pavlova with crème fraîche and tropical fruit compote

DSC_0392All you need is love–with fruit and crème fraîche–to make this simple yet elegant dessert. It is a favorite among our friends. At dinner tonight at Robert’s I brought this pavlova with tropical fruit compote and crème fraîche for dessert.

Pavlova with Crème Fraîche and Tropical Fruit Compote
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cooking tme:75 minutes
Resting time: 2 hours

Ingredients
Meringue
4 large (160 grams) egg whites, separate eggs while cold, then allow to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup (200 grams) superfine (caster) sugar (use superfine because it dissolves quicker)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, optional
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (corn flour)

Compote
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced
2 bananas, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
2 cups pineapple chunks
2 cups dragon fruit chunks
1 mandarin orange segments with juice
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mint, optional
1-2 tablespoons rum, optional
pinch of salt, optional
juice of half a lime
pulp of 6-8 passion fruits

Crème Fraîche
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt or a small carton of sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Prepare to bake. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (130 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw one 8-inch circle on the paper. Reverse the paper and place it on the baking sheet. This is the form for the meringue.

Cake Baker’s Note: For the next step, be sure the bowl and beaters are free of grease. Wash in soapy water and dry them. Then wipe them down with vinegar and a damp towel.

Make the meringue. In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar. Beat on high speed until the egg whites hold soft peaks. Add vanilla (if using) and the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat on high speed. Scrape down the sides after the last spoonful of sugar. Continue whipping until the meringue holds very stiff and shiny peaks. Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch on top and gently fold.

Cake Baker’s Note: To fold, cut the whites with a silicone spatula and pull to the opposite end of bowl, then flip the spatula over. Turn the bowl one quarter turn and repeat. Continue folding and turning until the cornstarch is just combined.

Prepare to bake. Mound the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the sides, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the outside is dry and is a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off and let the meringue cool completely in the oven, about 2-3 hours. Don’t open the oven door.

Cake Baker’s Tip: The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you may get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and spongy, like a marshmallow.

The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, wrapped in plastic, in an airtight container, for a few days.

Decorate and serve. Just before serving carefully remove the parchment paper and gently place the meringue onto a serving plate.

Make the crème fraîche. Place all ingredients in a bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Make the fruit compote. Squeeze a little lime on the cut bananas to prevent browning. Combine the ingredients and toss. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Assemble and serve the pavlova. Just before serving, cover the top of the meringue with the crème fraîche. Spoon the fruit on top. Drizzle passion fruit all over. Serve with extra fruit compote on the side.

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blueberry galette with whisky sugar

DSC_0373I am so proud of this galette! It turned out just like the picture in Bon Appetit magazine.

Now, a pie dough is temperamental, susceptible to the vagaries of humidity, moisture, and temperature. I am learning from my mistakes,  but I still approach each pie with nervousness. What I learned this time is not to slavishly follow a pie dough recipe but rather, according to how the dough looks and feels.

A hint: make the whisky sugar the day before making the galette. It needs 12 hours to dry in a low oven.

Blueberry Galette (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Prep time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Bake time: 45 minutes

Dough
1/2 cup almonds (pecans in original recipe)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 oz (1/2 cups) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1-4 tablespoons ice water

Filling
12 oz (2 cups) blueberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup caster sugar

Assembly
1 tablespoon flour for sprinkling
2 tablespoons heavy cream for brushing the crust
1 tablespoon whisky sugar (See below)

For the dough. Preheat oven to 350˚F/175˚C. Toast nuts on a rimmed baking tray until fragrant and slightly dark, about 8-10 minutes in my oven. Let cool in the tray. Turn heat up to 375˚F/200˚C

Pulse the nuts in a food processor until the consistency of coarse meal. Add flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces remaining.

Pie Baker’s Note: Chill the butter again if it softens after cutting it up into pieces. It’s too soft if you can see your fingerprint in the butter. This is a frequent hazard of baking in Bangkok where it’s humid.

Transfer the dough to a large bowl. Now this is where a recipe can’t tell you what to do. If the dough starts to come together it doesn’t need water. If it’s still dry and crumbly, add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time or until the mixture comes together in a ball. Lay the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and using your fingers, spread it out into a 6-inch diameter circle. Wrap completely and refrigerate for at least one hour. According to Bon Appetit, the dough can be made two days ahead or frozen for up to one month.

For the filling. Toss the blueberries in a large bowl with cornstarch, lime juice, and 1/4 cup caster sugar. Set aside.

Assemble the galette. I roll out the dough onto a sheet of parchment so then I don’t have to try to transfer the galette dough to the parchment. That’s a dicey business.
So, roll out the dough on a lightly floured sheet of parchment to a 12-inch round. Mound the blueberry mixture in the center, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Fold the edges over the blueberries, tucking in the corners. Brush the edges with the cream and sprinkle whisky sugar on top.

Bake galette until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. You’ll have to watch it carefully because the almond meal has made the crust brown. Bake 30-40 minutes. Bon Appetit recommends baking for 45-50 minutes but to me that might be too long. My galette crust was golden brown and the filling was bubbling happily away after 35 minutes.

Whisky Sugar (from Bon Appetit)
1 cup demerara sugar
2 tablespoons whisky

Preparation
Preheat oven to lowest setting (150° or 200° on most ovens). Mix demerara
sugar and whisky in a small bowl. Spread out mixture on a parchment-lined
baking sheet in a thin, even layer. Let dry out in oven 12 hours (or overnight)
with door slightly ajar. (Wedge a wooden spoon between the door and the oven) Mixture should feel like demerara sugar again. Transfer whisky sugar to a tightly covered jar and store in a cool dark place.

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oven-roasted tandoori chicken drumsticks with cilantro-red onion relish

DSC_0368Date night! Home-cooked dinner with Danny Collins, a feel-good movie.

Yesterday Andy rebelled against yet another vegetarian meal, when I made the zucchini-ricotta fritters. So to make it up to him,  I made chicken for tonight’s dinner. I found this recipe on the Food and Wine website and halved it, because it served four. We ate these chicken drumsticks with sesame rice salad. The drumsticks were indeed a treat because I left the skin on. They came out tender and juicy, spicy without the heat. Plus the skin was crispy and slightly charred around the edges, just the way I like it.

Tandoori Chicken Drumsticks with Cilantro-Red Onion Relish (adapted from Food and Wine)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Grilling time: 40 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients:
1/2 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/2 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander (I didn’t have this so I increased the cumin slightly)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric (original)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated fine (original)
4 cloves garlic, minced (original)
1/4 cup Greek-style yogurt (original)
Juice of 1/2 a medium lime
1/4 cup plus 4 tablespoons rice bran oil, divided (original; Substitute: canola oil)
Salt and pepper
6 chicken drumsticks with the skin on

Relish
1/3 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped (3/4 cup in the original)
1/2 medium red onion, minced (Substitute: 1 medium shallot)
3 tablespoons white vinegar

Pre-heat the oven to 450˚F/230˚C. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray for easy clean up.

Pat dry the chicken drumsticks with paper towels and set them aside. Some recipes state that this makes the chicken skin crisp up.

In a 10 inch skillet combine the ground spices, and heat them, until they release their fragrance, about 1-2 minutes. Scrape the spices in a medium bowl to cool slightly. Add the ginger, garlic, yogurt, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make 2-3 slashes in the thickest part of the chicken. Put the chicken in a large bowl with 2 more tablespoons of oil, and toss to coat thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Scrape the yogurt spice mixture onto the chicken and toss to coat thoroughly.

Roast 40 minutes or until the drumsticks reach an internal temperature of 160˚F. Turn the chicken once after 20 minutes. Check after 35 minutes. If the chicken doesn’t show signs of charring, put them under the broiler for about 5 minutes. I skipped this step because the drumsticks showed signs of charring after 40 minutes.

Make the relish. In a small bowl combine the chopped cilantro, red onion, vinegar and 1/4 cup of oil.

I recommend doubling the ginger and garlic and use a whole lime when doubling this recipe for 12 drumsticks. I like ginger and garlic together.

DSC_0370The sesame rice salad pictured here is a variation on a rice salad recipe I found in a South Beach Diet cookbook. I used red and brown rice here, but brown rice is recommended in the original recipe. I used sugar snap peas and green peas, but your favorite combination of two vegetables will do. I added a tablespoon of minced Chinese celery stalks for flavor. The dressing is easy: 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons sesame oil. Whisk with a fork and pour over the rice. Add vegetables and toss.

zucchini-ricotta fritters with sweet pepper and onion

DSC_0364What’s the difference between a pancake and a fritter?

I thought I knew the difference. A pancake is sweet, a fritter is savory. A fritter is smaller and it’s filled with vegetables and sometimes bits of shrimp or crab. But that’s not always true. Pancakes can be savory too. They can even be fritter-size. Whatever. These fritters/pancakes are delicious hot–they have the crunch of the sweet pepper and they are moist and tender because of the zucchini. I also like the fact that very little oil is used.

Zucchini-Ricotta Fritters with Sweet Pepper and Onion
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 24 minutes
Servings: Makes 16 3-inch fritters

Ingredients:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 cup self-rising flour
1 1/2 zucchini (about 250g) coarsely grated
1/2 medium sweet red pepper, minced fine (I use red for the color)
1/2 medium red onion, minced fine (Substitute: 2 tablespoons minced scallions)
1-2 tablespoons Chinese celery, minced fine (Substitute: celery minced fine)
salt and pepper to taste
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, minced fine, optional (if more heat is desired, add seeds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sriracha sauce for serving (Substitute: ketchup)

Directions:
In a large bowl, whisk the milk, cheese and eggs. Add the self-rising flour and mix until no longer lumpy. Don’t worry if the batter appears dry. The zucchini will add liquid to the mix. Add the zucchini, sweet pepper, onion, celery, and Scotch Bonnet pepper, if using.  Season to taste.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a 10-inch skillet until shimmering. Reduce heat to medium or medium high. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop batter into the hot oil and spread the batter into a circle. Then fry 2-3 minutes on one side or until golden brown. Flip and fry the second side for 2-3 minutes. If needed, add another tablespoon oil to complete the next batch.

Drain fritters on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve with Sriracha sauce for dipping.

Variations:

  • Add 2 cups of fresh corn kernels
  • Chop 1 medium tomato, pulp and seeds removed or they will make the batter too watery
  • Serve with a tomato salsa or guacamole  on the side

home made hot cocoa or cafe mocha

DSC_0360This is a rather un-traditional summer drink, but I whipped up this mix to give my sister-in-law for her birthday. She loves chocolate. If we wait for cold weather to come to Thailand to enjoy hot cocoa we might as well wait forever.  As chocolate aficionados,  we like to enjoy our chocolate without the wait. I made two cups, one for me, the other for Andy. It was a tad too sweet for his taste so he added a teaspoon of espresso powder to his cup. The coffee flavor cut the sweetness and added a delicious bittersweet note to the cocoa. To make this again, I would reduce the sugar as noted in the ingredients below, and add up to 1/8 teaspoon chili pepper to give it more kick.

Hot Cocoa Mix (adapted from Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa Mix)

Ingredients

1 1/2 – 2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste (I recommend 1/8 teaspoon)
Hot milk

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. In a small pot, heat 2 cups milk until little bubbles appear around the edges.Turn off the heat.

Fill each mug one-third to half full with the mixture and pour in hot milk. Stir to combine. Seal the rest of the powdered mix in an airtight container. It will keep indefinitely in the pantry or the refrigerator. Alton Brown says this works great with hot water.

DSC_0361Variation:
Try it with 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder per cup to make a great cafe mocha!

chicken kung pao zoodles

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This recipe makes enough for two people with leftovers. It’s got a tangy bite to it but I would ramp up the flavor with some Sriracha (pronounced SEE-rah-chah in Thai).
Ingredients:
2 medium unpeeled zucchini, about 8 oz each, ends trimmed
1 teaspoon rice bran oil (substitute: canola or grapeseed oil)
6 oz skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and white pepper, to taste
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons crushed dry roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions along diagonal
Sauce:
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce (Substitute: reduced salt soy sauce or tamari)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2-3 teaspoons hoisin sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2-1 tablespoon red chili paste with garlic (Substitute: Sambal Oelek) more or less to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch (optional;  if a thickened sauce is desired)
1-2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce (optional) or to taste

Directions:
Shred the zucchini. The yield will be about 6-8 cups.

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, hoisin sauce, water, red chili paste, sugar and cornstarch, if using; set aside.

Season chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Heat oil in a large, deep nonstick pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until just cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

Reduce heat to medium, add sesame oil, garlic and ginger to the skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the bell pepper, stir in soy sauce mixture and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until thickened and bubbling, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in zucchini noodles and cook, mixing for about one minute until just tender and mixed with the sauce. The zucchini will spring water which helps create a sauce. Once cooked, mix in chicken and divide between 2 bowls (about 2 cups each) and top with 1 tablespoon each peanuts and scallions.

bacon and cheese scones

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This recipe has been doubled, but it can also be halved. It’s savory and crunchy, perfect for breakfast, second breakfast, and elevenses–even if you aren’t a Hobbit…:-).

Bacon and Cheese Scones

1 2/3 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 1/3 cups butter, chilled and cut into small squares
1 1/3 cups cubed cheese (I used cheddar and mozzarella)
4 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp and then crumbled when cool
2/3 cup skim milk plus 2 tablespoons
1 egg yolk well-beaten plus 1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven 400˚F or 200˚C. Line a baking tray with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and mustard powder. Cut in the butter until it resembles the size of peas. Add the milk, bacon, and cheese. Mix until the dough comes together and there is no more visible flour.

Turn half the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Press the dough flat with your fingers or with a lightly floured rolling pin until it’s about 1/2 inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter, cut dough circles and place them on the prepared pans. Brush tops with egg yolk-milk mixture.

Bake 13-15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Eat warm with butter.