g fougasse dough
3 large eggs
200ml heavy cream
200ml whole milk
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
100g chervil, finely chopped
350g oyster mushrooms
200g bacon bits
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

One day ahead, prepare the fougasse dough, cover in plastic wrap, and chill overnight. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs together with the cream, the milk, the chopped garlic, and the chopped chervil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight.

On the day of baking, preheat the oven to 350F.

Line the baking pan with the fougasse dough and pre-bake for 20 minutes.

Wash the mushrooms and dry them. Arrange them in the shell. In a skillet, saute the bacon bits until they turn golden brown. Add them to the cream and herb mixture.

Pour the mixture over the mushrooms and bake for 25 minutes.

Serve hot, accompanied by a dandelion salad dressed with mixed fresh herbs.

Makes one 9 1/2 inch square or one 10 inch round tart

Fougasse dough

500g cake flour
250ml olive oil
12g salt
10g yeast
10g Herbes de Provence
5g granulated sugar
50 ml tap water

Place all the ingredients in the mixing bowl of a food processor. Knead for 10 minutes.

Line a baking tray with parchment or waxed paper and roll out the dough to a thickness of just under 1 inch. Allow to rise for 1 hour at room temperature.

Makes enough dough for 3 tarts

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Honey soy fish

M and I usually eat out on Friday nights which gives me the opportunity to take a break from cooking. Not that I mind cooking so much but I do really enjoy trying new restaurants and getting inspiration for new dishes to make. Yesterday, however, M had to work late so we broke from our usual routine and ate dinner in instead.

Knowing how much M likes fish - one of his favourite dishes is miso glazed cod - I wanted to find a recipe that not only uses fish but fuses the flavours of Asia and the west. After some browsing, I settled on a Honey soy fish from this site which many reviewers had commented on as being restaurant quality. Intrigued, I decided to try it for myself.

After having read the raving reviews, I was a little thrown off by the fact that the original recipe calls for the fish to be cooked in a microwave. Microwave!? Somehow that doesn't really feel like real cooking to me so I decided to bake my fish parcels in the oven instead. As such, I had to cook it for slightly longer than called for in the original recipe. I served the fish on top a bed of stir-fried Asian vegetables but it could just as easily be served on rice or noodles.

M's late night review of the dish - he didn't come home till after 10 pm - was that it felt like eating in a restaurant. I guess the reviewers weren't lying after all.

Honey soy fish
Adapted from here

2 firm white-fleshed fish fillets (I used monkfish)

2 tablespoons thick soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 garlic clove, crushed
5cm piece ginger, peeled, grated

Preheat oven to 175C.

Combine all marinade ingredients in a jug. Mix well. Place fish in a single layer into a ceramic dish. Pour over marinade. Turn to coat. Cover. Refrigerate for 1 hour, if time permits.

Cut 4 large sheets of baking paper. Place fish onto baking paper. Drizzle each fillet with 1 tablespoon of marinade. Wrap each piece of fish up in baking paper to form 4 secure parcels. Place fish parcels onto a baking pan in a single layer. Bake for ~20 minutes, or until fish flakes when tested with a fork.

Fish can be served with rice or a side of vegetables or both.

Serves 2

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Presto Pasta Night #29: Mee Goreng Tauceo

The very first blog event that I took part in when I first started my blog only 1.5 months ago was Presto Pasta Night hosted by Ruth. I haven't submitted anything in the last few weeks so I thought it was high time I got back in the game. The first time around, I made a Penne with tuna in tomato sauce from Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie. This time, I wanted to submit something that is unique to my home country so I decided on Mee Goreng Tauceo from James Oseland's Cradle of Flavor.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this dish, it is essentially a stir-fried noodle dish made with Chinese egg noodles. In this case, the recipe calls for garnishings of shrimp and asian greens but as I was out of asian greens, I took a huge liberty and substituted tenderstem broccoli! Purists out there may think that this is sacrilege but I think that cooking should be fun. It should not be about following rules for rules sake. In this case, the purpose of the greens is to add some crunch to the noodles and I thought the broccoli served just fine.

To be honest, before I made the recipe I was somewhat sceptical about whether a recipe written by a gwailo (foreigner) could recreate the taste that I am familiar with. But the author has spent over twenty years researching the foods of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore - the result of which is the cookbook that I used - so who am I to question his authority. Indeed he probably knows the foods of Southeast Asia even better than I do. The only thing I felt was missing was a little bit of spiciness which is easily solved by serving the dish with any kind of chili sauce you like.

Mee Goreng Tauceo
From Cradle of Flavor

455g precooked fresh Chinese egg noodles
10 stalks choy sum or 5 whole small heads baby bok choy or Shanghai choy
4 tbsp peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
200g medium-sized shrimp, peeled, heads removed, and deveined
1 1/2 cups mung bean sprouts (optional)
4 tbsp warm water
2 tsp double-black soy sauce
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

If you're using fresh Chinese egg noodles that are not precooked, cook them first, cut them in half, and set aside.

To prepare the choy sum, inspect it carefully, discarding or trimming any spoiled stems or leaves. Cut 1 inch off the base of each stalk and rinse the greens in several changes of the coldest possible water. If you're using baby bok choy or Shanghai choy, inspect the heads carefully, discarding or trimming any spoiled stems or leaves. Cut 1/8 inch off the base of each head and rinse the greens in several changes of the coldest possible water. (Take care to clean baby bok choy or Shanghai choy carefully, as it tends to have hidden pockets of sand where the leaves meet the center stem.) Cut the cleaned choy sum into pieces 2 1/2 to 3 inches long; if you're using baby bok choy or Shanghai choy leave the heads whole or cut them in halves or quarters lengthwise, depending on size. Dry the greens in a salad spinner or set them aside to dry on a kitchen towel or on paper towels. They don't need to be bone-dry; a little dampness is fine.

Heat the oil in a wok or 12-inch skillet (nonstick will work best) over medium heat. When it's hot — it should appear slightly shimmery — add the garlic and the sweet soybean paste (be mindful that the soybean paste may splatter a bit when it's added to the hot oil) and sauté, stirring constantly with a large spatula, until the garlic is no longer raw but has not yet begun to change color, 1 to 2 minutes. If the garlic starts to turn golden, take the pan off the heat to cool for a few moments before continuing.

Add the shrimp to the skillet and stir-fry just until they begin to turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add the greens and raise the heat to high. Stir-fry vigorously until the greens just begin to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the bean sprouts (if using) and continue to stir-fry vigorously for another 15 seconds.

Reduce the heat slightly and quickly add the noodles, using your hands and detangling them as you drop them into the skillet. Stir the noodles well to combine them with the greens, bean sprouts, and shrimp. Add the warm water, soy sauce, and salt and stir well to combine. Cook, stirring constantly until the noodles are hot and have soaked up all the liquid, about 2 minutes. (Note that the noodles will have increased slightly in size once they have soaked up the liquid.) Taste a noodle for salt, and add a pinch more if needed.

Transfer the noodles to a large platter or bowl and serve immediately. Although inauthentic, I like to top these noodles with freshly ground black pepper, which provides a nice layer of flavor.

Makes 3 or 4 servings as a main course

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Milk and cookies

I've been pretty busy at work lately so there hasn't been much time to cook, much less blog. Today was no different but after a long day at work, I felt the need to bake. For some reason, I find baking quite relaxing. Perhaps its got to do with the methodical measuring of ingredients that keeps me occupied and keeps my mind off other things. Whatever the case, tonight's baking session was definitely a way for me to de-stress.

In addition to the numerous sweets that I enjoy, I absolutely adore cookies. It is no coincidence that one of my favourite tees is one of cookie monster. Two of my favourite varieties are American staples - chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal raisin. Who can resist them especially when eaten with a glass of milk? Since I couldn't decide which I wanted to make tonight, I decided why choose? So I made one with both instead. (Much to M's dismay, I often apply the same philosophy to shopping.)

I used a recipe from this book and tried baking different batches for different lengths of time between 12 - 15 minutes as the recipe indicates. While I think the crispy cookie that is produced by baking at the longer end of this spectrum is good, my personal preference is for the crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside cookie that is obtained by baking for a slightly shorter time.

As much I thought these cookies were great, I do try to eat relatively healthy during the week. In general, the arrangement that M and I have is that we're allowed to indulge on the weekends but sweets during the weekdays are a no-no. In practice, what this means is that any baking I do during the week is carted off to the office and shared with colleagues. I guess my colleagues are in for a treat tomorrow then!

Oatmeal Cookies with Golden Raisins and Milk Chocolate Chips
From The Sweet Life

1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs plus 1 egg white, at room temperature
3 cups raw oatmeal
8 oz milk chocolate, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray cookie sheets with oil and line with aluminum foil, parchment, or silicone pads, or use nonstick pans.

In a dry bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of the stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the sugar, and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes fluffy and lighter in colour, approximately 5 minutes. Add the dark brown sugar and continue creaming for 3 to 4 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Add the eggs and egg white, on at a time, and continue to beat until they are fully incorporated and the batter looks smooth and glossy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the dry mixture and oats, all at once, to the butter mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold together for a few turns. With the mixer on slow speed, mix the dough until thoroughly combined, 1 minute. Add the chopped milk chocolate and the golden raisins. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix for another 30 seconds. The dough can be made up to this point and refrigerated, well wrapped, for up to 3 days.

Using 2 teaspooons, scoop the dough into mounds and place 2 inches apart on your prepared cookie sheets. Flatten each mound with the back of a spoon or 2 fingertips.

Bake the cookies until they spread, rise and turn a light golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. For even browning, rotate your cookie sheets from front to back and between each of the baking racks at least once which the cookies are baking. Remove from the oven and let cool on the sheets. Once cooled, they will be crispy on the outside and chewy, moist, and buttery in the middle. If you continue to bake the cookies they will colour more and your result will be a crunchy, caramelized, and intensely flavourful cookie.

These cookies are best served the day they are baked but will keep, sealed and at room temperature, for 4 days.

Makes 40 large round cookies

Saturday, 8 September 2007

A startling confession

Prior to today, I have ever eaten a fresh fig. There I've said it. While I've certainly eaten the dried version - in the form of mo far kor, a Chinese snack that is essentially strips of dried fig coated with sugar - I've never touched a fresh one before. The reason for my going out to the supermarket today then and buying two packs of fresh figs is none other than Sugar High Friday #35, hosted by Ivonne, the theme of which is the beautiful fig.

Having never had a fig before, I wasn't quite sure what I was going to make with them. Thankfully the 3 or 4 cookbooks that I leafed through served up no less than 20 odd recipes involving figs. Many of them sounded delicious including fig clafouti, fig and raspberry pie, fig and almond galette, but I settled on a humble pound cake made with fresh figs. Reason being that as I was still new to figs, I wanted something simple that would showcase its flavour.

Given it was my first time handling figs, I was quite surprised to discover that they were extremely soft and delicate. For some reason, perhaps its dark skin, I had assumed they would be hard and that only the inside would be edible. As I was chopping up the figs to make the pound cake filling, I couldn't help but pop a piece into my mouth. It was soft, juicy and incredibly sweet. One piece turned into two which turned into three and it took much willpower to refrain from eating the rest of the chopped figs, else there would have been none left for the cake.

I popped the cake into the oven an hour before dinner and throughout our meal, I could only think of one thing - freshly baked pound cake for dessert. You're probably thinking that pound cake is not really an after-dinner type of dessert and I guess that's true. Its generally more of a tea time or even breakfast cake. Still, I think that it can be dressed up with a scoop of vanilla or coconut ice cream and hold its own at the dinner table. I, however, opted to eat it plain.

It was absolutely delish. The pound cake was moist, crumbly and buttery and the figs provided additional sweetness and texture. I couldn't help it, I had to have seconds and as suggested by the book, I'm looking forward to trying it with some jam tomorrow for breakfast.

Fresh Fig Pound Cake
From The Essential Baker

1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened (for buttering pan)
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1/2 pound fresh figs (3 to 4 large), rinsed and dried
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 oz unsalted butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
3 tbsp milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Use your fingertips or a paper towel to butter the inside of a loaf pan. Dust the inside of the pan with the all-purpose flour. Shake and tilt the pan to coat then turn the pan over the sink and tap out the excess flour.

Cut off the stems of the figs, then cut them in half vertically. Cut each half verticially in half again, then cut each quarter into small pieces, placing them into a small bowl.

Sift together the cake flour and baking powder. Add the salt and toss to blend well. Take 2 tablespoons of this mixture and toss with the fig pieces to coat them completely.

Place the butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Use the flat beater attachment to beat the butter on medium speed until it is fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, and cream together well. Stop occasionally and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Adjust the mixer speed to medium-low. One at a time, add the eggs to the butter mixture, mixing well after each addition. The eggs will sit on top of the butter mixture, so stop after each addition and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to help mix evenly.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the milk and vanilla. Add to the butter mixture and blend well. Turn the mixture speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 stages, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add the fig pieces and mix to distribute evenly.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 10 to 15 minutes, until the cake is light golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a rack for 20 minutes. Use a flexible-blade spatula or thin-bladed sharp knife to run around the outer edges to loosen the cake from the pan. Invert the pan over the cooling rack or a serving plate and gently pull the pan away from the cake.

Makes one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf cake

Better late than never

All through summer, M and I have been watching, with some envy, our downstairs neighbours having barbecue parties. You see, our apartment in London has no access to the garden even though it looks out onto it. The garden belongs solely to the tenants of the basement flat, which is fair I suppose - if you have to live in the basement, it makes sense that you're compensated with a nice garden you can use. Still, there have been times where I've wished that I could also fire up a grill and put on some juicy steaks or hamburgers.

This week for dinner then I finally decided to make use of my grill pan, which I have to admit hasn't really seen that much action this summer. Given that's its now September and summer is over, its a little on the late side, but hey, better late than never. My meat of choice was chicken which I skewered with zucchini and red peppers. I served these skewers with a hoisin barbecue sauce which I found on this site.

I have to say that even though a grill pan is not exactly the real thing, it still produced a nice smoky flavour with the requisite grill markings on the food. So until M and I get a flat with a garden, I'm guessing the grill pan is going to get a lot more use!

Hoisin Barbecue Sauce

From Food and Wine

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
3 tablespoons sake or dry sherry
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan and cook the garlic over moderately low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sake, ketchup and rice vinegar and simmer over moderately low heat, stirring, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Let cool and serve.

The hoisin barbecue sauce can be refrigerated for 2 days.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Bucking the trend

Several nights ago, I decided to buck the trend of serving a simple midweek dinner and surprise M with something more special since he's been working so hard lately. Since M is a big fan of fish, I thought I'd make him some salmon. Given that time is still a constraint on weeknights, I found this recipe which features a Parmesan crusted salmon that is not difficult to make but which is paired with multiple elements that help make for a restaurant-style presentation. In fact, all the elements of this dish - basil pesto, mashed potatoes, sauteed asparagus and Parmesan crisps - can be whipped up in a jiffy.

I have to say it was really fun decorating each plate. What really completed the look though, was definitely the Parmesan crisps. Although incredibly simple to make, that crisp, delicate wafer standing proudly in each plate transformed an ordinary home-cooked meal into something a little more special.

When I served M the dish that night, he was surprised alright. Mission accomplished :)

Parmesan Crusted Salmon
From this site

2 salmon fillets, skinless
1/4 cup Parmesan, finely grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Basil pesto
Parmesan crisps
Sauteed asparagus
Mashed potatoes

Lightly season the salmon with salt and pepper. Generously coat one side of the salmon with the finely grated Parmesan. In a non-stick saute pan, add approximately 3 tablespoons vegetable oil and place over high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully place the salmon in the pan cheese side down. Turn temperature down to medium heat and allow the salmon to cook about 4 minutes before flipping over. The idea is to form a nice, crispy, lightly brown crust. Turn salmon and allow to cook another 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside in a warm place until plating.

To plate, place a small mound of mash potatoes in the center of the plate. Place the asparagus on top of the mashed potatoes at an angle. Then put the salmon nicely on the plate, overlapping the asparagus. Drizzle the plate with the basil pesto and garnish the plate with the Parmesan crisp by securing it in the bed of mashed potatoes.

Serves 2

Reminiscing about a trip to Morocco

I made a trip to Morocco two years ago during spring break when I was in business school. I know, Morocco is not your typical spring break locale but honestly, since I was no longer in college but in grad school, I really didn’t need to be doing the whole Cancun / Miami beach party scene. There were about 14 of us on this trip which lasted 8 or 9 days and took us through Casablanca, Rabat, Ouzarzate and Marrakesh. It was my first time in Morocco and I found myself mesmerized by what I saw. In particular, I remember vividly a camel ride through the Sahara dessert to watch the sunrise, the souks that were filled with all kinds of vendors hawking their wares and the food.

While many of my friends quickly got bored with the never-ending supply of tagine, I found that I could eat it day in and day out, each variation more delicious than the next. Thus, when Arabesque by Claudia Roden was released, I knew I had to get myself a copy and try to recreate the flavours of Morocco at home.

One of my favourite recipes from this book is the couscous with lamb, onion and raisins which combines a meltingly tender lamb stew with a caramelized onion and raisin compote of sorts. Although this dish takes a fairly long time to make, due mostly to the need to simmer the lamb till it falls apart when you touch it, the actual preparation involved is fairly easy. The presentation of this dish also looks quite impressive (I'm afraid my photography skills don't do it justice) so it’s a great dish to make whenever you’re entertaining and that’s exactly what I did when M and I had guests over this past weekend.

The first time I made this I accidentally put in an extra teaspoon of cinnamon in the lamb. I was worried that this would make the cinnamon taste overpowering but having since compared this with a version made with the amount of cinnamon called for in the recipe, I would actually recommend adding a little more cinnamon if you like the taste.

Couscous with lamb, onions and raisins
From Arabesque

1 kg lamb, boned shoulder or leg
1.25 kg onions
salt and black pepper
1/2 - 1 tsp ground ginger
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 cloves
1/2 tsp saffron threads or powder
40g butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp clear honey
150g raisins, soaked in water for 20 minutes
200g blanched almonds

Prepare the meat broth in a large pan. Put in the meat, with about 250g of the onions, chopped, and cover with 1.75 litres of water. Bring to the boil and remove the scum. Add salt and pepper, ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and the cloves. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. At this point, add the saffron and more water if necessary, and simmer for another 30 minutes or until the meat is so tender you can pull it apart with your fingers.

At the same time, prepare the honeyed onion tfaya. Cut the remaining onions in half and slice them. Put them into a pan with 250ml water. Put the lid on and cook over a low heat for about 30 minutes until the onions are very soft. Remove the lid and cook further until the liquid has evaporated. Add the butter and oil and cook until the onions are golden. Stir in the honey and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, the drained raisins and a pinch of salt. Continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until the onions caramelize and become brown.

Separately, prepare the couscous according to your favourite recipe.

Fry the almonds in a drop of oil until golden, turning them over, then drain on kitchen paper and coarsely chop about half of them.

To serve, place the couscous in a baking dish or large round platter. Moisten the couscous with a ladle of broth and mix in the chopped almonds. Shape the couscous into a mound, and make a wide shallow hollow in the centre. Put the meat into the hollow, cover with the onion and raisin tfaya, and sprinkle with the remaining whole fried almonds. Serve the broth separately.

Serves 4-6